Friday, February 5, 2016

Five on Friday!

Anyone else ridiculously pumped that Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow and we'll be getting an early Spring!?! I am beyond ready to pack up my turtlenecks and break out my bright colors!

On to a lengthy post of highlights from this week...
one.  For those of you looking for a Valentine's Day gift for the man in your life I wanted to share one of my best gifts to Matt - a Moscow Mule kit! I gave this to him last year and he still talks about how much he loves it! And his Moscow Mule Mug has gotten lots of use! This kit is really so easy to put together too. In a basket I threw in some Tito's vodka, a ginger beer, a lime and a copper mug!

two. To break away from our usual tacos, breakfast, pizza, takeout dinner rotation I signed up for HelloFresh (at the strong recommendation from a friend) to add some gourmet variety to our meals! To say I am impressed with this incredible service would be a huge understatement. And NO, this is NOT a sponsored post. I am just really that impressed that I wanted to pass along this goodness to y'all.
If I were going to narrow down my experience to three highlights I'd say...

1. Packaging: I really appreciated the way the meals were packaged and insulated with ice packs. Each recipe has it's own box of fresh ingredients and you get exactly what you need. So not only did I save money by not making three extra trips to the grocery store this week, I didn't waste a whole bunch of herbs when all I needed was exactly a tablespoon!

2. Quality Ingredients: I am pretty picky when selecting my meat and fresh veggies at the grocery store but my ingredients were super fresh and perfect (the chicken didn't have any extra fat, my tomatoes were firm, my herbs weren't wilted, etc.).

3. Gourmet Recipe Variety: In our first box we received ingredients for generous portion sizes of Stuffed Zucchini Boats, Chicken Yakatori and Brown Sugar Glazed Pork Tenderloin. I honestly didn't even know what Chicken Yakatori was until it arrived to my house and I read the recipe card. But that's why this is so cool! I would have never thought to put this in my meal plan but am glad that HelloFresh pushed some variety on me. I should also mention that the recipes are kept to under 30-40 minutes, including prep and cook time and last all week in the fridge. Each meal comes with a pretty recipe card that simply outlines the steps with photos too.

Okay, one more!

4. Subscription Cost. Because this is important! We keep our grocery shopping on a tight budget so I was hesitant that this would increase our meal planning costs but it actually reduced our grocery bill a teeny bit and prevented us from stopping at the Chick-fil-a drive-thru. I also priced out the ingredients at the grocery store and it was about the same cost to make the meal if I bought the ingredients myself.

So I subscribed to the Classic Food Box which allows you to pick 3 meals from five choices. This box costs $69. You can pause your subscription anytime you want, as often you want, for as long as you want. Or cancel it anytime! So you don’t really have to commit to getting the boxes every week or every other week. You also have the option to choose between different types of boxes (family size, vegetarian, etc.) of meals that serve 2 people, 4 people or 6 people.

Want to try HelloFresh? Use promo code MG8GKD for $40 off your first box! That means you can try out HelloFresh for $29 and then cancel after your box arrives or keep on going.
three. Yesterday we came home to the happiest package on our door step -- Valentine hair bows from Julia's Bowtique! Watching Caroline rip open her package and scream "bows!!!" was too cute too. I often get asked where her bows are from and well, 99% of them are from Julia's Bowtique! So here is a little peek into Caroline's bows for this holiday of love!
four. Going to a Super Bowl party this weekend? I have the perfect food post for you which includes my favorite Loaded Baked Potato Dip, my Hot Caprese Dip,the best dang burgers you'll ever eat and more! Check out the post here.
five. Last weekend Matt was away for a retreat and I had the kids on my own. Phew. I'm still exhausted just thinking about it. I kept them so busy bouncing around to activities and play dates to keep us all sane and happy and by the end of the weekend I was whooped. Stay at home mamas, I give you the biggest shout out ever. It's no easy feat to keep two minis entertained all day long on your own! A few highlights from our busy agenda...
We met friends for a yummy bagel date!
 And it was finally warm enough to get outside and run around.
Y'all know how obsessed with wagon rides we are! Thomas is finally at an age where we can strap him in and he loves it. So every few hours we did a lap around the neighborhood.
We also met April and Camille for lunch at Cowfish! The kiddos had a blast (and so did the mamas)!
These two. Love it. And yes, Caroline is really that petite! Gets it from her mama.
We wrapped up both nights with lots of bath play time. Both kids confined in a small space and happily entertaining themselves after a long day is the best. I highly recommend Mr Bubble Foam Soap if you're looking to add more fun to your bath routine!

Wanna join Darci, April, Natasha and I on the Friday fun? You can link-up on any of our four blogs every Friday! All you have to do is...
1.) Write your post about five things you're lovin' this week (or any five things you want to share!).
2.) Share the logo on your blog and link back. 
3.) Link-up at the bottom of the post so some new readers can check out your five things and say hello!
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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Mastectomy Planning, Necessities & Gift Ideas

Now that I'm on recovery cruise control I thought I would share some really helpful information that I've learned along the way for any of you (or your friends) preparing to embark on this journey. If your surgery date is set, CONGRATULATIONS, you've made it through the toughest part! Seriously, the decision (and waiting for the surgery) is honestly the hardest part. I couldn't be more proud of all the women out there who are standing up to cancer and saying "NOPE!" by choosing a prophylactic double mastectomy. You are truly inspirational. And for those of you who are preparing without the choice, I honestly don't have the words to describe how incredibly strong and brave you are. Also, I'd love to pray for you so please email me.
From my personal experience, I am going to share some advice, tips and items that have tremendously helped me through this journey...

THROW A BOOB-VOYAGE. First, I highly recommend celebrating your God-given tatas before they are removed. A few days before your surgery, go out to dinner with your best girl friends, have them over for a game night or throw a boob-voyage party

Being surrounded by my best friends and their families days before my surgery really encouraged me and helped reduce my anxiety about the procedure. I also didn't want anyone to feel awkward about my mastectomy (especially my friend's husbands) so I invited kids and husbands to my party and everyone had a great time. Plus my amazing husband is on this journey with me and was very scared about my procedure so I wanted him to celebrate and let loose with the guys too. And now, when I see my friends I don't feel like I have to whisper or feel awkward about my recovery around their husbands.

MEALS: You won't be cleared to cook for awhile (six weeks for me) so let a friend create a meal sign up for you and also stock your freezer ahead of time. Take Them A Meal is a great website for meal coordination and even offers the option to ship pre-made meals from friends and family who don't live nearby. This was a wonderful surprise from my friends who live many miles away but still wanted to help. Also, for our meal sign-up site my friend posted a note notifying guests that we'd leave a cooler on the front porch for days that were particular hard and I could not visit. And trust me, there will be many of those days! But your friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. understand!

FAMILY SCHEDULING: If you have kiddos (especially small kids) make sure you line up back-up help for school pick ups and drop offs in advance! Your primary support person will be taking care of you so you'll need an extra set of hands for the kids. 
 
NECESSITIES: I remember freaking out about a week before my surgery thinking "what do I need?!?!?" I was so worried about stocking my freezer and lining up so many things that I totally forgot to prepare for my recovery. I also frequently receive emails from readers asking what sort of gifts are really helpful during recovery so they can send something thoughtful and useful to a friend going through this procedure. So here are a few of my must haves for coming home from surgery. Remember, every woman is different so you may not need all of these. But I wanted to put together a the most comprehensive list possible!

1. Button Up Clothing: For at least the first 3 weeks, you will not be able to dress yourself. I lived in pajamas at home and leggings with cardigans when I left the house. These must be button up so you don't have to lift your hands above your head to pull your shirt on or shimmy up your body (pulling up on clothes is very painful at first)! I recommend purchasing one size bigger than you'd normally wear. 

2. Pillows, Pillows, Pillows: You will need tons of pillows of all shapes and sizes to get comfortable. I used one neck pillow, two heart pillows for under my arms during the day, a teeny little pillow for extra support in random places, several massive pillows for behind my back and a variety of thick and thin pillows surrounding me. 

The Bed Wedge: Until your surgical drains are removed (for me that was three weeks post-op), I was instructed to sleep sitting up. We tried building a pillow fort which was never comfortable enough but then a friend offered to loan us her bed wedge system and it was a complete game changer. I was able to actually get a little sleep with this amazingly comfortable body pillow. Plus you can adjust the system in different positions for different times of day. I also stacked pillows to keep my arms elevated on both sides of the wedge.

Bump Nest Pillow: Once I was cleared to lay flat on my back for sleeping I traded out the bed wedge for my amazing pregnancy pillow. I am still using this and will continue to do so through my next surgery recovery. 

3. Lip Balm, Hand lotion, Hair Ties, Headbands: There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to move that stray hair out of your face or off the back of your neck those first few days. I kept my hair in a pony tail (shout out to the husband for learning this) and used huge durable headbands to keep my hair from falling in my face and driving me nuts. Keep all of these things on the night stand next to the bed for easy access. 
 
4. Dry Shampoo, Face Wipes & Facial Spray: You are not allowed to shower for several days after the surgery. Once you are cleared, taking a shower is a bit of a production the first few weeks and you definitely need assistance washing your hair. For the days I was too tired to shower, a spritz of dry shampoo and face wipes and facial spray helped me feel refreshed.  

5. Pill Organizer Box: You will have so many pills to keep up with! And you will not be able to unscrew the top of your prescription bottles so having your pills pre-sorted by hour or day in a pill box is incredibly helpful! We crossed out the days of the week and wrote times instead on my box.

6. Throat Lozenges: After surgery I had a very dry, sore throat for several days and coughing hurts your chest so keep throat lozenges handy!

7. Electric Toothbrush: I did not purchase one of these but a few people recommended it to cut down on arm movement the first week. In hind sight, I would have purchased one. Also, you will not be able to bend over the sink bowl to spit or wash your face so keep a cup nearby and some face wipes too! 

8. Surgical Bra: Some hospitals will provide you with a surgical bra and some hospitals ask you to bring your own. Check with your doctor and hospital ahead of time! I really liked my Amoena Post-Surgical Bra with Drain Management. Read more about drain wearing and surgical bras here.

9. Drain Camisole: A post-surgery pocketed camisole was my second choice of drain wearing. I loved my camisole because it was super soft and comfortable and I could easily throw a cardigan over it to hide the drains.

10. Lanyard: For clipping your drains to when you shower.

11. Drain Apron: I received the sweetest set of aprons made by the volunteers at the hospital. The apron was my preferred drain holder when I went out and about although I had to be careful with the drain cords under my shirt, especially when I had my little ones in tow! You can decorate your own canvas waist apron or purchase a black apron if you want to be more incognito.

12. Back Scratcher: No one warned me how itchy the pain meds would make me so I used a long plastic serving fork the first few weeks and eventually upgraded to a legit back scratcher.  

13. Tumbler with Straw & Snacks: You will need water next to you at all times. Make sure you have lightweight cups with straws because the first few weeks you will want to limit the range of motion in your arms! Straws were a lifesaver. Also, keep snacks nearby for when you take your medications. The snackeeze cup was a pretty amazing gift I received and highly recommend! 

14. iPad, Magazines, etc.: Fill your Netflix que up...starting with Parenthood and Friday Night Lights.

EXTRA SPECIAL GIFTS FOR YOUR FRIEND: Here are really great group gifts to go in on to surprise your friend. 

Blow Dry Bar Gift Card: Unless the patient lives with a hair stylist, I highly recommend a blow out gift card. After four weeks of ponytails, my hair was an absolute mess. Matt did his best to help me wash and blow dry my hair, but after so many weeks you begin to crave feeling normal again. One of my girlfriends surprised me with a gift card to Blo (a blow dry bar) and I went at 3 weeks post op so I could attend a baby shower looking halfway decent. I was so thankful and happy to have my hair professionally washed and styled that the stylist washed my hair twice and I literally cried happy tears leaving the salon. 

Pedicure Gift Card: Having a fresh pedicure to look at all day in bed helped me feel halfway decent, especially during those first few weeks of not being able to do my hair or makeup. 

Housecleaning: Under no circumstance will you be allowed to do any sort of light housework including vacuuming, loading/unloading the dishwasher, etc. My mom surprised me with 6 weeks of housecleaning to ensure I didn't do it myself and it was the best gift ever.

Send a Meal: Other great meal gifts we received were gift cards to local meal delivery services like Foodie Call and Postmates. Check your area to see what is offered there.
 
WHAT TO PACK IN YOUR HOSPITAL BAG: You may be in the hospital for 1-2 nights. Leave your valuables at home to keep them safe! Here is what I packed (and used): 
  • Mini Pillow
  • Chapstick
  • Snacks
  • Button Up Pajamas
  • Socks
  • Flip Flops & Slippers
  • Hand Lotion
  • Surgical Bra & Drain Belt
  • Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste)
  • Throat Lozenges
  • iPad & Charger
  • Hair Ties, Bobby Pins & Headband
  • Face Wipes, Face Spray & Dry Shampoo
 
And that's a wrap! I will be updating this post as I receive questions from readers!
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Friday, January 29, 2016

Five on Friday!


Happy Friday!

one. We made it two whole weeks before throwing in the towel on the shared nursery. We really, really, really wanted this to work so bad and still hope that we can give it another shot in a few months, but the reality was Thomas was waking Caroline up too many times throughout the night. During the first year there are so many growth spurts and sleep regressions so Thomas' sleep is just too unpredictable these days. He'd wake and cry for a bit and Caroline would get super upset which would result in both of us having to get up, each take a baby and rock them back to sleep. Then we'd do it all over again a few hours later. Since we've moved Thomas into his own room, Caroline has gone back to her 12 hours of sleep (for now anyway) and we've been able to let Thomas cry it out a bit which has really helped stretch him from 7 pm - 6 am. Any mamas with advice on timing for room sharing?
two. Since our main changing station is in Caroline's room we'll continue to change all diapers in there so I don't have to stock both rooms with all our necessities. Because we have a LOT of "necessities." I love talking to other moms about their must-have products, I thought I'd share some of my diaper station essentials today!

First up, we have the diaper genie and love it although these days we find ourselves bi-passing the genie with some of Caroline's diapers and heading straight to our outside trashcan. There is nothing worse than toddler poop. My only complaint about the diaper genie is the cost of the refill bags. We've tried all sorts of cheaper bags including the Target brand (strongly suggest not wasting your money on these) and the cheapest good quality alternative we've found are the Nursery Fresh refills

Another most used item for us are diaper changing pads...because washing, changing and buying a dozen changing pad covers is annoying, expensive and time consuming. 

We also have the OXO Perfect Pull Wipes Dispenser which semi-perfectly dispenses one wipe at a time. I say semi-perfect because on occasion a few will come out with one pull but not nearly as bad as the long strand of wipes you get from the plastic dispensers. For $20, it's worth it.

And a few of our favorite items we keep on the shelf include Mustela Physiobebe No-Rinse cleanser for quick wipe downs on skipped bath nights, the very best diaper cream ever - Triple Paste, Eucerin Baby for Thomas' sensitive skin and Noodle & Boo Lotion for Caroline, Aquaphor for winter chapped cheeks and lots of DISTRACTIONS!

Changing Caroline's diaper can be a full blown fight these days. The second we even mention a diaper change she turns into a ninja and a simple task of changing a quick diaper turns into either a negotiation or meltdown. Sooooo, it's extremely important that we keep a fresh rotation of distractions available to both kids to make diaper changes as bearable as possible. Our current distraction line-up consists of Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes, Sophie the Giraffe, VTech Baby Phone and Bella Tunno Dream Bunny

Last but not least, odor eliminators for the aforementioned toddler diaper bombs. I recently received some products from Fresh Wave to put to the test in the nursery and I have been pleased with the results. I keep a tub of the odor removing gel on the shelf (out of reach from the kiddos), throw an odor removing pack at the bottom of my diaper genie, and freshen up the room with odor removing spray after each #2 diaper. You can find these products at Target!

three. I recently made the Pioneer Woman's Linguini with Clam Sauce recipe and loved it. This meal is inexpensive, is thrown together quickly, tastes delicious, is toddler approved and fed us for 2 dinners and 1 lunch! So I recommend throwing it into your next meal plan!

four.  This week was so incredibly long. Thankfully I had the most amazing cheesecake to look forward to each night after dinner. I already raved about this on SnapChat but I'll post it again because it is so dang good.


five. A few weekends ago we finally took the kids to Discovery Place Kids and I'm kicking myself for not doing this sooner. With the winter months keeping us cooped up inside it takes Caroline about 22 minutes before she's bored, cranky and coloring the walls. Out of desperation one morning we packed the kiddos up and trekked out to Huntersville to the most amazing "children's museum" aka a magical place of unending activities and rooms to explore. There's a huge firetruck, a toddler sized grocery store, a mini deli, an underwater aquarium, the most impressive water table of all time and so much more. There was even a large area for kids under 3 that Thomas was able to play in. If you're a mama in Charlotte, I highly recommend making a trip to DPK! Caroline could not contain her excitement.
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Wanna join Darci, April, Natasha and I on the Friday fun? You can link-up on any of our four blogs every Friday! All you have to do is...
1.) Write your post about five things you're lovin' this week (or any five things you want to share!).
2.) Share the logo on your blog and link back. 
3.) Link-up at the bottom of the post so some new readers can check out your five things and say hello!
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