Tuesday, December 16, 2014

And the gender is.....

... well let me tell you how the appointment went first, mmkay?

First the kids were so stinking excited the night before that I honestly don't know how much sleep they got. I had been talking this up for them for awhile, so I figured they totally knew what this was going to be. I feel like I do a good job at preparing them for things but apparently, I dropped the ball. As soon as we get there, Jackson asks me how we're getting the baby home if we don't have the car seat. I said, "Oh buddy, we're just going to see what it looks like, while it's in my belly. It doesn't come home until after your birthday." He quickly declares, "Then why are we even here??".

Okey dokey then.

So once it started I was super excited. Then I got worried we weren't going to be able to find out because as it turns out, the baby kept it's foot in its mouth pretty much the entire time. Except for a few seconds where it stuck it's tongue out at us, which Jackson kind of liked.

But for a quick moment, we got a quick image of a butt and a money shot.

So the tech is pretty certain we are having a girl. Which means that little Penelope is on her way in May. Or maybe she'll keep with tradition of her sister and be a week early, and show up in late April. We just don't know.

Olivia is thrilled. Jackson... well he wasn't. But the good news is that maybe his reluctance was just for show for me, because when he got back to school he eagerly told classmates and pretty much every adult he saw that he was having a baby sister. So that made me feel better.

He also woke me up this morning to tell me that the "good news" is that at least he'll still be my "favorite boy", which is what I've called him since he was a baby. So I think we're going to be just fine over here. We'll add some mermaids and pink to the ocean themed room and things will be ready for her to come join us.

And how do I feel about it?

I feel... kind of scared? Which sounds ridiculous because I have one of each so it's not like I don't have experience or I'm going to be getting into something new. But at the same time, because I have one of each, I feel like I at least have something to compare to. I'm kind of nervous because I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing with Olivia, and here I am, adding another girl to my mix. With Jackson it feels easy because I get him. I think Penelope is going to be so different, personality wise, from Olivia and Jackson and that scares me because anyone will tell you I have really great kids. Very sweet, very polite, very fun, good kids. I couldn't be any prouder of either of them. So now it feels like we're going to find out if they are a fluke or if we're really good parents after all. Does that make sense? It's so strange, I feel so much pressure this time.

This is clearly all hormones, I'm sure come May I'll be fine. HA!

So there we have it. Penelope is on her way.

And yes, her name really will be Penelope.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Gender Prediction?

So tomorrow is the big 20 week ultrasound where, if the baby decides to spread eagle for us, we will hopefully be able to tell what gender teh baby is. A few people said they couldn't guess without seeing what I look like right now because that is apparently helpful. So here we are:

 Side view of 19 weeks.
 Front view of 19 weeks.
 This was when I was 18 weeks pregnant with Jackson.
And 18 weeks pregnant with Olivia.

With Olivia I felt like I had spread out more and with Jackson I had a perfectly round tummy. So who knows. As far as the heartbeat rate, I was always 170's with Olivia and 140's with Jackson. This time I have one rate in the 170's and one in the 140's, so that's not super helpful.

Neither pregnancy before this one you could tell I was pregnant from behind and you can't tell this time either, so again, not helpful. My gut reaction at our very first ultrasound was girl. I specifically had the "there's our daughter" thought go through my head and at the time I was taken aback that I had any kind of thought happening other than, "is there a heartbeat?". But then every once in awhile I find myself referring to it as a boy, so who knows. I'm not helpful. But it's OK because whatever we have it just going to be bonus considering we already have one of each. I'm just excited to buy baby clothes!

So what do YOU think it is? Of course I'll post tomorrow what we found out and the kids' reactions. They went to bed tonight very excited and Jackson has come down three times in the last hour to let me know he doesn't think he can sleep tonight, he's so excited. I'm also very excited and when I think back to my other two pregnancies, I wasn't as excited as I am about this gender reveal. Is that weird? I'm not sure, but it's kind of nice.

This weekend marked a LOT of movement and kicking, definitely getting stronger. According to my pregnancy phone apps, the baby is the size of a cantaloupe right now. I have also felt really run down and I think I'm fighting whatever plague is currently going around at the kids' school. I also have had a LOT of round ligament pain/stretching. Which is really strange because I never had that with the other two, not joking- never had it at all, not even with my first. This time though it's no joke and it's annoying. You'd think with how chunky I am this wouldn't be an issue, there should be plenty of cushion in there for this baby. Ha!

So let me know what you think I'm having in the comments section!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Top 11 BEST books I've read this year.

Every year I get asked for a list of my favorite books of all time and honestly, that list is SO hard. Mostly because I love too many, all for very different reasons, so one of these days I'll make this huge definitive list that you need. But for now, some of you are still shopping for holiday gifts and if you have any awesome friends, they are readers. And readers want books for gifts, it's just a fact.

So without further making you wait, here is a list of top eleven books that I read this year.

This Dark Road to MercyThis Dark Road to Mercy- Wiley Cash: Talk about a book that grabs you from the first word and keeps you hanging on to the end. I really identified with the older daughter, Easter. These girls are essentially orphaned when their mother overdoses on drugs after living a hard life. But instead of going to foster care, good ol' dad comes back out of nowhere and tries really hard to do the right thing. It's a hard book, and it's sad, but it was great.

Orphan TrainOrphan Train - Christina Baker Kline: One thing I really love is when two generations learn about each other and can connect through stories of a time long passed. Then you get a book like Orphan Train, which is that and so much more and it's everything. Not only was I hooked on Molly's story, but more so the one of Vivian, who was a passenger on the oft forgotten Orphan Train, but I wanted to learn more about the orphan trains and really- they were kind of horrible. You never knew where kids would land and it didn't actually matter so long as they weren't taking up government funds in an orphanage somewhere. Then Vivian's ending? GUT PUNCH. I cried and had to take a break from the book just to read the final few pages.
Trinity Stones (The Angelorum Twelve Chronicles, #1)

Trinity Stones- L.G. O'Connor: I recently read and reviewed the second book in this series as well, and it's just as good as the first. So I'm going to honorably mention it here but you really need to read the first before you get to that one. But this was a really great book and if you are at all a fan of paranormal, you are going to love this. The story is great, the character development is great, you are completely hooked. You finish the book feeling satisfied but already wanting more because this is going to be a pretty in depth series and I cannot wait. Can I mention how fantastic the writing is??

The Unfinished ChildThe Unfinished Child- Theresa Shea: Oh man. Well this was a book that originally I didn't remember signing up for, was a little worried I would hate it, and it turned out to be one of the best books I have ever read. It's about two friends, one who desperately wants a child but can't for some unknown reason, and the other who has kids and finds herself pregnant again and isn't thrilled. Even more so when she finds out that her child will likely have Downs' Syndrome. But mixed in this is the story of a woman who gave birth to a child in 1947 with Downs' Syndrome and back then, you gave that baby up, you certainly didn't keep it. But she kept in touch with the home her daughter was at, and that proves to be  horrific when she finds out what happens. But it ties in with the two friends. And it's such a moral gut wrench of a story and every opinion you thought you had on this would be questioned. Amazing story.
Alias Hook
Alias Hook- Lisa Jensen: If there was an award for book that I talked about most this year, this book would get it. It's a re-telling of the classic Peter Pan, except the brilliance about this is that Peter Pan is actually portrayed as the bad guy, and poor Hook is the hero, the guy you root for and oddly enough, the guy you fall in love with by the end. No, I'm not even kidding. I said in my review that I had a slow start on this book but once I got into it, I was absolutely riveted and I could not put this one down at all. It was amazing, I am such a fan of Lisa Jensen and I will go wherever she wants to take me next. It was such a great concept of a book and honestly, I had no idea how she was going to make me love Hook but she did.

Sea CreaturesSea Creatures- Susanna Daniel: Another author I will throw all of my money at just to buy whatever she is selling. Her first book, Stiltsville, is one of my all time favorites and it has a line at the end that will always gut punch me. I was so worried that feeling and love couldn't possibly be conveyed over another book with a totally different cast of characters and story, but it did. Oh, did it. It's about a mom who is in a difficult marriage with her work-aholic husband who reluctantly agrees to parenthood but kind of leaves it to her once the boy is here. She doesn't mind, she loves being a mom, even if her son won't talk for no reason. Bring on a job with her going to Stiltsville to help organize artwork for a recluse and you worry where this story is going, BUT! Cue a major accident, a hurricane, and an unexpected death and you are left reeling at the end. You feel like you're on a boat yourself and you might fall right off the edge. Absolutely loved it, I can hardly wait to see what she produces next.
Prophecy's Power (Prophecy, #3)
Prophecy's Power- Brenda Dyer: YES. As book three in the series, I feel like I went in thinking there is a chance it won't be as great as the other two, and that's kind of allowable with a series because it has to be hard to write them. But no, it was just as amazing as the first two and I was so upset when I finished it. That moment when I'm hitting "next page" on my Nook and it's blinking at me like I'm an idiot and I realize that oh hey, this book is done. DAMMIT. I am quietly stalking Brenda's Facebook updates and she is furiously writing book four, which sounds equally amazing and I'm all over here wanting her to stop sleeping and just write. *sigh* SUCH a great romance series with a paranormal twist.

Made for YouMade for YouMade for You- Melissa Marr: Oh man. Here is another book I had no recollection signing up to review, and the cover is creepy enough to remind me that was probably why I picked it, and I absolutely was not disappointed at all. It's basically about Eva, who after almost being killed by some nut job who is fixated on her who refers to himself as "The Judge", discovers she has developed some unusual powers during her recovery. She connects with an old love interest and this seems to only fuel the psychopath who one by one starts murdering people in school as some kind of "I'm sorry I tried to kill you, but I do these other murders because I love you" thing and it's creepy. It's like a really terrifying Lifetime movie. The book is so fast paced and you have no idea who the culprit is until the end and it kept me on the edge of my seat.

I Shall Be Near to YouI Shall Be Near To You- Erin Lindsay McCabe: All of the tears in the world. Absolutely do not read this if you are having your period or for whatever reason find yourself to be highly hormonal. Just don't do it because you will hate yourself afterwards and eat all of the ice cream you can afford. The book takes place during the Civil War, Jeremiah enlists and Rosette can't bear to be without him. She's not convinced he will come home and that's not the kind of life she wants, so she decides to pretend to be a man and also enlists. He's rightfully furious when he finds out, but also kind of relieved because he also is madly in love with her. I can't even tell you any more without ruining this beautiful story, but I'll tell you what, nothing in this lifetime prepares you for the ending. Nothing.

Accidents of MarriageAccidents of Marriage- Randy Susan Meyers: If you are married, and you have ever had the "is it worth it to stick it out" thought, this book is for you. The wife is a pill popper to cope with the stress of parenting a teenager who seems more and more disconnected, and a son who she doesn't relate to, and a husband who is never home. The husband, doesn't see how far his family has spiraled out but doesn't actually care because if you don't see it, it's not a problem. Until one day an epic marital fight results in a horrifying car crash, leaving wife in a coma and fighting for her life. During that hospital stay, and subsequent recovery, we learn all about their marriage. Her problems, his infidelity, and all of the issues the children have had right in front of them. No holds barred, it was a great book.

Black IceBlack Ice- Becca Fitzpatrick: Yes, I know this brings my list to 11 and that doesn't conform to standard end of the year lists and I really don't give a damn. I don't give a damn because I am a HUGE Becca Fitzpatrick fan and she could doodle on a napkin and it'll be on this list. That's how strongly I feel for her and her books. Yes, she writes YA and I am 32 years old and again, don't care. This is about Britt, who is basically your average dumb teenage girl, who makes a series of really terrible decisions which ultimately almost get her killed. BUT, we meet a cute guy who may or may not be a psychopath, we have Britt developing a little Stockholm Syndrome and then? THEN it all goes to hell in a hand basket (or forest after a terrible blizzard, as it so happens) and nothing was the same. The best part? You're left devastated at this ending- like was everything a lie? Does anything mean something anymore? But *deep breaths* we have an epilogue and it's amazing. It's so good, it's what you want. I flew through this book in a day and that was bittersweet because Becca is hands down, the slowest writer ever, or so it seems because we wait FOREVER between her books. Seriously. I think it's been years since this and the ending of the Hush, Hush series, which is one of my favorites of all time. So this is my plea to you, Becca: please dear god, write faster.

So there you go. You need all of these books in your life, right now. You also need to make sure any awesome reader friends on your shopping list get something off this list because they will thank you, you will look super awesome and knowledgeable, and then you can pay me in cookies.

Friday, December 12, 2014

When did the dream of Santa die for you?

I realize that it's not realistic that my kids will believe in Santa forever. I know this. I really have been in some serious denial that my kids are inching closer and closer to that point where I have to explain to them what Santa is and how to still celebrate Christmas and not feel like you've been cheated. Does that make sense? I have no doubt that my kids know what Christmas is really about and how to celebrate it with a bright and giving heart. No doubt.

I'm still sad.

Here's the thing: a few weeks ago Olivia mentioned in the car, on the way home from school, that some kids in her class were talking about how Santa wasn't real. Thank god I was driving because I don't think I would have been able to keep a straight face. I very calmly asked her what she thought about it, and she told me she still believed.

But my heart broke a little bit. Because I know my time with her like this is coming to an end.

So this year I'm trying to just soak it all up with her. I think even with all of this, she's doubting everything. I do know this is the last year for all of this with her, I just know it. So now my next issue is how to explain to her about Santa and not have it be a let down for her. Does that make sense?

My fear is that she'll say or do something and ruin it for Jackson. I don't think she would do it on purpose, I really don't. I just feel a little brokenhearted that kids really do grow up. It feels like once a kid doesn't believe in Santa it's like a little piece of childhood dies.

So here's my question for you:

How do I explain Santa to Olivia without ruining Christmas for her, and how to get her to not feel like it's not as fun? 

I feel like this is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Like this is the first tough conversation we'll have with her so I feel all of this pressure to get it right. This is the kind of thing they don't explain to you in those parenting magazines or What to Expect books. Diapers and teething are nothing compared to this kind of stuff.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

19! 19 weeks!

You guys, this feels weird. Mostly because next week? Next week means I'm halfway done incubating a tiny human. It's so weird. Again, it's always a mix of "how am I already here" and "holy shit, this is all the further I am?!?!

The really cool thing is that I have my ultrasound and hopefully we'll find out if we have a girl or boy. Olivia is hoping for a girl, Jackson is hoping for a boy. We did decide that we were going to pull them out of school for the appointment so they could see. Both are very interested in what an ultrasound is, how I get the pictures, and I'm pretty sure they'll be asking a ton of questions. They are eagerly counting down the days until the appointment and have already told their teachers they would like to share what they learned when they come back to class.

So that should be enlightening for their classes. Let's hope they keep it PG. Unlike when Jackson told his table a baby was going to come out of his mom's vagina. Which he learned from a friend in another class. Ahem.

But as far as predictions, my initial gut reaction the first time I saw our little bean was that it was a girl. A lot of people think I'm having a boy. When I compare it to previous pregnancies, this one seems to be pretty similar to Jackson. The baby doesn't move a whole lot, and I remember Olivia being highly activate literally all the time. I joked that she never slept and as it turned out, it was true because she barely sleeps even now. Jackson on the other hand, hardly moved. I kept having to go in for ultrasounds because I wasn't feeling the four movements an hour, ever. He'd kick once or twice and they'd send me home. They ended up inducing me on my due date because they were worried there was a reason he wasn't moving. As it turns out, he was just super lazy and slept a lot. Which is pretty similar to his personality now.

Then if we go by the heartbeat, the first one was 175 bpm, which the old wives' tale says girl. The second one was 146, and that says boy. So that's not a conclusive thing, either.

So I don't know. We'll see. What is YOUR guess?

As of pregnancy, it's not as rough anymore which is great. I am starting to sleep like crap again so that's not ideal. The last two nights I have had bouts of restless leg syndrome, which is easily the worst. I'd rather puke than have a constant feeling like I want to run a marathon for no reason. I am hoping this isn't a long term thing and that it doesn't get worse. I'm starting to feel larger. I still look like I'm just unfortunately fat and not pregnant, so hopefully things round out soon. But in the shower I'm noticing a difference in size. I can't bend over while standing anymore, squats are my friend. Last week I was absolutely starving all of the time and this week not so much.

So things are just moving along swimmingly. Which is reassuring and good. I feel like once I'll know what we're having, I'll go into full crazy mama mode. Have I mentioned we have names picked out? I'll share those next week!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Wanderer's Children

YAY! A sequel!

The Wanderer's Children - L.G. O'Connor
The Wanderer's Children (The Angelorum Twelve Chronicles, #2)
The Wanderer’s mission three decades ago: secretly sire children to hide his bloodline, and protect them until their destinies can unite in the final battle between good and evil. That time has come...

Cara Collins, the First of the Holy Twelve, longs for one last peaceful weekend with her bridesmaids as she plans her wedding to Simon Young, her former Trinity Guardian, before duty calls with the Angelorum to gather the Twelve and prepare them for battle. Life, as she knew it, has changed; weird is Cara’s new normal. Her newly acquired Nephilim DNA is wreaking havoc on her and those closest to her as her body transforms into Amazonian proportions and an overabundance of pheromones threatens to land her in hot water with Simon—not to mention a sudden suspicious outbreak of “insta-love” among her friends.

Michael Swift, Cara’s Trinity Messenger, has spent months running from his attraction to Cara’s brazen best friend Sienna, the only woman who has ever skirted his considerable defenses. But if he wants a future with her, he must confront his tormented past head on, or risk losing her and destroying the future of the Angelorum.

As dark forces and outside threats gather, Cara has more to worry about than fitting into her wedding dress and playing Cupid to her friends. A second encounter with rocker Brett King shows Cara once again that there are no coincidences. One of the Wanderer’s children, Brett and his secret siblings are the key to gathering the rest of the Twelve.

When the newly forming team finally comes together, an unexpected revelation shakes them to their core. They must all look deeper into their souls as new secrets come to light to discover what's really at stake in the final battle between good and evil…if betrayal and Lucifer don’t rip them apart first.

YES! I absolutely LOVED the first book in this series, Trinity Stones, and it's been awhile since I read it. I wondered if I would have to re-read that one to feel like I was ready for this one, but as it turned out, I didn't have time and it didn't even matter. Not only is L.G. O'Connor an excellent writer, she keeps an entirely brand new story line moving quickly but also reminding you of key things from the first book so you don't feel left behind. The other great part? I remembered the main characters, Simon and Cara, from the first book but I had forgotten a bit about Brett, Michael and Sienna. I absolutely loved how they became a focal point of this book. It's so great to still have so much story for previous characters, and bring in more story for who used to be a secondary character, and keep it amazing and not overwhelming. 

That? That right there is talent and so many authors can't do that. This author absolutely can and that right there makes me a fan for life. Take all of my money, and keep these books coming because I cannot get enough. 

I can't be the only person totally frustrated by Constatina, right? Because she's so cryptic and gives half answers and I keep wondering if she would just give all of the information she had, would things not be so difficult and terrifying? I get you can't interfere with fate or free will but come on. And can I just say that Jonas? Yeah, Jonas is scary. I'm so annoyed that Cara seemed kind of oblivious to him and basically clue off people how totally clueless she is. But also, if she's such a major player in this, I feel like Constatina should give that kind of information up. I mean, if I were Cara, I'd be much more OK with that crappy piece of news if I had ample time to mentally and physically prepare for what was going to happen. 

The great thing? Is that there is no sign for this series to slow down or be done, and for that I am thankful. I can't wait to see what is in store for book three because just when I think the plot can't get any more intense? It does. And again, I feel like we have enough conclusion for this book to feel done but it's a perfect set up for the third book. 

Add this book to your Goodreads list HERE, or just go ahead and buy the book HERE

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Bills and budgeting is a downer.

So with having a new job, it means my income is less. Ideally, I would have liked to have worked both jobs at least through the end of the year and  use the extra money as paying things off faster. Unfortunately, that wasn't an option. So now I'm on less income, and we have Christmas happening, and I have a LOT of things that really need to get paid off before I have Baby Strand. Mostly because I'll be off of work until the fall, and that's being optimistic and assuming I can find affordable day care for 15 hours a week (3 hours for 5 days), for an infant, that doesn't cost my entire paycheck and then some.

If I can't find that, then it looks like I'm staring down stay-at-home-mom as my every day. Which is terrifying all on it's own. There is a reason I didn't do it with my other two, and that's because I like adult interaction and I get bored easily. Which is not to say I'll be bored. I can tell you right now I wouldn't be the mom with the messy house and McDonald's for dinner. Even when Olivia and Jackson were younger, I was that highly productive mom who still had handmade gifts, meals, and a clean house with an infant and toddler. So I have no doubt in my ability to rock it, because I totally would.

I just would really miss working. A whole lot. I like feeling like I'm needed somewhere, and yes, babies need you but it's not the same.


So right now we are doing some serious budgeting and planning, and mostly not spending. It sucks a whole lot. Like, it's not even fun a little bit.

The kicker is that every time we start making really good headway, something keeps happening and we're back at square one. It's like the universe really does not want us to be financially OK. Which, that's kind of rude, universe. But all of this means I have to get back into meal planning seriously (and sticking with it), and couponing. It's so time consuming for me considering I'm tired all of the time, both kids have activities happening, they both have homework and reading and things they need my help with, we still need to eat, and sometimes my family is all, "Why don't we have clean socks??" and it's just annoying. Because I'm just so *yawn* tired, that I just need a million dollars and then it'll all be fine. Right??

The really good thing is that at least I've had the foresight to start buying things in advance that I know I'll need over the summer but we might be too broke to get. Things like diapers, wipes, shampoo, toilet paper, etc. I mean, all of that stuff I can store in closets and such and it'll be helpful. I feel almost like I'm planning for a four or five month Armageddon with the stock piling. So I feel like at least that is under control.

And then, and then Matt tells me that we really need to get a new roof. He'll do the work to save us a TON of money, but oh yes, let's start buying shingles every pay day so we have it all for this summer.

Yes, let me bend over and pull out my secret stash of money I hide for things JUST like this.

So yes. My life right now is stacks of coupons, budgets, financial plans, and a list of what still needs to get done.  Thinking about it, and certainly looking at it all, makes me that much more tired.