Friday, February 26, 2016

Five on Friday

Well, it is finally Friday! We have had a really busy week so this week has actually flown by. It is always nice when that happens, although I wish the weekend could go by a little slower. So here goes my five on Friday!

One. I received a lot of love and encouragement from this post on Tuesday. I was really nervous to put my story out there, but I am so glad I did. I am tired of hiding behind the secrecy and I have taken to telling anyone who asks me when we want to have kids that we are currently trying. It has been really freeing and I am glad that I have started sharing my story.

Two. I finally finished up the last few things for our taxes and was able to send them off to our tax guy. He lives in Wisconsin, so we had to ship all our documents to him. Well, since we had to include our closing documents for the house so we had to send him a literal box full of paper work. Glad I can cross that one off my list. Now hopefully we will actually be able to file by the deadline.
Three. Richard and I have a busy next few months with travel it is kinda crazy. And we just added a new trip to Milwaukee! We have been wanting to visit there for a while now and we finally found a good deal on flights and booked a trip! Richard grew up in Milwaukee before moving to the Twin Cities in middle school so he wanted to go back and see his stomping grounds. Also, my cousin and his wife live there and they generously offered their house for us to stay. We are so excited to visit them and can't wait until then!

Four. I saw in my timehop app this week that we were celebrating our last week in Louisiana this time last year. I find it so crazy that it has already been a year since we said good bye to that place, yet living there is a distant memory. I still miss the people from there like crazy, but we love Texas and everything the big city has to offer. Also, it has been three and a half years since we left Minnesota. Now that is crazy talk.
Five. The Jeep decided to give me a mini heart attack this week. I was sitting in the parking lot at work on my phone because I was super early when all of a sudden smoke starts coming out from behind my steering wheel. I quickly shut off the car and popped the hood to see if there was anything smoking in the engine, which there wasn't. My husband then told me to go and take my car to the dealership to have it checked out. He also terrified me and warned me that my air bag might go off randomly so I should be careful. That is just what I wanted to hear. The dealership came back and told us the next day that there was some dark sticky liquid that must have spilled onto the wires behind the steering wheel and that the smoke was just the liquid burning off. Richard thought he had caught me and thought that I had spilled Dr. Pepper all over the steering wheel and did not tell him. I don't remember anything spilling on the steering wheel so it is a mystery to me. I am just grateful that it was basically nothing and that we did not have to shell out even more money to keep the Jeep working. That car is definitely on its last leg.

There you have it! This weekend should be a good one, even though it will be another weekend of dissertation writing. For Richard anyway. But we are getting closer to being done with that one so I suppose it is a good thing. Have I mentioned that I want to be done with that? Like yesterday. So close. Have a good weekend everyone!

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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Fertility Journey | The Beginning

DISCLAIMER: This post has a lot of information about female fertility so if you are male or just simply un-interested you may want to tune out now. You have been warned.

This story starts a little over two years ago. It was October in 2013. It was only a few short months after my mom died which made me realize how very short life is. I remember this night so well. Richard and I were talking about babies as we did often, because I have known that I wanted kids from a very young age. We were standing in our bathroom in our West Monroe apartment. Richard was about to hop in the shower and we were talking about how we want kids. Richard says to me, "Lets just throw caution to the wind and try and get pregnant now." He was completely serious and thus began our real conversations about having kids. In that conversation, we decided, no, right this minute was probably not the best timing since we had a major vacation to Hawaii planned that spring and I did not want to miss it due to being too pregnant. Richard also had at least two years left in his Ph.D. program (which two years later we still have a good year left) so it would be too soon to have kids in 9 months. We decided that after the Hawaii trip, May 2014, we were going to start trying to have a baby. That meant that we could have a baby early in 2015, right? Wrong.

Between October of 2013 and May of 2014, I did all of the preparation that I could so that when the time came around, we would be ready. I stopped taking my sleeping pills the very night we decided to have a kid and have not looked back since. I did research on everything I should do to prepare, which included eating healthier and taking some prenatal vitamins. Richard also went back and forth a bit on whether May would really be a good time to start trying, but on my 24th birthday in April 2014, he bought me a few baby themed presents to show me that yes, he was on board.
^^Gifts from Richard. Definitely picked by him^^
^^Some of the very few things I let myself buy^^
I then stopped taking my birth control pills in April 2014 thinking that I would be pregnant within a few months. I mean my sister got pregnant after being off birth control for two weeks so of course that would happen for me too. Wrong again.

We officially started trying to get pregnant after our trip to Hawaii in May 2014. Trying to get pregnant looked much different then than it does now. I really knew nothing about my own body and I have since learned everything there is to know. For the first few month, I just sort of went with it and did a little tracking of my fertility, but I figured it would just happen anyway so there was no need to pay much attention. But, let's face it, I am a planner so I had to plan on some level. The first few months, everything seemed normal and I thought it was going well. Yet, I was still not pregnant. I took everything as a sign that I was, but I was not. My cycles were a little on the long side, around 33 days (normal is 28) but I did not think much of it. Then all of a sudden my cycles jumped to 45 days long, which was incredibly frustrating because for a solid 15 days I thought I was pregnant and took a million pregnancy test, but they were all negative. By the way, did I mention that all of this crazy was happening while my husband was completely absent since he was studying for his comprehensive exams? Yeah, that was a very lonely period in my life.

Then in September 2014, my cycle disappeared all together. I did not have a "normal" period for a solid three months. In December 2014, my period returned after a 99 day cycle. I had determined from all of my research that I had not been ovulating since coming off birth control and my body was just pretending it was ovulating. If you do not ovulate you are not supposed to get a period. Which explains the absence of my period. So it took my body 8 months to start ovulating after I stopped taking my birth control pills. I honestly never thought about the effects those pills would have on me in the long term and some days I really wish that I had never taken them at all.
Even my fertility app did not understand what was happening
By December of 2014, I had actually started ovulating and I had also become more serious about tracking when I was ovulating. If you are really interested in what the signs for ovulation are you can find them easily online, but I will not go into much detail here. I started charting and taking my temperature daily. I also knew that both my younger sister and my best friend were going to be getting married in about 9 months so I had to make sure that I was not too far along that I would miss their weddings. But, at this point I did not care how pregnant I ended up being at their wedding as long as I could still be there. So to ensure this was possible, we had to prevent for one month, but it ended up not mattering, because I did not ovulate that month. Since then, I have been ovulating and my cycles have been anywhere between 27 days to 42 days, with most being around 33 days. Which was a huge improvement compared to my 45 day cycles.

I spent the entire year of 2015 hoping to become pregnant, and yet I still am not. I bought my bridesmaid dresses for the weddings an entire size too big, just in case I ended up pregnant. Then it cost me a fortune in altering them to actually fit me. Month after month of heart break. I spent two weeks of every month hoping and wishing that this month would be the month that it would happen only to be disappointed. Some months hurt more than others did. Some months I could convince myself it was a good thing because this meant that I could do something fun I might not have been able to do had I been pregnant. Some months I would cry and not be able to stop when I would think about how something I want so bad was just out of reach. That I had no control. Other months I would not allow myself to get the least bit excited in order to prepare for the worst, only to still feel just as sad about it anyway.

In May of 2015, after we had officially been trying for a year, I made an appointment with an OB/GYN to discuss what could be going wrong. They started doing tests, and told me that I needed to start taking ovulation tests. I had not been taking them yet because I had been using more "natural" ways of determining ovulation and I knew exactly when I was ovulating. But, my doctor told me to take them because then we could use another indicator to show that I was ovulating. Because my body could be going through all the motions of ovulating, but not actually ovulating. She then wanted me to have some labs drawn in order to see if there were any hormone imbalances. She also had me schedule an appointment to have an ultrasound done to check on my ovaries and such. All of the hormone tests and the ultrasound came back normal. All my doctor could tell me was that everything was going as it should so she could see no reason why I was not getting pregnant. I waited a few months and used the ovulation predictor kits just to see if I would have any luck with them before making another appointment. Plus, summer of 2015 was already extremely crazy so I did not have a whole lot of extra time anyway. In November of 2015, I talked to the OB/GYN one more time before she told me that it came down to this last test. She wanted to make sure that I was actually ovulating and not just showing all the signs of ovulation. So I was told to have my blood drawn to check for ovulation one week after my ovulation predictor gave a positive. If I was not ovulating, then they would give me some medicine to help me ovulate and see if that led to pregnancy. If I was ovulating, that would mean that I had probably been ovulating all along and I would need to see a fertility specialist. So I left the appointment knowing that the likelihood of me not actually have been ovulating all along was very slim, but I needed to get the test done before I could go to a fertility specialist. I received the test results right after Thanksgiving and they said that yes I ovulated and yes I needed to go see a fertility specialist for further assistance.

So as of February of 2016, I have been through 10 full cycles where I have been ovulating that still have not led to a pregnancy. I know there are plenty of people out there who have been trying longer than I have to have a baby. I also know that there are plenty of people who never even tried to get pregnant, but did get pregnant. I know that I am just at the beginning of this very long road, but that does not make my journey thus far any easier. We have been trying for more than 20 months so its not exactly a short amount of time either. I know that I am young and we luckily have time on our side, but I don't think that takes away from my desire to have children. This journey has been tough so far, but I am still hopeful that some day I will have a baby in my arms to call my own.

We have recently visited a fertility specialist, but I will go into more detail about that at a later time since this post is already getting long. I have actually been in a better place about everything more recently and I have been able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I have a lot of faith in my doctors and I have been reading a bunch of success stories online that make me feel much better. Someday I will be pregnant. I have to keep that faith.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Our Finances: Bank Accounts

I started talking a few weeks ago about our finances and how we do things a little differently. So I thought I could talk about how we do things and maybe that will inspire someone else to take a look into their finances. Disclaimer: I am not an expert and this is just what works for me. It may not work for everyone and I am hoping this will help someone who needs it.

First, let's talk about bank accounts. We have seven different accounts. Yes you heard read that right. Seven. Granted 6 of them are with the same bank so when I log in online I can see them all. Not everyone needs this many, but it works for us. Here are the different ones that we have.

Family Checking-This is where all of our money gets deposited. Our "home base" of sorts. From here we transfer everything to the other accounts. This is also where we keep money to pay all of our bills.
Emergency Fund- This is exactly what it sounds like. This is where we keep our money in case of emergency. Emergencies being one of us loses our job, ends up in a hospital or something on that level. Cars breaking down and needing new clothing would not be considered an emergency.
Short Term Savings- This is sort of our catchall right now for everything we are saving for. Buying new cars, updating our house and if need be- car repair and other things that will always come up. We follow Dave Ramsey's principals where he pointed our that cars breaking down should not be an emergency since it is bound to happen so you should be saving for it.
Bill Savings- Every month we save a little for all of our bills that we pay at a non-monthly interval. We have quite a few of these now days including gifts, car insurance, homeowner's association fees, and security monitoring. We pay our car insurance every six months to take advantage of the pay in full discount, so we set aside a monthly amount. We also calculate how much we spend on gifts in a year (my birthday, Richard's birthday and Christmas) and then divide that number by 12 to get the dollar amount we should be saving each month. Association fees are due every six months and we get a discount with our home security company if we pay in full.
Vacation Fund- Since traveling is important to us, we set aside some money to travel when we can. We usually have some sort of goal on when we would like to travel so we add money to get to that goal.
Rental Fund- This one is special to us because we have renters living in our house back in Minnesota. This is where we put their money and pay our mortgage each month.
Additional Account- This one is unique to us too. Since we lived in Louisiana and there was literally no overlap in banks that are in both Minnesota and Louisiana, we had to open up a bank account there. This money is set aside to pay for the rest of Richard's tuition so we have left it there for now.

I really like having separate bank accounts so that we can keep our money separate. It sounds like it is super complicated, but in all reality, we just set up automatic transfers through our bank and we never have to think about it. I would highly recommend that everyone have at least 4 different accounts-Checking, Emergency Fund, Regular Savings and a Savings Goal. Everyone has some sort of goal they are saving for whether it be a car, a house, or maybe even a wedding.

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Master Closet Reveal

Today is the day! The day that we can show you what our new closet remodel looks like! We love the closet remodel so far and are so excited that we were able to get this done. So in my last post, I left you with the closet empty and painted, just waiting for the installation. They delivered all of our products the night before the installer came. Once they had delivered everything, we were glad that we had decided not to install ourselves. Even though it would have saved us a bunch of money, we decided to let them do it because there are a lot of small pieces and we did not want to mess up the process. Also, this space is huge so it would be a lot more involved. In the future, we think we could handle a smaller space ourselves.
Here are the plans we had drawn up at the Container store. They can give you a feel for how this space is laid out and what our measurements are and so forth.
I also forgot to mention that we removed the door that was previously separating the bathroom from the closet. We rarely shut this door and it was just taking up space. Without it, the space feels bigger and we don't have to worry about the door getting in the way.
It is a little bit tough to take pictures in this space so the pictures don't really do it justice. We have a few empty drawers that we are hoping to fill with extra linens and towels. Also, we are thinking about switching out all our hangers so that they are all the same color and it looks more consistent. I can't even tell you how nice it is to have everything organized the way I want it. I can have a different drawer for each category of clothing I own. Like having workout shorts separate from normal shorts and swimming suits separate from bras. It is just so, so nice. Richard even organized his socks into 5 different categories and told me he wants to help with laundry so everything gets put away the way he wants. Definitely won't stop him from doing that. We have a few boxes up above on the shelves of clothes that are either sentimental or something we do not need right now, like my dress clothes, that we do not want to get rid of just yet. Also, we have a box of winter clothes because, let's face it, we don't need those in the south.

Down to the best part. The before and afters! Can you tell we love the renovation?

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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Master Closet Demo & Prep

So this makeover has been needed for quite sometime. We knew right away when we moved in and started unpacking our closet that we were lacking space for folded items. We had plenty of room for hanging stuff, but we really fold more than we do hang. We had thought about buying dressers and putting them in the closet, but neither of us were really thrilled about that idea. We had a dresser in the closet already and with the current set up, we could not have fit enough drawers in the space. Also, our closet is huge, but I never really liked the shelving that came with the house. For having such a sweet master closet, it just looked cheap and poorly made. Here are the pictures from before we moved in.
When we moved from Louisiana, we had put all of our clothes in plastic storage tubs and when we arrived in Texas, we only unpacked about half of them. So the rest of the boxes ended up in the closet and occasionally we would dig through them trying to find a specific item of clothing. Our closet also became a dumping ground of just stuff. Basically it was a hot mess.
We knew we had to come up with something. And then we went to the container store. Does anyone else love this store as much as me? I get excited just to walk through the door. Organizing makes my heart so happy. While we were there, we noticed that their Elfa system was on sale and that the sale would only last a few more weeks. We decided to go for it and design a system that fit our needs. We used their document, found here, to plan out how much space we would need and record our measurements and everything. Then we took our information to a store and worked with someone there who helped us design exactly what we wanted. After receiving a little bit of sticker shock (this system is not cheap), we decided that this was something we could move with us and use for years to come so it was worth the investment.

Then came the work. We decided that we wanted to gut the closet and paint it ourselves before we had installers come. We are so glad we did the work since it took a lot longer than we expected and would have cost a lot more to have them do it. We first emptied the entire closet, and then got to work demolishing the current shelving. I mean, Richard demoed while I watched because--lets be real here--I am useless in that area.
We realized along the way that the builders of our house did a terrible job at building this closet. They used a finishing nailer to put up all the shelving and we would find 10 nails all in one spot which made it incredibly hard to rip off the wall. Also, the builders had put up the shelving before they had painted the walls so underneath the shelving was raw sheetrock. And since all the walls in our house are textured (insert annoyed face here), we had to patch the unlevel walls and then retexturize the walls.
Luckily, someone else has already realized the difficulty of patching a textured wall so there was a product at Home Depot that made it easy. You just spray it on, wait a few minutes and then use their special knife to "flatten" the texture. Once everything was painted you could still see where we patched, but we were not super worried about it since we would be putting stuff on the walls to hide the flaws.
Once everything dried, we were able to paint the walls. We wanted to add a fun pop of color to the closet because we will be going neutral in the bedroom. We were able to get rid of the terrible off white that covered every wall when we moved in. Seriously, cannot stand that color. Slowly, but surely we will be beige-wall-free. Painting textured walls takes a lot of strength and a lot of paint. You have to press really hard on the roller to be able to get the paint even on the texture. We picked the color Colorado Grey by Benjamin Moore, that we color matched to Behr. It is a great color and reads as really blue without being too overwhelming.
Just because it is fun to compare....
Next came the actual installation and organization of the closet. More to come!

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