Friday, April 29, 2011

My Home's In Alabama...

No matter where I lay my head.

Two days ago, one of the deadliest tornadoes in recent history came through my hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. In a word, it was horrific. And my heart is broken for the people there. Thankfully, my family lives in Northport, a hop away from the heart of the damage, but I have several friends whose homes have sustained incredible damage, and who I know had to be out of their mind scared when those storms came through.

After work on Wednesday, bracing for yet another bout of bad weather here in Nashville but hearing that tornadoes were coming through Tuscaloosa, I called my parents to make sure they were in their "safe place" in the house, a place I actually have memories of going to several times as a child with pillows, blankets, flashlights and weather radio in hand. Tornadoes were actually a pretty common occurrence where we lived. But we never experienced anything like this.

I could hear the fear in my mother's voice when she said three tornadoes were on the ground, and one that was estimated to be a mile wide was very close by. Trying to sound strong and positive, I told her to take cover with my Dad and Dixie, my dog from college who now lives a life of luxury with them, and to call me after it passed. By the grace of God, they did just that, and I immediately felt a sense of relief in hearing they were okay. Only by this time, I watched in horror as the most ominous, evil-looking tornado appeared on The Weather Channel, and blacked out half of Birmingham, the city where I went to college, just as I turned it on.

To say it was surreal to see Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, places that are so close to my heart and where many friends of mine still reside, on national news, is a massive understatement. But hearing numerous weathermen say this was the worst tornado they had ever seen only heightened the fear I felt at seeing this actually take place in front of me on the television. Words can't describe the shock and awe I felt, or the hit-my-knees thankfulness I had that as far as I knew, my loved ones had been spared.

But what I saw in the hours following was what really did me in. The devastation, as the mayor put it, was "catastrophic." Entire neighborhoods were erased from the map. Longstanding local establishments, like the Krispy Kreme where I would get to see doughnuts coming fresh off the conveyor belt, were destroyed. McFarland Boulevard, one of the city's main streets and one that I've traveled at least 1000 times, was one of the hardest hit roads, and I could hardly even recognize it. University of Alabama students who lived in nearby Forest Lake, a neighborhood I too had lived in after college, looked perplexed as they began to realize their homes were gone.

It was absolutely heartwrenching, and yet, even though my heart broke and my eyes were wide with shock, I couldn't bring myself to stop looking at the photos. I couldn't bring myself to blog about it yesterday, because I wanted to make sure every single person I knew was okay first. And thank the Lord, they are. They are shaken, but they are strong. And the city is already pulling together, helping out, and making me so very proud to claim Tuscaloosa as my own.

These are a few images taken from our local paper, The Tuscaloosa News.

To show you how close to home this really is, that last picture is of my friend, Chris Gaddy, in the blue shirt. He and I went to high school together and planned our 10 year reunion a few years ago. I just saw him last fall on campus at one of the Alabama football games. Unreal that he is pictured right there in the heart of it.

President Obama is walking through the devastated areas right now. I am so glad to see a sense of urgency and respect for doing whatever it takes to get Tuscaloosa back on its feet. Know that you are being covered in prayers, people of Tuscaloosa. With 42 dead and nearly 1000 injured, I cannot imagine what it must be like to have your world turned upside down like this. But like the mayor said, there will be areas of the city that are hurting for a very long time, but I am confident our great city will rise even stronger.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

eBay, the Baby Way

Thanks to lots of great advice from lots of great mama-friends (and also because of the sight of the price tags in some local baby boutiques), I started perusing Craigslist, Overstock, Amazon, Etsy, and eBay for some of my nursery essentials.

Jack. Pot.

Seriously, the thrifty bug has bitten, and it has sparked my desire to find a better deal on just about everything. Great if you have tons of time on your hands, bad if you're working full-time and baby is due in 4 months and some of these items take, oh, 12 weeks to ship. But that's not the point. The point is I've scored some major deals, I'm proud as a peacock, and I'd like to share them with all of you who perhaps like me, were feeling a bit overwhelemed with all of the neverending options in BabyLand. And because I'm honest, I also like the idea of having written proof of how much money I've saved so that I can convince Mr. T when we really do need that to-die-for little seersucker dress with bloomers for our baby girl. And that sweet sundress. And those baby cowboy see where this is going.

So let's recap the first purchase that came from Craigslist. That in reality was a little like a drive-by drug exchange because we had to meet the seller 20 minutes outside of town to pick it up. But for this little godsend, also known as the Graco Travel Lite Crib, brand-new and still in the box with a nifty little price tag, I think it was a very wise first purchase. Go us.

Things that made me happy about it: a built-in bassinet, a size that is 20% smaller than a standard pack and play, and push-button packability for easy traveling. I also loved that the gender-neutral pattern was called Barcelona Bluegrass, a fitting and subtle tribute to this baby girl's Nashville roots. I mean she was made in Music City, after all. :)

Next up? By this time we had discovered the great news that baby girl was indeed a baby girl, so it was on to the bedding department. Lawd, I had a TIME with this one. Basically, I had three cardinal rules: no pink, no themes, and no cheap fabrics. Now granted, I've seen adorable nurseries that use every pattern and shade of pink, but for me, I always knew I wanted to do something a little different. And the color that kept drawing me in was the sweetest, lightest shade of lavender. Kind of like this one called French Lilac from Benny Moore, only we use Porter Paints exclusively (shameless plug - they are a client of my husband's).

Great - paint color decision now made. Ah, but not so fast on doing the happy dance. Now most normal people would choose their bedding first, and then match the appropriate paint color, but I like to make things difficult on myself when it comes to home decor and do things backward. So the bedding search was on. And let me just tell you, there really aren't that many options out there that use lavender and white like I had pictured in my mind's eye. Though I did find this one, which I absolutely adored for its silk shantung simplicity, until I saw its $800 price tag. As IF. I don't care if the sheets are spun silk, I could never bring myself to pay that crazy price. And like the baby won't eventually spit up all over that pristine white. And so I kept shopping.

But what I DID find while taking a break from searching high and low for the bedding was this adorable little black chandelier on eBay. And it was truly like love at first sight - I knew I had to have it. Our nursery is a pretty small room, so a large fixture might have been overwhelming. But she was just the right size...

A few clicks later, and one bid that thankfully, went unchallenged, she was mine. And not only did I fall in love with her (even though she hasn't arrived yet and my fingers are triple-crossed she's being shipped in the best darn packaging one can provide), but that little purchase set the tone and inspiration for the rest of the nursery. I decided on a combination of black, white and lavender, with a little bit of sweetness, a touch of glamour, and a whole lot of sass.

So when I found this bedding that had those very same elements, I knew we had a winner!

Loved the simple design element. Adored the color combination. Crazy about the teeny black bows. Not so crazy about the organza crib skirt trim, but figure that's an easy fix. And most importantly, utterly delighted with the price tag - a whopping $99!!! Allow me to mention that she retails for four times that. So needless to say, two bids later, she was also mine. New eBay junkie, party of one. And yes, I realize many of you jumped on the eBay bandwagon like a decade ago. What can I say, I'm a late bloomer.

Elated with my newest purchase, I was on the prowl for some fun fill-ins. And the beauty of thrifty finds is that if you only spend $99 on your bedding, you are totally justified on splurging on some "non-essentials."

Some that I like? Scalloped mirrors from PB Kids (hello lavender background!):

An over-the-top white resin picture frame, scooped up at TJ Max for $10 (similar to below):

A wow-factor rug, to bring in another fabulous design element. I'm contemplating this one, which is only $150 on Overstock!

And how could I forget our white shelves, which were actually a wedding gift from a dear friend and made an appearance in the space formerly known as our media room, so no purchase required. How perfect will they be??

And for yet another fun pattern, I'm digging these striped panels for window treatments. The little ribbons even match the bedding! I think it's meant to be.

And for those of you who may be skeptical of three different patterns in one room, just feast your eyes on this fabulous little nursery. Just substitute the aqua for lavender and she could be my nursery's cousin. Proof positive that having fun with with different patterns can be done well.

So there you have it, my nursery inspiration board in blog form. Because I'm not tech-savvy enough to do an actual one. Four months and counting to make it happen - wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

20 Week Bumpdate: It's a GIRL!!!

Be still, my beating heart! Prepare yourselves, this is about to be an exclamation point overload kind of email. Today I am overjoyed to tell you that we found out at our 20-week ultrasound this morning that this amazing little baby in my belly is a beautiful, albeit a bit stubborn (ahem, much like her mother) because she wouldn't show her face much, healthy as can be and measuring just perfect baby GIRL!!! Oh, I could just burst with happiness. I just keep thinking, "how blessed are WE?"

And seriously, how can I already love her so incredibly much? I've heard mamas say that before but when you see that baby moving and kicking and putting her sweet little hands up to her face and knowing she's doing all of those wonderful things right inside of you, you just fall in absolute love. It is the closest thing to God we'll see this side of heaven - of that I am certain!

So a few details, just for posterity's sake...ever since our 16 week ultrasound where we got a "sneak peek" and the ultrasound tech said she was 96% certain it was a girl, I've been trying not to get too excited, because that little 4% still lingered and taunted me. But man, I was so hopeful she was right. Now obviously I would love a girl OR a boy, and of course we desired a healthy baby first and foremost, and I know for a fact that boys love their mamas (my husband is proof positive!) but there was this part of me that longed for a little girl. For a lot of reasons, really, but mostly because I cannot wait to have someone to shop with. And talk about boyfriends with over a glass of wine. And hopefully share shoes with, providing I pass along my great sense of taste. :) OK, those aren't the real reasons. I really just can't wait to have a daughter, period. One that will most likely have my sass, my husband's sweetness, and just be the perfect mix of the two of us in looks, mannerisms, and personality. I can't imagine seeing my child and saying "oh, she has my nose!" How fun!! The ole husband just isn't going to know what to do with himself. I have a feeling she already has him wrapped around her little finger. The way he talks to her at night, I can already tell. Talk about melting your heart...and I'm already a bit hormonal. I could cry just thinking about it.

OK, back to our appointment. Let's just say I was a not-so-hot mess this morning. As in a complete nervous wreck. My eyes popped open at 4:45 a.m. and I didn't have a prayer of getting any more sleep. I took advantage of the quiet time, said another prayer that we get a good report today, and tiptoed downstairs, turned on the news, and read in my Pregnancy Journal (sidenote: reading about what the baby is developing that week is truly one of my favorite things. I cannot get enough.) I could barely eat my Eggo waffle (don't judge, it was whole grain with blueberries) and as usual when I'm running behind, could barely put my hair in a quick ponytail before flying out the door for our 8:00 appointment. Mr. T is always on time and I never am and I'm sure it annoys him, but thankfully, he doesn't let it show. Usually. :)

We get to the doctor's office, and do our ultrasound first. Only my stomach is in knots from all the nervousness and I have to go to the bathroom. Well wouldn't you know the ultrasound tech came the minute I left and tells Mr. T she hopes I didn't empty my bladder, as that will help the ultrasound. Whoopsie. Thankfully, it had already refilled to her liking by the time we got back to the room, and that baby was kicking and squirming up a blue storm! It's crazy to see it on the screen and not be able to feel it inside. I'm so ready for that first big kick that says "Boom! Mom, here I am!" She was upside down and seemed to really like her position, as nothing could get her to move and show her sweet little face. Our tech got right down to business and did the gender shot first thing. Love her for that. Oh, it was music to my ears when she sang out "It's a girl" and pointed out the three lines I'd been hearing from friends were the sure sign of a female. I think I asked if she was sure and probably offended her by doing so, but I had to be certain, people! She went on to take all the measurements, pointed out all the major organs, measured the heart rate (148 this time) but honestly, as much as I love seeing all of that, I could not stop smiling just thinking we were really having a baby girl. :) She showed her a face for a nanosecond, yawned the most adorable yawn you've ever seen, (arms still up by her head - it seems to be her favorite position and one she gets from both her dad and me, that's exactly how we sleep) and then went back to nestling face down. Bless her heart, she'd had a big morning. We briefly met with the doctor afterward, who gave us an enthusiastic thumbs up after looking at her ultrasound, and said everything was measuring just right. All her organs and systems looked perfectly healthy. You don't even know how much that was music to our ears. I promise you I took in that moment and realized how incredibly blessed we are. And then I nearly skipped out the door, my heart nearly overflowing with happiness and sheer gratitude. :)

So now for the 20 week bumpdate:

Symptoms: Now that the nausea is completely gone, I feel like a brand new woman! I love the energy that comes with the 2nd trimester and honestly feel better than I ever have. I was having headaches for about a week or so, but thankfully, those have gone away too. I still have to tinkle all the time, but I suppose that is expected.

What's different: Let's get close here. "The girls" have grown so I had to go up a bra size - that's a difference I don't mind at all! :)

Cravings: Not nearly as many as I was having, though I do get a hankering for a dipped ice cream cone now that the weather is warming up. And let me just tell you, it is dangerous that Bobbie's Dairy Dip is so close to our house. Pregnancy + Hot Nashville Summer = More Trips for Ice Cream. Uh oh.

Aversions: Breakfast in general. I'm lucky to get a protein shake down. Working on it though.

Sleep: Oh I have major news to report in this category! Mr. T and I used a portion of our tax refund and splurged on a little happy for ourselves - a king size bed! We bought the frame at Ikea, a pillow-top mattress here in town, and are both loving all the extra space! Make room for the body pillow - it makes sleeping on my side so much easier! And eventually, make room for a little girl who can crawl between us. That thought makes me so very happy.

I am loving: The first (and hopefully only) pair of maternity skinny jeans I purchased the other day from A Pea in the Pod. They're actually pretty darn cute, and the belly panel makes wearing jeans so much more comfortable. Also, I kind of love that my pants no longer button with ease, so I'm wearing them with the top button undone and a belly band on top. Love that thing!

I really miss: Bikini shopping at Target. They WOULD have the cutest ones ever out right now. But I did bust out my black one-piece the other day to get some sun on the back deck, and instantly felt like a mom, which actually wasn't so bad. I just miss having a tan stomach. It's the end of an era, I suppose!

I am looking forward to: Decorating the nursery! I purchased the most perfect bedding on eBay for a whopping $99 (it retails for $400) and it will be delivered next week. We're also painting next weekend, and hopefully buying the furniture soon. There are just too many options out there on cribs, and being indecisive is not helping matters. Any suggestions, mamas?

I'm spazzing about: The fact I'm really having a girl. I cannot stop smiling.

Movement: Maybe a few tiny flutters here and there, but just when I get still enough to tune into it, it goes away. Like I said, she's a stubborn little thing and I guess she'll move when she's good and ready but man, I'm so ready for a big soccer kick! But Mr. T tells her every night, "That's okay, baby, you take your time." Sweetest thing ever.

And finally, the Belly Shot: Here's the bonified bump, in all it's glory! Definitely getting bigger by the day!

20 weeks down, 20 weeks to go. We're halfway there, people! Come on, 8/28!

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