Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review: Artizone

Hooray! Another review! I'd been wanting to do an HDMR because I actually went to see a current release, but I think all of you have see The Help by now, so instead, I will focus on food. (What's my deal lately? You can clearly see my motivation is food and food related!)

Artizone



Artizone offers you the opportunity to buy from your favorite artisans with the convenience of online shopping -- the time and money you save from driving to the store, shopping for ingredients and driving back home again can be spent on creating your very own culinary masterpiece.

I was introduced to Artizone via Groupon. Like I mentioned in yesterday's post, we like to take advantage of these sorts of deals. I've been purchasing things here and there with Groupon for a long while now and it is a great way to try new things that I might not have otherwise been keen on trying. When Artizone's came up, I was intrigued by the concept. Then, when I reviewed their list of shops, I was ecstatic. I mean, to have heavy hitters like Spiceman's FM 1410, Hirsch's Specialty Meats, Scardello, and La Duni in one stop shop...that's like a dream come true! (I also have it on good faith that Dude Sweet will be soon joining the lineup, too!)

Honestly, I have to admit I forgot to buy the Groupon the first time around. However, I have a darling husband who actually listens to me and purchased it. In passing, he casually asked me to a date at home and told me that we had to be home by a specific time for a special delivery. Of course, I didn't put that time in our calendar and it was one of those days where I was feeling like my 22 year old self and felt like running the world. I dragged out the entire family in the 108+ heat and managed to eek out 1.5 miles before I said, this is ridiculous. Who in their right mind hits the track with that heat...ahem, me. We then received a call that the delivery was waiting for us at our home and my heart sank. This was the super special delivery that Don had set up and we weren't home! But when we arrived home, the delivery driver was fantastic! He remained upbeat and positive, and was not at all put out by our tardiness. He hauled in our delivery and everything was beautifully packaged! I felt oh-so-fancy. Not long, I was shoo-ed out of the kitchen because all of these items were supposed to be a surprise. Dangit! I can't attest to all of the packaging, but I will say that the produce was in a lovely box and looked very happy and special indeed.

The quality of the food was fantastic. Well, when I was able to finally enjoy it when the surprise was revealed over the course of the next few days. We indulged in Larken Farms cucumbers, Scardello (smoked gouda cheese that had Mari asking for only that cheese, refusing the kid-staple Kraft American cheese), Busy B's eggs, and Empire Baking Company bread & peanut butter. Not long after that, Groupon had another deal featuring Artizone and I was absolutely ecstatic. I purchased two. One to share with my family this coming weekend and another to return the favor of our own in-home date night--this time I plan. I forsee Rex's Seafood, Scardello cheese, La Duni sweets, and a decadent pasta from Holy Ravioli. We'll see! Regardless, I know the food will be top quality and the service extraordinary! Check them out, you will NOT be disappointed by the awesome selection and the amazing service! There is free delivery through the end of the summer.

**I was not paid to write this review for Artizone. I was able to take part in the Groupon when they offered it, but nothing else was offered or given to me for my review. This review is based on my opinions with working with Artizone.**

Budget 2: Supper Club, Discount Sites, & Consignment

It's been a while since I first mentioned budget. Well, in my attempt to achieve some sort of life balance, I've sorely neglected my blogging duties. I apologize for that. Anyway, the next items to mention are Supper Club, Discount Sites, and Consignment Sales!

Supper Club
We used to do this more and I hope to start it up again. Essentially, Supper Club is where you get together with friends and share a meal. This achieves many purposes:

  1. You share the cost of a meal with friends. 
  2. You get to spend time with friends socializing. 
  3. You exchange recipes if you choose. 
  4. You try new foods.

We typically alternate homes where we have the meal. Who ever hosts is in charge of the main entree. If you are a guest, then you bring a side item. This is the same concept as meeting friends for dinner. The only thing is that with this, you plan in advance, you prepare your meal, and instead of paying (in our case, $60+) for the meal, you pay less than a fraction of that. If you plan it around themes of food: Italian, Mexican, Indian, Japanese. I really like this because we can do this with other families who have children. This way, we both don't have to pay for childcare and the children entertain themselves! If you are feeling especially sassy, feel free to bring a bottle of wine to share with your friends. Drink responsibly, but also, you can discover new libations. Single folks, you guys can do this too! Hang out with your friends, share a meal, and still have room for leftovers to take for your lunch the next day.

Discount Sites
Make use of sites like Groupon, LivingSocial, BuyWithMe, and others. There are a lot of great deals to be had for quite a bit less. Groupon has introduced a GrouponNow feature that allows for the deal to be used that day. No worries if you don't use the GrouponNow deal. You are just refunded the money. The only drawback to these is that you MUST use your vouchers before they expire! Otherwise, you are just wasting money. (Guilty party, right here!) Another win is that they have a Causes page which focuses collective giving for a specific charity. People can partner together to make their micro giving a major grant to help fight the highlighted charity.

Also, you can utilize discount sites like Zulily, BabyHalfOff, HauteLook to purchase items you like, but at significant savings. Of course, you don't get to pick what items are on sale and when, but they are still a good deal. While shipping isn't a whole lot, it does stink to have to constantly pay it when making a purchase, especially if you purchase items with a large-ish subtotal. I guess that's how you can get spoiled with free shipping. Truth be told, having to pay for shipping has prevented me from completing many purchases, which in and of itself is good because I probably didn't need whatever it was to begin with!

Consignment
When I became a mom, I discovered just how expensive children can be. I wanted Mari to be clad in all sorts of cute fashions and designs, but when I read the sticker price on many things, I was in for a total shock! There was no way I was going to be able to afford the cutesy boutique clothing I'd come to adore on my budget. I remembered thinking, how do people afford to have more than 1 or 2 kids! And then I discovered stores like Kid-to-Kid and Once Upon a Child. You can later imagine my excitement when I discovered Divine Consign.


Sidenote: There's another one called JBF, but I don't like to participate in that one. The two times I tried to shop with them, I was rudely turned away and vowed to not return. There are plenty of other consignment sales in my area that I can shop and not have an issue. That's my own personal experience, so don't let that influence you in any way. I'm just telling you how it was for me.

Divine Consign is a twice a year consignment event. Unlike the previously mentioned stores, which are open year-round, DC's shopping sales are awesome. You can shop for gently used or new items for a fraction of the price! They have some incredible stuff there. Some of my favorite pieces for my girls have been purchased at this sale. I have graduated to consignor, so the goal now is to break even when I shop. I have yet to meet that goal, but I have come close. Once upon a time, I budgeted about $200 for clothes for each season, with an extra $30-$50 for a coat/swimsuit. This was when I paid full-price for clothes and shoes. Now, I have been able to whittle it down to a little less than that amount for both girls, including the coats and other accessories. I now have a great appreciation for hand-me downs, even though I hated them growing up. I will totally sympathize with Tesla! The beauty of these sales is that I'm almost always guaranteed to find a brand-new items with tags still attached! Many of these articles of clothing are from the specialty boutiques too. Not just limiting to clothing, they have furniture, toys, books, carseats, sports equipment, feeding/bathing tools...pretty much anything you need for a baby up to when they are 10, you can find it. This is a big win for me!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Product Review: The Diva Cup

For those of you who are a bit squeamish, this post comes with a warning. Do not read any further if you don't want to read about how the female body works and the different cycles it goes through. If you don't like that sort of thing, move along. Matter of fact, go here, to check out this happy page.

***************************pausing for everyone who wishes to go. don't say I didn't warn ya!***

Alrighty, the rest of you brave souls, thank you for staying! I'm going to talk about the Diva Cup today. First of all, this is a bit surreal for me to think that I'm writing this review. Seriously, who really puts this much thought and effort into their menstural cycle? Some of you, please comment and let me know that I'm not alone, nor am I the only OCD female when it comes to this. You see, for the better part of twenty plus years, each month I've dreaded day 2 & 3 of my cycle. Not because I get horrible cramps or migraines, or turn into a feral animal in my pursuit of chocolate, but because I don't want to worry about having a mess (i.e. leaks). You can imagine how stressful it was for a junior high and high school girl in sports to worry about such things. I'd heard stories of a gal's pad falling out during one of her cheerleading jumps. It never happened to me, but the thought, the horror! I didn't like the idea of panty lines with my spandex volleyball uniform, let alone a pad line. And you might be thinking, duh, Bianca, why didn't you wear a tampon? I did! Super Plus, even, but they just weren't ever enough. Well, you know, you are supposed to change them often! Again, I know this. But minutes within a change, I'm back to the beginning, hence having a pad. Not a liner, mind you, but a full-bodied pad...with wings! You can imagine my horror for tournament play, when there wasn't a bathroom nearby. I became really great at quick changes and a master bathroom finder.

And then one day, I happened upon someone mentioning a reusable cup. I think they called it a Moon cup (woohoo, made in the USA). I thought they were out of their mind and a bit over-the-top crunchy and granola. Yeah, I dismissed it with my snobby traditional feminine products self. Fast forward a few years and I read a positive testimonial about their use of a menstrual cup . This time around, I'd already pushed two small beings out of my nether regions, so what was the big deal in trying something new and different. One of the many discount bulk buying sites (babyhalfoff) was running a special on the Diva Cup (Canada, 'eh!, still supporting my North American buddies), so I pounced on it! I had already considered purchasing a cup on my own, so at a discount, I was definitely going to give it a try!

When it arrived in the mail, my first thought was what! That looks entirely too large for my comfort. But I had already committed to giving it a try, so I sat down with the instructions and read them a few times. I squished the silicone in my hand and was surprised at how bendy and elastic it was. When I folded it like the instructions said, it definitely became condensed to a point where I didn't fear it. The time came for me to give it a whirl. I told myself, I will definitely commit to day 1. If it goes without any issue, I will try day 2, but I wasn't expecting to be able to use it on day 3. Certainly not. Day 1 came, and not only did I tempt fate by using it, but I ventured out in public, to a party, in a white dress, with no liner, even! I wore it for six hour and truth be told, I was paranoid about a leak. Nothing. I was shocked. Day 2 rolls around and I'm every bit as skeptical as I have been. This time I wore a liner. I wore it for 9 hours before cleaning. No leaks, no issues whatsoever. AMAZING!  Another 6 hours, no leaks. I even squeezed in an aerobic type of workout complete with jumping, lunging, bending, squatting without any issues at all. Over night (surely there'd be some leaks) no leaks! Day 3, the ultimate day where I worry the most...I continue with wearing a liner. I wear it for 6 hours and realize that it is no where near full, but I'm glad that I opted to empty and clean it earlier than planned. Another 6 hours, same thing, but not a big deal. I'm an old pro at it by now. I hit the gym for a swim and have absolutely no complications or weird sensations. Day 4 and 5 are a breeze! I'm so confident, I don't even wear the liner. Speaking of, all those times I wore the liner, totally not necessary, whatsoever.

Honest Truth: I had to get used to the slight pop during removal. A seal is made upon insertion, hence the reason for no leaks, so that seal must be broken. Also, it is still larger than a tampon, but not in any way noticeable to me like a tampon. Heck, not noticeable at all, which is really weird to me, but also amazing. Seeing all of the fluid collected in it is a bit gross. However, I've been dealing with poo and vomit, so this didn't creep me out as much as I was expecting it to.Plus, I can totally plan my day around the times when I insert and remove it so I'm at home...mostly. I've had to change it a couple of times in public, but it really wasn't as big of a deal as I expected it to be. It was actually less of a deal than attempting to clean up a leaked mess from times past. For what I typically spend in a two months span, I bought the Diva Cup. My environmental impact is lessened, but mostly I feel 100% protected and confident during another otherwise unattractive time. No issues with rogue strings, failing adhesive, overly aggressive adhesive, or a plain mess. I give this product a resounding thumbs up and a huge recommendation. That is if you can get over the issues I mentioned. If not, then you've clearly never worried about leaks to the point that I have or you might need to let your mind marinate on the idea of it all before you give it a try. Regardless, I would highly recommend this product!

**I was not paid for reviewing this product, nor was I compensated in any way. I am not at all affiliated with Babyhalfoff, Diva Cup, or Moon Cup. I am not opposed to receiving items to review or giveaway on my blog, but this time I just really liked the product. These thoughts are my own opinion.**

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Knick Knack Party with the Dog and Came Rolling Home

Knick Knack Party with the Dog and Came Rolling Home

And that's how the Sugarbean sings "Knick Knack Paddy Whack Give a Dog a Bone." The past few weeks have been a bit hectic on our end of the world and well, I've opted to try to get some sleep instead of writing down what I was experiencing. Well, at that moment. Thank goodness for my trusty camera phone (all pics in this post are from it), because well, I have been able to capture some terrific moments and I fully intend to share with all of you.

First off, I want you all to see this photo. It was a lazy Saturday afternoon (a rarity in these parts) and both girls had gone down for a nap. I myself was preparing to nap, but found myself attempting to move into my new room of requirement. In what seemed like 10 minutes (which actually ended up being nearly an hour later) I heard giggling coming out of the monitor. Guess who had snuck into her sister's crib and woke her up. They were having a conversation all their own, too! I just love how smiley and snuggly they are.

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Even though I told her that Tesla needed sleep, and she should probably let her rest, she lingered a while. I guess they had some playing to do. I quietly creeped down the hall to see what they were doing and this is how I caught her:

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That blue glow is Tesla's ladybug Cloud B light. Someone was trying to show her how to work it. At this point in time, Mari had also turned the baby monitor off. Funny. Later that afternoon, I gave Tesla a bath and  noticed that her hair was finally long enough for a teeny-tiny bow:

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I told you it was teeny-tiny. Unlike her sister, she's also a fan of sitting in the Bumbo. She actually prefers sitting in that instead of a high chair. Interesting, huh?

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Recently, Don had his annual eye appointment. When he went by to pick up his prescription, I guess someone wanted to play dress up. I think she looks pretty cute in those glasses! Studious indeed. Luckily, she doesn't need specs just yet. By the way, I scored that shirt for $3 at Buy Buy Baby! Woot!

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Time seems to have sped up, though. My girls get along famously with one another and it warms my heart. I love how they interact with one another so easily. I already see how wonderful their friendship/relationship is and I can't help but beam. Mari is getting closer to making the connection that you can put the sounds of letters to make words. She knows all of her letters, she knows their sounds, and she can actually spell things, but isn't quite reading, almost, though. Crazy! However, she still inhales 6-10 books each evening before bed. Reading is one of her favorite activities. Here she is reading to her little sister....who, look, can now sit up unassisted. *tear*

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That's the other thing I forgot to mention. After we put down Mari for the night, Tesla can't seem to get enough of snuggling with me. And you know what, I don't mind one single bit. So for now, I've neglected my work-outs, blogging, crafting, and bajillion other things to enjoy these few moments. All the rest of that stuff will be there later. Thank you all for still being loyal readers and for being patient!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Moving Day

Hello friends and readers! After four short years I finally settled on an actual domain to call my home*. Please change your bookmarks/feeds, etc... to www.hellobianca.com. Very clever and inventive domain, I tell ya. ha ha! No, actually, I wanted something simple and easy that my mom and MIL would remember without having to use the Google to find me. I'm hoping she will remember this one. (hi Mom! hi Carol!)

The actual move will take sometime this evening (maybe sooner), but I wanted to be sure to get in this last post on the old domain. Anyway, thank you so much!

*I hope all of my stuff transfers over, eeek!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Review: Mat Kearney–Young Love

When I was selected  from the One2One Network to participate in the review of Mat Kearney’s latest album, Young Love I was thrilled! Every once and again, he would pop up on one of my many Pandora playlists and each time, I’d look to see who it was and it always led me to him. I don’t know why I’d never purchased his albums before. I guess I always saw it as a special treat…a little gift from Pandora. “Nothing Left to Lose” has a special place in my heart, the melodies, his voice, those words, it’s just perfect mellow driving music.
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If you aren't familiar with Mat's music you've probably heard some of his previous hits on your favorite TV shows.  Past songs have appeared on 30 Rock, Grey's Anatomy, The Hills, Friday Night Lights, Scrubs, NCIS, and numerous other television shows. Mat's been winning over crowds on tours with everyone from John Mayer and Sheryl Crow to Keane and The Fray.
Anyway, I received the album in the mail and I just have to say, there’s something special about opening up a brand new CD, pulling out the jacket and realizing that the words to the songs are handily inside. Not everyone does that and I don’t know why. So thank you, Mat!!! For that reason, when I feel it necessary, I will highlight some of my favorite lyrics from the song.
On with the review…
Young Love  opens with a fresh, upbeat song, “Hey Mama” that is actually written about his wife. Any guy that can somehow sneak in an Anthropologie reference is a man after my heart. ha ha…But seriously, you are hard pressed to not find yourself snapping your fingers or clapping your hands with this track. It is infectious and positively filled with love. Check out the video here:

Next up is “Ships in the Night” which is more along the lines of classical Mat Kearney, well at least to me. I love the high notes he hits, but then contrasts it with a more spoken melody. Not quite a rap, but definitely not his singing voice. This is probably my favorite song of the album. The words he uses definitely paint a powerful picture: “And fists fly from my mouth” This song speaks to me about not giving up, even when you disagree. Anyway, it’s a good song and maybe you will too.
You Can Count On Me” is a fun little number (hehe…pun) where he intertwines his wordplay with numbers in a heartfelt tune for the one he loves. This is the kind of song I wish someone would always dedicate to me. Sometimes we can’t find the words, but music helps to fill that void. This can be a bit cheesy, but it is uplifting and reassuring.
Sooner or Later” took a bit to grow on me. It sounded a bit Coldplay-ish in their synthesizer period. Nothing bad, but it just wasn’t one that captivated me like some of the other songs. I’ll put it on simmer and let it marinate before totally counting it out.
Midway through the album, we are faced with “Chasing the Light.” This one has the clapping built in, complete with his signature harmonies. It is a classic Mat Kearney song that is easy to sing along to. My favorite line from this one: “10 pounds heavier from wasted time” Plus, he talks about praying for the person he is singing to. This is whole song is a prayer for all those who are lost.
Learning to Love Again” is quite haunting and chilling when you listen to the words. “That was the real you singing hallelujah, looking down a barrel” It is definitely easy to get lost in this song, but once you pay attention to the words, you can find respite in them and a big sense of solidarity…if  you’ve ever been down that road.
Following, is “Down” which is a close second favorite. The words alone are powerful, echoing personal experiences that I am facing, of which is a typical example of young love. The hook alone: Can you hear when we call | There where we fall | Standing our backs against the wall | Top of our lungs hallelujah | Where pain and love bleed into one | Baby when all you see is darkness | Coming down now | We all need forgiveness  It gives reason to step back, pause and give thanks and glory, even in our struggles. For anyone who is going through their own struggle, you will definitely relate to this song.
She Got the Honey” is another sunny clap-along about longing, feeling, and crushing. I dare you not to get up and dance along.
Next up, “Young Dumb and In Love” opens with an awesome rift. “The prettiest face and those rock-a-bye baby browns”…swoon, makes me love my brown eyes even more! This is the song that I’d sway with my beloved, dancing in our kitchen late at night while we wash dishes. It makes me happy.
Finishing up with “Rochester,” which is a gut-wrenching song about his father. It is a bit heavy to finish with, especially with a complete 180 to the song before it. It is well-written and makes me wonder if perhaps this wouldn’t have been one of those “secret” songs that you stumbled upon, 3 minutes after the last song on the album, but still a part of the same track. Some of you will know what I’m talking about.
All in all, I would recommend Mat Kearney’s new album Young Love. Overall, it is really great and I don’t think you will be disappointed. It is currently available for digital download and in stores for the actual album.

**I was selected by one2one network to review the new Mat Kearney album. I did not receive any compensation, other than a copy of the CD to write up the review. Thank you One2One.**

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Barbie® Needs New Clothes

I don’t know about all of you, but we are in a frenzy over here trying to get ready for school. But Bianca, you don’t even have children that go to school yet, what’s the big deal? Well, I am married to the very best Physics & Environmental Science teacher ever!! And, I like to think that my girls daycare is “school” (it helps ease the guilt-blow every morning when they are dropped off).

With that said, the Sugarbean’s last week of her little school is this week and then she starts bonafide pre-school. (sniff, sniff) She’s a thousand kinds of excited. The Sugarbaby starts her school this week. Big sister has taken it upon herself to show baby sister the ropes of her school and to help ease baby sister’s fear of school. Who knew 4 month olds had such anxiety? Winking smileI’m just glad they will share this week of school together. It definitely helps to ease this mommy’s anxiety level. For the record, it doesn’t get any easier the second time around.

All that to say, we’ve been preparing. Tesla & Mari received a couple of new dresses for preschool from their Grandma. I’ve been fast and furiously labeling bottles, Charlie Banana diapers, and changes of clothes. Also, we purchased a couple of graph paper composition books for our #1 teacher and bags and bags of school supplies to donate to kiddos. Whew! With the help of my MIL, Tesla also has a few wetbags for the dirty diapers too. I really do need to learn how to sew in a zipper!

Because of ‘em, I had a few scraps of fabric I could put to use. All fabric is Robert Kaufman that I picked up a long time ago at City Craft...and I’ve been hoarding it for a few years. I opted to use those scraps and make some new clothes for Barbie!\

First, I made a cocktail because I knew working with teeny tiny seams would totally test my patience and I needed to be in my chill zone. Thank you Sonic Happy Hour and Tito’s Vodka! huzzah! *cheers*

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Then, I logged in to my Pinterest and pulled up this awesome tutorial for making Barbie® clothes. I scratched down the dimensions and this is where I didn’t really remember what she did and just sorta winged it on my own.

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Original dimensions call for 6x2” for the bodice and 5x12” for the skirt. As you can see, I didn’t really have one long 12” piece for the skirt, so I sewed three pieces together. The additional ribbon she mentioned was for sleeves, but this one would have it. I like the elegant look of a strapless dress.

After sewing the three skirt pieces together, I zig-zagged the edges of the bodice and the skirt. Then, I basted one longer side of the skirt to gather tightly. I pulled and gathered until it seemed to fit around the doll properly. After gathering, I took the bodice top and with it backwards, I “fitted” it to the doll and marked where I would add a dart with a pin. Since I didn’t sew all of the way up or do any cutting, it isn’t exactly straight. I don’t think Barbie will mind.

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Then, matching right sides together, I pinned them together, attached them. and I had the dress. Next, I added an additional band around the waist because I had a tiny bit of fabric and I didn’t like how “unfinished” it looked. Finally, I added velcro to the back and fit it to the doll and BAM! That’s it!

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As Mari says, “Barbie® no longer looks like a cochina!” For those of you who don’t know, cochina is a dirty girl or a nasty girl. We often use this when we don’t want Mari to show her panties and insist she wear shorts under her dress. The message clearly sticks because she knows Barbie® shouldn’t be one either! Open-mouthed smile

It took me about 20 minutes, but that’s because I had to refill my drink. ha ha! If you have some scraps, go on out and make some dresses to rid the world of cochina Barbies®! Are you all going crazy trying to get ready for school too? Do you think Barbie® clothes are too revealing? Do you think they are too pricey?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Happy 4 Months to Tesla

Dear Baby T,

This post will be all your own. Right now your number one mission is to grab hold of your feet and shove as many chubby toes into your mouth as you can. You do this while simultaneously rolling to your side. When you tire of your feet, then you fully roll onto your belly and proceed to do this awesome hybrid crawl off of your play mat and across the living room carpet. Slow down, darlin', you don't have to rush through things so quickly!

I've been quite impressed with your communication skills, too. You aren't signing with the fervor from the previous month, but you are attempting to formulate words out of your baby sounds. You lunge at your sister, large puddles of drool falling from your mouth as you happily say "MMMmmmmMMMMMmm" I think you know her name is Mari and maybe, just maybe you are trying to say that. You make a similar "MMmmmm" when you are staring and yelling at me when you are hungry. I know you are trying to say Mommy. But Daddy? No "ddddd" sounds just yet, but boy do you love being held in his arms. You especially like it when he stands you on his lap or he walks you around the house.

All that to say, you enjoy being held by someone or touching someone when you are awake and asleep. It totally melts my heart when we go to bed at night and in your half sleep, half awake state, you reach out your tiny hand to touch my face and stretch your foot to touch my leg. Yes, you are still co-sleeping with us and that is quite fine with your father and I. Good thing we upgraded to a king size bed.

You are wearing 6-9 month clothes perfectly. I'm not-so-secretly afraid that you won't fit into the bathing suit I purchased for you for a beach trip during the winter. EEK! And your cloth diapers? They are fantastic! We have had zero issues with them. When we have noticed they are getting a bit tight around your legs, we just loosen the elastic and we are good to go. You are at the last stage of the medium on that. More of your hair has come in and it is a really light brown, even a bit reddish-brown. You have a lighter complexion than your sister and it isn't because you aren't in the sun. You are quite a little water baby!

Also, you are really starting to enjoy your play gym. You've managed to turn yourself around in it quite a bit. Because of all of that work in your gym, you have really increased your core muscles. You can sit up for a couple of minutes on your own! In the next week or so, I know you'll be doing quite a bit more of that. Unlike your sister, you watch a bit of television, but otherwise are uninterested in it. You are completely captivated by classical music, picture books, and books with photographs (I need to introduce you to Annie!!). When I sing, you sing. Sometimes you sing in your sleep!

We've been fast and furiously stockpiling the pantry with foods we hope you will enjoy. We are hoping to push that off for another month or so, but we'll see. You have been staring at us with such intensity when we eat, even mimicking chewing and smacking your little mouth.

Your little personality is starting to shine through and I'm so happy you are in this world to brighten our days! Next week, you start your school and it's the first time you will be in the world with new strangers (who I hope become your friends). I'm anxious about it, indeed, but I know you are in good hands. Your sister loved the school and thrived in that environment and I hope you will too!

We love you dearly, little Tesla. Happy 4 Month Birthday to you!!

love always,
Mommy
XXOOXXOOXOXO

Monday, August 1, 2011

Sometimes You Finish Last

hum·ble/ˈhəmbəl/

Adjective: Having or showing a modest or low estimate of one's own importance.

Verb: Lower (someone) in dignity or importance.

Sometime last year, I signed up to do the Old College Tri, only to learn that I was pregnant and attempting to do a triathlon was not the smartest idea in the first trimester. Two weeks ago I took on the challenge of participating in my first official multisport event. I say official because as a mother, I participate in multiple sports every day. My husband and sister were talking and well, they decided to do the TWU Pioneer Sprint Tri. And just like that, I blurted open my mouth and said, “You know what, I’ll do it too!” They both stared at me like I was nuts. I looked at myself from the inside and thought I was crazy too. Two weeks is plenty of time for training! Truth be told, I went swimming once and only did one bike workout. I’m confident in my running, but I still haven’t gotten my 5K pace down to less than 45 minutes. A far cry from my 28 minute time, but I know these things take time.  After that swim practice, I felt infinitely more comfortable with my swimming abilities. However, that bike scared me. During my practice, it took me 12 minutes to mount the bike. Really, 12 minutes! 12 minutes of non-stop frustration, yelling, and sheer tenacity. I was really proud of my hand-me-down mountain bike, but I knew it didn’t really “fit” me. During that ride, I discovered that after four miles my hands would go numb, my lower back started to scream, and I was every bit as nervous riding it as I was when I was 5. Regardless, I was going to make it work.

The day before the event, I had a flood of anxiety. I didn’t hardly train! More important that that, what was I going to wear?!? At packet pick-up, I found an awesome top specific for triathlon racing. It was only $15!! Score! I also picked up a pair of biking gloves to help alleviate the pain from the handlebars. On our way home from packet pick-up, Don surprised me by telling me we were on our way to rent a bike for me. I really wanted to rent one, but I didn’t want to make it a big deal. I felt a huge sense of relief when we got to the bike mart. Our sales guy, Rich, was fantastic. Not only did he explain the reason how they sized the bike, but he helped to pick out a good hybrid for me, then he insisted he give me a free one-on-one lesson. He worked with me for about 15 minutes and taught me a quick two second trick to get on the bike. He also explained the gears, how they worked, and most of all, gave me the confidence to face my fears the next day! While Don was checking out and loading up on gear for his bike, I wandered over to the clearance rack and scored a pair of Zoot tri shorts for half off!!!

On race morning, I was suited up and looked the part indeed! Outfitted in my fancy top, shorts, gloves, racing belt, Bikilas, biking helmet, and borrowed swim cap. I might not be a triathlete, but I certainly looked like one. (maybe not with my post-pregnancy body, but I was feeling good!) When I was getting ready, it felt familiar, preparing my hair in braids. I was psyching myself up. I had been for a couple of days, but this was real. I was ready. Unfortunately, Tesla was doing a bit of cluster feeding the night before, so I didn’t have the best night’s rest. No matter, because both she and Mari would be there cheering me on, thanks to my mother-in-law. Don and Sam would be there cheering me on and promised to meet me to run the last part. Keep in mind, the goal of this race was just to finish. I knew I wasn’t going to win. I just wanted to finish the race.

Before the sun came up, I was there standing next to a pool that felt bath water. It was already 88 degrees outside. The race started at 6:45, but I didn’t get into the water until much later than that (I was 6th from the very end). I swam the 300 meters in 9.5 minutes. Not too shabby considering I had to “wait” on a few people to get out of the middle of the lane so I could cross past them. Also, I started slowly on purpose. By the time I finished swimming, my heart rate wasn’t out of control. I went up and loaded up with my gear and mounted my bike. Transition time was 2:44.4

Off I went, not nearly as wobbly as I felt. Smiling and cheering on everyone along the way. As I went, I passed people! I was zipping along and gained more and more confidence each push/pull cadence. A bit into the 4 mile, my hands were going numb. I pressed on and tried to focus on the beautiful scenery. And then I saw them! There, on the opposite side of the road, I saw my sister and my beloved! I hollered at them and was flooded with a boost. My hands still felt numb, but that’s ok. A small hill was approaching, but I knew I could conquer it. I waved at the “helper van” and smiled. I climbed up the hill, switching my gears, doing my best to remember what Rich had taught me. I heard it…then I felt it. My chain busted off. I dismounted the bike. I stared down at my bike and was in disbelief. I was half way up that hill and pushed my bike the rest of the way to the top. The whole time, staring down at the chain. I was going to call someone or even look up online to fix it, but I didn’t have my phone. The emergency van had already passed, and I knew it would be a while before I would see them again. Everyone I had passed was now passing me. I took a deep breath and deconstructed the way the chain worked as best as I could. I finally figured it out and managed to get it back on the the axle. My hands full of grease, I felt simultaneously elated and defeated. I mounted my bike and pressed on. I refused to look back. I just kept pressing forward. Just before the 8 mile turnaround, I’d caught up to a gal. By mile 10, we’d caught up and passed another gal. I was feeling confident, but parched. As much as I didn’t want to, I knew I was going to have to stop and drink water. I don’t know how to drink and ride. (something to learn) I pulled aside, drank water and mounted up. By this point, I’d lost the original gal, but the other was still within eyesight. And the hills kept coming. At mile 12, I was ready to cry. That tiny voice whispered to me, “You can’t finish. You were crazy to do this. You should just give up.” and then another voice roared from below, “BIANCA FIGHT NEVER DIES!” I fought tears, cussed at a cow that was braying at me (maybe it was actually cheering me on, but I swear it was taunting me), and said out loud, “Bianca fight never dies, but it’s ok to rest. I scaled back my pushing the effort on the bike, prayed a whole lot and promised myself another pit stop if I could make it to the water park. Sure enough, I did. So I pulled aside, gulped the remaining part of my water, when the emergency truck pulled up to me. I told him I was ok, just resting. He saw me stopping earlier and knew what I was doing. He smiled at me and gave me a genuine, “Go get it girl!” Such positivity!! I mounted my bike and finished that last monster hill. Halfway up, the truck guy tagged off with a police officer and they both tailed me until I made it back on the campus. I graciously thanked each volunteer and bantered about the ridiculousness of the massive hills. Seriously, it was stupid. Nearly 1 hour and 26 minutes later I was FINALLY finished with that part. It didn’t kill me, but I thought it might have. Transition time was again, 2:44.4. (What? ha ha…what are the odds?)

I started the run. I felt confident in this run. But my legs, they didn’t want to run. I did this sort of trot/walk where gravity pulled me down that small hill. And then I walked and walked and walked. I actually stopped at the first mile, did some dancing with the water crew, requested a photo with Officer Jones, whom I’d gotten to know over the course of the first two miles.

Then I started to jog. I felt great. My cardio trainer told me my pace was down to 11 minutes. But then I hit another giant hill and said, F-that. I walked and talked with Officer Jones. I enjoyed our conversation. He had to speed off on his bike to check on the other racer in front of me. I probably could’ve caught her in the run, but something told me to just stroll. I did encounter a downhill, so I ran. Until I got to the drink stop and inhaled two more cups of water and informed the crew that I was the very last person. It was very humbling, actually. At the final mile, I saw my sister, Don, and Mari waiting for me. I smiled and beamed. Of course they were waiting for me at the top of the hill. We walked until the hills ceased,and then we’d jog. The final hill awaited, and I refused to run it. I told my sister and she said once I got to the top, I could run. It was downhill. Sure enough, I did. I even sprinted! I found my legs and everyone yelled and cheered at me. My name was announced and the band played. More cheers and I had a giant smile across my face. She shouted words of encouragement to me. I just told her thanks and to get out of my way. We were on a sidewalk by now and there wasn’t much room. ha ha!

I finished strong and felt good. I was happy it was over. I embraced my very last place finish. I wasn’t too proud of it, but looking back on the adversity I faced, I was proud that I didn’t give up. It isn’t like me to give up. For that, I was grateful. I took a moment to give praise to God and to say thanks for my health. I dedicated my race to my sister, because this might have been her very last race. Her doctors have suggested she stop training with such vigor. But you know what, she finished 3rd in her division! Suck on that Rheumatoid Arthritis! You don’t know the fight that lives in us Valenciano girls. Tenacity runs deep in our blood!!

A day later and I’m not sore. Just a bit tight in my neck. And I’m seriously considering doing the Old College Tri in a month. Hey, that’s two weeks longer to train than I had with this one. Winking smile

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