Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ovaries Like Footballs

I know I've been a total slacker about writing and I apologize. I've been a little busy, though, giving myself shots every night and winning battles with the insurance company.

Last you heard, the insurance company had informed us that we had zero coverage for IVF and they sincerely apologized for two months worth of telling us that we did. Well, that was ridiculous to me and we continued to fight. I asked for a document to review with my lawyer (not an empty threat) and they came back with a settlement offer. A very nice offer. We reviewed that with the lawyer and Brad and I agreed to sign it. They gave us the maximum infertility benefit as a lump sum in exchange for dropping the fight and agreeing to not submit claims. We're still waiting on the check (last I heard, it was mailed on Friday) and I'm so excited. The settlement is enough to pay for two tries and the new dining room chairs we ordered. Priorities, people.

My Follistim kit. Pretty user-friendly.
While we were in the midst of fighting with insurance, Brad's parents loaned us the money we needed to start the process. I was on birth control pills for three weeks in order to regulate my cycle and then I began nightly injections on November 30. For one week, I had nightly injections of Follistim. I began at 150 units, but had to double the dose in order to see results. Beginning on December 3, I've had every other day ultrasounds and bloodwork to check progress. I added another shot--Ganirelix-- on December 7. I've done really well with giving myself shots, which is a huge deal. My poor stomach has little bruises and I'm bloated, but I'm surviving and thriving.

Follistim pen in use. Well, not actually.
This picture was a bit staged as I need both hands
for my shots--one to operate the pen and the other to a bit of stomach chub.
At this point, I have around 16-20 follicles of varying sizes happening. Most are mature, which means they're huge. It hurts to sit sometimes and I'm wearing dresses the rest of the week for comfort purposes. Hence the title of the post. I know they're not really the size of footballs, but they feel big.  I've also had to increase my fluid intake to keep headaches at bay. And I cry. A lot. Pretty much, I'm a mess. I'm so optimistic about this, though, that it makes up for it. I'm going to add my trigger shot tonight or tomorrow and they'll harvest and fertilize my eggs on Thursday or Friday. That means that implantation could occur as early as Sunday or Monday. Guys, it's happening. We're moving forward.

I will keep you updated as we learn new things, but expect maybe some silence or fluff posts around January until we're OK sharing the news (either way it goes). Oh, and because they're gorgeous, here's our new chairs that United Healthcare paid for. Brad's dad is building us a dining room table for Christmas and I'm beyond excited for that, too. More frequent dinner parties are for sure in my future.
These beauties are from Industry West.
We have six of the tall ones and two of the short ones.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sperm in a Coffee Mug

So, much like the title implies, we extracted Brad's sperm yesterday. Because he was born without a vas deferens (exit ramp, if you will), the doctors had to go in and manually extract from the source. Brad got to marinate in some local anesthesia (he also had a shot and some pills) and then they stuck a huge needle in there to gather his reproductive material. I, then, was handed a to-go mug with the vials tucked inside so I could drive it to the lab. People, this was real-life. I was driving around in the wind, rain, and sleet that was Cincinnati's Hurricane Sandy with a to-go mug of my husband's sperm.

We gathered five vials to freeze. They like to shoot for three vials, so Brad did wonderfully. Both the urologist and the lab immediately found the presence of sperm. Brad slept most of yesterday away and hasn't had to take any pain medication. He is a trooper! I know he's just thrilled that it went well and his part is completed.

My part is next. I'll start on the medication protocol in the next week or so and we'll go from there. Brad's parents are loaning us the $8250 we need for the IVF and I'm still fighting with United Health Care in order to recoup most of that money. Brad's procedure yesterday was $1200 and we plan on fighting with United Health Care for that and also relying on our flex spending account. Once we pay the doctor the $8250, they'll go ahead and prescribe my medications. Normally, they would run around $4,000. However, I was asked yesterday to be part of a research study looking at success rates for control women, obese women with PCOS, and lean women with PCOS. Apparently, it's hard to find women for the lean PCOS group, so they really need me. It doesn't mess with my success rates and pays for $2800 of my medications. There's an extra blood draw and a procedure to measure the size of my uterus (which I've been warned can be similar in discomfort level to the HSG x-ray). I'm in, I think.

I'm sorry for the sporadic updates. I'm still trying to figure out a balance in my life right now between work, Brad, IVF, and adoption training. Stay with me, please. I think it'll be worth it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Monday, October 15, 2012

Scheduling a Date Night

Do you ever schedule a date night with your significant other or, after living together/being married/dating forever, does it just not really happen?

I have felt pulled in a million directions lately and I feel like my time with Brad has suffered. He feels that way, too. I don't want that. I don't want him to hurt because I'm not there. I don't want to NOT be with him. He is my favorite.

We scheduled time to hang out tonight, Wednesday, and Friday. It won't all be completely fun movie/dinner kind of stuff, but we just need any time together. Tonight we're tackling laundry and grocery shopping. We are also tackling our office this week. Our first home visit is scheduled for next week (Oct 24) and we'd like to make a dent in turning the office into a bedroom. We also need to clean and lock up medicines and booze, but Rome wasn't built in a day, y'all.

Our to-do list is overwhelming at times and we have dear friends going through their own hard times. We want to be productive and caring, but I think we need to hole up and play board games together. We need to sit down and eat dinner at the table. We need to ask how the day was and listen to the answer. We need to take the time to give an answer.

Above all, Brad and I are in this together. Even if/when we're blessed with children, they'll grow up and move out. Friends are there, but they have their own needs, too. We need to be sure to nourish our love and friendship. (Not that we don't. Please don't get the wrong idea. It's just something we're working on doing more.)

What do you do when life gets really crazy and hectic? Have you ever scheduled a date night?

Friday, October 5, 2012


So, I haven't really written here in a while and a lot has happened.

On September 16th, Brad and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary. We ate cake, bought me some flowers, ran out of gas on the highway, and had an amazing dinner overlooking Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. We didn't let the baby stuff get in our way and I'm so glad for that. I love that man so much. He is my favorite.
Fancy dinner time!
Since then, we have made a pact to not buy anything for birthdays or Christmas this year. Growing our family is our priority.
We had talked about adopting well before we even tried having a baby, so it wasn't any surprise to us that we went ahead with investigating that as an option. We've been attending our training class for three weeks now and look to be approved by February or March. The program we're going through will lead us through a straight adoption or a foster-to-adopt situation. The state of Kentucky pays for all costs associated with adoption, so that is saving us $20,000-$30,000. We like knowing that our approval will be in place so that we can adopt when we're ready.
We've also been chugging along with infertility treatments. I've been doing my homework with our insurance carrier to ensure coverage and even had appointments lined up. My insurance company set up a telephone conference with me for this past Monday just so we could clarify coverage. Overall, IVF was covered, but I was getting some inconsistencies as to the nuts and bolts of covered procedures.  Well, on Monday they called to clarify that IVF IS NOT A COVERED PROCEDURE.
I was pissed. I had two months of countless telephone calls (kept in a notebook with representative's name and reference number of call) that had confirmed coverage. Now, they were taking it all away and offering me a simple, "Sorry." I'm still so, so angry. The lady that I spoke with encouraged me to appeal and cited all of the documentation that I had.
Long story short, Brad and I are making a go of this this winter. We're scheduling the appointment to extract his sperm and I will start the first round of self-injectables in about seven weeks. By the time we do our first injectables, I need to pay the office $9,000. That doesn't count the $1800 for Brad's procedure ($1200 if he just does this with a local anesthesia) or the drugs I'll need (around $4,000). The cost is huge. One of my drugs is $3,000 alone. The office can obtain samples of that, but they're not sure they'll have them in time for me.
I'm a wreck at work. I don't feel like I'm doing my job to the best of my ability. Most people around me know what is going on and, in a women-majority workforce, they understand and help me out. It still doesn't mean that I feel good about it. I am trying to relax at this point. I'm going to start crafting the appeal letter now so that I have the letter and accompanying documentation ready to be mailed when we finish procedures in late December/early January.
The part that still creeps to the front of my mind when I'm trying to work and live my life is that there is no guarantee. Brad wants this to be a one-shot deal and I support him in that. He is supporting me through trying it once. Not only is the financial cost huge (and I hope to recoup $9000 of that back from the appeal), but the emotional cost is greater. We're going to ask for two embryos to be implanted, but there is no guarantee that we'll get good embryos to implant or that either one of them will stick. I am gearing myself up for that because I will still need to go through the appeal process. It will nearly break me, I'm sure, to appeal and fight for a failed IVF attempt. The emotional scars will be great.
I guess I'm asking for support right now. I need prayers. I need snark about insurance companies. I need letters of support and hugs. I need money. If you can help with any of the above, I'll be happy to give you my address. There is nothing better than getting a card in the mail and knowing that someone cares. I have two of those cards and they live in my files and doctor notes as a reminder that Brad and I are strong enough to get through this. That we're not the only ones going through it.
Thank you for reading this. I know a lot of people are curious as to how everything is going. I'm going crazy over here and trying to be strong. It's hard to write about everything, but I'm trying to keep you all updated. I still feel like we are supposed to share our story and I'm still working out how to best do that.
melaniemcb at gmail dot com

Friday, September 21, 2012

My Blog, Elsewhere

Guys, I am going to be blogging for The Bump a few times a week, so please check out that site for updates on the infertility journey.

You can check out my first post here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Bad Day?

Get a mani/pedi!

My Monday started out kind of blah. I had spent the weekend without my sunglasses (couldn't find them) and without my wedding rings (at the jeweler's for re-dipping and cleaning). I had spent Sunday with a hangover and wasn't quite as productive as I wanted to be. But, Monday didn't stay blah for long.

When I got to work I discovered that my sunglasses were in my desk drawer the whole time. Wonderful! Then, around 10am, I received a text that my rings were ready to be picked up. Double Wonderful! Finally, I remembered that I had a mani/pedi appointment with my sister-in-law that evening to celebrate her recent birthday.

I scooted home from work to pick up my rings and meet Jen for our appointment. We picked up some peanut-butter-cookie-dough milkshakes and headed to the salon. I loved that they had the OPI Germany colors in and I selected "Every Month is Oktoberfest."
Check out OPI's website for the whole collection.

Our toes underwent all the greatness of a typical spa pedicure, plus a mud mask, paraffin dip, and special apple-cinnamon scented lotion. Our nails had the traditional awesome manicure features, plus a paraffin dip and special apple-cinnamon scented lotion. It was 2.25 hours of awesome and I think fondly of our time together.  :)
Not a great picture, but I was so happy about the polished nails and the shiny ring.

I just have to schedule my Groupon massage from Brad and I'll be all pampered and happy. What have you treated yourself to lately?

Monday, September 10, 2012

What I Wore to School

Elizabeth of E Tells Tales has been posting her week of outfits and what she and her kiddos did that week in school and I love the idea.  I don't teach, so I don't think you'll really be interested in what I did this past week, but I'd like to post some of what I wore. Elizabeth talked about how it would force her to get creative and not just stick to her favorites and that struck home with me. I want to be more creative with my outfits and maybe take a few more risks. With that said, here's what I wore to school last week:

Ankle Zip Leggings
Blue Boyfriend Shirt (similar here) (the original came from Gap)
Herringbone Loafers (similar here) (the original came from Gap)
ID badge

Necklace (similar here) (the original came from J. Crew factory)

Skirt (the original came from Gap)
Necklace (handmade by student)

Mid-Rise Skinny Jeans (similar here) (the original came from Gap)
Spirit Shirt
ID badge

There it is. I loved my outfit on Thursday and it's easy to see how exhausted I was by Friday. What did you wear? What would you love to see me wear?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fantastic News

My niece after eating an ice cream cone.
She perfectly represents how happy I am today.
You guys, I got the BEST news today. United Health Care has added infertility benefits (finally!) and they cover IVF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I called them to verify what I saw in print online and I have the printed copy and the reference number for my call and they'll cover it. They'll even cover to store (freeze) reproductive materials, such as sperm and embryos. 

I'm so happy I just want to shout it from the rooftops and cry all at the same time. This is such a blessing and a relief.

Thank you for any good thoughts and prayers. We still need them and appreciate all of the support. 


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Back to School

My niece and I are sad that summer is over.

School has started back and my summer is quickly becoming a distant memory. I'm not too sad because: a) I love my job and b) Summer will return in 10 months. Quick reminder--I work as a school psychologist in a high school and it is great. I have a lot more paperwork than I'd prefer, but I just adore working with my kids, who are largely of the special education population.

I do feel like I didn't have enough prep time for the year before being thrown back in and that has led to a dramatic increase in stress this week. I usually have a week or so to settle in, organize and review new files for the year, and map out a general workload for the year. No such luck this year as I am leading trainings, writing reports, and attending/leading parent meetings all in our first full week back. It's a little crazy and I just remind myself that you eat an elephant one bite at a time. It's something my mom reminded me of a lot my first year and helps me out during those busy crunch times. I think it's also why I find myself drawn to elephant jewelry lately...

An important part  of all of this craziness is the fact that my desk/office is messy. And not just messy, but MESSY. I just want to clean and make it pretty so that I can work in there without feeling stressed. I'm hoping to just get through this week and then it'll get there. I guess this post is my way of apologizing for the sparse posting lately, but between school craziness and doctor/insurance nuttiness, I'm hoping you understand.

I'm working on ideas for upcoming posts, such as this weekend's upcoming wedding (yay for mini family reunions!) and mushiness surrounding the first wedding anniversary. It's coming up on September 16th--get pumped.  :)

Finally, I have been noticing a lot more page views and I wanted to welcome any new readers. Thank you for reading. I hope you stick around. :) Please comment so I can know who you are and take a peek at your blog if you have one. 

Monday, August 27, 2012


My heart is full of love this morning for Ashley Ann and her family today. Please go check out her blog.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fertility Update

I'm sorry, guys. I feel like I've abandoned you, but I needed the break. I have lots that I want to share with you, such as how the rest of summer was, first day of school (students started back today!) and updates from some other things. However, I wanted to let you know how things are going on the baby front. I feel like I dumped a bomb on you and then never came back to help clean up the pieces.  My bad.

Also, please note that this will not turn into a fertility blog. I just write about everything and anything going on in my life and this is a pretty big part right now. I also still feel like Brad and I are very much supposed to share our story.

OK, so when we left off, we had just heard initial notes from the doctors. We have come so far since then.

August 7, 2012: Brad saw a urologist who officially diagnosed CBAVD (Congenital Bilateral Absence of the Vas Deferens) (laymens' terms--he has no tube to carry sperm out of the body). Brad may be a carrier of the cystic fibrosis gene or he may only have one kidney--both are linked to CBAVD. We are waiting on the Dr. to put in the order for an ultrasound for Brad. Brad's hormone levels are also a little low, so the urologist prescribed Clomid. The plan for Brad is to take the Clomid for three months in preparation for sperm extraction. The doctor's refer to this as "testicular aspiration" and I think that sounds ridiculous. They're going to knock him out and take sperm. Call it like it is, people.

August 15, 2012: We consulted with a fertility doctor who specializes in artificial insemination (also called IUI). He ordered a lot of blood work and procedures for me to finish out the diagnosis for my side of things. So far, I know that my estradiol and FSH are good. I also know that I am heterozygous for the MTHFR gene, which is involved with blood clots. That gene puts me at a higher risk for developing blood clots, but it turns out that another of my factors is wonky (will update when I know the name Update: It is the anticardiolipin antibody IGM that is elevated.) is a more significant risk. I also had an x-ray today (8/22) called an HSG. They injected contrast dye into my business and x-rayed to make sure that all my tubes and uterus are open and inviting.  Good news--they are. We are still waiting on some of the blood work to come back (including my CF gene testing). Current medications: Prenatal with DHA, Vitamin D, Calcium, MTHFR capsule. Also, he explained why we would need to investigate IVF (which he doesn't do)--sperm goes through its final maturation period in the vas deferens. When it is extracted before going through that, it's like pulling out tadpoles when you need frogs. The sperm aren't great swimmers and won't be able to make it to an egg. That rules out not only IUI, but regular IVF. We would need IVF with ICSI. In everyday words, IVF puts eggs and sperm in a petri dish and plays the love-making music. With ICSI, scientists will literally place a sperm in an egg and make the magic happen.

August 22, 2012: In addition to the HSG x-ray this morning, I consulted with an IVF doctor this afternoon. He went over a lot of the history (which I'm getting a little sick of sharing) and then did an ultrasound (my second this week). He said everything looked great and even did a mock implantation to see if my systems are open to IVF. They are. The Dr. explained that for the first go, they would implant one embryo. I have over a 50% chance of that resulting in a "take-home baby" (their words). If subsequent rounds of IVF are needed, they will start with any frozen embryos we have and implant up to two. My chance of "take-home baby" are around 38%.  I met with the financial adviser, too, to see exactly what we were looking at.

The group offers a money-back guarantee IVF, but we aren't eligible for that since we have to surgically extract the sperm. So, the first round of IVF will cost us $9200 (plus the cost of drugs, which can reach $2,000-$3,000). My plan is to call insurance tomorrow to see exactly which pieces they will and will not cover. Then, I want to start baking for a Bake Sale for Babies. Ha. The financial piece is big. I'm trying not to focus on it, but Brad and I certainly don't have $9200 for IVF, plus whatever other pieces we'll need, such as sperm banking and embryo freezing. I'm not sure how we'll come up with the money, but I know that neither of us want money to stand in the way of having a baby.

*Sigh* There's all the official things we've done since finding out the initial news. We've also talked with friends who we have found out are facing the same issues and coworkers who have gone through similar struggles and emerged with children. So far, we have yet to talk to anyone who has gone through IVF. I'm also struggling with anger and frustration. I'm getting really upset while reading facebook and twitter if one of my friends is complaining about morning sickness or pregnancy discomforts. I am doing a pretty good job of biting my tongue because I am so happy for them and I love them. I know they aren't trying to hurt me. I also know that I'm frustrated and angry with what Brad and I have to go through--I'm not mad that they're pregnant, but I'm hurt that I'm not.

Again, I feel like I'm not explaining all my feelings very well. I'm sorry. I'll try to work on that, but it is not easy to explain the myriad of emotions I feel (sometimes in five minutes' time). Please feel free to ask questions.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Back-to-School Shopping

There is a lot to love about working in education: I love working with my high school kids. I love working with my colleagues. I love being a school psychologist. I love summer break. I love spring break. I love winter break. I also love back-to-school shopping. I know it's still July, and I certainly am not wishing away my summer, but I am loving the fall previews from soon-to-be-released lines. Crisp colors, fun stripes,and  polka dots, oh my!

1. Dooney & Bourke Blair Bag
2. J. Crew Factory Popover Blouse
3. Gap Herringbone Loafers
4. J. Crew City Mini
5. J. Crew Matchstick Cord
6. Gap Cherry Print Dress
7. Gap Suede Loafers
8. J. Crew Factory Popover Blouse-Striped
9. J. Crew Factory V-Neck
10. Gap Western Shirt

What are you loving for fall?

Monday, July 23, 2012

House Tour: Balcony

Maybe the balcony isn't so much "House Tour" as it is an item from the Summer Wish List. Our balcony, hidden by orange-striped curtains, was a mess. I had flower pots that only contained dirt, I had flower pots with a few weeds, and I had flower pots with cracked mason jars inside. Our table had no umbrella. The balcony was just not a welcoming area.

I really wanted to buy an umbrella, but Brad asked me to hold off until I got rid of the old flower pots and cleaned it up a little. I'm a fan of the Premack principle, so I agreed. However, I was at Ikea with my mom and sister when an umbrella was found. We were near the checkouts when my sister spotted the bin of $10 umbrellas. Yes, you read that right--$10. I was originally looking for a neutral, tan umbrella, but couldn't pass up a savings of $50-$60 over other umbrellas. I took home a striped umbrella that doesn't match anything. :) Our base, which isn't pictured, came from Target.

Once I got home, I immediately started in on the cleaning portion and was pleased with how quickly it went. I'm sure it's against the rules, but I dumped old dirt off the side of my balcony.  Whoops. I threw away the mason jar pieces and, once cleaned, the old pots went into storage. That left us with three actively growing plants. One, not pictured, sits in the far right corner where we get the most shade. One is attached to the balcony rail and the last is sitting on a little table. You can see in the above picture that my terrariums were also hanging out on the balcony soaking up some sunshine. 

I love that an easy twenty minutes or so was all that stood between me and a balcony I wanted to hang out on. I have been enjoying my breakfast outside on most days and, when the weather isn't unbearable, Brad and I have our lunch or dinner outside, too. The fit is a little tight, but we do have a fourth chair for the balcony that we can bring out if needed. For the future, I'd love to have more plants, but I have to do some research about what to grow, I think. I don't have a very green thumb.

Do you live in an apartment? What does your balcony look like? What do you grow?

Friday, July 20, 2012


Brad and I have been trying to get pregnant since the beginning of the year. Instead of this being a post about how happy we are about an upcoming arrival, I am writing to let you know that we are feeling anything but happy right now. However, I feel like we are supposed to share this journey, so please bear with me.

 After six months of unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant, my doctor asked us to go through some routine testing. I simply had to have my blood drawn on day 21 of my (irregular) cycle while Brad had to undergo a semen analysis. My results came back first and my doctor informed me that my progesterone levels were so low that he didn't believe that I was ovulating. He recommended Clomid, but wanted to have Brad's results before we moved forward. We were disheartened by this, but not too badly. My sister had been through the same sort of thing and now has two beautiful girls. I half expected that I might need a little extra help. Brad's results came around a week later. I was putting away dishes when he came to me and said that the doctor called. The sadness filling his eyes told me a lot, but I needed to know what the doctor said. We were both crying as he told me that there were no sperm in his sample. The doctor also noted that he couldn't feel the tubes designed to carry sperm. He recommended that Brad make an appointment with a specialist.

 Brad and I have a lot of questions about what will happen. We are sad, distraught, angry, and hopeful. As we cried over the news, we both talked about the unfairness of the situation and how much we wanted to be parents. I cried over the possibility of never being pregnant. Brad cried over feelings of blame. We've been a wreck all week, really. We talked about adopting, which is something we've talked about before. We never thought adoption might be our only option, though, and that is a hard pill to swallow. We started talking about options we know are out there (sperm bank, in vitro fertilization, etc.) and what lines we might not want to cross. We talked to our parents and siblings. We talked and prayed with our pastors. Limbo is the worst spot to be in. Brad and I are trying really hard to hold off on discussing options until we know what the options really are.

 I want to type more about how this feels, but I don't know how. Also, it just hurts. It hurts when people have been telling us for six months to do it on such-and-such days or assume that they got pregnant first try and we would, too. It hurts when we're asked when we'll be having kids. It hurts to see friends and family share their pregnant news or photos of their babies. It doesn't mean that we're angry with those who ask about expanding our little family. We know they mean well. It also doesn't mean that we're not happy for those expecting babies or cuddling their new babies. We love babies and are so happy for the joy they bring. We are just in a state of questioning. I no longer assume I'll be pregnant, but I do believe that Brad and I will have kids one day. If you have a story of your own to share, please do. Brad and I figure that we're not alone in this, but we've never heard of a story quite like ours. Please feel free to comment or to email me at melaniemcb at gmail dot com.

 P.S. If you are family/close friend and are learning about this through the blog, please understand that it is very hard to rehash again and again. We love you and wanted you to know what we're going through, but it is so hard to talk about over and over. Thank you for understanding.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

House Tour: Dining Room

Welcome to the dining room! As you may recall, this area opens up into the living room.  Maybe one day I'll make up a floor plan in Paint or something for you. Anyway, how about more pictures less talking?

This is the view as you enter from the hallway or as you turn around on the couch. Our table usually isn't pushed against the wall, but is helpful when vacuuming. We have two additional chairs--wooden and fold-up-- that we break out for company. Buying a new table and chairs is on my wish list, but I have expensive taste and I think we'll be waiting awhile.  Ugh.

Here's a closer look at our artwork. All except the right-most poster were purchased from Powerhouse Factories, a local company. The poster on the right is from a CD release party for our friend's band.

This little guy was printed by an art teacher within my district. It hangs to the left of the kitchen entry. This was one of the first songs that my niece, Macey, learned to sing and I still hear her little voice when I see the print.

The green shelf (sorry about the quality of the photo) is from Brad's sister. We use it to house cookbooks, bobble heads, serving dishes, and larger items like the crockpot.

Here are some of my favorite serving dishes. The tiny birds are actually salt and pepper shakers.

Our cake topper has been snuck in here for safe keeping, too.

Brad's DeLorean and Reds bobblehead collection have a shelf all to themselves.

I'll try and get some pictures of the kitchen soon, but it's really nothing to write home about.  

Monday, July 16, 2012

Pinteresting--DIY Drink Coasters

Do you have a board of crafts or DIY projects on your Pinterest account? How many of those have you actually attempted?  I definitely haven't tried enough of what I've got pinned, so my friend Ellen and I got together Friday afternoon to reminisce about her recent wedding (yay, professional pictures!) and tackle a small project.

We made drink coasters. Yes, it is as ridiculously easy as it sounds. The pin (which links to a now-defunct blog) said that we just needed the sixteen-cent tiles from Lowe's, 4x4 squares of scrapbook paper, and Modge Podge. You can also get some felt circles for the bottoms of your coasters.  We gathered all of our supplies for around $8-$9. We had to buy tiles, felt circles, and Modge Podge.

Once we got back to Ellen's, we cut out our 4x4 squares of paper. We put down an initial coat of Modge Podge on the tile, stuck the paper on, and then put down two coats of Modge Podge on top (with some drying time). Like I said, easiest project ever. We were so thrilled with the results that we are trying to carve out another day to make more.  :)

 Ellen preparing to cut out her squares.

 Lining the square on my tile.

Plain bisque tile transforms into super-cute coaster.

My collection of coasters.

Ellen's collection of coasters.

Friday, July 13, 2012

House Tour: Living Room

I figure it's about time I posted some images of our apartment, especially since so much of it is looking pretty good. Also, I went on a cleaning rampage recently and felt the need to take pictures in case it's not that clean again for awhile.  Honesty, right?

Anyway, here's the living room. If you remember, we enlisted the help of our friend, Emily, to help us design the space incorporate elements that Brad and I both love. Please click over to her blog and see the amazing things she does to her own home.

When entering our apartment, you walk in the front door and turn left. From there you have the dining room/kitchen area to the left and the living room to the right. It's a pretty big space and we're usually amazed at how many people we can squeeze in there.

This is the view as soon as you face the living room. I feel like the back wall still needs something else, but I'm not sure what. Brad and I have debated getting another set of the round mirrors ($25 from Target) to help elongate, but we're not sure.  Thoughts?

 Here's another view of the living room. That hallway off to the right takes you to the front door and bedrooms. This view is also a shameless plug regarding my lovingly-constructed gallery wall. We're still waiting on two photos to be printed (hence the post-its that I'm sure only I notice), but here it is.  I talked about it before, but this wall contains images from our engagement shoot and wedding. The tree was our guest book and the circular cross-stitch was our ring pillow.

Again, another view of the living room. That little orange table is from Crate and Barrel (sadly, it's no longer available). I love the pops of orange in our space and Brad loves all the neutrals. Also, I have permanently claimed the corner-spot of our sectional and it. is. fabulous. Seriously. How was I ever comfortable before?

It sounds so weird to say, but I love this little lamp. You can click here to see it in its original state, but it was just a $3 brown lamp from Goodwill when we started this journey. A little bit of sanding and some spray paint and we were in business. The tree wedge is a gift from Brad's parents to commemorate our wedding day. 

We've been moving counter-clockwise around the living room and have now reached the reading nook. It's pretty sad looking out-of-context, but I do enjoy this corner. The print is a series of Picasso sketches from Ikea, but I don't think it's available anymore. Also featured is the Poang chair and footrest from Ikea. We have a couple of "couch blankets" stacked on top of the footrest and a basket underneath for storing magazines and crochet projects.

Finally, we reach the curtains. These beasts, comprised of six panels of Ikea curtains, are hung to cover our patio doors. They were hand-painted over Christmas and I will never undertake this project again. First, we used the green painter's tape to mark off the to-be-orange areas. The green tape is fantastic and I continue to talk about it amazing abilities to this day. After marking off the areas, we mixed fabric medium in with orange acrylic paint from Michael's and commenced painting. We just did one coat and let it dry.  Then, I tried ironing to "set" the paint, but that got boring really quickly and I decided to take a chance and wash them. Big mistake. After one time through the washer, I had dark orange and light orange striped curtains. After a few choice words and tears, I hauled the curtains (six wet panels at least six-feet-long each) to the laundromat near my mom's. She had quarters. We ran the curtains through the wash two more times before we were happy with the outcome and then dried those suckers on high to fully set the remaining paint. Sure, Brad and I got an orange spot here or there and if you get really close you can see some spots where the orange bled into the white, but they look fantastic hanging in the living room. When it's dark, the stripes look completely solid. When they're back-lit, the stripes take on the distressed vibe you see in the above picture. It is more evenly distressed, though, when you see it in person.

So, that's it. That's our gorgeous living room. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Summer Wish List

Inspired by Elizabeth's post, I sat down with Brad to compose our own summer list. Since Brad and I are both home during the day right now, we are in a unique position and I'm really enjoying this summer. I'm taking time to unplug and enjoy the sunshine. As a result, I'm really feeling at peace with myself, my marriage, and my choices. Anyway, here's our list:

1. Have a picnic. 
Brad's sister gave us a picnic basket at a wedding shower last year and I want us to get some use out of it this summer. We've got some great parks near us, as well as plans for hiking, so this should be easy to cross off.

2. Clean up the balcony.
We're in an apartment, so we can't do a whole lot, but we need to do something. Our balcony currently has table and chairs and a lot of plants. I need to clean up and arrange the plants, maybe get a small side table to set some on.  I'd also love to get an umbrella for our table, so I have started scouring sales. Our apartment in on the top floor, so our balcony has zero shade. I'd really love to have an oasis we love using.

3. Finish bedroom.
I have to finish my paintings and I'd like to hang curtains. Otherwise, it's just a matter of cleaning it up.

4. Get healthy.
This is not a specific, measurable goal and the behavioral psychologist in me is cringing. However, I don't want to go crazy with this. I just want to incorporate some healthier food choices into my diet and move more.This is a shared goal for Brad, too.

5. Try new foods.
I am a super picky eater and I would like to not be. Brad would also love it if I ate more foods. It's one of our biggest arguments. I know that sometimes it is in my mind and that most of the foods I don't like are healthy for me. I would like to buy more fruits and vegetables and try new ways of cooking them. Ideas? Recipes?

6. Cook dinner for friends/family at least three times. Bonus points for at least one new dish.
I love having company for dinner. I also love that it motivates me to get more creative in the kitchen or to at least spend more time in there. Brad and I have had some delicious meals with friends. So, let's do that more. I'll try out some new dishes, including fruits/veggies, and we'll see how it goes. Another bonus is that we tend to clean more when we have company coming over, so there's that.

7. Move more.
Brad and I want to take more walks and hikes. I'd also love to get bicycles and bike to places around town. For instance, our church is about 2, 2.5 miles away and biking would get us there a little faster on Sunday mornings. I don't like exercising unless it is fun. Running is not fun to me. Zumba is fun. Hiking is fun. What do you do to stay healthy?

8. Win the lottery.
Brad wanted this on the list. I support this.

9. Create and complete summer reading list.
Elizabeth's list looks fantastic and I need something for by the pool. I read the Fifty Shades trilogy in order to participate in a book club with my sister-in-law. The trilogy made for quick reads, where little thinking was involved. Now and then, that's what you need. Have you read anything good recently? What do you recommend?

10. Create a date night jar. Use it.
I would love to have a jar with various date night ideas that we use. I like the idea of color-coding popsicle sticks to coordinate with price range. Pinterest has lots of great ideas for the jar and ideas for date nights, so hopefully, this is something we'll get on pretty soon.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Why Brad Married Me

Today's post was written by my pretty amazing husband. I've hinted a few times that it would be nice to have a post from him and he finally obliged.  Read on for some serious sweetness...

Why I married Melanie.

Right after we said, "I do."

Melanie had asked me a few times before about writing in our blog and since my name is in the website address,  I would assume it is required. This can be thought of as an almost comedic blog post but I am serious about my reasons why I married Melanie.

I married Melanie for 3 reasons; her Appearance, Personality, and Intelligence. Those are probably the very basic of characteristics that everybody looks for when looking for a soul mate but it is all true.

Melanie has a small body frame and, from the first pictures I had seen of her (before we met), a short pixie-type haircut.  I was attracted to how she held herself--tall and cute. Besides, seeing photographs of cute actresses such as Emma Watson and Michelle Williams with short pixie haircuts, she fit the haircut right.  She has two simple tattoos on her feet of Picasso's sketch of an Owl and, though I do not appreciate it as often, she also has a larger slightly crooked tattoo on her lower back of a Celtic Knot as a nod to her ancestry, I'm sure. [Ed. Note--He swears my tattoo is slightly off-center. I have never noticed this.] Though I do not have any tattoos of my own, I like to see this type of art that tells a great deal about the person wearing it.

In part summary, Melanie is very cute with her skinny body and short haircut. I am attracted to her look and, assuming she would never wash away her permanent tattoos, I will remain with her.

Melanie is very good at getting along with me and is a great counterbalance. She is sociable while I am a shy individual. When I first met her, she was more outgoing and talkative with me, forcing me to talk more and become more comfortable.  She laughs at my jokes, and knows when to give me a short break if I go overboard on my sarcasm.  I knew my parents would love her.  She didn't have a dark or troublesome past and she had a niche for being crafty. Crocheting doesn't float my boat, but then again installing the newest computer distro of a Linux Operating System probably isn't her idea of a great weeknight activity. In the same way, she could be less picky in her eating habits, but I would assume she would say I need to not worry about how much is spent on a dinner date.  Understanding a person is crucial to everything and the sides of a relationship can be looked at like puzzles pieces that fit together.

In part summary, Melanie appreciate my good qualities and doesn't drag down on my bad, yet improving, characteristics.  She helps everybody out. I assume this is partly why she studied psychology and loves to work with teenagers and young children.

Yay for goofy photobooth kisses.

Speaking of studies, Melanie is intelligent. She apparently has completed two programs in graduate school at a university for a Masters and Educational Specialist Degree in School Psychology. {Ed. Note--"apparently?" I have the student loan debt and diplomas to show it. :)] Even though 7 years studying in higher education comes back in the form of her student loans, it has benefits for myself.  Bragging to friends that my wife didn't want to study the extra year for a doctorate because writing a thesis bored her is great, but having free counseling for my first-world mental problems pays for itself after our first visit.  Melanie is a bread-winner.  I am going great in my career, but, at her rate, it would be hard for me to catch up.

In part summary, Melanie is a genius. Maybe not so much on the proper uses of a credit card in a clothing store but she excels at having the smarts to be a great helpful friend to all.

In all other words, I married Melanie because she came into my life quickly and makes me very happy.  I had dated a few other women to find a best friend and I found that very soon with Melanie after meeting her. Seemed like a no-brainer that I would agree to spend the rest of my life with a smart, respectful, and beautiful woman. "Where do I sign?"

Beer and mac & cheese while on honeymoon.
Thanks, San Francisco, for the extra five pounds.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What to Wear: Wedding Guest Edition

One of my friends is getting married next month and I just realized that I'm not sure what I'll wear. I know, I know, first world problems.

Anyway, help me narrow the field?

I'm really liking the necklace in the bottom corner and it's made even better when you factor in a 50% discount (yeah, summer job).

Apparently, I am a fan of tank dresses.

I don't own a lot of yellow and am really debating the yellow shift dress (bottom left).

Please throw out some opinions or alternate suggestions. Where are your go-to shops for dresses?

Top yellow
Bottom yellow
Top red
Bottom orange
Navy tank dress
Green dress
Blue dress (with v-neck front)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Low-Fat Blueberry Scones

I have some bad habits that I need to correct. One of those habits is running out the door with no breakfast and stopping at Starbucks.  Guys, I don't even drink coffee. I get a pretentious and expensive hot chocolate. It is so yummy, though, especially with a blueberry scone.  In an effort to curb this habit that will break my personal monthly budget, I went hunting for recipes.

I made the following recipe last night and enjoyed a scone this morning. Brad kept joking with me and calling them "stones." He said that the scones were "good" and he was "afraid [...] to get blueberry on [his] shirt, but it was tasty/interesting...[he] ate it all and appreciated it." He went on to say that he didn't care for the dough and it wouldn't be his go-to breakfast grab. I thought the scones were less sweet than Starbucks and a little heavier. This could have been the case just because it was my first time baking scones, though.  Anyway, I enjoyed it and will grab one on my way out tomorrow morning for sure.

Look at all of those blueberries.

Low-Fat Blueberry Scones
8 servings          6 WW+

2 C unbleached flour
1/4 C sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1T baking powder
1/4 C frozen butter
3/4 C light buttermilk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1C fresh blueberries

-Preheat oven to 400*F.
-In a large bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients.
-Using the large holes of a cheese grater, grate the butter into the flour. Mix well.
-In a medium bowl, mix the buttermilk, egg, and vanilla.
-Using a fork, slowly stir the wet ingredients into dry ingredients, until all of the mixture is moistened.
-Do not overwork the dough. Fold in the blueberries.
-Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Drop large spoonfuls--DO NOT press or compact. Bake on center rack for 18 minutes.

I used whole wheat unbleached flour, Splenda, and 12 oz of blueberries. Some of the blueberries didn't stay in the dough, so I probably had 10-11 oz in my scones. Also, I made six scones--serving sizes be damned.

If you make this, let me know what you think. If you have an even better recipe, pass that along.


Monday, May 7, 2012

What the Psychic Told Me

I went to the flea market with my mom and sister this weekend. We walked around for hours and found all kinds of treasures, including a psychic.  

I plunked down $10 for a 10-minute reading and my sister coached me to not give anything away.  There were two psychics--sisters--and one held my wedding band and one held my engagement band throughout the reading.  At first, they kept it general and informed me that a male in my life with a 'J' name appeared to be turning a new page, but I was drowning while waiting for them. The sisters told me to stop waiting. 'J' would get there, but I couldn't immerse myself in it any longer waiting for him to get it together. (This has some meaning, but I won't get into it right now.)

Next, I got to ask a question and draw three cards. I asked, very generally, about babies.  Seriously--I asked, "Can we talk about babies?" Sister 2 asked if I was pregnant and was relieved to hear me say no. She indicated that a friend asked for a reading to tell the sex of her baby shortly after she found out she was pregnant, but Sister 2 couldn't see a baby. The friend miscarried soon after.  Anyway, Sister 1 asked her if she could tell what I would have first, if indeed babies were in my future.  They both agreed that they felt babies were in the cards for me and Sister 2 said it kept flipping between boy and girl. She settled on indicating that I would have a boy first, but I would have at least one of each. She was also concerned that the quick flipping meant that I would have twins or triplets. The cards I drew were Resistance, Challenge, and Fertility. Sister 1 felt that I wouldn't have babies right away due to the resistance and challenge and Sister 2 backed her up, indicating that she saw me pregnant next year. They said that with the fertility card on me that I was OK, but my husband may need to get checked. Difficulties in getting pregnant may be linked to his swimmers was the take-home message. 

I was allowed two questions and for the second one I just asked for a general next 12 months reading. I drew three more cards.  I don't remember what these three cards were, but the sisters agreed that my husband was stressed. They said that the stress he was under, most likely due to career changes, could be affecting our pregnancy attempts. They advised that he take a chill pill because everything would turn out OK for us. They felt nothing bad surrounding us, just some stress on my husband's part.

I thought the reading was pretty interesting and parts of it rang very true.  I wanted to capture it here so that we can visit it again later and see how much of it rings true in a year.  Have you ever had your cards or palm read?  Did any of it ring true for you?

This was not my psychic.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I Do, Now What?

When Brad and I were married, we received a copy of Bill and Giuliana Rancic's book, I Do, Now What?. We read to each other on the plane to and from our honeymoon and then largely ignored the book. I picked it up again two nights ago to finish reading and it is a charming book. Let me be clear--I do not live my life like the Rancic's do, but I do admire the respect and love they show toward each other. I'm also ridiculously excited about their baby news.

There are plenty of lessons in the book that need to be adapted to fit your relationship (duh.). For example, chapter 11 ("The Power of the 'F' Word") talks about injecting fun back into your relationship.  Bill and Giuliana enjoy taking random road trips or planning surprise trips to Greece.  Uhh...Brad and I aren't in a position to do that.  I could surprise him with Chinese take-out one night, but that's about it.

Chapter 12 ("Hogs and Hiking Vests") discusses the importance of taking an interest in your partner's interests, but not forcing it. Forcing it could lead to resentment and that could lead to you bonking your partner upside the head with a 9-iron when he takes you golfing for the fourteenth time.  So, if you don't like golfing, don't go. Brad enjoys hiking, though, and I hadn't done that in a number of years. He bought me hiking boots for Christmas, though, and we went hiking.  We don't do it nearly as much as either of us would like, but that just lets us know that we need to plan these things better. I'm sure Brad appreciates the confirmation that if he really doesn't like bowling, he shouldn't go with me. Maybe that will be my time to myself and I'll join a Fall league later this year.  Who knows? 

The book gets us talking more and more meaningfully. Brad just started a new job and we finally talked about it last night, as well as some other issues that had come up as a result of being a (temporarily) one-income family. It's always nice to clear the air and if Bill and Giuliana Rancic help us do that, well, bully for them. 

Seriously, though--the book is hilarious. Go check it out.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Terrariums, Cooking, and Watercolors

Brad says that I have to start this blog with an apology for being a lazy blogger. I don't really want to, though. I certainly appreciate anyone who clicks on this blog and spends a few minutes with me, but I hope you also understand that sometimes life gets in the way of blogging, especially when the blog is a hobby.

 I have six weeks left of this school year and then a glorious summer stretches out before me. There will be lazy days by the pool, walks to the library, building a house on a church mission trip, and a girl's trip to Florida. There will be dinners on the balcony with Brad and date nights sprinkled in here and there. There will be baking and crafting. There will be no alarm clock. There will be renewal and refreshment for my being.  Until then, please hang in there. I do have lots to say and lots of things have been happening. It may be that I haven't gotten permission to write about them yet or that I don't have the words (or the courage) yet.  Please be patient with me.


This weekend I finally got around to planting some things. I had some petunias that Brad's mom gave us for Easter that I planted (no pictures) and this bonsai-like tree (from Ikea!) that I finally planted in my amazing glass jar from Target. I'm still staring at it and deciding if I like it or not. I feel like the tree should sit a little lower in the jar, but the roots are preventing that. As a result, I kind of want to cut off part of the tree. I also want to do away with the rocks and lay down some moss in there. I'll keep you posted.  Your thoughts, of course, are always appreciated and welcomed.

 A miracle occurred last night--I felt like cooking dinner! I quit pinteresting and cooked.  And, readers, it was amazing.  I have a weakness for the McCormick seasoning packs because they make a recipe foolproof and delicious every single time. You can do a test-run with a recipe before you buy huge jars of all the spices required. I'll let you in on a secret--I own probably three to four kinds of Mrs. Dash and the spices needed for pumpkin pie. That's it. I'm working on my kitchen skills and expanding the list of foods I'll eat, so these spice packs are perfect. They also include a recipe card to hang on to.

 Make this dinner and try to tell me it's not amazing.

Excuse the cell phone pictures (I'm sure you're used to them by now)
and look at this delicousness.

Brad and I also sat down last night to continue watching the Back to the Future trilogy and I did a bit of crafting. I recently purchased some watercolor paper and played around with my watercolor pencils. I'm nowhere near as good as Liz and the cards that she makes, but she inspires me to keep trying.

One of my favorite stamps.

Experimenting with background color.

What craftiness have you been up to lately? Any tips for working with watercolors?


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cussing the Gallery Wall

They make it look so easy to have a gallery wall, don't they? Pinterest is full of gallery wall inspirations and how-tos. You can look at blogs all day and be inspired to create a gallery wall of your own. However, you may also cuss it out. Wait? Just me? Hmm...

Let me back up a bit. You see, our guest book was a huge tree that our loved ones added thumbprint leaves to. It's beautiful. It is roughly 2' by 3'. It cost me $300 to frame. In addition to the tree-that-cost-almost-as-much-as-my-dress, we had a shadowbox from his parents containing dried flowers, part of a tree plate, and our invitation. We also had our ring "pillow," which is a mostly-complete cross-stitch I did. I wanted a wall of memories to celebrate our wedding and what better than a gallery wall? We would have pictures of different sizes, differing frames, and different textures courtesy of the cross-stitch and a button "S" I plan on making. Brad and I sorted through all of our wedding and engagement photos until we had a respectable amount and we dubbed the project the "wall of narcissism."

I spent a small fortune on frames, lined them up wrapping paper on the floor, and traced them. I had post-its detailing picture description, orientation, color, and size. I even numbered the post-its and the traced outlines so I could be sure to line everything up again. I hung the wrapping paper on the wall, hung photos, and ripped down the wrapping paper. Everything looked good (and was good!) until I learned that photographers don't really shoot for 8x10 inch photos anymore--they shoot for 8x12 inch.  Really? So, I figured out which photos could take a crop and which couldn't, and then I set about returning and buying new frames.  Thank goodness that Michael's has started to carry digital-photo-sized frames now and I found the 8x12s without a lot of trouble. I also had the benefit of a 40% off of certain frames sale, plus a 25% of total frame purchase coupon.   I'm still on the hunt for a 10x15, though...

Anyway, here are some pictures.  We're still waiting on the photos that will go in the frames and I didn't exactly "style" the couch for the last photo.  I'm keeping it real, I guess. 

What trouble did you have with a gallery wall? Do you have any tips?

Laid out on the floor.
(I know I still owe you a post on the curtains.)

This is a bad picture, but here is the wrapping paper up on the wall.

Aww, look. With my iPhone, I have no idea how to not
let the lamp wash out the left side of the wall.

Taking down frames after learning that 8x10 won't cut it.

This is what the wall looked like last night.
New frames are up, though I still need a 10x15 to replace
the frame above the tree and four from the right.
Note: no styling, but new pillows. :)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Catch Up

I'm such a blogging slacker.  I guess this is where I tell you how busy I've been and apologize for my absence.  I am sorry and I want to be a better blogger.  It's all about finding a balance and I've been enjoying using my time these past couple of months to really settle into marriage.  This stuff is hard sometimes! Brad and I are in a really good place right now and we've really been working on communicating and acting as a team. 

Here are some photos to catch us up to current and we'll work from there. Deal?

I won a giveaway that Justine hosted for shop credit from much love, illy's etsy shop.  Please click on those links. Justine is hilarious and Illene will fill your life with adorable-ness. I persued the shop, placed my order, and in no time at all was greeted with a lovely manilla envelope.  Inside was this:
Red tissue paper packages tied up with string...

containing two of my new favorite things!

Short-haired girls can rock headbands, too.

New dress from Jason Wu collection for Target + headband=love.

 Brad really worked hard to make Valentine's a good day for me and his effort showed. We ate chocolate and watched movies all weekend! He even bought a bigger box of chocolates since he "knew [he] would eat most of them." ha!
Yummy heart of chocolates.

Pretty orange roses.

An Apple card with one of our engagement photos?
Instant points for him!

Yes, I totally ate this for lunch one day.
The chocolates look smooshed because there was no "cheat sheet"
 and so I made thumb prints in them all.

My first Coach purse. Bought for the shape/color and not the name.
Thank you, online factory sale.

An Ikea trip with a sleepy three-year-old is made better by a front-facing camera.

March brought a lot of new babies, some tornados, a funeral, and lots of time with good friends. And that was just in the first 10 days!

I read The Hunger Games trilogy in about a week and LOVED it.
I have read that there's some controversy with how Mockingjay ended, but I thought it was just as it should be. Email me if you want to start a dialogue.

My mom got an itch to play BINGO, so we rounded up
some happy meal toys and went to town.
We didn't win, but had so much fun.
I'm really thankful that a lot of Bingo halls are smoke-free now.

Here's one of the babes I was talking about.
Brad's cousins welcomed Lumen into their lives on March 1, 2012.

Lumen with Mommy.