Saturday, October 4, 2014

Baby Banco's Gender Reveal Party

    I cannot confirm nor deny that this post may or may not be almost two months late. Haha. But better late than never, right??!  I guess I can say that I've truly been too busy living life to actually blog about it, which I suppose is a good thing. The last couple of months have been a whirlwind. In the last two months we finally discovered the gender of our little sweet pea and officially named him, I started the 2014-2015 school year, which has kept me incredibly busy, and we have finally started working on our little man's nursery.  I am currently 26 weeks pregnant and my how things are changing quickly.  As I sit here on the couch with my laptop in my lap, I am watching my belly move all over the place with all this baby's movement. He must have enjoyed the Cinnamon Toast Crunch I just ate!  Haha.  But let me back up and tell the long overdue story of how we came to find out about our son, Harrison Andrew Banco.
    Back on August 7th at 17 weeks and 2 days pregnant, we had our gender ultrasound at Wee See Imaging over in Northeast Columbia (which we would highly recommend...they were awesome!!).  We had a 20 week ultrasound scheduled at our OB's office, but it would have been after school started and I wanted to have our gender reveal party before I started back school, so we decided to get an ultrasound early.  Plus, we were DYING to know what our baby was!  As any pregnant woman or mom can attest to, when you are expecting you have this innate urge to get everything in your life set and organized....aka "Nesting Syndrome."  I had been itching to start getting the baby's room ready, but I felt like I couldn't make any definite decisions about anything until I knew the gender, so that was another reason I wanted to find out ASAP!  We arrived at Wee See and we made sure to tell the ultrasound tech upfront that we did not want to know the gender. So she turned the screen around and started to poke around with the wand on my belly until she found out whether it was a boy or a girl.

According to her, the baby had its knees up by its chest and was bearing all for the world to see, so it didn't take her long to make the call.  I guess the Wendy's Frosty I had eaten right before then had put baby in a good mood, so it was cooperative.  After she made the call, we called our friends Molly and Jason and handed the phone to the ultrasound tech.  She left the room and told them what the gender of our baby was, because we had put them in charge of getting the balloon box ready for our gender reveal party.  Then we got to play around and get some good pics of the baby.  My favorite shot of all is this sweet shot where the baby had its arm up near its face - even at just over 17 weeks it looked just like a little person....very skinny of course (look at those ribs poking out!)...but a little person nonetheless.  It was so amazing seeing our sweet pea on the screen, and it made us even more anxious to find out who HE or SHE was!
    We left Wee See Imaging with a huge collection of ultrasound photos, but the actual pics that showed the gender were sealed up inside an envelope and stapled shut.  Tony threatened me if I tried to look early, so we decided we would lock them up in our fire safe box when we got home to keep us from being tempted to look before the party on Sunday.  On our way home, we stopped for dinner at Red Lobster.  You can't go wrong celebrating an important milestone with some fried shrimp and garlic cheese I right?!! Haha. We had a very nice dinner together and after finding out that we had just been for our ultrasound, our waiter brought us a free dessert and even decorated if for sweet!! It made our night!
   So, basically, we endured three more agonizing days of waiting until Sunday.  After church, we rushed home to get last minute details together before all of our friends and family came.  We decided on a Prince vs. Princess theme for the party, so our decorations reflected that accordingly. Everything turned out great!

     At 3:00 everybody started to arrive and our house quickly became VERY crowded.  We had not received RSVP's from everybody, so we figured there would be some people who wouldn't show, but we ended up having almost everybody we invited come.  So there were literally almost 40 people in our little 1500 square foot house! But it made us feel so blessed and honored that so many people loved and cared about us enough to be a part of our special day.  We had planned on having everyone eat first, but we quickly gathered that everyone was anxious to find out the news as quickly as possible, and we also were seeing some rain headed our way on the Doppler, so we decided to head outside and do the reveal!  Molly and Jason had our balloon box ready!  Everybody lined up on the sidewalk, Tony thanked everyone for coming, and then we bent down together and slowly untied the ribbons.  Out came.........BLUE BALLOONS!!  We were having a BOY! I had been convinced my entire pregnancy that I was having a girl, and then about two days before the reveal I changed my mind and decided that it was a boy, but I decided to wear a pink dress anyway since Tony was wearing blue.  For some reason my intuition changed, and it turned out to be right!  At the moment I saw those blue balloons fly into the air, I was flooded with all kinds of emotions at once.....gratitude, bewilderment, anxiety (Oh Lord! What I am I going to do with a BOY!?! Haha!), joy, and lots of other things too.  It was emotional, but so exciting at the same time.  It was truly worth the wait for that moment.

         After the balloons were just tiny blue polka dots floating up into the sky, Tony and I announced the baby's name to everyone.  I guess it was lucky for us that it was a boy, because we had only been able to agree on a boy name! :)  We told everyone that our little boy would be named Harrison Andrew - Harrison being a family name from my side of the family (my great, great, great grandfather on my dad's side), and Andrew being Tony's dad's name.  We knew we wanted to use family names, and thought it only seemed fair to use a family name from both my side and Tony's side of the family. After pouring through our family trees looking for inspiration, we came across lots of um....interesting....choices (let's be honest....both sides of our family have some CRAY-CRAY names), but Harrison and Andrew were the only ones that resonated with us.  We just loved the sound of it. We apologize to our other male ancestors who didn't make the cut - Gartrell, Amaziah, Coke, Major Aldophus, and the list goes on.  We have some good ones!! Hahaha.

        The rest of the party was slightly overwhelming just because there were so many people, and it was hard to get around to everybody to talk and say hello and thank them for coming.  It kind of felt similar to our wedding day in that manner. You feel like you're pulled in a hundred different directions.  But it was so great having all of our friends and family together to celebrate, and Tony and I were so grateful to everyone for being there to share in our joy.  We truly have the best friends and family ever!

     Tony and I are so excited about our sweet boy and we are anxiously awaiting the day we get to meet him!  Until then.... we are quickly trying to get prepared for this little man's arrival. Hopefully a nursery reveal post will follow soon!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

How to Make a Burlap Wreath Bow

    Every summer after school lets out I make a bucket list of projects and other things that I want to accomplish by the end of the summer. And because I'm crazy and Type A, if I come up with other projects I didn't think of when I made my list, I add them to my list later and then cross them out so it looks like I did more.  I mean, who doesn't like to feel more accomplished??
     This summer many of my bucket list items involve preparing for our little peanut who will be born in January, but I have a bunch of other non-baby related projects to tackle too!  One of those projects that I got to cross off my bucket list today was making a new wreath for our front door.  I got on a wreath kick a while back and I went a little wild.  And then I began hoarding wreath supplies for months....and....... I've seriously had this huge collection of burlap, deco mesh, ribbon, and other accessories stuffed in random drawers around the house ready to make the collection wreaths I had been mentally planning.  But as with many things in life, I never got around to actually making them.  (I still have wreath supplies for my EASTER wreath that I never got around to making...whoops. Maybe I'll post that one when I get around to it!)
     So I got started this morning and finished up with my masterpiece!! I think it turned out great! I love the light blue burlap....which I found at WAL-MART!! Yes....Wal-Mart!  And the monogram, which was a end of the year teacher gift from a student in my class, was the perfect accessory to this fun and summery wreath. 

   Because I have already written a post on how to make burlap wreath, I am not going to re-write instructions on how to make the actual wreath.  If you do not already know how to make a basic burlap wreath, you can find detailed instructions in my previous post HERE.  What I am going to focus on today is how to make an easy layered burlap bow!  All I used was some 8" plain burlap ribbon, a roll of decorative 2 1/2" burlap ribbon, and some pipe cleaners.
                                                                                                                                                             To secure the 3-letter wooden monogram, I hot glued two pieces of floral wire to either side of back of the monogram.  Then I pulled the wire through the wreath and attached it on both sides to the wire wreath frame.  It looks great on my front door!!  Now to work on this Easter wreath that never made it up in time for Easter.....good thing it comes every year!  Happy Saturday friends!!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Pregnancy Tracker Chalkboard DIY Project

      So...after I found out I was preggo, I knew I wanted to find a
cute and creative way to track all of the important milestones during my pregnancy so I could look back after the baby is born and remember all of the amazing changes my body went through on its journey before birth.  I had seen several ideas online that I considered, but I kept going back to my favorite idea - the pregnancy tracker chalkboard.  During the several weeks after I found out I was pregnant, I looked everywhere for a chalkboard that was the right size - Hobby Lobby, Michael's, HomeGoods, TJ Maxx, etc.   I knew I wanted something that was tall and narrow so it would fit in a picture longways and have plenty of room to write on.  Nothing I found was quite what I surprise there. :) So, of course, I did what I always do when I don't find what I want - I decided to make it!!
    I decided an open back frame with a piece of wood set behind it painted with chalkboard paint was my best bet, so I went to Hobby Lobby and found an open back frame.  The majority of the sizes were 24 X 36 or smaller, but I finally found one that was almost as tall as I am - a 24 X 48 inch frame.  Perfect! Large and in charge!! And it was 50% off!  It was not the color I wanted (a gaudy black & gold combo), but I knew a little coat of paint would fix it right up.  I bought some white spray paint, some chalkboard markers, and picked up a thin piece of wood from Home Depot that was amazingly exactly 24 X 48 inches (no cutting....sweet!!).
        My first task was painting the frame.  Now, let me begin by saying that I have a love-hate relationship with spray paint.  It's so easy to use and dries fast, but it almost never covers well, even in coats.  And if it does cover well, you literally knock the object against something and it chips.  After coating the entire frame with the white spray paint (hoping for a different outcome this time), I ended up painting it the old fashioned way with white paint and a paint brush just because you could literally flick the frame with your finger and the spray paint would chip.  Not cool....  (Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but I would have just put two coats of regular paint instead of spray painting, just FYI.)  I also made this mistake with the chalkboard paint too.  I had regular chalkboard paint, but I thought I'd be cool and buy the chalkboard spray paint.  And once again, the new kid on the block just didn't cut it.  The chalkboard spray paint took coat after coat to cover the back board, and it still didn't look like a thick enough surface to write on, so I painted it again with two coats of the regular chalkboard paint.  It turned out way better!!  Lesson learned - spray paint sucks....and it's expensive. Stick with the old fashioned stuff.

Liquid nails dabbed into corners of frame.
      After the back board was dry, I used liquid nails to glue the back board into the frame.  I just squirted some in a cup and used a q-tip to kind of dab it onto the edges.  I was scared to do a full line of it all the way down the edge of the frame, because if it expanded too much and squirted around to the front of the frame, I knew it was going to be a bear to get off!  I set the back board into place and put some heavy objects on the back of the board to keep it bonded to the liquid nails until it dried.
    Afterward, I ended up having some spots where the liquid nails did seep out where it was visible from the front of the frame, so I used a toothpick and a razor blade to scrap out the little bits of glue so it wouldn't look tacky.  We can't have tacky, now can we??!
        After all the excess glue was scraped away, the frame looked spectacular! It was exactly what I was looking for.  All I had to do next was decorate it so I could take my first picture for 8 weeks.  That part was fun!!  I LOVED the chalk markers I bought at Hobby Lobby. They wrote with such ease and had such a color pop.  By the time I finished creating the board and decorating it for my 8 week picture, I was in reality almost 9 weeks preggo.  But I was not about to wait any longer to get my first picture done.  In retrospect, I wish I'd had the board done around 6 weeks so I could have taken a picture then and proved that I did actually have a fairly flat stomach before pregnancy.  By 8 1/2 weeks I was already looking like 18 weeks (which I made sure to explain on my first pregnancy board), so I was a little bummed that I didn't get to track the belly from it's original state.  I may never see that flat belly again....sad day. :(
    For my first picture, I tried just propping up the board against the wall but I thought it looked dumb.  So I decided to mount the board on the wall in our living room.  In order to do that, I had to put eye screws into the sides and put picture hanging wire through both sides in order to hang it on the wall.  I used my studfinder to find the stud in the wall, and put a strong screw in to hold it, since the frame is pretty heavy. Using the picture wire made it easy to take the frame on and off the wall so I can decorate it each week.

        So basically I LOVE my pregnancy chalkboard.  However,  I am also now in a love hate relationship with the chalkboard markers because they STAIN!!!!  After I was done with my 8 week board and was ready to start working on my 9 week board, I took a wet cloth to wipe off the chalk.  It did in fact take off the very top layer of bright color, but it also left an exact stain of where every single word or picture had been.  I scrubbed, I wiped, I used Windex, I used Dawn dish detergent...nothing worked.  After thinking for a moment about what takes everything off, I tried a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, and that was actually the final trick that took off the chalk, but it took no less than 10 minutes of hard core elbow grease scrubbing.  I was a tad bit bummed about that.  But nonetheless, I love my board and I am already cherishing the cute pics my husband has been able to take of me each week to track my little baby bump and the incredible growth and development of our sweet baby!!  Here are my pictures for  Weeks 8, 9, & 10.  I hope eventually to post more about what is going on each week during my pregnancy, but since this post is devoted to the DIY aspect of it, I'll save all that for later!! God Bless!!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Our Journey Before the Bump: Waiting for Baby Banco

*** As soon as I discovered I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to start a journal where I could write down my thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, and track the many changes that I would be going through physically, emotionally, and spirtually.  I started writing not long after I saw those beautiful double lines on that pregnancy test, and I want to continue throughout my pregnancy so I will remember where I've been, where I am, and where I'm going.... and so I won't forget this beautiful journey that I am on.  While some of what is written here is very personal, I trust it will not be judged...and my hope is that it helps someone else out there who is currently struggling or has struggled with similar issues.  I know I found deep comfort in reading the many blog articles written by women who were courageous enough to open up their lives to the world and share their stories so others would know that they aren't alone.*** 

     I have always known I was meant to be a mother.  I knew when I was just a child myself, carefully changing my baby doll’s clothes, feeding my baby her bottle, and sometimes pretending to breastfeed (yep, I was that kid!).  I loved seeing other babies out in public and always wanted to look at them, smile at them, talk to them, etc. I loved my brother from the moment he was born.  I thought I was his mommy.  I read to him, helped my mom change his diaper, and have fond memories of rubbing his soft little peach fuzz head.   As I grew up and became an older child, my favorite thing to do was to help my mom keep the nursery at church.  I loved playing with those little ones, and I remember thinking then that nothing could possibly be more sweet and relaxing than rocking a sleeping baby.  I also remember playing “house” with my  friends when we were young, and playing “mommy” often meant stuffing a pillow inside our shirts.  For some reason we thought mimicking pregnancy was fun.  Something about having a pillow stuffed belly gave me this sense of importance. When I was about 13, I started babysitting.  I now think these people were crazy to have left me for extended periods of time with their children at 13, but I must have looked and acted pretty responsible and trustworthy back then or something.  It was a hard job at times, but it gave me such joy, and I got a lot of satisfaction out of caring for the sweet children I babysat.  In high school, I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that the only career path I envisioned myself taking was one that involved children, and that is why I became a teacher.  Teaching is one of the hardest jobs there is, but also one of the most rewarding.  And I know that I have made a positive impact in the lives of children through my career.
   When I started dating my husband, we talked early on about how we both wanted children.  That would have been a deal breaker for both of us, so it was a good thing we were on the same page!  After we got married, though, we both agreed that we wanted to wait a while before trying for a baby.  The first year of marriage was overwhelming, frustrating, rewarding, and beautiful all at the same time.  There was a lot going on, so I’m definitely glad we did not get pregnant immediately.  There were so many learning curves to work through and it took us that entire year and more to just get to know each other and work through all of the changes that come along with blending your life with someone else's   We were married about 2 years when we started talking seriously about when we would start a family.  Of course, being a teacher, it is in my blood to try and plan a delivery in the spring of a school year. It’s very difficult and stressful to be out during the first part of the school year, so I knew I didn’t want to get pregnant at any time that would end up in a baby due in August or September.  We decided that I would get off birth control around October/November of 2013 and get it out of my system, and then start trying in January 2014. Well, as it turned out I ended up getting off birth control in August of 2013, but not by design, really.  I went on a weekend trip for a friend’s bachelorette party to Savannah and forgot my birth control.  After not having it for 3 days, I was like, oh screw it.... I’ll just get off now and get it out of my system.  So I did.  I completely stopped taking it.  
And....over the next  few weeks, I started to notice a very big change in a certain area of our marriage….sex didn’t hurt anymore.  From literally Day 1 in our marriage, things had been very painful pretty much all the time.  I expected that when we first got married, since we had not been together before we were married, but 3 months, 6 months, a year, two years into our marriage….I knew something wasn’t right.  I had talked to my OB about it and complained about it being an issue, but the advice I got was everything from “drink a glass of wine,” to “stop tensing up your muscles,” to “I’ll prescribe you some lidocaine to numb the area,” and even, “why don’t you look into botox injections down there – it’s a breakthrough new treatment.” Needless to say, I was extremely frustrated at all of those ridiculous suggestions.  I had suffered through over two years of pain and a smorgasbord of treatments and then it mysteriously went away when I got off the birth control?? What was up?!  Well....sure enough, after doing some research, I discovered that painful sex is a lesser known side effect (but a side effect nonetheless) of some birth control pills. Awesome. It kind of infuriated me to learn that, and it made me resent my OB for trying to mask my symptoms instead of actually trying to figure out the cause of the issue in the first place. Not once had she ever mentioned that the birth control might be the culprit.  
     Even though we were not "trying," being off birth control made me want to go ahead and get on prenatal vitamins just in case I was to get pregnant, so I did what any unsuspecting woman would do..I went to Wal-mart and came home with what I thought were the healthiest vitamins for me and my baby – NatureMade Prenatals with DHA.  During the next several months, I tried to start charting my ovulation using the basal body temperature method, but the birth control had screwed up my body so badly that I didn’t have a period for almost 3 months. And because you start your charting with the first day of your period, that meant I couldn't chart.  My first period finally came in November, and so I started charting, but my temperatures were all out of whack and I got frustrated with it.   I did mark that I had a 28 day cycle, though, during the months of November and December, which was good to know.  The whole fiasco with the birth control being the culprit for years of painful sex, though, made me start to really doubt the need and/or effectiveness of other modern medicine and mainstream healthcare treatments, and it planted a seed for a thirst of knowledge of more natural and holistic methods of healing to come. 
     When the new year approached, we decided to start trying for a baby. I also delved head first into research on how to eat clean, rid my body and home of toxins and chemicals, and how to give myself the best chance at getting pregnant. The thought of bringing a new life into the world is a weighty one, and it made me rethink every aspect of my life.  Things that never were an issue before when it was just me in the picture started to become food for thought when I contemplated those decisions affecting the health and well-being of a child.  It just makes you want to rid your life of anything harmful and toxic and start over fresh.  I continued to take my prenatal vitamins, but began thinking that I might should have researched the matter a little more before deciding on a brand. And after I started reading, I was so glad I did.  After hours of research on the topic, I learned that the vast majority of major vitamin brands put all kinds of additives, artificial dyes, etc into their vitamins, all which can be harmful to mother and baby.  I was so disgusted. I finally found a brand that had very high ratings on holistic and natural websites and blogs and decided to get some - NewChapter Organics. They were much more expensive, but I was willing to pay the price to provide a potential unborn child with the best nutrients. I also started taking Nordic Naturals DHA supplement as well, which aids in prenatal brain development, among other things.
      After spending so much time researching vitamins, that also made me start thinking about other things I was putting into my body (food) and on my body (lotions, soaps, etc.)  I delved into research articles, websites, blog posts, and more that led to a complete enlightenment and gave me so much insight into the world of genetically modified foods, carcinogens in common household cleaners, and chemicals in everyday body care products. That whole movement in my life is another whole blog post in itself, and I will share many of my discoveries in that area another day.  But in a nutshell, I began a detox of anything and everything in my home that I felt would be harmful to me or an unborn child.  And it's been one of the most empowering things I've ever done.
       In January, I had started marking my periods in an app called My Days and tried to count what day would be our most fertile day based on having a 28 day cycle.  We tried that month, and as we waited for the end of my first cycle that month, I started preparing myself for it not to happen.  I knew that sometimes it takes a few months, so I was fine with it not being instantaneous, but at the same time I expected conception to happen fairy quickly, since no one in my family had had difficulty getting pregnant.  When my period came in January, I remember being devastated. I couldn’t explain why I was so upset, but I just was.  Just months before, I had welcomed my period each month with open arms, but now… that we had decided in our hearts and minds that we were ready for a baby….I was disgusted to see it.  My husband didn’t quite get it.  It didn't seem as big of a deal for him, but it was for me.
       In February, I continued tracking my periods and counting the days through my app.  After being so devastated the first month when I found out we weren’t pregnant, I was a little more determined to get the timing down right.  I started kind of preparing my husband by explaining to him about how ovulation worked and how you kind of had to time things just right in that small window of time in order for conception to occur, but it kind of stressed him out. I was not expecting him to react that way, and that also put a little more stress and anxiety on me, because I was trying to do everything I could to educate myself and time things just right.  It was really hard at times.  You think of trying for a baby as such a fun time, and it is.  But it can also be stressful, and you don't realize that until you're in the situation.  
      Later that month, I actually thought I was pregnant because it was day 30 of my cycle and I still had not had a period.  I tested and it was negative. Day 33 came, Day 34 came, Day 35 came and still no period.  I was convinced that I was pregnant. Then Day 36 arrived and so did my period.  I was so confused.  I had marked a 28 day cycle in November and December, why would my cycle be 35 days now?  It didn’t make sense. 
     The next month, March, I decided to try ovulation strips, which measure the hormone that shows up in your urine right before you ovulate.  I tested once again during the 7 day window for a 28 day cycle and never got a positive.  Then I read that online that sometimes you have to test twice in one day in order to catch the hormone surge, so I figured I’d try the next cycle.  Right after that I found the app Fertility Friend.  It seemed much more accurate and comprehensive than My Days, so I started using it to chart my temperature each morning. I found it very empowering..... and as cheesy as it sounds, because the app has forums where you can read comments from other women who are also trying to conceive and see fertility charts of other women, it gave me comfort to know that there were others going through the same thing as I was.  I even found a forum for women with long cycles, which I began to think that I might have.  I also talked with an OB friend of mine and told her about my period not coming until Day 35, and she told me that I may just have a 35 day cycle, which, if that was the case, meant my timing was totally off.  Instead of ovulating around Day 14 or 15, it would be more like Day 19 or 20. 
   Into April, I continued to chart using the Fertility Friend app.  Each day I would set my alarm for the same time in the morning, grab my thermometer off my bedside table and pop it in my mouth, wait for it to beep, and type in the temperature into my app.  It was really neat to see the patterns start to take place, and sure enough, on Day 19 of my cycle I saw my temperature spike, indicating ovulation...just as my OB friend had suspected.   I also noticed that same day that I had EWCM (Google it...I just can't bring myself to type it out in a blog post), which is another fertility sign, so it was kind of exciting.  It gave me a little bit of relief to at least see that I was ovulating.  It also made me feel so much more in sync with my body to be able to chart everything using such a natural method.  It didn’t cost anything…just a $10 basal body thermometer. No more expensive ovulation strips! So, basically, I discovered that I didn’t ovulate until Day 19, which made total sense as to why I hadn’t conceived yet.   
You can see the ovulation spike on Day 19, then the  positive test on Day 33.

     As it turned out, that month, we had timed things perfectly.  The app has a place to put in the days that you try to conceive, and we had been together on the very day of my ovulation.  After ovulation, I knew that my temperature should stay higher until the day my period would start, in which case it would plummet back down at the start of the next cycle.  I knew if my temperature stayed high that meant I was pregnant.  I really didn’t want my temperature to fall…. I was praying it would stay high. Each day I checked it and it continued to spike, but I still had several more days until I would know either way. 
    Later that week I had a mini breakdown one evening at dinner.  Tony and I were talking and he said that I had seemed a little on edge.  I told him about being stressed out about work, but I also opened up about us not getting pregnant yet and how hard it had been for me.  I was seeing all my friends get pregnant so quickly and I was just really struggling.  Tony told me that he still loved me whether we were able to get pregnant or not and that I shouldn’t put so much pressure on myself.  He was trying to be reassuring, but I wasn’t hearing any of it.  I wasn’t “trying” to put pressure on myself….it just happened.  And I was in emotional turmoil because of it….not to mention the fact that I just knew I wasn’t pregnant again and that we’d have to go another whole month with more waiting and disappointment.  Well, fast forward two more days to Day 32 of my cycle. I knew the day for my period was coming up soon, and the app was saying that I really shouldn’t test for another 6 or 7 days, but I was like, “what the heck?” I was about to get in the shower, so I grabbed a test strip from the drawer and peed on it.  I laid it down and hopped in the shower.  After I got out, I started getting ready for school and kind of forgot about the test.  I honestly didn’t think anything about it because I had taken so many tests before and saw negatives…and not to mention the fact that I didn’t have a single pregnancy symptom.  My boobs didn’t hurt, I wasn’t tired, I was nauseous, etc.  I continued to go about my morning routine and then I glanced over and saw the test strip. There were two lines!!!  I did a double take.  I was kind of in shock. My heart fluttered a bit, and it didn’t really seem real.  I grabbed another test from the drawer and squeezed out a tiny little bit of pee so I could test again.  Two strong lines showed up immediately.  I couldn’t believe it!!   I seriously sat there still on the toilet and grabbed my belly and gave thanks to God.  I still couldn’t wrap my mind around it being real, but I was praising the Lord anyway.  I was a little anxious, because I had wanted to plan this super creative way to tell Tony I was pregnant (he was on shift that morning and wasn't home when I found out), but I had to come straight home from school that day to pack up my stuff and then drive straight to Abbeville for my Aunt Mary’s visitation.  I knew I had literally no time to go get anything cute, but I couldn’t imagine going away for 2 nights and NOT telling him he was going to be a daddy.  I put the tests in a baggie and put them in my purse. All day at school I was in disbelief. During my planning period that day I looked up online how far along you are on the day of your missed period. I found out I was a little less than 4 weeks, and I also found out our baby was about 1mm long.  How amazing!  That gave me an idea for how to tell him.  I wanted to put a grain of rice in his hand or a pea or something and tell him that was how big our baby was, but I knew I didn’t have time to go to the grocery store on the way home!  What to do..  At the end of the day, I was also stressed because I was having to get ready for a substitute since I was taking off Friday, and it took me forever to get my stuff together.  Right as I was finishing up stuff, Tony called me at school.  I was a little short with him because I was trying to get all my stuff together at school so I could get home and tell him the news!  I drove home that day a bundle of nerves.  I thought to myself what in the world I had at home that was about 1mm long, and the only thing I could think of was my bag of quinoa.  I stuffed the pregnancy test in my pocket so I could pull it out and show him.  When I got home, Tony walked outside and met me on the sidewalk.  I ran inside, threw my stuff on the floor, and went straight to the pantry and started rummaging through.  In my hurry, a glass bottle of olive oil fell out on the floor, and Tony was like, “Dude…what are you doing?”  I’m sure he thought I was crazy.  But I finally found the quinoa.  I pulled out one grain and opened up his hand and put it in his palm and said, “This is how big your baby is right now.”  He kind of looked at me funny, and was like, “No way..” I pulled out the test and told him we were pregnant.  I kissed him and hugged him. I think he was in a little shock. But I knew he was happy.  I hated that I was in such a rush because I wanted to take a moment and just bask in our joy, but I had to pack quickly and get on the road.
    I knew it was going to be a bear to be around my mom, dad, and sister and not tell them!  Tony wasn’t able to come up for the visitation or funeral, and I really didn’t want to tell my family without him.  I went to the visitation on Thursday with my family and then we went out to dinner that night with the family at Village Grill.  That began the awkward moments of pregnancy.  I had to turn down a glass of wine, which never, ever happens.   When we got back, mom and Aunt Glenda made Sangria, and of course, asked me if I wanted some.  I told them that I had “had way too many margaritas on Cinco de Mayo” and was good.  They didn’t say anything, thank goodness…  That night I spent the night in Due West.  Friday morning we got up and I decided to take mom to brunch at Grits and Groceries for Mother’s Day.   The waitress asked if we wanted a mimosa….dang it!  Again…  I said no.  When we got back that afternoon, I talked to Tony and he mentioned maybe coming up there that evening after the funeral.  I thought that sounded perfect because I knew then that we could tell all my family together!  It also seemed perfect because my brother had told my parents about Elle, their first grandchild, on Mother’s Day exactly 3 years prior, and I thought it seemed appropriate that they learn about their 2nd grandchild on Mother’s Day weekend too!  I tried to come up with a plan,  but I knew that anything I had in mind meant going out somewhere to get baby stuff, and I had no time, and it would be really random if I just left by myself to go “get something” in a town with nothing but a gas station and a Dollar General.  I knew that I had to get ready for the funeral soon, so I decided to tell mom that I ran out of my special hair spray that I needed to curl my hair and that I needed to go into town and get some.  Then she told me that the Dollar General, the ONLY store nearby, was closed for remodeling.  I was like, “Great…”  So then I knew I’d have to go to the next town over, Honea Path, but I was running out of time.  Then mom suggested I take the Lexus so I could put gas in it, which was one more thing to take up time.  So I was like, Um..okay.  I also told her that Tony was going to come up to “go out to dinner” with us, since he “never gets to see the family.”   I grabbed the keys and drove as quickly and safely as I could to Honea Path. I went to the Dollar General there and bought a book for each family member. I also bought poster board, a marker, tape, and wrapping paper.  I sat in the car and cut the wrapping paper and wrapped all 5 books, quite awkwardly I might add, and wrote notes to each family member that said, “______, will you read this book to me in January 2015?  Love, Baby Banco.”  Then I had a dumb thought that maybe I wasn’t pregnant anymore…dumb I know…but a thought nonetheless.  So I had to go over to CVS to buy another pregnancy test.  And then I still had to go get mom gas in the Lexus.  I was running out of time and sweating like a mofo, but I tried to take deep breaths and convince myself it would all go smoothly.  I drove back to Due West, stuffed all the wrapping paper trash in the Dollar General bag, and put all the presents in my car so no one would see them.  I went back inside and finished getting ready and took the other pregnancy test with positive results….still preggo! Yay!  I curled my hair and about that time my brother Jordan and my sister,Laura, and her husband, Bruce, arrived.  We all carpooled to Aunt Mary’s funeral.  Afterward, I called Tony because I knew he was on his way.  I told him to meet us at Outback.  I was glad to see him when he got there.  We had a nice dinner with mom, dad, Bruce, Laura, and me and Tony.  We hardly ever get to be all together at one time, so I continued to be grateful for the opportunity to tell everyone at one time. 
    I rode back with Tony to Due West and we talked about our plan.  I wanted to video the whole thing, so we decided to ask Jordy to video it and just tell him that we “got mom a really cool gift for Mother’s Day and wanted to see her reaction.”  We also decided that it would be way too obvious if we gave everybody their gifts all at once, so we decided just to give mom hers and say it was a Mother’s Day gift, and then give everyone else theirs afterward.  I was so nervous!!  I told mom to come in the kitchen and gave her her gift. She started to open it and saw it was a book.  She read the little card and was totally not getting it, and then she saw the “Baby Banco” part. Her reaction was priceless. She looked up and was like, “What??” And she started crying and hugging me.  It was great. She was so excited, and so was everyone else.  We gave everyone else their books and they loved them.  Bruce told us that he had a great idea for what we should name the baby….Bruce or Brucille! Haha.  It was a fun day and I was so happy we got to tell our family…we just made sure they knew it was top secret!!!
     I still am in a little bit of shock about it all.  Now that I’m pregnant, it feels like it was so fast.  But for those 4 months that tests came back negative, it felt like an absolute eternity.  I thought my heart was just going to break I wanted a baby so badly.  I wondered during that time why God was not giving us a baby yet. We had been praying way before we even started trying that God would bless us with a child, and I know that God puts desires in our hearts for a reason.  I have always had the desire to be a mother, and I just knew that being a mother was part of God’s plan for me, but I was really struggling with it not being on my time line.  I knew that God would bless us with a child when HE was ready for us to have a child, but it still didn’t make it any easier.  I feel like I now have so much more compassion and empathy for our friends who have struggled with infertility, though.  Through that time, all I could think about was two of our couple friends who waited over 3 years for a baby before having their beautiful daughter.  I thought about my friend from school who tried for over a year before she got pregnant with her son.  I knew how hard it was for me going 4 months, and I truly couldn’t imagine going through that for year after year.  The desire to be a parent is so deep and so all-encompassing that it literally spans every area of your life, every thought, every moment….  It’s not like wanting a new job or wishing you had a new car.  It’s so different.  It’s a desire that encompasses your mind, your heart, your spirit, your soul.  And when you want it so badly and it doesn’t happen, it’s the most devastating and soul-crushing type of disappointment there is. 
    All I am doing now is continually thanking God for this gift and praying each and every day for this miracle that is growing inside of me.  I have dedicated this child over to the Lord already and began praying today for not only a healthy baby and smooth pregnancy, but for who our child will become.  I prayed for him or her to grow into a strong, loving, and kind young person who strives to seek and serve God.  I prayed for all of the qualities that I hope he or she possesses:  patience, kindness, compassion, integrity, self-motivation, perseverance….  I prayed for the Lord to protect my child from any harm in development or in life.  I know that prayer is powerful, and I want to be a prayer warrior for my child long before I get to hold him or her in my arms.  

   Fast forward several weeks now..............I am currently 9 weeks along and we just shared our pregnancy news with the world two days go.  It feels SO good not to have to hide it anymore!  Not that I was hiding it very well belly is WAY bigger than the average pregnant woman at 9 weeks. I look more like 20 weeks! But I just love not having to hide in baggy clothing or try to suck it in anymore.  It hurts to suck in, anyway.  I am happily and proudly sporting the baby bump and am enjoying wearing super comfy maternity clothes!  And even though pregnancy has presented itself with some less than lovely symptoms over the past couple of weeks, I am still trying to enjoy every moment for what it is.  Before I know it, my pregnancy will be over and I'll be wishing those days back.  I am so thankful for this amazing opportunity that God has given us to become parents, and I'm not taking any of it for granted.  God is good.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Perfect Gluten Free Pancakes

    Okay, so let me just preface this post with saying that I am NOT 100% gluten free.  I do admire people who can go totally gluten free and/or Paleo, because it makes a ton of sense and I truly believe it is very beneficial for health.  However, with that said, when I tried going totally Paleo (I did it for 2 months straight back in 2012), I found giving up dairy to be incredibly difficult (I LOVE milk, Greek yogurt, and CHEEEEEESE...a LOT!), and I like cooking with beans/legumes sometimes (Hello...chili???!).  So overall, I guess I would describe my cooking and eating habits to be more gluten free than actually Paleo. But I know what you're thinking...... " don't you bake ALL the time....with WHEAT flour?  That's NOT gluten free!"  Well, yes I do, but it's almost always for other people, and if I do bake with wheat flour for us, it's for a special occasion like a birthday or a holiday dinner - so it's only a few times a year.  Neither my husband nor myself are actually celiac, so I do not HAVE to cook gluten free, but I just find that cooking without wheat makes me feel so much better (less bloated for sure....), so that's why.
      But, because I've started cooking almost exclusively gluten free, it has forced me to experiment with alternative flours such as almond flour, brown rice flour, sorghum flour, quinoa flour, etc. and it has been a ton of fun!!!  I love experiments that involve food.....:)  So, one of the foods that both my husband and I both love is pancakes!! Who can resist a hot plate of fluffy pancakes, right?  But I am not a fan of pancakes mixes and they are certainly not gluten free.  So, I started scouring the internet for the perfect gluten free pancake recipe.  I found lots of recipes and tried out several, but they all tasted "gluten free" if you know what I mean.  They just didn't taste like regular pancakes.  And while I am a little more tolerant of different types of foods, my husband .....not so much! If my "healthier" alternative doesn't taste like the real thing, then it's a no go!

    I am happy to report, though, that while I was out of school for "Snowpocalypse 2014" a few weeks ago, I tried a new recipe for Paleo pancakes in celebration of our snow day, and they were FABULOUS!! My hubby gobbled them right up, and if I had not told him they were gluten free, he seriously would have never known!   Sweet success!!!!
    So, here you go - Paleo Pancakes that don't taste like Paleo Pancakes!!

      - 2/3 cups & 2 Tbsp almond flour
      - 1/2 cup brown rice flour
      - 2 Tbsp raw/organic honey
      - 1 tsp baking powder
      - 1/2 tsp baking soda
      - 2 pinches sea salt
      - 2 large organic/free range eggs
      - 1 cup almond milk (or regular milk if you are not Paleo)
      - Coconut oil or grass fed butter for cooking
        Preheat your frying pan over medium heat.  Stir ingredients together until just mixed.  Do not over mix.  Put a small amount of coconut oil or grass fed butter (I used butter) in your frying pan and cook pancakes on both sides. Serve with maple syrup.

    Seriously, these are delicious!  We whipped up these babies again this morning....seeing as how we are snowed in (actually more like iced in) by the lovely winter storm that is taking over the South.  My hubby even made ome crispy bacon to go with. Yum-my!  
Saturday, January 25, 2014

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

  Let me just begin this post by saying that this may in fact be one of THE BEST new recipes I have ever
tried!!  I do love food, and I am semi-experimental with new food combinations, but in all seriousness.... this recipe far exceeded my expectations and was the highlight of my short 15 minute teacher lunch break this past week!!  The magnificent burst of flavor in every single bite and aesthetic appeal of this colorful dish happily drowned out (if only for a moment....) the all too familiar sound of, " and so is putting his green beans in his chocolate milk" and "Can you open my ketchup packet?"  :)

   So, probably like many of you, I have been seeing "quinoa," pronounced KEEN-WAH, (which I so called KIN-OH-UH for like...ever!!) in stores for quite some time. I've heard about it on Dr. Oz, and I even tried some at my sister's church in Atlanta one Sunday when a friend of hers brought it to a church potluck lunch, but for some reason I have been skeptical to try actually making it myself.  I guess maybe because it just looks complicated....almost fancy.  But let me just tell you now...this may have been one of the easiest dishes I have ever whipped up! No, seriously....  I mean, can you boil a pot of water? CHECK!  Can you put the quinoa in the pot?  CHECK! Can you chop up some veggies with a knife? CHECK! Then you can make this amazing Mediterranean inspired dish.

   So, before sharing this recipe, let me just tell you why you may want to run to the store right now and buy all the ingredients to try this mouth-watering dish.  First, quinoa is a several thousand year old food and is often called a grain, though it really is a member of the spinach, beet, and tumbleweed family. It originates in the Andean region of South America and is high in protein, yet gluten free, therefore it is a perfect food for those who have celiac disease or are gluten sensitive. It contains all 9 essential amino acids, and it is also a great source of dietary fiber, magnesium, iron, and calcium! It is truly a super food!

    Okay, you foodies, on to the recipe:

        - 1 cup dry organic quinoa
        - 2 1/2 cups water
        - 2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes
        - 3/4 cup pitted kalamata olives
        - 3/4 cup block feta cheese (always seems to turn out better for me than the already crumbled kind)
        - 1 1/2 T extra virgin olive oil
        - 1/2 lemon, juiced
        - 1 tsp oregano
        - 1 tsp salt
        - 1/2 tsp black pepper

    Put the water and quinoa into a pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 15 minutes until the quinoa has absorbed all of the water. Stir the quinoa and set it aside to cool.


    While the quinoa is cooking, slice the grape/cherry tomatoes into quarters.  Slice the olives as well.  Crumble the feta cheese. 

Add the tomatoes, olives, and feta into a medium sized bowl.  Add the quinoa, spices, olive oil,  and lemon juice, and toss until completely blended.  Store in an air tight container in the fridge. 

    And....voila!!! There you have it....Mediterranean quinoa salad.  I took this to school for lunch Monday - Friday of this past week, and I still had enough to sneak a forkful or two when I came home as a little snack before working out.  I tried to get my husband to try it (I even told him I'd pick out the tomatoes), but he was NOT having it! He's a little turned off by a fear of the unknown when it comes to food. But he promised that if I make it again (which I totally will!!), he'd try it.  So I will update later with whether or not this dish is picky husband approved! Haha.  Happy Saturday friends!!!

  - Beth