Friday, March 30, 2012

Contingency Plan

The number one problem with planning any outdoor event is the weather. You never know when it’s going to take a turn and leave you scrambling to make other arrangements!
You may recall that someone has a birthday tomorrow. (As a quick aside, my boss’s daughter’s birthday is tomorrow, also, and two people I know are getting married that day. The 31st is a big day round here!) The celebration centers around outdoor activities like grilling, lounging on the deck, and letting the kids run around crazy in the back yard.
We have been prepping for two weeks, refreshing flower beds and planters, re-staining outdoor furniture, putting the lawn back in order, laying down fresh mulch and pine straw, and straightening up the swing set and clubhouse. I’ve pulled some of my favorite serving pieces, including a beautiful ceramic refreshment bowl given to me by my grandfather – perfect for cold drinks outdoors and big enough to hold the standards plus a bottle of white. In the four years that it has been in my posession, I have yet to actually use it for an event.
And thunderstorms are expected from 9 am to 9 pm tomorrow. Boo!
So now dspence is working out the details to move the party indoors. Do I pick up a cast iron grill pan for the range or plan to roast in the oven? Do I pull in my outdoor potted centerpiece or pick up cut flowers for the dining table? Do I move our outdoor games for the kids inside or put together a craft table? Do I sacrifice counter space for the refreshment bowl or just keep everything in the fridge? And how in the world do I find two more chairs for our odd-height dining table?
These are the questions facing me this Friday morning.
At least the cake stays the same!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Swing Low

Esperanza’s parenting styles post got my thinking. The following are my thoughts. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: These are my personal thoughts and not judgment in any way.
I am going to show my naivety and let the world internet know that I was not aware of everything that falls under the definition of Attachment Parenting. Really, no clue. While reading Esperanza’s post I learned that I engage in some Attachment Parenting practices, although not all.
For someone who loves to plan, I did very little to prepare myself for parenthood. I mean, I planned the nursery and things like that, but I never really picked up a parenting book or anything. Instead, I listened to my heart and tried to prioritize my core beliefs about raising young children.
In the six months leading up to the birth of Little K, I had several beliefs about childbirth and early parenting: I would experience labor without much intervention, I would breastfeed, my child would sleep in her crib, and I would make my own baby food.
Only one of those things actually happened: breastfeeding.
For everything else, I tried and failed. But that’s okay! The one piece of advice that I now give -truly, the only advice unless asked about a specific subject- is this:
Lower your expectations.
That’s it. Lower your expectations. And this goes across the board.
Lower your expectations about labor. For me, this means wishing that I had an IV started as soon as I was admitted for delivery and had received the full (rather than walking) epidural sooner.
Lower your expectations about your recovery. For me, this means preparing for post-partum depression and having a good support system in place.
Lower your expectations about feeding your child. For me, this means better education. Yes, I support breastfeeding whole heartedly but I was only able to succeed after supplementing with formula for the first two weeks following my daughter’s severe dehydration. (I held on to that guilt for a long time.)
Lower your expectations about your partner. For me, this means remembering that having a child is not going to turn him or her into a super-spouse. The same problems will still be there.
Lower your expectations about sleep-training. For me, the best feeling was when I finally accepted the solution that was going to give our entire family the most sleep. Ah, bliss.
Lower your expectations about your child’s behavior. For me, this means remembering that issues with listening, obeying, biting, hitting, tantrums, and food are inevitable. I do correct my child appropriately, but do not expect my child to be perfect.
More than any parenting style or approach, I think that a parent only needs to learn their child and acknowledge their personal limitations. Once I learned what worked for Little K and what I was comfortable with in that context, I simply did that. In fact, I still do. These choices have labeled me the “elitist” or “black sheep” at times but the results speak for themselves: Little K is happy and so am I.
How can I improve upon that?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Not a Weigh-In or Wordless Wednesday

Because there are so many words right now, all of which feel boring and blah.
We are back to the sucky sickness over here. Little K picked up a nasty cold which mutated into something gross, which Momma has picked up. Then Little K’s allergies took a turn Sunday night, sending us into the land of no-sleep and doctor’s appointments. She is now on adult strength cough suppressants in order to give her body a break from all of the coughing and let her sleep, which is letting her heal. I just hate it when the little one is sick; not just for her, but for me, too, since I end up missing work. And sleep. And end up all stressed and crying.
The good news is that I still managed to make it over to BSF Monday night. While I was there, I mentioned in passing to a friend that Little K was home sick. It turns out that a woman in our group is a pediatrician! She came to me after the lecture and we spent 15 minutes discussing Little K’s symptoms and how to help her. She also gave us a referral to an asthma-allergy practice in town. I will be contacting the office today to discuss setting up an appointment the specialist.
All of that and I started my period on Monday, the big sickness day. I was excited, thinking that it was time to get on BCP’s for the final donor cycle. Instead, I received an email from my coordinator. I knew that the recipient spontaneously conceived back in December but had then miscarried in early January. She was given instructions to wait 60 days before cycling again. None of this was new information.
During that time, she and her partner decided that they are done TTC.
I’ve seen the heartbreak that rises up in the ALI community after any kind of loss. What I was not prepared for, though, is hearing that she decided not to cycle again; to leave the island, as Mel calls it. I am just so sad for the recipient and her husband. I hope that they find peace and healing.
With all of that said, I now have a small surplus of medications in my refrigerator. If you know of someone cycling in the NC area, please pass them my email address: donatinghopeblog(at)
I promise to shake the period and sickness funk and come back with some quality stuff later in the week:
My Bestie comes to Town!
Birthday Pics and Food Porn!
Fresh Thoughts at 31!
The Perfect Summer Cocktail!
What's Next on the Donor Train?
Spring Reading Lists!
I hope you stick around.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wednesday Weigh-In

It may be best for all of us to ignore the past two days. For the sake of honesty, I will simply say that life happened, culminating in a lot of stress eating Monday and Tuesday afternoon. I have since learned three very important lessons:
·         Don’t grocery shop emotionally.
·         Don’t keep junk food in the house.
·         Just because angel food cake is fat free does not mean it is point free.
Lessons learned. Moving on!
1.        Reiterate my goal and where I stand in reference to this goal.
·          Starting BMI: 23.8
·          Current BMI: 23.9
·          Goal BMI: 22
·          Starting Weight: 145
·          Current Weight: 147
·          Goal Weight: 130-135

Pounds Lost this Week: 1 Lbs
Total Pounds Lost: +2 Lbs
Pounds to Goal: 17 Lbs
2.             Discuss what I am going to do to achieve my goals.

W.eight W.atchers: 21 Pts Daily + 49 Free Pts = 196 Pts. Weekly.
As you can see on the tracker below, this started out very well. I ate things I love, just in smaller portions and omitting fat/calories where I could. I even gorged on Angel Food Cake for the weekend and stayed within bounds for weekly points (up until Monday afternoon). Yay me!

Next week: pull off the points total for seven days instead of five. Commit to at least two of the three exercise options every weekday – situps, jump rope, or walk.
3.        Try to motivate others to join in on trying to lose weight 
Big ups to Donor Diva for introducing me to the Wednesday Weigh In!
4.        Post a healthy recipe, cooking tip, new idea for working out, photo update of my weight loss, or anything else I feel like sharing. 

You may notice on the tracker something referred to as Face Salad. I have to tell you, Face Salad is one of the best things ever invented. Face Salad began with my sister, who would talk about craving a salad as big as her face. Eventually we shortened this to Face Salad. The belief about Face Salad is that is should include everything that sounded good to you: meat, beans, veggies, olives, fruit… No two people’s face salads should be the same.
Below is my very own Face Salad:
Serves two for lunch or one for dinner.
·         Heart of Romaine
·         Handful of Baby Spinach
·         Shredded Carrot
·         Julienned Radish
·         Cucumber, Seeded but not peeled
·         Deli Turkey
·         1 T Dried Cranberries
·         1 t Shredded Asiago Cheese
·         1 T Light Ranch Dressing mixed w/ 1 t California Citrus Rub
·         Fresh Cracked Pepper
Toss and consume. Mmmmmmm.

Welcome, ICLW’s!

Things are quiet over here. I am waiting for my April menses to begin BCPs for my final cycle as an anonymous egg donor. I’m busy filling the interim with gardening, reading, Bible study, parenting a willful six year old, and preparing for the big 3-1 at the end of the month.  I hope you find something here that touches your heart!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up: Garden Edition

My first March in NC held cold rain and snow -yuck!- so the past week of 80* has been a beautiful surprise! We have been taking walks each evening after dinner and finally agreed that Spring is here to stay. Time to break out the trowel and big hats!
The girls took a trip to the nursery while R dug a new shaded flower bed in the back. The front is now awash with viola, pansies, creeping phlox, and early snapdragon. Ferns are hung between the columns and the boxes are fertilized, waiting for daylilies. All of this new growth, intermingled with the bulbs we planted in the fall, makes for a beautiful scene.
The back is full of color, too! The large planter is overflowing with pink and red geranium and the twin pots with a mix of rosemary, strawberries, and lantana. The new shade bed holds camellia and winter daphne. We are just waiting for the bougainvillea to come out for the large upright planter and Chinese snowball to accent the deck.
Plans are in place to set blueberry bushes along the fence next spring. I’m hoping to expand the shade bed in the fall to include Lenten rose and hydrangea. The front island may end up with some more rose bushes before the summer is over.
R took charge of the vegetable garden this year, putting down seed and compost two weeks ago. We are hoping for watermelon, zucchini, and peppers this year. He also threw in a mix of leftover cool weather seeds, including radish, broccoli, and pumpkin. You never know what will sprout in our garden!
Little K has taken over both yards. It has been so much fun watching her teach herself to hoolahoop and jump rope! I built a quick-and-dirty corral for her kickballs in the back and she has been covering the front drive with drawings. She has also taken charge of watering all of the new plants. Too much fun!
Reading on the front porch swing has returned as my favorite pastime. I am digging back into Marlena de Blasi’s “A Thousand Days in Tuscany” and just loving it. Each chapter leaves me hungry for a quiet life of food, wine, and mountains. I can’t wait to try her recipe for fried zucchini flowers!
We celebrated St. Patties Day in our own way: steak and green mashed potatoes with a green angel food cake for dessert. Alas, no pictures.
Coming Up: Wednesday Weigh-In. See dspence’s daily tracker and find out how many pts were really in that green angel food cake.
Next Week: Spring Cleaning and Birthday Prep. Will the house be mopped before dspence turn 31? Find out next Monday!
And, Later: Donor BCPs to Commence in April. Will dspence's relationships survive the hormones?
All this and more…

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wednesday Weigh-In

Whelp, no loss this week. However, no gain either. Guess I’ll have to call it a wash for now.
1.        Reiterate my goal and where I stand in reference to this goal.

·          Starting BMI: 23.8
·          Current BMI: 23.9
·          Goal BMI: 22
·          Starting Weight: 145
·          Current Weight: 148
·          Goal Weight: 130-135

Pounds Lost this Week: 0 Lbs
Total Pounds Lost: +3 Lbs
Pounds to Goal: 18 Lbs
2.     Discuss what I am going to do to achieve my goals.

W.eight W.atchers: 21 Pts Daily + 49 Free Pts. Weekly
We will continue to finish dinner by 6:00 PM each night. And dessert will be a FF, low-sugar treat like yogurt or a fudge pop. I have also committed us to eating a vegetarian dinner at least one night per week. Although this is something we usually do anyway, it is now an official part of our meal rotation.
Implemented after work sit-ups (30-50) and jump rope for 5 minutes of cardio each afternoon. Now that the weather has gotten nicer, we have added three long walks through our subdivision each week, for a total of about 5 miles/week.
Bladder Control during Jump Rope: Still very iffy.
3.        Try to motivate others to join in on trying to lose weight 

Big ups to Donor Diva for introducing me to the Wednesday Weigh In!
Good news! R has joined me on the lose weight wagon. R is a naturally slim guy, but even he has put on a touch of weight since our marriage. He’s cutting back on his snacking during the day and is joining me with sit-ups/jump rope. He’ll also be using his barbells for 5 minutes each afternoon.
4.        Post a healthy recipe, cooking tip, new idea for working out, photo update of my weight loss, or anything else I feel like sharing. 

I threw together a new salad Tuesday night that marries my favorite bean salsa and hearts of romaine. So here we go!

BBQ Black Bean Salsa

·         1 Can Black Beans, Drained and Rinsed
·         1 Can Sweet Corn, Drained
·         1 Red Onion, Diced
·         ½ C Favorite BBQ Sauce

Combine Black Beans, Corn, Onion, and BBQ Sauce in a re-sealable container. Taste and add kosher salt as needed.  This makes an excellent salsa all on its own and only gets better as the flavors mingle. To turn it into salad, simply prepare your favorite greens and top them with 1/3 to 1/2 C of the above salsa and then dress with 1 Tbsp of your favorite creamy dressing. You can add cilantro or parsley to the mix for a brighter finish and, of course, crunchy tortilla strips on top are completely up to you.

Just as an FYI: the leftovers of this salsa can be combined with cooked brown rice, an egg, and a handful of quick oats to make very fun BBQ Bean Burgers.

Stay tuned next week for my Wednesday - Tuesday food diary. The truth is always telling!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Birthday Bash

I am an event coordinator at heart. From inspiration boards, menu planning, research, and spreadsheets, I love everything that goes into planning and pulling off an event.
And so I have finally slipped into birthday planning mode over here at casa de dspence.
The past two years held big birthdays: 29 and 30. For my 29th, R and I went to Florida to visit my folks. It was a four-day trip filled with food, fun, and restoration. For my 30th, two parties were held. The first was an early celebration in Texas while the whole family was together for my sister’s wedding. The second was just R and I over a five-course meal, complete with my milestone Tiffany necklace.
But this year is special, too. Yes, I am happy to say that my upcoming birthday is my birth-date birthday - as in, dspence is turning 31 on the 31st. Woot!
Living away from family makes it hard to put together what I feel is a real birthday celebration. With just R and I for the adults, a teenage boy, and a picky six year old, putting together my kind of menu while still hoping people will eat it is, well, frustrating. But I have finally begun making the kind of friendships that I want to nurture, both for me and for our family. Although the proposed guest list is small, I finally feel like I have a group to cook for and a real celebration in mind.
Here is where I plan to work out all the intricate bits and pieces for the big day. Let’s get started!
When it comes to birthdays, the first thing I go to is dessert. I still remember my mother and sister’s birthday in Hawaii when my grandfather made them two cakes – one lemon and one strawberry. It has remained my favorite birthday cake profile since that day.
In the past, I have made boxed strawberry cakes with jarred lemon curd filling and white icing. And they have been very good, with the sour lemon curd playing off the overly sweet frosting and cushioned by a mid-range moist cake. But this year calls for the real thing.
This year, I will be preparing Smitten Kitchen’s Pink Lady Cake and Lemon Curd filling with White Chocolate Buttercream frosting.
And so, with early season strawberries and lemons in hand, a theme is born: Spring Celebration.
Hors d’oeuvres
·         Lemon-Garlic Steamed Artichokes
·         Gouda Robusto
·         Columbus Artisan Salame (Truffled, if I can get my hands on it.)
Main Course
·         Grilled Balsamic Chicken
·         Grilled Lemon-Zucchini Filled Portobello Mushrooms (For my vegi-guest)
·         Grilled Spring Asparagus
·         Lemon-Pea Risotto
·         Conundrum
Kid’s Menu
·         Mommy’s Homemade Chicken Nuggets (featuring California Citrus Rub)
·         Grilled Spring Asparagus
·         Mac-and-Cheese
The theme trips through each course with a combination of fresh spring produce and acidity. With any luck we will be blessed with a beautiful morning to gather produce and flowers (pink, yellow, and green, naturally) at the Farmer’s Market before heading home to enjoy our meal on the deck. Or, you know, at least enough for the kids to play in the backyard while the grownups sip and grill.
Oh! And in case any family is snooping about, I’ll share my magical birthday wish list:
·         Wine Glasses
·         Wine/Ice Bucket
·         Tea Cup Collection (which deserves a post all its own!)
So, there we have it – the rough plan for dspence’s 31-on-31 Birthday Party. Let’s see what unfolds!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


I was listening to a podcast by Hope Community Church on my way to work Tuesday morning. (As an aside, I love the messages this pastor shares – wow! I hope you decide to give him a listen on the website or on iTunes.) Near the end of his talk, the pastor comments that he mistakenly spent the first ten years of his marriage trying to change his wife and the past fifteen years trying to change himself to be the husband his wife deserves.
How many of us are guilty of wanting our spouse to change?
We’ve all heard the jokes and stories about women trying to change their men. We’ve heard our friends say, “If I had known that before we got married…” Or, “One day, he’ll learn…” Or lamenting, “He’ll never change…”
We read about an ALI community member whose spouse perfectly supports her through treatment or loss, who never drops the ball physically or emotionally, and we wish we could have her spouse or at least have him give ours lessons.
How many of us have ever prayed, “God, change him…”?
It’s not just women talking about change, either. Husbands become disillusioned, too, and want their wives to change. But, no matter who it originates with, it still comes down to the same thing: pride.
I have to admit that I spent a good portion of my first marriage trying to change my husband or angry when change didn’t happen. Now, some of these expectations were reasonable and conductive to a healthier marriage but I was approaching it with pride.
Whether I consciously knew it or not, I was communicating my to him, "I deserve a better spouse and your character/action is denying me of that right."
Do you hear the selfishness in that statement? Do you hear the anger?
Do you hear any love?
What I failed to realize is that I was approaching it the wrong way.
In listening to the podcast on Tuesday, God clearly showed me what the prayer should be:
Lord, make me the wife that he needs. Amen.
Please understand that I’m not talking about a sneaky way to change your spouse or how to bend God to your will. Far from it! In praying the above prayer, what you are really saying is “Lord, change me.”
Wow! What a revelation! Ask God to show me the many ways that He has made my husband special. Teach me how to love my husband the way he needs to be loved. Help me to support him in a way that honors You.
Because here’s the truth: God made my spouse who he is. He is God’s precious creation. So loving my husband means that, in addition to everything else (sharing of household responsibilities, mutual emotional and financial support, raising of children, and intimacy), I want him to be continually growing into the man God created him to be.
For that to happen, he needs me to be the wife God designed for him.
Did God design me to be a wife of love or of pride? That lifts up or tears down? That expresses displeasure or thankfulness? That shows anger or grace? Who nags or who prays?
Lord, mold me into the wife that you designed for R. Amen.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Over Under

There are days when I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. I have been out of the office the past two days with Little K. On Wednesday, we had our Asthma Review and visited the orthodontist.
The good news is that Little K’s Reactive Airway Disease is under control. Her medication therapy is working perfectly and we don’t have to go back in for another six months. Woo-hoo!
For the orthodontist, we also have good news: her brackets went on without a problem. Which is a big deal, considering our girl. Little K has big teeth in a small mouth, which has resulted in some serious crowding as her permanent teeth come in. We attended two consults at two offices and chose the least invasive approach to her treatment.
The basic idea is this: put “mini braces” on our girl. This consists of a bracket placed on each of her upper adult molars and gluing a wire to her baby pre-molars. A spring connects them on each side. Over the course of eight months, we will push her adult molars back as far as possible; our hope is to gain at least half a cm on each side. We will then remove the mini braces and fit her with a spacing retainer until the next phase of her treatment, which will be around age eight.
As I said, everything went on without issue. Thank goodness! The problems didn’t start until about three hours later – her teeth and jaw began to ache. As a former braces wearer, I totally expected this and had begun pre-medicating her with children’s Motrin. But man oh man… It was a long afternoon. Thursday morning started with her feeling much better, but even one bite of food brought the pain and aching back to the point where I kept her home from school for fear she would be a distraction in class. She was able to eat on and off throughout the day, but never what you would call a full meal in one sitting. But we survived.
And then, at bedtime, she told me that one of her brackets was loose. I checked it and… *sigh* Of course.
That was the end for Mommy. After 30 hours of stress, I was just plain old done. I put wax on her bracket, tucked her in, poured myself a drink, and then sat in a shower for 20 minutes with my head against the tile.
I was frustrated.
I was stressed.
I was tired.
I was overwhelmed.
The past three months have felt hard. With Little K’s walking pneumonia and reactive airway disease diagnosis 36 hours before we flew to FL for Christmas, transition into a new position at work, new dental insurance and two ortho consults (the first one which suggested a very invasive treatment plan), $900 in medical bills from appointments and prescriptions, my car dying and subsequent purchase of a new vehicle, the big changes for my parents, R’s sperm count drama… GAH.
It feels like a lot.
Now, I am a naturally optimistic person. Silver linings, sunshine and rainbows, the whole deal. But when I’m done, I’m done. When I hit the wall I need to tilt back a drink, sit alone with the steam for a while, and head to bed.
I feel a bit better this morning. I was able to work on my BSF before work, leave a message for the orthodontist, make a cup of tea, and take some 5-HTP.
Hopefully the day will continue to turn around.