Friday, January 31, 2014

Pregnancy #3 Third Trimester Update

24 weeks - Baby#3

I haven't really talked much about this pregnancy on the blog. For the most part I have uneventful pregnancies but this pregnancy has been much more difficult than the other two so I haven't felt the excitement to do belly photographs or share complaints. The photo above is from 24 weeks or my "better days".

To clarify, Baby #3 is 100% healthy and perfect. I'll be 30 weeks pregnant tomorrow and he (still a he!) is measuring just over a week ahead at 31 weeks and is approximately 3lbs 10oz  according to an ultrasound I had yesterday morning. Everyone always tells me how small I look for my dates in every pregnancy so it is a nice piece of mind that baby looks to be in fact a little bigger than dates and thriving.

It is my body that has been less than cooperative this time around.

B was born at 35 weeks so early labour has always been a concern of mine with my pregnancies. I was lucky to deliver N at 38 weeks but only after a scare of early labour at 31 weeks. I also have ridiculously quick labours which doesn't sound like a complaint but I'm nervous about making it to the hospital on time.

So I sit... wishing I weren't wishing away these last weeks of being pregnant very likely for the last time but crossing my fingers for small milestones like making it to 32 weeks when I can deliver locally, making it to 35 weeks when the risks for baby are far less, and making it to 37 weeks for a full-term baby. Of course making it to the hospital for the birth is also high on the list, along with not needing a scheduled c-section which is looking like it could be in the cards at this point.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Disney on a Budget

I thought I'd offer a bunch of tips on how we managed to make it to Disney World over Christmas holidays without completely breaking the bank mixed in with some tips that made things more smooth for our trip. Travelling over the holidays is dreaded by many but we actually spent very little of our vacation waiting in line ups and weathering crowds even though it is supposed to be one of the busiest times of year at Disney.

I'm a compulsive planner.  As soon as we decided to take the trip, I spent a few months researching - food, accommodation, age appropriate attractions, must sees/dos for boys etc.  but also combing through the myriad of blogs devoted to doing Disney on a budget.  Since we were driving and this would be our first road trip with the boys, aged 5 and 2, longer than 6 hours in a small car (we used to travel by minivan), I sought out road tripping with kids tips too. Luckily I didn't have to search too far for those - my go to blog posts were - here and here

1. If you're staying on site, stay at a value resort rather than a fancier one. This is especially true if you have young kids. The "tackiness" and double beds vs. queen size beds mentioned as negatives by some reviewers are actually pluses for the little ones who love seeing gigantic characters or in our case, running along a giant computer keyboard. Our neighbours stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge which when I looked was twice the price per night as our room at Pop Century! I had grand plans of relaxing at the resort and going for swims or playing on a playground. The hubby and oldest only managed to get in the pool once during our stay, we spent most of our time at the Parks. Originally we had planned to have one non-park day where we'd just stick around the resort or do Downtown Disney but even at the price of the value resort, it probably wouldn't be worth paying that much to stay on-site to not go to the parks. A bonus of staying on-site are extra park hours and free Disney Transit. Although when researching afterward I saw some hotels in the area (Downtown Disney) offer cheaper rooms, continental breakfast AND access to Disney Transit. 

2. Book through Disney Vacations. Even better if you book during an off-peak time.  This is my budget friendly tip since you can make and book vacations up to 18 months in advance with only a $200 deposit (and no interest!). The rest you can pay at any time in any increment so long as the balance is paid off a month and a half before your visit. There's nothing like actually booking a vacation to get you excited about going on (and paying for) that vacation. Don't forget the exchange rate if you live somewhere other than the U.S. like I did and wonder why you were charged $215 instead of $200. 

3. Children under 3 are FREE. Choosing to go while N was 2 1/2 proved to be a great idea. There were only a few rides he could not go on due to his height and only a couple of those our 5 year old was tall enough to ride. Both boys had a blast. 

4. Opt out on the Dining Plan and the Park Hopper Passes. The Dining Plan is not only expensive but also healthy options aren't in abundance either. I had originally booked the Park Hopper Passes for us but then cancelled after reading several reviews of people with young children saying they weren't worth the money and I couldn't agree more. The base pass allowed us to enter and exit one park as many times as we wanted in one day. With the travel time required to get in-between the parks it also would've been a waste of some of the day that could've been spent in the park. There was more than enough to do at one park in one day. One day was sufficient for us to do all we wanted at Animal Kingdom but we used 2 days at Magic Kingdom to get in almost everything we wanted to do there. Unfortunately the parades and fireworks will have to wait until the boys are a bit older. 

5. Drive rather than fly. Parking at the resort is free and it cost us less than the cost of flights for 2 people including hotel accommodations to drive rather than fly. If you do drive, we brought lots of snacks, spill proof water bottles, a car tray - they took turns with this, colouring book and crayons, laptop (which we barely used), a Nintendo DS with new games (Xmas gifts from family and friends), and a LeapPad2 (Santa gift). We pulled the snacks out when the whining started. We had a fairly peaceful trip. 

6. Make most of your own meals. We don't eat out much at all regularly so this one wasn't hard for us. We chose to eat out for dinners while we were away. This meant breakfasts and lunches in our resort room (which had a mini fridge). We stopped at a grocery store about an hour out of Orlando and stocked up our cooler. We also chose to stay at Holiday Inn Express hotels on the way down and back which included continental breakfasts. We brought our own drinks and snacks into the parks without any trouble. We did splurge one night and got the boys Mickey ice cream bars since we only spent $30 on hot dogs for dinner that night at Casey's Corner in the Magic Kingdom.  We did buy coffee each morning too at the Parks. Even though we ate relatively few meals out, I was dying for a home cooked meal when I got home and feeling really crummy from all the sodium. 

7.  Read menus and make reservations! Disney dining reservations book up quickly and I was bummed to find that by the time I got around to it I thought we'd be eating dinner at 2 in the afternoon or 10 at night. BUT I came across good advice in the comments section of a blog saying to call the restaurant to reserve instead since they only book a certain portion of the restaurant through online Disney reservations. I called. Got the exact times I was looking for. Warning: If you don't make reservations you could be waiting anywhere from 1-2 HOURS at table-service restaurants during peak times. With the reservations we waited 10 mins. Our two reservation meals we had while at Disney were at the Rainforest Cafe at Animal Kingdom and the T-Rex on our first night in Downtown Disney. Both bills came to around $100 for the four of us. We preferred the T-Rex which was a wee bit cheaper and the portion sizes were so large we had leftovers for lunch the next day. Side note: it pained me to spend $100 on dinner. Especially when the 4 of us ate dinner at Denny's on the drive down for $26. 

8. Bring your own stroller. We dusted off and brought our own umbrella stroller (you'll want something small and easy to collapse with transit). Stroller rentals are something like $15/day for a single. Our stroller has gotten virtually no use since a long day trip to Centreville last summer when N had just turned 2. Back in the fall, when we took the boys to a local Conservation Area, he walked/ran  a 3 kilometre loop without any trouble. At Disney, he rode in the stroller about half of the time so it was somewhat handy to have. If your child is school-aged you can get away with not bringing a stroller. Though we did see a lot of older school-aged children being pushed around in strollers which BAFFLED us. B was even confused and asked us why the big kids were riding in strollers.  

9. Book your Fast Passes ahead online. Every park ticket has the option of using up to 3 "fast passes" which allow you to arrive to the ride at a certain time and skip the line up. We picked our 3 for each day and booked them all for before noon. That way we got them all in while the kids were well rested and before we headed back to the resort for lunch and afternoon naps. The rest of the time, we chose rides with short line-ups. N was good for no more then about a 20 minute wait while B waited in line without complaint twice for 45 minutes to go on some more thrilling rides with his dad. We found early in the morning the waits weren't bad and when the whether was overcast/a little drizzly. We got many rides done during this time. Being pregnant, I was surprised there were still a number of rides I could actually go on. 

10. Souvenirs are expensive traps. The boys were lucky to get a little bit of money from grandma and grandpa for souvenirs as part of their Christmas gifts. They also got Disney PJs (from Walmart) as part of their gift that they wore during the trip. We were firm with the boys that they each got $40 to spend on souvenirs and that was it. The very first night, after playing in the Lego Store in Downtown Disney B wanted to use his souvenir money to buy Lego. We reminded him he got Lego for Christmas and that he should spend his money on something he couldn't buy at home. We told him to wait until the last day to choose his souvenirs after he had seen everything there was. The night before we left, I took him to the gift shop and let him look. I told him his spending parameters. He came back several times with expensive items. If it was more than $40 I let him know he couldn't afford it. Same went for the cheaper combinations of items. He carefully chose a Perry the Platypus stuffed animal and a Mickey Mouse digital watch. At Animal Kingdom, N saw a giraffe stuffed animal at one of the souvenir carts that he just had to have so we bought him that and then the last day I took him to another shop while the bigger boys were off riding go carts and he chose a small Mickey Mouse stuffed animal. Both boys were beyond happy with their souvenirs. We also splurged on a Lego Coffee Mug from the Lego store for R ($9) which had his name on it and on a couple of professional photos ($30) - one of all of us with Mickey and Minnie and the other of just the boys which we figured was worthwhile since we don't have any family photos of us all together since N was born and it is a nice memory of a fun vacation - our last as a family of 4. 

What we actually spent on our trip in total (we did get $100US, a $50 GC for Applebees and $50US for souvenirs as Christmas Gifts which is all included so out of pocket expenses are $200 less than the total below): 

Disney Resort + Base Park Tickets - 3 nights/3 days
Other Hotel Accomodations: 2 nights @ Holiday Inn Express - could've gone cheaper - paranoid about pests
Gas & $15 Tolls
Food ($355 Restaurants & Coffee, Mickey Ice Cream Bars), $70 Groceries and Beer
Travel Emergency Medical Insurance
10-year Passport for R
Lego mug ($10), Photos ($30), Mickey Watch & Perry the Platapus ($40), Mickey & Giraffe ($35)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Start of a nursery

I scrubbed away at most of the wallpaper border last weekend in the nursery. My wonderful husband also went in and did some mudding in the spots that needed it. The hope is that this weekend he'll be able to do a quick sanding and then prime the room. We're thinking of grey walls, something along the lines of Benjamin Moore's Harbor which is pictured above with dark navy accents throughout. The blinds are already navy and I managed to find a photo of the crib we have, although the one in the picture looks much nicer than ours since B used the side of ours as a teether. When I was out this weekend getting a picture frame for our family photo from Disney - since if I don't buy a frame for the photo it will just go by default to our box of photos in the closet that we'll "get around to" displaying someday - I came across this cute retro TV picture frame at Winners for $6.99 and immediately snatched it up. I really love the shelf we put up in N's big boy room for the stuff that you don't quite want in little hands but you want to display. I think we'll do the same for the nursery.

Starting to get excited to see it all come together.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Disney - We did it!

We're all settled at home and back into our regular schedule. For the first week, I found myself having the same feeling back at work as I did after we got the trailer in the summer - the feeling that I'd rather be somewhere else but knowing that in order to be somewhere else, work is where I need to be. I think I just need to focus on our next big thing - the arrival of baby #3 in less than 3 months time! I'll be posting all the details about our Disney Trip over a few posts. For today - an overview.

In short, we had SO.MUCH.FUN. The boys were surprisingly well behaved for our day and a half of driving each way and few days at Disney World. I feel like if we can do a 20 hour drive through 7 states (NY, PA, WV, VA, NC, SC, GA) with a 2.5 and 5 year old and me being 25 weeks pregnant in a tiny car and actually have a good time, we can do anything. It also made me realize how much closer other small getaways are (Ottawa, Niagara Falls, Montreal, Quebec City, etc.) and that when the inkling to go somewhere strikes, we should just DO IT.

Day 1: Christmas morning we woke the boys up at 4:45am to open presents from Santa. We had already done all of our family Christmas festivities and DH and I only bought them a few small gifts to keep them occupied on the drive so all they had to open were stockings and 3 presents each from santa. This only took 10-15 minutes. We had them put all the stuff they wanted to bring from santa in a cloth bag while DH packed the car up and I whipped up some eggs, toast, and coffee. We quickly scarfed down the food, did a quick clean up of the kitchen, put the coffee in travel mugs and were on the road by 5:30am. I'll save all the road tripping details for another post.

Day 2: Arrived in sunny Florida (22 Degrees!) around 1pm. After grabbing a few groceries for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks, and a few summer items of clothing for me since I've never been pregnant in warm weather, from Walmart, we checked into the Pop Century Resort at 3pm. The Resort and the room were perfect. It was very clean and we didn't feel at all cramped. I thought we'd spend a lot more time at the resort than we did but really it was just a place to rest our head. After a quick change into shorts (!) we hopped on Disney Transit to Downtown Disney for our dinner reservations at the T-Rex. Downtown Disney was beautifully decorated for Christmas. After dinner we hit up the huge Lego store where the boys built some creations while I stood in line to buy DH a souvenir Lego coffee mug with his name on it. Then it was back to the Resort and off to bed.

Day 3: Woke up bright and early and headed off to Magic Kingdom. Got all our "Fast Pass" rides in and a couple others with short lines before heading back to the Resort around 12:30pm for lunch in our room and naps. DH and I sat on one bed in the dark with our iPhones while the boys snoozed in the other bed. B woke up after an hour so DH took him down to the pool (just outside our room) and N slept another hour and a half. Once N woke up, we headed back to Magic Kingdom for just before 5pm. We rode the steam train around the entire park. It was evident that N was cranky and tired as he didn't want to wait in lines anymore so we went light. After the train ride, we grabbed some hot dogs and fries for dinner from Casey's Corner followed by some Mickey ice cream bars and took a walk around the park to enjoy the castle and Main Street all lit up.  I'd hoped to stay for the electrical parade (9pm) and fireworks (10pm) but followed the boys lead and headed back to the bus around 7:30pm. We watched some Disney Jr. in the room before packing it in for the night.

Day 4: Woke up bright and early and headed to Animal Kingdom. It was rainy but didn't last long after we got to the park. We got all our Fast Pass rides done in the morning and a few other attractions that didn't have long line-ups. We also did a character meet and greet photo opportunity with Mickey and Minnie which was super fun. The boys really enjoyed this. By 12:30pm, N had a meltdown at one of the rides when a family took our spot and we had to wait until the next turn - he thought we weren't going to ride. His meltdown scored him and his brother free Mickey ice cream bars since the ride operator felt bad for him. We took that as a que and headed back to the Resort for lunch and naps. Both boys slept almost 3 hours and then we hopped back on the bus to Animal Kingdom for our 5pm dinner reservations at the Rainforest Cafe. After dinner we hit up the rides we didn't make earlier in the day - lines were much shorter - and walked around for a bit before purchasing a couple of our photos from the meet and greet earlier in the day and heading back to the Resort at 8:30pm. We managed to get everything in at Animal Kingdom that we'd wanted in the one day. Bonus - we got to see some fireworks from our room just before the boys went to sleep.

Day 5: Woke up earlier than the two days before to pack our stuff up and managed to actually make it for early park hours for resort guests at the Park. We decided to go back to Magic Kingdom since there were still a number of rides we didn't get on the first day. It was off and on rainy that day so the Park wasn't too busy. We used our Fast Passes for the most popular rides and then the boys managed to get on a number of other rides with only a 5-30 minute wait. At this point, I was really tired from walking around the previous two days so took it easy and found a place to sit while the boys took turns going on rides with DH where the 3 of them couldn't all go together. We left the Park around 1pm having felt that we accomplished more on the last half-day at Magic Kingdom than we did the entire first day. We grabbed some McDonalds an hour out of Orlando and then the boys slept for a good few hours of our drive back to North Carolina. We made it to our destination in NC by 8pm and had a very late dinner at Appleby's before checking into our hotel for the night.

Day 6: We hit the road bright and early and saw the sun rise as we were driving through the Appalachians. The boys napped quite a bit during the drive this day too. Early afternoon we stopped for gas and found a Tim Horton's in PA, about an hour out from the border.  The boys were elated for donuts and DH for a "real coffee" after his McDonald's coffee that morning. We arrived home at 6:30pm. The boys ordered a pizza for dinner and I went out to Milestones with some good friends from high school for our annual dinner catchup.

I was worried about all the driving for such a short trip but both DH and I felt afterward that 3 days at Disney was just right for the boys at 2.5 and 5 years old. Longer would probably be okay if you broke it up with some non-park days but they were pretty tired by the third day.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

28 Weeks

I will do something in the nursery this weekend, however small. The job is just so daunting - removing wallpaper (which N half did on his own already when he occupied the room), patching in a few spots, and painting all needs to be done. Thankfully as a seasoned mama I know babies don't actually need or even appreciate much the fancy spaces we like to adorn them with. If its not done when this little man makes his arrival, it's not done. But it would be nice to have the experience of putting a lot of careful thought and love into creating a space just for him to bring him home to. It seems an opportunity we never had with the other boys with temporary accommodations when B arrived and a move on the horizon with N. This time around we'll be welcoming our newest addition into a home we plan on staying in for a long while and I guess we'll finally get to experience what it feels like to have that textbook bringing baby home event - if I can ever get around to finishing the room!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

2014 Goals

When I was thinking about big picture goals for 2014, I realized that some of my goals from last year can definitely carry over to this year and it has nothing at all to do with whether or not I accomplished them but that they are around general topics that contribute in some part to happiness and wellbeing - career, money, health, and relationships. 

I think 2014 will be a difficult year of transitions but I'm hoping we can come out of it stronger and happier for the wear.

This year:

- I will find secure and meaningful employment. Yep - still working on this one. For the past almost year and a half, I've had three contract extensions working at a job I really enjoy. There is a decent possibility that a permanent spot will open up this Spring. Crummy timing with Baby #3 making his arrival this Spring but I've been told that taking any amount of time off (I can collect Employment Insurance for up to a year)  won't make a difference in my competitiveness for getting the position. I've been keeping my eyes open for other positions locally in my field so I'm hoping something will come up sometime this year but at least I have the piece of mind and the luxury of up to an entire year of having a certain amount of financial security to find "the job". 

- I will continue to pay off debt (at least $10,000) this year while at the same time taking a family vacation 
This will be the year of ridding ourselves entirely of our high interest debt. Currently, we are on track to having our credit card balances paid off by the time I'm off work. 

Vacation had a big impact on our happiness last year. So much so that we reduced our monthly debt payments to accomodate. Our vacation budget will be dramatically cut back with our baby budget so it pretty much will just cover our trailer and related expenses. We plan on spending as much time as we can up there and enjoying what we have. I'd also like to take a mini-vacation later on in the year if we can swing it. This will likely depend on whether or not I'm working. 

- I will make our house a home. Another one that carried over. I didn't make as much progress on the home front in 2013 but with our family finally being "complete" this Spring and being home full-time, I think I will have the drive to get on that. The nursery is up first! 

- I will make an effort to be healthy. At the moment, my goal is to deliver a healthy full-term baby. For the next few months, I'm going to make an additional effort to get more sleep, put my feet up more, and take it easy. Once the baby is here, my goal will be allowing myself to recover from the birth, successfully breastfeed, and get back to my pre-pregnancy weight through healthy eating and light-moderate exercise. 

- I will make an effort to focus more on extended family. DH's parents (and some siblings) live about 2 hours away. Consequently it has been easy to make excuses not to visit too often. Driving 20 hours to Florida really put into perspective just how close 2 hours actually is. DH's parents are also dealing with a transition with DH's mom going into a nursing home so it is more important than ever that we make the effort to go up more often. My mom and her boyfriend live nearby (15 minutes) though they winter in Florida. You'd think we see them often living that close but sometimes we go 3 weeks-1 month between visits. We'd like to see them more and also have the boys spend more time with both families. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014


2013. What an end to a wonderful year! The following were the goals I set out for 2013:

- I will finally graduate from my Masters Program
- I will find secure and meaningful employment
- I will continue to pay off debt (at least $15,000) this year while at the same time taking a family vacation in the Summer and buying a newer reliable vehicle
- I will make our house a home
- I will make an effort to be healthy

I can honestly say, 2013 was our best year yet. I really feel like we accomplished so much and grew together as a family in ways we hadn't even imagined.

I'm just going to go ahead and list our 2013 accomplishments in no particular order:

- I graduated from my 2-year full-time Master's program which I completed mostly while working full-time, being pregnant, and taking care of family responsibilites, etc.
- My work contract got extended not once, but twice this year in a job I really enjoy taking me to my due date in the Spring
- We paid off just under $10,000 of our debt (less than my original goal of $15,000 but I just can't feel bad about that progress).
- We bought not one but two newer and more reliable fuel-efficient vehicles
- We went to DISNEY WORLD!
- We bought a trailer in cottage country and spent many fun weekends up there all summer where every morning was spent out on the lake canoeing and the evenings on our deck with a glass of wine in hand.
- We got up to the in-law's cottage in Temagami, Ontario two long weekends and had a blast watching the boys enjoy the boat, water tube, and ATV rides.
- We finally got around to giving the boys the decorated and personalized bedrooms they deserve.
- Our kitchen got a small facelift with new tile floors and we gave our exterior a facelift which I appreciate each and every time I drive up to the house. We even hung a few pictures so our house now feels just a little bit more like our own.

AND last but certainly not least, we were blessed with yet another healthy pregnancy and excited by the news we'll be adding one more precious little boy to our brood.

I'm positive I'm missing so much but I'm actually in awe of the list above and feel like pinching myself regularly. This is actually my life and we have so so much to be grateful for.

This year, we also finally felt like we hit the sweet spot with the boys. We weren't sleep deprived monsters any longer and travel and vacation actually felt like travel and vacation rather than more work than being at home. We didn't yell as much, we laughed more, and were far less stressed than ever before. By the end of 2013, we were also pretty much a diaper-free household (except for pull-ups at night). It is amazing how much time you feel you get back when you're not worrying about dealing with somebody else's bowel movements although I know this is only a short reprieve until we delve back into the poopy train in the Spring. But we're over the hump! 2/3rds out of diapers!