Monday, January 31, 2011

Want to be a Fit Mom? This week's prize can get you started ...

I've mentioned a time or two about how much I love "Mommy and Me" fitness classes. It's a great way to get in a good workout, spend some quality time with Tiny and meet other like-minded ladies who understand the value of vomit-free clothing. Plus it gives me a good excuse to wear sweatpants in public and not feel guilty.

This week, we're raffling off a free week of Stroller Strides classes from Stroller Strides of Midtown Raleigh to a lucky Bea Team supporter. Aside from being a good way to lose baby weight (which, yes I know, I'm still working on, thankyouverymuch) it's just plan ol' fun. I've never been to a fitness class where I didn't count down the milliseconds until it was over; except for Stroller Strides.

Sure, to the outside world, you may appear to have lost your mind as you sing "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" with an elastic band tied to your ankles. And yes, you may find yourself using words like "Arm Pitties", "Tosies" and "Chiny, Chin, Chins" as you run back and forth to your stroller-strapped child. But one cackle or heart-melting grin from your baby is all it takes to let you know that it's all worth while. Of course, having a firmer butt and being able to run more than 25 feet again aren't bad side effects either!

Don't let the silliness fool you though- this is a serious workout in disguise. Some of my new mom friends and I went for the first time last fall thinking it would be an easy way to get back into working out. I think it took me a full two days to recover from it. 

The owner of MidTown's Stroller Strides, Missy Currin, is possibly one of the sweetest people I've ever met. No, seriously. She has a way of making you feel right at home in the Stroller Stridin' group, whether it's your first or your twentieth visit. It's also not just Missy. All the moms are like that. They welcome you, with their toned arms, into the fold from the very first warm-up.

This is group of ladies that I went out with last week and remember what a great time that was? Yep. It can all be yours too!

For a simple $25 donation you'll not only be entered for a chance to win a full week of classes from Stroller Strides, you'll also be helping to bring comfort and hope to families like ours when their newborn is in critical care. Plus, you'll be helping to fund March of Dimes continue their efforts to help moms have full-term pregnancies.

If you decide to join The Bea Team (which we hope you will!) you'll also get a really cool team t-shirt when you join us on April 30 for the 3 mile walk (hey, it's in the spirit of fitness and charity!). 

It's a win-win. So get to click-clicking and donate now by clicking the widget at the top of the page, or by clicking here.

P.S.: In the coming weeks, we'll be raffling off some really great mom-friendly prizes. These include: A gift card to buybuyBaby, an hour long full-body massage, a gift from Smart Momma of Raleigh, a HUGE gift from gDiapers and possibly the best gift of all- a free photo shoot and pictures from Laura Simson. She's the photographer who has taken all of Beatrice Kate's amazing photos (and a link to her page is on the side of this blog). So, the earlier you donate, the more chances you'll have at winning something awesome. I'm just sayin'.

What's the story Morning Glory? And a weekend recap ...

Very rarely does Beatrice Kate wake up crying or fussy. In fact, most of the time she will make absolutely no sound at all. She is just like Casey is the way that it takes her a full 10-15 minutes after waking to fully be alert and ready to take on the day. I on the other hand, once I am actually awake, can spring out of bed and get going practically as soon as my eyes are open.

Usually, after Casey has gotten up, showered and dressed for the day, he will peek into Bea's room. This is a good example of what normally greets him:
Pacifiers provide in-crib entertainment
Or, she wakes up like this:
Swaddling is key to a happy wake up for this one

How great is that? Beatrice Kate has the amazing ability to wake up on the right side of the bed crib every. single. day. Sometimes, she will wake up and play by herself for a while as she waits on someone to respond to her. This playing usually involves talking to her mobile friends, looking at her hands or practicing her leg raises. It's sickingly cute to listen to on the baby monitor.
Hey you gu-uys!

I'll have to see if we can get it recorded on the FlipCam some day just to showcase her face-melting cuteness.

Anyway, we haven't had a good "Collins Family Update" in a while, so let's see... what exactly have we been up to?

House Showings: Yep, this is still going on. We've had close to 10 showings in the last 10 days. We also were thisclose to having an offer in our hands. But of course, in TYPICAL Collins' Family Luck- on the way to write an offer for our house, the buyers drove past another house... that they bought instead. I am not kidding. I almost threw up I was so sick over it. Who else would that happen but us?? We also met with our real estate agent tonight and she thinks that our price is good, our house is great; and that we shouldn't be putting in anymore money into the house. It's just a matter of waiting for the 'right' buyers. I have to believe that we will get another offer soon- otherwise, God, that's just cruel. Riding around town like a car full of gypsies is starting to get old. Fast.

Enjoying the weather: This weekend we did a lot of going outside. Partially because we had showings on Saturday and also because of North Carolina weather, where after a week of snow and ice and bone chilling temperatures, Spring springs up for random sneak previews and for two whole days, we had temperatures in the 60's. We took the dogs for nice walk around Lake Lynn and Arnold had a play date with a golden retriever puppy who needed some schoolin' from an elder. Cooper hid behind the stroller. If he has to choose between meeting a new dog and getting close to the baby- he'll side with family under dire circumstances.

Visiting with Bea's grandparents: Grandpa Collins came for a visit this weekend. Casey's birthday is on Wednesday so he's been livin' the high life with cards, gifts in the mail and free lunches left and right for the past few days. I'm sure that Dan and Jan (Casey's dad and step-mom) came mostly to visit Beatrice Kate, but letting Casey think it was for him couldn't hurt. Beatrice Kate of course, turned on the charm and was the picture of perfect during their visit. She only got cranky once; being awake for more than 4 hours  combined with being placed in the god forsaken car seat was too much to handle at the end of lunch.

you cannot resist the combination of  the hairbow and cheeks
Speaking of lunch, we returned to one of our favorite local spots, The Busy Bea Bee to celebrate "28 years of Casey" with his dad. Beatrice Kate spent all of 30 seconds in the provided high chair and about 1.5 hours in various laps. She was very well behaved during lunch, except for when she discovered the echo-effect that the wood floors produced. We were in trouble after that. Regardless, we had a delicious meal and I only got a couple of dirty looks for feeding Bea a fried green tomato.At the end his visit, Beatrice Kate had really figured out how to exploit her cuteness to maximize all the benefits of this "Grandpa" guy:
"Look into my eyes and do my bidding"

No, you make it work, Grandpa

See, I told you that you could do it

Now, read my the lunch selections, minion

Just kidding, feed my my milk. Now.

Help me become more cultured. Take me to the artwork, please.

If only she knew how much of a puddle her great-grandfather would have been for her. I'm pretty sure that she would have been given the moon had she been able to ask for it from him...

Workin' those two teeth to death
A lot of finger-food-eatin': After talking to a friend about what her baby is eating these days, it became quite clear that Beatrice Kate was behind in the game. So, I hurriedly went to Harris Teeter in search of good first finger foods she could eat with her two teeth and came back with a disappointed can of organic green beans. Since then, we've also tried: cherries, banana bit, kiwi, peach slices, Puffs and asparagus. As it turns out, Bea doesn't like sweet things and actually prefers the green bean bits to sweeter things like fruit. I'm starting to think my child is possibly part alien because, any fruit of my womb should certianly be born with a genetic predisposition to sweets.

She is a weirdo; but I'm also quite happy that she has a healthy appetite for healthy foods. She's gotten very good a shoving several bits of bean and Puff into her mouth at one time.
Shoveling it in

It's actually a little concerning when she doesn't even look for pieces anymore.She just waves her hand over the highchair tray like Stevie Wonder, magically magnetizing the bits of food to her sticky little paws:
Come to me, food ...
Then she pops her entire hand into her mouth and whatever drops, she eats. Whatever drops on the floor, Cooper eats. They've started a new kind of friendship in the last few days:
Notice the lurker in the background ...
We've also been working on using a sippy cup:
Proving to be harder than it looks ...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Moms Gone Wild ...

Tonight I went to my very first Moms Night Out with a group of moms from our Stroller Strides classes. We all met at The Pit, a local barbecue place here in Raleigh for some drinks, good food and a lot of "baby talk".

I was initially very hesitant to attend an event like this. Partially because I have never been to anything like this but also because Bea goes to bed at 7:30 and after all, I am the one who puts her to sleep! Our normal routine after bath each night, is for me to nurse her to sleep and then rock her for a while. Then I gently place her in her crib, rub her little bald head and kiss her cheek.

I think you all know what I sucker I am for routines and that I have been known to be a little obsessive about them. I'll admit it- I wasn't totally comfortable with the idea of leaving Casey in charge of putting Beatrice Kate to sleep. I was even less comfortable with the idea of someone other than me doing it, period.

But, I eventually gave in. RSVP'd "yes" and off I went with two of my Bradley Class mom-friends by my side. And you know what? I LOVED IT. I had a great time tonight.

Yep, the sky didn't fall in. The world didn't end. Casey was able to bottle feed Beatrice Kate her nightly milk and tuck her soundly into her crib; where she is at this very moment as I type.

It turns out that I learned a couple of things tonight: 1) My husband is a totally capable and loving parent (yes, I knew that already, but it was reaffirmed tonight) 2) As much as I don't want to admit it, my baby doesn't need me 100% of the time anymore 3) (and most importantly) It's OK for us new moms to take some time to ourselves.

In fact, I would even go as far as saying that we probably should be taking time for ourselves. It was so helpful to chat with other moms, find out what their kids are up to, what milestones they're at, what finger foods their trying, when they might attempt to wean (who are we kidding, there's no weaning willingly happening here).

It was refreshing and I think that taking time away like that, albeit even for 3 hours, could make me a better mother. It allows me to step outside of my "baby bubble" and feel like a contributing member of society again. It's easy to get sewn up into the world of playmates and pediatrician appointments. I think being ingrained into the world of Mommyhood is probably what contributes to the isolating feelings of  postpartum depression.

I needed tonight's event. I'm happy I went. I can't wait for next month! Who knows, maybe I'll get a little crazy and have... a beer and dessert. We moms know how to party down.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Jimmy Johns winners ...

The lucky winners of the Jimmy John's free sandwiches are: Cheryl Hamburger and Rachel Whinna!

Even better news ladies is that you're still eligible to win additional prizes! This is because we have more prizes than we have donors...

Did you hear that??? We still need more donors! Right now, you have a nearly 100% chance that you will win something. So, get to it! Donate today and you could will win something really great ...

Next giveaway announcement happens on Monday and this one is great for all the Mom's out there!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My new favorite web site ...

Can be found here. Honestly, Casey and I just spent about 30 minutes nearly peeing our pants from laughing so hard at this.

Of course, if you are mature have a more refined sense of humor, you may not find it funny. But I did and if I had been drinking milk, it may have come out of my nose.

Why Me?

I came across this great little story/poem of why God chooses the mothers he does to have premature babies. I didn't make it half way down before the tears started flowing...
++++++++++++

Did you ever wonder how the mothers of premature babies are chosen?

Somehow, I visualize God hovering over Earth, selecting his instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation. As he observes, he instructs his angels to take notes in a giant ledger.

"Beth Armstrong, son. Patron Saint, Matthew.

Marjorie Forrest, daughter.Patron Saint, Celia.

Carrie Rutledge, twins. Patron Saint ... give her Gerard. He's used to profanity."

Finally, he passes a name to an angel and smiles. "Give her a preemie."

The angel is curious. "Why this one, God? She's so happy."

"Exactly," smiles God.

"Could I give a premature baby a mother who knows no laughter? That would be cruel."

"But does she have the patience?" asks the angel.

"I don't want her to have too much patience, or she'll drown in a sea of self-pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wear off, she'll handle it.

I watched her today. She has that sense of self and independence so rare and so necessary in a mother.

You see, the child I'm going to give her has a world of its own.

She has to make it live in her world, and that's not going to be easy."

"But Lord, I don't think she even believes in you."

God smiles. "No matter, I can fix that. This one is perfect. She has just the right amount of selfishness."

The angel gasps, "Selfishness?! Is that a virtue?"

God nods. "If she can't separate herself from the child occasionally, she will never survive.

Yes, here is a woman whom I will bless with a child less than perfect.

She doesn't know it yet, but she is to be envied.

She will never take for granted a spoken word.

She will never consider a step ordinary.

When her child says 'mama' for the first time, she will be witness to a miracle and know it.

I will permit her to see clearly the things I see ignorance, cruelty, prejudice and allow her to rise above them.

She will never be alone.

I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life because she is doing my work as surely as she is here by my side."

"And what about her Patron Saint?" asks the angel, his pen poised in the air.

God smiles. "A mirror will suffice."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Smitten Kittens ...

Much to her father's dismay, Beatrice Kate is in luuurrrvvee.

Meet Jett, another former micro-preemie and NICU graduate, and watch Beatrice Kate behave like a love-sick teenager...


If you are unable to view the video above, click here to see it!

Meal Plan Monday: Healthy is as healthy does ...


Back to another Monday and another meal plan.  We didn't actually end up using some of the meals from last week because we had a lot of leftovers; so as is the beauty of a meal plan... we're recycling these meals for this week! Because of all the great saving and coupon/sale shopping I did in the earlier weeks of the month, I only had to buy a few things at the grocery store (And there are rarely fresh fruit and veg coupons out there!). 

Of course, I still busted my $500 budget for groceries and household goods (Super Doubles gets me everytime!) but I did manage to keep myself in check and not spend too much over at Walgreens or CVS, despite their awesome deals the past two weeks. I was only over by about $50, which I think is really not bad considering it's the first month of our "envelope system" budgeting. Also, we're paying off a car next month (Hooray!) and have almost completley paid down all our credit card debt. Next up, school loans...

But that's another topic for another day. Here's what's on tap for the week:

Little Drummer Girl ...

This may be part of the reason my husband is convinced Beatrice Kate is musically gifted. Of course, she could also just be a normal baby who likes to make noise by banging on things...



If you cannot see the video above, click here to view it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Growing Pains ...

Somehow in the past two weeks, my sweet, tiny infant daughter has developed into her own person; well on her way to toddler-hood. It's happening so fast, and I want it to stop. Rightthissecondplease.

I know I've said it before, but she honestly changes overnight; sometimes within a day. She is so wicked smahrt sometimes it's scary. She is most certianly a child of both Casey and I.

For example- I'll demonstrate how to do something (like banging two blocks together) while she watches. Then I'll hand over the blocks to her and instantly, she's able to replicate the movement. Now, for all you non-preemie or parental types- this may not seem like a lot to write home about. But you need to understand- from the get go, we've been told all along to expect developmental disabilities as a consequence of Bea's prematurity. To see her mastering tasks after one demonstration is amazing for me! She's also a very, very good mimic. She will frequently repeat back verbal patterns from short sentences we say to her. "I love you" is usually returned with, "Ooo ooo ooo". "Baby Bea" is "Baba ba". It's exciting!

She's also developing her individuality too. I will fess up and take full responsibility for creating this little monster. You see, as a young child, I had well, a reputation for being a brat set in my ways. There may have been a scuffle at my three year old dance recital, involving a shove off the stage and I may have been known to throw a tantrum every once in a while. Luckily, Beatrice Kate is starting to develop her own fiesty spirit. Not that she hasn't displayed such a fervent passion for from Minute One; but it's starting to be more frequently vocalized.

Here is a quick list of things Beatrice Kate finds displeasing: Blueberries, having toys taken away, having her diaper changed without her consent, eating more than 2 bites of food consecutively, sitting her her high chair for longer than 3 seconds, wearing clothes (including most of all- pants), having a hat on, laying in her crib, the trumpet, not being allowed to chew Daddy's musical instruments, not being allowed to chew books, not being allowed to eat/shred/rip newsprint, not being allowed to chew/pull/tug/pinch Arnold's ears and fur, being cold, being hot, being hungry, being wet for longer than 2 seconds... you get my point.

She knows what she likes and more importantly, what she doesn't like. She is also becoming more and more vocal each day which makes for a fun guessing game Casey and I like to call, "What does that mean?".

Regardless, I'm not sure where she learned to throw such a fit- I'll need to nip that in the bud before she reaches her teenage years for sure.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hungry? This week's raffle prize is especially for you ...

Got that old familiar empty feeling in your tummy? That, my friend, is hunger, and you're in luck. For a $25 donation to The Bea Team, you'll be entered into a drawing to win one of two free 8-inch subs from Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches.

No, you didn't misread, I said two, as in one more than one. This week we're handing out raffle prizes to two lucky, famished Bea Team supporters! (Of course, if you're not one of the chosen two, your name will still be in the running for future raffle prizes!)

For those who aren't familiar with Jimmy John's... listen up. They're only the best, most delicious sub sandwiches this side of Mars. I'm not sure which I love more about Jimmy John's- the delicious bread or the fact that I can order a plain ham and cheese sandwich without feeling like I have to order off of the kids menu.

Don't worry, if you're normal a person with more refined tastes, Jimmy John's also offers a variety of different sandwich-to-condiment ratios to fit your needs as well.

So, if this sounds like something you'd like to sink your teeth into then, what are you waiting for? Get to donating and show The Bea Team some love. We're also still collecting team members so if you're not busy on April 30- we would love for you to join us for a Spring walk with a certain Tiny. Hey, we'll even give you team t-shirt!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Very good link for Postpartum Anxiety ...

WRAL's Go Ask Mom section shared another new mom's blog post about postpartum anxiety this morning. I think every one of our blog readers needs to read this story.

It's no great shocker- I've been dealing with postpartum depression/PTSD/anxiety for a while now; maybe since Bea was born. Being the "diagnose and treat it yourself" kind of girl I am, I searched diligently for resources on this topic; specifically for NICU moms and the trauma we've faced. I was very disappointed in the limited amount of information or even discussion on the topic. I was ashamed for a while- because everyone else made it such a taboo topic.

Like Kira (the article's author) it was my husband who recognized what was going on and pleaded with me to get help. Having a micro-preemie, and all that comes with it, turned my slightly OCD personality into full-blow obsession and anxiety that only he really knew the extent of. It's a secret battle and it shouldn't be. I was making my husband miserable. I felt (and still sometimes feel) like I was living under a dense fog. Like a vampire, sunlight seemed to burn my skin so I just wanted to stay huddled up inside, in the dark, in my tiny-germ-controlled environment. I know we joke a lot about hand sanitizer, but I truly nearly went into a full panic attack if someone didn't use a squirt of the provided bottles when coming in our home. There were full blown sobbing sessions, explosive fights, my temper was always ready to come out and battle.

I obsess/ed with terrible things happening to Bea. SIDS, cat burglars, freak house fires started by the night light in her room that was too close to her drapes. You get the point. We came so close to losing her when she was first born that I feel like it's my duty to make sure that now, when she's solely our responsibility, I maintain the good work the doctors did initially to help her survive.

It felt like no one in the world knew what I was going through. Not even my husband, Casey. I was so isolated, alone in a pit of sadness. But in reality- he was right there with me. He was going through it too. I just couldn't see it at the time.

It took until August until I was willing to go and seek help from a therapist. It shouldn't have been that way. It's helping tremendously. I don't know why there's a stigma associated with seeing a therapist. It's so cathartic to talk to someone, anyone, especially an independent observer.

If you know a new mom, or really any mom at all, and notice something a little off- it's probably only the tip of the iceberg. Underneath the external, public layer of worry is a deeper, darker underbelly of depression and anxiety.

Have a little compassion. Let them know it's ok and it's normal and it's ok to seek help. That's it. That's all I'm asking.

And the lucky winner is...

Leigh Sigmon!! 

Congrats Leigh, you've won a $45 gift certificate to CSN Stores.com. I'll be emailing you shortly to tell you how to redeem your prize.

For the rest of you- see, there really are winners. Now, click here to find out how to become eligible to win something. All it takes is $25 and about 5 minutes of your time.

Coming up next... this week's giveaway (and it's REALLY GOOD). Stay tuned ...

Meal Plan Monday: We can do this healthy thing afterall ...

Casey's 92 year old grandmother enjoying a sandwich on the beach
Well, it's been another week of healthy eating and so far so good. Casey (as expected) lost nearly all the weight he wanted to lose in two weeks. While I lost 6 pounds... I still have about another 30 15 or so to go. So to help keep us on track, I've got another full week of F-Factor friendly meals. Also, as a side note, I. Rocked. It. Out. at Harris Teeter this week. I bought a full week's worth of groceries for $65, including two 12-packs of Caffeine Free Diet Sodas and Laundry Detergent. Oh and also- not a single processed item. Mostly veggies and fruits! I was so excited. But that's neither here nor there; so without further ado... Here's what's on the menu:

Friday, January 14, 2011

Asking for a little Divine Intervention here ...

Most people who know us know that our house is on the market. It has been on the market for a long, long time. Like, nearly a year, long time.

The most frustrating part is that we have had over a hundred showings with nearly zero negative feedback. It's always something like, "I love this home, but we decided on a house 30 miles away", or "I love this home, but we wanted one with a bigger back yard." We've even made it to several rounds of "second showings" and had a "third showing"! We lost out because the buyers found a newer, more updated home. You see my frustration.

It's always things that we can't change- and thus, we're never sure how to make our house more attractive to potential buyers.

Yesterday we had another round of showings. We expected to get back the same silly feedback as before. But, instead- we've been told that we're a "top choice" and that they're coming back next Friday to view it again.

So- I'm asking everyone who reads this blog to send up a word to The Big Guy that this is the one. We've been so, so, so very close before only to have it not materialize into an offer. We really want to move out of this house and closer to Casey's office so we can spend more time together as a family. It's that simple. I believe in the power of prayer and I know that we have quite a few readers now...think of what combing the two could produce!!

If you've got a little extra room in your nightly, daily, hourly prayers- please think of us. And, if you're not the praying kind- maybe a good vibe or a little well wishing wouldn't be too much to ask?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Some clarity about how to win prizes ...

We have had a great response so far and couldn't be more grateful to you all. At only 2 weeks into the campaign- we're nearly half way to our goal of $1,000! I've had a few people email to ask for more information about how this whole giveaway thing is going to go. So, here's a little more clarification to help with some of the confusion...

To be eligible to win a giveaway for the remainder of the time we're fund raising:
  1. Simply visit here. You can also click the March for Babies link at the top of the blog to donate. It links to my personal page for MOB, but any money I raise supports the team's goal.
  2. Donate at least $25. That's it! That's all it takes to be entered into a drawing for one of our fabulous prizes.
  3. If you don't win this week; don't worry. Your name will "carry over" into the rest of the giveaway drawings until you win or until we run out of things to give out! This means that the earlier you donate, the more chances you have at winning something.
This week, of course, we're still giving away a $45 gift certificate to CSNStores.com, which is an online retailer with 200+ stores to choose from! That winner will be announced on Monday, Jan. 17.

I also wanted to give you all a heads up of some of the prizes yet to come. These include: a full-hour massage from Great Blue Heron Massage (where is where we go and I cannot recommend Cheryl enough), a week of free classes from Stroller Strides of Midtown Raleigh, free sandwiches from Jimmy Johns, a "Year of Bread" from Panera Bread, an infant travel/noise machine donated by Smart Momma of Raleigh, a golf goody bag filled with a Nike shirt, tees, a glove (and other things) and finally- a "Sweet Bundle" from gDiapers. Yep, gDiapers- can you believe it??

That's only what we've secured so far. We're still working with a few other vendors to get some other great prizes. There's a little something for everyone- so donate soon and you'll have more chances to win something!

If you have any other questions- please, please feel free to comment or send me an email: theraleighcollins@gmail.com

A lot happens in four years ...

On this day four years ago, I married my best friend.

In four years, we've gone from this:

To this:

I couldn't have imagine how our lives would have turned out; but I am so thankful and so grateful that I've got him by my side. An upstanding, Christ-focused, honorable and loving man who I call my husband, the leader of our family and the father of our child.

I love you, Casey!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

10 months is two months less than a year ...

My sweet, chunky, chubba-wubba, snuggly baby:

How is it possible that ten months have passed since you were born? How is it possible that you've changed and grown so much since last month? Every parent says it; but now I know it's true- time passes so quickly when you have a baby; and you literally are growing up in front of my eyes.

Ten months ago, you looked like this:

Now, you're looking a little more pleasantly plump:

In just ten, short months, you've gone from a baby that can fit in your daddy's palm to a baby who we have to heft up on our hips! Luckily, we take a lot of pictures, so we can always remember how far you've come!

I can see noticeable changes in your appearance and development practically overnight.You're tiny baby fuzz is turning into long (well, sort-of) thin strands of hair. Your face is starting to get a little longer; making it appear that you're losing some of your precious baby chunk. Your feet and toes (which have always been long) are sizing out of the newborn and 3 month shoes people have given you.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Motivation comes in all forms. For me, it takes the shape of a shoe ...

[Note: If you're looking for this week's giveaway, click here. For a $25 donation to The Bea Team, you could win a $45 gift certificate to CSN Stores.com]


I'm tired of all this baby weight. One of the lovely side effects of developing preeclampsia, you know, besides delivering a baby 11 weeks prematurely, is sudden weight gain. I thought that by nursing Beatrice Kate, most of the weight would fall right off. Every other mother on the planet seems to boast about how fabulous nursing is for post-baby weight loss. Like so many other things, I am the only exception to the rule. Nursing just makes me that much more hungry and seems to keep weight on. It also doesn't help that we're quarantined this winter, making us unable to attend baby-and-mommy workout classes right now.

Of course, the benefits of breastfeeding for Beatrice Kate far outweigh any whining and complaining that it may cause for me. I firmly believe that breastmilk contributed to a large portion of Beatrice Kate's health and success in the NICU. It helped her fight off infection, protected her intestines from developing NEC and some day, I hope it will show an increase in IQ! So we're sticking with it until she decides to wean herself.

But really, enough is enough for me. I'm sick of being overweight and ready to really, honestly make a change for the better. Casey and I have already started taking steps towards improvement with our diet. We've been on and off the F-Factor Diet for sometime now; but really rededicated ourselves to it's complete lifestyle change at the start of 2011. Over the past week, we've nearly gotten off all the weight we put on gorging ourselves over the holidays. We're on track for success!

So, in addition to the motivation of being able to fit into my "pre-maternity clothes" that have been stashed away in my attic since I found out I was pregnant, I decided to give myself a little extra motivation. This motivation is taking the shape of shoes. This shouldn't be a surprise to those who really know me. I LOVE SHOES. When I was a member of the working class, I loved to find new, interesting and ridiculous high heels- even for my labcoat wearing days. I'm sure I have at least 20 pairs of heels.

This time my energy is focused on one brand- Toms. If you're unfamiliar with this brand of shoes, here's what you need to know: 1) They're super neat. 2) They're made of canvas, sequins and other fun things 3) For every pair of shoes purchased, the company donates a pair of shoes to a child in need.

See, it's not entirely selfish motivation. I'm doing good somewhere else in the world by shedding pounds and buying a pair of corduroy shoes.

The challenge though is that I am a self-admitted sweet-aholic. I cannot stop myself around cakes, cookies, candies, anything sweet. If given the choice between wooden teeth and no sweet, I would choose to go George Washington just to be able to eat candy. It's that bad. I'm the cookie equivalant to a crack addict. I don't just stop with one- I'll eat an entire package.

And it's not just me. Casey is the same way (although, he can just think about losing weight and he's back on track). So, we've stopped buying unhealthy things (even if I have a coupon and they're on sale). I don't even bring it into the house anymore.

So, over the next few weeks and months, I'm asking you to help keep me honest. I'll blog occasionally about our struggles and success with our weight. My goal is to lose about 10-15 pounds by Easter. We're planning a trip to visit my aunt in DC sometime in the spring, maybe around May, and I hope to be able to wear my new shoes for touring then!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Not a Triangle Local? This week's giveaway is perfect for you! ...


Were you considering making a donation to support The Bea Team at the 2011 March of Dimes? Are you worried that all the great giveaways and prizes are only for those who live in the Triangle area? Worry no more!


This week's giveaway is perfect for you (and for those who happen to live here too!). CSN Stores.com, an online retailer, has generously offered at $45 gift certificate to their site. Yep, seriously!

What could $45 get you? Well, honestly, a pretty wide variety of things. Things ranging from a baby and kids items to a new TV stand. If we had a television worth displaying, we might consider buying that. Anyway, you get the point. They have over 200 different divisions so I'm sure you could find something to buy with $45!

Interested? To be entered to win, click on the March for Babies widget at the top of our blog and donate at least $25 to our team. That's it! This week's giveaway will run until Saturday and if you've already made a donation, then you're already entered. Then I'll randomly select (I swear, it's random!) a winner from the pool of $25+ contributors.

Now, here's some fine print: Unfortunately, for our four readers in Slovenia, this giveaway is only open to US residents and the gift certificate can't be used on shipping. (The US Postal Service has got to get paid, ya'll)

So, get busy. Click onto our March for Babies page, support The Bea Team and you could win something special for your humble abode. While you're there donating, why not consider joining our team too?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Meal Plan Sunday: No-snow edition ...

If only I had more than two teeth...
Since I would like to get down to the giveaway business first thing Monday morning, I thought I would get ahead of the game (for once in my life) and get our meal plan posted today (Sunday). The weather reporters are all a-tizzy this weekend with the potential for a possible, maybe, slight chance of winter-like precipitation headed our way so the grocery stores were all sold out of bread and milk and there will be no milk sandwiches for us. Good thing we've got other options instead unlike the crazy cat ladies of the Triangle.

Two housekeeping things from last week- The asparagus and cashew chicken was really good but a little mushy. Next time we'll cut down on the soy sauce and use fresh asparagus (I used some that I had frozen a few months ago). Secondly, the baby-led weaning seems to be going well for Bea. She likes being able to shove her own food into her mouth. Favorites include: celery, bell pepper?? and apple slices. I take them away from her once she gets them widdled down to choke-able sizes, of course.

Anyway, in honor of the snow that will surely not fall in Raleigh, NC tomorrow night, here is what's for dinner at our house this week:

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Ceremonial Figurehead ...


It took a village, and at the beginning I seemed to be its monarch: a ceremonial figurehead of ostensible importance, but with little ability to effect change. I may have been the Mother, but my role was mostly symbolic and my job description unclear. -Alexa Stevenson, Half Baked


This is exactly what is like to be the mother of a premature infant during those first few days and weeks after birth. It was heart-wrenching to have initially lost, like so many other things that came along with a NICU stay, all the traditional roles and responsibilities that go with producing a baby.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The not-so-sweet tooth returns ...

Old Photo- but it pretty much describes Bea's mood lately

[Editor's Note: Don't worry- if you're looking to join The Bea Team at the 2011 March for Babies, you can find out how to do so here. More prizes and giveaways are coming next week to those to contribute to our team- so donate-away!]

So, remember how last week I was bragging about how Casey and I survived our child's first tooth with hardly any battle scars? Yea, well I can kiss those glory days goodbye.

And the winner is ...

Our first (and only so far) Bea Team member: Mary Frances Shore!

Congrats!! You're the winner of some nicely-scented Rockin' Green Cloth Diaper Detergent.

Now to the rest of you... another great gift is on tap to giveaway for those who donate to The Bea Team. So, what are you waiting for? Get those click-happy keyboard fingers a-going!

Diaper funk got you down? Giveaway #1 is your saving grace ...


When we first started washing our own cloth diapers, I'll admit it- I was worried about the stink that was quickly replacing the nursery's sweet baby scent. I initially used another kind of soap, one that came highly recommended, but it just didn't seem to get out the... well, stinky, stink stank of Bea's cloth diaper bag. I was starting to think that my tiny baby girl was actually a 40-year old sweaty man who lives in his mom's basement in disguise.

And so began the search to find a solution. I started hearing about Rockin' Green from other cloth diapering mamas and shops. Ok, I thought, I'll give it a try. Try it I did and I haven't gone back since.

Rockin' Green is a cloth diaper detergent like no other. Aside from being 100% phosphate free and packed in recyclable material; it gets out the stale smell of two-day-old diapers and replaces it with  pleasantly, cheerful, freshly laundered bliss. It's also unmatched for getting rid of "other detergent" build-up. It even comes in 100% natural scents! Who doesn't want their baby's behind to smell like oranges?

Their companion product, Funk Rock, is the best product I've found to help strip diapers of their ammonia smell. It says you can even use it for pet accidents or peeing toddlers as well (though, we haven't gotten to that stage yet).

But the best part is- it's cheap! Working out to around 13 cents a load, it's perfect for those of us to are budget-conscious (and really, who isn't?).

So- if your Tiny's behind is cloth swaddled and you'd like to become a member of the coolest March for Babies team in the Triangle region- then today is your day!

A sample of Rockin' Green and Funk Rock goes to the first person to sign-up and join The Bea Team.

Are you a vendor who would like to sponsor a giveaway for our March for Babies team? Contact me for more information. We would love to feature your company's generosity! 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lace up those tiny sneakers. It's time to March for Babies (and win some prizes) ...




Never before have Casey and I been so excited and more determined to successfully support a charity campaign like we are for the 2011 March for Babies. There's no question that without March of Dimes, Beatrice Kate wouldn't have had nearly the fighting chance she did. March for Dimes funded-research was absolutely critical to her survival during her first few days of life. It's that simple. Without March of Dimes; Beatrice Kate may not be the baby she is today. She may not be here at all.

That's why we feel so strongly about giving back to this organization. We owe them much more than we could ever raise through fund-raising; but we're going to try anyway! And, the best part is, you can help us!

How? Join or contribute to our team!

For the 2011 March for Babies, we have set a very lofty goal for our family's team, aptly named The Bea Team, of $1,000. Additionally, we would love to have one of the largest family teams present on April, 30.  We're even working on getting matching t-shirts for everyone... and who doesn't love a free shirt?

Now, I know most of you would donate to our team simply out of the kindness of your hearts. But, let's be honest- getting a little something in return wouldn't be so bad, right? Yea, I didn't think so. To repay you in a small amount, I've been working with incredibly generous local (and not so local) vendors to secure some pretty neat giveaways. Seriously, they're really. really. good.

Some of these incredible business include: CNS Store.com Smart Momma, Stroller Strides of Midtown Raleigh, BuyBuy Baby, Golf Galaxy, Great Blue Heron Massage, Rockin' Green and Jimmy John's. We're still working on a few others- so there are plenty of things to win! The earlier you donate, the more chances you'll have at winning a great prize!

Starting tomorrow, and over the course of the next few weeks, we'll be handing out these prizes to various team members and contributors. Keep checking back each day to see when a new giveaway is posted and how you can win. Some will be for the newest team members that day, some will be a raffle for various donation amounts, some will be randomly selected contributors! You just never know!

So, good luck and I hope that you can join us as we continue to fight for preemies like Beatrice Kate!

Here are some answers to questions you may have:
  • When is the 2011 March for Babies? This year's March for Babies walk will be held on April 30, starting at 10 a.m.
  • Where is it? Well, there are walks all over the US, but The Bea Team will be walking in the Durham, NC version. The address for the walk is: 4309 Emperor Boulevard Durham, NC 27703
  • How long is the walk? It is approximately 3.1 miles. 
  • How do I join The Bea Team? Click here! Scroll down to near the bottom of the page and click "Join this team"
  • How can I donate to The Bea Team? Click here and in the top right corner of the page you'll see a blue section that says, "Sponsor this team" or you can click on, "Donate to this team".
  • How do I win that first prize?  Check back tomorrow to find out...

Wordless Wednesday: Removal of the Great Tree

For background information about The Great Tree, visit here.

 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Staying within budget ...

When Beatrice Kate was born, I resigned my position at a biotech company here in the Triangle so I could stay at home with her. Bea can't attend a public daycare until she is a little older (after 2-3) and it would have worked out to about my take-home pay each month to hire a private nanny to stay here. I wasn't about to pay someone what I got paid to stay with my baby... and who doesn't want to be a stay-at-home mommy??

So, as of July 2010, we became a one income family. It was initially a very rough transition. Casey and I had gone from living on two (relatively) decent salaries with no "real" financial responsibilities (aside from our home and cars). We were livin' it up-well, sort of. We've never really been ones for fancy electronics or new gadgets. In fact, the only television we own is the same television Casey had as a child. Seriously.

But we spent money on things that we enjoyed doing together. We traveled. A lot. We bought random things (like two kayaks). We shopped organic, non-couponed groceries ($9/lb grapes? Yes, please!). Lovely new clothes for a meeting that we might need to go to in 4 weeks? Good idea.

Of course, all this came to a screetching hault when Beatrice Kate arrived 11 weeks early. We had plans to sell our house, downsize a little and save, save, save. Those plans were quickly thrown out of the window when she was born.

So, when we made the decision for me to stay at home, we needed to change a few things about our spending and saving habits. We've tried a few things over the last few months and think that finally, we have figured out a system that works for us. A few of my other stay-at-home mom friends have asked about our system- so I thought I would share it here. It operates on a few basic budgeting techniques:

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year, New Look and Big News ...

You may have noticed that we've spruced things up around here at "The Raleigh Collins" blog. With the start of a new year, we thought it may be time for a change- and, we're quite pleased with the result (If do we say so ourselves).

You also may have noticed the new bling near the top of the blog. No, not the picture of our little family; but just below it. Getting closer, closer. Ah. Ha! You've spotted it.

It's our brand-spanking-new, customized March for Babies widget.

Go ahead, click on it. It'll direct you to our team's page and give you the chance to help sponsor us on April 30. Later this week I'll do a much more in-depth post about this, including how YOU! can join The Bea Team and help with our fund-raising efforts for the March of Dimes, an organization very near and dear to our hearts.

Also later this week, I'll announce a "giveaway" (a pretty neat one too) for the first new team member (and no, Casey you don't count) to join or the first person donate $30 to our team.

Anyway, stay tuned, join the team or donate in honor of Beatrice Kate (or any preemie for that matter!). Until then, how do you like the new look?

Meal Plan Monday: New Year, New Plan, Less Pudge

The start of the new year often signals a chorus of quickly forgotten resolutions. The Raleigh Collins are no different are going to try really hard to stick to a new budget (we'll get into this issue later in the week), weekly (as in every week) meal plans and eating less crap. After the bender of junk-food and sugar-filled sludge fest we had over the holidays, all three (yep, including The Tiny) are looking forward to weeks of healthy eating. Without further ado, here's the first meal plan of 2011:

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Hasta, 2010. Hola, 2011

Yes, I realize that I'm about 2 days late in my "Year in Reflection" post...

2010 will certianly go down in the books as the most memorable year of our lives. Easily. It's the year that taught Casey and I a lot about ourselves, a lot about each other and a lot about life.

Most importantly, this is the year we became parents. 2010 is the year that in the same moment that we were overcome with complete joy and happiness; and we were also thrown into a pit of fear and worry. Where we both found a strength to move forward that we never knew existed. This year, we learned to operate outside of our comfort zone, to ask for help, to be humbled at the kindness of those we know and love and those we barely know at all.