Last night's regularly-scheduled blogging was interrupted for a frustrating and ultimately fruitless four hours of contraction-counting.  I really hope this baby gets here soon, because the anticipation is driving me nuts.  For two hours, the contractions were extremely regular and just one minute away from when the hospital recommends trekking over to Labor & Delivery, and then they started slowing down.  So as a result, today's post is a double-feature.

Day 27: Turn Frustrations into Gratitude

The topic is extremely apt, given the evening of false labor.  I think the frustration was made worse by an almost superstitious belief that, per Murphy's Law, the fact that I used yesterday morning to get a crockpot meal all ready to go was going to virtually guarantee that real labor would start before dinner time.  Alas, no.  But the chicken cacchiatore was mighty tasty nonetheless.  Even when it comes with a side order of Braxton-Hicks.

Joy is something I have chronic difficulty experiencing, and lately it's been much worse.  The fatigue, the discomfort, and the fact that it now takes me forty minutes after waking up to navigate out of bed, dress, do a couple of physical therapy stretches, and migrate down to the kitchen are all combining to put me in a bad mood every morning.

But starting Tuesday, I have been bombarded by reminders to hold onto joy.  A Facebook friend as well as a fellow blogger each posted variations of the following quote:

Our MOPS devotional time was spent on joy as well.  And then, of course, there's the Day 27 topic.  Seems like God may be trying to tell me something...

It's an effort to be joyful.  But I really am grateful that, unlike many of my friends, my pregnancy is full-term and that none of the complications I am having are really threatening the immediate or long-term health of either me or the little girl inside my womb.  And I try to remind myself that each day that I'm not yet getting to hold my new daughter is another day that I can spend more time loving and listening to the two children running around at my feet right now.  Also, even though my reduced speed is cutting into my me-time in the morning, the early rising still lets me be ready to tend to their needs as soon as they tumble out of bed.

As for the rest of the joy, that really brings us to the next topic.

Day 28: Begin Your Day With Prayer

I confess that daily quiet times are a struggle for me.  I was doing well for a time, but it's worse again now that I finished up the Malachi study yesterday and have to fall back on self-directed study and prayer.  Distractions are a huge problem for me, and outside direction (like a guided study) often helps relieve some of that.

But when I do manage to have daily quiet times for Bible study and prayer, I can focus so much better on the bigger picture of God and His creation, and less on the relatively trivial frustrations of daily life.  (Such as the fact that little Sunshine didn't nap today and just wandered in to cheerfully announce that her clock is yellow.  And the disturbing trend that she has been failing to nap two or three times each week - I'm afraid she's about to grow out of her nap just as the new baby gets here...)

Until the baby gets here and throws everything into complete chaos, I'm going to keep trying to squeeze in a quiet time every morning.  And to pray for the joy that needs to come back into my life.
I seriously should have just gotten up at a quarter to five when my husband got up for an unusually early start.  I might have actually been able to go back to sleep over my crochet, and at the very least I would have been more productive.  Instead I tried (and failed) to fall back asleep until my alarm went off.

The thought for today is "You're Not Alone."  I must confess that I've been feeling a bit lonely lately.  Especially since one of my posts on the Early to Rise Pinterest group board just acquired a comment which seems to imply that I'm a sluggard for staying in bed as late as 6:09.

Now, I never felt that the point of this challenge was to try and wake up earlier than everyone else.  I'm fully aware that there is a certain segment of the population who are natural (or forced by their schedules) early birds.  But it was just one more thing reinforcing my nagging doubts that I don't belong in this challenge.

Sure I've made progress.  But not as much as I'd like to.  And it frustrates me no end that the ninth month of pregnancy means that I simply don't have extra reserves to invest in changing very much significant about my life at this exact moment.

If you feel like you're barely treading water in this challenge too, I'd love to hear your comments.
It's been a bit since I posted.  Thursday I woke up at 6:33 am, which I considered to be not bad.  I even got my hospital bag mostly packed before lunch, and finished by the end of the day.

Then the modem died.  We replaced it Friday, but couldn't get it to work with the wireless router until Sunday.  Technically, I could have posted Friday or over the weekend since I post from my desktop, but we spent Friday evening in the Labor & Delivery ward over a false alarm1 and were pretty much exhausted the rest of the weekend from that.

After my OB told me Thursday that she wasn't sure I'd make it a full seven more days, I decided to take some advice from the pregnancy handbook she gave me (about how rest is important during the third trimester) and shut off the alarm.  We let the cats wake us up instead (we haven't found their snooze button yet).

Saturday morning was similar, but by Sunday we started getting back in the early-rising groove.  (No pictures because I'd thrown my camera in the hospital bag Friday night and didn't get it out until late yesterday.)

This morning was the best I've done in a while.

This is what happens when you take a picture under the influence of a Benadryl hangover.
Today's theme is "Share Your Success."  At first, thinking about it, I didn't feel very successful.  I've been finding it harder, not easier to get up in the morning.  But then I thought that just the fact I'm still in the early-rising game at all is a pretty big success.  Especially given my condition.  Every week I seem to add a new middle-of-the-night waking for a bathroom trip or just to find a more comfortable position, and every day it gets a little more exhausting to move around.  But I'm not yet willing to even consider giving up my few minutes before the children wake, even for a much-needed catnap.

One of my favorite parts of this challenge is that it's fallen at the same time as my Lenten TV fast.  So I actually use the extra morning time to do real things instead of just watching the "infotainment" local and national morning shows.  Even if it's just sipping some coffee and pondering.  Today I knew I wouldn't feel well enough to climb back up the stairs later, so I sorted out the laundry after getting dressed.  Not terribly relaxing, but it set a nice tone for the day.  I made pea soup, baked beer bread, washed yet another load of laundry, and prepped these for my MOPS group tomorrow:

These are banana-Nutella muffins.2   We tested them already.  Yum!    

1. And why they don't have a limit on fingernail length for OB nurses, I really don't know. Ouch!
2. Followed the recipe except for omitting the pecans, using mini-muffin tins (and about 1/2 t Nutella per muffin), and cutting the time to 10 minutes.
A small victory today: even though I hit the snooze button several times I still got up before I turned off the alarm clock.

It may have something to do with the fact that we went to bed early last night - we turned in at 9:30.  The idea was to play a video game together on my husband's laptop; since he still had to stretch out flat the bed was the only comfortable place we could sit next to each other.  But I was so tired that I just fell asleep, almost right away.

Admit it - now you're jealous of our hot date night. ;-)

But the extra rest was good.  I just wish I could remember the plans I made the night before when I wake up in the morning.  For instance, if I'd remembered that I wanted to take a nice long relaxing shower today, I might not have hit my snooze button as many times.

But with that restful start, it is fitting that today's challenge topic is "Be Quiet."  I love having the time to take a morning shower.  As inconvenient as it is to get up earlier and spend the morning with wet hair, a shower at any other time of day is never as relaxing or refreshing.  In the evening, it either cuts into what precious little "alone time" my husband and I have together or, if I use a time when he comes home late, I imagine I hear too many strange noises in the sound of the water and become tense and paranoid.  I was the victim of a home invasion once several years ago, and it still haunts me to some extent.  I should feel lucky that I don't still have full-out PTSD about the event.

But I digress somewhat.

The morning is a lovely time for having quiet.  I often wish I could get up earlier and enjoy more of it.  It's one of the reasons I loved camping - I love to get up with the pre-dawn birdcalls and meditate on the glories of Creation as the first rays of sunlight start infusing color into the world.  Alas, my husband is not so enamored with roughing it in a tent.  Someday I'll convince him...

The problem with getting up earlier is that I'd have to go to bed earlier.  Six o'clock is about as early as I can push myself consistently given my current bedtime.  And since the time I spend with my husband is often so little, every bit of our evenings together is precious.  I find myself unwilling to give any of that up.

So I'm left with Money-Saving-Mom-Crystal's suggestions for trying to eke out more margin in the day itself.  I've more or less tried three out of the four - the only one I consistently fail at is #2: Saying "No."  And while this does give me some free time to devote to relaxing activities, with a four- and a two-year-old it's not exactly "quiet."  It helps, but it's just not as refreshing as relaxing in stillness.  With a newborn on the way, I expect that even the free time is going to vanish, and it will be a constant inner struggle between choosing morning quiet and needed extra sleep for a few months.  It certainly was that way with Pippin before he started sleeping through the night - he'd generally wake at 7-ish, nurse, and sleep until 9 or 10.  Sometimes I'd take those extra two or three hours to take a shower and be productive, and sometimes I'd elect to go back to sleep with him.

Crystal's right; it's not healthy to fill up the day entirely with to-do's.  With a newborn, that's not often feasible - though getting to spend long periods of time breastfeed can be nearly as relaxing as actual "white space."  My goal is to manage to build up a healthy reservoir of quiet me-time before the baby arrives and hope it lasts through the first rough four to six months.
Wow.  I haven't been this exhausted since I was having trouble controlling my pregnancy anemia.  It's amazing how a semi-incapacitated spouse can increase the workload, especially when one is already working near one's limit.  And my husband doesn't even need much - just painkillers now and again.  But he's stretched out on the convenient comfy couch which means I don't have a good place to sit down and rest myself.  Even worse, when he does get up he's moving around more quickly and easily than I can.  My hips tell me this is Not Fair, but the more rational parts of me know that his resting isn't just about mobility and pain.  At least tomorrow he won't be under a prescription to lay flat anymore.

That rather long digression was, in part, a way of saying that we both just needed some extra rest this morning.  This was confirmed when I hit snooze for the third time and I heard my husband mumble, "No, I don't have the phone."

The clock looks worse than it really is.  I got up at 6:50, and before I could go hunt the camera down there were physical therapy exercises, children who woke up, coffee to make and cats to be fed.

Today's topic is "Don't Live Today By Accident."  It is a rather overwhelming challenge when our lives are currently in so much disorder from the pregnancy and surgery.  To keep stress to a minimum, I had exactly three things I planned for today:

  1. Clean the dishes
  2. Plant the garden
  3. Drink a caffeinated beverage
Ironically, I was to tired that I forgot to do #3.  I just about fell asleep instead.  But I washed all the rest of the standing dishes and planted my spring veggies.  Pippin was ecstatic to be involved in sanctioned digging.

Okay, so I didn't quite finish planting the garden.  My broccoli seeds have gone missing, and my seed potatoes need to sit overnight before going in the ground.  But I got the more tedious seeds in the ground (onion sets, beets and carrots).  I hope I didn't wait too late to plant them - I'm still very much a novice gardener, and I never even tried cold-season veggies until a couple of years ago.

In general, the idea of planning your day reminds me of a post I saw on The Happiness Project entitled "Don't Get Organized."  It's not that it's bad to be organized with your time, tasks or tangibles.  But you can't necessarily try to organize everything that occurs to you to keep or do.  It's ridiculous to try and stuff mounds of clutter into as many plastic boxes, cubbyholes, bins and over-door storage units as you can possibly buy.  That's just a great way to convert mounds of clutter into mounds of plastic boxes.  And it's equally ridiculous to jam every little task that "seems like a good idea" or that "Suzy Star Homemaker from MOPS is doing too" into a day's plan.

This is a struggle for me.  Others (like the Money Saving Mom) who seem to just organize everything effortlessly uniformly agree that keeping your to-do list small is the key to success.  I haven't been doing terribly at prioritizing my to-do lists and dropping the lower-priority tasks.  What I am coming to realize is that part of that key is to stop thinking about those tasks that didn't make the cut as "things that would be a good idea to do today if there is time" and to start thinking about at least some of them as "things that maybe need to be cut out of my life."  Because if your to-do list has too much "rollover," eventually you will get to the point where you are trying to prioritize the top five to ten items from a list of thirty or forty.  And that's a fabulous way to organize your life into a nervous breakdown.

Another struggle for me is trying to walk that fine line between a satisfactorily busy schedule and enough flexibility to cope with unexpected crises.  This is really more of a learned art than a science - just setting an arbitrary limit on the number of tasks for the day isn't going to work.  One of the reasons I have so much trouble is that I have a terrible time estimating how long a task will take.  Even worse, it changes every time I try to make an effort to be more scheduled.  It was different when I wasn't pregnant, and it was even different each trimester.  And it will undoubtedly be different again in a couple of weeks when I have three kids instead of two.

All I can do at this point is to try and do at least some planning every day.  Practice and consistency, even on a small scale, are going to do more long-term good than trying to do a full organizational makeover once in a while and slacking off in between.

Weekend Recap


 After Friday's two-hour stint in the garden, I just needed the extra rest.  And a good thing, too, because Saturday was crazy-busy.  There were a million things that absolutely had to be done, pretty much all at the same time.  I had to do laundry because I hadn't been foresighted enough to put my pants that I needed to wear to church in the wash already.  I had to clean out the dishes needed to prep a crock pot dinner (because I wouldn't get home from handbells until the time dinner needed to be on the table, and we weren't even sure my husband would get home from his forensics tournament until after the kids' bedtime), and our pre-performance run-through got moved up nearly thirty minutes, cutting just that much extra time out of the day.

All in all, it was crazy, completely exhausting, but satisfying.  The kids had to come to practice with me, and Pippin started air conducting and Sunshine gave everyone a giggle when we picked up our handbells and she started singing "Jingle Bells."


This was a bittersweet day.  Sunday was my very last handbell performance for the 2012-13 season.  We play once a month at church, and our scheduled April performance is only about ten days after my due date.  But it was a lovely piece to go out with.  It was "Agnus Dei" by Cathy Moklebust, and we had both the main bell choir and the novice ringer group together, since there were more or less completely separate scores for bells and chimes to ring together.  I totally have a love-hate relationship with Moklebust's compositions and arrangements.  They are absolutely beautiful, they are really fun to ring, and they give me complete fits to get the complex rhythms and techniques down during practice.

 But we pulled it off; all three performances of the weekend were really well done.  Which was amazing considering that the two choirs have not been practicing together very much at all (and they usually have a different director as well).


Today: Choose Who You Will Be

I really think Crystal from Money Saving Mom said it best:

Every day, you wake up and you have the opportunity to choose your attitude. You can choose to be a victim or a victor. You can choose to be a complainer or a conqueror.

It's terribly difficult to choose to be a victor when you wake up in so much pain that you cannot move your feet twelve inches closer together to scratch that itch on one foot with your other big toe.  And it's hard to feel like a conqueror when the first thing you see when you pour your coffee is the mounds of dishes that didn't get done the day before.

But I can choose to see each day as a new opportunity rather than one full of yesterday's baggage.  I can choose to see the kitchen as a reminder that the day before I spent my energy putting smiles on my children's faces as they ran around in the warm spring sunshine.  And I can choose to change my plans from yesterday that this day I would find out what my countertop next to the sink looks like if a new day's sun brings new priorities.

Today I chose to nurse my husband through his post-surgical discomfort, and to get the taxes done (thus relieving everyone's mind that they won't still be hanging over our heads when I actually go into labor).  So although I still see most of yesterday's dishes and dirty sheets, I have nevertheless come through the day triumphant.

Not too bad, considering we were up until midnight trying to fix the garage door opener.

This post is late because I took Thursday's discussion on motivation to heart.  I decided that what I really needed was to change the focus of at least one day to doing some big projects I've been putting off.
I wish I could attribute this to good character and perseverance.  But really my husband left his alarm clock on again.  He has this truly excellent knack for taking exactly nine minutes and thirty seconds to hit snooze, feed the cats, start the coffee maker and then get in the shower.
Since the Day 15 topic was successes, I decided to focus on things that made me feel successful.  The weather was beautiful, so we abandoned indoor chores in favor of spending the morning running around the backyard.  Where I accomplished many things:

The Turning Over of the Compost Piles.

The Turning Over of the Garden Soil and Amending it with Compost.

And, after the kids were done helping and playing, I accomplished the Sweeping of My Backyard Out of the Kitchen and the Bathing of the Children.  Which were not actually planned - mostly because I'd forgotten about the kids' favorite game of "Pour Dirt onto Sunshine's Head."

Due mostly to the fact that the tire on our wheelbarrow is flat, I was so stiff and sore that I really had no choice but to recline on the couch after lunch and work on the baby blanket.  This was really the only big project I'd initially planned at all - though I'm not sorry I took advantage of the beautiful day.  The first day of spring yardwork is always so invigorating that the aches and stiffness (and extra dishes piling up in the kitchen) is totally worth it.

Here's the blanket so far.  It's going to be a sea turtle.  The green triangle on the left side is the tail (and also the part I accomplished on Friday).  It's going very slowly because, although I started with a pattern, I decided to totally redo the appendages and as such, the required planning and plotting is tedious and time-consuming.

And in the end, I was too exhausted to sit down and do the blog on time.  I decided to have a sedate Date Night with my husband instead.  Totally worth it.

The weekend update will get tacked onto Monday's post.  Stay tuned!

Tough day today.
It's not as bad as it looks - there's about twenty or so minutes missing for getting dressed, doing physical therapy, waddling downstairs and finding the camera.  I woke up at 5:58 or so, and then my alarm went off, I hit the reset button, and I quickly got sucked back down by the sheets.

Maybe it was the extra times I had to get up and use the bathroom last night.  Maybe it's because hauling myself out of bed is getting increasingly painful again - it tends to get worse the farther out I get from my last PT appointment (it's mostly massage to relieve some nerve pressure), and it doesn't help that I'm gaining weight steadily these last few weeks of the pregnancy.

But I think that mostly I haven't got a good plan for what the extra time is for.

Today's theme, appropriately enough, is "Find What Motivates You."  The two things I could really use extra, child-free time in the morning to accomplish are my quiet time and my baby blanket.  Sadly, I can really only squeeze out time for one of the two.  I just realistically don't have the energy for getting up any earlier.  And when I have to make the decision between quiet time and crocheting, it's really pretty simple to decide that time with God has to come first.

The problem I'm having lies in the realization I came to nearly two years ago that I have trouble generating motivation within myself if I don't see relatively permanent and/or tangible successes to keep my momentum going.  In other words, I need to do things that stay done for a prolonged period.  Quiet time and prayer, though they benefit me in other ways through the day, are by their very nature things that don't ever finish.

The rest of the day is an endless succession of appointments, meetings, studies, and crises.  For instance, today I had to spend all my free time crawling on my eight-month-pregnant belly under the computer desk to figure out why the modem suddenly stopped working (apparently the DSL cable just randomly died).  Except for crises, tomorrow is actually the first completely free day I've had in a long time.  I shall have to set aside some time to work on the blanket, even though it seems so unimportant, just to give my motivations a boost.  And maybe, barring catastrophe, get my spring veggie garden laid out.

Come to think of it, the Ides of March is probably an ironic time to hope for freedom from crises...
I picked the wrong day to be lackadaisical about getting up on my own, counting on my husband to wake me up when he got dressed around 6:10.  Turns out that he was running late too.  But on the plus side, I was really refreshed today.  And my children still haven't adjusted to the time change, so I had a little extra space to get a good quiet time completed before they got up.

"Focus on Other People" is the theme for today.  In that spirit, I finally decided to cast on the gloves I mentioned two days ago.  They will be a nice, simple project that I can tote around easily - in other words, they will fit into schedule niches of mine that my other WIPs (Works in Progress) won't without really adding too much pressure to my schedule.

Blessing others is something that I like to do, but I'm often afraid to follow through.  It makes me feel very vulnerable to expose that part of myself to others.  Blessings and gifts are very personal things and I think they reveal much about the giver.  I'm a naturally closed, introverted person - enough so that a therapist once opined that I may actually have clinical Social Anxiety Disorder - so it is difficult for me to open up in any way to people I don't know extremely well.  I generally prefer to bless others as part of a group, or in some other way that keeps me safely anonymous.

What I try to do instead is to focus on serving God each day.  In theory, this would amount to basically the same thing, since serving God generally involves blessing His people.  But I must admit that this can be kind of a cop-out for me.  It's certainly realistic for someone to say, "I don't possess spiritual gifts X, Y or Z; therefore I don't participate in those types of activities as often as others."  However, I tend to use other, more individual acts of worship as a crutch or an excuse to not put myself in the uncomfortable situation of servings others directly.  It's certainly something for me to pray about.  Change will likely have to come slowly, in small steps.
It's day 12!  I think I'm doing about average - only a little stumble when we switched back to Daylight Savings Time.  The above time is misleading, though.  Partly because it took me a full minute to take a picture that wasn't completely blurry, and mostly because my husband "turned off" his alarm with the snooze button and then got in the shower exactly fifteen seconds before the buzzer went off again.

I didn't have much time to ponder today's topic: "Swim Upstream."  This was a MOPS Tuesday - one of my two busiest days of the month wherein my schedule runs something like:

  1. Get up.
  2. Get dressed.
  3. Quiet time.
  4. Dress children.
  5. Make breakfast.
  6. Go to MOPS.
  7. Shove lunch into children.
  8. Take Pippin to preschool.
  9. Put Sunshine down for a nap.
  10. Enjoy roughly one hour for napping and/or chores.
  11. Get Sunshine up.
  12. Hand her a snack.
  13. Pick Pippin up from preschool.
  14. One more free hour or so.
  15. Leave for small group Bible study.
  16. Put children to bed.

Today, I also ended up doing steps 3a (fall asleep in the middle of Isaiah because I woke up too early) and 8a (suddenly realize I was supposed to bring an item for an appreciation basket for some EMTs and firefighters who are giving various talks to the preschool this month and make an extra trip out to the grocery store for a case of soda pop).  Step 9 was consumed by the terribly mundane task of switching all our online billpay accounts to our new credit union (we decided to ditch our old credit union after Christmas after a number of incidents of poor customer service and online support).  Then, after Bible study (instead of a study, the group threw me a baby "sprinkle" - with two other kids so close in age I don't really need a full shower), we cleaned the kitchen and I made cranberry crumb bars for tomorrow's ladies' Bible study group at church and strawberry oatmeal streusel muffins while my husband did a load of laundry that I've been putting off.

I may have overfilled them a tad...
I suppose I don't really agree with Crystal that getting up early is particularly "outside the box" or counter-cultural.  Lots of people are natural early birds.  They're just quieter about it than the night owls who gasp in horror at the concept of actually seeing the sun rise.

But the idea of creating a more disciplined lifestyle is more counter-cultural.  Early rising may or may not be a part of it - it all depends on how and why one goes about it.  For me, I usually use Lent as a time to increase my self-discipline and give up things that interfere with that.  This is the second year I've given up TV, and I added in a fast from my favorite message forum because it was getting to be too much of a time drain.  The Early to Rise challenge is nicely synergistic with my Lenten fast (usually when I wake up early, I spend it watching the news instead of being productive), but the actual act of getting out of bed on time is really the smaller part.
Daylight Savings Time has really been kicking my hindparts in regards to this Early to Rise Challenge.  I set my alarm to six and tried to be good, but I ended up renewing my acquaintance with the snooze button.
 In fact, I think I entered into a committed relationship with it.

This morning was better.  Not great, but better.  It didn't help that I stayed up until eleven last night because I'd forgotten to set the DVD clock forward.  Today I turned on my radio instead of hitting the snooze button, but I faded out a bit during the local news.
At least the kids slept in about thirty minutes and gave me time to transcribe some rough notes into my Malachi study handbook, a task I've been putting off.

Today's theme is "It's Your World; So Change It."  Random acts of kindness are a great way to impact the world when your resources, especially time, are limited.  I would really like to get some of the difficult planning completed in the baby blanket I'm making so I can justify starting another new knitting project - I really, really want to cast on a pair of fingerless gloves for one of the volunteer ladies in our church nursery.  I even picked out a pattern last week when I saw that her hands were blue with cold and poor circulation.

It's the simplest and yet most personal RAK I can think of offhand that would give me the greatest joy to do, but I'm very conflicted about whether it's better to invest my time in it or devote more of my limited energy to my family.  To complicate things, the Malachi homework today discussed giving, especially as in the example of the widow's mite.  In these third-trimester days I surely have only a mite of time and energy - and my OB appointment today has started to cast doubts in my mind as to whether I will make it the rest of the month until my due date.  (In fact, I changed my afternoon plans from cleaning to hauling the bassinet and car seat out of storage.)  But I struggle with the choice between spending that mite on my family and myself (and by extension the baby) or on others.  It's not a clear-cut decision.  The best answer I have so far is to try and be more efficient with the time I spend on raising my two kids and preparing for the third, and then evaluating what I have left over.

It's always adorable when the car seat comes back out and the older child wants to try it out again. At least Sunshine didn't get stuck in it like Pippin did two and a half years ago...

Isn't that just awful?  I mean, I know other people in the Early to Rise Challenge have committed to  getting up about that early.  But I wasn't one of them - I committed to six o'clock.  And I'm ashamed to admit I hit the snooze button twice this morning.

The reason I set my alarm for such a horribly early time was the conference I had to attend that started at 8:30 - two and a half hours away.

So I packed my CDs for the car and crochet for the lecture, and ended up pretty much hydroplaning for two and a half hours all the way to the university.  I think the highway ran right along the path of the storm.  Heaven knows we needed a good soaking rain, but did we have to have it today?  At least today was better than the last time I went to a one-day CE conference there - the rain was so bad I had about twenty feet of visibility.  At least today my wipers on high speed were adequate.  Come to think of it, if it rains hard every time I drive to KSU and back in a single day, maybe if I attend more CE conferences I'll break the drought...

I'm finally home, after a total of five hours driving.  I'm officially dead tired, and I don't think I have anything good to say about rising early today.  In fact, the only thought I'm having at all is that Spring Ahead time is a terrible time for an early-rising challenge.  I honestly have no idea if I'll even attempt to stick to my six o'clock resolution tomorrow.
Well, so much for the "remembering to keep my camera by the nightstand" accomplishment I boasted about yesterday.

This is actually after waking and showering
 Fortunately, it's probably the least important thing I'm concerned about accomplishing with this challenge.

This was probably the best morning I've had so far.  Second-earliest start-the-day time (5:52 a.m.) and I actually managed to get a small chore done after my quiet time (I unloaded the dishwasher and washed some pots and pans that have been loitering on the counter for longer than I care to admit).  I didn't have time for much else because of errands and a physical therapy appointment on the other side of town, but I did manage to pack a picnic lunch (it was only about 60° but I thought it would be fun anyway - wish I'd remembered the snickerdoodles from the cookie jar, though) and afterwards the kids and I walked about a one-mile trail through the local nature center.

Poor Sunshine was extremely traumatized by the fly that landed on the picnic cooler for some reason, but otherwise had a good time.

Today's topic is "Find the Artist in You."  I must admit, from Crystal's synopsis, I too am baffled by the exact connection between early rising and creating art.  And the "shipping it" language as a metaphor for sharing it with the world seems like the sort of tortured postmodernistic phraseology you'd find in university English departments; it's horribly reminiscent of the "be a witness and testify to pain" theme of the "Literature and Medicine" course I took one semester.  However, I do have to admit again here that I could not read the Early to Rise book that this challenge is based on firsthand, so I'm willing to give the author the benefit of the doubt that the concept is explained better in the book.

"Art" is one of those concepts that has become very elusive to define, especially with all the variations that are presented to us.  What exactly is it that makes a book, a painting, a concert and an exquisitely-prepared meal all fall into the category of "art?"  Merriam-Webster defines art as "the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects."  I happen to like the definition I invented (and am still refining) that art is the communication of an intangible concept or emotion through a tangible object.

The "fineness" of the art depends on the skill required to create the work, the depth or complexity of the intangible being communicated, and the effectiveness of the communication with the intended audience.  If the artist intends one message and the audience receives something else (or nothing at all), then the art value of the work is diminished.  But that doesn't mean it is entirely without value, if it is created with skill.  And even those of us with more mundane talents may still create art, even if it does have lesser skill or a simpler, more everyday message than the kind of productions that art critics gush over.  A simple handknit garment, for instance, can say "I love you," "You're worth my time," "I want to wrap you in something warm," or even "We need more whimsy in our lives:"

Perhaps it is the spirit of communication that Andy Traub feels is so important to early rising.  Being socially engaged is an important activity to living a full human life.  There's no real point in rising early if we are not using the time to get more out of the day.  And maximizing our daily potential shouldn't just be about how many chores we can fit in and how self-disciplined a cocoon we can create for ourselves.  Unless we reach out and touch others, our personal lives will only bloom and then fade away as the flower of the grass.
It's officially been a full week of Money Saving Mom's Early to Rise Challenge, and it's time for a progress report:

  • I haven't changed the time I plan to get up.  But I am spending less time in bed after six o'clock.
  • I'm actually doing the same thing on the weekends too.
  • I feel like I'm still frittering away a lot of my kid-free time in the mornings and not accomplishing much in terms of chores.
  • But since starting the challenge, I've gotten my physical therapy exercises done every morning and I haven't had to skip a shower because of running out of kid-free time.
  • I'm starting to feel a bit more energized through the whole day.  But that's been a waxing and waning thing lately, so who knows if it's because of the challenge or if my pregnancy anemia is finally improving...
  • I've stopped relying on my husband to rout me out of bed and set my actual alarm clock instead.
  • I've actually remembered to keep my camera by my nightstand to grab a shot of my alarm clock for the last five days.

I've been focusing a lot on the third bullet point and feeling really down on myself.  But in the process of listing everything, I realize that it's the only thing that hasn't really changed for the better in my daily routine.

So the fact that today's topic is "Taking One Small Step at a Time" is quite fitting.  There's a lot of improvement happening already, even if it's not as much as I think I need to see.  I'm the sort of person that likes to do big things all at once, so when it doesn't happen on schedule I lose track of the little victories and get discouraged.  The fact that I have trouble sorting out one individual goal at a time doesn't help either.  Actually, I really need to do some Dave Ramsey-style baby steps.  I shall set that up this evening (I have firmly scheduled errands happening now, so it will have to be put off until then).  Stay tuned!

Today's theme is "Adjust Your Attitude."  It's about seeing the good in even bad circumstances.  Yesterday's orange juice catastrophe was really a perfect example.  I had to do more work than I really had energy to do, I don't get more orange juice for a week until I go back to the grocery store, and I had to walk around barefoot until the floor and my slippers were cleaned (which, incidentally, was how I found the hairball one of the cats left on the living room floor).  But in the end I got tons of stuff done and now my kitchen floor and cabinets are clean and shiny!

The theme even fits perfectly with a discussion we had at church this morning.  I am participating in Lisa Harper's Malachi study, and during the small group discussion we had a debate about whether "blessed" and "happy" were really synonyms.  According to, the specific Hebrew word in question, 'esher, can be translated either way.  But I maintain that the "happy" in this case doesn't mean the cotton-candy-and-cherry-pie kind of happiness that we usually think of when seeing the word.  Because really, nothing I had to do yesterday was any fun at all.  However, by the end of the day I was certainly happy with my accomplishments and I had a definite overall sense of contentment.

Now if I can just figure out how to be blessed by the shower of random sprockets from the garage door opener, I'll be all set.  At nearly 35 weeks pregnant, the prospect of manually bending and raising the garage door does not immediately fill me with joy.
The theme for Day Five is "It's Not Always Easy."

Now, it looks like today started out well enough.  I woke up a half hour early and decided to use the time doing things instead of trying to get in extra rest.  For some reason, I was extra-wide-awake.

But then I ran into some of those excuses I referenced on Day One.  The coffee pot, being full of my husband's coffee wasn't ready for my decaf...
(which, by the way, I take with milk - and sugar in the first cup only)
...and I don't like to disturb my husband's quiet time with my quiet time.  I'm still trying to memorize the book of James (I got through most of three chapters before I got pregnant and my quiet time faltered, and I've just picked it up again recently), so my "quiet" time is a lot of verbal recitation.  So I ended up distracting myself aimlessly and wasting extra time.  In short, I did not Have A Plan.

And then things got really difficult.

I wanted orange juice with my breakfast.  I'd thawed a can of concentrate yesterday but the juice pitcher wasn't clean at the time.  So I went to mix it up today and found that the lid was stuck tight to the can even after peeling away the little strip around it.  It took so much force to pry it off that, even as carefully as I was applying pressure, the lid literally flew off and the can fell over and spilled everything.  Juice concentrate ran down the cabinets, splashed all over the floor and spattered my last clean pair of maternity-friendly pants.  And my slippers.

And of course, juice concentrate is fiendish to clean up.  I used three kitchen towels, but they really only contained the mess and didn't absorb it in any quantity.

Breakfast was starting to cool off by that point, so I had to abandon the contained spill for later.  And in my frazzlement, I distributed (gasp!) the wrong color bibs to each child.  Sunshine immediately grabbed for her red bib and upended her milk.  Used towel count has now reached four, emptying the kitchen linen drawer.  Furthermore, my alumni magazine did not get dried off as well as  I thought and is now decoupaged to the kitchen chair.

Now, I'd made a plan for this part of the day.  It just was a lot easier than what now lay before me.  I'd planned to sweep the kitchen floor and sort laundry.  And I couldn't really omit either to do the new tasks.  I had to sort laundry and find more towels, in case they became necessary.  And I had to sweep the floor... so I could wash it.

And to top it all off, the orange juice accident is exactly the sort of completely demoralizing incident that makes me completely question my entire worth as a creation of God.  Because any other regular person could have held on to the can and prevented the spill, but God saw fit to let me be born with a disability that prevents me from doing this.  It's funny - it's much easier to accept my physical limitations when I come up against something big (for instance, playing the clarinet), but the completely idiotic things like a juice spill really get to me.

But to cut a very long story short, I borrowed my neighbor's mop (on account of our sponge mop being put back with the wringer engaged) and got the floor done in barely enough time to make lunch and hustle Pippin off to preschool.  I did more of my James recitation while mopping and started to climb out of my spiritual black pit.  And I wiped down all the kitchen cabinets, thus completing Assignment #13 of the Organized Home challenge.

I would not have gotten all this done if it weren't for the spill, and it's awfully energizing to get things done.  It may well keep me motivated to do more tomorrow.  So I guess it's a blessing in disguise.

Weekend Recap

 The Early to Rise Challenge is technically suspended on the weekends, which is why there aren't any posts for days two and three.  Knowing what being slothful does to my days when I sleep in (and also vaguely remembering some article about sleep being better when waketimes are consistent for all seven days), I am trying to keep my six o'clock commitment on Saturdays and Sundays as well.  But my actual posts about it may be somewhat inconsistent.


Getting up at six was relatively easy, since my husband had to leave at six for a forensics tournament and could turn on the light for me before he left.  The two kids and I spent the whole morning shopping (took advantage of some nice Target coupons that Money Saving Mom posted about).  Pippin has suddenly hit that stage where everybody must be told that he's getting a new little sister soon.  Fortunately everyone has been most gracious and understanding about it.  After we got home, I literally fell asleep playing a game with him and ended up cancelling the afternoon chore plans in favor of a nap.


It took me six minutes to haul myself out of bed.  When not pregnant, a sufficiently-motivated me has little trouble just hopping out of bed and hitting the morning full-strength.  But at 34+ weeks pregnant I am creaking and groaning with every movement and usually feel like I need a block and tackle to achieve verticality.  Yesterday was particularly bad - I actually had to get my husband out of bed to help me to the toilet for my 3 am bathroom trip.  My joints plus the relaxin hormone make a devastating combination.  I feel a bit like Mr. Hilltop from Young Frankenstein (he's the elderly gentlemen that assists Dr. Frankenstein in his lecture at the beginning of the movie), and I keep getting this image of Gene Wilder watching my progress and dryly remarking, "Nice hopping."

But I did it eventually and I did it without rousing my husband as a wake-up buddy (which is a big achievement for me).  I also discovered how difficult it is to put on maternity pants the right way around when it's completely dark.

However, on to today...

Not quite as good as Sunday, but deceptive because it also includes several minutes spent in prayer with my husband before he left for work.

This morning's post gives the challenge as

Wake Up With a Plan for Your Day

Please excuse me while I take a minute to stop laughing...

My wonderful plan went perfectly up until seven o'clock when the kids woke up and I tripped over my husband's laptop while slicing some banana coconut bread for their snack.  This would be the laptop with his lesson plan and lectures and everything on it.  Children were then hastily shoved into shoes and an eclectic array of garments (Sunshine ended up in a Teletubbies pajama top, an Ecoposh soaker and Hello Kitty leggings) chosen with no guiding principles other than suitability for going outside to the car.  Then we all experienced the joys of Kellogg Avenue at rush hour traveling all the way across town.
This is actually my very first sit-down cup of coffee.  Note the time.
But the experience has two-fold benefits.  One is that my husband has now informed me that I have redeemed myself for my sin yesterday of disassembling our pasta roller, though I think I still need to include a pledge never to do so again should we ever renew our wedding vows.

And the second is that he found out about the blogging challenge this morning.  I hadn't actually told him because I tend to take on too many projects.  (And now I have blackmail currency to keep going, heh heh heh.)  But I find that I'm soooo much more productive when I have structure, especially when I actually write down my tasks.  I discovered this last year when I did Money Saving Mom's 4 Weeks to a More Organized Home challenge.  In fact, I felt so energized by the experience that I've been trying to reprise the full challenge since the school year started.  It hasn't gone quite as well as last time - the first time was in the middle of my first trimester and the second time was in December.  Both were busts by the second week for various reasons which can probably be deduced by the timing.

After the New Year, I had realized that one of the struggles I was having with the challenge was that Crystal for whatever reason had put the majority of the most involved tasks on Tuesdays.  Which are horrible days for me to get things done, since I have MOPS every other Tuesday morning and Pippin has preschool every afternoon.  So once I gave myself permission to get creative with rescheduling the tasks, it went much better.  Up until Week Three in which pregnancy-related anemia, extreme joint pain and nesting urges to do more and more combined and forced me to take it easier.  That was about five weeks ago, and I'm still on Week Three.  BUT... I'm making progress, albeit slowly.  I hope I can get through Week Four by the time the baby gets here...

The one thing I have been consistently failing is to craft a more structured morning routine.  Which, in a sense, is what today's early rising challenge is about.  I do need to use my mornings more intentionally.  Too often I put off my to-do list until the afternoon.  And then it turns into a third-trimester nap.  It's a bit late today to schedule my morning, but I can commit to partitioning my daily goals into morning and afternoon tasks from here on out.

And today at least I can prioritize two goals for right after lunch:

  • Finish drying and folding two loads of laundry
  • Re-create the week's meal plan (in further irony, in light of today's theme, I managed to lose the week's meal plan after my Saturday shopping trip... before I got it written out on the menu board in the kitchen)

And that may have to be it for my daily goals too, since I have an OB visit right after naptime.  But it's all about baby steps, really.  Time and time again I relearn that it's better to commit to fewer, smaller things and get them done rather than trying and failing to reach the moon in a single day.

Money Saving Mom is hosting a month-long Early to Rise challenge throughout March. It's based on the e-book of the same name, but having no e-reader (sigh) I can't follow along in the book and will be basing my posts entirely on Crystal's daily thoughts on her blog.

I've committed to getting up at 6am every day. That gives me a whole hour to do my physical therapy, take a shower and get most of a quiet time in before the children wake up. It's not really any earlier than I theoretically have been getting up, except my alarm clock (aka: my husband) has been letting me sleep later and later these past few weeks, and I, in my third-trimester weariness, have been letting him.

Today's theme is "Your Mindset Matters." This is going to be one of the biggest challenges for me, since I find the potential of failure to be one of my biggest de-motivators. I think it may take the better part of this challenge to train myself into not making excuses. Which, in a way, is why I signed up for this challenge in the first place. It's going to be good for me. So this morning my husband woke me up at six exactly like I asked, and after ten minutes or so of praying together I did my exercises. This is one of the tougher parts of getting up. I must get them done first thing or I likely won't get them done at all, but they require a large, flat, elevated surface (aka: the bed) for me to complete all the stretches. And half of them must be done lying down. Not getting sucked back into the land of Nod is a real challenge.

I did not get my quiet time done before the kids woke up because I had to complete a button snake for a busy bag swap another mom from my MOPS group organized for this morning. I figured it would be easier to use the sewing machine without two young children romping around. And because I was up late doing the first half of the button snake (I know; it was not the best way to start and early-rising challenge, but I forgot about the swap until I got the reminder email on Wednesday), I fell asleep for fifteen minutes halfway through my quiet time. Oops. And obviously the morning was busy enough that I didn't post at anything like a reasonable hour.

In all, I think it was a decent start. I got a fair amount of stuff done throughout the rest of the day, and I learned a valuable lesson about committing to a decent bedtime in addition to a bright-and-shiny waketime. I'm still pondering some of my other "excuses" I have for not waking up early (such as if I get up with my husband, I tend to bother his quiet time and then neither of us accomplishes much, and the fact that I've got third-trimester fatigue and pregnancy anemia and really do need as much extra rest as I can get) and wondering which are really "just excuses" and which are realistic boundaries I must set for myself. So far, I don't have any easy answers.

Life Happened

It's been a while since my last post.  The reason, more or less, is that life happened.  In more than one way:

The resolution to the scariness described in my last post took about a week to happen.  I had to go back in to my OB's office for a repeat hCG level, and while I was there I demanded to have a face-to-face with a nurse to explain exactly what was going on.  A large part of the scare was caused by the first nurse (who called) refusing to stray from what the radiologist's report said on the sonogram, which was "cannot rule out the possibility of a psuedogestational sac / ectopic pregnancy."  Which is a far cry from "probably has an ectopic pregnancy."  The second nurse (who I like very much as a competent and caring healthcare provider), said an ectopic pregnancy was very remotely possible, but so unlikely that I shouldn't waste energy worrying about it.

However, her news still wasn't good, and seemed to be confirmed when we got my next hCG back.  Likely, she said, I was looking at a blighted ovum - an egg that develops some embryonic tissues (which produce the hCG), but not the rest of the embryo.

I did get one more sonogram scheduled, since my hCG was rising (though not even close to the "doubling every other day" rule of thumb for healthy early embryonic growth).  And everything was there.  A perfect little gestational sac with a perfect little curl of an embryo inside.  Including a perfect little heartbeat.  It even measured to be spot-on with my calculated date of ovulation.

I don't know why things happened the way they did.  The second ultrasonographer said that it's not unusual to see nothing at six weeks' gestation.  But that never felt like a very satisfactory answer - it's really hard for me to see how something with so many published statistics on size, even at five and four weeks, could have been missed with such a thorough transvaginal (in other words, more accurate and higher-resolution than transabdominal) sonogram on such a good ultrasound machine.  Whatever the reason, this was truly an answer to prayer.

I am now thirty-four weeks along.

It's going to be another little girl.