Widowhood, Remarriage and Pregnancy

February 3, 2016
I wrote this post last year, shortly after I found out I was pregnant.  Pregnancy hormones can be a doozy, but couple that with the deep and dark pain of losing your first husband and you get a woman who is a bit of a mess.  I cried the entire time I wrote this, and wasn't sure if I would ever share it.  Baring your heart for the whole world to see is tough, but in some ways it's also therapeutic.  At least for me it is.  I've never been all that great at expressing my feelings vocally, but I've found that I can write them out pretty easily.  Thank goodness...because if I wasn't able to express them somehow I think I would explode.  All of that being said, here are the thoughts and feelings that this widow experienced after finding out I was expecting a child with my second husband:   

I'm pregnant with my first child, and while it's a happy and joyous time, I do have a pang of sadness that gnaws at me relentlessly.  I love my husband with my whole heart, and I know I will love this baby in a way that I never knew was possible, but this child that I'm carrying is not the child I initially dreamed of having.  I lost that child and that dream when my first husband Dimitri was killed in Afghanistan while leading his Soldiers over 4 years ago.  Not only did I lose the love of my life, I also lost the dream and the future I had with that wonderful man.  The baby I imagined had dark hair and dark eyes, just like him, and I was so excited to one day see Dimitri become a daddy.  Every step of this journey through widowhood has been excruciating, but this pain I'm feeling right now was unexpected.  

Initially, the loss of Dimitri and thinking about the pain he went through was all I could think about.  Then I moved on to thinking about the future that was no longer there, and I mourned that as well.  In fact, I still do and I always will.  Even turning 25 a few months after he died was difficult because I knew we would never be the same age again.  I never knew if I would love again, but in time I did.  I'm so thankful that I met my husband Tom, and I'm grateful he brought joy and happiness back into my life.  He gave me a future to look forward to, and I cannot wait to go on this journey of parenthood with him.  I can't help but feel like I'm leaving Dimitri behind on another journey though.  How will I talk about Dimitri to this child?  I loved Dimitri from age 19 until he died when we were 24.  He was a key part of my West Point experience, he taught me how to open my heart to love, and he made me a better person.  He made me "me."  There's no way he can just be omitted from my past and my story, but I know the baby will never understand who this man was and they won't know why he's so special to me.

In time I'm sure I'll figure out how to share little bits and pieces of my past with this child of mine.  I know that they will never know Dimitri, but I pray that they have the same zest for life that Dimitri had.  


Even though Jack isn't the child I originally imagined having, I now can't picture my life any other way.  I love this child with every piece of me, and I pray that I'm able to teach him that even when the world knocks you down there is always hope for a happy tomorrow.  If that wasn't the case, and if I hadn't picked myself back up and continued living life then I never would have had this sweet baby boy who makes my life complete.  Life is messy and beautiful at the same time, and I'm thankful that God gave me the resiliency that got me through the dark valleys of grief and that he has allowed me to finally experience this wonderful gift that is motherhood.    
  
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Weekly Workout Recap

February 1, 2016
Happy February friends!  This past week was so much better than the week before.  I still felt under the weather on Monday, but on Wednesday I had renewed energy which lead to more motivation and better workouts.  Hooray!

Jack will be 3 months old tomorrow, and he is growing way too quickly.  I love seeing his world slowly grow as he takes notice of new things, but I can't help but miss that tiny little baby who made me a momma back in November.  These 3 months have flown by!  My goal was to be back to my pre-baby weight by 3 months postpartum, but I still have 5 or 6 pounds to go.  I'm going to blame this on the weather, because I always put a little weight on as insulation during the winter months.  I know I need to clean up my diet a little bit (darn those cookies and ice cream!), but I know that if I just stick with it I'll be back to normal in no time.  Slow and steady really does win the race!  This will be my last workout recap, unless there is some interest in me continuing to post my exercise regimen (so please let me know if you'd like this to continue of if you find it helpful in any way).

12 weeks postpartum.  Still have some work to do on my belly and thighs, but I'm getting there!

Here are the workouts I did this past week:

Wednesday, 1/27/16.  30 minute "Extreme Full Body" Nike Training Club workout.  There were lots of burpees in this workout and I'm not a burpee fan, but it was a great full body workout nonetheless. Jack sat in his swing and was well behaved until the end.  I also took Jack for a walk in the stroller, but most of the sidewalks were still full of snow.  We walked small loops around the block and managed to get 1.5 miles in, and then we went to the mall and walked and window shopped for another hour.

Thursday, 1/28/16.  7.03 mile treadmill run in 1 hour.  I ran while Jack sat beside the treadmill in the stroller.  I felt strong and quick!  After the first mile went by really quickly I decided that I'd gut out an hour on the treadmill and wanted to run 7 miles in that time (an 8:34 pace).  I'm so glad I was able to accomplish this, because it's the fastest I've run that distance in almost a year!

Friday, 1/29/16.  30 minute "The Edge" Nike Training Club workout.  This may be my favorite NTC workout so far.  It was great!  None of the exercises are done more than once, and it was a fantastic full body workout that I was sore from even 2 days later.  I used 5 pound dumbbells and a 10 pound medicine ball.

Saturday, 1/30/16.  5.1 mile run in 48 minutes.  The only time I get the chance to run outside is on the weekends when Tom can watch Jack, so I made sure to get outside even though it was really cold.  It wasn't a quick run but it still felt nice to move my body.  Sore from my workout on Friday.

Sunday, 1/31/16.  1 hour vinyasa yoga class at Lululemon.  They offer a free yoga class every Sunday, so I plan on taking advantage of this because my body and mind feel so much better if I practice yoga once a week.  Running makes my hip really tight, so yoga helps loosen it up.  I also took Jack for a 4 mile walk in the stroller.  It was a gorgeous day and it felt nice to get outside.

  
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Campaign Furniture Hardware Hack

January 27, 2016

What do you do when you find a piece of campaign furniture for a steal but you're too cheap to replace the one missing piece of hardware?  You get creative, of course!

I'm doing this post a little bit backwards because I should share with you the entire makeover process first and then share this hack with you...but I messed up the paint on the bottom right drawer so the entire piece isn't ready to be shared yet.  I am pretty excited about this hack I came up with though, because I really was too cheap and lazy to try to track down one single brass corner piece of campaign hardware.  I know they are available on the internet, but they often come with multiple pieces and drawer pulls...as well as a hefty price tag.  The entire 6 drawer low boy dresser cost only $25, so I'm not about to spend more than that to get one tiny piece of metal.

Ok, so this is what the dresser looked like when I found it:



So bad, right?  And yes, that is a knob shoved into the drawer pull even though the pull is fully functional.  Very weird.  It's not Dixie or a brand well known for vintage campaign furniture, but for the price I really didn't care. I just needed a low boy dresser to serve as our tv stand, and that's exactly what I found!

I'll get into the brass polishing, furniture sanding, painting, etc. in a later post...but this one is strictly about the decorative hardware.  This dresser was missing one single piece, but I bought it anyway because even though I wasn't quite sure what I would do, I figured (ok, I hoped) that I would be able to come up with a quick and cheap solution.  And I did!

First, I removed and cleaned all of the hardware.  This was a loooooong process because, as you can see, the brass was really dark and yucky looking.  Once cleaned (I'll share my process later, I promise!), I took a piece that matched the piece I was missing to Ace Hardware.  In this case, it was a corner piece.  They suggested a corner bracket (like the ones you see used on Ikea Rast Campaign Hacks).  I knew this wouldn't work because the bracket is too skinny and has giant holes because it's made to be secured with screws...clearly not what I was looking for.  I asked if they had any brass that could be cut down to size, and sure enough, they did!  For just under $5 I was able to buy a sheet of brass that I could cut using regular ole scissors.  Sure, it's thinner than the real hardware, but because this hardware is purely aesthetic I knew it would work.  They did have a sheet of brass that was a bit thicker (very similar in thickness to the original hardware), but I wasn't sure if regular scissors would work, so I settled on the cheaper and thinner sheet of brass.

Here is the packaging, so you'll know what to look for if you ever find yourself in a similar situation:

   
First, I lined up the real hardware with the corner of the sheet of brass.


I used a thumbtack to trace around the edges because the point was really sharp and fine.  Next, I used regular scissors to cut the piece out.  The helpful employee at Ace Hardware told me that the pressure was more important than the sharpness, so you have to make smaller scissor motions than you would if you were just cutting a piece of paper.   
 

Once the piece was cut, I laid the real piece over the sheet metal piece.


I used the tack again, this time to mark where the holes were.


Next, I got a big, sharp nail and moved the brass to the top of a stack of magazines.  I then hammered really hard so that I could punch three tiny holes in the sheet metal.  I couldn't get the nail to go all the way through though, so once I had created teeny tiny holes in the metal I moved the sheet metal piece over to the dresser and hammered the nails right into the preexisting holes in the wood.  Piece of cake!


Here is what the dresser looks like now.  Can you tell which piece I made myself?

It's the bottom left piece!  Ok, so it does look slightly different, but only because I know I made it myself.  I'm sure a random passerby wouldn't even look twice.  Of course, if I were to sell this piece I'd track down an authentic piece of hardware, but for now I'm extremely happy with this super cheap yet functional hack :)

If you have any questions please let me know!

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Weekly Workout Recap

January 25, 2016
Lack of motivation and too many cookies.  That about sums up this past week.  I didn't work out very much, and the workouts I did do were half hearted.  I also ate a lot of homemade chocolate chip cookies.  So good but so dangerous!  I'd like to blame the blizzard, but I felt this way before the snow even started to fall.  What do you all do when your energy is lacking and you don't feel like working out?  I try to force myself to do something (with the hope that I'll end up doing more than I initially planned), but unfortunately that often doesn't work.  Especially when it's below freezing and snowing outside.  I really just can't handle the treadmill day after day.  It's so much easier to stay motivated in the summer when it's nice and pretty outside!  I seem to have hit a plateau weight-wise, and I'm still 7 to 8 pounds from my pre-baby weight.  I could care less about the number on the scale, I just want my dang pants to fit without creating a muffin top!   

11 weeks postpartum.

Here are the few workouts I did this past week:

Wednesday, 1/20/16.  2 mile treadmill walk in 40 minutes.  I walked with the treadmill incline set at 10 to make it more difficult.  I just did not feel like running!  Then I did 9 minutes of squats, lunges, and dumbbell curls while wearing Jack in the Ergo baby carrier (photo above).  Not a great workout but at least it was something.

Friday, 1/22/16.  4 mile treadmill run in 35 minutes.  Jack was in the stroller and was good the whole time.  I was very low on energy but was glad I slugged out a few miles anyway.  Followed up with the 15 minute "Vinyasa Rush Studio" Nike Training Club workout.

Saturday, 1/23/16.  3 mile treadmill run in 25 minutes.  Reallllly didn't feel like running but I knew I needed to move.  Should have run longer but I couldn't get myself to do it.  Followed up with 15 minutes of weight lifting on the weight machines (leg curls, leg extensions, leg press, and an arm machine).  

Hopefully this next week will be better!  We got 2 feet of snow so I have a feeling walks will be difficult with a stroller.  Spring cannot come soon enough!

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Jack's Newborn Photos

January 20, 2016

When Jack was 5 days old we had newborn photos taken by Jillian Knight.  She's an amazing photographer, she's married to a fellow West Pointer, and she has photographed the weddings and babies of many of my friends.  Thankfully she's also an extremely patient person...because you know those peaceful Anne Geddes-like newborn photos you see on Pinterest?  Yeah...that's not how this shoot turned out at all.  Jack decided he wanted to cluster feed the entire time and he cried while he wasn't eating.  We may not have gotten any of those overly staged photos of him, but to tell you the truth, I don't mind it at all.  These photos show real life with a newborn: eating, crying, flailing...with a few peaceful moments in between.  Enjoy!

(These first two photos weren't planned, but Jack just kept wanting to eat so I asked Jill to snap a few photos and I thought they were sweet.  Sorry if you're offended...breastfeeding is natural and takes up a good portion of the day with a newborn!  Nursing Jack has been one of the most rewarding things I've ever experienced.  There is nothing like knowing that your body is providing a new little life with exactly what they need to survive.)


















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Weekly Workout Recap

January 18, 2016
I can't believe Jack is 11 weeks old today!  He is growing so quickly and he is such a happy baby.  

I have about 8 pounds to lose before I get back to my pre-pregnancy weight.  This past week I've really felt the consistency of my belly change, and it's not quite so "fluffy" anymore.  Ab muscle is returning even though I'm still sporting some nice love handles and some unwanted belly fat. 

I'm sure most mom's can relate, but I've realized that Jack can only handle watching me exercise for about 10 minutes before he gets fussy.  He's good when I'm on the treadmill, but resistance workouts are another story.  Once he gets fussy I pick him up and use him as my weight.  It's a great way to continue your workout while also entertaining your baby!  Another idea is to put your baby in a wrap and do lunges, squats, and other exercises while wearing them.  You definitely have to get creative when you have a baby, but that's no excuse to not get a workout in!

My cute little weight helping me do squats.

Here are the workouts I did this past week:

Monday, 1/11/16.  2.78 mile walk in 55 minutes.  It was below freezing so I bundled Jack up and we went on a walk.  I carried him in the Ergo baby carrier for a little extra weight resistance.  He weighs 14 pounds so it's a good way to make a walk more challenging without adding extra time.

Tuesday, 1/12/16.  4 mile run in 34 minutes.  I ran on the treadmill.  I really lacked motivation but sucked it up anyway and ended up getting in a great run while Jack slept in the stroller next to the treadmill.  Followed up with a 10 minute dumbbell workout and then did 2 minutes of planks.

Wednesday, 1/13/16.  3.48 mile walk in 1 hour and 2 minutes.  It was below freezing so I bundled Jack up and I pushed him in the stroller.  I'm glad we got outside but it sure was cold!

Saturday, 1/16/16.  6.14 mile walk in 1 hour and 47 minutes.  I pushed Jack in the stroller and Tom met up with us after 4 miles and we stopped for lunch.  It was a really pretty day and the sunshine felt nice!  Jack slept the whole time.  

Sunday, 1/17/16.  7.5 mile run in 1 hour and 16 minutes.  This was my longest run since my second trimester, and even though I wasn't able to go very quickly it still felt nice to spend that much time on my feet.  I ran outside and finished up right before it started snowing!  After I got back I took over baby duty while Tom went on a long run, then we did the 15 minute "Gym Scult" Nike Training Club workout together.  I used 7.5 dumbbells and an 8 pound medicine ball.  Even though it was only a 15 minute workout I still worked up a good sweat!  We also did 2 minutes of planks.   

Are there any fitness or health challenges that you struggle with?  I'd love to help if you need any ideas when it comes to healthy eating or working out with a baby!


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DIY Geometric Painted Blocks

January 13, 2016


While planning Jackson's nursery I found many great items on baby boutique websites.  One of the things that really caught my eye was a set of blocks that was painted in geometric patterns using fun colors.  I couldn't quite stomach the thought of paying an arm and a leg for the toys though, so I took matters into my own hands.  


First, I bought a set of wood blocks at Hobby Lobby.  Then I grabbed my non-toxic craft paint and a roll of painter's tape and got to work! 

I taped off 2 sides at a time on each block and created different designs.  I didn't have much rhyme or reason when choosing the design or the color, I just made sure to get a good mix so that each block was different.  On some sides I'd just use one piece of tape diagonally, on other sides I would make a triangle shape with two pieces of tape.  I also came up with a few other shapes using 1 or 2 pieces of tape in different ways.  Basically, I just had fun with it!



Once the 2 sides dried I peeled off the tape and got to work on 2 more sides.  I did this until each side was painted.


This was such an easy project and I love how they look in Jack's nursery! 

For now they are not sealed because they are just sitting pretty on the bookcase...I'll seal them and let Jack play with them once he's able to grab things.  Any suggestions on what I should use to seal them?  It definitely needs to be non-toxic and durable, and I'd love to hear your suggestions!

Note: Photos courtesy of USAA and taken by Sarah Bradshaw for my article Designing a Baby Room on a Budget.

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