Friday, July 31, 2009

Ready, Set... Roadtrip!

Oh the fun of the open road to see both families over the next 8 days. We are leaving early today to drive to see my family in SC and then on to Destin, FL on Sat where we will be until Thursday. We are seeing my family again on the way home as well as a good childhood friend.

I can almost hear the incessant Cars playing for 10 strait hours in the backseat to a zoned out Ben, picture the the desolate two land road through eastern Alabama that we will travel through on the way into Florida. Smell the enticing food at the last remaining Po Folks restaurant and the Big H chicken Buffet. Hopefully I can sleep through more one light towns imaginable on the 14 hour drive. As always I take a project, and this time it's to go through my recipe box, clean it out in anticipation of the new cooking blog to start soon. What do you think of the name Freeze Ahead Frenzy?

After a week of almost constant rain, no childcare, and bouncing off the walls waiting out the results of the ivf transfer, I am so ready to GO!!!

While in Florida we go in and have blood drawn for the results of the IVF transfer at an independent lab. It's not the ideal as the time delay will make the waiting even longer. If positive I will do a repeat test and then an ultrasound a couple of weeks later to confirm.

With Ben we waited until I was almost 20 weeks along to say anything to friends and family. We were really spooked after the July 2005 miscarriage and decided not to tempt fate. When we did we hosted a blow out New year's eve party to announce so it was worth the wait.

This time we have made this whole journey public through posting our IVF experience on both our blogs. It seems a little disingenuous not to let our friends know the next chapter. So we have decided to wait and publicly post if we make it to the ultrasound at week six and can feel a little more certain that we have good odds for making it through the 1st trimester.

If the test comes back negative we have a little insurance in that we have 3 great quality embryos frozen and can move almost immediately into a frozen transfer process. If we really wanted to to pursue another whole new cycle I actually have enough meds to make the major cost the procedure alone. This would be a long, hard choice that I don't want to have to even think about now, but after going through this I know I made it once and faced with the decision I might again.

Regardless of results, we appreciate everyone who has been supporting us through this whole summer of fun. At least the next week comes with a pool just outside the bedroom window, family to help with Ben, walks on the beach, a trip to Seaside by myself one day, and a memorable and much needed family trip.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

I went to pay and pulled out underwear

I could not make this up if I tried. Wednesday seemed like I did nothing but shuffle from place to place and by end of day my bag looked like this! At one point I was getting "lunch" at the Target snack bar being the popcorn combo and when I went to pull out my wallet, I also pulled out a pair of Ben's undies (clean). The counter kid didn't see the humor. Total Mom moment.

While I was over at a friend's last night I sat there and cleaned it out and took inventory of what had gotten shoved in there by end of day. I think they were both appalled at the amount and declared I needed a shopping cart.

i-phone (oh how I love you)
3 library books
Target Drink cup and popcorn bag, Nutragrain strawberry bar (half eaten by Ben)
Target Brand Chest Rub
Receipts from 3 doctors
Denial letter for an IVF med and the reorder form
Legal pad with massive packing list
Old kid Party Invitation with a week long TO DO list on the back
Coupons and list for BJ's run before my membership runs out end of month tomorrow
12 boxes of crayons (for school folks, I don't think the trip is going to be THAT long requiring crayon overload)
16 Glue sticks (again school... we have ZERO supply budget this year)
Mail from today including a paper
Thank you notes not written but intended
Family Fun Magazine and Coupons for a friend
Half eaten piece of string cheese (again Ben)

and TWO not ONE pairs of clean undies for Ben

I think my bag is like 20 pounds lighter, but I am SO keeping those undies for emergencies.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The BEST Baby and Kid Birthday Gifts

Since last week felt like the fertility Olympics and now the waiting begins, I have saved some posts that I have been rolling around in my head. Not the most exciting maybe, but hey we can't always come out of the barn on fire.

Over the weekend we went to two kids birthday parties and had friends down for dinner that are expecting a baby next month. In all cases I think my gift du jour was super appropriate and actually something they wanted. I may be fooling myself and they secretly wanted an airbrushed shirt to commemorate the event, but based on the response it was positive. So I wanted to share in case you think you might want to recreate.

First up the unisex child gift. This is so easy to put together and if you buy when art supplies are on sale (like NOW with back to school), it's a nice gift for about $15.00 bucks. Most of all I like this gift as you can personalize it to the child and it "might" inspire some creativity. Best of all it MAKES NO NOISE!!!

Art Supply Caddy

Colored Caddy from Micheals/AC Moore/Joanna Crafts/Hobby Lobby- About $3.00
For older kids you can get a lap desk with 2 side pockets for 5.00

Stickers to decorate the caddy based on the kid's interest

Various Art Supplies like finger paint, colored pencils, water color set, new crayons, stamp set, sticker book with cool stickers, child-sized safety scissors, character-themed pencil case (look in the dollar bin), glitter glue, a construction paper pad

I always try to find something I don't think they already have. Crayola makes a special set of markers for glass that allow they to draw erasable pics on your windows.

The BEST baby gift I ever got from from a teacher-friend at my shower at my old school. She said, and I now quote Erin J, "this is the best gift that NO ONE will ever give you, but come 3 am you will thank me when you are NOT standing in Target sleep deprived yelling/cursing at your spouse."

She was SO right, and I have never again given anything else to expecting parents (even on the 2nd or 3rd time around)

Baby Boot Camp Basket
- $35.00- $50.00

(for brand new parents it's nice to include a note to say when some of these items can be helpful, after all some things like giving orange pedilyte to puking infant will only make matters worse and you should be a friend and tell them)

Digital Ear Thermometer-(be a nice friend and spurge, karma will repay you)
Dishwasher Basket
Infant Acetaminophen
Infant Motrin
Baby Chest Rub
Clear Pedilyte
Tube of Vaseline
Mylicon drops
Cradle Cap Cleanser
Saline drops and bulb aspirator
Baby Nail clippers

Put all this in a nice basket that they can stash in their bathroom/closet for those inevitable 3am calls. Their marriage will thank you.

I also sometimes put a book for parents, like the Mother of All Baby Books (personal fav)or something funny like a How to for Dads.

Enjoy knowing you didn't give them another toy or some crystal baby vase that will likely store cotton balls at best is the best gift of all. You gave them stress- free time to enjoy their baby/child.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hope Upon Hope!

We are going ahead and doing a 3 day over hoped 5 day transfer around 12:30 today. This was not the ideal plan and frankly I am somewhat disappointed after putting this whole cycle off in June just for the chance to do PGD and buy ourselves some piece of mind.

Our clinic called this morning at 6am (expected) to say that of the 12 that fertilized, 11 had divided giving us 5 Grade A embryos 3 perfect ones with no fragmentation, 4 B grades with level 2/3 fragmentation, and 2 Cs. Overall I could not be happier that we got at least 3 perfect quality embryos and we have decided to transfer 2 back.

We had already decided that unless we had 6 recommended for biopsy and genetic testing that we would take our chances and go ahead and do the 3 day with the best of the lot. The longer you wait the chance of having fragmentation and loosing quality increases, but the trade off is you are better able to put back the best of the lot genetically.

Of course life never works out on the 3x5 cards you plan and the embryologist commented that she could wait until 10 am when the slide deadline was due to the lab out of state and hope the 4 Bs would "grow just one more cell" making it worth the delay in transfer and our 6 grand for the procedure. Really and truly it could not have come down more to the wire.

We talked to her, talked to each other, in an uncharacteristic move suggested by Bill prayed to God that we had made the right call as the end result that is more important is a healthy baby.

I long that we made the right call based on the information at the time and my lack of sleep last night. In typical style I had to pull out one final cleaning this morning and mowing the grass yesterday to give me some sense of control over the uncontrolable.

I am doing acupuncture both before and after and then coming home to literally do nothing (other than get Ben in the bed as I really want Bill to keep a standing decision to go to the post-op group at the hospital tonight). Bring on a pbj and Cars and lazy mother of the year award tonight!

Thanks for everyones good thoughts and support both in person and online. You cannot imagine how much we appreciate it and hope that karma will repay you.

Bill and Heather

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Vinson 12-Pack Posse

Good News, Good News, Good News

24 eggs retrieved yesterday, 17 large enough to do ISCI on, 12 fertilized as of this morning. The head embryologist thinks we have great odds to making it to a Day 5 blasophere transfer allowing us to do PDG!

So let those jokes about our upcoming reality shows or that we are going to put the Duggar family to shame keep on rolling in. I could not be more encouraged and hopeful.

I feel much better than yesterday where I spent most of the day with Nurse Ben and Bill and a grateful prescription of Vicodin.

Today I felt good enough to take Ben to the puppet show at the community center and get in a yoga class. Wish I had been high on Vicodin for the puppet show though, as it was a true testament of nerves to listen to a room of crying, whining children and 2 overzealous hosts who sounded like Paula Deen minus the benefit of pie.

At this point we will know on Thursday the state of our 12 little embies about 6am with a call from the lab to either proceed as planned with transfer on Saturday or go ahead and put back the best of the best on Thursday.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Make that no automobiles but lots of walking all week in Boston. I flew home last night as our IVF cycle quickly took off after meds adjustment mid week. I was seen this morning in clinic and my doctor was utterly amazed at the 25+ eggs most close to maturity. I have a 10,000 unit(not a mistype) shot of hcg that Bill has to give me tonight. Retrieval is 10:30 Monday and should things go well during the week, transfer will be next Saturday.

On the Bill post surgery front he is down almost 25 lbs!!! I could tell a major difference when I picked me up last night.

So home with highlights and pics of a chance in a lifetime week at Harvard.

We stayed in Harvard Square (which is like Franklin Street/UNC-Chapel Hill's campus on crack). A group of us had dinner every night outside and enjoyed beautiful sunny weather. Most of our dinners contained free street entertainment. The best of these was yesterday on train when two guys got on my train break dancing with a 1980's ghetto blaster. I'm telling you I was impressed at a triple flip to the point of applause.

Thursday I took a solo trip down to JFK Presidential Libray after finishing early on a mondo research project. I held my own with a project on the birth control debate pre/post Griswold v. Connecticut (1965). Of course I made it over the the Kennedy School of Government with a shirt to commemorate.

I met some really amazing teachers from across the country that shared a diverse social, racial, and sexual orientation. It was incredible to come together for a common purpose, each of us with a passion for some aspect from the women's rights movement.

On the first night my roommate Liz (who teaches in Vermont) met another Liz (teacher in Chicago Public Schools) and her roommate Felice (teacher at an all girls school in Harlem). We did alot together during the week. We had so many conversations about having the same struggles as well same successes with our kids. It was nice to talk shop as fellow teachers who get you in a way no one else does.

I was utterly amazed and the breadth of experience and teachers who were actually active in Second Wave feminist activities in the 60's/70s. This was old school at it's best and to hear about it first hand only added to the week.

Glad to be home given how badly I felt most of the week, but I am so, so happy for the opportunity to be a student as well as participant in history twice this year. My Obama shirt was worn among friends this week!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My reward was $9.00 in candy

I have bailed from my 2nd morning lecture as I feel really bad from IVF meds. Didn't get the best of all news this morning, so I look for meds to be increased once my dr calls with results. Major time delay having all the scans and bloodwork here and then being sent to Raleigh. Send good thoughts!

Boston is awesome and frankly the diversion I needed this week. I finally settled on a research topic and have first deadline today. Given the recent decision by the 5th Circuit Court of appeals upholding making Plan B available over religious objections, I decided to go with research tying the widespread use of the Pill to other types of bc available post Griswold v Conn.

The library we are working out of has amazing primary source materials. Literally, all of Betty Friedan's research notes and drafts of the Feminine Mystique were used in class yesterday. This is teacher-crack at it's best.

On the "what else have you done besides research" note I have eaten too much good food. The best falafel ever, noodles at Wagamamma last night, and going Legal Seafood tomorrow night after touring more of Boston. We toured a bunch of feminist sights yesterday, but several of us want to see some of the Revolutionary sites too.

I have already picked up gifts for Bill and Ben (a crab hat) and mistakenly read a sign for bulk candy as 1.95 not 11.95, so my take home prize is 9 bucks in chocolate pretzels.

I am so glad for this opportunity and especially to meet so many incredible teachers from across the country, each with a personal passion for women's rights. Take a wild guess what the most common first name is??? Hint, it's not my stripper/porn star name!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Hit Me With Your Best Shot!

I couldn't resist taking a Day 1 photo of all my meds, needles, instuctions, and IVF loot. It's a little sobering to think that for the next 107 days I will be taking daily injections, most of them with a 2 inch needle that goes in my hip. Fun!

For the next week I will be mixing 2 medications to take daily via one injection (that I can give myself). I am a little spooked by trying to remember all the instructions from clinic the other day, so Bill and technology to the rescue. I am posting pics and instructions to pull up in Boston at the end of this post for my use (or your curiousity).

Once I get home on Cycle Day 10 I will take another combination of injections followed by a egg retrival procedure and hopeful transfer of healthy embroys somewhere around the 24-27th of July. I will continue taking progesterone shots daily until the end of the first trimester/mid second semester should things go well and we hear the sweetest words ever... Ben's going to be a big brother! Ben totally enjoyed playing with my good luck charm, a Mr. T in your Pocket that plays 6 famous lines like, "I Pity the Fool". Yes, if you are wondering it too is going on this trip for my 3 visits to Mt. Auburn Hospital for follicle monitoring and bloodwork galore.

I don't plan on posting alot about doing the shots, how crappy I feel even tonight on shot 1, photos of brusing, or clinical results once I start seeing if the meds are working. Frankly as much as this the the ultimate tailgate party you really don't want to host, I know that most people just want to know did it work.

It's just a little too much into my privacy, if I have any left after all this. If you want an education about what IVF entails or the PGD process we are also doing, check either of the links.

We really apprecate all the support this week from Bill's surgery. He is super excited to be off of clear liquids by monday as as of this morning is down a total of 17 lbs since he made the decison for surgery. I also appreciate the emails, freezer food, and in general being a part of our lives right now.

Heather you can SO do this sister!
Step 1- Gather all materials (Follistem, Menapur, Q- cap, 27 gage needle, 22 gage needle, alcohol swab, sharps container). Turn off Wow Wow Wubzzy if at home like today or better yet, go to another child-free room!

Step 2- Draw up 300 mg of Follistem. Each Cartrage contains 3 doeses. Add needle LAST and keep protective sheath on until step 6.

Step 3- Take off 22 gage needle and replace with sterile Q-cap

Step 4- Draw up 1/2 cc of saline via Q-cap. Discard rest of saline.

Step 5- Mix Saline into Menapur via Q-cap.

Step 6- Press Follistem into the mixed Menapur and take off needle, repacackage the pen for tomorrow. Remember to refridgerate!!!!

Step 7- Ready to GO!!!

1 Down and Keeping my Eyes on the Prize!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Prerequisite Scooby Doo Shirt Required!

Since Bill is obviously making progress I have the green light to fly out Sunday for a week-long teacher institute in Boston on Sunday. You might want to sit down, better yet lay down when I tell you it's at Harvard.

The real one with really smart people. And yes out of a nation of HS Social Studies teachers I was picked to attend. Quit laughing at the image of the person who used to play "Will it burn and can I steal this Bunsen burner from Chemistry class", sitting among real teachers for a week researching the origin of the Women's Rights Movement.

It's a toss up as to if at registration on Sunday they will force me into wearing a Scooby Doo shirt for the duration of the week to identify me as a product of the South Carolina educational system. Or maybe everyone will be encouraged to throw quarters at my feet while I talk in my redneck hick voice and repeat such beauties as, "git me sum porkrinds and a tall RC cola to goes with this there moonpie and chewing 'bacca"

I seriously think I am going to be out of my league and need to keep my mouth shut until I test the waters. I noticed that someone from our cohort of 30 is from Kentucky so either they will become my BFF for the week or I will compete for title of "no, really was someone smokin' crack when they got to your application"

For the past 6 years I applied to the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History that runs teacher-porn on such fun topics as "the Global Lincoln" and "America's Moral Crisis- Slavery in the 1850s". And every year I was rejected. I waited until the day before the deadline before deciding to apply AGAIN this year. I was hot off of being home from the inauguration so I figured write about that as well as my awesome semester with AP Government.

When I got the syllabus I literally think I wet myself in glee reading the guest lecturers and topics to research. I have WANTED to do the preseminar all the readings and annotations. But then I have a little secret, I love being a student and given the chance would get a second masters degree anyday given the chance.

My dream grad school that I have NO chance of ever getting into, the Kennedy School of Government is literally next door to the Schlesinger Library we are working out of for the week. I am at least going over to walk the halls and check out their library and try not to scream, TAKE ME, I promise you can have your pick of the Octuplets"

We are staying in Harvard Square in a hotel for the week and from researching the area it looks awesome. I've only been to Boston area once, on a mission trip to Wooster building houses in like 1990. Within walking distance of our hotel are 90 restaurants and 8 bookstores! Tons of nightlife to enjoy as a child-free adult!. Plus the program has been great to work with me to set up being seen in a local hospital for IVF related appointments while there.

Bill has predicted who will be drawn to a program like this and to that I say a Woman's place is in the House and also the Senate. I am mighty thankful for those before me who paved the way to give me opportunities not imaged even the year I was born.

Being given the chance to study a topic that is near and dear to me and frankly made IVF possible as a viable option in the area of reproductive rights, it's so worth wearing that Scooby Doo t-shirt all week need be.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Resilience- A Must Read of 2009

Bill update! Bill wrote a home from the hospital post that details how he is recovering. If you haven't checked out his blog before, visit and send him some good thoughts (and admire his pics of furry animals).

I have read quite a few books this summer, but Resilience by Elizabeth Edwards goes on the top 5 this year. It's the type of book that deserves to be passed on to a friend with you favorite passage marked. I really appreciate LauraC making this a part of a IVF basket for me. I have been waiting to read it when I knew it would mean the most. I think July, 2009 qualifies!

I remember seeing Elizabeth in person when the Edwards/Kerry ticket came to a Raleigh just days before the 2004 election. I had gone to the rally with some teacher friends as more than Kerry, I really liked Edwards as a NC Senator and now as a VP contender. His stance on healthcare and poverty are very much in line with my own views. His positive, upbeat nature was contagious and standing beside him was a women who in our local area is a celebrity in her own right. She looks like your best friend, the mom in your car pool, the lady who let's you use her reward card at the grocery. Basically she is a working mom like so many of us.

I now know from the book that at that same rally where Elizabeth was smiling and waving she had earlier in the day been at UNC hospital being tested for cancer. This makes me beyond sad to know that not only did John not know on that day, as she chose to be alone in her suspicion until after the election.

When I read her first book, Saving Graces, I was enamored of her strength and storytelling of her grief in losing her son. To bury a child must be among the most difficult tests mortal man is ever faced with and she does it with the grace of a true steel magnolia.

I read the entire book while waiting on Monday. First waiting with Bill and then waiting by myself in a series of places. I felt so completely alone sitting there, walking the halls, waiting to hear good news of successful surgery and not all the impossible what-if scenarios running through my head.

I have spent so much time waiting in hospitals in the past 10 years, mostly for my parents through surgies and sickness. Each time my brother or Bill was there to help me pass the time, make bad jokes, and remind me that all was going to be ok.

This hospital wait was different, I felt like more was on the line than ever. Having a child in the picture does change everything and as the night drug on I just wanted to as Edwards writes, "close my eyes and fall back on the pillow of all those who have loved you." I could not image how much my world would be destroyed if the news was not good, to hear of complications, or words too awful to even give voice.

Finally as the last person in my 3rd waiting area on the night, someone came to get me. Bill's surgeon was coming to see me. Relief, a prayer answered, and finally another person to share in this experience even for a few minutes.

I thought about how much strength Elizabeth Edwards has shown both in her private grief as well as public humiliation. What a model to emulate as best as I can muster as a supportive spouse and a mother to my son.

I though about who I wanted to pass this book on too. I wish I had passed it to my friend battling cancer last year, or another friend after a long year of contemplating doing another cycle of IVF, found out this week she is pregnant. While I did things for both at the time, I think this book would have been a source of comfort.

So after some thought it's going to someone I only know online that has recently been hit with the news of a long 6 month wait before TTC after miscarriage. I marked my favorite passage and included an inscription. I am passing it on in hopes that it will bring her much needed comfort and will pass it on to someone else in the midst of a storm.

Make this a book to read this year and then pass on.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bill Surgery Update

Sorry I can't think of a funnier title, I had thought of "gold metal hospital sitting" but since this is an update on Bill I thought I would focus on him. All is going well 24 hours out but it has been a really long day and night for all.

Yesterday the hospital called to say we needed to be there 2 hours earlier for a 2pm surgery. We scrambled got there only to wait in pre-op holding until they were literally cleaning the floors and at 5:30 moved us to the recovery holding area and FINALLY took Bill back. His surgeon came out to talk to me around 8:30 and said that all had gone well and that he expected no complications. After being booted to TWO more waiting areas they finally brought him to a room around 10 pm.

I stayed until just after midnight drove home and crashed. Like the clean freak Nazi I am, I had gotten up at 6 am to clean the house before taking Ben to school. Have I commented how much I miss my cleaning service!!! Luckily I have the whole house down to just over 2 hours.

Today I had an IVF appointment that ran over by an hour. My frustration is a post into itself, but all tests came back with a green light to FINALLY be starting. When I got to the hospital I found out that they had moved Bill into another patient room tower, so I had to go looking for patient information. Luckily they had moved the family pics and Ben artwork I put up before I left last night.

He spent most of today cycling between sleeping, being super nauseaed, trying to get up to walk the halls in the oh so lovely hospital gown, and in general feeling like he had been hit by a bus. Knowing how bad he felt I tried to make him comfortable as possible. I brought in my nausea bands that worked for me but to no avail.

When I came back with Ben around 6pm he was much better and was starting to taper of the morphine pump. His nausea was also getting better and he out of the bed. Note to self, do not take a 3 year old to the hospital. I should have know this was going to be a short visit based on the way he acted at the dr office for preop.

I had to wrestle a fake stomach used for patient education away from his mouth as he was using it as a horn. Ben could have cared less about seeing daddy only about slamming the get well balloon to the floor over and over followed by trying turn over Bill's IV poll. We abruptly left as Bill was getting frustrated and I frankly was at the end of my rope.

I just talked to Bill and he is working with his night nurse to try and make it on the pain meds he will go home on tomorrow. This is been a long past few days but he is recovering well and already down at least 10 lbs since his liquid diet on Sunday.

His surgeon's parting words to me last night were "I hear you are going to be Bill's biggest cheerleader in his recovery and that you make a mean protein shake". I was a little taken aback that Bill had even mentioned my surgery to him, but I will take that as one of the best complements ever given. I am so very proud of him for these first steps and what it to come.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Got Firetrucks? Got Trains? Got Fireworks? You Got my Weekend

Our 4th of July weekend was a *blast* Friday night we went out for Bill's last supper. We had planned to get a babysitter and see a movie, but note to self that finding a babysitter on a holiday weekend is harder than the Sanford/Palin 2012 ticket finding votes.

Ben and I made homemade pancakes for Bill Saturday morning before we headed out to firetruck "wetdown". Basically a local fire station was christening a new truck and in keeping with tradition they invited the community to come help wash the truck.

This had to be a 3 year olds fantasy as besides getting to wash the truck, the firemen let the kids shoot a hose, climb all over the trucks, wear fireman gear, eat hotdogs/popcorn, and they opened up a hydrant and the kids went nuts in the water!

Sat night I took Ben to the Regency Park Concert and Fireworks. I was a little nervous about taking him by myself, but we took a car over and parked near the exit. Bill dropped us off and I only took one bag in. I planned to only stay as long as he held up, and ditched the fireworks once he was scared. We wound up running into someone I know that also just had her daughter so we sat together and let the kids literally play in the dirt while we watched the concert.

Sunday, Bill slept in while Ben and I went to church and a BJs run. We headed over to the New Hill Train for 12:15 steam engine ride which Ben also loved. We even got an additional 30 mins on the train when it got stuck on the track. Ben seemed to love my story that it had gotten stuck in the mucky, muck and that Dora was going to come and push the train back to the station. Oh to be 3 and gullible!

Bill and I wrapped up the night watching our town fireworks display from our front porch. A great family weekend and just what the doctor ordered going into this week!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Finished for Friday- Insane in the Brain

I have tried to make this week about getting ready for the storm! From July 6th--August 6th my husband will have surgery, IVF cycle, I will fly to Boston for a conference, drive to Florida to see family, see if IVF results in a pregnancy. could say while I know we can "Do Hard" this is not going to be fun.

The major thing I got done this week was freeze ahead cooking to make the next 30 days a littler easier for my self. I wrote a rather lengthy post earlier in the week about how I set up cooking sessions and my tricks of the trade to optimize $$$ savings. Very proud of my 19 meals with more to come!

This week Ben has taken swim lessons at a local parks/rec pool. He has LOVED them and we will definitely be doing this again next year. The added benefit of doing the lessons at a pool with a spray park has meant he has been super exhausted for longer naps!

I have made exercise a priority and have been 4 times this week including a class. Wish I could say that I have been eating all of Bill's fav foods as he says good bye to them, but I have :-( NOT the way I wanted to celebrate my own surgery anniversary date, but I know once he is on his liquid diet, I will not have it in the house.

Bill and I also got a major insurance filing completed and all 44 pages of claims and receipts faxed to his insurance co. We loose our coverage tomorrow and will be picking up COBRA :-( until he has a new job. Thankful for the option but with an extra 1,300 coming out of a stretched budget we met yesterday with the investment company we use to strategize and possibly refinance our house.

Fun plans for the weekend. We are going out for Bill's "last supper" at a favorite place, local Fire Truck Wash, local concert/picnic/fireworks, ride on the New Hope Valley Railway on Sunday, and finally our hometown 4th of July events including MORE fireworks on Sunday.

Literally we are heading into this crazy month with a BANG! hahahahah

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Got 25 lbs of Ground Beef? I'll Be Right Over!

This post should be called "insert your meat of choice here" O-rama as it works with so many meat/vegetarian meals. Keep reading if you decide that freeze ahead cooking might work for your family or you just can't resist asking what a Ground Beef O-rama entails.

Every since I can remember my mom and I would engage in extreme cooking pre Food Network. We would buy 25 lbs of ground beef when it on a super sale and then cook for a straight week usually on the hottest week of the summer. Meatloaf, Chili Pie, Spaghetti Sauce, even something my dad demanded we make from his days on base in Vietnam called "Sh*t on a Shingle" were prepped in an assembly line fashion.

At the end of the week we would have a filled freezer for busy school nights. Since I was the major cook nightly from about 4th grade on for my family as my mom worked a 2nd job teaching piano and my dad worked alot of overtime, these freezer meals proved to be invaluable. I have recreated the same insanity of freeze ahead cooking every summer for myself on a much smaller scale.

Last summer taking my idea as well as a plan a friend in Wilmington does as a meal exchange I proposed some similar to other mom friends. What worked for a couple of months went by the wayside for many reasons. Personally I need smaller portions that what most freeze ahead meals make.

Plus doing a swap with too many people was hard to coordinate. A friend who also teaches talked about trying to keep it going and we have had several cooking sessions throughout the past year. So far as of today I have put back 19 meals into my freezer this summer. Some will go on to my mom to help on days she had dialysis. Since I live out of state this is one of the ways I can help with her care.

When I posted last Friday that I was doing this I had a couple of people wonder how I set it up. Here's my guidelines and what I use to save optimal money.

1. Invest in a Freeze Ahead Cookbook. I love my Super Suppers book and have recently been introduced to Cooks Illustrated! Warning, not everything you love freezes well.

2. Plan only 4-5 things at a time to cook. Elizabeth and I recently did all chicken dishes and doing only one meat at a time helped speed things up. If you can and the recipe allows for cooked meat, use your crockpot to help cut down on prep/cook time.

3. Shop for meat on sale or marked down. Once you get it home, if you are not going to immediately use it, take it out of the store wrapping and put in freezer bags. I will often go ahead and portion it out into smaller bags.

4. Buy cheap disposable pans (Dollar Tree) or as my friend did, buy several heavy duty, reusable pans (13x9, 8 x8). Grab your sharpie to label and always use freezer bags and heavy duty foil to prevent freezer burn.

5. Sit down and go through all recipes and make your grocery list. We often try to pick dishes that we will not have to buy additional spices to make. And we also try to use up canned goods/staples already on hand.

6. Arrange for someone else (husbands, babysitter) to watch the kids.

7. Pick a time that you can finish all the dishes. We typically assemble and prep for no more than 2 hours as session.

8. Label all finished dishes with cooking directions so you don't have to play peek a boo (obviously this has happened).

9. Trade houses for where you cook as someones kitchen is gonna get messy. If I am heading to my friend's house I will try and remember to bring something chocolate to enjoy once we are finished.

10. Set a cooking session price guideline. We typically shoot for $5-7 a meal to feed a family of 4. We trade off buying meat. Last session we had Buy 2, Get 3 Free bags of Skinless chicken and we both walked away with 5 dishes each. That was a SUPER bargain likely not to be repeated again, but with planning you can make family favorites for less than assembling from scratch.

11. For all you type A people like ME! Make a freezer chart using a dry erase maker to keep up with what you have and amounts.

I goal by summer end is 40 meals, 10 of which are going to my mom. Most I will likely consume as Bill recovers from surgery to minimize cooking smells in the house. As I head back to school I typically will defrost 1-2 meals a week and with a quick salad or side it's more than enough for dinner and lunch the next day.

BTW for all you Econ nerds out there (all 3 of you), when I tell my kids about my ground beef o rama they NEVER miss a test question on the theory of economy of scale!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Tommy Chong Called and He Wants His Shirt Back!

Our local arts council set up a tie dye booth last sat at our local farmers market. Check out our super cool summer shirts. Ben and I wore them today to his 3 year dr and dentist check up as well to his swim lesson. I packed WAY too much into this day and miraculously he was a trooper. Even the dentist asked what I had promised him!

Everywhere we went today we got comments about our shirts. I took pride that Ben loved his "paint shirt" and refused to take it off at the pool so he took his swim lesson in the shirt today.

We started a week of lessons with the Raleigh Parks and Rec at a local pool that also has a spray park. Ben has LOVED lessons and after hating the beach I am happy that summer fun is not a total loss.

Today we stayed extra late to play longer in the spray park. Ben immediately found any age child and played along. It makes me really happy to see how much he is a social people person and is at ease making friends. I know this is common of this age, but it makes me smile as he transitions to a new school this fall I know he will make new friends quickly.

Next week he is trying out his new preschool with another little boy who I know his mom from bunco. The theme is "water week" and in the plans are water balloon racing and washing the school bus. Ben is SO going to be in heaven!