During the year Josiah was on formula - we had the displeasure of having to go with a special formula.  So special, that stores felt $26.00 for a 12.6oz can (or 2ish day supply) was reasonable.  That came to roughly $390/month for formula alone.  To save some money, I used coupons, became well-acquainted with trusted sellers on ebay, and hesitantly searched craigslist for a discounted purchase.  ANY discount!  $25 a can you say?  Sold!

But let's not forget diapers and wipes and baby jar food and age-appropriate toys and clothes and shoes and books and more!  Heaven forbid they wind up in the hospital at 2 months old with a golfball-sized knot on their neck for no apparent reason - bring on the bills!  Before I knew it - I joined the parenting chorus and chanted (LOUDLY) "Babies are so dadgum expensive!"

So imagine my surprise when we got through Josiah's first year with hospital bills paid, OUR bills paid, some extra debt paid off, and a new car.  How did that happen?!?

And this is what I discovered.

Babies are not expensive.  I am expensive.  And I certainly don't want to give up my fun money to pay for silly things like basic needs for my what now?!  I mean - I can eat one nice dinner out with my husband OR I can pay the same price for 142 diapers, 504 wipes, 2 week's worth of baby food, and 5 outfits from Goodwill.  Helllooooo....this woman needs some cheesecake, people!  I am not a cheap date!

So while I get zero pleasure from filling my grocery cart with smashed peas and teething tablets and yet a bigger sized kid's only because I want to reach the Gold star level at Starbucks.  Because - let's face it - drinking a cup of Starbuck's coffee is way more enjoyable than changing diapers.

But I will choose the latter.  I may still cringe when I see the final total on the register at checkout - but I'll remind myself that my long-term pleasure at watching my child grow and develop is way more important than attempting to recall the taste of overpriced salmon and mashed potatoes.
*This is a compilation of all the advice I have been given about breastfeeding over the past year from a number of sources.  This is not an ACTUAL guide to successful breastfeeding...

Prepare your nipples for breastfeeding. Rubbing a wash cloth over your nipples or pulling on them prior to going into labor will help the adjustment to breastfeeding. Nothing will help prepare you for nursing your baby for the first time. It will hurt when your baby latches properly. You will need to have ointment to keep your nipples from cracking or bleeding within the first few weeks of nursing. If your baby is latched properly, there will be no pain. Bleeding and cracked nipples obviously implies poor latching.

Nurse every 2-3 hours no matter what. You need to keep your supply up. Your baby will increase your supply based on their feeding needs. Make sure your baby nurses on each side during each feeding. It's okay of they don't. Allow them to empty one side completely during a feeding and then nurse them from the opposite side at the next feeding. Do not nurse your baby for more than 30 minutes at a time, as they will burn more calories than they are taking in after that point. Allow your baby to nurse as long as they want. Prolonged nursing increases milk supply. Don't watch the clock - not every baby is the same. Letting them use nursing as a pacifier to fall asleep creates bad habits. Allowing a baby to fall asleep while nursing is good for increasing milk supply.

If you feel engorged after nursing, pump to relieve the pressure. Pumping after your baby nurses tricks your body into thinking you have twins. Don't do it. Pumping is good for storing extra milk so your husband can help feed the baby via bottle. Don't use a bottle to feed the baby. The baby will have nipple confusion. Pumping is inefficient. Make sure your pump has properly sized flanges. Even if your pump has proper sized flanges, it may not work. Be sure to have a pump on hand to help maintain milk supply when your baby starts sleeping through the night. Your baby should not sleep through the night. You should wake your baby every 2-4 hours to nurse him/her.

You must eat healthy while breastfeeding.  Only organic food must be consumed.  Eat whatever you want. The fattier the food, the fattier the milk. You should take in extra calories while nursing. There is absolutely no need to eat more than you did before you got pregnant. You should only drink water. Drinking caffeine doesn't affect the baby.  Drinking alcohol does. It is okay to drink alcohol while breastfeeding. Your supply will decrease if you drink anything other than water.

Be sure to carry a nursing cover with you for when you need to nurse in public. Don't nurse in public. Ever. It's completely inappropriate. And natural. So don't worry what other people think. Stay covered up always and don't make eye contact while doing so.
I admit it.  I was one of those kids who griped, complained, moaned, and made the task of thanking someone, in the form of a handwritten letter, take 4 times as long as was necessary.  I often considered just sending back the gift instead.  But - alas - my parents were the kind who liked to torture their children after every fun-filled birthday and magical Christmas with the borderline abusive job of writing thank you cards.  It was downright impossible figuring out what to say when I DID like the gift....but if there was any chance I wasn't completely giddy with excitement over what I had been given - I'd rather have been grounded for a month than try to form words that communicated a sincerity I didn't feel as an 8-year old.  Oh the joy I would feel on those rare occasions where mom either forgot to, or decided to forego, the sitting us down at the kitchen table and completing not one....not two....but at least FOUR sentences of gratitude on a piece of paper.  Utter bliss!

It has taken me almost a ripe 30 years to appreciate this (don't tell her, though!).  Not to say I haven't continued to send out thank-you notes since leaving my parents' house - but perhaps not as consistently as I could have.  I certainly made a huge effort around the time of my wedding and feel as though I was able to get out thank you notes to 85% of those people who gave us gifts (I'm afraid I might have slacked off after getting back from the honeymoon and going through the last few items).

All of this to say...over the past 10 months alone....I have spent well over $400 in gifts for weddings, baby showers, graduation, and birthday parties of friends and family.  And out of these 15 events I can recall, I only remember receiving 1 thank you card.  One.  And it blows my mind!  What happened to the art of sending thank-you cards?  Why have someone make a list of the items you receive at a baby/wedding/graduation  party/shower if you don't do anything with it afterwards? 

I still struggle with knowing what to say in the cards.  I still don't always care for the gift given - but I now see the huge importance of sending one.  I have absolutely no idea what that one thank you card said that I received.  And I'm sure I ended up throwing it away that night!  But I DO remember who sent it and have a big appreciation and respect for the time they took to write it.  Chris looked at me like I was crazy when I ran to Target for some carpet shampoo and came back with a bag full of thank-you cards about a month ago.   I had to explain to him I was already behind in thanking 3 people!  It's more important to me now, than ever before, to let people know that their time, thoughts, and money are more appreciated than they realize! 

Poor Josiah - I'm going to make him go through the same horrible task of sitting at the kitchen table and writing not one....not two...but at least FOUR sentences of gratitude to every person who has given him gifts... :)
We got to see a baby being born. Front row seats. With encouragement from the doctor to help deliver it.

" thank you. I work at a desk. Behind a computer. Far, far away from any gynecologist's office. In fact, I've only been to the gynecologist twice in my life. I really don't know how this works. What's about to happen again?"

I pushed my husband in front of me, so the doctor would focus on him. Should we at least ask the mother her name? Maybe shake her hand before we stand at the opposite end of her bed? Oh how this would never happen in America...

According to the doctor, she was in full, active labor. We were encouraged to take a look at the baby's head, as it began to crown. But the mother wasn't screaming or grunting - no way she was in labor! Nobody was encouraging her, holding her hand, telling her to push. We weren't quite sure how long this was going to take. Before I could contemplate whether or not I wanted to miss dinner to witness this event - the baby was full out on the table, before anyone was prepared to catch it. I jumped back faster than I think I ever have. The image of a baby shooting out like a bullet with one push was more than I was prepared for! I hear my husband say "That was awesome!" and about lose my lunch in a nearby basket.

I gather myself in the next curtained area, my eyes wide with surprise at my husband's reaction. He is so excited! .....that is sooooo not right. Didn't he see where that baby came out? Doesn't he know how horrifying that looks to me? We should really talk about adoption more...

I stuck around to see the new life brought into this world. A teammate of mine got to weigh, clean, dress, and cut the umbilical cord off the new baby boy. Once he was all bundled up, we got to hold him. And that kind of made up for the visual that is now permanently scarred in my brain.

Oh Eve - I hope that was one juicy piece of fruit....
I have an amazing husband. The man who I couldn't get to hang around the church building 5 minutes after service ended to talk to anyone 4 years ago - made deeper relationships with the people in Zimbabwe that I could have ever imagined. I wanted to see as many different places as I could, meet as many people as possible, and look at the faces of every child around. My senses were in overdrive, my level of discomfort and uncertainty was at an all-time high, and the inability to predict what was going to happen next got my adrenaline pumping.

My husband, however, was more focused on getting to know our head cook. He spent days and nights talking to the kitchen staff, helping them prepare our meals, and planning hikes at 5am each morning. He bypassed the opportunity to visit different villages during the week - so he could spend more time getting to know the people who served us every day. He learned several words in Shona so that he could greet them in their native language. I don't recall even asking them their names.

I know a part of that was due to my uncertainty of a woman's place in Zimbabwe. I was extremely cautious of the cultural boundaries, and didn't want to offend anyone in my carelessness. I kept to my American group, and kept my social tendencies to them. But I was so proud of my husband. He got openly made fun of by the local school kids for his country accent and good boy ways. I watched from a distance, ready to jump to his defense. He didn't seem to notice. Or he just didn't care. He continued to sit with them and ask questions - trying to find common ground to talk about. I would have been long gone by that point. My level of discomfort would have shot through the roof at a schoolyard of kids laughing at me. But they always came around. He would push through the language barrier and chorus of laughter and focus in on the one individual who seemed sincere. The battle against my tears stemmed from wanting to protect him - to wishing I was more like him.

Don't get me wrong - I talked and made friends with some of the natives. I think I'm the only one in our group who still emails someone back in Zimbabwe. But my heart at the time was more focused on taking in as much as possible - rather than leaving as much of me as possible behind. I look forward to getting another chance to take after my husband's example.
Wow - if I knew writing about extroverts would increase my blog hits by 350% - I wouldn't have spent so much time writing about the boring things - like my travel experience and life!

I'm not quite sure how so many people are coming across my extrovert blog - but let me assure you that it was not written with the intent of being taken seriously. As you may notice - I have a whopping 16 followers - only 1 of which I don't know personally. I don't write for the public - (though if I could get paid to sit at home and unintentionally offend people I don't know simply by joking around, I totally would). It was written as an inside joke for my immediate family and close circle of friends (and was well-received, I might add). There was obviously no research or science that went into those 10 lines of extemporaneous comedy.

So to those who find me rude and insensitive, I deeply apologize.

I'm only rude sometimes. And never at the same time I'm insensitive.

Never would I deliberately make a stranger the target of my satirical rant!
I'm trying so desperately to put my experiences in Zimbabwe into words for you. I have draft posts just sitting there, waiting for me to hit the publish button. Why can't I just spit it out? Why can't I just share with you all the things we experienced over there?

I'm so frustrated. I write, I delete. I write some more....I delete again. It's not coming out like I want it to! I feel as though I'm communicating dissatisfaction, complaint....even disgust....when all I want is to verbalize the reality of their situation. There were so many beautiful moments - that when isolated from the unfavorable circumstances - aren't quite as beautiful. It's something I want so badly to be able to express eloquently and with all the emotions that I felt with each day - but feel as though I'm falling short. I want to get it just right...