Sometime in the next couple weeks, Scattered Seashells will be moving to WordPress.

What does this mean to you?

The link will remain the same, but if you're following via GFC, you'll need to find a new way to follow - Facebook, Twitter, Email, BlogLovin', or any other way.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Friday Featured Blogger - It Started with a Bump

Friday Featured Blogger - on a Thursday! So far it's the only day this will be bumped. Tomorrow is my anniversary, so there will be a post for that instead. Yay!

Anyway, today we have Kristen from It Started with a Bump - the bumpy road of a surrogate. I've known Kristen for some time now and it's wonderful to read her responses. I hope you enjoy!!

First, tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you?

I’m Kristen and I’m 23 years old. I currently work full-time and going back to school for my degree. I’m also the future gestational surrogate for my cousin and my blog is of my journey.
Tell us about your spouse.

L, my husband, is also 23. We have been together almost five years, married almost three. He is active duty in the US Air Force and we will be going through our first real deployment sometime this year.
Tell us about your family (kids, pets, sisters, brothers, whoever)

We have one son, who turns two on July 20th and a furbaby who turns five August 6th.
Where are you from?

I am from Mooresville, NC; Race City USA. It is where many race teams are located and where most of the NASCAR drivers call home.

Where do you live now? Do you like it there?

We are currently stationed at Shaw AFB in Sumter, SC.  We were relocated here from RAF Mildenhall in England due to my FIL having terminal cancer. We enjoy being in Sumter not only because we’re close to home, but because we love being in the south.

What about your home away from home – your blog? Tell us a bit about your blogging journey so far.

I’ve always enjoyed writing but never had a goal, mission or view that was different than many other military blogs. When I decided to go through this journey I knew what I wanted to document every moment, every emotion and every challenge. I just started documenting in Mid February but things will start taking off more now that we are having more and more appointments. 

Have you been through a deployment? Do you have any advice for those
who are or will be?

We have never been through a true deployment. He is guaranteed for a deployment anytime in the next 6-9 months that will last 4-7 months long. Sadly it will be during my surrogacy journey however I am thankful he was home during our son’s birth.

How do you like being a military spouse?

I really enjoy the opportunities I have received as a military spouse. There are downsides at times however the good times make it worthwhile.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

In five years I am hoping to be a momma of two, being a stay at home mom, completed or close to completing my bachelor’s degree in Business Management and hopefully Robert William Foundation will be nationally known.

What’s your favorite food?

Chick-fil-a! Oh it’s so yummy and I could eat it any day of the week!
Tell us a fun fact!

Yes, this is very odd! HOWEVER, I cannot smell skunks! I remember it plain as day and I was maybe 4 or 5.  We were driving to take my older sister (ten years older) to a racetrack to see her boyfriend. They started complaining and whining because the car in front of us hit a skunk and we ran over it! They didn’t understand why I wasn’t fussing as well. When he asked I said, “Oh, I have a runny nose.” Later we found out that one in every couple million just cannot smell them! It’s a freak of nature thing, which I guess makes me a freak!

If you’re interested in participating and seeing your blog featured, please send me an email or leave a comment – but make sure your reply-to email is set! I will send you the questionaire and you could be featured too!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Baby Jewelry?

I've gotten a lot of questions about the jewelry that Penny has been wearing for the last couple months and I thought I'd finally clear the air!

Penny wears an Amber Teething Necklace. I first heard about it awhile ago and then forgot until a friend suggested it as a possible remedy for all her teething pain. I thought that it couldn't hurt, right? I started reading reviews on Amazon and was sold!
I got mine from the Amazon seller The Art of Cure. We actually ended up with two because I thought I had messed up the first one. In any case, here's their description of what an amber teething necklace is:

A Baltic amber teething necklace is made for wearing (not chewing) when a baby is teething. This can be worn alone or paired with a Baltic Amber Teething bracelet. The warmth from the skin releases the active ingredient in the Baltic amber, succinic acid. Recent scientific research has proved that succinic acid has a very positive influence on the human body. It improves immunity and the balance of acids when absorbed into the bloodstream; it stimulates the thyroid glands to help reduce drooling and soothes red inflamed cheeks. Amber's anti-inflammatory and therapeutic properties are recognized by allopathic medicine as a natural analgesic, which will help to relieve teething pain and calm a baby without resorting to drugs. The skin's warmth releases healing oils from the amber, a resin, which is absorbed into the bloodstream.

Hippie stuff again ;). But I swear, it works. Not too long after she started wearing it I noticed she drooled much less and seemed happier overall. It has helped us through the worse teething times, for sure.

Now why does she wear it as a bracelet and not a necklace? Convenience and safety. Safety because we don't want her to fall asleep wear it around her neck and possibly strangle herself. Convenience because I don't feel like taking it off her neck for every nap and also because it's fairly easy to slip on her arm.

So there you have it, the amber teething necklace. It is jewelry, but it's practical! 

(And as I write this, she isn't even wearing it! I've been bad the last few days. I better put it back on tomorrow!)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Georgia & the News

Ok, I thought I'd let you know how my little trip to visit Christina in Georgia went! 

She lives all the way on the other side of Georgia, so Penny, Dexy and I packed up and headed out last Monday morning. It was a good six and a half hour drive and we made awesome time. I only had to stop twice! Once to feed baby and another to change a super poopy diaper. Yeah, she has a habit of pooping all over herself on road trips... so my Pudgers spent the last couple hours in a diaper.
 I stayed Tuesday through Thursday and left on Friday. We did a whole lot of nothing and that was fine. It's much more fun to do nothing when you have someone to do it with. We chatted, played with the kids, and watched some TV. We also went shopping at Costco, Target and Old Navy. After the kids went to bed we stayed up and watched Chopped and other shows. It was nice.

Penny slept... well, she slept. We had some rough times but I decided enough was enough and we're doing a modified cry-it-out so she can learn to fall asleep on her own. It's actually working really well!

Here's some cute photos! Penny reading with Marcus (oh goodness these kids got so big) and Dominic became obsessed with the Bumbo and insisted on sitting in it most of the time (wasn't he just born?!)
They had some kids sized plastic lawn chairs and Penny fit right in. Isn't she just so cute? And then Penny chewing on cheese at the commissary. She will chew on anything nowadays.
 Come Friday, it was back home! Dexter sat in the front seat with a towel on the dashboard to catch his drool and a water bowl by his feet. He didn't sit or lie down the entire time. I had an awesome time on the drive too. It was all back country roads through farm country and beautiful old towns. I'm really really loving the South these days. Soooo pretty! The time really flies by with all this stuff to look at each mile as opposed to driving through Colorado or the midwest (sorry!).

I did get stuck behind a couple tractors and combines though... oh well!
Anyway, it was a great trip, and now Brandon will be home on Sunday! I'm glad she invited me out! Thanks Christina!

Now here's the news...

My sister Jennifer got engaged last week!!

She's been holding out on us, being the oldest sister and not being married yet, but her boyfriend proposed to her on their trip to California and of course, she said yes. We're a big wedding family. We love them!

Now that she's getting married I am soooooooo excited. Not just for the wedding itself, because that's cool, but to see my family. Family reunion! The earliest would be January, but we're looking at probably March, so I have to wait a whole ten months to see everyone. I'll be on the edge of my seat until then. I'll get to see my mom, my dad, my sister Jenny, Shannon and her kids, and Jessica and baby Avelyn. Plus all the other extended family. Wow! I have to find somewhere to stay now... maybe my dad's?

Maybe Penny will be a flower girl? ;) By March she'll be 15 months old! I can't even imagine. It's going to be so fun. Too bad Brandon won't be able to go because of flight school!

Other news that I haven't mentioned yet, but my sister Shannon is pregnant again! She's due right around when I was due with Penny. Another December baby. It'll be so

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day (Links)

I can't say more today than what others have been saying, so here are some links to posts I've found throughout the weekend and day. I hope you had a wonderful weekend and spent some time reflecting on Memorial Day!

My Memorial Day post from last year
Optimistic Army Wife - Memorial Day & Always Remember
A boy, a girl, and the Marine Corps - Gratitude
Mrs. K and Captain J - Memorial Days Past
Riding the Roller Coaster - Memorial Day 2012
The Harmon Squad - Thank You Veterans
Rachelle Gardner - Memorial Day
Mick & Mack - Remember...
Head in the Game. Heart in the Sand. - Memorial Day
Cake Wrecks (for fun!) - Happy St. Memerial's Day
My Sometimes Crazy Life - Memorial Day and a Birthday
Chamabanachik - In Memory
Max & Kaylee - Happy Memorial Day
After Blast Warrior Wife - It's a bit more personal
Me and My Soldierman - Memorial Day
Our Family of Four - Memorial Day
My Marine and Me - Memorial Day 2012
Forget the Dog, Not the Baby - There are no words
The few, the proud, the wife - Memorial Day
Witty Little Secret - Grace Contemplation

If you don't see your blog post here, let me know! I can add it to the list!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Busy Bee!

I was worried when Brandon left that time would slow down. It seems to do that when they're gone for some reason! But I've never had him leave when I had a baby around. Oh boy, is that a big change.

The first week FLEW BY. Every day was something new. I had to go grocery shopping, then out to Petsmart, and Target, and then into town to pick up something else. I had post office runs, Lowe's deliveries, and socializing with friends. I had to wash and vacuum the car, and check the oil. I had blogs to read and blogs to write. In between all this, Penny is taking naps, and I have to eat, and Dexter needs to be walked, and gardens need to be watered, and so on...

Busy busy busy. Before I knew it, it was Friday, and he had been gone for five days. Where had the time gone? I felt kind of bad because I wasn't pining over him like I have before. Either I'm just used to this or I'm too busy to worry about missing him. I made sure to tell him goodnight every night and say that I loved him. You know, send the good vibes out there so maybe he can catch them when he closes his eyes for the night.

And no, I don't ever want to do this single parenting if I have a choice. 'Til death do us part, Brandon, and you better believe it!

I'm actually writing this blog early because as you're reading this, I'm on my way BACK from Georgia. Sneaky, sneaky me. I drove out to Augusta, Georgia, on Monday to visit my friend Christina. Remember her? She was my deployment buddy who moved back in September. She invited me out and I took the invitation. It's only a six hour drive :P. I got to spend some time with her two boys who are way too old now, and they got to meet my little baby!

Once I'm back, I have another week and a couple days until Brandon gets home. I'm excited that I've been able to keep busy and let the time go by quick. It'll be great to have him back! Well, except for the messy house and stinky boy laundry that comes with it ;)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

C-Section Pain

Here we are, over five months since Penny was born by cesarean. I last wrote about it when she was three weeks old. Back then I was still healing up. I could move, but it still hurt sometimes. I couldn't touch the scar area, it just bothered me. It didn't hurt to breathe.

Physically, I feel great. About a month ago I was getting these pinchy pains but I think that was some of the nerves coming back. The scar is all healed up and I will actually touch it, though I don't like to normally. I don't like Brandon touching it either. I can work out without any issues and I can move easily. Almost like nothing happened.

Mentally, I feel a little off still.

I understand why I had to get the c-section. If we were put in the exact same situation, we would probably go the same route. If you weren't around for that drama, here's the quick run down: Penny was breech at 39 weeks, they said we should schedule a c-section, we said no because we wanted to try and turn her, we did everything but an external version, I went into labor a week and a day later, c-section.

I'm not exactly disappointed in that because that was our plan. We tried to turn her, oh yes we did, and in the end I went into labor and that was that. There was no doctor or midwife that would deliver a breech baby and I'm sort of glad of that. The way she was positioned, with one foot down, was just dangerous. Doable, but dangerous. And she had a cord around her neck when they pulled her out (perhaps that's why she didn't turn?).

In the end, I was choosing the c-section. I had to decide at what point what I doing things for my benefit and not hers?

I'm still angry about it. I hate seeing this damn scar in the mirror and knowing that it will be there forever. Yeah, it'll fade, but it'll be there. A constant reminder of the birth that didn't go my way. I wish I could be like some women I read about who didn't care that they got a c-section because that's the way they were meant to give birth and they're grateful for their healthy baby. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for Penny. Like I said, I'd do it again if I had to. But I don't want to.

I'm still an advocate for natural birth but I feel weird telling people my thoughts when in the end I went the complete opposite route. I will still tell anyone who is considering a c-section to look at other options first. I can't believe how people can choose this if they don't have to. It just boggles my mind!

I'm learning to deal with the pain. I hope to do a VBAC with the next baby but I'm nervous about it. I guess I don't have to worry about that now, though, right?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Live Your Life

I love bringing Penny around. We get stopped a lot so she can get fawned over. Oh, what beautiful big eyes! Look at that hair! She looks like a doll! I love the attention and I'm sure Penny does too. She smiles for the crowds with that cute silly grin of hers, showing off her double chin and toothless gums. She's just so darn cute.

But nearly as often as I hear about how cute she is, I hear about how I should enjoy her when she's little. How the time flies so quickly and suddenly she'll be in college and I won't know what happened. Enjoy this time with them, they say. The ladies reminisce about the time when their children were this small and how sweet it was. How they want to go back.

It reminds me all too well of this article.

I don't really fall into the trap of wishing for the past. The past is gone, I enjoyed it, and yes, there are some things I wish I could change but I can't go back. I have a problem of looking to the future, of waiting for that next step, excited for the next adventure. I forget to live now.

I am so freaking lucky to be able to watch this baby grow up. So lucky. She is only five months old and it already feels like she's been here for a whole lifetime. But right now, I am not yearning for the past. The only thing I wish I could go back and experience is Penny sleeping so easily! Not much else, not yet. I had my newborn time, and that first month, and the second, and so on.

I just want to keep reminding myself to not focus on the future, even though I'm excited for everything that we get to do. I shouldn't focus on the past either and when I feel myself slipping into that, I have to look at Penny and live in the present. I am lucky to be able to watch her grow. I love seeing her learn new things and become her own person.

Ok, yeah, I'm a bit excited for the future!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Debt Free (Part Two) - Monthly Budgeting

Disclaimer: I was not paid or even asked to tout Dave Ramsey's info. We're just DR fanatics and I love sharing the knowledge!

Here we are, Part Two of my Debt Free series - Monthly Budgeting. This is where you'll have a view of your money every month. He explains this further in the book The Total Money Makeover but I wanted to let you know how we do it each month at the beginning of the month.

Here's a little photo of our budgeting sheet. It's obviously edited but you don't need to see the numbers to know how it works. I'll explain things as we go!

First, we list what we made that month. Or rather, what we made the month before considering that's the money we can now spend. This is in the first section by the black arrow. Here we have categories for income: Brandon, Chantal, gifts/rewards, tax return, personal sales. Usually Brandon's row is the only one filled, but sometimes we get lucky and have other stuff! So here we list under each month how much was made so we know exactly how much to budget.

Next, we fill in everything! 

Let's start with the red arrow. This is where a large chunk of our money goes. The first block of stuff are our bills - internet, Netflix, Brandon's loan (paid off! woo!), etc. Monthly stuff. Once that's subtracted, we go to our "Sustainment" block. This is stuff like groceries, beauty care, pets, gas, clothing, baby stuff, miscellaneous. If you can think of a category for stuff you spend money on every month, stick it in there! The final block is "Extras" which includes fun money, alcohol (maybe that should be in sustainment...?), gifts, and our personal "blow money."

What's Blow Money? It's a silly name, and no, it's not for drugs or... other stuff. It's to blow on anything you want! We each get $50 a month (budgeted according to our budget, do what works for you) and we can spend it on whatever we want, no questions asked. Of course if we need more, we discuss it.

Moving on... 

The green arrow points to our "special circumstances" block. This is for stuff like PCSing, which is in its own category, and buying other stuff that doesn't happen often but requires more and a way to keep track.

Still following me?

While doing all this, we also fill in the blue arrow block.

This is more important than budgeting our money! This is our house fund, both our IRAs, and Penny's college fund. We make sure to put in a certain percentage every month to sustain these accounts. This little block is the money that will hold us over when we're old and wrinkly.

Finally, what do we do with the leftovers?

You will have leftovers. Be smart with your budget, don't put in $600 for groceries if you're not going to spend that much. It's taken us some experimenting but we're pretty solid in our amounts every month and usually it doesn't change. Remember, you need to keep track of every cent. So see how much you have left over and check out the final block with the gray arrow. That's money for future purchases. I have a row, Brandon has a row, we have a car repairs row, and currently, a camping gear row. We want to buy some camping gear in the future! My money will most likely go to a new car. Brandon's to some gun stuff or car stuff. But this money is being saved up for some near-future purchases.

This is how we saved for our trip to Australia. And for R&R last year. And for my pretty Nikon DSLR. And for my super duper awesome vacuum. It's possible!

At the beginning of the month, we pull out cash.

Yes, cash. We have pretty envelopes and we put all the money where it needs to go. The only thing we use our debit card for is gas. Mostly because we're lazy and don't like going into the store to pay! But that's the only thing. And yeah, you're pulling out a bunch. We learned you can pull out $600 a day per card from the ATM, so we hop in the car together and we can pull out an easy $1200 if we need to ;)

This all seems complicated but it's super easy. Brandon spent some time making this chart, but our budget sessions last maybe 15 minutes. We know what we need, we budget for it, and off we go! We don't argue over money anymore for the most part because it is what it is.

I feel like I'm forgetting some things... but since this post is so long as it is, I won't bother trying to remember for the time being! I'll leave you with just some advice. I hope this was helpful!

Remember, if you can't afford, DON'T BUY IT. Save up for it!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Debt Free (Part One) - 7 Baby Steps

Disclaimer: I was not paid or even asked to tout Dave Ramsey's info. We're just DR fanatics and I love sharing the knowledge!

I decided to split this debt talk into two posts because there's way too much to say! So come back tomorrow to learn how we budget. Today, I want to talk to you about how we got out of debt and where we are in our money journey.

Brandon picked up The Total Money Makeover in December 2010 while in Iraq. We both quickly read it and decided that this was for us. We were done being in debt (what little we had) and ready to have control over our money. We had tried unsuccessfully to track our purchases but we always came up over our budget. It was out of hand!

The book was simple enough. It outlined 7 Baby Steps to follow. Here they are and our experiences so far.

1. $1000 to start an emergency fund. We didn't have an issue with this step because we already had money in savings. He says you need this money for those unexpected events like the car breaking down, babies, and anything else you can think of. That money is not to be touched except in an emergency and if you do use it, you have to refill it as soon as possible.

2. Pay off all your debt using the debt snowball. This step takes the longest out of them all, but it is the most important. List all your debts, excluding your home. You start with the smallest debt and work your way up to the biggest. Why? Because when you start paying things off you get that satisfaction of getting rid of debt and the drive to bring down the big ones. So start small! We kind of cheated on this one and did this while skipping on to other steps, only because the interest rate was so low on his loan (like 2% or something). I don't recommend doing what we did if you have tons of debt.

3. 3 to 6 months of expenses in savings. Add this on top of Step One once your debts are paid up. Put that money towards this. You set the price. We decided on about 10k, but it's also in a mutual fund, so it keeps gaining interest. That's fine with us! More saved the better!

4. Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement. I love that we do this. I feel all old and responsible. But hey, we're going to be able to retire and use our money, not live off the government. Let's face it, guys, our government is in debt and social security will probably not be there for us in the future. Don't rely on it. If you are old enough to read my blog, you should have a personal retirement fund. Go get it. Now. We use Vanguard

5. College funding for children. This is a controversial topic for a lot of people, but Brandon and I agree with what Dave Ramsey says on the topic. A lot of my friends say they won't pay for their kids college because they figured it out, so why can't their kids? Well, let me ask you guys this, do you like having loans? Don't you wish you could get out of college without owing money? Because I did. I wish I didn't have to get loans. We plan on paying for our children's college - probably not enough for some fancy school, but a good state school. And yes, we hope they get scholarships. We don't want to have them start their adult lives in debt.

6. Pay off home early. If you have a home, start putting money towards paying it off! Wouldn't it be nice to have no mortgage? Because you don't have to have a mortgage! Instead of paying off a home, we are saving up for one. We hope to put down a BIG down payment (like 50%?) or even pay in cash, depending on when we buy a home. If we do have a mortgage, we will put as much money as we can towards it to pay it off.

7. Build wealth and give! I like what he says on the website "It’s time to build wealth and give like never before. Leave an inheritance for future generations, and bless others now with your excess. It's really the only way to live!" If you have the money, share it! We don't give much but we do make sure to budget for birthday and Christmas gifts. We're working on this step. :)

There you have it, the seven baby steps that you need to take to have control over your money and your life. They are simple enough to follow but they give you so many rewards. Please, just go get the book. Borrow it from the library, buy it off Amazon, get it for your nook - get it! There is no reason to be in debt!

If you have any questions, let me know! I'll try to do a follow-up post later on.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a post about monthly budgeting.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Featured Blogger: The Optimistic Army Wife

It's the second go-around! I'm loving reading about all of you, are you enjoying it too?

Today's blogger is Liz from The Optimistic Army Wife. Her and I have been chatting for quite some time so it was fun to see her answers to my questions. Here they are!

First, tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you?

I am Liz and I am an Army Wife! I am from a small sound by Salt Lake City, Utah. I have been married to my best friend for 2 years and we have completed 2 deployments. We had our daughter Evelyn 9 months ago and she is very much the light of our lives! I love being a mom, and especially her mom! I am also a stay-at-home mom.

Tell us about your spouse.

I refer to my husband on my blog as "The Hubs or Hubby" but his name is Paul. Paul is from Northern California. He enlisted in the US Army 5 years ago, and is now a E-6. He is Field Artillery and he loves his job! He was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, where we met, and we have just recently moved to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and he is about to got to Airborne School.

Tell us about your family.

My family is living in Utah. I miss it tons! I have 2 brothers and 2 sisters, 3 nephews and 1 niece. My older sister Suzanne passed away 11 years ago, and is dearly missed. Alisha, my younger sister, is mentally and physically handicapped. She was born at 23 weeks old and my parents adopted her. She has been through so much, and is one of my heroes! I just have an amazing family! It’s definitely hard living away from them. I miss out of so much with my niece and nephews.

Where are you from?

I am from Utah!

Where do you live now? Do you like it there?

I currently live in Fort Bragg, North Carolina! I've always wanted to come here, and it’s a beautiful state! I definitely love it!

What about your home away from home – your blog? Tell us a bit about your blogging journey so far.

I have been blogging for about 1 1/2 years. I blogged through our 2nd deployment, which also included our first pregnancy with our daughter. I've had so much support from my readers and it’s been very amazing to have all this help and advice! Not to mention all the good comments everyone gives me!

Have you been through a deployment? Do you have any advice for those who are or will be?

I have been through 2 deployments. My advice is, definitely don’t fight with your husband while he is away; it’s too hard to fight from across the world. Never end a conversation with a fight. Send as many care packages as you can, they may say they can get whatever they want, but little touches of home and personal photos always cheer them up. Don’t ever plan on it not being hard, deployments suck! But I can tell you, you will fall into it and adjust to it easy! Don’t be afraid to hate the world at times. You will need to hate the world.

How do you like being a military spouse?

I love it! It obviously has its challenges and I have been lucky enough to have a great relationship with my husband and his friends at work so I am involved in what I feel like I can be involved in.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I see us still in the Army, probably stationed somewhere else. The husband is going to try and do Recruiter or Drill Sergeant in a year or 2.

 What’s your favorite food?

Right now I am sushi freak. I crave it all the time!

Tell us a fun fact!

I am a cupcake freak. Kid you not. My kitchen and dining area are decorated in cupcakes. I have an eye for find things that have cupcakes on them. It’s just my little thing. I also have this weird thing with prison shows. Don’t ask! I don’t know! Also, I love reality shows. Those are more like weird facts though.

Anything else you would like to add?

Thanks Chantal!! (You're welcome!)

If you’re interested in participating and seeing your blog featured, please send me an email or leave a comment – but make sure your reply-to email is set! I will send you the questionaire and you could be featured too!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Baby-led Weaning

Now that Penny is five months old, we're a month away from solid foods. It's so funny how quickly we've approached this moment and now I'm nervous! Not nervous to start the foods, but more nervous that she's growing up and doing a new thing. Though I'm more excited than anything else. Why? Because we'll be doing baby-led weaning.
Baby-led weaning is a simple concept: Let babies feed themselves. In the not so distant past, we didn't puree foods for our babies. We didn't start them on rice cereal and spend our time spoon feeding them. We didn't even start solids at four months. Baby-led weaning brings us back to how we are supposed to introduce foods to our babies.

We decided, after reading this book, to not give Penny any rice cereal. That stuff is basically sugar and is linked to higher rates of obesity, and does not have any nutritional value. No thanks. We also decided not to introduce much to her until six months, when babies digestive systems are ready for food, and then following her lead.

Basically, baby-led weaning, you let your baby make the choices. Instead of shoving spoonfuls of mush into their mouths, you give them what you're eating. That's right, what you're eating. Having toast and strawberries for breakfast? Give it to them. Casserole for dinner? Do it. This way you're exposing your baby to a variety of tastes, textures and smells. The first year of food is for fun anyway, so let them have their fun!

And no, choking isn't a problem. We have to stop treating our babies like babies. They're little humans, they know how to cough something up. The chance of them choking is actually less because they have control over the food.

Now that I'm writing this post, I'm actually getting excited again about doing this! We plan on starting Penny on avocado and bananas, and maybe some steamed broccoli, and them going from there. You give them foods they can grasp and bring to their mouths. She's already trying to grab my food and play with it, so I know she's close to being ready. It's so exciting!

If you have anymore questions, I'm glad to answer them! Just make sure your reply-to email is set ;). Also, check out these two resources that I frequent: Baby Led Weaning & Let Your Babies Feed Themselves

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Penny - Five Months

Penny - you're five months old!

This past month has been one of the most fun and most challenging for all of us. You've grown into such a little personality and we love seeing all the things you do. I haven't weighed you yet (busy busy mommy) but I'm guessing you're a solid 16 pounds, maybe more. You've grown a bit, so you're probably 25 or 26 inches. Who knows? I need to measure you! But you're definitely on track and growing strong. Your hair is coming in lighter, but I doubt it'll be blond, and so so long now I could almost put it in a tiny ponytail. Your eyes are gray-blue and we're thinking they might stay that way. Your dad sure hopes so!
You're wearing almost exclusively 6 months size clothes, though some are 3-6 still. You've been getting hot at night so we put you in just a t-shirt and you sleep much better. This next month I'll be washing your 6-9 months clothes - wow!
You nurse great! Though lately you've been distracted, so you fight me a little bit. We're working on it so you get enough food. You've been nursing to sleep most days and again, we're working on that, because sometimes you just don't eat enough and you end up grumpy. Next month we'll be starting solids!
Nights are what they are. Some nights are wonderful and you only wake up once around 2:30am. Other nights you're up several times crying and wanting to be rocked for a bit. If it's bad, your dad gets up with you and you sit in the big recliner for awhile. Most of the time we can get you to sleep fairly quickly. You're still napping four times a day but I'm thinking in this next month you might be changing that. You sleep on your belly most days but sometimes your side.
The biggest change in you? You finally got a tooth! I can't see it because it just broke through on Mother's Day, but I can definitely feel it. All that teething is showing something finally! You've become quite a talker too and always have something to say, even if it's just a scream to get our attentions. You're learning how to sit up on your own too! No rolling over but I think this month is the month.

When you're awake, we try to keep busy. In the mornings we sit on the couch and watch Blue's Clues while you quietly play and I have my computer time. Then throughout the day we alternate between tummy time, bouncing in the Jumperoo (you love that thing!), reading books, shopping, cleaning... everything! You like sitting on the counter in your Bumbo while I work in the kitchen. You're very observant and just like to see what we're up to most of the time.

You like to go on a walks, so we try to get out of the house once or twice with the dog. Speaking of Dexter, you love him! He licks you and you smile and try to grab his face. I think you'll be best friends. You also really like bath time, your Sofie giraffe toy, and playing peek-a-boo.
I'm excited to see what this next month holds for us!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Yet another sleep post!

Oh goodness, I love this baby. When she's awake and happy, she is just so fun. She laughs and smiles and wiggles and does all this fun baby stuff. But good god, when it comes to nap time, I am pulling my hair out. I am frustrated beyond belief!

Brandon isn't here for me to vent to, so after turning to my sisters and trusty FB, I'm turning to my lovely blog. So far I've been keeping super busy so the time without him is flying by (yeah, yeah, it's only been two days!) but I've been struggling with Penny. I knew I rely on him a lot, but wow, I must've used him much more than I imagined! Because now when I'm frustrated with the baby, no one is here to jump in and take her while I cool down.

Anyway, back to naps. Remember a few weeks ago when I figured her out? I think she's changing again. Unfortunately, I can't figure out what she wants. Does she want to be awake longer? Does she want to be put down without being rocked? Does she want to nurse to sleep or not?

Here's my biggest issue. Lately she's been wanting to nurse to sleep. Fine, I'll feed her then if that's what she wants. But when I'm nursing her she struggles and wiggles and can't stay still. Sometimes she falls asleep nursing, and those times are awesome. Other times, I need to rock her a bit more to get her to sleep. However, she starts struggling again. She arches her back, cries out, and turns her head to suck on my arm. Over and over. So after fighting for a bit, I either get her to settle down (by holding the pacifier in her mouth and shh-ing) or I get frustrated and put her down in her crib, where she just cries and cries.

Has anyone ever had this problem? I used to be able to see she's sleepy, go rock her, and she would fall asleep within 5-10 minutes. Now it's fight fight fight! I'm hoping soon I can just put her in her bed awake and she falls asleep on her own, but another problem - she likes sleeping on her belly, but if she's awake, she won't settle herself down. If I put her on her back, she stays awake. AHHH.

She's asleep for the night now and I'm going to go relax with a book, after doing some research. Who would've thought that the hardest part of having a baby for me is the sleep thing?

Debt Free and I know it!

Yes, you read that right. As of the end of last week, we are debt free. I repeat. We are debt free. That means no credit card balances, no student loans, no car payments or mortgages, nothing.

How did we do it? Well, first, we didn't have that much debt, compared to a lot of Americans out there. We had my student loan and Brandon's cadet loan. We paid off the student loan last year, good riddance, and we kept the cadet loan on monthly payments because the interest was so low that we weren't too worried about it. But with the move we got a load of cash (thanks Army!) and we decided that we might as well get rid of the debt once and for all. So we did!

We've been doing the Dave Ramsay program since January 2011. This means we pay only in cash and budget every month. We put money towards our savings (retirement, house, etc) and then pay our bills, and then allot any money we need for that month. Afterwards, whatever money is left over goes into special savings categories, like cars. Every single cent of our money goes somewhere. If we didn't budget for it, it doesn't get bought that month.

Since reading The Total Money Makeover we have saved more in the past year and a half than we have in our entire relationship. Sure, the good paying job helps, but our dedication to our finances is the key.

I'm not saying all this to brag. Yes, I'm proud of being debt free, I'm proud that we've come this far. Really, though, I want to show you that it IS possible. You could have a little debt or you could have a lot, either way, debt isn't good. Don't be tied down to your money. Live today like no one else so later you can live like no one else.

I will gladly explain to you all how we do our budgeting each month, with charts and all! If you're interested, anyway. I'm excited by our control over our money and I want you to be too. Doesn't matter if you make a lot of money or not, you can control your finances. You can be debt free too!

Monday, May 14, 2012

First Mother's Day

Well, that last post was sort of gloomy doomy wasn't it? I thought I'd follow up this afternoon with something a bit more cheery - Mother's Day! This year was my first Mother's Day, unless you count last year when I was 9 weeks pregnant... but I only half count it. This is the first with Penny! And it was a wonderful day!

I didn't get to sleep in, but I did sleep better that night since Penny only woke up once! She woke up officially for the day around 6:30, but I'm a morning person, so that was fine.
Brandon made me a tasty breakfast of french toast with strawberries on top and six pieces of bacon! He saved extra for a special breakfast for me. And then I got to open my gifts! Brandon got me a bareMinerals starter kit (ah I've been wanting one for awhile!) and Penny got me a pomegranate lemonade Diamond Candle. How those work is there is a ring in the wax and you have to melt the candle to get it. It's halfway down and as of this moment, I'm nearly there! Come on ring! It's an awesome gift, Penny is so thoughtful ;)
 I asked that we go to lunch at TGI Friday's, one of my favorite restaurants. I got a blue raspberry drink (which Penny wanted), we ordered a chip and dip trio for an appetizer, and then a cobb salad for me and a burger for Brandon. Penny sat on Brandon's lap for a bit and sucked on her glass. She cracks me up nowadays, such a character.

TGI Friday's is right beside Olive Garden and I laughed at everyone waiting in line there. Good thing I'm a low maintenance kind of girl. I love my Friday's!
 Brandon had to finish packing when we got home, so it was pretty low key after that. We Skyped with his family, Penny took a super duper long nap (2.5 hours! What!) and then we enjoyed a steak dinner, Brandon's request for his last supper. We watched about half of the movie Inception (no time with Skype and bathtime) and then called it a night.

Penny watching the movie on her Daddy's lap.
I was so glad Brandon was here for Mother's Day. It was either missing this day or our anniversary, which he only misses by a couple days. He sure helped make it special. It was special enough having my little girl with me! I hope everyone else had a great Mother's Day too!

Bye Bye Brandon

Time is an interesting beast. Every day, from the moment we wake up to those last moments before we sleep, we're worried about time. Time time time. How much time will it take to make breakfast? How long of a shower can I take? How long until the baby naps, or has been napping? How long? How much?

As those close to the military, you know time is precious. Just around the corner is the next training exercise, drill weekend, PT session, deployment. When your spouse is home you soak up as much time as possible with them because we know that all too often, it passes by in the blink of an eye. Suddenly, you're left alone again, floundering.

Brandon will only be gone for three weeks this time. It's funny how three weeks seems like a vacation compared to 52 weeks of a deployment. I'm not too worried about it except I'm a little anxious about the lack of communication. I like talking to Brandon, bouncing my thoughts off of him, hearing his voice telling me he loves me and goodnight. He's my best friend after all. The longest we've gone without speaking to one another was ten days. This time, 21 days. It'll be a long time.

I had hoped we would make it a year without being apart. In our six years together we have never gone a year without something getting in the way. Year One, we lived apart for our first summer. Year Two, LDAC. Year Three, Washington state that summer and then he was off to Fort Benning. Year Four, PTA and NTC. Year Five, Iraq.

He came back from Iraq on June 18, 2011. We were this close. I had hoped beyond hope that we would reach that year marker. I know it's a silly hope with the military involved, and a weird one at that, but it was mine. I'm not too disappointed (ok, maybe a little) but it is what it is.

It's funny, I think I forgot about the military for a bit. What with the baby and then moving, the whole "being in the military" thing has slipped my mind. Sure, he wears his uniform. Sure, he goes to PT and then to work, but he hasn't left me. Hasn't left us. I think we were turning into a normal couple. One that didn't have the military following us like a shadow. It was nice.

It was following us, though, because as soon as we arrived here it was all class dates, schools, trainings, details, uniforms, helicopters, see ya's and goodbye's. Back in the rhythm of things. I like the predictability of it and I also hate it.

Funny thing, that time. We as spouses are always grasping for more, reaching into the air, screaming in our minds for more, more, more. But hey, it's only three weeks this time, right? Here we go again.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Penny Says...

Happy Mother's Day!

(She looks ALL kinds of happy, doesn't she?)

Happy Mother's Day to all the mom's out there, new and seasoned, and to my own Mommy especially! It's my first Mother's Day with Penny (I was about 9 weeks pregnant last time!) and super excited about it. I hear that I'm getting french toast and bacon for breakfast and lunch at TGI Friday's... ;)

(Update: Brandon got me some Bare Minerals and Penny got me a Diamond Candle! We had french toast and bacon for breakfast, yum!)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Six Years

Six years ago, Brandon and I made it "official." Yep, we decided to be a couple. Eep. 

We had been casually seeing each other for a couple weeks before I asked for a confirmation, I guess you could call it that. So we made it official. We were dating. Heck, we still are!

It was a rough summer at first because he went to Airborne school and then we were 100 miles apart. I was up in Denver for the summer and he was back down in the Springs. We saw each other only four times that summer - the start of our military life, huh? But hey, we stuck it out and look at us now! Married and stuff!

Check out what I wrote last year.

Here's one of our very first photos together. Ah, young love. He was 20 and I was 19 (whuuuuh?), and we were at the amusement park. Brandon had the ugliest tank top on and I still wore glasses. Those are pretty much the only things that have changed!
So hey, happy six years together, Brandon! I know it's only our dating anniversary, but I can celebrate, right?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Happy MilSpouse Appreciation Day!

Today in honor of Military Spouse Appreciation Day, I'm participating in a big blog-world blog hop hosted by Household6Diva and Riding the Roller Coaster!

The blog hop is simple. We want to celebrate each other and our spouses, and connect with other bloggers out there. So jump on in and write your introductory post!
Hello everyone! I'm Chantal, the blogger here at Scattered Seashells (formerly B+C&Baby, and before that, A Blog a Day While You're Away). 

I'm married to Brandon, for nearly four years, and as luck would have it, he's been in the Army for nearly four years too! We met in Colorado and since then have moved to Georgia, Hawaii, and are now stationed at Fort Rucker, Alabama. He's currently in flight school learning to be a helicopter pilot. Cool, huh?

Not only am I a MilSpouse, I'm also a mom to a little girl named Penelope Ann (but she only hears that when I'm mad at her hehe). Penny will be five months old next week and frequently makes an appearance on this blog. I'm also mommy to a border collie named Dexter and a cat named Winston.

Scattered Seashells is my blog about military life, being a mom and a writer, and everything in between. I'm glad you could stop by! Leave a comment and let me know you've checked my blog out. I love to hear from everyone!

Find me on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Are you mom enough?

By now, I'm sure you've seen the new TIME magazine cover that comes out tomorrow. It's a woman standing with her three-year-old son breastfeeding him with the title "Are you mom enough?" and subtitle "Why attachment parenting drives some mothers to extremes - and how Dr. Bill Sears became their guru."

Yeah, I'm kinda jumping on the bandwagon here and writing a short post. I don't normally invite drama, but this one hits close to home for me. (I'll try to articulate my thoughts and keep things on track...)

See, we breastfeed. Not only do we breastfeed, we exclusively breastfeed, which means Penny has never gotten formula or water or supplements or even food in her short little life. I like breastfeeding, it has come naturally to us and there really wasn't any other choice in the matter. Of course, if breastfeeding hadn't worked out (and damn it, I was going to fight until the end if that was the outcome) I would've gone with formula. But for now, it isn't an issue.

While we don't plan on breastfeeding until three or four or however many years, we do plan on doing a solid year and even to two years. This comes as a surprise to a lot of people that I talk to. In this country we're still a little backwards in our breastfeeding thinking, we're still trying to fight for the healthier benefit, the more natural way, and fight the stigma that breastfeeding has had for the longest time.

Let me get this straight: Breastfeeding is not bad. It's not gross. It's not harmful, it's not weird, it's not going to scar your baby. Yes, it hurts at first, but heck, I don't even remember that. Yes, there is a slight learning curve. But it is the best thing, hands down, for your baby.

What really bothers me about this cover is the picture. It doesn't look natural, it doesn't look comfortable. Who even feeds their baby like that? It's almost ridiculing the fact that she's breastfeeding her three-year-old because look! he can breastfeed standing up! Isn't he too old?

Most people wouldn't breastfeed this late, but if it works for them, it works for them. To each their own. Why are we criticizing other families for their parenting styles? Why can't we just let them be? In the end the child is loved, the child is nurtured, and the child is learning to become a functional adult in society. (Remember when I talked about that?) So come on, let's relax a little, TIME, and everyone else. Let her breastfeed her three-year-old. Whatever.

And you know what, this cover isn't just offensive to those who breastfeed and practice attachment parenting (which we do to an extent). It's offensive to those who don't do any of it! Just four little words: Are you mom enough? Along with the photo of someone breastfeeding. How do you think those who didn't breastfeed feel? Like they weren't mom enough to do? Choose your words carefully, TIME.

This cover of course was generated to cause controversy and sell more magazines. I haven't read the article and I don't want to, the cover does enough for me.

Let us all just relax and know that we're doing the best for our kids and everyone else is too. And geez, breastfeeding an older kid is not bad for him.