I’m a doula??? Holy *pewp*! I’m a doula!!!

I recently blogged about my desire to make 2012 the year that I finally “became” a doula.  Well, it happened.  Ok, actually it’s been happening for some time and my head finally caught up to my heart.  Let me explain.

The word doula means “a woman who assists women during labor and after childbirth”.  I’ve done that.  Several times.  I have recently been asked to do that again.  My life over the last 13 years (since my first homebirth) has consisted of learning about and being passionate about birth, mamas & babies….absorbing all the information I can through first hand experience, friendships & conversations with friends who are midwives and doulas and care providers, reading everything I can get my hands on about birth, watching videos and YouTube clips about labor and birth and just generally being a “birth junky”.

Going to a class doesn’t somehow magically make me a doula.  I’m not a “doula-in-training”.  I don’t need to “become” a doula this year.  I am one.  I’ve been becoming one for quite a while now.  My head was convincing me that I needed the class and the certificate to prove it.  My heart was whispering “you’re already there.”  I needed the nudge I got from a phone conversation with a friend to have this concept sink in.  What a lovely, amazing phone call that was!  (thank you, friend.)

My plan is to follow this path where it leads.  I want to continue to learn and educate myself.  I will likely move forward with the doula training that I was planning on doing in the Spring.  But that’s not “the last step”, it’s really just continuing education!  At some point, I will consider hanging out a shingle and really getting serious about the business end of it, but for now I’m ready to offer myself to my wonderful friends who are expecting new little ones.  My dream is to support mamas (& daddies!) as they welcome their babes earthside and I am ready to do that. 

Holy cow, I’m a doula!

*Footnote* – this has been a draft for over a week.  It took another phone call with a different friend and me emailing this draft to her before I finally was able/willing to post it.  GULP.


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A Decision Made

I’ve agonized over this decision for days now.  The rumblings of the need to make the decision have been under the surface for weeks.  I was putting off even making a decision and then I had a conversation with my mom about something she was thinking about and I told her that not making a decision is making the decision…..that the inaction or delay just makes your decision for you but in a passive way.  And after that conversation, I knew I needed to do some more talking to my husband and some trusted friends and proactively decide what to do.

My decision was whether to continue to pursue success in my Thirty-One business or whether to let it go.  It’s difficult because I really believe in the company, the product and the opportunity.  So far, my experience has been overwhelmingly positive and I know I could continue as a Thirty-One consultant and likely be very successful at it.  The problem is that there have been some major changes in our family.  Changes that create pretty big roadblocks to Thirty-One being a wholly positive venture for me and my family.  So, the decision has been made and I am going to “retire” my role as a consultant with Thirty-One. 

One of the two  most significant changes are that Alex is now working second shift.  This means he is gone in the evenings and I don’t have him to rely on when I am doing evening parties.  Second shift as a whole is a HUGE game-changer for our family.  We’ve done it before and it’s hard on everyone.  It takes a lot out of me, in fact Alex & I both recognize that out of everyone, second shift affects me the most.  It adds a lot to my plate and is pretty mentally, physically & emotionally exhausting as I become the main/only parent – at times even feeling like a single parent – in the evenings.  So adding a night or two when both parents are away (Alex at work, me doing a party) to a schedule that is already tough for everyone is not the best idea.

The other major change is that I am now homeschooling 2 kids.  When I signed up as a Thirty-One consultant, all 5 of the big kids who are still in school were enrolled full time in public school.  I now have had one at home for the last 8 weeks with another transitioning to homeschool at the semester.  Obviously, this drastically changes my role at home and adds a lot to my plate.

I really agonized over this decision.  I have so many mixed feelings about it.  I feel like one aspect is that I really care about the people involved with my business:  my customers and hostesses, my upline and director and others.  I feel like they have invested in me and I hate to let them down.  But someone emailed me a link that said “I want to remember to put the people I love before the people I just care about.” and Oh boy!, that hit home.  I do care about the people I have met since I’ve been doing Thirty-One, and I realize that is a big factor in why this has been such a difficult decision for me.  I don’t ever want anyone to feel I am letting them down.

There is a part of me too that wants to just be Super Mom.  There is a part of me that wants to be the one with 8 kids who “does it all”.  But that ego driven part can’t have a place in my home.  And I have to be honest that with our new second shift schedule and adding homeschooling back into the mix, I can’t do it all.  It’s just not going to be done well and at the end of the day, I know it will be my family who suffers most.

The last piece to all of this is following my dreams.  I have had a dream, goal, wish, passion, burning desire…..to become a doula.  It’s been on my heart for 13 years.  I have started pursuing it here and there but never like I should have.  Over the last few months, there have been so many moments, conversations and situations where Alex & I have been reminded that I need to be pursuing this dream.  He asked me why I hadn’t been working on it and I told him honestly that I couldn’t do both Thirty-One and work on my doula “homework”.  The time and finances don’t exist in my life for both. 

His response was to tell me:  “When I see you talk about Thirty-One, you’re excited and it’s interesting and it’s obvious that you like it and it’s fun.  But when I watch you talk about birth and breastfeeding and those types of things, you light up.  You are so passionate about it.  Women are drawn to talk to you about their experiences and to ask you questions and I rarely see you in a crowd of women for long before that is the topic of conversation.  There is a difference between liking something and being absolutely passionate about something.  You can be good at Thirty-One.  You’ll rock it if you want to and I’ll support that.  But just because you can be good at something, doesn’t mean it’s the thing you’re meant to be doing.”

And that right there sealed the deal.  I’m letting Thirty-One go.  I’m so hoping that 2012 will be the year that I find myself truly following my passion for babies and mamas and birth.  And I’m trusting that my friends, customers, hostesses and everyone that I’ve met in this short lived adventure will support me and understand why this is what needed to happen.

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Cuban Inspired Stew for Dinner!

I love cooking new things, trying new recipes and making up my own yummy concoctions!  I had a dilemma the other day and it turned into a delicious dinner.  Normally I’m a goob and forget to take notes on what I’m doing….which usually results in a conversation along the lines of the hubby saying “Hey honey.  Make that one thing that you made that one time.” and then me making that one thing…..which is nothing like the thing that he wanted me to make!  This time, however I took notes!  Yay me!!

I thawed out a chunk of beef the night before so I could make chili.  Problem was that I forgot to also soak the beans.  I don’t like doing quick soaks, so I decided it would need to become something other than chili.  Since I didn’t know what that would be, I tossed the chunk of beef (about a 2.5 lb. random roast) into the crockpot with some salt & pepper, a handful of garlic cloves and about 1/2 cup of water.  Turned it on high and went about my day.  At the end of the day, I just pulled it out and shredded it w/2 forks.

I started googling ideas for what to do with shredded beef and just found page after page of taco and chili recipes.  Not helpful.  I’m not sure how I stumbled onto this site, but I did.  And Cuban cuisine sounded fun, yummy & doable.  I looked at several recipes and decided I was going for it:  A cuban-inspired stew! 

This recipe for Ajiaco Criollo probably inspired this stew the most, but I also took some ideas from this one for Carne con Papas (meat with potatoes).  Both were heavy on potatoes and root vegetables, which I had or could get fairly cheaply.  Because I’m not familiar with many of the vegetables (malanga, cassava, plantains) and I’m not sure how easy it would have been to obtain them, I used sweet potatoes and carrots as they are more widely available root vegetables.

The only part that I can’t really share is how I made the cornmeal dumplings.  I tried to use the directions in one of the recipes, but it actually calls for “ground green corn”, which I googled & googled but could never identify.  I used cornmeal, but it didn’t turn into anything that could be shaped into a dumpling.  I ended up doing a search for “cornmeal dumplings” and added milk, baking powder, flour and an egg until my mixture resembled something that could be shaped a bit and added to the stew.  So you’ll have to find your own cornmeal dumpling recipe, although this one did help me a lot and may be what I would use next time.

Have fun!  The whole family loved this stew!  We ate it for leftovers and my mom took some to work to share with a coworker who also loved it.  I can’t wait to make it again.

The Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 red potatoes, cut into 1.5-2″ chunks
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled & cut into 1.5-2″ chunks
  • 4 carrots, peeled & cut into 2″ rounds
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 10 cloves garlic, minced or put through a press
  • 2 jalapenos, finely chopped (I did one whole and 1 ribbed & seeded to reduce the heat a bit)
  • 2 green bell peppers, coarsely chopped
  • 2-3 cans Cuban-style black beans (I just happened to have these, I ended up adding 1 addt’l can of plain black beans) or you can use plain canned black beans.  I drained/rinsed the plain can that I added, I added the Cuban-style ones without draining/rinsing.
  • 1.5 cups white wine
  • 1 carton beef broth (approx. 4 cups)
  • 1.5  cups frozen corn
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 Tbs. oregano
  • 2 Tbs. cumin
  • 1 Tbs. paprika
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 lemons
  • shredded beef (I prepared an approx. 2.5 lb. roast in my slow cooker, see preparation directions above)
  • cornmeal dumplings prepared according to your favorite recipe or using the recipe linked above (cornmeal, flour, milk, butter, baking soda)

Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot.  Add onions, garlic, bell pepper, jalapeno & carrots.  Saute 5 minutes or so, until onions and other veggies are starting to soften.  Add all the spices except salt & pepper.  Cook for 2 or 3 minutes more.

Pour in wine & beef broth and approx. 4 more cups of water.  Add potatoes & sweet potatoes.  Cut one lemon in 1/2, squeeze juice inot pot, then drop lemon halves into the soup.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes until potatoes are starting to get soft.  Add black beans & corn and season w/salt & pepper.

Cook until potatoes are soft.  Add shredded beef, stir well.  Add additional water if necessary (I did end up adding about 3 cups of water here and I added about a Tbs. of vegetable flavored “Better than Bouillon” too), you want enough liquid for the dumplings to cook in.  Make sure that it is gently simmering and drop in your dumplings.  COVER (this is important!) and cook for 10-15 minutes until dumplings are cooked through (fish one out and cut it open to check….mine took almost exactly 12 minutes).

Cut up the other lemon and pass at the table, squeezing additional lemon on your stew before eating.

This filled our biggest stock pot (14 quarts??) and made enough for our family of 11 for dinner that night (with seconds!) plus leftovers for lunches the next day.  This is typically how much I make, but for a more average family of 4-6, I’d suggest cutting the recipe in half or even in thirds!

The yummy pot as it was cooking (I meant to get “action shots” in the bowls or at the dinner table, but I forgot!):

ENJOY!  We sure did!!

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Help make Christmas AWESOME for local families!

For whatever reason this Christmas, I have something really weighing on my heart & mind. Every Christmas our family does our best to donate, volunteer or help – in some way – a local organization or family. It’s part of Christmas for us and I love that part of the holidays (even if I’m a bit Scroogey about everything else!).

This year, I really want to help Sharenet’s Christmas store. Our family plans to purchase a gift or two and our housechurch is working on a project for stocking stuffers, but I have seriously been laying awake nights trying to figure out how to do MORE.

I’m not sure why this cause is so heavy on my heart this year. The bummer is that our family is still making our way out of a hard time and there is no way we can do much but buy a few toys to donate.

So that’s where YOU come in. I’ve brainstormed and thought and – like I said – have been laying awake at night trying to figure out how I (we) can do more. And I think I stumbled on it last night. I have a voice, I can use this blog to put the word out and I have TIME.

Maybe you can’t get out to purchase the gift. I will be your personal Sharenet Christmas store shopper! Maybe I can get some friends and family to donate – $5 will buy some stocking stuffers, $10 can buy a toy for a child, $15 or $25 would purchase an iTunes gift card or something nice for the teens that often get overlooked.

So here’s what I’m asking. Will you donate? Can you be a part of this? I will come pick up donations of toys or gifts or cash or checks. I will do the shopping. Our house church will put together the stocking stuffer packs. I will coordinate getting it all to the Sharenet folks.

Here is a list of some ideas of what you can donate: (this is just a starting point, you may have other ideas!)
NEW toys
NEW clothes (think hoodies, hats/scarves, etc.)
stocking stuffer items: small toys, pencils, coloring books, crayons, etc.
candy canes
chocolate Santas
Items for grown-ups (earrings, perfume, wallet or money clip, nice things for the mom/dad in the house)
gift cards: iTunes, Target, Old Navy
MONEY – $5 to whatever your family can give. It all makes a difference.

Call me or email and I will come and pick up donations. I can give you my paypal address and you can send $$ that way if it’s easier. You can drop a check in the mail and I will do your shopping.  I would like to have all donations collected by Friday, Dec. 16th.

Here’s my promise: I will be an AWESOME shopper. I can s t r e t c h a dollar like no one’s business! I will post pics here on the blog of what I collect and donate so you can see what we did together.

Help me get this DONE for Sharenet! I know what it’s like to be strapped at Christmas. The model of the Christmas store – allowing families to have the dignity of shopping for their own kids and the joy of picking out those gifts for the ones you love, is just amazing. I really want to support their efforts and make sure they have a great selection and an amazing Christmas store this year!

Let’s do it. I’m excited to see what happens.

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My first foray into couponing

I admit it:  I’ve been coupon resistant.

We already save a LOT of money on groceries just because of how I cook and the foods I choose.  Our grocery budget is (I think) ridiculously low for a family of 11.  And every photo I saw that friends posted (“look at all this food!  $94 of groceries for only $3.21!!!”) was usually a bunch of pizza pockets, diet soda and Snackwells cookies.  So it didn’t seem like it would help as those things are not things we purchase or consume.

But I have a lovely friend, Diana (hey, girl!), who has been posting some of her couponing finds and she is getting great deals on things like pasta and healthful cereal.  So I gave in and asked her to give me some tips to get started.  First off, she referred me to the site Coupon Connections.  It’s a blog posting all the great deals that are out there.  I’d looked at blogs like this before and felt pretty uninspired by the thought of driving to Walgreens or Safeway – neither of which are local to me.  But the Coupon Connections website is a blog by a lady who lives locally so the deals, coupons, store references make a lot more sense.

I went to Albertsons yesterday, really only armed with a few store coupons and a fresh set of eyes.  Albies right now is running a special deal where if you purchase a certain number of something (say 3 of  a certain brand of pasta), you get a “catalina” (which prints @ the register when you check out) for $1 off on your next purchase.  So because I don’t have any coupons really from the paper yet (& my printer was down so I couldn’t print any), I just looked through the circular that had come in the mail and went with the idea of using the catalinas to my advantage.  After a quick phone call to Diana to answer some questions, I headed out.

I primarily bought stuff that we would be using anyway – soup for the kids’ lunches, pasta, salad dressing, chicken breasts.  But I was mindful of what was going to get me those catalinas!  I did 3 transactions – earned $12 in catatlinas on my first and then when I checked out w/the 2nd transaction, I used those “cats” on that transaction.  I earned $4 on the 2nd transaction and then used those on my last transaction – which was chips for Alex’s lunches, something I buy for him regularly, and w/that purchase I got a free gallon of milk!  My savings was $49% on one, $45% on another and 42% on the last.  

I was also able to get him sodas for his lunches – something he loves but is often not in the budget.  Albies was doing a sale on Coke products 3 (12 packs) for $10.  There was a peel off coupon on the Coke for $2 off when you buy 2.  And then there was a peel off on Sprite for $1.50 off when you buy one Sprite product (or any other Coke product) + 1 box of Cheez-its (which I regularly get for Alex’s lunches).  So my 3 – 12 packs of Coke were $6.50, which definitely brings it down to “budget-friendly” for us.

I got Nathan into it a little too!  He was along (he is our oldest, the 18 year old who just graduated) because I recently asked him to take on cooking dinner once a week.  He gets a budget ($25) for the meal and then has to plan his meal, do the shopping and get it cooked up & on the table.  I felt like all these things – the planning, budgeting, shopping *AND* cooking would be helpful to him in the near future.  He was purchasing 2 packages of chicken patties that would earn him a catalina so I explained to him how to separate his groceries into 2 transactions so he could “roll” the catalina onto the 2nd transaction.  Good thing he did, too!  With the $2 catalina and his $25, he ended up getting just a few cents of change.  If he hadn’t used the cat, he would’ve been over budget.

At the end of our excursion, I felt pretty satisfied.  I can definitely see that with a little practice, getting more familiar with the process and getting the Sunday paper so we can clip coupons, we can shave even more $$ off of our grocery bill.  I feel like it possibly helps solve a few other grocery shopping “problems” I have:  when I do one massive trip every pay day (so every 2 weeks), it is absolutely exhausting!  If I plan on couponing regularly, I will most likely go once a week, which means a shorter trip that will hopefully leave me much less grumpy!  Also, because I plan 2 weeks of meals before I shop, I can’t get all of the fresh stuff we need or all of the milk for that 2 weeks.  And with additional trips for lettuce or milk or apples, comes additional expense.  I think a weekly purposeful trip may help cut back on the “extras” that find their way into the cart when the trip is supposed to be “just milk”.  And lastly, I love looking at cookbooks and recipe sites and dreaming of trying new things.  When I have everything planned out for the next 2 weeks, I can’t get excited about a new recipe I want to try because everything is already set in stone and shopped for.  But a weekly trip will allow more flexibility in my meal planning, I think.

So for all of you who have been encouraging me, I wave the white flag.  I surrender.  You have won me over.  I am now a couponing mama.

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A few people have commented that we didn’t meet our goal or that they hope I wasn’t disappointed in what we raised through the fundraiser.  I just want to clarify:

The $5,000 mark on the Chip-In is the total.  We are hoping/wanting/needing to raise this much total in order to not go into debt over this move & the loss of our home.  We are raising this total amount several ways:

  • the yarny fundraiser (brought in over $1K, WOOT!)
  • a big yard sale we are doing in a few weeks (we’ve been taking donations from family/friends as well as purging as we pack)
  • some misc items I am getting listed on ebay
  • overtime pay as my hubby works some crazy hours to try to add to the fund

So between all of these things, I’m actually feeling really confident that we will be able to raise the funds we need.  YAY!!!

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I don’t know if anyone is still up & waiting for this announcement…..but here goes.

In order to pick the winners, I made 3 numbered lists and then ran a Random Number Generator.  I didn’t know which numbers corresponded to the names.  After I ran the generator for each individual list, I ran it for the total number of participants for the Runner-Up prizes.

The Winners!!

THANK YOU to each & every person who donated or who posted to their Facebook or Tweeted or re-posted on Ravelry.  As I wrote out the names & read through the emails, I had tears in my eyes.  You will never know how much your kindness, thoughtfulness and generosity mean to our family.  This has been a difficult time for us and this fundraiser achieved the goal of raising some funds, but it also blessed us in so many other ways and reminded us that we are not alone.

That said…..it is SO difficult for me to read through & see how many people didn’t win.  So I am going to go just a little further & draw 6 more names for 6 more “honorable mention” prizes.  It’s not much, but I’m going to offer 3 random skeins of sock yarn from my stash (1 each to 3 different people) and 3 pattern prizes (any Rav giftable pattern up to $6).  I know it’s not much, but I can do it and I want to.

A few more prizes – YAY!!

  • Winner of mystery sock yarn prize #1:  Vlad Stamate
  • Winner of mystery sock yarn prize #2:  Erica Venugopal
  • Winner of mystery sock yarn prize #3:  Susan Roberts
  • Winners of pattern prize: William Law, Tracy Sasso, Kat Ferrell

In order to claim your prizes, please either email me (bradymom29 at gmail dot com) or contact me via Ravelry (username is bradymom29).  I will be emailing all of the winners tomorrow and everyone has a week to return my email contact or get in touch via email or Ravelry before we will draw an alternate winner.

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.  A million times over.  Well, 169 times over (that was the total # of entries).  THANK YOU.

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