Saturday, July 27, 2013

Baby Mania!

This year should be known as The Year of Babies, because good grief, they are all around me.  I cannot get away from babies.  I feel like Ally McBeal, but thankfully I haven't experienced this:

Or should I say yet?  Who knows?  I might just go nutty enough to see dancing babies everywhere I go.

The year is just over halfway through and already four of my friends have given birth.  There are several others in the next few months too.  Whenever a lot of people get pregnant all at once, people tend to joke around and say "It must be in the water!"  Just a warning...never say something like that to an infertile, unless you want to (a) make her burst into tears or (b) hear the f-bomb explode in your face.

And, of course, there's the most famous baby of them all, the new Prince George.  By the way, I'm calling it now, George is going to be one of the fastest-rising names in popularity over the next year.  In a way, I feel terribly sorry for the duke and duchess.  They have every minute detail of their lives examined.  Catherine had to get all dolled up, fixed her hair and makeup the day after giving birth.  Now I've never pushed a baby out my vagina but I'm going to assume it is a tad bit uncomfortable and I doubt I would want to have my picture taken immediately afterward.  I'm just glad I can wallow in all my infertile misery all by myself.  I can choose to be alone in this, or to complain to whomever I want.  I don't have magazines all over the world documenting my uterus, and I never will.  In a game of "Who has it better?" I'm going to say that I win.  (You know, other than the millions of pounds the duchess has.)

When a woman reaches her late-20s and early-30s, her proverbial "biological clock" starts ticking.  Mine started soon after I was married at age 28, but my husband convinced me to wait at least a year.  He had the convoluted idea that as soon as we started trying to get pregnant, it would magically happen.  Now that I'm almost 31, time seems to be passing at a much faster rate.  Most of my friends have at least one child, and many are on their 2nd, 3rd or even 4th by now.  In my twisted little mind, it seems like a competition, one that Mr J and I are failing miserably at.

"31 isn't old!  You still have years of fertility ahead!"  Yes, I've heard that many times.  Is it true, who knows?  Most days I convince myself it is true and that, yes, I will conceive a child someday.  But on my more realistic...some would say pessimistic...days, I can admit to myself that I probably will never be a biological mother.  That's not to say I won't be one by other means.  I have always been a strong supporter of adoption, but the idea has been something I'd want to pursue later in life.  But it is looking more and more like adoption is the best path for us now, rather than later.  Our next step is to contact the local DHS and apply to be foster parents.  I look forward to taking you along with us on this next journey.  Be patient with me, as it is bound to be a strange ride with many ups and downs, but then, that's how everything in my life is.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

All About Contests

Note: This post is about entering, and winning, contests that are on other blogs.  Due to the laws of the internetz, they aren't supposed to be called contests, but actually giveaways.  I don't know why, but for simplicity, I will just refer to all giveaways as contests in this post.

I love contesting.  Entering contests is tedious work, but you know how tedium can feel zen at times?  That's how I get when filling out the same contest forms, over and over.  Then on the rare occasions I do win something, I am filled with so much glee that it makes all the tedium worthwhile.  And then comes the few minutes I am able to gloat to my friends over the cool new thingie I got for free.  So today we will talk all about contests.  First, I'll explain how I got into it.  Then I will talk about how to win contests, then I will list some of the prizes I have actually won.

So, Mannah, how did you start contesting anyway?

It all started in the spring of 2012, when Mr J and I jumped on the baby track.  I started browsing the baby aisle of Target and immediately felt the sticker shock many prospective parents (except Will and Kate, I suppose) feel.  "Holy crap," I thought.  "How are we going to buy a house and clothe a baby at the same time?"  Well we did buy a house last year, but still don't have a baby to clothe (boo).  So I started to wonder how I could get some of this baby junk for free.

What do you suppose I did next?  Yep, I googled "free baby stuff" and, after sifting through a load of junk, I eventually stumbled on a blog that would begin a whole new obsession for me.  The blog I linked to there (enter at your own risk, you may never find your way out again!) actually links up to a bunch of other blogs that host contests for baby junk.  This specific one usually links cloth diaper contests, but as I had already decided to use cloth and not disposable diapers, and I had already seen how freaking expensive those puppies are, I decided it could be well worth my time to pursue cloth diaper contests.  However, if you use disposables, or if you don't have a baby at all, there are plenty of contests out there for you!  You just have to search for them!  I suggest starting out by searching "blog giveaways" on a social network like Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, there are a zillion of them out there, I promise.

OK!  I'm ready to start contesting!  Now what?

The first thing you should know is that there are two main contest forms: Rafflecopter and Giveaway Tools.  Both are extremely easy to use, once you get the hang of it.  Rafflecopter allows you to sign in to the contest with either your name and email address (which is what I do) or with your Facebook account.  Giveaway Tools only allows you to sign in with your name and email address.  You'll want to make sure that however you sign in, it is with an email you check very frequently.  Many times after they draw a winner and send out the winning email, you have only 24-48 hours to claim your prize or they'll pick a new winner.  So anyway, after you sign in, you go through the list and perform each activity they ask of you, often requiring a Facebook and Twitter follow.  Each activity is allotted a certin number of points and the more points you rack up, the better your chances of winning.

Something you want to look for is daily entries.  Some blogs will allow you to come back every 24 hours and do a new task to receive another point.  Make sure you go back every day and get your points!

What I do to ensure I can get as many Facebook likes as possible and subscribes to as many blog emails, is I have separate accounts.  I have one specific email account that is only for blog subscriptions and, trust me, I get hundreds of emails a day on that one.  But those subscriptions also mean that I get hundreds of points in contests.  I do the same for my Facebook and Pinterest accounts.  My real-life friends don't want to see me spamming their page with my contest likes all day long, so I have a separate account just for that.  As of now, I've reached my 5000 like limit, so I will have to delete some pretty soon.  Why does Facebook have a like limit anyway?  Why do they care if I like more than 5000 people?  I tried doing this with Twitter but they flagged me on two separate occasions because they said I was spamming.  Well duh, all I did was retweet contests, of course I was spamming, but isn't that pretty much what everyone else does on Twitter?  Since I still haven't figured them out, I just ignore Twitter entries on contests, but it pisses me off that I don't get those points every time.  If anyone wants to clue me in on how to get around their stupid spamming rules, I would be thrilled.

After entering hundreds of contests, you must be rich!

Uh, no.  Most of the prizes are small, a retail value of less than $50.  And I probably only win about 1% of all the contests I enter.  But I'll list some of the big-ticket items I've won over the past year and a half.  (These pictures are not my own and are the copyright of the original owner.  I only found them on Google Images.)

Kindle Fire
I was thrilled about this one, and it is definitely the one I've gotten the most use out of so far.

Beaba baby food maker

I never planned on buying a baby food maker, but hey if I get one for free, might as well use it!  This thing looks really cool (from inside the box).

Combi Cosmo stroller
Apparently this is a fancy brand that I've never heard of, so now I'm trying to win the car seat that can attach to it.

Cloth Diapers
This is my own picture, obviously.  The baby items that started this whole obsession!  So far I've won four handmade diapers, one Bumgenius, one Thirsties cover, one Ragababe, one Blueberry trainer, five handmade cloth wipes, one handmade wetbag and one Planet Wise wetbag.  I wish you could see all the adorableness in detail.

I also have a few baby clothes and toys and have won a few gift cards.  Some were good ones, like to Amazon and some were to online stores that I had never heard of.  But that's also a good thing about contesting, you get to experience online retailers you never would have before.

If you've won anything big in a contest, let me know.  Or if you have any questions about how to enter contests, please feel free to ask!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Saying goodbye to a pet

They say the worst heartbreak a person can experience is the loss of a child.  Thank God I have never experienced it and I hope I never do.  But as I am involuntarily childless, my animals have become my children.  This cat is Charlotte; she is around 18 years old.  She is currently dying, or may already be gone.

My mother called me right after I left work today and told me to come over to her house and say goodbye to our family pet.  We've had her for 10 years, given to us by a friend in 2003.  Charlotte used to live with me, but I developed such a bad cat allergy, she had to move in with my parents.  But I still loved her just as much and would play with her every time I visited.  I still considered her my cat.

When I saw Charlotte tonight, I knew she didn't have much time left.  As you can see from the picture, she was a little chunky, but now she is skin and bones.  Apparently this is due to her no longer eating and the vet assumes is stomach cancer.  He also said that her heartbeat was "galloping," in other words going way too fast, so she probably has heart disease along with the cancer.  Poor little kitty.  My mom said she is going to take Charlotte back to the vet on Friday to be euthanized, but honestly I do not think she will live that long.  She could barely move and was just kind of shaking on mom's lap.  I told her goodbye.

I love all my animals, yes even my fish.  And I mourn all of them when they die.  We cried over Molly and Chloe (our rats) for awhile when they left us.  And when I get the message that Charlotte is gone, I will likely cry for her too.  Enjoy the Rainbow Bridge, sweet girl, we'll miss you.

Monday, July 8, 2013

To ov or not to ov...

...that is the question.  Cliche way to start this post, I know.  I'm sorry.

Today boys and girls (ok probably not any boys) we're going to be talking about ovulation!  So exciting.  It actually is exciting for me, my entire life revolves around ovulation.  This is because with PCOS, I don't normally ovulate on my own.  I believe the last time I had a natural ovulation was May, 2012.  Since then I have ovulated several times, but some have been due to Clomid and one was due to injected stimulants.  When I did the Clomid, we did timed intercourse and when I did the injections, we had an IUI.  Obviously none of this worked and my guess is because we weren't treating the underlying problem.

So I said all that to say this.  I don't know if I've ovulated now.  I think I may have, but I'm not sure and I'm just going to have to play the wait and see game, which I really hate.  I've been taking my basal body temperature, which means I just take it as soon as I wake up, so it is a resting temp.  The past 4 days, including today, have been: 97.1, 97.5, 97.3 and 97.6.  Normally the jump between days 1 and 2 would indicate ovulation, but the jump wasn't very high and it went down slightly on day 3.  In past charts, my average before-ov temperature is 97.2 and average after-ov is 97.8, and my baseline is 97.5.  That means that today's temp is above the baseline, normally indicating ovulation.  Yay?  I don't know yet.  If anyone can lend me their opinion on this, I would be much obliged.  Or, I could just wait a couple of days and see where my temperature goes, but as we all know, waiting sucks!

Update 7/9/13: OK I didn't ovulate.  My temperature this morning went way down.  Ugh, I hate this back and forth stuff.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The White Queen

I am so freaking excited for the new Starz series The White Queen.  It is beginning on August 10th and will be 10 episodes.  For my readers in other countries, please no spoilers!  I understand it is already airing on the BBC.  But I would love to know what you think of it so far.  To pique your interest, here's the trailer.

Doesn't that look exciting?  I watched The Tudors a few years ago and absolutely loved it.  I can't help myself, I fall in love with anything pertaining to the Middle Ages or Renaissance time periods.

In case you haven't read the book, I'll give you a synopsis.  The series is based off three Philippa Gregory books: The White Queen, The Red Queen and The Kingmaker's Daughter.   I haven't read the third yet, but I've read the first two many times and absolutely devoured them.  The White Queen is told from the point of view of Elizabeth Woodville, who was a commoner and ended up marrying Edward IV and became queen.  The people were pissed off at first because Edward usurped the throne via the War of the Roses (and, duh, he married a commoner which just was not done, and still kind of isn't, unless you're as cute as Wills and can get away with it), but then E+E brought peace to England for awhile and the people accepted them.  Plus they had a billion children, which was seen as perpetuating the royal line rather than overpopulating the country.

The Red Queen is told from the point of view of Margaret Beaufort, who actually never became a queen but could have been an heir to the throne.  All throughout the book, it annoyed me that it was called queen but she wasn't one, but oh well, semantics, what are you going to do?  Margaret was a crazy character, one that you aren't meant to like, so it was really interesting reading her story in first person.  (Side note: I love that Philippa almost always writes in first person, you really get into these strong women's heads.)  Margaret hated Elizabeth and spent basically her entire life plotting her downfall and trying to grab the throne for her son.  Spoiler alert, she succeeds!  Margaret's son ends up marrying Elizabeth's daughter and he becomes Henry VII, also the first Tudor king.  There's a whole bunch of characters in these books, some you'll recognize vaguely from high school history but most you won't.  Fortunately, Philippa adds a family tree at the beginning of each of her books so you can keep everyone straight throughout the story.  I found myself going back to it frequently, along with the timeline of the Wars.

Overall, I highly recommend these two books, along with all of Philippa's.  She really does her research before writing.  I always look up all the historical events she writes about and she is more or less accurate.  She takes liberties with character's speech patterns and motives, but that is to be expected.

I am confused by this trailer, and the title of the show, because it seems to only be about Elizabeth and The White Queen.  But the all the info I've read about the show says it will be about all three books, so I don't know what to think yet.  For now I'm just trying to get the trailer out there so other lovers of historical fiction will tune in on August 10th.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on the trailer!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Let freedom ring!

This is a conversation I just had with Mr J:

Me: I need to make a blog post about how much I hate this holiday.
Him: Why?
Me: Because I'm a jerk?
Him: Yes.

What a lovely husband I have!  But I like someone who will tell it like it is, much like I always will.

I haven't mentioned this yet here, but I have dual citizenship: British and American.  I lived in England as a small child, though now I obviously live in the United States, I have gone back and forth between the two countries all my life.  I believe these experiences have given me a unique perspective when it comes to observing our country.

Side note: I have had many people ask me "Do they have the 4th of July in England?"  This always warrants a smartass answer, sometimes I say "Yes, of course they celebrate 4th of July" and sometimes I say "No, they skip from the 3rd right to the 5th."

OK, I don't actually hate Independence Day, per se, but it is one of those pseudo-holidays that really gets on my nerves.  Some people might point out that all holidays are fake or made up, but that's a discussion for another day.  Right now we're only discussing Independence Day.  Let's first list the things I like about it:
  • Fireworks.  What's not to like?  Blowing stuff up and they're pretty.  Win-win.
  • Getting off work.  I only just started my new job, but I was ready for a vacation day!  That place is exhausting.
I guess that's it, or else I just can't think of anything else.  Now let's list what I don't like:
  • Uber-patriotism.  The whole "America is the best country EVERRRRR!" attitude just irritates me.  For further information, watch the first 10 minutes of The Newsroom.  Will's rant sums up my feelings precisely.
  • BBQs, family get-togethers, parties, etc.  I just really can't be bothered to enjoy any of these anymore.  I just went over to my family's house and left with my sister screaming at me.  I'm still not sure why.
  • People acting like idiots.  Tonight is one of the busiest nights for the ER, because idiots are blowing their hands off, letting children play with fireworks or driving home drunk after all the beer at the BBQ.  It does not give me hope in the human race.
 The first point is the biggest one for me.  The undying love for this country gets under my skin, it seems like a contest to see who is the best American.  Who cares?  And, for some reason, Independence Day also seems like a day to celebrate the military.  I'm talking about the "Land of the free because of the brave" meme that shows up on Facebook every year.  Last I checked, we have not had any foreign invasions, nor has our country been in any sort of real jeopardy.

So there we go.  America is an annoying country, full of stupid people, who celebrate a fake holiday.  But I still love seeing the adorable patriotic rat at the top of this post.  What do you think of Independence Day?  Is it truly a time to reflect on America's past or is it simply an excuse to blow stuff up?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Hopped up on goofballs

I went to the doctor today, which was a good and a bad thing.  OK it wasn't totally bad, but I did find out my weight, which I have previously said is bound to be a scary number.  I'm only 4 pounds short of my all-time highest weight, which was in the summer of 2006.  I am NOT going to gain more weight, and by publishing this on the internetz, I will hold myself accountable.

The good part about my doctor's visit is I got my crazy pills.  See, I had stopped them last year when I was wanting to get pregnant because I didn't want a baby with tentacles.  That means it has been over a year that I've been an unmedicated bipolar.  Believe it or not, I managed my illness reasonably well.  This was mostly in part to Mr J, my husband.  He held my hand when I was feeling depressed (and there was a lot of depression) and he told me to knock it off when I was edging toward mania.

I got a prescription for Wellbutrin, to help with the depression, and for Topamax, for the mania and to fend off migraines.  Yes, I get migraine headaches too, and you're probably wondering why I have so many weird things going on with my health.  Let me tell you, all of those hitting me at once is not fun!  The good part about Topamax is it can be used off-label for weight loss.  The last time I used it I lost about 20-30 lbs in 2 months.  It was awesome and I look forward to that side effect again.  The bad part is it turns me into a total space cadet.  So if I neglect this blog for awhile, it is probably because either I've forgotten it exists or I've forgotten how to form words and type.

PS: The first person who can tell me where I got the title for this post gets a gold star!