Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Plum Paper Planner Review

At the end of last summer, I realized a busy season of life (school days and holidays) were fast approaching.  One look at my little, but pretty pocket planner and I realized it just wasn't going to cut it.  I had my eye on an Erin Condren Planner.  But it's extremely pricey and there are too many other big names to compare it to before I go spending a ton on one planner that I need to keep for a whole year.   So I put a call out on Facebook for help and opinions on planners.

So many people swore on their Erin Condrens, elegant Day Designers, and pretty Lilly Pulitzer Agendas, but one name was mentioned that I hadn't heard before- Plum Paper Planners.  So I started doing a little research and decided to give it a try.  It had all the bells and whistles of the Erin Condren, but cost less and offered more layout options for personalization.

I grabbed a coupon from a Plum Paper Fan group on Facebook, and ordered the new Large ME Planner.  It took about 10 business days to ship, and about a week later, it arrived covered in bubble wrap in a cute little box.

After a full year of using it, I can honestly say, I LOVE IT!
So lets find out why it's so great.

The cover design:
Plum Paper offered a LOT of pretty prints to choose from and every one could be customized with a name or monogram.  The cover is thick but an extra clear plastic protector cover on both sides.  (You can see mine is a little folded- thanks to the leaving it in the car and that was my mistake because Louisiana heat and plastic just don't mix) An extra bonus, they just revamped their cover material- it's completely tear resistant!

Right inside the cover is section for your personal information, but just your name and phone number.  Really- loosing my planner has always been a fear of mine.  A phone number is plenty of info; I'm not keen on putting my address down as well.  There is also a full year(s) calendar to cover a year at glance for the dates you choose for your calendar.  Then a couple pages for special days to remember in each month as well as a page for goals, ideas, and plans.  It's a little more than I need, but many love this section and find it very helpful. 

Then onto the months...
This is the part that SOLD me on Plum Paper.  My Lilly Pulitzer planner before was an 18 month planner that started in July and ended in December the following year.  I didn't like that you couldn't flow seamlessly from one planner to the next and having so many wasted pages (if I do year at a time, which I do) bugged me!  However I needed a new planner in the middle of the year so I could keep up with the busyness of life.  Plum Paper lets you personalize your planner right down to the month it starts and ends.  Your planner can be anywhere from 6-18 months long.  My current one is to get me through from late summer in 2016 all the way through 2017.  I'll order 2018 only in November. 

Each month comes with its own colorful tab to flip to making navigating the planner super easy.  It starts the section with a monthly highlights page (super handy) and a notes page.  I'm displaying last year's September because a certain six year old traced her hand on all my 2017 September pages in church this last Sunday. 

Then you get to a month at a glance which is all I used to really need... before I became a mom that is.  The squares are generously sized with a section for more notes in the margin as well as a glance to the next month. 

The next pages in that month section are broken down one week at a time on a two page spread with vertical days- you have the option to select a horizontal spread instead.  This is where it gets cool- if you are a student keeping up with classes, a professional blocking out sections of your life, a mom managing multiple kids, a blogger managing multiple tech and social media aspects, etc. etc., you can have Plum Paper label the sections to give each person or subject a designated space.  I started to label them as so in this order "Angel, Lane, Jude, Aubrey Lane, two for The Mustard Seed, and one for Misc".  However, just like I knew having empty sections in my planner would bother me, I knew having one section for each family member would do the same.  What if AL needed two and The Mustard Seed needed 3 that day?  I'm too OCD for to right something for them in someone else's "space".  Then I thought about breaking up the day into time slots, but I write in my planner as I think about it like a to do list for the day.  So that wouldn't work either.  In true Angel fashion, I just opted to keep that section blank and write them in as I needed. 

At the end of each month is a page for notes.  All of this comes pretty standard.

The add on sections are where the fun begins.  You can choose from many different options of add ons: notes, meal planning, to do list, address book, financial planner, etc.  You can choose how many pages you want in this add on section.  And you can even choose how the add ons appear in your planner- either divided up with a few pages in each monthly section or with its on section and tab at the end of the book.  I chose todo lists and notes for mine.

After that come a short little section of dotted paper, a sheet for passwords and usernames (this is blank for me), one sheet of an address book, a page of holidays for the next few years, and a year at glance for the upcoming year.  And to top it all off, it ends with a folder for keeping things in your planner as you need them.

I have used a lot of planners in my life.  Each one I try to keep so I can look back and remember what was going on in my life during certain times.  This planner is large (there are smaller options from the same company), but that's what I preferred to keep up with all aspects of my life in one place.  I don't have a separate planner for my littles or my work.

I have seen a lot of questions asking for planner recommendations over the past couple months, so I knew I had to share this treasure of a planner I found.  Hope this was helpful to anyone inquiring!  Have a great day!

**This post is not sponsored by Plum Paper or anyone else.  (I'm not that cool, LOL).  This is just me sharing a product I love and find very useful!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Trusting Without Borders // Part 5

Well hey y'all!  It's been a long time since I posted when I last blogged about the grief I experience (present tense, y'all- it's definitely something you learn to live with and not an event in time) over the sudden and unexpected loss of my mom earlier this year.  And it's been even longer since I've opened up about our fertility struggles with the Trusting Without Borders series.  The reception of that series was astounding!  I received so many comments and messages from people that either related on so many levels or just wanted to encourage and pray for us... I felt the love!! 

Well where are we now on our fertility journey?  Have we given up?  Are we still "trying"?  Have our prayers been answered?  Has God completely redirected our hearts and paths?? 

Well let me go ahead and give you a spoiler alert... this is NOT a pregnancy announcement post.  I know that is so disappointing to those of you rooting and praying for us, but that's exactly why I feel the need to give a little update.

So a lot has happened in the last year of our lives (to say the least).  After I last blogged the last post in this series (actually just two days after) we had a flood, moved four times in four months, said goodbye to my mama, broke my hand that resulted in surgery and pins and months of therapy, and just a busy life in general. So to keep things in order, let me start right where we left off. 

In September, after the chaos of the flood started calming down and children went back to school, we returned to the doctor and more blood work was ordered.  To my complete and udder shock, my progesterone levels came back normal!  We were advised that no further fertility treatment was needed at that time, and to call them back if we weren't pregnant in 6 months.  Well okay... Let's make a baby already.

The next 6 months did not provide the ideal circumstances for expanding our family.  So month 7 rolled around without the first positive pregnancy test, and back to the doctor I went.  This time the blood work was frustrating. My progesterone results were too low for optimal fertility but not low enough to declare infertility.  So other tests were set up the next week.  And wouldn't you know it, I broke my hand that weekend and surgery was scheduled the same day as the fertility tests.  So we had to put it off yet another month.  The next month we repeated blood work and my levels were the lowest they had ever been... So back down the Clomid path we went.  Only this time, my fear returned stronger than ever.  All I could think about was what if I was ruining Jude and Aubrey Lane's lives by potentially conceiving another baby with chromosome abnormalities.  I was back to 3 years earlier crying hysterically and full of fear!!  After talking it over with Lane, my mother in law, and two best friends- they each reminded me that God's plans were good and just for me; that I needed to decide once and for all to completely trust and move forward. 

Then in complete randomness, I was texting back in forth with a sweet sister who served on the Prayer Team with me the last time I served at a Discovery Weekend.  Not only had this sweet sister in Christ faced secondary infertility, but this special lady really walks with the Lord.  I mean when this sweet sister shares what the Lord has shown her, you listen and you listen good.  Anyway, I shared with her my fertility frustrations and fears, and she told me she prayed that I wouldn't look to the left or the right but keep my eyes on the Lord.  Y'ALL!!  Do y'all remember that from here?? I just wept.  It was a bold reminder that God still sees me and has good plans for me!

When my trigger shot arrived, I had one last hard cry that morning, said lots of prayers, and drove to my sweet nurse friend's house so she could give me the injection!


We were going to COMPLETELY trust God and we were going to MAKE a baby!

Then it didn't work.

No worries.  We shall try again next month.

And it didn't work again.

That's okay! July will be our MONTH!

And it wasn't.

Are you seeing the trend here???

So after a few failed months, more tests had to be done.  More labs.  More sticks.  More doctors.  More money.  Lots more money.

Nothing (thank goodness) came back wrong or worrisome.  But why aren't we conceiving?  Our doctor believes that my balanced translocation is rearing its ugly head; that we are conceiving but the babies aren't implanting or "sticking" because they are genetically compromised.  So nothing to do but just keep trying.

This is where I started getting antsy.  I have cried and prayed,

"Lord, is this not your will for me?  Am I beating on a door you have closed and locked, and I just refuse to accept it?"

This started consuming my every waking thought...  Why isn't the Lord blessing us with a baby?  I thought I heard Him so clear??  If I didn't, have I ever really heard Him?? 

Thank GOODNESS, the Lord puts Godly people in my path to remind me of the Truths and get me out of my own head.  My mother in law reminded me that there was nothing shameful about wanting another baby.  And my close friend who has faced unfathomable tragedy shared that she thought God was lining things up to build a great testimony.... they have a wonderful testimony of faith and endurance, but it isn't the testimony she thought God was working out for her.  And then remembering a few years ago that our Sunday School teacher/ family doctor asked me if I believed I was in the Will of God, and when I answered yes, he told me that I would make the right decision...

All of this weighed heavily on my mind and heart.  As I sat on the examination table of yet another doctor waiting for yet another fertility test, I prayed heavily for God to keep directing me on the right path and to show me if I was on the wrong one.  When the reproductive endocrinologist came in, it was a man I had never met and doesn't know "my story", but for some reason he asked.  He asked how long we had been trying and if we already had kids.  I got to share that we have a 6 year old and an almost 10 year old.  He remarked that's quite a spread and asked if we had trouble conceiving either of those.  To his shock, I answered not a bit!  Our first son has special needs and was very medically fragile his first few years of life, so we were hesitant moving forward.  Then he asked the million dollar question-  you're not hesitant anymore?  I didn't have to think about my response.  Absolutely not!  Our daughter is such a joy.  Her birth and being has brought so much healing and restoration to our hearts.  And despite his needs, our son is our little sunshine.  Our lives would be shallow and empty without him.  He has taught us so much about God!

In that moment I was reminded that there IS PURPOSE IN THE JOURNEY!!  Maybe I walked down this path for such a time as this.  That encounter.  This blog.  The broken heart reading it.

So when you are seeking the Lord and praying desperately over that unanswered prayer, when is the time to just give up?  The answer is NEVER! If you pray for someone to come to the Lord, do you give up if it doesn't happen after one prayer?  No!  If you are seeking the Lord and walking with Him, then you are in his Will and remember He's the one that gives you the desires of your heart.  You NEVER GIVE UP!!

To the single Christian entering her 30's alone, keep pressing in.  To the couple facing yet another negative pregnancy test, keep trying.  To the person still praying over the health of a sick or dying loved one, keep the faith.  To the parent still praying over their child's salvation, KEEP PRAYING!!  God wants us to pray fervently and expectantly.  He says so in His Word!

Am I saying that eventually God will say yes to all the things you cover in petition every night?  I wish I could, but I don't know what's best for you... or me, but God sure does! 

What I am saying is that if I have learned anything in this life, it's that God works and is glorified just as much, if not more, in the journey, not just the destination!!  As a wife that has seen way too many negative pregnancy tests, a mother who faces the reality that it is likely I will outlive my son, and a daughter who lost her mother to cancer, I can still say I am on this road for His glory.  YOU ARE ON THIS ROAD FOR HIS GLORY!!  Your testimony may not look like what you thought it would, but it will still be a testimony of God's goodness and faithfulness.

I don't know if God is going to bless us with another baby.  I'm not sure I'm on this path for that exact end result.   However, realizing that there is purpose in this pain and journey does encourage me to keep pressing in because there just might be another doctor who needs to see and hear what God has done and is doing. There just might be another woman in the waiting room that needs someone to talk to.  And there just might be one reader who needed the encouragement to just keep pressing forward.

So tonight when you lift up that unanswered prayer yet again, I will pray that the Lord sends you a sweet reminder of why you're still on this journey and your zeal be revived.  That you continue to trust Him without borders.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

I need to tell you...

It has been seven weeks since I last spoke to my mom. Since I last held her hand. Seven of the longest most painful weeks I think I have ever endured.  And next week will be eight weeks.  This isn't going away anytime soon....

 You've seen me at the grocery store, liked pictures of my cute kids on social media, waved to me at carpool in the mornings, and made small talk with me in the hallways of church.  You probably think "she didn't bring it up- maybe she's doing okay."

Well I need to tell you I'm not bringing it up because I'm not doing okay.  I'm not constantly talking about my mom because talking about her passing makes it too real for me.  I need to tell you that when I look alright at the grocery store it's because I like to pretend she's gone on vacation or at work.  I'm still fresh in my grief and in denial.  I still can't believe that's she gone and if I don't let myself dwell on it too long, it's easy to pretend just long enough (sometimes) to be in public without having a breakdown.  But even when I'm pretending, reality is still heavy on my shoulders.  I need to tell you that I'm always thinking about her.  I need to tell you that I hate-HATE- talking about her in past tense! Writing about her in past tense is tearing me up.

I need to tell you that every time I get in my car, I instinctively pick up the phone to call her, and have even done so a couple of times before I caught myself.  Her number is disconnected now.  Somehow that makes it hurt worse.  To know that I'll never again in my life see that number on my phone along with a picture of her holding my baby, her grandchild... that's when I can't pretend at that point.  I need to tell you that every time I get in my car, I'm ruined.  Every morning.  After I drop my babies off at school, the ride home is lonely and long, and it seems wrong to fill that time, her time, with something else.  I'm too young to be without my mama, and that doesn't matter because I'm without her anyway.

I need to tell you that it kills me that my children won't have her as they grow up.  Jude won't have all that sweet snuggle time in her recliner that he used to get when we visited or those sweet little gifts of bubbles that she picked up for him just because.  Aubrey Lane won't get those daily phone calls to tell her Maw Maw Katie what she did at school that day or receive little packages of trinkets in the mail that Maw Maw always thought to send.  I need to tell you that my mom was so proud of Jude, and that her only granddaughter was pure joy for her.

I need to tell you how much she loved Lane.  Like a son she never had.  She was always very proud to call him her son in law.  I think when we found each other, she took a deep breath of relief because she knew Lane would be a great husband to her daughter and father to her grandchildren.  A good man.  A rare find.  I need to tell you that I never called my mom and talked bad about my husband. Not because we have this wonderful perfect marriage, but because she knew he is good man and I didn't want to let hot emotions over any arguments change her view of him.  But I don't think it would have.  She loved him so much.

I need to tell you that my mom and I didn't always get along.  What mom and daughter does?  But we always worked it out.  In fact, we got to work out a lot of stuff about a month before we found out she was sick. 

I need to tell you what kind of person my mom was.  She was a great person and a better mom.  When I was pregnant with Jude, it was the first time she couldn't fix something hard and painful for me.  And it killed her.  She tried everything she could and the fact that we both knew she couldn't put a little distance between us. It was something that I had to do with just God. And as I grew more independent in myself, I benched her and she just got to watch.  Years later she would brag on how well I take care of my children and family.  She told me it didn't hurt her to watch; that it was her great accomplishment to raise such a strong woman.  

I need to tell you that when Jude was born, she was so proud of him.  It was an honor to her to be Jude's grandmother. Then a couple months later when Jude was very sick and not expected to live but a few more days, we were in the NICU and visitors could only come a couple at a time and only during specific times.  My mom slept in her car in the parking lot around the clock just so she could be completely available to me whenever I would need her.

I need to tell you that THAT is the kind of person my mom always was for her daughters, family, or ANYONE who needed her.  My mom was the kind of person that you could call in the middle of the night because you were sick and she would get up and come take you to the doctor no matter what she had going in her life.  If you needed my mom, she was there.  No distance too great, no time too inconvenient.  She was there if you called her.  Who she was in our family and her community was overwhelmingly edified at her memorial as I stood for hours and greeted so many people who loved my mama so much.

I need to tell you that my mom LOVED her only granddaughter.  She could not deny Aubrey Lane of anything.  My mom, not normally an emotional woman, cried the day she was born. And from that day, that little girl was the sun in my mom's sky.  It may be the most painful aspect of losing her- knowing that Aubrey Lane's number one fan won't be there to watch her grow up. 

I need to tell you that my mom loved this stupid blog.  She was so proud of me.  She thought I was a great writer and shared every post with pride.  She would read it over and over.  She would complain if I posted without telling her.  She thought I was something special.  Sometimes I feel like losing her equates to losing everything I am in this world.  Not being able to see myself through her eyes is terrifying.

I need to tell you that my mom was the most gullible and the smartest person I knew.  She was funny and believed any magazine or facebook headline out there.  BUT she was soooo smart.  If I had any question, I would pick up the phone and she had the answer.  Especially when it came to business matters.  She helped with tax questions, legal notary questions, anything you could think of.  But she was always Katie.  She was the same person everywhere she went and never was too good to talk to anyone.

I need to tell you that my mom was very old fashioned, simple, and sentimental.  She kept things- baby things, my first casts, locks of hair, quilts and blankets relatives made, birthday cards, little trinkets from places, she kept it all.  But she wasn't an emotional woman.  She was a matter of fact kind of person.  I need to tell you I get so much of that from her.  She didn't let life get her down.  Ever.  She pulled up her boot straps and kept marching.  When the oncologist came in that day at Tulane and confirmed my mom's advanced cancer with its grim prognosis, I think he was waiting for some type of emotional outburst, but he wasn't going to get it; not in that room.  We just looked at him and said "what do we need to do."  That's the kind of person my mom was.  And that's another reason I don't constantly post and share my grief with the public and social media.  It was not; it is not our fashion to do so. 

I need to tell you that my mom was determined to beat cancer, despite the three years she was given.  She told me she wasn't ready to go, but if God decided that it was her time, she said "It is well with my soul." 

I need to tell you that I feel deprived- that I should still have 3 more years with my mom.  I need to tell you that her last month of life, we all came together and made the most out of our time together.   I need to tell you that I wasn't ready to say goodbye to my mom.  But I need to tell you that in the Book of Job, the Bible says a man's days are numbered and we won't be given a minute longer.  I need to tell you that I believe in the scriptures, and that my mom's heart was going to stop on January 17th no matter where she was and what her diagnosis was.  And so I need to tell you that my mom's cancer diagnosis was a gift.  How many people get a month to put a closing chapter on their lives?  But we did. And even then, what I wouldn't give for ten more minutes to hold her hand. 

And I need to tell you that I'm sad, but I'm not mad at God.  And that I pray everyday that one day I can look back and say "It is well with my soul."

Friday, January 13, 2017

First Christmas in the Louisiana Farmhouse

Well I know it's late for a Christmas post, but better late than never right?

Ok... so I had all of these amazing plans for Christmas in our new house.  (You remember the post, right?)  Actually I had been dreaming of Christmas in the new house for years.  But the reality was, we had just moved in the day before Thanksgiving so between unpacking, a busy busy work schedule, and an even busier kiddo itinerary there wasn't a bit of time left to decorate elaborately for the holiday.  And realistically, we didn't have living room furniture, a dining table, a washer and dryer, or even a refrigerator until just a little over a week before Christmas.  So I felt happy just to have those things, let along décor.

To make decorating for Christmas even more of a challenge, (Y'ALL!!) come December most stores were already wiped clean of holiday decorations.  Seriously!! I would walk up and down the same isle ten times, looking behind displays and boxes for some type of decoration that went with the vision I had.

Well despite the Christmas décor despair, I did manage to find a few odd and ends and pulled together a pretty backdrop for my family's Christmas festivities.  The Christmas tree was not overly decorated, but just as pretty as any tree we have ever had.  I couldn't find a tree skirt that went just right with the look I wanted.  Funds were a little tight (just built a house, ya know), my burlap stash was lost in the flood, and like I said- shelves were pretty bare in the Christmas section.  As I was leaving Home Depot with our tree, I walked past the Christmas section and picked up a $3 buffalo plaid fleece blanket. It was perfect!

I found 2 spools of flannel ribbon at HomeGoods- perfect for the tree.  And a sweet friend, found two more spools at TJ Maxx.  I grabbed a few small boxwood wreaths from Joann's and used the ribbon and wreaths to bring a little Christmas into the kitchen.  Other than that I used pops of red with dish towels and a utensil crock to bring in a little more cheer.  I'll probably keep them out through Valentine's Day. 

A funny story about the Christmas tree:  We usually cut down our tree at the local farm the weekend after Thanksgiving.  Well Lane was working, and we couldn't find time to get to the farm. And just like the Christmas decorations, most Home Depots, Lowe's, and other tree lots had pretty slim pickings.  Finally we found a Home Depot with a good selection of trees.  We found an 8 foot "promo" tree with the pretties shape, no holes, and for only $25- another win.  Well once we got home and I started fluffing the tree and putting lights on it, I pulled out a branch.  Weird.  As I kept putting lights, I kept pulling out branches revealing holes in the tree.  It didn't take us long to realize that the good price on that "promo" tree was due to the fact that the tree had plenty of holes that was filled with clippings from other trees.  We were laughing so hard at the whole thing.  By the time I had finished all the lights, the tree was full of holes, we had a pile of branches, and Lane and I were in tears from laughing so hard at the perfect tree we thought we had found.  Believe it or not, it was still a pretty tree.  Our own Charlie Brown tree.

The good thing to come from the Charlie Brown tree, was that I had plenty of clippings to decorate the rest of the house.  I tied a few sprigs onto serving dishes with baker's twine, put some into candle lanterns, and the rest into my dining room lanterns.  We didn't have a dining table at that time, but the dining room was decorated for Christmas nonetheless.

All the simple décor was just so pretty, but what was even more special was all the memories we got to make in our new home with each other.  We spent a great deal of time drinking hot chocolate (and lemonade) by the fireplace, made gingerbread houses, homemade cinnamon rolls, and other sweet treats together in the kitchen, and hosted multiple gatherings with sweet friends and family. I planned a Christmas book advent for my littles this year.  Jude and Aubrey Lane loved it and excitedly begged to open the book each night.  There was no going to bed until they had their Christmas book. 

Christmas Day was the sweetest.  My family was coming over that day so I was up early in the kitchen.  I heard AL stir, so I ran to the hall so I could see her reaction without her knowing it.  After she realized "Santa had come", she ran down the hall and exclaimed "I did not ask Santa for a teepee, but he just knowed I wanted one!"  She was just as grateful as last year.  Jude was more attentive to the festivities than ever.  He loved unwrapping presents and demanded that his toys be released from their packaging immediately.  He was so funny.  Then my family came in and I fed them dinner on a fold out table in our dining room (our table didn't arrive until the 27th) and everyone had a great time.

Looking back on the season, I'm quite happy with the simple décor- it was all about the memories this year, and there were plenty of sweet ones made.