The Journee to Parenthood.

Now that I am almost 9 months pregnant I figured it would be a good time to document some of my thoughts on Tom and I becoming parents in just a short amount of time!

If I had to sum up pregnancy in two words my words would be: weird and surreal. Weird because I know that there is a human in there, but my brain can not picture what this baby looks like, it’s tiny little personality, or how it’s getting out. Surreal, because even though I am at the end of my pregnancy the baby clothes are washed and my hospital bag is half packed… it still does not really feel that real.

I wanted to document some questions we have gotten along the way. I always loved reading stories about pregnancy and marriage so I thought I would share a bit about our very own story.

Did you know you were ready?

Not really. HAHA. Tom and I both knew that we always wanted kiddos and that was something we talked about long before marriage (almost 5 years ago now WHAT!?!?)

Elicia always wanted a big family- the louder the better. I really do thrive in chaos and noise. Tom says 2-4 kids ūüėČ We also always knew we wanted to wait to build a strong foundation in marriage and grow in our faith together. We also had so many places to see and discover first. We spent the first four and a half years of our marriage navigating being newlyweds, then marriage and life abroad in Korea– and next¬†Morocco. Endless adventures together and countless countries explored. Tom even hit his newly formed goal of 30 countries before 30 years old!! It was important for us to wait to grow our family even when our peers and friends were having kids years before us. & I have to say– that was the best decision for us. I feel that with each passing year we grew stronger as a team and each year has truly gotten better, together.

How did it all begin?

Nothing, absolutely nothing can prepare you for seeing the positive results that you are pregnant. No matter how planned or unplanned the baby might be. Even when my stomach started to grow, we saw the heartbeat and the baby move on the ultrasound, then I began feeling the baby move, then Tom felt him or her move- it just all felt and continues to feel so surreal. This is a story for another time, but Tom was shocked and very anxious and needed time to process it all- which I think is probably normal for most men! I have to say though after the initial shock wore off it has been a total joy observing him take it all in. I also think it’s important to add here that babies can take TIME! Do not be discouraged if it’s taken you a few months. A couple (with no fertility issues) only has a 15% chance of conceiving each cycle. So many couples told us that they got pregnant on the very first try. That is NOT NORMAL! At all. I wish someone had told me that. Be patient. Good things take time and it can be months ūüėČ

How’s pregnancy been?¬†

It’s not as scary as people make it. Now, I know I have had a great pregnancy. Some women¬†just struggle so much with sickness throughout pregnancy¬†and I truly feel for them. My mom was pregnant with my littlest sisters when I was high school and she was sick the entire pregnancy. It was awful. Overall, my pregnancy has been great. I have continued working out 4-5 times a week, eating pretty healthy, and I was even able to run up to 33 weeks. The last two weeks I’ve been doing lots¬†of low impact workouts and mixing in some- prenatal workouts here and there. (Thanks to the awesome blog Nourish Move Love!)

That isn’t to say pregnancy hasn’t had it’s challenges. Sleep is a debacle each night and I am sleeping in 3-4 hour increments these days. I definitely had nausea the first four months and smells OH THE SMELLS. I didn’t want to eat anything except for fruit the first 20 weeks or so. I am out of breathe A LOT. Working out consistently has¬†kept and fueled a healthy pregnancy- that I am sure of. It helps combat lots of those pregnancy symptoms, helped a ton with heartburn, achey butt/leg muscles, and the breathlessness I feel (ironically!) It hasn’t always been easy- but I don’t think pregnancy should be really. You’re growing a human. Lots of people have asked how much weight I have gained. We don’t actually own a scale and so I never really know and that has been the best thing for me. In the beginning of pregnancy I knew that my body would change. I knew that if I ate healthy and kept working out that baby would gain exactly what baby needs and I accepted whatever that was going to be. I have gained 23 pounds as of 2 weeks ago at the doctors office. So I’m calling it 25 and I still have six weeks to go so it’ll be more and I am okay with it. I want a strong and healthy babe!

What’s your birth plan?¬†

Keep me healthy. Get baby out healthy.That is it. BOOM. I am not opposed to meds. It’s 2017, I am so thankful for medical advancements, ¬†and I have nothing to prove to anyone. I have always been in awe and cheer f0r women who decide to do no meds- but I know myself and¬†my pain tolerance so we are going in with an open mind. Because let’s be real- I have never felt that pain and never given birth and it is totally out of our control the circumstances for that day. I trust our doctor and that God has gone before us.

Final thoughts on being abroad and being pregnant:

Of course it’s been hard to be away from our family during the entire pregnancy and there have been moments of sadness or loneliness because there aren’t birth classes or the support like back in the states readily available, I can’t communicate with the hospital staff, and we don’t have family around to gather together and celebrate the most exciting time in our life. (Just to name a few)

On the upside, Tom also pointed out that being abroad has simplified a lot of things. We have less distractions around and less commitments to attend to as we mentally prepare for parenthood. We have less people to consult for advice, but the people we surround ourselves with are really great parents and have a life similar to what ours will look like as an expat living abroad with kiddos. We value that information and even though we have less to consult for advice the advice we get is very solid. Lastly, we have a lot LESS baby stuff than we would back in the states. Everything I have came in a suitcase (okay maybe two) from the states when my sister in law came to visit us and from friends that went back home at Christmas break and loaded up for us!  We have no baby nursery and just the bare minimums. Which kept things pretty easy for us- especially since we have another big move on the horizon.

Lastly, I am doing a mama devotional which I have LOVED & I am sharing that along with some pregnancy must haves below, ¬†but this stuck with me and I’ll end on this note because pregnant or not I feel that this applies to my entire life.

“God’s gift of pregnancy wasn’t because I deserve this incredible blessing, but rather God’s way of showing his love and perfect timing.”

My mama must haves for pregnancy. I feel like there isn’t a ton you need, but I really had to prepare in advance because all of this (except the Argan oil) is from the USA and we can’t get mail in Morocco! So at 12 weeks pregnant I begun to make a list of what I wanted from the states which is when my friend Jenni went home to the states and loaded up & later my sister in law. I also did not get anything for these recommendations…but when I love a product I have to share.

Starting from the top left:

1.//DRESSES. I have lived in dresses (and leggings) my entire pregnancy. Seriously. Especially since I needed to look put together for work. Old Navy maternity was a huge hit especially since they have petite and the price point was right for me. I stocked up on about six dresses and basically that has been all I have worn. The top blue dress is for our baby shower next weekend and that is from Pink Blush.

2.// ¬†Tubby Todd. 100% natural belly balm- citrus avocado. It smells SO GOOD. I discovered this company on instagram probably over a year ago and couldn’t wait to try their products. I am in love. The best part is that they are toxin, gluten, paraben, sulfate, artificial fragrance/color, BPA, and animal cruelty FREE. I also bought their baby travel kit for when babe arrives and I love all their products. Find them—> here!

3.// Argan Oil. SOOOO many things I could say here. Argan oil is crazy cheap and made in Morocco so it has been apart of my daily routine at least twice a day. I love and rant about the miracle properties of how wonderful Argan oil has been for me– and no stretch marks yet. I know nothing can prevent stretch marks, but I do think it’s helped a ton. The moroccan ladies swear by it and I now know why.

4.// Hospital & new mama robe. From Pink Blush. 

5.//Good reads. First Time dad (the stuff you really need to know) ¬†by John Fuller. Quick and easy read. Lots of practical info for Tom. He really liked it and read it in a weekend! & for mamas: Waiting in Wonder- Growing in Faith While You’re Expecting by Catherine Claire Larson. I have really loved doing this devotional each day!

Bottom row

6. and 7.//¬†Blanqi¬†leggings and Belly band. Okay this has to be my BEST pregnancy investment. I wore one or the other of these every single day. Not only are they well made, but they provide support. I wore them working out, with the dresses, or with a long shirt over the top. ALL THE TIME. I have not gone a day without one of these. The band allowed me to wear all my normal work pants/jeans the first 6 months of pregnancy. Both of them seamless and providing support, a company started by two best friends, I am ALL ABOUT THESE and every pregnant women needs them. I would have also purchased their maternity support tank top, but it was on back order before my sister in law came to Morocco so it wasn’t available! I also found this company on instagram! Find their awesome stuff:¬†here!

8.// Baby Boy Bakery My First Year Baby Journal by Jacqui Saldana. I have followed this mama for a few years and she has her own biz! Her story of strength, resilience , and faith amazes and inspires me. The journal she created is perfect. A baby journal that has it all but keeps it clean, classic, and simple. I love spending time writing in this about our soon to be baby and can’t wait to document his or her first year. She also creates adorable cooking kits for kids/mamas and toddler journals too. The size is perfect too for traveling/living abroad. ¬†Check out her products: here!

9.// Athletic wear. I still fit into all my workout shorts/capris but I purchased a couple essential workout tops from Old Navy Maternity. A tank and a long sleeve lightweight top. If you follow me on snapchat you know that I wear the same top again and again…haha! I had to add the workout piece¬†and give a huge shoutout to Lindsey at Nourish Move Love for her incredible workouts! She also just released prenatal workouts over here that I am going to be doing my last month of pregnancy! Workouts for all and they are CHALLENGING- can’t rave enough about them.

10.//Not pictured but should be included// Online breastfeeding classes done by Lindsey Shipley, an RN, Childbirth Educator, and IBCLC-certified Lactation Coach… this is especially helpful if you’re abroad because it can be done anywhere on your own time!¬†

How we paid off our DEBT!

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Can you believe October is almost upon us?! I love summer, but fall in Korea is pretty darn spectacular as well. Are you a fan of fall? We’ve been spending as much time as we can outdoors hiking, camping, and most recently biking. As some of you know the beginning of September was a very exciting time for Tom and I. After 18 months we reached a BIG BIG BIG goal of ours. ¬†We became 100% DEBT FREE!!! Lots of our friends messaged us wondering how we did it? What was our secret? Could they do it too? I’ve been thinking about this post for a long time. Debating how I wanted to write it¬†exactly. Our goal is not to tell you how you should do it, but rather how/why we did ¬†it ourselves! We understand that the way we did it doesn’t work for everyone. You have to find what works for YOU. I truly believe that anyone can do it & our hope is that if you’re feeling trapped or burdened by financial debt that this gives you HOPE and inspiration to reach your financial goals- whatever those goals may be.

In, May 2012 I graduated with my teaching degree after five years of school. Newly engaged, looking for a job, and soon-to-be married ¬†…money was tight. Tom was working on paying off his car. Rent, bills, gas, groceries. You know the drill. It got to be a lot. We had six months before the school loans required payment (although accruing interest during this time) and a wedding in the Dominican Republic left us with a credit card bill waiting for payment. WHEW! It wasn’t long before we looked a bit closer and realized that I had $42,000 of college debt to be paid. ¬†We decided some changes needed to be made & adventure was calling. We packed our bags and flew across the world to work as teachers in Korea. Living in Korea helped us incredibly¬†to start working on our debt. Our rent was paid, our tickets to Korea were paid for, and bills were low. We make good money here, but our salary is still the same as what a teacher in the states would make per year after taxes are taken out.¬†So while Korea helped jump start on our debt, it isn’t¬†the reason our debt is gone.

Here’s how we did it:

1. Live simply, beneath your means. It is very easy to spend what you have & expand your lifestyle in tandem with expanding your salaries or promotions. It is on the other hand, very difficult to spend significantly less than what you make, even if it means achieving a financial goal like paying off debt. Living beneath our means, to us, meant avoiding traditional materialistic spending habits. Before just about every single purchasing decision whether it was $1.00 or $100 we would think of the product’s use, future, and the purchase’s impact on our lives. We asked ourselves often “Did we NEED it?” or “Did we just WANT it? Did we need to go out for coffee OR could we make it at home a little bit more to cut unnecessary costs?” Living beneath our means to us meant-living simply with less.

2. Make debt a priority. Tom and I always did our budget for the month after first paying our debt. We agreed upon a certain amount (which was as much as we could) to pay debt each month while still having money to do life! We had a set amount that ¬†we paid each month right off the bat. It came out of our paychecks immediately. We made debt our first priority. Doing this still allowed us to travel extensively while paying off debt. It didn’t mean we stopped living or exploring. I truly believe that because we didn’t spend our money first and THEN¬†pay our debt, we were able to stick to making the debt a priority. It was at the top of our list because we knew if we only paid the minimum amount due that interest would continue accruing and we would have never made progress on eliminating the debt! It’s a slippery slope if you don’t make debt your priority.

3. Make a PLAN! We set goals, made a plan, and put it into action. Sounds simple, right? Not always! We really had to change our entire spending mentality. By making a plan together and writing it down we knew we could start achieving. Each time we hit a small goal it felt like a tiny victory! Having someone to hold you accountable for your goals was extremely helpful for us. We didn’t want to let each other down. We were a team working together towards hitting that goal. Adding up our debt and seeing our grand total brought a big knot to my stomach. It was this big knot in my stomach that made me think about every purchase decision. The better you stick to the plan, the debt knots will disappear¬†more quickly. ¬†With each goal we hit (no matter how small) we were further¬†motivated to push for the next goal on our plan.

–One last thing to note is that just because our debt is gone we are both truly committed to continuing ALL of the above that I mentioned. Continuing to live below our means to now SAVE. Making saving a priority for our future. Always having a plan in place to continue hitting goals set by us to SAVE! It truly is a lifestyle choice & we plan to continue traveling & saving along the way!

Have you paid off debt? What are YOUR TIPS?! What works for you?

The Beauty of Life. A Boat Journey -Philippines Style.

Sitting on a boat and it’s sticky hot. The motor is right beneath my feet. What separates us is what appears¬†to be just a thin rickety layer of metal. The boat is packed (like a can of sardines) full of people. This rickety boat is a small one, that I’m almost positive, has been pieced together from recycled parts.

We begin our journey- just an hour’s ride this trip. It’s not long before the boat begins to sway and water seeps in through the slots that represent windows along the side. The people next to me quickly pull up these wooden slats that act as a makeshift shield preventing¬†the passengers from getting soaked by the waves. Quickly the temperature rises while¬†sweat droplets suddenly¬†pool on our bodies. We are instructed to sit only inside the boat’s lower level where we must stay seated and I try to continue reading, but have to take a break because I begin to feel queasy.

My mind begins to wander as I close my eyes trying to relax in the heat¬†&¬†confined small space. I’m sitting next to ¬†a very old lady with plenty of wrinkles decorating her skin. She’s speaking Tagalog to a younger version of herself sitting behind us ,and I assume it’s her daughter. She has dark chocolate brown eyes with matching brown skin. I just know she’s lived a long life. I wonder what her story is. Where has she been? What led her here today? She catches me glancing at her as we exchange smiles. I want to talk to her, but I also am concentrating¬†hard to stay calm as my stomach is doing flips inside of me. I wonder where she’s headed today? I think about the beauty in each person’s¬†life story. The joy, the pain, and the journey we each take. Each day an important one. Though, often the every day moments in life are forgotten…it’s each of these moments that make life so special.

The small port city of Dumaguete (in the Philippines) is a refreshing break from Korea’s technology craze. People around me use their old flip style phone. You know, the Nokia look-alike ones (top up/ pay as you go phones) to text their people. It’s quite the change from seeing everyone glued to their smartphone. Often, admittedly, myself included.

People doze asleep while I wonder how exactly they fall asleep so easily with the loud rumbling sound of the motor below and the squealing of parts just below my feet that continue propelling the boat forward. ¬†Before long the hum of the motor makes my own eyes heavy as, I too, begin to drift off. It isn’t long before the “windows” are down and I can see land again. The sun is out and I see long white strips of stunning sand along the shore that is waiting to be explored. The water goes from deep sapphire blue to gorgeous aquamarine & mysterious mystical Siquijor island is just beckoning for our discovery.

–It’s moments like this I wish we could freeze forever in our mind. Ya know what I mean?

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