Saturday, December 31, 2011


One huge benefit of blogging is that you are able to look back at what you've done (or haven't done) in the past year. As I sat down to write 2012's resolutions, I took a look back at what I decided I should work on during 2011. If you don't want to read the whole post, here's a quick list along with a recap of how I did:

2011 Resolutions
1. Simplify. This year I sent a TON of stuff to Goodwill, the recycling plant, and landfill. We still have a ways to go as far as purging our home of stuff, but I think I'll call this a success. In addition, I stepped down from a couple of leadership positions in order to make time for more important endeavors.

2. Get back to basics. I didn't do too badly with this one either, although I still have a ways to go. By working on simplifying, I was in turn able to return to what is important. I don't think I'll ever pray enough, so that will always be on my list. As far as time with people who matter, that definitely happened this year. Between family vacations, impromptu dinners and phone conversations there are definitely relationships in my life that are stronger now than they were a year ago.

3. Cultivate the fruits of the Spirit. Of all the failures on this list, I feel the worst about this one. I won't elaborate, but I will carry this resolution over to 2012.

4. Focus on frugality. We made some cuts this year. Getting rid of cable was a big one, paying off the car and consistently saving also helped. With Clark on the way this will continue to be a priority though.

5. Document life. I did ok on this one, but not nearly what I wanted to do. Regular blogging helps, but maybe I should start wearing my camera wherever I go.

6. Authentic living. This one is hard to judge. I think there are many ways in the past year that I have begun to live out what I believe, but I know that there are relationships that have fallen by the wayside and priorities they get bumped that need to be focused on during 2012.

All that being said...
Here are my 2012 Resolutions:
1. Continue seeking simplicity.
2. Focus on family and authentic friendships.
3. Cultivate the fruits of the Spirit.
4. Choose frugality.
5. Work toward an organic, homemade lifestyle.
6. Make documenting life a priority.
7. Nurture creativity.
8. Complete at least 12 upcycling/DIY/refurbishing projects.
9. Eat more fruits and vegetables.
10. Cook and bake more of our food.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

21 Weeks & a Post-Christmas Update

Oh, my! I can't believe it's been 12 days since my last post. So much has happened in the past few weeks. I'll try to avoid my long-winded ramblings and give a quick, bulleted update! 

Diaper bag: Thanks to my dear friend, Chrisanne, and her lovely daughter, Tenley, for going with me to retrieve my coveted Timi & Leslie bag! I got quite the deal on my trendy yet functional accessory. While Charlie retails at $160, I was able to score the designer bag for a mere $94! I did end up getting in the mustard color, and after seeing the black and light brown colors in person at another store, I'm happy I did!

Cleaning: As usual with breaks, I think I'm going to accomplish much more than I do. With our crazy holiday schedule, the new cleaning routine hasn't completely come to fruition. I'm not abandoning the plan though! I should have a better update for you after I get back to school. (Ugh. School.)

Christmas: It was a wonderfully odd Christmas for the Hoyle/Samples clan. There were many changes instituted this year, and on top of it all, there was no snow. All of that added up to wonderful time with family (especially because my nephew, Finn, celebrated his first Christmas), but when it was all over, I was left feeling like Christmas had yet to arrive. I'm hopeful that next year the excitement of Clark's first Christmas will bring the magic back.

Clark: Perhaps the most exciting news is that I reached the halfway point in my pregnancy. It's odd because there are days that I still feel newly pregnant and others seem like I've been pregnant forever! Either way, I'm so grateful that everything is progressing just as it is supposed to. At our last midwife appointment a few weeks ago I was measuring right at 18 weeks, had perfect weight, and other stats. Thank you, Lord! 

In other baby news, I was delightfully surprised the morning after Christmas when Clark kicked me for the first time! I've felt him moving for several weeks now but no real kicks. It was the best present I got all year! With that said, here's a belly shot for you. (I've got to say that I'm getting to that "I feel super gross" portion of my pregnancy, so I'm not sure how many of these shots will be posted from here on out.) Oh, I almost forgot! We put the crib together yesterday, so you get to see that too!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A name for our boy.

I'm quickly learning that parents have the best of intentions. Sometimes these remain just that, intentions. For example, after announcing to our families the fact that we were expecting, I continued, almost in the same breath, to say "We'll announce the name when the baby gets here." My mother-in-law's response, "You're not going to choose something weird, are you?" In fact, that was the reason I wanted to wait. I knew that it was possible that our name would be viewed as "weird".  And truthfully, I didn't want to deal with it. Also, I had gone into naming situations before being sure and then changed my mind. (Before I adopted Bentley, I was dead set on the name Toby. Even when he came with that as his name I changed it; he never looked like a Toby to me.) What if we announced a name and the baby didn't look like the name?

As we got closer to the gender determination ultrasound, things began to change. We whittled our list down to four names, two for a boy and two for a girl. A week before we went for the ultrasound we had a serious talk about the names. For a boy, there was a clear choice. In fact, I told Michael, "If it's a boy, I can't imagine naming him anything other than ___." He agreed. I felt a tad guilty because there was no definitive choice for a girl, but I decided we would cross that bridge if we got to it. On December 2, 2011 we got the amazing news that our child would be our son. And even better we knew his name!

When we called our families with the news, we also confirmed his name (we had told only family the four possiblities earlier in the week--remember how I said I had the best of intentions?). I thought family would be the only ones to know until the little guy's arrival, but one day after work last week, Michael changed that too. "I told so-and-so at work the name." I was more surprised than mad. I thought we were keeping things under wraps, but apparently not. So, with that said, I didn't want So-and-so to know and not those of you who have been a part of my life/our lives for so long. Thus this post.

Our son's name is...**Drumroll **

Clark Wiley

Michael and I had a hard time agreeing on names. When it came to Clark though, there was no contest; we loved  it! It didn't hurt that it was Superman's alter-ego's name! You know how we love Clark Kent! In fact, although Michael doesn't want our son to be named "after" the mild-mannered reporter, I'm just fine saying that the Kansas farm boy is his name sake. How could a parent wish for a better example? Clark Kent was honest, respectful, polite, noble, humble, wise, intelligent, and kind. He put others before himself and worked tirelessly to make the world a better place. Regardless of whether or not he's named after America's superhero or just because we think Clark is a strong, solid name, I'm confident he'll grow to embody those traits and make us proud of him.

Wiley is much more straightforward. Michael's maternal grandfather's name was Wiley. Michael never got to meet Grandpa Wiley, but he grew up hearing stores about how much they looked like one another and how similar their personalities are. It's nice to think that Grandpa Wiley Berry's legacy of quiet strength and integrity can continue with our son.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

In lust.

I'll admit it. I'm in lust. No, not with a super hunky A-lister or even a sexy pair of new sky-high black pumps. My current obsession? A diaper bag. Ah, how life has changed. I never thought I'd fawn over, wish for, and hunt down a...diaper bag. 

So which bag has captured my hyper-hormonal heart? Why the Timi and Leslie Charlie II, of course! What? You don't know what I'm talking about? You don't lust over diaper bags? It's ok,  I didn't either. Wait until you're preggo. My guess is that you'll join me. Here's a snapshot of my love.
Well, hello beautiful accessories!

Isn't it BEAUTIFUL?! Notice that it doesn't, not for one little second, look a thing like a diaper bag? I'm DYING to get my hands on this beauty. For that reason, my ever dedicated to fashion best friend Chrisanne is going to trek out to the suburbs with me tomorrow night and try to snag one of my very own. (The boutique where we had our gender determination ultrasound is hosting a Midnight Maddness sale and all their merchandise is 40% off from 6-10 tomorrow night!) I'll be sure and let you know how it goes, but for the mean time, keep your fingers crossed that we don't make the trip for nothing! 
See? Jessica Alba loves the bag too!
When Michael & I were at the boutique last they only had the bag in the mustard color. If that's the only color they have, should I still nab one?
For 40% off, I just might!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Although I'm incredibly type A in many ways, I am NOT by nature a neat freak. Since being with Michael (my loving, but incredibly OCD husband) I've gotten much better at putting things away and keeping up with cleaning, but I am still far from having the spotlessly organized house that I want. Thus, when I found out I was expecting, I looked most forward to nesting out of all the symptoms of pregnancy. (Ok, if you know me, you know I was really looking forward to bigger boobs, but that has yet to happen--they lie about the boob thing; not everyone gets huge boobs!)

This leads me to my favorite new blog post from The Fun, Cheap or Free Queen. I've tried to implement a schedule like this in the past, but I think my version was much too intricate to be functional. This schedule fits on less than a page and is SIMPLE! My plan is to put it into place starting next week when I'm on Christmas Break (no, it's not vacation because I do not get paid for this time).

In addition to the schedule, I'll be cleaing the house with 100% natural homemade products. With the baby coming, I'm trying to get rid of as many chemicals as possible. I'll be sure to let you know how Operation Clean House works out with the new schedule and eco-friendly products!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Antsy & Conflicted

For a variety of reasons, Michael and I have been tossing around the idea of picking up and moving--truly moving, like out of state--for a little over a year now. We've lived in the Midwest our entire lives, but recently, things in this part of the country are looking a little grim. At least forty-eight weeks out of the year I understand why our region often referred to as "the armpit of America". There's little I love about this area. In fact, since I know you love countdowns, I'll give you the...

Top 5 Reasons Michael & I Stay in NWI
5. The seasons- There have been times I've tried to talk Michael into moving out west and settling down in Phoenix. Some of my family is there, and I adore the dry heat and mountains. However, one of the reasons we stay put is because we both love the changing of the seasons. I can't imagine life without new flowers, falling leaves, and SNOW!

4. Chicago- One of the things I love most about where we live is being so close to Chicago. As a kid we could be in Chicago faster than we could be to the local Wal-Mart. The proximity to the city caused me to fall in love with the Windy City at a very young age. What would life be like if we didn't get to make our annual trip to the Walnut Room or venture out with our Lo to Sox and Bulls games?

3. Our jobs- There's little to say about this. Neither of us are in our "dream" job, but for the time being, they're secure and stable. The prospect of the unknown is a tad terrifying.

2. Our friends- We love our friends here. While I know that Michael and I would find friends wherever we went, there would be a hole if we didn't get to see these NWI people.

1. Our family- This one is the clincher. I think we could manage to uproot ourselves if not for our families. We're both so blessed to have amazing families! With our Lo on the way, having everyone nearby is going to be such a blessing. Between family parties, impromptu dinners, and attending our nieces' and nephews' many school and sporting events, life would feel a tad empty if we didn't have them.

What's the point of the post? this countdown? Well, our list is slowly being dismantled.

5. The seasons-There was no real spring this year. We went from winter to summer sometime in early June. It's December 12 and we've had hardly any snow! It's supposed to be 50 degrees on Thursday. So much for seasons.

4. Chicago- We love you, but truthfully, Chi-town, we could visit, right? Plus, now that we're an hour plus away, we don't make it downtown very often anyway.

3. Our jobs- We're both ready to be done and honestly, the prospect of an adventure is kind of nice right now.

2. Our friends- As we have all moved to different parts of the area, it's harder to see everyone on a regular basis. We love them, but also know that because they love us, they'd want us to search out new opportunities if that's what we felt called to.

1. Our family- This is our true hang-up. Mine in particular. I grew up far away from my mother's family. My dad's family has never been especially close, and to make matters worse, my brother, sister and I were the only kids on that side anyway. Now that Lo has a cousin so close to his age and the same gender in Finn, the idea of taking him away from that breaks my heart. I also know that leaving would kill both sets of our parents and probably our siblings. 

So that's where we're at. Antsy and conflicted. Tired of this place, but not sure if it's time to move on. Regardless, there are a lot of decisions to be made in the next year or so. In the mean time, I'll be doing a lot of praying for guidance and courage. If you do that sort of thing, feel free to send some prayers our way. We'd love some clarity.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Yes, we're cloth diapering.

Before you read on, please know that this post is in no way meant to sound preachy or critical of disposable diaper using parents. Would my child die if I used disposables? Of course not. Do I think that parents who use disposables are incompetent or bad parents? Definitely not. I'm slowly learning that we all make choices about what is most important to us. For Michael and me, cloth diapering is important.  I'm also learning that sometimes people do what is easiest in order to survive; I get that too.  

I wanted to write about our decision mostly because so many people ask about and are surprised by our choice. My guess is that because the cloth diapering revolution is rather new, few people know about why and how people do it. If nothing else, I hope this post answers some of your questions and leaves you asking some too. :)

Top Ten Reasons We're Cloth Diapering

#10--Cloth diapers are CRAZY cute! 
This is the most superficial reason, thus it is number 10. If all the other reasons didn't exist, I still might have gone this route just for the adorable factor. 

#9--Cloth diapers have more padding.
There's more cushioning for our little one as he takes toddles and topples while exploring the world. 

#8--You can't beat the convenience.
We won't have any midnight runs to Walgreen's because we're out of diapers!

#7--Potty training is easier.
When it is time to get our buddy out of diapers, he's more likely to train faster since he'll know that he's wet. (Chemicals in disposables/Pull Ups keep the baby dry, so he's less likely to realize that he's had an accident.)

#6--Being a leader is much more fun than being a follower. 
All I mean by this is that I'm not about to do anything as a parent simply because "everybody else does." I get that most Americans use disposables. Most Americans don't vote either. In fact, there are A LOT of things that most Americans do that I you'll never catch me doing.

#5--Cloth diapers are more reliable.
When tested against disposables, cloth diapers are more likely to contain leaks and blowouts! Less mess? Count me in!

#4--These aren't your grandma's cloth diapers!
When I tell people we're going to cloth diaper, after the shock and awe face has subsided, one of the first questions they ask is, "Like with pins?" No, people. There are no pins involved. A majority of our "stash" consists of pocket diapers (they go on like disposables) that are VERY user friendly. Here's a little diagram:

#3--I want our great-great-great-great grandchildren to live in a clean world. 
The average child will go through as many as 8,000 diapers before being potty trained. These diapers end up in landfills (accounting for 3.5 million TONS of poop and plastic going into our ground) that are not created for human excrement. This waste ends up in our groundwater and can cause a variety of problems. (Disposable diaper packages instruct users to dispose of feces in the toilet...when was the last time that happened?!)

#2--It's cheaper. (If Michael were writing this post, it would probably be his number 1!)
So far, we've spent about $300 on cloth diapers. By the time our stash is complete, we may  have spent $500--TOTAL. These diapers will not only be used for our first little guy, but can also be used for any children who join our family after him. If we were using disposables, we'd be spending a minimum of $800--A YEAR! (Yes, we'll be doing more laundry, but a couple extra loads a week won't even touch the money we'll be saving!)

#1--It's healthier for our baby. 
I've done TONS and TONS of research on this, and here's what it boils down to: disposables have crazy chemicals that I do not want on my child. In extreme cases, children have sustained chemical burns from these toxic elements. I know that I will sleep a little easier at night knowing that our little guy's bum is resting comfortably against soft cotton sans chemicals. In addition, the fact that we are having a little guy makes me want to cloth diaper even more; there have been studies connecting the use of disposable diapers on boys to lower sperm count as adults. I'd like grandchildren some day. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I love this...

Michael and I were recapping our days yesterday and talking about how certain changes in our work situations would impact our lives once our little guy gets here. For the third year in a row, Michael will be forced to take 19 furlough days. While the loss of that income won't break us, it's frustrating. However, my ever-optimistic husband talked about how it will be nice to have an extra day at home with the baby and me during the last half of the year. All this conversation lead to dreaming about the future of our little family and the person our son will be.

As excited as I am to meet this miracle, I have to admit that part of me will be sad to no longer be pregnant. I'm sure once I get to the incredibly uncomfortable end of the pregnancy, I'll be grateful for the relief, but right now I'm relishing the alone time with my child.

I don't want to give the impression that there haven't been unpleasant or frustrating aspects of being pregnant. The constant nausea of the first trimester and the lack of enjoyment I get out of food right now are no fun. And I'm quite certain that once I start getting bigger and looking more pregnant the stretching and changing of my body will be depressing, but even with all of those irritations, I LOVE being pregnant!

I love the fact that everyday is bring your child to work day for me. I love knowing that he's safe and sound because he's with me. I love these first "flutters" of movement, and I L-O-V-E my sweet little man's profile in his sonogram pictures. Right now, I even love that my bump is starting to tell the story of our family.

I'm sure experiencing all of these pregnancy "firsts" with our future children will be exciting as well, but I wonder how much I'll get to enjoy and cherish them while chasing after another child. For that reason, I'm relishing all of these moments as they come and trying to document the excitement, wonder and anticipation that this child has already brought to our lives.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Waiting, guessing, and finding out.

Before we were even considering starting a family Michael and I knew that we would want to find out the gender of our child before he or she arrived. We're planners by nature, and the prospect of 40+ weeks not knowing if the new addition would be a boy or a girl was too much for either of us to handle.

Since we found out we were expecting, I've had this "boy" feeling. I second guessed it several times, mostly because I questioned the validity of mother's intuition. Could I really know before I knew? 

For fun (and at the prompting of my sisters) I checked out The Bump's Chinese Gender Chart. The ancient tradition told us our Lo would be a...BOY!

Out of pure curiosity and excitement, I bought an IntelliGender test on October 23. The gist of the test is that the first day's urine mixed with the crystal concoction indicates the gender of your child. It's supposed to be 80% accurate. The "scientific" test told us our Lo would be a...BOY!

It was hard to put much stock in either of these tests (even if they did agree), so we scheduled our gender determination ultrasound at a lovely place called The Belly Factory. (Thanks for the recommendation, Chrisanne, they were as wonderful as you said they were!) The tried and true ultrasound said our Lo would be a...BOY!

Three out of three isn't bad! While we would have been ecstatic to have a little girl, there's a part of me that feels so good knowing that I knew our Lo was a boy. It restores my faith in this mother's intuition I'm supposed to have (while also making me feel better that many of the "gender neutral" clothes/diapers we have right now are really more boy than I wanted to admit at the time). To say that we're thrilled to welcome this sweet little boy into our lives is the greatest understatement of all time! Get ready world, another Samples man is on his way!