Pregnancy, a gallbladder diet and how I’d cut off my right arm for a cheese pizza

If you haven’t yet run into me on the street, at the store or via text/Facebook/any avenue in which I can complain, then you may not yet know that for the past eight weeks, I’ve been dealing with gallbladder attacks.

I miss you, Peanut Butter.

I miss you, Peanut Butter.

My first attack happened when I was working at the local college. Suddenly, a wave of pain crossed the top of my tummy and I found myself lying in the fetal position on the bathroom floor when I wasn’t vomiting. Classy. I know. I got myself home and 1.5 hours later, the pain subsided.

I initially thought it was a severe indigestion attack, but I later learned that gallstones attacks are pretty common in pregnancy and it can be passed down from your family members. So when I learned my mom suffered from gallbladder attacks when pregnant with my brother, it all made sense.

Two more attacks came along and I was sent in for an ultrasound. The ultrasound confirmed I have gallstones, but removing the gallbladder during pregnancy won’t happen unless there’s an emergency situation (e.g., it’s leaking bile into my liver and we’re all going to die).

For me, gallstones attacks always come on following a meal, and my doctors, including Dr. Google (P.S. don’t ever, ever Google image search ‘gallstones’), tell me that diet changes can at least lessen the likelihood of attacks. There’s no cheating, because it’s like playing a game of Fear Factor when I sit down to eat, as I’m terrified another attack may emerge.

So – what do I eat now? As the ER nurse said: “You’ll be eating twigs and berries”.

I have to cut fats from my diet, because that’s what can spur on an attack. I’ve thus cut out dairy, high-fat meats, caffeine, egg yolks, nut butters, nuts, oils, healthy fats and refined sugars from my diet.

So – again – what do I eat now?

I’ve been trying to be creative with my meals and snacks. I’m eating a lot of veggies, fruits, hummus, egg whites, multi-grains and low-fat meats to get through the rest of the pregnancy.

Every morning for breakfast, I eat an oatmeal pancake, which includes half a mashed banana, quick oats, egg whites, baking powder and vanilla extract. It’s delicious and filling and makes me feel half normal.

Ultimately, it’s good for the baby as he/she isn’t snacking on garbage.

Although, usually when I go on a clean-eating kick, I don’t crave bad foods after about a two-week cleanse. But pregnancy cravings don’t work that way. I would actually chew off my right arm for a cheese pizza or a slice of chocolate cake. Even an avocado would be great at this point.

I’ll likely get my gallbladder taken out before Christmas once the baby is born. Following that surgery, I plan to eat my face off.


If you have some low-fat or no-fat meal ideas, then I’d love to hear from you! 

You Google image searched ‘Gallstones’, didn’t you?


Putting together our Basement

Do you remember that TLC show, While You Were Out? Someone left for the weekend and their loved ones completed a surprise room makeover in their house?

Just call me Evan Farmer.

Earlier this year, I posted about how our basement of doom is essentially our dumping ground for our crap.

Exhibit A, B and C:

James on Jessie Basement


basement 3


basement 2

It’s where dreams go to die.

Yes, that is a hose in the middle of the floor.

The space is already set up for use. There are new laminate floors and a fresh(ish) coat of paint. But we haven’t had the time or energy to do anything with it since we moved in two years ago.

Once we found out Baby James #2 was on his/her way, I got to thinking. And that thinking got to list making. Suddenly, Toby had a huge to-do list of things to get done around the house before the little bee came along (I have actually set up a Need To/Want To Get Done list on our corkboard – I love it. Toby wants to punch it).

We want to get the basement set up so that when the baby does come, we have a huge space for our toddler son to play. If I’m upstairs with the baby on an early Saturday morning, Toby and Alex can go play downstairs. If the baby is awake at night and fussy, we can escape to the basement so we don’t wake anyone up.

This past weekend, Toby was signed up for the Tough Mudder challenge with my brother. Three weeks ago, my nesting brain got to thinking: “What if I put this room together when he’s gone?” And so the planning began.

I confided to my friend who helped with the planning process. I purchased couches from a local lady and stored them at my sister’s house. I lied about playdates to go pick up picture frames in Ottawa via Kijiji. I even faked a gallbladder attack.

Then the weekend arrived. My friend was to come over Friday evening to begin the process, but I got slammed with two gallbladder attacks on Thursday that left me in a bad spot for most of Friday. But following two trips to the ER, I was given the okay, and decided that the project will keep my mind off the fun that’s going on inside my body.

I didn’t really fake the gallbladder attacks.

Friday and Saturday evenings as well as Saturday naptime was used to clean and set up the room. Here’s what we put together in that time:

Basement finish 1

Basement finish 2

Basement finish 3

We divided the room up into three parts: Toby’s office area, a television/sitting area (tv to come) and a play area. The middle of the room will essentially be used for hockey/soccer/running.

We worked on a photo collage, as well as set up an artwork corner of Alex’s crafts and found a way to hang the race medals we’ve collected over the years. I now just need to dig out the rest of them!

When Toby hobbled into the house Sunday morning, Alex and I were playing downstairs. Toby was shocked and loved what was done with the place. But I realized the space is actually more for Alex, as it will give him that place to play, especially in the winter when we’re stuck indoors.

It feels like we have a new house as we begin the use this space more often.

So, that takes one thing off the to-do list. Only 12 more to go…


Have you ever done a surprise room makeover?



Parenting with your partner in the early days

I’m very proud to announce the arrival of a new member of our family: Baby Grace! No, I didn’t go into labour 18 weeks early: my brother and his fiancee had their first child: Grace Ellen.

Seriously cute. The baby, of course.

Seriously cute. The baby, of course.

My mom and I headed down to Toronto to visit Grace and her parents overnight.

Although my son is only 18 months old, it’s amazing how quickly you forget about all the work that’s involved with a newborn. My brother compared it to starting a new job when you have no idea what you’re doing. And that new job is in Germany.

So, so true.

The long nights and little sleep make you mildly crazy all while trying to heal from the birth and learning all about your baby’s needs, cries and poops. So. much. poop.

Meeting Grace reminded me of what I learned about working with my husband to ensure the baby’s – and our! – survival.

Working as a team with your partner is crucial to survival, and here are some things I do remember from those insane newborn days:

1. Spell each other off for naps. There’s no sense in both of you being awake.

2. Keep talking to one another.

3. Don’t play the sleep comparison game. No one wins.

4. Don’t ignore your partner’s suggestions. You’re both the parents, so each opinion is just as important as the other’s.

5. It takes about 6-8 weeks before you finally feel like you’ve gotten into a pattern. Hang in there.


What are some tips you’d give to new parents?


Going to Ikea. For the hell of it.

Based on our Dr. Google research (best parents ever?), we have concluded that our son has foot, hand and mouth disease. He broke out into a rash on his face and he slept like a mofo this past weekend. Even more so than me.

With that, we had to forego daycare and play at home today. By 8:30 a.m., I was going nuts. I can handle lying low over the course of a weekend, but I need to keep busy during the week.

So…we went to Ikea. For the hell of it.

Yep. I drove us an hour to pick up a potty for Alex and mentally spend hundreds of dollars on home decor.

This would look perfect in the living room. Right, husband?

This would look perfect in the living room. Right, husband?


Sidenote: I would have never thought that hearing my child say “poo poo” before crapping his pants would make me so proud. But it does.

It was surprising to see just how kid-friendly Ikea is – and they serve beer for parents! If you ever head there on a Tuesday morning, you’ll discover – as I did – that it’s where moms bring their children. Forget the library. Forget the pool. In the nation’s capital, Ikea is where it’s at. The kids think the toys and gadgets are fun and moms get to dream up weekend furniture projects for their husbands. It’s the perfect playdate location.

I was eating macaroni and cheese.

I was eating macaroni and cheese.

I ended up leaving with the potty, a leash hanger and a navy blue candle. So random.

We’re at home again tomorrow and I’m already thinking of ways we can spend our time. There are only so many minutes that Alex and I can play Megablocks before we start throwing them across the room.


Trimming the Fat: February Dog Fitness

Is it just me, or did February fly by? Sure, the weather was as welcomed as a hole in my $5 Target cardigan, but it seems like the month whizzed by.

This month, we accomplished a lot in our household. Toby got his wrist cast off, Alex started walking and Tux got his butt kicked.

Tuxedo the dog

Interval Training.

We were told Tux needs to drop some el-bees, and so we went on a mission to trim the fat.

He got two walks a day: 25 minutes in the morning and at least a half hour at night.

He had a one-month follow-up appointment last Thursday and I’m so, so, so proud to say Tux has dropped three lb. He now weighs 84 lb. The vet was impressed with our efforts, and Tux is actually getting a waistline and his face has slimmed down. He is better behaved at home, he’s been wonderful around Alex and overall, he’s just a happier dog.

Our vet said to try for another three- to four-lb. loss this month. After trekking him through the cold weather, it’s tempting to hibernate for  a few more weeks until we hit spring. But we have to stick with our plan.

“No. Go.”

These two are inseparable.

There's likely applesauce on his face.

There’s likely applesauce on his face.

Our dog, Tux, has always been protective of Alex and will run into his room when he cries out. But his love grew even more for the new addition when Alex started to eat from his high chair.

Alex loves to play a game in which he chucks food on the floor and happily watches Tux chase after it. Alex screams with glee while Tux anxiously eats up the people food.

Although there’s a mealtime rule that Tux has to lie out of the kitchen and can’t approach Alex’s high chair until he’s been taken out of it, I couldn’t even count how many times I’ve scolded Tux for going for the food. “No. Go lie down” is a statement familiar to Tux. And it’s apparently familiar to Alex as well.

This weekend, while sitting like a king in his chair, Alex chucked a piece of toast onto the floor, looked at the dog, and then repeatedly stated in a deep voice, “No. Go.”

What a tease.

Tux update: He’s lost two lbs!

True story…

True story: I can’t find my passport.

True story: when searching through old purse #3 for said passport, I found $15 in change.

True story: I squealed with glee.

True story: I miss Target. Like, a lot.

True story: I think about my money all the time. Like, a lot. But in a good, healthy way. Not in a I-just-ate-a-bigmac-and-now-have-sad-feelings kind of way.

True story: how can I purchase new running shoes for $7? My feet hurt. Like, a lot.

True story: I now have $120 left for the month.

True. Story.  Boo-ya.

True Story: I never found that passport. A new one costs $120.

Sunday Happenings

I love Sunday mornings.

Each week, I get Alex ready for Church and although he shrieks for the majority of the mass (holy shart, my nerves are shot after that hour), it’s a Sunday morning tradition I’ve grown to love.

We then get home and Alex goes to bed. That’s when I get an HOUR to myself before Toby comes home from hockey with a Tim Horton’s coffee in hand for me.

Again. I love Sunday mornings.

That is, until this past Sunday morning. When we got home from Church, I saw there was a message on our phone.

It was Toby.

“Hi. I’m at the hospital. I’m pretty sure I broke my wrist. I forgot my phone at home. So I’ll call you and let you know what happens.” Click.

Okay…so who is going to bring me my Tim’s coffee?

I brought Alex to my sister’s place and headed over to the hospital where we waited for more than four hours to get confirmation that, yes, he did break his radius.

Broken Wrist

He’ll get a better idea about the next steps when he meets with the specialist this week. Until then, no baby handling, cooking, dog walking for him.

On a financial note, I can see how family emergencies can quickly eat up drawer money. When waiting at the hospital, I headed out and picked up lunch for us: $16.76. Then I picked up my hair product at the drugstore when also picking up Advil. Another $12.

Here’s my challenge for the week: Don’t be tempted to pick up an easy dinner meal because life is busy. I don’t want to spend the cash. To make this happen, I’ll need to do some prep for dinners ahead of time and plan on easy, quick meals.


Question: How do you respond to family emergencies?

Do all one-year-olds shriek at Church?




Spending Withdrawal

Financial Proverbs:

“A penny saved is a penny earned.” – Anonymous 

“It’s not what you make; it’s what you keep.” – Anonymous

“F#$k, this is hard.” – Cathy James, 2014

You’ll be proud of me. Following last week’s post on how I’ll monitor my spending money, I had five “No Spend” days. FIVE! The proof is in my pudding tracking:

Insert Back Pat.

Insert Back Pat.

Heck, that now leaves me with $4.76/day!

Then the weekend approached. I became agitated and started to make a mental list of the things I said I wanted to buy this month: eye make-up remover, conditioner, etc. Then I looked at this week’s newspaper flyers. There’s a retro sun clock on sale and I’ve been looking for one of these FOREVER. I’m pretty sure it’s a need. I also need to purchase a new window covering for our powder room. I’m quite sure that’s a need – at least for my neighbour’s sake.

As my mental spending list grew longer, my mind raced about making these purchases a reality. I had to keep reminding myself about how I only have $100 left for the month. On Friday night, I looked at my husband with one eye twitching, and declared, “I’m pretty sure I’m experiencing spending withdrawal.”

I then mentally declared I needed wine. But we’re all out. And I don’t want to spend the money.

More eye twitching.

I now understand why most New Year’s Resolutions go down the crapper at this point. We’re motivated for a week as we make those bold declarations of intended change. But we quickly realize our commitments require dedication, compromise and likely some tears. And probably little wine.

F#$k, this is hard.

As I go through the weekend, I have to keep myself busy and away from spending opportunities. Otherwise, I’ll eat up that remaining money at only 11 days in.

Continued eye twitching…


Question: How do you keep your spending temptations at bay?

Can I come over and drink your wine?

Drawer Money: Three changes I will make with my spending money

Since January has been deemed, Financial Focus Month, I knew I had to figure out ways to better manage my spending.

When it comes to managing my cash flow, I am adopting three changes:

1. Re-configure how my invoices and spending cash are distributed. In the past, I’ve had an odd approach to when I’d invoice clients and when I got to use that money. Let’s say I invoice on Dec. 1 for my November work. I’d have to wait until that money was paid to me, even though I depended on it for that SAME month. As a result, I’d neither plan my spending and I’d often lose track of how I spent the money I hadn’t yet received.

I’ve changed that approach by pushing my spending money behind by one month. So if I invoice on Dec. 1 for November work, I watch that money roll in throughout December and that money then becomes January’s spending money. I now have a clear understanding of how much money I can expect to earn and spend a month ahead of time. To make this a reality, I’ve taken $300 from my savings to get a jump on the approach.

I thus now know the spending money I’ll have for February. Already, it’s made me both sickened with fear and empowered. I love feeling more organized, but I’m also freaking about how February will be a low-earning month and how I’ll manage that limited spending money.

2.  Drawer month. As in, you put a prescribed amount of money in your drawer (furniture, not scunders) and when the money is gone, the money is gone.


It’s a concept my sister introduced to me, yes, seven years ago, and it’s also the approach Gail Vaz-Oxlade makes her clients follow in ‘Til Debt Do Us Part. I’ve watched the show for years (I love the tears!), but never adopted her financial approach.

She is some crazy. Crazy good.

Source: 983 Fly FM

I took out $300 for January’s spending money to see how I do with it and where it gets me.

Holy dollah bills, those dollah bills disappear quickly. It has forced me to plan how I’ll spend the money and ensure I have enough money later in the month for planned events/presents.  This brings me to my third financial change.

3. Track my Spending

Using a simple notepad and pen, I’m making a daily log of money spent.

Five days in, I’ve only had a one “No Spend” Day. Boo.

Here’s what I have already spent this month:

  • Birthday presents: $60 (I got some sweet deals. More on that below)
  • Drug store/lady purchase: $6.38
  • Les Miserables Tickets: $50 (we’re attending a performance next month and tickets are $25 each. Because I know February is already a low-income month, I decided to use my January money to pay for it).
  • Coffee/Tea Biscuit: $7 (I went to a coffee shop yesterday for two hours to get work done. I bought a fancy drink and I was hungry. When she ringed in $7, I was SO mad at myself for the ‘irresponsible’ purchase).
  • Tim’s Coffee/Tea: $3.19

Money already spent: $126.57

Tracked spending has forced me to look ahead later this month and plan for any upcoming expenditures.

I looked at the calendar and saw I’d be purchasing three birthday presents. Rather than leave it to the last minute and overspend as a result, I completed online shopping January 1, saved money on shipping and got some deals. Not only did I save money, I am better organized! Win.

I’ve nixed the idea to sign up for a boot camp three-month session, because I can see how it will eat up so much of that drawer money, and that bums me out. But it’s been a good lesson that just because I want to do or buy something, it doesn’t mean it’s feasible.

I have budgeted for a dinner out and the eye make-up remover and conditioner (another $75).

Five days in, I’ve committed to spending $200 of my $300. I don’t have any other big expenditures coming up, but with that, I can see how quickly this money disappears and that frivolous coffee purchases can slowly eat up that money.

I am constantly thinking about my money, but in a healthy, “how will I spend it?” kind of way, rather than a “I have no idea what’s in my bank account, but I’m pretty sure I can afford this bottle of wine” approach.

It’s good. But just hard. And I’m really nervous about what happens when/if I do run out of money the end of the month.

Articles of Interest:

Globe and Mail Article: Inspiring Debt-Reduction stories of 2013

My favourite financial blogger: Give my Back my Five Bucks

David Bach’s The Latte Factor

Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s latest project, My Money, My Choices (it looks interesting, but intense! I don’t I want to spend my book club meetings discussing budget sheets – although we did talk financial tips recently!)