Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thankful

'Tis the season to reflect on all we have to be thankful for. This should be a daily exercise for us, but I'm glad that a holiday comes around once a year that reminds us to reflect on the many blessings in our life. I usually do a 10-day series of Thanksgiving posts but this year I decided to do one post instead! Here are some of the many things I am thankful for.

1. This Guy


Phil keeps me on my toes and prevents me from taking things too seriously. We celebrated 6 months of marriage this past weekend, which kind of blows my mind! Our first year of marriage is going to fly by!

2. Our Growing Baby

My baby bump at 24 weeks
While I don't love being pregnant due to how hard it makes it to manage my RA (I had to go off my most effective $1,000/week injection), I feel so grateful that we were able to conceive so easily and quickly and that the baby's development has been healthy and normal.

3. Our Sweet Kitty


Yes, she prefers Phil by a landslide, but it makes me appreciate the moments when she will cuddle with me even more. I never thought I'd be a cat lady but Phil has certainly made me one. I can't imagine our house without our furry little friend!

4. My Supportive Family

My beautiful nieces and nephews!

My siblings and their spouses

My dear mom, who is looking at my dad with such adoration and love

My dad during his very funny and sweet speech at our wedding. Phil is a lot like him - they have a strong sense of humor, hate attention, and have the softest hearts.
I don't know what I'd do without the love and support of my family!

5. The Amazing Wedding We Pulled Off




Our wedding was all I had dreamed of and more. I'm especially proud of the fact that I DIY'd so much of it - with the help of family and friends. Of course the most amazing part was marrying this guy!

This is one of my favorite photos from the day. You can see how happy I am wrapped in the arms of Phil!

6. The Travel Adventures We've Had

From hiking in Southern California...


to skipping rocks on the beaches of San Diego...


to hiking in Maui...



to hiking in Northern Minnesota...


to hiking in Western North Carolina!


We packed a lot of adventures into the past year! I guess you can tell how much we love hiking since we tend to hike on every trip we take!

7. Friends

URL  turned IRL friends

College friends

I'm lucky to have so many wonderful, supportive friends who have been there for me through good and bad!

8. A Warm House and a Fridge Full of Food

Through my involvement on my company's United Way Campaign committee, I've become even more aware of how many people are struggling in my community - 25% of the people in the broader Twins Cities area live in poverty. That is such a sad statistic. I thought about how very fortunate I am when I was loading up my grocery cart with food for Thanksgiving weekend. We have a warm house and never have to worry about how we will pay the heating or electricity bills.

What are you thankful for? To all my American readers, have a very happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Currently: November

Happy Thanksgiving week (to my American readers)! This is one of my favorite holidays of the year so I am super excited for all the yummy food on Thursday! Here's what's currently going on in my life!

Reading: Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnston. One of my reading goals for 2017 was to read 6 books that I already own. I've had this book for a couple of years and am finally getting around to reading it! It was recently recommended on the podcast, "What Should I Read Next." I think I am going to like it!

Loving:  feeling the baby move! Since I have an anterior placenta, I felt movement later than most moms do. But I finally started to feel movement a couple of weeks ago. Phil hasn't been able to feel kicks yet but hopefully he can in the next couple of weeks.

Feeling: really tired and kind of cranky at times to be honest... I never got that second wind of energy during my 2nd trimester like many other moms due to my RA. I don't like feeling cranky but when I feel so tired it's kind of an easy emotion for me to feel.

Thinking: about my trip to St. Louis to visit Nora. It's going to a fun, low key girl weekend. She'll be post-chemo and I have my usual pregnancy/RA exhaustion so we will both need a quite, low key weekend together. But this trip is all about spending time with her. I know we'll do some fun things, like go to the movie "Wonder" (super excited for this as I loved the book and have heard good things about the movie), check out some book stores and eat Mexican food (a cuisine we both LOVE, but I'm mostly excited to be able to chat with her face-to-face.

Anticipating: holiday traditions. This weekend I will make a special brunch on Sunday and we'll decorate our tree. In a couple of weeks, I'll have my college friends and their kids over and we'll decorate cookies. Later in the month, Phil and I will have our own little Christmas celebration. We'll celebrate Christmas with Phil's mom which will include Phil driving us around to look at Christmas lights!

Watching:  Hallmark Christmas movies. I know they are super cheesy but I love them. We don't have cable so I don't have access to the Hallmark channel anymore but my sweet friend Erin sent me a DVD with a bunch of Hallmark Christmas movies so I am getting my fill on them thanks to her!

Grateful: for my excellent boss and work environment. Last week my boss was in town and he sat down with me and told me he was concerned about how I am doing since I have had so many flares and seem particularly tired. He gave me the name/number of a person in HR that he suggested I reach out to for information about going on short term disability before the baby arrives if I feel it is necessary. I really want to work until 36 or 38 weeks but it's nice to know that I have his support if I need to stop working early. He also said I can work from home as much as I need to. I'm super lucky to have this kind of support as I know it is very rare, especially in my field (asset management) which is known for discriminating mothers and expecting moms.

Working: on finding furniture for our nursery. We are not going to buy a crib before the baby comes as we are hoping to find a house before the baby transitions from the bassinet in our room to a crib. We are trying to avoid having to take apart and re-assemble a crib when we move. If the baby needs to transition to a crib-like structure before we find a house, we will probably just use a pack n' play. But I do want to buy a glider and a combination dresser/changing table. The glider could take 10+ weeks to arrive so I want to order it soon as my due date is about 15 weeks away!

Listening:  to the "It's a Real Mother" series on the podcast, "The Longest Shortest Time." It's a series about workplace discrimination against mothers. It's really eye-opening and sad to listen to how our culture and companies treat mothers.

Wishing: for some warmer weather. Winter arrived early this year. We don't have snow on the ground (although we've had 3 snowfalls) but it's been so cold! I hope we get some warmer temps before winter settles in for good! 

What are you reading, anticipating and loving these days?

Friday, November 17, 2017

TGIF!

Hello, Friday! This week flew by for me. Here's a TGIF-style recap of my week!

The high of my week was getting our listing photos back. I'm really happy with how they turned out. It feels so good to have the photos taken care of so we don't have to deal with having them taken once we have a baby!

The low of my week was my painful flare and steroid injection. I'm so over these weekly flares. They just wipe me out and make it so hard to do basic tasks like cooking and cleaning.

The book I am reading is It's Okay to Laugh by Nora McInerny Purmort. This is a re-read for me. I don't often re-read books, but it's our December book club book so I wanted the book to be fresh in my mind so I could contribute to the discussion.

Recipes I made were this instant pot chicken enchilada soup. Our verdict was that it was 'just ok.' It just didn't have as much flavor as we like. Last night I made baked chicken parmesan (but skipped the melted cheese on top as we didn't have mozzarella on hand) on top of GF pasta with puttanesca sauce. It was really good!



The best money I spent was on these warming mittens. They are supposed to help with arthritis. Who knows if they will help my RA but I figure it's worth a shot!

My plans this weekend include going out to dinner tonight with some girls from book club and then attending a live taping of the podcast, Terrible, Thanks for Asking. We are reading the book by the host of the podcast (Nora McInerny Purmort) for our December meeting so it will be fun to see her live before our book club meeting! On Saturday, my SIL and I are going to shop for the family we are sponsoring for Christmas. Starting last year, instead of giving our parents a Christmas gift, we use the money we would have spent to sponsor a family in need. I don't have any specific plans for Sunday besides grocery shopping/preparing for Thanksgiving. I'm hosting my family for a lasagna dinner the day after Thanksgiving. I'm making 2 lasagnas - one veggie and one meat. I am planning to make one of the lasagnas on Sunday. It will be nice to get one of the lasagnas made/froze ahead of time!

What was the high of your week? Did you make any recipes this week (either new-to-you or tried and true)?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

NYC Trip Recap

Happy Thursday! This week has been a bit of a blur! I got back from my NYC trip on Monday evening and the rest of the week has flown by as we had to prepare for listing photos which were taken on Wednesday. To be clear - we are not listing our house now. We decided to get the listing photos out of the way before we start to accumulate lots of baby stuff. Now we'll be able to list the house as soon as we find a house to buy. Add in a painful RA flare that required a steroid injection (my 8th of this pregnancy!!) and it has been a hectic week...

But let's talk about something more fun - my trip to NYC! I planned this trip back in April as I had some American Airline miles that were expiring. I had enough miles to pay for the flights so it made this trip inexpensive.


The reason for the trip was to visit my friend Alli and meet their new baby! Alli and her husband moved to an adorable neighborhood in Queens called "Sunnyside Gardens." I had never been to Queens before but was completely charmed by their neighborhood. It's full of brick row houses and mature trees. It has a beautiful view of the Manhattan skyline and you are just a quick subway ride away from midtown.

I arrived on Thursday evening and checked into my airbnb. I opted to stay in an airbnb instead of with Alli and her husband as I knew they'd be adjusting to life with a newborn. Plus it's kind of nice to have your own space to return to at the end of each day! I highly recommend the place I stayed in. It was only $110/night so it's very economical. The unit is a small studio but had plenty of room for 2 people. Sunnyside is an easy 20 minute subway ride into Manhattan so it's a very economical way to visit NYC!

I went over to Alli's on Friday morning and soaked up time with Alli and her adorable son Aaron! I got lots of opportunities to cuddle their sweet baby! Holding him made me even more excited for the arrival of our little one!

Is there anything better than holding a sleeping baby?

Aaron and his momma, Alli. Aaron loves to give side eye!  ;)
On Friday we went out for a yummy lunch and then spent the rest of the day at their house. It was very cold outside for NYC - in the 30s! I was more than happy to chill with Alli and the baby. Alli made dinner + homemade GF chocolate chip cookies! Can you say supermom??

On Saturday I went into Manhattan for the day. I started off by meeting up with a friend that I met when I worked in Colorado the summer after my sophomore year of college. I hadn't seen her since 2009 so we had a lot of catch up on! I enjoyed a decaf latte.


After gabbing for 2 hours, I took a subway down to the Soho area and had lunch at Senza Gluten which is a 100% gluten free Italian restaurant. It was amazing to be able to order anything off the menu! My pasta was delicious!


After lunch I stopped by Laduree to pick up some macarons to share with Alli's husband, Chris, who is also a Celiac. (Alli is allergic to tree nuts so can't have macarons.)


Then I meandered down to the 9/11 Memorial. I was hoping to go to the museum but the line was obnoxiously long. The memorial was beautifully done. They have 2 different pools that are surrounded by the names of the victims of 9/11. The memorial indicates where the victim was or what fire department or police department they were a member of.


There is also a "survivor tree." Here is an explanation of the tree:

"In October 2001, the tree was discovered at Ground Zero severely damaged, with snapped roots and burned and broken branches. The tree was removed from the rubble and placed in the care of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. After its recovery and rehabilitation, the tree was returned to the Memorial in 2010. New, smooth limbs extended from the gnarled stumps, creating a visible demarcation between the tree’s past and present. Today, the tree stands as a living reminder of resilience, survival and rebirth."



After that I headed back to Sunnyside. We went out to dinner that night at a restaurant in their neighborhood. I had a delicious burger on a GF bun! GF buns usually suck but this one was so good!


Sunday was another low key day. We got brunch in the morning, checked out an art fair, and then headed back to Alli's to soak up more time with baby Aaron.

It's exhausting being this cute!
 I got him to smile and managed to capture the moment on my phone!


Aaron is just the sweetest baby. He only cries when he's hungry or needs his diaper changed. I hope our baby is as good-natured as baby Aaron! But fussy or easy going, we'll love him or her no matter what!

Alli made one last meal - a delicious pasta dish with sausage, peppers and onions.  It was so good!


On Monday morning, I took my time getting ready. I was feeling especially exhausted that morning - I should have known it was a sign that a flare was coming as I tend to get extra tired before having a flare.  And sure enough - I came down with a flare during the night on Monday. Womp womp!

My trip to NYC was the perfect getaway for me. It was great to spend so much time with Alli and her husband and to get so many baby snuggles from sweet Aaron!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Virtual Coffee Date

Hi friends! It's been awhile since I've done a virtual coffee date. It feels very winterish here as our highs are in the 30s ( and will be in the 20s later this week) and we've had 2 snow falls already (although the snow has melted each time). So it seems like the perfect time of year to grab a cup of something warm and catch up on life's happenings!



If we were having coffee today...

- I would actually opt for tea as I stopped drinking coffee shortly after finding out I was pregnant. It's safe to have a couple of cups a coffee a day while pregnant, but I was so turned off by the taste so I stopped drinking it completely! I could add it back in as the taste is more appealing now but I kind of like not being 'hooked' on something. I will occasionally get a decaf latte when I want a warm treat, though.

- I would talk about my upcoming travel plans! Later this week I am flying to NYC to visit my friend Alli. They had a beautiful baby boy in September. I can't wait to snuggle him and kiss his pudgy cheeks. I'm staying in Alli's neighborhood in Sunnyside, which is in Queens. I rented an airbnb that is a couple of blocks away from their home. They are in the midst of a remodel and are obviously adjusting to life with a newborn so it made sense to get my own place. Her neighborhood sounds so cute and charming so I can't wait to check it out. Plus I can be in Manhattan in 20-30 minutes on the train so it will be easy to get into the city. While I'm there, I am going to meet up with a friend that I made when I worked in Steamboat Spring, CO during college. I haven't seen her since 2009 so we have lots to catch up on!

- Next I would tell you about my trip to St. Louis in early December to visit Nora. Nora was diagnosed with lymphoma this summer and has been undergoing treatments this fall. In September she found out that the cancer is gone (hip hip hooray!). So this trip will be a celebration of being cancer-free and having her treatments behind her (she has her last two treatments this month). We are going to do some Christmasy stuff and visit book stores and just soak up girl time together. This will be my last trip before the baby comes. I could safely fly up to 34 weeks but I have decided to stop traveling a bit earlier. Luckily my boss is totally fine with me not traveling anymore.

- I'm sure we'd talk about the holidays! This year we are spending Thanksgiving with my family. My brother is hosting which is super convenient for us since he lives only 30 minutes away. Phil doesn't get the Friday after Thanksgiving off so it's great that we won't have to travel far. I love Christmas but I really love Thanksgiving. It's all about family and food and there's no pressure to decorate or buy presents! That said, I'm also excited for Christmas. We'll be celebrating with Phil's mom this year (we alternate who we spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with). Phil and I are not gift people - we stopped exchanging gifts for birthdays and Christmas last year. Instead we focus on spending quality time together to celebrate the holiday. I'm already thinking about the special meal we'll make to celebrate our little Christmas (it will be Indian-themed since we both love Indian food). Plus we always bake something together so I'm starting to do some research on what we should make!

- We would talk about what we are reading/planning to read. Right now I'm reading Everyone Brave is Forgiven, which is a WWII novel. After I finish this book, I want to An American Sickness which is about our broken healthcare system. The next heavier non-fiction book I want to read is The Second Amendment. It's written by an NYU law professor. It's about the history of the 2nd amendment (right to bear arms) and which is one of the most misunderstood provisions of the Bill of Rights. Given the insane level of gun violence in our country, I need to become more well-versed on this issue.

- Lastly, we would probably talk about my pregnancy. I'm 23 weeks today! I'd likely whine a bit about the latest flare I came down with on Sunday evening. I'm pretty much getting maybe a 4 day break between flares these days. If they continue at this rate it's going to make for a VERY long pregnancy.  :/

If we were meeting for coffee or tea today, what would you tell me?

Monday, November 6, 2017

Podcasts, Books and Looks of October

October was another busy month! Time is a-flying and before we know it, we'll be turning the calendar to 2018. November and December are 2 of my favorite months as I love all the holiday excitement and anticipation - although I don't feel as much of a sense of anticipation anymore as Christmas comes so fast and I don't really care about gifts like I did when I was a child!  #adulting

Here's how October shaped up for me:

Podcasts:

Birthful - I am really enjoying this podcast which delves into all kind of topics from labor and delivery to breast feeding to cloth diapering. Shout-out to Amber for recommending this to me!

Books:

It was another strong month of reading for me!  I read 7 books! My favorites were Al Franken's memoir and This Is How It Always Is.



The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson - 3 stars - This is a novel about 2 step-sisters. The older sister goes to Alabama to help out her aging grandmother and learns some secrets about the family. I had heard good things about this author and while I enjoyed the book, I didn't LOVE it.

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel - 5 stars - This will end up on my 'best reads of 2017' list. It's about a family with a transgendered child. The author is the mother of a transgendered child so she can speak with authority on the subject, although she makes it clear in the afterword that this is not her child's story. My book club will be discussing this tonight and it's going to make for a great discussion, especially since the person leading the discussion is a child psychologist who has counseled transgendered youth.

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham - 4 stars - This is a young adult novel that is addresses the race riots that occurred in Tulsa in 1921. I had never heard of these race riots. As a result of the riots, an entire section of town where African Americans lived was burned to the ground. I'm glad this book is bringing attention to this horrible act in history.

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain - 3 stars - This is similar to Almost Sisters as the main character returns home to deal with her father's estate and learns a shocking family secret.

Still Life by Louise Penny - 4 stars - This is the first book in Penny's Inspector Gamache series. Some have said the book moved slowly but I really enjoyed all the character development. It is a 'cozy mystery' so it's the perfect series to dig into as the weather gets colder! It also made me want to visit Quebec, Canada as the series is set in that area. I'll definitely read more from this series (after I get through my big stack of unread books that I own!!).

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate - 5 stars - This memoir by the Minnesota Senator, Al Franken, was really entertaining. He used to write for SNL so clearly has a great sense of humor and a way with words. In the book he talks about his career and how ended becoming a senator. He won in a very close race - with all the law suits it took 7 months for him to be declared a winner. I was living in Minnesota at that time but do not remember the legal battle over the senate race! I guess I did not pay as close attention to politics back then?

The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay - 3 stars - I bought this off a kindle deal email months ago and finally got around to reading it on our Asheville vacation. It's a light, easy read so was perfect for vacation.

Looks:

I already shared this photo in my pregnancy update, but this was one of my favorite looks from October. Most of my looks are not photo-worthy these days. I have been wearing a lot of longer maternity long-sleeve t-shirts. I bought some cute dresses from Gap and Pinkblush but my belly isn't big enough to wear them yet as there is too much excess fabric!


Friday, November 3, 2017

Pregnancy Update: 22 weeks

Happy Friday! I'm back with another pregnancy update.

Baby size:  The baby is about 11" long and weighs about a pound. According to the Babycenter website, it's the size of a spaghetti squash. The fruit/vegetable comparisons do not make sense to me, though. Last week it was the size of a banana, now it's a spaghetti squash?? I was thinking they must be comparing the length of the baby to the fruit or vegetable but it still doesn't make all that much sense to me!

Sex of the baby:  I'm sticking with my decision to not find out. Phil still kind of wants to know so at our 20 week ultrasound appointment we had the technician put the sex in an envelop for Phil. Our agreement is that Phil won't tell me if he opens it or not so I won't ever know if he did in fact find out the sex. We had friends over on Monday and they asked if he had opened it and he said he hadn't so maybe he'll stay team green with me - although he could have just been saying he hadn't opened it since he's not supposed to tell me if he did!

Symptoms/RA management:  My RA still sucks. I'm pretty much getting flares every week now. Some are minor, some are awful and force me to stay home from work for a day. Unfortunately the perinatal specialist we saw did not have any advice and said to just work with my Rheumatologist. My Rheum has told me that we've exhausted all of our options and I just need to stay on a low dose of steroids and increase it when I get flares. There is one more drug we could add in, but it carries a risk of liver issues so she doesn't want me to go on it. Plus it could take 2-3 months to become effective and then I'd have to go off it when the baby is born as it's not safe for breast feeding. I totally underestimated how difficult it would be to manage a chronic illness while pregnant.

Other than my RA issues, I'm feeling pretty good. I have started to have low back pain which is surprising as my bump isn't that big. But I guess the muscles in that area have adjusted to accommodate a growing baby. I'm going to continue to get monthly massage so hopefully those will help.

Recent/upcoming appointments: We had our 20 week ultrasound a couple of weeks ago and it went great. The baby looked healthy and they said the weight was 80th percentile so that was good to hear as low birth weight is one of the risks of steroid use. We also found out I have an anterior placenta - which means the placenta is in the front. That explains why I'm not feeling much movement as moms with an anterior placenta feel movement later than others.

I had my 22 week prenatal appointment yesterday and that went well. I really really love my OB and am so glad that I switched back to my previous practice. My belly is measuring on track which was reassuring as I've received several "wow, you aren't showing much!" comments.

Sleep:  Sleep has been a bit better lately and I slept especially well when we were in Asheville. I'm accepting that I am just going to be more tired during this pregnancy. Some women feel more energetic during their 2nd trimester but that hasn't been the case for me. My RA and all the flares are likely the culprit for feeling extra tired as flares just wear me out. Most weekends I need to take a nap on both days. I'm still getting up 2-3 times a night to go the bathroom which is super annoying!

Cravings and favorite foods: Pickles are the only thing that stand out in my mind. I also find that I am super thirsty for water.

Exercise:  I'm still taking it very easy due to all the flares. I'm working on accepting the fact that I won't have the active pregnancy that I envisioned. It's out of my control due to my RA but I do feel guilty and wonder how the lower level of activity is going to impact my birth and recovery but since I can't do anything about it, I need to just accept it.

Recent baby prep/decisions/purchases:  Our Amazon registry is pretty much finished. I am sure I'll add things going forward but I think we've registered for everything we need. This weekend I am buying a second hand Halo Bassinet from someone off of Facebook. I am glad I was able to find it second hand as they are not cheap (retails for $200, I got it for $125 and she's throwing in 3 sets of sheets).

We have decided use cloth diapers (this is a "you do you" thing - I totally understand why many opt to use disposable diapers, but we've decided that cloth makes sense for us!). We have several different kinds on our registry but I ended up buying 4 cloth diapers as there was a really good warehouse sale (shout out to my friend Emilie for letting me know about it!). We'll use disposables until the baby will fit in the "one size" diapers which fit babies when they are around 10 pounds. So we'll use disposables for the first month or so - unless the baby takes after me and is 10 pounds at birth (please let this not be the case!!).

Our next big purchase will be a glider. Phil's mom offered to purchase this for us which was very generous of her as gliders are not cheap! But Phil does go out to her house every weekend to help her out so I know this is her way of thanking us/paying us back for all of his hard work. I have a glider in mind but I want to go to a show room and try out the different options before we order one.

Another decision we made was about child care. We toured 4 daycares in the first trimester and have opted to go with a Spanish Immersion Daycare that is between our neighborhood and where we work downtown. The couple we are best friends with take their son there and have been very happy with it and it stood out as our favorite place of the 4 we toured. They aren't able to confirm when they will have a spot available but we are just going to trust that it will work out. Worst case scenario, we will hire a nanny for a month or so if they don't have a spot open when I return to work in July. This obviously means that I am planning to go back to work full time after the baby is born. I am fortunate and get 18 weeks of maternity leave (10 of which are paid) plus 2 weeks (paid) before the due date. This is very generous compared to what most US companies offer! A lot of my friends have to go back around 12 weeks so I am very grateful that I will have 6 more weeks at home with our baby.

Mood: I will be honest and say I do not love being pregnant. I feel some guilt over this as I feel like I'm supposed to be enjoying it. Maybe if I didn't have active RA I might be able to enjoy it more? I am very grateful to be pregnant and I can't wait to meet our baby in March but I can't say I enjoy being pregnant.

Maternity clothes: I've packed away all of my pre-maternity pants. I am carrying so low so it's not comfortable to use the belly band with my pre-maternity pants. I can still wear some of my pre-maternity dresses as long as they have some stretch to them, like the one I'm wearing in the picture below.

Both pictures were taken when I was around 20 weeks. I haven't taken any pictures since then!



Reading:  I'm still slowly working my way through "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child." My goal is to read the newborn sleep section and then pass it off to Phil so he can read about sleep training and such. I kind of doubt he'll read it before the baby is born, though. The next book I want to read is "The Happiest Baby on the Block." I've heard it's really good. We'll also probably check the video out from the library as I've heard that it does a great job of demonstrating how to soothe a baby.