Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Review - Part 4

And just like that, it's the last day of 2018! This year really flew by. It was a really good year, but also a really hard year. There was a lot of change and adjustment and not as much sleep as I would like/need. But we made it through and the joyful moments definitely outweighed the difficult ones!

Here's my final install of the 20 questions!

16. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Slept and exercised more. But these were both out of my control.

17. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Gone to fewer doctor appointments! Oh man, we saw so many specialists between Paul and me: OB, rheumatologist, endocrinologist, perinatalogist, hematologist, ENT, pediatric urologist, lactation consultants, speech pathologist, and pediatric OT. It's almost laughable to look at this list of specialists. 

18. Compared to this time last year, how are you different?

I'm not carrying a baby! Now I care for a baby, which is such an all-consuming but amazing thing to do. 

I do feel like I've lost part of my identity in becoming a mom, but I know that's natural. I haven't exercised, aside from going for walks. I don't have the energy or desire to go on dates or plan trips. I kind of miss the Lisa that wanted to do alllll the things. Right now I'm just way too tired to do much outside of work and caring for Paul. I'm hoping that starts to slowly change in 2019 as I'd like to be better about making time for things like exercise and quality time with Phil. Being done pumping is really going to help in regard to exercising more, though!

19. Compared to this time last year, how are you the same?

At my core, I'm still the same person. I still have the same wants and needs, they just aren't as high of a priority these days as they used to be. But that will shift as Paul sleeps better and I adjust to being a working mom. One thing that stayed the same is that I still made time for reading! 

20. What's a life lesson you learned this year?

That there is always going to be something to worry about when you are a parent. When I was pregnant I told a friend (who is a psychologist) that I couldn't wait to have the baby so I could stop worrying so much (my active RA and blood clot really amped up my anxiety about the health of the baby). She said that she hated to break it to me, but the worrying doesn't ever end - you just have to find a way to manage it. She was so right. What I worry about related to Paul changes from month to month. Phil, on the other hand, does not really worry like I do and he's been a good influence on me. He's the one telling me, "Paul is fine, don't worry so much." And so far, he's been right. 

Happy New Year, everyone!

Friday, December 28, 2018

Best Books of 2018

I was nervous about how much reading - or really how little - I might get done during my first year of parenting. But it turns out I had nothing to be worried about. I ended up reading 87 books and will likely finish another one before the year ends which will make this my biggest reading year ever! I should have known that if I found time to read when I was studying for the CFA (which was a huge time suck), I would find time to read as a new mom.

I get a lot of comments asking how I find the time to read. I definitely got a lot of reading done while I pumped but even if I hadn't pumped, I think I still would have found time to read in 2018. I also read on my bus commute and for 30-60 minutes before bed, depending on how tired I am. And I choose books over tv much of the time. All those snippets of time, both big and small, really add up! 

Now that I've addressed how I found the time to read, here's a list of the best books I read in 2018 in no particular order!

1. Every Note Played by Lisa Genova - I have read and loved every book by this author. She has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Harvard and her expertise in that field is apparent in her books, which are all about different neurological disorders. Her latest book is about ALS. In this book, we meet Richard, an accomplished concert pianist who is diagnosed with ALS> He is in desperate need of a caretaker when the most unlikely person rises to the challenge - his ex-wife. Genova weaves together his experience with this disease with a story of the aftermath of a failed marriage. I could not put this book down and read it in just over 24 hours.

2. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett - This is my favorite Patchett book of the ones I've read. It's about 2 families who merge when the father of 4 children marries the mother of 2 children. It's very much a character-driven novel instead of plot-driven but I tend to like those kind of books. Even if character-driven novels aren't your thing, I still think this one is worth picking up because the story is so rich and the characters are so well-developed. I was sad when the book ended because I wanted to see how their  lived continued to unfold. 

3. This Must Be the Place by Maggie O'Farrell - This novel definitely falls more under "literary fiction" but it's still pretty accessible in my opinion. It's a young American professor who falls in love with a famous actress who trades a life lived in the limelight for a life of seclusion in Ireland. The story isn't told in a linear fashion so it can be confusing at times, but it's worth sticking with it!

4. A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza - This novel is about an Indian-American family living in CA. When the novel opens, the eldest daughter is getting married and we learn that her younger brother has returned for her wedding after being estrange from the family for years. The novel moves in a non-linear fashion and we learn, through snippets of the family's life, about the 3 children and the parents. It's a heart-breaking novel about faith, parenting/being a siblings of a difficult child, and forgiveness. 

5. Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen - This is definitely another character-driven novel, which seems to be a theme for my favorites! I adore Anna Quindlen so it's no surprise that her latest novel made my best of life for 2018. That said, it gets a pretty low 3.36 rating on Goodreads so if you aren't a Quindlen fan, you should probably skip this one. It's a novel about a couple living on the Upper West Side of NYC. The novel is about tensions - both in a close-knit neighborhood and between a husband and wife.

6. How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry - This is a delightful read set in a book shop in Cotswold, England. It's a light, easy breezy read but sometimes that's just what you need - especially after a heavy read. I'm a sucker for any book set in a book shop!

7. Educated by Tara Westover - This was such an engrossing memoir about a woman that grew up in a family that took an extreme interpretation of the Mormon faith. her parents didn't put them in school but they did not home school them either. Instead they were put to work and asked to do work that put their lives in danger. Her parents' distrust of and paranoia about the government and medical profession is baffling. It was hard to read about the abuse the author suffered but she did find a way to educated herself, and through her education she began to come to terms with the abuse she suffered.

8. The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner - This memoir was one of the most heart-breaking books I have ever read. It’s about a woman’s experience growing up in a religious cult in Mexico. Her parents belonged to a polygamous sect of the Mormon church. It was so difficult to read about the poverty and abuse that this woman and her family experienced. I found myself laying awake at night, thinking about what her and her siblings went through. It’s hard to understand how her mother could have chosen this life and subjected her children to such misery. But even though she could have harbored feelings of resentment for her mom, she writes from a place of acceptance and forgiveness. Because of the way my holds became available at the library, I read this immediately after reading Educated. I do not recommend reading these back-to-back!!

9. The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne - This novel is about Cyril Avery, an Irish boy born out of wedlock. He gets adopted by a wealthy, eccentric couple and this novel follows his life. Cyril is such a sweet, likeable character. This is one of those books where you are sad when they end because you don't want to say goodbye to the characters!

So 9 is an odd number to end on but I don't want to force myself to add another book to this list just to round it out to an even number!

What were your best reads of 2018?

Monday, December 24, 2018

2018 Review - Part 3

Happy Christmas Eve! I should be up at my parents lake home but Paul and I came down with a nasty case of the stomach flu on Saturday so we canceled our trip and will have a quiet Christmas at home. :(

On that sour note, it's time for another group of 20 questions for 2018!

11. What are your top recommendations for entertainment from this year? (books, television, movies, music, etc)

I'll be sharing my best books of 2018 later this week so stay tuned for that! Some of our favorite Netflix shows were Wild Wild Country (make sure you watch the hilarious SNL parody after you watch this show), Dirty Money (a documentary series about financial corruption), and CNN's The 80s. CNN produced a documentary series about the 60s and 70s, too, which were worth watching. The 80s was just released on netflix in 2018. I also watched "Call the Midwife" in the final months of my pregnancy. I just realized the latest season is on Netflix now so I'm trying to watch that before PBS releases another season.

12. What song will remind you of this year?

You are my sunshine! I sang this approximately eleventy billion times when putting Paul down for naps and bedtime. Ok, not that many! But I sang it a lot, often with this edit to the orginal lyrics: "... you make me happy, when you take naps...

13. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year (not necessarily from the song that reminds you of the year).

Welcome to the end of being alone inside your mind
You're tethered to another and you're worried all the time
You always knew the melody but you never heard it rhyme
And they've still got their morning paper and their coffee and their time
And they still enjoy their evenings with the skeptics and the wine
Oh, but all the wonders I have seen, I will see a second time
From inside of the ages through your eyes
~ excerpted lyrics from The Mother by Brandi Carlile (I heard this song for the first time at a Brandi Carlile concert the night before I found out I was pregnant!)

14. What was your most enjoyable purchase?

Boxed wine? Ha! I thoroughly enjoy a glass or 2 of white wine at the end of a long day!

15. Did you travel? If so, where?

I know there are people who decide to continue to travel even after having a baby but that isn't us. Paul is a pretty crappy sleeper and doesn't nap on the go so traveling with him would be a total waste of money at this point. We'd spend lots of money to go somewhere only to sit around an airbnb while he naps. So we did not travel this year, aside from road trips up to my parents' lake cabin. I don't see this changing until Paul a) is down to 1 nap/day and b) sleeps through the night.

Phil would probably be a-ok with leaving Paul behind for a trip but I'm not interested in that yet. I honestly don't know when I will be but I imagine that eventually I'll feel ok being away from Paul for a couple of days.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Creating Holiday Traditions

It's hard to believe that Christmas is less than a week away! Where did the last several weeks go? It seems like we were just celebrating Thanksgiving!

Now that we have a child, I'm thinking more about the traditions we want to establish going forward. I've been thinking back on what I remember from my Christmases as a child. While I do remember the feeling of anticipation of seeing all those prettily-wrapped presents under the tree, I don't really remember the gifts. I know I was excited to unwrap Christmas presents - Christmas Eve dinner was probably the only night of the year that us kids jumped up to help with dishes without being asked so we could get going with the gift unwrapping portion of the evening. (Christmas Eve is the bigger day of celebration in our family, as is customary in families of German decent). But I don't have many memories of the actual gifts I received - although I know I appreciated them at the time.

What stands out more are things like helping my mom wrap caramels or decorate sugar cookies; gathering as a family to light the candles of the advent wreath and sing Christmas carols while my mom accompanied us on piano; our special Christmas Eve meal that has changed as we've gotten older and added more people into the mix (my mom used to make oyster stew and we'd have some other appetizers - now it's usually things like shrimp scampi, crab legs, and lasagna for the kids/people who don't like seafood); attending Christmas Eve mass as a family and enjoying homemade ice cream afterwards with Christmas cookies; Santa magically dropping off a bag of gifts on our deck while we unwrapped presents - without any of us hearing him on the deck (my parents had an elaborate plan - my dad would go into their bedroom to try on something he received and he could ring the doorbell from upstairs. We'd hear the doorbell ring and would run downstairs to the front door and my parents would discover that Santa had left the gifts on the deck! We never caught on that they put the presents there before we started opening gifts!)

As I've reflected back on Christmases past, I have felt a little bit, well, disenchanted by the consumerism that reigns during this time of year. I don't want to come off as judgmental as I know that many people enjoy gift-giving and it's an important part of holiday traditions. But I think there is a way to include gift-giving without it becoming the be-all end-all of the Christmas season. 

Paul will certainly receive gifts during this holiday season - especially from his grandparents (he's my MIL's first grandchild so I think she'll go a little bit crazy). But we decided to just get him one gift and it's something we were planning to buy for him anyways (this sit-to-stand activity walker). He's too young to understand Christmas anyways and he's too young to unwrap gifts so we'll just put it together and show it to him the weekend before Christmas.

But in the Christmases to come, I don't want gifts to be the focus of our celebration. I want him to look back on his Christmases and value what I valued as a child - the food, the time with family, and the meaningful traditions. We're still figuring out what those traditions will be, but I've started playing Christmas music on the piano with him on my lap, which he seems to really enjoy. And he'll participate in my annual Christmas cookie decorating party with my college friends and their kids. I like this idea of Paul waking up to a wrapped book on Christmas morning that we will then read together. More traditions will develop in the years to come. Presents will have a place, of course, but I don't want him to grow up with a sense of extravagance and entitlement.

Maybe I sound like a curmudgeon or the Grinch, but Paul has 2 practical, frugal parents who lean toward minimalism so I'm sure my sentiment about this season is not surprising to those who know me well!

Lest you think I am a complete Grinch, here are some pictures of our sweet little elf in one of his many pairs of Christmas jammies!

What do you remember from your childhood Christmases? What traditions are you trying to establish now as an adult? 

Monday, December 17, 2018

2018 Review - Part 2

I'm back with my 2nd installment of the 20 questions for 2018!

6. What would you like to have next year that you didn't have this year?

More sleep and more time to workout!

7.  Did you make new year's resolutions, and did you keep them? Will you make more for next year?

This was the first year in many years that I did not make any goals for 2018. I figured that our first year of parenting would provide enough challenges and wow was I right! I'm going to do a '19 in 2019' list which is a list of things I want to accomplish in 2019, both big and small. I consider that different than resolutions, though. I'm a lover of lists and having a to-do list motivates me so I think that would be a good way to get some pesky tasks completed plus some fun things, too.

8.  What was your biggest achievement of this year?

Providing milk for Paul for the first year of his life. As of today I have enough milk frozen to feed Paul until he turns one! I'm going to start to wean off the pump once I have a little more frozen than I need in case he has some bigger eating days.

9.  What was your biggest failure?

Ugh, I don't like the word "failure." So instead I will say my biggest "lesson" has been how hard it is to be a working mom. I had to really adjust my expectations for things like working out and investing time in friendships.

10. What did you rely on when you were overwhelmed?

First and foremost, Phil. He's been an excellent partner. I've also leaned on Amber for a lot of advice and support as she's just 3 months ahead of me in the adventure of parenting your first child and we are very similar in terms of personality (type A upholders)!

Friday, December 14, 2018

5 Things Friday

Hello, Friday! This is my last full week of work for the year and it kind of felt long! :P Here are 5 things that are on my mind today.

1. This might be my favorite photo I took this week! Phil hates getting his picture taken but was a good sport when I snapped this photo on Tuesday.

2. We had what I thought would be our last doctor appointment on Wednesday. We saw Paul's urologist for a kidney ultrasound and follow-up. One of his kidneys was measuring large when I was pregnant with him and they've been monitoring it every 3 months since he was born. I was hoping the kidney would stabilize and we'd be done with these appointments but his kidney was measuring a little bit larger at this ultrasound. The doctor decided to order a dye test which will determine if urine is backing up into the kidney and causing the enlargement. So much for being done with doctor appointments for the year! I'm glad we can fit it in before year-end, though, as we met our out of pocket maximum (in March!!) so we won't have to pay anything for this (costly) procedure. It's going to be interesting to see how they put a catheter in a wiggly infant!

Playing the ever-popular "take off my socks" game while waiting to see the urologist
3. We have virtually no plans this weekend, besides getting together with a run club friend whose baby is 3 days older than Paul. That will be a low key get together as I'll head over there around lunch time. We haven't seen them since September and our boys have changed so much since then! Plan-free weekends are my jam these days, especially since Paul is not on a consistent schedule. His nap lengths vary so much which makes it really hard to make plans!

4. Paul learned to clap last week! It's the cutest thing. He will clap on command. It's fun to watch him learn new things and figure out how to follow directions from us!

5. I'm looking forward to spending Christmas with my family at the lake but one thing I'm especially looking forward to is making these gluten free cinnamon rolls with my mom! The recipe intimidates me too much to tackle it on my own but my mom is a baking pro so I am sure they will turn out great. Cinnamon rolls are one of the foods I really miss since going gluten free. Hopefully these turn out well!

What's on your mind today?

Monday, December 10, 2018

2018 Review - Part 1

Last week on Instagram I saw a friend answering these 20 Questions for 2018 and I thought it would be a fun way to close out the year!

So for the final 4 Monday so the year, I'm going to tackle 5 questions! I'd love it if you played along by answering them in the comments or on your blog!

1. What did you do on your birthday?

I was planning to have a 'puzzle party' - I would invite friends to stop by for a snack and/or beverage and help me put a puzzle together. But I got that super painful blood clot in mid-January and was in too much pain to throw a party of any sort. So instead I had a quiet birthday celebration. Phil and I ordered Indian and had a quiet night on the couch. It was just what I needed.

2. What are your strongest memories from this year, and why?

The moment my OB lifted our baby over the sheet separating me and Phil from the c-section surgery and hearing Phil announce, "it's a boy!" I'll never forget the look on his face or the emotion in his voice. And I'll never forget meeting Paul for the first time. I was exhausted after being awake for so many hours and pushing through all those contractions without pain killers so I was a little shaky and delirious. But it was amazing to hold him in my arms for the first time!

3. What did you do this year that you'd never done before?

Oh my gosh, so many things. Had a baby via c-section, tried and failed to breast feed, pumped sooo much breast milk (almost 10,000 oz since I started tracking in late March!), became a mom, hired our first babysitter, and the list goes on and on. It's been a year of first for us!

4. What did you want and get?

A healthy baby, and honestly, I felt sheepish saying this before Paul was born but I really wanted a boy. I would have of course been happy with a boy or a girl, but I think I'm really well-suited to a be a mom of a boy. :)

5. What did you want and not get?

I really wanted a natural delivery. Leading up to the delivery I acknowledged that the process was out of my control but I kept telling my friend Amber that I really did not want a c-section. I also really wanted to breastfeed Paul and that did not work out either. But the more time passes, the less I care. The delivery and how I fed Paul mattered so much in the early months but it matters less with each passing month. And it's not something I really think about much anymore (well, besides the breast feeding thing because I LOATHE pumping!).

If we have another baby, I will opt to have a planned c-section. My OB suspects that my birth canal is just too narrow. C-sections are tough to recover from, but I don't want to have a repeat experience of laboring for over a day, getting to 9cm and then needing a c-section! Plus, anecdotally, I've heard the recovery is better when it's a planned c-section (and my OB wholeheartedly agrees).

Friday, December 7, 2018


Yay, Friday! I"m off with Paul today so it's a 3-day weekend for me. Woo hoo!

The high of my week was working from home while spending the day with Paul on Wednesday. The financial markets were closed as it was a National Day of Mourning for the loss of President Bush. Since it was going to be a quiet day I opted to work from home. We had the option to take the day off so I figured it was ok to work + hang out with Paul. I would never try to work from home and watch Paul at the same time because I can't be totally focused on work while watching him but it felt like the right decision on Wednesday. Not having to get up early to pump + get ready is the best!

My cute co-worker in his Christmas jammies!
The low of my week was some tough nights with lots of wake-up. We are starting to sleep train now that Paul got a clean bill of health at his 9-month appointment. It's going to be a little brutal initially but I know it will be worth it in the long run for all of us. We all need more uninterrupted sleep!

A book I'm reading is The Animators. It's been on my to-read list for awhile and I bumped it up the list when I saw that Stephany really liked it. One of the characters is really unlikable but I think she's starting to redeem herself (I struggle with unlikable characters). A book I'm reading to Paul is the Little Blue Truck Christmas book. There's a tree at the end with blinking lights which he loves!!!

He loves the bright lights!
When I read to him, he looks up occasionally and smiles at me which melts my heart!
A recipe I made was Lemon Pepper Chicken with Artichoke Salsa and Roasted Asparagus. I've made this several times and it's so good. The artichoke salsa really makes the meal. I forgot to take a picture but it was super delicious!

The best money I spent was on a mocha yesterday morning. I treat myself to a latte or mocha on Fridays so I had one yesterday since it was my "Friday."

My plans this weekend include going to my Julia Child aunt and uncle's for lunch today with Paul. Tomorrow we are going out to my MIL's house for lunch and then Phil and I will go to his company's holiday party in the evening. We hired the sitter we used in September. She's so great with Paul. He'll probably only be awake for an hour before going to bed but at least he'll be hanging out with someone that is excited to play with him! She works in an infant room at a daycare so is the perfect babysitter! On Sunday we are getting together with some of Phil's high school friends for a 'meet the baby' brunch as one of his friends had a baby in October.

What was the high of your weekend? What are your weekend plans?

Monday, December 3, 2018

Baby Paul: 9 Months

Paul turned 9 months over the weekend! It's been the longest, shortest 9 months of our lives. ;) Every month just gets better and better.


- He perfected his army crawl, often in pursuit of poor Oscar! He is so obsessed with her and loves to crawl toward her. The feeling is not mutual, though! He isn't crawling on hands and knees and I don't know that he ever will since he's gotten pretty fast at his army crawl.

- He got his 4th tooth and has 2 more on the way!

You can see his 2 top teeth in this photo
- He celebrated his first Thanksgiving. He seemed to enjoy eating with us at the table. He didn't really "eat" much of the Thanksgiving meal but he really enjoyed chewing on asparagus. But the pickle was his favorite part of the meal.

He liked chewing on the spoon. It must have felt good on his gums.

Our happy boy with his pickle

Black Friday ads = best baby toy

So much love for Grandma Joan!

- He finally mastered sitting up independently.

- He had his first surgery, which you heard all about last week.


- Sleep is still a challenge. With all the ear infections he's had, we haven't felt comfortable letting him cry for long when he wakes during the night. I follow the sleep training professional Cara of Taking Cara Babies on Instagram and she said you can't sort out sleep issues when a baby is sick or has ear problems so that made me feel good about our decision to not try to get Paul to eat less at night. After getting tubes, his sleep hasn't improved but I am sure his body is so used to eating multiple times a night. We need to work on getting him to sleep for longer stretches because 3 wakes up (sometimes more!) is not sustainable for us. We'll tackle that after we get a clean bill of health for him - hopefully at his 9 month appointment this week.


- He really likes purees and we are getting to eat him more things, especially veggies mixed with things like pears. He is VERY particular about the texture of purees, though. I tried to make a butternut squash puree for him but he wouldn't eat it. He just pushed it out with his tongue as it wasn't as smooth as what he's used to eating. I tried thinning it out with water and it did not make a difference. So for now we are just going to buy purees.

- He eats 3 "meals" a day - oatmeal cereal in the morning and then a puree at lunch and before bed. His calories primarily come from breast milk, which is where his nutrition should primarily be coming from up until 1 year.

- He has no interest in eating anything besides purees, though. He will chew things up but then spits them out instead of swallowing. I'm going to talk to his doctor about this at his 9 month appointment but I've heard from other friends that it took awhile for their kids to eat more than purees. I'm trying really hard to not compare how Paul eats to other babies. This is easier said than done when I see other kids chowing down on solids/feeding themselves. But I guess Paul is just doing things at his own pace.

- His favorite food is pears but he also loves prunes, apples, oatmeal cereal, and any vegetable puree mixed with pears. He hates green bean, pea, or carrot purees. I honestly can't blame him, though. I've tasted them and they taste pretty awful.

- He weighed just over 16 pounds when they weighed him at his pre-op physical in mid-November so I'm thinking/hoping he'll be 17 pounds at his appointment this week. He's still hanging out around 4-5th percentile. He finally moved up a size and wears 6-9 month onesies. He's still in 3-6 month pants and 6-month sleepers fit him best as the 6-9 month sleepers are too long for him.

- He is still a very social baby and loves seeing other kids.

- He loves playing with his little people animals. We put them in a bucket and he loves digging through the bucket of toys and chewing on all of his animal friends.

- He loves being carried around in the laundry basket!

- Rough-housing is still popular, too!

- He loves being read to. His favorite books are Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can you?, Peek-a-Who, Snuggle Puppy, and Good Night Moon.

- He loves pushing this truck around. Once he figures out that you can pull back to make it go far, he's really going to enjoy it. But for now he has fun pushing it and then catching up with it.

- His favorite person is Oscar. He lights up, squeals, and waves his arms when he sees her. She's curious about him but is generally annoyed by him pursuing her. She has started to growl and hiss at him but I don't think she would ever bite or claw at him.

 - He loves peek-a-boo!

- And he's still entertained by his jumper. It's really nice to be able to put him in the jumper to 'contain' him while I do things like pump or meal prep.

We are excited to celebrate our first Christmas with a little one! We are skipping the visit to Santa as Paul has developed some stranger danger and while I know crying photos can be funny, I think it's more sad than funny when the baby is Paul's age. No judgment for anyone that took their kid to see Santa at this age - we are just opting to wait until next year when he's a bit older. I'm excited to see what he thinks of the tree at my parents. I think he'll love the bright lights!