A BLOG ABOUT A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

'Tis the Season

Greetings faithful blog readers, 

Around here, we put up our Christmas decor the day after Thanksgiving, and this year was no exception. I love the sparkle and magic that happens during this time of year, but simultaneously, it's our busiest time at work, and I feel lots of tension after a long day spent teaching and helping students revise their papers. Next weekend, I'll be frantically grading finals, and I don't want the happiness of the season to get buried under a pile of essays. 

Here's a few things I plan to do and to keep in mind this holiday season; I hope my list inspires you to reflect on (and do) whatever is important to you. 


1.) Take time to say "thank you"

After a long semester, I know it means so much to me if a student gives me a handwritten, or even emailed, note of thanks. Being appreciated for what you do just feels good. That's why, my number one mantra of this season will be to say thank you. We're gifting our housekeepers, school secretaries, doctor and nurses, and co-workers notes and gifts to show our appreciation for all they do. Not only do I want to acknowledge the people who do so much for me, but I also want to make an extra effort to be kind to strangers: hold open doors, spare some change, smile and be friendly; for some, the holidays are a rough time, and your kindness could mean more than you know.

2.) Give back

I feel overwhelmed with how many worthy charities there are out there, but this week, I want to sit down with Brendan and pick a few charities to give to. Sometimes, I think I get trapped in thinking I can never do enough instead of focusing on what I can do. Picking charities that spend their dollars wisely and making a contribution has become a tradition I look forward to. This year especially, I think we all need to remember that people's worth as human beings is not connected to their financial situation. I'm disturbed when I read comments (by certain politicians) indicating that people are to blame for their own needs. You never know what landed someone in a difficult position. The truth is, any of us could need a helping hand at some point (and likely will more than once). I'd encourage anyone struggling with finding empathy to do some "soul searching" this season; I truly believe the meaning of life (to big answer to the question "why are we here?") is to help others.

3.) Ditch "perfect present" pressure

I'm not going to lie: tracking down the "perfect gift" for everyone on my list can often leave me feeling like a grinch, but this year, I'm ditching all the pressure. The purpose of a gift is to show people you're thinking of them. I'm saving gift receipts, so my recipients can choose something else if need be. I'm also enjoying wrapping small and silly presents: sometimes it's nice to simply get something useful.

4.) Don't let the news negatively impact you

Back in graduate school, I didn't pay attention to the news because it would put me in a bad frame of mind. In fact, my and Brendan's first disagreement was about this very issue (he ended up buying me flowers, which is how I knew he was a keeper). Now, I do read the news daily because it helps me make real world connections in the classroom, and I want my students to be involved citizens, but I still believe going overboard on news consumption is a fast recipe for unhappiness. One rule I have: reading, not watching. Television news is not for me. My second rule: acting, not venting. When I read something that upsets me, I don't wait to take action: I contact my representatives. Do what you can, and then let go. Venting to a friend is sometimes necessary, but it has never improved a situation.

5.) Take time out

Brendan and I took a break from grading (and test writing) this weekend and saw Three Billboards. I laughed, I cried, and it was an amazing film. We almost didn't go because there was so much to do, but then I realized our days of seeing movies in a theater may be limited, and I didn't want to miss a chance. We had a really good time, and it reminded me to take time out for experiences. Whether it's a yoga class, a trip to the coffee shop, a walk around the neighborhood (which was our Sunday activity), or listening to a podcast, take time to do something just because it brings you joy or helps you relax. Likewise, when your social calendar fills with holiday parties, potlucks, gift exchanges, and invitations to travel, don't feel guilty for saying no. Better to know yourself than to agree to something that will increase your stress.

6.) Take in the Lights

Who doesn't feel instantly happy looking at Christmas lights? We'll be sure to take some drives through festive neighborhoods just to look at lights.

7.) Make time for friends

Most of my life in the next ten days will be all about grading, but I've scheduled a lunch, a mani/pedi, and an evening out with various friends, so I'll have a nice break from the monotony of grading and get to spend time with the people I care about too.

8.) Hot Chocolate

I'm going to make myself some :)

9.) A Christmas Movie

Bad Santa, A Muppet Christmas, and Home Alone are some of my favorite Christmas movies (all have been on Netflix in previous years). I definitely plan on finding a holiday movie and enjoying it (with some gingerbread cookies my mom brought us, of course!)

We're already nearly a week into December, but we wish you all peace, love, and hope this holiday season. Here's to taking in the wonder & joy (even if you need to temporarily put aside a stack of papers to do it).

<3

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Trying Out Le Tote

Greetings Faithful Blog Readers,

Needing a wardrobe that can expand with my waistline, I tried out Le Tote which serves regular and maternity clients. If you decide to try Le Tote, you can get one for free by using my referral link. Le Tote is different than Stitch Fix, so please read carefully so you know what you're getting into! I paid for my own Le Tote, but I did find an 85% off coupon to try it.

What is Le Tote: Unlike Stitch Fix, Le Tote is not a styling service. You look through their website and pick out what you want in your tote ahead of time. Also unlike Stitch Fix, you are not picking clothes to buy. You are paying one monthly subscription price to be able to rent unlimited totes. When you are done with your tote, you return it (in the envelope provided-shipping free of charge) and get a new one. You don't have to worry about laundering, as Le Tote handles that for you. Le Tote will sell you any pieces you love, often for a great discount. You can cancel at any time, but if you don't cancel, you'll be billed for the next month. You can also pause your membership (you must have returned your tote by the next billing date to pause).

Had I paid full price, my monthly membership would have cost $84 for unlimited monthly totes each containing 4 maternity items. The prices are lower for non-maternity members (I think the lowest package starts at $49 a month). They do have "Le Tote Select" for people that wish to buy and not rent clothes, but this is not a review of that service.

Why I Wanted to Try It: I have one pair of jeans that sort of fits right now and no work pants that fit. I don't care to invest a lot of money in maternity clothes, and since I could try this for $13, I figured it was worth a shot. I wanted some clothes for work that I can wear in colder weather.

Since this is a review of an entire month's membership, I figure I'll show you what you're getting for the cost of one month of membership:

Tote #1

Selection Process: It was pretty easy to figure out my size and select clothing. It didn't take me too long since I knew what I was looking for (a couple of work dresses and a couple of work friendly pants).

Shipping Time: I ordered my tote Saturday night and got it in the mail Friday morning. I really wasn't impressed with how long shipping took, but my tote tracking said it should have arrived Thursday so maybe the blame lies with USPS.

Days Kept: 7 (including day it arrived and day I sent it back), though the first 3 days were a waste since I'd already dressed for work Friday and have plenty of lounging clothes for the weekend.

Clothing: 

Up first, Octavia Maternity Dress:


I love this dress so much! It's comfortable, work appropriate, and cute. It was on sale for $27, so I decided to keep it. Since I knew I wasn't sending it back, wearing it ASAP didn't have to be a priority. I wore it on Thursday. 

Second, Leota Maternity Dress: 


This dress was super comfortable, but it was so low cut! I had to wear an undershirt under it to wear it to work. I think it's probably designed with breastfeeding in mind, but I'd appreciate a higher neckline. I wore this to work on Monday: it was a beautiful day, and I felt put together and comfortable.

Up next, Maternal America "Skinny" jeans:


You can't tell from this photo, but these jeans were super baggy at the bottom. Also, they were more like work trousers and nothing like jeans, which worked fine for my purposes. I wore them to work on Tuesday with a blouse and cardigan. They were comfortable enough but nothing special.

Finally, the Noir Maternity Classic Legging:


I originally intended to wear these once and send them back. I was saving them for a super cold, wet, rainy Wednesday. Once I wore them for a full day, I realized just how amazing they are: these feel like pajamas but look professional. I paired them with a sweater and felt cozy despite the miserable weather. Since they were on sale for $48, and that seems like a reasonable price, I decided to keep these as well. I wore them to work again on Friday.

Tote #2:
Selection Process: I made a mistake and made all my selections at 11PM (Thursday night--as soon as my Le Tote was scanned at the post office after I dropped it off Thursday, I got an email inviting me to pick out my next tote). Inventory seemed limited. I couldn't find maternity jeans or pants that were seasonably appropriate. I emailed customer service, and it turns out, the best time to swap your tote is 9AM (Le Tote will pick items for you, but you can "swap them out" and pick all your own items). Since I couldn't really get my ideal selections, I focused on getting dresses for work and maybe something cute to wear for Thanksgiving.

Shipping Time: Ordered Thursday evening, arrived Monday afternoon. The much faster turnaround was much appreciated! This means I have work clothes ready for the week.

Days Kept: 5 (including the day it arrived and the day I sent it back). I thought it was awesome being able to have all my work outfits for the week and then sending it back in time for the weekend.

Clothing: 

Up First, the Leota Maternity Boat Neck Dress:



Tuesday, our high was in the low 80s, so this cute and comfortable dress was the perfect outfit for work. I noticed a little pilling on the tummy of the dress (guess this one has seen some love), but I didn't find it bothersome. This one definitely shows off the bump.

Next, the Noir Maternity Stitched Shoulder Dress


I love this dress; with black tights, it was the perfect thing to wear to work on Wednesday. I was thinking of wearing this for Thanksgiving, but it looks like Thanksgiving in our area is going to be super cold, so I'll plan for something else instead.

Next, Octavia Maternity Tie Waist Dress


This was my favorite dress of the tote. Since Le Tote was selling it for $27, I decided to make it mine!

Lastly, the Gold Sparkle Cardigan


This cardigan was itchy, so at first, I thought I couldn't actually make myself wear it. But I wore it to work on Wednesday (with the black dress) and Thursday (with the Burgundy dress), and I forgot about the itchiness. Not my favorite Le Tote pick, but I ended up getting some use out of it.

Tote #3
Selection Process: I dropped off my Le Tote at the post office on Friday afternoon, and within a few hours, I had a text/email saying my next tote was ready to be customized. At first, I went in and there was not much available. I stepped away (not for long) and refreshed and saw the maternity jeans I had been eying were finally in "my closet" (meaning they were now an option to add to my tote). When I saw another pair of jeans were available too, I nabbed them both and also got a couple of dresses.

Shipping Time: This is where my Le Tote experience could have been better. On Monday, I checked in via email to say my tote still hadn't left the warehouse. They apologized, sent me a link to customize a new tote, and offered me a $5 credit and added three days to my membership. I wrote back that I wasn't satisfied with that resolution since I was really depending on my tote in order to have jeans that fit. I asked if they could track down the original tote and rush ship it...long story short, I ended up getting TWO totes. One arrived Wednesday, and one arrived Friday. I also got 1/2 off my next month's membership because of the inconvenience.

Days Kept: 8 (including the day it arrived and the day I sent it back).

Clothing (my pictures are more candid this week; didn't have much time with the holiday!)

The Ava Maternity Mixed Print Wrap Dress was perfect for both Thanksgiving and for wearing to work the next week.


I was so excited to try the J-brand maternity jeans, but since they have side panels rather than a full panel, they really weren't that comfortable. I got some wear out of them anyway.


Luckily, I also picked out the full panel Noppies Skinny Jean. These are amazingly comfortable, and I'll be buying them even though they're $90. 


Lastly, the Octavia Maternity Smocked Bodice Dress is another keeper...this one is only $20 and will be perfect for holiday parties.


My overall impressions of Le Tote: It was definitely worth the $13 I paid to try it! I spent $207 dollars extra and bought maternity jeans, maternity pants, and two dresses. I like that I get to pick what's in my tote, and I can wear everything before I have to make a decision about purchasing. It's hard to know whether or not something is comfortable when you just try it on once. I didn't love the wait time between shipments; it seems too long given what one would pay full price for this service. I also want the service to be reliable, though I was ultimately happy with how they handled their mistake. I like always having something new to wear, which is especially handy during pregnancy when I'm quickly outgrowing things.

Will I subscribe next month? Since I have a 50% discount, I'll keep my membership active and reevaluate again in January.

Want to check out Le Tote for yourself? Use my referral link and get yourself one free tote. 

Happy hump day, everyone. I'm definitely struggling with the whole back at work after a holiday break thing, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel (the tunnel is just covered in papers, discussions, and finals that I have to grade). Here's to powering through the rest of the work week! I'll still be grading this weekend, but at least I can stay on my couch and sleep in!

<3

Friday, November 24, 2017

Pregnancy: Weeks 17-20

Greetings faithful blog readers,

When we last left off in week 16, I was starting to feel baby movements and my morning sickness was wrapping up. We also enjoyed seeing baby girl during a recreational ultrasound. Now, we had another month stretch until the next doctor's appointment. Perhaps this is a first time pregnancy feeling, but if I had my way, I'd be visiting the doctors once a week. They say "see you in a month," and I'm thinking "Are you kidding?! Do you have any idea how many days that is?!" Here's how the month went:

17 Weeks
Baby Size: A Naval Orange


We announce the big news on the blog and even though it feels scary, I enjoy reading the comments of love, support, and prayers. A few days later, over a year after our loss, I open up about our experience. It's a story I've been preparing myself to tell for a long time, but finding the right words is a challenge. Sharing brings me a sense of relief and further healing. Our first loves are an important part of our story, and I wanted to be able to write about how much we will always love them. People wrote to me about similar experiences, and people wrote just to share condolences and words of support, and with every interaction, I was reminded of how we're all doing our best to make it through life, and we owe each other much gentleness and compassion, and receiving that in abundance was so meaningful: so thank you, dear friends.

Symptoms wise this week, I nearly pass out at acupuncture, (which my doctor has, of course, told me is safe to continue). I think I was simply hungry, but my acupuncturist says no more sessions lying on my back. Waking up in the morning with back pain is a thing, and I become officially reliant on my snoogle to sleep. I feel exhausted after work days and even nauseated one morning (but no vomiting, thankfully!)

18 Weeks 
Baby Size: A bell pepper


I've been making it to yoga routinely, which has been good for relieving my back pain. I still have anxiety, but talking to my therapist and Brendan about it helps. Brendan tells me to cool it on reading the baby books, and that has been good advice. It's easy to get a little too baby focused, and staying busy and focused on normal life (hello grading and manuscript editing) is a good strategy. I trade reading baby books for a terribly written thriller novel, but it surprisingly does help me relax to have my mind otherwise occupied. At dinner on Friday night, Brendan and I get excited about nursery plans, and I make us a pinterest board, so we can share our southwestern theme with friends and family. We also have a handful of top name contenders, though we aren't sharing. It'd be a bummer to get less than excited opinions about the names we love, and it's been so hard just to find a few we like, so mum's the word until baby girl makes her big debut. Brendan starts to talk to our baby (now that she can hear), and those are my favorite moments of the pregnancy (and probably the sweetest moments of my life). I still feel movement, but it's not everyday and is more likely to happen at the end of the day or first thing in the morning, which sometimes leaves me confused about if I was just dreaming.

19 Weeks 
Baby Size: A Mango


Recognize the outfit? Yeah, not as much fits these days! Work is still exhausting (I'm not sure I've mentioned it here, but I took on an overload class halfway through the semester, which has entailed four hours in a row of teaching every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning. It's a lot, but I know I can do it). A new symptom pops up this week: heartburn. My cousin Amanda is planning our baby shower, and she gently gives me the nudge I need to start our registry. I'm lucky to have Amanda because, like Brendan, she understands my neurosis but gives me gentle encouragement to think past it. I reach out to friends Lauren (mommy of two), Peggy and Eric (parents of two), and Laura (mommy of twins) to get advice on all things registry. Laura refers me to Lucie's List, which is the most helpful website ever. I take a lot of Lucie's advice, plus the advice from our friends, and it makes registering a lot easier (less time wasted making decisions). On Sunday morning, at about 5:30AM, baby girl is doing gymnastics, so I wake Brendan up, and he gets to feel her move for the first time, which is awesome. We start cleaning out the office to make way for the nursery. Sleep is not the best this week: I'll wake up in the middle of the night and find it hard to get comfortable again, so I'm just awake. Still occasional feelings of nausea, but no vomiting!

20 Weeks
Baby Size: A small banana


We're halfway there, and it feels like a big deal. The baby bump is pretty obvious now. Today is my last day of wearing high heeled boots. I almost fall down a flight of stairs (Brendan is behind me) but catch myself on the railing. It scares us both a lot, and thankfully, my new booties arrive from DSW and are much more comfortable and stable with a lower heel. Heartburn is still hanging around. On Friday, we buy some stuffed toys for the baby's room. Saturday is a big day for baby stuff: our friends Dagan and Steph invite us over and generously give us a rock n' play, pack n' play, exersaucer, play gym, boppy (nursing pillow), bumpo (floor seat with tray), bassinet, and tons of adorable baby girl clothes, shoes, bibs, and blankets. I can't wait to go through it all, but for now, it's stuffed in the office (soon to be nursery) closet.

On Monday, the day before my 20 week anatomy scan, I feel really anxious all day. Even my coworker asks me what's wrong. I can't stop myself from imagining every worse case scenario, and I feel close to tears just thinking about it, so I try to NOT think about it and force myself to go to yoga after work, and then we watch Curb Your Enthusiasm, which always makes me laugh, before bed.

Thankfully, everything on Tuesday goes great. Baby girl's brain, heart, kidneys, stomach, bladder, spine, feet, profile, and all her bones look good. Her measurements put her in the 46th percentile, so she's a perfectly average size for her gestational age. Length isn't measured anymore, but we get baby's first weight measurement: 13 ounces (right where it should be). I'm so thankful.

Baby girl loves to keep her hands next to her face!
It's a good thing I wrote down my questions for the doctor because I'm flooded with relief and all kinds of emotions and probably wouldn't remember them otherwise. I ask if it's okay that I've only gained 6 pounds so far. My doctor says I'd have to lose 20% of my body weight to adversely affect the baby and that most of the weight gain will come in the third trimester. This is why I've got to stop reading the pregnancy books: they are filled with generalizations when every pregnancy is so different.

With the doctor's appointment behind us, we start prepping for Thanksgiving. Needless to say, I've never been more thankful in my life. I finish week 20 by prepping for the holiday and attending a yoga class. Baby movements are more noticeable now, especially at night, and I look forward to feeling her when I'm unwinding from the day. I try to get Brendan to be able to feel it again, but she stops moving as soon as we're waiting for it!

I'll be back next month with more pregnancy updates. With finals and the holidays coming up, I'm sure this next month will go by fast.

<3

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Oh-So Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving, faithful blog readers! 

We hope your day was filled with everyone and every dish you love. After working a half day yesterday, we spent the rest of the day cooking, watching Mulan, and talking to our siblings on the phone. I even made it to yoga class and sweet Brendan decided to clean the kitchen up while I was gone. This morning, we brought our sweet potato casserole, corn pudding, apple pie, and apple double cherry pie to my aunt Lisa's home in San Angelo. 

We had a big family Thanksgiving with my mom's side of the family. Both of her siblings and all of their children were there as well as all five of her brother's grandchildren. We were only missing my brother, Graham, and his girlfriend, Erynn. It's been a really long time (I think Christmas 2011?) since we had everyone together, so today was special. 


Mom (center) with her sister and brother 
We have so much to be thankful for every year but especially this one. I've paused a lot in the past few days to think about how grateful I am for our growing baby girl. I'm thankful for our family and friends who enrich our lives and support us through good and bad times, for our health, our home, and for meaningful work. I'm especially thankful for my American Literature I class; hearing them discuss their favorite readings yesterday filled my teacher heart with all kinds of joy. Most of all, I'm thankful to be sharing my life with Brendan. He makes everyday sweeter. 


I'm thankful for pie too. Here's my apple double cherry (recipe from Better Homes and Gardens). It turned out very tasty. 


We're looking forward to a few days with my parents. Now that Thanksgiving is over, the Christmas decorating can officially begin. We hope everyone has tomorrow off and can spend the day with family. Around here, we've never been Black Friday shoppers; we just enjoy the leftovers and the company. 

OMG didn't you forget to be thankful for me? 
 Of course, I'm thankful for Lola & Zoe: the two best cats a blog has ever been named for. 

Goodnight, dear readers; we hope today was a feast for your stomachs and souls alike!  

<3 


Friday, November 17, 2017

Fall Favorites

Greetings faithful blog readers,

It seems like the last few weeks have passed in a hurry. I wanted to document some of awesome events and such that have brightened the fall season for us. It's nice to stop and take in all that's good sometimes. If you're in the mood for happy thoughts, read on!

Halloween

I didn't take time to blog about Halloween this year, but one thing I love is that Halloween is a BIG freakin' deal in our neighborhood. We get hundreds of tricker or treaters. My neighborhood in Austin was the same way growing up, so I'm so thrilled that we can participate and make Halloween special for a bunch of kiddos. At our house, we give out erasers in Halloween shapes and an insane variety of candy (ordered on Amazon). This year, we ordered over 500 pieces (and it still wasn't enough!) Though we were tired by the end of the night, we really enjoyed seeing all the kids out having fun in their costumes

Meow: Stacy's Pumpkin 

 Pumpkin Seeds

The best part of carving pumpkins is roasting pumpkin seeds. This year, I followed this recipe for cinnamon/sugar pumpkin seeds. They came out so delicious!

Boo: Brendan's Pumpkin 
Stranger Things 2/Curb Your Enthusiasm 

I don't have a photo for this one, but how awesome was the latest season of Stranger Things? I won't spoil anything, but I'll just say I'm so happy the show maintained its original tone and this season did not let me down.

I'm so late to the Curb Your Enthusiasm party (I know), but I started at season 1, and I love the awkward situations Larry routinely finds himself in. It's great to have a funny show with short episodes that I can watch if I find myself with thirty minutes before bedtime.

Little Seed Farms

My friend Tara sent me Rosemary Mint Soap, Body Butter, and Elasticity Serum from Little Seed Farms, and her gift not only warmed my heart but has also made my skin shockingly smooth. I have bumps on my arms, and the body butter seems to be working miracles for me. The products are paraben, dye, and fragrance free and also organic. If you need a gift that says "treat yourself to some relaxation and love" look no further! Also, I love reading their blog and looking at pictures of baby goats! 

Baby's First Book 

Our friends Peggy & Eric sent us baby's first book, and it is beautiful. I can't stop staring at the gorgeous illustrations, and I look forward to reading our daughter these stories about women who have changed the world. If you need a gift idea for a little one in your life (boy or girl), this collection is unique and carefully curated (and randomly has that amazing book smell; I know, I'm weird).




The Great Outdoors 

Weather in Midland doesn't get any better than this. Highs in the high 70s/low 80s, gorgeous sunsets, and nights cool enough to cozy up: check, check, and check. Even though life is busy, we've taken some walks and tried to stop and appreciate this gorgeous weather.


A New Friend 

Life is funny: just when many of my dear friends moved away, a new one came into my life. I'm still in touch with my friends that have moved and love them as much as ever, of course, but I'm happy to have a new local friend. Casey and I have so much in common: we both grew up in Austin, we both love to read, and we share many world views. She's 31 weeks pregnant with her second child, so I'm getting some good new mom and pregnancy tips. Plus, we both love eating right now, so you could say it's a match made in friendship heaven.


Paul Nicklen

Speaking of my new friend, she has already broadened my horizons. We checked out a lecture given by National Geographic Photographer Paul Nicklen at Midland College last night. The free event was hosted by the Sibley Nature Center, and it was so interesting. Nicklen dives in freezing temperatures and photographs within feet of elephant seals, leopard seals, polar bears, penguins, walruses, and all types of whales...he has had near death experiences like plane crashes and being pinned underwater by 800 pound animals, but he does it all to show people the beauty of Antartica and to be able to show people the harm climate change is causing first hand. I don't think I would have heard about the lecture if it weren't for Casey. Dallas Baxter (of NPR's Nature Notes) led the Q&A. Fun Fact: Brendan and I rented Dallas's cottage during spring break 2016, so I enjoyed visiting with her and her husband afterwards. 


Paul Nicklen trying to fit in with the pregnant ladies
Rebecca Watson Creative Writing Awards

Brendan missed last night's lecture (which would have been right up his alley) because he survived one of the two busiest days of his school year: the Rebecca Watson Creative Writing Awards, and he was exhausted. This is one of my favorite events of the year because we get to hear so many of our students read their creative work. Brendan puts so much effort into organizing this contest and awards ceremony and making sure it encompasses everything that Rebecca Watson, the generous donor, envisioned. This year, I noticed a lot of people saying "thank you," and I can't express how much it meant to hear those two small words. After watching Brendan pour so much energy into making this event awesome for the students, it made me happy to hear people acknowledge that the event was special to them. Here's to this year's talented (and thoughtful) group of bright students. It was a pleasure to hear their work yesterday. 


Apples of My Eye 

Remember how my fourth anniversary gift was a Harry and David fruit of the month club? It has truly been the gift that keeps on giving. This month's selection is delicious apples grown in Oregon, and they look as good as they taste (Brendan says their beauty makes him skeptical, but they're not too good to be true!) I think I'll use a few in a Thanksgiving pie. Lucky for all those that get a taste! 




Westin Booties 

My high heel booties are getting too uncomfortable (thanks to the extra weight I'm carrying) and one pair is too tight (thanks to feet swelling). DSW to the rescue! I ordered these booties in two colors, and they seem like they'll be comfortable for teaching in, are work appropriate, and are cool weather friendly. Three cheers for covering all three bases (and not having to leave my house for a time consuming shoe shopping adventure).




Kamiposi Fair Trade Craft Market 

Midland has a gem in Kamiposi Art Gallery located at 510 S. Big Spring. We stopped by the Fair Trade Craft Market and picked up some adorable "aminals," as Brendan calls them, for the baby's room (we have a nursery theme: Southwestern). Everything at the Fair Trade Craft Market was made by women in Guatemala, earning a fair wage for their labor. For gifts you can feel good about giving, stop by Kamiposi between 9AM and 6PM for the last day of the fair tomorrow.




I'd love to hear about what is making your fall awesome. Leave me a comment, would ya?

Hope your "fall" into the weekend goes seamlessly!
<3


Thursday, November 9, 2017

Pregnancy: Weeks 13-16

Greetings faithful blog readers,

After my fair share of morning sickness, I was happy to put the first trimester behind me. In America, the first trimester marks the point when people usually start sharing the news of a pregnancy. There's no real logic to this, but I think people like the neatness of saying the first trimester is over. Since we made the decision to tell Brendan's family in person (at 15 weeks), we tried our best to keep the pregnancy quiet, but the bump started to get a bit obvious.

Week 13
Baby Size: Kiwi


Enjoy my not yet made bed in the background (I told you I'd be keeping it real!). This week, we selected a pediatrician for our baby. It was a difficult decision to make, but I looked for a practice that was conveniently located, had both doctors and PAs, had weekend/emergency hours, and had good reviews. I also wanted well/sick waiting areas. With many doctors to choose from at the practice, I selected a female doctor who also has young children herself. I figured she'd be a great role model to our baby girl and could perhaps provide me with some new mom tips. I was able to visit the practice in person; Brendan trusted my judgement and was glad when this was checked off our to-do list. Also this week, my sickness was still hanging around (notice my nausea bands in the picture). This marked the one and only time I was late to work (just two hours though) because of pregnancy as there was one morning I could not stop throwing up. This week, I am both looking and feeling SO tired. My Snoogle (pregnancy pillow) arrives. I ordered one without a cover: don't make my mistake (I ended up ordering a cover later).

Week 14
Baby Size: A Lemon


We're presenting at the SCMLA conference in Tulsa this week, and we tell our graduate school friends the news (let's face it: the fact that I'm bar hopping all night and only drinking water would've probably been a clear indicator!) A lady at the conference asks me if I'm pregnant or just fat. PSA: definitely rude to ever ask. I'm shocked that I have the stamina to stay out until 3:00AM. Traveling leaves me tired. I even think I'm getting sick and head to the doctor, but it turns out to be nothing. I manage to make it to yoga class in between trips. Yoga is my favorite these days; it's not a super challenging workout, but the stretching feels good, and I feel like I'm maintaining some strength. At the end of this week, I think I feel baby's first movements, but I realize it's crazy early so it could just be my imagination. My cousin says she wants to throw me a baby shower, and we select a weekend for it. I'm really excited and allow myself to look forward to it (even though thinking about the future is still scary to me).

15 Weeks 
Baby Size: Apple


We fly across the country today to tell Brendan's family our news. The flights leave me INSANELY thirsty and exhausted, but the long trip is so worth it to celebrate with everyone in person. We even get to fulfill my Connecticut in the fall dreams and go apple picking (appropriate for baby's "apple" week). On the way back home, we almost miss our flight (due to insanely long TSA lines) and have to RUN to catch our plane. On Sunday night, sleeping is miserable, and I wake up with a horribly sore back due to not being able to get comfortable. On the bright side, I end up being the only one in yoga, so I get a private lesson to work on it. Also this week, I leave work 45 minutes early with a terrible headache. As soon as I get home, I'm throwing up. Each time I think the sickness is over, it comes back to surprise me. I get a lot of sleep and feel better the next day. I start telling my extended family (aunts and uncles and all my cousins) which is wonderful. The one year anniversary of our first loss is this week, and I feel like I'm juggling a lot of emotions.

16 Weeks
Baby Size: An Avocado


I think this is the last week that my regular jeans fit comfortably. I definitely think I'm feeling baby movements this week. We tell more of our friends and cherish all their sweet/funny reactions. Our doctor's visit (at 16 and 1/2 weeks) goes well; baby's heartbeat is 146 bpm, and I've officially gained 4 pounds total. Two days later, we have a recreational ultrasound (at the doctor's office) and it's amazing. Our daughter looks like a real person and is moving all over the place. Plus, the ultrasound tech confirms the blood test results were right: definitely a little girl in there. My morning sickness returns one day this week, but at this point, I'm used to dealing with it and am able to go straight to work.

I look forward to sharing another pregnancy recap in a couple of weeks. I hope everyone has a great Thursday.

<3


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

I Don't Want to Write This Post (But I Have To)

Greetings faithful blog readers,

On Sunday, I woke up to the devastating news of a shooting in my home state that left 26 people dead. Only you know what? It didn't devastate me at first because, at this point, I'm so desensitized to mass shootings like this that at first the impact feels like "just another day in the US of A." I hate to admit that, but when your country loses 531 people to mass shootings in 2017 and the year isn't even over, how does one start to react? An additional 1,619 people have been wounded in a mass shooting this year. It seems like the flags at school are always at half-mast. Even though it's clear our system is flawed, (allowing people who've been found guilty of violent crime to legally purchase weapons, states that routinely never report to NICS, the fact that 60% of mass shooters obtain their weapons legally--just to name a few problems), as a nation, we never seem to do anything other than offer "thoughts and prayers" to the victims' families. I can remember life pre-Columbine when schools felt like a safe place. Today, 1 in 8 mass shootings occur in a school. So when I wake up to news like this, I don't feel it at first; there's a numbness inside me, and then, sometimes something penetrates it.

For me, this time, a photo of 14 year old Annabelle Pomeroy on the Sunday evening news left me feeling broken. I recognized myself as a teenager in this young lady: her photo made me recall that state between childhood and adulthood so vividly. The photo also affected me because Annabelle has never been able to vote. As an American youth, she relied on the adults in her country to make sensible laws. But we failed her. Each and every one of us. Other countries don't see nearly the number of mass shootings that we do, so I can't believe there's nothing our politicians could have done by now to keep citizens safer. Who would Annabelle Pomeroy have been? The bio of another church member, 16 year old Haley Krueger, tells that she wanted to be a NICU nurse and help premature babies. Annabelle's bio does not hint at what she would of liked to do. I've imagined her as a teacher, a veterinarian, a minister. What about the other children? Brooke Ward (5), Emily Garza (7), Emily Hill (11), Greg Hill (13), Noah Holcombe (17 months). If they hadn't gone to church on Sunday, would they've gone on to graduate college, dance at their weddings, make a meaningful impact in the life of a stranger, find joy in raising their own children or in building a meaningful career or in living in a creative life?

Should a developed first-world country allow so many citizens to become victims of violent crime simply because they were in the wrong place (a movie theater, a school, a holiday party, a church) at the wrong time? Isn't the definition of insanity doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome? If we aren't comfortable with so many deaths, why don't we change? Do we really not care?

That last question sticks with me: Do we really not care? 

Looking at Annabelle and the faces of all those who were lost Sunday, I'm relieved to find that I really do care, but I'm worried that living here is slowly numbing me. I don't want to become the kind of person that accepts a terrible reality; I don't want to be apathetic or to start to believe change is impossible. I have close relatives that are members of the NRA. I think there can be changes made that still respect the second amendment. There have to be. Because our system now doesn't work.

And you know what I'm really not okay with?

The fact that I go to work with young people everyday (and some of my students are too young to even vote), and I'm not okay standing in front of them every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and conveying the attitude that this is "just how it is:" that there's nothing the voting adults of this country couldn't do to keep them safer.

Plainly put, we could do better. Today, I beg and implore you to look into the eyes of a young person that you love and ask yourself if a change is worth making. I'm not saying a change that prohibits all gun ownership, but I'm talking about making gradual common sense changes to the process of obtaining weapons. My co-worker recently attended a gun show and said buying her gun was easier than updating the address on her driver's license. But there's a price for every convenience. 

Today, I look at the faces of Annabelle, Haley, Emily Garza and Emily Hill, Greg, and Noah...I look at them because the price of our current barely restricted gun ownership laws happened to be (this time) their lives and the lives of twenty others.

I ask myself who will pay the price next? My brother? My cousin? My friend? My parents? My husband? Me?

Right now, some may appreciate how easy it is to obtain a weapon, but there's a price for every convenience, and if we tap into our basic sense of humanity, I think we'd all agree that, right now, the price we're paying is just too high. 

I hope you still care, and if you do, I hope you still believe change is possible.

"Violence isn't a Democrat or Republican problem. It's an American problem, requiring an American solution."--Dr. Dashanne Stokes

Friday, November 3, 2017

First Trimester Recap

Greetings faithful blog readers,

When we told my parents we were expecting, my mom wanted to know if I was taking weekly pregnancy photos. She was excited to hear I was, but when I showed them to her, she seemed rather disappointed. "I thought you would take them in your underwear," she said. This made me laugh so hard. Thankfully for you, dear readers, I did not take the photos in my underwear. Ever the documentarian, I've been journaling every day, so it's easy to recap for you now. Last week, my friend Erica asked me if I felt like an "earth goddess;" I told her I just felt constipated. And with that maybe TMI joke, a warning: I'm keeping it real (though fully clothed!) in this recap.

3 and 1/2 weeks 
Baby Size: A twinkle in my eye (in other words, too small to compare to anything)


It's the day of our positive test, and we're visiting with Brendan's grandparents in Connecticut. I have zero symptoms and haven't even missed a period. If it weren't for the test, I'd have no idea. Thanks to the test, I've started taking all the precautions right away (bye bye coffee and alcohol). For the rest of vacation, Brendan pretends to make me gin and tonics. I still drink some caffeine, like a cup of tea every now and then. 

4 weeks
Baby Size: Poppy Seed 


We're in Maine with Brendan's family. I usually eat lots of blueberries and raspberries when we pick them, but I forgo that and wait until I can wash them first. Constipation is my first pregnancy symptom, but the good news is that I assume my progesterone is rising. My breasts are sore and will stay that way for months. Vacation is a good distraction from my thoughts.  

5 weeks
Baby Size: Sesame Seed 

We're back in Austin. Exhaustion has set in (though it could be from all the traveling). I'm trying to enjoy the last two weeks of summer, but I'm anxious for that first doctor's appointment. 

6 weeks
Baby Size: A Lentil 


It's my friend's wedding day! I was the designated driver at her bachelorette party a few days ago, which was the perfect excuse for not drinking. In the past week, I caved and told one (also pregnant) friend about our pregnancy. It's good to have another person to talk to; otherwise, it'd be a lot of anxiety for Brendan to deal with alone because I'm officially SO anxious. I've got another new symptom: acne. Oh well. Brendan convinces me not to head to the doctor's for a blood test. He doesn't think it will make feel any better, and he thinks I'll overanalyze the HCG level and what it means. I take his advice and wait for the ultrasound though I hardly sleep the night before because I'm so nervous. 

7 weeks
Baby Size: A Blueberry

Our ultrasound (at 6 weeks, 5 days) went well, and we heard baby's heartbeat (129bpm) which was a hugely emotional moment (I cried the entire time). The next day, I was super sick and vomiting all day (the nurse emailed and said my HCG level was up to 82,000), but today, I luckily feel well enough to lead a new student orientation session. I suck on a Jolly Rancher the whole time which keeps the nausea at bay; Jolly Ranchers are my new jam! I also feel super hungry all the time but I have to eat really slowlyI breeze through the book Expecting Better; I've read far too many conceiving and pregnancy books at this point. I also get my first "gut feeling" gender prediction: Boy!
8 weeks
Baby Size: A Kidney Bean


The sickness has gotten worse, and I've had one more horribly sick day, so I'm on a bland diet this week (think cereal, crackers, scrambled eggs, and toast). I've taken to carrying crackers in my bag now that we've gone back to work (my friend Steph later told me she "totally knew I was pregnant" based on this). I don't miss any teaching but sometimes have to suck on "preggie pop drops" to curb the nausea. I'll get sick in the morning and again as soon as I get home. Brendan buys me wristbands which seem to help me a lot. 

9 weeks
Baby Size: A Grape 

Our appointment (at 8 weeks, 5 days) goes great, and we hear baby's heartbeat at 181bpm which is a huge comfort. I'm shocked to find I haven't gained any weight because if I'm not having a sick day,  I'm having an "eating all the time" day. Plus, my workouts have been cut back due to nausea and tiredness. I feel like being tired makes the sickness worse, so I try to get lots of naps in. I also still prefer bland foods and feel bad when Brendan puts effort into nice dinners because I end up only eating a few bites and then getting sick. Mornings and evenings seem to be the worst times for me. I'm luckily doing okay at work. Brendan donates blood on Labor Day, so we can find out his blood type since I'm O negative. I almost pass out at the blood donation place and have to wait in the car. Then this happens to Brendan and I'm really sick! We later find out Brendan is type O positive, so I will need rhoGAM shots.

10 weeks 
Baby Size: A Kumquat! (Brendan and I used to find this delightful fruit growing in Lake Charles)


I head to the doctors today for a blood test which will separate my blood from the baby's blood and check for chromosomal abnormalities. I'm told we'll have the results in a week or two. While I'm at the doctors, I convince the super sweet nurses to use their doppler and do a heartbeat check. We hear the heartbeat at 167-171bpm, and it really makes me feel better. I'm still nauseated and throwing up. I need to avoid our trash can at all costs. Even Brendan's coffee grounds will set off sickness. I'm still battling anxiety: it's not constant but some days are harder than others. Brendan tries to help me through it by getting me to reframe my thinking, helping me see the positives, and talking me out of fear spirals. He reminds me that the worry won't stop once the baby is here: that part of parenthood entails constant worry. My therapist is a big help too. I try to be patient with myself and give myself grace. I'm doing the best I can one day at a time, and that's still true. 

11 weeks  
Baby Size: A Fig

We're still waiting on our blood test results, and of course, I obsess over when the phone will ring daily. I get a Stitch Fix with dresses to help me hide the pregnancy at work. My parents come to town already suspecting something is up (since I've never suggested they come visit us in September). I swear my mom gives my stomach a once over a minute after arriving at our house! Brendan and I are making dinner, and I wrap a onesie around a bottle of champagne and put it in a brown paper bag. I tell them we got them something in Portland and forgot to give it to them. Telling them makes the pregnancy feel real, and my heart is literally racing as they open the bag. They are really happy and excited to become grandparents, and we spend the rest of the weekend talking about baby plans. I also Facetime with Graham and tell him he's going to be an uncle and text with Erynn. 

Mimosas for everyone else, OJ for me! 
After feeling great all weekend, my sickness returns on Monday. I don't miss work, but I'm throwing up before and after work and Brendan is making me scrambled eggs for dinner--again. 

We do all the gender predictions based on old wives tales, and here's what we get. 

Chinese Gender Prediction: Girl 
Baking Soda Test: Girl 
Body Hair: Girl 
Heartrate: Girl 
Wedding Ring Test: Girl 
Morning Sickness: Girl 
Not Clumsy: Girl 
Nail Growth: Boy 
No Heartburn: Boy 
No Moodiness: Boy 
Eye Test: Boy 
Mayan Predictor: Girl 
Linea Nigra: Boy 

My gut feeling is definitely Boy! I tell Brendan I'm 95% sure it's a boy. 

Once my parents know, I tell a couple of my college girlfriends, Julie and Lauren, a couple of my cousins, Amanda and Stephen. Everyone is super happy and excited especially since they know what we've been going through. My friend Lauren bursts into tears of joy. Since we're waiting to tell Brendan's family in person, I swear the few people who know to secrecy. 

12 weeks 
Baby Size: A small lime


The nurse calls (actually at 11 weeks, 6 days) with our test results that I've been waiting on pins and needles for. She tells me that the baby's chromosomes look healthy while I'm driving home from work. I'm hugely relieved and tell her I'll call her back when Brendan's home so we can find out the gender results together. The five minutes it takes for Brendan to get home feels like forever. I feel like knowing the gender will make me feel more connected to the baby and make the pregnancy feel more real, so I'm excited to know. I've always wanted a little girl, but I've been envisioning us with a boy. The plus side of our long wait to conceive is that I know I'll be excited no matter what the gender. 

We get ahold of the nurse and she tells us we're having a...GIRL! 

I'm super excited and super surprised. My gut feeling turned out to be wrong. So much for my mother's intuition! I immediately call my parents and my brother. My mom and brother had predicted a girl from the get-go :) 

I'm still throwing up and tired. We tell our bosses because they are making the spring schedule this week. Our boss is so happy for us that he cries. This week is a tear fest! I start meditation with a program called Expectful. I find it helpful as one solution for coping with my anxiety. Back pain has set in and sleeping is less comfortable but not terrible. 

At the end of the week (12 weeks, 6 days), we have a doctor's appointment and recreational ultrasound (at our doctor's office). Baby girl's heartbeat is 158bpm, and she's measuring a little ahead at 13 weeks, 2 days (it's normal for babies to measure a few days ahead or behind). The ultrasound is an amazing experience because our little girl looks like a real person and is moving all over the place. Brendan says he teared up. I was just shocked at how much she was moving since I couldn't feel any of it. It was definitely miraculous. We're head over heels in love! I still haven't gained any weight, but my clothes are definitely tighter. My doctor says this is just fine. And with that, my doctor informs me that my first trimester is over. 

I'll be back next week with a weeks 13-16 update. Until then, enjoy this video (unless you're easily offended) which my friend Julie posted to announce her pregnancy. I think it's hilarious! 

Happy weekend, 
<3 
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