All the Fall things!

The brilliant red and gold leaves finally fell from our maple trees this week. The kids had a blast jumping in them as Trent raked them up, taking advantage of the gorgeous, sunny weather.

So it sure feels like fall. Buuut it’s not — well, at least according to the retail world! Team members were decorating the display Christmas trees at Target on Beggars’ Night (the night before Halloween when kids go trick or treating in Central Iowa). And Starbucks released its holiday drinks this weekend. 

Then again, I feel like really anything goes this year! We didn’t get our pumpkins painted (couldn’t carve them because they were frozen + painting’s way easier) until November 1, and I didn’t feel one bit guilty or weird about it. Cue Sheryl Crow, “If it makes you happy….”!



Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go. 🍂

Thus here are my fave fall finds of the year, one of the most wonderful times of the year for my tastebuds. I seriously get giddy scoring pumpkin/spice flavored goodies and stock up to get me through until next year.

Bring on the Pumpkin Spice!!!

Love pumpkin spice too and wondering what to throw in the cart and what to leave on the shelf? I’ve got you!

My Fave Fall Finds

My fall faves from Trader Joe’s, Target, Aldi and Milkhouse Creamery. Not pictured (though mentioned below): Park Street Deli’s Sea Salt Caramel hummus from Aldi

Fall is not complete at my house without these. Stock up!

Non-food

  • Milkhouse Creamery’s Brown Butter Pumpkin Candle--This is what fall smells like to me. I’m especially loving this “Thankful” edition. Soy wax/beeswax scented with “rich pumpkin puree blended with browned butter, toasted nutmeg, and cinnamon, then swirled with sweet vanilla cream and brown sugar”
  • Mrs. Meyer’s Apple Cider multi-surface cleaner (Target). I used to also get the line’s soaps until I converted to…
  • Trader Joe’s foaming Apple Cider soap, because I prefer my soap (and lattes!) foamy and the spice in the scent
  • Native Pumpkin Spice Latte deodorant (Target). This year I upped my PSL game to include personal care items! The deo is a keeper, but leave the body wash on the shelf.

Grocery (all from Target unless otherwise noted)

  • Califia Farms’ Better Half Pumpkin Spice Creamer. Find it in the refrigerated section, but it’s shelf-stable.
  • Tazo Pumpkin Spice Chai
  • Archer Farms’ Maple Crunch Granola and Apple Cinnamon Pecan Trail Mix (the kids love the Candy Corn version)
  • Ben & Jerry’s Cinnamon Bun Dough
  • Starbucks’ Maple Pecan coffee
  • La Colombe’s Pumpkin Spice Draft Latte
  • Noosa Pumpkin yogurt (or make your own with plain or vanilla Greek yogurt and canned pumpkin/maple syrup or Trader Joe’s pumpkin butter and lots of pumpkin spice topping, of course!)
  • Trader Joe’s Cinnamon Bun Spread, Pumpkin Butter
  • Southern Grove Snickerdoodle Almonds (Aldi)

Trader Joe’s Fall Haul

Trader Joe’s is my fave one-stop shop for fall flavors! Look for these goodies to show up on shelves in early September, and stock up (reasonably). One of my faves, Pumpkin Body Butter, was sold out by October! Tip: If you really want to be sure not to miss out, just ask a crew member when they are expecting anything you’re looking for. And did you know you can call and ask them to put things on hold?!

Too many things to list here. Watch the video for more info!

And things I forgot…

Trader Joe’s fans go nuts over the chain’s Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese. I liked it a lot. But the one I stock up on is La Colombe’s Pumpkin Spice Draft Latte. I love foamy coffees, and this one’s got it ready made in a can with the perfect amount of sweetness that tastes like coffee, not a milkshake. Find it in the refrigerator case, but it’s shelf-stable.

Pumpkin Target Run

Target would be next on my list — not because of the selection as much as it’s my go-to store for convenient one-stop shopping. However, it does carry some of my faves. And it’s free ship-to-home and drive up options are awesome.

Autumn at Aldi

After one taste of Southern Grove’s Snickerdoodle flavored almonds that someone brought into my office, I was hooked and headed to Aldi. Fall is the only time I venture there, and its Park Street Deli Sea Salt Caramel Hummus is now on my “musts” list, as are the Maple Sea Salt Rx bars (also at TJ’s).

Halloween

Our festive Halloween supper. All but one of the kids liked the pumpkin pizzas with butternut squash sauce. And I didn’t include them in the list because though the pumpkins are seasonal, Trader Joe’s chocolate mousse cakes are available at other times throughout the year.

These cute Jack-O-Lantern pizzas helped save Halloween, which like nearly everything else, looked a bit different for us this year. Thankfully, the kids understood and really got into our Halloween celebrations, which included our festive supper, trick-or-treating throughout our house, watching the annual tale of No Noggin’ (Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest), pumpkin cinnamon rolls, pumpkin painting and a Halloween scavenger hunt by minivan! And even though we didn’t need it to warm us up after Beggars’ Night, we still enjoyed our traditional hot caramel apple cider. I probably should’ve included Trader Joe’s Spiced Cider in my “Faves” list. With no added sugars or preservatives and just the right touch of spice, it’s also shelf stable! Take it to the next level by warming it on the stove and stirring in Trader Joe’s Fleur de Sel Caramel sauce, which is thankfully available year-round and top with whipped cream!

Mal from Disney’s Descendants, a pirate and Michelango!

Happy Fall, Y’all

My husband and I don’t share the same political views, and we’re fans of rival sports teams. But we agree on what really matters — that the Christmas season doesn’t start until after Thanksgiving!

With that said, Happy Fall Y’all — until 12 a.m. on Black Friday! Go get yo’selves what’s left of these gourdgeous finds!

🍂

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Happy Birthday, Bess!

April 11— “Double fool’s day,” as she’d humbly say. She, being one of my maternal great-grandmothers who was also my best friend.

Growing up I had a special connection with my Bessie. She saw a need in my life and filled it extravagantly. While I won’t go into all the details here of why, I also lived in her basement apartment during my last years of high school. She was my power of attorney while I studied abroad, and she was my rock.

To commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Women’s Right to Vote, Warren County Historical Society volunteers are publishing a book this summer on the Women of Warren County, Iowa, who made a difference.

Below is what I wrote for this, which seemed fitting to share today in honor of what would’ve been Bess’ 106th birthday.

Thelda Bogue Holland 1914-2004

Thelda Bogue Holland was an extraordinary woman of Warren County, Iowa, who made a lasting impact on her family and the many others whose lives she touched. Independent, brazen and fortitudinous, she was a trail blazer for women’s rights, challenging norms of her time.

Holland was born April 11, 1914, in Elkhart, IA. The Christian church had a significant role in her upbringing.

She began her career in her teens working evenings and weekends as a telephone switchboard operator in her parents’ telephone office. In those days the switchboard closed at 10 p.m. and opened at 6 a.m. Only emergency calls were put through between those hours. People would come in and pay her a dollar to make what was called a “line call”. She would then put in eight rings to the people’s telephone lines, and the callers would make an announcement. She wrote about anything she heard while working that she could for the Altoona Herald and was paid for every inch she wrote.

But Holland’s passion from an early age was in making women feel their best. In about fourth grade, she began using jellybeans for makeup. The stern teacher of her one-room schoolhouse caught her and told her, “Nice girls don’t grow up to be hairdressers.” Years later when Holland ran into her during World War II and the former teacher asked what Holland was doing, she answered, “I grew up to be that no account beauty operator.”—a humble answer to the significant career she would go on to lead.

Thelda Bogue, age 18 in 1932

After graduating from Elkhart High School, Holland attended cosmetology school, passing the state board in March of 1933.

On August 2, 1933, at age 19, she married Guy Reed Holland. The couple lived on a farm northeast of Bondurant and had two children — Marilyn born in 1934, and a stillborn son. They divorced in 1943.

During WWII, Holland worked in the Ankeny ordnance plant loading ammunition. After the war, she returned to purse her career as a beautician at Primp Beauty Salon in Des Moines.

In 1947, she and Marilyn moved to Carlisle, where Holland opened her own salon, where Marilyn assisted. Being a divorcee in that era, Holland was treated differently. She said women only came to her shop was because she was so good at her job. She was informed that she should join the Eastern Star, or she would “never make it in this town”. She did and was an active and proud 55-year member of the Carlisle Order.

By 1952 Holland was teaching at the Arliens Modeling School and the Thompson School of Beauty. She credits this experience to helping her land the “opportunity of a lifetime” in 1953— lecturing with world renowned experts as a nationally known traveling stylist and permanent wave consultant with Helene Curtis Industries, Inc. Holland cited the experience as the most significant in her life. And, as a firm believer in equal pay for equal work, she was proud to earn as much as the men in her industry in an era where women were expected to stay home.

In 1960, she became a grandmother to Marilyn and Duane Halterman’s daughter, Diane (later Smith).

In the late 1960s, Holland owned and managed a beauty school in Grand Rapids, Michigan, before returning to Carlisle to be closer to her mother. She left the beauty industry to end her career as a security officer managing several employees at the Ruan Building.

In retirement, Holland remained active lobbying at the state capitol, serving on city boards, assisting the American Legion Auxiliary with emphasis on the Girls’ State program, manning the voting polls and volunteering for various political campaigns.

A sharp woman with a fervor for lifelong learning, Holland was quick to pick up technological innovation in her late 80s that was shunned by others of her generation. She enjoyed communicating with her two great granddaughters, Katie (McIntyre) and Jennie Smith via email and instant messenger when they were away at college.

Holland was known for her strong opinions. She joined her mother, who had fought to win the right to vote in the Women’s Suffrage movement to pick up women and take them to the polls to vote while encouraging them to vote for the candidates of their (as opposed to their husbands’) choice. Her home, hair and much of what she owned was pink because that was her favorite color. When I interviewed her for a college project in 2000, she said, “Katie, if you think that girls with pink hair get a lot of attention now, think about how much attention I got with it 30 years ago!”

Thelda Bogue Holland, known as “Bessie” to those who loved her dearly, lived what she called a “great trip” of 90 years. Her legacy lives on through the women and causes she nurtured with everything she had, and she is deeply missed.

Bess and me celebrating her 90th birthday in 2004 at one of our family’s favorite restaurants back in the day, Robin’s Nest/Robin’s Wood Oven Grill, which was located on the south side of Des Moines at the corner of Army Post Road and SE 14th Street. I was a senior at Drake University at the time.

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Happy Birthday to Me!

Thanks to everyone for all the love today and always!

38 is Great (Well so Far!)

Today was how birthdays should be — the sun comes out, your favorite songs play on the radio and people spoil you kind of day.

Growing up, my mom always made a big deal about birthdays, and that’s stuck with me. I always celebrate the same way…by taking the day off to enjoy a massage, good coffee and food with people I love, journaling and knocking out a nagging project on my to-do list.

So what’s this year’s nagging project you may ask? Ahem, you’re reading it.

For years I’ve felt pulled to start a lifestyle blog. I love writing, inspiring and helping others and documenting memories. There’s just been one problem — and a BIG one. When on Earth was I going to find time for this when I can’t even keep up with the laundry, kids, work, LIFE?! Turns out that wasn’t the only problem. A real problem has been that I have had the time….I just haven’t had the time to do it the way I’d wanted…optimized with great/edited photos, etc. And honestly a part of me feels like I’m back in my tweens letting you all read my lock-and-key diary of my raw thoughts.

Taking a leap..Done is better than perfect!

Buuuut, today is someday. And even though I really want to just crawl in bed on a rare night I have “off” while my sis has my kids, today I’m making it happen.

This spoke to me as I was about to embark on a new career opportunity a couple of years ago. It sits on my desk as my bravery reminder.

Today is someday. Live your best life. Be vulnerable. Make imperfect progress. Deep breath. 5-4-3-2-1….Go!

These have been some of my mantras for the past couple of years as I’ve pushed myself outside of my comfort zone to take hold of the life of my dreams. And I’m clinging to them as I put myself out “there”, here.

So this. is. happening!!!

In the years to come, I hope to look back on this step forward as I now do in other areas of my life. I used to think to myself, “I want to be like those women who read devotions on their porches at sunrise with foamy lattes.” And then I thought, “So do it, silly.” That was an easy one!

I center myself with a quick 7-20 minute (usually 10) Down Dog Yoga practice (which I highly recommend checking out). This has been a ritual that I’ve enjoyed so much that I refinished my deck and bought a fancy schmancy milk frother to make it even better. It’s like brushing my teeth. I feel “off” when I don’t start my days like this. And actually, some of my favorite memories are my yoga/devotion/meditation/gratitude practices while on vacation, such as overseeing the sun popping over the Rocky Mountains alongside the Big Thompson River in Colorado.

When the sunrise starts pushing the bus schedule, I add some beeswax Milkhouse Candles to my routine. These are Caramel Pumpkin Latte (no longer sold 😦 ) and Brown Butter Latte because I LOVE pumpkin EVERYTHING!!! This is what fall smells like to me.

Own the morning, own the day

In the end of 2017 one of my former employees inspired me to start working out in the mornings. I hit the physical gym before my spiritual gym and the combo empowers me to start my day off on the right foot. Of course of all days, I wanted to kick off my birthday and 38 “right”!

So my birthday started with Les Mills’ BODYPUMP. a weights class synchronized to upbeat chart toppers, at my local YMCA. This is funny to me because months ago it was the instructor’s birthday, and I thought to myself, “I would never come to class on my birthday. Birthdays are for treating yo self.” And there I was. Never say never, people.

It turned out to be worth it, because the whole day synched up beautifully. The kids showered me with their adorable homemade cards and kisses before heading off to school. I soaked in a hot bath with this Pink Himalayan sea salt magical potion. And then Trent took me out to my fave meal evah — brunch!

There is a gem in town town that serves brunch on weekdays that don’t involve waiting (something I abhor with a passion). AND they had my fave breakfast food — sweet potato pancakes!!! Score!

I fell in love with Cracker Barrel’s sweet potato pancakes when pregnant with Adler and have been a bit obsessed since they’ve since been taken off the menu. So I had been anticipating these suckers for weeks and was practically drooling as we were seated and looking at the menu (hello, post-workout ghrelin). But they were no where to be found! Apparently, they’ve never served them, and the online menu was just created for the restaurant’s opening earlier this year and doesn’t reflect actual offerings. However, the server felt so bad when I’d asked about them and brought me some inventive curried sweet potato and apple bisque as a peace offering as well as a comped dessert in celebration of my birthday. She was a keeper!

Next I headed off to Starbucks for my birthday reward because I’m all about the freebies today and every day. I only get ventis as reward drinks. Special occasions are celebrated with breves — game changer, people! May I take a moment to say how much I also love mobile ordering?! Not only does it conquer my wait peeve but it also supports my high-maintenance preferences. The barista assured me that my mobile order was actually nothing compared to some she sees. If she says so!….

Venti decaf, 1 pump pumpkin spice, 2 pumps white chocolate mocha sauce, 1 pump toffee nut syrup, extra foam, breve, extra hot, smoked sea salt topping. I couldn’t decide between the salted caramel mocha and the PSL, so was trying to combine the two. And would you believe that this mix actually eliminates a pump of syrup and drizzled sauce? I think this hit my sugar quota for the week!

Then I headed off to massage bliss with Jon Paul at Imagine Peace Massage. Jon Paul is an old friend from college and has been my massage therapist for years. He is the perfect mix of talking/not, pressure, etc. that I like, and he’s got a gift for his work. Massages are my birthday and Mother’s Day treats because nothing unwinds me from stressed to serene better. But he’s also the reason I was able to run Dam to Dam last year after I jacked my knee during training. I simply can’t recommend him enough, and I love that he is now part of Maggie’s business. If you’re looking for the real deal, you should check them out!

This sign at the tea counter spoke to me. It’s spot on!

While I was in “town” (I say this like I still live out in the country even though I reside in suburbia), I had to swing by my happy place, aka Trader Joe’s, to score some fall finds before they fly off the the shelf. (A couple of blogs completely dedicated to this will be coming, I promise!) Someone I love dearly has an in with someone extremely thoughtful who works there and knew it was my birthday. As I was checking out, another crew member presented me with the gorgeous bouquet of flowers pictured above that I’d wanted to treat myself with but didn’t because I have been trying to stick to our budget. I love flowers!

Fall finds at Trader Joe’s aka my happy place!

Then I dropped off the kiddos at my sister’s for a slumber party. She surprised me with hot-from-the-oven zucchini bread (a childhood fave) and some other gifts including local cream for another #BirthdayBreve. I flavored it with some of that amazing TJ’s Cinnamon Bun Spread pictured above, Ah-mazing!

My plan was to order the aforementioned sweet potato pancakes AND the benny and then have leftovers (which I love!) for supper. When my loving hubby saw my disappointment, he offered to make me another of my faves — Reubens!

It’s 11:48 p.m., and my birthday’s nearly over. I’d wanted desperately to go to sleep hours ago and to organize my TJ’s haul in my storage room pantry downstairs with Trent as he worked his last night shift. But I’m proud of my decision. I did it! I took the first step, the first proverbial bite of the elephant.

If you’ve read through this far, thanks for journeying along with me. What I’d really like this year is your support, may it be engagement/sharing/liking my posts, tips for better blogging, help with editing or photos, or holding me accountable for actually posting.

And what about you? Today is a great day to take the next step to live the life of your dreams.

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Third Trimester Pavlovian Conditioning

I loved my first job out of college at a swanky Manhattan law firm for a variety of reasons.  One factor I’ve recently appreciated is these sentiments were encouraged Pavlovian style. I associated going to work with the reward of an anything one could desire, made-to-order breakfast for a few dollars at the firm’s cafeteria. So when my alarm would go off, visions of turkey bacon and cheddar cheese toasted sandwiches with a side of fresh berries and ground peanut butter danced through my head.

In my third trimester I have a whole new set of associations for my current job.  Today when my alarm went off, I envisioned pain and immediately slammed the snooze button.  Eight hours of sitting at my desk has been pure torture on my heiny.  To be fair, my employer provides me with a cushy, ergonomic chair; it’s just no match for the weight of my basketball-sized uterus on my tailbone for hours on end—the one I’d injured while playing on the monkey bars as a kid.

So I’m already telling my daughter in utero, “Listen to your mother, be careful and don’t try to pull a Shawn Johnson on the playground to impress your cousins; you’ll thank me someday.”

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Age of Conversation 3

Today is the big day–the anticipated launch date of the book I co-authored with top bloggers from around the world–Age of Coversation 3! It’ll soon be available on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, kindle and the new iPad thanks to Channel V Books.
I’ve always dreamed of having one of my books published (ya know, the ones I’ve yet to write). Until then, I will be a published co-author with voices from USA, Australia, India, the UK and more! Check out their blogs:

Adam Joseph Priyanka Sachar Mark Earls
Cory Coley-Christakos Stefan Erschwendner Paul Hebert
Jeff De Cagna Thomas Clifford Phil Gerbyshak
Jon Burg Toby Bloomberg Shambhu Neil Vineberg
Joseph Jaffe Uwe Hook Steve Roesler
Michael E. Rubin anibal casso Steve Woodruff
Steve Sponder Becky Carroll Tim Tyler
Chris Wilson Beth Harte Tinu Abayomi-Paul
Dan Schawbel Carol Bodensteiner Trey Pennington
David Weinfeld Dan Sitter Vanessa DiMauro
Ed Brenegar David Zinger Brett T. T. Macfarlane
Efrain Mendicuti Deb Brown Brian Reich
Gaurav Mishra Dennis Deery C.B. Whittemore
Gordon Whitehead Heather Rast Cam Beck
Hajj E. Flemings Joan Endicott Cathryn Hrudicka
Jeroen Verkroost Karen D. Swim Christopher Morris
Joe Pulizzi Leah Otto Corentin Monot
Karalee Evans Leigh Durst David Berkowitz
Kevin Jessop Lesley Lambert Duane Brown
Peter Korchnak Mark Price Dustin Jacobsen
Piet Wulleman Mike Maddaloni Ernie Mosteller
Scott Townsend Nick Burcher Frank Stiefler
Steve Olenski Rich Nadworny John Rosen
Tim Jackson Suzanne Hull Len Kendall
Amber Naslund Wayne Buckhanan Mark McGuinness
Caroline Melberg Andy Drish Oleksandr Skorokhod
Claire Grinton Angela Maiers Paul Williams
Gary Cohen Armando Alves Sam Ismail
Gautam Ramdurai B.J. Smith Tamera Kremer
Eaon Pritchard Brendan Tripp Adelino de Almeida
Jacob Morgan Casey Hibbard Andy Hunter
Julian Cole Debra Helwig Anjali Ramachandran
Jye Smith Drew McLellan Craig Wilson
Karin Hermans Emily Reed David Petherick
Katie Harris Gavin Heaton Dennis Price
Mark Levy George Jenkins Doug Mitchell
Mark W. Schaefer Helge Tenno Douglas Hanna
Marshall Sponder James Stevens Ian Lurie
Ryan Hanser Jenny Meade Jeff Larche
Sacha Tueni and Katherine Maher David Svet Jessica Hagy
Simon Payn Joanne Austin-Olsen Mark Avnet
Stanley Johnson Marilyn Pratt Mark Hancock
Steve Kellogg Michelle Beckham-Corbin Michelle Chmielewski
Amy Mengel Veronique Rabuteau Peter Komendowski
Andrea Vascellari Timothy L Johnson Phil Osborne
Beth Wampler Amy Jussel Rick Liebling
Eric Brody Arun Rajagopal Dr Letitia Wright
Hugh de Winton David Koopmans Aki Spicer
Jeff Wallace Don Frederiksen Charles Sipe
Katie McIntyre James G Lindberg & Sandra Renshaw David Reich
Lynae Johnson Jasmin Tragas Deborah Chaddock Brown
Mike O’Toole Jeanne Dininni Iqbal Mohammed
Morriss M. Partee Katie Chatfield Jeff Cutler
Pete Jones Riku Vassinen Jeff Garrison
Kevin Dugan Tiphereth Gloria Mike Sansone
Lori Magno Valerie Simon Nettie Hartsock
Mark Goren   Peter Salvitti

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Not so pleasant pregnancy symptoms

Disclaimer: If you’re the type of person who squirms at the thought of buying a box of tampons or at women experiencing bodily functions, this is not the post for you.  If, however, you are pregnant, have been pregnant or have/have had a pregnant partner, you’ll likely relate and chuckle.

I’ve watched enough television and friends go through their pregnancies to recognize common pregnancy symptoms–nausea during the first trimester, crazy cravings, moodiness and changing physique. Yet, much like my previous understanding that wine was off limits, but cheese was okay (soft, unpasteurized cheeses are a no-no), I was in for a few surprises.

Big surprise #1: My next jog would likely involve a stroller.

Prior to my pregnancy, I thankfully (and to my husband’s benefit) did not suffer from severe PMS.  My biggest complaint was that my road rage would get out of control for a couple of days a month–easily remedied by a refreshing jog.  Therefore, I wasn’t prepared for the effects of the surge of hormones to which I was about to succumb. I had planned on running away these moodswings, as I had been accustomed, until the third trimester made me too unbalanced and uncomfortable.  Everything I’d been told suggested I could continue all of my routine activities.  My doctor convinced me I wasn’t going to shake out the baby (of which I was convinced before implantation) and gave me the okay to run, so long as I kept my heart rate under 140 beats per minute. I sucked up the price, purchased a heart rate monitor and started my customary four-mile jog around town. I think I made it about 30 seconds before the limit alarm started beeping.

Big surprise #2: Growing baby brings issues with exits on both ends.

Although I’d soon miss my escape mechanism, my body wasn’t up for running at the time anyway. My breasts ached, and since my wedding four months prior, I’d been experiencing severe stomach issues leading the GI doc to run every test under the sun to diagnose/cure them. The colonoscopy, a process that earned me the right to feel completely comfortable talking about my poop, ruled I had a bad case of IBS.  This worsened exponentially during my first month of pregnancy.  To top it off, I was suffering from such uncomfortable gas pressure that I didn’t care if I was with the CEO of my company; should the rare opportunity arise, I was letting it rip or risk floating to the ceiling like a helium balloon. The baby docs (plural because I see a partnership) say most pregnant women would be elated to experience my symptoms–the reverse of the norm. Thankfully, they’re manageable now.

Big surprise #3: Hello, bathroom.

Due to my aforementioned GI issues, I was becoming quite accustomed to the bathroom–all bathrooms, without the luxury of preference. I knew this would be good experience for when the baby crowded my bladder, again in the third trimester.  I had no idea frequent urination was an early pregnancy symptom. And just when the books (remember, six of them) had indicated a respite from the frequent trips, the UTI infection kicked in.  Merry Christmas to me, the antibiotics worsened both my GI issues and turned the nausea to straight up vomiting. My kind new in-laws gracefully accepted my absence from holiday activities. I sucked down every last evil pill to avoid a recurrence. However, the symptoms returned, requiring me to drink 11 glasses of water before 6 p.m., or face the consequences. Thus, I can easily walk from one bathroom to the next and have to go again.  On the positive side of things, I’m used to getting up all night and thus, ready for nighttime feedings.

Big surprise #4: Labor ain’t the only pain.

Before discovering I was pregnant at four weeks, I was experiencing difficulty sleeping on my customary left side. I attributed this to what I’d termed my “maybe baby”. As she grew, so did the cramps and the discomfort being seated with a squished abdomen. Then from about weeks 12-18, sciatic nerve pain shot down my left buttock, generally in the evenings. Thus far, the occurrence of round ligament pain has been minimal, yet just like the lady at the hospital’s Great Expectations seminar had described– “not fun”. At 20 weeks, the acid reflux has started, burning my throat.  Thankfully, I’ve already given up fried and spicy foods, caffeine, and chocolate. Goodbye, citrus and tomatoes.

Needless to say, my experience makes it difficult for me to believe the women who claim they had no idea they were pregnant.  It’s been an alien invasion, and there’s no denying it. I keep saying she’d better be nicer to me after she’s born!

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Hello, Josephine!

Although we saw our first glimpse of our baby at six and nine weeks, there wasn’t much to see.  Being that our only indication of my pregnancy at that point was my constant bathroom presence, however, we treasured our little peanut pictures–our only visual of our little miracle.

I started to show at 18 weeks, when I finally made the announcement at work and transitioned to maternity pants. I’m so thankful a gal from church has lent me her maternity clothes.  Finding cute maternity clothing is a challenge in itself, finding pants for a 35-inch inseam is another issue.  I’m also set with tops my good friend gave me.  Thus, I’m doing my best to avoid buying into the multi-billion dollar baby industry.

Aside from my respite from nausea (thank you, White Cheddar Cheese-Itz!) and growing physique, we had no confirmation our baby was okay.  We declined the first trimester screening because it was questionable whether the insurance would cover both it and the five-month ultrasound and because false-positive results from the blood tests required an invasive amniocentesis.  Basically, I didn’t want to be freaked out about the health of our baby when we were going to keep it regardless.  Our only scare lasted for about one second (though it felt like time stopped), while Trent and I looked at each other helplessly while the doctor struggled to find the baby’s heartbeat at our fourth month appointment.  That beating was the best sound I’d ever heard.  At that appointment, its heartbeat danced in the 150 bpm range, not far from the previous month’s 163 bpm or the following’s 144 bpm, yet a far cry from the 182 bpm of its six-week ultrasound when we first heard it.

From my six pregnany/baby books (I’m not kidding, really, six), I had been anxiously awaiting for week 16 to feel my baby move inside me.  By the time of our 19 week appointment, I was still waiting.  While I did feel movement, it wasn’t anything I could really distinguish from sensations to which I was accustomed having GI issues.

So I was anxiously counting down the days until our 19-week appointment, ensuring the child I was carrying was doing alright.  At first I was adamant about saving the surprise of its sex until birth.  I’d figured we’d want to know what we were having next time, so this would be our only chance for waiting.  I told Trent he could know, but he didn’t want to keep the secret from me or from the rest of the family.  On our drive home from Christmas with his family we were discussing boy names.  While we were set on Josephine for a girl (which I’d wanted since I was 14), we couldn’t agree on a boy’s name.  Its middle name would be Lee, the family tradition.  And being the 80s hair metal fan he is, he was pushing for a first name of Tommy or David to match.  We decided we needn’t worry if we found out we were having a girl.  I was beginning to feel like if I had any inclination to know, it was either find out at the halfway point or wait.

We were just hoping for a healthy baby–boy or girl.  Though, eventually, we wanted a little girl.  Because the wives’ tales held pregnancies with girls were more arduous than with boys, I was thinking I couldn’t handle it being any worse, should it be a boy.  The Chinese Lunar calendar said it was a girl, but the string test (with flat dental floss, all we could find in the house) indicated a boy.  I refused to pee in Draino and risk caustic splashing.  My cravings indicated a boy.  Prior to my pregnancy, I could devour entire jars of peanut butter in a matter of days and could live on desserts if only they were healthy.  However, I gained five pounds before I even discovered I was pregnant craving hearty meals and snacks of pickles, cheese, hummus and potato chips (the latter two of which I had to eliminate due to unpleasant side effects).  I avoided traditional  Christmas goodies like the plague.  I only resumed my regular fruit and yogurt breakfasts after the first trimester.  Prior to that I was surviving on cheese microwaved on bread, a staple I’d picked up from my former babysitter. Ultimately, I thought it was a girl with the exception of a few weeks.  I’d even purchased a little girl’s peacoat and lamb hat/glove combo at 75 percent off, thinking I could always return it if I was wrong.

I ate some chocolate before the ultrasound to ensure the little nudger would be awake to cooperate, and it was.  In fact, it was moving around so much that the tech had some difficulty capturing images.  She confirmed it had 10 fingers and 10 toes as well as a nasal bone, the latter indicating it didn’t have Down’s Syndrome.  It was crossing its little hands in front of its face, objecting to the paparazzi.  Watching it move was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen, causing me to now attribute those little flutters to my baby.  Its estimated weight was 11 oz., putting it in the 70th percentile for its weight, despite my weight gain of only 10 lbs.  I recognized the next image after practicing viewing my friends’ ultrasounds on facebook. Before the tech even said the words, I knew–we were having a little girl who now had a name, Josephine.  Though I did not cry, my eyes welled up with tears of happiness.

Something about that moment forever changed my world.  We are going to have a little girl, and my thoughts drifted to Easter dresses complete with white gloves, tights and bonnets and princess themed birthday parties–though we hope she also takes an interest in sports, etc.  We then saw our first glimpse of her perfect little face.  The 4D technology is so amazing, I already think she looks like Trent did in his baby photos.  And speaking of Trent, I’ve never seen someone so excited to be a father.  Afterward he admitted he had really been hoping for a baby girl all along.

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Hello world!

Although I write for a living, I’ve just begun my journey as blogger.  Admittedly, I have much to learn yet lots to share.  As one Irishman once told me, I didn’t need to kiss the Blarney stone for the gift of gab!

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