My shoe problem

The past 10 weeks I've been off work has been a great time to rejuvenate my closet and get rid of items I don't wear anymore (and pack up those maternity clothes I don't care to see for a good while). My work shoe collection in particular needed a major overhauling. I'm very hard on shoes, which I've never quite understood given that I have a cushy desk job. I wore my old black pair of heeled booties into the ground two winters ago (I actually wore the sole down so much that a large crack formed, which I finally noticed when I walked through a puddle).

I ordered these Shoemint booties during a sale but initially didn't like them. Returning them was on my agenda but then we went to Hawaii on our babymoon and the return window passed. I stuck them in the back of my closet (I ordered them in April) and forgot about them until last week. Now that my return to work is looming, work-appropriate attire has been at the forefront of my mind. I tried these on again and decided I did indeed like them! Though, a 4.5" heel? What was I thinking? I'll have to keep a pair of flats in the car for the sole purpose of lugging Brendan's car seat into daycare.

I was also in need of some basic pumps so I picked up these classic beauties, also from Shoemint. I'm ALL about a classic looking pump. They never go out of style.

Since I decided two pairs wasn't enough, I also snagged this dark blue suede pair. I have a problem.

I've been living in a pair of black flats for a year now and decided to branch out into these suede flats. I really love them! I got the taupe color since they'll go with everything but I'm very tempted by the red ones. So far I've resisted. Can you tell I'm more of a classic shoe person versus trendy?

Last but certainly not least, it's boot weather. I found these boots at Target and they fit all my specifications: cognac color, slight heel, and no cutouts. I love them! They obviously aren't work friendly (at least for me) but I foresee a long future with them as soon as I get my act together and waterproof them.

Now I'm on a shoe spending moratorium. Also, I just happen to really like Shoemint. These aren't affiliate links and they aren't sponsoring me!

What I'll miss (and won't miss) about maternity leave

What I'll miss:


2. Even this face.

3. Making myself leisurely breakfasts. I've gotten really into chilaquiles lately, which involves frying up tortilla pieces in salsa and topping them with a fried egg. I learned about the dish from a friend and used this recipe as a guideline. It's a great way to use up corn tortillas after an enchilada supper.

4. The opportunity to visit people I normally don't see very much. I've taken Brendan to SPU to visit with some college advisers and former employers who I don't see very often because we all work nine-to-fives. I've enjoyed this time to catch up with old friends!

5. Being caught up on all my shows. Since Brendan still sleeps a ton, I can catch up on The Voice and Parenthood pretty easily. I know it won't always be this way so I'm taking advantage of those naps while I can!

6. Being my own sous chef throughout the day. While Brendan naps, I save myself some dinner hour labor by chopping vegetables, measuring spices, or whatever else I can do to prepare for dinner. Having those tasks already completed before cooking makes putting dinner together so fast! That's the secret on all the cooking shows: having everything ready before you start cooking.

What I won't miss: 

1. Underlying guilt that I should be getting more done throughout the day since I'm at home. But hey. You can't do it all. I already think staying at home is a lot of work (interspersed with keeping up with my shows...) and Brendan isn't even mobile yet! I just tell myself that the to-do list will always have items on it and that's OK. That's just life. Just say no to guilt!

Five observations on the postpartum period

1. Hierarchy of pain

The old joke of stomping on your left foot so you forget the pain in your right foot holds true. I could only recognize one area of pain at a time, which I suppose could be considered a blessing in disguise. As the epidural wore off, the spot on my back where the needle went in felt like a punching bag. I couldn't believe how sore my back was! I made Mark look at it, sure there was a pancake-sized bruise. There was no bruise, which felt slightly invalidating.

This pain went away by the day after birth, which is when the pain of vaginal childbirth really started to register. The best part of my time in the hospital was when the nurse came in with the Ibuprofen and Tylenol! Once that pain started to subside (each day brought an exponential improvement), I started to realize that now the muscles of my pelvic floor were sore. I think they were sore all along, but since the pain was lesser it didn't register.

Bottom line: the female body takes a beating in childbirth. We're awesome.

2. Feeling ready doesn't mean you are

Every time I thought I was ready to push myself, I was wrong. I thought I was ready for a trip to Target and the grocery store with my mom the second week after birth; I ended up crying in the Target parking lot from the pain of walking and we didn't make it to the grocery store at all (this is where I learned that you must keep on top of the painkillers, even if they are just Ibuprofen and Tylenol).

Six weeks after birth, which is usually when the doctors give you the green light to start working out again, I felt like my regular self. And my regular self wanted to take my jogging stroller out for a spin with Brendan! So off I went, baby in tow. I made it four blocks before it became embarrassingly apparent that my bladder (pelvic floor muscles) couldn't handle this extra effort. Talk about demoralizing! I headed home to change (it was that bad) and we went out for an hour-long walk instead. I went on my first solo run at seven and a half weeks and had no problems. That extra week and a half made a big difference. However, I tried another stroller run just this week (nine weeks postpartum) and ran into similar bladder issues so there must be something with the effort of pushing the stroller that sends me over the edge. Yay, childbirth. Everything's just loosey goosey in there!

3. Night sweats are real. Real gross.

I had to sleep with a towel next to the bed so I could mop myself up before Brendan could eat. My condolences to anyone who has to deal with night sweats on a regular basis! They went away by the third week but those three weeks were sure disgusting. Hormones. They'll get ya.

4. Take advantage of hospital resources

I thought breastfeeding was going fine. Until it wasn't. I ended up with a breast infection after the first time we gave Brendan a bottle (so I missed a feeding) and I haven't been that sick in a long time. I had put Brendan down for a nap in his crib upstairs and then gone downstairs to pack for our weekend trip to Portland. I felt like I was freezing (an infection gives you flu-like symptoms) so I huddled on the floor in front of our space heater and prayed that Brendan wasn't crying because I had no energy to pick my achy self up off the floor. It was bad. Several doses of Tylenol and plenty of fluids later, the infection seemed to be subsiding but the breast pain was just beginning. That Monday I called the hospital's lactation services in tears because the pain was so great. With their advice we made some progress in improving Brendan's latch but it wasn't until I met with a lactation specialist that we really had a breakthrough. Finally, breastfeeding isn't something I dread. It isn't all ponies and rainbows either but things are so much better, even though it took six weeks! If you have a concern, don't wait until you're ready to give up. Use every resource you have! Every nurse and professional I spoke with were incredibly eager to help.

5. It really does get better

The improvements in pain and mobility that I experienced every day after birth were staggering to me. I couldn't believe how fast my body bounced back. I was indeed tired from taking care of a newborn but that tiredness wasn't bad compared to how poorly I felt during the last couple weeks of pregnancy. Your body even gets used to the sleep deprivation. Right now I don't get a stretch of sleep longer than three hours but since that's become my new normal, I feel fine (Brendan sleeps longer than that but I get up in the middle of the night to pump to keep my milk supply up). You adapt because you have to.

Then they start smiling!

#51: Have a baby (part 2)

When I left off, I'd requested an epidural.

It was probably about 6:45 a.m. by the time I requested it. While the anesthesiologist was sought, we were moved into a a labor room and introduced to a new nurse. She told us we were definitely having this baby today, and for sure by the time her shift ended at 3 p.m.

The resident anesthesiologist came in to explain the procedure of the combined spinal/epidural: you get quick pain relief from the spinal block and much longer pain relief from the epidural through one procedure. I found it funny that they explain the procedure, its potential side effects and who knows what else to the woman in labor. I remember looking at him and thinking, I know he's talking to me and I am trying so hard to listen but these darn contractions just keep on coming and I can't focus on anything else! He left to get the drugs ready (you can't do that before the pep talk?) and I got hooked up to an IV to receive antibiotics since I tested positive for a common strain of strep. I had asked my doctor if the insertion of the IV was painful (I'd never been in the hospital before) and she said something along the lines of "Well, it's not the most painful thing you'll be experiencing that day." She also said that about checking the cervix. All very true yet not encouraging at the time.

The resident anesthesiologist came back along with the head anesthesiologist and the meds. I sat on one side of the bed and hugged a pillow, trying to hunch my back and relax like the anesthesiologists said. Contractions kept rolling and it was hard to keep such an unnatural position. The insertion of the needle was uncomfortable but I kept telling myself it would be over soon and the pain would be gone, so I could handle five more minutes of pain and discomfort! If you've seen "Finding Nemo," remember that part with the little girl at the dentist? She's banging on the glass of the aquarium and the starfish is losing his grip and saying, "Find a happy place, find a happy place!!" That's how I felt.

But the needle pokes kept coming and I felt fluid flowing down my back, which I imagined at first to be blood but later learned it was spinal fluid. I was not a very good judge of time at this point but it seemed like the procedure was taking a lot longer than previously billed. I heard afterward that the resident couldn't get the needle in the right spot and the chief anesthesiologist took over. He got the needle in and told me that I might feel a jolt as the medicine took effect. The sensation that followed was BY FAR the worst part of labor for me: what felt like an electric current flashed painfully through my back and down my left leg. The shock scared me so much that I actually screamed.

After that trauma, the anesthesiologist said I'd feel one more and then I wouldn't feel any more pain. What he meant was I'd feel another contraction but I thought he meant I'd feel another shock. I lost it, sobbing and saying some nonsensical things (I really can't remember what). Then Mark told me he meant one more contraction and I thought PRAISE GOD, a contraction I can handle. It came and went and then... relief. I could've hugged those anesthesiologists! Well, maybe not the resident. They told me afterward that I had a tricky curvature to my spine. Who knew!

The difference between the hour leading up to the epidural and the moments after it took effect was stunning. I felt like Dorothy when she left her black and white world behind and entered one of Technicolor. I know there are a lot of people who choose to receive no pain medication but I always knew I wouldn't be one of them. I don't regret it at all, even after experiencing the electric jolt, which they told me only 10 percent of people experience.

After the epidural, around 7:40 a.m., I was helped into bed and encouraged to order some chicken broth and juice to get up some energy for pushing. I even got in a nap! A couple hours went by and the resident doctor who had previously checked my cervix came in, along with my OB who thankfully happened to be on call that day. She and I laughed that I'd managed to "plan" my delivery on a day that she was on call. She said I was progressing well and that she'd be in and out during the pushing stage since there were other patients on the floor who were as far along as I was.

They left and my nurse gave me a crash course on what pushing would look like. I never took any labor classes so I soaked up the instruction and hoped I could do a fast job. The resident came back shortly after and checked my cervix again, which was much more pleasant with an epidural. During the check, my water broke. I heard the pop in time to see the resident's shocked face and felt (and stifled) a strong urge to laugh. I don't think that had ever happened to her before. Then I was told I had made it to 10 centimeters and it was time to start pushing!

Nothing could have prepared me for the physicality of pushing. My doctor told me that pushing out the baby would be one of the most physical things I'd ever do but I had no idea how hard and taxing it would be. Mark fed me Clif Shot Bloks (energy chews) in between pushes and I can honestly say those little snacks saved me. If you're pregnant, stock up on Shot Bloks. After about an hour of pushing, my doctor came back along with a slew of nurses who started readying the room for the arrival of a baby. That's how I knew he must be close! Well, that and they kept telling me I was SO close to being done and just keep going!

At this point we were out of Shot Bloks and I didn't know how I was going to go on much longer. They asked if I wanted a mirror (no thanks) and if I wanted to feel the baby's head (um, no, I know he's there, but thanks). I couldn't believe that some women can push for hours on end. I never knew exhaustion until those final pushes when I felt him slip out, which was the most relieving and emotional feeling I can't even come close to describing. I burst into tears the moment he was out; I wasn't conscious of anything else except how exhausted I was and that our boy was crying. They placed him on top of me and the first thought I had was of how big he was! That and he was covered in fine dark hair. No one warns you how potentially hairy babies can be!

You can't see all the hair.
I could barely reconcile that this tiny human had just come out of me. It didn't make sense. When they told us he weighed eight pounds and 12 ounces, I felt a rush of gratefulness that doctors screen for gestational diabetes. He might have been huge had I not been monitoring my blood sugar! We decided on his name, Brendan, while he lay on my chest and the doctors stitched me up.

Brendan was born exactly at noon on August 24, 2014. The next hours were a whirlwind of nurses, family, and barely being able to keep my eyes open. We had to stay in the delivery room for a while because the recovery rooms were full but that was fine with me - the room was huge.

Mac and cheese!
Mark's dad and Brendan
I couldn't believe that we had spent so much time thinking of when the baby would come and that the moment was finally here. It was so surreal. Even now, eight weeks post-birth, it's hard to believe that we are post-birth and not still preparing. For instance, I'd made some meals in advance and frozen them "for when the baby comes" and I feel like I have to give myself permission to eat those meals because the baby is now here and that's why I made them.

I also want to write posts on recovering from birth and transitioning to parenthood but all in good time. I feel like every time I sit down to start writing, Brendan wakes up. I guess that's life!

#51: Have a baby (part 1)

Oh man. When I first made my 100 List, having a baby seemed SO far away. And I wanted it that way.

But now I can't imagine our life without this little guy!

Brendan Abbett Seymour
The day before Brendan's birth, a Saturday, was what every Saturday should be. I started out the day with breakfast with my friend Jessica at the Hi-Life in Ballard. If you haven't been there for breakfast, you're missing out on the most wonderful smashed potatoes that are fried to golden perfection. Kind of like tater tots, but better! Then Mark and I took books to one of our favorite parks in Seattle, Carkeek Park, and read on the beach. I had a feeling that this day may be the last day we could do that, whether because of the arrival of baby or the arrival of terrible weather. After the beach, Mark and I got takeout from our new favorite Thai restaurant in north Seattle, Chada Thai, and chowed down at home. I hear spicy food sends people into labor so I thought I'd take that for a test drive. The spicy food was a backup measure though because by 3 p.m. I started experiencing my first real contractions, which were very different than the small contractions I'd had in the previous weeks. They were manageable though and about 20 minutes apart. Manageable enough where I thought, hey, this isn't so bad! By the time dinner rolled around, the contractions had become even farther apart so it didn't look like we were going to the hospital just yet. Even so, I started tracking when they occurred and their duration so I had a record of the pattern.

Carkeek Park
I had irregular contractions for several hours after dinner but they still weren't getting closer together so we headed to bed. They woke me up about every hour but I could still sleep in between them until 3 a.m. when they took a turn for the worse. I knew I was progressing when breathing through them started to get harder (my natural inclination was to hold my breath through the pain). When one particularly painful contraction hit I shut my eyes to concentrate on breathing through it but I had to let out a few tears into my pillow. You should know that I approach most situations anticipating the worst but hoping for the best. I thought of labor the same way: I knew it could be really painful and intense but I truly hoped I would be one of those exceptions who would turn out to have an incredible pain tolerance or something. In that moment though, I realized that if I was only in the early stages, this was going to be bad.

I kept noting when the contractions hit and watched them come 20 minutes apart, then 18 minutes apart, then 15 minutes apart, then 12 minutes apart. By that time 5 a.m. had rolled around and I hadn't slept a wink since the contractions started getting closer together. I told Mark I was getting in the shower and to get his bag together! The hot water helped immensely, as did standing up as opposed to laying down, and my contractions became eight minutes apart, then six minutes. At 6 a.m. we left for the hospital. My water still hadn't broken but in the absence of that occurrence, my doctor told me to head to the hospital when contractions were five minutes apart and about a minute long. It seemed to me that I was progressing rather quickly, and I was so thankful that we were making the hospital drive early on a Sunday morning instead of in rush hour! The drive only took about 10 minutes. Thanks to the hospital tour, we knew exactly where to park and what elevators to take. Seriously, TAKE THE HOSPITAL TOUR - at 6:15 a.m., the lobby of the hospital was a ghost town. We would have had to call labor and delivery to figure out where to go since there was no one to ask. As we made our way slowly toward labor and delivery, I kept stopping to grab anything I could - a wheelchair, a guardrail - to support myself through another contraction. Mark asked if I wanted to take the wheelchair and for some reason I said no. If you find yourself in a similar position, just take the darn wheelchair.

Once at labor and delivery, we were shown into a triage room and I was attended to by a truly wonderful nurse. At this point the pain was reaching considerable proportions and I was also getting hit by waves of nausea. All advice I had read said to eat before you get to the hospital but I'm so thankful I didn't. I'm sure I would've thrown it all up! The contractions seemed to be coming every three minutes but no doctors were available to check how dilated I was; the nurse told me that despite the quiet of the floor, there were actually several other women readying for birth and the doctors were swamped. I said I had to go to the bathroom. She helped me into the adjoining bathroom and my body started to shake uncontrollably. It was the weirdest thing to watch - I felt like my body was freaking out and I couldn't do anything about it. I didn't even feel that bad when I wasn't going through a contraction but my body shook just the same. The shaking seemed to be a turning point because the nurse left again and returned with one of the residents. The resident checked my cervix and informed me that my water was still intact and I was six centimeters dilated. Six! We were over halfway to pushing time. The resident left and I asked the nurse at what point people normally get an epidural if they want one. She said I could get it at any time. I said oh good, I'll take it right now, please!

Tomorrow: part 2

38 weeks

At 38 weeks pregnant, there's plenty to complain about. If I wanted to, I could give you a depressing rundown of my interrupted sleep schedule, how Tums have invaded my nightstand, and what it feels like to have a tiny heel connect with your rib (like being stabbed, or how I'd imagine being stabbed). Every day brings new opportunities to complain, since everyone likes to ask how you're feeling at this point. I don't mind this at all - honestly, I'm flattered people care or are interested at all, even strangers - but the questions present a choice. Tell the truth? Or give my usual cheery "Oh, fine!" Usually it's a mix of the two, something like "Ready to be done!" with some sort of cutesy laugh, a laugh that might fool some but to the perceptive few sound somewhat maniacal.

To cope with the temptation to complain, I want to make a list below of reasons I have to be grateful. Nothing curbs negativity like an exercise in gratitude!

I'm grateful to be pregnant at all. Many women struggle with fertility issues and I know how fortunate I am to have had no problem conceiving.

I'm grateful to have had a relatively easy pregnancy. Though I've heard horror stories of nine-month-long nausea, debilitating fatigue, bed rest at 32 weeks, and weakened immune systems, I've experienced very little serious discomfort. Not even a head cold! The only time I had to take even half a sick day from work was from an unrelated food poisoning incident. A positive diagnosis for gestational diabetes was a minor setback but even that has been manageable and given me even more of an awareness of what kind of food I put in my body.

I'm grateful to live in a house that remains shaded for most of the day. Any Seattleite will tell you what an amazing summer we've had, endless days of 80 degrees and up. Of course, any pregnant Seattleite will tell you that this is a recipe for disaster: the lack of air conditioning in most homes and apartments here coupled with a rise in body temperature can make for a miserable summer. Most of the time you'll find me complaining about how dang cold it is in our house. Tall trees and a master bedroom in the basement mean that most of the time, I need a sweater and some slippers to remain comfortable. But this summer has made me so thankful for our house! The temperature has been perfect for me and is a wonderful refuge at the end of the day. I know I would be much more uncomfortable in different circumstances. Everyone asks how I'm doing in this heat (yes, 85 degrees is hot for Seattle!) and I can honestly say that I haven't been too affected, thanks to our icebox of a house.

This list is certainly not exhaustive. (My husband! My family! My friends!) But I wanted to take a few minutes to record some thoughts so I can look back and remember how good I had it, and focus on the positives rather than the negatives. To everyone who has taken an interest in how I've been, I truly appreciate it!

#48: Go to the Guinness Storehouse in Ireland

We ended up in Dublin three times during our recent UK/Ireland trip and had four flights in or out of the Dublin Airport! Seattle/Dublin, Dublin/London, Bristol/Dublin, and Dublin/Seattle. That airport became old hat after a while. This might make more sense if I explained our itinerary:

Fly into Dublin
Drive immediately to Galway (2 nights)
Drive to Portrush and the Giant’s Causeway (1 night)
Drive to Belfast (1 night)
Drive to Dublin (1 night)
Fly to London (4 nights)
Bus to Bath (1 night)
Train to Oxford (1 night)
Fly to Dublin (3 nights)

When we vacation, we go hard! The itinerary was ambitious but I never felt like we were moving too fast. We reserved the same Airbnb host for the one night we had to spend in Dublin before flying to London as well as the last three nights before flying back to Seattle. Already knowing how to get where we were staying was really helpful by the end of the trip – by that time you’re getting tired of navigating and feeling lost.

One of the highlights of Dublin is the Guinness Storehouse. Whether you’re a fan of the beer or not, it’s a fun place to visit! The top of the storehouse is a bar with 360-degree views of Dublin where you can enjoy your pint of Guinness. The storehouse is in a more industrial section of Dublin, away from the throngs of tourists. On the way we encountered a teenager whose brogue was SO strong we could barely understand what he was saying. We finally figured out that he was asking us to buy beer for him and had to turn him down. Ha.

#16: Repaint the kitchen

I knew moving into our house that the first repainting job would be the kitchen. Not that it was particularly bad. But I wasn't quite feeling the mid-toned gray that was in there - it made the kitchen unnecessarily dark. We lived with it for over a year while I tried to decide what color I wanted in there instead. A light sandy tan to go with the tile? Classic white?

Here are some terrible cell phone pictures of what it looked like with the gray (after taping).

Then I saw these images on Pinterest.

And my interest in mint was born. The tile in the inspiration pictures was very similar to ours, we also had white cabinets, and I found the mint color intriguing. I worried it might be too trendy but I figured we could always repaint at some point if we got sick of it. I ran it by Mark and he was surprisingly on board. So I bought a few samples and slapped them on the wall and we eventually decided on Breath of Spring by Behr.

For my first ever attempt at painting walls, we definitely chose the hardest room. We had tons of cutting in to do around cabinets and trim, not to mention the taping beforehand. However, since the kitchen mainly consists of cabinets, there wasn't really much surface area to paint. Just lots of prep work! We spent one evening taping, the second evening painting the first coat, and a third evening painting the second coat and removing tape. The whole process was relatively painless, or at least much less of a pain than I thought it would be! 

I love the end result. There is just enough surface area to make the mint a nice focal point, but still subdued. Plus, it's so much brighter in there!

#62: Create a gallery wall

I really love the look of mismatched frames on the wall and thought it would be a great collage idea for our living room, which still had a lot of empty wall space a year after moving in. Frames can get expensive but that's where the mismatched frames come in handy - I picked up most of these from Ross or Marshalls on sale! No need to matchy match when you're going for this type of look.

Here's my gallery wall. Not quite a full wall but you get the point.

The pictures are all from our travels or from our wedding. I like that they all have a personal connection - a story in each frame.

Speaking of stories, funny story: Mark happened to look over my shoulder and burst out laughing as I was writing this post. I said what, one of my 100 list items was to create a gallery wall, so here it is! And he said the reason why he was laughing was because in his cursory glance of the photo, he thought oh, that's a nice living room, not even realizing that it was ours! Made me laugh.

Pregnancy Faves

Pregnancy Faves
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens... here are a few of my favorite pregnancy things!
I did already mention this in a previous post but of course I had to include it here. The stretches feel amazing and I love how limber I feel afterward. My friend said you can also find these workouts on YouTube! I just got my library copy again but I'll have to return it before the baby comes.
These are the best pregnancy jeans I've found for me, and at a reasonable price to boot. I also tried Old Navy jeans but I found the belly band to be too constricting (even at 20 weeks) and the jeans themselves to be baggy. I never tried Gap jeans but I did try Gap maternity slacks and they were a total fail for me. I then decided I'd try a more expensive pair of jeans, and ordered a nice pair from A Pea in the Pod. They were OK, but if I'm going to spend $100 on jeans, they better be darn near perfect. So back they went. I next tried a pair of Motherhood jeans and the Jessica Simpson jeans, which are also from Motherhood. You can get petite sizing online from Motherhood and the JS line, which I was really hoping would work for me and solve the baggy jeans problem. The Motherhood jeans were STILL too baggy (even in petite XS) but the JS jeans fit me perfectly! And since the JS jeans were in petite sizing, I didn't have to hem them! Joy, let me tell you. They've been my only pair and I'm still not sick of them. There's a serious dearth of maternity clothes for petite sizes - someone should really get on that. I normally wear a petite XS or S and I've run into a lot of petite-maternity XS pieces (usually the smallest size available) that are either baggy on me or fit just fine - but on the spectrum of smaller petites, I fall in the middle. Many non-maternity lines offer petite XXS and XXXS, and these ladies are really left in the dark!
This is the most comfortable maternity tee I've found! The only problem with Gap is the color selection. BORING. Old Navy has more fun colors, as does Motherhood. But I could live in my gray Gap tee and probably would if that was more socially acceptable.
Supposedly, this oil is supposed to aid in the prevention of stretch marks. Everyone is different and I think genetics play a large part in stretch marks but I've been lucky to avoid them so far. I'm not saying it's my dedicated application of this oil each morning... but I'm not saying it's NOT because of it! It smells incredible and feels lovely. I bought my bottle about three and a half months ago and might be able to get away with not having to buy another one. I may be hooked on it though so I'll probably give in and get another bottle, even after baby!
Every woman is different during pregnancy but my first pieces of maternity clothes weren't cute slub-knit tees, but expensive bras because there was no way I was fitting into my old ones. It was a good introduction to the money I'd have to start spending. I couldn't even make it out of the first trimester without new bras! The salesperson gave me a little card with my size on it, saying that some women liked to save all the cards to commemorate how their bodies changed. Meanwhile, I was hoping to goodness these would be the only bras I'd have to buy (I've since learned about nursing bras, so that illusion was shattered). Now that baby is taking up considerably more room in there, my ribs are expanding to fit him. Rather than buy new bras (the cups fit fine), I picked up these extenders that you can clip into your existing bras and thus gain a couple inches of breathing room. They are lifesavers and you can get three of them for about $8! MUCH better than another expensive and awkward shopping trip.

On gestational diabetes (or on how I stab myself four times a day)

A routine test that all pregnant women must subject themselves to is the gestational diabetes screening: you drink a bottle of sugary liquid provided by the doctor and get your blood drawn an hour later. The blood draw reveals how your body responds to the sugar by measuring your glucose level: a higher number after a certain period of time means the body isn’t managing the sugar properly. Risks to the baby include a higher birth weight and the accompanying complications (no one wants a 12-pound baby, least of all me) and too high of a blood glucose level at birth, meaning baby’s blood glucose level will plummet after the cord is cut and require some stabilization.

I never thought of myself as at risk for gestational diabetes. Though my dad does have type-2 diabetes, which is apparently a risk factor, I’ve always maintained a healthy weight and a fairly balanced relationship to sugar. I’ve never been one to crave sweets or chocolate, and would generally say I eat a pretty healthy diet: think oatmeal and fruit for breakfast and salads for lunch. So I honestly thought this test was at worst completely unnecessary and at best one I’d breeze through with flying colors. Because look how healthy I am!

You can imagine my complete shock when I didn’t pass the screening. As I told my sister-in-law, I DON’T FAIL TESTS. That just doesn’t happen to me! So I tried to swallow the shock and pass it as a one-off. Surely my next glucose test would show that this was a false positive and I could skip on my way.

The second test is more of a commitment than the first. You have to fast for several hours before testing, get a preliminary blood draw to determine your fasting blood glucose level, then drink a more concentrated sugary drink than the previous screening. Then you had to hang around the doctor’s office so they could do three more blood draws: one every hour. As someone who is mildly afraid of blood draws, this did NOT sound like my idea of a good time.

Nonetheless, like good kids everywhere, I sucked it up and got it done. Good thing they weren’t also taking my blood pressure because my anxiety continued to mount with each successive blood draw. By the last one I felt like a ball of sweat. Correction: a ball of STARVING sweat because you can’t eat anything. Thankfully, the lab techs I had were all very professional and barely had a problem with my veins. I was so thankful! Good experience notwithstanding, I told them all at the end that no offense, but I hoped I didn’t have to see any of them for a long time. Afterward I treated myself to Qdoba.

But as you can guess by the title of this post, the test definitively showed that my body couldn't regulate my blood sugar. And guys, I was devastated. And by devastated, I mean crying in the conference room devastated. Looking back, I'm not sure why I felt so strongly about this (oh wait, hormones). I think it was a combination of the shock of having a condition I never thought I’d have and getting told that there was something “wrong” with me. Plus, the word diabetes is scary anyway!

The next steps included meeting with a nutritionist to discuss my diet (ME meet with a nutritionist? But look how healthy I am!), picking up my glucose testing kit, and meeting with a nurse to learn how to check my blood sugar. For the uninitiated, checking blood sugar entails holding your finger to a little lancing device that jabs the fingertip to produce a tiny droplet of blood. Then you hold that droplet of blood against a testing strip, which tells you your glucose (or sugar) level. I was worried my fingertips would get bruised or sensitive but after the first couple of days, it’s really not bad at all. Having to test my levels is more just a pain in the rear since I have to check it four times a day: before I eat in the morning, an hour after breakfast, an hour after lunch, and an hour after dinner. I’m a slave to my blood sugar alarm!

I haven’t had to make huge changes in my diet but I did learn that my breakfasts had been too carby for my body to handle. For example, my breakfast carbohydrate limit is 30 grams, or 2 “carb choices” (1 carb choice = 15 grams). Now let’s take one of my standard breakfasts of oatmeal and fruit. The serving of oatmeal alone is nearly 30 grams. Add in some honey (1 carb choice) and a half-cup of fruit (1 carb choice) and I was consuming double the amount of carbs than I needed, without even trying! Now I’m eating LOTS of eggs. My latest egg concoction have been egg muffins: a mixture of eggs, chicken sausage, spinach, cheese and peppers cooked in muffin tins. High-protein popovers!

Before anyone gets worried, I should mention that gestational diabetes goes away after delivery. It’s a temporary hassle but it’ll be worth it in the end!

The case for hospital tours

There are plenty of things you never think about until a baby is on the way. Like birth plans. Apparently people put a lot of thought into what they want their labor experience to be and outline it in a birth plan. I kind of thought I just show up and they tell me what to do. Speaking of showing up, another recommended task to check off your list is to tour the hospital where you will give birth. Turns out there are very good reasons to do a dry run of a hospital visit before you get to a stage of labor where you can't think clearly because a child is forcing his way out.

Case in point: yesterday.

I had a doctor's appointment after work but the hospital tour wasn't until 7:30. Our plan was to meet up for happy hour after the appointment since the hospital was five minutes away from my clinic and happy hour is a great way to kill some time. Then we'd drive to the hospital. Easy, no? We decided to drive separately from the restaurant so we could both leave directly from the hospital and not have to backtrack to pick up the other vehicle. That was mistake number one. I drove the five minutes back to the hospital but couldn't find the entrance to the parking garage (in my defense, there's tons of construction going on in the area and the entrance is somewhat hidden unless you know where you're going). So I ended up behind the hospital somehow, trying to figure out where the darn parking garage was. After another 10 minutes Mark called, asking where I was. Me: "I'm trying to find the dang entrance to the garage! Where is it??" He led me directly to it, thankfully, and I realized that this was the reason they have you do a tour: so you know exactly where to go. I figured Mark had parked in the garage too and we agreed we'd meet at the designated tour spot outside the elevators at Labor and Delivery, where the email had told us to meet.

I followed the email instructions, entering at the main entrance, turning right and heading to the Pacific elevators. I got to the 6th floor and found the tour group, almost on time at 7:31. But no Mark. Mark is nowhere to be seen. So I pulled out my phone to find out where he was. NO SIGNAL. I checked in with the lady giving the tour and said my husband would be joining me but somehow he wasn't here yet. She said, "Oh don't worry, he's probably stuck in traffic! Just call him and tell him to go through these doors and he'll catch up." I sputtered something about how I knew he was here and he must be lost in the hospital somewhere and my phone had no bars, but by then she had turned to someone else. I tried not to get angry (Where could he be?? He was here before me!) and just hoped he would make it in time. The guide started her spiel and Mark walked up about three minutes in. I think I glared at him while the guide finished her introduction and as we turned to start the tour, asked him what the heck happened. Apparently he'd entered in a different entrance and gone up the wrong set of elevators (me: so... did you not read the email I sent you?) By this point though we were both laughing because of how ridiculous it was that we were both late when we were coming from a restaurant five minutes away! Yet again: this is why you need to do a tour. Don't skip the hospital tour!

Honestly, the parking and orientation were the most useful parts. We also learned the general schedule we'll follow once the time comes, but I'm guessing at that point I'll just be following instructions and going where they tell me to go. I'm now accepting applications for volunteers who want to hold my hand and tell me everything will be alright.

The mother of all pregnancy updates

Now that I'm nearly two weeks into my third trimester of pregnancy, it's high time I updated this sphere of my life with some musings on how growing a baby has been going for me so far. If you aren't interested, that's totally fine - feel free to skip this post!

Last week at 29 weeks
Morning sickness: I feel very fortunate to have avoided some symptoms that plague a lot of pregnant women, namely morning sickness. I'm not sure if I'm more sensitively attuned to what's going on in my body and what triggered my nausea (I normally have an extremely strong stomach and rarely throw up anyway), but I figured out very early on what made me feel sick. Just avoiding those triggers was enough to bypass nausea for the most part. One of my triggers was getting too hot, and behaviors like drying my hair on high heat, using the car seat-warmers on max heat, using my space heater at work, and even holding warm objects on my lap like a plateful of hot cookies or a dog had to be avoided for a few weeks. I LOVE being warm (especially in January and February!) but a happy stomach was worth making sure I didn't come close to overheating. Another trigger was any semblance of an empty stomach so I kept snacks around at all times, which was enough to hold the nausea at bay. Everyone has a different experience and I know I'm one of the lucky ones to have avoided spending any time bowing to the "porcelain throne."
Fatigue: Honestly, not too bad. I may have been more tired than usual but it was never enough to keep me from doing whatever I wanted to do. A typical afternoon usually looked like this:
Mark: "How are you feeling?"
Me: "I'm tired... So, when do you want to go to the gym?"
I did however take full advantage of my hour-long lunch break and nap in my car. I do this even when I'm not pregnant though, so I can't really say it was truly necessary!
Workouts: I think keeping to a fairly regular exercise schedule helped fight the fatigue. I didn't change much about my routine initially though I did taper my running (first-time pregnancy jitters) until I went to my first doctor's appointment at around eight weeks. I kept up jogging (which eventually turned into walk/jogs) until about April, and then stopped. It got too uncomfortable once I could sense a baby in there. I really wanted to be that woman who ran up until delivery but I don't know how people do it! Maybe you just get used to the feeling of the baby jiggling around inside you? It just proves that everyone's experience is different! I also kept up my weightlifting, but noticed that I couldn't go as long as I could before, especially in the first trimester. My energy did start to return in the second trimester, though.
One new workout I tried was a prenatal Pilates DVD called 10-Minute Solutions. I LOVED THIS. I had to return it to the library and am waiting for it again, but the short routines have done wonders for my round ligament pain (the stretching of the tendons around your uterus) and flexibility in general. There are five 10-minute routines on the DVD and you can pick and choose which workouts to do or combine them for a full workout. I never did the full workout; I usually combined two or three of them to personalize it a bit. The movements feel amazing to this pregnant body and I love the focus on flexibility, strength and breathing. I recommend it to everyone and wish I'd found it earlier in pregnancy!
Cravings: The only true craving I can really call a craving was back in the first trimester and beginning of the second trimester when ALL I wanted was frozen fruit. I'd snack on it and eat it after dinner. Looking back, I wonder if my mouth was just dry or something? I didn't need much of it -- a ramekin -- but it was honestly what I looked forward to all day. I haven't experienced any weird cravings for certain foods, though. I'm sure they exist for other people and just not me.
Aversions: None! People have stories of how they couldn't tolerate this and couldn't stand that during pregnancy but that hasn't held true for me.
What I didn't think was true until I became pregnant: Bladder issues are real! My coworker always told me stories about having accidents during and after pregnancy but I always thought (naively) that wouldn't happen to me. For the most part I have been spared but I totally get where's she's coming from now. If I have anything in my bladder, I better have my legs crossed when I sneeze or THERE WILL BE TROUBLE. It's humbling, to say the least. Ladies, do those kegels (hey I warned you -- if you wanted to skip this post, you should have skipped it!) Another issue was mood swings. I consider myself a pretty even-keel gal in general. Perhaps Mark could object to that, but I think I normally do a pretty good job of keeping emotions in check. There were a couple of instances though in the first trimester where I was irrationally sad and emotional -- and for someone who doesn't normally experience that, it was WEIRD. I've never quite understood people who get weepy. But then I became the person on the treadmill in the cardio cinema room trying to hold back sobs (the loud racking sobs) while watching the latest Superman movie. It was a bit pathetic. Ok, very pathetic. Fortunately, my stoic side returned in the second trimester and I no longer had to worry about ebbing and flowing tides of emotion. Hormones: so weird.

#61: Stay in a bed-and-breakfast with Mark

I love how when I originally wrote my 100 List, I specified that I must stay at a B&B with Mark. Who else would I stay with?

On our recent vacation to Ireland and England, we stayed in a lovely B&B up in Portrush, Northern Ireland, near the rock formation of the Giant's Causeway. We found it on Airbnb, a website we've often used for travel, where users post their spare rooms or empty houses/apartments for rent. That's a whole other post by itself, which I swear I'll get to someday (spoiler: we love it). Portrush happens to be a major golf destination, home to one of the best golf courses in the world. I didn't know it was such a popular little place when I booked it -- I actually just looked at a map, found the Giant's Causeway, thought Portrush looked near it and decided we'd stay there. Little did I know we'd be surrounded by posh golfers!

We drove up to Portrush from Galway, which is on the west coast of Ireland. The drive took nearly five hours, but driving through Ireland is definitely the way you want to see the country-- stone fences, lots of sheep, and beautiful green hills! Really, Ireland is SO worth your time. I didn't think I'd love it as much as I did. We visited the Giant's Causeway before heading to the B&B, and by the time we got to Portrush in late afternoon the sun was trying to come out. We upgraded to a water view for five pounds (necessitating driving around Portrush for a while trying to exchange euros for pounds, since we'd exited Ireland for Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland uses pounds).

The B&B was cute and accommodating, a welcome reprieve from a five-hour car ride and traipse along the Giant's Causeway. They had a tray of tea fixings and an electric kettle waiting in the room, a perfect way to unwind from the day. The owners recommended a lovely restaurant for dinner where we had what I thought was the best meal of the trip. I had the sea bass with a chili aioli and roasted red peppers atop a sweet potato gratin. Yes. It was amazing. And of course some wine! The restaurant was where we found all the posh golfers vacationing with their families. I kept expecting to see my boss any minute!

A B&B stay wouldn't be complete without breakfast. That night the owners had us fill out a menu of sorts where we basically requested what we wanted for breakfast. Can someone do that for me every day, please? Cook me breakfast to order? It was all delicious, and such a wonderful experience. Northern Ireland has had a bad reputation through the years (and for good reason) but the environment has changed a lot and it's worth a visit. Even in Belfast, our destination after Portrush. I have nothing but good things to say about Belfast too, but that's another post.

#93: The Color Purple

I recently finished “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker, which won the Pulitzer for Fiction in 1983. The book is written as a series of letters: letters from the main character to her sister and vice versa, and from the main character to God. I wasn’t sure initially if the peculiar narrative style was my jam but I got used to it. There didn’t seem to be a plot, really, as the letters followed this particular woman throughout her life.  I was very close to losing interest but pushed on until the end, and can say without a doubt that this is one of the most redeeming books I’ve ever read. Never have I been so glad I’ve finished a book! I would definitely recommend it, but only if you are intent on finishing it (though who starts a book without the intent of finishing it?) Just do it.

I’ve now read seven on my Pulitzer list; 79 remain. See my original post here.

Things I learned this weekend

Zesting a lemon makes your house smell like you just cleaned it. So fresh and lemony! I don’t know how it took me so long to buy a microplane – zesting is so much easier with one. Really, kitchen gadgets are generally worth the hype. A microplane, citrus presses, and a potato masher have changed my life. I used the zest in a batch of lemon-blueberry scones, which turned out wonderfully thanks to my friend Google, who taught me that…

All-purpose flour is not the same as self-rising flour. My scones called for self-rising flour, which I do not have. I was prepared to swap in all-purpose flour and run with it when a little voice in my head said I may want to Google the difference, just in case it was a make-or-break kind of thing. And turns out it is: self-rising flour already has the leavening agent included, whereas you’d have to add it to all-purpose (makes sense). Fortunately, it’s easy to use all-purpose flour in place of self-rising: for every cup of all-purpose flour, add a teaspoon of baking powder and a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Easy! Good thing I checked or those scones would’ve looked pretty sad.

Happy scones

A fresh chicken on sale can cost less than a rotisserie chicken from the deli! Whole chickens were on sale this weekend for $0.79/pound, making the total cost under $4. Mind. Blown. I spread a mixture of fresh lemon (zest and juice), olive oil, garlic, mustard and fresh herbs all over it and roasted it with carrots, butternut squash, shallots and red potatoes. Best Sunday dinner ever.

I do not like aged beef. Mark and I went to our favorite Seattle burger place on Friday night, Uneeda Burger in Fremont. We’ve been to Uneeda many times before and I always get the same thing (the “classic”) so I know what I’m getting. I’m basically an expert in the classic. Don’t mess with my classic. As soon as they placed it in front of me, I knew something was off. I could smell it – almost a rancid smell. I initially just chalked it up to pregnancy hormones – beef can smell odd sometimes and still be perfectly fine. So I took a bite. NO GO. It tasted like it smelled: on the verge of going bad. I then did what any good wife would do: shoved it in Mark’s face and asked if he smelled anything weird (he didn’t) and then had him taste it to see if he thought it tasted off (he thought it was normal). Then I took a bite of HIS burger: salty Uneeda heaven and exactly what I had been expecting. I took a couple more bites of mine to confirm whether I was crazy or I would do the unthinkable: return it to the kitchen. After a passionate discussion of the pros and cons, I sucked it up and returned the burger to the kitchen, explaining that it tasted bad and could I please have another one. A minute later, the Uneeda cashier came to our table and explained that I’d gotten the special 21-day aged beef patty by accident (normally you pay extra for it), which accounted for the “sweaty” taste (his word, not mine, though accurately descriptive), and he was so sorry about that and here was a coupon for a free burger the next time we came in. Long story short, I eventually got my replacement burger and it tasted amazing and exactly how I wanted it. But now I know. Aged beef: never again.

#93: To Kill A Mockingbird

I've already updated my original post by crossing off the 1961 classic To Kill A Mockingbird. I remember this book was on my sophomore year reading list in high school but for whatever reason, our class didn't get to it. It's an important book - I really liked it. I haven't decided what book is next. Steinbeck perhaps?

#93: Read through the list of Pulitzer-Prize winning nonfiction and fiction books

Time to finally get a post up that I can refer back to when I cross a book off my reading list! I'll come back here and edit the list whenever I finish another one. A separate post will be dedicated to the nonfiction list.

Currently read: 7
To go: 79

List of Pulitzer Price fiction winners, as taken from Wikipedia:
  • 1917: no award given
  • 1918: His Family by Ernest Poole
  • 1919: The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington
  • 1920: no award given
  • 1921: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  • 1922: Alice Adams by Booth Tarkington
  • 1923: One of Ours by Willa Cather
  • 1924: The Able McLaughlins by Margaret Wilson
  • 1925: So Big by Edna Ferber
  • 1926: Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis (declined prize)
  • 1927: Early Autumn by Louis Bromfield
  • 1928: The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
  • 1929: Scarlet Sister Mary by Julia Peterkin
  • 1930: Laughing Boy by Oliver La Farge
  • 1931: Years of Grace by Margaret Ayer Barnes
  • 1932: The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
  • 1933: The Store by Thomas Sigismund Stribling
  • 1934: Lamb in His Bosom by Caroline Miller
  • 1935: Now in November by Josephine Winslow Johnson
  • 1936: Honey in the Horn by Harold L. Davis
  • 1937: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (read in 2011)
  • 1938: The Late George Apley by John Phillips Marquand
  • 1939: The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (read circa 1995-1996)
  • 1940: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • 1941: no award given[3]
  • 1942: In This Our Life by Ellen Glasgow
  • 1943: Dragon's Teeth by Upton Sinclair
  • 1944: Journey in the Dark by Martin Flavin
  • 1945: A Bell for Adano by John Hersey
  • 1946: no award given
  • 1947: All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren
  • 1948: Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener
  • 1949: Guard of Honor by James Gould Cozzens
  • 1950: The Way West by A. B. Guthrie, Jr.
  • 1951: The Town by Conrad Richter
  • 1952: The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk
  • 1953: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (read in 2000)
  • 1954: No award given
  • 1955: A Fable by William Faulkner
  • 1956: Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor
  • 1957: No award given[4]
  • 1958: A Death in the Family by James Agee (posthumous win)
  • 1959: The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters by Robert Lewis Taylor
  • 1960: Advise and Consent by Allen Drury
  • 1961: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (read in 2014)
  • 1962: The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O'Connor
  • 1963: The Reivers by William Faulkner (posthumous win)
  • 1964: No award given
  • 1965: The Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau
  • 1966: The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter by Katherine Anne Porter
  • 1967: The Fixer by Bernard Malamud
  • 1968: The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron
  • 1969: House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday
  • 1970: The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford by Jean Stafford
  • 1971: No award given[5]
  • 1972: Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
  • 1973: The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty
  • 1974: No award given[6]
  • 1975: The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
  • 1976: Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow
  • 1977: No award given[7]
  • 1978: Elbow Room by James Alan McPherson
  • 1979: The Stories of John Cheever by John Cheever
  • 1980: The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer
  • 1981: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (posthumous win)
  • 1982: Rabbit Is Rich by John Updike
  • 1983: The Color Purple by Alice Walker (read in 2014)
  • 1984: Ironweed by William Kennedy
  • 1985: Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie
  • 1986: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
  • 1987: A Summons to Memphis by Peter Taylor
  • 1988: Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • 1989: Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler
  • 1990: The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos
  • 1991: Rabbit at Rest by John Updike
  • 1992: A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
  • 1993: A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler
  • 1994: The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
  • 1995: The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields
  • 1996: Independence Day by Richard Ford
  • 1997: Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer by Steven Millhauser
  • 1998: American Pastoral by Philip Roth
  • 1999: The Hours by Michael Cunningham
  • 2000: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • 2001: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
  • 2002: Empire Falls by Richard Russo
  • 2003: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (read in 2010)
  • 2004: The Known World by Edward P. Jones
  • 2005: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  • 2006: March by Geraldine Brooks
  • 2007: The Road by Cormac McCarthy (read in 2010)
  • 2008: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
  • 2009: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
  • 2010: Tinkers by Paul Harding
  • 2011: A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
  • 2012: No award given.
  • 2013: The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson