Archive for August, 2013

  • The Home Stretch

    Date: 2013.08.26 | Category: Baby, Family, Friends, Health, Home, Life, Mark, Me, OMG YAY!, Pregnancy, Sarah | Response: 10

    Well, we’ve made it to the final four weeks of pregnancy. Due to complications during Sarah’s delivery, we will have to have a c-section this go round. And while I was extremely anxious and upset about it when I found out, I have some great friends who had very positive experiences with their c-sections talk to me and tell me how great their experiences with their own were. My doctor, too, answered all my questions and allayed a lot of my fears about the whole thing. I’m just trying not to focus on the fact that I will be awake while they slice into my stomach, because that totally freaks me out.

    An unexpected boon to the scheduled c-section is that I have a concrete date in my mind for her arrival. She will be born on her scheduled date of September 23, or before. That’s my light at the end of this hot, huge tunnel.  I’m really happy about that date too because that’s the second day of fall and will make her a Libra like her mother. She will come right in between my sister’s birthday and my own birthday.

    As we wind down this pregnancy I’ve continued to struggle with bad ligament and nerve pain, both on my left and right sides. When it hits, it’s agony and I have to lay flat and take something until it subsides. This has cut me off from all photography gigs, both freelance and at work. And Sarah has figured out that she can get away from me by dropping to the floor where I can’t bend down and reach her. Little stinker.

    Speaking of Sarah, we pulled out her baby Minnie Mouse and she has been calling Minnie her baby and being absolutely adorable with her. She rocks her, sings to her, carries her around, puts her down and covers her up for “night night” time (though we did have to talk about how we don’t throw baby on the floor when we’re tired of her). Sarah has also started clearly labeling things as “Sister’s clothes” or “Sarah’s toys,” making it clear what she’s ok with Sister having and what is irrevocably her own.

    I’ve also been so surprised and thankful by several extremely thoughtful gifts from my girlfriends. I didn’t really expect much for baby #2, but it’s like my friends are taking it on as a challenge to find the perfect things.

    Kacie sent me a package from Sephora with bath stuff for baby and bath stuff for mama. Susan picked out the perfect prints for baby’s room. Stevi sent me diapers and baby Tylenol (aka mama’s savior).

    And Becki? Well Becki drove all the way to Dallas to stand in line at an event she didn’t have tickets for so she could see and record Neil Gaiman (my favorite author), and then get him to sign books dedicated to me and my girls. I still tear up when I think about it. I quizzed her on him, of course, and she said he seemed just as wonderful in person as I think he is.

    I have the best friends and the best family. Little Sister has no idea what a great group of people she’s being born into.

  • Painting Stars

    Date: 2013.08.20 | Category: Family, Home, Life, Sarah, Style, Toddler Time | Response: 10

    We’ve really been trying to soak up time with Sarah over these past few months. Obviously she’s not going anywhere, but I know our “play time” away from inside the house will be limited soon. Plus, we’ve had a relatively mild summer (the coolest I can ever remember), and so we’ve been able to travel around and spend time outside. It’s crazy to me how much Sarah picks up and how quickly she does it. She’s interested in everything and wants to watch and help with it all.

    One of my favorite summer activities we did was working on a piece of wall art for Sarah’s room to match the bedding on her big girl bed. A big fan of both stars and purple, we found some really cute bedding at Target that fit the bill. The problem was finding the right thing to go with it in her room.

    I finally decided that we would make our own decor, and then got even more excited about the possibility of Sarah helping me put it all together.

    I came up with the idea to buy a large canvas, utilize one of the many rolls of painter’s tape that we already owned, and buy some paint in the colors of Sarah’s bedding.

    Step 1 was just me,  the painter’s tape, and a little bit of time. (Please ignore all the junk that can be found on our living room floor at any given time).

    For Step 2 we moved outside for obvious reasons. This was Sarah’s part in the artwork.

    She started out timidly with the paint brush…

    And then moved on to hands because they were much more efficient.

    And then finally on to feet, because why not?

    See Bonnie sitting back there? We realized when it was finished that in addition to foot and hand prints,  there were also paw prints mixed in on the canvas. But with how things are at our house, I think it only adds to its charm.

    Needless to say Sarah enjoyed her part of the artwork.

    And she did a great job covering it all. (Please also ignore all the junk that can be found on our back porch at any given time).

    Once it dried I finished Step 3 and peeled away all the tape.

    Ta da!

    I have to say, we were both really pleased with the final product. It is now hanging proudly over her bed where she often points to it and tells me about her stars.

    What about you? Any great ideas for projects with two-year-olds?

  • Pinteresting Food

    Date: 2013.08.18 | Category: Food, Home | Response: 9

    We are notorious for getting stuck in the habit of eating the same dishes over and over again because we know what goes in them and they are easy to make. But I’ve gotten tired of those same things, so with the help of Pinterest, I’ve been branching out. So far, every recipe has been pretty good, though some need a bit of an adjustment the next time I make them.

    Here’s a quick review of what we’ve tried lately:

    Ranch Chicken Enchiladas
    http://therecipecritic.com/2012/12/ranch-chicken-enchiladas/

    Difficulty level: Easy
    Rating: 3 stars out of 5

    We both agreed that this was a “make again” recipe and the insides of the enchiladas were tasty.

    What needs to be improved:
    More veggies. Next time we’ll add bellpeppers and onions to the inside. Maybe beans too.
    Less ranch. The ranch on the inside is perfect. The ranch on the outside was too much. We’ll use sour cream instead next time.

    BBQ Pot Roast Over Cheddar Ranch Grits
    http://www.plainchicken.com/2012/05/bbq-pot-roast-over-cheddar-ranch-grits.html

    Difficulty level: Easy
    Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

    Again with the ranch, I know – but we agreed that this is a mostly make again recipe.

    What needs to be improved:
    Again, less ranch in the grits. Mark thinks we should sub mashed potatoes for the grits and it would be drastically improved.

    The biggest surprise about this dish is that the grits, pot roast and sauce really do need to be served together. The flavors individually are mediocre, but together they are really good!

    Cookies and Cream Cupcakes
    http://www.annies-eats.com/2010/06/02/cookies-and-cream-cupcakes/

    Difficulty: Medium
    Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

    There is nothing that can improve these amazing cupcakes. Just make sure not to over bake them and dry them out. The frosting even tastes like the center of an Oreo…

    Hasselback Potatoes
    http://www.seasaltwithfood.com/2009/05/hasselback-potatoes.html

    Difficulty: Super Easy
    Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

    Again, not much can be done to improve a potato with olive oil, butter and salt. Though we did omit the garlic. They made for easy dinner sides one night.

    Slow Cooker Beef Stew
    http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/slow-cooker-recipe-classic-beef-stew-10000000614077/index.html

    Difficulty: Medium
    Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

    We had this for dinner tonight and it rocked. It’s a bit reminiscent of Italian food, surprisingly, but we’re ok with that at our house.

    What needs to be improved:
    Cut the potatoes thinner and add a bit more salt.

    Chicken with Sun Dried Tomato Basil Sauce
    http://www.gabbiskitchen.com/chicken-with-sun-dried-tomato-basil-sauce.html

    Difficulty: Medium
    Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

    My husband, surprisingly, loved this dish, even more than I did. But I made the huge mistake ofbuying large sun dried tomatoes when I really needed to buy some already chopped up. They are impossible to cut up dry, so I waited until they were re-hydrated and it was a mess.

    What needs to be improved:
    More salt – maybe we’re just salt hounds? It needed something to give it a little more kick… maybe some red pepper. But Sarah and Mark gave it two thumbs up, so we’ll make it again!

  • Annual Austin Trek

    Date: 2013.08.17 | Category: Family, Food, Friends, Life, Mark, Me, OMG YAY!, Sarah, Travel | Response: 4

    We have had such an incredibly busy (and blessed) summer. I’m so glad we’ve gotten to share so many experiences with Sarah and take the time to enjoy being a family of three just a little bit longer.

    One of our summer highlights was making our annual trek to Austin to visit our friends Scott and Dana and their little boy. We had such a great time hanging out, eating good food and spending a lot of time poolside.

    Thanks to the handy dandy wagon, walking to the neighborhood pool each day was a breeze.

    Sarah is still a bit timid in the water, but little Sam was a natural and showed no fear! Dana and I just enjoyed the sunshine.

    And in the mornings, because Sarah is always the first one up, we took a walk down to the neighborhood playground so Sarah could run and scream and slide down huge slides without waking up the entire house.

    And enjoy playing outside before the 95+ temps kicked in.

    And when you’re in Austin, you have to eat great food. This time we picked up from Rudy’s one night, went to Chuy’s the next night (where Sarah was so worn out from swimming that she passed out while we waited, which never happens).

    And then, of course, we had to stop and get our traditional Amy’s Ice Cream. (Too bad Sarah was way too cool for dad in this photo).

    And just to prove that we do, in fact, hang out with adults while we’re there, here’s a photo of Dana and me extremely happy because the boys watched the kids while we went and got our nails done.

    And while we were getting our nails done, the tech informed me that my baby was very lucky because she will be a girl born in the Year of the Snake and she’s a “full snake,” meaning she was conceived and born in the same year. I’m not sure about her being snaky, but they assured me this was a good thing.

    I love going to Austin and am so glad we got to spend this trip eating, relaxing, visiting and spending time poolside!

  • Book Update

    Date: 2013.08.13 | Category: Books | Response: 5

    I’ve read tons of books since my last book post. Here’s a quick review of some of them.

    Wild by Cheryl Strayed

    I am not usually a non-fiction reader, but after hearing rave reviews on this book I borrowed it from the library. I absolutely loved it. It’s the story of a girl who lost her mother in her college years and married to early and how her life falls apart because of those things. To save herself, she decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (which runs from Mexico to Canada) alone with almost no backpacking experience. Was she an idiot? Yes, and she has no problem admitting it. But I challenge you to finish this book and not feel inspired to hike hundreds of miles in the wilderness. It was like Eat, Pray, Love, but grittier.

    Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

    This is my third of Kay’s books to read. All of them are alternate history style novels surrounding big events and times in the past, and all have a fantasy twist. In this case the setting was ancient China and the challenge of a young man to survive after receiving a gift of 100 incredibly valuable horses that could cause a war. Not normally my type of thing, but I love the author and gave it a chance. It could have been really good, but it got bogged down in length and details. Still, I give it credit because the writing was stunning.

    Looking for Alaska by John Green

    After falling in love with The Fault in Our Stars, also by John Green, I couldn’t wait to sample another one of his books. I was pleasantly satisfied with this installment about students in a boarding school who enjoy pushing the rules and planning epic pranks. I laughed so much in this book… and cried a lot too. Well worth the read.

    Wool by Hugh Howey

    This book is a gem of the self-publishing world. After the author self-published, it went viral and has become an eBook phenomenon. And I can see why. Set in a dystopian future where the earth has become uninhabitable, everyone lives below ground in “silos.” People all have different jobs and work on different levels. And when a crime is committed, the person is sent out to “cleaning,” ie, wiping off the cameras so the people inside can have a view of outside, before the cleaner ultimately dies. The story follows  a girl who is picked to become the new sheriff of the silo and her discovery of the dark secrets that surround silo life and sustainability. A different kind of dystopian novel and cheap to boot, this story is one I still think about.

    The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

    A fan of American Gods by Neil Gaiman, I immediately saw the connection between it and this story about a golem (a woman made out of clay) and a jinni, called from a lamp thousands of years after he was entombed, both struggling to survive in New York City. Both are forced to  try to pass as human, despite having many obvious qualities that make them “other.” While the story definitely had it’s slow moments, I ended up enjoying it a lot as the plot picked up near the end.

    The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

    You should probably know I loved this book by sheer virtue of its writer. But the story itself was so creepy and fun and imaginative (though very short!) I’ve heard it described as a re-imagining of Neil’s own childhood and that makes me love it even more. Please go read this and then gush about how much you loved it with me.

    The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

    This book was recommended to me by a friend and I had no idea what I was getting into when I picked it up. It is one of the creepiest, most disturbing dark “fairy tales” I’ve ever read. It had a knack of bringing up some of my old childhood fears that I had long buried, and doing so in great detail. I found myself at night praying that I wouldn’t dream about the scenes from this book. Despite all that, or maybe even partly because of it, I enjoyed reading it and couldn’t put it down. It’s kind of like Narnia on LSD.

    Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

    I adored this story of a curvy, red-headed girl who has an awful home life and is mercilessly bullied, slowly developing a romantic relationship with a thin, nerdy Asian kid who loves comic books. The story is so sweet and so sad. And while I can see Noel’s point about the relationship not being believable, I could so picture myself as the curvy girl and my husband as the thin nerdy guy that it made it all the more wonderful for me. Plus, great writing!

    More to come…

  • Pregnancy Round Two: It Ain’t No Joke.

    Date: 2013.08.07 | Category: Baby, Family, Health, Home, Life, Mark, Me, Pregnancy, Sarah | Response: 7

    Here lately I’ve found myself reminiscing the days of my first pregnancy when I would get home from work and lay on the couch. So tired, I would watch tv while Mark went and picked up Taco Bell or Newks or whatever food I happened to want at the time while I laid there and rested before finally moving myself from the couch to the bed and going to sleep.

    Gone are those days my friends. Leaving work now means that on the 10 minute drive home I mentally prepare myself for what is waiting on me at home. I love having a two-year-old and I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but there is no more laying on the couch and resting these days.

    Even with Mark working overtime to do dishes, help prep dinner and take on many of the physical things that I can no longer do, there is a mischievous little girl who needs tending to. And while we occasionally still pick up dinner, financially and for health reasons it’s best for us to cook at home, and so we usually do.

    Yesterday when I got home we all went to the grocery store. We’ve discovered that it’s easiest to divide and conquer at the store and Sarah loves going. After shopping, there’s the 100+ degree heat we had to go through to get out, load up and unload. Then we put all the groceries away. Then it was time to prep dinner and eat, then rotate and fold and put away laundry. By the time I finished that I was beyond exhausted and planted myself on the couch. I happily let Sarah watch a show while she ate a cookie, so content to have her sit at my feet while I lay there for 20 minutes before the bath and bed time ritual began…. Back on my feet to help get her ready and put her down, then finish up a few chores, freelance work, etc.

    Then, every night, I find myself staying up WAY too late so I can enjoy some down time to myself either watching TV or reading a book before I go to sleep.

    My favorite moments these days are the first moments of the morning when Sarah wakes up. She runs into our room, crawls into bed and turns into a lovey little snuggle bug. Sometimes she brings a book for us to read (or for her to “read” to us), sometimes she brings a stuffed animal and sometimes she grabs my iPad. But mostly she just wants to snuggle, giggle and enjoy 20-30 minutes of uninterrupted time with mommy and daddy. And I absolutely love it. Every morning I wish I could play hooky and stay that way with our girl in bed, but I know it would end. It always does when Sarah declares, “EAT!”

    I know things will only get more challenging soon, though I do relish getting some of my physical mobility back. And, oh, how I look forward to finally holding Baby R.! In the mean time, I’m trying to cherish these last few weeks of having an only child and a semi-organized way of life. I remember adjusting to the “new normal” when we first brought Sarah home, and we will do it again – all four of us.

    p.s. I’m going to live. All the pain I’ve been experiencing is from a very angry, bulging ligament in my right side that should subside after baby is born. In the mean time I’ve just got to deal. I can do it. Right?

  • Baby “Sprinkle”

    Date: 2013.08.05 | Category: Baby, Family, Food, Friends, OMG YAY!, Pregnancy | Response: 12

    My sister called me a couple of months ago to ask if she could host a “Baby Sprinkle,” aka a baby shower that was small in size for baby #2. At first I was a bit hesitant about having a shower for a second girl, but then my sister assured me of several things: 1. She was pregnant and didn’t get to help with Sarah’s showers so she wanted to do one this time. 2) Baby R. needs her own things too and 3) We’d keep it small and invite close friends and family only. So, I let her run with it! She pulled in my other sister, mom and Kelly to help pull it all together and they did an amazing job (even with Kelly three days out of a hospital stay – that’s commitment y’all).

    My nursery colors are gray and yellow, so they took that and ran with it. I’m pretty sure Kelly has some more photos from the event, but here are some that managed to make it onto my camera.

    Lots of yummy food including key lime pie bars!

    Glasses and one of my baby photos.

    Cupcakes!

    Customized onesies!

    Sarah rather enjoyed the balloons!

    The hostesses.

    Ang and Ev.

    Stephanie and Alyssa.

    Mimi is ready to meet grand baby #3!

    Nana and Aunt Stephanie are too! (Sarah’s still not sure about all this).

    Auntie love from Shannon and Martha Claire.

    Likely the closest I’ll ever get to having two little boys. :)

  • Growing Pains

    Date: 2013.08.01 | Category: Baby, Family, Health, Mark, Pregnancy, Sarah | Response: 10

    Wow, what a crazy couple of weeks it’s been. We managed to take a trip to Austin, have a “Baby Sprinkle,” clean out our storage room and turn it into a nursery… oh and I’ve been to the hospital no less than four times due to this crazy pain in my right side that is still undiagnosed. Don’t worry, baby is fine, I had my appendix removed years ago and when things get super painful I now have something to help me combat my pain.

    We still don’t really know what’s going on, but we hope to know more today after I visit a specialist.

    In the mean time I saw that Nurse Practitioner again that made me cry about my weight gain and I told her that she made me cry last time. She then verified that, yes, they were having problems with their scales in the office and she wouldn’t blame me if I hated her and never wanted to see her again. So at least there’s that. She was extremely nice this time, but it may have been because I was in agony and in tears with pain.

    At any rate, baby is growing right on target, I’m not in pre-term labor and I don’t have kidney stones, so that’s good! Hopefully we’ll know more today.

    In the mean time I’ve been told to stay off my feet and drink lots of water. While this is great in theory, it also means that I cannot do the following things that I would very much like to do:

    1. Pick up my two-year-old.
    2. Rotate the laundry through the machines (though I can sit and fold).
    3. Launder and put away little baby clothes.
    4. Pull boxes off shelves.
    5. Hang wall art in the nursery
    6. Paint Sarah’s room light purple
    7. Hang Sarah’s new hot pink black out curtains
    8. Take all the stuff I pulled out of the storage room (now the nursery) and put it in a new place. As a consequence, my living room looks like Goodwill.
    9. Lift Sarah onto the potty.
    10. Do my mailings for work.

    It’s all for a good cause, I know. But right now I feel so limited and frustrated. I seriously don’t know what I would do without my husband. He’s been cooking and doing dishes like a champ without much complaint. And Sarah? Well she is accepting me not picking her up and is mollified by sitting on my lap on the couch while we read books or play paper dolls.

    We can do this. 7.5 more weeks.

    P.S. Baby R. is totally face planting into my uterus.