Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas 2011

We had a really nice, relaxing Christmas this year. We started off by throwing a dinner party for some friends on Christmas Eve. I made filet mignon, potatoes dauphinoise, salad with pomegranates, roasted carrots, a cake, and there was free-flowing wine for everyone but me. I set the table and created a centerpiece out of flowers and greens, and we had old-school Christmas music playing. The house was all decorated and T cleaned until it sparkled (yay for that!). It was just really festive and fun. My mother sent over the most gorgeous dress for Miss M; she loved the twirly skirt and looked beautiful. T has become extremely proficient at doing her hair, which cracks me up. He had it all pulled back in a pony, and it looked so lovely. She was full of energy and made everyone laugh all night. She went to bed just before the adults had dinner, so the dinner itself was a grown-up dinner, which was nice for T and I.

My mother got Miss M a play kitchen for Christmas. T. had assembled it Christmas eve day, so after dinner on Christmas Eve, our friends helped bring the play kitchen and its accessories upstairs. As a side note, it's a Step2 play kitchen, and worth every penny of its $150 price tag. It is really sturdy, and does all sorts of things. There is an undercounter light that turns on and off; a phone that rings; the buttons on the microwave really work (and it makes a "microwave" sound, as well as a popcorn noise), and the stove does something really fabulous. When you put the frying pan (also included) on the stovetop, it lights up and makes a sizzling sound (the pan is translucent). When you put the large pot (also included) on, it lights up and sounds like boiling water. It's just really cool. Plus, it came with tons of accessories--a stainless steel veggie strainer, all sorts of stainless steel kitchen accessories like a spatula, plastic dishes, plastic silverware, pots and pans, condiments (including a pepper grinder with a top that actually goes around). It's just a great set.

Once the kitchen was in place, our friends were thrilled to have the chance to assemble the Lego train that Santa brought for Miss M. I was exhausted at that point, and the idea of getting down on the floor with my sore back and giant tummy wasn't overly appealing, so I was grateful for their help. It was hilarious to watch them try to sort out what and how to build, and tons of fun (particularly when paired with homemade limoncello one of them brought, which I again abstained from. Well, I had a sip, just to taste--it was really good!). We played vintage Christmas movies (ie, Santa Claus is Coming to Town) in the background while they worked. It was just really, really fun.

Christmas morning, Miss M was up at her usual 6:30 a.m. I turned on the tree lights and the room lights, and then we brought her in. I filmed it as she came into the room, so my mom could see her reaction to her toys. She was thrilled. It was adorable. She was enthralled by both the "choo choo train" and the kitchen, and went back and forth playing with the two for more than an hour. Around 8, we sent her upstairs to wake up my stepsister. Miss M apparently wakes her up by trying to open the shades, whichI think is funny. When she tries to wake me up, she comes over to the side of the bed and says "mommy wake up! Get up please!" I guess my stepsister needs a little more help than that!

When everyone was up and assembled in the living room with a cup of coffee/tea, we started opening presents. It took until about 2 to open everything, because Miss M wanted to play with each thing that she opened. Soon, the living room was a giant mess of pieces of things and wrapping paper. We took a hiatus at lunchtime to eat and clean up, before we continued on. As always, my family was incredibly generous and sent Miss M loads of fun things to play with. Santa mostly got her legos (she loves them), and she adores the play kitchen. She's constantly making me tea. I got her the Fisher Price talking tea set, which is really cute. When you pour a cup of tea, it makes the pouring sound. She also makes me tea in the microwave. We have a tea kettle, so I'm not sure where she learned to do that!

T. bought me some lovely, thoughtful Christmas gifts. I had looked at this maternity set at a local high-end body products store. It's gorgeous stuff that they don't sell in the U.S. He wasn't even with me when I looked at it. It was so expensive that I bought myself a small bottle of their maternity bath oil, which I'm almost out of. He couldn't have even known that I looked at the set, but he knows I love their stuff, and he got me the set as part of my Christmas present! It's so nice. It came with tummy cream that is divine. The water here is incredibly hard, plus it's winter, so my skin is dry and itchy everywhere. He got me all sorts of other cool stuff, too. We are so busy all of the time with Miss M and doing things that it was nice to get so many special, thoughtful gifts. I hadn't expected him to go to so much trouble. My stepsister also got me tickets to see a play that I really want to see, which was also really kind of her. She's a student, so I appreciate that she sacrificed some of her hard-earned cash for me.

I think everyone liked the gifts I found for them, as well. I made up calendars this year on my Mac. I have to say, the quality of the Apple printing is really high, and the gifts shipped directly and got to their destinations quickly. For every month, I featured photos of Miss M from that same month last year. I thought it was a cute way of showing how she grew over the last year, sharing some of the best photos of her, and showing what we did. I tried to use different photos from the ones I used in our Christmas card, so the people I sent them to now have lots of nice photos of Miss M. (I am notoriously bad about sending photos, even though email makes it easy!). I also sent along other presents with the calendars. For my mom, I arranged for a professional photographer to take pictures of the girls, my mom, and me when my mom visits after the baby is born. I thought it would be cool to get some good photos taken of our three generations of women. My mom is hard to buy for, and T thought that would be a good present for her. I thought it was an inspired idea. We sent T's mom a plane ticket to visit after the baby is born. The grampa's got relatively uninspired clothing and other odds and ends, but they are all a little harder to buy for, and I sent them cool stuff that is only available locally.

For T, I really tried to come up with gifts to spoil him. I arranged for us to go away for a weekend, where he'll have some time on his own to get spa treatments. I got him special cognac glasses and an expensive bottle of cognac. I bought him a few shirts, and some other odds and ends that I thought he'd be into. I think he liked everything. The shirts look fabulous on him! It's so hard to buy over the internet sometimes, because you never quite know how it's going to turn out.

Mid-present-opening, we took a break for our Christmas morning tradition: eggs benedict and mimosas. T and I decided years ago that we needed our own Christmas traditions, so that has been one of ours forever. I brought out the Waterford crystal champagne glasses, and enjoyed virgin mimosas alongside them. As always, it was a delicious tradition!

There were a few gray spots to our holiday, but I'm choosing not to focus on those right now. All in all, it was just a really great Christmas, filled with laughter and love and happiness. It's such a joy to celebrate Christmas with a much-longed for child. It's hard to believe she's almost two. It feels like just yesterday we were wondering if things would work out, and here we are now, in the thick of laughter and light and love. We are so blessed.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve and 29 Weeks

We are reasonably on track for Christmas. I have all of the Santa and Miss M presents wrapped. I still have to do my husband and sister. T is putting together the play kitchen as I type this. It is a fabulous kitchen. There are all sorts of battery-operated functions: the burners light up when you put pots on them (and the pots are semi-see-through, so you can tell); there is a telephone that rings; the microwave has buttons you can press and make it "come on," complete with noise, and there is a light over the stove. It also came with all sorts of pots and pans and accessories. I kind of want to play with it! We opened our last advent present this morning: matching Mickey Mouse Christmas jammies for everyone. T's family used to have matching Christmas jammies when he was a kid, and I thought it was an adorable tradition, so I've started it this year. There are presents under the tree. Now I just have to get started on making the cake for tonight's dinner party.

But of course, despite my best efforts, I've discovered I'm short a few ingredients. I planned to make a different dessert for tonight, but then discovered I'd overlooked the fact that it required THREE HOURS of simmering in a double boiler--and that was just step one. So, I've changed the dessert to a much simpler cake. Plus, the new cake will allow me to use my fancy Bundt pan, so it will look smashing. I'm off to the store in a few minutes in search of the missing ingredients.

I'm also 29 weeks today, and increasingly enormous. I just took some belly pic's and weighed myself on the new scale: 135.6 pounds. I probably started at around 115 or so, but I'm not really sure. So, now I have a baseline weight to work off. I know that doesn't sound particularly heavy, but my midsection really is huge. I look like an olive on a toothpick. My back continues to trouble me. I live with the hot water bottle, and when I first stand up, I am hunched over until my back gets used to being standing and straightens out. I am like the Tin Man--I need a little oil! Time to schedule that massage, I think.

Happy holidays to you and yours.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Beauty of City Living

When we lived in the U.S., we lived in a pretty rural area, so it wasn't possible to have groceries delivered. This made the holiday time a bit more hectic, because invariably I would forget items and have to drive 20 minutes to the closest store to get them. Can I tell you how much I enjoy having a small but well-stocked grocery within walking distance, for those last-minute emergencies? Can I tell you how even more, I enjoy grocery delivery? We used to do it when we lived in Boston in a third floor walkup and didn't have a car. I've missed it since then. But here, we have it again, and I love it. I was able to plan out all of my holiday menus and order all of the ingredients online. Since T. is home during the day, he waits for the delivery, and then puts them away before I get home from work. It's so much less hectic than tromping around the supermarket myself, looking for the right ingredients.

Even better, we discovered a company that delivers organic produce. They do mixed boxes every week for a surprisingly low price. You can go online before your delivery and see what you're getting, so if you don't like something, you can substitute. Occasionally it's a little wonky--they sent me persimmons last week instead of the bananas I was supposed to get. But, because they send it, I try new stuff, which was kind of the point in doing it. T. doesn't push veggies on Miss M the way I wish he did (because he doesn't like them himself), and I don't want her to have his eating habits. This is my way of ensuring there is always healthy food in the house, and a good selection of it. Case in point: yesterday after swim lessons he took her to McDonald's as a "prize" for swimming under water 4 times (which, by the way: totally awesome!). I had to point out to him that we don't want to make bad food a "reward," as that's not a lesson we want to impart. So anyway, the organic veggies. . .we're trying lots of new stuff, we always have food on hand, it's no work for me, and it's inexpensive. What's not to love?

But it gets better. The organic veggie company delivers fruit and organic meats, cheese and other dairy, baked goods, baby food, and so much more. I ordered a cool bread making kit, the most amazing organic filet mignon, handmade chocolate truffles, etc. And they just appear on my doorstep once a week! It's simply brilliant. It's made my life easier in a small but very good way. I'm eating more produce as a result, as is Miss M (and even T., because I'm slipping them into delicious soups!!!).

So, as the week winds down and I wonder how I'll manage to wrap all the presents, I am feeling confident that my grocery shopping is at least all done and I'll be ready to start cooking this weekend when I'm ready. All my presents are bought. Menus are worked out. Mostly, my work is done, and I can just enjoy the holiday. Happiness!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

28 Week Appointment

I had my monthly appointment with the doctor today. Overall it was good. My blood pressure is still low. I only gained about two pounds since last month, which I thought was bad, but the doctor was fine with. Not much bothers her, though--which I find very European. I think my hair could be on fire, and she's be blase about it. Anyway, I've noticed less movement over the last week, so she did an ultrasound. The baby is positioned differently, but most decidedly NOT head down! She's laying across my abdomen, with her head on my right side and her legs folded up on the left, with her feet somewhere around my belly button, where she keeps kicking me. One arm was over her face, while the other was was underneath her, down low in my abdomen. I was worried about the cord, but the doctor could see a lot of it, and wasn't worried at all, and she said the cord is nowhere near the cervix.

As previously noted, I finally ordered a scale that has pounds on it (I couldn't find one here, and I hate kilograms!), and had it shipped from the U.S., so I'll be able to track my weight gain. That should guilt me into eating when I don't feel like it. Sigh. I've really been trying to eat well. It's so hard when I always feel full.

Next month, I'll have an appointment with my doctor, and also one with a midwife at the hospital where I'll be delivering. Weird. It's weird to think we are almost to the point where we will be going to the hospital. My doctor said today "you're almost finished!" She also wholeheartedly supported my plan to get more massages to try to ease my back pain. She recommended I keep as physically active as I have been, as she thinks it may get worse if I don't. So, massages it is!

I also realized I had a few more presents to buy, but I bought the last two Christmas presents today--a gift certificate ordered over the phone to be delivered in the U.S., and an insanely expensive bottle of fine cognac for my husband. He's been such a patient and amazing father and husband over the last year. I wanted to do some ridiculously indulgent things for him this Christmas, and I won't often have the chance to buy him rare French cognac that isn't exported to the U.S. Hurray for being done with Christmas shopping! Now I just have to wrap everything to put under the tree!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Great Day at the Theater

I have had a really great day.

We started off this morning by opening little presents from the advent calendar that I made for Miss M and T and my sister. In order for you to understand where this is going, you have to know that my husband went prematurely grey in his 20's, and currently has a beard, which is also grey/white. When I gave Miss M the sticker that says what day the present is, a Santa sticker, I asked her who was on the sticker. Very confidently, and without missing a beat, she said "my daddy!" I was so proud--proper use of pronoun and not even two! And also, hilarious!

We had to get dressed and out of the house early this morning, because we had theater tickets. We got everyone dressed and out of the house exactly on time. The bus came just when it was supposed to, and we ended up near the theater early. We had time for Starbucks (peppermint hot chocolate!) and Miss M took a short little nap, then we were off to claim our seats. They had these really cool snowman fiber optic lightstick thingys, which we of course bought Miss M. She was delighted. When we got to our seats, they were perfect--second row, with great views of the stage. The show started on time, and Miss M was mesmerized right from the beginning. The child sat through an hour and forty-five minute play and utterly behaved! (Contrast this to the fancy children's Christmas party I recently took her to, thrown by my office in a ridiculously nice place. As the gathered crowd of other well-behaved children politely listened to 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and sang Silent Night to live piano accompaniment, she ran at top speed through the crowd, yelling "excuse me!" as she blew past people, with me hot on her heels lest she get sugar cookie icing on the silk-covered furniture or 17th century hand-painted wallpaper. She couldn't be contained for a split second, let along HOURS!) She was just entranced. Every once in a while she would look up at me, put her hand on my face, and smile. It was pure joy. At intermission, she even managed to eat snacks without spilling them all over her pretty dress. We bought her this little stuffed snowman, too, who is just her size, and she spent the remainder of the play clutching him to her. It was adorable. I love theater, so it was so satisfying to watch her enjoy it, as well.

After the play ended, we went out for lunch, where she again was an absolute angel. She colored and ate an entire basket of breadsticks. No real food, mind you, but such are things these days. Hopefully dinner will see us get something a bit healthier into her! Overall, it was just such a happy, fun day, and everything went along so smoothly. It was amazing. It really got me in the holiday spirit.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

28 Weeks

Although I haven't been a very good blogger during this pregnancy (work plus toddler makes it tough!), it's definitely helpful that I blogged more regularly through my first pregnancy. I've been feeling a bit neurotic--have I been eating well enough, have I been gaining enough weight, etc., etc. I just looked back at my old blog posts from this point in my last pregnancy, and all my concerns were the same. I just checked out the photos I took of myself back then, too. I am smaller overall, and in much better shape now (I walk everywhere, still). But, my belly is MUCH bigger now than it was in my first pregnancy. I have a very serious woman-who-swalled-an-oversized-basketball look to me. So I am probably worrying about nothing. Still, I constantly feel full, am never hungry, and feel like there is no room to eat, so I worry.

I'm going to try to blog more. I miss having this little piece of quiet time for myself to just kind of focus on me and the child that's inside of me. After Miss M goes to bed, I always seem to have a to-do list to accomplish, and then I fall into bed exhausted, and the new day is here before I know it. But I'm going to try to squeeze a little blog time in for me from now on. I want to spend a little time each day just focusing on myself and this baby. I feel like I haven't done enough of that, and she'll be here before I know it! When I was first pregnant, one of the nurses told me that the pregnancy would be nothing like my first--that it would fly by, and I'd have no time relaxing on the couch with my feet up, and boy was she right!

These last few weeks of the year are a good time to refocus. We aren't traveling for the holidays, and (somewhat sadly) no one is coming to visit us, because people are going to fly over after the baby is born. We're doing a dinner with some friends who can't travel on Christmas Eve, and then Christmas Day it will be just us and my step-sister, who has been living with us for the last few months. As sad as I am that family isn't visiting (or that we aren't visiting family), it should be really relaxing. We're making filet mignon for Christmas Eve and a ham for Christmas dinner. Turkey costs and arm and a leg here, so I'm skipping the bird for Christmas (think $100 for a 10 pound turkey, and you're in the ballpark!--totally crazy!). We always start Christmas day with mimosas (none for me this year!) and eggs Benedict, and we watch Christmas movies when we're done unwrapping presents. . .relaxing. All of my shopping is done, my packages are mailed, and the house is both clean and decorated. I bought us all matching pajamas--something T's family did when he was a kid. It's a little ridiculous, but I like the tradition of it. Plus, I got us all Mickey Mouse pajamas, which Miss M will go wild for. So, I have to do some wrapping, and that's it! I've been Christmas planning for at least a month, which is the only reason my shopping is done. I've never been done this early. Work will also be quiet these last few weeks, so that should give me some room to refocus, as well.

I have my next doctor's appointment on Tuesday. I should have gained another 4 pounds. I've been right on track the last few visits, and expect that I'm doing okay this time, too. I don't have a scale at home (just bought one, but haven't used it yet), so I can't tell how much I weigh right now. I'm definitely getting bigger, though! Overall I'm feeling well. They baby is very active, and has been for a long time. I get worried when she slows down, given how active she generally is. I can't tell how she is positioned, though. I don't think she's head down, and I'm starting to worry about that. I know there's still time, but still.

Because I walk a lot here (1.5 miles a day, in general), I'm a bit stiff and sore. My lower back, in particular, is bothering me. I've been using the hot water bottle every night, which helps. It's a bit of a conundrum--I don't really want to walk less, because I want to stay in good shape, and also because I still have just under 3 months to go, and I'll need to get myself around this city until then. But if I keep up the exercise, it's definitely only going to make my back worse as time goes on. I've slowed down my pace, but that doesn't help. I'm going to try adding some massages. The good news is that I just switched my health insurance to a different plan, and the new plan allows me $50 toward a massage 30 times a year!!! I could not believe that was a benefit (it's also a better plan for me to use in this country, which is why I switched). Massages here are really expensive--basically twice what I'd pay in the U.S.--but with $50 off per massage, they are looking highly affordable again. I just have to find a good pregnancy masseuse. I've had one massage recently, a few weeks ago when my back was really bad, but it was just okay, and it was too far from my house. There's a place not too far from my house that I have yet to try, but that's definitely in my future.

Things overall are good. Miss M started having night terrors again, which has always meant a developmental leap. We couldn't imagine what it could be this time, but all of a sudden she has loads of new words and loads of sentences. She's also gone through a bit of a growth spurt. The kid just cracks me up so much. Work is chaotic, but basically good. There's been a recent change in management, and the new management team isn't quite in sync yet, which has heavily contributed to the chaos. Miss M's 2nd birthday is next month, and I've planned a long weekend away as a surprise. It's a family resort not too far from where we live, with a giant indoor toddler pool and lots of toddler activities. One of the great things about it is that only one parent can accompany the toddler to the activities (except the pool), so while one parent is with Miss M, I've booked the other for spa treatments at the spa. I'm giving the bulk of these to my dear husband, who kind of needs a break from her toddlerness. He will be psyched. They have this half-day spa thing that involves all these different steam rooms, hot pools, water features, etc. Hopefully there will be other men there, too, but given that he'll have hours to himself, I doubt he'll care if he's the only guy. He's getting a massage, too. I am getting some sort of combined maternity treatment that involves a mini facial/body treatment/massage. My skin is crazy dry right now (I HATE the water here--so drying, especially this time of year!). Anyway, I can't wait for him to open the gift card on Christmas to see it all. I think he'll be happy with it. I know I'm looking forward to it! We have a cottage to ourselves with a kitchen and a wood-burning fireplace, too! Heaven. We'll be able to eat in or out. I was even able to pre-order groceries which will be there when we get there. It sounds both fun and relaxing, and I'm excited to get some quality time with Miss M for three days.

Tomorrow, we are taking Miss M to the theater to see a Christmas play. It will be her first theater experience. We took her to see Disney on Ice a while back, and she sat mesmerized for the entire show. We'll see how this one goes. I'm looking forward to it. It's supposed to be a really good show, and I was able to get us good seats. I guess I'd better get myself to bed so I can get a good night's sleep, since we have a big day ahead of us!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

26W5D and Counting!

I am slow to post because I am BUSY!!! Work has been interesting and challenging and fun and crazy. I threw myself into Christmas early and did most of my shopping, so that is mostly taken care of. I decided to make my own advent garlands for Miss M and T, which was a TON of work, but has turned out to be very fun. Miss M loves her little morning present. I put together a really detailed photo Christmas card with a nice little note about our adventures during the past year, to send off to far-flung family and friends. I ended up using Apple this year because it was just so easy (albeit, not particularly creative in terms of layouts). Would you believe the order arrived two days later??! The print quality is pretty good, although not as good as Scrapblog, which I used to love. Unfortunately, they merged and are no longer in business, and the new company's website looks kind of sketchy and I didn't want to take the risk.

And then there is this baby. I can't believe we are almost to 27 weeks. She is really active now, and from what I can tell, she is not at all in the right position (ie, head down). I feel jabs really low in my pelvis (like, bikini line low), and then way up by my ribs, and then in the middle of my belly, often in succession. I can't even imagine how she's managing it! I feel really good, though. I'm a bit stiff (because I keep doing too much, probably), but I'm still walking 1-2 miles a day. I finally had to give up my long weekend hikes, though. It was just too much for my poor back and stomach muscles. I am struggling to eat, as I constantly feel full, but I'm gaining exactly as much weight as I should be, so I think I'm doing okay. My next doctor's visit is in two weeks. We talked about delivery during the last appointment. I'm still not crazy about healthcare here, and really should find a doula, but I still haven't gotten around to it. Philosophically, this doctor sounds like she's much more on the same page with me than the practice that delivered Miss M. If my water breaks and I'm not in labor, as long as everything sounds okay, she doesn't want to see me. She's fine with me laboring upright. She gets why I don't want constant monitoring, and is fine with periodic monitoring (which I had with Miss M, but had to fight for mid-labor). She is fine with no drugs, no Pitocin, etc. Of course, I know all too well that doctors can sing a different tune during labor.

I also found out that in addition to my doctor being around to deliver the baby, I'll actually have a midwife with me the entire time who is assigned to me by the hospital. But it won't be someone I've ever met. This strikes me as so incredibly odd. But, that's how it's done. It's all the more reason I'd like to get a doula, who I can at least meet in advance and have some comfort level with. I've wished a thousand times that my previous doula was available for this birth! She was so fantastic. Now I need to find someone just like her.

I just realized it's gotten quite late here, and I have to work tomorrow. More soon!