Better Late than Never

A look back at 2013, using RA’s new-and-improved questions.

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 30 and celebrated being in the best shape I’ve been in since Alexander was born by running a 5k. To make it even more fun, I did a mud run with my good friend and college roommate, Lauren, and we celebrated our success at the end with breakfast burritos. I don’t remember what exactly I did on the actual day of my birthday (I’m sure burritos were involved), but the mud run was my main personal birthday celebration.

Mud Run

What are your strongest memories from this year, and why?

(1) The conversation in which we decided to have another baby. (2) The Black Forest Fire in early June. Watching the beautiful forest where Tim grew up burn, wondering whether we’d have to evacuate since we live only a couple miles from the forest’s edge, wondering if Tim’s childhood home, our church, and other memory-filled places would still be standing when all was said and done. A lot of things burned — over 500 homes were lost — but Tim’s childhood home and our church both survived. (3) Our month-late Anniversary celebration in which we visited a local brewery’s new location in a 100-year-old building that used to be an elementary school, tried a delicious new-to-us Mexican restaurant, and celebrated both eight wonderful years of marriage and the new baby that we’d just found out was on its way. (4) Alexander’s 2nd birthday. (5) Experiencing Christmas through Alexander’s eyes.

The view of the Black Forest Fire from our neighborhood.

The view of the Black Forest Fire from our neighborhood.

What did you do this year that you’d never done before?

Started running regularly (at least for the first half of the year), with the help of the Couch-to-5k Program and a handful of good audiobooks to keep me distracted from how boring running can be.

What did you want and get?

To get back in shape and reclaim my body after holding on to post-pregnancy weight for way too long. To get pregnant again. Lots of quality time with my favorite boys.

What did you want and not get?

2013 was a pretty great year and didn’t leave me wanting much. I did ask Santa to bring me a professional cleaning service, just for one day, to clean my house top-to-bottom and do all the things I’m too lazy to do (clean the baseboards, top of the fridge, etc.), and, alas, there was no cleaning service under the Christmas tree this year. Oh, I also wanted my dance studio not to move to a ghetto location that I’m not comfortable going to after dark for classes, but they went ahead and moved anyway. Luckily my tap teacher is awesome and has a tap floor in her basement, and she’s been holding class there for those of us unwilling to go to the ghetto. However, the studio’s move did mean that I had to give up my jazz class, and I really miss it sometimes. I know I could just find a different studio, and that’d be great if all the women I used to dance with would also go to a different studio with me, but that seems unlikely to happen. It’s not that I miss taking as many classes as I used to (though I do miss that); I miss dancing in those specific classes with that specific group of women. We had so much fun, and I’m still holding out hope that the studio’s ghetto location is temporary, and eventually it’ll move to a better place and we’ll all get to dance together again.

What would you like to have next year that you didn’t have this year?

A daughter. Good news — I’ve got one scheduled to arrive in a few months.

Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I resolved to finally get off my ass and lose the baby weight I’d been holding onto for over a year, and I was very successful, thanks in large part to Biggest Blogging Loser. And then I promptly got pregnant and gained it all back, but I’m okay with that. In retrospect, I think losing that extra weight really helped pushed me over the edge to finally being ready to go down the pregnancy/childbirth/recovery road again. I’ve lost the baby weight once; I know I can do it again.

I spent New Year’s Eve and Day this year in a haze thanks to the Sinus Infection from Hell and couldn’t be bothered to come up with any new resolutions. My main priorities for this year are to stay healthy through the final trimester of this pregnancy and try to adjust gracefully to all the changes that will come with adding a second kid to our family.

What was your biggest achievement of this year?

On a large scale, I feel like I did a pretty kickass job at finding a work/home balance and being a good wife and mother to my boys. On a smaller scale, I finally organized several years’ worth of digital photos, successfully implemented a system to continue to keep our photos organized as we take them, and worked with Tim to print, frame, and hang several family photos in our previously bare front hallway. It’s something that I’ve been wanting to do for awhile, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results.

Hallway

What was your biggest failure?

I let myself get way to stressed out about prepping for the holidays, which happens every year, and this year the anxiety was magnified by pregnancy hormones. I have this mental block that I can’t start relaxing and enjoying the holidays until all my shopping and prep work is done, which turns me into a messy ball of anxiety during the first couple weeks of December. I really need to work at being better at going with the flow and allowing myself to enjoy the holiday season even before I’ve checked everything off my to-do list.

What did you rely on when you were overwhelmed?

Tim, as always, saved me from my crazy emotions on several occasions, and he did so more often than usual thanks to the aforementioned pregnancy hormones. I can always count on him to listen to me cry about everything that’s making me crazy and then help me put a plan in place to deal with it all; having a solid plan of attack usually calms me down quite a bit.

What are your strongest recommendations for entertainment from this year? 

Oh, man, I read some really great books this year, including The Scorpio Races, The Raven Boys, The Book Thief, The Fault in Our Stars, and Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. (Wait, technically I read Penumbra in 2014, but I read it before writing this, so I’m still going to count it.) We watched and loved the final season of Breaking Bad, and I’ve finally gotten into The Walking Dead this season. I’d like to go back to the first season and get caught up, but I’m still enjoying the current season. Luckily Tim is nice enough to fill me in on any important back story that I’ve missed up to this point. I think the only movie we saw in the theater this year was Gravity, and it was excellent. We do most of our movie watching at home via Netflix, and nothing really sticks out as being super memorable, except maybe Cabin in the Woods. I’m pretty sure we first watched that one in 2012, but we re-watched it this year, and it was just as fantastic. It was nothing like I expected, and I really, really enjoyed it.

What song will remind you of this year?

I don’t pay much attention to music. I heard a lot about a song called “Blurred Lines,” but I honestly couldn’t tell you whether I’ve ever heard it. If I have heard it, I didn’t realize what I was hearing was “Blurred Lines,” so I may as well have not heard it. I know I heard “Wrecking Ball,” but that’s only because Tim showed me a funny parody video about it. Keeping up with music’s not really a priority for me, is what I’m saying. So I’m going to interpret this one pretty loosely and say that 2013 was the Year of the Audiobook for me. I discovered the joy of a well-produced audio book this year, and the best ones I listened to were The Raven Boys, The Scorpio Races, and The Book Thief.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year (not necessarily from the song that reminds you of the year).

Music not really being something I pay attention to, I was tempted to slap a “not relevant to my interests” answer here and move on. But the more I thought about it, the more I kept being reminded of Tim’s and my unofficial song, “The Luckiest” by Ben Folds. (I say unofficial, since it wasn’t our first dance song at our wedding, but it’s probably more meaningful to us than our first dance song, and it’s one that Tim requests whenever we go to friends’ weddings. The DJs usually don’t have it, unfortunately.) The whole song is great, but the title lyrics, “I am the luckiest” really hit home for me this year. I know it’s cheesy, but I look around at my life and can hardly believe how lucky I am to have the amazing family, extended family, and friends that I have. I really am the luckiest.

What was your most enjoyable purchase?

We put together a playroom for Alexander in our loft this year, which has really been fantastic. We lined one wall with cubby shelves for his toys, Tim worked his handyman magic to mount our old flatscreen TV with wires running through the ceiling so the DVD player and other connected devices could be in the closet across the room, and we had a talented friend paint big, fun alphabet letters on one wall. We spend a lot of Alexander’s waking hours up there these days, which is great, and then we put him to bed and come downstairs to a living room that’s not cluttered with trucks and Legos and plastic tools, and that’s even greater. For myself, I scored a pretty amazing deal with an online sale corresponding with stackable coupons that allowed me to get a $90 pair of boots for $30, and that was pretty awesome.

Playroom 1Playroom 2

Did you travel? If so, where?

We flew to Virginia to meet our new nephew at the end of June. In October, we took a road trip to San Antonio to visit Tim’s parents in their new home. Fourteen hours in the car over 2 days (each way) with a 2-year-old wasn’t as challenging as I expected it to be — Alexander did remarkably well, all things considered — but I’m not in a hurry to take another long road trip anytime soon. Once we arrived, we had a great time with Tim’s parents. Hopefully next time we visit the in-laws, we’ll be able to find cheap flights.

What do you wish you’d done more of?

I know it makes me sound like a lush, but I’ve really missed wine since I got pregnant. Just one cold glass of Chardonnay in the evening, that’s all I want. It sounds so good. Come April, you can bet my now-empty wine rack will be fully stocked again. (I know that’s probably not the proper spirit of the question, but I’m running out of steam here. Cut me some slack.)

What do you wish you’d done less of?

Stressing about the holidays, definitely.

Compared to this time last year, how are you different?

Well, I’m 6 months pregnant, which is the most obvious difference. I also feel, overall, more confident as a parent and (usually) more prepared to take on the challenge of adding a new baby to our lives than I did at this time last year.

Compared to this time last year, how are you the same?

I’m still the same-old me, overall. Still quiet in social situations, still a sucker for a cheesy romance book or movie. Still loving being married to a man who makes me laugh every day.

What’s a life lesson you learned this year?

Naps are amazing. No, seriously, they’re amazing. I’ve always known it on some level, but I really came to appreciate it when faced with first-trimester exhaustion coupled with chasing a toddler around and not having the luxury to nap at will. Now, Saturday afternoon naps with a toddler snuggled up next to you because that’s the only way either of you is going to get a solid 2 hours of sleep? Probably one of the best things ever.

Family

The State of the Pregnancy; Christmas with Alexander

The second trimester of this pregnancy has been fairly uneventful, much to my relief after the roller-coaster first trimester. We found out we’re having a girl, which has me both thrilled and terrified, and she’s quite the little wiggle worm. She spends most of her days dancing around, which I absolutely love. I remember loving feeling Alexander kick when I was pregnant with him, and it’s just as fun with his baby sister. It’s probably the one thing I’m going to miss about being pregnant.

You know what I won’t miss? The near-constant pain in my lower back and hips. I don’t remember this happening at all last time, but my hips have been aching for weeks now, and I’ve found very little I can do to make them feel better. So far I’ve determined that sleeping with a pillow between my legs helps a little, and sitting on my ass all day keeps it from getting worse — which, for someone who likes to stay in good shape and be active, pretty much sucks. Going to tap class makes them hurt; going for a 10-minute walk on my lunch break makes them hurt. Yesterday I had the nerve to go grocery shopping, and I’m still paying for it today, hobbling around like a geriatric little old lady. What the hell, body? I do not approve of this new development, and I’m not excited for it to continue for the next 3 1/2 months.

In other pregnancy news, I had to take off my wedding rings a few weeks ago. I haven’t had problems with swelling like I did last time, but apparently I’m carrying some of this baby weight in my fingers this time around because it was getting harder and harder to get my rings off to put on lotion. Let’s not talk about the fact that even with crazy swelling I made it to 7 1/2 months before having to take my rings off last time, and this time around I only made it to 5 months. On the bright side, maybe this means the too-big maternity clothes I got from a neighbor will fit me sooner than I thought?

Also, Week 24 was the week my belly button officially decided to drop all pretenses of being an innie and pop out for good. Fun times.

Here’s the state of the belly these days (25 weeks):

25 Weeks

. . .

Christmas with Alexander this year was so much fun, you guys. This was the first year he really understood what was going on, and he was so excited about Santa and the decorations and the music and everything. There’s a local radio station that plays all Christmas music all the time around the holidays, and every time I got into the car with Alexander, he’d announce “I need Chrimmas mukick!” [Translation: "I need Christmas music!"] He loved decorating the tree and helping me bake Christmas cookies one Saturday morning when he woke up far earlier than should be acceptable.

We talked to him a lot about Santa in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and he was absolutely certain that what he wanted most in the world was for Santa to bring him a “Train on a Track!” When we finally took him to meet Santa, I really wasn’t sure how he was going to react. He tends to be very shy around new people, and I expected he’d want nothing to do with the man in the red suit when faced with him in person. It’s true he was pretty reserved, and he really wasn’t excited about sitting on Santa’s lap (although he did sit there, stony faced, clearly using all his will power to tough it out until he was allowed to get down), but he really impressed me with how brave he was. When we first walked up to Santa, he leaned forward from his perch on my hip and whispered with all the intensity of a little boy who’s been rehearsing his lines and is terrified of messing them up lest Santa not get the correct message, “Train on a track.” He was so serious and brave about it, and I was so proud of my bashful little guy.

When Christmas Day arrived, Alexander was sad when he woke up and realized Santa wasn’t in the house to hand-deliver his presents. He knew Santa was coming, and apparently thought he’d get to see him again Christmas morning. Once he inspected the empty cookie plate and milk glass, and determined that Santa had been there and enjoyed the treats we left out for him, he cheered up a little. Discovering a stocking full of presents made him forget all his disappointment at Santa’s absence, and the rest of the morning was filled with joy. Alexander was well spoiled by his grandparents and relatives, and it was a bit of a struggle convincing him to keep opening presents — Alexander, do you want to open another present? “No, I good. I already open a present.” – but we were in no hurry. The rest of the family was all showered and dressed and in the midst of preparing Christmas Dinner by the time Alexander finally got around to opening his last present. And then, of course, the next day he woke up and announced, “I want to open another present.”

Santa came through, by the way, and there was a train on a track waiting under the tree for Alexander Christmas morning. Alexander was absolutely overjoyed, and in the last 6 days, he’s only stopped playing with his trains long enough to eat and sleep. Well done, Santa. Well done.

Trains and tracks

Babies and Dragons

Hey, Alexander, do you think the baby in Mommy’s belly is a baby brother or a baby sister?

“I think…dinosaur.”

You think it’s a dinosaur?

“Monster.”

A monster?

“Yeah. Hug Monster.”* 

Oh, okay. I bet the baby will really like getting hugs from you.

Pointing to his belly: “And Al-naner has dragon.”

You have a dragon in your belly?

“Yeah.”

Is it a nice dragon?

“Al-naner has dragon in belly. Dragon not bite you.”

. . .

Turns out it’s not a dinosaur or a Hug Monster. Just a healthy, human baby GIRL!

The jury’s still out on what type of dragon Alexander’s growing in his belly.

 

*Alexander’s a little concerned about monsters, so we frequently assure him that the only monsters allowed in our house are Kiss Monsters and Hug Monsters. Although sometimes the Tickle Monster sneaks in, too.

I Have Something to Say

I’ve felt pretty strongly about something for a long time, and Kelly’s recent post about Whole Grain Newtons inspired me to finally get if off my chest. Here’s the thing: Turkey bacon is not bacon. They’re not the same thing. They’re just not.

Now, look. It’s fine if you like turkey bacon. You’re allowed. I don’t mind the stuff, I just don’t usually find myself wanting to eat it. It’s a perfectly okay food, if that’s what you’re in the mood for. But if you’re in the mood for bacon — real, delicious bacon — and someone offers you turkey bacon? No. That’s not going to cut it. It’s not an acceptable substitute. The texture’s wrong. The flavor’s wrong. It’s about as far from actual bacon as a protein can get.

Several years ago, when Tim’s parents lived in Atlanta, we went down to visit them over spring break. The night we arrived, we all watched a Jim Gaffigan stand-up special, in which he talked at great length about his love for bacon, as he does. Tim and I both commented about how, yeah, bacon is pretty amazing, at which point Tim’s mom piped up with a story about her and my father-in-law’s trip to the grocery store that morning. “We were about to check out,” she said, “when I realized we hadn’t bought any bacon. I knew you guys would want bacon in the morning, so I made your father go back to the back of the store to get bacon.”

This was great news. Tim’s mom is a wonderful cook, and one of the many perks of going to visit his parents is that we get to wake up to the smell of whatever delicious breakfast she’s prepared each day. So we already knew we had a good breakfast to look forward to in the morning, and Jim Gaffigan had us craving bacon, and now — miracle of miracles! — our delicious breakfast was going to include bacon! This vacation was off to the best start ever!

We got up the next morning, super excited for breakfast, and…you know where this is going, right? It was turkey bacon. There was no bacon anywhere in the house. Now, breakfast was still good, of course. And the turkey bacon was fine. Like I said, it’s a perfectly okay food. But when you’re expecting bacon and you’re presented with turkey bacon…well. There’s just a certain level of disappointment that comes with the realization that the bacon you were so looking forward to is nowhere to be found.

(I should add that Tim’s mom really is a wonderful hostess and always takes great care of us when we come to visit. I think Tim found a polite way to work into conversation later that week the fact that turkey bacon’s not really our favorite thing, and ever since then, whenever we’ve gone to visit, there has always been real bacon available. She doesn’t have to buy us real bacon — I would eat turkey bacon every day of our visits to them without complaint; really, I would — but she does anyway because she’s very nice. The Morning of the Turkey Bacon has become something we all laugh about together, which is why I can write about it here without worrying that she’s going to see it and think that we’re ungrateful house guests, because that’s about as far from the truth as turkey bacon is from real bacon.)

So there you have it. Turkey bacon, as its own, separate-from-bacon thing, is fine. What’s not fine is trying to pretend that it’s in any way a substitute for real bacon. Turkey bacon and bacon might as well be in separate food groups, they’re so different from each other. My brother once wrote a review of the movie Anaconda in his high school paper in which he commented that the only thing the computer-animated snake had in common with the real snake from another scene (I didn’t see the movie, but I gather that there was only one snake character, and the filmmakers used both a real snake and a CGI snake to play the role of the single snake character) was the number of legs. Likewise, the only thing turkey bacon has in common with actual bacon is the presence of the word “bacon” in the name. Other than that, they are completely separate food items. End of discussion.

Turkey sausage, on the other hand? Delicious. Love the stuff. Would gladly eat it in place of pork sausage any day of the week.

Halloween Highlights

Last night was the most fun we’ve had on Halloween in recent memory. Watching Alexander experience all the joys of jack-o-lanterns, costumes, and trick-or-treating was so much, probably because this is the first year he’s really starting to understand it all. We spent most of October getting him used to the idea of wearing a costume and supporting his new-found love of pumpkins, and it all came together last night to make for a ridiculously fun evening.

Some highlights:

  • We bought Alexander a dragon costume on super-clearance over the summer, and when we got it out for him at the beginning of October, he was not impressed. The first thing he said when he woke up the next morning was “Not like dragon.” We kept the dragon in the playroom for the next couple of weeks, encouraging Alexander to play with his fun dragon friend, and he slowly accepted the dragon into his life. He begrudgingly agreed to wear the costume twice, but he only lasted a few minutes before declaring that he wanted to take it off. He loved playing with the dragon, but anytime we asked him if he was going to wear the costume on Halloween, he insisted “Not wear dragon.” Last night, though, he had a change of heart (possibly because Tim and I were also wearing costumes, and he wanted to dress up and be silly like us), and he willingly wore the dragon for a solid hour and a half with no complaints. Success!

Dragon

  • He did pretty well trick-or-treating, though he insisted on being carried 90% of the time and was too bashful to actually say “Trick or Treat” when presented with strangers offering bowls of candy. He did manage a whispered “thank you” when we left each house, at least.

TrickOrTreat

  • Lukewarm as he was about trick-or-treating, he loved handing out candy after we got home. We sat out on the front porch for awhile so he could see all the kids’ costumes, but we eventually had to go inside and try to get him to eat something besides fruit snacks and M&M’s for dinner. Every time the doorbell rang, he raced down the hall, impatiently waited for one of us to catch up to him and open the door, and very politely placed a piece of candy in each kid’s bag. Anytime the doorbell wasn’t ringing, he looked at the front door and commanded “Hey, kids! Come in the door!” When he was hesitant to eat his dinner, I suggested that maybe if he took a bite, more kids would come to the door. Luckily we had enough trick-or-treaters that the doorbell rang almost every time he took a bite of food, so my plan worked. He was so convinced he was getting kids to come to our door with the simple act of eating meatballs that when he finished eating, he held up his empty plate and said, “I need more meatballs. I need more kids come in the door.”

Greeter

This kid, you guys. He made an awfully cute dragon, but he really pushed the cuteness over-the-top as a candy distributor.

« Previous PageNext Page »