Monday, July 28, 2014

July Celebrations in NY/NJ

"My path has not been determined. I shall have more experiences and pass many more milestones."
(Agnetha Faltskog)

Last weekend, I flew from Michigan to NY from Thursday afternoon to Monday morning to celebrate my friend Angela's baby shower and my nephew Peter's 5th birthday (see below for some photos). I had a hectic schedule but a great time, despite the fact that I stayed at 4 different places over 4 nights and didn't get much sleep at any one of them! It was nice spending time with my family and some friends, and next time I'm back I hope to see more people.

Angela's Monkey-Themed Baby Shower

Angela and I have been friends since 6th grade, and we're both pregnant now, expecting little girls! Of course I was thrilled to help Michelle, Angela's sister, co-host and plan the baby shower, even though it was mostly from afar. Many thanks to Leslie for making the tissue paper poms that were hung from the ceiling! (If the venue looks familiar, it's because it's where Angela and my other bridesmaids threw my bridal shower over 2 years ago.)

DIY elements transported from MI to put together in NY
Adorable diaper cake with monkey topper and infant outfit
Fabric poms (we ran out of fabric -- and time -- to make more than 2!)
Some eats and sweets (food from Carmine's, cake from Riviera Bakehouse)
Candy buffet favors, gift bags/tags, and flowers
Gifts, DIY onesie station, and some more decor

{Personalized monkey girl baby shower themed banner: Beau-coup Favors / Personalized monkey girl baby shower themed flags with straws: Beau-coup Favors / Pink girl monkey baby shower favor tag printables: adlyowlinvitations via Etsy / Diaper cake: 1.5" monkey ribbon from Offray; 7/8" Oh baby it's a girl! ribbon from Offray; pink mesh gem floral dimensional stickers from Jolee's Boutique; 12" pink damask cake boards from Wilton / Fabric poms: Printed pink and green fabrics from Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts; 4.5" white paper lanterns from Oriental Trading; hot pink bakers twine from Oriental Trading / DIY onesie decorating station: Assorted baby girl iron-on appliques from DianasCraftyCreation via Etsy; pink mini clothespins from Oriental Trading; white onesies from Gerber; white bibs from Koala Baby / Catering: Carmine's / Cake: Riviera Bakehouse / Additional food, sweets, and candy buffet items and servers: Stew Leonard's; Party City}

Peter's Star Wars-Themed Birthday Party

My precious nephew Peter turned 5! He's growing up so fast. Fortunately, I was in town during his birthday party and was able to see him run around and have fun with his little sister Ellie and his friends and cousins. He has lots of interests, but right now he is a big fan of Star Wars, Lego Star Wars, and Star Wars Angry Birds. My sister and brother-in-law held his party at Screamin' Parties in Paramus, NJ for the 2nd year, which made it really easy for them to sit back and do little to no planning or prep, besides sending out invitations and putting together awesome goody bags, and all of the kids had a great time.

One of the many activities at Screamin' Parties
Star Wars ice cream cake
Star Wars goody bags

Ellie, my niece, is already turning 2 in just over a month, and our niece Christina is turning 4 in a couple of weeks. Stop growing up, everybody!

I've been working at the Bloomfield Township Public Library all day because we lost power over 24 hours ago during a brief but crazy storm. Hopefully the power will be back before tomorrow morning.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Half-Baked and It's a Girl!

"Pregnancy is a process that invites you to surrender to the unseen force behind all life."
(Judy Ford)

Yes, we're having a girl! According to some of the old wives tales and methods of determining the sex of the baby -- e.g. the Chinese gender predictor charts on TheBump and BabyCenter, and Parenting.com's "Am I Having A Boy or Girl? Fun Ways to Tell!" or JustMommies.com's "Girl or Boy: 9 Fun Ways to Predict Your Baby's Gender" (little to no morning sickness) -- we were supposed to have a boy, but we're both overjoyed and had a feeling we were having a little girl.

At 21 weeks, I'm now in the 2nd half of my pregnancy and more than halfway through my 2nd trimester, but as you'll see further below, I don't have many "bump watch"-type photos to share at the moment (but you can take a look at my last post for more photos of me during this time). Going forward, as my belly grows more, I'll do my best to keep up!

At this point, I feel like I've "popped" enough for strangers to at least notice that I have something going on in my midsection, but it still varies depending on what I'm wearing. I haven't dipped into my maternity wardrobe yet. I have some BellaBands, t-shirts, tanks, jeans, pants, and maxi dresses, but fortunately, my usual wardrobe consists of many stretchy clothes or long, loose cardigans, and most of my more casual warm-weather dresses can probably accommodate a 9-months-pregnant belly, so I should be good for the rest of the pregnancy with a mix of regular and maternity clothing.

I also haven't really had any significant cravings lately. I pretty much eat all the food, all the time. I admit that with all of my good intentions, I have not been very active yet, and now being out in the suburbs in Michigan while working from home it's even more challenging, but it's a goal of mine to get moving and eat healthier. At least I've gotten good at drinking plenty of water.

I would also love to get some prenatal pampering while I can! I know it's a luxury, but I wonder why for many of us, often the only times in our lives that we allow ourselves that luxury of massages, facials, or other spa services are when we are getting ready to get married or getting ready to have a baby. I've had the rare opportunity in the last couple of months to have a facial at Asanda Aveda Spa Lounge in Soho (using a Yelp coupon that Sam bought), a prenatal massage at Exhale Atlantic City (during our 2nd anniversary trip), and a mani/pedi at Bliss 49 at the W New York on Lexington Avenue (for my friend Jeannie's baby sprinkle).

But I'm not a stickler for fancy or expensive skincare products. I still use most of the same items as I did pre-pregnancy, and Sam and I continue to share our simple Neutrogena face wash and moisturizer. I'm not using a special stretch mark cream, but just my usual Shea Body Butter (mentioned in a previous post from last winter) -- ultimately, if I'm going to get stretch marks, there's not much I can do to prevent them -- and to spot-treat blemishes, I use tea tree oil products, also from The Body Shop.

14 Weeks
  • 2nd trimester officially began, though there are various ways to calculate trimesters (as mentioned in my "Bye-Bye, 1st Tri" post). It was at this time that I shared the pregnancy news more widely, and started drinking 1 cup of half-caff coffee from my Keurig machine each morning.
  • Baby is the size of a lemon.
  • Sucking thumb and wiggling toes, breathing amniotic fluid, while kidneys are making urine, and liver and spleen are doing their jobs.
  • After a visit to the Brooklyn Museum (mentioned along with a photo in my "Spring Things..." post), Sam and I went to the New York Baby Show with Angela, my mama-to-be friend, at the end of this week, just to take a look at various vendors, see what was out there, and get some free samples and tote bags.

Outside the Brooklyn Museum at 14w6d
Some nice products spotted at the New York Baby Show on May 18, 2014

15 Weeks
  • Baby is the size of a navel orange.
  • Squirming, wiggling, and hiccuping inside, and joints and limbs can all move.

16 Weeks
  • Baby is the size of an avocado.
  • Is listening to our voices, and growing hair, lashes, and eyebrows; tiny bones are forming in the ears and eyebrows. 

17 Weeks
  • 2nd trimester screen at 17w0d: 1 tube of blood drawn to test for neural tube defects; blood pressure taken, weight, heartbeat check. Referral to get Level 2 ultrasound/anatomy scan right before moving out of NYC, to check that baby is growing and developing properly, and to assess brain, face, heart, spine, and other major organs, and the placenta and umbilical cord.
  • Baby is the size of an onion.
  • Skeleton is hardening as cartilage turns to bone, umbilical cord is getting stronger and thicker, baby is putting on fat, and fingers and toes are now defined with one-of-a-kind prints.
  • Symptoms: Starting to feel more uncomfortable when trying to sleep at night, leg cramp (left calf), mild headaches.

18 Weeks
  • Level 2 ultrasound/anatomy scan at 18w4d: Took so many different measurements, too much to catch and remember. All I recall from memory is that everything looked good, baby had a heart rate of 147 bpm, and she is a girl!
  • I was given a copy of the results and a report -- as well as all records from this pregnancy, since I have to see a new doctor in Michigan -- and according to the report, "The contour of the fetal calvarium appeared normal in shape without identifiable defects. Intracranial structures were evaluated including a normal appearing choroid plexus and lateral ventricles. Normal size and shape of the cerebellum and cisterna magna, normal thalami and no deviation of the midline falx were noted. There was no evidence of excess nuchal fold thickness, cleft lip, or facial anomalies. Normal intra-abdominal anatomy was noted including stomach, diaphragm, umbilical cord insertion and an intact abdominal wall. Both kidneys and bladder were seen and appeared normal. Three vessels were documented in the umbilical cord. The anatomy of the fetal thorax appeared appropriate. Four symmetric cardiac chambers, LVOT, RVOT and Aortic Arch were identified. Cardiac rhythm was regular." EFW (estimated fetal weight) of 234 g or 0' 8".
  • Baby is the size of a sweet potato.
  • Yawns, hiccups, rolls, kicks, punches, sucks, twists, and swallows.
  • Symptoms: Minor leg cramp (left calf), feeling bigger.

Hands up by the face, like I sometimes sleep, at 18w4d
Here's a little foot

19 Weeks
  • Baby is the size of a mango.
  • Vernix caseosa coats baby's skin, shielding it from amniotic fluid.
  • Symptoms: Minor leg cramp (left calf).
  • Cravings: Ice cream, candy.
  • We moved from Brooklyn to Michigan this week, just 3 days after my anatomy scan. I'm glad I was able to have it done before leaving NYC.

20 Weeks, 50% There!
  • Baby is the size of a banana.
  • Gulping down amniotic fluid for nutrition and to practice swallowing and digesting; taste buds are working.
  • Symptoms: Foot cramp (right foot).
  • At the end of this week, we went to Ann Arbor to visit the University of Michigan, Sam's alma mater. We bought 2 maize-colored yellow onesies -- one with a little Hello Kitty on it, and one that looks like a football -- and a pair of polka-dotted baby socks.

My bun in the oven is half-baked at 20w1d
Visiting U of M in Ann Arbor at 20w5d

It's halfway through my pregnancy, as well as halfway through the year. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly a human being can be created when things go right. 3 weeks from now will be 24 weeks, the point at which a fetus is officially considered viable outside the womb, and that is also when I have my first appointment with an OB in Michigan. Praying for our baby girl's continued health and well-being!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Spring Things, Including our 2nd Anniversary, Sam's Graduation, and Leaving Brooklyn

"It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on infinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad."
(C.S. Lewis)

The past month, and the year to come, has and will be full of changes for my husband and me, as I've mentioned earlier. Change is good, but moving is the worst; not specifically leaving NY (though I can hardly believe it's been 2 years since we moved to Brooklyn), or coming to Michigan, but just the act of moving. We'll most likely have to relocate at least a couple more times before we settle into what will hopefully be our permanent home, and even though we just got to Michigan this week and still have a lot of unpacking to do, I'm already dreading the next move a year from now because we'll have everything we just shipped or drove out here, plus everything we stored in NY, plus whatever we pick up along the way this year, plus baby gear and clothes... oh, and plus a baby! To keep from stressing, I think I'm just going to try to avoid thinking about it for the next several months at least.

Today is the first day of summer -- and the longest day of the year -- so I wanted to post a spring update now while I still have some time. I haven't finished uploading and looking through some of the more recent photos on my older camera, but please see below for some highlights from the last few months.

Spring Occasions

We flew to Chicago over the first weekend in April to celebrate our nephew Micah's 1st birthday. We made M&M and jelly bean candy pillars -- I did the one for the year of the snake, and Sam did the ones on the side -- which we took as our carry-on. (The ones Sam made got a little battered and started falling apart... just saying...)

Happy birthday, Micah! (Image: Frenzi Visuals)
My sister-in-law Grace did an amazing job with the superhero theme

Back in NYC, we went to the Party Rental Ltd. Spring Open House in mid-April to check out their newer products and get some refreshments before dinner. There was a lot of food -- and a donut table! -- so had we known, we probably would have just stayed there and snacked for a couple of hours.

When you work on events with strict budgets, it's hard to get fancy rentals
Mmmm... donuts, drinks, and more food

My father bought us tickets to see La Bohème at the Metropolitan Operawhich we finally had the chance to do in April. I'm glad we were able to see this, Tosca, and The Magic Flute this past season.

La vie Bohème

The day before Mother's Day, some of my good friends and I went to Ladurée in Soho for brunch, afternoon tea, and French macarons. Thanks again, ladies, for a lovely time!

I ate literally everything

Our friends Julienne and Elliot invited us to the Queens Museum Gala in early June, which was a lot of fun. How could it not be, with an Andy Warhol-inspired photo booth and cotton candy for dessert? Elliot's father was honored at the event.

With our recently engaged friends
Cotton candy

We also went to the Hope For New York Spring Benefit, which was a nice event in support of the poor and marginalized in NYC, held at Hudson Common in the Hudson Hotel.

In addition to family and friends' birthdays, Mother's Day, and Father's Day, spring was also a time for baby showers (Heather and Jeannie), and a bridal shower and wedding (Emily). Congratulations, everyone! It was an honor to be part of your special days.

Ushering, with my friend Leslie as receptionist
I snuck in for a moment to capture Sam singing his solo for the bride and groom
More photo booth fun

Our 2nd Anniversary

On May 26, 2014, we celebrated our 2nd anniversary. We decided to go to Atlantic City, since it was close enough to drive to easily, but still felt different and far away enough from the city to get away for a couple of nights. We stayed at Revel, which is one of the newest casino resorts in AC, and enjoyed some great meals, a relaxing stroll down the boardwalk, and a windy afternoon at the pool. I also spent some time at the wonderful Exhale Spa. Neither of us really gambles, but I found my game: the Sex and The City slot machine! I won $40.01.

Views of the hotel and our room
Seafood overlooking the beach at Azure by Allegretti
Relaxing at the pool and spa, which had more pools and a salt room
Yummy tapas and huge squid ink paella at Amada

The day we returned to NYC, we had a reservation at The NoMad, which capped off our anniversary celebration. If you haven't been there for dinner, the whole-roasted chicken for two and the milk & honey dessert -- their signature dishes -- were delicious.

Rich and decadent dinner at The NoMad

Brooklyn Bucket List

Before we left Brooklyn, I had somewhat of a bucket list in my mind of things to do, since we likely will never live in there again. Some -- such as Smorgasburg, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's cherry blossom festival, and the Brooklyn Museum -- I've experienced before but wanted to go to again. Others -- including a few local restaurants we had not gotten around to trying, BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music), and walking across the Brooklyn Bridge -- were done for the first time.

Smorgasburg 2 weekends in a row! So much food to try...
Too many vendors to re-list here (check out my Instagram for more info)
Sakura matsuri at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Eating at Grand Army Plaza food trucks outside Prospect Park
Ai Wei Wei and Swoon exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum until August
Dinner at Marco's, a trattoria from the Franny's team, right across Flatbush Avenue
Dinner at al di la, another trattoria just down 5th Avenue
Checking out BAM and the DanceAfrica Bazaar before ice cream
More iced creamy goodness at L'Abero dei Gelati in Park Slope
My 1st time walking across the Brooklyn Bridge

Sam's Medical School Commencement

On Saturday, June 14, my husband and my brother-in-law both graduated from medical school! The St. George's University commencement took place in Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, and the weather that day was perfect for gathering outside by the fountain afterwards and taking photos.
Sam's sister, brother-in-law, nephew, and niece were able to make it to NY for the occasion (after terrible flight delays and a cancellation the day before), and it was great to be able to celebrate with them as well as with my side of the family. After the ceremony, we had dinner at IchiUmi, and then met up with friends for drinks at The Archive.

So proud of Sam for being 1 of 26 in the Gold Humanism Honor Society
Being hooded by my father on stage before receiving his symbolic diploma
The Son siblings
Me, Sam, and Baby
A little graduation/Father's Day gift for Sam

The Move to Michigan

We were able to get a lot of things packed, shipped, and stored before graduation, but by the time we were supposed to leave on Monday, there was still a lot to do, and Sam was the one who had to do all the heavy lifting. Somehow, we had the apartment cleaned, got everything out, packed up our car with no room to spare, and hit the road. We stayed overnight at the Holiday Inn Express in Clearfield, PA to break up the trip, and arrived at our destination in Michigan on Tuesday evening.

This isn't a picture of the car packed up, but here's Greg, our Honda CR-V
A bottle of bubbly for our new tenants who moved in on Tuesday
Lunch at Sheetz in Hermitage, PA

Since we're staying with my mother-in-law, we don't have any of our furniture here and won't need to buy much, which is fine with me because like I said, I'm already concerned about how we're going to move back! But we did buy a couple of inexpensive nightstands at IKEA the other day, and I got a cute glass lamp to place on top of mine. I also needed more hangers, so I got 2 boxes of Real Simple clothing hangers. I own the slimline hangers in Stone but left them in storage in NY, and the Bed Bath & Beyond we went to here only had the bulk boxes in Peacock or Pink, so I decided to be colorful and went with the Peacock. Plus, it better complements the seafoam-colored wall paint in the house.

{IKEA: LYKTA table lamp, OLTEDAL white nightstand, BRIMNES white nightstand}

Bright hangers holding tops, cardigans, skirts, dresses, and blazers
T-shirts, sweaters, jeans, pants, and more

I have a number of inexpensive maternity clothing basics -- mostly t-shirts, tank tops, and jeans or casual pants from Gap, Old Navy, and Target (on the 2nd shelf in the photo above, plus a few maxi dresses on hangers) -- which I haven't started wearing yet. Today I'm at 19 weeks and 5 days, and as of now I can still wear my regular clothes, but I'm sure I'll be transitioning to some maternity clothes in the next few weeks.

I'll post a pregnancy update separately. Thank you for reading and sharing in our lives!