Tuesday, July 31, 2012

First Trimester: Check!

I know that time flies, but y'all... I can't believe my first trimester is over!  I'm about to be 16 weeks pregnant.  My goal was not to overload the blog with baby stuff, but I haven't put anything baby on here lately!   I have been all over the place - Houston, Iowa, New York... I don't even know where I'm from anymore.  Baby N is racking up the frequent flier miles.  I thought it was time for an update.

I have been extremely lucky and blessed to have a smooth pregnancy so far!  Here are some pics and info to catch you up, though there's not much to see quite yet!  Please forgive the small chalkboard - it's all they had at the Quad Cities Hobby Lobby.  And please overlook the institutional white wall.  I don't approve of white walls, but the renter of our corporate apartment in Iowa sure does.  They heart white walls.

Baby Growth:  Baby N is growing right on track.  I had an ultrasound at week 7 to confirm the pregnancy, but all we could really see was a peanut.  Since then, we've heard the heartbeat twice, and it's strong and healthy!

Pregnancy Symptoms:  Almost none!  I have not been sick at all.  The most I had was a bit of queasiness for a few days.  During the first trimester I had several bouts of exhaustion where I literally could not get up off the couch or bed for entire days at a time.  I thought I was going to sleep my life away.  Lately I have had a few achy feelings, but I think that's because the baby is growing!

Other Changes:  I can tell my stamina is not as great as it usually is.  I get winded walking Blazer up multiple flights of stairs, and I had to stop on the street and rest when carrying my groceries in NYC.  I can also feel my heart rate elevated a lot of the time.  I'm trying to work out 30-45 minutes most days of the week so I can stay healthy and control the weight gain, but I definitely don't feel like I'll be doing boot camp anytime soon.  I've been going to bed early and still getting up 2-4 times a night to go to the bathroom.  Not my fave.

Cravings:  lemonade, orange juice, cheese, Italian food, cereal, Chipotle (who's surprised?), and my weirdest craving to date.. Chili's.  I have not been to Chili's in 3 years, but one day, I was very specifically craving Chili's.  I knew I wanted to get chips and salsa and a quesadilla explosion salad.  Brent reluctantly took me there for lunch (he thought I was crazy), and it tasted exactly like I imagined.

Gender:  We don't know yet, but we are definitely finding out!  We have to wait until 20 weeks, so we're hoping to have news to report the first week of September!  You can feel free to guess in the comment section.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Three Years in the Making

Last week marked the end of a long three year journey for me:  getting my master's degree!  Three years ago, I almost decided not to pursue my degree because it was going to take too long and be too hard and not be practical and (insert one million more reasons here).  Well, it did take a while, and it was hard, and there were bumps along the way... but guess what?  I'm done!  I can't believe that all the long hours, reading, writing, extra work, studying, traveling, and student loans are finally over.

This was my last summer in the INSTEP program at Columbia Teachers College, and we only had to be on campus for two weeks this year.  The first week was our last traditional class together.  The second week was basically work time to finish our thesis that we've been working on for the last year.

For better part of the week, this was my view:  computer, lamp, books, and coffee (decaf, don't worry).  I considered bringing a blanket and sleeping under the tables in the library.  We wrote in the library from 8 am until 6 pm most days stopping only to go to the bathroom or grab food.  I did treat myself one night to one of my fave meals of all time.... Chirping Chicken!  Check out that plate of french fries, chicken souvlaki, pita, dolmas, and greek salad!!!  That temporarily cured all my thesis woes.

On Wednesday of our last week, we filed for graduation!  It felt really momentous and really good.  
Behold, the world's most expensive piece of paper!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
On our last Saturday together, Jamie, Scott, and I ventured out to Ellis Island - one of the only tourist-y places I had not yet visited in NYC.  Had to check it off the list.  Mercifully, the sun was hidden behind a cloudy sky and we had reservations for the ferry, so we didn't have to wait 3 hours in line.
The views from the ferry were quite stunning, and I've never seen Manhattan from the water before.
There she is.
The entrance to Ellis Island
Here is the main "registration" room at Ellis Island.  The museum was very well done and gave a very good sense of what it might have been like to come to Ellis Island in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Very cool.
Baby N also enjoyed the views.
After Ellis Island, we stopped by Patsy's, one of my fave NYC pizza places.  This Mediterranean salad was to die for.  And this was the 'small' portion, mind you.
Now tell me that's not a good lookin' piece of pizza. 
On our last night together, our whole program cohort went to dinner at an Italian place near Columbia.  Our cohort is small - only 11 people, so I have gotten to know them VERY well over the last three years.  We've been through a lot together, and they are truly my very good friends.  I know we will keep up long after graduation.  The cohort is probably my favorite part of the program.  Everyone was so different and had such varied backgrounds and perspectives.  I learned so much from these guys!

{Tina from Chicago and Amanda from New Jersey}
{Johanna from Colorado and Katherine from Brooklyn}
{Jamie from New Jersey, me from who knows where, and Chin Hwa from Hong Kong}
{Chin Hwa, Mimi from New Jersey, Tina, and Lillian from Oregon}
{Amanda & Shari from Maine}  Not pictured... Sandra from Miami, Meredith from California, and Scott from China!
How sweet are my friends?  They all gave me this ADORABLE board book, "New York Baby" that shows all about the life of a baby in New York City.
They even wrote Baby N a note and signed the inside cover.  What a special gift that I will treasure forever!  This is baby's first book!!  I also got a kick out of the fact that the book has "reading activities and tips" in the back, in true teacher style.  I'd expect nothing less from this bunch.
Now I'm 'home' in Iowa, and I'm getting back to real life.  I'm finalizing my thesis, and I'll turn it in this week. Then, I can officially close the door on this chapter of my life and say "I'M DONE!!"  What a dream come true - praise the Lord!  I got my masters from the exact place that I wanted to in the perfect program for me with the most amazing people on Earth.  And, I'm finishing just in time to have a baby!  The Lord is pretty good with timing, don't ya think?  I will hopefully go back to NYC in May for one last hurrah and to participate in graduation (with baby N in tow!)  Then my adventures in grad school will officially be finished!  What an experience that I will never forget!

Monday, July 16, 2012

NYC Girls Trip {Part 2}

If you haven't read about the first part of our NYC girls adventure, scroll on down and read part I.  You're back?  OK.  On Saturday, we woke up and took the 1 train all the way down to the financial district and the 9/11 memorial.  We spent some time looking at the memorial, the park, and the new world trade center buildings that are going up.  It's a really powerful place!

Since we were already downtown, we headed over to Chinatown and Little Italy.  I've been to both before, but it seemed more fun this time somehow.  We went in a bunch of little shops and markets (especially in Chinatown) just for fun.

We weren't expecting to have lunch in Chinatown, but we were there and we were hungry.  I did a quick Google search for "best dim sum in Chinatown", and I found a place called Jing Fong.  When we arrived, the lobby was PACKED with mostly Asian people, and there was a 20 minute wait for a table.  I knew then that we had found a winner.  It was this big, bustling place where they would call your number over a microphone.  Finally, we got called, and we ascended the escalator into this giant, noisy banquet room.

We were seated at a communal table with three other people and given some hot tea.  Then, the dim sum cart ladies descended upon us.  There were always about three ladies at our table holding up various dishes and bowls full of unknown dumplings, meats, and vegetables.  We kept asking "what's in that?" and they would answer, but we would still have NO idea what they said or what was in it.  Ha!  Finally, we just started guessing and taking things that looked good.  We only got one dish that we deemed inedible.  Everything else was truly delicious.  Our favorites were the shumai dumplings and fried taro.  Every time we got something off the cart, the lady would stamp our card.  We ate until we were full, and our total bill was just $28.  This was one of my most favorite things we did - so fun and unique!

After lunch, mom and Julia grabbed a green smoothie from a nearby shop.  Dessert, I guess?
Then we headed over to Times Square.  Our plan was to visit the half price TKTS booth and get tickets to a show for that night.  We had a few in mind but didn't really care which one we saw.
Here's mom standing in line at the TKTS booth.  The line was MUCH faster than I thought it would be!
We ended up getting tickets to Memphis!  Yes, $70 was indeed half of the original price.  Sheesh.

Before our show, we went to Grand Central Station and ate dinner at the Grand Central Oyster Bar, a restaurant mom specifically requested.  She went there with her parents years ago, she took us there as kids, and Brent and I went last summer, too.  It is such a cute and unique place underground in the terminal.  The atmosphere is just amazing, and the seafood is pretty good too!

Look how cute this place is!
Mom got what she had been dreaming of for years... oyster stew.  I got fried oysters & clams.

After having our fill of fried seafood, we headed over to the Shubert Theater for our show.  It was really a fun musical!  I'd recommend it!

Thanks, mom and Julia, for beginning my last two weeks of school in style.  I had the best time, and like mom said, "I will remember these memories FOREVER!"

Friday, July 13, 2012

NYC Girls Weekend {Part I}

Hello friends!  I'm still here, I promise!  Thank you for all of your kind comments about Baby N - we are so excited!  I haven't had much time to think about baby since the day after I posted, I flew off to NYC (at 3am... ugh) for my last two weeks of grad school! While I am full of joy to be *almost* done, it has been a crazy few weeks, and next week is only going to get crazier since I have to write a 100 page thesis.  Don't worry... I already have all the research and data, I just need to put it all together and actually write it. Yeah... better get on that.

Before I moved into the dorm this year and hit the books, I spent a weekend in NYC with my mom and sister - a trip I've been dreaming of for years.  It's never seemed to work, but this year, it magically came to fruition.  We had a great time, and it was all that I had imagined.

Funny story... on the last day, my mom was getting sad and sentimental, and she said, "Girls, I'm going to remember these memories FOREVER."  Five minutes later at the hotel, she said, "Can you help me write down what we did to tell dad?  I can't even remember!"  haha... it was a whirlwind, I'll give her that.  Hope this jogs your memory, mom!  Between the three of us, we took a ridiculous amount of pictures, so I'm going to split this into two posts.  We did a lot of walking (mom was a trooper), a lot of sightseeing (I even saw a few things I hadn't seen before!), and a lot of eating (um - have you met me?)

We each arrived at different times.  The airline lost my suitcase, took 24 hours to deliver it, and then 7 items were mysteriously missing when I got it back.  Do you REALLY want my maternity shorts, worker at United Airlines?  Really?!  My kind sister lent me a skirt, and we headed out to Eataly, one of my NYC faves of all time, for our first dinner.  You can read about my last visit here.  I still stand by my description that it's Disney World for foodies.

We sat at the antipasti bar for a drink and appetizer.  Yay sparkling water.

Our "spedino" appetizer: shrimp, figs, bacon, and arugula.  Heaven!
We ate our dinner at the pizza & pasta restaurant inside Eataly.  I got the short ribs tagliatelle, and it was savory and ridiculously delicious.
We grabbed breakfast at Europa Cafe and headed on a Central Park expedition.  Along the way, we stopped at the Plaza Hotel.  We have quite a history of the Plaza in our family, as Eloise was a book we grew up with and I especially loved!

After the Plaza, we walked all around Central Park.  Look at my mom... doesn't she look like a New Yorker?

From Central Park, we headed to Shake Shack for lunch.
After lunch, we had a studio tour scheduled at NBC Rockefeller Center.

Mom also tried on hats at H&M :-)

For dinner, we went to La Boite en Bois on the Upper West Side (shout out to K-Rog!)
Since we were near Lincoln Center, we headed on over to see what we could see.  They were having "A Midsummer Night Swing" - an outdoor concert and dance.  

It's safe to say we slept well that night!  I'll post more about days 3 & 4 later!  For now... a paper to write for this week's class.  
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