Holiday prep and baby chatter

Thank you all so much for your kind words and well wishes on our pregnancy announcement! Honestly, for as excited as I am to share the news, I was also pretty nervous. Something about the reveal makes me anxious, and I’m not sure why. Before we told our families, I was literally shaking. Shaking!

And, I mean, it’s a good thing. A great thing. But it’s a huge change, too, and I think that’s what my body recognizes even if my brain is saying, “Just be happy. Don’t worry. Be happy.

I had my end-of-the-first-trimester doctor’s appointment yesterday and all is well. The nurse immediately found the baby’s heartbeat with a Doppler — the first time I’ve actually heard it. Spence and I saw it on ultrasound twice, but actually hearing it — the whoosh, the gallop — was so amazing.

It’s nice and strong, they said, in the 150s, so of course I’ve been Googling old wives’ tales about heart rate and gender prediction. According to all sorts of nonsense I’m reading based on that heart rate, it’s a boy. Of course, Chinese gender predictor charts say we’re having a girl. So. You know. Fifty/fifty and all that.


Anyway! Baby talk. I can get carried away.

Are you ready for Thanksgiving?! I am . . . not. Well, I sort of am. Twelve of my nearest and dearest will arrive at our door tomorrow and I have mustered the strength to, in no particular order:

a) clear off our disastrous coffee table;
b) wipe down kitchen counters;
c) gather together the spoils of our Sunday grocery trip;
d) scrub the bathrooms;
e) procure two additional folding chairs;
f) slice our stuffed ham;
g) get the guest room mostly ready.

And that’s about it.

As I was getting ready for work this morning, I noticed a sizable layer of dust on a side table that has probably not been touched since we moved in June. And lots of dust bunnies in corners. Plenty of debris on the stairs, which I swear I just vacuumed but . . . apparently not?

Anyway. I hope they’ll forgive me. My parents-in-law arrive this afternoon from New York, I’m heading home mid-afternoon and then the cooking, baking and delightful chaos will begin. Regardless of the state of our mostly-clean house, I’m sure we’ll have a good time.

I’m not as nervous as I was last week. This is my family, after all — they’re not going to judge a tiny bit of clutter, especially given I’m just emerging from the haze of the first trimester and am really most concerned with loading my plate with mashed potatoes.

Pregnant Thanksgiving — especially when I’ve just gotten my appetite back — is sure to be the best Thanksgiving, friends. I’m looking forward to hanging with the crew, hosting my in-laws and celebrating with all our favorite eats.

Hoping y’all have a wonderful holiday!

About these ads

I’ve been keeping a secret . . .

. . . and it was the hardest I’ve ever had to keep.

But we needed time to laugh. Ponder. Freak out — in a good way. To hug each other and daydream and think, think, think.

But I’m ready now. And it’s time to shout it from the virtual rooftops, if you will.

The ones adorned with everything sparkly and light and uncertain.

In a way, the story starts with a fortune cookie.

Until recently, I didn’t pay much attention to babies. I prefer the fat-fisted 3-year-olds with their coloring books and crayons, their funny voices and elaborate stories, their wide-eyed innocence and crazy tantrums and little shoes. When friends’ children reach toddler-age, I’m in my element — suddenly beloved friend or makeshift “aunt,” even if only for the length of a party.

But everything changes, of course.

Sometime in mid-September, I began to feel “off.” Though physically I felt okay, my emotions seemed to reach angry-dragon level. Innocent comments angered me; silly jokes I would have once found hilarious became annoying, grating. I started tearing up at really dumb commercials. Laughing way too hard at sitcoms. My emotions were magnified, all over a map as pinpoints I couldn’t control. In my more tired and frustrated moments, I kept telling my husband I felt “crazy.”

I figured I should take a pregnancy test.

The first one was on a Thursday. I waited for the news in a doctor’s office, where I’d gone in for an unrelated issue. When she bustled into the room with the news — “It’s negative” — in a chirpy voice, I deflated. In addition to being excited about a potential baby, of course, I found myself wanting to write off my insane emotions with the inarguable diagnosis of “pregnant.”

Disappointed, I texted Spencer with the update and went about my week. Other symptoms began to crop up — some soreness, tiredness — but I wrote them off, thinking about how stressed I’d been lately and how that anxiety was likely what had delayed my cycle, too.

By Monday morning, though, I really felt something was up. I hadn’t been sleeping much; my appetite had changed. Though I didn’t feel sick, exactly, I just didn’t feel like myself.

So I took another test. Embarrassed to still be obsessing about the idea even after the doctor’s visit, I waited until Spencer left for work. I checked it with trembling hands, staring and waiting, but the “negative” line appeared almost immediately — stark and undeniable. No question. No argument.

More days passed. More waiting. More nothing. Increased soreness, extra moodiness, a desire to cry at the drop of a hat. I Googled endlessly about the accuracy of pregnancy tests, wondering if I’d somehow done it incorrectly. I did read over and over that, if taken too early, a false result could be incorrect. But I was still mildly convinced I was nuts.

You know where this is going, right?

By Saturday night, Spencer and I were out to dinner at a favorite Chinese spot. I barely tasted the chicken. Though we’d had a nice afternoon, all I could think about was whether or not I could be expecting. Every cramp and twinge was analyzed; I’d been driving myself insane looking up “early symptoms” online. I had a few, but not most — and the ones I had were easily explained away.

But I had to know.

By the time our server dropped off the check with a pair of fortune cookies, I’d worked myself into a tizzy. This is practically a pastime for me, really, but this had a shade of hysteria at the edges. I’d been worrying for days and, by the time I cracked that cookie open, I was up to my eyeballs in nerves.

The cookie knew this.

“Be prepared for a sudden, needed, and happy change in plans.”

I looked at my husband, kindly waiting to hear my fortune, and felt the breath leave my chest. “I think I need to take another test,” I said, laughing, before I passed it across the table to him.

So I did.

The cookie was right.

Pumpkin family

Our first baby is due June 5, 2015. A baby! Our baby.

Sometimes it feels incredibly real and sometimes it’s very, very hard to believe. As of last Friday, I’m 12 weeks along and feel like I’m coming back to life. The early weeks were plagued by nausea and exhaustion that had me falling asleep by 9 p.m. — or earlier.

If you’ve wondered where the heck I’ve been, the answer is probably near a restroom.

My biggest enemy has definitely been lack of caffeine. Before we found out Baby Johnson is on his/her way (we’ll learn lad or lady in January), I was a major diet soda junkie. I started my day with a cup of coffee, then quickly moved to Diet Coke with a side of Diet Coke in the afternoon. If I was having a rough day, I’d cap that off with a Coke Zero at night.

“Too much” caffeine was never a thing for me; I can drink coffee and go straight to bed. It did prevent me from getting headaches — withdrawal symptoms, likely! — and kept my energy levels up at work, but I really just love the taste of diet soda. I took it for granted.

I’ll never do that again.

I’m all about water and herbal tea these days — the former something I tried to drink regularly, and the latter something I never drank at all. Going basically cold-turkey on caffeine has been tough, but remember that I’m a fearful first-timer. I’ve read countless articles online about the effects (or lack thereof) of caffeine and artificial sweeteners on pregnant women and their little ones, and though moderation seems to be key? I’m totally afraid of screwing something up.

I mean, I legitimately have no idea how to grow a human . . . I’m just glad my body does.

There are times I think this is really happening!, and other times it seems completely unreal. We’re just barely beginning to wrap our minds around the idea of a newborn, this shift from our “someday baby” to the one we plan to hold, God willing, in just six months.

I’ve felt every emotion under the sun about 10,000 times. Often in a single hour.

Utter joy.
Utter fear.

But more than anything? It’s definitely happiness. To pull out every cliché in the book, it does feel like a miracle. We had a second ultrasound last week and saw Baby J kicking, stretching and flipping like a gymnast. Seeing movement — actual movement of a moving baby — really blew our minds.

So that it’s it! My big, fat, crazy secret that I am so relieved to let out of the bag. I’ve been dying to tell anyone — everyone! — since we took the first positive test, but prudence, fear and rational thought kept me in line.

We’ve told our families. We’ve told our friends. And it was time to unleash all this upon you.

Oh, baby.

And now I can freely write posts again. Needless to say, well . . . pregnancy has occupied most of my thoughts for the last few months — and not being able to share that here has been strange and almost torturous.

In fact? I wrote the original draft of this post on Oct. 6 — you know, just to get it off my chest. Even though I knew I wouldn’t post it for more than a month, I couldn’t bear the thought of not cataloging my thoughts in some way.

The writer in me.
Or the OCD blogger in me.
Or the mom-to-be in me.

Oh, heavens.

Baby Pumpkin

Crafting new Thanksgiving magic


After signing a 30-year mortgage and getting hitched, preparing to host our first Thanksgiving dinner marks my transition into adulthood.

Since I was a kid, my grandparents have welcomed us for turkey, green bean casserole and Gram’s homemade pies. I’m very fortunate to have grown up close to both sides of my family, but my grandma and grandpa live a whole 15 minutes away. Even now — after I’ve moved twice.

Thanksgiving meant getting up early with my sister to watch the Macy’s parade from New York City, the pair of us eating Eggo waffles as we waited for the day’s festivities to begin. In later years, Kate and I began addressing our Christmas cards that day — a new tradition — and pouring over the flyers for Black Friday sales.

Things have changed, of course. For one, I usually have to work on Black Friday . . . though no longer as a cashier, thankfully. (Although I kind of miss those crazy, frantic sales days at Michael’s and Borders. It was the Super Bowl of retail, you know? Everyone banding together, ordering Chinese, wearing elf hats, working until the wee hours. I really did love the bookstore.)


And now we’re married. Grown-ups. Katie is at her place; I’m at mine. Last holiday season, Spence and I were very new newlyweds — and I was stricken with this panic that we should be starting traditions as a couple, trying to parse together what we should be doing on Thanksgiving morning. Which ended up being eating cinnamon rolls and watching the parade together, which . . . still good.

Now that we have a year of matrimony under our belts and I’m staring down the dark side of age 30, we’re beginning to cobble together our own traditions. When we settled on the house in May, I was already envisioning the holidays at our new place. The fireplace! The bannisters! The entryway! In my mind, everything was already covered in greenery and twinkling lights.

In fact, one of the earliest conversations I had with my mom — as we stood in the cold, dark house in the spring — was where we’d put the Christmas tree.

(And yes, I totally knew. In the corner by the fireplace, for sure.)

Thanksgiving cupcake

Now that Thanksgiving is a little over a week away, Spence and I have been busy getting the guest room ready for his parents’ arrival and plotting the extensive menu for our family dinner. As the guest list has expanded, I offered to take over hosting responsibilities from my grandparents this year. Gram has prepared our family feast for decades . . . and I thought maybe she’d like a break.

And here we are.

I’m feeling sort of sentimental about the whole thing. Thanksgiving, to me, is still buried somewhere under those sales flyers at my parents’ house — mixed heartily in with memories of Kate and me on the couch with stacks of cards, shouting when Santa appeared at the close of the parade. Standing over the stove with Mom as she made her mashed potatoes. Later, arguing with Dad over the wishbone.

It’s arriving at my grandparents’ home only to be hit with a burst of heat, Gram bustling in the kitchen as we all arrive in coats with covered dishes. Invariably someone will begin to sweat, prompting Grandpa to crack a door. “I’ve had the oven on all day!” Gram would say, pulling out casseroles and giving us our first glimpse of the much-anticipated turkey.

In time, someone would take over carving duties. My cousin, sister and I would steal olives and cream cheese-stuffed celery stalks from the dining room table. We’d all begin fussing with serving utensils, bread baskets, folding trays. And everything would appear in my grandparents’ dining room — magic.

Pickles and olives

Thinking that I am now partially responsible for said magic is . . . a little overwhelming. I want it to be awesome. I’m still processing the fact that: a) we own a house in which to even hold such an event; and b) I’m an adult who is also responsible for cooking. Until a few years ago, my contributions to Thanksgiving were . . . to show up with a smile? (I know. Terrible.)

And now we’re talking about roasting a turkey?

I mean, I’m being a little dramatic. Nothing unusual. It’s not like I am personally responsible for feeding a dozen people this memorable meal: everyone is bringing delectable dishes and desserts, and my mother-in-law — a talented cook herself — will be on hand to help before everyone arrives. Spence is also excellent in the kitchen and will be handling the turkey and ham, so I know we’ll be fine.

I’m just feeling a little nostalgic, I guess. About tradition.


But new ones can be formed, I know. Changed, altered, added to, sprinkled with a layer of glistening fake snow. In the end, it’s really just about being with loved ones, isn’t it? Having everyone together, preferably without the aid of smartphones and FaceTime.

And the green bean casserole, of course.

Gotta have the green bean casserole.

Book chat: ‘Isla and the Happily Ever After’ by Stephanie Perkins

Isla and HappilyHere’s what I love about Stephanie Perkins: her stories are romantic and realistic, adorable and heartbreaking. There is just the right amount of salt to balance the sweet — and though her characters do get a “happily ever after” (imagine that!), the road isn’t paved solely in diamonds. You have to stumble on a few ruts, too.

Isla and the Happily Ever After — the third in a trilogy of stories featuring independent but related characters — did not disappoint. Like Anna and Lola before her, Isla is a winning combination of strong and vulnerable. The middle of three sisters, our heroine struggles to find her place at her French boarding school — and, you know, the world at large — when Josh, a classmate on whom she’s nursed a serious crush for years, suddenly seems to notice her.

Really notice her.

Josh is a politician’s son — polished when necessary, dorky and artistic and brooding when the cameras are off. He devotes himself to art, working tirelessly on a graphic memoir panel by panel. Though they go to school together in Paris, Isla and Josh cross paths — and finally talk — during a serendipitous meeting on a rainy night in New York. When they reconnect again in France, everything changes.

I loved the sweet, heart-pounding development of their relationship: the little glances, the small smiles. Nerves, anticipation, bliss. It’s impossible to read Perkins’ latest and not remember the first time you fell in love — every element is there, right down to the sickening feeling that accompanies knowing you won’t see him or her for hours after you part. Days, even. The exquisite torture!

Though we know Isla and Josh are destined for each other (I mean, it’s right there in the title), their course is not smooth and untroubled. Isla’s loyalty to her best friend, Kurt, added nice contrast to the familiar “can girls and boys just be buddies?” trope. Their dynamic was unconventional — but I dug that. Beyond the romance at the heart of the story, Isla’s life is made colorful by the relationships she has with friends and family . . . and I felt her struggle to maintain a tight friendship with Kurt while falling in love, something to which many will relate.

While I struggled a bit to get into the story and felt the build-up dragged at points, I never considered giving up — and once I hit the last 100-ish pages, I flew like a jet to finish. In contrast to what she once believes, Isla is a dimensional character who feels like a friend . . . and Perkins’ tale of young love, hope and taking chances definitely resonated with me.

How did it stack up to Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door? Well, Anna remains my favorite heroine with the most pulse-racing story — but Isla would be a close second. Perkins’ leading ladies are vibrant, colorful and memorable . . . and I certainly won’t forget them. Longtime fans of the series will delight in cameos and a fulfilling ending to other characters’ arcs, too.

4 out of 5

Pub: August 2014 • GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Copy borrowed from my local library

One beautiful year


Monday marked one year of marriage — and in my typical fashion as of late, I’m behind the times. Eternally behind the times. But I’m here! And I certainly haven’t forgotten!

You know, we really thought we lucked out with the weather that day: mild, bright and breezy, with temperatures in the mid-60s and plenty of warmth in the sun. As I’m obsessive-compulsive even when I’m not planning a life-changing event for 150 people, I’d checked the Farmer’s Almanac average temperatures like a lunatic in the months leading up to our wedding day. An outdoor wedding in November? Who does that? But their warm predictions held true.

What I remember most about that day was my anxious excitement to see Spencer. And the way that I managed, after months of planning and obsessing, to actually stay in the moment. That elusive idea — that I enjoy the now — is something I’ve tried to cultivate for years. It’s very easy for me to agonize about the future and analyze the past, leaving me clinging to little in the present.

The seconds that come back to me clearly are the times I was actually alone: driving myself from the hair salon to our apartment, then getting my brother-in-law to pick me up headed to the venue; nibbling on a sandwich in the bridal suite when the entire crew went outside to rehearse the ceremony.

I just kept thinking, I’m getting married! And it was all surreal until the moment I stepped out in my gown and red shoes to see Spencer, waiting for me on a shady veranda where we glimpsed each other for the first time.

Dance floor kiss

And we danced. We danced so much. I remember joking with our photographers ahead of time that they were going to be hard-pressed to get any shots of me on the dance floor. Unless under, you know, extreme duress.

But that is . . . not exactly how it played out. Of all the surprises, our endless cutting-a-rug-ness surprised me the most. Not because of my groom, of course — Spence loves to break it down — but me? I’ve never danced so much — and with such reckless abandon — as I did that night, and I love remembering the silliness and happiness that propelled us over and over again. The feeling of having all your loved ones around you, cheering and clapping and smiling, really was intoxicating.

Cake cutting

So what have we learned more than 365 days into this beautiful, crazy thing? For me, I wondered if marriage would “feel different” — like waking as one person and emerging another. Almost immediately after the ceremony, I was greeted as “Mrs. Johnson” . . . and I thought, That’s it? Just like that: in one way, out another?

Though it was strange at first, I love being a Mrs. — and rarely slip up and sign the old name. After 28 years as a Snider, I figured the transition would be rocky. I’d have moments of uncertainty, moments of longing to perhaps return to what was familiar and “normal” and true.

But I haven’t. Spence and I quickly developed a new normal — a normal for us — and often laugh at what feels like our “never-ending sleepovers.” After living at home until the ripe ol’ age of 28, I thought I would panic at the idea of changing residences . . . but we’ve actually moved again, of course, and I’ve adjusted. Very, very well.

Spencer and I are a team. Marriage does feel different — because I know someone is constantly in my corner, always waiting with the porch light on. Asking about boring things like what I had for lunch. Sipping coffee next to me, still in pajamas, and happily wandering grocery store aisles on Monday nights.


The past year has been filled with laughter and challenges, joy and a little stress. Buying our first home (and renovating said home), moving again, vacationing in California, celebrating our first holidays as a married couple . . . and heading into 2015, life will change and evolve and expand again.

Though we can never know what’s in store for us, I know one thing for sure: I wouldn’t want anyone else by my side. It really is a beautiful thing to know, deep in my soul, that I’ve married my best friend. I look forward to the months and years and decades to come . . .

. . . one popcorn-filled, hot chocolate-swilling sleepover at a time.


Etsy find Fridays: Lovely bookish finds

As a friend has helpfully pointed out, there are six Fridays until Christmas. Three pay days. Seven weekends.

I’m someone who has, in recent years, relied on the Internet for most of my shopping needs — but I’m already struggling this year. With limited time and a limited budget, how do we find gifts that impress? Everyone loves the look of delight on friends’ faces when they open something tailor-made for them, but getting there — that magical moment with gift wrap shredded — is the hard part.

I’m something of a gift lover. Presenting presents means more to me than receiving them, even, and I’ve been spoiled by thoughtful parents who always seemed to find “the right thing.” The right thing does not mean “the expensive thing,” of course — just the perfect little something you never knew you’ve always wanted.

And that’s a lot of pressure.

Everyone knows I’m a reader. Despite my awful track record in 2014 (let’s not speak of it), books will always be my solace. Many of my friends are readers, too, but we all know the perils of trying to buy novels for the readers who have everything.

The odds of me picking out a paperback that a devoted reader has not read are pretty slim, honestly — so I rely upon Etsy for inspiration to wow literary pals. When I was working on the library at home, I drew inspiration from many of these items, too, and may hope Santa has a few hiding under the tree for me.

You never know when he’s listening . . .

Books are the quietest print

Books print, $20, by ladypoppins

Jane Eyre book scarf

Jane Eyre book scarf, $42, by storiarts

Book lover clock

Book lover clock, $49, by the accessory corner

Jane Austen bookmarks

Jane Austen bookmarks (set of 6), $9.50, by CastleOnTheHill

Library card shirt

Library card shirt, $22, by GrammaticalArt

This post was not sponsored in any way;
I just love Etsy and sharing cool finds with you!