State of the baby, almost third trimester edition

Yesterday was our first breath of spring.

Everywhere I looked, drivers had their windows down in the sunshine with pale arms extended. The mountains of craggy snow were melting, revealing litter and broken tree branches . . . but no one seemed to mind. When I went out at lunchtime, I immediately shucked off my jacket and walked around with the first warm breeze of the season on my face. It felt glorious.

In the last few weeks or so, I feel like I’ve gone from “Er, maybe she’s pregnant” to “WOW, that lady is REALLY PREGNANT.” Out running errands on Sunday, I had my first chat about my due date with a perfect stranger. “How’s that baby?” she asked kindly, and I smiled.

No one outside of my family, friends or coworker group has dared to inquire . . . fearing, I’m sure, that incredibly awkward moment of asking about baby that does not exist. For the record, that has happened to me — an old acquaintance brazenly asking about my “bun in the oven” years ago, back when there was certainly no pregnancy and I was already having an off day.

I’m sure he never made that mistake again.


27 weeks


But now? Well, I feel our guy moving around all the time — especially at night. Sometimes I can lay on my side with an arm across my stomach, taking in the rippling and shifting with a mixture of shock and wonderment. Though Baby J gets a little shy when his dad reaches over to say hello, Spencer has felt kicks and even seen the shaking from the outside.

Now that is crazy.

I’ll be 28 weeks along on Friday, meaning I’m almost in the third trimester. I’ve created an epic Baby To-Do List because I can’t grasp how quickly time is flying — and though I feel we’re prepared in some ways, we’re not really ready. But is anyone ever ready? Can you be ready? I don’t know.

For the most part, I feel awesome. With the exception of losing an hour of sleep to the time change over the weekend, I’m pretty perky and alert and productive. Work hasn’t been an issue. I’ve started getting those fun leg cramps when sitting too long, but that’s nothing I can’t handle. With the help of the mighty Snoogle, I’m resting (mostly) comfortably. All is well.

I feel lucky. In those sick, hazy, rough early weeks, I worried I would spend my pregnancy in a flu-like daze — and that hasn’t been the case at all. Aside from the obvious discomforts of just, you know, getting bigger and my clothes feeling weird at times, I feel like myself. Maybe better than my normal self? Certainly more grounded and aware. Less caffeinated, but I’ve adjusted to that.

Putting on weight has been hard, honestly, but I made peace with this being a happy season in my life . . . and I don’t want to spend my pregnancy obsessed with necessary, normal weight gain. There will be time and opportunity to get back in shape later.

I’m already a little nostalgic for this period. Is that strange? We need a word for the feeling of missing a fleeting moment before it’s even passed. Once we come up with that, I can apply it to basically every era of my life — childhood, high school, college, the early post-college years. To falling in love and out of love and finding my true love. To this strange, wonderful sensation of getting to know a little boy we haven’t yet met, and daydreaming about all that’s to come.

It’s a strange, heady feeling — almost mystical. Now that spring is peeking in at us and the trees will bloom again, I’m feeling emotional in a new way. One I didn’t necessarily expect. I can’t believe that this season — pregnancy, before Baby J is here — is already winding to a close . . . and that soon, God willing, we’ll be holding our son in our arms.

Our son. Though I know he is on his way, I still struggle to comprehend it. Even as he shifts and snoozes and pokes at me while I type.

Behind the scenes, we’ve started handling logistics. Spence and I have a childbirth class in two weeks; I’ve contacted HR to begin my FMLA paperwork; I’m researching child care and pediatricians and breast pumps and insurance issues. I’m working ahead for the time I’ll be off at the newspaper, prepping my summer sections months before I’d normally give them a thought.

There’s so much more than just painting the nursery (though, er, we need to do that, too). It’s a little overwhelming, but I keep consoling myself with the knowledge that women have done this since . . . well, since the beginning of mankind. That I have a wonderful, loving husband who can’t wait to be a father. That we have the support of our families and friends, and a great work environment that will help us all thrive.

I mean, it’s still scary — but it’s a scary wrapped in joy.

I think I can handle that.


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My new happy place

Though I admitted yesterday to reading less than I would like lately (thank you all so much for your rut-busting recommendations!), I am happy to report that our home library is now functional, pretty and perfect for settling into with a good read.

From the moment we stepped into the house, I pictured this bright, sunny and quiet room near the door as a space for reading and relaxing. I lobbied for a library just as my husband campaigned for a basement workshop, and we’re both pretty happy with the results! (And our separate spaces. One does benefit from a room of one’s own.)

The bookcases were originally from our local Borders, purchased for Spence’s old condo and finally moved to the new house. They were gathering dust in the basement until a friend helped us bring three upstairs, and then I was doing my happy-happy dance all over the room until I just couldn’t shake it anymore.

I love that the room feels a little random. It’s filled with goodies we’ve collected in the last few years and is already shaping into the fun, funky, colorful room I envisioned.

The chair was a purchase from Target, the throw a gift from my grandmother. My beloved book pillow was purchased from a French-inspired shop during a trip with my mother- and father-in-law to Niagara-on-the-Lake in April.

I bought the cushion for a future library before there even was a library. The ultimate “If you build it . . .,” wouldn’t you say?

Of course, the books themselves draw most of the interest . . . and rightfully so. I have childhood favorites, beloved series, collections and review copies. There are hardcovers, cookbooks, old journals and photo albums.

A little of everything. Everything I love.

On an end table are coasters for tea (of course!), a painted initial from our wedding and a favorite photo from our engagement shoot. With a tiny piece of Parisian lamp, too, because classy.

Back when I was silly and thought I needed to decorate the house immediately, I made canvases featuring my favorite cover art from three cherished books: The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice and I Capture The Castle.

I’ve had them for months and debated their placement approximately 10,000 times, but Spence and I finally settled on a spot and hung them last week — along with an older “Keep Calm” poster I had in my childhood bedroom. I love that it’s back, displayed proudly again.

Though we still have a few things to work on and will eventually get an ottoman and couch for an adjacent wall, it feels good to have one room close to “done.” I love passing through there daily, even if I don’t have much time to sit, and look forward to all the quiet mornings of coffee and daydreams I’ll enjoy in that chair.

And the reading, of course. The words and stories and change.

And just because before-and-afters are always fun . . .

old library

New library


Closet concentration

This was the weekend of The Closet.

Because we now have one! And I’m one happy, organized lunatic.

Closet locationSince our first visit to the house in March, I’ve been obsessed with the walk-in closet right off the master bathroom. Like, in the bathroom; you must go through the bathroom to find it. This seemed very convenient and very cool, and I like having one nook for all my getting-ready morning chaos every day.

Though our house was in good overall shape when we got the keys, it was still a foreclosed property that had been vacant for years. The carpets were musty and stained (and have since been replaced); almost every surface, especially the walls, were in need of a good scrub-down and visit with our trusty Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

Most of the issues were cosmetic, though — including the troubles in the master closet.

The major issue in this space was the dirty, stained and buckling white(-ish?) carpet. The walls were also heavily scratched and dinged-up from what was, I’m sure, constant use — and the whole closet smelled less than fresh. When Spencer began to dismantle the built-in structures for hanging clothes, we discovered they were put up rather shoddily and “drilled” into drywall, not studs.

So. Dangerous, basically.

Here we were in there back in March, two innocent newlyweds with no comprehension of the dust in our future:

Closet

The first step in our closet renovation was to take apart the built-in cabinets, which were very heavy. Spencer and I nearly toppled under the weight of the first one, then worked to get our footing and disassemble that baby with whatever energy we had left.

I failed to take pictures of the closet after we really messed it up — probably because I was in physical pain looking at the destroyed wall where the mirror once hung. Trust me when I tell you it was bad, because I’m realizing that any sort of home progress requires wrecking things completely before they can get better.

We wanted that mirror down. It was, we thought, a simple task . . . because it was just a mirror, and don’t people accidentally break those and get bad luck all the time?

Well.

It was not going anywhere, friends. Rather than try to paint around the mirror, we thought it would be best to take it down and re-hang it later. After a long and complicated battle to remove the glued-on mirror, we broke it. And completely jacked the wall in the process.

Holes. Holes as big as my fist in the drywall.

When my parents-in-law were in town to help us move at the end of June, I asked my handy mother-in-law if she would mind tackling the patching of that closet to knock an item off our to-do list. She and my father-in-law did us one better by patching and painting it the same brown as our renovated master bedroom, and the transformation was stunning already.

That left us with the carpet.

We ripped up most of the existing carpet throughout the house because, yeah, the smell. A cold, musty, lingering odor that could have soured us on the place but was, we felt, a treatable issue. We correctly predicted that stench was hanging out in the carpet because, once removed, we’re fresh as daisies here in Southern Maryland.

Thank goodness.

If I may proclaim my husband’s awesomeness around the web for a moment, we would be in major trouble without Spencer’s expertise, patience and willingness to get his hands dirty. In less than two months of homeownership, he’s put some serious sweat equity into this joint — and the results have been so impressive. Especially to a lazy lug like me.

He tore up the carpet in the closet as well as the tack strips, and the two of us worked to remove all the lingering staples and vacuum all the dust. (Who knew there could be dust under carpet?) A fateful trip to Lowe’s brought laminate flooring on the cheap into our lives, and Spencer got it all installed so we could bring the built-in white cabinets back from a side room. A friend kindly came by several nights after work to help Spencer get everything reassembled and ready for business.

tl;dnr: we painted the room, replaced the flooring and re-installed the cabinets so we could actually hang up our clothes.

And now I have a space for everything — for the first time in my life. My bedroom at home had a very tiny closet, and our master closet in the condo wasn’t much better. I’ve always had my clothes in bins, piles and dressers; there has never been one “home” for everything I own, including purses and shoes and accessories. And certainly not a home where clothes could hang.

But that day has come.

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And my favorite part? That set of four dresser drawers on the left, one of which contains only scarves. One place for my scarves! A whole bin of scarves! I can easily paw through them and find whatever I need, though I tend to always wear the polka dot one. Hence why I left it on top.

Still. Options.

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Though there is still tidying to be done (like hanging the mirror, changing out the existing light for something brighter and prettier, etc.), it’s definitely coming along — and being able to run my hands across the entirety of my wardrobe feels downright luxurious.

I’m not going to lie: I kind of don’t feel worthy of this closet. I’m still getting used to having my clothing out of trash bags and recyclable totes, so . . . yeah. This? A little overwhelming.

But definitely fantastic.

And if you need me, I’ll be hanging tops and rearranging my cardigans . . . again.

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Brave new floor

Spence with floor

Spence. He is le tired.


I know I promised a home tour, and . . . it’s coming. I really, really promise! But I just can’t muster the strength to show you our new homestead still filled with boxes, crumpled newspaper and a fireplace covered to protect us from bees (bees. I can’t).

We chip away a bit more at our epic “to do” list each night, and we are leaps and bounds ahead of where we were just two weeks ago. My mother- and father-in-law were here to help us with the big move last week, and they were such a tremendous help. It felt strange when they were gone, actually, because we hadn’t spent a night there without them.

To be honest? It was sort of nice to feel like a “kid” again. With Spence’s parents here to help, we had ready assistance and other folks to help with decision-making. Though I’ll be 29 next week, I’m still not used to being an adult in the house. That probably won’t change until we bring a child home ourselves.

I just don’t feel grown-up to own property. Call it arrested development or fear or uncertainty, but part of me still expects to wake up in my childhood bedroom with my ‘NSYNC pillow propped in the corner. I slept in a canopy bed until eight months ago, and I’m not ashamed to tell you that. It just was what it was. I was a 28-year-old who still fell asleep with sock monkeys, and all this? It’s . . . challenging.

Exciting. But tough.

For the most part, though, I think Spence and I are settling in pretty nicely! It still feels strange to open my eyes in the woods and not our bustling apartment building (or the aforementioned canopy bed), but I’m getting familiar with my new surroundings and slowly unpacking all that needs to be unpacked. We have a spare bedroom across the hall that’s currently filled with the contents of our future closet (the one we’re working on at top), so I dig through trash bags for beloved shoes or work tops or accessories and eventually find what I’m looking for.

Eventually.

Our biggest stride to date — and I use “our” loosely, given my handy husband has been putting in most of the sweat equity — is in finishing the floor in the closet. The house came with large built-ins in the walk-in closet, but the carpet was stained, buckling and generally gross. An unattractive mirror was cemented to one side; the walls were builder’s grade white with scuffs and discoloration throughout.

It looks different now.

My mother- and father-in-law were kind enough to patch the busted walls and paint the closet last week, and we tore up all the carpet to expose the plank sub-floor underneath. A fortuitous find at Lowe’s had us coming home with three boxes of laminate flooring for about $40 after two trips. At a time of terrifying financial undertakings, that was a major score.

Spence finished putting down the last of the laminate on Tuesday night, then caulked around the baseboards to seal it off. We just need help reinstalling all the cabinetry (it’s super heavy) and we will be finished, and my clothes will no longer be strewn haphazardly throughout the upstairs.

I can’t wait.

I lack decent photos to demonstrate the scope of the change, but here is a tiny before-and-after while we’re still working:

floor progress

Great strides! Great strides.

Lest I take credit where credit isn’t deserved, my help was limited to bringing Spencer tools he needed (after he described them by color) and making sure he always had a drink in the hot room. I did help hold down portions of the floor while we snapped it together and carried boards down to the garage for cutting, but . . . yeah. My assistance typically revolved around doing a mountain of laundry down the hall.

I hate to be a female stereotype, but I was mostly in the way. I fully intend to pitch in on all sorts of other home projects (and have been cleaning like crazy), but Spence worked faster when I wasn’t hovering in the cramped room. I think.

And every little bit helps, right?

Also, I know what baseboards and sub-floor are now — and can talk about them without sounding completely ridiculous. We’re all winners here.


How I’m simplifying in 2014

Simple heart


I check my phone too much.

This fact has become abundantly clear to me in the quieter moments with my husband, family and friends — like over the holidays. Though I’ve gotten much better about leaving my iPhone tucked away in a little pocket on the other side of the room, I still get undeniably antsy when I go too long without checking my email. If I hear the noise? I. must. check it.

It’s bad. Kind of embarrassing, really. And seriously: it’s email. If it was anything important, the message would be texted by someone I personally know . . . or, if we want to get really crazy, my phone would ring. With someone actually calling me.

Email is there. Email can wait. And most of my messages? Sales alerts. WordPress notifications (“Little Mary is now following your blog!”). Newsletters I signed up for ages ago but rarely read. Pinterest telling me someone repinned 27 of my pins.

Nothing life-altering. Nothing catastrophic.

There are great messages, too, of course. Notes from friends who wander through this space, messages from old buddies, updates from family. I cherish those messages almost as I would a handwritten letter, clinging to those bits of personal connection in a cold, desolate space.

Okay, I’m totally exaggerating. The Internet isn’t desolate, and it’s rarely cold. You know what I mean, right? Because you’re here with me, seeing these words. We’re hanging in cyberspace, and it’s awesome.

But there’s so much noise on the Internet, too. And I have a confession to make: for a while, the constant chirping of my iPhone? It felt like validation. I got hooked on it. It felt like . . . people were interested, invested, contacting me because I was important and needed somewhere. Doing something! Helping someone!

Whether or not that was true (um, probably not), I feel the winds of change pushing me to move forward. All that vibrating and beeping and chirping? It’s distracting. Distracting from the time I spend with loved ones, distracting when I’m trying to work, distracting when I want to focus on something I’m doing now. I don’t need it.

That noise clutters up my mind and heart and body. Because I’m online all day, five days a week, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the digital menagerie. It’s hard to disconnect at home, because I’m so used to being wired in.

But I want to simplify. I do.

And not just through my inbox battles, either. Like so many of us, we’re trying to conserve our financial resources now and make plans for the future . . . and that means less impulse buying, more budgeting, more making-do instead of running out for replacements.

I’m totally okay with that — excited, even — but it’s a change. And like all change, it takes some getting used to.

The challenge is invigorating, though. I’m ready to tackle new things and de-clutter, both literally and metaphorically.

I’ve already started. By . . .

Unsubscribing from all that email noise. Sales alerts, newsletters, etc. I’ve changed my contact settings for things like Groupon, going to a weekly digest instead of a daily one, and have eliminated WordPress notifications for things like subscribers (though I’m super happy you’re here, trust me!). Where I once would simply delete messages I didn’t want, I’m leaving them in my inbox until I make time to get myself off their mailing lists. If all else fails, I’ll simply create a filter in Gmail to send them straight to trash.


Chocolate chai


Using — and enjoying — what I already have. There are no less than 10 varieties of tea in my desk drawer right now, crowding out all the available space for my healthy snacks and utensils and what-have-you. I don’t need ten boxes of tea. I probably need, like, two. I enjoy the options, sure, and maybe ten boxes would be fine if I didn’t keep buying more. But I do. And I don’t need more. I need to enjoy what I have, and that means a No More Tea law until I get through my stock. So, you know, until 2018-ish.

Side note: this also applies to new brands of mascara, nail polish, lotion, lip gloss. Which brings me to . . .

Cancelling subscriptions. Though I’ve loved subscribing monthly mail products Birchbox and Julep over the years, that’s $30 a month — $360 a year! — I can now put toward other things. And honestly? The samples and nail polish are fun, but that’s just more stuff I’m bringing into our space. I don’t need more stuff. I have plenty, more than I need, and I want to remember that.

Cleaning out my closets. Oh, this is a big one. Dropping four dress sizes means little in my wardrobe still works, and I need to let it go. I want to feel good in my clothes, not dig around like a madwoman trying to find something to belt and “make work.” I didn’t want to purchase new clothes only to change sizes again throughout last year (wasting money), so I justified wearing my ill-fitting stuff by saying I’d invest in new tops and pants when I hit my goal weight. I did that, so it’s time to honor my promise to myself.

Ironically, I started my get-healthy journey in part because my favorite black slacks for work no longer fit — a sign I’d hit a weight high (and low). I was tired of fighting with my closet every morning. And I’m right back there again, lamenting that I have little to wear. I’ve already started listing dresses on eBay to help finance new clothing, and I want to focus on investing in neutral, attractive pieces I can wear in a variety of ways. I’m hoping Stitch Fix can also help me with this!

Whatever isn’t sold on eBay will be donated to Goodwill, and that’s that. Gone. No arguments.

No more piles. Spencer often jokes about the piles that accumulate around our condo: piles of mail, piles of clothes, piles of shoes. I want to stop making excuses and start putting things away. It takes a little finesse, given our place is relatively small and not everything has a designated space, but I need to stop being lazy. I need to deal with junk mail as it comes in, not stash it on the bar to be dealt with later. Just deal with it.

And back to email . . . I want to get better about my response time. Too many messages stacking up in my inbox stresses me out — because if it’s there, it means an action must be taken. I want to write back quickly and efficiently, both at work and at home.


And . . . well, I guess that’s it. That should do me. No tall order or anything, right? 🙂