Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sayonara, Sister

In just a few short hours my sister is going to be on a plane on her way to Japan for seven months.

I haven't talked much about it because I've been in denial a little (okay, a lot), but Heather is kicking off a seven-month contract as a singer at Tokyo Disney. Upon arrival she'll be in rehearsals for a few weeks then will begin actually performing in the park. It sounds like an absolutely incredible gig - they handle her housing and transportation to and from the park each day, they seem to provide lots of help and guidance as she adjusts to life in Tokyo, and you know, she gets to live in Tokyo while getting paid for a job she loves for the better part of a year. Not too shabby, my friends.

Heather found out she got this offer this past fall, and I was so thrilled for her. What an opportunity! She impressed me by deciding to take the job in a heartbeat, even though it meant moving across the world to a foreign country with a foreign language and foreign currency and well, foreign everything. At the time of signing the contract, she didn't know a soul in Tokyo but she was going anyway. She's brave and awesome and inspiring like that.

To everyone's delight, however, a few months later her very best friend Tony found out that he would be working at Tokyo Disney at the same time. Heather and Tones are inseparable (barring jobs that put them on opposite sides of the world, of course, which does tend to happen), and Tony has even done Tokyo Disney before. I was so happy for Heather that she would now have her best friend to share this experience with her. I know it's going to make it a lot easier on her and hopefully she'll just enjoy it all even more now. Those two are going to have a blast. I hope Tokyo is ready!

I had wanted to send Heather off with some great blog post about how she's been singing since we were kids, about how it has always been her passion, about how she used to sing musicals top-to-bottom even as a wee lass, about how her talent has grown and developed over the years, about how she's a superb singer and excellent actress, about how it has been such a pleasure to watch her come into her own as a performer and just rock every stage she steps onto. I was going to pull out pictures and videos and old Playbills, and really reminisce about Heather's performing career. But alas, other things have demanded my attention and there was no time for such gathering of mementos and writing of reflections.

Even more so than time constraints, however, I think it is denial that has prevented the writing of my Ode to Heather's Talent post. To be clear, I'm not in denial that she's talented - certainly not! But I'm in denial of the fact that I'm not going to see her for seven months. Denial, avoidance and suppression seem to be my chosen coping mechanisms these days - serving me "well" (if you can call it that) in "dealing with" (or rather, not dealing with) homesickness for New York, fear of giving birth, and losing Heather to Japan for most of 2014.

But then this past Saturday I woke up at 5:30 in the morning and it just all hit me and I cried, right there in bed. And then I pushed it out of my head until tonight, when I started to head to bed, realized that by the time I wake up in the morning Heather will be on a plane to Tokyo, and I broke down again. I'm just really, really sad.

I'm not entirely sure why it's worse now than when she did her cruise several years ago. I assume a large part of it is that I'm in Florida now instead of New York, so I see her more regularly. Maybe it also helped that her cruise docked in Ft. Lauderdale every couple of weeks, and even if I couldn't see her then, it helped to know she was back on U.S. soil time and again. But whatever it is, this time sucks a lot more than it did the last time.

To be perfectly honest, I don't love living in Florida again. The major perk of Florida life, however, is being close to family. We're able to go home for very regular visits. And every time we go home, what I most look forward to is seeing Heather. She's my best friend and I have loved being able to spend so much time with her since we moved back. It's going to be really sad to go home to visit, pull up to my dad's house, see her car in the driveway but know she won't be there.

And by the time she comes back, my family will be so changed. Ellie will be seven months older, and we'll have added another kiddo to the mix. Selfishly, I wish she could be here for all that. I know she does too, but we also both know that this is definitely what she should be doing right now. And so it's good that she's doing it, no matter how sad we may feel or how much we'll miss each other.

For the past week or two my Facebook newsfeed has been inundated with posts about Heather leaving - both by Heather herself, and by her friends constantly posting well wishes on her wall, sharing pictures from going-away parties, and generally sending her love and encouragement. It has been both hard to watch (hello, how am I supposed to be in denial if people keep talking about it?!) and beautiful to watch, as it reminds me how many lives Heather has touched here. She is so loved, so appreciated, so treasured, and will be so missed.

But no matter how bummed out I may be about being sister-less (in person, anyway) for seven months, I am a million times more proud of Heather for going on such an adventure. I admire her for continuing to follow a path that allows her to do the thing she loves to do most, and that this path is taking her to such incredible places and allowing her to experience such cool new things. I can't wait to hear all about her new life in Japan. Tokyo sure is gaining one extraordinary person for the next seven months. No question about that.

Just a few Heather pictures: as babies/kids, on a dinner cruise in Budapest, in the pool in the Caymans, at Ellie's baptism, on my 31st birthday, leather jacket twinsies with Ellie and New Year's Eve 2007 - featuring a Tones cameo!

Safe travels, Heather. Love to you always.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Pregnancy Update: 21 Weeks

I'm making some (very slow) progress in terms of sorting through all of our Disney pictures, but my current work project has been taking priority this week and things are only going to get busier heading into this weekend and next week. So, no real time for Disney photo editing and recap-writing, but today I have a brief break in my workload so I thought I'd post a little pregnancy update in the meantime. Especially, you know, since my only other real update was posted at about 13 weeks and was all about the first trimester. And now, I'm rocketing through the second trimester, at 21 weeks along.

Wait. 21 weeks? THAT'S MORE THAN HALFWAY, PEOPLE. I am officially closer to having a baby than not. Try not to panic!

Easier said than done, right? I keep going through cycles of excitement, then disbelief, then anxiety and panic. How am I going to handle two kids? Some days I feel like I can barely keep up with Ellie. And now there will be two of them and one of me. Something is wrong with the math there.

Other times, I'm really excited. Newborns are just so delightfully squishy. My cousin Molly was kind and generous enough to give me a bunch of hand-me-down newborn boy clothes, and OMG THE SHOES. The shoes are the smallest shoes that have ever existed. How is it possible that human feet can be so tiny? I had forgotten how teeny tiny fresh babies really are, but now I can't wait to hold one in the nook of my arm again.

And then the rest of the time, it just doesn't seem like it's really happening. I blame a lot of that on just being busier now than I was during my pregnancy with Ellie. During my first pregnancy, I was working a nothing receptionist job, which meant that from 8:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., five days a week, I had very little to do besides sit at a desk and look up baby stuff. Message boards, nursery planning, Pinterest, research about doulas and breastfeeding and birth plans - it was all baby, all the time. Now my days are spent chasing a toddler with far too much energy and trying to keep up with as much housework as my lazy, tired self can manage (which isn't much). I'm ashamed to say that I often forget that another week of pregnancy has passed until those weekly emails show up in my inbox, cheerfully reminding me that I forgot to check what "fruit size" my baby is this week. (For the record: he's either a carrot or a pomegranate this week, depending on the source.) I never wanted it to be that way; I swore I wouldn't be a "second time mom" and I'd be just as invested in and on top of everything with Plus One as I was with Ellie. Alas, I am already failing in my quest.

But, no matter how prepared (or not) I feel, time is marching on, and our SON will be here in just a few short months.

I already briefly recapped our anatomy scan in my "IT'S A BOY!" announcement post, but it bears mentioning again that all is looking great. Baby Boy is transverse right now (meaning he's laying across my belly, with his torso perpendicular to mine), and was a bit stubborn in refusing to give us a good look at his profile during the scan. I was disappointed, as I was hoping to compare his features (what we could make out of them) to Ellie's at this point, but alas. Instead of being bummed I will take it as a positive sign that he would prefer to sleep than jump around and pose for the camera (unlike his sister). So for now, all we got was a few shots of a rather alien-like face. A cute alien, sure, but an alien nonetheless.

The best picture we have of Plus One's face, looking right at the camera

A look at how each of my kids currently respond if you request they pose for a picture: on the left, Ellie is ALL ABOUT IT. Her motto is "always be posing." Plus One, on the other hand, is all "Mooooom, I'm taking a nap. Leave me alone already."

My appointments have all been going well. My most recent appointment was this afternoon and the only issue was that Baby Boy was so active, my midwife could hardly get him to stay still long enough to listen to his heartbeat. He even kicked the doppler at one point and the midwife was all, "You've got a wild one, here!" and my dreams of a mellow second child flew right out the window. But seriously, everything is progressing normally and smoothly thus far, which is always great to hear.

On a related note, as my previous paragraph implied, Baby Boy is moving around a lot. I thought I first felt his movements at about 15 weeks, and it felt like tiny little bubbles popping against the inside of my belly. After that first sensation, however, I didn't feel anything for a couple weeks. I mentioned it to my midwife at my 17-week appointment, and she gave me some pointers to feel him more, but said I should be feeling him regularly any day. Sure enough, literally the next day I started feeling him with ease. Now I feel him quite regularly throughout the day, especially after I eat and when I'm laying in bed after just waking up in the morning. Eric was even able to feel him for the first time during our Disney weekend. It's still at the stage where his movements feel cool and not uncomfortable, so I've been enjoying his little jabs on the sides of my belly. I feel like I'm getting to know him a little bit through his movements.

As for how I'm actually feeling: pretty good! This pregnancy brought much more relief in the second trimester than my first pregnancy did. My nausea has disappeared, I have more energy than before (as evidenced by the fact that blog posts are going up at all, rather than me using my blogging time to nap), and I'm feeling more like myself. (The only exception: I still feel like our apartment constantly smells like Ellie's grilled cheese sandwiches, and I do not enjoy that.) My belly is also big and round but not SO big and round as to be uncomfortable or excessively unwieldy (yet). So, right now, I'm feeling good. I am starting to see flashes of the discomfort to come, but for now we're focusing on the positive.

My 19-week belly picture, and a Magic Kingdom sneak preview!

On the subject of feeling great, however, I should mention that I am feeling great in between colds. I have had at least three colds this pregnancy, and frankly, I've had enough of that mess. I was only sick once during my pregnancy with Ellie, something I consider to be a true feat, given that it was winter in New York and I was riding the subway every day. But now, apparently my immune system is no match for the Germ Fest that is A Toddler. So, I do lots of sniffling and shooting death looks at non-pregnant sick people who have the luxury of Sudafed and Nyquil but don't take advantage of it. DO IT FOR THE PREGNANTS, PEOPLE. Not everyone is so lucky! Think of those less fortunate!

We've started talking to Ellie a little bit about "Baby Brother," although she doesn't really get it. She does like to lift my shirt and say, "Baby Brother in there!" but that's about it. She also informed me the other day that I have a "yucky [belly] button" (it does look a bit odd these days), and then pulled my shirt back down and said, "all done, Brother." Ha! You wish it was that easy, kid.

Another big thing on our minds right now is trying to figure out what gear we need and how to decorate the "nursery" (like last time, I use the term "nursery" loosely, as Baby Boy will really just be inhabiting a corner of our bedroom). The biggest question is whether to buy a second crib for Plus One, keeping Ellie in hers (either as a crib or converting it to a toddler bed) indefinitely. Or, should we transition Ellie to a "big girl bed" and commandeer her crib for Plus One? That is clearly the smarter financial move, so as to avoid purchasing a second crib and crib mattress, but I fear what the transition will do to Ellie's naps, and I'm not sure it's worth that potential cost.

As for the "nursery" theme, I'm working with a few different ideas and am cursing work for keeping me from spending adequate amounts of time obsessing over Pinterest for inspiration.

The other major topic of conversation around here is a name. We had a name decided on if Plus One had been a girl, but he opted to be a boy, thus causing us great name anxiety. We have a list of possibilities, but nothing is really jumping out at me. I was (and still am) in love with Ellie's name, and felt similar enthusiasm for our second chosen girl name, but I have yet to feel that same "yes, that's it!" feeling for a boy's name. It's making me anxious to not have a name for him (I am SO not a "we'll just wait till he's born and see what he looks like" kind of person), so hopefully we get some clarity soon.

Overall, as of today, I'm in an excited state. I'm eager to meet this little guy and learn all about him. I'm dying to know - will he look like me? Will he have my features? Will he be dark-haired like his dad? Will he look like Ellie did as a newborn? What about his personality? Will he be rambunctious and outgoing and energetic like Ellie and his dad, or will he be more quiet and shy like me? Will he like sports? What will he be good at? Will he be musical or creative? Will he and Ellie get along? How will they be alike, and how will they be different? So many questions, and only a few more months until I can start getting answers!

Friday, February 14, 2014


Happy Valentine's Day, my friends!

I hope today is filled with hugs and kisses and all the people you love most.

As for us, we're having a very quiet Valentine's Day, as we have all fallen victim to some nasty colds since our return from Disney. Ellie and I are mostly vegging on the couch today, watching Cinderella (a post-Disney, Valentine's/sick day treat!) and Eric is sniffling his way through work. Tonight we'll probably get some take-out dinner and camp out on the couch some more. Oh, the romance! The glamour!

And yes, we're back from Disney. We had an amazing time and I can't wait to share it with you. In fact, we had such a great time, we ended up staying an extra night because we didn't want to cut our last day short. That was in part due to the weather, which was utterly wretched our first two days (and may have been the catalyst for the illness currently taking over our home), but was lovely our last day. We just couldn't bear to spend that beautiful day wasting away in the car on the way home!

However, Disney recaps will have to wait a bit more, because not only are we sick, we're supposed to be traveling again this weekend. This time we are headed to St. Pete for, among other things, a matinee performance of Guys and Dolls tomorrow, featuring my endlessly talented sister in the lead. We'll be back Monday night and then I have some work next week that will probably occupy much of my time. So, it may be a while before I can find the time to sort and edit pictures and tell you all about our travels, but I'm excited to do so as soon as I can!

In the meantime, enjoy your Valentine's Day! Eat your chocolates, drink your wine, smell your flowers,  and say lots of "I love yous!"

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails

That's what little BOYS are made of!

As it turns out, the old wives are off their game and have no idea what they're talking about. Friends and family, however, are right on the money. We're having a BABY BOY!

My gut feeling from the beginning was that Plus One was a boy, yet somehow I can hardly believe it. I'm a little overwhelmed and feeling a bit out of my element, because I know girls. I mean, I am one, I grew up with a sister, I have the world's coolest daughter already. So this is uncharted territory, folks. But I have no doubt that these feelings of "YIKES" are normal for mamas in this position, and I'm not too worried about it. I'm definitely up for the challenge!

(Unless he ends up being into bugs. I don't do bugs.)

The rest of the ultrasound went well, too. Plus One was a wee bit stubborn with some angles the tech needed (to which I thought, oh no, not another one!, because that was sort of Ellie's modus operandi), but ultimately we got all the views we needed and everything looks perfect. He had a spine, and a heart with four chambers, and legs, and feet, and hands with five fingers, and even a perfect little alien face.

As planned, we left straight from our appointment and drove to Orlando, and spent tonight settling into our resort (it's great!) and exploring Downtown Disney (dinner at the T-Rex Cafe!).

Now we're looking forward to spending the rest of the weekend at Disney World as a happy family of three, joyously celebrating the impending addition of a new "Mickey" to our clan!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Wisdom(?) From the Old Wives

As I may have mentioned once or twice, tomorrow we find out the sex of Plus One. Just as I did when I was pregnant with Ellie, I have spent the last few weeks driving myself crazy with anticipation and begging Eric to agree to an elective ultrasound to give us a sneak peak before the big appointment. But finally, the day is almost upon us!

I have been especially eager to know the sex of Plus One this time around because it just feels like knowing will help us better envision/plan for our soon-to-be family. Last time around, everything was new. The sex didn't really matter; we were buying all new things and trying to imagine something unimaginable. Now, we have a better idea of what to expect and what we need, and it feels like knowing the sex of Plus One will help us better prepare. What new stuff do we need? Could our kids share a room someday? Will we have our "girls," or our "kids?" 

Of course, does it really matter? No. But I'm the type that likes to have a plan, and given that having a child is probably the most un-plan-able thing you can do in life, I'll take whatever I can get.

In my eagerness to know the sex before The Big Day, I did a little Googling for old wives' tales relating to just such a prediction and decided to test them out to see whether the old wives think Plus One will be a boy or a girl. This is how all that turned out:

Heartbeat: GIRL
The theory is that if the baby's heartbeat is consistently over 140 bpm, it's a girl. Plus One's heartbeat measured the lowest it has ever been at our last appointment, it was still solidly in the 145-150 range. Generally it is 165+, so this is definitely a GIRL predictor!

Cravings: BOY
If you crave sweet foods during pregnancy, it is said the baby will be a girl. If you crave salty or sour foods, it will be a boy. My cravings this time were the same as when I was pregnant with Ellie (is that a predictor in itself???), and have been for carbs and cheese. I assume that fits more with the "salty/sour" category than sweet, so I'll say BOY for this one.

Complexion: GIRL
The saying goes that if you're carrying a girl, she'll steal your beauty, leaving you with the face of a teenager in the throes of puberty. Unfortunately, I can definitely call this category for GIRL.

Morning Sickness: GIRL
If you're nauseous and sick during your first trimester, your baby is probably a girl. No sickness means boy. Considering I'm still having flashbacks to smell-induced nausea around the house, this one goes to GIRL.

Spouse Sympathy Weight: GIRL?
If your spouse gains some weight along with you, the baby is likely to be a girl. Eric claims this is the case, although I think he looks as smokin' hot as ever, so I'm skeptical.

Chinese Gender Predictor: GIRL
I used this one and it gave me a prediction of GIRL. (For the record, I also tried it with my information for Ellie, and it predicted her to be a girl, too.)

Mayan Even/Odd: GIRL
This theory says to look at the mother's age at conception and year of conception. If both are even or odd, the baby is a girl. If you have one of each, the baby is a boy. According to this, Plus One will be a girl, but this technique would have wrongly predicted Ellie to be a boy.

Ring Test: BOY
Tie a string (best if you use a piece of your own hair) to your wedding ring and hold it over your belly. If it swings in a circle, it's a boy. If it swings back and forth, it's a girl. I definitely had some circular action, so this test says BOY.

Sleep Position: GIRL
If you prefer sleeping on your right side, the baby is a girl. Left side, it's a boy. I'm definitely primarily sleeping on my right side these days (although in fairness, I really just like to face the wall).

Mood Changes: GIRL
If you have mood swings, it's a girl. I've been a bit of a weepy mess off and on, so I'll call this one for GIRL.

Dreams: GIRL
They say if you dream of having a girl, the baby is likely actually a boy and vice versa. I have only had one dream about the baby (although my dreams have all been wild and very vivid this pregnancy), in which I gave birth to a son. So, according to this theory, that means I'll be having another daughter.

So, the old wives' results are in, and the tally is nine tests in favor of GIRL, and only two in favor of BOY. It seems the old wives think Ellie will have a baby sister!

For the record: Eric and I will be thrilled no matter what sex shows up on that ultrasound tomorrow. As trite as it is, our hopes are pinned on a HEALTHY baby, and that's all that matters to us. It surprises me that in this situation we have actually gotten some comments assuming that we would only really want a boy, that our family will be complete if we have a boy, or that a girl would be some kind of a disappointment. Those types of comments shock me, and thankfully, although most people have guessed that we'll have a boy next, those further comments have not been great in number. Because sure, it would be awesome to have the opportunity to parent both sexes. Eric is a fabulous father to his daughter but of course I would also love to see him raising a son. I would love to have a son, too, and I would love for Ellie to have a brother (an experience I, myself, know nothing about). But, we're head-over-heels in love with our firstborn daughter, and the idea of having another little girl in our family is just as wonderful. As a proud big sister myself, I think it would be very cool to give Ellie a chance at that sister-bond that I have with Heather. Plus, there are the practical considerations of another girl: all those adorable little baby girl clothes get reused! Basically, there is no wrong answer here; either way, our family is really, really lucky.

So, who will ultimately be correct: our family and friends, who have overwhelmingly guessed Plus One will be a boy, or the old wives, who seem to be firmly in the "girl" camp? Stay tuned - answer coming soon!

Monday, February 3, 2014

We're Going to Disney World!

This Thursday morning at 9:00 a.m. we will find out the sex of Plus One, and I have been counting down the days. Eric took the day off work for the occasion, as he did when we found out Ellie was a girl, but this time we're really going to do it up. Eric is taking both Thursday and Friday off, and we're leaving straight from our appointment to take Ellie for a weekend at Disney World, our last vacation as a family of three.

We are pretty excited about this. We are not Disney regulars (as it seems many Floridians are); in fact, Eric and I have not been there in over 15 years. If memory serves, the last time Eric and I visited Disney World we were together, as newly-dating 15/16-year-olds, and we totally got busted (read: a flashlight in our faces) for smooching on the Haunted Mansion ride. Scandal!

And Ellie, of course, has never been. In recent months, however, she has become a big fan of Mickey & Co., as well as princesses. And she has ALWAYS liked Winnie the Pooh and friends. So we're excited to take her and see how she likes everything!

Our plan is to leave straight from the doctor's office on Thursday morning, which should have us arriving in Orlando around lunch time. We will go straight to our resort: Saratoga Springs. We have a one-bedroom villa with a full kitchen and what looks to be a delightful bathtub for our stay.

(Disclaimer: obviously, these photos are not ours as we have not been yet! All photos taken from here unless otherwise noted.)

Walt Disney World's Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa

The pool, which we will probably not have time to use, unfortunately

Living room and kitchen of a one-bedroom villa

Master bath and bedroom. I'm coming, glorious tub!

With any luck we will be able to check in to our hotel early, which will give us a chance to settle in, have lunch and maybe offer Ellie the chance to nap. In that case, we'll venture back out in the evening, via resort-provided boat ride to Downtown Disney for dinner. If we are unable to check in to our hotel early, we'll instead go to Downtown Disney for lunch and a little afternoon exploration before returning to our hotel to get Ellie to bed a little early.

Downtown Disney

On Friday, we plan to spend the day at Magic Kingdom. As of now the plan is to arrive at the park early for the opening ceremonies, then head right in and get to work. We have some sights/rides/etc. prioritized already (via Disney's FastPass Plus system), so we'll try to hit our top choices first. Then we'll grab lunch and head back to our hotel for a quiet afternoon that will hopefully involve a nap for Ellie (or at least, some less stimulating downtime).

In the evening we'll return for dinner and all the night festivities: the Electrical Parade and the fireworks. Then, back to the resort for bedtime as quickly as possible.


Saturday we have earmarked for a day at Epcot. Again, we have some things we definitely want to see and do in the morning, so we'll try to take care of as much as that as possible before retiring to our resort for a quiet afternoon. Then we'll return to the park for our dinner reservations at the Akerhus Royal Banquet Hall, where you can meet the princesses while you dine.

Inside Akerhus Royal Banquet Hall at Epcot

Close encounters with princesses!

Then, depending on Ellie's mood and stamina, we may stick around for the Epcot light show that evening.

On Sunday we will return to Magic Kingdom to see anything we may have missed or wanted to do again, and we will have lunch at the Crystal Palace in the company of Pooh Bear and friends.

Crystal Palace

It's the gang from the Hundred Acre Wood!

I'm really interested to see how Ellie does with all these character encounters. She was ALL ABOUT IT when we met Elmo and Big Bird at Busch Gardens a couple of months ago, but obviously, her meet-and-greet with Santa did not go quite as well. So, this will be a little science experiment.

Which girl will we get at Disney World? Stay tuned!

After lunch, we'll just play things by ear. If we've had enough, we'll head back home. If we're still going strong, we'll stick around a bit longer.

Of course, all this is very tentative and we are prepared to be flexible, as one must be when traveling with a toddler. We don't expect to see a TON of the parks but are hopeful to catch a few key things, and will do our best to make the most of our time without overdoing it. I think it's going to be a blast!

DISNEY VETERAN FRIENDS: I have already hit most of you up for tips and tricks, but if you have any more advice to offer to help us make the most of our trip, please, chime in! I'd love to hear from you!