Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Advice Following Miscarriage

In my career as a school counselor, one of the main things I don't do is give advice. People generally don't follow advice that another person gives, plus we should never put ourselves in a position of presuming to know what is best for another person. 

But I have some advice to share if you or someone you know suffers a miscarriage. Just a few things that have helped me since that awful day almost a month ago, when I learned at a routine appointment that she had no heartbeat. Be sure to check out the article I wrote for Fertility Authority here.

 1.) Know that you can keep her remains. Whether you have a D&C or a D&E like I had, keeping her remains is an option. I've mentioned this to a few people, who have said they didn't realize they could request this at such an early stage (I was 17 weeks). The doctor told us "People don't usually do this." Know that you can and if you choose not to, that is fine too, but you have the choice. The funeral home that took care of Mom coordinated with the hospital. All we had to do was make the call. We had her cremated, and her ashes are in a tiny urn, placed in a teddy bear. The plan is to have her buried with me.

2.) Put it in perspective. Going to Bible study helped, but not because of what I learned. It was a story that a woman at my table, in her 70's, told. Many years ago, she lost her only child to SIDS, at 7 weeks. She held her little girl, Angelica Elizabeth, in her arms until the police came and took her away. She divorced shortly after, and never had any more children. Tears welling up in my eyes, I said "I am so sorry...I cannot imagine." Her response? "But I am so thankful that for those 7 weeks, because I got to be her Mom." I marveled at what she said, imagining how much worse it has to be to lose a child who has been born. And how much worse it has to be when you don't have another. She said that it took her many years to come to that perspective. Remember, as heart-wrenching as it feels, it can always be worse. 

3.) Stop the 'what-ifs.' You can seriously drive yourself crazy questioning everything you did, or didn't do, in the weeks leading up to the loss. I shouldn't have had that second cup of coffee, or we shouldn't have flown to Italy were on loop in my mind until I countered them with: Remember that a healthy pregnancy will survive anything, even drug addiction. Sometimes, I had to say it out loud. Reminding myself of babies born addicted to hard drugs helped me realize that no, a second cup of coffee, which I had sometimes while pregnant with Baby A, did not cause her tiny heart to stop beating. Miscarriage happens because something is wrong with the baby. It does not happen because you played 'No more monkeys jumping on the bed' with your toddler. Read more here.

4.) Get some hormone replacement gel STAT! My husband is especially thankful I found this. Your hormones crash when you are no longer pregnant, but usually, you have a new life to celebrate. The fluctuating hormones, coupled with the sudden loss, had me crying every evening for two weeks. While this is to be expected following a loss, when I couldn't put my finger on why I was crying, I knew I needed some help. At my 2 week check-up, my doctor gave me Divigel 0.1% (estradiol gel) to rub on my arm. That evening we walked to El Torrito and I was laughing and joking with my husband without realizing that the gel was helping tremendously. It's not that I can't or don't get sad, but I finally felt in control.

5.) Exercise. Nothing beats endorphins for helping your mood. Nothing. Since that awful appointment on January 17th, I've logged over 30 miles, most of them on my lunch break. As always, I don't usually want to get out there, but I am always glad that I did. Swim, bike, hike, run or do an exercise video. Just get moving.

6.) Garner support. Not everyone is as open as I am. Because everyone at work knew what happened, I returned to a desk filled with flowers, an orchid and tulips along with heartfelt cards and "I've been there" talks. But I also, quite unexpectedly, received two of the most meaningful gifts from women I have never met, and only "know" through instagram. Nowadays, you can get support anonymously on-line, which is a resource our mothers never had. If you're a more private person, explore this route. Miscarriage is, unfortunately, very common. Knowing that you are not alone helps. Don't suffer in silence.

7.) Look to the future. It could be a trip, a weekend away, or just a good meal. For me, I've been focusing on her second birthday in May and planning and crafting for that, which I love. Just before this posting, I ordered her invites. I'm also excited about our next round of IVF and the consultation in 10 days. This was supposed to be our third and final round. But we have decided that we are going to try once more because this pregnancy helped us realize how much we do want a sibling for her. While the possibility of another pregnancy is exciting, I temper it with the statistics that it likely will not work. But, there is still hope there.

These are just a few things that worked for me. If you have anything that helped you, please leave it in the comments below so that anyone reading this can see it. It is a nightmare to go through and it changes you, some of which is for the better. I am reminded how much of a miracle our Baby A is. This loss has only served to intensify my love for her and solidify our bond.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

19 Months

We were in Venice and Milan for Christmas and through the New Year. Our sightseeing pace was slower with Baby A, with each day broken into two parts: Morning, before her nap back at the hotel, and late afternoon/evening after her nap. This slower pace was actually really nice, similar to what we did over summer.
One of her favorite activities in both cities was looking for dogs, and chasing pigeons. I was able to capture her smile in the picture on the left because the square in front of Milan Cathedral was filled with pigeons.

Venice amazing and beautiful, but hard to navigate with the stroller. There are over 400 bridges, all of them with steps. Our BOB weighs 25 pounds, and so does Baby A. I took the front end, and my husband took the back. After 8 days there, I was ready to move on to Milan, or The City of No Bridges as I now call it.

Milan is a city of 1.3 million, and very much had the big-city feel. Our hotel was centrally located, just blocks from the metro which was easy to navigate. We were also just blocks from The Last Supper, the real, original one painted between 1494-1498 by Leonardo DaVinci. We were just exploring the area around our hotel on the first day, and wandered into a nondescript, albeit old, Catholic church just as mass was starting. We lit a candle for Mom, attended confession, and listened to part of the mass, all in Italian before walking out. As we exited the building, my husband said "You know, there were signs in there talking about The Last Supper. I think it's here." What!? The real one? Can't be. But sure enough, we walked over to the rectory, which was closed since it was New Year's Day, and there was information explaining all about it! We returned the next day and were disappointed to learn that tickets were sold out one week in advance. We were able to go across the street and visit Leonardo's Vineyard, where he lived while he was working on the piece, and what he received as payment for the commissioned work.

The weather was perfect throughout our 15 days. We didn't have one drop of rain (probably because we packed all our rain gear), and with my heavy coat on, I was almost too warm walking around some days.

Baby A did well on the flight there, but it was a night-flight and she slept. Because we booked our business class tickets using awards miles, our return flights would involve 24 hours of travel time and three planes. We were so nervous about how she would do, that we looked at staying over-night in New York at the last minute just to break it up. But we weren't able to switch our flights because the layover was over 24 hours (27) and we were stuck with them. "It's okay, no one has died from traveling that long. We'll be fine." I said, trying to remain optimistic. But I was scared to death. We had Benadryll on hand just in case.

The flights could not have gone any better. I am honestly still so surprised that she did so well, and did not even cry once! On the 9 hour flight from Milan to New York, three hour layover in NY before our 5 hour flight to Phoenix. And then another flight back to Orange county. She slept on the last two flights. And didn't shed one tear.

Adjusting to our sleep once we were back from Italy proved to be a little more difficult and we were both up around 3am on those first two nights. This provided some good quality cuddle time until we both fell back asleep hours later and then slept in. We had to wake her from her afternoon naps after 3 hours because to her little body, it was night time.    

Back to work on that Monday, January 9th was tough because we so enjoyed all of our uninterrupted time together. We got back into our routines of walking to El Torrio on Wednesdays and Pretend City on the weekend and tried to do some unpacking here and there. Dad and Glen came to visit and the next day, we went to Disneyland. 

The significance of that perfect day filled with the tiki room, Casey's train, churros and "It's a Small World" is only apparent now. I was lovingly holding my tummy and little baby girl beneath, but she was already gone. I wouldn't find out until the next day at a routine appointment. This miscarriage has profoundly affected my husband and I in ways I can't fully understand let alone articulate. I may blog more on this topic in the future when I am stronger, that is all for this monthly update.

The rest of the week was a blur, but I did try very hard to fake it when around baby A and still have fun with her. My husband helped out a lot and would alternate, spinning her in the back year or watching her go down the slide. We still went on our walks.

That Saturday the 21st we attended a Mommy and Me dance class. I've been waiting and waiting for her to turn 1 1/2 (the minimum age required) for us to sign up, but was a bit disappointed because it was more focused on instruction and form rather than fun. I asked the instructor if all the classes would be similar of if the first one was filled more with technique and she said they would all be similar.
This picture was taken before class started and the fun stopped.

I called the city of Irvine and had her transferred to a different instructor who they said would be more focused on fun than form. The classes are every Saturday and run through April.

One of my favorite times with her is our nighttime routine. While brushing her teeth continues to be a struggle (I gave up counting how many she has!), I love our story-time and snuggling after that chore is out of the way. She is already showing favor over certain books and loves "I am a Bunny," "Hug-a-Bible," "Goodnight Moon," "Good Boy Fergus," and a fairytale book Daddy bought her in Italy. After we read for quite awhile, she will turn on her side and snuggle. I stay with her until she falls asleep, and sometimes I fall asleep too.

Things I do not want to forget about this month:
  • Chasing pigeons outside Doge's Palace.
  • Her reaction on 1/9 when I picked her up from daycare. She squealed like I would if you told me I had won the lottery, then turned to the kids in the class and exclaimed "Mommy!!" before running over to me and hugging me tightly around my neck.
  • New words: Ciao, boat, plane, Mommydada (one word), shoe, meow, Trevi, apple, yummy, pay (while handing Daddy's credit card). Previous words: Sunshine, cool, ouchie, book, cold, rawr, baa, animal, Dory, bow, bee, house, car, Dada, cat, tea (and some letters of the alphabet), fish, eye, cheese, no, mommy, more, mooo, ruff, baby, my, Nana, uh-oh, MoMo, baba, hi, bye, dog).
  • Learning to put her hands in her pockets.
  • Getting on top of the toilet seat. And then on top of the lid. To access my makeup bag.
  • Up and down stairs by herself. And back up. Repeat.
  • Laying down for a nap at the hotel in Milan, I was signing "Amazing Grace." She said "no." So instead, I started singing "Silent Night" and after I finished, she said "more."
  • How amazing she was on our 3 flights home from Italy. We had 24 hours of travel time, and not one tear (from her)!
  • When I pick her up from daycare and she spots me, she squeals and announces "Mommy!" before running to me and throwing her arms around my neck. It is the best feeling in the world.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

At 17 weeks pregnant, we lost our baby girl.

Caution: Very sad posting ahead. When done, be sure to read my Advice Following Miscarriage.

I have sat down to right countless papers for my undergraduate and graduate work. Very rarely was I excited about the topic, APA formatting or the citations needed. Never did I have something so personal to share that I dreaded putting into words. But this blog is supposed to be about life's ups and downs not just vacations we take so.... 

No Heart Beat. Fetal Demise.

These were the words I was told at my routine appointment three days ago when the archaic-looking cassette recorder my doctor uses to listen to the heartbeat didn't pick up anything. "Oh, she's not in the right place. I just had too much pasta in Italy," I thought. The doctor went from being jovial about President-elect Trump to dead silence. He took me down the hall to a room with a sonogram machine. I had to sit there awhile, alone, while the antiquated machine was roused from its slumber enough to start making annoying noises. I still felt like I knew everything was alright, because I hadn't had any signs or symptoms; no bleeding. He would be in here soon, and realize that it was all okay. Still, my heart started to quicken and my palms became sweaty as little shards of what this could mean shot through.

When he re-entered the room, I couldn't see the machine and so I remained fixed on his face, searching his expression for a sign it was all okay. More concern only took over and the silence became deafening. Then he turned to me and said "There is no heart beat. She stopped growing about two weeks ago. Her gestational age is showing 14 weeks." Yet I was 17 weeks. "I'm going to need to send you for a second opinion." Oh good, maybe these machines are too outdated and another, more expensive machine will tell us everything is okay. But of course that was wishful, desperate thinking. "Ummm, is there a chance she's just very still; sleeping?" I asked. "No. There is no heartbeat." 

"So a second opinion is just a matter of procedure?" I asked. "Yes, I'm sorry." He talked about me needing a D&E as I gathered my belongings and was ushered into the office assistant's desk to call my husband. Because of course this was the day I left my cell phone in the car. I called my husband and through tears and gasps said "You need to come here now." Panicked, he said he would get coverage for his class and be there right away. I neglected to tell him why or maybe I thought it was implied. He drove to me not knowing if there was a problem with the baby or if the problem was with me.

Devastated, I remained on hold the entire time I was waiting form him, trying to schedule the second opinion ultrasound. The soonest they could get me in was 4 hours from then. My husband called our IVF clinic who told us to come right away. Before we left, the doctor's staff told us that not many doctors perform D&Es. We could either go to doctor R. whom I had a very bad experience with years prior (botched/failed IUI) or, Planned Parenthood. I'm not going to either one of those was the last thing I said when we left.

Our IVF clinic ushered us into a room right away, but then we were waiting in there for what seemed like forever. My husband still held out hope, and so did I, in spite of the facts. My IVF doctor told us the same thing: there is no heartbeat and she stopped growing about 2 weeks ago.

That was when I last saw her on ultrasound. The day before our trip, I went in to have her spinal cord looked at and saw her moving. I saw her flip from one side to another, like a fish. I saw her respond to my stomach being pushed on. She could hear us, our voices and Baby A, Trevi barking and our laughter. Then sometime in the last few weeks the muffled sounds she was hearing fell silent, and no one knows why.

Immediately we began questioning everything we had done, starting with the trip. Carrying baby A, softly jumping on the bed with her. Drinking a cup of coffee every day. We were told time and again it would not be any one of those factors or even all of them. That a normal pregnancy can not just withstand such activities but thrive. Remember, babies whose mothers even abuse drugs usually make it though the pregnancy, or we wouldn't have drug-addicted babies born, someone told me. 

All signs point to this baby not having the genetic makeup to continue to grow and progress and join us in the real world out here, like we so desperately wanted her to. We will ask for genetic testing to be done on all 24 chromosomes, at the recommendation of my IVF doctor, and hope that this will give us some answers.

This is all a horrible nightmare. We thought we were in the clear. We were out of the first trimester. One round of genetic testing came back clear, and she was growing normally.

I was, and am, beyond devastated. Right next to me is the pink bonnet I was crocheting for her, a quarter finished.

It's not just this baby that has been taken away from us and our family. It is the loss for Baby A who was going to have a sister, and a best friend for life. It is the love we have for her now and the knowledge that would only continue to grow infinitely. I was starting to see her going through all of Baby A's stages and was beyond and thrilled to put her in some of her clothes. I began ordering her some outfits here and there and I would look at the doll-like clothes and imagine her in them. I placed an order about a week ago that hasn't even arrived yet. My husband will have to open it and send it back.

She's still with me now. And it is the strangest feeling in the world because her prefect little lifeless body is all curled up and safe. But our time together, at least in the physical realm, is coming to an end. My D&E procedure is scheduled for today, just a few hours from now. I want the procedure to take place and at the same time, I do not want to give her up. It is one of the worst trials I have been through and we sure seem to have had our fair share in these last few years, our first few years of marriage.

I have to remember one thing. On the way to that appointment, I called my husband and told him how happy I was. How perfect I felt our life currently was, and that it was not any one thing I could put my finger on. She was a huge part of that, because we were growing our family, but there were other things bringing me joy too. I have to remember that those other positive aspects are still there, though they are dimmed by the shadow this sadness is casting. I have to remember how lucky and blessed we are to have Baby A, a happy, healthy almost 20 month old. I imagine going through this and not having her, like many couples do.

It's too hard to see right now in the thick of it, but there is a reason for this. Her little life has had, and will continue to have, meaning.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

My Party Planning Obesession

I have a confession to make. I can't stop thinking about the girl's birthday parties. I already have a theme picked out for the first birthday of my baby that isn't due until June, and already have a theme for their combination 2nd/4th birthday party...which isn't until 2019. I seem to have developed S.O.P.P. syndrome. Or, sudden obsession with party planning syndrome. 

Last year, I planned a big party for Baby-A's first birthday, and had so much fun doing it. Previously, I viewed coordinating an event like this that involved vendors as a chore. Something to be avoided when possible, or to just get through, when necessary. I felt sorry for people who felt the pressure to organize something like this. To my surprise, I enjoyed every part of it, and didn't find it stressful at all. 

Usually a procrastinator, I found myself organizing and planning things starting when she was only a few months old. I went a little over-board, much to my husband's dismay. But it's her 1st, I reasoned, and that's how it's supposed to be. At least here in Orange County. "I won't have a party for her second" I assured him. 

Shortly after the big day last May, having no party turned into just a small one, and I started searching for themes. Picking the puppy paw-ty theme, I became excited about the planning all over again. Right about the time I discovered that you can rent puppies (and yes, they are already reserved), I knew I didn't stand a chance. Before I knew it, I was back in full party-planning mode. This time, I took it a step further and hired a party-planner. For a kid's party. Yes, there is such a thing, thanks to people like me.

My SOPP syndrome manifests itself in many ways. Most recently, I have found my thoughts occupied with picking the perfect outfit for her. Her classic hand-smocked dress with a Peter Pan collar arrived yesterday and I couldn't be happier:

My inspiration? Princess Charlotte, of course, who was seen wearing something very similar for her first appearance on the iconic balcony of Buckingham Palace. She is frequently seen in classic hand-smocked dresses like this with the Peter Pan collar. 

How would I know this? Well, while in Venice and Milan, I had a bit of free-time on my hands while baby and Daddy were napping for 2-3 hours every day. Not able to sleep myself, and not at home to tackle any chores, I found a blog devoted to What Kate's Kids Wore. 

How excited I was to discover someone had done the leg-work and chronicled every article of clothing she has made an appearance in and, more importantly; where to buy it? This was right up my alley. 

But as luck would have it, this particular dress was what the blogger calls an unidentified fashion object. And another dress that she wore for the birthday party in Canada that I loved was out of stock. I emailed the company, and they would not be restocking any more. 

And so, I started searching. I'm not sure what exactly is involved in hand-smocking, but it must be time consuming because all the dresses I found cost at least a hundred bucks, plus shipping, which is a lot when they're sending it all the way from France. I was so excited and surprised to the perfect dress at Amazon! 

If you're interested in the same dress or something similar, click here.

My husband loves a good deal, and the fact that I found the dress for less, with free shipping, was my negotiation power for ordering her shoes from Spain.

While I couldn't find the exact dress, I was able to order the brand of shoes Princess Charlotte wears frequently. They are made by Dona Carmen, and ordering them proved to be a bit of a challenge, but they're on their way! (Read about why Kate favors Spanish brands here). 

On their website, they do not have an option to ship to the United States. But I emailed them and they said they would be happy to send them our way for 50. Of course they would! I responded explaining that I couldn't justify spending that on shipping, since the shoes themselves only cost 29€ (very reasonable!). To my surprise, they said they would ship them for 20 and so I also ordered a pair of baby booties for Baby J. 

There is a bit more to me ordering these than just trying to dress my daughter like a princess. As you probably know, my Mom is from England. Her whole life, she has kept up on the Queen and her appearances, as any good subject of the Royal Crown does. Mom followed Princess Diana, and was also following the Duchess of Cambridge. If there was a special televised event, she would wake up early to watch it. I know she would be (hopefully, is) thrilled that I am choosing this for Baby A to wear. It is one very small way that I am able to pay homage to her.

Monday, December 26, 2016

18 Months

Baby A turned 18 months while we were in Oregon for Thanksgiving, and ended her 18th month the day after Christmas in Venice, Italy. 
"Say bye to the horses."
Our visit to Oregon was relaxing. I went into town with her grandma and she recorded a special message to put in a Build-a-Bear that she gave her. Baby A loves pressing the paw and hearing her voice and message. Her grandma was also sure to wear her beautiful necklace with chocolate diamonds that will be A's some day.

While we had a difficult 10 minutes on the flight up (when we inadvertently threw away a Starbuck's cup she had become quite attached to), she was a dream on the flight home, in spite of her nap only being one hour instead of three. She didn't cry at all.

When I set the goal of No TV under Three I should have added: *Or, until the holidays roll around and I want to watch Christmas specials with her and also give her something to do on flights. On the flight home she watched some of the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, and also did some sorting activities on my iPad. Right now I'm probably watching part of one movie once a week with her, and her attention span seems to grow by the week. She's getting pretty good at using her finger to match numbers on her iPad. I've actually heard that it is good for them to practice with technology when they're young so it is not a second language to them. I'm going with it.

When we returned from Oregon, she was most excited about her books. She ran to her little book shelf and handed me several, along with saying "book." The 'k' is almost silent when she says it. I only found one book up there to read to her, and I think she missed our nightly routine of reading 5 before bed. The other night, I read her quite a few, and turned off the light. We had her glow pet horse next to us, and she repeated the most desperate plea for a "book, book!" I'm not sure if she really wanted another story or was just trying to avoid going to bed, but I picked up "I am a Bunny" and used the glow of the horse to read it. She snuggled down, and was off to dream-land in no time.

We made a major car purchase while we were in Oregon. Meaning, it is a major, substantial car - pretty much the largest you can own without making a spectacle of yourself. I read it weighs 6,000 pounds, and the 10 miles to the gallon I'm getting would support that. I am now the proud owner of a 2016 black Chevy Suburban, thanks to my husband who was able to get it for 25% off MSRP! I absolutely love driving it and feel very safe, one of our main motivators for getting something so large. Just three weeks ago, I was about to make a left with a green arrow when a girl blew through her red light at 40 MPH, texting. She was in a Toyota 4Runner, which a mini-van would not have been a match for. Plus, driving a mini-van just does not fit the image I have of myself. I'm not sure what "image" I should have of myself as a Mom of almost two approaching 40, but driving a mini-van is just not it. So, I worked the safety angle with my husband and it worked.
I wish the Christmas season was 2-3 months instead of only one. With few weekends to spare, we wasted no time getting into the swing of it, having breakfast with Santa at Pretend City on that first Saturday in December. She screamed when we sat down next to the stoic Santa (to her credit, he did seem stern) but was off and running around for the next two hours, having a blast. That evening, we went over to Aunt Cassandra's for dinner. She gave her a dog which she is still carrying around every morning and takes with her to bed. The next day, we went to mass, followed by lunch where she had a blast chasing birds: 

After her nap, my Dad and brother visited while we decorated the tree. I didn't think we would have a problem with her taking off ornaments if I allowed her to touch them, and didn't make a big deal by forbidding it. I put any special, breakable ones out of reach at the top, and cute ones I knew she would like toward the bottom. It worked! There was one rocking horse she wanted to take off, but I told her it stays on the tree, and showed her how to kiss it, which she now does every night and randomly throughout the day.

While we were decorating, I had on Christmas music and we had the cutest impromptu dance party when the Peanuts theme song came on. She let out a little excited squeal and ran over to stare at the 360 speaker. I turned it up, and started dancing with her. Then grandpa joined in. She stepped really fast, marching almost, while she spun around in a circle. She went one way, then turned the other direction. Torn between being in the moment and documenting this cuteness on video, I only caught the tail end of it.

On the 7th, as I was walking her into daycare, she pointed to the sign and said "bee!" I hadn't noticed before, but there was a drawing of one on there. Then, as we passed through the gates, she exclaimed "house!" while pointing to their plastic play houses. Finally, "car!" She will name things when she can (ball, dog, cat, baby) but this was the very first time she picked out three in a row, and bee is a new one. She's been pointing to a bee in her animal book, but never in a different context.

On Friday, night we went to the local tree lighting with our neighbor friends. We woke up on Saturday morning and walked to the park. No one was there, but she had so much fun playing - more than she's ever had at a park. She's able to go up the stairs and down the slides by herself now. After her nap that day, we went to Knott's Merry Farm with my Dad and brother. She loved seeing Snoopy and was fascinated by the fast roller coasters that zoomed by the train area.

On Sunday, we had fun with some sooper beads that I bought on Amazon before going to Home Depot and Lowes to look at ideas for two of our bathrooms (master and the 1/2  bath) that are outdated. They are in desperate need of an update to match the guest bath. She had as much fun walking around the home improvement stores as she does at Pretend City or Disneyland! Especially when I take her over to something mundane (to us) like the carpet samples and let her touch everything. She had a blast! 

On Monday the 12th, we took the train to see Santa at Irvine Regional park. We had the 4-5pm time slot and it was perfect...not crowded at all. Santa is still scary to her, which made for a cute picture. Afterwards, we went straight to our gender reveal dinner and learned when our family and friends did that she is going to be a big sister to a little sister! Another girl! A best friend for life!
So blessed to be growing our family!

On Thursday the 15th she had her first Christmas "performance" (and I use the term loosely) at daycare. It was so cute to see her up on stage though, trying to put santa ears on her classmate. We celebrated Christmas early with my father and brother on the Saturday before. She was a bit overwhelmed by all the presents, and made out like a bandit! A big hit was the Veggie Tales Noah's Arc that my brother gave her. She said "cool" clear as day followed by "animals."
On December the 22nd we flew from LAX to Venice, with a short layover in Zurich. This time, we were both a whole lot less nervous about how she would do on the flight and also once we were there, because we had the summer's trip under our belt. The day before, my husband was booking our train tickets from Venice to Milan for NYE and I asked him how long the ride was. "Oh, piece if cake!" was my reply to him telling me "only three hours." When you've done multiple train rides lasting over 6 hours, 3 hours seems like a breeze.

Our flight was full, so she did not have her own seat this time. Thankfully, our seats did go fully flat, but they were still not very wide. And she likes to sleep like a starfish. But I still managed to get about 5 hours of (interrupted) sleep, more than I was hoping for.

Once again, she adjusted remarkably well to the 8 hour time difference! That first night, on the eve of Christmas Eve, she went to sleep at 9pm, and slept until after breakfast at 11am! We were all awake somewhere between 3 and 5am, but it was kind of nice all snuggling and talking.

"Childhood means simplicity. Look at the world with the child's eye - it is very beautiful." -Kailash Satyarthi

Our first full day was Christmas Eve. We took the free shuttle boat over to San Marco and explored the area around St. Mark's square, including the Bridge of Sighs. We had lunch overlooking Rialto bridge and did some grocery shopping.
The Bridge of Sighs
The Grand Canal
Christmas day walk.
On Christmas day, we went exploring the residential island of Giudecca, where our hotel was located. We found a playground, dogs, pigeons for her to chase and loved looking at the quaint little homes with their laundry strung on clothes-lines. We passed by one small apartment and an elderly man was singing a beautiful song in Italian. I wanted to stop and listen, but it didn't seem right so we just enjoyed it as we continued on, not knowing where we were walking to or what would be around the next bend.

Things I do not want to forget about this month:
  • When she sees Santa (image, or the real deal) she lets out a singular "Ho." Just one.
  • Kissing me on the cheek, spontaneously, when I went to her breakfast with Santa at daycare.
  • Forgetting I had changed into a shirt with a grisly bear on it, I was quickly reminded when she saw it, pointed, and let out the most ferocious "Rawr!" she could muster.
  • The excited squeal she lets out when I say "I'm going to get you!" before she takes off running.
  • Walking backwards at the airport on our way to Oregon.
  • New words: Sunshine, cool, ouchie, book, cold, rawr, boat, baa, animal, Dory, bow, bee, house, car. Previous words: Dada, cat, tea (and some letters of the alphabet), fish, eye, cheese, no, mommy, more, mooo, ruff, baby, my, Nana, uh-oh, MoMo, baba, hi, bye, dog).
  • "Mommy, Dada" as she introduces us to people, or just says randomly while also pointing.
  • Snuggling like sardines in business class.
  • Jumping on the bed together in our hotel room.

    Pasta, pasta, pasta! Also loves scrambled eggs and tangerines. She ate two the day after Christmas on our walk around the canals.

    Tuesday, December 13, 2016

    It's A(nother) GIRL!

    After a small dinner last night with family and my best friend, we cut open our gender reveal cake. We found out when everyone else did that Baby A is going to have a little sister; a best friend for life!
    We are beyond thankful to be having a second child, because there was a time when we were uncertain we would even have a first. When our first IVF failed we were only left with payments on the $20,000 that we financed, because we didn't even have any left embryos to freeze. Everyone (it seems) has embryos left to freeze, and we fully expected that we would too. It was a hard pill to swallow, and I will never forget that day. Although I was disheartened and afraid of never becoming a mother, I wiped the tears off my face and went for a run with my husband. This was right in the middle of my Mom teaching me one of the greatest life lessons: How to have Grace in the face of fear, pain, despair, and even death. How could I feel sorry for myself with a negative pregnancy test when she did not spend one minute feeling sorry for herself with terminal brain cancer? Calling her and delivering the news broke my heart, but she took it in stride, knowing that it would all work out as part of a greater plan. She always had faith that things would work out, and everything would be fine.

    And I thank God every day that first IVF failed. Because if it had worked, I would have a different 1 1/2 year old and not my baby girl. It was meant to not work. We were meant to have her. By the time I POAS and had that amazing positive result, Mom's health had declined dramatically. She shared our joy from her bed in our spare bedroom, the bedroom that will now be this new baby's nursery. My husband recorded me telling her, though I am not strong enough to watch it just yet. We lost her the day after we heard Baby A's heartbeat, when I was only 6 weeks pregnant.

    With that pregnancy, I knew it would last, and that she would be, perfect, because I had to believe that to get me through. The hope of having her was my sunshine in my darkest of days. This concerned my more practical, plan-for-the-worst-case-scenario husband, because he knew I had so much riding on it.

    Never one to feel a compelling desire to have children, he was the one that suggested we try for a 3rd round of IVF. Now that he had Baby A, he felt a strong desire to have a second, and to give her a sibling. Family for her when we are gone. "Are you sure? What if we spend another $20,000 for nothing?" I asked. "Well, then we know we tried, and we will not always wonder 'what if?'" It was then that we began looking into IVF abroad. We all know how that worked out (it didn't).

    But again, there was a plan, and a reason Prague didn't work out. We bit the bullet and went with HRC Newport Beach for a cost of about $15,000 (including meds). Neither of us expected it to work. In fact, we were told that there was a 10% chance that it would. On embryo transfer day, I fully expected to be told that we did not have any make it to day three. I was astounded that we had three, but reminded myself that the chance of success for a day three transfer was much, much lower than a hardier day five blastocyst. 

    This time, when we received the positive test at home and then the official blood test, we were still worried. Would the HCG continue to rise? Was this just a chemical pregnancy? Was something wrong with the baby? It sounds silly, but part of the reason I was worried was because I felt like we were pushing our luck. We already felt like we were abundantly blessed - how could there be more?
    An hour before we found out!
    When we found out last week at week 11 that all the genetic testing was fine, we knew we were really in the clear. I was so relieved because the chances that something would be seriously wrong with our baby was as high as 1 in 66. Though I was nervous as we sliced into the cake together, I knew I would be happy with either outcome because there was another outcome. Another healthy child. A sibling for our little girl. Another little girl.

    Almost too excited to sleep, I woke up excited all over again. I'm not going to lie, a serious part of that excitement has to do with the fact that this baby has a head start on having a fantastic wardrobe. And she will even be born in the same season as our first - how perfect is that? Not to mention matching outfits for the two of them, and the combination birthday parties that I can throw with the girliest of themes (think: Cinderella, spa or tea party, Alice in Wonderland). 

    But the best part? She's going to have a best friend for life. Someone who looks up to her; someone she can share life's joys and sorrows with. A built-in playmate that will grow up to be a trusted confidant. Maybe they will even travel the world together after we're gone. I imagine them sitting in a cafe somewhere in Europe, reminiscing about the travels and adventures they had with us when they were young. 

    Wednesday, November 30, 2016

    17 Months

    The first weekend of Baby A's 17 month started with a visit to Disneyland where she learned an important life skill: Waiting in line. Somehow, she realized that we couldn't move forward until everyone did, and patiently waited by my side while we were in line for the carousel, Dumbo, Casey's train and the tea cups. She liked looking at the other children who were waiting in line, and pointed at a girl's shirt because it had Nemo on it.
    We attended mass the next day, and had not been in awhile. Again, she did really well sitting in her own chair and standing in our aisle. She loves watching the choir and smiling at the people behind us.

    Halloween was a blast! She had a costume parade at her school, and I loved sitting on the wall with the other parents and seeing her come out in her costume, holding Jamie's hand. As soon as she saw me, her face lit up. After school, I picked her up and we went to the Tustin Halloween Howl, an event put on by our city. She received 'honorable mention' for her costume, and we were called onto the stage to receive her award, a bag of goodies and a few gift cards.  

    We had family over for pizza and mummy dogs before heading out to trick-or-treat with her cousins on our street. Again, she wore her costume with no problems. By the second house, she seemed to get the idea of taking the candy when offered and putting it in her personalized pumpkin. But she wanted to keep taking pieces. Not because she knew what it was (she has never had candy - only a hershey kiss from daycare) but because to her, it was a sorting activity. When her cousins were almost a house ahead of us, I told her to run to catch up and she did - trotting off ahead of me to try and catch up to them, doggy ears flopping as she ran. After everyone left, we took her around the block in her pink tricycle and she loved looking at the hustle and bustle of everyone still out.

    Later that week, she wanted some of my Starbucks passion fruit (caffeine free, un-sweetened tea). I asked her to say "tea" and she repeated it back to me, no problem. I then decided to go through the alphabet and was so surprised that she was able to repeat about every third letter on the drive to El Torrito (November 2nd)! On our walk that night, she walked around the entire block - about half a mile - by herself! We pushed her pink tricycle, but she didn't need it. We walked by some sprinklers on the street behind us and she was drawn to them. I am all about letting her have experiences instead of trying to restrict or control her. I have seen parents actually create behavior problems in their kids by being this way, and toddlers's what they do! She listened when we told her it was time to keep walking, and wasn't too wet. Imagine her delight when we got back to our place and it happened to be the one day of the week that the city allows us to water without fear of a citation (California drought). This time, we let her go hog wild and she appeared to be having the time of her life running up to the sprinklers and letting them get her right in her face. Nearing sunset and starting to get a bit chilly (that's 60 degrees here in California), my husband watched her while I went in to run her a nice, warm bath. Spontaneous fun like this is absolutely the best.
    One of her new favorite activities this month is organizing.

    On Saturday the 5th, we participated in the Lung Force Walk in memory of Mom. They were handing out "I'm walking for..." stickers, and I filled out one for her to wear. Seeing her wearing her sticker in support of her Nana sort of broke my heart. But, it was a good day overall, and an event we plan to do every year.

    We were off for Veteran's Day and walked to a local restaurant for breakfast. We stopped at a park on the way home. She loves the slides and now goes down the largest ones.

    On Saturday the 12th, my Dad and brother came for a visit and we took her to a park with a huge castle structure. She had fun running from one section to another and went down the tallest spiral slide she's been on. I love how involved they are in her life, and how her face lights up when she sees them.

    She tired herself out and slept a solid 3 1/2 hours for her nap! When she woke up, we went to Disneyland! Not only was Disneyland all done up for Christmas, but I also decorated that day too. 

    The following weekend, we celebrated Thanksgiving with my Dad and my brother. My Dad brought us some thanksgiving gifts, which I was not expecting. I don't think I've ever received a gift for Thanksgiving before! I unwrapped the Burberry scarf and was so excited. "Keep looking" Dad said as I peaked back into the box. And there was a 1971 copy of my Mom's birth certificate. Looking at it, I was shocked to learn that Paula was not her real name. Her real, full name was Pauline Mary Mangan. Such a treasure and as I sit typing this now, I feel a connection to her through the scarf too, because she loved Burberry. Over the years, my Dad has bought her a Burberry watch, clutch, perfume and now this.

    At mass on Sunday, Baby A rested her head on my chest and was zoning out. Otherwise she seemed normal, but we found out the next day it was because she was getting sick. My husband missed my last ultrasound at the IVF clinic before I graduated because he was home caring for her.

    The following evening, we flew to Oregon to see his family. We didn't land until 11pm and it was tough. The next day was our 3rd wedding anniversary (and 5th total) and we went out to dinner with his folks to celebrate. He surprised me with an Ancestry DNA kit and a gold bracelet!
    The next day was my husband's 35th birthday and also Thanksgiving. The day was spent preparing food while the kids slept. Baby A wasn't too keen on turkey but did enjoy the chocolate that grandma had for after dinner and enjoyed playing with her cousin MK. She also liked running in a loop through the house and down three steeps into the den and up three steps into the kitchen.

    His birthday gift from Baby A was a flag I designed to represent her, to be flown when she is in residence at her grandparent's. This wasn't too much of a surprise since it was his idea, but I love that he is so family oriented.
    Baby A had do much fun in Oregon with her grandparents and cousin MK. She loved walking (running!) to feed carrots to the horse and her pony Butterscotch. She would squeal with excitement as they came charging down the hill, and learned to make the sound a horse does on this trip.

    Things I do not want to forget about this month:
    • Sitting on the floor of her room after her bath, and attempting to put on her diaper. Instead, she ran away from me, down the hallway and out to the living room, naked. Daddy exclaimed "You're a naked baby!" And she giggled and came running back to me. I exclaimed "Buns!" And she giggled again and ran away from me. This repeated about five times.
    • Her excited squeal when she saw the horses.
    • New words: Dada, cat, tea (and some letters of the alphabet), fish, cheese. Previous words: No, mommy, more, mooo, ruff, baby, my, Nana, uh-oh, MoMo, baba, hi, bye, dog).
    • Poop check!
    • New teeth: Canine (Bottom right). Two canines on the top have broken through and on her upper right, the tooth next to her canine for a total of 13 teeth.

    She loves mac 'n cheese and I feel bad giving her the packaged kind. I will in a pinch, but use 1/4 the sodium packet/cheese flavor when I do. Instead, I've been throwing this all in the crock pot for 3.5 hours, and it keeps for several days:

      • 8 oz. whole wheat pasta
      • 12 oz. evaporated milk
      • 1.5 cups of whole milk
      • 0.5 stick of butter
      • 2 large eggs
      • dash of pepper, dash of salt
      • 5 cups of shredded cheddar

    Monday, November 21, 2016

    Proud IVF Mom

    I graduated from my IVF clinic today! Everything looked great on the ultrasound, with a strong heartbeat of 163 beats per minute. Baby J is measuring 19.57 mm. As I checked out and settled the $30 balance, Dr. Jane Fredrick met me for a picture and handed me baby's first article of clothing: A onesie with Proud to be an HRC baby printed across the front. 

    A thank you seems too small. Without Dr. Frederick,
    we would not be expecting our second child.

    Excited, I responded "Thank you! I will definitely send you a picture of our baby in this!" 
    "Please do - it will be our first." the woman taking the picture said. 
    This surprised me, until I remembered that not only are most people not as open as I am about the process, some are even ashamed or embarrassed that they need the help.

    On my drive back to work, I thought about all my experiences with our three IVF procedures, and sharing what we were going through every step of the way. I would not do anything differently, including wearing my heart on my sleeve. The support I garnered by sharing our story has helped me tremendously. I am proud to be pregnant through IVF. Neither one of these amazing babies would be possible had we not sought treatment, and they are both miracles. Overall, the response from others has been overwhelmingly positive. Only once in a great while have we fielded silly questions such as "Did you try naturally? Did you try counting the days?" But questions like this are an opportunity to educate, rather than get defensive. 

    For the record, of course everyone tries multiple other ways of getting pregnant before emotionally and financially committing to undergo IVF. Spending $15,000+ is never something to be taken lightly. Who would choose this over getting pregnant for free!? 

    Of course we did more than count days, a lot more. 

    In almost a year and a half of trying since our first child, we had upwards of 8 IUI procedures. Beyond just counting days, this procedure makes sure everything is timed precisely. We were also equipped with the knowledge that I had an extremely low AMH of .2, and that only one in 7 of my eggs were normal. This meant that only once every 7 months did we have a shot, and even then, so many other stars would need to align before that test would be positive. 

    Had we been reluctant or embarrassed to seek treatment, precious time would have been wasted and we would have run this risk of never giving Baby A a sibling. Many couples are in this situation and just because you are blessed to have one child (or, two!) it does not always lessen your desire to have another.

    Secondary infertility is the inability to have another child following the birth of one or more biological children. It is something that more than 1 million couples face each year, and it accounts for as much as 60% of all infertility cases. While that is not our case, (since we had primary and secondary infertility) many people find themselves in this situation, afraid to seek help because "it worked one time."

    Sharing along the way definitely helped me. But my hope is that it has helped others. I like to think I may have contributed to removing that stigma for some women. Not me alone, of course, but by joining the larger discourse. The more of us that share, the more acceptable it may be seen. Only after I started sharing did I realize how common it is. And it was in sharing that Dr. Frederick, who I can not speak highly enough about, was recommended by a co-worker.

    If you or anyone you know is unsure about their fertility do one thing: Ask your OBGYN to test your AMH level. It is covered by insurance, and a simple blood test. There are other diagnostic tests that can be run, and covered, by your OBGYN. Start here. You'll feel better knowing it is not low, and that you have time. Be informed, and don't wait.

    Thursday, November 10, 2016

    My Experience at The Trump Rally

    I wrote this post back in April after I attended Trump's rally in Costa Mesa. I was afraid to publish it then, just as I am afraid to publish it now. I have a lot of really good friends whom I respect and admire who hate Trump, and would probably even say that hate is not a strong enough word for him. I feared, and fear, loosing their friendship over our difference of opinion. But, I figure if I can respect and admire them even if I don't always agree with their politics, hopefully they can do the same for me. Friendships are built on so much more, and there are many points to their anti-Trump arguments that I can see and even agree with. 

    Plus, who wants to be friends only with people that share all of their same viewpoints? 

    Just as I am a Catholic and do not blindly accept all that the church tells me I can and cannot do (such as IVF which I wrote about here), I am a Trump supporter even though I do not agree with all of his policies

    I also am reluctant to share this for fear being called a racist, bigot or misogynist (can a women be misogynistic?) just because I opposed Hillary and did not vote for her. But, I know that I am none of those things. Everyone against him is more than comfortable voicing their dissent, so here goes nothing...

    1. willing to consider new ideas; unprejudiced.

    When I posted on social media that Trump was going to be across the street from my work, one of my friends commented "bomb it." Another said that I would be able to smell his stench from my office. At that point, I hadn't even posted that I was going to go, because I wasn't sure of child care, just that he would be there. These two comments were made by two liberal friends, who I do believe consider themselves to be very open-minded and tolerant of people who are different. 

    This started me thinking about how some (not all) people who consider themselves "open minded" believe that everyone is entitled to their opinions no matter how different they may be ... just so long as they don't differ too much from their own. I mean, the bomb it comment is on par with extremists who believe in killing doctor's at abortion clinics, just on the opposite end of the spectrum. How open-minded can you be if you completely disregard (or hate?) another person's viewpoints? 

    This posting is my account and experience after attending Trump's Rally on April 28th, 2016 in Costa Mesa, CA. Love him or hate him (not many fall in between), you have to admit that it was an historic event, and it was happening right across the street from my work. 

    Bill O'Reilly said: "...the two most shocking political stories in my lifetime are the assassination of President John Kennedy and the rise to political prominence of one Donald J. Trump. History will record that this was an uprising, a movement of the people supporting a candidate who has absolutely no ties to the political establishment."

    No one thought he would make it this far, least of all, Republicans. What fascinated me about him is that he is not entrenched in The Establishment. Has there ever been a serious candidate that was not?

    Now, before you go thinking I went to this rally because I was a big Trump supporter, I did also see Obama at the same OC fairgrounds for a town hall meeting after he was elected president a few years ago. And if Hillary were speaking, I probably would have walked over as well, though she will never get my vote. Curiosity got the better of me, and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

    As we lined up outside just after 4pm, there were no protesters in sight. I was admittedly a little disappointed by how calm things were. John and Ken were broadcasting for KFI, and it was an orderly crowd. Around 4:30, we started to enter the gates slowly, because of security. Although free tickets were given on his website, no tickets were taken or even looked at. Anyone who was in line received an orange wristband. As I went through the metal detector and security checked my purse and yarn (gasp!), a man told me sternly "You cannot take that in." Explaining that my clear yarn-holder was plastic, he asked "What is it anyway? No." I said "It just keeps my yarn from getting tangled." As I removed my yarn to leave the container behind, he saw my crochet hook in there and barked "That can't come in either." This is something I fly with all the time, and I was really looking forward to crocheting favors for Baby A's first birthday! What else was I going to do for two hours!? As I started to try and explain this fact, I realized he was Secret Service, not your run-of-the-mill security guard. And so I left the crochet hook behind, along with my plan to ask to speak to his supervisor, and entered the Pacific Amphitheater.

    Almost half of the 8,500 seats were already filled by 5pm. There was a loop of background music being played that included country, Neil Diamond and Elton John in the rotation. Periodically, the crowd would cheer as someone held up a sign that read BLACK CHRISTIAN WOMEN LOVE TRUMP or LATINOS FOR TRUMP. People milled about in their Hilary for Prison and Trump kicks rump shirts. A lot of them wore MAKE AMERICA GREAT hats. One man brought in a Captain America cut-out and received a lot of fan-fair as people posed for pictures with it. At 6pm, the mayor of Rancho Santa Margarita spoke, and lead everyone in prayer before recognizing any Veterans in attendance.

    Excitement started to build as an announcement with an intentionally robotic, humorous tone came on over the speakers: 

    Do not touch or harm the protester. This is a peaceful rally. In order to notify the law enforcement officers of the location of the protester, please hold a rally sign over your head and start chanting "Trump! Trump! Trump!" ask the people around you to do likewise until until the officer removes the protester.  
    This technique was really effective. When the lone 3 protesters who tried to put on anti-Trump shirts were immediately surrounded by the chants, and then calmly walked out by security. The rest of the evening, inside the amphitheater at least, went off without a hitch.

    The last person to take the stage before Trump came out after 7:30 was Assemblyman Bill Brough, who led the crowd in the pledge of allegiance before introducing Trump to a roar of cheers.

    You may not like the rhetoric he spouts, but it is hard to deny that Trump is a good off-the-cuff speaker, who never reads from a teleprompter. Some would say he probably should read from a teleprompter. Touche. 

    Shortly after taking the stage, Trump introduced the father of Jamiel Shaw, a 17 year old African-American football star from Los Angeles who was shot in the head in 2008 by an illegal immigrant who had been released from jail the previous day. Serving only four months of an eight month sentence for assault with a deadly weapon and battery on a police officer, he had lied about his immigration status and killed Jamiel, who had never been in trouble with the law or even at school. He was shot because of the color of his backpack, which he mistook for a rival gang. (Read more here.) Behind them stood a line of parents, all holding up banners with pictures and information about their loved ones who were killed by previously convicted, and not deported, illegal immigrants.

    Now, Trump gets a lot of flak for hating immigrants or wanting to stop immigration all together. He is called a racist, a bigot and even worse. But none of that came across in his message, and he never spoke about getting rid of anyone except violent criminals. He specifically said "We want people to come in, but we want them to do it legally." 

    I thought back to my Mom's experience immigrating here in 1970, after she married my Dad. She was married to my father, yet not allowed to come to our country until they had a certain amount of money in their bank account. For this reason, my Dad came first and worked to put away money until she was able to come. Trump, and his supporters, are not saying immigration should stop all together. Anyone who thinks we should is forgetting how our Nation was founded, and that no one would not be here without it. 

    He drew a distinction between legal immigration and illegal immigrants, some who have committed violent crimes, yet still remain here. He spoke about the safety of our neighborhoods, schools and the drain on our resources like medical care and hospitals. No where in there was there a send people back message, unless they have committed violent crimes. Rather, the message was let's help and protect what we have and who we have (including our immigrants) and let's bring our jobs back.

    Think about it: if you want to help everyone, but in doing so, spread your resources so thin that you end up not really helping anyone, are you really helping?

    Regarding terrorism he said: We have to be tough. We have to be vigilant. We have to be strong. This country is so politically correct that we don't know anything that is going on. 

    He then launched into a graphic story about General John "Black Jack" Pershing from more than a century ago, during World War I. The story, which may be no more than legend, described how Pershing was tough on radical Islamic terrorists. Before launching into the story, Trump made it a point to say that Muslims are not the problem. The problem is radical Islamic terrorism, not Muslims, he stated, as he disparaged Obama for not being able to even mention the extremists due to political correctness. He said You cannot cure a problem if you don't want to even mention the problem. Hearing him say this and make sure that he made the distinction between Muslims and radical Islamic terrorism, I realized that a lot of his messages of hate, intolerance and xenophobia were likely taken out of context, then spread through
     the internet and social media.

    The graphic story? Fifty radical Islamic terrorists who had done tremendous damage and killed many people were caught. Fifty bullets were swirled around in pigs' blood and used to kill forty-nine of the terrorists. The fiftieth terrorist was given that last bullet, after having witnessed all of the deaths, and told to bring that bullet back to everyone and tell them what had happened. "And for 42 years, there was no problem with radical Islamic terrorism. We need to get it together" he concluded.

    Around this time, the smell of something burning entered the amphitheater. It became stronger and stronger, and hung thick in the air. My co-worker and I exchanged concerned looks, and studied the faces of the secret service and security guards for signs of concern. It wasn't until later that night that I swan on the news that it was most likely the smell of burned-rubber from cars in the streets.

    Moving on and switching gears, he brought up Lyin' Ted Cruz, a moniker he is fond of using. Nobody likes him he stated as fact, as he pointed out that for the first time, a candidate that mathematically has zero chance of winning has appointed his vice-president. A roar of laughter erupted. He put down Kasich (who eats like that!?) and Low-energy Jeb Bush, before devoting a little more time to "Crooked Hillary." He brought up that she has stated that she doesn't like his tone, yet all she does is shout off of her teleprompters. "Here we are in a world going to hell. Not since medieval time have people chopped off heads, and she says 'I don't like his tone.' We need a tough tone!"

    He then stated "I'm glad she won; I want to beat her more than Saunders."

    People like to throw out terms like misogynist and sexist in relation to Trump. Especially lately, because he made the statement that some people are voting for Hillary just because she is a woman. But, he is speaking the truth. I do know women who have said "You mean you're not voting for Hillary? But, she's a woman!" To me, she is more of a misogynist for the villanizing she did of Bill's mistresses which she has done on several accounts, in several ways. Blaming the victim of the sexual assault should never be an option. 

    Moving on to the subject of jobs, he said that across the nation, states are down 40-50% on jobs. "Jobs are going everywhere, but here. Factories are moving production to Mexico, Japan, China. Schools, hospitals are all devastated. We are going to make the country great for everyone: Hispanics, blacks, for our hard-workers. People are working harder today than they did 18 years ago and yet they are making less. Plants are opening in Mexico. We are being out-dealt by Japan; by China. We have a 505 billion dollar trade deficit with China; they don't even want our product! Apple will start making their product here, they just don't know it yet!"

    Around 8:30, I decided to cut out of there early and get home to my 11 month old that my husband was watching. Saying goodbye to the people I was with, I headed to the one designated exit at the very top of the seats solo, as Trump started talking about building the wall. "They say it can't be done, but China built a great wall, and that was 2,000 years ago!" 

    My plastic crochet canister had been moved from the entrance where I left it and was nicely placed on a table, with my lone crochet hook inside (I know you were worried about this), along with metal water containers and other items that were not allowed inside. As I picked it up and headed out the gates, I walked into the strongest police presence I have ever seen. At least 50 officers in full riot gear were standing in a line that stretched pretty far. Immediately, I started to second-guess my decision to leave by myself, but was glad that I was leaving early.

    It was the police presence and what they may have known to be in such force that scared me, not the protesters. I really didn't see too many actually, almost all of them just seemed to be groups of teenagers just hanging out. One man held a sign with a rendering of Trump with HITLER in bold letters, and I heard him say to someone who was taking a picture of it "We can have a discussion if you'd like." I walked through the parking lot and took a right along Fairview. This was just after 8:30, and when there must have been a group flooding the streets at the intersection of Fair and Fairview. Two police cars zoomed past me, sirens on. Then three more. In total, I saw around 10 units headed in the opposite direction of where I was headed, which told me I was going the right way.

    Home just after 9pm, I was able to watch the "protests" from my couch. 

    From The LA Times: 

    The scene outside the Donald Trump rally was chaotic as a crowd of hundreds of mostly young protesters blocked the streets. Many were carrying Mexican flags. Protesters smashed a window on at least one police car, punctured the tires of a police SUV, and at one point tried to flip a police cruiser. A young man got on top of the police cruiser and started stomping on it before slipping and falling off. Protesters scribbled anti-Trump messages on police cars and on at least one red sports car parked in a gas station parking lot.
    By "mostly young" protesters, they mean teenagers, and teenagers who care more about getting some attention than obeying the law. I know plenty of well-educated, law-abiding people who don't agree with Trump, and there are even more out there, but if they were there, they were not the ones flooding the streets, and not the ones that the media focused on. Standing and having a discussion or debate makes for less than thrilling ratings and the media loves to play up the drama and danger.

    In all, it was an experience that I'm glad to say I was a part of.