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.

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 explore...it'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.

Food:
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...
________________________________

o·pen-mind·ed
adjective
  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. 


Friday, November 4, 2016

1st Sonogram + Rising HCG

On the Friday before Halloween, I had my first sonogram and there was something there! Because it was so early, a gestational sac was visible. Just one. They said I was 5.5 weeks along, two weeks farther than I realized. I forgot you get "credit" for two weeks! This puts me with a June 27th due date. Because we will do c-section, baby will be here around June 13th.
Seeing something on the sonogram made me feel so relieved and even more hopeful. Then, yesterday, I was given my HCG results: 11,287 up from 842 a week prior. This means our baby is a growin'! I breathed another huge sigh of relief. When we saw Baby A's heartbeat at 6 weeks, there was another sac visible, but it was gone by the next week. I was worried this could be the same. But, since my HCG is right on track, we know that it is actually growing and not just a sac.

My next ultrasound on November 7th should detect a heartbeat! I cannot wait! Then, at 10 weeks, we will have the genetic testing done which will tell us everything is okay, and also the gender. No longer requiring amniocentesis (which poses a risk to baby), this is just a blood test! The final hurdle we then need to clear is at 12 weeks, when I enter my second trimester and the risk of miscarriage drops dramatically. We're more than half way there!