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.

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.

    Food:
    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 fine...no, 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.