December 10, 2013

Baby Gear

Before our baby was born, we started getting ready for her arrival by spending tons of money on baby gear. We managed to get the basics before her early arrival, and caught up on the rest later. Though it's misleading to say that we "caught up" as we are still hemorrhaging money on baby stuff on a regular basis (my credit card statements look like this: Target, Amazon, Amazon, Target, Target, Netflix, Amazon, Amazon, Target, Amazon, etc).

Here is my review of some of the "essential" baby items that we've purchased:

Baby gear

1. One of the first items that we purchased was a crib. Keeping in mind our color scheme for the baby room (white/gray/turquoise/yellow), we decided that we wanted a white crib with a modern look to it. I searched for a crib that was made of solid wood (to avoid potential fumes from glue used in MDF) and had extra storage (as we live in a small place and always lack storage space). After much research, we decided to go with Babyletto Mercer 3-in-1 crib in white. It has multiple levels for the mattress and converts into a daybed and a toddler bed. This crib is almost entirely made of solid wood, with the exception of the drawer, which is MDF. I made peace with that because this crib was already on the higher end of our price range ($400), and the other options that had the modern look to them and were 100% solid wood were much pricier. We are very happy with this crib, and the drawer provides the much needed space to store extra diapers and other supplies.

For the record, our baby didn't like sleeping in the crib for a long time. I think it felt too huge for her, after the tight comfort of the womb. We borrowed a bassinet from our friends, and she slept in it for about a month until she grew out of it.

2. We splurged on the crib mattress, as we decided to buy an organic mattress that didn't emit crazy fumes from the fire retardant treatments that are sprayed all over baby stuff. During pregnancy, I was like a blood hound, super sensitive to smells of any kind. We bought the Naturepedic Organic Cotton Lightweight Classic Crib Mattress, which is very firm and has the added bonus of weighing only 11 pounds, making sheet changes a breeze. We love this mattress, and our daughter has grown used to sleeping in the crib lately, so she seems happy to sleep on this mattress as well nowadays.

3. I was excited about crib sheets because there are so many beautiful options out there, and this was my chance to bring the yellow and turquoise/aqua colors into the baby room. Besides the colors, I also looked for something that was 100% cotton. We originally bought three crib sheets from Land of Nod: aqua, yellow with white dots, and blue waves. The sheets fit our crib mattress snug (like they are supposed to), and held up well through many washes. However, while these sheets are truly beautiful, I can't really say that they are very soft. That's one of the drawbacks to online shopping: you can't feel the texture of what you are buying. We resorted to putting a receiving blanket over the sheet to make a softer surface for our baby to sleep on. Since it is winter now, we bought another sheet that is flannel, and while it is quite plain, it is also very soft.

4. Funny story about the infant car seat: we bought it in July, but by the time I was admitted to the hospital for delivery, we still had not installed it. We had the presence of mind to throw it in the trunk of the car when we left for the hospital, and D ended up installing it right in the hospital parking lot the night before our baby was born. We bought the Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat in Pulse for several reasons. It had good reviews, is known for easy installation (which turned out to be true), goes up to 30 pounds (in terms of baby weight, though I can't imagine lugging such a heavy baby around in a car seat), and has an infant insert, which turned out to hold our tiny baby pretty well. I am generally happy with our car seat. If I were to change anything about it, it would be to give it a larger canopy, but that's a very minor detail. The red color was D's choice, and while I wouldn't normally go for red, I must say that I ended up really liking this color.

5. When choosing a stroller, we kept in mind that it had to be lightweight, easy to fold down and store, and small enough to fit into the trunk of my not-very-big car. We decided that the easiest option for us in the beginning would be getting a stroller frame for the infant car seat. So far, it's been working out really well. The small footprint of this stroller has the added bonus of being easy to navigate on the city streets and in tight aisles of the grocery stores. It's also really easy to snap the car seat into the frame (there is no way to screw it up). The only drawback is that once our baby grows out of the infant car seat, we will have to get another stroller, but that could be a long way down the road since we don't have a big baby.

6. I had two criteria for choosing a diaper bag: one, it has to be practical, and two, it had to look good. Most diaper bags fit the first criteria but not the second. I read a lot of reviews on diaper bags, and it seemed to me that the biggest complaint was that the bags didn't fit all the things that the mamas wanted to fit into them. But as the reviewers listed all the things they tried to cram into the bags, I wondered why they need to carry SO MUCH STUFF with them! You might think that I was naive in my pre-baby way of thinking, but I have to say that the diaper bag I chose had those same complaints in the reviews, and yet I am very, very happy with its capacity and its appearance. The diaper bag I bought is the JJ Cole Swag Diaper Bag in Silver Drop, and I highly recommend it. Yes, it still looks like a diaper bag, but it looks stylish and doesn't break the bank.

7. About six weeks after our baby was born, I felt like I was going to go insane. We hadn't bought anything like a rock-n-play or a bouncer to put the baby in, and she was too small for any carrier at that time, which meant that the only way to keep the baby from screaming her head off was to carry her around everywhere. I learned to do everything one-handed: eat breakfast, fold laundry, make the bed (haha, just kidding! no one made the bed back then). But really, sometimes, I needed a break from being permanently attached to the baby. She was too big for the bassinet (which we used to put on the table in the kitchen and lay the baby in it so she could hang out with us during meals), and didn't want to stay in the crib or play by herself (we later got an activity mat with hanging toys, and she now enjoys independent playtime). So, we finally bought a bouncer. And the baby hated it. I think it's because she was too small for it at that time. I also hated it because it was a pain to assemble, and the vibrations and the tunes didn't even work. The defective bouncer went back to the store. A couple of weeks later, two months in, we bought a different bouncer: Fisher-Price Deluxe Bouncer in My Little Snugabunny. I went back and forth about whether to splurge on the MamaRoo bouncer, but in the end couldn't justify spending that much money on something the baby may or may not like, and something that would only be useful for a few months anyway. In any case, we lucked out with the bouncer we bought: she likes it, and takes really good naps in it during the day. And I use both hands to eat nowadays.

8. Ahh, baby wearing. I must say that I really enjoy it. Before I did any major research into baby carriers, I was mostly aware of two types: a wrap-type carrier and a structured carrier. Turns out, there are many more types of carriers out there. After reading about the many types, I decided that a soft-structure carrier was best for me. The Moby wrap intimidated me, and the slings appeared to unevenly distribute weight to one shoulder (though I never tried them, so this may not be true). I really wanted to invest in only one carrier that would last me a long time. Mostly, I heard about BabyBjorn and Ergo, so at first I wasn't even aware of other options. The reviews and experiences of other parents with these two carriers worried me - BabyBjorn appeared to cause back problems when the baby grew heavier, and the Ergo required an infant insert (which is very warm and would not work for us in the first, warmer months) until the baby was 12 pounds. The Ergo also seemed difficult to put on because it has a strap across the top of the back. I was looking for a carrier that would be suitable for a tiny baby without an insert, would provide back support for when the baby grows, and would be easy to put on. The Beco Gemini baby carrier met all my requirements (it is suitable for babies as small as 7 pounds), and I've been very happy with it. We bought the Beco in Stella color scheme.

There were a few other items we needed right away for the baby: storage for clothes and diapering supplies. We had a dresser that we dedicated for storage of baby clothes and other baby paraphernalia (which means that we currently don't have a dresser for ourselves, a problem that we hope to address once the baby actually moves to her own room). Instead of buying a changing table (for which we have no room), we put a changing pad on top of the dresser. Speaking of changing pads, buying one was less straightforward than one might think. I ordered a standard changing pad on Amazon (I think it was Summer Infant brand, which came recommended), and when it arrived it reeked of chemicals. My then-pregnant blood-hound nose couldn't handle it. I tried to air it out for a couple of weeks, but the stench would not go away. I returned the changing pad and decided that I had to buy one in person, even if it meant spending more money on it. I couldn't risk another odor debacle. So I went to Babies R Us and sniffed every changing pad they had (I will pause while you deal with that mental image). Finally, I settled on a Serta contour changing pad. Sure, I could have bought an organic changing pad that would not have smelled at all, but I wasn't willing to spend $100 on it. It seemed less important to have an organic changing pad than an organic crib mattress, where the baby would spend much of her sleeping time.

I also decided to buy a changing pad cover because my baby did not enjoy being naked on the cold plastic of the changing pad. I bought Aden + Anais bamboo cover in aqua. It is very soft and goes well with our color scheme. However, after three months of many washes, it has shrunk and no longer fits well on our changing pad. I am having a hard time finding a soft changing pad cover that isn't polyester-based and won't shrink over time. In desperation, I've ordered two more Aden + Anais covers, but any recommendations are welcome.

Baby-related expenses are never-ending, and we are buying more baby items as we need them (for example, we just bought a travel crib for upcoming travels), but these are the basics that we found useful in the first several months of baby's life. What is on your list of must-have or nice-to-have baby items?

November 25, 2013

Maternity Leave

If I had taken the "standard" 12 week, unpaid maternity leave that is available to (some) women in the United States, I would have been back at work by now.

But, I did not qualify for maternity leave. Instead, I quit my job.

How is it possible that I did not qualify for maternity leave? Well, under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a primary caregiver is entitled to 12 weeks unpaid leave under some circumstances, including a birth of a child, with a few caveats. One of those caveats is that you had to have worked at your current company for at least 1 year before taking leave. I was only there for seven months, so strike one against me.

Individual states have their own maternity leave policies in addition to the FMLA. In Massachusetts, there is the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (MMLA), which allows for 8 weeks of unpaid leave (woo hoo, how generous). My employer told me that to be eligible for MMLA, I had to have worked at the company for 6 months after the probationary period, which was 6 months, which brings us back to the 1 year requirement. Strike two against me. (I just found out that this was actually incorrect information: all that was required was the completion of the probationary period, or at least 3 months, which means I should have been eligible for MMLA. But still, 8 weeks???)

Other than New Jersey and California, I am not aware of any states that provide for any kind of (miserly) pay during maternity leave. However, some people use short term disability benefits during leave. While it does provide some sort of income, it irks me to lump birth and postpartum period into something defined as a disability. Nevertheless, I was told that, once again, I had to have worked for the company for at least one year to be able to claim disability (which, in itself, is ridiculous - what if I had an actual disability develop before that year was up?). Strike three against me.

Given that I wasn't eligible for any maternity leave or pay whatsoever, but I was still planning to give birth and care for the newborn baby, I decided to leave my job. I ended up in this situation because, obviously, we have some family-friendly policies in this country. Instead of being bitter about the situation, I decided to think of it as an unpaid version of the European-style maternity leave (or Canadian, for that matter). I recognize that I am very, very lucky that our family is able to live on one salary for some period of time, and so I decided to take a year off to stay home with the baby before returning back into the workforce. (I have no delusions that it will be easy to find a job in this economy, so stay tuned for that adventure.)

This decision left me feeling very conflicted. I have never envisioned myself as a stay-at-home mom, but that is essentially what I am at the moment. Three months in, I have to say that I have developed even more respect for stay-at-home parents, because it literally is the hardest job I've ever had to do. Things are getting better around here these days (no, the baby is not sleeping through the night yet). But the first 2.5 months were brutal. There were days where I told my husband I wouldn't make it. The continuous sleep deprivation, the constant baby cycle of nursing, refusing to nap, and screaming added up, and there were several nights and days when I broke down. The unsustainable (lack of) routine hit its peak around 6 weeks postpartum. A couple of weeks later, we realized that our baby has acid reflux, but that is a post for another day. Anyway, 3 months in, things are improving greatly, and we are developing a routine with the baby, which helps immensely.

So, on one hand, I was exhausted and had moments where I really, really wanted to be at work and not stuck at home with a screaming infant. On the other hand, my daughter is changing so quickly that on a weekly, daily basis, she surprises me with something new - swatting at toys, chatting, smiling. It is so rewarding to be there to witness these moments, I wouldn't trade them for anything.

On the third hand, we have the issue of the ridiculous cost of daycare in our area. Let's put some numbers out there: did you know that to have your infant (6 weeks to about 1 year old) in a daycare center full time (which could be from 8 am to 3 pm, not exactly coinciding with a full work day) would cost you about $2500 a month? No, that is not a typo. So, just considering the financial side of things, forgetting for the moment about my own feelings and emotions about the situation, I would have to have a pretty well-paying job in order to make it worth my time to work and pay for daycare. Putting the emotions back into the equation, I would have to really love my job to consider shelling out this much money for daycare AND being away from my baby.

(Huge note to the internet: all these musings and considerations are made possible only by the fact that our family is able to survive on one salary for the time being, which I realize is not a situation for everyone, so please don't take anything I say personally. This is just my own thoughts about our specific situation. Same goes for all the emotional stuff I am writing about. I have all the respect in the world for working parents, stay-at-home parents, and work-at-home parents. All these choices require hard decisions and sacrifices, however different they may be individually.)

So, for the time being, I am adjusting to life as a stay-at-home mom, and I am trying to be as grateful about it as possible. It's an uphill battle, but I am stubborn, and I am winning.

October 28, 2013

Pregnancy and Weight Gain

If there is one thing I learned during pregnancy, it's that we have so little control over how the body functions. At least, that was my experience. Everyone talks about the food cravings, but I hardly imagined how powerful those cravings would be. In the second trimester, once the nausea wore off, my body craved croissants on an almost daily basis. How convenient it was that my work was located around the corner from a delicious bakery!

Anyway, I would like to talk about pregnancy weight gain, not my cravings for croissants. (I'm sure the two have nothing to do with each other...) According to the Babycenter website, I should have expected to gain an average of 25 to 35 pounds over nine months, almost all of it in the second and third trimester, and the weight gain was supposed to be more or less linear.

That is not what happened.

What happened was this:

True to my nature, I charted my weight gain throughout pregnancy. During the first trimester, I lost a couple of pounds due to constant nausea. In the "honeymoon" second trimester, which was filled with lots of energy and many apricot croissants, I only gained a few pounds. When the third trimester arrived, I started putting on weight like gangbusters (though I laid off the croissants). What I found most mind-boggling was that the weight gain had nothing to do with my food consumption. One morning, I would wake up and discover I had gained three pounds overnight. How did that happen?

I didn't quite make it to the full nine months, as my baby arrived at 35 weeks 6 days, almost a month early. This is what I looked like the day I went to the hospital, at 35 weeks 5 days:

35 weeks 5 days
I was ready to pop, no doubt. (My water broke that morning, so does that mean that I had technically already popped by then?) But even though I looked huge, my total weight gain by the end of pregnancy was 19 pounds. (Note to the blogosphere: Apart from certain pregnancy forums, it appears to be taboo to discuss weight and weight gain on the internet or in real life. But I feel that there is a need to publicly discuss real pregnancies, if only to dispel the illusion of the perfect pregnancy image perpetuated by Hollywood. Every woman and every pregnancy is different, and this is only my experience which I am adding to the conversation.) How did it happen that I gained less than the recommended amount? Well, I was only pregnant for eight months, so I'm sure that had something to do with it, but otherwise, I have no idea. My body did what it wanted, and gained weight when it needed to gain weight. Babycenter kept telling me that I was not gaining enough and was putting my baby at risk of something-or-other. Let me tell you, this kind of language caused me a lot of anxiety. But I was measuring right on time, and my OB was not at all concerned, which definitely helped alleviate some of my fears, and also made me realize that Dr. Google doesn't really know what he is talking about.

Now, if the weight conversation around pregnancy is taboo, it is practically nonexistent when it comes to postpartum weight loss (with the exception of a few wonderfully honest people - hi, Lauren!). Mostly, what I heard was that if it takes nine months (eight in my case) to gain all the weight, it will take approximately as long to lose it. That's what I kept telling my husband, anyway, lest he expected me to bounce back in a week or something ridiculous like that. I also assumed that as I lost the weight, I would slowly get back into my pre-pregnancy shape.

That's not what happened, either.

When I left the hospital, I had only lost 7 pounds (baby + placenta - all the IV fluids they pumped into me that caused my feet to be scary swollen for several days after delivery). I also looked about six months pregnant, except instead of a round, firm baby belly, I had a huge flabby sack and lots of loose skin. I had been warned about this, so even though it was shocking to see my body in such a state, at least I was somewhat prepared for it.

But I was not prepared for what happened next. At nine days postpartum, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight. It must have been the breastfeeding, because I was eating like a trucker (way more than when I was pregnant) and certainly did no exercising. I can't explain it any other way, the weight just came off. What did NOT come off, however, was my belly. Even though I had lost all the weight, I still looked four months pregnant! This I was not ready for. How do you get back into shape if you don't want to lose any weight?

It turned out, as I learned later, that the uterus takes several weeks to shrink back to its original size, which is why I still wasn't back to my familiar shape at that time. So I calmed down and let my uterus do its thing. But guess what? By six weeks postpartum, my uterus was back to normal. And yet, even two months later, my body still does not look the same. Yes, I can fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans, but they look ridiculous on me. I don't know if I will ever get my old body back, and I don't know if I need to. These potentially permanent body changes were unexpected, and I may have to learn to live with them.

Meanwhile, perhaps it's time to update my wardrobe.

October 1, 2013

34 weeks - maternity photoshoot

This post is much belated since I am obviously no longer pregnant, but I wanted to share these photos with you. At 34 weeks, we had our maternity photoshoot (none too soon, as our daughter made an appearance less than two weeks later). My brother-in-law is a photographer, and he did a wonderful job with the photoshoot, especially considering how not photogenic I am. I was going to write this post as soon as we got the photos, but guess what? We got the photos on the day our little lady was born!

So, without further ado, here is what I looked like at 34 weeks pregnant: ready to pop.

September 16, 2013

Welcome to the world, little one

my favorite tiny toes

A month before her due date, our little lady surprised us and made an appearance into the world. She weighed 6 pounds 4 ounces, and measured 19 inches long. We are completely in love and totally sleep deprived. Slowly but surely, we are adjusting to our new role as parents.

I have many blog posts swirling around in my head. The trick now is to find the time to write them.

August 5, 2013

32 to 33 weeks - Forever pregnant

I hear that when women reach the middle of the third trimester, they either feel like their pregnancy is flying by or that it's dragging on. Turns out I'm in the latter camp, feeling like I will be forever pregnant. Time has slowed down to a crawl, and we are now impatiently awaiting the arrival of our daughter.

Not that we are at all ready for her arrival or anything. I have yet to wash her crib sheets, clothes, and blankets. We still don't have a changing pad. The car seat is not installed (at least, it's been purchased). The house is in a state of permanent disarray, with rooms covered in boxes. Of course, the hospital bag hasn't been packed. You get the picture.

I have to say, though, that aside from the occasional back ache, I've been feeling pretty good. I did notice the need to slow down overall. I walk slower, I can't lift objects I used to be able to handle easily (like shopping bags), and painting any other room is out of the question at this point. But otherwise, the third trimester is treating me fairly well so far.

Here I am at 32 weeks, with my huge and still growing belly:

32 weeks
Nothing like a good haircut to brighten up a pregnant woman's day. :)

July 23, 2013

Painting the baby room

As I mentioned in my last post, we painted the baby room. We chose to do it over the long Independence Day weekend because we knew that the prep and the painting would take a couple of days. But first, we had to choose a paint color.

After much discussion, we settled on a potential color scheme for the baby room: gray, white, yellow, and turquoise. Yep, we are having a girl, and there is not a hint of pink in sight! Let's just say neither of us is a fan of pink. We knew that the white color would show up in the furniture, as we planned to get a white crib and a white daybed (the baby room will also function as a guest room). We decided that yellow and turquoise would make great accent colors, and we could bring those colors to the room in a rug, pillows, bedding, lamps, etc. And we thought that a well-chosen gray color would create a serene environment for the baby, and it would make a great neutral background for the bright accent colors.

Finding the right shade of gray turned out to be more challenging than we originally anticipated. As a first step, we went to Home Depot and picked up dozens of swatches. We brought them home and taped them up around the room. Immediately, we realized that the shades of gray we had in mind originally were going to be too dark (of course, they looked lighter in the store). The next thing we discovered was that every gray swatch we considered changed its undertones dramatically in different lighting. Like a chameleon, a swatch would appear to have silver or blue undertones (something we were aiming for) during the day, but the artificial lighting at night would bring out the tans and the browns that we didn't know existed in those grays.

We scrapped all of the Home Depot grays (mostly Behr, some Glidden), and picked up about ten color chips of Benjamin Moore grays. What a difference that made! First of all, the swatches appeared a lot more consistent in their undertones throughout the day (at least on paper). And more importantly, we found about five gray colors that we liked. So suddenly we went from having no appealing options to five awesome swatches! It was a good problem to have.

We ended up choosing a Benjamin Moore gray that was appropriately called Sweet Innocence (and no, we didn't choose it based on the name). It is a light gray color that appears to have a hint of blue undertones. As we found out after we painted, the blue undertones are less subtle in real life than on paper, and there are also some lavender undertones that come out in certain lighting.

Online calculators told me that we would need about 1.6 gallons for two coats of paint in this room, so we bought two gallons in the Natura eggshell finish. The awesome thing about BM's Natura is that it is zero-VOC, which means it doesn't stink! I didn't really believe that the paint wouldn't stink at all, but it really didn't. It wasn't until we got two full coats on that I could detect a subtle paint smell, and that is saying a lot with my bloodhound pregnancy nose. We also bought a gallon of Natura off-the-shelf white in semi-gloss for the trim, which we intend to use throughout the house.

Before we could paint, we had to do some prep work. As you may recall from our house tour, this room has baseboard trim, as well as trim around the windows and the french doors. It also had the most annoying and tiny folding closet door, which we removed because it was causing a lot of grief (we plan to hang a curtain instead of the door down the road). What is not obvious from those photos is that we have a combination of drywall and plasterboard walls, and the plasterboard is in a pretty beat-up condition. It has a lot of bumps, small and large, and there were also holes in the wall left from previous owners.

As our first prep step, we decided to spackle the holes and attempt to smooth the walls by sanding and filling in the bumps. We had some limited success with smoothing down the walls, but in the process, our orange walls ended up looking like they had chicken pox. We also used wood filler to fill in holes in the trim around the windows. Oh, and that weekend was the beginning of the heat wave, and we have no air conditioning, thus the fan.

Prepping the room
We also removed all the switch plates and outlet covers. The prep work took most of the day (there was a LOT of sanding to do). Not only did we have to spackle and sand, but we also had to clean up all the dust afterward. At that point, I was wishing we had a shop vac because doing it with our regular vacuum cleaner took forever. We also followed up with some wet cloths to make sure there was no sanding dust left on the surfaces. My in-laws came to help with prep, and later with painting, which is why we were able to pull this off in only a couple of days. Before painting, I put a plastic tarp on the floor and taped off the floor and the heating baseboard. We chose not to tape off the rest of the trim because my mother-in-law has a very steady hand and could cut in without tape (a skill I have only begun to develop).

Ready to paint!
The next day, we painted. I have to say that when that first stroke of gray covered the orange on the wall, it was the most satisfying feeling in the world. And not only because we were covering up the color we disliked with a color of our own choosing, but also because it really hit me then that we are homeowners. We can actually choose our own colors! How liberating! But also just the process of taking the paint brush to a surface - I feel like I could do that forever.

So we painted the walls gray and the trim white (we got everything except for the crown molding, the french doors, and the interior of the closet). In this photo from our house tour, you could see that above the closet, we actually have extra storage, and we chose to paint those two small doors the same gray so that they would blend into the room better.

And here is what the room looks like now:

Painted baby room
The word that people use most often to describe this color when they see the painted room is "serene", and I think that's exactly the perfect way to describe it. The room is obviously not yet set up for the baby, and it won't be for some time because in the beginning the baby will sleep in our room. Some of our furniture that we haven't yet figure out a place for is temporarily stored here. For now, I set up my office in this room, and it's a great feeling to work in there because it is now my favorite space in the house.

As for the cost breakdown, we had to buy a lot because we had almost no paint supplies, so we spent quite a bit of money. I should mention that this paint required no primer, despite the fact that we had to paint over bright orange. And we also used just over a gallon of the gray paint, so two gallons was definitely an overkill, but I am hoping to use this paint elsewhere in the house. We ended up spending about $275 for paint and supplies, which included:
  • 3 gallons of Benjamin Moore Natura paint (2 gray, 1 white) at $53 per gallon
  • all the paint supplies, such as rollers, brushes, Frog Tape (totally worth the money, it worked much better than the regular blue painters tape to protect our floors), trays, sanding supplies, and drop cloths
We will be able to reuse a lot of the more expensive supplies (such as the angled brushes, which were quite costly because we splurged on good quality brushes) for when we paint our next room (the living room and the hallway are next in line), so I am hoping that our next painting adventure will be more affordable.

July 8, 2013

27 to 29 weeks - Hello, third trimester!

I've officially entered the third trimester of this pregnancy, which means we are in the home stretch now! (And woefully unprepared! We have yet to buy most baby items...)

I have to say that I understand now why the second trimester is called the "honeymoon trimester". I didn't blog much about it and that's because it was mostly comfortable and blissfully uneventful. There were times when I would forget that I was pregnant, that's how normal I felt.

Third trimester has been pretty good so far as well, but I am noticing some differences. My belly is growing larger every day, and it is beginning to interfere with some daily activities, like sleeping, getting (rolling) out of bed, reaching for plates in the upper kitchen cabinets. These are all minor details, though, and in general I'm feeling pretty good!

Here I am at 27 weeks:

27 weeks

This photo was taken in the future baby room, and as you can tell from the swatches, we are planning to paint over the orange walls (which look innocuously peach in this photo, but trust me, they are bright orange). But check out how much that baby bump has grown since my last photo at 19 weeks!

*Spoiler alert!* We already painted the baby room, and it wasn't with any of the swatches you see in the photo above!

July 7, 2013

On breakfast, elsewhere

The lovely Amanda, of Poppies and Ice-cream, asked me to contribute to her breakfast club series, and so I happily sent along a recipe that includes some of my favorite foods: tomatoes, bacon, and eggs. :) Check it out here.

June 18, 2013

26 weeks - The Pregnancy Brain


Pregnancy brain - a continuous, progressive condition in which you forget what you were thinking five seconds ago. May result in awkward pauses in conversations and poor hygiene. The only known cure is giving birth.

I forgot to put on deodorant this morning. And I did not even realize this until lunch time. This is what I call pregnancy brain.

I have to say that second trimester has been pretty great to me, I definitely lucked out. After the nausea went away, all the good stuff kicked in, sometimes literally. Like feeling the baby kick and having more energy. There is only one part of the second trimester that hasn't been kind to me, and it's affecting my brain.

When I first read about pregnancy brain in my book, it was described as a feeling of absentmindedness. This sounded so innocuous that I mostly dismissed it. As it turned out, though, "absentmindedness" is a severe understatement, at least in my case.

It started out subtly enough. I would find myself forgetting things I did several weeks before. No big deal, I thought, sometimes I forget what I had for dinner last night, even when I'm not pregnant. But as a precaution, I started writing things down at work, creating to-do lists to make sure I didn't forget to finish something important.

This was several months ago, and my memory has been deteriorating ever since. Nowadays, I find myself walking from one room to another, only to stop midway because I can't recall where I was going or why I was going there. About 70% of the time, it comes back to me. The rest of the time, I just give up. Conversations are becoming challenging as well. When someone is telling me a story, not only do I forget what I want to say in response, but also, by the time they finish talking, I forget what they just told me.

This scares me shitless. Especially because I have three more months to go. I might forget my name by that point. My only hope is that this "pregnancy brain" condition goes away right after birth.

June 10, 2013

First Year of Marriage - A Roller Coaster

Dancing at our wedding
Yesterday, D and I celebrated our one year anniversary. The weather cooperated with us once again this year, and so we packed a picnic lunch (complete with a quaint basket) and spent the afternoon in the park where we got married.

It has been one roller coaster of a year for us.

In June, we got married and went on our honeymoon to Virginia and Washington, DC. In July, D started a new job, and I got laid off. In August, we celebrated the wedding of D's sister.

My grandmother passed away in September after a battle with ALS. The roller coaster hit rock bottom at that point.

In October, hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast, and my stepdad's mom's house was destroyed. She has been living with my parents ever since (there is just now finally some hope of rebuilding). We also started looking for a house to buy at around that time.

The next couple of months were all about family. My grandfather, having just lost the love of his life, visited me and my sister in our respective homes. There were a lot of firsts for him that month - first time on a train in the U.S., first domestic flight, and first time traveling on his own in this country. In December, we spent the holidays with our families: Christmas with D's family and New Year's with mine. So glad that this is one tradition we don't have to worry about splitting between families, as my family only celebrates New Year's, and his mainly focuses on Christmas.

The year 2013 promised a fresh start for us, and it didn't disappoint. In January, I finally got a new job (which I started in February), and embarked on a new career to boot. That was also the month we found out that we were pregnant.

In March, we made our first offer on a place, but it was rejected. Dozens of open houses and two offers later, we finally found our new home in April. And we also found out that we are having a girl!

Less than thirty days after submitting our offer, we closed on our condo and three days later, we moved in.

So to recap the roller coaster: in one year, we got married, lost a loved one, survived a layoff and a natural disaster, started new jobs, got pregnant, and became home owners. And at the end of the year, our relationship is stronger than ever. Here is to many more years of adventures together, to pulling through the hard times together, and to celebrating all that life has to offer.

June 6, 2013

Our new house: a clean slate

So we bought a condo and moved in a couple of weeks ago. But before we moved in, on the day that we officially closed, we stopped by our new place to take some photos before all of our stuff got piled into every nook and cranny. But let me tell you about the place first.

It's a small (826 square feet), 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom condo that is on the first floor of a double-decker. For all of you who don't live in the Boston area, double-decker means there are only two units in this condo association. The house is really old - records say it was built approximately in 1900, which is what usually goes into records when houses are so old that they were built before any record keeping. So it may even be older than that. With age come some issues, but also some really awesome features. We love the fact that our ceilings are 9 feet tall! We also have some really awesome baseboards, chair rail, and trim around the doorways and windows.

Without further ado, here is our condo:
That is the hallway off the main entrance. I love that we have a coat closet. The chandelier is obviously outdated. Another thing to note is that in all of the rooms, we only have three light switches, 100% of which are poorly located. The rest of the lighting fixtures have pullcords.
From the hallway, you can see into the smaller bedroom, which will eventually become the baby room. Off the hallway on the left is the bathroom. I hesitate to show you the bathroom so early on in this "house tour" because it is...well...hideous. Let's just say that it hasn't been updated since at least the 1970s. I suspect that is because it's difficult to renovate a bathroom when there is only one in the house. But I'll just let the photos speak for themselves.
Behold, the avocado green bathtub surrounded by avocado green tile. But wait, there is more!
We also have an avocado green sink! And even though it may not be obvious from this photo, the sink actually overlaps with the toilet. So in order to sit straight on the toilet, you have to slide under the sink. Can't wait till I'm doing this nine months pregnant. Oh, and also, the window is right over the sink, which means the mirror is to the left of it. I wonder who designed this lovely room.

Anyway, enough about the bathroom (and yes, we plan to gut renovate it some day). Here is the baby room.
Although it's not obvious from the photo, it's actually been painted bright orange by the previous owners. In fact, the color scheme in this house needs an update in general. The room is not big, but it's functional and has awesome french doors (both bedrooms do).
The baby room has a small closet (it's not as deep as it looks because the toilet is right behind it). It also has a light that is completely off center. And the light switch is on the wall OPPOSITE the french doors. It makes no sense to me either. Actually, it does - this condo used to have only one bedroom, which was this room, except the room was bigger and had three entrances into it. So the light used to be centered, and the light switch used to be by one of the entrances. Our master bedroom used to be the living room, which means that what used to be the dining room became a living/dining room.
This small hallway connects the main hallway, the bathroom, the baby room (on the left) and the living/dining room. From the living room, you can see our master bedroom.
Don't you love the pink/green contrast? I think that was fashionable with teenagers when I was in high school. Too bad I never caught on to that trend. The bedroom is pretty large, has awesome french doors and a huge closet.
The master bedroom, living room, and kitchen have ceiling fans, which are all different, but almost equally ugly. I may be biased - I don't like ceiling fans. But we are keeping them for now because we don't have A/C and summer is coming.
From the bedroom, you can see the living room and straight into the kitchen. The living room has awesome bay windows.
Here is our kitchen.
The kitchen is a combination of awesome and WTF. It was renovated about ten years ago, and features really cool blue-gray granite. However, it is painfully obvious in this photo that the floor and ceiling are slanted (the cabinets are actually level). The floor has seen better days, and so have the appliances. Oh, also, there is a significant amount of mold in the cabinet under the sink (I think the bathroom and the mold are some of the reasons we were able to afford this place).
The kitchen does have three windows (including one over the sink), which I like.
This is the other side of the kitchen. Unfortunately, there is zero counter space next to the stove. But, we do have a pantry, which is in dire need of a paint job. Through the pantry, you can see the door that leads to our porch.
And that completes the tour of our empty house! Here is D looking very happy to be a home owner. (Sorry for the grainy iPhone photo.)
Three days later, the place looked like this...
We are still working on unpacking those boxes. Meanwhile, we are making so many plans on how to update our new place! Painting, setting up the baby room, and gutting that bathroom down the road are all on our long to-do list. It's going to be an adventure!

May 24, 2013

Holy crap, we are home owners!

That's right, we finally did it!

After actively searching for a place to buy since the end of September, we finally found our humble abode that we are calling home. Everything happened rather quickly once we made the offer, and we were lucky to have found this place before our lease ran out at the end of this month.

We actually closed last week and moved in this past weekend. We are now living out of boxes and diving head first into all the aspects of home ownership (seriously, so many things have happened already, and we haven't even lived in our new place for a week).

More details to come on how we found our place, the crazy Boston area market, what it's like to move while five months pregnant (hint: I don't recommend it), and of course, photos! I made sure to take photos of our new place before we moved in while it was still empty, so that we would capture the true "before" look. Stay tuned!

May 7, 2013

19 to 20 weeks - XX or XY?

I'm writing in real time now! Yay!

First, I just want to acknowledge that I am at 20 weeks now, which means that we have made it half way through this pregnancy, and that seems kind of unbelievable. The second trimester continues to be much better than the first. I feel a hundred times better, the nausea is all gone, my appetite is back, and sometimes I feel so normal that I forget that I'm pregnant. (At least, until the next time my back starts hurting or I can't get myself comfortable in bed despite the fort of pillows I build around myself every night.)

So, early on in this pregnancy, I got it into my head that we are having a girl. I don't know where this "knowledge" came from, but I was just so sure of it. The rational side of me kept saying that it could be a boy, and I would be happy either way, of course. But my intuition told me it was a girl.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, we finally found out the gender of our baby! And what do you know... we are having a GIRL!!! We got to see our baby girl at the fetal anatomy ultrasound, which was an hour long, and we learned that she is very healthy and measuring right on schedule (even a few days ahead). Those were the best words to hear.

We also got to see our little girl in action, and turns out she is quite the kickboxer. I had no idea because I hadn't felt anything other than bubbles for the past several weeks, but she appears to be quite active. I was beginning to worry about the lack of movement at this point in the pregnancy, but turns out I had nothing to worry about. Right on cue, at 20 weeks, I felt the baby kick for the first time. It's the most incredible feeling - a proof of life growing inside.

Here I am at nineteen weeks, sporting a real bump finally:

19 weeks

Now, we can start picking baby names for real!

April 15, 2013

13 to 15 weeks - These clothes ain't fitting on me

I wrote this post on March 31, 2013.

I am officially in my second trimester, and I couldn't be happier about it! First of all, it means that we can finally tell people about the pregnancy (we chose to wait until the end of the first trimester in order to get past the riskiest part of the pregnancy). But even more importantly, I am feeling much, much better these days.

The morning sickness lasted over two months. During that time, I didn't throw up once, but I was constantly nauseous (this is not an exaggeration). I did learn to function with the nausea, but it was hard to eat, never mind enjoy food. The fatigue that I experienced in the first half of the first trimester let up somewhat, so I was able to stay up until a more reasonable hour, but I still got tired faster and easier than normal.

The nausea finally let up a few days ago, around 15 weeks. I thought it would slowly go away, but it was actually kind of a sudden transition. One day, I woke up and the nausea was gone! (Note from the present: I still have mild nausea after I eat) It almost felt odd because I had forgotten what it's like to not be nauseous all the time. All of a sudden, food started tasting good again, and boy, am I taking advantage of that. Oh, I have a craving for a croissant? On a daily basis? Awesome, let's eat a delicious croissant and enjoy the heck out of it!

The fatigue is mostly gone as well, but not entirely. I would get bursts of energy at random times of the day, and have an irresistible urge to take a nap an hour later. But overall, my energy level is on the rise, and I hear that trend should continue, so I am looking forward to that.

Second trimester did bring with it some new symptoms. First of all, the pregnancy brain has gotten worse. I forget what people told me five minutes ago if I don't write it down. It's embarrassing, really. Also, my feet have started to mildly swell occasionally, and it looks like I am in danger of developing varicose veins. Super attractive, I know. I ordered some compression stockings on Amazon to try to prevent that from happening.

Meanwhile, here I am at thirteen weeks:

13 weeks

I finally have a baby belly! And I am wearing maternity jeans! And they are actually super comfortable, I have no complaints about them whatsoever. And I got a haircut! And finally got my hair dyed to cover up those grays (waited until the very last day of the first trimester, per doctor's orders)! In other words, I feel like a human being again.

And speaking of that baby in my belly, I saw it on an ultrasound at twelve weeks, and the baby was so adorable and super active, tumbling around all over the uterus. It actually looked like a tiny human being (at the eight week ultrasound, it kind of looked like an outline of a toy.) And yes, I am referring to the baby as "it" for now because we don't know the gender yet. But hopefully we will know it soon!

April 8, 2013

7 to 9 weeks - More of the same

I wrote this post on February 18, 2013.

The blog has been silent for most of the month of February, and there are two reasons for it. One is that I started a new job at seven weeks pregnant. All of a sudden, I have a lot less free time on my hands than I did during unemployment. But it is also the nature of the job - I sit and stare at the computer screen for over eight hours in a row, and the last thing I want to do when I get home is more of the same thing. The eye strain is incredible.

The other reason for my radio silence is the effect of pregnancy. I've actually learned how to function with nausea (more or less), but the fatigue is inescapable. When I get home from work, all I want to do is take a nap on the couch. I've even been going to bed at some geriatric hour of the evening, which is highly unusual for a night owl like me.

I know you won't read this blog post until at least the second half of March, but I hope that when you do, you will understand and forgive my temporary absence from the blog.

Here I am at nine weeks:

9 weeks

Still no obvious baby belly, but that's partially due to my strategic choice of clothing. :) I even went shopping specifically for tops that could be worn by the non-pregnant me now and in the future, but could also work in these early stages of pregnancy. And that cardigan that doesn't close in the front - I plan to wear it for the entire nine months! Talk about a good investment.

April 4, 2013

6 weeks - To eat or not to eat

I wrote this post on January 29, 2013.

Week 6 of pregnancy has definitely taught me to take it one day at a time. One day, I feel mostly normal and like my usual self (except for the pregnancy truck induced fatigue), and the next day everything makes me nauseous. I haven't experienced any real morning sickness yet, as I've managed to keep the food down, but it hasn't been an easy task. [Correction: apparently being nauseous counts as morning sickness, even if you are not vomiting.]

Some of my favorite foods, like pork and beets, became surprisingly intolerable at times. But then, on other days, I would eat an entire burger. Go figure. On the worst days, eating bland food has helped. In my case, that was matzoh (my Jewish version of crackers). Keeping pieces of matzoh in a ziploc bag on my nightstand to eat first thing in the morning before I get out of bed no longer seems like a ludicrous idea.

Here I am at 6 weeks:

6 weeks

That's not a baby belly yet, that's mostly bloat and constipation (another fun side effect of pregnancy). Plus, this photo was taken right after I ate. My clothes still mostly fit me, but they are beginning to look awkward over my bloated belly. I didn't expect that to happen until much later in the pregnancy. Just goes to show that I don't know anything about this whole baby making business.

April 1, 2013

5 Weeks - My milkshakes bring all the boys to the yard...

I wrote this post on January 22, 2013.

... No, they don't. Probably because I don't have a yard. But ohmygod, holy boobs! The symptom of the week has definitely been a growth spurt in my bbs. That's 'boobies' in pregnancy forum speak, for all the uninitiated folks. By the way, the number of acronyms on the pregnancy and TTC (trying to conceive) forums could easily rival the military.

But back to the boobs. They are in pain and they are growing out of control. I am only five weeks along, and already I am busting out of my regular bras. And those bras had some wiggle room to begin with. I knew that breasts increase in size during pregnancy, but I didn't expect it to happen so early on. What am I going to look like in eight months??? (Update from the present: now that I am in my second trimester, the boobs have grown two cup sizes.)

I should stop complaining, though, because really this is the bombshell stage of pregnancy. The belly bump isn't showing yet, but the increase in bra size is putting me on the path toward Pamela Anderson. Still, despite what all the men might think, this growth spurt is not all good. Not only do the boobs hurt all on their own, but the too-small bras are making it even more painful.

To remedy the situation, I went shopping for a maternity bra today. I started out with high hopes, only to be thoroughly disappointed. This was my first encounter with maternity clothing, and it did not go well. I went to Destination Maternity and the Macy's maternity department (which is just Pea in a Pod, really). What I learned is that:

a) maternity bras are super ugly; but that doesn't even matter because
b) no one carries them in my size!!!

Seriously, what the heck? Do pregnant boobs not come in my size or something? I even tried on the maternity sports bras, which are just S, M, L, etc, but none of them fit either. The Small was too small in the cup, and the Medium was too big in the circumference. So I went home braless. Well, not literally braless, just... you know what I mean.

I was able to find maternity bras in my new size online, but they are very expensive and I just don't feel like I can invest in them just yet since the bbs are likely to keep expanding... For now, I just ordered some regular cotton bras from VS in one size  up, so hopefully they will tide me over for the time being.

5 weeks

Here I am at five weeks. Yes, my hair is a mess, and that is what it usually looks like when I just get out of the shower. Welcome to the real life. And I also look very tired. That's because pregnancy hit me like a truck this week (from now on, it will be referred to as the pregnancy truck), and fatigue set in. I'm not always tired, but the exhaustion usually sets in around 4 or 5 pm in the afternoon, and all I can do is lie down on the couch and take a nap.

Aside from the growing boobs and the fatigue, I am not experiencing any pregnancy symptoms so far. Some days I feel so normal that it worries me. But really, I should be enjoying this time as much as possible and thanking my lucky stars for the lack of symptoms. And I am truly thankful. Meanwhile, I have started going to prenatal yoga classes, and I met a girl there (35 weeks pregnant) who told me she never had morning sickness. So now I have this unrealistic hope that the puking won't happen to me either. Keeping my fingers crossed! (Update from the present: hahaha!)

March 26, 2013

The Ultimate DIY Project

I wrote this post on January 14, 2013.

We just embarked on the biggest adventure of our life, and I am over the moon!

I can't believe it finally happened, but the proof is in the pee stick pudding. A week ago we found out that I'm pregnant!

I'm still a bit in disbelief because the journey to that little word was a bumpy one. People always tell you that getting pregnant is the fun part, and it certainly was in the beginning. But when all that fun was not resulting in a pregnancy, I began to worry that something was wrong. After several months of disappointment, I bought Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler (I highly recommend this book) and started learning about my body. And boy, did I learn a LOT.

Some things my body was doing right, and some it wasn't. I turned the conception process into a science experiment, me being the primary guinea pig. Every month, I tweaked a variable and noted observations. Every month, my hypotheses failed. Until now. This month, I threw scientific method to the wind and changed a whole bunch of variables at once. You could say that I was getting impatient. The details of this "experiment" are not fit to print on this blog, but if you are trying to conceive and would like to know what worked for us, feel free to email me and I will happily divulge all the TMI bits.

I don't know which one of the new things we tried this month made a difference, and I don't care. Something worked, and that's what matters!

I am hoping to document this pregnancy on the blog periodically, starting at the beginning. Here I am at four weeks:

4 weeks

I'm not showing yet (that's just folds in my shirt...), and don't have many symptoms yet. My biggest symptom so far is constant hunger. Oddly enough, I am mostly craving protein. Otherwise, I am feeling mostly normal, which results in a bit of a disconnect between the pee stick result and my mind. I keep wondering if there is really a baby growing in my belly. My first appointment is scheduled for eight weeks, so hopefully the ultrasound will show a tiny blob that will one day become our adorable baby.

I've written several pregnancy posts during the first trimester. My plan is to post them periodically over the next month or so, until I catch up to real time (right now, it's the beginning of the second trimester). Feel free to follow along or skip these posts if pregnancy is not your topic of interest. But it is part of the reason for the silence on the blog lately.

February 26, 2013

A little blog award

The lovely Amanda at Poppies and Ice-cream nominated me for a little blog award a week and a half ago, and I am embarrassed to say that it's taken me this long to finally post about it. Shame on me. I do have a couple of possibly legitimate reasons for my blog radio silence lately. One is that I started a new job after being unemployed for half a year, and it is taking a lot of my time and energy. The other reason is a secret project that I cannot reveal to you just yet, but will hopefully be able to tell you about it in about a month or so. Stay tuned!

Anyway, as a nominee of the award, you have to mention the blogger who nominated you, tell 11 random things about yourself, answer the 11 questions by the blogger who nominated you, pass on the award to 11 other bloggers, and ask them your own 11 questions.

So, here are some random things about myself:

- I really, really, really want a cat. I've been wanting a cat for years, but the landlords in our area tend to be pet-unfriendly, so we are waiting until we can buy a house before we get our kitty.
- We are having no luck in the house hunting process so far, but I am still keeping my fingers crossed that we will find our new home sometime in the spring.
- My favorite color is blue, but in high school it used to be purple.
- At the end of our senior year in high school, we had to write a letter to ourselves to be opened ten years later (this was an assignment in English class). We were supposed to write about where we were in our lives at that time, and where we thought we would be in ten years. I was 17, so I wrote about how when I am 27, I will have finished my PhD, I will be working for NASA, and I will be married with a kid or two. By the time I turned 27, none of those things had happened. Surprise! Also, apparently I wasn't very concerned with work/life balance issues at that time.
- Some of the careers I had considered throughout my lifetime include: astronaut (you can guess how old I was at that time), computer scientist, chemist, chemical/materials engineer, product designer, science writer, blogger, furniture refinisher (I don't think this is a real job but it sounds like fun).
- When I was little, my favorite book was "Deniskiny rasskazy," which translates from Russian as "Denis's tales". I had read it so many times that to this day I remember most of the stories. In fact, I was ecstatic to discover that the book made it to America on our overseas immigration trip, and my parents still had it. Of course, I permanently "borrowed" it and re-read it again recently. Even though I am 29 now, it's still hilarious!
- I really enjoyed high school. There, I said it.
- Whenever I think about an ideal place to live, I imagine a walkable, urban city with well-developed public transportation, in a temperate climate that has seasons which are not too extreme, and a beach where one could enjoy swimming all summer long in the warm ocean/sea waters. The only city I could come up with that fits this criteria is Barcelona. Does anyone have any other suggestions?

Glass Palace in Madrid. Not Barcelona, but I do love Madrid as well.

- I am addicted to Sudoku.
- I am a terrible couch potato, and the only way to get me to exercise is to take me dancing, because I don't think of dancing as exercise.
- Speaking of which, I used to do competitive ballroom dancing in college.

Here are 11 things that Amanda asked:

1. Which is your favorite book? There are so many books that I love, but I would say that the one that has stayed with me the longest has been "Denis's tales" (see my list of random things above).

2. What is your favorite place in the World? My favorite place to be is sunbathing and swimming on a beach. I'll take any sunny beach, I'm not picky. Other than that, I love New York.

3. What makes you happy? Curling up on the couch with a good book for hours makes me content like a purring kitten.

4. If you could go anywhere in the World, where would that be? So many places! Italy, Greece, Thailand, Japan, Costa Rica, and Argentina all come to mind.

5. Do you have a job / are you happy with it? I do have a job as of three weeks ago, and I am still figuring it out. But I am happy about finally getting into the field of science writing.

6. What is your favorite food? Oh, food, how I love thee. My favorite is rather weird, maybe, but it is actually a popular Ukrainian dish: pork fat (aka salt pork aka pork belly, kinda) sliced into rectangles and placed on top of rectangles of rye bread, with some garlic on top. Yum.

7. Can you maybe share a recipe? (or link to a favorite one?) My really simple, go-to recipe that I turn to when I am hungry and don't have much time or patience to cook is fettuccine pasta with veggies. I saute some onion, mushrooms (any kind), garlic, and spinach in oil, place the veggies over the cooked pasta, dress with olive oil, add some grated asiago cheese and parmesan chese, and sprinkle some pine nuts. Dinner is ready!
8. What is your favorite song / band ever? My favorite song ever since high school is "I'll be missing you" by Puff Daddy. Don't laugh.

9. And your favorite cartoon as a child? My favorite cartoon as a child was Nu, pogodi!

10. What about your favorite movie? My favorite movie is Spaceballs. I can pretty much quote the entire script, and I start laughing at the funny bits ahead of time. This makes me a really annoying person to watch this movie with.

11. What is your most vivid childhood memory? One of my most vivid childhood memories is of me as a toddler. It was winter, and I was playing outside in the snow by myself. Suddenly, I was aware of being surrounded by so many dogs, some of whom were the same height or taller than me. I remember being terrified that the dogs were going to eat me, and there was no one around to rescue me! The experience was so traumatic that I developed a long-lasting fear of dogs. I've gotten better recently, but if I'm being honest, that is the reason I still don't like dogs.

Now, for the hard part. This award is meant to promote small blogs, but I don't think I can name eleven small blogs that I read that also know of this little blog's existence. So, I will nominate as many bloggers as I can come up with, even if some of them are not actually small blogs in my mind. Here they are:

Suburbalicious Living
Queer Skies Ahead
oversized cliches
I'm Better In Real Life (not a small blog in my mind!)
far far away
happy sighs (also not a small blog, I think!)

And here are my 11 questions for the nominees:

1. What would you do if you won the lottery?
2. What book would you like to receive as a gift for your birthday?
3. What is your dream job/career, and is that what you do now?
4. If you could write a letter to your 15-year-old self, what would you tell her?
5. What is the most unusual place you've ever been to?
6. What is your favorite beverage/drink? (could be non-alcoholic or alcoholic, or both)
7. What is your favorite room in your house/apartment, and why?
8. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
9. What is the biggest project you are tackling right now?
10. Do you bargain at flea markets?
11. Do you vote in elections, if you are able to?

By the way, if I didn't nominate you, or if you don't have a blog, but would still like to participate in this conversations, please feel free to answer these questions in the comments! I would love to get to know you a bit better.

Edited to note: I am an idiot and therefore I accidentally deleted this post from blogger. Now I am reposting it, but the comments have been lost. :( My apologies.