Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Week 35: Is this Nesting or am I Going Crazy?

What was I thinking? I asked myself yesterday, as I straddled one foot on the bathtub ledge and the other on the toilet seat cover, trying to unhook our mildew-stained shower curtain for laundering purposes - left foot wobbling, right foot slipping.

Then again, while down on 'all fours', scrubbing furiously and painstakingly reaching for the far corners of the bathtub - maneuvering my giant belly into the most awkward of positions, the thought came to me, "Why did I wait until I'm 35 weeks pregnant to do all the chores I've been avoiding?"

Five loads of laundry.
Deep-cleaning the bathroom.
Vacuuming the house.
Organizing the nursery.
Reviewing our finances.
Hosting friends.

I can say with pride that I slept amazingly last night. I was so physically exhausted from all my cleaning, organizing, and rearranging.

Is this the "Nesting" instinct? The term I've heard about and never quite understand. Or am I going crazy?

A smirk takes shape, as I recall my bout of absentmindedness this morning. While taping up a flat rate box, just moments ago, I snipped the skin on my left index finger, rather than the strip of packaging tape I intended to cut. As I watched the blood pool near my incision, a wave of nausea passed over me. I told myself to calm down, rather than drop down to my knees, which felt like the most reasonable reaction at that point.

I need to be strong for my baby, I voiced internally, as I sat down and bandaged my cut.

In many ways, this past week of pregnancy has been rather difficult. My emotions, triggered easily by the slightest situation, have been marked by waves of sadness and feeling overwhelmed. On Sunday, Ken and I spent six hours in a birthing class at the local hospital. Our instructor was awesome, and I enjoyed taking in her wisdom and insights. I was blown away by how incredible the female body is. We watched videos of live births and walked through the different stages of labor from start to finish. In my excitement, I cried each time a baby was born on the big screen, and felt both encouraged and challenged by the opportunity to have our baby without the use of painkillers. Many of the women in the class were hoping for the same outcome as me, and it was cool to practice pain-management techniques (positions, breathing exercises) with our partners. Ken and I found ourselves laughing and joking, as I moved through varying birthing positions and tried to keep in sync with breathing exercises. It was fun seeing the different options for how women work through the intensity of contractions.

After class, despite the exciting things we had just learned, I broke down crying. I couldn't stop crying. It was so much to take in, all at once.

Eventually, I did stop crying and was able to process through many of my feelings. It's true - I'm so excited to birth this baby inside of me. I can't wait to meet her and see her beautiful face for the first time. I'm also scared - more scared than I've been in a long, long time. Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed by the thought of how I'll get through the contractions, and grapple with whether I can manage the pain without an epidural. I vacillate between a deep sense of idealism and realism.

Another struggle that I've been constantly giving to the Lord in prayer is my fear that I'll allow myself to be defined by the expectations of others. I've noticed in this whole experience of being pregnant, that it is much like being engaged. Everyone - friends, family, coworkers, and even random strangers (like the middle-aged food server at Costco who flamboyantly screamed, "It's going to hurt like hell!" to me the other week, in referencing childbirth) - has an opinion, and many people want to share their opinion whether it's asked for or not. I'm surprised, I guess, by how people often think there's a 'one-size-fits-all' method for pregnancy, or anything in life. As a wedding planner, I can attest to every wedding I've coordinated being uniquely different in the bride/groom's needs, desires, and even in their obstacles/setbacks. You can only plan so much, and then things take their course - often in way that's not expected. It's important to be prepared, but that only goes so far.

My Birth Plan is pretty simple: have a healthy baby and do it as "naturally" as possible. Beyond that, I want to practice peace and pursue faith and trust that God's in control, especially if/when my pain feels out of control.

In many ways, I hope to be an example to my daughter - even now, of living life with open hands, in joyful expectation of God's goodness, accepting setbacks as an opportunity to grow and make peace with things I may never understand.

Week #36, I think I'm officially ready for you now.

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Very Special Valentine's

This Valentine's Day was special for us in a unique way - it marked week #34 in pregnancy! In the past, Ken and I have typically celebrated February 14th by going out on a fancy dinner date (where I would treat myself to a pretty new dress to mark the occasion - here's an example). We'd enjoy seafood together at one of our favorite restaurants, and then take a leisurely stroll around town. This year, we opted to mix things up and enjoy dinner at home. Ken crafted me a delicious spread of shrimp fajitas (with all the fixings) and then we enjoyed brunch out today after our final ultrasound appointment. We also exchanged fun gifts with each other, which I'll include pictures of below. 

A highlight of our three-day weekend was seeing our beautiful baby girl - healthy and radiant - napping in utero this morning. She is gorgeous and already has lots of hair, according to our ultrasound technician. Surprisingly, baby girl is measuring at 35 weeks today and while this won't affect our current due date, it could mean that she might arrive earlier than expected! An approximate guess of her current weight is about 5 lbs, 12 oz, which is great. In speaking with my mom yesterday, she noted that my sisters and I each arrived two weeks later than our due dates. I'm curious to see when baby girl actually arrives! 

Here are some photos of our sweet baby:

So cute!

Her face

Her profile

Her thick head of hair (it's the white textured shadow to the left)

 And here are some pics of our Valentine's celebrations:

Brunch downtown!

Seafood dinner by Chef Ken!

For gifts, I bought Ken dark chocolate sea salt caramels and this cute little robot tea infuser. 

Ken blessed me with this lovely turquoise necklace. 

And lastly, we finished installing wallpaper in the baby nursery! This is our accent wall, complete with wallpaper by my favorite designer, Rifle Paper Co. 

I look forward to sharing more photos of our nursery progress with you soon. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Week #33: Healthy & Kicking!

33 weeks and a couple of days. 
This is where I find myself at in pregnancy.

My belly is growing steadily and as of this morning's office visit, measures 34 cm. My doctor said that baby girl's heartbeat sounds wonderful and she's definitely getting stronger with each passing day, as her kicks, twirls, punches, and hiccups are very noticeable.

A few days ago, I noticed something extremely new to me! Baby girl responded to my voice, I think, and reached out either her hand or foot toward the right side of my belly button. I pressed my hand onto that spot and noticed the indentation of her reaching back toward me. Initially, I freaked out and may or may not have screamed. This was the first time I could see an actual foot/hand pressing out far enough for me to make out the shape. It was incredible and beautiful and kind of scary. According to my reading, this week my amniotic fluid has maxed out, meaning that baby girl has less and less room to move about freely. Perhaps that's why I can now I see her more easily?

She is amazing - our very own miracle in human form.

Baby girl is now about 17-19 inches in length and the size of a pineapple (or heft at least) and weighs in at 4 1/2 lbs or so. Her eyes open and close easily, depending on when she is awake or asleep. Her skeleton is hardening and her head circumference is also increasing, by about half an inch this week, as her brain develops and grows. She now has her own immune system as well! How cool is that?

Baby girl is getting ready to make her debut!

As far as mama's developments, I'm currently experiencing shortness of breath as a common part of life. While I'm getting ready (i.e. reaching toward my feet to put on socks and applying makeup), I find myself pausing to catch my breathe and will usually sit down to relax rather fast. I don't know how I can get used to this feeling - like the wind is knocked out of me without being hit in the stomach with a soccer ball or sprinting a mile. Baby girl obviously needs my energy and I'm happy to share with her. If only I could realize in the moment that I'm not having a panic attack or about to pass out but rather, it's just a momentary lapse in deep breathing. I think I'm getting there slowly, and as Ken says, by the time I finally give birth to baby girl, I will probably come to accept being pregnant. How ironic.

This past week, both Ken and I were hit with some variation of a cold and are still on the mend. I compensated for a few sleepless nights by taking 1-2 naps a day throughout the week. Napping and eating are great. Speaking of which, my appetite hasn't failed and here are some of the meals I've been enjoying:

Lots of berries! Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries...
Loaded spinach salad with a tuna sandwich
Homemade moose chili
Veggie frittata (crustless quiche) with toast, greek yogurt and berries 

One week from today, Ken and I are scheduled for our final ultrasound. I can't wait to see baby girl in utero one more time before she arrives. I look forward to sharing a couple of those photos with you!

Thank you for praying for us and for baby girl's health.

Your love and support - as evinced by the beautiful cards and gifts we keep receiving - are so appreciated. Ken and I are currently saving for a baby stroller along with a few more equipment items and trusting God to meet us in all these things (especially the cost of actually having a baby!) as we just got hit with some large, unexpected financial setbacks.

I'm reminded of a quote by C.S. Lewis: “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality. ”

And this verse: "Therefore we do not lose heart...For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

In faith, I believe that God will continue to provide for us in every circumstance and every season. We are so very blessed.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Baby Shower Time!

Today marks week 32 of pregnancy! To celebrate this mile-marker, my dear friend Alisa, along with my mother-in-law and cousins, hosted a very special baby shower for Ken and me.

Thank you to our friends and family (near and far) who blessed us with oodles of adorable baby outfits, bedding for the crib, lots of diapers, baby bathtubs and shower products, a carseat (!), toys, words of encouragement, books, and delicious food! We also got a kick out of the more creative presents. For example, the bottle of tequila and earplugs gifted to Ken, and the massage certificates given to me.

It was incredibly fun having a co-ed baby shower, particularly when the guys had to play a "what's in the diaper" guessing game.

On a separate note, I would have to say that things started to get a little dicey when Ken's mom brought out the large, present-shaped piñata. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Ken swinging a makeshift bat - blindfolded and disoriented - whilst in the downstairs living room of cousin Kim's house. Yes, there were children present, and yes, we totally broke the piñata open. Thank you again to Ken's mom for sponsoring this activity. It was awesome.

Baby girl is already so loved by her community, and we are excited to greet her in the next 8 weeks (depending on when she makes her debut.)

Here are some photos of the day’s festivities.

Again, thank you all so much for blessing us in this way!

{Click on each photo to enlarge.}



Thursday, January 29, 2015

Life in This Great State

A drop of blood clings to the off-white border on my flannel mittens, and I realize at that moment my face must be bleeding. Seconds prior, I had hastily reached for the lower, snow-laden branch of our backyard spruce tree, trying to assist Penny, our puppy, in locating the stick I accidentally tossed into the tree. She leapt forward, thrusting all her weight into increasing her elevation. She wanted that stick and was determined. In a flash, she locked her teeth onto the stick and fell back.

Snap, cracked the branch, as snow careened through the space surrounding us. At that same moment, I felt sharp needles hit my face and mouth.

“I’m hit!” I cry out. “The branch hit me.”

I look down at my gloves and realize I’m bleeding. My face is bleeding. Darn. I run inside and tell Penny that we will pick up our game of fetch later. She chases me to the door, assuming that we are playing a new game now.

Once inside, I assess my face and clean the slight scratches.  What a morning it’s been, and it’s only slightly after 10 a.m.

Originally, I took Penny to a nearby park to get some exercise. As we ventured deeper into the park, she started jumping incessantly and fighting the leash. Betwixt by sights and sounds – none of which seemed alarming to me, she wanted to explore the north end of the park, without anyone holding her back. I couldn’t control her easily, so I told her that we were leaving. Turning toward the west park entrance, we trudged through the snow, stopping only to gather little sticks for Penny.

The swooshing sound of hundreds of birds flying overhead caught my attention and I veered back around, enjoying their airborne dance. At that same moment, I noticed a large, dark creature take shape near the playground, where we had just been.

A young moose emerged from the forest. Trotting along, it stopped to lock its gaze on us, as if to say, I’ve been watching you.

“Thanks Penny,” I motion to her with pat. “You were looking out for us. As a reward, we can play more in the backyard when we get home.”

Temperatures near our home in Anchorage, Alaska, are hovering around zero degrees this week, with an occasional spike of 8 or 10 degrees at mid-day. Most days, I keep our fireplace burning with the spruce logs we purchased last spring. I can start a fire going myself, and feel accomplished by this newfound skill. In addition to heating our home and saving on gas costs, our fireplace is cozy. It provides a charming backdrop for reading a good book while cuddling with the dog.

Life in Alaska, aptly named “The Last Frontier,” is just that. A wild, untamed land holding great promise for explorers, dreamers, and adventure seekers. There are mountains for miles, large beasts that roam the state, and dramatic changes in light and dark and temperature, depending on the time of year and proximity to the coast. To survive the elements, one must be prepared.

I suppose living in Alaska has been such a shift for me in that way. Growing up on the island on Maui, I was privileged to live without much need for surviving the elements. My girl friends and I would throw together our swimsuits, towels, water, sometimes sunblock, and a snack and head to the beach for the day. Oftentimes, I would forget one or more of these items. Without a swimsuit, I’d jump in the water in all my clothes. Lacking snacks, or water, we’d find a public fountain to drink from or purchase ice cream at a local shop. Likewise, beach towels are nonessential. You can sunbathe and dry off pretty fast under the tropical sun.

Alaska is a stark contrast from the balmy beaches of my home state and yet, there is incredible beauty here as well – a fierce beauty that demands respect and forethought. Rather than passively enjoying Alaska, it must be experienced through preparation and reverence. Realizing that the weather can change drastically and moose or bears can cross your path.

As a child, I vividly recall telling my family that I would never live in Alaska nor did I ever want to visit. “Why would anyone want to be cold?” I’d curiously ask. In my mind, Alaska equaled death. Frostbite seemed like a horrible evil to me, one that could easily be avoided. Ironically, I married a man from Alaska who loves this state dearly, which in turn, helped me reconsider my preconceptions about this place. In coming here, I wanted to gain a deeper awareness of where my husband is from – what his childhood was like and how the place he grew up in has shaped him.

I’m thankful for this season of living in Alaska, where I’m learning how to better prepare for the elements. I think in many ways I’m becoming a stronger and more confident woman, wife, and mother. I am also growing in my ability to cherish the things that I must work for, and focusing on stewarding resources well.

Last night, while ladling steaming hot bowls of homemade moose chili and portioning out triangles of skillet bacon cornbread for dinner, I thought back over my day. I feel like a real pioneer woman – cooking, cleaning, avoiding moose, and fighting the elements (or really, that one spruce tree.)

What an adventure.
A snapshot of life in this Great State.

Monday, January 26, 2015

My Journey in Blogging

6 years ago, that's roughly the amount of time I've been blogging. It all started with this blog, named "That One Girl." Back when mustard yellow was my favorite color, and my hair was the likely the longest it's ever been, and just a few months after I had met Ken, the boy who I was falling in love with and would later marry - that's when I began writing online journal entries on a more consistent basis. I was still in my early 20s and creating dance videos with my friends and sisters. (Remnants of that era can be found on youtube, although Lord-willing, those videos are hard to locate.)

I was young and naive. Although I had traveled internationally twice by the time I was 16, I was still unfamiliar with living on my own aside from college. The year I began blogging more frequently, I moved from Maui to Seattle with my cousin Isaac. Together we shared a 450 square-foot apartment and nearly killed each other. We fought like siblings and conversely, enjoyed the stability and safety net of having a friend and family member close by as we both got used to living in the city. Isaac and I spent those warm September days biking around Seattle, enjoying steaming-hot gyros and fresh donuts at Pike Place Market. It was my first "Indian Summer," and a welcome transition into big-city living. I can still smell the pungent aroma of fresh peonies and dahlias in neighborhood gardens, and hear the giant cranes lifting building materials at the construction sites near our apartment. Everything seemed radiant and alive. I loved the energy of the city and being able to walk right downtown. Puget Sound is beautiful, and helped keep me grounded during those long, winter days. Its vastness reminded me of living near the Pacific Ocean, during my childhood and in college.

In January 2010, Ken moved to Seattle after completing his time in Iraq. We got married and nearly a year and a half later, I started this blog, "Lettuce Give Thanks" as a platform for giving thanks by sharing stories and recipes. I feel like I've grown so much as a writer and a cook these past few years. Likewise, this year Ken and I will greet our first child, a baby girl, in March and celebrate our 5th anniversary in August. We now live in The Last Frontier, which looks quite different than the bustling city where we spent our newlywed years. I'm so grateful for where God has brought us, individually and as a couple, as we continue to seek after His heart. My prayer is that our stories will be a blessing and a continued way for us to give thanks for all that God has done and is doing.

In the words of C.S. Lewis, one of my favorite authors, "There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind."

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Week 30: Homemade Apple Pie & Afternoon Naps

To kick off Week 30 of pregnancy, I baked homemade apple pie. With the help of Ken's excellent dough-rolling skills, I was able to create my favorite version using my Grandma Elsa's Apple Pie Recipe. The combination of red and green apples added a touch of diversity in taste - sweet, tart, and bright flavors paired well with the buttery, flakey pie crust.

Grandma would be proud of my handiwork. She taught me so much in her second floor, tile-lined kitchen, with its patches of sticky coating - most likely caused by flying bits of sugar and butter from all of our cooking and baking together. Grandma was such a strong woman - my mom's mom, she grew up in the Bronx, and loved telling inappropriate New York cab driver jokes and reminiscing about her travels growing up and into adulthood. In many ways, I think she tried to be a second mom to me, particularly when my parents separated and eventually divorced. I miss her wisdom, strength, and love for learning. As a young child, she'd point me to her large living room bookcase - where there sat a dictionary, a thesaurus, an almanac, and a hefty concordance of the Bible - any time I had a question about the world, or God, or the meaning of a big word. I can still hear her now: "Maile, go and get the book! Let's look it up." And we did. Every, single time. Until the days when Grandma got too weak and breathless, and prepared to leave us. Then, she just wanted to hear me talk and neither of us asked too many questions.

I still miss her. Often, when I catch myself reflecting on a favorite memory or recipe of hers, I start to cry. Grandma Elsa would be so excited that I'm pregnant. I hope that I can pass along some of her best attributes to my daughter. Along with her cooking, of course.

This week marks 30 weeks in baby girl's development. She now weighs 3lbs or more and measures roughly 15 1/2 inches from head to foot. She's the size of a large cabbage, according to my reading, and her bone marrow has started producing red blood cells. Her brain is forming ridges and growing steadily, and is helping to regulate her body temperature along with her increasing fat cells. Baby girl's eyesight is also strengthening. Similar to her ability to kick. I'm impressed by how quickly she is able to get my attention these days, particularly when I'm relaxing or sleeping. I believe that she is starting to recognize Ken's voice since I've noticed an increase in activity when he is close by. We are growing in anticipation of meeting our sweet little girl!

At my most recent doctor visit, my belly bump measured 31cm, which is right on track for healthy development. Her heart beat is also normal and thankfully, the only symptoms I'm experiencing in this stage of pregnancy are increased heartburn and occasional backpain. Last night, I woke up feeling very uncomfortable, as I'm struggling to find a good sleeping position that accommodates my growing belly! I go back and forth between using my giant body pillow and my normal head pillow, as I overheat quite easily these days. I'm trying to remind myself what a blessing it is that I can now take afternoon naps. Especially on days when I've gone without much sleep the previous night. Friday was my last day at my full-time job and I'm looking forward to lots more napping in my future (along with continued progress on the nursery!)

Speaking of which, I took a lovely hour-long nap this afternoon and am feeling refreshed. I suppose it's time to head back into the kitchen and tackle the remainder of yesterday's mess from my baking endeavors. Here are some photos of our pie making yesterday.