Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Cruising the Atlantic (and only the Atlantic) -- Part 1 - Preparations & New York!

Ever since our last cruise in the fall, Steve has been itching to go on another cruise.  When we found out we were pregnant, we realized that our window of another cruise got significantly smaller (cruise lines won't let you cruise over 25 weeks pregnant) and we knew we didn't want to leave a newborn baby for a week (or take with us).  Even though it sounded crazy to go on 2 cruises in 5 months, we realized we are crazy and booked our first Royal Caribbean cruise for the 2nd week in February.

Since I am pregnant, we decided this cruise was all about relaxation.  We picked a ship with lots of entertainment options (and didn't care so much about destination or excursions).  Once we picked the ship, we got locked into leaving out of Bayonne, NJ with planned stops in Orlando, FL; Nassau, Bahamas; and Cocoa Cay, Bahamas (private island).  We have never cruised the Atlantic Ocean before, always just the Caribbean (Steve's cruise the Pacific Ocean/Alaska, but that doesn't matter to the story).  We know it would be a weird cruise leaving out of NJ in February!

As the date approached, Steve was like a kid in a candy store.  He spent hours each night researching about the ship, things to do for our extra day in New York, and some possibilities of small excursions at ports (like Space Center in Orlando and beaches in the Caribbean).  Now I do enjoy cruises, but I'm the kind that it stresses me out until we get there.  I have to figure out all the packing, and who's going to watch Bean, plus my worrier spirit prevents me from being gung ho about the next adventure.  And THEN, we heard all over the news in the weeks leading up to the cruise about the Zika virus and causing birth defects in pregnant women. Great! That added to my stress, but after doing my own research and talking to my doctor, we decided we would be fine if we just stayed on the ship in the Caribbean ports.  

The date quickly approached and I had to kick it in to high gear to get stuff pulled together.  I am a procrastinator by nature, but I always pull through.  We planned to leave Thursday by 4:30pm to head to my parents house (they watched Bean while we were gone).  By the Sunday prior, I hadn't even pulled out suitcases yet.  Steve was panicking about not seeing packing progress so I made a bet to get it all done by Wednesday night.  I succeeded except for a few last minute items I had to get at the store on Thursday (and I even got to sneak in a visit to our friends' house to see their new son!).  

We made it to my parents' house in great time and got to celebrate my sister's birthday with the majority of the family.  We even got to share with everyone that Bean is getting a baby sister! Once the festivities died down, we tucked our little girl into bed and ran over the "Bean List" with my mom.  We said our goodnight/goodbyes to everyone and went to bed.  We had an early morning wake up call, got on the road and got to the airport in Indy without any issues.  Our flight ended up being delayed a little bit (would've been nice to know prior to waking up!) but we made good time in the air.  Once at the airport, we had to pick up our luggage, get on the hotel transfer, drop bags off at hotel, pick up an Uber and get to the Liberty Ferry Boat dock on the Jersey side all within an hour.  I was stressed about how the timing was going to work, but it all went smoothly.  We even were able to just go ahead and check into our room.  

When I was younger, my family did an "All American" Vacation - Philly, New York, and Washington DC for 4th of July fireworks.  We only had a brief afternoon in New York and had planned to just go and see the statue of liberty. We got lost trying to find the ferry dock and missed the last boat by minutes.  I imagined this scenario happening again, but our Uber driver got us to the right area with a little bit of time to spare.  However, we found the right area, but couldn't find the dock! We knew it had to be along the water, right?? It ended up being hidden back behind an old building.  The signage was awful and it was easy to miss.  Thankfully, we made it to the ferry!

We were starting on the Jersey side, but wanted to end up on the New York side.  There were 2 routes going counter clockwise, so we had to ask someone the best way order in which to hit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and end up in New York.  We figured it out and it wasn't that hard, just had to bypass a stop on the first trip.  So we started at the statue.  We picked up an audio tour and walked through the little museum first.  We then only walked up to the pedestal lookout.  Even though I've been doing great with the pregnancy (as far as hanging in there, haha), I didn't want to climb all those steps to get all the way up the statue.  Maybe next time??  Maybe. 

(Photo cred goes to Steve.  Have I ever mentioned how good he is at taking photos?!)

(Lady Liberty's close up.  I'm not sure what makes this photo more awkward, Lady Liberty or my fashion statement.)

(If only we brought our selfie stick. . . )

After the statue (which was neat to say we did, but not as impressive as I thought it would be), we took the ferry over to Ellis Island.  It was much cooler than I thought it would be.  My great grandpa came over from Romania in the early 1900s and came through immigration at Ellis Island.  It was neat to hear all the history (we did an audio tour) and to think about what my great grandpa went through just to find a new life in America.  What a sacrifice! I was taken aback by how many immigrants never made it through the island.  A lot were quarantined, died on the island, or were rejected and sent back overseas on boats.  

(Upon entering the building on Ellis island, immigrants would leave all of their belongings in this room before heading off for registration.  My parents have the original steamer trunk that my great grandpa brought over from Romania.  It was crazy for me to think about him leaving it there - and also having to lug it around, that thing is huge!)

(Registration room.  Back in the day, this room was full of immigrants waiting on benches.  They would be called one at a time up to a little podium to register for entry.  While they waited, they underwent some quick medical assessments and were marked with chalk on their clothing.  Different markings met whether they had passed or needed further assessments.)

It was nearing closing time, so we left the building to go catch the ferry.  For some reason, the ferry took extra long to come back to Ellis Island.  It was a cold day and the wind coming off the water made it even worse. The boat finally came and we packed on with everyone else to get to New York.  I was done being cold and ready to just get dinner and get to the hotel, but Steve had a full evening planned.  We walked from battery park down wall street to see the bull statue (I still don't understand it), then swung by the New York Stock Exchange building (kind of weird that it is hidden in a back alley, haha).  We continued walking and made it to our dinner spot - Fraunces Tavern.  It claims to be the oldest building in Manhattan and once served as headquarters for George Washington.  We loved the rustic/historic atmosphere and especially loved being out of the cold!

(Eating in Fraunces Tavern)

(Yum! Steve got a stewed chicken dish while I had a sweet corn and cheese ravioli.  It sounded kind of crazy but was pretty tasty!)

After dinner, we walked to the 9/11 Memorial and museum.  It was really cold, but I sucked it up.  The memorial itself was breathtaking.  There were two huge memorial pools where each tower once stood.  Surrounding the pool's rim were written all the names of those lost in each tower.  The names were etched in black granite with lights shining through and illuminating the names. In the center of the pool was a dark abyss that sucked down all the water from the cascading pool.  It is quite the site to see and I encourage anyone venturing to New York to make this a stop on your list. 

(New One World Trade Center or "Freedom Tower" with the WTC Tower 1 reflection pool in front of it.)

(Notice the names on the black edging at the bottom of the picture.  Water cascaded down the walls about 20 feet into the pool and then got sucked down into the black abyss in the center. It was such a serene setting.  So crazy to think of the mayhem that took place on this spot.)

After we walked around the pool, we went into the museum.  I was blown away by all the museum offered.  I wasn't prepared for it to bring on my own emotions of what went on that day.  As cool as it was to see a historical place like Ellis island, this historical place seemed just a little more real in that I remember exactly where I was when the towers were bombed.  It's weird to live history and see it memorialized. The museum itself was fascinating.  It was below ground level and built around the foundation of the towers (you actually got to see the foundation stones and walk around their edges).  There was history of how the towers were built, the 1993 bombing, and of course the Sept 11th attacks and aftermath.  The museum did a good job of incorporating media reports, artifacts (like shoes/glasses/airplane seat belts/fire engines/etc) and written information.  I wasn't prepared for the rooms filled with pictures of all the lives lost or the areas that had voicemails from those inside the towers to their loved ones.  It was a very emotional experience, but again, one I feel like everyone needs to experience.  

(The only picture we took inside the museum.  The left is the slurry wall that was created before construction started on the towers to keep water from the Hudson river from ruining the foundation.  On the right is the "Last Column" which was the last steel beam removed from ground zero.)

After we finished the 9/11 Memorial, we headed to the nearest PATH stop (like Subway) and took it to a main station.  From there, we picked up an Uber and headed back to our hotel in New Jersey.  We crashed for the night and excitedly woke up and got ready the next morning for our cruise departure!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Sprout (pregnancy) Update

I am well into my second trimester with our baby Sprout! 1st trimester was really rough.  I was tired, often didn't feel good, and mentally drained.  I didn't want to talk about being pregnant or really think about what that fully meant.  But here I am 21 weeks ( over halfway!) and things are much more positive around here.

Other than having to get up and pee a ton at night, I'd say I almost feel like my old self.  Mornings are still rough (I wake up very weak and shaky and have to eat and drink a lot of water before I feel like starting my day).  I have way more good days than bad days and have even figured out some triggers that make me feel better and worse.

Just like with my last pregnancy, heartburn is an issue.  I've learned tomato sauce is not my friend, but milk is! If I know we are going to eat something with red sauce, I'll take an antacid before eating and that generally does the trick.  I also try to start and end my day with a glass of milk which also has helped alleviate heartburn.

I have way more energy (and motivation again).  I've seemed to finally retackle the house and am able to stay on top of it and not let it get to "zoo" status.  I am also back into a good exercise routine - both running and a prenatal video workout.  I try to work out 3-5 times a week with a mix of the running and video (goal of at least 2 runs a week).  My running isn't near the level it used to be.  I've dropped from being able to run over 6mph to just above 5.  I used to be able to run 2-3 miles straight, but now only do 1.5 miles at a time and sometimes have to do a portion of walking.  I never really fell in love with running when I trained for my mini a year ago, and I have to say running and being able to feel a baby moving and squirming around inside of you definitely is not on my top 10 list of "fun" things.  But alas, it must be done.

I don't have any crazy cravings yet.  During the 1st trimester, I tended to like saltier things and lost my love for sugar and soft drinks.  Now that I'm feeling much better, I'm back into sodas (still caffeine free) and have my sweet tooth back.  I will say, I did have 1 week where all I wanted was biscuits.  Like hot, fresh homestyle biscuits.  I did meet that craving but still every once in awhile think, "mmmm, biscuits. . ."  I was on a guacamole kick recently, but I would do that non-pregnant, so I don't count that one as a real craving. I would say overall my eating hasn't changed much. I eat pretty much what I did before and in the same amounts (partly to do with the heartburn!).  So far, I've only gained 7 pounds.  I have a goal of gaining no more than 25 (not that I'm actively paying attention or trying to lose weight).

Sprout is one very active baby! I've been feeling his/her kicks and pokes for the past few weeks, but they've really increased here recently.  Steve and Bean have yet to feel the baby move on the outside - most of the movements are internal.  When I do catch the baby kicking out, it seems to calm before I can get anyone's attention to come feel (or see).  Sprout's active times typically coordinate to my eating.  After lunch and after dinner are pretty active times as well as around 3am (hoping that's not a sign of things to come).  I'll often wake up feeling baby moving and it takes me awhile to fall back asleep.

We are looking forward to Sprout's arrival but have a ton of stuff to get done before June.  Mainly, lots of goals and things to get accomplished with big sister Bean (like moving to a toddler room/bed, getting rid of her pacifier for sleeping, and hopefully mastering potty training).  We will be pretty busy this spring preparing for Sprout!

(Not sure why this picture is so tiny.  With Bean, I was on top of documenting the belly bump. I even started taking pictures BEFORE I was pregnant.  This time, it was like, "oh shoot, I'm 10 weeks.  Probably should take a picture.")

(Notice the 1/2. Ha! Not because I wanted to be technical, but because I forgot to take pictures week 11 or 12 and it was getting close to 13.  Then I thought, "I'll make life simple, and only take pictures every other week." But since I was almost 13 and the last picture was 10, my OCD self wouldn't let me just put week 13.)

(Whew, actually remembered to document the every other week strategy!)

(Then life happened and before I knew it, I was 17 weeks and off my picture plan. Sigh.)

(It's bedtime, but "HEY, I  NEED to take a picture at week 19 to upkeep the every other week schedule!")

(I remembered! I was especially proud to remember this as I hit 21 weeks and not at the end.)

(I did a fun guessing game on my Jamberry page.  It was a hit! At the end of day 1, the score was 9 Girl guess and 5 Boy guesses.  I actually already knew Sprout's gender before I made the post, which made it especially fun for me to see who was RIGHT and who was WRONG!)

(Sprout's blog debut! It's hard to tell, but Sprout was sucking on his or her thumb during the ultrasound.  Kept moving its hand up to its mouth - adorable!)

(Bean was right in her last guess before finding out Sprout's gender - a GIRL! As much as we want to add a boy into the mix, Bean and Sprout will have an amazing bond! I look forward to watching Bean and Sprout in their frilly dresses dancing about and laughing together!)

Monday, February 1, 2016

January Review

It took us all several days to recover from Christmas and remember daily routines around the house.  Once we seemed back into the swing of things, I got some nasty sinus/bronchitis crud and ended up down for several days.  Steve took his turn with some crud a few weeks later.  Bean has been the healthiest of us and coincidentally officially has all of her teeth! No more teething issues (sleeplessness, behavior issues, snotty nose, crying for no reason -- oh wait, that one we still deal with) for this kid! 

Bean has really blossomed into being a little girl.  I rarely see much "baby" in her anymore.  She talks non-stop (unless she's engrossed in a show or movie) and is constantly coming up with crazy play.  Her new favorite things to play are:
- hide from monsters (throw blankets over our heads and pretend to sleep)
- running around a random toy and chanting non-existent words
- puzzles
- painting (water colors)
- putting on necklaces and bracelets

She's silly, smart, and can light up a room with her smile and laughter.  I love sitting back and just watching her play and learn; however, she would much rather me be right there in the action with her at all times.  We've worked at finding a balancing of playtime with Momma and playtime alone.  I've also started to realize the potential help I have around the house and have started to put her to work! She helps unload the dishwasher, wipes up her own messes, and is great at putting things in the trash.  

Only real negative with Bean is her eating.  She's never been the best eater, but she's become even more pickier.  She tends to like pasta based foods; however she's lost her love for mac'n'cheese.  Now she just eats the cheese (which causes a lot of digestive issues).  Her go to food options now are either tortilla with sour cream and cheese or spaghetti with cheese (notice a diary theme. . . ).  She's hit or miss on eating fruit (banana/strawberry/raspberry are her only picks when she wants fruit) and eats limited vegetables (only carrots and corn).  We are working on her trying more foods and have had some success with her trying, but not success with her liking it, ha.  She gets vitamins daily and I make sure she gets fruit/veggie pouches to supplement her meals.  Her top favorite meal is now McDonald's nuggets and fries.  The girl can eat almost 4 whole nuggets in one setting! 

She's clueless on what's coming this summer - a sibling! We ask her if she wants a sister or brother.  In the beginning, she'd say sister, now she's changed her tune to brother (and boy does she say brother cute!).  We'll see soon if she's right or not! She doesn't grasp that the baby is in my belly.  We talk about it a lot (especially when she's jumping on me) but she doesn't acknowledge its presence yet.  

Steve is in a busy season at work and working long hours (at work between 6-7:30) and even covering extra shifts (a couple Saturdays).  We all look forward to when daddy's busy season calms down! Steve does a great job at playing with Bean and being a part of the family in the evening even though he is drained from work.  Even though Bean yells, "hide!" when she hears daddy coming in, she loves it when he comes home and plays with her. They often march around the house together or just sit under blankets in a cave. 

I'm back to watching James once a week and even spent a Friday night helping out Sara (James's mom) at her bakery.  I am enjoying watching James again because it helps me figure out strategies for watching two kids and helps break up the monotony of being at the house all the time.  

We aren't doing any new house projects.  Instead, I've been putting a lot of my energy into maintaining the house.  Steve got to come home to a clean house for a week straight and boy was I exhausted that week. Ha! We did have to take on a shower plumbing issue for a week.  We've had our shower drain back up before - ironically an exact year from the date it happened this year.  After 3 days and 1 gallon of Roto-Rooter, we have a functioning shower again.  

(Bean is great at cleaning up her toys! She sings a clean-up song - it's a mix of the old Barney song and Daniel Tiger's clean-up song - and excitedly puts things back where they go.  One day, she decided to re-organize and 'clean-up' the area where her toys go.  So she piled up all the toys on our rug by our coffee table instead of in front of the fire place where they belong.)

(My kitchen helper! This girl loves to help me make food.  She loves to stir and use measuring cups.  She always makes sure that we are properly dressed and wearing aprons.  She'll excitedly run to the drawer and pull one out for me and one out for her.)

(Learning about spatulas! I think we were making chocolate chip cookies.  She especially loves it when she gets to sample the food as we make it.  Chocolate chips have become a favorite in the house. . .  And surprisingly, she doesn't care so much about the finished product.  She just likes the making of it - and again, the chocolate chips.)

(Another job Bean has in the kitchen is unloading the utensils from the dishwasher.  Sometimes her help turns more into playing.  She decided that the utensils didn't need to be put away in the drawer, but instead needed to be lined up on a cutting mat on the floor.)

(Do I even need to explain this photo?  Bean has quite the fashion sense and is very particular about what to wear each day.  Notice in all of these photos, she's wearing a dress.  And typically, it's the same 2 pink or blue skirts.  She even wears them over her pajamas - as seen above.  She always asks if she can sleep in her dress - allowed at nap, not at bedtime.)

(What you see is a crazy kid on a zebra.  What I see is a water thief.  She stole my water mug, put it in her zebra, and escaped with it.  She likes to inform me that it's not Momma's water, but her water.  I do let her take sips of it, which often turns into her stealing the cup and hiding somewhere with it.)

(Bean used to spend a lot of her time coloring.  Now she's given up the markers and has picked up the paint brush. Really she doesn't even need the paint, just a brush and cup of water will do the job.)

(Supporting our favorite quarterback - Peyton!  Boy was I shocked - and pleased - by the outcome of their last game.  Can't wait to see what happens at the Superbowl! Win or lose, I'll still love Peyton.)

(Oh these two hooligans.  I put on a show for them and left them playing peacefully to go clean up the kitchen.  I heard, 'Let us out!  Let us OUT!" and rounded the corner to see them both pleading at the gate.  Bean did the pleading with her voice, James did it with his eyes.)

("Hi Unca Ian!" - For some reason, Bean has decided that she needs to call uncle Ian a lot.  She talks a lot about all of both of our families and listing off everyone and things she does with them.  But boy is she attached to Ian!)

(Okay, so this is when I really see the baby in her! This girl is still very attached to her "packi" (pacifier) and "bay" (blanket).  We will be working on the packi part in the next couple months.  Bay has become like her best friend - although I don't let it go out of her crib.  I'm pretty sure she'd have it by her side constantly if I let it happen.  After nap, I'll look on the monitor and see it on her head.  Usually when I go in and ask her why, she'll say she's hiding from monsters.  This time I went in, she said, "no monsters, it's a hat momma." Well duh. Silly me.)

(Again, this girl and her fashion sense.  Usually some form of necklace or bracelet is on her and dresses are always a must. She cries in the morning if I tell her she can't wear her pink skirt (which she calls a dress).  She will then accept her blue skirt.  But if neither are available, you'd think it's the end of the world.  Sundays are the worst.  We have some nicer dresses that we let her pick from for church, and usually it takes a lot of negotiation to get her to put one of them on because she only wants the PINK DRESS.  She's just recently rediscovered hairbands.  Oh Joy.)