Thursday, January 28, 2010

It's that time again...

It's time for the annual tulip post. I just can't get over their magic, and I'm not sure that I want to... such personality, and poise.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

"Continued Absentmindedness"

I think Marcos was starting to worry that I was losing my mind, so I felt quite validated when I read that "continued absentmindedness" was right on track for the symptomology of pregnancy at 30 weeks.

For him, it explains all of the stamps I placed on the wrong corner of the envelopes when we sent out cards at Christmas time. It explains the episode last week when I put frozen chicken out to thaw on the counter, and promptly forgot it existed, neatly cleaning around it for three days until Marcos asked how long the chicken had been sitting out. And it explains why, at our super duper 3-D IMAX double date to Avatar on Friday night with Aline and Dwight, I thought a photo of us in the theater with no flash would be a great idea.

With photography skills like mine, watch out local photographers...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

2009: A Year in Review

I have seen a number of "year in review" posts crop up in the blogging world lately, and have loved seeing the highlights of 2009 through the eyes of my friends. The year 2009 sort of has a stinky smell to it for a lot of people, but I have also seen a lot of meaningful experiences and blessings in the lives of my blogging friends who go back and look through their photos of the year. Here is our version...

In January we celebrated the inauguration of President Barack Obama. We are still celebrating his inauguration. We trust that despite bumps along the way, with his sound character and intellect he will make the best of his years in office.

In February I was privileged to attend the 100% natural labor and delivery of my friend's daughter. My friend has told me time and again since that day that she apologizes if it was traumatizing for me to watch someone go through that much pain, but on the contrary, for me it was just another tribute to the amazing tenacity of the human body.

Although last year's calendar for the spring months is packed with school events and assignments, and we were running around like social chickens with our heads cut off, the most beautiful photos in our March gallery are of food! Our old apartment had superior lighting, and I needed an outlet from school life, so I cooked. A lot.

In April, at our church's General Conference, Marcos' father was called as an Area Seventy over a portion of Northern Brazil. We flew to Utah for the special occasion, and loved being with Marcos' family for a long weekend to support Pai and his new calling.

After two years of graduate school at UNC, I finished my Masters in Social Work in May. I miss learning in a classroom every day, and I miss seeing my friends, but life without papers and assignments has been dreamy since then. My mom came from Hawaii and my dad and Emili came out from New Jersey for the occasion, so we finally had visitors to share North Carolina with.

June was full of socializing, job hunting, symphony on the lawn, and outdoor movies, relaxing and having fun with our friends. I also started working part time for a photographer and friend named Rebecca, which I continued through the end of the year, while Marcos kept up his work for his start up company, designing a medical diagnostic tool.

In July we went camping with the Whittiers in the Blue Ridge mountains (the Appalachian side of the state), and we crashed the Prouse's family reunion by joining them at the beach house on the Outer Banks! (See below picture of Marcos at the Hatteras Lighthouse). Thanks for having us along, folks!

In August, two important things happened. We moved into our new apartment, and found out we were going to have a baby (we didn't break this news until 14 weeks later). Somewhere around this point, I gave up the disappointing search for a job in the field of Social Work. At least for now.

The month of September was spent in Europe. You're probably sick of Europe one million photos later, but having tasted of the goodness, we just can't get enough. Marcos is already dreaming of going back...

In October, Marcos' brother Danny, his wife Marie and their little girl Kaitlyn came to visit us. We loved showing them the Outer Banks, Duke Gardens on their Anniversary, and we enjoyed their company to the max. At the end of October, we had our first ultrasound and found out that our baby was going to be a Giovanna.

At the end of November, we drove to New Jersey to celebrate Thanksgiving in the greenhouse with my dad, Emili and her family. We also spent our traditional Saturday after Thanksgiving in New York City, and managed a family caravan adventure to Philadelphia as well.

We stayed home this year for the Christmas holidays, so the month of December was full of meaningful time spent with friends and loved ones. One of our most unique dinner invites was to a Joseph and Mary dinner, hosted by our friends the Austins. We ate by candlelight, and the entire meal was pita breads, hummus, cheeses, Mediterranean olives, grapes, baba ganoush, broiled fish, etc. which we ate with our hands to remember the travels of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. It was definitely a tradition to keep alive.

And those are the highlights of our year. We have a feeling that 2010 will be a good one, so Happy New Year everyone!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Does this belly make me look... fat?

Today Marcos and I went to my monthly prenatal appointment with the midwives. I have been eating a lot of food lately (mostly healthy), so I was really proud of the 11 pound weight gain since the last appointment. However the midwife reminded me that the more I put on, the more I have to take off after Giovanna pops out, because she's not going to take 50 pounds with her when she exits. The midwife asked about my eating habits and told me to watch the "empty" calories (how can I help it if Giovanna has a real craving for chocolate?). Having intentionally lived a life devoid of spending any time caring about calories, I found this a little extreme until we were on the way home and I remembered reading somewhere that at this point, 1-2 pounds a week is a healthy weight gain. Oh yeah.

But secretly, I'm still happy about the 11 pounds. When else will I be allowed to feel good about gaining 11 pounds in one month? I feel like a gold medalist of weight gain.

On a similar note, here are a few of my favorite comments I have heard recently from complete strangers, usually while shopping at the thrift store.
  • Shortly before Christmas, "Oh, are you expecting a Christmas baby?". This little girl isn't due until four major holidays after Christmas...
  • When I told a lady that I wasn't due until April she said, "You look just like me when I was pregnant. I was a WHALE!" Fabulous, thanks, wish we were friends.
  • And this one I get all the time: "There is only one in there?".
I choose to be tickled when people make silly comments because I think my belly is beautiful. I have lived in too many other countries where people's comments about weight are much more offensive, to be bothered much by comments about a pregnant belly.

Location #8: Switzerland

I am finally getting to the last few Excellent European Adventure posts, nearly four months after the fact. I would pretend that it was all for your sake, and that the sheer number of photos would have been too much for you to handle, but it's not really true. It's not you, it's me. I am just slow sometimes.

To remind you where we left off in the trip, the last European Adventure post was of our dreamy Swiss Railway Journey. After the nearly day-long railway meander through Switzerland with our friends Stella and Matthias, we stayed at their home for a few days, in a typical Swiss village near Bern called Zofingen.

The center of the Zofingen is called the "Altestadt" (old city) which features all of the traditional architecture and historical paintings shown above. Below, straight down at the end of this cobblestone street in the Altestadt is Stella and Matthias' apartment. They live on the top floor of the white building in the sunlight. Talk about killer location...

Here is Matthias in the kitchen, working his magic as usual. I can't tell from the photo if this was the night he and Stella made an incredible real-deal cheese fondue for dinner, or if this was his to-die-for pumpkin soup, but in any case, we ate like royalty every day we were there. Below is our breakfast. Matthias is a computer genius and created a webpage for the local award-winning bakery, so every morning he walked down the street and came home with the newspaper and a selection of award-winning fresh breads for the day. Mmmmm...

Zofingen is gorgeous. We went walking one day through forested paths behind the village where Stella and Matthias go mountain biking, and we wound our way up a hill to a park area with large enclosed areas with animals! There were a lot of deer and wild pigs, and children poking bread through the bars.

On our way down the hill back to the house, we passed through an apple field of sorts, with apple trees from all over the world... I decided sadly that I would not be a good candidate for a Swiss girl. Everywhere we looked someone was growing something really tantalizing, and although I'm a stickler for honesty in nearly all cases, there is a part of me that sees lone apple trees as a commodity grown for the public to enjoy. It's my recessive "Eve" genetics showing their colors...

The next day Marcos and I called it a rest day, and instead of taking a train to a neighboring city, we borrowed the bikes and explored the area...

Grape vines herded up the corner of a barn. I didn't eat any (promise), but had to get a photo because their form was so beautiful.

Our last day in Switzerland was spent traveling slowly back to Munich, Germany. First, we stopped in Bern to visit the Swiss Temple (the first LDS Temple built in Europe), which was an interesting experience, as the official languages of Switzerland are German, French and Italian. We had to wiggle through communication with people who didn't speak any of the same languages we did, but with a little patience, hand gestures and our made-up Italian words, we did just fine. What a great experience!

We thought that coming into the Temple with our backpacking backpacks would be a bit awkward, but we stashed them in a corner of the lobby and nobody seemed to mind. Wearing nice shoes and carrying a hikers pack was the story of the day.

Next stop: Zurich. Below, Marcos enjoyed breathing in the air of the world center for banking, and the cultural center of Switzerland. Since 9/11, security at railway stations has been tightened, but in Zurich, as with all big cities we passed through, we were able to pay for a locker to hold our big packs while we wandered around the city for a few hours. Many locker rooms required that you send your packs through a scanner before they would accept them.

Not a very interesting photo, but it needs to be here. See those two drinks? They were fruit smoothies from Starbucks, and we paid about $18.95 for the two! I just looked up Zurich, and was not surprised to read that Zurich is the world's sixth most expensive city, right after Hong Kong. We loved Switzerland; I was enamored with the scenery and quality of food, and Marcos was enamored with the popularity of the iphone and the quality of food, but it was without doubt the most expensive country we visited. In Hawaii we call the cost of living the "Price of Paradise" and surely Switzerland is in its own way a bit of Heaven on earth.

Thank you so much Stella and Matthias for being wonderful hosts and friends, and we can't wait to repay you the kindness when North Carolina, Sao Paulo or Hawaii come up on your travel itineraries!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Choosing to feel

After we bought our car in November and started listening to NPR on the radio, I felt so freshly clued in to the world that for a while I entertained the romantic idea of becoming a news reporter.

But this week I've been listening with different ears, and all I hear is a line up of voices; voices of people who have trained themselves not to feel as they report on some really, really sad events and circumstances. The news about the Dow Jones, a recent shooting, the weather, and the results of a study on sexual assault towards juveniles in prison were delivered this afternoon with the same tone of voice: undulated to keep it audiologically interesting, but devoid of any type of emotion.

No thank you to that career option. I prefer to feel.

This morning the baby son of a friend of mine died, and the grief moved around in me all day until it found a way to be expressed. As I was driving alone at dusk a deer darted across the road in front of me, and I slammed on the brakes, and the groceries on the seat sailed across the car. I arrived at the house shaking - shaking out remnants of the day's fear, sorrow, grief, insecurity... and my husband held me.

Feelings are not always pleasant, but I am coming to terms with the vast range that moves through me. If the alternative is numbness and disconnection, I choose to feel.

It's Nesting Time!

Some babies get their own rooms, and some babies get corners of rooms. Giovanna will be in the latter category. Sorry, girlfriend, but we haven't yet made our first million.

Months ago, after browsing through the internet and noticing how ridiculously expensive baby cribs and crib bedding are, Marcos and I decided that if we started early, kept our eyes open, and waited patiently, we would end up saving a lot of money on baby things.

And then right before Christmas it all sort of came together. This is how we fared:

  • Italian Pali brand crib, crib sheet and mattress, all in amazing condition: $100 for all (Craigslist)
  • Pale lime green elephant print bumper and matching striped dust ruffle, in perfect condition: $7.50 (thrift store)
  • Radical crib canopy: priceless (okay, $19.99 at Ikea)

The walls in Giovanna's corner are still barren, and I haven't yet added the great handmade decorations we got as Christmas gifts (thanks Linds!), but on the night the crib was put together, I made this wall board as an attempt to soften the blow of the mismatchiness of the white baby dresser we were gifted by friends, the cherry wood color of the crib, and the black metal of our bed frame. I found this cork board for a dollar at the thrift store (I loved the blue background), fished out the vintage postcards we collected along our Europe trip, and used my sewing pins to attach them in a simple pattern. It makes such a difference. Who knew?

And so, with some successful purchases under our belt and the process of outfitting our home for a baby well underway, we are ready to sit back, keep our eyes open, and wait patiently for the rest of the pieces to fall into place.

Extra carseat? Anyone?