Wednesday, November 29, 2017

West Point: 10-Year Reunion

My favorite view at West Point

In October, Dan and I headed to my alma mater, the United States Military Academy at West Point, for my 10-year college reunion.  I was really excited about the trip, because it was my first time introducing Dan to a place that is very near and dear to my heart.

Maybe I'll show this photo to our baby someday!

I wanted to make sure Dan had the full experience at West Point, including seeing some of the behind the scenes things that are pretty much off-limits to the public.  After all, it's a fully functional military base!  Fortunately, my goddaughter's father is assigned there, so he was able to show us the Mess Hall, the fitness center and gyms, and even a cadet room!  Then I walked Dan around Trophy Point overlooking the river, so he could see some of the grounds.

We did participate in a few of the "official" reunion events, including a nice class dinner, viewing the cadet review on the parade field, a tailgate at the Firstie Club (the senior bar/club), and a football game!  Whew!  We did a LOT.  We also walked quite a bit, and those hills are a lot tougher now that I'm older, less fit, and pregnant.

The thing that made the reunion worthwhile (other than introducing Dan to my school!)  was seeing my old friends and classmates.  My company (my classmates who shared a dorm with me for our sophomore through senior years) showed up in bigger numbers than most.  I saw friends that were in my classes/major, in the same sports, and more.  It made me incredible nostalgic of course.  I can't believe we graduated over ten years ago!

And three people missed this photo...  H4 Hogs were representing!

I don't think I was on the fence about attending my reunion, but I definitely wondered if it was necessary in the age of social media.  After attending, I would resoundingly say it still has a place!  Much more so in this case than even my high school reunion, because my college was particularly tight-knit and unique.

I may not go to reunions every five years, but I probably will try every ten.  This one was also particularly special because we stayed with my goddaughter's family, spending quality time with my friends and their kids, even taking them to the local pumpkin patch and doing a hayride.  I am so glad I went, and that Dan could come with me!

Have you ever attended your high school or college reunion?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Disney World for Adults

Some people manage to schedule a "babymoon" during their pregnancy with their partner, but a combination of work and our holiday plans kept us from having a nice getaway.  But I did have a girls' trip planned for Labor Day weekend that ended up being the perfect substitute!

A while back, my friends and I were imagining the perfect girls' weekend... and for us, that meant staying at an amazing resort at Disney and enjoying the parks.  I know what you're thinking.  "Disney World?  For a bunch of grown women in their 30s?"  Oh, yeah.  When I was a kid, I loved Disney World.  As an adult, I realized they have a LOT of high end and delicious offerings and fun that exhausted parents can't take advantage of on family trips!

Tip #1:  Stay at a Disney resort, near your priorities.  There are resorts at Disney World of varying levels of cost, as well as off-property hotels and resorts.  For our weekend, we felt it was a priority to stay on property, and we favored the resorts that would allow us to walk to the back entrance of Epcot by the World Showcase.  After all, we were visiting during Epcot International Food & Wine Festival!  We stayed at Disney's Beach Club Resort.  I like staying at the resorts because they have shops, restaurants, and so many conveniences.  Beach Club is also near other resorts, which once again expands your restaurant options.

Tip #2:  Make reservations for your top experiences.  I had two wishlist items: Afternoon Tea at the Grand Floridian, and dinner at California Grill during the Magic Kingdom fireworks.  My friend wanted to do the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall with the princesses.  All of these were wonderful, memorable experiences, things that I knew I would probably be less able to enjoy with an infant/young child or a husband who is not a fan of Disney stuff.

Tip #3:  Take advantage of your flexibility as an adult.  Even though Labor Day is a holiday weekend, many kids are back to school by then.  So traveling during the "school year" calendar reduces your crowds and increases chances you can do special stuff.

We also didn't have to deal with naptimes or bedtimes, because we're grownups.  So when we found out there were tickets available for Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, we bought them the day of the party.  We also didn't overplan, just had 1-2 things per day based on those reservations we made for our top wishlist items.  So we planned our park visits around those reservations too.  When it rained, we ran for cover.  When we were tired, we sat down for coffee.  When we needed to just lay down by the pool, we did just that.  We'd change course and randomly do a ride because the wait time wasn't long.  We stopped for photos.  We did things we didn't plan on doing.  Being pregnant, I really appreciated the flexibility!

Tip #4:  Make choices where you splurge, and where you save.  My friend didn't want to deal with the free bus service, so she splurged on a car to take us to and from the airport.  I splurged on food for sure.  But we made up for it by eating some of our "on the go" meals at the quick service restaurants, and by ordering kids' meals.  Yup, one of my favorite Disney money-savers is ordering kids' meals!  They're usually enough to fill me up, and they're way less expensive than the fast food for adults, because they know they can't jack up the prices as much on kid food versus adults.  I never had anyone question it when I ordered a kids' meal at the counter!

Pro Tip: We were concierge level at the resort, so we tucked in big time during their free breakfast and snack times when we could to save $$$!  I think my husband would have loved this, so I'm keeping it in mind for the future.  He could make the cost worthwhile just in wine alone.

This poolside kid's meal came with a bucket and shovel to play with!  LOL

Tip #5:  Make it special and memorable!  I ordered sparkly ears and tank tops for the group.  One of the girls gifted us Alex & Ani bracelets.  We wore our ears everywhere like kids and just embraced our inner child.  It was really fun, so it felt like a celebration and not just a trip to the parks.

For pregnant ladies:   I really didn't feel limited during my Disney experience.  The few things I couldn't ride (the new Pandora rides, Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain, Expedition Everest) had such long lines my friends didn't even want to attempt them.  (The Pandora rides went down for most of a day so the wait times were 3+ hours!)  I rode a number of my favorites, especially at the Magic Kingdom.  And by saving money on alcohol, I was able to stop for delicious snacks (like a Dole Whip!) as a trade-off.  Honestly, I think Disney was great because there are ample benches to take a seat, shade from the heat, and more for the comfort of the entire family.  They really planned the parks with family in mind, so preggos can enjoy it too.

Watchouts for Adult Groups:  Firstly, Disney is designed for families, so sometimes it's hard for them to figure out three adults who want three different credit cards on their Magic Bands.  We had to do a lot of work on the tail end of our trip for incidentals, because most things were charged to our room (one friend's card) instead of the cards we painstakingly set up at the front desk from the get-go.  So realize that sometimes the Magic Band thing works against you as non-family, so paying with cards (not bands) is probably the easiest way to make sure stuff doesn't get jacked up.

Secondly, if you want to take advantage of Fast Passes, you need to buy park tickets ahead of your trip and link all of your My Disney Experience accounts online.  *Or* you need to link accounts ahead of time at a minimum to reserve available Fast Passes upon arrival.  That's the only way you can all reserve Fast Passes together through the website or the app.

Lastly, Disney World is honestly for families first.  So just keep in mind that the place will be crawling with kids (I know, I know, this seems obvious) which means having some patience and sympathy.  I for one used it as an opportunity to see what strollers and baby gear everyone was using as intel for my baby registry.  If you need an escape from kids, I recommend focusing on Epcot and places like Disney Springs.  The higher-end the restaurant, or the later you stay out, the fewer crowds (and kids) you'll usually find.

I'm not sure when I'll next be at Disney... but I'll probably have a kid in tow!
That will make for a whole new blog post.
But this trip was one of the best, and I'm happy we went and enjoyed it as grown-ups.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A Week in NYC

In July, I spent a week living in Brooklyn for work, volunteering at a non-profit.  This was cool for a number of reasons.  1) I got to pretend I lived in NYC for a bit, 2) I got per diem to EAT ALL THE THINGS, and 3) I met new friends but also got to visit family.

My project partners

We lived and worked near the MetroTech center, near the shopping on Fulton Street south of Dumbo and north of Boerum Hill.  Our first night, we walked to Bijan's for dinner, which had delicious Persian fusion food.  They offer a delicious stew special, which I had.  So much flavor!

We also had beautiful dinners (my coworkers enjoyed some great seafood!) at Atrium Dumbo (in Dumbo, obvi) and Midnights in Williamsburg.  We really enjoyed exploring some of the other neighborhoods in Brooklyn while we could.  I also frequented Dekalb Market Hall, an awesome new food court that had so many options from bagels to Hawaiian to Katz's Deli.  And Shake Shack, OF COURSE.  Two of my other favorites?  We hit up Yaso Tangbao for a delicious lunch, because SOUP DUMPLINGS and spicy noodles are amazing.  We also ate at Aunt Jake's in Little Italy for fresh pasta that was just... perfection!  So good my Italian mother-in-law would approve.

Takeout from Yaso Tangbao

My favorite sightseeing, other than the beautiful bridge views in Brooklyn, was our visit to Merchant's House Museum in lower Manhattan.  If you're a history buff, I really think a tour of this impeccably-preserved home is in order.  It is the only historic house museum in the Greenwich Village/Soho/NoHo neighborhoods, where every other building has made way to development.  It's also considered one of the best examples of architecture of its period (1832 late-Federal brick exterior with Greek revival interior rooms), because the same family owned/occupied it until 1906.  I loved that so much of the family's original belongings were part of it.

The garden at Merchant's House

After a full week of work, I extended my visit to include a weekend staying with my cousin on the Upper West Side.  Her little girl is getting so big!  I loved spending time with family.  Our baby cousin (okay, he's grown, but I still call him our baby) came in from college in Boston to spend time with us too.  We walked to Gotham West Market (another food court, because this is a hot thing, right?) and I had pizza from Corner Slice, Ivan Orkin's pizza joint.  Yum.

We walked through Central Park and indulged in fro-yo, baked goods, and bubble tea/boba.  We also had a yummy brunch at Spring Natural Kitchen, my last meal with family before heading home.  Because that is what you do when you're in NYC.  You get out, eat all the things, and walk your butt off so you can eat some more!

I must say, I don't think I've ever gotten to "live" in NYC for an entire week every, so it was kind of awesome to wake up every day, walk out the door, and find AMAZING BAGELS everywhere.  And everything else you could imagine.  It wasn't as glamorous as Carrie Bradshaw made it look, but it was certainly loud, colorful, delicious, and fun.  I will admit that being in the super early stages of pregnancy on the trip kept me from eating/drinking some things I wanted, and the smells could be a little overwhelming... but it was still worth every bite.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Sometimes, trying to get pregnant sucks.

I'm six months pregnant.  I know I've mentioned here on the blog before that we were hoping to get pregnant, but I haven't written much about this pregnancy itself.  Pregnancy is the main reason I haven't posted as much as usual since the July timeframe, mostly because I was nauseous for 19 weeks!

Don't worry about me.  I'm happy.  I'm excited.  It's starting to feel real.  But it wasn't always this baby bliss feeling.

11 weeks

I had a plan.  That plan was to be pregnant, like, in fall 2015, right after we got married.  That's when I went off birth control and we were in that newlywed phase of "let's see what happens" and figuring that within about 6 months or so we'd probably get knocked up.

For my entire adulthood, I was really good at not getting pregnant.  I'd never been pregnant before, not once.  Consequently, that meant I didn't know if I could!  But then I got to my 30s and actually wanted to get pregnant, and every monthly visit from "Aunt Flo" felt like a failure.

Sometimes, trying to get pregnant sucks.  I chalk up my feelings on the subject to three key mistakes.

Mistake #1:  Thinking you can plan a baby.
Honestly, whether you get pregnant when you plan to or not, there's no truly perfect time to have a baby.  My world is going to be rocked when this little dude shows up!  I just don't think you can Type A the heck out of this and make it happen exactly when you want it to.  It puts too much pressure and expectation on you and your partner, and it's just not really realistic.  Rookie thinking.

Mistake #2:  Telling people you're trying to have a baby.
The earlier you tell people, the more time they have to give you unsolicited and conflicting advice.  And sometimes, that advice lacks tact.  When people would ask us when we were starting a family, I often wouldn't tell them proactively that we were trying, just that we hoped it would happen soon or we would welcome it as soon as it happens... vague things like that.   But it still opened the can of worms.

I got multiple reminders/hints/suggestions that my "reason" for not conceiving was being overweight.  (Got it, thanks, now let me go crawl into a hole to eat my feelings.  None of them were doctors, BTW.)  Or they told me to eat more kale.  Or they told me to have sex every day, have sex every other day NOT every day, or some kind of weird sex scheduling that my iCal would blush over.  I swear some of my friends figured out my menstrual cycle and would text me to see if my period came... true story, and I love them, but sometimes it stung.

Sometimes you get good advice too, like tracking basal body temperature, using apps, and checking cervical mucus (more on that in Mistake #3), but then there are others who will say, "Don't stress over stuff like that, tracking will only make it worse, don't track those things!"  See?  Conflicting advice!

Honestly, everyone believes their personal or anecdotal experience is gospel, like they're all experts because they've had a kid or know someone who has...  and it's just frustrating when you're not in the mood or mindset to take it with a grain of salt.  So don't tell people you're trying, unless you're okay with this happening.

Mistake #3:  Thinking you can do XYZ to conceive a baby.
I tried massage and acupuncture.  I'm terrified of needles, so acupuncture was OMFG scary.  Like 35 needles head to toe, 3-4 times per menstrual/ovulation cycle.  Woof.

I gave up almost all caffeine and alcohol.  I worked out.  I used apps to track things.  I tracked my temperature (I suck at that!).  I tracked cervical mucus.  (Gross.)  I tracked every single thing.  I peed on so many ovulation predictor thingys.

We got tested by doctors after a year of trying.  Dan, too.  I had an ultrasound (with the wand thingy, all up in my biz) and then this HSG radiology test that HURT LIKE A MFer (they insert a catheter and run contrast through your tubes to check for blockages).  Everything on me checked out; I was fit as a fiddle to get knocked up.  After about 18 months of trying to conceive, we scheduled a fertility consult appointment.  We both decided we were willing to give fertility meds and IUI a shot, but that we'd likely draw the line at IVF and focus on adoption after that, for personal reasons.

And then I got pregnant in June, and we cancelled the appointment.  Because that's how the universe works sometimes, y'all!

This whole journey cost us over $2000 out of pocket for medical, acupuncture, massage, ovulation predictor kits, and other expenses.  That's nothing compared to what people pay once you actually get into fertility treatments, but it is a dent considering it was what we spent BEFORE a fertility consult.

20 weeks

So now that I'm pregnant...
I think that our journey to pregnancy taught me a lot.  It taught me to have the most sympathy and empathy ever for those who struggle to conceive.  18 months is not a long time compared to the journey many couples have had and continue to have.  I feel so fortunate to have gotten pregnant, though honestly I think the pre-pregnancy struggle kind of quashed my initial enthusiasm for a while.  I think for about 12 weeks I would tell Dan, "Don't get too excited, it might not stick."  I didn't let myself look at baby things.  I didn't share "bump" photos for a long time.  I just didn't let myself feel too much joy because I was feeling too much fear that if I wanted it too much, it would slip away.  Even at 25 weeks, sometimes I worry it could slip away, but I have to just accept that what will be, will be.

Our journey taught me not to overshare (hence why I haven't posted here about it much), but to instead talk to a handful of close friends and crowdsource on more mundane things.  People give me their opinions all the time, whether I want them or not, but my attitude is that I don't have to listen to them or let it give me anxiety.

Sometimes, it does get to me... but then there's my favorite example of my friend asking me if she could give me some advice after looking at my baby registry.  I told her that I would receive her advice happily so long as she didn't care whether I listened to it or not.  And she totally got it.  I did make some changes based on her advice, but not everything.  I wish everyone approached giving baby/parenting advice in that way, understanding that my choice to ignore your advice is not a judgment of your own choices!

One thing that really helped during our journey?  I talked to a therapist every week, via Talkspace.  We talked about my anxiety over not getting pregnant, how to have productive conversations with Dan about everything, how to be a good partner and comfort each other during this trial.  This is the #1 best thing I did.  I went from 5 days a week texting plus a monthly video chat, to 5 days a week texting, to a few times a week, now down to once a week.  And if I get stressed out once baby comes, I'll increase it for my sanity.

If you're out there trying to get pregnant, I feel for you!  It's just not as easy as some make it look.  Sometimes, it just sucks.  But you're not alone, and it doesn't always help when people tell you things like "everything happens for a reason" or whatever.  You just have to embrace the suck, the best way you can.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Dressing Downton at Cheekwood

I'm soooo behind on blog posts, but I still want to share how I spent my summer!  So you're getting it anyways LOL #latergram #laterblog

A bunch of local girls in DAR get together for a monthly happy hour in an unofficial capacity, simply because we love each other's company and enjoy a lot of the same things.  So for one of them, we decided to grab drinks and enjoy the Dressing Downton touring exhibit visiting Cheekwood!  Cheekwood had these fun Thursday night activities (food trucks, a bar, and more!) during the summer, so we timed our visit to the exhibit with that.

For fans of the show, seeing these outfits up close is just fascinating and mesmerizing!  I highly recommend it!  While the exhibit is no longer in Nashville, you can still catch it on tour.

You have to stop and take time to read about the clothing.  Some of it is reproduction, some of it is authentic vintage, and some of it is made from vintage pieces.  It's so neat how a vintage curtain or tablecloth became the basis for a gorgeous gown.  Cheekwood also incorporated the history of its own family and mansion into the exhibits, which made it even more unique for us.

I loved seeing this exhibit with my friends.  Cheekwood is a really special place in Nashville, one that I come back to almost every year at least once for visiting exhibits.  If you've got a girl squad and you're looking to do something beyond the usual happy hour, make sure you look up local exhibits and events to see if you can mix it up!

P.S.  Did you hear they're working on a Downton Abbey MOVIE?!  Yay!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Preview: Wine Down Main Street 2017

For the third year in a row, I had the privilege of attending the media preview for one of the best local charity events in the Nashville area: Wine Down Main Street.  (Click to see my 2015 and 2016 posts!)  I meant to post about this earlier, but pregnancy and my sister's wedding sidetracked me...  so sorry!  VIP tickets for the event are sold out, but you can still snag General Admission tickets ($85) online and at participating retailers.  It's all happening tomorrow, Saturday, November 4th!

Fruit tart from Suzette

You guys, you don't want to miss this.  And since I can't drink right now, you really need to go drink wine and eat delicious food FOR CHARITY on my behalf!

I got to sample the biggest banana pudding I've ever seen from Cool Cafe, which they WILL have at the event, y'all.  It was off the chains.  I can't wait to visit them for their Steak Night dinners, which I haven't tried.  They're my fav meat & three in Franklin.

I mean, look at this thing...

I also sampled bites from Taziki's, Mafiaoza's, Nothing Bundt Cakes (Pumpkin Spice is here for the limited time!), and Catering and Events by Suzette.

Nothing Bundt Cakes


Catering and Events by Suzette

Tickets may be purchased online or in person at one of the below locations. Online ticket sales end at NOON on Saturday, November 4th.  Any remaining tickets will be sold at the ticket sales tents located on the Franklin Square or corner Fourth & Main beginning at 5 PM on Saturday, November 4th.

General Admission tickets only:

  • Avec Moi - 418 Main Street Franklin, TN
  • Finnley’s - 435 Main Street East, Suite A Franklin, TN 37064  (Note: this is one of my fav boutiques in Franklin!)
  • Harlin Meyerhoff - 400 Main Street, Suite 120 Franklin, TN 
  • The Shop Around The Corner - 117 Third Avenue South Franklin, TN 
  • Yarrow Acres - 424 Main Street Franklin, TN

About Boys & Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee
For more than 113 years, Boys & Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee (BGCMT) has enabled all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, and responsible citizens. Annually, more than 3,400 youth are served at nine Middle Tennessee Boys & Girls Clubs and through community outreach initiatives. Clubs are located in Davidson & Williamson counties. Boys & Girls Clubs provides a safe place, professional caring staff, fun and friendship, and high-impact youth development programs on a daily basis during critical non-school hours. Priority programs emphasize academic success, good character and citizenship, and healthy lifestyles.
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