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Our trip to New York City

We decided to take one last little trip as a family of 3. We had promised Little Dude for quite some time that we would take him to “the dinosaur museum”, and finally got around to doing so.

First time in the Lincoln Tunnel

We drove to Lyndhurst, NJ, where we were staying the night, and caught a bus to the Port Authority. Little Dude and I had never been on public buses in the US, so this was a new experience for both of us. He was most impressed by how high up we were. It’s the little things. From there we boarded the subway and took that to the vicinity of Battery Park. Thankfully we had all agreed to take the Bob stroller, because by the time we got within view of Lady Liberty, LD was passed out. Out cold. We tried to wake him up, but really only got him up and out with the promise of a snack. All 3 of us thought Battery Park would give us a  closer view of the statue, so we were a little disappointed by that. But it was a beautiful day and there was a lovely breeze, so we stood there for a while and watched the boats come and go. And then LD was DONE. We headed to Terri’s (for me) and Au Bon Pain (for them) for lunch. And again he was DONE.


From there we subwayed back to the 50th street station and headed to Rockefeller Center. LD was out cold once again by the time we got there. We wandered around for a bit and then decided to take advantage of his nap and walk through St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I was there years and years ago, but it’s been renovated since then and is simply gorgeous. I spent a good bit of time reading each of the plaques about the various saints and artifacts. It takes your breath away.

By then Little Dude needed to run around. We took him to Central Park and stopped for a minute to sit on a bench near a flock of pigeons.


LD was mesmerized. He couldn’t get enough of those birds. We had to PRY him away. But then he saw the rocks. And he decided that he had to climb every rock we saw. He’s never been very adventurous, so this surprised me, but what surprised me even more was how well he did on them. He climbed them as if he did so all the time. We spent a good bit of time at the various rocks, then at the carousel, and finally at one of the many playgrounds. He was good and tired.

From there we went back to the bus station and painfully navigated that system, and finally found ourselves back at the hotel. We stayed at a Quality Inn. It was what you’d expect. But LD thought it was the best thing ever.


He LOVES hotels. He willingly goes to bed because he thinks the beds in them are awesome. He was so excited to get there and swim in the pool, so we decided to put off dinner. After playing in the pool for about 45 minutes, we went to dinner. We weren’t in the best area for food, and ended up at a PF Chang’s. I have to say that it was a miserable experience. Our service was SOOOOOO slow. we got there around 8:45pm and didn’t get out until nearly 11pm.

Day 2 came quickly. We decided to drive into the city this time, and it ended up being a super smart choice. I think it cost us $5 more in the end but it saved us sooooo much time. Our destination was the American Museum of Natural History, so we parked in their garage. We got there just before 11am, and S predicted LD wouldn’t last very long. Boy was he wrong. This kid was in his element. He loves animals so much. He’s obsessed with the PBS show Wild Kratts, and has memorized soooo many facts about lots of animals- ones I know nothing about. There were times when I thought his poor head was going to explode. He was desperate to find the dodo bird skeleton and wanted his picture taken with it. (Excuse the poor photo; it was the only way to actually capture the skeleton. If I used the flash to get him in the photo, I lost the skeleton.)


This is him schooling S about the differences between a cheetah and a leopard. He was so intense. Note the finger.


He went on and on and on about the differences between alligators and crocodiles. He ran to one, spouted off a fact, to the other, spouted off another fact, and then repeated the cycle over and over. He was just so excited. It was so adorable. I wish I had video of that, but we were just enjoying it too much.

Collectively, our favorite floor was 4, which has all of the dinosaur skeletons. It had the coolest thing I’ve ever seen: the titanosaur. Whoa. Just whoa. This thing was ginormous.


Yay for panorama setting!!

We spent about 4 hours and 20 minutes at the museum and I felt like we RAN through it. We didn’t even do any of the special exhibits. I would totally go back there. Oh – and by the way, if you plan a visit there, know that it’s a pay-as-you-wish museum. They ask that you pay the suggested rate if you are able, but if you can’t, you pay what you can.

After the museum, we hit up a little hole in the wall sushi place. The waiter gave LD some training chopsticks and he demolished 2 veggie rolls. It was a fantastic little place with delicious food and prices that were super wallet friendly. Afterwards we treated him to an ice cream cone from one of the trucks outside Central Park.

We really had to get going, but he really wanted to climb more rocks in Central Park. We gave him a half hour, and he got some good climbing in! This particular one freaked this momma out a bit (though it doesn’t look so bad in pictures), but S stayed right behind him the whole time. He was a cool, confident climber. His uncle is going to have a blast taking him climbing over the next few years!

We had so much fun and promised LD that we’d go back some day when Avocado is big enough. But honestly, all this kid needs is a hotel with a pool and some rocks to climb on. He’s pretty easy to please!


The hardest part of this pregnancy isn’t what you’d expect

When I found out I was pregnant, I was terrified that I would deal with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, a severe form of “morning sickness” that can plague the mother for the entire pregnancy. My youngest cousin dealt with it during her first pregnancy and had an awful time. She had to get much of her nutrition through an IV. Having a child at home, I wasn’t sure how I could possibly deal with that.

Thankfully, I wasn’t that sick. Instead I had about 4 weeks of 24/7 nausea, but no vomiting . . . though there were many times when I thought vomiting would be preferable. During that time I also caught some sort of terrible stomach virus and spent 14 hours puking my guts out every 30 minutes or so. I lost 4 pounds that day and it took me nearly a month to gain them back. During this period, I wasn’t sure how I would get through the day, but obviously I survived. Despite how awful I felt, this was not the worst part.

As the nausea picked up, so did the fatigue. If you know me, you know I like to go-go-go. I don’t like sitting around, and I definitely don’t like napping. I’ve always hated it. I wake up grumpy and cloudy-headed. But I had to start taking naps in order to get through the days. Many days required two naps, which was hard to pull off with Little Dude around. Thankfully he was amazing during that time, even though he didn’t know about the baby. And some days I had to enlist the help of some friends to watch him so I could sleep. I still find myself needing a nap many days, and I still hate it. But it’s still not the worst.

The sore – no, painful – breasts, the backaches (already!), the general aches and pains as my belly grows . . . those all sucked. Round Ligament Pain . . . holy cow that’s awful. No one tells you about that one and then all of a sudden you’re doubled over in pain, convinced you’re going to lose your baby. I woke up the other morning when this kicked in as I rolled in my sleep and I gasped pretty loudly, waking up my husband and apparently scaring him.

I had insane pain in my belly button the other week that made me nearly cry. It’s totally normal, apparently, though it seems a bit early for it. It went away after about 2 hours, but it was super weird. I found that I have a lot more earwax than normal, which is a little icky but really isn’t that bad. That’s a thing too. I have more dark spots, like overgrown freckles, on my face and I have to really amp up the sunblock usage to prevent it from getting worse. Glowing, radiant skin? I wish.

The mood swings and tendency to cry at just about anything is simply annoying. Who has time for that? Not me. Yet it happens. Bleh.

All of those things are crummy, but none of them are horrible. Do you want to know the very worst part of this pregnancy?

The worst part of this pregnancy is not having my mom around. I didn’t get to tell her that I was pregnant. I didn’t get to tell her I am having a girl. I can’t ask her questions about her pregnancies with my brother and me. I can’t call her to bitch and moan about all of those things that I listed above. She won’t get to feel the baby kick. She won’t get to see or hold the baby. She won’t get to see her grow. My daughter won’t know her Moogie (what the grandkids call her), except what we tell her. Little Dude doesn’t remember much about her, but he remembers certain things and we talk about those things often to keep those memories alive. She won’t even have that.

I knew all these things, but it wasn’t until last week when I thought about our daughter’s baptism that it hit me. I don’t know why I’m thinking about that already, but I am. And it hit me that my mom wouldn’t be there. My mom didn’t attend church regularly, and I’m not 100% sure what she thought about baptism (her beliefs changed over her adult life and we didn’t really discuss them). But to me, her absence at this event is already devastating. I cry every time I think about it, including now. It makes me sad to know that she’ll only know what we tell her about my mom. I never knew my grandfather, as he died when my dad was 16. It always made me sad that I didn’t get to have that relationship with him, so I know how she’s going to feel as she grows up. It sucks.


Don’t say this . . . please

A long time ago I wrote a blog entry about the things you shouldn’t say to a family in the process of adopting. One of those things was, “Once you start the adoption, you’ll get pregnant.” That was said to me by many, many people, and it made my blood boil every time. The act of a sperm and egg uniting to create what will, in 9 months, be a breathing, crying, squirming human HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH a legal proceeding to adopt a child. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Now I’m pregnant. I’m getting the same comment with a different spin on it. I keep hearing this, “This happens so often. A couple adopts and then all of a sudden they are pregnant. It’s so common.”


I know of exactly one couple who had this experience. They struggled for years with infertility and just before they were to board a plane to meet their child, they found out they were pregnant. One family. I know a lot of people who’ve adopted, a lot of people who’ve had children with whom they share biology, and a lot of people who’ve contemplated adoption and ultimately had biological children. One family.


When I tell people that the two things have no relationship, the answer is often something like this: “When you give up on the idea of having a biological child, the stress is gone and then your body is ready to have that baby.”

Ask any parent who has gone through an adoption whether the experience has been stressful. The answer will be, unequivocally, yes. You have tons of paperwork to file, background checks to complete, passports and visas to obtain, and approvals to receive. Your house is examined. Your background is examined. Your house is examined. You have to figure out where you are going to find $25,000 – $50,000 dollars. You have to realize that you are going to be doing the hurry-up-and-wait game over and over for at least 18 months, if not a few years. It’s definitely no walk in the park. It’s not easy. It’s not fun. Sex is fun. The waiting between the sex and the pregnancy test isn’t, but seriously, trying to compare the stress of the two ways to build your family really isn’t fair. (Obviously I’m not talking about IVF here; just  your “standard” reproduction.)

I guess people assume that we just decided to adopt again and poof! this baby happened. That’s not true. I pretty much gave up on the idea that my body was capable of producing a child 5 years ago, not in the fall of 2015. (More about this in an upcoming blog.) I was super stressed about the idea of coming up with money for a second adoption, and about how long it would take. So this idea that because we decided to adopt, we got pregnant, is nonsense.

The bottom line here is this: if you know of someone who is contemplating adoption, find something else to say to them other than “If you just decide to adopt, you’ll get pregnant.” And if you know of a pregnant women (or soon-to-be-dad) who contemplated adoption or adopted a child, don’t say anything like, “See? You just needed to adopt a kid so you could have a baby.” Either way, it’s not a welcome sentiment. Simply encourage or congratulate the couple and then move on to a topic like how ridiculous Donald Trump’s hair is.

An update . . . and baby news!

Little Dude is enjoying some quiet time, so I thought I’d quickly crank out a blog. Well, HE’S not enjoying the quiet time, but I am. Life has changed since my last blog, so here are some updates.

My husband’s virtual reality business is really doing well, and they have a major event coming up in 2 weeks. They are working with some big names in the entertainment industry, so hopefully the exposure will yield additional work for them in the future.

Little Dude and I started homeschooling. We had been doing little bits of stuff here and there, but now we’re doing it 3-4 days per week. It’s going pretty well. He gets frustrated with reading, so I don’t push it. He does like activities that build the foundations for reading, so we’re sticking with those. He likes math, though, so we’re working on addition. He gets frustrated at times, but he’s usually pretty proud of himself, so overall it’s looking good. We also look into 2 animals per week, using coloring pages, videos online, a set of animal cards my mom got me when I was his age, and Wild Kratts! He loves Wild Kratts and can spit out lots of animal facts I don’t even know! So far our homeschooling experience has been fun. I’m not putting any pressure on either one of us since he just turned 5 four weeks ago. He’s not even eligible for kindergarten until September, so this is all just for fun. When he seems like he has enough, we quit.

Our dog, Spiro, is a mess, as always. His allergies are never under control. He put on 20 pounds in 4 months due to a newly discovered thyroid problem. He’s now on weekly allergy injections, two daily allergy pills, daily joint medication for arthritis and twice daily thyroid pills. I’m anxious for spring to come so I can get him out for longer daily walks again. He really needs them!

So now for the big news. My Facebook friends already know this, but I’m pregnant! I’m 13 weeks and am due on 9/8/16. If you’ve read this blog for years, you know that we struggled with infertility. We adopted our son in late December 2011. We had really given up on the idea of ever getting pregnant some time ago, and were focused on doing another adoption. After talking about it for some time, and getting Little Dude’s input, we decided to start another one. Around the same time, I started feeling funny. On a run (of course) I mentioned how I was feeling to my running partner, who is a PA. She simply mentioned that I might be experiencing a hormone change. She was ever-so-gently suggesting I could be pregnant without coming close to saying those words. I took a test the next morning. No one was more shocked than I was to see those pink lines. I’ve taken many, many tests over the years, first for A Conception Story (the TLC web series we did) and then randomly over the years. (I took them randomly because for so long I didn’t have a monthly cycle so there was no way for me to know if I was “late” or not.) I never even had to question whether I saw a line. Those tests were always glaringly negative. This one was positive in about 3.2 seconds. I was shocked.

So far, everything looks good. I’m waiting on some blood work that will let us know if the baby has some possible issues, but for now things look okay. I’m anxious to get through  my first trimester so I can (hopefully) feel better. I’ve been exhausted and battling nausea. Just when I’m feeling better for a few days, those symptoms come back. But it’s all good.

So that’s what is new with us. I hope you are all well!



A holiday recap

I know it’s way late for this, but I was cleaning out the pictures on my phone AND I have some quiet time in the house, so I thought I’d do a quick post about the holidays. Rather than talk about family gatherings, presents received, parties, etc, I’m going to share some of the Advent activities we did. We have a cheap Advent calendar that I got at Target about 3 years ago, and I take ugly slips of scrap paper and write stuff on it. I will NOT get pinned on Pinterest with this setup, but my kid LOVES it and it takes very little time to put together. I’m not one for making complicated stuff. Pinterest crafts usually leave me with a sliced appendage or drunk. Or both. Screw you, Pinterest.

I digress.

I didn’t track all of our activities, but I’ll share most of them. Some days we took little trips, other days it was crafts, and on others we did little service projects. Everything is age appropriate for my little guy and, most of all, cheap.

Playdate with Hawkin, Signe & Malayna: One of my dearest friends moved to Minnesota (where she’s from) 3 years ago. Whenever she comes back East we meet up at a McDonald’s halfway between her in-laws and where we live. This McD’s has a Playplace. Despite my hatred for that chain, we spend 3 hours there, drinking bad coffee and catching up while our kids play.

Crayola Factory: Ordinarily this is a pretty expensive trip but my friend found a homeschool rate that was half the normal rate. We were in! We packed into her giant vehicle and drove our combined 4 kids up there for the day. The kids had a blast, but the craziest thing was that we ran into the manager of a hotel we stay at in Guatemala! He and his family were visiting folks in the NYC area and stopped in at the Crayola Factory upon recommendation from a friend. What a small world!


Visit the “Crazy Christmas House”: This guy goes NUTS at Christmas. It starts on Black Friday and goes until NYE. His electric bill must be ENORMOUS. He even has a Santa and hot chocolate one Saturday in December, free to the public. He refuses all donations. It’s amazing, and way more impressive in person. Just so you get a sense of the size of that Rudolph, my husband is standing there looking at it, and he is 6′ tall. True story.

Hayride Nativity: We stumbled upon a cool living nativity. I had never been to one before. This one was done via hayride. It was very cool. The only downside was that the weather was very nice so the lines were crazy long. But we made the most of it and had a good time. We had to turn in our census form to the Roman soldiers, which was a cute way to track how many people attended!

Hike the “red trail”: There is a great trail system on the mountain behind our house. This fall we took Little Dude on most of it during various beautiful weekends. He kept asking about the red trail. It’s the toughest one of the bunch, and you need to take other trails to get to it, making it a longer hike than most. We told him that it would be at least a 3 mile hike, and not an easy one. He said he was ready. We packed a PBJ for him and he sat and at it at the top of the mountain. He needed a piggyback ride for the last quarter mile, but otherwise did great.

Make a faux gingerbread house: Let’s face it, few people really have patience for these things. We certainly don’t. Instead, we used graham crackers and an icing recipe that was a bitch to work with. I share with you: section 8 g’bread housing.


Glitter Tree: A 4 year old boy + glitter. Imagine the mess. The tree turned out great though. And it looks way better in person.


Pasta snowflake: I wish I would have taken a picture of this, but it’s already packed. I was surprised by now nice a few pieces of dried pasta glued together and painted with silver metallic paint could look.

Bake & deliver cookies to Hospice: We deliver these every year to the Hospice house down the road where my mom spent her final days.


Make a water jug snowman: This was so easy even we could do it. It looks adorable outside.


Watch Polar Express with hot chocolate: I hate this movie but he loves it. And who can resist Ghirardelli peppermint hot chocolate? Come on.

Take treats to the Humane Society: We had to remember our furry friends!


Run with mommy’s friends and “the running Santa”: We do a winter solstice run each year. We run about 3-4 miles and then grab a beer at a local restaurant. Last year Little Dude noticed that the one running friend looked like Santa. Santa-Russ played along. He did so again this year, and even brought a present. So sweet! (About 3 months ago, LD looked at me and said, “Remember when we ran with Santa? And then he drank beer? I didn’t know he could do that!” I didn’t tell him this, but my hypothesis is that Santa has to drink beer to deal with those elves.)

If you have little ones at home, and you celebrate Christmas, consider doing Advent activities next year. We’ve done everything from make a Christmas tree out of a toilet paper roll and a piece of construction paper to have a family camp-out in front of the Christmas tree. You can do this on the cheap, for sure. It’s all about doing things together!