Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Nativity scene 2014
I wonder what Christmas would be like if we stripped everything else away. I wonder what Christmas would be like if where were no presents that needed to be bought, wrapped, or given out; if there were no holiday parties and no Christmas cookies, no Christmas lights or extravagant traditions. I wonder what Christmas would be like without the full stockings on Christmas morning or the presents under the tree, waiting until December 25 to be unwrapped. I wonder what Christmas would be like if there were just one light, shining in the darkness, onto the manger scene.

This Christmas season has been the simplest one we’ve had together as a family. I don’t even think we’ve been to one holiday party this year. Our gifts were mostly for Noah, mostly keepsake items and things that we would have bought for him anyway in the coming months. Honestly, though, I can’t do without traditions. I’m not a stickler we’ve passed on seeing It’s a Wonderful Life at the Lido Theater this year because I’m not about to smuggle a newborn into the movies. There was no fancy Christmas brunch, no cinnamon rolls or mimosas. For dinner, we had soup. But there were Minted cards, a glittery, shimmering tree, monogrammed stockings, Silent Night by candlelight.

Most of all, I can’t do without tradition of advent, or without worship on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, and interspersed throughout the season, in those quiet moments as we sip hot cocoa or candy cane green tea. Sharing those moments with my husband and my baby boy have been the most beautiful part of this season for me.

There is nothing like the joy and anticipation of Christmas morning, being woken up by a precious baby who you can’t believe is your own. There is no celebration like the celebration of gifts given to and from loved ones or the meditation of preparing meals from scratch, breaking bread and sipping wine. I will always hold onto the meditative tradition of singing Silent Night by candlelight, our faces lit up by a warm, tiny flame as we sing.

I love traditions for their groundedness, their familiarity, the repetition. Traditions anchor my soul and prepare my heart. They’re a respite from the heartbreak and the violence. They are stepping stones leading to the manger scene, solid and illuminated. Merry Christmas. 


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Sidecar 82114
So, I’m 28 now.

When I wish someone happy birthday, I usually wish them the happiest birthday yet or the best year so far. My birthday is usually my favorite day of my favorite week of my favorite month of the year. Usually.

On Sunday, I had my first birthday as a mom and also my first mom birthday. Moms, you know what I mean. Or at least, I hope you do, and that I’m not the only one. By mom birthday, i mean that I had to make my own breakfast, and we capped the day off by going grocery shopping. Of course it was amazing in its own way in that every day with my precious baby boy feels special to me, but no outsider would mistake me for a birthday princess. Most tellingly, I did not get a sushi dinner at Nobu, which I’ve been telling Dave is the only thing I wanted, since I’ve been pregnant and sushi-less almost this entire year.

Then Dave flew out to Florida early Monday morning and came back late Thursday night bringing a suitcase of dirty laundry and stories of unlimited drinks and all-you-can-eat lobster. I missed my free Sprinkles cupcake and my Anthro birthday party, which, to be honest, I’ve kind of been looking forward to all year. I’m just thankful that my mom was around or it would have been a full-blown pity fest. I would have Solly-ed Noah all the way down the street to our village market to buy overpriced pints of Jeni’s ice cream, and then I would have eaten them all, in spoonfuls between diaper changes. Instead, I made salad.

Friday was no better. Overcome with disappointment, I held back tears at the Corner Bakery where we picked up my free birthday treat. I held back more tears at the Nordstrom cafe where I bought a mint steamer, trying to drown my sorrows in that milky creme de menthe goodness. And again, this morning, I held back tears after the Mermade Market as we sat at a diner, waiting an excruciatingly long time for a breakfast bowl made with warm, plain yogurt and bland melons.

I don’t want to seem ungrateful. I have a beautiful, healthy baby and a husband who loves me (most of the time…  I think). I live only a few miles from the ocean, and I have six saltwater pools at my disposal. I am grateful. These are no small blessings. But I’m also wondering when the longing ends, if I’ll ever get to the place where I feel settled.

I feel like I’m inching scarily close to the edge of no where left to move. That I’m teetering on the brink of stuck. That’s the scariest thing about twenty-eight. It’s not terribly old or terribly young. It’s just the age I thought I’d have it together. I’ve been through so many iterations of myself; I didn’t know, before twenty-eight, that it was possible to fail as many times as I have failed. I am so envious of people who have found their path, people who have a path at all, who know what the next step is and who know exactly, numerically, what targets to hit in order to get there.

I’m learning that the waiting, and the growing, and the becoming is excruciating. It feels like I’ll never get to the place where I’m supposed to be. That I’ll keep waking up at 4 am, unable to go back to sleep because that’s when the worry hits. That’s when I reach out for the tiny chubby perfect hand next to me, with fingers like miniature taper candles and a palm just big enough to cover my lips. That hand is everything.

Tomorrow is a new day and the beginning of a new week. It won’t be my birthday week anymore, and for the first time in my life, I’m relieved. Tomorrow, I’ll look for the beauty in that tiny, clammy hand. I’ll try to find my joy in the little things, like a latte that is extra hot and not too sweet, and a doughnut that that melts onto my tongue. I’ll find joy in twinkling Christmas tree lights and in advent readings. When I wake up again at 4 am, I’ll stay awake to watch the growing glow of the winter sunrise. I’ll keep being grateful for these things because that’s what 28-year olds do.

Raw Kale, Cabbage, and Brussels Sprouts Salad

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thanksgiving 1
adorable place settings at our second Thanksgiving dinner
Thanksgiving 2
a beautifully hosted dinner with my boys
We have so much to be thankful for that we celebrated two Thanksgiving dinners this year. I love everything about Thanksgiving – the focus on gratitude, the gathering together, the copious amount of delicious food. I made the Raw Swiss Chard, Cabbage, and Brussels Sprout Salad from this month’s Martha Stewart Living for our first Thanksgiving dinner, and it was so simple and satisfying that it’s been my go-to salad for this entire season. The recipe below makes about 4 or 5 servings, with enough dressing for double the salad. I refrigerate the remainder of the dressing and use it for the second batch of salad. The salad keeps well, and now that I think of it, would be great with some dried tart cherries or cranberries thrown in. I have some in my fridge right now and plan on having it for lunch tomorrow with a side of quinoa and sautéed onions, topped with a fried egg.


(Mostly) Raw Kale, Cabbage, and Brussels Sprout Salad
adapted from Martha Stewart Living, December 2014 issue
  • 1/2 head Napa cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 stalk brussels sprouts, removed from the stalk and sliced in half if large
  • 1/2 bunch of kale, stemmed and thinly sliced (or Swiss chard if you prefer)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce (I used Tamari)
  • about 1/4 cup black truffle olive oil  (from Trader Joe’s)
  • about 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 ounce Pecorino Romano, shaved or grated (optional)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1. Combine the greens in a large bowl. Toss with the sugar and half a teaspoon of salt. I would add a little more sugar if you are using Swiss chard. Let the greens sit in the fridge or on the counter while you roast the brussels sprouts.
2. The original recipe calls for the brussels sprouts raw (trimmed and sliced thin), but I like them roasted. Toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast on a pan for about half an hour at 425 degrees, giving them a stir halfway through for more even roasting. While they are roasting you can toast the walnuts stovetop in a pan.  Let the brussels sprouts cool a bit then add them to the greens.
3. Make the dressing. In a small jar, combine the vinegar, mustard, soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of salt. Slowly whisk in the oil. Use about half a cup of oil combined. I love the flavor that the black truffle olive oil adds, so I use that in combination with regular olive oil. Give it a good shake. Toss the greens with about half the dressing, adding the cheese and the walnuts. You can refrigerate it for up to an hour before serving, but I dished it out right away with an extra grating of cheese.

a slow fall.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Fall Flower Crown
It’s been a slow fall.

And by slow I mean that the months have gone as quickly as our stash of disposable diapers, but we’re living day by day, hour by hour, not really thinking too far ahead. It’s a way of being that makes for really long days, but there’s also a beautiful present-ness wrapped into it. It’s advent now, almost winter and almost Christmas, and I’m learning each day that the best kind of waiting happens when I’m living minute to minute.

Noah was born at the beginning of September. His arrival marked a new season for us, literally and figuratively. The first two weeks as a new family were exhausted, bleary-eyed bliss. I actually made a to-do list the day after we came home from the hospital, on my Make Today Lovely letterpress pad with a pink ultra-fine point Sharpie, like I did every week before he was born. I never really had a maternity leave, so I was trying to make up for stolen time (these adorable little time thieves, cue the Target commercial).

Of course, that list got thrown out.

Two, almost three, months in, and we spend our days mostly in bed, mostly singing along to Vance Joy (Georgia is so my jam right now). The work button is still on pause, and I am still in yoga pants.

We’ve celebrated Thanksgiving and now here we are in December. I hope December is just as slow, because we’ll never again have this December. Firsts for everything, and lasts too. I quote Emily Dickinson so often because she is dead on: That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.

This fall I’m living in motherhood time — the paradox of long days in short months in what I can only imagine to be the quickest years. It’s a magical kind of monotony where every day is the same — nursing, diaper changes, naps and playtime on repeat — but it isn’t. It’s why I have a camera roll full of pictures capturing Noah’s growth, click by click, frame by frame. I swear he looks bigger in each consecutive photo.

I choose to believe that there is, definitively, a season for everything. This season happens to be a lot quieter, a little bit more lonely on some days, and so, so special. These are the days. The baby-wearing, diaper-changing, squishy cheek-kissing days of fall.

Slow, and sweet.

the happiest thanksgiving yet.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

David and Noah 0927
This entire month has been an exercise in thankfulness and in verbalizing gratitude for the everyday things. Thank you for unloading the dishwasher. Thank you for tidying the apartment. Thank you for bringing me coffee in bed. But today, I’m especially thankful for the big things. For my husband who loves us. For our tiny but perfect-for-us home. For food in the fridge and on the table. For family. For my beautiful, healthy and happy baby boy, who came just in time to make this the happiest Thanksgiving yet.

From our family to yours,

Happy, happy Thanksgiving.

our birth story.

Friday, October 17, 2014

IMG 4581
We’re going on six weeks now since baby Noah’s birth. I had every intention of sharing our story sooner, but we’re on baby time. :)

His birth story is one that I replay over and over in my mind because it still seems like a dream - an intense and exhilarating and miraculous dream. Fair warning: it’s a long, detailed story, more like a novel (that I want to remember every single moment of), so read on at your own discretion.

Baby Noah's birth day story...

noah augustus.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Noah 090814 edit
our baby boy, less than 24 hours after he was born.
Happy 1 month birthday to my baby boy!

Noah Augustus Gyllenhammer.

Born at 11:45 pm on Sunday, September 7. Seven pounds, 7 oz, 21 inches long — a tiny bit longer, and with a larger head circumference than his daddy at birth.

What an incredible whirlwind month. Birth story to follow.

pregnancy favorites, part 2.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Pregnancy faves part 2
So, I’m due NEXT WEEK. That just blows my mind. Since my pregnancy took a turn towards uncomfortable at week 36, some of these favorites more like necessities, especially because I’m still working. My top 10 for the second half of pregnancy:

1// Bump Nest Pregnancy Pillow- I probably wouldn’t be able to sleep without this pillow, especially during weeks that Dave has been away on business. Every night and during meditation, I’m wrapped around it for support. Hip pain started for me these last few weeks, so it has been a must for me to have something to wrap my legs around. Even Dave and Winston love it. My only complaint is that the jersey fabric doesn’t ever really get “cool” like normal cotton does (I’m always flipping over my pillows to get to the cool side), but it’s still a lifesaver.
2// Stability Ball- I brought this to sit on at my two-hour birthing long classes… SO much more comfortable than sitting on the floor. I’m such a fan of stability balls (so much that I had this Balance Ball Chair at the office), but especially now, during pregnancy. It’s great for helping me maintain my posture and releasing the tension in my hips. We’ve been practicing a few different laboring positions using it, and Dave has been using it for sit-ups. After Baby is born, Dad can even sit on it to bounce him. I’m so glad they have these available at the hospital that we’re birthing in because I feel like it will be one of my most used comfort measures. I have two different stability balls, and this one with the weighted sand base really makes a difference, where you don’t feel like you're about to go sliding all over the place. Basically this thing is a must-have.
3// Sutter Home Fre Alcohol Removed Brut- Ok, so this has the tiniest amount of alcohol in it even though it’s “alcohol-removed.” It doesn’t bother me, but it’s not for sticklers... I guess it might matter if you drank the whole thing yourself? I’ve made mimosas with this to celebrate my mom’s birthday and other special occasions, and I honestly can’t tell the difference between it and regular prosecco from Trader Joe’s. They used to sell this at Target, but I haven’t seen it there lately, so I plan to stock up at Total Wine & More for post-baby brunches and celebrations.
4// Dohm Sound Conditioner - We got this for when the baby comes, but we decided to try it out a little early, and let me tell you, it’s amazing. Dave swears he sleeps so much better with it on. I’m already waking up throughout the night to go to the bathroom, so getting woken up by outside noise is a super pain. We live in an apartment complex, so whenever Winston hears another dog, he wakes up to bark. This not only drowns out the outside noise, but we’ve “tuned” it to produce an ocean-like sound that’s really soothing and helps all of us sleep better.
5// Cuisinart Egg Cooker - I bought this a while back because it makes the poached eggs SO easily (my poaching skills are lacking), but it also makes perfect hard-boiled eggs, which are my go-to pregnancy snack/on-the-go breakfast. I pop a couple of eggs in this thing, add a little water, flip the switch, and it steams my eggs to perfection. I set it while I’m making my decaf, and it’s super quick for those busy workday mornings. No standing over the stove watching the water boil and so much better than having days-old hardboiled eggs sitting cold from the fridge. This version is even better than the one I have, with the capacity to cook 10 hardboiled eggs and a bonus omelet tray.
6// Hypnobirthing Home Study Course - I’ve been following guiding hypnobirthing meditations throughout my pregnancy, but especially now with barely weeks left. This particular “album” has my favorite tracks - Birth Affirmations and Visualize Your Amazing Birth. Relaxation Triggers from Part 5 is also a good one. I haven't tried all the tracks from the course, but I tend to get into a groove with the ones I have. I’ve learned from doing Cross Fit that so much of what you can do physically is determined (or at least helped) by your mental state and perspective, so I appreciate the mental “conditioning” that these meditations facilitate.
7// Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body, and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond - I wrote about Mind Over Labor, but I discovered this book, and it is SO MUCH BETTER. I feel so much more mentally prepared for birth after reading this one. I even downloaded the iPhone app with the guided meditations. It offers a really insightful perspective on labor that I rely on more as the time grows closer. And unlike so many alarmist birth stories out there, the anecdotes in this book are positive, even when things didn’t go as expected or desired for these women.
8// Yogi Woman's Raspberry Leaf Tea - I try to drink at least a cup of this tea a day because it's supposed to help strengthen your uterus. I haven’t had any contractions yet, so obviously I don’t know if it really helps, but I’m up for trying anything to increase the productivity of my labor. Read the reviews on Amazon - those women make it sound like a miracle beverage.
9// ASOS Maternity Dress - I have this exact dress, and it’s one of the 4 dresses that I have in rotation in my work wardrobe. THANK YOU, ASOS, for making not-so-expensive dresses that are so comfortable and can be worn at the office - I would look homeless and fat if it weren’t for you.
10// BabyList - This online registry is wonderful because you can pull from any store on the interwebs. I think you can do that with Amazon too, but this site was so user-friendly, with great customer service and free insert cards. I’m still using it to keep track of additional things we need or cool products I come across for future reference.

Next up, a post on (anticipated) postpartum essentials (eek, that time is just around the corner!).

happy september! (and the easiest pulled pork).

Monday, September 1, 2014

Pulled pork
I am excited beyond excited that DUE MONTH is here! The little guy can surprise us with his arrival any day now. Since he probably won’t come until after his due date, we’re following our birth instructor’s suggestion to turn his “due date” into “date night,” with dinner reservations for Nick’s Laguna Beach. Part of me hopes he comes like tomorrow, and the other part of me hopes that he holds out until the 14th, so I can splurge on ahi and warm butter cake.

Now that it’s officially September 1, with summer coming to a close and my laziness growing by the day, it’s the perfect time to break out the crock pot and Le Creuset. September for me is all about comfort food - apple pie and hot cider, BBQ pulled pork sandwiches and homemade mac & cheese. I made this super easy BBQ pulled pork the other day, serving it over lettuce & veggies from our CSA basket and for another meal on a toasted brioche bun with a salad on the side.

5-Ingredient Easy Pulled Pork
2 1/4 lb. bone-in pork shoulder
Trader Joe’s BBQ Rub & Seasoning with Coffee & Garlic
1/2 -1 cup apple cider vinegar
1-1 1/2 cups apple juice (I used unfiltered apple juice from Sprout’s)
1/2 bottle Trader Joe’s Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce

Rinse the pork shoulder and pat dry. Season all sides with the BBQ rub and return the pork to the fridge. I used my 5 1/2 quart Le Creuset for this recipe. Heat your pan of choice, adding a pat of butter and grapeseed/olive oil after the pan is hot. Sear the meat on high/medium-high on all sides until the meat is a dark, crusty brown (at least several minutes on each side). Add a half cup of apple cider vinegar to start and about a cup of apple juice. Reduce the heat, and let the liquid simmer away. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and then pop in the meat. I kept the liquid at a minimum, probably around a fourth of the way up the meat, adding more cider and juice when necessary. I checked and rotated the meat every hour, for a total of about 3 1/2 hours in the oven. Once the meat is fork-tender, use two forks to shred and add the BBQ sauce. I’ll probably make these for little Hawaiian roll sliders next time we have company.

Happy September, friends!


Saturday, August 30, 2014

37 week ignorant, sweaty bliss.
Today was hard. Today I felt sad and betrayed and unimportant. I felt hurt and angry and alone. The person who I thought I could count on the most didn’t show up.

The highs of pregnancy are so high. But can we talk about the lows? It’s a waiting game until D-Day, and my biggest fear is that when the time comes, I’ll feel exactly like this — physically exhausted and emotionally spent. I fear that I’ll be begging for narcotics as soon as the first contraction hits, just so that I can sleep. And there’s love and forgiveness, but for the life of me, I cannot imagine being able to channel forgiveness while I’m in labor.

Today was an exercise in mindfulness. I’m learning that being present can be as painful as it is empowering. My hypnobirthing meditation calls it “surrendering to the pain.” Today, I lived in the pain for almost the entire day. I didn’t think of much else, and I didn’t do a whole lot. My agenda for the day disappeared, and the only sunshine I experienced was through the window. I think that living in the pain sometimes means laying in bed past noon and crying because it’s the only thing that feels good. But I’m learning that it also means that the present has no room for future fears.

This heart is doing hard work right now, beyond the physical strain of pumping to support another human. I’m learning to fully experience the negative emotions and enjoying those brief moments when I forget what it was that hurt me so badly. One beat at a time, one breath at a time, because there’s nothing healthy about anticipating future pain.

So happy 38 weeks, heart. Tomorrow’s a new day.

pregnancy favorites, part 1

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pregnancy faves part 1
I'm towards the end of my pregnancy already, but I wanted to share a few things that have helped make my pregnancy easier, especially during the first few months.

1// L'Occitane Pure Shea Butter. I can't testify to how well this works for stretch marks because I didn't apply it religiously, but it felt amazing on my super itchy belly in early pregnancy. It's super rich, and one tub has lasted me these past nine months. I'm also a huge fan of their Almond Shower Oil. I bought this when I was in Hong Kong, and it lasted me for months. It's great for washing off the essential oils from scrubs, and the almond scent is delicious.
2// New Chapter Perfect Prenatal Multivitamin Trimester. These vitamins are magical. Throughout my pregnancy, I never had any form of morning sickness when taking these, and I'm normally prone to nausea. I also started taking these before I got pregnant (they're easy on the stomach when other vitamins would make me sick), so maybe that made a difference. These vitamins are organic and probiotic. I like that you can take one pill per meal because it's better for absorption of the nutrients. You can buy this at Sprouts, but I've found that it's cheaper on Amazon, and I can get the full trimester package (the best value, usually) that way.
3// Nordic Naturals - DHA Strawberry. These soft gels are another favorite. Robin recommended these on her blog, and I have to agree that they are the best. They go down easily and don't have the fishy aftertaste that other fish oil tablets have.
4// S'well Bottle. I love my s'well bottle. I actually bought one for Dave, but then I stole it from him. I wasn't a fan at first because I couldn't fit the ice cubes from our ice cube trays in it, but the ice cubes from our apartment fridge fit great. I like that the outside temperature doesn't affect the temperature of your water inside - it stays cold for 24 hours. The bottle doesn't condensate, so I can put it on my nightstand without worrying about it ruining the finish on our furniture. I'm crazy about hydration, so I honestly do not leave the house without it, even on short walks around the complex.
5// Ingrid & Isabel BellaBand. This was a staple in early pregnancy, and I still wear it on occasion. I bought the less expensive version of their band at Target, but the original is the best because of the silicone strip. That little strip makes a big difference in the "grippiness" of the band. It doesn't work the best with work slacks, but it's great for denim.
6// Gilligan & O'Malley tanks. These were one of my first pregnancy purchases, and I loved them so much that I bought three. Early pregnancy means sore, sore boobs that need extra support. These have built-in shelf bras, so they are super comfortable to wear to bed or for lounging. I've found the length to be great too, and I still wear mine. It's easy to pull the straps down, so I imagine that these can double pretty easily as nursing tanks.
7// Jolly Rancher Bites. Oh my gosh, I would go through these so fast. They're sour, chewy, and sweet and totally hit the spot for me during early pregnancy. I kept a bag by my bed and would pop a few in my mouth before bed (after brushing my teeth - oops!).
8// Moleskine Volant Notebook. I used these notebooks to keep track of what I was eating for few months - they're the perfect size to slip into my bag. With the Bradley Method, the goal is to have 75g of protein a day. I wrote down that I had for every meal to make sure I was getting enough protein and leafy greens and to keep my sweet tooth in check.
9// Trader Joe's everything - Vitamin E Oil, Coconut Body Butter, Natural Facial Cleansing Pads, Enrich Moisturizing Face Lotion with SPF, Lavender Sea Salt Body Scrub. When I found out I was pregnant, I started really looking at the ingredients in my skincare products and realized that not all of them were pregnancy-friendly. Trader Joe's has great natural options at great prices. I use the vitamin E oil on my belly, the coconut body butter all over, and the body scrub in the shower (using the almond shower oil I mentioned above afterwards). I substituted the cleansing pads for my toner, and my skin has been great! I was worried about acne and breakouts but a few weeks of swiping those cleansing pads across my face after a wash, and my skin has been pretty much clear and non-oily. They're intense-smelling at first, but I got used to them. This Philosophy Hope Oil-Free Moisturizer is my all-time favorite under-make-up sunscreen, but the Trader Joe's lotion has a much better price point. The face lotion with SPF has been a great alternative that's light, non-greasy, and doesn't cause shine later on in the day.
10// Earth Therapeutics Peace Potion Massage Lotion Aromatherapy Rub. I discovered this a while ago when I was shopping with my mom, and if there's a product for stress relief, this is it. It smells like heaven. When I was getting headaches early on in my pregnancy, I would rub a little bit of this on my temples, ear lobes, and neck, and just breathe it in. I can't do it justice just writing about it - you have to try it.
11// Natural Bristle Body Brush with Contoured Wooden Handle. So, the whole dry body brushing thing. I don't know much about it really, except that it has something to do with detoxification and preventing cellulite. I started doing this when I felt like I was getting sick early in my pregnancy, and I've pretty much avoided catching a cold. I don't know whether that can be attributed to dry body brushing, but it can't hurt. Also, I'll do just about anything to avoid cellulite.

Stay tuned for part 2 of my favorites!

my hospital bag.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Hospital Bag 1
I’ve hit the 37 week mark, and although I haven’t had signs that labor is going to happen anytime soon, my hospital bag has been mostly packed for the last week or so. I’m still switching out items, taking some things out and putting others in, but it’s just about settled. Bear with me, it’s a long post!
Hospital Bag 2Hospital Bag 3
Here’s my laundry list of what’s going in my hospital bag (the Mossimo Supply Co. Geometric Weekender Duffle Handbag from Target):

-Packing cubes — I bought ours for cheap from IKEA (UPPTACKA packing bags). I wanted to make sure everything was organized because the last thing I want to do when I’m in labor is have to hunt through a duffle bag. They came in a pack of 4 bags, so I used the big one for myself, the medium for Dave, and the two small ones for Baby. If you aren’t close to an IKEA, these eBags Packing Cubes got great reviews. The large packing cube came with two sides, so I packed my laboring stuff in one side and my post-labor stuff in the other.

In the “for labor” side of my cube, I packed:
  • A black cotton nightgown (Junior's Sleep Chemise from Target) to labor in — I’m not opposed to wearing a hospital gown, but I think I’ll be more comfortable getting to labor in my own clothes. This one’s black (and inexpensive), so if it gets a little gross, it’s no big deal.
  • 2 Lululemon headbands — I love my Lulu. I packed a thin one and a thick one for keeping back my hair.
  • Fuzzy socks — black, of course, in case I get the chills. Think ones like these: 
  • Soft Warm Microfiber Fuzzy Socks-Olive.
  • 1 pair of old boycut undies that I won’t mind throwing away afterwards.
In the “after” side of my cube, I packed:
  • A few more pairs of old stretchy soft undies — I know the hospital gives you mesh ones to wear, but I’m packing mine just in case those aren’t comfortable.
  • A dark-colored and loose nursing tank (Women's Henley Nursing Cami from Target)— comfy enough to sleep in, decent enough to walk around in.
  • Old loose, low-slung shorts — I figure if these aren’t comfortable after labor, I can always snag the big gym shorts from Dave’s bag. I have an old pair from Abercrombie, but these A&F Athletic Shorts looks amazingly comfortable.
  • A thin cotton robe — I like this Xhilaration Juniors Fluid Knit Robe, but I’m not super attached if it ends up stained. 
  • Nursing bra — this one (Basic Women's Stella Maternity & Nursing Bra) from Target is super stretchy and comfy.
  • Going home dress — I packed a comfy maxi dress from the Gap (similar: Gap Short-Sleeve Maxi Dress).
  • Belly Bandit Bamboo Post-Pregnancy Tummy Wrap (S, Natural) — I was debating about this product and sizing, but there was an “in-store special” at Buy Buy Baby, so hopefully it fits!
In Dave’s cube, we packed:
  • Swim trunks — for labor, so that he can go in the shower with me.
  • An old t-shirt
  • A change of clothes for sleeping in — this is still up in the air. He may just re-wear what he came to the hospital in.
  • Going home clothes — a nice t-shirt (Banana Republic Soft Wash Cotton V-Neck Tee) and nice jeans that are comfortable but will still look presentable for pictures.
In Baby cube #1, I packed:
Baby cube #2 is holding his going-home outfit:
-I also picked up a big pink UPPTACKA Toiletries Bag from IKEA. It has quite a few pockets for a toiletries bag, so I was able to sort everything appropriately. Inside:
  • Samples, lots of samples — nursing pads, nipple cream, shampoo, etc.
  • A travel razor — I picked up this tiny Gillette Venus Snap Razor from Target, and I like it just because it’s cute and small.
  • A few Traditional Medicinals Organic Mother's Milk tea bags — friends who’ve had babies are an invaluable resource. One of my good friends tucked a few of these in a bag of goodies for me to try.
  • Yes to Coconut Cooling Lip Oil — if any occasion in life calls for cooling lip oil, I think it’s labor. I’m always a sucker for new lip products, and this sounds divine.
  • Massaging accessories — a rolling massage ball (Zensufu Massage Roller Ball) and massage tool.
  • The Body Shop Divine Calm Relaxing Massage Oil — another essential for labor. If it has “calm” on the label, I need it. This is one of my favorite oils, in general, to help me sleep.
  • Hair ties — duh.
  • A mini container of Altoids — in case Dave is hovering next to my face whispering words of encouragement with garlic breath.
  • A tiny Bose bluetooth speaker (similar: MOCREO® Portable Bluetooth Speaker)  — for playing my “birthing/labor” mix.
  • Contact lens solution, contacts & case — I’ll probably wear my glasses to the hospital, but I want the option to put in my contacts.
-I know that the hospital gives you diapers, but we got a cute little wristlet with one of our registries, so inside I packed:
  • A couple newborn-sized diapers (also from our free registry gift bag)
  • Sample wipes
  • Sample diaper cream
-I purchased Ziploc Big Bag Double Zipper, Large  to protect the paper products and keep them organized. I’m planning on using mine to keep Baby’s documents safe after birth and to hold a few things. Mainly:
  • Our Welcome Baby (Boy) Book— I love this baby book, and I want to get his little footprints and handprints in it before we leave the hospital.
  • A “Baby Gyllenhammer” sign from our baby celebration — my sister made this for us, and I think it would be really sweet to hang in our recovery room (as short as that time may be). On that note, I should also pack some washi tape to hold it up.
  • Our hospital door collage — we want to own this experience.
  • My birth art — I did a little watercolor painting/word art for one of my birthing class assignments that embodies what I want my birth experience to look like.
  • Our insurance and other important cards — we pre-registered at the hospital, so hopefully we won’t need to do much paperwork (or any), but these will be packed just in case.
  • A couple thank-you notes and Sharpie pens.
  • Copies of my birth plan (still in the works).
As a side note, I plan to use these bags afterwards to organize and protect the baby clothes that he’s outgrown (but that I still want to hold onto). They are the perfect size for small packs of clothes that I plan to sort into 0-3 months, 3-6 months, etc.

-Other things I packed in my bag:
  • A rebozo (Leos Imports Mexican Rebozo Shawl)— this is an accessory we use during meditation (wrap it around your shoulders with your spouse holding the ends, so it feels like a hug), but we also plan to use it for different laboring positions.
  • Two towels for Dave and I to use after a shower.
  • A fluffy white robe — for the transition point in labor where I may get the chills. I figure this will be easier to try to keep on in various laboring positions than a blanket wrapped around my shoulders.
  • Battery operated Tealight Candles — The goal is to keep the calmest vibe in the room that we can. Real candles would be ideal, but obviously not appropriate for a hospital setting.
  • A small UPPTACKA accessories bag (also from IKEA) to hold our phone chargers, etc.
  • Old flip-flops/sandals — for showering and walking around the hospital in.
  • iPad — more for Dave than me, but I doubt it will be getting much use.
  • Our “nice” camera (Canon EOS Rebel T2i DSLR Camera) — for pictures after the baby is born.
  • Snacks — (very) light snacks for during labor (like some Cheerios and maybe some frozen grapes), protein bars for after labor, candy.
  • Treats for the care team and our doula — maybe like Smitten Kitchen’s cheesecake-marbled brownies? She made them for her labor and delivery nurses, and I just may follow suit. But I'm also partial to these caramel sea-salt brownies. They're divine.
  • My make-up bag — I’ll need it.
-In our separate cooler bag, I’m packing:
  • Bendy straws — to make staying hydrated as easy as possible.
  • Liquids — Trader Joe’s coconut water, Raspberry Lemonade, and Simply Orange Juice for me for after labor.
  • An ice pack.
A few things we packed specifically to keep in the car in case needed, and those aren’t pictured. I packed those in either reusable grocery bags or large white plastic trash bags that we can throw the dirties in afterwards.
I haven’t done this yet, but I’m planning on making hot/cold compress packs with some leftover fabric and beans/rice to throw in my bag. Although, who actually knows if I’ll get around to this. I might just fill some old socks with rice and tie them off. It works. I’m also considering one of those temporary tattoos, like this one or this one from Etsy, to place on the inside of my wrist for extra inspiration and encouragement.
Hospital Bag 4
I’ll be updating this post sometime after we get back from the hospital (no promises on when) as to what was absolutely essential. Maybe this is just my crazy still-pregnant self talking, but I think it would be kind of cute to do a little “birth day” celebration with our family when they come to visit us in the recovery room. I’m planning on pre-ordering mini cupcakes from Susie Cakes and having a family member pick those up along with the bottle of Veuve Clicquot  (to share, obviously) that we have chilling in our fridge. We are so ready.

two years ago.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Dintaifung 082214
re-living a part of our Shanghai experience at the new Din Tai Fung in Costa Mesa | 36 weeks
What I’m thankful for today: that we’re not in China anymore.

Exactly two years ago was our first night in Shanghai, a city where we would live for the next year and a half. We left California with our four suitcases laid flat in the bed of my dad’s red pick-up truck. We landed, just the two of us and some stuff. It’s an experience that I still can’t fully process, but I know that where we are now is so much sweeter because of it.

on expecting & expectations.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Nesting 1
A little sign for our hospital door as we get ready to welcome Baby Hammer, made from our baby shower guessing game, sweet cards from friends and family, and cardboard from my Solly Baby wrap box. Nesting!

“God knits babies together in the secret dark. And we can plan all we like, but we have no actual control over the outcomes. We bear witness to the miracle, and we women — we also bear it in our bodies. But we certainly don’t dictate it."

I actually cringe when people act like babies happen exactly when you want them to. Like you can one day decide that you want to have a baby and the next day be pregnant. Like pregnancy is something that you can time, according to what works best with your schedule and career plan. Or like you can really control the stretch marks (you get them or you don’t), pregnancy brain (perpetual spaciness), and hemorrhoids (sorry, real life).

Expecting seems like a strange word to associate with pregnancy, and life in general. When I got pregnant, we weren’t trying, and we weren’t not trying. So when people ask if it was a surprise, I say, kind of! Not a "whoops" kind of surprise, but a surprise in the sense that you hope that something good is coming, but you don't know what it is or when it will arrive, so when it actually comes, you're blown out of the water because it's better than anything you could have ever expected and you had no idea that's what it would feel like. That kind of surprise.

And there are so many surprises, because this whole growing-a-human thing is all so new.

I never expected that growing this little guy would take over my life. For us, this is literally the Year of the Baby — from the single pregnancy test that I took the first week of January, to these now eight belly-expanding months of work and physical, mental, and financial preparation, to his expected birthdate in September and the remaining months of the year where I’ll be staying home, celebrating first holidays, and learning how to be a mother. 

I never expected that I would have such a capacity to focus. When I’m “nesting,” I feel like that’s all there is. Nothing else is even on my radar. This is all I want to do: pack my hospital bag, wash and sort baby clothes, make lists of pre-baby errands.

I never expected that we would attempt a natural, unmedicated birth. Prior to pregnancy, I had never practiced meditation or mindfulness. Preparing for the kind of birth that I want (and the kind that I’ll get) has led me into a deliberate lifestyle of self-education, meditation, more consistent exercise and healthy eating habits.

I never expected to be so content with less. This whole year has been about less. Less consumption (except for baby gear, which we are consciously trying to keep to a minimum), fewer plans, less clutter. I am totally ok with wearing the same 3 dresses in rotation at work because they are the only things that fit, and comfort is king. Pregnancy has triggered my need for more mental space, more quiet time, more sleep, more simplicity, more comfort, and less of everything else.

I never expected to feel so much or to feel everything so much more acutely. Pain, hurt, excitement, bliss, frustration have been all-encompassing emotions for me, filling me to the brim, so that I only have room for one emotion at a time.

I never expected to lack words. I wake up sometimes, at 4 or 5am, and instinctively reach over to the journal on my nightstand. But when I open it... nothing. As soon as a thought or feeling comes, it passes. I’ve had the hardest time trying to hold on, trying to wrap my brain around these emotions and thoughts that I can’t seem to control or process. My brain has become a black hole.

I never expected to need so much grace — for my forgetfulness, my emotions, my impatience, my inability to communicate.

I never expected to be so grateful for every single day. I'm thankful for every single day that I'm still pregnant. I'm thankful for every doctor's appointment that goes well. I’m thankful for each day that I wake up to husband kisses, puppy cuddles, and baby movements. These are gifts. I know how horribly wrong life's events can go, so when I hear a little heartbeat or feel a tiny kick, I think, "Really? Life is this good? God is trusting us with this?"

Emily Dickinson wrote, “That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.” 

This is it. This is what I want to soak up — the anticipation, the waiting, the surrealness of it all. I want to bask in the unknown and the joy of not knowing. This time will only be new once, and I’m savoring the mystery and the miracle.

tired girl's chia pudding.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Babyshower mary
roasting marshmellows with my best at dave's and my baby celebration | 31 weeks
I bought my first bag of chia seeds the other day, packaged in the cutest, matte lilac pouch in the Trader Joe’s breakfast food aisle. I didn’t know that chia seeds had 6g of fiber, 2.9g of Omega-3 fatty acids, and 3g of protein in just one tablespoon, which makes it an amazing addition to a late-pregnancy diet. I just knew that the cool food bloggers I follow on Insta consume chia seeds on the regular on top of their homemade acai bowls and what not.

I’m too freaking tired for much of anything homemade these days. I could eat take-out every night if I didn’t feel so guilty about the organic vegetables from our CSA basket going limp in the fridge. I had no idea that at 33 weeks, I could feel this kind of tired - the kind of tired where 9 hours of sleep a night feels like I pulled an all-nighter, and I have to nap at 10am so that I have enough energy to eat lunch. I’m sure this bodes well for my postpartum experience.

I’m not whipping up any peach-blackberry cobblers this summer (although that does sound amazing, and I would love to know where I could get a good one around here) because that sounds like a lot of effort. But 3-5 ingredient pudding I can do.

  • 1 can coconut milk or coconut cream (I used coconut cream, because I love cream and because that’s what we had in the pantry)
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds (1/4 cup at a time)
  • 1/2 cup honey or agave nectar (1/4 cup at a time - I used honey)
  • Add-ins: I used the juice of half a tiny  orange, 4 large Thai basil leaves, chopped (both were in our CSA basket), and a large teaspoon (loosely measured) of vanilla bean paste.
Split the can of coconut cream between two small-medium bowls. Add 1/4 cup chia seeds and 1/4 cup honey to each bowl, and mix. I made an orange-basil version and a vanilla bean version. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours. Perfect with a glass of iced coconut green tea.

essential pregnancy reads.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Now that I’m in week 31 (whoa!) of my pregnancy, I’ve done quite a bit of researching and reading. My Bradley Method birthing classes have been so informative, but I’ve found that seeking out my own information (with varying perspectives) has been such an important part of my own birthing preparation process. There’s no shortage of pregnancy books out there, but these are my very favorite and have been essential reading in my pregnancy so far.

1. Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy: From Doctors Who Are Parents, Too!
This book is a great alternative to What to Expect When You’re Expecting. The Mayo Clinic Guide is strictly medical, with no alarming anecdotes. This book breaks down what’s happening in your body, week by week, with a helpful “symptoms guide” in the back. This was the very first book that I bought, and I’m glad I did. The most helpful portion of the book is the “How to Respond” guide (p.80-81) that lists out various signs or symptoms and when to contact your care provider depending on how far along you are.

2. The Healthy Pregnancy Book: Month by Month, Everything You Need to Know from America's Baby Experts (Sears Parenting Library)
I like how this book breaks down your pregnancy month by month and includes a pregnancy journal component for each month. I checked this one out from the library, but if I were earlier along in my pregnancy, it would be a must-buy. (Maybe for the next one?). This book is more holistic than the Mayo Clinic Guide, and I especially appreciate the first section, the “Healthy Pregnancy Plan” that’s a great complement to the Bradley Method curriculum. It’s a big book, but it’s straightforward, easy-reading.

3. HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method: A natural approach to a safe, easier, more comfortable birthing (3rd Edition)
I definitely plan on incorporating Hypnobirthing techniques into my labor even though I’m not currently taking Hypnobirthing classes. This book was a good overview on HypnoBirthing and having a positive outlook on birth, and the accompanying CD is particularly useful for meditation practice.

4. Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn (4th Edition): The Complete Guide
I would agree with the tagline on the back of this book that if you buy one pregnancy book, this should be it. This book is the encyclopedia of pregnancy books. It breaks down pregnancy and labor into different stages (rather than a breakdown by weeks), and it does a great job of charting and comparing the different options that you may have. There are a couple chapters on options for pain relief and comfort techniques, which I think is really helpful if you’re considering a natural, unmedicated birth. The chapters on labor complications, interventions, and birth planning are also much more comprehensive in coverage than in other books.

5. The Birth Partner - Revised 4th Edition: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and All Other Labor Companions
This is book that I discovered later into my pregnancy, and I wish I would have gotten it just a little bit earlier. Such a great read for your dad-to-be, especially. This book focuses on the last weeks of pregnancy and the labor and birth. I see it as kind of a handbook for the actual day of labor and how your birth partner can help with the day-of process.

6. Mind over Labor: A Breakthrough Guide to Giving Birth (Penguin Handbooks)
It's a teensy bit dated, but Dave and I have been reading this book out loud together as part of our class, and it’s just such a refreshing take on the labor and childbirth process. We practice the relaxation techniques in this book together every week.

Also: Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way: Revised Edition
This book is also dated, but if you’re planning on the Bradley Method, it’s a step-by-step manual for how to approach labor, with specific instructions for the “coach” in your life.

And my pre-pregnancy go-to: Taking Charge of Your Fertility, 10th Anniversary Edition: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health
Whoa, was this book enlightening. There’s so much I didn’t know about my body until I read this book. It's essential reading if you’re even thinking about getting pregnant sometime in the future. I’m a big advocate of letting things happen on their own time, but this book provides great background on "timing" and "trying." (side note: If you do decide to chart, I highly recommend the Kindara app).

Mamas and mamas-to-be, what made your essential pregnancy reading list?

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