A Good Cry

How long has it been since you had a really good cry? You know, one of those cries where you are sobbing loudly and making those noises that you're embarrassed you can create? Well, it has been a VERY long time since I cried like that - until this afternoon, that is. I was driving to a baby shower with Noah in his carseat when we drove by our vet's office. Almost immediately, the tears began streaming down my face. I have only been to the vet's office one time since we said goodbye to Layla (click for link to story), and everything hit me like a ton of bricks - a very surprising ton of bricks.

When Layla's seizures became too severe for her health, we had to make the difficult decision to say goodbye. I can't bring myself to say "put her to sleep" or anything like that because it's just too painful. We said our goodbyes to her on May 22, 2008, just 7 short days after Noah was born. For reasons we may never know, her biweekly seizures progressed to cluster seizures overnight. We have our suspicions that she had a brain tumor, but again, we'll never know for sure.

So there I am, tears streaming down my face on the way a baby shower, trying to hide how I feel from Noah. I don't mind if he sees me cry, but I needed to put those feelings aside before I became a total wreck. Since Ryan picked Noah up about 30 minutes before I left the shower to come home, I didn't have that same excuse not to cry. The second time of passing the vet's office was torture. I saw the exact spot outside where the vet gave Layla medicine so that she could be free from the seizures...where I felt her soul leave us forever. The memories came rushing back to me - memories I hadn't fully experienced since the weeks after she died. I was remembering the last hours we played with her in the back yard. I thought about how we told Kya to say goodbye to her before we left the house, explaining that she would never see her best friend again here on Earth. Kya kissed Layla all over her face before we left, and those images again replayed in my head. I remember the drive to the vet's office, crying the entire way there but not taking my hands off our sweet dog. I thought about Ryan carrying Layla to the grassy spot that we picked to say our goodbyes, knowing she would be too scared to go inside the office. We wanted her last minutes with us to be happy, peaceful ones. I remember holding her tightly and Ryan laying his head on her when the vet gave her the medicine, and it was as if I could feel her spirit ascend. She was gone.

Those memories flooded my mind as I drove home, and I couldn't stop the tears, sobs, and all that comes with a cry that hard from pouring out of me. For those of you who have never loved an animal, this won't make sense. But for us, we loved Layla as much as we could love anything. She had the sweetest, purest soul you can imagine, and when I think of the day that heaven is in my sight, I believe with my whole heart that Layla will be the first one to meet me there with her tail wagging and her tongue licking my whole face! That image always makes me smile.

Layla's been gone for over 2 years and 9 months. She was only 2 years, 7 months old when we said our goodbyes. She has been gone for longer than we knew her, and still, Layla's gentle nature, sweet soul, and loving personality stay with me every day. I am sad that Noah will never know her, and that his little baby brother didn't even get the few days that Noah had with her. To say I miss Layla is not enough. I truly long for her and look forward to the day when we can play together in green grass under beautiful rays of sunshine.


Babymoon 2011: Chicago

Sometime mid-January, Ryan told me not to make plans for February 11-13th, but he wouldn't tell me why. About two weeks before the surprise was revealed, I asked if this was a special weekend for the two of us or one that Noah would be joining us. I wanted to know because I needed to get some expectations in line - was I going to be a mom and wife that weekend or just a hopeless romantic wife? When he said Noah would not be joining us, I have to admit, I was really excited! Time away with Ryan for an entire weekend sounded too goo to be true! He kept the destination a secret up until the Sunday before we to leave, when he accidentally slipped that we were going to Chicago! We hadn't been on a trip to Chicago for several years, and I was excited to get away!

My dad and Danette arrived at our house around 9 a.m. on Friday. After visiting a bit and sharing information about Noah, we were out the door. The drive up was wonderfully relaxing! We just enjoyed the alone time being able to talk without interruptions. I was craving pancakes, so we made a quick stop at IHOP for lunch. Their blueberry pancakes hit the spot! We drove the rest of the way to Chicago and stopped at The Museum of Science and Industry as soon as we got into the city. There was quite a bit of snow in Chicago already, but more was pouring down out of the sky. We accidentally turned onto what I thought was a road to the parking lot but ended up possibly being a walkway. OOPS! It made for a good laugh! We paid for parking and walked inside the museum. There was no one in line to buy tickets, which made me remember that they closed at 4 p.m, and it was already 3:30 p.m. CRAP. This trip was not starting off as planned! We rolled with it, got back in the Jeep, and drove to our hotel.

The Affinia hotel is located on Superior just off Michigan Ave., and it proved to be a great location! We freshened up and decided to shop a big before our dinner reservation that evening. We went into the Disney store and had so much fun picking things out for Noah! We almost never buy him toys or presents except for his birthday, Christmas, and Easter, so it was fun picking out some different things for him. We decided to actually purchase everything the next day so that we didn't have to go back to our hotel. It's hard to believe that we will be buying souvenirs for two boy by the time we take our next trip.

As we left the store, Ryan pointed out Tiffany & Co. He and I had been there only one time before when we were just dating, and I had tried on an $11,000 emerald cut diamond engagement ring. We both nearly fainted that day, and I was so surprised to hear Ryan say that he wanted me to pick something out that day. I am not someone who puts a lot of value in material things. I have a few things that are dear to me including my engagement ring and wedding band, my emerald (Noah's birth stone) and diamond ring that Ryan got me for my first Mother's Day, a pair of diamond earrings that he bought me a few years ago, my cross necklace, and our pictures. Clothing, purses, shoes, etc. have just never meant all that much to me. We walked into Tiffany's and glanced at the jewelry on the first floor. Then we went upstairs to look around, and the first thing I saw was a necklace with a lower-case, cursive "a." It was very elegant yet simple, and I thought, that might just be the one. We looked around and had the lady helping us show us a few other necklaces, but I didn't care for anything else I saw. We went back to the first necklace, and I tried it on. It was really perfect! I told Ryan that I wanted to wait and think it over before we bought it. That's me trying to keep balance and practicality in our lives!

We took a cab over to Wildfire, a steak, seafood, and chops restaurant off Erie and LaSalle. During the cab ride, I looked at the clock and saw that it was an hour earlier than what we thought. Oh no! We forgot to change our watches, and for some reason, my cell phone hadn't automatically changed time zones. That means we could have gone to the museum afterall, and we had more time to shop on Michigan Avenue than we thought. You'd think we never left the house! Unfortunately, there was really nothing to do in that part of town. We were pretty cold and decided to grab some coffee and hot chocolate nearby and go into a store called Sports Authority. Ryan looked around at the running gear while I relaxed for a bit. We killed a good hour there before walking over to Wildfire.

At Sports Authority capturing the moment
 When we walked into Wildfire, I knew Ryan had chosen the perfect place. It had a very Sinatra feel to it, lots of dark wood, mirrors, black-and-white photos. Our table was located in the very middle of the restaurant, and the open kitchen was nearby. They had several fireplaces lit, which gave the restaurant a really cozy feeling. There were so many tempting dishes on the menu, and I was sad we weren't there one day later because Filet Wellington was on the menu, and it's something I've always wanted to try. I decided to get a Petite Filet and macaroni and cheese because for those who know me at all know that I am all about trying macaroni and cheese everywhere I go in search of who offers the best one. Ryan chose the Porterhouse with mashed potatoes. We enjoyed more alone time while we waited on our dinner but couldn't help but notice the adorable 18 month old boy at the table next to us. I can't imagine taking Noah to a restaurant like that, but this little guy was so well-behaved the entire time. Our food arrived shortly after, and it was absolutely perfect. My mouth is watering just remembing the flavors! The macaroni and cheese had some type of spicy cheese in it, which gave it the perfect kick to compliment my delicious steak. For dessert, we ordered a dish that had a small piece of peanut butter pie, key lime pie, and chocolate cake - a sampler if you will - and we enjoyed every bite.

After dinner we jumped in another cab and took a ride north to a place called Blokes & Birds to meet up with our friends Jo and Pete Scott from Hanover. We only get to see them once in a great while, so we really treasure the time we have together! Jo and Pete arrived shortly after us, and we spent the next hour and half catching up and hearing about their latest trip back to Lebidoti, where they were Peace Corp volunteers for over 2 years. Then, fortune and fame began calling Jo's name, and she had to run out the door to prepare for Geek Show at The Playground Theatre where she performs with an improv team. Ryan and I made our way over there a few minutes later, grabbed the best seats in the house, and excitedly awaited the show. I had never seen Jo perform, and you start to worry, "What if it isn't any good? What will I say to her? What if I don't laugh?" Well, truth be told, it was a HILARIOUS show, and I didn't need to pretend to like it because I really loved it! Of course, she was a star and stole the show. For those of you who know Jo, I'm sure you're surprised! We had a great time and were sad to say goodbye after the show ended. We crashed at the hotel but couldn't wait to start another day of fun together.

Saturday morning we grabbed a quick bite to eat and jumped on the subway down to Pizano's, our first stop for our Chicago Pizza Tour. The Food Network and Travel Channel always have shows on New York City pizza versus Chicago Pizza, and finally we were going to have the chance to decide for ourselves which one we preferred. We had taken the Brooklyn Pizza Tour last May when I surprised Ryan with a trip to NYC for his 30th birthday. We enjoyed pizza at Pizano's at the Loop, Apart Pizza at Lincoln Square, Coalfire Pizza in West Town (supposedly comparable to Grimaldi's, which we had in Brooklyn), and Gino's East at River North. The pizza was delicious everywhere we went, and although we had some interesting people on the tour with us, we really enjoyed the experience together! At the end of the day, we are Brooklyn Pizza People all the way! :) See below for a photo tour of our experience.

With our bellies full of delicious pizza, we left Gino's East and went back to Michigan Avenue for more shopping. Our first stop was the Disney Store to get Noah some Buzz Lightyear and Woody pajamas, a Toy Story placemat, and four Toy Story mini stuffed animals (Woody, Buzz, Bullseye, and Jessie). Next, we went back to Tiffany's because I had officially fallen in love with the necklace. It will be such a special piece of jewelry that will always remind me of our babymoon together.

We made a few more stops at Crate & Barrel, Niketown, and Garrett's Popcorn. I cannot explain how much I LOVE this popcorn! Two gallons of popcorn is around $65 after tax, and I GLADLY spent that! This is coming from the Dave Ramsey-loving, stick-to-the-budget, coupon-cutting me. That should tell you how good this popcorn is. I have eaten almost half of it since we've been home, and I'm beginning to panic about what I'll do when it's all gone. So, if any of you are going to be in Chicago anytime in the next few months, I will pay you to get me more popcorn. :)

We went back to the hotel again and took a quick power nap because we had a fun night ahead of us. Ryan had bought us tickets to see Les Miserables at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. Neither of us had ever seen the show, and I didn't have any expectations going into it. Les Mis ended up being one the most emotional Broadway production I've ever seen. The guy who played Jean Valjean, the main character, was truly incredible! He probably had the best voice I've ever heard in a production like that. I couldn't hear every word in the songs, but I could follow the greater story and emotions of the characters throughout the entire show. The end of the show was so beautiful and moving that it brought tears to my eyes. That was definitely a first for me! Ryan really enjoyed the show, too, and I left the theatre feeling like I had fallen in love all over again. I know - mushy. :)

Because we were so full after the pizza tour, we skipped dinner before the show. By the time the show ended, we were both ready to eat again! Hoping that room service was still available, we rushed back to the hotel, but they had already closed the kitchen for the night. We ended up at a place called Jake Melnick's down the street from our hotel. We grabbed a couple chicken sandwiches and tried to fight the urge to fall asleep. We had had a big day! By the time we got back to the hotel, we were completely exhausted!

Ryan at Jake Melnicks
The next morning went by quickly. After grabbing a quick bite to eat at McDonalds, we stopped at the Hershey store and found Noah a little Toolbox filled with chocolates. He loves hiding his "treasure" inside different containers and knew he would love it. Then we ran back to Niketown to buy Ryan some Nike Free running shoes and a fun Nike shirt. We went back to the hotel, packed up, and checked out. The weekend had been everything we hoped it would be, and the time together was priceless. I know it is going to be much harder for us to find that alone time together once Bambino arrives this Spring - at least until he's on a "normal" sleeping schedule. Ryan planned the entire weekend himself, and he did a fabulous job! It was a perfect surprise, and it makes me excited for our next trip together!


29 Weeks

Today we hit the 29 week mark! I have to admit, though, that these pictures are of me at 28 weeks. Twenty eight weeks, twenty nine weeks...what's the difference, right? I am officially in my third trimester(HOORAY!), and my "What to Expect" app on my phone says that the baby is approximately 17 inches long and 2.9 lbs. That means this little bambino has almost reached his full height already but still needs to gain some weight before birth. He's one long string bean right now! I can feel him moving all throughout the day. Some of his favorites include pushing up against my ribs on my right side and tapping my left hip bone. Now that is the strangest feeling! I can tell he is getting stronger and stronger week after week. Every movement makes me all the more anxious to meet him! I am trying to enjoy these last 9-13 weeks of pregnancy, but to be honest, I am just ready for baby boy #2 to be in my arms!

Just like with my pregnancy with Noah, I am having Braxton Hicks contractions ALL THE TIME. It definitely gets worse at night, but I do have them throughout the day. I am still feeling pretty comfortable - no major back aches, sciatic nerve pinching, or chronic pelvic bone discomfort yet. My belly feels tired by about the time we put Noah to bed, and my legs are starting to swell a bit each day. Other than that, I really feel pretty well! We're pretty sure we've chosen a name for this little guy, but we're keeping it pretty hush hush still. I am so curious to know what he's going to look like - how similar or different he will be in comparison to Noah. I imagine a more olive-skinned, brown haired, brown-eyed baby, but time will tell!

We have another prenatal appointment tomorrow morning, and then I believe we'll start going every two weeks. I didn't get to go to my 27 week appointment because of the ice storm, so it has been six weeks since we've seen the doctor. I'm anxious to see how much weight I've gained - especially after our pizza tour in Chicago this weekend - and to hear his little heart beating. We also have an appointment with our doula, Julie Pichon, the first week of March. Hopefully that will help me start getting in the right mindset to get this little bambino out come Spring! We are hoping and praying for another smooth labor and delivery, one without any medical intervention. Our experience was so good (difficult but still incredible!) last time, and I hope we can say the same after this little guy arrives. As much as I am wanting time to go by quickly so that we can meet our new son, I'm still enjoying every moment I have with just Ryan, Noah, and Kya, knowing it will never be just the four of us again. Sometimes I get a little teary about that, but most of the time, I'm just excited about what is yet to come.


Ice Storm 2011

Wow! Last week was wild! Noah and I went grocery shopping at Kroger and Meijer with our grocery game lists. I worried that the stores would be insanely busy with the impending winter storm, but they really weren't too bad that morning. I let Noah watch Toy Story 2 on an iPod while we went shopping, which provided the perfect distraction for him so that I could shop in peace and quiet! :) I can't imagine grocery shopping with him any other way. It's just so convenient. He enjoys himself, and I can be productive! With coupons and sales at the grocery stores, we spent $75 and saved $96! Yep, that hour of preparation and organization before we left was definitely worth my time!

After Ryan got home Monday night, I made a quick run to Target because they were having a great sale on baby items. I stocked up on more diapers, wipes, pacifiers, and snack traps. There were only 4 lanes open when I went to check out, and it took forever! By the time I was FINALLY through the line, they had 11 lanes open. Everyone had three items in their cart - milk, bread, and toilet paper! I'm not talking about a pack of 4 or 8 rolls of TP...we're talking the mega value pack of 32 rolls of toilet paper. Seriously, what were people planning to do during the ice storm?? :) I made one more stop at CVS for to pick up five 12 packs of Coke products because you could get them for $2 each after their sale, which is my price point for buying soda. We stock up when it hits $2 a 12 pack.

That was the last time I breathed fresh air outside my home for the next 3 1/2 days!

I spent Tuesday at home with Noah, while Ryan got a bunch of work done from home. We filed our tax return that day, which was a great item to check off our to do list! Wednesday school was cancelled, so I was home again. By the end of the day, I had done all the normal things around the house, but I also cleaned and organized a couple closets. Ryan and I have felt really convicted of spending wasting $100 on satellite TV. For the most part, we only watch the basic channels, Disney, PBS, and ESPN. So we had to ask ourselves why we were paying $100 a month. Ryan found an antenna and installed it in the attic. I got us signed up on Netflix and figured out how to stream it through our Nintendo Wii. We will only spend $10 a month this way rather than $100. That frees up $90 more to put in the boys college funds, which is always exciting!

School was cancelled again Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, so that gave me the entire week to spend with Noah!

If you remember from my last update on potty training, Noah had earned all of his stickers to go to Chuck E Cheese. He and I both REALLY needed to get out of the house by Friday night (again, I had been in the house since Monday night. I couldn't even go get the mail because there was such a thick layer of ice on the ground. I couldn't risk falling.). So, when Ryan got home from work, we went to Chuck E Cheese and ordered a pepperoni pizza, a salad bar, and got a bunch of tokens for Noah. After about 30 minutes or so, our friends Kevin and Dalia and their little girl, Ava, joined the fun! Noah had specifically said that he wanted Kevin to come to Chuck E Cheese, and they were nice enough to oblige. For the first time, Noah went up in the tunnels a few times, though he had no desire to go down the slide. We were probably there for a good 3 hours, and it was definitely the most fun we've ever had there!

The next morning, we took Noah to the Children's Museum because members get in an hour early the first Saturday of the month. We've never gone on a Saturday because I always fear how busy it will be, and boy was it busy! I have NEVER, EVER seen the museum so busy! They were opening a new Dora and Diego exhibit, including a meet and greet with Dora and Diego themselves, so that probably didn't help. We didn't even attempt to go to that part of the museum. I'll take Noah on random Tuesday sometime, and there will be like 5 other kids in the whole exhibit. That's more my style! We had a really nice time being there as a family and look forward to going again soon!

We survived the Ice Storm of 2011 and really had a lot of fun - and even got a lot of things accomplished! The ground is still covered in ice, but it's melting a bit more each day. I know by the time we are a family of four, I will really cherish this past week that I had with just Ryan, Noah, and Kya. I'll miss these days but also am so excited to meet our little man soon.
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