6.30.2012

Themes of the second trimester

Things change when your belly gets large enough to be recognized as a baby container and not, say, where you store all the extra cookies you shouldn't have had. I am desperately trying to not be The Pregnant Woman every moment of every day, but much as the wedding consumed most of my time and brain space last summer, the baby (or the EVENT of having a baby) is the latest of brain-takeovers.

Kinda like a zombie.

I find myself much more protective of my time (time with Chris, too). Not only do I have a to-do list 14 miles long but I also have a decent chunk of energy to spend on "Carpe Diem! Live well til October 11!" (Admission: some of that carpe diem energy is spent on re-watching back-to-back episodes of Lost or going to bed early or reading books for hours at a stretch. I'm luxuriating in doing what I want, knowing that very soon I will not have this option.)

Oddly, this pregnancy is sparsely documented on this blog. That's probably because I put much of the chatter into Dear Tiny and a private Facebook group for family and friends. But there's a bunch of information that I have in my brain that I think could be really helpful to some of you out there... you may be pregnant OR you may be contemplating getting pregnant OR you may be sitting next to someone having a nervous breakdown because they are overwhelmed with being pregnant. Regardless, here's some of the stuff that has had me consumed during the second trimester. Consider it a helpful list of things to skim; some of this may be more or less important depending on who and how you are!

1. Classes
I bet you thought your schooling days were over! Ha. (Actually, I'm positive that you could get away without taking any of these...)


Nonetheless, here's what we're registered for... in case you're as education-friendly as we are. Some of these are one-time dealios, some are weekly over a month or more:

  • Childbirth classes
  • Hypnobirthing classes
  • Newborn class
  • Breastfeeding class
  • Intro to the Birthing Center 

2. Legal and financial questions to figure out
  • How does our baby get health insurance?
  • Do we need life insurance? How does this work?
  • How do we make a will? Is this where we include info about guardianship of the baby in case we both die?
  • What should we do about a college savings plan? 

3. Things to work out when prepping for labor
  • Are we circumcising our son? Do we need to do anything special to prepare for that?
  • Birth plan
  • Are we banking cord blood? 
  • Labor playlist
  • Be familiar with epidural and Cesarean sections in case we need to consider them

4. Acquiring stuff
So there's an endless amount of crap people will try to sell you for a baby. Here are some of the things that I've been on the lookout for, either because they were highly recommended by close friends or because I researched and value them:
  • Nursing pillow (Brest friend, Boppy)
  • Baby seats/swings (any bouncer, Bumbo seat, Mamadoo swing)
  • Cloth diapers (G diapers, BumGenius, Bummis)
  • Crib (we chose the Graco Lauren from Target)
  • Glider (Dutallier)
  • Carseat (I think we're going to get a Graco 35)
  • Carriers (Moby, Ergo)
  • Sleeping help! (Sleep Sheep... this thing is CUTE. Hopefully also effective!)
  • Stroller (I think we're going with a Citi Mini once he's a little older; for the first few months, the Snap-n-Go with a carseat should be fine)

5. Reading books
I'll write more extensive reviews in the next book review post but for now here's the list of books that I have either fully read or have found value reading parts of:
If you've made it this far, then you're probably not a male. Sorry, dude readership! This post is probably not what 97% of people come here for. But I can definitely say that this is a much-needed post for the 3% of people out there who are pregnant and not telling people yet OR pregnant and just feeling a little lost. I just wrote what I had been looking for all along.

6.24.2012

Not missing.

Hello. I am not missing! A few people emailed me and wondered if the wedding posts were the last hurrah. (Wouldn't that be weird? Yes.)

I had a crazy week at work and then we were in Wisconsin for 4 days. We flew out Wednesday night and just arrived home earlier this evening... two consecutive days off of work will be the longest break we have until Tiny comes in October. Man it was good to get away.

We saw 149085738382 people we knew in Wisconsin and I'll write a few things about it this week but I just wanted to write and say hey. HEY!

In the meantime, here's a goat about to snuggle a baby cow at a dairy farm we went to:


6.14.2012

Wedding week: Fin.

Well! This has been fun. And overwhelming. As many times as I told myself "you TOLD people you were going to do this," I had moments when I thought "EEK! There are too many photos of myself on this post. What will others think?"

This afternoon I booked a 3-day getaway for our 1 year anniversary. We're less than two months away from UNO ANO as married people. That is pretty unbelievable and yet, totally believable. There is not much else that we could have changed about our lives in the past 10 months, other than leaving NYC. And even though you think you know all of the changes, there are still more coming that I haven't shared yet. (In due time, in due time...)

Nonetheless, sharing these photos and experiences at some distance has been really awesome. "Hey, I look pretty good in some of these!" I thought to myself upon posting and then realized that however bloated I feel at present, I can get myself back to fighting shape post-baby-having.

To end I just wanted to throw some reception pix in that didn't fit in any other blog post. I'll dump them all eventually on Flickr too, but for now here are some that are guaranteed to make you smile.

Have I said it before? We are very, very lucky. And we know it.







6.13.2012

Wedding week: Unique traditions.

This is the one post I knew I had to write.

You're in a white dress. You're eating cake and dancing with your father. Six of your friends are wearing matching dresses. Welcome to the complex tradition of a wedding, one that is both thrilling and identity-stealing. Because finally, you are a bride! And well all know what brides are like, right? RIGHT?

WRONG-O. Our wedding was our wedding. So we got inventive and stopped thinking of it as a wedding and more an opportunity to create ceremony, tradition and meaning with our friends and family.

These are the things that made our wedding unique... and now I invite you to steal. Steal away, wedding-planning friends!


Nana's violets.
My Nana had a green thumb. She had a sun room with loads of plants, but the ones I remember the most are the African violets. When she died she'd been in a nursing home for a while and all of the plants in her sun room were dead. Well, all except one. A pink violet plant remained, in bad shape though, and I brought it home with me. (I wrote about that here.)

It lived. It lived and I made lots of baby violet plants out of it. And then when we got engaged, I knew that I wanted to look out across the tent and see lots of violet plants that came from her original one. So a million months before the wedding, I started growing babies.

We put one on each table, stuck a table number in them and invited guests to take them home to continue their lives. I absolutely love the heritage of plants... and that day Nana's violets filled the place with her spirit.



Personalized guest book
This one took a mere afternoon. The idea was that I didn't want 47 half-filled guest books. I didn't want one per table... when you live in Brooklyn, you have no storage for that kind of thing! We liked the idea of something our guests could flip through, something more interactive than a blank page.

So I took a bunch of pictures of us and made a hardcover Shutterfly book. I added a few extra pages and left white space around the photos. Not only is it meaningful for the words scrawled across its pages, but it's also like a little Yearbook. (Also, like 30 bucks. Sweet.)





The Blue Cards.
Sometimes I get very overwhelmed by community. I remember riding the 4 train home one day, thinking how much I wished I could wear something from every married woman I knew. I felt as though I was joining their club, this group of people who had crossed to the other side. What did they know that I didn't? I wanted their knowledge to be somehow manifested in what I walked down the aisle with that day.

But I was not exactly in the market to wear 50 bracelets from different women. Then it occurred to me that I was focusing on the wrong part of the poem. Instead of something borrowed, I still needed something blue. And then my wheels got turning.

I bought light blue cardstock and chopped it into little rectangles. I included one in the invitation of any woman who had been married (whether she was now still married, divorced or widowed). I asked the women to return the blue card with their RSVPs and to write a blessing or a few words of advice on the card.


As the RSVPs came in this was one of the most exciting parts to see. I learned a lot about how people approached their relationships by the advice they gave. The day of the wedding, I tucked them all in a tiny satin bag and we pinned it inside my dress. When I walked down the aisle, I went with the wisdom of the married women in my circle.


This was one of my favorite things about the wedding, which again, wasn't about the wedding. It was about the experience of committing and finding meaning in a day dedicated to that act.





The placecards.
We had been to so many weddings where the only people we talked to were the ones we knew before we got there. I'm sure it was meaningful for the couple to look out and see all the diverse people... but as participants, we always felt like something was missing. We were missing out on the magic. Grandparents never mixed with High School friends.

So we decided that everyone at our wedding would have a secret meet-up buddy. We spent hours figuring out who each person should meet... sometimes it was based on a common profession, a common hobby or just a gut feel about personality. On one side of the placecard was your name and table number. When you flipped the card open, there was the name of your secret buddy and his/her table number. Odds were that one of the pair would cross the room to say hello!

This, I believe, is a key social dynamic to understand. People want to meet each other! They are lonely and they want to chat. But often they don't feel like they have a socially acceptable reason to approach someone else. In the secret buddy system, there was now a real reason to have the confidence to cross the room.

And I gotta tell you, it was a TRIP looking out and seeing people talking who did not know each other before that night. It was so awesome. Some people even became such good buddies that they routinely hang out in foreign countries. Gah. So awesome.












The Mix CDs.
I don't know. I don't like those Italian almonds. We threw out every other wedding favor we ever brought home. And who doesn't like a Mix CD?

So Chris and I put together a mix based on the songs that had affected us in growing up separately and then growing together. We left one CD per household (couples got one, for example) on the tables where people would sit. And if they threw them out, then I wouldn't feel too bad.

There was also a great symmetry here because we asked guests to make US mix CDs for our roadtrip honeymoon. Our friend Courtney made a big pretty box with a slit in it and people put cards and CDs in it. As we drove down the Pacific Coast we popped them in and had a great time thinking about whoever had made them for us. Hooray for music!

P.S. On a side note, we left all of the mix CDs in the rental car when we dropped it off in Palm Springs. THE WORST FAIL EVER! Then two weeks later we got a little box in the mail. The man who cleans out the rental cars at the Palm Springs airport found them, tracked down our address in the system and mailed them to us. He wrote that he was getting married soon and thought they looked like they would be important to us... so we paid back the favor and sent him an Amazon gift card for his wedding. UMMM HUMANS RULE!

I think I have to stop here. I mean, is there anywhere MORE positive this post could go? Maybe only if Mother Teresa and Oprah crashed our wedding with baby St. Bernards. That didn't happen.

But all that other stuff did! So go steal these ideas! Steal away! xo

6.12.2012

Wedding Week: Harnessing the talents of many.

I will say this: if ever a person I know is getting married and reaches out to ask me to do them a favor, anything from helping to put stamps on invitations to translating their wedding ceremony into French, I will be so jazzed to help. And while it might be a logical conclusion to assume that everyone else in the world is in a similar mind-frame, I realized during wedding planning that I doubt the kindness of others. Asking someone to do me a favor is so, so hard for me... and so when it came time to reign in the finances of our wedding and reach out to our talented friends and family, the task did not come anxiety-free.

When I looked at the guest list, it was amazing how many talents we could assemble under one tent. Do you know how amazing your friends and family are? They are fascinating people with fascinating things to say to each other... and in many cases, they are really good at something that you are not so good at.

Here are some people who made our day special, not only because of the time and effort they spent on an aspect of our wedding, but because when I looked around the tent that night, I could feel the presence of their effort. The whole thing throbbed with good will. And that was a very auspicious way to begin our lives together, indeed.

String quartet
My friend Evelyn is a cellist and offered her services as a gift to us. We paid the other three members of her quartet to come and provide beautiful music during our ceremony. Again, it wasn't so much about having pretty music in the background... the connection to Evelyn and knowing that there was someone behind the music who loved us, well that really made it special.



Centerpieces
Anyone who has planned a wedding has had a heart attack at the price of florists. WHERE DO THEY COME UP WITH THOSE PRICES? We decided to buy a bunch of cut flowers from Stew Leonard's (a big grocery market) the day before the wedding and arrange them in collected jam jars for the centers of the tables the morning of the wedding. (This is as close to Martha Stewart as I get.)

The problem remained, however, who would be available to arrange said flowers. My family and I would be getting ready and my bridesmaids were otherwise engaged. Cue two friends from Muhlenberg, Leigh and Courtney, who volunteered to drive to my parents' house, pick up the flowers and the jars, bring the whole deal to the venue and assemble jars of flowers for the tables. Apparently they also did this with some college music blasting in the background and I couldn't believe how amazing these came out. With no flower arranging experience, the centerpieces looked styled and matched the locale perfectly.





The Sound System & Emcee
My friend Becky married a sweet guy named Alan, who does sound engineering for a number of television shows. When we decided to skip a band and make an iTunes playlist ourselves, we realized we needed a couple of huge speakers.

Enter sound engineer Alan. Alan and Becky drove up speakers and a microphone from Brooklyn, set them up in the tent the afternoon of the wedding and monitored the whole thing all night. I felt the most guilty about their contribution for some reason, as if it was a major, major imposition on them. But they were so game and the iTunes playlist sounded perfect coming out of that tent.

At the same time we knew that we'd need someone to do a few announcements throughout the evening. (This is another thing you lose when you avoid hiring a band...) So I reached again for a high school friend, Jay, who is outgoing and a great speaker. Jay did an awesome job announcing the wedding party as we entered, inviting guests to serve themselves at the buffet and reminding people that the shuttle bus was leaving for the hotel at the end of the evening. Such a key role and we were so happy to have a friendly face filling it!




The cake
My mother has talked about wedding cake for my entire life. Oh, how she loves wedding cake! Real wedding cake! No one really knows what she's talking about (for what is real wedding cake anyway?), but from the moment we got engaged, I knew she would be on a countdown to enjoying a slice.

Except. I didn't really need a wedding cake. I love cake as much as the next guy, but not for a stupid amount of money. Plus I'd been to a bunch of weddings and knew that half the people never eat the cake anyway... they're too wasted on the dance floor to sit around and wait for dessert.

I considered ordering my Mom a personalized wedding cake just for her, ordering brownies and cookies for the rest of us. But then I remembered that my Aunt JoAnn is an award-winning baker. Score!

JoAnn not only baked sheet cakes to feed all of the guests (vanilla, chocolate and pumpkin!) but she also made exactly what I told her we did not need: a fancy tiered masterpiece. My uncle, a carpenter, build shelves into a cooler so they could drive the cake from Pennsylvania to New York. We were so appreciative... and it was a damn good cake in the end! (My Mom was happy.)





Hooray for talented people in our lives! And hooray for thoughtfulness. These guests (among many others) made our wedding feel generous in spirit. Thank you!

6.11.2012

Wedding Week: The ceremony.

Earlier this year two friends sat me down and asked me to marry them in October. I was flattered. FLATTERED. And as I rolled the idea around my brain, I realized how much I really wanted to marry them. Not only are they wonderful people for each other, but I was really looking forward to the exercise of putting together a meaningful ceremony for two people, interviewing their families to weave in anecdotes and personal stories and beliefs, and ultimately crafting a series of holy words that they would promise to each other.

Unfortunately the wedding is happening within 2 weeks of Tiny's due date... and while I'm a multi-tasker (and while I really, really, really wanted to say yes), I had to say no.

It strikes me as funny that I am so genuinely interested in helping someone craft a wedding ceremony in 2012 when my feelings about a ceremony in 2011 were so complex. I've written before about the challenge of not having a particular religious home and wanting to participate in something that felt traditional, holy and yet not specifically Christian. After much soul searching and minister-interviewing, we found a fantastic woman to marry us (who happened to be Presbyterian). She helped us craft the perfect ceremony, taking elements of a traditional religious ceremony and inventing a few of our own pieces along the way.

Here are some of the ways we made the ceremony our own:

We faced our guests.
Pastor Thompson suggested this and we were both game. Looking out across the guests who were all there for us added a meaningful and emotional dimension to the ceremony.



Readings.
We asked two friends to read poems during the wedding. Dana read "Union" by Robert Fulghum and Skersh read "i carry your heart" by e.e. cummings. It was so special to have these meaningful texts read out loud that day.



Blessings by the families and friends
Pastor Thompson started by asking our parents to stand if they supported our union and agreed to receive a new son or daughter into their family. We watched as our parents rose. The she asked our families to stand if they agreed to the same thing. More people stood. And finally she asked our friends to stand if they agreed to receive the marriage as a blessing.

The entire congregation stood before us. I still get goosebumps just thinking about it.



The silver bell
After each piece of the ceremony, Pastor Thompson invited the reader to ring a silver bell. (She also rang it a few times). Then at the end she explained that the bell was a symbol of the beauty of the day... and a useful tool. If someone rings the bell, it means that they're blessing us. We brought the bell to the reception and put it on our table... throughout the night, many, many guests stopped by to ring the bell. Just hearing it added a fantastic happiness to the evening.





6.10.2012

Wedding week: Choosing a venue.

At first it's important to dream big. Do not assume anything and don't limit the conversation by questions of whether you can afford it or whether your grandmother could come or whether the weather will be good. Just dream out loud. No one ever lost a ton of money by wondering aloud about their wedding.

Chris is from Wisconsin and his family and friends are mostly still in that area. My parents are about an hour north of NYC, but the rest of my family is spread out along the East Coast. Our common friends are all in New York, but there were a number of guests we wanted to invite who live far away from us.

So we considered:
  • New York City (local, convenient to many, but expensive as hell)
  • Wisconsin (much cheaper, but would require moving a large amount of guests)
  • Pennsylvania (cheap, my extended family wouldn't have to travel so far)
  • France (a three minute conversation just to see what it could be like)
  • Vermont (pretty, especially in the summer... but tough to get to)
  • Somewhere north of NYC near my parents' house or in Connecticut
Ultimately one of the main factors was that I knew we'd be doing a bunch of the wedding stuff ourselves (for financial reasons) and we felt as though planning a wedding from afar would be very stressful. We circled around NYC but avoided NYC proper. New York has tons of airports, which makes it convenient, but it's hella expensive to stay here. 

In the end, we seriously considered three venues:
We picked Lasdon because it's about 5 minutes from where I grew up and because it was the least expensive. Also we got sick of discussing venues really fast and decided we did not want to spend weekend upon weekend visiting locations. (Boring!) 


Getting married outside had its stresses (most notably, the weather), but it also had so many positives. We didn't have to worry about decorations. Who needs decorations when MOTHER NATURE is exploding with wonder around you? I also loved the idea of a big white tent, all lit up at night.



We decided to go with a BBQ theme because it conveyed "casual" and was an affordable option for us. We seriously considered bringing the wine and beer ourselves but in the end we would have only saved a couple hundred bucks and would have had a thousand billion extra things to worry about. 

Wedding lesson #500: Sometimes, depending on the thing, it is better to pay someone else to do it, especially if it is going to be a major hassle for you. Save your strength for little hassles.




We set up the ceremony under a beautiful old tree and we were framed in a spot where two bushes curved towards each other. We got ready in the estate on the property, a gorgeous old white home, and we put the tent on a flat stretch of lawn. When it was dark, the only lights came from the tent and you could see stars forever and ever. 




I love that we can revisit Lasdon whenever we want, as it's a public park. It will always remind me of that day, the stunning enormity of it all, and 99 of our favorite people gathered to witness our day.

6.09.2012

Wedding Week: What we wore.

Jen
Here were my qualifications: not a ton of money, something I wouldn't feel bad only wearing once, something that felt... right. Soft. Danceable. Summery.

My mom and sister came to the city and we trekked around, somewhat dissatisfied with everything until we got to Lovely Bride. It's this tiny shop in the West Village, a little hole in the wall that used to be an apartment. It's a.d.o.r.a.b.l.e. and struck me as unpretentious. It was a perfectly designed shop, one that put me in a wedding mood (which was more than I could say for some of the more warehouse-feeling stores).

The consultant picked this dress off the rack at the last minute and I didn't think much of it. And then the craziest thing happened. I put it on and STARTED BAWLING. Holy bizarre! Also it had a pretty flower on it and FEATHERS that looked like wheat. And it was less than $1,000.

Win-win-win.

 

Other accessories: sandals on sale in a shop on 3rd Ave, pearl necklace that my Mom wore at her wedding, flower clip that I bought off Etsy, borrowed Sarah McLo's pearl earrings, borrowed Katherine's veil.


Chris and the groomsmen
For a while we were stalking grooms at the weddings we attended, but Chris wanted something a little different. I left it totally up to him... and in the end he chose gray J Crew suits. He got the groomsmen J Crew black ties and white pocket squares. His best man ended up needing to get a gray suit from Men's Warehouse and no one noticed.

There is something so summer about a gray suit, huh? (Also, when I look at the pictures of Chris in a vest at the reception, I want to marry him all over again. HOLY HOT HUSBAND!)

 



The Bridesmaids
My bridesmaids did not all live in the same city and I went back and forth a bunch whether I wanted to shop with half of them or none of them. In the end, I ended up choosing a pretty dress from the online shop Joielle. To be honest, I might do that differently if I could go back. Each bridesmaid had to go to a tailor to get her measurements and though the dresses photographed beautifully, I think I probably could have found a simpler or cheaper option that I liked just as much.

I did, however, really like the way the magenta color popped against the green of the arboretum. Looks great in photos and ended up being a fun summer color. I hope they can wear them again somewhere!

P.S. I let them choose their shoes and accessories. I totally loved how the resulting look was similar enough, but not too matchy-matchy. They are six separate women and they totally come across that way!









The Families
The general direction was: look good and feel comfortable. The wedding was outside in mid-August, which meant no air conditioning. My Dad bought a new suit (which he will now wear for the next 35 years! Nice purchase, Pops!) and Chris' Dad and brother wore snazzy suits. The moms coordinated on jewel tones and some changed into flat sandals for the reception. Everyone looked great.






The guests
Like I said: mid-August, no air conditioning, walking on a lawn. We advised people to dress festively, which left it open to interpretation and allowed some people to dress more casually to suit their comfort level. We probably had the hottest looking guest list ever. Don't you love how the background of the arboretum makes all of the girls' dresses POP?

Automatic festivity.


 


Stay tuned for tomorrow, when I tackle the venue!