Thursday, December 19, 2013

Week 22 Update

Some blogger-moms-to-be do one of these “pregnancy weekly updates” every week.  I admire their dedication.  I have a hard enough time remembering to take a weekly photo in a timely manner (usually at XX weeks and 6 days, the last possible day before I cross over into the following week).  But, I like this idea, so I’m going to do it periodically.  Yes I know, I’m starting more than halfway into my pregnancy, but hey better late than never, right!?  In this post, I’ll do a catch-up of the last, oh, 22 weeks or so.  NBD.

How far along:  22 weeks 3 days
Size of baby:  A papaya (who even knows what a papaya looks like? Not me. At our 20 weeks 4 days ultrasound, she weighed roughly 12oz.  And the week 23 fruit comparison is a grapefruit.  Maybe that provides some clarification)

Total weight gain:  9 lbs.  Sigh.  I actually started out by losing weight during the first couple months of pregnancy.  It wasn’t until about week 18 or 19 that I started to gain weight, and then it came very quickly.  I know that a pregnant body is a beautiful body, growing and nurturing a tiny human being.  But that doesn’t make gaining weight any easier, and seeing the numbers rise on the scale is never easy.  Our doctor told me I should gain anywhere between 25-40 lbs.  (40lbs!?  You’re kidding, doc.) 
Symptoms:  Knock on wood, this pregnancy has been nearly symptom free so far.  I only had morning sickness once, right before work in the morning during week 14.  I was having a lot of back pain at the end of the 1st trimester, but truthfully that might have been caused by my awful uncomfortable chair at work.  That didn’t stop me from taking warm baths every night, utilizing a heat pad in “Tom’s” recliner, and insisting that I needed a giant pregnancy pillow for my birthday. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Cravings:  Nothing too bizarre.  The only cravings run Tom has made for me was cheese and crackers one night (pasteurized – don’t worry!).  I’m doing the stereotypical pregnancy pickles and ice cream thing (but not together).  Cotton Candy ice cream from Maggie Moos was my go-to for a while, but it turns your mouth bright blue for days.  I can’t even take myself seriously looking like that.  I’ve always been a lover of chocolate and sweets, and pregnancy has been a great excuse to indulge a little.  Cookies, brownies, candy, bring it on!
Sleep:  Decent.  I usually wake up at least once during the night for a potty break, but other than that I’m sleeping through the night.  I’ve struggled to find a comfortable position to sleep in.  I always thought I was a side-sleeper, but now that I know I’m not supposed to sleep on my back, I always wake up on my back during the early morning hours and toss and turn to get comfortable on my side.  The giant pregnancy pillow is really too big for our bed, so I’ve transitioned to just having an extra pillow supporting my back.  I’ve also put a folded blanket under my pillow to prop my head up a little to aid in digestion and breathing.  Ta-da, there you have it, my magical fixes for a good night of mid-pregnancy sleep!

Movement:  Yes!  Oh my goodness, yes.  This girl is very active.  Her most active times are:  early morning, lunch time, late afternoon, and 9pm.  Feeling her movements gives me really mixed emotions and feelings.   All at once it is amazing, special, weird, alien, sweet, uncomfortable, and sometimes annoying.  But feeling her movements always makes me feel reassured.  I’m so happy that she is comfy cozy and growing like a weed.  And whenever I nervously think wait, have I felt her in the past few hours?  She always seems to give me a nice big kick to the bladder.  Oh good, you’re still in there.
Gender:  GIRL!

Name:  We have decided on a name!  And I’ve ordered the wooden letters to hang on the wall, so no going back now ;)  Our sweet little thing’s name will be:  (drumroll please) … Madelyn Grace.  We will call her Maddie for short.  And I’ll probably lovingly call her Maddie Grace, Miss Maddie, Baby MC, Maddie G, etc.  What can I say, I like nicknames :)
Style:  I have transitioned into maternity clothes.  Well truthfully, I started wearing some maternity pants back in like, week 13.  They are just SO comfortable, I really might never go back.  I can still wear a lot of my regular shirts, but it’s getting to the point where I might stretch them out, so I’ve ordered a few basic tees.  My usual maternity-uniform tends to be these pants from Old Navy, a tank top, and a cardigan sweater unbuttoned.  Rinse and repeat, every day.  Sometimes I toss on a scarf, or a cute necklace.  My favorite place to shop for maternity wear is by far Old Navy – reasonably priced, super cute and simple.  I also happened upon a few cute things at Target.  I dislike Target’s website design for ordering online, so I’ve only picked up a couple things from the limited selection in store.

Nursery:  Love love love her cute nursery.  Although truthfully, I was really more excited about designing the vintage airplane nursery for a boy.  Instead, I’m buying pink and green and loving it just as much!  We themed the nursery around this quilt from Pottery Barn Kids.  It’s pastel pink and green, with touches of blue, yellow, brown, tan, purple etc.  (no really, the description says it has 16 colors.  Which sounds outrageous and obnoxious, but they’re so subtle that it’s perfect).  It also has a combination of polka dots, stripes, gingham etc.  If you’re thinking it sounds hideous, check the link, I promise it’s not!  We have already purchased and assembled (I say “we” very loosely, Tom did all of the assembly) the crib and changing table.  They are basic white and were ordered off of amazon.  We are using Tom’s childhood dresser, which is dark brown wood, and we have plans to purchase a glider in a similar shade of brown stain.  Yeah, we’re mixing and matching, and I don’t really care anymore.  I initially had GRAND plans to paint Tom’s dresser white, paint the walls pink, add chair rail, paint the bottom part of the wall gray…. and then I just got lazy.  Nah, I didn’t get lazy, I got realistic. I just don’t have the time or the energy for that, and I’m actually really loving the tan walls and the mismatched furniture.  Now that the furniture has been assembled and arranged (then rearranged 100 times at 10pm one Saturday night, and finally put back exactly the way it was before), I am starting on the decorations and organization.  I’ll save those for a post devoted to the nursery.
Best moment of the week:  Strangers have started commenting on my bump!  Which, granted, I realize means I’m getting large.  But it also means we’re getting closer to meeting our girl, and now everyone can notice and share in our excitement.  I love getting questions about our baby (gender, due date, names etc), and I don’t even mind when people want to touch!  Although so far no strangers have touched, so that’s good.  That might be weird.

Worst moment of the week:  Getting dressed for my work Christmas party.  Last week, I had tried on two separate dresses (one borrowed from my mom, and one purchased from ASOS) and I thought, oh perfect, these look great!  Either one will work!  Fast-forward to Saturday night when it’s time to get dressed… somewhere between Tuesday and Saturday, these dresses shrank.  Ok maybe it wasn’t the dresses.  But really, they just looked all wrong, in all places.  I must have spent an hour in the closet trying to decide what to wear.  So then we were an hour late to the party, and there may or may not have been some tears shed in the kitchen when I came downstairs and Tom told me I looked beautiful, but all I wanted to do was put my sweatpants back on and crawl under a blanket.  I blame the hormones.
So there you have it, 22 weeks of pregnancy summed up in one weekly post!  What a fun adventure it has been so far.  In other exciting news, I’m an AUNT!  Tom’s older brother and his wife just had their first baby boy on Monday.  I am so excited to visit and hold baby Connor tomorrow!  From the pictures I’ve seen, he is just the cutest little thing.  Chubby cheeks and a head full of hair.  Love him already!!  What fun it will be to have our two babies so close in age.  And lucky for Tom’s younger sister, she is totally set for a ring bearer and flower girl at her future wedding.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Ribbons and Curls

The word is out - Baby Cooper is a GIRL!

I drafted this post a month ago but then never quite got around to posting it - oops. 

So here's the full story on our journey to finding out if Baby Cooper would be wearing Hair Bows or Bow Ties.

The Early Weeks: 
Tom and I both had an inkling that Baby Cooper would be a girl. Perhaps wishful thinking on my part, and "that's my luck" thinking on Tom's part. We were fairly certain. As certain as you can be with on a 50/50 gamble. We each had our hopes, but agreed in our thoughts that Baby would be a girl.

Week 13:  
Around this time, I learned about elective gender scans at private ultrasound businesses (say what!? I previously thought I had no choice but to wait until our anatomy scan at 20 weeks). While googling "early ultrasound gender scan", I happened upon a product called Intelligender. Basically, this product tests the pH level of your urine and can (supposedly) tell you your baby's gender as early as 10 weeks. And the best part? The product is sold at drug stores for less than $50! 

"If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." The saying that should have been resonating my head, and was resonating for skeptical Tom.
But, you should know that patience is NOT my best virtue. It's probably my worst. The thought of waiting another 8 weeks was killing me. So of course I stopped by Walgreens on the way home from work that day. I followed the instructions on the [dinged up, last one on the shelf] box and waited until the following morning to take the test. I could hardly sleep a wink and was up before the sun. The results? BOY!

Before the test, we agreed upon the mindset of: let's take this with a grain of salt and NOT buy anything pink of blue. After the test, I went a little crazy. I bought a big red airplane to hang on the wall in the nursery, read articles on mothering boys, and started calling the baby by "his" new name. I was, however, doubtful enough to agree with Tom that we should keep this rather uncertain news to ourselves for the time being.

To "confirm" our new finding, I scheduled an elective gender scan at Clearview Ultrasound as soon we could.  They start doing gender scans at 15 weeks, so I scheduled us for 15wks 4days. We didn't tell a soul we were going. We were skeptical and wanted to check it out in person before we shared any news. [In retrospect, why I was skeptical of ultrasounds and not a little pee cup from the drug store, I'm not so sure.]

Week 15:
The big day! Our gender scan ultrasound! Let me first start off by saying, this place was so cool. And so unlike the doctor's office. It was warm and cozy, with a big screen TV to watch the ultrasound. At first, our little baby was sound asleep. Sound asleep. As in, would not wake up! The sonographer prodded my belly a little, hoping to get a reaction. Still sleeping. Fastforward 5 minutes (what seemed like an eternity), and still no movement. We could see the little heart beating but my mind was racing, why won't our baby move!?

The sonographer suggested we try something different. "Would you like a piece of chocolate?" she asked. Ha, well I guess, if it's for the baby! ;) Fastforward a minute after I eat a small piece of chocolate, and Baby is practically doing flips! (which really made me think about the foods I'm eating, they are obviously going straight to the baby). Finally, Baby gets positioned correctly so that the sonographer can identify the gender. Alas, to our disappointment, she told us it was too soon to tell. And if she told us one way or the other, she would really be taking a gamble. She apologized for keeping us in suspense, and asked us to come back in a week.


We were really bummed not to have an answer, but we were pleased that she was honest with us and didn't try to make a call if it was too early. So, we waited. But this time I couldn't do it quietly, I convinced Tom that we should tell our friends and family what we were doing the following Saturday afternoon. And so we did, and we planned a little get together gender reveal for Sunday afternoon, and we crossed our fingers that Baby would be ready to share some news with us in a week!

Week 16:
After a long week of waiting, and nervously, tentatively, planning a gender reveal, the new big day finally arrived. We watched our little baby squirming on the big screen, and laughed at the crossed legs which were making it difficult to tell the gender. Finally, the sonographer paused the screen, circled something, and wrote "ALLLLL GIRL!!!" I cheered and then patted Tom on the shoulder, "It's okay, you're going to love her anyway!" Ha! The things you say in the moment. I felt so bad for him as he cursed the pee cup test the whole way home, we never should have done that! 

But as the reality set in for us on our 2 hour drive to College Station for a football game, we were both SO THRILLED! Bows and ribbons, barbies and dolls, tea parties and dresses, my mind was spinning! And I couldn't help but tear up as I thought about Papa Tom toting around our sweet little girl on his shoulders. What a perfect, patient, protective Daddy he will be to our little girl.

I asked if we could stop in at the book store so I could buy her an Aggie dress, and Tom suggested, "how about I buy our little girl her first dress?" Cue my melting heart. And so he did, he picked out her very first dress, complete with a tiny white bow. (And then joked that he will buy her last dress for her when she is 35, because she's not allowed to get married until then, ha!)

The Reveal:
On Sunday afternoon, our house filled with friends and family, sweets, treats and fun. I set up an amateur photo booth in the living room and decorated little bow and bow tie cookies. Everyone placed their guess on the board - hair bows just barely won!

 And then finally, we readied to share the news. We gathered everyone in the living room - no peeking! I stood in the kitchen, camera ready and stereo remote in hand as Thomas drove a tiny pink remote control car with pink balloons in from the hall, Girls Just Want to Have Fun blaring from the speaker the whole way.  Looks of surprise, joy, laughter, and hugs ensued. It was such a wonderful afternoon shared with many of the most important people in our lives. Baby Girl Cooper is so loved already, what a lucky girl she is to have so many people excited for her arrival and ready to watch her grow.

We are truly beaming with excitement this week as we look forward to the years ahead with our little girl. My recurring thought of "I'm pregnant. Actually pregnant. Really pregnant" has been replaced with "It's a girl. She's a girl. We're having a girl!"

Now we just have to wait 5 months and 11 days to meet her (who's counting?)!

The 20 week ultrasound which seemed SO far away, has now come and gone.  We confirmed that Baby Cooper is indeed a girl!  And we watched in amazement as her tiny body squirmed on the screen, changing position several times and posing in all the right ways for the sonographer to get the necessary measurements.  We could see all four chambers of her tiny little heart pumping, and from the profile view, we watched her tiny tongue move as she swallowed.  At the conclusion of the ultrasound, the sonographer told us she weighed approximately 12 oz. and was measuring at 20 weeks 1 day.  Our doctor told us that the 20 week ultrasound can be off by +/- 10 days.  According to our due date, we were at 20 weeks 3 days, so the measurements sounded right on track!  The sonographer also told us that our girl has really long arms and legs.  Sorry I gave you monkey arms, chickadee, blame your Grandpa Radford for those genetics!  But you'll appreciate those long legs someday :)

In other exciting news, I am now feeling our girl's movements!  I think she is practicing karate in there.  Kicks, punches, and jabs are a common occurrence.  I have also seen and felt the movements from the outside of my belly, but every time Papa Tom comes over to see/feel, the silly girl goes still as can be.  Hoping she'll give him an early Christmas present soon by giving him a nice big kick while he patiently waits with his hand on my belly.

Papa Tom felt our girl kick tonight!!  She loves Maggie Moos ice cream :)

I promise to be better about updating my blog in the coming months.  Only 4 months and 9 days until our due date!  She'll be here before we know it.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Hair Bows or Bow Ties?!

Surprise!  We went in for an early ultrasound gender scan at Clearview Ultrasound today, and we now know if this is a he or she in my belly!  Place your guess now, we'll be sharing the news tomorrow after we share with our families :)

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Best Birthday

I love birthdays.  I love parties.  I love birthday parties.  I love cake and ice cream, cards, presents, streamers, and balloons.  I especially love celebrating someone on their one special day of the year.  And if we can make it into a weeklong celebration, well that’s even better.  I even love celebrating my own birthday (maybe that will change as I add more candles to the cake, or maybe not).

In years past, I have shamelessly dropped present hints, countdowns, and reminders in the weeks [months?] leading up to my birthday.  I might as well have just made a billboard that said “Hey everyone, don’t forget it’s my big day on October 24!!!”  But this year, I played it pretty low key.  I didn’t make a big deal out of anything.  No over the top plans, no New Orleans vacation, and in fact, I even worked on my birthday - I think this is the first year I’ve done the 9 to 5 on my b-day.  I didn’t plan a party, or a night out on the town, but my wonderful husband did coordinate an awesome dinner with friends.  [I must admit though, when I had to wake up from my nap to get ready for my birthday dinner, I may have considered cancelling to keep on sleeping the day away.  No offense friends, pregnancy is exhausting!]

But when all was said and done, this was truly one of the best birthdays EVER.  Early in the week, I spent time in Dallas catching up with co-workers and friends.  On my birthday, I had a birthday breakfast of chocolate pop-tarts toasted to perfection by my loving husband (at my own request, he did offer eggs), and then I had 8 dozen cookies delivered to me at work (sugar overload??).  Over the next few days, I had an Aggie football win, a cozy dinner with my parents, and a wonderful evening at The Winflo Osteria on W. 6th Street with close friends (several of whom showed up on crutches and some who traveled over an hour to join - they are real troopers!)

So a big thank you to everyone who contributed to my happy 26th birthday.  I appreciate the thoughts, cards, gifts, and especially the time we shared.  I just know this year will be one of my best years yet!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The First Trimester: Just Like Tailgating (without the beer)

Today marks 13 weeks and 5 days of my first pregnancy. As I look forward to the second trimester, the pleasant "honeymoon phase" of the pregnancy, I've also been reflecting back on the exciting first trimester.

Thomas and I have never been simultaneously as nervous and excited as we were the morning we saw those two pink lines (or the next two days when we continued to retest just in case). We had wanted this, yes, but it was overwhelmingly now ours. Our pregnancy. Our baby. Our panic.

Should I make a doctor's appointment? Should we tell our parents? Should I take a vitamin? Is this riding in this old truck too bumpy? Can I ride in a golf cart? How common are miscarriages? How much weight will I gain? Can I take Tylenol? Will I have morning sickness? How will the dogs react? How will we pay for everything? Should we start saving for college now!?

There were many sleepless nights in the beginning. So many questions, so many butterflies in our stomachs. And honestly, that all lasted for quite a while! I still google something pregnancy related every day. I still worry about the occasional stomach pain, cheese I ate for lunch, cleaning product I'm using, doctor's appointment coming up, and on and on and on. The worry wart in me is out in full effect!

But we are also SO excited. These past two months have been so much fun. It was such a joy to share the news with our family and friends:
 And hearing the baby's heartbeat for the first time was surreal. There is really a tiny human being living and growing inside of me!? This concept still has not set fully in. And of course there's planning the nursery, thinking of names, and dreaming of our little baby coming home. We are so happy to leave some of the nervousness of the first trimester behind us, and move on to the (hopefully) less stressful second trimester.
But one last thought on my first trimester experience. 
Disclaimer: I fully understand the dangers of consuming alcohol during pregnancy, and I am not engaging in this behavior. I am simply making a humorous comparison.

 For me, the first trimester was a lot like tailgating... Like there was an evening football game, so we started tailgating at noon. What a fun afternoon of partying! Friends, family, food... frequent bathroom trips. As game time neared, I was worn out from an afternoon of day-drinking. By the end of the game, I was completely exhausted, down for the count. Straight to bed and up early the next day. But ugh, what a hangover! Nausea, headache, stomachache. Can I just stay in bed for a while? But by noon, I was ready for another day of tailgating!

I wonder what the second trimester will be like!?  I'm hoping the pregnancy honeymoon phase will be a day at the beach, but we shall see :)


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Plumb pregnant

Tom and I officially survived our first trip to Buy Buy Baby and Babies R Us today! We spent that past two days jamming at the ACL music festival, and had plans to attend today as well. But the weather and the flooding in South Austin had other plans for us. It turns out that Barton Creek and Zilker Park had so much rain overnight that there was quite a bit of flooding, and for the safety of all involved, they were forced to cancel the 3rd and final day of the festival. I was torn about the cancellation - I mean, I didn't really want to spend the day sopping wet and covered in mud, but I was bummed we would miss out on some of the bands.

So what were we to do with this unexpectedly open day? We did consider lounging on the couch all afternoon watching movies while the rain pattered outside, but since our next few weekends are busy, we decided to be productive. We FINALLY unpacked our last remaining boxes from the move, which were stacked high and taking up space in the "baby's" room. Since the boxes had been in this unused state for more than 4 months, we figured there might be some contents we didn't actually need. So we filled a huge trash bag and a box for goodwill. The rest we organized in the guest room closet. And by the end of the afternoon, the room actually looked ready to become a nursery!

Since we couldn't do much outside today, I convinced Tom we should bum around some baby stores. He was such a good sport - letting me browse the aisles, test out the glider chairs, go back down the aisles we had just visited, all the while comparing strollers, carseats, and cribs galore! Truthfully, it was a bit overwhelming. We have a lot of reading and research to do before we actually make any purchases. But it was so so fun to start picturing the nursery and dreaming about our next chapter.

As we've shared the pregnancy news with family, friends, and co-workers over the past few weeks, we have received a lot of questions about Baby Cooper. So here is a consolidated list of all the answers to our "FAQ":

How far along are you? and when is your due date? 12 weeks and 5 days, due April 22 (let the tax day jokes begin)

How have you been feeling? Surprisingly great - knock on wood! It seems I fall into the category of really lucky women who do not experience morning sickness. I’ve had some nausea, and certainly some exhaustion, but overall I really can’t complain.

Are you going to find out the gender? Absolutely, we can hardly wait! If all goes as planned, we will find out on December 6th. I seriously cannot imagine a time when you HAD to wait until the baby was born to find out the gender. I am so happy we have the option to find out sooner. How else will I know what color to paint the nursery!?!

Are you showing yet? Maybe just a little. But if you didn’t know I was pregnant, you probably wouldn’t notice, or you might quietly think to yourself hmm, looks like someone has had a few too many beers at those A&M tailgates.

Do you have any cravings? Nothing too crazy just yet. Apples sound especially appealing to me now, and I did make Tom go on a late night run for cheese and crackers once. I’ve had more aversions than cravings, some foods just sound downright awful – like green beans, grilled chicken, and the extra-extreme-more-than-you-ever-needed-movie-theater butter popcorn that Tom makes every night. The smell alone is enough to make me gag! I blame my heightened sense of smell, we attribute that to the hormones right!? I swear, every symptom in the book can be attributed to the “rise in hormones”.

Was this baby planned? Yes. We knew that once we got settled in our new house and celebrated our first wedding anniversary, we would be ready to start growing our family.

Have you thought about names? We have starting brainstorming and have a few favorites, but nothing we’re ready to share just yet.

How are you surviving without your daily diet coke? It is pure torture, I tell you. I know that some books/doctors/people-with-opinions say that you can have small amounts of caffeine, and some sources even say you can have wine. All of which sounded wonderful to me pre-pregnancy, but now that I actually AM pregnant, I wouldn’t want to do anything that could harm the little plum-sized baby in my belly. So I’ve made the personal decision to cut caffeine out of my diet. Except for the occasional piece of chocolate of course. If I had to give up diet coke AND chocolate, I fear the earth might be jolted right off its axis!

If I missed anything, feel free to ask. I'm happy to share about our little "bucket" of joy (Tom accidentally said this once), and about our experience with our first pregnancy!

Stay tuned for more adventures in pregnancy.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

So thankful it's finally FALL!

Remember that time I started a blog and then I pretty much never updated it?  Mmhmm, me too.  Oops.  I recently starting reading a few blogs that my friend recommended for me, and it gave me the motivation to pick mine back up.  (Perhaps you’ll hear from me again in January? ha!)

I think I’m about due for an update post since tax busy season is over, hours are back to normal, and I really have no more excuses.  Our July through September timeframe was pretty much just a whirlwind of long weeks, late nights, and eating cereal for dinner.  I think we counted up at one point and we hadn’t cooked a meal on our stove in over 5 weeks.  Oh the life of a tax accountant.  But let’s move on.

It is finally OCTOBER!!!!  My favorite month of the year.  I just love everything about October – Aggie football season, cooler air, [de-caf] Salted Mocha Caramel Frappuccinos from Starbucks, baked pumpkin goodies that will be a staple in our snack stash for the next month, favorite fall shows like Modern Family and Parenthood, boots, scarves, Halloween decorations, and of course my 26thbirthday! 

So before I tell you all about our awesome October plans, I’ll start with a quick update on our house happenings (since that is really why I started the blog in the first place!).   Nothing too major around here, still getting settled and making it feel like home.  It took me a while (lots of stopping and starting, an hour of painting this weekend, and hour of painting a month later), but I finally finished up this little cabinet:

I purposely bought this guy in red a few years ago and I really loved him like that.  But it just wasn’t working in our new house.  So I pulled out some leftover gray garage paint, painted him up and added some [looks like] vintage knobs.  I love how it turned out!  Just perfect for this little nook in our living room.

Next, I spruced up this old window from my favorite little junk store in New Braunfels, Junkology.

And turned it into this! 

The huge bare wall behind the dining room table had been making me sad since we moved in; it really needed something.  I think this window was the perfect touch, and it ties in the bird theme I have going in the living room.

These were my projects, but Tom has been busy too!  He built us a custom L-shape desk for our loft, and dry-walled the shed Dog Palace in our backyard.  His projects are much more involved than mine, and still have a bit of work to be done.  I love how they’re going to so far, and I will be sure to share once we have completed them!

And now for our October plans – this weekend we visited an adorable little pumpkin patch (I’m sure you can guess whose idea that was), next weekend we’re headed to ACL (Austin City Limits musical festival), the following two weekends are Aggie home football games, a weekday visit to Dallas thrown in there, somewhere we will squeeze in a birthday celebration, perhaps a mini-getaway, and finally, we are so excited to celebrate Halloween in our new neighborhood.  The neighbors are already throwing up spooky Halloween d├ęcor and I am stocking up on Halloween candy… for the kids, of course.  Not for me to eat all throughout October…  And did I mention the awesome DIY Halloween costume I am dreaming up?  I’ll save that surprise for later.

OK, if you made it this far into my random post, you are in for a TREAT!  (and I really didn’t even mean to make a Halloween reference)

Tom and I are so excited to announce…. that we will be welcoming our little “pumpkin” in April 2014!

 I promise I will post again soon to answer all the “FAQ” we have been receiving about Baby Cooper!


Until next time, enjoy your October!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Belize, Belize, Home on the Caribbean Sea

I recently spent time in Belize City, Belize through a program with my employer. And what an incredible trip it was! Every summer since 2008, PwC has partnered with an organization called Peacework to put on a week long summer camp in Belize City to teach middle/high school students about financial literacy. The program has grown over the years, and this year we sent over 400 PwC staff and interns over a two-week period. There are several different tracks in the program ranging from teaching kids to teaching teachers to mentoring PwC scholarship recipients.

A few facts on Belize City:
- population of 75,000 (which is a quarter of the total population of Belize)

- 40% of population is under age 15

- English is the official language, but Kriol and Spanish are often spoken too

- students must pay tuition to go to high school, and as a result only three quarters of students go on to attend secondary schools. Of those students, less than one half graduate.
 My Trip:
- when we arrived on Sunday afternoon, we split up by school (we taught at about 8 different schools) and had a chance to meet our co-instructors from across the country and get organized for the week

- bright and early on Monday morning, we boarded big yellow school buses and headed to our schools. My school was James Garbutt Primary School, and (like most other schools) it did not have air conditioning. It was SO miserably hot. The air pretty much always feels like when you shower and forget to turn on the vent. My co-instructor, Caroline (an intern from Alabama), and I had a class of about 10 students ranging from age 8 to 13. The kids were adorable but the day felt a bit unorganized and crazy. I left on Monday afternoon feeling a bit frustrated and disappointed, like we weren't really connecting with the kids. But we had been warned the day before that we would likely feel this way on Day 1 so I tried not to let it get to me. We all went out to dinner then headed back to our hotels to review our lesson plans for Day 2.
- Once again, we boarded the big yellow buses on Tuesday morning for another fun-filled day of teaching! Caroline and I were happy to see that our students actually remembered most of the vocabulary words from the day before, and Day 2 went very smoothly. Our classroom really got into a groove and it was a great day! We taught them about saving, budgeting, entrepreneurship, leadership skills, planning for their future etc. and they were so eager to learn! On Tuesday evening, we attended a recognition ceremony to celebrate the first class of graduating PwC scholarship recipients.
- Day 3 was our final day at the schools. We started the day with a few more lessons, and ended the afternoon with a "business fair" where students could showcase the [imaginary] businesses they had created during the week. The students were awarded medals and we celebrated with cupcakes! We had been there just a short time, but it felt like much longer and there were lots of tears (from both students and teachers!) when it came time to say goodbye. 
All of us were touched by the trip, and as one PwC partner put it: we went to Belize with intentions of teaching children, but found that, in fact, we were the students and they were the teachers. I left with a much greater appreciation for all of the blessings in my life, and I truly was inspired by my students who had nothing but were joyful about everything.

The toughest moment of my week:
On Day 2, I noticed that the sweet little boy in my class, Brandon, had only eaten a few bites of his lunch (we had lunch catered in every day, generally rice and beans with some sort of mystery meat, that sat in boxes in our classroom for at least an hour before lunch and goodness knows how long before they got to our school). I asked him if he didn't like his lunch, and he said that he was saving it to take home to his Aunt. We had been warned that the students might do this, and that we should encourage them to eat their whole lunch and we would provide an extra lunch for them to take home at the end of the day. I did just that, and Brandon scarfed down the rest of his lunch, not leaving a single crumb. On Day 3, I noticed again that Brandon had only had a few bites. I reminded him that he should eat and he could take an extra lunch home. His eyes welled up with tears as he told me that the previous afternoon, he had accidentally left his extra lunch on the sidewalk, and the ants had ruined it so he had nothing to take home to his family. He was adamant that he wanted to save his lunch safely in the comfort of our classroom - and he didn't let it leave his sight the whole rest of the day. My poor sweet Brandon.
The proudest moment of my week: 
On Day 3, we decided to play a review game. We split the class into two groups and asked each group to use their spirals to create 5 review questions to ask the other team and we would keep score on the board. They LOVED this game and went above and beyond the 5 questions we asked them to create. They continued back and forth asking each other questions well beyond the time allotted for this exercise. But it was so rewarding for Caroline and I to see how much they had learned and how excited they were about it. I really couldn't have been more proud of my bright students!

Would I do it again? Absolutely, I'd leave tomorrow if I could!

Would I change anything about the trip? Yes - I would have hugged all of my kids just a few seconds longer when we said goodbye! 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Unpacked Updates

It’s so hard to believe we’ve already been in our new house for a whole month!  The past few weeks in our new city have been a bit of a whirlwind with work starting back up and weddings to attend, but we’re finally unpacked and settled in.
Here’s what we’re loving about our new abode:
1)       Our big back patio with its new ceiling fan (installed by the handyman husband) and set of outdoor furniture.  We even get a nice breeze through the backyard that makes a warm Texas summer evening bearable!

2)       Our stinking adorable suburban neighborhood. A bi-monthly newsletter was delivered to our door - this edition’s newsworthy headline: “Summer is Almost Here – Slow Down and Watch for Kids Playing Outside”.  And we just had to laugh now about a recent incident when we heard a loud *POW* outside and thought, What!? Didn't we moved OUT of gangland!?  We immediately stepped out back and turned on the porch light, at the same time our neighbor did.  “Are your dogs spooked by the fireworks too?”  Oh, haha, right.  Fireworks, not gun shots.  This is the ‘burbs after all.
3)       The Metro Rail.  Our commute has proven to be pretty awful in the mornings, averaging around 45 minutes.  But thank goodness we only live three miles away from the nearest Park & Ride where we can catch the Metro Rail.  It’s a 30 minute [wi-fi enabled] train ride to downtown and it is always an adventure (but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post!).
4)       The doggie door and “pet palace”.  You didn’t think I could make it through this update post without mentioning our sweet pups, did you!?  We let my dad cut a hole in our house.  Exhibit A: 

      But then he installed the beloved doggie door and all was right in the Cooper household. 

       Then we had the shed pet palace installed in backyard.  This cute little thing is complete with its own air conditioner and doggie door too!

  Now if we could only convince the dogs to hang out in there when it’s 100+ degrees outside....

5)       Lowe’s and Home Depot.  Everyday. (or so it seems!)  Tools, lumber, and paint, oh my!  Let us not forget Target, IKEA, and HEB(!!!), too.  HEB tortillas =  mm mmm mmmm.
6)       KGSR 93.3 radio.  Loving the jams on this station, and looking forward to attending one of their Blues on the Green free outdoor concerts this summer.
7)       Decorating!!!  Ok ok, so maybe “we’re” not loving this, but “I” sure am! (“Hey can you help me hang this picture? and move this dresser? and screw in these knobs? and build this 500 piece bookshelf?”)  Here are some of my favorite pieces and places: 

P.S. Have you ever been to a Garden Ridge!?  O.M.G. LOVE.  Also, I PROMISE to pull out my fancy camera and take better pictures some day.
8)       Lunch dates.  Working only 6 blocks away from each other has afforded us a new opportunity to meet up for lunch during our busy weeks.  Our plan?  To meet once every week and check out a new lunch spot.  We’re three dates in and I can’t wait to share our restaurant experiences - but I’ll save that for another post too :)
9)   And finally, our amazing family and friends who have helped us with everything from moving to painting to home repairs and housewarming gifts.  You name it, they've done it!  We really couldn't have done it without you all, and we are so blessed to have your help!
Until next time, keep Austin weird.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Head south on I-35, exit Memory Lane, take a right onto Next Chapter Road

Four score and seven yea  Exactly four years ago today, May 7, 2009, I met young Tom Cooper in College Station, Texas.  Barefoot in Antonio's Pizza at 2am, sat a college kid in a backwards baseball cap and a sun-kissed cutie in a strappy little black dress.  It might have been the warm summer air, the Daisy Dukes drink specials, or maybe it was the smell of pepperoni pizza that brought us together.  Whatever it was, the rest is history!  

And here we sit, May 7, 2013, cozy on the couch, sporting wedding bands, back from a long day trip to Austin.  The previous home owner leased back from us for 2 weeks, so today was our very first day in our very first house.  Like a Home Depot commercial, we spent the afternoon wandering the aisles of painting supplies, door knobs, and water hoses, with orange apron helpers there to advise us along the way.  We brought down our measuring tape and kitchen table (thank you, Mary!), along with a couple boxes labelled 'Kitchen'.  And we left with oodles of ideas for making this house our home.  

We are headed down again this weekend, 'honey do list' in hand, for adventures in home improvement.  Thank goodness for my wonderful parents who have graciously offered to help us tackle our first projects - power washing, painting, and installing a new back door!  Before and Afters to come soon :)

Here are a few high quality iPhone photos Tom and I snapped today: