2014 in review

We are a little bit late on our 2014 year in review post. I've never liked year in review posts that come before the year is up. How can you declare this the "10 most shocking deaths of 2014" or "6 biggest news stories of 2014" with a week left in the year? It's practically daring something to happen. But I meander off topic. Also I am writing about the same time I got last year's post up. Glad I'm predictable. (Please note that I in this post = Elizabeth, Mom = Cleta, Elizabeth's mom and Dad = Ray, Elizabeth's Dad. Everyone else gets first names.)
It's a girl! And a lovely cake made by Elizabeth

It's a girl! And a lovely cake made by Elizabeth

2014 was a HUGE year for us. We toasted in the New Year expecting our first child and overjoyed about it. Shortly into January we found out we were expecting a little girl. We celebrated by having a gender reveal cake at Sunday dinner. Because cake is awesome and any excuse for cake is a good one In February we took are delayed honeymoon, now a babymoon, to Hawaii. We stayed on the island of Maui, relaxed on the beach, went snorkeling, drove the Hana highway, and had an amazing time. There were a few things I couldn't do being pregnant (eat sushi, drink fruity cocktails, and zipline), but a lot of fun things we did do. One of them was going to Warren and Annabelle's magic show. That was fantastic - we recommend it! And by then we had decided to name our daughter Annabelle. David has a grandmother Anna and a grandmother Angeline Ann and I had a grandmother Dorotha Belle.
Hawaii, February 2014. Black sand beach along the Hana Highway.

Hawaii, February 2014. Black sand beach along the Hana Highway.

Maui, Hawaii. February 2014. Driving the Hana Highway. That was an amazing drive, hair raising, but beautiful.

Maui, Hawaii. February 2014. Driving the Hana Highway. That was an amazing drive, hair raising, but beautiful.

The office nook before it became a nursery.

The office nook before it became a nursery.

When we got home, it was time to start seriously preparing for the baby. We were turning an office into a nursery. It involved tearing out a built in desk, some drywall, moving outlets and light switches, framing in a door, redrywalling much of the whole thing, painting, etc.
My favorite part of the renovation was collecting paint samples. I wanted a gray that was mostly just gray not blue-gray or green-gray. Eventually I just had to  choose one.

My favorite part of the renovation was collecting paint samples. I wanted a gray that was mostly just gray not blue-gray or green-gray. Eventually I just had to choose one.

And there was a little bit of project scope creep. As long as we were going to all this work, we decided to redo the floors with laminate hardwood from Costco. We love it, but it did make the project take a bit longer. Especially because we did most of the top floor. End result is awesome though. Fortunately we had lots of help. You can see the end result of the nursery here.
David, Matthew, and Chris work on the flooring in the living room

David, Matthew, and Chris work on the flooring in the living room

Me at the Chihuly glass garden in Seattle, WA. March 2014

Me at the Chihuly glass garden in Seattle, WA. March 2014

In March I took a trip to visit my sister in Seattle. We hung out, went shopping, saw the Chihuly museum and just had some fun in my last days without the baby. After the March trip it was all about getting ready for our baby, getting house, work, and life ready.
A lovely family at our baby shower.

A lovely family at our baby shower.

And the on June 17, 1 day before her due date and 2 days before my birthday Annabelle was born. The full story is here.
And now there are three. The happiest I've ever been. From the set of photos after I brushed my hair.

And now there are three. The happiest I've ever been. From the set of photos after I brushed my hair.

Since June life has been all about the baby. We barely learn one survival technique and then another thing pops up. But every moment is amazing, a blessing. David was just saying that he can not imagine our lives without her.
An extended family at the state fair. Back row (l to r) Margaret, Cleta, David. Front row Elizabeth, Ray, Matthew holding Annabelle

An extended family at the state fair. Back row (l to r) Margaret, Cleta, David. Front row Elizabeth, Ray, Matthew holding Annabelle

I took nearly three months of maternity leave and went back to work after labor day. My parents came up to meet Annabelle and spend some time with us the week before that. I went back to work the day after Labor Day. Dad (Ray) flew home and Mom (Cleta) stayed here. Please note a lot of this stuff has been blogged about before and I'm trying not to show too many repeat photos.
I've got a pink Royals baby outfit and a blue bow. Ready for some baseball!

I've got a pink Royals baby outfit and a blue bow. Ready for some baseball!

Now all along Mom had said she wanted to come out when I went back to work, especially since our permanent sitter was having a fall baby and needed some time to recover before taking in Annabelle. However she also said that if the Royals went to the post-season baseball (mom and dad are season ticket holders), she was flying back for that. Dave and I thought it was hilarious. We told the funny funny story all over town. Well in September they were in contention and Mom flew back to Kansas City. She thought she was going back just for the Wild Card game. That was what her ticket was booked for. She had to change that ticket FOUR times and the Royals went to the World Series. (They lost in a super tight game that broke our hearts.) October was a lot of piecing together various people as babysitters, really stressful, but it all worked out.
Children's literature halloween! I'm the Pigeon (from Mo Willems books) and Annabelle is the Very Hungry Caterpillar

Children's literature halloween! I'm the Pigeon (from Mo Willems books) and Annabelle is the Very Hungry Caterpillar

Mom did make it back in time for Halloween which was good since she had part of Annabelle's costume. See the full costume here. Since she had abandoned us for an entire month, Mom decided to stay through Thanksgiving. Dad was always going to come up for the last week of her visit. And since my parents would be here, my siblings decided to come up for Thanksgiving and meet Annabelle. It was awesome to have everyone together for Thanksgiving. More about the holidays here.
Dude, who are you? Santa and Annabelle

Dude, who are you? Santa and Annabelle

After Thanksgiving, Annabelle started going to her permanent sitter, our good friend Hilary who keeps Annabelle with her own two kids. They go on play dates and outings and do fun activities. We could not ask for a better child care situation. For Christmas we got to include Annabelle in some of our favorite activities, like going to Girdwood for David's company Christmas party, and we got to do some new ones like Santa. (More in that post linked above). I know holidays will be even more fun when she is old enough to understand and appreciate it, but we are savoring every moment.
Merrry Christmas from the Nicolai+ clan

Merrry Christmas from the Nicolai+ clan

In one year we have gone from barely could tell I was pregnant to having a six month old baby who can sit up on her own, eat finger foods (baby led weaning), babble, smile, laugh, and holds our hearts. Oh and news that isn't about the baby? We never got the trim up in the renovation so we still need to do that, summer 2016. David is still at Coffman Engineers and I am still the Youth Services Coordinator at Anchorage Public Library. We sold my Jeep right before year end and bought a new 3 row SUV to better hold more family members. Kinda sad because I bought that SUV to bring me up to Alaska and adventure 7 years ago, but it was the right time.
She can eat real food with her fingers now. It's pretty amazing. 2015 should be an incredible adventure.

She can eat real food with her fingers now. It's pretty amazing. 2015 should be an incredible adventure.

Annabelle’s first holidays

I made a Thanksgiving tutu for Annabelle. We may have to make that a tradition. I think it helped her balance since sitting was still knew and hard at that point.

I made a Thanksgiving tutu for Annabelle. We may have to make that a tradition. I think it helped her balance since sitting was still knew and hard at that point.

Here are photos, with some limited captions, for Annabelle's first holidays. For Thanksgiving we were blessed to have all of my family join us from the Lower 48. Mom and Dad stayed extra because of the leaving for a month for the World Series so Susan, Jonathan, and John decided to join us.
Annabelle, me (Elizabeth), and her young Aunt Susan, the first time she had met my siblings.

Annabelle, me (Elizabeth), and her young Aunt Susan, the first time she had met my siblings.

It was the first time my siblings got to meet Annabelle.
Annabelle meets her Uncle John for the first time.

Annabelle meets her Uncle John for the first time.

Moreaus, Holleys, Nicolais, Thanksgiving 2014.

Moreaus, Holleys, Nicolais, Thanksgiving 2014.

It's a baby at a fancy grown up party and a super proud daddy who loves to show her off.

It's a baby at a fancy grown up party and a super proud daddy who loves to show her off.

After Thanksgiving, we went to Alyeska for the Coffman Christmas party (David's employer). Annabelle got to show off her fancy party dress during cocktail hour and then hang out with her babysitter, her Aunt Anya. (Actually I had the stomach flu so I didn't get much more either.) We did get a nice family photo out of the whole thing though.
The Nicolais, all fancy and dressed up, Christmas 2014

The Nicolais, all fancy and dressed up, Christmas 2014

Now we fast forward to Christmas. We didn't want to overwhelm her with gifts when she
Christmas Day I fixed breakfast at home. But Christmas Eve we went out for breakfast. Annabelle wants you to know she is on the nice list.

Christmas Day I fixed breakfast at home. But Christmas Eve we went out for breakfast. Annabelle wants you to know she is on the nice list.

was too little to understand them. So we each bought her one thing that meant something to us. I got her a dolly with a soft body and a rattle in it since when I was six months old at Christmas I got one and it was my favorite toy, my comfort object, for years. David got her duplos since LEGOs and building mean much to him.
Tastes yummy! All toys, all things within my reach go into my mouth.

Tastes yummy! All toys, all things within my reach go into my mouth.

The thing that David really wanted for Christmas was to put our baby in the middle of a giant pile of wrapping paper and let her go to town. We did. She had a blast. There are a million adorable pictures of it. I only shared one. Notice how much better she is sitting now than Thanksgiving. At turkey day, she could only sit for a minute or so without toppling, now she hardly ever topples over.
This is amazing! Do I get to keep it all?

This is amazing! Do I get to keep it all?

There was tons of family, so much food, and presents. We were blessed beyond measure in all of our holidays. Annabelle may not remember her first Christmas, but we will never forget it. And here are a few more pictures to end this entry.
Annabelle and bell lights made by her great-grandmother.

Annabelle and bell lights made by her great-grandmother.

Lights and bells! My favorite things!

Lights and bells! My favorite things!

Love and family. Christmas 2014

Love and family. Christmas 2014

Our family, Christmas 2014

Our family, Christmas 2014

The Nicolai siblings and the next generation.

The Nicolai siblings and the next generation.

Annabelle and Santa got along famously

Annabelle and Santa got along famously

Day 6: Aunt Ellie and a Picnic

On day six of my 100 happy days, Eliana, David's youngest sister, came into town and got to meet Annabelle for the first time.
Aunt Ellie meets her niece Annabelle for the first time.

Aunt Ellie meets her niece Annabelle for the first time.

Then Ellie, Annabelle, and I met David's parents and David downtown on the park strip for a lunch time picnic during Dave's lunch break.
First lunchtime picnic as a family!

First lunchtime picnic as a family!

After lunch was some less than happy times as my car would not start. However instead of being a very expensive repair as we thought (an alternator for example), it was fixed with just a new battery after being towed to an auto repair shop. Still, breastfeeding my crying daughter in the back of a broken car in the middle of downtown as all of my husband's coworkers walked by on their lunch breaks was not my finest hour. The car is slated/budgeted to be replaced in the next year or so, but I am really glad not to have our hand forced by deciding between an expensive repair and an immediate replacement. Not fun, but ultimately a good outcome and therefore a happy.

Day 1 of 100 happy days

The 100 happy days movement challenges people to find and celebrate something happy every day for 100 days. I thought I'd try it and start with this. My husband is man enough to babywear. We went through all the fabric choices until we found one David would wear that I also liked. It's 75, far too hot by Alaskan standards. So far Annabelle is taking after her Dad and her Native heritage and runs on the heat generating side. Babywearing is so far a success except you shouldn't wrap the two hottest people, my two Eskimos, together in wool on a crazy hot day. Still a great walk.

20140703-193641-70601674.jpg

Mommy Baby Selfie

David is really good at taking photos of himself with the baby. I'm not. Thus there are a lot more photos of everyone else but me and Annabelle. So this morning while doing snugly time, I experimented with some selfies.

20140623-181646-65806704.jpg I think the trick is to find a time when I'm not stripped to the waist for feeding and my hair is brushed.

20140623-181747-65867401.jpg Because Annabelle always looks gorgeous and needs no photo prep.

Let’s Go For a Walk

They told us everything was harder with a baby. I didn't understand. Today's goal was to leave the house and go for a walk. It took us forty-five minutes to do that. We were delayed by her first blowout diaper (all over David) and then spit up all over me. But we went out for a walk.

20140621-191339-69219692.jpg We didn't go far, and Annabelle didn't seem impressed but we did it. It felt good for the grown ups too.

20140621-191439-69279270.jpg And we read books at home.

20140621-191610-69370205.jpg

Pregnancy Reflections at 39 Weeks

Look at me! I'm almost ready to pop. Any day now.

Look at me! I'm almost ready to pop. Any day now.

I'm 39 weeks pregnant. The baby will be here sometime in the next week or so. Some days it feels like I've been pregnant for years, other days I can't believe I'll have a baby at home within the next fortnight. We've got houseplants that aren't looking that good and they're letting us keep a baby? (Though the cats are all healthy so there is that going for us.) Note I haven't blogged a ton (or really at all for six months) so this is going to be long. Pregnancy is such a weird journey and I've been trying to sort out my (extremely hormonal) thoughts for the last 10 months. Oh hey, did you know that pregnancy lasts 10 months (40 weeks) not 9? It's a giant cultural lie. Technically two of those weeks are before conception since they count from last menstrual period, but if you have been actively trying (and living by pregnancy rules and diet) before then, it certainly feels like you're pregnant a year or more.
This is where I started, mostly. 10 weeks along.

This is where I started, mostly. 10 weeks along.

Until we started trying to get pregnant and I read articles, books, got an iPhone app, etc., I didn't know how much I didn't know about my own reproductive system. I'm smart, well informed; I passed health class. (Kinda, I did this gifted kid thing where I tested out of health class, but the state of Kansas declared it good enough for high school graduation.) I vaguely understood the basics, but was woefully ignorant about a lot of the specifics. There's a feminist rant in here about the issues with sex education  in our country, but my mom gave me a copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves when I was a teen, I just never read it all the way. Though having worked with teens and the public, I know that lack of knowledge about reproductive issues is widespread.
When we found out we were having a little girl, we announced to David's family at (regulary scheduled) Sunday dinner. Not a full gender reveal party, but we did have a gender reveal ice cream cake. Who can resist cake?

When we found out we were having a little girl, we announced to David's family at (regulary scheduled) Sunday dinner. Not a full gender reveal party, but we did have a gender reveal ice cream cake. Who can resist cake?

For the first few weeks, pregnancy is like a fantastic secret. Well David and I weren't great about keeping the secret and told family and a couple of friends. We alternated between elated and scared and throwing up, but that last one was mostly just me. The first time I threw up a part of me was happy. I was in the pregnant women get sick club! Just like on TV! My body was doing this thing and here was tangible proof. That feeling only lasted about 30 seconds. The vomiting lasted longer. The nausea lasted for months. Pregnancy symptom wise, I have had about an average pregnancy. Nothing horrible and terrible and I feel bad complaining since I have had friends who have gone through so much worse. There was about a month when all I could keep down were plain grains, and raw veggies. David remembers that month as nothing but quinoa and broccoli. I also interviewed for a job when I was 11 weeks pregnant praying the entire time that I didn't throw up in the middle of the interview. (I didn't. I got the job. I'm now the Youth Services Coordinator for Anchorage Public Library.) The constant nausea subsided to only a few times a day by about week 16 (not at the end of the first trimester as I was promised) and the last time I threw up was week 19.
Here I am at 20 weeks. My bump popped out!

Here I am at 20 weeks. My bump popped out!

Weight gain was weird because I could see the difference long before anyone else. Of course I was one of only two people seeing myself naked. I'm not a small person, but I've always carried my weight in my hips and for the first time in my life my stomach was bulging out. Until it started obviously looking like a baby bump it bugged me a lot more than I thought it would. I've never thought of myself as a vain person, so that was a huge surprise to be that irritated by it. I felt a lot better when I crossed the line from "looking extra chubby" to "looking pregnant". That was week 19 for me. Week 18 all my pants fit (some with the belly band or elastic stretcher trick) and week 19 none of them did. I just popped out. That was also when I got my first comment in public from a stranger about pregnancy. And comments about pregnancy from the public, from family, from friends. There are so many.
I tried to take those weekly bump pictures with the same shirt on, but I only got it done about once a month. This is David and I on our delayed honeymoon/babymoon to Hawaii in February. I'm about 22 weeks pregnant.

I tried to take those weekly bump pictures with the same shirt on, but I only got it done about once a month. This is David and I on our delayed honeymoon/babymoon to Hawaii in February. I'm about 22 weeks pregnant.

When you become pregnant, your body becomes part of the public record, public discussion, and public concern in a way that is unprecedented in my life. I had always somewhat agreed with the argument that when a woman is pregnant, her body is not just hers anymore. And I believe that because for all this time I have made decisions that I thought were in the best interest of the child, not just mine. Yet, I was completely unprepared for how incredibly disenfranchised I would feel. Everyone from strangers to casual acquaintances would ask personal questions about our medical decisions. I've heard every lecture on every spectrum, from how we should only do natural childbirth through to how anything less than a full hospital team was criminally negligent. I've gotten bad looks when I bought a latte (half-caf, my allowed cup of the day) or hung out (drinking water) on a bar's porch with friends. Even well meaning family members (whom I adore and love) would send me articles about the latest studies that you should definitely be doing x, y, and not z for your baby. The family members got forgiven immediately because I know they love me, love the child, and want to help.
30 weeks along. I really thought I couldn't get much bigger; Ha!

30 weeks along. I really thought I couldn't get much bigger; Ha!

But I've read the studies. I've read all of them. You can drive yourself crazy with research and worry. The best advice I got was: do some research, make a choice you think is best, and relax and turn off the internet. There were times when I wanted to scream at people, this is MY body, MY baby, and MY choices. Unless you helped make it or I've sought your opinion in your medical office, you don't get an opinion on how I'm nurturing it in utero. So far I haven't actually flipped out at anyone, but it has given me a heightened feminist awareness of the amount of commentary and control our society feels it has the right to dictate and impose upon pregnant women. (And please don't get me started on the state senator who during my pregnancy started making noise about involuntarily committing women who drink during pregnancy.) For months I have a very visible sign that THIS BABY was inside me and that gave the public the right to control or at least comment and lecture upon what I did or did not do with my body. I'm an intelligent woman and I like to feel a highly functioning and contributing member of society. I've been trusted with public money and budgets, grant moneys, staff to manage, a driver's license, a mortgage and a thousand other markers of adult responsibility. Why can we not also trust that I can do this thing and make the choices to grow a healthy baby? And yet I know this is just beginning. For the next 18+ years people will tell me what I am doing wrong as a parent. I suppose eventually that will rankle as well. But for now it is the involuntary loss of my bodily integrity that frustrates me. No one asked if I wanted to become a constant object of public speculation, commentary, and attempted interference. I never ceded my rights to live as an adult and I only ask for those to be respected.
Opening a box from my mom at our baby shower. That doll was my most beloved toy and special friend when I was a little one. Seeing it gave me all the FEELS.

Opening a box from my mom at our baby shower. That doll was my most beloved toy and special friend when I was a little one. Seeing it gave me all the FEELS.

Some people tell you how much they miss being pregnant. I'm not going to miss the swelling, the constant peeing, the back aches, but I will miss some parts. This is the last time in her life when I will know exactly where Annabelle is and if she is safe at all times. I will also miss the kind and friendly smiles, approving looks, and cheerful comments from all the people you meet. Because I'm a children's librarian and a great deal of the people I interact with daily are themselves parents, many with very young children or buns in the oven, I get lots of cheerful encouragement. Mostly it is fantastic and heartwarming,
My fantastic and supportive inlaws at our baby celebration. We did a coed baby celebration and had a lovely time.

My fantastic and supportive inlaws at our baby celebration. We did a coed baby celebration and had a lovely time.

occasionally after the 7th inquiry about my pregnant while on the reference desk for only 2 hours, I get a bit tired about talking about it. However I also feel as though I'm being warmly and enthusiastically welcomed into a club. The joy and happiness our friends and community have felt and expressed for David and me have overwhelmed us. When we announced our pregnancy, almost without fail people told me what an amazing father David will be. And he will be; that's why I chose him. These months have left me feeling incredibly blessed and thankful for the family, friends, and community of love and support we have here and nation-wide. I can't imagine a better environment to bring a child into. She will be loved and celebrated by so many and as new parents we feel we have so many resources and so much emotional and social support. It may take a village to raise a child, but it also takes that village to help lay a foundation and lift up the parents. And we have the best village in the world. I think we're ready. We think we're ready, but we know that is laughable as you can't ever really anticipate how much your life will change. The nursery is done (I'll show pictures this weekend and talk about that process), the laundry is washed, folded, sorted, and put away. The crib and co-sleeper have sheets on them and are awaiting a child. I've still got some stuff to do at work, but I am trying to have it so I can walk away at any moment. We met with our medical professional today and she said at 39 weeks the baby has dropped and we are ready to go any day now. Bring on the new adventure.