Friday, February 28, 2014

Well, hello . . .

It's been awhile, has it not?

Here's the thing . . . let's just go ahead and admit that the time of letter writing is dead. And as much as we all love to peruse and sniff the crisp stationary at Paper Source (that's a thing, right?), none of us would actually write a letter! To a person! With stamps! I feel silly even typing such nonsense.

And yet the need to write a bit, share a bit, and relate a bit, that remains.

So hello! Says this timid writer.

And is this still a blog? Er, more like a collection of letters and pictures.

(The pictures will be mostly of this little munch. Because I just can't not. I can't.)

So to kick this new episode off, I thought I'd write a letter to my future self, to let her know what I'm up to now. Because let's not kid ourselves, we ALL know that future Karen is not gonna have to many brain cells left to remember any of this, right? Am I right?!! Oh future Karen, you loser.

Dear Future Karen,

The most important thing is that you are too tired to write letters. So here's a list:

Things you like:

1. Pictures where you look skinny.
(Take it higher!! Stand on the table!!!!)

2. The sound of the garage door opening, because it means James is home (the dogs also love this sound. You guys have a lot in common.)

3. Baby thighs

4. The Van Morrison Pandora Station 

5. Chocolate and Wine- Bonus: antioxidants!!

6. The way the baby's room smells first thing in the morning, when the door opens and a whole night's worth of sweet, baby, dream-breath swirls out and around you.

7. The smile peeking through the crib bars right after you open the door.

8. When the maidenhair ferns you planted grow instead of die.

9. Internet videos of kindness and animals, especially when combined-NATCH!

10. Feeling good. I don't know how else to say it, other than your body is strong, your heart is full, your mind is engaged, and your hands are held.

So here's your list, Future Karen, and it's short, easy-to-read, and complete with pictures and mentions of animals. All you could want in a correspondence!


Like you don't know! It hasn't gotten that bad, right?

Alright, and there you have it. An internet LETTER (now imagine all of this on that crisp, beautiful, paper stationary. Mhhmmm)

Well, there you go. I guess I'm back.

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Heart Of Gratitude

I'm trying to get in a bunch a reading before our sweet baby makes her grand debut. And as much as I would like to just read mystery novels and young adult fiction, I'm trying to fit in a few "self-help" options too.

Since I'm a little burned out on baby advice books these days, I, currently reading a book about marriage. I've got to say that lately James's and my relationship has been pretty solid (it's amazing how retiring from an exhausting job will help). But I thought it wouldn't hurt for a tune up before this little person arrives to rock our world.

Right now I'm reading What's It Like To Be Married To Me? (And Other Dangerous Questions) by Linda Dillow.

The book has lots of very practical advice and examples. Today the author talked about the need to exercise gratitude in our hearts. She was talking about gratitude towards husbands, but the overarching message is to live in a way in which we are always thankful.

She included this great quote:

"I have come to believe that the prayer of praise is the highest form of communion with God, and one that always releases a great deal of power into our lives.  Praising Him is not something we do because we feel good; rather it is an act of obedience. Often the power of praise is done in sheer teeth-gritting willpower; yet when we persist in it, the power of God is released into us and into the situation."
- Merlin Carothers

I'm learning that regardless of the blessings in my life, my first response is usually one of complaint. My life can always be better, and I focus on what is missing and not going my way rather than on the abundance of riches I have.

I want to work on having a thankful heart full of praise. I want my husband to feel my gratitude towards him and the sacrifices he's made for us.
I want to set a good example for my little girl, and help her cultivate a heart of gratitude and satisfaction.

 I could be thankful if I was here. Unless it was cold, or I was bored, or hungry . . . is there wifi?

Linda also talks about the message of Psalms 92:

It is good to praise the Lord
    and make music to your name, O Most High,
proclaiming your love in the morning
    and your faithfulness at night,
to the music of the ten-stringed lyre
    and the melody of the harp.
For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord;
    I sing for joy at what your hands have done.
How great are your works, Lord,
    how profound your thoughts!
Senseless people do not know,
    fools do not understand,
that though the wicked spring up like grass
    and all evildoers flourish,
    they will be destroyed forever.
But you, Lord, are forever exalted.
For surely your enemiesLord,
    surely your enemies will perish;
    all evildoers will be scattered.
10 You have exalted my horn[b] like that of a wild ox;
    fine oils have been poured on me.
11 My eyes have seen the defeat of my adversaries;
    my ears have heard the rout of my wicked foes.
12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
    they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
13 planted in the house of the Lord,
    they will flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They will still bear fruit in old age,
    they will stay fresh and green,
15 proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;
    he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.

I shared this with my sweet friend Lisa, who is at home in the Florida Keys for spring break. Right after she read it, she texted me a picture of her location that perfectly fit with Verse 12-13.

May I someday be as strong and sturdy in my pursuit of a thankful heart!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

What I Know About Being Pregnant (Could Fill A Teaspoon)

Here I am moving into my third trimester, and somedays it still hits me hard that I'm actually pregnant and there will soon be a baby in the house.

I think part of this reason is that since we are building the house, we aren't doing a nursery in the condo. we will have baby girl in a pack n' play in our room until we move into the new house.

So other than researching pediatricians and reading some baby books, there's not a whole lot we are doing in preparation for her arrival. Which is both a relief and stressful all at the same time.

Not me, but the kind of calm, serene (and probably vegan) pregnant person I aspire to be.

I admit that I'm not great at this whole pregnancy thing. Mostly because I . . .

Worry too much! It was such a difficult process for us to get pregnant to begin with, that when it actually happened, I just couldn't believe it. I think on some level I'd convinced myself that we wouldn't, so that when it didn't work out, I wouldn't be disappointed. So from the first time I saw those pink lines on the pregnancy test, I've been afraid that it wasn't going to work out. I also had some spotting in the first few weeks, which was unsettling. So everyday is a battle to let go of worry and trust in God.

Have never done this before. Sometimes I feel that this would all be easier if this was my second pregnancy. But as it is, I tend to worry about every little ache and pain because I've never felt them before. Is the baby kicking enough? I have no other experience to compare it with. What will delivery be like? I don't know! The not knowing is the worst!

Have too much time on my hands. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE not working! Last year was such a nightmare workwise, and I feel so blessed not to have that stress and emotional abuse in addition to being pregnant. And although I try to stay busy, sometimes the day can feel a little too long and a little too quiet. And when things get to quiet, that's when my brain starts going.

Maybe I should learn how to do intricate body paint? It would fill up time AND add some zip to my maternity photo shoot!

But here's what I love about all of this:

1. Getting to tell family and friends the news! And especially those that were there for me through surgery and fertility treatments. The love and joy we get to share with them is priceless.

2. Feeling the baby move. It makes it feel so real when I feel her little punches and kicks. Last night James got to feel her (she usually gets shy whenever anyone else tries to feel), and he mentioned how amazing it is that there is an entirely new and different person living inside of me. Yes it is!

3. Daydreaming about her arrival. One way I've learned to calm my fears is to picture what it will be like to meet her for the first time and hold her. I think about what she will look like and her little sounds and her sweet baby smell. Those thoughts help my worries and get me so excited about meeting her.

And since I'm a newbie, something that has been so helpful has been the advice and encouragement of my friends who've already been down this mysterious and emotional road.
One person I've really leaned on has been my sister-n-law Magen. Magen is a mama of 3, and her wisdom, calm, and reassurance has gotten me through the toughest days of this pregnancy. I am beyond grateful for her!

Magen, this picture is from 2010. I think it's time for another one, don't you think?

And along the way I'd like to think I've discovered a few things to make this transition a bit easier. So allow this newbie to share her few grains of advice:


This book. I've read a few pregnant/new mom books, but none have captured my attention like this one. It's about an American woman who is raising her children in France, when she starts to notice that French parents are raising children much differently, and perhaps a bit better?
The book is a great mixture of advice and personal experience. Even if you don't agree with all she has to say, you will enjoy her witty observations along the way!


This all over your growing belly. I recently got a fabulous prenatal massage from an adorable little blonde who has 7(!) children. And seriously, she could body double for Jennifer Aniston. Now, I'm sure most of that is just good genes and healthy living, but she swore that her lack of stretch marks was thinks to rubbing this all over her belly twice a day. If nothing else, it smells amazing!


Anything from Hatch. I love love love this maternity brand. If you find it a bit pricy, they are having a great sale right now. I have two of their dresses and wear them all the time. Plus, they are so stylish that I should get lots more use of out them even after I have the baby!

So there you go folks. A few thoughts on the miracle of life from this first time preggo. As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts/advice on babies, birthing, and cat-like body paint.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Big Year, Big Changes: Part IV (Last one!)

Home is where the heart is.

So they say . . .

James and I have been living the downtown condo life for almost 6(!) years now. When we were first married, we had a 904 sq ft loft apartment with no doors! That's certainly one way to break in your marriage!

For almost the last 5 years we've been living in a beautiful apartment in the Commerce Towers which is just a short 2 block walk to James's work.

Playing cornhole on the roof is not too shabby. Unless you toss a bag over the side. That causes quite the delay of game.

Here's what I love about living downtown:

1. James being so close! He's able to walk home for lunch most days, and if it's an emergency, it's so easy for him to get here. It cancels out the stress of a commute and allows us to spend much more time together. By far this is the biggest perk and the reason we've stayed downtown for so long.

2. The activities! There are so many shows, festivals, games, and other special occasions happening downtown that we are able to walk to. It's a treat!

3.  How safe I feel. We have 24 hour valet and concierge service in our building, and it's nice to know that someone is always watching over our house.

I am certainly going to miss this.

Here's what's not so great:

1. Missing fresh air! We only have one little window in our place that opens, so if I want to sit outside, I either have to go up to the pool area (where we can't bring Birdie and it's uncomfortably windy and sunny) or venture to a downtown park, which are blocks away. I'd much rather be able to step outside a door in my pj's and cup of coffee and enjoy a private backyard.

2. The homeless issue. Houston has a serious homeless problem. Seriously, just read this.
And while the majority of them are harmless, there are some that make walking around our neighborhood very difficult. There are times when I don't feel safe (even with James) and some that won't take "No" for an answer. There is also an issue with them relieving themselves on and around our building. The thought of pushing a baby carriage around all of this does NOT appeal.

3. Feeling a little isolated. While I love the quiet and safety of our building, sometimes I can feel a bit like Rapunzel in her tower. It's hard for friends to find parking, we don't know anyone else in the building, and it can start to feel a little claustrophobic. And I was worried that would get worse when the baby got here.

If only downtown Houston had a bit more of a Bourbony New Orleans feel to it. Just as dirty, but a little more fun!

So even though there's a lot to love about where we are, James and decided that it was time to leave the metropolis of Houston and move a whopping 7 miles away.

For those of you not familiar with the layout of Houston, it's HUGE!!! There are so many possible places to put down your roots, but we zeroed in on an area called Timbergrove.

It's close enough to downtown but still has the quiet and charm of a traditional neighborhood. Also, James's grandparents have lived there for 50 years and raised all their children in the same house. In fact, one of his aunts will only be about half a mile from us!

Timbergrove is the perfect mix of cute neighborhood, close proximity to downtown, and affordability. We loved it! Unfortunately, it seems that lots of other people love it for the same reason.

I'll never get this guy to leave the loop.

For months, we would stalk the Houston realty website, HAR, and watch as a Timbergrove house would be listed, and then suddenly be pending, sometimes in a matter of days!

I was beginning to wonder if we would ever find what we wanted, when our realtor took us to a lot right before Christmas. The house on the lot was scheduled for demolition and would be replaced by a new build that was exactly what I wanted! Lots of space, plenty of bedrooms, one story, huge kitchen, etc.

The only issue was the price. The price itself was very fair, so there was no wiggle room, but I knew it was more than James wanted to pay.
I spent the next week trying to lay out for him all of the perks of the house. I truly believed that after months of waiting, we found exactly what we were looking for.
But it would be James's decision in the end, so as the weekend before Christmas came and family started arriving, I tried to put it on the backburner so we could enjoy the holidays.

Christmas morning as spent at my brother's house where we had all the Friedmanns in town to celebrate. There was lots of present opening, toy playing, and picture taking.
When it came time for James to give me my gift, I was a bit underwhelmed when he gave me a piece of paper.
But I put on my "oh I love it" smile and opened what I was positive was a pre-natal massage gift certificate.

But low and behold, it was a contract on the new house!!!

Obviously I would've been just as excited about a pre-natal massage. But this was still pretty cool.

And so here we are 2 months later picking out brick colors and kitchen appliances as we wait for our house to be built.
It won't be ready til after baby comes, so she will spend the first month or so in a laundry basket, but it will be worth it once we get in!

Right now we just have a large hole in the ground, but I'll keep y'all posted as the house comes together.

So what does that sound of bulldozers and saws mean, dear neighbor?? The Chenos are coming!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Big Year, Big Changes Part III: Puppy Love

As hard as last week's post was to write, I'm glad to move on to something a little lighter. 6 lbs lighter to be exact.

And let me preface by saying that after Walton passed, we knew we would get another dog. We are hardcore dog people and can't enjoy our home without one. But we certainly didn't think it would happen so fast!

In fact, our original plan was to wait until after the baby was born. We would have a few months just the two of us. No barking, no messes, no walks, no kibble. But it was also a few months of no cuddles, no pets, no wagging tails. It was no fun.

Also, I really don't have that much going on right now. This is the season where I have extra time for training and what not. It certainly won't be after the baby comes!

So were we crazy to get a new pup 6 months before the baby arrives? Absolutely! But it was also crazy love at first sight!

May I introduce you to Birdie:

Here she is when we first got her at 2 months old. I mean, how were we NOT going to adopt her? I would've gotten 10 of her (Bridesmaids style). But fortunately for our sanity, there was only one Birdie!

As cute as she was and is, I certainly had forgotten how much work puppies are! There's the complete lack of potty training, the chewing, the crying at night, and when you are already slow thanks to the human growing inside of you, it can be a lot to try and keep up with a little fluff of a tornado.

Thanks goodness she was so cute!

And is doesn't hurt that she was pocket-sized and loved to cuddle with anything with a heartbeat. So here we are 2 months later totally in love with this little elf.

And let me just say that in no way does she replace Walton. We still think about our sweet guy all the time and often remark how much we would like to see him playing with Birdie.

Also, let me get on my soapbox for a moment for pet adoption. We found Birdie through a fabulous organization called Pup Squad which works tirelessly to rescue puppies and mama dogs from the streets and find them homes.

Please please please please, if you are thinking about getting a dog, consider rescuing one. Birdie's litter was abandoned in a cardboard box when they were 6 weeks old.
If it hadn't been for the great folks at pup squad, it's pretty likely they wouldn't have survived and we'd have never met our little girl.

Everyone wins when you adopt! Click here for more info on Pup Squad.

And not to say that it's all been a joy. There are a few times I've wondered if we were sniffing glue when we decided to get her, like when she decided to redecorate the house while we were out:

She was so proud of herself when we got back, I didn't have the heart to yell at her. Besides, good training for messy children, right?

But other than a few messes and sleepless nights of pitiful howling coming from her kennel, we've all enjoyed being a family of 3 again and can't wait to baby to get in on the action!  I mean, is there anything better than puppies and babies?!

So out of all the heartache over Walton, it's a lovely silver lining to have this furry face to wake up to now. We love you little bird!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Big Year Big Changes Part II: Saying Goodbye

This is a hard post to write. In fact, it's the reason I've been so absent lately. I knew I needed to write about this, but I've been so sad that I haven't been able to. But here goes . . .

The last week of November, we lost our sweet Walton dog.

And no, it didn't have anything to do with his eye. In fact, he had completely recovered from that and we thought that chapter totally over.

What happened is that we were dog sitting for some friends who were out of town. Every morning and evening I would head over to their townhouse to walk their sweet bulldog Gus, and I would bring Walton so they could play together.

After our walk, I would often leave Walton at their house so the dogs could play together and then come back around 6 or 7 for an evening walk. It was a great arrangement!

The day before our friends were due to come back, I got a call that afternoon from an arson investigator.

There was a fire at the townhouse, and both dogs were dead.

I can't even begin to describe how this hit me. I went into shock. James picked me up and drove over to the wet, smoking remains of the townhouse.

Outside, under a dirty piece of carpet, were two little lifeless lumps.

It seemed like the world suddenly became this gray, small, terrible place, and all I could feel was an ache that started in my heart and went up to the top of my head.

Even worse, our poor friends had to fly home the next day to say goodbye to their sweet dog and start going through their burned house and possessions.

It's now been almost 3 months since the day we lost our Walton, and here are the blessings I've been able to pull out of the tragedy:

1. No people were hurt in the fire and it didn't spread to other homes.

2. The dogs did not suffer. The carbon monoxide would've put them to sleep before they would've known what was going on.

3. The fire was a freak accident, and as guilty as James and I feel about not having saved the dogs, we take comfort in knowing we didn't do anything to have started it.

4. Our sweet friends have been able to move into a beautiful new home and between insurance and restoration, were able to replace most of the items they lost.

5. Our friends and family were so supportive of us. Some friends even donated to have a memorial brick donated in Walton's memory at the SPCA.

Walton was far from perfect. He barked at everything, he never was fully potty trained, he was stubborn and would snap at people sometimes and I'm pretty sure he sometimes peed on our bed out of spite.

But we loved him. He was a sweet, funny boy full of energy. My one regret is that I so often was yelling at him or disciplining him when he was being naughty, which was often!

I wish I spent more time letting him know what a good boy he was, and how much I loved him. He was such a mess, but he was our mess.

There are still times when I miss him so much. I'll find a collar under my car seat, or I'll see a naughty little dog at the park, and all of a sudden the ache to see Walton makes my heart hurt again.

But I am so grateful we had 6 years with him. He was such a unique little guy and it seems everyone has a "Walton story" about some crazy thing he did. I wish our little girl would've gotten to meet him (although I doubt Walton would share that sentiment!).

So precious Walton, wherever you are, and I believe it's in a big green meadow with lots of other dogs to chase, I hope you know we love you and we miss you.

You're a good boy.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Big Year, Big Changes: Part I- Oh Baby!

So it's been a couple of months. So sorry about that! But as most of you know, I've been busy growing a human lately. That's right, James and I have a little one on the way! I'm currently 25 weeks (6ish months) along, and our baby is due around May 27th.

Here we are at about 20 weeks. Am I glowing yet? I'm certainly bloating at least!

We found out we were expecting at the beginning of September, and managed to keep it a secret til about Christmas. We also planned to not find out the gender, but we caved and found out it's a:

GIRL!!! We are over the moon! We truly thought it was a boy for some reason, so when we found out she's a she, we were ecstatic!

Here's our little flower girl as of 24 weeks. She was not interested in having her picture taken, but you can see one chubby cheek as well as a cute hand and fingers:

I know, these used to freak me out before I was preggo, so I'm not offended if you find her a little weird to look it, but I can stop staring. I just can't wait to meet her.

There have been two other big life changes lately that I plan to write about, but this little one is obviously the most important. 

Later I'm going to share my thoughts on pregnancy, but since those are not quite as uplifting (it's basically like being trapped at a TJ Maxx after just receiving a colonoscopy), let's just let this little post end on a happy note for now. We are truly blessed to be on this crazy ride, and we do appreciate it so much after what we've been through. It's hard to believe just this time last year we weren't sure if we would be able to have kids, and now I can feel her kicking away as I write this! 

We love you baby!