16 Weeks Pregnant

16 weeks 600This week I started documenting this pregnancy in photos. To be fair, up until this point, there was nothing really to see. In the past week though, it feels like I finally have a tiny bump. I plan to do regular photos in this same outfit throughout the pregnancy (à la these fine ladies)… though I’m now questioning the wisdom of a white-and-black shirt against a grey wall. Alas. That shirt is one of my first maternity clothing items and I’m excited to see it stretch out as the baby grows!

This mini photo-shoot did mean putting on make-up on a day I’d otherwise not have. Working from home is not very fancy.

I am so tired. I’ve also eaten my weight in trail mix (but not the almonds. I pick those out). Baby Swyter must be having a growth spurt of some kind.

All the baby books promise some mystical subsiding of “negative” pregnancy symptoms and resurgence of energy in the much-fabled second trimester. I seem to be gestating this babe backwards as I felt completely fine throughout the first trimester* and now, bam! I could curl up and sleep on the floor right now.

Current concerns:

  • Where will this baby sleep? We have two bedrooms and currently, the second bedroom is my office. It’s the obvious choice for a nursery but I’m hesitant to give up the office space. Working for yourself can be all-consuming and the thought of seeing my computer out in the living room when I’m done working for the day gives me hives. We still have some time – I believe babies are supposed to “room in” with their parents for awhile and then we could have some office/nursery hybrid?
  • Where will the cats sleep if the baby sleeps in our room? Odie will be very disappointed if he is kicked out of the bed.
  • Should we cloth diaper? I vacillate between “yes definitely!” and “are you insane?”

Perhaps these concerns will completely fade away when we have a tiny human living with us. In that case, all the more reason for me to document them now so I can look back at this in a year and laugh.

* Don’t hate me, it completely freaked me out. There are way too many studies indicating that nausea is a “good sign” that your pregnancy is progressing well so the fact that I felt nothing for three months was the cause of much angst. I’ve never wanted to throw up so badly in my life.

Book Report: May 2015

book report headerMay was a big month for reading. I suppose that’s what happens when tax season is over.

Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman

As a newly-pregnant Francophile, this book was high on my list. It was so interesting to read about early education in France. I read certain parts about sleep training aloud to Will as I plan to (attempt to) implement it early next year.

Empress Orchid by Anchee Min

I’ve read Min’s memoir, Red Azalea, so I knew she did a great job opening China up to the Western reader. I love her descriptions of a world that is so foreign to me in more ways that one. In this book, we meet Orchid, one of the Emperor’s many concubines in a battle with his court, his mother, and other ladies in the temple to produce an heir and secure a future. China from 1850 to 1950 is also a growing area of interest for my mother and I and we share books about this subject (Gail Tsukiyama being another favorite author of ours).

When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa by Peter Godwin

In the past few years, I’ve been reading a lot of books about South Africa the former protectorates of Northern and Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe and Zambia). Godwin’s book appealed to me immediately as he writes of his childhood in Rhodesia and the secret that brought his family there. I thought I knew from the outset what the secret would be and I was completely wrong. I love being wrong. I will seek out the rest of Godwin’s work on this area of the world.

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

I’ve long been a fan of Kingsolver so I’d picked up the sequel to this book, Pigs in Heaven, years ago when I saw it at a used book store. Thus, I knew going into this book that I liked the characters and was excited to read about their first years together knowing about events that transpired later in their lives. Kingsolver has yet to let me down. Her stories are engaging and her language is magic.

More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity by Jeff Shinabarger

This book was a quick read. I’ve long agreed with the general premise as purging clothes from my closet and items from my shelves has long been a point of extreme pleasure for me. The book is categorized as being “religious” by some reviewers as Shinabarger definitely calls on examples and motivations from his faith, but I’d argue he presents all arguments in a secular manner.

How to Be Parisian Wherever you Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits by Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline De Maigret, and Sophie Mas

Ugh. You got me Berest et al. You put “Paris” on the cover and you lured me in like a gnat to a bug light. My experience was similarly unpleasant.

Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong – and What You Really Need to Know by Emily Oster

In all honesty, I read this book to confirm something I’d already decided – that deli meat was OK while pregnant if you heat it up in the microwave for a little bit to “zap” the listeria. That said, beyond the Chipolte Chicken breast I will continue to enjoy each noon, I really liked reading Oster’s approach to making decisions. She’s an economist and, as an accountant, I felt a connection to the logic and the desire to let logic trump hysteria at a time that can be very trying for even the most logical. I’d recommend this book to all pregnant friends struggling to decide on various elements of their pregnancy and childbirth.

Our Next Big Adventure

December 2015

This is the most exciting time – not just that we are pregnant, but that it’s no longer a secret! I held it in until 12 weeks to tell family and then we announced to the world (that’s what posting something on Facebook is, right, an announcement to the world?) at 13 weeks.

And now we wait while Baby Swyter bakes.

Currently: May 2015

Chicago Skyline from Art Institute

(Photo from Misericordia’s Artist in All event at the Art Institute. My family goes every year.)

Listening… to StartUp. I’ve mentioned this podcast before – it’s a series chronicling the beginnings of a company. The first season covered the start of the podcast company (meta!) and this season is following the development of a dating company.  Now they’ve really got me hooked – there’s the start-up business element combined with a behind-the-scenes look at online dating. Will and I met online, so I find myself nodding empathetically with many of the issues from both the business side and the “why is it so hard to meet someone?” side.

Eating… hard-boiled eggs. So many hard-boiled eggs. They’re actually steamed, and they are so easy to make that they’ve become a staple snack.

Reading… the archives of Ask A Manager. It is so full of good advice that since “discovering” it about a week ago I’ve already recommended it to people with business questions. Also, it is really fun to read about crazy bosses and people who have no clue how to behave in public.

Anticipating… more long summer walks as the weather improves!

Honeymoon Posts – Better Late Than Never?

Yes, the honeymoon was about two years ago at this point. I promise I’m not sitting around in my wedding dress pining for my days as a new bride. However, this blog was originally intended as a scrapbook of sorts for me and I already had all the photos prepped and uploaded so I decided to publish the remaining posts. For the sake of some chronological order, I backdated the new posts so they fit in with the other previously-posted stories about the trip.

Bruges somehow got skipped. I did London and then went straight to Ghent, even through we didn’t.

After that, my blogging petered out after I published the post on Brussels (two cities after Bruges) so I picked up there and added Amsterdam and Paris (including Wandering,  The Promenade Plantée and My Old Apartment, Bridges, and Montmartre).


Garfield Park Conservatory

Remember how I said I had a Mom-and-Daughters Activity planned for my birthday? I wanted to visit Garfield Park Conservatory as it’s been on my list for awhile but I never seem to get out there.

Garfield Park Conservatory - Title

My mom, sister, and I met up there on the first Saturday in May. The timing was perfect as the flowers outside are starting to bloom and the greenhouses are all reopened after all the damage they incurred after a hailstorm a few years back.

I dreaded uploading these photos. Let me explain.

In December, I went to the optometrist. I suspected that, after several years at the same prescription, it was time for an upgrade. The doctor didn’t completely agree and bumped up the prescription in my left eye slightly and told me that my eyes were fine, the prescription was as good as things were going to get (and maybe I should take some vitamins as she was some kind of vitamin-affiliate). I was… frustrated. Then it was tax time so I didn’t bother to order new contacts. Sure, the left eye didn’t see very well but together with my right eye … it was OK. Yes, I know how silly I sound.


So, my left eye doesn’t work as well as my right.* Now we are at the Garfield Park Conservatory with my “good camera” – a DSLR I hold up to my left eye to shoot with. I could use the screen  on the back instead, but I prefer holding it to my eye. I’m blissfully taking pictures throughout our visit without paying much attention to the results as I go. Later, I sit down to view them on the screen. Some are QUITE blurry. I’m confused.

Cactus Room

Slowly it dawns on me – I’d been holding the camera up to my bad eye, focusing, and taking the photo. While it looked perfect to me (focused with the bad eye) looking at the result with both eyes was notably out of focus. I decided to let the photos sit on the camera for a week or so before uploading. I don’t know how this was going to fix them, but avoidance made me feel a little better.


And then when I uploaded many photos were fine so really, that dramatic backstory was for nothing.

We had a great time walking around – I had no idea how big the Conservatory was – and discussing, amongst other things, the potential name for the newly-born Princess of Cambridge. I believe we picked Anne and Alice so no points for us. I loved the fern room (below) but others loved how so many of the cactii in the cactus room were in bloom.

Fern Room

* I finally ordered new contacts and now I see properly out of both eyes. Good job, Helena.

Book Report: April 2015

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I have so much more time to read now that tax season is over. I read three books in the three days after the fifteenth. It’s so odd to go from 100% work to 100% free time and I’m still adjusting to the change even after three tax seasons solo.

The Lost Years by Mary Higgins Clark

We all know I love Mary Higgins Clark. This one had the promise of a biblical mystery, so double win.

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown

Brene Brown is a shame researcher and her book was very highly recommended to me. Her research fascinates me as I’m very prone to feeling guilty and worrying about what other people think of what I’m doing. I was particularly interested in her chapter on daring greatly and parenting as the idea of providing kids with the tools to handle or even overcome shame is fascinating.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

This book was recommended to me by my friend Theresa (so in reading it I was both assured it would be good and able to check off “a book that someone else recommended to you” on the Read Harder Challenge). I put the book on hold at the library and was about 500th in line. By a stroke of fate the book came available for me on April 15th, so it was the first thing I dug into post tax season.

And oh, it was so good. The protagonist, Rachel, has invented a backstory for two people she sees from her London commuter train each day. As the story goes on, we learn more about them – and how they differ greatly from Rachel’s preconceptions – and about Rachel’s own troubled history. Everyone in the story – like everyone in real life – had conflicting motives and reasoning. I devoured this book.

Becoming Mortal Gods by Michael Heitkemper

This book was self-published (or something along those lines – I googled the publishing house and it appears to be a platform offering a “partnership” of some sort with authors who want to get their stories published). Why would I google the publishing house? This is not something I’ve ever cared about before, but my curiosity won out as I waded through grammar errors. Please know that I’m hardly perfect in this regard myself but I tend to see other people’s errors as though they are glowing neon. I still find errors in books published by “big” houses but not nearly as many as in this book – many homophone errors (there/there, its/it’s), characters worried about “loosing” their jobs, inconsistencies with the spelling of characters’ names (most notably Adolph/Adolf Hitler, a key player in a book with a WWII story woven in). I told Will I was going to correct all the errors with a red pen and mail it back to the author.

This is not meant to be snarky – it’s very hard to read your own errors as your brain tends to read what you meant to say – but because I really liked the story and I felt the errors detracted and may put someone else off finishing. Ha, I just noticed that the one Amazon review says the same thing. I promise I’m not “Nana Annie”.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

Determine what is essential and focus on that, to the exclusion of the fluff that life throws your way, to make your biggest impact in life and business. I love this message. I love shedding the glorification of busy. I read this book in a day because the premise – while solid – was conveyed in what I felt to be a little bit of a repetitive manner. I felt like I “got it” long before the author was willing to accept that I could have. I definitely skimmed towards the end.

Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult is one of those writers I can always depend on when I want a good story. This particular story – in typical Picoult fashion – is told through the eyes of the characters involved. This time, however, while everyone else tells the story in typically linear fashion, we see the daughter’s story told in reverse. Towards the end of the book, I was waiting for events to converge, knowing the fate of certain characters before they did.

Book Report: March 2015

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Ah, tax season.

Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea’s Elite by Suki Kim

I saw Suki Kim on The Daily Show and immediately added her book to my holds list at the library. Seriously, being able to immediately access my holds list and all the ebooks from the Chicago Public Library at all times has completely changed my life. Sometimes I feel like I stumbled here from some other dimension (there are these things called libraries, guys, and all the books are available for free!) but I digress. Ms Kim taught English to college-age children in North Korea and provides an interesting glimpse into a world we rarely see. While the students at the school seem (unsurprisingly) quite brain-washed about their Dear Leader, it did make me stop and think about the things I assume as fact.

I’ve Got You Under My Skin by Mary Higgins Clark

I mentioned my love of MHC in January. I turned to this book for a quick escape from the crazy that is my life at tax time. There are two murders interwoven in this story line, so it moved quickly. While I didn’t find this book as compelling of some of her earlier work, I will likely pick up the subsequent books in the “Under Suspicion” series of which this is a part. MHC is like pizza – even bad MHC is good.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Right after the Oscars, I added this book to my holds list at the library. Yes, that means two books from my holds list came available during tax time (three, technically, but one was abandoned). This book was so, so good. I was heartbroken for Alice and her family as she struggles through the early stages of Alzheimer’s – her entire life, and theirs, by extension, are upended. It was interesting to think about what is left when external things (predominantly the career for which Alice worked very hard) are striped away. I was, at times, infuriated with her husband and his general reactions to her diagnosis, but at the same time, I’m positive this is something I can’t understand without experiencing first hand and all the “well, I’d never do that” in my head is my own ego speaking.

Book Report: February 2015

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Sacrilege by S.J. Parris

This book was #3 in a series about an Italian ex-monk, Giordano Bruno, living in England in the late 1500s. I’ve yet to read the other two, but, like any good series writer, Parris has crafted this book to stand alone while making me want to read the others. In this book, Bruno solves a mystery set in Canterbury. I’ve read a lot about England at this time – the time of the dissolution of the Catholic Church – but this was my first look at a town that previously tied a significant portion of its income (and self-image) to religious pilgrims. The sudden disappearance of that income and prestige would, understandably, cause tension.

Step On a Crack by James Patterson

I have a thing for quick thrillers, especially during tax season. This book book introduces the character Detective Michael Bennett and I will be looking for other books featuring Bennett when I need a break from tax returns.

Inconceivable by Carolyn Savage

The Savages were undergoing a cycle of IVF to grow their family and the lab made a mistake – Carolyn was implanted with another couple’s embryos. It sounds like the stuff of science fiction – the arena of assisted reproduction being ripe for some “what if?” scenarios – but theirs was one of the first well-known errors. They were alerted to the error shortly after implantation, so Carolyn spent the whole pregnancy knowing she wasn’t genetically related to the baby growing inside her. A quick read.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

This book wasn’t really what I expected but, to be fair, I’m not sure what I expected. I still want to read Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.

Citadel by Kate Mosse

When I told Will I was reading this book, he commented that it is a Helena Trifecta – France, WWII, and a bit of a thriller surrounding the whereabouts of an ancient religious text. Indeed. Like Sacrilege above, it’s book three of a series. However, also like Sacrilege, it stands alone. The book follows a ring of female Resistance fighters in the south of France from 1942 – 1944. Woven through their story, we follow a man in the fourth century trying to hid a gnostic codex from the advancing forces of the Roman Catholic Church. I’m definitely going to seek out the other two Mosse books about the Languedoc.

Making Necklaces

Wall of Beads

I’ve mentioned before that my family is big on experiences to celebrate special occasions. In December, my mother, sister, and I painted pottery to celebrate my mother’s birthday. This past weekend, we made necklaces at Beadniks.

I used to live nearby so the three of us have made jewelry in the past. I think my general skill level is improving, but perhaps I’m a poor judge as my sister informed me she gets many compliments when she wears a necklace I made a few years back which – I can state objectively – was horrendous.

All three necklaces on trays

Choosing beads was daunting. They have so many and I was determined to stay away from the same colors I always use. In the end, I went with blue – a color I’ve used before (but perhaps not in this shade?). My sister paired light green and pink and my mother had beads of a similar shade (neutral and pink) but different sizes.

The best part  about making necklaces at Beadniks is that they really do all the heavy lifting. I strung the beads on the flexwire and they did the crimping and wire-wrapping that transformed it from string-of-beads to necklace. It’s nice to know there’s zero possibility that your creation will be a flop.

While we worked, I got ideas for other necklaces I have at home but don’t wear. Sometime after tax season ends I’m going to stop by to rework those beads into new creations.

Oh, and yes – I have ideas on what the three of us will do to celebrate my birthday in April. Secrets!