Year of Change

Hello, again. I’m back.

We plough ahead day-by-day, often burdened by everything that didn’t get done. But if I stop and turn around to see the mound of changes behind us, it makes me feel better, more patient, and pretty floored.

In a single year:

  • Destination wedding in Provincetown, Cape Cod
  • Mini-honeymoon Princess cruise along the California coast to Ensenada
  • Put in several offers on income properties and failed. Then gave up and tried to buy an escape cabin in Idyllwild, also failed.
  • Finally found the one – we closed on an income property in North Hollywood
  • Honeymooned in Europe
  • Made a baby after trying for nearly a year

Most people spread these sorts of life events over several years. In our case one followed the other like dominoes, each unraveling far beyond my expectations. And now here we are, fully focused on making a neglected house habitable and preparing to embark on our wildest and longest adventure yet: parenthood.

First, an update on the houses.

Our dreams for this property are to restore the front house–by hand–to its original glory, and to begin generating a steady stream of passive income renting the back house.

Kevin, the perfectionist, is making the front house beautiful. I promise to post some pictures. The past six months in a nutshell:

Home projects completed

  • Restored original hardwood floor
  • New roof
  • New electrical throughout the house
  • Original windows restored
  • Interior wall restored in living room and dining room (re-stucco, painting)
  • Ceiling fans (one big ass fan. No, really.)
  • Recessed lighting throughout
  • New circuit breaker box installed and moved from the exterior to the interior
  • Laundry room exterior – awning removed, repaired roof trim and door trim, painted

Home projects in progress

  • Front door – restore and beautify
  • Get plans and permits to demo the single bathroom and replace with two
  • Demo the kitchen wall and make it an open floor plan with galley kitchen and bar

Did I mention we are hoping to finish before baby girl arrives? Yet again, another series of things that we are cramming into one year. Pray for us.

Second, an update on the really big change: did I mention how excited I am to be pregnant? Full disclosure – it has been tumultuous. Many things took me by surprise. One sentiment sums it up: “Hey, nobody tells you that….”

Nobody tells you that it will take nearly a year to conceive. I expected to see two pink lines by at least six months and when I didn’t, my disappointment and fear of it never happening made me give up a little, start drinking alcohol again, stop trying so diligently, and of course then it happened. I shudder to think of the Old Fashioneds consumed when I was likely pregnant, though initially they may have been the magic tonic that helped me relax and let my body do its thing. What probably helped more was the fertility massage from Beth Meneley at Tao of Venus recommended by my sis-in-law. The fertility massage is an hour of tummy rubbing and I left the spa feeling peaceful but skeptical and conceived a week later. Seriously.

Nobody tells you that first trimester may be the worst thing you’ve ever experienced. It was a chronic stomachache punctuated by puking, heartburn, narcolepsy-like exhaustion and sleep attacks, loss of voice, bloody nose, constipation, bleeding gums, and to my horror, a singular tolerance for the worst preservative-ridden, artificially colored junk foods. So much for my resolution to eat super healthy to nurture the growing life inside of me. Struggling in this state for consecutive months meant zero motivation to do anything and minor depression.

Nobody tells you that the videos in child birthing class will make you cry in terror watching the labor unfold and cry harder with joy when the baby emerges. It’s an entirely different experience watching childbirth when you know it will be happening to you. Kevin watched wide-eyed and pale, but rallied himself for the newborn care part and I must say, he’s a natural at swaddling.

Nobody tells you how much experience and knowledge is shared word-of-mouth from friends and family–stuff you can’t possibly find in a class or a book. What a life-saver it is to join a group, Facebook or otherwise, with other moms going through the same thing. It gives you perspective because even in the small group I’m in there have been a handful of complications, miscarriages, broken hearts, and miracle rainbow babies. It happens more than you know. The group also keeps me sane knowing I’m not the only one sobbing in the car to Sam Smith and whose hormonal nose congestion is causing sneezing (and I may have peed a little).

Nobody tells you the huge waves of relief and gratitude–when blood test results come back normal, when baby starts looking like a baby instead of an alien blob, when the fetal doppler is on your belly and for a moment, holding your breath, you don’t hear a heartbeat but then ahhh, there it is! Thank. God.

At 23 weeks I’m welcoming the return of my energy and less nausea if I eat slowly, although my nose is still congested. Each day we marvel at the size of my growing belly, which I’ve been slathering with shea butter. I’m starting to feel her move, light bubbles and taps that seem to increase when I’m in a loud movie theater, or eating ice cream or orange juice. After eating a chocolate chip cookie I leaned back and couldn’t believe it–for the first time I saw the kicks moving my belly. She likes sweets as much as her dad. Kevin puts headphones on my belly to start her out on Crosby Stills & Nash and Carol King. We’ll work up to Metallica.

I’m walking hills on the treadmill, taking basic ballet, prenatal yoga, and slowly making progress on believing that this baby will somehow exit my body–! I am definitely nesting, even without a house ready for a nursery. More on that later.

Overall, the experience has been so much worse and so much better than I ever expected.

Before signing off, I have to leave you with this recipe because it’s a keeper. I made a double batch and they disappeared in two days.

Enjoy and happy spring, friends.

20160327_133536

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
yield: 16 cookie bars prep time: 15 minutes cook time: 30 minutes
total time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:
2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips
10 ounces jar of high quality caramel / homemade caramel / caramel candy squares
3 tablespoons heavy cream
Fleur de sel (or other sea salt), for sprinkling over caramel and bars

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch square pan; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

3. Using an electric mixer, mix together the melted butter and sugars on medium speed until combined. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix on low, just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

4. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine the caramels and heavy cream. Microwave on high until the caramels are melted, stirring every 20 seconds. This will take about 2 minutes.

5. Press half of the cookie dough into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Pour the hot caramel over the dough cookie dough and spread into an even layer, leaving some empty space around the edges. Sprinkle the caramel with the sea salt. Drop the remaining cookie dough in spoonfuls over the caramel and gently spread the dough with a spatula until the caramel is covered. Sprinkle the bars with additional sea salt.

6. Bake the cookie bars for 30 minutes, or until the top of the bars are light golden brown and the edges start to pull away from the pan. Cool the bars on a wire rack to room temperature, then refrigerate for about 30 minutes to allow the caramel layer to set. Cut into squares and serve. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature. (Recipe adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod)

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