33

I’ve been 33 for a few days now and – as expected – it doesn’t feel a lot different than 32. The thing that does feel different though? My mom & sister came to DSM to spend my birthday with me this year. It’s been a long time since the three of us were actually together on my actual birthday and this year felt pretty special.

They got in on Friday early afternoon and we immediately commenced shopping and eating our way through the city. Some highlights include shopping in the East Village, eating at Tacopocalypse, shopping at Raygun, mom’s homemade scallops and alfredo, the gallon jar of pickled eggs mom & Rach made just for me, birthday dinner at Lurra Cocina, lunch at Exile, WEST.END.SALVAGE and coffee, coffee and more coffee.

Come Monday morning, I wasn’t ready for them to head back. I’m so grateful I’m so close with my family and I’m so grateful that they didn’t think twice about hopping in the car and coming out to be with me on a day that usually includes a bit of tears.

My beautiful mother

My beautiful mother

 

listen: manchego cheesecake

listen: manchego cheesecake

 

charcuterie plate with mom's homemade hummus

charcuterie plate with mom’s homemade hummus

 

Sunday.roast.

Sunday.roast.

 

anyone want to get me this Herman Miller Eames lounger?

anyone want to get me this Herman Miller Eames lounger? at west end salvage.

 

... and we walked around with wine

… and we walked around with wine

 

west end salvage is amazing. I want all the things.

west end salvage is amazing. I want all the things.

 

 

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birthday shenanigans!

birthday shenanigans!

 

birthday dinner!

birthday dinner!

 

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gorgeous carrots that became an accompaniment to Sunday roast

gorgeous carrots that became an accompaniment to Sunday roast

 

directive : look perplexed

directive : look perplexed

 

mom & me exploring the farmer's market

mom & me exploring the farmer’s market

 

 

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cleveland, my hometown

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I’ve found myself inspired to write about my “hometown”: Cleveland.

The truth is that I’m from a town closer to Akron but after going away to college in another well-known Ohio town, “Cleveland” became the learned response to the question “where are you from?”  (Until LeBron, no one really knew of Akron so the chances of anyone knowing a suburb of a suburb of a suburb of Akron was highly unlikely.)  So I’ve been saying “Cleveland” to answer “where are you from?” for ages even though my real hometown is about 45 minutes away.

I’m in Ohio this week visiting my family for my usual summer trip and it seems like every time I’m here, I appreciate it just a bit more.  When I lived here prior to making Iowa my home, I kept my radius a bit tight.  I didn’t venture far from the fanciness of Beachwood where all the shopping is, University Heights where the Whole Foods is, and the east side where my sister lived.  As it turns out, Cleveland is really cool when you know where to go and I wasn’t going to the right places.  It took moving away and stalking the city from afar to really figure out what made Cleveland tick.

I’m continually amazed at how much this city has changed.  Even in the three short years since I’ve been gone.  There’s such a sense of community and the local movement has really taken root here.  It’s exhibited by the restaurants all along W 25th St that pride themselves on dishes made from locally sourced ingredients.  And with the West Side Market around the corner, how could they not feel inspired?  The food scene here could rival almost any big city.

(A few highlights: The Greenhouse Tavern, Townhall, Bier Market, Bar Cento, L’Albatros, The Black Pig and I’m dying to try The Butcher and the Brewer.)

Beyond the food, though, this city is a crafter’s dream.  It’s like an Etsy beyond the internets with vendors lining some of the coolest streets for things like Hingetown, and Cleveland Flea.  This city has really become an artist’s community and really celebrates their creatives.

The city stretches far and wide – you have your outskirts communities like Rocky River and Avon and Westlake – and there are so many more people, places and things beyond just my scope.  I’ve written about CLE in the past; sometimes in good and not-so-good context and I’m happy to embrace this place I call home.

There are still things that make CLE less-than-ideal (the crime rate, lack of an organized public transit system, spaced out neighborhoods, lack of walkability between aforementioned spaced-out-neighborhoods) but I do believe I could kill it (socially speaking) in this city after having been forced to spread my wings and learn a different city.  I’d be more active in the community, more likely to get involved and celebrate all that’s going on here (versus lamenting what’s not).  I’m someone who is somewhat of a city snob but I’m real and I’m from CLE.  Having very little “hometown” loyalty, I am happy to say that this city is something to celebrate and there’s a lot of good coming from CLE right now.

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rachel’s story

Hey everyone! We have a first here at the blog: a guest.  With Mother’s Day not too far in the rear-view, my sister agreed to share her daughter’s birth story.  As many of you know, I adore little miss Avery.  In real life, away from the blog, it also happens that I adore my sister—we talk almost every day—and when I’m not talking *to* her, I’m talking *about* her (always in a good way).  Rachel is one of those rare creatures whose birth plan went about 98% as planned and she handled every single struggle like a boss.  For real.  So please, sit back and enjoy this written in my sister’s voice.

Rachel’s story

Awesome.

That’s not normally how someone would describe their labor and delivery. I am sure you have read a lot of blogs about horrible experiences in the delivery room and ‘things no one tells you about after you have your baby’. I read them too.  And if you’re looking for that, it’s not here. I will be honest but the truth is that birthing Avery was the most amazing thing I have ever done. Because I’m an ‘over-sharer’ let’s get started with some backstory and way too many details.

Married

I was married when I was 21. I met Adam at 20 and just recently celebrated my 30th birthday – so doing the math, I’ve been with him all throughout my 20’s – that’s not said to be a bad thing. I share it because our first couple years were rocky. We were just really getting to know one another. I would leave lights on around our house, which he hated, it would leave him saying stupid things and lead to fights (about something pretty trivial). Lesson: all marriages have hot buttons. We just made it a priority to work on ours so that we could have a happy marriage. Of course, we failed time and again but continued to work together. Making a marriage work takes a lot of *hard* work. In fact, most people tell you it’s not easy but it’s truly hard to understand what they mean until you are knee-deep in it.

Babies were not something on my radar. Throughout most of our marriage, Adam and I would joke that we might never have children. Then there are the people that tell you “You have to have kids” and my typical response was “uh, no we don’t.” I fully felt that it was our decision to make. Right before I turned 29, I watched a riveting documentary called ‘The Business of Being Born’ and safe to say it changed my outlook on having children. Not only did I want to have a baby, but I wanted to bring it into this world in a beautiful way; surrounded by my loving family. I have such a wonderful family and I’m so blessed to have such amazing people in my life. I also wanted to bring a child into the world in a very natural, unmedicated way as well – which is what most of the documentary is about. You really feel that sense of empowerment when you realize what our female bodies are made to do. Needless to say, it blew my mind. I am pretty sure I was crying with Ricky Lake at the end. After watching the documentary, it prompted Adam and I to have the discussion about children. I shared my deepest desire for truly wanting a child with my amazing husband. The conversation was a little shocking to him but I’m pretty sure estrogen made me do it.

Working momma

In 2013 I had been working at Target for almost four years. I was in a pivotal place in my career. I was asked to take on a new task working overnights as the stores in my district were being remodeled in order to offer produce to our guests. It was a huge change for me. I wanted the career but I also wanted a family. I was ready to put 110% into my new work assignment but at the same time, I was also ready to get pregnant. Whatever happened, I was prepared to work through it all. I got off birth control in February and to my surprise, we were pregnant by June.

The reveal

I had just gotten over some fluke flu, which is what prompted me to take the pregnancy test in the first place. After taking the first test, I took two more just to be sure. I wanted to tell Adam we were pregnant in a very special way. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m very into Pandora bracelets. I carefully chose the baby binky pendant as a present to him to show him we’re having a baby! My timing probably wasn’t the best; he was gone for work for two full days, and I’d just gotten over the aforementioned flu. We went to have dinner at Sixth and Pine, which is the restaurant in Nordstrom. I had a couple bags in hand from my pre-dinner shopping excursion, and as soon as he saw the Pandora bag, he asked what I bought (you can’t plan this, people). I confessed to the cutest pair of earrings and then told him I had a surprise for him. He slowly opened the perfect little bag and as he pulled the tissue out and saw the pendant, he had no idea what it was. He kept asking me what it was and after about 5 minutes or so of prodding him to guess, I told him we were expecting. He was in shock but really happy because we had been trying. I think the realization set in that holy cow, we’re pregnant!

The pregnancy

At first it didn’t really seem like I was pregnant other than the minor lifestyle changes (goodbye booze, goodbye bologna, goodbye Cedar Point, see ya beef carpaccio). These changes become very real when it’s time for that first ultrasound. I didn’t cry then but thinking about it now makes me tear up. The little life that grows inside you is simply breathtaking. I thought in that moment that people have to be crazy to think that life isn’t human. It’s a life that grows and breathes and develops and moves inside you. Avery looked like a turtle at first but with each ultrasound got progressively better. We didn’t know the sex at the time so the baby was known as ‘Baby Roy’. I looked forward to each ultrasound visit. I would talk to Baby Roy, play the baby music and read out loud. It was amazing to connect. It also made me take precious time for myself to relax. Every mommy knows that changes once the little bundle arrives.

For the most part, I was very healthy throughout my pregnancy. I would read and do research, LOTS of research. I was a research junkie. I did so much work to prepare however there are some thing you cannot prepare for. I felt pretty confident but I had some rough patches. Around six months in, I developed pregnancy induced carpal tunnel, which, by the way, totally stinks. You lose feeling in your hands because of the extra blood and swelling. My left hand went numb and then my right hand. I couldn’t feel my fingers. I kept hurting my hands because I couldn’t feel anything. It’s a very odd sensation, or lack thereof. Even with those issues, I felt very blessed to have an overall wonderful experience being pregnant. I had a birth plan and I was one of the lucky people whose birth plan goes exactly as I wanted it to. I found a Doula and a birthing class and I recommend both. Birthworks is an awesome birthing class and find a Doula on D.O.N.A. You’ll be so happy you did.

Even though we shared that she’d be a girl, we were keeping the name a secret from our friends and family. We gathered to celebrate our little girl at her shower. I loved every minute of Baby Roy’s baby shower. I love being around my friends and family so that was a very special time for me. My motto is ‘go big or go home’ and I had a very big shower. It was like a wedding reception and everything was wonderful – from the guests to the food and the support and love I felt. Her room was done and everything was organized. I was ready for the baby to come.

The birth

The one fear I had was that my sister wouldn’t be there. I’m not a huge fan of of her being so far away but I know she’s loving her new surroundings and that makes me happy. But having Ryan be a part of this experience was something that was very important to me. We made a plan early on that once I knew it was go-time (for real), she’d get on a plane and bust-it back to Cleveland. The day before Avery was born, my contractions started around midnight, then became more consistent around 2 a.m. I made sure to contact Ryan early.

A lot of people ask what contractions feel like and I’d say really bad period cramps – like 100x worse. Thankfully our bodies can handle those. At first, they weren’t so bad. I had time to pack, shower, put a full-face makeup on, do my hair and get ready to go. My plan was to wait as long as possible before heading to the hospital. This is where having family support and a doula was helpful. I knew I had to wait and they kept me calm. We had good conversation, they helped me breathe through the contractions and I even tried to eat. That turned out to be an epic fail as it all came back up. This is real, people. I knew I had to wait till Ryan arrived (which is about a 4 hour trip, airport to airport) so I just kept working through the contractions. Just days before going into labor, I was reading a chapter out of ‘Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way’ and they mention just when you think you are ready to go to the hospital, you’re not ready and continue laboring a little bit longer. (This book is an enlightening and educating read and I totally suggest it.) There was a point after laboring at home four hours, just before Ryan arrived, that I asked Adam how I’d make it to the car. I laugh in my own face thinking my contractions were that bad then. No matter what, I had to reach a point where I knew I’d be ready to go to the hospital and that was as soon as Ryan arrived.

I safely made the car ride to the hospital with no issues. After arriving, Ryan and I made our way upstairs and even though I called the nurses before arriving, they weren’t ready. Even so, they made me feel at home fast. When the nurses checked me out, I was 8 cm dilated (not too bad if I do say so myself). Things did slow down a bit and even though I was fully dilated two hours later, my water hadn’t broken. I pushed but didn’t have that urge to. Truth: I was very calm and pleasant to be around during my entire labor and delivery. The last thing I wanted was to be mean to everyone, especially my husband. No way did I want to be mean to the man who gave me such a precious gift, no matter how hard this experience was. I wanted love to carry me through and it did. A couple times I was praying to God and He gave me the strength to fight a little harder. I had been having contractions without the urge to push for five hours. I was safe and healthy and the baby was too so the doctors were supporting my decision to have my water break naturally. I was so tired at one point, I considered having them break my water but I waited. Finally, I was sitting on the toilet, and my water broke (kind of like a ‘whoosh’). Adam kept me calm and encouraged me throughout. I had a second wind, which I totally needed. My only thought was: ‘yay! Baby Roy is making her way into the world.’

As the doctor continued to check me out and stretch me (yes, I said “stretch”) I got an indication that Baby Roy was sideways and every time I pushed, she kept slipping back. I kept pushing harder and harder with no results. Baby Roy was moving but it wasn’t enough. At that point, the doctor handed me a towel and said to pull – almost instantly that made a difference. She started moving and not slipping back. My contractions felt like they were on top of each other. Seriously, I didn’t have time to rest between them. I must have looked pitiful when I would tell everyone I needed to push but I just desperately wanted 10  minutes of rest. Everyone was getting so excited that they could see her head, then she was crowning and the whole family got really excited. Adam said “I can see her head!” and I knew I had to get my game face on. I don’t know where it came from but suddenly I had a burst of energy. I was entirely exhausted by this point but I wanted to meet our baby so I just kept trying. At one point in the labor, I looked over at my mom and I told her I was so exhausted and I had no clue how I’d have the energy to breastfeed immediately. She looked at me and told me that I would be so excited once the baby arrives that I wouldn’t even worry about being tired anymore. She continued to encourage me to keep on pushing and I felt relieved I’d have the energy to breast feed after delivery.

When the baby started crowning the doctor gave one end of the towel to Adam and I held the other. After a few short pushes, Baby Roy entered the world. My heart melted as I looked at this little life. A life that needed me. Baby Roy was placed right on me and we began our bonding, Vernix and all. She wasn’t breathing so the nurse took her for a second (and it was really a second) to remove fluid from her throat to enable breathing. After the nurse put the baby back on my chest, Adam and I looked at each other and he said “do you want to share her name now?” We both knew she was an Avery. Avery Jo Roy, sweet baby, little life, gift from God and she was ours.

After

Getting home with our baby was a truly odd experience; there’s a new being in the house. Our furry baby, Mera the cat, had no interest in Avery. Life truly did turn upside down for all of us. The house was filled with love. My mom, sister and friends were here to support and help us. Our first night with Avery, Ryan took the night shift so I could sleep a little and that’s about all I did. I was tired but my body was in mom-mode. I’d have to say that I really wanted to be the perfect mom but that doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to get into a schedule, for you to feel like yourself again and somewhere in there you’re a new person. Avery has made me crazy, happy, sad and whole. Bringing a child into the world is unlike anything I have ever done. So “thank you” to everyone who ever tried to give me wise advice before I was ready because now I hear you. All the stories and jokes people make about having kids aren’t as funny until you have one of your own. I am now the proud wearer of that badge of Mommy honor.

 

Rachel & Avery

Rachel & Avery

giving thanks

I’m sitting here in the room I created as my “office”; my little sanctuary space filled with all the things I love: photos, music, books and lots of natural light.  This space is designed just for me so that I feel inspired to write.  Today, I don’t have to reach too far for inspiration.  It’s looking out on the snow-covered yard and the naked trees.  It’s knowing I’m safe and warm inside my home with the smells of a home-made dinner mingling with the Autumn scented candles.  It’s feeling close at heart to my family who are all ten hours away celebrating this same day.

I have an obscene amount to be thankful for.  I try every day to embrace that attitude.  I do my best to stay mindful of that and give thanks for each blessing.  In the spirit of Thanksgiving, dear ones, I hope you all have a day full of love and laughter surrounded by family and friends; a belly full of food and a thankful heart.

Sending love to you.

stuff i love: fall edition (aka back to school)

We’re in what my dad referred to as ‘the dog days of summer’.  I knew that was a phrase, I just didn’t realize it was one people actually used in the course of conversation.

It’s HOT here—and I don’t just mean the temps are hot—it’s sticky.  The days are shorter and it’s positively miserable to be outside.  I’ve stopped wearing 90% of my makeup because it just runs down my face the moment I step outside.  And after my lunch time workout it’s pointless.  I am so excited for the days to get cooler, the nights to get even cooler and for all things fall to begin.  I think Des Moines is probably doing this to me on purpose (like how I said “me” right there?!).  It’s getting me primed for my favorite season, which also happens to be the shortest.  In the back-to-school vein, I thought I’d post a couple of my favorite internet finds here.  I am known (mostly to myself) as a queen of the internets so I thought I’d share some with you guys.  Let’s get ready for fall!

  • Some new spectacles for fall. I’ve loved Warby Parker since I learned about them five or so years ago. Reasonably priced stylish glasses?! Yes, please. I’m surprised I’ve held out so long but I’ve been searching for the PERFECT crystal frame. I think these are them.
  • With the nights getting cooler in the fall, it’s the perfect time for bonfires! Since DSM has been beating us down with heat since about May, it’s made fire-lit evenings few and far between. What else goes better with fire than s’mores?! I submit for your snacks this recipe, and this one, and this one (cause I obviously have one thing on my mind).
  • I recently made my way back to Ohio for my summer trip home to spend time with my family (read: AVERY) and while I was home, I ate some amazing food. One was a dish that my mother made. We had a cookout for Avery’s dedication and my mom made panzanella and guys… this is a tried and true success for grilling family get-togethers. Also, *I* cooked one of the nights (what, what). Rach and I went to stay with my mom and I suggested this dish which I could pretty much eat every night for dinner. I’ve made some modifications of my own to fit it to my tastes and it’s a very forgiving dish. I aim to impress and mission: accomplished. There were also A&W root beer floats consumed that same evening…. and my mom beat us both at Phase10 but then what else is new.
  • I’m kind of obsessed with the idea of creating the perfect inspirational home office. These pretty things could go a long way toward creating that space.
  • THIS APP!  Guys, I am an app snob and pretty set in my ways…that is till Mailbox came along. I actually deactivated my Apple Mail apps on my phone and desktop in order to use this. It’s pretty much organized the chaos that is my mailbox at all times. You can snooze messages to come back, archive, delete and sort all with one swipe. Through the generosity of RDB and through my own usage, I have 4 bit coins available to anyone who wants Mailbox Beta for their desktop OS (it’s still in beta but I’ll hook you up)—otherwise you can download the app and start using it for FREE on your iPhone (or other smartphone).
  • Currently reading: this, this, and I’ve kind of been meaning to start this. The Goldfinch is amazing. How authors can basically take the everydays of life and make them so emotional and engaging is beyond me. I’m definitely feeling all the feels in this book. I had to take a small break cause I’m at that point where I want to kind of draw it out because I want to be able to be a part of that world just a little longer.

Oh, and this year I joined a Fantasy Football league at work. I think it’s going to change the way I watch football this year and I’m pretty excited about that. I hope you guys liked this post of some of my favorite finds.

traveling.

Before moving to Iowa two years ago, I couldn’t remember the last time I was on a plane.  In that very short time, I’ve done more air travel (and land travel, for that matter) than I have in the last decade combined.  It occurred to me when I mentioned to my sister the other day that all I needed to do to get on a plane was move away from home.  It seems like the last two summers have been jam packed with travel and it’s usually around July or August.  I make my 2ndAnnual Summer Pilgrimage home in about two weeks and I’ve already begun making requests for my mom’s home cooking.

I can’t wait to see this little face:

Avery-bear

Avery-bear

 

I just got back from a whirlwind trip to San Francisco for work.  I got to spend some time with my amazingly awesome friend Jen (who I haven’t seen in something like 10 years!!) and she gave me a great tour of her city.  San Francisco is one of the places that I’ve dreamed of visiting since I started taking this foodie thing seriously.  They have it all: breweries, ethnic food, wineries, TARTINE and pretty much everything else a gastronomique could want.  I may have made up that word just now.

Here are a few shots from my short (but sweet) trip.

 

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First stop: Tartine

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Shotwell’s for some local Drake’s Chili Smoked Porter. This beer is amazing. A-mazing.

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Bi-Rite Grocery – it’s where they keep all the ice cream in San Francisco.

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The Ferry Building. This is where they keep all the fancy food in San Francisco. Also, I want to live in it.

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Cellarmaker. The new brewery my cool friend Jen took me to.

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No words.

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Oh, hai Alcatraz.

Ohio.  I’ll be seeing you soon.

family tradition

In my family, if it’s a holiday, there’s cranberry salad.  In fact, we don’t even call it “cranberry salad” anymore.  It’s now known simply as “cranberry”.  As in: my mom will ask “do you want to make the cranberry?”

If we’re being honest, when I was a kid I wasn’t all that crazy about it.  Mostly cause there’s celery in it and I hate celery.  As I’ve gotten older it’s become something I appreciate more and, now that I’ve started eating it instead of passing over it, I’ve found it’s pretty delicious.

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I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that in lieu of tangible things, my family tradition is more about cooking together and breaking bread together.  Part of the tradition of the cranberry is making it.  When I asked my mom about the origins of the cranberry salad, she told me she remembers it back to my great aunt Catherine.  She used to actually grind the cranberries by hand (akin to walking to school uphill both ways in the rain?) cause back then it wasn’t canned.  My mom fondly remembers her mom making it for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners only—grinding all the ingredients by hand.  Then when my mom started entertaining in the 80’s, her mom showed her how to make it just as my mom has shown my sister and me.  It’s legit passed down, guys.

In our little family, though, the cranberry isn’t just for Thanksgiving and Christmas—it makes an appearance at every holiday.  This Easter, three girls crowded around my sister’s kitchen island—Rach, mom and me.  We slivered celery, segmented oranges, drained canned pineapple, Rachel cut her hand and we assembled the most delicious (cause every year it gets more delicious) cranberry together.  We talked and laughed—mostly about Rachel’s cranberry disaster of 2013 but that’s another story.

My sister and I have a photocopy of the recipe written in my Grammy’s hand, all cranberry stained from overuse.  Quite simply, it’s us.

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avery.

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Tomorrow will be two weeks since my niece, Avery Jo, was born.  I started to write the story of her birth on the plane ride to Cleveland but I decided that it might be better to get it down in cyberspace—after all, the internets are forever.

The Story

From the time my sister found out she was pregnant, I’ve been telling everyone with ears how excited I am about being an auntie.  About a week before the birth, my sister emailed the family their birth plan.  My portion of the birth plan was hard to actually plan for.  The plan was this: my sister wanted to labor as long as possible at home before going to the hospital, so she’d text me when she knew she was in labor.  Hopefully she’d labor long enough for me to get on a plane and get to Cleveland so I could be at the hospital.  It made me really uncomfortable cause this plan hinged on the baby being ready—so she could be on time, early or late… the whole month of February belonged to my sister and the baby.

After a fitful night of sleep on February 4th, I awoke to a text around 5:15 am:

“Morning sister!!!”

“You may want to pack a bag, and look at flights.”

“I’m timing my contractions…”

My response:

“Seriously?!”

Rachel had been having contractions since midnight.

Six hours later, I had a bag packed and was on a flight to Cleveland.  The weather in Des Moines had other plans… we sat on the runway for an extra 30 minutes while the plane was being de-iced.  I had foolishly booked my connecting flight through Chicago O’Hare which I’ve had mixed luck with in the past.  I joked pre-labor about Home Alone-ing it through O’Hare (you guys know, when they overslept and had to sprint through the airport) and all kidding aside, that’s exactly what I had to do.  The 30 minute delay made me miss loading on my connection so I ran through the airport, suitcase behind me.  The gate agent had to open the closed door for me to get on the plane.  I’m so lucky I made it because there was a snowstorm already happening in Des Moines and it was headed to Chicago.  I don’t know if I’d have been able to get another flight if I had missed my connection.

I pulled into Rachel and Adam’s driveway just as they were loading up to go to the hospital.  My mom told me later that Rachel waited for me.  She was 8 cm dilated when we got to the hospital but there was still a long night ahead of us.  This is the part where I have to stop and tell you that my sister was a warrior.  Their birth plan included no “drugs” of any kind, no constant monitoring, and the ability to get up and move around if she wanted to.  She had the birth she wanted and she was incredible.  The whole experience was so special because there was nothing but love in the room.  Rachel was kind, patient, even apologetic at times but most of all she was herself.  She pushed for three hours and never once said she wanted to give up.  She was ready to meet their little girl and she worked hard.

Avery was born at 2 am on February 5th in the middle of a snowstorm to two of the most loving people I’ll ever know.  She made a quiet entrance and had quite the little cone-head.  I know I’m a little biased but she is perfect.  The whole experience, from that first text to seeing Avery’s little body flopped up on my sister’s chest, was so far beyond anything I could have expected.  I never understood the magic of birth and babies but I do now.  There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her; I love her more than I thought I could and all that happened in one breath.

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I stayed for a week.  My mom, sister, brother in law, Avery and I were all holed up in the house together for the first time in ever.  We cooked together, ate together, laughed together and made some new memories as a family.  I got to see my mom as a grandma and my dad as a grandpa (his teary eyed response to holding her was beautiful).  I stayed up with Avery at night so my sister could get rest.  I changed diapers and helped during feeding times.  I sucked in as much of that little girl as I could before I had to leave.  My emotions are still very raw even two weeks later.  I’ve never cried leaving Cleveland but I did when I left them.

I couldn’t really be told what this would mean to me, like all good things in life.  I had expectations but it was nothing short of the biggest moment I’ve been a part of.  More than anything, I feel overwhelmed by the hope and excitement that comes with new life.  It took 9 months and an instant.

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2014

Hey guys!  Hard to believe I haven’t said a peep since before Christmas.  Let’s do a recap post, shall we?

Christmas

I rented a car this year and went home for Christmas!  Unlike last year, it wasn’t Christmas Eve, I wasn’t sick as a dog, and I didn’t have to stop in Chicago to sleep off my inability to stay awake—this year was crazy pleasant.  Other than the torrential downpour from Illinois to Ohio and Indiana’s lack of highway lighting, it was relatively uneventful.

First stop: Christmas Ale

First stop: Christmas Ale

Rachel's tree is so festive

Rachel’s tree is so festive

Christmas morning and everyone's awake

Christmas morning and everyone’s awake—even the cat.

Best.wrapjob.ever. Yes, that's a Zeppe's menu.

Best.wrapjob.ever. Yes, that’s a Zeppe’s menu.

Reba Christmas in the background - the aftermath of present time.

Reba Christmas in the background – the aftermath of present time.

The dessert table… which I hit pretty hard this year.

The dessert table at mom’s… which I hit pretty hard this year. Why yes, that *is* queso.  And my pregnant sister.

 

Other stuff whilst at home

I tried really hard this trip home to make sure I saw everyone.  I love my home time and I wanted it to feel like the vacation that it is.  I was able to see my family, some great friends (though I missed you Jess and Rusty!), and in true Ryan fashion it revolved mostly around food.  If you guys have the time (you know, next time you’re in Cleveland) do yourself a favor and go to B Spot.  It’s a place I really miss being away and usually a lunch or dinner spot when I’m home.

Apple Pie Bacon Shake.  That's a chunk of apple pie crust. In the background is my sister's banana chocolate marshmallow shake.  Oh yeah.

Apple Pie Bacon Shake. That’s a chunk of apple pie crust. Legit. In the background is my sister’s banana chocolate marshmallow shake. Oh yes.

 

Christmas tradition

Turns out I didn’t outrun the Christmas cold this year, guys.  It hit me right when I turned off the car after arriving safely home in Des Moines.  It was pretty quick to take me down from there.  That leads me to NYE.

New Year’s stuff

This is how I spent my NYE:

Flu central.

Flu central.

And that’s pretty much how New Year’s Day looked as well.

Speaking of New Year’s, a lot of people make resolutions.  I’ve made resolutions in the past but always end up really hard on myself for making lofty goals that I can’t keep to.  I prefer the idea of “themes” for the New Year.  Last year was ‘the year of me’ and I think it was pretty darn successful.  I’m going to continue that into 2014 and also christen it ‘the year of travel.’  I’ve enjoyed traveling to Chicago, Branson, Omaha, and Minneapolis  in the past year and I want to continue, and even expound on, that pattern.  I’ve traveled more in the last two years than I have in my entire 20’s combined, which is awesome.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year filled with family, fun, food, drink, football and happy memories.

 

 

 

 

shower with love

Hey guys!  Happy Monday!

Posts like these are when it’s a good time to have a blog.  I have some people I want to shout-out that totally deserve it.  About three weeks ago (my goodness!) we had a baby shower for my sister and her little baby girl.  It coincided perfectly with some training I had in CLE so I was able to get in a day early and help with last minute details and set up.

Sometimes I feel like my sister got the shaft with me as her big sister.  She’s always been first in the big things (with the exception of graduating high school, of course) like getting married and having a baby.  As a result, she’s been stuck with me helping organize said events; events for her.  I feel bad cause I don’t know much about bridal showers, bachelorette parties, baby showers or planning weddings.  Then there’s my crippling fear of public speaking/attention—so that combined with my general ignorance means my sister plans most of her own stuff.  I’m sorry about this, sister.  So I’ll just go ahead and let you all know that if it weren’t for our mothers and their friends, if it weren’t for my sister’s friends and if it weren’t for my sister, she may not have had much of a shower.  She was in super-crafting mode and managed to come up with the whole theme and none of the finishing touches were overlooked.  Our step-mom and a friend of hers made all the diaper cakes and were totally indispensable for everything shower-related; our mother made all the food, transported allllll the food and cooked all the food at the church—safe to say it knocked everyone’s socks off; Rachel and some of her girlfriends made the crafts and had the vision.

I’m so thankful for all the people who came out to support my sister and the baby.  I had so many people come up to me and tell me what a lovely time they had—as though I had anything to do with it.  Turns out, planning a shower from DSM was a bit more than I could do (again, sorry sister).  Our friend Steven (and his gorgeous wife, Kristin) came out to take the photos and he did an outstanding job.  My sister couldn’t have been happier and I have to agree that it was an incredible shower.

I wanted you guys to take a peek and also give Steven some credit for the outstanding photos.

All the nametags.

All the nametags.

 

Cupcake towers.

Cupcake towers.

 

My favorite bump.  My niece is in there.

My favorite bump. My niece is in there.

 

Amazing diaper cakes.

Amazing diaper cakes.

 

Gift table that overfloweth.

Gift table that overfloweth.

 

prezzies

 

My little sister—the social animal.

My little sister—the social animal.

 

The ever-lovely Kristin and me.

The ever-lovely Kristin and me.