Reflections on 2018

2018 was a big year for us — it was filled with a lot of good things along with a few challenges.

We lived, we loved, we celebrated, and we grew. I read a lot of books, set and accomplished a lot of goals, made new friends, and went on dates with Andy.

The best part of 2018 was finding out we are pregnant with our son, who is due to arrive any day now!

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One of the hardest things about this past year is that Andy’s dad passed away the day after Christmas after a rapid decline in health over the course of the past few weeks due to heart failure. This is still very fresh news to us as we grieve the loss of a great man in our family.

This was the year that I turned 30, which I welcomed with open arms in anticipation of a new decade ahead of me. I had some amazing job opportunities such as designing + illustrating for Caribou Coffee, Ulta Beauty, PaperSource, and Target. We bought our first home and started preparing a nursery as we get ready to welcome our little son into the world.

As I look forward to 2019, there’s a whole host of goals I’d love to accomplish, but what keeps weighing on my mind is this feeling of the need to slow down. There were many days in 2018 that left me feeling frazzled, burnt out, and just exhausted (okay, most of that exhaustion was probably pregnancy-related but work with me here). I’ve been doing some prep work before the new year rolls around to really evaluate what worked for me and what didn’t work for me in 2018. There are some dreams that have been on my heart for many years now and I’d love to do some exploration to see how I can kickstart some of these once we settle into a routine with our little guy and once he gets a little older. I know these newborn days are so precious so I really want to be intentional about soaking them up and spending time just cuddling our little boy even if other things have to slide because of it.

Changing from a strict INTJ to an ENTP over the past few years helped me fuel some of these changes — a lot of the “striving” is gone and I find myself letting go more than I used to. Some areas of my life still have my death grip on them, but it’s a work in progress. ;) One thing that becoming an extrovert really taught me is that we really need people in our lives and I’m so thankful for the friends and family that I have around me — for both the good and the bad days.

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One thing that I’ve been learning this past year is that sometimes our expectations of people can never be fulfilled — even when we really want them to. There was an incident this summer that has left a lasting impression on me and really taught me a lot. We had just found out the gender of our baby and so I stopped to pick up cupcakes for Andy and I since we decided not to do a gender-reveal party. There was a middle-aged woman at the cash register and she asked if I was celebrating something since I had two cupcakes covered in sprinkles in my hands, to which I told her we just found out we were having a baby boy. She was instantly filled with such enthusiasm and joy for us — exclaiming how exciting this news is and how she was so happy for us. She even told me to bring our little boy into the store once he was born so that she could meet him. I thanked her, grabbed my bag, and as soon as I got into my vehicle I burst into tears.

Here was this random stranger who was SO happy and SO excited for us — the reason why this was so hard was because she was genuinely more excited than some of the people that we had told about our news of having a baby and finding out that he is a boy. It was in this situation that I realized that not everyone will cheer for you and that is okay — we can’t control the way others act. What is most important is finding your tribe that is willing to walk alongside you and do life with you — celebrating the good times and overcoming the hard times.

Another thing that has really been on my heart is opening up and practicing vulnerability here on my blog which can be kind of scary. There have been a few posts that I’ve published over the last few months and then taken down a few hours later because I was feeling unsure about how others would perceive them — would they be able to handle my honesty and vulnerability? Most importantly, was I okay with being this vulnerable? Sure, I love sharing a good J.Crew sale and a fun weekend recap here on the blog, but what really brings people together is opening up and sharing. I hope to do this more in 2019 not just to free myself, but also to inspire others who might be going through similar situations.

For those that read my blog, thank you for your support whether you’ve been following me since my early days or even if today is your first day stopping by. I hope that you will continue to be encouraged, inspired, and entertained by the content that I plan to publish in this coming year.

I’ll be ringing in the new year with sparkling white grape juice (#39weekspregnant) and am looking forward to all that 2019 brings!

What are your NYE plans?
Do you have any special traditions this time of year?

A Different Kind of Christmas

Due to a couple of things that have recently popped up, our Christmas celebrations looked a bit different this year. Andy and I had good intentions of celebrating our “last Christmas” with just the two of us, but after the craziness of the last few weeks, we were both exhausted yesterday and ended up taking three hour naps. We’re hoping to celebrate together this coming weekend instead.

Andy’s dad has been having some serious health issues and we’ve also had a few other things pop up that have been a lot to deal with. We are both feeling a little worn out and it was so strange to find myself not looking forward to Christmas and instead craving the fresh start of a new year.

My new planner is on its way to our house and I’m really looking forward to re-evaluating my routines and schedule for 2019 as we adjust to our new life with baby. Lately I’ve been chatting with my friend Gina about this past year and it has been so helpful to talk it out with her since she and I are very similar in terms of our mindsets towards life / home / etc. There were so many great things about 2018 (work + baby + house) but also some habits and events that need to get ditched for the new year. I’ll write more about this later as we transition into 2019 because I have a lot to say on this topic. :)

After that talk about the new year, let’s take a look at the last few days. I took Wednesday off of work due to scheduling a whole string of appointments back to back. First up was the allergist — I wanted to meet with one to chat about why this allergic reaction was so severe and how to prevent it from ever happening again. It was SO helpful to meet with him and the answers that he provided were not at all what I was expecting. I’ll be sure to share more once my blood work comes back and things are clearer, but I’m SO glad that I took the time to meet with him!

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From the allergy appointment, I headed straight to the chiropractor for a quick adjustment before heading to my 37 week OB check. My doctor was running behind due to a birth, so I ended up waiting in an empty exam room for quite awhile. I was able to get a good chunk of this book read, which has been helpful as I start writing my birth plan this week (way late in the game, but life happens).

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I worked from home Thurs and Fri due to more chiro appointments and then on Saturday morning I headed out to a prenatal massage that my aunt had set up for me (seriously, I have the best aunt ever). It felt SO good to relax with an hour-long massage!

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On Sunday morning, I baked some of our favorite pumpkin bread, had our groceries delivered, and took a long nap before Andy and I headed out to look at Christmas lights.

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We drove through a few neighborhoods and also wandered through the arboretum for a quick visit since they were having a holiday light show.

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Andy also finished up the baby’s dresser (new paint and new knobs) and brought it up to the nursery, so I spent some time putting away all of his little clothes all organized by size. This felt SO good to get this checked off our list because now his room is basically done except for hanging his bookshelves and adding a few decor items.

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On Christmas Eve, Andy’s sister called to let us know that their dad wasn’t doing too well so we made the decision that Andy would drive up to visit for the day and I would stay home. I’ll share more on this later, but I was / am under travel restrictions per my doctor due to baby so we opted for me to stay home. Later that evening, my sister and her little family came over for a super casual Christmas Eve. Our plans have been so up in the air with so many things going on, so we literally pooled our fridges and pantries to see what we had and ended up with an awesome spread. Veggie tray, fruit, turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin bread, chips and guac, and homemade muddy buddies. We ate, hung out, and then opened gifts before they headed home to put the girls to bed for the night.

We had quite the interesting Christmas morning over here — I was having a lot of upper abdominal pain on Christmas Eve — making it hard to get comfortable while Andy and I tried watching a movie. I eventually gave up on laying on the couch and headed to bed. I woke up around 3am with the pain increasing so I called the birthing center to talk to the nurse; she wanted us to come in so she could check on the little dude to make sure everything was okay especially since I had been having Braxton-Hicks contractions for the past three days and noticed an increase in swelling.

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Note, this is why they tell you to pack your hospital bags a month before your due date. Mine were about 70% packed but when I say “packed” what I really mean is that everything was in a pile in the corner of our master bedroom. So, here we were at 3:30am throwing things into my Nike bag as fast as possible so that we could head to the hospital. We arrived at the hospital around 4am and were immediately taken to a triage room. They hooked me up to a machine to monitor baby’s heartbeat and then did an ultrasound to take a peek at him. Thankfully, all was well and she said the abdominal pain is just my body getting ready for him to be born but that it was good we came in to have him checked. She said I need to start taking it easier — focusing on more rest and taking some baths to relax. I feel like that’s always easier said than done, but now that work is winding down, I think it will be a little easier. We thanked her, headed out to the car, and arrived home around 5:30am.

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Christmas Day was super low-key around here after our random middle of the night hospital run. Andy gave me this devotional for Christmas and it was the perfect gift to crack open yesterday morning while sipping a hot cup of coffee. The rest of the day was spent doing a quick treadmill workout, reading, taking a long nap, and watching The Grinch on tv.

My goals for today involve getting that hospital bag 100% packed and finishing our birth plan — wish me luck! ;)

What was your favorite part about Christmas?
Do you enjoy driving around looking at Christmas lights?

Itchy

I recently learned that pregnancy has either made my body super sensitive to a once-minor allergy, or my allergy has intensified over the years.

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After my baby shower, I started showing signs of what we think is a severe allergic reaction to latex (balloons). My hands were itchy and bumpy, but at first I just figured they were really dry after using so much hand sanitizer at work to avoid getting sick. Over the course of the next few days, I broke out in hives in my underarm area, ankles, and groin.

I went out for coffee with a friend one night after work and when I was changing into pajamas upon arriving home, I happened to look down and saw how bright red my legs were. On top of that, the itching was getting unbearable — part of my leg was bleeding from unconsciously scratching so hard on the drive home.

I stayed home from work the next morning and tried to get in with my OB but then remembered she is always out of the office on Thursdays (and that’s when something always happens!). I saw another doctor and she said it looked like some sort of allergic reaction but they also did some blood work to make sure I didn’t have this condition which can pop up in your third trimester. She prescribed a hydrocortisone cream and sent me on my way — I tried the cream but over the course of the next few days, the rash was spreading like wildfire and went from just a red rash to full blown hives.

Within a few days, I was covered head to toe in the most itchy, painful little welts and it is honestly the most uncomfortable thing I have ever experienced. There have been so many nights where it has woken me up out of a dead sleep and I find myself literally howling in pain.

I missed so much work due to this and nothing seemed to be working to get rid of it — I went back to the clinic two weeks after the hives started for my 30 week baby appointment and also to have my OB take a look at the rash and make sure it isn’t this. My OB sent me a referral to a dermatologist, who confirmed that it was an allergic reaction. My options for treatment were to take an oral steroid for 2.5 weeks or ride it out for another 4 weeks or so. Being pregnant, I chose the latter since the steroid would cause our baby to develop at a faster rate than he should and I didn’t feel comfortable putting him at risk in any way.

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The first signs of the rash started almost four weeks ago and although the hives have stopped spreading so quickly, the pain hasn’t ceased. Scratching helps in the moment, but as soon as the scratching stops, the burning sensation is far worse due to aggravating the already irritated skin. Throughout the day / night, my whole body itches so bad that it burns and feels like something is eating my skin, which is about as fun as it sounds. There have been so many tears and many sleepless nights over this rash, which is just ridiculous if you think about how something so trivial could cause so much discomfort.

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Ice packs and this lotion help a small amount, but otherwise nothing really seems to curb it. I tried this line of products as well but didn’t have much luck with it.

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In the areas where the hives have decreased, my skin is super dry and kind of scaly so I’ve been using this cream to help bring some life back to those areas. My hands, feet, and eyes are also really swollen which is probably partially due to pregnancy and partially due to the allergy,

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I’ve found that keeping my skin hydrated helps it to be less itchy which is great, because when I scratch, more hives seem to pop up. Showers and being too warm in general seem to also increase the itching so I’ve been trying to stay cool and dry as my body tries to heal from this.

I’ve always known I’ve had a latex sensitivity, but haven’t had a reaction since middle school when I broke out in a rash at the dentist —however, that was nothing compared to this. At one point a few weeks ago, I had so many little blisters on my fingers and toes that it even hurt to move my hands and feet! I had no idea that an allergic reaction could last this long either — it’s crazy how something so trivial such as blowing up balloons can affect the body in such a large way.

So, that’s what has been going on lately in these parts! I’m trying to focus on the upcoming holidays and the anticipation of our baby as my body works this allergen out of my system. It’s safe to say that we will be a 100% latex free household after this incident! ;)

Are you allergic to anything? I have seasonal allergies and am allergic to cats
Ever had hives?

Homeowners

Yesterday morning we closed on our first home!

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We are so excited to make this house a home filled with lots of memories! We first met our realtors back in November to talk about the home-buying process and fill them in on what we were looking for. We talked about areas we wanted to live in (near my sister, close to work, etc.), types of houses we liked and didn't like, our budget, and how long we planned to live in our first home. We also talked about building vs buying existing since we both prefer new construction.

They set us up with a custom home search to get us started -- we started receiving emails whenever a new home popped up in our budget, preferred location, style of home, etc. 

After the holidays, we met with a loan officer to talk about the financial part of purchasing a home. We filled out some paperwork and within a day or so, he sent over our approval letter. With this approval, we were able to officially start our house-hunting process! 

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We looked at a few homes on a freezing cold Saturday morning in January. One of them was a vacant home that had recently been built in a new development -- it had a great layout, but the construction didn't look like the best quality.

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Afterwards, we looked at another home just a few minutes away in an existing neighborhood. This particular home had been sold, but there were two lots available just a couple doors down so we decided to check it out to see if we wanted to build a similar style of home down the street.

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We LOVED this house -- it was seriously perfect! We talked about going the building route and met with the builder, toured another home by the same builder, and started planning things out. It was all fun and games until you realize that if you want to build your perfect home, the price goes up really fast. We talked it over again and again, and ultimately we decided that now is not the time to build. 

Back to the drawing board! A couple weeks later we found another house that we really liked, put an offer in and it was accepted that evening! However, after the inspection came back with a few worrisome items, we decided to decline. I was feeling a bit discouraged by this point -- we were so ready to get this show on the road!

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We looked and looked, but inventory was super low and prices were really high due to the current market. We met with our realtors in April because I was feeling like we weren't going to find anything after months of fruitless searching. They encouraged us by saying that the right house would pop up at the right time.

It was funny, because just a few weeks later, our house popped up! I immediately texted Andy to tell him to keep an eye on the house that they just posted -- it sounded like a great one but there weren't any photos up yet. He texted me back awhile later to let me know that the photos were up -- I was so excited once I flipped through the album online; this seemed like the house for us! 

We made an appointment to see the house that evening, submitted an offer, and our offer was accepted the following evening! I'll be sure to share more once we move in -- it just feels so good to have a home to call our own! 

Have you purchased a home before?
Favorite thing about where you live?

Real Life: Balancing Your Hormones

Today's post discusses female health and hormones with a dash of TMI (if you know me, you'll know I'm an oversharer). If this isn't your thing, feel free to skip today's post and visit tomorrow to talk about planning for the holidays! 

Hormones are definitely one of those things that I haven't really thought about much and they ended up being one of those things that you don't realize how great it is to have them work properly until they don't. Kind of like how it's easy to take your health for granted and you don't realize how good it feels to feel good -- until you're sick.

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Due to a heck of a lot of stress (family, stressful job, and training for a fitness competition), my hormones got all out of whack beginning in May of 2014. At first I noticed some annoying symptoms -- hot flashes, acne all over my back and chest, and weight gain in my abdomen. The weight gain was weird for me because I've never really gained weight in my stomach before -- this was my first clue that it was hormonal.

I visited my primary care doctor and after some blood work, she said my hormones were a little off but nothing to be really concerned about since I was going through a stressful season of life.

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Long story short, the symptoms continued to get work as the stress increased. Along came insomnia, horrible water retention, and my hands, feet, and underarms were constantly slick with sweat. I was also experiencing irritability, constantly feeling frazzled / overwhelmed, and having irregular periods. I didn't sleep through the night for weeks at a time -- waking up at 3am almost every night and never falling back asleep. In addition, I felt so self-conscious because my hands were always bright red and burning hot / sweaty, as shown in the photo above.

Then, during a really hard month (August 2016), things hit their peak -- I was experiencing extreme fatigue, even more stress at work, and the worst part was that I had put on 17 pounds by Thanksgiving that year. I'm only 5' 3.25", so even just 5 pounds on my petite frame is very noticeable. I felt frumpy, fat, and gross. Oh, and constantly hot thanks to the hot flashes. I felt like i had nothing to wear and wasn't putting a ton of effort into my appearance because I felt so uncomfortable in my skin. None of my clothes fit -- even my underwear were too small which was an awful feeling! I cried at the drop of a hat (and I'm not a crier!) and felt overwhelmed at the smallest things such as going grocery shopping. 

I found a new primary care doctor and during our first appointment, it was through tears that I told her I didn't feel like myself anymore. She diagnosed me with adrenal fatigue and said I had also become estrogen dominant. We tried a conservative approach at first -- since my diet was already clean she had me focus on more rest, meditation, and this crazy regime where I'd sit in the sauna for 10 min, followed by a freezing cold shower for 3 minutes -- repeat 3 times a few times per week. There was zero improvement and by Christmas, I was so over it. 

In mid-January, I went back to her office and told her I couldn't do this anymore. I wanted my body, energy, and happiness back and was willing to do whatever it took. She wrote me a prescription for bio-identical progesterone cream and instructed me to really watch my stress levels. I started using the cream daily, while taking the week of my period off. After two weeks, I noticed that I felt like my head was more clear -- I didn't feel so frazzled like I had in the months prior.

I also took this and this which helped a little but I noticed the most success with the progesterone cream.

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A month later, I noticed that my clothes started fitting a little better. I went and bought a couple pairs of jeans before our spring break trip and had gone down a whole size. The acne cleared up and the hot flashes and sweating began to taper off.

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Not too long after that, I quit my job that was making me so unhappy. In the months that followed, the weight continued to drop off without me making any diet or fitness changes.

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This fall, the rest of the weight has come off putting me back at my happy weight -- the weight I was before all of the hormonal changes. The photos above were taken 9 months apart from one another -- hormones a mess on the left, and back to myself on the right! There is a 17 pound difference between these two photos, (which you can really see in my face), but the most important thing is that I feel like myself again! My confidence and energy / enthusiasm are back and it feels SO GOOD to feel like myself again! 

Here are the things that didn't work for balancing my hormones:

  • Working out like a madwoman
  • Constantly stressing over my body
  • Dieting

Here's what did work:

  • Implementing bio-identical progesterone cream
  • Managing my stress
  • Focusing on relaxation: meditation, essential oils, going for walks, etc.

Going through the past 3 years of having unbalanced hormones was so challenging and something that I wouldn't wish on anyone. If you're struggling with hormonal imbalances or have any questions, feel free to contact me! 

What's your favorite way to relax?
Ever overcome hormone issues before?