Travel Often

“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.” — Rosalia de Castro

Love Deeply, but Laugh Along the Way

"Happiness is only real when shared." - Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

View Marriage as an Adventure

"Love is a flower which turns into fruit at marriage." ~Finnish Proverb

Fuel your body with GOOD (It's the only one you get)

He who has health has hope; and he who has hope has everything. - Arabian Proverb

Open your Soul to Motherhood

A Grand Adventure is About to Begin - Winnie the Pooh

A New Kind of Love is Born

Mothers hold their children's hands for a short while, but their hearts forever.

Friday, December 30, 2011

2012 New Years Resolutions

New Year's Resolutions

Last year I came up with a few resolutions. Today I had fun looking back and seeing which ones I accomplished (yay!) and the ones I'm still working on (at least I haven't totally given up), and which ones I can carry over to 2012. And now it's time to come up with some more!

2011 New Year's Resolutions

1. Receive representation for my book
Hasn't happened yet. Sigh.

But. i. will. not. give. up.

I have learned so much about my writing and have been fortunate so many agents have liked my story and have taken the time to offer personal feedback. It's rare for me to get form rejections. Every time I get a rejection, I also get a list or paragraph of ways to improve my book. To me, that's not rejection, it's opportunity. Currently, I'm revising once again! A work in progress, I suppose. But someday I will have my book in my hands. I will be bouncing all over shouting "I DID IT! I DID THIS!" all the while smelling the pages. Ahhh.

2. Travel somewhere new
That would have been Riviera Maya, Mexico, in February with Karl's family. So much fun!
My new destination in 2011 - Riviera Maya, Mexico!

3. Start a family
That happened in August...yay!
Pregnant!

4. Start a recipe portfolio/blog
I'm surprised I stuck with this and now I really enjoy my recipe blog! I simply enjoy blogging! I could do this full time. Ha! Will be continuing this into 2012 for sure.
Kicked off Food Blog in 2011!

5. Get an article in a big magazine
I tried, but no dice. I want to focus on this more in 2012. I love reading articles in magazines. I think it would be so cool if I saw an article written by me published in one of those magazines I so often read! I'll keep trying and see what happens.

6. Say "no" more and do things for me
Once I found out I was preg, I was definitely saying "no" more and I'm totally OK with it now! I love having more free time. I'm doing things I WANT TO DO! And that makes me happy! Isn't that what we all want  - to be happy? Who the heck was I trying to impress this whole time?
Playing Kubb in Kansas...just because!
7. Get organized
I think we've had Lupus and the Vets and some other donation places come to our house at least six times this year. We have donated so much stuff. Remember we turned two town homes into one, so there were lots of goodies. We keep purging and I hope to do this more and more! Stuff be gone! Now my next step is to get rid of the clutter so baby doesn't have to worry about knocking things over, or I don't have to worry about baby getting knocked over by stuff... We continue to watch Hoarders to help with this.

8. Stop biting my nails
Yeah, right...dream on!

9. Flush out the bad with the good
I did a metal detox before I became pregnant to get out all the heavy metals that might have been in my system. Who knows if it worked, but all I know is I did get pregnant right away!

And now...drum roll....

2012 New Year's Resolutions

1. Keep working on my book and receive representation
I am NOT giving up on this dream. Sorry. I started on book number two as well. But my focus is on getting book number one to perfection and into the right agent's hands. If not, I might start reading more about self-publishing.

Bigger goal - write full time (sometimes in coffee shops) and be able to focus on family more. Have book signings...maybe even one at the Mall of America:) 

2. Publish an article in a magazine
I think a lot about stuff. Life. Death. Relationships. Chasing after dreams. I also realized something about myself this past year...I'm very observant when it comes to people, how they were brought up and how they handle situations and how it effects them and those around them. Then I analyze. I don't know if this observation thing is something that comes with age, but I see things I realize others don't. And then I like to write about them.

3. Be the best mom I can be
I'm not sure how I can measure this, but I'm going to gauge it on happiness. Am I waking up most every morning with happiness bubbling over in my heart? Are those around me super happy too? If so, then I'm doing my job. Am I constantly worrying, trying to keep up, stressing out, beating myself down? Then I am NOT doing my job. Babies can pick up on anxiety and all that negative crap. I figure all baby really needs is love and attention (well food and clothes too). That's it. And that's what I plan to give him/her.

Bigger goal: Be able to hire a cleaning service, freeing up time to have more fun!

4. Set up special date nights with my sweetheart at least once a month
As I was revamping my blog, I was going through pictures of all the trips and adventures Karl and I have been on together, and I thought to myself..."Dang, we have a pretty sweet relationship. We do such awesome things! Will those things have to end now?"
At Mount St Helens
Then I was telling him the other day that sometimes I spend 30 minutes of my commute into work thinking of him. His laugh. His smile. His smell. (I'm so warped, I know.) I just want to make sure I'm never taking a second of my life with him for granted. I know how it feels when someone you love walks away from everything you believed in and I vowed I would live each and every day to the max with Karl.

AND, I also know we're in for a treat with a baby. This is going to be a huge (and I mean HUGE) adjustment for us - financially, emotionally and mentally. And I don't want to lose that special bond we have. I want to keep things fun and exciting...and adventurous. So I want to make sure we carve out time for Christie and Karl, even if it's somewhere silly. Just the two of us.

5. Travel somewhere new
I want to do this every year. I don't know how we're going to do it [financially], but I'm putting it down anyway. This is a big world and there is so much beauty to see. I don't want to miss any of it!

Bigger goal: Get on The Amazing Race with Karl. I dream big!
Kind of always had a soft spot for Tahiti and Bora Bora....

6. Be in the best shape I can be
The weight is pouring on right now and it's hard for me. It's hard for me to find the time and energy to get to the gym. I could be better about it, but I haven't been. And once baby comes and I'm back working, how could I possibly go to the gym too? I don't know what my plan is to get back into shape, but I want to at least get some physical activity in three to four times a week as a family. I know I'm probably going to have to lose my trainer and maybe even my gym membership to pay for daycare, but nothing is more important than health. Without it, life...well...doesn't really exist.

7. Do something kind for someone once a month
I know...once a month sounds terrible. I should be kind all the time! But I'm talking about doing something out of the blue for a friend, or maybe even a stranger. Just reaching out to that person who's struggling or going through a rough time....or even celebrating a huge success. I want to take a moment to write them a note and do something that will make them realize they aren't alone, they can do anything they put their mind to and nothing - setbacks, heartbreak, loss  - can stand in the way. Or even invite them over for dinner or something just to talk and have some sense of community.

Bigger goal: Eventually get into a business of designing and writing inspirational greeting cards for people.

8. Get Photos in Photobooks
I want to create those Snapfish, Kodak Gallery (etc) photobook albums of our trips. I have pictures saved on my portable hard drive, but no albums. I especially want to keep up with creating photo books of baby and his/her milestones and keeping both grandparents involved so they have something tangible to hang on too as well.

9. Blog about our Fun Trips and Adventures
Karl and I have been on so many great trips. I have all of them down in journals all over our room, but I wanted to get them up on this blog with pictures to go with them. I think this could be a fun project I could possibly do when I'm on maternity leave, but we will see!

10. Start Working on my Middle Grade Book Series
I have a pretty cool idea for a Middle Grade book series. I need to get this down on paper and outline each book. I'm assuming I won't be able to start writing these books this year, but I want to begin thinking about moving this forward. I need to read more Middle Grade books first, but I'm getting excited about this!

11. 'Blast off' in my Career
It is time. If I have to work and sit behind a desk all day, I want to be happy. Why can't I? And that means doing what I love. I deserve to love what I do. I want to shine. I want to make a difference. I want to knock my own socks off in 2012.  

What are some of your New Year's Resolutions?

"If we celebrate the years behind us, they become stepping stones of strength and joy for the years ahead."

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Pregnant Belly Getting Bigger - Month 6

24 weeks

Your baby's growing steadily, having gained about 4 ounces since last week. That puts him at just over a pound. Since he's almost a foot long (picture an ear of corn), he cuts a pretty lean figure at this point, but his body is filling out proportionally and he'll soon start to plump up. His brain is also growing quickly now, and his taste buds are continuing to develop. His lungs are developing "branches" of the respiratory "tree" as well as cells that produce surfactant, a substance that will help his air sacs inflate once he hits the outside world. His skin is still thin and translucent, but that will start to change soon. (www.babycenter.com)

The Latest


Oh baby, I'm definitely growing! Sometimes I feel like my stomach has grown overnight. I've been going through the cocoa butter like crazy - morning and night. Be gone stretch marks!

Remember that post I had last week about the flu? Well, I did catch some sort of bug on Christmas Eve. Thankfully it wasn't as bad as my parent's - it was like a war zone in our house. Wow. I felt so bad that my parents had to feel so crappy! I basically ended up with a fever and felt extremely lethargic. I couldn't keep my eyes open. I figured my body was fighting off what it could. So I slept for a good couple days. I tried hard to force food and liquids down, but my stomach wouldn't have it. Finally come Tuesday morning, I could eat again. I think baby was happy about that. It's NOT good to be and feel dehydrated while pregnant. Ish!

Christmas, other than most of us being sick, was great. I love love love spending time with my family. My younger brother Mark and sister-in-law Tot came up from Kansas with their dog, Kacey. I just love her so much. Isn't she so adorable??
Kacey - my brother and sister in law's dog

I guess my parents, brothers, Tot and Karl all played games while I was sleeping. Only my favorite thing to do when we get together!!!!! But I was able to get out of bed on Christmas Day and spend time chatting with them. So that was good. And Mark was able to sketch some animals on the walls of the nursery before he left. I can't wait to paint those crazy monkeys. My dad wasn't able to finish painting the nursery, though he got a lot done even being sick. He is so awesome. Karl and I plan to finish this weekend! I can't WAIT for you guys to see the end results. Mark and Tot said the nursery gave them A.D.D when they walked in. WHATEVER!!!

My first shower is coming up, and I'm getting really excited for that. I'm more excited about seeing family and friends though. I can't wait!!!! I will be taking lots of pictures for sure!

Other than the little bug, I've been feeling really good. I've been sleeping great this week, which I love. I haven't been craving too many things...okay, I love Qdoba right now (love their grilled veggies) and every night I need two Cuties for my snack. I love those little oranges!

Baby is kicking more and more and loves the sound of his/her dad's voice. That's when he/she moves the most. I love it! Karl does too!

We also received our first shower gift for Baby K via UPS last week! That was pretty cool. And my brothers and Tot bought Baby K his/her first book for baby's library!! YAY! I am so excited to read stories together.

I can't believe the year is coming to a close. Time to write out those New Year's Resolutions for 2012...

              

Easy Sweet and Sour Chicken

Quickest dinner ever!

Easy Sweet and Sour Chicken
serves 5 - 6
recipe found on Real Housewife in Minnesota Blog

Delicious Sweet and Sour Chicken (healthier version)

1 pound Chicken (cooked and diced) *I used a rotisserie chicken
3 cups frozen stir-fry vegetables
1 8 oz can diced pineapples
1/2 Cup Sweet and Sour Sauce
2 cups uncooked rice *Instead of rice, I wanted to try cooking Thai Rice Noodles which worked great!
1 cup water

1. Dice and cook your chicken breasts. Stick them on the grill for 10 minutes, or in your pan with some cooking oil for a few minutes.


2. Add the diced pineapple (don't drain it before-hand, add the juice and everything. This gives it lots of flavor)

3. Throw in the vegetables and sweet and sour sauce. Stir so everything is coated in the sauce. Heat until the sauce begins to boil (about 3-4 minutes only. You're also getting the veggies cooked during this time)

4. Add in the uncooked rice and water. Stir well so the rice is covered in the sauce/veggie mixture. Cover and let it simmer on medium heat for 5 minutes. You may need a few more minutes here, but five is a good guess. Try out the rice and once it's cooked; you're good to go!

Karl's reaction: "This is good! Much better with a little more sauce added to it. I like it, babe."

My take: So incredibly easy to make, how can I not make this again? And it's loaded with veggies!!


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Things to Do Before Baby Arrives - Month 6

24 weeks

Planning ahead

So I've always been a bit of a planner. I mean...did you attend our wedding? Ha! Planning for a baby is hard for me because I'm beyond clueless. I've been reading loads of books and surfing the web for as much information as I can, but I know nothing is truly going to prepare me. Super Nanny is helping too! Any bit helps, right? I find myself asking anyone I can for advice. The good advice. Not the scary stuff or horror stories that people will freely give up.

Things I have yet to do before baby arrives:

1. Secure a daycare
I found two places I love. (Try to hear/feel my excitement.) I am working on it! This is SO hard. I just wish I could stay home or at least go part time. Hoping for something to work out, but we will see. Anyway, one place is in-house and one is a center. The difference in costs is around $400 a month, which is about $5000 in savings a year. **gasp** But I know this isn't all about the money for me - it's about the care! Still...wowee!!!

So right now it's trying to come up with a decision of what we want to do, and what we can afford. It seems the average costs for centers in the Cities is about $300 a week. Just a heads up for those planning to have babies. That leads me to my next item. 

2. Create a budget
Karl has had his own excel spreadsheet of numbers since he can remember and I basically pay the bills addressed to both of us as they come in. I have yet to pay one late or not in full! That's what I always did when I had my own place, but now I added both our names to our bills so there isn't that "his and her" account. We share now! But Karl takes care of his own bills as they come in addressed to him but the money comes from our shared account. Probably not the best way to go about it, but after seeing a financial planner and getting on track, I know we save enough in plenty of different areas and we have enough left over in our account to get us through week by week. However, with daycare costs, we're going to be quite tight. And I mean tight. Especially with me having a car with as many miles on it. How much longer will she hang on? So it's time I put both our expenses together and get a spreadsheet going so we are much more wiser with our money. Why does money have to be so stressful?

3. Make a Will
We need both - a living will and a will. We've put this off for too long and it's time. I'm searching for a lawyer right now who can make one up for the both of us. Most importantly we don't want to leave baby hanging if anything should happen to us, that's for sure!

4. Take Classes
The hospital we'll be having Baby K at offers several classes. One I need to take is on breast feeding. I hear people say it's an awesome experience, but thankfully all the books I've been reading and new moms I've been talking to have been super honest with me, saying that breast feeding is VERY painful. And the first two weeks can suck. So do not give up. And do not feel like you're broken in some way. It takes time! I still want to take a class.


I've also been reading Heading Home with Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality. I like this book a lot. I also want both of us to take a class on car seat safety and how to install those suckers. And also a class on what to expect with baby. How things will change and what to do with those explosive poops. The thing that stinks (no pun intended from that last sentence) is I'm CPR certified until May 2012. So I wonder if I should take another refresher course...

5. Arrange a Cleaning Service
Thanks MOM! I have selected you (and dad) to help us the first week or two after baby is born so I know what the heck to do with myself...and have a clean house and some food on the stove when we come home! I remember my mom saying she felt so alone after my older brother was born since her entire family lived in Arizona. It was just her and my dad and he went right back to work. She didn't know what to do.She kept saying, "now what?" I'm sure I'll figure it out, but it'll be nice just to have those extra pair of hands there helping with baby and housework...and getting me used to things.... Plus, my mom finds dirt in places I would never know to look. I mean, this woman KNOWS how to clean a toilet.

6. Get Things Ready at Work (i.e. Maternity Leave)
I plan to take 12 weeks off but I need to get this in writing. I need to figure out the FMLA stuff and short term disability and benefits and what happens with my 401K and all that so nobody is left wondering what's going on. I started a spreadsheet of all the tasks I do every day of the week, hoping that will help my coworkers, boss and me! And I want to discuss the transition back into work after having those 12 weeks off. I'm glad I'm coming back in the summer when most everyone at my company works less hours.

7. Selecting a Pediatrician
Thankfully I have this really awesome friend Jill who delivered all three of her babies at St. Francis and recommended her doctor, Dr. Druckman, to us. We also found out he won the big Capstone award during our ultrasound, so we really got a good one!! Jill also recommended her pediatrician too! So we will most definitely be checking him out! Dr. Westholder, for those in Shakopee.

8. Forming a mom's group
I'm working on this right now. Right now I'm focusing on young moms from my church and I have a few women already who are super excited about this. I want to meet at least once a month just to talk about all the things that happen once you become a parent and bounce ideas off one another. I want that support group for all of us - a place to feel safe and welcome - a place where we can share what's on our minds and relate to one another...and share our faith too. I think that's very important.

9. Clean and Purge
Our carpets need some serious cleaning and I'm wondering if now is the time to get that done? I have also heard that some of those carpet cleaning chemicals can cause autism in babies. I know... I know... I think of everything. But think of John Travolta's son Jet! They blamed his autism on the carpet cleaning! What to do? We have been purging a lot the past several months, but I'm thinking about doing another big purge. I would also love to get some furniture to hide the clutter in our kitchen area (i.e. alcohol) and picture frames and candles all over the coffee table in the family room. What baby isn't going to knock that stuff over?

10. Register for recalls
I just did this now. Went to Consumer Product Safety Commission (www.CPSC.gov) and signed up so I'll be informed of all the latest recalls as they come out. Oh, and of course I'm now following them on Twitter.

11. Sleep - Get Lots of it ...and maybe a prenatal massage here and there...
It feels weird for me to nap. But I'm doing it. And I'm going to keep at it because I love sleep and I know it's going to be few and far between for awhile there. I also got my first prenatal massage and it was wonderful. An awesome friend gave me a gift card and I couldn't wait to use it! Now, it was nothing like a deep tissue massage, but still soothing. The great part? My massage therapist said she was a student at Minnesota School of Business in Lakeville and they are ALWAYS looking for pregnant woman to give massages on. You better believe I'm calling them! Free massage? Ummm...yes, please!

Am I missing anything?  Let me know!!!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Making My Day - Month Six

Cheese!

24 weeks

I just have to post this picture of little Baby Koester because I find myself talking to him/her everytime I look at it. This picture is just too cute!! It was actually from the video from our 20-week ultrasound and I took a picture snip-it. He/she is smiling!!!!!!!!!!!! My heart totally melts every single time.

I mean, when you're having a bad day, just look at this little cutie pie! I picture him/her laughing inside me. Maybe cuz he heard his/her dad laughing and just had to join in.

Baby K giggling in my belly! I can't wait to meet him/her!!!!!!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

North Woods Bean Soup

North Woods Bean Soup
serves 4
recipe found on My Recipe.com site.

















Cooking spray
1 cup baby carrots, halved
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
7 ounces turkey kielbasa, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 (15.8-ounce) cans Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 (6-ounce) bag fresh baby spinach leaves

1.  Heat a large saucepan coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add carrots, onion, garlic, and kielbasa; sauté 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium; cook 5 minutes. Add the broth, Italian seasoning, pepper, and beans. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes.

2. Place 2 cups of the soup in a food processor or blender, and process until smooth. Return the pureed mixture to pan. Simmer an additional 5 minutes. Remove soup from heat. Add the spinach, stirring until spinach wilts.

Karl's reaction: "Oh, man. We're having soup tonight?" **grumble grumble** "Wait, this is pretty good. Actually this is really good. I think I need more."

My take: REALLY good soup. Loved this. Super quick and easy.

Quick Healthy Breakfast Casserole

Tasty breakfast casserole goes a long way
serves 8-12
recipe from a church friend
1 dozen eggs
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cup water
1 tsp dry mustard
1 bag of Simply Potatoes Hash Browns
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Bacon or other goodies

1. Mix all ingredients together and pour into casserole or cake pan and bake at 350 F for one hour.

2. Add bacon bits (I used real bacon) after it is in pan. I also added mushrooms, green, red and yellow bell peppers.

Karl's reaction: "Probably could use just a little more salt but this is really good."

My take: I love this recipe. It's easy to make and tastes great. It also feeds a lot of people.

Chicken, Wild Rice and Cherry Tomato Casserole

Chicken, Wild Rice and Cherry Tomato Casserole
serves 6
recipe found in an advertisement in on of my health magazines for Nature Sweet Cherry Tomatoes


1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
4 oz mushrooms, bottoms trimmed, sliced thin
2 (5 oz) packages long grain and wild rice seasoned rice mix (I used the 5 minute rice)
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
4 chicken breasts, sliced into 1/2" slices
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 cups of hot water
1 package of NatureSweet cherry tomatoes, halved

Preheat oven to 400 F. In a large casserole dish, combine the first nine ingredients, top with tomatoes, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Karl's reaction: 'This is different than anything you've ever made before. I like it a lot. Good job babe."
My take: I was surprised cuz I normally don't make rice but this was good! Will make again!

Being Surrounded by the Flu Bug - Month Six

week 23

Turn on the radio and sway to the music. With her sense of movement well developed by now, your baby can feel you dance. And now that she's more than 11 inches long and weighs just over a pound (about as much as a large mango), you may be able to see her squirm underneath your clothes. Blood vessels in her lungs are developing to prepare for breathing, and the sounds that your baby's increasingly keen ears pick up are preparing her for entry into the outside world. Loud noises that become familiar now — such as your dog barking or the roar of the vacuum cleaner — probably won't faze her when she hears them outside the womb.  (www.babycenter.com) 

Merry Christmas all! Here's our Holiday Card I made in about 30 minutes this year. It's not my greatest work, as I was running out of time but at least I sent them out and most people should get them on time...I hope...

Last week was such a good week and then poof - everything changed. Isn't life funny that way? My parents came up on Monday night, which I was so excited about. They watched me play volleyball for the first time in a very very very long time, but it was also my last time playing until the baby is born (my dad said I was incredibly slow...jeesh, thanks).

Tuesday my brother Mike and I were in our church's Service of Remembrance worship, so my parents came to that and we sang Christmas carols after, which always puts me in the Christmas spirit. Karl had one more final to take so he missed out. Then Wednesday my dad planned to paint Baby K's nursery while Karl and I were working all day. By the looks of all the ideas I printed up from my new favorite site Pinterest and what my dad sketched up on the walls, this nursery is going to turn out way COOL. I can't wait for all of you to see...that is...if it gets done. On Wednesday morning my dad was racing downstairs when I woke up. He said he didn't feel right and spent the next 12 hours in the bathroom. Yeah.... Not good.

We thought maybe with all the antibiotics he's been on, his immune system was lowered and he picked up a bug. Of course my mom was freaking out about his heart since a few weeks ago his was in stage B congestive heart failure (all because of a tooth infection that found its way into his heart). **Floss your teeth people** So we assumed since what started off as poison ivy all over his face, then H-Pylori, which then turned into a tooth infection, then an awful cold and now the flu, he just needed to build up his immune system and was more susceptible to germs.

I left work early yesterday so I could spend time with my mom since my dad was so sick and she doesn't know how her GPS works or where any of the stores are around here. We spent a lot of time together. Then last night we all had dinner and started watching TV. My mom all of a sudden jumped out of her seat and booked into the bathroom and stayed there for the next 12 hours. She got the same crazy flu my dad had!!!

Not to mention Karl has a major fear of getting sick. And I mean major major major fear. All I was looking for was the, "It's going to be fine, babe. Remember, you work out. You take four vitamins every day. You eat super healthy. You're going to be okay, honey." Oh, no. He wound me up so tight last night saying that I was going to be admitted to the hospital if I got the same flu bug my parents had and I'd have IVs sticking out of me because I'm pregnant and I need fluids. And pregnant women get sick easier. So I couldn't sleep. I stayed up all night wondering when the bug would strike me, worried that I'll be hurting our baby if I get it. Then he said it would be inevitable we both would be next and we basically needed to accept it.

This is the big difference about us. We both came from very different environments. Me, much more positive. Him, a lot more negative and anxiety filled. I think we balance each other out well though, but last night all his anxiety and negativity put me over the top. I couldn't take it.

So I need to blog about this and tell myself that Karl, baby and I will be fine. I do take care of myself. Yes, I might bite my fingernails (I haven't for two days), but I wash my hands all the time. I see people leave volleyball without washing their hands and get sick all the time. I try to get fresh air whenever I can. I eat really really good. I wash my cell phone off with disinfectant wipes. And I do workout. I didn't even think the flu shot counted. I never get that stupid shot, but this year I did...and it's for upper respiratory stuff. Now I wish it did protect against the throwing-up part. I guess I'm just worried about the lack of sleep now... And all the stress. I swear my blood pressure was through the roof last night.

Hoping and praying the bug leaves the house and every one is in tip-top shape come Christmas.

Too all of you...have a very Merry Christmas!!!!!!!!!           

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Seared Scallops with White Beans and Bacon

Seared Scallops with White Beans and Bacon
serves 4
recipe found in Women's Health, December 2011
Tasty seafood dish full of protein
2 strips bacon, chopped into small pieces
1/2 red onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cans white beans (14 oz each), rinsed and drained
4 cups baby spinach
1 lb large sea scallops
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp butter
juice of 1 lemon

1. Heat a medium saucepan on low, and cook the bacon until it begins to crisp. Pour off some of the bacon fat and add the onion and garlic. Saute them until the onion is soft and translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the white beans and spinach; cook until the beans are hot and the spinach is wilted. Keep warm.

2. Heat a large cast-iron skillet or saute pan on medium high. Blot the scallops dry with a paper towel and season them on both sides with salt and pepper. Add the butter to the pan. After it melts, add the scallops. Sear them 2 to 3 minutes on each side until they're deeply caramelized.

3. Before serving, add the lemon juice to the beans, along with some salt and pepper. Divide the beans among four warm bowls or plates and top with scallops.

Karl's reaction: "It smells fishy in here. This is actually really good though, babe. The bacon makes this dish."

My take: I didn't want to spend $26 on 6 scallops so I instead bought a big bag of small frozen ones. They took a lot longer to cook than 2-3 minutes on each side. Maybe I did something wrong but this dish turned out really good. I would make again. Lots of flavor!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Baby Showers, Day Care and More - Month 6

22 weeks!

At 11 inches (the length of a spaghetti squash) and almost 1 pound, your baby is starting to look like a miniature newborn. His lips, eyelids, and eyebrows are becoming more distinct, and he's even developing tiny tooth buds beneath his gums. His eyes have formed, but his irises (the colored part of the eye) still lack pigment. If you could see inside your womb, you'd be able to spot the fine hair (lanugo) that covers his body and the deep wrinkles on his skin, which he'll sport until he adds a padding of fat to fill them in. Inside his belly, his pancreas — essential for the production of some important hormones — is developing steadily. (www.babycenter.com)                 

Me at 22 weeks!
It’s been a great week. I’ve been feeling really good! I played my second to last volleyball game on Monday at 9:15 and wasn’t too tired the next day, and playing even cured my headache. Yay! I try to avoid taking any Tylenol at all anymore. I’ve been trying to get into the gym more than once a week but it is hard and I wonder how this is going to be once baby is born, unless I get up at 4 or 5  in the morning to workout… There’s always something going on, or because it’s so dark out when I get off work, I want to get home and hang out with Karl. But after my hefty weight gain last month, I know I need to make working out more of a priority.

My bump is clearly visible and I’m feeling our baby kick tons more, which really is such a cool feeling. I have noticed I’m going to the bathroom a lot more. My lower region just feels heavier, if that makes sense? I feel like the baby either sits on my left side, which feels like my skin is being painfully stretched or I feel like he/she sits on my bladder, adding lots of pressure down there.
My first shower invites have been sent out (and they are CUTE!). Super excited to hear that some of my greatest friends and awesome family will be coming (and I even missed some of these friends/family's showers!). I have the greatest support system, I swear. Anyway, I can’t wait. I have a total of three showers planned. All three are currently happening before baby is born. I’m totally okay with that. But a few people have voiced their opinion that I need to have a shower after the baby is born so I get better stuff since we aren’t finding out baby’s gender. ??? But to me, it's just mainly about getting cuter clothes...right?
But my thinking is what if we have a girl and she doesn’t like pink? Or what if we have a boy and he gets sick of all blue? And aren’t there items that are a little more important than clothes?? I just went for non-gender specific items and I love all the stuff we registered for. We are planning on having more than one, so the best advice I received was "get neutral colors when it comes to the bigger items like car seat, crib, stroller, pack n play, etc., because you never know what baby number two will be". It seems like babies grow out of the clothes so quickly… I think I’m going to stick to the three showers before.
I know everyone wants to meet baby (and they will!), but I also hear mom is pretty tired those first four weeks and the last thing I’ll want to do is get ready for a shower when I'm leaking, tired, nursing and bleeding. Plus, there’s going the be announcements to get out and the baptism to get ready for too! A shower after means organizing the nursery even more when more stuff comes in, and when I'm totally exhausted. Seems like more work to me...I don’t know?
My next battle is day care. More people voiced their opinion that I need to get my act together and get going. Hard to do when I’m not even holding our precious little bundle and it really makes me sick thinking about handing off our baby to someone even before he/she is born. Jeez! But if all goes well and baby is on time, April 16 will be the day I go on maternity leave. I plan on taking 12 weeks. That means I go back to my lovely job July 9.
Side view at 22 weeks!
The one day care I do trust is attached to our church. Since I worked at our church for four years when I first moved to Minnesota, I really became familiar with the Early Learning Center and the staff. I know they are awesome. I know they can be trusted. They are ranked super high and offer great values and tons of love. However, it’s not the most ideal location for us (meaning we have to cross the dreaded 169 Bloomington Ferry Bridge, which is usually backed up for miles) and it is VERY expensive. Like we’re talking another mortgage payment. How on earth do people afford day care???
In the meantime, I joined a Bible Study at my church and met this wonderful new friend. She has three beautiful children and I just felt like I needed to know her more. Soon we became friends on Facebook and she mentioned something about being a stay-at-home mom and loving life. I jokingly asked if she’d like to take on one more. And well… a nice little friendship was born! We met for hot chocolate and tea last night and she was super open and honest about motherhood and all the changes and even brought her youngest. I felt an instant connection with her and her strength and vision for life and her kids blew me away. She reminded me it's OK to have crazy thoughts right now. Sometimes I'll be at my desk at work and wonder what the heck I'm doing. Can I do this?

She also gets that kids need structure, consistency and discipline - something my mom keeps reminding me is very important. Soon we were talking about day care. She said she would love to watch our little one, but there was no pressure to go with her or to come up with an answer. All I know is I left feeling really good. Like God was working behind the scenes there. I swear such great things have come out of our church. So we’ll see!!!

And again, I get unsolicited advice in this area too...with people telling me their views on in-home versus a center. People will try to scare the daylights out of you. I already have HUGE trust issues from what happened to my best friend's baby. But I know I can't stop trusting everyone I come in contact with - life would be pretty hard then. Bottom line: there are pros and cons for both and everyone has different needs and wants and ideas on what they'd like their family structure to be. And I say, they can make their own decision on that. And I'm going to go with my gut on this one. 

Just really loving life! Oh, and I really need to get on those Christmas cards...

Friday, December 9, 2011

Baby Thoughts, Nursery and Names - Entering Month 6

week 21

Your baby now weighs about three-quarters of a pound and is approximately 10 1/2 inches long — the length of a carrot. You may soon feel like she's practicing martial arts as her initial fluttering movements turn into full-fledged kicks and nudges. You may also discover a pattern to her activity as you get to know her better. In other developments, your baby's eyebrows and lids are present now, and if you're having a girl, her vagina has begun to form as well.      

Last night Karl and I had this fabulous apple cheddar salad and about ten minutes later, Baby K was kicking like crazy as we were snuggled on the couch watching The Biggest Loser. I sure hope there wasn't arsenic or something in the apple dressing with all this bad talk about apple cider. But it was pretty awesome to feel baby go wild! I have noticed I'm feeling baby move more and more, which makes me smile.

Baby K's nursery is going to have a little Africa in it!
I feel like this Christmas is extra special because I have a little miracle growing inside of me. It's weird. I kind of don't even mind the weather. I mean, it's going to get down to 0 degrees tonight. I just feel happy...a lot. I look at things differently. Things that would worry me normally (buying Christmas presents, stressing about Christmas cards, etc.), just doesn't really matter right now. There are other things going on! If I get them done, I get them done, if not...oh well.

I do notice I'm tired a lot. My mom was worried over the weekend because I'm not normally a tired person. I'm the one with loads of energy wanting to go for a run or wanting to play volleyball for hours on end, but lately, I just want to nap. I think it's because I've been getting up at least 3-5 times a night to go to the bathroom. Then, I tend to get up every time I roll over, so that's another handful of times. To me, that sounds like someone with sleep apnea, ya know? So of course I should be tired. Not to mention I'm creating life - that can take a lot out of someone!


Another thing I've noticed is the weight gain. Dear Lord. I gained seven pounds in ONE month. I'm still in the same maternity jeans....so that's good, right? I kind of gigged at the doctor's but he looked at me and said, "YOU ARE PREGNANT. And trust me...you are one of the very few normal ones. And I'm serious."

His words didn't totally sink in until we walked out into the waiting area and two women from the Shakopee Women's Prison were sitting with their guards, very pregnant and big. So yes, things could be worse...

Our five month check up went great. Baby's heart was super fast this time. I keep thinking we're having a boy, but I don't know how many friends have told me they swore up and down they were having a boy and found out it was a girl! So, I can see that happening to us too. I really don't care. I just want HEALTHY, and a baby with personality!

Right now we're thinking of names. No, we're not doing anything weird like Apple, Owlie or Cockadoo. We're sticking with pretty traditional names. Those will be determined in April!

My mom and I worked on our shower invites for my first shower in Illinois!! She sent them out yesterday. They were so stinken cute. They reflect what the nursery is going to look like. We're turning one of our guest bedrooms into an African safari (now you know why there are animal pics pasted throughout this post) since two Christmases ago my family and I flew out to visit my younger brother and sister in law in South Africa. What a trip of a lifetime. There'll be little lion cubs and giraffes and all that fun stuff!! I can't wait. Of course there will pictures after it's completed.

         

Monday, December 5, 2011

20-week ultrasound - Month 5

week 20
You're at the halfway mark — congratulations! Your baby weighs about 10 1/2 ounces now. He's also around 6 1/2 inches long from head to bottom and about 10 inches from head to heel — the length of a banana. (The way your baby is measured changes now.) He's swallowing more these days, which is good practice for his digestive system. He's also producing meconium, a black, sticky by-product of digestion. This gooey substance will accumulate in his bowels, and you'll see it in his first soiled diaper (although some babies pass meconium in the womb or during delivery). 

We are halfway!!!!!!!!! I am so excited!!! Better yet, Karl and I have the ultrasound today at 3:45 and it's FRIDAY!!! EVEN better, my parents and Karl's parents are coming to see Baby K too!!! My mom never had an ultrasound when she was pregnant with us and was never able to see us in action in her womb, so I thought this would be pretty fun for her.

I just can't wait to see Baby K. I feel him/her kicking around like crazy lately and I just want to see what's going on there.

(back writing on Monday, Dec. 5)

The ultrasound wasn't down at 3:45.
I know.

You should've felt my heart drop, or at least heard it... I almost cried when the woman at the front desk told me that they didn't have us down.
Here we were, totally excited, and both sets of parents were in the room waiting, and we were told...."sorry, you're not down."   

Say what!??!?! But, I told myself that we'd still get the ultrasound and maybe this just had to be this way. So we rescheduled for 8 p.m. that night. I grabbed my $5 Target gift card from St. Francis for all the scheduling mishap and instead we went to Dangerfields for Happy Hour and dinner. Then Karl and my mom did some wine tasting by the house and we were off to the hospital again. This time the place was dead - we were the last appointment of the day. I suppose this worked out in our benefit because the tech worked on me extra hard and spent over an hour getting pictures, video and 3-D pics.

But low and behold...darn Baby K wouldn't turn for us, so the tech made me get up and empty my bladder and then she made me flip on my side, turn over, back on my back, she tilted me upside down and then she moved the little Doppler thing over and around my belly trying to get Baby K to move!!!
Then...get this...little adorable Baby K yawned for us, like we were boring him/her.
video


The tech (Sam) said Baby K was the most stubborn baby she's had in a long time. Greeeaaat. Does this mean Baby K is going to be a May baby instead or something? Aries or Taurus? Oh boy, oh boy!
But finally....FINALLY Baby K moved and Sam was able to get a full on view of his/her adorable healthy face and he/she SMILED!!!!! He/she looks perfect with his/her 138 beats per minute healthy-looking, strong heart. And Sam said she knew immediately what we're having, but she didn't spill like we had asked her not to. She was good. Both grandpas were waiting to find out what the gender was, and I'm pretty sure my dad was willing to pay her off to find out!!! Not a word!

April 16th it is! In the meantime, check out this little cutie pie in action (the best video is too large to upload). I can't WAIT to meet him/her!!!! I personally think baby is a he.... :)
  

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Girlfriends' Guide to Baby Gear - Month 5

week 20

I think my friends on Facebook and Twitter were getting annoyed with me asking for the best strollers and baby products out there. Finally two friends suggested I go out and get The Girlfriend's Guide to Baby Gear by Vicki Iovine. So I did.

Okay, great advice. This book has been wonderful because after reading it, I realized there are many things I don't need. Plus, things I thought I needed that are totally not safe (i.e. a lot of borrowed items from family, friends, garage sales, etc.) and this book names off the really great products that have busy mom's talking.

For instance, I'm not a mom (yet). I have no clue how having a baby is going to add to my already crazy, busy life, but this book helps. It reminds you that most of the time you'll have maybe one hand free, so why get the crib that requires two? The book was written by moms who have already been there, done that.

For instance, I have a really hard time picking up packaged food right now in the baby food section thinking, "I'm going to feed our baby something that has a shelf life of a couple years???" I don't even make those types of packaged foods for Karl and myself to eat. So I was really excited to come across the site Kid Co Inc, thanks to the book. I will be purchasing this awesome Baby Food Mill for sure. And with luck, I realized they are sold in Edina at Amma Parenting Center! Will be checking out this store.

One other thing is a lot of people will offer to lend you their stuff, but there are always recalls. Tons and tons of recalls and big time safety issues. It's a MUST to buy a brand new car seat and crib. Though expensive, these are where a lot of injuries happen and you just don't mess around. Also, I read that most of the cribs sold at places most of us register at are kind of, uh, crap... Sure, the book was written in 2003, and maybe these stores have improved the quality of their products, but I'm not sure I want to risk it. I will need to venture out and focus on department stores or furniture stores and look for labels like, Child Craft, Legacy, Simmons, Sorelle, Morigeau-Lepine, Pali and Ragazzi. So that'll be our next project. Maybe I'll be taking grandma for a little shopping trip when she and grandpa are here next. :)

Things that I registered for that I should take off - (However, I'm really getting fed up with Target's website. This is the third time I can't get to our registry to make changes to it.)
  • Car seat toy bar (dangerous)
  • Any car seat head and seat padding (they test these things without the padding for a reason)
  • Wipe warmer (kind of a waste)
  • Powder (bad for baby's lungs)
  • Jumper that hangs from door or ceiling (danger, danger) 
Items I really need to look into more:
  • A big and small diaper bag (needs to be waterproof just in case something leaks or explodes - easy clean up. They suggest Lands End but I didn't find any I liked... or else www.babystyle.com, www.bellybasics.com or www.mobilemoms.com). And the cool part is the author lists everything that needs to be IN the diaper bag. Phew! I will say the "backpack" seems to be the clear winner. Frees up hands... Seems to be the common theme here...
  • Umbrella stroller (for those quick trips...they are light and simple and Maclaren, Combi and Peg Perego are the way to go).
  • Baby Bjorn (way better to carry baby in front than back).
  • 4 side-snap shirts (yes, annoying because they slide up but baby doesn't like umbilical cord getting all rubbed on that first week or two by onesies).
  • Graco Pack N Play with the bassinet and changing table (easy to travel with and easy to leave on another level of the house...good because we have three levels!)
  • Bookshelf for all those awesome books coming!!
  • Diaper Champ (or one that doesn't require you to go out and buy specific garbage bags. It gets expensive. The reviews I read about Diaper Champ aren't good, so I'm still stuck. But I read I will be changing over 100 diapers a week. OMG.) 
  • And some sort of net laundry sack for delicates like socks and things that laundry machine will have no problem chewing up.
So love this book!!!! Did you read anything that helped you through your pregnancy?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Triple Tomato Orzo

Triple Tomato Orzo
serves 4
recipe found in Health Magazine, May 2011 (recipe developed by Nadia G, host of Bitchin' Kitchen)

I used red bell peppers instead because they were on sale!
1 cup dried orzo
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small red onion, minced
1 red chile, minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can whole tomatoes
12 sun-dried tomatoes, minced
4 basil leaves, torn
1/4 teaspoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
6 kalamata olives, minced
1/4 cup minced parsley
4 large tomatoes
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella

Preheat oven to 375°. Cook orzo until al dente; set aside.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Sauté garlic 1 minute. Add onion and red chile; sauté 6 minutes.

With clean hands, crush canned tomatoes; add to pan.

Add minced sun-dried tomatoes, basil leaves, brown sugar, sea salt, and pepper to pan; bring to a simmer. Cook until most of liquid is cooked off (25-30 minutes).

Add olives and parsley to pan; remove from heat. Add orzo to sauce, mixing well. Core tomatoes; stuff with orzo-and-sauce mixture. Top each tomato with 2 tablespoons mozzarella. Bake for 30-35 minutes.


Karl's reaction: "Ohhhh, I like this a lot. This is really good babe."

My take: This was excellent. Will be making again...even with red bell peppers!!!

Chicken Couscous

Chicken Couscous

serves 4
recipe found in Fitness Magazine, October 2011
Chicken Couscous
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup sliced almonds
3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, fat trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
1 zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 carrots, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 large tomato, chopped
1/2 cup canned chickpeas, drained
1/2 lemon, zest peeled into 1/2-inch- thick strips, juice to taste
1/3 cup raisins
3/4 cup whole-wheat couscous
1/4 cup chopped parsley

1. Warm the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the almonds; toast until golden, 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer them to a bowl.

2. Season the chicken with the salt and black pepper, add to pot and cook until browned, 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken to a plate. Add the scallions, zucchini and carrots; cook 6 minutes. Mix in the cinnamon, cumin, coriander and turmeric; saute 1 minute.

3. Add the chicken stock, tomato, chickpeas, lemon zest and raisins; bring to a simmer. Return chicken to pot, cover and simmer 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken and vegetables to a serving bowl. Season with lemon juice. Cover and keep warm.

4. Add the couscous to the liquid remaining in pot, cover and turn off heat. Let rest 5 minutes; fluff couscous with a fork. Serve chicken and vegetables over couscous, garnished with almonds and parsley.

Karl's reaction: "The house smells really good. This looks awesome. I wish there were more raisins in this. Wait...is there curry in here?" So my husband hates Indian food and curry. There was no curry in here but for some reason he thought it tasted too Indian. Sigh.

My take: I liked this. Seemed like there could be more juice to it though, but I'd make again (without Karl being around).

Spinach-Tomato Pasta Shells

Spinach-Tomato Pasta Shells
serves 4
recipe found in Health, July/August but developed by Guy Fierie (host of three Food Network shows)

Spinach-Tomato Pasta Shells (sooo good)
 3/4 pound whole-wheat medium pasta shells
1 tablespoon butter
1 thinly sliced shallot
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 (5-ounce) package baby spinach
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 (8-ounce) container grape tomatoes
Garnishes: 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, additional grated cheese
I also added Jennie-O Italian turkey sausage to get more meat in the recipe (it really added good flavor too)

Cook pasta shells according to package.
 
Meanwhile, heat butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add sliced shallot and crushed red pepper; reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for 1-2 minutes or until translucent.
 
Add spinach and chicken broth; cover and cook for 1 minute. Add half-and-half, 1/4 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese, and black pepper. Stir to combine, and cook for 3 minutes.
 
Add grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise, and the cooked pasta; toss. Garnish with flat-leaf parsley and additional grated cheese. Serve.

The meal all put together.
Karl's reaction: "Ohhh, I like this one a lot. Might be a titch too spicy for me, but I do like it."
 
My take: I love this recipe. Really good. Tasted better the next day even.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Introducing Your Dad - Month 5

week 19

Your baby weighs about 8 1/2 ounces, and measures 6 inches, head to bottom — about the size of a large heirloom tomato. The hair on her scalp is sprouting. This is a crucial time for sensory development: Your baby's brain is designating specialized areas for smell, taste, hearing, vision, and touch. Some research suggests that she may be able to hear your voice now, so don't be shy about reading aloud, talking to her, or singing a happy tune if the mood strikes you. 

Me at 19 weeks!
Baby K,

This is a letter to you. I wanted to talk about someone super special - someone who is dying to meet you.

He's your dad, Karl.

He felt you for the first time on Sunday. We'd come home from a weekend at your Grandpa and Grandma Koester's cabin (yes, your dad got another buck!) and we both wanted to take a nap. We were lying in bed, watching the Minnesota Vikings lose badly and then started watching the Chicago Bears win big time (I'm totally fine with you becoming a Bears fan by the way), and you started kicking (or punching) - I haven't figured it out quite yet.

I had your dad place his hand on my belly and you kicked right away. You literally took his breath away. He gasped. And then this huge smile broke on his face (kind of like when I told him I was pregnant with you). And I looked over at him again and a single tear spilled down his cheek. The moment was really something special and I could just tell he was thinking all sorts of things about you.

Sometimes he talks to you too. He tells me to butt out of the conversation, but I have a tendency to eavesdrop because your dad makes me laugh. Just warning you but soon he'll start making you listen to Weezer now that he knows you can hear. He really can't wait to meet you. Sometimes he says he's scared - I say that too. But that's because we don't know what to expect. Will you cry all the time? Will you sleep okay? Will you throw up all over your dad....causing him to throw up all over me? He kind of doesn't like puke very much. Or poop. But I think he's past the poop part thanks to your mom and Gpa-Bear in Illinois. Honestly, we don't know what's to come and that sometimes can be scary. But what we do know is we're pretty excited to meet you and can't wait to see where things go. I want to know who you're going to become.

You should've seen your dad when we were registering at Babies R' Us. Off he went to the Lego's and then off to the Matchbox cars. He was pulling me in every direction like he had sacks of gold to show me. He couldn't believe all the cool toys out there. He was going on and on how he can't wait to build the best race tracks and Lego houses with you.

Yes, I do have to remind him that you could end up being a girl. And that's going to be just as awesome because, well, I'm a girl. And your father loves me very much. Sometimes I can just tell by the way he looks at me or how he calls me right away when he's done with work to let me know he's coming home and to make sure I made it home safe. I like that. Plus, the cool thing about being a girl is I'm really close with my dad...we even played catch quite a bit in the yard together. He even told me the best days of his life were watching me play volleyball. Mine too.

Sooo...to start...I met your dad at work in 2006. It was funny how that all started. I really think God was behind it all because how does a girl from Illinois end up at an engineering firm that tests soil in Bloomington, Minnesota?? So because of how we met and how I feel about your dad, I have to believe God does work in all of us and wants the best for us. That freewill stuff kind of gets in the way sometimes though. We like to make our own choices and decisions and sometimes they are the wrong ones and lead us in directions we never intended to go. But if we keep trusting in him, we get back on track and good is waiting for us. Sometimes it's easy to forget about God, but he really does know best. That's the greatest lesson I can teach you. Believe in him and you will get very far.

Now...getting back to your dad. He was shorter than me and had long hair. Sometimes I wondered if he had just rolled out of bed, walked into the shower and forgotten to dry his hair when I saw him walking the halls at work. He'd usually have a coffee cup in hand and baggie jeans with these crazy funky shoes. Sometimes the coffee cup had breakfast in it... Ramen noodles. But there was something about those eyes of his. They sparkled. And then he laughed. That was it for me. That, and there on his face was the cutest dimple ever. I knew I had to know him.

Your mom and dad's first night out - a work party in 07
Soon we began talking and your dad sure talked about your grandpa like he was the President of the United States. I could tell he loved your grandpa very much. Then I started sharing stories about my family and how I loved to travel with your Uncle Mike and how your Uncle Mark was always making me laugh with all his crazy shenanigans. And how lucky I felt to have such a close family, but how crazy we could be when we all got together. I couldn't quite explain what was happening inside me, but I knew I needed to know your dad more and more. I couldn't get enough of him.

He also started making all these weird origami things...and putting them in my cube. I'd get a new one every day. Pretty soon I had a collection. I never had a guy pay so much attention to me in such a unique way. I don't think the CEO ever understood (as the bathroom was right next to my cube and he was able to see your dad's art collection every day)...or else he thought I was just another weird engineer who was fascinated by origami.

The origami your dad made me at work
Then your dad and I sat by each other at an event that the company put on. We had to dress up all nice and your dad could've sat anywhere at this really fancy golf resort, and with anyone, but he sat by me. And we sat close to one another and everything in the world felt really great. I couldn't stop smiling. We couldn't stop talking. We even sampled each other's food. There was so much to talk about. And he looked good that night with his long hair and suit coat. I didn't want the night to end. But it did.

We were both dating these duds at the time, so we couldn't really start anything more. So we continued having really great conversations with one another.

Then one day my shower broke. The dud I was dating told me to go look it up online and figure it out. Your Uncle Mike was off traveling in some exotic place, so he was out. And then for some reason I decided to call your dad. And he took me to Home Depot. He even came into the town home you are coming home to after you're born and fixed the shower.

So then I had to ask myself...how could I resist a man who dropped everything for me? And was so nice to me? And was handy? I knew I had a small window of time to share how I felt, so over a slice of pizza I told him if he were single, I'd scoop him up in a second.

I wasn't very nervous like I would have been with any other guy. The words felt right. And he seemed to like what I said. But a couple weeks went by and nothing. (Well, he did lead me on a scavenger hunt around the office to some dead roses, but that's a story for a different time.) Then Valentine's Day came. My doorbell rang and your dad was on the front steps. He asked me if I'd go out with him that Saturday night. I invited him in but all he wanted to do was ask me on a date in person. So I did what any women would do...I fell in love with him. And I have been ever since. Over and over.

I just want you to know how lucky you are to have a dad like Karl. He is amazing. And I mean amazing. And he already loves you and hasn't even met you! He's working extra hard right now so his career takes off in another year or two. You should see all the cool legs and arms he makes for people. He really is talented. I can't wait for you two to meet and to watch the bond grow between the both of you. It's going to be fun to watch. Your dad and I love each other very much and can't wait to have you join all our fun adventures...cuz we have many!

Love,
Mom

P.S. Oh, and this is the big buck your dad got. Probably the biggest he'll ever get. He even made the front page news. Your dad's kind of a big deal....

Your dad with "The Freak"