Friday, August 31, 2012

22 Week Appointment and BUMP

Is it me, or does my belly look square in the photo above?? It may be the dots in the shower curtain. I hope.

I had my appointment with my Richmond OB and anatomy scan yesterday. Feeling very blessed - everything looks really good! It was so reassuring to listen to the ultrasound technician count off all the tiny body parts and take pictures of the little chambers of the heart beating. Also reassuring to hear that the baby is still a girl!

The ultrasound tech was funny - she told me as I was laying down on the table that she DEMANDS cooperation! Very stern. I meekly said ok, I'll cooperate. But she meant the baby. And for the most part, the baby complied. Some of the shots were just beautiful - one shows all her little leg and foot bones.

The only thing the ultrasound technician couldn't get a picture of was the back of the spine, because we couldn't get baby girl to flip over from lying on her back. I think the tech said she was head down and on her back. So I rolled on to one side and then the other, but the baby just rolled with me! I think this was because her daddy couldn't be there for this scan and so now we have to have another one that he can be there for.

I have to admit, I was really nervous for this appointment. I'd just had one at 16 weeks and everything looked great, so I was being a tad irrational (who, me??). But for some reason, the pregnancy didn't feel "real" until I saw my doctor here at home. I was also a little hesitant to believe it was actually a girl. Which is ridiculous! The doctor in London was extremely capable. So... I don't know. I'm weird.  Even weirder when I'm pregnant.

After the anatomy scan, I had my appointment with Dr. D, which was so much fun. Got all caught up, got my information in the system and discussed various fascinating topics, such as heartburn. Weight gain is good - I'm at 12 or 13 pounds-ish. Keep waiting to blow up like the Stay-Puft marshmallow man like I did last time. Now that I'm not walking as much as I did in London, I'm sure it's just a matter of time.

Probably the biggest piece of news is that my due date is now January 4th. If I have another c-section, which I probably will, I'll deliver a week before that. It isn't scheduled yet - I need to see how far in advance they'll book that. Anyways, right after Christmas we are getting an awesome present! And it's going to be a very tame New Year's this year - especially compared to last year in London!

So anyways, that was kind of it! I go back in 4 weeks for another scan and appointment. Since that scan will be short, I think we'll bring Charlie, too. He is always asking to see the baby and seems to comprehend all of it, which is amazing to me. He kisses my belly button and tells me just through there (I guess a tube from my belly button?) is a baby! And when can we see this baby?? I tell him right after Christmas - not a popular answer.

Charlie came in the bathroom to help me take the last couple of photos... that belly looks more round, doesn't it?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Men's and Women's Gold Medal Soccer

Oh my gosh, will I stop talking about the Olympics already??? Geez, they've totally moved on to the Paralympic games in London, the regular Olympics is so yesterday.

But I would be remiss to not at least post pics from the men's and women's soccer matches we got to attend. We got to see the gold medal match for each, held at Wembley Stadium, which is not far from our flat.

I got lucky online with the men's tickets and the women's tickets were fairly easy to come by as women's soccer is really not a big deal in Europe. Sad, considering how huge men's soccer is, but true. We bought them right after the U.S. women beat Canada in the semi-finals and Brad scored us some pretty awesome seats. Front row of the second deck.

The women played Japan and it was a real nail biter. The Japanese women came very close to scoring several times and Hope Solo was the only reason they didn't. She was amazing, blocked anything coming her way.

Overall we both thought the U.S. women looked tired, though.... perhaps because the match with Canada was very long and they only had a day to rest in between. Or maybe they had all been in the Olympic Village hooking up, as Hope Solo discusses in her new book I Love to Promote Myself. At any rate, it was not the most enthusiastic the women's team had looked, but they were awesome nonetheless.


Since the medal ceremony was immediately following the match, the Canadian women were there, as they had won their bronze medal game earlier in the day. They walked around drinking beer while wearing what looked like extremely heavy track suits for a summer games.

The Japanese fans were very calm and courteous. After their team lost, almost all of them continued to sit so they could cheer their team when they were awarded the silver medal. This is the opposite of the men's Brazil fans, who collectively got up and left as soon as they figured out the gold wasn't going to happen.

Some of the Japanese fans were in traditional dress and Brad loved snapping their photos, even without permission. These two humored the silly American:
The U.S. women were obviously very excited when they won the gold. Their section of friends and family must have been on the deck right below ours because they kept coming back to our side of the stadium and waving. Which really, made for great photos!
On the flip side, after the game, the Japanese team cried. And cried and cried. It was heartbreaking. I wanted to hug them. But by the time they came out to receive their silver medals, they were all smiles and very gracious. I also observed that they all had roughly the same haircut.

With a large team like soccer, the medal ceremony got kinda boring. They hand everyone a medal and then go back and hand them a little bouquet. Lather, rinse, repeat. I think the only exciting part was when a bunch of people booed one of the men handing out the medals but we had no idea why.

Ok - I just googled. It was Sepp Blatter (what a name!) who is the president of FIFA and apparently has a real knack for making sexist, racist and derogatory statements. Sounds like a winner!

Anyways, medals awarded - yay! Moving on.

*Note: have not downloaded the men's match photos from Brad's camera, still in London. To be added later.

The men's match between Brazil and Mexico was a couple of days later and was a completely different atmosphere. While the women's match felt very calm and professional, the men's match was wild and raucous. Mariachi bands, Brazilian drum bands, chanting fans, body paint, singing - it was crazy. Even the food at the stadium was different. I was so excited there were nachos!

There were also vuvuzelas at this game, which are these 2 foot long plastic horns that make the most horrific sound. If you've ever watched the World Cup on TV, that's the reason there's a really annoying drone going on in the background - everyone is blowing on them. They are highly annoying and I hate them. I would like to break one over my knee for fun.

Before the game, I had only ever watched European soccer. This was my first Latin American game and Brad did his best to explain the difference. There's less teamwork and strategy when the Latin American teams play and more fancy tricks from individual players. It kind of felt like a jumbled mess, just passing between these individual players who would try something neat and that was it.

I also learned that for the men's Olympic teams, each country is only allowed 3 professional players per team. This obviously reduces the level of play with so many amateurs on the field. It would have been neat to see more professional players from each country.

One of the professionals on the Brazilian team (the one that actually scored) is named Hulk. Like one word, that's his name: Hulk. Brad said he might end up playing for Chelsea, though the season has already started so maybe not. I never really had an interest in getting a Chelsea jersey, but a jersey that says Hulk? I'll take it.

Fortunately for Brad, we ended up sitting next to another Londoner and his dad, visiting from Africa, who he could talk soccer with. I can't really do much more than observe, though I'm learning!

As I mentioned above, once Brazil figured out they weren't going to win, it was a mass exit. I could understand if this was for a cup of some sort, but they just won a silver medal!! But I can't criticize too hard - since we don't have a strong affiliation with either team, we got up and left too.

And so ended our Olympic experience. We were very fortunate and got to see a bit of everything we were hoping to see, with the exception of swimming. I can't imagine we would ever go to another Olympics, unless they somehow end up in Dallas, so I'm glad we made the most of it. And I really hope the souvenir shirts I guessed on and bought actually fit when I'm not pregnant!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Athletics Finals

Remember the Olympics? Yeah, they happened a few weeks ago. We went. I just haven't updated the blog with the pictures yet. I thought I'd wait until it felt almost irrelevant. 

After the Olympics started, Brad decided he really wanted to attend a session of Athletics. Track & Field to all of us in the U.S. Considering we'd had a UK residence for months and could have tried to purchase tickets off the web site before the games started, his timing was questionable. But we caught wind of another wave of tickets being released late one night and he started clicking.

Stop me if I've already told you this, but the London 2012 ticket site was horrible. Tickets would show up when you searched, but once they were in your cart, you'd often receive a message that there were no tickets available for that event. I eventually realized if you just tried over and over to purchase them, you'd sometimes get lucky and they'd eventually go through.

Now, when I talk about tickets, I am talking about reasonably priced tickets - which were still ridiculously priced, but doable. If you had 450-795 pounds PER TICKET to spend, you could probably go to just about any event. That's about $700-1100 per ticket given the exchange rate.

After a while, we began to feel like Olympic ticket junkies. After Charlie's bed time, we'd each be glued to our laptops, clicking away. It kind of reminded me of middle school, dialing the radio station over and over, hoping for some NKOTB concert tickets. I doubt it brought up the same memory for Brad.

At 1am one night, about an hour after I gave up, Brad got some Athletics tickets to go through. Hooray! 

ANYWAYS. Tickets obtained. Spooners going. Onward.

Unlike the day session I went to with Katie, we were much higher up and off the track. We could see every event in its entirety, but were obviously farther away from the athletes. We were also under the cover, which was nice, as it of course rained. Here's our lovely nighttime view:
We could also see the Olympic flame in all its glory:
I was very concerned with being warm enough. It isn't every summer Olympics the fans are saying that, is it? I squeezed into a non-pregnancy workout half zip. I was warm enough, but could not wait to take it off. It was the top version of compression stockings. Here I am in front of the Olympic stadium, thinking "ouch". 
The theme of the night could have been Americans Doing Great Things. It was seriously an exciting night to be an American fan. Just dominating all over the place. Take that China. 

In a moment of local pride, we got to see a fellow Richmonder win a medal. We saw the Women's 100M Hurdles semi-finals and finals. Kellie Wells of Richmond, Virginia (James River High School and Hampton University) took bronze! 
(Note: if you want to Google her, be sure to spell it "Kellie", as there is apparently a porn star named Kelly Wells. I won't enlighten you with what she's been up to lately.)

Another American, Dawn Harper, took silver. The "fastest woman in the world", Sally Pearson of Australia, took gold. She also set a new Olympic record. In the rain. Hurdles in the rain! Goooo Sally. 

We also got to see the men's high jump finals. Erik Kynard of Team USA won silver! 
I think he won because he had crazy American flag socks on. You know, for higher jumping. 
We saw the Men's 1500M final, in which a Mexican-American, Leo Manzano won silver for the U.S. He lives in Austin and we won't discuss where he went to college. He carried both the Mexican and U.S. flags around the track, which I thought was neat. Mexico is not very well represented in Athletics events. Evidently, I was so moved, I forgot to snap any pictures of him. Dangit.

While it wasn't a final, we saw the semi-final heats for the Men's 800M, which had a few Americans running it. Two made it to the finals, including "Duane Bang" Solomon, who I followed because I thought his nickname was funny. His running shoes have the word "bang" on them. Ha. Both Americans barely made it to the finals, but Duane did really well - just missed the bronze medal two nights later.
The highlight of the evening might have been the Men's discus final. Not because it's all that exciting to watch or there were any strong U.S. competitors. But you have never seen a more joyous gold medal winner than the German who took off his shirt, grabbed the German flag and jumped all the hurdles!
Interesting tidbit: In order to transport the discuses (disci?) from the field where the judges pick them up, back to where the athletes are, miniature Mini Coopers loop back and forth on the field. True story.

We also saw the Women's Long Jump finals and Women's 1500M finals. Nothing interesting to report there. Oh and there were some medal ceremonies for events we didn't see. Jen Dunkirk of the U.S. was awarded a gold medal for the Women's Pole Vault.

Other than watching the events, we hit up the London 2012 Megastore for souvenirs. The guards so sweetly let us cut in line because I was pregnant. I always feel a bit bad for doing that, since I feel fine. But not bad enough to not do it. 

We also grabbed dinner at one of the global food courts that are spread around the village. The food is.... ok. Expensive. Fine. There was a festive vibe, though. Since I couldn't have any beer (well I had a little) I decided a nutella waffle was in order once inside the stadium. Waffles in Europe: Not just for breakfast! And nutella is basically a food group. 
We left in the misty rain, so very London, and discussed how we'll take the crappy rain over dripping with sweat. I shivered while we discussed. Unfortunately, the Orbit did not look any more attractive lit up at night. And I saw in the paper that it is here to stay. 
Overall, a night to remember!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Jet. Lag.

Ohhhh my gosh, this has been a tiring week. Charlie and I arrived in Richmond late on Wednesday night, after our connection in Chicago was cancelled. I thought we were going to have to spend the night there, but fortunately they squeezed us in the last flight out that night. My comfy bed was such a welcome sight after being awake for over 24 hours.

Leaving London was kind of surreal. It was hard saying bye to Brad since we won't see him for a few weeks (though I flipped the bird and said good riddance to that broken down flat) and as we drove away in the taxi, I couldn't believe I wouldn't see all of it for a long time. It was more emotional than I was expecting.

Charlie did so well on the flights, I really could not have asked for more. I'm not sure why, but it was a much easier flight than flying to the states in January. He wasn't as restless and even napped for a few hours. I watched Bel Ami, a documentary on Woody Allen and read my Kindle (A Game of Thrones).

O'hare Airport has a kids' area that is an offshoot of the Children's Museum of Chicago. It's called Kid's Take Off and it saved my life. Charlie played in there for hours. Like, lots of hours, because we ended up being at O'hare for almost 9 hours.

We both slept on the flight to Richmond. Charlie was worn out after all that playing. Fortunately, my MIL and SIL came from Williamsburg to pick us up and help me get us settled. It was so nice; they even brought food! When you are exhausted after a very long day of travel, the last thing you want to do is get up and go to the grocery store first thing. And you know what they say about grocery shopping while hungry....

The past few nights have been short for us. I've been pushing us to stay up until normal times, but neither of us can sleep until normal times. The other morning Charlie came in my room at 6:30 (I had already been awake for an hour) and sounded so perplexed when he told me he couldn't sleep anymore! It was the opposite of the day we left for Heathrow, when he told Brad he would go get on the airplane after he finished sleeping.

I think each day will just get a little bit better. I am so tired after lunch each day it hurts. Reminds me of my first trimester.

I have been getting a lot done around the house. Bills paid, things cleaned and organized, appointments made, clothes unpacked. I even got my box of maternity stuff down from the attic, though most of it is fall/winter. So I could really stand for cooler weather to arrive on time this year! You know, just from needing something to wear that fits.

This week we have many doctor/dentist/dog/other appointments. I'm working on Charlie's big boy room, across the hall from the nursery. He is VERY excited about it. Hoping to snap out of my daze (London fog? hardy har) so I can make rational home decor decisions.

Next week Charlie is going to day camp in the morning at his preschool, which is at our church. I'm hoping to get back on the exercise wagon at that point.

I will also have my 20 week ultrasound next week and finally see my Richmond OB to get established with her. I wish Brad could be here for it, but they were anxious to get me in ASAP and he doesn't come back until the following weekend. Baby girl has been kicking up a storm; I'm finally feeling them with some consistency.

And finally, the poodles. It has been SO GOOD to see them and snuggle with them. I think they were upset with me that first night, as neither slept in my room with me, but they have both warmed up since then. They were excited to see us, but in the same way they are excited after we leave for a day or two. I guess it is like my Aunt Judy says - What's time to a dog?

Charlie has been so excited to be around them again, but he has grown up so much, it is a really different relationship than it was when we left. He wants to play with them outside, he tattles on them when they don't do what he wants, and seems genuinely worried when he isn't sure where they are.

He is also having to learn that the games he thinks are fun are not necessarily ones that they like. Zoe's gotten fussy with him a couple of times and I can't blame her - he was really being annoying! So we're going to have to work on that.

Well, that's all I can think of right now. I'm going to watch some House Hunters (yay!) and ignore the giant pile of clothes on my bedroom floor that need to be put away. It's good to be home. :)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Leaving

Charlie and I are getting ready to pack up and head back to the states.... and I am full of mixed emotions. Brad is staying until the end of the month to finish his project, but I am going to get Charlie home and over jet lag and settled before Brad arrives. He is going to take a couple of weeks off of work when he returns and I didn't want them to be spent up at 4am each morning like we did in January. Three year olds can take quite a while to get over jet lag!

Fortunately on this end of the move, we have packers and shippers to send our stuff to us. Amazing what you accumulate in 10 months. They are coming to pack up right before Brad heads home. I am just taking a couple of suitcases with what we need for the next 8 weeks or so until our overseas shipment arrives.

The hardest part of leaving is saying good bye to friends. I'm amazed what great friends we have made in the short time we have been here. I didn't expect to be sad to leave. But I am - especially for the friends I'm not sure when I'll see again.

Moving for such a short time period is tough because we have spent the entire time with one foot in Virginia and one foot here. Never really living in either and never really feeling settled. That has probably been the hardest part of this experience. 

I'm not sure Charlie realizes that flying home means not seeing our friends here anymore. Sometimes he talks about them like they are coming along for the ride! It will be interesting to see what he has to say when we get back. I hope the adjustment isn't too tough for him. He's also gotten so used to seeing Daddy almost every day that I think 2 1/2 weeks without him is going to be tough. He is definitely a daddy's boy these days. I'm going to plan some fun things for when Brad gets back in town.

There are so many things I am looking forward to getting back to. Friends, family and of course, our puppies. It's been many months since I've had a good puppy snuggle. We just have many happy reunions coming up! Even just being in the same time zone or one over will be nice - it is hard to set up phone calls and keep in touch over here with the time difference.

I can't wait to get settled back in our house, which I love to decorate and make cozy. My mom speculated that part of the reason I never got comfortable in the flat is because I can't fiddle with it at all! But now I have a big boy bedroom and a nursery to decorate... and I love decorating for fall and the holidays. Fall in Virginia is so beautiful. I can't wait.

And then there are silly things, which shouldn't matter (or not matter as much), but they do. Driving my car and the ease of getting places. Big grocery stores... and Target! I can finally get Charlie some stinkin' shoes that fit after having no luck here for weeks.

Well I'd better sign off. The next few days are going to be busy! Catch you on the flip side!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Olympic Park and Athletic Heats

I had the best day today. I got to go to the Olympic Park and watch some athletic events in the Olympic stadium!! My friend Katie was supposed to go with her husband, but he got called out of town for work at the last minute so she invited me!! All I had to do was find a sitter willing to show up at 7am. I lucked out there, too. Daytime babysitters are kind of a tall order in these parts. 

Our event started at 10am and we had no idea what security would be like getting into the park, so we met in the tube station nice and early. Crowd control and security is down to a science there. You are routed this way or that and there are tons of Olympic volunteers out ready to answer questions or tell you where you need to be. 

I think because we were so early, we got through really quickly. So quickly, we had plenty of time to hit up the London 2012 megastore for souvenirs. Katie is an even bigger shopper than I am. We had a blast in there finding all sorts of cute stuff. 

After shopping we attempted and failed to get some food (lines were loooong), so we just took our seats and decided to wait for lunch. We had awesome seats, 5th row!
The stadium was just buzzing the whole time we were there. We saw qualifying heats for men's discus, women's shot put, women's 100m hurdles, men's 800m and women's 1500m. The stadium was completely full. For heats. Athletics is a hot ticket! There's also music playing the whole time and lively announcers talking.

There were lots of Americans competing that we cheered for and we cheered for a lot of the Great Britain athletes as well. The two and a half hours went by so quickly. It is all just so absorbing to watch!
After our event was over, we headed out to one of the food court areas and had Mexican food. For London, it wasn't bad! Then we set out to explore the park!

There are 8 venues in the park, along with lots of green space, food courts, shopping, a stage, art gallery, viewing areas.... it is huge. So much more massive than I was expecting. Some of the venues will stay, but most are built to be temporary.

You can kind of tell which are which - the velodrome (indoor cycling), for example, is architecturally stunning... while the basketball arena is a box covered in a glorified tarp.


A canal was built in the middle of the park and the green space is covered in the most beautiful native British wildflowers.

You can see the athlete's village from the park, which looked... not very charming. Kind of sterile actually. But yeah, that's where the athletes are hooking up when they aren't competing. Or so I'm told. 

There was a large observation tower, called the Orbit, built in the park that you can buy separate tickets for to go up. There are not many places at all in London that have a view, so in that respect, it's unique. But gut feeling was this is way hideously ugly, no? Kinda hope it's temporary, if only for the area's residents.
There were several buildings dotting the park that were "sponsor showcases" - buildings the Olympic sponsors erected to promote their brands. I should have taken a picture of the huge flashy McDonalds, but I didn't.

This is the Coca-Cola beatbox, promoting London's young musical talent... along with themselves.
Panasonic put a huge, two-sided tv in the park where you could sit on the lawn and watch events. It was incredibly crowded when we walked by.
By the time we had done a full lap to see everything in the park, it was getting crowded. Like, scary crowded. I don't think I have ever seen so many people in one place in my whole life. It actually made both of us uneasy to be in such a huge crowd.

We started walking back to the tube station and were channeled with the rest of the cows through the designated crowd control paths. This time we were fed into the giant shopping mall that is right next to the Olympic Park. I have also never seen so many people in a single mall.

We did spot a few athletes in the mall, nobody whose name we knew. The athlete's village has its own pathway and connection to the mall so that the athletes can go back and forth at their leisure. How they can shop in crowds like that, I don't know.

We finally made it back to our train station and things calmed down. It was nice to be away from the crowds. We saw some other very tall men in team uniforms on our train. Basketball players maybe?

Overall, it was an incredible experience to get to walk around the park and see it all, as well as watch events in person. It was almost sensory overload at times. I had to keep pinching myself!

Tomorrow promises to be another amazing day. Through much web site clicking until well past 1am, Brad was able to get us some athletics tickets to some finals tomorrow night at the stadium. We'll get to see some medals being awarded!!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Cricket @ The Oval

One of Brad's friends at work organizes an annual cricket tournament to memorialize a colleague who passed away a couple of years ago. We attended it on Friday. It was located at a big cricket stadium South of the river called The Oval. The Kia Oval, actually, which sounds like a very tiny car.
Most of the event was a tournament between different adult teams, but they were doing some things for the kids to play, too. Since Charlie is all about any sport that makes him feel grown up, we figured he'd get into it.

I mainly went to spectate, feeling confident that was something I could contribute to the day. However, watching people play cricket is about as fun as watching paint dry. Actually, I have been more excited to see paint dry, depending on the room and how brave my color choice was.

At any rate, I did enjoy watching Charlie try to figure out to play with the little mini cricket set we got him in the gift shop. And I guess it was nice watching Brad kind of stand around on the field, waiting for something to happen.
Brad went out once to bat (is that the right word?) and struck out immediately. His friend standing next to me marveled at his baseball-like stance, which is horrible for cricket. Brad came back to a lot of jeering and he (quite rightly) wanted to know where the other two strikes were!?! One strike and you're out. That's a little harsh, don't you think?

After lunch the kid's coaches at the cricket grounds took all the kids down to this indoor basement field to play some more rapid form of cricket. Charlie, in all of his excitement, kept getting in the way of the pitching (which I think is called bowling) so one of the coaches had him come "help" him.
The coaches were kind enough to let him bat a couple of times and I can report that he did better than Brad! There was contact between the bat and the ball! He came running up to me afterwards, all excited.
Once the kids' session was over, all Charlie wanted to do was be on the edges of the field with whoever he managed to coerce to pitch (bowl?) for him. When Brad wasn't playing, it was him. Charlie clearly inherited the baseball stance from his father: 
By mid-afternoon it was clear Charlie was exhausted. We had to carry him crying out of the stadium. He fell asleep on my lap on the tube ride home, which was amazing since he fights sleep so much and the tube got pretty crowded and loud because of the Olympics! 

He slept right through the walk home and in his stroller for about 2 hours. I mean, tired munch! He is napping today, too. From watching it, cricket doesn't look that tiring, but when you give your all, I guess it is!