2014 in meme

Unbelievably grateful for the 14 weeks I've had at home with this little guy.

1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?
Got pregnant, went to Turkey, Belgium, and Las Vegas, gave birth via major surgery, took 3 months off of work.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
50/50. Getting pregnant dramatically changed my plans for the year. I haven’t yet decided on my resolutions for next year.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
YES. In addition to our son, born in September, my sister and sister-in-law both had babies, as did Nicolas’s brother’s partner. A number of other friends also had babies. Babies everywhere.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
My friend Janet passed away in May. It’d been a couple of years since the last time I saw her, but I miss her all the time.

5. What countries (or new places) did you visit?
Turkey and Belgium with Nicolas in February and March and Las Vegas for work in June. I also explored new parts of Michigan, Seattle, and Chicago with Nicolas.

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?
A waistline.

7. What date from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
September 19

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Not losing my mind during my pregnancy and postpartum period; keeping a small human alive with my breasts.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I had a hard first trimester emotionally, and that tainted our trip to Belgium and our time with Nicolas’s family. I wish I could do that over.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Mostly just normal pregnancy stuff, though I did literally swoon on a street corner in the heat in Vegas.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Our 12 week Bradley Method course was probably the best way I spent money this year. Also we joined the cult of the AeroPress.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Nicolas is a wonderful father, and I’m so grateful to be parenting with him.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Grand juries.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Food and drink, rent, clothes that only fit me (or the baby) for a few weeks.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
The water taxi.

16. What song will always remind you of 2014?

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?
Much happier

ii. thinner or fatter?
About 20 pounds heavier, though I will note that I’m at least 30 pounds lighter than a few months ago.

iii. richer or poorer?
Richer both financially and personally.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Sleeping. Taking long walks.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Driving. Always.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
In Rockford with my family. Nicolas made Christmas dinner: stoofvlees, a very traditional Flemish beef stew, which he spent all afternoon and evening of Christmas Eve preparing. All three of us were a bit overwhelmed and overstimulated by the Christmas celebration with the whole family, so I’m glad we kept it low-key at home. In future years, I think I’d like to shift our celebration to St. Nicholas’s Day to space out the crazy and be able to form our own traditions.

21. Did you fall in love in 2014?
With my baby boy, obviously, and even more with his papa.

22. How many one-night stands?

23. What was your favorite TV program?
True Detective was amazing, and we watched all of Battlestar Galactica during my maternity leave.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

25. What was the best book you read?
With the exception of Bill Bryson’s new book, my year in reading was either baby/parenting books or Game of Thrones. One of these days I’ll get around to blogging about things I found useful during pregnancy and “the fourth trimester”, so I’ll save the book discussion for then.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Despite my good intentions, I really didn’t listen to much music this year. I suppose installing SoundCloud on my phone counts?

27. What did you want and get?
A baby.

28. What did you want and not get?
The chance to run a marathon.

29. What was your favorite film of this year?
We didn’t watch all that many movies this year, and certainly didn’t see many in the theater. I really enjoyed In a World and Finding Vivian Maier.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 34, and did all of the things I shouldn’t have done given that I was 2-3 weeks pregnant and didn’t know it. I worked a half day, then took the train to Lakeview to meet Nicolas for lunch: fantastic burgers and beer at DryHop. We took a cab to the zoo to see the sand cat, where Nicolas surprised me with party hats and cupcakes and candles outside the small mammal house. (The sand cat didn’t want his cupcake, so I ate it later.) We walked to YogaNow in our party hats, and then I got a deep tissue massage, while Nicolas headed home to rest up. Megan, Annette, Stef, and Karina joined me for dinner at Oiistar (sake, ramen with mussels, a tiny creme brûlée), then I met Nicolas at Neo for a long, fun night of dancing and too many strong drinks. Nicolas was supposed to have class the evening of my birthday, so we celebrated the next night – wonderful food and cocktails in the library at Gilt Bar followed by Darkside at The Metro. Three days after my birthday, I found out that I was pregnant.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Peace of mind. Living closer to the beach.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?
Pregnant. Stripey.

33. What kept you sane?
Exercise, friends, and sisters.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
No one in particular.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
The Case for Reparations

36. Who did you miss?
Friends in other cities. Our much more flexible life pre-baby.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
My baby, obvs.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014:
Being a mother is harder and more wonderful than I could have imagined. Parenting involves falling in love over and over and over again with your child and, if you’re lucky, your partner. It’s challenging and humbling and completely worth it. But that doesn’t mean you don’t miss what your life (or relationship, or body) was like before. And that’s OK too.

See also: 2011, 2012, 2013.


This is what maternity leave looks like.

This is what maternity leave looks like.


I go back to work on Monday after 3 months at home with my little family. To say that I have mixed feelings is putting it lightly.

I’ve always wanted to have a family, but for a variety of reasons, it didn’t happen in previous relationships. For the last decade, my career was one of those reasons. I could NOT imagine being happy as a stay-at-home parent, and I could NOT imagine giving up the career I’ve worked pretty hard to attain, and I could NOT imagine  (or afford) putting my child in daycare. And so in those relationships, we chose to not have children. That changed with this relationship, obviously.

Family leave in this country is ridiculous in comparison to pretty much any other developed nation, so I feel incredibly grateful to have had as much time as I did: 6 weeks paid, 3 weeks cobbled together from vacation, personal, and holiday time, and 4 weeks unpaid. I kept my benefits during this time, and was able to space out the unpaid weeks so as not to break the bank. We are very fortunate.

But I find myself at the end of my 13 weeks at home with a cooing baby on my lap, wondering how to make it all work. It physically pains me to think about leaving him next week to go to the office. I’ve been crying about it every day for weeks. While it’s been very hard at times, I’ve so enjoyed this time at home with my guys, and I can’t imagine what it’s going to feel like being away from them all day, particularly with the baby growing and changing so quickly.

I haven’t suddenly had a change of heart about being a stay-at-home parent, but I have missed work a lot less than I expected. It’s been a wonderful gift to just turn that part off for a few months. I’ve been checking my email, but haven’t had to really think about it for a long time – which has been good because it’s not like I’ve really been able to think all that much. While I’ve been home, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about what we’d like our future to look like, and where we might go next, and I’m excited about the directions we’ve plotted out together, however far off they may be.

On Monday, there will be a new normal, one that doesn’t allow for extended mornings in pajama pants or cuddled up post-nursing naps. No long walks to the park, or mid-afternoon coffees before a trip to the lake or the zoo with a sleeping baby in the carrier on my chest. It will be hard. But it will be OK.

2014 Chicago Bucket List, part 2

I’m so far behind in blogging about my resolutions and other adventures from this year. We’re halfway into December and I have drafts from outings from February. So how about rolling up this very fun resolution into a miniseries?

The second installation in my miniseries about my 2014 Chicago bucket list adventures!

Chicago skyline
View from the Adler

Adler Planetarium: May’s Adler After Dark event was cosponsored by the Oriental Institute – a perfect excuse for us both to make our first visit! We learned about medical astrology and inverse moons and took funny photos of our bellies.

Hot Doug's
Doing Hot Doug’s right

Hot Doug’s: Chicago’s premiere encased meat emporium had been on my to-do list for years prior to the announcement that the owner planned to close up shop in October. My first thought was “I can go on my maternity leave!”. Fortunately, an earlier opportunity presented itself: since I was already missing half a day of work for an ultrasound, we decided to make a day of it and brave the Hot Doug’s line. It felt pretty ridiculous, but was worth it for extremely delicious sausages and fries.

Chicago Bucket List: Cubs game with Nicolas
View from Wrigley

#ChicagoBucketList: Cubs game with N, even though he's cheering for the Mets...
View at Wrigley

Cubs game with Nicolas: Despite living in Lakeview for 6ish years, Nicolas had never been to Wrigley Field or to a Cubs game – in fact, the Sox game in April was his first baseball game, period! We kept talking about how these all-American activities needed to be added to his citizenship dossier. Hot dogs, beer, and baseball on a perfect summer night were an excellent addition.

Drinks at a shitty Wrigleyville bar: After the baseball game, we knocked out a second bucket list item by walking down Clark to grab drinks and food at a random bar before Neo prom. We thankfully skipped the douchiest bars in Chicago.

Dim sum
Dim sum

Dim sum in Chinatown: The bucket list originally called for hot pot, but dim sum was on my mental list. We tried Moon Palace on the recommendation of another Chinatown diner who, after seeing us order pork buns at another restaurant, said we had to try the (off-menu?) steamed spinach buns at Moon Palace. They did not disappoint.

We stopped into Vosges yesterday and left with free truffles.
Truffles from Vosges

Vosges with Nicolas: I’ve been a fan of Vosges chocolate for years, and had been to the Lincoln Park shopfront a few times, but never with Nicolas. We stopped in while walking around Lincoln Park one afternoon and left with free truffles! My enormously pregnant belly probably helped.

Vegan Korean food with Karen! 36/#100daystobaby
Vegan Korean with Karen

Vegan Korean at Dragon Lady Lounge with Karen: Karen and I talked about checking out the monthly Korean buffet at Dragon Lady Lounge for two years before we had the right opportunity – the next-to-last buffet they would offer! We ate all the things, and all of them were delicious.

Sailing on Lake Michigan

Chicago skyline, golden hour

Sailing on Lake Michigan: We bought a deal for a two hour sailing adventure at the beginning of the summer, and cashed it in as one of our last pre-baby adventures on a lovely September night. We were supposed to share our outing with at least two other people, but they didn’t show up, so we had the boat to ourselves. We were treated to an exceptional sunset as we turned back to the city. It was perfect.

Pie at Hoosier Mama Pie Company: We made a strategic error in not eating before Nicolas’s naturalization ceremony, expecting to be in and out in an hour or so. Instead, it took three hours, and we emerged as a famished family of American citizens. We headed straight to Hoosier Mama and had pie for lunch. What’s more American than apple pie, after all?

2014 Chicago Bucket List, part 1

I’m so far behind in blogging about my resolutions and other adventures from this year. We’re halfway into December and I have drafts from outings from February. So how about rolling up this very fun resolution into a miniseries?

Around this time last year, I posted a first draft of my Chicago bucket list: an aspirational collection of 50+ outings and adventures that I’d like to tackle before I eventually leave Chicago. While I didn’t stick to my goal of one bucket list item per month, I knocked a number of them off this year:

Sandwiches and Petits fours
Tea at the Drake

Tea at the Drake Hotel with Mom: For the last few years, I’ve met my mom in the city for a birthday weekend. This year I requested high tea at The Drake in lieu of a birthday dinner. While pricey, it was a really nice thing to do for a special occasion, and something I look forward to doing with my nieces in the future!

The Brookfield Zoo: In February, we braved the cold to take advantage of a free admission day to visit the larger of the Chicagoland zoos. They don’t have a sand cat, but they do have black-footed cats! The highlight for me was probably the wolf habitat – it was amazing to watch the pack tear around in the snow.

The Oriental Institute: I took a whirlwind tour of this museum during a tour of campus when I first started my job, but hadn’t been back in the two years since. If you haven’t been and you have even a passing interest in history or archaeology, you MUST go. I wasn’t feeling well the day we were there, so I spent a lot of time reading the contents of cases that had benches in front of them.

We walked downtown for donuts.

Donuts from Do-Rite: It turns out I’d already had donuts from Do-Rite, but I hadn’t been to the main location downtown, so we made it our destination on a late spring morning when Nicolas wanted sweets and we both wanted a long walk. We’ve been a few times since, and their old fashioneds have been consistently excellent – possibly my favorite donuts in the city, though that might be the subject for another post.

Not bad.
Our view for the Sox vs Sox

More baseball with Tina!

White Sox game: I was raised baseball agnostic, but adopted the Cubs as my team by default when I was subjected to radio broadcast of the games at my post-college call center job. If you’re a Cubs fan, you can’t be a Sox fan. That’s just the rule. So this was one of the least likely items on the list – unless I got tickets to the Crosstown Classic. Instead, I went to TWO Sox games this year. In April, Tina and Jeff treated us to an extremely cold Sox vs Sox game (and a helmet full of nachos). And then in May, we got a good deal for tickets and snacks on Memorial Day. I’m still a Cubs fan, but I have a new appreciation for the Sox – or at least their ballpark.

Water taxi <3 <3
View from the water taxi

The water taxi: THE WATER TAXI. How did I live in Chicago for two years before taking the water taxi? How did Nicolas live here for three times that long without taking the water taxi? The water taxi was a highlight of our summer, and a frequent weekend activity – walk to Chinatown, take the water taxi downtown, have an adventure, take the water taxi home. It’s the cheapest way to see the city from the water. If you buy a 10 ride pass, it’s not much more than taking the El, and it’s considerably more pleasant. About half the time, they didn’t punch our pass, or didn’t punch it the right number of times, so we have a number of water taxi rides saved up for next summer. Seriously: take the water taxi.