Snowshoeing Adventures

Here we are, nearly at Christmas and nearly 26 weeks into this pregnancy, and I still haven’t decided if I really feel safe cross-country skiing this winter.

What I do feel safe doing, though, is snowshoeing.

So far we haven’t had much of a winter to speak of, but there are some signs that maybe that’s changing. After going Christmas tree hunting in almost no snow on 12/1, we’ve had two opportunities (after figuring schedules and all that) to get out on our snowshoes.

The first was on 12/9. I was having a ridiculous weekend after a ridiculous week of work (isn’t the last week of classes always that way?) but managed to get enough work done that we could go out. One problem, though. Negative wind chills. Not wanting to miss what little snow we had, Adventure Guy and I bundled up and headed out. Trail Dog had to stay home, though, because we were afraid her paws would freeze.

To really get enough snow to make it worth it we needed to go out to the Snowies, so we had a nice little drive to admire how beautiful the snowy (ha) mountains looked in the distance. Adventure Guy always makes fun of me because basically every time we go out there, I sit there in the passenger seat trying to get The Perfect Picture of the landscape. This time he promised he wouldn’t make fun, since it was actually my first time heading into “real” snow-covered mountains. It did not disappoint.

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Ok, we actually pulled over to take this one.

Did I mention that it was cold?  It’s been a long time since I was out, or attempted to exercise, in wind chills below zero. It just didn’t happen where we were last winter and only once or twice the year before.

The trail we chose, figuring it would have the best chance of good snow without being too high, starts at about 9500 feet and goes up. I’ve seen this trail described as having “rolling hills.”  Sure – if rolling hill means something entirely different in Wyoming than it means, well, anywhere else in the world.  It’s a tough trail.  It’s even tougher on snowshoes! Not to mention the fact that this was actually only my second time ever on snowshoes, and the first time was in a perfectly flat park across the street from our old house. And that I had managed to fall in that perfectly flat park.

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Taken somewhere on the trail, 12/9/12

Anyway, there were only a few inches of snow but we made the best of it. And it really was beautiful. It’s amazing how blue the sky can be when it’s so, so cold.

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All bundled up and showing off the belly at 24 weeks.

The snow that was here on 12/9 basically melted but thankfully we got some more on Tuesday night and Wednesday of this week. Once again, however, it’s been cold. Yesterday I walked to work on about 6″ of fresh snow (and the snowshoes might have been handy…) and then back home at the end of the day. That walk home was into the wind and although it felt like my face was going to fall off, it wasn’t awful. The wind chill was -7 when I left my office.

Later that evening when we took Trail Dog out for her evening walk I didn’t check the weather, just wore the same thing I had worn for my walk home. And this time, I couldn’t feel my face before we even got off our block. But Trail Dog had new boots to try out and we needed her to have fun in them, so we trudged along. That was probably about a 20-30 min walk and when we got back home, I finally checked the weather.

The wind chill was -23. Yeah.

That wind chill was partly due to our impending blizzard warning. You know that thing about how you learn something new every day? The thing I learned yesterday is that it’s possible to have a blizzard without any snow actually falling from the sky. Apparently it counts if it’s just snow that’s already on the ground blowing around. So last night and into this morning, we had a blizzard warning. And it did, in fact, blizz. Or whatever. The interstate was closed. The state road to the trailhead was closed. We lounged around for the morning and let me tell you, I was bored. Eventually the roads opened at the temps & wind chills made it above zero, and we headed out snowshoeing. Thanks to that new snow we didn’t have to drive as far to enjoy it this time.

It was probably almost 3:45 by the time we hit the trails, which meant we didn’t have much daylight. But oh, was that freshly fallen (or blown) snow beautiful in the late evening light. We walked less than half as long as I would really have liked too, but setting sun is setting sun, and Trail Dog needs some time to get used to those boots. It was worth every cold minute we were out there, though.

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Trail Dog leading the way…

I’m still figuring out exactly how to move most efficiently on these things, but mostly I love them. My calves and I will come to some sort of agreement about the steep sections and by then I think I’ll have it down.

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A Tough Day

The interwebs are all aflutter today with talk of the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. There’s nothing I can say that will make this event less horrifying or help the families affected by this tragedy cope with what has happened to them, so I won’t spend this post trying to make sense of it. Instead, I’ll just say that I am so thankful to be sitting in my office feeling my little girl have her little party in my belly, knowing that right this minute, she’s completely safe.

This day was tough in more ways, though – all of them extremely minor in comparison.  The semester is officially over (for me). Grades were completed yesterday and I posted them online yesterday afternoon. I always give my students 24 hours to come talk to me before I post final grades. By the time I’m done with this post, it will be time to submit grades to the registrar. A few students visited me today. None was thrilled with his/her individual performance, but each expressed that displeasure differently. I’m happy to say that only one of those meetings was….more difficult that in had to be.

Finally, I woke up at 4:15 this morning. I’ve been waking up between 4 adn 4:30 pretty much every morning, always feeling like it’s got to be at least 6:30 and time to get up. Normally I’m happy to see I still have a couple hours to sleep and drift back off. Not today.  I toughed it out in bed for a little while and finally gave up and went to the living room. And there I lay – on the couch, wide awake – for 2 more hours. Finally, around 6:30…just when my alarm was starting to go off – I managed to dose for a couple minutes here and there. I pushed the start of my morning back to 7:30 and only breakfast suffered. But man, what I wouldn’t give to go back to bed right now.

We’ve been a little short on adventures lately. Adventure Guy came down with a cold just as I recovered from strep, and we’re waiting on some boots for Trail Dog so we can take her up in the snow without freezing her feet. Now that classes are over, I think I’ll do a little post series on some past adventures we had before I started the blog, so stayed tuned for those.

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(Mis)Adventures in Baking

Howdy, folks.

It’s the end of the semester and the holiday season, and that can only mean one thing – baking. My mom has always baked up a storm in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and now, as an adult, there are certain cookies I have to make or it just won’t feel like Christmas.  I’ve found this is even more important to me this year now that we’re so far away from family.

So, holiday parties were coming and I was itching to make some of these cookies. Here’s how it went down.

Act I – Sunday Evening:

Mom makes these great “christmas tree cookies” – as far as I can tell they’re spritz cookies, officially. Of course, living at altitude now means I have to alter the recipes anyway, so I went to my trusty pal Google in search of a cookie press recipe that might work over 7000 feet. I found one, and set about my business.

We got a Kitchen-Aid mixer and a cookie press for our wedding. I’ve used the mixer a bunch but not the press at all, so I was excited.  Too excited? Maybe. I measured out the sugar and butter and put them in the mixing bowl, then “locked” the bowl into the mixer’s base by turing it to the right. If you aren’t familiar with Kitchen-Aids, there’s an important detail here. You have to turn the bowl to the LEFT to lock it. But I swear to you, I checked to make sure it was locked.  So, I lowered the beater into the bowl and turned it on.  A split second later there was a large crash followed incredibly quickly by chunks of butter and sugar flying freaking everywhere.

I managed to recover from that disaster (though I am still finding chunks randomly around the kitchen), finished the dough, and loaded it into the press with the fun little Christmas tree cutout thing. I set up my cookie sheet, pressed the trigger, set the press down on the cookie sheet, and lifted it up, expecting a cookie to be on the sheet. Except it wasn’t.  I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure my mom doesn’t peel each cookie individually off the bottom of the press. Not to be deterred, I placed a call to the Great One and asked her advice. She suggested it might go better if I refrigerated the dough, and so I did. It’s still in there while I try to build up the courage to try again. The dozen or so I had peeled off the press tasted ok, but they were deformed. It was disappointing.

After the cookie press incident, it still didn’t feel like Christmas.  And so I bring you…

Act II – Tuesday night:

Snickerdoodles are another Christmas favorite. Again, I was concerned about altitude so I googled for a good recipe that was as close to my mom’s as possible. Satisfied I had found one, I marched into the kitchen to start.  The glass jar I keep the sugar in doesn’t have a very wide neck, so I couldn’t use the 1 c measuring cup to measure out the 1.5 c of sugar called for. So, I grabbed what I thought was the 1/2 c and measured out three scoops.  Next was the stick of butter, and I blended the two together (this time with the bowl locked – success!). Next, I added the egg, vanilla, and other ingredients, all in their proper quantities. Then, it was time for 2.75 c of flour.  I picked up my trusty measuring cup – the same one I used for the sugar – and scooped out 5 scoops, which I thought would give me 2.5 cups. Then I reached for the 1/4 c to measure out the last little bit….and my hand fell on the actual 1/2 c…as yet untouched.  Genius over here then just assumed she’d been using the 1/4 c the whole time.

I walked back into the living room and explained what i had done and what I planned to do to fix it to Adventure Guy. He thought my plan of just repeating what I had done with the sugar and flour was good, and so I went back to the kitchen to fix my mess.  I picked up the original measuring cup and measured three more scoops of sugar, now thinking I had the 1.5 cups the recipe called for.  Not wanting to have to do tons of scoops of flour then, I picked up the actual 1/2 c and calculated, in my head, how much I needed to fix my mess. As I scooped and the mixer did it’s thing, it became clear that there was not enough liquid in the bowl, but I knew the butter and egg were right. It was then that I looked down at my used measuring cups and saw that I had never used the 1/4 c at all. The whole time, I’d been using the 1/3 c.

Tears in my eyes, I walked into the living room and explained what I had done.

Adventure Guy looked at me sympathetically and said simply “throw it away and start over.”

And so I did, very carefully.  And the second time I got it right. But the cookies weren’t as chewy as my mom’s and I wish they weren’t so crunchy, though Adventure Guy tells me they’re good and they were a hit at both his work and my work party.

But they aren’t like Mom’s.  It’s hard to be away from home at the Holidays. And apparently it’s hard to bake and deal with fractions while pregnant.

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Thanksgiving: Wyoming Style

We haven’t always gotten out of town to see family for Thanksgiving, even when we lived closer. Now that we live several-days drive from any family, getting together with them just wasn’t an option for this year.  So, we started working on our own family traditions.

Classes were held on Monday and Tuesday and I although I only taught on Monday, I had administrative things to finish Tuesday that kept me quite busy.  Wednesday Adventure Guy had to work, so I spent most of the day at home doing delightful things like cleaning and watching TV. I don’t even like cleaning, but it was just heavenly knowing I had so many days off ahead of me. Trail dog and I did hit the trails for a short hike all by ourselves, but I was a little more tired than usual. Attributing that to baby fatigue, we kept it to about an hour.

Thursday we took over dog-sitting for Trail Dog’s BFF, but not before our new traditional Thanksgiving breakfast of french toast – yum. After breakfast we headed out to pick up the extra dog and took off for the mountains.

Trail Dog and her local BFF

The plan for the day was to find some snow to hike in, so we went to the Snowies where the elevation is a little higher and there’s been a little more snowfall.  It was windy and I had trouble deciding what to wear, especially when nothing fits right. We went to Sierra Trading Post on Tuesday afternoon and I managed to find a Mountain Hardwear PowerStretch-like fleece in an XL that I think might actually fit through this whole pregnancy, so I settled on wearing that with a windproof running jacket on top and maternity leggings + some windproof Eddie Bauer pants I bought several years ago on the bottom. It went alright, besides how tricky it was to zip the running jacket over the still-bulky fleece. As an afterthought I threw on a North Face insulated jacket for the ride.

I was glad for that insulated jacket when Adventure Guy announced he wanted to drive up to Lake Marie and check out the snow above treeline.  It was beautiful so of course I had to get out of the car and take pictures, but holy wind.  Doesn’t matter, the views were worth it.   The snow’s probably knee-deep up there and supposedly prime for backcountry skiing. Take face protection if you’re going up there, though!

Once we were done gazing at the peak and shielding our faces from the wind we piled back in the car and headed down the mountain to a trail at about 8700-8800 feet for our hike. Most of the trail was snow-covered, but not enough for snowshoeing yet. Again we hiked for a little more than an hour.

Trail dog is always very focused when we head out on our adventures.  The extra dog? Not so much. She wove back and forth across the trail and got side-tracked constantly, but we made it without any mishaps. Trail Dog looked at her on several occasions like she didn’t get what the problem was, but she put up with it.  All in all we had a nice outing.

After our hike we headed home and spent some time trying to get the dogs to calm down. This house is small and was tricky with two big dogs, especially when the guest clearly remembered that she used to live here. Eventually we got them calmed down and progressed with our Thanksgiving day.  I made a pumpkin pie (no sugar added!) for Adventure Guy and took an obligatory afternoon nap. Yep – totally wiped out. For our vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner we wound up having potato and cheddar quiche, a dish that was so good I’ll have to stop myself from making it every single week from now until the end of time, lest Adventure Guy get tired of it.  But really, it was good. That night we just hung out at home with the dogs and enjoyed having nothing to do.

Friday I woke up sick. Sore throat, exhausted, cough…it was awful. Not wanting to spend the day just sitting around but not feeling up to doing anything outdoors, we wound up going shopping. Adventure Baby seriously made out with lots of little outfits thanks to the Black Friday sales, but she’s the only one in the family who got anything.

Saturday I felt even worse and spent most of the day on the couch watching movies. Adventure Guy worked and I did go out and visit his shop for a while, but otherwise we didn’t do anything. We had plans with friends to do breakfast and more adventuring Sunday, but had to bail on the adventures. Just as well, I guess. Monday I finally broke down and went to see the doctor after I could barely stand to teach my class. The sore throat had pretty much passed and settled nicely as a cough in my chest, but I had a positive strep test. Left with antibiotics and an inhaler for the breathing issues. I’m home from work for another day today and feeling like at least the inhaler is having a little bit of an effect.

Not exactly the adventure-packed weekend we had hoped for, but we did alright. Hopefully some good rest now will mean more adventures in the coming weeks!

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Gear Review: Mountain Mama Maternity Lassen Hooded Maternity Jacket

Howdy.

Finding good maternity gear for a real mountain winter has been a challenge.  I’m only 21 weeks at this point so I can still stuff myself into at least some of my pre-pregnancy clothes, and I can wear some of Adventure Guy’s things, but length is a problem. I’m long to begin with, so taking some of the length away in favor of covering the ever-growing belly has been a challenge. Two-way zippers have been a life saver, though they do leave my belly more exposed to our ever-present wind.

I look a little more ridiculous every time we head out. Preggo belly sticking out of a running jacket (not the Lassen) at 21 weeks thanks to a two-way zipper.

Enter the Mountain Mama Maternity Lassen Hooded Maternity Jacket.  I’ve been lusting over this jacket ever since I first found it and told myself I could order it in November.  If memory serves, I ordered it on either 11/10 or 11/11, it shipped promptly on Monday the 12th and arrived happily on our doorstep on Friday the 16th, so I’m very pleased with the ordering and shipping process.

Several of the reviews on the Mountain Mama site suggested that the jacket ran a bit small so I ordered a size up (large as opposed to my usual pre-pregnancy medium). This was a good call as the sleeves are a little bit on the snug side, and the large provides a little more room for layering underneath the jacket while not looking saggy or baggy anywhere. One thing I love is that the Polartec PowerStretch fabric means that the jacket fits my 21-week self well and clearly has plenty of room to stretch to accommodate a much larger belly – I’m confident this jacket will last through my entire pregnancy. The hood is a nice size and stays on my head nicely on windy days, even without a mechanism to cinch it down.

The biggest bonus for tall ladies like me? The sleeves are actually long! Generally when I buy something that has thumb holes I assume that means the sleeves will be long enough for me, but I’ll never use the thumb holes. This jacket accommodates my go-go-Gadget arms well and is long enough for me to use the thumb holes – score!

While I haven’t yet tried exercising in the Lassen I think it’s going to work out quite well.  PowerStretch and I have a long happy history on the cross-country ski trails and I expect no less from this item than all those I’ve been so happy with in the past.

Honestly I can’t think of anything I don’t like about this jacket. The price seems steep for maternity clothes that will only be worn for a short time, but now that I actually have the jacket in my possession I think it’s very possible I’ll be able to continue wearing it after pregnancy. I do wish this jacket were more wind-proof than it is, but anyone living in a state other than Windy Wyoming probably won’t have much trouble with that.

Overall, I’m thrilled with this purchase and I suspect that pretty much the entire Mountain Mama line will end up on the list of Christmas suggestions my mom asks for every year.

UPDATE 12/20/12:
I finally got the chance to wear my Lassen jacket out for exercise today! It’s been cold the last few days – temps in the single digits with real Wyoming wind leading to wind chills in the negatives. Tuesday night into Wednesday we got about 6″ of snow in town and rumor had it the mountain got a few inches more and trails would be groomed for nordic skiing. Unfortunately, the temp dropped so far over night we thought the skiing would suck. Doesn’t stop snowshoeing, though! We waited out the blizzard warning this morning and tooled around until the interstate and mountain road were open again, and then headed up.  Trail Dog has a new pair of boots, which I’ll review in another post.

With the wind chill hanging right around zero, I decided to try my Lassen jacket on top of a Patagonia Capilene 4 1/2 zip, a long sleeved First Ascent tech tee (I don’t know the name of it!), and a tech tank top, with Eddie Bauer bootcut powerstretch pants on the bottom. Perfect. I could not have been happier with the Lassen today. Without the layers underneath it definitely would not have been enough for the wind, but as it was, I was sufficiently warm. As a bonus, I didn’t get the swampy feeling I sometimes get when I heat up inside a wind proof jacket.

We were only out for about half an hour, maybe 45 minutes, since Trail Dog needs to get used to her boots, but it was great.

I wasn't quite as cold as I looked. Here's the Lassen jacket modeled at almost 26 weeks.

I wasn’t quite as cold as I looked. Here’s the Lassen jacket modeled at almost 26 weeks.

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Our Version of Acceptable Risk

One part of becoming a committed couple is reconciling differing opinions about all kinds of things. Adventure Guy and I did this without much trouble throughout our relationship…or maybe our opinions about the major things didn’t differ enough to cause problems.

Adding a child to the mix makes this reconciling even more interesting – and important. We have to figure out a name we can both be happy with (yeah, still not there), figure out our philosophies on discipline, sleep, whether she must be 30 or 40 before she can start dating, etc. Being the outdoorsy people we are, one of the biggest issues we have to deal with is risk.

Tolerance for risk has never been a huge issue for us. We both like to get out and have fun but neither of us are big on taking unnecessary risks.  Hell, I’m the one who has been known to bail out on purpose half way down a nasty hill on cross country skis, figuring a controlled fall is better than an uncontrolled one. Long before we met, Adventure Guy had a very mild adventure turn very bad, very quickly. He knows how the best laid plans can go wrong and what the consequences of that might be.

So, two things happened this weekend.  For one, Adventure Guy read a post from Women’s Adventure Magazine titled “Taking Risks as a Parent” and wanted to talk about it today. We decided we basically agree with Cragmama, who says

My husband and I made a pact that if either of us were ever in a situation where our risk level got higher than what we were comfortable with, we would bail as quickly and as safely as possible, regardless of how many thousands of dollars of gear we had to leave behind, or how close we were to the summit.

That’s pretty much always been us too, though we never really vocalized it until today. So we agreed – if either of us ever feels uncomfortable when we’re out as a family, we’ll stop. If one of us ever wants to do something alone – climbing Rainier is high on the list of Things I Want To Do – but the other thinks it’s too risky, we’re out. This was a pretty easy decision for both of us, I think, in part because we’ve been together 8 years now (Holy….) and in that time we each have developed a pretty good idea of what the other can tolerate. And as I said, we’re not exactly going out on really long, thin limbs over here.

I’ve struggled a lot thinking about risk during this pregnancy. Moving to altitude was going to be a big change, pregnant or not. Moving above 7000 feet at 5 weeks pregnant was a trip, to say the least. I am fully convinced that exercise during pregnancy is a good thing – maybe that’ll be the topic of another blog post. However, I did not know exactly how I should proceed with exercise upon arriving in our new town, so early in the first trimester. Nor could I really find any good information about it (and my OB was no help at all in the area). Since then and with a lot of reading, soul-searching, and an email to the good folks at the Institute for Altitude Medicine in Telluride, CO, I’ve decided to listen to my body and exercise at a level at which I feel good…up to 10,000 feet. So I passed up on this year’s goal of climbing a 12,000 foot peak (which would have been my first).

What I still have not decided is whether I will cross-country ski this winter. The brand new skate skis I didn’t get to use last year due to a complete lack of snow will remain unused this winter, but I’m still considering getting out on my classic skis. I just don’t know. If any readers want to weigh in, I’m all ears! Adventure Guy doesn’t seem to be leaning heavily one way or the other and seems to think we can hang out on easier trails – which we have hiked and checked out – but I don’t know.

Seeing as how we’re still without snow, I’m not sure it matters right now. I will, however, snowshoe this year…that’s for sure. And maybe I can be happy with just that. I do have to admit, though, that the thought of missing another entire ski season after last year’s total bust makes my heart hurt a little.

Anyway, where was I? Yes, the second thing.

We went hiking on a favorite trail of mine. The lower parking is closed for the winter, so we had to park out by the road and hike in further than we normally do. This added some distance to the hike, maybe half to three-quarters of a mile each way, but most of that was on very pretty trail we hadn’t explored before. Trail Dog was especially energetic today since we haven’t gotten out as much lately, and she was even more bold than her usual rock-climbing self. Most of the snow we’ve had so far is gone but we still have stretches of it here and there. Despite some serious wind and lots of recently-felled trees, it was a really nice hike.

Normally I like to take this trail when I hike alone (well, alone but with Trail Dog) because it’s a pretty clear loop, I know the length, and it’s fairly heavily traveled. There were many cars in the parking lot today, but we only met two other groups (of 2-3) out on the trail. Today we chose this trail because we didn’t have a ton of time before sunset and we knew we could get it done in the time we had. The extra distance stretched our time a little, but we were still fine with a little more than 4 miles for the day.

We chattered about whatever came to mind as we hiked along. Trail Dog did her sniffing and her climbing, and when we did occasionally come upon an icy spot, Adventure Guy went ahead to test out the footing and find a good route for preggo over here. Not two minutes after I took the picture below, Adventure Guy enacted the Acceptable Risk Clause.

Oh yeah, so it is actually November at 8400 ft.

This trail has been declared closed, to us, for the season. What you can’t see in that picture is the big drop-off to the left, just beyond the big trees on the left side of the trail.  It’s a big drop to the left, tall rocks to the right, and icy rocks underfoot.  As he was declaring this to be our last trip on the trail for the season, I slipped. Fortunately the rock to my right provided enough stability and all I came away with was a scratched finger.

So we’ll avoid the big bad cliffs until spring..or maybe summer. And by then we’ll be hiking with Adventure Baby and we’ll have a whole new set of boundaries to define. But I’m confident that really, we’ll see eye-to-eye when it comes to how much risk we’re willing to take – for ourselves, or with precious cargo in tow.

I’ll leave you with another quote I love from the Women’s Adventure article – this one from The Brave Ski Mom

Controlled independence equals learned responsibility. One of the reasons we believe in granting our children independence is so that they can learn to take care of themselves. We don’t want them to grow up fearful or timid, nor do we want them to be foolhardy. By limiting some experiences and structuring others for success early on, we hope that they’ve learned that they can do most anything – if they’re prepared and have the proper experience.

Sounds pretty good to me.

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Getting Ready for Baby

Lately our lives have pretty much revolved around preparing to welcome a new little person into our family.  Yesterday we went for our 20-week ultrasound and learned that our new family member will be a little girl. So, let the shopping begin!

Shopping for baby gear is overwhelming. I mean really overwhelming. There are so many choices for car seats, strollers, cribs…everything. We know that we don’t want a bunch of girly gear, partly because we aren’t into frilly and partly because we might want to re-use this stuff again. Hubs says we have too many things that are brown, though…

And then there are bottles. Our baby will be formula fed for reasons I’d rather not get into right now, but the decision is made, trust me. That means we’re going to need bottles and lots of them, right from the beginning. My wallet wants the plain old Evenflo glass bottles to be perfect – inexpensive and BPA-free. The already neurotic parent in me wonders if we need something fancier, like Dr. Brown’s.

Mostly, I just want March 31st (or thereabouts) to come already. I want to meet our little girl and see who she looks like, who she acts like. She spent a lot of the ultrasound with her little arm across her face – will she do that when she’s here? Will it be an exasperated “Oh, MO-OM!” or a cute sleeping thing? Does she suck her thumb? Is she going to have long legs like me? What color will her hair and eyes be? Will she pout like her dad does, or like I do? Will she like the dog? Oh please, let her like the dog.

Also, I’d like to know how I’m supposed to work with all these baby things on my mind!

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