Thursday, December 29, 2011

Holiday Gala: Chiro Edition

The last time I hosted a holiday party was with my roommates and some close friends back in chiropractic school. It was quite the extravagant affair. Since everyone was always wearing sweats pants and rarely at their best during class time, we decided to make it mandatory to dress up nice and fancy. You know holiday dresses & sparkles for the ladies and a shirt and tie for all the men. We had it catered with little stuffed mushrooms and nice hors d'oeuvres. There was lots of wine, special holiday 'jungle juice' and even a bartender. Like I said, fancy! It was also the very special night of Jim's first proposal....

The story goes that at some point during the evening I was taking trash out to the garage where a group was gathered. Jim was amongst the gang. Jim was so amazed that not only was I hosting the party and wearing a skirt and heels, but I was also taking out the trash. He was so amazed in fact that he was moved to the point of asking for my hand in marriage. This of course was all in good, drunken fun because we weren't even dating then. It was in fact almost a year later before he pursued any romantic interests with me. We even have a terrible little video that night of us reenacting his proposal. I unfortunately can not figure out how to download it, so a few pictures of the evening will have to suffice.

Friday, December 23, 2011

1st Annual Robinson Holiday Gala

A holiday party seemed like the perfect excuse to put our butts in high gear and get the Robinson house in order once and for all. Ok that's a lie, I fear there is never really an actual end but you know what I mean. Plus, due to the constant state of chaos and construction our house has been in over the last year and a half, we've avoided having any large groups or gatherings here and a little house warming seemed well past due. So, last Saturday we had our 1st Annual Robinson Holiday Gala (so fancy, right?!).

I am overjoyed to report that it was a big success and the house held up nicely. We had plenty of room for about 50 guests throughout the evening, never feeling crowded or overwhelmed. I love how much room there was in the kitchen to put out all the appetizers on the counters, desserts on the island, and even a special little coffee station on the buffet. In some kind of pregnancy memory lapse I didn't take a single picture. Not our lovely guests, the yummy food, the sparkle & glitter. Nothing. But, I did take a fewof the little details that were still intact during the day after clean up....

I covered the buffet with a runner made from brown paper, the kind that comes in a large roll, that we had left over from a construction project and turned it into a little Keurig coffee station. During the party I had peppermint mocha and french vanilla creamer on the coaster. The sugar bowl was a $.50 thrift store find and the little bowl to the far left for the spoons is a cute little Christmas dish that I got in a pollyanna exchange.

I used little placecard holders that my mother-in-law had given me in Christmas pasts to make little signs out of cardstock to designate little details (alcoholic punch, where to find water/soda, etc).

The basement was our biggest transformation. We unloaded our moving truck into the basement and it has been a messy variation of a storage unit since then.....

I don't even think there are pictures of it at its worse. At some point we were actually sleeping down there while the hardwoods were being refinished. I'm going to have nightmares just thinking about those dark, spidery days.

And the After.....
It's also "after" the party so not quite as neat as tidy as it was at it's best.

We have future plans to patch up some holes, paint the wood paneling and eventually want new carpet. But it cleared out pretty nicely and was the perfect party spot.

We set up a long fold out table for beer, wine and snack foods and since it were the later party crowd ended up, I eventually brought down some of the dips and food for everyone.

Since my kitchen and upstairs is pretty traditional, I decided a little more fun was in order for the basement with silver, sparkles and bright colors. I bought ornament shaped foam decorations that come in blue, purple, green, and pink. Some were already covered in sparkles while others where plain, so I used glitter glue to add some special details. I punched holes in the top and used colored ribbon to hang them from the windows, tables, and even the fish tank. I think all the glitter helped distract from the remaining imperfections

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful."
~Norman Vincent Peale

That's helpful too.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Blue Route Anniversary

My old commuter route and the inspiration for my blog title, celebrated its 20th anniversary earlier this week. I'm sure it was a huge traumatic and controversial change at the time, but I just can't imagine that area of Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs without the Blue Route.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Prep

I finished the last of my gift buying and wrapping today. HoORay!!! I really love the holidays but I hate feeling stressed or rushing around last minute. I even managed to get Christmas cards in the mail at the last minute. We had wanted to do a photo card this year to show off our growing family (aka my expanding midriff) but never got around to taking the actual picture. We were running out of time to order cards and get them in time to address and send them out, so I tried doing a solo photo shot with the tripod and a little Sofee dog assistance. The best I came up with was the 31 week photo, but Jim thought my stomach looked plastic and felt left out. I guess there's always next year.

The rest of the week is pretty much a regular work week but it will be nice to have a 3 day weekend. Christmas Eve will be dinner and gifts with the in-laws followed by an annual gathering at family friends. Jim and I usually come home late and open presents before going to bed then sleep in super late on Christmas Day. It will probably be our last year ever so we'll be taking full advantage. We usually wake up and have a light breakfast, then head to his grandparents for lunch and more family time.

How about you?
Are you all wrapped and ready?
Do you have any special plans or traditions?

Monday, December 19, 2011


"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."

~ Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Our Birth Plan

It may come as no surprise that I'm planning on an unmedicated natural birth with as few (hopefully none!) interventions as possible. I'm in no way naive and do realize that there are reasons that this may not go my way. But, I refuse to focus on those possibilities and instead spend my energy on educating myself and reading, listening, and absorbing positive birth stories.

There is a great post on Dear Baby about the topic. It's worth reading even if you're not pregnant and making decisions about a birth plan, especially for woman. It's important that we try to educate ourselves and initiate meaningful conversations. There are also some great links if you're looking to do some research on the topic.

My close friend, Kim, also decided on an unmedicated birth with her third baby, Caroline. Although it started out as a financial decision, in the end she realized it was more than that.

A home birth was a little bit too much for Jim and I to handle our first time around and the only birth center near us is about 45 minutes away and difficult to get a slot in. So we decided to stick with my obstetrician and delivery at the hospital, which is about 2 miles from our house. To support our goal of a natural birth we did some research and decided to use the Bradley method. It's a husband/partner based coaching method focused on relaxation and embracing the birthing process. We just finished up a great course with two doulas in our area and both agreed that we feel so much more prepared and educated on the labor and delivery process, what to expect, and how to handle different situations that may come up.

The website allows you to search for classes in your area. If there are no courses offered in your area I would recommend at least reading Dr. Bradley's book, Husband Coached Childbirth: The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth.

I also recommend Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. Ina May is a world famous and extremely respected midwife and founder of the The Farm Midwifery Center in Tennessee. The Farm has a cesarean rate of less than 2%. The US national cesarean rate is over 30%...

Until it's time for Baby Robinson to arrive, I'm focused on keeping me and baby happy & healthy through good nutrition, exercise, and a positive environment.

"Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine. The Creator is not a careless mechanic."
~Ina May Gaskin

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Creating New Life. Week 30

This shirt was last seen here at Week 23.

I've certainly filled out a bit since then. I actually feel like the results are much more dramatic than these pictures show. I think it's because my belly is actually heavy now and more limiting by the day.

I've also develop a pumpkin face. I've decided that although this is usually my favorite & warmest winter hat I may just have to retire it for one season due to the particularly emphasis it places on my round, pudgy cheeks.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Pregnancy Favorites

H & M Mama full panel straight leg jeans. I seriously wear them almost everyday. They are so freakin' comfortable and don't make my ass look all saggy. I'm a huge fan of full panel vs. the stupid demi panels.

Maternity tanks. I have one from Old Navy and one from H & M that I really love. I wear them ALL the time under my non maternity cardigans, which helps stretch my wardrobe a little further.

Tea. I bought a few varieties of pregnancy tea at my local health food store in my first trimester when I was really sick and have replenished the supply several times. It's a nice cozy treat now that it's chilly outside and I'm still restricted from enjoying a good cup o' joe. I occasionally add a few drops of peppermint oil if my stomach is feeling a little unsettled.

Cheese, Cheese, Cheese. Wonderful Cheese.

Cat-Cow pose.

Back rubs. I made an arrangement with Jim that for every day I'm solely responsible for the caring for the baby, he owes me a 5 minute massage. I don't cash in everyday but some days it can be the absolute BEST 5 minutes.


"Of all the rights of women, the greatest is to be a mother."

~Lin Yutang

Friday, December 9, 2011

Getting Pregnant. Part Two.

I try not to take for granted that my profession and education sometimes puts me ahead of the game so to speak. But, I know in this case it is what pushed me to seek better answers, better solutions, and most of all trust in my body.

First I talked to my acupuncturist. I had been receiving treatments for stomach issues on pretty regular basis for several years and the woman I was seeing at the time also happen to treat a lot of woman receiving IVF treatments. She immediately recommended that I start taking chaste tree berry to help naturally regulate my hormones. After a little research I felt confident with the recommendation and started the gross little drops daily. Around this time we also put a bid in on our house and started making plans for our big move. It allowed for some distraction and prevented me from concentrating to much on the issue. I also started working out 5 days a week before work, stretching daily, and focusing even more what I was foods I was putting into my body.

Months and months go by. No baby.

At this point we're almost a year into "trying." More of our friends are getting pregnant and having babies. More and more people are starting to inquire about our intentions to start a family. What do you say?..."My ovaries suck" Realistically you know that very few people actually want to hear about your problems. Besides, what did I expect them to say in response?

I did confide in a few close friends that we were trying but it wasn't a topic I really wanted to talk about in real depth. I knew at the time and even more so now that I was shutting people out of the discussion. I had very strong feelings that I wanted to conceive a baby naturally. I really wanted to trust if I wasn't getting pregnant it was because my body knew something I didn't. I think I knew the more I heard other people doubting that the more I would myself.

I decided to spend money out of pocket to consult with a holistic medical doctor with more than 20 years of experience in woman's health who was not covered by our insurance. Unfortunately in our healthcare system it's difficult to find a doctor that will spend an entire hour listening to you and talking to you about not just your 'problem' but your diet, your sleep habits, your entire lifestyle. I feel very fortune to have had the access to such a remarkable woman and healthcare provider.

After our examination, consultation, and another round of blood work, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Basically woman with PCOS have a hormonal imbalance that prevents ovulation. The ovaries start to grow follicles that would normally develop into a mature egg but with PCOS the hormones necessary to stimulate full mature of an egg are absent, so the follicles build up and remain on the ovaries as a cyst.

It is the most common cause of female infertility and unfortunately they don't really know what causes it. There is a lot of information on the web about PCOS symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. I didn't really fit the typical prototype but a lot of things did make sense after I was diagnosed: I had been struggling with acne for a long time; I had a lot of trouble losing weight, particularly from my midsection even with a strict diet and exercise; I had suffered with irregular and painful menstrual cycles; and of course the whole infertility thing. All of these things (aside from the actual infertility) had actually started to improve since I initiated the chaste tree berry, which I took as a good sign. The doctor recommended that I continue with the chaste tree berry, try a gluten free diet, serious re-evaluate my life in order to find ways to decrease my stress levels, and start getting acupuncture again.

A few more months go by with little change. At this point I decide it's time to get a new OB/GYN. After a bit of trial and error, I ended up finding a great practice and an open minded doctor. He completely agreed with the PCOS diagnosis and even confirmed it with an in office ultrasound of my ovaries showing loads of cysts. When I told him I was looking to treat the problem as naturally as possible, he responded, "I would love to help you but I don't really know what we can do to treat this naturally." I believe he was really sincere. Sadly, he really didn't know any options that didn't include medication or invasive procedures. He gave me a prescription for Clomid, what he thought was my best option and recommended I try to chart my basal body temperature (which I was already doing at this point).

I carried around that prescription for months. It was stuffed in the back section of my planner where I would occasionally come across it. It seemed easy enough to pop a pill for a few day and like magic we'd have a baby. But, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. It just didn't feel like the right thing to me. It was getting to the point where Jim was even leaning toward giving it a try. The poor man had been listening to me for over a year. Every month you have to go through the same emotions....Overthinking symptoms such as fatigue just hoping that it means something.The negative pregnancy tests. Waiting for your damn period so you can get started on your next try. Getting your period. Calculating your ovulation window which is really hard if you're cycle is irregular. Hoping that you nailed it this time. Trusting your body. More waiting.

In the end you're left trying to convince yourself that it doesn't mean you have failed as a woman. I just kept thinking about how a woman's body was meant to do this, but what if mine wasn't. I know that a lot of woman face problems with infertility and deal with very similar emotions. I also know that other woman have trouble conceiving a second or third child or have to face the hardships and emotions after a miscarriage. But there is something so isolating and desolate about not knowing whether you are even capable of getting pregnant at all. For some people these emotions are so strong that they'll do anything to get pregnant, including expensive medication and invasive procedures with terrible side effects, serious potential risks, and no absolute guarantee that you'll get pregnant or avoid a miscarriage. The emotion of all of it seemed like more than I personally could ever handle. Jim and I decided at the two year mark we would start looking into adoption.

So, how did I end up getting pregnant? I continued taking chaste tree berry, until the end of my first trimester in fact to support my progesterone production. I quit my stress producing job, stop commuting over an hour one way to work, and tried to surround my life with all things zen and calm. I sought out regular acupuncture treatment and herbal remedies. Including a concoction meant to dissolves cysts that caused me to have the worst case of abdominal bloating, followed by an extremely heavy period with deep red clots. During this period a cyst in my arm also noticeably reduced in size. I followed this by a course of Chinese herbs designed to support each phase of your menstrual cycle by taking a different blend each of the four weeks. I continued to support my body through good nutrition, exercise, and yoga.

Through it all I had confidence in my body and trusted the process. It was probably the hardest part of it all. I had to constantly remind myself that my body needed time to adjust to the changes I was making through natural supplements and my chosen treatment options. As a chiropractor I'm constantly telling patients that healing takes time. Your body doesn't adapt to changes, good or bad, overnight. I don't think I've ever understood so fully why people take the easy way out. But, I've also never been so happy that I had the strength, knowledge, and support to take the long road.

Darn Cute Kids

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Getting Pregnant. Part One

This post is a little on the personal side. It also contains words like ovulation and progesterone. Maybe that makes you uncomfortable. In which case you can skip to the end: after nearly two years of struggling with infertility I'm pregnant. I probably could just leave it at that for everyone, but I know that there are other women out there struggling with the same or similar problems. And for some reason we have trouble talking about. Maybe my story and my journey can help someone, so for that person I think it's worth getting a little personal (and a bit wordy) for a day...

Like many young woman, I spent my early and mid twenties (while involved in loving, committed relationships of course!) trying NOT to get pregnant. Even when Jim and I were in it for the forever and had been living together for several years, I was still a birth control maniac. We had careers to establish, finances to get in order, and a young carefree life to enjoy. We just weren't ready for a baby.

I remember the first time we decided it wouldn't be the end of the world if I got pregnant (aka had completely unprotected sex). The days after I found myself calculating nine months down the road. Arranging things in my head and thinking about what would be awesome and what didn't work so well about having a baby in that month. But, it didn't happen and as months started to go by I kinda stopped thinking about it so much. In the beginning we weren't really "trying" we were rather just letting things happen, so it didn't seem like too much of a surprise or shock when I didn't get pregnant right away.

It was about six months into the whole not trying but trying thing that I started to get concerned. Without birth control pills, my cycle had always been irregular. Never your expected 4 weeks, usually 5 or 6, maybe 7 if things were crazy. All the sudden I was on 10 weeks without a period and a dozen or more negative pregnancy test. I headed to my OB/GYN and after some blood work was ever so casually informed, "you're just not ovulating."

Oh, that's all. Just not ovulating. (insert sarcasm)

There are a lot of hormones that work in a very balanced way throughout the menstrual cycle. Because each hormone has a different job the levels change throughout your cycle, so blood work on one particular day can be somewhat misleading depending on what you're looking for. If you are struggling with infertility doctors usually draw blood on several occasions in specific time frames of your cycle. Even with just a snapshot few of my cycle, in my case the most evident thing was extremely low progesterone levels, like postmenopausal low levels. Progesterone is released in response to a mature egg to prepare the uterine lining and is essential in supporting a pregnancy in the first trimester. More details on ovulation and how the different hormones work throughout the menstrual cycle can be found here.

I remember how that particular doctors office kind of disregarded the whole thing, instructing me to just see what happens and call if I needed to come back. We had only been trying to conceive for six months and the apparently standard mark is a year before they really start discussing infertility options with couples. But, trust me on this one. No woman who wants to eventually (like sooner than later people!) have children is Ok hearing that she is not ovulating, particularly not in a very nonchalant way with no offering of solutions or suggestions. Ovulation just happens to be really necessary to have a baby and I felt like I was shuttled back into my old world with this new burden. I didn't really know what I was suppose to do with this information. Change nothing and just keep waiting?

This is when getting pregnant started to became more of an emotional journey than a physical one.


I had my first baby dream last night. I unexpectedly gave birth in the doctors office in some weird back storage room. It was a girl...

I woke up with this uneasy sense of the new life ahead. I'm going to be someone's "Mommy." Are you kidding me?! Some days motherhood it is an exciting but overwhelming concept. So with winter settling in and my last 10 weeks ahead, I've decided to dedicate a series of post on all things pregnancy & baby related.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Happy Birthday Mom

One of my all time favorite pictures...

Debra K. Stidd