Thursday, June 27, 2013

Half-way There!

Every time I think about this pregnancy being half-way over, Bon Jovi's "Livin' On a Prayer" song pops into my head: Bon Jovi- Livin' On a Prayer YouTube Video

Things are really kicking up a knotch...literally. This baby kicks ALL. THE.TIME. I will roll over at night...kick...sit down...kick...stand (as expected) joke, it is starting to become impressive! It feels good to know our kid is alive and, apparently, doing pretty well. What startles me is how he is still going to be in my stomach for another 4.5 months. How much harder can these kicks get?!

Alex put his hand on my stomach, and he got a special double kick from the baby. Usually, he feels a kick or two, but a double kick surprised him. I loved the look on his face! Speaking of personal encounters, we are struggling with settling on a name for this child. I have my opinions, and Alex has his. We have our top 5 names that we can agree on, but our number one choices are not quite matching up. Thankfully, we have plenty of time to prepare and agree on a name before baby boy arrives.

Alex and I went to the doctor on Tuesday, and he said that my stomach is measuring well, the baby's heartbeat is perfect, and he is not worried about my weight. The only thing I worry about when going to the doctor is hearing the baby's heartbeat. After that, I can focus and listen to what the doctor is actually saying. Alex mocks me by saying that I feel the baby kicking all the time, but I still want to hear that heart beat to make sure!

We are lucky enough to know our baby is perfectly healthy and a boy because of the new 2013 Panorama blood/DNA test we opted for at the end of April. This test let us know all the details about me and the baby. At our last appointment, I was still skeptical about the baby's gender, but the doctor and website indicate that the result are 99% accurate: Panorama Test Link

Alex and I will be seeing our baby for the first time this coming Tuesday. Many mothers have already seen their babies on plenty of ultrasounds before this point, but our doctor wanted to make sure we can see all the parts and movements when we go in. Therefore, we sort of did things in reverse order. Not many people know the gender of their baby before the first trimester is over, but they have seen their baby at least once on an ultrasound. I suppose I am envious of those who have seen their child, but I would rather know we have a healthy baby boy before anything else.

I suppose I should start posting "bump" pictures soon. I don't have much to show. I have read that many first time mothers don't really look pregnant for a while. I fit into this category for the most part. So, I am not too worried, and I plan on posting a picture or two soon. Alex and I take pictures every two weeks, and I will see what I can show for my next post.

Monday, June 17, 2013

First Trimester with Baby Boy

The first trimester came and went so quickly. It did not come without a price though! That price was my appetite and almost sanity. Most pregnant women talk about morning sickness and not being able to hold food down. I was similar, but mostly I was unable to all. This was the worst at night, so "morning sickness" was more like evening starvation.

My lack of appetite got so bad that my family started to become more and more worried. Alex would come home and ramble off tons of different foods that I USED to like, but I could not longer even think about or look at. I was literally starving myself, but not by choice. My mom offered me some protein shakes; those were able to get me through the remainder of that unique trimester. I lost about 8-10 lbs, and I was doing my best to toughen out the situation.

There has only been one emotional break-downs. One happened about 3/4 the first trimester. I was pretty much at my all-time eating low, and I wanted to eat, but couldn't. Therefore, my emotions were beginning to run very high and panic was starting to take over. It all started with Alex simply asking me to open  a mailbox for him at UPS. Easy enough, but not on that day. I dreaded going to the UPS store. All I wanted to do was cuddle with my blanket and fall asleep. I slept a lot to subside the agony of hunger.

I arrived at the store. They took me through the processes of having a mailbox. The final step was being able to punch in the code to get into the store during after-hours. There were two ladies trying to teach me, and they could barely get the heavy door to open themselves. I was encouraged by each of them to try this for myself, and I went through the same difficulties as they did. My patience was running low and my emotions high, so I punched in the code, got in smoothly, said a "thank you", and bolted.

As I sat in my car, I wasn't mad at Alex, but I began to break down from everything I was experiencing. I drove home and went straight to bed. There was nothing more for me to say or do for anyone that night.

The second trimester has been much easier. I can actually eat snacks, but big meals are still a challenge. My stomach must have shrunk during those three months! Food lacks its appeal to me at times because of how scarred I have become. I am working on this, and Alex has vowed to monitor my weight gain. So, I am confident these next few months will just get better and better. Our excitement for this child is enough to keep us motivated to overcome the challenges we have yet to experience. :)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Making a Comeback...

I needed some time to get myself together, so a little bit of R&R was much needed for the past few months. To kick off my comeback tour, I thought I would talk about Alex and my trip to Vegas this past weekend.

We took off for Sin City last Thursday. I got home at 3:30 p.m., and Alex rushed us out the door to catch a 5:30 p.m. flight. Insane. Not only were we rushing to get there, but we forgot our iPass. So, we sat through the tolls and just sweated it out. Somehow my Indy 500 wannabe driver husband got us there, parked the car in a lot, hustled us through security, and we made it on our flight in perfect timing. It was such a miracle to say the least.

We arrived in Vegas and drove in a hot Mustang convertible to our hotel. We were pretty tired from traveling, so it didn't take us long to see some lights, grab some dinner, and fall right asleep.

On Friday, we hooked up with Alex's friends for lunch. The day started off chilly with intermittent clouds, so lunch was a good way to check some other hot spots in Vegas out. We walked around downtown Vegas, Alex raced some speedy go-karts, and we both got a much needed massage. Alex went out with the boys for a bit that night, and I spent some time in our hotel room.

Saturday was a perfect pool day. It was literally my kind of day. Plenty of people were in and around the pool, the music was blaring, and the sun was shining. Not to mention, there was a slight breeze, which really helped under the desert hot sun. :) Alex was a trooper and sat outside with me for as long as he could. After the pool, I grabbed some lunch/dinner, and Alex met up with his friends again for some socialization. Alex and I also walked the strip at night. It was fun to experience the sights, sounds, scenes, and smells of Vegas. :)

We walked to church on Sunday morning, which sounds lovely, and it was. The only problem was that Alex underestimated how long the walk would be. If the walk was on a direct path, we would have made it to the church in 10-15 minutes. Since Vegas is set up with escalators that lead up, down, and all around, we were a bit late. The flight home worked out well with only one stop in Albuquerque.

Alex and I landed, no luggage needed to be picked up, carry-on's only with it being such a short trip (Alex loves maxing out his carry-on's), and we made it home before 9 p.m.

We have another exciting weekend ahead. Alex and I are taking off for Ohio to spend time with his family. There is a parade and cookout scheduled for Saturday at Alex's mother's home, Sunday will be a day of relaxing and spending quality time with the fam, and on Monday (Memorial Day) we are celebrating Alex's sister, Leah's, graduation part.

Woohoo for busy weekends!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Arts and Crafts Time with The Duke

Hello loyal subjects! Tis the time of weekend, which means an opportunity to get stuff done. This weekend one of the items on the Duke's to-do list was to "upgrade" his paper shredder. Due to the nature of the Duke's work, pretty much every piece of paper that comes into the castle has to leave shredded, lest some bandits steal our refuse on the way to be dumped in the Thames and discover all of the Kingdom's most vital secrets. We use a paper shredder that's been running no problem for about 2 years now. The only problem with the unit is that the receptacle is kinda small (about 18 inches high, 3 of which are eaten up by the fact that the shredder sits inside the receptacle. This creates all sorts of first-world problems:

1. The unit has to be emptied quite regularly.
2. When the obligatory emptying occurs, it makes a mess, because there's not a bag, or something like that, to keep the little pieces of paper together.
3. The receptacle doesn't have a translucent part to see how full the bucket is.

So, the Duke was out to fix this. The Duke thought that a kitchen garbage can could be modified to accept the paper shredder. The large size would take care of point 1. The fact that it was a standard kitchen garbage can would allow the use of a standard kitchen garbage bag (and the garbage can also has the system to hold the bag in place) which takes care of point 2. And the Duke figured that somewhere along the way, he could make a window so that one could see how full the can/bag is, taking care of point 3. In short, a medieval hat trick!

Here's how it went down:

First, the Duke took the lid of a garbage can and cut it with a dremel so that the only thing remaining was the ring of the garbage can.

The next step was getting the substantially-smaller shredding unit to match up with the ring. To do that, the Duke headed to the local blacksmith's (Home Depot) and picked up some plexiglass/acrylic. A sharpie marker tracing the shredding unit and the garbage can ring gave me all the information I needed, and I went to work making my plexiglass adapter.

Shockingly, there was very little "clean up" to be done on the first try, as the shredder fit almost perfectly on the first try. At this point, the setup looked like it was ready to go, but there's one outstanding issue. Shredders are made with a switch on the bottom that's made to match up with a little piece of plastic in the receptacle that serves as a secondary power switch to the unit and makes sure that the unit doesn't start running at random whenever plugged in. My initial thought was to install a similar piece of plastic to catch the switch, but I ultimately decided that that would be a lot of unnecessary work, although I appreciate the purposes of the safety switch. I ended up taking the dremel out one more time and cutting into the shredder around the switch. 

For those of you who don't know how switches work, at their most basic, they simply connect two pieces of wire to complete a circuit. This switch was no different. There were two wires going into the switch housing, so this wasn't too complicated. I simply cut both wires and connected them semi-permanently (I used a wire nut so that I can disconnect the wires in the event I want the cutoff feature).
The finished product met all of my expectations. The only thing remaining is to use some plastic epoxy to connect the adapter to the ring of the can. I'm also going to clean up some of the edges on the plexiglass. Having said that, another successful weekend project.

Upcoming projects/posts:

"Water Hammer - Why your sump pump makes a ton of noise, and why you should upgrade your check valve"

"Shoes - Blog Posts About Shoes Aren't Just for the Duchesses of the World"

"Car Stereo Update - How the Duke and Duchess Fell in Love with their new Car Stereo"

"GeoTagging - Why you should check you Phone's Camera Settings"

Monday, April 15, 2013

All Hail the Duke! - Radio Installation

Hello to the Duchess's loyal servants. Yes, it is true, that the Duchess is taking a sabbatical from blogging. She has made every effort to make this disruption in your regularly-scheduled broadcast as painless as possible. Having said that, we all know that the Duchess is one of a kind, and certainly the better half of the Duke/Duchess Duo (yeah, I just made a alliteration, and I wasn't even trying). So, apologies for the downgrade for the foreseeable future, but I'll do my best to keep you all up to date regarding the state of our kingdom.

We just finished up an action-packed weekend. The crowning achievement was replacing the stereo in the Duchess's carriage. For those of you who don't know, the Duke is a bit of an amateur electronics junkie.*

*If you're reading this when it's posted, then you're probably one of our loyal followers who is related to us and knows this about the Duke already. But, in the year 2035, when TheDuchessofDomestic is more popular than Google, with bajillions of people/strangers reading the blog, accessing the blog via their neural implants, and they think to themselves "I wonder how this crazy blog started," they'll come back to this post, and they'll learn something new about the Duke. To those of you in the future--welcome.

A quick back story and description of the Duchess's carriage. The Duke lived in the City for the two years preceding his meeting of the Duchess and their eventual move away from the City. So the Duke did not have a carriage of his own. After moving away from the City, it was pretty quickly determined that the Duke would need a carriage as well. So, the Duke and Duchess bought a new-to-them Jeep Grand Cherokee carriage, and the Duke got the Duchess's old car.

And now a quick note on buying new-to-you, but used. Unless you're debt free, and rolling around in a big pile of money that's starting to get annoying to you, you probably shouldn't buy a new car. The Jeep Grand Cherokee we bought was a 2005, in mint condition, with 35,000 miles. The Jeep came fully loaded. Pricing out a similar 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee ends up costing 2.5x as much. Now, here's the dirty little secret about carriages: there hasn't been a whole lot of change in how they run since they were made (ignoring hybrids and electric cars of course).* To be sure, over time, the bells and whistles sound a little different, but not different enough for rational folks to buy them new, when a "used" car does the job just as well. ("Ohhh, wow the seat's lower lumbar is now extra supportive. Excuse me as I part way with thousands and thousands of my hard-earned dollars.")

*Ok, if I was talking about a real carriage, I'm prepared to concede that changing from a horse to an internal combustion engine was a bit of an upgrade. But I think you get what I'm trying to say.

While the car as a people mover hasn't seen much revolution in the past 10-20 years, car stereos are nifty, ever-evolving beasts. While I'm sure the engine, tires, and fluids of the 2005 would be darn-near identical to a 2013, the stereos would not be. The stock stereo that came in the used Jeep we bought wasn't bad. In fact, in 2005 would have been pretty slick: 6-disc changer capable of playing mp3s (sarcastic gasp). And it was loaded up with navigation, but the maps were outdated and did not perform well. (The Duchess got a little too close to Gary once, and the Duke definitely doesn't want that happening again.) So, while a perfectly nice unit was in the car, that's just not going to do for an electronics junkie. Enter the Parrot Asteroid Smart.

The Asteroid Smart is sort of like taking the latest Android phone and plopping it into your dash. And just like a new Android phone, it comes with up-to-date and upgradeable navigation capabilities. The device connects wirelessly to your phone (via bluetooth) and downloads the contacts and call history so you can chat hands free. Moreover, any music or media on your phone is now available through the car stereo. But there's more. The stereo also has a USB input so you can plug in a thumb drive or hard drive and watch movies (while parked, of course) or other stuff. Want a weather report in the morning? Boom, the stereo connects to the home wifi and downloads the weather. Check your email? No problemo!

As soon as this stereo was installed, it would be like: "Welcome to the year 2035, Duchess of Domestic. You're the first to arrive."

The old stereo had been bothering me for awhile, but we keep busy, and I just hadn't made it a priority. Last Thursday, for whatever reason, I took another look at the stereo (and all of the miscellaneous parts I'd need to complete the upgrade) and told the Duchess that it was something I wanted to keep on my to-do list so that it actually gets done. Then, rather than waiting any longer, the Duke decided to take action and placed an order for everything via overnight shipping, and patiently waited until it arrived on Friday night (because he had been anything but patient in making the snap decision to buy). On Saturday, at dawn, the battle commenced.

Dis-assembly was a breeze. I snapped off a quick piece of the trim, unscrewed the 4 screws holding the stock stereo in place, and then I unplugged it. In the second picture, I took a close up of the old radio and the new. As you can see, the new one is about 1/3 the size of the old radio. This made life a lot easier, because I had to run quite a few more wires behind the new radio to get the full functionality (GPS, microphone, etc). In the first picture, to the left of the radios are the wiring harnesses that had to be connected. If you have ever installed a car stereo, you know that this is the worst part of installing--very tedious. All the same, I got the wiring done, plugged it in, fired it up, and was delighted to see the screen come to life. Only problem, no sound...

I went back and redid all of the wiring. This was not a smart decision, and ultimately cost me a ton of time that I didn't need to spend. The solution ended up being much simpler. Because the carriage comes with an amplifier as part of its sound system, a signal needed to go to the amplifier to turn it on. This was not made clear in the instructions, but Google bailed me out. After I got past this hiccup, the unit turned on with beautiful sound. On Sunday, I took the time to run the GPS and microphone wires all around the car, and this project was finished. As you can see, the finished result matches very nicely.

The Duchess took the new-and-improved carriage to work today, and given all of her technological awesomeness, she's quickly becoming a pro with all of the features. So there you have it folks, a 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee with a stereo that surpasses what you could get from a dealer, and for half the price.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Alex = Tentative Post Master

In an effort to keep this blog consistent, Alex has decided to take it over for a bit. He seems to be pretty excited about this new endeavor, so I am looking forward to reading his posts. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tea Time

I have decided to take some time away from blogging for a bit. I will resume in the future.