29 June 2011

Nerd in Utero Project: Week 22

22 weeks and I have lunch with my BFF (Christy) since the 2nd grade.  This year, we celebrate 22 years of sleepovers, chorus concerts, cutting our fingernails to play the violin, being separated for high school, almost killing each other from sharing a dorm room at UGA for 3 years of college, going on camping trips, and graduating our tastes in food and wine.

Here's a photo of the two of us in 3rd grade when Christy came to stay the night at my house for my birthday.  Don't you love the denim fanny pack she got me?

How Far Along: 22 weeks, 7 days
Size of Baby: The size of a papaya.  
Total Weight Gain/Loss: 18 pounds.
Maternity Clothes: Picked up a few more maternity tops and found some really comfy yoga pants.  They're front-runners for coming-home-from-the-hospital pants.
Baby-related Purchases: I ordered the bedding for the crib, which should be here any second now.  I also got a couple of gifts from my best friend (pictured above) from a recent visit she made to England.  She bought Baby Nerd a bib that says "I Heart Mummy" and the pacifier pictured below.

Maybe for baby, it does.  But for Mommy and Daddy, bedtime will be bliss!

Gender: A girl!  While registering for items with my neighbor, Jennifer, she noticed I kept registering for items that were green or brown or red.  She reminded me, "At some point, you know, you'll have to register for something pink."  Grrrrr…pink...
Movement: I used the app on my phone to count her kicks yesterday, and she kicked 10 times in just a couple of minutes.  According to the facts listed on the app, a healthy baby in utero kicks 10 times between an hour and 2 hours.  Does that mean our baby is superhuman?
Sleep: It's been a tough week.  I fall asleep until 3:00 am, wake up to pee or get a drink of water, and then can't fall back to sleep for hours.  It's so frustrating.
Belly Button In or Out: If I stand a certain way, it's out.  When I sit or lie down, it's in.
What I Miss: Sleeping on my stomach.  It was almost a surefire way to get me to fall to sleep when tossing and turning.  I cannot wait to sleep facedown into my pillow again.
Cravings: Fruits and Caesar salads…and anything with cheese.
  • Back pain has shifted to right hip pain.  Yeah, just the right hip.  I'll sit on the couch to watch TV, and my right hip will start to feel compressed and begin throbbing.  Then I have to lay on my back or left side.  Michael thinks it's my way of kicking him off the couch.
  • Always hungry.
  • Always thirsty.
  • Lack of sleep.  Guess I should get used to this one, huh?
  • Pop-up acne.  It's stupid and annoying and it doesn't help that we live in the South.
Managing the Stress: Staying on top of my to-do list.  It is incredibly satisfying to cross items off a list.
Worries: One word: episiotomy.
What I Look Forward To: Revealing our baby's name to the general public.  A few of you already know it, so keep it under wraps for now!  But since the baby shower will be coming up soon, I figure guests will want to call her something other than "Baby Nerd".  There will be a post for the name reveal.

  • A girl I babysat a couple of times back in the day (who was also the younger sister of my brother's best friend) got married over the weekend!  Rachel married her college love, Stephen, at the John Oliver Michael House on Saturday in a beautiful outdoor ceremony.  It was surreal seeing her as a grown woman, exchanging vows and wearing a wedding gown, when my memories include her talking about her kindergarten friends and wearing braces.  Congrats to the happy couple!
  • The tomatoes in the garden are starting to ripen.  The yellow pear tomatoes are ruling the garden, which is quite humorous considering they came up as volunteer plants from last season.  The store-bought tomatoes are not nearly as showy.  Our bell peppers are gaining size every day.  I'll be ready to harvest the yellow and red ones when they finally decide to change over from their waxy green state.
  • Started planning the baby shower!
Quotes:  I went to the dentist last Thursday, having previously told the receptionist over the phone that I was expecting and wouldn't want X-rays.  When she came into the waiting room to retrieve me for my cleaning, she took one look at me and exclaimed, "I would NEVER be able to tell you were pregnant if you hadn't told me!  Heck, I had a baby 2 years ago and have more fat on me than you do!"  Ugh, I hate when people say things like this to me because I never know how to respond appropriately.  So I laughed (uncomfortably, of course) and changed the subject by asking her about her son as I made myself comfy in the dentist's chair.  Then the hygienist enters the room, all excited because she hears that I'm pregnant and says almost the same exact thing upon seeing me: "Wow, I bet I have more of a belly than you do, and I had my kids a long time ago!"  This woman was not large by any stretch of the imagination, and I even said that I thought she looked great.  But I was so uncomfortable with the skinny remarks, I started wishing I were 30 pounds heavier just to avoid the awkwardness.

21 June 2011

Nerd in Utero Project: Week 21

Visiting with my very first student from my educational career, Hannah!  I'm glad to include her in this week's post.
Hannah and me when she was in 2nd grade.  She's grown so much since then!

How Far Along: 21 weeks, 7 days
Size of Baby: The size of a large banana.  
Total Weight Gain/Loss: 16 pounds.
Maternity Clothes: I figured that if my boobs were going to keep growing, that all I would need to do is buy the next cup size to accommodate.  Then I started having issues with being able to take a breath.  The band of my bra was restricting my lungs when inhaling that stuff we call oxygen.  So I went back to my go-to store for brassieres (Target) and tried on not only a C-cup, but one with a 36-inch band.  I had so much more room to breathe, I bought 3 of them.  I'm hesitant to buy any others in that size just in case there's another growth spurt.  Soon I'll have to invest in new undies.  My thighs are getting a bit too chunky for existing leg holes.
Baby-related Purchases: We bought a crib on Father's Day!  It's a Graco convertible crib, so it can be transformed into a day bed, and, later on, a full-sized bed.  Our marriage survived the crib-assembly later on the same evening.  It is an incredibly frustrating task.
Michael and Mojo with the crib post-assembly.  As we discovered, it's tough for a dog to turn an Allen wrench.
Gender: A girl!
Movement: If I want to feel her move, all I have to do is lie down.  I feel her best when I'm on my back, but she's starting to move some when I lie on my side.  The other night while laying on my left side, I could feel what felt like her arms reaching out near the bottom of my rib cage.
Sleep: Snoogle and I made up.
Belly Button In or Out: It is making it's way out now.  Even Michael noticed it when he was rubbing my belly yesterday.
What I Miss: My former center of gravity.  It baffles me how much it has shifted now that my belly protrudes.  Now I know what turtles feel like when they end up on their backs and can't move.
Cravings: Fruit is about it in the sweets category.  Well, that and the daily sodas or sweet tea I consume.  Salty is still where it's at.  And since I do crave salty foods, I'm trying not to add extra salt to other foods so that I don't overload on sodium.
  • The back pain has been coming and going for weeks now.  It's usually concentrated right near my tailbone, especially if I'm on my feet for a long time.  Going back to work to start the school year in August is going to be tough.
  • Hunger is a beast.  No wonder the weight is coming on so fast.  I cannot seem to satiate my appetite.
  • Overall sluggishness.  It's hard to get motivated to clean house or go grocery shopping when you're significantly heavier than you used to be.  I take frequent breaks to avoid exhausting myself.  And with my OCD tendencies, I have to make lists so that I can feel a sense of accomplishment when I do have the motivation.
Managing the Stress: Spent some time at the gym, which always makes me feel better (even though it's difficult for me to drag my rear out of bed to go).  I'm hoping to get in some pool time.  It's too hot to be outside without the cool relief of dunking in the pool.
Worries: Is it too soon to start stressing about a birthing plan?  Michael has asked me a few times what type of delivery I would be most comfortable with, and I always reply with, "Can't the stork just bring her?"  I have an ultrasound schedule tomorrow.  I'll ask the doc what he recommends.
What I Look Forward To: Seeing what Baby Nerd looks like on the ultrasound tomorrow!  She was turned in such a way last time that we didn't get to see her face.  We're hoping she'll turn enough to show us facial features, even if it's just her nose in profile.
Michael holding baby Sam at the hospital where we'll be delivering Baby Nerd this fall.  Do I hear wedding bells already?
  • Our good friends/Michael's co-workers, Ben and Krissy, had their first baby on Father's Day and one day before Krissy's birthday.  Their story starts with a struggle with fertility (which brought Krissy and me closer together) and ends with a bouncing baby boy they named Sam.  He has a head full of dark hair, super long toes, and the cutest forehead wrinkle.  Krissy and I are psyched about future play dates for our little ones.
  • I had the chance to visit with my friend Julie and her daughter Hannah (the cutie in this week's picture with me) for a few hours on Monday.  Hannah was the first student I ever worked with in public education when I was a parapro in an autism classroom.  Watching her grow in her learning and develop social skills in the face of autism has brought me so much joy over the years.  She loves American Idol, swimming, and she has one heck of a singing voice.  The most memorable talent show I can remember her performing in was several years ago when she performed "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid.  When I saw Hannah on Monday, I asked her, "Hannah, what's different about me?"  And she replied, "There's a baby in your belly!"
  • I have news from a fellow blogger friend that I'm pretty sure I'm not allowed to share yet, but let's just say it put a smile on my face when I read it in an email!

17 June 2011

Our Baby Has Eggs?

Just like any expectant mother, I want to know how our baby is developing from week to week.  When did her arms begin to bud?  Week 7 when she was less than a tenth of an ounce.  When was she able to start squinting or making a frowny face?  That would be week 14.  When did her sensory organs really being working?  By week 19, she was able to do more than hear my tummy growl.

But it was this week's big developmental stage (as delivered via email from TheBump.com for week 21) that left a lump in my throat:

And, if baby is a girl, her womb is now stocked up with her lifetime supply of six million eggs (the number will drop to around one million by birth).

Not that I have forgotten our long journey to pregnancy through our issues with fertility, but I had not yet anticipated my own daughter's future fertility.  We knew we were having a girl.  Michael and I had imagined a life with her on family vacations and teaching her piano and how to keep her from being a drama queen.  Then boys will want to date her.  Her girlfriends will organize sleepovers and shopping sprees.  She'll want to push curfew and experiment with her wardrobe.  She might even listen to music of her generation's Justin Bieber.  Gag...

But aside from all the sociological, emotional, and personal developing our daughter will go through, she has reached a biological milestone: our baby has her own eggs now.  That means that one day, she'll hit puberty and have an ovulatory cycle.  If her period grows into a ferocious monster the same way mine did, she may start on birth control to help ease and moderate her symptoms.  Then after she meets her Mr. Right, she'll become a married woman and have the chance to do something with the eggs she still has.  All it will take is holding someone's tiny baby, and she'll think to herself, "I want a baby.  I want to be a mom."  There will be discussion between her and her spouse, and together, they'll rejoice in their very grown-up decision to start trying for a child.

And even though I'm the type that dreams of a future with kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids (if the longevity gene continues with me), I can't help but wonder: will my little girl endure the same fertility fate that I did?  Will she have to know the heartache of watching dozens of her friends become mommies while she makes appointment after appointment for hormone checks and Femara refills?  Will she be disappointed by multiple pregnancy tests that show a negative result?  Will she have to come up with a "Plan B" the way we did in case pregnancy isn't an option?

So as I stare at the medical illustration of our fetus, these thoughts are racing through my mind.  I realize there are at least a couple of decades (maybe more) before our daughter will be facing this reality, which makes me feel a wee bit ridiculous for letting such fears permeate my skull.  There are far worse things she will have to face and learn to cope with in her life, and I have a feeling she will be a strong individual who will know how to focus on the positive things in her life.  My simple prayer is that when she has matured from little girl to young woman to want-to-be-mom, her eggs will not fail her.

16 June 2011

Arizona and the Grand Canyon

Location: ARIZONA (Kingman, Williams, The Grand Canyon NP, and Page)

Where we ate: 
  • In Kingman: at Mr. D'z Route 66 Diner.  Stopped here for a hot dog basket and homemade root beer.  Move over, IBC.  Mr. D'z has perfected this recipe!  Nothing compares to the food and atmosphere of a classic American diner.
  • In Williams: at the Grand Canyon Railway's Grand Depot Cafe.  It was a buffet-style breakfast, which I have purposefully steered clear of for years now.  But it's all about self-control, right?  The offerings on the buffet were surprisingly tasty and generally healthy.  They even served mini-waffles with fresh fruit and real whipped cream.
  • At the Grand Canyon: El Tovar Hotel. This was a recommendation from one of Michael's co-workers, and I'm glad we listened.  Only Michael was able to drink the local brew, but both of our meals were top-notch.  Lunch here gave us sufficient energy to hike around different hot spots on the South Rim for the rest of the afternoon.
  • In Page: at the Canyon King Pizzeria.  Doesn't sound like a fancy place, but the restaurant was incredibly unique.  It was built around a river boat--the Canyon King--that was launched in 1972 and ran up the Colorado River, across Lake Tahoe, and finally settled on Lake Powell.  The story behind the place was neat, and the food was stellar.  Michael and I split the Classic King pie and didn't leave a crumb behind.
  • In Williams: at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel.  We may have arrived here very late in the day, but it had grown cold and there was a roaring fire in the lobby's large fireplace.  Very cozy.  The rooms were a little dated, but they were spacious and met our every need.  The Depot Cafe was walking distance, which is where we had breakfast before checking out.  If you stay here, you can purchase a train-riding package to the Grand Canyon and back.  Most travelers were buzzing about their day on the train.  Very family friendly.
  • In Page: at the Days Inn.  It was a room with a bed, a TV, and a bathroom.  Much too cold to swim in the hotel's pool.  The shower, though, was strange.  It was an open shower (so no tub to hold water) with poor drainage, which, when Michael started his shower, the bathroom's floor flooded.  He found a way to angle the shower head in such a way to reduce flooding, but it meant having to stand right against the wall to rinse the shampoo out of your hair.
Memorable sights and experiences:
  • All those trains!  When you're from the Southeast, you just aren't aware of the significance and history of the railroads.  Every town we drove through or stopped in while in AZ had several depots, train displays in the town parks, museums and hotels dedicated to trains, and train packages for rides through the desert.  Maybe one day, we'll bring the little one back with us and take a rail tour across the Southwest.
  • The vastness of the desert.  We kept picturing Forest Gump running the roads of the desert, and then we would sing "Running on Empty".  When you realize you've driven 50 miles and you've still haven't passed the open, sandy fields of sagebrush, you start to wonder what you would do if your car broke down.  And the poor hitch-hikers!  We weren't about to pick one up, but if you are worried about your car breaking down, what's going through those hitch-hikers' minds?  Never take a rest stop or gas station for granted out there.
  • The Grand Canyon.  I'm not exaggerating when I say there's nothing like it.  Photographs don't do it justice on just how immense it really is.  With it being one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World, there was no question when a) making sure we stopped here while on the road and b) getting our Nerd in Utero poster pic with it.  They have beautiful accommodations all throughout the park, innumerable trails to hike on the rim and inside the canyon, a fabulous learning centers for visitors, and fountains that pump spring water for you to fill your water bottle.  This is a destination I'd very much like to visit again.
  • Time…you always need more of it.
  • Cellular service.  It's patchy--at best--all across the desert and inside the park.
Traveling while pregnant tip I learned from here: If you have an opinion on a matter, make it heard!  Between the hubs and me, Michael is much more of the "go with the flow" type and I like having a plan.  And with me being pregnant, plans revolved around meals and bathroom breaks.  When we reached the Grand Canyon, I figured a gift shop would have snacks and bottled water so we could get to hiking.  Sadly, there was no such gift shop at the main visitors' center, so I asked the hubs to help decide on a game plan: either find a place where we could load up on snacks and go for a hike OR find a restaurant for lunch and hike a little later.  It was 11:30 by then, so I'm thinking lunch is the clear answer.  Without discussion, Michael drove us to a general store to purchase snacks.  I admit, I got upset because the decision had been made for me.  We had a brief argument in the car in the parking lot over communication strategies.  He asked me what it was I really wanted, and practically in tears from hunger and hormones, I muttered, "Lunch."  He couldn't help but laugh.  "Well, that's all you had to say!  Lunch it is."  So all you pregnant ladies out there whose opinions are led by their stomachs and bladders, let your husbands know what you want or even need.  Don't be grouchy or a total witch about it.  Just tell him, and he'll listen.

Found our first train in Kingman, AZ.  Michael took this one to show the scale of this engine's size in comparison to my stature.

Michael with the caboose.  He wanted to climb all over the train, but the signs told him, "NO!"

I see my name on something, and I have to get a picture with it.  This was on the side of the train depot in Kingman.
All American travelers want to see this historic route!  Not even 2 years ago, we saw where it ends in CA.  Here, we're in the middle of it.

The most amazing hot dog you could ever ask for at Mr. D'z Route 66 Diner.  You have to try their homemade root beer, too.

OK, so this will take a little explaining.  I listen to Jimmy Buffett.  Buffett has a song called "Pencil Thin Mustache" with a line that goes /and an autographed picture of Andy Divine/.  I like to travel to places Buffett sings about.  Turns out, Mr. Divine was from Kingman, AZ, and Mr. D'z Diner was right on Andy Divine Ave.

This western set-up was outside the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel where we stayed the night in Williams.  There were several cowboys saddling up for a morning show.  We couldn't stay to watch since we had a long day ahead of us, but I did stop for a couple of snaps.

One of the cowboys posing with a member of the audience.

Memorial Day and we're at the Grand Canyon!  A married couple who had driven all the way from NC were taking picture of each other and offered to take ours.  They were laughing their butts off and obviously were full of spunk.  This led to the husband instructing us to, "Pose silly for this one!"  

First glimpse of the canyon.  Whoa.

Our first picture together with the canyon.  Happy Memorial Day!

The El Tovar Hotel where we ate lunch before walking around the park.  Several famous guests from our history have stayed here, like Teddy Roosevelt, William Taft, and Albert Einstein.

Isn't she cute?  Cars were stopped to take a pic of this grazing elk.

There's life inside the canyon!  We wish we knew which structure this was so I could tag it.

Grand Canyon squirrels are quite friendly.  I love this one's mottled fur.  A woman tried to feed it, and her father screamed at her, "Don't you know the rules?  You can't feed the animals!"

Can't get over the views.  Every one of them was breathtaking.

Michael standing at the edge of this natural wonder.  The sheer size of this canyon wowed us at every turn.

Coming up on one of our favorite vistas.  See that ledge jutting out to the left?  Michael wanted me to get a picture of him on it from where I'm currently standing with my telephoto lens.

And here's the result!  It has to be one of my favorite pictures from the entire trip.  I love how it looks as if he is standing at the edge of the world, the only man on a lonely planet.

Another structure inside the canyon.  Just how to you get all those building materials down there?

One of our hikes at Grand View Point took us down the side of the canyon a little ways.  If it hadn't been so late in the day, and if I hadn't gotten so short-winded, we could have gone deeper into the canyon.  It sure was worth the short jaunt we made down the path.  Very pretty views.

A view from Moran Point, which is where we took the picture for Week 18 for the Nerd in Utero Project.  There was a lot more green to be seen here.

It was difficult to get a wide-open view of the Colorado from any viewpoint, but we still were in awe when we caught a little glimpse like this one.

Michael at Moran Point.  The shadows were getting longer and the canyon started looking redder.

The stairs inside the Watchtower on the South Rim.  This building was designed by an architect named Mary Colter as a  gift shop and a place for visitors to see the canyon from a higher viewpoint.

Looking up at the ceiling inside the Watchtower.

Michael in front of the Watchtower.

As the sun was getting lower in the sky, the haziness made the canyon appear grey and foggy.

On our drive toward Page, AZ, we drove through Navajo country.  This is how most of the living establishments looked across the reservation.  The octagonal building (according to our research while cruising) is called a hogan.  Every establishment had one.  They are used for Navajo healing ceremonies.

Our rental car in the high desert.

As always, we're having a blast traveling together.

14 June 2011

Nerd in Utero Project: Week 20

We're halfway through this pregnancy!

How Far Along: 20 weeks, 7 days…yes, I'm getting slower at this...
Size of Baby: The size of a small cantaloupe.  I eyeballed a cantaloupe in the grocery store, and I swear I said to myself, "I have one of THOSE inside me?"
Total Weight Gain/Loss: A smidgen over 15 pounds.  Time to hit the gym to balance where all that weight is going.
Stretch Marks: No, and I don't think they're going to show.
Maternity Clothes: I keep wearing the same outfits over and over because the few I have fit and they're comfortable.  The shirts I already possessed before the belly…well, I thought would be long enough to cover my maternity waistbands, but no such luck.  Might have to wear the BeBand more just to mock a cami underneath such shirts.
Baby-related Purchases: I had a coupon for a NUK baby bottle, so I picked one up while grocery shopping.  I've also started a registry with the help of some of my mommy friends.  In fact, my next-door neighbor, Jennifer, wants to take me to Rattles and Rhymes in Athens to help me start one of my registries there.  I'm pretty stoked about shopping with her.  And I think I've picked out a bedding set for Nerd's room to help start a theme.  I'm trying my darndest to avoid lots of pink in her room (sorry little girl…).  I wouldn't make her room look just like this (yeah, no chandeliers or rugs or bird cages), but I love the boldness of the patterns of everything in the crib.  Thoughts?  Opinions?

Gender: A girl!
Movement: She really gets her groove on every day.  It's not just the slight tapping she did when I was still questioning if it was really her.  We're talking banging on the inside of my abs and doing flippity flips.  I have a hunch that we'll be able to see her movements soon.
Sleep: Snoogle and I had a fight.  He's on the floor, and I'm back to hugging my old pillows.  I still don't know how this happened after relying on Snoogle for a perfect night's sleep for so many weeks.
Belly Button In or Out: It can't make up its dang mind.
What I Miss: Being able to do yard work for long stretches.  Michael and I had a lot to get caught up on in the yard after getting back from vacation.  We trekked out in the morning, thinking we would avoid the heat.  He got on the lawn mower.  I attacked the weeds.  And then the heat attacked me.  It wasn't 10 minutes before I had soaked my shirt with sweat and my pulse was elevated.  My body forced me to take frequent breaks for water, peeing, and lowering my temperature over the hour I spent weeding.  I finally gave up, leaving a significant chunk of the work undone.  Weeds are going to take over my yard faster than I can get to them.  It's going to make me go mad.
Cravings: With so many good fruits being in season, I can't resist them.  I have consumed more peaches, strawberries, and blackberries than I can count.  Caesar salads are still my favorite in the greens department, but I'm making sure to put other green things on the menu for the week to keep my diet balanced.
  • Did I mention the sweating?  Do they make anti-perspirant for the under sides of your boobs?
  • Tiredness.  It really hasn't gone away, and it irritates me that I can't do any activity without wanting to take a nap afterwards.
  • My belly is starting to get in the way, especially when I'm trying to lean over a countertop or bend down to put on my shoes.  If it's this way now, I can only imagine what it'll be like at 9 months.
  • C-cup boobs!  Question to all you mothers out there: At what point do they cease growing during the pregnancy?  Or should I just expect to be hauling around DD's by the time Baby Nerd gets here?
Managing the Stress: Husband and dog.  They are my source of entertainment, comedic relief, and (brief) exercise when we walk around the yard.  They are the men in my life.
Worries: That climbing the stairs will become a chore.  I am already getting a little short of breath going up and down the stairs here at home.  I don't want to have to take a 5-minute break when I reach the landing.
What I Look Forward To: Decorating the nursery.  It's summer, so I have plenty of time to work on it.
Celebrations: Being back at home.  Michael and I love to travel, and we're always talking about "the next trip".  Will we need our passports?  Swimsuits?  Hiking boots and waterproof jackets?  But there's something so comforting about being at home that makes you realize just how wonderful it truly can be.  We get to sleep in our own bed, wrestle with Mojo, tend to our vegetables, have dinners with the neighbors, spend the day shopping with family, read books on the couch, and make lunch dates with friends who are in town.  It really is good to be home.

11 June 2011

Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam

Location: Las Vegas, NV

Accommodations: The Bellagio.  Because Michael had stayed in one of its sister hotels, the MGM Grand, just a year prior, we were offered a deal to stay here.

Where we ate: 
  • We ordered room service for dinner both nights.  The first night was simply because we arrived to the room so dang late (after midnight), and my pregnant belly was screaming for another meal.  The second night was all my fault.  We had walked around the strip and downtown all afternoon and well into dinner time, say 7:30.  Tired, sore, and pissy, I needed to take a nap in our room.  Michael passed out, too, but I figured he would wake up after only an hour so we could have our one night out on the town to celebrate our upcoming anniversary.  Instead, we woke up after midnight.  We missed our chance to eat out, as well as the chance to see the Bellagio fountains.  I cried in bed over feeling like the pregnant wife who ruined vacation.  He soothed me, reassuring I had done nothing of the sort, and we ordered room service again.
  • Wolfgang Puck's Pizzeria and Cucina.  This was lunch for our only full day in town.  The restaurant was located inside the Aria hotel next door.  We took the free tram ride over just for the experience.  The decor of the restaurant was sleek and modern.  The service flowed like a river.  The food couldn't have been fresher if we had picked the ingredients ourselves.  We split the Insalata Mista (seriously, the freshest greens on a plate I've ever eaten) and a 10-inch proscuitto pizza with spinach, feta, and kalamata olives.  Es war sehr Gut!

Memorable sights and experiences:
  • The "lake" at the Bellagio.  It's huge.  And it's manmade.  It makes you want to go for a swim in the heat of the desert.
  • The Mirage.  We stopped here for a refreshment, but had to move from the bar when a woman lit up right next to us.  We found ourselves at the roulette tables getting marriage advice from our Filipino dealer named Aris.  He warned me about a man's mid-life crisis and how they have their own version of menopause.  We wanted to see the dolphin exhibit, but since it cost extra, we settled for taking pictures inside lush jungle-themed atrium.
  • Downtown Las Vegas.  A short taxi ride to downtown Las Vegas brought us here.  It made me rather sad to see this "classic" part of the town trying to survive the beating it was taking from the strip's popularity.  You may not have had the shoulder to shoulder sidewalk traffic here that you did on the strip, but the crowd you did see looked a bit sketchy.  And they were trying everything they could to get people excited about being downtown: zip line rides from one end to the other, selling one-liner T-shirts and belt buckles from kiosks, the chance to take a picture with a real Vegas showgirl, and giving out free hugs.
  • Caesar's Palace.  Sure, we saw it at 4:00am since we decided to venture out after our middle-of-the-night room service meal, but it was a lot less crowded than it would have been earlier in the night.  Its casino had a more unique look than a few others we had walked through earlier in the day.  It had thousands, if not millions, of crystal pendants that hung from the ceiling of each room and countless armless statues in water fountains.
  • Paris.  OK, so it was not the real Paris that comes to mind across the pond.  Instead, it's the one across the Bellagio fountain: the Paris Las Vegas.  With its Eiffel Tower replica and giant electric hot air balloon, it was the epicenter of fun every time we sauntered past it.  This place was beautiful at night, and the ceiling inside of their casino is painted to look like the sky.
  • Visual stimulation.  Whether you have a passion for art and architecture, or if your inner child simply likes pretty lights, then Vegas has it all.  There is not a tile in any floor out of line or a light bulb in a display out of power.  The sculptures, the water features, the palm trees, the advertisements--everything is meant to attract and hold your attention long enough for an "ooooh" or an "ahhhhh".
  • Accessibility.  Whatever you want, whenever you want it, it's yours.  The town literally never sleeps, which is how they earn their business.  No wonder this town attracts high rollers and celebrities.
  • World-class dining.  We admit, we are amateur foodies.  If we had had more time in town, we would have tried a little of everything.
  • The shows.  I wish we had the time to see one of the shows.  There were so many to choose from in so many different categories: comedy, magic, acrobatics, burlesque, famous entertainers, throwbacks to favorite musical eras.
  • There's always room.  If you can't book a room somewhere in Vegas, you didn't try.  There's always room, whether it's on the strip, downtown, or just outside the city.

  • Smokers welcome…everywhere.  Seriously.  It's a smoker's paradise in Vegas…and a pregnant woman's nightmare.  Non-smoking zones are practically non-existant (like in your hotel room).  So whether you're standing on the sidewalk, buying a drink at the bar, or simply passing by a casino, you're going to walk through someone else's cloud.  It was absolutely my least favorite aspect of the town.
  • The attire…or lack thereof.  The teensy weensy clothes of the party-type girls in Vegas make the sorority girls' attire at UGA look like what your granny would wear.  It's one thing to catch a little cleavage at the pool.  I expect that.  But when I can tell you aren't wearing any underwear beneath that sheath dress without you bending over, I kind of want to vomit.
  • It's not for kids.  People make the claim that Vegas is family-friendly, but I don't buy it for a second.  The casinos, the pools, the shops, even the restaurants…nothing screamed at me that one day Michael and I should return with our children.
  • It's a money pit.  Everything costs something.  Nothing here is free, and it felt like everything was eating into our travel budget.  Good thing we were only here 2 nights.
Traveling while pregnant tip I learned from here: I thought the dry heat would be my friend, keeping me cooler than in the overwhelming humidity of home.  But because I lost a lot of hydration from all the sweating I did while walking around during the day, I found myself getting thirsty very quickly.  I also felt the need to put sugar in my body since you lose more than water through sweat.  The solution?  Stopping at a casino bar for a virgin daiquiri and a tall glass of ice cold water.

OK, so we took this picture on the way OUT of Las Vegas, but it serves best as a first picture for an entry on Las Vegas.  A woman stood at the sign and offered to take pictures of tourists…for a few bucks, of course.  She was worth the cash.
In my mind, the Bellagio pool was one of the redeeming qualities of Vegas.  Waitresses walked around filling drink and snack orders.  If you needed a lounge chair, an employee would run to grab 5 chairs and then position them the way you wanted them to be angled in the sun.  No children were running amuck or having water fights to tick off the serious sunbathers.  I still can't decide what's more embarrassing, though: the young men who puffed out their chests and tried to hit on the pool maids or the old European men who strutted their overly-tanned and wrinkly selves in brightly-colored, butt-hugging Speedos.

The world's largest chocolate fountain was located in the Jean Philippe pastry shop, which was located in our hotel.  We purchased breakfast from this store both mornings we were in Vegas.  Their quiche was rich and savory, and their blueberry brioche was heaven in a flaky pastry.

The Bellagio lobby features the masterpiece Fiori di Como by the glass genius Dale Chihuly.  Each time I stood under it, I couldn't help but be amazed.  It was like walking through a museum every time we walked into the hotel.

Another shot of the Chihuly glass.  Makes you feel as if you're swimming through a reef of colorful anemones and jellyfish.

Going to the restroom at Wolfgang Puck's Pizzeria was an interesting one.  Men and women's private stalls are separated only by walking space, not by completely different rooms.  The "clean up" area is shared space between the stalls.  Still a little weirded out by this one, but at least the look of the sink area was sleek and artsy.

On our first walk down the strip, we stopped at the Bellagio "lake" where the famed fountains put on a show each night with special light effects and songs from classic entertainers.  You don't realize just how large the lake is until you see it during daylight hours…yeah, it's 9 acres.  You could fit our yard in this lake almost 5 times!

All Parrotheads must stop here.  And I did--for a pair of palm tree flip flops and a Margaritaville Las Vegas shot glass for my collection.  Michael encouraged me to buy a vintage T-shirt, but my bulging Baby Nerd belly prohibits the buying of screen tees until after she arrives.

The sports book inside of the Mirage.  I figured since Michael was a close follower of sports stats that I'd take his picture.  A floor worker in the casino approached me and informed me that photography inside of any casino was strictly forbidden.  It was one of my many casino faux pas during our short stay.  I still kept the picture.

Downtown Las Vegas!  Classic look, sketchy feel.

Another view of downtown Las Vegas.


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