The Second Pregnancy Roundup – Indulgences & Non-Essentials

(NB: I wrote the majority of this in the week before I had my baby! next post will be about the first 2 months)

My last post was about things that I found pretty darn necessary for basic comfort levels during my pregnancy. I thought I’d write one up about some little luxuries and things that have helped but aren’t necessary for everyone. Hey, whatever takes my mind off the fact that I’m at full term but no sign of baby yet, huh? kill me

Maternity Clothing Subscription

Ok so this one is a particularly indulgent luxury, I thought I’d get it out of the way first. I LOVE LeTote. Basically, I pay $69 a month and I get boxes of maternity clothes and accessories sent to me as often as I want. A little less basic: I fill up my  “closet” with lots of cool dresses, pants, shirts, tops, blouses, scarves, bracelets, rings – you get the point – and they send a box containing 3 items of clothing and 2 accessories, curated from my “closet” by the LeTote team. They send you an email when your box is made up (typically, they send this within an hour of you lodging your free return bag at the PO), and you have a chance to replace items with other things if you have a particular event or anything like that. This is where it hugely differs from other subscriptions like Gwynnie Bee etc. I love this feature. Then they send the box pretty promptly. I don’t think there’s been a week that’s gone by since I joined up that I haven’t received a box in the mail unless I’ve taken longer to wear all the items. You can also opt to keep items if you want, always at a reduced price. I kept some amazing, thick leggings/pants with cool raised pleats over the knees that made me feel like a cool biker chick YEAH! I have kept a couple of really nice scarves and some jewellery as well. There were several dresses and tops I wanted to keep but it was hard to justify because they were relatively expensive and it’s maternity wear so I didn’t feel super keen on spending a tonne. You just keep whatever you want and when they get the bag back with your returned clothing they charge you for what you kept. Note: this is a really good way to spend a lot of money so be careful!

It also has a normal (non-maternity) range and you can get fewer items for a cost reduction. I just found this combo to be a good balance. If LeTote sounds like something you’d like to try, use my referral link and you can get your first tote free!

Jacket Extender

This is one of those things that you might not need unless, like me, you live in the frickin Arctic tundra and need to wear a huge puffy coat just to survive the lurch from car to front door. As your belly expands, unfortunately, most coats do not. Did I want to spend another $300 on a coat? No! I like the one I have! So I searched “jacket extenders” and found Make My Belly Fit! It sounded like exactly what I wanted. It requires a little bit of research – basically you need to check your jacket’s zip configuration and might need to order a zip adapter but I didn’t (thanks, North Face). I also bought a fleecy panel to go inside the extender and that was a decidedly excellent decision – it’s been getting down to -30C/-23F here and it’s only December! It’s a Canadian website but the shipping was really fast. The extender panel was $51 which is a bargain compared to buying another coat. You can use it after pregnancy too – right now the snaps are popped open at the bottom for my positively-planetary belly but soon they’ll be popped open at the top for wearing that sweet little bundle in a wrap under my coat to keep him warm. You know where else he’s warm? Inside my body right now, APPARENTLY, SINCE HE WON’T GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE, UGH, CHILD, DO NOT MAKE ME COME IN THERE BECAUSE GOD HELP ME I WILL well I won’t, but a doctor might. Ok I’m fine. I’m taking deep breaths.

Good provider/OBGYN etc

One of those most baffling things I encountered about America when we started talking about having a baby was that hospitals just have doctors and nurses. Midwives are still this kind of semi-controversial concept. The reasoning seems to be that you can be a “lay-midwife” ie have no formal training at all and just witness a certain amount of births and call yourself a midwife, but most midwives who work in hospitals or health facilities are “CNMs” or Certified Nurse Midwives. Anyway it was all a bit confusing to me as I was so used to labor wards with both midwives and doctors working together (not always in harmony but still).

The local hospital here doesn’t allow midwives on staff, nor do they allow doulas or extra support people in the birthing suites. I had some other issues too but this isn’t the place. LUCKILY, we had a lot of people recommending the amazing Porter Women’s Health to us, just a short 50 minute drive north in beautiful Middlebury. They have a combined staff of OBGYNs and midwives, and an amazing nursing staff too. They’re great. It’s exactly what I wanted. I barely need a birth plan because all my ideas run in line with theirs. They’re very women focused while still being research based and medically safe. The crunch level is low, which is my favorite level of crunch, but I have never felt condescended to and I love that they have you see all the different providers so that when you go into labor you aren’t seeing a strange face no matter who’s on call. Th

Anyway, this is just on this post because not everyone has a) the insurance or b) the proximity to places like this and I feel so privileged to have both of those things.

Pregnancy Massage

About halfway through my pregnancy, well no I guess it was about 26 weeks, I started getting back pain. Par for the course with pregnancy but I had been relatively comfortable so far, so the fact that I not only had aches in my back but also sciatica (nerve pain shooting down my right buttock into my right thigh at will) was quite a shock. It was pretty horrible. I’d been thinking about getting some pregnancy massage so I called a local lady that I know who I knew would do a great job – Christina at Vermont Vitality Studio. I turned up for my appointment and it was great, right from the start. We talked about what particular aches and pains I was having and she very carefully propped me up on the table with pillows to make sure I was comfy and my bump was supported. I was extremely relaxed by the end of the appointment – I did not realise how much my gait had altered until I could walk normally again. It was so nice.

I continued to get massages each month of my pregnancy, my last one was just a week ago. At about $80 for 50 mins it’s not cheap, but your insurance might cover it (it blows my mind that some insurances cover chiropractics but not therapeutic massage).

Amazon Registry

Registries seem to be kind of a contentious topic sometimes. In America most people have a registry. I hadn’t been to a lot of baby showers in Australia but the latest one I went to also had a registry. I think it’s genius because then you don’t end up with 5000 of the same thing. The only double ups I got were because people REALLY wanted to make sure I had this particular item that they found INCREDIBLY useful, and it turned out someone had already bought it from the registry so it had disappeared.

With Amazon you also get $150 worth of free diaper stuff (wipes included) when people spend $1000 on your registry which didn’t take long with my lovely mum involved! You also get a free ebook, and a discount of about 15% for Prime members on the remainder of your registry when your gift-getting time is over (ie after the baby shower for us).

You can add whatever you want to your registry – they have a button you can add to your browser to add anything from any site to your Amazon baby registry. Sadly there’s no way for Amazon to know if those things were purchased from the registry but still, pretty cool idea!

Right. I’m going to post this now because if I don’t, I never will, and I need to get on with the post-pregnancy ..posts. There will be those. Oh, there will be…

 

 

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The First Pregnancy Roundup

Wow so yeah. Sorry. I really let things go by the wayside the last like 9 months or so. I’m nearly 39 weeks pregnant now and this pregnancy has really been characterised by one thing: exhaustion. It came in waves, but it was never not there. I’ve been super tired the whole time. It’s a symptom I’ll take over some less-pleasant others (nausea for example, from which I only suffered for about 4 weeks), but it has still been varying levels of debilitating and blogging just wasn’t a priority. I didn’t even post much on instagram. Turns out growing a human is hard, and with working up to 37 weeks I had stuff to do.

Anyway, I’m nearly at the end now (please god let it be over soon, kid is wrecking my shit) and I thought I’d run through a few things that I’ve found to be quite useful throughout the last three-quarters-of-a-year, in no particular order.

Pregnancy Pillow

I bought the LeachCo Snoogle Pillow. It’s great. I think I got it when I was about 12 weeks along, because my back and hips were already a little janky (though nothing like the absolute mess and tangle of bone and sinew that they are now, ugh) and the first time I laid myself down in its loving embrace, I was sold. It’s really great. It has a couple of drawbacks. One is that if you run hot throughout your pregnancy, as I did, you might find yourself being very comfortable but a little overheated, and you’ll kick it out of the bed anyway. Another is that it takes up quite a bit of room and if you have a queen sized bed or less, your partner may have a severely restricted amount of room. The last is something that I’ve just come across recently and that is that I can really only lie on one side for so long, so I want to turn over a lot (like, a lot, and seeing as how it requires a business case and strategic planning meetings to do that, it’s really annoying) and that is next to impossible with the Snoogle. So next time around I might go for something simpler like one of the bean-shaped pillows that just support your back and belly. But in saying that, the fact that you can really tuck yourself in to this pillow is lovely, and it does have the section that goes between your legs to help with hip discomfort. So I have no regrets. It’s even great for propping up a baby etc after it arrives, or so I’m told!

Maternity Bras

My boobs have cycled through various levels of intense discomfort. Sometimes they feel normal (they look huge but feel normal). I was recommended the Bravado Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bra and well let’s just say I now own four of them. Yes they’re expensive,  but worth the investment, I truly feel. Super soft, easy to put on, easy to un-snap for nursing (I’ve been practicing), nice and stretchy, all that good stuff. Are they the best support you’ll ever have? No obv, they have no underwire, but what are you gonna do in it, go for a run or something? Get over yourself.

Belly Band

These are a lifesaver for when you really want to wear something that still mostly fits, apart from the gaping hole at your abdomen because you are starting to show and that’s how physics works. My amazing friend Corinne actually gave me mine, but I’ve heard great things about this one. I really liked it and wore it all the time, particularly over shorts during summer. Gosh those days seem so far away now that it’s December in Vermont and below freezing. But anyway, grab yourself one of these. They even feel good with their support and their holding you in and whatnot.

A No-Bullshit Book

I absolutely loved Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong, and What You Really Need to Know by Emily Oster, who is an economist at the University of Chicago. The beauty of Emily is that she’s not a midwife or a doctor (and she makes this very clear throughout the book) but she is someone who deals with numbers and statistics as part of her job and so what she does is takes what research and studies there are on things related to pregnancy (caffeine intake, alcohol intake, labor outcomes etc) and sees what they’re really saying. Of course, as she points out, it’s very hard to get definitively accurate information on pregnancy because performing studies on pregnant women is, at best, unethical (can you imagine? “Ok so you guys are gonna have 10 alcoholic drinks every single day and you guys are gonna have none. Cool?”). But she does her best with what there is, and the book really calmed my anxious brain. Well, a little.

Preggie Pop Drops

Ok it sounds silly because technically it’s just candy but for some reason these really worked for reducing nausea for me. They were another gift from Corinne and let’s be real she’s just the ultimate pregnancy fairy godmother and I can’t thank her enough for the box of goodies she sent me early in my pregnancy. Speaking of which!

Stretch Mark Cream

Everybody has different preferences, scent/packaging etc, but I really loved the bottle that Corinne sent me which was Palmers Cocoa Butter Stretch Mark Massage Lotion. Let me be clear: I fully understand that you can’t really prevent stretch marks in the vast majority of cases. If they’re coming, they’re coming, and it’s mostly genetic. BUT! I have a tonne of stretch marks from my previous life as a teenager whose boobs and curves exploded out all at once and since I used this stuff from very early in pregnancy I don’t have a single one. In saying that, a lot of people say that they appear right at the end. I feel like I’m right at the end now and I still haven’t seen a sign of one. If I get them I don’t care a single bit – the ones I have already on other parts of my body are super faded and silvery so it’s no biggie. Midwives and my doula have all commented on the fact that I don’t have any. Is it because of the cream? I honestly have no idea. What I’ve been doing is squirting out one pump of this and one pump of a little bottle of Palmer’s Skin Therapy Oil with Vitamin E that my friend Jaime sent me along with about a thousand onesies from my favorite brands in Australia. Then I mix those together between my palms and give my belly and sides a good rub. If nothing else, it feels good when the skin gets a bit itchy and dry, and it’s nice bonding time too. I often take that time to have a little chat to LB (our nickname for the baby) about whatever I want, this week’s subject has been “what if you didn’t mash your skull into my cervix or bladder at every opportunity though? Just work with me here.”

There are a few other things that are less tangible. An incredibly supportive partner who never judges you when you tell him you ate 4 packets of ramen, or who holds you when you cry hysterically about the fact that your landlord mowed the lawn so the woodchucks who lived under the patio now have to re-make their protective tunnels. Bonus if he agrees to read something like The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin and it totally changes his perspective on labor and suddenly you have your own built in at home prenatal doula.

Oh and that reminds me – a doula (if it is in your budget or covered by your insurance). A lot of people in my life will laugh at this because I was always a bit disparaging about doulas but you know what? I was wrong. Everyone needs a little extra help. Especially since my mum can’t be with me for the birth. It helps so much to know that she’ll be on my side, advocating for me, cajoling me when I need it and bossing me (and Ray) around when I need that too, because that’s bound to happen.

The last thing is, a sense of humour and a backbone. People are gonna ask stupid fucking questions, constantly. Your body is gonna do some weird shit. Some of it will be embarrassing. Some of it will be scary, and it’s ok to be scared. People who had perfect pregnancies or people who forget what it was like to be pregnant AND ESPECIALLY people who have never been pregnant love to tell you that whatever’s meant to be will be, that all you have to do is relax and enjoy the pregnancy, and that pregnancy is beautiful and wonderful and magical and natural. Those people appear whenever you have the AUDACITY to complain about some of the extreme discomfort, illness, fear, anxiety, body image issues that come with pregnancy. Where do they even come from!? Nobody  knows. Feel free to tell them to shut up. Other people who can shut up: people who tell you their horrible birth stories totally unprompted. People who act entitled to information about your baby, pregnancy, birth etc. People who tell you to get plenty of sleep now because you’ll LITERALLY NEVER SLEEP AGAIN EVER after the baby comes. People who tell you that if you don’t give birth exactly how they did you’re totally DOING IT WRONG. But there are people you should keep around, too. There are wonderful people who will help you every step of the way, who will never judge you, who will answer your stupidest questions, who will bring you your weird food cravings right when you need them the most, who will be there for you when you’re scared and sad and sick. There are people who have no idea what you’re going through but who will be there for you anyway. You keep those people close! Hold them tight and never let them go. Those people are golden. And so are you. You got this.

I think I’ll write another blog post about some cool but not totally necessary luxuries I’ve found useful as well so stand by for that. But this one is long enough, I think!

 

Life Stuff: The Role of New Friends in Reducing Homesickness

A few months ago, I wrote a post about being unbelievably homesick. I was in a pretty bad place. But all the incredible support I got following that post made me feel so much better. I got a few messages of solidarity that honestly were so touching and so affirming, like my feelings weren’t unreasonable and like the depth of my loss was not as outrageous as I secretly hoped it wasn’t. Phew!

So I’m insanely happy to tell you guys that I am doing way better. Life is feeling pretty good right now. And the major thing that changed is that we, and more importantly, I, made some fantastic friends.

When Ray started his job, we arranged a gathering of a bunch of the other law clerks and their partners. I worried that they wouldn’t like me, or that I was boring and that I wouldn’t fit in. But I needn’t have worried – they were so welcoming and as eager to make friends as Ray and I were, so that is what happened.

We started going to pub trivia every week and we have been moderately successful. Each night has a theme and some themes are more to our collective (or, indeed, individual, I’m looking at you on 90s boyband night LK & HR) strengths than others, but really that’s not the point. It gets us out of our apartment to somewhere that isn’t our respective places of employment.  We look forward to it so much. Our group is funny, smart and so much fun.

And that’s not to say that our jobs suck, either. I feel so fulfilled by my work, I truly love it. And I work with some incredible people who inspire me, crack me up, support me and teach me new things every day. The only reason we don’t hang out more after work is that they all have lil families they need to get home to, or second jobs. But I adore them so much.

The true nugget of this post though that I really want to dig down to, is how much I value the three girlfriends I have made within the group that started with Ray’s colleagues. The four of us all come from fairly different backgrounds, and have different jobs (even within the same vocation), and I love it. I love the intellectual stimulation, I love the hilarious stories about our families and the time to have, as cheesy as it is, girl-talk without partners around. I love the lack of pretense and the fact that we have all come to rely on each other for ways to stay sane in this small town.

I miss my girlfriends back home absolutely no less. I miss them like a big ol’ hole in my heart (… ahem.. excuse me while I pull myself together after typing that, it is unseemly to cry at the laundromat). But having a new group has been absolutely thoroughly crucial, absolutely key, to my (and our) newfound happiness in this sleepy little town in Vermont. It’s amazing how much more tolerable a previously intolerable situation becomes with some good, real friends around you. It turns out everyone was right: finding awesome friends DOES just take time. But even with that, I’m not sure everyone gets as lucky as I have been in this particular instance.

So in saying all that, this post is for you, CC. You know who you are. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for everything. You saved my sanity, and you brought the four of us together, and I may never be able to repay you. You opened my eyes and my mind to a lot of things I had never considered before (you Vermontified me a little bit!). And to the other 2 corners of our now-triangle: here’s to a 2016 of girls’ dinners, wine nights at Brix, maybe some snowshoeing? What even is that.. Tennis racquet shoes?! Hmmm. Anyway – I’m so excited and so grateful. Let’s do this.

Love+++
F&V

 

Life Stuff: The Grief of Moving Far from Home – #RUOK Special Edition

I have been see-sawing on posting this, and I still may not, depending on how it comes out. More later on why it has been hard to decide. But for now, I really feel like I have to get some of this stuff out of my head.

The last couple of weeks I’ve really been struggling with homesickness. Really, really struggling. I think what is happening at the moment is more than the short periods of sadness related to things happening back home or hormonal issues I’ve experienced since moving, and more of the beginning of the true grief of leaving behind my home of 30+ years. I’m mourning the life I thought I would have, even if it wasn’t that exciting.

There are a lot of things that seemed like sureties in my life that I’ve had to put to rest. For example, a few years ago I realized that I would never live in a city. I don’t like them. So, I dated a few guys from my home town and even though they weren’t The One(s) that was still my future, I was pretty sure. We’d get married and if we decided to have kids, I would have a baby shower and all my friends and family would come and it would be amazing and I’d see how many people were there for me and how much support I had, in the networks I built up over 30 years. My grandmother would be there, and my aunt who is one of my best friends, who I’ve known since I was born, would host it maybe. I don’t know. It wasn’t an actual fantasy in my head, because it was by no means guaranteed that I’d have kids, but if I did that is how it would have gone. I’ve been to my friends’ baby showers and that’s been how they went and it’s been lovely.

I’ll never have that. I’ll never have hand-me-downs or, should I have been so lucky, family heirlooms. I have to let go of it. I know some of you right now are knee-jerking into saying “YES YOU WILL, THAT KIND OF THING JUST TAKES TIME” and you’re of course right in a way, making friends does take time. But, it’s just not really relevant. I would have to be here for a very long time to build up the kind of support networks that I had back home. It’s not going to happen. That’s Not Realistic. Does that mean I’ll have a miserable, supportless pregnancy and babyhaving? No, hopefully not, but making friends as an adult in a totally new place is really hard. Most people make friends from childhood or university and keep them. Ray’s parents (and his lovely friends!) are absolutely delightful, and SO kind and good to me, I adore them. But they’re not my family, the people I grew up with, the people who have loved me for 30 years despite all my shitty behaviour. So that was just a really long example of some of the things I’m feeling grief and loss for at the moment. I’m processing. It’s hard.

I’m also really missing my friends. Lately I’ve found myself even feeling a little angry with them, and hurt, because I don’t really hear from most of them much. I’m saying this, not to make anyone feel guilty, but to respect and acknowledge my own feelings and work on processing them. Because of course it’s not fair to be mad at my friends. They haven’t done anything wrong! They have busy lives full of all the things that they had when I was still there – they were just more easily accessible to me then. But whether my feelings are fair or not, they’re still my feelings. I just miss them so much, and in the past when I felt like I missed them, I would just be like “bitch, I’m coming around for a wine, put that sauv blanc in the freezer stat” and we’d do that. Now I can’t do that. If I even want to talk to them we have to set up a time when we’re both awake and free. It’s kind of exhausting, not just for me I suspect.

See, the thing is, that they just lost me, but I lost all of them. I lost them, even if not literally, in a very real, very life-affecting way. My friends have long been my lifeline. They’ve dragged me kicking and screaming through some really tough shit, for many many years. Some of them since I was born. Some for more than two thirds of my life. Some since high school, and some in a shorter but no less meaningful span of time. I owe them so much. That is a hard thing to leave behind, no matter what the future looks like. I missed one of my best friends’ weddings over the weekend. That hurt. I should have been there. I cry all the time. I heard a few bars of Michael Buble’s song “Home” at the markets on the weekend and had to try to block it out – lucky I was wearing sunglasses.

Fathers Day was last Sunday and I wasn’t there to make dad an elaborate dinner. I always make him dinner. It was a hard day.

I loved my life in Australia. I didn’t realize how important it was for my identity to have deep roots in the community like I did. I knew it was valuable to me but I did not have any idea just how much value that sense of connection had to my sense of self. Here, I’m flailing. And I’m lonely.

And don’t get me wrong – I don’t regret moving to the USA. My husband, who I love more than life, more every day, has amazing job opportunities here and a fairly clear career path – neither of which I have or want, and neither of which he had access to in Australia. That’s really important, and I proudly consider my main role in life to be his supporter and head cheerleader. Maybe I’ll add mother of his adorable babies to that one day but right now and for the current foreseeable future that’s my life, and I love that life. I do. I love my husband and being with him is vitally important to my wellbeing. When he and I talked all this through at dinner on Tuesday night in an awesome pub in Montpelier, I felt my love for him fill my heart. He was so understanding, so kind, he let me talk and vent and he helped me process. He managed to put his discomfort aside (after all, it’s hard to feel like your spouse is unhappy in the country you’ve brought them to!) to be supportive and loving. And New England is beautiful! I don’t love the town I live in but the area is gorgeous. It has lots of positives. But it’s still hard to be so far away.

I’m lucky because I do have some fabulous friends in the USA and Canada, scattered over the country as they are, none of them nearby by most stretches of the imagination but it’s still great to know I’m not totally alone. I’m also very lucky that technology like Facebook exists so I can talk to my mum every day, and iMessage so I can text dad about silly things Americans do and what kind of shower curtain public transit map design he might like. And Skype so I can see people’s faces! So good!

So yeah, I am grieving. I am mourning the loss of my life as I have always known it. The shine has worn off The Big Move and reality is settling in.

And in the spirit of #RUOK Day, no actually, I’m not okay. But I will be, with time. I’ll carve out my new niche.

I want my beloved friends to know that this post is not about blame, or pointing fingers or anything like that. It’s really not. That’s why it was so hard to post this – I wanted to be honest about my own feelings while trying my best to protect the feelings of others. My friends back home have jobs, babies, families, and TONNES of stuff going on in their lives. I hold nothing, not a shred of any ill will towards them at all. It’s. Just. Hard.

Take care of each other. Ask the question, today and as many days as you can muster. Are you okay?

Love,
F&V

Lifting / Life: Why It’s Okay to Take a Break from Things You Love

I was editing my profile yesterday and I realized / remembered that the description for this blog includes the word “lifting”. I haven’t talked too much about that yet, and it may be something that doesn’t get talked about for awhile, even though I love to lift (and I love to talk about lifting!). Who among you has NOT had their ear talked off, or, unfortunately, lectured by past-me who felt the need to be a smug, superior jerk about lifting? I love to lift the weights, I really really do.

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However, of late I’ve been taking a long stroll down that well-trodden path, Struggle Street. I really have. The last year, hell the last year and a bit, has been pretty crazy for me. Let’s examine, in point form, what has been happening:

  • husband (then fiance) moving to Australia after 12 months of LDR
  • planned a destination wedding
  • awful stressful visa process ugh ugh UGH
  • getting married ❤
  • having a fairly active, not super restful (but wonderful) honeymoon
  • another wedding party when we got back
  • Christmas
  • family stresses
  • more visa garbage UGHHH
  • moving to America and staying with Ray’s (delightful) parents
  • apartment hunting
  • moving to Rutland, Vermont and furniture shopping for our first apartment
  • starting a new job in a totally new health system
  • joining a new and not amazingly friendly (my impression) gym

Phew, right?! That’s a lot of things. Normally, the gym can be relied upon as something that makes me feel centered, something that grounds me and makes me happy. Lately it’s been an absolute chore, I dread every session. That ain’t right, at all.

At first I thought it was because I wasn’t eating enough, or enough of the “right things”. I found every way in the book to blame myself. I resigned myself to just “sucking it up” and going anyway because gaining fat and getting weak is totally unacceptable. I tried lots of things to get myself excited about the gym again. I bought a new program from an online coach I really have a lot of respect for, thinking that’d give me the jumpstart I needed to love the gym again. People here and there gently suggested that my life had been full of upheaval and maybe I just needed to take it easy but NO. That’s not me. I’m organized and motivated and I can do ALL OF THE THINGS!

Actually, no I can’t. I want to stand still for awhile. I’m tired to my bones and to whatever skeletal equivalent my soul has as well. I just want to nest with my husband, pull myself together and do the things that make me happy for awhile.

Crunch time came last week when, after the gym, I found myself in tears in Ponderosa (a Sizzler-style restaurant, don’t judge me, Ray loves that shit) while talking this out with my husband. Not my finest moment 😐 I had had trouble articulating what the problem was before. I found myself telling him that I knew I had to keep working out because that was the only way I could eat food and not feel bad. It was the moment those words left my mouth that I realized there was a problem bigger than I had previously thought. That’s seriously disordered thinking and I have worked hard to try to get rid of those kinds of thought patterns. Alarm bells, right?

Right. So it’s time to take a break for awhile. I don’t anticipate it being a long break. I like feeling strong and having muscles. But it’s time for a reminder that those things don’t define me, and that I’m allowed to eat food to live, not just to lift. I’m not looking forward to the starting again, but for right now I feel strongly that this is the right thing for me and my body and my little family here in the backwoods of Vermont in the Spring.

And I guess the point of this post (because who the fuck honestly writes a post about taking a break from the gym? Get a real problem Fran) is to say that there is no shame in taking a break from something, even if you really love it. Taking a break isn’t failing. It’s a pretty big win in the game of understanding yourself and listening to yourself, whether it be your body, mind or soul. It doesn’t mean you love that thing any less. It just means you’re taking time to regroup.

Thanks for reading, take care of yourselves. You’re super important! ❤

PS. Can we talk about my mug?! It’s no “I Am Very Busy and Important” mug but NEVERTHELESS..

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Love+++
F&V

Life Stuff: What I’ve Been Up to Lately

I feel like I’ve morphed from the stage of needing to title these posts under “Moving to the USA” to just being a part of my life now. I’m settling in I guess!

Life has been SUPER BUSY lately, sorry for the radio silence, I’m sure you’ve all been incredibly upset and devastated without my rambling posts!

Today I just thought I’d do a bit of a combo post. Things I’ve been doing, eating, buying and wearing will all be talked about here, but I will try not to ramble too much!

We moved into our TINY (~300 square footage) apartment in Rutland, Vermont. It is actually great. The big drawback of it is that it does not have a guest room, or any appreciable room for a guest at all. So anytime people come to visit, we will need to find them other accommodation. This is really the only thing that makes this apartment not a long-term solution. The rooms (all 2 of them) are large, the kitchen has a large fridge and a good oven. The bathroom is tiny and the shower cubicle is … prison-like, but that’s okay. I wish we had a bath but what can you do. So furniture shopping at IKEA in Boston happened! We bought a bed (Brimnes in black with storage) and bed linen, a dressing table (Malm), a set of Alex drawers and some other small bits and pieces like a mirror and shoe rack. My parents-in-law so kindly donated us a little kitchen table and some chairs, and bought us a set of drawers and a hanging clothes rack. That’s really the max we could fit into the apartment before it got too crowded. A lot of you (who are my IRL friends) have already seen the vanity setup but here it is in all its amazing and beautiful glory:

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Alex 5 drawer in the foreground, Malm dressing table. 

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Drawer contents! Wheeeeee I have a (fabulous) problem.

If anyone would like to see more of our apartment or furniture let me know. It’s not that exciting to anyone apart from us; we have been doing the living with parents thing for quite a long time now (for me, 5 years, for Ray, since he moved to Australia which was March 2014) so it’s just so awesome to have our own space! Moving on…

One of the things that has been keeping me very busy is that I got a job. It’s with Planned Parenthood as a Health Care Associate which is mostly an admin/clerical position but also has some clinical work which I’m EXTREMELY excited about. That will come with time and as I master the front desk work which is my first area of focus. I love PP as an organization and I’m really excited to be a part of it.

Part of starting my job involved going to Burlington, “the city” in Vermont, for four days of training. First of all, what a beautiful city! It’s stunning especially in spring, though all of Vermont is just so beautiful and alive at the moment. We ate some good food – I re-discovered the amazingness of American bagels (last time I had one was in NYC with my friend Chris). I mean, look at this divine creation:

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Lox & cream cheese on an “everything” bagel. Just stop.

We also went to a really cool old-school diner called Al’s French Frys for burgers, fries and shakes. I had incredible, unbelievable pho which really scratched an itch that had been bothering me since I arrived. It was.. a revelation. Usually I never finish huge bowls of soup but this time I scarfed it all and wished I had more! We went to Buffalo Wild Wings which was a pretty cool experience but all the wings we ordered were a smidge too spicy for me! I’m such a pansy.

Anyway, while I was at training and since I’ve been working, I’ve really been trying to get my neutral, natural makeup on point. I’ve been posting a lot on my Instagram about it and getting some good feedback so here’s some examples:

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Different light but you get the point.

I’ve been using and enjoying the Maybelline Infallible Pro-Matte foundation, it’s VERY good for a drugstore foundation. It’s obviously very matte so if you like something a bit glowy you will want to either skip it completely or add some glow back in, perhaps with something like one of the Hourglass Ambient Light powders.

Here are some less neutral looks I’ve been rocking as well. I haven’t been going crazy on eye makeup lately really, it just hasn’t suited the outings we’ve been on really! But I’ve been wearing a bold lip a lot, as usual.

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The pic on the top right is at Al’s French Frys – that decor! I LOV IT

I did some shopping in Burlington too, probably more than I should have, my poor husband was pouring sweat for most of the time. Bless him. So here are some haul pics from MAC and Sephora:

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Some of these products have been rocking my world. I regret holding out on buying the Primed and Poreless primer by Too Faced for so long because honestly it is phenomenal, I’ve never used a primer that worked so well. I am going to do a comparison between it and the Make Up For Ever primer that I got in a Sephora order in a future post, they’re meant to do a similar thing. I went to MAC and asked them for a bit of a bronzer tutorial and the lady who served me had gorgeous pale skin and she really was picking up what I was putting down – that a lot of bronzers seem orange on me or muddy. She said what I should do is pick a cool toned powder foundation and use that to warm up my face. She chose the MAC Mineralize SkinFinish Natural powder in “Medium/Deep” for me and hoooly crap, I just loved the effect SO MUCH. I also found that they’re doing mini products at their counters now so I grabbed a much coveted product, the pigment in Old Gold, in a mini version. Their pigments last forever so the larger jar has always seemed so pointless to me. I also got the 239 brush because I have a lot of blending brushes and not enough flat/dense application/shader brushes. It’s meant to be one of the best so I am looking forward to giving that one a red hot go. As you can see I also grabbed Charlotte in the NARS Audacious lipstick range, I actually wouldn’t have swatched this on my hand but for my husband pointing it out and saying “what about that one?” – a dangerous tactic for him I feel! I swatched it and was really impressed, it was more of a berry, dark red than the purple I thought it’d be so naturally I bought it. I’m wearing it, and the bronzer, in the third pic of the last set of selfies. NOICE.

When I got home, I had an order from Sephora waiting for me. I recently got bumped up to VIB level so I got some little sampley type things and, excitingly, a new Sephora Cream Lip Stain in 10 – Mandarin Muse. This is a very orange red which I am SO INTO so I’m keen as heck to try that!

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I’m also very excited about trying the Besame brightening vanilla powder, I’ve heard such good things from quite a few of the makeup gurus on YouTube that I religiously follow plus the packaging is ADORBS. Check it!

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You guys know how I feel about packaging!

So the last thing I want to mention is that I got a fabulous package from one of my favorite indie makeup brands, Baroque Cosmetics. Andi, brand / product creator, sent me a couple of samples (because she rocks and also because I guessed the name of a shade in the pressing process that she posted on Instagram!) as well as the products that I wanted so that was super exciting and I can’t wait to try them – I have a lot of the brighter and more bold colors from her range/s so I got some of the staple neutrals.

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I love rose golds at the moment so Compass Rose (on its side) is SUPER exciting in particular. I think I will wear it to work tomorrow.

This brings me to my next point, and that is that I feel like I have a pretty significant collection of Baroque Cosmetics eyeshadows now so I’m going to do a mega-review on them. I have been wanting to do this for AGES but each time I feel like I was waiting on an order, so I have held off. I’m gonna do it though. I have opinions.

I’m also going to do a bit of a post about foundations. I’m a little nervous about this because I haven’t tried heaps and heaps of them but I do have a fair collection now, I have 8 so I will do a bit of a post about them and talk through the pros and cons of each one.

If there’s anything else you guys would love me to do a post about, please let me know, I love hearing your amazing suggestions!

Here are some random pics to finish off with. Spring in Vermont is beautiful as HECK!

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My “0.58 year anniversary” present from Ray – that man knows what I like!

Until next time – which I promise won’t be too far away!

Love+++

F&V

Moving to the USA: Some Stuff I’ve Done!

Well, those of you who know me personally will know that the last section of my visa process did not go smoothly. I’m not going to go into detail here, suffice to say that it was absolutely no fault of our own and related purely to the lack of knowledge (regarding the department’s own processes) had by the person who interviewed me.

I still managed to leave on time, JUST, and the port of entry experience at LAX was actually delightful. Thank goodness. My official greencard has not yet arrived but my social security number has so that’s a really great thing, it opens a lot of doors in terms of things I can do and apply for etc.

Since I got here, I’ve been spending a lot of time with my husband and his parents obviously but we’ve also done some travelling in the local area, shopping, eating and all that fun stuff.

We went for a drive to Nashua, where I dropped into Old Navy and got some very ugly and comfortable fleecy trackpants for hanging around the house (I have barely taken them off to be honest). On the way there were all these awesome cliff mini glacier things which I thought were super cool looking, check them out:

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Frozen waterfall?!

I also went to Sephora (I swear to god I can’t help myself but they had some things I wanted, and a very knowledgeable salesperson who talked to me about contour in a very sensible manner which I enjoyed) and picked up a few things, then to Lush which is why I was really there. I needed some Ro’s Argan Body Conditioner – I swear by this stuff as I have previously stated. It’s wonderful for those of us who are super slack with putting on body lotion when getting out of the shower. I mean, who really has time!? Not I.

After that we drove to Keene where I went to Ulta. Ohhhh my god, that place is HUGE and magical! It’s like a massive explosion of beauty, there’s high end and drugstore brands all in the one place. I loved it, and the staff there seems a little bit less snooty than the Sephora team. Sorry Sephora! But Ulta won out so far for me. A lovely lady helped match me with the new Urban Decay concealer (wait for my April faves for a full report on this one) and I definitely wouldn’t have picked the one she matched me with so that was a relief. Anyway, here’s a picture of my haul from that day:

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Combined Sephora, Lush & Ulta haul

A couple of the above will also be featured in April favourites. I was particularly excited to see the Real Techniques bold metals range of brushes, I was proud of myself for choosing just one. The hype is right: it’s great and the handle is so well balanced. As you can see, I also grabbed another couple of the Kat von D Everlasting Liquid Lipsticks and the IT Cosmetics Tightline mascara sample which is SURPRISINGLY awesome, you guys! I heard the team member who ended up helping me raving about it to another customer so I had to pick up the mini version to try it out. I’m a sucker for a teeny little brush and this one is so small you can hardly see the “bristles”. Full review in April favourites for that one too.

After that we went to a for-realsies American diner, called Lindy’s. It was great, I mean, look at this!

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Oh Lindy’s. You’re adorable.

We got incredible mocha java concoctions, which we are still talking about, and I got a delicious breakfast including pancakes (it was 4pm). Ray got oyster chowder and macaroni and cheese.

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Hnggg

The next day was WINGS NIGHT at the local pub (we also went there for trivia on Sunday night and games night on Monday!) so I decided to go with a very smokey eye because hell it’s still basically winter here!

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Also featuring L’Oreal True Match foundation, it’s good shit.

And speaking of winter it snowed out the WAZOO Wednesday afternoon / evening, well it was like 3 inches of snow which isn’t anything that amazing to New Englanders but I was totally fucking enchanted you guys! It was amazing and beautiful! On the way home Ray was pretty nervous about driving and we had to stop halfway so he could brush some snow off the back window. Wowsers it was serious business. I took some pictures the next day of the yard:

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Snow! Icicles! Magical!

Unfortunately I still had to take this monster outside to wee:

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… but I only went as far as needed for her to make a lil patch of yellow in the snow.

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Yesterday we went to Rutland, where we are actually going to live. It was a gorgeous drive along the Ottauqueechee River. We checked out a few apartments, some better than others, and we checked out an amazing gym. That was the find of the day. It has a Crossfit box but allows use of it by non-Crossfitters which is kinda rare so we were so thrilled. It’s a small but well equipped box, the best kind. The Crossfit box we went to earlier in the week was huge and well equipped as well but a lot more serious. One of Ray’s friends is a coach there and is actually going to Regionals so that’s super exciting! I PRed my front squat at 90.7kg (200lb wiew) there but the price for a short membership or even a casual visit was cost-prohibitive so we probably won’t go back.

Today at the co-op we grabbed some coffee and eggs and stuff so I can start eating a real adult breakfast (Ray insists on eating Lucky Charms ugh!) and I found some Vegemite – check out this price, I nearly DIED:

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Pls don’t call it yeast extract ugh it’s so much more than that!

Tonight we are going to a supposedly-amazing burger bar and I think I’m going to try out the new Urban Decay palette I bought in LA. I will report back if it’s not a total disaster – I’m sure it won’t be. Burger pictures will also be forthcoming. Yay!

Thanks for reading.

Love+++

Moving to the USA: Haul #1 (of many)

I made it! I’m here with my husband it is awesome. Stressful times but all worth it to be here.

I thought I’d post a quick haul post. My friends Sara and Nate entertained me all day on my layover in LA so we went to South Coast Plaza, a fancy mall with lots of high end brands including Jo Malone which is why I went there!

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The salesman at Jo Malone was phenomenal and so helpful, and not pushy. I bought a large bottle of my beloved Wood Sage & Sea Salt (think a deserted, windswept beach with a driftwood fire in the distance) perfume, and he gave me tonnes of samples as well as a sample of the matching body lotion which I may buy, because holy CRAP my skin is dry as HECK right now and I only have a little bottle of Soap & Glory’s Body Butter. So far I’ve given the Blackberry and Bay sample a sniff and it’s gorgeous. That one might be my next purchase but that won’t be for awhile.

We then went to look for a passport holder for me, though I’ve decided what I’ll do is buy myself a really pretty one when I become a citizen in 3 years because I’ll have two passports! So it’s kinda lucky I didn’t find one. I did however find the Urban Decay Ammo palette which was hard to get in Australia so I grabbed that, it was $25 what a bargain!

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Plastic is a bit scuffed. Came with an eye primer! Wiew

Excited to try this out, the colours are amazing and I think I can show it a hell of a good time.

So when I got to Boston and was reunited with my beloved husbo, we went to Sephora. It was awesome! I wanted a hairdryer and some shampoo and conditioner and the guy who helped us actually wasn’t that helpful. He tried to talk me into a sulfate free shampoo which I don’t normally like, but I bought small deluxe samples of it anyway and wow surprise surprise I used it this morning and I hate it. My scalp is flaking like crazy and my hair is horribly dry even after drying naturally and not applying any heat. I didn’t take any pictures, but it’s this one: Alterna CAVIAR Anti-Ageing Replenishing Shampoo. So that’s not pictured because I’m taking it back and will probably try out a Bumble & Bumble one, as that’s a brand I trust, or the Living Proof range is tempting as well. I don’t know. My hair just needs to get through this stage of still having the yucky ends from being bleached. Anyway, instead of the $200 hairdryer the guy wanted me to get, I ended up going online and buying another Parlux exactly like my last one. So the rest of the haul was the Kat Von D liquid lipstick in “Outlaw”, Bite Beauty Agave Lip Balm which is apparently amazing for winter-dry lips which I am definitely suffering from, and I think that’s it! When I got to Ray’s home town we went to CVS to buy lots of things like cotton pads, qtips, nail polish remover, razors and all that normal stuff then we wandered down to the Sephora inside JCPenney. It was pretty comprehensive really, only a few niche lines missing (Sunday Riley, unfortunately, as well as L’Occitane which sucked because I really want to buy a large container of the Almond Shower Oil. It’s so good! I have found my skin to be SUPER dry since I got here and this stuff is definitely helping. Anyway, I grabbed some of the UD Setting Spray in Oil Control and they gave me a sample of the Peter Thomas Roth pumpkin enzyme mask which I’m super keen on trying… anyway here’s the haul:

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No biggie!

I also unwrapped my Sigma package! Look at these beauties! I’m so excited to try these brushes and review them for you guys.

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The little baby one on the left is a travel size shadow brush gift :3

I’m ESPECIALLY excited about the flat topped kabuki brush for applying foundation! Can’t wait to tell you guys about them.

So at the moment things are a bit crazy because we’re not living in a place where I can organise all my products and have them in front of me. As such I probably won’t be wearing a lot of makeup for awhile because it’s just overwhelming, lol. Anyway, that’s my haul! I’ll probably pop into Sephora again today to grab some more shampoo samples or whatever. Ok bye!

Love+++

Life Stuff: My Experience (So Far) with the US Spousal Visa Process + Relocation

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Guide to being an Alien

I honestly don’t even know where to start with this! One thing I will say from the outset is that I can only comment on my own process. I’m not going to talk too in-depth about this because it’s a) boring and b) complex.

Ray and I decided fairly early on in our relationship that we would be settling in the USA. The main reason for this is that Ray has a tertiary qualification / career in law and I can take my admin skillz basically anywhere.

We got the process started last year. In very basic terms, there are three phases. The USCIS (United States Customs & Immigration Service) stage, the NVC (National Visa Centre) stage and the Embassy/Consulate stage.

The USCIS stage involves lodging a petition. The “petitioner” is my now-husband, Ray, and it involves some demographic information on me and a few bits and pieces of information on our relationship to prove that we are real and that we exist (we submitted photos, a shared bank account, stat decs from loved ones and lots of travel itineraries). That gets sent off and when they acknowledge receipt, you get a “Notice of Action 1” (NOA1). We were extremely lucky in this situation, because we’re both living out of the country there appears to be some kind of expedite process so we were only at USCIS for a few days before we got NOA2 (basically their approval of the petition). They then send the package off to the NVC.

The NVC stage is where things get tricky. The first thing you have to do (after you wait to get your case number from NVC) is submit a form saying who can be contacted and how (DS-261) for updates on the process. Naturally we just gave both our emails and that seems to have worked pretty well. Then you wait for your AOS (Affidavit of Support) bill to become available to pay in the online portal. Once that’s been paid, you get a receipt and a cover letter to send with your AOS package. This package is a doozy. Because Ray hasn’t been working in the USA, we asked his dad to be a joint sponsor. He agreed, for which we are very grateful. So we had to get a lot of financials (tax returns / transcripts + associated schedules, employment details etc) for both Ray and his dad, as well as Ray’s mum because she is a household member of the joint sponsor. It was a hell of a task. The other really complex thing we had to do was prove Ray’s domicile in the USA. Pretty hard when he is not currently living there! But we are lucky, in that we will be staying with his parents for the first little while so they wrote us a letter. We also copied his drivers licence, bank statements with his US address etc because that’s all the kind of stuff they want to see. We sent that off to be assessed and waited for the next step.

The IV (Immigrant Visa) bill comes up for payment on the online portal then it’s time to do the “big form” – the DS-260. It’s a huge form that the beneficiary (me) fills out regarding their entire life so far. Employment details, residences since the age of 16 years, parents details, a HEAP of security questions about whether I had committed or intended to commit genocide etc. Anyway, once that was done it spat out another cover sheet and I sent our marriage certificate,  birth certificate, police certificate (showing that I have no court outcomes), passport photos and demographics page… etc. After that package gets scanned in, we wait. 60 days. It takes 60 days for them to look at each package of documents, and that countdown starts from the date the last package is scanned in, not the first. Sigh.

At the end of our first set of 60 days, we got the dreaded “checklist”. Basically, we had missed one field and not included one document that we didn’t know we had to include. Anyway, no sense going on about it. We had to resubmit the documents, and send it in again. And wait another 60 days. That brings us up to today. We’re currently at day 47. Apparently, day 54 is the sweet spot at the moment so we are hoping to have a “case complete” early next week. Case complete indicates that we are DONE with the NVC, and they send our package of documents on to the final stage.

The next stage is conducted from my “local” US Consulate. This happens to be in Sydney for me, which is veeery far away. I have to take two planes to get there. Basically they allocate you an interview date and before that date you have to get a medical to make sure you are healthy and immunised. At the interview, the consular official asks a lot of questions about your relationship. I’m feeling confident about this part because Ray and I are solid. We fell in love IRL, though we knew each other internetly first,  and we’ve now lived together for nearly a year and we have a well documented relationship. All that stuff is easy. So really we’re at the end of the hardest part here.

Unfortunately, Ray has to go home at the end of his 12 month Australian visa. It’s up on the 3rd of March so we booked his flights yesterday. It broke my heart a little bit. But I also felt an edge of excitement. I’m moving to America! Soon, I’ll be the one booking those flights! What a mind trip. It’s really cold in New England, where we’ll be living. It’s so hot here that it’s hard to imagine what it’ll be like to be truly cold!

Ok I did the post I’ve been putting off for ages, so now it’s back to the fun stuff. My lovely friend Sophie asked if I could do a few posts that I think I can make a good go of; one of which is a brush post and a makeup removal /oil cleansing post. The latter might have to wait until I’ve trialled the Ren cleansing balm I want to try soon but brushes I can definitely manage. Stay tuned, dear readers!

An Introduction – What I’m About

This is such an overwhelming post to write! I’m not planning on going into any huge amount of detail. I’ll post the basics and expand on them later.

My name is Fran, I currently live in Australia with my husband, who is American. I’m 30 years old. I work in legal administration right now (Jan 2015).

I got married just last October, in Tasmania. My husband and I met through weightlifting. You can see a pretty great rundown of our wedding here, on Rock’n’Roll Bride, which featured us this month as their first wedding of the year. He is the light of my life and will feature heavily on this blog I’m sure.

As an international couple, we had to make a call about where we were going to live. My husband is an attorney in America and as I just work in admin, we will be heading back to the USA to live so he can work. He was lucky enough to land a job in Vermont starting in September. For those Americans who might be reading and who are familiar with their state mottoes, the name of my blog might be making a bit more sense now. At the moment we are going through the process to get me an American visa for permanent residency. This is a long and arduous journey which I will probably write a post about. Hopefully, we are nearing the end of that process but you just never can tell! Still, we remain optimistic that we have finally got it right and will get some good news soon. I’ve lived in this town all my life minus a couple of less-than-12-month stints in other places as an adult so it’s pretty scary! I may die in the cold..

One thing I want to focus on at the moment is looking at product dupes. The place that I live is a smallish town and we don’t have any high end stores. We have a chemist that sells Chanel, Estee Lauder, Clarins, Elizabeth Arden, Napoleon Perdis etc but we don’t have a department store or beauty store as such. Therefore, drugstore products are something I’m very interested in, especially when they are so much cheaper.

Interestingly, a lot of makeup is made by the same manufacturers. Bourjois is made by the same people as Chanel, for example. Their foundations even smell the same!

A few other interests of mine will definitely pop up in this blog every so often. I have lost a lot of weight over the last couple of years, mostly by lifting weights. You can read about my weight loss / body image journey here – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Just a warning, Part 2 gets a little heavy on some disordered eating, body dysmorphia talk. I love lifting and will definitely post about it from time to time. NOT EVEN SORRY.

I am seriously pro-moderation, pro-body love and believe that every body is a good body. I want to help women feel more in control of their bodies, whether that be with makeup or with exercise / food love.

Anyway, I won’t go on too much longer. As this blog progresses, you’ll learn more about me I’m sure.

Thanks for reading, and welcome!