Monday, July 15, 2013

Understanding IVF & What's Next...

First, I apologize for random parts in this post that are appearing white and blotchy... not sure why that's happened or how to fix it, so just carry on when you get there. The OCD in me is bothered that it's not visually neat and organized, and I think it's because I copied some quotes from other sites, throwing off the format. But I'm not retyping those sections, so oh well. No biggie really. 

It's common not to know what IVF is, or to even fully understand it at all. I admit I didn't really have a clue either until it affected us 6 months ago. I knew that couples could have difficulty conceiving and that often medical assistance was required. I knew the "test tube baby" idea, generally, but that was about it. If it doesn't affect you or someone you know (well, sadly, it WILL affect someone you know, but you just may not be aware of it), then you wouldn't really have reason to be completely up on your IVF research and know way more acronyms than you cared to know (TTC, IF, AF, IUI, IVF, FSH, HCG, OPK, BFP, BFN, SA, ICSI, etc... look at me go! I didn't know about any of these 2 years ago. Show-off right here, haha :p). 

So, I often forget that just because I've had to become an expert on all things related to IVF, it doesn't mean everyone knows what it is. My very close friend who's currently in the middle of IVF treatments (who shall remain nameless unless until I have permission) & I will have convos that probably sound like secret code because of all the crazy terms and acronyms thrown out. Then when I go to talk to fam & other friends, I quickly forget that they would have NO idea what the heck I am talking about~ haha, sorry! 

People often ask what's next for us, so I decided to update everyone on where are currently and what's to come (as of now... things could change at any time). So here's our status. We are currently in limbo, or "The Waiting Place" as it's called in Dr. Seuss's Oh, the Places You'll Go!.

The Waiting Place... just waiting around for things to happen & move along.

Waiting, waiting, waiting... Why? What for? How long? Bear with me... Well, we can't make a baby with just my eggs. You can't win a swim meet with no swim team. No home runs without any hitters. We currently have no sperm to work with, which is why Scott had surgery back in May (can't believe 2 months have passed since then~ yay!). The surgery needed to happen anyway (Varicocelectomy), but it also was a major step in our baby-making journey. It will hopefully (fingers crossed!!) get sperm production going. All it takes is 1, although we'd ideally like there to be significant numbers, that's not very likely. Along with azoospermia, Scott also has a chromosomal disorder against him, strike 2, which produces low testosterone (essential for being that Swim Team coach~ haha)and makes him tired too (so now I can't nag on him when he's tired after work and doesn't want to do things... it's really out of his control to an extent and just makes me love him more because it's more physical than mental). Ok, I'm going on tangents, sorry. So the surgery is step 1 to *POSSIBLY* (no promises) help with sperm production. The Dr. said we need to wait 4-6 months after surgery to retest for swimmers because it takes that long for them to show up in a semen analysis. I found this on a medical site today "Development of immature sperm to mature sperm takes 72 days." That's over 2 months alone. Crazy, huh? 

So, sure, it's totally possible to conceive on our own within this 4-6 month waiting window. Likely to happen? Absolutely not. But possible? Sure; miracles do happen and crazier things HAVE happened before. Am I getting my hopes up? No way. I'm enjoying summer while we are on a forced break, or hiatus, from active baby making. Trying to have a baby is hard work, folks. It's no walk in the park (or bedroom). It's not all fun and games. It's extremely stressful. You can't just hop in bed whenever you want and be done (although, to the unfairness of the world, this is unfortunately how it happens for MANY people... then those are the people who say "Relax and just have more sex." HA... yea, ok). In case you didn't know, there is a scientific formula to conceiving a baby. Sperm and egg do not just meet up and click at any time you want, although wouldn't that be nice? There is a very small window (36-48 hours?) in which it is possible each month. That's like a 15-25% chance of a couple getting pregnant if you do everything right and are in perfect reproductive health. With those odds, isn't it amazing how many people just happen to fall pregnant accidentally? Timing is everything, along with health factors and a little bit of luck. So our odds are like maybe 0-1% chance on our own with no medical assistance. I'm not being negative here, just realistic. We can't likely have a baby on our own without medical intervention. Enter the help of the wonderful reproductive urologist and reproductive endocrinologist, or RE, or fertility doctor. 

Sorry I am getting off track. So again, Scott's surgery was in May and we are currently 2 months into the 4-6 month waiting window. He has a followup appointment at the urologist in September (4 month mark) with semen analysis number 1 to see if anything shows up. If not, I honestly am not sure if we wait until November to test again (6 month mark) -OR- if we would just go ahead with what Dr. Werner called a "needle biopsy". So not sure if this will happen in Sept or Nov, but assuming this will happen at some point. If they don't see any sperm in "the cup test", they have to do the needle biopsy, or testicular mapping, to poke around (yea, sorry guys, it's not a pleasant procedure from what we understand) and try to determine if there are any sperm to be located and retrieved for use with IVF. Again, it only takes 1 (although it'd be nice if there were more to work with but I won't be greedy!). 

For a little dose of inspiration, Dr. Werner told us about a couple he had recently treated. They are around our age and went through the same surgery and steps as Scott. They didn't find any sperm in the followup analysis and moved to sperm mapping, and located TWO (2) sperm. That's it. Just 2 had produced, but that's all they needed! They froze them and proceeded with IVF, and on their first round, it took and they are now pregnant. How amazing is that?! Talk about *HOPE*!! Now, this is not common and also not likely to happen to us as well (keep those hopes in check, Stace), BUT it still shows that miracles do happen and are indeed possible. 

At some point before proceeding with IVF, I will need to have one, very minor, procedure to ensure that all is okay on my side. With probably my September cycle, I'll need to have day 3 blood work, followed by a saline sonogram. Basically, it's a quick and easy test to see how my uterus looks and make sure it's a happy environment for embryos to stick and grow in. I was going to have it done in August since I'm off from school, but realized the timing that it needs to be done in conflicts with our vacation. Since we are in limbo with Scott's results anyway, there's really no point in doing it too early because the results are only good for a few months or they'd need to retest. So looks like September we will try for that and get that out of the way. Even if it was pushed to October, we still have some time to play with I think, and that would be fine.

Once we go all those routes and try to recruit some swimmers for Team Ricci's swim team (hehe), that will determine what our next step is and when it would take place. In the best case scenario that all goes well, I'm thinking we would maybe be cleared to proceed with IVF before the holidays. If we run into glitches or there is still no sperm after all those checkups, then I fear we might have to move to looking into sperm donors. When I say "fear", I don't mean that this would be a bad thing, it's our 2nd option, but it would just devastate me (and Scott) inside because it would mean we couldn't create a baby with a combination of our biological genes. That's not the most important thing in the world, having him by my side is, but I'm not going to lie, it would sadden me to not have a little Scooter running around. Using a donor would not make him any less of a dad though, I don't doubt that for 1 second. Making the choice to move there next was ultimately Scott's decision and I give him so much respect for that difficult choice. I am all for it but I wanted him to be 100% comfortable with it before voicing my opinion. If it were reversed and it was my egg quality in question instead, I know the same choice would be on me. I think I would still go for it, but I do think it would tear me apart inside for a bit to know that it was his sperm mixed with someone else's eggs... however, at this point in our lives, I'm really not looking at in that light. Our goal is to be parents. HOW we get to that doesn't really matter and I know without a doubt in my heart that if we had to use a sperm donor, it wouldn't affect Scott's relationship with our child one bit. Part of me regrets telling everyone that this might be our next step because I suppose I would want that part kept secret, in fear of people outcasting us (or our child) because of how he/she is conceived. Or making Scott feel like less of a dad because of it. So I battled with that for a while but we've become so open about everything, and the point is not how it happens. If anyone would stoop so low to judge us on any of this, then I'm sorry but keep those thoughts to yourself and keep our names off of your tongue. That would just be downright cruel and although sadly I know people out there like this do exist, I really hope they have the decency to keep it to themselves. Unless you have walked in these shoes, do not cast stones. And even if you have walked this path, there is no possible way you would have ill feelings toward anyone on this journey. So I do worry sometimes, but need to not worry because what matters is that this is our choice. This is our only way to have a child, and we will stop at nothing to get it... unless we go bankrupt, that may be one way! (eek!) 
I need to find myself a real one of these.

We went to see our RE back in March for initial consultation. That's when we found out that with Scott's factors, IVF was our best shot at conceiving. Many couples try IUI first (intrauterine insemination, or what's sometimes referred to as the turkey baster method by some, just to familiarize with an image you may have in mind), but that won't work for us. When sperm count is low or not of great quality, they don't want to waste your time with that. So on we move to the big league of IVF (in vetro fertilization, or otherwise thought of as a petri dish/test tube procedure by some). IVF is a complicated (but also SO intriguing and interesting) process. It's very expensive (about $12,000 per cycle) and also NOT covered by most medical insurances (ours included... gee, thanks Aetna and New York State... I'm not asking for plastic surgery, I'm just asking for the chance to be a mom). Oh yea, and nothing is guaranteed either. I think the RE said that with our age (which is luckily on our side) and me being healthy (as far as we know for now), our chances will be around 65% when we have the green light to go ahead. 

In a nutshell... here's IVF explained in very simple terms. Thanks for the link, Gemma, I first saw this on your blog a few months back I think. It's not boring and is easy to follow. 

Good video, right? Really explains it well I think. One thing they didn't really dwell on, just briefly mentioned, is the injection process. Lots and lots and lots and lots of needles. Blood work. Injections. Needles, needles, needles. What's one of my biggest fears, aside from spiders, snakes, death, and being alone? NEEDLES!!! AGHH!!! Facing one of my biggest fears head on here. I don't like hearing people TALK about needles/shots/injections, I can't watch it on TV, or really think about it. So wow, talk about irony. Haha. But when thinking of the prize at hand, what's on the other side of it all, it's ALL worth it. Without a doubt. So because of that, I will suck it up and take on injection after injection, vial after vial of blood, needle after needle, just to have the chance to get pregnant and have a baby of our own. IVF involves lots of bloodwork and also daily injections. I'll need to become a pro at giving myself nightly shots of hormones and crazy meds that will likely give me killer headaches and turn me into a super cranky monster (There goes my chance at being Kindergarten teacher of the year at school. Oops. Sorry in advance to anyone in my class. Definitely worried about that. The stress of being a teacher is unfortunately already so high.).

I. Will. Not. Give. Up.

Because of all that's around the corner, I am happy to say that we are on a forced break. I'm glad we've been sent to The Waiting Place. Honestly, the timing is perfect. Summertime is a teacher's relaxation, a time to regain your inner peace, balance, patience, and more. Last summer we were actively trying because we didn't know we were infertile yet, and it was not exactly relaxing. I was stressed out each cycle and that stressed Scott out each month as well. This summer I have no  conception-related expectations. At all. My only expectations are to relax, rest, read, enjoy time off, work out, vacation, watch TV, listen to music, take pictures, be crafty, work on Kindergarten stuff for the upcoming year, and spend time with family/friends. Pure fun and enjoyment. No work, all play. No stressing over ovulation and taking my temperature each morning to chart my cycle. Nope. Those days are gone. Would it be nice to start IVF while home on break? Absolutely. But is that possible now, no. So therefore, given our specific situation, I'm okay with how the timing has worked out. Will it probably be added stress to start IVF mid-school year, YES. But will I let that stop me or slow me down, NO NOT EVER. I'm stronger and more determined than ever. Watch out, infertility. Team Ricci is ready to take you on and defeat you. Not saying it will happen in our first attempt, and not saying we are done with unexpected hurdles. But you better believe that we will not give up for anything. I'm ready.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

The little things...

I apologize ahead of time for another really long post... I don't know what it is, or why I write so much. It's truly a pet peeve I hate about myself, but please keep in mind that I started this blog as like my living journal, so I'm just getting out all that I need to get out. Hey, at least I'm warning you! ;)

It's the little things in life that make each day exciting & different. It's the little things in life that can put a smile on your face or in your heart... Maybe it's going outside to soak up some sunshine & fresh air, seeing a rainbow, or a rabbit hopping around in your yard... A hug from someone you love, laughing at a good joke, or hearing your favorite song on the radio. It could even be some kind gesture from a stranger... someone holding a door for you, another driver waving you on to cut in the lane ahead of them, someone paying you a compliment, smiling, or sincerely saying "Have a nice day." Whatever it is, it's the little things in life that should matter most and can alter your day. Even on my darkest days, I can usually find SOMETHING to smile about... but only if you truly allow yourself to see it and appreciate it. 

Here's a quick challenge to you while reading this. Think about the last 24 hours and list just 3 things that you have in your life that you're thankful for or that made you smile. Maybe it's simply the fact that you were able to sleep in a warm or comfy bed last night. Maybe it's listing people in your life who love you unconditionally. Maybe someone said something nice to you. If you really look, I bet you'll be able to think of more things than you thought you could. Look at all that's are going right in your life, just at this moment! How does that make you feel? Hopefully more positive... even if it's just a bit. Progress is still progress, no matter how small. 

Up until yesterday, I was having what I call a "Blah" week. Blah is my word when I just don't feel well or feel sad for some unknown reason that I just can't put my finger on. I think this week my Blah came from a few different sources: returning from vacations always depress me to an extent, I have been suffering from a post nasal drip/sore throat/raspy voice all week, Scott went back to work after spending 11 straight days with me, we start yet another month of not being pregnant, I'm starting to stress about summer flying by already, and I didn't really have any big fun events to look forward to this week (I know, I know, I shouldn't complain... to all you non-teachers, I truly apologize... but all my teacher friends understand how scary it is that our much needed rest goes by way too quickly and I need time to work on projects and stuff. It's not ALL rest and relaxation). Also, vacation junk food habits had me feeling depressed about how my clothes were starting to fit (or not fit in some cases), so I needed to get off my lazy butt and start moving again and stay away from the mound of candy in the kitchen.... So, needless to say, I have been feeling down in the dumps a little this week. It happens. 

Yesterday started to get a little better because I decided to go out and get my nails done (ALWAYS a nice treat!) and brought Mom R along for a pre-birthday treat for her, too. :) We then stopped by a local Hallmark store that's going out of business and we had a coupon pass to get 50% off everything in the store- SCORE!! (It's 25% to general public unless you received the special coupon in the mail for being a loyal shopper *wink, wink*.... side note, I should have stock in Hallmark and Vera Bradley because of all the markup and how much I buy from these companies... Sheesh!). 50% off Vera Bradley bags, Yankee Candle accessories, stationery, cards, figurines, etc?!... WHAT?! I was ecstatic. It's sad for the store but it was a freakin' field day for us! So many fun things to stock up on... my mood was starting to perk up a bit. I came home and checked the mail to find a lovely note from an infertility sister on IG (Instagram), thanks Mary-Ellen!!, thanking me for support and kindness through the difficult emotional roller coaster that infertility can be. It came at the perfect time and definitely put a smile on my face. Things were looking up a bit more. This will probably sound dumb, but I sometimes doubt myself in different ways and lose my confidence very easily. So this unexpected note put the bounce back in my step because it showed my actions/attempts don't go unnoticed. It's always a nice feeling knowing others care or enjoy your efforts/company. 

Sorry for all of the background info, but all of that lays the foundation for the real reason I am writing this post in the first place. All of those events led up to today... Scott brought the mail in and I was sifting through the pile (I love, love, LOVE getting mail!) and noticed a package, which was for me. Yay!! But wait a sec, why was it for me? Hmm... I hadn't ordered anything, so I wasn't expecting anything. I hadn't signed up for another IG care package swap. What could it be? I looked to see who it was from and I was honestly shocked to see that it was from an old friend, Linzy, who now lives in Texas. I had pretty much lost touch with her and we hadn't spoken in almost a year. *(Ironically, the last time we were in touch was in October because it was just after my birthday and she had sent a bday message but later on sent a random message to tell me she had a dream that I was pregnant and we were picking out baby things. She said it was too random to keep to herself so she had to share, and at the time I had hoped it was a good sign for us... At that time, we hadn't entered the deep dark world of Uncertainty and Depression, otherwise known as the dreaded world of INFERTILITY.)* I was so confused and surprised to receive anything from her, let alone a package. When I opened it, I was so blown away and filled with emotion at what I saw. *(Maybe you won't feel the same... I'm sure you won't feel the same. But TO ME, in that moment, I just fell apart.)

My gift from Linzy <3 A picture frame with perfect quotes. <3
A unique gift just for me, completely out of the blue, to reach out and give support from halfway across the country. I saw the frame before the note, which was tucked underneath, and I just started crying. Crying because of how beautiful it is; Crying because of the kind and unexpected gesture; Crying because I don't know what I did to deserve this treasure; Crying because of the thought, love, care, and time that went into this just for me; Crying because of a lost friendship (but maybe lost no more?); Crying both happy and sad tears~ happy because of the sweet gift and sad because of the fact that I'm receiving it as a result of that one missing piece in our home. I kept saying "This is the most beautiful picture frame" and "This is the nicest thing anyone has given me". I was (and honestly STILL am, hours later) so shocked, touched, amazed, and in total awe. When I opened the note, I read the first part and just kept crying (All good tears though, I promise!) and I needed Scott to read the rest, which he did. Even though I was so touched, I still didn't understand why I was receiving something so amazing. Linzy's note explained it all; she wanted me to know she was thinking of me and thought some inspiring quotes would help raise my spirits. She also sent all her baby vibes (she's a new mom of a 2 month old baby girl), and said "Truthfully, there's no one else I know that deserves to start a family more than you." (Wow!) <3 

These are the other, perfectly fitting, quotes she included:

"Your journey has molded you for the greater good. It was exactly what it needed to be. Don't think you've wasted time. It took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the now, and the now is right on time." ....This is SOO fitting for me because, as I quickly approach 30 in a few months, I am often saddened and regretful for not starting to try for a baby sooner. We've been together 14 years, married 6, and just started officially a year and a half ago. So I often feel behind, but this quote was perfect for reminding me to not rush things and that life doesn't work as I may have it planned out in my silly little head.

"You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, and how you can still come out of it." ...What doesn't kill you sure as hell makes you STRONGER. ;)

And finally...
"HOPE is an everyday choice." ...Written in small letters in the middle of the frame is the word "HOPE". So fitting. Hope is an everyday choice. You can choose to have it, or ignore it. I choose to have it, hold onto it, chase it, and never let it go. As they say, hope is an anchor to the soul. 

I mean really, how beautiful is that?! It is absolutely one of the most thoughtful and caring gifts I have ever gotten. Homemade/heartfelt/personalized things mean the most to me. Notes, letters, handmade things all make my heart melt. Some of the BEST things I've ever gotten from Scott are letters he's taken the time to write, notes he's posted around the house, photo collages or books he's made, things like that. See, it's not necessarily the monetary things... it's things from the heart. Simple gestures to show others how you feel or that you're there.

I'm still amazed, hours after opening it, that this arrived today.  Of course, I sent Linzy a message to thank her for her kindness and also to ask why because I was genuinely curious. She had obviously known we were still trying, and having difficulty, so I assumed she had come across the blog link (that part is public on IG even though my pictures are not) and/or had spoken to Manny, who is a mutual (and great!) friend of ours. Turns out it was both Manny and the blog. Linzy said she had seen a pair of Vera Bradley baby booties and wanted to send them to me, Manny had mentioned our struggles, and she happened to come across my blog. While reading it, she couldn't help but want to be there for me in any way possible because she knew how much starting a family meant to us. So she googled infertility gifts, had seen the IG care package posts, knows I love pics and quotes (because she does too!), and VOILA, best of both worlds! *An afterthought occurred to me that her frame was genius and I should have thought about creating something like that as gifts for fam/friends because it's crafty and right up my alley! I complained to Scott how I keep missing the boat on crafty ideas to take hold of and create, and here was another one. But when I asked Linzy, she said this was her first, so I now have a plan for us to start making these as gifts and selling if others are interested. Customized quote frames... how fun, right?! I'm serious, we will be starting this soon, so don't get any ideas unless you live far away and don't know the same people that I do. And sorry for the spoiler alert, you know probably know what your next birthday or holiday gift from me is going to be. ;)

So when my mood totally flipped around today and the Blah had vanished (FiNaLlY!!), I was instantly grateful for the chain of events in which things happened here. It's nice to know people are actually reading my blog and becoming aware of infertility, little by little. I think that many people assume baby making is a simple formula and they just genuinely don't realize that that's sadly just not true for many of us. They are unaware of the millions of couples who struggle to just get pregnant, let alone carry through a healthy pregnancy. It's not their fault, they shouldn't have to know. I admit, I had no idea about all of this before it affected us. I knew generally what IVF was, but that's about it. As much as infertility is a hard road to walk down, it really has given Scott and I SOO much strength as a couple and also so many opportunities that we wouldn't otherwise have. For one, I have met some amazing girls on IG (as mentioned many times, but I really am forever changed by them all, thank you to any of you reading this!!! <3 <3). Second, it's made me closer with one of my very good friends who, ironically, is also battling infertility. And third, it's now reunited me with my old pal, Linzy, who I spent hours on and off texting back and forth catching up on things. If it weren't for all things being in line, we might not be in touch any more, or have a significant reason to make that happen.

Yes, Cinderella, you are one smart cookie (hehe); Even miracles do take time. Everything has to fall into place before it can all come together. Well, I have hope that it will all come together for us when the time is right. I don't know when or how, but it will happen some day. I TRULY believe that all things happen for a reason, and in due time. Just like the first quote in her note, " took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the now...".

See how just ONE simple act of kindness can change so much? This is why I am forever grateful for the little things... <3

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Myrtle Beach~ Part 3

Part 3, the last 2 days of the trip.


We hadn't checked out the beach, so since we knew Friday & Saturday were going to be nice, we planned on beach/pool outings. 

The development that Mom & Dad R currently live in has a deal with one or the beach-front hotels for free parking/beach access and use of their amenities. Awesome. So we went to check that out, but it wasn't all it was cracked up to be. The bathroom by the front desk had no toilet paper or paper towels and was a little sketchy (should have been clue #1), the "pool and lazy river" were the smallest we had ever seen (should have snapped a pic! Combined, the space was maybe 100ft x 40ft... The "lazy river" held about 20 people in it, if that, and went around in the shape of the letter C. Once we walked out to the beach, we laid out our stuff, looked around, and both realized we weren't very comfortable here. It felt like a shady part of town and neither of us was comfortable leaving out stuff to go in the water together; and I didn't even want to venture out myself. So we laid out for about 20 mins and then decided this wasn't right and changed plans. I sent Cara a text (my personal myrtle beach your guide!) and realized we were in the area she had suggested we avoid. Oops! Now we know for next time, we got the awkward exploration part over with and will head to the nicer, family-friendly areas next time! 
Proof we made it to the beach, if just for a little bit... Sketchy beach, plus overcast skies... Not fun, but we are all about adventure so what the heck. :p

We ended up back at Broadway at the Beach and went to Joe's Crab Shack for lunch. We always see commercials on TV for them and there aren't any near us, so we had to cross it off the list. I wasn't too keen on it, it was a lot more expensive than we realized, so after a few drinks, apps, and an entree, we spent $70 for not a lot to write home about. The seafood buckets looked great but were like $30 a piece and up. Oh well. It was a strike-out kinda day; that little black cloud was back to following us around again! 

We went back to the house and borrowed the pool pass for Mom & Dad R's new housing development (they're moving to a new house/nicer development in the winter). When we got there, we couldn't figure out how to get into the pool area. The clubhouse doors didn't have a scanner for the pool pass, and the gates were locked. We were so confused, so we walked around to the front of the clubhouse and the door was unlocked so we walked in... And the alarm started beeping. Umm? We obv don't know code, and were so confused, and NO one was around. Sooo I walked out the door close to the pool and WOOP WOOP WOOP, the alarm is now going off, full-blown, as if we had broken in... Oops, I guess we technically did. But the for was unlocked. What the heck? We were so confused and stressed out, why was bad luck on our side today?! Lol... So we walk back out the main door and wait... For police, anyone to come turn off alarm? Kick us out? Yell at us? was so embarrassed, but it's not like anyone was around (there were people in pool area but they seemed not to notice and I was trying to hold off from making it known that it was my fault). About 5 mins later, alarm deactivates and we found the way into the pool. Turns out no one is supposed to go in the clubhouse unless you reserve it for events... But why in the world is it unlocked? There was that little black cloud again, dammit. We were starting to hate today for lots of reasons... No, scratch that, already didn't like today. 

We finally make it to pool area safely, and 5 mins in, we feel raindrops. A little girl nearby shouts "I KNEW it was gonna rain today!"... I look at Scott, make a face, and say "Nope... I am not moving. This is not happening. We are staying." Luckily, you could tell it was just a passing sprinkle because the clouds were passing quickly and the sky was beautiful  behind it all. Phew! So we were able to relax and enjoy the sunshine, fresh air, and pool for a couple or hours. It felt so nice to just soak up the sun and feel like we were on vacation and having a small bit of luck. :) 

Ahhh... Relaxation by the pool :) 

Some of those silly black clouds... Luckily didn't linger long at all; they knew what was bet for them! 

A cute little gazebo with a walkway that leads to a nice peaceful spot overlooking the intercostal. 

Beautiful area to take a walk to some day... Right down the street from Mom & Dad R's future beach home. Yay!! 

There are some gorgeous high-roller type houses along here. I guarantee someone famous lives here somewhere. HUGE houses- one being built looked to be about 20,000 square feet... Wish I was kidding. Imagine what their holiday parties are like... Wowsers! 

Just one of the houses in the development... I wish I had snapped this sooner. Lots of garages, long walkway to house, amazing... And still smaller than the house I mentioned earlier. (Wow)

After we showered and changed, we headed out for dinner (just the 2 of us because Mom R and Brian were driving back home the next morning and had to get to bed earlier). We planned on going to Margaritaville (at Broadway) but once we got there, we realized that was not happening. Restaurants and shopping areas are typically crowded on any average Friday night, but this was unlike anything we'd seen. You would have thought it was Christmas season because there wasn't a single parking spot available at the entire place- multiple cars were parked in their own spots on the grass, people were fighting over spots, etc.... Black cloud again... So we drove around and tried to steer clear of the touristy places (not easy to do when you're not from the area) to find something without a wait.
On our way to dinner... Somewhere. Haha. Not where we expected, but gotta go with the flow!! It's always an adventure and things don't work out as planned most of the time. 

After driving around for about 45 mins around we left the house (thanks, black cloud), we eventually ended up at a BBQ place (Sticky Fingers) and even though there was a 25 min wait (not bad for a Fri night), we were able to quickly find 2 seats at the bar and just decided to eat here. There was an elderly couple next to us who started chatting with us and we found out they were both originally from NY (He was from upstate near Hudson, and she was from Beacon/Fishkill area, right by us!)- go figure!! It was cute too because he thought we were both so young, so that's now flattering as I quickly approach 30 (I used to hate the fact that I have such a baby face, but now not minding as much). 

While seated at the bar and waiting for our food (the rib smoker shut down and food took a lot longer to come out, so we had quite the wait in between a cheese fry appetizer and drinks... but it was fresh off the smoker and really yummy, so who cares), Scott became what I call "the guy in the green shirt". There was a large family seated at a table just to our right. I'm talking 2 parents with 7 kids... 1 older teenage girl (maybe 14?), 3 girls around 12 (possibly triplets, not sure), and 3 young boys, triplets around 3 or 4 years old. The boys and the oldest girl were facing us, and Scott was making faces at one of the boys, making him laugh. We realized a little later that the older sister thought Scott was smiling at HER, and she kept watching Scott with puppy's oh eyes (hehe!)... Oops! When they got up to leave, she kept looking and blushing, and smiled back at Scott as they walked out the door. We told the bartender and she thought it was sweet because Scott made the girl's night, without even realizing. I said I bet to her, he is simply "the cute guy in the green shirt"... Haha. It just made me laugh. 

The food was really good, and worth the wait, so we were happy that the day wasn't lost on a bad note. 

*Saturday: Our wedding anniversary!!! <3

When we woke up Saturday, Mom R, Brian, and the dogs had already left (around 6am), and I had woken up with a lovely scratchy, sore throat and headache (awesome). Scott and Brian had been sick earlier in the week, so I suppose it was inevitable. I was miserable and weepy for a bit, but once we got outside I felt better in the fresh air and sun.

Saturday was our 6 YEAR WEDDING ANNIVERSARY~ WOW, where did the time go?! It amazes me how quickly it all goes by. We've been together 14 years now and it just still shocks me how it's so long and almost half our lives. Crazy to me. But here we are, 6 years (or 14) down the road and still best friends. Sure we get on each other's nerves but that's what makes it fun. We love each other and I am thankful each and every day to have Scott in my life. I don't know where, who, or what I'd be without you. I sincerely hope we grow old and crazy together! <3

We exchanged anniversary cards (we always get 2 each- one serious, one cute/funny), and showed pics of what gifts we got each other (kept home to make things easier). 6 year gift materials (traditional/modern) are candy, iron, or wood. Candy was a really fun theme, so that was the focus for us. I found a bunch of cute candy gram ideas on Pinterest and copied a love note I found, using different candy logos in the wording. I printed and laminated it, then put it together like a little book. To go with it, I collected as many of the features candies in the note as I could find (about 30), and arranged them in a basket. I took a pic of it at home and then showed Scott the pic after he opened the cards. I also got him an engraved steel beer mug that says "Scoot, 7-6-13" on it. He got me a candy basket filled with various sour candies (one of my favs- yum!!!). Talk about a fun theme! 

Candy gifts

Once we headed out, we went to Margaritaville for lunch and to grab a few things in the shops that we scoped out earlier in the week. We also stopped back at the pool for a few hours, then went out to a nice dinner at a local restaurant (Aspen Grille) that Scott found on Yelp. The food was seriously AMAZING. Everything was incredibly fresh and delicious. We loved every single bite of every dish (and we got a lot being that it was a special occasion). Unfortunately, we felt the waiter stereotyped us as a young/cheap couple (or both?) because he 1)only offered us tap water, where others were offered choices.... And 2)when he picked up our paid check, he turned around and looked to see what tip we left- pretty much right in front of us... Wow. We thought that was rude and it seemed as if he assumed we stiffed him on the tip, when in reality we have like a 25% tip. I hate that us looking young makes people assume we don't have some of the things we have because of our own hard work. I call it the Pretty Woman stereotype, because in the movie, Julia Roberts's character is stereotyped. Oh well, I still stand by the fact that the good was incredible and I would totally go back each time there on vacation. 

Here's what we ordered:
-2 glasses of German Riesling (duh)
-Shrimp risotto appetizer 
-Fried green tomatoes with a pancetta bernaise sauce 
-Scallops with corn/bean risotto and fried spinach 
-Hangar steak with potatoes and bacon braised cabbage
-Almond Joy martini 
-Crème brûlée 

Considering what we paid for average lunches at places like Joe's Crab Shack and Margaritaville (spending like $70 for drinks and food) and getting mediocre food, the $120ish we spent here for an upscale dinner and more courses and drinks, it really wasn't badly priced. Plus, we walked away with some leftovers to boot. Well. Worth. It. Yum- my mouth is still watering just thinking of it all. (... I wish I was kidding- I want that restaurant in my town!)

Broadway at the Beach sign near Margaritaville. 

Inside Margaritaville- the thing at top is a hurricane funnel cloud that spins and then a giant tequila bottle comes down and spills into a giant blender. It happened while "It's 5 o'clock Somewhere" played. Cute ;) 

Cool signs and clocks in The Man Cave Store- we bought a Gators clock for the bar ;)

Some more pool time!! :)

On our way to dinner 

Dinner at Aspen Grille... Us with our glasses of wine, and a pic of the fried green tomatoes. Yum!!

After dinner, we met back up with Dad R and went to play mini golf. His friends Ann & Bill from the development still had family visiting (their son and 2 teenage granddaughters), so we invited them all to go with us. There were 8 of us together, so we played in teams of 4. Our team was the 3 Riccis plus Holly, the oldest granddaughter, and the other team was Ann, Bill, their son Alan, and granddaughter, Cara. We took the lowest score at each hole for the team and added it that way. We won 34 to their 37. Our whole team ended up with a hole in one at one point or another, Scott with 2! For the record, Scott best me by 1 stroke- I typically beat him at mini golf, so it was big for him to win. ;) It was a fun way to spend an evening out. 

Ann, Bill, Cara, Alan 

Dad R, Scott, me, and Holly

Pretty view from putt putt 

My new Virginia friends- this trip was the first time Scott and I had met any of them, and yet we spent 4 nights of our trip with them because they're all such nice, sweet, genuine people. They all came over to meet us one night, we went to the baseball game the next, 4th of July (both Bill & Holly's birthday also), and mini golf. They were all fun to hang out with. :) 

Mini golf collage  
After the game, we drove down the main strip of Myrtle Beach to check it all out. It was all so crowded and filled with people, teeny boppers walking around without any parental supervision, and just seemed like pure chaos. I would never want to stay in the heart of all that activity. I think it would give me an Scott attack to stay there and have to venture out at night. I wouldn't feel comfortably doing so, neither did Scott. (I'm sure M and Dad are smiling as they read this, happy that I'm admiring that because  sure they wouldn't want us to either: daughter of a cop, my dad wouldn't feel good about that situation and I understand why). 

When we got back to Ann & Bill's house, Holly and I noticed there was a fireworks display going on nearby (no doubt discounted firework purchase I'm sure) and it actually turned out to be a better show than the neighbors that did it on the 4th! We were lucky we caught it and  
Bill jokingly said they were anniversary fireworks! :) 

This morning, we slept in a bit and got on the road by 10:15. 12 hours later (10:05pm), we are driving through Pennsylvania and still have 3 hours to go. We hit a ton of holiday traffic on I-95 (about 2 hours of stop/go from 65mph to 0 because of merges and backups. Ick.) and we also took an alternate route in VA that brought us northwest to famous Route 66 for a bit and now we are connecting back to 84 soon so it will bring us home from the west, rather than south. This let us bypass the DC area completely, as well as Jersey traffic, which are often hotspots anyway. This way adds an hour but we've also been moving nonstop the whole way and it probably helped avoid even more stop/go traffic spots alone 95. 

Typical holiday traffic backups. 

The GPS has us getting home just after 1am, which stinks, but Scott wants to just get home to our own bed and house. I don't blame him, but in the dark it's easy to get tired, my contacts are getting dried and blurry so I'm no help, and my throat is getting drier/sore again so I can't talk as much. I tried to talk him into stopping and offered to drive the rest of we tomorrow, but he's stubborn and as long as I stay awake, I know I'll be of some help. 

Me getting bored and taking random pics/making faces...
Yup. Sorry, cooped up in traffic makes us a little crazy. :p
Pretty views while passing through West Virginia along Route 66. 
Pretty mountain views (we were up high on another mountain too) and sunset in West Virginia. 

Sunset on way home. <3 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Myrtle Beach~ Part 2:

So I left off on the last post (Wed morning) about how we might try and venture to the pool if it looked nice. It was nice and sunny here, so we got our pool gear, and were ready to leave. The pool is a few minute drive down the road, in the back of the development. As we are headed there, I notice the sky is no longer sunny in that direction, but SUPER dark. Awesome. So we keep driving, and sure enough, it starts to rain 30 seconds before we pull in to the pool area.  Why do we keep having this luck? Who knows- totally ridiculous. We got out to check out the area anyway (nice pool, of course!) and when it started pouring, we looked at each other, laughed, and went back to the house. 

Plan B was to just go out and do something, but Scott was suddenly feeling pretty tired. So I showered and we decided to take it easy because it seemed like he was coming down with something. After we decided to lay low and once I had showered, the skies cleared and it turned into a *Beautiful* day.... Grr. So ironic, seriously. Ha! We were starving, so went out to grab some lunch and by then, Scott was really out of it. Headache. Sore throat. Fever. Body ache.... Sick. When we were back with our food, he could barely eat it and his head felt so hot. He had just been to the Dr 2 weeks ago for similar symptoms and was on a z-pack, but it was coming back. Thankfully, his Dr was able to call something into a local pharmacy since he was just there (after waiting about an hour for the office to call back), but it was something! We were going to stop in at a local clinic but they didn't take our insurance. So thankfully that worked out and he was feeling better just with the ease of mind that medicine was on the way. We went to pick it up around 4 (hadn't done anything all day bc of the weather and then he was sick), and then we were able to still take part in our planned Wed night festivities. 

We had gotten tickets for a local baseball game, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (farm team of the Texas Rangers), and went with Scott's parents and a bunch of their friends/their families. Scott took it easy and I kept checking in with him but knew he was okay and we were laying low. Before the game, we ate at a pizza place called The Mellow Mushroom. Super cute atmosphere and amazing pizza!! Mom R and I split one called the Kosmic Karma, which was mostly veggies with red sauce and pesto. It was DELICIOUS!! 
Main sign out front 

$3 happy hour beers at the bar

Kosmic Karma Pizza: red sauce, mozzarella cheese, feta, Roma tomatoes,sun dried  tomatoes, mushrooms, banana peppers, spinach, and drizzled pesto.Sounds  weird but Mmm!!
Here are some pics from the Pelicans game...
Great seats!! 

There was a fireworks display after the game, but with Scott feeling iffy, we left in the top of the 9th inning and came home to skip that part, especially knowing we would see some on the 4th.

Now this brings us to Thursday, the 4th of July! Good ol' Independence Day! Happy 234th birthday, America!! We took our time in the morning and went to the Myrtle Beach State Park to walk some nature trails that led to the beach. We got here just in time because it was SO crowded with the holiday, that they turned away cars about 5 cars after us. Phew! It then took about 40 mins to get to park from the main entrance because of the slow crawl of traffic moving in. It's funny because we said how we avoid Bear Mt and other state parks at home on the holidays, yet here we were right in the tourist mix. Haha. We walked the trails and ended up walking the beach/a pier for a bit, then came back. Here are some pics from the park, which really was beautiful...

FINALLY enjoying some nice weather!!! 

I was really mad that I didn't think to bring stuff to stay and swim/lay out. It wasn't too crowded on the beach and seemed like a safe area. I had left my sneakers on the sand and this was as far in as I could go. Oops. Still enjoyed it tho!

It's hard to see, but there are old bomber planes flying above. They did a salute from the shore holiday fly-by. 

Up on the pier, an old fisherman had caught this baby sand shark. He was holding it out to show a family and I happened to be walking by too. I was too afraid to touch it, but it was cool to see up close. He threw it back in, but it's crazy to think they can be this small and this close to the shore. Eek!!

Brian is a "ninja monkey" as I called him the other day. He will climb any tree. I didn't go up as far, obv. 

Later on, we got ready and went to a BBQ of friends down the street (with the gang who was at dinner/baseball game). We hung out there eating, drinking, socializing, and playing corn hole. We had planned to go back to Broadway at the Beach for fireworks but after relaxing and having fun here, we didn't want to chance the crowds or parking, so stayed at the house. 

Me and Scoot <3 

Scoot & his mom

Playing corn hole. 

Happy 4th!! 
Ill update the last leg of the trip later on! Today is our anniversary, and last day, then we head back home tomorrow. 

Catch y'all later! :)