Thursday, October 16, 2014

Superbowl XLVIII

Seahawks win the Superbowl!!!!

I still can't believe Mike and I were there. Mike has a goal of attending every final for all the major sporting events. As the Superbowl is only one game and crazy expensive, I figured that one wouldn't happen and if it did, he would be going solo.

Well as the NFL season went on and the Seahawks kept doing better and better, I said to Mike, "if the Seahawks go to the Superbowl, can we go?" I was sort of joking. First, Seattle teams don't make championships (though I'll never give up on them), second, Superbowl tickets are super expensive, and third, the games are usually played in a random city.  In December, Mike started looking online for tickets. The game was to be played in New Jersey and it was outdoors- the first outdoor Super Bowl in a very long time. If you remember, last year was the "Polar Vortex" and one of the most bitter cold winters in years. Even if Seattle made the big game, did we want to stand outside in freezing temperatures for hours on end?

Anyway, I kinda forgot about it as Christmas came around and then I left for Nepal just after New Year's. I didn't have a lot of connection to the news or sporting world while in Nepal, but early one morning, I received a text from both Jaime and Mike telling me the Seahawks had made the Superbowl! Mike's next text was, "wanna go?" Of course I did!!!! But practical Brea thought, it's too expensive, too cold, it's on a Sunday, and how were we going to drive to and from NJ in a day. Well, Mike started networking and asking around- he'd throw out prices to me and I turned them down. It wasn't worth it to spend that much money. After all his networking, he finally got offered tickets (through his ping pong connection with Rick Carlisle, who of course knows other people in the sports world), Mike presented the deal to me and I thought it was still a bit much. From my end, that's where the story ended (mind you, I was still in Nepal at this time).

Fast forward to January 29. I had been home about 3 days and we were discussing our weekend plans (possibly driving to Punxsutawney, PA for Groundhog's Day), when Mike couldn't hold it in any longer. He was acting weird when I brought up what we were doing Saturday, he suddenly got up and left the room, and in a few minutes came back and told me to close my eyes. When I opened them, 2 tickets to the Superbowl were in front of me!!!! I thought it was a joke! Mike assured me it was not a joke and the tickets were real! After our conversations, Mike did some more wheeling and dealing and was able to secure two tickets for some ping pong equipment for the owner of the tickets. The tickets actually belonged to a Denver Bronco player who had given them to his financial advisor, who also happened to be Rick Carlisle's financial advisor and friend. Mike got two tickets, a parking pass, and a place for us to stay in NJ (just a 10 min drive to the stadium)! UNBELIEVABLE!

The story of getting the tickets was pretty incredible, but the experience was even better! We drove to NJ on Saturday afternoon and spent our evening in Times Square on Superbowl Boulevard. We took pictures, got to see the Lombardi Trophy, danced in the streets, and enjoyed the hyped up party atmosphere. We bought our Seahawks t-shirts and headed back to Mike's friends house for the night.

Sunday, we got to the stadium 2-3 hours before the game. The atmosphere was already electric. So much to do and see and simply to soak up the excitement of the day. Each part just got better and better. The culmination of the weekend was of course, the game! From the get go, Seattle dominated, and as a Seahawks fan, it was incredible to watch! The fighter jets and Bruno Mars half time show were cool, but the game was so much better! Our seats were pretty good and we were surrounded by Denver fans, with a few Seattle fans scattered around. Surprisingly, everyone was pretty friendly and well behaved; there was little trash talking, no drunkenness, and overall good report. We sat next to a family that had spent their entire vacation budget on this game-- only to be completely disappointed (Broncos fans). We felt badly for them, but even in their disappointment, they still were friendly and congratulated us.

As a Seahawks fan, I loved every minute of complete domination. It was unbelievable! As Seattle kept marching down the field, I was jumping up and down and cheering my heart out. What a game!!! I loved being part of the 12th man! Go Hawks!!!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Oh Baby!

Boy oh Boy! We're having a boy!!!

The big news is out! Mike and I are expecting a baby boy in October! We are thrilled, nervous, excited, and overjoyed. The news was quite surprising to us, but we are super excited.

Baby Boy Squires is due October 23 and so far is growing, developing, and appears healthy. We actually found out on February 27 when I took the at home pregnancy test. I had been feeling kinda weird for a few weeks before that, but didn't give it much thought. Also, I was participating in a wellness competition at work and while January brought steady weight loss, I totally plateaued in February and couldn't figure out why. After putting 2 and 2 together and listening to Mike's encouragement to take a pregnancy test, I took the test. There was no mistake, I was pregnant!!

I have been very lucky to escape most of the first semester morning sickness and fatigue. A few food aversions and cravings, but no puking or total lack of energy. Sweet potatoes, spinach salads, and sweet pork still don't sound good, but anything dairy is like a dream. For a week, I craved potato chips- sour cream and cheddar to be exact, but thankfully, that craving was short lived and passed.

Mike has a coin collection and I hid the pregnancy test in one of his boxes for him to find when he came home from work.

We waited FOREVER for our 20 week ultrasound. We had to delay our ultrasound because of our trip to Austria (more to come on that trip). But, at 20 weeks and 4 days, we got to see our little guy!!! This made it all so much more real. Mike and I were in awe as we saw Baby Squires moving and grooving and come to life for us!

I know this pic looks a little scary, but our baby boy was just opening and closing his mouth. It was this moment that made it all feel real for Mike.

Expect this blog to switch from a travel log to a baby log! Come follow the journey as Mike and I begin our next great adventure!!!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Welcome to the Caribbean: St. Thomas Edition

Ever since I met Mike, I have heard about their annual (or bi-annual) family trip to St. Thomas. After three years, I finally got to go!!! It doesn't take much convincing for me to hop on a plane to a tropical island. Mike and I joined part of his family for 5 days in paradise.

The trip started off a little rocky as our flight got cancelled and we were put on an earlier flight (6 AM) and a later arrival.  Somehow we managed and arrived in a rainy St. Thomas. I think it had been raining the few days before hand, but we only dealt with a day and a half of rain. Day 1 consisted of travel, eating, and a yummy dinner! We shared a fresh curry lobster straight out of the shell. The restaurant sat on the beach and we watched the waves crash against the rocks as we ate. That is my kind of eating!!!

Day 2 we celebrated Mother's Day! Church was really fun and I think the visitors doubled or tripled the local branch that day. As the mother's day tribute, all the women received a bag of chocolates and a plate full of chocolate covered strawberries! After church, we drove around the island to see the lay of the land and afterward I took a lovely nap. For dinner the men cooked us a beautiful and delicious surf &turf dinner: grilled steaks, grilled sea bass, baked potatoes, and broccoli. Oh my goodness, it was delicious!!!
Full group- yes, it's definitely blurry. We had about 3-4 pictures taken and this was the best one.

Day 3: Beach, beach, and more beach! We went to Meagan's Bay first, which is known for it's beauty and super calm waters. Mike and I decided to try out Stand Up Paddle boarding (SUP) and fell in LOVE!!! It didn't take long to get the hang of it. The board is a very large surfboard which is actually pretty stable. It was so calm and relaxing to just be out on the water and paddling. We could chat and enjoy the view while we paddled.  I kept my balance pretty well, and Mike did too, except for at the last moment when he was trying to get his mom's attention for a picture, he not so gracefully fell off! I was laughing so hard, I almost fell off!

We headed over to another beach to have some lunch and enjoy snorkeling. Mike and his family are way into snorkeling, so I put on my fins and snorkel and jumped in with them. In addition to snorkeling, we played on the beach and had fun with our water toy, "waboba". It's a ball that floats and skips on the water. Mike picked up a few more and 2 waboba gloves so we could play catch in the shallow waves. I love my beach time!!!

 This man has been selling coconuts at this beach for years!

Day 4: St. John! We took the ferry over to St. John and explored that island for the day. We hit up a few beaches and did lots more snorkeling. The ferry ride over was fantastic with excellent views and we paid for a jeep taxi that drove around island on some crazy hilly, hair pinned turns. The roads in St. John are not for the faint of heart!

Day 5: Market Day: we drove into town to do some shopping and explore the outdoor market. Shopping isn't really my thing, but Mike insisted I get some earrings and bracelets. I guess I couldn't complain about that! The afternoon was spent at the pool and just hanging out around the resort.

Day 6: Mike and his Uncle headed out super early to play some golf, while I slept in, worked out, and enjoyed the beach at the hotel. Mike joined me after golf to spend our last hour at the beach and pool before packing up and heading home.

Note- the sky and ocean underneath the "welcome to paradise" sign is the real skyline

Last night in St. Thomas, dinner with Mike's mom, aunt, and uncle.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Happy 1 Year Anniversary!

Happy 1st Anniversary!!

Mike and I celebrated our first anniversary this year on Sunday, April 20. Crazy to believe how fast that year has gone. We have done a lot and been all over the globe in the past year. I'm incredibly lucky to be married to Mike. We still talk about how things lined up and how we were both led to each other. Two years of dating and one year of marriage, and we still like each other!!!

Our big anniversary trip occurred later in May when we went to Austria to visit my parents. Mike still wanted to do something special on our anniversary so we decided to take a weekend and stay closer to home. This year our anniversary and Easter aligned on the same day, which was very special. I love Easter for it's simple message that Christ lives and all things will be restored someday. It's such a peaceful time to reflect on renewal and the love our Savior has for us.

We began the weekend by driving down to Williamsburg on Saturday. Mike played golf and I enjoyed a workout and the spa. After, we headed to the outlets to do some shopping. Sunday, we attended church in Williamsburg and then spent the afternoon in Jamestown walking where the original colonists walked. The history in that place is incredible, the first official Colonial settlement in America. Because it was Easter Sunday and still a little chilly, we had the park almost completely to ourselves. It was a wonderful afternoon strolling along the James River, enjoying the beautiful scenery, learning some history, and spending the day with each other.  And we watched Pocahontas that evening, just to get the full experience. :)

April 20, 2014....

April 20, 2013...

Mike and I enjoyed a wonderful anniversary/Easter weekend! I'm incredibly blessed to be married to Mike and even more in love than a year ago. I still think about our wedding day and how absolutely perfect it was!

Happy Anniversary Michael B.!!!! I love you!

Here's to many more anniversaries!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Nepal: My trip to the Himalayas

*Warning: this post is long as I recount my adventures in Nepal and includes more pictures than you probably wanted to see. If the narrative isn't interesting, skip it, but be sure to enjoy the pictures!

Shortly after the new year, I jumped on another plane and this time flew to the Himalayas! It was my first trip to Asia and I really didn't know what to expect. First off, the flight is LOOOOONG. I had layovers in Dubai and an overnight layover in Doha, Qatar. Sadly, I didn't get out of the airport except to my hotel to sleep and stretch my legs, but I got a very brief glimpse into the Gulf Countries with their beautiful buildings and extravagant landscape. Flying over Dubai was quite a treat!

Jet lag roared it's ugly head this time around. I'm pretty sure I was only half awake for the first three days I was there. Oh, except for between the hours of 3-6 AM, for which I was wide awake! My reasons for going to Nepal was to support the USAID mission in Nepal with some specific tasks and reports. I work on the Nepal country team here in DC and so it was my time to go out and help. I mostly worked in the Embassy 8-5, but had a few outings. Luckily, another health team from DC was also there during my first two weeks. They were working on a family planning/HIV assessment and I was able to tag along at meals and a few meetings to make my stay a bit more interesting.

January in Kathmandu isn't too cold, but it sure wasn't summer weather. I was just glad to be in 40-50 degrees rather than snow and ice storms that were occurring at home. My day to day work at the Embassy wasn't entirely thrilling and getting sick (stomach and sinus) on multiple occasions made me quite miserable for a few days. Luckily, on the sight seeing days, I was well enough to venture out. We visited Buddhist temples and Hindu shrines, walked through old palaces, shopped, and explored old cities. Nepal definitely has a rich culture and history! Did you know that pagoda style buildings that you see throughout Asia, particularly in the east, originated in Nepal? The mix of Buddhism and Hinduism is such an interesting mix. There are a few Muslims in the south and Christians scattered, but Nepal is dominated by the first two religions.

Starting on the second week, I went out to site visits in southern Nepal, along the border with India. Here we visited hospitals, family planning clinics, and offices for the flagship nutrition project. We visited with team leads, doctors, nurses, clinicians, and other staff who help run the programs. It was pretty interesting talking to the workers and learning about a few of the health issues facing Nepal. The HIV epidemic is very concentrated in select groups: migrant workers and female sex workers. Also, access to family planning is limited and we met with different women's groups to talk about their views on family planning and how the communicate with their spouses and family members about family planning. I was surprised to see the women open up and discuss with us. The three day trip was interesting and I got to see some absolutely beautiful scenery along the drive. Roads in Nepal are few and underdeveloped. It took us 7 hours to go about 150-200 miles, all along mountainous roads. These roads are not for the faint of heart. The downside to this side trip was how sick I got! Let's just say that local Indian/Nepalese spices don't jive too well with me!!! Ahhh, so miserable!

On coming back, I resumed my regular duties and kept plugging along at the tasks I was given. A highlight of the trip was my friend Jackie came to visit me!!! She had been in India for the previous few weeks working with a non profit she runs, Goals for Girls. I convinced her to come up to Nepal and pay me a visit. She had also met up with a few others from the DC crowd. She stayed one night in Kathmandu with me and then I met up with her and another friend a few days later over Martin Luther King Day weekend in Pokhara. I was supposed to fly out Saturday, but rains and fog cancelled my flight, so I had to wait until Sunday. I took a short 30 min flight (would have taken 12 hours by bus) to Pokhara, which lies at the base of the Annapurna Mountain Range. The weather and views could not be more beautiful!!!! I was in heaven soaking up the clean mountain air, enjoying 60 degree weather, and spending time with great friends!

We started off with a canoe trip across a lake, then a hike up to a Buddhist Temple. The views were incredible. Each time we stopped, we were in amazement of how pretty it was. We met some interesting people along the way, and even talked for a bit with a Buddhist monk. His perspective on life was very interesting and we could have spent hours talking to him. He radiated such calmness and peace. The next morning, Tali and I arose super early to catch a ride up the mountain where we then hiked another 30 min to see the sunrise over the Annapurnas. Stunning! My camera could not capture how beautiful it was!!!! After coming back down, we geared up for paragliding!!! Yup, you read that correctly. It was amazing, scary, and so fun! (more details below). After coming back down to earth, we grabbed some food, did some shopping, and then I had to head back to the airport to go back to Kathmandu. I would have loved to stay a few extra days to hike, wander, and go on a trek. Maybe next time...

The rest of my time was pretty uneventful. I stayed healthy my last week and was able to get my reports done. I ate a lot of room service, did lots of yoga, and enjoyed the serenity that permeates Nepal.

I'll be heading back next month (July 2014) for another 2 week stint.

 Dubai from the sky

 Coming into the Kathmandu Valley

 Boudhna Stuppa (largest Buddhist temple in the world) The Stuppa could be seen from my hotel.

 Part of the old palace, notice the intricate wood working!

 Buddhist Temples in Durbar Square (old palace)

 Hindu Temple

 Bhaktapur, an old city outside of Kathmandu

 I made a pot here!!! (sorry picture not shown)

 More from Bhaktapur

 View from the tallest Buddhist temple

Scarf shop!! We spent a lot of time here! My coworker and I are on the left and the two on the right are Nepalese girls, who were super nice to us and wanted a picture!

 On the drive out of Kathmandu. Kathmandu is in the hill region of the country. Can you imagine what the mountain region looks like?!

Pit Stop on our way to southern Nepal. Behind me is a funicular leading up to a Hindu temple/shrine that acts as a pilgrimage for many Nepali people.

Picture of a women's group we spoke to about family planning and health issues. They get together weekly to listen to a radio program and discuss health issues.

 The Terrai Region (flat lands in the South) Here we are only 20-30 km from India

 Women and their children who participated in a discussion with us about HIV and family planning

 I ate fresh tangerines every single day!!!

 Flying to Pokhara in the west

A Buddhist Monk who walks around the temple every day all day ensuring peace and order. He spoke some English and he talked to us about work and family. He also only walks clockwise around the temple.

 Annapurna Sunrise

That's me!!!! The three of us went paragliding in the Himalayas!!! I was so nervous and asked about a hundred times if anyone had ever died or broken bones here. I was assured they had a 100% safety record. Jackie and a Tali had come the day earlier and signed me up, so I was kinda stuck. Paragliding is amazing, but kinda freaky at first. You are required to go tandem unless you have a license. So with a parachute and an instructor, you run off a cliff until the wind picks up your parachute. Then you fly and glide till your heart is content!!! My instructor was one of the best acrobatic paragliders from France and he definitely took me for a ride. We made dives and swooshes and went all over the place. I was kicking tree tops and enjoying stunning views! What a trip!!!

 Lobby of my hotel

 Dubai Airport