2023 StittStrup Christmas (or thereabouts) Blog

[Updated Author’s note: This blog was written in early January 2024 before there was a wee babe in the house. Yea, verily, it was published a few hours before he was born but I didn’t get a chance to post it to social before all water broke loose. So it is severely lacking in the most interesting news, which is 2024’s arrival. Stay tuned for more in next year’s episode.]

[Original Author’s note: Obviously, I missed writing this as our yearly Christmas blog, but we’re not too far away from it. Close enough to still put in 2023 news I should say.]

2023 was a big year for our fam. Lots of fun, lots of growth (emotionally and physically for Liz), and lots of learning.

Travel

Somehow this year turned out to be quite a bit of travel. New Zealand was our dream trip. We also hit up visiting family in Atlanta, Georgia and the exotic cities of Cedar City, Utah and Pocatello, Idaho. And had a very interesting trip to Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia. And Steve added in a DC work trip and another Spartan in Arizona with fam.

New Zealand had long been a dream for both Steve and me to visit because it’s just beautiful and because we love Lord of the Rings. I chronicled a lot of our adventures in my birthday blog, but a few highlights included the most beautiful hikes, stunning water, glaciers, hobbitses, volcanoes, the Maori culture, zip-lining, tree walks, lots of driving (we toured both the North and South Islands) and more.

While a cyclone that whipped through the area days before we got there did delay our trip and caused us to reschedule about half of our itinerary and weather issues canceled other plans, we still just couldn’t believe we were in such a beautiful place. I had some rough days on the trip with being disappointed but I am just grateful that my hindsight loved the trip.

Fun fact: One thing we were excited about was stargazing but a bad weather night canceled our dark sky adventure with a stargazing company. And a few nights later when we were in a very dark place again, with no buildings around in the middle of nowhere, we hoped to try on our own. As luck would have it, that night the paint trucks were striping the middle of nowhere road and there were flashing lights driving by our little cabin for about an hour. You can’t have it all.

The trip to Atlanta was quite fun. Steve’s sister really wanted us to come and run a Spartan race and Steve is all about Spartan races so this was an awesome opportunity. I was convinced last minute (largely because I wasn’t going to do it if I had been expecting so we didn’t know for sure until right before that I wasn’t). But I had a blast and was so grateful I got to run a Spartan with the fam.

Our trip to Cedar City was great. I’d never been to the Shakespeare Festival and we really enjoyed our experience! And we got to experience Cedar Breaks as well–lots of new things for places that are really close by.

The trip to Charleston and Savannah was a little more random. I’d never been to South Carolina and really wanted to check it off my list. And I had dreamed of going to Savannah since I was a teenager. So when we found cheap tickets, and it was close to our anniversary, we decided to try it out. We had also wanted to do other trips or areas this year but once we knew we were expecting, it changed our timing and plans and that was OK.

All things considered, we look back on that trip with fondness, but it was definitely different than either of us expected. We knew it would be hot and humid so that didn’t surprise us. And it was beautiful but so many people had sold us on the charm of both places that we maybe had it hyped up a bit too much.

We still had fun. And spotted a gator in the wild, which was a highlight. And were told not to go on a hike at a park because we would never get back before the park closed, but it turns out that 2 mountain hikers on a flat sea level path found it to be a relaxing walk, well, in the park. And got back well before dark.

Pregnancy

In May, we found out I was expecting. The dog was the first to know because she was super clingy and needy around me during the time we were waiting to find out. And then I started feeling really off. I was afraid to test because those negative tests are brutal. And then getting a positive test was terrifying.

This is an opportunity we had hoped for and prayed for individually for years and years before we were even married and many times both of us thought it would not be a part of our lives. It was also something we worried about in our new marriage and didn’t know if this would be our reality. I have mostly felt anxiety and trepidation throughout this pregnancy. Especially because, at the risk of being too personal, I have a uterine anomaly that can create challenges for carrying a baby full-term. And of course I’m AMA (advanced maternal age–it’s the nicer way they say you’re over 35 these days).

Some of what I’ve felt and experienced is too much to share, but I do want to say that I firmly believe in a Mother in Heaven. The comfort I felt when this pregnancy became a reality has sustained me.

But I have felt guilt and grieved for those of my friends who have had pregnancy and infant loss, who long for this experience and don’t know if it will be a reality, or who know that it won’t be. I don’t know why I carry that burden around, but I do carry it and I feel it deeply.

I think it is also hard for me because I haven’t super loved being pregnant. There are wonderful, beautiful, miraculous things about it. And feeling a baby kick (and kick and kick and kick) is the strangest, weirdest, coolest feeling. Like it’s straight up magic that the human body can do what it does.

But I am a giant pansy about being pregnant and am confident that I wouldn’t have survived in any other era of the world. I found it funny when we finally started telling people (we held off for a while) that people asked if I had been sick. I think most associate pregnancy with throwing up. I haven’t (yet) thrown up but I’ve come awfully close.

HOWEVER, it turns out there are a million other symptoms of pregnancy. Like every little thing that was weird, I’d look up and be like, “Oh, I’m not dying. I’m just pregnant.” I could check off pretty much every other symptom.

Food was not my friend in the first trimester. I didn’t feel like eating anything ever. If someone made something, though, I could eat it most of the time. But leftovers were out of the question–just couldn’t mentally bring myself to eat them. Steve loved this part because he never had to make lunch. I bought some frozen yogurt to have a healthier snack and every time I thought of it, I got a metal taste in my mouth. Steve got to eat that, too. I bought fish sticks because I wanted a way to get the health benefits of fish that might taste better to me. Didn’t even want those and gave them away.

The only craving I recall was at 11:30 one night I really wanted a salad. But I told myself that was ridiculous and went to bed.

Second trimester brought on severe carpal tunnel. I had issues with it before and had managed through ergonomic changes as well as wrist braces when necessary. But this became horrific as I was wearing two braces and elevating my hands at night, one brace during the day, and trying to learn how to do things left-handed because I was losing feeling in my right hand and was in constant pain. I was close to cutting my arms off so instead I decided to opt for injections to help. I don’t know that I would have made it the past three months without those.

Sleep has been elusive the entire time and nothing has really helped. Baby has been breech the entire time (and still is) and that has caused great anxiety. A few weeks ago, after getting every vaccine and after all this time, I got COVID. At first I thought it was the worst heartburn of my entire life (and I think it definitely was) and then came down with what was like the worst cold of my life. My congestion and cough have still not gone away. The fatigue has lessened thankfully but only to be replaced with late third trimester fatigue (but that fatigue is better than first trimester fatigue when I literally had to take a nap during my lunch break pretty much every day).

And right after COVID I started itching uncontrollably and deeply in my hands and feet and torso and tested borderline for cholestasis of pregnancy which can be extremely dangerous to the baby. Thankfully I’d had a coworker who recently had it so she helped me seek out the right things quickly. I got on a medication that has helped significantly and I lathered myself in the grossest calamine lotion. I adjusted my diet and the chemicals I was exposed to and the doctor has increased my monitoring. It appears I’m doing OK but I have major anxiety about all of the things all the time.

Goodness, you must be thinking, she sure is complain-y. And I would agree. I think that was my major 2023 trait.

But in all of this, there has been a slight positive that somehow my lactose intolerance has gone away and I’ve been able to eat ice cream without any issues. Ok, then.

We are nervous to become parents but we are hopeful that we will get some heavenly help in this process because it’s coming soon.

Photo progression of the pregnancy backwards I guess since I can’t get it to load otherwise and I’m too tired to figure it out.

How I hid the pregnancy from all the eyes that kept watching for my belly to grow.

And once again, just as happened with our wedding, we have been overwhelmed by all the love and support we have received. This baby is insanely blessed and very spoiled already.

Pictured: 3 out of 4 showers (family, ward, friends). Not pictured: work shower since they had to cancel it because I got COVID.

The doggo

Yeah, she’s still a weirdo.

New things

One of my favorite new things this year was another niece. I just love being an aunt and can’t get enough of nieces and nephews.

Another new thing was a promotion at work. I had been doing some projects for another team and an opportunity opened up to move to that team and do web product management and strategy for THE ChurchofJesusChrist.org. I worked on the transition this year to the new home page (I know some of you hate it…you can call me and talk over the strategy sometime, haha) and some of the other major initiatives. I’ve gradually been weaning off my work with Temple Square as a result of focusing on these other efforts. I’ve learned a lot, I’ve messed up a bunch of things, but we have a big vision for the future that I’m very excited about.

A solo. I will first say that I was tricked into this, but it turned out all right in the end. I was invited to be part of a musical production the women at church were doing and I agreed because I like singing–but I’m definitely a choir voice. Right before the first practice, I was given the music–and I had a solo part. Well, everyone had their own solo part in this presentation. But…I also had a solo part. I freaked out substantially and almost backed out. But in the end I decided to just try it out. I do not love my singing voice and I don’t think I was their best choice, but I was proud of myself for trying.

We also decided to redo the front yard because the grass was a terrible disaster that I had not been able to control since I’d moved in.

It looked so beautiful when we finished.

And then the neighborhood kids discovered our tree swing. And played on it for hours. And hours. And hours. Every. single. day.

It destroyed the grass under the swing.

We loved seeing the kids playing outside all day, though.

We were in a quandary.

We occasionally took the swing down to let the grass “rest” as we told the kids (they still knocked on the door and asked when it would be back).

And so we gave up and said we’d repair that part of the lawn (again) next year (I guess this year now).

Le sigh.

Family Time

We loved all the time spent with family this year.

Temple trips

Baptisms

Bike Rides

Family reunions and gatherings

Performances

Birthdays

It was a lovely year.

Church service

Steve continued in the bishopric and we ended the year with 3 stakes in the area combining into 2, a consolidation of a bunch of wards, and our ward basically combining with another ward (with a few households moved to another ward). It’s been a lot of change.

I continued on as Primary music leader and this last year I also loved serving as the stake assistant young women camp director. I didn’t fully love the opportunity when I got it and I was so nervous about being with the youths and I didn’t think I was doing a good job at all. But when we got to camp, I loved every minute. I feel so grateful I finally got that piece of peace about it. It was fun to be with my sister and two nieces at camp as well. (And I must add there was a straight-up miracle that I felt GREAT at 9 weeks pregnant during camp even though I was pretty awful before and after. No idea how it happened except for heavenly help and fresh mountain air because it definitely wasn’t the sleeping pad and the 4 trips to the loo in utter darkness at night that helped). And now I’m in it as the director for this year.

Thanks to 2023, we have some lovely things to look forward to right at the beginning of this 2024. Hoping to share a fun addition with you all soon. [SPOILER ALERT: HE ARRIVED].

I hope you all know we love you and feel grateful for good friends and family. We pray for peace in your lives, in your homes, and in the world. We hope that you will feel heaven’s love and comfort always.

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