Monday, December 08, 2008

Morning Memo

Dear Cleo,
Yes, it's chilly in our house in the mornings. We are both wearing hats and hoodies and cozy socks for just that reason. But if you think it's still too cold, there are more options: vests! thicker hats! shoes!

And although I admire your initiative in trying to solve this problem in your own way, and it did work for a while, I would prefer it that you didn't pee all over yourself and me right after breakfast. The warmth only lasts for a couple minutes, and then we're wet and cold and have to do more laundry.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Don't worry, it's just that I'm a loser.

The problem with every day is that it happens so damn often. Everything's fine around here, but the blog train is running low on steam.

More later.

(um, maybe)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


bonkle: noun. The inevitable tinkly impact of the baby's head and her (soft) dangling bell toy as you try to extricate her from her Baby Amusement Center.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Inevitable Poop Post

Babies start out as little poop machines. When Cleo was first born, she ate about every two hours, and pooped almost as often. Now that she's a burly almost-four-months, that has slowed to once or twice a day, with the increase in volume that you might imagine would come with that decrease in frequency. It was still manageable, though, and we were unconcerned with the change in her habits.


As of yesterday afternoon, it had been a solid two and a half days without any activity. Every diaper change felt like handling a grenade whose pin had been pulled. We started dressing her pre-emptively, with a mind to slowing the inevitable explosion. This meant a long sleeved, high necked onesie, plus long pants, plus a hooded jacket. It was in this state (and outfit) that I handed my daughter over to my parents and went out for a few hours. It was a testament to their love for Cleo that they took her, and it was a testament of her love for them that she waited to let loose until ten minutes after they'd gone home.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I can't blame her.

My inner editor used to have a much better office. It was right behind my left eyebrow and spacious, with cushy carpeting, a nice view, and one of those big squishy leather chairs that adjust eleven different ways for optimal support. Since the re-organization of my brain, however, she's been moved to the boiler room, where she sits on a rickety stool and has only a headlamp for light. Poor thing.

She hasn't quit yet, though, she just takes a little longer to get things done. For example, I wrote a post last night at about seven, and it wasn't until I woke up to feed Cleo at midnight that the memo arrived at Central Command from the boiler room. It was not kind: "Nashing? Nashing? You have the rare chance to use a word as satisfying as "gnashing" and you blow it? This is your first warning. If things don't improve around here, I'm taking my headlamp and quitting for good."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Life Lessons

Kids learn not only from what you say, but from what you do. This week, Cleo has learned a couple good things. From her father: make regular back-ups of your computer, whether you think you need to or not. This was a boring lesson, consisting mainly of watching him do it. From her mother: use pyrometric cones in every kiln firing, whether you think you need to or not. This was a more exciting lesson, consisting of watching her mother not do it, and then observing the wailing, nashing, and rending that ensued. Live and learn and be like your dad, sweetheart.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Eating the Freezer

After you have a c-section, they suggest that you not climb a lot of stairs. My midwife said I should keep myself to one round-trip per day. Since we don't have a bathroom on the ground floor, this pretty much kept me out of the (ground-floor) kitchen for two or three weeks. It worked out well. Cleo's grandmothers and father kept the grown-up meals coming so that I could concentrate on baby meals and healing. The baby meals were a bit of a challenge in the beginning, and I had to use a pump to help out.

One effect of this was that there was a lot of extra milk hanging around. I was not going to let such a hard-earned liquid go to waste, so we started freezing it. The freezer started to fill with containers of milk. And then it started to over-fill, and something had to be done. That something was the Disappearance of several years worth of bread heels, tubs of mysterious leftovers, kitchen experiments, and general detritus. What can I say? I do like to save things. So while I was marooned upstairs, my husband (with the collusion of my very own mother) was living the dream of a lifetime. Things that moved from our last house's freezer to this one were thrown away with no ceremony at all. Not even Taps hummed softly over the garbage can. It was all just Gone.

I admit now that it was a good idea. Why, for the first time in years I can actually use the freezer! You can see what's in there! It's kind of weird. They did save the identifiable, usable things, and I'm now in the process of working my way through these things. It's all part of a new plan to actually take things out of the freezer occasionally, instead of just jamming things in. So now we're reaching the end of the freezer stuff (and the milk supply has been thinned as well), so I have Freezer Real Estate burning a hole in my pocket (how's that for a mixed metaphor? I think I win). What should I make and freeze (and later use)? What's the saving grace dinner backup in your freezer? And can I steal your brilliant ideas?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

It's November

And you can tell because we were doing the annual half-assed yard clean-up, and this was heard as the rotting, fetid jack-o-lanterns were being gingerly carried to the compost at arm's length:

"Is there anyone we don't like?"

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Moistest Baby on the Block

There are post-meal traditions in various cultures. A genteel stroll around the village square, a small, strong, foul-smelling drink of something. A cup of herbal tea. Being not quite four months old yet, Cleo's not really ready for any of these. So she's working out her own way of easing the progress of her meal through her belly.

Unfortunately, her current method is to play and squeal and exercise until she barfs. It seems to work well for her: there's no distress involved, and she's still getting bigger by the day, but it is a bit of a laundry issue. Between the teething drool and the post-prandial eruptions, the top four inches of her shirt were almost always soaking. Enter the bibs. Enter all six presentable bibs she owns, sometimes all in one day. Enter the most bedraggled of the hand-me-down bibs. And then run out of bibs, and re-enter the least-soiled (and now dry) of the previous set. So, we need more bibs. I did what I do, and looked online (somehow, the kids thrift store doesn't have bibs. Too gross? I guess). And guess what? I'm both cheap and picky. We need a lot of bibs, and I don't want a bunch of bibs that have dumb sayings on them. I also don't want to spend eight bucks on each lousy (but attractive!) piece of cloth that's just designed to get between my daughter and her goop, and then be tossed in the laundry.

So I learned some things. I learned that Cleo's dad has a bunch of old white t-shirts that are surplus to requirements. I learned that machine-sewing comes under the category of Easy With Baby in the Sling (or at least Possible With Baby in the Sling). I learned that you don't need a serger to sew knits, and I learned that while Cleo's fascinated by the sound of the sewing machine when she's awake, she finds it intensely annoying when she's trying to sleep.

So, if you want to make your own bibs, you can do it this way: trace an existing bib onto an old t-shirt, leaving some extra space for the seam allowance. Pin the front and back of the t-shirt together, along the traced line. Using a zig-zag stitch (I'm not sure it's strictly necessary to zig-zag. But it sure is fun to say! Zig-zag! Zig-zag!), sew around the line, leaving one end open. Turn the bib inside out (actually right side out), and topstitch around the edge, closing the end you left open. Add ties or a snap or velcro. And then do that forty more times, and you'll have enough bibs for three days (so far, my homemade-bib-count is a grand and lofty One).

Friday, November 07, 2008

Boring? Yes. Useful? Possibly.

Since Cleo's still waking up three or four times a night, I get a lot of practice in going back to sleep. It might be my chronic sleep deprivation, but I think I've worked out a good method over the last few months.

I tried reviewing my day in my head, but that just resulted in anxiety over all the things I hadn't done, and a longer to-do list.

I tried thinking of boring things, like sheep, but it was too boring, and my mind would drift back to the to-do list.

I tried a yoga-style progressive relaxation, but there was too much stuff to remember.

I tried an lengthening-exhalation relaxation I learned in our Hypnobirthing class, but it always made me feel like I wasn't doing it right. Not relaxing.

So, I ended up with a combination of things that works really well for me. Starting with my head and moving south, with each exhalation I say (to myself--no need to wake the whole family) each area of tension. Just the one word per exhalation. And, of course, focus on relaxing that area.

So, like this: Inhale. Exhale forehead. Inhale. Exhale jaw. Inhale. Exhale neck. I'm usually asleep by the knees. If not, I start over at the feet and work up.

It's just enough structure to keep my mind from spinning and drifting, it eases tension without getting too woo-woo about it (no auras or light or mantras to remember). But it's simple enough that my brain can keep doing it even as it's falling asleep.

So, having trouble getting enough sleep? First do the obvious things: cut out caffeine and alcohol, dim the lights in the evening, get some exercise in the afternoon, and don't share your bedroom with an infant. If you've tried all of the above, try my method. Maybe it'll help. Or maybe thinking about how boring this post was will send you to sleep even quicker. Either way, I live to serve.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Easy Thai Curry

Cleo spends most of her time in the sling. She happily looks around or naps, and we both enjoy it. It keeps her with me (or her dad), but frees our hands for other things. It does make working at a table awkward, and bending over is not really practical (I end up doing a lot of squats to pick things up). And some things just aren't safe. So domestic chores are now divided into two categories: Easy With Baby and Hard With Baby.

Easy: putting in a load of laundry
Hard: getting the wet clothes out of the bottom of the washer

Easy: chopping vegetables
Hard: browning vegetables in a super-hot skillet

Easy: eating cooked meat
Hard: handling raw meat

So cooking has changed a bit around here, which is why I'm really happy with this curry recipe. There's enough flavor in the sauce that it's still good even if you don't sear or brown the meat and veg, the work can all be done in stages throughout the day, and any raw-meat handling can be last-minute, while Cleo and her father are telling each other about their days.

1 can coconut milk
2 tablespoons sriracha sauce (or other hot sauce to taste)
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried minced garlic (one fewer thing to chop!)
2 tablespoons sugar

vegetables (green beans, red peppers, snow peas, onions, carrots, cauliflower, etc)
protein (we usually use shrimp or beef)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
optional garnishes (cilantro, basil, chopped peanuts, lime wedges, scallions, sliced jalapenos)

Chop all the vegetables. Mix the sauce ingredients together. Do whatever you have to do to the meat: thaw, chop, peel, etc.

The easiest thing to do is to bring the sauce to a boil and throw everything in and simmer until it's all cooked, which might result in some things getting overdone. If you have more time and energy, saute or steam or blanch everything separately. Bring the sauce to a boil and mix all the cooked stuff into the sauce to heat up. Serve with rice and any (or all, or none) of the garnishes.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

It's Over!

The sensible choice last night was to go to bed early as usual, and wait to find out the election results in the morning.

The sensible choice this morning was to have something besides leftover halloween candy for breakfast.

The sensible choice right now is to go on a victory march around the neighborhood.

One out of three is the best I can do right now. Yippee!

(Returning to regular, non-political programming tomorrow. I know I have some readers that disagree with my politics, so thanks for your patience, and a shout-out to McCain for a gracious and thoughtful concession speech)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I have a good feeling about today...

I was starving this morning; but there was leftover pizza!

It's been so gloomy lately; but it was a sunny morning, perfect for a long walk with breakfast and the baby!

I needed two hands to close the door; but my piece of cold pizza balanced perfectly on Cleo's head for a moment!

I only had $1.24 on me (not enough for a coffee); but I found a damp two bucks on the sidewalk!

The last eight years have been grim and horrible; but... but... (fingers crossed)

Monday, November 03, 2008


So I can't just keep calling her The Baby, since eventually she won't be one any more, and very eventually there might even be another one around to confuse things--not that I can imagine such a development now. My memory might be shot from hormones and sleep deprivation, but it's not so shot that I can't remember, say, last night. I will forget eventually, and you'll be able to tell because I'll start entertaining the notion of another little creature to call The Baby.

But I don't want to refer to her by her actual name on here because I have a chronic, low-grade case of Internet Paranoia, and I don't want us to be googlable. This is too bad, because all the funny songs we've been making up for her would be good for at least a couple days of posts this month. Suffice it to say, her name rhymes with dances and enhances and glances and pantses. Extrapolate hilarious lyrics on your own.

So, the need for a pseudonym arises. Since she's an enthusiastic eater with not much finesse or regard for table manners, her meals often end up all over her face and running down her neck. And since her meals are always the same thing, she ends up bathing in milk more often than a certain historical queen. She's also similarly worshiped by her loyal subjects, and her beauty is renowned for blocks around. So, Cleo it is.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Is The Baby Hungry? Three Things to Look For

1. Watch for subtle cues: is she moving her mouth in a way that looks "nursy"? Does she turn towards your finger when you touch her cheek?
2. With practice, you'll be able to hear the difference between her "hungry cry" and other cries.
3. When you pick up the baby, does she firmly grasp your ears, approach your face with a wild look and an open mouth, and attempt to suck your cheek off? This, too, might indicate hunger.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Posting While Nursing, Part One of Thirty (or is it thirty-one?).

What the hell. I'm doing it again. A post every day for the month of November. I know, crazy, right? Well, if I poop out in a few days, I'll have an excellent excuse.

Standards: down.
Quantity: up.
Punctuation and capitalization: possibly spotty
Editing: what?

Here we go...

(and yes, this counts. I meant it about standards going down)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

B Through BBBBBB: A Comprehensive Rating System for Infant and Adult Burps, Belches, and Other Oral Emissions

B (or "onebie"): Gas only. Varies widely in length, tone, and volume.

BB (or "twobie"): Mainly gas. Some stomach contents enter throat.

BBB (or "threebie"): A just-prevented BBBB (see "BBBB"). Also, Big Blue Boat.

BBBB (or "fourbie"): Stomach contents exit mouth at negligible velocity.

BBBBB (or "fivebie"): Moderately forceful expulsion of stomach contents. Does not cause distress.

BBBBBB (or "sixbie"): Extremely forceful expulsion of stomach contents. Unpleasant. Not suitable for illustration.

If you are turning 64 years old today*, the hard copy of this is to be your present (plus a few more colors). Happy Birthday! A worthy present for a man of such mature and refined tastes!

*and if you are my father. Explains a lot, doesn't it?

Helpful Hints

One never knows what to get a baby. They don't need all that much, and one doesn't want to give something superfluous. If you're wondering what to get our little cherub for Christmas, here's a hint. She doesn't have one of these yet.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

For the Record

When I was pregnant, I often wondered what I would have made of the bizarre sensations I was experiencing if I hadn't had never-ending input from Culture and Science to reassure me that they were all Perfectly Normal. It was nice to be able to know what oddity to expect next, and even how I might expect to feel about it. It didn't keep me from worrying, but it helped make the process less mysterious.

But now that I'm well into the postpartum phase, I have a new set of physical experiences, with a lot less input from culture and science to help me navigate them. One hears, "You'll be very tired." But that goes exactly nowhere in describing the sensation of chronic sleep deprivation. "Very tired" is when you stay up late finishing a term paper (okay, or a novel). You feel a bit raw; in some ways kind of... peeled. Your defenses are lower, lights seem brighter, sounds are more grating. It's a feeling I'm reasonably familiar with.

But chronic sleep deprivation is different. Three months of it has given me the feeling that there is a cat that lives in my ribcage, and it's a scrawny, half-blind, dirt-matted scrap that's making that low, rumbly cat noise that tends to precede an all-out teeth-and-claws attack. I can suppress the temptation to act on these feelings, but the beaten-down stray is still a tangible presence in my chest.

Sounds nice, huh? Well, it's almost worth it just for the contrasting feeling I get with enough sleep. Last week, with two whole naps some days (thanks to Supergrandma) and a baby who was going through a "Let's sleep when it's dark out!" phase, I felt fine. Superfine, even: like the sugar. The cat in my chest was a fat, purring pet, with big calm eyes and a thick coat. Enough sleep makes me feel like I could climb a mountain, cook a five-course meal, and give a riveting speech to three hundred strangers, all at the same time.

It's like having motherhood-induced bipolar disorder, and, according to a couple of new-mom friends who have leveled with me, Perfectly Normal. So, Culture? Science? Make a note of it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Please notify when available

The Babyprodder

Duplicates a mother's gentle "are you still breathing" poke, resulting in an audible baby sigh but not a woken baby. Powered by remote control, soft nightlight included

Teething Epaulets

To be worn by the parent (or patient, slobber-tolerant grandparent). Hard silicone nubs mounted on absorbent terry cloth, to allow baby to pursue her two hobbies: gnawing on whatever comes within hailing distance of her mouth, and seeing what's happening behind you.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Plum Torte

April 2008, my kitchen:

Him: I have a business trip to Mexico in October.

Me: Oh, that'll be fun.

Him: [waiting]

Me: [counting on my fingers] Wait, October? This October? Mexico? Oh, no you don't, bucko.
She'll only be three months old! No way! Quit your job! Tell 'em to stuff it! We'll survive somehow. Like, by, um... well, we'll figure something out. There's just no way you can go away while she's still so little.

Him: Well, okay, I'll stay home if you want, but your folks will be nearby in October. Maybe they could help out.

Me: [exhaling, lowering the knife] Oh, right. Right. Have a good time! Bring home some little Mexican baby pants or something.

October 2008, my mom's kitchen:

So here we are, me, my mom, and my three-month-old daughter, hanging out, missing The Dad, waiting for The Grandad to get home, singing the lumberjack song, clipping tiny little fingernails, and making...

Plum Torte

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 eggs
6 ripe purple plums
lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350. Halve and pit the plums. Cream sugar and butter together. Add eggs, flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat well. Spoon batter into an 8 or 9 inch springform pan with high sides. Place plum halves cut side down onto batter. Sprinkle with sugar, cinnamon, and lemon juice. Bake 35-45 minutes.

Never Mind

In the months after September 11th, I had a fatalistic habit. Right before I checked the news on the radio or the internet, I'd wonder to myself what fresh tragedy I was about to discover. That habit has become less pronounced, but I still brace myself a little whenever I turn on the news.

Apparently, this grim attitude has seeped (sept?) into other parts of my brain.

My computer thinks it's online, and the connection signal is strong, but I can't seem to load any pages. It's like the whole internet just disappeared. If you read this, you'll know I was wrong, but right now I have a sinking suspicion that the civilized world has come to an end, and it just hasn't reached me yet.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

I'm with her.

The baby's doctor is great. He's thoughtful and patient knows the value of prefacing almost everything he says to anxious new parents with a soothing, "That's an excellent question..."

Since my current doctor is a dolt, and this guy's in family practice, I'm in the process of switching to her doctor. Being an excellent doctor, he's in high demand, but being in family practice, he gives preference to family members of existing patients.

All this is just to say that for the first time today, I dropped my daughter's name, and it got me in the VIP door. First time of many, I bet, kiddo.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cleopatra, Bathed in Milk

She's a month old today. It feels more like a parent milestone than a baby milestone, somehow: She's still alive! No blood has been shed! No babies have been harmed in the making of this family! I still chant a little safety mantra when I carry her down the stairs, and I can't stand to watch her father suction the boogers out of her nose with the blue sucky thing, even though he's very gentle and careful, and she always feels better afterwards (although the piggy little sounds she makes with a stuffy nose are adorable).

All that aside, though, we're starting to emerge from the foggiest part of Babyland Forest. We've been on a couple of family outings (bakery, concert in the park), and I'm almost back to being a functioning member of society. I've made dinner a few times, I can go up and down the stairs as many times as I want (woo!), and Cleo and I survived while her father went to a movie.

(edited to add: It's July 2010, and I just found this post lurking in "drafts." Cleo is now a robust almost-two-year-old who walked into the bakery with me this morning and requested a "bistuit an' a hightair", and this all sounds like a very long time ago.)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Quick, while she's sleeping.

Signs that you may be on heavy pain medication and/or the sleep-deprived mother of a newborn:

In the middle of the night, you try to drink from the moisturizer instead of the water bottle.

You cannot subtract 15 from 36 without a pencil and some paper.

Your first taste of non-hospital food almost makes you cry with its goodness.

(Baby girl. Born at 2:30 am on June 18. Everyone now delighted and happy and healthy and home.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Month Nine: Evolution

In the first part of my pregnancy, as I was excitedly watching my body's appearance change, I had a little sadness in the back of my mind for the old body I'd never see again. It made me feel silly to be diluting my joy with vanity, but it was like saying goodbye to a friend, knowing I'd see them again eventually, but that things would always be different.

Well, nature has an answer for those mixed feelings. It's called the ninth month. Now the way my body will look after pregnancy seems inconsequential compared to how my body will feel. I'm no longer fazed by the prospect of the new squishier me. I'm instead completely captivated by the idea that one day, I'll again be able to run up a flight of stairs, walk a brisk mile or two on a whim, and even roll over in bed without first planning a strategy.

These feats all seem especially miraculous because there's a little, primitive part of my brain that believes that I will be pregnant forever; that maternity clothes will be my permanent wardrobe, that my feet will forever be strangers to me, that I'll always be this awkward and feeble.

Fitting into my skinny jeans by Christmas? Whatever. The ability to lift and tote and bend and jog? Yes, please! Oh, please. And soon. Please.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Month Nine: What? This is the Easy Part?

When I was trying to get pregnant, I was worried. Would it take a long time? Would I be able to? The waiting was stressful, and I was intent on our goal. I had this idea that once I was pregnant, I could relax and everything would be fine.

And then we found out I was pregnant! Hooray! We were both excited, I was relieved, and I did relax. For about a week. And then I started worrying about the baby. Was it okay in there? How about now? And now? Now? Each time we passed a milestone (end of the first trimester at 12 weeks, 20 week scan, viability at 26 weeks, full-term at 37 weeks), I'd again be relieved and happy, with relief and happiness giving way to worry again eventually.

I feel silly worrying so much, since I know we've been very lucky so far, and there's no sign that anything's wrong, but while I can turn down the worry, I can't shut it off completely.

And now, with birth coming so soon, I have this feeling that I'll finally be able to stop worrying once she's born. We'll hold her in our arms and everything will get better and easier and less scary.


I am delusional.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Month Nine: Small Scare (No Suspense, Happy Ending Edition)

By now, the birth is getting so close we're going to see the midwife every week. Wednesday's visit was shaping up to be routine, until the nurse looked at my blood pressure and said calmly, "I think I'll just check your other arm." It has been routinely 120/80 for months, but Wednesday it was 138/90. On both arms.

That means one of two things: either I have high blood pressure from gaining 25 pounds in six months and running around like a headless chicken, or I have high blood pressure from pre-eclampsia, a reaction some women's bodies have to pregnancy. The cure for the first is pretty much just to chill out already. The cure for the latter is to induce labor and deliver the baby.

So they had to figure out which one it was. This got me a ticket to the lab to test various bodily fluids and also something called a Non-Stress Test, which, let me tell you, is badly named. It was stressful. The wires and printouts and monitors were bad enough, but the absolute worst part was when the nurse had to hunt around, looking for and not finding the baby's heartbeat. It probably took her 30 seconds, but it was not a reassuring moment. She finally found it, strapped me to the various devices, and left us to our appointed jobs for 20 minutes: baby to happily kick and squirm, mother to freak right out, and father to remain calm, tell a few jokes, and make conversation in a casual and reassuring way. We all performed exactly as described.

The midwife came in to review the printout, and said the best words ever: "That's a very happy baby. Just what we like to see. She's doing great."

So, while we're still waiting for the lab results, things look fine. I've been taking it easy and checking my blood pressure at home (it's gone and stayed back down a bit) and even bad news from the lab wouldn't be too bad. It might just speed up the baby-getting timetable a little, which is fine, since I'm almost 39 weeks along.

The really good news is that the baby is head-down and starting to engage, and I'm 2 cm dilated and 80% effaced. If you don't know what any of that means, that's okay. You can just move right along and think no more about my innards. It's good news.

And the less-important-but-still-good news is that I have official medical advice to: "Lie down, rest, eat bonbons, and read." Well, okay.

Update: For the third time in the last couple months, the lab results are... mixed. They need some more absolutist lab techs over there, if you ask me. People who can really commit to a one decision or another, and stay the course, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. It's a great way to run a country, right? So it would be for medical care. Oh, wait. Never mind.

So, mixed results. They'll retest on Friday. Keep up with the feet up and the bonbons. Check.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Month Nine: Maybe I'll See Her at Naptime

My dreams are usually swashbuckling adventures, with lots of running and hiding and good guys and bad guys, but pregnancy changes your dream life as well as your waking life. Last night, I dreamed about my grandmother for the first time since shortly after she died, seven years ago. In the dream, it was morning, and I was going to take her a cup of coffee, a piece of leftover birthday cake (whose, I don't know) and the newspaper. She phoned down to the kitchen from her room and we chatted a bit. Eventually, she sweetly asked for a cup of tea and a novel instead, if it wasn't too much trouble.

It was really nice to dream about her again, but the downside of pregnancy dreams is that they're often interrupted. My pregnant self woke up to go to the bathroom before my dream self made it up the stairs with a cup of tea, a cup of coffee (one for her, one for me?), and a pile of books.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Month Nine: Maybe This Will Be My Eggplant Casserole

There are many steps along the path to motherhood. The biggest one, of course, will be some time this month, but there are also more subtle shifts. For example, an interest in trying a recipe that looks like this one.

Month Nine: FAQ

People keep asking me the due date, which is a natural thing to ask a woman who looks like I do, but I'm trying not to dwell on it. All the books like to remind me that the due date is a bit of a shot in the dark, and that the most specific prediction we can really make is that the baby will probably come sometime between week 38 and week 42. Beyond that, there's no saying with any more certainty (after week 42, though, they get out the crowbar. Or something).

I'm officially 38 weeks today, which puts me in kind of a funny place between gearing up and trying to stay patient. It's hard to hold both "any day now" and "maybe not for another month" in my head at once.

But it does make sense to approach it this way. It's like having a soft opening for a restaurant: you get ready, you see if what you think is ready actually is ready, you have a chance to get a little more ready, and then you see how that seems before things get all official.

So we've been doing all kinds of ready-getting. My nesting instinct has been satisfied by a pretty motley collection of accomplishments. We weeded and mulched the backyard, we got the car detailed, we planted some annuals, we got a huge stack of kids' books at a baby shower, I washed and stacked lots of ridiculously small cotton items, I cleaned out my office, we installed the car seat, I organized the basement, we took a carload of castoffs to the Salvation Army, we hung a new laundry line, and I made six casseroles for the freezer. I realize that most of those things have nothing to do with keeping a newborn happy and well, but a primal need was satisfied all the same.

After they ask about the due date people then tend to ask, "And are you all ready with the nursery and everything?" with visions of matching curtains and dust ruffles and crib bumpers obviously dancing in their heads. And well, no. We're not. It still looks like a half-moved-into room, any matching that's going on is accidental, and frankly, that probably won't change much before she gets here. But, really, yes. Yes, we're ready. And if she waits another month to make her appearance, maybe we'll have regrouted the shower, cleaned the gutters, and fixed the porch step too, so we'll be even more ready.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Month Nine: Progress?

We've been watching a lot of old Star Trek in the evenings, after our nightly midwife-mandated creep around the block. It's been hot here, and there's something cooling about outer space and the future.

In addition to a wide and entertaining variety of Space Unitards and Space Cocktails, the show features Captain Picard, who likes to give orders with a stern, deep, "Engage."

Well, it finally feels like the baby's been listening.

Month Nine: Malachite

Although I grew up in the friendly south, where smiling at strangers on the street is a way of life, I've lived up north long enough to develop a stern don't-mess-with-me face that I wear when navigating urban crowds. It usually helps would-be solicitors pick someone else to approach, but it's not always effective.

The other day, despite my best efforts, a man gifted with hair and deprived of teeth came right up to me and said urgently, "Excuse me, miss? Miss? Excuse me?" I couldn't sidestep his persistence or his politeness, so I said, "Yes?" while, I admit, stepping back a bit and holding my bag a little tighter.

"Here, take this. It's malachite. It's good protection for your baby when she's born. Just keep it by her bed."

And he handed me a little green rock. As my brain hustled to accommodate this unexpected development, I realized that in every folk tale I'm aware of, when a scruffy stranger offers an unsolicited kindness to a pregnant woman, she'd best take it and be grateful, unless she wants her first-born child to have some sort of colorful life-long curse.

So I did take it, I was grateful, I thanked him sincerely, and he went on his way. The stone is now on my bedside table. I'm not usually superstitious, but there are some archetypes you just don't mess with.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Month Nine: The Open Mouths of Babes

At the pool, in my belly-friendly bikini, I apparently make quite a spectacle. Women smile, men try not to look alarmed, and kids just stare, gaping at my mass.

The other afternoon, I came out of a bathroom stall into the ladies changing room, and surprised two eight-year-old girls. They stopped mid-chatter, mouths open, and proceeded to follow me with huge eyes as I washed my hands, dried them, adjusted my suit, and made my way back out into the sun. I didn't mind the inspection, and would have happily answered any curious questions, but I think the visual was as much information as they could handle, if not quite a bit more.

Neighbors of ours who swim at the same pool, three and five-year old boys, know me better and aren't afraid to ask questions. So far, the favorites are, "Have you started cracking open yet?" and "When are you going to crack?" and, "Is the baby naked in there?" and "Are you sure it's a girl?" (the last very skeptically, with a wrinkled nose). The youngest likes to pat my belly, which is the sweetest thing ever, and once evolved into him gently patting it with his knuckles, which made his poor mother have a heart attack when she glanced over, and yelped, "No punching pregnant ladies in the belly!"

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Month Nine: I Chose a Pale Pink, Myself

Taking an infant first aid class at the hospital, we were surrounded by expectant women. They all looked to be about as pregnant as I am, which is to say, very. There was a wide cross-section, with people from all over the area, all over the economic spectrum, variously partnered and unpartnered, and of lots of ages, colors, and sizes (although there didn't happen to be any small women. Just large, larger, vast, and huge). But we were all learning about choking, bleeding, and anaphylactic shock together. And we'll all be mothers of infants pretty soon, and, based on a quick visual survey of all the toes I could see, none of us can reach our feet any more. I've never seen so many pedicures.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Her House Is On Fire, After All

I know that among my readers are a good many soft-hearted folks who are inclined to be friendly to helpful insects. Well, now's your big chance. The good sciency people of Cornell are trying to figure out how native ladybugs are doing all over the country (the answer so far? not that great). So they're soliciting photos of the ladybugs in your yard/garden/neighborhood. Catch some bugs, take their pictures, mention where and when you found them, and that can be your good deed for the summer. Cheap karma, if you ask me. More details here.

Month Nine: Gemütlichkeit? Bildungsroman?

As I get more and more pregnant, and the summer wears on, people keep asking me with delighted looks, "So, how're you feeling now, pretty awful, right? All swollen? Can't sleep? Achy joints? Real cranky?" The long German word for this is schadenfreude, I think, but I don't know the long German word for how I feel, which is: pretty satisfied to be able to say right back, "Nope, I feel great, actually! Never better!"

And it's true, too, just as long as I don't try to do much and stay off my feet and take a daily nap or two and eat every couple hours and drink lots of water and take my vitamins.

So, yeah. Short answer: great. I feel great.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Month Nine: A Review of Fetal Development

Dear Baby,
My main cravings over the last eight months have been for fruit, and as the seasons have changed, so have the fruits. As you grew your various parts, month by month, I kept up with various fruits. I ate other things too, of course, but a lot of you is constructed out of produce. For future reference then, my dear, a list:

Your heart is made of apples.
Your bones are made of red grapefruit.
Your teeth are made of prunes.
Your fingertips are made of pineapple.
Your eyebrows are made of cantaloupe.
Your eyelashes are made of cherries.
Your chub is made of blueberries.
Your lungs are lined with peaches.

And everything is held together with cheese, almond butter, and ice cream sandwiches.


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Month Eight: Famous Last Words

As you might guess from what I've been writing about lately (food, dinner, recipes, eating...), I've been feeling a lot more like myself lately. Still pregnant, but not particularly hampered by it. Maybe my best month of this whole thing so far. It's really only in the last week that I've started feeling like that very pregnant woman you see in movies and on TV: huffing and puffing, walking funny, finding any opportunity to put my swollen feet up, and going to the bathroom every half hour. But, still, I feel good as long as I don't try to do much.

This feeling-good, not-doing-much does not lend itself to Exciting Writing Topics, though, so I've limited myself to the always-reliable subject of food. However, I want to have a record of the happy-pregnant part of this process, and not just the dreary-pregnant part, so I'm going to try to up my writing frequency, which will probably result in a related increase in the why-would-anyone-care factor. You have been warned.

One recent accomplishment is worth noting, though. Not knowing anything 'bout birthin' no babies, we took a class. The aim of the class was to teach anxious yuppies how to relax enough so that their bodies could take over and do what they were made to do (see "birthin" above). The curriculum sounded great: a lot of emphasis on letting go of anxiety, relaxing muscles and positive thinking. And gravity. Gravity is your friend in labor, apparently. All of those sound like good tools for a natural labor and birth, right? Right! Except when the teacher is shriller than your high school gym teacher, more anxious than any of the aforementioned yuppies, and keeps barking, "RELAX!" and "NO NEGATIVE THOUGHTS!" and "IT WILL BE PERFECT IF YOU JUST RELAX!" There was some serious message/messenger disharmony going on.

But in the end, it worked out just fine. We survived her drill-sergeant-style guided meditations, we practiced our calming breathing techniques, and we relaxed after every class by laughing at her teaching style. Our last class was a couple weeks ago, and it was a relief to be done. Now we just have labor and birth ahead of us. Piece of cake, I'm thinking.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Nime Chow

Making nime chow (or goi cuon or vietnamese spring rolls) is only worth doing if you have a good reason. They require a certain amount of fiddly knife work, a wrapping technique that takes practice, and last minute assembly. That said, they're superdelicious, healthy, festive, good finger food, cheap, and most of the prep work can be done ahead of time. So I'm not trying to convince anyone to make them, but if you do, here's a recipe that worked well.

Makes 15 rolls and plenty of dipping sauce

3 carrots
1 english cucumber
15 rice paper wrappers (banh trang)
1 block firm tofu
thin rice noodles
salt and pepper
15 large basil leaves
30 mint leaves

sauce (nuoc cham):
juice of 2 limes (makes one part)
one part sugar
one part fish sauce
two parts water
2 cloves garlic, minced
chili sauce to taste

Cut carrots and cucumber into 4 or 5 inch long matchsticks.
Cook rice noodles in boiling water until tender, then rinse in cold water.
Measure the juice you get out of the two limes, and then make sauce.
Mix the sugar, water and fish sauce. Heat it to dissolve sugar.
Cool the sugary mixture, then add the lime juice, garlic, and chili sauce.
Squeeze and blot the tofu to get rid of some extra moisture.
Cut it into three flat slabs, then each slab into 5 long bars.
Mix cornstarch with salt and pepper, then dredge the tofu bars in it.
Fry the tofu in a well-oiled non-stick pan until crisp and golden brown.
Set up your work area: carrot, cuke, mint, basil, noodles, and tofu.
Dip one rice paper wrapper in hot water.
Lay the wrapper on a clean tea towel.
Lay one basil leaf and two mint leaves in the middle of the wrapper.
Pile some carrot, cucumber, noodles, and one tofu bar on the leaves.
Wrap like a burrito.
Once you've made all 15, you will have worked out your rice paper technique.
Next time will be easier. Here's some more info.

Substitute cooked shrimp (or other tasty protein) for the fried tofu.
Substitute bean sprouts or iceberg (or other crunchy veg) for the carrot or cuke.
For strict vegetarians, use soy sauce instead of fish sauce.
Skip the rice paper all together, and have a pretty little cold noodle salad.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Fish Tacos

I'm don't have a lot of affection for Martha Stewart. This is not a high-toned feminist or post-feminist position, I just feel like she manages to un-fun a lot of pretty fun stuff: making things, messing around in the garden, and cooking delicious food: all things that are best enjoyed with an experimental attitude and a sense of adventure. Instead, she tends to present The One Way to do things, and emphasizes the product over the process. I find this kind of annoying, but it's probably why I like her food magazine, Everyday Food, when I just want something reliable yet new to make for dinner. In those recipes, the process has been worked out, the product is predictable, and you don't have to do a lot of experimenting. That said, I've probably never been able to truly follow a recipe in my life, so here is the Everyday Food recipe for fish tacos, as altered and rearranged in our kitchen yesterday.

Makes 12 small tacos to serve 4 people.

3 cups finely shredded red cabbage (about a quarter of a cabbage)
1 cup finely sliced scallions
1 jalapeno, minced (de-ribbed and de-seeded if you like)

juice of one lime
zest of that lime
1/4 cup sour cream

1 lb tilapia (or other mild white fish)

12 corn tortillas

Mix the lime juice, lime zest, and sour cream. Salt generously to taste. Mix the cabbage, scallions, and jalapeno with half the sauce and set aside. Save the other half of the sauce for serving. This slaw can be made the day before.

When you're almost ready to eat, cook the fish. I followed the recipe (really!) and fried it in a hot pan in a little oil, but it stuck to the pan, fell apart, and didn't get particularly brown. Despite its inauspicious appearance, it didn't seem to matter to the deliciousness of the end product, so if you have a preferred method of getting fish from raw to cooked, do it now.

As the fish is cooking, heat the tortillas until they're soft and warm. Wrap or cover them to keep them from drying out and cooling off.

To assemble, pile some slaw, some fish, and a drizzle of sauce onto a warm tortilla. Fold in half and eat while dripping pink spots onto your plate.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Easy Spring Pasta

This is easy food. Easy in the shopping, easy in the cooking and easy in the eating, which, as we approach Cooking With Infants time, seems even more important than usual. But this one's actually fairly healthy, tasty and cheap too. Win win win win. Serves two or two and a half.

nine ounces cheese tortellini (fresh-ish, from the refrigerated section)
ten ounces frozen peas (get the good tiny sweet kind—not the giant starchy ones)
1/2 cup chopped ham (or more)
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint (or more)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
grated parmigiano

Cook the tortellini like the package tells you to.
Saute the garlic and ham until the garlic softens and smells good.
Add the frozen peas to the ham and garlic and cook, covered, until peas are hot.
Combine the tortellini, ham mixture, ground pepper, and a big pat of butter.
Add mint and a generous amount of cheese to each serving.

The first time I made this, I used orrechiette and prosciutto instead of tortellini and ham, and it was good too, and more sophisticated-seeming. To make sure the end result wasn't too dry, I tried a flashy new move (new to me, anyway):
Cook the pasta in well-salted water. Save a half cup of the liquid, and drain the pasta before it's quite done. Dump the pasta back into the hot pot, turn the heat to medium, and add the saved water, a bunch of grated parmigiano, tons of ground pepper, and a big hunk of butter. Stir energetically. The starchy, salty water will mix with the cheese and butter, making a flavorful, emulsified juice. The pasta absorbs enough liquid from the sauce that it finishes cooking in a few minutes. Once the pasta's done, add the (still warm) prosciutto and peas. The sauce will lightly coat everything, distribute the flavors, and keep the whole thing from being dry and gummy. So, a good technique if you have the time and inclination, but eminently skippable if you just use cheese tortellini and some butter.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Month Eight: Part Two

It's been hot here lately, and I've been very pregnant. These two factors combine to create a serious gap in my wardrobe. I tried my best to solve this the American way, by shopping my way to a solution, but some moron seems to have convinced the producers of maternity clothing that pregnant women want to wear nothing but clingy polyester dresses when it's ninety-five degrees outside. Well, maybe all the air-conditioned pregnant women like synthetics, but I have a different idea of what I want to wear. Which is: nothing. This weather calls for complete nudity and an icy glass of lemonade. But fear not. I like my neighborhood, and I think they might throw me out if I start waltzing around in the (massive) altogether. So I was shopping for, and not finding, thin cotton dresses. Dresses that would be both wispy and tent-like. Both huge and weightless. Think "gossamuumuu." But no dice. The marketplace failed me, which is how I found myself sweating onto my sewing machine earlier this week, making my own damn dress, and inadvertently learning things:

-The light on the sewing machine throws off an impressive amount of heat, like a little brunch-buffet heat lamp for the prime rib that is your fingers.

-When it's this hot, and one is this pregnant, every ten minutes sitting at a humming sewing machine needs to be balanced out by fifteen minutes of lying motionless right in front of the fan.

-When you're this sweaty, lying motionless in front of the fan is remarkably cooling. Hooray for physics! Or is that hydraulics? Whatever it is, it's a very refreshing demonstration.

-Working for ten minutes and resting for fifteen minutes is actually a very effective way of avoiding stupid mistakes when you're liable to cut corners and be slapdash. Many dumb decisions were avoided at the last minute by the Smart Brain having a chance to catch up to the Lazy Brain and overrule its plans.

-As soon as you finish the Breeziest Garment Ever Conceived, the weather will break and your other clothes will suddenly seem reasonable again.

-If there's not another brutal heat wave this summer, I'll be delighted. If there is, I'll be prepared.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Month Eight: Part One: Best Use of iPhone Yet

If you ever find yourself due to have a baby in late July, here are the cons:
-the first heat wave will turn you into Jabba the Hutt, but sweatier.
-at the first barbecue of the season, it will be impossible not to notice the resemblance between your fingers and your hot dog.
-the onset of prime dumpster-diving season (late sunsets, no more cold drizzle) will coincide with your passage from the Pregnant But Limber phase to the Downright Ungainly phase.
-you will be too ungainly, swollen, and sweaty to make the 500-mile trip to The Wedding Of The Year

And the pros:
-just as you grow out of your winter coat, it'll be warm enough not to need it.
-just as putting on socks becomes a real trial, it'll be sandal weather.
-just as it's warm enough to wear skirts without tights, that's all you'll be able to wear.
-your dad will take pity on your delicate and ungainly condition and live-blog the WOTY for you.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


In the mood for a banana split? Of course you are. Not interested in all the dishes that would dirty? No way, right? Here's the solution:
Right hand: banana (peeled the monkey way, of course).
Left hand: ice cream sandwich.
Alternate bites. There you go.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Crock Pot Pulled Pork and Old-Fashioned Coleslaw

My appetite has returned, and it's highly suggestible. A photo, an aside in a novel, a whiff of a restaurant's exhaust fan, and I can develop a craving. Usually these cravings are easily satisfied, but I recently made the mistake of reading a book that included a reference to barbecue. I grew up in the South, so I know what barbecue is supposed to taste like, but I live in the North, so access to the real thing is a problem. There is a neighborhood barbecue restaurant, from which my sound judgment had kept me until now, but the craving would not be denied. We went there for lunch.

The good news is, whoever is choosing the meat and running the smoker isn't doing a bad job, but that's where the good news ends. The "pulled pork" sandwich that I ordered was more of a "chunked pork" sandwich. And the chunks, instead of being bathed in thin, savory, vinegary juice, were dry. There was a bottle of thick, homemade-looking sauce on the table, but after tasting it, I realized that they must have run out of the real thing and borrowed some mysterious condiment from the Indian restaurant next door. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't anything that should go on barbecue. So there wasn't even any liquid to help my sandwich stay a sandwich. Big hunks of dry meat ejected themselves from the back end of the bun at every bite. I ended up using a fork. And the coleslaw, which I had been relying on to prevent the meal from being a complete loss, was... pasty. It had an indefinable textural wrongness to it that, well, I can't define. All I can say is that although it looked likely enough, it tasted almost, but not quite, entirely unlike coleslaw.

Not only was my craving unsatisfied, I now had a taste to get out of my mouth and an experience to rinse out of my brain. Since pork is cheaper than airplane tickets, I figured I should try something I've never done: making barbecue at home. I realized I should try this when I saw a big hunk in the back of the pork case in the grocery store: a picnic shoulder. It was bigger than my head and its thick skin still had a few little pig hairs sticking out if it. The real deal, and only a buck a pound. So I brought it home, figuring I'd find a recipe for pulled pork somewhere.

I consulted cookbooks and the internet, looking for the common threads. Unfortunately, the common thread was "things you don't have in the house." You might say that I'm interested in efficiency, or you might say I'm lazy. Either way you'd be right. I didn't want to get involved in a project involving smokers or brine or wood chips or, heck, even another trip to the grocery store. All I really wanted was one good sandwich, and I was only willing to go so far in order to get it. So I read enough recipes to get a feel for Pulled Pork Theory, and then got as close as I could with what I had around.

And it was good. Well, I liked it, and the four Yankees I shared it with liked it too, but what do they know. All I can say is, it seems reasonably close to the barbecue (or pulled pork) that they used to serve in my elementary school cafeteria, and that you can still get at little places all over the Upland South.

No Browning, No Chopping, No Smoking, No Shopping Crock Pot Pulled Pork
Serves 8-10. Takes at least a whole day, if not two.

1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons dried minced garlic
2 teaspoons smoked chili powder
1 tablespoon dried chopped onion
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 picnic shoulder of pork, bone-in, skin-on, hairs optional (8.5 lbs)

to taste, at the end:
honey or sugar
more salt
more chili powder
more vinegar

Mix everything but the pork in the bottom of a large crock pot. Set the pork on top of the sauce. Let it cook on high for 8 to 10 hours (I set it for 8, and it looked like it could have gone longer). Once it's done, you can either set the meat and sauce in the fridge overnight and deal with it tomorrow, or you can get to it. Either way, you'll want to remove the fat from the sauce and set it aside (don't throw it away yet). Remove and discard the skin and attached big hunks of fat from the meat. Get rid of the bone(s) and any obvious tendon-type things. Put the sauce and the hunks of meat in a saucepan, and if the sauce is too thin and soupy, bring it to a simmer to reduce it. As it cooks, stir. If the meat is cooked enough, it'll will break down into shreds as you stir. Taste and adjust seasoning. You might need more sweetness, more salt, more spice, or more vinegar. As you taste and add, also evaluate how rich it is. Add in as much of the reserved fat as you like. Aim for just enough so it doesn't taste thin, but not so much that it becomes actively greasy.

If you're trying to replicate that (well, my) Southern barbecue experience, serve it with coleslaw on squishy rolls that compress down to almost nothing as you squeeze your sandwich. They're not substantial enough to interfere with the relationship between the hot juicy barbecue and the cool crisp slaw, but they still do a fine job of holding everything together and absorbing whatever juice isn't busy dripping off your elbows. If you're from some other part of the country and had a culturally deprived childhood, you might enjoy it on a bread of more substance. I'll allow it.

*Bread Update*
The first round of buns was from the regular grocery store. I didn't scrutinize the ingredients, but I bet they had all kinds of hydrogenated and high-fructose ingredients. They were great: nice and squishy when dry, chewy even when soaked, and just bready enough.

The next round was from the fancy store, where they don't use any of that fake stuff. They were awful. Dry and stiff when dry, gluey when soaked. Almost bad enough to keep me from having a barbecue sandwich every day for the last four days. Almost. So beware! If you're a no-crappy-ingredients stickler, don't even try to go the squishy-bread route. You'd be better off with a nice yuppie bread.

Innovation-Free Coleslaw
Serves 8-10

1 savoy cabbage, finely sliced or shredded
1 small onion, finely chopped
3-4 carrots, grated
1.5 cups Hellman's mayonnaise
1/4 cup vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp ground pepper
salt to taste

Mix. Let sit 2 hours or up to overnight.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Month Seven: Part Three

It was hard to tell, on my scratchy cell phone, whether the nurse had said, "You are not diabetic" or "You are now diabetic." I decided to go with positive thinking, and said, "Yay!" figuring she'd probably just ask why I was so excited to be diabetic if that was indeed the case.

Luckily, not. Not diabetic. I have medical permission to go eat doughnuts. And I will celebrate that permission with a nice apple and some lovely almond butter.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Month Seven: Part Two

I have the one-hour glucose test to screen for gestational diabetes today. It involves drinking a sugary substance, waiting an hour, and then having your blood sugar checked. I've heard that the test can make you feel horrible and the drink is disgusting, so I wanted a little more information. As usual, I turned to the internet. And I'm finally wising up. Instead of googling "glucose test disgusting", I googled "glucose test not that bad." And what do you know, there are people for whom it's not that bad! And that's all I need to know about it before I have to do it.

5/1 (later...)
And the verdict is... not that bad! Really! The drink was not tasty, not something I'd order in a restaurant, but do-able. It was about a cup of very very sweet, slightly syrupy, slightly carbonated soda. And if it made me feel weird at all, the weirdness was indistinguishable from my base level of pregnancy weirdness, so I couldn't tell. Apparently some places have flavors, but this was just Sugar Flavor, and a real waste of calories as far as I'm concerned. I understand the need for ingesting a specific, measured amount of sugar for this test. But in this age of standardization and international corporations, why couldn't the standard measure be a certain number of glazed doughnuts? I'm sure that Dunkin makes his "donuts" pretty standard everywhere. They could've given me a choice between drinking their stuff and bringing a sticky dozen with me to my appointment. One for the midwife, one for the lab tech, one for the nurse, one for the receptionist, eight for me. Maybe I'll bring that up the next time I'm in the office.

Blood sugar affects mood, right? Pregnant women tend to worry, right? So, a pregnant woman with screwy blood sugar is likely to be both irritable and anxious already. As such, the call from the nurse, with the news that the glucose screening test has been soundly and decisively flunked, is not likely to result in a measured, reasonable response. It's much more likely to result in some tears, a certain amount of slamming things around, and possibly also a smattering of oaths. Like this one: crap. And this one [censored]. And this one: [extra censored]. And then back to: crap. But don't worry. I held off swearing until I hung up the phone.

This flunk doesn't mean I have gestational diabetes, it just means I probably do. It also means I have to take another, more serious, test next week (no food for 11 hours, followed by a blood draw and a big glass of that awesome drink-that-isn't-doughnuts, followed by three more hours of fasting and a few more blood draws). I feel jittery and weak if I don't eat for two hours. How is fourteen hours of fasting going to feel? Again: crap.

If I were feeling more like myself, I'm sure I could take this development in stride and just do what I had to do without making a big deal of it. But I'm not, so I'm not. I'm having a hard time eating again today, and it's driving me crazy to be both hungry and unable to swallow anything without really concentrating. Tiny bites help, as do crunchy fruits and vegetables, but it's hard to get a lot of sustenance out of nibbling radishes and grapes.

Well, if I do have gestational diabetes, maybe it explains all this energy level and appetite nonsense. If I start eating three (!) eggs for breakfast every day, maybe I'll finally get that pregnant energy surge everyone talks about.


Month Seven: Part One

There are a bunch of things that have been floating around in my head lately, waiting for me to recall them, compose them into actual stories, and post them here. I'm kind of skipping that middle step.

He sings and plays with his head leaning against my belly. He's worked out how to play a Fugazi song on the piano, but he makes up new, less suicidey lyrics for the baby. We both love it when she kicks her father in the head.

Worrying about the baby. I hope she's doing well. I wish she could call, email, send a photo. All we get is the sound of her heartbeat once a month, and movements that could equally well be described as happy acrobatics or pained seizures, for all I can tell. Only in retrospect can they be described as perfectly normal and good.

At the end of the day, I get tired from being so damn pregnant all the time. So, lie down to rest. Think about how tiring parenthood will be. Wonder how we will ever manage. Despair. Realize that this depressing thought never occurs to me when I'm not collapsed on the couch. Realize it might be okay.

Two nights ago, I dreamed I had twins. A dark-haired girl and a fair-haired boy. Last night I dreamed I had a little boy named Ali, with milk chocolate skin and dark chocolate hair. In my dream, we didn't wonder much about how he could be such a dark child of such pasty parents. He was a happy, giggly little guy, who could stand by the time he was two days old.

I still half think that I can take off this pregnancy like a fat suit, just for a few hours, just for a sec. There is no more flopping down on the couch. There is no jumping up when my sweetheart gets home. It takes a while to lower myself onto the pre-arranged pillows, and it takes even longer to get up again.

He says, "Why don't you talk about me much on your blog? It sounds like you're doing this all on your own; like you're going to be a single mother." Alright then, let me turn down the griping and sarcasm and make a full report and a clean breast: he is patient and loving and can make me laugh even when I'm irritable and filled with heartburn. Also, he is strong and brave and good and makes dinner when I give up. All these things are true.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Month Six: More Bonus Material!

Stroller Search, Part I: The Dithering
I like to think of myself as sensible about money. I trained myself pretty well in the lean years during and after college, and I still hesitate and consider before spending money. Well, hello Humbling Experience. Here comes The Stroller Decision.

As I have learned in my endless baby-gear googling, there are two kinds of strollers for infants: the suburban strollers and the city strollers. A suburban stroller looks like an SUV (huge, lots of molded plastic, cupholders for everyone), and assumes you have an SUV to carry it around in (it's huge even when it's folded, and it's heavy). They come upholstered with cute fabrics that look like nothing I would ever wear or buy (wow, look at that. I can't figure out how to say that without sounding like a real bitch. True Self revealed, I guess). And they cost around $200.

The city strollers, on the other hand, are like high-end camping gear: lots of metal tubes and technical-looking fabric, in colors like orange and red and black, and generally lighter weight and more compact than the suburban strollers. And they're in the neighborhood of $900. Yes, nine. Nine hundred dollars. And you can spend even more without breaking a sweat.

There are a few differences in ease-of-use between the two kinds, but it's mostly a matter of cost and aesthetics. And there's no way around it: $700 is a ridiculous amount of money to spend just to look cool. On the other hand, I can easily imagine just how grouchy I'd be pushing a frilly SUV around the neighborhood for the next few years, and a part of my frugality has always been to not spend money on the cheaper thing that will make you so crazy (or be such bad quality) that you end up ditching it for the more expensive thing in the end. Of course, I'm usually applying that philosophy to decisions like measuring cups and underwear, where the difference is in the five dollar range.

The less decisive I feel about this, the more research I do online, and the more ridiculous things I learn about adjustable handles, degree of recline, solid vs. inflatable wheels, harness adjustability, and who has the rare, sought-after "sunset" color in stock.

I'm tempted to go to Home Depot and check out the wheels and pipes and hardware, just to see if we could make our own. Of course, it would end up weighing as much as an actual SUV, and either wouldn't be foldable or would be a deathtrap for our beloved firstborn, but it would be so cool...

So, circles. I'm going around in them (tight turning radius, smooth ride, solid rubber wheels).

Stroller Search, Part II: The End?
We spent a day test-driving strollers, at both the suburban big box and the upscale neighborhood yuppie-baby-mart. I was hoping to have some kind of breakthrough; to learn something in the real world that had escaped me online. I would have been equally happy with either, "This one's not that bad! And only $170!" or, "This one is clearly worth the extra hundreds of dollars. Why, we could all live in it!" But alas, no. I was left with the same two feelings: "They're just so ugly" on the one hand and "HOW much money?" on the other.

The helpful shop assistant had just wrapped up her third stroller-spiel in the fancy store when a passing mom said, "Can I give you some advice?" She had 6-month-old twins in a stroller and a look of sympathy on her face. The three of us turned to her politely, expecting a real-life endorsement of one of the candidates in question, but she said, "Don't get any of them." The shop assistant's face fell a bit (although she recovered with impressive speed), but the two of us suddenly became much more interested in what she had to say. She explained that she'd been through three or four different strollers already, and the most useful thing was none of them, but the simple, cheap, wheeled frame that the babies' car seats just snapped into. By the time our baby has outgrown the infant car seat, she said, we'd have a better idea of what stroller features are important to us and we'd be able to test drive strollers with the actual kid. In the meantime the frame (called, snappily, the snap'n'go) is lightweight, cheap, and compact. We could have kissed her. Instead, we thanked her and the shop assistant and skipped out of the store with wallets and marital harmony intact. Snap'n'go, here we come. And a year from now, maybe there'll be an attractive, lightweight, compact stroller for less than $300. Or maybe, through a haze of spit-up and sleeplessness, I just won't care quite as much.

Month Six: Deleted Scenes!

I have two images living in my mind lately: number one is a pregnant woman in heels and a (maternity) business suit, working at a high powered Office Job, taking good care of her family on evenings and weekends. Image number two is that damn woman in the rice paddy that I keep hearing about: one kid strapped to her back, pausing for 10 minutes to give birth to her next kid before getting back to work. These images tend to pop up just as I lie down for yet another little rest.

I had a big deadline last Friday (which, for procrastinators like me means a lot of work in a little time), hosted a book club meeting Friday, taught a class Saturday, hosted a dinner Sunday, and was back at work Monday morning. In planning for this crazy week, I knew that if I pushed myself as hard as I could, I'd just work myself into a worthless lump, so I made a Plan. I'd work a few hours every morning, take a long siesta midday, work a few more hours in the afternoon or evening, and maybe achieve a balance of health and productivity that way. Well, I did make it through the week, met my deadline, taught the class, and had a nice time at the social events, but it's now Wednesday and I'm still feeling crappy. So crappy, I decided it was worth the ten bucks and the loss of quality in produce to get groceries delivered. So crappy, I decided to take the day completely off. What the hell is wrong with me?

Well, to be perfectly honest, it's not a complete mystery. My pregnant body obviously has more serious needs for food, water, and rest than it used to, but at the same time it's somehow gotten a lot less demanding about those needs. My hungry/thirsty/tired cues are way more subtle than they used to be. If I'm focusing on something else and don't notice the tiny shift in sensation that (it turns out) means,"Fooooood! Foodfoodfoodfood nowwwwwww!" then the little twinge goes away and does not return. The same for thirsty and tired. So I carry on, feeling fine, eating/drinking/resting only as it occurs to me to do so and the chickens don't come home to roost until days later, when suddenly, I'm too tired to be hungry, too thirsty to eat, and too hungry to fall asleep.

Which I guess is why I do the best when I'm just farting around, being unproductive, with plenty of mental space to register those twinges. If I want to be a high-powered rice paddy executive, it looks like I have to be more proactive in the whole keeping-body-and-soul-together department. Crap.

So, I'm spending the day in bed, blogging. Lucky you.

Month Six

When the baby moves, it feels a lot like a muscle spasm—kind of a flippy twitch. And she shifts around a lot, so sometimes I feel the muscle-spasmy feeling on the right, sometimes the left, sometimes high, sometimes low. I love feeling her move. But the other day, my brain said, "Hello baby!" before I realized that no, no matter how smart and strong she's getting, that's not the baby kicking me three inches above my right knee.

I've been feeling and seeing the baby move for a while now, but today was the first day that I really realized I could feel her when she wasn't moving too. She gave a big jump, and then settled down. I was watching my belly, and noticed that one side was sticking out a little more than the other. I put my hand there, and there was definite resistance—more than on the other side. So I took the opportunity to give her a little back rub. Or... butt rub? head rub? Who's to say?

Now that we know that she's (probably) a girl, I'm much more tempted to look at baby clothes. Our plan has always been to only buy the basics before she's born (diapers, union suits), because parent friends of ours have all warned us about the onslaught of tiny adorable outfits and toys that will arrive. But it's hard to resist shopping. I'm a pregnant American woman, with nurture and nature pushing me from both directions to stock up! Nest! Prepare! Shop! So I spend a little time every week looking at tiny adorable outfits online, I admit.

But today I found a good way to talk myself down from the ledge of internet shopping. I was all ready to click away twenty two hard-earned dollars, when I looked down and asked my belly if she needed some socks. It instantly became clear to me that not only has she not attained full person-hood yet, not only is she no bigger than a blind kitten, she's not even coming out until July, when her feet will be plenty warm until at least September. I have months and months before she'll need socks.

Although, thankfully, since that last ultrasound, I have been able to turn off the morbid voice inside me that had been keeping me from buying socks by saying, "But what if she doesn't have two healthy feet? What then? Don't tempt fate! No limb-dependent purchases!"

Weird Little Thing About Pregnancy #476:
Imagine a non-inflated puffer fish (jalapeno-shaped, non-protruding spikes). Now imagine what happens to those spikes when the puffer fish puffs: they go from flat against the skin to sticking straight out, right? Now apply that principle to the fine hairs on a pregnant woman's belly. With each growth spurt, I develop perpendicular belly hairs. Within a day or so, everything adjusts to the new size, and they relax again. And over and over. Navel gazing? Me? Why, yes, now that you mention it. Quite a lot.

Month Five

I found a great quote on another blog, referring to newborn care, "Buck up, cookie. Whatever it is, it's probably not your fault." I'm seriously considering learning how to cross-stitch so I can make a dopey little pillow for the baby's room, to gaze at as I try to calm a tiny squalling tomato-faced infant.

These days, if I'm lying back on the couch at around 8pm, the baby has a little dance party. Strongest kicks all day. My favorite thing to do is just lie there and watch my belly jump.

I'm kind of blown away by how little energy I have these days. I thought the middle trimester was supposed to be all about full speed ahead energy. It did come into my head that since babies need a lot of sleep just after they're born, they probably need a lot of rest before they're born too, and I was feeling better about all my loafing. And then I remembered that, of course, before they're born, just like after, babies can sleep while their mothers climb mountains. At least in theory. Crap. Will that realization make me get up off the couch? No. Will it make me feel useless? I'm afraid so.

Ultrasound: it's (probably) a girl! "She" was sitting with her legs and feet all tucked up under her as the ultrasound tech was trying to invade her privacy, so we're not completely sure. But most importantly, all her limbs and organs look fine! Hooray! And we have to go back for another ultrasound in May, so maybe she'll be less shy then, and we can get some confirmation. We weren't planning on a lot of pink lace and ruffles anyway, and we don't want to commit to a name before we meet her, so it's mainly just for our own curiosity.

Earlier today, I was having a lot of painless contractions (my belly kept going from water-balloony to bowling-bally), and neither lying down nor taking a warm bath stopped them, so I called the midwife's office. She wasn't in, but they got me in to see an obstetrician right away. And let me put it this way: if I had made it through this whole pregnancy without hearing a medical professional say, "Perhaps you're being a little hyper-vigilant," it just wouldn't be me. I love hearing people with stethoscopes around their necks say, "Everything looks just fine."

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

My Brother's a Genius

And he knows me very well. So well, he sent me the link to: How To Make Dishes Out of Bacon.

I'll let you know if I try it. Return the favor, wouldn't you?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Blogging of the Weak (nothing here but a link to someone else's creativity)

I am not a fan of the Garfield comic strip.
I am a fan of the Garfield Minus Garfield comic strip.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Week of Healthy Delicious

In my second trimester, I've mysteriously developed the eating habits and food preferences of a two-year-old child. I can only imagine that this is nature's way of preparing me for the actual two-year-old child who is fast approaching me like a bowling ball bearing down on the poor, oblivious pins.

With my newfound two-year-oldness, I go from perfectly fine to desperately starving in about four seconds, and I Must Eat Now, except I don't want any of That because it looks yucky. And even when I find something that seems appetizing, I can only eat about a half a cup of it before it turns to ashes in my mouth, and I'm so done with eating. I get desperately hungry again in another twenty minutes, and the whole cycle starts over. This is driving me crazy. It's also driving me tired and grumpy and ill-nourished.

My old way of cooking and eating was to have three good meals each day, with a heavy reliance on leftovers. These days, I eat six or seven times a day, and I get tired of food a lot quicker than it gets used up. This leads directly to my eating more snack foods and fewer real foods than usual, just when I should be eating the healthiest diet of my life. And on top of this, my habitual cooking time of late afternoon is now the time of day at which my energy is the lowest. It feels like a lose-lose-lose situation.

So after some careful deliberation and a close look at the budget, we've decided to hire a round-the-clock, seven-days-a-week personal chef. She's been instructed to have a wide variety of healthy, delicious meals at her fingertips, any of which can be ready within moments. She just got back from her first trip to the grocery store, and things are looking up in the food department.

This personal chef is, of course, me. I realized today that if I can't figure out a way to feed myself better, I'm not going to be much good for much else. So I made a plan. I made a list of the healthiest, most delicious foods I could think of, and planned eight different meals around them. I'll do as much pre-preparation as I can, so that whenever the hunger strikes, I can be with moments of Real Foods of Great Variety.

In case this works out really well, and gets us a delicious, healthy week of eating with not too much fuss, I'm keeping track. And so both you and I know where to find this list in the future, I'm sharing with The Good Ol' Internet. Here's the grocery list and menu plan:*

8 whole wheat tortillas
8 whole wheat mini pita breads
1 box whole wheat angel hair pasta
1 loaf multi-grain bread
1 frozen ball of whole wheat pizza dough

2 lbs flank steak
12 oz mozzarella
1 lb cheddar
7 oz whole-milk Fage yogurt
2 19-oz cans white beans
6 eggs
1 lb sliced deli ham**
8 oz hummus

2 avocados
4 red peppers
2 sweet onions
1 lb baby spinach
4 tomatoes
1 head lettuce
1 bunch carrots
5 zucchinis
1 can tomato sauce
1 meyer lemon
1 head garlic

Prep Work:
Chop a whole head of garlic, and keep it in olive oil.
Broil and slice the flank steak.
Grate the mozzarella and the cheddar.
Marinate the beans in lemon zest, garlic, oregano, and olive oil.
Wash and dry the spinach and the lettuce.
Slice and broil half the zucchini, half the peppers, and half an onion.
Wash and chop the rest of those vegetables.
Peel the carrots.
Divide the pizza dough into 4, stretch and pre-bake

Steak Salad (lettuce, spinach, onion, peppers, carrots, sliced steak)
Tacos (beans, steak, peppers, cheddar) and Guacamole (avocado, onion)
Roasted Veg and Ham Panini (zucchini, peppers, onions, ham, cheddar, bread)
Frittata (ham, spinach, zucchini, eggs) and Salad (lettuce, onions, tomato)
Pita Pockets (pita, hummus, flank steak, yogurt sauce, spinach, carrot, tomato)
Wraps (tortillas, lettuce, onions, spinach, beans, yogurt sauce)
Pasta (tomato sauce, zucchini, carrots, cheddar) and Salad (spinach, onions, beans)
Pizza (dough, tomato sauce, mozzarella, ham, peppers)

*In the interests of maximum tastiness, nutrition and variety, I've all but abandoned my usual goals of seasonality and affordability. This is a more expensive and less sustainable way of eating than I prefer, but you have to pick your battles, and this week, my battle is to get enough good food into me to make a healthy baby and a mama that has the strength to pick her head up off the couch. Don't worry, I'll make sure the kid feels guilty about it forever. You can rely on me.

**Yes, yes. Lunch meat, pregnant = pestilence, death, blah blah blah. I will heat it thoroughly before eating and somehow keep myself from munching it cold out of the fridge.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Month Four

The Pregnant Hunger: it is here. I woke up this "morning" at 4:30, starving. I went down to the kitchen, zapped a hot dog in a tortilla, and ate it along with a bunch of grapes, in about three minutes. On my way back to bed, I passed my husband, just getting up. Señor Stalwart is getting up at 5 these days, partly so we can go to bed at the same ridiculously early hour. Thinking of calling us after 8:30 in the evening? Think again.

The wee-hours-snack is now a pretty firmly established part of my routine, and the house is cold at three and four in the morning. You'd think I could just keep crackers on the nightstand, wouldn't you? Nope, has to be cereal and milk these days. I'm thinking about keeping a little thermos of milk by the bed, next to a bowl of dry cereal. Or maybe I'll make up a little bedroll in the kitchen by the fridge.

I still have a hard time eating a full meal, or even wanting to eat sometimes. I feel hungry, I know I should eat, but nothing that I think of seems appetizing. Although sometimes I'll see a picture or hear a description of food and develop an instant craving for about half a cup of it. I really need to make myself a little Heathy Foods picture book to browse. I'm up six pounds now, though, so it seems like I'm getting enough.

Along with a nice round little belly, I've developed off-and-on cramps in my sides. Stabby, stabby cramps. Apparently they're caused by stretching ligaments, which makes sense given all the abdominal renovations going on. Lying down helps, so I spent a few hours in bed yesterday afternoon. It was warm, comfortable, stab-free heaven.

What with the lying down during the day and lying awake at night post-snack, I've been reading an awful lot. So far, the almost complete works of Terry Pratchett and Jane Austen, alternately. Witty prose, appealing characters, eventful plots, and happy endings. Perfection. What other authors exist in the same Venn-diagram space as Austen and Pratchett? I'm running out of books.

Imagine getting a big, energetic new goldfish at the pet store. It comes in a plastic bag of water, right? Now imagine that taut bag of fish and water nestled in your pelvis. Feel the fish flipping around in there? Yeah, me too. I felt the first flips a few weeks ago, and I wasn't sure if they were The Goldfish That Is Our Child or The Goldfish That Was Last Night's Dinner, but now I'm sure. I feel it several times a day, especially in the evening, when the baby and I are draped on the couch and the man of the house is making us dinner. When I make dinner, there's not quite as much flippy action, which could be taken a couple of ways. My preferred interpretation is, "The baby loves it when you make dinner. I wouldn't mind cooking, but think of the child!"

Feeling movement has been a strange new part of being pregnant. It creeped me out a little at first, but now I'm used to it, and my instinctive, worried response is to wonder if the baby is doing a jolly little dance or if it's kicking at the walls in annoyance. This pointless level of concern for my baby's happiness does not bode well for my future as a mother. I can see it now: every room filled with discarded plastic toys, half-eaten candy and new puppies, all because I couldn't bear to see the little angel's lower lip tremble. I'm going to be awesome.

Two things I heard this week:
"Wow, you're really big for only four and a half months along!"
"You're the cutest pregnant lady I've ever seen."
The only thing I believed? The former. The only thing I want to hear again? The latter.

As a woman currently living through Things People Feel They Should Say To A Pregnant Woman, let me share some advice. Unless you have a well-established tradition of affectionate mutual taunting with the pregnant woman before you, any observation about her appearance that doesn't include the words glowing, wonderful or gorgeous should be kept to yourself, bub. Especially things that include words like tired, huge, whale-like or spotty. You can safely bet that she's aware of the novelty of her appearance, and doesn't need you to point it out. Because of this, a loving, supportive and patently false compliment is likely to be very welcome indeed.

Being pregnant is like trading in your old, dependable body for a new model that, while it has lots of exciting new features, is buggy, unpredictable, and crashes at inconvenient moments. It's true that there's lots of tech support out there, but most of it tends to fall into two not-very-helpful categories: Impending Doom (also known as You're Doing It Wrong) and Fluffy Rainbow Kitties (also known as Don't Worry Your Pretty Little Head About It).

Friday, February 22, 2008

Month Three

Second ultrasound: the baby is huge! Well, two inches, head to butt. But it's twice as big as last time! We saw it wiggle and flex and wave its little limbs, and we saw fingers! Five fingers! We're hoping for about twice that many, but five's a really good start. We saw the baby's profile, and so far, the baby has its father's nose: very small and cute. Whew.

This week, my craving has been grapefruit. I've had two whole ones already today, and I could really go for another one. I try not to grunt as I devour them, but I'm not always successful.

Apparently I'm over the grapefruit craving. Had half a one this morning, and it was just a nice piece of fruit, not the Amazing Citrus Adventure it's been for the past couple weeks. I don't have a big appetite in general these days—I eat, but I don't get too excited about it. So, in the grocery store this morning, not in a hurry, I just pushed the cart up and down and looked at all the various foods, waiting for something to jump out and be my new best friend. No surprise: beef hotdogs. Surprise: baked beans. I think I need iron.

I had trouble getting dressed this morning. Hmm. Maybe I really am pregnant. Luckily, I had a meeting of my Council of Advisors tonight (well, my book club, same thing), and they gave me the list of yeahs and nays in the world of maternity clothes. Good: Gap, Target, and Old Navy. Bad: Motherhood Maternity.

How am I feeling these days? Bloated, gassy, heartburny, and alternately cranky and grumpy. The levels of crank and grump are unprecedented. Despite the fact that I've never been known for my willpower, I've always assumed that my sunny mood was thanks to an intentionally healthy outlook and a good dose of self-control in times of trial. Turns out I have nothing to do with it. It is a bestowed gift, and can apparently be unbestowed.

When eating makes you feel bad (see gas, bloat, and burn above), it can be hard to work up much of an appetite. These days, eating and cooking are tedious and unbelievably frequent necessities. I am not used to this.

I want to go live all by myself in a small, plain shack and eat small, plain meals. In other words, Prenatal Depression: I have some. It sucks. I have decided not to implement the Shack Plan, so instead I slouch around the house, growling and spitting. In good news, I still enjoy chopping vegetables and working in my studio. Everything else? Not that much.

You can make instant mashed potatoes with all milk (no water). They're fine that way, and extra-calciumy. And also good cold, for second breakfasts. I still haven't gained any weight, so I'm having as many breakfasts as I want.

I was better! Chipper, energetic, happy. Then I stayed up late to watch as the BBC messed with Jane Austen and got only 8 hours of sleep. Turns out my new good mood was dependent on the 10 to 11 hours of sleep I'd been getting every night. I'm going to take a nap.

Month Two

I'm finally starting to feel a little gross. It's kind of reassuring to have a sign of pregnancy beyond all the peed-on sticks. Yeah, I saved them. You have a comment about that?

I have a craving today for gooey macaroni and cheese. But I'm not sure it counts, because it's not like I've ever NOT wanted gooey mac and cheese. So I don't know. I do know that I got two boxes of Annie's Deluxe at the store. Oh boy.

Later... Ooogh. It takes 20 minutes to make a box of Annie's Deluxe. It takes 3 minutes to inhale a third of it. Now I don't feel so good.

I'm trying to stay detached and accepting about this process, especially before we see a heartbeat. Last week, feeling fairly well, I was calmly thinking that I'll just take it as it comes and experience whatever happens day by day. This attitude is much harder to maintain with nausea and fatigue and epic gas to contend with. This morning I was thinking, "Feeling crappy sucks. I better get a really awesome baby out of this. If this doesn't work out, I'm going to be so pissed." Maybe I should start meditating.

Here's what might work for nausea: Drinking ginger tea or lemon soda.
Here's what's not working: Imagining I'm drinking lemon soda.
Since we don't have any lemon soda, maybe I should make some ginger tea.
Later... It works! Ginger tea works!

My favorite food these days is cold, congealed oatmeal. No joke. I flat out love it. I'd rather have it for breakfast than a fancy pastry or eggs and bacon. I can only get half a bowl of oatmeal down at a time, so I eat half hot and half cold, later. It is fantastic.

First ultrasound! There are two hearts in me! An increase of 100%! Crazy! And also, the baby looks like a lump of oatmeal, which seems appropriate.

I've gotten used to the nausea, and it goes away as soon as I eat something. My favorite thing these days is a bowl of cheerios right before bed. Just the smell of them makes my mouth water.

My folks were here for Christmas, and they said their style of pregnancy and childbirth was Clueless Hippie, which worked out really well for them. My style, apparently, is Over-Informed Geek Girl (no surprise).

Earlier today, I said I'd gotten used to the nausea. Well, I should amend that to: I've gotten used to dealing with nausea when I'm at home. Shortly after I wrote that, I made the mistake of leaving the house without proper preparation, and so found myself marching around on errands, not really sick enough to give up and go home, but plenty sick enough to wear a truly wretched look on my face and hate everyone who dared cross my path. I really have to make myself a bag that holds a tiny bottle of lemon soda and three triscuits. I know, a flask! Every pregnant lady should carry a flask. Although, by the time I look more pregnant, I'll probably be over the nausea, so I wouldn't get much real shock value out of it.

Month One

In an ironic twist, I got pregnant right as my Month of Every Day Posting began back in November. Trying to come up with something to say every day without talking about that newsiest and most distracting of life events was a challenge. But it was all for the best, because now I have the chance to edit my stream-of-consciousness journal with the benefit of a little hindsight. So, read on! Catch up! But first a warning: it might be edited, but it's still the navel-gazing reflections of a woman who's pregnant for the first time. Grains of salt? Please?

It looks like my first symptom of pregnancy is the development of the legendary Mothervision. Usually manifested as "eyes in the back of your head," mine is more like "can make out the faintest of pale blue lines on a pregnancy test." Yesterday, only I could really see it. Today, both of us can see it, but it's still pretty faint. Probably only visible to people who are genetically related to the line-producing blob. I'm cautiously over the moon.

Over the last three days, I've taken four more pregnancy tests. By now, the line is probably visible from space. Hello, dear parasite.

It's November. Therefore, I'm chilly, and I find myself browsing newborn legwarmers and hats and cozy little shirts online. Forgetting, apparently, that if all goes well and the baby comes in July, it'll be plenty warm for at least a couple months. Maybe I should just go put on another sweater.

I'm traveling for Thanksgiving, and still feeling very well, although everyone is clearly ready to be helpful and supportive if I start feeling feeble. They were all happy when I decided to take a nap in the middle of the day yesterday, although I think I was just Transcontinental Travel Tired, not Pregnant Tired.

My main inclination is to cook all day, quietly, by myself. This is the perfect mood to be in on the day after Thanksgiving, when there's soup to be made and everyone else is happily lolling on the couch.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Fecha de Caducidad*

As I've mentioned before, my mother's a great baker. Because of this, she never feels completely at home in a new place until she has all the ingredients necessary to throw together a couple loaves of bread, some biscuits, and a few cookies at short notice. So when she's vacationing in a place with a kitchen, she'll stock it appropriately, and proceed to bake up a storm for the duration of her residence. I've been lucky enough over the last few years to have her vacation near me, so not only have I enjoyed more baked goods than usual, I've inherited her vacation pantry once the trip was over. Win/win. And also, now, after several years of this, a home pantry with four cans of baking powder in it. This is three and a half cans more than would be reasonable given my rate of consumption. Even if I made biscuits every month, four cans of baking powder would last me slightly less than twenty years, if there were no science-fair volcanoes to contend with (or is that baking soda?).

I wanted to clear the decks in the pantry, so three of those cans had to go. However, I've heard that baking powder can get stale, so some experimentation was in order. Apparently, the way you test is to dump a teaspoon of baking powder into half a cup of hot water, and root for it to burst into fizzy action immediately. So I turned on the kettle, set out four little bowls and four littler bowls, and doled the teaspoons out into the latter (I admit to having a pretty comprehensive collection of small dishes, and to using them at the slightest provocation). I poured half a cup of steaming water into each of the little bowls, and then realized I'd need an extra limb for the next step: Fizz Race! I dumped the baking sodas into the waters as simultaneously as I could manage, and learned something right away: Baking Powder Lasts Forever. They were all promptly, extremely, identically fizzy.

So I just kept the one with the prettiest label (good old Rumford) and the moral of the story is this: if you have a nagging concern that occurs to you in the middle of the night, that your baking ingredients might be stale, and your tea cakes might be a little on the leaden side and it's just that no one wants to tell you, don't worry. Your baking powder's probably fine.

*when we were in Spain, we saw "fecha de caducidad" on a food package and, curious, looked up caducidad in the spanglish dictionary. The translation? Caducity. Gee, thanks. Well, once we got to an English dictionary, we learned that "fecha de caducidad" translates into the poetic "date of senility" or, of course, expiration date.