Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sundry Thoughts

  • Grace has been really great with her new little sister-- super affectionate and interested and loving.  Sometimes a little too affectionate, actually...  She tries to be gentle, but she is an almost-3-year-old after all and doesn't quite get it.  Boy, is she devoted to Violet, though.  Our days have been filled with a constant refrain of "I want to kiss her little cheek" and "Where is my tiny sister?" and "Where is her little ear?" and "Where is her OTHER little ear?"
  • I am working on Violet's birth story and will post it soon, in case you're the sort of person who likes that kind of thing.  I most definitely am that sort of person, by the way; birth stories are some sort of intersection of feminine experience and rubbernecking that are compelling to me.
  • Have I mentioned what a profound relief it is to not be pregnant anymore?  Good heavens, it is nice. By way of illustration, in my last month or two of pregnancy I was growing more and more convinced that our mattress was in imminent need of replacement.  Now, however, it seems just fine!
  • We sometimes call Violet our little chicken baby because if you hold her upright on your chest when she is in the mood to eat, she will bob her head up and down on your shoulder in a manner quite reminiscent of a chicken pecking the ground for food.  "Bawk, bawk, bawk..."
  • At other times, we call Violet our little piglet baby because she snorts.  She often snorts when she cries, and it is a little funny to hear her pitiful newborn wails interspersed with porcine snorts.  She also sometimes snorts when she is seriously, excitedly ready to eat and is bobbing her head from side to side trying to latch on.  Violet has had some nasal congestion since she was born (one whole week ago) and that seems to be the source of her pigginess. 
  • Today is the last day of 2008.  How did that happen?!  Our New Year's Eve plans involve diaper changes and midnight nursing sessions, I guess.  Maybe I'll sneak in a glass of wine between feedings...  It is pretty amazing to reflect on 2008 and all the changes that the year has seen: selling a house, buying a new house, getting pregnant, a cross-country move, and going from a family of 3 to a family of 4.  It's been a year of change and goodbyes and adjustment, but also a year of immense blessings.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

In Love

I am feeling blissed out right now on newborn deliciousness.  There's just nothing like the curled-up soft warmth of a tiny new person, and Violet is amazingly beautiful and sweet and wonderful.  She has a wise ancient face full of inscrutable ponderings, an effect that's intensified by her little wrinkled hands and feet that look like they belong to an old man.  Or maybe she has more of a scrunched-up alien monkey face, but I feel just about as full of love and oxytocin and tenderness at the second description as the first.  Her eyes have already turned to a dark, dark brown like Robert's. When she is awake, she gazes with their lovely chocolate-y depths at us or her sister dancing around or the Christmas tree with an intense mixture of befuddlement and wonder.  We kept expecting Grace's eyes to turn brown in those early months because of recessive genes and all but they have remained a lovely blue, so it looks like I will have one blue-eyed girl and one brown-eyed girl.  This is an idea which charms me excessively.

We went to the pediatrician yesterday for a weight check and Violet was 7 lbs 8 oz, maintaining or up just a touch from her weight when we left the hospital.  Boy, do those less than 8 lbs feel floaty and gossamer...  All of the newborn clothes seem gigantic on her and just like Grace, she sometimes pulls her arms into the torso of her clothes so that we pick her up and find the sleeves empty.  In contrast to her round cheeks, her legs and arms and feet and bottom are all lanky and scrawny with the same newborn spareness that Grace had.  She waves her arms and legs in slow, uncoordinated undulations that suggest life underwater and kneads the air with her long, slender fingers.  Her tininess is giving me a lot of cognitive dissonance about Grace's size; all of the sudden Grace's hands and head and feet seem absolutely gigantic, but then I'll see Grace following Rob around and realize that she too is still a very small person.  Rob and I are engrossed in the lives of these two small people right now, hunkered down in the house in a hazy, sleepy, mostly tranquil existence.

And now I shall moan about my boobs.  AAAAAAH!  The pain!  No, no, I exaggerate for dramatic effect; I am not doing that bad.  I had a hard time getting started breastfeeding Grace because of pain due to latch issues.  We ended up at a lactation consultant who helped our latch problems a LOT and things started to turn around about Day 8 or 9 and I was pretty much pain-free by Grace's 3rd week of life.  As Violet and I started out breastfeeding, I was trying to be so, so careful about her latch but I still have ended up with a not insignificant amount of pain that I'm still dealing with.  Why, oh why?  Lots of the hard-core breastfeeding people say that if you're doing right, it shouldn't hurt at all, but I don't know...  When they are so tiny, their mouths are so little and they have so little head control that it seems nearly impossible to have a perfect latch every time, and they nurse so frequently that any latch problems at all can result in pain and whatnot.  Anyway, my issues are nonnegligible but much more manageable this time around, not in the least because I know that it will get better in a matter of days and what to do in the meantime.  I've gotten out my very favorite breastfeeding book in the whole wide world to refresh myself on what to do, and I'm reminded how awesome that book is.  I cannot sing its praises highly enough; it has such realistic, straightforward ideas and expectations.  And it has the best written description of how to achieve a good latch I've ever come across.  (For more visual learners, the authors have a website with animations and videos and whatnot.)  Anyway, it's Day 6 and I think I've turned the corner and am starting to get better, and I am optimistic that I'll be pain-free in another week or so.  In the meantime, I'm being crazy vigilant about Violet's latch, keeping lots of lanolin and this stuff on myself to promote healing, and above all, most importantly, WITHOUT FAIL, making sure my boobs are never at risk for a direct hit from the shower. 


Friday, December 26, 2008

Violet's Birth Video

Here's a little glimpse into the past few days for us, from feeding Grace breakfast before heading to the hospital to settling back in at home Christmas morning.  There's not nearly as much footage of the actual labor as with Grace's video, but this labor was only 1/4 as long so we think that makes sense.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Violet Noëlle arrived on December 22 at 3:33pm, weighing 7 lb, 13 oz and measuring 19 and 3/4 inches.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Birthday to Robert

Wall-to-wall carpet

The day Robert came into the world is a happy, happy one indeed.  It's not looking likely that he'll share it with his second daughter, so today we can just celebrate him.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

39 Weeks Or So

Julia's belly at 39 weeks

Well, here we are, mere days away from my due date...  Thursday night, I really really really thought I was going into labor.  I was having a lot of contractions and for the first time, they felt more like how "real" contractions are described with pain in my lower back and radiating down to my thighs, GI-upset-type feelings, and what I would describe as actual discomfort, instead of just the Braxton-Hicks tightening.  I felt sort of excited and slept terribly, but THEN!  I started having to pee all the time!  And then it started to hurt to pee!  By the time I got up for the day Friday morning, I knew I had another UTI, and I just sort of hoped that somehow my cervix was making progress as well.  I had my regular weekly midwife check-up that morning so I trotted off and peed in a cup for them for the millionth time and found out that yes, I had another UTI and no, I wasn't any more dilated than I was 5 days before.  It's 1 cm, which is something, and more than I was ever dilated with Grace before they started me on pitocin, so I won't complain too much, but I was disappointed that my night of less-fake-seeming contractions didn't do a darned thing.

I can't believe that I've had 2 UTIs in as many weeks, considering that I've never had one EVER before this, but I'm pretty sure that it is in fact a whole new infection, not the old one hanging on; I felt entirely fine for over a week and they tested me in that week, showing that the bacterial coast was clear.  I have a new round of antibiotics to kick this new infection, and I will gratefully acknowledge that it hasn't been nearly as dramatic an illness.  My symptoms have been mostly limited to the ones directly related to peeing, along with all the contractions-- contractions which have again dropped almost entirely away since I started the antibiotics.  EXASPERATED SIGH...  Rob keeps joking that I could just skip the antibiotics and go ahead and have the baby with my infection-fueled contractions but he is not the one limping around with so much pain in his abdomen, so I shall pay him no mind.

I have not cancelled my appointment on Monday at the hospital for the induction with prostaglandin gel, so I guess that means I'm going!  At my appointment yesterday, I paid a little more attention and realized they are going to use Prostin, not Cervidil like I originally thought, not that it makes that much difference.  I still have some conflicted thoughts about it, since I will be a couple days before my due date and there isn't a medically necessary reason to induce labor.  It will make a big difference in how much help I have at home, though; every day past Monday that I don't have the baby is one less day I will have Rob and my parents off from work to help with the postpartum insanity.  I really WANT to have the induction because of life circumstances, but I sort of feel like I am cheating and getting away with something by not sitting around waiting for my body to kick in on its own.  Rob asked me why this bothers me when having an induction with Grace didn't, and it's because with Grace, my membranes had ruptured, it had been over 24 hours, and the risk of infection was going up. "Well," he said, "your risk of going crazy from not having enough help at home is going up."

And oh, what a relief it would be to no longer be pregnant...  I am starting to have more and more of the late pregnancy misery, from back issues to killer heartburn to insane swelling.  With both this pregnancy and my last one, I did not really start to swell until past 36 weeks but boy, now I am swollen in earnest.  I have huge puffy sausage fingers on my disturbingly unfamiliar hands and my ankles are just. not. pretty.  And at one UTI a week, I'm getting really tired of things being all messed up in that department.  I know I could be a lot more uncomfortable than I am, and I am lucky to still be sleeping well and comfortably going for walks and living normal life, but really, there is just a point where you would rather push a human being out of your nether regions than continue being pregnant.

So the appointment stands for Monday, although I would just love to go into labor spontaneously before then.  (She could share Rob's birthday if she comes tomorrow!)  I've been keeping up with some of the non-medical, "natural" ways to induce labor for a while now but of course most of those things either have no basis in fact (as my friend Amanda from grad school would likely ask, do people not realize this?) or only really work if your body is ready to get going and just needs a little help.  I don't think I'm up for trying castor oil or the cohoshes or anything, but I'm using evening primrose oil and eating spicy food and staying active and whatnot.  Actually, the prostaglandin gel itself might not work; it is more effective than all the non-medical options, of course, but it too could just do nothing if my cervix isn't ready to go into action.  It will be hard to not be disappointed on Monday if nothing happens with the Prostin (which will mean I just come home and keep waiting), but in some ways the possibility of that happening mitigates my uncertainty about going in for it.  If my body really isn't ready, then it won't happen.  And on a deeper level, realizing that this is NOT all within my control or sphere of decision-making makes me relax and rest in who I believe does ultimately hold all things together.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Christmas Greetings
Photo by Laura Legg

Ah, Christmas...  I am so enjoying thinking about Christmas and getting ready for it this year.  I think that having Christmas fall right at the same time as being ONE MILLION YEARS pregnant is making it much easier to be sanguine about being so very with child.  There are lots of other things to focus on and work on and use up my mental energy.

For instance, Christmas cards.  The picture you see above was my original plan for our Christmas card this year but due to me being not quite with it and a miscommunication with our photographer, I wasn't able to get the file for the photo until just yesterday.  For most of last week, I was going absolutely crazy because our Christmas cards weren't done.  I obsessed, I perseverated, I harassed our poor photographer's voicemail, I drove Robert ABSOLUTELY BONKERS with my never-ending, hormonally-fueled talk of the Christmas cards.  At the end of last week, I gave up my GRAND ARTISTIC VISION for our Christmas card and went with another option which allowed me to have them printed and put in the mail over the weekend.  It was such a relief to have them done and silence that shrieking, gut-level demand that I MUST GET THE CARDS SENT.  I haven't been crazy nesting pregnant lady, but apparently I was crazy Christmas-card pregnant lady.  Now that I do have the file, I probably could have gotten this version printed and sent to arrive before Christmas, but I didn't know when that was going to happen, if I was going into labor, etc. so the other version is on its way to its recipients.  I'm crazy these days, but not quite crazy enough to send a second Christmas card.  That would be funny, though; I wonder if anyone would just not notice that they got two from us?

Seeing Grace experience Christmas is another lovely distraction from being super pregnant.  She's really into the tree and her nativity scene and all that.  She is allowed to touch the tree and ornaments "gently" with "one finger", which usually seems to work.  Sometimes there is rather vigorous one-fingered poking of ornaments but so far nothing has broken.  At her little preschool, they are teaching her to sing "Away in the Manger" in preparation for their Christmas party later in the week.  I will admit that I don't really like that carol; why is it always the one that the children are assigned to sing in a church service or whatever?  When I was little, I distinctly remember preferring the jolly, joyful hymns like "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "Joy to the World" or the haunting minor key hymns like "What Child is This" and "O Come O Come Emmanuel"; even then, the saccharine stickiness of "Away in the Manger" did not appeal to me.  And really-- "little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes"?  MAJOR EYE ROLL.  To me, this has all the markings of someone who either a) has never been around babies or b) does not actually believe any of this happened.  However, Grace learning this carol and singing it off-key with the words mixed up has totally changed my mind and I am now here to tell you that this carol is COMPLETELY FANTASTIC.  Hearing her tunelessly warbling about the stars in the sky and "no bed for a crib" is heart-stoppingly sweet and hilarious and wonderful.  Having a child is generally wonderful, but I've got to admit that having a child at Christmas is TOTALLY AWESOME.  I'm so lucky to get to have another one of these creatures.

Monday, December 15, 2008

38 Weeks Plus a Little Bit

Another lovely snappy cold morning today-- how happy it makes me... Especially after the freakishly warm mid-70s day we had yesterday.  I will admit that the mid-70s are a lovely temperature to live in and enjoy, but personally I'd rather not have them in December.  Nevertheless, on this brisk chilly morning I made my way to my weekly midwife appointment where I learned that things continue to look good with the new baby.  The midwife checked my cervix for the first time (I was in too much pain last week for such an endeavor) and I am actually dilated to 1 cm!  This seems like wonderful news to me because I went all the way past my due date with Grace without ever dilating one bit.  Heck, I went to the hospital to be induced without having dilated one bit.  I really was expecting the midwife to tell me nothing was happening and to hang in there, sit tight, whatever other quasi-encouraging comments they have in their arsenal for those among us who do not appear to be going into labor anytime soon.  But no!  And she said that the pattern of contractions I've been experiencing in the past several days also sounds promising.  Each day, I have more and more contractions in the afternoon and evening; by the time I turn in for bed, they have been pretty frequent.  Of course, then I go to sleep just fine and wake up in the morning with the contractions totally gone.  This is mildly disappointing, but then the cycle repeats the next day, and apparently it has actually had some measurable effect on my cervix so that is just dandy!

I've realized that my experience with Grace has instilled in me very low expectations for my body being proactive and taking initiative and all that in having a baby.  I am really fortunate to have conceived easily, to have had uncomplicated pregnancies, and to have breastfed without any serious problems, so I don't want to malign my physical self; after all, it has done a generally bang-up job in childbearing activities.  However, I sort of don't believe my body will actually decide to evict its little inhabitant on its own accord.  Prove me wrong, corporeal self!

I am on one or two email lists where they send you weekly messages about your baby's development that week, what to think about or do right then, etc. and these days they seem to be ALL about going into labor-- signs you might be about to go into labor, "false" labor, labor this, labor that.  Of course I know this is appropriate given the nearness of my due date but if you are not immediately going into labor, it feels a bit like the cheery pregnancy experts are taunting you.  They rattle on and on about mucous plug this and bloody show that and I sit there thinking, "Yeah.  Sure.  I got nothing."  With Grace, I remember eventually half-disbelieving that I was actually going to have a baby EVER.   I began to halfway suspect that I was just really fat and cranky and this alleged "baby" was a figment of my imagination.

My midwife did away with those kinds of thoughts this morning by suggesting we schedule an induction for me.  FOR NEXT MONDAY.  I was taken by surprise by this because I didn't think their general philosophy would allow for inductions scheduled just because I am, you know, tired of being pregnant.  She said that since I was starting to dilate and having a good number of contractions (I had another one while being examined today) I probably just needed a little helpful push and if I wanted to have the baby and be home for Christmas, we could try.  I'm sure they would rather minimize the amount of work they'll have to do over Christmas too.  And there is the fact that the difference between a baby at 39 weeks and a baby at 42 weeks is on average 1.5 to 2 lbs, a difference that could push you into C-section territory with your GINORMOUS BABY.  She is talking about trying a prostaglandin gel, which would be different from the pitocin I had to have with Grace; it's generally thought to be a gentler way to go, it doesn't require an IV, and I wouldn't have to be on constant monitoring because of it.  

So now we have to decide whether to keep my Monday induction appointment.  In general, I am a believer that interventions in childbirth pile up and you end up not where you wanted to be; we saw it happen when Grace was born as one circumstance led to one intervention which caused such-and-such result which required this intervention, on and on until I almost had a C-section.  I don't feel like I had a "bad" birth experience with Grace or anything but in my ideal world, I forego all of the interventions and just let nature take its course.  I'm not that concerned with being in the hospital over Christmas or maybe going past my due date.  On the other hand, I am concerned with having as much help as possible with a newborn.  If I have the baby before Christmas, I will have Rob home to help for 2 full weeks (1 week vacation + 1 week paternity leave).  It will also be pretty convenient for my parents to help out then while both of them are off from work.  Heck, it would be much more convenient all around.  Is the convenience worth the risk?  One benefit to the Cervidil is that they say I can just go home if it doesn't work so maybe the risk of escalating interventions is pretty low?  Anyway, I will go back to the office on Friday when she'll strip my membranes if I want her to (but maybe I don't?) and then on Monday to get some prostaglandin gel.  Unless I decide not to.  Aack!  Decisions!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Oh, the weather outside is, um, quite nice, actually

Well, after all my angst and grumbling and moaning, it HAS finally gotten cold around here.  It has been cold enough to wear socks and long sleeves for several weeks now, and just in the past few days, it's actually been cold enough for winter coats and hats and whatnot and we had our first overnight freeze.  And oh, how happy it makes me...  I really enjoy cold weather.  Well, moderately cold weather, I guess--  Even I start to feel less cozy when the daytime high temperatures are in the 20s or lower.  But that is not something I shall ever have to face while we live here, so I am enjoying our chilly spurt tremendously.  The air outside feels so bracing and brisk and refreshing, and inside we can have hot tea and things spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon and slippers to keep our feet warm.  Our furnace is finally running and I must admit that I love the way a house smells when the furnace is on.  I know that it is probably the smell of hydrocarbons being burned, which can't truly be a good thing, but to me it smells like coziness and home and wintry loveliness.

It makes me happy that it has finally turned a bit cold when we are all really gearing up for Christmas.  We have been listening to a great deal of Christmas music recently and I've been struck this year by what a large percentage of Christmas songs (more the secular ones than hymns) are all about snow and the weather and whatnot.  It seems strangely unfitting when such a huge chunk of, for instance, the United States population has next to no chance of any snow at Christmastime.  And what about the entire Southern Hemisphere?  Do they listen to "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" and "Let It Snow" and all that in Australia and New Zealand?

Crazy Abbey

Before I was struck down by my UTI (which is doing TONS better) we finally managed to get into our storage unit and retrieve our Christmas decorations, along with some baby stuff we had there.  We went to buy a tree on Sunday and by Tuesday finally had it all decorated.  I am kind of a minimalist about things around the house and have a deep abhorrence of clutter so we don't do much besides the tree and stockings.  Oh, how lovely the tree is, though...  I know it is probably a pagan symbol or whatever but I care not one whit.  The lights, the lovely ornaments, the smell...  Rob's family includes German immigrants of fairly recent origin so they hold fast to the tradition of putting actual candles on the tree and ACTUALLY LIGHTING them on Christmas Eve.  I thought this was utter insanity when I first heard about it, but it is really lovely.  And they are all very responsible about fire extinguishers and not letting their trees get too dried out and whatnot.  So now, we do it too and I'm looking forward to the ritual in another few weeks.

Trimming the Tree

Getting our Christmas decorations at the same time as the infant car seat, the crib, the bouncy seat, etc. has led to some confusion on Grace's part about Christmas.  We have gotten out books and a toy Nativity scene and whatnot for her, but despite this, when Rob asked her the other day why we were celebrating Christmas, she joyfully declared, "Because we got Violet's crib!"  Oh well, she seems to be getting marginally clearer on the idea as the days pass.

The contractions I was having while MONSTROUSLY SICK have largely subsided.  This is good, on the one hand, because it means I am getting much, much better.  It feels slightly anticlimactic, on the other hand, because I would like to have this baby in the relatively near future and it seems like nothing is happening now.  It is just two weeks until my due date (and CHRISTMAS as well, in case you haven't been paying attention) so I shall attempt to sit back in glowing maternal peace and patience.  The baby has dropped lower in my belly and I have more of that classic curvy pregnant figure now (instead of the giant-squashy-abdomen look I've been sporting for months) and I actually am feeling a bit of that mythical rosy pregnant beaminess as what I deduce is my new daughter's tiny baby butt pushes my belly into round asymmetry.  I have not enjoyed the state of being pregnant very much (either time) so it's all rather refreshing and novel.  And really, there is not much time left for me to persevere through heartburn and backache.  And lots of shining, magical good cheer to contemplate in the meantime.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The UTI to End All UTIs

I have fallen prey to that common scourge of pregnancy, the UTI, and it has been a doozy.  Sunday night I went from feeling normal to shaking with chills, unable to stand upright from pain, and peeing a startling amount of blood, all within the space of an hour.  It came on so suddenly that Rob and I were not sure what the heck was going on, but after a while I started having the constant urge to urinate and pain when I did pee, so we at least had the comfort of knowing what was happening-- not that such comfort really mitigated the misery of that night.  We debated the merits of the emergency room or paging my midwife, but as I had my weekly OB appointment first thing Monday morning, I decided to just tough it out for the rest of the night.  Around 3am I was finally able to go 20 minutes between trips to the toilet and slept in little spurts until it was time to rise for the day, get Grace ready for preschool, and haul my wretched butt to the midwife.

I just about cried at the doctor's office with relief at the concern and coddling the nurses and midwife were giving me.  I'm kind of surprised I didn't, actually, given my normal state of wound-up emotions these days AND being in so much pain AND shaking with chills AND operating on next to no sleep.  After the midwife, I went to fill my prescription; it was downright amazing how difficult it felt to navigate the parking garages, elevators, and, well, walking it took to get in and out of the doctor's office and Target.  "I can do this," I steeled myself, facing the trip from my midwife's office on the 3rd floor of her building to my car parked on the 5th floor of the garage across the street.  After a dose of the antibiotics and something to treat the symptoms and some Tylenol PM, I crashed into bed for the rest of the day, so thankful that Rob could come home to take care of Grace and that some scientist somewhere accidentally discovered antibiotics.  Seriously, I have never been so appreciative of antibiotics and now wonder if I have ever truly needed them before this.

Oh, and all this has sent my uterus into crazy contraction overdrive.  I really think that if I hadn't gotten help (you know, like if I lived in a past century or something) this would have put me into for-real labor, with all the inflammation and infection irritating my uterus and the like.  That wouldn't have been bad for the baby since I'm a little past 37 weeks now, but boy, I would have been in terrible shape.  I had 1 contraction while the midwife was actually examining me, 2 on the drive from the midwife to Target, 3 in Target waiting for them to fill my subscription, all getting more intense.  They've calmed down a lot since the drugs have started me on the road to recovery so I don't think we're going to have this baby in the next day or so, but maybe things are gearing up?  I certainly wouldn't mind going into labor once I am back to a more normal level of energy/health.  That makes me sound like a video game character, doesn't it?

My title up there is a little silly, of course, considering that I have never had a UTI in my life before and have nothing to compare it to.  That first night when I was so sick, I was reading one of my pregnancy books, trying to see if this was some weird form of labor or a UTI or just me DYING, and the talk of UTIs seemed to mostly be about the symptom-free "silent" UTI and how important it is to finish your antibiotics even if you never had symptoms, blah blah blah.  My particular problem I would characterize more as a screaming, wailing UTI, an operatic, Wagnerian type of illness.  Fortunately, it is starting to quiet down as I am doing a TON better after just a day on the antibiotics.  I slept like the dead last night and have much less pain, and am left mostly just drained and weak.  Which I see as a GREAT IMPROVEMENT-- nay, a veritable VICTORY FOR MODERN MEDICINE.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

If I Knew You Were Coming, I'd Have Baked a Cake

Italian Creme Cake

I have been deep in the throes of a baking extravaganza lately, by which I mean for, oh, a few months or so.  It's partly that I finally discovered what Grace will eat when packed up in her little lunchbox for Mothers' Day Out-- Sandwiches? No, not even when cut out with cookie cutters and the like.  Vinaigrette-type pasta salads? No. But muffins and quick breads and the like get a "yes" most days so I've been keeping up a steady supply of the things.  And partly the baking has been a capitulation to pregnancy cravings, although I have exerted much, much more self-control than with my first pregnancy.  When pregnant with Grace, my weight gain each month was just slightly on the high side except for one particular month (5th or 6th, I think?) when I gained nearly 20 pounds.  It now lives in infamy at our house as "cake month" for what I hope are obvious reasons.  I baked a LOT.  And then ate it all.  My cravings do skew to the sweet and baked-- things with that lovely moist cake-y texture and a delicate crumb, things from actual cake to brownies to scones to quick breads to muffins and the like.  Candy and ice cream just do not hold the same place in my heart, and although I have a very great appreciation for chocolate in its purer forms, I am somehow able to indulge in that in a sensible, reasonable manner that I wouldn't really call a craving.

Mmmmm, cake...

I think another reason I have been baking so much is that it is a borderline frivolous domestic pursuit that I know I won't have much time and energy for after the new baby arrives.  I literally did not cook a thing for 4 weeks after Grace was born; we lived on take-out and frozen foods and the kindness of friends that arrived at our house in the form of foil casserole dishes.  I know if Rob and I were not quite capable of cooking real meals from actual ingredients to sate our dinnertime hunger, then puttering about the kitchen with butter and sugar for an inessential thing such as cake is not going to be within my reach for a while.  So for now I shuffle around the kitchen with the mixer and the flour and the cocoa powder, turning out little bits of gastronomic frippery.

Another domestic pursuit I've been indulging in a lot lately is sewing.  I've been terrible about photographing my projects and reviewing them this fall, so I don't have a lot of documentation of my activities, but most evenings after Grace goes to bed now find me listening to the addictive whir of the sewing machine as I work on another project.  For a while, it was a handful of maternity skirts (which are now about the only presentable clothes that still fit) and then when the weather finally turned colder, I started in on winter pants for Grace.  She is pretty slim for her height and RTW pants are such a challenge that it's easier (not to mention cheaper and more fun) to just make them.  I've decided that hot pink corduroy pants are the toddler wardrobe equivalent of nice black pants for adult women.  So necessary!  They go with practically everything!

My quiet enjoyment of domestic life (before the onslaught of intensity and sleep deprivation that is a new baby) has not really extended to the wild, hormonally-fueled cleaning of pregnancy legend, I am sad to say.  It's a shame because I would so love to have a really spotless, deeply clean house; I can't seem to gather the energy for anything beyond the normal level of cleanliness we live in, however.  Which is fairly clean, I must say-- I just wish it were CLEANER.  My nesting instinct madness has been limited to organizing and decluttering and whatnot, instead of actual cleaning; even under normal circumstances, I have a higher tolerance for a bit of dust and dog hair than clutter and things living out of their proper homes.  Unfortunately for me (and all who live with me), my tolerance for mess is inversely proportional with the level of stress in my life.  This is quite inconvenient because the times of the most intense stress (new baby, finishing one's dissertation, etc) are also the times when one has the least time and energy for keeping one's environment in good shape, beginning a VICIOUS CYCLE where your home makes you even more stressed than you were to start with.  I remember after Grace was born, Rob being so wonderful about keeping things shipshape and attending to details he normally could not give a flying fig about; look, I even blogged about it.  He is so gracious to me.

And on that note, I shall wrap up and go make a batch of blueberry muffins.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

It's Advent, Folks

We made a thwarted attempt to retrieve our Christmas decorations from our storage unit yesterday, but despite our foundering upon the rocks of holiday hours and company policies, it's time to start thinking about Christmas.  Hopefully we can get them next weekend (along with the CAR SEAT for our impending BABY) and in the meantime, for your Advent pleasure, here is a little ditty from one of my favorites, Sufjan Stevens:

Saturday, November 29, 2008



We had a lovely Thanksgiving here, with lots of food and time with family and the like.  It's been good to reflect on how much I have, both in terms of material stuff and the less easily documented.  I really liked the post Stephanie wrote this year about domestic life and possessions and such; I am so, so rich, even in the most literal, monetary sense of the world. I have realized anew how lucky and singular it is in the world today to be cozily tucked away with my family in a warm house, safe and secure and with so much food that I am constantly in danger of being bigger than I want to be.  And of course, there is an abundant richness to my life beyond the safe home and bank accounts and closets full of clothes for all of us.

The Christmas shopping season started yesterday, they tell me; I was almost successful in participating in Buy Nothing Day yesterday but did fall off the wagon a bit at one of my favorite fabric stores here in Dallas. Contemplating Christmas gifts in light of ugly consumerism here and the state of the world in general does make me feel a bit queasy.  I sometimes have a hard time hitting the right balance of weltschmerz and functioning like a normal American.  Or do I not want to be a normal American and the weltschmertz is really the way to go?  Anyway, one thing that always helps me AND de-stresses holiday shopping AND actually brings relief to people's physical needs in the world is to give gifts like these from World Vision.  We've done this for at least some of the people on our Christmas list every year since we got married.  If I have an actual good idea for a gift that I think someone would like and actually use, I will get that, but we decided that if we couldn't think of something truly nice/useful/fun, we would give them the gift of ducks, or education for girls, or a goat.  It's especially great for those really hard-to-buy-for people in your family who don't really need or want anything but to be remembered.  World Vision sends you a nice little card that you can wrap up for the person to open.  I was nervous about doing this our first year because it's pretty far outside the norm for my family, but if our family members have been thinking we are crazy Scrooge types, they've never said anything about it to our faces.  So anyway, here is my holiday tip for the year-- gift idea, stress management, and doing something about the need in the world, all wrapped into one!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Hello down there, feet!

Well, it's official-- I am huge. I've been bigger than I was at the same stage with Grace this whole time (which can be pretty common in second pregnancies) but in the past few weeks I feel like I've tipped over into some ludicrous phase of enormity.  And I've finally started to get puffy and swollen now that I'm almost 36 weeks, which I have been lucky enough to avoid heretofore; my rings and shoes don't really fit and I feel like my facial features are these tiny things in a vast expanse of puffy face.  I don't feel depressed about it, which is good; I would describe my feelings as astonishment and annoyance.  Every morning when I wake up, I go to roll out of bed and the tug of gravity on the unfamiliar configuration of my body as I go upright comes as a shock, even though this morphing has come on gradually over weeks and months. My corporeal self has somehow held on to its sense of what is "normal" and dear reader, this is not it.

I remember after Grace's birth feeling so glad to not be pregnant anymore, among all the other intense, wonderful, scary things that were going on.  So much of the swelling and extra fluid goes away SO FAST.  And then by about 4-6 weeks postpartum my belly had shrunk enough that I was overwhelmed with a sense of being svelte and slim and something approaching my normal shape. I wasn't really, you understand, with my leftover tummy and giant boobs and all that; it was just that the transition between the state of my body at 41+ weeks pregnant when I had Grace and 4 weeks postpartum was so dramatic that I felt like a new person. I remember saying, "I feel so slim!" My mom was visiting at the time and I remember the look on her and Rob's faces-- there was kindness to the obviously batty postpartum lady but also disbelief. "That's great that you, um, feel that way." I had objective evidence that I wasn't slim since none of my clothes yet fit but it was such an overwhelming relief, to my back and hips and psyche.

And I did lose weight pretty quickly after Grace, which was wonderful. Sadly, I then squandered the precious gift of breastfeeding weight loss by gaining weight as she weaned, leaving me 15-20 pounds heavier at the start of this pregnancy than with Grace. On the other hand, I'm going to end up gaining something within the recommended 25-35 pounds this time around, in contrast with the 50+ pounds I gained with Grace, so I'll probably start off the postpartum physical transformation at about the same place weight-wise as I did last time around. I currently feel very motivated to not make the same mistake of weaning weight gain twice, for the sake of my health and jeans and sense of myself.

In banana pepper news, our count now stands at 11/30 after I made stuffed peppers a couple of nights ago for dinner.  I think of banana peppers as more Italian than Latin American so I used some marinara sauce I made a while back that was in the freezer and stuffed them with soubise (French, not Italian, but you know, whatever...). It was the first time I made soubise, and it was SO DELICIOUS in a creamy/starchy/savory way; I highly recommend it if your cravings happen to veer that way.  It was weird to cook rice with no added liquid.  So now I am down to less than a dozen of these things.  I am tempted to throw them into all the things I'm cooking for Thanksgiving dinner over at my parents' house.  Pumpkin pie with banana peppers, anyone?

And in hair news, I have suddenly turned on my pink hair.  A mere week ago, I was waxing melancholy about perhaps going back to brown for practical new-baby considerations but my feelings are now quite the opposite and I feel weary of the pinkness.  What can I say?  I can be a fickle creature.  Hair color is certainly not a terrible thing to be fickle about, you must admit, and I did last a good 3 months with this.  I am contemplating doing away with the pink in the next few weeks, if the baby does not beat me to the punch by arriving in the meantime.

(In an effort at full disclosure, that picture is from my first pregnancy at about 37 weeks, not this one.  I can't see my feet at all now.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Banana Peppers Take Over the World!

Life here has taken a turn for the better in the past few days.  I don't think I mentioned it last week, but Rob was working unusually long hours due to an unhappy confluence of scheduling brouhahas, not arriving home before Grace went to bed the whole week.  I think I often underestimate how much that affects me, and then of course as I've already established, EVERYTHING is just affecting me WAY TOO MUCH these days.  Some equanimity has returned to the hormone-addled tangle that is my brain after a lovely weekend and the beginning of a more normal week.  Our weekend was quite idyllic, and by that I mean that we indulged the reclusive tendencies of our natures.  Rob and I are both moderate extroverts and chat easily with friends and strangers, but nonetheless there is a strong streak of the hermit in us.  We have various social butterfly friends who seem to have really interesting and exciting social lives, who seem to thrive on activity and interaction and whatnot, but in contrast sometimes we find ourselves happiest holing up away from the world.  I hypothesize that there is some internal meter in humans with a dial labelled on one end "social needs" and on the other "hermit needs".  Our dials are set rather more than average toward the hermit needs, I think.

One of the things Rob tried to do while holed up away from the world was to watch Ratatouille, which none of us have seen. (Really, I cannot overemphasize how behind the general flow of pop culture we are.)  Grace would have none of it, however.  There was a fair bit of yelling and dramatic music and the little rat looking awfully scared-- it really upset her.  Yes, this G-rated animated CHILDREN'S movie was just too much for her.  I know! I can't believe it either. Her little face crumpled with overwhelmed concern, she hid around the corner from it, she insisted we turn it off. Rob kept trying to surreptitiously finish it on the computer without her noticing, but her eagle eye and sensitive ear noticed each time and she would rush in to protest that she did not like it and require that it be turned off.  He ended up having to watch it after she went to bed, which makes me laugh laugh laugh.  I'm still a little puzzled, as she watches TV nearly every day while I shower in the morning (and sometimes if I'm desperate for a nap in the afternoon too).  Neither Rob nor I are much for yelling, so I think that's a big part of it.  Part of me is actually glad that yelling struck her as so strange that she reacted that way.  And I guess her usual fare of Blue's Clues and The Backyardigans just doesn't have the same dramatic intensity as an actual film.

And as to my other child, she is doing quite well these days.  I am 35 weeks pregnant now and had an OB appointment on Monday where I measured just exactly how I was supposed to.  The past few visits, the midwives' palpating has left them completely convinced that she is head down and although not obviously ready for an imminent arrival, moving in that direction.  She is definitely getting big and strong, as her movements are not the fluttery gentle frissons of earlier weeks but now the attention-grabbing jabby wallops of late pregnancy.  And I am having a lot more contractions, as well as twinges and stabs and pangs in the business area of having a baby, than I remember from last time.  I really hope it's all my body actually doing something constructive to have this baby and I would LOVE it if there was something actually happening when they start checking my cervix at these ever-more-frequent OB appointments.  With Grace, I ended up going to the hospital for an induction while dilated absolutely nothing, which was fun, let me tell you.  Anyway, I bought a package of newborn-sized diapers the other day and am discussing with Rob when to go to our storage unit to get the infant car seat and the crib and the bouncy seat (and the Christmas decorations, although that is unrelated, I suppose).  A baby!  We are having one!

Also!  Banana peppers!  We are having a lot of those too!  We joined a produce co-op here in Dallas, which is pretty good.  It's not quite as fun/delicious/good for the environment as the CSA that we did in Connecticut was; that was all organically grown on one farm that we would visit to pick up our food.  This co-op involves going to Dallas Farmers' Market to get produce (the responsibility to purchase rotates through the members) and the people in the co-op tend to only buy from the wholesalers there, so we are getting the same produce you see in the grocery store but just for a screaming good price.  Not quite the same thing but nothing to complain about, certainly.  I need to take some solo trips to the farmers' market to really scope out what local produce is available so when it's my turn to purchase I can skew the group toward my interests.  Anyway, this past weekend we had a produce pick-up day and among the useful collection of onions, oranges, pears, and butternut squash was a HUGE PILE of banana peppers.  We counted them up and we had 30 banana peppers.  I now feel at a bit of a loss as to what my next step should be.  I've used a few already in soup and marinara sauce, sort of as a bell pepper replacement, but such paltry attempts are not up to a challenge of this magnitude.  I think I'm going to stuff some, and I think I'm going to do some refrigerator pickles.  Heck, maybe I'll pickle them and can them for real with the water bath and everything.  That would make a nice big dent in our pile.  Rob decided we should keep track of our banana pepper endeavor and has posted a status report on the marker board in our kitchen.  It currently stands at 26/30.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Home on the Range

I've been having contentment issues lately about living here in Texas.  It's the weather, and the strip malls, and the bleak prairie flatness thinly disguised by tracts of soulless suburban houses and chain restaurants and, well, more strip malls.

This is our first autumn back in Texas and living in near 80-degree weather in mid-November is fairly depressing.  People have been taking their children to pumpkin patches for a good six weeks now and Grace keeps bringing home fall-themed artwork from preschool; it seems like some mass delusion has taken hold here where everyone is celebrating an imaginary seasonal change.  I guess it's autumn in their minds?  I am trying to remind myself that it is a lot cooler than it was this summer and pumpkins grow quite well in this climate and the leaves ARE in fact falling off the trees.  Into a dismal brown heap which we must rake wearing shorts and T-shirts.  I'm not having great success, if you can tell.  It doesn't help that there has been friction in my family recently and living close to them is one of the Good Things About Living in Texas that I repeat to myself when needed.  I know!  A family that doesn't always interact in an ideal manner!  Who would have thought it possible?  And then Grace has started dropping the -g at the end of gerunds, I suspect due to the influence of her otherwise lovely preschool teachers and their Texas accents.  I admit it makes me a little sad.

Prevalent cultural attitudes here have also been particularly grating lately, on issues from race to materialism to erudition to social justice and the like-- fervor leftover from the election, I suppose.  I know that supposedly the faults that most annoy you in others are reflections of your own failings, which must mean that deep down in my soul I am a frothy-at-the-mouth pietist who thinks it is just fine, in fact probably morally superior, to be a simple thinker.  But no, less facetiously, my irritation IS undoubtedly a reflection of ugliness I share with the culture around me-- a fierce internal conviction of my own rightness, a wrong-headed certainty that the world would be better if everyone just thought like me.

When Rob and I were in the process of applying for residency and post-doc work, I hadn't ever lived outside of Texas and I was pretty eager to go somewhere, anywhere but here.  It wasn't necessarily that I disliked Texas so much as that I yearned for a new experience.  (And of course, I was just applying to academic post-doc jobs at the time and staying in Texas wouldn't have been a viable option for that.)  I really longed to get to know a new place with a new culture and a new climate, and I'm really glad I had that experience.  I have a bit of wanderlust in me, and I find change kind of exhilarating.  When I've lived for short periods in other countries, it makes me so happy to discover that finding your way around town or obtaining groceries is a challenge-- an adventure, even.  All that illustrates why returning here seems a little dreary at times.  I suspect that the things that bother me about living here are not significantly more extensive or serious or fundamental than the things I wouldn't like about living anywhere else, but it feels more grim than, for example, moving away to the Northeast did because there is a gloomy familiarity to it all.

My lack of contentment bothers me most because I believe that being happy is about oneself and not about one's circumstances.  And what do I want to do about the situation?  Move every 3-5 years to somewhere new and different?  Well, actually, yes, that is what I want to do, but we won't necessarily get to do that, and I certainly don't want my sense of serenity to depend on it.  So I shall attempt to focus on the positive things about being here: hole-in-the-wall Tex-Mex restaurants, good grocery stores, how affordable things are, living close to my family (yes, of course, still).  And the prairie flatness can be beautiful if considered properly, right?  Anybody want to add something?  I promise to be kind if your "positive thing" is actually one of the things that annoys me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


I have suffered from a touch of anglophilia for about the past 2 decades.  It has ebbed and flowed over the years, but I'm afraid that I will never entirely kick the habit.  To what can I trace the origins of this ailment?  Mary Poppins (the movie, of course, but even more so the wonderful, wonderful books)? The Chronicles of Narnia? A. A. Milne?  A Little Princess and The Secret Garden?  A few years later, my condition only worsened with Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie and Middlemarch and what was perhaps the most delightful discovery EVER, all of the Jane Austen canon.  Oh, how I wished my life had more gentility, more charming accents, more steaming cups of tea, more double-decker red buses, and more clotted cream and scones than my suburban American existence offered...  I realize, of course, (and I think I knew even at the time) that this was more about the highly fictionalized, historical idea of England I was carrying around in my head than the actual England that exists across the pond.  Still, what a delightful idealized, mythical place it is...

Perhaps the most recent manifestation of my anglophilia is my discovery of Nigella Lawson.  She combines my love of all things English with another enthusiasm of mine, food writing (and television).  She writes the best cookbooks!  Seriously, her cookbooks are worth reading just as cozy, scrumptious entertainment alone.  I will admit that her recipes are not the absolute-most-fail-safe out there and I occasionally find something that doesn't work out at all, but her charm and British witticisms make me forgive her.  She has a wonderfully sensual approach to thinking about and cooking and eating food and really, isn't that what enjoying food is about?  Our senses?  She does not go in for healthy food as such (although does not dismiss something just because it is good for you) and her books are not terribly vegetarian-friendly, so they're not really the best match for how we try to eat, but somehow it doesn't matter and I just love them anyway.

Another recent indulgence into all things English is my reading of the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian.  It's a series of historical novels about the British navy during the Napoleonic Wars; the recent movie Master and Commander was based on some of the books.  I haven't seen the movie because 1) I never see movies in a timely manner since having a child and 2) it didn't/doesn't appeal to me at all.  I am not a fan of military/naval/war stories and the Napoleonic Wars?  I think those long, tedious passages in Les Misérables and War and Peace made me want to run away screaming from them forever.  I was motivated to pick up the first Aubrey-Maturin book, though, on the recommendation of someone whose taste I generally share and I am SO GLAD.  So funny!  So detailed!  So exciting!  So full of delightfully opaque seafaring jargon (I still don't know what a flying jib is...) that somehow does not interfere with the pace of the stories!  It's the combination of cleverness and richly drawn humanity that really does it for me, though.  And it doesn't hurt that the books have albatrosses! And scurvy! And Antarctica! And romance! And duels! And spies! And a drunk sloth!  I am currently reading book 6 (out of 20) and I continue to be struck by how unlikely it is that these books would charm me so thoroughly; something so military and adventure-y is not my usual gig. 

Since I've admitted that this England I'm carrying around in my head is almost entirely fictitious and unrelated to the real England, it seems appropriate to mention the Thursday Next novels by Jasper Fforde, which are set in England in the 1980s in an alternate universe where the Crimean War has lasted 100 years, cloned dodos are kept as pets, time traveling government agents try to keep the universe from falling apart, and it's possible to somehow enter a book.  This series is one of the most wonderful things I've read in the past several years-- highly fantastical, literate, mindbendingly creative.  I LURVE THEM.  I gush with praise and beg you to read them, especially if you love books.  You don't necessarily have to love the specific classic that makes up the setting for each book; the first installment is mostly about Jane Eyre and I will readily admit that none of the Brontës are really that popular with me.  I gleefully gobbled up the most recent installment because Fforde finally got around to using my particular favorite as a setting, Pride and Prejudice.

And oh, how deep and strong and true is my love for all things Jane Austen.  I first read them all in my junior high years (and I am so glad I did) but they are even more wonderful now as a 30-year-old woman.  To give you a glimpse into the depth of my devotion, one Christmas break during college, I read Pride and Prejudice half a dozen times.  I'd get to the end and just turn over all the pages and start over again.  I think my next favorite is the bittersweet Persuasion, but there's also dim, silly Catherine in the hilarious Northanger Abbey and snobby, charming, not-very-perceptive Emma...  I shall restrain myself from effusing further.  In college, I ran with a crowd of girls who included a few equally enthusiastic fans; reading is a pretty solitary activity so we watched movie versions.  A LOT.  The Gwyneth Paltrow version of Emma got a lot of play, letting us make fun of the strangely coiffed Ewan McGregor.  My parents gave me a VHS version of the BBC Pride and Prejudice miniseries one year for Christmas and when we all returned to school for the spring semester, several of us would watch the whole thing every week almost until spring break.  There were 6 VHS tapes and we would watch one every night, taking a night off here and there if something else came up.  And we drank generic Kool-Aid from hand-me-down wineglasses and ate/pretended to smoke pretzel sticks.  Gosh, I miss those days...

We would sometimes use fake British accents around our apartment, especially if we had been especially overindulging in books or movies set in England.  One of our roommates grew up in Zimbabwe and her accent was definitely the best; she could even make it sound different than her white African and black African accents.  We all practiced, though, trying to achieve a higher, more masterly level of anglophile insanity.  Sometimes the most adventurous of us tried to convince us all to use our fake British accents outside the apartment, like on our communal grocery shopping trips.  If I remember correctly, I did OK until it came time to check out; I felt guilty actually representing myself as someone I wasn't to the unsuspecting clerk.

Of course, my own fake-British-accent-using, and anglophilia as a whole, is nothing compared to the fellow featured in this episode (available for free download with a convenient clicky button-type thing) of what is perhaps my favorite NPR show.  The whole episode is brilliant, as typical for This American Life, but the British-accent guy's story takes up just the first 20 minutes or so.  Well worth a listen while you're picking up the house or making dinner or something.  And better yet, evidence that I am NOT in fact the craziest person in the world!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Bulleted List of Mostly Unrelated Thoughts

  • I think I have been trying too hard in my menu planning and cooking lately.  There must be some kind of disconnect between what sounds good in my head when I am planning my grocery list and what actually looks and tastes good when it comes time to eat the dinner.  My gastronomic tastes do skew to the fancy-ish, but the dinners I've been making seem to require a more refined palate than I have right now.  We mostly give Grace the same food we're having, but some nights I give her a more simple, deconstructed version of our food; Rob and I have recently found ourselves eyeing her versions of food and wishing we were eating it instead.  Part of this might be that we are all in some stage of fighting off or recovering from a cold so food is not tasting very good to any of us.  I am working on a new grocery list right now so maybe I will make something this week that involves a can of cream of mushroom soup.
  • I am 33 weeks pregnant today, leaving me only 3 weeks until this baby is considered term and just 7 weeks until my due date.  I'm starting to really contemplate what life will be like as mother to two little girls and feel at times so greedy for the delicious newborn nestling, so happy to soon have the oxytocin high of nursing a tiny person, and so scared of how I'll cope with the acute needs of two.  Jim at Sweet Juniper wrote a while back about adjusting to parenting two and it made me realize how different it will be, how differently I might perceive the needs of the new baby compared with how I felt with Grace, and how much I hope we quickly settle into life as a foursome with a minimum of trauma.  My first weeks with Grace were hard, of course, but they were joyous and exhilarating and I really hope I get that again.
  • I am considering dyeing my pink hair back to boring, dull brown and I'm feeling a little sad about this.  I have been touching up the pinkness every 2 weeks or so since I originally went pink back in August, and I've been back to the salon for my brown roots once.  This has been fine in my current schedule and lifestyle, but I don't know how realistic it is to expect to continue this routine after the new baby arrives.  Those first few months with Grace were so intense and I was really happy most days just to shower and eat.  And like I just said, this time I'll be combining that newborn intensity with a toddler, whose response to a new sibling invading her home is totally unknown at this point.  I'm bracing myself for those first months to be at least as draining, if not more demanding, than the first time around.  The pink looks pretty bad if I let it go too long: blondish roots or ends peeking out, the pink fading to a kind of rancid looking coral.  I don't know; maybe I should go back to brown before Violet is born.  I can just see myself 3 weeks postpartum with kind of dreadful looking hair, desperate to get professional hair help, but with a newborn who wants to nurse every 1.5 hours.  A pressing dilemma, no?
  • My belly is HUGE!  And the shift in my center of gravity is starting to bother my lower back, nearly every day.  For a while, I thought it was just because I was overdoing it; there were a string of days there where I was cleaning a lot because of company, standing on my feet a lot, or toting around a friend's 8-month-old baby for half the day.  It is starting to happen even on "normal" days where I do nothing more strenuous than go for a walk and cook dinner, though.  Rob suggests Tylenol (the only pain med you're supposed to take when pregnant), but I have a firm belief that Tylenol does not actually do anything.  Seriously, I don't think there are any actual pain-relieving components in there, and the other day when I took some it didn't noticeably help. Conveniently, my favorite online yoga people just did a little short series of postures for prenatal back relief. I did them yesterday evening when I was starting to ache and it was amazing-- immediate relief. Ah, yoga, how I love you...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Golden State Visitors

Visitors from the West

We recently waved goodbye to our visitors for this autumn as Rob's parents headed back to the airport for the long trip to their home in California.  Our move from the East Coast to Texas did cut the travel time in half, thank goodness, but their distance from us still means we don't get to see them as often as we'd like.  It was a nice visit spent doing fun toddler activities and Halloween and dinners at home and whatnot.  I had a smidge of anxiety about how Grace would react to them since she hasn't seem them in almost a year, but she was affable and friendly and open, which was lovely.  I was glad to avoid anything like what I did as a toddler to one of my grandfathers.  We lived far away from our extended family and I saw them just once or twice a year, much like Grace and her paternal grandparents; during one visit, I declared to my grandfather, "I don't love you!"  Gracious, big-hearted man that he is, he responded that it didn't matter because he loved me and gave me a big hug. Family-- it's a good thing, isn't it?

Tricycle Fun!

Rob's parents gave Grace a tricycle during their visit and she's been putting it to good use.  She has just about got the hang of pedaling, although it is not yet within her skill set to both steer and pedal at the same time.  The tassels and old-fashioned bell seem to be the most appealing parts of the vehicle.  A good bit of her tricycle time is spent sitting in one place ringing the bell.  And the bike helmet-- oh, how it cracks me up...  Grace's noggin is pretty large to start with compared to her skinny shoulders; when you stick a bike helmet on top of her, her proportions start to flirt with the ridiculous.

The last time we went out to visit Rob's parents was August of last year.  It had been way too long since we made the journey west so it was really good to be there.  Grace was exactly 18 months old then and I will admit that it was the roughest trip we have taken with her to date.  We were flying all the way across North America from Connecticut to the Oakland airport, followed by a long car ride out to their home in Sonoma County, and we made the mistake of choosing a flight that would keep us traveling quite late instead of one that involved waking up at 4am in the morning to catch the flight.  Here is your first piece of unsolicited advice for the day: when traveling with small children, especially over long distances, choose early flights instead of late flights.  The difficult, nay, miserable, travel on the way there, combined with the 3-hour time difference between the coasts made Grace want to stay up all night and sleep all day.  To top off the difficulties while we were actually there, we got stranded overnight in San Diego without any luggage on the way back.  It remains a vivid trip in my memory for its trials, but on the other hand, it was lovely to spend time with Rob's parents (who we never see often enough), the weather and our physical surroundings were amazingly beautiful, and we enjoyed lots of good food and wine.

I will take this opportunity to give today's second piece of unsolicited advice: if you have a baby, travel as much as you can before they are, oh, six months old or so.  They are so easy and amiable and portable then, especially if you are breastfeeding and not lugging around a lot of bottles.  Then once your baby starts to eat solids and crawl and only sleep in her normal surroundings and whatnot, do everything you can to minimize travel and get your visitors to come to you for, oh, about two years.  In pursuit of this ideal, we are planning to go to California sometime this coming spring with our new little 3- or 4-month-old and 3-year-old in tow.  So do you hear that, Sonoma County?  Start stocking up on artisanal goat cheeses and red wine for me now.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

But we can have lots of good fun that is funny!

Happy Halloween

We had a really nice Halloween evening, without any major breakdowns or wardrobe malfunctions or anything.  Grace was so excited and happy when we were putting on her costume and make-up; she jovially started referring to herself in the third person as "the Cat in the Hat".  She then briefly fell asleep in the car on the way to the party at church, which left her in a subdued, withdrawn mood the rest of the evening.  She wasn't actively unhappy, though, and seemed to enjoy the games and petting zoo and other kids and whatnot.

What would YOU do

And we did not like it.

See? Quiet and taciturn.

It is fun to have fun

And wow, does she look out of it and exhausted in this one...  But all in all, a nice evening, especially because Rob's parents are here visiting us right now. You should have seen the mess in the bathtub after cleaning Grace's whiskers and nose off (black cream eyeliner from a little pot, in case you're curious). And boy, these pictures make me ready to not be pregnant and huge and puffy anymore.  Two more months...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Halloween

Well, we are one day away from our autumnal celebration of costumes and candy, and I must admit to you, dear reader, that I am something of a Halloween Scrooge.  Rob and I never buy candy and always turn off our front light and hide somewhere in the back of the house so trick-or-treaters can't tell that we're at home.  In our defense, we have often gone to whatever fall festival is being put on by whatever church we're going to at the time and volunteered to run a booth/game/activity where small costumed children come by and complete some goofy task to earn some candy.  This will come as a shock to no one, but I'm not really a fan of the darker excesses of the holiday.  (But no! don't worry! I love all things Hogwartsian so don't dismiss me quite yet as an extremist crazy type!  We can save that for another day.)

Growing up, we didn't celebrate Halloween at all.  For most of my elementary school years, in fact, I celebrated an alternative holiday that I shall now share with you all: Reformation Day!  October 31 is not only the day ancient Celts believed the dead could come back to this world, but also the day in 1517 on which Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the church door in Wittenberg, signaling the start of the Protestant Reformation.  Woo hoo, anti-papist fun!  Just imagine a classroom of first graders learning about indulgences and penance and why they are bad...

So on Reformation Day at my elementary school (a Christian one of the Reformed inclination, if you haven't figured that out by now), we had a fun party with face painting and outdoor games and candy and such.  And don't mourn too much for the child version of me, because I did in fact get to dress up every year, just within certain, um, restrictions.  You were only allowed to dress up as a Bible character.  It must have been quite a sight, my whole little elementary school dressed up in slight variations of this type of pattern sewn up by our mothers.  It was convenient for families with more than one child, because you didn't have to do much to the costume when it was handed down to the younger child to change it up to be a different person.  Heck, you could probably even share between boy and girl siblings.  Just change your accessories:  Are you Mary?  Carry around a baby doll!  Are you Pharaoh's daughter or Miriam?  Put the baby doll in a basket!  Are you Esther?  Get all dolled up with lots of metallic trim and bling on your dress!  It was an early lesson in the power of accessorizing.

It always felt like a bit of a challenge to come up with someone creative to be for Reformation Day, especially as a girl.  The Bible is not bereft of interesting female characters but they are certainly outnumbered by the male ones.  As you can imagine, there were a lot of Mary's running around (despite our anti-Catholic bent), as well as a lot of angels (even though angels in the Bible are always male), both of which I refused to be on the grounds that it would be an unimaginative choice.  I was Deborah one year (I had a gavel-- anachronistic, I know, but effective in identifying me), I was Lydia one time (with a purple dress/tunic thing), and I remember I was the woman at the well one year (I carried a pewter pitcher).  My year as the woman at the well (with her 5 or 6 husbands) reminds me that it seems somewhat awkward to dress up small girls as women of loose morals and out-and-out prostitutes, and let's face it, a LOT of the women in the Bible fit those descriptions.

You will be happy to know that we are not dressing Grace up as Rahab or Mary Magdalene or Bathsheba this year; she's going to be the Cat in the Hat.  I still have the luxury of picking out her costume without any real input from her; in fact, I'm pretty sure she has no idea what is going on, despite a few half-hearted attempts on my part to explain it to her.  Hopefully she does not utterly freak out tomorrow when I try to draw whiskers on her and put a giant tall hat on her.  Then we will be off to a big party at church where we can gather unholy amounts of candy and hopefully have a grand time.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Question for the Ages

Why is it that 75% of all maternity tops in existence are not long enough to cover my belly?  Are they not allegedly intended for those of us with big massive bellies?

Alas, alack, I bemoan my 1st-world dilemma of not having "enough" clothes that are "flattering enough" with which to clothe myself for the next 2 months.  Seriously, somebody should shake some sense and/or perspective into me.   But on the other hand, I will give a shout-out to my new favorite maternity T-shirts from DownEast Basics.  My friend Kristy (about to give birth to her 3rd baby) introduced me to them and I am now a fan.  They are really REALLY long and super SUPER affordable; currently they're on sale at less than $8 a pop.  The tops run really small so I recommend actually measuring yourself and looking at the size chart, and then maybe sizing up.  On the downside, they are not very high-quality knit (shocking at that price, no?) and are showing wash wear and pilling after not-too-many washings, but I think I might be overly sensitive to pilling and they would probably last you fine through one pregnancy.

Speaking of clothes, the weather has finally turned cooler and I can now dress Grace in little long-sleeved knit dresses and brightly colored leggings or tights and her tiny pink Chuck Taylors.  Ah, the joys of having a daughter and living vicariously through her clothes...  I wish I could get away with dressing like that.  No, really, toddler girls have the best clothes-- it's all bright colors and cozy knits and elastic waists.  Unless I restrain myself, the next time you see me I might look like I'm some freakishly overgrown model for the Hanna Andersson catalog.

And speaking of Grace, she is comfortably ensconced back in the bosom of her family after her time at my parents' house.  All in all, it went reasonably well.  She was a delight and a joy while awake; they played games and ate meals and visited a farm where she saw baby pigs and pet a goat and picked out a pumpkin for her very own.  At nighttime, life was a bit trickier.  She protested being put to bed somewhat but did go to sleep around her usual time.  She then woke up around midnight, apparently screaming like a banshee, from how my parents describe it.  They comforted her and she fell back to sleep, and then after 15 minutes she again awoke, yet again screaming like a pre-Christian Irish deity.  She again went back to sleep after being attended to, but when my parents heard her wake up howling AGAIN 15 minutes later, my dad dragged his pillow and blanket into her room and slept the rest of the night on the floor next to her little inflatable mattress.  My poor parents...  She was mostly peaceful the rest of the night and awoke the next morning chipper and delighted to have a day of diverting grandparently fun ahead of her, so that's good.  Grace has got a serious Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde thing going on as far as her daytime/nighttime temperament.  As I contemplate how it went, I am glad that she was so happy when awake, that she went to sleep at her bedtime, that she responded well to my parents' comforting at night, and that they all figured out how to cope.  And if I think back to my experiences in recent months with Grace sleeping in new-ish places, this really wasn't any different; it's just that I'm making my parents deal with the nighttime/new-place issues instead of doing it myself and thus I have more compunction.  I remind myself that these are my parents who love me and love Grace and are willing to inconvenience themselves and weather a little discomfort to help us; it can be hard to accept help without guilt.  It seems within the realm of possibility that a 2nd or 3rd night with them (what will likely happen when the new baby is born) will be much better as she adjusts, so here's hoping...

And what did Rob and I do?  Nothing too exciting, I rather shamefacedly admit.  We decided at the last minute that we both needed hair appointments and went to have concurrent appointments in the early evening.  It was our intention to then go out to eat somewhere afterwards, then watch a movie at home.  Well, we were thwarted by our choice of hair establishment.  We went to this Paul Mitchell school (you know, where students learning how to cut hair and whatnot practice on you) here in Dallas that we used to frequent when we lived here before.  I am somewhat ambivalent about this place (and the nearly identical one in Connecticut that I went to a few times while there) because on the one hand, it is dirt cheap and I am always quite happy with the results.  On the other hand, they are unimaginably, indescribably, painfully slow.  One time I had highlights and a haircut and I was there for over 5 hours.  Anything that involves foils will be well over 2 hours, more likely 3.  A haircut routinely pushes the 2-hour mark.  I am sympathetic-- I know they are slow because they are inexperienced, but oh the humanity...  Anyway, it was possibly not the best choice for our evening and we got out of there quite late, stomachs churning, although with chic hair and not too much the poorer.  We ended up deciding on pizza from the fun independent pizza shop close to our house, eaten while watching a movie in the living room with the volume turned up as loud as we wanted it.  (Our bedrooms are all pretty close to the living room where the entertainment stuff is, so when Grace is asleep, watching a movie tends to involve a lot of turning the volume up up up during the dialogue parts and down down down during the explosion-y/gunfire/space-fight parts; Rob finds this super annoying.)  The next morning we slept in, both of us, at the SAME TIME, until a lovely lazy hour and then cooked ourselves a big leisurely hot breakfast with coffee from the French press.  This may not sound like much to the single and/or child-free among you, but I assure you, it was bliss.  Bliss, I tell you!

Friday, October 24, 2008



My dad just picked up my daughter for her first night away from both Rob and me at the same time.  My parents, who live halfway across the Dallas/Ft. Worth metropolitan area from us, are going to take care of Grace when I go into labor and am in the hospital with the new baby and all so this is our practice run.  We've had a number of people express surprise that we haven't left her overnight with anybody else before now but it just hasn't happened because of schedules and distance and our own preferences.  When we were living in Connecticut, we didn't have family closer than Texas and although I know we had friends in the New Haven area who would have gladly taken care of Grace if one of us had been in the hospital or something drastic like that, it didn't feel quite right to leave her with them just for kicks.  And then there's the fact that we've been pretty strapped for cash since, oh, getting married (medical school and graduate school and residency and buying a house that you later lose money on will do that to you) so jaunting off for a fun childless weekend hasn't ever really seemed like a responsible decision.  And Rob's schedule was so intense during residency that there wasn't much time for such a weekend anyway; his limited vacation time went to paternity leave, trips to see faraway family, trips for house-hunting, etc.  Despite all this, we could have made it work if it was a high priority to us, so I guess the most honest answer to why we haven't both left Grace before now is that we didn't really want to, or at least not badly enough to overcome the inconvenience of our circumstances and actually do it.  It turns out that we like her, you know, a lot.   Rob was away from her so much during residency and I've worked at least part-time for most of her life so we both felt like we'd rather be together as a threesome when it came to long weekends and vacation and all that.

So because of our circumstances and the choices we made within them, Grace has had either Rob or me to put her to bed every night since she was born.  I have a little anxiety now, but not so much for Grace as for my dear parents.  Whatever have I gotten them into?!  Grace is, as I've mentioned before, a pretty terrible sleeper.  Her sleep patterns now are pretty much the best they've ever been, with more time spent sleeping in her own bed, fewer night wakings, and less fuss at bedtime than at other stages of her life, but she still requires night-time parenting at least once most nights.  (And THANK YOU, Rob, for taking over all that night-time parenting since I've been pregnant.  I would be a much huger mess if it weren't for you.)  We have a fairly regimented night-time routine, since that's one of the first things the experts say to do when your child has less-than-ideal sleep; I feel a bit apprehensive about how Grace will respond to things being different.  Will she accept the novelty and settle down for sleep with equanimity?  Will she flail and cry and pop out of bed a dozen times?  We definitely had rough nights during our moving process as she got accustomed to new places like our sublet apartment, the hotels on the drive, and our new house.  As they drive away, I am telepathically pleading with her, "Please please please please PLEASE go to sleep easily and have an outstandingly good night when you don't make a peep until 6am."

I definitely feel more unease for my parents' discomfort than for Grace's, mostly because she has slept overnight at their house before (with one or both of us) and she is so in love with them.  She loves to go over to their house and play with the fun toys they have and read books with my mom and see their sweet one-eyed dog.  And my dad-- oh, how she loves my dad.  He is seriously her favorite person in the whole wide world.  Back when Grace was still nursing, I might have been able to trump my dad in Grace's estimation, but I emphasize my uncertainty on that point.  I'm not totally sure what it is; I definitely have a high regard for my dad but Grace's devotion knows no bounds.  He has always had a mysterious charm for small children and animals-- that must say something really good about him.  One of the pleasures of motherhood has been seeing Grace build relationships with my parents and other people I love; I know that my relationships are richer now because they are intertwined with new bonds that these people have with my child.

The house does seem empty as I type this, and I will be glad to get her back tomorrow after lunch.  I am embarrassed to report that now that Rob and I finally have a childless 24 hours together, we still don't have much planned.  We are even more hard up for ready money than usual right now and Rob has his HUGE IMPORTANT pediatric board exams scheduled for Monday, so what we really should do is have a quiet evening at home conducive to last-minute cramming accompanied by a frugal home-made dinner.  I think we might cheat a little and go out to eat.  What kind of place would be not child-friendly at all (thus fun to go to while we are FREE, FREE AS BIRDS) but also cheap and fun for a 7-month-pregnant woman?
  • Our usual places? OUT
  • A fancy restaurant? OUT
  • A slightly seedy dive?  Sadly, also OUT
I feel like I can only satisfy two of those conditions at the same time.