Monday, December 27, 2010

I'll Think About It Tomorrow

Oh, Scarlett. 

I didn't take the castor oil yesterday. The more I thought about it, the more I figured, "Hey, if God wanted to give me the opportunity to hang with friends and watch Dr. Who yesterday, who am I to turn my nose up at it?" So I called the midwife (Jackie), chatted with her for a few minutes, and we decided I'd wait one more day.

Last night on the way home from Dr. Who, we stopped at Walgreens and bought the castor oil. This morning I texted Jackie as follows: "Good morning! I have 1 errand to run. After that, I can have an ultrasound, castor oil, patience, or some combo of the three. Guide me, o wise and gentle one."

I just knew I would hear that we should have an ultrasound followed by castor oil. Instead, she told me somebody cut in line in front of me and is in labor now; no castor oil! Tomorrow I'll go in for a biophysical profile if I haven't yet had the baby. I won't have the baby because he's too darn comfortable. Why should he come out? Jeez-o-Pete.

Mark just came home with eggs, bacon, and other yum-yums, so I suppose I should go cook and eat a late-ish breakfast. Wake Burgundy, run a couple of errands. Straighten the house and do laundry. 

Buh. I'd rather be coping with contractions. 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Red Raspberry Leaf Tea

At 6:30 AM the day after Christmas, the whole family sleeps. I would sleep, too, but I can only lay down for about half an hour to an hour at a time. Of course, I can only lay on my side, and it causes a horrible burning feeling down the sides of my legs. Naturally, I can't sleep through the burn, and I found myself squatting on the floor next to the bed, composing the first lines of this post in my head while I waited for the burn to stop. "Why not?" I thought. I haven't actively avoided the blog; I've only been lazy.

By the way: I think making teenage girls watch labor is not the best form of birth control. They should have to watch a heavily pregnant woman get out of bed. First, I use my husband's formerly sleeping form as a kind of wedge to keep from falling onto my back. If I end up on my back, I lay there like an oversized, upended bug, all my limbs waving at the air in futility. So I start with a funny backwards shimmy that lets me roll onto Mark. Then, I use my hands to fling the covers off myself with as much force as possible. This must be done with force. If I fling them away but they don't completely clear my [useless and constantly pained] legs, I will be trapped. Mark will have to get out of bed to rescue me, I'll fall on my back in the process, and we'll be back to the Palmetto Bug Pose. Once free of the covers, I use my legs to kind of bicycle the large pillow I have to use for my lower body out of the way.

All the foregoing only clears the obstacles; still I must somehow get my body out of the bed. Please understand, I am not a giant fatty. I've only gained 14 pounds since the day I found out I was pregnant. My face, arms, butt, thighs, everything is smaller than it was the day I got pregnant. Unfortunately, I'm carrying Hercules the Mighty in my uterus, and nothing works right.

From here, I have to wriggle and squirm for several minutes until I'm close enough to the edge of the bed to fall out of it. Sometimes, like this morning, I can slither off face up so I land in a kind of stable squat. Other times, earlier in the night, I just have to roll off and pray. Sometimes, when my bladder is really full, I give up and say, "Mark, I really need to pee." And he gets out of bed and helps me stand and makes sure that I'm over the tile before falling back in bed. Can't have urine in the carpet.

I lurched into the kitchen and turned the heat on under the tea kettle. Tea is so boring. It's bland; it doesn't bring any kick. I insist on using a real teacup and saucer if I'm to punish myself with tea. And today, I will punish myself with tea. Red raspberry leaf tea. I don't hate it, but I wouldn't notice if it never appeared in my life again either.

I gathered my cup and saucer, my spoon, a little brown sugar, and the tea. The tea almost has finished steeping, and I'll drink it. Bitterly.

Honestly, I wonder why I bother with the tea. It's good for the uterus. It's good for the pregnancy. Blah blah blah. Thing is, I'm going to be pregnant forever. The baby will keep growing past his anticipated 8.5-9 pounds (as of the 23rd), and my cervix will hold firm. I will walk 5,000 miles (and I will walk 500 more), and he will stay put. He's comfortable in there, curled up like a gargantuan elf, kicking me when he's hungry (or when I've just eaten), punching my bladder for fun, sucking his thumb and enduring the hiccups like a proper boy. Red raspberry leaf tea will not coax him out. And it's boring. Why bother?

I think I'm a bit of a spoiled child. Laundry bores me too, and no matter how many loads of laundry I process, still more will be required. Talk about why bother. I just started the washer on the third hot cycle to prepare the cloth diapers that Dad and Gail, his wonderful wife, sent me. I'm excited about diapers (for now), and still my Little Voice is whining and throwing a temper fit. "Isn't there something more exciting to do? I wanna surf the web! I wanna knit! I wanna go into labor! I wanna do something FUN!" GAH. Blah blah blah! Shut! UP!

Even when I'm doing things I like, I'm whining on the inside. Like knitting. I made Burgundy a really awesome pair of knee socks with a matching beaded cowl. It's gorgeous and presented a real and legitimate challenge to my knitting prowess. I know it's bragging, but I'm a pretty good knitter. Most projects get boring fast. This one took almost an entire sock to bore me! I think I had six pattern repeats done before I memorized it enough to go mobile without a copy of the pattern. And boy once I hit that? Whining non-stop. "This is boring. This is stupid. I want to be finished with this project. They're not gonna fit anyway. I wanna go play! I wanna bake! I wanna do laundry! I wanna go into labor!"

I swear to God, I'm never going to have this baby because I am FOUR YEARS OLD. No four-year-old should parent a child. So God in his infinite wisdom has decreed that I will never go into labor. I'm doomed to sleep in 2-hour fits tapering to 30-minute dozes, to waddle and lurch from bed to bathroom to kitchen to laundry room, to whine and moan and sulk for the rest of my born days.

And that is why I got up and opened the blog. Turned the heat on the kettle and set out the damn teacup. Turned the washer on for the third cycle of clean diapers and started to type. I found my big girl panties, and I'm wearing them [yes, Little Man, I know you're in there; thank you for that lovely punch. I'll go put on a clean pair of big girl panties now]. I know this post is the longest, whiniest rant in all of history, but I'm banishing the whiner, too. She has to shut up or have a different conversation.

I'm 41 weeks. Women all over the world are wrinkling their brows and saying, "What? Only one week overdue? I went two weeks over! My Aunt Sally's cousin, Billy Bob, got some poor girl pregnant, and she went four weeks over!" Well, more power to Billy Bob's girlfriend and to you. I have had enough. This little man is coming out; I plan to serve the eviction notice in just a little while in a form that only a gestating baby will understand. Castor Oil.

The midwife said not to take it in the afternoon and not to take it before noon Christmas Day (she had family in town), and as an act of love only (simple obedience could not have induced me to wait), I waited. As soon as my family arises from their gilded sleep (grumble grumble), I am off to Walgreens.

I know it will be nasty. I don't care.
I know I will miss visiting with my friend from North Caroline, who's here for one day. I don't care.
I know I will miss the Doctor Who Christmas Special over at my friend Christi's place tonight. I don't care. Uh, yes I do. I care about the Doctor and one last hoorah with my knitting friends. If it was earlier in the day, I might care enough to wait on the castor oil, but it isn't, and I don't.

I made cinnamon rolls and bread yesterday. Neighbors brought veggie and meat/cheese snack trays and a plate of cookies and fudge (I'm borderline gestational diabetic, so I really can't eat that stuff). I made gift bags and mailed them for all our close family (I made marshmallows. You should have heard the four-year-old whining on that project), and I have a few undelivered under the tree; those people will want to come see the baby anyway. My kitchen floor is clean (thanks to the awesome teenager), the living room and library are passable; in short, it's time. So I'm going to shower and wake my husband, and we're going to buy some castor oil. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I realized recently that one of the reasons I haven't posted is that I'm worried about taking the time to write a post. So I put it off, then spend easily twice as much time surfing Ravelry as I would have spent typing a post. That's just dumb.

I had a great midwife appointment yesterday. I'm still not gaining much weight; I've had a total gain of 12 pounds in 28 weeks. However, the baby is still growing by leaps and bounds, and I'm right where I should be in terms of size. Meanwhile, I've noticed and others have commented that my face seems to be thinning out. I think my double chin is a little less pronounced. For now, I'm not going to worry about the gain (or lack of it). I'm certainly eating whatever I want; I ate a whole pint of Ben & Jerry's the other day in one sitting. Mind, that's no model of dietary intake there, but I offer it as evidence that this is my body's doing, not my will's. I'm not dieting. I promise.

At the appointment, I was able to hold a model that's about the size of The Parasite and weighted to mimick his density. All curled up, the little doll fit neatly in my two hands, and Jackie held him against my belly in the position we believe he's taken now (head-down, left-side and facing my spine. Textbook). I had to fight the urge to cradle the doll and coo at it; I'll save it for wee Parry.

High School Drama; Feel Free to Skip

New drama at Burgundy's school with band. There's continued drama with the bullies; Burgundy elevated the issue to the Assistant Principal. Then Burgundy re-twisted her ankle at the game Thursday night, and Saturday morning, the directors put someone else in the show to march for her. On the same day, the doctor told her she could march again. Monday, she told Band Director #3 (there are 3 total; I'm labeling by rank) that she'd been cleared to march, but she knew she'd been replaced in the show. She asked him what she should do? BD#3 told her he wanted her to do something in the show, and he'd tell her at practice.

At practice, she was instructed to sit down and watch. About halfway through the three-hour practice, she got up to help the sound guy. BD#1 yelled at her to sit down because he didn't want her to hurt herself. After practice, confused between BD#3's affirmation that she should help and BD#1's insistence that she sit out, she went to the directors again and asked them what they needed from her. BD#2 replied that they wanted her to march. Burgundy implied that this was said with condescension and the intention of humiliating. Neither BD#1 nor BD#3 bothered to point out that she'd been instructed by both of them specifically not to march.

Burgundy came home, and we talked it over. I concluded that the three BDs must not be communicating clearly and told her that she needed to ask them where they wanted her to serve them and the band. She did so after class yesterday in their office, and when she did, BD#1 yelled at her, told her she was sending mixed signals, and she needed to decide what she was going to do.

Burgundy went straight to the AP's office and called me sobbing. I went straight to the school and had a good long chat with the AP. This afternoon we have a meeting with BD#1 at 1:45, and we'll decide what to do from there.

High School Drama Concluded; Feel Free to Tune Back In

Well, I've said you can tune back in, but I have nothing more to write.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I Want to Be All Professional and Stuff

But I've decided I'll have to settle for updating however and whenever both the spare time and the motivation to write collide in my life. If there's one consistent thing about me, it's that I am inconsistent. It drives me batty, and I bet it drives the rest of you even battier. Is that a word?

I mean, how many projects have I started on here? Let's see . . .
  1. Eat and buy products sourced only within 200 miles of my location. Status: Failed. Reason: The parasite rendered me incapable of anything but laying on the couch and whining. Mark had no interest in procuring locally, and it fell to him to keep us fed, clothed, and at least one step above misery. He's done a great job, so I have no complaints about our continued global shopping habits. Now that I'm feeling better, maybe we can try again.
  2. The Why I Choose Homebirth series. Status: Failed. Reason: I'm a chicken, and I'm afraid I won't do the argument justice. But I haven't squeezed him out yet, so maybe it's not failed. Maybe just on hold.
  3. The Julia-isms: posting one bizarre thing Julia said everyday. Status: Failed. Reason: Julia moved out.
  4. The 30 Days meme. Status: Failed. Reason: I tell myself the topics are boring.
  5. I'm sure there's something else, but I want to write, not scour my old posts for evidence of my failure. 
I plan to complete the Homebirth series no matter what. I really need to take a bit of time to organize my thoughts and decide a coherent approach, and that will help a lot. Every time I think about it, I think of a new order in which to present the material, and each time the new order seems like it's more compelling than the previous one. You know what would be really compelling? Actually writing something down. Yeah. Now there's a thought.

Meanwhile, here's where we all are:
My dear, sweet husband is doing well. I still want to scalp him from time to time, especially when he starts hovering over Burgundy. I know my stuff when it comes to parenting. And I know my child better than he can ever hope to, but he insists on micro-managing and cross-examining me about Burgundy's progress in school, and it drives me crazy.

Having said that, in every other area, we're doing great. He's even been [slowly] working on the garage, and yesterday he mentioned cleaning off his desk. He's perfectly happy with our steady diet of rice, beans and pizza with the occasional Julia Child-inspired gourmet meal whipped up when I don't feel like I've been trampled and pooped on by a giant dog.

We're one week from the end of the 2010 fiscal year, and his job in FY 2011 (starting October 1) still isn't solid. The good news is that the rumor mill holds that the task order will be signed, it's just a matter of time. In other good news, his new company has excellent benefits. His new insurance actually covers maternity medical at 100% with no co-pay.

His book-selling business is going well. He's subscribed to an online service that manages his inventory and sales for him, and he currently has books listed on 15 or so sites. Last month he sold over $1,200 in books, and he was able to reinvest over 80% of that in the business. At first I groused because I thought the profit (some $900) should have been put in savings. The more I considered it, though, the more at peace I am with his decisions. First, if my hobbies paid for themselves as well as his clearly does, we'd be rolling in it, and second, if we consider this a legitimate business, he should be reinvesting most of his capital early on. Of course, he's done it all debt-free and from the ground up.

And starting in mid-September, his book business is contributing a small amount every week to our emergency savings account. He's as tickled as a little boy bringing a bouquet of wildflowers to his mom, and I am just as happy for him.

I'm 27 weeks pregnant, and The Parasite is now 2.5 pounds and about 16 inches from head to toe. All curled up, my little man supposedly takes the space of a head of cauliflower. And if a head of cauliflower shoved up my hoo-ha doesn't make you giggle, I can't help you in the humor department.

My weight gain has been very slow. I think I'm still under 210, for a total gain of about 14 pounds in 27 weeks. Given my obesity prior to pregnancy, I'm very comfortable with the slow gain. Most people, upon learning I'm "only" 6.5 months, blurt out, "Are you sure you're not having twins?" So I'm pretty sure (she says with an exasperated eyeroll) that the Parasite is getting everything he needs.

I, too, have a week of employment remaining. I'm told that the budget for the next fiscal year's task order funds me through December, which is really great news. The only problem is the minor question of Congressional inaction. Our task order depends on a chain reaction of bureaucratic activity: Congress must pass a continuing resolution (CR); the CR must fund Constellation, which in turn must fund MOP sufficient to justify the task order on which I work. MOP then must decide to fund our task order, and if all that happens in the next seven days, I have a job on 10/1. If not, well, that's why we have unemployment insurance.

A small rant: Thank you Congress. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your dithering on the NASA budget. [Profanity redacted] you bunch of [profanity redacted]ing imbeciles, how difficult is it, really, to say, "Huh, dur, ya know what, uh, NASA oughta be funded, ah-yup," and pass a darn continuing resolution? For the love of Pete, the House and Senate versions aren't that far apart. Our Illustrious President said he would sign it. Get it together and pass something! WHARGARBL!

I hate band season, and I hate sending my daughter off to high school every day. I don't mind most of the challenges. It's good for her to face authority figures who drive her nuts. It's good for her to figure out how to deal with bullies and how to face her own temptations down. However, I hate that she comes home from school so upset with listening to cursing and swearing all afternoon on the marching band field. I hate that her teachers don't have the time (and some not even the inclination) to help Burgundy really learn instead of asking her to regurgitate facts.

Having said that, it's going well for her over all. As it happens, Burgundy lettered last year, her first year in high school. She did not letter in writing, debate, or band as we might have expected. After all, she wants to major in English and Music. She lettered in Science Fair. Yes, science fair.

She started pre-Calculus this year, a Senior-level class in which she is the only Sophomore and definitely the youngest person. She has two Seniors paying her $10/hour for tutoring after school. We don't know what to do for math in the next two years. The only two non-remedial math courses at the school that she hasn't taken are AP Calculus and AP Statistics, and the counselor said she won't be ready for AP Calculus if she hasn't taken pre-AP Pre-Calculus, but there's no non-AP Calculus course offered. She could take AP Statistics, but I hate for her to leave the Calculus track for a year to head in a completely different direction. We might have her take AP Cal over the summer at Rice.
She's very excited about her little brother, and she chose our nursery theme: Monkeys. The picture here is a piece of wall art we registered for, but those are the general colors for the nursery; we love them.

Soren (Disclaimer: The dog said he had something to share, but I can't be held responsible for his frippery. He is, after all, a dog.):


Oh! oh! oh! oh! I am so excited because I am a dog and my eyes are big and OH MY GOD HAVE YOU SEEN MY TAIL IT'S  HUGE AND WITH IT I DOMINATE ALL THINGS!

My lady, she taught me a new trick! It has to do with the puffy air thing and the drool! She says it is, "Stop breathing!" and then she makes the hand motion, and I close my mouth and do not let any of the air out, and when I feel all blown up and my tail is sticking out because it is full of air, then my lady says, "Good boy, free!" and then I can let the air out, and I puff and pant and do the thing that is blowing slobber all over the big puffy soft thing that my lady calls the couch and she yells, "Gross! Get away from me! Ew, GO AWAY!" and then I use my tail to dominate the room while I turn around and walk away!

And the man! The man is so NICE! But he doesn't know how to do the thing where I stop breathing. Because that is only for my lady to tell me to do! And the man gives me food and makes me stand on my back legs and he tells me, "LEFT PAW!" and "RIGHT PAW!"

And yesterday, my lady took me to the dog park! And it was fun, and there were other dogs there! And some of them wanted to do the thing that is hop up on my giant, dominant tail and hump me to prove they are more dominant than my dominant tail, but I did not let them! I said, "WOOF!" And also I am very big and my lady says "One hundred pounds" and talks to the invisible man about me and calls him, "Christ," because he knows I am big too and that's why the other dogs can't hump my tail! And then I found a dog that was very small; my lady said that dog should have gone to the little dog park! And I tried to hump her face to show her how special I am, but my lady yelled at me and called me a BAD DOG, and it made me sad.

And then she put me in the car, and she made me put my head out the window because she does not like it when I drool on her shoulder, but I left lots of drool on the door and also some of the stuff that she says is snot on the car seat.

I'm so glad my lady loves me! Peanut butter!
Well. I guess we can all see why Soren does not have a regular spot on this blog. I'm so sorry to have exposed you all to his sordid, canine mind.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

We had another appointment with the midwife Tuesday. I really appreciate how much she puts me at ease. I've had a very hard time communicating to anyone how much pain I'm having. The only person who seemed to "get it" was my friend Camille. While working on my trigger points, she said, "Melissa, your sensitivity levels are up there with those of a fibromyalgia patient." So when Jackie told me that her second was like this and described the pain as being, "like the bones of your pelvis are rubbing together," it really helped me to be confident that this pain, awful as it seems, is not the harbinger of doom that I fear. She even said out loud what I'd said to Mark just a couple of nights before: "The pain was so awful that I was afraid I wouldn't be able to handle the birth." And then she reassured me, "but the birth was just fine. We were fine."

I bought a maternity support belt while there, and I'm surprised by how much it helps. Not much for the fashion statement, but I can walk without wincing now.

Our baby boy is 25 weeks old now. I try to imagine his little fingernails, his eyelids fluttering open for the first time, and the fat beginning to fill out his skin. I wonder whether his lips will be shapely, like mine, or round like Mark's. Either way, they'll be full. Mark and I both have big lips. He spends the morning stretching and rolling, and the best I can figure, trying to divebomb my cervix. I feel a ridiculous amount of movement extremely low in my pelvis. It's like he keeps his hands over his head and bounces on them.

As far as I know, I have only three weeks of employment remaining. My company continues to hunt out work for me; I can only pray we are able to find it successfully. Mark's employment has not come through yet; however, he fully expects that it will. So we continue to hold.

We had a death in the family this week. My father's wife, Gail, is a delightful lady who really has worked hard to have a loving, real relationship with her adult stepchildren. We're so lucky that Dad married such an open, ingratiating, loving woman. Unfortunately, her stepfather, Albert, passed away this week. He had Alzheimers and had been living with Gail and my father for the past couple of years. Dad said that Albert had just come home from visiting his children in Dallas for his birthday. He'd been to see the rodeo and spent time with his great-grandkids. Dad said that when he came home, he was sitting at the dinner table talking about going back to Houston and getting back to work.

Suddenly he went catatonic and unresponsive at the table. They called for an ambulance. Dad said that Albert revived once, briefly, and Gail was able to say goodbye to him. Then he went out again as the ambulance arrived. A scan revealed massive hemmorhaging on both sides of his brain; they pulled life support that night, and he passed within about 10 minutes.

I did not know Albert very well at all. Gail and Dad have been married about twelve years now, and it's possible Albert already had Alzheimers when I met him. He was a sweet old man for all the exposure I had to him, and my heart goes out to Gail, who is occupying her mind and heart with funeral arrangements, schedules, lodging for family members who are traveling to Houston for the funeral, and so on. I hope she's able to cope well when the chaos and business of the funeral and burial have passed and she's left with time and quiet on the long drive back to Mississippi.

Pray for her, if you think about it. I think Dad will be fine. Ultimately, Gail will be, too. But my heart goes out to her.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Day 04 – What you ate today, in great detail

or, How I Confirmed I'm Still Rebelling After All This Time.

I finally summoned the strength and courage to return to the Den of Iniquity kitchen. The blueberry jam sessions and subsequent jelly sessions went a long way toward boosting my confidence that I can, in fact, handle cooking while pregnant. At least this trimester. Then I also washed, par-boiled, and froze 20 bags of pink-eyed, purple-hull peas. And I want to make and can many pints of the base for butternut squash soup.

I clambered into bed Sunday night with a glimmer of a plan to make breakfast for Burgundy on her first day of school. Let me explain something to the world about having an independent, easy-going, joy-filled teenager. Sometimes, it's too easy. I have never, ever been the get-up-and-make-breakfast mom. Ever. And she has never complained. Just asked me to buy another box of cereal.

Monday morning the alarm went off at 5:30, and I clambered out of the bed, caught a quick shower, and made my way to the kitchen. I threw five strips of bacon into one of my skillets and two slices of bread into the decrepit little toaster I've had for at least a decade. While I waited for the bacon sizzle to start, I found a pancake recipe online and started mixing the batter.

Halfway through the batter, I flipped the bacon and set aside the last three eggs in the refrigerator to be fried and scrambled. I added the melted butter to the batter, beat it in with a fork, the thick sludge oozing around the fork while I smashed flour lumps against the side of the bowl until I had a nice, consistent goop.

I flipped the bacon again and gathered my salt and pepper. I folded a paper towel in half and scooped the bacon into it, setting it onto a plate on the opposite counter and hoping enough grease would drain to assuage my guilt. I cracked the first egg into the still-spattering bacon grease and quickly sprinkled a smidge of salt over the top. I ground a little pepper over that and let it fry while I washed out the eggshell and threw it into the oatmeal box I converted into a holder for eggshells (Mark likes to spread them in the garden).

I flipped the egg, grabbed another paper towel and folded it, then slipped the egg onto it and laid it next to the bacon to drain. I did the same for the second egg and breathed a little easier knowing I still had 30 minutes to clean the skillet of bacon grease, melt some butter, and scramble an egg for my vegetarian daughter's breakfast.

While the second egg fried on side one, I broke the third egg into a bowl, added salt and pepper, and I beat it frenetically. I hate half-beaten scrambled eggs. Gross. Flipped the second egg, whipped the pancake batter, set egg number 2 to drain with number 1 and the bacon, and poured the bacon grease into a dirty pot to cool for the trash. Used yet another paper towel to wipe out the skillet, threw in a dollop of butter, and after a final quick thrashing, poured in the final egg. It took about 32 seconds to cook.

After that I spent what felt like hours at the tedious task of pouring, flipping, and scooping out pancakes. By 6:15, we all were seated at the kitchen table for one of our few real breakfast meals ever as a family. I said a prayer, and we dove into our food with the reckless abandon of a family that eats out too often.

The pancakes lasted through Tuesday, and I made more bacon and eggs to go with them.

Please excuse the crappy, cell-phone
quality photo. I wanted to eat, not take
photos, so this was my compromise.
Oh, the quiche. I don't know how to tell you what a lovely, wonderful cook and writer is Julia Child. Her quiche "base" recipe is so perfectly simple and elegant; it cooks perfectly every single time I've ever made it. Tuesday evening I also undertook to make her pie crust for the first time. If it's possible, I didn't keep it cold enough. Next time I will freeze the butter, flour and shortening for a little while before I make it, and I'll use ice water instead of just the cold refrigerator water.  I had a hard time getting the dough rolled out to a consistent, thin thickness. Anyway, the quiche rose high and serene from the gorgeous pie crust, standing like a tower of princess eggs over her realm. We ate half for dinner Tuesday night, and I forbade Mark to touch it again before morning, when we shared the remainders for breakfast with bacon and toast liberally smeared with butter and homemade blueberry jelly.

Inspired by my incredibly repeatable success with her quiche recipe, I decided to try her recipe for fish poached in white wine and baked in a sauce mornay made with swiss cheese. I served it with bow-tie pasta served with very slightly wilted spinach all mixed up with the liberal amount of leftover sauce mornay from the fish.

Today I served breakfast for the fourth day in a row, bacon, eggs and toast - an English muffin each for me and Burgundy - and Burgundy tentatively remarked that she felt so much better at school for having eaten a good breakfast. Normally I will take a grateful, loving remark like that and turn it into a reason to beat myself up for the 14 years of breakfast opportunities lost. Not today, though. Today I will use it to say, "Well done, Mel. You're a good mom Right Now." Even though I employ random capitalization for emphasis, unnecessarily provoking the wrath of the Minor God of Anal Grammarians.

Tonight the main dish is spaghetti and meatballs so I can focus on doing something evil and delicious with the box of fresh brussels sprouts in my refrigerator. I'm pretty sure it will involve the last of the white wine from yesterday's adventure, some garlic, and a number of fresh herbs from Mark's garden. I feel such delight and joy to be back in the kitchen.

So you wonder what this has to do me being rebellious? It's this: I took one look at today's topic and thought, "What? Food. That's dumb. I don't want to write about what I ate. I want to write about what I've been doing in the kitchen." *headdesk*

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Day 03 – Your parents, in great detail

Is anything ever just about one's parents? I could tell stories about my grandparents that would tell you more about my mother than anything I ever wrote about her. I'll take the bait though, and we'll see what I come up with.

I think no relationship is so complex, contradictory or bizarre as a girl's relationship to her mom.

Mom has brown hair, curly and short, and she suffers from terminal self-loathing. No matter where she is or how she's doing, she knows she could improve something. She could exercise more. Make the house prettier. Cook better. Look better. Be better. I think sometimes that keeps her from being just as awesome as she already is. At the same time, I understand through my own experience that it's the same drive that allows her to be brutally honest with herself, to take responsibility for her failings, and to be deeply connected to the people she loves.

Mom has brown eyes, I think. But now that I try to conjure her image in my mind, I can't see her eyes. Maybe they're kind of green? I know that they're striking and clear. She's dark-complected, almost olive-skinned, and I always envied her easy, crispy tans. I go from milk-white to lobster in half the time she turns native brown.

Mama loves me. She taught me to sew, to crochet, and to write. I remember picking vegetables with her as a very little girl. Okra, purple-hull peas, corn and butterbeans. We picked them every year. She taught me not to fear the fat, happy caterpillars we found hiding in the corn husks. She canned spaghetti sauce, cut-off, creamed and froze corn, and for some unholy reason cooked a lot of summer squash. To this day, the smell of summer squash turns my stomach. No amount of butter can render it edible. That stuff is nasty. Word to my mother: NAS. TEE.

I remember baking bread with her. Drinking buttermilk for the first time at her urging. Learning to make perfect southern biscuits (the secret is lard and buttermilk). Once I spilled hot coffee down my 9-year-old chest. I remember the skin peeling up. Mama raced me to Mrs. Janice's house. I don't remember how we treated it, just that Mama let me cry and held me.

I hate this entry. It's boring ME.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Day 02 – Your first love, in great detail

Noone said I had to do all these back to back, right?

I put this off for a couple of days because I am a master procrastinator didn't know quite what to write about my first love. My first boyfriend can barely even qualify as a first like based on what I know of love at the ripe old age of 35. Even my first few lusts don't qualify for any kind of love label.

So rather than talk about my first love in great detail, I think I'll write about my first kiss. I hope that's not a topic for a future day. I'll warn you, this could get . . . raunchy. Or not, but I love that word and want to use it. See? It's even in a tag now.

Before I go there, you should know about my first boyfriend, too.

The Boyfriend I Had When I Was 8 from Mize, Mississippi
I don't remember his name. I don't remember what he looked like. This was an arranged marriage. Mom never quite noticed that I preferred reading a good book by myself to playing with other kids. And she certainly never accepted that I had no interest in boys. She came to me one day and told me that her co-worker's son wanted me to be his girlfriend. "Isn't that cool?" she asked.

"Why?" I answered. I'd never met him. He didn't know me. I wondered whether he liked books. I wondered if I'd have to kiss him. Ew. "What does he look like? Where does he live?" I wondered whether the ubiquitous "other kids" at school would torment me for having a boyfriend. Would it be worth it? In retrospect, I think I was an anxious kid.

Mom took me to visit him one day during the summer, and we rode around on his go-cart. I wanted to read, but he didn't. So I rode the go-cart and was surprised to discover I enjoyed it.

Stephen - First Kiss
Five years later, thirteen-year-old me lived with Mom and Charles the Stepfather in a decrepit, converted travel trailer parked outside Mamaw's house in her large, circular driveway. We called my step-grandmother Mamaw. She made me nervous, looming over me tall and thin with a halo of iron-gray frizzy curls and her bulbous, beaky nose. Her belly bulged oddly out, permanently seven months pregnant. A cousin told me that her last child, my stepfather's baby brother, died in utero, but she never went into labor, and they never had the money for the operation to clean her out. I understand enough biology now to know this could not have been true. I did not understand that then.

We lived down the road from Missy Walters, who lived with her grandmother in a wood-frame white house.  Missy was a bad girl with bad-girl hair, heavy makeup, and a little bit of a reputation. Missy's cousin, Stephen, enjoyed a bad-boy reputation. All the bad girls thought him perfectly dreamy. I didn't know he existed until Missy told me about him. Again with the books. She offered to set me up with him, telling me he was an amazing kisser. At 13, I at least had an awareness that I should be into guys, so I agreed. It would be a little longer before I found out that Missy should not have known whether her cousin was a good kisser. Yuck.

I don't remember much about him. He was tall, thin, and dark-haired with big blue eyes. We went to a school dance together; he had a Band of Merry Metalheads. They trailed him everywhere. I don't remember feeling particularly in love with him, although I doubtless had, "I <3 Stephen" scrawled all over my books and notebooks.

The dance, held in the gymnasium, I remember in shades of brown and gray. I'm sure they decorated the gym somehow, probably with black and orange streamers. I don't remember any food being there. We danced once. Someone turned on a slow song by Poison or Ratt or Motley Crue or some other suitably horrible hair band, and Stephen grabbed my hand, dragging me to the floor.

Slow dancing consisted of him arranging our arms around each other and swaying back and forth to the music. I concentrated on not stepping on his feet, farting, or swaying out of time. These are all pretty engrossing mental and physical challenges, so imagine my surprise when I found my face tilted toward his. All my attention was focused on my feet and my tightly clenched buttcheeks when Stephen opened his mouth and came at my face like a gaping, surpised catfish.

I didn't have time to draw back and barely registered an, "OHMYGODHE'SGOINGTOKISSME," before I found the lower half of my face engulfed in slobber and a thick, fat, wet something plopped lazily into my mouth. The something sat on my tongue, resting against the teeth on the right side of my jaw for what felt like an eternity while I tried to figure several things at once:
  1. What had he put in my mouth, and why was he keeping it in his, and how hadn't I noticed it when we went out to dance?
  2. What in the world should I be doing? And what if I farted now?
  3. When would it ever end?
I couldn't maintain focus at both ends of my body. I'm still not sure whether I ever farted. I know that after at least ten minutes (probably about 20 seconds), I realized the something still sitting in my mouth like a dead sardine had to be his tongue. His tongue, y'all. Imagine my thirteen-year-old horror as I came to grips with the notion, buttcheeks still clenched, that I had this boy's tongue sitting in my mouth.

I gave up the notion that I wouldn't step on his feet. I also gave up on keeping time in any way. I focused on not biting his tongue (what if I bit it off?) and not farting. Eventually, a lifetime later, he came up for air. I smiled weakly at him, hoping he'd been pleased with my performance. The song ended, and I excused myself to repair my lipstick.  A week later, he dumped me. I correctly pinpointed our lackluster kiss as the source of his fading interest, and I set about correcting my perceived deficiency in kissing.

I did figure it out eventually, and I came to understand that Missy Walters was wrong. That boy definitely could not kiss.

Friday, August 20, 2010


I just finished watching The Godfather with Mark and Burgundy. Somehow, I made it 35 years without ever watching this amazing movie.

I think the biggest surprise is the rating. It's rated R, but if this movie came out now, it would be PG-13 at most, and that because of one scene featuring breasts. After the couple is married. Criminy. You can see that in a strip bar on a PG-rated film now.

Anyway, it was an awesome movie. We all really enjoyed it.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Day 1: Introduction

Okay, seriously? I have to introduce myself?

What if I just take this meme and say, "The topic for today looks lame and silly. It isn't worth the effort. Instead, I'll write about the impact of flatulence in weather patterns over the US and the relationship of said flatulence to fast food consumption rates." I think that's what I'll do. Today, I'll introduce my family.

I'm 35, currently working for NASA's Constellation Program on the Mission Operations Project and trying hard to go home. At the same time I want desparately to be at home most of the time to serve my family, I also feel a bit conflicted about keeping my identity (I am competent. I am sane.) and continuing to participate with rational adults. I'm contemplating a couple of different ministry/volunteer options that I might work through our church, and I'm planning to teach Generation Change to our youth in the fall semester. Generation Change is the youth/teen-targeted version of Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University.

I'm 5 months pregnant now, and I still haven't quite gotten my head around the idea. It's been a difficult one so far, and while I'm thrilled to have a baby, I am less-than-jazzed about this particular pregnancy experience. I do not feel like a goddess-earth-mother-bringer-of-life. I feel like a nauseated, overheated, fat, old, wet dog who, if kicked one. more. time. will hork everything from her toenails upward onto your favorite carpet.

I have not been eating well because it matters not how well or badly I eat, I still feel like microwaved cat crap. I think I need to stop eating out of the trash can, though, because the indigestion and nausea have continued to improve in spite of the garbage I'm eating. I bet if I just ate reasonably healthy food, I'd feel even better now. Not a month ago, though.

My beloved husband. How do I describe him? Imagine Ichabod Crane. Now imagine young Ichabod with bizarre, lustrous corkscrew curls falling around his face like the most adorable little (six-foot tall string-bean) hobbit ever. Add a really bizarre sense of humor with timing that will make you shoot orange juice from your nostrils, and you have my husband.

Maybe that doesn't tell you so much after all.

Mark works for NASA's International Space Station Program; he manages repairs for Boeing, but he isn't employed by them (grumble grumble). He's a very intense, very personal man who has the biggest, gentlest heart God made. Unless he's hungry or over-tired, in which case, I stock up the house with dark chocolate and take extended visits with friends.

Mark wants to name our baby Gallifrey for God's sake. Why do I need to explain anything else about him?

Burgundy is not just my child. In that peculiar way that we do, my daughter defines her mother. I defined mine, too. I rearranged my life when I found out she would be joining me, and I'm still shocked (a little) that she's here. What a perfect gift.

When I held infant Burgundy, I sang Brahm's lullaby to her. I rocked her, and when I came to "Little [insert baby name here] is sleepy. And she's tired, and she's sleepy, and she wants to go to sleep!" I thought those the most idiotic, uninspired lame bunch of words ever fitted together to make a rhyme. So I cooed, "Little Burgundy is lovely. And she's gracious, and she's generous, and she wants to go to sleep!" At the time, I thought it couldn't hurt to sing to her all her possibilities in life. All her best qualities.

Fourteen years later, we finished her Girl Scout Silver Award today. Burgundy volunteered over 52 hours during the last 3 weeks to organize and run a food drive for a local homeless service. She collected 208 cans, boxes, and bags of food, and we drove them to the shelter this morning. She came up with the idea after riding the bus and rail system in Houston this summer and seeing the homeless everywhere rooting through trash for a sandwich scrap. She packed extra bags of Cheerios with her lunch and handed them out at the stops. Yes, she's gracious and generous. Lovely.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Back Flips

Our parasite hates the jeans I'm wearing today, which sucks because they're not too tight, not too baggy, not falling down, and not giving me indigestion. Also not buttoned (yay belly sleeves).

I know he hates them because he is one laid-back, calm, cool, and collected little dude. He's so much like his dad already. Content just to be, he only moves when I'm uncomfortable. *TMI WARNING* The other day, I got all constipated, and he literally kicked the crap out of me until things got moving again. Hilarious. *OKAY, YOU'RE SAFE*

He goes mad after a long day on my feet when I lay down and put them up and the blood starts to rush back into the rest of my body. As my heartrate speeds up with the sheer pleasure of feeling the pain drain out of my feet, he rolls and squirms and pokes and wiggles like wild. When I sit for too long at work, he sticks and kicks and yanks (God he has a grip) until I get up and walk.

For the most part though, he just enjoys being there. As long as I'm happy, he's happy. However, today we are at odds. In spite of these wonderful, lovely, comfortable maternity jeans that aren't even buttoned, he's having little hissy fits. Does. Not. Want. Tough cookies, kiddo. Your big sister will tell you in a heartbeat: you just lucked out to get stuck into the least sympathetic mother ever. I like the jeans, and I will wear them again. Partially because I love to feel you moving.

August is half-over, and contrary to my dire predictions, I have not yet expired of heat exposure. I'm certain I will; I mean, God still has two more months of Houston summer with which to assault me. So hang in there. I'm not dead yet . . . [but I'll] be stone dead in a moment.*

Meanwhile, one of my favorite bloggers ever (I mean, GOD, she's so funny and real and raw [and wriggling]), grammardog at livejournal (y'all, I miss the old livejournal so much!), decided to do this meme. And given that I can't stick with the same topic for more than 15 minutes either way, I figured I'd announce my intention to do the same so that you'll all know that in fact, I will not do more than 1-2 posts. Then I'll see something shiny and chase it down and come back in two weeks blogging about Russian organized crime and its impact on the environment of Saturn or something.

Anyway, it's a 30-day thing with a different topic each day:

Day 01 - Introduction
Day 02 – Your first love, in great detail
Day 03 – Your parents, in great detail
Day 04 – What you ate today, in great detail
Day 05 – Your definition of love, in great detail
Day 06 – Your day, in great detail
Day 07 – Your best friend, in great detail
Day 08 – A moment, in great detail
Day 09 – Your beliefs, in great detail
Day 10 – What you wore today, in great detail
Day 11 – Your siblings, in great detail
Day 12 – What’s in your bag, in great detail
Day 13 – This week, in great detail
Day 14 – What you wore today, in great detail
Day 15 – Your dreams, in great detail
Day 16 – Your first kiss, in great detail
Day 17 – Your favourite memory, in great detail
Day 18 – Your favourite birthday, in great detail
Day 19 – Something you regret, in great detail
Day 20 – This month, in great detail
Day 21 – Another moment, in great detail
Day 22 – Something that upsets you, in great detail
Day 23 – Something that makes you feel better, in great detail
Day 24 – Something that makes you cry, in great detail
Day 25 – A first, in great detail
Day 26 – Your fears, in great detail
Day 27 – Your favourite place, in great detail
Day 28 – Something that you miss, in great detail
Day 29 – Your aspirations, in great detail
Day 30 – One last moment, in great detail

I suppose that's it for today. I and The Parasite have a lot of work to do, so I suppose it's time to put my nose to the grindstone.
* Anyone want to identify the quote source for minor geek points?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Please Forgive

I need to post a couple of photos on the internet and need them hosted somewhere, so I'm going to post them here. Please to ignore, will explain more later.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Big Night Tonight

I still have at least 15 pounds of blueberries from last weekend. I plan to make two batches of jam, one batch of jelly, and if there's enough left, a few pints of blueberry pie filling. Those will have to be frozen.

I probably could stretch this project out over the weekend, but I found a source of pink-eyed, purple-hull peas. They've been picked this weekend, and I can buy a bushel for $30. That will work out to somewhere between $3 and $3.75 / pound of shelled peas. If I come out on the $3 end, then it was worth it. If I come out on the high end, I'll just buy $30 worth of shelled peas at the farmers' market during the week for $3.50/pound.

Anyway, I'm driving 90 minutes to Conroe tomorrow morning to buy a bushel of peas, and they really need to be processed the same day. So tonight, I need to finish up my jam, jelly, and pie filling. There's no room in our kitchen for two projects to run simultaneously.

I just dropped Burgundy at the house this afternoon to spend time on her Silver Award project and to clean the kitchen. I hate that her summer is winding down. I hate that I'm not there with her right now.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Much Ado About Nothing

Mark had his interview with the new company yesterday, and they're having an open house tonight. I still don't know whether the open house is for employees only, so I'm planning to stay home and get dinner ready.

Meanwhile, we're going to see Much Ado About Nothing at Miller Outdoor Theater tonight. The Houston Shakespeare Festival celebrates its 36th anniversary this year, and Dr. Sidney Berger is directing it. Dr. Berger founded the festival and directed all the plays for years, and his really is the major name associated with the festival. I had heard he was retiring, so I'm thrilled to learn he's still directing for the festival.

Much Ado About Nothing is one of my all-time favorite pieces of work. It ranks behind Othello because of its profound treatment of women. Now don't get me going too much about Othello, but I will tell you that from my perspective, the whole play seems to be constructed as an opportunity for Emilia to blossom and grow from a cardboard cutout (in the beginning, she describes herself as "Iago's wife" who is there only to do his will) to a fully developed, self-referential woman capable not only of independent action and decision but also of self-recognition and self-sacrifice in the interest of truth and in the face of her abusive husband's threats.

Um, sorry. Much Ado About Nothing. One of my favorite pieces of work. It actually is Burgundy's favorite, and will continue to be until she's old enough to understand why Emilia merits a higher ranking for Oth- Oh, sorry. There I go again. We're going with my mom for certain and possibly with a couple of Burgundy's friends. As soon as I leave work today, we're driving downtown to pick up free tickets for the covered seating, fan-cooled area.

Houston Shakespeare Festival is something we look forward to every year. Through this program, we've seen world-class performances of Othello, MacBeth, Hamlet, Measure for Measure, The Taming of the Shrew, Twelfth Night, Pericles . . . I could go on and on. This year I refused to attend any other outdoor events on the grounds that I am pregnant and saving my pittance of heat tolerance for the Shakespeare Festival. In addition to Much Ado, they're also performing A Midsummer Night's Dream. We're slated to see that Saturday night.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Burgundy spent last week at Spurs camp with the Girl Scouts. In the end, she felt really good about going, but she faced two challenges.

First, she went to Spurs late in the game. All the other girls in camp were 11-13 and entering 8th grade. One young lady was 14 and entering 9th grade, and Burgundy is 14 and entering 10th grade. One of her good friends from school was a camp assistant! She said it felt awkward and disappointing at first, but when she realized that all the other girls looked up to her and thought she was cool, the experience improved. When we picked her up, the camp nurse told me that Burgundy, "is just the coolest kid. She really loves the other girls, and that is so wonderful. The other girls all called her Mama." I really appreciate that Burgundy took a potentially negative experience and used it as an opportunity to lead other young people by example without the "carrot" of recognition in front of her.

Second, she had a bad time with one of the camp counselors. I found Burgundy's way of telling the story had a fascinating subtext; I'm pretty sure she was unaware of it. Throughout her descriptions of the counselors' behavior (there were several episodes she told us about), she referred to the counselors as women, ladies, or counselors. Each time she mentioned the one she had trouble with, Burgundy took great pains to be clear that she was a counselor, in charge, and in authority. But she talked about her as she does her peers, referring to her as a girl more often than not.

Apparently, the "girl" acted as though Burgundy was a threat. She went out of her way to compete with Burgundy about music, and she tried several times to exclude Burgundy from social interactions with anyone else Burgundy's age.

Asked how she decided to handle it, Burgundy said, "Well, after the first conversation I could tell that she didn't like me, and I had no reason to like her, so I just worked hard to stay out of her way. And whenever she got really out of line, one of the other counselors would step in and redirect her. She was just really immature."

Aw, shucks. My kid . . .
Man, there's so much I want to say. At least three times a day lately I notice something I want to blog about. And I still want to write another "installment" on the homebirthing stuff. I am working full time right now through the month of August, and it's exhausting even though it's actually not 40 hours a week. Right now I have about 5 minutes for a quick update, so I thought I'd post a super-quick update and thought.

Saturday we picked blueberries; Saturday afternoon we cleaned house a little bit, and Saturday night we made blueberry-lime jam. Heaven in jars, I tell you. I still have 14-15 pounds of blueberries to do something with. I have in mind blueberry pie filling, blueberry compote, another batch of jam (I have 1.5 dz right now), some berry jelly (with strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries from my freezer), and maybe I'll just leave a few in the freezer for later in the year.

Yesterday Burgundy started band camp. When I dropped her off for the second half in the afternoon, I used the girls' room. On the wall of the handicapped stall, I saw this:
Yes, I did snap a photo in the bathroom with my cell phone. And?
It says, "'I have found that the harder I work, the more luck I get.' -Jefferson, Thomas" Beneath it, in blue, someone wrote, "Leave it to the orchestra kids to write graffiti like this."

I think you'll all understand that I could not help but giggle that this is what passes for depravity in our school's band hall. I love music nerds.

And time's up! Off to get myself some luck, yo!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Money and Family

My grandfather had money, and he lived in north-central Alabama. One hot July when I was fourteen, we went to his big, classy house. The epitome of new money, it sprawled, a brick fortress set on a hill. It had four bedrooms and three bathrooms in the upper level. Granny Jean had a carpeted kitchen, a living room with a glass wall that looked out on a patio, a living room with a silver and blue Christmas theme, including a fake, silver tree decorated in blue. Grandpa had a little office off the side of his carpeted garage where he kept his jewels. He poured a bag of sapphires onto his desktop, and I watched them catch the thin fluorescent light from the little lamp on his desk, and I used all my teenage self-control to stifle the urge to tell him I wanted a sapphire ring, not emerald.

"Grandpa's nervous," Mama explained to me when we arrived. "If he gets mad at you, don't think anything of it." I couldn't understand why he would be nervous. He owned the place. Why should he be nervous?
The master bedroom had a bathroom the size of my parents' bedroom in our trailer home in Laurel. Granny Jean showed me into a closet the size of my bedroom where she let me try on her Levi jeans. She even gave me a pair of button-fly jeans, the only pair I've ever owned. By the time I made enough money to buy my own, Levi's didn't make them in my size. A glass wall in their bedroom opened onto a sprawling, wooden deck raised out of the hillside, and from the deck we could traverse two flights of stairs to their Olympic-sized swimming pool. It had a yellow slide that, in my memory anyway, climbed as high as the wooden deck outside the master bedroom.

When nobody paid attention, Granny Jean and I would sneak out to the second, detached garage where we would get on her little motorcycle (really only a ramped-up moped, but it was red and would go 40 mph) and ride the length of their long, serpentine driveway. Up and down the hill, back and forth, until Granny announced she had to make dinner, do a load of laundry, or get a drink. Or all three.

From the pool, a sliding glass door led into the lower level of the house. It was an open area about the size of the front of my house now. It contained a second kitchen, a bedroom the size of our living room and kitchen combined in Mississippi, a full bathroom, and another closet the size of my bedroom back home. The internal stairs to the upper floor marched along the top of the triangular wall, the entirety of which had been painted in a floor-to-ceiling mural of a number of dogs dressed in suits, 30s-style, smoking cigars and playing poker.

I fell in love. The carpet in the garage, the extra kitchen, the glass walls all sang the siren song of luxury. I drank it up, listened with abandon, and loosed a teenage girl's exuberance upon the house. I half-ran down the main hallway of the upper level, impatient to be in the pool, my mind completely occupied with trying to calculate whether it would be faster to run down the stairs and out the glass door of the lower-level apartment or through the master bedroom and down the deck stairs. My left hip bumped into half-circle hallway table, and a curio fell over.

My heart leapt into my throat, and I grabbed the curio to save it, right it, put it in its place. An iron fist closed on my upper arm, and Grandpa stood in my face, screaming, asking where I'd learned manners and how to behave. He had a smell, one I didn't recognize at first. Not beer; that was a smell I knew. It reminded me of the whiskey-and-peppermint "cough syrup" Mama used at home when I got sick. "Never run in a house; what's wrong with you? Try to move like a lady for God's sake; you should be ashamed of yourself." I stammered apologies, tried to shutter my face; I knew instinctively not to cry, but the tears came anyway. I felt ashamed, such a horrible disappointment. He shook me, "Stop sniveling. You're too old to be a crybaby."

Mama appeared and took me away, telling Grandpa she'd deal with me. We went downstairs, and she surprised me with a hug, told me everything would be okay. "It's okay baby, you didn't do anything wrong. You just bumped into a table," she spoke in a rhythm, a cadence. A chanted lullaby. "You didn't do anything wrong. I promise. Grandpa's the one who has the problem. He's nervous, and he doesn't know how to handle having people around. It's okay. It's okay. It's okay." I began to understand that when Mama said nervous, she meant afraid of people. Maybe territorial.

A few years would pass before I realized that the dogs-playing-poker picture was ubiquitous and not the invention of my rich, alcoholic grandfather's twisted imagination. Even more time passed before I learned it was tacky. To this day, my gut association with that picture is New Money. Dirty, oozing, filthy rich new money.

Ten years later, he knelt by the wall-to-wall brick hearth in the living room, put his pistol muzzle against the bottom of his chin, and pulled the trigger. Granny Jean called Mama, and by the time Mama drove from Mississippi to Alabama, Granny Jean was dead drunk. Unable to function. Mama called me in Texas where I lived with my four-year-old daughter and told me the news. I took my company's bereavement leave, three days, and relished the time off to catch up on laundry and dishes. I played games and went swimming with Burgundy.

Mama said she cleaned it up. Wiped the blood and flesh from the hearth and scrubbed it from the carpet and the walls. Granny Jean drank.

He never met Burgundy; Mama feared he wouldn't be able to handle the shock of knowing his oldest grandchild had failed at chastity. That probably was for the best, but I always wondered how in the world I could have lived without her. How could anyone look into the eyes of my daughter and wish I'd been chaste?

Granny Jean never met her either. She had photos after Grandpa died, and she lives in a home somewhere in Alabama. They sold the magnificent house. I never saw it after the summer of 1989. I've never seen her again, either. I just realized it's been 21 years. I send her a Christmas letter, but I've never heard back from her.

Grandpa left a tape recording. In it, he addressed how he wanted his money doled out. He didn't exactly say goodbye or try to tie bows on the packages of relationships. It was a settling of accounts. He left each of his three children the same amount. He made sure to deduct the amount of a loan that he'd made to my Uncle from his inheritance. He told Granny Jean that although they'd had a lot of fun for a number of years drinking together, it was time for her to grow up and fly straight. No more drinking.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Der Behbeh - Un Update

What a full weekend! Friday morning, Mark, Burgundy and I drove to an office in Pearland where we would have our ultrasound done. My mom met us there, and I have to tell you, regardless of what you think of interventions, there's something miraculous about seeing your bitty baby right in front of you, kicking, waving, and heart whumping away. Mark stood under the monitor completely mesmerized by our child. Burgundy stood next to me yelling, "WOW" and "OH MY GOD, THAT'S A FOOT!" every couple of images. My mom stood behind Burgundy, just as enthusiastic but oozing sentimental tears the whole time.

He's beautiful, by the way, in that black-and-white, grainy way that ultrasound babies are. He weighs 289 grams, about 10.2 ounces. The ultrasound showed my date almost spot on to our calculations based on last menstrual period, and yes, he gave us every view we needed.

Meanwhile, I feel a little bit of something every couple of days. I had a lot of trouble sleeping Sunday and Monday nights, but last night I slept until 3:30, barely made it to the toilet, then slept soundly again until 7. Mind, I'm supposed to be at work at 7. Thanks God my start time isn't critical.

We've been throwing around names. Mark suggested Gallifrey, and much as we love the Dear Old Doctor, Burgundy and I both vociferously denounced the idea. That led to a round of who-can-come-up-with-the-worst-sci-fi name. So far the best contenders are Gandalf, Frodo, Bilbo, Adversary-Destroyer of Kings-Angel of the Bottomless Pit-Great Beast That is Called Dragon-Prince of this World-Father of Lies-Spawn of Satan-and-Lord of Darkness (the real name of Adam Young in the link), and Aragorn. We've encountered surprisingly little resistance to Aragorn, perhaps because I named my first child Burgundy and people simply are relieved that we aren't seriously considering Gallifrey (hands-down top contender for worst sci-fi name, by the way). I think either way we're going to have to call the little guy Strider just to honor this laborious process we've undertaken.

Serious naming contenders: Lucas (general acceptance), James (Burgundy's on the fence as it's her name as well), Darcy (Burgundy has decided the child should be called Darcy James), Tristan, Colin, London, Phoenix and Bob. Well, not really Bob, but you know. I think I really like Tristan Lucas, Colin, Darcy James, and something with Phoenix. But Phoenix is a little too close to trendy for my money.

This weekend, I pick up Burgundy from horse camp Friday evening in Conroe. We'll spend the night in a cheap motel and get up super-early Saturday morning to pick blueberries from Moorhead's Blueberry Farm. Saturday evening, several friends are coming over, and we'll all make blueberry-lime jam together. Very excited about that.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Midwife Visit, 18 Weeks!

I went to the midwife yesterday for my second visit. I've gained 5-3/4 pounds rather than the 8 I thought I'd gained. Turns out I'm a bit math-challenged, having somehow calculated the difference between 200 and 196 as 6. Now the whole internet can figure out how much I weigh. Oh NOES!

The baby's heart raced loud and strong. Whumpwhumpwhumpwhump. My measurements show a 16.5 cm increase over my last visit. Jackie said, "Whoa, big growth! I'm surprised you haven't gained more weight."

It would help a lot if I could eat. Without heartburn, nausea, or insurmountable fatigue.

We're at ~18 weeks now, and Jackie ordered an ultrasound. Of course I want to run out and do it tomorrow; I can't wait to see him. However, I really want both Burgundy and Mark to be there, and Burgundy will be at Girl Scout camp next week. So we'll probably do it either Friday of this week or sometime week after next.

I brought a number of questions this time. We talked about her backup doctor. She seems really to like him and said that if he's working when I need him (IF I need him), he will take the time to assess my condition and labor carefully, to treat me with respect. Basically, the other hospitals in the area all will automatically perform a C-section if I come in during labor having attempted a home birth. We think that the best thing, assuming the need to transport without the presence of an emergency, will be first to go to her backup hospital IF her backup doctor is available. Barring that, we'll go to LBJ Hospital, which she recommended as also being staffed by respectful doctors and nursing who will take the time to address me personally, figure out my history, and then decide how best to treat me.

The most ironic thing for me is that her backup hospital is Bayshore Medical Center where I gave birth to my daughter. The experience was so bad that I swore I'd rather eat my own toe cheese than set foot in the place again.

Of course, if we have an emergency, all bets are off. We'll go to the nearest hospital, the same one in which Mark was born over 36 years ago!
The conversation left me with a bit of a to-learn list.
  • I've read a number of ads on cord blood collection, donation and storage, and after talking with Jackie about it, I think I need to do real reading. Big con: in order to collect the cord blood, we can't allow the cord to finish pulsing. I sort of had a "duh" moment when she explained it to me. I don't like the idea of the baby not getting all his (or her) blood.
  • In addition, while I didn't talk to her about immunizations, we need to learn more (a great deal more) and decide which ones we'll give the baby and which ones we won't.
  • Need to learn a little more about waterbirth and decide whether we'll go that route.
I better end this missive on that note because I am tired, cranky, and ready to take the afternoon for a nap.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bad Dream

I dreamed terrible things last night.

I think I was at a picnic. I know I was somewhere outdoors. I began to bleed. Because I'm past 17 weeks now, I didn't worry at first, but then I began to cramp. I felt dread creeping in, and I shoved it down and ignored it. After the third bout of finding blood with worsening cramps, I admitted that something was dreadfully wrong, and I called my midwife, Jackie.

Suddenly, Jackie was there at the picnic with me, and she told me that she needed to examine me right away. She wanted to check for a heartbeat. She told me that her backup physician's office was closer to us than her birthing center, so we began to go there. I think we walked. On the way, she asked me questions.

"When's the last time you felt the baby move?" I haven't felt the baby move at all, and in my dream, I realized that this should have worried me. I should have been worried long before now not to have felt the baby. In real life, this would not be cause to worry. Just so you know.

"When's the last time you had caffeine?"

"This morning," I told her. Her expression changed to alarm and shock, and I began defending myself. "But I only had like half a cup," I pleaded, "And I never have more than one cup in a day." I felt a knowledge that the caffeine had poisoned my baby. Jackie's disapproval and judgment confirmed it. I slipped into a denial and began shouting the facts that I know: Nobody knows how much caffeine is too much, and most experts agree that a cup a day or less should not hurt the baby. Jackie just watched me, then disappeared. I was at the doctor's office.

I went in and explained to the doctor who I was. He led me into a glass-walled exam room, put me on the table and in stirrups, and two interns came in. They looked like rednecks, hard day laborers, rather than physician interns. The doctor told them they should leave. He explained to me that we'd need to wait for Jackie so she could examine me. The interns protested, so I sat up, looked the beefy one in the eye, and said, "I don't want you in my room for this exam. Get. Out." The doctor looked smug and justified, and the interns left, all dejected.

I removed myself from the bed and stirrups while I waited for Jackie, and people began pouring into the room. The doctor and all the visitors were watching a Discovery Channel show about flowers. I wanted them to get out. By the time Jackie arrived, 20 or 30 people lined the couches, chairs, floors and walls, and more poured in by the minute.

Jackie looked at me and said, "I think the baby stopped growing. You should be showing more by now."

"But I AM showing," I yelled, "Look at this," and I pulled up my shirt. "The fat is covering my baby, but I'm showing, I swear." And then we sat on the couch and talked, and I woke up never knowing whether I'd killed my baby with coffee or whether my baby was dead at all.

I woke Mark and said, "I had a horrible nightmare. I dreamed I was bleeding, and I think the baby was dead."

He rolled over and opened his arms and said, "Come here, Baby," and he cradled me until I fell asleep again.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Underwear, Spinach, and Sausage Gravy

We leave this morning for a long drive to Mississippi. I'm frankly dreading it. Once we get there, we'll have a lovely time with my sister, her children (including the wee niece I haven't met yet), my father and stepmother, and all my father's family. They're a delight, let me tell you.

We spent most of yesterday and last night getting ready. I think I washed, dried, folded, and put away (or packed) at least five loads of laundry. That's six loads more than I really wanted to do. I also ran out to the maternity store because certain of my few remaining non-maternity clothes felt rather uncomfortable. Turns out that my, um, girls have grown about 4 sizes. The store doesn't carry anything close to my band size in the appropriate cup size, so we had to go up TWO band sizes and buy the largest cup in that size, then fasten it on the tightest clip. We're barely hanging in here. Now I understand why I've felt so uncomfortable.

I also bought a pair of maternity spanx. I don't know what they're actually called, but whatever. I have a couple of really cute maternity dresses, but wearing any dress or skirt without shorts or something underneath is for the birds. And I bought a couple of belly bands (some of the maternity pants are too big, and none of my non-maternity jeans are comfortable) and an adorable navy blue sweater dress with a white color.

The upside is that compared to the same bunch of purchases in a normal store, maternity clothes are pretty cheap. Bra was half what I expected, dress was $15, belly bands were less than half-price; only the spanx really cost what I expected.

Anyway, yesterday ended on a very productive note. I slept like the dead for once, truly exhausted, and woke as usual at 4:30 this morning cursing my body for waking me.

And a story to underscore that I am definitely pregnant:

This morning, my tummy started rumbling, so I walked down to the cafeteria to grab a bite to eat to tide me over. The table of offering looked less than thrilling, so I ordered a sausage biscuit with gravy. The man served it to me in the to-go container, but before passing it over the counter to me, asked, "Anything else?"

I said, "Well, only if you have some spinach."

"No," he laughed, "Well, actually, I do have some in the back. Do you want some?"

"Is it cooked?" I asked, because cooked spinach is re. volt. ing.

It must have shown on my face, because he said it was raw and ran off to fetch what turned out to be about a half-pound of spinach leaves.

Thus I find myself at my desk this morning facing a styrofoam tray of spinach, gravy, and a biscuit with sausage. I don't want to like the spinach; I really don’t. But I want it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Dreaming of the Doctor and Dirty Socks

Yesterday was a bad day. I woke feeling well enough, but after a breakfast of junk food and orange juice, I began feeling sick to my stomach almost immediately. Throughout church, I felt waves of nausea alternating with waves of heat, and I had to leave the service a couple of times.

Mark took us out to IHOP after that, and while I appreciated the break from trying to cook in the kitchen, I feel I can say with fair certainty that IHOP is not a good choice for alleviating nausea.

We dropped Burgundy off with Tabby for a babysitting job, and I slept for the rest of the afternoon. I felt a bit better for having slept, and we had spaghetti for dinner.

I went to bed around 9:30 and slept fitfully until about 4:30. After that, I couldn't even doze. I dreamed ridiculous things and tried to ignore the aching in my belly and the itching. Every time Mark touched me or the sheets shifted against my skin, I would come fully awake, itching like mad.

The itching had me dreaming of laundry as I somehow convinced myself that the problem was dirty sheets (even though I wash them every week). I dreamed I took all my knitted socks into the shower with me, and later I dreamed that this caused some kind of alien problem that required Dr. Who to show up and fix the damage. Sadly, this dream did not feature David Tennant in my shower.

That leaves me at my desk at work at 7:00 in the morning, still achy, nauseous, and now quite unable to focus on the myriad tasks at hand. I can't recall the details from last week, the plans I made while discussing transition with L, the plans for addressing disconnects that I formulated with K. I'm just here, lost, and you have the privilege of reading the most boring blog entry ever written.

Except for David Tennant in my shower with my hand-knit socks.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Why Homebirth, Part I

So I'm pregnant. Very exciting news, isn't it? Even more exciting is the news that it's sticking (for now); we're officially out of the first trimester, making it much easier to grin and announce the coming baby with gratitude and joy. That trepidatious sense of impending doom recedes a little more each day, and as my tummy begins to grow (only the faintest hint right now), so does the thrill and anticipation. Soon I'll feel movement (the quickening), and soon after that, Mark and Burgundy will be able to feel it from the outside. I'm making a baby.

Given how long and dearly we've wanted this child, some people have asked, all incredulous, why we would take the risk of a homebirth attended by a midwife. After all, isn't a hospital safer? Isn't a doctor more knowledgeable? For those who have been in my home, there's the gingerly asked (and possibly quite valid), "Um, is it sanitary enough?"

In a word, No, No, and NO. I mean Yes. The answer to the last question is definitely YES. No Freudian slips here; move along.

I want to spend several posts exploring these questions and the scientific evidence in favor of midwifery care (as opposed to obstetrical care) and home or birth-center-based labor and delivery. Childbirth is one of the most important rites of passage in our culture, and the way we approach care for this event in a woman and family's life has implications for safety, maternal and infant morbidity rates, cultural assumptions and attitudes toward life and toward the value of people. Childbirth is a fine example of the interconnectedness of life, love, science and progress. Childbirth is my soapbox, my love, a saving grace (for me). Healthy, normal childbirth is a passion, its promotion almost a mission for me.

These posts might be far between because I want to present them in a way that demonstrates the interdependencies of the childbirth process (for example, the well-documented "cascade effect" of our technological advances that has lead to our inexcusably high Cesarean rate in the US). I often find that when a person asks me about one thing, for example, electronic fetal monitoring, I don't do a very good job of presenting the big picture, the whole argument.

I begin discussion logically enough. Unfortunately, as I connect the dots mentally, I get a little rabid. I stumble over my own words; I get "Libertarian Eyes" (a term for the slightly wild-eyed look of a zealot in full-on Preach-the-Gospel-of-My-Cause mode coined by my friend Hannah in discussion of, um, excessively passionate people), and apparently, I lose my ability to form a coherent sentence.

When I come back to my senses, I'm out of breath, spluttering, and whomever I've just assaulted with a vitriolic denunciation of anything short of squatting in a rice paddy backs away slowly and refuses to return my calls for a month. As they back away, I follow them, saying things like, "And that's not even the half of it! I once discovered a coven of obstetricians mired in a Ritual Cesarean chanting insurance codes! I DID! And they are the reason that our society is crumbling! It’s the Demonic Obstetricians of DOOM! You must birth [spittle flies on the heels of birth; I pronounce it like a televangelist] NAKED! Do it for the CHILDREN [I begin to shout because they're running now]! JESUS WANTS YOU TO RECLAIM YOUR FEMINIST POWER! WHEN YOU BIRTH YOU BECOME A SUPER WOMAN; YOU ARE CAPABLE OF ANYTHING!"

So yes, I want to write something coherent and accessible. I want to write something that friends can read without thinking, "Christ on a cracker, don't tell her you're pregnant!" Most of all, I want it to be effective. I want people who read me, who stumble on my journal, to understand that there is a better way than epidurals, episiotomies, and cesarean sections. A safer way, a gentler way. A loving way.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

NASA recently released this image of the Gulf oil spill. Let me hasten to add that this is a false-color image "created by combining data from different color bands on two of MISR's [multi-angle imaging spectro-radiometer] nine cameras."

I think everything that I could think of to say about this spill has been said, including the call by Scottish Twins to be proper stewards of Earth as a fundamental Christian responsibility. I don't have a lot to add, but the NASA image is the first I've seen that so clearly conveyed the magnitude of the spill. I wanted to share it with you for that reason.

Meanwhile, the link above will explain the two lower photos, the white arrow in the picture, and the little red +, which marks the spot of the actual well.

As an aside, if you find this sort of thing useful, please take a moment to write your Congressperson urging them to kill the proposal to cancel Constellation. To be fair, the MISR and this photo nominally have nothing to do with Constellation. The key is that Constellation *is* our future plan for manned space flight, and without MSF, we will gradually make fewer and fewer of the kinds of advances that the MISR represents.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Finally. I Have Returned

Two months. I know; it's a long time without an update. I'd tell you I'm sorry and beg your forgiveness, but honestly, I'm not sure my eight or so readers felt a significant vacuum in their lives for my absence. Just another blogger who didn't stick with it.

The thing is, I actually will stick with it. You just have to put up with the occasional dry spell. I really am sorry. Mostly just because that's not how I want to blog, not because I think my absence did a powerful harm to the Internetz.

So April 23, I posted about depression. Several things have happened since then. Perhaps most significantly, I've carried a pregnancy past the first trimester (officially today). I'm as shocked as the rest of the world, and I'm slowly getting excited.

The difficulties in our marriage have been getting better. Both of us work hard, and while I think we're also both kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop, we're also enjoying this anomalous experience of actually liking our spouse.

So much and yet so little has happened in the past two months. Burgundy finished 9th grade with straight As for the second semester. She went to Chicago with our church's youth choir, and they sang in churches, cathedrals, and nursing homes as they toured their way up and back. She saw Blue Man Group on the trip, and I think she's decided to become Catholic just so she can marry in a St. Louis cathedral with which she fell deeply in love. She began a summer school enrichment program at Rice University last week.

That's a post in and of itself. It's a testament to the power of great teachers that young people in their teens, an age glorified for recalcitrance and rebellion, flock to this school in the summer. Burgundy's boyfriend begged his parents to let him go (I'm sure Burgundy's attendance had nothing to do with that), and Burgundy, who is 14 and starting her Sophomore year in August, a musician and an English nerd, comes home chattering gaily about Calculus and Chemistry. I mean, really. Maybe standardized testing isn't so effective after all? Maybe giving teachers the freedom to teach to their students is effective? Pshaw, you don't say.

It turns out that Burgundy's Calculus teacher (who has her gobbling up the limits and derivatives regardless of her lack of pre-Cal and tutoring her classmates) teaches at the Awty International School. I wanted so badly to send her to Awty when she was little. I could go on and on about them. I'm tempted to pull him aside toward the end of the summer school program and ask him about scholarships. The tuition is tens of thousands per year, but if we could put her in an environment where the teachers are free to teach (and she could earn her International Baccalaureate), I know she would thrive.

Oh, once I start writing, it's so easy. I missed, you, little blog!

Mark has been working on his book business, and I've been laying on the couch whining about morning sickness that lasts all day and all night. His business is going pretty well now, and I would guess he's selling an average of two to three books per day. He still needs to take one more class before he can sit for his Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, but NASA keeps cancelling or completely overselling its occasional class for PMs. I think we're going to just pay the tuition for him to take this class. It will hurt financially given our impending unemployment, but given the value of a current PMP cert, I think it's completely worth the effort. It could double his salary.

I've continued to work part-time right up until now. I received word last week though that beginning next week, I will begin working full time. This is a blessing in disguise for me. I have been so tired and sick for the last three months that if I had needed to go full time even a week earlier, I don't know if I could have done it. Luckily, the sickness is getting less and less prohibitive, and my energy is coming back now. By next week, I should be ready to go. The real blessing in all this is that we'll be able to almost double our emergency fund if we're very careful. If we can (God willing) find a way to fully fund it and pay for the midwife before my employment ends, I'll be so very grateful.

I think that has to be all for now. I could go on and on, but I think I need to save some words for tomorrow.