06 October 2010


If it isn't painfully obvious already, I am having a hard time keeping up with this blog. Mini blog posts run through my head all the time--I seem to live my life with constant narration, the effect of a literary mind, perhaps?--but I don't have time to get them written.

This semester is, to put it mildly, GO GO GO. Well, no, that's not exactly right either. Because the Mister and I are handling child care ourselves, when it's my turn to be home with the baby, there are plenty of peaceful moments. Time to play peek-a-boo and nurse little G. off to the land of nod, and feed sweet potatoes into his baby bird mouth, and make him laugh as much as I can. But in between, in the cracks--when he's sleeping, like right now, or when he's playing on his own and not crawling full speed towards some electrical cord or tipsy breakable object--I have to use the time to WORK. Because oh, my friends, there is so much work.

Let's see, where does it begin? Teaching, of course: that means reading and grading and lesson planning and handout making. Then dissertation writing. That's a big one. Oh, and this week I have to finish a book-length translation. It was due last week. Plus, I'm on the job market this year. I'm discovering just how much work is involved. I'm applying to at least 50 schools, and just preparing all the required materials--application letter, CV, dissertation abstract, writing sample, teaching philosophy, transcripts--was a monumental task. Now I'm basically just tailoring those materials to each school, but that's a hugely time-consuming effort in itself.

So, you see: blogging doesn't really fit. Not when you factor in stuff like, LIFE: hanging out with the Mister, Saturday farmer's market, church, making meals and eating them as a family, reading the newspaper on the weekend.

I have to say, I love and appreciate being able to work AND be at home this much with the munchkin. I miss him when I'm away, but I also love walking out the door in my teaching clothes, carrying my tote instead of a diaper bag. Then, his toothy (four already!) grin when I walk back in the door is pretty much the best thing ever.

But it's hard. My mom was here last week, and she was a life saver babysitter supergrandma. M. and I got to go out to a fancy dinner for the first time in eight months, and out to the opera for our first real date night since who knows when. We got to both go to the office at the SAME time! It was a week of deadlines and piles and overwhelming work, so I don't know how we would have gotten through it without her. Plus, we fit in a few shopping trips and meals out and a visit from my brother. But when I dropped her off at the airport, I thought: now HOW are we supposed to do this, again?

That was Monday. Today's Wednesday. I guess we're figuring it out. But, like I said, blogging doesn't really fit. So I'm going to say goodbye until the dissertation is done. I might pop on to share any important news (like, a job?), but for now: hiatus.

30 August 2010

Eve of a New Semester

The syllabi are printed out, the shiny new instructor's copy books are in a neat pile on the coffee table (I am still kind of dizzy about the fact that they will send me novels for free and all I have to do is ask! well, that and teach the novels in the course, i.e. get 25 students to buy them), and I've already decided what I'll wear tomorrow. At 7 am I'll wake up with nervous stomach, but when the students walk in the classroom door I'll simply be eager to begin. It will probably be the only day of the semester when I will be totally alert and with it for our 8 am class.

I'm teaching literature for the first time, and am ridiculously happy about it. I'm hoping my students won't dash my hopes to the ground and stomp them to smithereens, just as I'm hoping that I will come out of the course still loving the novels that we'll be reading together.

The Mister and I spent much of the weekend in his office, the baby asleep in his stroller or playing on the floor, while we polished off our syllabi and prepared for the courses. He is teaching three and I'm only teaching one, and we are trading off child care which means that I'll be racing back from class in order for him to get to his on time. Should be...fun!

Sorry I've been AWOL again on this blog; we had even more adventures, like a week in the Canary Islands! and a weekend in Vermont! an overseas flight during which they lost our stroller! two days in the car with a six-month-old baby! baby's first teeth! baby's first solid foods (he LOVES peaches)!

But we're here now, and it's lovely to be back. And I always, ridiculously, love the beginning of the school year. I love collecting my pens and my books and the buzz of campus in the fall. I love that someone's paying me (not much, but still) to talk about books with other people. And I love that my little family is along for the ride: caught up in the spirit of the school year, I bought Gabriel a couple of new books today, too. He mostly chewed on them, but it's the thought that counts. Books ahoy!

21 July 2010

Waxing and waning

Yesterday at the gym I weighed myself for the first time in nearly three months, and was quite shocked to discover that I weigh less than I did before I got pregnant over a year ago. I knew that breastfeeding meant easier weight loss, but I didn't think that the scale would actually tick negative, if "zero" is what I weighed the moment we got the little plus sign on a pee stick.

It's not like I'm exercising much: I have gone to the gym maybe four times this summer (whereas last year I was in better shape than I've ever been, due to gym classes and swimming). It's not like I'm eating less: I am always hungry and require generous portions of food. The only conclusion is that the baby is quite literally sucking it out of me. I'm fine with that system.

I've been thinking this week about how it felt to be pregnant, and caught myself really missing it. I can't quite mentally recapture that sensation of movement in my belly--it's so physical and so fleeting and so normal all at once--now that it's no longer there. I loved the wondering and waiting; I loved the roundness and fulness and heaviness of my body; I loved pressing the Mister's hand to me to feel our baby move. It's hard to explain, but when pregnant, I felt so rooted and so... sure.

That, combined with Gabriel living up to his name and being a giggly, smily, squealing little angel (the other day after waking up at 9, he napped from 11-2, 3-4, 6-8, and then only woke once during the night), meant that when the Mister raised the question of when we should get pregnant again, I just about said: as soon as we can! I mean, I know we probably shouldn't get pregnant when our first child is only five months old, but as far as M. is concerned, the sooner the better, and I'm almost inclined to agree.

(Disclaimer: much more discussion is needed, and the future is uncertain, and I know these things don't happen just because you want them to, even if we had an easy time of it the first go-round...)

20 July 2010

Cloth on the road

I packed Gabriel's cloth diapers for a week's vacation in France, and although I had been told by the owners of the apartment we were staying in that there was a washer available, I did not know the details of layout and access. Turns out the washer was in their private home rather than in the apartment. They were terribly nice, and offered to take the laundry and do it for us (before they knew what it was), but as awkward as it is to show up with a bag full of your child's poopy diapers and be escorted to a cluttered laundry room, it would be even more awkward to expect someone else to handle it.

Plus, negotiating all of this in French was tricky (I didn't even know the word for "diaper," but now I do: la couche bébé). They did insist on taking the laundry out and bringing it over to us, so I was relieved when the woman told me that they had done cloth diapering for a few months when their babies were little, too. (They quit because of rashes.)

I only ended up doing the one load, though, relying on disposables for the middle part of the week, and back to cloth when we were close enough to departure to make them last until we were reunited with a familiar washing machine. Because the other thing I hadn't taken into account is that washing the diapers cuts into sightseeing time; the two hours needed by the durn European machines meant waiting around instead of heading out for the day, and in this case we had to try twice before we found our innkeepers at home.

Other trips have been fine with cloth, because we were in the homes of family or friends and could do laundry easily, and the agenda mostly included hanging out in the house. In other cases, we've brought them along for jaunts of a couple of days (Valencia, the Costa Brava) that were short enough that I didn't need to wash them before heading back. But in the future I'll think twice about doing cloth for longer trips where I'm not sure of the laundry situation, or to hotels.

Besides the travel snafus, I've really loved cloth diapering so far. It's easier than you think when you're contemplating it (the choices are overwhelming and the ick factor is bigger in imagination than in reality), and I find the little bright-colored bottom of a baby so darn cute. Plus, for me it's hugely satisfying to know that I can avoid creating massive amounts of waste, reduce the factory and transport demand of disposables, and skip all of those chemical-laden plastics and fibers next to my baby's skin. Oh, and the cherry on top: it's way cheaper!

The find

I love interior design magazines and blogs, love drooling over images of other people's homes--people with great taste, innovative personal style. I love the "sneak peeks" feature over at design*sponge, because the homes are loved and lived in, not the ones in the glossy magazine spreads devoid of all signs of actual human habitation. I'm a sucker for casually but tantalizingly arranged vignettes, and especially those involving vivid typography of some sort...prints with words, old signage, rusty letters, vintage letterpress blocks.

But what gets me every time is the text that accompanies the image. "We found the [adorable, perfect, just-worn-enough item] in a flea market in France!" Or, "We stumbled across that [awesome mid-century piece] on the street!" The words "flea market find" get real old real fast. (Also overused: "I'm obsessed with..." Really? Obsessed?) Here's a perfect example: In a lovely budget redo, somebody airily mentions a print they "picked up at a Paris flea market."

Sure, I think. "Picked up," as easy as an errand to the dry cleaners. As if we all rummage around in French flea markets every day. As if there is anything besides cracked and water-swollen particleboard furniture on our street.

But then. We went to France, see. Last week, on vacation, with my parents. We rambled around Provence, bought bunches of lavender, lived in a little apartment in a town so small it didn't have a boulangerie (just a madcap baker who showed up with deliveries from the next town over, beeping his horn like the roadrunner at 9 am). And we went to a flea market. And behold! The flea market had woodblock letters, in big ramshackle piles, in which I could rummage to my heart's content, smudging my fingers with dusty ink.

We came home with a lovely selection of letters, and it's like candy to me. But I heretofore promise that I will not be the jerk who says offhandedly, "oh, we just picked those up in a French flea market." I will instead admire the letters, and point out how, among the other letters we picked just because they looked funky, we chose a tall mommy R, and a bold daddy M, and a little baby G.

Now I need to figure out how to arrange them in my own little vignette. On a table? A shelf? On a wall? I think this project is so cool (and yes, the words "a flea market in France" appear once again), but I don't have enough of them to pull it off. I'll have to experiment a little, which of course is half the fun.

04 July 2010

Books and baby

One of my greatest worries before becoming a parent is that I would never read a book again. Unless it was called Your Child and You: Techniques for Eating with One Hand and How to Do Midnight Feedings without Waking Up, or something. Oh, of course I knew I'd read books for work; it's what I do, after all. But what about "fun" reading? I worried that, like movie-going and fine dining, I'd have to wait until the baby was in elementary school before doing it again.

But I've been more than pleasantly surprised, in that I've plowed through more "for-fun" books lately than ever. In the early weeks, when I spent a whole lot of time nursing, I read a few hefty novels while feeding the baby (the only trick to which was how to turn pages when at least one hand was occupied). But the main thing is that my bedtime reading hasn't really changed; if anything, I read more because we're home more often.

Plus, we don't have a TV, either in Bloomington or here in Barcelona, so the lure of a random television show doesn't affect my decision to read a book.

And finally, my mom lent me her Kindle, loaded with a bunch of great novels, and I've been gobbling them up. The Kindle is FANTASTIC for nursing (see one-handed problem above) and travel (lightweight, barely uses battery, pack many novels at a time). The Kindle will never replace that big stack of novels I have by my bedside, but it sure is great for the airplane, the train, or the metro.

As with many aspects of parenting that I find easier than I thought they would be, I am acutely aware that when we add another kid (or two or three?!) into the mix, all bets are off. But for now, I am so pleased that I am able to continue, post-baby, one of those things that defines who I am, which means--surprise!--I am still the person I was pre-baby. Just with a baby.

02 July 2010


In the spirit of relaunching regular blog posts, today I am writing from Valencia, Spain. When the Mister suggested that Gabriel and I tag along on this business trip, I couldn't resist, even though our lives have been very busy lately, and my parents arrive for a visit the day after we get back. It's a whole new city! A whole new Autonomous Region of Spain! I actually have stood on a mountaintop on the spot where Catalonia, Valencia, and Aragon converge, but I had never visited the capital of Valencia (which is beautiful, from what I've seen so far). Just a three-hour train trip from Barcelona, and besides, a good way to celebrate the anniversary of our wedding day!

So Gabriel and I are about to head into the city for some sightseeing, while the Mister sits in the kind of conference room that has little microphones, water glasses, and hard candies at every table, and listens earnestly to people talk about the kinds of things he's heard a thousand times already. I think we get the better deal.

I do have some more blog posts in my head, so I will try to continue to update regularly.

Also: happy anniversary, my Mister. Four years ago today was one of the best days of my life, but every day since then has been better than it would have been, just because you're in it.

30 June 2010


I'm not living up to my end of the blog-bargain, am I? I have in my daily care the most fascinating and adorable creature on God's green earth and I don't even write about him, or--worse--post pictures of him? In my defense, it's been a very, very busy summer so far, and also, my camera has decided to disallow downloading of photographs. (Only days after the flip video went berserk, too. Grrr.)

Gabriel is 4.5 months old already (and still 90th percentile for weight and 98th for height!), and I can't believe how awesome and alert and wide-eyed and funny he is. Every week I think back to the previous week and realize he's doing or paying attention to something entirely new. Breathtaking. And how fantastic it is to have him around all the time, the best sidekick ever. There's always someone grinning at you wildly when you walk into a room, someone to force you to break out of even the most boring and serious grown-up-type conversations and laugh or coo or make baby-talk with abandon.

Actually, that's related to what for me has been one of the biggest surprises of parenthood. I knew there would be great parts, but honestly I also thought it would be an eternal DRAG, having to leave the party/tv show/movie/meal/conversation to respond to a crying baby or feed a hungry baby or change a dirty baby or whatnot.

But really? Whatever I'm leaving doesn't hold a candle to the satisfaction of being able to answer whatever need the baby has, the pure straightforward joy of feeling a child get heavy with sleep on my shoulder, the calm bliss of nursing, when his little hands wave like starfish, or even making him clean again.

Also, there's an added bonus. In party-like situations, where I've had to retreat from the festivities to feed the baby quietly so he falls asleep (or even when he refuses to calm down and it's just a long arm-aching shush circus) I actually RELISH the feeling of everything going on outside while we do our own thing. It's a legitimate, socially-approved excuse to be an introvert! There was one gathering (I won't name names) where M. and I actually squabbled over who would get to stay in the quiet room with an unconsolable infant!

When I lived at the unofficial department-party-house, and we hosted the semi-annual barbeques or halloween fests, after hours of hosting and socializing I would run up to my room in the wee hours of the morning to get something. Invariably I would sit on my bed, and lulled by the blissful feeling of being in my own safe cocoon while the hum of music and conversation filtered through the floorboards, I would lean back and drop to sleep. That's what retreating with the baby feels like: creating a hushed, safe place for just the two of us.

Once the baby is asleep, and I come out blinking into the light, there also exists the perfect awkward conversation exit, which is that I better check the baby or I think I hear the baby crying.

Anyway. It comes as a surprise to me that precisely what I thought would be one of the worst, or at least most annoying, parts of being a parent, is actually one of the best.

07 May 2010


It seems like every half a year or so we pack up one household in a crazy rushed effort to stash our belongings somewhere, all in order to go to another household. That's what we did last weekend. We have subletters living in our apartment this summer, so we had to find unobtrusive corners of our place to stick things and then move boxes and suitcases to M's office and the home of our longsuffering friends, leaving the apartment scrubbed of too-personal items.

And then we will get to the other place (which has been similarly sublet), and face the task of unpacking the same kind of too-personal items that we stored at M's grandmother's house and in our pint-sized second bedroom. (Pint-sized is the right size for a baby! And we have one of those! But it's full to the ceiling of random crap that a closetless apartment is bound to accumulate, plus all that stored clothing, PLUS a ton of stuff from our previous Brussels-Barcelona move.)

So. After packing up, which was accomplished in due time, we drove for twelve hours with an eleven-week-old baby. This went much more smoothly than I had feared, with the crying jags limited to easily-fixable episodes: hungry! wet! So we would: stop car at nearest rest area/ gas station (ideally coinciding with our need to eat, pee, or fuel up, but not always), feed and/or change the baby, get back on the road. He is now marginally distractable with jangly toys, so M. jangled some toys in front of him every once in a while and that helped.

And now we're in our nation's capital! Happy to be at my parents' apartment, although I think M. will be happier when grading is finished. We spend a week here, then a week in Boston (which means, yes, another long car ride), and then off to Barcelona.

In the midst of all of this, Gabriel has decided that sleeping through the night agrees with him. We went from waking up every. two. hours. like clockwork to sleeping for five hours at a time, say, from 10 to 3 and from 3 to 8 (no transition nights of three or four hour stretches, which is strange). It's like he's growing up or something! It's like I have a new non-fogged brain!

We went to the national zoo yesterday. Zoos always make me a little sad for the animals in their enclosures and cages, but also fascinated by these gorgeous creatures that I would never otherwise see so up close. Gabriel slept through the whole thing, pretty much, and when he was awake, his hands were way more interesting to him than lions or pandas. He's just discovered that there are these objects stuck on the end of his appendages that he can move back and forth and this requires intense scrutiny. I'm sure he'll have a detailed report on my desk in the morning.

And speaking of tomorrow morning: I turn 32! Which is basically the same as 31, so it's not too big of a deal. But then again, it's so not the same, because now I have a baby, and if that doesn't blow my mind... Convenient that it's Mother's Day one day later. It took me several weeks of seeing Mother's Day advertisements and store displays and thinking about my own mom before I realized that Oh! This applies to me now! I'm a mom. Wow.

11 March 2010

Oh dear. It seems I have a two-month old baby and I have not made one peep about it on this here blog. The problem is there's so much to write about, and what little extra time there is we like to spend oogling over our baby. Plus, we've had a long stream of guests, some of them repeat comers (hi mom and dad!) and we've made outings of our own, including two trips to Chicago, one of them to assure that the little guy is officially Spanish, too.

Anyway, I have nothing more to offer than a sort of stream-of-consciousness bullet point scramble, thinking over the last weeks, as a way to get back to writing in this space...


During those first weeks, I thought I had given birth to a baby pterodactyl, because he made the loudest, screechiest, cawingest sounds you ever did hear. Now he has started to coo and squeal and they are the sweetest sounds on earth. I even laugh at his crying sometimes because it is just so sweet, those piteous little high pitched waaahs, complete with lower lip stuck way out.


I still get a giddy, fierce feeling every time I drive by the hospital (which is often, since we live only two blocks away). I think of what happened there as a sweet, secret thing of which I am immensely proud and it is a little disconcerting to realize that everyone's mother went through the same thing.


Speaking of which: having a baby was HARD, don't get me wrong, but it was way less hard than I thought it would be. They keep asking you "on a scale of one to ten, how much pain are you in?" It's an impossible question to answer, because even when it hurts you think it's going to hurt way more, so you put yourself on the lower end of the spectrum. The furthest I got, just before the nurse discovered I was completely dilated and ready to push, was a 7. And pushing didn't hurt too much, but boy was it strenuous, requiring every muscle of my body.


I was totally unprepared for the aftermath. The next day, I didn't just hurt...down there, but EVERYWHERE. I felt so wiped out: everything ached like I had participated in an iron man competition, my arms felt weak, my boobs were sore from nursing, and I had a weird side effect of...adrenaline? the nurses didn't know...that caused my skin to tingle all over and feel like my limbs were just waking up from being asleep. So I was scared to hold Gabriel and jealous of all those people who could pick him up so easily from his bassinet and walk him around the room. Plus, hormones were going haywire, and I wasn't really sleeping, and someone was coming into the room every five minutes to take my temperature or weigh the baby or bring me food or ask me questions... I had prepared so much for what would happen in labor&delivery that I was caught unawares by the postpartum hospital say. That said, I felt very cared for and was so happy to have that time to recover and be in our own cocoon. A snowstorm raged outside the whole night Gabriel was born and during the next two days, but we were so warm and cozy and happy inside.


The first day in the hospital, post-partum, I asked my mother: "Do they put something in the diapers? He just smells so good!" My baby smelled like the most heavenly elixer of flowers and sweetness and light. I couldn't believe he could smell that good on his own and so assumed there must be an additive somewhere. But he does smell that good.


I am So! Excited! to read books to this baby. I can't wait until we can get him all of my childhood favorites, and until he can understand the stories, and then I can't wait to introduce him to a whole world of books he can read on his own. Yesterday was the day of Sant Jordi (Catalan Valentine's day, in which men and women trade books and roses), and we made sure to read him a few books, including one which annoys me to end because the last page rhymes "drum" and "Mom." I can only assume it was written by a Brit and the American version altered "Mum" to "Mom." Anyway, we had a lovely Sant Jordi, with my brother and sister-in-law in town, and I have a new pile of summer reading that I am smacking my lips over! Includes: Stieg Larsson, Herman Melville, Irène Némirovsky, C.D. Wright...


Gabriel was baptized on Easter weekend during the Easter Vigil service, a two-hour marathon, candlelit service that begins at 9 pm. Perfect for a newborn, right?! But he was an angel during the part that mattered, and I love how beautiful and symbolic that moment was: we began the service in darkness and quiet, and after the ceremony of baptism, the sanctuary burst into light and bells pealed. New birth, new life, Christ's victory over death.


We finally got a washer and dryer, just three days ago, and we finally get to use the cloth diaper stash that I've been carefully building up! Yay for cute bediapered bum and no more insane accumulation of chemicals and plastic that won't biodegrade for hundreds of years.


There is no good system for baby clothing. Fumbling at tiny little snaps in the middle of the night: no good. Zippers that risk pinches on baby skin: no good. Elastic-bottomed gowns that ride up under baby's armpits: no good. A day after Gabriel was born, at 7 in the morning, our pediatrician (very nicely) laughed at our totally botched job of snapping up Gabriel's pajamas, while we tried to appear totally casual and with it despite being utterly groggy in our rumpled hospital gear.


Speaking of which: those same pajamas, which swamped his little body that first day, were so quickly outgrown that at 4 weeks we could barely button them. Gabriel weighed 14 pounds at 6 weeks and 15 pounds 3 ounces at his two month checkup. I knew we'd have a big baby, but wow!


I spend a lot of the day hoping that Gabriel will fall asleep so I can get something done, but then he'll fall asleep in my arms or on my chest, and that feeling is so delicious that I just hold him and stare at him, and still don't get anything done.


I had no idea just how chest-explodey Gabriel's first smiles would make me. Those first fleeting times that he smiled AT US were so fantastic that we became big goofballs in efforts to make him keep doing so, but of course he just regarded us with his serious tiny baby face. Now he smiles much more often, and it still makes you drop everything and grin like a fool back at him.


We leave for Washington, Boston, and Barcelona in a week. While Gabriel is already relatively well-traveled, I'm kind of overwhelmed by the idea of a 12-hour car ride and a 12-hour plane trip. The amount of stuff, for one, and then the crying, for another. But as with many things in life, I know that it'll happen and it'll be fine because, well, it's just what we've gotta do. We're looking forward to introducing Gabriel to everyone back in Barcelona, especially his 95-year-old great grandmother. We're going to throw him a heck of a party and invite everyone we know.


In case you don't know, we've decided to come back to Indiana after the summer. As much of a hurry as I was in to leave this place when it meant marrying M. and heading to Europe, I'm discovering that it's pretty great here, and there's a lot to be said for small town life when you have a kid. We're going to learn the ropes of city living with an infant, too, this summer, but I'm guessing we'll be relieved to be back here. And it'll be with a SIX-MONTH old. (Alert: motherhood cliché ahead.) It's already going too fast.

20 February 2010

The wait is over

And it was really really worth it.

Gabriel was born on Monday, February 15, at 4:15 in the morning. My water broke on Sunday morning, and because labor didn't get going on its own, and because of the risk of infection if he wasn't out within 24 hours, I was induced. That was scary because of all the possible scenarios, but labor and delivery went so beautifully and peacefully that I still feel euphoric thinking about it.

More to come soon...I want to write down the whole birth story before I begin to forget things. I'm not sure yet whether I'll post it all here, but I hope I find time to get it written. Meanwhile, the cutest baby in the world is calling my name.

13 February 2010

Waiting game

The goal: avoid thinking about it too much.

Reality: impossible to not think about it.

Coping mechanisms: distraction! Cook, bake, read, shop, nap, eat. Mall walk, yoga. Singer/songwriter cousin in town! Going to hear her play!

Distracted from distraction: skype ringing, baby kicking, Braxton-Hicks contractions, BabyCenter updates that tell me my newborn is one week old, worrisome benchmarks loom.

Worrisome benchmarks: Monday, a non-stress test to make sure the baby is, um, non-stressed (I'm pretty sure he is: chillin out, maxin, relaxin all cool). Thursday, when the midwife will start talking induction. Next Sunday, when my family leaves.

The goal: avoid thinking about it too much.

08 February 2010

Due date

Here it is, the day that we've mentally circled in red for over half a year. The day that means this baby has been growing for forty weeks, a long time by anybody's counting, but time gone so fast that I'm a bit sad it's coming to an end. I wouldn't mind being pregnant for a little while longer.

Just not forty weeks pregnant. At this point, all the expectation and the excitement and the very heavy crampy belly are hard to handle all at once. There's the scary and exhilarating thought "it could be today/tonight!" tempered with the relief and dread of "it could be a week from now."

We've spent record time on Skype with family and friends in the last few days, and there's never anything to report, although it's reassuring to talk to them all and makes me feel totally surrounded by their love even though they're far away.

We went to the opera that we've had tickets for since September, always knowing that we might not get to go. We went, and enjoyed it, and lo and behold! my water didn't break.

My mom and I have been cooking and baking up a storm (no-knead bread is the best thing ever!), and we watched the Super Bowl at a nearby hotel (even though M. and I are total football philistines).

I am trying to appreciate everything that is still easy to do unhampered by a baby (an external one, that is): sleeping in, taking long showers, jumping in the car at a moment's notice, watching movies, eating out, shopping, reading for long stretches of time. Tonight we're going out for a nice meal to celebrate the due date.

But even late-third-trimester indolence has its limits, and I can't wait to have a good reason not to be able to do all of those things for a while. A *really* good reason.

01 February 2010

Clothes woes

As my belly gets bigger and bigger--the growth is quite exponential in these last days, and to think that I was impatient even to have a belly for most of this pregnancy!--my wardrobe gets smaller and smaller.

I didn't purchase too many "maternity" clothes to begin with. The entire lot of my own purchases consists of 1 pair of jeans (absolutely essential, and I swear by the Gap 1969 line now so much that I will buy an identical but non-maternity pair when I can wear non-maternity jeans again), 1 pair of thrift-store black pants, 6 long-sleeve shirts or lightweight sweaters (all Gap), 1 short sleeve t-shirt and 1 tank top (both Target). Oh, and another warm cowl-neck Target top that is not maternity but is long and comfy and (still!) handles the bump with ease.

My sister loaned me a few more maternity shirts and a couple of sweaters, and my mother-in-law brought me a couple of non-maternity but still roomy tops from her boutique. Besides that, I've relied on my bella band to make a few of my regular pants last until around Christmas time, two pairs of yoga pants, LOTS of cardigans to make it seem like I wasn't wearing the same darn shirt again, a few of my old shirts and t-shirts that were stretchy enough to accommodate a belly (these are fewer and fewer now, maybe 4-5?) and a couple of stretchy-banded skirts. I've been wearing my regular winter coat, although the buttons no longer button, and my regular pajamas, although my belly now pokes out of them quite comically.

Anyway, the point of this inventory is that compared to the amount of clothing I have at my disposal when I'm not pregnant, my wardrobe is pretty tiny. My choice of pants comes down to: Am I going anywhere today? If yes, the jeans. If no, the yoga pants. My choice of tops comes down to: Have I worn this in the last four days? If not, it's time to wear it yet again! Maybe with a different cardigan!

But the funny thing is, I kind of like this state of affairs. It makes things easy. Jeans and black yoga pants match everything! I don't have to worry too much about looking cute, because I have an excuse not to (and because I'm not teaching this semester). I do like most of the clothes that I've ended up with here at the end of the game, so I feel pretty confident that I look decent, if not a fashion plate (not that I ever was, or ever will be, a fashion plate). The colors I have to work with--for some reason, a lot of jewel colors like deep purple and jade green--are bright and make me happy. I guess the lesson here is that in my normal life I have more clothes than I need. Plus, in the last week, I've gotten new slippers, new boots, and a haircut--three things that have made me feel cozier and kickier than anything, and don't depend at all on belly girth!

Meanwhile, as my wardrobe shrinks, the baby's grows. I've tried not to go overboard in buying baby clothes (actually, until after Christmas we had barely bought a single thing) but the other day I got nervous that he didn't have enough basics so I went to the thrift store and bought him a rather impressive pile of $1 long-sleeve onesies in cute stripes and solids (I've banished made-up logos and fake athletic wear--what's up with that anyway?), sleepers, and assorted little jackets and jeans.

He is, without a doubt, going to be the cuter of the two of us. Not that I'm complaining.


One of the unfortunate side-effects of this pregnancy has been the near-constant pain of fiery heartburn. This has been mostly kept under control with the blessed relief of doctor-approved Zantac, taken twice daily. But I still have breakthrough pain: mostly due to my inability to stop eating spicy foods.

I never realized just how dependent my diet--or, I should say, my cooking repertoire--is on the spicy foods. In the last week of meals, I have made:

1. thai green curry with shrimp, spicier than I had planned because the curry paste already had a lot of heat built in
2. rice and beans with chipotle chilis
3. burritos made with the leftover beans and extra (hot) salsa
4. fried rice made with the leftover rice and plenty of pepper flakes
5. this broth with soba noodles, to which I could not resist adding judicious glops of sambal oolek
6. home fries, with plenty of red and black pepper

I'm probably forgetting some. Each time, I dither about whether I should make the dish because I know it will cause (usually late-night) distress, but I still make it. Each time, I try to make the dish only a *little* spicy and still end up with some degree of fire. Why?

Also, I drink loads of cold water with the spicy meals and the midwife told me that drinking liquids with a meal can increase the effects of heartburn. She also told me that drinking water before bed can make things worse, but I can't help it because I'm continually thirsty, and can't stop drinking as much ice-cold water as I can get my hands on. Then there are the smoothies... because aside from the spicy dishes I keep making, mostly I crave cold, frosty beverages. I NEVER drink soda and I've even had a few cokes in the past weeks because the idea of a really cold one sounds so delicious to me.

Looks like I'm creating a fire-and-ice situation in my gut that is bound to end badly. Oh well, the Zantac takes care of most of the problem, and this all should go away once this kid is out and about and no longer hogging my personal gastrointestinal space.

In other news: my mom arrives today! I guess that means this baby is really supposed to make an appearance, and I'm actually going to be, like, the mother of an infant. Huh.

28 January 2010

Body, mind

I had a prenatal massage this afternoon, a fantastic Christmas gift from my parents. I always love getting a massage (not that it happens that often; maybe the last time was a year ago?) and I was especially looking forward to this one, given the extra aches and pains associated with loosened joints and a squirmy baby's worth of extra poundage hanging off my frame. Also, last night I found it nearly impossible to sleep in any comfortable fashion, so I was really ready to relax.

The body-length bolster that I was to curl myself around looked promising, and the room was, as one would expect, suitably soothing. The massage itself was fantastic, thoroughly working all the sore spots I knew I had and some that I didn't. I was just disappointed in my inability to just let go, TURN OFF my brain and fully enjoy the moment. And then I found myself analyzing the fact that I couldn't turn off my brain, an endless loop of internal narrative.

One among many of the subjects that flittered across my consciousness concerned the music playing in the room: the obligatory Native American flute and oriental plucked strings. Who decided that this kind of music says "relax" to people? What if I would relax more easily to the strains of Bach or some smoky jazz? In fact, the more I thought about it, the more the airy flute and pseudo-eastern plucking got on my nerves. Counterproductive, to say the least.

Then, various anxious reflections on the state of my body and continual self-reassurance that any massage therapist will have seen things much, much worse and that's his job anyway and if he was grossed out by touching other people's feet he wouldn't have chosen this career.

And of course, the background hum--the insistent basso continuo of my days--of wondering about baby. When? is the first bone to worry over pointlessly, and then, scenarios of labor and delivery, and postpartum recovery and visitors and in general...life. With a baby. I'm constantly trying to visualize it but no matter how much I imagine and plan it seems impossible and distant and not something that is going to happen to me any moment. Technically, I could have a baby--our baby!--in my arms by this time tomorrow. If that isn't an overwhelming and scary thought, I don't know what is. Both because of what has to occur before getting to that point, and because of what being responsible for a whole new person means.

For what it's worth, though, I don't feel like anything is about to happen. My due date is another week and a half, and I think it'll be at least that, if not beyond, before baby makes an appearance. There are no signs--no further contractions, no nesting (I wouldn't mind a little of the nesting urge!), no dilation. But again, maybe it's just my inability to imagine it happening that makes it seem so far away!

Sigh. I'll just keep on with my daily smoothie fix (20 degrees and snowy outside and all I want to eat is frozen and cold food!), running around to appointments, trying to get enough sleep, and lots of leaning forward to encourage the baby to stay in a labor-friendly position. And then one day it'll happen. Just like that.

14 January 2010

Ninth month

At my checkup this morning I met with a doctor instead of my midwife in case the midwife is gone when I go into labor (this is a real possibility, since she is away for a conference during the four days leading up to my due date). Anyway, he asked me if I've been feeling well and I basically told him that it's been a pretty easy pregnancy so far, and he said, "boring is good!" I responded, "I wouldn't go so far as to say it's been boring..."

Because even the most "uneventful" pregnancy is still so crazy and rollercoastery... nonstop fireworks, really. My body is an old dog with some seriously new tricks.

But what has been surprising to me is how much rounding the corner into the ninth month has meant pretty much all of the classic pregnancy symptoms show up en masse. Until recently, I slept through the night, never experienced the whole peeing every five seconds thing, didn't have backaches or sciatica or strange skin eruptions or weepy hormonal jags or achy joints or swelling or nasal congestion (and attendant champion snoring--sorry M.) or super tiredness. Heartburn was my main complaint, and in the first trimester, indigestion and food issues. Now? Welcome to a whole passel of pregnancy fun! The weirdest new thing is that I wake up with really sore finger joints, like I scaled a rock wall with my bare hands during the night. The coolest new thing is just how present the baby is; I feel every movement so intensely and I can practically see his feet and pat his bum.

The most WHOA nelly! new thing was last night, when I had my first contraction! I hadn't had one before, and as I was swinging my legs out of bed to get up and turn off the light, the whole lower half of my belly got really crampy with shooting pain. It lasted 30 seconds or so, settling down rather slowly. I asked the doctor about it today and he said, "Yep, that's a contraction! You can expect to feel more of them over the next weeks." And then, um, a *whole lot* more of them before we have a baby on our hands. Like I said, Whoa nelly!

As of Sunday, the baby will be considered full term (37 weeks), so this whole shebang really is imminent... and there's so much to do! But the likelihood for a first timer is that I'll go past my due date. I vote for that, despite the list of complaints above. I've got a chapter to finish and we have a lot to do around the house and we urgently need to get a washing machine...gulp. That's just for starters.

08 January 2010

The human whirl

The Mister gave me a really nice edition of the works of Umberto Saba, poet of Trieste, whose life spanned both World Wars. He fought as a soldier in the first war and was forced into hiding during the second. The poems are beautiful in their simplicity and autobiographical matter-of-factness.

We returned the first copy to the store because the book was missing pages, and this morning I got the replacement in the mail--it, too, is missing the same pages. So sadly I will have to choose another book (well, to be honest, that's not so sad a prospect). Before I have to relinquish my gift, though, I've been skimming through as much of the book as possible, and I thought I'd share a poem (written during World War I).

The Egoist

You wonder at me and at the thing
so firmly locked in my heart
that I keep hidden from others' eyes;
because the human whirl may be peace to me,
because great gentleness holds fast in me;

because I seek the calm of meditation
even as bodies and minds are consumed by war,
I seem to you a really wicked man.
But wicked I am not, nor am I good.
You should know, then, that I am a poet.

Things tempt him, but not much,
that men make on the face of the earth
either with blood or in play.
He digs deep, deep is his treasure,
at the heart of the Earth, the golden heart.

Umberto Saba, tr. George Hochfield and Leonard Nathan

07 January 2010

New Year's Meme 2006/2009

So I did this meme in 2006, and I was going to do the 2009 version, and when I looked up the blog post I found out I never even posted it! So this year it's a two-fer, from the me of 2006 and the me of 2009. Both were pretty good years, I'd say: wedding bells and baby booties...

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?
Drove a massive stick-shift van across Europe. Appeared on Catalan television and at the Palau de la Musica with my choir. Went to the gym a lot, and liked it. Became an official resident of Spain. Visited Budapest. Got pregnant. Told my husband we were pregnant over Skype. Spent the 4th of July in our nation's capital.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I did keep many of last year's resolutions. One of them was to get in shape, and in general get my health taken care of, which I am really pleased to say I did before getting pregnant.
A joint resolution that the Mister and I made was to go hiking a lot. We went hiking... once. But it was a memorable hike, with my siblings up the familiar slopes of Mount Mansfield! And I did it while pregnant, so I was pretty proud of myself.
This year I probably won't make a lot of resolutions, knowing that it's going to be full of the unexpected and getting used to a cute little life-changer.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
A couple of cousins and a few friends.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No, and I am thankful for that.

5. What countries did you visit?
Spain, Belgium, France, Hungary, the US. It's funny to me that the concept of "visit" during this year has gotten pretty twisted around. Now that we're living in the US again, we "visited" Spain for Thanksgiving. When we were living in Spain we "visited" the US. This summer was one whole mishmash between the two.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
A whole little person made out of my genes and my husband's genes and God's handicraft.
And a completed dissertation, if it's not too much to ask.

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
June 10. Holding a pee stick up to the computer's video screen, unable to speak because of the simultaneous, uncontrollable laughing and crying. The look on the Mister's face.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
See above. Also: moving from Brussels to Barcelona. Then moving from Barcelona to Bloomington.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I am still writing my dissertation.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
No, phew!

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Fortunately, this year we haven't had to buy much. One good buy was a local farm share. Also: some baby accoutrements, which are "the best" more for what they represent than what they are.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
The Mister. Obama. Our families.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

14. Where did most of your money go?
The usual...mortgages, rent, food. Plane tickets.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
This creature growing in my belly! The inauguration, Budapest, my brother's wedding, friends' weddings, last hurrah in Vermont, baby shower in Boston, Thanksgiving in Barcelona, Christmas in Maine.

16. What song will always remind you of 2009?
Bach Magnificat. The jazz cantata we sang in my choir. "Parlez-moi d'amour."

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? 
b) thinner or fatter? 
c) richer or poorer?
a. Happier. b. I *was* thinner, but then this whole baby thing happened and I am currently, shall we say, portlier than last year. c. Poorer. Associate instructor incomes as opposed to European politician incomes will do that.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Writing. Spending time outdoors.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Procrastination. Worrying.

20. What was the best book you read?
That's a tough one. There were so many, and right now I can't remember them all. I remember loving Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin, and Jeannette Winterson's The Stone Gods. A random one that has stuck in my head is Central Park in the Dark, a nonfiction book about New York City wildlife, by Marie Winn. It was an antidote and an escape this summer.

21. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Pandora internet radio! Not new, or much of a "discovery" but I'm behind the 8-ball on things like that.

22. What was your favorite film of this year?
I really liked Away We Go, but probably because I was newly pregnant and we were deciding where to live and the whole pregnancy/road trip to find a home theme really resonated with me.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 31. I spent it with the Mister, and family and friends. A nice lunch with M. and a low-key party. Just about perfect.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
To have made more progress on my dissertation.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?
Unfussy, work-at-home comfortable. Which pretty much means: jeans, simple tops. This hasn't changed a whole lot with the pregnancy.

26. Who did you miss?
My husband, during the part of the year where he was in Brussels half the time, and when we were apart for so much of my first trimester. My family, when we were in Europe. M's family, when we're here.

27. What kept you sane?
The Mister. My mom. Music. Books. Sleep.


1. What did you do in 2006 that you’d never done before?
Got married.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Probably not. I can't remember what they were. Did I write them down?

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Only, like, everyone.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
My grandfather passed away in February.

5. What countries did you visit?
Spain, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, the US

6. What would you like to have in 2007 that you lacked in 2006?
Can't think of a thing.

7. What dates from 2006 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
This is a no-brainer. July 2, 2006, marrying the man I love.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Making a wedding happen. Tied with: passing my doctoral exams and writing my MFA thesis.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Not getting my dissertation proposal done before the end of the semester.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
No, phew!

11. What was the best thing you bought?
A 75% on-sale wedding dress that was perfect.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Our families. They were awesome with the wedding, helping with it all and never complaining.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
A host of movie stars and politicians.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Travel. We, um, sort of stopped paying attention to how much money we were spending on our honeymoon, and, um, oops.
Also: mortgages. I married into one of them, and signed on for the other only a few months later.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Again, duh.

16. What song will always remind you of 2006?
I'm not sure songs remind me of years, exactly. But the chorale from the Saint Saens' organ concerto was the music playing when I walked into the church...
And I will remember my house of love roommates when I hear Serge Gainsbourg.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? 
b) thinner or fatter? 
c) richer or poorer?
Happier, fatter, and, both poorer and richer. Poorer because I'm not earning a penny at the moment, and richer because my husband's earning a few more than I ever have.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Exercise, time with friends.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

20. What was the best book you read?
David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas. I looooved it.

21. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I don't think I'd be able to say I truly "discovered" anybody. I'm not very hip like that.

22. What was your favorite film of this year?
I'm bad with films. At the moment, I can't remember the title of a single one that I saw in the past year.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 28. I went out for a schmancy dinner with friends.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
It was pretty satisfying as it was.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2006?
I think I'd be embarrassed to own up to a "personal fashion concept" even if, in practice, I have one.

26. Who did you miss?
For most of the year until the wedding thing, M.

27. What kept you sane?
Knowing that the wedding thing would happen, and then we'd be married.

New year, snow

Today has been a quiet, hot cocoa kind of day. The snow hasn't stopped coming down since last night, so we are enjoying the feeling of being blanketed in a soft sweep of white. The Mister stayed home instead of going to the office, we got to have lunch together, and we worked quietly throughout the day. To-do lists seem to be put on hold (and they are many). Peppermint hot chocolate in the afternoon was a must. Students still haven't returned to campus, meaning the streets of the town have been quiet and peaceful. We went out for dinner last night and had to try four restaurants before we found one that was open.

Oh, and the Kings made it to Indiana! I pretty much forgot that the night of January 5, the three Kings deliver presents, and when I woke up on January 6 sure enough there were some surprise packages on the breakfast table.

The baby's bum is currently wedged tightly under my ribs, and his hiccups are making my whole belly shake. He seems to be running out of room...his goal for the new year, I think, is to find a different residence. But he has no idea what he's in for. We finally set up his furniture, which doesn't amount to much: a pack n' play, a stroller, a car seat. Probably none of them will feel as cozy as his floaty round cocoon.

I'm so glad we had this time between our Christmas trip and the beginning of the semester. We've spent time with friends and with each other, and have continued to get ready (as ready as we can) for the February newcomer. These days have each felt like gifts, as the first days of a new year should.