Sunday, December 20, 2015

Baby!


It's never like the movies.

I woke up at 3:30 a.m. soaking wet, a week and a half before my due date. At first, I was in denial, but what else could it be? I texted the midwife and while I waited for a response, I hurried to brush my teeth and put my toothbrush in the hospital bag. I was shaking and confused. I didn't feel like I was going into labor, but I thought water breaking meant the baby would come shooting out of me at any second.

For some women, like me, water breaking doesn't immediately signal imminent labor. The body replenishes fluid for the baby, and occasionally, a rupture will seal itself. For two days, under the supervision of my midwife, I had mild, inconsistent contractions and no real dilation. The midwife suspected I had resealed, which meant we could still be weeks away from delivery.

The next day, feeling stir crazy, we went out shopping. Walking around, I started feeling more intense contractions, and around 5:00, I noticed they were becoming regular. By about 7:00, I was in active labor--contractions 3-4 minutes apart and 60 seconds in duration. The midwife came to check on us and stay until we decided to go to the hospital. Even though my contractions had sped up quickly, I wasn't dilated very much.

The next several hours are a blur. The pain was intense to say the least. I took hot showers and baths, I walked around, I lay on my side, and I bounced and circled on an exercise ball. When morning came, and it had been 12 hours since I started active labor, I was sobbing through each contraction, but I was still only halfway dilated. I knew I couldn't handle another several hours of the same, so we headed to the hospital so I could have some relief.

That meant a lot more medical intervention than I had hoped for. As I come to this part of my story, I still question everything. Why didn't I dilate faster? Was I doing something wrong? Did I give up too easily? Hadn't I taken care of myself during my pregnancy? At the same time, I wouldn't go back and change my decision. I remember looking at my glass of water, my bed, a half-eaten banana on the table, and my pink exercise ball and thinking, I now hate all of these things, as if these items were to blame for the pain I was experiencing. When I arrived at the hospital, I couldn't get an epidural fast enough.

Everything slowed down then. We just had to wait and see if I would dilate. We watched a lot of bad daytime TV (we couldn't even figure out how to change the channel in the room). Around 5:00 p.m., the doctor was saying, "I don't want to give up just yet." After he left, I asked the nurses what he meant: c-section. Not long after, a nurse came in saying the baby wasn't getting enough oxygen. She put a mask on my face and had me readjust my position.

This was not how I had envisioned this day happening at all. My pregnancy was so uneventful and easy I never imagined delivery would be this complicated and emotionally draining. All I wanted was a healthy baby. And I wanted it to be over with already. That's why they call it labor.

To my surprise, the next time the doctor came in, he very quietly said, "It's time to push."

At 8:00 p.m. on the nose, December 14, our little Sam came out to meet us with a healthy set of lungs (and everything else). 

Our midwife says Christmastime births are always dramatic--I suppose it's tradition--and we now have our story to tell. He's six days old today, and we're settling into our life together. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

8 Good Things

Ah, yes, life beyond work and baby-prep. This seems vaguely familiar.

1. When you eat just the thing you're in the mood for. Recently: mint chocolate frozen yogurt, vegetarian sushi (not together).

2. Date night. The husband and I normally work opposite shifts, so we rarely have the time and energy to go out together. With the baby on the way very, very soon, we made a point to go out and see a movie. It was Spectre, which wasn't very good, but it was nice to do something different.

3. New furniture (on the way). The nesting instinct I'm experiencing is manifesting as a desire to get our domestic needs in order, not just the baby's. Having a 3-person couch seems so extravagant compared to our little love seat! I'm also envisioning a BIG CLEAN once the semester is over.

4. Carrot and sweet potato soup. I subbed half a can of diced tomatoes for the tomato paste and left out the hot sauce, so it was a little plain, but I liked it. Eating it gave me a little burst of vitamin energy.

5. Cool fall weather (now that it's nearly winter), changing leaves, scarves, and hot baths. Oh, how I've missed you, old friends.

6. Online shopping. Because I do not have time to battle holiday crowds just so I can buy some sheets (nesting again). FYI: Black Friday is a fantastic time to go grocery shopping because everyone's eating leftovers and going to Target. I'm thinking the day after Christmas will be similar.

7. Knitted burp cloths. Because why not?

8. Jane the Virgin. We just started watching it on Netflix, and it's probably the most perfect show for us. The Spanish-English thing, the having-a-baby plot thing, and the it's-kind-of-a-telenovela thing are right up our alley.

What's going on in your world?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

36 Weeks

Lots of striped clothes, not feeling well but trying to smile, Gdiapers, teething necklace, and OMG where did my belly button go?
The weeks are whizzing by now, and holy crap, I have a baby on the way. Part of me is terrified, but another part of me thinks this is one of the most normal choices I've ever made in my life.

The fun: It's getting harder to enjoy being pregnant. But there are moments. I daydream about what he's going to look like. I can "play" with him now by pressing on his feet and rear end when he moves around. The baby's room is looking a lot less barren and way more organized. Our Gdiapers arrived, and I never imagined I'd one day think diapers were cute.

The new: I'm feeling like labor and taking care of an infant don't seem as scary compared to the prospect of continued pregnancy; I'd rather have him out than in at this point. Some of my maternity clothes don't fit comfortably anymore, I'm fantasizing of one day being able to recognize my calves again, and I'm making plans for what to wear to make nursing easier. I've ordered a breast pump. My appetite has decreased as my stomach gets ever more smooshed. I find myself Facebook-stalking my friends' newborn photos, and I cry at commercials now. The baby is strong enough now that his kicks actually hurt sometimes, but it's amusing feeling what is definitely a foot poking out the side. People--even my students--are starting to comment on my size and appearance, indicating that I might be a waddling hot mess (but everyone insists I look good).

The weird: I'm having interesting dreams at night, probably due to my disrupted sleep (waking up to pee). They aren't about the baby, but they are quite strange and detailed. Something unexpected is that for some time now, I haven't been able to see my pelvic region, except in a mirror, which probably doesn't sound that strange until it happens to you. My bump sometimes looks fake, like the pregnancy suits actresses wear.

The unpleasant: Back pain! I'd avoided it so far, but now when all I want to do is sit on the couch in the evening and relax, I can't because it's so uncomfortable. Basically, I can't sit or stand, and even lying down comes with the hazard of not being able to get back up easily. I need 5 minutes to put on socks. Fatigue has returned, and that nausea I missed out on earlier in my pregnancy is gracing me with its presence now. I'm also having an increasingly difficult time concentrating on anything but the baby. Day-to-day life is exhausting and challenging.

Baby weighs around 6 pounds and is the length of a head of Romaine lettuce.

Also, I've been reading:

The Bed-Rest Hoax - Not that I'm dispensing medical advice, but I found the article fascinating and not at all surprising.

Pregnant Chicken - This blog makes me laugh out loud regularly. Recently read: Easiest Births Ever. Stages of Pregnancy.





Tuesday, October 27, 2015

32 Weeks + an Anniversary

Barefoot and pregnant again. Note the super swollen ankles and feet and the double chin! Wee!
It happens that as I hit 32 weeks today, we're also celebrating our 2-year wedding anniversary.

I've been thinking recently about how nice it is to build a life with someone. It's one thing to share your life with someone, but now I feel like we've been creating something new together, like putting together a puzzle without knowing the picture it's forming. At first, we shared our life together, and it was rewarding to me knowing that we could and did rely on each other. But moving to a new city together, planning a future together, and now navigating the excitement and confusion of being first-time parents makes me happy in ways I never imagined.

Like the phrase goes, we're more than the sum of our parts. Together, we're something new that didn't exist before, and I think that's pretty neat.

On to the baby updates!

The fun: Knowing how he's positioned (head down, butt near my right ribs, and feet in the upper middle), really cute onesies and a beautiful quilt one of my colleagues made for us, thinking about what he'll look like (I assume he'll look like his dad, but now I wonder if he'll come out with an interesting genetic mix)

The new: Bumping into things (like the chalkboard tray in my classroom), the start of a double chin, my insatiable hunger finally calming down (I say this as I eat my millionth cookie of the day), people being extra courteous and friendly because my condition is super obvious now, my belly button being just about flat 

The weird: Baby punching down towards my rear end (not sure what his fascination is there, but it feels odd), linea nigra (that dark, vertical, seam-like line--it just appeared about two days ago)

The unpleasant: taking liquid iron supplements to prevent anemia (unimaginably gross), feeling huge, achy feet and ankles, having to work in three different time periods (I have to prep for the last couple weeks of the semester in case he's early, I have to plan the first couple weeks of the spring semester while I'm off on disability, and I have to also exist in the present tense)

The interwebs say baby weighs about the same as a large jicama. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Flying while Pregnant (and Anxious)

I hate flying. Loathe it. When I'm in other unpleasant situations, I think, It could be worse. I could be on a plane right now. So when I'm on a plane, there's really nowhere to go mentally. Sometimes I think about people who've been tortured and figure that must be worse because that's the only thing I can think of. I wish I were joking.

I thought I should just be one of those people who don't fly. I've met several of them, and their lives seem fairly complete. I don't have a strong sense of wanderlust. With my nomadic life, though, not flying isn't a good option if I ever want to see certain people again. I also don't like that there's something I can't do, like I've taken the option away from myself. I don't want to rule anything out.

Before my recent trip in August, I had figured the next time I decided to fly, I'd take some strong medication. That might have worked, but being pregnant put a kink in that plan.

To give you some indication, I made my flight reservations to Kansas City almost a month in advance, and that's basically when I started feeling the anxiety. My triggers are:

1. Lots of people
2. No escape, limited movement
3. Other people's anxiety
4. Motion sickness (this usually happens after the plane lands, but I do occasionally get queasy during the flight)
5. The sound of people around me (it reminds me they're there) and the engines of the plane (especially at takeoff)

Here are some things I did to offset those triggers, knowing I can't really avoid any of them:
  • Ear plugs: This was ridiculously easy and made a noticeable difference. It muffled the sounds of the plane and the people around me. Takeoffs were much more tolerable. Plus, some people say ear plugs help alleviate motion sickness. Each time I took them out, when we were taxiing to the gate, I marveled at how loud the plane and the people were. Listening to music on headphones works for some, but when I get anxious, my senses are easily overstimulated, so I really prefer silence.  
  • First class: The extra space was nice, although I'm not sure it was worth the extra $200 or so. Generally, everybody in first class is more relaxed and comfortable, which put me at ease. I sat as close to the front as possible so I didn't have to see the other 100 people on the plane. Except on one very small plane, the first class section had its own bathroom, and since there are fewer people in the first class section, it was almost always available if needed. I've also read you feel less movement/turbulence the closer to the front you sit. 
  • Red eye: On my way to Kansas City, I was able to fly out at about midnight. It's inconvenient, but when the plane is dark and everyone (else) is sleeping, it's calm, and I think time passes more quickly. Again, regarding the plane's movement, you'll probably have a smoother ride if you fly at night or early morning when the air temperature is more consistent.
  • Staying busy before flights: I walked around the terminal or worked on a simple knitting project (TSA says knitting needles are okay on flights).
  • Ginger chews: The day before my flight, I made some, but there are stores that sell them. They taste good and alleviate motion sickness. I ate a few throughout the day before I flew and again during layovers. While I normally feel queasy during the car ride after I land, this time I didn't feel bad at all. In Salt Lake City, after a bumpy landing, I was feeling kind of gross, but I took a chew and felt much better for my last leg.
  • Rescue Remedy: My midwife recommended this. I'd tried the mouth spray in the past with disappointing results. This time, I bought the drops that you put into water, and I think it worked better. I drank it in the days before my flight and the day of, and I found it didn't work right away but probably within 20-30 minutes (yes, it could have been a coincidence or placebo, but I'll take what I can get).  
  • This isn't so much about flight anxiety, but I always bring a change of clothes on the plane with me. A few times, I've had my luggage arrive several hours after I did, and it added to my discomfort being away from home after traveling all day without the ability to change into clean clothes. At a minimum, I carry on pajamas or comfortable lounging clothes and a change of underwear. 
I won't say these actions together made an enormous difference, but they helped and they made me feel I was doing something instead of being a victim to my own mind. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Cajun-Inspired Red Bean Pasta


One of my Facebook friends posted a recipe video for a Cajun-style pasta that looked ridiculously good, except for all the chicken and sausage in it. I've pretty much gone back to a vegetarian diet now that I'm having zero problems eating and gaining weight, so I thought I'd turn a red beans and rice recipe into a red beans and pasta recipe. It worked out well because I'd just bought an enormous package of pasta from Costco, and we had green bell peppers from our CSA that we needed to use up.

Adapted from Budget Bytes Vegan Red Beans and Rice. Makes about 6 servings. 

1/2 lb. dry kidney beans
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
1/2 medium bell pepper (green in my case)
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups vegetable broth + water or broth to add as necessary
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 whole bay leaf
1/4 Tsp paprika
Black pepper, to taste (a few pinches)
A couple pinches cayenne pepper
6-8 oz whole wheat pasta (spaghetti for me)
salt to taste
  • Prepare the kidney beans. I cooked them earlier in the day, simmering them on low until soft, making sure to keep the water level above the beans as they cooked. You can also soak them overnight, then increase the simmering time in the recipe to a couple hours. After pre-cooking or pre-soaking them, rinse them in a colander before adding to the recipe.
  • In a large pot, sauté the onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic until soft. Add the 3 cups of broth, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, paprika, black pepper, and cayenne. Add the rinsed beans. Let simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  • With a wooden spoon, smash half of the beans to make the mixture a little thicker (you can also blend some of the mixture). Then add the pasta to the pot.
  • You might need to add a little water or broth at this point to accommodate the pasta. I added about 1 3/4 cup of water. Cook the pasta to your desired firmness (around 20 minutes). 
  • Add a little salt to taste before serving. I also added a bit more cayenne because I like it spicy. 
In the future, I'd probably use a little more garlic and add some mushrooms, but this was a happy experiment. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Project 333: Maternity Edition

Mirror selfies! I forgot to put on shoes with my jeans. That's pretty much how I look anyway.

About a year ago, I first wrote about Project 333 and my pared-down wardrobe. Since then, while I haven't kept close tabs, I have kept my wardrobe pretty slim. In fact, now, I find idly browsing for clothes annoying, but with my growing body, I've had to buy several new items of clothing.  

My sister-in-law gave me a bunch of her maternity clothes, which was awesome, and wearing a BeBand kept me from having to run out and buy a bunch of pants right away. Now, though, the band isn't always enough to keep my pants up comfortably, and some of my old pants don't fit all that well because I've put weight on all over. On top of that, the combination of going back to work and the continued hot weather here meant that I really wanted to find a dress or skirt or two to keep me cool but nice-looking.

I've been disappointed in the affordable maternity clothes I've come across. I know I shouldn't complain; at least I don't have to walk around wearing tents like in my mom's day. But maternity clothes aren't cheap, and there are far fewer options to choose from compared to regular sizes. For colors, they have black, charcoal, very black, and black stripes. There are hardly any petite-sized pants, and sizing is unpredictable, even within the same brand.

Also, maternity skinny jeans? Right, because nothing goes better with weight gain and constipation like tight pants. 

Anyway, the good news is that because there isn't much to choose from, I've grown tired of browsing, so I've whittled down my wardrobe more than ever. At the same time, I've gotten quite a few compliments about my clothing, so I'm happy. Here's my clothing roundup as I transition into fall:

Coral color-block shirt
Teal color-block shirt
Green t-shirt
Purple t-shirt
Teal t-shirt
Light green paisley shirt (not a maternity shirt, so it might be out soon)
Teal cardigan
Red cardigan
Beige cardigan
Purple cardigan
Black striped dress
Navy and pink dress
Purple dress (again, not maternity, so it might not last much longer)
Denim skirt
Jeans
Pink and white tank top
Grey and orange striped t-shirt

Silver sandals
Gold Mary-Janes
Black flats
Beige slip-on sneakers
Flip-flops
Athletic shoes for walking and occasional Zumba

=23 items

Some of my shoes aren't fitting me comfortably anymore as I deal with swollen feet and ankles, so I'm still trying to figure out how to dress my feet. I have a feeling I'm just going to end up in sandals every day.

Realistically, I'm only wearing about 10 of the non-shoe items very regularly because of the hot weather. I'm practically living in that denim skirt. I'll eventually add scarves back into the rotation, and my cardigans will get more use.  Now that I just have a few months to go, it seems silly to keep adding to the wardrobe, although I always keep an eye out. We have far more important purchases to make, and I feel pretty content even if I repeat outfits constantly. Come January or February (or never), I'll dig out some of my stashed-away, pre-pregnancy clothes to see what's what.


(TMI warning about bras and breasts) 

One last clothing-related point worth mentioning: I've switched to wearing wire-free bras. Earlier this year, my previous bras were looking a little worse for wear, but anticipating a change to my size, I figured I should wait. At this point, while my shape has changed, my size hasn't really changed, so I searched for something supportive but a little stretchy to accommodate small changes in size. It's funny how skeptical I was about wire-free bras after wearing underwire bras for 20+ years. The one linked above fits well and has some padding in the front, which I appreciate because pregnancy nipples are always on alert. I know breastfeeding will bring about a whole other set of conditions, but for now, I'm comfortable, and I don't think I look too loosey-goosey if you know what I mean.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

28 Weeks

Pictured: frizzy hair and larger-every-day baby bump. Not pictured: swollen ankles
The fun: Feeling like I have a little buddy with me now and starting to think of him as a separate person, lots of kicking that the husband can now feel too (if you see me in person, you might see me jump randomly as he's kicking much harder these days)

The new: Thicker hair (on my head this time), gaining a lot of weight all at once, a whole bunch of hand-me-down baby stuff (we're starting to feel materially prepared!), not being able to bend at the waist, being out of breath when I'm talking to my classes, grunting when I get in and out of the car, going to see the midwife every two weeks now (which means HOLY CRAP BABY IS COMING SOON)

The weird: Random parenting thoughts (like wondering at what point in my child's development I have to start wearing real clothes around the house), feeling like I basically have a stranger living inside me

The unpleasant: Continued swollen feet and ankles, waking up to go to the bathroom every night (therefore getting less uninterrupted sleep), itchy skin on my belly (from stretching)

According to the interwebs, baby weighs about the same as an eggplant and is 14 inches long!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

24 Weeks

Barefoot and pregnant, part II. The hair looked much better in person.
I've gone back to work for the fall semester, and it turns out being pregnant is a lot easier when you don't have to leave the house regularly. And by the "leave the house" I mean "put on pants and interact with other humans." I was anxious in the early weeks of my pregnancy because I didn't feel pregnant; I certainly feel pregnant now.

Highlights --

The fun: Feeling the baby move a lot (he'll be a futbol player before too long), slowly accumulating baby stuff, people asking me about the baby (I was concerned that I'd hate random people talking to me, but I like it), sharing my pregnancy news with new and former students, eating-eating-eating (in fact, I could go for some food right now), sleeping like a champ 

The new: Settling--I hope--on a diaper situation that'll be fairly convenient and environmentally conscious, looking noticeably pregnant, finding out a woman I work with is very much involved with the local La Leche League (read: less social anxiety about meeting a group of women I don't know)

The weird: Dreams, being honked at by some dudes while I was walking (no limit to street harassment I guess), pregnancy brain 

The unpleasant: swollen feet and ankles, leg cramps, pressure in my lower abdomen making me think I need to pee every five minutes, not being able to get up/bend down/get around easily, missing beer and coffee, being hot and sweaty constantly, arm flab

All that said, I'm still feeling pretty good. I'm far less nervous about the pregnancy but more nervous about the delivery and actually raising a child. That's the hard part, I hear.


Friday, August 28, 2015

8 Good Things





1. Drawing is Magic and coloring books for adults like this one and this one (I couldn't find those ones, so I picked up a different one). I'm not at all good at drawing, but I'd like to be. I've been following some illustrators on Twitter, and I'm jealous of how much they can say with a sketch. I'd like to incorporate more doodling, drawing, and coloring into my life.

2. Baby stuff! It's been really hard not buying baby clothes, but I know people love buying baby clothes as gifts, so I'm refraining. Thankfully, a very good friend read my mind and got us our first onesies and some towels (because who doesn't need a dinosaur hood on their towel?). Another friend sent us a crocheted blanket, which was so thoughtful and of course adorable. I also came across these cloth diapers with disposable--but biodegradable--inserts, which seem to be a great compromise in the Great Diaper Debate.

3. Knitting projects (for baby): frogging a wrap/nursing cover to make a small blanket, and I've started on a fuzzy blanket buddy.

4. Ting. It's a mobile phone service that charges you based on actual minutes/data used. My mom sent me her old iPhone (so I could join the decade finally), but I was unhappy with the plans offered by the big companies because they charge a bunch to activate an old phone, and I don't use my phone all that much anyway. This first month I used Ting my bill was $34, and that was with some extra calling and texting while traveling. If you're interested, here's a referral link.

5. Ginger chews. I tried the recipe a few weeks ago, and they came out a little runny but almost right (no fault of the recipe, just my impatience with direction-following).

6. GoSun Grill. A Facebook friend posted the promotional video for this, and although it's out of stock, I'm kind of obsessed with it. Maybe because my kitchen/dining/living room gets the late afternoon sun, and the thought of cooking indoors is kind of awful.

7. Vegetarian minestrone made with spinach and cheese tortellini in place of plain macaroni pasta (it might be hot, but I do still cook). By the way, although I still eat mostly vegetarian/vegan meals, I've been eating meat and dairy more frequently because I was having a hard time gaining weight while eating my usual foods. I make minestrone pretty often anyway, but the addition of a little cheesy pasta ups the calories, and it was delicious.

8. Going to Kansas City for a visit. Earlier this month I got to visit with the parents, my nephew, and a friend who lives in the area. The weather was surprisingly mild too. I was surprised by how different everything looks. The last time I lived there full-time was in 1999. Hard to believe how much time has passed.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

20 Weeks: It's a Boy!



Literally barefoot and pregnant

Almost everyone thought we were having a girl, so it was a bit of a surprise to find out we're having a boy. I didn't have a gut feeling, either (all this "a mother always knows" stuff does not apply to me), although almost everyone I knew who had a baby in the last couple years had girls, so statistically speaking, I thought we should have a boy. Obviously, we didn't have a preference. We're happy to report he's looking fine and healthy at this point.

Highlights--

The fun: working on baby names (we might have settled on one), feeling the baby move occasionally, seeing a slightly different body every day in the mirror, browsing the baby aisles in stores, interesting dreams, knitting baby stuff

The new: leaving my crappy ob-gyn office and switching over to a midwife (she's wonderful), going from barely having a baby bump to not being able to button my pants 10 days later, realizing I'm halfway through my pregnancy and freaking out a lot a little

The weird: longer and thicker hair on my stomach (thanks, hormones!)

The unpleasant: lots and lots of boogers, dry skin in uncomfortable places (cocoa butter lotion is awesome), not being able to get up easily from lying on my back, my friends' sharing lots of educational but gross information about postpartum pooping, trying not to overheat when it's a thousand degrees outside

Overall, it's been a pretty smooth ride, and I've been lucky. I'm enjoying it. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

How Vegetarians Do Salad


Vegetarians get a bad rap because some meat-eaters think all they eat is salad. And salad gets a bad rap because unimaginative people think a salad is just lettuce with heaps of ranch dressing on it.

False on both accounts.

Some years ago, when I first started cooking real meals, a woman I was friends with would make the best salads with every ingredient imaginable. I had no idea salads could be so full of colorful, tasty ingredients. She also liked to serve pasta on a bed of greens, which isn't so much a salad at that point, but I thought it was an easy way to add some leafy greens to a meal and create an interesting mix of flavors and textures at the same time. 

Today, even though I don't eat salad very often, it is nice for summertime, and it's a good way to use up a lot of vegetables (and fruit sometimes) all at once. My salads almost always feature some kind of grain, seed, or legume. Usually, it's quinoa, couscous, or beans, but lately corn has gotten my attention. I've even been known to add some boiled potatoes on a salad. Why not? By adding a starchy food, it makes a salad a more complete meal, but it still keeps the cooking pretty minimal. I also like the combination of soft and warm mixed with cold and crunchy.

Now, all I need to do is learn how to make some great dressings at home, and I'll be set.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

8 Good Things






1. A nice haircut. It was just a trim, but I feel so much lighter.

2. Surprise gift in the mail from my sister-in-law. It's The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, and her wrapping was adorable.

3. Ginger tea. Ginger heals what ails you, but at our house, it's all about the stomach issues. I didn't realize how easy it was to make ginger tea at home with boiling water and a few slices of ginger and lemon, but it tastes great. This morning I added a couple slices of peach.

4. A new, used iPhone from my mom. Yeah, I get the irony, but I really just don't care for gadgets. I've been using the same AT&T GoPhone for more than two years, but lately I've been wishing I could occasionally use apps, so it was lucky for me that my mom upgraded her phone. I'm trying a no-contract wireless service called Ting that I hope will suit my needs just fine.

5. Reading. In addition to the book I mentioned above, I checked out some books from the library and bought some books. I'm currently reading Stupidity and Tears (the title hasn't aged well, but the central ideas are still valid) and flipping through Yoga for Pregnancy based on a recommendation from a friend.

6. Travel plans. I'm heading to Kansas City next month for a quick visit. It'll be good to get out of California for a little while, and this will probably be my last big trip before the baby comes.

7. Catching up with friends and family. We've had a couple visitors at our new place! It's just surprising because we lived here for almost a year with no visitors at our last place (there wasn't room for more than a couple people to sit and talk comfortably). Another sister-in-law brought me some more maternity clothes too. I'm loving the hand-me-downs lately.

8. The baby bump + keeping the baby stuff simple. When I lie on my back, I can now feel a definite balloon-like bump under my belly button. Baby's coming along just fine. So far, I've been stifling a little anxiety about the never-ending baby gear sold in stores. In response, I'm reading about what the true essentials are for the first couple months (lists like this and this are reassuring) and trying not to think too far ahead. I'm also looking into an online registry that would let people donate money towards a fund like "bath accessories" or "crib and bedding," which would minimize the pressure I feel to select the right items months before we'll even use them. It's making me feel a little better.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

8 Good Things

I've been busy with packing, moving, and unpacking all while trying not to overheat during said activities, but our relocation adventures and the temperatures are settling down, so I can enjoy life again.

1. My first baby dream. I used to have a recurring dream that I suddenly had a baby and was totally unprepared (like I didn't have a carseat so I figured I'd put the baby in the trunk), but since I've actually been pregnant, I've had no baby-related dreams or even just strange dreams until just a couple days ago. I dreamed we had a baby girl with enormous eyes, and I remarked that she looked like my dad (probably because dream-baby looked an awful lot like my cousin's baby I've been seeing photos of on Facebook). I was calling her by a name we are currently leaning towards. Other friends have told me they see a girl in our future too, so we'll see just how psychic we all are very soon!

2. Good deals. We moved into a 2-bedroom duplex at the end of June. It's not much to look at, but it was only $125 more per month than we were paying for our 1-bedroom loft-style apartment before, and it suits our needs. We needed to buy a few things for the new place, and although we keep saying we're going to hit up the garage sales and flea market, browsing requires a lot of energy--energy I do not have at the moment. We got lucky with coupons and with 4th of July sales, though. After searching high and low for an affordable but decent quality and nice-looking coffee table, for example, we found the perfect ottoman and were able to get 20% off with a coupon. 

3. Cooking at home again. We spent a few days in limbo with most of our stuff packed up, and we ended up eating out a lot. It got old, and I missed my usual staples. Our new kitchen is quite small, but it's nice to be cooking again. I've been trying some recipes from Isa Does It.

4. Cool mornings. We recently had a heat wave of 100+ temperatures for several days, and even the nights and mornings were hot. Happily, the heat wave has broken for now, so I'm back to enjoying the breezy, mild mornings. 

5. Curtains. Hanging curtains always makes me feel like I'm home. Plus, they block out the ridiculous afternoon sun. We put ours up with some Command hooks and cheap, lightweight tension rods. No holes in the wall. Easy.

6. The bathtub. Our last place didn't have a tub--just a shower--and it was a bummer not being able to soak in a tub. A cool bath after a hot day, especially when I've been on my feet all day, is way better than a shower.

7. Our new neighborhood. We seem to live in a predominantly Assyrian neighborhood with mostly older couples, and when it cools off for the day, they all sit out front and talk and play games. We also live close to the university, and on the 4th of July, we were able to watch a fireworks show on campus right from our back yard. Not bad at all.

8. Generally, enjoying my pregnancy. I'm at 16 weeks now. It's interesting the changes that are happening to my body. Sometimes I look like I'm showing a little baby bump and other times not, but I can feel my my body changing inside. I'm uncomfortable at times, but mostly the process is fascinating. I haven't been sick--until literally today. I'm not convinced it was morning sickness, though. I suspect the prenatal vitamins are the culprit. Anyway, I'm happy my pregnancy has been pretty uneventful. 


Friday, June 12, 2015

Oh, Baby!


Blurry photo, my toes sneaking in at the bottom, caught up in a moment of nervous excitement
You might have noticed I've been a little absent from my usual posts about soup and whatnot, but the proverbial bun in the oven has kind of taken over my thoughts.

I'm going to be a mother, you guys. Of human offspring. Whoa. I'm at 12 weeks, and the baby's due date is December 22. We had our first ultrasound today. The websites say my baby is about the size of a lime or a plum. 

I hesitated making the big online announcement until today because I was having some surprising fears about this pregnancy. We'd been kind-of-trying and trying-trying for more than two years, so at first it hardly seemed real. I took two pregnancy tests and I still expected the doctor to say we had read them wrong. Then, I was convinced that I had lost the baby (even though there was no reason to believe that), and I was convinced it was because of my ineptitude or because my body is deficient. Needless to say, it's been a very stressful time for me these past several weeks. 

Seeing the baby on the screen today, hearing the heartbeat, and learning that everything looks fine at this point was an incredible relief. I finally feel excited about the baby and not just completely nervous. I know women always say this, but the fact that my body is making and housing another human is fascinating. Seeing him/her today made me feel like we have a relationship, and it went a long way towards helping me trust myself and my body. 

I'm feeling good physically--no morning sickness (lucky me!), but my appetite is certainly strange. I'm craving tangy, sour foods like mustard, Italian dressing, and limeade. I was feeling very fatigued in the beginning, but now that I'm on summer break, I'm resting and not getting crazy tired. As for the baby bump, now I understand what women were talking about when they'd say, "I don't look pregnant yet, just fat." That has not stopped me from wearing maternity clothes already. 

We'll be moving into a bigger place in the coming weeks, and I've already started knitting some baby items. Day by day, it becomes more real. Now I can finally say this and mean it: we're thrilled. 

As always, thanks for reading. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

8 Good Things


1. The Colors of Nature. It's a collection of nature essays. I'm reading it with a class this semester, and I find it to be accessible yet insightful and moving at the same time.

2. Homemade pesto. I don't know why I haven't been making pesto my whole life. It's pretty much the easiest thing ever and makes pasta night not seem like laziness because I'm making something. Recently, I made some from parsley instead of basil (because we got parsley in our CSA box), and it was still quite good.

3. Oh! Our new CSA! I told my students about CSA and several of them were saying they were looking into joining one. Then I thought, Why haven't I signed up for one yet? And then I fixed that. The first week was kale, carrots, lettuce, cauliflower, huge beets, bok choy, oranges, an avocado, strawberries, and the aforementioned parsley. We pay $25 per week/box. I can't get over how ridiculously exciting produce is when it's delivered rather than picked out by me at a store.

4. Katy Bowman's blog and books. I still have plantar fasciitis. Still. It's been about two years. I feel like I've tried everything, but a Twitter friend recommended Katy Bowman's work, and I'm giving the stretches from this book a try and paying more attention to my alignment. I've noticed a difference after a short time, so I'm hopeful. I also fashioned a less-floppy flip-flop (details later) that are incredibly comfortable for my little piggies.

5. Black bean chili with sweet potatoes. I've seen several recipes for black bean and sweet potato tacos or similar and it sounded gross, but I tossed a sweet potato into a pot of my regular black bean chili, and it was quite tasty. I didn't taste the sweet potato much, but somehow the blend was really good. I'll have to share a recipe soon.

6. Spring break! I'm actually at a pretty chill time in the semester, in between major assignments right now, but I still welcome a break. We don't have any real plans, but it's nice to catch up on some sleep.

7. Learning Spanish via pop songs. I've decided in my spare time (hah!) I'm going to improve my Spanish speaking skills (I can read and write decently) by learning songs. It's fun but really, really hard.

8. Going to UC Berkeley to listen to the Caravana 43 panel talk about what happened to the students from Ayotzinapa. Can I call this a "good" thing? I was honored to have the opportunity to hear them speak and show my support. I left feeling a greater sense of my responsibilities as an educator. So, yeah, it was a good thing that was born from a tragedy.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Potato Lentil Soup


I make this recipe almost weekly because I can make it with items I always have in stock: dry lentils, potatoes, and canned diced tomatoes. Everything else is fluff, so even when I plan to make something else, I end up making this because it requires very little thinking and no impromptu trips to the grocery store.

My kind of cooking.

Oh, and let's be honest: I know red lentils when I see them, but I have no idea if I've been buying brown or green ones. They look brownish green. They're the kind that I see most commonly in regular grocery stores.

1-2 Tbl olive oil
about 1/2 a yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
enough water/vegetable broth to cover ingredients
about 3 medium-sized potatoes (I like red potatoes best for all things)
about 1 fistful of dry lentils (they'll expand a little, so don't go too crazy)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground chili powder
a couple dashes of ground coriander
salt and pepper to taste

options: sliced jalapeño, frozen corn, chopped zucchini, black beans

Directions:
  1. Sauté the onion, garlic, and celery together in some olive oil for a few minutes.
  2. Add in the diced tomatoes. Fill up the can with water and add that.
  3. Add in the remaining ingredients and additional broth/water as needed to cover the ingredients to your desired soupiness.
  4. Simmer until the potatoes and lentils are tender. Blend a cup or two for a creamier soup.


Enjoy!





Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup


This recipe was adapted from Crazy Sexy Kitchen's Pumpkin Bisque.

To be honest, I'm not a big fan of the squash family unless the flavor is really dressed up, and this soup does the job. 

This makes around 6 bowls. All ingredients in my recipes are "to taste" and "depending on what's available in my fridge." But here's roughly how I make it.

Ingredients:
1-2 Tbl olive oil
half of a yellow onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed and sliced
(sometimes instead of onion and garlic I use chopped leeks) 
2 celery stalks, chopped
half a large butternut squash, peeled and cut into medium-sized chunks
about 1/4 of a head of cauliflower, maybe 1 1/2 cups chopped into florets
1/4-1/2 cup of sherry cooking wine
enough vegetable broth/water to just cover all ingredients
2 dashes ground cinnamon 
3-4 dashes ground cayenne
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:
Sauté onion, garlic, and celery in olive oil for a few minutes. 
Add remaining ingredients, and boil on low-medium until butternut squash breaks with a wooden spoon. 
Blend ingredients if desired.

Enjoy!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

8 Good Things







1. Homemade pickles. I had no idea they were this easy (although I think there are far more complicated ways to do it). I've been making mine with just a dollop of dijon mustard instead of the mustard seed, coriander, and celery seed. My favorite vegetables to use are cucumbers, carrots, cauliflower, and a few slices of jalapeño.

2. Lots of eating at home + shopping at Grocery Outlet. We've cut way back on our food expenses these past couple months; it helps that we're both home for dinner time now. We've been doing most of our food shopping at Grocery Outlet because their prices do seem significantly cheaper, they're hardly ever busy, and they generally carry our staple items.

3. House of Cards. Do I need to say anything else?

4. Trees in bloom. I don't know if spring is coming early here or if the warm weather we've had is normal, but it's pretty nonetheless.

5. A fun Zumba class at the local gym. I haven't been to a Zumba class since we moved because my foot needed a rest, and I was kind of over it. But we found an instructor we like, and it's brought back a lot of good memories. I've also been going to an interval class one morning a week. It feels good to exercise regularly again.

6. Introducing students to CSA. I wish I could convey in a short paragraph how happy that makes me. Every time it comes up (somehow, it just does), students are fascinated, and this time around, 2-3 of them have said they're looking into joining one. I think they like that it's an action they can take, not just an idea to write about. And on that note, I'm thinking of signing us up for one now that spring's just about here. 

7. Offbeat alphabet books. I'm tempted to buy some of these for myself, even though I'm quite sure they're supposed to be for children. I'm actually thinking they'd make a cute final project for an ESL class. 

8. Visiting Sonora + other little getaways. Before we moved, I had hoped for us to take day or weekend trips about once a month. So far, we've succeeded without necessarily trying. I think short trips that don't have the stress of planning a lot of details are great for maintaining a healthy relationship. I always feel closer to my husband after one of our little trips. While in Sonora, we stumbled upon a used bookstore, and although we split up to look at different things, we both coincidentally grabbed books about the Caribbean. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Local Care


I wrestle with my intentions in this space. Recently, I was thinking about what kinds of blog posts I'd been working on: Project 333 and recipes/food posts. Is this the best I can do? Isn't there something more important I should be saying? I look around and see injustice everywhere, and I think I should be doing more than just writing about my life. To write about food and clothing like it's a choice everybody gets is to write within a place of privilege. 

On the other hand, there's a difference between acknowledging the privileges I've had in my life and overindulging in them just because I can. I keep coming back here because those of us who are able to shelter, feed, and clothe ourselves well, to the point of excess even, still need to take a step back, ditch the junk, and reconnect with our values.

Living simply is still relevant. I'd argue that people who choose to make things by hand, grow their own food, or downsize their possessions help make our world a little more equitable. 

Last week I had my students read an essay entitled "The Common Life" by Scott Russell Sanders. In it, Sanders claims, "The history of local care hardly ever makes it into our literature, for it is less glamorous than rebellion; yet it is a crucial part of our heritage."

You see, I'm not a leader. I'm an educator, but I'm not a leader. The pressure to initiate an idea, run with it, and get others to go along with me is too much. I think rebellion is rad, but I won't be the one starting it. Although I don't like to think of myself as a follower--nobody does--I do believe I am a mindful participant. Sanders' words hit me; "local care" is exactly what I'm working on. 

Caring for myself, for others around me, and for my immediate environment is a powerful act--powerful because it's accessible. Small actions I can take day by day and week by week might not make it into history books, but they can improve the lives of the people I care about most. Most importantly, these small but mindful acts change me

Friday, February 13, 2015

Reflections on Weekday Vegetarianism + Leaning Plant-Based

Spicy stir fry with magical Sambal and Harvest Grains from Trader Joe's

A couple weekends ago while grocery shopping, I passed by a man with his family. I smiled at him because I had passed him a couple times already. I saw him look at my basket and say to his family, "Puras verduras!" Just vegetables! And last weekend a cashier at Raley's commented on the Sambal I was buying (it's a delicious Asian hot sauce), which prompted the woman in line behind me to look at what we were buying and say, "I want to come to your house for dinner!"

I've come a long way since my days of eating off the dollar menu at Wendy's in college.

About three years ago, I became a weekday vegetarian. It worked well for me, and I'd encourage people to try it if they want to try vegetarianism but still have some flexibility. In the beginning, I did crave meat and ate it about once a week. When I thought about it, what I was craving more than anything else was the convenience of throwing a chunk of meat in the slow cooker and calling it dinner. It took some time to develop a vegetarian repertoire that didn't bore me or leave me starving. I also missed salt (easily fixed by adding salt to my meals sometimes).

Now, I'm looking more towards a plant-based diet (basically vegan). I feel better when I stick to fresh produce and whole grains. Now that I'm well into my 30s, I'm starting to think seriously about not dying at a young age. It sounds morbid, but actually, I just want to be around for a long time. If I can improve my day-to-day health and extend my life by eating a ton of vegetables every day, it's worth it. And I like vegetables. And I don't like pollution or animal cruelty. It's good all around.

I'm not ready to commit 100%--maybe closer to 90%. Basically, I don't think consuming a little bit of meat or animal products is terrible. The real food-related problems in our culture are the result of mass production/mass consumption, so I think it's most important to avoid habits that contribute to those underlying issues. With that said, I happily still "cheat" sometimes, but it's increasingly rare and it's mostly just to make my life a little easier. One day I might strive for 100%, but that day is not today.

I've found that even in this day and age, people are rather perplexed about what vegetarians and vegans eat. If you're curious, or if you're looking for ways to cut back on your meat intake, here's what I've been cooking pretty frequently (I'm happy to share recipes):

potato and lentil soup
stir fry (pictured above)
roasted vegetables with turmeric and curry
walnut pesto pasta
curry + coconut milk potatoes with vegetables
pumpkin or butternut squash soup
black bean chili
potato and spinach tacos

I've been using recipes from Crazy Sexy Kitchen and Isa Does It and experimenting on my own. I'm actually not very adventurous with my cooking and eating habits, so if I can manage a mostly plant-based diet, then you know it can't be all that difficult :) 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Everybody I Love Is Imperfect: Some Words on Fat-Shaming for 2015

NOTE: I don't know how to write this post. So many people are doing it better than I can, but I feel like I need to add my voice to the chorus. We need to be louder. 

It's the start of a new year AKA the onslaught of weight-loss talk. Despite increased body-positive pushback to all the negative fat-talk, the pressure to be thinner prevails--new year, same story. Too many women think the most important contribution they can make in 2015 is to weigh less, to take up less space in the world. 

I used to resolve to lose weight every year too. Starting in high school through most of my 20s, I thought of myself as being too fat. I used all the terminology of the day: "I don't want to lose weight. I just want to lose fat! I just want to be healthy!" I ran, I lifted, I swam, I hung out in Shape Magazine's discussion forums, I tried diet pills, I weighed myself every day, I talked about weight loss with friends, I criticized aloud what I ate and how I looked, I sometimes drank water to make my hunger less intense, and I coveted other women's bodies. As a footnote to my 20s, I earned two degrees, made good money while finishing grad school, met some wonderful friends, and became a college professor. But who cares about all that when there's belly fat to be lost? 

You know that trope where the woman asks her male partner, "Does this dress make me look fat?" The joke is that the poor guy has no way to answer that. The woman in this scene clearly believes she looks fat or is fat, and there's nothing the guy can say to get out of it. We believe that this guy loves his partner and probably doesn't think about her as fat or skinny, but no matter how he answers, she'll believe the worst about herself but blame him for it. That poor guy. Women are crazy. 

All right, just stop right there. Here's what's crazy: That woman is normal. I'm normal. I don't have a disorder. I'm not crazy. I'm just a woman existing in our culture today who succumbed to the intense pressure to believe that the number on a scale was what she was worth. Maybe more accurately, I have the same disorder everyone else has.

In 2006, I turned a corner. I looked back and saw that nothing I'd been doing had gotten me to the body I wanted. So, instead of fighting, I let go. I decided that food and exercise should be enjoyable. Gradually, over the next few years, I stopped my daily weigh-ins and internal monologues of self-critique in front of the mirror. No more magazines or comparing myself to other women. It took effort (it still does). The current is strong and swimming upstream is difficult, but I shed a lot of the hate I had for myself and started living my life on my terms. 

If we are to believe confidence is a woman's greatest characteristic, the trait that men find most attractive, I should have been at my most attractive. And, in fact, a part of me did feel that way. I felt for the first time that I deserved to be loved and appreciated for who I was. 

At the same time, my then-husband/now-ex looked at my transformation with disdain. He used to tell me that he liked my sense of independence, but when I rid myself of that particular baggage, he resented me for it.

Remember that poor guy tragically caught in the does-this-dress-make-me-look-fat trap? The belief that it's women who are projecting innate low self-esteem issues is so deep-seated that I can't even write my own damned story without feeling like I must provide evidence that I wasn't just imagining my partner's disgust. But I'm not going to. I'm already airing a lot of private and painful memories. It wasn't a secret that he wasn't interested in me physically anymore, and it wasn't a secret why: I didn't look the way he wanted me to, and in his words, he couldn't help what he was attracted to.

My body had changed. After all, several years had passed since we first met, and because I'm a living, breathing organism, my physical and emotional experiences affected my body over time. My change in appearance wasn't the real issue, though. I hadn't actually changed that much and I had never looked like his ideal, but what did change is that I had stopped killing myself trying to be someone else. He liked me better when I was spending two hours a day at the gym and ogling other women's bodies the way he did. He liked me better when I hated my body.

I desperately wanted to believe I was projecting onto him because if that were true, once he saw my increased confidence, he'd love me more. Easy! But the more I paid attention to being smarter, kinder, and more successful in my career, the less he loved me and the more he tried to make me feel like I was terrible for not being hot enough for him. 

Yet I still can't simply call him a shit person because, like me, he wasn't suffering from a disorder. He wasn't an anomaly, an isolated case of bad human behavior. He was normal. Plenty of his friends and family members, if they'd known our more intimate details, would have supported him. I know this because one of his friends on Facebook decried some Playtex bra commercial, saying that women wouldn't need a more comfortable bra strap if they'd just lose weight (that was a woman, by the way). I also know this because his father went to see the movie Precious thinking it was a story about a fat girl losing weight and walked out of the theater. Because a fat girl can't have a story worth watching that doesn't involve weight loss.

I feel like I got out of a cult, a world so upside down that sanity looks like madness.

Today, I'm not the least bit sad that the marriage ended, but I am sad that I wasted so much time and energy. I'm sad that I let someone try to keep me down. 

Don't get me wrong; when I say it saddens me, I don't mean that the women making these resolutions for the year are sad. I totally get why that happens. I'm sad that as a culture, we've accepted a lot of harmful ideas like women intrinsically hate their bodies and body size reflects value as a human being. Words like "healthy" have been turned in a big, fat lie. 

I was made to feel ugly and unworthy, and although I'm sure people will think, "You don't know what it really means to be fat in our society," that's the point. Fat-shaming doesn't have anything to do with an objective definition of fat. That's because fat-shaming isn't about fat being an actual problem. It's about control. A woman who doesn't feel bad about herself won't rush to the store to buy the latest clothing style, makeup, or pill to make her prettier. A woman who doesn't feel bad about herself won't surround herself with people who try to minimize her. A woman who doesn't feel bad about herself will work to change the world. Scary, right? 

To hell with this cult.

I haven't mastered this whole body image thing, but I am far gentler with myself. I've realized that everyone I aspire to be more like is imperfect, so I'm in good company. It's an ongoing process, though, and the pressure to be thinner or at least to hate myself for not being thinner is still present. I'm not there yet, but I refuse to buy into these lies, and I refuse to be silent and ashamed about this part of my personal history. I promise to be more body positive in the years to come. I promise to push back. I promise to call out fat-shaming when I see it. I promise to expose the lies. I promise I will continue to be loud for all of our sakes.