Saturday, December 29, 2012

22 weeks

So, what to say on this December 29 . . . Christmas happened?  It was fun.

I'm growing increasingly terrified of having a newborn in the house again.  I've realized that, of all the critical moments in pregnancy, labor, and birth - nothing traumatized me quite like those first few months with Vicki.  She is a slightly needier-than-average child, and she was just intense for the first while.  She still is, but now it's fun and exhausting.  Then, it was scary to me.  I remember the night that she was about six weeks old (the eve before my first Mother's Day, no less), and she cried the entire night in my arms.  Screamed.  Nothing could calm her.  I cried and cried and asked Jeff, in total seriousness, why we ever thought this was a good idea.

I guess I'm just not much of a "newborn" person.  And that's okay.  Not every mother has to love every stage of childhood equally.  Who knows - maybe this new baby boy will be completely different.  And of course, as they say, you never step into the same river twice.  I'm a totally different mother now than I was then.  Maybe it will be even worse!  Yay.

In other news:  sodium.  At the end of my pregnancy with Vicki, I got freakishly puffy.  Huge.  Swollen.  Painful to walk on blimp feet.  Rings wouldn't fit.  Had to buy new shoes as not a single pair of my normal ones fit.  Could hardly smile and show my teeth because my face was so water-logged.  Started snoring for the first time ever in my life because my nasal passages were so swollen.  It was awful.

36 weeks with Vicki.  Told ya.
So . . . I'm a little paranoid about that this time around.  And the holidays (and the subsequent traveling we've been doing) had a lot of processed, sodium-laden food.  So far, my nettles seem to be my friend.  I get really thirsty for my herbal tea, and down a few glasses, and it keeps me pretty well in balance.  But I check my ring very frequently.  It's my barometer of whether I've eaten poorly.  If it's tight, I know I need to cut back.  At this point, my feet and ankles seem exempt, but we still have quite awhile to go.  I really have to watch it and stick to my home-made food.  Real sea salt doesn't seem to have the same effect on me as denatured salt.  And my body just does not seem very forgiving on this point.

So . . . photos!

Sorry for the dim and blurry.  I'm at a beautiful stone chapel, about to do the rehearsal for a lovely couple's wedding.
Could've toyed with it in iPhoto and fixed some of it, but . . . I didn't.  

Thursday, December 27, 2012

road tripping

We are about to embark on back-to-back roadtrips - one to Arkansas to officiate my sister-in-law's brother's wedding (wrap your mind around that one for a second), and the other to Illinois to see my sister and her family, celebrate my niece's 2nd birthday, and do Christmas with my folks.

I'm more that a little nervous about how our young screecher will do with so much time in the car.  I can't say I blame her - if I was immobilized by a five-point harness for 10 hours at a time, I'd be kind of pissed too.

One of the things this pregnancy has been showing me very starkly is that I need to make my own food.  If I eat a hint of restaurant food, or anything processed, I feel awful.  My digestion is bad, I bloat up, and I retain water.  Like, immediately.  I can't really explain the difference scientifically, but my body somehow knows the difference between the salt I use at home and the salt used in mass-manufactured food.  And it doesn't like the latter.  At all.

The holidays have been a little bit difficult, as we have a lot of family gatherings and special meals where sodium seems to have its own category on the menu.  I also love salty snacks and dishes, so it's not like I'm staying away.  But I decided that for these trips, I was going to pack as much as I possibly could and bring with us.  That way, I could at least minimize the eating out on the road and at the non-family meals.

Here it is!

Clockwise from top, in a spiraling motion: raw milk, homemade yogurtcandied almonds, homemade crackers, homemade granola, home-baked bread, some ham and chicken salad for sandwiches on the road, homemade fruit snacks (this recipe is amazing!), cheese, fruit, carrots & celery, and yogurt dip.

In a way, I'm glad that my body has been giving me such clear signs about what I need to be eating, and what I need to be avoiding.  I truly don't even want to eat out much anymore.  I know that I will feel so much better if I just stick to my plan, and that's what I intend to do!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Americans obviously have a lot of problems with personal finance.  We have, on average, astronomical credit card debt.  We frequently buy houses and cars we can't afford.  Even going to college or grad school is put on the tab - and I'm as guilty as the next person on this one.

One of the biggest root causes of all of this is that, in spite of being so materially focused, we are still reticent to discuss dollar amounts that we pay for things.  Somehow that is still considered impolite conversation!  Salaries are closely guarded secrets that we guess at.

I want to help break this taboo with some real talk on our family's budget.  When we moved to Nashville, I took a serious pay cut.  At the same time, we bought a house.  The mortgage and homeowners' insurance is about the same as what we were paying for rent and renters' insurance, but there are of course all the auxiliary costs that go with home ownership, plus we had decided to put on a house addition because the house we bought was quite small (~900 square feet).  Shortly after we signed on the house, my husband lost his full-time job.  The addition was already in motion - the foundation poured.

Jeff picked up some work, and we have been okay.  But things are definitely tight.  We are regularly spending every bit of what we make in a month, and not saving anything.  As a United Methodist clergyperson, I do have a pension which is automatically funded.  This is quite unusual anymore.  I have the option of adding to it out of my earnings, but haven't been doing that while we are in this position.

The figure I want to discuss today is what we pay monthly for health insurance for the three of us:  $552.43.  This is high, and let me explain why.  My husband has Crohn's disease, an autoimmune digestive disorder that needs special care, a regular gastroenterologist, frequent colonoscopies, sometimes hospitalization, medication during flareups, and very rarely, surgery.  It is expensive.  Insurance companies recognize this, and he is virtually uninsurable as an individual.  Thanks to some health care law changes, he is no longer allowed to be outright blocked by insurance carriers on account of his condition, but the price gouging is intense.  We definitely can't find anything close to the quality of insurance we need for him for less than $550 per month.

Thanks to the United Methodist organizational system, we have the opportunity to belong to a pool through the Tennessee Conference.  As a full-time elder under appointment, my insurance premiums are covered 100% by the conference.  Adding any adult + children dependents at all (whether it is your spouse, your spouse and your child, or your spouse and your ten children) is an additional $552.43.  And that is a cut rate.  Because my base salary is the minimum allowable for a full-time elder, I am eligible for a reduced rate on the monthly premium.  We could search for other, cheaper insurance for Vicki, but it wouldn't make any difference - we would still be paying the $552.43 just for Jeff.

But wait!  There's more.  The premiums are only what we pay for the privilege of paying more.  There is a $1000 deductible (total, for the whole family) for all services except well-child, and then we pay 20% for pretty much everything after that, up to $2000 per year (including deductible).  One colonoscopy pretty much wipes that out.  So we're looking at $552.43 per month plus $2000 per year.

One upside that I mentioned above is that the rate remains stable for a given year no matter how many dependents you have on your plan.  So, adding the new baby will not be very stressful, since it won't increase our premium at all.

Just the premiums represent about 18% of our pre-tax, total earnings.  In a year where we pay the maximum $2000 out of pocket, the total cost for health care would be 23% of earnings.  

Don't get me wrong.  I am so thankful we have this opportunity, because it is way better than the alternative:  paying out of pocket for all of this at full price.  That would literally break us.  Jeff would not receive the care he needs and deserves.  But when people try to pretend that health care in our nation is not messed up, it bothers me.  More than a little.  I don't know the right answer, but what we have isn't working.  At least not for people who are actually sick and need help.

So, are you brave enough to tell me what you pay for health care per month, or per year?  Is it working for you?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

bah humbug?

Maybe it was doing two church services last night and dragging in the door at 12:30 to a sleeping household (still, I have to say - I feel spoiled after four services the last two years.  THAT was fatiguing).  Maybe it was the way our holidays are all spread out so we get to celebrate with different family members for almost a month.  Maybe it was the fact that we have had a big year financially (which - when haven't we?) and are pretty house-poor and strapped.

I'm just not really feeling it this morning.

I mean - I feel the Jesus part.  Big time.  That's usually the Christmas Eve glow for me.  We take communion, we sing carols, we raise our candles to greet the savior.  It is perfect, every year.  No matter what gaffes happen in the service.

But we didn't buy Vicki any presents.  She is getting so much from aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins.  We asked for only things we needed this year:  dish towels, a new car seat and high chair, clothes for Vicki, a queen sheet set, welcome mats, baskets to hold shoes at the doors, and gift cards for groceries and gas.  I need a gray cardigan and new underwear.  Jeff asked for new tires for his truck and help with the ski trip he takes every February with his buddies.

I feel like I'm somehow doing this Christmas thing wrong.  Sure, there is a way to opt out of the consumer madness (and avoid having to apply for a credit card, in our case!) and feel like you maintain some sanity and integrity.  But I feel like I got lazy.  We could have done a lot of homemade gifts and crafts and food.  But we didn't.  We didn't put up a tree because our addition remains uninspected and we have no place to put one right now.  We have no presents under said imaginary tree.  Aside from the special breakfast I made this morning and the Christmas tunes we played in the kitchen, this could have been any Saturday or other day I don't work.

But still, we are together.  We are relatively healthy.  The baby is napping peacefully.  We are expecting another miraculous change in the new year.  We are settled in a home that is in a place that we love.  We have two vehicles that get us where we need to go.  We have plenty of great food.  We have enough people that love us that we get to have no fewer than five family Christmas celebrations.  The fact that I would not consider all of these things enormous gifts and blessings says a lot about my character.

Edited to add:  my husband just ran into a parked car while making an unnecessary, stupid trip.  We have liability-only insurance.  He is fine, but I give up on today.

Monday, December 24, 2012

immune boosters

I have always been a super-hardy individual.  Little viruses, colds, headaches - they tend to pass me by.  I hate taking medicine for superficial stuff, and can usually kick anything with a nap and lots of water. 

Until this pregnancy.

Ho.  Ly.  Crap.  I have a horrible chest cold right now, which makes probably the fifth or sixth time I've gotten seriously, miserably ill in the past 21 weeks.  I know that pregnancy is a natural time of immune suppression, so that your body doesn't recognize the fetus as a parasitic attacker and terminate.  But sakes alive, I did not have this problem in my first pregnancy.  Perhaps having a toddler wiping her snot on your face and sticking her fingers in your mouth all day is not helping anything.  I've had a couple of the worst stomach viruses I've gotten in recent memory, a few colds including this one, and get this:  I used to have tiny seed warts on my hands as a little girl.  About ten years ago, they just went away.  I think my immune system sent the virus into hiding.  Guess what?  Since I've been pregnant this time, they're back!  It's the weirdest thing.  I will get a sore spot on a finger or my palm where a wart is popping up.  I will start to feel the raised spot, and then in a few days it will go away.  My body is really getting a run for its money right now.

So, what's a gal to do? 

One of my strategies is to eat something fermented, and preferably raw, with every meal.  My go-tos are:  yogurt (homemade, or Stonyfield Farms or Cascade Fresh if not).

Sauerkraut (haven't done homemade in ages, but I love Bubbie's).

Kombucha (time to culture a new mother!  I let it go at the beginning of the pregnancy, but I simply cannot justify the exorbitant cost of storebought kombucha).

And I want to get some kefir grains and start culturing some of our raw milk into kefir!

Supplemental things that can help are:

Elderberry syrup.

And probiotics!  Don't forget that gut health and immune health are inextricably intertwined.  If one isn't doing well, the other is bound to have some problems as well.

What are your dietary and home remedies for boosting your immunity?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

drop biscuits and gravy

Have I talked here about my deep, deep love of America's Test Kitchen?  And Cook's Country?  They are like the public radio of the food world (except for their ridiculously expensive magazines).  They are like Alton Brown and Good Eats (RIP), except without the entertainment factor.  It's just straight-up food.  No gimmicks.  No marketing (I'm looking at you, Rachael Ray-brand dog food).  ATK is exactly what it sounds like.  A test kitchen where they just repeat recipes over and over and over until they are perfectly perfect. 

Now, the downside is that they don't let just anyone have access to all the recipes.  You either have to be quick enough to write them down while you're watching the shows on public television, or subscribe to the website or magazine. 

Or find a write-up on the WNYC website from three years ago.  (Coincidentally, I interned at WNYC for a semester in college!  It is one of my big regrets that I didn't take it more seriously, because a career in public radio is sort of still my dream.)

Drop biscuits are total lazy-person food.  You just mix it all together and bake.  No tedious rolling and cutting.  As predicted, this recipe was perfection.  I lowered the heat because our oven seems to run about 50 degrees hot, but if your oven is normal, bake at 475.

Drop Biscuits
10 oz (1 cup) AP flour (weighing is much more reliable for baking)
2 t baking powder
1 t sugar
3/4 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
1 C buttermilk, cold (I didn't have any, so I made clabbered milk:  take a scant cup of whole milk and add 1 T of fresh lemon juice.  Let sit ten minutes.  Works and tastes pretty much the same.)
8 T butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus more for brushing the tops if you want (I didn't and they were still plenty rich!)

Heat oven to 475.
Whisk together all the dry ingredients.  (I did this the night before so I could just throw this together in the morning.)

This is a half recipe, so everything you see here will be half the amounts of the full one above.
Combine buttermilk and melted butter, stirring until tiny clumps of butter form.

Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring just until it comes together and it pulls away from the side of the bowl.

Using a greased 1/4 cup measure, drop onto a parchment-lined baking sheet (I used a pizza stone with no parchment or grease.  Worked fine.)

Bake until they have risen well and the tops are golden-brown, about 12-14 minutes.
Let cool briefly and then serve while warm!

I told you our oven was crazy!  They shouldn't end up this brown.  Also, my poor pizza stone cracked in the inferno!

I served with sausage gravy.  (Actually, this morning I served this with country ham - that's why there's no pictures of the gravy.  But make it.  It's incredible.)  I could seriously eat this on just about anything.

Sausage Gravy
1 lb bulk pork breakfast sausage
1-2 T flour, depending on how much fat renders from sausage
1-2 C milk, depending on how tight you want your gravy
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the sausage over medium heat in a large skillet, using a spatula to break into small pieces as it cooks.  When it is fully cooked, assess how much fat is in the skillet.  If it is well-coated, go on ahead and add flour.  If it needs more fat, supplement with butter or bacon fat.  (Our sausage was quite lean, so I added a spoonful of bacon fat.)  Add flour a bit at a time, stirring well.  Keep sprinkling on flour until you see no more visible grease in the pan.  Allow the flour to cook with the sausage for a minute or two.  Add milk slowly into the pan, stirring constantly.  Allow it to bubble and thicken for several minutes.  Add more milk if you want a looser gravy.  Taste it.  Add plenty of pepper.  Ours didn't need any salt at all because the sausage was seasoned quite aggressively.  Add salt if you think it needs it.  Serve with fresh drop biscuits!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

gun control, mental health, and what makes america crazy

I guess I felt like I needed to add my voice into the flurry of conversation occurring around the issues of gun control, access to mental health care services, and whatever else people feel like they can finally say now that there has been another horrible, awful, horrific tragedy in our nation. 

First, I was and am completely sickened with what happened last Friday.  And I feel a little guilty, too.  Like, why does this effect me so much more intensely than knowing that literally millions of innocent Africans (many of them children) are raped and systematically hunted and killed in civil wars?  Or just dying by the droves because they don't have clean water?  How can I sleep at night knowing that, and yet hearing about Sandy Hook has me nearly throwing up in the car?  Because those children at Sandy Hook look more like me and my daughter?  Because it's closer to home?  I guess.  I don't know.

Second, I'm really interested in learning more about guns, what is meant by "assault weapons" (it's not at all a clear-cut term), why Americans are obsessed with having guns (including my husband), and whether restricting access to them is a reasonable measure.  I don't know about this either.

There is a lot of comparison right now between America and the other developed (i.e. rich) nations, showing that we have astronomically higher rates of gun ownership, and gun violence, than any of the others.  I'm sure this is true.  But I'm not sure that restriction has a direct correlation to this.  Americans just seem more crazy than their counterparts.  I don't know how to quantify that statement well, except just to put it out there.  Until we deal with some of the underlying issues in our culture that cause us to act so violently toward one another, guns will just be a presenting issue. 

Jeff and I were talking about this over the weekend, so indulge me in a bit of what may be revisionist history.  Two hundred, or even a hundred years ago, pretty much every rural household had a gun (and probably most urban ones too).  I'm sure there were TONS of accidental deaths due to children handling loaded, unlocked guns.  I'm also sure that most young people learned how to handle those guns early on because they had to - to hunt for their families or defend their property.  But I really doubt there were these kinds of massacres that we have to deal with on an annual basis now.  Something has changed in our society.  It's a sick mixture of cults of celebrity, enshrined violence as a national myth, access to the kinds of weapons that were not available two hundred years ago, and environmental factors that just seem to be making us more severely crazy. 

Third, I'm definitely sure that we don't have good access to mental health care, especially affordable long-term in-patient residential facilities for the seriously mentally ill.  I have no idea if Adam Lanza was one of those seriously mentally ill.  He had no formal diagnosis that I know of.  That's part of the problem.  Tons and tons of people in our country are very sick and have no formal diagnosis, because access is such a problem.  I hate that it took another massacre, but I am really glad that this conversation is making it onto the national radar. 

I know first hand from many situations in our family that finding good mental health professionals who will accept and file your insurance is not easy.  And this is coming from a family that actually has employer-provided health care!  Much less someone who doesn't have those resources.  Scheduling takes weeks.  If you were in an acute crisis, there might just not be anyone to talk to. 

It's not as easy as gun control legislation + better mental health care access = less dead people.  I mean, that might happen, and that would be awesome!  But we can't just import a formula that works in, say, Sweden.  Swedish people don't rage at each other on the highway.  There is more under the surface here, and I'm not sure how we fix it. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

gender vs. sex and some thoughts

A mega-pet peeve of mine is when people confuse gender and sex.  Sex is what you are born with - and there are more options than we tend to think of.  Male, female, intersex (what we used to call "hermaphrodite"), no sex organs.  These are all possibilities.  This is what an ultrasound can (sometimes) predict.  But everyone has a story of someone who knew someone who was expecting a girl and out popped a boy.

Gender is something else.  I cannot predict what gender my child will be.  This is something that he or she will express in time, and sometimes through choice.  I cannot even really predict what gender Vicki will be at this point.  She has not consciously adopted one or another.  People can choose to identify with one gender or another.  In our culture, we sometimes call it "a woman being trapped in a man's body," or vice versa.  And it does not stay static.  Perhaps at one time in your life you identify with one gender, and then it changes.  Sometimes people undergo surgery to make their sex match their gender (although "match" is a loaded term, as though there were only one sex that goes with each gender). 

All of this just so totally betrays my theological training and background.  But when we get that question:  "so what gender?"  Or when people talk about a "gender reveal," it drives me nuts!  What you are revealing is what you think the sex of your child will be, with science that is not fool-proof.

So, now that my rant is out of the way, we have news!!

We think we know the sex of our baby, after the ultrasound this afternoon!

We think it's either a boy . . .

Or a girl.

Okay, okay, just kidding.  It's a boy!

To quote the ultrasound tech, this baby was "almost obscene" in how revealing he wanted to be about his sex organs!

We went back and forth and back and forth on:

a)  whether to even have an ultrasound.  But this one was great.  The tech saw everything she needed to see in terms of heart, bones, organs, and so on.  And I do feel much more connected to this baby, after feeling that this pregnancy was still sort of imaginary.  Also turns out the placenta is anterior!  Midwives are so smart. 

b)  whether to find out the sex of the baby.  At first I felt firmly:  no.  Then Jeff started to cave (insert sigh because I married an instant gratification junkie).  Once he said he wanted to know, but he wouldn't tell me, it was all over.  We both had to know.  Then we debated whether to tell anyone else.  But it just felt sort of crappy to say, when people asked, "Well, we know, but we're not going to tell you!"  So we decided to tell you.  I hope you feel special.

Is your next question about names?  We covered that too

peeling fruit

Sometimes it's the littlest things.  Vicki knows to go to the refrigerator, open it, and remove the clementine she wants to eat from the fruit bin.  She has been fixated on them lately, wanting to eat three or four at a time.  Without thinking about it, I had immediately been taking it from her, peeling it, and offering her pieces of the fruit.

The other day she showed me that she wants to be the one peeling it!  I did not think she would be able to do this - in fact, I never even considered it.  But she peeled it completely, from start to finish.  Then she enjoyed a sweet reward for her labor!

It helps that clementines are very easy to peel.  I love them, and they are one of the few "designer" fruits for which I will willingly pay extra when they are in stock during the winter.

Sometimes we just don't think about what our children are capable of doing, do we?


Sunday, December 16, 2012

homebirth and the child already born

After we decided in favor of home birth, we faced another big decision:  would Vicki Jo be present for the birth of her younger sibling?  It was a big question for me, and there were basically three main points that kept percolating in my mind.

1)  I wanted her to understand that birth is a natural part of being a woman.  Of course, not every woman chooses to do it, but every physiologically "normal" woman's body is capable of doing it.  We are led, in our culture, to believe that all sorts of things prevent women's bodies from giving birth naturally.  Especially as a female, I wanted her to see that my being pregnant and giving birth was not some sort of dangerous condition, but rather a beautiful rite of passage.  To this end, I have tried very hard not to complain about the normal vicissitudes of pregnancy around her, and instead to show that this is just another life stage of womankind. 

2)  I wanted her to have a strong investment in her sibling from the very beginning.  Because of her age, she is limited in her understanding of what will happen.  We talk about the baby in my belly, how it will come out, and how it will cry and need us.  I don't want her to go away for the night, come back the next morning, and a baby has just appeared.  That seems like a recipe for resentment. 

3)  BUT . . . as much as I consider my daughter's feelings about the birth, I have to be aware of what will support my labor in the best way.  I am a person who craves privacy.  When I have guests, I become very concerned about how comfortable they are, whether they are warm enough or cool enough, whether they need more to drink, and so forth.  When my child is in need, my heart is immediately with her.  Even if that need is just for a clean diaper or a drink of milk.  I can see her presence slowing or stopping my labor.  The body needs conditions of safety and security to birth naturally.  (Of course, in the hospital, we have side-stepped all of that with the introduction of pitocin and other drugs that can bring on contractions without these feelings of security.)  There have actually been recorded instances of a woman's body stopping labor for weeks when there are dire circumstances that prevent safety.  Having Vicki there would be, at best, a distraction for me.  At worst, it could be the difference between a safe homebirth and a hospital transport. 

So, our decision is that she goes to stay with her grandparents, with whom she stays overnight very regularly, until the baby is born.  It is just our decision - not the right one for everyone.  And it's not perfect.  Because of the first two factors I named above, I don't feel 100% right about this decision.  But, in a way, it seems like the first balancing act of a million that will come with two children.  What's in the best interest of one of them is not always in the best interest of the other, and as a parent, you have to make those judgments every single day. 

What do you think?  If you have multiple children, were the older ones present at the younger ones' births - in hospital or at home?

Friday, December 14, 2012

hot dog

My sweet pup, all stretched out in the morning.  This dog can stretch to over six feet, I swear.  Also - our final inspection should be today or next week, so we can stop sleeping on the dining room floor and move into our bedroom!  Glorious!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

spooning beans

[This post submitted to Montessori Monday 1/21/13.]

In the midst of everything going - work, house renovation, new baby, traveling - I have been sorely remiss in rotating the materials on Vicki's shelves often enough.  She was bored with most everything there, and it showed.  Rather than finding purposeful activity, she would throw things around and be rough.  So I schemed up a new plan.  I wanted to include a wooden puzzle or two, a tonging activity, a spooning activity, a new doll (we have a box of dolls hiding around here somewhere), an activity with clothespins and a bucket, and some new art stuff in a separate area.

I started today with the spooning/scooping, because I already had everything we needed.

The setup:  two bowls, a scoop or spoon (I tried two to see which she liked better), and dry beans.  I keep the beans in a sealed jar until it's time to do the activity so it's not a hazard.

The activity:  scoop them from one bowl to the other.  This is helping develop the pronating wrist motions that will support writing and all the other fine movements we do with our hands.  

You can see she preferred the smaller scoop.  I should have known this!  The closer to the child's size, the better they will be able to handle it.  Also you can see that our ever-present helper lurks in the background.  

It also became an impromptu screwing/unscrewing activity with the jar that held the beans.

And finally we had to get the jar lid involved in our scooping, too!  

The verdict:  she loved it.  It absorbed her attention for at least twenty minutes, and when it was time to eat lunch, she wailed when we went to put it away.  I shouldn't have interrupted her work cycle, but I presented this too late in the morning.  She woke up from her nap pointing and begging to get it back out.  

I should say that none of these ideas are original.  I get almost all my Montessori activities for Vicki from Kylie at How We Montessori.  Her son Otis is just a few weeks apart from Vicki, and she has the most innovative and gorgeous blog.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

santa baby

We had our first encounter with a man dressed up as Santa.

Someone was just a bit terrified, which I naturally found hilarious (excuse the pale/tired/pregnant look).  For the record, Santa here is a man we know very well - in fact, he is one of the contractors who helped put the addition on our house! 

Santa is kind of a problem for me.  Not this particular Santa, but the concept in general.  At its heart, it's a good thing.  Saint Nicholas was a real fourth-century man who had a generous spirit, worked many miracles, and liked to give gifts in secret. 

But somewhere along the way, especially here in America, we've gotten all mixed up.  Now Santa only gives presents to good boys and girls (except most of us don't mean that, and will still give Santa presents to our kids no matter what their behavior is, making it even more confusing as a parenting strategy), and his generosity is used as an incentive to good behavior.  Elf on the Shelf is a sort of iteration of this narrative.  We don't really have any shelves that work for that, since I want everything in our house to be accessible to Vicki.  Plus the idea makes me shudder.

I also wonder about it from a Montessori perspective.  Maria Montessori urged that children learn reality, and that we not reinforce myths and stories as truth, unless they actually are true.  Children rely on trusted adults to help them sort fact from fiction for quite awhile.  I found a good article on this topic that addressed the common accusation that Montessori is anti-imagination, anti-fantasy.  The truth is that Montessori education insists that children learn reality first, so they can clearly distinguish what is fantasy from what is reality.  And no matter how you slice it, telling your kids that someone comes into their house in the night and leaves presents under the tree just isn't the truth (and if it is the truth, I need to get signed up for this program!).

I never actually believed in Santa - not that I can remember.  My folks did the charade, but I have older siblings, so most of these things were already ruined fo rme.  I remember not being able to sleep one Christmas Eve, coming down and seeing my mom putting the Santa presents under the tree, and she got so angry with me.  Angry that I had discovered the fantasy that she was trying to make into reality for me.  I never forgot that.

But then part of me also says that one of problems of modernism was scientific reductionism.  Myths could no longer hold any weight because they could not be proven.  We lost something in our culture at that point.  We lost faith in a single narrative to explain things, and thus launched postmodernism.  We lost the trust that we had once had in the supernatural.  Now we need sonograms to know that babies are really inside of us, we need proof that Jesus performed miracles in order to believe, and we need news from the source that we prefer because it caters to our reality (but that really is a kind of devolution back into myth:  post-postmodernism?).

Vicki is getting old enough to know about Santa.  I don't think that we will give her any presents from him, and I will wait until she asks questions about it and then try to frankly answer her.  But she might just be that killjoy child who ruins it for all the other kids in her class - fair warning.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

19 + 2

Things continue on as before here at the homestead.  It's really hard to believe that we're almost half-way (or so) through this pregnancy!  The quick progress has proven to me that not all parts of pregnancy are created equal.  For example, the last four or five weeks are worth about five of the beginning weeks.  At that point, time just slows down into an alternate universe.  I have to say I'm not looking forward to those days!

I have had kind of a weird feeling for the past week or so.  I haven't been feeling any movement really (which is not totally unusal for this part of pregnancy, except that I had felt some before), and I don't seem to have gotten much bigger - or at least I'm not noticing it.  I called the midwives and Jennifer stopped by to do a quick Doppler check yesterday to make sure the heartbeat was strong.  It took her awhile to find a steady, galloping little heartbeat.  Her casual diagnosis is that I have an anterior placenta.  Our sonogram next week will confirm.  This means that rather than attaching to the uterine wall back toward the spine, as is normal, it attaches on the front of the uterus, near the belly button.  This is not troublesome in pregnancy - it just makes movement harder to feel because there is a pillow between your baby and your skin, and it makes it harder to detect the heartbeat around the thickness of the placenta.  So, all is well!  The only thing I think of is that the likelihood of a posterior presentation ("face up") is higher with an anterior placenta - babies like to face the placenta.  So, here's to hoping the baby either turns or I can make it through a posterior birth!  (They are notoriously painful.)

I have had some surges of energy in the last few weeks - enough to get me back cooking almost all of our meals, making lots of granola as Jeff is working to bust his addiction to refined sugar (cereal junkie), and sweeping and mopping without wanting to fall down in a heap of exhausted breathlessness.  It's a good thing. 

I'm drinking two quarts of pregnancy tea, made of nettle, alfalfa, and red raspberry leaf every day.  It's kind of fun. I'll post the recipe soon.  I've already had a few swollen days after I eat nasty processed salty food, so I'm hoping the nettles can do their work and keep me non-puffy!

I've also gotten to that point where my heart beats harder.  Do any pregnant ladies know what I'm talking about?  Not faster, just harder.  My midwife in my first pregnancy told me this was totally normal, as it's working to pump a greater volume of blood in the same frequency as before.  It's just kind of jarring when I lay still and feel my heartbeats shaking my whole body, and visibly raising and lowering my chest and belly. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

spiced pecans

[This post submitted to SortaCrunchy's Your Green Resouce 12/13/12.]

'Tis the season for holiday parties and celebrations.  Staff Christmas party, Nashville District Christmas Party, Uncle Robert's birthday celebration, Peep's (that's Jeff's stepdad's dad) birthday party.  It all comes boom-boom-boom in a row.

I signed up for salad this year.  I can do salad.  It's pretty failsafe.  Lettuce:  just make sure you wash and spin it dry.  Nothing worse than gritty salad.  For the salad I'm taking to the party tonight, I bought a package of artisan lettuces at Kroger (I know - fancy!  It was $2.99).  Tore them up, washed, and spun them dry.

Dressing:  I always make my own.  Easy:  vinegar, olive oil, a little squirt of dijon mustard to emulsify, salt, pepper, honey if you want a little sweetness.  Put it in a jar, shake it up, and taste it.  Add whatever you need more of.

Toppings:  go hog wild!

I love citrus in the winter.  It reminds me of when my brother would have to do these high school marching band fundraisers so they could go to the Rose Bowl or wherever.  We would always end up with huge boxes of oranges and grapefruits in the fridge.  And clementines.  Don't get me started.  They are perfection.  Seems like a natural craving to have in winter, when we could all use more Vitamin C.

Took a few tangerines and cut the peels off.  Sliced them into quarters, and then into bite-sized segments.

And spiced pecans!  I got a bag of pecan halves as a present the other day.  Normally I am way too cheap to buy whole nut halves.  I go for pieces, as they are always less expensive.  But when I got this gift of perfect halves, I knew I needed to do something special.  I adapted a recipe I found here to give them some extra flavor:

Spiced Pecans
1 lb pecan halves
2 T butter
1/4 C maple syrup
2 T rapadura (evaporated cane sugar)
1/2 t minced fresh rosemary, or 1 T dried that you crush in the palm of your hand
1/2 t cayenne
1/2 t cinnamon
1 t salt

Preheat the oven to 375.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Melt butter with maple syrup and rapadura over medium heat in a large saucepan. Stir in the herbs, spices, and salt.  Stir in the nuts and coat thoroughly.  Spread them on the baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Watch them very closely as they go from toasted to burnt quickly!  Salt again once they are out of the oven.  Let them cool, and transfer to a jar for storage.

These are great on salad, as a snack, or would be a perfect holiday present for the neighbors or a co-worker.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 7, 2012


My "moonshine," otherwise known as pregnancy tea!  They've been kidding me in the office about the weird concoctions I put in the fridge.  Recipe to come next week.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

avoiding ultrasound

Jeff and I have made an intentional decision to avoid any and all unnecessary ultrasound in this pregnancy.  I have a few reasons - it's not just for the sake of being difficult or countercultural, I promise!  I'm still deciding whether I think "ultrasound," for me, includes using the doppler to detect the heart rate of the baby.  Of course, a doppler is a kind of ultrasound.  But it's very brief (usually 15 seconds or less), and not as invasive as scans.  We have had two doppler scans thus far, but I hope to switch to a fetoscope within the month. 

Here are my reasons:

1)  I had multiple sonograms in my first pregnancy, and every time they predicted a dire condition that proved not to be a problem.

I had one at seven weeks because my cycle had been short and they wanted to more accurately predict my due date.  I was diagnosed with a low-lying placenta, and given all sorts of special instructions.  What I didn't know at the time, because of my first-time mom naivete, was that a lot of placentas are low at that point, because they tend to grow up and out during the course of pregnancy.  At seven weeks, there is not a lot of real estate in the uterus for the placenta.  By the next ultrasound, the problem was gone.  But I had stressed and worried and followed certain procedures for thirteen weeks, all of which proved to be unnecessary.  Plus, the danger of a low-lying placenta is only in labor.  It is a true reason for a c-section, but an ultrasound at seven weeks could not in any way predict where the placenta would be at the time of labor.

I had the standard twenty-week scan to check the chambers of the heart, sex of the baby, and positioning of organs and placenta.  At this one, the placenta was fine, but Vicki would not get into the right position to see her heart, and "they" became convinced that she had a heart deformity.  Again, if this were true, it would be a cause for special procedures in labor and immediately following (usually a NICU stay).  I was ordered to come back at 28 weeks for another scan.

At the 28-week ultrasound, the heart looked great, but Vicki was breech and this caused numerous conversations and much worry and strife for me.  Again, I should have been educated enough to know that she had twelve whole weeks to flip.  A 28-week scan cannot predict breech birth!  Naturally, she was head-down within four or five weeks.

By 36 or 37 weeks, my blood pressure was creeping up (no wonder, with all this unnecessary stress!), so I had to start having all manner of scans, non-stress tests, etc.  Each one worried me more and more. Baby was small - no wait, baby was huge (baby came out perfectly average at 7 lb 1 oz).  Fluid was low.  Due date was wrong.  Actually, original due date was right.  Late pregnancy ultrasounds are just notoriously full of errors that impact birth.

I just don't want the stress this time.  I don't want the worry.  I want to worry if I have a real reason to worry, not an invented one that doesn't prove to be an actual problem.  I am an anxious enough personality that "taking it easy" just doesn't come naturally when I feel that my baby might be messed up.

2)  Routine ultrasounds - and especially "vanity" ultrasounds just for the sake of seeing the baby - have not been proven safe!  Just because they are common practice for standard obstetric care in this country does not mean they are safe.  This is just another one of the issues in our American model - we don't practice evidence-based medicine!  Here is a great video clip from Mama Natural about the concerns her care providers presented about the safety of routine ultrasound. 

3)  The womb is dark, calm, fluid, and full of rhythmic body noise for a reason.   I have to believe that we were designed that way.  Every time I put waves in there, I disturb that environment.  There are videos and stories of women whose babies turn away from the ultrasound wand.  Or babies that get really active when those waves enter their home.  We think it's cute on the screen, but it's not normal for them!

Here's a great blog by a Montessori mama on why she chose to forgo ultrasound and doppler, and how she trusts Nature and her child to form in the way that is proper.

I also read a beautiful story of homebirth in Holland.  The American mother was surprised by the hands-off approach of her Dutch midwives, who gently insisted that healthy pregnancy and birth was her job, not theirs.  When she asked why no ultrasound, I just loved their answer: 

"We don't open doors that don't need to be opened." 

I think that sums up my thoughts on it, too.

I have requested that our midwives use a fetoscope, which is a special kind of stethoscope for pregnant bellies.  It's almost a lost art.  A fetoscope cannot be reliably used to heart fetal heart tones until 20 weeks or later, so we have not yet started using it. 

The main issue was practical, for me.  Jeff and I wanted to wait until we heard a heartbeat to tell all our friends and family about the new baby.  I wanted some kind of proof that there was truly a little human in there.  Like the very clear signs that my body was giving me weren't enough!  I needed something "scientific."  We did use a doppler to hear the heartbeat at 12 weeks, so I could feel comfortable in announcing our pregnancy. 

Our midwives left the decision to me and Jeff, but did recommend one ultrasound at 20-22 weeks, to see if development was occurring appropriately, and to check the sex of baby if we desired.  We have decided to have this one scan, which will be in ten days or so. 

Let me emphasize, before closing, that I don't think ultrasound is a bad idea for everyone, all the time.  If your body is giving you indications that you have an issue, or if you are concerned about the likelihood of conditions that may come up because of your age or risk factors, it's probably a good idea to go ahead and get one or more.  Do a cost/benefit analysis for yourself.  But, just like the cesarean section, which is truly life-saving when really necessary, we have confused what is good in rare pregnancies with what should happen in every pregnancy. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

starting a starter

[This post submitted to Sortacrunchy's Your Green Resource 12/6/12.]

As a gesture of goodwill towards our poor, defunct oven (editor's note:  fixed!  fixed!  FIXED!), I decided to start cultivating a sourdough starter.  While I love cooking, I have not yet done a whole lot of baking (aside from my favorite crackers or cornbread).

But all the bread at the store looks so icky.  Who knows how long it's been since it was baked?  What if there were little creatures who wanted a nibble first while it was in storage?  If I can make it at home, why not? 

Sour leavening is one of the oldest ways that people have created to make risen breads.  It uses the natural process of bacteria eating flour and excreting carbon dioxide to make the dough light.  I thought I'd give it a go, because it seems like a fun little process and I like making creatures in my kitchen.

It's not hard at all, but it takes time and attention.  Every tutorial I found online was really confusing.  So, I'm going to try to make this as simple as possible.  I will do three separate posts:  making the starter, proofing and baking with the starter, and storing the starter for future use.

To make, you need three ingredients:  whole wheat flour, AP flour, and water.  There are all kinds of debates online about grinding your own flour, using orange juice or yeast, or whatever.  I wanted to go with the most streamlined version.  You also need a very big glass jar or receptacle of some kind.  In an ideal world, I would buy a crock just to keep my starter, like this one.  But I didn't want to invest just for my first experiment.

Whisk together:

1/2 C whole wheat flour
1/2 C AP flour
1 C warm water

Pour it into your jar, cover with a clean cloth and leave in a warm, non-drafty place.  I left it inside the kitchen cupboard where we keep our glasses.

The next day, feed the starter with:

1/4 C whole wheat flour
1/4 C AP flour
1/2 C warm water

Whisk well to aerate and incorporate.  (I couldn't fit a whisk into my jar, so I used a chopstick to stir really thoroughly.)

Repeat the feeding each day for six more days.

Things should be happening in this time.  Your starter should begin to bubble and smell pleasantly ferment-y or yeasty.  It may release some thin brown liquid (called hooch) - not to panic.  It's fine.  Just pour it off.  If it turns pink or red or smells foul, dump it and start over with a clean jar.  It will begin to grow.  After feedings it will grow a lot, then it will kind of sink back down.

My starter on day six.  
And that's it for creating the starter!  A week, some flour, some water.  Just don't forget about it!

Now, this will create a lot of starter.  You have some options.  You can pour half off and discard when it fills the jar, and just keep adding flour and water.  You can keep it all and just have a LOT of starter until you are ready to bake and then store it.  Or you can use that extraneous starter to make recipes.  You just have to leave enough in the jar to keep fermenting.  The rule I've read is there needs to be at least a cup in there.  Here's the issue, though:  the starter needs to get to a certain strength to raise bread.  I don't think the first few days are strong enough.  But I didn't want to just throw away that extra starter, either.

I decided to use it to make pancakes, following a recipe from my favorite food blogger, Jenny at Nourished Kitchen.  We feasted on these this morning and they were amazing.  Thin, almost like crepes (could have been thicker if I added less milk), tender, a little tart, and rich.  With butter and maple syrup - nothing better!  Except trying to get maple syrup out of the baby's hair.

I halved Jenny's recipe and still had a ton.  Again, a lot is determined by how thin or thick you choose to make the batter.

1 C sourdough starter, proofed and bubbly
1/2 C flour (white, wheat, whatever)
1 egg, beaten
1/4 t salt
1/4 t baking soda
milk to thin the batter if needed
fat to cook the pancakes in:  butter, oil, bacon fat, etc.

The night before you want pancakes, mix together the starter and the flour thoroughly.  Put in the bowl of your mixer, cover with a towel, and leave somewhere warm overnight (I put it in the turned-off oven).

The next morning, use your mixer to beat the egg, salt, and soda into the flour and starter mixture.  Use milk to thin it to the consistency you want.

Heat fat in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat until a drop of water dances on the surface.  Drop batter by 1/4 cupfuls, fry on one side until bubbles start bursting on the top, then flip and fry 1-2 minutes on the other side.  You may need more fat as you go through the batch.  This made about 8 pancakes for me.  They were stupendous.

Stay tuned for the next post in the sourdough series:  making a loaf!

Friday, November 30, 2012

fashion plate

My mother-in-law is the real photographer in the family.  I've actually discovered that I somewhat suck at taking pictures.  So, here's a good pic of the little one from last week:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

for every stoplight i didn't make . . .

My ten-year high school reunion was last Saturday.  I zoomed home to Lawrence from East Tennessee the day after Thanksgiving, dropping off Jeff and Vicki in Nashville and going solo.  The long drive was really nice, actually - a good time to sort out thoughts without having to stop and feed/entertain a strapped-down toddler who naturally feels antsy.

I stayed with our friends Chuck and Leslie, whose wedding I had to miss in September because of a completely asinine mistake on my behalf (I'll tell you about it sometime maybe).  So it was great to see them and catch up, and see how they are doing in Topeka.  By the way, if you're looking for a very cute house in Topeka, they are trying to sell - and the price can't be beat!  Contact me.

The actual reunion was interesting.  The planning committee included one of my good friends Sarah, and another long-time friend Eric.  Also Katie, with whom I spent many long hours in choirs.  I thought they did a fantastic job of promoting the event, organizing and selling tickets, getting the venue ready, and having a good atmosphere.  Everything you would expect from event organizers!

The dynamics were pretty much just like high school.  So, I guess if you had a very fun time then, you probably had a great time at the reunion.  I will disclose that I was always sort of middle-of-the-pack.  Not super-popular, not unheard-of.  I did lots of music and was in advanced classes.  I was not an athlete.  I think I had recreated a version of high school in my mind where the awkwardness and hormones were erased.  Being back in the situation brought it all back - the good and the bad.

I'm second row from bottom, second from left.
I'm not at all sorry that I went!  It was a great time, and I was able to catch up with plenty of folks I would never have seen otherwise.  (And always very entertaining to see the looks when they find out I'm now a pastor!)  Plus, a visit to my hometown is always centering for me.

I was texting with my sister after getting back to Chuck and Leslie's.  She asked how it was, and I told her the same reflections I wrote above.  But then I wrote, "You know it just makes me really glad for the life I have now."

My husband loves Darius Rucker (and all country music, which I think is kind of funny - as well as hard-core hip-hop and rap).  He has a great song that talks about all the choices and opportunities in life that bring us to where we are now:

For every stoplight I didn't make /
Every chance I did or I didn't take /
All the nights I went too far /
All the girls that broke my heart /
Every door that I had to close /
Everything I knew but I didn't know /
Thank God for all I missed . . . 'cause it led me here to this.

If I'd never stepped out to work at a summer camp where I knew no one . . . I would never have met Jeff.  If I'd never applied early for college in New York City . . . I would never have met my best friend Amanda, or have been invited to officiate at her wedding in March.  And if I hadn't decided to come home for the Free State High '02 Reunion . . . I wouldn't have had a chance to reflect on how happy my life is ten years out.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

the bedroom conundrum

I've mentioned before that our sweet little house is . . . little.  It was a little over 900 square feet when we bought it, and we added on another 200 or so.  We have a kitchen, living room, dining room, two bedrooms, and one bathroom.

Honestly, my first thought on finding out we were expecting again was, "But we don't have enough room!"  It's going to be tight, for sure.  We have eventual plans to add on a master suite, but they are very eventual.  Like five to ten years eventual.

But then I remembered fondly the years that my sister and I shared not only a bedroom, but also a bed.  I also recall snuggling up a lot with my mom when I was a youngster.  I certainly don't feel like I was "deprived" because I was without my own room.  On the contrary - it was fun and formed a close bond between all of us.

My dreams of putting together the perfect Montessori nursery are on hold yet again.  And you know, I think it's just fine.  There can be a tendency to get very hung on the details and miss the bigger picture of what you are creating.  What kind of environment do I want for my children?  One that encourages touching, exploring, learning, and curiosity.  One where things are not "off limits," but are rather open to them.  That can be done in any number of ways.

It does, though, seem to rule out the possibility of a floor bed for G2 until s/he is a bit older.  I just wouldn't feel safe having both children sleep together in the same room without some kind of protective device surrounding the youngest one.  Vicki's room is completely baby-proofed . . . except for Vicki herself!  I don't think she would try to hurt the baby, but she is very hands-on, if you know what I mean. 

Not to mention the logistics involved in even getting two children, 25 months apart, to sleep in the same room.  I don't even know if it's possible until G2 is on a regular bed- and naptime, which took a long time for Vicki.

So, I have come up with a very loose plan.  Loose because I've found that these plans tend to sit on the shelf when an actual, real baby who has an opinion about the situation suddenly appears!

G2 will sleep in bed with us, as Vicki did, for awhile.  When no one is around to sleep in bed with him or her, s/he will stay in the same cradle we used for Vicki, which was also used for Jeff when he was a baby. 

When it's time for the new baby to move to his or her own space, we will get both kids in their room.  The young one will probably stay in the pack and play (less bulky than a crib), and Vicki will sleep on her floor bed. 

I will need to reorganize the kids' bedroom and really streamline, so there is not a lot of clutter.  When they are older, I'd love to get a bunk bed to save space.  So here is what I envision in their shared room, when it becomes shared:

-Two floor beds, or maybe just one?  Depending on their relationship.
-A low table with two chairs.
-A reading corner with pillows and wall-mounted shelves to keep the books at eye level for them.
-A small potty on a carpet (no room in the bathroom for this!)
-Another low shelf in addition to Vicki's.
-Plenty of hooks hung at child level for sweaters, towels, etc.
-Artwork for the children hung at their eye level (no glass frames).

We keep the dresser full of Vicki's clothes and blankets in her closet.  I will prune them so that the two children share the one dresser for clothes, diapers, etc.

So what do you think?  Am I crazy?  I mentioned this whole plan to an acquaintance, and she said that her grandma shared not just a bedroom, but a bed with four siblings.  They slept head to toe like sardines in a can!  Makes me realize just how fortunate we are, and how much we take for granted . . .

Saturday, November 24, 2012

connection or the lack thereof

My sister was pregnant with her second child at the same time I was expecting Vicki Jo.  It was a lot of fun to compare our experiences, and it was reassuring to be able to call her anytime and ask if things were "normal" or not.  Doesn't hurt that she's also a nurse! 

One of the things Nelle frequently commented on was how much she knew that her relationship with her son would change when her daughter was born.  Elliott was three when Sloane was born, and Nelle had pretty much stayed home with him since he had arrived.  They are extremely tight.  She said that she mourned the loss of their unique relationship, since she knew that it would have to adapt to a new baby that would consume all of her attention for a period of time - and would change the dynamic of their family forever.

I couldn't really identify with her feeling at that time, as I was still in the daze of brand-new-mother expectancy.  But now, I know exactly what she meant.  It's part of what makes this "new" baby still feel very theoretical.

Obviously there is a baby growing inside me.  I can feel it move sometimes, I can hear its heartbeat when we go to the midwife, and my body is changing in undeniable ways.  But I don't feel that I have really made a strong connection with that baby yet.  Because when I look at Vicki and think about what we have lived through together in the last 19 1/2 months, the new baby feels kind of like an interloper.  Not that I'm not excited about having another child.  That's not my point.  I just don't know him yet.  (We don't know boy or girl.  I just think boy.)

Do these eyes not just see your entire soul?

The days and nights since Vicki came have been some of the most difficult, painstaking, self-doubting, effervescent, joyful, giddy, satisfying, distressing times of my life.  Applying myself totally to this task of parenting has already been the longest endurance race of my life, and it's nowhere near done! 

I will build a relationship with the new baby that is just like and totally different from my connection with Vicki.  I know that.  I can't wait to see what it's like.  But I don't feel like I can do it yet. 

One of the bloggers I read frequently (Erin at Growing a Foosa) wrote a post about this very topic last week!  It was so crazy because I had already drafted this post.  Glad to know that a lot of moms go through this.

Friday, November 23, 2012

a moderate thanksgiving

We face a special, decadent challenge each Thanksgiving.  We travel to Sevierville, Tennessee, for the family reunion of my mother-in-law’s mother’s family.  2012 was the 114th annual Tarwater family reunion! 

The parcel of land traditionally owned by the Tarwaters was carved up in plots, one of which my mother-in-law was given by her mother (along with each of her four siblings).  Zan built a gorgeous hewn-wood cabin at the top of her hill.  So each year, we have a family celebration and a tranquil, rustic setting.  East Tennessee in the fall is remarkable by anyone’s standards. 

The three of us headed out on a hike before Thanksgiving dinner.
At high noon on Thanksgiving Day, we arrive at the American Legion in Sevierville.  The Tarwaters have a standing reservation for the building – and we need all the room!  There are usually between 100 and 200 people at the reunion.  The Legion has two big rooms.  The back room is where we all sit.  The front room is just for food.  Four eight foot tables laden with family favorites.  And one extra table just for desserts!  Any Thanksgiving dish you are looking for – you can find it here. 

You thought I was full of exaggerations.
Which poses special problems for a pregnant lady sort of trying to watch what she eats.  I’m not trying to reduce my consumption, really, just to be wise about what I choose to fill myself with.  (I’m not really renowned for my moderation, as my waistline and pantry can attest!)

This year, I made a list of all the foods I really wanted to eat, ahead of time.  What tops my list for Thanksgiving?  Deviled eggs, turkey and gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans, green salad, and cranberry sauce.  Rolls and dessert?  Not as essential as the savories.  As I made my way down the line, I kept my list in mind (I actually kept my little list in my back pocket and pulled it out once).  And it really worked!  With the addition of a little spoonful of pasta salad, and some kind of pumpkin-cream cheese muffin, and the noticeable absence of mashed potatoes (smh), I stuck to my list.  I was especially thrilled because the green salad category was fulfilled by a genre of salad I adore – an Asian cabbage slaw with crumbled dry Ramen noodles and almonds. 

Anyway, I just felt the need to describe my strategy to anyone who faces a similar Thanksgiving situation:  not a well-defined menu, but rather a smorgasbord of more food than could ever all be sampled by one person.  Good luck!

P.S. I totally blew all my efforts by eating a pound of buttery salted popcorn when we went to see Life of Pi that night.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

16 weeks

Not much to report.  Visit with midwife was good today.  Heartbeat was very strong.  She said, in fact, that it was unusual at this point for her to hear the "galloping" already (rather than just a thump-thump, thump-thump) - this signals that the heart chambers are well-formed and pumping correctly.

Blood pressure was up a bit again.  120/90.  I found my chart from my pregnancy with Vicki, and my blood pressure at sixteen weeks with her was 100/64.  So, sort of worrisome.  The midwife mentioned that her cuff was wearing out and that she needed a new one - that might be causing a mis-reading.  Seemed totally unconcerned, said I looked good, my urine sample was clean, and I'm not retaining any fluid.  So - I'm not worrying if she's not.  My sister has always dealt with low blood pressure, and with pregnancy sometimes hers got down in the 80s/60s!  How I wish I had that problem . . .

I am finally able to stomach a lot of cooking again, and now that the stove and oven are fixed (!!!!!), breakfast is on.  Have been having two eggs on a tortilla with cheese, avocado and salsa.  Yum.  Now I want another one of those.

After listening to this fantastic podcast featuring Lisa Marasco (author of The Breastfeeding Mother's Guide to Making More Milk) on how to support healthy breastfeeding in subsequent pregnancies after you've had difficulty with the first baby, I've decided to start taking alfalfa in addition to my prenatal and B-50 complex, as well as drinking Natural Calm on occasion and taking a sip of Floradix every now and again.  When I mentioned it to my midwife, she was enthused.  Alfalfa not only supports healthy breast development during pregnancy, she said it contains every mineral that a pregnant woman needs.  I'm considering stopping the prenatal because my diet has improved so much (covering vitamins A, C, E and Zinc), I'm basically doubling up on the B-vitamins, and I get iron from the Floradix (although I have never been anemic).

Now that your eyes are glazed over from me talking about my supplements . . . photos!

This dress is a total bump-creator, even when not pregnant, so I'm not quite that house-like yet.