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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Embarrassment of Riches

For the vast majority of my life, I've been in a socio-economic strata I'd categorize at between low- and low-middle-income. I, like my parents, have learned to be creative with managing expenses and making do with what some people would not feel like was enough. Daphne has gotten used to this and when she was about 4 years old, noticed a house "for sale" and was excited because "we love sales!"

A few weeks ago, Daphne mentioned something about our being poor, and I told her that, really, we're not so much anymore. It's funny that she didn't notice, though, because I guess we're just in the habit of spending prudently.

Honestly, thought... the art supplies she has aren't things I would have bought before. I'm glad that we can help contribute toward her passion and talent. And I say "we" because it's a team effort. James is an awesome husband and the main wage-earner in our household. I am so grateful that he takes care of us, and that he seems to love it. For my part, I do the budgeting and the bookkeeping. Although we live in a place where we could eat out every day, somewhere totally different, I cook dinner at home at least six nights a week. I make our lunches every day. And breakfasts.

We sometimes indulge and buy things we don't strictly "need," like the speakers we purchased online last week so that we don't have to strain to hear programs we watch together. We watch everything on the laptop because we don't have a television.

But what makes me laugh is this: I always thought that I wish I had enough money to dress nicely. At this point in our lives, I could buy the clothes that I want, without paying too much attention to sales or thrift stores. However, two things hold me back: First are deeply-ingrained beliefs that articles of clothing like shirts shouldn't cost more than $20 unless they are super fancy, with a bunch of sparkly things or multiple layers or gold bars in the pockets. Second is a deep hatred of shopping in general.

I need new shoes. Like, I legitimately need new shoes. My black "dress" shoes are clogs that look like Pilgrim shoes. They don't stay on my feet when I walk up stairs unless I clinch my toes and take my time. They are scuffed and falling apart at every seam that they have. I should go buy a replacement pair of shoes. But I can't. Why? The thought of going to a store and trying on shoes is completely repellent to me. There are so many things I'd rather do, like writing this blog post about how much I hate shopping.

Same thing with clothes. I don't know what my "style" is. I know that I can layer things and they look okay, but I don't have an intuition about separate pieces and what to buy to put together, and I don't like fussing too much about what I wear. I admire people who have whole outfits, complete with jewelry and belts and all of that, but the whole ordeal is exhausting to me.

What happens is that I end up buying things online and they either don't fit right (because I usually buy from Asia because their stuff is so cheap, but it's a crap shoot what size actually means) or they don't look right on my body, which is something that I would know if I'd tried an item on at a store. In a fitting room. The very thought causes me to tear out my hair.

I guess what I'm saying is that I need a personal shopper. Except that I also have a philosophical break against paying someone to do something that I'm completely capable of doing myself and have no excuse not to do.

Meanwhile, James is in his office right now on a Skype call, having put in over 100 hours of work since last weekend. I want to honor him by stewarding that for which he works so hard. We are truly blessed.

Lunch Date

This afternoon, James and I went to Souper! Salad! because I was craving a giant plate full of greens with all kinds of things that I didn't want to go to the store and buy (oh, and some other stuff and then a bowl full of strawberry shortcake topped with ice cream, chocolate syrup, and crushed Oreos. Of course.). While we were sitting there, I remarked that as of this time next week, we'll have been married ten months.

Then I realized this: If we had had the baby with which I became pregnant in April, we'd have a newborn right now. I can't imagine. As disappointed I was in the moment not to have a viable pregnancy, I have so enjoyed this first year of getting to know my husband. Being married to James has been such a blessing, even more than I could have imagined when I said "Yes." (Sort of. He didn't really "ask," per se.) I love him, and I love our little family. <3

Saturday, January 18, 2014

S'posedta Be

I thought that I was supposed to be an astronaut, then I found out that candidates (at the time) had to have 20/20 vision, and I didn't.

I thought that I was supposed to fit in in high school by being on the drill team, but my parents didn't let me audition.

I thought that I was supposed to be one of "those girls" from Arkansas who got married at a young age, but the guy who'd asked me turned out to be gay.

I thought that I was supposed to be an actress, but realized before my final year of college that I did not have the drive to do the things my classmates did just to secure auditions. I knew that I had marginal talent that it would have taken superior drive to make work, and I did not have that in me.

I thought that I was supposed to adopt, but I was too young and immature even to manage a marriage, much less a baby.

Later, I thought that I wasn't ever supposed to have kids at all, but then Daphne came along.

I thought that I was supposed to change the lives of six at-risk young men by being a house parent at Boys' and Girls' Town, but it turns out that bonding with a group of very angry teenagers whilst trying to bond with a two-month-old baby is not something I was equipped to do simultaneously.

I thought that I was supposed to change people's lives through my story-telling, but those opportunities went away with the passing of my marriage.

I thought that I was supposed to be a stay-home wife and homeschool mom, then I was single and I had to get a job.

I thought that I was supposed to be a single mom with a gym rat kid, living a bohemian life in a recreational vehicle, and then James and I reconnected.

In my life, I have had access to incredible opportunities. I've squandered a lot of them, but I've taken advantage of a lot of them, too. I've messed up, I've given up too soon, I've stomped my feet and been a brat, I've hurt people. But I've also helped people, I've fought when others told me to bolt, I have stood in the shadows, watching smiles that I know were because of something that I did, and have taken quiet pleasure in that.

For all of the time I spent obsessing over what I was supposed to be, I sometimes lost sight of what I was in that moment. Today, I am a wife, and a mother, and a homeschool facilitator, and a lover of adventure. But if everything changes tomorrow, I'll still be exactly what I'm "supposed" to be. And that is enough.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Blehh

It's only 8:41 AM and I already feel like I need a nap. When I woke up, I could tell that my blood sugar was low, but there is no way I can chew food right now. Fortunately, last night I'd had the foresight to juice a pound of carrots, an apple, and some grapes. I was able to enjoy thoroughly my "sunrise punch" and just writing about the possibility of eating food is making me gag. This is a first for this pregnancy. I never got to this point with the last one. This kind of "no food sounds good" is how I knew I was expecting with Daphne... because otherwise, I can *always* eat.
Today, I'm going in for a third blood test at noon. So far, the two tests (one for hgc and one for hgc and progesterone) have been "within expected limits" and since my symptoms are getting worse, I would expect this trend to continue.
In a few weeks, we'll schedule an ultrasound and genetic testing. Because of my age, pretty much any midwifery is going to insist that I have genetic testing to rule out a high risk delivery from that angle. I'll talk to April about it today, but yesterday as we were texting, she also suggested an OB profile... which sounds mostly like testing for my own glucose levels, cholesterol, etc. And since those are typically spot on for me, I'm not sure I am interested. Will get more information about it and talk it over with James.
Thinking about the genetic testing is something that has freaked me out more than a little bit. I'm 41. James is 42. Either parent being over 35, and your risk for certain things goes up: Down's Syndrome, Autism, etc. While it's scary enough to think of becoming a new parent at 42, thus having a child in the home until we're both 60 (at least), it's even scarier to think of being this age and then having a child that will never be able to live independently. When I consider the reality of this, it makes me feel like maybe we have been irresponsible.
Apparently, these worries are normal. I am so ready to be rid of them, though... so I am actually looking forward to the genetic testing. Praying it rules out things I can take off of my "plate of concern."

Monday, January 13, 2014

It's Complicated

I think that BPI stands for "Brain Power Index" or something like that. It's my Lumosity history over the past four weeks. This is your brain on pregnancy hormones.
"Oh my gosh! You're pregnant?! Congratulations."
Well, thanks. But...
Last April, almost immediately after we got married, I became pregnant. I was aware of this for approximately three weeks before I stopped having any symptoms of pregnancy, then had a week or so of "Is it over?" before I was given a resounding "yes" and six more weeks of dealing with that process. Falling into that timeline was our trip to Haiti, the first two days of which I was an emotional basket case... and no one knew why except for James.
I didn't tell anyone that I was pregnant, because I knew at my age that it was likely, if not probable, that I'd not carry the baby to term. That's something interesting about the 25% statistic. Although it is not the majority, it feels inevitable.
So here we are again, about six and a half weeks in, and I'm unsure as how to proceed. A few people, James and my employers and my sister, among them, know that I'm pregnant. But I'm unsure as to who else to tell. The only reason for telling anyone else would be to ask for prayer. While I covet prayers for the health of this pregnancy, I also need covering for my heart.
A Facebook friend posted last week a picture of her two-year-old daughter holding an ultrasound photo and a "What to Expect When You're Expecting" book. She is 5.5 weeks pregnant. I thought, "Wow, it's all well and good for you to be celebrating. You're in your 20s." I can't celebrate. I can't be too excited. And that's exhausting to me.
So far, I've visited the midwife twice. The first time, January 7, my hgc level was 5891. Two and a half days later, January 10, they were 14229, and the progesterone was 19.2. So the hormone level is increasing as expected in a pregnancy. And now, we just wait until an ultrasound will show us more, I suppose...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Taco Bell's Grilled Stuft Nachos, a review

The idea of Taco Bell's newish Grilled Stuft Nachos made me laugh. It's like CiCi's macaroni and cheese pizza. So many carbs. But I like nachos, and I like tortillas, so it was worth a shot.

The website advertised that the nacho pocket is 7 inches by 7 inches (halved, because it's a triangle) for $1.29. So, even if it stunk, it's not like I'd have wasted a lot of cash.

And here's the deal: It didn't taste bad. It was actually pretty good. But it stunk. Literally.

When I pulled away from the drive-through, the nacho pocket was on top of the bag, and a scent of damp sick wafted up from my lap. I mentioned to Daphne, "This food smells like barf." She agreed that it did.

We got home and I pulled everything out... yep, it was definitely the Grilled Stuft Nachos that smelled weird. I think it's the "grill." It smelled like something steamed, but not well. Like steamed in an old, dirty sock.

It looked neat though.


It's basically a giant tortilla folded into a triangle and pressed in a steam bath/grill. I was very hungry and forgot to take a picture before I took a bite (yes, I ate it because sometimes things that stink taste good... like cheese, and cooked broccoli or cauliflower, etc.).


It is seasoned beef, nacho cheese sauce, a second zesty nacho sauce, red tortilla strips, and sour cream.

All together, it tasted a lot like almost everything else from Taco Bell, if you get it "supremed." Which is to say: not stellar, but not terrible.

Dat smell, doe.

It is still assaulting my nasal passages, and I finished eating this more than an hour ago. Time for some field research...

Nope. Of the three reviews I read, no one mentioned a vomit smell. One said it smelled delicious, like a crunch wrap. Well, then, I feel ripped off.

Also, two mentioned that theirs weren't folded properly and fell apart. Mine held its structural integrity well, even though I opened it for a picture. Also, some people's had their toppings evenly distributed instead of in strips, which I think would make this more pleasant to eat.

Anyway, go for it. It won't kill you. Just don't inhale first.

Friday, January 3, 2014

And away we go (again)

7:57 AM 1/3/14

This morning, I had a very non-committal positive pregnancy test. I'm definitely late, I was definitely exhausted and befuddled for a full week (enough that I took a pregnancy test about 4 days ago and it was negative), but...

Having done this once already, I'm not going to think about it too much. I mean, I don't drink or have sushi or go to fondue or have over-easy eggs (like I have within the past two weeks) but after the last experience, I'm just not getting emotionally involved. Either way.

My prayer is that if I am pregnant and the life form causing these hcg hormones is like the one before, that the pregnancy will end the same way. If it's viable, then we'll welcome a new addition to Team Dave's. But I'm not scanning Etsy for adorable maternity clothes, or trying mentally to parse out how we can make a nursery out of James' office.

Not yet, anyway.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Another Bike Ride

In addition to making something that might give me (or you) a cardiac infarction (see prior post), I also took a bike ride today.

Here's the video. Hope you like it! A couple of notes:

1) They're building EVERYWHERE in Austin right now. So many cranes.
2) On the Lamar Pedestrian Bridge, I met a man who is 82 years old and said he remembered standing on the street bridge before the pedestrian/bike one was put in, in 1942, and that zero of the buildings I was filming were part of the landscape at that time. After we chatted, he said he had to keep moving because he was pretty sure that they don't allow anyone over the age of 50 to live in Austin.
3) There's a sign visible briefly in the dog park at Ladybird that says "Thanks for the nice improvements I can poop on!"
4) See one of the ubiquitous Segway tours on Congress?
5) Krueger's Jewelers is where we got James' dad's wedding ring resized for James.
6) The last clip is of a guitar store currently under construction, so close to our house that I fear for our bank account.
7) Beside that is Aish's veterinarian. Lots of the old houses around here actually are businesses, which explains why so many people mistake the Nuthaus for an office.


Anti-Resolution Bars, my January 1 creation

While everyone else was thinking toward virtuosity today, I decided to go in the other direction and make some very decadent dessert bars.

First layer: chocolate chip cookie base. 

Obviously, I used Christmas M&Ms (that I'd bought on sale at CVS after Christmas) and sort of used this recipe, except that I meant to half the recipe but I forgot after the butter. So, basically, it's that recipe with half the butter. I thought it was an interesting touch to dissolve the baking powder in water before mixing it in with the liquid ingredients. I might do this all of the time, because it helps you to know whether your baking powder is active or not.

After baking the crust, I made caramel using this recipe. The only difference is that I didn't have light corn syrup, so I used dark. It was delicious.



I didn't use all of the caramel. I only wanted to put a thin layer on the crust, so I got to refrigerate about half of the caramel for later use!

I wanted the third layer to be brownies, and considered baking the brownies in the Springform pan, but was concerned that it would degrade the caramel, or that the caramel and brownie might bake together. So instead, I baked the brownie batter separately. I did correctly halve this deep-dish brownie recipe to make what I needed for the dessert.




To top the whole thing off, I made a water ganache. This is the easiest thing. Just melt chocolate chips, and then stir in a couple of tablespoons of warm water at a time until you reach the consistency you want. At first, yes, the chocolate will seize up and you'll think that you did something wrong and ruined everything. You didn't. Using water instead of heavy cream helps the chocolate flavor stay strong. You can add chili powder (not with other spices; just chili; check your labels!) or red pepper or cinnamon (which I added).





Hats off to those of you who started eating healthier today! :) 


New Year's Eve at Auditorium Shores (remotely)

Last night, there was a big New Year's Eve party down at Ladybird Lake, with a fireworks finale at Auditorium Shores at 10:00 PM.

We went out for a delicious fondue dinner very early in the evening...

There used to be a Melting Pot downtown. I'm sad that we had to drive to get to this one, but it was a good meal. And we were home before 8:00, our desire to avoid crazy traffic later.

The other day, I'd noticed that a pretty nondescript parking garage near the Nuthaus probably had a really cool view of the city from the rooftop. Daphne and I had thought about checking it out, but the exterior stairwell was gated shut. We weren't motivated enough to try the interior entry, but last night, it seemed like if we managed to get up on the roof, we should be able to see the fireworks at the lake.

This is but one reason I love technology. We looked up the sight lines on Google Maps 3D.


We were intending to stand where the green "a" is. The fireworks were where the purple directions line ends, near the tall building toward the middle of the picture. It seemed like we should be able to see the fireworks, not obscured by the buildings downtown.

At 9:45, we walked over to the garage, entered through the parking gate, and went up a couple of flights of stairs. Then we walked to the exterior stairwell and went up to the roof. It was a pretty view without fireworks!



Surprisingly, at exactly 10:00, IN AUSTIN, the fireworks started. We'd picked a great vantage point!





After the fireworks had started, two other families showed up on the roof with us, all with smaller children. The fireworks lasted for a good twelve minutes or so, and when they were over, we made it back home by 10:18, never having to deal with crowds or traffic or anything like that.

It was a great way to ring in the new year! Love our neighborhood!