Sunday, June 29, 2014

In the storm, an island of peace

My life was pretty volatile in 2011. By the end of the year, I was worn out. But during the madness, there were pockets of peace and surprise blessing that reminded me that God hadn't gone anywhere and that he could be trusted.

2012 got a lot better, and after I moved to Austin, everything kind of fell into a place of contentment and rest. For a while, at least, it looks like things may be shaken up again and I appreciate everyone who's been praying. Those of you who have questions... I'm sorry, but I can't really answer those. I can't give specifics, especially not in a public forum, or in writing at all. There are people I need to respect and stories that aren't mine to tell wrapped up in all of it.

What I do want to tell you about, though, is a very cool thing that happened on Friday, amid some serious stress and concern.

Usually, I get up half an hour or so before James, make his coffee, make his lunch and breakfast... and, yes, I love it. He takes such good care of us that I relish the opportunity to take care of him. So, anyway, this time, he needed to use the restroom before I got into the shower, so I stayed in bed until he returned. Then I didn't feel very motivated to get up, so I laid there while he fell back to sleep and prayed over him.

His work has been stressful for him, and I prayed something I've never prayed before. I mean, I've prayed for him and for his work, but on this day, I actually laid my hands on him and prayed that today (Friday) would be different. That he'd know how much he's appreciated, and how much they value him.

At 1 o'clock, James texted me that he was on his way home. The only other time he's come home after half a day was when he'd lost a job. I thought, "Well, if they let him go, that's different, at least, so that's an answer."

As it turns out, his office had let everyone go home early to regroup from an intense few weeks.

So he was home by 1:30, and then all hell kind of broke loose that afternoon. Like, people were asking me, "Can someone be at your house with you?" and James was already here.

What's cool is how God not only answers prayer, but prompts us to pray for what we need even before we know we need it. Like I said, I'd never prayed, "Let today be different" before. But I did. And it was. Because God already knew, and he was already setting everything up... and he let me come along for the ride.

Now if I can just keep this in the forefront of my mind, not letting fear or anxiety take over, surfing the next few weeks shouldn't be too big of a deal.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Tie-Dye Cake-in-a-Cake

My mother-in-law had posted a link to this Rainbow Tie-Dye Surprise Cake recently, and at first, I was skeptical that the inserts would actually work. Then I started to think about it and could see how, if you were careful, it could be really neat.

The example in the cake is a "5" but then if you were to use a 7 or a 4, it'd probably be a good idea to put the numbers in upside-down, then flip the cake to decorate it. I was thinking about musical notes and all of the other fun stuff you could hide in the cake, and I really wanted to try it.

Then reality struck:

1) I don't have any cookie cutters. I know; it's difficult to believe. But back when we downsized to move into the trailer, I got rid of EVERYTHING, including my collection of cookie cutters.

2) I don't have the Gigantor pan (which is a Wilton Long Loaf Pan, retailing for $15-20) in which she baked her cakes, nor was I particularly motivated to buy one. Or cookie cutters.

So I had a different idea, and here's what I did.


First of all, I did NOT put the batter in five bags and pipe it. I just blorped it down in spoonfuls, then used a knife to swirl each of the three layers. Also, I only used two cake mixes total, rather than the four called for in the original recipe.


Used my fancy-schmancy trimmer to take off the rounded parts. I hate wasting cake, so of course we've been snacking on this stuff.




After I trimmed the top off, I cut off the edges and then cut the cake in half lengthwise.


After I did this, I realized that instead of putting the insert in "right side up," I needed to lay it down. The batter only barely covered it, but once it was cooked, the cake had risen enough to cover it completely, though with no wiggle room (meaning, I couldn't keep an extra amount in the bowl to lick).


Crumb coating. Since I was using fondant, this wasn't a "must," but especially with white frosting, starting with a crumb coat makes the outer frosting look smoother and less muddy.


See? So clean and beautiful.

This rolled fondant recipe is the one I always use. It's super simple, and it tastes good. Well, that's a relative proposition. If you're one of those people who doesn't like things that are super sweet, you probably wouldn't like fondant. But homemade fondant is miles away better than store-bought, which a friend said tastes chemical-y. This stuff doesn't. It's just really sweet.

The good news is that even if you don't like fondant, using it helps seal in the moisture of the cake AND the frosting. You know how some frosting develops a slight "shell" when it's been exposed to the air? A cake covered with fondant won't do that.

Then, also, there is the benefit of having a smooth surface to the cake. You can do that with frosting, if you're super patient and/or talented, though. I mostly do it because it's fun.


Someone asked me if this was a King Cake. I thought of that as I was coloring it, but it also has orange in it, so it's not quite the right palette.

I made 4 colors of fondant, rolled it out, and sliced it with a pizza cutter.


Did this bundle thing.


Psychedelicious.




 

I really do like the way this turned out. I used the extra fondant in some chocolate chip cookie things, thinking it'd make for a nice color. But instead, it just melted and made the cookies super chewy. That works, too. :)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Progress

This week, I had my third chiropractic appointment. I'm going to confess something now, if you'll promise not to tell on me.

The first week I went in, when I laid on my stomach (sort of; she has a pregnancy pillow thing that's like a crater for my belly), a dull pain shot down my left leg. It was "dull" in the sense that it was old and worn, but it still hurt like the Dickens. When she worked my lower spine, where the ruptured disc was (is?), it recalled the pain from before, though obviously not as acute as it was a year and a half ago.

When I'd turned to my back and she had me squeeze my knees together with her fist in between them, it was difficult and uncomfortable. I felt weak. I couldn't work up a good squeeze because it hurt.

That first visit, she asked me, "Does that hurt?" And I said, "Nope."

So, yeah. That was a lie.

Same thing the second time I visited. I chalked it up to, "Oh well, it's just always going to be sore. And, besides, delivery is going to be worse if I don't get everything aligned to the most advantageous position."

But then, I went in on Tuesday, and when I laid on my stomach, it didn't really hurt. When she manipulated my spine, there was not the same tenderness. And when she asked me to squeeze, I felt like I was operating under my full strength.

Maybe as my back healed, I still favored one side or another or had my balance weird enough to the point that, while I was avoiding experiencing pain, I hadn't worked out some weirdness. Also, I've been told that my premature swelling might be due to some stagnant fluid left over from that whole thing.

I didn't really think that my back was an issue, pregnancy-wise; I wasn't worried about it. But now it seems like the first thing chiropractic might be doing is sweeping out the cobwebs of that to make way for a completely healthy start.

I'm excited to see what happens over the next two months. I feel great, and I felt great going into chiropractic care... So if, after three visits, I'm already seeing appreciable improvements, then I wonder what seven more treatments will yield.

Domestically, we're in the throes of getting the cats used to the nursery, but trained not to get into the crib. Although they're welcome to lay on the Wampa rug or under the crib in "baby jail," the crib itself is off-limits. Aish jumped in once, and got the message to stay out. Rudy has hopped in a few times, but he's not obsessed. Carol, however, is determined to make the crib her new home.

When we try to remove Carol, she digs her front claws in and tries to pull up the sheet. I had the "brilliant" idea to put the baby gym in the crib, but it turns out that she loves that, too. She especially loves the crinkle-paper features. So we throw her out. Again and again.

Some friends online suggested a mesh crib cover. I looked this morning, and while "crib tents" used to be a "thing," they don't appear to be made anymore, so that existing ones are over $100. And the tie-down mesh covers have really bad reviews.

So we throw Carol out of the crib. (Being careful to palm her front claws first, so she doesn't grab anything with them.)

This morning, I threw her out six times within the span of just over an hour. This is probably good exercise. Sit down, get up. Sit down, get up. The seventh time, though, she hopped out of the crib as soon as I started to stand up. She tried two more times to get cozy in there, but all I had to do those times was to walk in and ask her to get down, and she did. She hasn't gone back in during the past hour.

More progress, right?

It's been very humid and sunny and disgusting the past few days, but I'm thinking that tonight (after a day of more humidity but mostly cloud-cover and some downpours), I might try to ride my bike up to Wheatsville Co-Op to get a couple of things, but mostly to get some exercise.

We have been swimming a few times, and that feels divine. There are free pools all around Austin, but so far we've only gone to Deep Eddy and Lifetime Fitness when they had a homeschool day. We'll go to Barton Springs soon, too. The closest free pool to us is a neighborhood pool with literally no parking. We *could* walk, but it's in a valley and we'd have to ascend a pretty overwhelming hill both ways. It's not so bad on the way there, but once you've cooled down by swimming, it sucks to get all gross on the way home.

Although I've done this, riding my bike home from Deep Eddy. I wish I could get Daphne to do this with me, but I don't think she's ready to make the ride back; it's a little more challenging than our "normal" rides.

This weekend, we had a childbirth class at our birthing center, and it was pretty interesting. Apparently, until I've had contractions every 7-10 minutes for an hour, they're not ready for me to come... unless it goes from 7-10 minutes to 5 minutes pretty consistently and quickly.

She said they try to be very aware of how much information the mom wants, and if I say I don't want to know how "far along" I am, they won't tell me. And they'll stay out of the way unless I need something.

After the baby is born, they don't cut the cord until the placenta is delivered, which is interesting. And as long as there are no concerns, they don't usually perform the newborn check-up for an hour or so.

The instructor said that usually an hour or two after the baby is born, it will go to sleep, and they encourage the mom to shower at that time. Then we can plan on leaving 3-6 hours after the baby is born, as long as there are no complications or worries.

This sounds so much better to me than petitioning after hours and hours in the hospital ti finally be "allowed" to go home.

Today I'm starting my 30th week, which means we're pretty much 3/4 of the way there. Two and a half months to go! And I'm not rushing it... I don't know whether it's the weather or the chiropractic adjustments or what, but I'm sleeping like a rock for 8-10 hours per night. I'm enjoying it *so* much and trying not to take it for granted. I know I only have 10 weeks, max, to revel in the sleep before everything gets bonkers.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

After the Fact (a sort of follow-up to my last post)

As I mentioned last time, I had some pretty intense postpartum depression after Daphne was born. What I'm about to talk about, the ideas I had after the fact and the plans I have this time around, likely would not and will not avoid an incidence of the mood disorder. I just noticed some things that I could have handled better the first time around.

Over the years, people have mentioned to me my "strength." I don't know what that means, but in practice, it apparently means that people assume I am very tough, very brave, and can handle a lot on my own. Which is true, to an extent, but after Daphne was born, I was terribly lonely.

I didn't aspire to my office job I had before she was born, but the fact was that for five years of my life, I'd been around a peer group for 40 hours a week. I was happy to be home, but I had no social contacts at all. I had incorrectly assumed that after you have a baby, all of your people - friends, acquaintances, former co-workers, people from church - show up at your house, dropping in and maybe sometimes even being super pesky. Gosh, there are so many, "If you come visit me after the baby's born, here's how to do it right..." lists online, it seems like this is an epidemic.

Perhaps, in the same way I apparently put out the "don't you dare touch my belly" vibe that successfully repels all but the most intentionally obnoxious people (yes, I'm talking about you, Jennifer and Sarah), I also accidentally put out the "we just want to be alone" vibe... which was definitely not the case.

After Daphne was born, no one who was not related to me came to my house. Literally no one. I felt isolated and lost. I didn't know what I was supposed to be doing or feeling, and I was unprepared for the deep sadness (wasn't this what the last months had been expectantly leading up to?) and loneliness (there's literally always a little person *right here* every moment of the day... and night!) I experienced.

Daphne's dad was out of his element, too; a first-time parent, he had no idea how to support me and was probably just trying his best to get used to his new role. When, about a week in, he walked in on my crying over Daphne, who'd just started her first bout with hiccups, his response was, "You have to pull yourself together."

Note for new dads: This is not an effective cheering strategy.

The bright spots in my days were when my pregnant sister and her almost-two-year-old daughter visited, when I got out among people in the "real world" (as opposed to my black hole of a home where all I could feel was sleep deprivation and hopelessness), and when my not-too-close friend Janice would call and share the dark thoughts she had after the birth of her only child. These were the times when I felt "normal."

Now, of course, I realize that I could have called people and asked them to come over. They would have. But I was new at the whole thing, and I wasn't used to asking for care for myself. I wasn't "strong." I was inexperienced and stupid.

I realize that part of this is that I don't have a wide circle of close friends in real life. I worry that I come across as standoffish or preoccupied, when I'm actually just socially awkward. I suck at small talk, and I do find it exhausting getting to know new people through most of the layers and walls we put up early into relationships. In fact, this weekend, I found a video that pretty much explains how I feel in most social situations:




I understand, too, that some people really want to be home for a week or three or six with "just" their core family, both to bond and to avoid germs. This is totally not me. Today, at our birthing class, the instructor mentioned that they prefer mothers to stay in bed (basically, allowing for showers and some walking around for circulation) for three days... and this sounds like a nightmare. Daphne was born at around 2 AM on a Friday; I went to church Saturday night and out to dinner on Sunday evening. And, again, those were the better moments of those first days home.

So, if you're in Austin, be prepared for me to call or text or Facebook message you and ask you to come over for an hour or so, just to see the baby and chat for a while. I will need it. And I'm old enough and wise enough now to know to ask for help. If you definitely want to be on the "call list," email me and I'll be sure to add your name with a big old star beside it.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

That Voodoo That You Do

If you've known me for a while, or have watched my pregnancy vlogs, you know that the reason I'm seeing a midwife instead of a medical doctor is that I did not enjoy all of the medical-procedure-y things that happened when I was expecting Daphne (attempted referral to a neurologist instead of a chiropractor, constant self-advocacy against professional after professional who kept telling me we'd "have to" do certain things because she was my first, not allowing me to leave the hospital when I was stressed to the max by the unexpected roommate situation and just wanted to be in the privacy of my own home, etc.).

I love the whole "we'll keep an eye on things, but unless something is overtly wrong, we're just going to let your body do what it's designed to do" mentality.

That said, there have been times I've either tried their suggestions and then jettisoned them for my own reasons, or have just done what they said despite my skepticism because it wasn't that big of a deal just to do it.

For instance, for the first 16 weeks of my pregnancy (after I realized I was pregnant and had gone to see the midwife), I applied progesterone cream topically every day. Although the jury is still out as to whether this actually prevents miscarriages due to low progesterone, I did this because I figured it couldn't hurt. Progesterone levels are supposed to return to "normal" 10 days to three weeks after a miscarriage. The day after I started bleeding last year, my progesterone levels were already at a non-pregnant level... So clearly, I'd had very low progesterone with that pregnancy, and this time, my numbers were higher but still on the low end.

Did it help? I don't know. Didn't hurt. Didn't cost too much, and didn't take much time or effort, so why not?

Another thing they recommended to help with my hormone levels was tincture of wild yam extract. First of all, apparently some progesterone-boosting creams are made with wild yam and not actual progesterone; it seems to be widely panned that those don't help. Mine actually had progesterone in it (and, no, I have no idea what kind of animal supplied it or how they got it). But apparently wild yam might cause your body to produce more progesterone.

I tried to do this. I really did. For one week, I put a dropper full of the tincture into a big old glass of water and choked it down. When that proved too disgusting to take, I just put it into a double shot glass and slammed it back, followed by a chaser. I. couldn't. do. it. It was so foul, I gagged and dreaded it and just... couldn't. The evidence of efficacy didn't seem strong enough for me to keep at it, so I stopped.

Most recently, I've been having issues with searing heartburn. The midwife recommended raw almonds (yuck) or almond milk (on it!) to help with that. Easy enough.

But when I mentioned that I was eating a lot of ice, and I guessed it's mostly because my body is craving water, which I usually hate, and ice is one way to get it, she mentioned that I might be lacking some trace minerals. There is a lot on this here internet about pica (non-food cravings) during pregnancy. Don't worry; I'm not eating dirt or paper or corn starch. But I decided to see if there was something to this by getting some trace mineral drops at Whole Foods ($11.99 for a couple of ounces!).

When I put the recommended "starter" dose (1/4 of a full dose) in my water that night... Oh my gosh, it was the tincture all over again. So bad. So, so revolting. My blood test during the glucose screening did reveal that I'm slightly iron deficient (I'm anemic a lot in "real" life, so this stands to reason). I guess I'll just concentrate on getting more iron in my diet... because iron pills are another thing I can't/won't do. The pills themselves are mehh, but the side effects. Nooooooo.

Now, I promise you that I'm getting somewhere with all of this. It's quite revelatory, and I'm actually pretty horrified about the whole thing. So I might be stalling.

One more stall.

Acupuncture.

When my back was hurting so much, I spent (and, thankfully, was reimbursed) a TON of money on acupuncture. It's about 6 times as expensive as chiropractic. And when they'd tell me why what they were doing worked, it sounded made up. It sounded completely ridiculous and crazy. It made no sense on any logical level, and I'm not 100% sure to this day that I buy the "why." But I can tell you that it worked. It didn't fix the problem, which was really only fixable by time and/or surgery. It DID, however, alleviate the pain immediately and for some time after.

At that point, I honestly didn't care why it worked. I didn't need to understand. It helped, and I needed help.

Which brings me to where we are today.

Last month, I found out a week after the class that my midwifery had hosted a placentophagy class. I wished I'd known about it, because I probably would have gone... Not because I am interested in actually eating my own placenta, but because I am interested in people who are interested in that kind of thing. I didn't care to see the afterbirth from when Daphne was born. It had served its purpose, I had my baby, and I was done with all of that. I am at a loss as to why people make placenta prints (look it up if you want; it's not for the squeamish) and cannot believe that there are e-cookbooks on Amazon that feature recipes for preparation of this organ in things like tacos and smoothies.

Thank you, but no.

I'd told James that if I lived in a nutritional desert, I'd probably be more open to the idea, but I'm not nutritionally at-risk. I can go one mile north to Wheatsville Co-Op or one mile south to Whole Foods and there are all sorts of healthy and delicious options for boosting my vitamins and minerals.

So, again, no thanks.

And then I read a little blip about its possibly holding off some postpartum depression (PPD). There is no scientific study to back this up. The ideas that made the most sense of it to me were this...

+++++++

Many new mothers feel depressed for weeks after giving birth. Physicians have vaguely attributed this malaise to exhaustion and to the demands of motherhood. But a group of researchers at the National Institutes of Health has found evidence for a more specific cause of postpartum blues. New mothers, the researchers say, have lower than normal levels of a stress-fighting hormone that earlier studies have found helps combat depression.
When we are under stress, a part of the brain called the hypothalamus secretes corticotropin-releasing hormone, or CRH. Its secretion triggers a cascade of hormones that ultimately increases the amount of another hormone - called cortisol - in the blood. Cortisol raises blood sugar levels and maintains normal blood pressure, which helps us perform well under stress. Normally the amount of cortisol in the bloodstream is directly related to the amount of CRH released from the hypothalamus. That's not the case in pregnant women.
During the last trimester of pregnancy, the placenta secretes a lot of CRH. The rise is so dramatic that CRH levels in the maternal bloodstream increase threefold. "We can only speculate," says George Chrousos, the endocrinologist who led the NIH study, "but we think it helps women go through the stress of pregnancy, labor, and delivery."
But what happens after birth, when the placenta is gone? Chrousos and his colleagues monitored CRH levels in 17 women from the last trimester to a year after they gave birth. All the women had low levels of CRH - as low as seen in some forms of depression - in the six weeks following birth. The seven women with the lowest levels felt depressed.
Chrousos suspects that CRH levels are temporarily low in new mothers because CRH from the placenta disrupts the feedback system that regulates normal production of the hormone. During pregnancy, when CRH levels are high in the bloodstream, the hypothalamus releases less CRH. After birth, however, when this supplementary source of CRH is gone, it takes a while for the hypothalamus to get the signal that it needs to start making more CRH.
"This finding gives reassurance to people that postpartum depression is a transient phenomenon," says Chrousos. "It also suggests that there is a biological cause."
COPYRIGHT 1995 Discover
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

... and this...

Both iron deficiency and fatigue can impact the development of Postpartum Depression (PPD) by creating a vicious cycle of ailments that Placentophagy could help with, or help to avoid. The vicious cycle begins with iron deficiency being prevalent in women of childbearing age. World estimates state >50% of this population are affected. Having iron deficiency results in many symptoms, some of which are: an impaired ability to concentrate, impaired physical work capacity, depressive symptoms, and fatigue. These symptoms are often overlooked or misdiagnosed due to postpartum women dealing with the lifestyle changes of having a new baby in the house and attributing these symptoms to these changes.
Unfortunately overlooking or ignoring symptoms of iron deficiency, such as fatigue, and not providing proper treatment can lead to the next step in the cycle of PPD development. Research has shown that early postpartum fatigue plays a significant role in PPD. This fatigue adds to the stress of raising a newborn and adjusting to the changes taking place and can hinder a woman from reaching her maximum potential within her role as a mother.
Early screening and treatment of both iron deficiency and fatigue is necessary to reduce the chance of PPD developing, especially since women with PPD respond best when treatment is received at early onset. Placentophagy can be part of this early treatment and help postpartum women avoid both iron deficiency, the fatigue that often accompanies it, and PPD. Several health findings have shown that PPD does respond to iron supplementation and placentas contain iron that can aid in replenishing a postpartum woman's iron levels. A woman's placenta, when ingested, can help stop the the vicious cycle that so many women endure after having a baby.

+++++++

The PPD I experienced with Daphne was horrific. If I knew then what I know now, I would have sought medical treatment for it. If it happens again this time, I certainly will. One bit of good news: I came across an article on PPD the other day, and it listed some risk factors. Whereas I hit on about 6 of the 9 things they mentioned as possible predictors when I was expecting Daphne (including loss of job and financial insecurities, among other things), the only one I have now is that I've had PPD as well as minor depression in the past. So that's some good news.

One of the interns at the birthing center is a doula and also has her own placenta encapsulating service. This means she takes a placenta, dehydrates it, grinds it, and returns it in pill form to the mother. There is an herbal mix added, as well, and the choices are mood boost, milk boost, and iron boost.

So... in order to take any route to avoid the absolute mess of a person I was in the weeks after Daphne's birth, am I willing to pay $200 to try this iffy and pretty vile-sounding thing?

It turns out that I am.

It might be that I never have PPD with this kid, and it's just a matter of my being older and wiser and more settled. And if that happens, I'll never swear by the pills, just as I can't swear by the progesterone cream saving this baby's life in utero. But apparently I'm desperate enough to try anything that might help.

Within reason.

I still don't think I could bring that puppy home with me, prepare it, and ingest it as a meat. I can't even eat beef or chicken liver. Organ meat is just foul to me, even though liver would be one good way to replenish my low iron.

But I can swallow a pill.

We'll see how it goes.

I need to blog also about the postpartum stuff, and one thing that I think contributed to it (answer: loneliness, but I'll expound, so stay tuned...).

Small Unschooling Victory?

Shortly after James and I started dating, he bought Daphne the Super Scratch Programming Adventure. She did about 2/3 of the book, got through the tedious stuff, and about the time she hit the place where shew as beginning to do some actual creative programming of her own, she just lost interest. I tried, for a few days, to get her to do several pages at a time; but it was like pulling teeth. Eventually, I just stopped encouraging her to keep pounding away at it and we moved on to other things.

Earlier this week, she said that a friend of hers (online) wanted to teach her C++ (which James assures me is not for beginners) and though she didn't specifically say this person recommended starting with Scratch, she did say she wanted to get back into her old account and start it again.

She was so good at picking up the programming (good enough that James had to check her mistakes, because I couldn't find what was wrong when something didn't work), and it was really tempting to try to force her to finish the book. But I didn't, and now that she wants to do it again, she will. And she's more mature and has more tech skills now, too.

Unschooling doesn't mean un-parenting. I still discipline. I still make Daphne do things she doesn't want to do... but I don't make her pretend to learn things she's not interested in studying, because I feel that, in the long run, she'll only master the subject long enough to jump through the hoops I've put into place, and then forget it all. That seems like wasted time and effort on both of our parts, and I don't like wasting my time.

I continue to look forward to seeing what this kid will produce, with her artistic bent and increasing technical prowess. I don't want to dampen that by force-marching her through the process until she's sick of it and gives up. And so far, that approach seems to be working.

(We've done the same thing with "I bought you a Bamboo drawing pad; why aren't you using it?!" which she picked up again for the first time in over a year this month. So maybe, just maybe, we're getting somewhere. Slowly and surely.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

She swallowed the spider to catch the fly...

We're into the third trimester, and everything is great... but there are some comfort issues I'm trying to tweak.

For the past couple of weeks, I've had very intense heartburn. When I talked to the midwife, she suggested some exercises and also said that getting the baby to turn head down would help a lot. As part of that, I started seeing my old chiropractor again; right now, she's just doing regular prenatal adjustments and will have me come in more regularly, concentrating on turning the baby, if Rooby hasn't decided to get into position by the time I hit 34 weeks.

Unfortunately, a lot of the comfort-issue tweaking seems to be negating the work I'm doing in other areas. For instance: Spinning Babies recommends holding a pose for 20 minutes a day wherein my head is on a pillow on the floor and my legs and feet are up on a bed or the couch. I support my backside with cushions or the ironing board. I've been trying to do this, but the position is the exact opposite of the "elevate your head" posture I'm supposed to take to avoid heartburn/acid reflex.

Same thing with my edema. It started early, and I'm thinking a lot of that is due both to my age and to some left-overs from my ruptured disc (my right foot had some swelling on and off for a good six months after I was out of pain). The best way to keep the swelling down is to sit on the couch with both of my feet up... but this forces me into a position that apparently crumples my digestive system. I get REALLY bad heartburn until I go sit completely upright at the dining room table. And I can put my feet up there, but not as well because there is still some tenderness from the ruptured disc, so sitting straight up and extending my left leg is still a little painful.

I have pretty intense meralgia paresthetica just like I did with Daphne, but this time, the "cure" my Las Vegas chiropractor gave me won't work because of the back injury. This is the one bright spot, though! I CAN do the cat/cow pose and that not only fixes the weird numbness/pain instantly, if I then go down on my elbows and stay like that for a while, it is supposed to help encourage the baby to go head-down, too.

In other news: I passed my gestational diabetes screen with flying colors. My fasting glucose level was 88, then I had a high carbohydrate breakfast and went back two hours after I'd eaten. The glucose reading at that point was 85. When I aced the test with Daphne, I referred to myself as "like a functional alcoholic, but with sugar."

I'm a little bit anemic, but since I tend toward anemia, anyway, that's not terribly surprising given my increased blood volume.

We're going to a birthing class on Sunday. I'm making Daphne go, too, in case she's here with me alone when I go into labor. I want her to know what to expect and not be scared.

A couple of people have asked me about maternity pictures, and we've taken a few "here's where we are right now" shots, but I'm not having anything done professionally. I wouldn't be a good model, because I never ever look at my belly with poignancy or drape chiffon around my sensitive areas to accentuate the paper-white skin stretched across my abdomen. James rarely comes up behind me and caresses my stomach lovingly while looking over my shoulder. If we wanted to capture the *real* pregnancy experience in photos, we'd need a bunch of GIFs of my trying unsuccessfully to squeeze between things like someone's chair and the wall because I'm not used to my need for increased clearance. Or pictures of my slapping my hand down over a specific portion of my middle, with a, "Seriously, what the heck?!" look on my face.

Or this. I do this a lot more often than I gaze lovingly at my middle. There's also the face of indigestion we'd need to capture. And the victorious dismounting of my bike after a long ride. Almost no lying on a tree limb, contemplating the future of my life with baby, though. So I'm not a great prospect for a maternity photographer.

We have had an awesome friend offer to do newborn pictures, and I'm excited about that. However, the baby will likely be just lying around on boring stuff like blankets and pillows instead of a baseball glove or inside a fishbowl of gumballs or any of the other uber-popular newbie contrivances. I think the first ever Gatannah-born baby will be cute enough without props.

I only have about a week of work left, then the swimming will get into high gear. I'm looking forward to that, as it's getting hot and humid already and I adore the buoyancy of being in the water.

We have a quick road trip coming up in a couple of weeks, a third annual event for James and me. It's almost like we're a real couple or something! I'm pretty happy and I think he is, too. Which is good, because I absolutely adore him.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Graze boxed snack delivery review

There are all sorts of delivery services advertised online: meals, age-appropriate toy boxes, tea, razors, snacks, you name it. A couple of weeks ago, a friend told me about ordering a box from Graze for $1 (the normal price is $6, but there were coupons all over the internet for $5 off), so I decided to try it.

Unfortunately, I got distracted in the process of ordering and the page timed out, then I wasn't able to find the coupon later. However, one good thing about appearing to reject a website is that they typically come back begging. I received an offer for a free box, and that's the kind of offer I can't refuse.

Graze is a "healthy" snack delivery service that includes four (4) 200-ish calorie snack packages per $6 (including shipping) box. Your options are to have the boxes delivered every other week, every week, and you can also custom order boxes. There is a bit of customization you can make over time as you "like" or "trash" certain snacks, but you're pretty much stuck with whatever they choose to send you within those parameters.

Within about a week of my order, I received this box.


Actually, four individually-packaged snacks might have fallen out, and even I'm not Type A enough to consider that a "mess," strictly-speaking.



Although this box was free, as I sampled (and shared) the snacks, on my mind was this primary question: Are each and every one of these snacks worth $1.25 each? Would I pay just over a dollar for any one of them at the store?

While I realize that they were delivered to my front door and so there is a bit of convenience there, 4 snacks don't go a long way in a family of 3. So this is not saving me a trip to the store at all. The deal then becomes: Am I happy enough with their choices to make it worth my money?

The contents were varied and interesting.





I ended up eating two of these, and sent the other two to work with James.


My medium-adult-sized hand versus the snack box size.


This snack was dried apples, lime-infused raisins, and dried cranberries. Except for having to try to find or make the lime flavoring for the raisins, I could have thrown this together myself from bulk items. The same held true for the yaki soba (seasoning the broad beans with chili) and the jalapeno fiesta (spicing up the nuts and salsa-fying the almonds). The chocolate orange flapjack was basically three two-bite sized soft oat bars.

All of these were tasty enough, but I knew before I'd opened the first treat that unless the flavor just knocked my socks off, there wasn't any way I was going to buy into this for $12 a month for 8 little snacks. So, these things are fine, but not "I'd pay for that!" good, so I'm not going for it.

What about you? Anyone tried Nature Box and liked it enough to keep it? Plated? Other subscription services you recommend?

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Help One Now's Austin event: Cocktails for Education

Last night, James and I got to go to the beautiful home of Dan and Cathy Rourke for an event called Cocktails for Education, to help raise funds for 10 classrooms and teachers, or $25,000, through Help One Now. It is my understanding that the funds raised this evening will benefit schools in both Uganda and Haiti.

This time last year, James and I were on our way to Haiti on a learning trip with Help One Now and New City Church. You can read about that impactful trip on my personal blog, starting with the intro, the Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four, Days Five and Six, some commentary, Day Seven, and a little adventure on the way home. I loved Haiti. I think James did, too. I want to go back; next time, we'll take Daphne.

Since we're not in a position to travel again this year (the trip is one month after our baby is due), I was excited to have the opportunity to catch up "in person" with what Help One Now is doing.


This is the Rourkes' amazingly beautiful home on Mt. Bonnell. They were extremely gracious to open it up to host the event.


When we walked in, this was up in the foyer. The "simple" part of helping the orphaned and at-risk is hosting a Garage Sale for Orphans. Now, I see the grammatical error, which I'm sure was a deliberate choice since "were" sounds stilted, and I probably just need to get with the program on that kind of thing. However, at the time, I didn't really even notice the words; I just noticed the girl. I commented to James that I'd seen this picture online and that the girl looked a lot like Dave-Kathie Mesidor, a girl in Ferrier Village that we help sponsor. Jill Stockton overheard me and told me that it *was* indeed Dave-Kathie. I was so happy to see her! We've only ever seen her in two other photos, so it was pretty exciting to get a glimpse of her life-sized.

After looking over the auction items, we went out back for some finger food from The Peached Tortilla.

Here we have an Asian Pear Bite (pear with blue cheese, honey, and spiced pecans), Hawaiian Pork Belly Bites (with caramelized pineapple, cilantro, and Chinese barbecue sauce; I'd never had pork belly before and didn't know what to expect, but I'm here to tell you that it was DELICIOUS), and Curried Chicken Tostata (with Asian slaw and lemon curry aioli).

After enjoying a few bites, we headed back to the cocktail bar so that James, at least, could have a drink.


Their courtyard, patio, or whatever you want to call it was beyond beautiful.


The cocktail bar was set up in front of the greenhouse/potting shed. I mean, seriously. It was awesome. I got a La Croix berry water and proved to myself that even if you carbonate it and add flavoring, water is still pretty disgusting. 


Almost 9:00 PM at the beginning of June in Austin? Yep, this looks about right.




This was a Brisket Jam Spoon with tomato jam, dry-rubbed brisket, and chives. Very nice.




Brennen Leigh and Noel McKay provided entertainment the first hour of the night. After that, Lamar Stockton, local musician, lead worship pastor at Austin New Church, and director of international operations for Help One Now, told us the story of Olivia in Uganda to illustrate the importance of education to those of us who take it for granted. This segued to the live auction, which was a lot of fun to watch from the sidelines. The Hank Williams, Jr.-signed guitar went for an astonishingly low final price, but people were generous and excited about making straight-out donations, and seemed to favor local offerings.


Although we stayed out of the live auction drama, we did restock our Rebo coffee supply for a while, and we finally got a Richard Cadet painting!


After the auction, Matt McCloskey performed and dessert was served.


Lick Ice Creams provided tiny scoops. Here is Hill Country Honey and Vanilla Bean and Too Hot Chocolate. They're not kidding! I could only take one bite and James had to finish it. According to their website, it is chocolate combined with cayenne pepper, chipotle, cinnamon, and local honey. Whoo! Potent! They also had Caramel Salt Lick, which was my favorite.


Also, Tiny Pies was there with Teeny Tiny pies. This one was peach. They also had apple, mixed berry, and Key lime. Although I didn't get to try the Key lime, the other three were enjoyable.

At this point, it was already 10:30 or so, and between mosquitoes, swelling, and general expectant fatigue, we called it a night... a very enjoyable night, as well as an encouraging one. I am so impressed with Help One Now and the work it helps facilitate. I adore the mindset of, "We're foreigners; we have no idea how to help... but locals do, so we're going to find locals who are already working and we're going to get them whatever support they need." If you're ever looking for a solid charity to which you can contribute, I cannot recommend them highly enough. 


The gorgeous view on our way out. Thanks for a great evening!

Friday, June 6, 2014

A short, long year ago...

This time last year, we were packing for Haiti and dealing with a brand new reality. In my blog post from June 6, 2013, I wrote, "I'm supposed to go in for an ultrasound today, but I don't want to. I know that I'm losing this baby... This is reality, and I'm not going to change a bunch of plans to wait for something. I feel fine now, and life is going to go on."

Here we are, having covered 584 million miles, and are back to where we started, even though I know that the universe is expanding and we're not fixed in space, so even though things look the same, they're different.

First of all, I saw two amazing videos about Haiti this week that I think you should watch.

This one, if you're a business owner intending to expand your operations:



And this one, if you're trying to decide where to go on vacation:



This year's Help One Now Haiti trip is in October, so I won't be able to go back, but I hope to return very soon. This time, I want to take Daphne, too.

Pregnancy-wise, I'm doing very well. I've ridden my bike 4 of the last 7 days, and last night rode up a hill I had to walk my bike up when we first moved here. I got my support belt in the mail earlier this week, but haven't walked since then. Looking forward to seeing how it helps.

Rooby is extremely active. Seems to get very excited when I eat certain foods; not all, but I can't discern a pattern in the excitement, so not sure if the baby has any "preferences." It might all have to do with sound. Or an awareness that *I* am excited about eating. :)

Tonight is date night with my supermodel-level sexy husband, so I'm pretty excited about that. Daphne is spending the evening and night with her cousins, going swimming and to watch a movie at their neighbor's house, and then tomorrow morning, we're all going to a breakfast and cartoon screening that is part of the ATX Television Festival.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A Little History, a Little Romance

Next weekend will mark the second anniversary of the weekend I insinuated myself upon James in his Tulsa apartment. I'd been trying to get him to visit me for weeks, and could tell that he was depressed. I'd asked if I could come see him, but he'd been reluctant. Then, as I was finishing up a two-day seminar for work and looking at the prospect of returning home for a weekend alone and with no plans, I just insisted. I told him (online; he had no phone at the time) that I was coming to see him, and that if he didn't tell me where he lived, I'd just let him know where I was staying once I got there.

On my drive up, he did message me back and even offered to meet me half way. Looking back, I think he didn't want me to see how he was living... but I had my suspicions. And I wanted to stock his refrigerator with homemade food. And I really wanted to catch up with my friend.

After we'd chatted Friday night away and before we went to buy groceries on Saturday, we spent the morning touring the Philbrook Museum of Art. We hadn't exhausted our conversation, and one of the things James told me as we walked around the museum was the reason he'd never had any kids. He said that lots of his friends had either been married, had kids, and split up, or decided to make babies with someone and share the responsibilities of rearing them. He said that he felt like it was a two-person job (imagine that) and he'd never met anyone he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.

As we discussed that, I told him of my experience and how, 20 minutes after Daphne was born, I knew she'd be my only one. I was done.

I guess things have changed for both of us since then.

When I got home from that weekend, I was surprised to learn that James wanted to pursue something like a relationship with me. We seemed so different, in terms of what we wanted in our personal lives. Over the next few months, we struggled mightily to come to some sort of agreement. Sometimes, it seemed like it was just doomed because of how dissimilar we were.

Looking back, I can see that what our hearts actually wanted was the exact same thing; we just had vastly divergent expectations based on our experiences and our baggage. Actually living together and making things work has been a lot easier than talking about living together and making things work. I'm tempted to say "virtually effortless," but it has been work on both of our parts (and, honestly, probably more so on his, because I tend toward domesticity, anyway). It's just so beyond worth it, the effort doesn't feel extreme.

Daphne asked me once why I was having a baby, since I've always "known" she was going to be it. I told her that sometimes, when you really love someone, what you know to be true about yourself changes. Back in the fall, I was disappointed about the miscarriage because it represented something I was going to have given James that no one else had ever given him. I wanted to do that. I wanted to experience being a parent with him. He stepped in with Daphne at a time when she is probably at her most perplexing, and he's been amazing. He loves her. He accepts her. He wants the best for her. And I wanted to get to see him do that from the start of a life.

Additionally, it turns out, I might be a bit competitive.

When James and I got together, I asked him what his longest relationship had been. As an adult, he said, he'd dated someone six months. That was an easy beat. But in high school, he dated someone three years. We still have a year and 3 weeks to go on that one, but I'm confident. Why did I need to know up front? I'm not sure.

But apparently, I'm consistent.

See, recently, I mentioned to James that part up there about wanting to have a baby with him because no one else had ever done it. He laughed and said I'd already boldly gone where none other has dared to tread, and then he told me something of which I have absolutely no recollection.

When we were about a year and a half out of high school and James was getting ready to join the Navy, we'd set aside one day to do something together as a "goodbye" of sorts. James said I wrote him a note and asked him to list everything he'd ever done, because I wanted to take him to do something he'd never done before. He jokingly told me that the list of things he hadn't done would probably be shorter.

We ended up driving down to Hot Springs to go to the Mid America Science Museum and a wax museum there. I remember being offended because James slept so much of the time in the car (hello?!) and he remembers being terrified of my driving.

Some things don't change too much.


The Nuthaus, an Update (Including the Nursery, a Work in Progress)

Several people have asked for pictures of the nursery, so we'll get to that in a minute.

First, I wanted to take you on a tour of the Nuthaus in general, so you can see how much has changed since we moved here a little over a year ago.



Changes: 1) Daphne got a desktop. 2) We never watched the TV James had (literally, we didn't turn it on in the year we had it here), so we put it out on the curb and someone took it! We use the space for the litter box that used to be in James' office, which will be the nursery. It's mostly Aish's box, and I think she likes the privacy of the fireplace. 3) I think there are more tchotske on the mantel, including a speaker system we bought solely because our laptops wouldn't play "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." loudly enough. Also, we have one outlet in the whole living room, so we have a lot of old-fashioned running of the wires all up in here.


The white shelving unit is new. We'd had the printer in James' office, and all of our school books (which are difficult to see behind the table) in the black bookshelves. We moved our school stuff over when James was re-homing some of his books, and the drawers have all of our pencils, envelopes, etc. That stuff was also on the bookshelves and fell off frequently. Don't know why we didn't think of that sooner.


\
James' new "office" has less privacy but a great view! He admits to missing his little hobbit hole, but you do what you have to do, and we kind of like having him around.



Our nerd robes adorn the back of the door in our tiny bathroom. Pictures courtesy a story National Geographic did on sugar and how horrible it is on both nutritional and cultural levels... But to illustrate this, they had frame-worthy art of sugary foods like cupcakes, candies, and cereal.



Still making do with not much storage of which to speak.


Finally got our corkboard "Wall of Awesome" up after "winning" the board at a Christmas white elephant exchange. We'd had a WoA in the trailer and are filling this one with Team Dave's memorabilia, much of it from our recent trip to Colorado. 


Pardon our recycling; since we have so many deliveries these days, I filled up our outside recycle bin the day after it got picked up last week! Just 5 more days and I can dump this stuff. I love how the kitchen and living room are basically one room. It makes working in the kitchen not seem like a lonely task, even if I'm the only one in there.


Our beautiful bedroom, with the wedding quilt James' mom made us and the new bookshelf we got to help make space for James' office eviction. The metal heart we watched a blacksmith make at the Celtic Music Festival and James bought it back when we were still dating. The marker picture is of James and me as ponies, a gift from Daphne on my last birthday. On the bookshelf, we have both of the flowers we wore at our wedding. Mine was a fabric flower that came with my dress, and James' was a squirt sunflower.


The only closet in the house barely has room for James' Browncoat, a couple of suits, and our luggage. Everything else is on display for the world to see.


We rearranged D's room a bit, and it's still one of my favorite rooms in the house. I love all of the color.


The bookshelves helped us to move all of D's books back into her room. We'd had a lot of them in the built-ins in the living room, but decided to free up that space for, yes, more of James' books. Also, she has room now both to get new books and for all of her filled-up drawing pads.

I don't think we ever took a picture of her "closet" before. We moved her smaller bookshelf over here to make room for the new shelves. And, yes, Harry Potter is wearing an old pair of girls' underpants both as drawers and a hat, has on a fake blonde mustache, and is carrying a giant lollipop instead of a wand.

So, here are the money shots for those of you who wanted to see the nursery. It's good that we have all of the furniture we need now, because there is no more room for anything else!


I love, love, love bright colors, so this all makes me happy. A friend said he was afraid that our MamaRoo bouncy chair thing would become sentient and Borgify the baby, and that'd be super cool. It's neat; it has several white noise settings (it also has an input so you can play MP3s), and there are 5 different movements it can make. The cushiony things in the mobile will pop out for grabbing and chewing.


During graduation weekend, my sister noticed that someone had left a dirty little minky monkey in our driveway. We put it up on the porch and left it there for 3 days. When the weekend was over, I brought it in, washed and dried it twice, and decided it would be our first baby toy. Also, we can only accommodate clothes, shoes, socks, etc. that will fit in this cabinet.



I can't wait to fill up this bookshelf!


Aish loves sitting in "baby jail" underneath the elevated crib cushion. Also, for those of you thinking, "Wouldn't there be more room for the rocker behind the door?" Maybe. But where it is, you can see out of both sets of windows, and I prefer that.

So there you have it. As James said, "We're building a home." It definitely feels more like it every day. Thanks for your interest. Just 3 months to go!