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Friday, August 29, 2014

Nutella Brownies... Three Ways, 'Cause That's How I Roll

A couple of weeks ago, I'd bought this giant thing of hazelnut cocoa spread at Randall's because it was on clearance.

Last night, I had this idea that I'd make brownies out of it, so I "googled" "Nutella Brownies." I found a few recipes, including a regular brownie-type recipe that included Nutella at the end, and then another recipe that said, "Easiest 3-ingredient Nutella Brownie." I anticipate it including brownie mix, but it didn't. Instead, it was Nutella, eggs, and flour. Beyond that, there was a TWO-ingredient brownie recipe, and it was just Nutella and eggs.

None of the recipes was exceptionally difficult, but I wondered whether the two- or three-ingredients versions were good enough to hold up to a genuine brownie. I'd read that Nutella (and, I'm assuming, knock-offs like this one) have as much sugar as cake frosting, so it stood to reason in my bean that we didn't need to add sugar to make the brownies tasty.

Solely in the interest of science, I decided to prepare all three recipes today. You can find the recipes here:

I did halve the recipes, and I made them all in loaf pans, so each brownie would have a side and a middle, for comparison's sake.

Here are the results:

1. Nutella Brownies

Multi-tasking with the multi-ingredient recipe. I've been binge-watching season five of "Drop Dead Diva" since I have a month-long Netflix free trial.

A pretty standard brownie recipe, and after it's mixed, we just add in the hazelnut cocoa spread.

Ready for the oven!

The first batch as it came out of the oven. Looks pretty delicious, doesn't it?

2. Two-Ingredient Nutella Brownies

Blurry photo of the two ingredients. When they were mixed up, they looked like this. Very runny!

It went from being really runny to super spongy.

3. Three-Ingredient Nutella Brownies

Just eggs, flour, and hazelnut cocoa spread.

It was super thick.

It came out pretty bready.

The multi-ingredient brownies were obviously more voluminous, as they had about the same amount of Nutella and then the other stuff on top of it.

This meant that the brownies on the left were undercooked, despite the fact that I cooked them as long as I was supposed to cook the full recipe. I think this has to do with my oven, because potatoes take years to cook. I wanted to compare cutaways, so I only used the edges, as those, at least, were all the way done.

Super gooey brownie deliciousness with the full-out recipe. It was definitely our favorite. Daphne agreed, not knowing which was which.

Daphne thought the two-ingredient brownies were super spongy, but they tasted good. This was my second favorite recipe, and in a bind, I'd certainly use it because it's very, very easy.

The three-ingredient brownies turned out super cakey. I don't like cakey brownies. These would probably be great with peanut butter on top, as the flour cut through some of the sugar and made these thick enough to stand up to spreading peanut butter on them.

Since the batch of "real" brownies was still raw inside, I used my delightful cake transfer metal to put it back into the pan and nuked it for five minutes. It ended up looking like this:

Still fudge-y. I will definitely make these brownies again. They are delicious.

The second-place contender. Dense and tasty and spongy.

Now that I think on it, these could be delicious with 4 ingredients, to include peanut butter chips. Or white chocolate chips. Since the brownies aren't too sweet, the white chip would be balanced out.

May I Be Frank?

Okay, here's the situation...

(My parents went away on a week's vacation, and they left the keys to the brand new Porsche. Would they mind? Mmm... well, or course not.)

If you got that reference, you're old, too. Just like I am.

Maybe that's why I'm so dang grumpy. Maybe it's just hormones. When I read the pregnancy journal I kept with Daphne, I was pretty disgruntled all of the time.

But here's the deal: With a maximum of a few weeks left in this pregnancy, I am over talking about it. It's getting redundant, and as much as I appreciate everyone's interest and excitement, it's starting to feel more like a burden than shared enthusiasm.

Here are a few of the things I hear nearly every day:

1) A version of: "Whose birthday will be first? Yours or the baby's?" "Do you think the baby will be early?" "Oh, you're hungry/grumpy/a cat magnet/cleaning/restless/lazy? That means it's almost time!" "When is your due date?"

Since it is in three hours, I feel pretty safe saying that my birthday will be first. The "estimated due date" (EDD) is September 4, but that means practically nothing. In France, the standard gestation for a human is 41 weeks instead of 40. I do not think I became pregnant 2 weeks after my LMP, which is how the EDD is calculated. I think it was probably a week later. I believe this due to the fact that if I'd become pregnant exactly two weeks after my LMP, the pregnancy test I took just after New Year's Day would have been positive, and it was not. It was another 10 days or so before it "registered."

In my real life, I'm often manic and I binge-eat stuff and I get in really bad moods and one of my cats is obsessed with me. It all happens. It's not an arbiter of impending birth or else I'd be dropping babies every few days.

I'm not sure how useful it is to try to guess when the baby will be born. I have no way of knowing. I know I'm not in labor NOW, if that's what you're asking. I've been having contractions for over a month, and that doesn't mean much, either.

I tend to share stuff fairly widely most of the time, and I'm not holding out on anyone. I can get pretty impatient myself, and having people prodding me all of the time to move things along just rubs me the wrong way.

2) Are you sure you should be doing that? / Let me carry that for you. / Bless your heart.

It's not that I don't appreciate politeness and helpfulness, it's just that I'm not a fragile, precious little thing. I promise everyone that I'm not only pretty darn self-preserving, but I'm also under the care of professionals to whom I disclose all of my activity, and they are excited about it. In fact, this week my midwife and I were discussing the fact that I don't have stretch marks yet, and she said a lot of that can be chalked up to my continued exercise (and diet, but honestly the quality of that has declined a bit over the past few weeks as I'm sort of taking advantage of the last bit of increased metabolism to indulge somewhat... but rest assured I'm eating the healthy stuff, too; just not exclusively).

My body has told me when to stop and when to rest, and I listen. It's fine for me to lift things. If I need help, I'll ask. Being fussed over needlessly stresses me out.

3) You must be miserably hot.

Well, I live in Austin and it's summer, so yes. But I'm no more miserable this year than I was last year.

4) I'll bet this is so much harder than it was 12 years ago. / I'll be you're feeling this pregnancy a lot more than you did in your 20s.

Actually, no, I'm not. I'm more fit, and I'm just as healthy, and being pregnant is pretty easy and actually even great for me.

5) Just a few more days... You must be so excited!

Must I? I read today that this is a common thing people tell super-expectant moms, so I guess it's just a sort of mindless filler thing to say, but I liked one woman's response, which was, "I'm more curious and apprehensive than excited."

I can relate. I mean, I wanted to have a baby with James. That part is exciting: our building our family together. But I'm not particularly "excited" about actually birthing a kid. It's been 12 years, but I remember how intensely painful labor was with Daphne, and I even got an epidural with that one. This time, that's not an option.

Also, there are still so many unknowns. I'm about to be very honest, and here's what I request: please do not respond with any assurances that these things are likely not to happen, or that 20 years from now Daphne and this baby will have a great relationship, or anything like that. I am rational. I know that things will settle into normalcy at some point, regardless of the specifics at any given time. But I'm telling you why I'm not just super giddy about the thought of ending this very predictable, healthy, easy pregnancy for the chaos to come.

Although we've had no reason for concern so far with the two ultrasounds we've had, we've declined genetic testing and don't know what to expect. I hope and pray for a healthy baby, but we are both older and the risk factor for many things is increased.

I had intense postpartum depression after Daphne was born. That's a definite possibility this time around, too. Not extremely excited about that.

The baby might be good-natured like Daphne (who still seemed to cry an awful lot, but that was probably due largely to my need to schedule, which is not something I'm going to do this time), but it also might have colic. My mental and emotional states suffer horrifically with sleep deprivation, and if we add postpartum stuff to that, it's a misery cocktail.

Also, if the baby is colicky, this is going to be a huge deal for the near-teenager in my house, who is already not looking forward to having a baby around. If I'm stressed and she's stressed and she expresses negative feelings enough that I take it personally and lash out, then she might get the impression that I care more about the baby than her and that can mess up our relationship.

I don't live in fear. I will be happy and love the baby when it's born, and we as a family will do whatever it takes to support and love each other. That's all good stuff. But to me, the more "exciting" part of pregnancy is at the beginning, when it's new and far enough away not to be quite so "real."

Now it's kind of like the week of finals when you're working for an advanced degree, and you've done everything that you can, and you're prepared, and you still have the final and then your life will change one way or another... except in this case, you don't know exactly when they're going to call you in to defend your dissertation. And you don't know exactly what they're going to demand of you, so even though you've prepared as best you can, it's not impossible that they'll make you stay in school for the rest of your life, when you went into the whole thing planning to pass and get out and move on to bigger and better things. So you just have to wait and see.

6) Do you know what you're having? / I think it's a boy/girl! / Would you rather have a girl or a boy?

Yes, we're having a baby (according to the 18-week ultrasound; hopefully it has not gestated into a dinosaur or anything, although that might present some creative and potentially lucrative opportunities). Placing a great deal of importance on the gender of a baby seems weird to me. Ask me what I "want" to have, and I say one thing but then have a baby of a different gender... and do you think I'll love it less? So why plant a flag in a preference? I can't control it and ultimately, I don't actually care. I do find people's rationales for believing that the baby is a certain sex to be wildly amusing, so you guys can keep that up. I enjoy it.

I do have to give mad props to everyone for not asking Daphne about the baby anymore. It's been weeks and weeks since anyone's talked to her about it, and I appreciate that greatly. I might request that you do the same for me over the next couple of weeks, resting in the full security that once the baby arrives, everyone will know about it.

I'm trying to stay busy, and focused on my family and activities. I am still blogging, still cooking, still making videos, still going places, still getting exercise, still a hopefully interesting person outside of the expectancy. And, yes, I have been blogging about the pregnancy, because aspects of it are funny and irritating and glorious to me, and I've seen recently, going back and reading the blog I started when I was pregnant with Daphne, that keeping a record of these things is important and useful. But it's not the sum total of my life, and having people continually focus on that, and redirect my focus on it, is exhausting. It's been the better part of a year already but these last few weeks are the longest. So if we can concentrate on other things, that'll be awesome.

Thanks, friends. <3

Thursday, August 28, 2014

And Now For Something Completely Different

As I've mentioned, I quit my job and have significantly dialed back my commitments, because I want to be ready to go without having to flake out on any responsibilities. However, the weekend before last, this made me exceedingly bored and grumpy, giving me too much time to think about how hot it is and how much effort it takes to get up off of the couch, and how many times I have to do this in any given hour because the restroom is way over there.

I decided that this week would be different. This week, we'd make plans. We'd have fun. We'd stay busy.

Following is a video I made about the first half of this week. A quick caveat: I'm still figuring things out with video production on this laptop. The cameras I use have HD capability, but I wasn't able to publish to HD with Adobe Premiere Pro, and I wasn't able to do it with Windows Live Movie Maker, either. I am beginning to think that this has to do with my crappy laptop processor, but if you have any ideas, let me know. I might just have to go back to the Mac when it comes to video editing and rendering. I was trying to diversify but so far have been unimpressed with other editing software and with this operating system.

Fortunately, I'm okay with "good enough," and I hope you enjoy the first half of a pretty busy week. I *do* think I'm finished bike riding for a while, though. Also, all of the lifting and lowering into and out of the river that I did yesterday has my upper body feeling like hamburger meat today, so although I have a packed schedule, none of it includes any weight-bearing... and for that, I am grateful!

So far, it's been a great week with some of my favorite people: family! Today is all about healthcare and friends. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Review: Citrus Lane, Initial Box

For some time, I'd thought it might be neat to subscribe to Citrus Lane and get fun little toys and books and products every month for a year. I decided finally to do it because I had another serendipitous happening that I believe now is a programmed "thing" I plan to exploit again in the future:

Just like when I ordered the Graze box, I'd actually filled out most of the subscription information, but stopped because I don't actually know my baby's birth date yet. When I was in the process of subscribing, I had a coupon code for 50% off of the first month, which was a good enough deal.

But after I backed out without completing the form, I received an email offering the first entire box for free. That did it! I signed up.

My annual membership parses out to $17.17 per month, and I plan to review these every month so we can all see whether, over time, the deliveries are worth it.

Today, I received my first box!

First thing you should know: After I subscribed, I started receiving an annoying number of emails encouraging me to add stuff to my order, no extra shipping. I ignored those. The one thing I did like was that I was able to personalize a bit. There was going to be a stuffed animal-type thing in the box, and there were three from which to choose. I picked the one I liked the best and just automatically send everything else from Citrus Lane into my trash. (I do pause a lot every time they offer 20% off and free shipping of their Strider bikes, but they do that often enough that I'm convinced they'll have another special next year when I can actually use it.)

Tissue papered!

Here is what was in the box (cat not included):

Monkey chime ball, lotion, paper mobile, glass baby food containers, and a 25% off code on a babysitter from Sorry, sitters, but not my newborn. Not gonna happen.

Is this worth $17? Not to me. But I'm willing to see how it averages out over time.

The monkey is very cute, and the chime it makes is soft and soothing. One wing is crinkly, which means Daphne's cat will fall in love with it.

The baby food containers seem like a weird choice for someone who is still pregnant. I can see sending them the 4th month or so, but then again, other customers might not have the same lack-of-storage concerns that I do.

The paper owl mobile is cute enough, and I was able to use it in a corner I felt was otherwise pretty bland.

Still far enough away from the bed that the baby can't mess with it.

One thing everyone seems to want to give you when you're pregnant is lotion, like I or the baby are at risk of being scaly train wrecks. However, I like that this is mild, and the "aromatic cherry butter" smell is rather delicious, without being overpowering or perfume-y.

Although I wasn't hugely thrilled about how much packaging this was, Rudy was pretty excited about it. Glad we have a good recycling program here in Austin and that we can now recycle corrugated cardboard.

Stay tuned for the second box next month!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Austin Real Estate

We love our little lot here in the middle of the action. The only negative: because it's owned by someone else, we are not masters of our own destiny here. Well, and it's expensive. When our lease renewed in July, we were granted an increase of "only" 10% instead of the apparently typical 20% because we're such good tenants.

We'd love to buy a house in this ZIP code, but here's why we can't...

Yep, those are the only six properties for sale in this ZIP right now, and the cheapest one is $450,000. For a 1300-ish square foot condo.

We're not in the market to buy right this second, but I like to keep an eye open, both to have an idea of what's "out there," and on the slim chance that the most perfect, amazing fit opened up, we might be persuaded to jump on it.

There are lots of reasons not to move right now, but the two biggest are: 1) Our lease just renewed, and I prefer not to break leases (though I would for the perfect opportunity). 2) I'm about to have a baby. I did move when my daughter was 2 months old, and again when she was 8 months old, and I don't recommend it. Very stressful.

Also, my mother-in-law is visiting in a month or so, and we got her a hotel really close to our house. Plus, we have a vacation planned for late this winter, and I'd love to get that paid for and enjoy it before we have to think about the financial stuff related to moving. Plus, you know, the actual moving.

There are lots of reasons I don't necessarily care to own a home again (I've owned three and it's been hit-or-miss as to the financial benefit): 1) It's an anchor. 2) If you need to sell, you're at the market's whim. 3) Maintenance is expensive. 4) Property taxes are expensive, and mean you never actually own your home.

Anyway, we have looked at three properties in the past three or four months, because they were in areas we liked and were good deals, or the houses looked really neat (a lot of the houses on the market are absolute dogs, because it's a seller's market and they know they can get away with it). Twice, we have dealt with Realtors and once directly with the homeowner. We much preferred dealing with the homeowner, and I'll tell you why, in case you're a real estate agent and want to know what we're thinking after we interact with you.

The first house was one that was gorgeous online, but up close and in person needed a LOT of work. I mean, like $50,000 just to make it livable, and it was already at the top end of what we can afford. But I got in touch with an agent and said that we wanted to see the house, and made an appointment. When we got there, I realized that I'd left my phone at home but it didn't seem like a big deal. We knew that there were a lot of showings that day, so we just walked around the yard as there were already people inside the house.

We waited until about 10 minutes after we were supposed to meet the agent, and could already tell from walking around that the entire fence needed to be replaced; it was dangerous. We went ahead and walked into the house and realized it was a mobile home. That's not a deal-breaker, but the asking price was typical for a standard permanent home. The floor was rolling, and what we'd thought was maybe stained concrete (from the pictures) turned out to be old linoleum that had been painted white. The hall had drywall work that needed to be done, and they'd patched it to look "cool" using old newspapers. It was just a mess.

After about half an hour, we left because we knew we didn't want the house and because the real estate agent who'd been showing the house said she had to leave and lock up. I felt kind of bad about not meeting the agent, but he hadn't shown up, so it must not have been too important to him.

When we got home, there was a message waiting for me on my cell phone. It was the agent, and I called him back. He asked, "Was that you in the purple van?" Um, yes. He had watched us walk around the property and hadn't bothered to get out of his car because he figured if he called me, he'd see me answer the phone. That seemed crazy to me. How could you not just say, "Excuse me, are you...?" or even, "May I help you?" when people are walking unaccompanied around a property you have an appointment to show?

But to make matters worse, he said, "I had a whole list of properties in that area that I wanted to show you." So I told him the truth: We were not really in house-hunting mode, that most of the houses in that area did not appeal to us, and that the reason we wanted to see that house is that we liked THAT house. It spoke to us in pictures, even though the reality didn't turn out to be the same. It had been painted bright yellow with orange trim, and the living room was purple with wood accents. It was just quirky and "different" but they'd managed to weed out the icky stuff in the sales material.

He wanted to send us some emails, anyway, even though I told him it would probably be wasting his time as we weren't actually in the market to buy a house in general. Sure enough, everything he sent was inappropriate. So after we signed our lease renewal, I was able to tell him we'd committed to another year and he could stop sending us emails.

I have been a Realtor before. I was fortunate enough that I was a property manager and my pay wasn't dependent on sales or even rentals. I might have gotten a hundred bucks or so if I showed a house that was eventually leased, but it wasn't enough that I felt like I had a huge stake in whether or not someone rented the home I'd showed them. So I understand only in theory what living on commission means. Still, when someone tells you what they want (a particular property) and don't want (any old other property), it seems like you could avoid wasting your time by listening to them.

Here's the deal about me: I know my own mind. I will not add an ear of hot buttered corn on the cob to my order at KFC just because the lady at the drive-through suggests it (which is why I would not suggest it when I was in high school, and I got consistently poor reviews during my six-week employment). I can look through listings myself and know what might fit and what definitely won't. You can't plug in "3 bedrooms, 2 baths, good walk score" and automatically come up with properties that are going to fit my family. I can weed them all out and call you and if you would like to take time out of your schedule to show us exactly one house, then that's great. If not, I'm totally okay with being told, "No, I'm sorry. I only show houses to clients who have signed a contract" or whatever.

This last weekend, it was worse.

We went to an open house at a house in a neighborhood I have no idea why I even saw the house. I guess I was just trolling around James' work. The area does not excite us at all. It has a pretty restrictive HOA, which James HATES. But we actually liked the house quite a lot. The problem was the Realtor hosting the open house. She would not leave us alone. She was asking us every sales question in the book:

"What is to you the best feature of this house?"

"What is one negative feature of this house?"

"Can you imagine yourself here?"

When James found out about the HOA, he basically stated that was a deal-breaker, and she practically chastised him. She said, "Sometimes, we have to make sacrifices when we find a home we like." James said, "Honestly, I'd prefer to sacrifice the home than my ability to have chickens if I want." She said, "Well, sometimes we have to make compromises."

Then she started asking other questions. "So, you don't want an HOA, but you do like three bedrooms? Can I get your email address and send you some other listings in this area?"

We told her flat out that we were not interested in that area; we had only been interested in that house in particular. She said, "I understand. But if I can find out what you are looking for, I do concierge. I don't sent out automatic listings. I weed through them and only send you the best ones."

Ugh. So we told her we were not in a position to move right now and gave her the practically impossible parameters we were looking for here in town. She said that where we were looking was more expensive than we are willing to spend, but that one house we really liked that is currently not on the market as it's being renovated... the one where we dealt with the owner directly? It's right at the top of our spending budget and it's in an ideal area... AND I FOUND IT MYSELF.

After we left, we talked about it and its proximity to James' work plus the house itself really appealed to both of us. We actually made an appointment to go see it again, privately, with a different agent. I explained to him that the host had turned on the sales when we were there (a family came in and just wanted a flyer, but she said she'd be with them in a moment, and they got tired of waiting for her to finish talking to us so they left empty-handed).

Anyway, we realized as we talked last night and this morning that there is some paperwork we can't get until after the first of the year, so we won't be in a position to buy until 2015 (frankly, it's a load off, as far as I'm concerned).

Today, I received an email from the lady who hosted the open house we attended yesterday. I wrote her back to tell her that we weren't going to be able to buy for a few months, and she responded that she understood, "In a meantime I'd like to ask you for giving my information to your family, friends or neighbors. Probably somebody close to you is looking for a home to buy, sell or lease."

Um. No. I like my family and friends and don't want to refer someone who is getting on my nerves. It would be funny to give her card to the neighbors we know best, all of whom are homeless. But I respect them too much, as well.

Basically, if you're a real estate agent, I get it if you don't have time to show me one property. Just tell me. And I'll be honest and up front about where we are in the process. I don't want to waste your time OR mine, so if you can trust me that I know my mind and what I want and where we are in the process, I think we can avoid annoyances and frustration.

Besides, right now Austin is truly a seller's market. I'd think they could chill the heck out a little bit.

For what it's worth, I will say that if we do need to involve a real estate agent in the future, I will definitely use Redfin. Their agents are salaried and get a commission based on customer service feedback, not sales. Here's their listing and reviews of Austin agents.

Weekend Butt-Kicking

This has been the first time this year that I have felt entirely worn out, sick, and totally over this whole pregnancy thing.

Yesterday, I woke up at about 7:30 and ate some breakfast, but was almost immediately ready to go back to sleep. I didn't, and needed to run a couple of errands, so went to the post office to mail Daphne's birthday present for her grandma (note: in the future, have her do stuff on paper that will roll up or on canvas; it was $17 to mail a flat box big enough for the thick card stock!) then went to Kohl's.

Now. I don't love shopping in stores, and for this reason had very specifically ordered online from Kohl's during a great sale they had. I was able to get Daphne a bathing suit (Zero Xposur, which is my favorite brand ever), swim shorts, and a winter jacket for $59.50, shipping included. We got the order in last week, then the next day, we got the same order again. Uh.

I called Kohl's and asked them about returning it, and they assured me I could take it into any of their stores for a refund, no questions asked. I explained that I order online because I don't have the time or energy to go to a store, and asked if they could send me a return authorization, but they said that even though their warehouse made the mistake, since the order was under $100, I needed to take it into a store for a refund.

Ugh. And because I know that now is not the time to procrastinate, I headed over there to return the duplicates. The customer service lady rang everything up and told me my refund would be $59.50, and she also informed me that I'd lose $10 in Kohl's Cash (basically free merchandise). I asked her, "About that... to make up for the fact that I had to drive down and take my time and gas to fix a mistake that your warehouse made, can I keep the extra $10 Kohl's Cash?" After speaking with her manager, they agreed to adjust whatever purchase I made in the store that day by $10.

I went to look around and found their ladies' socks on sale buy one/get one half off. I got a $14 set for me and a normally-$12 set for Daphne, so the total was exactly $20. When I took it back up to the front to check out, the lady rang everything up, took off the $10 I'd actually earned from ordering the merchandise in the first place, and informed me that I owed $10.81. I reminded her what they'd just told me, that they'd allow me to use the other $10 I'd appeared to earn from having the second order I did not place. It took a few minutes, but she finally realized what needed to happen, and I walked out of there with six pair of socks, my refund, and had spent no extra money.

When I got into the van, I was so hot and exhausted. I looked at the clock and wondered aloud, "How can it only be 10:08?!"

I got home and was both ravenously hungry and entirely drained. I laid down on the couch and noticed that I felt nauseated. I knew I needed to eat, but didn't feel like I would be able even to make a sandwich until I'd slept a while.

James approached me, asking about food and whether I wanted to walk to lunch with him. By the way, at this point, Daphne was still asleep. She'd stayed up until 2:00 AM the night before, every other Friday being the only time she can stay up as late as she wants... so I let her.

I was so hangry and tired that I wouldn't agree to do our usual, which was to walk up Guadalupe until we find something we like. I wanted to know exactly where we would stop. I did not have the energy to set off on an adventure, and I think James picked up on my desperation when I suggested a Mexican place near the house. I don't particularly love Mexican food (I know; I live in the wrong town), and he sensed that if I was willing to go there, I was in a hurry to get food nearby, so that's where we went.

After I'd gotten a couple of egg tacos (one potato and one cactus) into me, I felt much better. Then we came home and I slept for two hours.

When I woke up, James was ready to play a game so we got out the Scrabble. He beat me, having pulled ahead mid-game when he used all of his tiles and got a 50-point bonus. We're usually pretty closely-matched, so it's hard to come back from that kind of thing.

I was already feeling famished again at this point, and was seriously stalking Yelp reviews for Austin gelato joints because looking at the pictures and reading descriptions of the flavors was like porn for me at that point.

The whole day, once I felt hungry, I felt sick. Like too sick to get up and get any food for myself. I just wanted to sit on the couch and whine about how hungry I was, and sleep a lot. And it was SO HOT. I was sweating all day in addition to the exhaustion.

Finally, a bit after 5, I finally got up to make some dinner and found that the eMeals menu for the night was protein-heavy, so I was happy. My protein levels are still low, even though I'm trying very conscientiously to up my intake. Last night, we had chicken lettuce wraps with peanut sauce and a strawberry avocado salad that was interesting and refreshing. Eating definitely helped me feel better, but after dinner, all I was good for was sitting on the couch until about 8:30 PM, at which time I retired to bed.

The past week or so, as soon as I fall asleep, I start having vivid, detailed dreams. This happens when I sleep on the couch or at night in bed. Immediate stories. Lots of them are tiring. It's like I'm dragging my entire life through my sleeping mind at this point; it's a pageant of old friends, old business, old jobs, old pets, etc.

Last night, I got up three times to use the restroom... sort of. First of all, I was in bed for nearly 10 hours, so that average isn't really too bad. Second, the second time I got up, it wasn't really because of the call of nature.

I have had this weird thing where my left forearm itches like the Dickens during the summer. It feels like I have a rash, but there's no discoloration on my arm. I always assumed it was from driving and the sunlight only really hits that arm, because last summer when I wasn't driving at all, it didn't really bother me. This summer, though, it's back with a vengeance AND I'm even getting it in the right arm, though it's not as intense. Now that I Google it, it looks like Brachioradial Pruritus which might have a connection to the nervous system and spine issues, which might also explain why I didn't have it last summer, since my spine was busy trying to kill me.

Anyway, I woke up at around 2 this morning with my left arm itching so badly in 4 places that it hurt. I was determined not to scratch it because I know it's not a "real" thing... it's just a sensation. But not scratching it made it excruciatingly painful. By the way, except for last summer, the same thing has happened for the past 5 or 6 years which is that my continual scratching stimulates the hair follicles on my left arm, and my hair grows longer and faster on that arm so that it looks like it's covered in blonde fur.

I finally got out of bed to put lotion on my arms, but they were still bugging me so I went to the bathroom and got a different lotion while I was in there. Then I went back to bed and shoved my arm under a pillow I don't typically use that has a scratchy kind of cover, and that pressure helped distract me enough that I was able to go back to sleep.

This morning, I woke up and went to Kolache Factory to get us breakfast. Daphne and I had to be at church early because I was doing video, and it's easier to have portable food in case she's difficult to rouse at 7:30. I had a delicious spinach kolache (iron!) and a cream cheese one. We had a coupon for buy three/get three, so we all had a nice breakfast (James later, after we were gone) and the morning went by fairly uneventfully except that I was so sleepy during church.

We ran to the store on the way home, and I got some Gold Bond medicated lotion. It seems to be helping, but the medicine is attractive to Rudy, who wants to lick it off. Fortunately, it seems to soak in quickly so that he's not obsessed like he is with Icy Hot.

I also got an HEB pizza and some ice cream, because I was once again beyond hungry. While the pizza cooked, I vacuumed and mopped, then we had lunch and I sat down to relax.

James asked me if I wanted to go to an open house for a property that's super close to his work, and I did, so we headed over there. It turns out we have to wait until next year to look into buying, which is sort of a load off as I was feeling super stressed about packing and moving right now, or even in the next few months. We have a vacation planned for next winter, too, so I'd love to wait until we get that all paid for and out of the way. Regardless, it was a nice drive over and I love spending time with my husband.

When we got back, James was beat and laid down on the couch for a nap. His feet were filthy, so as he dozed off, I washed them and put lotion on them because I'd been ragging on him about getting our kitchen floor dirty and I wanted him to know that I was a woman of compassionate action, not just whining. Then he fell asleep for an hour or so, during which I realized what a hot, uncomfortable, giant baby I have become this week.

I sat in the leather recliner (which doesn't totally recline due to the size limitations of this room and the contents herein) for half an hour or so, but was just not comfortable. Then I sat at the kitchen table. Finally, I decided to take a shower because I could not stop sweating, and during the shower, I determined that I might just be a big enough baby to ask James to move a bit so I could sit in my spot on the couch, because apparently it is the only place where I can get comfortable these days.

So, yes, I'm pretty. But let's also remember that I sat up in a straight-backed chair at a table for more than three hours at church, and I don't usually do that. I *did* get a second chair for my feet, which I placed across the table from me. That worked okay, but I was close to the under-table support.

Another thing is that I felt myself being just on the verge of irritation most of the weekend, for absolutely no reason.

My point in this rambling missive is that this was the first weekend that I have felt out of sorts due to pregnancy, and just totally over it, and too tired to function, and too hungry to be pleasant, etc. So far today, I'm feeling a bit better; maybe it's good that I have nowhere to go and can just collect my energy.

When I was looking up pictures of slugs yesterday to illustrate how I was feeling, Daphne helpfully suggested this: the blobfish. That's pretty much spot-on as to how I felt all weekend. You're welcome.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

*twiddling thumbs*

Sooooo... What's going on?

It's pretty hot here. Yesterday was milder, and Sarah and I got out at 6:00 AM to ride the Town Lake Boardwalk trail I'd ridden Sunday morning by myself. Because of the weather and the early hour, it was actually mildly chilly when we first left. It felt good. But it was DARK until we got to the Town Lake Dam, about half way through the 9.7 mile route.

In the space of 1 week, overlapping Wednesdays, I rode my bike about 35 miles and some change. Not too shabby for an 8-month pregnant lady, right?

What else?

Ehh. Nothing, actually.

Last weekend, I bought a bunch of bulk stuff to chop and marginally prepare and freeze so that making dinners will be easier later. That took a lot of time.

But other than that, I feel like we're kind of coasting.

Yesterday, I washed all of our sheets and blankets; I took everything out of the kitchen and bathroom and really swept and mopped; I swept the whole house thoroughly... in addition to a midwife visit and bike riding. The day before that, I deep cleaned the bathroom, hand-washed all of the dishes (our dishwasher sucks right now), did several loads of laundry, and prepared lunch and breakfast for yesterday so I could ride bikes and still have everything done. I also broke into the quilling supplies that Patsy sent Daphne and made a name plate thing for her door (which the cats managed to partially destroy, of course). Monday, I cut and froze a bunch of vegetables and some meat and that took several hours; I also took all of the stuff off of the shelves in the bathroom so I could clean them and wipe down the shelving unit. Then I made our dinner as usual. Sunday, I'd made our other two meals for the day because I knew I wanted to get bulk stuff ready on Monday. For some reason, the waffle recipe for Monday morning made a TON of almond butter waffles, so we have about three dozen waffles in the freezer.

So I suppose I'm not coating coasting. I'm staying busy enough. But I do feel a lot like I'm killing time. I don't want to overfill my schedule, committing to things I'll have to drop. I don't want to start any big projects or take on any responsibilities I can't fulfill.

Today, I was trying to get in a quick nap before a couple of ladies came over, but I have a problem napping during the day because I start to snore, which wakes me up. If I snore at night, apparently I'm dead zonked enough that it doesn't rouse me. I asked James if I snore, and he said, unbelievably, "Nope! Not at all." When I called him on it, he amended his answer to say that it was adorable, which is an outright lie. But he's a nice guy.

As I was resting, though, I got a nervous feeling in my stomach as I considered the fact that I haven't really thought about bringing this baby home. Maybe it's because I learned my lesson with Daphne: You can't imagine it, anyway. It will never look how you expect it to look. But I haven't considered what this kid will be like, or how the sleeping stuff will work, or feeding, or any of it. I had read so many books before I had Daphne that I had fooled myself into thinking that I knew what I was doing. Of course, that was a load of hoo-ha, and perhaps it's better that this time, I'm prepared to fly by the seat of my proverbial pants.

I suppose I should enjoy this calm before the storm, instead of feeling mildly guilty for not "doing more." It's good to put some energy and sleep deposits into my storage because I know that soon, I'll be making some massive withdrawals.

But that's why there's really not much to report. We're just sort of in a holding pattern until stuff starts happening. You guys will be the first to know. Or second. Or like 12th, at the very least.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Last Month (hopefully!)

Now we've reached the part of the pregnancy where I'll be walking up the hill to the midwife's every week for a quick check-in. It's kind of fun that all of my information is online and I can access it very easily. Check this out:

The two weeks that my pulse is the highest? The first time, June 11, was during my glucose test. I was processing sugar. The second time, this week, was after I'd gotten up and ridden my bike 9.66 miles then got home with exactly enough time to take a shower and cram a Nutella/fig preserves sandwich down my gullet. So... processing sugar. :) I'm nothing if not consistent.

I was reminded yesterday that I'm super competitive about some things, too. Like ridiculously. First of all, James had his blood pressure taken at the urologist's yesterday. When she read it off, my reaction was, "Suck it! I WIN!" when, actually, his blood pressure is probably a bit too high. What a jerk! Then, when the nurse practitioner realized that James hadn't had a prostate exam in twenty years and therefore palpated it just to make sure we weren't dealing with anything risky, my initial thought was, "This lady just got further with James than I've ever been." Never mind the grimace of pain on his face, or his clenched... well, everything. I might have some issues.

We are both very excited and happy about this particular baby, but we obviously have a plan in the works to avoid further baby-making. While James and I have agreed on this (with his agreement taking a much more drastic commitment than mine does), I don't know that we've discussed the nitty-gritty reasons for pursuing such a permanent solution.

It's all about age; though, for me, it has less to do with "I don't want to be 60 and still have a kid in the house" (I probably will) than it does, "Every day that passes increases the risk of genetic mutations, birth defects, miscarriages, etc." While this pregnancy has been mostly easy and actually enjoyable, there has been a low-level anxiety throughout, if I've allowed myself to think about it much. First, we had an unsuccessful pregnancy already. It was obvious that that one was not going to be viable, and even if I'd carried it longer than 10 weeks, it still would not have made it.

So at first, I had some nerves with this one. Even after the 8-week ultrasound revealed a heartbeat, later on I had some bleeding and went straight to, "Okay, not this time, either." Obviously, it wasn't a big deal and here we are months later. But there's still a thing. The 18-ish week ultrasound was fine. All of the pertinent areas of development were present and accounted for with no anomalies. And in the Doppler since then, I've seen the brain, and it's intact, which probably means that the baby will take after its dad.

Now, I don't live in a place of nervousness. But I also don't try to imagine too much what it will be like after the baby is born, like I did with Daphne. It's all too real to me that the baby might have an issue we haven't been able to pinpoint in the womb. I think the obsession with "ten fingers, ten toes" is ridiculous because I don't actually care whether this kid has a stump or eight digits on one side. But I desperately (and probably selfishly) wish for it to be developmentally and medically unremarkable. I want James to walk through the exhausting yet mundane spectrum of parenting that goes along with the "typical" experience.

Struggling with those realities, and then the second-guessing of my character for wanting it to be as easy as parenting possibly can be, and all of the associated mind games is why I'm ready for this to be the last baby I will ever have. I adore James, and I'd love to have five kids with him. But I feel like our biological clocks have now become time bombs, and that it's probably best for everyone if we pack it up after this one.

And that's the thing; it *will* be after this one. First of all, it is for expediency's sake, as James and I will both be in recovery simultaneously (though mine will bookend his a couple of weeks on both sides). Secondly, if something happened like a stillbirth (I know, God forbid, but it happens), who knows but that we're not foolishly in love enough to want to try just one more time? Thirdly, if I have to have some emergency procedure instead of the low-key no-intervention birth I am idealizing, then we can go ahead and take care of the birth control on my end.

This weekend, I plan to buy and prepare about 20 meals to have in the freezer. I'll need to supplement with fresh veggies and fruits, but at least our main dishes will be handled for a while. My sister and I might get together to chop and chat, and I think we're riding our bikes Sunday morning, if anyone else wants to meet us and check out the new Town Lake Boardwalk. I'm pretty excited about that!
Because I only have 2 adjustments left in my chiropractic package, I didn't go this week. I've felt it! I need to adjust myself more often, and find my back popping when I turn in a way that it doesn't when I've been "set." I go in on Monday, then will wait another two weeks and that'll be it. I'll actually probably pay for one home visit. Laine said her favorite thing is newborn home visits. She'll adjust me and do a light baby adjustment. At some point, I want to get D into her office, since she spends so much time hunkered over drawing.

Tonight, I have a mystery shop dinner and it's time to start getting ready for that. Trying to hold off on the snacking this afternoon so I'll be ready... but it's *whine* so hard! I probably need to start depriving myself even when I "feel" hungry just to get into the habit. The baby's fine and I'm fine and I don't need to feel sated to stuffed every second of the day. It has been fun while it's lasted, though! I'm super good at indulging.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Serious Post About the Kid I Already Have

Daphne has always been an only child. She has loved it. One time, after her first cat disappeared (I think he ended up co-opted by the across-the-street neighbors who had about 8 indoor cats) when she was 6, in petitioning for another cat, she said, "You're always busy, Dad's always on the computer, and I don't have a sibling to play with, so I get lonely." Although that had a bunch of hyperbole in it, it touched me and she got another cat. And another two cats when that one died. So I might be a sucker and/or a glutton for punishment.

Beyond that, she's never referenced wanting anyone around to accompany her.

She has also always been resistant to change.

When Daphne was very small, in order to get her to give up her one formula bottle she was drinking every morning, we had a big ceremony of her taking her baby bottles out of the cabinet, putting them in a trash bag, and personally delivering them to the garbage man when he came that day. Then we stood on the curb and waved them down the street.

From that time, when she was probably 15-18 months old, until she was 7 years old, every morning, she had a Sippy cup full of Ovaltine. I had to make the Ovaltine. If anyone else made it, she didn't like it. (I only used 2 spoons full of powder, which was a fraction of what's recommended.) I microwaved it for 1 minute, 11 seconds. Then Daphne would sit in my lap and play with my hair while she drank. She liked playing with my hair when it was straight and dry. If I'd already showered that morning and my hair was damp, she wasn't happy. If I'd curled my hair, she didn't like it. She preferred everything the exact same way. Every. Day. For over five years. (I finally made her stop when the Sippy cup lid was blistering her tongue because of how slowly the liquid comes out and her fighting to get it out more quickly.)

She also stayed in gymnastics probably a good year after she was "through" because I think she'd put a lot of her identity in it and didn't know how to quit (read: change). I told her dozens of times: "Gym isn't what you are; it's just something you do." But until we decided to move away, at which time she said, "Let's just quit gym NOW then, because there's no point learning new tricks," she was resistant to change that... before there was no choice.

When we moved to Austin, Daphne and I were burnt out. We had been going to my work every weekday at 10 AM, then home for lunch at 2 PM. I'd take her to the gym at 3 and return to work, then either work out and pick her up from the gym at 7, or, if I were in a play, a friend would bring her to the theater and we'd hang out there until rehearsals were over at 10. I had Fridays off, and we were part of a homeschool co-op.

So when we got into town, we decided to take a break from "leaving." We stayed home a lot. It felt great. Very free and luxurious. And Daphne got used to that. We tried a couple of things like PE classes and parkour, but over all, Daphne just liked being home. She's an introvert and needs a lot of down time. She loves hanging out with her cousins, but after a few hours of that, she needs quiet again. Because I am marginally extroverted, this is something I'm trying to understand. Having James around has helped me with that a lot.

To review: introvert, contented only child, resistant to change.

Daphne got "used to" James pretty fast, because he's just a cool guy and he's not socially demanding. Sharing me with a grown-up, though, was a totally different thing than sharing me with a baby. Daphne has no experience with babies, except for the noisy ones we encounter in public. Because of those, she is not impressed.

Daphne does not know what will happen when the baby comes. She has had some anxiety about that, and somewhat recently, when James and I finally pulled some stuff out of her about it, we realized that she had unrealistic expectations regarding her personal responsibility for the care of the baby. We straightened that out, but she still truly has no idea what it's going to look like. Honestly, none of us knows exactly what to expect. The difference is that James and I are the parents and vaguely planned for this. Daphne is having it foisted upon her.

Ever since people have learned that I'm expecting, they have attempted to bring Daphne into the circle of excitement, and she patently refuses to join. I'm okay with that; she is allowed to feel how she feels. Other people don't seem to like it as much.

But if you love my daughter, would you do me a favor during the next month or so, and even after the birth? It would mean a lot to this momma who was just fine having only one kid because she's always been "enough."

1) Please just stop asking her if she's excited. She will tell you the truth, that she's not, and often people aren't sure how to respond and will say something like, "Aww, you MUST be excited." No, she must not.

2) Acknowledge her for herself as an individual, not a potential big sister. She has interests and likes to talk about fandoms and art and music. Not so much babies.

3) Don't tell her that she will change her mind once the baby is born. Again, this just invalidates to her how she feels. And I'm not saying that she's stubborn, but it does seem to reinforce her commitment to staying checked out of the whole thing.

4) Don't say the same thing to me in her presence, even if she's in the other room and you think she's not listening. She is. It comes off to her as condescending.

5) Daphne doesn't need to be "sold" on being a big sister. You don't have to tell her the benefits of having a little sibling, especially things like how the little will idolize her and want to be just like her. What she hears when you say that is, "This kid is going to follow you around, stick to you like glue, watch everything you do, tear up your room," etc.

6) After the baby is born, please ask Daphne questions about herself and her life and her art and her "stuff." Don't make all of the questions about how it's going with a baby in the house.

Daphne has some anxiety associated with the arrival of a sibling. I am confident that it's all going to calm down and be fine, but there's really no way to prepare Daphne for it; she's just going to have to experience it. And having so many people trying to "help" her just reinforces that a huge shake-up is around the bend, and adds to her dread.

My sweet Mema used to be very stressed out by the knowledge that other people weren't happy happy happy, and she tried to make sure they were, even when it meant ignoring their reality. I'm completely chill with the way things are, and don't think Daphne's attitude is something to be "fixed." I've struggled much less graciously against unwanted change in my life. If we can all just cut the kid some slack and let her be herself where she is right now, I think that would help a lot.

Also, if you want to pray with me that she'll make at least one close friend when she starts Monday classes this fall, I'd appreciate it! Our "time out" from extra-curricular activities has made her very comfortable with being alone, to the point that she'd rather associate with online friends than real-world present people most of the time. I get this; I really do. But I'd love for her to have someone here she can talk to and hang out with on occasion. She had made a potentially good friend in BSF, but sadly she had to move last spring. Daphne misses her a lot. It's exhausting starting over with a new person. That is one thing I understand completely.

Thanks for loving my girl! I surely do.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Why Do People Keep Saying That I Need a Shower??

Over the past few months, I've had several people either ask if/when we're having a baby shower or offer to host one. That's so awesome, and I appreciate everyone's care and interest, but James and I decided early on that we're a mature, currently-financially-stable couple who can afford to buy our own baby stuff.

This is not to say that we haven't been hugely blessed by the generosity of others, because we have. There are so many things people have given us or offered to give us (that we had to turn down in the interest of space): clothes, blankets, a crib, books, toys, bath stuff, and even a breast pump!

At this point, we have pretty much everything that we need. But for you who have asked how you can help, here are a few more ideas:

1) If you're one of those people who really loves to make a beautiful diaper "cake," you could try your hand at making a toilet paper roll "cake." We have cloth diapers, and already bought a couple of packages of disposable for the first week or so, so we're set on that. But it feels like I'm running to CVS for toilet paper all of the time. We don't have a lot of room around here for storage, so if you wanted to make a showpiece out of TP, I could leave it out somewhere and that would save me a lot of time going to the store. We have the same issue with cat litter, but I'm not sure how bringing bags of that over would sate your crafty bent.

2) Find us a diaper genie. I don't mean the plastic canister system where you keep the dirties. I am talking a literal magic genie who will blink dirty diapers rinsed, washed, dried, hung in the sun to disinfect, and neatly folded back into piles for use immediately. Actually, the magic here is negotiable. As long as it gets done, I won't be too picky. But I'd prefer either a male genie or a matronly one, because my post-pregnancy hormones don't need the stress of a bikini-topped see-through-harem-pants-clad temptress floating around the house when James is home from work.

3) Back to the diaper cake: You could make or order a real cake to look like a fake diaper cake. Not trying to beat a dead horse here, but I do love me some cake.

4) James' two cents: Bring liquor. Lots of it.

5) We know we have several friends who are dripping in cash, and if that's you, there's this great little house we're looking at near the Mueller development that you could buy for us. Also, we'd love for you to add on a second bathroom before we move in, and then arrange to have all of our stuff packed, moved, and unpacked. But we're not too concerned with the minutiae how all of this gets accomplished. If you want to do it, we'll leave all of the planning to you.

6) Follow this link and see if anything strikes your fancy.

This one is cake AND liquor, so it works for James AND for me!

Thanks to everyone who's been walking the past few months with us! We're nearing the finish line at last! (Ooh, now I want to go to Finland; I'll bet it's cooler there.)