Monday, July 02, 2012


For the first time, I'm feeling quite 7 1/2 months pregnant.

We had a very busy weekend. A late drive to Anderson, an early drive to Fort Wayne, and a late drive home; a wedding and reception with dancing; an un-air-conditioned church service; and an afternoon spent swimming, followed by a freak noodle water-cannon accident and near-drowning (on my part) was all enough to make me feel utterly exhausted. Add in that Helen has discovered that she can press on my ribs and my bladder, AND kick my kidneys all at the same time, and you'll understand why I'm not wanting to do more than lay around, watching movies today. Knowing that the air outside is humid and almost 90 and that we're expecting/hoping for storms isn't giving me any incentive to leave the apartment. Blah.

EDIT: I take it back. There is something that I want to do besides lay around, watching movies. I want to eat ice-cream, which is very much not allowed. Dangit.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Shift in the Division of Labor

As my mother could tell you, I've never really liked cooking. Baking is great fun, and helping out while someone else cooks is no trouble at all. But tell me to make dinner and I panic. The stakes are just too high! If I mess something up, not only does it mean that perfectly good ingredients have been needlessly sacrificed, but meanwhile tempus has fugit-ed and the original problem remains: stomachs are empty and must be filled. With Kraft mac 'n cheese, now.

Not to sound silly, but this was one of my primary worries going into marriage. Possibly my only worry, actually. I want so very desperately to be a good housewife and that requires cooking for my husband. The fact that my husband is, himself, a really good intuitive cook, doesn't help matters any. If he were just some schlub who would be satisfied with a weekly rotation of casserole/pasta-of-the-day, I could be lazy....

These past 10 months, I've been spoiled. Evan likes cooking and, during the school year, doing so provided a semi-legitimate excuse for him to avoid homework. And since I was "working" all day, watching babies, I felt fine with him taking over (particularly during my first trimester). A win-win situation! Now, however, Evan is at work all day and I swan around the apartment with nothing to do but amuse myself and wonder, "Will this child ever vacate my rib cage??" And now, add making dinner to that short list.

Here's the marvelous, shocking part of it all: it turns out that I LOVE cooking for my husband. Really. This, despite the fact that my new, temporary, diabetic diet is more challenging to work with, mainly because I can't default to pasta or some-sort-of-legume-over-rice. It requires slightly more forethought and balancing. I still get nervous that things won't turn out (that being particularly true when Evan gets home and wants to know what's going on in the kitchen) and I know not everything comes out as well as it would if, say, my mother had made it. But--another shocker--I'm getting better with practice. And there's absolutely nothing like the feeling when my husband says that something I made (by myself) tastes good.

(Also: this recipe is a winner.)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Those silly boys....

One of the biggest problems with this whole, "being married and living in Wisconsin" thing--right up there with the still-frequent, "I want my mommy!" moments--is that I miss my little brothers like crazy.

I know, I'm weird.

The last 15 years, or so--since we started homeschooling, really--we've been bizarrely, freakishly close. Of course, various combinations of the four of us went through times when we fought like young animals, but we were each others' primary (or only) playmates and that didn't really change as we grew up.

I won't say much more, because I'm pregnant and cry very easily, but I've been thinking about them a lot lately.

Our good friends, the Becks, came up for a visit yesterday. We met them when Patrick and Mary Clare were in the same dreadful kindergarten class, and MC was the only child who was nice enough to deserve to be friends with my little brother. Even at that time, in the depths of my too-cool-for-anything, snotty, 3rd-grader-ness, I latched on to MC as the little sister my parents refused to give me. The Becks decided to homeschool not too long after we did, and for the next few years the five of us had tea parties and played dress-up and watched musicals together. Even though contact was always more sporadic after we moved, we've stayed close, and Mary was one of my bridesmaids.

All that to say that, while we were sitting at lunch yesterday, Jim, Jane, and Mary were all anxious to hear how my brothers are doing and what they are up to. And they were suitably distraught over the passage of time and the transformation of those silly little boys into full-grown adult and might-as-well-be-adult men. There was not much woe over Patrick being nearly finished (right?) with college, perhaps because he and MC are the same age and thus allowed to grow up in tandem, or perhaps because Patrick has always seemed so much older than he really is. He's my buddy and is allowed to lag just a little bit behind me in the growing-up process. Jane was, however, nearly reduced to tears at the thought of little Jonathan--"sweet Jon-Jon with with his cheeks and 'bad guys'"--being old enough to start college. I have to agree with her, there. My little brother is eternally about nine years old, in my mind, even when I have to deal with his gargantuan grown-up self in person. Talking about Andrew may have gotten the best reaction, though. When the kid was 5, Jim asked him if he returned to his planet at night, and we've joked about that ever since. I told them about him being away at Christ Academy for a couple weeks and all that entails, about how he's going to start taking college courses, about how he is the most cheerful helper to my mother and essentially runs the kitchen and laundry at home.... "Andrew?" Jim asks. "The little one, right? The one who was basically an alien?" Yes, that Andrew. He's still from another planet, but at least now he knows he can't really fly.

Aaaaand, cue tears. I blame the baby.

Friday, June 22, 2012

You're welcome?

On my way home from the pharmacy this morning, some guy came up and thanked me for keeping my baby.

I may have given him a slightly blank stare. Not because I was a little surprised and alarmed at having a strange man approach me (I was), and not because he had a phenomenal mustache and was wearing a crazy Hawaiian shirt (he was). It was simply for the reason that, as a simple day to day matter, I often forget there is any option other than keeping a baby. I keep my Helen like I keep my husband and my parents. You might as well thank me for keeping my little brothers (although, come to think of it, maybe my mother should thank me for keeping them).

I have to admit to a bit of intellectual cowardice, here, in that I try not to think about the reality of abortion. Ever since we found out about our baby, and particularly as she has gotten more and more active and assertive, I just can't think about it. It makes me feel physically ill and more than a little overly emotional and upset. Blame the hormones, but I just can't take it, for now.

Come to think of it, the guy with the mustache should be relieved that a blank stare was all he got. The alternative was crazy pregnant-lady tears.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Chicken Couscous

One of the happier outcomes of yesterday's meeting with a dietician was finding out that I can, indeed, still eat some carbs, provided I control the portions carefully. Armed with that information, I decided to try the following recipe, courtesy of Mark Bittman's brilliant, "How to Cook Everything."

(It speaks well of the recipe that I cooked it and my husband's first reaction was still, "Oh, that's delicious.")

Chicken Couscous
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 - 2 lbs chicken thighs (I used bone-in*, so we ended up with slightly less meat)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion, chopped
3 T chopped garlic
2 3" cinnamon sticks OR 1 t ground cinnamon
2 t ground coriander
1 t ground cumin
2 c stock or water (I used veggie stock, because we have it coming out our ears, here)
1/2 c raisins (a.k.a. dead grapes. I used golden, because they are almost edible)
pinch saffron threads (if you're made of money, otherwise fine to skip)
1/4 c chopped fresh mint leaves OR 1 T dried mint
1 c couscous

1) Heat oil in saucepan over med-high heat. Add chicken and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until browned, stirring occasionally. (I'd like to tell you how long this took, but I can't.) Drain excess fat, add the onion and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic, cinnamon, coriander, and cumin and cook for another minute.

2) Pour in the stock, add the raisins and saffron, add another sprinkle of salt and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low so that it bubbles "steadily but not violently." Cook, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes.

3) Stir in mint and couscous, cover, and turn off heat. Let sit for 5-7 minutes without disturbing (no peeking!). Taste, adjust seasoning (it will probably need more salt), and serve.

As my husband said, this could be adapted in so many different ways, with other meats and seasonings. I'm just thrilled that I made couscous and it turned out, not just edible, but tasty!
*Never again. My foodie husband is completely unequipped to deal with bone-in chicken and leaves at least half the meat on the bones. And he knows it. I may have to speak with his mother about this character flaw. Anyway, it's boneless thighs from here on out, unless he experiences a change of...whatever.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Truths Discovered While Moving

I'm just now recovering from one very intense weekend.

1) Moving is crazy and takes far longer than it should.
Seriously. Even having taken three very full carloads of stuff to the new apartment a couple weeks back, we had too much left to move. I had no idea our nice, uncluttered two-bedroom apartment could hold so much crap. Apparently the people at UHaul didn't know either, because the truck size they suggested was slightly inadequate. In addition, the aforementioned crap took much longer to load than expected. Hours more. Exhausting hours more.

2) Last-minute helpers are WONDERFUL people.
When we realized that the two of us were not going to be able to finish loading in a timely manner, and that not all of our things were going to fit into our 14' truck, Evan's brother Peter (and his van) came to our rescue. Besides being another non-pregnant pair of hands, he provided a definite morale boost. Even with his help, however, as late-afternoon wore away, we were running short on time to make the drive to the storage unit in Waukesha, unload there, drive to Milwaukee, and unload the rest of our things. Peter called his wife, Marsha, to come help. I had the idea of calling our dear friends, the Gehlbachs, to see if their son Andrew was available to help with the unloading. He wasn't, but we got Pastor, Susan, Maggie, and a friend instead. They helped us completely fill our storage unit, and Pastor Gehlbach, Susan, Peter, and Marsha stuck around until 11:00 p.m. to finish unloading at the apartment downtown. There aren't enough ways to say thank you to them.

3) "You're not a Russian peasant woman, giving birth out in the fields. You need to take it easy."
I'm not good at taking it easy or holding back when other people are hard at work. Right or wrong, it makes me feel uncomfortably guilty. It happened last Summer when my family was working on destruction and remodeling at the new house; as long as my brothers were going, I was going to keep going, too. That's great when you're just a twenty-something girl in fairly good shape who can deal with waking up with sore muscles. When you're that same twenty-something girl AND seven months pregnant, however.... Let me just say that getting up for church Sunday morning was one of the more difficult things I've done in a long time, matched only by pulling myself out of bed Monday morning. Swollen and sore feet, back ache, arms 3x heavier than they should be, and general crabbiness and shortness of temper are just a few of the delightful side-effects from which I'm finally recovering. And we get to do it all again in just over two months. Two weeks before my due date. But that's what my brothers are for.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Thursday Night Fun

During the school year, every Thursday evening was set aside for the MBA students (and hangers-on) to meet up at a set location for drinks and visiting. Evan and I almost never missed, even after we found out about baby Helen. (Matching a bunch of grad students drink-for-drink with water is a good way to stay fully hydrated. Or die of water poisoning.) This being Wisconsin, no one looks twice at a visibly pregnant woman in a bar, although Evan's classmates were constantly congratulating me on being "a trooper" and "such a good sport." Apparently, the ability to socialize without drinking makes me some sort of Superwoman. It was a great opportunity, though, to get to know the MBAs, particularly since I didn't have any acquaintances of my own in Madison.

Because there's a fairly good-sized group of MBA graduates, Summer interns, and incoming students in the downtown Milwaukee area, they decided to keep up the Thursday evening meet-ups. It's been nice to be able to just relax with the smaller group. Last night we ended up at the bar "Karma," which, as Evan said, looks like the sort of place favored by men wearing Ed Hardy shirts. It turned out to be a pretty dingy, cheesy place with a wait-staff apparently made of of young ladies chosen more for their looks than their ability to 1) remember what beers they have on tap, 2) take orders, 3) fulfill orders correctly, 4) divide up bills amongst a party, or 5) comprehend that this pregnant woman genuinely does not want a free absinthe shot and no amount of cajoling is going to make me take it. Now put on a real shirt, you floozie.

On the other hand, their menu looked really interesting. And it was only 4 blocks from our apartment. And they had trivia going on.