Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Always surprised.

The momentous has happened: a stranger mentioned my pregnancy! And not in an is she or isn't she? kind of way. In a full on she is so damn pregnant I can say whatever I want while leaving NO room to backpedal shamelessly should her face turn red indicating FAT not PREGNANT kind of way. Wow!

I don't know why I was so shocked. Not only did I pee the second we arrived at the YMCA, once after I dropped Liam off at childcare, and then once more after I set up the equipment for my sculpt class (like ridiculous this peeing), I also happen to look like this:

Yay! You can see my belly AND I'm wearing clothes!

Still. I couldn't help but feel a little surprised. But, then again, I'm always a little surprised when people I don't know attempt to strike up a conversation with me. You can put a girl in the South but you can't necessarily put the South in a girl.

We were sitting there on our step benches waiting for class to start when she's all, "Were you in class last night?" I'm like, "Me? Oh. Um, no. I did a class during the day but not last night." "Oh," she says. "It must have been a different pregnant girl. I think it's great that you're still working out. Is this your first baby?"

Talk about bold! I mean, there's absolutely NO WAY she could take back a statement like that. I couldn't help but be impressed. And that was before she put away all my equipment at the end of class. You know, because of my delicate condition. Holy crap I love southern girls!

The first time a stranger remarked on my pregnancy with Liam, I almost passed out from an overdose of shock and social awkwardness. I was buying sinus medicine from Walgreen's which is to say I was getting a background check from a pharmacist who probably suspected I was a meth head. I was trying to look as clean and sober as possible - no scratching or sudden movements - and wondering why I always felt guilty in situations like this. I mean, wouldn't I know if I was planning to go home and cook meth with this stuff? Still, I couldn't help but feel nervous as I stood there waiting to either hand over my debit card or be arrested.

Suddenly the pharmacist glanced up at me sideways and asked, "What are you having?" I was completely caught off guard. What am I having? What does she mean, what am I having? Is this some kind of druggie code? What am I having? Having? Oh! Like what kind of symptoms am I having. Phew! "Um, uh, it''s just a little sinus headache." She looked at me hard. She still hadn't smiled. In fact, she was wearing absolutely no expression whatsoever. "No," she said flatly. "I meant your baby. What kind of baby are you having?"

I'd say I've come a long way in four years. I still couldn't pass as a southerner (the cutest, kindest, boldest girls on the PLANET!) but I'd say (potentially) getting a new gym buddy is a heck of a lot better than (practically) getting arrested for meth possession!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Food for thought.

Toward the end of my sophomore year of high school, my crazy biology teacher who used to make us carry around a toilet seat for a bathroom pass showed our class the film Diet for a New America. It was an expose of the negative health and environmental consequences of meat production and consumption as well as a look at the cruel treatment of animals in factory farms. It's based on the book by the same name and written by John Robbins, son of the co-founder of Baskin-Robbins.

This movie pretty much rocked my world. I went from never once thinking about where my sack lunch came from to having graphic images of slaughter seared into my impressionable young mind. As an animal lover, I was completely freaked out. There was no way I could eat meat after seeing such things. Even just thinking about it made me feel woozy.

But I was young and didn't do the grocery shopping or cooking so my approach to vegetarianism was somewhat less than stellar. Instead of swapping out "bad food" for "good food", I just stopped eating all the stuff that grossed me out. I used to joke that I wasn't so much a vegetarian as I was a breadetarian. And not a crunchy, healthy breadetarian; a plain bagels and white bread breadetarian.

I was having other problems with food at the time too, but looking back I almost wonder if more of my weight loss and waifishness had to do with me being malnourished than I gave it credit for. A growing girl cannot thrive on dry cereal alone!

But regardless, I kept my stance on meat for several years. Once in a while I would eat something meat-like yet unrecognizable like a plain McDonald's cheeseburger or one of those cheese filled hot dogs. It was easy enough to imagine those were something other than meat (although...gross), but anything that could be easily traced back to an animal was totally off limits.

It took about seven years but eventually the scenes from that movie began to fade from my consciousness and I made my way back to meat. Would you believe me if I told you a $7 stadium dog at a Sacramento Kings game put the final nail in the coffin? Soon after that Bill and I were regularly frequenting happy hour at Outback Steakhouse and giving the meat-heavy South Beach Diet a whirl.

I was still kind of a wimpy carnivore though and especially terrible when it came to cooking the stuff. Even though the chicken we bought (we rarely bought red meat) was barely recognizable as an actual bird (boneless, skinless, frozen...), I would still carve off about half the breast and give it to the dog. This piece looks veiny. This one has blood on it. This piece was touching the veiny, bloody part.

When it came to burgers though, I rarely had a problem. Since they're typically grilled, I never had to cook one myself (isn't that funny - if it's cooked on a grill, it's probably been cooked by a man), and restaurant burgers are pretty much good across the board (especially at Edgefield Sportsbar...). When I was pregnant with Liam, burgers were the only food that really tasted good that first trimester. I must have given in to cravings at least a few times a week.

Not long after I found out I was pregnant this time, I watched the movie Fast Food Nation on TV one night. Have you seen this flick? It's a fictionalized take on the book by Eric Schlosser (which I haven't read) and is about, among other things, a fast food company that discovers SHIT in their MEAT (their words, not mine). If I'm remembering the scene correctly (and please know that I'm heavily paraphrasing here), Bruce Willis is eating a big ol' shitty burger while explaining to Greg Kinnear that of course there's shit in the meat - there's no way around it with untrained workers and excessively fast factory lines - but that it's no big deal as long as you cook the meat.

Needless to say, I have yet to crave a single burger. (And actually get a little grossed out just thinking about them. Yes, even the ones from Edgefield!)

As if my world hadn't already been turned upside down enough (no burgers?!), I have since watched the documentary Food, Inc. and an Oprah episode about the documentary Food, Inc. featuring Michael Pollan (author of many books including The Botany of Desire which I've read, and Food Rules which I haven't) and Alicia Silverstone (Cher from Clueless, duh, and author of The Kind Diet).

Now, I don't know about you, but I am obviously very easily swayed by media. Not all media. I mean, I'm pretty sure I could spend a good chunk of time with Fox News without ever once thinking, Wow, that totally makes sense! But give me a well made documentary, an E! True Hollywood Story, a persuasive magazine article, a profile of an Olympic athlete...and I'm all over it.

So watching a great documentary about a subject that had already tugged at my heartstrings before and then following it up with an Oprah episode (she recently got me crying over freaking Celine Dion, okay?) was like a one-two sucker punch right in the gut. I am face down on the mat, gasping for breath, cartoon stars swirling around my head, wondering, What the heck am I supposed to eat now?

T. K. O.

So I picked up The Kind Diet and started reading. As it turns out, that Cher is a pretty good little writer! (You just never know with celebrity authors...) The book offers lots of information about "kind foods" vs "nasty foods" with thoughtful reasoning behind why it's better to choose kind. And it's not just a bunch of Cows have feelings too, you know. There is some of that, of course, but there are also strong health and environmental arguments. Like, did you know it takes as much water as you would use in six months worth of showers to make one 16 oz steak? Even if every last one of us went mellow when it's yellow, it wouldn't begin to rival that!

Even though the Kind Diet is vegan (yikes!), it makes a lot of sense to me. Like, when you think about it, doesn't it seem kind of strange that we love another animals' milk so much? I mean, could you imagine drinking milk from a dog or a friend or even from your own mother? It seems crazy! Yet, that's exactly what we're doing with cows' milk. It's not made for us - it's made for baby cows. Maybe that's why it's linked to health problems ranging from allergies to cancer...

Facts aside though, I get really sad when I think about cutting dairy out of my life. Not milk so much (although I do love that one perfect cup of coffee in the morning), but cheese. Cheese! When I asked Bill what he thought about a vegan diet he said the only hard part about it would be me and my unnatural love for cheese. He says I act all sad and deprived when I don't have it. I could never eat meat again and not even notice. But cheese? Oh, cheese! I don't know if I'd call it unnatural but I do love me some cheese.


The other day I made a burrito without cheese (or sour cream!) and it was so much better than the burritos I usually make that I didn't feel sad or deprived. I felt elated! Stoked! Totally satisfied! It made me think I might actually be able to do this. At least most of the time. I never want to become one of those people no one can invite over for dinner. I figure since we cook and eat at home 90-95% of the time, we can focus on those meals and let the rest fall where they may. That way we can be a little healthier and a little greener without being loser social outcasts. At least that's the plan.

The best thing about this shift is how excited I feel about cooking. Cooking! We made a big Trader Joe's/Whole Foods run this weekend and I have put a delicious meal on the table every night since. That's huge for me! Since I didn't like cooking meat and dinner didn't seem like dinner without chicken, I would "forget" to make dinner more often than not. Now I look forward to cooking. I like that I can whip something special up quickly and I don't have to scrub my hands a million times while I cook (I was always paranoid about raw chicken germs). The food tastes great (and makes awesome leftovers) and it's a cinch to clean up. So far I'm thinking win-win-win!

I have to admit, I don't think just anyone could get me to consider a vegan diet. Michael Pollan is cool and all but he's no Alicia Silverstone. I mean, Clueless? Come on! That is like the movie for my generation. And when it comes to It Girls, she's It. Every boy I knew was in love with her and every girl I knew was kind of okay with that. And that's not the kind of thing that goes away. As Bill was flipping through the book checking out recipes the other day, he paused at a photo of Alicia Silverstone. "You know, I've always had a soft spot for her..." And I was totally okay with it. Especially if it means he'll keep doing some of the cooking.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hello, second trimester!

And hello, Gretchen!

Oh. Hello.

Isn't he/she/it cute? And so considerate, giving us a wave like that! This image was the very last one of the ultrasound. It was like, "Okay, bye you guys. See you at the 20 week!"

I started this post when we first got back from the ultrasound, roughly two weeks ago (crazy, right?). I was so excited to have seen my baby and wanted to share it's alien-cuteness with everyone right away. But as soon as I uploaded the pictures, I hesitated (I did this on Facebook too - started to upload and then hit cancel...somehow they posted anyway).

The whole reason for the 13 week ultrasound was to screen for risk for Down's Syndrome and other genetic disorders. Even though there was no real reason for me to get the test (I'm not of "advanced maternal age", we don't have a family history, etc.), I still felt like I may as well wait until we had been given the all-clear before posting my pics for all to see.

I probably wouldn't have even thought about this had we been paired with an ultrasound tech who had any clue how to be around people, but she was socially awkward and unpleasant and conducted the ultrasound in a way that made us go from, "Yay! We get to see our baby!" to "WTF?! Is something wrong?" I mean, she didn't even bat an eye when she finally got the baby to wake up and move (evidently my babies are chilled out from the get-go) and Liam shouted, "You did it, Gretchen! We're so proud of you!" You've got to have a heart of stone not to swoon at that!

And this...

I mean, I know it's grainy and sort of creepy but I have to say, I think Gretchen is really, really cute. And every time I see this picture hanging on my fridge, I get a wonderful feeling like, "Hey...I know you." It makes me smile just thinking about it.

And speaking of "it" - I cannot wait to find out if I'm having a boy or a girl! Before I got pregnant, I was really hoping I'd have another boy. I love having a son and feel like Liam has made me an old pro at raising boys (at least the 0-4 variety). That, and I have a whole basement full of hand-me-downs! But with all of Liam's insistence that I'm growing him a little sister named Gretchen, I've started to hope it really is a girl. Needless to say, I'd be perfectly happy either way, I just want to know! I meet with my midwife next week and at that time I'm guessing we'll schedule the big anatomy check.

This pregnancy feels like it's going by really fast. I'm already at 15 (and six days, but who's counting) weeks and have both my feet firmly planted in the 2nd trimester. Sometimes I feel like I must be at least six months by now (like when I catch myself um, waddling) and other times I almost forget that I'm pregnant at all.

Fortunately, I have plenty of little reminders throughout the day that let me know without a doubt that I am: the sciatica on my right leg that sometimes disappears completely and then pops up on my left leg before disappearing again; the belly that, depending on what I'm wearing and what I've eaten the night before, hovers somewhere between Normal but Bloated and Look out Octomom! (I'd show you comparison photos but the one that best illustrates the hugeness - the morning after Bill's birthday enchiladas and brownies - is of me in nothing but my bra and one needs to see that); the aforementioned waddling (wtf?!); and the TIREDNESS.

Oh, the tiredness. Like, I don't even know if tiredness is a word but I'm too tired to look it up or try harder kind of tiredness. Most days I can make it until about 5:30 but then I'm completely DONE. If I've managed to cook dinner by then (unlikely), I can usually manage to eat but that's about it. If I haven't cooked, I just have to shrug my shoulders from my spot on the couch and thank God I got one of the good husbands who not only enjoys cooking but is really, really good at it. As soon as I've finished dinner, I have to excuse myself to go watch some TV (this is really just a way to avoid going to bed before Liam - even though it would be a lot more comfortable than falling asleep on the couch every night).

The other night I was laying there in my TV-coma when a friend stopped by to see if Bill wanted to go to another friends' down the street. Liam was still awake but it was time for him to go to bed. As Bill walked out the door he asked sort of half joking, "You got this?" I didn't even hesitate or take my eyes off the screen. "Nope." He kind of laughed. "Really? You can't get Liam to bed tonight?" "Huh-uh. He can just stay up until you get home to do it. He'll be fine." There was no way I was getting off that couch. Not even to waddle 15 feet down the hall, collapse in Liam's bed and read him a couple stories. I just didn't have it in me.

(Does that help explain why else this post took me 2 weeks to finish? By the way, Gretchen looked perfectly normal and healthy!).

(And yeah, unfortunately, that's the end of this post. I'm sorry - it's just all I've got in me right now. I mean it's been dark for like a few hours already. I'm amazed I've been this coherent...)

(Night, night.)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Who dat?

I'm kind of a big Super Bowl fan. Not for the football, per se, but for all the other stuff that makes Super Bowl Sunday unlike any other day of the year. I mean, when else does a 40 ouncer of cheap beer seem like the obvious beverage of choice? I like to think I have one every year (except for in 2006 when I skipped the 40 and went straight for the epidural) but the truth is I probably like the idea of a 40 more than the actual 40 (who wants to drink 30+ ounces of warm beer?). Since this year I couldn't even talk the talk, I had no choice but to appreciate the other fine points of this great American tradition. As it turns out, this was the year to do so.

We went to our friends' house where the snack food ran rampant. On Super Bowl Sunday you expect such guilty pleasures as Original Ruffles and French Onion Dip, but I never saw the soft pretzels coming. Who dat?! By then we were all full on home-made Jambalaya (Saints fans in the house!), but who's gonna turn down a soft pretzel? I, for one, was glad I didn't fill up on beer.

Water. Tastes great! Less filling!

While I usually enjoy watching the Super Bowl for the commercials (novelty for a Tivo user) and the halftime show (who doesn't appreciate a good wardrobe malfunction?), this year I actually got into the game itself. If you had been with us, you wouldn't have been able to help yourself either. Our friend Sean is a HUGE Saints fan and understands football in a way I never will. Had he not been yelling (for most of the night), "An onside kick! They started the second half with a fucking onside kick!" (at which point we'd motion toward Liam like, Dude, earmuffs...), I would have thought that crazy-short kick was a mistake. I mean, didn't it look like one? But nope, I know for sure it was intentional. That onside kick was the game changer.

After that, we all regularly jumped to our feet to high five while chanting (3 times, very loudly): Who dat? Who dat? Who dat saying they gonna beat them Saints? Even Liam got into it. After one particularly rowdy celebration, I sat back down next to him and he said, "You know what I do when you guys do something I don't want to do? I do it anyway." Then he started yelling, "Who dat?!" and jumping on the couch.

When the game was over and the Saints had won, the real celebration began. Out of nowhere Saints-themed music came on and we instinctively started a 2nd line parade around the house.


Liam loves a parade so he was sort of in heaven. In fact, he didn't stop parading until we stuck him in his jacket and carried him off to the car to go home. If there's music and a festive umbrella, why not keep marching?


So even though I couldn't drink beer and the commercials were boring and the halftime show left me going, "What dat?", I have to say this was my favorite Super Bowl Sunday ever. Even better than the one when Liam was born? Come on, that's not fair. You know there's nothing that will ever compare to that day, EVER. But what sounds more fun to you: childbirth or a spontaneous snack food-fueled parade led by that very same child? You don't have to answer. But I think I'll leave it at that.

Four years, three days (or better late than never).

A photo slide show from this incredible year with our amazing Liam. Happy fourth birthday, little man!

Song: Sweet Ride by Courtney Jaye. Thank you Miss Courtney for providing the soundtrack to our lives!

(PS - I don't know why the audio is a little weird. If I can ever figure out how to fix it, I will repost.)