Saturday, August 2, 2014

Goodbye Without Leaving.2

Ah, Laurie Colwin, you are my best friend through big life changes, motherhood not excepting.

Geraldine's slightly detached, sarcastic approach to finding her vocation and to pregnancy and motherhood are just what the doctor ordered. It isn't exactly my approach (I'm sadly probably more like Geraldine's intensely anxious husband), but that's all the more reason that I find it delightful.

My favorite parts of the book:

"One afternoon I felt myself the victim of a woodpecker drilling for bugs in my pelvic bones. I reached for one of Johnny's birth books, which I consulted to see what my developing fetus looked like. It now looked like an actual baby, only small. A drilling sensation, it said, is usually the fetus having hiccoughs." (Colwin is exactly right: baby hiccups feel like a woodpecker drilling for bugs in my pelvic bones.)

When she kisses a European, as part of her attraction to Judaism and Catholicism and order: "I was sort of a blank slate and Leo was a school. I needed the experience of him. He would kiss me and I would turn into Hannah Arendt. I would definitely be a better person for it." (That may be precisely why I love Laurie Colwin: "He would kiss me and I would turn into Hannah Arendt" may be the best line ever.)

Goodbye Without Leaving previously here.

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Diary of Pregnancy

35 weeks: 

~ I'm convinced that Baby Leopard is going to arrive early, mostly because my maternity leave pay is less good if he arrives more than a week early. But also, the midwife thinks he's moving down a bit, which might be why my belly didn't measure any bigger at the last appointment. All I have to say is this baby better not arrive during NK's wedding, when Francisco is in LA! Because as much as I appreciate Stearns and my mother offering to be with me, I'm not sure it would work as well. 

~ We took a tour yesterday of the hospital that we'll be transferred to in the case that I need medical interventions in the birth. The very nice nurse who led the tour asked if I was using a particular birthing method or if I was just "winging it." That made me laugh really hard--yes, we're just winging it. (After 15 hours of classes, reading endless birth books, and practicing various relaxation methods, we're just going to wing it.)

~ Speaking of practicing various relaxation methods, here's a line from a relaxation script I just made Francisco read me: "Feel the deep relaxation of the left leg, from hip joint to the foot. Give your leg to the caress of gravity. Tell both legs: 'I love you. I honor you.'" I draw the line at telling my legs that I love them. Also spirit guides. I draw the line at those, too. 

~ Guys: Round ligament pain is no joke. 

~ We don't exactly have a nursery, just a nursery/guest bedroom. But I'm trying to make it baby-ready. I love these cards because they remind me of all the people who care for me and my son. And I can't wait to wrap him up in homemade blankets.

~ Francisco is obsessed with the baby, and he isn't even born. He loves talking to my stomach and then feeling the baby kick in response. I admit: I get a little jealous when he calls the baby, "Cutie," or anything that he also calls me. 

~ I'm nesting real hard. Poor Francisco couldn't figure out why I needed to go to Target. Not only did I need to go to Target, but I needed to buy most of the store. We're talking back-up toilet paper and tissues and toothpaste and floss and shampoo and soap. Anything I could conceivably run out of in the next three months during which I intend to stay locked up cozily in the house with the baby. 

Also, sadly, my nesting does not extend to me preparing and freezing healthy meals for our family, as it does for many women. Rather, I anxiously bought all of the unhealthy canned and boxed foods that I could imagine myself eating while I'm laid up with the kid--things like Chef Boyardee ravioli, an old favorite of mine, all the way to boxed macaroni and cheese, something I've eaten approximately twice in my life. It's like I'm preparing for the apocalypse or something. 

~ I am an Amazon Mom. This is a disturbing change in life status. (Also: it states clearly that fathers can join, too, so why isn't this called Amazon Parent?)

Thursday, July 31, 2014


One of the best parts of our new neighborhood is all the thrift stores. I found this sublime handmade tablecloth hidden in a pile in the back for $4.

Of course, I'm sure I'll be too wary of staining it to ever actually use it.

This is the rocking chair that I found for $12 when we first moved in. Now I just need to find some cushions. (Where does one find rocking chair cushions exactly?)

These cups turned out to be just what Francisco had been wanting to go with our pink pseudo-espresso maker (thanks Frankincense--we still use it!). Plus they were $2 each and made in Italy. The thrift store lady who checked us ooh-ed and aah-ed over them and said, "I can just picture the two of you drinking coffee out of demitasse cups in the morning." So cute.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Joys of Motherhood

When you're in a big life change, you realize its ubiquity: I remember when I had a big break-up realizing that every single song on the radio is about break-ups. Now, I'm realizing that everything in the world is about babies and childbirth.

I've actually been wanting to read this book for many years, ever since the title jumped out at me from a tottering pile at Capitol Hill books (and on every return visit, it seemed this book was still there). After several years of looking at it, I bought it (ironically, at a different used book store, where it was probably cheaper). Then, after several years of sitting on my shelf at home, I pulled it off. And, since I realized that I needed a break from reading birthing and caring-for-your-baby books, which have been my primary non-work reading for the past eight months, and are sometimes anxiety-inducing, I thought I'd read a novel about being a mother.

The Joys of Motherhood is fascinating and I devoured it in just a few days. Set in Nigeria in the 1930s and 40s, the novel traces the life of Nnu-Ego from her upbringing in a rural village to her adult life in a city colonized by the British. Beginning with Nnu-Ego's own birth to a proud mistress of a chief who is determined to give her father a male heir, the novel focuses on women's relationship to men, and particularly a woman's relationship to her sons. In the process, Buchi Emecheta meditates on tradition and the way in which it falters during the move from country to city.

The title is ironic--motherhood's joys and the traditional values that Nnu-Ego remains committed to, such as devotion to her husband and her family and her husband's family and to the gods--turn out to be somewhat empty. In fact, although her children bury her handsomely and although later generations sacrifice to her when they are barren, she never grants children to the barren. (It seems that this is her final commentary on bearing children--when they are all that you long for, when you hope that your investment in them will be repaid, you are left unsatisfied.)

Emecheta lets you into a culture that is very distant from contemporary Western culture, but lets you in with her own reserve and questioning. (It seems that Emecheta herself, after bearing her husband 5 children, left him due to abuse and raised her children by herself, funding her own education, and becoming a writer.) At the end, Nnu-Ego seems to most bemoan her lack of friends--that she has had little time for and put little effort into her own relationships, instead devoting everything to her family, which has not supported her in the way that she supported them (her husband leaves her finally; her two sons leave to pursue their education in America and don't write to her, nor do they support her financially, as was expected). Her life is a difficult one, particularly in adulthood, and there is no reward for her in the end.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


I like our new apartment in almost all the ways. The massive exception is the laundry facilities. I knew it was going to be a switch from a washer/dryer in my basement to one that uses quarters in someone else's basement, but I didn't know how bad it would be:

The basements at these apartment complexes get several inches of water in them after every rain. Somehow, I always end up doing laundry after a rainstorm. So I wade through the gross sitting water to even get to the machines (the first time I did this, I didn't see the water, as I was carrying laundry; I almost slipped on the slick tile floor and then I was upset/angry for the rest of the day--it's very scary to barely catch yourself from falling when there's someone else inside of you that you're trying to protect. That was, quite possibly, the most upsetting moment of my pregnancy thus far. I still get angry/upset when I think about it. I would have sued them to high heaven if anything happened to the baby. Actually, Sayers, my lawyer bff probably would have had to sue them.)

The laundry machines are small--compared to the normal-sized ones we used to have, it seems they fit only 2/3 of the amount of clothes. And the laundry machines are frequently broken: there are two washers and two dryers in the flooded basement; the one on the right leaves the clothes sopping wet after a wash; the one on the left is, today, utterly broken: it's sitting there half full of water. So I use the one on the right, and I wring the clothes out by hand.

The problem is that the dryers barely dry. On a good day, two cycles of drying will be sufficient. But when the washer doesn't ring the clothes out first, sometimes it's three cycles. (Plus, I dry half the clothes on drying racks on the porch, a fix that helps for now, but might not be effective in the middle of winter.)

Plus, whereas when we had free laundry in our own basement, Francisco and I found it most amenable to our marital bliss to each do our own laundry at the times we found it convenient (for him, it was sometimes late into the night). Now that we're using quarters for laundry and now that there's a baby on the way, I'm insisting that we combine our laundry. This means that there's just loads more to do (and the baby isn't even wearing clothes yet!). I'm not really sure that this insistence is in my interest, but I've won this battle, so there's no going back now.

I may give up and try a laundromat, which, of course, has its own issues.

Monday, July 28, 2014


Thinking about applying for jobs again is not fun. This line from an OK job ad, though, is great: "Subtext: You won’t have a coastal address, but your cosmopolitan tastes can be indulged."

Serpico and Dazed and Confused

Francisco and I finally made it out for our postponed anniversary dinner. We went to Serpico, a new-ish restaurant downtown, named for the chef. The cuisine was super fancy and creative with an Asian twist.

I mean, the super fanciness was a bit over-the-top at times. For instance, the lovely (but not so much to our tastes) soup above came out sans broth. The waiter then poured the broth over the artistic arrangement of vegetables and then added four drops of "house-made mustard oil." I almost laughed.

They are very earnest. And it's ironic that while the waitstaff are all hipsters or at least are dressed up exactly like some over-the-top hipsters, most hipsters can't really afford this restaurant.

Our ability to order was sadly a bit restrained by the fact that I can't eat raw food at the moment--there are a lot of raw foods on the menu that people rave about on yelp. Francisco really liked the deep fried duck leg (although he wished that there were more), and I really loved the corn ravioli (it was sweet and perfect), and we both loved the beef short ribs and broccoli (the short ribs came without the actual ribs, which really made me happy). And some things, like the beautiful soup and the wax beans and squid salad or the hash brown potatoes served with the meat were just ok. Which is to say, for a fancy restaurant, I thought it was slightly spotty, although every dish was imaginative and interesting and almost all of them were some combination I've never had before. For dessert, for instance, we had goat cheese sorbet, served on top of rhubarb pieces, mint pieces, pistachio pieces, and a crumble. Craziness, but good.

After dinner, we did one of my favorite, quintessentially summer activities: an outdoor movie. We went up to a park in Northern Liberties to see Dazed and Confused. In Northern Liberties you can, appropriately, see the movie with a little second-hand pot scent drifting by.

Dazed and Confused is the anti-Friday Night Lights: it's set in Austin, but football is not the world for these kids, it's just something to do while they're stuck in high school, perhaps something that will help them get laid. The film shows just shows a brief time in the lives of these teenagers--an afternoon and night-long party--the last day of school and the hazing and celebrations that follow it.

(As a side note: I'm very impressed with myself at 35 weeks pregnant for making it through an outdoor movie just sitting on a blanket on the ground.)

Dazed and Confused was pretty good--it was entertaining and intriguing at the beginning, but might have tapered off a bit at the end--just like staying at a party till dawn often does (that or the hard ground just got to me). The music and energy were great. (I think I'm just not that into high school movies since I barely went to high school and didn't really have the high school experience in the way that movies portray it. I guess I came of age much later in graduate school, and there isn't a coming-of-age-in-grad-school genre.)

Dazed and Confused is directed by Richard Linklater, who did Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight. And I guess he has a new one out--Boyhood--which it seems we're going to go see as part of the great effort to do all the things that we like to do before the baby comes and we never go outside again.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Random Assortment

~ I love this story of the Statue of Liberty of the Susquehanna.

~ The tiny handmade books of the Brontes.

~ Is pregnancy or is this the cutest nursery decoration ever?

~ On Geel, a town in Belgium in which there is an ancient tradition of caring for people with mental illness in the homes of the townspeople. This began as a Christian pilgrimage site that evolved into a place of continuing care; the article is pretty interesting both as a summary and as a Tocquevillian analysis. For instance:

At the same time, Geel’s story does suggest that psychiatry’s role could be limited, perhaps dramatically so: not at the centre of mental healthcare but on its periphery, as a backstop to the community. In an ideal world, might not the modern psychiatric clinic shrink back towards the size of the 19th-century hospital: a discreet ‘inside’, as remote from the majority of patients’ lives as possible?...
The boarder who celebrated 50 years in residence is by no means exceptional: another, recently deceased at the age of 100, had spent 80 years with the same family, in the care of successive generations to whom she had been first like a daughter, then a sister and finally an aunt.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Diary of Pregnancy

33 weeks:

~ We had some baby robins on our neighbor's back porch. They've flown away now, but when they were around they chirped eagerly for food, throwing their heads back like they were ready to eat anytime. They awakened my mothering instincts--it took all my self control not to bring them water (it was so hot). And now that they're gone and the empty nest is still out there, I feel like I observed in a matter of weeks what will take Baby Leopard 18 years--they went from utterly dependent and flightless to gone. (Francisco loved them, too--he now wonders if every robin he sees is one of our robins grown up.)

~ More baby shower thoughts: I've been to about a million baby showers in my life, especially at the church I grew up in when I was young. I never liked them very much--I found it mind-numbingly boring as a child to watch people open gifts, and I didn't really like any baby shower games. When I found out we were expecting, though, I realized that I did want a party to celebrate the baby. And, after having my very own baby shower, I realized what an important community function they serve--they are a show of care and support from family and friends as you enter a new phase of life. They let you know that your baby is being born into a community that cares for it already, and they let you know that when you need help, those people will be there to help you. Plus, they are a great picture of continuity: I remember looking at pictures of my mother's baby shower before I was born, and several of my great aunts and relatives were present at both my mother's shower and mine. I feel ever so grateful that even though I moved away from my hometown a dozen years ago, I still have such wonderful family and friends there.

~ We went to our first birthing class. It both gave us lots of information, which is helpful, and let us know what we're in for, which is anxiety-inducing. All I can think of now is labor and wondering how I'll handle it. And wondering which of these seemingly hokey relaxation techniques could possibly help me!

~ Speaking of labor, the mass readings this week made me think of it even more. From Romans 8:
18I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
This made me think--the pains of childbirth were Eve's curse for sin, and Adam's was pain and effort in tilling the soil. Of course, pain and effort in tilling the soil now often applies to women, too. And, funnily enough, we now force/allow men to accompany us into the delivery room, so they get to join us in the pains of childbirth.

~ I tell my husband everyday how thin he looks. My mother and sisters look way thinner too. I wonder if part of it is that I'm getting thicker.

~ Birth Reborn by Michel Odent. Oh my--what a hippy, crunchy book. Written in the mid-80s, the main idea is to feel free to go with your instincts during childbirth. He criticizes Lamaze breathing methods for trying to control women, arguing that they automatically know within themselves what to do if they just let it out. Including all the screams. All of the naked birthing pictures in this book are pretty entertaining.

~ I'm having Braxton Hicks contractions (the fake ones that are your body getting ready for the real ones). I've abandoned my wedding ring (it still fits, but is tight at the end of a hot day).

34 weeks:

~ I joined the pool a couple of blocks from my house--so it's me and a bunch of little kids in the water, but I don't care because being in the water is basically the only place I feel comfortable now. Plus, since I'm wet when I get out of the water, I can tolerate being outside, which is a nice place to be in the summer. I've also taken up a bit of letter writing again, which is pure bliss.

Monday, July 14, 2014


I've said before here that I really hate paying for parking, right? I avoid it at all costs. Today, Francisco went to our yearly doctor's appointment (to get the whooping cough vaccine) and we had to pay $4.00 to park for an hour and a half at the hospital. (And there was no avoiding it because the hospital campus was far removed from any city streets or metered spots.) Ridiculous! I'm so glad I'm not giving birth there; I can't even imagine what parking for that would cost.

Also: turns out I'm a crunchy hippy girl who doctors hate. The doctor decided that we can do nothing for my back pain during pregnancy because he just wants to give me an MRI. Isn't it insane for the first step to be a thousands of dollars MRI when I'd just like to see a chiropractor?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Diary of Pregnancy

30 weeks:

~ I hadn't noticed any hormonal mood swings until I hit this week, and then I felt them intensely for a couple of days (update: ongoing; poor Francisco. At this point he knows that his main job is to buy me ice cream and he's done fabulously--we haven't run out yet).

~ I'm beginning to get uncomfortable--mostly my poor back. It always hurts when I write at my laptop for hours and hours on end, but now I have a paper deadline and a perpetually achy back. Not a good combination.

~ If I give birth to an ice cream cone, it will be my own darn fault.

~ I'm really grateful that I haven't had any trouble sleeping so far. This would be a terror for me--I love my sleep. In fact, I'm sleeping more than ever.

~ Baby hiccups: much faster than adult hiccups.

31 weeks:

~ There are two allowed sleeping positions: my left side and my right side. I feel like a rotisserie chicken, turning from one side to the other all night.

~ It's super weird to have a baby in there. Half the time, I feel like it's the greatest thing ever, and half the time I feel like it's that alien bug that's in Neo's abdomen in the Matrix.

32 weeks:

~ I think I'm nearing the point of discomfort. When I'm walking, it feels exactly like I have a 3-4 pound baby sitting directly on my bladder, which is more or less what's happening, as I understand it.

~ When I'm out and about in the heat I try not to look down at my ankles, because I'm scared of what I may (or may not find). It hasn't actually been bad yet, but you never know and you don't really want to see that.

~ In the never ending category of things I spend time being anxious about: What if he comes early and I'm not ready??

~ Gaining enough weight has been a constant source of stress this pregnancy. The midwives never seem worried, but that's probably because I eat like it's my job. Probably at the end of the summer the baby will come out at 10 pounds, and I'll feel very foolish for having worried. But right now, I worry. And what a conundrum: eating sometimes makes me actually ill, it often gives me heartburn, there's just not as much room in my stomach, and yet I have to do it. The time in life that I'm probably least interested in food is the time it's most necessary. Sigh.

~ The midwife at my most recent appointment literally suggested that I eat peanut butter crackers in the middle of the night. Francisco thinks that he would enjoy this; I do not.

~ Prenatal yoga is great--it makes me feel like my rapidly changing body is still mine and still strong.

33 weeks:

~ The Baby Shower. Mama Leopard, Ilana, Stearns and Gypsy threw a lovely shower for Baby McCrary. It was such a nice combination of relatives and old friends and reminded me how supported I am in this endeavor: I am very grateful. Tons of my gifts were such lovely handmade baby blankets, which I can't wait to use. It was a brunch and of course the food was amazing; Mama Leopard is quite a good cook (quiche and sausage casserole and blueberry and raspberry bread and black raspberry muffins and fruits and vegetables). And--best part--there were no baby shower games!

Saturday, July 12, 2014