Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Film Festival: Horror vs. Comedy

Can't Look Away

I have become a bit obsessed with horror movies since finally getting to visit the EMP Museum horror film exhibit. Curator Jacob McMurray has done a fantastic job, and video interviews and commentary from iconic filmmakers Roger Corman, John Landis, and Eli Roth are a real treat for a film nut who loves listening to other film nuts geek out about films they love. (Eli Roth's tale of seeing The Exorcist for the first time at eight years old is hilarious; he became convinced he would be possessed. His parents told him, "We're Jewish. We don't believe in possession," to which he replied, "I do!") It's a very cool exhibit, and if you're in the Seattle area, I recommend you check it out. Though not with your little ones, or your sensitive older ones for that matter. If you wouldn't take your children to see a contemporary horror film, stay out of the basement of EMP. (I love that the exhibit is in the basement.)

I don't consider myself a horror fan. Psycho is one of my top five favorite movies, but I think of it more as a suspense film than a horror film. In any case, I find myself suddenly wanting to watch a million horror movies. Or at least the classics. However, I can't shake the sense that to do so while pregnant would be a terrible idea. Subjecting my psyche to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Suspiria seems like asking for trouble, especially when I've been having plenty of nightmares on my own.

So instead of talking about a specific film, I want to discuss horror as a genre, and its connection to another, seemingly very different genre.

Horror Mask

While visiting the EMP exhibit, I watched a boy-girl couple watching a clip from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The scene was extremely gory without being gory (all of the actual gore was obscured by the film's framing), and as these two people watched, they were laughing. I was awestruck.

I have trouble imagining myself laughing at a horror movie; horror, to me, is the opposite of comedy. In fact, I'm surprised that the comedy-horror is as prevalent and popular as it is. In the car, I mentioned this to Rob, who I knew would have some interesting insight, as he is not only a comedy fan, but also writes funny stuff professionally.

"Well, comedy and horror work the same way," he began, and launched into a brilliant observation (that I wish I could give you verbatim) that comedy and horror both play with the audience's expectations. Both genres lead viewers in several directions at once, and when those paths cross, that's when the laugh (or the scream) happens. Both genres work with surprise appearances or disappearances; a person not being where he's supposed to be can be hilarious or terrifying, depending on the story.

I told him I still don't think horror—and gore in particular—can be funny. He argued that that was just an issue of aesthetics, which I can't deny. Rob also reminded me that horror-movie laughs may be an indication that things aren't funny at all: "Different people react to tension differently."

Nervous laughter aside, I'm interested that two genres can seem (to me) so opposite and incompatible while working on so many of the same principles. It makes me wonder whether horror and comedy serve a similar purpose for audiences. Neither genre is really interested in the status quo; in fact, both comedy and horror push against the status quo. The situations are often extreme and improbable. The bad guys and troublemakers aren't always punished at the end. (Sometimes we're even rooting for the troublemakers!)

Both horror and comedy films provide audiences with a safe space to experience and explore taboos. It stands to reason then that our reactions to these movies—whether we laugh, scream, or declare, "that's not okay!"—simply reveal to us our own moral-philosophical codes. (And, apparently, we really like this, because we keep going back to these genres!)

The question that remains for me centers on preference. I know many people who refuse to watch horror films, but I don't know a single person who doesn't like comedies. What does horror do that comedy doesn't? The thing that leaps immediately to mind for me is that in a horror film, death is a very real threat. When a character suffers in a comedy film, the suffering is usually temporary; a character suffering in a horror movie is probably in the process of dying. Perhaps death is the greatest taboo of all, and horror, as a genre, is just more willing to go there. Death is horror's livelihood.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Eleven Weeks

Eleven Weeks

I broke up with my pants this week. It wasn't just because of the holes. My jeans still fit, and they're relatively comfortable...until I sit down, which I do often, and then yeeouch. Looks like it'll be all high-waisted leggings and unitards, all the time for me. Until I get sick of feeling like I'm always either about to work out or go to bed, that is. (Unitards were my pajamas-of-choice last year. I just started wearing them out of the house this winter, first to yoga class, and then as an extra layer. Now, they're indispensable.) I want to put off wearing actual maternity clothes for as long as possible.

I'm still battling nausea, especially after 4:00 PM. I call it "evening sickness." I power through dinner, and then most nights I just lie on the couch, bloated and queasy until bedtime. But I'm starting to feel the tiniest bit more energetic. My back pain flare-up is calming down, and I even managed to exercise this weekend. Plodding along on the elliptical with an incline of zero hardly counts as "working out," but it's better than nothing.

After almost two weeks with no spotting, I woke up in the wee hours of Saturday morning to some reddish-brown blood. It stopped me dead in my tracks. I put on a mini cloth pad, drank some water, got back in bed, and started reciting some of my affirmations.

In daylight hours, affirmations seem silly. Mantra meditation makes me feel like a trapped animal, and inspirational quotes sound kind of smarmy when I read them. But at night, my mind is not a place I want to hang out in by myself. It's the worst part of town. So I wrote out some positive pregnancy affirmations, for when the psychic streetlights start flickering ominously and I'm pretty sure that guy walking towards me has a knife. Corny things like:

My body is strong and healthy.
My baby is safe and growing beautifully.
I have everything I need.

And the list goes on. It's so ridiculous. I'm completely embarrassed to be lying in bed (or driving, or waiting for a table at a restaurant, or wondering what that painful twinge was all about) and repeating shit like My cervix is doing exactly what it's supposed to do inside my head—but it helps. I stop imagining the worst, and start laughing at myself for being a New Age weirdo.

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Broad Points X

91. I love those X-ray aprons at the dentist's office. I wish they'd leave it on me for the whole appointment.

92. This is probably some sort of vegan blasphemy, but I really don't like hummus.

93. I have sung "Kumbaya" unironically.

94. I have a lot of empathy for newborn babies. They go from being all cozy inside a nice, stretchy uterus to being out where it's cold and there are bright lights and weird noises and people who mess with them. Sounds like zero fun to me.

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Westley, five days old.

95. I have a mental map of all the pay phones around town. There's an honest-to-goodness phone booth at a gas station a few miles from my house.

96. I'm a complete hair-styling dunce.

97. When I'm listening to music through earbud headphones, I imagine that the sound is somehow traveling into my organs.

98. No one I asked on a date ever accepted.

99. For the longest time, I wouldn't wear sunglasses ever. They just felt awkward and uncomfortable. At some point, I decided I was going to make an effort to wear them (as opposed to going around squinting all the time), and now I find myself wearing sunglasses even on gloomy days.

100. I'm kind of looking forward to being in my sixties.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Heartbeats and Holes

My appointment yesterday was encouraging.

The midwives chatted with the doctors, who'd suggested biweekly ultrasounds to monitor my cervix starting at 16 weeks. My actual cervix is fine, but my bicornuate uterus suggests I'm at risk for preterm labor. I had nothing even close to preterm labor with Westley; I practically had to evict him. In my mind, the uterine proof is in the baby pudding. But the doctors still want to check. My insides will be under surveillance soon.

The midwife and I talked a long time about spotting and cervical checks and viability. Finally, she said, "We probably won't be able to to hear the heartbeat today. You can't usually pick it up until after 11 weeks. But if you'd like—"

Why not?

As I arranged my jeans around my hips, I reminded myself that I was not allowed to be anxious if nothing came up on the doppler. It's officially too early. Just because you don't hear anything doesn't mean—

"There it is!"

I didn't hear it at first, but after a second, it was impossible to miss. Electronic galloping horses.

* * *

That evening, after filling Rob in on the details both thrilling (baby's heartbeat!) and not-so (cervix under surveillance), I discovered that my pants have started to quit.

Holes
Yes, that's my bright pink underwear you're seeing.

Two holes, one on the inside of each front belt-loop, forming in response to my soon-to-be-considerable girth.

Rob laughed. "I like that they're symmetrical."

Except that the hole on the left side, where the embryo implanted, is bigger.

(Rob suggested we call the baby "Girthy.")

.....................................

Oobleck

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There's been more kitchen science than usual going on around here. I blame the nasty weather and Westley's sudden interest in "doing science." I think it started in earnest at the Seattle Aquarium on New Year's day. The aquarists did a side-by-side dissection of a rockfish and a salmon to show the differences between the two. Afterwards, children (and adults) were invited to don a latex glove and inspect the fish and their organs. Westley was the first child to touch the fish innards and the last to leave.

This week I decided to introduce something a little easier (and more vegan) that I really enjoyed playing with in preschool: oobleck.

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If you've never made oobleck, or even if you have, and you have cornstarch in your pantry, I suggest you whip up a batch of this stuff as soon as possible. It's easier and (in my opinion) more fun than homemade play-dough, and it's really cool.

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Oobleck is simply 1 part water to 1.5-2 parts corn starch. Food coloring is optional, but a fun addition. I mixed up four little bowls of oobleck and let Westley choose the colors. We moved our "kitchen science" to the bathroom, so Westley could paint his masterpiece in non-Newtonian fluid.

<span class=
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We followed up this art-and-science project with a nice long bubble bath. Fun afternoon indoors, QED.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Film Festival: 'Back to the Future'

A few nights ago, Rob and I were lying in bed, disagreeing about what to name our fetus. Finally, I gave up. "That's it. We'll just name him after that kid we knew in high school." Of course, Rob and I didn't go to high school together, but he enjoyed the Back to the Future reference.

I'm a big fan of Back to the Future—or at least I was until this most recent viewing, when it really hit me how wrong this movie is. There is so much wrong! It's astounding, really.

A quick search of the Internet reassured me that I wasn't the only who'd noticed the horror: the racism, Biff's baffling transition from rapist in 1955 to jolly butler in 1985, Marty's apparent (to everyone else) insanity at the end of the film, when his memories don't match those of his entire family. I was both relieved and disappointed to discover that the folks at Cracked had already made all of the points I was going to make in this post. But they did theirs in video form.

[Why 'Back to the Future' Is Secretly Horrifying — thanks to Cracked.com]

I want to forgive Back to the Future for its awfulness because the premise is just so good. An honest-to-goodness mad scientist makes a time machine that sends a teenager back to 1955 where he interferes with his parents meeting, and if he doesn't get them together, he'll cease to exist. That sounds like an awesome movie! And it would be, except that the creepy things about it are just so creepy. I'm really having trouble getting past the rapist-turned-houseman thing. I mean, I had some guys do some not-so-nice things to me in high school, and I wouldn't want them waxing my car now.

Back to the Future's biggest redeeming feature is its cast. Christopher Lloyd is Doc Brown as far as I'm concerned. I have trouble seeing him in anything else, because Doc Brown is so cool, and I just want Christopher Lloyd to be Doc Brown all the time. I can't imagine anyone making George McFly as simultaneously bumbling and adorable as Crispin Glover does. But I especially love Lea Thompson as Lorraine. She's oddly vampy in places, like Marlene Dietrich in a Peter Pan collar and bobby socks.

.....................................

Monday, January 23, 2012

Ten Weeks

Ten Weeks

I must have been bloated last week. I'm barely bumpy, but everything still feels bigger. I'm also down a pound from last week. Bloat, yo.

Over the weekend, some of my pregnancy symptoms eased up. I was relieved for a minute; then I panicked. Then I remembered that I have doctor's orders not to worry. I went almost a whole day feeling tired-but-awesome before my back went out. (For no reason! I woke up in excruciating pain! Naturally, I suspect foul play.) This is the first flare-up I've had in months, and it's a doozy. I blame the fact that I've managed to exercise a whopping three times so far this winter. I also managed to catch a cold by standing out in the snow without enough clothes on from Westley (who caught it from Rob), so I am sore, sick, and still exhausted even after a full night's sleep.

Despite some physical discomforts, I'm feeling pretty good about this pregnancy. I go in for my next midwife appointment on Wednesday evening. I'll be very interested to hear what she has to say about Dr. K's recommendation of regular cervical checks and monthly ultrasounds. Rob and I already have two girl names and a handful of boy names that we're trying out. When we crawl into bed at night, I try to imagine a little swaddled bundle between us.

Ten Weeks

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Red Cabbage Sex Test

Chop Red Cabbage

A few weeks ago I learned about a simple test that you can do right around 10 weeks pregnant to determine whether you're having a boy or a girl. People call it the "red cabbage gender test," but it's really a sex test. Besides, all fetuses are androgynous.

(It drives me crazy when people use the words "sex" and "gender" interchangeably. Sex is a biological feature; gender is a cultural creation. Sex is the classification of people as male or female at birth, based on things like hormones, chromosomes, internal reproductive organs, and genitalia. Gender is the significance we assign to that biology—what it means if someone is a man or a woman [or a boy or a girl]. And even that's not entirely correct if you want to delve deep into gender studies.)

I don't put a lot of stock in tests and tricks that are supposed to determine the sex of a baby before it's born. According to most of those tests, Westley should have been a girl. So the red cabbage thing was just for fun. I was curious to see if it would agree with Westley's certainty that we're expecting a girl.

Add Water

Here's how it works:

1. Chop up half a head of red cabbage.
2. Put cabbage in a pot and cover with cold water.
3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
4. Drain the cabbage, reserving the water. The water will very purple.


Cabbage Water

(What you do with the cabbage at this point is completely up to you. I happen to enjoy cabbage, even when it's had the heck boiled out it it, so I ate mine. With homemade sweet 'n' sour sauce!)

5. Collect some pee from your chosen pregnant person.

Yes, the Red Cabbage Sex Test, like so many tests during pregnancy, involves urine. First-thing-in-the-morning pee is supposed to be best for this test. I used middle-of-the-night pee, because I'm an overachiever. And I don't mind leaving a (tightly sealed!) canning jar of pee under my bathroom sink for hours.

6. Mix equal amounts of urine and cabbage water in a clear container.
7. Observe. If the mixture is pink or red, you've got a boy on board. If the mixture is purple, you're in girl land.
Results

That's straight cabbage water on the left, and my test results on the right. Looks awfully purple to me! Which means red cabbage agrees with Westley: it's girl time.

When I asked Rob what color he thought the result was, he nodded at my pee container and the control and said, "Looks like those two mixed together." Super helpful. (Incidentally, my middle-of-the-night pee was neon yellow. If you're curious, there's a picture here.)

* * *

Since there were buckets of cabbage water left over, I decided to do a little kitchen science project to see what other pretty colors we could make.

Just for fun
Red cabbage water + baking soda = blue.
Red cabbage water + white vinegar = pink.

This amused Westley for about 20 minutes. We also made a vinegar-and-baking-soda volcano. Hooray for preschool science!

ED: We still had leftover cabbage water at the end of the day, so I convinced Rob to do the test also. His results were purpler than mine. In fact, there was almost no change in the color of the cabbage water at all. I was really hoping for something exciting, like florescent orange or forest green. Oh, well. I guess the reaction only works with pregnant pee.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Snowed In

Snow Day
Snow Day

We've been stuck in the house for three days. There have been a few brief excursions, the last of which ended with Rob not being able to get his car back up the driveway. The house is beginning to feel intolerably small (and impossibly messy). All of our normal haunts are closed. Everyone is CLOSED DUE TO INCLEMENT WEATHER. Further updates will be posted as available. Be safe and have fun in the snow!

Ice Wand
Ice Man

Except that playing in the snow is only fun for about 10 minutes. Then we're back inside the house, cold and wet, snapping at each other over living room clutter and bad kitchen smells. (I thought food and I were making up, but we had another falling out.)

My car is hibernating.
Snow-covered Lavender

It could be much worse. We have electricity while many people south of us do not. We live close to a main road, so getting to the grocery store hasn't been much trouble. We have fresh muffins and fuzzy boots and a wearable blanket-poncho that looks like a panda. I'm not sure we'd even be feeling this cabin-feverish except that pregnancy symptoms have made me quite the homebody these last few weeks.

Westley's preschool is closed again tomorrow, and I imagine many of our favorite spots will be too. I'm trying to come up with some new-and-exciting activities. Paper airplane races? Make oobleck? Test things with pH paper? Icicle sword fight?

Snow Boy
Snow Boy

Icicle sword fight. Definitely.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Adventures in Early Pregnancy Ultrasound

Ultrasound

I keep beginning to write about this morning's ultrasound, and I end up feeling lost. Everything looks lovely. Dr. K congratulated me about five times as she reviewed my images. "This is textbook normal," she declared, smiling. Because I've had spotting—some of it red and scary-looking—and because this little one is situated in the left side of my uterus (which has never housed a baby) Dr. K had some recommendations: regular cervical checks, monthly ultrasounds, and no "heavy lifting, strenuous exercise, or sexual activity" until I've gone a week with no spotting. She also told me not to worry.

I don't think I'm worried. I'm just...stunned, maybe? I'm not even sure what I'm feeling, and maybe that's where the idea of being lost is coming from. My mind is blank...and not.

The fetus struck me as very baby-like, which surprised me. In the 30 minutes we spent spying on it, the fetus jumped, hiccuped, and waved its tiny arms. I found myself desperate to know whether this little person is a boy or a girl. (Westley thinks girl, without question.)

Ultrasound
It's a good thing this one is labeled. Is that a storm cloud?

Hello, hello!

Everything about pregnancy has seemed incredibly fragile and temporary, until this morning. Last night I crawled into bed early, but found I couldn't sleep. I tried imagining my little passenger, but instead I found myself wondering if anyone was really there. This afternoon, lying down for a nap with my hand on my left side, I thought, You are a much wanted baby.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Nine Weeks

Pregnant or not, I have a round belly. It was there at 205 pounds, and, much to my frustration, still there at 135 pounds. But I'm starting to think the belly I've got now might actually be my body doing what the pregnancy-savvy folks call "showing."

9 Weeks

To be fair, this tunic has always made me look pregnant. However...

9 Weeks

...I think some of this belly might be fetus-related. Even though said fetus is the size of a grape.

In any case, I feel huge. Maybe it's because I've gone up a cup size and gained six pounds (kind of inevitable when you're munching all the time to keep queasiness at bay). Or maybe I'm just bracing myself for the hugeness to come.

This baby decided to implant on the left horn of my uterus. I find this very cool, because based on where I felt Westley's feet, he was clearly in the right side. As I said to Rob, "It's like they have their own rooms!" I'm surprised he didn't make a Womb of One's Own joke.

I don't want to say this too loudly, because I'm all kinds of superstitious about this pregnancy stuff now, but my spotting appears to have stopped. I'm still going to have a follow-up ultrasound to check things out, though. I'm trying to be optimistic while also steeling myself for a bad outcome. It's not an easy balancing act.

In the meantime, I'm a total mess of symptoms, much more so than when I was pregnant with Westley. My breasts are sore all the time. I have headaches, which is completely new to me; I'm not a headache-getter. And I can't seem to get enough sleep, no matter how early I get to bed and how late Rob lets me sleep in. Yesterday I took a two-hour nap without meaning to!

While looking through my jewelry box for an unoccupied chain, I found this tiny gold stork.

Stork Necklace

It was a Mother's Day gift to my mom thirty years ago, when she was pregnant with me.

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Broad Points VIII and IX

71. I don't understand the trend (obsession?) of filtering your digital photos to look like they were taken in the '70s.

72. I wish I lived on a hippie commune, just for the baby names. "These are my children, Meadow Hearthsong, Paisley Snapdragon, and Gratitude Starship."

73. Whenever I see a woman breastfeeding, I want to smile and give her the double thumbs-up, but I don't, because I worry about looking like a crazy person.

74. I love red bell peppers, yellow bell peppers, and orange bell peppers. But green bell peppers are kind of foul.

75. I always feel like I've gotten away with something when I see a street light turn on or off.

76. I'm still kind of surprised every time I realize Westley looks like me.

Birthday West

77. The smell of marijuana nauseates me.

78. I judge people who say "nauseous" when they mean "nauseated."

79. I used to bike to work every day. I haven't been on a bicycle in 11 years.

80. I love using public transportation, and often fantasize about moving to downtown Seattle, selling my car, and riding the bus everywhere.

81. Brushing my teeth makes me gag.

82. Before I die, I want to see as many "classic" movies in as many genres as possible.

83. I still wish Rob and I had chosen a new-to-both-of-us last name when we got married. (But how on Earth do you choose a new last name? We had a hard enough time naming Westley!)

84. I've tried playing guitar, and I find it completely awkward. I'm amazed that anyone masters that instrument.

85. Seriously. I'm not even any good on guitar in Rock Band.

86. As a child, I was completely obsessed with Bigfoot. Allegations that the Patterson-Gimlin film is a hoax still make me sad.


87. Whenever someone says, "This might get a little TMI," I think, Bring it on.

88. I'm self-conscious about my voice. Sometimes, if I know I'm being recorded, I'll try to speak in a slightly higher register so as so sound less dude-tastic and more lady-like.

89. Whenever I'm swallowing pills, I put my right hand on top of my head. I don't know what this is supposed to accomplish, but I can't stop doing it.

90. I have about 30 drafts on my Blogger dashboard at any given time. Some of them are from 2009.

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Self-Portrait at 29

Birthday Self

This year, for the very first time, I didn't expect to wake up on my birthday feeling different. In fact, my birthday was surprisingly uneventful, and with one very notable exception (the presence of my wonderful friends), a lot like a normal Saturday. We ate some not-so-healthy food. There was lots of sitting around. We watched a movie before bed.

I was a little disappointed that I didn't feel well enough for burlesque and coconut cream pie. And being queasy on your birthday in a non-alcohol-induced way is super lame. But I enjoyed not having any expectations of fanfare, and not feeling pressured to be celebrated.

"I'm happy to make you a cake," Rob offered, but I waved the idea away.

"It doesn't sound good. And sugar seems to make the nausea worse."

I realize now that it was a wonderful lesson in the joy of openly liking what I like. I don't like being the center of the celebration, and this year, because there was no real celebration, I didn't have to be. It's not how a birthday should be, but it's what I like.

It's my party, and I'll skip it if I want to.

I often wonder why it's so difficult for me to just like what I like without being embarrassed or wanting to change. I don't think I'm so shallow as to believe, as Nick Hornby's intimacy-phobic narrator says in High Fidelity, "It's what you like, not what you're like, that counts." Of course our personalities are more important than our personal aesthetics. Of course they are. But I still find myself wishing my preferences and desires were different from what they actually are.

I'm working on this. It seems like a strange thing to work on, but I'm stepping back, reflecting on my real likes and dislikes, and I've made quite a bit of headway since this time last year. I like champagne. I like knee-high boots. I dislike opening Christmas presents. I like going to visit friends, but I dislike traveling. I like recipes with downtime. I dislike birthday parties.

I'm very different from the person I was a year ago. I'm more like myself.

.....................................

Friday, January 13, 2012

Where Have I Been All Your Week?

Ultrasound

When I was pregnant with Westley, I had only one ultrasound, the traditional 20-week look-see. This time, given my history (and anxiety), I requested an early "dating and viability" scan, and I anticipate having at least two more ultrasounds. Even though it's just fancy picture-taking, this already feels like more intervention than I'd planned.

Last Friday I went in fully expecting to see something awful. I looked at ultrasound pictures of molar pregnancies online beforehand, because I wanted to be able to recognize the cluster-of-grapes tissue in black and white. Just in case. I also knew that the average fetal heartbeat at eight weeks was 175 BPM. Just in case.

I was anxious to the point of feeling like I was coming down with the flu. Rob was quiet and drawn in. Westley was soaking up all my nervous energy like a sponge and filtering into naughtiness. I gave Westley my camera to keep him occupied.

Ultrasound
Ultrasound

I was astonished when the ultrasound tech said, "There's your little one."

I saw a round head, oval body, little arm and leg bumps. And a tiny flutter. 172 BPM.

* * *

Boys

We went out to dinner. Rob had been cooking for me for three weeks straight, and he more than deserved a break. The guys chowed down on pot stickers and chicken-style seitan and lo mein. I ate sauteed mixed vegetables and imagined the nutrients flowing into my beating-heart-fetus.

* * *

I woke up on my birthday to house guests.

Rob had arranged for a visit from two of my best friends, and gone to collect them from the airport the night before while I slept. When I finally stumbled out into the living room, there was spare bedding and extra towels and conversation everywhere.

At brunch, it was like we'd never been apart.

Friends

As part of my efforts to 1.) manage my nausea with protein, and 2.) make up with soy, I ate tofu scramble. Westley devoured a waffle, but not before sharing little pieces of it with everyone at the table.

Tofu ScrambleEx-Tofu-Scramble
Waffles

That waffle turned out to be the closest thing I had to birthday cake. I spent the rest of the day being queasy on the couch.

"I'm sorry we can't really do anything," I kept apologizing to my friends, feeling like the hostess with the leastest.

"We came to hang out with you," they kept repeating.

We spent the rest of the weekend sitting around under blankets, gabbing.

* * *
On Monday, we harnessed a little energy, packed purchased a picnic, and headed for the zoo. Westley loved showing everyone around, but Melissa's camera turned out to be the highlight of the visit for him.

Camera Man

He photographed the hippos...

Zoo Photo <span class=

...and made Ellie pose with the lion statue.

Zoo Photo <span class=

Seeing my dear friends is always a joy, but the thing that made this visit truly special was seeing them with my little boy. Ellie came to stay with me for a few days when Westley was about six weeks old, and since then I've been absolutely determined that my friends will be part of my son's life. It takes a village, and my village happens to be pretty kick-ass. Watching the three of them play and bond and share food, I thought my heart would burst.

* * *

On Melissa and Ellie's last full day in town, we decided to tourist it up. We even got the obligatory standing-in-front-of-the-Space-Needle shot.

Friends, Needle
Seattle, everybody!

Our fun came to a screeching halt for a bit when I went to the bathroom and discovered blood in my underwear. Not a lot, but bright red.

"I haven't established maternity care yet," I lamented. "Should I call my doctor? She can't really do anything about it, and they say not to worry unless you're going through pads—"

"She can give you peace of mind," Melissa advised. "Or—they know you—call the midwives and say you want to establish maternity care and also let them know what's going on—"

"Listen to her," Rob said, pointing.

That evening, the spotting had stopped, but I was on the verge of tears. Ellie hugged me. "Yeah," she said quietly. "It's scary."

* * *

Today is Friday again. I drove my friends to the airport yesterday morning. It seems like the ultrasound was months ago.

I had my first appointment with my midwife this afternoon. This woman took care of me during my previous two pregnancies, and I'm absolutely in love with her. I want to have 12 babies just so I have regularly scheduled dates with her. She recommended an herbal butt plug for my hemorrhoids. I think she might have magic powers.

.....................................

Friday, January 6, 2012

Five Foods for Nausea (and Five that Make it Worse)

My all-day queasiness seems to be improving, which has me feeling both relieved and freaked out. (Because while I'm a reverse hypochondriac under normal circumstances, pregnancy has me watching every little twinge and symptom and assuming the worst. I am preganoid.)

I discovered pretty quickly that the thing that made my nausea disappear (for a few moments, at least) was eating. Which is tough to do when the very idea of food makes you gag. The secret to jumping that hurdle turned out to be having someone else, usually Rob, bring the food to me so that I wouldn't have to set foot in the newly uber-pungent kitchen.

I also discovered that even though the only thing I really wanted to eat for weeks was fruit, fruit is not a good nausea-cure. It's a great stepping stone if you feel like you can't get anything else down, but it doesn't kill the queasiness the way protein does. Chickpeas turned out to be my protein of choice. They're still the only bean that sounds even a little appealing.

Five Foods for Nausea

1. Chickpea salad wrap, wrap optional.
Cold, creamy chickpea salad, spiked with a little sweet pickle relish was the only protein that sounded even remotely appealing at first. Rolling it up with lettuce and tomato in a gluten-free wrap (Trader Joe's brown rice wraps are pretty good) made it portable, but straight-up out of the mixing bowl was the easiest to stomach. I don't have a recipe for this one: just mash up some chickpeas in a bowl with a blob of vegan mayo and a smaller blob of relish.

2. Chickpea curry with quinoa.

Chickpea Curry

I was completely astounded when chickpea curry appealed to me, but it did. And, hallelujah, we had the ingredients in the house already! Rob whipped this up by sauteing mustard seeds, a diced onion and some pressed garlic in about 1 Tbsp canola oil. One 14.5 oz can each of chickpeas and diced tomatoes made up the bulk of it, and curry powder, turmeric, cumin, coriander, and salt made it taste curry-esque. We served it over quinoa, and I ate the leftovers with kale and spinach stirred in for good measure.

3. Potato-spinach squares.
Rob's mom has made the potato-spinach squares from Vegan Brunch several times, substituting cooked quinoa for the breadcrumbs. (Gluten-free and more nutrients? Yes!) I was so glad to see this dish on the Christmas Eve buffet, because it's total comfort food and easy on the tummy. I don't own Vegan Brunch, but I might have to buy it for this recipe alone.

Oh, and if you don't have an awesome mother-in-law to make potato squares for you and you're desperate for tummy-friendly comfort food, a plain baked potato will work, too.

4. Baba ghanoush.
This one surprised me. I was awash in a sea of nausea before visiting my parents' house on Christmas Day, but the baba ghanoush pulled me out. I scooped it up with tortilla chips and cucumber slices and called it lunch. The only problem was that I forgot to ask my mom for the recipe.

5. 100% Cranberry juice.
Juice is not food, per se, and it's certainly not high in protein. But in the evenings, which is when my "morning" sickness peaks, the tartness answers my queasy belly's cries of, "I'm miserable!" Plus, it looks pretty in a wine glass.

* * *
And Five Foods that Make it Worse

Unfortunately, in my quest to end queasiness, I've also found that some of the things I gravitate towards actually make the sickness worse. Bad times.

1. Crackers.
I haven't found a good gluten-free, vegan saltine stand-in, but it doesn't matter. All of the cracker-like things I've thought would be soothing have been a bust. And they make me crave more cracker-like things.

2. Dry cereal.
Namely, Gorilla Munch. It's tasty stuff, especially if you liked Kix as a kid, and it seemed like a good idea at the time: tasty, dry, bland. But it's basically corn and sugar. And sugar seems to make my yucky belly even yuckier.

3. Fruit smoothies.

Smoothie

This seemed like such a good idea at the time! If fruit sounds good, a big glass of blended fruit should also go down easy, right? Not so much. I don't add any sweeteners to my smoothies, but I think this hit me the same way sugar does.

4. Ice cream.
I am not an ice cream person. I don't like it, I don't want it, get it away from me. But there is one exception: Luna & Larry's Coconut Bliss. Ohmigod, so good. Except...not so much.

5. Almonds.
I feel slightly betrayed by this one. Almonds are full of protein and healthy fats, they're a good source of magnesium, vitamin E, and manganese, and they're portable! Almonds struck me as the perfect food for toting around and munching on to keep the queasies away, but whenever I snack on them, I feel awful afterwards. They're one of my go-to "emergency snacks" when I'm not pregnant, so I'm sad to see them go. Maybe almonds and my stomach can make up in a few weeks.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Epiblogue: The Year of Living Vulnerably

In July, after my second ER visit in five months, I christened 2011 "The Year of Living Vulnerably." It turned out to be a pretty apt description. I have never felt so out of my comfort zone. In fact, I think my comfort zone might have been obliterated, lost in the darkness.

When Cait tagged me to do a New Year's survey, I hesitated—because 2011 was rough, and I don't want to start 2012 in a minor key. But, in a weird way, I'm almost at peace with what a shitty year it was.

It didn't work out between us, 2011, but it's all right. No hard feelings.


* * *

1. What did you do in 2011 that you'd never done before?
I toured preschools, had a miscarriage, sent a thank-you note to a stranger, had a D&C, took a solo taxi ride, left Westley in the care of non-family members, vlogged.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I made no resolutions for 2011. Four days into 2012, and I'm already getting a number of lessons in patience. I'd like to work on that.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Unless my close friends are stellar secret-keepers, no one I know well had a baby. I followed Rebecca's twin pregnancy with much interest (and a touch of envy).

4. Did anyone close to you die?
I never got to meet him, but I feel close to Jack LaLanne.

Jack <span class=

5. What countries did you visit?
I've never been outside the United States!

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
It's shallow to say a baby, isn't it? I'd like to have more confidence in 2012—which is not to say I had no confidence in 2011. But I think I could do better.

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
March 20 — The hardest day of my life.
June 22 — The D&C.
September 30 — The due date.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I escaped with my marriage and my sense of humor intact!

9. What was your biggest failure?
I let despair get the best of me more than a few times.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
See above.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
At first I read this as "the best thing you thought," which is an unusual and awesomely difficult question. (The answer is, I will be OK, no matter what.) The best thing I bought was a plane ticket to visit my beautiful girlfriends!

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
This is worded a bit strangely, isn't it? In any case, Rob, Westley, and I all had our moments.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Rob, Westley, and I all had our moments.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Nerd alert! I am Mistress of Budgetary Awesomeness, so I will give you percentages:
  • 37.87% went to "Housing," which includes our mortgage, home repairs and improvements, furniture and appliances, small housewares, and cleaning supplies.
  • 18.02% went to "Food," which includes regular groceries, restaurant visits, and special occasion meals.
  • 11.12% went to "Transportation," which includes car insurance, car repairs, tires, service for our two cars, license fees, gas, oil, and parking.
Those were our three biggest budget categories for 2011. (The fourth, I'm pleased to say, was "Savings.")

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Going on vacation!

16. What song will always remind you of 2011?
Velvet Underground's "Oh! Sweet Nuthin'."

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder?
Sadder, perhaps, but not terribly so.

b) thinner or fatter?
According to my FitDay account, I weigh four pounds more than I did on this date last year. (I would argue that half of that is currently residing in my bra. Regardless of what's going on in my uterus right now, my rack thinks I'm super pregnant.)

c) richer or poorer?
Slightly richer.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
I wish I'd played more.

Photo 182
Kid Wash

And I wish I'd taken more pictures.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
I spent too much time panicking.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
I spent Christmas morning at home with my little family, opening presents and stockings. In the afternoon, we visited my parents' house for more Christmas presents and to celebrate my grandmother's 85th birthday.

21. Did you fall in love in 2011?
I did! With my partner of six years. (You're usually supposed to do that before you get married. Oh, well.)

Day Close-up 12

22. What was your favorite TV program?
I'm a big fan of "RuPaul's Drag Race."

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
I don't think so.

24. What was the best book you read?
I read Portia de Rossi's memoir, Unbearable Lightness, in a day. I couldn't put it down.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I'm not sure I made a "musical discovery," though the idea intrigues me. I like to imagine sitting down at the piano, and magically busting out a bunch of Beethoven or something. Whoa! I'm really good at this, and I had no idea!

26. What did you want and get?
An awesome preschool experience for my little dude.

Painting

27. What did you want and not get?
So many things.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
I saw a surprising number of new movies in 2011, and while I really wanted to like the Oscar-worthy adult fare, the most enjoyable thing by far was Winnie the Pooh.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
On my 28th birthday, I made dinner and dessert, got to hear Westley sing "Happy Birthday" for the first time, opened a few presents, and (probably) got pregnant.

Wrapping
Presents!
Fire out, hair <span class=
Yum
We still talk about those cupcakes.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
More true relaxation (as opposed to the little "breaks" I sneak in here and there) would have been wonderful.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
High-maintenance hippie.

32. What kept you sane?
Singing loudly in my car.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
It's no secret that I adore Lady Gaga.

(Trigger warning: bulimia, haute couture, raw organ meat, living sculpture, Dadaism.)

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Marriage equality! Rob and I are in the habit of showering together on weekends, and a while ago, we had this conversation:
Me [feigning surprise]: Your parts look really different from mine!
He [totally serious]: And that's why it's legal for us to be married.

Pretty fucking ridiculous, isn't it?

35. Who did you miss?
My girlfriends, my brother, my midwives.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
A couple of the co-op moms are pretty cool, and I loved my yoga teacher, Lisa.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.
Sometimes you have to stand in the dark to best see the light.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
The best musical summation of last year would probably be instrumental. Maybe some Beethoven.

Panda Buddies

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