Saturday, April 29, 2006

A new low in dog ownership

It was not a great night for sleeping here last night. I went to bed early and watched an episode and a half of Grey's Anatomy (my new guilty pleasure, thanks to N!), then fell asleep. I woke up with indigestion, thanks to the brownie sundae I had for dessert, at about 12:30. An hour later, I was still awake, fussing in my head over which doula to choose. (We met with two and really liked them both; D and I, of course, lean in different directions about which one we prefer.) So at 1:45 or so I took my pillows and waddled downstairs to the guest room, where I took some Tums, read for a while and then went back to sleep.

And then the sun rose, and Jelly started her morning wandering. The wandering is why we banished her from the bedroom in the first place, but when I'm downstairs there's no way to escape it. If I shut the guestroom door, she noisily sniffs underneath it and tries to pry it open with her paw. If I leave it open, as I did last night, she paces in the (vain) hope that I will get up, put her out and, most importantly, feed her. I did none of those things. Nor did I sleep. Instead, I listened to her toenails click, click, click across the wood floors until D got up at about 7 and took care of her. I closed the bedroom door and hoped I could go back to sleep. Twenty minutes later, I was up for good.

And a few minutes after that, as I sat blearily in the chair by the computer, willing myself to take a shower, half-blind Jelly wandered over to me, managing to plow right into Rocky in the process. Rocky jumped and snarled, and Jelly, startled, started barking her fool head off.

And that's when the words came out of my mouth: "If you don't stop it, you are going straight to the pound."

Granted, the dog is mostly deaf, nor is she particularly fluent in English, so my words meant nothing to her. But D came downstairs and said, "Did I just hear you threaten Jelly with the pound?" He was surprised, and a little amused, that the daily occurrence of Jelly stomping on Rocky, then barking like an idiot, pushed me to those melodramatic words. And me? I just felt guilty. The poor thing came within a day or so of being put down nearly two years ago -- she was picked up as a stray in Brooklyn, then held in a kill shelter somewhere in New York until a rescue group devoted to another breed sprang her just before the deadline. She is old and infirm, with a wonky tail, arthritis, a heart murmur, mammary tumors, the near-blindness, the near-deafness... Really, she does pretty well for such a sad sack. But this morning, it was all I could do not to strangle her.

This does not bode well for my sleep-deprived interactions with a fussy infant.

Friday, April 28, 2006


Throughout my pregnancy, I've been thrilled with the support I've gotten from all my bloggy buddies... not to mention the comfort I've gotten from lurking on other blogs that deal with pregnancy and motherhood-related topics. I was worried initially about getting assvice every time I mentioned a twinge or a pang or a fear, but it just hasn't happened.

At least online.

I just got another email from my college roommate, who is due with her second a few days after the bambina's supposed to get here. C and I lived together for the second half of freshman year and all of sophomore year. After that, we went our separate ways, in part because we each delved into our (wildly varying) majors and in part because, frankly, I got a backbone and didn't need to spend all my time with someone who was happy to tell me what I should think and do and wear, etc. We never had a falling out, more of a drifting apart, so we've stayed in touch on and off since then. D and I went to her wedding, and she would have come to ours if her husband hadn't had a health emergency at the last minute.

Our communication has been pretty mundane, at least until we exchanged the info about our pregnancies. Now, she feels the need to tell me what to do at every turn, and It. Drives. Me. Crazy. (Ginga, I bet you are enjoying this!) We were emailing yesterday about a bunch of stuff and I happened to mention that we're looking for daycare and about to start childbirth classes. Her response? You'll never find part-time daycare in a center, and you absolutely must get an epidural.


Now, don't get me wrong -- lots of times I want input from friends about this stuff. But when I do, I tend to phrase it in the form of a question. Perhaps I'm old-fashioned, but I believe the use of an interrogative sentence conveys the meaning that one is looking for a response from another. And I have specifically not asked C any questions, not since she started sending me unsolicited tips ("add some juice to your water so you make sure you get enough fluids!") that make me feel exactly as though I am a naive freshman and she is the know-it-all cynic who's been there, done that. From anyone else, these emails would probably seem entirely innocuous. But because of our history, I want to leap through the computer and bite her.

Instead, I tend to delete the offending message and simply not reply. And then I stew for a while. Our relationship is simply not significant enough to be worth the effort of a discussion about her tendency to do this, so I need to just let it go. Which I will, as soon as I hit "publish."

Thursday, April 27, 2006

32 weeks

So, as I mentioned below, today we hit 32 weeks. I also happened to have a doctor's appointment this morning, and I would like to just say again how much I love my doctors and their staff. All is well with me and the baby, as far as anyone can tell. I've gained six pounds since my last visit, three weeks ago -- probably my largest gain so far, which would certainly explain why the clothes are no longer fitting. Overall, I've gained about 20 lbs., which seems fine. Although it does mean there's at least five to ten more to come... hard to imagine.

And the coolest part? The doc showed me how the baby is positioned, which was super-cool, especially since her head is already down low in my pelvis. And, the doc said, it's unlikely since she's down already that she will flip back up. So there's one potential c-section reason tentatively crossed off. (Obviously, things can and will change, but it's nice to know she's in a good spot. I really, really would love to avoid a c-section.)

What's even better about knowing how she's positioned, though, is relating her movements to actual body parts. I felt a bunch of movement along my upper right abdomen this afternoon, and was thrilled to know that it's probably her feet. And knowing that while experiencing the sensation was just incredible. The more info I get about her, the more real this all becomes. Holy cow, I am having a BABY. Who knew?

Another latecomer to the ABC meme

• Accent: Pretty middle-of-the-road, considering I grew up on the Joisey Shore, but when I get talking to my friend P, who has stayed there his whole life except for one year? Then it's cawfee all the way.
• Booze: Oh, how I miss it. I love a gin and tonic or a mojito (or three), not to mention the occasional cosmopolitan or Cape Codder. As for the beer and wine, I love them, too. Poor me.
• Chore I hate: All of them. But I shouldn't complain since my fabulous husband does the vast majority of the cleaning at our house. One of mine that's irritating: Shredding things. The noise irritates the dogs, which irritates me.
• Dog or cat: Dogs all the way.
• Essential electronics: cellphone, PC, iPod.
• Favorite cologne(s): My stint last year at the Very Swanky Gym got me hooked on Lothantique's green tea eau d'toilette, which they supplied for free in the locker room. It's very light and refreshing, which is why I like it. Ye olde morning sickness, however, kept me away from it for months.
• Gold or silver: Silver.
• Hometown: The Jersey Shore.
• Insomnia: More these days than ever before, but it seems to have eased up a bit.
• Job title: Associate editor.
• Kids: Ummm, approximately 0.8? I never know how to answer this one. Speaking of which: 32 weeks today!
• Living arrangements: A 1920s bungalow which started life as a Sears kit house. I kid you not. And I have the good fortune to share it with the best guy in the world.
• Most admirable trait: Yeesh, I dunno. I'll say my constant attempts to connect like-minded people, or those who would benefit in some way by knowing one another.
• Number of sexual partners: A few more than I wish there were.
• Overnight hospital stays: When I was born, and once after I fainted in the middle of the night, the year before grad school. One more impending...
• Phobias: I'm not a big fan of snakes, but I'm not sure that rises to the level of a phobia.
• Quote: "Badges? We don't need no stinkin' badges."
• Religion: Extremely lapsed Catholic.
• Siblings: One younger sister, a white miniature poodle and a brown hound mix, the latter two being my parents' empty nest additions.
• Time I wake up: A few minutes after 7.
• Unusual talent or skill: Sarcasm (see "Hometown").
• Vegetable I refuse to eat: It used to be brussels sprouts, but eating them fresh from the organic farm we belong to has shown me the light. At the moment, I can't think of one I absolutely refuse to eat, though I'm not a big fan of kohlrabi.
• Worst habit: Laziness. Extreme laziness which causes me to lounge on the couch while D does all the work. And, yes, this predates pregnancy.
• X-rays: Teeth, shoulder, back... and I think that's it.
• Yummy foods I make: Lots of 'em, if you ask me. Most recently, a fantastic cranberry upside-down cake and a really great leg of lamb.
• Zodiac sign: Cancer.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

One of the things I love about folk shows is that they're one of the only kinds of concerts I can think of in which, when you arrive a few minutes late, the only other person in the parking lot is the performer, unloading his own gear in the rain.

That was the case Sunday night when we saw Richard Shindell, a singer-songwriter whose work I've long adored. I think I first heard him when he was part of Cry Cry Cry, the folkie supergroup he formed with Dar Williams and Lucy Kaplansky. (Their only album is absolutely fantastic; you should check it out.) He's got a warm, rich voice, and he writes songs that are remarkable for their detail and their humanity. His background is interesting, too -- he spent a couple years in the seminary before deciding to pursue this music thing. You can hear his intellect at work in his songs; he's a very literate guy, but he doesn't come off as highbrow, even though a song on his most recent album uses a stanza of a John Donne poem as the final verse.

We'd seen him perform once before, at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in the Berkshires. But we were far away, and I believe he was performing in the round with other singer-songwriters, so we'd never had a chance to really see him do his own thing. Since he lives most of the year in Argentina, chances to see him -- especially in Maine -- are few and far between. So when we heard about this show, with $20 tickets, we signed up immediately, even though it was a Sunday night show in Waspy Town about 40 minutes south of here. After a whirlwind trip to Providence and back, heading out into the rain again was not something we were looking forward to. And if it'd been someone we'd seen before, or someone I appreciated less, we probably would have eaten the tickets and stayed on the couch.

Boy, am I glad we went. First of all, I love this venue -- the basement of a Unitarian church in Waspy Town, it tends to draw graying New England lefties, who can be relied upon to cheer anti-Bush songs and chuckle appreciatively at political jokes of any kind. We've been to at least a half-dozen shows there over the years, sitting in folding chairs, buying a homemade, donated brownie for a dollar and mingling with the folkies.

Beyond that, of course, was the performance. Despite arriving late with no time for a sound check, Shindell was fantastic. He opened with "Kenworth of My Dreams," a song about a guy whose family and friends don't understand why he gives up everything to buy a big rig and be trucker, hauling "bourbon up to Buffalo and frozen food to Maine." That was followed by Pete Seeger's "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy." There's been a lot of talk about ol' Pete lately, what with the new Bruce album and the profile in last week's New Yorker, and this song is a perfect example of why all the reverence is deserved. Written in the Vietnam era, it feels like it could have been composed last week.

In any case, Shindell played for about 90 minutes, maybe a little more, even getting in a cover of "Born in the USA," a great song that he said has been "co-opted by the forces of evil," along with a bunch of his own gorgeous, affecting compositions. I've complained in the past (can't find the link at the moment) about performers who feel the need to write ham-handed songs expressing their politics in blatant ways; that's never the case with Shindell, whose political leanings are obvious but whose lyrics never are. (For proof, check out "Fishing," an amazing song about an immigration official, or my all-time favorite, "Transit.")

The bambina kicked all the way through the show and we drove home on the wet interstate, happy that we'd gotten off the couch. My only regret is that we don't live closer to NJ, where my parents spent last night at one of Springsteen's pre-tour rehearsal shows; they were in the pit, about 15 feet from the stage, and spent the evening cheering for Bruce and for Pete Seeger. I just caught a minute of Bruce and his crew on Good Morning America, doing "Climbing Jacob's Ladder," and it was excellent. I suspect The Seeger Sessions is going to be a mainstay of the bambina's first summer.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The mystery revealed

It's been an exhausting few days - we've been out of state and back, to a concert and back, and I co-ran a daylong seminar 70 miles away today - but I wanted to update you on the grandmama drama. (Thanks for all your support, btw.) I finally spoke with my mom on Saturday morning, and here's what she's upset about: She has not bought anything for the baby because she worries when she picks something up that we won't like it, so she puts it back instead. And that was it.

Talk about anticlimactic. The funny thing is, this is one of the topics D and I had guessed might be bothering our moms. And, as I told my mom the other day, we are picky about stuff -- especially when it comes to the big stuff, like furniture for our home, or the safety-related items. But she has been nervous about buying clothes and toys... which completely baffles me. At the moment, every single piece of clothing we own for this little girl has been a gift; a good chunk of it has come from complete strangers (via Freecycle). So I was a little baffled about the perception that I am being picky about this stuff.

It turns out, though, that my mom totally misinterpreted something I'd said in passing, which was that we don't need newborn clothes. That is, in fact, true -- the child will not want for things to wear for the first several months of our life. Does that I mean I forbid my mother from buying some frilly little dresses? Absolutely not. It's just that some friends were pressing us on what we still needed for shower gifts -- they wanted to be sure that they were buying something useful that wouldn't be overkill.

And speaking of overkill... that's what this whole situation has turned out to be. I still haven't talked to D's mom; she's out of town from now through Saturday, so we're hoping to catch up with her on Sunday. She's already said once that whatever my mom said goes for her, too. I suspect the truth is a bit more complicated than that, but we'll see what happens when we talk this weekend.

The thing that kills me about all of this: theoretically, I'm the hormonal one.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The incredible shrinking bellybutton

D and I have been keeping a close watch on my bellybutton as a barometer of overall bellysize. Day by day, it gets smaller and shallower, on what seems to be its inevitable progress from innie to outie. And I wonder why my pants keep getting tighter... Not to mention the fact that I continue to bitch about said tightness, completely forgetting (again) that the waistband is adjustable. Why is this so hard to remember?

* * * * * * * *

Not much to report on the grandmama drama, other than the fact that I was really tired and perhaps a wee bit hormonal last night and thus took all of this too hard, as I think is reflected in my nutso post on the matter. After a decent night's sleep (only one bathroom trip!) I feel much less discombobulated by the whole mess. My mom wrote this morning to say that I shouldn't worry, that her issue is just some miscommunication or lack of communication. I still feel like I'm in trouble, but whatever... and, no, we haven't been able to find a time to talk. Maybe early tomorrow morning, but if not then Sunday afternoon or Monday evening. Gah.

As for the MIL, D and I decided last night that I would call her this morning, which I did. Fortunately or unfortunately, I got her voicemail, so I left her a long, rambling message -- my forte -- about the fact that my mom and I had been emailing re: communication about the baby, and that my mom hinted (but did not give specifics) that MIL might be upset or concerned about something, too. And that if that was the case I would love to talk about it, and I hope that we hadn't inadvertently hurt any feelings, that we'd been very busy lately getting ready for the baby and hadn't seen much of anyone.

And so that's that. We are out of town tomorrow and Sunday, and my MIL is going to be in Florida from Monday through Saturday. The ball is in her court; if she chooses not to respond, that's her decision.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Baby (grand)mama drama

Things are not well here at Casa MC & D. Actually, that is an exaggeration. Most things are fine. But a series of various events has made it clear that both my mother-in-law and my mother are upset, or at the very least miffed, at me (and maybe D) on subjects related to the bambina. And that makes me upset... and pissed.

The anger comes because my MIL, sturdy Yankee that she is, does not speak about what she wants or doesn't want. She expresses great satisfaction with everything you tell her, agrees wholeheartedly, and then sulks. And then says everything is fine. And then sulks some more. It drives me up the freakin' wall.

My own mother, meanwhile, sends emails like this one:
We have to talk. After reading [MIL's] e-mail I realize I need to talk to you about us too. I'll explain it all when we talk. Maybe Saturday sometime you and I could talk? No, you're going out of town. We'll catch up with each other and I'll catch you up on stuff.
Perhaps this doesn't seem all that infuriating to you, but it drives me nuts. If there is something wrong, why can't we talk about it today? And if we can't talk about it today, why can't you wait to tell me that you're upset until the time at which we can talk? I feel instantly as though I am 10 years old and in trouble, but that I don't know why and will have to wait until next week to find out.

So far, with only conjecture about what is going on in both our mothers' heads -- at least some of it is probably related to baby shower planning, as well as either our insistence on having things how we want them (the horror!) or our failure to request advice and/or assistance from our families on baby stuff, or all of the above -- D and I have somehow avoided a giant argument. There was a tense conversation when he got home from work, but we managed to get through it ok. We went for a walk down to the beach, where we ran into my sister and her husband. Managed not to gripe to them too much, and some of the anger dissipated. In its place, I just feel exhaustion -- physical, mental, emotional.

It's fine that our families have expectations of us, particularly when it comes to the birth of their first grandchild. But they can not expect us to meet them when they won't fucking tell us what they are.

I'm not sure that this post makes any sense at all, since the central issue is something about which D and I are both uninformed at the moment. And for a variety of reasons we can't begin to deal with it until I talk to my mother, who apparently is unavailable to talk to me until next week(!!). I have let her know that I would very much like to talk to her today, and am waiting for her reply. And patience... let's just say that it's not one of the qualities I have in abundance. This is such a miserable time to be forbidden from having a glass of wine... I'm off to have a sip of D's, then to stew some more while I cook dinner. Grrr.

Edited to add: Here goes the bloggy jinx again. D and I argued a bit before dinner... and dinner itself was a lost cause, since the asparagus that was a main ingredient had gone all mushy. My mom says she won't have time to call me until Saturday morning, when we are leaving for Providence to see some friends, meaning we're not going to connect until Monday at the earliest. And she confirms that my MIL is upset, but (rightly) is not sharing details. I am so worn out by all of this.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

New additions

Some wonderful news in the blogosphere the last few days:

Kate, the Taxman and Miss M welcomed their new little boy on Friday after what sounds like one heck of a labor.

Carter, Evelin and Celeste introduced the mighty Quinn to the world on Saturday -- she's a cutie!!

And, in my own circle of friends locally, wonderful friends and neighbors B & K, along with big sister E, said hello to little brother L on the 8th. (Best story from the delivery: When E, who just turned two, was brought to see her mom and baby brother shortly after L was born, a nurse warned her that mommy would be tired "because she just pushed the baby out of her tummy." "No, she didn't," said feisty little E. "She pushed him out of her BAGINA.")

Warm, warm welcomes to all the little ones, and congrats to the happy families. Wander over to their sites and say hi if you get a chance...

Monday, April 17, 2006

A note from the dog

This is what I found on the kitchen island when I got up this morning:

"I'm going to work with Dad since they're paying holiday time. I'll have him call U. [heart] Jelly"

Her handwriting is suspiciously good for an arthritic, half-blind dog of indeterminate age...

Friday, April 14, 2006

I'm looooonely

Boy, the Internets are quiet today, huh? I guess all y'all are celebrating Passover and the approach of Easter and stuff, but me? I'm just sitting here working. Well, procrastinating, to be precise. Working on two assignments at once, which is fine, but the problem is that the entire rest of the world seems to be taking the day off, and thus I have not received one return phone call. Meanwhile, I am such a lapsed Catholic that not only am I not observing Good Friday (or its preceding or succeeding holy days), but I will be having meat (fabulous bacon, to be precise) for lunch. Gates of hell, here I come.

In the meantime, I am trying to write one story without having interviewed anyone. The editor with whom I work suggested this approach -- drafting the piece first, then filling in the quotes later -- and I'm finding it very difficult so far. I'm so mired in my own process, which involves having all the info first, then writing the story. Sure, I can stick an occasional "TK" (shorthand for "to come") in my copy, but to write the whole story with TKs? That is tough. But it's a good exercise, and so I shall return to it. Either that or continue dispiritedly blogsurfing whilst awaiting my 1:45 lunch date with a pal.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Back to the regularly scheduled random musings

Wow, two deep thoughts posts in a row -- I think that's some sort of blogging record for me. But now back to the subject at hand: freaking out about the bambina.

We toured our first daycare this morning. It came highly recommended by some friends whose two-year-old goes there. Of course, there is a year-long waiting list, in part because they only have four spots for infants. Even though we don't need childcare for the bambina until December or January, since D will be taking 12 weeks of (paid!) leave after I go back to work, a year won't work for us. But we're on the waiting list anyway.

It was such a bizarre experience to wander through this place, talking to the Excessively! Chirpy! And! Excited! young woman, and ponder the thought that she might one day be taking care of our child. Especially since I had to go online this morning to find out what the hell you're supposed to ask on a daycare tour. In that regard, this place seems great -- the answers were all good ones, the staff seemed low-key and competent, and the place has achieved a voluntary accreditation that not only shows that they care about quality but that would also mean doubling the child care tax credit we'd receive. What's more, there was quite a bit of diversity among the kids, which is something we'd very much like the bambina to be exposed to.

Cons: The facility itself isn't great; although it seems to be perfectly safe, it's in an old building that's just the tiniest bit grim. And then there is the location. It's in Portland, about 15 minutes from our house and 15 minutes from D's work. Getting there before and after work means dealing with some of the city's most congested roads -- traffic that's nothing by NJ/NY standards, but that when you're used to Maine driving would become a little irritating on a daily basis. And then there's the waiting list.

We've got two more places on the preliminary list of daycares to check out. One is closer to the house -- and between here and D's work -- but it's large, unaccredited and part of a regional chain. I have a bias against the place already, perhaps because of the really annoying jingle in their TV commercials, which tend to run during Red Sox games (not as annoying as the theme song for that miserable casino in Connecticut, but close).

And then there's the third option, used by our neighbor one block over. Even closer to our house, it's an in-home daycare that only takes 0-2 year-olds. Our friend's daughter is about to age out, and he and his wife are really bummed about it because she's had a great experience there. On the face of it, this one sounds the best to us, but obviously we're going to have to check it out in person and see what we think.

Other news: I've talked to two doulas, both of whom I really liked. We were originally hoping to use a student from a nearby midwifery school as our doula -- friends did that and had a great experience, not to mention the fact that it was free -- but after talking to the two professional doulas, I'm having a hard time imagining going with someone with less experience. We'll see; I'm awaiting a call from the midwifery student, and we'll see how that goes. She lives much farther away than the other two, and wouldn't (I don't think) do any postpartum support, whereas the women we would have to pay (to the tune of $500) would do several prenatal visits, stay with us through labor and delivery, and then do three postpartum visits. And that all sounds verrrry appealing to me, not to mention totally worth the money.

Lastly, we were supposed to be at the theater tonight, seeing an Arthur Miller play. But when the time came to get in the car, I was found sound asleep on the couch. The tickets were free -- a giveaway from my former employer -- and so we simply decided not to go. I feel slightly guilty about that, especially since we're passing up Ethiopian food and a Pulitzer prize-winning playwright in order to eat Annie's mac and cheese and Edy's ice cream while watching Survivor and The OC. Then again, I am 30 weeks pregnant and can sit on the damn couch if I want to. So much for culture.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


I think I'm having a bit of an identity crisis these days. My job, as many of you know, used to be my life, in good ways and bad. It was challenging, it felt significant (most days, anyway) and being the boss was pretty fulfilling. Besides all that, every so often, a publication would appear that I felt almost entirely responsible for.

But the job got more stressful, the rewards less rewarding, and so I pondered finding a new position. My chiropractor told me I wasn't getting pregnant because I didn't have room in my life for a baby. I was pissed off at her remark, but I also knew that she had a pretty good point (about my life; I'm not so sure about the biology). And so last fall I made my mind up to quit my job and freelance full-time. I started talking with editors about how much work they could send my way. A few weeks after starting this process, we found out that I was pregnant. And a few weeks after that, one of the editors started talking with me about a staff position; I ended up being able to set up a part-time schedule in which I work three days a week, two of them from home.

For many, many reasons, taking this position seemed like the right thing to do. It would provide a stable source of income -- something that seemed a bit more important with the bambina on the way -- as well as alleviating some of the loneliness of the freelance life. What's more, I'd always wanted to work for this publication, and I looked forward to both the change in focus and the decrease in responsibility.

The reality has been somewhat different. The new job simply is not as challenging as my previous job... in fact, it comes nowhere close. My co-workers, while very nice, very smart people, are not very outgoing; since I only see them in person once a week, the onus is on me to make the effort to be social when I'm in the office, and to maintain contact via email and phone calls when I'm working at home. And while I thought I would relish the opportunity to write about different topics, the reality is that I'm a little bored.

The other reality, of course, is that I'm totally preoccupied by thoughts of this baby who, with any luck, will emerge in a little more than two months(!). I am consumed with thoughts of her in particular, and the preparations for her arrival in general. And the work of running our household -- doing laundry, grocery shopping, finding a pediatrician and a daycare provider, getting the bills paid, etc. -- has naturally shifted more in my direction since I have more time than D does to get it done.

So somewhere in there work took a bit of a back seat. And that has been somewhat shocking to realize. I have always -- always -- defined myself by my job, whether that job was getting on the honor roll in high school, leading the women's issues activist group on campus at college, or running a magazine (part and parcel of my grandfather's legacy). I still do that to some extent -- the publication for which I work is well known, and well respected, in the area, as are some of the outlets for which I am freelancing -- but something critical has shifted.

These thoughts, which have been swirling around in my head in disconnected and chaotic form for a month or two, coalesced Sunday night when I read "My So-Called Balanced Life" in mamazine. Impending motherhood hasn't exactly made me question the future of my career, such as it is, but it certainly has made me wonder if I made the right decision when I switched jobs at the start of the year. Leaving the old job was certainly the right thing to do. And probably in the long run taking my current job will prove to have been wise, too -- but for entirely different reasons (flexibility, stability, a certain lack of stress) than any other job decision has been.

So what does this all mean about who I am? I'm not sure -- but she is changing. And that is scary and exciting and very, very strange to witness.

Monday, April 10, 2006

A pledge of allegiance

Saturday afternoon, we sat in the firehouse in the town in which I graduated from high school and applauded as the VFW (aka Veterans of Foreign Wars) handed out their annual awards. As I mentioned the other day, we were there because my grandfather was named citizen of the year. The VFW officials -- including the emcee, a gruff and off-color guy with a paunch and a twinkle in his eye -- seemed surprised that we (my sister and brother-in-law, D and I) thought it was worth driving 800 miles round-trip for their little awards ceremony.

After all, it was an unfussy affair. There were about 40 people in attendance, all of whom were associated either with the VFW or with one of the award winners (other awards were given out to the fireman, EMT and teacher of the year, as well as to the high school kids who'd won the annual essay contest about democracy). Ours was by far the largest party -- there were 10 of us squeezed at one round banquet table, including my parents, my aunt and uncle and my grandparents.

Lunch was your typical Jersey Shore buffet: sausage and peppers, chicken marsala, penne vodka, salad and some really great Italian bread. (No rubber chicken in these parts, although dessert was grocery-store chocolate cake and Dunkin Donuts coffee.) The whole event only took about 90 minutes, and my grandfather's portion was brief: He was recognized for his unfailing attendance at city council and board of education meetings, where he keeps an eagle eye on financial issues in particular. Several months ago, the local weekly paper, the one in which our college graduation and wedding pictures were printed, ran a full-page profile of my grandfather for this very reason; I suspect that story is what gave the VFW the idea to name him citizen of the year.

So far, I'm sure, all of this sounds pretty mundane. Every community has people like my grandfather, people, often retired, who are active in the civic life and who take seriously their duties in a democracy. But there is some extra meaning here that prompted us to make this spur-of-the-moment trip.

My grandfather is the son of Italian immigrants. His father came to the United States via Ellis Island as a 10-year-old boy, and raised his own family in the Ironbound section of Newark, New Jersey. As a child in what was essentially an Italian ghetto, my grandfather wanted nothing more than to be an American. He begged his mother to cook American food -- meat and potatoes, apple pies and the like -- and scorned the food of his heritage, the braciole, the antipasto, the scungili and calamari. To this day, he detests the taste and smell of garlic. He loved going to the movies, where he soaked up information about what it meant to be an American -- what clothes to wear, what food to eat, what job to hold.

Throughout his life, my grandfather attempted the tricky feat of remaining fiercely devoted to his family while also escaping, as quickly as he could, the narrow confines of the life they wanted for him. He got himself to college -- in the hinterlands of Ohio -- where he earned a chemistry degree. He spent years in Brazil during World War II as a member of the Army Air Corps, his young wife -- a WASP from a family whose roots in this country predate the Mayflower -- waiting at home for him. (I may have the order wrong there -- he may have gone to college after the war on the GI Bill.) And when he returned, he took a job with a large pharmaceutical company, one that is in the news these days for problems with one of its painkillers.

Like many first-generation Americans, my grandfather clung ferociously to the American dream: if you work hard, you will be rewarded. His intelligence, and his fierce desire to succeed, served him well. His career accomplishments -- and the salary he earned -- propelled his sons to prestigious colleges, and earned the family a big, gorgeous Victorian house, since sold, in the north Jersey suburbs. His siblings and their spouses were also successful, though I don't believe any of them had "professional" jobs, strictly speaking (one owned a jewelry store, another worked for the fire department, etc.). Curiously, they all married Italians, as did the vast majority of their children. In pictures, our branch of the family stands out -- not only did my grandfather marry a mitigan (pidgin English for "American"), but so did all three of his sons, whose offspring (myself included) have light hair and pale skin.

What this all adds up to is the fact that the driving force behind my grandfather's entire life has been being American. And so to be recognized, at age 90, as a citizen, someone who contributes in a significant way to the forward progress of our country, is incredibly meaningful -- to him, and to us. I am not patriotic in the same way my grandfather is -- though I do trace a portion of my liberal politics and my tendency toward eggheadedness to him -- but I am continually inspired by his example.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Eyes wide open

Gah, the insomnia. It seems like a cruel trick to play on a woman who will learn to deal with sleep deprivation soon enough. This is the third night -- or, rather, very early morning -- I've dealt with it this week. And the culprit is always the 4 or 5 am bathroom trip, when I wake up just a bit too much. Monday night I finally gave up at about 4:45, came downstairs with my glasses and pillow, had a bowl of cereal and read Sense & Sensibility until I fell asleep on the couch with Jelly snoring next to me.

Two nights ago, I managed to use my yoga breathing and relaxation practice to calmly get myself back to sleep in my own bed at about 5 am.

Last night -- this morning -- I just gave up. Went to the bathroom at 5:15, ended up back in bed with heart and mind racing. Tried the yoga breathing, tried recounting the plot of last night's episdoe of The OC, tried counting backwards from 100 by threes. And then, at 5:45, I got up, put the dog out, had some cereal and sat down at the computer.

The stupid thing is that we are driving to New Jersey with my sister and brother-in-law late this afternoon. Typically on these trips, D takes the first half -- which tonight will end at Rein's Deli, a fantastic spot just off I-84 outside Hartford, where you get a dish of half-sour pickles when you sit down, as well as very fast service -- and I take the second half, which involves all the driving around New York as well as the Garden State Parkway. Usually I don't mind it at all; masochistically, I actually enjoy driving on the parkway. But not at the end of a long day in which I've gotten only six hours of sleep. Perhaps I can nap while D drives -- my day is too busy to squeeze a nap in before that -- or maybe I can get someone else to drive that leg. Either way, it's not going to be fun, especially since we won't get to my parents' house until 11 or 12.

Which brings up a somewhat related point: Would any of you object if we just got rid of Connecticut? We could keep the UConn basketball teams, and Rein's, and maybe one or two other places. But the rest of the state would get pushed out to sea, and New York and Massachusetts would get mashed together, cutting 1.5 hours of misery out of the trip to my parents' and eliminating some of the most irritating driving in the Northeast. Think about it, and let's see what we can do.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Growing up

How old do you have to be before news that friends are getting divorced stops being shocking?

I feel a bit like a bad Carrie Bradshaw knockoff as I type that sentence -- can't you just see the Sex and the City episode it would spawn? -- but it's something I've been pondering for the last 24 hours. We got an email yesterday from some friends who are getting divorced. I won't go into the details, because they're none of the Internet's business and I don't know much anyway, but the email was very classy, informing us that they'd decided to go their separate ways but plan to remain good friends. The news was not entirely surprising, but I still felt this odd shock that I am old enough to have friends who are getting divorced.

I know this is totally ridiculous, that there's no minimum age for divorce, but it seems like such a grownup thing... something people of our parents' generation do. Another friend got divorced last year, which was also shocking, especially since we'd been at his wedding in 2001. In both cases, the decision seems like the right one, though it's still sad. (Neither couple had kids, though there are animal custody issues that had to be resolved in both cases.)

I guess all of this goes back to my perpetual feeling that we are -- that I am -- just playing at this grownup thing, that the house and the mortgage (and the second mortgage) and the job and even the baby are all trappings of this role I'm playing of a responsible, mature adult. Saying it that way sounds like I'm resentful of it all, which I'm not (though I have to admit to laying awake for a while last night, pondering the cost of daycare and its impact on our already meager finances). Sometimes it just doesn't feel real, that's all.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Confessions of a gestating mind

Ok, clearly I am wordy and disorganized today. This despite the fact that I actually had a couple hours of very productive work this morning, followed by visits to the chiropractor and the eye doctor, two women of whom I'm very fond. And it's a good thing, because they both added items to my to-do list. Specifically, I need to find: a doula. A pediatrician. And a day care center.

Luckily, I made some headway on the doula front today, which makes sense since that's the most immediate need anyway. I exchanged messages with a woman who organizes monthly doula teas at the crunchy birthing center (where we are not delivering); I've got to call her back this evening to get a list of recommendations from her since we're going to miss this month's tea. And I spoke to a midwife at a local midwifery school, whose students offer free doula services as part of their training. She's going to pass my name on to the students on Wednesday and someone will call me. A friend went that route and raved about it, so I'm hopeful it will work out.

Pediatricians and daycare are a bit more daunting. My friend is somewhat happy with her ped, but thinking about switching. My own primary care doctor offers pediatric care, but I don't love her -- she's turned into more of a pill-pusher than I'm comfortable with in recent years -- so that's not the way to go. Ultimately, I want someone who's expert in western medicine while also being very open to holistic stuff when appropriate. And I'd love it if the doc were nearby -- in my city or the part of Portland closest to me. (So, local readers, if you know of anyone great, I'd love to hear about her/him.) But figuring out how to find that person is overwhelming.

And it's much the same with daycare. I think I'd be most comfortable with the bambina in a home-based daycare very near our house, but those places can be tough to find. I got a list from a local referral center, and am asking around for recommendations. But most of our friends with kids live just far enough away that their daycare isn't feasible for us. And unfortunately Craigslist and the parenting boards I've found aren't all that active in this area. So if you've got suggestions on how I might go about finding places, I'd love to hear 'em.

Lastly, on a somewhat related note: My beloved low-rise maternity jeans may be reaching the end of their days. They still look damn good, if you ask me, and they are very comfy as long as I am standing. But when I am sitting? That low waistband pokes right into my expanding belly. And that does not feel good at all. Which means that I may need to go maternity shopping again. Ugh.

Groggy and random

Like the rest of the blogosphere, I am having a little trouble adjusting to Daylight Savings Time. I very nearly went straight back to sleep after my alarm went off this morning, which wouldn't have been the end of the world -- it's a freelancing day, so I'm my own boss -- except that it would have made getting up on time tomorrow, when I have to work for someone else, that much harder. But luckily for me there was a dog altercation just a few minutes after I dozed off again, so waking was assured.

I'm now officially in the third trimester -- 28 1/2 weeks, to be exact -- and feeling a few more pregnancy joys kicking in. I'm on a three-times-a-night bathroom schedule, which would be a lot more bearable if we had a bathroom on the second floor. It's not exactly safe to traipse downstairs and then back up again with half-closed eyes, so I end up spending a lot of time talking myself back to sleep after waking up a bit too much. My belly has popped out noticeably in the last week or so; in fact, while we were in Puerto Rico we hit a new milestone: A stranger felt confident enough to remark on my pregnancy. Granted, I was wearing a somewhat clingy summer dress that will not make its appearance in Maine for another month or two, but, still, it was a milestone. (And one that required the acquisition of some new pants, which I was lucky enough to find on Freecycle.)

And then there is the return of the exhaustion. I was tired all last week, and attributed it to the return from PR and immediate immersion in work. But then it continued over the weekend, despite eight or nine hours of sleep each night and a nice nap Saturday afternoon. So yesterday I didn't fight it when I got sleepy right after lunch. I slept for about 45 minutes, got up, read some more of the Sunday Times, then took another nap, this one for an hour. And when I woke up, I felt awake for the first time all day, which tells me that I really did need the sleep. And now I'm back where I started, tired on a Monday morning.

Other updates from the weekend: After a loud and somewhat nasty argument -- something that hasn't happened in a long time -- D and I reached agreement on the items we need to take care of around the house in the next few months. And, in fact, we made some significant progress just after the argument. We spent a half hour at the evil home improvement superstore and ordered carpet for the bambina's room (the guy is coming to measure today). I don't love the idea of carpet in general -- in fact, tearing out wall-to-wall carpet was the first thing we did in the hours after we closed on this house -- but given the combination of lead paint, plywood, hideous linoleum and a lack of heating vents in her room, carpet seemed to be the best choice.

We also managed to pick up a new set of rails for the guest room bed, which has been a pain in the ass ever since the whole bedroom-switching episode. The mattress and box spring we have are extra long (aka, queen-length, though they're the width of a full), which was no problem since we used to use a queen frame for them. But we needed the frame for our own bed, which had previously been on the floor. So I got not only a frame but a headboard and footboard on Freecycle. And after a lengthy process to get the damn boxspring down to the first floor, we remembered that the length of the rails was wrong. So the guest room has been unusable for a month. We intended to put the new rails on yesterday, but D woke up with a horrible stiff neck and spent the day on the couch. So that project is stalled, but able to be resumed at any time.

Then next weekend we head to New Jersey for a fast visit -- my grandfather is being named citizen of the year in his town, so my sister, her husband, D and I are surprising him at the awards ceremony -- in which we will pick up the dresser my parents are giving us for the bambina's room. Which means once the carpet is in, we can actually start setting up her room. That means we'll actually be able to assemble the crib, which is now in pieces on our enclosed front porch, and put away the mountains of clothing we've accumulated.

So all of those plans make me feel a bit less anxious... but the anxiety would decrease significantly if we were actually able to do any of it right now.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The last word on the vacation, I promise

Sorry for the lag between the last post and this one -- returning home on Tuesday night and then diving into work again made this week go awfully quickly. As I write this, I'm uploading more photos to Flickr, so I'm hopeful you can see them there.

As for the rest of the vacation report, there's really not all that much to say, because we did so very little. We arrived Thursday night, parked the car in the lot and literally never even walked by it again until Tuesday morning when we left. (Kate, this means we never did get to the dry forest. We thought about it, but never left he beach.) So what did we do? Much as I reported earlier, we read, swam, sunned, kayaked (only a little) and relaxed. We played a few rousing hands of gin rummy. And we ate (though the food, I have to report, was not all that good. The produce especially was disappointing -- mealy tomatoes that were just as bad as anything you'd buy in the grocery store here this time of year).

We didn't even talk much to other guests, though I did manage to chat with the two other pregnant women I saw, both of whom happened to be from the Boston area. Really, we just kept to ourselves and enjoyed it. I am missing the feeling of the sun on my body... the body that is growing bigger seemingly by the second. And I am missing the complete lack of tension I felt in my shoulders and neck. But I'm off to my yoga class in a little bit, so that should help. And here's a little reminder of what so wonderful about it:

View from the cabana