Here I am, here I am! I went away, but now I’m back. I guess I came back the long way, as it’s been (oh gosh) over a MONTH since I last posted. Gee whiz, golly gee, this is my only excuse:

 

Naps with the baby, rocking in the rocking chair with the baby, figuring out how to cook and eat one-handed with the baby (we’re working on using a Moby wrap but so far it only works when she’s already asleep), smelling the baby’s delicious head, trying to figure out what a ‘normal’ life with the baby is like. You know, stuff like that.

I had to pop in to say that I am really excited about the holidays coming up, even though I am sure my crafty mojo will not be quite as active this year. Let’s say that maybe a lot of people in my family are going to get framed photos of the wee one! Wrapped if they’re lucky, or perhaps lovingly wrapped in a milk-stained burp rag if I’ve had an especially grumpy night. (Kidding! Or not.) But here is one crafty project I want to try:

A holiday  banner, something with individual letters or cards that I can decorate one by one (perfect for those twenty-minute breaks when the munchkin is sleeping and I am not otherwise engaged in preparation for the Next Awakening), something with a vintage feel to it, and threaded together with a simple ribbon. This will be the first year we get to decorate our new home for Christmas, and I want it to be cozy and lovely. I want our house to be so cozy we want to just curl up and stay inside forever. (Though that wish might have more to do with the fact that it is currently our reality. What, outside? That’s where we occasionally forage for groceries, why would we want to go out there?)

Hope everyone is enjoying their own delicious autumn. Right now mine is full of pumpkin ales and roasted dishes, bowls of nuts on the table and lots of dreaming about dark solstice nights to come. I hope yours is just as lovely.

Penelope Jane came into the world at 41 weeks and 6 days, 7 pounds and 3 ounces, 20 inches long, on October 5, 2009 and stole my entire heart:

Her birth happened in ways we never planned for nor anticipated, but it was joyful and amazing. We were in the hospital because my amniotic fluid was dangerously low and her heart was beginning to suffer; in the hospital I was sure that an epidural and c-section would be our fate, but once my waters were broken it took only (only?) four hours of labor before she was born, natural and free and into my arms, beautiful and perfect and calm. I still can’t believe that I did it, and that I made it through to the other side. Now that we are just a week and a half into this journey, and I’m consumed with things like nursing, sleeping, diapers, and oh my gosh look at how adorable her tiny shoulder is right this very second, it’s hard to think back to the long time of waiting we spent, when it seemed labor would never start. It did start, it started life right up again, and we’re in the middle of it, in love, and loving every moment of it. Welcome to the world, little Penny Jane, our sweetest joy, our littlest love, our best thing.

I took this self-portrait last week, at 39 weeks and 4 days. I’m now 40 weeks and 3 days, and waiting, waiting, waiting. It seems like time is moving very slowly. I’m sure every mama-to-be has this thought, but it sure does seem as if labor will never start. Also, it’s hard to trust my intuition and my body when every day at work people say to me, “you’re still here?” Do your pregnant friends a favor: when it gets to the end, don’t imply that the baby is late, or that labor should have started already. Instead, tell them they look beautiful, wish them lots of time for restorative rest, wish them calm before the storm, bring them a readymade dinner. It will mean all the world to them, not to face yet another person counting down the days when it’s so much more relaxing to let go and just let things happen.

As promised, here is a picture of the 100-year old cradle, first slept in by my grandfather and his sisters on Blue Hills Avenue in early 1900s Connecticut, later reused and water-stained and poorly repaired, even later disassembled and stored in various basements belonging to my parents, and this year restored to glory by my dad and me  (but mostly by my dad) so that my grandfather’s great-granddaughter can be rocked to sleep in it:

Our little one will be arriving any day now, and when she is laid down in this cradle (if we can bear to not hold her for one second!) she will be the fourth generation to be rocked to sleep there.

I agonized a little bit about how to make it comfortable, since crib standards have been updated a bit (!) since its manufacture; they are no longer built quite this low or this narrow, so there were no pre-made mattresses we could buy for it. Short of having a ridiculously expensive custom mattress made (which anyway would take many weeks), I bought a 3’x3′ section of 1-inch thick upholstery foam, a yard of pre-quilted cotton for padding, and a yard of the most beautiful, soft, 100% wool to go on top.

I brought all this home thinking I would have to do some tricky cutting of the foam, and sewing the quilted cotton and wool together so it all fits inside nicely, but good old Dad came up with a better solution. When he delivered the crib the other night, he spied the foam, folded it in half, and pushed it down into the crib. Voila, no cutting needed, because the slight extra inches on either side hold it nice and snug between the rails. Then my husband and I simply wrapped the cotton and wool layers around the foam, and voila, no sewing needed! It’s not perfect, but this way the layers can be washed individually if needed. Most importantly, I’m not beholden to whatever naive sewing mistakes I might have made if  I’d tried to sew all this stuff with only one week left before my due date and an awful lot of napping to catch up on.

Anyway, our house feels nearly complete now. We have everything ready for the homebirth, and almost everything ready for the baby herself. I’m just waiting, waiting, for labor to start, going on my walks and drinking my raspberry leaf tea. Hopefully there will be news soon!

Oh dear, once again I have let weeks and weeks pass by without writing anything here. I am at 38 weeks, so ridiculously close to the end of this journey. I keep waiting for some Moment to come that will signal to my brain that it’s time to write — candidates for The Moment include: finishing the baby’s room, baking something new and inspired and sugarfree, coming to some profound and meaningful insight, etc. Not to mention the biggest impending Moment of all, the one where I give birth to a wee snuggly girl and start life as a mother.

But instead, life has been filled with ordering lots of stuff through the mail. Or you know, the internet, whatever. It comes in the mail. Every day when I pull into the driveway, returning for work, I have to strategically slow down and peek at the front porch for packages, or wait for my bus-commuting-hero husband to find them and bring them inside. Babies need a lot of stuff, yo. Plus for the couple weeks around my baby shower, more lovely packages would arrive.  I have been totally overwhelmed by the generosity of friends and family, who through their gifts have graced us with enough onesies to weather any upcoming plagues of Onesie Blight (bad tomato joke, sorry), and all the basic and not-so-basic things necessary for our upcoming ordeal little one.

One amazing gift was that my dad finished restoring my grandfather’s cradle, a project which I gamely started way back in April (at a now-distant 18 weeks pregnant), and slowly became too preoccupied to finish. I will have to wait to share pictures of the amazing finished cradle, since he has one finished touch remaining, but it is essentially done, and I am amazed. And humbled, again, by his talents and generosity, devoting such time to a project when he has been working away from home for 4 days each week. Is there anything better than an awesome dad?

I’ll just share one picture here in closing, of the beautiful sunflowers given to me at my shower. They contain every bright drop of late-summer sun, something I know I’ll savor when the crisp autumn nights and Oregon rains come back to us very, very soon, though I know with that chilly weather we’ll have one very excellent reason to stay inside and snuggly warm…

Goodness, how is it already two weeks into August and I haven’t written a post yet this month? Summer is flying past me, it seems. It’s been a blur of birthdays, my mom’s, mine, and my sister’s, three weekends in a row (turning 57, 30, and 26 respectively) that were full of seafood, chicken, and hamburgers on the grill (in that order). The weather has turned from white-hot to a paler, refreshing coolness that is heaven on my skin and for my eight-months-pregnant body.

To go along with the cooler weather (or sometimes as a retreat beneath the cool fans) I’ve been reading Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate, stories that make me giggle about the weird Radlett children (the Mitfords in disguise) and their crazy societal pursuits in the teens and twenties in Britain. Upper class foibles and old customs galore! Just the kind of stuff I love. Last year I read Mary Lovell’s excellent Mitford biography, The Sisters, and waiting for me on the other end of the two Love stories is Frances Osborne’s The Bolter, a biography of Idina Sackville, alllegedly the inspiration for the Bolter in Nancy Mitford’s novels, but in her own right a terrible, fascinating woman who wreaked a bit of social havoc from the late Edwardian times into the Jazz Age. I can’t wait. There is something about this time period and this particular set of British under-nobility and notoriety that is delicious fun to read about, for me.

Another cooler-weather treat was that we had luscious baked eggplant in marinara with sausages. Baked eggplant in marinara has got to be one of the most amazing tastes. I have a baked eggplant parmesan recipe that I learned in Italy, which we loosely adapted: cut two eggplants in half lengthwise, and lay down in a baking dish on top of a couple spoonfuls of marinara. Ladle marinara sauce on top, and then top with slices of parmesan cheese. We tucked the sausages in around their sides, and one eggplant that we couldn’t quite fit into the dish was diced up small and put in with the sauce. A few whole cloves of garlic and leaves of fresh basil go quite nicely in this, too. Bake covered at 375 for 30-45 minutes or until fall-apart soft. By the time it is done cooking, the eggplant bits in the sauce will be sweet and tender, practically melting away and making even a sauce from a jar extra-special. I don’t have a picture, all I have are the leftovers to make me dream of making it again sometime soon! I know you’ll enjoy it too.

To go back to my most recent post, I have been living with and managing my gestational diabetes for nearly three weeks now. I’ve adjusted and tweaked my diet here and there, and become very methodical about taking a walk every morning after breakfast (especially handy for getting to know all the early-morning cats in my neighborhood!), and as a result my blood glucose numbers are looking pretty good. My husband and I were tremendously relieved to get the go-ahead from our midwives that we can continue with our planned homebirth. Aside from the thrill of being able to make it work, which surely taps into some sort of goody-goody student instinct in me to always get good grades, I am relieved that we do not have to go through the hassle of getting a prescription drug (or injectable insulin! eep!), getting to know a new doctor, having to hook into a whole new medical system at the hospital after getting to know our midwives’ practice for the last eight months. I know the birth of our daughter would be beautiful no matter where we go, but my gas bill and my diminished mental capacity to deal with New Stuff is breathing a sigh of relief that we don’t have to switch over to the hospital at this late stage.

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In a quiet morning moment today I took a picture of the baby’s crib (finally assembled!) that I can now see every time I exit the bedroom and head downstairs to start my day. It’s a good visual reminder (holy crap, a crib!) of what is coming, because sometimes it is so easy to get caught up in eating well, managing my sleepiness, going for walks and going to appointments, and forget that hey, there is a baby waiting at the end of all this. Some days that thought is a little freaky, but most of the time it’s a comfort to remember. We’ll have our own little bundle to snuggle at the end of this, all is not in vain. And I have just one more month of quiet to cherish before it happens. That part still leaves me in awe.

I had very good intentions to live a semi-normal life this week and even find time to write about it, but good intentions, it seems, have not managed to clean up my kitchen. This is a good summary of how this week has gone:

(Click through to Flickr to read notes on what items are in this mess!)

Good intentions, after all, could not overcome the 100 degree weather that descended on Portland this week, forcing us to hole up in the air conditioned bedroom, barely venturing downstairs to the kitchen except for very late at night and very early in the morning, when it was a livable 85 or 90 degrees. At seven months pregnant, it was all I could do most days to get some sleep, some food, and some exercise, without collapsing into a pile of tantrums and heat fevers. So perhaps it’s not that odd that our kitchen counter, normally the place where we, you know, prepare food, looks like it does.

Something else happened this week, though: I’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I am on a two-week trial of testing my blood four times a day to see if my glucose levels can be controlled by diet and exercise alone. This has put our plans of a homebirth temporarily on hold; if my glucose levels do not respond well (meaning I’m eating right and exercising a lot and they STILL won’t go down), I will need to receive medication to control it further. And once you start receiving medication for gestational diabetes, the midwives transfer you to a specialist obstetrician, and a hospital birth is the only safe choice.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and processing about this. It’s really difficult to steer away from the doom-and-gloom thoughts (I’m a failure! I’ll end up strapped down and overmedicated in the hospital!) to more positive ones (I’m going to do everything I can to help my body! I can have a fully aware and present birth even in the hospital!). I won’t know until sometime next week how we will proceed. Lacking a crystal ball, I’ve been doing my best to make the right choices and do the best I know how.

So aside from the heat, I’ve been more engrossed with the inner workings of my blood, rather than the state of our kitchen counters. But I still wanted to record this week, because not everything is photogenic and easy, and I want to remind myself that it’s all okay, really. Really.

Last weekend, we had a little get-together at my mother’s house to make my birthing blanket. This is an item that my midwives require me to have on hand, it’s a cushy and waterproof blanket (made from thrifted materials) that can follow me around the house as I labor — couch, floor, bed, stairs, bathroom, wherever. We will have a birthing pool, but it’s impossible to predict where I will feel most comfortable, of course.

So my mom and I went to thrift stores and picked out some soft sheets and a fluffy comforter, and she found some clear vinyl in a remnants bin at Mill End. With munchies on hand, and some tapestry needles and embroidery floss, we laid out all the layers on the big table and started stitching them together, nothing fancy, just simple tied knots every six inches or so.

We rolled up the edges and sewed them in place:

As I kept saying while we did it, remember that it doesn’t matter what it looks like, it just has to be functional. When my baby is born, this blanket may very well be soaked in water from the birthing pool, in blood and other fluids, and it is meant to be rolled up and thrown away. There will be other keepsakes (like one roly-poly baby!) to hold onto, and this blanket is not destined to be anything more than a soft basin to hold my labor in.

So it was gloriously imperfect, fields of purple knots mixed with pink as we switched thread, each woman’s corner a little bit different in spacing, areas of geometric regularity mixed with riotous pointillist arcs and dots of ties. It was a lot of fun, and two hours passed pretty quickly.

We felt very accomplished when it was done. Here is my nephew Cos, his homebirthing mama/my sister Katie, me, our friend Caren, and my mom, holding up our handiwork:

It really is soft and a comfortable place to be. Right now it’s in the linen closet so it doesn’t become the cat’s newest favorite item to shed hair on, but I’m thinking maybe it should come downstairs into the living room (where I will probably do a lot of my laboring, since that is where the tub will be) so I can do yoga moves and other baby-positioning postures on it as I move into the last two months of my pregnancy. It’s hard to believe we’re so close! I can’t wait to meet our little baby girl. On Tuesday I will be at 32 weeks exactly.

The Williams Sonoma catalog came to our house recently, with its glossy photos of improbably expensive, impossibly specialized gadgets. I do enjoy a good dose of random kitchen lust for things like the glass-bowled 90th Anniversary KitchenAid stand mixer (still can’t justify buying one of those), or the meatball grill basket (would I ever use this more than once a year?), or the cherry pitter that catches your pits (because oh the agony of catching pits on a napkin!).

But after rolling my eyes a bit (and spending some time dreaming about the enormous kitchen I would need to warehouse all these ridiculous gadgets), my eye was caught by an excellent recipe for Sweet Corn Soup. Of course, don’t you know that this recipe is all the easier if you purchase their fancy corn cutting thingy, and their new special Cuisinart whizmagog, but really, I got along fine without any of that, and you will too ;)

Here is my version, reduced and altered a bit from their version to suit a simpler set of tools and a smaller number of mouths to feed.

Sweet Corn Soup

4 ears of corn, as fresh as you can get them

1 onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, diced

Red pepper flakes

1/2 pkg of bacon, cut in 1.5″ bits

Cream

1. Cut the corn off the ears into a bowl with a sharp knife. Holding the empty cob upright over the same bowl, use the back of a butter knife to scrape down the length of the cod and get out the juicy bits left over. I was skeptical, but trust me this works.

2. Cook your bacon in a soup pot until done, then drain the bacon bits on a plate and save for later. Remove all but a couple tablespoons of bacon fat.

3. Saute onion in the bacon fat until soft and translucent. I let mine get a tiny bit caramelized at the edges. The bacon fat may sound decadent, but it goes well with the sweetness of the corn, and without it there’s not much to this soup, so really let the onions absorb the flavor at this stage.

4. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes to the pot, and stir for thirty seconds or so, then add all the corn kernels  and their juices. Cook, stirring only occasionally, for about 10 minutes.

5. Add 3.5 cups of water or vegetable/chicken broth. Add some salt and pepper. Bring the whole pot to a boil, then reduce and simmer for about 20 minutes.

6. Use an immersion blender to blend the soup to your desired texture. Stir in a bit of cream, maybe 1/8 cup or more, and season with salt and pepper again.

Serve hot or cold, with bacon crumbles on top for garnish. Serves 2-3 if you’re really hungry, maybe 4 if you’ve got other food on the table.

We crumbled in some whole wheat buttermilk biscuits to give the soup a little bit of substance. This was a nice light dinner for a summer evening, though with all the stove time (plus the oven at 400 degrees for the biscuits) it might not be so forgiving if your house doesn’t tolerate cooking heat well at the end of the day. But made in the morning, it would be perfect at the end of the day!

I also took the leftover biscuits, whipped the leftover cream with a bit of vanilla and honey, and had a nice simple dessert into the bargain:

…and PS, if you are seven months pregnant and the temperature in your house is creeping toward 80, and you’re tired but you get one of those beautiful bursts of energy, there is absolutely nothing better than cooking all of this in nothing more than shorts and your bra. Nothing in the world.

We drove down to the misty green Oregon coast forest and spent some time being forest-people for a while.

Picture here the pictures I couldn’t capture, because how can you? The cozy feeling of a campfire as the surrounding forest gets quieter and darker. The patter of rain on the tent as we slept. The insistent caw of the wise resident crows. The babble of the creek running unseen through the dense brush. The tiny birdsongs at night when twilight crept in. How everything smells a little bit of woodsmoke, of dirt, of rain, of the nearby ocean’s salt.

Here is one camp breakfast, triumphantly produced despite a drippy morning and the langorous feeling that maybe staying in our sleeping bags forever might not be such a bad fate:


It was so green there, and with the misty weather and our lack of beach gear, we only really got to ogle the waves from the cliffs at Seal Rock:

And instead we went for a leisurely exploration of the Oregon Coast Aquarium, since this particular spot on the coast is a bit farther than a usual weekend trip might take us. We spent some time with the awesome Oddwater Exhibits, and all their amazing, shy, colorful creatures.

Anyway now we are back, with the predictable mountain of laundry, box full of camping supplies not quite yet unpacked, and I’ve had the feeling all week that we didn’t quite leave. It seems like our camp site is still exactly where it was last Saturday, quiet and waiting for us. I want to go back, but maybe we’re still there. Or a piece of us might be. I love visiting the forest. I love how it visits me in return.

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