Friday, February 26, 2010

Baby Shower

One of the things that makes us most excited to bring Giovanna into the world is the love and support Marcos and I feel from the community around us. I can't think of a greater blessing than knowing that our little girl will be loved and cared for by so many capable, generous people. We feel like not only will she benefit from their open hearts and hands, but we too will be able to fortify her life by copying the examples we see every day of really fantastic parenting.

Last weekend, Rebecca, Nicole and Jesica (and more people behind the scenes) hosted a beautiful baby shower for Giovanna and me. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Secretly, I had been nervous for weeks because the idea of a party centered on me and my belly, at which I would have to open gifts in front of people, was truly mortifying. But, of course, it was perfect: beautiful decorations, endless gourmet brunch nibbles, and superb company. There was an executive decision to ixne on the games, and so it was lovely and simple, with good conversation and meaningful time spent together...

I'm spreading out the food pictures, so that you don't notice how obsessed I am with taking foodie photos... Above are Dena (who photographed my maternity session with Rebecca two posts below) and Aline.

Kristine, who does book binding, made a beautiful "advice book" for guests to write parenting tips in. Here is Missy, spilling the beans. We now have our hands on a book full of tried and true great ideas, but a few that stick out at the moment are Jocelyn's advice to "spoil yourself with really good lotion" (woo-hoo!), and Marne's reminder to "know that when a child acts out it means they need something and they feel safe enough to show you all their parts, even the angry and sad ones..."

Below are Jesica and Rachael. Jes is expecting a little boy in a few weeks, so we have been mutual support partners through some rough prenatal pilates sessions, and a lot of mommy conversations.

Angela and Jen (above) and Melissa and Marne (below). It was so nice to have people from different spheres of my life together in one place for a celebration. I only wish I had had an hour to sit down individually with every person present to let them know how much I appreciated them, and catch up on their lives.

Kristine, and Kristi (above) and Nicole, Jillian, Jami and Susan (below). I wish I had individual pictures of some of the gifts these ladies made... so much creativity in such a small group of women.

Watching me open gifts was hours of endless fun, as I'm sure you can well imagine.

With Zumrad and her baby girl Amina (above). I attended Amina's birth a year ago, and it was fun to see her walking around in her little black Mary Jane's. Below are Rebecca and me with her son Noah, at the end of the party when her boy monkeys were allowed to come back home.

I know that a lot of time and brainstorming went into planning, and orchestrating Giovanna's baby shower. Thank you so much Rebecca, Nicole and Jesica for using your time, talents and energy to help our family prepare for our new arrival!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Lucky Type of Poor

I have been thinking about why Marcos and I have managed to go relatively unscathed this past year in a world of such unsure economics, and I think it's because we're just a lucky type of poor: Not so poor that our daily stressors are pushing us to the edge, and not rich enough to have lost anything of any real value. Just some form of poor in between.

But the situation has made us think. A lot. One of the things on my mind lately is that we need to prioritize our marriage relationship above everything else. In older, well-established couples around me, I have seen the toll that job loss is taking on 30+ year solid relationships, and it's shocking what that type of instability can do to decades of working together. Yesterday on NPR, an economist was saying that the financial state of our country has been especially rough on men, who dominate the sectors of finance, construction, automobile industry, etc. that have been hit the hardest, and that unemployment is taxing a massive number of marriages. He added that although we like to think of our current marital set-up as fairly modern, the trend seems to be that women who are entering the work force in order to make ends meet (mainly in the service sector, which has not been as hard hit) are not coming home at the end of the day to find that their unemployed husbands have picked up any more of their share of household duties. Understandably, financial stress plus role shifting is causing some real upheaval, but ironically, break-ups are possibly the most expensive solution to the problem. Cohabitation has some real financial benefits that most of us overlook.

Another thing that has been on our minds lately is our need to set ourselves up for success in the future, however that may look. For us, it means waiting to invest in big things until Marcos has completed his education, and making sacrifices now so that we can lay the foundation for the future that we want. Although Marcos' full-time job as a computer programmer has allowed us to do wonderful things over the last year and a half that otherwise we would not have been able to do, we are realizing that relative comfort and convenience will not compare to finishing an education and setting ourselves up to be marketable and have bargaining power in a world that is increasingly more and more educated. The thought of giving up a "comfortable" salary is hard, but it will be much easier to do in the near future than later when we have a house payment, car payments, and kiddos to boot. We may have graduated past sleeping on an air mattress after 1.5 years of marriage, but we haven't come all that far since then; we still have relatively few expenses. Our plan is to gradually shift from full-time work and part-time school to part-time work and full-time school.

Yikes, but it needs to happen. We may be a lucky type of poor now, but there is nothing glorified about being poor forever...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Maternity in Full Bloom

One of the perks of working for photographers is that you sometimes get used and abused in that totally delightful, bring-it-on sort of way. Recently, my lovely friends/bosses Rebecca Mudrick and Dena Robles of Darling Art Photography caught me for a maternity photo session, and I'm still completely baffled by what they made of their very awkward model. It was an adventure for all of us, as I was a total geek in front of a camera, and they specialize in baby and child photography, but after poring over the photos about sixty times now, all I can say is...

...their specialty is baby and child photography? You could have fooled me.

Three must really be the magic number. Most of my favorite images came in sets of three.

The texture of this sweater really does it for me in this series. Please excuse the skin if it offends. This may be the only time I show off my biggest organ...

And a few random faves...

Some photos with my hubby. I thought Marcos was a pretty good sport to consent to doing tummy time with me. Who wudda thunk he'd be so gorgeous without even trying? Hubba hubba.

Q: How many people does it now take to pull on Metta's jeans?

Although maternity shots aren't usually the ones people blow up into poster size and center over their mantelpiece, it's priceless for Marcos and me (and someday will be for Giovanna), to have something that records so beautifully this chapter in our lives. Thank you so much Rebecca and Dena for sharing your talent and your artistic gifts. We love you so much!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Brillo Pad Apology

Yoo-hoo! I remember somebody asked me a while ago to bring a brillo pad to their house when I came for a social outing. I said yes I would, and then forgot all about the request until tonight when I was washing the dishes! I can't remember who you were, and I can't remember why you wanted a brillo pad, but I apologize for totally spacing it... I can still help you out if you're in need. Just, please, um, tell me who you are.

In other news, we had our 34 week prenatal appointment today. Giovanna is doing well, and with the guidance of our midwife we were able to press our hands into my tummy to feel her butt (around my middle) and her head (down at the bottom of my abdomen), confirming that she's fully flipped and ready to go... in six weeks, of course. I'm starting to get uncomfortable at night because of the pressure of sleeping solely on my hips, and some days I feel a little achy inside, but in general I am happy to let her sit in there and ripen as long as she wants. A few months ago I was dreading her being overdue because of a potential for gigantoid size, but after running into a friend in the hospital who gave birth at 32 weeks, and hearing her stories of too-long stays in the NICU, I am more than happy to let this girl take her time. When the books tell you that at 26 weeks babies have their senses developed, and that they are opening their eyes, and tasting amniotic fluid and that life is hunky dory, don't believe them. Unless something is wrong and they are not thriving, babies need as much time in utero as possible to prepare them for a healthy, happy life.

Remind me of this fact when I get closer to the due date and start to really feel uncomfortable and antsy, okay? Thanks.

Other things we learned today about Giovanna: her size is within the average range for a 34 week old, which was relieving, as Marcos keeps telling me he was nearly 10 pounds at birth. I also asked our midwife what babies are doing during their active times, because Giovanna is so busy that I call her my little squirrel who gathers nuts. The midwife just looked at us and said, "I think you'd better plan for an active child". I guess we'll be brainstorming on how to "channel" good kiddo energy...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bonding Time

Today felt so unsatisfying. Marcos and I were together nearly the entire day - at home, running errands, eating food - but I felt like we didn't have the connection moments that I thrive on. Each of us went about in our parallel worlds, one being busy while the other waited, and then switching so that our timing was never quite "on". I frankly spent most of the day being annoyed, and I was never quite sure why.

So tonight we sat down to play canasta and listen to This American Life together. Looking like he'd hatched a plan to try to make me happy, Marcos asked, "What is your favorite memory of us together?". I asked him for more specifics, because after nearly three years of a happy marriage, that's a hard question to answer. "Okay..." he started, "What is your favorite memory of us together that involves a round object?".


I don't think I ever answered the question, but he made me laugh, and it lifted the day's funk off of my shoulders. I'm grateful for the moments when I can see clearly enough to appreciate how incredible, and generous, and loving Marcos is. My mind is sometimes very simple, but I know that there is no richer feeling than being in a very happy relationship.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fake Baking: The Applesauce Bundt Cake

Confession: I am a bit of a snob when it comes to food. Secretly, I don't think that desserts made with boxed mixes qualify as real baking, and secretly, I don't think that food made from assembled prepared foods constitutes real cooking.

But there is a season to all things under Heaven. The season you reach me at right now is the season of cooking = preheating the oven so that I can stick in the frozen pizza, or boiling the water for the top ramen. (Okay maybe not always, but enough of the time... tonight we had a massive fresh veggie and chicken curry from scratch over brown rice, so we do have our redemptive moments).

But welcome to my most favorite Fake Baking recipe ever: The Fake Baking Applesauce Bundt Cake. This recipe is so good, so easy, and so convincingly beautiful that we invested in a bundt pan for the occasion. Thanks to our new friend Tracy for introducing us to the goodness...

Photo courtesy of

Applesauce Bundt Cake

¼ Cup sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

1 2/3 Cup applesauce

1 pkg yellow cake mix

3 eggs

Stir together the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl. Grease bundt pan and dust with about 2 tsp cinnamon and sugar mixture. Blend cake mix, applesauce, and eggs. Pour half of the batter into the pan. Sprinkle the layer of batter with the remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture. Top with reserved batter. Bake at 350 for ~40 minutes (as per box) or until a knife comes out clean. Cool in pan before removing. Serve plain, with icing, or with frosting. But really? The applesauce makes the cake so moist that even eaten plain, it will knock your socks off...

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Tapping into the Pool of Wisdom

When the Holidays rolled around at the end of last year, I put my birthing book aside and told myself that come January, we would bring the books back out and start getting serious about preparing for a positive, wonderful labor experience.

Well, February is the new January.

And I'm just starting to roll. Lately, I've been thinking that not taking advantage of the massive pool of birthing experience out there would be foolish, so I am writing now specifically with the purpose of tapping into the communal blogging Pool of Birthing Wisdom.

So all you mothers out there, what preparations did you find helpful? What do you wish you had known before waddling through the hospital doors? And what helped to take the terror out of the experience?

Just so you know where I am now, I'll give you a rundown of where I am mentally: I am not going into the labor process with a set expectation that anything will go any certain way. I greatly prefer to have a vaginal delivery over Cesarean, and I greatly prefer to have it be 100% natural and unmedicated, but I'm open to changes in the "plan" because labor is unpredictable. I have great midwives whom I trust and I will be giving birth in a great university hospital, so I will have access to anything I might need from a health/medical perspective.

As far as my current preparation goes, I have a Bradley natural birthing book, and Marcos and I have started using the coaching exercises to practice deep, intentional relaxation so that we can train my body to work with contractions instead of tensing up and working against them. And yes, I have been doing trying to do my Kegel exercises regularly, as well as prenatal yoga or walking a few times a week.

I should also mention that I don't have any moral issues against epidurals or medication. Early on in my pregnancy when I realized that, wow, this is it, this is where my life changes and I can't ever go back, the terror of something that large coming out of something that small washed over me, and I felt a sudden need to educate myself in order to suppress the urge to run away and disappear. And for obvious reasons, the most thorough and educational books tend to be natural birthing books. That is how we ended up leaning towards the Bradley method, and I am so grateful we have had access to this information. Knowing precisely what is going on during a contraction, and how my powerhouse uterine muscles will work to launch that baby out has been incredibly empowering. A little information sure works wonders: since I have understood that I am uniquely designed to do this kind of work, and that my body is made to be astonishing, my fear has nearly diminished, and my new feeling is a desire to be well prepared.

Which is where you come in. I would love to hear your thoughts about what worked and what didn't, and I don't care if every piece of advice you share is personal, anecdotal and you all contradict each other. I just want as many tools as possible in my belt so that when the time comes, I can powerfully and gracefully join you band of mother warrioresses!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Location #9: Munich, Germany

You may have noticed that this post takes us back to Munich, Germany, which is where our European adventure started. Yes folks, it's true, we've come full circle and this will be the last post on the European vacation! The 3.5 week trip we took in September required over 3.5 months for me to write about, but it's finally over. I had intended to journal about the adventure as it took place, but that never quite happened, so I thank you kindly for being patient as I have relived the journey through our photos. I realize that this blog is much, much, much more useful to me than to you, so I appreciate all of your laughs and sighs and your endearing patience with me and my writing about the thing I call my life.

The final chapter of our trip was the train ride up through Switzerland and back to Munich, Germany where we had started. You geography buffs know that Munich is the main city in the region of Southern Germany called Bavaria, and what is happening at the end of September in Bavaria? Oktoberfest...

Our planning for the Great European Adventure originally had nothing to do with Oktoberfest. Like you, I just assumed it was in October, and so our end-of-September departure date didn't even make me flinch. But apparently the festivities are too good not to share with another month, and by the last week in September, Oktoberfest was alive and well. We were very excited to check it out. This was the real deal.

For a married Mormon couple, Oktoberfest doesn't hold the same appeal as for the other globs of tourists who filled the tables, and we were happy to see that most of the field was covered with more of a family-friendly carnival than beer tents. The carnival had all of the games and rides we were used to seeing at any carnival in America, but the garb was a million times more interesting. Most of the Germans present were wearing traditional Lederhosen (the leather pants with suspenders) and Dirndle (the ladies dresses, such as the one above). It is a great look, and it was everywhere!

After winding our way down the rows of ferris wheels, dart games, and spinning teacup rides, we went to check out the beer tents. The tents were a little too smoky for my pregnant body to handle for very long, but it was basically endless rows of tables, Lederhosen, and a raised platform in the middle with an oompa loompa band belting out drinking songs for the group to enjoy and sing along to. Even my exchange brothers from high school, who have no problem participating in the drinking aspect of Oktoberfest, said that it's not a lovely place to be when it gets dark. We left around 6pm, and even by then, people who had been drinking all afternoon were starting to stumble out of the tents completely smashed and unable to walk or talk. Notsoattractive.

We found a table outside, which filled quickly with people from other countries. Marcos and I ordered the Spezi, a mix of Coca Cola and orange soda. Yum!

To top off the night, we decided to spend our ride money on the only ride that looked decently safe and fun to me at the time: the Star Flyer. WHY it looked safe and fun to me I still have not figured out. You may recognize these photos from a post I did a few months back called The Worst Five Minutes of my Recent Life. Just to give you an idea.

And finally, here is Marcos eating his favorite new German food: Leberkaese ("liver cheese", neither of which are in the sandwich). Fresh bread rolls, mustard and a slab of some kind of mystery meat... yuuummmmm...

Thank you Germany and Austria and France and Italy and Switzerland for giving us a thousand new memories, a thousand new loves, and a thousand reasons to return!