Friday, July 25, 2008

Fine Dining is Relative

A woman just related an interesting childhood memory on NPR. Years ago she attended a snooty private school on scholarship, and each September when the teacher asked what everyone had done that summer, this girl would describe her family’s low-budget road trips to local cities while her classmates talked about their trips to Europe.

One year, after another student described “another stupid trip to stupid Paris where we ate at some stupid restaurant where they only spoke stupid French,” the girl who always stayed local got up and told everyone about a fabulous restaurant her family had been to. She recalled the novelty of carrying her own food tray, getting her own soda, and serving herself as much ice cream as she wanted. That evening, the family phone rang practically off the hook as her ritzy classmates’ parents called to learn the name of the fine eating establishment their kids were so eager to try.

While I’m definitely looking forward to our own family vacation back East later this year, I appreciated this reminder that you can make memories wherever you are, and you don't even have to leave home to have fun with your family.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Seize the Diaper

"Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today." (Anonymous?)

I've heard that saying mocked and parodied more often than I've heard it quoted correctly. This is particularly true among college students, who practically revel in their ability to pull rabbits out of hats at the very last minute (on two hours sleep, no less).

Well, as further evidence that I'm turning into some sort of practical grown-up, I'm actually starting to apply that sage advice, on occasion. For example, when Joy's Diaper Genie (translation: "odor-proof dirty diaper storage unit") gets full I usually move it to the hallway before I put her down to nap, so I can then empty it and take the bag out to the trash without wondering what my toddler is doing in my absence. Efficient system, right?

The trouble is, once lullabies were sung and the door was closed, did I ever want to lug a bunch of icky diapers out into the hot sun? Of course not. So the Genie would often sit in the hallway for hours, and every time I glanced at it my heart would sicken and I would think, "Blast! I must attend to that wretched task before Joy wakes up. Maybe in a few minutes . . ." And of course, I would miserably repeat that same feeble line to myself a dozen times until Joy finally woke up and I had to cram yet another diaper into the poor, stuffed Genie. No wonder it never granted me three wishes. But I digress.

Lately, I've employed a totally different strategy. Instead of letting that nagging task torment me for three solid hours, I take preemptive action and . . . empty the Genie as soon as Joy goes down. Instead of feeling like a miserable, hounded slacker, I feel proactive and my periodic Genie sightings yield satisfaction instead of shame. These heady emotions can be somewhat addictive, and when I find myself confronted with other nagging tasks I think, "Wait! If I just do this NOW I can feel satisfaction instead of festering guilt! Huzzah!"

Of course, most of you sensible people probably grasped this principle years ago. For any of you who haven't, I seriously encourage you to try it. Careful though--liberty can be habit-forming.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Someday Was Today

Today was a red-letter day, people. Yes, I'm feeling mostly better (which is the best one can hope for in one's first trimester) but the real news is that I finally used . . .

. . . that egg separator I was so excited to get with a new measuring cup set three years ago. If you have a kitchen gadget fetish like I do, you know how it is--you covet some random item for years, then finally purchase or receive it and think, "At last! I have arrived!" Then the thing sits a drawer or cupboard for years and your spouse or roommate occasionally asks why you still hang on to it. "It's the principle of the thing," you reply. "Even if I never actually use it, I know that I CAN, and there is hope that someday I WILL."

So I lived the gadget junkie dream today--I finally used my separator. What was the recipe, you may ask? Only Cousin Jodi's Nutella Swirl Ice Cream. The finished product tastes divine, but my second batch froze practically solid--I think I removed it from the ice cream maker while it was still too soft. What can I say--I'm still an ice cream making newb. Guess I'll just have to make more. With my little egg separator. :)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bless His Husband Heart

Morning sickness was an absolute bear today. My head hurt, my stomach constantly threatened rebellion, and I had zero energy. I could barely lift myself off the sofa. Since most other days of this pregnancy have gone just fine, I really, REALLY hope today's trauma was a fluke.

As the time drew near for Phillip to leave for his morning train, he asked if I needed him to stay home. I desperately wanted him to, but I knew he had a lot on his plate today. I asked how badly he needed to attend class, and he responded that he could watch it remotely and it sounded like I really needed him to do that. With tears in my eyes I hugged him and thanked him for staying to help me. Bless his husband heart.

I am glad to report that things gradually got better, and by late afternoon I was back to my usual self. I regret that this morning's misery complicated Phillip's day so much, but I’ve noticed that his choice to stay and help me has drawn us closer together. We are both so busy much of the time that we sometimes spend hours working on separate activities in the same room. While that is an efficient use of time, if we do it too often it can sap the unity and closeness from our relationship.

By contrast, Phillip’s service to me today increased our love and affection for each other. It reminds me of a recent quote we read from President Hinckley: “Tremendous happiness and peace of mind are the results of loving service to others. Nobody can live fully and happily who lives only unto himself or herself.”

French Burqa Debate

I occasionally check a fun blog with daily photos from Paris. Today’s photographic subject was a graffiti picture of a Muslim woman wearing a veil.

The photographer noted that the French Council of State recently denied a Moroccan woman’s application for citizenship even though she is married to a French citizen. The reason they gave was that “She has adopted a radical practice of her religion, incompatible with essential values of the French community, particularly the principle of equality of the sexes.” An article I found elsewhere elaborated that she lives a reclusive life in total submission to her husband, but the blog post (and comments thereon) focused on the fact that she always wore a burqa (a head covering with only a slit for the eyes to see through) in public.

Some of the comments declared the burqa an object of oppression that should be outlawed. As I read that, I got to thinking of at least one interview I’ve read of a Muslim woman who viewed the head covering as a sacred symbol of her devotion to God and respect for her body. Though I may not agree that veils are God’s ideal for female modesty, I respect her convictions and I’m sure there are other Muslim women who voluntarily wear a veil as a statement of their commitment to God in spite of societal pressure and even persecution. I felt it my duty to give that woman a voice in the blog discussion, and point out that forbidding a religious practice because our culture considers it oppressive can be just another form of oppression.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Yin and Yang of Parenthood

This morning was pretty rough. My stomach was grumpy, and for a while I just wanted to lie down and rest until the nausea subsided. It’s tough to do that when you have a toddler, though. The most I could get away with was reading her a few board books from a horizontal position before she insisted I get up and do something else. Sigh.

Fortunately the afternoon was full of hugs, games, and lots of Joy giggles, which more than made up for the morning. Funny how a few of those moments can make you forget about the tough stuff.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Prego Q & A

Thanks for the well wishes, everyone. In response to your questions about the due date, my first OB appointment is this coming week, so I don't have a firm date yet. It will probably be around February or March, though.

As for how I'm feeling, morning sickness has been mercifully mild this time. During my first pregnancy every food on earth sounded revolting with one exception, and that exception changed often and without warning ("Quick! Chinese food sounds good! Let's go get some before my stomach changes its mind!!"). I soon learned not to take lunches to work because by the time my lunch break rolled around I had no desire to eat whatever I'd brought.

This time, my stomach often feels slightly unsettled, but not so much that I don't feel like eating. My appetite also isn't as finicky as it was last time (though, come to think of it, Chinese food DOES sound pretty good right now). I really, REALLY hope this is the worst I can expect during this pregnancy.

Actually, fatigue has been the toughest prego symptom to deal with this time. I remember that by the final weeks of my first pregnancy I could barely get out of first gear, but I don't recall being this tired at the beginning. Perhaps it's because I was sitting at a desk instead of raising a toddler. Before this pregnancy I was pretty good about exercising and taking Joy outside to play, but lately there have been far too many days when I just wanted to lay down on the futon and maybe read my daughter a board book now and then. It takes a major act of will to get us both outside for some fresh air.

Weariness aside, things are going well and we're excited to meet the new member of our family. I'm curious to see how our family dynamic we'll change, and I'm glad Joy won't get too used to being the center of our universe. Hopefully the transition won't be too rough for her. Any suggestions?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Farewell to Brie and Other Delights

See this?

I'm sure gonna miss it for the next seven months or so, because you're not supposed to eat cookie dough when you're pregnant.

You're also not supposed to eat Brie, which required some serious self-restraint at Thursday's Young Women board meeting. There was a whole wedge of it just inches away from me, beckoning. . . . I finally had to move it several feet down the table so I wouldn't be tempted to throw caution to the winds and eat the whole dang thing.

Ah well, at least I can still eat (lots and lots of) this. And even if I couldn't, the little baby who's coming to join us would be well worth it. I can't wait to meet him. Or her. Or them?!? (twins run in my family - yikes!)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Call Me A Heretic . . .

I hadn't even heard of the Twilight books until the third one came out. At first I avoided them because I didn't need yet another literary addiction. As I learned more about the series, I started avoiding it because a whiny heroine and teenage sexual tension didn't sound like my cup of tea. However, as more of my friends, acquaintances, and neighbors' third cousins became Stephanie Meyer disciples I became curious in spite of myself. Actually, it was the Twilight movie trailer that finally pushed me over the edge. I just had to know what these stories were about.

So I cheated. I went to Wikipedia and read the plot summaries for all three books. The summaries both satisfied my curiosity and confirmed my suspicions, but they also left me with two burning thoughts.

First, of the three main characters the vampire is the only one who isn't a monster. Edward cares about others more than himself, isn't self-indulgent to the point of endangering himself and those he claims to care about, and both considers and cares that decisions have consequences. By contrast, Jacob's heavy-handed attempts to manipulate Bella make him more monstrous than his transformation to a werewolf ever could, and Bella (in addition to being a head case in the second book) is so recklessly absorbed with her own self-gratification that I don't think I could endure four whole books about her.

Which brings me to my Second thought: Why does someone of Edward's intelligence, character, and sense like a person like Bella in the first place? Is it because she treats him like a man instead of a monster? Or because he finds it fulfilling to constantly save her from the peril she gets herself into? Perhaps it is simply because that's what the Male Lead does in a romance novel: love the Female Lead unconditionally, brave all hazards to protect her, and utter sensitive, well-crafted, romantic lines to make all the female readers swoon.

The whole business reminds me of "An American in Paris," another story where I found most of the characters more annoying than endearing. The Male Lead essentially says, "She's a selfish, unpredictable girl with serious character flaws and little regard for the feelings of others, but by golly, we're MEANT for each other. I'd marry her in a heartbeat." Right. Because that's exactly the type of person you want to spend decades with in the trenches of marriage. And those words could as easily have been uttered by Edward as by Jerry Mulligan.

Perhaps all of this wouldn't bother me so much if it didn't reflect a broader societal assumption that successful relationships have everything to do with attraction and nothing to do with character. While the epidemic of American divorces doesn't stem entirely from that misalignment of priorities, I suspect it's a major factor and many of the stories we tell ourselves in print and on film reinforce it. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good romance as much as the next female, but we've wandered pretty far from Jane Austen whose protagonists loved each other because of good character traits, not despite bad ones.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

I'm Back, Again

No, I didn't have second thoughts about resuming my blog. We moved to a new apartment last month, then our computer died shortly after my last post. We've spent the ensuing weeks trying to settle in and replace our old computer, during which time I only had computer access when Phillip was home and not using his laptop. In the rare event that those criteria coincided I spent every spare minute working or journaling (because I'm a compulsive, extensive journaler, and apparently I can't bring myself to hand-write entries if there is any remote possibility I can type them).

Now that life is back to normal I look forward blogging more. I actually have something on my mind that I want to post about, but I'm still mulling it over a bit. I'm sure it will make its debut soon, for better or worse. In the meantime, here's a delicious quote from Nathaniel Hawthorne (from a letter to his wife) about his introduction to farm work at Brook Farm:

"After breakfast, Mr. Ripley put a four-pronged instrument into my hands, which he gave me to understand was called a pitch-fork; and he and Mr. Farley being armed with similar weapons, we all three commenced a gallant attack upon a heap of manure. This affair being concluded, and thy husband having purified himself, he sits down to finish this letter to his most beloved wife. Dearest, I will never consent that thou come within a half mile of me, after such an encounter as that of this morning. Pray Heaven that this letter retain none of the fragrance with which the writer was imbued."