Saturday, November 21, 2009

32 weeks

Let's get this out of the way first. Here is me, with the little bug in my belly at 32 weeks:

Just a note: that is a globe behind me in front of the window, not some weird extension of my belly. :-)
I am still feeling pretty good, but the third-trimester is a bit of a trial. I am going to take Chris' lead and list the good and the not so good.

The good:
- Feeling our little boy move around more and more and watching my belly morph into various shapes
- Being done with our childbirth classes and baby care class
- Still fitting into my favorite fleece
- Thinking about the fact that by next Thanksgiving we are going to have a little munchkin crawling - maybe even running? - around the house.
- Not feeling guilty about eating... anything.
- Chocolate milk - that is my latest craving. I can't explain it. I am generally lactose intolerant, but now I can guzzle this stuff without a problem. It's heaven.
- My eczema cleared up thanks to my crazy hormones.
- More cute baby clothes.
- Imagining what Drew will look like holding our baby and listening to him talk about all the father-son stuff he will do with him.
- Shopping for baby stuff.
The not so good:
- Pelvic pain - according to my doc, it's just my ligaments stretching, but holy mother of God, it hurts.
- Granny panties
- Stretch marks. Not that I ever would wear a bikini, but still.
- Trying to turn in bed at night - it's a production.
- Trying to get informed about what's good for baby and what isn't, and at the same time tuning it all out and making up my own mind.
- Assembling baby equipment.
- Feeling completely useless because I get tired after doing a load of laundry.
So, the not so good list is really not that long and those are all minor complaints. And Drew's been awesome about doing pretty much everything around the house and hoisting me up when I want to turn or get up at night. I know it sounds stupid, but it really helps.
Eight weeks to go - if all goes well - and I can't decide whether that's a lifetime away, or whether that feels like tomorrow.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Baby room!

I am 28 weeks today! Yey! Some days it seems like I have all the time in the world until our little guy arrives, and some days it seems like time just whizzes buy! Oy.

Last weekend I had an awesome baby shower! Highlights included: a fine collection of awesome women gathered in my living room, a diaper cake made by my Mom, cookies and sandwiches that were out of this world - also thanks to Mom, and some super cute gifts!

We spent this morning and afternoon preparing the baby room. I held off until now because we were expecting overnight guests and couldn't get rid of our guest bed until today. But we got a lot done today - a lot more than I thought we would! It's a bit of a relief, because the sight of all the stuff piled in there was stressing me out. It was also hard to see and know what else we need to buy - and let me just say this, that there's a lot left! Shopping! :-)

Here is the above-mentioned chaos.

And after the chaos... I am still not sure about all of the furniture placement and the wall decorations are still up for debate. But it's a good start.

I definitely love the new glider and the entire little nursing/rocking corner. Ahhh....

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mind the Gap

Today was an exciting day for me. It will not sound exciting to anyone else, but here it is: I received a large package from The Gap.

The package was for me. It wasn’t a gift for someone else, or a mistake, nor did the package contain shoes or a bag or other accessories. No: it contained actual clothes. Maternity clothes. For me.

Now, the reason why this is so exciting is because the last time a piece of clothing – namely a pair of jeans and men’s shirt – from The Gap fit me was in 1996, if I remember correctly. I was a sophomore in college. It was a long, long time ago.

Read the rest at The Nervous Breakdown!

Monday, September 21, 2009

23 weeks

Here is a brief baby inventory...

So far the baby has:

1. A couple of cute outfits

2. A kick-ass pram stroller courtesy of my parents

3. A crib

4. A changing table

5. Bathtub

6. A bib and sippy cup

7. One set of ecstatic Hungarian grandparents

8. One set of slightly freaked out but over the moon happy future parents

9. Way too many nicknames
10. A soccer ball, baseball, and football, courtesy of above-mentioned grandparents.

I can't believe I am doing this, but here is me, at 23 weeks and 2 days. I am still feeling pretty great - some aches and pains, but nothing major to complain about. Not obvious from the picture: the luscious hair, strong, beautiful nails, and smooth skin I've been enjoying. Do I have to stay permanently pregnant to keep these?

And here is the Little Guy himself, snuggling with the placenta, or whatever it is babies like to do in the womb:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Boy, oh boy!

We found out yesterday (on 9/9/09, no less!) that we are having a little boy! I was secretly hoping that it would be a boy - not sure why. I would have been happy either way, but this way I am totally psyched!

The ultrasound tech took her time to measure everything from head to toe. At the end of the exam she said: "I know your baby's sex. You probably can't see it on the monitor, but I can see it and I know what it is." Well, are you going to tell us woman????? Geeez... By the way, we could see it too. Ah, technology! It's amazing!

We could see the baby move like it was going out of style - we could even see his little mouth moving. He'll be a talker - I am sure he gets that from Drew. I've been feeling him move a lot too and it's too bad that Drew can't feel it yet. Soon, soon... That doesn't stop him from keeping his hand on my belly nonstop, which is perfectly fine with me. I'll take all the tummy time I can get! It goes well with the intense clingyness I've been feeling toward Drew. It's SUPER annoying because I have never been clingy, but now I get bent out of shape when he has to work late. Ugh. Not an attractive side-effect or pregnancy!

The other surprise yesterday was that they moved my due date to 1/11/10 instead of 1/16. No biggie, really, but man, that would be another awesome date!

I can finally start shopping for baby stuff - so far the only things the kid has are a bunch of children's books, a bottle, and a sample diaper. Oh, and a HUGE bag of big boy toys from my parents, including a soccer ball, baseball, football, Matchboxes... I guess it's not a bad start, but I have an inkling that this will not be enough. We are hopefully buying a crib and changing table this weekend, along with a rug and curtains. I will also allow myself to go loose at the Carter's outlet in Freeport. Watch out! I am also secretly thrilled that this will be a winter baby. I mean, check this out...It's ridiculous, right?

On a more serious note... I've been taking a prenatal yoga class for the past couple of weeks, which has been a great way to stretch and relax. But what I love the most is the ability to chat with other pregnant ladies. During the first couple of weeks everyone's been sort of reserved, but for the past few weeks we've been more chatty about baby stuff. In turn the instructor - who is also a midwife - has been giving great advice, answering questions, etc. It's been awesome! Last week she talked about how important it was during labor to be able to say what we need - whether is quiet, or a backrub, or whatever. It turned into a long discussion about how husbands handle the situation and whether they rise to the occasion.

In the end, the midwife said that instead of worrying about whether our partners will be good enough supports, we should talk with them about what kind of parents we want to be. Labor is going take up one day - but then the real work will begin. I guess I knew that, but it was good to hear it and now I feel better about having a bit of a laissez faire attituted about the labor thing. Sure, I want a healthy baby and a healthy me, but the discussion about choices around giving birth is giving me a headache. Everyone (online or not) has an opinion and I just want to get there and see how it goes. Maybe that's naive, but how can I possibly make a decision in advance about something that I have never experienced? So I am practicing my yoga breathing and thinking past that (hopefully) one day. It's a relief, let me tell you!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Thousand Words: Family History

Read my latest post on The Nervous Breakdown:

The stories start right after Sunday lunch.

We are all crammed around our tiny kitchen table – me, my brother, my parents, my fraternal grandmother, and my maternal grandfather. The table only fits four, so my Dad is sitting on the office chair brought out from the living room and I am sitting on a small, red leather stool that’s usually in the hallway. I am wedged between my brother, my grandfather, and the dishwasher.

Our Sunday lunches – golden chicken soup, Wiener schnitzel with potatoes and cucumber salad, brownies – start late and end quickly. Toward the end of the meal the others know what is coming and they start to scramble towards the living room right after the last bite of dessert.
It is probably my position at first – too far from the door with no obvious escape route – that makes me the perfect audience for my grandfather’s stories. Later I feel too polite and too invested to get up and leave with the others.

So I load the dishwasher and sit back on my little red stool and prepare myself for a long afternoon.


Friday, August 7, 2009

Moving right along

Yesterday was my 16-week appointment, even though technically I will be 17-weeks on Saturday. (Side note: I always found it totally annoying when people used to say 16 weeks instead of four months. It required me to do some quick math in my head. And now here I am doing the same thing!)

I got to hear the baby's heartbeat - blupblupblupblupblup - and the doctor measured my belly. "Wow, it got big!" he exclaimed and I wanted to punch him just a little bit. First of all, it's not even that big, second of all, I still look like I am just fat.

I started a prenatal yoga class this week and I was the chubby girl amongst all the pregnant women. I had some serious belly envy. I know it's coming and I know it all depends on body type, but come on! What can I say? Patience was never one of my strengths.

The big day is 9/9/09 when we will find out the baby's gender. Can't wait! Hopefully he/she won't be shy and will show us the goods. We also started to look at daycare centers - ugh. It's a bit daunting, not to mention weird to be thinking about passing baby off somewhere before I even met him/her. The first place we saw was OK, but it was all very cluttered and dark and messy. We are going to see another one this afternoon, so I am hoping for the best. Although, what the "best" might be is still yet to be determined.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A test of patience

I think this is the longest I have ever, ever kept a secret! I SO wanted to blog about it and announce it on Facebook and Twitter and other social media outlets, but I just couldn't... But now my boss knows, my colleagues know, so I can let all three of my blog's readers know: I am pregnant!

IUI #3 on April 23 was a success. I know it sounds stupid, but I totally knew it. As soon as the doctor was done and left the room, I felt this overwhelming joy. I was laying there with my hips propped up, crying. I just knew.

I took "only" four pregnancy tests - the first was negative and the rest positive! We saw his/her little bud legs and arms on an ultrasound June 15, at 9 weeks and 2 days. I was expecting the ultrasound to be fuzzy, but as soon as it was turned on there was no doubt - it was a baby! It even wiggled its little feet.

I've been feeling great - no morning sickness or anything else too unpleasant. I had a couple of days of feeling green, but I've been keeping a supply of animal crackers and diet ginger ale on hand at all times. I haven't had any cravings either for anything specific, but every time I see something on the Food Network, or in a TV ad, I want to eat it. Subway footlong meatball sandwich - sounds good to me! Halibut seasoned with chiles on a light cucumber salad prepared by Iron Chef Mario Battali - YUM! Drew's ham and cheese sandwich - I want it! If it's food and I see it, I want it.

My next ultrasound is not until the beginning of September, when we'll find out the baby's gender... I don't think I have a preference. Drew and I always thought that we'd have a boy, but then I had a dream that we had a girl. I am not sure how good dreams are at predicting these things, so we'll see. I'd been happy either way. Although I have to say that coming up with a good, strong, non-stripper sounding girl name is not very easy. But we'll manage, I am sure!

So, here I am... I am at 15 weeks, super excited, super freaked out, super emotional (Home Depot commercials make me cry), super everything. The journey has begun!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Roll of Cottage Cheese, Covered in Chocolate

PORTLAND, ME – It is the most unique candy bar imaginable. I am not even sure I can call it a candy bar. It is a roll of sweet, lemony cottage cheese – smooth and fluffy, none of that weird, gritty, rubbery stuff – covered in a layer of crunchy milk chocolate. It’s about the size of my middle finger and it’s wrapped in a red polka-dot foil. It’s “Turo Rudi.” Literally translated: Cottage Cheese Roll. Or “rollie,” if we want to be accurate.

It is only for the Hungarian palate. I have never met an American who enjoyed it. I think you have to grow up with it to appreciate its weirdness. You have to have eaten enough to know how to open the package so that the chocolate doesn’t brake off and how to fish the last bits of chocolate crumbs out of the foil. You have to have crushed enough rollies in your backpack on hot school days to appreciate the way it tastes when it’s melted and to not be too surprised when it comes to represent your entire personal history and identity.

Because of course, it is more than just a roll of cottage cheese, covered in chocolate.

More on The Nervous Breakdown...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Spring is here

It's been a while since I felt bloggy. There is plenty to write about, but somehow I've gotten out of my blogging groove. I promise to get back into it... At least for myself.

Not much new has been happening. Spring is finally here and I've been having a lot of fun watching what will sprout out of the ground. We have tons of tulips, a lilac bush, two honeysuckle bushes, wild strawberries and I also think we have a raspberry bush. Our garden went from bare and brown to lush, green, a real Garden of Eden.

We are hopefully buying some porch furniture - and a grill! - this weekend, so I am planning on moving my books and other essentials to the porch for the rest of the summer. I never realized how much I missed being outside when the weather is nice. It's sort of weird, because I grew up in an apartment and this is the first time I have a garden and I just can't help staring at it and walk around every half hour when I am working from home. Sitting outside is one of my favorite things to do - I loved it even as a child when we went to our summer house and even during huge storms I enjoyed sitting on the covered terrace, wrapped in a blanket. It gives me the chills just thinking about it.

Here are a couple of pics of what's been happening outside my window:

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Leaf Management

My garden taunted me all winter long. And that’s a long time in Maine. For several weeks, the snow was so high that the small wrought-iron fences that give the garden some sort of organization and form were completely invisible. I couldn’t wait until spring to dig my hands into the soil again.

My husband always corrects me when I call the area behind our house a “garden.” “It’s a yard,” he says, and I think he is wrong. A yard, to me, is some sort of vast expanse of grass, maybe some bushes and hedges. Perhaps a flower bed. I am sure that there is a dictionary definition that would clear all this up, but frankly, I am just not that interested in the terminology.

Read the rest of the post at The Nervous Breakdown...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Monday, March 16, 2009

What our stuff says - and doesn't say

From the May 21, 2003 edition of The Christian Science Monitor

I have a lot of stuff. I realized this when my husband and I moved into our first apartment. He neatly packed his clothes, books, a few antique cameras, and a box of photos into his little white Neon. I had to make 10 trips in a Mercury Sable that was bursting at the seams.

"What is all this?" he asked, pointing at the pile of boxes and bags in the middle of our living room.
"It's my stuff," I replied. "Can't you tell?"
"Well, that's ridiculous," he said. "Every time you move, you should get rid of everything."

Obviously, I hadn't changed apartments in a while. I tried to convince Drew that my stuff was important, that it ensured my comfort and happiness in an ever-changing, crazy world. Stuff, to me, remains constant and stable.

My collection of notebooks, for instance. I have leather-bound notebooks, silky ones, notebooks with gilded pages, notebooks with and without lines. I have a notebook in every room.

I have a scarf collection from around the world. My husband claims that he first fell in love with my scarves, so he doesn't complain about them too much - even though they take up most of his drawers and jump out at him from the coat closet in the hallway.

It is hard to explain my relationship to my stuff. But in a strange way the things that surround me - just like people - represent who I am.

When I was little, my grandfather's room always seemed incredibly warm and mysterious. He believed in conserving energy, so the lights were always off, except for a small reading lamp on his computer desk. In high school, when I needed help with my math homework, I usually found him behind that computer desk, peering up at me from some complicated equation. We sat in his dark room several afternoons a week; I was not exactly a math genius. Grandpa made up little rhymes and poems to help me memorize rules and equations and hoped earnestly that I would become an engineer just like him.

I didn't.

His room was the only one in our apartment that had paintings on the wall. If I remember the story correctly, he told me once that they belonged to a great-great-uncle who once owned a movie theater and whose wife owned a stationery store. The paintings were of a young woman in a hat, a small country house, some trees, and the interior of a room. When my grandfather was away, I liked to go into his room and snoop. I don't know what I was hoping to find, but there was so much stuff everywhere I was sure he was hiding great treasures. I also liked to inhale the smell in his room: a mixture of chamomile and shaving cream.

His closets and drawers were full of mysterious tools, notebooks, his stamp collection. He believed in keeping everything: plastic bags and bottles (he was a plastics engineer), carbon paper, old envelopes, anything that could be reused.

I wasn't there when my parents cleaned out his room after his death. But I often wondered about what they would uncover, the family mementos, silly souvenirs from trips, or secret diaries. I was hoping for some stuff that represents who my grandfather was and wasn't. When my parents were done, the picture was sobering: My grandfather left behind 20 bags of trash and about $900 in a bank account.

His long life had seen him hiding from Nazis during World War II, getting married as Budapest was being bombed, finding his wife alive in the Dachau concentration camp, having successful children and grandchildren, writing books, learning to use a computer late in his life. But his room had no personal belongings that he held dear or wore every day. We couldn't point to anything and say: "That was his favorite so-and-so" or "Remember when he bought such and such?"

I was disappointed. There seemed to be so many mysteries about him, so many unanswered questions. In the half-darkness of his room I'd hoped to find answers to why he was always seemed unhappy and lonely even though his daughter and grandchildren lived with him.

I realize that one's legacy should not be measured by the amount of stuff. But I couldn't help but wonder about my own stuff: Am I just collecting trash? Will my children and grandchildren walk through my house, discarding my collections? Will my notebooks and scarves seem like the goofy habit of a crazy old woman? I hope that maybe one of my grandchildren will wrap one of my big, silky scarves around her face, inhale the scent of my perfume and say: "This used to be Grandma's."

Monday, March 9, 2009

Random Things

This past weekend was glorious. Warm, sunny, springy. So we took a little drive and went south to York, Kittery, and Portsmouth. We walked on the beach:

Saw cute things in the sand:

And now it's back to this:

Ugh. This white stuff of course is delaying our bathroom project. Hopefully things will dry out and the construction will begin on Thursday. So far, we have a bathtub in our garage. Classy.

This will be our first serious home improvement project, and I am a bit frightened by it. The amount of money, the drastic change to the entire look of the house. But oh, the comfort of walking into a bathroom from the bedroom without having to take the stairs! I can't wait! I think it will be worth it.

There are so many things we could - and should - do to this house. I can already see that the list will never end. There is the yard. The curtains. Art for the living room walls. Patio furniture. Need to get a grill. Clean the basement. Plant flowers for the spring. Lawn mowing. Ugh. I mean, it's all good 'ugh', but still.

In other news, IUI Round 2 was a no-go. I am really not surprised - I don't think the doctor knew what she was doing and my egg probably just said 'screw it' and moved to a warmer climate. I can't blame her.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Round Two

It is Saturday morning and I am sitting at home, licking my wounds. Not literally, of course, because the wounds happen to be on my insides. Today was IUI Round #2 and boy, it was about as romantic as a root canal. Actually, a root canal hurts less I think. My body wouldn't cooperate today so the doctor had to use a clamp on my cervix. That's right. It is about as painful as it sounds. Ouch.

Whatever humor I found in driving around with sperm, etc., was gone about oh, two seconds into the procedure. Of course, if it worked then it was worth it. If it didn't work... Well, let's not think about that yet.

Note to self: I should have had that cosmo with dinner last night. Darn. I could really use one right now. I am going to spend the rest of the day on the couch and nursing Drew, who is also sick as a puppy.

On a different note... I wrote this piece on The Nervous Breakdown last week and I've been getting some interesting feedback about it. I do appreciate all the comments, but on the other hand it feels like the comments are evaluating the relationship I wrote about. I know it's not really true. But when someone writes that they would love to read more about it, or that the story left them dangling, I feel like saying "well, welcome to my world." I sure would have liked to know more and I was left dangling too.

I am not bitter, or anything. It all happened a lifetime ago and a continent away.

My brother said that he is jealous that I had this big love in my life that is worthy of writing about. True, but what does that say about all the other loves - including the current one - that I don't write about? Why is it harder to write about something that is quiet and constant and safe? Drew read the piece too and he said that he loved me and my "dark, dark past." Snort. Never thought of myself as someone with a past, but I guess I do have one.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Love in six words

I found this great article in The Washington Post today. I am not really into Valentine's Day - although this year I did get Drew a gift - but I found the challenge of distilling the story of a relationship into six words interesting.

Right away, I came up with this:

I hated you. You knew better.

I really did hate Drew when I first met him - and I don't use the word "hate" lightly. He was SO annoying. Arrogant. Cocky. Smartass. He is still all of those things, but also many, many other, good, kind, gentle things.

I also thought of: I am still not sure. Are you?

Ok, that's seven words. When we first started dating and things were getting serious, we would lay awake at night and ask each other: Are we doing the right thing? It's sort of become a joke between us since then -- we ask that every time we make a big decision. Drew's answer is always a sort of inpatient "yes, of course we are doing the right thing." But I am never that sure about anything. Not about getting married, or moving, or taking a new job, or buying a house, or picking a paint color. It's comforting that he is sure -- it somehow makes it OK for me not to be.

Come to think of it "are we doing the right thing" is six words. So there.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Better luck next time

The IUI didn't work this time around. It's a bummer, but it's not unexpected. The doctor said that there is only a 20% chance any given month... I'd like to think of it more like a 50% chance - it will either work or it won't - but this month it didn't.

I wasn't quite sure last night, so I took a pregnancy test. I got a digital one, because the little pink and blue lines/plus-minus signs can be ambiguous at best. So Drew and I stared at the thing in the bathroom, watching the little hourglass blink as the test was "thinking." Then suddenly, the result: Not Pregnant.

"Wow," said Drew. "That's a little too blunt." I had to laugh. I guess a lot of people are happy to see that they are not pregnant and would feel relief, or find the finality of Pregnant just as rude as we found Not Pregnant. But there was something to what Drew said. The test was so cold, so clinical, so unfeeling. No "better luck next time," or "try again," or "oops." No humanity.

On the same day, I found out that my childhood friend from Budapest lost her baby. She was 7 or 8 weeks along... I guess it was a "no baby" day all around. Her situation made me think of all the stuff that may still wait for us down the road -- good and bad. Well, honestly, I can't even comprehend all of it, but I am getting vague glimpses of the highs, lows, the madness, the hope, the giddiness, the disappointment... It is like a rollercoaster and I am just trying to hold on tight, close my eyes, and scream through the scary parts.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sunday musings

First, a bit of whining... As I am waiting to find out whether the IUI worked (one more week to go), I am going through a minor version of my own little hell with my skin. My eczema apparently was kept in check by the gallons of steroid creams I've been using all of my life. Now that those are out of the question because I am in the group of "women who are or who might be pregnant," my skin decided to just simply peel off my face in small bits. It's a lovely feeling and sight. Sigh.

But other than spending a ridiculous amount of time dipping myself into various moisturizers, the weekend has been quiet. We are watching our icicles grow on our roof and waiting for snow-plow man to come and clean off our roof. Yey.

This would be pretty, if it weren't for the fact that our porch already flooded because of the ice collecting on the roof. Shoddy window installation was the culprit, apparently. It's been fixed and now all we have to do is replace the ugly linoleum porch flooring. I am cool with that.

In other news, before meeting Girl Chris and Boy Chris last night for dinner, I picked up my pottery from the studio. Not a great batch, but eh, they are OK. Dinner, on the other hand was fab. It's hard to find friends once you are out of college, especially couple friends where both the husbands and the wives get along. So it's always a relief when during dinner the men don't sit quietly and grumble to themselves.

A leafy platter. It's one of the better pieces. The glaze is more greenish than on the picture.

I like the way the texture of this turned out... The bowl itself is just OK. For some reason I haven't been inspired in pottery class lately. Too much gossiping, I guess.

I also took this awesome picture today at the car wash. I LOVE driving through car washes. It just makes me giddy and happy. I don't know why, but really, who cares?

And I would remiss not to mention the fact that it's Super Bowl Sunday. Here is Drew with his Terrible Towels.

Go Steelers!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The comforts of cooking with grandma

This article first appeared in the Christian Science Monitor

Let me lick your finger," my Grandma demands as she reaches for my right hand. My fingers are sticky with a mixture of raw meat, eggs, rice, and spices. We are making stuffed peppers.
"Grandma!" I yell, even before I realize what she is about to do. "It's raw meat!" Her tongue touches my index finger and, not being sure of the result, she licks it again. "How else am I going to tell whether it's salty enough?" she scolds. Then, softly clicking her tongue, she adds, "It does need more salt."

I spent several afternoons in the kitchen with Grandma after my wedding last winter in Budapest. She came to my parents' apartment in the afternoons so that dinner would be ready by the time they got home from work.

It was my idea that Grandma should give me cooking lessons while I waited patiently for my green card. I have already mastered the three most important dishes of Hungarian cuisine: gulyas soup, chicken paprika, and the beef stew called pörkölt. I imagined my husband surviving on these three alternating dishes.... I needed help.

It was the first time in a while that I had Grandma all to myself. Sure, I was the first grandchild and Grandma spent hours with me while I giggled in my crib as she pointed to the figures on my favorite blanket. During longer road trips, Grandma would recite a nursery rhyme about a bear that drifts away from his family on a block of ice and finds new friends in the city.

When I was a little older, she indulged my love of figure skating by sewing skating outfits for my Barbie dolls. And she was my most understanding ally when my parents didn't let me go to a rock concert.

When I left for college in the United States, Grandma handed me three embroidered handkerchiefs at the airport. "Sometimes one just has to have a good cry," she said.
My brother stayed at home, and during Grandma's weekly visits he was the one who spent hours in the kitchen while she baked cookies. During my summer and Christmas visits, I could never seem to find the old connection with Grandma.

Now that I was married and in charge of a household, Grandma and I found a whole new connection.

The best part about cooking with Grandma is listening to her stories. She had a difficult life, but her anecdotes are always cheerful.

Her stories always start with "You know, the way it used to be ..." Members of her family weren't very imaginative with names. The men are named Sandor (Alexander) and its variations (Sanyi, Sanyika, etc.). The women are Terez (Theresa) and its variations: Terka, Terike, etc. Thus, Grandma's stories are always confusing. But it doesn't matter. The tales of her small village, her many siblings, and the hot summer days she spent working on the fields are fascinating.

Like the story about how much she loved school and how sad her teacher was when my grandmother dropped out in sixth grade. "I was my teacher's favorite," she says. But after her mother's death she had to stay at home and help with her seven brothers and sisters. "I had the most beautiful handwriting," she goes on, "and the teacher asked me to correct older students' tests." The teacher recognized her 20 years later as she sat on a park bench, her son (my father) in a baby carriage.

She graduated from eighth grade the day I was born in 1976.

Grandma has a large library of knowledge, but not because she went to school or has degrees. She solves at least five crossword puzzles a day and seems to know everything about history, geography, politics, and biology. She knows how to cook, how to bake.

She is also an avid sports fan, even though she doesn't know how to swim or ride a bike. Her favorites are winter sports. She can name the members of the 1986 Swedish giant slalom team. I think she secretly learned English as well, because she seems to understand every word on EuroSport and knows when to tune in to see the women's biathlon.

While we are waiting for the water to boil, we watch television together and root for the Finns, Grandma's favorites.

During commercials we check on the food and Grandma dispenses marriage advice. "You are not going to get mad at me, are you?" she asks before passing to me this secret to marital bliss: "Discuss everything with your husband and make him feel like he is the master of his house, even though quietly you are doing things your own way.

"That is all I am going to tell you," she assures me as she measures salt into her palm.
Later we move on to making desserts. My first attempt at rolling dough fails and Grandma grabs the rolling pin out of my hands.

"The problem," she says, "is that you are trying too hard; you want it to be too good." I wipe away a few tears. I can't even roll dough. What kind of a wife am I going be?

"Don't worry, you will learn when you are a grandma," she encourages, and I feel strangely comforted.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Fertility Hilarity

Warning: over sharing happening below. If you are squeamish, turn away now.

Today was Operation "Turkey Basting" as Drew and I lovingly refer to a simple little procedure called intrauterine insemination. The doctor takes Drew's sperm, and when my eggs are all happy and ready, he injects the boys into my uterus. Simple. So today right around noon, I found myself driving down Route 1 between Saco and Scarborough with a small jar of "sample" between my boobs.

The morning started with several dilemmas: What to wear? I had to keep the "sample" warm and stable. I opted for a simple black plunge bra that provides enough lift and separation to accommodate the jar. Perfect. Another thing to ponder: Turnpike or Route 1? I had exactly 30 minutes to make it to my doctor's office, which on most days is enough, except for days when Saco decides to have the traffic of New York City.

I was lucky today and made it in less than 20 minutes. As I was walking from my car to the lab, I was amazed at how sort of nonchalantly I was able to walk around, knowing what was under my clothes. I even made small-talk in the elevator with another woman - who knows what she was hiding in her bra?

So, I went straight to the lab, where nurse Dolores asked me my birthday like, a hundred times. Then Drew's birthday. Then the spelling of my name, followed by the usual "oh, that's so pretty, where are you from?" comments. Come on woman! I've got a jar full of sperm under my shirt and we are discussing nationalities??? She finally got to the important part. "So, do you have the sample?" Well, yes I do. But what is the best way to get it out? There were other people around me and since I am still new at this, I was a little sheepish about handing some other woman my husband's sperm practically in the middle of a waiting room. But there was nothing else to do, but to reach into my sweater and pull out the cup. Whew. Boys safely delivered. Dolores never batted an eye.

By that time Drew was there too and we spent an hour in the waiting room looking at magazines. Note to self: If I ever do get pregnant, I have to stay away from these. It seems like every single cute baby picture is followed by some horrific story about sore nipples and hemorrhoids. Ick.

The rest of the procedure was pretty painless and speckled with inappropriate sperm jokes courtesy of my doctor. He is awesome. I won't know if this worked for a couple of weeks, but I hope that I will be able to find all of this funny even if I do have to do it two or three or four more times.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

January 20, 2009

This is as close as Chris and I got to the Inauguration festivities, but it was fun, anyway:

That's my computer screen at work. Thank you, MSNBC. And the New York Times, when MSNBC froze.

Today was amazing, but I have to say that I think all of my emotional energies were spent on election night, so today I was happy that the Inauguration went smoothly and that now we can get on with fixing everything that's been screwed up in the past eight years.

I usualy forget about the fact that I am an American citizen - but today I remembered. It was awesome.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Oh, crap!

It's been a crappy week. It should have ended right when it began on Monday, but it had to stretch all the way to today. Ah, blissful Friday!

Here is a log of stuff that got me through, in no particular order:

1. Nyquil ($6.99)

2. New haircut ($75.00)

3. Aveda Lip Saver lip balm ($8.50)

4. Book: Homecoming by Bernhard Schlink ($15.00)

5. New lingerie (too much)

6. Mopey songs from iTunes - Duffy, Brooke Waggoner, Iron & Wine ($20.00)

7. Three hours of pounding clay in pottery class ($200 for six weeks)

8. Cosmopolitan - upcoming this evening ($9.00)

9. Filling half of my Moleskin diary ($14.00)

The feeling that everything will be OK eventually: priceless.

P.S. One of the pieces I wrote a while ago for the Christian Science Monitor was quoted in a book - how cool is that? (See bottom of page 254)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Pottery therapy

So I am back in pottery classes. I've done this before and enjoyed it - I don't think I am great at it and the wheel definitely tests my patience, but I love to get my hands dirty, to smell the clay, to watch it mold and change between my hands.

I was a bit nervous about the class - the last couple of times I went with a friend, but this time I didn't know anyone there. I should not have worried. We were only about 15 minutes into class when the topic of conversation turned to men, penis sizes, dating, and whether it's OK to have a crush on someone when you are both married. Hm. And I have to add that I wasn't the one initiating this conversation. There was only four of us in the class, including the instructor. I think the youngest girl there was a bit mortified, but there was no good way to escape from class at that point. Poor thing.

I don't know what it is about women that we feel so comfortable discussing such intimate topics with perfect strangers. Maybe we are all baffled by men, or just need reassurance that we are not alone in needing help when it comes to navigating their weird and woolly world. Maybe we are also all just incredibly insecure, or we are trying to justify crushing on our bosses, or having a little too much fun gazing into someone other than our husband's eyes, or daydreaming about a friendship turning into some torrid affair. So by sharing it with others, suddenly all of these secret desires somehow become OK. I don't know.

I usually try not tot share too many intimate details of my marriage, or my secret desires -- there is a reason they are "secret" -- but I definitely had fun last night listening to the other women and laughing with them about how absurd all of this is. I also found out about this great new diet that apparently messes with your hormones but lets you drop 30 pounds in 5 weeks. Well, not all advice or insight from women is valuable or harmless, right?