Monday, March 28, 2011

False (Labor) Alarm.

Okay, okay. I know someone is out there (maybe?) saying, "Now Jenn. It's not false labor because any contraction is doing *something*." Point taken. That said, I thought I was in labor and we do not currently have a baby outside of the womb in this house, so "false labor" it is.

Yes, Ben and I, like many first-time parents, went into Panic Mode yesterday. I wasn't feeling very good after church, so Ben went into Super-Husband mode and cooked lunch (broiled tilapia with asparagus and salad - yum!) while I laid my sad fat self on the couch and watched House Hunters International reruns.

Around 2 PM, I started having contractions. Ben says he isn't fazed anymore by my contraction announcements - it's very normal to have random contractions throughout your pregnancy. However, these seemed to be getting a bit more regular. I continued to watch the NCAA basketball game, bemoaning the sad state of my bracket in the family tournament. As the contractions continued, Ben broke out the Contraction Timer iPhone app (yes, there is an app for that). We decided to get out and walk a little to see if we couldn't kick the contractions up a notch.

We walked (one of us might have been slightly waddling) and walked and walked - over to the park - and walked some more. I was trucking around the lake, pausing at benches to have a little sit down. Ben called the midwife to give her a heads up and she mentioned that it was a possibility that we could have the baby that night. Her advice was to quit walking, go home, get in the bath, and see what happened.

We made our way home slowly and Ben started the bath water. He then ran around the house getting things picked up and bags packed - just in case! We texted/called parents to let them know that birth might well be imminent.

Well, the bath stopped the contractions, and the midwife advised that I just get as much rest as possible and that I would be on their radar. I tearfully crawled out of the bath and went to bed - one of the best decisions I could have made.

Are we disappointed that we're not home with a baby right now? A little. But I'm glad we had a little bit of a dry run to know what we need to do/get ready before Baby comes. And slight confession - I'm a little daunted (in a normal way) by the labor process, so I'm glad to have a little more time to think about and process the whole thing.

Next check-up is Wednesday - we'll see what happens!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Still Cookin'.

Well, no baby yet. I'm 38 weeks as of yesterday, so now we just play the waiting game. The birth center moved my due date to April 5th and then informed me that most of their first-time mamas have babies 10 days past their due date. So it looks like I'm going to be sitting here twiddling my thumbs for a couple more weeks.

In the meantime, I'm taking the opportunity to mess around in the kitchen, clean my house, and work on a few "nesting projects" (like finishing Nephew's baby quilt by his 6 month "birthday").

While Mom was here visiting for the baby shower, we went to a small little bakery down in the Highland neighborhood of Denver. Highland is a funky little place with all sorts of cool shops and places to duck into. This little bakery was no exception! I had a great roast beef sandwich and this amazing rosemary-potato soup that I vowed to recreate. It's pretty heavy on the rosemary flavor, so feel free to tone it down if you like. Like most of the recipes I invent, I try to throw in whatever I can use up in my pantry.

Rosemary-Potato Soup (Inspired by the Wooden Spoon Bakery)

- 4-5 pieces thick slice bacon, diced (they actually used ham - I used bacon since that's what I had)
- 1 and 1/2 onions, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- white wine (optional)
- 1 box organic chicken broth
- 4 "fist-and-a-half" sized organic red potatoes, diced
- salt and pepper
- 2 Tablespoons rosemary (if you are using fresh, probably about 1-2 sprigs?) mince up those leaves so you don't feel like you're picking pine straw out of your teeth.
- optional: chicken bouillon cube (you could just use more broth)
- 1/2 to 1 cup of milk
- 1 tablespoon or so of butter

1. Throw the bacon in a hot, heavy-bottomed pot (I use my Lodge Dutch Oven - one of my kitchen favorites!) and let it hang out there for a few minutes till the bacon is starting to crisp and most of the fat is rendered.

2. Remove the bacon bits with a slotted spoon and put them in a bowl for later. Drain off the fat, leaving about 2 tablespoons or so.

3. Toss in the onions and garlic. Let them hang out in the pan for a few minutes - the water in the onions will partially deglaze the pan, so use this opportunity to scrape up some of the brown bits left by the bacon. Yum! Stir the onions every once in a while until they look soft. Don't get 'em too brown, that'll make your soup sweet.

4. This is where I pour in a glug or two of white wine to help finish deglazing the pan. I don't really like to get the cooking wine they sell at the grocery store here in Colorado - it's overpriced, salty, and doesn't really add much flavor. I recommend buying a cheapo bottle of white vermouth (costs about 4 bucks for a nice sized bottle and you can keep it in your pantry - it'll stay good for about 3 months). I used probably 1/2 a cup because I was trying to use up the rest of mine. If you don't want to use wine in your cooking, you can always use chicken broth.

5. Once the brown bits are all scraped up & the onions are soft, toss in your box of chicken broth. This is also when I put the bacon back in.

6. Now add your potatoes and a little bit of water to make sure they're nice and covered. You can use another box of chicken broth if you like, I just put in some water and a bouillon cube because, guess what, I was trying to use it up.

7. Add the rosemary, a little bit of salt, and pepper to the pot and bring to a boil, then back down to a nice rolling simmer. Let it go uncovered for about 30 minutes before you even try it. Stir occasionally.

**Here was my mistake. I'm a taster type cook - I taste along the way to make sure things are going well. I started tasting the broth right away. DON'T DO IT - especially if you are using dried rosemary. Soup has to develop flavor over a while - hence the simmer. I freaked out that my soup wasn't going to be good so I started throwing all sorts of crazy stuff in there - garlic powder, more minced garlic, crushed red pepper, more rosemary, worchestershire sauce, etc. All it did was make my soup salty with a tad too much rosemary, then I had to add water, blah blah blah. You want it to be a little salty at the beginning because your potatoes are going to soak up the broth, but don't get crazy.

8. At the 30 minute mark, you can taste and adjust your seasoning. Then let it go for about 10-15 more minutes - judge by the doneness of your potatoes (don't let them get mushy!) If you need to add more broth or water as the potatoes absorb them, feel free.

9. About 5 minutes till serving time, stir in about 1/2 to 1 cup of milk and 1 tablespoon of butter. The milk makes it nice and creamy and the butter gives it a velvety texture.

Serve with crusty french bread and a nice fresh salad. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Things People Say.

I'm constantly amazed by the interesting phrases uttered by people who find out we're expecting. It seems that pregnancy gives people a license to say and do things to you that they would never dream of if you weren't pregnant.

What really gets to me are the things people say. Here's a small sampling:

Our hostess at a restaurant the other night: "Congratulations! How exciting! I hope it's a smooth pregnancy for you. My brother and his wife had a great experience. Well, then there was my other brother and he and his wife - wow, it was a total nightmare experience."

Friend: "Oh, you're having your baby at a birth center? Oh. My baby's cord was wrapped around its neck and if we had been at a birth center, we would have both died."

Another thing that bugs me is how people pester you about finding out the baby's gender. The typical conversation goes like this:

Person: Sooooo, you guys are pregnant!
Me: Well, actually, I am. Ben's not.
Person: Soooooo, are you finding out the gender?
Me: It's a surprise.
Person: Soooooo, wait - is it a surprise for you or just for everyone else? I mean - did you find out and you're just not telling people? Or do you not know?
Me: *open mouth* (thinking: really? Is this any of your business?) It's a surprise.

Here are 5 guidelines to follow when talking to an expecting mom.
1. DO NOT make any negative comments about weight, waddling, or anything about physical appearance, even if you are joking. It's enough that my body is going through some crazy changes (hello, feet - are you still there? haven't seen you in a while) but I also have some major hormonal mood swings and you do NOT want to see one of those.
2. DO NOT share birth stories unless they are positive. I've heard lots of stories about umbilical cords wrapped around necks, excessive bleeding, etc. The best story I heard was when a male friend patted me on the back and said, "We had a great experience and it was one of the coolest things I've ever seen." If I want to hear scary birth stories, I'll just watch some TLC.
3. DO NOT make negative comments about labor/birth choices. There are SO many options out there - home births, birth centers, hospitals, c-sections, natural birth, blah blah blah. Please rest assured that whatever decision that a parent-to-be is making is one that she feels is best. We did our research and we understand that there are risks in every type of birth situation. Our birth center suits our personalities and ideas - but it might not suit yours and that is fine.
4. DO NOT touch a person's pregnant belly without permission. Men need not apply. Strangers need not apply. And once I've let you touch, that doesn't mean it's an all-time license. I might not be feeling so hot and having a hand grabbing your stomach doesn't really help things. You would not touch my stomach if I was a non-pregnant person - at least I hope you wouldn't. And if you would, we are NOT friends.
5. PLEASE share any positive and reinforcing information that you have. Mamas-to-be and new mamas are feeling overwhelmed, unsure, and worried about this whole process. Any time you can say something nice, do it! I was walking down the street and a woman pushing her stroller along said, "Hey, you look great!" as she passed by. That totally made my day - I still think about it when I feel icky/gross/fat and it makes me feel better two weeks later!

I realize that people mean well. I realize that people get excited when they think about babies and such. However - PLEASE. Remember that lesson you learned as a child.

If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say ANYTHING AT ALL.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Beware the Ides of March.

I was hoping that since I love literature, this baby would be born on the Ides of March. It's 8:15 PM Mountain Time, so barring some unforeseen crazy labor onset, it looks like this is "not to be" - that is the answer. Ah well. I'm sure I can find some other literary date to have a baby.

We were blessed once again today by people's generosity - Ben's friends from work took us out for appetizers and gave us a basket of goodies. They also presented baby with a "First Piggy Bank" - appropriate, since Ben works at a credit union!

I'm almost finished with grades for my classes - now I'll just need to work on lesson plans for the rest of the semester and send those on and I'll be DONE. I've got plenty of stuff to work on - apparently my nesting instinct includes sewing for the baby. Sigh.

Nothing else real exciting going on in our lives - apparently it's the calm before the storm? Just puttering around and getting ready for baby. Nursery photos soon? I need Ben to put together our pak'n'play crib. It's interesting because nursery and guest room are the same room - so everything in there needs to be movable so we can inflate our guest mattress.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Almost a month!?

Wow - almost a month since my last post? Good grief - tons of things have happened since then! Here's a quick run down.

I directed a successful senior play. The play is only as successful as the kids and the helpers make it - and I'm pleased to say they exceeded my expectations and had a stellar performance! It always amazes me how we pull this thing together in less than 2 months with kids who, for the most part, have very little drama experience. What a reward for me to see them really come to life as their characters on stage!

My sweet students and teachers and staff at work threw a baby shower for me. There was even a homemade cake that was absolutely adorable - full of rubber duckies! I was very blessed by the generosity of several families and friends.

I finished (well - mostly) my school year and passed the torch to the next Spanish teacher. I'm still making lesson plans for the classes and I need to turn in my grades for the 3rd quarter, but otherwise it's over. Kind of a surreal feeling.

My church family had a baby shower for me last Sunday and my mom was able to attend. I think she and I were both a little overwhelmed by the number of people who attended and the gifts they brought! Baby G is definitely set up for arrival...now I just have to find places to put everything, which is a great problem to have! Mom and I thoroughly enjoyed her time in Colorado - we visited a local tea room with lots of goodies, tried some new eateries, and she even found a few bookstores she approved of (something that won't surprise you if you know her). Mom and Dad are probably going to head back to Colorado once Baby is born so they can help me after Ben goes back to work.

Speaking of Baby, we finished our childbirth classes! We're both a little desensitized to weird birth videos now. One funny thing - apparently a lot of birth videos are filmed by a company here in Denver. Our teacher mentioned that several times people have made comments like, "Oh - that was my second grade teacher we just watched," or "Oh. I work with that man. I never expected to see his wife push out a baby." Don't worry - we didn't recognize anyone. The birth classes were very helpful and I think we are both excited about the process (a little apprehensive as well!).

Preparations for Baby G's arrival are going well - I'm setting up the nursery as I write my thank you notes to make sure I get them all done. Now comes the bewildering task of figuring out what we have, what we think we need, what we *really* need, and what we can wait on. How many onesies/receiving blankets/burp cloths/etc. does one baby need? We're learning that tiny people come with lots of accessories.

In closing, I'll share one of my new favorite recipes from one of our favorite local haunts, The Market at Larimer Square in downtown Denver. You should make these. Now.

The Market's Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
1 Cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 and 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg (I used a lot less when I made it - not a big nutmeg fan)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees
2. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, pumpkin, and vanilla (mixture will look slightly curdled)
3. In another bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder,cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add to creamed mixture and mix well.
4. Fold in chocolate chips - do not overmix.
5. Using a large ice cream scoop, scoop cookies onto ungreased baking sheets (I used parchment paper) - do not crowd cookies on sheet, they will spread.
6. Bake at 300 degrees about 22-24 minutes. Remove from oven. Let sit on cookie sheet a minute or so, then place cookies on racks to cool.