Sunday, August 31, 2008

Free carseat! Also: bride of Satan

Here are two Craigslist gems, both discovered within 24 hours of each other! Be sure to click on the images to enlarge them if you can't read the text.

The first, from Tucson:

And the second, from Provo:

There is so, so very much I could say about each of these, but I think I'll leave the commentary to you.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Flashback Friday: An alarming experience

Sometimes I think of random stories from the past that would be fun to tell here on the blog, but I can't think of a way to introduce them as anything other than random stories from the past. So I'm thinking of instituting a Flashback Friday so that at least they can be cohesive random stories from the past. For the next few Fridays, I think the theme will be camping. I can't guarantee that there will always be a theme, or that I'll always be able to post them on Fridays, but here goes.

Also, a disclaimer: many of these stories will feature old friends, or maybe even newer ones, many of whom are readers of this blog. I apologize in advance if I get any details wrong. I'll always tell the story how I remember it, and if you remember it differently, tough. Feel free to correct me (or add to my memories) in the comments section.

One more disclaimer: I'm going to post photos, and some of you are in them with me, and we don't always look good. Maybe I should ask for permission first, but you know what? I don't know that I would get it, and I really want to post these photos. So let me know if you really, really don't want a photo of your 14-year-old self on my blog and I'll see if I can blur your face or something.

First, some background: For those of you who are not young Mormon women, Girls' Camp is a week-long, girls-only camping trip for youth ages 12ish to 18ish. The younger girls are divided into groups of 6 or 8 and then looked after by the older girls, who are counselors, usually in pairs. In the place and time that I went to Girls' Camp, we slept in rustic cabins featuring spider-infested bunks, at a large private (? - or at least rentable) campground. However, the specific location and accommodation style of Girls' Camp varies around the country

I have a lot of, um, interesting memories from Girls' Camp. I'll be completely up front here and admit that I didn't always enjoy the experience. In fact, I attended as few years as possible, basically the absolute minimum while still being a good sport about it. Though the "good sport" part is debatable. But I believe I'm in the minority on that point - most of my friends loved Girls' Camp and went back year after year and were eventually given general leadership positions over the whole thing.

Anyway. Girls' Camp, June 1996: our freshman year of high school had finished just a week or two earlier, and we were officially Counselors in Training, or "K.I.T.s" (don't ask about the spelling). This meant we got to go on a cool overnight hike in the woods and had just a few counselors over our entire age group instead of in our individual cabins.

Most of my memories of that year revolve around writing things on our backs in sunscreen and then lying out by the pool, losing my watch and then having a fellow camper "find" it and return it to me a few days later, being annoyed by the fact that "soccer" was misspelled as "soccor" on one of the camp signs, and singing the song "We Love You [so-and-so], Oh Yes We Do" many more times than was reasonable.

Some of my fellow KITs. Erin's head is blocking the offending "O."

But one morning, very, very early in the morning, the smoke detector in our cabin went off. Being the sleepy teenagers we were, I think a few of us lifted up our heads enough to see that the cabin was not, in fact, on fire. And then we went back to sleep.

Or at least we tried to. That dang fire alarm just kept going off, and off, and off, and soon, nobody was getting any rest. But neither was anybody doing anything about it, besides putting pillows over our heads in an attempt to drown out the noise.

And then, in a moment that made her my personal hero, my fellow camper Jennifer actually got out of bed and decided to take matters into her own hands. She somehow got ahold of a large stick (tree limb is probably a better word - it was big) and, without any explanation or warning to the rest of us, promptly started bashing away at the smoke detector.

When I heard the racket, I peeked out from under my pillow to see what was going on. There was Jennifer, beating that smoke detector for all she was worth. Gradually, the high-pitched whine of the alarm descended and faded until it was silent. If I had bothered to look for it, I would probably have seen the smoke alarm crumpled in a heap of mangled plastic on the floor of the cabin.

And then you know what? We all went back to sleep. I think even Jennifer went back to bed. And we woke up a couple of hours later like nothing had happened. Certainly nothing like a teenaged girl destroying our cabin's main fire safety feature. Everything was back to normal.

14-year-old me with my hero, Jennifer.

Except for the part where we were chased by a bear in the middle of the night. But that's a story for another time.

Bright young women, sick of swimmin',

...ready to staaaaaaaaaand!

Miriam's favorite movie is The Little Mermaid, though I don't know that there ever really was much of a contest because the only other kid movies we own are King Cole's Party and Finding Nemo. Still, it's not a bad choice - I think it's one of my favorite movies, too, at least in the category of Disney animated films.

But when you've watched a movie approximately 25,000 times, you start to notice little plot holes.

For example, when Ariel and Flounder go to visit Scuttle and he's looking at them through the wrong end of the telescope (or whatever that thing is called; hi, I edit the dictionary), they are clearly surrounded on all sides by ocean. When he puts it down, however, Ariel and Flounder are obviously right up against the little rock. Where was that rock in the far-away telescope view, huh??

Also, when you're about to be turned back into a mermaid because your prince didn't kiss you, and the sun is setting, and you're in that prince's arms, just kiss. This is not a time for explanations, it is a time for kissing.

And then, when your father comes up to the surface and you try to explain why the witch owns your soul, "Daddy, I didn't mean to" is not only an inadequate response, it is a lie.

The worst one of all is when King Triton trades himself to Ursula in exchange for his daughter's freedom. Stupidest. Strategic move. Ever. Now, instead of just control over Ariel's soul, Ursula reigns supreme. In her own words: "Now I am the ruler of all the ocean! The waves obey my every whim!"

Finally, I absolutely love the song "Part of Your World." But what is with the line, "and they don't reprimand their daughters." I never could figure out what word she was saying there, and now that I know it's "reprimand," I don't know that it makes any more sense than before.

Please tell me I'm not the only one who is slowly going insane from being subjected to glaring logical fallacies in the plots of animated children's movies. Please.

And really, what is that telescope thing called?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

If only I were making this up

Today, while waiting in my car at a red light, I witnessed a woman walking in the crosswalk while (in increasing order of unbelievability) talking on a cell phone, smoking a cigarette, lugging along her baby in one of those carseat tupperwares, almost getting hit by a car, and then flipping that driver off while screaming obscenities at him.

When I replay the memory in my mind (*shudder*), I still can't picture exactly which hand it was that gave the driver the bird. And yet, I know it happened because my jaw about hit the floor of my car when I saw it. I think she had her cell phone tucked between her ear and her shoulder, which would have left her non-cigarette-smoking hand free to make the gesture, even if the elbow of said arm was engaged in holding the carseat. And they say we moms can't multi-task!

Now let us never speak of this incident again, except possibly in the comments section. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A day in the Middlebury life of Jeremy

Jeremy's office door in Middlebury. His name is the first line written on the whiteboard.

Now that we're back in Tucson (and I've finally accepted it, as my blog design suggests), lots of people are asking the fairly innocuous question, "So, how was your summer?" The problem is, they'll get very different answers from Jeremy and me.

If I'm the one to answer, I'll give them some cosy, feel-good answer in the manner of this post. It's the truth, certainly, but it's a different version of the truth than the one that Jeremy can give.

Because while Miriam and I were enjoying a dream-like fairyland of all-day outdoor play and no cooking, Jeremy was, well, working (you may recall that's the reason we were in Middlebury in the first place). My husband, poor soul, always seems to get the raw end of the deal - he takes our family to wonderful places all around the world and then has to be busy the whole time we're there. In Moscow, he worked in a windowless office in the Embassy from 8am to 6pm and sometimes didn't see the sun for days at a time. I, on the other hand, had, at times, two or three jobs going on all over the massive city and was having the time of my life.

So for all of you who are dying to ask how our summer was, and want to hear the version that has not been sanitized for public consumption during polite, brief conversation, here you go.

Many days, Jeremy was up and out the door before Miriam and I even woke up - class started at 8.30 and went all morning until lunchtime. If we were lucky - and we often were - we got to sit with Jeremy at lunch for at least half an hour or so. Of course, when you're sitting with your husband at a table with half a dozen students, and you're all speaking in Arabic, there's not a lot of familial chit-chat going on. But still, we were happy to see him.

After lunch, it was time for more classes, until late afternoon when he would come home (yay!) and grade papers or homework (boo!). At least we got to enjoy his presence.

Sometimes he had time to play with Miriam on our way to dinner, sometimes not. But we always got to sit by him for that meal (although in the same situation as lunch).

Hepburn Hall, home of most of the Arabic students and also Jeremy's office.

Most nights of the week, there was some kind of activity right after dinner, so Miriam and I would play on campus or head home alone. Also most nights of the week, Jeremy had office hours for his students from 8pm to 10pm. If he was able to come home right at 10, he still had lots of grading and preparation to do before...

...the next day, when all of this would repeat. You can see that it was possible (and indeed did happen) for us to not see him for what seemed like days at a time, except during meals.

There were always fun activities going on sponsored by the Arabic School, but such activities become less fun when they're basically mandatory for the teachers. So Miriam and I would go to, say, the soccer game with Jeremy, but then we'd spend the whole time cheering on our team in Arabic. Again, not a lot of bonding or catching-up opportunities there.

The saddest moment of the summer came one evening when Jeremy was leaving the house to go to a nighttime meeting (7.30 - 9ish, in addition to office hours) and Miriam burst into tears while saying, "Dada, I don't want you to go to your meeting!"

But he survived, somehow, and now I think Miriam (and Magdalena) and I are all driving him a little bit crazy since he basically hasn't been around us all summer. At least in Middlebury he had an office in a separate building so he didn't have to listen to all our noise. Still, I'm sure he's glad to be done with his intensive summer of teaching. His family is certainly glad to have him back.

Edited to add: I forgot to mention that Jeremy estimates that he only missed 2 hours of work for Magdalena's birth. Part of that was because Magdalena was born on a Sunday, but still. I wasn't kidding when I said the first thing he did after my water broke was to start furiously grading homework so he could get ahead.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Why are beer commercials always the funniest?

With all the Olympics we've been watching, we've seen quite a few commercials. I hate all of them, except this one:

I can't quite put my finger on what is so hilarious to me about this advertisement. Is it the identifiability with the loud cell phone guy? Is it the particular phrases he uses, especially the über-annoying "where are you at" construction? Is it the quasi-Mexican accent of the beer guy? Is it the way his voice sounds oddly dubbed? Or is it, and I think it is, the peculiar way he says "cerveza"?

(The audio sync on the clip is slightly off, which is too bad, because half the fun is the timing. Hopefully, you've been lucky enough to see this ad in person.)

Friday, August 22, 2008

At long last, a Breaking Dawn review

Jeremy finished reading Breaking Dawn last night, so now I can finally talk about it (at last! It's been released these 2.5 weeks now).

For those of you who haven't read it yet but plan to, here is a completely spoiler-free, generic opinion. I liked it. A lot. And for what it did for the series as a whole, I loved it, as a part of that whole. But I liked Eclipse better. I've mentioned here before that in general, I am not a fan of vampire books. More than any other book in the series, though, Breaking Dawn is about vampires. Vampires we know and love, sure, but vampires nonetheless. The romantic tension from the rest of the books is still there in Breaking Dawn, but it takes an unexpected (or at least un-looked-for) direction. In sum, it's a wonderful end to the series, but I can't promise that everyone will love it, or at least love every element of it, even those who loved the other three books. Consider yourself warned.

And now onto the spoilers, for those of you who have read it or who don't care about the books but still feel compelled to read this review. I can't help but address here some of the criticisms I've heard about the book, but I'll try to include some stand-alone analysis as well.

First, I think we can all agree that Renesmee is a stupid name. But you know what? I think it's kind of a Utah-Idaho-Arizona thing, maybe even a Mormon thing, this combining of names to make new ones. It's a practice I don't agree with, but it's also one that I understand and have seen before. So to see the name Renesmee Carlie was not as revoltingly shocking (shockingly revolting?) to me as it appears to have been to some readers. I got over it fairly quickly.

Second, and perhaps I should have mentioned this first: going into it, I had no idea how Stephenie Meyer was going to resolve things to any kind of satisfaction, let alone the satisfaction of her millions of fans. However, I had absolute faith that she could do it. Perhaps it was foolish to have such complete trust that she would appropriately address pertinent issues such as Bella's aversion to marriage, the idea of Bella and Edward being destined for each other, Bella's continued feelings for Jacob, even after marriage, etc. Fortunately, this trust was not disappointed.

Anyway, Breaking Dawn was an engaging book that finished off the series beautifully, and I mean that very sincerely. For a series that has often been bleak in mood and outlook, not to mention weather, it was refreshing and affirming to have an ending that was so satisfying and positive. Unrealistic? Maybe. It's hard to say when we're talking about a book that deals with vampires and werewolves. But what better conclusion to Bella's story could there be than that she finally grows into herself and is able to save the ones she loves? Some may call it teenaged-girl wish-fulfillment; I would call it the natural progression of events and a perfectly logical extension of Bella's human talents - talents that were not always able to be displayed when she was a mortal. Here we have what has been the series' weakest character - weak in the sense of the actual character, not characterization - turn into the champion, and I can hardly believe we have people complaining about it.

As for the final battle-that-never-was, that was fine with me. I preferred the mental and strategic battle rather than a ripping-and-burning-of-vampire-flesh melee. But that's just me - I can see where other people would feel cheated.

Lest I become a complete Breaking Dawn apologist, I will say that there were two lines of the book that I thought were so dumb. One was when Bella and Edward started laughing, and the other was what Garrett said to Kate during the battle. Speaking of Garrett, again, probably because I am not a big fan of vampire novels in general, I could have done without the extensive characterization of all the random vampires. Interesting? Yes. An essential element to further the story? Probably not. Intriguing ideas for possible spinoff sequels? Definitely, and then I'll decide to care about their stories.

Another area of dissatisfaction for me, but one that I knew was coming, was that Team Jacob lost. I was almost positive that was going to happen, but that didn't keep me from hoping things could somehow turn out otherwise. The way they did turn out was just about as happy as can be expected, considering the circumstances. I do hope that we get to read Jacob and Renesmee's story someday, if for no other reason than to hear Jacob's hilarious narrator voice again.

I said Breaking Dawn was beautiful, and nowhere was that brought home to me more than in the last few pages when Bella was able to allow Edward to see her thoughts at last. I found that scene to be very moving and it also did a good job of tying all the books together as we were able to relive key moments in Bella and Edward's relationship. Sigh. Just lovely.

Now there's nothing left to do but wait for the movie, which is coming out a bit earlier now. Woohoo!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Olympic moments

I talked briefly of flashbulb memories in this post. With the Olympics going on, and me watching as much coverage as I have time for (not a lot, but some), I'm reminded of all the Olympic flashbulb memories from recent years. I'm not a big sports fan in general, but I have always enjoyed watching the Olympics. These are the scenes I remember best.

1988 Summer Olympics: Greg Louganis hitting his head on the diving board. Wow. What's really amazing is that he completed his dives and won the gold medal.

1994 Winter Olympics: Tonya Harding...well, a lot of stuff, but mostly where she cried to the judges about her ice skates. This was all the more dramatic to my 12-year-old self because she is from Portland and I had actually seen her skate in person at her training rink. Oh, the drama - you've got to love the exaggerated makeup, histrionics, and hideous costume.

1996 Summer Olympics: Keri Strug's gold-medal vault on a broken (or whatever) ankle. She won the team gold for the USA against Russia. This memory is all the more vivid because I watched it with other members of my family huddled around a tiny TV at a campground at the Oregon Coast. My grandpa had somehow rigged up a satellite TV connection (?) in his trailer. I still get butterflies when I watch this clip.

2002 Winter Olympics: Russia vs. USA again, this time in a pairs figure skating scandal. The drama for us was even more intense because we were living in Moscow at the time. There are clips of all the performances in question on YouTube, but here is the medal ceremony.

What are your favorite or most-remembered Olympic moments? And do you share any of mine?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

To the lady in 17A

Dear lady in seat 17A on the Continental Airlines flight from Newark to Tucson:

I know how it must have looked to you as my family made our awkward way down the aisle, the last passengers to board the plane. A husband laden down with carry-on bags, followed by an almost-3-year-old, prodded along by me, holding a newborn. It probably looked even more ridiculous than I felt. And you must have been able to see, written on our faces, the sure signs of travel fatigue, coupled with the stress of moving a household across the country, complicated by sleep deprivation since the arrival of a baby two weeks earlier.

You had an empty seat beside you, probably one of the only ones on the entire plane. The other woman in your row, after hearing that my family was all seated separately, generously offered to move so that we could at least have two seats together.

What could have possibly possessed you to immediately negate your row-mate's offer, look directly at me, and say "Please, no!"? I only wish I could have properly heard what you said next. It was something like, "No, I really need my ______." I spent the rest of the flight trying to figure out what it was you needed so badly that you couldn't facilitate everybody else's efforts to seat a toddler with her mother. Was it space? Rest? Privacy? I guess I'll never know.

But just so you know, a party of three who did have three seats together, farther back in the plane, gave up their places as soon as they heard what had happened to us.

I know not everybody has kids, or loves kids, or likes kids, or understands why other people ever choose to even have kids. But you know what? At one time or another in our lives, we are all that stressed-out mom boarding an airplane with a toddler and a newborn, with no place to sit. It's just that some people's particular stressful moments take a different form. When yours comes, I hope someone is more considerate of you than you were of me. At the very least, I hope that someone doesn't make you cry, like you made me. It's not the hardest thing to make a recent postpartum mom cry, but to make me cry in public was certainly a minor accomplishment.

Better luck to us both next time, and I hope you got the _____ you needed so badly.

Hoping to recover my faith in the goodness of humanity someday,

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Welcome to the desert

Well, we made it to Tucson. Ilhamdudlillah as-salame to us! Traveling across the country with a 2-week-old and a 3-year-old wasn't as terrible as I'm sure it could have been, but it was plenty stressful. The picture is of us at the Burlington airport, with all of our hud. At least I wasn't by myself to deal with the stroller, our catch-all IKEA bag, Miriam's backpack, my backpack, Jeremy's backpack, small blue carry-on suitcase, and three large suitcases. Oh, and Magdalena and Miriam. OH - and two carseats.

Some highlights:

- When Jeremy picked up the rental car a few days ago, the Alamo employee asked him if he wanted a GPS system with the car. Of course, Jeremy said something like, "only if it's free." For some reason, the employee decided to be offended and basically made fun of Jeremy for being a cheapskate (and also for having to ask him to explain the insurance options - does anyone ever understand those things the first time around? Plus, if that isn't the employee's job, what is?).

So when we returned the rental car, Jeremy made a complaint to the (different) employee about the snarky treatment he received earlier. The employee basically said, "OK, great, I'll report it to my boss."

We asked him, "Um, do you want to know the person's name or anything?"

"Well, only three people work in this office, and one of them is female." And then, completely unbidden, he said, "Also, I'm no forensic scientist, but I recognize the handwriting on the rental papers."

- I think Continental Airlines has only one employee, total. The same poor, frazzled guy checked us (and the 30 other people in line behind us) in, dealt with our luggage, and ran the desk at the gate.

- I had left Jeremy, Miriam, and Magdalena at the gate and was in a stall in the women's restroom when I suddenly saw a child's hand sticking through the crack in the door. In my mind, I was thinking, "I better not get walked in on by some unruly kid whose mom isn't paying attention." And then the kid crawled under the stall door. And it was Miriam.

In Jeremy's defense, the bathroom entrance was more or less visible from the gate, but I think that living on campus has given Miriam a false sense of freedom in large, open public spaces. We'll have to work on that, I guess.

- STRESS: We were waiting to board our long Newark-Tucson flight when Miriam decided she had to go to the bathroom right then. I was left with a screaming Magdalena at the gate while we missed boarding call after boarding call. By the time Jeremy and Miriam got back, almost everyone else had already boarded. Not only were we left with the dregs of overhead compartment storage, but our seats were all in separate areas of the plane. Why do they bother having us select seats at the time we buy the tickets if they're just going to change them when we check in? What happened next is a story for another blog post.

- Magdalena slept on the tray table for a good portion of the flight.

- Our stroller that we checked at the gate in Newark was AWOL upon arrival in Tucson. A carry-on suitcase full of expensive electronics, it isn't, but we're working on getting it back.

I've still got a few Middlebury posts coming, so stay tuned. And then it's back to the desert. The hot, dry, brown, dry, dry desert.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Eventually, we'll take over the world. Vermont first.

Total number of Bridgets I've met in my lifetime, before moving to Middlebury: 5 at the most.

Total number of Bridgets I've met in Middlebury: 3, and they all spell their name just like mine.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Down to the dregs

It's the last week of the language schools here in Middlebury, and I think the cafeteria staff is raiding the back of the freezer to stock the ice cream selection. Not that this blog is only about pregnancy and food or anything, but here are a few of the kinds of ice cream that have made an appearance in the last few days:

Mint Ting-a-ling with Soy Nuts (what the?!?)
Pistachio NoNut
Frozen Pudding - this one is completely indecipherable. It's orange with chunks of amber and brown in it. There are scoop marks in the carton, so somebody out there has tried it, but who?

And, on a night (last night) when Ice Cream Sundaes was advertised on the menu, here were the ice cream bases available to top with hot fudge or caramel:
Lemon Sorbet
Frozen Pudding
Black Cherry

Mmm, a hot-fudge lemon sorbet sundae. So appetizing!

The problem is that none of the flavors can be replaced until the carton is empty. Of the above four, I think lemon sorbet is our best bet for disappearing the fastest. I pledge to do my part, at least. But Frozen Pudding is there to stay, I'm afraid. I told Jeremy he should just go up there, clean out a flavor, dump it, and then tell a cafeteria employee that they needed to bring out a new flavor. It would be doing us all a favor. But he's a man of principles and so he rejected my idea. Perhaps as things get more desperate, he will change his mind.

Saturday, August 09, 2008


We made our first semi-public outing as a family yesterday evening when we went to dinner at the cafeteria. I try to tell myself that I'm doing a public service by slowly breaking down college students' misconceptions about pregnant ladies, one by one. Last night's lesson was about how even after you have the baby, you still pretty much look pregnant. Only 4-5 months pregnant, but still.

Sadly, there was one common belief among the uninitiated that I did not get to disprove, and that is that babies are always born on their due dates. Oh well.

Getting back into the campus routine, even in this small way, really opened my eyes to how many people have been so...aware of me. I knew I was conspicuous, and certainly not always in a good, un-awkward way, but I had no idea that students and faculty from all different schools have been watching me. We're forbidden to speak English, of course, which has led to lots of awkward encounters where I'm approached by a non-Arabic student or teacher and told what I'm sure means "congratulations," even if I don't understand it. A few people have just given me the thumbs-up sign, or even applauded as I've walked by (I'm still not sure how to feel about that). It's all very bizarre. Added to that is the fact that all the gifts Magdalena has received so far are accompanied by cards written with heartfelt messages, entirely in Arabic. What a fun story that will make someday.

Also speaking of bizarre, one teacher handed us a gift at dinner tonight. We took it out of the gift bag and to our complete bewilderment, it was a complete layette set for a baby boy. It even had the words "Baby Boy" embroidered all over the individual pieces. This gift was actually the freaky icing on the cake from this particular person (in my mind, the shrieking violin music from Psycho was playing), but Jeremy says I'm not allowed to tell the story until more time has passed, just in case.

In a way, I feel like I've come full circle. When Jeremy and I came to Middlebury for the first time in 2003 for a conference, I had recently suffered a miscarriage. While we were here, Jeremy was at meetings all day and so I had time to get my health back, read some books, and eventually go on some gorgeous, inspiring runs in the Vermont countryside. Now, to have a beautiful birth experience behind me and a daughter who will seemingly inexplicably have "Middlebury, Vermont" on her birth certificate, I feel as if a process has been completed. Even if I didn't see it coming, I'm happy to welcome it now that it's taken place.

Friday, August 08, 2008

The fairy tale is over

Jeremy will laugh at my description of Middlebury as being like living in a fairy tale (one of these days I'll do a post on a typical day in the life of Jeremy), but I think I've made it pretty clear on this blog that I have loved being here.

But now that a newborn has been thrown into the mix, and I'm essentially confined to the house (except for dinner tonight if I'm brave enough), things have lost some of their luster. Specifically, our house. Our lovely house.

It is almost impossible to get any rest here. The floors (entirely wood, throughout the house) creak terribly. The doors all squeak on their hinges. Some of them don't close entirely unless you slam them. The beds are noisy to climb in and out of (I was hoping having lost some of that pregnancy weight already would help some of that). If it were just us, maybe we could plan around it, but four people live upstairs and if they decide to come home while I'm trying to rest, who am I to fault them for it?

And in the tradition of this being pseudo-Arabia, there is construction going on right across the street, all the time. Starting at 6am. I know because it wakes me up, if I happen to be asleep.

Today, my mom took Miriam out for the morning so I could get some rest. I settled in, got Magdalena to sleep, and just as I was drowsing off...a maintenance guy came over to repair the freaky water pump in our basement of terror. He hammered away for a while and then left.

So I settled in again, ready to finally catch some sleep, when the custodial people showed up to exchange sheets and towels and also vacuum the floors. Sigh.

I think I'm just being extra sensitive. Maybe it's an instinct of new mothers to be so sensitive to (and irritated by) noise. The good news is that I did get some sleep in the afternoon, but it took some sacrifice. Poor Jeremy stayed out in the living room for 45 minutes after coming home from class just so he wouldn't have to open our door in all its creaky glory and wake me up. Now that's a considerate husband and father.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


Now that I'm a temporary invalid, I get to order my meals in, as it were. Today, this was the menu for dinner:

Maybe it's just me, but it seems like there are a lot of better ways to describe fried chicken (which is what it was) than "Fried Fresh Chicken Chunks."

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Magdalena's Birth Story: the epic version

(This birth story contains discussion of contractions, a cervix, pushing, and other details. Consider yourself warned. If you want a shorter, cleaner version, click here.)

I was just about to come to terms with the fact that Sasha 2.0 was never going to be born. She just wasn't. I had tried just about everything short of castor oil to try to get labor going, including having my membranes stripped twice (the most recent time being on Wednesday afternoon). The biggest natural labor-inducing tip is to take walks, but I was walking 2 - 4 miles a day with no results.

What I hadn't tried was stair climbing. So on Friday night after dinner, kind of on a whim, we climbed the eight flights of stairs to the top of the Bicentennial building on Middlebury campus. Afterwards, we went back down to the sixth floor and watched the sun set over a gorgeous Vermont countryside view.

Saturday (the next) morning, I had some bloody show. I made sure to go on a brisk walk down the garden path just in case that helped things to get going, but nothing else happened for the whole day. That night, we did the stairs again (Jeremy did them three times), and I watched the sun set again.

Sunday morning - Sasha 2.0's due date - 6 o'clock AM. I was loitering in bed, considering getting up to go to the bathroom, also considering whether or not to go to church, and if so, what the heck was I going to wear, when I rolled over. And my water broke. I believe the first words out of my mouth were, "ilhamdudlillah" (thanks be to God).

I went in the bathroom while telling Jeremy that my water broke. His answer? "How do you know?" Well, once he took a look at the amount of fluid we were talking about, it was kind of obvious. He got dressed and then (I'm not kidding) immediately started grading his students' Arabic homework so he could get ahead of schedule before the baby came.

I called my mom to tell her to start getting ready to come over, and then I called the midwife (Martha). She said to come in when the contractions got started, or between 8-10am if they hadn't started to get a non-stress test done. Fortunately, contractions did get started, around 6.30am. My mom eventually arrived, Jeremy continued to grade homework, I was eating and getting ready to go to the birthing center, and Miriam was sleeping.

At about 8.30, a Middlebury College police officer arrived to take Jeremy and me to the hospital. Her first concern was that I would make a mess on the seat of her car, so we made sure to tell her that I would be sitting on a towel (she was really nice otherwise). Miriam and Grandma headed off to eat breakfast and go to church. At this point, I was thinking that Miriam would have time to have a normal day (church, lunch, nap) and then come over and still see some exciting Sasha 2.0 action.

We got to the hospital and they did a non-stress test. Everything was fine with the baby, so they went ahead and put us in a birthing room. I kept walking around to encourage the contractions, while reading Breaking Dawn. I was afraid to sit down or lie down because I just didn't want to stall labor. I was still eating and drinking to keep my strength up. Meanwhile, outside, it was absolutely pouring down rain.

At about 11am, the contractions were bad enough that Jeremy helped me get the tub set up with some nice hot water. I got all situated in the water and we rigged up my iPod Shuffle on one of the many handlebars in the tub so I could listen to it without worrying about dropping it in the water. Jeremy brought me some cold ginger ale and then he turned down the lights, went out, and closed the door. I drew the shower curtain so I was completely alone and secluded. Just me, my music, my ginger ale, and my bath. And oh yeah, labor. Increasingly difficult labor.

I'll skip over all this and it's for the same reason I wanted to be entirely by myself in there: that way, I didn't have to prove to anyone how badly it hurt. It just did. But I was the only one who had to know about it. Jeremy popped in from time to time to refill my drinks or adjust the water, and the nurse came in a few times to listen to the baby's heartbeat on a (wireless, waterproof) doppler.

At 12.35ish, Martha (the midwife) came in and I asked her to check me for the first time since being in labor. She said I was a 5. It was about what I expected. Then she left and I continued on by myself.

Meanwhile, according to the labor notes, Jeremy was in the birthing room watching Arabic stuff on YouTube and also reading Breaking Dawn.

At 1.45, I was getting a little bit pushy. The contractions were coming very strong, almost right on top of one another with no break in between. Again, from Jeremy's labor notes, apparently another woman in the birthing center was making quite a bit of uncomfortable-sounding noise, which Jeremy hoped I couldn't hear in the bathroom. I couldn't (probably a very good thing). At this point, I was out of the tub water and sitting on a chair with water from the shower flowing onto my back.

At 2.18, I told Jeremy to tell the nurse that I couldn't resist pushing for much longer. This concerned the nurses because Martha was right in the middle of catching a baby (possibly the screaming woman's?).

At 2.21, Martha or no Martha - and thankfully, she showed up right then after having delivered the other baby at 2.20 - I was on the bed in a side-lying position and ready to push. The nurse checked me and said I was still only a 9, but Martha gave me the go-ahead to push if my body felt like it. It did, so I did.

3.03pm: Magdalena Sonora Palmer is born. Jeremy pretty much catches her, and then she is placed directly on my chest, skin to skin. The placenta takes another 12 minutes to deliver, by which time I think Jeremy had already cut the cord. Eventually they wrap her up and she nurses more or less right away. An hour later, they get around to weighing and measuring her: 8lbs., 7 oz. and 19 inches long, with a 13-inch head circumference.

Other random details:

After it was all over, both the nurses and Martha apologized to me for not being more involved in my labor. I guess they felt guilty since I progressed so fast and they had been taking care of the woman who delivered just before me. However, this ended up being perfect for me - I wanted to be entirely alone during labor, and that's what ended up happening. I didn't plan it that way, or even suspect that ahead of time, so it worked out well that they were distracted.

Grandma Palmer called on Jeremy's cell phone right in the middle of pushing. I don't know who to blame more: Grandma for calling, or Jeremy for leaving his stupid cell phone on. :)

Grandma Walker and Miriam showed up around 5pm after their normal Sunday. But contrary to my expectations from earlier in the day, the birth was already over by then.

About "going natural" (you'll notice I had a drug-free delivery, without an IV or anything): LOVED it. I can't believe I did it, but I did, and it was amazing. So many factors contributed to me being able to go through labor naturally. First, the birthing center doesn't offer epidurals (for anesthesiologist/small-town reasons, though they do offer intrathecals and other lesser medications). Second, none of the nurses or the midwife ever asked me if I wanted anything for the pain. Third, for several reasons connected with Miriam's birth experience, I really wanted to avoid any pain medication. Fourth and fifth were being able to labor in the tub, unshackled by monitors of any kind, and also being able to listen to music.

The music I listened to during labor: two songs from the soundtrack of Dear Frankie, the soundtrack of The Last of the Mohicans, and the best one of all that I ended up listening to over and over again during the worst contractions, and then humming to myself while pushing: "Now We Are Free" from Gladiator (Thanks, Crys!).

All that and I still feel like there is more to tell. I'm sure you'll let me know if I left anything major out, if that is even possible.

I feel so blessed to have had an amazing birth experience.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Magdalena's Birth Story: the condensed version

I'll post two versions of the birth story here. This one will be a relatively brief version for those of you who don't care to know the specific dimensions of my cervix at certain points in time. Although really, in a birth story I don't know if there is such a thing as TMI.

Also, in case you're wondering, "why even bother?" I found that reading birth stories before going through the experience myself was extremely helpful and very interesting. So I might as well make a contribution to the corpus.

8pm, August 1: Climbed the 8 flights of stairs in Bicentennial Hall here on campus (all the way up to the planetarium on top).

8pm, August 2: Repeated the above.

6am, August 3: My water broke.

6.30am: Contractions begin.

8.30am: Got a ride to the Porter Hospital Birthing Center in a Middlebury College police car. Sirens were not employed.

9.00am: Non-stress test; everything is fine and we're good to go. I read Breaking Dawn, while standing up and walking around until...

11.00am: Contractions are bad enough that I get in the tub of my dreams. The lights are dim and I close the bathroom door behind me. It's just me, my iPod Shuffle, and some cold ginger ale.

2.15pm-ish: I get out of the tub, get on the bed, and tell everyone I'm ready to push.

3.03pm: Magdalena Sonora Palmer is born! We're all kind of in shock that she's such a chub (8.5 pounds). I told you I was big.

Anything else you're dying to know I will post in the unabridged version, hopefully very soon.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Magdalena Sonora Palmer

Magdalena Sonora Palmer
Born 3.03pm, 3 August 2008 (her due date!)
19 inches long; 8 lbs., 7 oz.

Details and birth story to come (but in short, it was awesome).

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The most ridiculous rental car ever

My mom is in town now, and she rented a car since we don't have one here in Middlebury. When she arrived, the only two cars they had available were an SUV or a Mitsubishi Eclipse. She assumed SUV meant something like a Suburban, so she went ahead and took the compact Eclipse.

Big mistake. And she knew it pretty much within 15 minutes of leaving Burlington for Middlebury.

So my mom showed up at our house driving a completely impractical-for-our-purposes sports car. At first, I thought we could make it work. Sure, it was only a two-door, but at least it was compact, right? Sure, the body style featured oddly placed lumps of molded design element that stuck out, but who really needs to know where all portions of their car are at any given moment? And sure, Miriam couldn't see a thing from her carseat on the inside because the back windows were so small and the front seats were so big, but she'll get over it, right?

Wrong. We ended up taking it back to Burlington the next day. By that time, they had a nice, normal, boring 4-door Ford Focus available for us. I'm really glad we made the switch because every time I tried to maneuver myself into the Eclipse, a little bit more of my body fell apart. The seats were so low and bucket-y! I can't even imagine having to do that after giving birth. I actually wonder if it would have been physically possible.

Sometimes I wonder why rental car agencies even stock cars like these. Although, I guess if you're tall enough to see over the dashboard (my mom and I hardly are), and not physically encumbered, and not a 2-year-old in the backseat, what's not to like? Still, I'll take a Ford Focus any day.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Jeremy's Breaking Dawn predictions

Breaking Dawn comes out on Saturday, as you may or may not be aware. We were at the Vermont Bookshop here in Middlebury last week and I casually asked if they were going to stock Breaking Dawn on the day of its release. The clerk said something like, "of course!" and then asked if I wanted to reserve a copy. But at that moment, she was distracted by another customer, who was actually in line, and meanwhile, I was distracted by Miriam running off to the children's section. So we never reserved a copy.

I didn't think it was a big deal, though. How many people in Middlebury could possibly be planning to buy Breaking Dawn on the day of its release?

Apparently, enough to have there be no copies left to reserve as of this morning when I went back to the bookstore to take care of that item of unfinished business. And I hadn't even been planning to reserve a copy at all, except that Jeremy told me it might be good idea since for all we knew, the ladies of the French School (or whatever) were planning to descend on the shop first thing Saturday morning.

I tried to play the pregnancy card (one of my last chances, for sure) and say that I was racing the clock to finish the book before the baby is born, but if all the copies are reserved, they're reserved. The best the employees could do for me was put me down for a copy and hopefully the extra box of books they'd ordered would come in on Saturday as well. I guess we'll see.

In the meantime, here are Jeremy's predictions for Breaking Dawn. There might be some spoilers in here if you haven't read the other books.

Jeremy's Breaking Dawn Predictions

1) Jacob imprints on some other girl - of course.

2) There is a final showdown with the Volturi leaders in which the werewolves help the good vampires.

3) Edward gets taken by the Volturi and the only way for Bella to save him is to become a vampire herself because she is immune to the talents of other vampires. She undertakes a dramatic rescue in Italy...or some other European country.

Things I am not as certain about:

4) The werewolves are eventually no longer needed and therefore the gene goes into recession - at the end of the book.

5) Bella gets cold feet and wants to have a baby before becoming a vampire.

Enjoy your last day of being able to look forward to a new, unread Twilight book!


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