Tuesday, July 3, 2007


Team Baby has pulled out to a wide lead, thanks to several key factors:

2) We managed to get me good health insurance.

3) We found a great high-risk OB/GYN.

Yesterday was out first appointment. The office is in a good location, close to the hospital and delightfully right next to one of my all-time favorite restaurants. The nurse was like some kind of high-efficiency breeding-assistant machine, tossing pamphlets at me while weighing me and giving directions to the bloodwork lab and demanding to know which hospital I planned to use for the birth. The doctor herself looked exactly like a Berkeley mom from the 70's and I responded like a little kid who finally found the right Mommy's legs to cling to in the supermarket. I just had this sense of overwhelming relief and safety. She's got dark and silver long straight hair, no makeup, glasses and wore a cotton peasant shirt and a long full skirt. Every other high risk OB/GYN I have met wore a conservative suit and a white lab coat, and I'm not dissing that outfit, it inspires confidence and a sense of authority. But having this woman who looked like she would ask me over for whole-grain, honey-sweetened fruit bars and a discussion of the effectiveness of Take Back The Night rallies was like finding my lost tribe.

She managed to squeeze me in for an ultrasound, so we tromped downstairs and met the ultrasound tech who looked about 20 and like she may have dated Joe Grillo back in the Worcester days. I got the dildo-cam, and she was a whiz with that thing. We were concerned with my cervical length, as when the Great Baby Race was first conceived, I got a dildo-cam estimate of a mere 2 cm, which was better than the 1 cm that my gynecological oncologist suspected, but still basically nothing to work with. We were also concerned with some very light spotting that I had been having off and on. And of course we wanted to make sure there was a normally growing embryo somewhere up in there.

Hip ultrasound tech (HUT) took a look and said, "Wow!"

Terrified us stared at her, unable to speak.

HUT commented, "Your cervix is long!"

Our first thought (confirmed later that we both jumped to the same conclusion) was that she was incompetent, because surely any idiot would know that my cervix is not only not long, it is a true shorty, like a man amputated at the upper thigh from all the hacking and cautery and biopsies and scalpeling. I began explaining that no, surely my cervix would never be considered long, and started going into the particulars.

HUT interrupted, "Oh, I know all your history. What I'm saying is, your cervix may have been 2cm then, but it measuring 5.5cm now which is nice and long. The doc warned me it might look weird, but it looks healthy, and it is definitely a good length."

Luke and I were overjoyed, it was like this wonderful gift, this precious surprise...

HUT continued, "And that 's not the only surprise I have for you. Here's a baby. And here's another baby."

Holy Shit!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Good Day

Took a walk down our street to the prairie reserve today. It's not much, and you are rarely away from the sight of suburban roofs and the spectacular TV antennae that half the folks around here seem to have. I'm kicking myself for not taking pictures of some of the monstrous antennae around here; Christ, we even have one!

But the thing I love is that after you walk for about twenty minutes through the jack pines and box elders you can veer off the main path and walk right up to the train tracks.

I don't know what it is about train tracks. I mean they're kinda hackneyed and sentimental, right? And yet I could just sit there all day, just waiting. I had a total Stand By Me moment last fall, when a deer picked its way delicately up to the tracks from the other side, stood fro a moment, then bolted.

We did not manage to tackle the Corner of Pure Drywalling Hell today.

I could fit all my journals from the 8th grade that crack between the ceiling and walls. I'm thinking about hiding a fake treasure map in there. When I was scraping the old paint off of the fascia (that's the vertical bit that hangs down at the roof's edge for those of you who haven't had to memorize Black & Decker's Home Repair Manual) I discovered that underneath the layer of white paint there was printed paper sealed onto the primed wood. It was printed only on one side, and had been applied printed side to the board, so that when I scraped away the paint, I found blank paper(the back), and when I scraped that away (very carefully) I found reversed letters on the thinnest scrap of ancient yellowed paper. It was mostly ineligible, but there was an intriguing mention of a diner party. Our house was owned from when it was built in 1950 till 2004 by couple, the female half of which was an Ambassador to Germany. I often imagine the swanky dinner parties they threw, with the mod style bar that took up most of the dining room and the monocled German diplomat name Herr Hackleheber with one of those red sashes and a big fluffy mustache that grows down and attaches to his sideburns...

Okay maybe not... Anyway, we did not manage to do any work on the house, but I did manage to make the absolutely delicious caramelized onion smothered pork chops, which I think Herr Hackleheber will be sorry to have missed.

I used a recipe from Cook's Illustrated, but changed quite a bit.

Fry up 3 slices of bacon, cut into little pieces (we buy Farmland Hickory, but I like Boar's Head too) on medium heat, remove them to drain, and keep the rendered bacon fat for building the roux that is the base of the gravy. Rouxs are not scary, they are easy, but something about it being French makes some inexperienced cooks freak right the fuck out. Don't worry, I'll walk you through it, easiest thing in the world. Take about 2-4 tablespoons of flour and whisk it into your rendered fat. It will bubble and may kind of clump up, depending on how much fat you had in the pan. That's okay, just kept whisking it and moving it around the pan for about five minutes or until it is a caramel color. What you are doing is cooking the flour to prevent the raw flour taste that icks up so many gravies. Now, get some help or get ready to use both hands on separate tasks. One hand will keep whisking, the other will slowly pour in about 1-3/4 cups chicken broth (homemade or Swanson's low sodium Natural Goodness brand in an aseptically sealed carton... I know, I'm finicky, but I only demand brands when I think brands make a difference...Have you ever actually tasted Campbell's chicken broth? It tastes like a sweaty armpit!). There will be all sort of bubbling, steaming action in your pan, just keep whisking so that the flour-fat mixture gets nicely incorporated into your liquid. Turn the heat up to medium-high and let the mixture come to a boil while you are whisking- it will happen quick. Go ahead and taste it and see what you think. You can add stuff- just remember that the gravy is going to cook with the pork for about a half hour (so no fresh delicate herbs like parsley) and will pick up some depth from the pork, and the gravy will also reduce a bit at the very end of cooking so it will get concentrated and thicken up a bit. Look, you just made a roux! Put the sauce off to the side with a cover on it.

Now, the pork. I used four boneless chops, about 3/4 of an inch thick. They would be even better thick cut, and bones would add some depth to the taste, but I got mine on sale so I wasn't gonna complain. Dry them off (less splattering when they hit the pan and better browning) and seasons them with lots of pepper and salt. Don't just sprinkle them with seasoning, you gotta actually push the seasoning in with your hands. I know, washing your hands ten billion times when preparing meat is a pain the ass, but this step is worth it. Get a nice heavy skillet- I use my cast iron, but then again I would use my cast iron to make birthday cake if I could (ohhh, that's totally going on the experiment list!)- and put it over high heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Let it get so hot that the oil is almost smoking. How do you tell? Well, eventually you'll get an unconscious knack for that temperature, but at first it's much like predicting ovulation- you are always counting back form some future, unknown time. Make sure the oil had gotten nice and shimmery, that's a good start. Slap those chop on the skillet and cook them without moving for three minutes, flip and cook for three more minutes. You aren't cooking them all the way through, you are just getting a nice brown crust. Remove them and let them sit on a plate.

Next turn the heat down to medium and add a glug of oil and a couple of onions sliced very thin- you want enough onions to fill up the pan as they will cook down quite a bit. Also add about 1/4 teaspoon salt and a tablespoon of water. Cook the onions, turning and stirring regularly, till the onions are a nice caramel brown. Make sure to scrape up the browned bits left over from the chops at the bottom of the pan- this is the fond, a delicious base for many a meal. Once the onions are done, add a couple of minced or pressed garlic cloves and some thyme (a couple of shakes of the dried stuff, a couple of sprigs of the fresh) and cook for just about 30 seconds.

Put the chops back in the skillet, right on top of the onions (and pour any juices that have pooled under the chops in too) and then pour the gravy over the whole mess. Turn the heat to low, cover and cook until you can insert a paring knife easily into a chop. Pork will get tough if overcooked, so be careful- though to be honest the gravy is so yummy it will mask some of the overcooked texture if you leave them for too long. To be safe, insert a thermometer horizontally through the chop; you want it to be about 150 degrees. Remove the chops to a clean plate and tent with foil to keep them warm. Take the cover off the gravy and turn the heat up to medium high. Cook it till it has a consistency you like, taste, add salt and pepper (if it needs it) and some fresh parsley. Serve the chops with gravy over them. Save any left over gravy in the freezer and use it on sandwiches, with toast, or on any dry or boring meat that you have.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Holy Baby Planning, Batman!

Team Baby had one of those state of the partnership talks last night.

I have been compulsively worrying, as is my way, about not only the idea of bringing a baby into the world (What if there's a war and nuclear winter and famine? what if Jeb Bush is our next president? What if even Joss Whedon is incapable of creating a decent Wonder Woman and it flops like a fish, thereby dooming us to poor film versions of comic books as studios refuse to fund them properly?) and myself as a parent (What if I puke when I change diapers? What if I am incapable of expressing love? What if I fall into that dark, looming pit of fucking despair that is postpartum depression? What if I can't stop saying fuck all the time and my kid gets in trouble for repeating it and I get called into a conference and act like Paula Smalls on Home Movies and can't stop my manic dialogue and explosive cursing?) and the inevitably high risk pregnancy (What if I have to be on bed rest? What if I go into premature labor? What if I lose the baby? What if I lose multiple babies?)....

(deep breath)

But I have also been worrying about how we are even going to talk about this as a couple. What if L is all quiet and non-expressive, as he can sometimes get when he is overwhelmed by my splooge of verbal emotions? What if he and I put it off for too long, as we commonly do (see for instance the fact that it took us three months just to get walls back up in the hallway and even those aren't completely finished five months in)? What if we immediately start disagreeing (co-sleeping, I'm looking right at you! You know you're going to be a problem!)? What if he pussyfoots around actually making a plan, so I pussyfoot around making a plan because when it comes down to it, he's the one who really wants babies and I still have to work out some ambivalence and am clearly not in a place to deal well with pussyfooting, at least not anyone else's pussyfooting....

Last night I very hesitantly mentioned that we should start to think about a time to schedule a talk about maybe making a plan regarding that whole kid thing.

L thought about it for a moment, then rattled off, "Well, the doctor wants you to have an actual baby within two years right? But we saw him last month, so that's twenty-three months? No later than that? So minus nine for making the kid, minus about 5 for getting off birth control and trying to get pregnant, minus another six in case Something Happens.... let's start trying to get you pregnant in three months. Is that okay?"

And I know that he is blissfully naive, that conception could take longer, could take forever, that six months could well be nowhere near enough time to recover from Something Happening, that there are ten million things that could wrong with this plan....

But... I think there's a Plan. And that is something. And I think that this is the first time that I have really known, deep down, that I can let go, that he can take some of the burden, that I don't have to worry myself to sleep every night, because he will share the load with me.

Friday, January 12, 2007

This Is Only a Test

I've been blogging a bit over at LJ for quite some time, but LJ leaves me cold and a bit clammy. Since Google has made me her bitch in all other ways, I thought I'd give this a shot.

This is a blog about the ugly little house we call home. We are in the midst of massive renovations, from the roof to the flooring. I want to document all the projects and all the trials and all the tears and hysterics and incrimination and the filthy but satisfied state we are in at the end of each project.

This is also a blog about personal stuff because, um, I like stories and emotions and realizing the depth of one's deep inner gooey emotional sludge. If I ever have kids I'm gonna make them shirts that say, "My mom went to ten years of intensive talk therapy and all I got was this lousy tee shirt and night after night of bedtime stories about the dangerous family dynamics exhibited in Cinderella. Luckily my dad is cheerful and stoic!"

Hey, that's another thing. Kids. Reproduction. Baby-making with an option to upgrade to baby-wearing. If you read this blog I will talk about my cervix a lot. She may need a name, but that may be so cutesy that it will make me barf. After many years of battling with dysplasia, I'm just starting an all out war. We call it The Great Baby vs. Cancer Race. Who will win? Cancer has a definite lead (though he has yet to make his final invasive touchdown), because he is a lying no-good cheater that started way before anyone from Team Baby was ready to ditch the Ring and go forth into that new realm of parenthood, plus he totally sent his minions in to screw up the playing field so that Team Baby has even less of a chance. But we all like an underdog, right? I mean, if the Red Sox can do it so can I, right?