Monday, August 19, 2013

Still going strong

I've now reached 28 weeks of pregnancy, which is the start of the third trimester. I'm getting huge. Like, hippopotamus huge, at least in the middle. Seriously. I found the picture I took at week 18, then compared it to the one I took yesterday. I'm about twice as big as I was. And it's making things more difficult, there's no doubt about it. I count the small victories now, such as being able to put on my own socks. Shaving my legs. Grabbing a bowl from a high cabinet. (You'd be amazed how much a baby belly gets in the way of that last one, especially if you're short like me.) I'm taking solace in these small victories because, really, that's what I have left to hang onto as I go into the home stretch. As easy as my pregnancy has been, I can't wait to get my body back. I don't mean my figure, I mean my body. It really does feel sometimes as if I've been invaded by a little parasite which has taken over. It's making my body do strange things which I have no control over. I want to feel like me again.
I do have a couple of large victories, however, that surpass all the others: at 28 weeks, I'm still using walking and biking as my main forms of transportation. Yes, it's getting harder. But not as bad as I feared, at least for walking. I honestly thought that biking would be a bit easier but it's the little things which I didn't anticipate that are turning out to be the biggest problems. Such as the fact that my bike is made for me to lean forward. Normally, this is quite comfortable. Now, however, it makes me feel like I'm being slowly suffocated because my belly pushes up and cramps my lungs even more. So I spend a lot of time with just my fingers gripping the bike handles, palms pushed away to give me just a little bit of extra room. It's either that or lower my bike seat, which would make pedaling that much harder, because my handlebars don't move.
I'm also paranoid about my safety when it comes to biking. I'll see a bump in the bike path and end up thinking, "If I got tossed off my bike there, I would almost certainly land there, and at the very least it would break my arm...." A bit of this is because my balance is off (that tends to happen when your center of gravity suddenly shifts) so I need to assess risks in a different way, but also partly because I understand how bad a fall would be for both of us right now. It's the constant knowledge that my safety means her safety too.
Finally, the biggest challenge is simply to not overdo things. I'm used to having a certain amount of stamina, to doing a lot in a day and not having it really slow me down. I can't do that anymore. I spent Saturday in a flurry of activity: getting chores done around the house, running errands with a friend, yoga, taking the dog for a walk, biking first to a restaurant and then to a friend's house for birthday celebrations, and not biking home until around 1a.m. Even though I got a lot of deep sleep that night (I slept until 10:00), and despite taking naps on both Saturday and Sunday, I spent all of Sunday feeling sluggish. I just didn't want to do anything. Other than taking the dog for a short walk (about ten minutes) and finishing filling the dishwasher, I really didn't do anything all day except lie around and read. Even so, the exhaustion has carried over into today. Although, that might be more because the dog kept waking me up last night than for any other reason.
I am pleased by what I got accomplished on Saturday, though. Among other things, I froze some more local food for winter. I bought two bunches of celery at the farmer's market (comparable prices, better taste, compared to store-bought) on Saturday morning so those got chopped up, blanched, and frozen. This makes life so much easier over the winter. When we need celery, rather than buying one bunch from the store (which will most likely start to go bad before it gets used anyway) we can just dump what we need straight from the freezer bag into the dish. I'll do the same thing with carrots (there weren't many at the market yet) and combine the two in a few cases so that I have what I call my mirepoix starter kit. A little work now to reduce stress and work in the future. I know we'll be especially glad of this once baby arrives.
I also bought two large zucchinis, adding them to the one L gave me on Friday evening, so that I can shred and freeze those in 1 cup portions. It's crazy to me that I actually had to buy zucchini this year, for the first time in four years. But you do what you gotta do. My own squash plants are just starting to put things out, just in time for the frosts to start. (Any day now.) I've got one itty bitty pumpkin, one small zucchini, and three small yellow squashes all just starting. I think I'll move them all inside after the first frost, so that I can at least get my small harvest of them.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Land of Fire and Ice

My eldest brother, who lives in the L.A. area, keeps joking that living in Fairbanks is a little like living in George R.R. Martin's series "Song of Ice and Fire" (otherwise known as "Game of Thrones"). We do definitely go to the extremes, with an annual temperature swing of 140+ degrees (F). Frequently the summers, such as this one, are smoky. And the motto of pretty much everyone is, of course, that winter is coming. We spend all summer gearing up for the long, cold winters. Outside to do things, of course, but also to soak up the necessary vitamin D and to enjoy the sun while we can so that the winter doesn't seem quite so cold and dark. When I pick berries, it is with the knowledge that the season for them is so short and I need to get as many as I can to stock up for winter. I'm not alone in this.
This summer has been unusual, it's not just in my head. We've easily broken the old record for 80+ degree days (at least 36), when the average summer only has 11 such days. It's still smoky and the fires are flaring up with the lack of rain. (Over 2 inches less than normal.) The Tanana Valley Fair was in town and the old joke here is that fair weather means rain. Well, this year that wasn't the case. We haven't gotten any noticeable rainfall (a few drops here and there, but that's it) in what is usually the wettest summer month.
This is good in one way, because the family friends who've needed help creating a fire break around their property still need help. So Shane's been spending his afternoons up in the hills, helping to cut down, limb, and stack trees. He's not making the big bucks doing this, of course, but enough to pay for our most recent trip to Wasilla (for a kick-ass wedding!) and, soon, the snow tires we'll need for our car. I asked him how much more work he thinks is left and he said, "Probably they could keep me working until the snow falls." Ah. Well, it's good. Beyond the financial aspect, I can tell that Shane is much happier simply because he feels useful and productive again.
And now, the leaves are starting to change. It feels early to me, but I don't think that it actually is. I think that we're all a little confused by it, however, simply because it is still so hot during the day. It gets a bit chilly at night, but the days are scorching.
And now, we're even making plans to head down to the Mat-Su Valley once again to go to the state fair in Palmer over labor day weekend, with family. My first inclination was to be like, "Traveling, again? No." But to see family, it is worth it, even when I'll be 7 1/2 months pregnant at that point. I'm trying to remember that I feel extra tired right now both because it was a crazy week at work (which I don't want to go into, but I've never been so stressed out by work before) and because I'm getting over a cold. I blame Shane. He got sick first, then I got sick. I never got so ill that I felt the need to take time off work, but that was partly because I felt sickest over the weekend. Which, thankfully, gave me the time I needed to be super lazy and to recover. (I have a dr.'s appointment this week, anyway, so I'm sure I'll get checked out rather thoroughly then.) I made chicken noodle soup and we watched an entire season of a TV show online, and generally just took it easy.
The only thing we did over the weekend was to go to the Tanana Valley Fair on Sunday evening. We biked over to avoid paying for parking, then spent way too much money anyway on greasy, yummy fair food. We only go once a year, we figured (this was before the plans for the state fair), so it was worth it. And I discovered that my baby belly now sticks out far enough that drips and dribbles of food which would normally fall in front of me now land right on my abdomen. I had both gyro grease and blueberry stains from a crepe all over my shirt by the time we biked home. I regret nothing.
We saw "Goat Rodeo" in the list of activities and were super excited until a friend informed us that it was actually a one man band, not a rodeo. We were so hoping to see people roping goats. (Not raping goats, although that's not too far off the mark of what apparently did happen at the fair. Go Fairbanks.)
The next couple of months are going to be just as busy as the rest of the summer has been. Gearing up for birthday parties, the trip down to Palmer at the beginning of next month, and then the following weekend will be my baby shower, complete with a visit from my MIL. It will be fun, but I'm a bit tired just thinking about it all. I still have so many of my own projects that I've been wanting to get done that I have to work on. I did, finally, spend an evening cutting up an old flannel top sheet for reusable baby wipes, the draft dodgers I want to make for under the doors, and a rice heating pad for my aching back. However, when I tried to use my serger something went wrong. I must have threaded it wrong, but I'm not certain how. So I'll have to ask my MIL when she's here.
We're getting to the point in pregnancy where I think it's ok to start stocking up on some things. Our Fred Meyer rewards came in the mail (almost $10 off!) and some coupons, and a $150 gift card from a work program, so I'll stop there after my appointment later this week to grab some things off my list, like oats and dates and pasta and sticky hooks to hang curtains. I know I've mentioned this before but we're going to make and freeze as many meals and snacks as possible before Baby's arrival so that it's one less thing to worry about when we bring home our tiny new person. I still have all those craft and decorating projects I wanted to do as well, and organizing projects. Some deep cleaning of our apartment. (Heck, at the moment I'd settle for minimal cleaning of our apartment. With both of us being laid low for most of a week, and the traveling before that, our place looks like a bit of a dump.) I'm so behind. It will feel nice to make some progress on this stuff, finally. I've been putting it off for so long, not because I'm lazy but because I've prioritized other things. Now that I'm entering my third trimester, however, it feels just a bit more urgent to get things settled and ready for Baby.
Actually, I've got plenty of baby items on the list as well. A nasal syringe, thermometer, diaper cream, etc. Things that people say, "Oh, go ahead and register for that!" but I'd feel silly actually registering for. Seriously, a $1 bulb syringe? Baby nail clippers? They sell those in kits but all of the kits I saw looked cheap and had extra stuff that I didn't really see the point of. (And yes, that is after doing research about what kinds of health/safety items we really do need. I won't be leaving off my list things which will actually make a difference to my child's health and wellbeing.)
As strange as it seems, I'm a bit excited to buy these things. Not the purchasing itself, but the fact that we're getting so close to actually meeting her. I realized a few weeks ago that I'm not scared of labor, which I know a lot of women are. The knowledge is rather liberating.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Enjoying summer

It feels like I've spent most of the summer complaining about it being summer. It was too hot, the mosquitoes sucked, it was smokey, blah blah blah. And it was all true, and it was annoying. However, now that we're in the slow descent toward autumn I'm finally getting a chance to enjoy summer. Weird, I know. It's not as hot, the bugs aren't as atrocious, and most of the smokiness is gone, though.
I've gone berry picking twice with friends, netting about a gallon and a half of blueberries and a cup or so of raspberries. So far. We're definitely going to be doing more berry picking before the season ends, so I'm happy. A freezer full of yummy local berries sounds heavenly, doesn't it?
We bought some (non-organic) blueberries at Fred's the other day because they were ridiculously on sale. After eating a few of them, having gone berrying the day before and eating a few of those berries, it reminded me of exactly why I think that the local berries are so incredibly superior. Sure, they're much smaller. They stain your hands. They can be rather tart. But the cultivated berries are missing one major thing: flavor. I ate a handful and wondered, why on earth did I ever enjoy store-bought blueberries? They're watery little bits of nothing in blue skin. Compared to the wild berries I'd been picking and eating, they were completely tasteless. Even when I put them into some pancakes, they just didn't taste like anything. We'll freeze what we have left of them for winter, and I'm certain we'll make things with them, but I'm just as certain that they'll be the last berries to go. We'll all pout when we finish the local berries. Which, really, is just more impetus for me to pick as many as possible. Can I get three gallons? Four? We'll see.
We had another trip down to Wasilla for another wedding, and it was wonderful. Great friends, great party, ecstatic bride and groom. What more could you ask for? It was at the bride's family's farm, so the setting was gorgeous. I always forget how much I miss the mountains until I'm in the Mat-Su Valley and they're right there. (Alaska says no to foothills. It's just mountains looming all around, looking imposing and impressive and gorgeous. It's the one thing about the Valley that I love.) Shane and I actually helped out quite a bit, trying to get it ready. When there was nothing else for me to do, a few times I ended up holding babies to help out their parents, who were in the wedding party or were in charge of someone in the wedding party, like the flower girl's mom. I feel a little silly, because at one point I ended up taking a nap on the couch in the house of these people I'd never met before, but I'm pretty sure everyone was sympathetic to that. (Who's going to wake up a pregnant woman?)
The one thing which I didn't like about the weekend is that we drove. so. freaking. much. Wasilla is set up horribly. It's so spread out that even if we'd brought our bikes down we would have spent much of the time driving because it just would have taken too long to get anywhere otherwise. We drove into Anchorage to help ferry supplies, like the alcohol (four kegs--we had only one and the wine in our vehicle) and food supplies (a family friend, who's a chef, did the catering, so they bought a lot of the supplies at Costco). We ended up making a trip to Value Village on Saturday morning because Shane's dress pants were from high school and while they're still plenty nice, they're a little tight in the waist. (Good guy husband--keeps himself in shape and can still fit into high school clothes a decade later.) We found a new (to us) pair of khakis and I even got to browse the baby girl outfits. Shane surprised me by holding up a dress and saying, "Um...this is really adorable. Can we get it?" A blue plaid jumper for a 1-year-old, for $1.99. Yep, we bought it. It just charmed the hell out of me to see my husband, who usually hates this kind of thing, looking hopeful over buying a dress for his baby girl.
The wedding itself was perfect. Oh, there were moments, as at every wedding. The ring bearer decided that he didn't want to walk sedately down the aisle, so he took off running out into the field (don't worry, he didn't actually have the rings) and the flower girl saw all the crowds and froze for about five minutes while her mom tried to coax her down the aisle. A plane flew overhead after the vows so we heard nothing until suddenly, " and wife. You may kiss your bride." But it was still lovely. And the party afterward was fantastic. We danced, we ate cake, we laughed and had a great time. There was beer-in-hand kickball (it was even fun just to be a spectator), pony rides for kids, board games, beer pong with a wine cork instead of a ping pong ball, and much merriment. I've been to weddings which were as good before, but none better.
Though it was an option, we decided not to camp out on the lawn that night. It was rainy, we would have had to set up the tent in the dark, and I didn't have a pillow. Instead, we stayed at our friend's parents' house. So nice of them to let us crash there!
But that missed camping opportunity, and the pictures of the bachelor party (which was a camp-out) really, really make me want to go camping. So we're hoping to get people together to go camping in a couple of weekends, before it gets too cold. We even want to combine it with both a birthday celebration and berry picking. If we can pull it off, it will be such a good time.
As I walked to work this morning, I got the "end of summer" vibe. It must have been the angle of the light, which really isn't that much different than it was last week. But combined with the chill in the air (I was still wearing a sleeveless blouse, so just a chill) it made me realize that autumn is rapidly approaching. I'm excited for it, as I always am. Autumn is my favorite season. And of course, this year I have even more to look forward to. So I'm not unhappy about summer ending, but I am trying to squeeze in as much summer activity as I can before it all winds down.