Overcommit much?

As if I didn't have enough on my mind, or enough to do...signing up to learn a new hobby seemed somehow sensible when a Groupon invite showed up in my email in-box. I'm learning to crochet!

It became worse when I thought it was a one-night intro class, but then learned it's a five week class. (And for reference, I have six weeks until baby arrives.) But I'd already bought the Groupon.

Maybe I was taken by the notion of crocheting baby blankets, or someday recreating the baby sandals that my mom used to craft. I figure I will give it a shot , but also reconcile myself to the possibility that I might not make it through the entire session.

Darn you, Groupon! Tempting me to sign up for things I may never finish!

Someday I'd like to make a zig-zag blanket for my own. With my self-scheduling issues, it could be for baby's college dorm room.

Showered!

This past week was the start of the 'shower season' for baby, and I already I feel dripping wet with the love and kindness of my friends. (And the family shower is still to come!) It makes me feel unusually mushy and loved inside.

The kick-off was likely the most novel celebration, held on the upper-level of the Union Pacific North Metra line, from 5:26 pm until its 6:12 pm arrival at my train station. My clever commuter friends arranged to be driven two stations north, giving them just enough time to blow up balloons and hang streamers. The party wasn't a surprise, since they'd needed to confirm I'd be on the train and not driving, but the lengths they went to did unexpectedly delight me. There were cupcakes and gifts, including baby's own Metra toy train! Since I'd earlier joked that the station names of my commute might not be altogether bad names for baby, this seems appropriate. Little Clyborn Evanston will adore it!With the gender mix favoring the guys, there was also beer, though served in little blue and red striped party cups for a change. One "guest" commented that the best part was that unlike other prolonged festivities, we all knew exactly when it would end. Those guys were so clever and kind!

The girls showed up this weekend though for the Chicago shower. Two of those girls being Juliet arriving all the way from Philadelphia, and Ellyn from Connecticut. Three-year-old daughter Clara accompanied Ellyn and busied herself by giving party guests Dora the Explorer stickers and taking coloring book commissions. However, the longest distance traveler was friend Dipti's mother, who was visiting from India. Baby now has the most adorable Indian children's outfit, to match Dad's sherwani...watch out for our Christmas card!

In the planning and preparation, I enjoyed the chance to put up tissue paper pompoms, a decoration that I'd been just waiting for an excuse to enjoy. No surprise, the cats were fascinated. Here Piper keeps a wary eye on the lowest, and biggest, of the bunch.My guests all brought their own adorable baby photos for us to guess their now adult identities. While the train shower photos are poor because I just had my camera phone, the Chicago photos are lacking because once guests arrived I found myself entertaining. (Ellyn did thoughtfully bring a camera though, so posterity will not be deprived of my discovering the treasures buried in blue tissue paper.)

We noshed on tea sandwiches and salad. I particularly recommend Better Homes & Garden's Corn & Blueberry Salad, which we paired with the simple and tasty Green Salad from Jamie Oliver and the Food Network. Yum, and perfect for a very hot and humid Chicago day.

I will be busy writing my thank-you cards for the thoughtful variety of gifts unwrapped, including registry essentials, handmade gifts, and the gift cards that will make their givers investors in those big-ticket items like strollers. I don't think it's just the pregnancy hormones - I feel so humbled and flattered by the affection my friends have showed sharing the cheer of welcoming baby. It's nice to have little tears well up in your eyes because you feel so happy and loved. (Ok, maybe the tears are from the hormones.)

How are You Feeling?

It's asked with such greater weight nowadays (commensurate perhaps with the weight I've gained through 7 1/2 months of pregnancy): How are you feeling?

Well, my feet are so swollen that I look down and think I'm Miss Piggy. (Or I think I must be looking at a photo from one of the medical journals we get at work, describing a case study of a vicious bee sting.)Last weekend I spent enough time napping on the couch that Jason must have wondered if I'd bitten the same apple as her. Which might make sense, because my stomach has been feeling like this grumpy fellow is hanging out inside of it, unhappy with pretty much anything that goes down there... even the prenatal vitamins. And sometimes I have the energetic, optimistic attitude of Eeyore.And while I wish the wrist guards I'm sporting occasionally to alleviate the swelling in my arms that's causing carpal tunnel had the same panache as Wonder Woman's bangles......co-workers and Jason have instead asked when my bowling tournament starts.

Be Our Guest

Along with the nursery, the other room that I wanted to perfect to my liking was our guest room. With babies come guests, right? "Before" it was the haven of the cats mostly, but now I think it's a room that can please us all.The wall color is green which is meant to be calming (for sleepy guests) but I picked a juicy color that trended toward yellow to keep me engaged when I'm using the space as my workroom (Benjamin Moore's Sweet Pear...which I nearly always mistype as "Sweat Pear" which sounds a lot less appealing.)

The carpeting is FLOR Faux Bois tiles, which were a bit of an adventure to put down with Jason. We surrendered and hired a handyman for hanging the curtain rod, after discovering cinder block walls just an inch beyond the plaster.

Remember how I wanted a gallery wall? Voila! Including my dad's high school class photo unearthed while cleaning out the closets.How do you like the custom pillow cases for big fluffy "European" pillows?

My workspace is the IKEA expedit desk with shelving. There's also a stylish white vinyl chair that I was surprised to find at OfficeMax, of all places. When baby smears his jelly sticky fingers all over it, I'll remind myself how little I paid for something that looks far more pricey.The sewing machine tucks away very nicely, as do those burp clothes and fabrics for future projects.Our first "test guest" will be Juliet this weekend! Followed by Jason's friend the following week. I've borrowed a thoughtful touch from Joe & Ellyn's Connecticut guest room set-up by investing in a folding luggage rack. At first I thought this was kind of overkill when Ellyn presented it to me as part of my welcome tour...but then I used it and found myself rethinking. (I do use them in every hotel I go to, so why not at home?)

We'll be doing a focus group later to get our first guests' opinions on the usability of the room. And then we will throw out their comments and decide that we like the room well enough anyway. (Just kidding...sort of.)

Drop Me at the Door

Attending our "how to keep your newborn alive" class* last week at Evanston hospital (near Northwestern) Jason was delighted by the parking garage's organization by Big 10 team.

I realized with some dread that this may mean that despite my being in the throes of labor, Jason will be insistent on our driving all the way up to level four.


*Officially: Baby Care Basics. We are now closer to being qualified swaddlers and sponge bathers, but hearing about the various colors of baby's first poops was pretty appalling.

Book Report

Despite feeling like I have a lot of "assigned reading" on my plate about the baby-related adventures to come, like childbirth and caring for a newborn, I am persistent in leisure reading. Those days of just reading for pleasure are probably numbered anyway.

I just finished The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the story of an African-American Baltimore woman treated for cancer at Johns Hopkins in the 1950s. During her treatment, doctors took cell samples that later became an essential research tool. Without her or her family's knowledge, researchers grew her cells and sent them to research labs worldwide to investigate treatments for cancer and diseases like HIV.

The book explores what kinds of consent should be involved in research today, and how the racial dynamics of the 1950s played into keeping the Lacks' family unaware of their mother's contribution to science for years. While they struggle to pay for their own healthcare, companies have made millions copying and celling their family's cells.

This is another book (like Katherine Stockett's The Help) that I read and find myself embarrassingly surprised by the pervasive impact of racism years ago. The book notes that Johns Hopkins' hospital wards were segregated, blood donations from African Americans were marked "colored" to make sure blood between whites and blacks didn't mix. Medical chart audits reveal that African American patients typically received less medication for pain. And no wonder that an African American woman didn't argue or question her doctors when they were taking samples and initiating treatments. (Henrietta Lacks died of the cancer, though her cells still live today.)

It's an non-fiction story that reads like a novel and brings up a lot of questions like, "How come taking samples from a dead body requires a family's consent, but even today the blood you give for testing at a hospital can be later used for research, without your even knowing it?" If you believe that sample is going to be used by an altruistic academic researcher to cure disease, you may willingly give it up, but what if you later learn that the institution or researcher has made millions based on what your cells told them? And you can't afford to go to the dentist?

Reading the story is timely as one of the decisions Jason and I have to make is whether to save our baby's cord blood, or to donate or trash it. It's believed that banked cord blood may someday be useful in curing diseases, though the science is young and the costs for harvest and annual storage are pretty steep. We're inclined to donating it to a public bank, so it might help someone who needs it today, rather than the possible (maybe unlikely) need we'll have for it later. But what if the donation ends up in research? Initially I'd say that's good, I'd like to feel like we are advancing cures, but after reading this book I wonder, "what if the drug it helps develop later costs us thousands?" A really interesting question for someone who also works for a pharmaceutical company!

I Win!

After some serious e-bay auction tracking and selective bidding, my new, indulgent diaper bag has arrived!At the office I've pointed out to my managers that projects go through a system where we literally hear our work is being REJECTED, every week. It can be totally demoralizing if you take your work too seriously or personally. Today at work I was rejected...again. I've learned to laugh when things get really inane. (Case in point being this week where our ad agency presented a number of concepts focused on the "iconic, unmistakable Brooklyn Bridge"... except all their sketches featured the Manhattan Bridge.)

Bidding on e-bay started to demand an unsinkable optimism too, after a number of LOSING auctions when the price got too high for me to pursue bidding further.

But finally, the joy of VICTORY. (At 40% off retail price too.)

See how well the bag matches with baby's car seat? Must have been meant to be. (And thanks to Sura and family in Maine, Jason has the Diaper Dude bag too!)

Is That a Jicama in Your Belly or...?

I can't tell you how many times I looked down on Friday and thought, "Geez, the skirt on this dress just balloons out like nobody's business," and tried to flatten it down...only to realize, "Oh, that's my belly right there." Just starting 32 weeks, and the baby is reportedly the size of a large jicama. I do not know what a jicama looks like, but apparently I could be hiding one under my skirt.

Let's Brainstorm

There has to be a reason I need the Hello Kitty duct tape sold at Target. I did not buy it, which showed some rare restraint for a Target outing.

However I am not going to comment on the many other things that did end up in my cart, despite a pre-meditated list that did not include them.

And of course, I returned home to realize later that the cats need more food. Am I ready for a child?

Nearer to the Nursery

I can add another question to the pregnant lady FAQ's. Besides the "how are you feeling?" and "do you know what you're having?" the oft-asked question is, "Are you done with the nursery yet?"

Ugh, I really wasn't. There were boxes and an unassembled crib, and piles of clothes, hand-me-downs, and various items I'd been putting aside. People asked the nursery question (often!) and it would trigger a feeling of sinking anxiety. Then they'd cheerfully exclaim, "Oh, you won't really need it for the first month or so anyway!" I wanted to retort, "THEN WHY ARE YOU ASKING AND MAKING ME STRESSED ABOUT IT???!!!"

I may be a little irritable in the third trimester.

So this weekend I put my belly to the grindstone and tried to pull the room together. Jason initiated the crib assembly the other weekend, which ended up being a bit of a challenge to our marriage. But both crib and marriage are looking good now.

And here's how the nursery is looking!Crib is assembled! It seems like the size of a small car, and rather big for such a small baby. Mattress and sheets are to come, but that's a little souvenir from the babymoon in Cabo draped over the side. For the sharp-eyed, I can confirm that that is a picture of the Ohio State stadium on the wall. I'd probably object more notably if we were expecting a girl, but since Jason has pretty much let me make 98% of the nursery decisions, I figured I could entertain some Buckeye accents. And the baby is coincidentally due on the day of the season opener. How poetic for Jason. It was me who thought this hand-knit cap was an adorable Father's Day gift (from Etsy.) Brutus is sitting atop a teddy bear made by my Mom. I may regret opening the door to this, since Jason came home today delighted show me an Ohio poster he'd purchased, thinking of the nursery. How does one put the Buckeye back in the bottle?

There are a few items still pending, like these cute biplane wall decals. Despite spending a good deal of time admiring the stylish and minimalist nurseries on sites like OhDeeDoh (Apartment Therapy's kids blog), I have trouble with blank spaces. And after Juliet once told me a horrifying story that began with, "All I knew was that I woke up covered in blood and shattered glass..." I have a bit of an irrational fear of pictures falling off walls onto the heads of unsuspecting sleepers. (Juliet was fine. She can be counted on to tell a good story though and influences my decision for nothing but soft stickers over sleeping baby's head.)

Holiday Weekend

This was a nice, relaxing, do-nothing-special kind of holiday weekend. The red, white and blue bunting was up on the balcony and an early departure from work on Friday started it off. Then there was also:

- Yoga class - loving the pigeon pose for pregnancy-related sciatica relief. I'm sometimes surprised that I still balance relatively well with a baby on board.

- Eye doctor - new contacts, but not a very different prescription. This was on the list of things to get squared away before the baby comes.

- Hair cut - same as above. I'm kind of glad my hair's long enough to be pulled into pony tails, seems like that may come in handy in a few months

- Dinner outside at Mon Ami Gabi in Lincoln Park. A French bistro style-dinner, paid completely with gift cards...which we'd received for our wedding nearly four years ago! Juicy summer tomato and avocado salad, filet mignon with frites, and a light chocolate mousse to finish. (A belated thanks to Sam & Frosty.) - Close-to-finishing touches on the nursery and the guest room (more on that later, when they are actually closer to done. I'm almost there. I hung probably 10 pictures this weekend.)

- Monday afternoon nap (I get a lot more tired these days, despite doing not much more than grocery shopping and errands!) Which also explains what happened to most of Sunday...lolling around on the couch reading. Jason and at least one of the cats joined me for Monday's nap, completing the lazy weekend.
 

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