Monday, August 30, 2010

Introducing: The Belly

Note to self:  consider putting on make up and brushing hair before taking future belly pics. I mean, seriously.  Can I look like a total scrub in every single one of these?

Answer:  Yes.

4 weeks pregnant.  
Taken the day of the test.  Glad I chose to wear such a cute outfit to commemorate the occasion.  In my defense, we were finishing up laying the hardwood floors that day, so these are my "working clothes."

11 weeks along.  
I'd hoped this drawstring skirt would last me the summer.  I cannot pull it over my butt now.  Elastic waists all the way, baby.

18 weeks.
Flash forward almost two months in which the belly was not well-documented.  You can look at Korea pictures to see it under clothes.

20 weeks.  
All of a sudden, the belly is getting seriously large and in charge.  

We've come a long way from this:

to this:
Whoa, belly!

and we're halfway there!  20 weeks down, 20 more to go!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Look Who Slept Over at My House

It is not every weeknight that I invite two strapping young men sleep over.

But last week, these two gentlemen stayed the night at our house.

Cooper wanted to be their sidekick/mascot.

Although it did get a little crowded with three of us in one bed, I have to confess that the trio was actually David, Cooper, and me.  We dropped Rob and Anthony at the Cardinals game and they went out to the bars afterward and we didn't even hear them come in later that night (early the next morning?).

Anyway, part of the reason that Rob and Anthony are so strapping and so tan is because they have embarked on a quest to walk from the west coast to the east coast in an effort to raise money for cancer research.  An idea that sort of began on a whim and then developed into something real now has the full support of their families, their mayor, their entire hometown of Montclair, New Jersey, and increasing press coverage.

They began June 1 in San Diego and after a few weeks of straggling across the southwestern desert with heavy backpacks and blistered feet, they were ready to give up.  Their dads flew out for a little moral support and they decided since the backpacks were weighing them down so much (literally and figuratively) they needed some sort of alternative.

Like this one:

So now they push jogging strollers full of their supplies (extra clothes, toiletries, energy bars, Gatorade, and a little laptop computer for blogging).

They were getting stopped by the police everyday there for a while when the heat index in the Midwest was 110 or higher and people saw them pushing baby strollers down the highway out in the heat of the day.

They have worn through four pairs of shoes each, traipsing halfway across the country.  In Kansas, they slept in a tent and spent one night in an abandoned house.  In Missouri, the city of Nevada just happened to be one of their stops.  They got a warm welcome and met the Ellis family, so when it was discovered that their trek would take them through St. Louis, I got a phone call to see if I could put them up for the night.

They were walking from Wildwood, MO the morning they arrived and they got to my house around 3pm.  Cooper and I walked up the street to meet them (I was hoping this would cut down on his obnoxious barking).  Coop was definitely not sure what to make of two strange men pushing baby strollers and proceeded to bark at them while we walked down the street, while they put their strollers in the garage, and while they carried their stuff to the guest room.

Once they had showered and settled in, though, he was more than happy to cozy up with them on the couch.  Anthony in particular was his special buddy.

Overall, their stay was rather uneventful.  I took them to Mom's Deli to get sandwiches to take to the ballgame but then David was running late getting off work so we ate the sandwiches at home.  They did get to see Albert Pujols hit a homerun in Busch Stadium (while I was watching David pitch in Cahokia and getting mosquito bites on my butt).  I told them they could call for a ride after the game or take a taxi, but they decided to walk back to our house.  Evidently the walk from the stadium to South City isn't that far when you're used to doing 25-30 miles a day.  Puts everything in slightly different perspective.

The next morning I dropped them at Uncle Bill's for breakfast while I ran errands and then they did some laundry and headed on to cross MLK bridge and walk through Illinois.  We wish them the very best on their journey and best of luck with their fundraising.

If you'd like to learn more about their adventures, you can follow their progress here:

Or on their facebook page.

They have appreciated the press that they've gotten, and they are more than halfway toward their goal of reaching home by October 3, but they still have a ways to go toward their goal of raising $100,000 to benefit cancer research.

Visit their website and consider making a contribution to two cute boys walking for a worthy cause!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Lists

I like making lists the way I like new school supplies.  I like writing down things that need to be done (and sometimes things I've already done) so I can cross them off.

When I was first pregnant, I would eagerly scour the lists and timelines in the baby/pregnancy books.  I ordered the "essential" pregnancy planner (A title that my doctor made fun of:  "Essential?" he asked me.  Point taken.).  I was so excited to cross things off the list.

And then?

Then we went to Korea.  And we got home.  And unpacked and did laundry and started creating syllabi and reading essays and planning for classes.

And now?

I haven't looked at that planner since the beginning of August and I know I haven't been crossing things off the list. 

Nursery furniture?  Still totally undecided.  Are we buying new or used?  Are we going with white or trying to match the maple dresser that will stay in the room either way because we are in a tiny house with no space?  Are we buying a glider?  A rocker?  The traditional wooden kind with cushions or the bigger cushiony kind?

Baby registry?  Eh....  I've started looking at stuff on Amazon--does that count?  I'm not sure who will be buying stuff off my registry anyway so I'm not even sure I need to register.  I might register at the Cotton Babies store for diapers.  Doesn't that sound thrilling?  Hi, I'm having a baby and I need $200 worth of cloth diapers.  Big investment up front!  Big payoff down the road!  Are we really doing the cloth diaper thing?  Yes, I think so.

And all of the items that are either optional or a total necessity depending on the baby.  Does your baby like the swing?  Or prefer a sling?  Will the baby have a bed in our room or sleep in its crib from the very start?  Do we need a white noise machine?  Will it cover the sound of manic dogs barking and lunging at the front door when the mailman drops off the mail?  What about a mobile?  Does it need to have a remote control? 
Do we need a baby monitor in a house this small?  Well, seems like a good idea in case we're out in the yard or something.  But a video monitor?  A digital monitor?  A monitor that fits under the crib sheet and sets off an alarm if baby stops breathing?

Everyone's list of what is essential and what is merely convenient and what is a total waste of money is...  totally different and conflicting. 

So I know we're going to end up doing what everyone else does and playing it by ear.  We'll inevitably waste some money on things that we never use or that Baby Duck hates.  We'll eventually come across some brilliant product and wish we would have had it months earlier.  But it will be fine.

The thing is that for a while there, I was all about pondering these decisions.  The pros and cons of a co-sleeper 3-side crib.  What kind of stroller would be the best investment.  Whether we wanted to go with Dr. Green or Born Free baby bottles.  But now it seems like all of the time and energy I had ready to dedicate to these sorts of shopping decisions is being sucked away by my Dedication to Professional Responsibilities.  You know, like those four classes I signed up to teach this semester.

Instead of gleefully perusing, I'm writing short responses to students' writing histories.  Instead of researching the pros and cons of the Maya wrap vs. the Moby wrap, I'm writing a lecture on Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants."  Instead of paging through various mommy-blogs for their advice about Fisher Price aquariums and Baby Einstein playmats or (even more thrilling), electronic breast pumps vs. handheld, I'm rereading essays and paging through textbooks.

The good thing is that instead of stressing over these decisions, having a bunch of other things to think about helps me remember that Baby Duck will be just fine even if we buy a baby sling that I don't end up liking much, even if we pay too much for the glider, even if we forget about the aquarium and the playmat because, really, who has room for that stuff?  Not us. 

So I figure that I will focus on getting through the semester and not let myself get stressed about these baby checklists.  It will all get done, and as long as we show up at the hospital with a properly installed car seat, whatever else doesn't get purchased probably won't be missed.

Although I'm definitely getting some of the Baby Legs leg warmers.  Those things are too adorable for words.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Seriously? Insurance and Frustration.

Let me just say that although I will be bitching about my insurance company in this post, I realize that I am actually very fortunate to have insurance and to have insurance that is (for the time being) affordable.  My university paid for nearly all of a student health insurance plan and I was able to purchase an extension of the same plan for 9 months post-graduation.  This will get me through April of next year.  While the plan is nothing fancy, it has reasonably low co-pays and pays out 80% of my approved procedures/appointments/whatever.

So while I recognize that I am lucky to have health care, I am still incredibly frustrated with my insurance company at present.  If I were one of those big-name bloggers who tweet about things like their washing machine or vacuum and then get washing machine and vacuum companies offering them free washing machines and vacuums, I would totally tweet about this and see if some insurance company would promise to do me right, or if I could get my insurance company on the ball.  But since I am not a big-name blogger and I don't tweet at all, I am instead settling for a pattern of calling the insurance company over and over again to inquire about my claim.

Let me start at the beginning.  I took a pregnancy test.  I called the student health center and told them I was pregnant.  They had me come in to bloodwork and ran a bunch of tests.  This was on May 11.

$442 later, we determined that I was in fact pregnant and did not have any of the problems they check for in the blood tests.  I had to pay the fee up front when I left that day (rather than charge my student account) because I was about to graduate.  So I put it on a credit card and got the address to submit my claim to my insurance company.

I photocopied my receipt from the health center, mailed off my claim, and waited.

When I hadn't gotten anything a few weeks later, I called.  My claim had been received and approved.  I was due to receive 80% of that payment back (roughly $380).  In fact, they had already cut me a check and I should receive it in a few days.

I did not receive it.

So I called back.  It turns out that the check had been sent to an old address.  A six-year-old address, to be exact.  My old apartment near campus where I lived before David and I got married.

This was annoying, but not the end of the world.  I explained I hadn't lived there for six years, that they should remove that address from my account, and the nice girl I spoke with promised to reissue me a check.

A month later, I still hadn't gotten it.

I called back.  And would you believe it?  The same thing happened.  The check was automatically issued and mailed to this old address.  The nice girl I spoke with promised to issue me a new check which was expected to show up while we were in Korea.

We got home from Korea and there was no check.

In the meantime, we were able to pay off the credit card so we weren't accruing interest on that charge, but $380 is no small sum of money!  I was beginning to get frustrated.

I called back.  I spoke with a girl named Audrey who had a snotty attitude.  She was the first not-very-nice person I'd had to deal with when I'd called.  She told me that the check had been sent to my current address and mailed on July 24.  By this time it was after the first of August, so I asked if there was some kind of tracking number so we could figure out what happened to the check.  She said no and they couldn't do anything until it had been 30 days.

I got off the phone with her, irritated.  I kept thinking about how unlikely it was that my check was sent to the correct address and I hadn't received it.  So I called back a week later and spoke with someone else who told me that their system reset right before that check was cut so even though there was a note on my account, the check was still submitted and mailed to the wrong address.

Obviously I was beginning to get suspicious.  This person was very nice, though, and promised that she would expedite a check to me so I would get it in 3-5 days.  I had been planning to insist on this, so I was relieved when she offered.  I said that would be great.  But I had learned my lesson.  I marked my planner for five business days later so that I could call back if it hadn't shown up.

That was today.  And guess what?  No check.

I called back today.  The girl I spoke with told me that for "some reason" the check had not gone through even though it had been entered in my account.  To her credit, she was very pleasant and apologetic and promised me that she will not only expedite my check but call me before the end of business tomorrow to let me know that the check had been cut and was being sent to the right address.

I remain hopeful and I haven't screamed at anyone on the phone yet.  Maybe I'll get this check before Christmas...  It's just getting seriously ridiculous.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Belly (Button)

Here is something weird.

I am 19 weeks and 2 days pregnant.  And my belly button is now like a giant hole.

I have always had an "innie" button.  But it was relatively shallow.  Sort of filled with...  I dunno... twisty belly button inside skin?

This is getting gross.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that it was never like a deep belly button because there just wasn't that much space between my belly and the inside of the button, you know? 

I'm still not sure that makes sense.  Sigh.  I simply want to emphasize that it was a perfectly normal innie-button that would not attract second-glances were it exposed in a bikini.

And now? 

Now it is like a cavernous hole in the center of my abdomen.  It kind of freaks me out.  The twisty skin has been stretched.  It's kind of like a dixie cup in the middle of my belly.  OK, maybe more of a thimble.  But still.  Compared to the old button, it's enormous!

The upside is that I don't think my belly button will ever "pop" and create that weird preggo belly-button outie they always show at the start of A Baby Story on TLC because there is NOTHING LEFT INSIDE TO POP OUT.  It is a deep hollow cavern.

In fact, far from popping out, it is much more likely that things could get lost inside it.  Like car keys, sandwiches, and small dogs.

In addition to my enormous hole of a button, this picture also features the Korean flag and the little hole that was my pierced belly-button once upon a time (so it turns out that my seventeen-year-old-self did not always make the best decisions when on spring break--who would have guessed?). 

Disclaimer:  I took this photo myself and the angle does not appear to be a very realistic representation of the size or shape of the Belly.  I have had requests for belly pics (seriously!  I am not just pretending the internets wants to see the belly!) so I'll try to post some this week.

Friday, August 20, 2010

You Want to Rent Me?

That's a line from Can't Buy Me Love.  You know, back in the day when McDreamy was the nerdy guy who paid the popular blonde girl to pretend to be his girlfriend before they really fell in love.  I watched that movie far too many times.

Anyway, this is not a post about '80s movies that we all love.  Instead it is a post about renting maternity clothes.

My fall wardrobe is in a sad state.  I should not be complaining--my mom helped me buy some great maternity clothes for fall and winter, my friends have generously lent me some of their things, and I've supplemented that collection with a couple of pairs of skinny maternity jeans (thank you, Heidi Klum).  But, still.  One of my favorite things about back to school is the back to school shopping.  Putting together cute outfits!  Buying new shoes!  I've always, always gone back to school with a killer outfit for day one.  It makes me feel confident to be dressed like a professor when I'm up in front of the classroom pretending to be one.  If I feel like I look cute and put together, that's half the battle right there.

This fall?  Not so easy.  Shirts that I was so sure would work throughout my pregnancy are too tight or too weird fitting.  Skirts with an elastic waist hang funny so the hem is all uneven.  And wearing my pants unbuttoned with a bella band works for a while, but there is something unnerving about standing in front of a classroom full of college students, knowing full well that your pants are both unbuttoned and half unzipped and the only thing separating them from a view of you in your undies is a stretchy black piece of elastic fabric.

I don't want to spend a lot of money on maternity clothes partly because it's a silly thing to spend a lot of money on and also because so many of them are seriously ugly.  But this problem of having nothing to wear?  It's a serious problem.  Seriously annoying.  It would be one thing if I could teach in yoga pants or gauchos everyday, but I'm used to teaching in dress pants.  And pencil skirts.  And things that respectable professional people wear.  I'm the girl who reads In Style and then cobbles together copy cat looks at Target and H&M.  I'm not super trendy, I don't have a huge wardrobe, I'm not incredibly well dressed.  But I do feel better if I'm wearing a cute outfit.

Right now, I'm not even sure I have a first day of school outfit.  Which is, obviously, a tragedy.

And that brings me to the point of this post (which I should go back and edit because:  long!  whiny!  boring! but I'm too busy getting ready to watch True Blood):  you can rent maternity wear.

Brilliant!  Believe me, if I were going to a wedding this fall (and I'd like to be--David's cousin is getting married in Dallas in November, but I'll be 7 1/2 months preggo and I don't think we're going to feel like doing a whirlwind weekend in Dallas at that point) I would totally rent a dress from here.  It costs $35-40 to rent one for a week and you can order different sizes and returns the ones that don't fit, free of charge.  It's a good deal when you consider that most of the dresses they offer cost anywhere from $100-$150 retail.  So you pay a third of that or less and get a fabulous outfit for the day.

If only I could rent one for the next 20 weeks of my pregnancy...  Now that would make my fall wardrobe much more fun!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Movin' and Shakin' and Various Other Non-Related Items - NOW UPDATED!

(1) I totally felt Baby Duck move!  I have been waiting and waiting for it and thinking maybe that was it for three weeks now.  At David's ballgame a couple of nights ago, it was unmistakable.  Whether Baby Duck was motivated by the cheering crowd (that would be me, clapping, after I made myself put down the Malcolm Gladwell book and pay attention to the game) or the cool night air (seriously I put on a sweater and draped a beach towel over my legs) or the ginormous mosquito bites (I got a matching pair--one on my cheek and one on my butt cheek although the butt cheek one swelled up to the size of a silver dollar so then they were not matching), Baby Duck started moving and shaking.  I felt a series of fluttery little bubbles kind of on the left side of my tummy.  It was crazy awesome.  I wanted to share it with David, but he was on the mound and somehow I felt like no matter how thrilled he is about Baby Duck, his team would not understand that this warranted a time-out.  So instead I texted Monica who whooped and squealed with me via text.

(2) Two weird things happened to me at Macy's yesterday and each time I was rendered speechless.

a.  A girl came up to me as I was perusing a clearance rack and she said something to me I couldn't quite understand and looked like she was almost crying or had been crying.  So I said, "Excuse me?" and then she repeated it--something about herself and her sister and needing bus fare.  I wasn't sure if she wanted me to give her money or let her use my cell phone or what, so I said, "How do you want me to help you?" and then she said she needed money for bus fare.  So I told her that I didn't have any cash.  Then she suddenly looked like she wasn't crying any more and she said, "Oh, I didn't realize that you were pregnant!"  I just stared at her and kind of sucked in my belly (doesn't do any good anymore), because what do you say to that?  And then she quickly walked away and I said, "Good luck." 

b.  In the bra department, I was looking for my new and enormous bra size and I didn't have much time so I asked the sales clerk for help.  She was a middle-aged woman, very friendly, and I explained that I'm pregnant (although it is evidently obvious on second-glance, but not first) and that I want a couple of bras to get me through before I have to buy maternity bras in case the boobs (oh mercy) get even bigger.  She looked down at me over her glasses and said, "Are you wearing a sports bra?"  I said yes.  She said, "Mm-hmm.  I can tell."

(3)  There is no water at my house.  I cannot shower or brush my teeth.  I pee, but I cannot flush or wash my hands.  This is not really a good situation.   A water pipe busted down the street.  Blew a huge hole in the pipe and my next door neighbor had to move her car at 2am because water was busting out of the street and spraying all over it.  So now the water is shut off and there is a big hole in the ground and a big blue pipe is exposed and there is a big hole in the blue pipe, but there is no crew in neon vests working diligently to fix this problem and I have no idea how long we will be without water.

So I think I am going to throw on some clothes and head to a big Baby Stuff Sale at the St. Charles Convention Center.  They ask that you bring a laundry basket to use as a shopping cart.  Sounds interesting, no?


Point the First:
Of course the day we are without water would be the one day ever that, when I do my neighborly duty of picking up Cooper's doody, it happens to be a particulary mushy doody and as I'm trying to get most of it off the grass, my fingernail breaks through the poo-bag and I get dog doody underneath my fingernail.  Of course that would happen to me.

I managed to handle the issue with a q-tip and some rubbing alcohol.  But still.  Nasty.

Point the Second:
As I was leaving the house to go to the sale, the work crew backed up the dump truck and got its rear left wheels stuck in the huge hole in the ground.  There was much shouting and then one guy was shouting over everyone, "Shut up!  I'm sick and tired of your bitching!"  I did not stick around to see how that turned out, but the dump truck is now gone and I can flush and wash my hands, so there was some success in spite of all the bitching.  And lack of driving skillz.

Point the Third:
I went and got my faculty ID made at one of the many universities where I am now a part-time faculty member.  The office girl thought I was a student.

Me:  No, I'm a member of the faculty.
Her:  Oh!  Where?
Me:  Here.  (?)
Her:  Oh!  I just thought maybe you were like... a counselor or something somewhere else?

What does that even mean?  And seriously, I do not look like a college student (or counselor?) anymore.  Especially when I am almost FIVE MONTHS pregnant and also I was wearing very adult looking jewelry today.  Nevermind the Haviana flipflops.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sock Feet

You can really tell when Little Mac needs a hair cut because her paws start to look like she is wearing floppy socks.

Her fur seems to be growing faster than normal, though, because it hasn't even been 8 weeks since her last appointment and I refuse to get her groomed more often than I get myself a trim (partly because her groomers are not all that excited to see her more often than every two months but also because her hair cut costs 3/4 of what my hair cut costs and we are on a budget here, Little Mac!). 

The problem with her hair getting long (other than the shedding on the love seat gets more obvious), is that her stub of a tail gets a little longer and as it is not centrally located on her butt, but rather off to one side, she spots it out of the corner of her eye and takes it for some kind of would-be attacker.  This results in lots of spinning in circles and desperate efforts to attack her own ass, lest it attack her first.

The violent spinning and barking has not yet started yet.  It's usually step 2 after step 1: floppy sock feet.  So we wait for it to commence and then bring about step 3:  Call the groomer.

Hopefully Mac will remain in Floppy Sock Feet until the first of September.

Oh, I'm crazier than I look.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

When Date Night Ends Badly. Really badly.

The last time I had a date that ended with me vomiting out a car window, I was in college.  My date had just pulled up to my dorm and I opened the passenger side door and puked in the circle drive.

Believe it or not, he asked me out again.

Six years into stayin' married, David and I usually don't have dates that end in blind drunkeness (at least, not so much since the whole pregnancy thing happened).  Our last "date night" consisted of take out Chinese food and a True Blood DVD.  So we decided that after the busy back-to-school week we had both had (10-hour work days for him, syllabus planning, meetings, and "working" lunches for me) that we would actually go out on Saturday night.

It turned out that one of the teachers David works with at his new school also sings at a bar a couple of nights a week and had invited him to come out to her show on Saturday.  She performs with a guy who plays the keyboard and they mostly play popular karaoke-ish songs.  I am no music snob, and I happen to be perfectly delighted to sit at a bar and listen to people sing Bonnie Rait and Frank Sinatra songs, so this suited me just fine.  We decided to grab dinner before the show and we invited Jamie and Max to come with us.

Dinner was at Dewey's--one of our favorite pizza places.  I made the mistake of texting in the car on the way there (while David drove) and felt a little carsick when we got there.  I was actually thankful for the 35 minute wait for our table.  My stomach settled while Jamie and I talked baby showers and baby sitters and all things baby and by the time we sat down and ordered, I was starving.

David and I split a house salad and a Green Lantern pizza (red sauce, mozzarella, pesto, goat cheese, spinach, and artichoke hearts).  It was delicious.  And I was hungry.  So while we all talked more baby stuff and family stuff and recent movies (why do I have no desire to see Inception when everyone says it's great?), I devoured half a salad and four pieces of pizza.


Generous slices.

Garlicky, pesto-infused, cheese-covered slices of deliciousness.

And I had an O'Douls.

Then, feeling stuffed, we headed to the bar.  I had to walk slowly because I felt so full.  But the bar was fun.  The teacher who works with David has a great voice (she's the PE teacher and practices her songs by playing the CDs and singing along in class, which I think is awesome).  So the entertainment was fun and the bar had a total Cheers feel, with the singers pausing their choruses to greet regulars as they walked in, and middle-age people mingling and dancing.  The entertainment shifted from singing to karaoke (one good singer, one painful performance), to a DJ dance mix, then back to the singing.  We met another teacher who works with David and both the teachers were very sweet and complimentary about what a great asset he is to their building and what a good job he's done at their meetings and how much everyone likes him and how positive he is.

Even though I was having a good time, my very full stomach started to bother me a little bit.  It wasn't consistent and it didn't feel like I had to run for the bathroom or anything.  Since the baby seems to be taking up more room down there, I feel like I'm now more aware of tummy rumblings that are just regular digestive stuff.  So I tried to ignore it but I definitely didn't feel like dancing.

After Max and Jamie left, David and I chatted with the singers and the other teacher, but I was feeling increasingly... weird.  David kept saying "We can leave if you want to," but I hated to cut out early when everyone was so nice and I wanted to stay and enjoy myself.  Plus, I didn't feel sick to my stomach, exactly.  I just felt like the pizza I'd eaten was sitting up high in my throat and I could still taste it in a not-very-pleasant way.

Finally, though, I got a wave of nausea that made me break out in goosebumps.  In spite of the gum I was chewing, all I could taste was the garlic from the pizza.  So we headed home.

Getting in the car seemed to make things worse.  As we moved from the air conditioned bar to the steamy parking lot and into a hot car (that smelled like leftover pizza), I felt even worse.  I had the air conditioning blasting in my face and then suddenly I was freezing cold.  We got on the highway and maybe it was being in a moving vehicle, but I had never felt so miserable.  I kept moaning and groaning and David was like, "Are you ok?"  I replied, "No!  Just get me home.  I have to get home."

About three miles from our exit, I suddenly realized I wasn't going to make it.  David asked if he needed to pull over.  I said, "No!  Get me home!" only to shout in the next breath, "Pull over!  Pull over!" I was frantically trying to roll down the window but they were still locked from when Cooper was in the backseat last weekend (he can roll down the windows by stepping on the armrests so we'd put on the child locks).

"Unlock the window!  Roll down this window!" I was saying over and over again as David tried to cross three lanes of traffic to exit or pull over on the shoulder.  I could hear him messing with the buttons on his side of the car, but the window didn't unlock.  I began pounding on the window controls, then pounding on the actual window, and then I screamed, "JESUS CHRIST ROLL DOWN THIS WINDOW!"

Evidently Jesus Christ obliged, because David managed to get the child lock off as we hit the exit ramp.  I rolled down my window, flung my head outside, and as the hot summer air whipped my hair across my face and we began slowing to a stop at the light, I vomited pizza out the window and all the way down the side of our car.

It is possible that I also hit the car behind us as we were still going at a pretty good clip when I first started barfing.

We came to a stop at the light and I continued retching and puking out the window like a frat boy.

David was like, "Are you ok?  Do you want me to stop somewhere?" and in between puking (and crying, of course, because puking always makes me cry, and puking out the car window while sober is no exception), I kept saying, "No!  Get me home!  I have to get to my house!"

Of course, now we were off the highway and taking what felt like the longest, windiest route possible to get back home.  After five or six heavy pukes, I was pretty well done, although I kept the window rolled down just in case.  I could see in the passenger rear-view that the side of the car, including the passenger door handle and the back window on the passenger side, was covered in vomit.

I felt better after barfing, honestly, but the indignity and horror of the entire situation still had me totally miserable.  That didn't stop me from asking David in my most pitiful voice if he would come around and open my door for me when we pulled up to house.  He quickly agreed, eager to do whatever he could to make me feel better, and I have to admit that the look on his face when he realized that the door handle on my side was covered in puke did make me laugh in spite of everything.

So I let myself out of the car and went inside and washed my face and brushed my teeth and also rinsed some of the puke out of my hair in the sink (it really was just like old times in college...) while David busted out the garden hose to rinse my barf of the side of the car.

Basically, I can't believe any of that happened.

Obviously Baby Duck is not a huge fan of garlicky pizza.

Hopefully it will be a minimum of another ten years or so before I barf out a car window again.

At least I'm not hung over today.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Dreams are one of those things that are interesting really only to the dreamer, right?  Does anyone else really care what crazy things your subconscious invents while you snooze peacefully through the night?  (Or snooze fitfully while a puggle snuffles around and drools on you because he's afraid of the thunderstorm?).

But last night I had some doozy of a dream.  So vivid, so real, so scary.

I have heard that pregnancy can cause crazy dreams (mostly about giving birth to animals or inanimate objects) but I haven't experienced any of those dreams yet.  Last night I had a nightmare that I was bleeding  and my stomach was cramping and I knew I was losing the baby and I kept saying, "But it's been eighteen weeks!  How is this possible?  Eighteen weeks!"  David and I were trying to find our car in a parking garage so we could get to the hospital and the car was no where to be found and I was trying to call someone to come get us but my cell phone couldn't get a signal.  It was horrible.  Horrible, horrible, horrible.  I woke myself up sort of shouting/mumbling.  Then I was still scared because my stomach was so knotted up from the dream that I thought maybe I was having cramps.

When I finally fell back to sleep, I had another baby dream.  But this time I had a big, fat, adorable blonde baby boy.  He looked a lot like my friend Allison's son, Wade, when he was a little baby.  I had dressed my baby in an adorable madras plaid outfit and we were at some kind of family reunion at the lake and everyone was talking about how cute my baby was.  It was all sunshine and happy times.

Then that dream shifted into me camping out in some kind of trailer and I was trying to use the shower but whenever you'd turn the shower on, water would leak throughout the trailer so the clothes I had intended to put on after the shower were getting wet.  So I had to walk around in a towel all day, waiting for my clothes to dry.  There were two other girls sharing my trailer and we were trying to fix the plumbing ourselves but it was frustrating and messy and I was climbing up on the roof of the trailer in a towel with my wet hair also wrapped in a towel.

So I'm no Freudian, but I would guess that the dreams stem from me being a little stressed out about all of the semester planning I'm trying to do (and all of the pre-semester meetings I have to attend).  I like to think that my brain tried to comfort itself from the scary dream by having a happy baby dream, but I don't know what it means that I dreamed about a baby boy (here I've thought it was a girl all along...  could this be a sign?).  More practically, I think the dream about the trailer and the shower was mostly me knowing that my alarm was going to go off and then I'd have to hop in the shower and get ready for work.

Either way, I wouldn't mind an uneventful night's sleep tonight.  No more pregnancy nightmares, please!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


No, not the MTV show.  By now you should assume that I will not be wittily and ironically commenting on any kind of pop culture reference and instead I will be merely obsessing over things that most of the world gives not a sh*t about.  Like:  a crib for the bebe!

So when we first got pregnant, I was all, "Look.  I want to buy this Super Freaking Expensive Stroller so that Baby Duck and I can walk the neighborhood everyday with the Coopster.  Therefore, we will save money by purchasing used baby furniture for cheap.  This will help me justify a ridiculously expensive stroller."

Then I bought a book about Baby Bargains and read a few things online that were all along the lines of:

"Whatever you do, for the love of Sweet Jesus, do not even think about putting your child in a used crib unless you want your child to die."

And, obviously, some of the advice makes good sense.  Safety standards for baby furniture are always changing and cribs that are more than 10 years old probably aren't as safe as cribs today.  Cribs with drop-down sides were all the rage for a while, but now they are UNSAFE.  Older cribs may have slots between the bars that are too wide or space between the mattress and the crib or whatever.

Still, I like to think that there is a place in all of this madness for some common sense.  I mean, I'm not going to go dumpster diving for a baby crib (although for the dresser, maybe).  But I do think that if it's a solid crib, no wiggly parts, less than three years old, and the people who are selling it have a healthy baby, then probably we could go ahead and buy it used and Baby Duck would be none the worse for wear.

Of course, if GOD FORBID, something happened, I am sure that I would forever blame myself for cutting corners on a used crib.  (Although my mother recently told me that I pushed out the panel on one end of my crib and fell out of it as a baby, so clearly babies can survive some pretty sketchy safety standards).

And seriously.  Furniture is not exactly disposable, people!  Where are all of these cribs going after they get slept in for 1-3 years (and then maybe reused by a younger brother or sister)?  You think people are upcycling them into playhouses or chicken coops?  I don't think so.  Frankly, it seems eco-friendly to buy a used crib, as long as you can be sure it hasn't been recalled and it is in good condition.

Anyway, I thought I had struck gold when I found an entire Pottery Barn nursery set on Craiglist for $450.  A crib, changing table, rocker, and end table.  I was drooling over it.  Desperate for it.  It was white, it was lovely, it was exactly what I wanted, and I was reasonably sure it was not going to kill my baby even if it had been slept in by someone else's baby first.

I e-mailed them yesterday and waited eagerly for the reply.  I must have checked my cell phone every 10 minutes to see if they had gotten back with me.

This morning I got an e-mail telling me it had been sold on Sunday.

Why, universe?  Why?  I feel totally ripped off.  Like someone stole my nursery set out from under me.

So, back to the drawing board.  Used crib?  Inexpensive Ikea crib?  Expensive heirloom-style crib?  Convertible crib that will become double bed in its next life?

Do I buy a crib and then find a matching dresser later?  (White shouldn't be too hard to match, right?)  Or do I hold out and try to find another set like the one that some jackass stole out from under me?  (Really, I'm not sure how long it will take me to get over this loss.)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Menage A Trois

Who wouldn't want to snuggle with a puggle?

Monday, August 9, 2010

17 Weeks

Oh, lordy.  Another pregnancy post. 

Well, what can I say?  My semester hasn't started yet.  David is back to work full-time.  I'm doing my pre-semester planning and doing lots of reading and thinking about Baby Duck.

Lots of reading.

Maybe too much reading?

Grad school has trained me to approach a topic by striving for total comprehension of the field.  To collect as many sources as possible on the subject, evaluate them carefully for publication date and author credibility, and then read.  Read a variety of opinions.  Skim if it gets boring.  Read the people who mention each other and get to know the big names.  I feel like my research is getting to be thorough when sources start repeating each other and overlapping.  This is how academics do it.  We read, re-read, overread.

I have probably read at least twenty books on pregnancy and/or labor and delivery.  What can I say?  It's what I'm trained to do.  Read and analyze.  Although the overload of information can feel overwhelming at times, for the most part it just makes me feel prepared.  I like to be informed.  And when I get tired of reading books, I read blogs.  When I get tired of blogs, I read the free magazines they send as soon as you make your first OB appointment (seriously).  Do I retain everything I read?  No, not everything.  That would be impossible.  But I do remember a lot of it.  A freakish lot of it, according to David.

It's funny how doing all of this reading and research will still leave me pretty much clueless when it comes to what will work for me and for Baby Duck.  I am well aware that we've fully committed to this baby without having any idea of what we'll actually be getting (please, please not a colicky baby).

(Funny sidenote about colic:  A couple of years ago David was talking to another teacher about a mutual friend who had recently had a baby.  The teacher said that the baby was very cute but that the parents were having a rough time because the baby had colic.  David was puzzled and said, "Oh, I had that.  I think it's kind of cute."  The teacher stared at him like he was out of his mind.  When he told me the story later, I finally figured out that David had never heard of colic and he thought the teacher was saying the baby had a cowlick in her hairline.  At the time, all I knew about colic was that it meant the baby's tummy hurt and they were very fussy all the time.  Recently, I read David one book's definition of colic:  unexplained, unstoppable crying for more than three hours a night, three nights in a row.  Now he frequently remarks that he hopes the baby does not have colic.  Agreed.)

Anyway, so I'm reading.  I'm doing lots of research and thinking about:  cloth diapering vs. disposable diapering; diaper services; attachment parenting vs. Ferberizing (or, more likely, some system in between); bassinet in our room vs. crib in the baby's room; breast feeding vs. formula feeding; what to buy, what to skip, what to borrow, what to buy used; natural childbirth vs. epidural; healthy weight gain during pregnancy; nanny vs. day care...  So much to think about!

At 17 weeks preggo, I've gained 14 pounds.  To me, this seems like a tremendous amount for this point in the pregnancy, although I would also argue that 6 of those pounds have been gained in my bra.  My doctor is not at all worried and says the baby is measuring right on target and my weight is exactly fine. 

I am trying to eat well, but I've been particular about eating healthy for a long time now.  I try to avoid foods that are full of chemicals (Red Number 5 or Yellow Number 40 or whatever those are, also high fructose corn syrup).  I'm eating fish but not meat.  I'm still craving fruit of all sorts and I'm sending David to the farmer's market on Saturday to buy whatever fruits they have.  The necterines we got there a couple of weeks ago were to die for.  For a while, in the first trimester, I was eating peanutbutter and honey on an English muffin every. single. day.  Now I am pretty much hungry for the same old stuff I've always liked, but especially fruit.  String cheese.  Baby carrots.  Tomato and mozzarella sandwiches.  Mmmm.  My favorite summer lunch.  And, on hot days, lemon icies.  Culver's restaurant has the best lemon icies.  Anything that is kind of tart, or both sweet and sour, tastes so good to me. 

I have been eating more ice cream than usual.  My favorite is Trader Joe's mint chocolate chip and I have two Trader Joe-Joe cookies (Oreo-like) on the side.  Yum.

We will find out in less than a month whether we're having a boy or a girl.  (Any guesses?  If I had to guess, I'd say I think it's a girl--I've thought so from the very beginning.  But my parents thought I was a boy and called me "Junior" throughout my mom's pregnancy, so I'm not counting much on this "mother's intuition".)  We've both sort of surprised ourselves by not having a real preference either way.  We're going to keep the name a surprise to avoid undesirable comments from well-meaning friends, relatives, and strangers.  I think we've pretty well settled on a boy name.  If it's a girl, though, the name is totally up in the air.  (Cash gifts could totally get your name in the running and will, of course, be directed to Baby Duck's 529 college savings account, which we recently opened.)

Boy or girl, the guest room is going to keep the same light blue paint color when it's converted to a nursery.  We're going to decorate the nursery in a baby ducks theme so it will be blue and yellow.  My nana made me the most beautiful baby quilt (I'll post a picture on her when I get it back from her--she's currently using it as a pattern to make another quilt) and I'm basically going to decorate the room around the quilt.  I want to find a white crib and dresser.  I also want the room to grow another closet because the one that's in there is already full of our off-season clothes (as well as a couple of bridesmaid dresses, David's graduation robe, my collection of purses and tote bags, and a hunting rifle... I'm waiting to get that "nesting" feeling so that I have the impetus to clean out the closet). 

I've been sort of astonished and totally delighted by gifts that people have already given us.  Mostly adorable baby clothes (including a set of Cardinals onesies, a Pujols t-shirt, and a tiny ball glove).  Also bibs, blankets, books, a couple of toys, and a piggy bank.  Right now everything is piled up on the dresser and the guest bed is covered in clothes that I can no longer wear (sniff, sniff, good-bye True Religion jeans, I will miss you this season.  Also, favorite shirts, I hope my boobs fit back in you again someday.)  On my to-do list for this week is picking up some storage boxes for clothes.

Wearing maternity clothes this fall is going to seriously limit my wardrobe.  I'm trying to avoid buying "maternity-maternity" as much as possible.  There are lots of flowy, long, tunic style shirts in regular stores and in shirts I can usually just go up a size as long as it's a flowy style.  (Because, seriously, Heidi Klum is doing her part, but so many maternity clothes are just painfully ugly).  I can teach in jeans if I want to, but usually I like to dress up.  This fall, though, I think my uniform will be maternity skinny jeans, flat boots, and tunic tops.  My mom bought me a bunch of clothes I can wear to teach in, I have some hand-me-downs from friends, and there are a couple of resale shops in St. Louis that I'll be scouring on a regular basis once my belly gets bigger.  So far I've had trouble finding pants that fit--most of them are so baggy in the hips, thighs, and butt, it looks like I'm wearing clown pants.  So there will probably be a lot of wearing leggings and dresses.  Still, I'm trying not to spend too much money on clothes (so that I can spend it on shoes and accessories instead, obvy).

And that's where we are at 17 weeks.  Baby Duck is now the size of an onion or turnip (depending on which website you're reading).  I still don't think I've felt the baby move.  I thought maybe I felt something the other night, but then I thought maybe I just wanted to feel something so much that I imagined it.  I'm feeling good, have my normal energy level back, and I am able to sleep through the night without having to get up to pee!  17 weeks is a pretty good place to be.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

16 Weeks

I had another doctor's appointment today.  No ultrasound or anything fancy, just the basic hows-it-going-any-questions conversation and listening to the baby's heartbeat.

Everytime I have an appointment, I get a morbid fear the day or two before that I will go in and there won't be a heartbeat.  This time it was because I don't feel very pregnant (not tired, not nauseated).  But, of course, there is the small (or not-so-small) fact that I am starting to really look pregnant (maybe my belly will catch up with my boobs--at this point the boobs are still giving the belly a real run for its money and it is starting to get ridiculous--I have cleavage in shirts that were never meant to show cleavage but what can you do when the boobage goes up to your chin?).  I totally understand why people rent dopplers so they can hear the baby's heartbeat anytime they want from the comfort of their living room.  I am not going to be one of those people because I think I would drive myself insane, but seriously, I get it.

Anyway, I saw my doctor and I still love him.  I call him Dr. Claus because he reminds me of Santa Claus.  A Jewish Santa Claus.  All round and bearded and jolly.  He is also super laid back, which is great since I am (ever-so-slightly) high strung.  He asked me about the trip and then listened to the baby's heartbeat.

It sounded like this:  "wow-wow-wow-wow-ssssssstaticckckckckckc-wow-wow-wow-wow."  Everytime I hear it I give a big sigh of relief and feel a big goofy grin spread over my face.

Dr. Claus said Baby Duck is measuring right on schedule and moving around a lot, which is good.  I still haven't felt the baby move, but he said that I'd feel it before my next appointment.  I'm trying to look forward to that without obsessing (Was that the baby?  Or am I just digesting tacos?).

In other news, totally unrelated to digesting tacos (you're welcome), I also got my first prenatal massage today.  And it was wonderful.  In addition to my sleep patterns being totally wonky since I got home from Korea, I've had a headache off and on for the last few days.  It started in the San Francisco airport when we missed our connecting flight and has been plaguing me ever since.

Well, after sixty minutes of lying under a sheet listening to new-age classical music in a dim room with a nice girl named Jennifer, it felt like I had found a cure-all.  Whatever she did to my neck worked better than the Tylenol I have been reluctantly taking to get rid of my headaches (I know Tylenol is fine to take when you're pregnant but I'm still not crazy about the idea).  The only weird part was when she actually rubbed my stomach.  She told me she was going to do it, so it wasn't a shock or anything, but I have never had someone massage my stomach before and I instinctively wanted to suck it in and contract my ab muscles and it was hard for me to relax.  I think it will probably feel better when my stomach gets bigger.  As it was, I was happy when she moved on to my neck and shoulders again.  Melting like butter happy.

So when I left, I bought myself a birthday present.  A prenatal massage package--one for every month of the rest of my pregnancy.

This might seem self-indulgent, but you may be as shocked as I was to learn that my wonderful, thoughtful, considerate husband did not buy me a single thing for my thirtieth birthday.  I was seriously stunned.  I mean, I didn't expect him to drag my gift to Korea, but I really thought he would have something lined up for when I got home (I already ordered him a couple of gifts before we left and his birthday is a month after mine).  After all, 30 is kind of a big deal.  He did seem to feel bad about it, especially when I continued to express my disbelief because at first I thought he must be kidding.  He apologized and mumbled that I could get a Kindle if I really wanted one but he wasn't sure if I did or not, or maybe I'd rather have an ipod, or order myself a pair of TOMS shoes (yes I would, but they are out of my size in the style I want--annoying).  All of those are great ideas, but obviously less fun when you have to buy your own gift.

BUT instead of getting whiny and upset, I reminded myself that David has been working very, very hard and I decided that this way I was really in a position to buy whatever the hell I wanted (within reason, I mean, I'm not going to go out and lease a Lexus or anything... but maybe a Prius...)  and David really couldn't say anything about it.  Excellent!  Plus I could wait and decide if I really want the Kindle, if I want to splurge on one pair of awesome maternity jeans, or if I found something else that really struck my fancy.  As it is, I am perfectly happy with my massage package deal.  Something to look forward to each month after my doctor's appointment, and something to help keep me sane as I juggle my teaching load this fall.

And then there's the added factor that knowing that I've spent money on this massage package will keep me from pricing doppler machines for the home, thereby offering me two ways to save my sanity for the price of one.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Be It Ever So Humble

Our trip was great, but it was so nice to get home.  Especially because I thought there for a while that we might never make it back.

Our final morning in Seoul we went to breakfast with Ju at an American breakfast place.  She ate pancakes for the second time in her life, which sort of blew my mind.  Their pancakes were delicious.  I thought it was funny that Ju didn't put maple syrup on hers (I'm sure it is not healthy enough to be up to her standards).  Having learned my lesson of not eating a good breakfast the day before (an apple and granola bar were not enough to get me through the grueling day in Happy Suwon), I ordered banana nut pancakes and a side of scrambled eggs with cheese.

After breakfast we walked back to the apartment and finished packing things up.  Ju gave me a white jade ring as a birthday present (love her) and we hung out for a little bit before heading out so Brandon could catch the bus to Suwon (shudder) and we could catch the bus to the airport.  It turns out that Ju and I wear the same size shoe so she tried on my sandals and I slipped in her silver platform heels and wobbled around for a minute until she decided "it might be dangerous for your baby."  Clearly I need more practice walking millions of miles in high heeled shoes.  Ju also showed us pictures of her cute little brother and an adorable picture that she and Brandon had taken together at one of the many photo booth/stores located around Seoul.  It has a cartoon design around the border and Brandon has a huge cartoon heart on his chest.  I laughed so hard I almost cried.  It was adorable.  Ju promised we could be facebook friends and I hope we can be sisters-in-law (no pressure, Brandon).

The bus to the airport was uneventful, although my dad was so spastic you would have thought we were running late instead of three hours early.  We managed to get checked in and return our rental cell phone with no major problems.  Our flight was also uneventful.  I slept a little bit, watched a cheesy movie, and avoided eating airplane food that reeked of curry (the "vegetarian" meal).

Once we landed in San Francisco, though, things got crazy.

We were supposed to land at 11:15.  Our flight from San Francisco to St. Louis left at 1pm.  A tight schedule, but do-able.

If we hadn't been in row 41 of the airplane, making us the last off the flight and at the back of the line going through customs.

If customs hadn't taken more than half an hour.

If our luggage had come through right away instead of being nearly the last off the plane.

If our luggage hadn't been short-checked to San Francisco instead of checked to go all the way to St. Louis (possibly our fault, do to a very confusing exchange with the girl at the baggage check in Seoul).

If we hadn't had to run all the way out to the domestic terminal to check-in and check our bags with United.

If we hadn't had to go all the way back through security to get to the domestic gate.

As it was, there was no way we were making that flight.  And United couldn't get us on another flight until 7am the next morning because they were overbooked and lining people up on standby.  But they wouldn't give us a hotel voucher or reroute us through another airline because our ticket was purchased through Asiana airlines so United said we had to talk to Asiana about it.

So we jogged up to the international terminal (dragging our suitcases) to talk to Asiana.  Only we couldn't find their counter.  Where Asiana had been the week before were signs for Jet Blue and Virgin Atlantic.  A Jet Blue worker overheard us trying to figure out what to do and told us Asiana had closed their counter half an hour ago (wtf???).  He sent us to a courtesy phone to call Asiana.

So I talked to a girl on the phone and explained the problem.  She told me that our flight got in at 11:36am.  I agreed.  And our St. Louis flight left at 1pm.  Yes, I knew this.  She then said, "You must allow at least two hours between flights."

I sort of exploded, "You sold me this ticket!  And the flight was supposed to get in at 11:15 but it was late!"  Then she put me on hold for an eternity. When she came back on the line she said, "Are you at the airport?"

I said yes.

She said "Then you need to talk to someone at the counter there."

To which I replied in a tone that was verging on hysterical, "There is no one at counter!  We came here to talk to someone!  The counter is closed!  There is no one here for me to talk to!"

By this time I was shouting loudly enough that everyone in the Jet Blue passenger line turned to stare at me.  It didn't matter.  I had essentially been awake for 22 hours and was beyond shame and common courtesy.

So then she put me on hold for another eternity before finally saying a manager would come talk to us.

The manager was a middle-aged woman who was not very nice.  She totally implied that it was our fault that we missed the flight, like we were dilly-dallying around or something.  We told her that other passengers had also missed their flight because they were in line with us at United.

She wanted to know where they were.

I said, rather nastily, that I didn't know where those people were.  Maybe they got on a United flight.  Maybe they were going standby.  "They are not my problem!" I informed her, "I just need to get a flight home!"

Then she said that a Korean couple on our flight made the St. Louis flight.

I stared at her and felt like my eyes might bug out of my head.

Then I took a deep breath and calmly explained that we were in the last row of the plane and that we had to re-check our bags.

Then David added that we ran through the airport and that his wife was four months pregnant.

Then I said that that she needed to put us on a flight to St. Louis that afternoon.

She seemed to have a little more sympathy then because she told us we could go sit down and wait while she worked something out.  Twenty minutes later, we had a flight to St. Louis for Saturday at noon (through Denver, not non-stop like Friday's flight), and a hotel voucher for somewhere called "Citi Garden."

As we left she said, "We checked and that Korean couple did make the flight."

We turned and walked away without saying anything to her, but I couldn't resist saying loudly to David, "Oh, I'm so relieved to hear that Korean couple made their flight?  Aren't you just thrilled for them?"

I might have been a little bitter.

I was also slightly suspicious of our hotel because it had a recent name change (it had been a "Good Nite" inn and between "Nite" and "Citi" I cannot get excited about the kind of hotels who do creative spelling in their names).  But anyway.  We hopped on a shuttle and got to the hotel.  It looked shitty on the outside but was very nice inside (evidently the result of some very recent renovations).  We dragged ourselves and our luggage up to the front desk, showed them our voucher, and the receptionist told us, "Sorry, we don't have any rooms available."

Just when I thought my head would explode, she added, "Until 3 o'clock."

It was a little after two, so we staggered over to the lobby sofas and I proceeded to fall asleep in the hotel lobby (classy) until the room was ready.  Once the room was open, I washed my face, brushed my teeth, and passed out until dinner time.  We walked over to a Houlihans for dinner, watched the ballgame, and then were asleep again by 10pm.

Only to wake up at 1am.  Wide awake.  We both were.  Wide awake enough to watch all of Father of the Bride, Part II and an episode of Law and Order.  I finally managed to doze off again and we woke up around nine to shower and head to the airport again.

San Francisco's airport is crazy and I had a brief moment of fear that we would actually miss this flight too because the line to check in was so long and the line through security took a million years and then I got freaking patted down because I was wearing a long hippie skirt and obviously could be concealing who-knows-what underneath (besides concealing the fact I wasn't wearing underwear--my efforts not to overpack left me a little breezy for the flight home...).

But we made our flight and a nice lady traded seats with me so I could sit by David and have an aisle seat (to accommodate my need to pee every 20 minutes).  I guzzled water all day and my ankles and feet didn't swell at all, so that was good too.  I made a few phone calls during our layover in Denver, and we got into St. Louis at 9pm. 

The dogs were delighted to see us but I think I was happier to see them.  My bed had never felt so comfortable, although after sleeping on a mat on the floor for a week, the mattress was almost too soft.  May take some adjusting to get used to that!  Our sleep patterns are still jacked up, though.  We were both awake at 3am (that would be 1am San Francisco time, 1pm Seoul time) and hungry.  So we tossed and turned, then finally got up and ate cereal and toast, sorted laundry, and went back to bed around 5:30am.  Got up at 10:30 feeling pretty rough.

I definitely feel more jet-lagged than I did after going to Europe last summer, but I'm scheduling a massage for Tuesday afternoon and not letting myself take naps so I hope that I'll be good as new after a couple more days.  I just hope the laundry will be finished by then...

Monday, August 2, 2010

Korea Day 8: [Not So] Happy Suwon

On the last day of our trip, we planned to go to Suwon, a city about an hour's bus ride outside of Seoul.  This is where Brandon actually works, although we were not allowed to visit Samsung's campus since clearly we are spies for Sony.

Brandon had to put in a 9-hour day before meeting us for dinner, so he planned to catch the bus at 8am.  We thought about taking a later bus, but my dad thought we should just all go when Brandon went so as to avoid any crazy transportation confusion.  So at 8am we were all up and headed out the door.  As we waited for the elevator to come up, I decided to run back and grab an apple.  I quickly punched in the code to Brandon's door lock and waited for it to play its cute little tune as it snaps open the lock.

No tune.

Figuring I must have entered the code incorrectly, I punched it in again.

No little song.

So Brandon tried.

Didn't work.

The thing about the lock on his door is that it is battery operated and if the batteries die and you don't have the manual key with you, you are screwed.  Or, rather, you are locked out.  After dealing with this once, you might think that Brandon would stick the manual key (of which he has two copies) in his backpack and carry it with him.  But you would be wrong (this might be why we're always saying that electric engineers are not the brightest bulbs on the tree).

So our trip to the bus was delayed while Brandon talked to a security guard in the building about the problem.  Fortunately the guard spoke enough English that Brandon was able to clearly communicate what was going on.  He'd heard a rumor that if the batteries died and you were locked out that they only way to get back in the apartment was to break down the door, but it turned out that building security had a charger they could use on the outside of the door so he was able to get back inside and change the batteries and grab the manual key just in case.  It also turned out that what appeared to be a battery pack requiring 4 AA batteries actually required 8 AA batteries, which Brandon hadn't realized because (1) instructions were written in Korean (2) he hadn't ever removed the pack from the door to see the backside of it and (3) the damn thing had worked fine for six months with only 4 batteries in it.  We chalked this up to one of the many mysteries of Korea and caught the next bus to Suwon.

Looking back, I realize now that I hadn't gotten much sleep the night before and so getting up early to head to Suwon already put me a little out of sorts.  I don't function well on less than 7-8 hours of sleep (8-9 if we're really being honest) and I had gotten somewhere between 5 and 6, despite being totally exhausted.  So my day was already off to a not-so-great start.

Also in retrospect, we didn't have a detailed plan for the day.  Instead of knowing what we wanted to do to fill the nine hours while Brandon was at work, we had a sort of vague idea that we'd go to the fortress, check out a folk center, and then meet up with Brandon and his coworkers for dinner.  But we had no concept of how big Suwon was, how far apart these things were, how long these activities would take, etc.  David and I both like to vacation with specific agendas, and we didn't do a good job of planning the Suwon day in advance.

Suwon is a big city, but it is much smaller than Seoul's 10 million, and it sees fewer tourists.  This could mean some fun adventures exploring the city, but it can also complicate things when (1) you speak zero Korean, (2) it is extremely hot outside, (3) you can't eat pork, (4) you are pregnant, and (5) you can't have a beer to help you chill out.  In fact, when all of these factors combine, you just might end up crying in a stall of a very lovely and clean public toilet.  It could did happen.

We started out at the fortress, which was quite lovely although very similar to the Gyeonghung palace we saw in Seoul. 

 We did the audio tour which was sort of hilarious because it was delivered in perfectly enunciated, American-accented English and yet used the strangest grammar and syntax that I wish I had written down because of course I can't recall it but it was funny. 

300 year old tree.  Wishes come true if you touch it while you make your wish.

Essentially, the entire palace was built to celebrate the king's mother's 60th birthday party (I am sure I will do something similar for my mom's 60th birthday).  So the audio guide kept talking about the party. 

 Doing a little meditating in one of the palace's open rooms.  BTW everyone in Korea poses with V for Victory hands.  Why?  Brandon says because it's cute.  He seriously said that.

We wandered around, saw another martial arts demonstration, and decided to walk up the big hill / small mountain behind the fortress to take the trolley ride.

One of the martial arts dudes.

It was a long climb up these stairs.  And keep in mind it was a hot ass day.

Dad and David lead the way.  I'm clearly dragging in the rear.

We got to the top just in time for the trolley ride to shut down for an hour for lunch.  Because of course that would happen.

David needs to brush up on his Korean if he wants to read the signage.

So then we debated.  Do we wait around doing nothing for an hour?  Do we walk back down the mountain?  Do we forget the trolley ride and go to the folk center?  Do we get some lunch?  With no plan and no agenda, none of these questions was satisfactorily answered in a timely fashion.  Finally we headed back down to the visitor's center because my mom had seen some sign about a 3D film she thought we should watch.

It turned out the 3D film was a children's animated film.  In Korean.  And the theater wasn't exactly air conditioned.  I ended up falling asleep in a hard backed chair seated at a table in the "lounge" while my parents went to the movie for about three minutes and then walked out.

By this time, it was nearly 1:30pm and I was overheated, overtired, and nauseated.  My dad found a location on the map where the trolley did another pickup so we decided to walk there and get something to eat along the way.

Except there was nothing to eat along the way.  And I had no real sense of how far we were walking.  I finally got to a point--when we were in a section of town with no restaurants, no store front signs in English, and very few people to be seen--when I was like "This is ridiculous!"  We had no real plan, no idea where we were going, and I felt like I was going to barf.  So we hailed a cab and asked him to take us to the folk center.  Evidently it was on the other side of town because he said it would cost 20,000 won which is a lot considering the longest cab ride we'd taken in Seoul cost 7,000.  So instead we had him drop us at the trolley stop, which was like a block away, making the cab driver think we were idiotic American tourists, which, of course, we were.

The trolley stop had one Korean restaurant with a short section of the menu in English, everything else in Korean.  It was the kind of restaurant where you have to take off your shoes and sit on the floor, which normally would have seemed fun and adventurous but at that point I knew that I had to be hungry and I needed to eat, but I also felt like puking because I was so hot and tired.  I also knew that I had no way to communicate that I can't eat meat (and seriously pork is in everything).  I was frustrated that we had no better plan, frustrated that no one had a clue where we were or how to get somewhere with food I could eat, and seriously annoyed that Brandon hadn't given us any kind of orientation to figure out what part of town we were in, where we might want to eat, etc.

I wanted to punch everyone 100%.  (This is a phrase that Ju uses when she is very annoyed, like when it was hot and sunny and she wanted to "punch the sun 100%.")

Instead, I started crying and went to the bathroom and cried there for a few minutes.  At least it was air conditioned.

Sidenote:  I continued to be amazed throughout the trip at how lovely and clean all of the public restrooms were.  This was such a huge change from Paris, where the bathrooms were pretty grody and you still had to tip the bathroom attendant, and even from the U.S., where there are never enough stalls in the ladies rooms.  So I had a pity party in the clean, well-lit, well-supplied, and air conditioned restroom.

Then I went back outside where David was very sweet and sympathetic and talked to me like I was a three year old and promised me I could get a juice and some snacks at the store and he would let me pick out anything I wanted.

So I did. While I ate, David and my dad shot bows and arrows at the archery range that was set up near the trolley stop.  David was very proud of himself and hit the target with all but two of his arrows.

 Careful, kids.  You'll shoot your eye out.

Champion archer gives the V for Victory.
And then we caught the trolley.  Hindsight being what it is, I now think that chugging a bottle of orange juice on an empty stomach (I ate a nutra-grain bar and some chocolate cookies, but still) and then riding on the trolley in the very last row facing backwards was not actually the best plan.  I felt terrible the entire trolley ride and it was really not worth the walk or the wait.

Not worth the wait.  Even though it looked like a dragon.

To further the irony of my miserable experience, Suwon's city slogan is "Happy Suwon."  So everywhere you look there are buildings or signs that say "Happy Suwon!"  It was definitely not so happy as far as I was concerned and at one point I shouted dramatically, "I hate Suwon!" and my mom laughed and told me to stop it.

We finally got off the trolley and took a taxi to a nearby hotel that my mom had read catered to American tourists.  We sat in the air conditioned lobby and read newspapers.  Once I cooled off, I felt hungry for real, so we went next door to a little chain bakery called Paris Baguette where I proceeded to eat a bagel, a donut, and a nasty little bagel pizza with tomato sauce that tasted like bbq sauce and also had corn on it.  My mom looked at my tray and suggested I could save the donut for breakfast but I definitely ate every last crumb.

After loading up on carbs, we decided to take a taxi to a park that my mom had found on a map of Suwon.  Of course the map was entirely in English so when we showed the taxi driver where we wanted to go, he didn't really know and he dropped us a couple of blocks away at a different park, but whatever.  It was green and pretty and by then it had gotten overcast and breezy so walking through the park was pleasant.

 Sculpture at the park.

Another sculpture.
Brandon called while we were at the park so we hailed another cab and met him for dinner.  He had written the name of the restaurant on an index card and the cabby took the card from David and corrected Brandon's Korean to spell the restaurant properly, and then drove us there.  He was very nice.

The restaurant was lovely and two of Brandon's co-workers had dinner with us.  One of them, So-Yong, is also pregnant--12 weeks--and she gave me a gift that is supposed to help you have an easy birth.  It was a box full of dates and chestnuts and evidently eating them aids in delivery and is "good for the health."  (Koreans love things that are good for the health.)  So that was very sweet of her.  The other co-worker was a cute and kind of goofy guy who said we could call him Big J.  They both spoke excellent English, so So-Yong was able to order me a noodle dish without meat (although I saw the waitress remove the piece of meat that was sitting on top of it before she placed it in front of me).


These noodles were cold but they weren't in an ice water broth like the ones I had our very first night and I found them to be pretty tasty.  Still, I was glad that I wasn't too hungry because the main course was beef that we cooked at the table with all of the little sides to go with it and there just wasn't that much for me to eat.

I thought my brother had been exaggerating when he warned me about eating in Korea, but it is actually not easy to be vegetarian there--people find it odd (although Ju told me she thought it was becoming more common) and although much of the traditional food is vegetarian, that's because people were freaking starving so they ate rotted fermented vegetables (kimchi) and rice.  Not enough for a healthy appetite!  Of course, there are lots of other kinds of restaurants available--French bakeries, Outback Steakhouse, Italian and Mexican places, etc.  But still.  If you can't eat beef or pork, you'd better love seafood because otherwise Korean food is pretty limited.

So, a rough day in Suwon ended with a fun and pleasant dinner.  I was still glad that it was our last day instead of our first, because it would not have been a fun way to start the vacation.  We road the bus back to Seoul and met up with Ju at Brandon's apartment.  She had walked over with her adorable cocker spaniel whose name is Pony. 

 The adorable Ju and the adorable Pony.

Pony was very sweet and a little shy at first.  Brandon won him over by feeding him Cheez-its but then Ju reprimanded Brandon because Pony also only eats foods that are good for the health and evidently Cheez-its do not qualify.

Pony reminded my mom of her dog, Toby.  He made me miss my Cooper!

We hung out and chatted with Ju for a while and then my parents walked to their hotel and Brandon walked Ju down to catch a taxi and David and I crashed for the night.  It was hard to believe we were leaving the next day because the trip had gone by so fast.  I have to admit, though, I was looking forward to heading home and I know my brother was looking forward to having his tiny apartment to himself again.