Thursday, October 31, 2013

If You Can't Stand The Heat, Move the Laminator Out of The Workroom Where The 20 Crockpots Are

Happy Halloween. 

I'm a lame parent.  I haven't posted Miles's progress in a while, but he can roll both ways now.  He has little babble-conversations with us, laughs a lot, and smiles a LOT.  He sleeps through the night (although, lately, he's been opting out of that in favor of snuggles / nursing time), and he's pretty much the best baby that ever there was.  But not writing my doting page anywhere near his month-days makes me lame. 

Even lamer:  today is his first Halloween, and we are staying home.  He is wearing a white onesie.  But, with Andyface doing his Alternative Teacher Certification program in the evenings, I just couldn't bring myself to put in the effort to get him dressed up just to go to the church Trunk-or-Treat, and then leave after 15 minutes because I was bored and didn't have anyone to talk to.  So, sorry, Miles. 
Miles is going as a cute baby this year.


Anyway, also today there was a chili cook-off at work. 

Normally, I'm not a competitive person.  I'm way too much of a people-pleaser to do that. 

When it comes to food, however, I am secretly very, very, very competitive.  Or maybe not so secretly.  Food is something I do (I think) quite well.  For me, every potluck is a competition, and I get my feelings hurt if my food doesn't get eaten. 

Case in point:
Ward Chili Cook-off, 2011

Andyface and I came up with a brilliant recipe for a Jamaican Jerk chicken chili, with pineapple and jerk seasoning, and it was darn good. (Not a true "chili," but we were hanging out with a bunch of Yankees in '11, so that was irrelevant.)  However, there was also a pie contest.  So, we entered two of our favorite pies: chocolate haupia and chocolate-pumpkin cheesecake swirl. 

Unfortunately, we bit off a bit more than we could chew, and none of our entries actually made it to the table in time to be judged.  The two pies didn't have time to properly set, and so we just ended up being really bitter about the whole situation.  We knew, just knew, that if we had had our chili on the table in time, it would have won.  Alas. 

We were angry about it for a good two weeks, even then calming down only enough to face people in the ward without wanting to punch them in the face.  Still, when someone would reference the chili cook-off, we would fume (quietly, to ourselves). 

[Side note: Yankees don't know about chili.  The accoutrements were severely lacking.  Cornbread is a must.  Cheese is a must.  Hot dogs are not an acceptable substitute.] 

Yet, when I saw the sign-up for the cook-off this year, I had to enter.  Because it's FOOD, and I do food.  I'm new at this school, and I have to make it known that I'M GOOD AT FOOD. They have to be like, "Oh, blah blah blah, food?  You should ask RACHEL.  She'll know what to do about FOOD."  They have to be like, "Oh, Rachel brought the Crock Pot this week, so you know it's gonna be stellar."

So, I made a chili.  Normally, my chili is a hodgepodge of whatever we happen to have in the pantry, and it usually turns out pretty well.  I haven't used a recipe for my basic chili in years, so I felt pretty confident in my ability to make a pretty good one.


Thankfully, this year, my chili placed.

Here's (most of) the recipe.  There are still some secrets omitted.  A lady never tells.


RACHEL'S ROJO (Roasted Poblano-chipotle chili) 

1 large Poblano pepper (stem removed)
1 medium Anaheim pepper (stem removed)
3 Roma tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, crushed 
1 large white onion, thickly sliced 
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper 

1.5 lbs. ground chuck 
1 (14.5 oz.) can of Mexican-style stewed tomatoes
1 (14.5 oz.) can black beans (drained and rinsed) 
1 (14.5 oz) can chili beans (undrained) 
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce 
1 (14.5 oz.) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes 
1 chipotle chile (from can in adobo sauce), finely chopped 
1 (4 oz.) can diced green chiles
3/4 cup chicken broth 

1.5 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. ancho chili powder 
2 T. brown sugar 
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin 
 
1/4 cup fine-ground cornmeal 
1/8 cup Secret Ingredient #1 
1 T. Secret Ingredient #2 

Preheat oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.  Place both peppers, tomatoes, onion, and garlic on baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast until tender and starting to char, about 20-30 minutes ( I wasn't watching the time. Don't blame me if yours get too charred!).  Remove from oven and let cool.  Turn off your oven.  It's not safe to leave it on like that.

Brown ground chuck in a skillet.  Drain with a slotted spoon, and place in crock pot on "low." 

Add next eight ingredients (through chicken broth), and stir. 

Coarsely chop the roasted peppers, onion, tomato, and garlic.  Add to crock pot.  

Add spices (through cumin), and stir.   Let cook on Low for 3-4 hours. 

Add cornmeal (other acceptable thickeners: masa harina, crushed corn chips, corn tortillas, or even corn cereal).  You may need more or less, depending on how thick you like your chili. Add Secret Ingredient #1, stir, and cook for 2-3 more hours.  Adjust seasoning to taste. 

Just before serving, finish with Secret Ingredient #2. 

Serve with cheese, chips, sour cream, avocado, chopped cilantro, sliced green onions, corn bread, crackers, etc. . . .

Hot dogs optional. 


Monday, September 16, 2013

Change



Since we welcomed Miles into our family a little more than three months ago, a lot has happened.

We moved when he was 2 weeks old.

Andyface went back to work after his paternity leave.

I quit my job at Heart House, though doing so made me really sad.

The grant funding Andy's job wasn't renewed, so...

Andy was laid off (last day of work is October 4), so...

I decided to re-enter the workforce, working full-time as a bilingual teacher's aide in an elementary school (first day was September 9--so far, so good!).

We went to Pittsburgh.

Also, both our cats got tapeworms, and Annie-cat almost died from hepatic lipidosis.

Life just doesn't stand still.

Monday, August 12, 2013

2 months?!

Guys, my calendar is broken.  I don't know how a calendar stops working properly, but obviously that's what happened, because there is NO WAY Miles could be 2 months old.  Just not possible.

Still. . .

At "two months", Mr. Nugget Man spends a lot more time awake and alert, smiling, cooing, chuckling at who-knows-what (Uncle Jonathan's fingers are really NOT that funny to me, but I guess I just don't get the joke), and being more like a Cute Baby than a crying potato.

Miles at 2 months. 12 lbs., 8 oz. / 23" / 39cm head circumference.  

He's smack in the middle for height and head, but 75% for weight.  Chubby bunny.  That explains why he's wearing 3-6 month clothes.  He's also busting out of his size 2 diapers, on account of his massive thighs.  I think he (like his mother) carries most of his weight in his thighs.  

Hobbies include gazing at lights while contemplating the mysteries of the universe, reading books, punching the owl on his bouncy chair and laughing at it (cruel, but okay . . .), peeing (and sometimes pooping!) during diaper changes and laughing (sick sense of humor, this one), and tummy time.  He can hold his head, push up on his hands while arching his back, and definitely kick his little legs.  It looks like he wants to crawl, and sometimes I think he gets mad that he just can't do it yet.  He's super-strong, though (when he flexes his legs, I can see definition in his quads, even through all his delicious baby chub), so I'm sure he'll be there before we know it.

Oh, and cuddling.  He loves cuddling.

Another new hobby is the Blanket Game, a precursor to Peek-a-Boo.  We cover  his face with a blanket, wait a minute, and watch him wiggle and squirm until he gets his face uncovered again.  He laughs, and smiles, and looks just a little bit relieved.  It's awesome--I'll try and get a video up for the full effect.


We also discovered his Crazy Eyes.  Anytime he goes from a light area to a dark area (or we turn off a light, or pull the shade over his stroller, etc.), his eyes get all wide and crazy.  Hilarious.  

He farts and burps with the power of men more than 10 times his size.  Be not ashamed, little Miles! Blow like the wind!  

Miles and Yunus-cat. 

He now outweighs both cats, too.  When he first came home, we'd pick up the cats and say, "Wow, this cat is so heavy!"  Now they feel really light.  (They also like to picked up a lot more now, since they're starved for attention and affection.)  One night, we were giving Miles a bath, and he was not into it.  While he was crying, Yunus came into the bathroom to see what was happening.  He put his paws up on the bathtub, looked at Miles, and then bit Andy on the elbow.  Maybe he thought we were drowning the kid?  Or he just felt for Miles, since we all know how cats feel about baths.  In any case, it was funny and kind of sweet.  

Miles (2 weeks) and Yunus. 

Most happily (for mom and dad, I mean!), sleep seems to be coming easier these days.  He'll put himself to sleep for naps, and there is less of a struggle at bedtime, too.  And last night--miracle of miracles!--he slept through his 3:30am feeding!  He got almost 7 hours of continuous sleep, which is his record to date.  I'm way into that.

Anyway, he's a great baby, and getting more and more fun and interactive every day.

We love you, Miles!  Keep up the good work.  :-)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Month 1: A Retrospective

Miles was born (over) one month ago now.  
As a blogger, I suppose I'm supposed to commemorate this somehow. 

He's a good baby.  
He likes to snuggle, he likes his bouncer, and he likes rocking in the rocking chair. 
He hates pooping.  
. . . but he is very advanced in his farting.  
It honestly sounds like a grown-up fart. 
 Like, a sound-effect for a stupid kids' show kind of grown-up fart.  Impressive. 

Today, he (accidentally) blew his first raspberry, too.  I know--he's talented. 

We're very proud. 

He is strong: he's been lifting his head since he was one day old.  Now, he enjoys tummy time so he can work on his planks and mountainclimbers. No pain, no gain. 

Let's look back, though . . . 

He was a puffy baby. 

With surprisingly Asian-y eyes. 

But he was nonchalant about it all. 

Then, he grew up a little bit.  

And then, some more. So, here's our big one-month-old! (So serious.) 

Also, it was a busy month besides.  We moved to a new apartment when he was 2 weeks old (because we're crazy, and mashochists).  That kind of threw off the groove we'd been pretending we had, but we're sort of getting back into it now.  It was crazy--he didn't sleep much, and he was pretty grumpy.  But, we have finally (somewhat) settled in, at least to a certain level of functionality.  

The other thing that happened was . . . Miles got a brand new cousin!  


Asa (son to my bro and SIL) was born on July 5th, after making lots of trouble for his momma.  We are going to FORCE these two to be best friends.  DO IT, or else, kiddos.  

It's hard to believe that it's already been a month.  Pretty soon, he'll be needing that college fund.  So . . . I guess we should get on top of setting that up . . . 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Follow-up: 10 Things About Childbirth

Here are 10 things I learned about childbirth. 

1.  A friend congratulated me on the "baby explosion."  There was, quite literally, an explosion in the moment of childbirth.  It's really a very messy experience.  

2. There are a lot of bodily fluids you may not be aware of.  I think I counted at least 8 of them which have become a part of my life since the onset of labor, previously unknown to me.  

3. If you ever want to get stitches in your va-jay-jay . . . don't.  It's just not as fun as it sounds.  

4. Sometimes, your boobs feel like they are full of rocks.  And other times, they leak like crazy.  But at least you have a nice rack. 

5.  Natural childbirth (by the way, did yinz know I did this thing without drugs??) is cool, because you can impress people the day after just by walking around and not being a  drugged-up zombie.  
 
6.  Natural childbirth is not cool, because IT HURTS LIKE BLOODY HELL. But whatever.  It's possible.  If you like pain.  And bragging rights.  

7. After labor, a cherry Italian ice might taste really, really, REALLY good.  

8.  The first poop after delivery isn't as bad as everyone says.  But it will feel like an accomplishment.  And stool softener is a beautiful thing.  

9. This is actual advice: eat something before you go to the hospital.  You need your strength, and you won't be allowed anything to eat or drink (ice chips only) during labor.  

10.  It's all worth it. 

I feel like through the whole experience, I've learned to have greater respect for this body of mine.  I've spent the better part of my 28 years hating it for various reasons, and only in the past couple of years or so have I even begun to accept that it is a strong and good body, capable of doing lots of things.  Childbirth has made me even more aware of this fact.  

Since I had only a vague idea that I wanted to go natural "as long as I could stand it," I was surprised to learn that my breaking point came very near the end, anyway.  And had I known that fact, I certainly could have withstood the pain.  Knowing that the end is near makes all the difference, when you're talking about pain.  
 
It turns out that my ability exceeded my will-- something that I'm very sure is true of a lot of things in my life.  I came out of my childbirth experience feeling like I'm much, much stronger than I ever thought. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

THREE Happy, Crazy Richardsons

OR: How I Somewhat Accidentally Had a Natural Birth in Five Hours 

Okay, this is a LOOOOOOOOOONG post.

Early morning on Tuesday, June 11 (a week before his due date), we welcomed Miles Takeo Richardson into the world.


Our birth story really begins on Friday (June 7).  That was my last day of work at the after-school program, and I was so excited that I'd made it to the end of the year without having had him.  I was convinced (by early signs of progress, as well as a gut feeling) that Nugget would be coming early, so after work on Friday, both Andy and I felt hopeful that he would make his debut sometime during the weekend.

So, on Friday, Andy's office closed early, and he came over to celebrate the last day of work with my kiddos, and help out with our ice cream sundae party, as well as to be there, with the car, "just in case." I had been having frequent Braxton-Hicks contractions (also called practice contractions--a mild tightening sensation in my belly), and we were totally unsure what labor would look like, so we'd been taking a lot of "just in case" precautions.  After that, we celebrated a Pizza Friday at Cici's Pizza (no shame, y'all), because our childbirth teacher told us to eat lots of carbs when we thought labor was coming.  We went for a long walk at a park, looping around a lake, during which time I felt more Braxton-Hicks contractions.  Strangely, though, they were growing stronger, and coming at regular intervals.  We took a few extra laps around the lake, just to see what was happening.  The contractions kept coming, so we were convinced this was IT.

Unfortunately, as soon as we stopped walking, the contractions stopped.  False Alarm #1.

On Saturday, we decided to celebrate Andy's birthday.  Being the crazy human that I am (perhaps also trying once again to jump-start labor), I agreed to go kayaking with him, and for another walk (maybe this time??) around White Rock Lake.

(I realize that sounds crazy, but let me assure you that this was actually the least insane of the drafted "Andy's birthday weekend" plans, which included participating in a 5k an hour away from the hospital / our home.)

Long story short, we kayaked, we walked, we picnicked with our good friend Tiffany, we came home, we met up with our dear friends Scott & Vanessa, and came home totally pooped (at least, I was!), and still: no baby.  Maybe he was too comfy in there.

Sunday morning (Andyface's actual birthday) was False Alarm #2, Wherein Rachel Imagined Her Water Had Broken.  Turns out it was just a little bit of urinary incontinence!  Ohhh, third trimester!  You think you're so cute.  Other than that, Sunday was largely uneventful as far as pregnancy goes.  We did go to Andy's mom's place to celebrate his birthday.


While there, we watched The Life of Pi.  Good flick, if you haven't seen it.

Nothing really happened on Monday, except that (after such a busy weekend) I was really tired and slept a lot.  I also cleaned a bathroom, which felt like it should have deserved a medal.

This brings us to Tuesday morning, and to the

TMI ALERT:
If you don't want to hear the gory details of our childbirth story, just skip to the end with the cute pictures of our little Nugget.

SPOILER ALERT: 
We had a cute baby.

As far as my "birth plan" goes, there really wasn't one, except the vague goal to go natural as long as I could stand it--at least until I was dilated to 6cm?  It seemed reasonable to me.  I wanted to have the freedom to walk around, bounce on the ball, take a shower . . . NOT be chained to the bed with the epidural and the catheter.

So, Monday night about midnight, I got up to pee (as per usual, since Nugget's head was smushing my bladder), and noticed one of the signs of labor there in my underpants.  I told Andy when I got back in bed, and he (still mostly asleep) said, "RICHARD PARKER," rolled over, and went back to bed.


At 1:30, I awoke to a gush of fluid: water broken.  Game ON.  Knowing we would probably have hours and hours until things really started going, we took the opportunity to finish straightening up the house, switch out the laundry, feed the kitties, take a shower . . . 

We were at the hospital about 2:30. It took a while to check in, do paperwork, and get things going in triage, but we determined that, YES, my water had broken, and I was dilated to 4cm upon arrival.  This was really going down.  By about 3:30 we were in our Labor / Delivery / Recovery room, where we met Shannon, our incredibly awesome nurse.  She introduced herself, and said, "I've already delivered two babies so far today, and my shift ends at 7.  So, you could be my third!" Ha, ha!  Everyone had a good chuckle, since we knew the likelihood of this was slim as it was a first baby and we would more likely be in there for 12-1350 more hours before a baby came.

By this time, my contractions were starting to get a little closer together, and picking up in strength, too.  

"What is the maximum acceptable level of pain for you, on a scale of 1-10?" asked Shannon.  Eight? 
"And where are you now, on a scale of 1-10?" Five? Six? I have no idea.  There have not been that many occasions in my life wherein I have experienced my "maximum acceptable level of pain," thankfully.

So, Shannon left, assuring us that she would be nearby, monitoring us from the nurse's station, and if we needed anything, we should buzz.  We were waiting to hear back from the OB to see if she thought it would be okay for me to walk around, since there were some medical concerns.  I'd told myself that I wanted to wait and see if that were a possibility before asking for the epidural, but suddenly, I was in a great amount of pain.

Actually, the pain itself wasn't the worst part.  I felt nauseous, clammy, light-headed, and my pulse was racing.  It was altogether unpleasant.  In between contractions, I told Andy I was ready for the epidural.  Unfortunately, the anesthesiologist was helping someone else down the hall, so I had to sit through a few more contractions without, while Shannon assured me that "relief is on the way."  She went to go check something outside of the room, and came back a few moments later, walking quickly, and asking (with a certain urgency in her voice) if I'd felt compelled to push.  Baby had come off of the fetal monitor, and she suspected that it was because he'd already moved down and was getting ready to go.

She checked me again.
9+ cm.

I could still get the epidural for pushing purposes, or I could just get to it and have the baby.  "I just want to get this baby out," I said.

The anesthesiologist walked in.  "She's at a 9 right now, so we're just gonna have this baby," said Shannon.  The anesthesiologist, looking somewhat shell-shocked, replied, "Well . . . I don't blame you!" and left.  Game on.  Really, really, ON.

The OB still hadn't arrived.  I heard Shannon on the phone, "Yeah, we're not messing around in here.  She's at a 9, and we're about to have this baby.  How long does it take Dr. Pero to get here?" She was so decisive.  It was awesome.  She left again, in a flurry, trying to get everything ready in case the baby came before the OB arrived.  At this point, I was feeling the urge to push.  Andy said later he was scared that he'd have to catch the baby by himself.

Shannon came back in.  "Try not to push--just blow it out.  Dr. Pero's on her way."  Easier said than done.

I started to push.

Shannon was a great coach, giving me feedback as to what was moving Baby along, and helping me to see the light at the end.  "He's right there!  I can see his head."

32 minutes (or so) later, Dr. Pero was putting on her gloves, and 4 minutes later, Nugget was born.

Five hours of labor, and 36 minutes of pushing.

My next baby may just fall right out.

What a chunk. 

Love at first sight.  

For Dad, too. 

I can claim the cheeks and the Asian-y eyes, but the rest is a mystery to me. 



Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Identity

I just discovered the existence of a book entitled Under Her Skin: How Girls Experience Race in America, by Pooja Makhijani. From the book description on goodreads, the book "includ[es] the perspectives of women of color, white women, and those caught in between," and "traces themes related to double lives, fear, envy, lineage, and family. Essays include reflections on how race shapes and sometimes shatters lives."  

As a woman of ambiguous race, I am intrigued.  I must read this book.  

I say "ambiguous" on purpose.  If you know me, you probably know my racial background: I am half-Japanese on my mother's side.  This is not, however, apparent to anyone who does not know me.  My proof is in how regularly I am asked, in terms ranging from very vague to very blunt, what I "am." (For the record, I prefer when people are straightforward.  If you ask me vaguely, while I know exactly what you really want to ask, I will answer you vaguely.) 



This is the story of my life. 

Growing up half-Japanese in Texas made me somewhat of a cultural anomaly.  Most often, I would be classified as "Chinese (light skin, squinty eyes)," though occasionally I might be identified as "Mexican (brown skin, dark hair)."  Never white, though.  And while I'd been born and raised in white-bread America, eating corny dogs and playing hopscotch with American-born, English-speaking parents, somehow, that was never the part of me that interested people.  They saw in me something different--which, I might add, is every child's worst nightmare--and were quick to point it out.  "Foreigner!" said my sixth grade crush, bringing me to tears.  At that point in my life, I didn't see anything Japanese about myself when I looked in the mirror.  I didn't even know how people could figure out I was Asian just by looking at me.




By high school, and through college, I had decided to run with it.  I made myself the butt of many jokes.  I called myself the "Cracker Jap," I joked (with my half-Korean friend) about starting a band called "Soy Sauce on the Side," and I claimed that the Weezer song "El Scorcho" was written about me (to be fair, I still kind of think that).  I (quite successfully) pretended to be related to twin brothers in my major solely because we were all half-Japanese. 

Now, in my adult life, I hardly think of my race until someone brings it up.  I am culturally very American, so far-removed from my great-grandparents who immigrated to the United States so many years ago. Yet still, it is a part of who I am.  As we consider names for our firstborn son, we want to honor that part of my heritage and give him, as my parents gave me, a Japanese middle name.  It's a small tribute, but he won't likely carry obvious physical evidence of his heritage, nor will I be able to pass on much of the cultural heritage.  But I hope that our son will be better able to embrace what makes him different and unique among his peers than I was in my youth.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

If-

When there are so many awful things happening around us, it's easy to become cynical about the world, and to lose faith in humanity.  Andy and I have been especially reflective as we consider bringing our little Nugget into this world--a world of senseless violence and hate.  It's easy to forget that the world is also full of hope, love, and goodness.  It can be difficult to remember that these virtues still exist in the world today.

I awoke yesterday with a poem in my head--and this is the life that I want Nugget to have.


If you can keep your head when all about you,
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too; 
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating, 
And yet, don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truths you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!" 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son! 

-Rudyard Kipling

Friday, March 15, 2013

Big Bend Babymoon Bonanza

One of the benefits of working in a program that follows a school district calender is that, even as a grown-up, I still have a Spring Break.  And, luckily, Andyface had some vacation time that needed using . . . so we decided to steal away to Big Bend National Park in (very very) southwest Texas.  This is very likely our last grand adventure to precede the huge adventure known as parenthood.

Our original plan had been to explore the Pacific Northwest, a place neither of us have been, but are very interested in.  Unfortunately, what with the Sequester and all (what? you don't receive government funding for your vacations?), we realized we should downscale.  Next option was a possible road trip to the Grand Canyon, though if we made that drive, we'd barely have any time to enjoy the Canyon itself.  So, after kicking around a few more ideas, we landed on the winner: Big Bend National Park.  A mere 8 hours from home, cheap, and impressive.

I'd been with my family as a kid, but Andy had never been.  Despite that Spring Break is the busiest time of year for the park and all the reservable campsites had already been spoken for, we decided to try our luck and head that way anyway.  With a forecast of highs in the mid-70s and lows in the mid-40s, we just couldn't pass it up.

Turns out we were right.  It was an amazing trip.  So, I'll stop my blabbering and just show you what I mean.


This was our first night, in a little campsite just outside of San Angelo, TX.  Since we both had obligations on Monday morning, we left Monday afternoon and stayed halfway between home and our final destination.  It was a pretty quiet little park, and we were lucky enough to see about 20 deer grazing in a field across the road from our spot by the lake.  It was a special moment! 


After a good night's rest, we headed off to Big Bend.  Our first stop was to see the Rio Grande at Boquillas.  Look!  I can see Mexico from my house!  

 

I really wanted to go to Mexico.  (When I was there as a kid, my family went across in a rickety boat rowed by a Mexican national.  We drank some Mexican cokes in a cantina, bought some bracelets from kids on burros, and were back in time for dinner.  My one experience on Mexican soil--Andy wouldn't let me swim across this time).  

While down in Boquillas, we also met this guy (in his own words) "Victor Valdez, el muy famoso cantante de 'Las MaƱanitas' ":


I love the way his voice echoes on the canyon.  (I used to have this fantasy of being huge and playing my cello sitting on a mountainside, but after hearing that, I think my new fantasy is to play in a canyon.) Read more about Valdez and Boquillas here.   Interesting stuff.  Apparently, pre-9/11, it was legal to cross like my family and I did years ago.  Also, they're soon opening up another formal crossing there.  We should have bought some stuff to Stick It To The Man, but we did give Sr. Valdez a donation. 

 We climbed a mountain, too.  Lost Mine Trail.  The view was breathtaking.  Nature is awesome.   


The next day, we hiked up Santa Elena Canyon.  We came at the perfect time of day, just as the sun was starting to set.  The light in the canyon was so soft, and the shadows were striking, too.    


What a good looking fellow, enjoying looking up at the canyon. 


26 weeks! This was in our 7th mile of hiking for the day.  Not gonna lie, one of my favorite moments was when, on one of our hikes, a woman passed with a big smile, and said, "Wow!  You're brave.  Good for you!"  I'm hardcore, y'all.  


Perhaps my favorite picture of us from the trip.  Tired (we'd hiked 11 miles in a day and a half) and stinky, but happy. We were just about to head home, but not before stopping to enjoy some more of the scenery.  

It was a much-needed, and thoroughly enjoyed, vacation.  We learned a lot (it was only our second camping trip together, after all), and grew closer as a couple.  It was so good to be able to reconnect and remember why we love each other, especially as we are facing the big transition ahead.  

Finally, a shout-out to my sweet love.  Thanks for sticking with your preggie wife and taking those easy hikes nice and slow for me!  I love you!  

Monday, February 11, 2013

Wait, Wait . . . Don't Tell Me!

". . . the NPR News Quiz."

Andy and I are big NPR nerds.  One of my biggest celebrity crushes is on Ira Glass (host of This American Life), and we listen to more NPR podcasts than any other kind.  It's our first radio preset in the car.

So when our lovely friends Allan and Jen let us know that they would be unable to attend the live taping of the show "Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me," and offered us their tickets, I was so excited.  We'd wanted to go to the show, but by the time I'd thought seriously about it, the show was all sold out.  Imagine my delight when our opportunity arose again.

I decided to keep it a secret from Andy.  I told him we had a date on Thursday night, and that he would be really excited.  His guesses were hilarious.

"Are we going to an REM reunion show?"

"I know!  You got us tickets to the Bureau of Printing and Engraving!"

"Are we getting a puppy?"

It was really hard not to spill, but I kept it in.  So, after work on Thursday, I picked him up and we took the DART rail to the Arts District in Downtown Dallas.  He'd figured we were going to the Arts District, but still had no idea.

On the train.  Clueless.  

We got to the beautiful new Winspear Opera House, and he still had no clue what was going on.  I pointed out the crowd to him: mostly Hipsters and Rich White People (and, of course, opera-singing truck drivers).  What do they have in common?  Still, no idea.  

What could it be? 

There was a little snafu with our tickets, so we had to get them reprinted.  The Rich White Lady in front of us in line asked, "So, did you get yours through the station, too?" Andy decided that meant that the tickets had been won on the radio.  Closer . . . 

The moment of realization came when we were in line to get our seats, and someone behind us said, "We are huge NPR geeks at our house." 

Ohhhh, I get it now!!  

The above was taken just as he figured it out.  He was excited, obviously.  Nerd.  

So, we listened to them tape the show (you can listen here, if you're interested).  There are three panelists, plus hosts Peter Sagal and Carl Kassel.  This week's panelists were Paula Poundstone (everyone's favorite), Tom Bodette, and Kyrie O'Conner.  (On a sidenote, I wonder how many of you, like me, knew Paula Poundstone first from these spots on PBS.)  It was really neat to be there, with (as Peter Sagal said) "every Liberal in the Dallas area," and to see how they do what they do.  

The guest on the show was Erykah Badu, who is a native Dallasite, and absolutely adorable.  Did you know she is also a trained doula?  I have always liked her very much, but now I kind of have a girl crush on her.  Sigh.  

After the show, we were able to go to a dessert reception, and shake hands with the hosts and panel.  It was good times, and the desserts were good, too.  

Andy with host Peter Sagal.  Peter was less excited about the photo op than Andy.  

The reception ended up a little weird, as my mom called and we found out that the family dog (Zoe, a 15 year-old Beagle) was put down earlier that afternoon.  So, it was a mix of a lot of feelings. 

To thank Al & Jen, I baked some cookies.  Cookies are the best thank you--I agree with Jen.  :-)  Plus, I'm always down with an excuse to bake.  This time, our pantry was a little sparse (no granulated sugar? How did that even happen?!), but I remembered a recipe that used only confectioners' sugar, and used that. (The original recipe is for Lime Meltaways, but we had only lemons. They turned out delightfully with the lemon, though.) They're super easy, and have a nice, light flavor.  

For your enjoyment: 

Photo from MarthaStewart.com


Lemon Meltaways (adapted from Martha Stewart's: Cookies, which is a great book, btw)

3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon 
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon salt

1. Put butter and 1/3 cup sugar in bowl, mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy.  Add zest, juice, and vanilla, and mix until fluffy.  

2. Whisk flour, cornstarch, and salt together until combined. 

3. Divide dough in half and form into log, about 1.25 inches diameter.  Roll into plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (about 1 hour).  

4. Preheat oven to 350F.  Remove plastic wrap from logs and cut into 1/4-inch thick rounds.  Place rounds one inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or Silpat mats. Bake until barely golden, about 12-13 minutes, rotating halfway through.  Transfer onto cooling rack to cool slightly.  While cookies are still warm, toss in remaining sugar in resealable plastic baggie to coat.  


THANKS, A & J, for a great night and good times.  We'll bring more cookies when we come to game night SOON.  What's your favorite cookie??  


Friday, January 4, 2013

Welcome 2013

So, 2012 was yet another hyper-eventful year in our existence.  One year ago, we were geared up for Andy's last semester in grad school, with no idea what was ahead, or where on earth we might end up in the months that were to come.  In February, Andy got the call about his current job at the IRC, and word that they'd like for him to start in March.  Since he wouldn't graduate until April, this created a need for some finagling of coursework.  He talked to his professors, who (some more begrudgingly than others) agreed to let him finish his last semester via correspondence while living in Dallas to start his new job.  

I, on the other hand, wanted to finish out my commitments at Prospect Park, the place I love so dearly, in Pittsburgh.  So, we spent the next three months living a half a continent away from one another.  It was difficult. We talked every night, we Skyped a couple of times (though I found it actually made me miss him more, so we didn't do it too often), we scheduled a few visits back and forth.  Meanwhile, I was applying for work in DFW.  

In late May, I got a call back about a job I'd applied for.  It was a perfect fit--full-time, in my field, not too far . . . except they wanted me to start before the end of my term at Prospect Park.  Boo.  After more than a few teary conversations with Andy, we agreed that we should just go for it.  I reluctantly gave up  my post, I started packing up our tiny attic apartment, and Andy flew out to help me drive back home

   
With my students on my last day at Prospect Park.  



Putting our lives in so many boxes . . . 

Not too soon after, my full-time work turned into part-time work, and I took another part-time job at an After School program, working with mostly refugee and immigrant kids in Kindergarten and 1st grade. I loved it.  It reminded me a bit of Prospect Park, fulfilling a need to connect with children who have not been quite as blessed as the kids I was serving at my first job.  It awakened in me my sense of fulfillment.  Eventually, I stepped away from the first job and held only to the second.  

In the midst of all this work transition, I peed on a stick and it said a thing: Pregnant.  New chapter.  I didn't believe it.  Could it be true? I peed on a few more sticks, and they all said the same.  As soon as I was working only one job, I made the appointment with the OBGYN.  I suppose it hit me when we saw the little Nugget squirming around on the ultrasound, and then heard its little heartbeat.  It was true.  There is a baby inside me.  

This year, we also took our first camping trip together.  We went kayaking. We went to concerts. We saw the Dallas Opera perform the Marriage of Figaro in a simulcast from the new Cowboys Stadium.  We had three Christmases.  We laughed a lot.  We cried some.  We ran a 5k. We lost 20 lbs. combined. We found out Andy is related to a legendary mountain man who killed cougars and ate them to acquire their feline powers.  It's been a good year.


Oh, you know . . . just going to the Opera, in jeans.  While eating hot dogs and nachos. 

Plano Balloon Festival 5k.  Woohoo! 


Also, I painted THIS awesome thing.  Who knew I could paint?


So, we concluded 2012.  We are very grateful to be in this special time in our lives surrounded by friends and family.  Will 2013 be awesome too?  Yes, I think it will.   

Cheers, and happy new year!