Sunday, July 30, 2006

Things I'll miss

Now that the pregnancy is almost over, I'm feeling many, many things - nervousness, eagerness to meet Sofia, various emotional states about the process of actually having the baby, curiosity about what it will be like... I can tell that her birth is imminent, in one of those strange ways women have; things are happening that seem, well, different. I don't think she's going to be born tomorrow, but I can tell that my body is getting prepared.

I have a gut feeling that she might come a little bit early, and that some of the early pre-labor stuff that can go on for weeks is starting up. Next week is week 36, one week from what's considered full term. Doctors will only let you go overdue by about ten days, so it's a sure thing that somewhere in the next two to six weeks, we're having a baby.

Right now, my emotional state is colored by a sort of pre-nostalgia for our non-parental life. This isn't sadness exactly, or even wistfulness - it's just a very real sense that something is ending, something is passing away. Being a sentimental sap, I feel sort of a golden haze surrounding certain moments - long car rides with Brett, reading in bed, quiet mornings with no sense of urgency, meals at restaurants where it's just us. (I'd add sleep, but it's so many months since I've slept well that this is already a distant memory. Which is probably just as well.)

This is all ending. What will take its place will be wonderful, no doubt, but a portion of my life is completely over. I wouldn't call it mourning, because what's coming will be equally good or (probably) better. But a stage is closing.

Once, years ago, after I'd just moved to Seattle, I was at a festival and had my tarot cards read on a whim. "Your life runs in 9 year cycles," she said to me. "One is starting right now." Oddly enough, when I look back and think about the major phases of my life, this seems pretty much right on the money. The nine years prior to that had involved getting out of college and learning to survive in the adult world, having unwise relationships, and trying to survive my tumultuous twenties. When I met the tarot lady, almost exactly nine years ago, I had just moved to Seattle and entered a phase where everything in my life seemed to shift - a more comfortable, happy stage of adulthood, making great friends, a great job and lots of success at it, travel, finding and marrying the right man. And now, nine years after the tarot reading, I'm about to reset all of my priorities and become a parent. It certainly does seem like a series of doors close and then open on about that timeframe.


I'll miss a few things about being pregnant. For one, it's hard to feel anything bad about your body, at least for me, when it's busy doing incredible stuff like assembling ears and growing neurons and nurturing a whole other life. Regardless of how much weight I've gained (actually, not that much, in spite of all the ice cream), I've found that I kind of like how I look, even here at the end. And yay, Shult/Barlow gene pool - no stretch marks, no varicose veins, none of the big ugly problems that a lot of people get, all of which are 100% genetic. I'm just... large, and my hair looks shiny, and my skin is nice. Not bad. Once the baby is out and I'm left with the pooch and twenty new pounds to lose, that will be much less the case, I realize. But I'm hoping this sense of kindness about my physical self continues. I suspect it will, to some degree; whatever parts of me never look the same again, I'll have Sofia to point at to remember why it was worth it.

Another thing I'll miss is the constant outpouring of good will from the world that seems to materialize when you become visibly pregnant. People I know have never been nicer to me - I get sweet emails at work from people who used to work for me if I miss a day of work, asking if the baby and I are okay; friends offer to get me food when I arrive at the cafeteria so bowled over from hunger that I can hardly stand up; everyone is solicitous and interested and kind. You get presents all the time. :) My parents insist on walking me back across the street when I visit them, and have never been so open with their affection as they have been lately.

And strangers! Wow. I've never gotten more genuine, delighted smiles from total strangers than I have in the last few months. The vast majority of people just seem to love to see pregnant ladies. I've been spared the phenomenon of people coming up and touching my belly, which is nice - I was kind of dreading going through that - but I've had more total strangers inquire about my health, ask if we're having a girl or a boy, or just grin at me intensely. It makes you feel good about the world, insulated from bad things.

I suppose this will continue when I'm walking around with our adorable little baby girl, too - lots of smiles and interest, although more focused on her than me. But that's also probably the point where random strangers will start scolding me for not having a hat on her if there's a breeze, criticizing me if she's crying, or eyeballing me when I sit down next to them in restaurants. Maybe, maybe not. But for now, I feel like I'm cushioned by this wave of goodwill. It's nice.

Cat Karma

The world's cats continue to be attracted to us wherever we go, insisting on spending the night in our hotel rooms whenever possible.

First there was Mighty Caesar, at Leavenworth, who insistently meowed outside our cabin door at two in the morning until we let him in, and then proceeded to sleep happily on our bed until morning. This was in February of 2005. He visited us again on a return trip about a year later, but didn't stay as long.

This weekend, our first night at Sun Mountain Lodge, I went out to get a soda from the downstairs vending machine at around 10:00 and was meowed at enthusiastically by a big, friendly white cat, who of course I stopped to pet. We chatted for a while, I got my drink, and I said goodbye and headed back up the stairs to our room. But when I opened the door, who should rush in in front of me? Well the cat, of course. I had no idea she had followed me.

"Um, honey, I brought us a cat," I called out, while Patches settled in under the room's one chair and watched us for a while before deigning to accept a drink of water and some petting, and then settling in on the bed for a five-hour nap.

"Really?" said Brett. "Wow. Us and cats, man."

She did wake us up by walking over our heads around three a.m., wanting to go out and hunt. We let her out - I was up anyways, for the usual reasons - and went back to sleep. The next morning, on our way to breakfast, we saw her happily disemboweling a rat underneath the stairs of our building. Mmmm. Breakfast.

The people at the front desk confirmed that yes, she's officially their cat, and she's here to catch rats, and that they do feed her. There were two of them but they claim the other one got "adopted." We're not quite sure if that's meant to be taken literally or is the life-in-coyote-country version of telling a kid that their puppy went to live on a farm.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Fire and water

We're up in Winthrop for the weekend, at Sun Mountain Lodge - immortalized on here in previous posts as the site of our very first dinner date. Brett suggested we come up this weekend, I think because I've been moaning that I hadn't gone anywhere all summer long and it seemed like summer had hardly happened this year. Isn't he great? Tomorrow he goes on a long ridge hike and I sit around the lodge reading and napping and swimming in the pool. Which is just about the perfect arrangement, in my book.

Monkey and Herschel, of course, came with us.

There's a gigantic forest fire burning not far from here - actually there are two, but one is especially close. It's not close enough to be a threat to us where we're staying, way up on a treeless mountain outside of town, but it's only a few miles away from Winthrop and could conceivably burn up the town (except that the wind isn't likely to push it in that direction). It's interesting though - lots of smoke in the distance, a slight smell of burning in the air, and we actually saw it from the road on the way here. I've seen smoke from forest fires before but never been close enough to see the flames.

Here's the latest news report - 12000 acres and doubling every day:

...The Tripod fire cover(s) an estimated 19 square miles, or about 12,000 acres of forest land, six miles northeast of Winthrop. The fire was burning in dead lodgepole pine trees that had been killed by beetles.

About 475 firefighters were working to maintain the lines south of the fire. No structures were immediately threatened, though local officials had raised concerns about the town of Conconully, northwest of Omak and between five and nine miles from the blaze.

Should it move this way, we have plenty of other routes to get home, and Brett's hiking nowhere near it, so Brett's dad, please don't worry about us. We're fine.

The other news is that I've discovered the joy of swimming when you're Extremely Pregnant. Tonight we went to the outdoor hot tub and I ended up swimming in the big (and totally empty) pool.

Wow. I've heard that us pregnant ladies like this swimming thing, but I hadn't yet tried it out myself - partly because I wasn't sure the maternity swimsuit I ordered through the mail would actually fit me well enough to be seen in public in. To my surprise, when I pulled it out tonight and tried it on, it fit perfectly, so off we went. And WOW. Glory hallelujah. If I could spend the next four weeks in a swimming pool, day and night, maybe with waiters bringing me snacks, I think I'd do it. Heaven. The weightlessness, the coolness, the ability to float around prone after eight months of lying only on my back, the cool breeze -- this is HEAVEN.

I know what I'm doing tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Pictures from the visit

Uncle George and Aunt Marilyn:

George, Marilyn, Mom and Dad:

Monday, July 24, 2006

Uncle George and Aunt Marilyn

My Uncle George and Aunt Marilyn are currently visiting us, on their way back from a two week Alaskan cruise which dropped them off in Seattle on Sunday. So far we've had a mellow day on Sunday, and spent today going on the Boeing tour and eating great pizza at Zeek's. It's quite hot here again - still in the 90s - and I think we're all wilting a little in the heat, but we're having a great time visiting with them.

Picture from last year's visit - Mom, George, Marilyn, and Dad.

George and Marilyn are two of our favorite visitors. They just embody the attributes of perfect guests - they're just delighted by anything you take them to do or see, they're open to new experiences, they're full of interesting conversation and news, and they will offer suggestions on things they'd like to do when asked. Brett and I fondly hope and aspire to be as active in our travels as they are when we've been married for many, many years.

More soon - and hopefully some new pictures from this year.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Daddy class

Our hospital offers these classes called "Conscious Fathering" - and Brett went last night. He said they walked in and were presented with:
  • A newborn-sized doll
  • A sleeper and onesie
  • A swaddling blanket
  • A diaper
  • A burp rag
  • Twelve slightly confused men

...and then they were told, "Ok, dress your baby!" Brett put the sleeper on first and then looked at the onesie and said, "oops!" and had to do it all over again. :)

He said it was a great class, overall, and that the teacher was really helpful. They told him lots of things that feel like it kind of set some expectations for how much he'd need to help out - like burp the baby between feedings, expect to do x, y, and z - and he got a lot of tips and advice from some men there who have already had their babies in the last few weeks and just come in for help.

But overall, I can't stop smiling because I just think it's so sweet and cute that he went in and dressed, swaddled, burped, and changed a doll in preparation for our little arrival. :) I'm almost weepy just thinking of it.

He's such a great guy.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Brain games

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm not blogging much these days, because the speedy demise of my brain cells due to advanced pregnancy has overtaken my ability to write. I sit down sometimes in front of the computer, only to stare dumbly at the blank page and then walk away to do something more productive, like... like fold teeny tiny baby clothes into neat piles. Or read a few pages of the book I'm in now and which is taking me forever to complete. Or nap.

I also suspect that I'm becoming slightly autistic. I keep finding myself nodding out of a conversation going on around me because I get obsessed with some tiny little detail in the environment. Like tonight, in the midst of a wonderful dinner at our friends Alan and Beth's house, I found myself totally drifting off into space in the middle of a fascinating political discussion because I got distracted by how golden the light was on the leaves up near the tips of the poplar trees in their neighbor's back yard. To the point where I tipped my head back and stared at it for at least a few minutes. Didn't hear a word. I probably looked like I was catatonic. But it was absorbing.

Another of my favorite low-brainer activities lately: trying to figure out how many things I can hear at one time. Seriously. Perhaps its a summer thing but I'm finding this endlessly diverting lately. Started one day when I was laying around in the backyard; I suddenly became aware of how many sounds we tend to filter out of our awareness.

So I spent some time, right then, trying to unpack and notice the sounds I was missing: the wind through the branches overhead. The hum of someone's air conditioner. The bird a few houses away. A number of different wind chimes, ranging from my own extremely loud ones (the neighbors must hate me) to the dim tinkle of some bamboo ones somewhere. A bee, from time to time. Traffic several blocks away. A really loud plane. It's amazing how much of this you won't notice at all until you stop and try to hear it.

Since then, I've been doing this more frequently - what do you not hear at midnight when you're in bed and can't fall asleep? What do you not hear when you're lying on the couch with your laptop in front of you and you're supposed to be working? What else can you find to hear when someone is complaining to you and you wish they'd stop?

Heh. Ok, kidding on that last one.

But it is oddly diverting. And I enjoy figuring out some of the brain's little tricks like this - all the little games of focus and attention that our brains use to keep us from becoming completely psychotic from over-stimulation. There's a word for that process which I can't remember. Anyone?

Monday, July 17, 2006

My crazy neighbor

I just got to observe my crazy (and, from the sound of it, drunk) neighbor threaten to beat up a door to door solicitor - NOT because of the general fact that solicitors are annoying, but because he was from the Lesbian and Gay Rights Alliance.

"You better run, boy," he said. "You better run!"

God, how awful.

Marilyn's visit

Brett's sister Marilyn and her husband Mike were up for the weekend, and strangely enough I don't have a single picture to post from it. Marilyn took a lot, though, so when she posts something I'll link off to it.

It was a very mellow weekend, but nice - we cooked out, took a drive around Whidbey Island, visited Alki beach, and just hung out for many hours. Marilyn delivered many gifts and essentials, including a Hooters bib for the youngun and a pink Sacramento Rivercats outfit, complete with socks and hats. And, no injuries were inflicted on anyone by Phoenix, unlike on their last trip up - I'd call this a successful visit.

I should say more about their visit, but aside from just stating how incredibly glad we were to see them, I can't come up with much right now - I'm a little braindead and having one of those moments where I'm staring slack-jawed at a blank screen. Had a doctor's appointment today, in which I found out once again that all is fine with the baby. She's getting so big now that I spent the whole day feeling like I can't quite catch my breath. And there are six more weeks of this? Egads.

Marilyn helped break our tie-breaker about how to spell the baby's name. Sophia? Sofia? I've been gravitating towards the former, and Brett wants the latter. After Marilyn added her thoughts (more artistic with the 'f', which seemed a better reason than Brett's love of all things Turkish) I decided to capitulate on this - besides, spelling it that way is, for me, more of a habit than a strong preference. So now have to make myself write it that way a hundred times so I start getting it right.


Thursday, July 06, 2006

New quilt

Here's what I made while Brett was out of town - this is for Sophie, and is wayWAY brighter than the color combinations I usually choose.

Still not sure it was entirely a succes -- the pattern kind of gets lost in the too-bold background fabric, and if you look closely you'll be able to find the glaring mistake I made in it -- but at the same time, it's kinda cool. And unlike the last quilt, which I set aside for almost six months, I made this whole one start to finish in about three days. Including quilting and binding.

Getting better on the machine!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

You're never fully dressed without a...

My obstetrician, bless her, probably listens to a fetal heartbeat about sixty times a day, every single day of her professional life, and has probably done so every day for the last however many decades she's been practicing. And yet every time she listens to one, she gets the goofiest, most delighted smile on her face, before looking up to catch my eye and give me a look that just says, "Isn't that the most amazing thing you've ever heard?" As if it could never get old.

This lady is most definitely in the right job.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Birthday Phoenix

Today is the day when people all over the country stop and shoot off firecrackers to celebrate the birthday of Phoenix Carmichael Shult Zalkan, who is now 14.

It's very moving.

The lost art of lolling

It's been a long time since I've had four whole days to spend however I felt like it. My friend Erica called up tonight to find out how "no husband weekend" was going and I had to admit that it's been surprisingly great. Not that I don't miss Brett, but this has felt like a real vacation, getting to just wake up every day and decide what I wanted to do with no other people to take into account, no work to do, not much of anything scheduled.

I had a moment on Sunday when I was sitting out in the backyard in a lounge chair reading with my big straw hat and glass of lemonade, and I realized that this was the first time I had actually slowed down and enjoyed the summer. That's long overdue.

You can't unwind like this in a two day weekend, because there's too much time pressure to get the few things that really need to be done, done - the laundry, the chores, maybe a social event or two, and before you know it the weekend is just over. Four days feels like heaven in comparison. I've read two great books, finished a new quilt, gone to a party with the neighbor ladies and talked into the night on someone's back deck, hung some pictures, done some chores around the house, napped a little, taken my parents to breakfast, and generally lolled around. Lolling is a lost art form. I'm thinking of specializing in it from now on.

I also realized today that I only have two more complete, five-day weeks that I have to work before the baby comes. This week is a short one, then a five day week, then I'm off a Monday when my aunt and uncle visit, then a five day week, and then in August I'm taking every Friday off to make up for the fact that I can't take the week off I'd been hoping prior to my due date. So yay - more longer weekends ahead!

Cat tricks

Cassie, our quiet and shy (and slightly crazy) cat, has a new trick. She's become a big game hunter.

Started last week, when she scared the crap out of us by sitting at the foot of the bed after we'd fallen asleep, meowing in a horrible, tortured, "Help me, I've just amputated a limb" kind of way that usually means trouble. I turned on the light to see what was wrong and she looked me in the eye, then regurgitated a large, live moth about the size of her head that she'd somehow been keeping in her mouth and meowing around. Then she ate it, looking incredibly pleased with herself. Came up for some petting and praise, and never made another peep all night long.

Two nights later, same routine. The "help me I'm dying" meow that can wake you in a cold sweat, flip on the light, regurgitate another live moth that just seems too big to even fit inside her head. Eat it. Look pleased as punch.

She's so, so, SO, so proud of herself.

Last night she did it again, but being obsessed with the quilt I was working on I was still up when it happened. I heard her go out through the cat door around midnight, and about ten minutes later in she came, calling for me. I found her in the living room where she'd apparently dropped it by mistake before getting to her desired audience.

This time she let Phoenix eat it.

Now I have to wonder -- what do moths taste like? They look like they'd be pretty gross, all fuzzy and probably bitter. Blech. But they do seem to be a delicacy to the felines of the Zalkan household.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Lone weekend

Brett's out of town camping in Glacier with a friend and I'm on my own until Tuesday. Much as I wondered if I'd get any sleep without him here, I realized on going to bed last night that this means I get ALL the pillows. Pillows to a pregnant lady are very important - because you have to sleep on your side as much as you can, being propped up front and back can make this a lot more comfortable. I happily set myself up smack in the middle of the bed, the body pillow down one side of me and Brett's pillows down the other and cocooned in the middle of them.

Then I slept for twelve hours. So I guess that answers that question.

It was a grueling week at work, with over 14 hours of meetings devoted to a single subject. I left there yesterday about as exhausted as I've ever been, took myself to see a girl movie (The Devil Wears Prada, which was lots of fun), and came home to start my solo weekend.

Brett's camping buddy left his car in our driveway, and this morning one of the neighbors asked whose car was parked here overnight. I think I'm being gossiped about, with my husband out of town and a strange car here. This struck me as really funny.

Plans for the weekend: finish the quilt from last week, cut a new one, bake a crostata (underway now), go to a party at the neighbor's house tonight, clean the house a little (mostly done already), have a few breakfasts with friends, and generally relax. And to make it all even better, I don't have to go back to work until next Wednesday.



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