Monday, November 30, 2009

Finish line

When I signed up for this year's NaBloPoMo at the very last minute, I think I was half expecting to fail. Maybe even three-quarters expecting it, to be honest. Instead, to my surprise, I found it to be the easiest NaBlo yet. I don't know if my subconscious mind was able to tap into some kind of habit or routine established the last three times I did this, or if it was just dumb luck or what, but I'll take it.

November was a good but full month all around. Work was crazy-busy but rewarding. Outside the computer, I have spent the past month slowly coming to terms with the fact that in less than two months, this baby will be ready to be born. Inside the computer, I was rediscovering some of the ease with which I used to be able to clean out the ol' brainpan.

Congrats to everyone who participated, and long live NaBlo!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Halls, decked

Instead of shopping on Friday, I stayed home and made two loaves of banana bread, a batch of blueberry muffins, a cheesecake, and two sweet potato casseroles. Then my awesome sister came over in the afternoon and helped me put up the Christmas decorations. It's kind of hilarious how many times the tree poked me in the belly while I was trying to put the lights on it.

MB and I had a really nice weekend visiting with his family. We came home with a truly obscene amount of leftover Thanksgiving food and three bags of baby gifts, including these, knitted by MB's mother's cousin, whom I've never even met:

Indy spent the weekend at my parents' house playing with their dogs, and this is what he looked like at 7:00 this evening:

Overall I'd say it was a pretty fantastic holiday. How was yours?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Family time

We're spending the weekend visiting MB's family. Because they are clever (and accommodating), they celebrate Thanksgiving on the Saturday following the actual day. It's awesome because we never have to choose or alternate, which is extra great since Thanksgiving is MB's favorite holiday. We're going to eat ourselves stupid in the afternoon at Mamaw and Papaw's house and then go back to MB's aunt and uncle's place and play games into the wee hours if the past several years are any indication. Or at least MB will. The brachiopod and I have a severely limited ability to stay up past 11:00 PM these days.

Speaking of the brachiopod and inlaws, MB's aunt and uncle bought the baby a crib! We knew they were planning to, but we didn't see it until last night. I'll have to add a picture once we get back home. When we got here, they had it set up in the dining room with a sheet over the top and then MB's uncle pulled it off, all voila! They also got him a mattress pad (the packaging says it will absorb 8 cups of liquid. Don't get any ideas, kid.), sheets, a big fuzzy blanket and a package of little flannel blankets, some puppy dog onesies, dinosaur thermal jammies, a safety kit with little clippers and scissors and such, and a big teddy bear. I pretty much won the in-law lottery, right?

Speaking of babies, a huge epic congrats to Assertagirl, who welcomed Nathan James on the 24th! Seriously, go look...he's gorgeous.

Update, pics:

These are pretty terrible pictures, since I didn't have a camera with me:

(the mattress is crooked because we were futzing around with the adjustable height right before I took the picture)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Today, I:

>> slept late

>> primed trim in the baby's room with MB

>> napped with MB and Indy

>> made sweet potato casserole

>> ate myself nearly ill at my family dinner

>> laughed with my cousins

>> worked on a new scarf

>> traded leftovers with my mom

>> came home to a happy dog (even though we didn't think to bring him any turkey)

I think today counts as a success. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ring ring ring banana bread

Internets, I need your help. I am in need of a great banana bread recipe. MB and I tend to buy bananas to take in our lunches during the work week, but they don't always get eaten in time. I hate to waste them, so I usually make banana bread out of any leftovers. So far, I've only used the recipe from my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, but I find it really bland (which is a shame since the zucchini bread recipe from the book is great), too banana-y and not banana-bready enough (if that makes sense). Lately I've just been doubling the nutmeg and quadrupling the cinnamon, but I know there must be some really killer banana bread recipes out there. So, hit me!

Here's the BH&G recipe, just for reference:

2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 beaten eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed banana
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil, butter, or margarine

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I would like the record to show

That at 33 weeks and 6 days pregnant, I can still do tree pose, triangle pose, balancing stick, half moon, and standing bow (though my leg doesn't go quite that high anymore...just as high as the back of my head now) at yoga class. I wasn't sure I'd make it this far and still be able to go to class, so I'm pretty pleased.

The baby is still treating me nicely. For the past week or so he has had the hiccups every evening, which is just about the cutest thing ever. He also dropped this week, to the point where I had to fasten my bra on the smallest hook row again today, after months of not being able to do so. I was so used to my belly the way it was, it's kind of weird to see it noticeably lower and in a different shape. Today I was talking to a visitor at work and she asked me when I was due. When I told her, she eyed my belly and said, "I doubt it, with him that low?" Perhaps Julia is right and I'll end up with a December baby after all. We shall see!

My due date is only six weeks away, and I'm having moments of semi-panic. I'm so happy and generally comfortable and genuinely enjoying being pregnant that realizing how close we are to the baby being on the outside is kind of unnerving. We took our tour at the hospital at last night's childbirth class, and when we stopped by the nursery there were two tiny newborns swaddled and lying in the little clear plastic cribs. And oh, my heart was full. Someday soon, we will actually have a little swaddled wrinkly person of our own. I hope I'll be a good mother, because so far he has been a really good baby.

Also, the naturalist group I volunteer with threw us a shower on Sunday. We got several very nice gifts, but I had to share this one:

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fun Monday

I forgot to sign up for the official list of participants, but I am doing Fun Monday again this week. The host this time around is Wendishness and the theme is thankfulness.

I am thankful for:

>> My fantastic husband. I could not ask for a better partner or friend, or a better man to be the father of my child.

>> My thus-far-healthy pregnancy, which has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life so far. Also, baby kicks and baby hiccups.

>> Indiana Bones, the best dog in the world, for providing us with constant companionship and love and frequent laughs.

>> My wonderful family, especially my parents and sister.

>> My kickass friends.

>> My job. I'm lucky to work in a place where I feel supported and challenged and where I can enjoy what I do for a living. I hope to stay there for many more years (hint hint, economy) and to have the chance to grow and learn.

>> Books, music

>> Crisp Fall mornings, changing leaves, the smell of Winter coming, hot chocolate, toast with jelly, and peppermint stick ice cream.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

How about Team No-Plot-Holes?

I kid, I kid...I don't actually advocate burning of the Twilight books. Unless, of course, I'm freezing to death. Or just really chilly. Now, like the guy in the above photo, I admit that I haven't actually read the series. I watched a bunch of people I follow on Twitter react with derision after reading the final book, and have heard from many sources that the writing is pretty abysmal. I may eventually read them, but don't hold your breath. Also? Robert Pattinson is really, really not attractive. Sorry. And watching someone while they sleep? That's not romantic and sexy. That's stalking, and it's both creepy and the reason we have restraining orders.

So! I thought it would be fun to post about five books that I recommend instead of Twilight, or to pick up if you've read Twilight and need another vampire / werewolf story to feed your addiction:

5. Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett
I put this one at number five because while I did find it enjoyable, I think it's one of the Discworld books that works better if you've read some of the others. Some of the books in the series can almost stand alone, and others are a bit more meaningful if you've already been introduced to the characters. That said, I don't think any Discworld book is totally inaccessible as a first encounter with the series.

4. Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause
I like that in Blood and Chocolate, the girl is the werewolf, and the boy she falls for is the human. Main character Vivian isn't completely without flaws, but I didn't have trouble putting up with her. The story has a little less impact to it than the ones I placed above it, but I do remember that I liked the book. I haven't seen the film version, but the wikipedia summary leads me to believe that the screnwriters took a lot of liberties. Might be a fun one to watch for creeps, though.

3. the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris
Also known as the Southern Vampire Mysteries, this series served as the inspiration for the HBO series True Blood. I wrote a review of the first book, Dead Until Dark, back when I read it:  "The heroine, Sookie Stackhouse, is no Sunshine, but she's a good character. In some ways, she's similar to Sunshine, in that both are pretty ordinary girls--not geniuses, not knockout babes, not karate champions. Where Sunshine had a magical heritage, Sookie has a magical talent--she can read people's minds. Because of this, she has few friends and zero romantic experience. When she meets an "out of the coffin" vampire, things change, and before long, Sookie's trying to solve a mystery and stay alive long enough to figure out whether or not a vampire boyfriend is what she really wants.

My only objections to this story: unnecessary (in my opinion) murder of a family member, even more unnecessary murder of a pet, and a vampire named Bill. My friend Tamsyn, who gave me the book, pointed out that Harris was likely trying to create an alternate take on the stereotypical vampire tale. Instead of femmy glam vampires named Lestat or whatnot, she created a vampire who represented a typical 1870s American Southerner. I'm okay with that, but wish she'd called him Will or Liam or even William. I just don't dig the name Bill, having once had a horrible coworker by that name.

Pressing through my misgivings about the name turned out to be worth it, and the story was really enjoyable. I was surprised but not incredulous when the murderer was revealed, which is always really nice in a mystery. There was also one really unexpected and funny moment where it is revealed that a certain extremely famous, dead but occasionally still spotted singer still kicks around as a creepy pet-fancying vampire. I'm definitely going to look for the second book in the series the next time I'm in the mood for a sexy mystery."

Possibly best of all -- if you're looking for something to carry on with now that Twilight is over -- there are now nine books in the series. I sent my friend Rachel the first book and she called me a crack-pusher for getting her addicted.

2. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
I read this book on the recommendation of the fabulous Kerri Anne, and I loved it. LOVED it. The book makes a significant but not unwelcome change to the archetype, featuring werewolves whose transformation is triggered not by the full moon, but by the coming of winter. Unfortunately, the werewolves in question live in Minnesota, where winter doesn't screw around. Fantastic, believable characters and a tightly-woven plot made for a serious page-turner. I had this book with me the day I had to sit in the waiting room at the lab for four hours to have blood draws done, and the time flew. If that's not a hardcore endorsement, I don't know what is.

1. Sunshine by Robin McKinley
I absolutely loved Sunshine. Not only is it my favorite vampire book ever, but it's also probably on the top ten list of books I've read in the past few years. There's a slightly more extensive review over on my book blog, which concludes thusly:  I usually don't go for vampire stories, but I enjoyed this one immensely and would recommend it to anyone. It's got enough magic and undead for the sci-fi / fantasy fan and more than enough down-to-earth, believable characterization for those who tend to prefer non-fantasy fiction.

If you've read any other great vampire or werewolf books, please leave a comment. I'm always open to suggestions for new books to read!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sweet relief

Tonight is one of those nights when I really, REALLY wish I could tell you more about my job. As I've mentioned a few times, I spent October working on a huge project with several of my coworkers. That project then served as the basis for three huge kids' programs this month. The final one was tonight, and it was the biggest. Sixty 4th and 5th graders spent the evening at our building doing crafts and going to presentations relating to the theme of the project (I wish I could say more, because it's a really cool project if I do say so myself ;) ).

As stressful as the prep and execution was, it was all worth it. At the very end of the night, one of the adults came up and introduced herself. She's been coming to our programs with her kids for years, but she took the time to tell me that she especially enjoyed this one, that her kids enjoyed it, and that she felt like they learned a lot. I wish I could have that conversation recorded to listen to when I feel dead-ended, because it's moments like that one that convince me I am in the right field and that I am good at my job. (Is it wrong that I sort of wish my boss and the director could hear it, too?)

I'm grateful that my pregnancy has been easy enough to allow me to do what I've done, too, especially since I planned these events before I got knocked up. I gambled, and this time I won. I have to admit, though, as high as I'm flying after knocking out three really successful programs in a row, I am so. damn. glad. that tonight was the last one. The prospect of not having to work an evening event -- complete with trucking up and down three flights of stairs multiple times throughout the night -- until after my maternity leave sounds SUPER GREAT right now. I am ready to relax, y'all.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The music meme

I desperately wanted to go to bed early tonight, so I asked for meme ideas on Twitter today, hoping to avoid the pattern of staying up too late wracking my brain for something to say. Alas, technology problems caused me to stay up too late anyway, but I appreciate Meg's tag for the music meme.

As usual with this one, most of the answers make no sense whatsoever, but there are a few funny song / question pairings:

1. If someone asks "Are you okay?" you say?
"Better" by Regina Spektor

2. How would you describe yourself?
"Cats on Mars" by the Seatbelts

3. What do you like in a guy/girl?
"One Piece at a Time" by Johnny Cash

4. How do you feel today?
"Restless Sinner" by the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

5. What is your life's purpose?
"Silent Sea" by KT Tunstall

6. What is your motto?
"My World" by Olive Lucy

7. What do your friends think of you?
"Pentagram" by Cake

8. What do you think about very often?
"Say it to You" by Caroline's Spine

9. What is 2+2?
"Babylon" by Don McLean

10. What do you think of your best friend?
"Carbon Monoxide" by Cake

11. What is your life story?
"On Call" by Kings of Leon

12. What do you want to be when you grow up?
"Modern Romance" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs

13. What do you think when you see the person you like?
"White Trash Wedding" by the Dixie Chicks (HAAAAAA!)

14. What will you dance to at your wedding?
"Strawberry Wine" by Deanna Carter

15. How do you want to die?
"Mountain" by Tonic

16. What is your hobby/interest?
"Ozone Baby" by Led Zeppelin

17. What's your biggest fear?
"Zombie Jamboree" by Rockapella

18. What do you want right now?
"Rehab" by Amy Winehouse

19. What do you think of your (boy/girl)friend?
"Sin Wagon" by the Dixie Chicks (OMFG. Hilarious That's right, I said 'mattress dancing.' )

20. What is your favorite song?
"Swagger" by Flogging Molly

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Rest well, dear friend

My thoughts today (and beyond) are with my dear blogfriend Meg, who lost one of her wonderful dogs to cancer this morning. I can't remember exactly how Meg and I "met" online, but it seems to me that we clicked from the very beginning. I have long held onto the unlikely fantasy that one day we'd get together for a puppy-dog playdate so that Indy could meet her fabulous pack of three -- Mack, Clara Bow, and Streak.

In all probability we'll never manage, since we live quite far apart and will only live farther from each other when she completes her long-dreamed-of move to Alaska one day. But it's still a nice thing to wish for. Sadly, our meet-up with Mack will have to wait until a day far off in the future, when all are reunited again (because I've long felt that there's little point to having a Heaven unless dogs and people get to go to the same one).

Even though sassy little Clara Bow seems to easily capture people's attention (and I do love Clara Bow) and Streak the retired Iditarod sled dog has a wonderful backstory, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Mack. Perhaps it's because his black coat and smiling eyes remind me so much of Indy, perhaps it's because there's something so endearing about the quietly quirky brother of two much more flamboyant girls. For myriad reasons, Mack will be dearly, dearly missed, by his pack of dogs and humans, and by those who have come to love him from afar through photos and stories.

Rest well, dear boy, and maybe one day we'll finally meet.

Clara Bow & Mack

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

You will know that I am gone

On my first post of the month, Little Miss Sunshine State asked what lullabies I'd be singing to the brachiopod when he arrives. When I was little, my mother sang a mix of lullabies ("Hush, Little Baby"), traditional songs ("Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore"), and Peter Paul & Mary. One of my favorites was the ant song, though she didn't sing the "to get out of the rain / Boom boom" part.

I suspect our own child will be serenaded with the songs I grew up with, and maybe a few others. Though I have to admit, the only song I'm sure I know all the lyrics to by heart is "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia." No, I take that back. I'm sure I'll sing Camp songs to him, too.

While I was thinking about lullabies over the past day or so, I was also thinking about music other than lullabies that we can play for him. I have a suspicion that while he's very small, we'll pretty much play whatever we're in the mood for, and of course as he grows and becomes more parrot-y, we'll have to watch for language and content.

So far, he's only been given one CD of his own, and it's a really good one (Here Comes Science by They Might Be Giants). I've also listened to the Barenaked Ladies' kids' album Snacktime and figure he'll have that one at some point, too, and I'm not opposed to a little bit of Raffi here and there. Other than that, though, not sure (and we're open to suggestions)!

Monday, November 16, 2009

How is a raven like a writing desk?

(click to biggify)

* Pickles & Dimes

* Greeblemonkey

Reading:  Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

Playing:  Here Comes Science by They Might Be Giants. (It's technically the brachiopod's CD, given to him at his shower, but I figure he's listening to it, too, so it's fair.)

Fun Monday

I'm participating in this week's "Fun Monday" bloggy thingamajig, hosted by Ari at Beyond My Slab. The theme is What is the oldest possession in your house or flat? Describe it or show us a picture. Where did it come from? Why do you hang on to it?

I decided to go with the thing owned by me for the longest time. I have a book that belonged to my mom's father, but I've only had it in my possession since college, and I'm sure somewhere in my house there are photos older than the one I have of myself playing the piano at 9 months old. Come to think of it, the piano may be the one of the oldest things in the house, but it's only officially been mine since this summer.

The oldest thing in the house owned by me's one of these guys:

I planned to write the post about the bear, but then when I went up to take his picture, I saw the rabbit and remembered that I don't actually know which one came first. The bear's name is Pumpy, and I can't be certain, but I'm guessing his name was inspired by the "pumping" of his internal mechanism. He winds up and plays "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." I got Pumpy in my Christmas stocking when I was very small, either two or three years old, judging by the pictures I remember seeing of me that go with the photo of him peeking out of the top of my stocking, all sleek and new and decked out with a white ribbon around his neck. Pumpy had a very close call when I was in middle school. His music box hadn't worked in years. He was wound tight, but the key was stuck. My mom was cleaning up my room, saw him, and thought I might not notice if she threw him away. I definitely would have noticed, so it's a good thing that the next thing happened. She told me as she picked him up to drop him into the trash bag, he spontaneously started to play, and he's worked fine ever since.

The rabbit is Bun Bun, and I'm not sure when I got him. I know he was in a very early Easter basket, because that's what Mom told me, but I don't know if it was my first Easter basket, or my second, or my third. If it was my first, it would make Bun Bun the thing I've owned the longest, since I had my first Easter when I was about five weeks old, a week after my parents brought me home. Bun Bun doesn't have any near-death experiences to share, at least as far as I know. When I packed up the last of my stuffed animals and moved into our house, I brought Pumpy and Bun Bun over with me. I truly can't remember a time when I didn't have them, so it felt like the right thing to do. They sit on a shelf on the bookcase in our bedroom, along with the teddy bear my mom made for me when I was four, the teddy bear I gave MB the first year we were dating to keep him company when I wasn't around, and the stuffed turtle MB gave me on the day we'd been going out for four months. I suspect they'll stay on the shelf even after the baby is born. They're a bit old for a rambunctious kid, and besides, he'll have his own toys to grow up with and to one day recall as the things he's had for the longest time.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

No sleep 'til Brooklyn *

It's becoming harder and harder to sleep in, and I am disgruntled. On the rare occasion I have a weekend day when I can sleep in with MB (like, well, today), I'd really like to take advantage, considering how likely it is that our sleeping-in days are soon to come to a very definite end. However, lately it's become a challenge. If I stay in bed too long, my knees wake me up with the old-lady aching. One morning it was so bad that I dreamed my knees were aching, then woke up to find that they were. They don't hurt during the day, but if I try to sleep too long they have something to say about it. I wake up every few hours to roll over, which is getting harder by the week, and of course I have to get up at least once a night to pee, and sometimes more if I try to sleep late. Oh, and when I wake up to pee, I'm always absolutely parched and have to get a drink of water, which just perpetuates the getting-up-to-pee thing. I've been told that sleeping patterns naturally change during the third trimester to prepare the mother for what is coming, but this is one test I'd rather not study for ahead of time.

In other pregnancy news, I'm apparently at the point where people feel it's okay to comment on my size. Up until now, the comments I've received have been overwhelmingly sweet and supportive. One Monday, three coworkers exclaimed over how cute I looked before 10 AM. I was also told over the course of things that I looked "tiny," that I didn't look as far along as I was, and that I was "all belly," which is a good compliment (at least to me). But the other day someone said, "You're going to be a house by the end!" (I am a house, dammit, a house for a baby!) and then yesterday someone asked when I'm due, and when I said "January" he said, "That's going to be a big baby!" I'm not horribly offended, but really...I'm not that big, and I only have 8 weeks left. At least, I don't think I'm that big. Of course, I know I'm going to get bigger, but that's sort of the whole idea, right? OH. And for some reason it bugs me when people accuse me of waddling. I AM NOT WADDLING YET, Y'ALL. Ask me again in another few weeks, but for now I maintain that I am still mostly non-waddly.

In other-other news, I had to take the three-hour glucose tolerance test on Friday. It wasn't so horrible, but I'm starting to get nervous about the results. Being on a restricted diet through Thanksgiving and Christmas while pregnant sounds like a special kind of torture, in addition to worries about being pushed toward an early induction for a "big baby" and the increased chances of developing diabetes later in life if you have GD. So, if you can spare a few fingers to cross, I'd appreciate it. I'm hoping my OB's office will call tomorrow with the results so I don't spend the whole week sweating it.

* This title would be really funny if we were planning to name our baby Brooklyn, wouldn't it? Don't get all excited, though, it's not a clue. Staten is a way better name for a boy anyway.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


( 1 )  This amuses me greatly:

(click through to read the table of contents)

( 2 )  FreshMD wrote a great post about knitting. I love the idea of simple handwork-type crafts "priming the well" of our creative resources, though I admit that my knitting is FAR from perfect...I started a new scarf today and only got to the fourth stripe before I did a color change on the wrong side and kept going for a bit without noticing.

( 3 )  Click here to see the most hilariously wonderful pictures of a really pissed-off great horned owl in a box (via Mimi Smartypants).

( 4 )  This is one of the happiest sights on Earth:

( 5 )  Here's a photo of my own dog being inexplicably clingy, curled up under my chair with his head on my feet:

( 6 )  Thrift stores are awesome. They always feel full of potential.

Yes, that is two racks of dickeys. There was a third one, but I couldn't fit it in the photo. I have been shopping at thrift stores for years, and I've never seen a dickey for sale before. So, which is a more bizarre explanation -- this thrift store somehow accumulated enough dickeys from various donations to fill three racks, or one individual amassed this impressive collection of pseudo-shirts and then donated them?

( 7 )  The Belly at 32 weeks:

We went out to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants last night and the manager was holding the door when we arrived. He showed up at our table mid-meal, congratulated us on the impending baby, and offered us free dessert in celebration. Well, hell yes!

Reading:  Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

Playing:  Hazards of Love by the Decemberists

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Danger! Danger!

From previous experience, I knew that working at the craft store during the holidays would be an exercise in willpower. There's just so much cute stuff available, starting with Halloween and going right on through Christmas.

I mean, come on. These are FULL OF WIN:

What I didn't know (but probably should have) is that working at a craft store while pregnant is also really dangerous. There are onesies in the iron-on aisle and wooden letters for spelling out babies' names on nursery walls and cute little toys that would be perfect for future Christmas stockings, and worst of all there are baskets. And as if regular baskets aren't bad enough, there are baby-themed baskets. How am I supposed to resist this??

So far, so good, but I cannot be held responsible for what happens when I start nesting.

Reading:  Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Playing:  Hazards of Love by the Decemberists

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The longest post I never thought I'd have to write

Kitters is moving out tomorrow. When we adopted him from our neighbor seven years ago, I assumed it was for good. I've never been very comfortable with the idea of getting rid of pets once they've been brought into the family (actually, I'm still not that comfortable with it).

We've had many, many good times. I really feel like when he moved in, MB and I became a family and not just a couple. Obviously having a cat is not equivalent to having a kid, but his presence made our apartment feel more like a home, and for a long time, he drew us together. We played with him, spoiled him, and laughed a lot. Looking back, I think the first two years were the best. We lived in our first shared apartment, a tiny one-bedroom, second-floor unit where Kitters liked to sit in the living room window and watch traffic and steadfastly ignored the yearly winter epidemic of mice. He was 18 months old when we got him and already had some bad habits. The neighbor who had raised him from kittenhood let him bite during play and out of spite, excusing it as just something that barn cats do. We were able to break him of the play biting habit, but the spite biting would eventually become a problem.

When we moved into our last apartment in May of 2004, it seemed like a great change for Kitters at first. He loved sitting in front of our ground-level sliding glass door, to the point where we called it the Kitty Big Screen. He liked roaming around the two big bedrooms and sleeping in front of the living room heat vent. Even when he was happy, though, he was always nippy. We positioned our couch in such a way that it created a "hall" from the front door to the mini-hall that led to the bathroom and the two bedrooms. There was a light switch for the lights above the "hall" area near the front door, and a second switch down by the bathroom. Every night when I went to bed, I had to make sure I turned the lights on, walked down the hall, and then shut them off just before I went into our bedroom. Otherwise, Kitters would chase me down the hall, batting at my pajama pants and nipping at my ankles. I never realized how used to it I was until he stopped doing it over a year later and I stopped having to dart down the hall and jump inside our doorway to avoid getting pinched by his teeth. Looking back, that is not normal. That is not the way a pet should behave, nor the way a pet owner should behave.

Over the time we lived there, his behavior steadily grew worse. If he asked to be fed and I refused because it wasn't time or I had something else I needed to do first, he would often follow me and bite me. On more than one occasion, he trailed me around for more than ten minutes, watching for an opportunity to bite me. If he got in the way and I pushed him off the bed, he'd sometimes come back five or ten minutes later and leap up onto the bed to bite my arm. I remember purposely putting my arm closer to the edge of the bed, so that if he did decide to bite me, he wouldn't bite my face (he never did that, to be fair). We still had a lot of good times and a lot of fun with him, but clearly the biting was not a good situation. And then, it got much worse.

Kitters hates other cats. Watching out his window, he saw lots of stray cats hunting in the grassy lot behind our building, and every time he did, it just ratcheted up his tension and anxiety. One day, He got into a hissing match through the glass with an orange tomcat that I had nicknamed The Nemesis because Kitters hated him so much. I stupidly opened the door a crack to try to chase the stray away, and Kitters went flying out into the small fenced-in yard. The other cat ran away and Kitters didn't seem interested in going over the fence, but I panicked. We lived at the corner of a busy street and the highway, and I was terrified that he'd jump the fence and take off and either be lost forever or be killed by a car. I picked him up to take him back inside, and he lashed out and bit me on the arm. At the time (and still, to a point), I excused it by saying that it was mostly my fault. I'd grabbed him from above without getting his attention first. He probably thought I was the other cat coming in to attack.

Unfortunately after that, the anxiety and redirected aggression became a serious issue. Something would set him off and he'd go into a weird trance state. His eyes would dilate until they were almost black, he'd make low growling noises, and he would stalk any human who made the mistake of coming into the area. The only thing that would snap him out of it was having something thrown toward him (not actually at him, but close). Once he bit MB on the thigh and then was circling back to attack again. Shouting didn't do anything, moving away didn't do anything. I threw a pillow at him, and finally grabbed a jar candle that was sitting on the end table and tossed it onto the carpet at his feet, finally waking him up.

And then, there was what I suppose was the last straw, an unprovoked attack on me in the summer of 2007. We tried Feliway, and it seemed to work for a little while, but that didn't last. I bought white tissue paper and covered the sliding glass door so that Kitters couldn't see out. We got him a prescription of kitty Prozac and endured teasing and eye-rolling from family. I doubt anyone really understood why we kept him, but he was our pet. I loved him, and I had committed to providing him a home.

When we moved into our house, he seemed to calm down. I think not having a ground-level window helped a lot. I also feel like he might've worked himself into such a constant state of anxiety that moving to a new home was truly the only way to break the cycle. His behavior has drastically improved in the last year and a half. Even though he still doesn't like the dog, he never has attacked him. He hasn't launched a full-out attack on MB or on me since moving here. I do admit, "does not tear pieces out of my legs anymore" is not exactly a ringing endorsement for a pet, but after what we went through with him in the past, we've been pretty pleased. The truth is, though, he's not really "cured" of his bad behavior. He stopped willingly taking his Prozac shortly after we moved, so I decided to let things ride. If he flipped out on us again, that would be his third strike. If he didn't, great. So far, he hasn't.

But some of his old crabby behavior has resurfaced recently. A few months ago, he demanded dinner when I got home from yoga class. Since MB had already fed him, I told him no and went to sit on the couch. He followed me and bit me on the knee. Then just a few mornings ago, he was biting and swatting at my iPhone cord on the bed, so I pushed him off onto the floor. Once I'd fallen back to sleep, he came back to jump up and bite my hand. There have been a few other minor bites as well. In a way, it doesn't really matter. MB had told me before we started trying to get pregnant that he wanted Kitters out of the house before we brought a baby into it. To him, the trust had been broken and nothing was going to fix it. I didn't necessarily feel the same way, but I did understand. And of course any baby we had would be his child as much as mine, and he had the right to refuse to let a potentially dangerous animal near his baby, right?

I spent several months pretty distraught over the prospect of having to get rid of Kitters. None of my friends would've been willing to take him, even if all the cat people didn't already have cats. They were all afraid of him. My parents might've been convinceable, but they have a cat and two dogs. I couldn't pass him on to a stranger with no warning of his behavior problems, but who would take him knowing what he's capable of? I was not willing to take him to a shelter, to sit miserable in a cage in a room full of cats until his time ran out and then be euthanized by strangers on a cold table. A shelter would be the easy way out for me, but would be horrible for him. I owe him a hell of a lot more than that. In my heart, I knew that if we couldn't find him a home, the only right thing to do would be to take him to the vet to be put to sleep. I didn't think about it too much, to be honest, because I couldn't bear it.

There's a happy ending, though. BoMB agreed to take him. BoMB persevered through months and months of Kitters hating him for no reason, finally winning him over. Then, when we lost power for a week last winter, BoMB took Kitters to live at his apartment until our electricity came back on. Ever since then, they've been buddies. When BoMB comes over, Kitters wants to sit on his lap and hang out with him. BoMB can brush him at least twice as long as I can. We really could not have asked for a better solution, and I will always, always be grateful.

I know the cat is a cantankerous, crusty pain in the ass, but dammit, he's my cantankerous, crusty pain in the ass and I love him. But I also know we're doing the right and responsible thing. We can't keep an unpredictable, sometimes-violent, 16-pound cat in a home with a tiny infant, not without isolating him. But my God, I'm going to miss him. I'm going to miss him so much.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Green book review & giveaway

This review is part of the Green Books campaign. Today 100 bloggers are reviewing 100 great books printed in an environmentally friendly way. Our goal is to encourage publishers to get greener and readers to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books. This campaign is organized by Eco-Libris, a a green company working to green up the book industry by promoting the adoption of green practices, balancing out books by planting trees, and supporting green books. A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available on the Eco-Libris website.

Back in September, I was offered a chance to receive a green book for review in conjunction with a campaign to raise awareness about environmentally-responsible books. Not only were many of the books about green topics, but most were printed on either recycled paper or paper made from sources certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Participants were allowed to pick a first and second choice from the list of 100 books, and I was selected to review my top choice, A Walk for Sunshine by Jeff Alt.

My book is printed in compliance with the green press initiative on FSC-certified 100% post-consumer content paper. Recycled paper is a cause close to my heart, having spent several years in college in an environmental club that devoted some time to the Sierra Student Coalition's campaign to convince major paper companies to adopt sustainable forest management practices and increase the use of post-consumer content in their products.

I also have some first-hand experience with how difficult it is to convince businesses (and schools) to use recycled paper. In her fantastic book Garbageland, author Elizabeth Royte relays her experiences related to the cause. She asked her publisher to consider printing the book on recycled paper using soy ink, but they were unable to accommodate her and produce what they considered a cost-effective product. Knowing this, I appreciate even more a book that is printed on the best paper possible for the environment.

A Walk for Sunshine is author Jeff Alt's memoir of his 1998 thru-hike of the 2160-mile Appalachian Trail. A lifelong lover of the outdoors, Alt conceived the idea of an AT thru-hike as a fundraiser for the Sunshine group home where his disabled brother Aaron has spent most of his life. Alt spent a year preparing, researching, and recruiting sponsors before undertaking the five-month hike from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Mount Katahdin, Maine. He would eventually raise $16,000 for the Sunshine home and inspire a yearly fundraising walk in Sunshine's hometown of Toledo, Ohio.

But the book is mostly about Alt's experiences on the trail, and it is a great adventure tale. From the skunk who curled up on his feet on a cold night in Georgia to the bear who charged him on a wooded stretch of trail in Maine, from the thru-hikers he bonded with to the civilians who provided him with "trail magic," Alt weaves a light-spirited, bighearted tale that kept me turning pages from beginning to end. An AT thru-hike is a bit of a Holy Grail of outdoor experiences, something many nature lovers dream about but never attempt, let alone complete. Alt is refreshingly honest about the physical and mental hardships of the trail, but never stops feeling grateful for the experiences he is having on his journey. I found his optimism and good nature enjoyable.

Alt is not afraid to poke gentle fun at himself, and even chooses a trail name based on a silly rookie mistake -- he dubs himself Wrongfoot after spending his first day on the trails with his arch supports in the wrong boots, resulting in blistered feet. The book moves along at a good pace, and short chapters make for easy reading. Each chapter is preceded by a map of the Appalachian Trail with an arrow marking Alt's progress, a nice detail that keeps the reader rooted in the geographical significance of this truly epic walk.

I enjoyed the book very much, even though it did make me feel a bit sheepish about my own somewhat brief encounter with the Appalachian Trail. In the spirit of sharing, I'd love to pass on my copy of A Walk for Sunshine. For a chance at it, go visit the cross-posted version of this review on my book blog and leave a comment there sharing a favorite hiking memory or a goal for something major you want to accomplish. For an extra entry, tweet with a link to the giveaway and leave a comment for me that includes your Twitter ID. I will accept entries with a valid email address (over there, not here!) until midnight on Sunday, November 15. US & Canada only, please!

Monday, November 09, 2009

An important philosophical difference

So, I'm watching last week's episode of Ghost Hunters and two of the investigators are heading toward the woods, reluctantly following a noise. It reminded me of an important philosophical difference that has come up on occasion between me and MB. When you're walking down a dark road at night, surrounded by woods, and you hear a noise off in one direction or the other, do you point your flashlight in the direction of the noise, or not?

I am of the opinion that it's probably just a small, harmless forest creature, but that if I were to see the flashlight shining off the eyes of said small, harmless forest creature, I might pee myself anyway so best not to look. I'm also of the opinion that if it's somehow not a small, harmless forest creature and is instead something large and carnivorous and impossible to outrun, I'd rather not know about it beforehand.

MB seems to be of the opinion that he'll shine the light over there now and deal with the consequences later. As you can imagine, this has the potential to cause a bit of a dispute, especially if there is only one light source between the two of us.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Nursery time! (phase one)

Before:  not terrible, but it doesn't really say "a cute baby lives here"

I took the advice of the bibliophile and evilducky and bought a paper tiger and liquid fabric softener (mixed 1:3 with hot water).

We learned right away that the wallpaper itself was basically completely impermeable, so we ended up pulling the paper layer off and then using the fabric softener to loosen the glue so we could scrape the backing off the walls.

MB and BoMB kicking ass:

Supervising us was quite exhausting:

Finally done! I'm hoping we can get the walls primed next week and then choose a color and paint two weeks from today, which is my next Sunday off.

We still have a lot of work to do!

And for fun, 31 weeks!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

A day in the life

>> 6:15 wakeup call
>> 8 dozen donuts
>> 15 Tiger Cubs
>> carload of recycling
>> two naps
>> hospital class
>> Thai food with friends
>> RPG prep session
>> little bit of laundry
>> baby gymnastics
>> blogging

Man, no wonder I'm tired. I did the first of three before-hours breakfast events at work today. It went really well, even though I had one of those annoying "I'm at work and nothing's going right" anxiety dreams right before waking up this morning. All the kids and parents seemed to have a good time, and they learned some neat stuff. Plus, there were donuts. LOTS of donuts. I really feel like I have developed a knack for coming up with strong programming at work, which is both fun and rewarding. I just have to hope it keeps paying off, I suppose.

Because I'm a nerd and a bit of a Type A personality, MB and I signed up for four different preparatory classes at the hospital. We've completed two weeks of a six-week Prepared Childbirth course, we took infant and child CPR, and today we had a basics of breastfeeding class. I wasn't sure how helpful it would be, since the mantra of breastfeeding tends to be that it's natural and your body will probably know what it's doing. We went over lots of good info, though, including how many wet and dirty diapers a baby should have each day (there was a color chart of what the poo should look like. MB studied it intently and pronounced it "very helpful," and I think he was right...though it was helpful in a trainwrecky don't want to look / can't look away kind of way), how to encourage a good latch, how long I should wait before giving the baby a bottle and trying to pump for milk, and even different ways to hold the baby while nursing. It's hard to say how much I'll remember in January, but I figure having the information and the notes from the class definitely can't hurt.

I'm still a bit shellshocked that we're almost through our list of classes. I signed up for them back around 20 weeks, because we were encouraged to enroll early in case they filled up and I needed to be able to choose dates that fit with my due date and my work schedule. I distinctly remember how foolish I felt back in August, sitting at my computer with barely a belly and selecting baby-prep classes for us to take. It all seemed abstract and far-off to the point of absurdity, really. And today, MB made a widget for his desktop with a tear-off calendar announcing that there are only 60 days remaining until "Hugo's Big Day." (Still lacking an actual name for our baby, we've lately taken to calling him Hugo.) Someone told me when we announced our pregnancy that I was facing the longest seven months of my life, but I feel like it's been the opposite. This year has slipped away so fast, and as happy as I will be to meet our little dude, I am having faint panicky clutching-at-straws feelings about how soon it's going to happen. We're excited, but OMG ARE WE READY? HOW WILL WE KNOW? And realistically even if we're not ready, it's too late now! I suppose, though, this is our greatest adventure, our leap from the precipice. At least we're doing it together, and I couldn't ask for a better companion for the journey.

Speaking of the passenger, I'm attempting to win a mei tai carrier so that he can ride around in style. If you're interested (or just curious), visit Hobo Mama and check it out. You don't have to have a baby to enter, so you could always consider entering to win on my behalf ;)

Friday, November 06, 2009

Thursday, November 05, 2009's a meme!

One of my favorite parts of doing NaBloPoMo is being exposed to new blogs and new things that other bloggers recommend. I thought it might be fun to make up a meme to facilitate discovery of new blogs and new things.

To play along, post on your blog listing your favorite books, movies, and music from this year. It doesn't matter which order you put them in, just choose three from one genre, two from another, and one from the last. Leave me a link in the comments so I can stop by and read your list!

The Late, Lamented Molly Marx (review here)

Homer's Odyssey:  a Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life With a Blind Wonder Cat by Gwen Cooper (review here)

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

500 Days of Summer

Away We Go

Hazards of Love by the Decemberists

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Go to your happy place

MB and I started our six-week Prepared Childbirth class last week, and while I was somewhat disappointed that our class isn't going to involve a knitted blue-and-white striped uterus like Jonniker's did, I think it's going to be interesting. I really like our teacher, who endeared herself to me during the first class by calling the early-stage embryos in her birth atlas "critters." She doesn't seem to have a huge agenda of medicated birth vs. natural birth, either, which is a relief. A friend of mine was told at her first birth class, "This is all you need to know:  say 'I want my epidural!' and you'll be fine."

Some of the stuff we're asked to do for homework is going to be a little bit goofy, I think, but I appreciate the general spirit of the thing if that makes sense. At each class she gives us a few pages of homework from the booklet, we talk about some aspect of pregnancy / birth, and then she has us sit on the floor and learn a few simple exercises. This week we practiced relaxation and visualization, so that was a big win. Almost like mini-naptime! Before we practiced relaxing, she taught us about kegels.

She pointed out that Dr. Kegel wants us ladies to do kegels until the baby is born, and then to keep doing them for the rest of our lives. "Or," she added, "at least feel guilty about not doing them for the rest of your lives." HA. She told us that kegels are especially nice since we can do them anywhere. One woman she talked to, for instance, kegeled any time she was up changing a diaper. Someone else kegeled while washing dishes or folding laundry. "I've even heard of a woman who kegeled at red lights," she said, "but that one bothers me, to be honest." I expected her to say something about unsafe driving habits, but instead: "It bothers me because now when I'm at a red light, I'm looking at all the other drivers, wondering who is doing kegels." And now the rest of us will be, too.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Because this year I might actually start early. Well, early-ish.

Every year I tell myself I'll start my shopping and crafts for Christmas early, and every year I'm scrambling to get done a few days before. Last year it really backfired -- I got some kind of zombie death virus on Christmas night and didn't get the ornaments I was making finished in time for our annual Thanksmas party two nights later. This time around I have a few gifts that I've picked up here and there, and since we're keeping Christmas very low-key and low-cost this year, I'm probably in pretty good shape as far as shopping. Ornaments, though...I meant to start them in early Fall since I knew November and December would be hectic, but of course I haven't. I don't even know what I want to make this year, so I can't start planning.

The first year we did a homemade-gift exchange at Thanksmas, I made beaded snowflakes:

(I'm sure I have a picture somewhere taken after I trimmed the extra wire off, but I'm too lazy to go find the CD of photos from that year :P )

The second year, I made tiny paper lanterns out of Christmas scrapbooking paper:

(These were popular, I think!)

Last year, I made but didn't finish these:

I was thinking about making birds from this pattern, but all in red felt. But are red birds actually Christmas-y? I always see cardinal ornaments at the stores for Christmas, but I'm not sure why.

Anyway, internet, I turn to you. Please hit me with your favorite easy-to-make but nice Christmas crafts! I'd prefer to do another ornament, and it can't be super, super expensive since the point is to save money as well as make something handmade. And I'd really like to not end up on craftastrophe for my efforts ;)