Thursday, September 29, 2011

to tide you over

Gentle Readers, I have pictures and Mason-related posts in the pipeline, but I've not yet resumed my normal level of productivity. (Will I ever?) I've started a digital baby book for Mason, which is essentially another blog, that will contain more pictures and details about our son than you could ever care about. Once I get some momentum going with the first few entries, which I hope will be within the next week, I'll share the link and you can follow that blog, too, if you wish.

I'm working on an entry that details Mason's birth story, which I will post here as soon as it's ready. Stay tuned.

So many of you have asked to see more pictures. Here are a few that I hope will tide you over for now.

I have yet to capture Mason's sweet smile on camera, but here's my best effort thus far. This picture was taken as we were leaving the hospital--his looks have already changed so much since then!

Here he is, several days later, with his eyes open. It's hard to see in the picture, but he has dark blue eyes, like his mama. We'll see if they stay that way.

Mason has more hair than what you can see in pictures. His hair is mostly blond, with some sandy brown pieces. In certain light, or when he's next to Brad, I sometimes think I see rust highlights, but that could be wishful thinking. He's definitely not a true redhead like his daddy is, but that's okay. We still think he's pretty cute anyway!

From the front, he looks rather bald, but notice the plethora of hair on the back of his head. In the picture below, I think the hair on the back of his head looks similar to Brad's hair color, but again, that could be wishful thinking.

More to come soon!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

September recipe challenge: Tarte Aux Cerises, Flambee

Don't worry, Gentle Readers. I completed this challenge and wrote this blog post long before Mason arrived. I'm ambitious, but not ambitious enough to attempt a recipe challenge with an eleven-day-old! I'm working on some Mason-related entries and pictures to post here soon. Stay tuned!

I went back to Julia this month and made the French version of cherries jubilee. The most time-consuming portion involved removing the stems and pits from the fresh cherries. Making the crust, custard, and filling, and assembling the dish weren't too bad. I made this dessert from start to finish in one afternoon--much faster than the typical two days these recipe challenges have been taking lately.

This challenge seemed to go smoothly, and I was excited...

straight from the broiler

poised and ready to see a show
the warmed cognac carefully poured on top of the dessert failed to light! I was so disappointed. I longed to see this dish engulfed in flames. I had even turned off the lights in the kitchen to make the show seem even more spectacular.

I have no idea what I did wrong. Maybe I warmed to cognac too much and there was no alcohol left to burn?

To drown my sorrows, I piled on the vanilla ice cream, which is a must for any warm dessert.

still tasty, even without the flames

Monday, September 26, 2011

we made it!

We celebrated Mason's one-week birthday by swinging by the National Book Festival on Saturday morning for about five minutes--long enough to take a picture and pick up a poster to frame and hang in his room. A very nice parking enforcement officer allowed us to park illegally right near the festivities after I told him that my one-week-old son needed to make a brief appearance at his first book festival.

Outings are still exhausting for us right now, so we all needed a nap after this trip.

When I first mentioned the book festival back in April, and whether I would be able to attend, a friend of mine commented that if I wasn't able to go, I probably wouldn't miss it at all. Diane, you were right! I didn't hear any authors speak this year and I definitely wasn't able to camp out there all day like I had done every other year. And I didn't care one bit. But, Lord willing, I am looking forward to attending the festival next year with a one-year-old in tow, even if it means I will spend my day in the children's area instead of visiting my favorite authors.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

quick update

Gentle Readers, thanks so much for your kind comments, emails, texts, phone calls, etc. since Mason's birth! I cannot believe four days have already passed and I have not responded to one person yet--that's not like me at all. Please know that I truly appreciate your prayers and well wishes. I'll come down to earth eventually, but right now I'm consumed with my baby's sweet, chubby cheeks.

I'm finding the physical recovery from giving birth much worse than labor and delivery itself. My days are consumed with Mason's needs first, and then attending to whichever part of my body is in the most agony at the moment. Brad is a very hands-on daddy and hubby, and he is my lifesaver and such a blessing to me. I knew he'd be an involved daddy from the beginning, but he's far surpassed my expectations. We're cherishing every moment of this week we have at home alone together with our baby before Brad returns to work soon. We're having so much fun learning how to be a family of three!

Emotionally, I am a complete wreck, but thus far, 100% of my tears thus far have been joyful ones. I have never cried this much in my life, for any reason, but especially not for happy ones. I know that the tiredness, physical discomfort, and stress will catch up with me eventually, and I'll shed plenty of non-joyful tears, but for now, Brad and I are happily weepy on a daily basis. God is so good. We have a baby! It really happened! Mason is the child that God intended for us, and we could not be more overjoyed or thankful for him.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

happy birthday

Our sweet chunky monkey has arrived and we adore every ounce of him! Mason McNeil was born at 12:10 p.m. today, Saturday, September 17th. He weighed nine pounds, six ounces, and is 21 inches long. He is healthy and adorable and such an obedient baby. It's been a long journey to become parents, but Brad and I are so grateful to God for carrying us through the many ups and downs and for giving us our beautiful son.

I can't wait to share more stories and pictures in the coming days! Stay tuned . . .

Friday, September 16, 2011

happy friday

My fellow Twihards may have already seen this by now, but if not, here you go!

I can't wait for this midnight showing on November 18th! Who's with me?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

fun times

Nearly every day I take off work is consumed with errands, chores, appointments, house projects, etc. It's my own fault, but I rarely take a day off to just loaf around or do something fun. But maternity leave has been all fun thus far, and the baby's not even here yet! The uncertainty surrounding Baby's arrival forced us to complete most of the errands, chores, and household tasks in advance, leaving me with blissful, rare, free time to relax and enjoy myself before the chaos really begins.

On Monday, I went for a run/walk, toured a daycare (okay, kind of a chore/errand), and went to see The Help, which I loved!

I usually don't like the movie version of a book I enjoyed, but in this case, I thought the movie was very well done and true to the book.

On Tuesday, I went to the National Arboretum and walked 2-3 miles, but didn't even cover a third of the area. For years, my friend has been encouraging me to visit this hidden gem in DC, and I'm thrilled I finally did because I LOVED it! How could I resist this?

Or this?

I loved the Capitol Columns.

I walked through the azalea section to climb to the top of Mount Hamilton to glimpse the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument through the break in the trees. I can't wait to return in the spring to see the azaleas in full bloom!

Yesterday, I mostly walked and ran a tiny bit to the Washington Monument and back. But, I had forgotten that the monument was damaged in the earthquake, and I couldn't get anywhere near it, so I walked around it. Also, I saved the running portion for the end of the route so I would be near home, but running after walking five miles in the heat was grueling--I made it about six blocks (off and on) before I called it quits. Today's plan, assuming my legs have recovered, includes a seven-mile loop to the Lincoln Memorial. And this weekend, if Baby still hasn't arrived, I may walk the eight-mile loop to see the new Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial. All of this walking should pay off, right? Right??

I'm taking suggestions of activities for next week, preferably labor-inducing ones, should I need them...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

happy due date!

Praise the Lord that Baby and I made it to this day, Baby's due date, September 14th! Baby, you are allowed to come anytime after 2 p.m., after the congressional hearing that Daddy is in charge of today concludes. Thank you for being such an obedient baby thus far. Now that we're giving you the green light to come on, we'll see how obedient you really are!

I am celebrating this day with a long walk and possibly a little running that will hopefully spur on labor soon, now that we're officially ready for Baby to arrive. I've missed long runs on the National Mall these past nine months, and I plan to make the 5.5 mile loop from our house to the Washington Monument and back this morning. Don't worry. I'll take water and snacks with me, and even some cash in case I get too tired and need to catch a cab home (or to the hospital!).

I've run and walked regularly throughout this pregnancy, but I've kept the distances short, never farther than three miles at a time. Now, I will increase the distance each day in earnest. If today's outing doesn't send me into labor, tomorrow's plan involves seven miles to the Lincoln Memorial and back. It's like marathon training all over again, just on a condensed schedule. Let's hope Baby arrives before I feel compelled to repeat my 10+-mile routes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

the winner

both copies, now well worn
Brad finished reading The Count of Monte Cristo on Saturday! He beat Baby. I have never seen my husband more thrilled (or relieved) than when he slapped the book shut, announced he had finished, and placed the book with the other "completed" (completed by me, that is) classics on our bookshelf. I'd forgotten how much Brad needs a major deadline in some situations.

We both enjoyed the book and are glad we read it. And now that we've both finished, we can say that. Brad has new appreciation for my reading War and Peace last year. The Count is the longest book he's ever read.

I don't know if we'll ever do another married reading challenge again, but if we do, we need to select a shorter book and make sure that a firm deadline is on the horizon.

Monday, September 12, 2011

chunky monkey

Brad and I are expecting a huge baby with a chubby tummy and a big head. Almost every mama I know has told me how her 36-week ultrasound was way off (in either direction) regarding the baby's projected size and weight. And at first I expected the same thing. But I've had three ultrasounds in the past five weeks (34 weeks, 36 weeks, and 39 weeks) to check the baby's position (34 weeks) and size (all three, but especially the last two ultrasounds) and the findings have been consistent. Our baby's nearly off the charts for weight, head size, and thickness of abdomen. 

My siblings and I were all heavy babies with big heads. My sister and I each weighed over nine pounds. My brother, two weeks late, weighed 11 pounds, 13 ounces. My OB said birth size and weight can be hereditary, so Brad's and my baby seems to be taking after my side of the family. The encouraging news is that my mom, who is built like me except slightly more petite, birthed us all vaginally (and I'm 99% sure she didn't have drugs). There is hope!

Strangely, I haven't gained an excess of weight. And although some people call me fat and my belly is round and solid, my OB tells me my tummy measures small. I may not have intuition about anything else, like the baby's sex, for example, but I just know that this baby is a chunky monkey (as I've affectionately called him/her the past few weeks). Baby feels gargantuan (and strong!) in my tummy.

Even expecting a large baby with a big head, I'm honestly not worried about the delivery. My goal is to get the baby out as safely for both of us as possible, and I trust that the Lord will provide in that way. Except for knowing I want an epidural, I don't have a birth plan, and my heart is not set on a particular approach, which I've heard is a good attitude to have as deliveries often don't go according to plan.

Instead of feeling frightened or horrified upon learning the baby's projected size, I found the news strangely endearing--my heart swelled upon hearing the estimates at week 34 and it's only exploded since then. I was a large baby, so I have an affinity for the chubby ones. And most importantly, once again, this baby is proving himself/herself to be obedient. Consistent and good growth and development is an answer to many prayers. Baby has grown the best he/she could and has supposedly done a great job at it! I've never really understood why some people treat huge newborns like freaks of nature. They're strong and healthy, and who can fault a babe, or the Lord, for that?

I haven't exchanged or given away any newborn-sized clothing yet, just in case all three ultrasounds are wrong, but I also haven't removed the tags. Something tells me that our sweet chunky monkey may bypass those teeny clothes and jump right into the next size up.

Friday, September 9, 2011

last day

Today is my last day of work for 2011! Lord willing, Baby will arrive safe and sound and remain alive and healthy, and I'll return to work on January 3, 2012. I'm incredibly thankful for plenty of weeks of banked sick and annual leave--there are perks to working at the same institution for 11 years--and the generosity of my boss that allow me to take an extended leave.

I am thrilled that Baby has cooperated by allowing me to work through this day. Let's hope this obedience continues after he or she arrives!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

author schedule

The National Book Festival has officially exploded: two days of literary goodness and new pavilions. The festival already drew over 100,000 people annually--the crowds will be insane this year!

The author schedule is up. I am always humbled by how many authors I haven't read or have never heard of. I recognize fewer names on the list this year, and I have yet to study their bios, so I've probably read a few more of them than I think.

I doubt I'll make it to many, if any, author presentations this year, but, Lord willing, Baby will be here safe and sound by then, and maybe Brad can drive us down to the mall and we can hop out to take a quick picture and pick up the souvenir bag. The book festival's poster would make a great addition to the wall across from the bookshelves in Baby's room.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

race to the finish

Suddenly, Brad is making major progress on The Count of Monte Cristo! I have renewed hope that our married reading challenge will conclude this year after all. As of this morning, he only has 78 pages to go. He's trying to finish before the baby arrives.

We'll see who wins.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

circus act

I have never felt more like a circus act, or should I say a sideshow, than during the last two months of pregnancy. Especially recently, people's comments about my physical appearance have snowballed out of control. I can't walk down the street, check out at a store, or even interact with people I know without someone commenting on how I look these days. It's like they've never seen a pregnant person before and I am a freak of nature. I don't recall ever making comments like what's been said to me recently to other pregnant people, especially strangers, and it baffles me that so many people lack filters.

Many people fall all over themselves to tell me their opinion about whether they think I'm having a boy or a girl, even after I tell them I'm not interested in hearing their opinion. (Yes, I've grown bold and said that multiple times... it doesn't seem to deter people from telling me anyway.) What kills me though is how adamant most people are about it... like they really know, which of course they don't. And the count is about 50/50 thus far. For each person who insists we're having a boy, there's another person who is equally as adamant that the baby is a girl.

The clerks ringing up my purchases at stores have transitioned from asking, "When is the baby due?" to "How many days left?" Last week, one of my darling students told me I looked like I was about to burst. The winning comment of the week occurred this past Saturday as Brad and I walked home from lunch at a newish place in our neighborhood. An old woman sat in her wheelchair on the sidewalk in front of the building where she lived. Brad and I strolled by, and we both heard her say, "Looking fat today..." and then she hollered after us, "When's the baby coming?"

We ignored her.

And for the record, old woman, my chin and chest are fuller than normal and my ankles are slightly swollen (only as of week 38, but I'm not sporting cankles, yet). Other than those expansions, I am all belly--a round, firm, and compact one at that.  

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Ten years ago today, Brad and I got engaged! It feels like a lifetime ago and just yesterday, all at the same time.

Do you remember the date you got engaged? If so, do you and your spouse celebrate it or even acknowledge it?