Sunday, September 26, 2010

International blackmail!

So, Pat is a Fulbright scholar. In 2004-2006 we went to Peru to complete his dissertation research project. Upon our return, things fell through during the analysis and write-up phases, and he eventually dropped out ABD ... following in my footsteps (except I wasn't yet ABD; I was in the dissertation proposal phase when my committee chair told me she was not interested in my project, and I decided I was not about to spend another five years trying to reconstitute my committee out of unwilling and laissez-faire profs, after waiting for her arrival and then for her help for, quite literally, years.) We are understandably a little bitter and sensitive about the outcome of so much invested time, effort, blood, sweat, and tears -- even though I mean it when I say "I regret nothing."

The co-director of Pat's project has serious problems with the National Institute of Culture in Peru. Because the INC keeps raising objections to the final project report (on account of analysis and write-up not being full, among other things, like the project design that they okayed in the first place!), Carmen cannot work in her designated field until they sign off this project. This is understandably a source of despair and stress in both hemispheres.

Carmen sends letters cryptically stating (some of) what the INC wants. Pat sends back revisions and data, and tries to call her at the (always dead, because stolen-or-sold-or-something) cell phone numbers she sometimes forwards. We have never reached her at a phone number she's given us. Three times, these revisions and data have been accompanied by money to meet Carmen's demands, because traveling to Lima and greasing the hands of bureaucrats doesn't come free. Then, there are months or years of silence, until, SURPRISE! A new and more plaintive letter, and/or rumors through colleagues who are still working in the field there, demanding different conditions be met.

Kafka had no notion of the dimension of frustration that this process has assumed. It is off the chart. We are afraid to travel to Peru because we honestly do not know if we'd be nabbed, right off the plane; it cannot be set right from afar by us, because the INC ignores all our correspondence; sporadic demands for information that Carmen KNOWS does not exist, and for more money, continue to fall upon us ... usually at the worst possible time.

A few months ago, Carmen got former colleagues to contact us on her behalf. Tired of this process or simply incompetent beyond belief, she has badmouthed Pat to every official and friend we know who works in the area; appalled friends contacted us, tried to distance themselves from our reputation, and asked us to please please for the love of God help poor innocent Carmen.

Pat submitted everything she asked (as he has done every time) and explained where and why information didn't conform with INC expectations (often having to do with Carmen's ... eccentric record-keeping or ... liberal interpretation of instructions, but even more often having to do with an approved research design that does not match regulations made after the fact.)

Months of silence.

Tonight, a demand for $1,300 with an itemized bill for some seriously inefficient bureaucratic costs and re-studies of the site involving graphic artists and topographers (no receipts, and we never agreed to any of this nonsense) with an implicit threat that "people [she] talked to at the INC" believe she could have been charging him a retainer all this time... but she's not asking for that, yet. But she can't work yet, she says, so she needs our help...

We don't want to keep shelling out. We can't. We don't have the money. We have a baby due in 2 months. And it's all such incredible bullshit. We are furious, alarmed, and depressed. When will this woman stop asking for money? Will she blackmail us forever? Is this, in fact, blackmail? Or what?

Anyway, yuck.

Life isn't all lemons. But oh, how I wish I knew how to make lemonade out of Carmen's predicament. I like her and I want her to be happy, free to work as she pleases, and prosperous ... but I can't be responsible for her forever. The money has definitively run out. What now, what now?

In more positive news:

1) I finished knitting that bloody annoying denim blue soaker which has been inhabiting my needles for, what, 2 months? and can get on to more interesting knitting. Yay!

2) Pat's building his guitar.

3) ... and he already built the crib that we bought for baby. :) OH MY GOD WE HAVE A CRIB!!!

Sending wishes for love, tranquility, and hopefully prosperity your way. Hope you don't have any nasty surprises waiting in the wings, as we always seem to.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Not my most useful of weeks so far...

I'm having more discomfort -- it's hard to sleep, eat, or concentrate. So I haven't been at my most effective. Even so, I hope to have a whole stack of things done by the end of the week...

1) Applying to jobs. The EDD is demanding that I come in next Tuesday to prove to them that I am upholding my end of the deal by searching for work. I contend that I'm doing a better job upholding my end than they are doing upholding theirs, as they still owe me 3 weeks' compensation (that they will never pay) due to I-think-deliberate-but-could-be-thinking-like-a-conspiracy-theorist paperwork snafus at crucial times, and 4 weeks' compensation as a result of general inefficiency. As I sink into further debt as a result of their ineptitude, it's nice to know that they feel they cannot trust me. Hey! EDD! I've got an idea -- HIRE ME! I applied, oh, 10 months ago... never heard anything back from you, though, after the 4 hour test and application process. So I'm documenting the job search, which is a weird thing to do after months and months of "I send the resume and wait. Nobody ever responds." Fortunately for me, 4 opportunities arose within 2 weeks, and I am qualified for all of them. Unfortunately for me, at least one of them was an online spam factory which managed to send me 11 emails in 1 hour, trying to get me to commit to financial aid to go to their pet diploma mill. D'oh!

2) Fixing up the house. There are lots of projects that need doing, and having caught another cough (I'm better now mostly), I also let the maintenance slide. Just catching up with dishes and laundry may do me in... whether I get to any bigger projects will be a mystery. Pat has been a dynamo getting things done, but I have more time and a backlog of my own...

3) Sewing. I have 8 diapers pinned, 2 sewn-but-awaiting-snaps, and 4 cut out but not pinned. I need to sew at least 8 more, and a raft of fleece soakers and stuff, and postpartum pads and nursing pads (those sooner than later as I have discovered that I am a mammal).

4) Getting approved/registered to donate cord blood. This is a hell of a process, involving a 20 page application that I have to fill out and then get my doctor involved with filling out. By two weeks from now. I'm trying!

5) Getting immunized against Pertussis. Thanks to the hammerheads who won't immunize their kids because they think Jenny McCarthy is a doctor, we have a full blown epidemic here. I cannot count on herd immunity protecting me or my child. Tomorrow there is a clinic for this, and I have the Dr.'s go-ahead.

6) Cooking at least a little. I would like to make some quality food for us! We've been eating so much junk.

But here's that diaper bag picture I promised you. It's pretty enough that I am still cruising on cheer from having it done...

...and I DID apply for jobs and have slogged through SOME paperwork and I've got my knitted soaker halfway into the decreases, which means there is thank God an end in sight to this thing being on my needles, and this morning I even made breakfast from scratch -- polenta and apple butter, carbolicious! So I just need to hang in there.

Hugs, and I will try to find time to post something thought-provoking that isn't just about me being busy and crabby. But I don't guarantee it, because I AM busy and crabby these days. :) May your days be filled with love and only the good kind of busy.

Monday, September 13, 2010


We went to our game last night, and when we came back, about 11:30, we went immediately to bed to wind down and go to sleep. I had been uncomfortable for hours; the baby had been slinging himself around and changing position, and has perfected the left turn signal. When I lay down, I was shocked to discover that my bump was several inches lower than before (earlier today, the bump was 3 inches or so above the top of my navel and sloped gently from there -- after the shift, the bump was below the bottom of the navel.) The bump was ROCK HARD compared to its usual firm-but-not-hard status, and the baby was evidently in a really different position. I had had a couple contractions before 2 p.m. but none since.

After verifying that the baby was kicking, doing a couple "cat-cow" exercises and a few pelvic tilts (all of which help to reposition the kid if he's doing crazy things), I fell asleep. But by 4:45, I was up again. Same discomfort, same hard belly, same low slung bump. Pat was up having an attack of AIP and restless; he confirmed that something was new, and advised me to call the doctor on call to get reassurance.

So I did! And the doctor advised me to swing by the hospital for tests, as he couldn't be sure over the phone.

They wheeled me up from the E.R. to the maternity ward and put me in a labor & delivery room with my name on the door. The sweetest nurse ever (Janell) came to reassure me that she was glad I'd come in, having seen my file, and put me on a fetal monitor. She let us know the baby's heart is a "rock star" and that he is doing just fine, and that this just seems to be a ruder entry than most into the comforts of late pregnancy.

Donuts for breakfast, so the carbs can help Pat avoid a resurgence of the attack. And now I am mighty sleepy. But so grateful the baby is okay, and that we have certainly picked the right hospital, and that we are well and evidently not crazy paranoid to have checked on our little one.

This morning we saw cattle headed out to get their breakfasts, steers practice-raping one another, whole murders of crows flapping around against the graphite-gray sky, a deer, many black-faced white sheep, scrub jays, and all the other early morning wildlife. Driving was a dream, both on the highway and the back roads. The world is so beautiful when washed by relief.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I'd post pictures, but we ate it too fast: summer squash soup

I just improvised something delicious, and thought I'd share. We devoured this stuff -- which ended up very thick and creamy and chowder-y.

Summer Squash Soup

For soup:
3 summer squash, such as yellow crookneck squash, finely chopped
1 ear of corn, cut off the cob and scraped for "milk"
4 cups water
1 package of "semillas" -- Mexican, squash-seed shaped pasta
your favorite stock powder or cubes to season the water to taste
powdered chipotle chili, to taste (I used perhaps 1/2 teaspoon)
powdered bay leaves, to taste (I used perhaps 1/4 teaspoon) -- or a bay leaf!
powdered cumin, to taste (I used perhaps as much as a teaspoon)
1/2 cup milk

For topping:
1/3 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons white onion, freshly minced
1 - 2 tablespoons of your favorite spicy sauce (I used homemade sriracha that Pat made last week)

Cook 2/3 of squash with water, whole bay leaf if using, and bouillon until tender, then remove bay leaf and puree into a uniform liquid with immersion blender. Add uncooked squash, corn, pasta, and seasonings to liquid and cook, stirring until pasta has cooked (otherwise it will stick fiercely). When pasta and vegetables are tender, remove from heat and let cool a few minutes. Pasta will continue to "plump up" and thicken the soup. I added the milk at the last moment before serving.

Stir together topping ingredients and put a spoonful or two on top of each serving. You could get fancy and dress this up with cilantro if you felt like it -- we kept it simple.


Hey, I finished my diaper bag! Pictures later this week or so. It turned out really pretty!

Oh, and another oh hey! Hey, that 24-hour collection for a kidney function test? Predictably, my kidney function is fine. Nice to know, though.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Diapers and stuff so far...

I'm in the process of sewing four more "snail shell" type diapers made with the Shar's Newborn pattern, as described in an earlier post (they're cut out and everything) and am making this adorable diaper bag in shades of deep teal with lemon yellow lining, and a lemon yellow, teal, and aqua floral fabric for contrast. I am making the straps longer because I am of a ... robust build and like long straps. Here are my fabrics, tumbled willy-nilly on the ironing board.

So far, this is my progress on the baby's "stash" (I took inventory for Emily and as a "state of the union"):

Newborn size:
4 snail shell diapers, in progress
4 snail shell diapers, completed

6 Darling Diapers pattern diapers, made as all-in-ones with a fleece outer

4 knitted soakers

Small size:
1 knitted soaker, denim blue, in progress
1 knitted soaker, yellow, finished but in the "level up" box for when baby is bigger
I am also going to tie-dye 8 second-hand prefolds to hide some permanent stains


Diaper bag, in progress
16 diaper doublers, in microfiber-backed flannel

32 cloth baby wipes, in terrycloth-backed flannel

a few hats (and more to come)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Baby fever!

I've sewn 4 diapers this week. Doesn't sound like much, but they are pretty neat diapers, with a waterproof liner (they still need official "stuffers" so that I'm not wedging a ginormous prefold in there).

I am sewing a diaper bag. Oh, it's going to be pretty, but I hate cutting out fabric and I am currently taking a break in the middle of THAT miserable process.

I am researching donation of cord blood. It's a bitch to donate it to the public banks, whereas it is really easy to bank it privately. Let me give you some links in case you want to replicate my research -- which you will have to if you want to donate, because the public banks are on a by-case basis: or have lists of public banks in case your hospital, like mine and the vast majority, are not collection spots. If your donation can be accepted, they will send a collection kit for you to the hospital. (My doctor strongly approves, so I suspect that IF I am accepted, he'll make it easy.)

Tonight is my first childbirth preparedness class. I need to bring two pillows and a snack and something to drink and notebooks and pens. Squeee!!!

Tomorrow is one of my every-two-week checkups with my obstetrician. I'll get the results of that ridiculous 24-hour urine test. I am actually starting to worry about pre-eclampsia, despite having zero symptoms.

Next Tuesday, I get to see the baby -- we have an ultrasound scheduled. I don't think we are apt to pay for a 3D/4D ultrasound, because we both agree they don't look like much even though they kinda do, and we are so close to seeing him in person.

TOMORROW IS WEEK 30 AND I HAVE ONLY 10 MORE WEEKS TO GO (or however long the baby feels like being there). OhmyGod.

Night before last, we SAW the baby kick. I had been sitting back in my chair because I noticed I could feel separate little limbs (feet!) with my hand, pressed against my tummy up above my belly button (which is a freaky place for the uterus to be). Pat had felt it too and was looking moist around the eyes. My hand was still caressing little feet, when it got KICKED off my belly, and when I looked in astonishment, I could see those kicks making my whole abdomen jump. It's the only time so far,* but Pat and I were shocked and delighted.

He's been dancing around me any time I'm in range, like I'm some kind of fertility tiki, running his hands along my pregnant belly and breasts and grinning and giggling like a shaman (or a fool). I am not only not ashamed to resemble the Venus of Willendorf, but feel privileged to resemble her -- I feel huge and sexy and vital and potent and magical! (And resemble her I do... except I have features instead of hair or a mask, and I am pleased to announce that I still have hands and feet.) No jiggle or sag offends my critical eye now; I praise them all for doing their jobs.

My best friend, who will be my doula, has intimated that she is going to knit me a soaker. This is a mission of mercy; I am sick to death of knitting them even though I enjoy knitting. They are too easy, and easy is boring. (I know very well that all of this will change.)

Even my 6-year-old friend has baby fever: all of her dolls and paper dolls have had babies now. It's official... being pregnant is the coolest with kids. She delights in asking, "how many people are in this room" and being scrupulously sure to count the baby. And she is excited to know that he's a little boy; she says, when he's as big as she is now, or maybe 4, she will teach him how to play games... but she soberly informs me that she'll be older then.

*ETA: baby decided to make a liar of me by doing it again as soon as I posted this. Yay baby! Okay, back to cutting out fabric and hoping he can't learn cuss words in utero. :)

Monday, September 6, 2010


I've only finished two of this particular pattern, but I have 8 others in various Fordist stages of construction... as I prefer to assembly line things together.

This style of diaper is called the "Snail Shell" diaper and was invented by one of the smart cookies at Diaper Sewing Divas (requires membership, free) -- so a big shout out to "Mad Skills" for her tutorial. I modified the Shar's Newborn pattern to this style, since other people on the BabyCenter diaper sewing forum really like it on newborns. The Snail Shell features a waterproof elasticized inner layer that holds the absorbent pad, and a fitted outer of any fabric preferred. It can be cute, unbulky, and relatively inexpensive to construct.

Sewing PUL (the waterproof stuff) and FOE (fold-over elastic, used on swimwear, lingerie, and diapers) is a special nightmare. However, I won't need too many of these in each size... because unless his mess manages to escape the waterproof layer, I can just change the absorbent pad when baby gets here. Woohoo!

Saturday, September 4, 2010


I went to the chiropractor on Thursday and ... what do you know, he really helped the pubic symphysis pain! As in, what used to be torture (standing up, walking, especially rolling over in bed) is now simple, and I can lift my knees when I walk again instead of shuffling. I still have the rather fetching waddle I'd developed, but it now includes OMG I can move my hips! Yay! And this seems to have scooted DOWN the baby a little, with less pain right along the front of my uterus and which mutes his movements from gut-busting punches to constant thumping and wiggling. I think this is how it's supposed to be; the alternative would have meant we went extinct during evolution, as a declawed housecat could have eventually taken me down and worried me to death. Really, I am feeling much less pathetic.

The reason I went is that I read in a "hey fat ladies, watch out for unnecessary interventions" type website that fetal malposition is one of the main reasons for the high rate of C-sections among obese mothers. They recommended chiropractic care as something that can help prevent malpositions. Being as how I want to avoid C-section complications, I am all for it... but since I have Ehlers Danlos syndrome, I have always avoided chiropractors because manipulating my loose joints (including spinal joints) is not the best idea in the world. Usually. This time seemed okay although it left me with inexplicably horrible butt bruises.

I'm feeling much less pathetic, despite having caught Pat's once-per-quarter "teacher's crud." I can't really medicate, but I can make do with hard candy (honestly, although I can have cough drops they make me feel loathsomely queasy right now) and garlic honey (it makes acceptable cough syrup) and by gargling warm salt water when I feel gross enough to make it seem like a preferable option.

I bought used prefold diapers from a diaper service, and to my pleasure, only seven of the 2 dozen retain any yucky looking stains (we let rust stains from pins pass.) We're going to tie-dye the gross-looking ones, so it's win/win! Fun project in the future.

And... really REALLY good news yesterday. I had been scheduled for the childbirth prep class at my hospital Right! Up! To! The! Minute! as in the last of the 5 sessions was actually to take place on my due date. Buuuuuuuuuuuut when the hospital called me to POSTPONE the class for a week, they caught me on stressful ol' Thursday and I whined explosively at them and they sought an accommodation and got me into a very full earlier class -- next Wednesday! Yayyyyyyy!!! So I should know what I'm doing before I'm actually doing it. At least as well as anyone does who is not surrounded by other people doing it, first. :)

Mashed potatoes and cube steak for brunch this morning (with pickled cucumbers as a bright note.) How bad can the day be?

Love to all of you, and I just wanted to confirm that I am not ALWAYS freaking out.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

This week!

So, last week was crazy -- we spring cleaned all of the house except the bathroom (I have to dig out all the useless ends and bobs from the cabinets and throw them away, and my temper got the best of me so I am waiting until the job doesn't piss me off... it's hard bending right now!) We did it because 1) we're nesting and 2) we had a rat in our attic. We caught him (and poor bastard wasn't killed by the trap because he was the size of a small to moderate pony, so we dunked the trap into a bucket of water because hitting him with a brick seemed inaccurate and potentially worse). Unfortunately, we heard another afterward, so we had to clean up for the exterminator.

And this week is crazy -- the exterminator wants to charge $120 for setting a snap trap (which will cost us approximately $8 to do again) and refuses to rat-proof the attic even though we know where they are getting in from the vacant neighboring house (they connect). Pat is sick with his once-per-quarter headcold and I desperately do not want it!! I am doing a 24-hour urine collection so that they can test my kidney function because they are worried about my blood pressure because ONE of my doctor's nurses does not know how to take blood pressure readings on obese women like me and she inevitably gets readings like 160/90 (whereas the doctor and everyone else get 120/70 every time) so they are afraid of preeclampsia and I AM NOT LETTING THEM INDUCE ME EARLY ANYWAY because I don't want continuous fetal monitoring, to be trapped on my back without being able to labor freely in whatever position I want, or have my water broken because I am too fat for external fetal monitors, because I don't want an elective C-section. So this is unproductive. Except I now know that my bladder holds 18 ounces and that I pee approximately every 45 minutes and that I have pee in my fridge and God I hope the container is big enough for 18 oz. per event X 24ish events... and that it doesn't leak. And I am washing my hands so many times it's not funny, because who is going to get into the fridge with pee hands? And then I have to pour the "collection hat" contents into the pee bucket (and wash) and put it back in the fridge (and wash because I touched the bucket) and it's getting ridiculous, 3 washes per pee? Sheesh! And tomorrow I have to turn in the pee and get my blood drawn and go to the chiropractor because my back is boned and leave payment under the mat for the nice lady selling me used prefolds and go to our weekly lunch with the boys and then go to baby care basics class in the evening. Friday I'm off to A&T's for dinner and crafting (because she is my willing slave who will cut out diaper fabric and I hate cutting and OH! I just figured out that I have to make at least 6 diapers per week plus a cover or two and things like diaper bags/maternity clothes/postpartum pads/nursing pads/whatever catch-as-catch-can to be ready in time for the baby's earliest probable arrival horizon) and this weekend so help me Pat will barbecue for me sometime and I guess I'll have to finally get to the bathroom cupboards.

Make the pollo a la brasa from the recipe in the previous post. Not joking. Don't make the salad if you don't wanna, but do make the sauce. OMG.

(Gasp for breath, gasp for breath, gasp for breath....) So how are you?

Pollo a la Brasa

While I'm not a gadget person, my mom is, and she's generous -- which means I have a lot of useless crap languishing around my kitchen. Finally, though, she struck gold with the NuWave Infrared Cooking System (no link; I'm unaffiliated). It. Makes. Awesome. Chicken. Crispy skin, nice browning, juicy. Yum.

When I think of chicken with crispy skin, I think of Pollo a la Brasa. This is a favorite Peruvian fast food. We've been missing it.

Note that your version will be a little inauthentic. You don't care. This is delicious even without being exact. (For authenticity, we would have to have access to three indispensable features of Peruvian cooking: chicha for the marinade, ajies amarillos (yellow hot peppers -- we just don't have them here), and algorrobo (carob) wood for the rotisserie. Oh, and a rotisserie. Nonetheless, if you season your chicken and cook it on a normal barbecue, preferably over mesquite (closer to algorrobo than our local red oak barbecue), you will have a delicious dish. And if you have an infrared cooking gadget, the texture will be perfect -- even though it'll lack the smoke.)

Traditionally, pollo a la brasa is served in halves or quarters, on a pile of crisply French fried yellow potatoes (Yukon golds are an adequate substitute, but Ore-Idas are NOT - although that's what I had last night), and accompanied by a spicy condiment puree (hold your horses), following a green salad dressed with mayonnaise thinned to vinaigrette texture with key lime juice, and garnished with slices of cooked beet, raw cucumber and tomato, and a few cooked green peas. All Peruvian meals except breakfast have two savory courses and a dessert: in this case, the grammar of the meal demands salad as the "primero."

Short of taking you to Lima to enjoy some wonderful Pardo's Chicken, or to Pacasmayo for Riko's Chicken, this is the best I can do.

Here is the recipe for the sauce. I thought the chick at Riko's was blowing me off and assuming I'd asked about the salad when she gave me lettuce, oil, and cilantro as ingredients for the salsa... she wasn't. Sorry, chick at Riko's. I should have listened. I made the sauce with a mix of yellow peppers and jalapenos, and half lettuce/half cilantro as the base (maybe, hmm, 1/2 to 1/3 cup of each?) and it tasted perfect. Don't use lemon -- use lime, if you require more acidity. I didn't tinker at all and it was yummy. YUMMY!

Pollo a la Brasa

1 3-lb chicken
1/8 cup salt
2 cups water
4 teaspoons of dark beer
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons of white vinegar
2 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil, optional
juice of 1 key lime, optional but delicious
a pinch each of ground dried rosemary and oregano
achiote or paprika for color, or ground mildish hot pepper for flavor and color, if desired (this would generally be aji mirasol in Peru)

Traditionally, the chicken is brined for 20 minutes before being marinated. I tried the brining step for the first time last night and wow! Dunno if that's why it was so juicy perfect, but it was delicious. So, give it a shot!

Marinade: mix all marinade ingredients. Rub all over chicken and allow to marinate for 20 minutes or longer. If it sits much longer, the vinegar will begin to "cook" the bird -- but the flavor will be deeper. 20 minutes should be fine. I actually put this in a zip bag, squoze out all the air, and let it do its evil business for about 35 minutes because I got lazy -- and it worked fine. So, no panic. Just, you know, not for hours.

Ideally: cook on rotisserie over fire of straw or algorrobo charcoal. Tolerably: barbecue over slow fire of mesquite charcoal. Or, you know, use your infrared thingy.

Serve in quarters atop individual mounds of freshly French fried yellow potatoes, accompanied by weird lettuce-based emulsified hot pepper puree. To swoon for.