Sunday, August 24, 2008

Signs of Life

My stomach felt firm today. It felt almost the way a pregnant abdomen should - tight and round and swollen. It's not the way my stomach has felt for weeks - soft and squishy, like the Pillsbury Doughboy's. It seems I noticed the softening almost immediately - the pregnancy test came back positive, and then my stomach went soft. I guess you could say that was the first sign of life.

The difficult thing about the first trimester of pregnancy is the absence of signs of life. The uncertainty that, yes, you are harboring a life within you. Sure, I've had food aversions and nausea and extreme fatigue. I've experienced the bouts of absent mindedness they say accompany pregnancy - I locked myself out of the apartment and left my wallet at Target on the same day. Surely these are signs of something, but life? They seem more to be indicators of my imminent and sure demise.

Nausea and fatigue and food aversions aren't enough. I want more certainty. And so at my pre-natal appointment, as the doctor runs the monitor across my abdomen, I silently, urgently plead: "detect a heartbeat, detect a heartbeat." And for a moment there is nothing, and the doctor mumbles something about sometimes not detecting a heartbeat until the 12th week, and then, there it is, the rhythmic whooshing of the Doppler, providing audible waves of relief. "It's a good, strong heartbeat," the doctor declares, and I like the sound of it so much I repeat it in my mind. A good strong heartbeat. There's an almost certainty in the detection of a good, strong heartbeat.

As a pregnancy progresses, the signs of life increase. I've already begun my nightly treks to the bathroom. At night I am surprisingly alert, and I find myself remembering my first pregnancy - living in a studio apartment in London, padding and then later lumbering down the glaringly bright hall to the community toilet. The toilet was in a room no bigger than a small closet - and the window was always open, leaving the seat cold against my thighs. And then back to our room, with the blue drapes that covered the window at the head of the bed, drapes that provided surprising insulation from the cold London nights and the ceaseless drone of ambulance sirens. I, with hands on the insulated incubator that was my stomach, would wait patiently for a sign of life, and then...

Movement. Such a curious, alien, wonderful sensation, to feel your baby move inside you. Such a certain, positive sign of life.

And so I wait now for those next signs of life, accepting my expanding waistline as assurance that the life within me is indeed still there. Even still, every now and then I find myself drumming my fingers against the tabletop, ta-tum, ta-tum, ta-tum, mimicking the rhythm detected by the Doppler, hoping that that heartbeat remains as constant and steady as my own.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Secret to My Success

A friend passed on a good cleaning tip, and I've decided to pass it on to all of you because it is AMAZING. To remove carpet stains, dilute 2-3 tablespoons of liquid Tide laundry detergent in warm water, and scrub. I tried this today in our living room, and it worked so well I ended up scrubbing almost the whole carpet. The room looks so much better. It's such an economical, effective cleaning tool - it makes me happy. Try it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

To Have Read

I didn't want to like it. I don't know why, exactly, but I considered myself immune to its appeal. I was one sucker who wouldn't be sucked in by a teen-vampire romance. But, the truth is, I finally read Twilight, and I liked it. A lot.

My sister Traci described Twilight as literary junk food, and I think she's right. You know how it is when you pop the lid to the Pringles canister or tear into a package of Oreos - you can't stop eating them, those empty-calorie, high-sodium, trans-fantaculous, utterly irresistible treats. That's what reading Twilight was like - once I cracked open the spine of the paperback book, I couldn't put it down. I brushed aside the book I was currently reading - The Post-American World - a real meat and potatoes kind of book - and feasted my eyes on something far less nourishing but infinitely more enjoyable.

I think I've been too hard on Stephenie Meyer. The truth is, Twilight won't win the Pulitzer Prize, but still, it takes a lot of talent to create a compelling story. In fact, it's been a long time since I've read a book that I didn't want to put down. It's been a week since I finished Twilight, and I'm only on page 105 of the aforementioned Post-American World. I think I was on page 75 when my task was interrupted by Twilight. Sorry, Fareed Zakaria. The decline of America's dominance as a superpower just isn't as compelling as Bella and Edward's love life.

I may not finish The Post-American World. I've heard there are a few more chronicles in this vampire series, and you know how it is with junk food: once you pop, you can't stop.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Summer Storm

Monday night the greater Chicago area (that includes little old Munster) was hit by a severe wind and thunder storm. Having grown up in the deserts of Utah, I have been impressed by the sheer amount of water a Midwest storm can produce. This storm was particularly damaging. Fortunately, the only damage we sustained was almost 3 days without Internet, cable, or telephone service. As you can see from the pictures below, others in our neighborhood weren't so lucky: