Night Fridge

There is something sacred about those long short nights of late pregnancy. It seems most of us find ourselves lit by the dull glow of the fridge in a sleeping house, too hungry or uncomfortable to sleep.

For some women, the temptation then is milk, or ice cream direct from the carton. For me, it’s the toaster all the way: a half bagel or, before I had kids old enough to demand their share, Poptarts (don’t they know Poptarts are bad for you!).

In those moments, the birth of this new person seems a source of incredulity, even as she squirms determinedly in your belly, resolutely human in her tiny hiccups, pointy heels applied to your ribs.

In those strange night moments when I was pregnant with Pippin, often I’d talk to my sister, just finishing her shift at a show venue in Brooklyn. Our lives then we’re so incomprehensibly different, each as improbable as the other.

Mostly, though, I slump down by the fridge door and chew meditatively. I turn on a lamp, not too bright, and sneak a few pages of my book. In my best moments, I pray. As birth gets nearer, I find it increasingly difficult to concentrate, sausaged into whatever mortifying pajamas I still fit, possibly too big to easily get back off the sofa.

“Sleep now while you can,” older women always say, and I want to sock those well-meaning ladies in the nose. Soon, I know, I’ll be able to roll in bed whenever I want. I’ll go whole hours without having to pee and eat dinner with heartburn impunity. Best of all, I’ll have this unknowable little person in my arms, no longer scrunched so uncomfortably into my innards. I try to remember, as I eat my bagel slowly in the dim, hushed house.

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A better-lit afternoon solo snack

Commonplace Book, 34 (Week 24)

What is a commonplace book? For me, this is a space where I post interesting links, reflections on what I’m reading, and the newest recipes I’ve been trying out — a collection of miscellaneous micro-posts.

What I’m fixing:

  • So, I’ve been on a quest to feed us more healthy fish this pregnancy, and every few years I get the wild hair to try canned salmon, nutritious and inexpensive. (The last madness was salmon mac and cheese that had a horrifying number of bones. Do not recommend.) This recipe finally made me and J believers, though: Salmon patties with creamy garlic sauce. Also: I bought bone-free salmon this time, because I’m a fraidy cat American.
  • 30 Minute Chocolate Cake for Two: Maybe I’m just running out of tummy capacity 24 weeks into this pregnancy, but this fed four easily. The key here, mentioned only in the comments, is to use 4-inch diameter mugs or ramekins. (My first layer was tin can-shaped as a result of not following these directions, but the other two layers, made in small Pyrex, were lovely.) It was just enough to split with a third trimester friend, her husband and J.
  • I don’t think we’ve ever talked about lenticchie con ditalini, which sounds fancy but most emphatically is not. Years ago, I started with this recipe as a base, and bastardized it shamelessly, so that I generally sub chives for scallions, tomato paste for fresh tomatoes, and bacon for prosciutto. And J likes it better with shredded cheddar than mascarpone, which I adore but don’t usually have kicking around the house. But the original is great, too!

What I’m reading:

  • Middlemarch, forever — I think I have 27 hours left on the audiobook. Still good, though, at least.
  • I didn’t love Children of God as much as The Sparrow — it felt like it got a little theologically shaky and equivocal toward the end — but I still loved it a lot.

“‘God made the world and He saw that it was good,’ Sofia’s father had always told her when complained of some injustice during her brief childhood. ‘Not fair. Not happy. Not perfect, Sofia. Good.'”

and

“‘A God with quirky, unfathomable rules, a God who gets fed up with us and pissed off! But quick to forgive, Sofia, and generous,’ D.W. said, his voice softening, eyes full of light, ‘always, always in love with humanity. Always there, waiting for us — generation after generation — to return His passion. Ah, Sofia, darlin’! On my best days, I believe in Him with all my heart.'”

and

“Maybe when you’re frightened, you can hear God better because you’re listening harder.”

Reading instead of cleaning our clearly filthy sunroom

 

 

Being Cool About a Reno

We have only been homeowners a little over a year and have only had a grownup salary for two years, so we still find it hard to spend even an unnecessary $100 on a rug for which we have no pressing need. So we might have limped along with lame white (!!!) laminate counters for quite awhile if not for MOLD.

Mold. Also, dirty dishes.

Our house was built in 1940 and I think the cabinets are original. They are beautiful, but mean we have a weirdly narrow counter, which, paired with no backsplash, means the back wall gets soaked. So, mold.

Are you bored yet? I don’t blame you.

We discovered the problem early in my morning sickness but didn’t mobilize till late first trimester because I am not a glutton for punishment or crying in the countertop swatch section of Home Depot.

Instead I just read about countertop materials and sinks and cried from the comfort of my own bed.

 

Be thou my vision. AND NO I DO NOT HAVE ATTRIBUTION I AM A BAD LIBRARIAN!!!

 

 

 

And after all, I would kind of recommend making renovations after two months of fairly crippling illness. Otherwise, I might have chosen soapstone instead of imitation soapstone quartz, because sure I’ve got time and energy to oil my counters (and move all the kitchen detritus off them each time). I definitely would have chosen the period appropriate and on trend cast iron sink, possibility of chipping be damned. I would have gone apron front even though there are well-documented drawbacks. I would have gotten mad that the first sink we ordered didn’t fit and maybe fussed at the sales rep, instead of taking a nap and going back to the drawing board.

As it is, you have a really reasonable idea of what your ambition/cleanliness level is after limping by for weeks. And so I made practical decisions for what I hope is my forever kitchen. Because in the life of a family, this probably isn’t the last time we will lack the time and energy for extra kitchen upkeep.

And at the very least, we won’t have white laminate anymore.

Easy solution: Keep counters tidy by removing them! (Mid-reno. Will post an update when they actually get around to installing.)

Commonplace Book, 33 (Week 23)

What is a commonplace book? For me, this is a space where I post interesting links, reflections on what I’m reading, and the newest recipes I’ve been trying out — a collection of miscellaneous micro-posts.

What I’m fixing:

  • My granny visited! And it was her birthday! And Pippin is obsessed with baking birthday cakes he refuses to eat! And Scout is obsessed with eating “party cake” she refuses to make! So we made a molasses spice cake with buttercream icing and it was pretty delicious, if unusual for a July birthday. It makes just one 9″ round — I just love small cakes, instead of leftovers lingering for days to reproach me (or be consumed in a fit of heartburn). Also, question for readers: do you think I could sub butter for shortening next time?
  • Almost not a recipe at all but in case you’re craving what I’m craving in large quantities with minimal work: pesto mozzarella chicken in the slow cooker.

Granny humors me and smiles with her (Pippin-decorated) cake

 What I’m reading:

When I come to town with my kids, the table is extended to its maximum size and my dad makes a quintuple batch of crepes before sitting down to drink a few cups of strong coffee with  splashes of cream. When he brings the mug to his mouth, he overlooks a table full of two generations of his making.

We only have a few pieces of really grownup furniture, but one of them is the dining room table J’s grandma bought us when the original homeowners were selling it along with the house, and we already have so many happy memories gathered around it.

  • Children of Godthe sequel to The Sparrowwhich is making me excited and full of dread at the same time because I’m so invested. Also, let’s talk about The Sparrow — this piece is a good starting point.
  • Middlemarch as an audiobook read by Juliet Stevenson and I’m actually enjoying it this time! Like, excited for dishes-washing and tooth-brushing, when normally I’m just counting down till I can flop over.
  • A Severe Mercy for a book club. I’ve read it before and enjoyed it back in college, but to look legit I should probably stop calling it A Separate Peace.

The Bonus Baby

When I was growing up, all my close friends were the product of still-married couples who had two children, two or three years apart. All of them. It wasn’t until I was in college that I really got to know people from really big families (11 kids!) or only children raised by single mothers.

So I guess it’s not surprising that this spring I found myself newly and surprisingly pregnant, trying to push our crappy double stroller along the uneven pavement of Charleston, mildly panicking about how we’d decided to Go Big on this parenting thing.

We were looking for a coffee shop open early enough for preschooler/ravenous pregnant lady breakfast schedules into which I could cram the giant stroller. (I’m not sure where J was, possibly at the conference.) I wasn’t sick yet and certainly not visibly pregnant, but already I felt conspicuous among the toned and carefree early morning joggers huddled around their espressos.

I have struggled a bit with getting my head around this pregnancy. It made sense to everyone around me and to myself that I would endure pregnancy again to give Pip a sibling. In the circle I grew up in, it’s just what you do, and J and I love our siblings so much. But now am I just a glutton for punishment? Now that I’m visibly pregnant, a (socially awkward? creepy?) man in the library elevator commented, “You must really enjoy being pregnant.”

Um, I hate it.

But I love this bonus baby of ours. I love the idea of Scout being a big sister. I’m even looking forward to most of the newborn insanity, after Scout’s cheery babyhood helped redeem Pippin’s tense and somewhat lonely infancy.

I like the idea of a big family gathered around our first real, grownup dining room table, love to imagine the kids piled like puppies in our none-too-big house. J and I debate the probabilities that this will finally be our brown-haired, brown-eyed baby, resign ourselves to discussing minivans. Three. How did we get here?

It’s a little crazy, by the standards by which I was raised, but exciting, too. Three feels like extra credit or a symptom of insanity, depending on your perspective. And I do worry sometimes that we’ve asked too much of God: I’m halfway through my third barfy but remarkably uncomplicated pregnancy. I’ve got two rosily healthy, generally charming non-prodigies who mostly bring joy to the world. So many people struggle for one child, and here I am getting greedy with number three.

But having or not having my own babies will not help those who struggle to have their own, and occasionally worrying I’ve gotten too big for my (maternity) britches doesn’t negate the unique wonders we will encounter when we meet sweet Roo. She is number three, a tipping point in our family’s history, but more importantly, her own tiny, miraculous person. Even if I have three more (oh help), I don’t see that wonder getting old.

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Unique person 1

 

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Unique person numero dos

 

Names and Taking Up Space

Several years ago, I was in grad school and working two jobs, and at one there was a Kate Bowers and the other a Katherine Dower-Something. It was then I started to use Katherine Grimm Bowers professionally, and when I found myself listed under “Grimm Bowers” and not “Bowers” at a conference, I thought, hey, I like the sound of that.

I was 22 when I got married and had no compelling reason not to change my name, but it’s never sat all that well with me, even nine years in, especially when I get the whole “Mrs John Bowers” treatment. (Um, what? Have I been subsumed?)

And yet I still feel a little persnickety using both. I don’t actually care much if you use the Grimm in addressing me, but I still feel kind of bossy to work it in there. A friend who uses her first and middle name (without a hyphen) says she feels the same way sometimes.

But seriously, how is this high maintenance? A name is too important to cater to someone else’s convenience. My son is pretty uniformly called Pippin but his full name is Thomas Joseph Peregrine. This confuses people, and means I have to make notes on paperwork sometimes. But so what? He gets to be called a name he likes and that suits him, and later on he’ll have a more dignified name, one that honors a beloved uncle, if he decides he wants it.

It’s just something I’ve been thinking about as we settle on a name for this babe. I don’t want to burden her with something ungainly that she has to explain to everyone she meets, but neither do I want to opt for bland and palatable over meaningful. Names grow, and I want to give her space to make her name her own.

Introducing…Buttercup Urglegrew Bowers!

Should crop out mess, can’t be bothered.

Commonplace Book

What is a commonplace book? For me, this is a space where I post interesting links, reflections on what I’m reading, and the newest recipes I’ve been trying out — a collection of miscellaneous micro-posts.

What I’m fixing:

  • So, I’ve made this Zucchini-Potato Frittata before, and it’s delicious, but it really struck home this time just how much work it is. It takes forever. Help me make it better:
    • Do you think I could use a bag of frozen hashbrowns in lieu of cutting all those potatoes and onions? The potatoes are the most hateful part — you have to mandoline them, then cook them forever and then they stick to the skillet. Enraging.
    • Or tell me your cheesy, meaty summer squash recipes? I need it not to taste like squash.
  • Because we had someone dairy free for dinner, Copycat Carrabba’s Herb Oil for Dipping Bread. Good, but then, so was the cilantro garlic compound butter I cobbled together for naan the other night.

What I’m reading:

“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.” –Haldir of Lothlorien

  • The Sparrowa.k.a. JESUITS IN SPACE. Lots of imaginative ideas, deep characters, and juicy theological questions:

“What sticks in my throat is that God gets the credit but never the blame. I just can’t swallow that kind of theological candy. Either God’s in charge or He’s not.”

Helping with beer bread