Here he is, the most amazing baby ever.

Wow, that was intense. And I'll write the whole story out for you soon, but for now, here is our son, Isaac Ayotunde Ford. He was born on January 27, at 2:37 in the afternoon, and he's 3.95 kilos, or 8 lbs 10 oz.

(Real name! I'll be bringing the names of the other kids out soon, so I figure I'll just let you know right from the start.)

Isaac means laughter, and Ayotunde means Joy has Returned. I think we'll call him Iz or Izzy for short.

It took 48 hours, it's true. It was a record breaker for my doctor-- she said she's never had it happen before. She told me all the women she's had as patients make the decision to get a c-section far before their labor gets to that point. But I'm stubborn. And she was willing to go along with that stubbornness. And there were a few moments of doubt, but we got through. Chinua is such an amazing birth companion and he told me again and again that he knew I could do it.

Ahh, the smell of him! The first two hours with my baby are the sweetest in the world. We looked at each other and discovered each other.

Then, a few hours later there was a little drama with a whole lot of bleeding. Apparently my uterus was very tired after 48 hours and couldn't shut the bleeding down. There were a lot of nurses and some painful interventions and I cried and shook and panicked as I felt blood gushing out of me, but now I'm okay.

I am anemic. Time to get on those green smoothies.

Of course we all try to figure out who he looks like. He looks like Leafy, but then there's some Kid A in there, and some YaYa, and something all his own. I can't believe we have another beautiful child.

I'm getting sprung today. My camera ran out of batteries, and in my plan to get to Chiang Mai, have the baby quickly and get right back home to Pai, I didn't bring the charger, so these are all mobile photos I took from Chinua's facebook account. But home is in sight! Today I leave the hospital, and within the next couple of days we'll head back to Pai, and I'll charge my camera and take a mountain of photos, and there will be milky snuggles. The kids are smitten, I'm smitten, Chinua is smitten, and my parents are smitten. (They're here!)

One complaint. I'm in a country that has some of the best fiber filled foods in the world. You can't walk down the street without finding green papaya salad or cut up fruit on ice! So why is the hospital feeding me bread, pasta, and meat? A word to the wise, hospitals: If you want your postnatal women to be able to poo, you have to feed them fruit! Or fresh vegetables. That is all.

How it goes.

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You guys are so picky. I give you photos of pillows, and it's not enough. You need a baby.

I'll kill the suspense and say, nope. There won't be pictures of a gorgeous baby in this post either. I know. I've adjusted and moved on. I really thought it was going to happen quickly, that I would arrive in Chiang Mai and boop! Out comes a baby. But we're playing the waiting game.

Here's where I'm a lot more mature than I was ten years ago, waiting for Kid A at the tender age of twenty-two. I cried about it. I barely restrained my irritation with our housemates when they would breathe too loudly or talk or exist. I got my hopes up and then dashed innumerable times. Because I putz around for weeks, having contractions, ceasing to have contractions, and so on and so forth. It's how I do labor. Everyone has their special way. This is mine. (Grrrrrr...)

Of course at the end it doesn't help that one gets daily more uncomfortable. I was telling my friend Leaf that it feels like I have the opposite of a corset. My ribs hurt, they're being pushed out from the inside. My back is out and by the second half of the day there is no position in the known universe that feels comfortable.

But I'm calm about it. That's what it means to be thirty-two. In my life anyways. My new line of logic is that there's no cause to get dramatic. "Don't get dramatic about it," I tell myself as I drive along on my scooter (which I'm still driving). "It's a baby. It will come out."

Speaking of being over thirty, the other day I was on the bus from Chiang Mai to Pai (of course- I spend a lot of time on that bus) and I was talking to a couple of girls who were twenty-one and twenty-two, respectively.

"Just wait till you hit thirty," I said, probably for no reason. "You'll love it. All your angst and self loathing will disappear."

They looked at me like, Who said we had trouble being twenty? We're having the time of our lives, traveling the world, you wrinkly-eyed mad woman.

Is it too much to assume that everyone struggles with anxiety disorder and many babies in a few years and too little money and self loathing in their early twenties? Yes? Hmmm.

So anyways, here we are, and I was telling Chinua that the place where we're staying is such a perfect place to be when you are expecting a baby. There are two families, one with four children and the other with a children's home, so they have ten kids. Then there are ours, and this is just child heaven. The trees are ripe with children, they are falling from the branches.

The couple who are fostering eight kids were commenting on my kids the other night. Everyone had cake and my kids asked for more. "Oh I get it," they told me. "Your kids come from a small family, so have the idea in their minds that there's a possibility of seconds."

It's nice to be staying in a place where my family is considered small. Especially in Asia.

I've been going for walks. Looking at flowering trees, my most favorite things. 

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This one is a night-blooming fragrant tree and it smells sooooo good.

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And of course, bourgainvillea. God's perfect shade of pink.

I went for a walk with the little kids, and my big ones.

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Other than one boy accidentally dropping his five baht in the sewer, it went perfectly.

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The boys showed us how certain seed pods explode when you drop them in water.

And then one day the radiant ten-year-old girl who lives here turned all the little girls into princesses.

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The ten-year-old declared it dance time, but the princes were skeptical and reluctant to dance.

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"Not us," they said.

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In conclusion, it's been beautiful. We are blessed. But I realize I still don't have a picture of a baby for you, so I'll give you this: A picture of me with birds on my head.

I love these birds.

(I was very happy, this was the most fun I've had in a long time.)

Still no good?

How about my kids holding a seven-month-old tiger? No?

At Chiang Mai Night Safari

I'll do my level best to get you a picture of a baby very soon.

 

A post in three parts

Part 1:

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The kids and I went for a drive one afternoon, hoping to catch the last bits of sunshine on the combination of trees changing color and tangled wildflowers that are resting all along the hills around our home. At least, that's what I was hoping for. The kids were hoping to drive fast, to rattle around in a sidecar. But they also love the hills, the blue skies, the changing leaves.

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We found the wildflowers. The seasons here in the mountains of Thailand flip my lid, because don't leaves change before Winter and don't wildflowers come in the Spring? But Winter, or the cool season, is followed here by the heat, and then the rain, and we don't have teak trees in California or BC anyways, and anyway, my homes are all tangled into one big clump of beautiful seasons. I'll take seasons, any one, just pass it my way.

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When we took the drive, I think I was about 37 and a half weeks along, and I thought, brilliant! I'll get one of the kids to take a photo of me.

This was my last, exasperated look at Leafy, ever the careful composer, after he took shots of only my arm or only my belly, or my head looked weird, or I had no head. But he wasn't really into the pregnancy portrait, so he ran away down the road, back to the chariot, and this lovely exasperated photo is what I have to mark the moment.

Part 2:

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I got a little more nesting done, and then I thought I'd better brag about it. I finished the pillow covers!

When we moved into this house, the only pieces of furniture were a few chairs and tables and the beds. So we made a little seating area with cheap cushions and pillows that I covered. The cushion covers took me a long time to sew, but the pillow covers are fast, if I just remember to sit down for twenty minutes at a time.

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It still doesn't look that much like I hoped. I need to add some wooden pallets for under the cushions, (I have to figure out how to say "I want your old pallets to be my furniture," in Thai) and maybe even an upgrade to cushions that don't compress so easily.

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But pillows! Done! I love the middle pillow- my friend Joy brought me a batik from Indonesia and I turned it into a pillow! The Thai batiks are different, and I look forward to adding a few of them. I love having special things and gifts around the house.

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On one side of the room I've managed to replace all the yuck curtains with white ones that I've sewn. This is the side of the room that still needs a lot of work.

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It's our big living/dining/school/everything room, and it's coming along.

Which leads us to

Part 3:

Which is that one way to solve the intense nesting bug if it won't leave you alone is to get up out of your house and go, because then you simply can't see all the things you've left undone!

On Sunday I started having an awful lot of more grippy contractions that obviously weren't active labor but could have turned into active labor. We don't have a car, and we're planning to give birth in Chiang Mai, three hours away from our home. The car rental place is always out of cars and the bus doesn't run after 5:30, so we decided to head into Chiang Mai a little earlier than planned.

In two hours we assembled everything we needed, including all the baby things which will be used for an actual baby, and made our way to the bus. I gathered snacks for the bus ride and soon we were pulling out of Pai.

Every one of our birth stories has been different, every one comical in some way or another. This time, driving the crazy number of curves with Leafy leaning on my belly, trying to time contractions, surrounded by the smell of little boy farts and the sound of the oldies/country music the van driver was playing, I couldn't help but love my life. So crazy and unusual and never the same.

(One of the songs played was "We are the World," which sent me off into a hit of nostalgia. When we got to the place we were sleeping, I had to look up the video, and then it seemed only prudent to find the Wikipedia article and figure out who every single person singing was. Of course, between Chinua (who grew up in Motown) and me, we already knew most people, but one person that we said, "Who on earth are you?" about turned out to be Billy Joel.)

So, as it turns out, we are staying with friends in Chiang Mai, waiting for this little one to make an appearance. Babies can't be rushed, and we are in the most special place ever to wait for a baby. There are sixteen children in the little collection of houses here, and I'm so thankful not to be shushing my kids in a guesthouse or hotel somewhere.

Oh, I'm so thankful for friends, for generous people, for a truck to use when we need to go to the hospital, for these amazing, beautiful circumstances that are the walls around this birth. Newborn Land here we come.

*

Oh, and one more wee thing. Journey Mama was nominated for a Canadian Weblog Award. Hooray! I'm honored.

Being intense about nesting.

 

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This photo has nothing to do with this post, except to remind me of blue and orange, a lovely daughter, a wonderful day. It's here on this page to be something lovely, nothing practical at all.

I feel as though I have to have every single thing perfect before the baby comes. Do they call this nesting? And here's a confession: It's not easy to get every single thing perfect in a new country, where I am speaking a new language that makes me feel like I'm a very small child with moths in my ears. Also, when I have practical things to do, I sometimes have to get on the bus and take the three hour ride through the curves to the big town, and then I have to rent a motorbike and go from appointment to appointment, from shop to shop, until I am sitting on the side of the road, calling my husband, asking him to give me a pep talk because I can't walk another step.

Would my husband be willing to do these things?

Yes.

Would I be willing to let him?

Probably not.

But perhaps I have it in my head that I will not be able to do anything else at all after the baby is born, because the enormity of an infant has expanded in my imagination in the four and a half years since I last had one.

I must protect that week of babymoon time. My mental health depends on it.

Still, maybe we don't need a washing machine right away, and I don't have to try to fit it in the budget, or figure out how to get it home. And maybe I can continue without an oven, as much as I would like to make granola bars for all those breakfasts coming up. And we need a storage solution for YaYa's constantly overflowing art table, but perhaps stacking things in a somewhat orderly way can continue to work for a while.

I need to let things go, I find, after a trip to the consulate and the doctor and the markets and a curvy bus ride back, on a day when I'm headachy and finally, finally, crashed into bed with my Superstar Husband doing everything for everyone, just like I don't want him to.

In truth, I'm well set up in a cozy home with kids who can get breakfast for themselves. There are shops nearby and fruit just down the street. The baby will come (a baby! a baby!) and will happy with being kissed. He won't care at all if half the curtains are white and the other half are still a sickly orange.

Babies don't need perfection. They only need love. Just like the rest of us.

In the very beginning of a year.

I'm full term.

It's fun to be expecting a new baby in these first weeks of a new year because everything is brand new and you know a little of what to wait for. You know that there will be kisses and little sleep and milk and emotions. You know enough not to plan too much. You know everything is shiftable and pliant in those first weeks and months: everything. The times of day, the regularity of walks, of shopping, of eating easy pickup dinners compared to cooking. The amount that you can stand other people, the skies and clouds and the sound of the new baby's voice. The walls themselves seem to shift, the trees are slightly to the left of where they used to be.

I know enough to know my emotions are fuller than I ever expect them to be, after I've had a baby. Also, that milk is everywhere and thus, I can't start the New Year with a resolution to not be covered in milk and baby spit up.

Okay. So what can I resolute? Resolve? Resolutify?

*Once a week (if at all possible) I will find a body of water and sit beside it. Whether it is a stream or a river or waterfall, I will sit near moving water and pray.

*I will be optimistic.

*I will spend 20 minutes doing things that need to be done. 20 minutes writing, 20 minutes cleaning the kitchen, 20 minutes reading to a kid. It's enough to start with, it usually turns out to be either enough, or it turns into more. But whispering, "Just 20 minutes," is a good way to begin.

*I will spend time on my porch. I will love the corners of my house.

*And I will be try to be ready for what God brings my way. A person who stays for dinner, a conversation that goes on for an hour, a new friend, a phone conversation.

Do you have anything that you want to do? That you want to put down in writing?

Hair.

Did I forget to write about this?

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The word "forget" may be a little less passive aggressive than what I am really doing, which is procrastinating, because the whole thing got a lot more complicated than I expected it would.

I'll start at the beginning.

So you know that thing when you're pregnant? Where stuff drives you crazy? Like a crack on your wall that you've never seen before, a crack that is gathering dust and gecko poo, and you see it for a few days and seeing it makes you itchy? So one day you decide to clean the crack, but you only make it worse, and then you find yourself on your hands and knees cleaning more cracks and making them worse?

The dust in the corners.

A tile that's out of place.

Irritating things become magnified in pregnancy, until instead of being something minor, it's all you can THINK about. And people try to talk to you, but you can't focus because WHAT WAS THE TILER THINKING? Two blue and one white, that's the pattern, why are there three blue tiles and one white tile all willy nilly over there in the corner of the bathroom?

Do you remember? Or can you imagine, if you've never had this particular mental illness?

Well, that's what Leafy's hair was doing to me, all through this pregnancy. The kid has a LOT of hair. YaYa's hair never hung in her face the way Leafy's does. It nicely parted and hung on the sides of her face, like well trained curtains that aren't trying to take over your life. But Leafy's was like a sheaf, just a blanket of hair in front of his face, and he never noticed, and nothing I did could convince him to take notice.

Somehow I became paranoid that I was losing him because of his hair. His hair was trying to take over our lives. It was trying to come between us. I even possibly believed that it was part of the reason for the bad attitude that has possessed my sweet boy's body and mouth from time to time recently.

(It is much, much more likely that the looming age of SEVEN is to blame for attitude shifts and stages of development that try the soul. Oh SEVEN, how wonderful and difficult you are.)

I started to say things to him, little bitter things like, "Leafy, if you can't keep your hair out of your face, I'm going to have to cut it off." We came up with a deal that I could tie it back from time to time, in a ponytail, just to have a hair-in-face free day. Because the other thing about Leafy is that he's incredibly picky about the way he looks. Put a bandana in, and he'll rip it out, declaring that he looks stupid. It's the same with any other thing I've bought to try to hold his hair back.

But here's a word of advice: If something is driving you crazy while you're pregnant, go ahead and fix it! Use some of that nesting energy to wash the car, rearrange the furniture, sew the curtains, buy a better dishrack. But if it involves the physical appearance of anyone in your family, LEAVE IT ALONE.

I didn't make Leafy cut his hair. But I blame myself for putting the idea in his head.

When we were in Goa, he started to say he wanted hair like Kid A's. He's said stuff like this in the past and we always said, "Wait a few days, or a couple of weeks, and see if you still feel the same way." And he waited, and decided, "No, I will never no never cut my hair."

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But this time he was insistent and pouty and demanded hair justice. We made him wait a week and at the end of it, he was still raring to go on Mission Haircut. He really wanted a bi-hawk (a double mohawk) because of a Star Wars Clone Trooper who has one. (!) Remember, this is the kid who is lost in his imagination most of the time, who recently has spent quite a lot of time in front of the mirror flexing his little arms, trying to figure out how to get stronger. (I could eat his arms up!)

My dear Superstar Husband thought that he would try just a little dreadlock mohawk to start out, just for fun. Then the idea was that we would cut the rest of his hair off, maybe leaving a short mohawk. We all gathered on the porch and exclaimed with glee over the fun of dreadlocks falling on the floor. I exclaimed over his head! His beautiful head, hidden under miles of hair for so long.

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His head!

Anyway, it was fun and it was fun, but then it wasn't, because about thirty minutes after his hair was mostly gone, Leafy decided that he wanted it back. And that isn't possible! So he cried and cried. He cried for hours. And oh, how I wanted to give it back to him.

We've never made a big deal about dreadlocks, the kids just have them. There is no special reason except that we like them and they like them. (Just like there's no special reason that Kid A doesn't have them. He never has, and he doesn't want them, that's all.) But in the world of dreads there is this thing called dreadlock regret, because it's a type of hair with a certain commitment and longevity to it. Everyone regrets cutting their dreadlocks off for a while after they do. And our six-year-old had it bad.

And so did I. What was I thinking? They were adorable. And in between all my reassurances of "It's only hair, and it will grow back, and Daddy's on his third set," I gnawed at my hands and cursed my wayward pregnancy ranting about hair in the eyes.

So the mohawk remains. Because Leafy insists that he wants to grow out his hair underneath the dreadlocks that are left. I am keeping my mouth shut, even though he also insists on parting it so that it looks like a really thin dreadlock hairstyle with the bottom shaved like everyone did in the early nineties, my least favorite era.

And Chinua is completely disgusted with the both of us and says he'll never listen to either of us about hair ever again.

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(Taken shortly before the tears started.)

Mixing metaphors

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I'm caught, like a small fish in a tide pool, between here and there, between before and after, between four children and five children.

I'm hanging suspended between now and in the future, between thirty and thirty-five, between not writing and writing.

I avoid resolutions because I run to catch up with regular life, but I remember that resolutions can guide me into a clearer place.

Here are some questions.

If I do something everyday, will it seem easier?

If I make lists of things to accomplish, will they free me or entrap me?

Is now the time to think of change?

Or is it time now only to grow a baby, to sleep, to wake up late, after the kids, wondering what happened to me? I sleep when they are awake- this is not like me. But I should be thankful that I can sleep- that they are old enough to wake up and find something to do in the house until it becomes too much and one prods another one and shrieking wakes me.

If I wake up after them I always feel like I spend the whole day trying to catch up.

What do you think?

Either way, wow. A baby is coming. Soon.

Into the ether.

Twenty-two weeks

A few nights ago I walked down to the pharmacy to buy some earplugs. The street was quiet, with most of the evening activity remaining a block away, at the walking street market that is open every night here. Some of my neighbors were tidying up after the day, or standing around chatting. There were bugs congregating under the streetlights, holding church. The pastor was wrapping up and the cricket choir was starting.

And a small fiesty toot escaped me, on that quiet street where my neighbors were slowly wrapping up their day.

It was one of those walking toots that afflict the old and the pregnant. There is no way of knowing when they will appear- there is no holding back. They are sudden, surprising, and one of the ways that pregnancy takes your dignity and tramples on it, handing it back to you, deflated, folded, and tied with a little bow.

Sigh.

But it is not only my dignity that pregnancy takes. It has my heart, as well. I love this boy baby turning somersaults, those rolling fish movements that make me want the baby right now! I can't wait, I think. And then I ponder a little more, and think actually, some more months of sleeping at night would be nice.

Not that I'm sleeping at night. My elderly neighbor has trouble sleeping, and when she does, she watches TV at a volume (at all hours) that makes me fairly certain she is losing her hearing. I lie awake, with the television blasting into my windows, thinking of the Thai words I will need to tell her that it cannot continue.

But I never tell her. I chicken out. Thus, my little walk down to the pharmacy to get earplugs.

So I tooted my way to the pharmacy, catching a glimpse of one of the guys on my street hanging out with his inhaler up his nose. It's not an asthma inhaler, it's one of those menthol things you breathe into your nose when you're stressed out or smogged out. They're all the rage in Thailand. This man had successfully done away with one of the awkward parts of having a nose inhaler--moving your hand back and forth. His was just hanging out, stuck in his nostril. Convenient.

At the pharmacy, the pharmacy guy (I don't think he's a real pharmacist) asked me why I need earplugs, and I told him about my neighbor.

"How old is she?" he asked.

"Oh--I don't know. Seventy-five? Thai women don't ever look old, so I don't know," I said. "Now me... I will look old very quickly."

"No, no," the man assured me. "You can't be over... thirty?"

"Thirty-two," I told him.

I was well aware that he was trying to guess very low, and only succeeded in guessed two years younger than my real age. This was not actually the first time that day that I had a conversation about my age with a dude. Earlier, my friend Lucas from Poland told me that for months he had no idea I was pregnant. Then he asked me how old I was, and expressed surprise that I was only thirty-two!

"I would have thought you were older!" he said.

Ah... dignity and vanity... quickly slipping through my fingers, out into the ether.

I walked home with my earplugs, feeling pretty smug, knowing I would sleep that night and wouldn't be woken at 5:00 AM by Thai morning television. I didn't walk all that smugly though. These days I walk a lot like my elderly neighbor, actually. She walks slowly and painfully because of age. I do because sciatica is stabbing me in the right buttock. Sometimes it hurts so badly that it takes me a couple of seconds to get my right leg to swing forward. I have to swing from the hip, the knee doesn't obey.

Also, pregnancy doesn't bring as many food cravings to me as it does food aversions. I have whole days where NOTHING sounds good to eat. Or I may have a quick tickly craving, and I think- oh! what was that? I'm craving something sweet. Something sweet would be good, except of course, if it was, you know, sweet, because that would be DISGUSTING. And then I go and drink a glass of ice water, my food problems still hovering in the background.

And the baby turns somersaults, saying, Feed me, Feed me, Feed me. I do feed him. Mostly Som Tam- the spicy Thai papaya salad. And sometimes some cheesy toast. But by about 3:00 in the afternoon, eating is about as appealing as skipping through the sewer, and I still need to cook! Food! And food is so gross.

To sum up:

Food is gross

I have more crow's feet than your mom

I toot in public, and...

My right buttock is close to mutiny.

Only four more months to go!

Weird, wonderful, quirky.

Making the pasta sauce

Last night someone stole the milk out of my fridge. Two jugs of it. I'm mystified. It wasn't there this morning and I know it was there yesterday. However, there are many more valuable things in my kitchen to steal. I guess someone really wanted milk.

The outdoor kitchen is not without its challenges. From the way it floods during a heavy rain, to the snails I am always removing from my countertops, to the ever-dirty floor, it pushes me hard, this kitchen. But I'm still cooking outside, and I still love it. I also love it when the kids help me cook. What a dream.

*

The baby tells me hello now. Tap tap tap, she says, kicking her tiny feet. "Oh, hello you," I say. "You're here too." When I'm lying down at the end of the day: tap tap tap, she tells me and we spend some time together, in these moments that are like a sigh at the end of the day. If the rain is knocking on the roof, she knocks along with it. I love my little friend - this baby who comes with me wherever I go.

*

Leafy loves making stuff. Especially making stuff for people. We try to be in tune with his project desires, so we had a secret meeting with him in the kitchen to talk about what he wanted to make for Kid A's birthday.

"So what is it that you want to make him?" Chinua asked.

"A telescope, an action figure, and a PLAYGROUND," said Leafy.

Chinua and I looked many words at each other.

"Oh, and some BINOCULARS," Leafy added.

I'm glad he doesn't set the bar too low. Someday, somewhere, we're going to have to set this boy up with an apprenticeship.

Eleven weeks.

Rae 11 weeks-1

 

I wonder if any harm can come from eating too many parsnips. Not raw ones, but cooked ones. If I could have a whole bowl of soup broth with parsnips right now, I'd be perfectly happy.

This has been a pregnancy of strange cravings. Carrot cake one day, tom yum the next. Super spicy, super fresh, I flip-flop back and forth. I'm heading out of the first trimester, and I'm thankful for it. I love the second trimester because it's the one where you start to actually feel pregnant, rather than only queasy and crazy. You begin to feel the baby move, and ever after, you have a small friend who accompanies you wherever you go, whether you am are lost in a new neighborhood, or buying a bag of ice from the ice seller.

And yet there is something special about the wild first trimester, from that first heady stripe on the pregnancy test to the dangerous look you get in your eye when your Superstar husband crosses the invisible line from joking around to provoking the wrath of a pregnant woman.

Here are a couple of pregnancy related lists, simply to commemorate this undeniably special time:

Things that make me feel as though I'm going to throw up:

1. Morning

2. An empty stomach

3. Fish in the market, especially the chopping block where all the scales are.

4. Dead frogs in little bags in the market.

5. Meat in the market, especially the piles I can't identify.

6. Loud noises.

7. The moment after my stomach is full but there is still food on the table.

8. My fridge, no matter how clean it is.

9. The dead gecko that was under my sink a few weeks ago.

10. Vegetables, but not always.

11. Anything slightly wilted.

12. Fake flowers and ruffled curtains.

13. Dried fish in the market, including the smoked fish.

You could say that the whole market experience has been very interesting, these last few weeks. I walk through quickly, trying to only look at the tables where I know there are no unidentified piles of meat or fish, but Solo insists on looking for frogs and bugs and staring at the fish eyes staring at him, so sometimes it's unavoidable.

Life, especially life in the kitchen, feels like an exercise of extreme willpower. I will cook this food, and then I will eat it, and I will not run from the thai basil because it's slightly wilted.

And then there are the emotions.

Things that have made me cry, TODAY.

1. A picture of my dear friend Leaf, singing at her own small concert far away, in Australia. The tears were not of sadness. They came to my eyes because she is the loveliest person I've ever seen or known, and she was singing.

2. I listened to this podcast and I must have cried for twenty minutes afterwards. I think it was the combination of talk about creativity and the drive to create, talk about difficulties in the brain and illness, the sad but beautiful story, and the husband of the woman spoken of in the podcast, who was from Vancouver and had an older man's Canadian accent. I know! A lot can set me off, these days.

3. This video, which made me cry like a baby, it struck me as that beautiful. Why? I really don't know.

4. A man talking to his little girl, who was riding on the front of his scooter.

5. Sunshine and all the white flowers under our tree.

 

I'm thankful that every tear today was over something that was lovely or emotive. I don't mind being emotional if it means that I love beautiful things more.

Bits and pieces.

At the table

It was a rough weekend with a headache that wouldn't ever go away, but there have been so many brilliant moments all around.

I find myself speechless. And then I suddenly have a lot of things to say. But then I forget. Fascinating, you say. Yes, not so much.

I find myself having a lot of conversations where the other person is speaking only Thai, and I am speaking only English, and yet we keep on talking. It's as though we feel that the words will magically start making sense, if we just try long enough. I really like that about Thailand, how people (usually villagers) will talk, talk, and talk to me, though I cannot understand them.

I am fairly emotional and sometimes unreasonable, and that is a little hard to take, since I have felt some headway with my emotions in the last year. Now it's anybody's guess, and a joke with my Superstar Husband can turn into kindling in the blink of an eye. There is a little gnome who says, "Wait, you've been laughing about that for fifteen minutes, but actually, he's insulting you," and then Chinua's in danger of having a desk chair thrown at his head.

I fit so many pregnant stereotypes. I have cravings, yes, but my cravings have always fit the same pattern. Like this:

I'm eating cucumbers, let's say, since it happened just this evening that I was eating cucumbers. And while I'm eating cucumbers, I have an epiphany. Cucumbers are amazing. In fact, I hate everything except for cucumbers. If it's not a cucumber, you can keep it, it's dead to me, I don't want it.

And this goes on for a while until with a click of the spinner, I'm sick of cucumbers and I'm obsessed with watermelon.

In the middle of all my food drama, we're in our school year, while all around the internets, kids are on their breaks. We took ours in March and April. It's spelling and grammar, math games, reading, and Thai alphabet books all around.

Anyway, there are moments on headachy weekends and the following Mondays, when the social aspect of the internet begins to terrify me, and I have to work my way back by posting things like this. Little bits and pieces of nothing and everything.

By the way, you are the kindest people I've ever met. I love that I get to share this experience of a new baby here, in this very safe place.

The size of a blueberry.

I have a secret.

I posted this picture of myself on Instagram/Twitter with the caption "I have a secret."

Some people guessed my secret straight away, because I guess when a woman of a certain age says something like that with a certain kind of look on her face, it usually means she's growing a fifth baby even though she didn't think she was going to have any more babies, and they were going to do something permanent about it but they never did because they didn't have any money but at this rate they will run out of money even faster.

And nothing happens by accident, and really from the first moment that I thought, Hey! shouldn't my period have come already and had the first crazy inkling that something was different, I've been thrilled.

I've been very clucky lately, all but licking the faces of babies I see on the street, so here it is, another chance for cuddles and spit up, leaking breasts and newborn smell. I had a baby at twenty-two, now I get to see what it's like to have a baby at thirty-two, to have two kids ten years apart, to have an eighteen-year-old and an eight-year-old on my fortieth birthday. (Something like that, the math is making my head hurt.)

Eleanor, you can call this one "The one who was born in Thailand." Because having babies in new countries is a great way to get to know the place. Apparently.

I'm about seven weeks along. I found out at around four and a half weeks, but we had to start breathing again before I could tell everyone about it. It's been long enough since Solo was born that I notice the symptoms more clearly again. (Remember how Kid A was only three when my third baby was born? There is a whole chunk of life there that is just a fog.)

So far:

* Breathtaking exhaustion. I yawn. all. day. This one is difficult, I have to keep reminding myself that it's only for a while, that pregnancy is something special, that you can't expect to do everything you would do if you weren't pregnant. I drag my sorry self around the kitchen first thing in the morning, fall asleep over the dishes.

* Also, I can't be trusted to remember anything. I forget what conversation I'm in halfway through. I can't remember what I came to the market for, I can't remember why I came upstairs, go back down only to remember and walk back up the stairs and forget again.

* Clumsy! I trip over everything. Big, dramatic windmilling stumbles that I'm sure amuse my neighbors very much. I have to walk very carefully down the stairs because I seem to have forgotten how stairs work and I keep slipping on them.

* I'm a wee bit emotional. Very nauseous. I have a love/hate relationship with food. I think about food all the time, all the time, but am disgusted by whatever I was eating as soon as my stomach feels full and have to leave the table because of the oil coming off the lentils. Oh man, I can't even write about it. Gross.

So, pretty normal stuff. My mind has jumped ship, I'm falling down, and I care for four kids who are all thrilled about a baby while complaining about their breath.

Especially YaYa. She didn't stop jumping around the room for an hour after we told them.

(Oh, also, I'm starting to write about Christian Spirituality on the Shekina Community blog. Today I wrote about Practice.)

Three years!

No baby yet.

Just because I know that's the first thing on your mind. Jeez, don't you think about anything else? Me? I've moved on. Just because this baby prefers the inside doesn't mean that I have to think about the birth every day, hope for labor to start, jump up and down a little, complain unceasingly about how uncomfortable I am, look at my new stretch marks every day to see whether they've grown...

See how composed I am?

Anyways, it came to my attention that I missed my third anniversary of keeping this blog.

I am endlessly glad that I started it. Here I have grown as a writer, I have kept records of years of my kids' lives that I might have otherwise whined my way through, and I have transitioned through major things with the help of my blogging community friends. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, and there are things that I maybe wouldn't have been able to get through without you.

Community is a grand thing.

Like the way I can tell you about the fact that the water hasn't come for three days now, and we are hauling water out of the well, and you'll sigh and sympathize. (Maybe. Maybe you'll say, "buck up, woman, what did you expect when you moved to India?" And then you'll say, "we're hauling? Don't you mean, Chinua's hauling? He's the one who needs our sympathy. And you should be glad that you have a well." And then I'll say, "See- that's exactly the kind of thing that I needed to hear! Now I'm going to go kiss Chinua- or the Well Man, as I've begun calling him.")

So, since I'm celebrating doing this blog thing for three years, I've been peering into my archives and picking out favorites, which you can see in my new Favorites tab up there. See it? I have a looooonnng way to go and they are in no particular order right now. Maybe later I'll put them in a comprehensible order. For now, just be blessed by the chaos.

And for my present, if there are any lurkers interested in delurking... I love you! Leave a comment, if you'd like.

That's all. Have a lovely day and think of me when you turn your tap on.

Where have I been for nine months?

I think I forgot, somewhere along the line, that I am pregnant.

Or maybe I forgot that pregnancy ends with birth.

Doesn't that hurt?  Right?  I'm scared.

And then after you don't get to sleep a lot, right?

And there's milk, I remember the milk.  Lots of milk.

Oh yes, and the newborn cheeks and the sweet smelling breath and the kissable forehead.

And there are those little grunting scritching noises.

And the lack of heartburn.

And the curled up bug on your chest.

I guess I can do this birth thing again

A Story





















(A tablet is a thing you write on and it makes the marks right on the computer like magic!)

PS: While I was uploading these pictures the water came back.  Jaya was not happy with how much we paid to have it fixed.  She says we should have asked her first.  Which is true.  But I am going to take a shower tonight and to me that is all that matters.

38 weeks, give or take a few days

Over it. Over it.

I'm totally whining, but I'm at that point. I would like to have this baby now, thanks.

We got a kick out of this:

Not pregnant.



Just kidding!



I know, it's not really that funny. But the backs of my elbows are pretty funny, don't you think? And my glasses are a bit crooked, since someone in the family (maybe me) sat on them or something. That's funny, too.

Running through memory lane (Update: the links are fixed!)

Right before I had Leafy, I took some time to write out all of my birth stories. It was a good preparation for another birth experience, and I felt so happy reading through them again, just now.

If you are interested, you can read them too.

The Blackberry Baby

The Ladybug Baby

The Redwood Baby

All of our kids have been born in memorable places, at memorable times. We've been blessed by their arrivals, three sweet times, and it helps me through my hip pain (have I mentioned my hip pain?) and general complete discomfort right now to read about the wonderful end results of this thing called pregnancy.

Of course, I do have the kids themselves to remind me of the joys of babies. The kids, with their love and cuddles and sweetness and demanding voices and shrieking and fighting and running the opposite way when I am too big to get up and run after them (Leafy). Oh. Um. Sorry. I may be a little exhausted right now.

Seriously, I know that I am a woman blessed, and my kids are my favorite people in the world.



Now, if only I had a little more energy...

(Chinua snapped the photo, a few weeks back.)

Code

Well, today I was planning to just go ahead and write a post. I felt inspired! My hands were twitching! That can be a good indication that I'm ready to write again, as is the fact that I fell asleep thinking up this seriously strange post that I do believe I'll write someday.

Anyways, I got ready to write my little posty-poo, and saw that I have somehow lost the ability to upload photos. I assumed that the latest version of Wordpress had caused my version to no longer work. I guess I'd better upgrade- finally, I thought to myself.

And then I broke my blog.

And then I had a panic attack, partly because I was trying to fix my blog at the same time as potty train my two-year-old. NOT SMART. There may not be two more frustrating things in the world than web code and two-year-old boys who are leaping between the potty and the toilet, refusing to pay attention and finally peeing on the rug.

Web code probably wins the pull-your-hair out competition, though.

So, then, yes, I burst into tears. I was pretty afraid that everything was gone. I was mostly afraid for the three years of writing that have gone into this website. I felt a little like throwing up. And my husband stroked my face and was nice to me. And I hit myself in the forehead a few thousand times.

And then suddenly, I fixed it. But, as you can see, it's still slightly broken. There are strange messages written all over the page. What can they mean? And I still can't upload any photos.

However, it will have to wait, because I'm tired and pregnant and wanting to hang out because today is the first day of our family reunion. Remember, though. I'm no professional.

Pregnancy update: I've reached the point in this whole pregnancy schtick where I have two companions who make themselves known at many moments during the day.

The first is, of course, my wittle baby. Tap tap tap, he/she says. Tap tap wriggle. It's code for I love you.

The second is heartburn. And it burns burns burns, the ring of fire. It's code for you are going to regret eating anything at all. Ever.

Spanish Eyes (Sleepy Ones)

I have a new post on Burkina Faso up at LJUrban. And I haven't been making it known here everytime I post, so you can see the archives here if you've missed some.

Can I just say that I have scrambled eggs in my head instead of brains? Packing scramble. Today I waved goodbye to a bookshelf, which made me feel like I am getting somewhere. It was one of those weird full circle things that happens sometimes, with those of us who have lived at the Land. The bookshelf was in Elena's cabin, until she gave it to some people who lived in another cabin, and then the next people who moved into that cabin inherited it, and then they gave it to me. I brought it here when I moved, because it is a good little bookshelf, and then today, I called my friend Elena, and asked her if she wanted a bookshelf. Turns out that she and the bookshelf have been friends before.

See what I'm saying? Scrambled eggs.

Throw three young children into the packing mix and it is not always that pretty. Add the fact that I'm practically comatose by 9:00 PM, and you have an impossibility. (And a rhyme!) I'm also ordering things like backpacks and sleeping bags online, while deciding which books to ship, and which ones to store.

However, I had some high points today. Sitting on the floor singing alphabet phonics songs with Leafy and YaYa. The little cuddles I snuck in with all three kids today. The kids painting on paper with their shirts off. And THE BOMB Spanish rice that I made tonight.

When I was pregnant with Kid A, I had a thing for Spanish rice. I traveled from Taqueria to Taqueria, looking for the perfect rice. If only I had the recipe then that I have now.

I have no fancy pictures for you, but if you love rice, and you love Spain, you might just love this recipe.

Ingredients: 1/4 cup cooking oil
2 cups long grain rice (I used white)
1 onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced (I used red)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 3/4 cups chicken broth (no msg)
3/4 cup tomato sauce
2 tsp salt

In a skillet that has a lid that fits, sauté the rice in the oil at medium high heat until it is golden brown. You'll need to stir it quite a lot. Throw the onion and the bell pepper in when the rice is golden brown, that's golden brown, and sauté them for a few minutes, then throw the garlic in too and sauté it for a few minutes.

(The garlic will burn if you leave it too long, I know this to be true.)

Now pour (don't throw) the chicken broth, tomato sauce, and salt in (you can throw the salt if you want) and turn the burner up to high. Bring the soupy ricey stuff to a rolling boil, and let it boil for a couple of minutes, then turn it down and simmer with the lid for twenty minutes.

That's it. Oh gosh, it's sitting in my fridge right now. What do you think, should I fold laundry? Or eat more Spanish riczzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Snore.