Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hey, I'm Still Pregnant

It's been a lot (a LOT) of weeks since I updated on the ol' pregnancy, and if I'm not blogging it, I'm not writing it down anywhere else either. Oops. I feel like I owe it to myself and Baby X to write down a little something here and there for us to look back on and see how this pregnancy went, but I have been pretty lackadaisical about that. Sorry, Baby X.

Want me to really sum this pregnancy up in a nutshell? After not taking a belly shot for over 5 weeks, I then had to go through the trash in my e-mail to find the last update I got from babycenter -- that's how I knew how many weeks I am pregnant. That's got to be some sort of record for parental pregnancy negligence, right?

Well, babycenter told me I am 27 weeks pregnant, and here's how that looks:

I had to go with a cell phone picture too. This child is ABUSED. I am still a little blown away at how much bigger I was with Josephine. My doctors keep telling me to calm the heck down, but last time I was already bigger than this by the time I was 20 weeks. No joke. Here's the evidence:

And, not to get all TMI on you (but I totally am, so skip this sentence if you don't want to find out), but my breasts are few cup sizes smaller than they were when I was pregnant with Josie, so that throws off all the comparisons on belly size. What? I use my boobs as a comparison point, like, "my belly is finally past my boobs!" Don't pretend you don't do that with belly shots.

However, by all accounts, this baby is growing like a champ and is exactly on track according to her last ultrasound. I'm not as worried about it as I used to be, but it's still weird, right? Everyone told me to expect to get bigger faster with the second one, so it was really hard to not assume the worst when I didn't.

I also thought for a short period that this baby might be more mellow than her sister was in utero, because her little kicks stayed little kicks for much longer than Josie's did. Josie went from the "is there a butterfly under my skin?" phase to the "this kid is kicking so hard I am bent over in pain" phase in about TWO DAYS. That was definitely one of the reasons that my first pregnancy felt so damn long -- because it felt like she was trying to kill me from the inside out, all day, every day, for at least 20 weeks. 

Baby X lasted a little longer with the "I'm a tiny and adorable baby" kicks, and she has gotten stronger, that's for sure, but thankfully she's not trying to kill me yet. What makes her just as big of a stinker as her sister is that I am 99% sure she is playing mind games with me. With Josie, when she started kicking, she never stopped for ONE SECOND until she was born. I kept reading those "what to do if your baby hasn't moved for more than an hour" tips, and I was like That HAPPENS? This Baby X, however, will stay still JUST long enough to freak me out, make me chug cold water, poke and prod, beg her to move, and then she will have a dance party for a few hours, like "What? I was in here the whole time. I just didn't feel like letting you know." SCAMP. 

Other than that, she's a pretty good little tenant. As far as symptoms, I feel pretty lucky this time around. There is definitely something very wrong with my lower back, like, I wouldn't be surprised if my tailbone were shattered and little pieces were floating around in there, scraping against each other. I have had a few of those "I threw my back out!" moments like on TV where the person can't move and screams for help. Adorable. Also, as soon as the heat kicked in over here (I live in a magical place where is can and DOES go from 40 degrees to 80 degrees in one day), I started having to watch my ankles. If it's really hot and I'm on my feet for a while, I swell pretty quickly. I've always had very poor circulation, so that doesn't help anything. But my blood pressure is great, so it's not that. Oh, and the four-a-day gushing nosebleeds are charming, but there are about a million worse things that could be happening at this point, so really, it's back pain, swollen ankles, and nosebleeds. I can handle that.

We had one or two scary moments when she was just a little pea-sized nugget, but we did with Josie too, so it's nice that things are relatively simple these days. It's not like it's so amazing that I forget I'm pregnant or anything, but I think I'm as close as I can get to that, so I am pretty pleased. The third trimester is just around the corner, so I might change my tune soon. We shall see.

Maybe the biggest news, however? There is a possibility that Jeremy and I have a name. We're definitely keeping it a secret again this time, but I told him a name I couldn't get out of my head and a few days later, he said he couldn't get it out of his head either. That is definitely encouraging.

All in all, Baby X = a pretty awesome lady.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Book Review: My New American Life by Francine Prose

I'm usually not one to start book reviews with the synopsis from the back of the book, but when it comes to My New American Life by Francine Prose, I almost feel like I have no other choice.

Lula, a twenty-six-year-old Albanian woman living surreptitiously in New York City on an expiring tourist visa, hopes to make a better life for herself in America. When she lands a job as caretaker to Zeke, a rebellious high school senior in suburban New Jersey, it seems that the security, comfort, and happiness of the American dream may finally be within reach. Her new boss, Mister Stanley, an idealistic college professor turned Wall Street executive, assumes that Lula is a destitute refugee of the Balkan wars. He enlists his childhood friend Don Settebello, a hotshot lawyer who prides himself on defending political underdogs, to straighten out Lula's legal situation. In true American fashion, everyone gets what he wants and feels good about it.

But things take a more sinister turn when Lula's Albanian "brothers" show up in a brand-new black Lexus SUV. Hoodie, Leather Jacket, and the Cute One remind her that all Albanians are family, but what they ask of her is no small favor. Lula's new American life suddenly becomes more complicated as she struggles to find her footing as a stranger in a strange new land. Is it possible that her new American life is not so different from her old Albanian one?

Set in the aftermath of 9/11, My New American Life offers a vivid, darkly humorous, bitingly real portrait of a particular moment in history, when a nation's dreams and ideals gave way to a culture of cynicism, lies, and fear. Beneath its high comic surface, the novel is a more serious consideration of immigration, of what it was like to live through the Bush-Cheney years, and of what it means to be an American.

When I finished reading the synopsis, all I could think was "...huh..." and I requested the book, but for the life of me, could not decide what kind of book would be showing up on my doorstep. Luckily, what showed up was a really amazing book.

I don't know about you, but the synopsis confused me, and in the same sense, it is hard to describe what "kind" of book this is. What I can tell you is that the writing is, without a doubt, superb. The characters are beautifully constructed. You will fall in love with the main character by the end of the first paragraph. You will think you know what is going on in the book, and then all of sudden you will get slapped in the face and you will love the shake-up. You will like this book.

Perhaps my favorite thing about the book is the darling eccentricity of the main character, Lula. Her stories about Communist Albania are sometimes true and sometimes complete fabrication. People tend to be more likely to believe the fabrications. She is a wonderful, lying, pessimistic, paranoid person who is also, somehow, pure of heart and the person you find yourself rooting for, no matter what.

After finishing the book, I read part of a review by Michael Dirda of The New York Times Review of Books that stated "With the possible exception of Joyce Carol Oates, there is no busier or more prolific woman of letters in twenty-first-century America than Francine Prose." I felt a little lame for never having heard of her before this after reading that description, but I am a little less connected to the literary world than I have been at other times in my life, so I am going to cut myself a break and do a little catch-up. In the past, I have read books and then said I was going to go out and read everything else by that particular author. Many times, this does not come to fruition, or does not happen for many years. In this case, I have already requested some of her fiction and non-fiction from my library (GoldengroveA Changed ManThe Lives of the Muses: Nine Women & the Artists They Inspired, and Blue Angel).

This book is like nothing I've read, and was truly fun to read. It was even one of those books where the last line of the book makes you smile and read it over and over again. I promise you won't be disappointed if you check out Francine Prose.

If you'd like to see what other bloggers on the tour had to say about this book, you can click HERE for the main schedule of reviews.

I was given a copy of this book by TLC Book Tours, but was not compensated in any way for this review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Oh, Mackinac

My sweet, sweet, Mackinac Island. We have been going up for Memorial Day weekend as a family for at least 14 years now to attend a large and fancy convention, and this was our last year. It was sad to think that we may never have the chance to stay at the Grand Hotel ever again, but we have been lucky enough to stay at that swanky palace of "gracious living" for ten years now, and appreciate the opportunity so much it is impossible to put into words. Also, we know we will return to Mackinac Island as much as possible in the future. And having the chance to take our little girl there? Priceless. 

This year was a particularly fantastic year, although I'm sure the parent of any toddler will agree that it is a TAD exhausting to wrangle a little free spirit, especially when there are planned events at which to be present, fun things you want to accomplish in between, and a schedule to keep so your child doesn't turn into an insane monster and ruin everyone else's time. In spite of that, J did a pretty fantastic job, and there were only a few times the schedule was flaunted and a very few meltdowns. She acted shy with a few relatives who were excited to see her, and that broke my heart a little, but we were around hundreds and hundreds of people, many of whom knew her and were talking to her and trying to hold her, so you can only expect so much from an almost-two-year-old.

Can you smell a photo dump coming? Guess what? I'm not even going to apologize. Memories. Like a deck of card, memories ... (that's one the lines, right? I'm not gonna google it to check. I'll apologize for that one.)


I Instagrammed (user name vmdimick) the first few moments of our trip. Heading out on the open road:
I did tweet our whereabouts, but warned would-be buttheads that we had a housesitter. A GOOD one.

And then Josie hit her I've-been-in-the-car-for-more-than-two-hours-make-it-stop crank:

Then we got to the ferry! Early! And Josephine spent twenty minutes leaning over the railing (much to the chagrin of the old lady in line behind us), shouting "Water! Rock! Water! Rock!" over and over.

She refused to even turn away for pictures.

And just like last year, she loved the ferry.
Last year:

Jeremy took her to the top level and she LOVED it. I had to force them both to come back down below.

We had some settling in and napping to do, then we got fancified for dinner, and Josie proved just how classy our family was.

After the Bean went to bed, Jeremy and I hung out with my little sister and her dude, my little brother and his lady, and my older sister and her husband and kids in the four-bedroom cottage behind the Grand Hotel, where we were lucky enough to be put up. How many cottages have you been in that have THIS in the living room?


The convention officially begins. 

After heading down to breakfast and sitting in her favorite chair in the lobby, we headed down to what I was certain would be a big hit: the fountain.

I could not have been more right.

Then, Josephine spotted a butterfly from a million miles away. How she did it, I'll never know.

Except ... it was TWO butterflies. 

My niece shouted, "The one on top is hurting the one on the bottom!" I said, "No, I think they're just talking." And then I shot my very first butterfly p0rn.

After all that excitement, we strapped our kid in a screen-in cart (seriously, who thought of that, because I think it is both amazing and seriously strange) and rode the eight miles around the Island. 

It was beautiful, as usual. We made a few stops. First, Devil's Kitchen (spooky) (not really).

Next, the British Landing (hence the fake cannon).

Josephine was not content to just look at the water, and demanded her toes be dipped. 

Jeremy obliged, and my niece and nephew frolicked.

Finally, one of my favorites, Arch Rock.

And we even had time to do some "rock climbing" and pebble sorting.

When we got back, everyone was stoked for lunch. Pretty much everyone who saw her thought Josephine was pretty funny scarfing down her cottage cheese. Let's just say she ate a LOT of it.

After a restorative nap, we discovered dominoes in our cottage AND that Josephine has the ability to stand them up. That kid amazes me (and my sister's boyfriend, apparently). 

We headed off to mass after that.

And, I've gotta say, for a kid who doesn't get practice sitting through church (*ahem*) I was pleased that Josephine made it about 2/3 through before her conversation with her magna doodle got too loud and she had to be removed. Until then, she was entertained quietly by my nephew. We all love that kid.

More hanging with the fam after lights out for the Bean. The other members of the group may have enjoyed some beverages that a pregnant lady cannot, seeing as alcohol was free for our group all weekend. Not that I'm jealous or anything.


Breakfast included a rousing staring contest and Josephine expressing her love for Mackinac Island.

We went for a little walk after breakfast (We didn't wander too far, because my knees were pretty shot after our bike ride -- I forgot about those loosening ligaments of pregnancy. Boo!).

We mourned the fact that the pool wasn't full yet.

And Josephine consoled herself by lounging in the sun and then running up and down a hill ten thousand times.

While Josie took her nap that day, Jeremy and I took a little sun nap in the private yard behind the cottage (I know). I did not know that Jeremy took a picture of me sleeping, but there you go.

We all needed the rest, because we were headed to a fancy-schmancy banquet for the rest of the evening. Before it began we got lots of formal pictures taken. Josie was super excited about that first one.

Siblings! (can you tell my brother lives in Florida?)

Thankfully my dad stood by the camera and fake sneezed for this one to get a smile out of my punk kid (she got a little overwhelmed by all the people and the jazz band and whatnot).

And then we all hung out at the cocktail reception (again, not that I'm jealous) until my dad's big banquet began.

Luckily there was a lot of clapping going on, so Josephine stayed seated and entertained until her bedtime.

My dad did official things. 

After, I went straight to the hospitality room hosted by Italians (I'm nobody's fool), loaded up on cheese and olives, then headed back to the cottage to put up my swollen ankles. More family fun time late into the night.

DAY FOUR: (only one more day after this, I swear) 

We spent more time at the fountain, because OF COURSE.

Then we moved on to our traditional game of bocce. 

Josephine was not pleased that she was not included, and was bound and determined to be part of the game.

She finally settled on throwing the ball a foot in front of her while my sister took her picture. Then  she moved on to mastering croquet.

We had lunch at one of the hotel's restaurants, The Jockey Club.

Later that night, we headed out to another of the hotel's restaurants, The Woods, which requires a lovely 15-minute carriage ride deep into the woods. I swear, Josephine was totally geeked.

She didn't stop talking about the "sie-sies" pulling the carriage the whole time (Before the trip she called horses "horsies," but as soon as we stepped onto the Island -- there are no cars allowed on the Island -- she started calling them "sie-sies." Whatever, right?)

Sometime during the trip she learned the word "knuckles" and started asking for people for a fist bump by saying "knuckles," but when my brother-in-law started saying "BOOM!" while doing so, she about lost her mind. Over and over, she would say "knuckles," he would pound her first and say "BOOM," she would crack up, put her fist directly in her mouth, choke out a little "boom!" through her laughter, then start all over again. 

On the way home we got a beautiful view from the West Bluff (one of my and Jeremy's favorite places on the Island).

Can you tell it was past bedtime? :)

More hanging out with family, eating, drinking, and laughing until much too late.


After an early breakfast, we headed out into the rain, wind, and cold (that thankfully waited until our last day!) and headed back to the ferry.

The ferry was a bit more "exciting" this time around.

And then Josephine and I collapsed and Jeremy drove us home. That guy.

I know that was a lot of pictures, but this has basically been the most important event of the year for us after Christmas and Josephine's birthday for many a year. I will cherish these memories forever. A big thanks to my parents and the Knights of Columbus for making it happen, and a big thanks to my family for making it great.

P.S. I didn't forget about the giveaway. I announced it over here.
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