I’m not sure what to write since the last time I did this. Surely, you’ve been dragged through more nonsense than any toddler should have to endure. All in all, you’ve shown remarkable resiliency in the face of overwhelming changes. In the last year you’ve visited three countries, several states, crossed two major ocean, and moved from the tropical bliss of the Pacific Islands to the overcast moors of Northern England. Your cheerful outlook throughout it all has been incredible.

Although, you have not been entirely compliant, which pleases me. You know how to make your opinion known. You made your exasperation perfectly clear on our last day in Japan when you asked “Go to Nana’s house?” The implication, of course, was that Nana would not have hauled you by train all over a foreign country and asked you to behave yourself. No, at Nana’s house you could take off your pants and eat bagels on the couch, which to be honest sounds like a nice way to pass the time.

Actually, that was the rule at our house up until recently. The weather in England has brought your days of optional nudity to an abrupt halt. Gone are the days when I put you down for your nap in naught but a pair of bloomers to keep you from taking off your diaper and sleeping bare-bottomed; you have finally given in to necessity and stopped removing those troublesome socks and shoes the second our backs turned. I’m sorry that had to happen to you. For what it’s worth, I wish you could spend all your days barefoot and in simple t-shirt dresses.

At least you have a well-developed sense of fashion. “Pitty pink hat!” you announce, pleased with your choice of head topper. The pink knit hat is ever-present and oft photographed (enough to have created an entire Facebook album focusing on The Pink Hat Chronicles). You also invite strangers to gaze upon your “pupple sparkly shooooes” and nod knowingly when they give your feet their approval. If it’s loud, bright, and flashy, it’s for you.

You yourself can be loud, but you favor soft whispers and gentle sing-song tones. In time you might make a wonderful Marilyn Monroe impression. And you talk a lot. All the time, in full sentences and questions. We never have to wonder what you’re thinking and you know how to get your point across. “Have some milk, please?” “Go to the playground and down the slide!” “More scones, La-La?” (Oh, La-La, your filthy and beloved contemporary. Fortunately you understand when I say that La-La needs a spa day and has to go away for a wash.) And my personal favorite, after many trips on the subway in DC: “Don’t block the doors, La-La. Move to the center of the car.” I don’t mind telling you I laughed at that one until tears came. You’re incredibly gentle with your dolls, actually. You tenderly feed them and offer them drinks and tuck them in at night, and I can’t wait to see if you’ll do the same with the new baby.

I guess most of all is that I love you tremendously and can’t imagine a time where you weren’t in my life. It amazes me that we’ve had two years together already. And really, what else is there to say?

Ah. Yes. Happy birthday, dear Maggie, my brown-eyed girl. We love you.


Odds Are…

Confession: I have, with wild abandon, violated nearly every dietary rule concerning pregnancy in the modern age.

For someone who gets ill at the mention of most foods, I certainly do get a thrill from fantasizing about those foods I crave. Much as it was with Maggie, my cravings tend toward carb-dense breads and red meat. Rare, mooing, bleeding meat, when I can get it. Steak. Ribs. Burgers. I want it all. And on top of that, I want a bunch of food I can’t have. And I eat it.

In Maine, I gorged myself silly on Moe’s Italian Sandwiches fresh from Portsmouth, loaded with oil and each one had extra salami. Deli meat: check.

In Florida, Tom took me to Bern’s Steakhouse, a Tampa institution and home of the most fabulous meats you could ever hope to see. I had a filet mignon, rare, preceded by nearly a quarter pound of steak tartare. That’s a quarter pound of seasoned raw meat and some onions. I’m salivating just thinking about it. And for dessert? We had a cheese platter. Soft cheese and raw/undercooked meats: check.

In Cambridge, MA I stuffed myself senseless on organic sushi (all salmon, no high-mercury fish). Sushi: check.

In Harrogate, they freakin’ LOVE their goat cheese. I ordered a 10″ pizza loaded with the stuff. And, figuring it was fine if it was cooked to a hot temperature, I ate the whole thing. Every inch.

Let’s not go into too much detail about the raw oyster brunches, venti-size coffees, the Diet Cokes, and Kona Longboards I had before I knew I was pregnant. Let’s also not get into detail about the lattes I’ve had since I found out.

Now, get it straight: I’m not telling you to go out and eat all those things and that it’s okay. I don’t want to get sued by your listeria-ridden asses. Don’t sue me, please. This is not an endorsement to throw out the advice you get from your own doctor or midwife.

That said, *my* midwife said, “Eat what you like. Just be sensible.” And I am. No more raw oysters; I’ll eat mussels properly steamed to a safe temperature (the ones that Maggie doesn’t steal off my plate, that is). No more steak tartare or beef carpaccio; but I’m not giving up my rare steak or my roast beef sandwiches. We’re too far inland for me to trust sushi and the majority of my cheese cravings tend toward the perfectly safe trappings of fresh mozzarella, so it’s not like I’m slamming down tuna sashimi with chevre chasers.

Right now I’m ascribing to the Ayun Halliday diet lined out in Dirty Sugar Cookies. Yes, she did land in the hospital with a case of listeria in her 8th month, but this truism remains even with that warning: “Intuition told me that I wouldn’t make the finish line without regular infusions of beer, coffee, and ice cream.” I don’t have much taste for beer, but a small coffee goes a long way to ensuring that I don’t fall asleep on the couch while my toddler merrily burns the room down and is well within the US and UK regs for caffeine consumption.

In short, I’m eating small, healthy, balanced meals with sensible snacks.

But I’m doing it my way.

Food Fighter

I have accomplished very little over the last two weeks.

Few updates to the blog, no house yet to clean, and even the bulk of the childrearing has fallen on Tom’s shoulders. I have all sorts of blog ideas percolating in my head but scant motivation when it comes to recording them. All I’ve been doing the last few weeks is growing a human and trying desperately to avoid vomiting, with varied success. Since my last post my state of well-being has taken a sharp nosedive. If I were permitted to do so, I could easily sleep 16 hours a day and live off a diet consisting solely of bread loaves and watered-down juice. Alas, I cannot. And I live in terror of the lobby of our hotel, which contains a plug-in air “freshener” that in the last few days has gone from merely odious to unfailingly vomit-inducing every time I pass. I’m afraid to leave the building without a mask over my face, lest I water the garden with breakfast, and thus leaving to explore other places and restaurants becomes a Herculean task.

The one meal a day that I actually feel up to eating is dinner. Dinner is wonderful; Tom’s had Maggie for a few hours so I can recharge and by then I’m starting to feel human again. And since we don’t have a house or a car with which to transport groceries, we’re still on per diem so we can enjoy some nice restaurants. The one where we’ve had the best luck is a place called Prezzo, a chain that I believe originated in the UK. It’s probably the UK equivalent of the Olive Garden, except the food tastes so much better than the Italian-food-for-dummies/sludge-on-noodles the Olive Garden routinely serves.

Since mozzarella is one of the cheeses I can safely consume, I was more than a little disappointed that there was no option to just have mozzarella and tomato salad (is that a genuinely Italian dish or a bastardization? Geraldine?). Whatever. It tastes good. But draping a light, delicious bit of prosciutto (technically a no-no food for me, but I have a relaxed midwife) over their mozzarella more than made up for it. And the carbonara was a delight. No one was more surprised than me that I could handle such dishes, but there you go.

Conversely…Mexican food. Oh, how I needed a little avocado in my life (which I actually found a few days later in Prezzo’s salmon/avocado salad). I had a bad craving and y’know, I’m just not seeing avocado at the grocery store like I used to in Hawaii. Oh, for the locally grown fruits of our former home!

It turns out that Mexican food is one of those cuisines that the further away you are from your home source, the worse it’s going to be. Thanks to immigration, you can find great Italian in New York, Boston, San Francisco, take your pick. You may have to dig, but somewhere in most major cities you can find a hole in the wall where someone’s Italian grandma has relinquished control over her old country cookbook and they’re doing Nonna’s recipes justice.

Not so with Mexican food in Northern England, or at least not in Harrogate. The guacamole was a horrendous disappointment–I think some sort of sour cream or mayo was used as filler, which is an abomination unto avocado. You may be a nice person, but if your guac recipe includes fillers we just aren’t going to be friends–and looked somewhat oxidized. The burrito was dry, with not a bit of bean to be seen. And this is all academic anyway, because it came up as soon as we got home.

Nothing tastes good anymore. Nothing, nothing, nothing. Just salty and sour things, heavy emphasis on savory. There’s a carbonated sour apple juice available here that is making my life bearable, and pancetta bacon makes everything okay again (especially in a garlic cream sauce) but nothing else. Maggie’s asleep and I just had to write SOMETHING, but all I can think about is my poor belly.

Tom is of the opinion that if I just got up and walked around a bit I’d feel springy and happy once again. I’m reminded of a line from “Friends” that I’ll need to quote to him if it comes up again: “Hey! No uterus = no opinion.”