Friday, April 11, 2014

My Meal Plan Obsession

When I told my mom that I was trying to get back to blogging she said, "I don't think you should write about food at all.  I think you should just write about the boys.  I always skip over your food posts looking for stuff about them." Ahhh, grandmothers...

If you are in her camp, this is not the post for you.  However, if you are like me and both passionate about and obsessed with food, especially in a voyeuristic way, I think you'll like where we're going today.  Some of my favorite posts from around the web tend to be peeks into peoples' fridges, snippets on the breakfasts of interesting people, and meal planning downloads from other busy A-types.  I love writing about food, and these days our life, schedule, and budget are such that meal planning is the linchpin of our culinary existence. My husband still works from home, so generally, I'm shopping for and prepping 3 meals a day for 4 people 7 days a week; that's 84 meals a week, people.  No joke.  Turning out food this way in a budget and health conscious way takes a serious plan.

Gone are the days of rambling to the store for an obscure ingredient when the whim strikes or ordering takeout just because we're feeling lazy.  Going to the store is a major physical expedition. You know those handy seats in the front of the shopping cart, meant to hold your child so you can shop?  My 30 lb. monkey-toddler laughs in their face.  He likes to escape the little safety belt, stand up, and lean precariously toward towering displays of breakable jars or try to get down and smash eggs (this actually happened, in a totally mortifying fashion).  I often end up holding him and trying to shop one-handed; it's nuts. So I like to try and make one and only one shopping trip per week, even if that means going to three stores (in this town, it does).  With one shopping day, all of that exertion and frustration is compartmentalized and can be rewarded with a large glass of wine.

I know I'm lucky to be able to shop at off-peak times; Friday morning is an ideal time to hit grocery stores, as they are usually fully stocked in anticipation of the weekend rush, and relatively empty of customers. If you are home with kids, or work in a non-9-to-5 industry, I can't recommend this timing enough.  I know it is not rocket science, but it took me many an annoying trip to a picked over Thursday Trader Joe's to get hip to the Friday shop.  So, for me, Thursdays are usual meal planning days, where I pour over cookbooks, Pinterest, and the family calendar, and try to create a realistic meal plan for the week ahead.  Starting the weekend with a stocked fridge makes Sunday meal prep that much easier, with everything readily on hand to get rolling on cooking projects fresh off of your morning coffee buzz.

In honor of type-A culinary voyeurism, here's a peek at my meal planning these days:

1) Breakfasts
We keep this easy: cereals, eggs, toast, Kashi waffles, or the ingredients for homemade ones for all of the boys.  For me, I've recently been inspired by this stunning raw vegan Australian instagrammer I follow (don't even ask me how I find these things, I just do), and have been doing a kind of vegan-until-dinner thing which has me feeling surprisingly phenomenal.  In this spirit, I've been starting the day with a massive smoothie.
image via Lonijane
These concoctions have been so hydrating and energizing. I've been using coconut water instead of a dairy product (our Trader Joe's sells the quart containers for $3, so it's not a bank breaker, or rather an even trade-off with almond milk or some such) and some combination of bananas, frozen mango, blueberry or strawberry.  I've also been adding a teaspoon of maca powder, which I'll post about separately.  I can't tell you how beneficial this whole routine has been to my energy... delicious game changer.

2) Lunches
The little boys are easy: I check PB&J levels, stock up on Cabot Cheddar for grilled cheeses, and get as good a variety of fresh fruit as is in season.  Hummus (I try to mix it up with the bazillion varieties TJ's offers), bell peppers, cukes and carrots are on the weekly list as well.  I get turkey for B (aka, the husband).  We go through bread like it's our job.  And every Sunday, I make a big pot of soup for lunches for the week.  Soup is my easiest, healthiest, favorite go-to lunch (until when/if it warms up here and I switch to salads).  Sometimes I can sell it to the little boys, and B always loves it on the side of a sandwich or with some good bread.  It can also pinch hit for dinner when necessary.
Some favorite soups of late:
Shutterbean's Carrot Coconut Soup
image via Shutterbean
My Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup
Paste e Fagioli has been a winter staple.
And this week I am going to make an old fave of ours, Chickpea and Spinach Stew.

3) Dinners
This varies widely week-to-week depending on a variety of factors from athletic and social schedules, to monthly budgeting fluctuations, to seasonal cravings.  A typical week will look something like this:

Friday
Ina Garten's Perfect Roast Chicken.  This recipe has been a staple of mine for over a decade, and B has declared more than once that he would have married me just for this chicken... it's that good.  This week, a recuperating relative has requested a perfect chicken care package, so I'm going to pop two in the oven, as I can't rightly fill the house with that aroma and not offer some to my men.  This is the kind of dish that is great to cook on Friday for meals all weekend.

Saturday
Pizza Night.  We do this at least once a week.  It gives me a nice break from cooking, since pizza is B's department, and it is so soul-satisfying, especially served with a side of House of Cards.  We use amazing pre-made doughs from our local Italian specialty store and make two pies: spinach and mushroom for me, pepperoni, mushroom and peppers for B.  We totally don't each eat a whole pizza ourselves.  Ever.  

Sunday
Sunday is known in our house as "Fat Day".  We cook our most indulgent and complicated dishes on Sundays and try to truly savor the process and the meals to start our week on the right foot.  One of the best Fat Day recipes we've had recently is Helen Jane's Slow Cooker Thai Lemongrass Beef.
image via Helen Jane
This is one of the most flavorful, complex, and satisfying slow cooker dishes of all time.  If you are a meat eater, you must try this one ASAP.   The ginger, cinnamon, star anise combo is so warming and intensely savory, and the leftovers will rock your world (if there are any).

Monday
For the record, this Monday is Passover.  But a typical Monday for us is usually busy all around: school and sports for little J, intense workdays for B, general re-entry fatigue for the babe and me.  I usually keep dinner pretty simple, and often vegetarian to compensate for Fat Day.  Lately, we've been doing a lot of sushi bowls and a lot of Tofu Tikka Masala.  I love Trader Joe's Tikka Masala sauce, and usually do a combo of spinach, peas and tofu sautéed in coconut oil, with garlic naan on the side.

Tuesday
Our new house is a block from what I consider to be the best fish store in our town.  The boys love to go check out the lobsters swimming around in their tank.  I love to treat us to some of their fresh fish for dinner when we can.  Gwyneth's Sriracha Salmon is a super easy weeknight winner, served with simple greens.  My sister also swears by this Crispy Coconut Kale with Roasted Salmon and Coconut Rice recipe, which is on my short list for upcoming meal plans.
Gwynnie's Salmon: image via Self
Wednesday
Simple dinners are a rule-of-thumb for hump day when we're often running a little ragged.  Burrito Bowls have been a weekly staple.  I love the Shutterbean trick of mixing a jar of salsa into cooked rice for a quickie, easy Mexican base, and I'll also cheat and use Trader Joe's Cuban Black Beans if I don't have time or energy to do something bean-y from scratch.  A toppings bar of shredded cheese, chopped scallion and avocado, diced tomato and shredded lettuce, and we're good to go; and this little number is both time and budget friendly.

Thursday
Thursday is probably our chillest weekday.  No school for J, just one little morning activity, and the rest of the day is open, which I love.  We can have a quiet, easy afternoon, with more time to devote to a more involved dinner.  With the weekend on the horizon, it's nice to kick off the feeling of ease and indulgence this way.  We have a little shrimp stash in the freezer right now, and I've got my eye on this beauty of recipe: Shrimp and Avocado Salad with Miso Dressing.
image via Pinch of Yum
So that's what a week might look like around here.  I lean heavily on pre-prepared elements and quickie, old favorite staples to bridge a small smattering of more adventurous and ambitious meals.  I love, love, love pizza night (both for deliciousness and the husband cooking factor).  And some weeks are indeed a blur of takeout burritos, Annie's Mac and Cheese, and another bowl of that Sunday soup with a piece of unexciting toast, long after we wish it was already gone.  But when we're in our groove, crisis-free, and meal planned, culinary life is pretty good.  The three elements of the Thursday meal plan, Friday shop, and Sunday prep day keep us as well fed and waste free as possible. 

I hope this post gives you a little inspiration!  I always love to see what others are cooking and how their kitchens tick.  Any new favorite dishes in your house?  I'd love it if you shared in the comments.  

Friday, April 4, 2014

Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup

One reason I haven't blogged since my second son was born is that my time to cook has become seriously limited.  I still cook for us pretty much seven nights a week, and I'm proud that most of it tastes good and is healthy, but I've come to rely upon a rotating stable of quickie favorites that more often than not aren't so exciting.  This tortilla soup is one of those staples...a fast, throw-it-together, flavor-packed weeknight creation.  But unlike some of our other simple go-to dinners, this one is actually extremely exciting; it's just so damn tasty and too quick to be true.

This is most definitely a slow cooker recipe.  You could adapt it for the stovetop, but the beauty of it lies in the power of my beloved slow cooker.  The slow cooker allows the flavors of this simple soup to develop and deepen over many hours, creating a super savory dish, and it also contributes to the speediness of the prep.  Best of all: you add literally zero fat to this dish.  The only fat in the soup comes from the chicken (which is totally optional) and how wild you opt to go with the your toppings bar.  A stovetop version would require significant glugs of oil to get the onions and chicken cooked, and I kind of love it that the slow cooker version allows you to omit that added fat entirely.

This past Wednesday, I was having a completely rotten and stressful day, the type where you feel like you might burst into tears at the drop of a hat.  I finished feeding the baby his lunch at 12:25 and needed to pick up his brother at 1.  I was able to throw this soup in the slow cooker AND clean up from our lunch and my soup prep in that scant half-hour, which is a momming miracle.  The best thing is, when dinner hour rolled around and I had totally had it, this incredibly comforting soup was ready to go, no further cooking required, and it had filled the house with the most soul-soothing aroma, the way only a great soup does.

It is still bone-chillingly cold here in New Hampshire, but light enough late enough, and just slightly warm enough, that the kiddos on the block are back to riding bikes outside until sunset.  Nothing could be better than coming in to a warming, nourishing soup just waiting for dinner.  Even if you're getting warmer evenings where you are, this would be fabulous with an icy cold margarita or Corona with lime. And like most soups, this one just gets better with age, making perfect lunches for the rest of the week.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.  

Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup
Serves 8
Ingredients
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (optional -- I think this would make a fabulous vegetarian soup)
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper, diced
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 14 oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 14 oz. can sweet corn, drained and rinsed
1 8 oz. can diced green chiles
4 cups chicken or veggie broth
2 heaping teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
salt to taste (I used kosher salt)

For toppings, any or all of the following:
tortilla chips, crumbled OR, for extra points, you could thinly slice and pan-fry corn tortillas
ripe avocado, cubed
sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
scallions, chopped
fresh cilantro
sour cream or Greek yogurt
hot sauce (Cholula is the house favorite here)

Directions
1) Rinse and pat dry chicken.  Place in bottom of slow cooker.
2) Layer chopped vegetables and all other ingredients on top of the chicken, finishing with the broth and spices.  Stir.
3) Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours.
4) When the cook time is complete, use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove the chicken from the pot.  It will be fork-tender, falling apart.  Use two forks to shred the chicken on a cutting board or in a mixing bowl, and return it to the pot.  Stir and adjust seasonings to taste.
5) Serve with toppings, the more the better.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Hi.

Seventeen months. 
That is how long it has been since I've touched this blog! 

I never meant to disappear.  There was a perfect storm of circumstances that lead me to walk away for awhile, and I've been pondering if, how and when to come back.  Blogging has gotten really weird, at least as a professional endeavor.  Having always looked upon this place as something to be treated professionally, and aspirationally as a source of income, the weirder things got in the blogging world, the more ambivalent I felt about Sweet Mama Jane.  I've seen bloggers really trade on their children's privacy and identity for profit, and I've seen sponsorships lead to some really bizarre bedfellows and insincere and strange posts (whole foods blogger shilling for a diet drink company, I'm looking at you).   I don't read many of the blogs I used to (or many at all any more) because the whole thing left such a bad taste in my mouth.  I was feeling like I just didn't want to be a part of the blogosphere anymore.

Then, as far is this blog in particular went, there were so many things I wanted to do -- a site overhaul, a better logo, some different navigation -- that I would get completely overwhelmed and kind of throw my hands up when I couldn't seem to make time for it all (or any of it, actually).  My little guy doesn't nap like my older dude did, and when he does I like the QT with my eldest (and the time to, you know, shower), so POOF! there went my writing time.  2013 was a pretty exhausting year, if a good one. We moved. Again.  Same town, new house, but another move nonetheless.  And just like that, a year and half went by, and this place has just simmered.  I've missed it, and pondered how to take it up again on my own terms.

Two things made me feel like I might want to start blogging again.  One is what I think is probably the best food blog around at the moment, Dash and Bella.  Phyllis Grant, the writer, has two kids and as wild a schedule as the rest of us.  She uses a completely unembellished .blogspot template -- no cute logo, no gimmicky sidebar.  She does impromptu yoga handstands against her fridge when her kids make her insane.  She drinks a lot.  She swears in her posts.  And she posts whenever the spirit moves her and she cooks something stellar -- sometimes that is every week, sometimes it is every other month -- but she keeps it going.  I love her. Reading her made me feel like it would be okay if I never got a sponsor or did anything else to make this blog pretty, or even got around to a regular posting schedule again.  If you're just doing something from the heart, it can be totally on your terms.  It is a freeing and inspiring notion.

The other thing that lit a fire under me to get back here was an amazing batch of tortilla soup + two old friends. I cooked up a delicious soup yesterday that looked particularly photogenic in the soft spring light, so I Instagrammed it before digging in.  Two great old friends, who I've felt less connected to since I stopped blogging, both commented to suggest I blog it.  So sweet.  I miss them and the readers like them and the sense of community and sharing SMJ used to bring me.  I really would like to take a stab at writing here again.

So, I'm back.  I might not write here as often as I used to or even as I'd like to, but I'm going to give it a try.  If anyone is still out there, I'd love to have you back as well.  I'm writing up the tortilla soup recipe and I can't wait to share it.  Stay tuned, friends…

Sunrise from our new house.
New beginnings all around...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Welcome Baby L!

He's here!

Three weeks ago, I was walking the beaches here through three full days of "early labor." Contractions would come on strong and last consistently for hours or more, then fade away.  It was an emotional several days, with J sent off to stay at my parents since we were warned that when this little man came, he would arrive quickly.  

I'll never forget those beach walks.  All three days were glorious, warm New England fall days with blazing sunshine on the blue water.
I walked several miles alone the first day, feeling incredibly emotional.  I did a lot of crying.  I think I had a great deal of fear and trepidation from my first birth experience that I just had to let go of in order to move forward this time around.  I walked up and down the beach, listening to my favorite music and just letting the tears fall.  It was beautiful and transforming, and I think this beach will always hold a special place in my heart.

The second and third days, the hubs accompanied me on these beach tromps, and those were also some  special strolls.  We reflected on our last three and a half years as parents, our last seven years being married, and these nine years we've been together.  It felt like truly turning a page.  And we spotted this boat on the end of my last day of "early labor", which I took a sign things were going to happen soon (I was looking for any damn sign at that point, frankly, but still loved this boat)...

By Friday night, I was four centimeters dilated, both of my sisters were in town and ready to lend a hand, the little man had spent two nights away from us already, and we had spent one preemptive night in the hospital during a particularly serious bout of contractions.  In short, I had completely and totally had it.  I was in a lot of pain, and felt like I had been and would be pregnant forever.  We had a short dinner at my parents', came home and went to sleep. 

Around midnight, I was awakened by contractions on a whole different level.  By the time I was in the most intense part of my labor with little J I had gotten an epidural, so I hadn't really experienced this level of power pain.  We hung out timing the contractions for a bit, and then I was totally floored by one that let me know without a doubt it was time to get rolling.  We hopped in the car for the fifteen minute drive to the hospital.  The hubs timed a contraction in the parking lot as we arrived at 2:21am.  

The little dude was born on October 27 at 3:28am.

I can't believe that was over three weeks ago.  So much happened right after little L was born... some extra nights in the hospital for what turned out to be nothing (but the speculation was stressful at the time), the hurricane coming through the northeast, the election!  Add post-partum hormones and sleep deprivation to the mix and WHOA.  I've kind of just let myself go deep into the haze of it all and it feels good.  I'm not really trying to do much except keep everyone fed and content right now. I had intended to get a post about all of this up sooner, but sleep and time with the boys has taken precedent over all else.
We are doing really well.  After a rough few days in the hospital, baby L is settling into this world and his place in our family.  He's a spirited, strong, sturdy little dude, a Scorpio all the way, and his brother has been a trooper through all of this drastic change.  We're finding our way as a family of four, and it feels pretty incredible.

I'd be remiss if I didn't give my husband a huge shout out at this time.  He's one of the most in-touch, engaged, capable, assured, sweet and loving fathers I know.  I take great comfort in his ease in caring for a newborn, and even when we were both going on about two hours of sleep days after little L's arrival, he has kept a remarkably even keel and done a stellar job providing a balance of amazing support at home, while keeping all of the balls in the air at a demanding job.  I am so grateful that he is the father of my children.  B - you rock.  Thank you.

So, that's the story!  I've seen some beautifully written full-detail birth stories out there on the interwebs, but it feels better to me to keep the nitty gritty of ours as something a bit more private.  I will just say that I am just very grateful that I had such a quick delivery this time around and was able to try going the natural route, which I had intended to do the first time around, but the forty hour labor got the best of me that time.  This time, there was no time for debate... they were literally still checking us into the hospital when I started pushing!  Crazy.  It was also very cool to have my sister in the room for the birth... a singular experience neither of us will ever forget. Most of all, I'm thankful for this house of healthy, beautiful boys I have and for all of the adventures yet to come.
I'm looking forward to a slothful week ahead involving lots of pie and QT with my dudes.  I plan to get back to posting regularly shortly thereafter.  In the meantime, wishing all of you a very happy Thanksgiving and a restful, indulgent week!  We have a lot to be thankful for this year!
xoxo,
SMJ

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

On Honesty

I've just discovered The Chalkboard Mag, the blog from L.A.'s Pressed Juicery.  This gorgeous, inspiring online destination is so much more than juice bar social media!  The Chalkboard is a great resource for nutrition information, recipes, wellness tips, holistic beauty recommendations, and meditation inspiration.  They have a weekly breakdown on toxic ingredients that is fascinating (but not in a preachy or fear-mongering way) and an impressive list of guest editors from the healthy living and organic style community.  I've only just started visiting the site, but can tell it is going to be a favorite (although it takes being in a kumbaya, I'm drinking my kombucha and wearing my yoga pants and juicing my kale mood to really properly get into it -- so you've been warned).

This week's Mantra Monday post really got my attention, and I wanted to share it with you:


“SATYA PRATISTHAYAM KRIYA PHALASRAYATVAM.  TO ONE ESTABLISHED IN TRUTHFULNESS, THE FRUIT OF ONE’S ACTIONS NATURALLY RESULT ACCORDING TO ONE’S WILL.  -YOGA SUTRAS II:36
SATYA means truth and honesty.  It is one of the yamas, which are these great universal vows that tell us how to interact with the world.  In this sutra, Patanjali, the father of yoga and the man responsible for codifying yoga in the Yoga Sutras, is explaining the benefits of practicing satya/truthfulness.
When we are honest at all times, we mean what we say and say what we mean. There is no separation between the words that come out of our mouths and our actions. And the fruits of our actions reflect this honesty by fulfilling our will.  When you can break down the separation between your words, thoughts and actions by infusing everything you do with honesty, you manifest your will and live the truth. What you say happens. What you think becomes. You manifest and create the life you want.  Start simply… be honest to everyone, including yourself.
*****
This is one of those things that you really need to let sink in for a minute.  In the rush of daily living and striving to do right by all the people and obligations in one's life, it's amazing how easy it is to be less than honest with yourself and others.  Sure, a certain amount of sacrifice and compromise is required to make it as a functioning member of society, but there is a fine line that exists between that place of compromise and the one where you just bury your honest opinion.  There is this great Mark Twain quote that I have always loved: "If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything."  I think that quote and this meditation kind of tie up the visceral need for honesty quite neatly.  This simple concept is something I want to strive to improve on every day.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Happy Friday + Pasta Giveaway Winner!

Happy Friday!
First things first: it is pasta winner time!  I used the Random Integer Generator at random.org to pick a winner, and the pasta haul goes to Katherine Gunter!  Katherine, please shoot your mailing address to sweetmamajane@gmail and we'll get your package to you right away.  Thanks to everyone who left a comment, and especially those with links to yummy recipes.

Speaking of which, you must try this chicken recipe ASAP.  I've had it pinned on my Pinterest board forever, and decided to make it this week as a final nod to creative cooking before the baby comes.  This is one of those recipes that takes almost no time, energy, effort or cost, but packs a punch on flavor and wow factor.  You simply whisk together dijon mustard, maple syrup and rice vinegar, cover the chicken with it and bake it all in a foil-lined pan.  There's next to no clean up, and this was some of the most flavorful, tender chicken I've ever prepared.  This definitely needs to be in the culinary arsenal of every weeknight cook I know.  Check it out...
"Man Pleasing Chicken" via Witty in the City
Disregard or embrace the name as it suits you... all that matters is the deliciousness!
With that, I'm off to spend the weekend embracing labor-inducing old wives' tales and gathering my energy for what's to come.  More next week!
xoxo
SMJ

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Home Stretch

There is nothing else in life that compares to being nine months pregnant.  
Imagine knowing that the Publisher's Clearing House guys and the lottery and Oprah are all about to show up at your house with the most incredible of prizes... something you know is going to change your life completely, in innumerable ways, forever.  Except you have no idea when they'll show up... it could be tonight at 3am or next Tuesday when you actually had some plans, or not for two more weeks.  You're constantly on pins and needles, knowing that massive life change is imminent, but having not even the foggiest of clues of when this massive sea change is coming your way. Oh, and PS: when Oprah does finally arrive, she's going to viscerally torture you for some undetermined amount of time...anywhere from two to twelve to twenty-four hours or more...by pounding on your midsection and lady parts with a spiky mallet before handing over said dream prize.  She may or may not arbitrarily deem that you need surgery to deliver this prize, or drugs that make the spiky mallet feel like a flame-throwing spiky mallet, or any other of a million variables that could make this experience everything or nothing like you thought it would be.  Childbirth is truly a great unknown, and especially for those of us who take comfort in planning and preparation, the overall effect of this mass of unknowns is entirely unnerving.

The very mystery of the timing makes every moment seem incredibly loaded.  You might go into labor fresh off of eight hours of sleep, having just triumphantly shaved your own legs and finished a wholesome breakfast of Greek yogurt and multi-grain toast thinking, "bring it on, universe."  Or things might get rolling when you've just caught a cold from your preschooler, are suffering a raging sore throat and night sweats, and have a massive case of heartburn to boot from drowning your sorrows in a double helping of Ina Garten's Apple Crisp sometime just before midnight.  You'll wake up with pain at 4am thinking "is this it?  Or do I just really have to pee (again)?" Every twinge and tweak of your body seems significant.

The physicality of it all is insanely intense.  Right now, there is no part of my body that feels like any approximation of normal.  I'm permanently hot.  My hands feel like mighty, massive, man-hand meat hooks, and my feet aren't far behind.  My normally quite functional digestive system is completely on the fritz due to my massive uterus having squashed my stomach and intestines into disarray like so many bugs on a car's grill.  When I lie down to sleep at night, everything shifts just slightly upward into my diaphragm, making breathing seem impossible.  Unfortunately, my husband reports that I'm snoring like a drunk frat boy.  And the weight gain.  Good God.  It's not about a number on a scale, but rather the feeling of actual weight on my joints and bones.  Imagine strapping eight five pound bags of sugar on your body and then attempting to go about your day.  I'll just leave it at that.  Intense.

The days seem hyper-colored and filled with electricity.  All your loved ones are on this same level of red alert as you are, tinging things with a light undercurrent of mass hysteria.  Is tonight the night I have to rouse my parents at 2am to come over and be with little J when we dash to the hospital?  They are already leaping a mile each time their phone rings.  Will I fortuitously have this baby during my mother-in-law's visit this week, or will she be forced to board a plane home mid-labor like when she came around my due date with J (who was born just hours after their plane landed back at home, of course).

This hyper awareness extends over your whole household.  Suddenly every bit of dust on the radiator, every speck of mildew in the shower grout, every errant crumb in the fridge must be eradicated in order to achieve inner peace.  You make crazily specific and random lists of things to do like "clean out cup holder in car" and "install dimmer light bulb in front hallway" and you do more hot loads of laundry than you ever thought possible.  You try not to drive your significant other crazy with your attention to arbitrary detail.  This is only augmented when part of your "go time" plan involves people coming to your house to watch your existing little one... I have this adamant passion that no one know how much dog hair usually graces our floors.  They must be ever dog hair free (a nearly impossible task, as any pet owner knows). Why this matters to me so much I don't know. This has to be part primal mammalian instinct around creating a safe and disease-free environment for your infant, and part modern woman's need to exert any element of control possible when swimming in a sea of out-of-control.

And then there is the fashion situation, or lack thereof.  At this point literally nothing fits, even your biggest maternity gear, and you staunchly refuse to buy anything else or anything bigger because you may only need it for twenty-four hours.  Or two weeks.  Right now, all I want to wear is my favorite pair of yoga pants and a soft striped maternity shirt on loan from a dearest friend which feels like having a bit of her with me each day (the outfit you see pictured above).  I wash these things almost nightly so I don't have to chose something else the next day.  Any outfit I put together seems to belie my underlying feeling of madness.  Yet, clothes must be worn.

But all of these little quirks, trials, pains, and worries are merely distractions against something so much bigger that is about to happen to your life and the life of your family.  This is it.  This is the stuff of life.  All those times in your life when you said, "yes, I want to have kids someday"... today (or tomorrow) is that day.  This is the physical work, the literal labor of love, that it takes to manifest this dream.  You're actively building the family that you want and have chosen. This person who is about  to arrive is going to be an elemental part of that, with tastes, opinions, idiosyncrasies and politics all their own.  They're going to have an identity, a family role, and a life path which is going to shape the rest of your life, and for these last few days, all of that is unknown, and they're still just this glimmer of hope and promise resting quietly inside you.  No wonder everything looks more vibrant and feels more significant at this time... there is truly no more profound moment in life than this one right here.

I don't know that I'll have the opportunity or that we'll make the choice to be pregnant again, so this time feels especially sweet and loaded to me.  As intensely uncomfortable as I am, I know how lucky I am to have this experience and I just wanted to take a moment to document and record it, from the swollen hands to the ill-fitting clothes to the housecleaning projects to the sappy emotions.  I wouldn't trade this adventure for anything.  Bring it on, universe.