Wednesday, July 30, 2014

"Now This Is For Reals" Episode 1: Baby Laundry

I now begin a series which I have christened "Now This is For Reals." Each episode will contain a description of a moment or experience that has thrown me fully into the realization (however brief) that THIS IS FOR REALS. God willing, a baby is indeed coming. And I'm going to be taking care of her.
Baby Laundry: There's a first time for everything. Today I threw in a load of baby clothes laundry... for the very first time.
I don't know why I was so nervous about it. They are just mini-sized clothes. But I was worried the colors would bleed, I was worried the temperature would be wrong, I was worried I'd immediately lose a baby sock.

I know I'll get the "hang" of it. And it's not like if I happen to ruin a onesie or two (HA! get it?), she will have nothing to wear. We have tons of them already.
Anyways, as I was throwing in the tiniest clothes and socks I've ever seen, and getting a whiff of the Dreft (special baby detergent? Who knew?), I had a moment.
"Uhhhhhh.... THIS IS FOR REALS." Why else would I be doing chores for a person unless THEY EXISTED? And they would soon BE NEEDING CLOTHES TO WEAR otherwise they will be NAKED?
And that was that. I then walked back upstairs and the moment was over. But keep a lookout for Episode 2 of "Now This Is For Reals," coming soon to a brain near you (mine).

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Spaghetti and Vampires.

I know what you're thinking... "There's no way she's going to pull those two subjects together as neatly as she hopes to." Just wait.
When something amazing happens to me I like to share it with you all. And something very amazing happened last night. As some of you know, I lived in Italy for a bit in my early twenties, where I gained appreciation for some mind-blowingly delicious food. I also learned how to not dress like a sloppy American (no offense to Americans... it's just in Italy I realized a baggy t-shirt and shorts don't really cut it as "fashionable" or flattering to my frame at all. Come to think of it I don't really know anyone that looks good in what I used to wear pre-Italy. WHY DIDN'T ANYONE TELL ME I WAS DRESSING LIKE ONE OF THOSE BROWN PAPER BAGS THEY USED TO GIVE YOU AT THE SUPERMARKET??!?).
One of the pastas I learned how to make authentically was spaghetti alla carbonara, which deliciously integrates pancetta (bacon's exquisite second cousin twice removed), eggs, and parmesan cheese folded into its al dente spaghetti noodles. Last night I successfully made this dish for the first time since I've been back from Florence. Unless you are allergic to joy, I don't see how you could NOT like this dish. Even if you are allergic to gluten you can go get the gluten free pasta and make this dish and be happy.
Just in case I've convinced you, here is an image of the food from heaven, and the recipe that is so similar to what my Italian friends taught me that I can't taste the difference:

Heaven in a bowl- spaghetti alla carbonara

Link to the recipe by Tyler Florence:
Still wondering how I'm going to tie in vampires? Well it seems that Mini loves food as much as I do right now. Because, approximately 20 minutes after a meal in which I have eaten something especially yummy, I feel the strongest kicks/punches/backflips I have felt thus far in the pregnancy. This happened last night after the carbonara. And is literally happening right now this second (I just ate some blueberry/lemon bread). Have you read or seen the Twilight movie where Bella gets pregnant with a half vampire baby? And the baby, ridiculously named Renesmee-- but that's another post for another day-- is so strong that her kicks crack ribs and she basically almost pushes her way out of Bella's body. That's what Mini's kicks feel like lately when I've eaten some good tasting food.
Still worth it. Once you taste this pasta you will agree with me.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Space of Her Own

We bought paint the other day. For Mini's room.
For a long time, Casey and I have loved the idea of a light gray and white room for the nursery. I like the color lavender as well. So we split the difference and are planning on doing light gray with a lavender accent wall.

The cans are sitting in front of me in the living room, next to the couch. I'm imagining what her room will look like in those lovely colors. Then I look to my right and see the ugly blue color that came along with our house in our bedroom. Ugh. I hate that color. Not to mention there are white spots, some of which I covered up with pictures, that can't just be painted over, you have to paint the whole room. Therefore the reason we have lived in aquamarine blue hell for about four years.
I sometimes notice subtle changes going on inside myself lately. Like I'd rather buy clothes for Mini than myself. Like I'm actually excited about this diaper bin we got for our baby shower. And the latest one is that I would rather work on her room than ours, and give her pretty gray and lavender walls than fix ours.
No further deep thoughts about this, I just have heard that this happens when you have a child. Some sense of unselfishness kicks in. Which honestly I'm a bit relieved to see-- before I got pregnant, I was worried I was "too selfish" to have a child. This is a common fear among women (and men) from what I know.
So when we started organizing all the baby stuff and planning the colors and buying the paint... And I wasn't super annoyed that we weren't buying stuff for us, or me... I found out I wasn't as selfish as I thought. Maybe Mini is making me a better person already.
Also another side-effect of having kids, from what I heard.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

It's a...

It's a bird... It's a plane... It's...
A girl.
For all you that I haven't slipped with various statements such as, "She's really kicking today" or "When she arrives..." etc, the news is out and it appears we are having a female mini-human.
It's an interesting thing. The first (very early) ultrasound I had revealed a little peanut that I could hardly see on the screen. Amazingly I could see the heartbeat even though she was just 6 weeks old at the time. That same day I started feeling as if she was a girl. No rhyme or reason behind it. I just had a feeling. And I am not one to prescribe to the "if you feel it, it's true" camp, but apparently in this case I was right.

Not surprisingly, I began wondering whether she will want to dance or not, specifically ballet. Being a professional dancer and dance teacher, it is a huge part of my life and I can't imagine being alive without dancing nearly everyday. Dance has become so integral to my existence and identity it is difficult to separate them in my mind.
Even more surprisingly, I find myself in a mental 50/50 split on whether I'd like her to want to be a ballet dancer. Especially in the professional world, even in the best of jobs/circumstances, it is harsh. I am not kidding around when I say I truly believe it is one of the most stressful careers a person can choose. I'm talking physically, mentally, and especially emotionally. I would hazard a guess that most professional dancers don't do it for the money (dancers, unless you are with a large company, are often paid less than poverty wages, yet go back year after year for more). They do it because they, like me, can't imagine their lives without it despite the fact you often feel sucked dry by the lifestyle of the career. It is the artistic air they breathe.

Me at about 8 years old, in my first Nutcracker production. I was a "Tiny Tot" (one of the children under Mother Ginger's skirt in Act 2)

It's funny to me that I'm already thinking about this as she is still in utero. I know intrinsically that I won't be able to stop her if she wants to do it. And, of course, I won't. The performing profession is full of joy, incredible highs, and personal growth. It also happens to be a career that asks so much of the performer. It asks for your heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears. It asks for everything.
Mini will have her own mind, desires, and expectations for life. Parenting is sure to be an experience that will test my abilities to let go and just observe as she tries many different things. She will succeed at some and fail at some. I am so curious about who she will be, what she will look like, and what she will choose day by day.
And being at thirty-two weeks currently, it seems I won't have long to wait to find out.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Just Sayin.

Noisy toys.
This might be the one time I go all Little House on the Prairie on life... Let me explain.
From my early twenties to my late twenties, I worked on and off in daycare and preschools. These places are littered with toys that make cute (cute meaning annoying) noises, music, etc when a certain magical button is pushed.
Needless to say, hearing that kind of noise/"music" can be highly annoying when it is constant. I'm just gonna put it out there, at the risk of already being called a bad parent (hey, Mini isn't even here yet!). My opinion is that pingy type of music isn't really music compared to the amazing wealth of real beauty we have at our fingertips in this world, especially in the age of iPods, iPhones, and instant technology.
Not to mention, when you work in an infant room for months at a time, the constant exposure to this type of sound is a little like water torture. Not that I've ever gone through water torture, but I imagine the first little drip-drip-drips you think, "This isn't that bad." Then it gets a little worse. You get annoyed at the whininess of a certain toy and make sure you turn it off whenever possible. But with eight babies running around in one room  (well, crawling/rolling) that task becomes nearly impossible. All at once you realize that this noise is never, ever going to stop.
And this is why I, as I prepare for the arrival of our Mini, am hoping to play Mozart, opera, Glenn Miller, Beatles, Sinatra, even Florence and the Machine in our house before I just let the toy/swing/bouncer music entertain. I want Mini to know what real music sounds like. I want Mini to appreciate the beauty and complexity of an aria, the insane FUN of big band, and the beautiful sound an actual piano creates. From birth I was raised in a home that was filled with opera, the Carpenters, Frank Sinatra, and Beatles (I can still sing every lyric of most of their songs) among others. I thank my mother for exposing me to it early and forming my musical tastes well. We also sang nursery rhymes, songs from Sesame Street, and Disney. Those are beautiful and helpful too. I just think musical appreciation starts early.

A mini Gina looking at a flower.
And also, those toys just drive me insane. And an insane Gina is no good for a brand new Mini.
Just sayin.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Why Having a Baby is Like Taking on the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Week 31 and counting. More and more I'm getting the feeling I'm in some crazy heavy duty "change" training-- since January 21st (the date we found out we were with Mini) there have been so many life changes. So. Many. Changes.
Physical: Cravings, pains, growth, regression.
Mental: What the what? You say I'm going to have a baby? Surrre. *brain clicks off and thinks about "real" life circumstances. Like I'm hungry. So I go get a snack.*
Emotional: WHY AM I SO EMOTIONAL ALL THE TIME??!? Get me some ice cream! Or at least some chips and salsa!
***Ok, so it's only been like that about 10% of the time. In fact, up until now, I've been proud of how non pregnant-zilla I've been...but worth mentioning.
Career-wise: So... basically my life looks nothing like it did before. Before I danced most days, all day and got paid for it. Then I'd go teach some littles how to dance later in the day. But that has become impossible. Because of the physical changes and the need to adjust to them. Happily I am still taking class (though not all of it all the time), and feel I am much healthier and more "me" physically, mentally, and emotionally when I do so.
I really believe all this is preparing me for the big granddaddy change of all. This new little life who will be joining us in less than ten weeks (most likely, unless it's later... pleasepleaseplease don't let it be later) will change everything, forever. It is hard to comprehend. I have listened carefully to all the words people have lovingly said to me, such as "It will change everything, but it's worth it" and "Life as you know it will never be the same" and "Get ready to never sleep again." I don't like the last one so much.

Peter Strand as Cavalier and me as Sugar Plum Fairy in Ballet Ariel's Nutcracker 2012.
And honestly, as much as I try, I will never be totally ready. I know this. It's one of those "change as the change comes" trainings, like dancing the famously difficult role of Sugar Plum Fairy. You jump into rehearsals hoping you won't collapse from the sheer weight of the technical demands and expectations the role brings with it. Somehow, miraculously, you get through the rehearsals and shows. Of course, unexpected things happen onstage that you have to deal with moment by moment (similar to babies, no?). And yes, it is all worth it. It's hard, but the payoff? Well, why do you think professional dancers consistently go back for more? Those moments onstage when the sweat and pain transform into magic and you do an unexpected triple turn or hold the position you've been struggling with in the studio? The shows you enter into the character and never exit until you step offstage? Priceless.
That role was the scariest of my life. If you've never experienced it, instead just think of the scariest thing you've ever done-- something that a lot was riding on emotionally, physically, mentally, and career-wise. I often say to myself, "Self. If you got through that, you can certainly do this." And then I feel better.
Because at least, when I change Mini's diaper and try to get the crying to stop... I don't have to do it while looking like I'm happily and confidently floating through a fantasyland of sweets. And then there are those promised moments I hear about, when your baby falls asleep in your arms, the bonding times, the first smiles and laughs-- that's the payoff. This is real life, people (involving real life people). And I think I'm mostly ready for it-- that is, as ready as I'll ever be.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Magical Pregnancy Unicorn?

I really thought I'd be one of those "magical pregnancy unicorns" (quoting the "What to Expect When You're Expecting" movie) who, despite the fact I am smuggling a basketball under my clothes, does not need to alter her daily activities at all from pre-pregnancy. Watch the below video from 1:39-1:45 to get the full effect of what I'd been hoping for (although the whole trailer is pretty hilarious as a whole if you feel up to watching it).

I thought I'd be able to do my full ballet class everyday (I've heard of other professional dancers that have done it... And heard they are in class the day they deliver wearing pointe shoes) and rock it. I thought I'd at least be able to get out of bed for it.
I thought I'd be one of those people who "didn't even show till a few weeks before delivery." Ha!
I thought I'd be one of those magical creatures who could go all day, everyday, shopping and preparing, cleaning and nesting for the cutest little bundle ever to grace the earth (coming to a house near you very soon!).


I thought I could sail through at LEAST month seven without batting an eyelash ("Oh my, what's that you say? How do I do it all, with panache, even though I'm growing a human? Oh I don't know, I guess I'm just AMAZING.").
I was wrong.
You know all the stereotypes of pregnant women? I have personally fulfilled more of these gems than I'd like to admit. Ok, fine, I'll admit to sitting on the couch and eating ice cream straight out of the container when I should be doing something else, because I simply do not have energy. I sleep for hours. Or try to (my diaphram is getting a little squished). Despite the naps, I am still exhausted. Plus then, I wake up early every morning, not because I'm awesome at it. Because that's just what my body is doing these days.
Not to mention the mental and emotional. I went into a toy store yesterday. Out of my own volition. For no reason at all other than "I think I need to buy Mini a toy." I'm pretty sure I've never had an urge to go into any toy store, at all, before this unless I was supposed to buy a toy for my nephews or a friend's kid. I really can't walk by the baby section of a store without at least just "taking a look" in case there is a clearance sale on, well, anything.
Expectations! Where do they get us? I now claim nowhere. This time of my life has been so interesting and mind boggling (especially feeling a mini human kicking around inside). But just in case there are other women out there who might be encouraged by my experience I will say it straight up-- it is also also exhausting. I am learning to accept myself where I am at right now. I am learning to let go. I am not doing well some days. But it's a process, and one that I am sure is preparing me for the one ahead God willing.
Some people tell me, "Oh I miss being pregnant! You'll see!" To which I often respond, "ARE YOU SERIOUS RIGHT NOW?!?" I know I'll be grateful for this experience, someday-- much like I was grateful for all the physically exhausting rehearsal hours leading up to performing a lead role onstage. It prepared me and made it possible for me to perform well.
But someone, please, get me another pint of Cold Stone over here-- I just finished my last one. I'll be right here on the couch.

Monday, July 7, 2014

I Found The Ultimate Answer. (I Don't Care What The Question Is)

I have something amazing and beautiful to share with you all, something I just recently discovered in my 29th week of pregnancy. It's so incredibly good that I could not keep it to myself. It's something only having a baby could allow me to experience on such a deep, personal level.

Yes. Cold Stone Creamery.
I have experienced the wonder of their mix-ins in the past, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I would order a "like it" size with my favorite toppings (usually brownie bits or oreos, don't usually stray from the formula). But this is a whole new thing. Did you know Cold Stone will mix up a whole special custom ice cream creation in a take home pint (or more) so you can enjoy it for days to come? Did you? I'm not sure you did.
My father in law is in town, and he and Casey are working on some house projects that must get done before Mini makes an appearance. I am forever grateful for their hard work, and wanted to get something special for dessert that would properly express my gratitude... Plus, I had a crazy desire for salted caramel ANYTHING.
*I realize this blog is turning into an enormous ad for Cold Stone. I'll try to fix that: Hey, did you know you can also get this kind of custom ice cream at Maggie Moo's, and other places that I don't know the names of? Or do it yourself at home? See? There. Fixed.*
After shopping at the grocery store (which conveniently was right next to Cold Stone... What? I had no idea!... Ok, ok, I picked that grocery store location for that very reason), I strolled into the delicious cool of this wonderful ice cream palace. I had planned on just picking up a pre-packed pint, but they weren't selling quite what I wanted.
That's when I spotted the empty pint containers on the counter... And the rest is history.
This happened (not my actual ice cream):

And then, this happened at home (not the actual bowl I used):

Casey and Malcolm loved the ice cream concoction I created (salted caramel ice cream, with extra caramel sauce, graham cracker pie crust, and chocolate shavings as mix-ins). How could you not? It's freaking salted caramel! SOOOOO delicious.
Ice cream is the answer. I don't care what the question is.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

First Day at the New Gym Syndrome

I don't have to do a ballet bun in the immediate future. So I chopped my hair. Yep, just like that. AND I went all punk too. See below:

Fine, so maybe it's not "all punk" compared to other punk-er cuts. But I've never done a color other than highlights before, much less a red streak. And I just felt like doing it. And who's stopping me? Huh? Huh? NOBODY.
We also finally joined the gym across the street from our place. And now I'm wondering what took us so long? It's frickin' ah-mazing to go across the street, work out, then be home in like, ONE MINUTE. Here's what I benched today:

Just kidding. I did something way, way (wayyyy) smaller. Bonus, I followed the time honored tradition of the "first time at a new gym person"-- I wandered around like an idiot and used all the machines wrong. They have a machine that looks like an elliptical but APPARENTLY the feet/legs just move back and forth (not in circles). I got on this and tried to go in circles for a full minute before I gave up and tried the machine next to it which was clearly a traditional elliptical. Whatever.
Mini seemed to like the experience, judging from the kicks and moving all around while we were there. They even have a small room with a wood floor where you can stretch. It's nice to have that separation from the rest of the gym who typically look at me like I have three heads if I even attempt to stretch to a degree that will actually, um, help my muscles relax.
A pretty good week. Especially after getting this in my fortune cookie at Panda Express (can you say ORANGE CHICKEN?? I am obsessed lately. Maybe it's a week 29 thing):