Archive for May, 2011

Return of the Yumbo!

Monday, May 30th, 2011

During these last two months of eating six times a day, I’ve become bored with a lot of my usual fare. I’ve been seeking new things to eat, especially combinations that include carbs, protein, and fat. In this context, Bill whipped up a new sandwich for me:

  • two slices of sourdough,
  • thin-sliced ham on one side,
  • a slice of Havarti cheese on the other,
  • set the oven to 400 degrees (Note: no need to preheat the oven), pop it in for 9-10 minutes, and then…
  • pull it out, assemble, and devour.

Bill thinks it’s just a hot ham-and-cheese, but I know better. It’s a Yumbo!

Anyone remember the Yumbo? For a few years in the late 1970s, Burger King made a sandwich called the Yumbo. It was a hot ham-and-cheese sandwich, served on a sesame seed roll. The ham was thin and savory, the cheese was hot and melty, and the combination was super satisfying. Just like Bill’s sandwich. Yumbo!

Happy belated Mothers’ Day!

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, our friends Ben & Rebecca came back to Houston for a weekend, and we made plans to go to brunch together Sunday. As Bill made us reservations at America’s, it struck me as odd that we were going out for Mother’s Day brunch with our friends, instead of our mothers.

Only later did it dawn on me that Rebecca is a mother, and now I am, too. So we celebrated my first Mother’s Day together. And we enjoyed a lovely meal!


Rebecca and Miranda


Ben and Bill

It’s always fun to catch up with Rebecca and Ben, and their daughter Miranda is engaging and adorable. We had a good time!

* * *
Later in the afternoon — after a much-needed nap! — I met up with my Mom and Gran’mom at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston to see an exhibition of Impressionist paintings that were visiting from the National Gallery in DC. We borrowed a wheelchair from the museum so Sarah could save her energy for enjoying the art.


Jean and Sarah admiring a still-life by Paul Cezanne

The three of us have enjoyed seeing Impressionist art together many times in several cities. This time, we moved leisurely through the galleries and I played personal docent, identifying the artists, summarizing the placards, and then highlighting some tidbit to get Sarah talking about the art.


Claude Monet’s “The Water-Lily Pond”, painted in 1899

For example, Claude Monet produced this painting of the Japanese bridge over his water lily pond in Giverny, a small town just northwest of Paris. Not only did Sarah and I visit this place together in 2006, but she also visited it in the 1980s with her late husband, Roger, and she hung reproductions of Monet’s water lillies in her dining room for many years. I was delighted that she still remembers visiting Giverny with Roger and she declared delightedly, “It really looked like that!”

With other paintings, we talked about composition. Sarah used to paint, and as a clinical chemist, her still-“life” work was more likely to include beakers and flasks than fruit and flowers. While her hands tremble too much to paint now, her neurologist observed that the part of Sarah’s brain that understands spatial relationships is still remarkably intact. As a result, she’s still interested in and able to talk about the underlying geometries, massing, and spatial arrangement of the compositions we saw, and observe differences between the styles of different artists. That’s pretty cool.


Sarah and Robin at the MFAH


Sarah and Jean back at Belmont Village

After two hours of gallery gazing, Sarah and I were both exhausted, and Mom took each of us home. But we really enjoyed our afternoon together!

Fertnal: Get a look at these babies!

Friday, May 27th, 2011

I’m “15 weeks” and 2 days pregnant (13 weeks post-conception) today, and I went in for my next perinatal appointment. I weigh more than I’ve ever weighed in my life (and it’s obviously distributed differently). My usually-low blood pressure was high for me: 140/78, which the nurse said is related to doubling my blood volume in the last three months. I’ve had occasional shortness of breath (not just walking upstairs, but from just standing at a microphone talking) which Dr. K said is common, and the nurse described as “breathing for three.”

The babies are busily growing bones now. It was easy to see their skulls, radii, ulnas, femurs, tibias, and even fingers and toes! Dr. K carefully measured the lengths of their forearms and femurs. From head to toe, they’re approximately 8.9 and 8.7 cm respectively, or a little more than 3-1/2 inches long. He also made sure there are now four chambers in each of their hearts and the valves seem to be working properly. Dr. K says I’m doing great and our babies are growing right on schedule. Grow babies, grow!

Two weeks ago, he flipped the ultrasound machine into a weird-looking, sepia-toned mode. Neither Bill nor I could really discern anything, but when I asked Dr. K what he was looking at, he described it as “3D.” He tried it again today:

This is “Baby A” (click for larger)…

…and this is “Baby B”.

What a difference two weeks makes! We can see whole babies! It seems the upside to having a “high-risk” pregnancy is state-of-the-art imaging, early and often. Sweet!

Finally, I’m beginning to feel the babies inside. Twice in the last week, when I was lying in bed on my stomach being super still, I could feel flutters in my abdomen. Our friend Cindy described the sensation as if you’re holding a plastic bag of water with a goldfish in it, and the goldfish swishes its tail against the inside of the bag. I like the visual, and I’d like to feel the sensation again, soon.

Update: Shortness of breath can also be a sign of anemia. Over the next two weeks, I made a point to include red meat in my diet at least every other day, and to take my prenatal vitamin with iron every day, and breathing got a LOT easier. Hooray for hemoglobin!

What’s in a box: clutter or time capsule?

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

I’m pleased! About a week ago, I recovered from feeling ooky and tired all the time to simply feeling tired all the time. Feeling ooky was a recipe for lots of lying around feeling ooky. But simple tiredness can be pushed past, at least sometimes, so that I can Get some Things Done. It’s good to feel semi-functional again!

Mostly I’ve used my newly regained oomph to help with daily chores (dishes, laundry) and catch up on work (craft a presentation, meet with the Houston Chronicle‘s Editorial Board). But my friend Susan, whose twin boys are now 9, reminded me that my days of feeling more productive will be short-lived. She urged me to start working early and often on getting our house ready for babies.

Our little bungalow only has 2 bedrooms (that is, 1 bedroom and 1 office). With both of us working a lot of long hours (and previously traveling a lot), we have tended to accumulate clutter. Not wanting to raise babies in the midst of boxes, this pregnancy has given me an urgent desire to purge, purge, purge. I didn’t manage any of that the last eight weeks, which was very frustrating, but now it’s time.

So on Saturday, I pulled out a box labeled “top drawer file cabinet” and opened it to see what was inside, feeling optimistic that it would be old papers we can live without. Here’s some of what I found:

  • notes from my high school AP biology class and papers from my college humanities class
  • my application to and acceptance letter from Rice U (I had wondered recently what I had put in “The Box”. Yes, it included reference to a certain famous Canadian power trio.)
  • lease agreements and correspondence for my first apartment, which I rented for $395/month
  • three years of phone and electric bills
  • three years of credit card statements plus all of the corresponding transaction receipts

I’m certain that most of you have no trouble concluding correctly that nearly all of this should go promptly through the shredder and into a recycle bin. If I make an effort to focus on big picture contributions to our quality of life, I can come to the same conclusion, too.

But in the moment of going through the box, I get caught up in all the snapshot memories these documents bring back:

  • my freshman year roommate (who called home to Atlanta from “my” phone), and how often she made me utterly nuts
  • my first apartment, how it had several roof leaks, and how much I enjoyed entertaining friends in my own space for the first time
  • shopping regularly at AppleTree, Brentano’s, Bookstop, Sound Warehouse, and other stores that don’t exist anymore
  • late-night rock-n-bowl at Stadium Bowl down off the then-seedy section of Main Street
  • restaurants I used to frequent, like Two Pesos, Bennigan’s, Marco’s, Olive Garden, Pizzeria Uno, and House of Pies; and more importantly, the friends I used to go to those places with

After pawing through the box for two hours, shredding some things and pondering others, I told Bill that purging these things felt emotionally difficult because of all the memories they conjured. He encouraged me to find and focus on better “primary” source materials to remember my college days, or at least, just make some notes about the memories I want to hold onto.


Is it a box of clutter or memories?

So here I am. This captures enough to let go of all those old bills and statements, and into the shredder they go. Maybe tomorrow I’ll find some more clarity about old class papers and lecture notes. In the meantime, I’m curious whether you saved old school papers and more importantly, how you thought through the decision.

Odd and the Frost Giants!

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

Our friend Rob Kimbro recently adapted Neil Gaiman’s 2009 book Odd and the Frost Giants into a kid-friendly play. The world premiere is running at Stages Repertory this month, and this afternoon we went to see the show. It’s a marvelous bit of story-telling that combines live acting with clever puppets.

The show is delightful and we all enjoyed the heck out of it! Afterward, we visited with Rob and his daughter, Eleanor, as well as the Hawes family who saw the show today, too!


John, Izzy, and Sierra with Thor


Rob, Eleanor, and Susan listen as Robert shares his thoughts on the play



Chris and Rob


Sharon, Sierra, and Shawn


Rob and Susan


Rob and Bill


Sierra, Izzy, and Shawn

Odd’s final public performance is next Saturday, May 21st. If you’re in Houston, I encourage you to go!

Fertnal: Bob’s pregnancy surprises…

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

For as many years as we’ve spent trying to get pregnant, you might think that I would have some sense of what I was getting myself into. While I didn’t talk much with pregnant women, I did read about it a little. For example, I correctly expected my nose to become super sensitive to odors, and hormones to make me moody and prone to weeping at life insurance commercials.

Super sniffer? Check! Sappy sentimentality? Check!

That said, a whole host of other manifestations of this pregnancy have come as an utter surprise:

  • how abruptly some of my previously favorite foods (Ali’s grilled vegetables) became intolerable
  • how ravenous I am in the middle of the night, every night (talk about rude awakenings!)
  • how much I have come to appreciate the dimmer switch for our dining room light, so that I can get up and eat oatmeal or cereal in a soft glow at 3:00 am without waking all the way up
  • outgrowing all my pants by 8 weeks
  • having my toothbrush become an instrument of terror, courtesy of an abruptly-heightened gag reflex on overdrive
  • how grateful I am that our Kitty’s prescription diabetic diet is chicken-scented rather than fishy
  • that I would feel ooky all the time for weeks, and that feeling ooky would be more stressful and disruptive than the complicated 8-week medication protocol that got me here
  • how grateful I am having Bill home to sympathize with my ook, race to bring me crystallized ginger when I’m queasy, do all of our grocery shopping and most cooking six weeks running, and generally tackle a host of essential chores I just can’t or shouldn’t do these days
  • how much more dreaming I remember, and how much more suggestible my dreams are:
  • For example, last Tuesday Bill woke and told me he dreamed that he was swimming and did battle with a family of tawny-colored, underwater pole cats. I had to ask him what a “pole cat” is (aka skunk). That very night, I dreamed that a skunk got into the bedroom where we were sleeping and I had to run it out of the house, and it sprayed me with stink in the process. While I routinely have a wide array of stressful dreams, I am entirely confident that my subconscious would never have come up with that on its own.

  • being hot enough to shed all the covers while Bill is happily sleeping under a blanket
  • and finally, that I would promptly become a walking hot tub party.

I figured any embryos growing inside my already fully-occupied body would be pretty crowded. And from the previous imaging, I imagined they spend their time all scrunched up and concentrating on building new body parts and growing like crazy. However, judging by the way embryo A is wiggle-dancing in our 9-week ultrasound (April 13), I was incorrect:

Get the Flash Player to see this video.


Apologies for the video quality above. We both forgot our little camera so Bill shot this with his iPhone.

The wiggle-dancing is even more obvious in this second video from 5 days later (April 18). If you stick around through the first minute or so of Dr. K freezing the frame and measuring bits, you’ll get to see embryo B doing his/her thing:

Get the Flash Player to see this video.


You may have noticed the voice of a new doctor in the second video. Dr. K doesn’t narrate ultrasounds as thoroughly as Dr. M did, but he’s our perinatologist for the remaining ~28 weeks of this pregnancy. I have officially graduated. I’m not a fertility patient anymore; I’m an obstetrical patient. I’m really going to miss Dr. M and all of the exceptionally kind staff at Houston IVF, but I am excited to be thoroughly on the way to parenthood.

Finally, here’s one last amazing photo of a 7-week-old (“9 week”) embryo from the UNSW Embryology site (click for larger):