PictureWhey, awaiting pickling projects.
Ever since successfully pulling off fridge pickles, I've been meaning to step it up a notch and make some real, lacto-fermented pickled foods. The healthy micro-organisms these foods introduce into the digestive system bestow numerous benefits, and Americans don't consume nearly enough (if any, for most of us) of them. We're seriously missing out; pickled ginger carrots, pickled radishes, and legit pickled cukes make for mouth-watering condiments that do a gut -- and thus a body -- good. As it happens, cultivating and maintaining a healthy, well-balanced flora party in my gut (and, um, other places) is a big priority for me during this pregnancy, as doing so has been shown to reduce the development of allergenic tendencies like food allergies, eczema and asthma in babies. 

I also, as you know, just like to eat pickles.

The Nourishing Traditions cookbook boasts lots of easy-to-follow recipes for lacto-fermented foods; most of these recipes require the use of whey in the fermentation process. I decided to make some whey while I worked this morning; I used raw milk yogurt to do so. (Like yogurt, making whey really doesn't require much active involvement once the process has begun.) I simply placed two layers of cheesecloth in a metal strainer over a large ceramic bowl, and spooned a generous amount (maybe three or four cups) of yogurt onto the cloth. I covered this with a plate and left the whole thing alone for about five hours. The whey dripped through the cloth into the bowl. It'll keep for months in the fridge. (Only a few tablespoons at a time are required for pickling recipes.) Meanwhile, the cream cheese that was left in the cloth -- whey making's by-product -- completely stole the show. 

I will never buy store-bought cream cheese, which is highly processed and doesn't offer up any healthy belly-boosting bacteria, again, because it also pales in comparison to the fresh stuff in terms of taste and texture. I can't quite describe the awesome that is homemade cream cheese; you should definitely make some and discover the difference for yourself, though. Then mix in:

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (I used basil and parsley)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

And you have yourself a delicious (and ridiculously easy) vegetable dip, sandwich spread, or snack. (Kaspar ate it straight, by the spoonful.)

I'll make some pickled ginger carrots and post about those, too, but for now I'm just so sold on the cream cheese that I felt I should share the magic with you. 

Have you made cream cheese, whey, or lacto-fermented foods of any kind? Tips and tricks? Other tasty flavor combinations? Let me know in the comments below!

In other baby news... Guess who's gonna have a home birth? This girl! More on that shortly!
So you know how when you go to a craft store (not a specialty store like a fabric or yarn shop but a big chain craft store like Michael's or Hobby Lobby), 95% of the shoppers are either retirees or moms of small children? And how it makes sense that the former demographic has time on their hands for dabbling in soap-making or selecting fabric flowers for their guest bathrooms, but... what about the moms? Are they making Halloween costumes from scratch (or... hand-dying/decorating pro-booby onesies at one in the morning...) or what? I'm always curious.

WELL. I was in Michael's the other day and actually looked around (I usually just make a bee-line for the item I need and then jet) -- up and down the aisles and in the carts of the other moms. And, just like that, it all came together for me: craft stores are gold mines for kiddo-tainment. Gold mines, I tell you. Sure, they offer shelves upon shelves of pricey, packaged craft "kits", but myriad DIY activity materials, much cheaper for the taking, can also be found there. (Why buy a necklace-making "kit" when you can choose colored string and beads specifically to your liking?) Either way, when a tube of plastic dinosaur skulls sitting in a bin of similarly random samplings caught my eye, my mounting bewilderment about what to do with my busy three year old through the uber-hot, uber-pregnant summer of 2013 met with a moment of clarity.

I threw the dinosaur skulls ($7) in my cart, along with a sieve/shovel ($1) and some colored 'gems' (>$2). (I also bought some paint-your-own sun catcher 'kits' ($1 each) and some felt color-a-dinosaur things ($1 each), thinking ahead to near-future pre-dinner hours.) The next day, when Aaron headed to the hardware store for a few unrelated items, I asked him to pick up a small bag of sand. (We have some left over. You can probably get smaller quantities at craft stores, too; I didn't have time to look during the trip in question.) Then, I simply poured the sand into a cardboard box, put the dinosaur skulls and gems in with it, shook it up/pushed the 'treasures' into the sand so that they were sufficiently hidden from view, put the box on our front porch, and loosed my dinosaur-obsessed little boy upon his very own Dinosaur Dig.

Kaspar got the hang of the activity almost immediately, scooping sand and shaking the sieve so as to reveal any treasures he might have unearthed, and then dumping those into a small shoebox I'd put out for that purpose. He was thrilled by his discoveries, especially the dinosaur skulls. He even identified the type of dinosaur each belonged to -- probably not correctly, but I was psyched that he was drawing upon the many dinosaur names we've come across in library books on the subject in relation to the activity. I sat back (did you catch that? I sat down! Like, in a chair! With my feet up!) for a full thirty minutes, sipping lemonade, and watched the magic happen. When Kaspar had found every last piece of treasure, he asked me to hide it all again. Instead, I told him how to pour the pieces back in and push them into the sand -- teach a man to fish, right? -- which kept him busy, in and of itself, for another twenty minutes before he embarked on his second dig with as much fervor as the first. When he'd finished that, he played with the sand, piling it up and patting it down. Then he hid, and looked for, dinosaurs and gems again.
We're keeping the box + parts in our garage so it isn't always readily available, which has meant it's captured Kaspar's sustained interest for over a week; he asks to play with it daily. I could see this activity working well as a birthday party game -- you could either provide a separate box for each kid or just hide treasures in a large sandbox and give the kids their own sieves -- and it's appropriate for a wide range of ages, too; Kaspar showed his friend Tessa, who's just over two, how to dig in the sand for treasures, and she was fascinated. You could also tailor each dig to a party's theme, or to your own child's specific interests, by burying different types of items. Just go to the craft store and take a look around.

All told, our DIY Dinosaur Dig activity was a big success. (The sun catchers? Not so much... the paint was hardened and unusable in every one of the 'kits' I purchased. Kinda got what I paid for with those...) Rumor has it Kaspar's grandmother is bringing a full-size sandbox with her when she visits next weekend, too, so I'm excited to see him wile away the hours, with his trucks and shovels at hand, in that baby, especially when our real baby arrives and I have to find a way to sit down... you know, frequently.

What are your kids' favorite craft store finds? Any cool DIY afternoon activity ideas? Tell me your kiddo-tainment secrets -- I'm stockpiling!
Update (July 15): Kaspar's grandmother brought a sand table this past weekend, upping the dino-hunt (and drive-cars-around-for-hours) ante:
Lovely readers: I'm writing several pieces right now for a big-name parenting website, and I need real quotes from real live moms, like you. One of the topics is baby-wearing

So tell me: Did/do you wear your baby? Why? What did/do you love about it? Please feel free to leave your response in the comments below, or email me at taylor.hengen@gmail.com. If you have a blog, we can make it a live link in your credit, too. (Otherwise we'll just stick with your name/location.)

I have more questions, too, so if you're open to answering 'em, raise your hands up!

Thanks! I can't wait to see what y'all have to say. 

 xo Taylor 
I love pickles, and not just when I'm pregnant. And I'm not talking about those weird greenish-yellow, preservative-soaked supermarket jarred pickles, either. I love GOOD pickles, and -- perhaps especially when I'm pregnant -- I'll pay serious cash-money for a jar of 'em if you know how to make them right. Like last week, for instance, when I paid twelve dollars for a (rather small) jar of jalapeño-mint pickle spears from the farmer's market. I tasted one first (damn samples!) and was powerless in their grasp. Aaron and I polished them all off before the sun set that evening, and I immediately wanted more. 

At this morning's farmer's market, however, it hit me that I was practically swimming in a sea of fresh, gorgeous pickle-worthy produce. Instead of buying another jar (or four... as I may or may not have planned to do) of those pickles that had me at hello last weekend, I filled my bag with pickling cucumbers, red onions, hot peppers, and bunches of herbs, enough to make a ton of pickles, and for well under twelve bucks, at that. As soon as I got home, I whipped up a jar of fridge pickles and stuck 'em in the -- you guessed it -- fridge to do their thing for later. They were already eyes-rolling-back-amazing by evening. They'll technically keep for up to a month in the the fridge, getting better as their flavors continue to meld, but, let's face it, they won't actually last that long because we're going to eat them all first. (I'll give them a week, at most.) 

You've gotta try these. Adjust the herbs to your liking -- I used basil this week because the bunches at the market were so aromatic I just couldn't pass them up -- as well as the heat; three large jalapeños may be way too much for some people. (Like you, Mom, if you're reading this.) Aaron and I actually like a lot of spice, and we enjoy pickled jalapeños themselves, but if you prefer your foodstuff more mild, try using just one pepper, or a teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Improvising with these will be fine, and whatever your flavor, you're sure to love the results. These are perfect summer fridge pickles, I tell you. And they're easy to make, at that. 

What You'll Need

  • 8 to 10 pickling cucumbers, peeled in stripes and sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 large jalapeño peppers (optional -- start with one if you prefer your pickles more mild, or use about a teaspoon of red pepper flakes)
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of fresh chopped herbs: I used basil, but also recommend cilantro and mint
  • About 12 whole cloves
  • 5 to 6 bay leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh chopped dill, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

What You'll Do

  1. Layer the cucumbers, onions, chopped herbs and peppers in a jar that can hold them all (this recipe makes about 2 quarts) and that seals tightly. (Don't cover the jar yet, though.)
  2. Combine the vinegar, cloves, bay leaves, dill, sugar, salt and black pepper in a small bowl. Pour into the jar with the cucumbers. 
  3. Place the lid on the jar, close it up well and shake it. Don't worry if your liquid doesn't reach the top of your veggies; it will later. 
  4. Let pickles sit in fridge, re-shaking the jar every hour or so to make sure everything's well mixed.
  5. The pickles will be ready to taste 4 to 6 hours later, but will get better with more time, and will keep in the fridge for about a month. 
One of my besties, who gave birth to her second baby eight weeks ago (at home! You're amazing, Erin!), showed up at my place with baby girl -- and smoothies -- in hand last week, as well as a huge bag o' new baby goods... Because she is somehow rocking the mom-of-two scene enough to get in the car and go places. With altruistic carry-on's. Round of applause very much in order. (I get no such applause as I hadn't even yet made it over to her place to visit her and meet said new baby, which is why she took the bull by the horns and came to me...) Anyway, it was a treat and a half to meet her sweet daughter, finally, outside the womb, and to sit and hang out for several hours, sipping on the smoothies and catching up after a very busy and semi-chaotic couple of months in both of our lives. (Both of our little boys were at school.) As for the baby, she breastfed pretty much the entire time, taking little naps here and there for a few minutes in between chow sessions. I asked Erin if that's how they usually roll, and she said it is; some people schedule set feedings with their infants, but she and her baby have gotten into a nice, all-day grazing rhythm, and it works for them. 

It was good for me to witness, as exclusively breastfeeding Baby O is a huge priority for me; given Kaspar's allergy situation, and what we all went through when he was a baby, I want to have full control over Baby O's diet, via my own; as I add foods into the mix, gradually, I'll be able to keep an eye on him for symptoms like eczema, and take note as I go. I'm hoping he's allergy free, of course -- it's as likely that he will be as he won't, so I'm making the proactively positive assumption that he will not be food-allergic -- but I feel so much more prepared this time around in the event that we do encounter any tell-tale signs. We won't be thrown into a tailspin again, following bad advice and worsening the problem, for months before we begin making it better, anyway. And exclusively breastfeeding will play a major role in helping me to keep everything in check. (Cybele Pascal, author of The Whole Foods Allergy Cookbook, reversed both of her sons' severe food allergy symptoms while nursing them by adjusting her own diet accordingly.) Even without allergies to contend with, however, I just want, and plan, to breastfeed Baby O. It's cheaper, super convenient, and good for moms and babies -- and society at large -- alike. Although I breastfed Kaspar for a while, it didn't work out quite as I'd thought it would; there were a lot of factors involved in that, but as I read more about what makes for breastfeeding success (I'm reading Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding and Making More Milk), I've realized how many misconceptions I had, and how much misinformation I was given, the first time around, right from the beginning. For example, a nurse in the hospital where Kaspar was born told me he shouldn't still be hungry soon after nursing for forty minutes. What I should have been told was to keep my baby with me and just nurse like crazy, for, well, a good six weeks to get my supply -- and our own natural feeding rhythms --  strongly established, just like Erin and her baby are doing now. I'm planning on it for round two. Here are some additional steps I'm taking in support of that plan:
  • I've got two rock-star doulas on my birth team, both with breastfeeding expertise, and I'm planning on a natural, drug-free birth.
  • We're going to wait for the cord to stop pulsing before cutting it.
  • Baby O will be placed on me, skin-to-skin, immediately. He will not be given a bath. (He can be wiped down, but the smell of what's on him will actually stimulate his nursing instinct, and the arrival of my milk.) 
  • I'm going to request that Baby O is not taken to the hospital nursery at all, and instead that everything that would otherwise happen there happens in my room, with me.
  • Hep B vaccination? Not happening.
  • I'm renting a hospital-grade breast pump to take home with me. I really didn't love pumping the first time around -- does anyone? -- but that sucker's gonna get some serious use. (Another good friend has gifted me her hands-free pumping bra! It may not be sexy but it is going to make my life more awesome.)
  • I'm preparing a freezer full of GAPS (minus eggs and nuts) friendly food to keep myself well-fed. Some of it will come to the hospital with me, too. That'll just make things easier.
  • I'm going to consume my own placenta, in capsule form, courtesy of one of my doulas.
  • I'm going to let the baby nurse as much as he wants to. For as long as he wants to. Forty minutes is fine with me.
  • Baby O will not be circumcised.
  • I'm going to actually rest (and nurse a lot) during my maternity leave, rather than launching a new career or plotting to relocate half-way across the country. 

Looking back, although the food allergy stuff came out of nowhere and definitely affected my milk supply (major stress plus no sleep is no mas for booby milk), I realize that many of the things I thought were abnormal last time simply weren't. (Did you know it's normal for one breast to make more milk than the other? Or that pumping only a few ounces per sitting is par for the course, at first?) But because of what that nurse said, followed by some choice, discouraging words from the hospital pediatrician upon my discharge, I bought formula during Kaspar's first ride home, and supplemented from the start. That probably wasn't necessary. And it definitely didn't help. I'm a huge advocate of supplementation when it's needed -- breastfeeding isn't always successful as a standalone, and moms should definitely use whatever helpful means they can find to both feed their babies enough and to get as much mama milk as possible into that mix -- but I feel ready, this round, to give my boobs a fair shake before calling in backup. 

Anyway, here's to Erin and her sweet baby for bringing the reality of breastfeeding a newborn home -- literally -- for me. 

Now let's talk baby clothes, shall we? I was also reminded, by the bag of newborn-sized goods Erin generously brought with her, of how incredibly small new babies are, and of how fast they grow. I've long since passed along Kaspar's baby clothes, and definitely didn't have a stash of newborn onesies, socks, and little kimono-style snap-T's (gotta watch for that healing umbilical cord) anywhere in my home, or even on my mind. Now I have a super-cute stash! Erin included lots of plain white basics in her hand-me-down package, too; I knew as soon as I saw them that I'd be busting out the dye tub soon enough. And I did, a few days later. 

I left some of the white items alone, but dyed four onesies, four snap-T's, and a few cotton diapers, just for fun. Unlike my previous adventures in hand-dyeing baby goods, I didn't use the high-quality dyes; I just bought some Tie Dye powder -- it was at least non-toxic -- at Hobby Lobby and had at it, tying up a few of the items before dyeing, and dunking the others in unscrambled. The results are more neon than bold, but I like them! I then used a fabric marker to add some pro-booby flair to two of the onesies: the international breastfeeding symbol on one, and a "Boob Me" message on the other. (Get it? Like 'beer me'? But BOOB me? Yeah, you get it.) I wasn't at all sure how that'd turn out -- I didn't want it to appear as if I'd just scribbled on the respective items, all amateur-hour style -- so I printed both the symbol and the words from my computer, put the printed images into the onesies (i.e. between the front and back pieces of fabric), and then held the onesies up against sunlit windows to trace the designs before filling them in. This gave me cleaner outlines, and I actually love the sketchy, organic effect of the marker in the solid fill spaces. For all of the serious breastfeeding prep I'm reading and thinking about, these provided a fun little project for me to pour my positive intentions and expectations into. They're cheerful and cute and, I hope, will get the good booby-milk juju going when Baby O is born.

Do you like the onesies? Did you breastfeed? Did any of you have more success breastfeeding second babies after learning the ropes with your first? What do you think of my game plan? (Pretty thorough, right?) Anything else I should add? Leave a comment below!

Age three has been lots of fun, but also somewhat challenging, from the start. I counted the months since Kaspar actually turned three the other day and was shocked to discover it’s only been a few… It’s felt pretty intense and I could have sworn we were at the half-year point by now (nope). Not that I’m rushing things – my boy is growing up WAY too fast and I wish constantly that I could just hit the pause button and soak in his innocence, curiosity, creativity and sweetness. Even his challenging behavior. All of it. But at the same time, age three has been a doozy on the daily and I was surprised to realize we’ve only been riding this crazy train for four months. 

It started, right around his birthday in February, with tantrums, out of nowhere and at the drop of a hat, usually after school. They were pretty low-grade compared to what I know a lot of parents deal with from early-toddlerhood on (seriously, I have seen some things in the supermarket that make me thank my lucky stars for the comparably composed child I’ve been gifted), but our guy has never been the tantruming type, so we were caught entirely off-guard. He got over that initial phase pretty quickly – thankfully –  and has, for the most part, been his usual happy, non-tantrum-prone self since, but he’s also been more physical and just more wired than he was before. There’s a definite boy-energy about him. He also negotiates constantly, over everything, but without a hint of logic, which just gets exhausting. That said, I love that he’s developing his sense of confidence and independence. We encourage it and provide outlets for it as much as possible.  But, still, I’m saying “Please don’t ___,” a lot more than I want to say it in a day, because Kaspar also has to stay safe, and has to accommodate other family members’ needs and desires (sometimes I just have to make a phone call, you know?), and that’s something I also want him to internalize as he grows.   

It’s a daily dance we do, and it’s usually fairly smooth overall, but yesterday, well, we landed in the ER for the second time this year after Kaspar hit his head, at full running speed, on the edge of our bedframe. Aaron had asked him to choose his clothes for school and I was about to get in the shower before work when I heard a horrible thud, followed by Aaron shouting, “Oh, shit!” and Kaspar screaming. (A good sign under circumstances like that, actually… you do not want a head-injured kid to go quiet). We beat rush hour traffic – which is not to be underestimated in Austin – by about fifteen minutes and arrived at the hospital with a still-screaming Kaspar, a towel on his head. (I ran him in – I was barely dressed, barefoot and splattered in blood -- while Aaron parked.) Kas got a heady mix of numbing gel, morphine and valium, as well as six stitches, before we left. He calmed down pretty soon after we arrived, though – the bleeding had slowed significantly during the ride – and he took the experience like a total champ, smiling and laughing (even pre-drugs) through most of it. He’s such a trooper, and a charmer. The doctor said he sees these injuries all the time on the littles, but still, it gave us a good scare, and I think we’ve all seen enough of the ER for a long while. Aaron and I were both shaken. If it weren’t for several stories related by friends throughout the day of similarly gruesome injuries sustained by their kids, I’d have questioned my parenting creds… I’d woken up beside him only hours before his injury; his arms were wrapped around me and he’d looked so peaceful. And now he had a giant gash in his head. It was awful. 
This is post-numbing gel, pre-drugs. K took it all like such a champ.
We spent the rest of the day keeping a close eye on Kaspar (looking for possible signs of concussion) and attempting to keep him quiet. I kissed him about three thousand times and we made some gummy bears. (We used this recipe, replacing the stevia with raw honey. Yum.) When he got restless, I took him out for a walk in his race car (I push, he rolls), so he’d at least still be sitting down. (Realized during that walk that Texas heat and third trimester pregnancy are, as everyone’s been warning me, a daunting combination. I had to take breaks on the hills, no joke.) He slept like a rock all night and has been back to his normal self today. Which is to say he’s run into a chair and fallen two or three times, per usual, and without major incident. But I’ve been looking around at our furniture and wondering what kind of kiddo-proofing might be in order to get us through to age four. I’ve also instituted a “no running inside” policy. We’ll see if that sticks. And I think we’re going to get rid of our bed. This was Kaspar’s second injury on its frame; the first was a hole in his lip when he was about 17 months old, which did not require stitches and healed quickly enough. Of course, I’m actually talking about Aaron and my bed, not Kaspar’s – he’s never gotten hurt on his own… Maybe we just need a frame with a better design. But we have a baby on the way, right? A mattress on the floor will do just fine for the time being. (Ideas for styling a room around this so as to downplay the college-days look?)

I’m also brainstorming ways for Kaspar to get his energy out when we’re home. He loves to push his trucks around in our front yard, which is nice and physical, and we’re going to get a sandbox for out back. I’m just thinking ahead to breastfeeding, when I won’t be nearly as mobile, much of the time, and wondering how I’ll tire him out when he needs it. He often sits and works on puzzles or plays with his trains when he’s less excited, but sometimes he’s just got that wild look in his eye and, unless we channel it in the right direction, it’s not long before I’m saying “Please don’t try to jump on my head,” or he lands squarely on his own after flipping over the back of the couch…

Have any of you encountered the challenging 3’s? (I’m not going to say they’re terrible, because they’re not… but they are challenging.) Survival strategies, for parents and kidlets alike? How do you get your kids’ crazies out while keeping them safe and, you know, not bleeding?    
When life gives you gaping wounds, make gummy bears.
PS. You may have noticed that my Parenting.com blog hasn’t updated in some time. That’s because Parenting mag and dot com were bought up by a competitor; publication on the print magazine is being ceased in September (these things are finalized a few months out, so actually it’s an immediate cancellation that won’t take effect until then) and the fate of the website remains unknown. None of us bloggers have heard anything, and the entire perma-staff was laid off, so… RIP, Parenting, we had some good times! I’ve got another major parenting website blogging opportunity in the wings, so I’ll keep you posted on that, but in the meantime all things pregnancy and family life will be documented, more or less, here on Alt-Mama. I know I’ve been pretty quiet in this corner lately, but I’m actually in the making-things mode and have some good stuff coming up to showcase. 
Cool stuff preview: onesies and diapers get a dye job.
The bossman, kickin' back on summer break.
Kaspar's had a week off from school, so I've taken a mostly-break (save for nap time bare-minimum inbox/paperwork maintenance) from all things work related and kicked back with him. Which has actually kept us pretty busy. My college bestie Chelsea arrived in town on Tuesday fresh outta San Fran; I hadn't seen her since she was in my wedding almost four (woah) years ago. We all had fam-style fun by day: riding the Zilker Zephyr, going to story time at the library, hitting the playground, and so forth, and then, when evening arrived, went out for local eats and some low-key just-girls touristing. 

It was fun to see Austin through a visitor's eyes. It reminded me that we live in an accessible, fun, laid back and in many ways even pretty little city. It has its downsides -- totally insufficient public transportation, year-round seasonal allergies, serious summer heat, Texan politics -- but they're not deal-breakers. Its sights, smells, tastes and sounds all add up to a local flavor that's complex enough to hold your interest without being overwhelming. Chelsea felt very welcome, and I felt right at home. Which, three years in (and in a non-permanently committal kind of way), feels just about right. 
Downtown ATX at dusk, from the South side of the river.
Meanwhile, I have about three and a half months of pregnancy left to go. Things have been running really smoothly around our place; it feels like the experimental phase of family life is over and and the hard part's officially behind us. We're looking forward to welcoming babyman, even if a lot has to happen before then and some life-things remain in the air. Outside of this week 'off,' I'm kind of taking the summer a day at a time; I have a lot of work ahead of me before September hits and my belly's pretty serious; I'd love to just sit in the kiddie pool with some coconut water for the remaining months before then, but that's just not in the cards. A day at a time, however, makes the reality much more doable. Aaron's been in a hardcore job search for over two months, and it's yielded several good bites but nothing solid as of yet. He's been doing some landscaping to tide the time over, but it's getting hot (HOT) already and that's brutal work... even if it is with a cool organic, local business. That said, and being careful not to jinx it, he's over halfway through a four-stage qualification/interview process that would open a new and promising door for him -- and thus us -- if it works out. We both want it badly for a million reasons, but it's in no way guaranteed, and right now we're just waiting to find out if he's moved on to the final round. I'm proud of him, regardless, for exploring new territory. 

I've kind of let go of worrying about how everything should all come together (and mostly worrying that it won't) into a place of trusting that it will... and not worrying. Instead of selfishly wishing for one thing or another, I'm thus able to appreciate what my partner's going through -- as well as what he does around here, which includes maintaining a pretty even-keeled positive attitude and fathering like a pro -- and I wish his well-deserved victories upon him for the sake of his own happiness, in and of itself. My own shift in perspective has contributed to us functioning more collaboratively and generously toward each other in general; my experience has not been lost in the mix without my focusing on it all the time, and in fact Aaron's own decisions seem to account for it more consciously without my constantly pushing my own agenda. Our work/life balance, as a couple, has long been a (really our only) source of some tension, and, oddly enough, it feels like this recent situation has brought us closer and resolved some of that. I look forward to reporting on some concrete resolution in his work arrangements soon, but for now am content with this moment of growth. Perhaps that's been the whole point of this thing showing up now, before baby makes four... I read somewhere that with new babies often come unforeseen opportunities and shifts, internal and external. This was certainly true for us back when Kaspar arrived, and I feel things moving in those mysterious ways once again. 

June 15, UPDATE: Aaron got the job! HOORAY! Life continues to be cray cray this summer, but it's a serious load off knowing we can now not only afford my maternity leave, but that I can take it at whatever pace suits baby et moi, and that Aaron has new, exciting horizons ahead of him. Meanwhile, I'm amazed at the incredible love and support of our community of friends and fam, and at the synchronicity of our universe. It all comes together just perfectly sometimes. (Even if the good stuff occasionally keeps you waiting for longer than you'd prefer.)
Last time I saw Chelsea, Kaspar was rounding the first trimester bend in my belly... Now these two are totally buds.
I've been so focused, these past several months, on getting through the daily grind that I haven't been feeling particularly creative. It's happened before -- there are certain rhythms to these things, and sometimes life itself just demands a lot of immediate attention -- so I wasn't worried about it; I knew I'd hit an inspired spell (slash hormonal surge?) sooner or later. I always have a running list of projects I plan to tackle, and Operation New Baby is a fun one: I'm coming up on my third trimester now, too, so nesting to the tune of setting up the baby's space -- hanging his hammock, framing wall art and perhaps even purchasing some kind of rocking chair -- will not be entirely pre-emptive. In fact, setting up shop in this way will be helpful and necessary, and now, at five and a half (thereabouts) months pregnant, I've finally, as of sometime last week, felt newly energized to do so. Or at least to begin... If not with something necessary, exactly, then with something really personal and fun: A blanket for Baby O! (Yep, we've chosen a name, and will tell you the rest of its letters when little man arrives.) 
I've made a bunch of baby quilts over the past year. I still don't really know how to do much with my sewing machine beyond sewing forwards and backwards, though. Quilts are actually doable within these limited parameters, so I think they're kind of my baby gift 'thing,' even if I swear future renditions off whenever I finish my latest one. (I'm not a patient person, so sewing is a weird hobby to have picked up.) But I'm always drawn back to the fun of fabric-pairing and the satisfaction of seeing a little quilt through to its final, finished stage, not to mention gifting it upon a little person who'll surely keep it for longer than, say, a wipe-warmer. 

It was fun to embark on this quilt knowing I'd be gifting it to my own little bundle, who's been kicking up a storm on the daily, thereby making his presence very much known indeed. (Omigosh, I can't wait to meet him.) I had some shiny-ish gingham fabric left over from my last project, and went rifling through the free-box outside of Austin's hippest fabric store/sewing school, Stitch Lab, in search of other great finds to include in my creation, earlier this week. The box can be a goldmine, but is ultimately hit or miss, and I didn't see anything that spoke to me, so I wandered inside... something I usually refrain from doing, knowing I'll likely spend a small fortune before leaving. As it happened, the store currently has upwards of ten bins filled with (generously sized and neatly cut) Quilt Con leftovers up for grabs, on the cheap-cheap, and I went a little hog wild... without breaking the bank. It was meant to be. 
I love the fabrics I walked out with. I chose the contrasting patters shown above on the left for the back of the quilt, which I sewed into two large panels. The mod guitar print, and green and blue stripes, compliment the gingham for the main front section, with a fun gray/white/red wavy number as a border on opposite ends. (I'd have rocked the border all around, but my quilt was looking more rectangular at that stage than I liked, so I squared it off instead.) I chose the layout as a change of pace from patchwork -- all of my previous quilts have been of the latter variety -- and this ended up working in my innately-impatient favor; sewing together larger rectangles, rather than countless, smaller squares, was WAY faster when it came to assembly, my least favorite part. (Not only because actually sewing is time consuming, but also because so many things can go wrong... it's more stressful than playing with color.) And I don't think the finished product smacks of slackerdom, either. I'm really happy with the results. 
Everything came together without a hitch in the sewing process, too; I didn't have to undo any work, and I didn't sew anything face down or anything like that. My bobbin did run out of thread near the end, at which point I called my friend Jenn -- who'd sold me the machine when she upgraded -- and she walked we through the re-load over the phone. (She's awesome like that.) Then she came over with her two littles later in the day, to hang out and play; I busted out my masterpiece and her new baby, Big T, modeled it for me, as per the above pic. He approves.
Kaspar and Lil' J make Big T smile. Cute explosion.
So I'm back in the groove, ready to start making our place really truly baby-ready. (Jenn and I even set up a new bouncer I've kept in its box since purchasing, for Big T to break in. Now there's a bouncer in our living room and Baby O's impending arrival is feeling very real.) I should probably get some work done in the remainder of this week -- cuz, yeah, I pretty much spent an entire workday creating this quilt -- but my list is calling to me, and I have big plans in store. Stay tuned!

How do you like Baby O's blanket? What are some fun projects you did/are doing while in nesting mode? Was five months a magically re-energized point in pregnancy for any of you, too? What are your favorite things to make for new babies?