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The garage door and I are back on track.

I am feeling pretty awesome, not because I personally, at 5 months pregnant, wrestled the garage door from its jammed state, but because I, terrified of our neighbors and more likely to sit in our air-conditioned home with blinds drawn than venture around the neighborhood where I might have to make small talk, asked for help.  When I got back from a Salvation Army drop-off, depositing old clothes and crap my mother has brought, I walked immediately to the home of the block’s resident handyman, a middle-aged, hard-of-hearing Native American.  And. I. Asked. For. Help.

Since we don’t have a regular handyman, the easier way would have been to ask my in-laws for a handyman’s number, or to call Sears or something, but Mr. Apron is working a 12-hour day today, and both of my obligations today – a meeting with a friend to pick up some maternity clothes, and a SAT test-prep appointment – were canceled on account of sickness (theirs, not mine).  So here I am, at home, straightening up the house, listening absent-mindedly to “Teen Mom” while I sweep up copious amounts of dog fur, and what’s a girl to do?

Sometimes I get tired of waiting for things to happen, or I get tired of waiting for other people to do things for me.  I take matters into my own hands.  Traditionally, though, this has manifest itself as “If you want something done, you have to do it yourself.”  Well, garage doors are not my forte. Luckily, they are our neighbor’s.

Neither is finding affordable, safe, trusted child care for my impending offspring.  Sure, I can do all the research I want on Keystone Stars, and check out Better Business Bureau ratings.  I can go to daycare centers, make my own observations and collect brochures with unaffordable rates, but I cannot find the gems myself. I cannot find the surrogate grandmothers, stay-at-home moms, and Mary Poppinses who want to watch my children solely because they love babies.  At least, I cannot find them by myself.  As the slow panic about childcare ramps up in this second half of my pregnancy, I find myself doing something I have never done before – reaching out and asking for help.

I ask everyone I run into if they know people who watch children in their home.  When random neighbors suddenly notice my burgeoning abdomen and inquire how my pregnancy has been, I mutter the usual about how great I’ve been feeling, about how grateful I am not to have had morning sickness, how I’m hot and tired, but, given the summer’s heat waves, so is everyone else.  When they ask how/if they’ll be able to help, I pass the word along that we’re looking for child care, and do they know anyone?

It was just this kind of off-the-cuff, purposeful networking that landed me in the home of a Miss Sherry last Friday after my haircut.  Casually chatting with my hairstylist revealed that she knew someone right around the corner from the salon who had watched her children, now 20 and 24, some years ago.  Seizing the momentum, I called, and found myself in her living room an hour later.

Her home was clean, safe, and full of toys.  She has a large backyard full of toddler play equipment.  Her rates are affordable.  And she loves babies.  While I didn’t sign my 1lb fetuses up on the spot, I did feel a huge measure of relief as I left, knowing that if Miss Sherry is out there, there are others.  There are other rates to compare, other centers to compare, other babysitters to compare.  And if I found her by a random connection on a Friday morning, who knows who else will turn up with the other networking I’ve been trying to do.

My mother-in-law called this morning with the e-mail address of another contact Mr. Apron knew from his last job – a stay-at-home mother of four who might do child-care.  She lives around the corner from our house, and I’ve seen her baby-wearing.  Both positive points in her favor.

But if she doesn’t do child care, she might know someone who does.

Because I’m not in the mommy-network yet, I have to seek out the well-connected women who are.  No one can be a mommy in a vacuum, even those who work full-time and don’t attend Wednesday morning Mommy & Me yoga.  If I keep asking around, I’ll eventually worm my way into the network.  I’ll learn all the resources for the moms in my neighborhood that no book, no Craiglist posting, and no thebump.com message board can yet replace.

I’m really proud of myself for opening my mouth and asking for help.  I’m pleased with myself for asking for what I need rather than trying to do it all myself.  I’m discovering the rewards and satisfaction of the very beginnings of building community close to home.  Though Mr. Apron and I have largely kept to ourselves in the 2.5 years since we bought this house, I hope that the babies will serve as an irresistible (and necessary) ice-breaker not only for the curious somebodies next door, but also for me, the shy pregnant lady in the house with the overgrown flower beds.

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We were in Ireland as I passed the half-way point in this pregnancy.  We were, on that particular Saturday, surrounded by a bus full of mostly Australian tourists as we were herded from Emerald highlight to Emerald highlight, from sheep to cliff, from medieval town to rock wall, from green pasture to yet another green pasture.  The Japanese gentleman on our tour, reflecting on his impressions about the country, pulled out his phrasebook, thumbed purposefully, and settled on the succinct, “monotony.”  But in our hotel room that night, whatever time it truly was on the East Coast of the United States, we paused to be grateful we have made it this far, and that the babies’ growth seemed to be evident in my bulging abdomen.

My books told me I might feel kicking around 17/18 weeks, but those markers passed without anything definitively Kick feeling.  I have always felt little twinges and cramps, but attributed them to the increased size of my womb, and its resulting displacement of just about all my internal organs.  I even asked my mother what first kicks felt like, and she responded with a resoundingly noncommittal, “You’ll just know.”

My therapist asked on Friday if I’d felt anything yet, and I responded honestly in the negative.  She seemed surprised, and probed further, asking if I’d gently pushed on my belly and felt anything externally.  Well, that evening we tried to use Mr. Apron’s stethoscope to find heartbeats, without much luck, and I sat on the couch relaxing in that typical pregnant woman pose, hand resting gently on top of my belly.  I found my pulse, of course — as my circulation grows ever more impressive, I’m positively throbbing with heartbeats — but I also felt a distinctly non-rhythmic movement.  A kick for sure!  Since Friday they have not let up, having a riotous time in spurts and jolts.  They seem to particularly enjoy kicking right at the top of my belly.  I was finally able to help Mr. Apron feel it, too.  Feeling a kick, I sensed they were feeling active, so I grabbed his hand and rested it — just so — on my stomach.  Lo and behold, his pupils dilated and fixed on my belly.  He had felt it, too.

Today, my doctor confirmed that twins, and first pregnancies in general (technically, because of our miscarriage, this is my 2nd pregnancy, but my body never really stretched with our first-trimester loss, so I guess it doesn’t “count” in this sense?) will be later to feel kicks.

And there you have it.

To celebrate seeing our little 1-lb wonders on the ultrasound screen this morning, I will regale you with our celebratory breakfast, baked with the help of my sister and husband.  This is originally a banana bread, since the fetuses are the length of bananas this week.  I had previously found that this recipe converts very easily to muffins, and muffin papers mean no greasing loaf pans, nor cutting out parchment paper, so muffins it was.  I also added chocolate chips because Mr. Apron will eat anything for breakfast if it has chocolate in it.  I love this recipe as it doesn’t taste like bananas.  Many banana breads use 3-4 bananas, which I’m sure makes for a moist bread, but also a very banana-y one.  Mine only uses about 2 bananas — perfect for banana haters.

Banana Bread

 2 c. flour
1tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 c. sugar
½ c. butter
1 egg
1 c. mashed overripe banana (about 2)
5 Tbsp milk
½ c. chopped walnuts (opt.)
1 c. milk choc. chips (opt.)

 

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  In a large bowl, cream sugar and butter.  Beat the egg slightly and mix into the creamed mixture with the bananas.  Mix in sifted ingredients until just combined.  Stir in milk and nuts/chocolate chips.  Spread batter into one greased and floured 9×5 loaf pan or scoop into 18 muffin papers.  Bake at 350 for one hour until top is brown and cracks along the top (for the loaf) or 20 minutes until toothpick tester comes out clean (for the muffins).

Cooling on the rack, not knowing what fate awaits them.

Watch out, little muffin!

Evidently, when babies get to be nineteen weeks of gestation, they turn into mangos.

One fetal representation.

Who knew, right?

Well, we know, because we compulsively research what size fruit our parasites/twinners/aliens are each week, because, clearly we have nothing better to do, even though we have cable.

In honor of the mango-esque nature of the babies, we decided, this week, to create a delicious, nutritious, apoplectic, intransigent, thoroughly fibrous smoothie.

Mangos are notoriously challenging to dissect, but, with the aid of a set of Ginsu knives, a complete mortician’s tool kit, the Jaws of Life, and an 18th Century Samurai sword belonging to one of the 47 Ronin, we were able to accomplish the task with minimal difficulty.

Skinned alive. NOT a fetal representation.

Following a recipe I stole modified from Ben & Jerry’s when I worked there one summer, I began with 8oz juice (some cran-blend).

I am juice.

I then added the mango chunks and some frozen raspberries (eliminates the need for ice).

Oooh, pwetty!

And blended it together.  Then I remembered there was a partially decaying perfectly ripe banana on the counter, and I tossed it in.

Whirrrr...

"Don't forget me or you'll get fruit flies on the counter!"

Finally, I added a few scoops of sorbet. This was how we could justify $3.50 or $4.00 at B&J’s — we used their sorbet.  It makes it super cold and smooth.

The secret ingredient.

When it was all mixed up, we poured it into the appropriate serving vessel: mixed drink classes from the 1950s.

The smoothies accompanied a delectable and eclectic breakfast.

With homemade (not our home) bagels and zucchini bread.

As I mentioned earlier in the post, the smoothies, though delicious with delicate fruity overtones, were somewhat fiber-heavy, due to the inclusion of an entire mango.  After his first yeoman’s gulp, Mr. Apron declared, with customary tact, that it was “like drinking a sweater.”

I wasn’t able to take a sip without a remark about its “cable-knit” quality.

A recipe borrowed from my preschool mentor teacher, who made this as a mid-morning snack for the preschoolers every year.  A snack that had me hooked.

1) Peel yams/sweet potatoes/whatever they have at the ACME.

2) Using the largest butcher knife/cleaver in your collection, hack into those tubers.  Cut them into bite-size chunks, or steak fry shapes, or, as Mr. Apron chose to do this time, circles.

3) Toss the chunks/fries/circles liberally with olive oil and kosher salt.

4) Spread on a cookie sheet.  Roast in the oven at 375 degrees, checking and flipping at 20 minutes.

Observe the Caramelizing Goodness

Depending on size/shape, they may take 35-45 minutes total.

5) Enjoy.  Serve with ketchup, barbecue sauce, ranch dressing, or plain!

Served with a veggie quesadilla