Sunday, February 8, 2015

The One Where I Explicitly Tell Everyone that I'm Pregnant

So I know I announced BabyTK's impending arrival in my last blog post, but as you will read, I started writing this first. You know in the beginning when you aren't supposed to tell people, but so much stuff is going on that I just wanted to share it, so I've been randomly typing whenever something amusing or novel strikes me.  And everything is novel for me at this point. Mr. ATK says this is all a blatant bid to increase traffic to ye olde blogge. He's not entirely wrong. I'm happy with the traffic, but I am fascinated by the fact that the post I wrote about Lucky Charms has 2500 views (that's 2300 more than any other post.) I assume it has become mandatory reading at General Mill's. Or people just like reading about cereal. I have no idea. I don't expect this stuff to compete, but maybe it's more interesting than the giant piece of fish I had in London. Who knows?

Mr. ATK and I got quite the Christmas surprise this year-- we found out that I'm pregnant with Baby TK who is slated to arrive sometime in August. 

Now I'm starting to write this early on, a few months before I'm actually planning on publishing this, but it has been an interesting time of learning about "my changing body." You know, asking the internet "Why am I so tired all the time?" and "Why do I always feel like I'm going to puke?" and then reading the internet's answers. I'm not sure what people did when they only had that What to Expect When You're Expecting book to read. There is so much to read online--what to eat, what not to eat--funny story about that. Apparently there is a thing called "pica" where pregnant women crave non-food things to eat like paint chips, dirt, and laundry starch. I've never heard of this before so as I was reading the article I said to Mr. ATK, "Hey, apparently pregnant women sometimes crave non-food products." And without missing a beat, he said, "Like dirt." I (somewhat astonished) was like, "Yeah."  And he continues, "It's because they don't get enough iron." This is exactly what the article said, so I was like, "Yeah. How did you know that? I've never heard of pregnant women eating dirt."

Well, apparently it's a rather common problem here in Kyrgyzstan. Mr. ATK then told me about his site mate in Peace Corps who worked with the heath clinic in town. They would go around to the rural villages giving presentations on sanitation, where to dig your bathrooms, prenatal care, etc. So one time, she was making a presentation on prenatal care and was showing it to the healthcare workers and asking for their opinions. They were like, "This is great, but you need to add, 'Don't eat jer.'" (This whole conversation is taking place in Kyrgyz, obviously.) She like, "Huh?" And they kept repeating "Don't eat jer. You need to tell them not to eat jer." Jer means "dirt" but it also means "land" which was the more familiar meaning to Mr. ATK's friend. "What do you mean don't eat land?" Mr. ATK said the Kyrgyz were, like, picking up clumps of dirt, saying, "This. Don't eat this. You need to add a thing telling women not to eat this- jer." I guess she was like, "Wait? People eat dirt?"

I was surprised to hear many Kyrgyz experience anemia during pregnancy since they eat so much meat. Horse is really high in iron, and beef and mutton aren't too shabby either. Mr ATK, however, pointed out a couple things. One, not all Kyrgyz, especially the very poor, eat that much meat. Two, they drink a ton of tea, which inhibits iron absorption. In fact, when a woman is pregnant, they encourage even more tea drinking than usual to keep the baby warm. This also blocks calcium absorption, which, I don't think the Kyrgyz diet is very high in calcium anyway, but it's a problem because the baby ends up leeching calcium from the mother's bones and teeth. Mr. ATK says you can always tell which Kyrgyz women have had children because they are all missing teeth. Now I'm very paranoid about getting enough calcium. I don't want to lose my teeth!
Anyways, it's been an interesting couple of weeks so far. Mr. ATK has started researching life insurance, college tuition costs, housing costs.  The internet tells me that this is the male form of "nesting." It's pretty adorable. BabyTK already has a college savings account that began with $100 and is already up to $100.37. Mr. ATK is thrilled. Unfortunately, he has to wait until a "life changing event" occurs before he can change his life insurance. Apparently, pregnancy itself is not sufficiently "life changing."

As for me, I have been dealing with morning sickness and an incredible fatigue. I had no idea that being pregnant meant I would be so freaking tired. And it was confusing at first because I would get tired after doing not particularly taxing things. I was a little alarmed to be panting at the top of a couple flights of stairs, which had never given me trouble before. (Though, I suppose now that I think about it, I've never walked up these stairs not-pregnant.)*  I felt like Dorothy in the very special Golden Girls episode about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (which of course, is never mentioned again on the show. Like Rose's however many years long pain pill addiction that came and went in one episode.)

(I don't know who made this trailer, but God bless them. I do not consider this episode the "saddest Golden Girls yet." It's not like they were going to actually kill Dorothy. Man, the 80s had the best very special episodes.)

Moving on...

The morning sickness is nausea more than anything. Not vomiting. So I know it could be worse, but it is very unpleasant to feel like you are constantly going to throw up. You know, it's one of those things you always hear about, but you really can't understand it until you experience it. I mean, I feel people focus the most on the last months of pregnancy as being the most uncomfortable (and they probably are) but these early ones? Yikes. They have knocked me on my ass.

And I just have to give mad props to Mr. ATK who has really just been the best. I could not ask for a better husband and partner. I feel bad because, despite not working, I'm really not pulling my weight around the house. I'm sleeping a lot and get tired easily and Mr. ATK has had to pick up a lot of the slack with the cleaning and the cooking.  I don't know how women go through the nausea and fatigue and still work. I think of my friends who have had kids or are expecting and it's like, "How on Earth do you do that?" Sometimes they throw up at work, I imagine, but they keep right on going. I do wonder, though, if maybe I had a job I could focus on something besides how crappy I felt. Hilariously, the day I found out I was pregnant was the day I actually got hired for a job, it's just that it takes, like, a month for security clearances and everything to go through, so I was just sitting around for most of January wallowing in my misery wondering why anyone would do to themselves this more than once.

But happily, I've now moved on to trimester two and, like the internet and every formerly pregnant person I know has told me, the morning sickness and fatigue has cleared right up. I'm a little dumbfounded how it just goes away like that, but it did. (Just like Dorothy's chronic fatigue syndrome. Maybe she was pregnant. Now that would have been a storyline to pursue! Dorothy's pregnant! And it's never mentioned again.) The human body is a mysterious thing. Now, I am hungry. A lot. All the time, it feels like. Again, it's a little weird and difficult to adjust. I'll be like, "Why am I so hungry? I just ate a couple hours ago." My standard breakfast does not go as far as it once did, that's for sure. I feel like Chris Farley in the "Gap Girls" sketch. I quote it often to Mr. ATK.

As for other frequently asked questions, no I don't think I have a baby bump yet. I mean, my belly does seem to be sticking out more, but I feel this may just be the gut I have had for the last 20 years, but I've just stopped sucking it in 24/7. Based on my ultrasounds, the baby is not located under the belly but rather under the flat part of my abdomen below my nascent Buddha belly. Make of that what you will. My pants still fit, but I'm not sure for how long.

So... yeah. That's what I've been up to. It's been an eventful few months. Three down, six to go.

*Of course, if I've learned anything from General Hospital, it's that stairs are a pregnant woman's worst enemy. If you are near them, you will get into a fight with someone at the top of them and you will fall down them. You may lose the baby. Especially, if Sonny Corinthos is the father. I'm pretty sure every time Carly was pregnant, she fell down some stairs. I should probably just take the elevator.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Kathryn in America: Get Your Kicks on Route 66

Get Your Kicks on Route 66!*
That summer, together with Ida and Nestor Patana, we decided to make a trip to California. They had a large Chandler “touring car,” open sides with side-curtains (if necessary.) So, with all needed equipment packed into our cars we started off. The Muttinens (Miettinens?) had bought our furniture and remained in the apartment.

We were young and it was an adventure! They had a little girl, Florence, she was about 4 or 5 years old then. The cars were never out of sight from the other – so if help was needed it was there. We took in all the sights on the way, natural sights and as many free ones as possible, we had no extra money. The Patanas had a tent which they put up for the night at free camping grounds and we had a mattress and slept in our little coupe. We cooked outdoors and ate outdoors. Ida and Nestor had to have their potatoes every day – sometimes we’d cook them in a roadside ditch! We camped by creeks and once even in a cemetery! Nestor had a mandolin which he would strum in the evening. Those days the roads were still under construction – often we had to pick our own road across fields and riverbeds. Yellowstone Park, to us, was an awesome sight! And the Grand Canyon.

The roads were rough and dusty, tires had to be changed often, as they would wear out. Spare tires were carried then – many at a time – often outside of the cars. Those were the days when the “Oakies” were also on their way West – with all their worldly goods piled on top of their “jalopies.” I think we looked like them, too. Eventually, we got to Los Angeles. The men looked for work with not much success, as there was a surplus of labor. So, Ike started selling Fuller Brushes again – which he already knew how to do. And Nestor got some iron work in San Bernadino, Cal. He had the misfortune of falling on the job [and] luckily was not injured seriously. They were quite broke and wanted to come back to Waukegan, Ill. I did not want to stay behind, either. Ike perhaps would have stayed – but he also decided we’ll come back, too. We went then up the West Coast to Black Diamond, Wash. where Nestor had an old blind uncle who lived near the Columbia R[iver] We helped him with his haying and he took us fishing on the river, it was surprising how surefooted he was in spite of his blindness.
Picture of some Oakies heading West.
We stopped by small mountain streams several places on the way back, to fish and camp. The scenery was so beautiful and we didn’t try for any speed – the tires and roads were not made for that in those days. Then the first place we and the Patanas ever lost sight of one another occurred in N. Dakota. Something went wrong, I don’t remember what, with the engine of our coupe. The Patanas had been ahead and just then, not in sight. It was a hot, hot Sunday afternoon on a barren Dakota prairie, dusty and dry. I’ll never forget that was the longest hottest and dustiest Sunday afternoon both of us ever spent! Ike tried to hitch hike – no one would pick up a lone dusty young man and we kept waiting for the Patanas to turn back to see what had happened – but no. Finally, an old mad and a young boy stopped to give Ike a ride into Valley City, N.D. Ike sure found out why! He had to help the old man fix his old worn out tires a half dozen times – tho’ it was only about 18 miles to the town. I had to stay in the car and wait, as all our possessions were in the coupe. If I had the windows open I choked on the dust, and windows shut, I felt suffocated in the heat! But finally, when it was almost dark, the tow-truck came and hauled us to Valley City. We stayed in a hotel (for the first time on the whole trip) and the engine was repaired the next day. Then we finished the whole trip and drove towards Superior, tho’ I seem to remember we slept one night in the car yet, in the yard of a Co-op Store – I think it was Perham, Minn. The farmers were driving to the store already in the morning before we woke up!

So, we went to Altos in Allouege. (Ike’s sister) Soon, the Patanas drove in, too—greatly agitated as to what had become of us. They had turned back – took a side road into a small town off the “highway” – thinking we had to go there for some reason – when they got back to the main road, they again figured that now we had gone by. So, all was well, that ended well. Of course then we all went to Oulu. Ida Patana’s family was there and also ours. In those days the trip we had made was really considered something! Our families were all glad to see us back home. I think we stayed at Tikkanen's and helped with the haying for awhile.

*I named this chapter myself.

Friday, February 6, 2015

London Calling!

The ATKs just finished their first (very eventful) European vacation. That's right. After all these years of globetrotting, we have missed everyone's go-to vacation spot (pick any place in Western Europe). But not any more! We've just spent the last five days in London, enjoying a variety of food, dreary overcast weather, and general tourist must-do's. I wanted to share a bit about all the fun things we did and also all the songs I randomly sang based on visual, aural, and written cues we came across during our many walks all over town. (See above video for the first song.) I'm also going to try not to get too bogged down in the minute details which ends up making these posts to long and then are posted significantly after the trip/event has end. (Case in point this post about New Year's which I posted 29 days after New Year's occurred. Personally, I'm proud I published it in January at all. Baby steps.)

Anyways, it's a long and tiring journey from Kyrgyzstan to London (with a stopover in Istanbul.) All the flights that leave Bishkek are at 3:00 am so it's one of those "wake up in the middle of the night scenarios."  On the plus side, we were at the hotel in London by noon. We weren't really in a site-seeing mood, of course, what with the exhaustion and jet lag and all. Still we got some traditional British pub food for lunch (steak and ale pie for Mr. ATK and fish and chips with the largest piece of cod I have ever seen for me. There were also mushy peas on my plate. I did not eat those.)

Mr. ATK and his meat pie, chips, and pint of ale. Pip pip cheerio and all that!

The largest piece of fried fish I have ever seen.
And of course, this meal (and basically anytime I saw an advertisement for pies at pubs) had me humming "The Worst Pies in London." (There are better vocalists than Emma Thompson, but she's my favorite and I was at this concert, so... sorry, Angela Lansbury. Next Sweeney Todd reference is all you.)

Our main goal that day was to stay awake until 5 pm. So after lunch we had a stroll around Regent's Park and passed out promptly at 5.

For the next few days, we tried to see as many of the tourist sites as possible. We decided to invest in a "London Pass" which gets you into a lot of things for free after an initial investment of 73 pounds. That doesn't seem like much, but it's actually $111 USD. That's the one thing about London--the sticker shock. All the prices on everything are about what you would expect to see on the items in the US, except the price is in pounds and 1 pound is worth about $1.50, so when you do the math in your head, what is a "5 dollar foot long" Subway sub in America is a $9.00 foot long sub in London. Who wants to spend that much on Subway? On the plus side, we didn't eat fast food the whole time we were there.

So we were pretty obsessed with getting our 73 pounds worth from this pass. It wasn't that hard to do, since it costs between 15 and 20 pounds (usually closer to 20) to get into any of the big places--Westminster Abby, Tower of London, Kensington Palace, War Cabinet Rooms, etc. It was nice to finally see the inside of most of these places as the only previous time I had been to London was over a weekend while I was studying in France and I couldn't actually afford to go in anywhere. I just walked by and pointed at things.  So it was nice to see what the fuss was all about.

Selfie at Big Ben!

I really enjoyed Westminster Abbey. That was very cool. We didn't get a chance to visit St. Paul's Cathedral--we only saw it in the skyline. That did not stop me from singing, "Feed the Birds (Tuppence a Bag)" from Mary Poppins. In fact, I basically started humming that song any time I saw a church. I'm not picky.

Mr. ATK really wanted to go to St. Paul's. I think he wanted to see the inside. I also wanted to go, but mainly to look for a bird lady. I did see lots of pigeons all over London, and I have to say, they were all pretty fat, so I guess the bird lady has done her job. I don't believe for a second any of those birds have a bare nest. We'll be going back to London in a few months and we plan to see the cathedral then. I'll keep you informed about my quest to feed the birds. However, if it costs more than tuppence a bag, I make no guarantee.

We did some other free stuff, including braving the massive throngs of people to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.

It was crowded, but not Wagah Border crossing crowded. Still, I was stuck looking at the backs of people's heads and shoulders for the most part. More than anything, this is what I saw:

I got great views of the whole thing on the cell phones of the people in front of me. We didn't stay for the whole thing. It turns into a band concert half way in and I was hungry, so off we went.

The other thing I really enjoyed was the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park. The weather was awful, as weather in England tends to be, but the memorial was lovely. I can see it being a wonderful place to spend time in the summer when, I assume, the weather is nicer. I was a big Diana fan back in the day and was sad (like so many others were) when she died. It's hard to describe the fountain and the pictures don't really do it justice, so I'll just link to the Wikipedia page here.

I liked this little kid running around and having fun at the memorial. Princess Diana did so much to help children around the world, it just seemed fitting that her memorial would continue to bring joy to children.

And of course, here's the video for the song I was humming along (and occasionally blatantly singing) while we were there. Of course, I forgot a lot of the new words and so kept switching to original recipe "Candle in the Wind" after I got past the "Goodbye, England's rose" part.

On our last day in country, just to top off the excitement of living the high life in London, we went to the doctor at BabyInc. (yep, that's a real and very reputable clinic) and saw pictures of the soon-to-be BabyTK.

Coming Summer 2015

To be continued......

Oh, and I also sang "Waterloo Sunset" a lot but couldn't really fit it in anywhere in the post. So here it is at the end. A reward for folks who made it through this whole thing.