Friday, April 27, 2012

A Woman in her Thirties and Technology

To know me is to know I am technologically challenged.  ('Understatement of the year', L is currently thinking.)  Let's put it this way:  two days ago was the first day I uploaded a photo from my actual camera to my Facebook page.  I don't know how to post a picture on this blog that is not stored on my own computer.  'Toggling' boggles my mind. Think about it, people.

It's not that I don't like technology.  I actually LOVE technology, when it works.  But when it doesn't work, I'd much sooner toss it in the trash than figure out how to fix the problem.  I don't have the slightest desire to know how my iPhone works or what sorts of codes I can put in my computer to make it do magical things.  I get much more excited over a new book from a favorite author than I do over an announcement from Apple. Don't get me wrong-- I want all the cool gadgets.  I just want them to work, without my having to intercede.  Always.

For the past seventeen months, I've had to accept that fact that Anna is 98% her Dad.  It's not that I mind, it's just the reality.  The adoption question still comes up a few times a month, but now I know it's more than just the way she looks.  As she reveals herself to us (truly the most amazing thing about being a Mom), I know that she has also inherited her Dad's technological savvy.

How do I know this?  She just figured out how to take pictures of herself on my phone.  And by the looks of it, she's pretty proud of herself.

I'm actually very happy about this.  Her love of technology will serve her quite well in life, I'm sure of it.  But just in case she ever wonders how she possibly came from such a book-nerd/computer-dumdum/ woman in her thirties such as myself, all she needs to do is look at her jacked up big toe and out of control hair and know...

Yup. She's mine.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Woman in her Thirties Succeeds

I know what you all have been thinking.  'It's been over two months since that post about Orchid... that poor woman in her thirties probably killed it and is too embarrassed to admit it.'

Do you mean this orchid??

Or maybe this orchid?

About eight more weeks (hopefully!) until Yoda makes his appearance.  I can't believe I'm about to say this, but we're ready.  If there's one good thing about having a complicated pregnancy, it forces you to be prepared earlier than you might be otherwise.  

Nursery... check.
Living orchid (aka sanity)... check.
Adorable big sister...

Double check.

Now we get to sit back, relax while we can, and bloom.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Woman in her Thirties Acknowledges the Universe

I was nineteen the first time I was robbed at the bank.  It was my fifth day at the teller line.  A man came in, told me he had a gun, and demanded all my money.  I gave it to him, and he left.  The FBI came, the police came, and I recounted the story about fifty times before they finally sent me home for the day.  'A counselor will be calling you to help you cope with the trauma,' I remember someone telling me, but I was annoyed and really tired, so I just went home and went to sleep.

The counselors kept calling over the following days, urging me to talk about my feelings.   My irritation grew.  I didn't want to talk about it, and I didn't want people calling me to tell me I should talk about it.  So I went about my college-y business and joked about what had happened with my friends, and we all had a good laugh at what a crazy story it was.

A few weeks after it happened, I was driving to the South Bay with my boyfriend at the time.  I can't remember why.  What I do remember is that he turned and asked me a simple question.  Something like, 'Where do you want to get lunch?' or something like that. 

And I completely lost it.  'I don't know!  Stop pressuring me!' I remember screaming.  And then I started banging on things and pulling on the door handle and demanding that he pull over before I jumped out of the moving car.  He did, and allowed me to have a total mental breakdown right there on the side of 680.  Let's just say it was not my finest moment.

Why would I tell such an unflattering story about myself here?  For one, how many women in their thirties do you know that can start off a story with, 'I was nineteen the first time I was robbed at the bank.'? I mean, come on.  It's like the one interesting thing about me.  And secondly, it illustrates just how far I haven't come since nineteen.  I was only about nine weeks along when my OB told me about the Vasa Previa, and I made the mistake of going home and googling it.  I spent a couple of hours reading the horror stories and felt myself shutting down, preferring not to deal. I made light of it, shrugged it off, and selectively closed my ears to how serious it was.

The realization began to weigh on me in the last few weeks.  I felt myself preparing for hospital bed rest as though preparing to go to jail.  I got nervous for every ultrasound and for every appointment with the doctors, knowing they were disagreeing about what to do with me.  L and I met with a lawyer to draw up a will and healthcare directive just... gulp... because we probably should.  I felt myself grabbing for the proverbial door handle, demanding to get out of the car.

And then the MRI, which is a post in and of itself.  The good thing about the MRI was that we got images like this:

Holy Amazing.  That is my SON.

But the great thing about the MRI was that we got the news.  Things. Have. Moved.  MOVED!  Not much, but enough. Enough to (hopefully please oh please) go full term.  Enough to (pretty pretty please) avoid bed rest.  My OB actually smiled at me for the first time in months, like she wasn't afraid I was going to spontaneously combust anymore.  I keep trying to describe how it feels to finally receive good news after so many months of gloom and doom, and the only way I can describe it is to say I feel like I've been granted a miracle. I know that as a good church-going woman in her thirties I should feel comfortable saying that, but to be honest it feels very strange to admit it in such a way.

And yet that's exactly what it is-- a miracle.

I read a wonderful, beautiful, fantastic book recently called The Fault in Our Stars.  One of my favorite lines came from a character wrestling with prayer-- how to pray, who to pray to, why we pray if things are already planned out for us.  He said, 'I think the universe just wants to be acknowledged.'  I know a million prayers by heart (go Crusaders!), but something about that line resonated with me.  I thought of it yesterday when I took Anna to the zoo, and this morning when I went to yoga, and just now when I had to remind myself that I'm not dreaming-- everything is going to be okay.  

So, Universe, consider yourself acknowledged.  Thank you, from all of us. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Woman in her Thirties Makes Pad Thai

Let's go to Thailand today, shall we?

A few things about Thailand: 1) It looks like this at sunset, which makes it my happy place:

P.S. That water is bath temperature, and crystal clear as far as you can see.  No joke.  Not even Hawaii can compare.

2) Thai food is amazing when it's done right.  And it's hard to do right.

I've been to Thailand three times, and I can say that even in Thailand I found that the food was either MIND-BLOWING or really not so good. One dish that I have found to be particularly difficult is Pad Thai.  If you like Thai food, you know what I mean.  You order it at a restaurant and it's either too oily, too salty, the wrong noodles were used, not enough meat, etc.  Some places are okay... but you're always chasing that perfect dish.  The one you had on the beach once, right after a $5 massage, and the water against the rocks looked neon, like this:

This is where that dumb Leonardo DiCaprio movie, The Beach, was filmed.  I looked for Leo or Leo look-alikes when I was there, but all I got was this lousy view of paradise.

I have, however, found great Pad Thai right here in the Twin Cities.  It's really easy-- you just have to go over to L's house at Christmas, when my way-cooler-than-yours sister-in-law is visiting, and wait for the night when she cooks Pad Thai.  See?  Much cheaper and easier than getting to this beach:

Where the elephants just sorta chill out with you while you drink Singha.

Have I mentioned how much I love Thailand?

Anyway, a few years ago, my so-totally-awesome-and-I'm-not-kidding sister-in-law shared her Pad Thai recipe with me.  Here it is:

You will notice that this is not a recipe as much as it's a list of ingredients.  A woman in her thirties shouldn't be intimidated by too many things in life, but despite living in Asia for a long time, I am horribly intimidated by cooking Asian food, especially if I don't have clear directions.  So this 'list' remained in my 'cookbook' (binder full of recipe scraps-- probably should do something about that mess) until a few weeks ago when I was feeling brave enough to take my secret woman in her thirties decoder ring to it.

And the results were awesome, if I do say so myself.  Here's how it goes down (ingredients in bold):

1.  Fill a bowl full of HOT water, and soak your rice stick noodles for 20 min.  I used this kind (I found them at Super Target), about 1/2 the package.  Notice how they are the thick kind, not the thin kind.  I don't like the thin kind, unless they are in soup or spring rolls, but hey, if you like the thin kind, I guess you can try it out.  Just remember to soak them for a few minutes less than the package tells you too.  And you're weird.

Note:  The package says to soak them for 25 min.  I say do 20 min, because you're going to stir fry them later anyway, and no one likes soggy noodles.  No one.

2.  Meanwhile, chop up your green cabbage-- the whole head.  Picture your ex while doing it, and it shouldn't take longer than a minute.  Then dice your jalapeno pepper(s).  I used ONE pepper without the seeds because I'm pregnant and indigestion-ish.  However, if you like spicy, go to town with the jalapenos (there is much more spice to come, though, so beware).  Then chop your garlic, unless you are lazy like me and buy the already chopped kind.

3.  Heat about a tablespoon of PEANUT OIL in your wok or pan.  (I'm cool and have a wok, but if you're not cool and don't then whatever.)  Notice the emphasis on PEANUT OIL.  Don't be dumb and substitute with vegetable oil.  And don't be SUPER dumb and substitute with olive oil.  Add the diced jalapeno, garlic (be generous-- I used a large teaspoon of the already chopped kind), and ALL of the cabbage.  Mix it up all good and stuff.  Then add about a tablespoon of soy sauce and mix it up some more.

4.  Add the secret ingredient, which is Lee Kum Kee's Chili Garlic Sauce:

Do not be scared by the Chinese characters on the jar.  If your grocery store has a decent international foods section, you can find this there.  If not, any Asian market will carry it.  Do not be scared of the Asian market.  It is a wonderful place where all sorts of treasures can be found.  I'll post about that, someday.

You might be tempted to substitute with another chili garlic sauce.  You might pick up the Safeway generic brand in a tube and say, 'this looks like it might be okay'.  If you do that, you are on your own.  I take no responsibility for the results.  Our food contract is null and void.  

I added about a 1/2 a teaspoon, just enough to get the cabbage tinted red.  Then sprinkle with paprika and/or cayenne pepper, just a few shakes worth. Again, I'm pregnant-y and I can't take the heat I normally can.  L, however, added more chili garlic sauce to the finished product.  It might also be noteworthy that he goes through at least one large bottle of Sriracha a month, and I am not exaggerating.  What I'm saying is be careful with the spice.

5.  When the cabbage is nice and wilted (about 10 min), transfer the whole mixture into a large bowl.  Add another tablespoon (or less) of peanut oil to the wok and add shrimp (I cooked a pound because I prefer my protein to noodle ratio to be high).  Add a quick drizzle of sesame oil and another 1/2 teaspoon of chili garlic sauce, enough to tint it red.  If you are so inclined, you can cook chicken instead.  Or maybe you're a veggie and prefer tofu (though I haven't the slighted idea how to cook that...)

Just a few minutes, just to get them cooked through.  When they're done, pour them on top of your cabbage to get them out of the way.

6.  By this point, the rice noodles should be done soaking.  (I know what you're thinking-- this is the longest recipe ever-- but really it's fast.  I'm just talking a lot.)  Drain them, add another dash of peanut oil to your wok, and add the noodles.  If you're feeling feisty, add some more chili garlic sauce.  If not, skip it.

7.  Add all the rest of the stuff from the bowl to the wok, and stir fry for a few minutes.  It should look like this-ish:

8.  Serve with the following garnishes (my opinions of said garnishes are just an added bonus):
Lots of chopped peanuts (Awesome sister-in-law likes spicy, I used regular)
Lots of chopped fresh cilantro (Don't be dumb and use the freeze dried kind)
Scrambled egg (I mean, if you want, I guess)
Bean sprouts (I'm guessing you'd have to cook these, but I wouldn't know because bean sprouts might be delicious but they also gave me the worst food poisoning I've ever had in my life and I refuse to ever touch them ever again.)

And there you have it.  Delicious Pad Thai, no airfare or fish sauce required.  Thank you, jie-jie!  And to the rest of you women in your thirties, you're welcome.