18 December 2012

Deck the Halls

After trimming the tree (literally cutting off branches),
we used the remnants in the entry way.
Christmas has arrived at our house, at last. We finally put up our tree about a week ago. Sergio (formerly known as Scroogio) seemed to want to wait until December was in full swing, rather than deck the halls the day after Thanksgiving, which I would have been happy to do. It's just as well bceause we got a real tree and I don't want the thing dying on us before the real Christmas has come and gone. 

Vintage shop find No. 1 - wooden angel musicians 
Julia seemed to think that the real Christmas had already come and gone after we got the tree. We walked over to the church about 6 blocks from our house to buy a tree from their youth group. We picked one out and loaded it into our grocery cart and pushed it the 6+ blocks back to our house. It only tipped over once! We were a funny site, I'm sure. Julia walked because she refused to ride in her stroller on the return trip (typical) so I wore Clara and pushed an empty stroller and Sergio pushed the tree in the grocery cart and we both did our best to corral Julia on the way home. 

Vintage shop find No 2 - Santa plate
(desperately in need of some Christopher Elbow Peppermint Bark) 
Anyway, when we got home, she watched me put the lights on and I gave her some soft ornaments to arrange on lower branches. That was as far as we got before it was her bedtime. The next morning I couldn't wait to show her our completed, decorated tree. So I woke her up and said, "do you want to come downstairs and see our Christmas tree?" And she replied with something along the lines of "we did that yesterday," as in, "Christmas is over, Mommy. We already got our Christmas tree." Such a pure and simple understanding of Christmas. "Mitmas," she calls it. I am enjoying these years before the wanting begins. 

new home, new baby...
lots to commemorate this year with special Hallmark ornaments
I used to think that my Christmas tree ornaments could be grouped into two categories: 'ornaments from my childhood' or 'things most people would throw away' (examples: Chimay corks and even a Gatorade cap!) It was not until this year, while decorating with a toddler, that I realized that they also all fall into two other categories - either "looks like a toy" or "fragile and breakable" - or worse yet, the ones that fall into BOTH those categories. So I had to be judicious and hang the breakable ones up top and the softer ones down below. I broke the rule I learned long ago about hanging larger ornaments at the bottom and smaller ones up top, medium ones in the middle, etc. But I'm pretty sure we'll survive that broken rule. As will my ornaments.

Julia's shoe (it's mate was lost at the airport a long time ago)
I've been saving this for an ornament for a while. 
Julia is in deep conflict about Dear Old Santa. As she told me one morning before we went to meet him, she does "not yike Nanta." We met him at the neighborhood party and she wouldn't dare look upon him; we took her to the Santa at family night at Hallmark and she refused him in every way. Mind you, she doesn't cry and wail and fuss. She just averts her gaze and clings to my neck for dear life. I now have two great pictures of me, Santa, and the back of Julia's head.  I have heard her talking to the santas on the tree: "Oh, Nanta. I yon't yike you. I yike you. Sometimes I yon't yike you. Sometimes I do yike you." Apparently she's really torn up about this. I am actually relieved that my child doesn't willingly sit in the laps of strangers. Seems healthy to me. We'll see how her feelings change as the season progresses. She is at least having fun spotting Santa, Snowmen (plastic decorative ones since we haven't had any snow yet) all around town. So glad that "Mitmas" is here! 

Bought this whimsical Santa at the thrift store ($3!).
I realize now it reminds me of a pear. 

11 December 2012

Root Veg: Two Favorite Recipes

One new recipe for beets and one tried and true standard for sweet potatoes...

Hope Julia appreciated my plating techniques.
I have never made borscht before, so I don't know how this compares, but I can tell you it was delicious. I served it as the starter for a meal of acorn squash stuffed with rice, mushrooms, and turmeric with a side of sautéed kale and white beans with a side salad featuring turnips, carrots, radishes - such a colorful meal. Talk about eating the rainbow. Oh, and Julia are two servings of soup! And spilled a bunch of it on her chin and shirt. She looked like a vampire with a belly wound. 

Red Soup
from Nigella Lawson's Feast
serves 4-6
(I love Nigella's writing so I'm including her preface to this recipe.) 
     This soup is so damn Christmassy it's ridiculous. Given the holidays, I wanted as much redness under my belt as possible (a rather childish approach, but there it is) and since, customarily, in borscht the sweetness of the beets is countered by some cooking apple, it made perfect, festive sense to use sharp, seasonal cranberries instead. The juice and zest of the orange, along with the cloves, make it even more of an evocatively Christmas feast. You can eat it with a supper of cold turkey and salad, or as an altogether sprightlier alternative on its own. It's the sort of soup you might choose for a solitary dinner in front of the tv to make yourself happy and to feel virtuously rewarded. 
     Normally, beets take hours to cook, which is why I suggest you just bung them in the processor first. Actually, I loved the soup as it was when I tasted it in the pan, unpuréed, but truly this works best as a deep-toned, deep-flavored, velvety emulsion. 

3 raw beets (1 1/4 lbs) 
1 large red onion
2 tablespoons olive oil (not extra virgin)
1 1/2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
juice and zest of 1 orange
pinch of ground cloves
4 cups vegetable stock
3/4 cup sour cream, optional, for serving
(Emily's addition: pomegranate for garnish!) 

     Peel the beets and onions (wearing rubber gloves unless you want a touch of the Lady Macbeths) and chop them roughly. Put the chunks in a food processor and blitz till you've got a ruby-glowing pile of shreds; no need to be too fanatical, you just don't want large pieces evident. Spoon the oil into a large wide-based pan and tip in the onion and beets, and cook them over a gentle heat for 10 minutes or so. When they have begun to sweat down and soften, add the cranberries (no need to thaw frozen ones), the orange zest and juice and the ground cloves. Stir everything around for a couple of minutes and then pour in the stock. Bring to the boil, then cover the pan and simmer the soup for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. It should then be cooked enough to purée or liquidize to divine smoothness, though you may want to do this in a few batches to spare your kitchen walls. (or use an immersion blender!) 
     Taste to see if you want salt or pepper, then pour into a warmed soup tureen and serve. If the idea appeals pour over a swirl of sour cream into each person's bowl as you hand it out. 
     option: Cook this in advance and leave it in its unpuréed state, whizz it cold then heat it up in a saucepan when ready to eat.

featuring orange and white flesh sweet potatoes
This is from Smitten Kitchen (whose cookbook is out - I've asked Santa for it for Christmas!). Her post is here. I make this recipe all the time and I have for a couple of years now. It never gets old. And even one devoted sweet-potato-hater can manage to eat a few of these spiced wedges. I've been using a mix of orange and white fleshed (O'Henry variety) sweet potatoes for a nice visual variation. I suppose you could also get away with throwing a regular potato or a turnip in there! (We found potatoes and turnips to be a nice combo in our new "mashed poturnips" recipe at Thanksgiving.) My farmers suggested mixing up the spices a little - sage, cumin, ground pepper, cloves. Although I am hell bent on sticking to this exactly as SK has written it. So much so that when I set out to make these this year for the first time and discovered that I was out of coriander (and didn't have time to run to the store), I sat down and painstakingly picked out every last coriander seed from my pickling spice mix. And I did this while I was nursing Clara. Who wiggles a lot. It was a challenge! But worth it. Just one whiff of these and you'll see.

Roasted Spiced Sweet Potato
from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 4 to 6 servings.
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes (the latter will make them quitespicy, so using according to your preferences)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 pounds medium sweet potatoes
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 425°F. Coarsely grind coriander, fennel, oregano, and red pepper flakes in an electric coffee/spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Stir together spices and salt.
Cut potatoes lengthwise into 1-inch wedges. Toss wedges with oil and spices in a large roasting pan and roast in middle of oven 20 minutes. Turn wedges over with a spatula and roast until tender and slightly golden, 15 to 20 minutes more.

04 December 2012


Twas the night before Thanksgiving and all through the house...

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and this year's celebration did not disappoint. We hosted in our new house at our big dining room table and the meal came out great. As before, Christy and Armando were in charge of meat and Sergio and I did what we do best - vegetables! I had two pages of notes and spent hours prepping - which dish to cook which recipe - when to put what in the oven. We had the oven going all day and it felt like we were cooking every vegetable under the sun and I loved it.

Nina made place cards - she spelled several of these all by herself!

I even tried a new recipe or two this year. Although I couldn't forget my now "famous" (By "famous" I just mean that I really like this dish and want to cook it every year.) Fennel and Leek Gratin - which almost didn't happen after I forgot to buy fennel at Badseed. Fortunately, I am friends with farmers and I was able to have my 6 fennel bulbs personally delivered to my house, thankyouverymuch. Fennel emergency avoided! 
Fennel, or "Star Trek Vegetable" as I've been calling it this year. 
The new recipe of note was Brussels sprouts and chestnuts and it was a sure winner. I'll be including that in my regular repertoire. No matter how long it took me to peel those raw chestnuts. (About 45 minutes, BTW.) 
Brussels sprouts and chestnuts - see below for recipe. 

carrot cake

Sergio whipped up the most beautiful and delicious carrot cake - his favorite - and a good companion to Christy's pumpkin pie. We baked all our orange vegetables into desserts. 

Sitting down to eat.
With all the craziness in the kitchen that day, Thanksgiving was a total whirlwind. A big, beautiful, delicious whirlwind and I was just so grateful that we were all healthy - unlike last year and The Great Flu of 2011. And Pink Eye. But I spoke too soon because on Friday, Clara started coughing and by Friday night I was shaking with fever. My parents came on Friday - they missed the "recalentado" in the afternoon (just as delicious on day 2!) but got here *just* in the nick of time to see the lighting of the Mayor's Christmas Tree Friday night. We came home from that and Clara, Julia, and I spent the rest of the weekend being sick and being cared for by Honey, Papa, and Sergio/Daddy. It took us well over a week to get out of that stupor. I'm so glad my folks were there to help out and I'm so glad we're finally well now. Maybe "glad" isn't the word - maybe it's "grateful."

Julia and "Papa Dear" at the Mayor's Christmas Tree.
You can't see from this picture but she has her hand tucked into his shirt to stay warm.

recipe (and chestnuts!) from Chestnut Charlie

Brussels Sprouts and Chestnuts
1 c heavy cream
1 1/4 cups water, divided
1 c peeled chestnuts, cut into quarters
2 T unsalted butter
1-2 t minced fresh thyme
1 t kosher salt or to taste
freshly ground black pepper
2 lbs (8 cups) Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

Place the cream, 1/4 C of the water and the chestnuts in a small saucepan. Bring to a bare simmer and cook over very low heat while preparing the Brussels sprouts. This will soften the chestnuts while infusing the cream with flavor. There should only be a few bubbles visible on the surface of the cream. If cooked at a rapid simmer, the cream will reduce too much and the final dish will be oily. 

Bring butter, salt, and 1 C water to boil over high heat in a deep 12 " heavy skillet (the water should fill the pan to a depth of about 1/4"). Add Brussels sprouts, thyme, and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally until the Brussels sprouts are crisp-tender, 6-8 minutes. Remove the lid. Boil over moderately high to high heat until water is evaporated and the sprouts begin to caramelize, 3 to 4 minutes. 

Remove from the heat and add the cream along with the chestnuts. The cream will boil and reduce rapidly upon coming in contact with the hot pan, so stir constantly with a heat proof spatula, encouraging the thickening cream to coat the sprouts and chestnuts. If the cream is too liquid, return the pan to moderate heat. Simmer until the cream coats the sprouts and chestnuts. Taste and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. 

19 November 2012

Clara 3 months

 You can see the sky in her eyes. 

3 months old and unbelievably precious. She smiles at me and coos, she grins at her big sister, once or twice we've even gotten her to laugh! She is totally delightful. 

3 months; about 13 pounds

Julia gets better everyday (in general, but I mean with respect to her interactions with Clara), though she still has to be monitored. You never know when she's going to give Clara a big old clobbering hug. She may be rough but at least Julia is loving on her baby sister. 

 fixing "Dara's" sleeve

And Julia's little miss on-the-go. Wait, Julia, let me take you picture! Before you grow up one more second!

26 months and running off!

02 November 2012

Halloween in Brookside

Halloween at last! I have been prepping for this like it was Christmas or something. Trying to think of costumes since before Clara was even born. Looking forward to pumpkin-ing the front steps at our new house. Getting Halloween books to explain it all to Julia. I have been so excited. Sergio had been indifferent. Once I found the consignment sale bee costume for Julia and a lady bug costume for Clara, I suggested he be a flower and he agreed with indifference. I bought pumpkins which I intended to carve with Julia and Sergio was sort of meh about it. But then last weekend he wanted to join in the pumpkin carving and all of a sudden he was hooked. He might now be Halloween's biggest fan. 

pumpkin carving last weekend - Sergio, the proud pumpkin carver and Julia, the assistant to the pumpkin carver

"Clara bug"


I had been worried about Julia not understanding what was going on at Halloween and had gotten books to help demonstrate the holiday for her. It was no problem at all. By the time this week rolled around she could successfully answer the question, "What are you going to be for Halloween?" without being prompted and she was well versed in the idea of costumes and disguises, thanks to a lovely book by Marianne Dubruc called Animal Masquerade. And in fact she had taken to pretending around the house and saying, "Bye-bye, Mommy, I'm going to a toss-tume party!"

As for our "toss-tumes" - the girls and I were beneficial insects. I had started out just calling us bugs, but a fellow CSA member at the potluck last weekend pointed out that lady bugs and bees are beneficial insects and I'm pretty sure butterflies are too, so that's what I am going with now. And Sergio was our flower. Joining our garden party were Chef Emilio, Sorcerer Nina, Almost-Pirate Christy, Uncle Dan in a hat that could have been a costume but that he wears all the time, Puck from a Midsummer Night's Dream, his dad Dumbledore/PhD, and his mom who was disguised as a 34-week pregnant woman. Because that's what she is.  

 Everybody say "nandy!"

Our beneficial insects were store-bought; the only costume I made this year was Sergio's very funny-looking flower crown. I never did get to the fabric store to buy felt so I made it out of construction paper. At 11:30 pm. On October 30. It was not my best work. But it worked!

Although now that I think of it, I did make Nina's costume. It was her birthday present back in March. Glad to see that she can get some Halloween mileage out of it. It was fun to make. 

 spooky blurry pic

The evening turned out lovely. In our new neighborhood, Halloween is a pretty big deal - from the neighborhood shops handing out candy in the early evening to the long string of trick or treaters that lasted well past sundown, it was nonstop festivities. Afterwards we all enjoyed a hodgepodge dinner at our house featuring lots of great squash courtesy of Christy, including the famous Calabaza En Tacha and a superb pumpkin pie. 

We had such a very happy Halloween.

22 October 2012

Clara 2 months

sweet smile
Clara is 2 months old now and really starting to smile. She still likes to make a very surprised or skeptic look on her face. But she's adding to her repertoire, such as the face below in reaction to her sister's, um, guidance.

Clara's knowing glance.

Julia is still working on learning to be gentle. Such a hard lesson to learn. But she loves her little sister. And Clara is starting to notice and respond (turn towards) Julia when she hears her. So sweet to see the interaction begin. 

Julia - 25 months on the 19th 
Clara - 2 months on the 17th

The consensus is that Clara looks exactly like me, exactly like Sergio and exactly like Julia. We just think she looks like Clara.

During their week of doctor visits I inadvertently dressed them according to eye color; Julia in blue and Clara in brown. In other news, Julia' hemangioma looks great and Clara is weighing in at 11 lbs and 4 oz. Those are the medical reports for the week. Both girls are looking good!

08 October 2012

Trip to OKC for the A + B = C party

 Our first road trip with both girls - a drive to OKC. Clara asks, "how long do I have to be in the carseat?!" 

Getting to meet Mema!

me, Clara, Mema, and Julia

 Julia enjoying her first "hot dulce" - a special tradition at Honey's house

The A + B = C party (Anniversary + Baby = Celebration) in honor of my parents' 50th wedding anniversary and Clara's birth. 

Judy and Winford though the years.  
 Happy travelers on our way home.

26 September 2012

Whole Grain Applesauce Cake

This cake was lovely. This glaze was unbelievable. If I make it again (and I'm pretty sure I will), I would use half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose flour, so as to increase the cohesiveness of the cake. But the taste was great.

I'm still working on my glazing technique. Mine was messy but delicious. 

The glaze was much easier to make than I would have thought a glaze to be. It has an ungodly amount of powdered sugar that I don't want to talk about. All I want to say is that it tasted to good, I couldn't believe I'd actually made it.  

Happy Birthday, Julia!

Whole Grain Applesauce Cake from Chocolate & Carrots (that's a blog name; there is no chocolate or carrot in this cake) and from Texanerin.
2 1/4 cups whole wheat or whole spelt flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
3 large eggs
3/4 cup olive oil – I used extra-virgin
1 cup unrefined or brown sugar
1 3/4 cups unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Cinnamon sugar:
3 tablespoons unrefined or granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Caramel glaze:
4 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 – 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted (unless yours is already lump free)
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and allspice.
2. In a separate medium bowl, whisk the eggs a little. Add the olive oil and sugar and mix. Then add the applesauce and vanilla extract.
3. Add the dry mix to the wet mix and stir. But just until combined!
4. Spray a 12 cup / 10″ bundt pan with cooking spray. Be sure to spray it very well. Then mix the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle the mix in the pan. Bake for 45 – 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. This recipe can also be halved and baked in a 6 cup bundt pan, which is what I always do. If using a 6 cup bundt pan, bake for about 27 – 30 minutes.
5. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, and then turn it out onto a rack and let it cool completely before glazing.
6. For the glaze: Put the butter, brown sugar, cream and salt in a saucepan at medium heat. Stirring constantly, bring it to a full rolling boil. Let it boil for one minute and then take it off the heat and let it cool for 5 minutes. Gradually add the powdered sugar and beat it until it’s very smooth and  there are no lumps. Pour over the cake.
Source: cake from Erin from Texanerin Baking; the caramel glaze recipe came from The Runaway Spoon.

Julia's 2nd Birthday

Julia turned 2 last Wednesday! The night before her birthday we said, "Julia, do you know what tomorrow is?" And she replied, "Juia's burday!" When we went in to get her on the morning of she immediately said, "It my burday!" She was thrilled and talked about her birthday for days. 

Julia - 2 yrs on Sept 19; Clara - 1 mo on Sept 17

We went low key for this year's party. So low key, especially compared to last year's when we had a theme and a ton of food and oodles of decorations and we invited everyone we knew. Last year we didn't have a newborn, of course. 

3 balloons, 24 pictures, some gifts

So when we were "planning" (by which I mean scrambling at the last minute because we had been too overwhelmed to "plan"), we decided to focus just on what Julia would love most, leaving out all the extraneous stuff that parents do that often goes unnoticed by the child. We knew she'd love her cousins and her aunt and uncles, and we figured she'd go for some cake. I bought balloons (for the kids) and put up Julia's monthly milestone pictures (for the adults); she opened presents, played with her cousins, ate some cake, and was on cloud 9 the whole time.

"wed nitten" (red kitchen)

Our big gift to her was this fantastic red kitchen that we stayed up until 1 AM assembling the night before. Wish I could have captured the look of pure delight on her face when she saw it.

My new theory: it's not a party without balloons! 

All that was on Wednesday night, on her actual birthday, but we didn't stop there. With a visit from Honey, Papa, Ling and Minli on the horizon, we decided to have a second party on Saturday so they could celebrate with us - this one at the park and also super simple. More balloons this time, some snacks, a playground, more cousins to play with, and incredible weather. Julia had a blast.

Clara at the park with Honey

And I had so much fun that I nearly felt like it was my own birthday. I enjoy Julia every single minute of every single day and most of the time I just can't believe how awesome she is.

Julia Minerva: 27.2 lbs and 33 inches of awesome 

I'm so glad she had a happy Birthday.

08 September 2012

My Second Birth Story

On August 17 at 5:24 PM, I delivered an 8-pound, 2-ounce baby girl: Clara Sofia.

Clara Sofia

It seems like I had to wait a really long time for Clara. I didn't; she was only 4 days late and still within my due "week" (rather than due date). But I had been so weary with the pregnancy (more accurately, the sciatica) and so worried that this baby would be problematically late, that I had grown impatient. I was ready to have that "Baby C," as we had been calling it, and I was pretty confident that Baby C was ready to be had. The baby was so low that it had felt for a couple of weeks like I'd been carrying around a bocce ball between my thighs. I was tired.

I think it didn't help any that my first baby had been one week early, so even though I tried not to have any expectations, I think I subconsciously did. My due date was a Monday and all week long after I'd missed that date, I'd been researching natural induction methods. On Thursday afternoon, the midwife told me not to worry about doing anything extreme until the following week; even so I was still thinking of how to induce labor Thursday night. So that when I went down to the basement to clean Julia's crayon markings off the wall, I joked that if scrubbing crayon off basement walls were an induction method I'd have hit the jackpot.

And so, perhaps, I did hit the jackpot. The next morning I woke up around 7:30 with some funny feelings. For about a week I'd been feeling what I was describing as Braxton Hicks contractions but on the inside; my Braxton Hicks contractions had always felt like they were on the outside, on my belly - but these new ones were deep inside. Turns out these were prodromal labor and come Friday morning, the real labor was hitting pretty hard and pretty fast.

But I was in denial that it was real labor. I wanted it to be, but I didn't want to get my hopes up that I was actually - finally! - going to have this baby! So I tried to be "realistic" and went about getting ready for work. I showered and tried to get dressed, but couldn't even do that. Before I knew it I was calling my parents and texting my co-workers, and curling up on the bed to ride out each contraction and wondering how long will it take this time? Sergio took Julia to school and came right back home; he called the midwife, drew me a bath, downloaded a contraction-tracking application on my phone, and started tracking. We were surprised to find that the contractions were coming so quickly. I was surprised at how intense they were so soon. Nothing like the long stretch of "easy" contractions that I had with Julia. For this one I skipped ahead to the hard stuff right away.

I ended up laboring at home for only about 3 hours, which, when viewed through my frame of reference of a 28-hour labor the first time, seemed like only 5 minutes. We packed up and went to the hospital at around 11:00 am. All I could think about was how bright it was outside - how painfully bright it was - and how if this baby turns out to be Clara, how appropriate that she be born on such a clear, bright day. That was and is a charming notion, but truth be told, it was that brightness that really threw me off for the rest of the day.

And here is where the comparisons begin (I promise, Julia and Clara, we won't always be comparing you to each other like this!): when I went to the hospital with Julia, it was dark and stormy and late at night and I'd already been laboring so long (15 hours) and we had to enter through the ER entrance at the back of the hospital and not many people were there ...  but with Clara, when I went to the hospital it was bright and clear and lovely and everything was happening fast and I'd hardly been in labor at all (3 hours) and we went in through the hustling, bustling front door and there were so many people everywhere. With Julia I spent so much time in labor, and it was so dark and dim in that room in the middle of the night, that I went into a trance without even trying (very helpful for pain management in natural childbirth!); with Clara, labor progressed so quickly and the room was so bright with all that sunlight managing to push through the drawn curtains that I never got deep enough and never fully made it to "Planet Birth."

So this meant I was way more "with it" than I had expected to be. And my brain went into overdrive instead of going into autopilot like it had with Julia. I tried to focus on what I needed to do but tried also to distract myself from the pain. I hung out in the big jacuzzi tub for a while, but couldn't get comfortable because of baby's little bocce ball head sitting so low. I hung out in the shower with lots of warm water pouring on me while I sat on the exercise ball and rolled around through each contraction. I danced and squatted around the room per the midwife's instructions, trying to get Baby C to move its head a little; the baby had its hand underneath its chin which was tilting its head at the wrong angle and we couldn't proceed until it had sorted itself out.

Sergio was right beside me for every contraction, and whereas with my first labor I was eventually so far gone that I didn't know who was in the room or who was holding my hand, with this labor I was far more aware of my surroundings and was highly dependent on Sergio. He helped me breathe properly, he encouraged me with a quote from a card we'd seen at the midwive's office - "the contractions can't be stronger than you because they are you" - he reminded me that each contraction brought us closer to meeting our mystery Baby C and to smelling that sweet new born smell and to finding out if it's a boy or a girl, he told me that each contraction was working, that it was progress, and eventually when I just kept saying "no, no, no, no, no" he'd help me to embrace each contraction by reminding me to say "yes, yes, yes, yes, yes" instead. I truly could not have had this baby without his help.

After almost 10 hours of labor, it was time to push - although if you'd asked me it had been time to push since morning. Since this baby and its little bocce ball head had been so low, I had been wanting to push all day. (This is another totally different experience than Julia's labor, when I never once felt the urge to push.) I only had to push a few times this time - I think it was 3 - before Baby C made its debut and Sergio called out, "We have a Clara!" and I moaned my ridiculous "just-gave-birth" moan (the same strange noise I made the moment I first saw Julia). They hoisted Baby C up onto my chest. She sneezed, she cried; I wailed, Sergio beamed - and everything was perfect.

"We have a Clara!"

my little burrito baby with a bocce ball head

I had been so anxious to have this baby on or before its due date, but I was actually really happy with her arrival date - August 17, 2012 is my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. And thanks to Clara's unfavorable head tilt, the labor was delayed long enough that my parents had time to arrive from OKC. Both of my parents and Sergio's mom - who had traveled from Mexico only two days before - were all three there when Clara made her entrance. I couldn't have articulated this at the time, but I was so glad that I went into labor "late" enough and that my labor lasted long enough that they could all be there.

And this trio of grandparents were so helpful in the days following Clara's birth: taking care of Julia, taking care of Clara so Sergio and I - zombies from sleep deprivation - could catch a few zs, preparing us food, cleaning our floors, doing small projects around the house. My mother cooked all my CSA vegetables for me, bought me just the right new clothes, even gave me a pedicure. I can't begin to express my gratitude.

Clara and I were released from the hospital in no time at all, which was also a totally different experience than when I had Julia. With Julia, I chose to stay at the hospital with her until she was released from the NICU five days after birth. And the day we left was a clear, bright, beautiful Friday morning - a stark contrast to the dark, rainy Saturday night we'd had when we entered the hospital earlier in the week. With Clara there was no NICU stay, she and I were both fit as fiddles, so they released us both the day after she was born. Which means we entered the hospital on a clear, bright, beautiful Friday morning and left the hospital late on a dark, rainy Saturday night.

We continue to marvel at how different the two girls look, in the same way that the two births were so different. When Julia was born her skin tone was pale and she had (and has) crystal clear blue eyes and hardly any hair at all and what little was there was very light brown and now that it's grown in her hair is all curly. But then Clara - Clara's skin tone is darker and she even has those purple spots on her lower back and she has glossy black/brown eyes and a full head of long black hair that's straight as a board. They are so distinctly different and unique and it will be so fun to see how their little personalities develop, too.
Julia holding Baby C for the first time

Julia has taken so well to her new baby sister. We continue to call Clara "Baby C" to help Julia with the transition (since that's what all three of us called the baby in utero), but Julia has already started calling her Clara - or rather "Baby Dara." She is interested in her and asks about her always and runs to see her and kiss her and hug her when she comes home from school. She offers to help change diapers and to wipe. And though Julia is too young to actually execute many of the tasks she offers to help with, we are just so delighted that she's interested. She is going to be a good big sister; I can tell already.

It has now been three weeks since Clara's long-awaited birth and even as she still feels so little and new, it also feels like she was always here. Maybe that's just my way of interpreting the "meant to be" feeling. It's amazing how quickly that feeling takes hold. Not three weeks but three minutes - dare I say three seconds? - after her birth I felt like she was always a Clara and she was always ours and she was always meant to be. I feel like we're a complete set now. I can't imagine it any other way.

all here