Pregnancy Food Battles

Tom insists that my first trimester was WAY worse than I remember. Right now, I can only think of a few days in which I was grumpy because I knew I had to eat food, but I didn’t want to. According to Tom, the magnitude of my suffering was only rivaled by my “trooper” attitude. I guess this is a good thing; my ability to conveniently forget things that suck will come in handy in April. I can see it now:

During labor: “GAH IT HURTS SO BAD I HATE YOU TOM I’M NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN NO MORE BABIES!”

Two weeks later: “Meh, that wasn’t so bad.”

…yeah, probably not. Anyway, it’s a good thing I started this blog post while in the throes of morning sickness; otherwise, I’d have no idea what the past three months were really like. I still think I was incredibly lucky.

***

My first trimester could be described succinctly by Strong Bad’s and Strong Sad’s comments from about 1:30 to 1:41 of this video:

This has got to be my only pregnancy complaint so far: eating food was really hard for a few weeks. I didn’t even want it anymore—the idea of food was about as appealing as cleaning a toilet or taking a chemistry exam. I had totally lost the ability to understand why food is a positive thing.  I was expecting to have those weird pregnancy cravings you always hear about, the kind that would send Tom on a midnight shopping adventure to get pickles and ice cream, or whatever. Instead, my personal definition of a “craving” was “anything that sounded remotely, hypothetically, temporarily edible.” Tom quickly learned not to trust me with buying the groceries, because I’d only buy things that seemed edible (read: not much).

I particularly had problems with anything sweet (including most fruits) and anything saltier than, say, bread. Soups and hot, heavily-sauced, salty dishes were off the menu. You guys, I have two big tubs of delicious Thai curry that are about to expire because I haven’t been able to eat curry in months.

I actually lost several pounds at one point, prompting Tom to start texting me almost every day, making sure I was actually eating.

For the most part, I tried to exercise self-discipline and eat as healthily as possible (yay hummus and smoothies!). However, there were times when this was much harder than it should have been, like that horrid week when I couldn’t make hummus because I was out of garlic, or when everything I would normally put in a smoothie was suddenly poisonous. Now that my stomach is behaving again, I’m trying hard to make up for lost nutrition (don’t ask me how many YAMS! I’ve eaten in the past week. I don’t even want to know).

Today, I’m going to share some of my more embarrassing “pregnancy recipes” from those early weeks. Hopefully you’ll find these as entertaining as I do.

Peaches

Ingredients:
~6 large peaches

Directions:
Peel peach. Eat. Repeat every two hours for as long as you are awake.

Minimal-Fruit Green Smoothie

This was the only smoothie I could stomach, and even it met with limited success.

Ingredients:
2 cups spinach
1 peach
Large handful of carrots
1 frozen strawberry
1 cup water

Directions:
Prepare smoothie according to standard procedure. Realize this would be revolting to many people. Drink 3/4 of the glass, and decide there’s no way you can force down any more. Wonder when your stomach got so small and dainty, and why it couldn’t have been like that when you were actively trying to lose weight. Store remaining smoothie in fridge indefinitely.

Apples With Peanut Butter

Ingredients:
1 apple
Peanut butter

Directions:
Decide you need an apple. Decide an apple is not enough calories to constitute a meal. Slice apple, and cover several slices with peanut butter. Retire to couch for resulting stomachache. Wonder whether the apple or the peanut butter was the culprit; shun both.

PB&J

Ingredients:
2 slices of bread
Peanut butter
Jam
Peach

Directions:
Make PB&J sandwich according to standard procedure. Start eating. Wonder who in his right mind decided that putting PEANUT BUTTER on BREAD was a good idea. Wonder if bread has gone bad. Decide bread has gone bad (it hasn’t). Discard half eaten sandwich. Eat peaches instead (see above).

“Bread”

It’s like a sandwich, without any sandwich fillings. Sandwich fillings are problematic.

Ingredients:
1 ciabatta roll (obtained while wandering around HEB like a pregnant zombie who’s lost her taste for human brains (or anything else, for that matter))

Directions:
Remove ciabatta roll from package. Eat morosely while contemplating your poor life choices.

Club Crackers and Jam

Ingredients:
Club crackers
Jam

Directions:
Decide club crackers are the only thing in the world that sounds good. Eat crackers plain until your mouth gets dry. Decide to risk a little bit of jam. Decide jam is okay. Eat almost an entire sleeve of club crackers in one sitting. Feel gross. Gag when Tom tries to force-feed you club crackers when he comes home.

Failure Pasta

I had a day when the only thing I wanted was a ton of pasta with alfredo sauce, eating-for-two style. Here’s my alternative.

Ingredients:
Pasta
Garlic salt
Parmesan cheese
Broccoli florets

Directions:
Cook pasta according to package instructions. Toss some broccoli in pasta water toward the end of cooking to feel better about the fact that you’re about to ingest pure carbs and salt. Drain. Sprinkle with a little bit of garlic salt and cheese. Feel ashamed at how much better your stomach feels after eating this. Contemplate how something so right can feel so wrong (or is it the other way around?).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=st0obbFrWkM

Shrimp Pasta

This one has actually been a more-or-less weekly staple in our household since we’ve been married, but pregnancy’s made it weird.

Ingredients:
Canola oil
1 onion
1 red bell pepper
Pasta
Pasta sauce
Frozen shrimp

Directions:
Feel bad that you haven’t cooked an actual meal in days. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Sauté vegetables in oil. Add pasta and sauce. Simmer shrimp in sauce until fully cooked. Wake up at 3 A.M. with disgusting shrimp aftertaste. Swear off shrimp forever (or at least until you can forget this experience).

And, because David Sorensen insisted, here’s what I’ve eaten nearly every day since I’ve been able to eat again.

YAMS!

Ingredients:
1 YAM!, cut into small pieces
1 broccoli crown, cut into florets
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
~1.5 tbsp olive oil
Salt
Pepper
Rosemary
Thyme

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine YAM!, broccoli, and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil, mixing to combine. Add salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, and any other toppings. Mix well, and dump onto foil-lined baking sheet. Try to achieve monolayer coverage (think Langmuir). Bake YAMS! and other things for 45 minutes.

Serves 1. Seriously, eat the whole thing. You really need to.

***

Man, those were good times.

And now, I’m going to text Tom and see if he can bring home some pickles and ice cream on the way home from work.

Exciting Announcement!

Every spring, the BYU chemistry department has this big banquet where they hand out awards and celebrate people doing cool stuff. They also spotlight the graduating seniors in the program, and ask each senior to submit a short statement of what they’re planning to do after graduation. For some reason, I took it into my head that it would be absolutely hilarious to take this opportunity to troll the chem department. My paragraph included a sentence to this effect: “Elissa will be working as a technical editor, writing fantasy novels, and synthesizing new human beings while her husband prevents a nearby oil refinery from blowing up.”

…yeah. Unsurprisingly, everything I submitted ended up heavily edited:

Elissa Nysetvold is a BS Chemistry major from Provo, UT. After graduation, she will be moving to Beaumont, Texas. There she will be working as a technical editor and her husband will work at a nearby oil refinery.”

I realize that my comments weren’t consistent with the “dignity of the occasion” and whatnot, but I wish they would have, you know, informed me before I saw the program. I would happily have revised, and done so in a much more grammatically-elegant way than this. I mean, come on, guys—after all those persnickety red marks on my Chem 391 papers, I expected better than this! And besides: gestation is organic synthesis in action!

But, I digress. I didn’t bring up this story to harp on the chem department’s poor grammar skills. I brought it up to announce that everything I said I’d be doing after graduation is now officially happening!

Livin' the dream!

Livin’ the dream!

Yes, friends, Tom and I are expecting our first baby! The due date is April 12, and we are so excited.

We aren’t going to pick out names or anything until we know the baby’s gender, so for now we’re just calling it New Friend. This is because just before Tom and I moved to Texas, there was a bit of sadness over the fact that I was moving away from Utah permanently. I kept reassuring my mom and sister by saying that before too long, we would come back to visit and bring a new friend with us (meaning our offspring), and that all would be right with the world. After I’d said this a few times, they finally asked what the heck I was talking about, I explained, and there was much rejoicing. “New Friend” just stuck. (Glen, you’ll be happy to know I’ve brutally squashed several efforts to call New Friend “Baby Thor.” Long story.)

Everything is going extremely smoothly so far. Other than some fatigue and nausea, I feel great, and as I’m starting my second trimester even those discomforts are letting up. I’m really blessed to have a work situation that allows me to take it easy when I need to, and of course Tom has been absolutely awesome. It hasn’t always been a party, and I’ll talk about my biggest challenge in my next post, but I was made for this—literally, my body was designed for this amazing creative process. And that’s incredibly comforting and empowering.

I promise not to let this blog turn into a pregnancy/baby blog, but of course I’m going to give occasional updates on New Friend’s progress. Good times ahoy!

7 Books I Wish I’d Skipped

Everyone has probably seen those “10 books that have stayed with me” posts on Facebook by now. I’m kind of sad that I haven’t been tagged yet, but I know when people try to think of their most literary friends, I don’t immediately come to mind. I love reading, but I’m not exactly what you’d consider one of them “literary types.” Plus, everyone knows at least three of my top ten books were written by Tolkien, and I guess that isn’t very interesting to some people. However, many of my favorite bloggers have been talking about books lately, and I want in on the fun!

We’ve already established that my top ten list would be a little boring and predictable, so I’m going to discuss my bottom seven. One of my favorite quotes from my dad is, “Life’s too short to read bad books.”

Facebook Data Science compiled the results of those “Ten Books” statuses, listing the top 100 books according to Facebook users. Tom and I read through this list together; while we were pleased to see that The Book of Mormon was #35, our reaction to much of the rest of the list was the following: “Really. Reeeaalllly. Really? REALLY?!” It quickly became clear that our idea of “good literature” doesn’t match up with that of the rest of Facebook. Most of the books I talk about in this post came from this or similar lists, and they’re all hailed as “great.”

1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This was a school-inflicted experience, and it will probably be a school-inflicted experience for every kid from now until the Second Coming (after which I hope many of the books currently being produced by the Mormon Texts Project supplant some of these so-called “classics” in school curricula).

Objections

  • I would summarize Gatsby this way: “It’s about horrible people being horrible.” This in itself isn’t a bad thing, but seriously, what is this book even about? Rich people having affairs? Something about the American Dream? A cautionary tale about going to Long Island? I just have no idea!
  • The characters are unrelatable and unlikeable. By the end of the book, there wasn’t a single character I cared about. I was glad when people started dying, and I wished more of them would die. Hey, you might as well kill off the narrator—it’s not like he does anything at all.
  • I wasn’t a fan of the heavy-handed symbolism. It was just too much. You couldn’t see the forest for the trees—and you couldn’t see the story for the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg.

Substitute

If you’re in the mood for reading about horrible people being horrible, try Wuthering Heights. This book, at least, has a plot.

2. Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier

I can’t blame this one on school. I picked up Rebecca by myself after enjoying the black-and-white Hitchcock movie. I was looking for some good timesy Gothic romance, the Kindle version was only $5, and I wanted to use a Mrs. Danvers-like character in my NaNoWriMo book this year. Boy, was I in for an unpleasant surprise.

Objections

  • I expected this book to be creepy and unsettling, and it was—but not in a good way. I felt a little bit depressed and skittish any time I picked it up.  I couldn’t place it, but I felt like I was reading something immoral (other than the incident mentioned in the next bullet point). According to the afterword, it seems my subconscious was right. I won’t elaborate, but let’s just say I’m really bad at picking up on themes.
  • [SPOILER ALERT] Maxim de Winter, husband of the narrator, never faces any legal consequences for murdering his first wife, the titular Rebecca. In fact, when the current Mrs. de Winter learns of this, her first reaction is, “Oh, how wonderful! Maxim isn’t still missing his dead wife! Now we can be in love forever and ever!” Yeah, until you both get to that lake of fire and brimstone. Hitchcock danced around this issue in the movie by having Maxim explain that he was about to shoot Rebecca, but then she fell over and hit her head and conveniently died. As implausible as that is, it’s better than a murderer getting off scot-free.

Substitution

If you’re looking for Gothic romance, stick with Jane Eyre, which is one of my favorites and won’t leave you feeling icky inside.

3. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck

By the time we read The Grapes of Wrath in 11th-grade English, I was convinced that American literature and I would never be friends. There isn’t enough Mark Twain in the world to make up for all the authors like Steinbeck in our fair country.

Objections

  • Everything Jim Casey says. He’s supposed to be the Christ-figure of the book, and I find that incredibly blasphemous. He’s a preacher who gives up his profession because, in addition to the fact that he has a disgusting habit of fornicating with young members of his congregation, he’s decided that there’s no such thing as sin, and that religion has no answers for people having hard times.
  • Sadly, nothing in the above bullet point surprised me. Steinbeck was a dirty commie, and he couldn’t keep his destructive ideas out of his book. (I don’t like commies.)
  • The ending. My goodness, was that really necessary?
  • All the main characters are from Oklahoma.
    Better dead than sooner red.

    Better dead than sooner red.

    Enough said.

Substitute

I really want to plug The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck here. It tackles a lot of the same themes as The Grapes of Wrath: family relationships, gender, wealth and poverty, etc. In a way, it explores the opposite side of the “American Dream” (in quotes because it takes place in rural China): what do you do when you achieve it? Buck’s characters are engaging, and her writing is lovely—you almost feel like you’re reading Chinese. Why isn’t this one assigned in school?

4., 5., and 6. Anything by John Green (but especially Looking For Alaska, The Fault in Our Stars, and Will Grayson, Will Grayson)

None of these count as “classics,” but they’re popular enough and bad enough that I had to include them here. I could rant for hours about every terrible thing John Green has done. However, the only person contractually obligated to listen to said rant is Tom, so I’ll spare you the whole thing and just focus on the problems with his books. I can’t imagine any responsible parents letting their children read anything by John Green. Apparently he “totally gets what it’s like to be a teenager,” but if this is what teenagers are like, I don’t want my kids to be teenagers.

Objections

  • The language in these books is quite bad.
  • John Green frequently trivializes pornography, which is never, ever okay.
  • He also romanticizes teen sex.
  • All his characters are exactly the same: insufferable hipsters masquerading as nerds. Why should I read about the kind of people I go out of my way not to hang out with?
  • This one is purely my problem, but I’ve realized I don’t like reading about teenagers unless they have magical powers and/or are trying to save the world. Yawn.

Substitute

There is plenty of good YA fiction out there. Put down TFIOS, and go reread Harry Potter. Read Allie Condie’s Matched series and learn something about game theory. Not a dystopian futuristic romance fan? I enjoyed the No Safety in Numbers series by Dayna Lorentz—it’s about being trapped in a mall infected with killer flu. In each of these books, stuff actually happens. Yay for YA!

7. Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad

I can’t even come up with a bullet list for this. I really tried to read this book for senior English. Really. I tried everything. I summarized each paragraph with a post-it note. I read with the book in one hand and a printout from Sparknotes in the other. I read chapters out loud to myself. And yet, as early as a week after we’d finished the book, I realized I couldn’t remember anything about it. Conrad’s writing is just not my cup of tea (my dad feels the same way—ask him about Lord Jim sometime). Plus, he spends pages and pages talking about cannibals, but the cannibals never eat anyone! Talk about disappointing your reader.

Substitute

I vaguely remember that the story took place in Africa. If you want to read about Africa, I’d recommend Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. It’s not great, but it taught me a valuable lesson that has stayed with me for years—yams are a man’s crop. That’s all you really need to know. Plus, Achebe isn’t a fan of Heart of Darkness, either, and called Conrad a “bloody racist” for writing it. I obviously can’t gauge Conrad’s racism one way or the other, but if the Yam Lord thinks he’s a racist, that’s good enough for me.

***

I’m not trying to say we shouldn’t read classic literature. I’m not even saying “DON’T READ THESE BOOKS!” (except for 4-6). What I’m really trying to say is that while many good books are immortalized as “classics,” not all “classics” are good books. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with you if you made it through high school without enjoying everything (or anything) assigned in English class. It’s okay to be discerning, and it’s okay to disagree with those “100 Best Books of the Century” lists. Designate your own “classics.”

And hey—tell me why you love them! I love comments!