Saturday, May 30, 2009


(Editor's Notes:  1. Perhaps you, like me, have conflated Winnie the Pooh and Bilbo Baggins.  It was Pooh who coined the term "Elevenses," not Bilbo.  Bilbo preferred "second breakfast." 2. I doubt that any of you, like me, have also conflated my brother with Pooh and Bilbo.  It was in fact my brother who coined the term "Eleven-y". 3. All of this is apropro of the fact that this year, as in all other years my firstborn wound up with a mighty multi-day birthday celebration and as a result I began thinking of her as turning "elevenses" or "eleven-y."  4.  I'm sure you're thrilled.  5. We decided to do a Q&A post to chronicle the big days.  Enjoy.)

M:  So Caitlin, how old are you now?

C:  I’m 11.

M:  And what did you do to celebrate your birthday?

C:  Well, on May 28 I had a big party with my friends.  Divya and Riya (friends from the lane) came over and we went to the Scout Grounds and picked up Ketaki and Shrushti and then we went to the other Shrushti’s Auntie’s house and picked her up too (friends from Bharaht Guides).  Then we came home and had cake.

M: You had cake first?

C: No, we played pin the tail on the donkey.  

L-R: Riya, Shrushti 1 (standing), Ketaki, Caitlin, Divya, Shrushti 2. After the picture Shrushti one started fake-crying and fussing that the donkey had bitten her finger...

M: What was that like?

C: It was fun and bit chaotic and some of the girls lost interest pretty quickly, but we were all pretty good.  Riya got the award from most creative guess for where the donkey’s tail should be.

M: Where’d she put the tail?

C: Off to the side and on the leg.  

M: So what what’d you do after that?

C: Then we had my cake that was absolutely a masterpiece! 

Mom made it and it was a four layer vanilla cake with vanilla frosting. (No baksheesh was involved in Caitlin's assessment of the cake.) We put crumbled Reeses Peanut Butter Cups around the outside but not all the way up to the top and then we put on green flower stems and red-y purple flowers.

M:  Were they real flowers?

C: No, they were frosting.

M: How did the cake taste? 

C: It was super delicious and there was enough that I could have a piece for afternoon snack today.

M: What did you do after the cake?

C: We went outside and took turns riding my bike.  Oh yea, and Ben and his friend Attarwa chased Ketaki with toy snakes.

M:  And what about all the screaming?

C: What screaming?

M: What screaming?! There was tons of screaming when you guys were outside

C: I guess Ketaki did scream when the boys got close to her and some of the girls did put up a fuss about taking turns with the bike, but that’s normal.

M: Alright, so after screaming, what did you do?

C: We all piled in to a big car and drove out to ABC Farms.  We sang along to the music and danced and Ketaki and I tried to do a bridge but of course there wasn’t enough room.  But eventually we put our hands on the ceiling and our feet on the seat in front of us and managed.

M:  Where was your mother for all of this?

C: In the middle seat, in deep conversation with Shrushri 2.

M:  Was this a plot? Did you plant Shrushti to distract me from your craziness?

C: NO! We had abolutly no idea that that was going to happen but we decided to have some fun and try it.

M: And since we’re here blogging about it, we obviously made it to ABC Farms safely.  So what happened once you got to there?

C: We got our golf clubs and golf balls, and, to sum it up in one word we invaded the golf course.   (Before you begin to doubt my midwestern cred (who mini-golfs on a farm?!), ABC Farms is a collection of restaurants and a mini-golf course, spread over a few acres along the river.)

M: You mean like a carefully orchestrated military manouver? 

C: No, I mean like everybody running to every different hole, not waiting in line, which wasn’t necessary because there were 18 different holes.  I think everyone did every hole at least 3 different times.  

Caitlin and Ketaki

Ben and Attarwa

Riya and Divya

Shrushti 2 and Shrushti 1

(Don't these all look like sweet, well-behaved children?  Certainly not the sort that would overrun a mini-golf course or, say, have a slap-fight, right?)

M:  Insane. Any causalties?

C: No, no.  Everyone made it out safe and sound but there was some slap-fighting between some of the girls.  They tried to explain it to me but it wasn’t successfully managed.

M:  Slap-fighting? Glad I missed that.  So did you mother ever feed you?

C: No.

M: What?! Yes I did!  What was all that soda and pizza I paid for?

C:  Oh yea. We had pizza except for 2 kids.  Ten times during the meal at least someone would yell, “Caca, ick arey fan turn carey.” (Uncle, come turn the fan please.)

M:  Really?  I didn’t hear that.  Must’ve been the Kingfishers I was downing.  Ok, so after dinner, did you all drop from exhaustion?  

(Kids-only table plus Kingfisher for Mom = blurriness...)

C: Nope.  We went outside and you had us play lining up games (gee, I wonder why).  Then we got in the car and drove people home.  First Shrushti, then Ketaki and then Shrushti 2.  When we dropped off Shrushti 2 her father took us out for ice cream.  (Shrushti 2's dad owns an ice cream shop across the street from their apartment so he insisted we all come in and have ice cream.  His specialty is something called a Mango Mastani, an ice cream drink named after Mastani, the concubine of  Pune's much beloved patriarch, Shivaji.   Shrushti's dad promises that if you have one mastani a day for a week you'll gain 4 kgs, a claim which I would never dispute, though I can see how a person would want to have one every single day.)

M: And after ice cream?

C: Everybody else rode back to Prabaht Road.

M: Do you know what time it was when you got home?

C:  I don’t know, 10?

M:  It was after 11, honey!

[C: Nonchalantly silent, appears to think roaming the city, partying, hours after bedtime is now the norm...]

M:  But that wasn’t the end of the celbrations was it?

C: No, have I ever had a one-day birthdy celebration? The next day I had breakfast in bed  

 (Swedish pancakes) and then presents.

M: Get anything good?

C: Yea,  Yahtzee and a watch.  (Ben got one too!)

M: Sweet, so that was it then, huh?

C: Uh, no, not yet.  We had an all day game marathon. 

(Painting too!)

I went out to lunch at Foodies with mom

 and then we had the regular Shabbat festivities.  And then today at Baraht Guides we brought cake for my friends and we took them out for sugar cane juice afterwards.

(At left is Pramila-tai, Caitlin's troop leader. Beside her is her sister and then about half of Caitlin's troop.)

M: That it?  Do you think you fully celebrated your 11th birthday?

C: Yea, I think so.

M:  Any hopes or plans for the coming year?

C:  Continue writing my book and when we move back to America, take horseback riding and cooking lessons.  Learn how to cook Tibetan food in Ladakh.

M: As our Indian friends say, "Many happy returns of the day!"

So much love!

Huge enormous thanks and hugs to everyone who commented and emailed me about the story of Caitlin's birth.  I know some of you Nag Champions got a bit weepy reading the birth stories, but it was my turn when I read all of your thoughts - you all are wonderful, truly.  We've been without internet for the past few days so I'm still catching up on emails and whatnot, so please don't think I'm ignoring you if I haven't been in personal contact yet.

Lack of internet has also delayed the big one-one bday post, but we're hoping to get 'er done tonight.  

And packing.  Leaving Pune on June 3.  Good golly.  Anyone want to come help pack?  


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Eleven Years Ago Today

It was Tuesday, May 26, 1998.  I was living in Atlanta, working at a Montessori school, living with Eric, Caitlin’s bio dad, and about a month away from my most recently assigned due date, which itself was 2 weeks earlier than the first date I was given.  (I didn’t know exactly when I conceived nor the dates of my last period so the dates were set and then changed based on the numerous ultrasounds I had.  More about those ultrasounds shortly.) I had an OB check-up scheduled in the morning and then planned to go to work that afternoon as usual.  For those who don’t know the rough outlines of this story already, I was 22, taking a year off from college to ‘figure out what I wanted to do’ and really not planning on having a baby anytime soon. 

My job didn’t provide medical benefits so I had signed up for Medicaid to pay for the birth.  I was surprised to learn that not many care providers in Atlanta accepted Medicaid, so I started prenatal care at a huge public inner-city hospital with a team of OBs and perinatologists who mostly saw women who didn’t have any other option.  Under their care an ultrasound revealed two choroid plexus cysts in the baby’s brain.  10-plus years ago ultrasound technology was nowhere near as good as it is now and it had recently improved just enough to start revealing things like the cysts.  My care providers had me see a perinatologist and a genetic counselor, fearing that the cysts were caused by a chromosomal abnormality that also caused severe birth defects that would lead to the baby dying within the first year of life.  Yet in order to be sure I would have to undergo an amniocentesis, which brought its own risks; in fact, the risk of negative outcomes due to the amnio was greater than the risk of a chromosomal abnormality.  In the end I opted not to have the amnio, certain that I would not terminate the pregnancy even if the baby did have a chromosomal abnormality.  This was an unpopular decision among my care providers and I felt increasingly uncomfortable with them, so in my second trimester I found a new OB. 

The new OB worked at a private hospital with one of the highest delivery rates in the country.  He saw all sorts of women in his practice, including a handful of us on Medicaid.  At 22 I really didn’t have very nuanced criteria for a care provider but I liked the man and was happy that he’d gone to med school at the UW.  He took a rather authoritarian and paternalistic tack with me, but while I do remember noticing his attitude, I don’t remember being particularly bothered by it.  Certainly, he wasn’t as offensive as the docs in the earlier practice or the numerous strangers who somehow felt it their place to let me know exactly what they thought of me being pregnant, single, and young. 

The new doctor had me coming for weekly visits starting in mid-April because repeated ultrasounds first showed the cysts growing and then one day inexplicably absent and because I hadn’t gained all that much weight during the pregnancy—maybe 20 pounds by April—and he was beginning to worry that the baby wasn’t getting the nourishment she needed.  Still, I turned up on May 26th, expecting nothing more than the usual measuring and whatnot.

At that visit I didn’t weigh any more than I had the previous week, so my OB ordered another ultrasound, to measure the baby.  (I now know that late term ultrasounds are notoriously unreliable at estimating birth weigh and gestational age.  They can be off as much as a pound in either direction.)  The ultrasound was inconclusive so we did a non-stress test, which was also inconclusive.  But in the end my OB said, “If the baby is in trouble we can help her better on the outside than on the inside,” and scheduled me for an induction the next morning. 

I was really shocked and couldn’t think of anything to do other than to just go along with the plan to have an induction, even though it was a full month before my earliest due date, and my OB hadn’t discovered any concrete medical reason for it.  So, I went to work that afternoon, told them I’d be starting my maternity leave early, and got in touch with my parents who were in New Jersey watching my brother row.  They were alarmed and made plans to get down to Atlanta as soon as possible.  I packed my bag for the hospital and tried to get a good night’s sleep.

At 7:00am on Wednesday the 27th I checked into the hospital and they installed me in a birth room and started the induction protocol.  I was on my own at the beginning—Eric, a bartender at the time, wasn’t much of a morning person, my parents were still in transit and my two best girlfriends both had to work.  I really didn’t know what an induction entailed, but I got a fairly thorough education over the next 2 days.  I had a great nurse to get me started and she gave the best description of cervical ripening (also called effacement—the process that has to happen in order for a woman’s cervix to be able to dilate) I’ve ever heard:  (imagine the Georgia drawl, please) “Honey, we’ve got to get you to mushy Spaghettio stage and right now you ain’t nothin’ but a hard Cheerio.”   I had numerous applications of Cervadil to ripen my cervix and finally a Pitocin drip was started to bring on contractions.  Once I got into the birth room I lost all touch with time but I do remember thinking that the whole thing was taking a rather long time.  (No surprise really, given that my body was nowhere near ready to give birth.)  Over the course of the next day the Pitocin was increased, my contractions became incredibly painful, and I quickly got to the point where I needed narcotics and then an epidural to cope with my labor.  I hadn’t taken a childbirth class, didn’t know any comfort measures for labor, and none of my nurses offered anything to help me feel better except drugs. 

I don’t have a sense of when things happened but I remember snapshots:  My parents arrived, worried, and took turns sitting with me as my labor inched along, trying to keep my spirits up with smiles and kindness.  My friends Erin and Jen visited as much as they could around their work schedules, bringing laughter and energy and Indigo Girls cds every time they walked in the door.  And I remember Eric only appearing sporadically and not having any idea what to do when he was there.  (He had even less of a clue than I did and he was not terribly thrilled with his impending fatherhood.)  I was grateful for whatever company I had, but can remember being alone quite a lot and wishing someone would come talk to me.  The tv in my room didn’t work, and though I did have a cd player, I really needed much more company and support than my friends and family could provide. 

After the funny Spaghettio nurse I was cared for by a series of nurses that I really didn’t click with.  Once I had the epidural I couldn’t eat or drink anything (standard protocol), but I remember being terribly hungry and thirsty, and begging my nurse to give me something more than just ice chips.  She got quite angry with me and finally said, “Fine.  Eat whatever you like but you’re going to throw it up and I won’t feel a bit bad for you.”  I took that as permission and dispatched my friend Erin to bring me a chocolate milkshake from the McDonalds in the hospital. It was the best milkshake I have ever had and I paid for it dearly, puking just as the nurse threatened I would. 

Some time later the baby’s heart rate started to dip (decels)—something that I now know is alarmingly common among women who have epidurals—so I was given oxygen and flipped from side to side in an effort to stabilize the baby’s heart rate.  The decels came and went for the rest of my labor and the new heightened sense of medical risk only compounded the sense of loneliness and fear I felt.  External monitoring was no longer sufficient, so internal monitors were put in place, in addition to the oxygen and IV that I already had running. I don’t remember anyone ever explaining what was happening to me, or giving me any reassurance at all.  Without a consistent support person I had no one to help me get what I needed from my care providers, or to confide my fears in.  I remember a strong feeling of helplessness and the sense that the birth was very much happening to me, not at all something I was doing.  I can remember laying there feeling very scared and convinced that my birth was turning into a terrible medical emergency, one my baby and I would be lucky to survive. 

Later still Eric resurfaced, along with my OB.  I was apparently ready to push, though with the epidural I had no sense of my labor progressing or a readiness to deliver.  Pushing was surreal—suddenly the room was filled with people and action, in stark contrast to the previous two days during which I was often alone.  I had no sensation at all and no idea how to actually push a baby out.  No one gave me instructions that made sense and even if they had, I doubt I could’ve done anything with the information since I was totally numb from the waist down.  I had the oxygen mask on during pushing since the baby was still having decels and the whole thing really felt like a medical calamity.  Yet somehow I did manage to push and Caitlin was born at 2:30 pm on Friday, May 29. 

Since she was at least a month early and potentially suffering from birth defects she was taken right to a warmer to be thoroughly examined before I could hold her. I had some smallish tears that needed to be stitched while Caitlin was being examined.  While we were both being tended to I remember my OB saying, “Well, she’s not as small as I thought she’d be.”  Caitlin was perfectly healthy, albeit very small—no birth defects, no nothing—and it seems as if all the prenatal worry was for naught.

Eventually I did get to hold Caitlin for a few minutes, before they took her to the NICU for further observation.  I didn’t nurse her, and neither did the idea occur to me nor did anyone suggest I try it.  Throughout my pregnancy I looked forward to nursing, and was strongly encouraged to do so by many people, so it seems particularly strange that the idea never even crossed my mind when I finally got to hold Caitlin.  As I reflect on this I keep coming back to feelings of dislocation and detachment from what was happening, and from my baby.  During pregnancy I loved feeling her move and kick and I often talked and sang to her.  But somehow that connection was interrupted during labor and I lost sight of the tiny person that I already loved and was so eager to meet.  To this day I can’t explain why or how that happened, but I can’t help but think that the overwhelming tide of medical interventions obscured that bond.  Once Caitlin was born I can remember feeling relief that the birth was over, but not much else –I was physically and emotionally spent – and as a result we both missed out on the vital bonding that happens between mother and child in the first minutes, hours and days after birth.  It is a loss we will never be able to recoup, and though we have moved so far beyond it in many ways, the hole remains for me.

Eric had been present for the delivery and went out to the lobby to tell my parents the good news.  I can’t remember if they got to see Caitlin before she was taken to the NICU, or if Eric even held her at that point. The next thing I remember was learning that I had to leave the birth room and move upstairs to a recovery room and feeling so betrayed—how could they make me move after everything that had just happened?  But move I did.

My friend Christie had come down to visit from Chicago and she and my friends Erin and Jen, along with my parents, all trailed Caitlin to the NICU and kept a close watch as she was bathed and fed.  I was put in a recovery room, and I started asking when I could see my baby.  It was five-ish by then and after what seemed like an unreasonable delay, a nurse finally brought Caitlin in and I had my first good look at her.

She was tiny—5lbs, 7oz—but 21 inches long and terribly bony.  I remember being surprised by how red she was, and how long.  She even had a little bit of red hair.  Everyone was in my room then—my three friends, my parents and Eric—and we all passed the baby and ooh-ed and ahh-ed until a nurse came in and asked if I had fed her yet.  I still remember how at that moment I felt as if I was observing the scene from afar, not a central figure in it who had a vital role to play – feeling shocked and foreign to the whole thing.  And I think everyone else present was a bit shell-shocked too.  What can it possibly be like to watch your daughter go through such a difficult birth, or your partner, or your friend?  (I can remember telling Jen and Erin, “REMEMBER this,” as I labored and puked and cried…)  But Caitlin and I got right down to business and luckily she was an excellent nurser from the very start.

Eric and I were already on thin ice before Caitlin’s birth and the stress of an early induction and tiny baby didn’t help things.  The night she was born he went back to the bar where he worked to share the good news and didn’t come back.  I had sent Caitlin back to the nursery and I can remember, again, feeling all alone, not knowing what to do and having no one to turn to.  I didn’t think I could ask for the baby back and didn’t want to risk confiding in a nurse after all the lousy experiences I’d had during my labor.  The next day brought my parents and friends back to visit, and eventually, Eric, but in retrospect, that was clearly the beginning of the end for us.

Because she was born early and small I had to feed Caitlin every two hours and keep close records of everything—exhausting for any mom, but especially so for me after my long labor and on top of the storm brewing with Eric.  And I remember crying buckets when the perinatologist came to see us 2 days after the birth and announced that he was discharging us.  I still felt so lousy from the induction and so scared at the prospect of caring for a tiny baby on my own.  But he said, “Give me one good reason why I should let you stay,” and when I couldn’t he signed the papers and we were on our way.

Eric insisted on driving us home from the hospital but my parents were waiting for us on the front porch and helped make my homecoming a happy one.  I’m not sure how long they originally planned to stay, but they wound up in Atlanta for at least a month.  They spent everyday with Caitlin and me; helping out with the house and dog and providing me much needed reassurance and company.  I don’t think I did much beyond sleeping, eating, and nursing in that first month, thanks to their help.  And looking back, that was probably the best gift anyone could’ve given me; as a result Caitlin really started to thrive and I was able to begin getting back on my feet without any extraneous worries.  Eric was working an awful lot, seemed to be completely overwhelmed by parenthood, and was definitely not coping with it well.  When my parents finally had to go back to Wisconsin I cried and cried—now I was fairly confident that I could handle Caitlin, but I was so sad to be losing my best support people.  It wasn’t any surprise, then, that Caitlin and I moved back to Wisconsin in August, leaving Atlanta for good and starting our new life together on my home turf. 

Looking back I see Caitlin’s birth as a pivotal moment, if not the pivotal moment in my life.  Without experiencing a lonely and terrifying induction I doubt that I would’ve been lead to do birth work.  The labor itself distilled so many things about how I had been living and the choices I had (or rather, had not) been making and pushed me to choose a new way of being. Instead of taking for granted the authority of others and putting their ideas and opinions ahead of my own, I began to really question the options before me, and then chart my own course.  There were some incredibly difficult years on the horizon but I think that Caitlin’s birth galvanized me and gave me the strength to weather the storms that were brewing.  Many people told me then that having a baby, as a young, low-income, single woman was one of the dumbest things I could do, but for me it was undoubtedly the best choice I ever made.  I am incredibly grateful for the experience, as difficult and ugly as it was, because without it I know I would not have the amazing life and family that I am blessed with today.


and now for something, Completely Different

We're starting to pack up our stuff.  I looked into using the Indian Postal Service's Parcel service. Here are some excerpts from their webpage:

"Parcels containing articles or great value like container or a wooden or a stout cardboard case according to the nature of the article."

This sentence means?  Ok, not so bad.  How about sub-item 3:

"(3) Live-bees must be enclosed in suitable cases and so packed as to prevent all risk of injury to other postal articles in course of transmission by post or to officers of the Post Office."

Followed closely by the next section, which I give you here, verbatim:

"Human and other viscera :-

               Human and other viscera may be transmitted by the Inland post to Chemical Examiners for analysis.  Brains of rabid animals may also be transmitted by  post to authorized laboratories when sent by persons holding veterinary or medical qualifications. The following conditions apply in each case:-"

Ugh.  Also sendable by Parcel are:

"Plague culture and Anthrax Spore vaccine :-

Tuberculosis Sputum :-     

                Infectious tuberculosis sputum  may be transmitted by post subject to the following conditions:-"

Now we know why the postal workers are disgruntled, eh?  

Then there's this.  

"Osmic Acid:-

             Osmic acid (Osmium tetroxide) may be transmitted by the Inland Post subject to the following conditions :-

(a)    The acid must be securely packed in a hermetically sealed stout glass capsule which should be embedded in the centre of a tin case filled with sand in such a manner as to leave a layer of sand of not less than  4.3 centimetres between any part of the glass capsule and the inside of the tin case.

(b)   The outside of the tin case be labeled in red letters one quarter of an inch high “ OSMIC ACID DANGEROUS TO HANDLE”."

If anyone wants to tell me, 1. what osmic acid is, and 2. why the heck it should be 4.3 cms and not 4.25 or 4.41, and why if this stuff is so gank the red letters are only to be 1/4"?  Stout glass, people.  Stout.  KG approves, I'm sure.  We will not be using Indian Postal Service Parcel Post, except for our shipments of "Strong Smelling Articles :-"  (that could be a 'p.u.' smiley at the end there, huh?)

That is all.

Gratitude and Angst

First, I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has shared such kind thoughts about our recent posts, both in the blog comments and in emails to me and Chris.  It warms my heart to know so many people care so much about the Bubba, and it is especially gratifying to know that his birth story touched you all so deeply.  

And that brings me to the angst.  Caitlin's birthday is in a few days and I've written her birth story too.  I want to post it, but as some of you know, it isn't a pretty story, and so I hesitate.  Over the years I've written it again and again, trying to understand what happened and make my peace with it, and by in large, I feel I've succeeded.   What I've come up with now is as close to a straight re-telling as I can manage.  I've learned an awful lot since her birth and I've been politicized and mobilized by what I've learned about birth and the way in which birth happens in America.  I realize that that knowledge cannot help but color my story.  But my aim is not to use this story as a shot at mainstream American obstetrics, women who chose to schedule an induction, have an epidural, or anything else.  Its just my story, good bad and ugly.  

Chris and I have been round and round about whether or not such a thing has a place on our blog, and if so, if in what form.  In the end I've decided it does belong here, in the place where we write about what we are doing, seeing and thinking.  Caitlin's birth is something I still think about an awful lot, and it would feel like a glaring omission not to share it with you all this year. I won't apologize for what I've written, but I guess I do want to preface it a bit.  I trust all of you out there in blog-land are here because you care about us in some fashion, but I realize that doesn't mean everyone is going to be up for reading an admittedly long and bleak birth story, and that is perfectly fine.  Take what you like and leave the rest.  

For those of you who do chose to read, please be forewarned that it is a disturbing story.  Caitlin and I have come an awful long way from our rocky start and I love her dearly.  If there are things in the story that don't make sense, seem impossible or shocking, I hope you will speak up and explore those topics, if not here with us, somewhere.  I'm very open to talking about the birth and have a wealth of birth-related resources to share.  Sadly, my experience is not unique - recent literature tells us that roughly one fifth of all women have their labor induced, a number which does not include labors augmented by Pitocin, or women who undergo cesarean sections after an attempted induction.  Yet the telling of these birth stories is all too rare.  Every birth is important and transformative, even if it is not joyful and uplifting.  I feel grateful for both of my birth experiences, especially Caitlin's, and privledged to have so many caring readers to share them with.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sockstock footage

You didn't believe us, so now we have proof:
Cute, but you don't want to get on his bad side:
The sock buildup started, naturally, at the feet:
and after he exhausted his own sock supply he dug into Dad's for 2-3 pairs each of dress and running socks.

Afterwards, he took them off, and noticing the ribbing marks, was quite amazed. Upon touching them, he remarked:

I can't believe I'm such a technologist.

Up to the minute update

We're not turning the blog into twitter, but:

Ben wearing over 15 pairs of socks right now. Including two deep bound around his biceps and just below the knee. For muscles.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Five Years and Two Days Ago

Five years and two days ago it was Friday, May 21, 2004, the day of Caitlin’s first ballet recital and one day after my EDD (estimated due date). Since EDDs are just that – estimates – it seemed totally sensible to schedule our big move for the next day, the 22nd.

(Did you know that a woman’s due date, calculated using only date of last menstrual period is not all that reliable an indicator of when her baby will be born? A birth that happens within two weeks before or after the EDD is considered full term. Calculating an EDD assumes a 28-day cycle and a 40-week gestation, yet we know that women’s bodies vary. 28 days and 40 weeks represent the top of the bell curve, yet many normal, healthy women fall on either side of that high point.)

Our old 2 bedroom apt was totally in shambles and our new 3 bedroom was not anywhere near ready to be moved into. But we were camping at my mom and dad’s house and were feeling pretty much ready for the baby to arrive anytime. The Bag was packed and all of Caitlin’s uniforms/costumes/schedules were under the auspices of the eminently capable Meema.

My due date came and went with very little notice and we all felt confident I’d be pregnant for at least another week. I wasn’t feeling anything at all – no warm-up contractions (please, it isn’t false labor!), no mucous plug, no bloody show, no nothing. Bring on the recital and moving.

Caitlin’s ballet recital was everything a 5 year old’s first recital should be (unmitigated cuteness), except that her mom was beginning to feel a bit loogie as it got underway. For some reason the ballet mavens made everyone wait outside the auditorium until mere minutes before show time, standing in line in a high school hallway. Yet we all had to be there much much earlier to drop off the tiny dancers so there I was, super pregnant and beginning to feel, well, loogie. I wanted to sit down, or better yet lie down, but I had to make do with a folding chair in the hallway. Awesome. Once we were seated and the show got underway the loogie-ness didn’t intensify, but it didn’t really dissipate either. I began to wonder if this might be the beginning of labor and I thought it probably was, but having never gone into labor spontaneously I really didn’t have any prior experience to go on.

During the show a massive thunderstorm kicked up and I remember riding home in the back of my parents’ minivan feeling so thankful that I could just go curl up in my big old childhood bed and sleep. Chris went back (was sent back?) to the old apartment to do more packing and I kept my suspicions of labor quiet. Caitlin had a soccer game in the morning and needed to go to bed, I didn’t want to get my mom worked up and I certainly didn’t want to do anything to stop Chris from doing more packing! As soon as I could, around 10, I climbed into bed and tried to sleep.

No dice. I was definitely feeling loogie. Pretty quickly I realized I was having contractions and decided to try timing them for a bit. Seemed like they were coming about 5 minutes apart and lasting about a minute, but there was a lot of variation so I didn’t think too much of it. (irony, huh, CBEs?) I stayed in bed and rode the waves – just closing my eyes, and going inside as each contraction came and went. Chris and I had taken a great birth class (the same one I was teaching last year) and learned all kinds of great labor coping strategies, but I didn’t feel like I needed anything other than the dark and quiet in which I could focus on my own. Looking back, I’m so glad I had the chance to be totally alone, and in a place where I felt completely safe and comfortable for the early part of labor. I have always loved listening to thunderstorms at night while snug in bed, and for me there is no bed that is more viscerally mine than the one in my parents’ house.

I hung out for about 2 hours, awake but resting, until Chris came back. I heard him downstairs talking to my mom and decided we needed to get the show on the road. From the reception I got when I came downstairs I must not have looked too happy, but I was feeling pretty alright at that point. I showed Chris the timing I had done and we decided to call the midwives.

I was being cared for by the UW Health CNM practice. At the time there were 7 women in practice together and while we had met all but one, we didn’t know who was going to be on call for my delivery. Happily, it was Erica, a young, no-nonsense midwife whom we liked and felt quite confident in. She was obviously sleepy when I talked to her and suggested I have a hot drink and try to go to sleep. I remember laughing at the idea, but gave it a shot. Chris says I had mere millimeters of the tea before announcing that it was time to go have a baby. We called back to let her know we were heading to the hospital. It was about 12:30am.

The storm was still going strong as we drove through the deserted city – lightning crashing all around us, and again, I remember feeling really eager and happy at the prospect of having a quiet, dark, cozy place to go curl up in. (Yes, I really did think of going to the hospital that way! We had nothing but positive associations with the place and with the midwives caring for me and a birth suite to birth in, I was confident that I would have the peace and privacy I needed, despite being in a hospital.) Since it was after midnight we came in through the emergency services entrance and were needlessly delayed by a receptionist who wanted to call me a wheelchair or some such nonsense.

Eventually we did make it past the gate and I chose to walk up to the Birthing Center, using the wheelchair as a luggage trolley instead. The walk was just fine and I was immediately seen in triage. Although I knew I was definitely in labor I was worried that it wasn’t strong enough, or productive enough to gain me admission and that I ‘d be sent back home. I really didn’t want to be sent home so after learning I was 5cm dilated and maybe 80% effaced, I asked, “So I don’t have to go home?” The nurse, who would stay with me for the rest of the labor laughed, said, “Not without a baby,” and showed us to our birth suite across the hall.

Because it was a hospital there was an awful lot of paperwork to deal with upfront. I tried to get comfortable as we went through the whole rigmarole but nothing was really working. Additionally, I had chosen to do the Strep B test (remember when it was optional?) and came up positive so I had to have IV antibiotics run in right off the bat too. Luckily, my nurse, Maradee was trained as doula before becoming a labor and delivery nurse so she was as speedy and unobtrusive as possible, always offering new ideas and pausing in her work to let me work through a contraction.

Erica the midwife sat back and just let Maradee do her thing at first, occasionally helping with a position change, backrub or some counter pressure. But as soon as the paperwork was done Erica had the Jacuzzi full, the twinkle lights up and lavender essential oil diffusing in the room. Chris put on Bob Dylan (Blood on the Tracks) and I hopped in the tub. Finally, about an hour after getting to the hospital, I had the cozy cave I wanted to curl up in.

Covered in a warm wet towel I closed my eyes, squeezed Chris’s hand and went deep inside as I rode out the rest of my labor. I didn’t talk or even really move, just lay in the tub and let labor happen. Assured that everything was on the right track I was able to totally let go and let my labor unfold.

I stayed in the tub for about 3 hours and then rather suddenly was seized with the conviction that it was time to push. RIGHT NOW. I got up out of the tub, drained all the water and moved to the bed, ready for action. Erica and Maradee had given me lots of space while I was in the tub and so were a bit surprised by the new development. Erica asked to check me before I started pushing and found that I wasn’t quite completely dilated, and not ready to push. There was another round of trying different positions and trying to get comfortable out of the tub but as before, nothing really worked. Finally someone suggested I go sit on the toilet and try to poop.

Honestly, this really made me mad – I didn’t need to poop, I needed to give birth! The only thing coming out was a baby. But I complied and sat and sat on the toilet, getting more and more uncomfortable, not pushing and not pooping. I hit transition with a vengeance and my frustration at being told to poop and not push turned into utter frustration and fury. I remember telling Erica, in no uncertain terms that I wanted an epidural, and when she told me it wasn’t going to happen, a cesarean. At some point I think I also informed her that I simply was NOT going to have a baby at all. Bless her heart, she took all my crap with such sweet calm patience, saying over and over again, “I hear what you’re saying Maggie, but it’s too late for that.”

Somehow this calmed me down a bit and I went back to insisting it was time for me to push.
We all shifted back to the bed and sure enough, I was completely dilated except for a little lip of cervix. Erica had me push a bit with a contraction while she tried to push the lip over the baby’s head, and it worked. I don’t remember feeling any great physical relief when I could finally push, but emotionally it was a huge comfort. Maradee had the back of the bed vertical and the squatting bar in place so I got into a supported squat/semi- recline position that worked really well for me, pulling up a bit to push and then laying back in between contractions. I was as loud while pushing, as I had been quiet during active labor, literally roaring through contractions and pushes. I remember yelling, “GET IT OOOOOUUUUUUUUT!!!!” at one point, as well as a few choice expletives, and just flat out roaring at others. I have no sense of how long I pushed, but Chris says it wasn’t more than about 4 before the baby started crowning.

I don’t remember any ‘ring of fire’ as the baby crowned, but I will never forget Ben’s cry the moment his head was born. We all laughed then and as I started to push with the next contraction Erica said, “Reach down and catch your baby!” Ben was born into my hands at 5:55 am.

I scooped him up so fast that no one could see if he was a boy or girl and I remember Maradee saying, “Whaddya get? Whaddya get?” I put Ben right to the breast and he started nursing like a champ. I remember looking up at Chris who was in tears and feeling a huge sense of relief bliss. I lay back, nursed Ben and started to check him out. A little bit of blonde fuzz on his head, all the right parts in all the right places and a bit chubby to boot – perfect baby. I remember looking up and finding the room flooded with sunlight, and smiling, remembering Chris’s wish to have the baby born to the opening notes of the Dead’s Here Comes Sunshine. With that I floated off into a blissful postpartum haze without another thought.

My body, though, was still hard at work. Chris cut Ben’s cord and my placenta was born shortly thereafter. Everything was normal and I remember watching with fascination as Erica gave us a guided tour of Ben’s former home and life support system. Then the next thing I remember was seeing a lot of concerned faces down at the foot of the bed. I was bleeding more than I needed to be and not showing signs of stopping. Ben was nursing and my uterus was still contracting but I was losing too much blood.

Erica snapped into uber-medical mode and took charge with such swiftness and authority that I didn’t even really realize what was happening or how potentially serious the situation was. I was given Pitocin to strengthen contractions and then Methergine. Erica and Maradee massaged my uterus (not nearly as pleasant as you might think) and when that didn’t work Erica had to manually check for fragments of retained placenta. (Even more unpleasant than you might think.) Everything seemed to be in order and shortly thereafter, the bleeding let up and the panic was over. In the end the blood loss was just short of being a technical hemorrhage and I recovered quickly without any further intervention.

Through it all I held onto Ben and kept nursing, not ever completely aware of what was going on. Chris was at my side, crying, admiring the baby and saying some of the sweetest things to me. After the excitement was over we got Ben washed and measured and started spreading the good news.

By about 8 we’d talk to our parents and by 10 Caitlin and my parents were visiting. Caitlin, still in her soccer uniform and baby doll in hand gracefully welcomed her baby brother, holding him so carefully and lovingly for as long as we’d let her. The rest of the morning is a bit fuzzy for me, but I do remember turning on Merle and Jerry’s Rainforest Suite and drifting off to a well-deserved rest, babe in arms, and with Chris at my side.

We stayed at the hospital for 2 days, watched over by the midwives, including Callie whom we especially loved, and a phenomenal night nurse whose name I have regrettably forgotten. Everything went a smoothly as possible postpartum – Ben nursed like a pro and I quickly got over the anemia my earlier blood loss caused. Ben stayed with us every moment and the three of us holed up in the birth suite, getting to know each other and resting up for the next big birthday, Caitlin’s 6th , just a week away.

Redirect to New Post

This post posted after the Five one because I started it on Thurs and it kept that date. Worth one more click, I promise.

Friday, May 22, 2009


C: Because of our excellent parenting abilities (due to both nature and nurture, I'm quite sure) we gave the kid an awesome birthday today. 

 We really just crushed it all day long.  For example, I started by leaving the house...

M:  Actually, we gave the kid an awesome birth day 5 years ago, and I crushed it (it being your hand, Chris).  Today all we did was celebrate the big day, and in darn fine style, I'll agree. 

C: Back to India in 2009, yep, Ben wanted breakfast in bed.  Isn't that supposed to be the delightful respite of the worldweary and overworked?  He wanted an omelette with tomato, cheese, and peppers, and buttered toast--"Actually, jam, too, if you have it."  

M:  Ben specifically asked Chris to make his b-in-b, but deigned to consume my humble offering once he realized Dad wasn't going to deliver.  First though, he unwrapped his presents.  Actually, first he got into bed with me, lay still for about 40 seconds and then said, "Mom, can we wake up now?" and then ran directly to the presents waiting for him on the dining room table.  

C:  We even came through with the 'there is no way Mom and Dad will buy you that' present in the form of a 14" tall Transformer that goes from a helicopter to a deviously cackling robot with two swords and a cannon.  

(M:  Ben thinks the Transformer says, "Where are the auto parts?" and "Destroy the auto parts!")

C: I can transform it from one to another in under 2 minutes now.  No one else in the house can do it.

M:  After omelette in bed/couch and presents, plus a Skype to South Central Wisconsin (Hi Mom and Dad!) we set out for Krushnai Water World.  3 of us almost puked on the drive out there, but resisted the urge.  

(ed note: zoom the photo to see the Punubiquitous Guru Somebody cutout logo on the back of the car.  Humor requires translation of the Marathi: Do not fear, for I am always behind you.)

$17 admission and we were in!

C: I wasn't sure what to expect.  I once went to an amusement park above Manali, in the woods, that had A ride, and the people who got on it after us asked, "Why would you come here when you have Disneyland?"  Actually, India has Hubli Disneyland now, but w/o photographic proof you'll have to take my word.  

We'd looked up reviews online.  One, in Hindi, said "I have never in my life had as much fun as I had at Krushnai Water Park."  1 star out of 5 from that guy.  WTH?

M:  I also found this video...
C: Which made everyone a little nervous. Plus these things can be really 
packed, and have a lot of gawking people who wanna touch my kid.

It turned out really great. We loved it. I think, basically, no 
complaints, and lots of plusses. Caitlin and Ben each went down rides 
that were way too scary,

and were otherwise content to flop around in the kiddie pool. Like this:

Indian waterparks are a little weird: women wear pants, men wear 
speedos; dance music plays the whole time. Caitlin boogied in the 
wave pool with some other tweens to Punjabi hip-hop. Sometimes 
the water is a bit murky.

The other thing we noticed is that Indian people really know how 
to have fun. They laugh and joke with each other and just have a 

We really did too.

After another gutwrenching ride through semirural Maharasthtra and a nap for 
the birthday boy (and his Pops), we got down to serious transforming while Mrs. 
Nag Champion overcame adverse conditions to produce an awesome cake:

This is Ben's fiveness erupting through the cake.  That cake mix came all the way from America and made it up to $3 a box in the process.  It was magnificently tasty, as we found out after Shabbat dinner.  We universally agreed that Krushnai Water Park was the highlight of the week.  We then had the story of Ben's birth, and Respection of the Five Year Old: praise and compliments followed by our hopes and wishes for Ben for the coming year.   Ben hopes to put us all through a series of increasingly difficult soccer tests.  He also blanched at Caitlin's hope that he might learn to read and write, because "I can read. I can write."  

You know what happens next, right...?

This was followed by speedbath and Ben 10: Race Against Time.  Ben provided color commentary throughout, and was also delighted: "Mom, did you hear what that one alien called Ben 10?  He called him Benjamin!"

SOTM->Comfortably Numb = sleeping littles.

We get to do this all again next week with Caitlin!

Thanks to Ms. NC to playing along for a while with my lowtech adhoc nonpodcast idea. Sorry about the weird formatting for a bit just above here.  Night yall.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mundgod I

Just got back from 400km to the south, Mundgod, Karnataka. With Karnataka we pass into South Indian proper, with Dravidian languages, slightly different physical characteristics, really different food, and, it seems, a marked tendency to sharing road transport. Photographing vehicles I'm passing from a moving car is not one of my strong points, so here are some fairly weak examples of what I'm talking about:
This is also the land of the lungi, or as one less appreciative Champion and friend once called it, a man-skirt. She's piped down now that she owns one and wears it to bed. Here's an ok example:

The towel over one shoulder is an important part of the South Indian look as well. You will absolutely see guys with rs4k cell phones and chunky gold watches with a lungi and a towel everywhere you go in South India. I love it.

Mundgod itself is the home of
plus Drepung Loseling, and Ganden Shartse and Jangtse, and is, quite frankly, a weird place for just about anybody except the people who live there. It's a Tibetan Refugee settlement, which means there are Tibetan farmers
and very traditionally dressed Tibetan housewives
going about their prosaic lives. Then there are the hip young Tibetans, and believe you me, nobody is hip like a hip young Tibetan. They speak perfect English, ride fast motorcycles, have great hair and high cheekbones, and listen to the latest [and, really, the worst] of Euro-dance music. Sorry, no pics, their agent said no.

The Tibetans all moved in here about 46 years ago, when they had to raze absolute jungle to start growing crops to feed themselves. Some bits of jungle still remain
and oldtimers like to tell about how they cropped 9 months a year and studied 3, and ate only once a day, and had to sleep out in the fields to keep wild elephants from ruining the corn.

Then there are the approximately 9000 or so monks. 9k. Outnumber the laity. They are not Tibetan, at least not all--Himachali, Lahuli, Spiti-i [?], Ladakhi, Zangskari, Bhutanese, Tibetan [U-Tsangpa, Lhasawa, Khampa, Amdowa, Lithangpa, Mustangpa], Nepalese, Mongolian, Monpa [from Arunachal Pradesh, extreme disconnected NE India] and a few Dutch, Isreali, Russian, American, etc. Here are a few heading in to the morning session.

(The last four pictures were taken within 200 yards and 20 minutes of each other, btw. And I missed a lot of good stuff in there too.)

The Drepung monks are all Gelugpas, one of four schools in Tibet. The Gelug are scholiasts, or maybe just scholastics. They're big on philosophy, memorizing books, and debating. Several hours of debate each day. A few hours of chanting prayers. No meditation to speak of.

Here's a video of the debate yard. Please note that after saying I won't offer commentary I do not shut up for 3 seconds:

The community has really prospered of late. They've built a lot of buildings, and brought in lots of monks. Some of the monks are escapees, but some come from Tibet with permission, I believe. There are enough people that some in the know have wondered if the water table can withstand all the new borewells. I worry about this too.

The whole area is a refugee area, officially. The people I stay with aren't refugees, they're Indians. But you still need to have a Restricted Area Permit to stay there. To stay. Not to enter, or look around. You apparently only pose a threat once you start sleeping there. Also, only white tourists need these. Monks are all good, no questions asked. Prolly cuz they don't stick out quite so much.

The permit takes about five months, no idea why. They sent mine to Bhandarkar though I'd never said to--I'd requested it from Varanasi in December. I got it on April 11th or so. When you arrive in the 'god, you're spost to take that badlander to the sub-inspector, and because I try to dot the i's so I can come back again, I did. I handed over my permit for inspection. 'Expired,' said an unusually talkative Indian police officer.

Indeed. My permit was for March 27-April 30. Upon reflection, the letter was dated March 27 as well. Mailed April 2. Arrived Deccan Post Office April 9. Prolly took 2-3 more days to reach my sweaty hands. I hadn't even checked.

The Sub-Inspector said I would have to leave and stay in Mundgod or Hubli. I was well miffed.

Luckily, the police never come at night because they don't work then, so I was advised to carry on as though nothing happened, so I did. I left shortly after that anyway, according to plan, and I actually think the poe-liss told me that I could slide, just don't mention his name if I get caught. Hard to tell, though my Hindi is good enough now that I know when someone else actually doesn't speak much Hindi.

I got feted with all kinds of yummy Ladakhi food (monks cook well because, um, they have to, and they aren't allowed much else in the way of indulgence.) I asked some questions about confession, and got good answers. I tried to fix L Gyaltsen's computer to no great avail. On Wed. a.m. I went and took some pictures at the new Assembly Hall of the other college, Drepung Loseling:

Those are adult humans on the steps there. I would say once you start building this kind of stuff you're not really all that refugee any more, not in the food-and-water-shortage, displaced-persons-in-tents kind of usual refugee way.

Here's what it looks like on the inside.

Some more of the personal touches in the next post, but this is overlong already. Bye everybody.

Quick update

1. Monsoon and motorcycle--both start with mo, other than that really should never be together.
b. 1:48 of Bubba's 4yo-ness left, and he's spending it asleep. 5 years ago at this time, I still didn't know I was going to have a baby any time soon, because my in-labor wife sent me back to our apartment to pack.
and Third, mundgod madness coming up. We got some stuff fo' y'all--the nag champion runs afoul of the authorities due to disorganization and oversight, yet again, but we still don't get to play 'Who wants to be a deeply spiritual incarcerated Fulbrighter?'--plus, movies, photos, commentary, and more....

Development, Maps, and Poverty, Oh My!

Just a quick post to direct you all to this website.  Those of you interested in international development and poverty and cartography will surely want to check it out.  And the two of you who aren't currently interested in at least one of those things might like it too.  

Monsoon is looming, as are The Birthdays.

Monday, May 18, 2009

About as average as it gets

Back in Varanasi people would email me from time to time and ask, "But what do you do all day?"  It was a good question then, and it still is.  I did a few 'slice of life' posts back then and I thought I'd do another here, before we leave Pune.  (In 2 weeks - EEK!)

While we do have a routine, we never have an 'average' day - who does?  But yesterday was fun and interesting and fairly representative so here goes...  (and I always love these sorts of posts when other bloggers do them!)

early morning:  Chris is up, writing his dissertation.  Kids wake up, read in bed or come get in bed with me. I sleep as long as possible.

8:00:  Chris is leaving for Hubli, kids are officially UP and now so am I.

next few hours:  people eat, watch Power Rangers, Skype Meema and Grampy, leave for Hubli.  Caitlin goes out to have a water fight with a friend down the street.  

later on in the morning:  Caitlin sits down to write her first novel (about a dwarf and an elf who team up to steal pearls) and Ben begins work on a knight/dragon battle scene mural.  In his pj's, naturally.  Still in my pj's too, I make another cup of coffee, grab my knitting and try to keep up.

We discuss going to the grocery store, but decide to play some cricket instead.  Caitlin continues writing.  Kindly neighbor lady comments on my (lack of) bowling skills and points out that I am "doing Father's duty."  I point out that Father is in Hubli, but still, cricket must be played...  Neighbor kids come down, Ben joins their soccer game and I head in to cook.  

lunch:  mac and cheese and apples.

quiet time, pt. 1:  Ben and I read about oceans, Caitlin re-reads From the Mixed-Up Files...  

quiet time, pt. 2:  I take a power nap while Caitlin and Ben watch a documentary about British monarchs from Victoria to the present.

afternoon:  despite the ridiculous heat, we head out to play more cricket.  Caitlin, batter bar none, knocks one into the next compound and we take an adventure through back alley to retrieve the ball.

5ish:  Bite the bullet and head to the grocery store.  Discover that I do indeed know the way as I have to direct the rickshaw wallah.  Decide to eat dinner at Pizza Hut first, to power up.  The mall was packed - day after Thanksgiving packed, and this was just a normal day.  On our way to the bathrooms after dinner we passed some young people working a booth promoting AIDS awareness and safe sex.  For India, this is nothing short of revolutionary.  They were handing out flyers and red ribbons.  And though the numbers are off, they had a poster that I loved:  "90 people get swine flu and everyone's wearing a mask.  Millions get AIDS and no one wants to wear a condom."  I give the lone young woman at the booth major props and proudly don my ribbon.  On our way out Caitlin peruses the Swatch kiosk, looking for a waterproof watch for her birthday.  No dice.  

6:30ish:  Across the street, we duck into the bookstore before grocery shopping.  Kids each pick out a story book and activity book for birthday presents. We have great fun bobbing and weaving through the throngs of Jeffrey Archer fans.  (Does anyone know who he is?  I had no idea, but apparently he's like Elvis here.)  He's talking about going on after Mickey Mouse.  

7ish:  Grocery store, finally.  Like a mosh pit, but with lousy music.  There was a Thai monk there, and as I later learned, Thai monks are not to be touched - he must've been the unhappiest monk on the planet.  I cannot imagine why so many people needed to go grocery shopping on a Sunday night.  Most of them were buying weird stuff, like the guy behind me with a cart full of chocolate gift boxes and laundry detergent, or the other guy with banana chips, popcorn, bleach and chapattis.  

8ish:  Back safe home again!  We whip through washing and narrowly avoid disaster when Ben realizes Dad isn't going to be home for bedtime.  "I don't want to talk to Dad on the phone.  I want to talk to Dad in person!"  

9ish:  Kids asleep, I blog like a mad.  

later:  still blogging like mad, talk to Chris a bit.  He's safe in Hubli, so happy to be back with his old buddies.

even later:  what, you think I can just crank out those posts in no time?

much to late:  finish blogging, read some more Paul Theroux, finally go to bed.  

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Not sick of this yet, are you?  Me either.

In addition to checking out Old Goa we visited a spice farm near Ponda
 I'm sure it was a complete tourist diorama but we had fun, learned a bit, and ate GREAT food.  (And felt really torn between the awfulness of the elephants being held captive in a parking lot and the awfulness of taking your kids to an elephant and not letting them ride it.  Mom-guilt won, sorry elephant.) 

Above you can see the traditional set up for making feni.  No, I didn't try any.  I did give a bottle to UD though, since I'm such a good sister.  Haven't heard from him since he got back to Seattle...   

And below two more favorite Panjim spots - the Gujarat Sweet Mart (huge, clean, packed with out-of-this world delish Indian sweets, and right across the street from our hotel) first and then the new municipal market - a very orderly supermarket-esque indoor veggie market and filled with gnarly old aunties selling jugs of homemade feni along with their produce...

Even our Panjim hotel was worth the trip - how many places can you pretend to be a Portuguese sailor while swimming or wear a napkin hat during dinner? (We had originally planned to stay somewhere else, but in what turned out to be his parting gift to us, Rinoo Baba steered us to Fidalgo instead.  It was the perfect place for us, of course.)

And lastly, though not photographed, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the restaurant Horseshoe in Panjim's Latin Quarter.  Sitting on Ourem Creek, this gem serves up authentic Portuguese Goan cuisine in surroundings that are far more European than Indian.  Prawn curry was out of sight as was the bebinca, a dessert made from coconut milk and egg yolks.  (Mix, do it up!)  Best, the chef/owner and staff were kind enough to make Ben a meal all his own, not off the menu, when it became clear that my vegetarian spice-averse four year old was not going to make friends with the dreamy Goan meat curries...  

Making plans to go back.  For much, much longer.  And with my husband. 

(and without my kids!)