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Empi's Pregnancy Journal

Week 21 ~ September 5, 2005
~ Thumpety thump in the Åland Islands

It's our last day out at Mik's folks' summer house and I've been up since 5:30 am. We are so far north that even this late in the summer, the sun doesn't set until after 9 pm so we typically go to bed and get up pretty late. I tried to stay still, but the baby seemed to know that I was awake and started tap dancing at 6 am, which got me all excited so I couldn't get back to sleep. Vicious cycle. On the plus side, I got a few hours' work done and was on my third breakfast by the time anyone else got up.

With a little more girth now and about 15 pounds on top of my pre-pregnancy weight, I noticed a little more discomfort with traveling than on my last long flight a month ago. The flight from Beijing to Helsinki is only 7.5 hours (I say "only" compared to Beijing-JFK, which is a whopping 13.5 hrs), but with a full plane, a middle seat, and a group of 20 Spanish families with infants (on some sort of field trip for babies) within earshot, it wasn't the most comfortable situation. My waistband kept shifting down and constricting my belly, and by halfway into the flight, I had a few annoying knots in my back. By plugging into the all-Janet-Jackson channel to tune out the screaming kids, I managed a couple of hours' sleep, but was still pretty spacey when we landed in Helsinki. We had a few hours to kill before our connection, so we went in to the city and did some shopping and stopped for coffee and some excellent cinnamon buns at the Fazer cafe. I zonked out immediately on the puddle-jumper from Helsinki to the small municipal airport in Mariehamn (capital of the Åland islands), but later found out that I had slept through the excitement of seeing the President of Finland, who was on our flight. Mik couldn't be calmed down for hours afterwards, especially since he got to sit beside her two bodyguards. Pretty cool that 1) she flies commercially; 2) with only two goons for protection; and 3) that the President is a "she." Three more reasons to love Scandinavia.

Empi and her catchThe weather has been on the cool side, so except for a 5-second dip on the first day, I haven't been in the water at all. We typically do a lot of wakeboarding when we are out here, and I would have been really disappointed to miss out, since even I'll admit that getting into a skintight wetsuit, strapping myself to a Plexiglas board and being towed behind a boat at 17 miles an hour while 5 months pregnant isn't very prudent. But we're here late in the season this year, and with the strongish wind and choppy water, water activities have basically been limited to fishing. I deviated from my usual M.O. (which is to snooze in the bow while Mik fishes) and actually made a few casts this year, and miraculously managed to bring in a good-sized pike. I had finagled a reprieve from Mik's usual "You catch it, you clean it" rule before I even put lure to water, but since we already had a good stockpile of other (yummier) fish back at the house, this lucky pike just got to smile for the camera and then was released unscathed.

The highlight of the week, though, has definitely been spending time with our 13-month-old nephew, Wolfe. A good-looking kid to begin with, he's also at a really cute age where he's learned to flirt and distracts the adults in the house with his adorable smile as he teeters around, flinging everything he can reach onto the floor. Being around him has given us a bit of a preview of the next year or so, which for the most part looks like fun, but also made us realize that we really should take advantage of these last few quiet, dribble-free months while we can.

After 13 months, I think I may finally be on the right wavelength as far as baby sizes go: ever since he was born, I've been sending baby clothes to Wolfie that would have fit him 3 weeks before. It's been supremely frustrating-fuzzy duck slippers, a really great crocheted baby aviator hat: all too small by the time they've arrived at Wolfie's house. I finally managed to make him something that fit (a little stripey sweater), and in the course of trying it on, learned a key Baby Thing that may come in handy: babies really hate to have to pull clothes over their heads and faces, don't they? It now seems obvious, and is probably one of those things that any new mom could have told me, but I hadn't really given it much thought before.

On Sunday we went in to town to go to a concert by a couple of vocalists and a really excellent chamber orchestra from St. Petersburg. The concert started at seven, and right on schedule, baby started dancing along with the Magic Flute overture and then to a few snippets from M. o' Figaro. He/she was doing some high kicks with the Russian folk songs as well, but seemed to sleep through the yippy Verdi arias. The church where the concert was held was a bit stuffy, and I probably would've snoozed through the Italians too, if it weren't for the very penitent Protestant seats, which only supported the back half of my butt. We spent intermission walking around the cemetery, which dates back to the 1600's, to find some manly old-school Swedish ship's captain-type names while trying to get the blood back into our glutes.

Went on a mini-hike around the island today to check out the heifers that spent the summer here (don't ask where they go in the fall), and then went out to a neighboring island to pick wild blueberries. Wolfie was supposed to come with us, but he wore himself out in the morning and was too fussy and tired by the time we headed out, so he had a nap instead. I should have crawled in to bed with him. Between heifer-hunting and squatting for blueberries, my hips are pretty sore. Now I know why pregnant women do the waddle walk - it does take some of the pressure off the backs of the hips, at least for a little while. I try to keep myself from doing the waddle in public, though, as it looks goofy and I just look like a chubby girl with bad posture.

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Wish we could stay longer, but can't wait to come back next summer with the little chikin. Wonder if REI or EMS carries baby wetsuits?

On the ferry to Stockholm…
Unless I have the one-hour time difference backwards, we're only supposed to be 15 minutes away from the dock, but the scenery isn't looking very familiar yet. I'm on the giant ferryboat from Åland to Stockholm, and the trip through the archipelago couldn't be prettier: clear water, blue skies, and little red summerhouses dotting the islands. Why oh why do we live in dirty smelly landlocked Beijing?

20 minutes later…
Yeah, okay, I could've told you that would happen at least once on this trip. Having to keep track of local time in Sweden, Finland, China and the U.S. was bound to catch up with me sooner or later. My excuse is that my trusty Timex Ironman just doesn't have enough modes. It also looks as if this last little piece of my favorite carrot cake isn't going to make it all the way to Stockholm after all (I bought two large slices before leaving town, and have been nipping into it the whole trip). Guess I'll go join everyone else on board up on the sundeck for the last hour and 55 minutes of the trip, where, in a typical Swedish/Finnish reaction to sunlight, even 80-year-old grandmas are in various stages of undress.

Tune in next week, when I write from Stockholm, and find out how I foiled the U.N. Secret Service (not really).

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