Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Call me crazy...

... but I'm in.


And, yes, I should have saved this for my very first NaBloPoMo entry tomorrow.

Happy Halloween!

I'm working, and a friend is watching the little ladybug, who seems to have given up napping entirely in honor of Halloween. Did you know how hard it is to get anything done when there's screaming a few rooms away?? But perhaps we'll scare a few teenaged trick-or-treaters out of having sex too young when they see what can result...

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Off with her head

We went to see Marie Antoinette in the torrential rains this afternoon. And the excursion demonstrated in some ways how much our lives have changed in the last several months. Where once we would have run out the door 25 minutes before the movie started and been home 15 minutes after it was over (grand total: maybe three hours), today our outing took approximately six hours.

We had to bundle up the baby, and her stuff, and trundle her over to D's parents. We had to give needlessly wordy instructions to people who raised three sons, and then drive to the theater (where we indulged not only in popcorn and a soda, but a greasy and disgusting, yet somehow satisfying, order of mozzarella sticks). We had to watch the movie -- more on that in a moment -- then drive back to D's parents' house, hear a detailed account of Ess' activities in the few hours we'd been gone, gather up all her stuff and get back in the car. Wherein she fell asleep. This being a day in which napping had gone to hell, we decided to just drive around -- in the aforementioned downpour -- until she woke up. We drove a coastal highway to Surfers Beach, where the waves were crashing, and then slowly made our way home past a couple other vistas where the ocean was violent and amazing. Finally Ess woke up, and we returned home. At 5 pm. After a 1 pm movie. For which we'd left the house at 11 am.

While the time was totally well spent in the sense that D and I got to do something alone, cinematically we could've done a lot better. We both really enjoyed Sofia Coppola's earlier films, The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation. But when the credits rolled on Marie Antoinette, I looked at D and said, "What the hell was that about?" And he replied, "I have no idea." It's pretty, I'll give her that. But the significance of the 80s soundtrack was lost on me, as was the point of the entire frickin' thing. If we were supposed to rethink the typical characterization of MA -- clueless hedonist out of touch with the starving masses -- Coppola didn't make that point anywhere near strongly enough. And if the movie isn't about reimagining MA, then I don't know what the point is. (Side note: Poor Jason Schwartzman. He was great as Max Fisher in Rushmore, but now he seems destined to play doughy losers. And Louis XVI is, in this movie anyway, just another isolated nerd.)

I've just been reading reviews, trying to see what critics have found to like about this movie. And, really, isn't that a sure sign that a movie has failed, when you need to have someone else tell you what you were supposed to figure out on screen?

Still and all, it was nice to sit in a darkened theater, huddled against the cold and holding my husband's hand. Even if it did take six hours.

Friday, October 27, 2006

I'm not at a Decemberists show...

... like Scrivener is tonight, but I am listening to last year's live performance streaming on NPR and it's pretty great. I haven't bought any new music since Ess was born, but I am dying to get a Decemberists album. I feel like my brain can only hold so much new stuff at once, and if I don't buy an album I'm going to forget that I thought I might like them. Does that make sense at all?

In the meantime, I'm sitting here finishing up a story that I could not for the life of me get done during the work day; was pecked to death by the ducks of internal email, external email, freelance stuff, and actual work. What a way to spend a Friday night.

One good thing: we went out to dinner at a local diner with a friend and his two-year-old. Luckily, neither kid started to melt down until after we'd eaten, at which point we threw their coats on, chucked some money at the waitress and high-tailed it out. As D said, I don't think robbers leave that fast.

The end of this hodge-podge of procrastination: I'm thinking about participating in this, although I think I might be certifiably insane, especially since I just accepted two freelance assignments due at roughly the same time in mid-November and I'm working a couple extra days at the magazine next month. (One mitigating factor: At least that means I'll be at the computer a lot...) Anyone in this little corner of the blogosphere considering doing the same?

Hope your Friday evenings are more exciting than mine...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Today's lesson

If your tights seem a little baggy just a few minutes after you put them on at 6 am, perhaps you ought to consider changing into something else before you drive 90 minutes to work.

Otherwise, a few short hours later you will find yourself almost entirely unable to carry on a conversation with the (new and high-powered) director of marketing because your tights are slipping down your thighs while you walk and talk. And by the time you get to your destination, your tights will be gathered at your knees, making it very difficult to move.

The only saving grace: it was a calf-length skirt.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Monday night gerunds

Craving: Sleep. In such a desperate way that I wonder what in jebus' name I am doing awake at 9:38 pm, when I could be snoozing in my very own bed. Ess did really well on this whole trip... well, with the exception of the drive down (the screaming, oh the screaming) and the whole "sleeping at night in the pack & play" thing. I was up at least five times each night -- even after I gave up on the pack & play, sent D out to the futon and took her into bed with me. I have no idea what was going on, but I'm hoping it will not happen again tonight.

The lack of ethnic and racial diversity here. Yesterday my mom and I took Ess shopping at a big outlet mall 20 minutes from my parents' house (two outlet malls in one week -- you'd think I actually liked shopping!), and in just two hours she was exposed to more diversity than she likely will be in entire years of her life here. I love the hubub when all these cultures meet -- in the Gap, no less -- and we need to make a serious effort to expose Ess to all of it.

Wondering: Why Motherhood -- a store whose only market is pregnant and lactating women -- does not have a changing table in the bathroom. (Oh, and Kate? You were totally right about shopping with a grandmother in tow -- it's a whole new world!)

Appreciating: The family restrooms at the rest areas on the Mass Pike.

Disbelieving: The fact that Jelly fell all the way down the stairs to my parents' basement not once but twice over the weekend and has absolutely nothing wrong with her. I saw her go the first time -- she was sniffing around the kitchen, wandered out to the landing, then, because her eyesight is so bad, just stepped out into space like Mister Magoo and tumbled 15 steps down -- and it was horrifying. But she popped up when she got to the bottom and resumed her sniffing. No wonder this dog survived life as a stray on the streets of Brooklyn...

Missing: My family. Despite the complete and utter exhaustion with which we returned home a few hours ago, I am so glad we went down. My parents are gaga for Ess, as are my grandparents. There was some fairly intense drama involving one of my uncles going on this weekend, and having Ess and her goofy grins around made for a much lighter atmosphere. My dad took some gorgeous photos of Ess and my grandmother, as well as a portrait of the seven of us... I'm so glad we have those, but I'd much rather go without the keepsakes and be closer to the people. It was a tearful farewell this morning. Since I'm not moving south and they're not moving north, is there any chance one of you could get to work on eliminating Connecticut, so we can at least make the drive shorter?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Road trip

The list of things to bring is on the kitchen island, half crossed off. The pile of stuff in the living room keeps growing. Sandwiches are made, and snacks have been procured. Rocky is at D's parents' house, where after a bout of what we think was stress-induced vomiting she spent the night ensconced on a cozy upholstered chair, and Jelly has been bathed in preparation for the long hours in the car. (At least we're only taking one dog with us...) Ess' cutest outfits are in a pile on the bed; my clothes are still in a jumble in the laundry basket. We updated the iPod and took out the trash.

Can you tell we're excited about this trip?

I've got another hour or so left to work, and several hundred more words to add to the story I'm writing. Ess needs another nap, and we need to eat lunch. But around 2 o'clock we're hitting the road, driving through rainy New England to bring this wee girl to her anxious, eager grandparents and great-grandparents. Wish us safe, speedy travels and a happy traveling companion....

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Out of sync

Yesterday I seemed to be moving at a different pace than the rest of the world. Evidence to support this point:

A friend of a friend stopped by yesterday morning. Word had circulated that I was heading to Outlettery, where among other stops I planned to visit L.Lill for some long awaited new clothing (three cheers for the arrival of a few freelance checks...). So FofF was dropping off a few items for me to return for her. I was in a bit of a rush -- Ess and I were meeting Phantom and Baby Blue, and all of a sudden it was time to go -- but FofF wanted to sit on the couch and chat. When she thanked me for taking the items for her, she said, "I wondered if this is too much of a pain, and I should just come along for the ride." I muttered something in return, and looked around wildly for my shoes. Only hours later did it occur to me that what I usually see as her snobbery might actually be boredom... and that she wanted me to invite her to go to Outlettery with me. Oops.

Once in Outlettery, we wandered the aisles of Swedish Childrensson with Phantom and the precocious, adorable BB, who did, indeed, volunteer to "pick out a cute outfit for the baby." I hemmed and hawed over what to buy -- so cute, and yet still so expensive, even at outlet prices -- and eventually chose a black velvet-and-plaid jumper for Christmas. I mentioned it to my mom, who responded that I should return it and save the money since she just bought Ess something very similar on final clearance. Argh.

Despite the long-awaited opportunity to hang with Phantom, I found myself fairly incapable of coherent conversation. Something aboutthe combination of sleep deprivation, shopping (not one of my strong suits) and anxiety about a whiny Ess resigned me to followup queries about topics she's blogged about, rather than an actual, grownup conversation. Of course, as soon as I got in the car to drive home, I had all sorts of scintillating conversational nuggets come to mind. Ugh.

Oh, and the similarly anticipated trip to L.Lill? Totally useless, other than returning clothes for FofF and another friend. The store was small, the racks were close together, Ess was whiny and the pants looked to be too long to even bother trying on. So, to recap, all I bought on this long-planned trip was an expensive dress for Ess that I will probably return. And I left Phantom with the impression that I'm a bumbling, incoherent idiot who can't talk about anything other than infant sleep habits and sling styles. Blah.

The day ended in fine fashion, with dinner half-made and me prone on the couch with a migraine so bad that just the sound of D chopping kale and chard for soup made me nauseated. Ick.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Genius parenting moment #513

Buy the space heater but decide it's really not that cold and leave it turned off. React with surprise when the baby wakes at 10:30, 2:30 and 4:something. Bring her into bed with you, where she sleeps contentendly next to your warm body until 7:45.


D. is out buying a smoke detector to combat my paranoia about Ess' room catching on fire from the space heater, which I swear to gawd we are going to turn on tonight. And I am drinking a tiny Coke, trying to get the brain cells firing in order to write the freelance piece due this week. It is short and relatively straightforward, but when I try to write the few words that come out are stilted and short. It's as though I've lost my ability to think complex (or even multi-syllabic) thoughts.


We have no one to watch the dogs next weekend when we take Ess to NJ to see my parents. Well, we might be able to talk my in-laws into taking Rocky, who is good and easy. But they clearly do not want to do it. And even though they said they would if we couldn't find anyone else, I don't want to impose. So we may be traveling 400 miles with a baby, a neurotic shih tzu and an incontinent, senile mutt. Shoot me now.


I think there was one more thing I wanted to say, but beats me what it might be.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Genius parenting moment #512

Last night was not a good night. Ess woke up for the first time at midnight, and then every two hours after that. And instead of nursing and dropping off to sleep the way she normally does, she fought and fought and fought to stay awake. She seemed cold -- she was already dressed in a cotton sleeper with a fleece one on top -- so eventually she ended up with a little cap on. And then I tucked the warm, cozy shawl Songbird gave us in around her. And she was still cold.

At 6:15, when she awakened yet again, I had D bring her into bed with us. I nursed her there and she dozed off... just in time for us to get ready for the walk at Local College in memory of our friend who died last year. And as I was staggering around the house in a bleary-eyed attempt to get dressed, I realized that our bedroom was, in fact, really chilly.

And then I remembered that I'd opened a window yesterday afternoon to air out the upstairs. And apparently never closed it. No wonder the kid was cold.

So we're hoping that tonight is better. And at some point this weekend we're heading out to pick up a space heater for her bedroom. Because if she's this chilly in October, what the hell are we going to do come January?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Five months old

Ess with Zeke (at left) and Larry on Oct. 10, 2006; for some reason, Ess did not want Larry to show his face for this photo. Maybe he is in the gorilla protection program?

Dear Ess,

Once again, you seem to be celebrating your monthly birthday in fine style -- last night was the second night in a row that you slept through the night! You slept for about twelve-and-a-half hours each night, waking up around 7:45. Your astonished parents could not believe it. And while we're sure there are many sleep disruptions to come, we are very excited that you have it in you to sleep for that long.

You've recently started laughing for real, especially when Daddy makes silly faces at you. Earlier this evening, you also laughed quite a bit at Monsieur Duck, the hand puppet your Maine grandparents got you, and which Uncle P has taken on as his alter ego. And you're also really enjoying other people, especially other kids. You've spent some time with L and E lately, and you love watching E, who is two-and-a-half, when she gets her face up close to yours. You are also entranced by Rocky and Jelly, which is really fun to watch. When you're on the floor or in your bouncy seat, you crane your neck to watch them walk around, although you still wince when Jelly barks before dinner time.

You've gotten really good at sitting in your Bumbo seat; you particularly enjoyed it when Mommy took you down to the basement and you sat in it on top of the dryer while she changed the laundry. Being at eye level, in a place where you haven't spent much time, seemed very fascinating to you. (Usage in this manner definitely not approved by the manufacturer.)

You also spend a lot of time in the gym that your Great-Aunt E got you. We've loaded it up with your favorite toys, and you lay on your back and grab at them with fervor. You've started to roll up onto your side a bit while in the gym; we think you'll be quite surprised when you finally roll over all the way and find yourself on your belly. Speaking of which, you are definitely getting stronger in your arms and chest, though tummy time is far from your favorite activity. But you absolutely love it when Daddy holds you over his head and flies you through the house; you grin the whole way.

This month, you had your first day-long babysitter, and you seemed to do really well with her. You also had spectacular performances at your grandfather's shop and your grandmother's office. At both places you were ooh-ed and aah-ed over by lots of people, but you reserved your biggest smiles for your grandparents. Meanwhile, your New Jersey grandparents have been pining away -- this is the longest they have gone without seeing you since you were born. But we will remedy that in a few weeks.

On the whole, you are a sweet, happy baby who smiles with little provocation. When we're holding you facing out and you see something that makes you happy, you react with your whole body, wiggling and kicking as you lean back and smile. You've gotten so much better at going to sleep at night, and just today you stretched out the amount of time between naps quite a bit. In just the past few days, you seem to have grown up quite a bit. It's hard to believe that you've only been here for five months -- you are growing so fast and learning so much. While we are very much looking forward to celebrating our anniversary (number seven!) by going out to dinner alone this weekend, we wouldn't trade you for the world. We love you so incredibly much, sweet girl.

Mom and Dad


Or, Answers to Your Not-So-Burning Questions, Plus Some Other Stuff

Thanks for all the well wishes on my health. I was feeling quite a bit better yesterday, but this morning am sort of weak-kneed and wobbly feeling. And nauseated. Were it not wholly impossible, I would suspect I was pregnant. Which, let me repeat, is not scientifically possible. I happen to be going to my GP today for a physical, so we'll see what she has to say. I am still convinced it's e. coli -- besides, I have this weird little rash on my forearms -- but I doubt that is actually the case. Let's just hope I don't end up featured in one of the Lisa Sanders case studies in the NYT magazine, although in that case at least my medical mystery would have been solved...

And since we're on that topic, let me say that I loved your comments on the s*x post. I have been pondering the meaning of "watering the fern" ever since. (Is this another one of those pieces of information I missed out on in junior high??) In all seriousness, though, reading your various perspectives was really enlightening. Thank you.

Today Ess is five months old. Crazy. To celebrate, she slept through the night. Again. We were in total disbelief this morning. And, if possible, got a worse night's sleep than we did the night before. What the hell is wrong with us? Also, the five-month-birthday means I need to write another mushy monthly post to her. But I can't find the frickin' USB cable (haven't looked under the couch yet), so all of the cutie pie pictures remain on the camera, and the post is yet unwritten. Also, she is currently fighting her first nap like a banshee. Hmm.

Ess has been remarkably drooly, and even more spitty than usual, in the last several days. So much so that she got a little rash on her chin. I asked a friend about this, and she said the same thing happened to her son just before a tooth or two cut through. Good god. Teeth? You've got to be kidding me. (And, really, would she be sleeping like this if she were working on a tooth? I think not.) On a similar note, I spent last night perusing our baby books for advice on when to start the solid foods, something that I feel strangely resistant to. I don't want to trap Ess in infancy -- I'm so much looking forward to her growing and walking and talking, although not so much to the experiments with poopies -- but the idea of starting her on food is unpleasant. Or at least overwhelming. Since her corrected age doesn't hit four months for another couple weeks, I think we're going to hold off on solids for at least a month.

Lastly, Jennie asked what I'd decided to do about the freezer stash of breast milk following Pumpgate 06. Well, this would assume that I'd made a decision, which I haven't. I started adding a daily pumping session after Ess goes to bed so that we'd have fresh milk on hand while awaiting the word about what to do with the stash. That got us through the immediate crisis, and enabled me to build up a decent little supply in the freezer... and to put off deciding what to do with the possibly tainted milk. Logically, it seems I should use it; three lactation consultants, as well as our own immunology expert and the women at PumpMoms, a fabulous Yahoo group I found during this debacle, told me it was fine as long as it smells fine, which it does. But LLL advised me to err on the side of caution and not use it. And so there it sits, taking up space in the freezer. I am thinking of some middle way, in which I throw out the newest milk -- that which I know was pumped through the mold -- and keep and use the older stuff, which might not have been. But for now I am doing nothing. Except pumping.

Monday, October 09, 2006


It is 7:22 am. Ess has been sleeping since about 7:15 last night, and she has not woken up once. I've checked on her twice, and she is just sound asleep. She's spun herself around so that she's perpendicular in her crib, and her head is pressed up against the bumper. Her arms are over her head, and she looks peaceful and sweet. She's wearing a cotton sleeper underneath a fleece one, and I bet the extra warmth, in our chilly house, helped her stay sleeping.

I never thought this day would come. (Apparently, neither did my breasts... holy engorgement.)

And I'm fully aware that it is not here to stay, that sleeping like this will come and go. But how fantastic to know that it's possible.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


Yesterday afternoon, we went to a friend's house for a pasta-making party and dinner. Ess stuck it out pretty well (thanks in part to a little catnap in our friend's son's crib) but proceeded to totally lose her cool at about 7 pm. This was no surprise -- she goes to bed between 6:30 and 7 most nights, and this was the third night in a row we'd messed with her schedule. So we rushed out, with little to-go packs of the apple pie we were unable to eat for dessert, and got the kid in bed.

By about 8:30, I was thinking longingly about bed, and wondering how D could possibly eat ice cream after our meal of fettucine alfredo. The pie sat untouched on the counter. I pumped just before heading upstairs, and noticed that I got very little... less than an ounce, compared to the 3+ ounces I usually get when I pump after Ess goes to bed. That should have been a warning about what was to come.

Just a few hours later, I was racing from our bedroom on the second floor, down the hall, down the stairs and into the bathroom. I had chills and horrible stomach cramps, and was just barely able to drag myself out of bed to nurse Ess when she woke an hour later. Sometime around 4 I threw up again; this time, I was drenched in sweat. And I got D to bring her to me when she was ready to nurse again around 5:30 (side note: knocking on wood furiously, I am happy to report that Ess has worked her way into a nighttime nursing schedule that seems to be working well for all of us. For the time being, anyway).

Since then, I have lolled around the house in my pajamas. I have napped on the couch. I have nursed Ess when D has brought her to me, I have eaten a bagel and I have drunk as much water as I can force myself to swallow. I feel like crap. (D and our other friends who were at the little shindig are fine, so apparently I picked up some stomach bug, rather than food poisoning or e. coli, which was my middle-of-the-night feverish self diagnosis.) And I am ever so grateful that this bug hit on a weekend, when D can be the primary caregiver and I can take up space on the couch. I'm a little concerned about producing enough milk for Ess given my dehydrated state (I couldn't even keep water down for a while last night), but she seems to be taking care of that herself, nursing a tad more frequently and for longer intervals than she usually does.

Dinner for tonight was supposed to be either eggplant-potato curry or beet risotto. I'm guessing it's going to be more along the lines of chicken noodle soup from a can.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Written on the body

I had the misfortune of learning about puberty when I was in Catholic school. The boys and girls were separated, and all I remember is that we passed a tampon around to inspect it. We were in fifth grade, I think, so we had to act blase and world-weary, as if we knew exactly what a tampon was for. I sort of understood; I remembered going to the bathroom with my mom as a little kid and knew it had something to do with bleeding.

Sex, though? That was another question entirely. Whoever taught the class was vague at best about how it worked; the emphasis was on the changes we'd be experiencing in puberty, not on the finer points of the birds and the bees. And my mom wasn't much help; rather than talk much about puberty, she got me a book (perhaps this one?) -- whatever it was, it was religious in nature and thus full of abstinence talk and light on details. While I vividly remember the lecture I got shortly after I began seeing my first boyfriend -- "We don't want our 16-year-old daughter pregnant" was the highlight, never mind that s*x was not even remotely on the table -- I don't ever recall my mother using the correct words for the female anatomy. I'm not sure she felt comfortable using them, and so neither was I.

Embarrassingly, the exact logistics of intercourse were lost on me until my junior year of high school. A friend had a party at which someone picked up a book that belonged to her little brother and read it out loud. My friends were laughing hysterically while I was trying not to let on that I was picking up some crucial details from Where Did I Come From, a book that Amazon reviewers uniformly recommend for five-year-olds.

All of which is to say that I did not grow up with a tremendous amount of information about, or confidence in, the intimate functions of my body. In college, I did everything I could to make up for that, trying as hard as I could to claim what I thought should be a feminist's pride in her body. What that meant in practice was a certain amount of promiscuity and even more fearlessness (perhaps brazenness is a better word) when discussing this whole topic.* If fewer friends and family read this blog, I might even tell you what I apparently said to D shortly after meeting him... I don't recall the exact words coming out of my mouth, but he has a better memory for detail than I do, and I did employ a devil-may-care approach when meeting guys. Suffice it to say that it was earthy and blunt and that it did not necessarily reflect well on my character. But he eventually married me anyway.

And somehow now it is seven years later (as of yesterday, in fact) and the intimacy is gone. Actually, that's not quite right. The s*x is gone; nearly five months after Ess' birth, the intimacy remains, except that now it consists of whispered conversations about how wonderful Ess is and how amazed we are that we made her (apparently the information in Where Did I Come From stuck, so to speak).

D is willing. But I am back in junior high, befuddled by my body and unsure of its function. Is it for feeding and consoling the baby? Or for enticing my husband? Or for giving me pleasure? These functions seem completely irreconcilable -- not philosophically, but physically. When we manage to find the time, and I can summon an iota of enthusiasm, well, let's just say that it doesn't get me very far.**

At the moment, I'd be content to let it go, to say goodbye to the brazen 22-year-old for a while. But, oddly, I'm not sure that would be what's best for Ess. I want to be the kind of mother who can talk to her about the fact that she grew in my uterus and would have come out of my v@gina eventually. I want to be able to tell her how s*x works calmly and confidently. And, damn it, I want to show her that motherhood and s*x are not incompatible, even though that is how it feels in these early months, with the tender scar on my abdomen and my over-used chest and my weary back.

It is so odd to me that my first route back to s*x seems to run through what is best for my daughter, rather than what is best for me, and for my relationship with her father. I don't know whether to blame the residue of Catholicism or the all-too-common tendency to put myself at the bottom of the priority list or something more insidious. Either way, I am hoping to reclaim my body, slowly and surely. It seems a long, long way off. But I hope that some day we will get to a place where a gleam in his eye will evoke something more positive than thoughts of the sleep I am giving up.


*It's hard to write an honest post about the language of the body and of intimacy without using the words that I fear might bring unsavory types to my humble bloggy abode. So forgive the evasiveness, which I know seems totally hypocritical.

**For a less angsty -- and considerably shorter -- take on this whole thing, check out this Catherine Newman column that says it all perfectly.