Thursday, November 30, 2006

What I learned during my NaBloPoMo

  • Posting every day is not as difficult as I thought it might be, once I got in the habit (and got over my hangup about posting during work hours).
  • That said, I did post a few clunkers just to get something up.
  • But the pressure of posting every day also made me look outside my own navel for topics at least a few times... NYT articles on moms who like their liquor chief among them. I've been wanting to write those kind of posts for a while, and it was nice to have the impetus.
  • In addition, as Laid-Off Dad noticed, I think it did help my work-related writing to be spewing out words on a daily basis.
  • And it certainly did goose my traffic... at least a little bit. Actually, what I mean is that my traffic became more consistent, rather than having peaks and valleys.
  • But, with the exception of a few crazy souls who are attempting to comment on every NaBloPoMo blog, I didn't see any comments from new folks. Which means Jody is probably correct about the fact that the only people using the NaBloPoMo randomizer are other NaBloers.
  • And in my own experience, the randomizer is cool... but I didn't add any blogs I found while using it to my blogroll, or even to my feeds.
  • I hear that some NaBloers (which sounds kind of dirty, doesn't it?) are going to continue this crazy thing in December. And I think I might sign up. Crazy, no?
  • And also? I really, really like prizes. I like winning things. I win radio call-in contests sometimes. So I am hoping that somehow among all the hundreds of participants, I win something. I'll keep you posted. (Ha, a little blogging pun to leave you with. Perhaps someone at this computer needs a bit more sleep? Or some coffee? How about both?)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Drinking for two

Ah, the New York Times takes on drinking and motherhood again. This time, though, it's in the form of a well-reasoned personal essay about drinking during pregnancy. The author, who I believe is a Times staffer, writes about her own decision to drink moderately during pregnancy -- something I should say that I totally agree with, having had the occasional half-glass of beer or wine in my third trimester. (And now having an occasional whole beer or glass of wine while breastfeeding, which, I might add, is totally sanctioned by LLL, though I always feel faintly rebellious when I do so.)

She notes that her desire to have a drink with dinner was strongest when she was eating out. And although the piece does deal with the fact that the general public looks askance at pregnant women who have a drink, she doesn't mention any uncomfortable instances with her own drinking in public. That's the very thing that kept me from having a beer at a restaurant while pregnant, though -- I just didn't want to deal with any nasty looks or muttered comments. I'd take a sip of Darren's and then push it back across the table.

When I was admitted to the hospital with pre-term labor a few days before Ess was born, one of the first questions the nurse asked was whether I drank during pregnancy. Panicked, I said, "Yes, I had about this much" -- thumb and index finger about three inches apart -- "beer last night."

"That's fine," the nurse said, and laughed. "I'm only interested if you had a fifth of vodka on a regular basis."

But of course that message -- that moderate drinking is probably just fine after the first trimester -- simply does not get transmitted to the public. I understand that public health messages by design are simple and clear; there is not room for complexity in just about any marketing campaign. That's why co-sleeping is universally discouraged, for example, because it's too difficult to explain concisely that it's safe if you're doing it correctly and you're not impaired. When I was griping about the AAP's advisory against co-sleeping a while ago, a friend who worked with teen moms mentioned that if it were reversed her clients would simply hear "it's ok to sleep with your baby" and snuggle up with the kid like the living teddy bear many of them wanted in the first place... quite possibly with disastrous consequences.

And then of course there's the American fear of litigation. So of course no one is going to say it's ok to have a glass of wine while you're pregnant -- what about the liability if something later happens to the baby? Who can you sue? I felt like a real dunce when I realized that all the warnings on kids' products -- like the prohibition against carrying the bouncy seat with the kid in it, or the one against putting the car seat anywhere but the floor -- are just about limiting liability, and have very little to do with how the average household actually uses the products.

All of it makes the work of parenting that much harder, I think, as you tease through the legal lingo and the conflicting medical studies to determine your own take on each issue. But I guess that's what adulthood... and parenthood... are all about: figuring out what makes sense for your family. And my family is definitely happier if I get a glass of porter every now and then.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

It's 4:31 pm and it is pitch dark outside

Not much to report today. Ess had her six-month checkup, and the doctor was very pleased with how she's doing. And she said we need to just hang in there with the sleep disruption... which I knew, but which was good to hear from someone in a position of authority, too.

Ess had four shots, and at the moment seems to be doing fine, though she did conk out for about an hour right after the appointment. Right now she's laying on her back on the floor, going crazy with a rattle and Larry, her stuffed gorilla. She's also cackling at the dogs. I am never so grateful for their company as when they make a little girl laugh during tummy time.

There's lots of other stuff going on around here, none of it exactly bloggable at the moment. My Super Secret Christmas Project involves use of Photoshop, which I've never used before. And it also involves using Microsoft Word to perform desktop publishing functions, which is making me wish I had access to Quark or something... although that would likely involve (a lot more) cursing. D is also hard at work on a desktop publishing project for Christmas... and I'm going to have to format his, too. By that time I should be an old pro, but in the meantime I am futzing around with section breaks and styles and columns and it is driving me crazzzzyyyyy. Especially because every time I go through the document to double-check it, the Microsoft gremlins have screwed up some other thing that was previously hunky-dory. All I can say is, the recipients damn well better like this thing or I am going to spend Christmas huddled in a corner, weeping quietly.

Ess' tolerance for amusing herself seems to be diminishing rapidly; stupid Larry just isn't that exciting of a companion, I guess. And the dogs are begging for dinner, which doesn't get poured in their bowls for another hour... so that means I've got 60 minutes of pushy pooches underfoot while I try to entertain this kiddo. Fun times.

Monday, November 27, 2006

One of the joys of working at home

I got to witness this at lunch time today. Someone has become a big fan of food in general, and sweet potatoes in particular.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

It'll be on all the runways next year

As part of the ongoing effort to get Ess to sleep a little better, we've decided she needs a lovey. She showed a little interest in the Taggie a friend passed on to us -- it's a piece of fleece about eight inches square, with little loops of ribbon all around it. To aid in the attachment process, I've been tucking in between us every time she nurses. Then I figured, what the heck, and stuck it down the front of my shirt.

My surprising realization? Having that cozy piece of fleece against my belly and chest makes me awfully nice and warm on this chilly Sunday afternoon.

I just hope no one drops by unannounced.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

A whole night's sleep

Yep, last night I slept wonderfully, from 10:30 to 7 am. Only up at midnight and five am.

Of course, this was not because Ess had a wonderful night, but rather because my amazing husband decreed that I was to spend the night in the guest room while he attempted to wrangle the wily (and wakeful) child. The night before, I'd taken care of her solo while D was in the guest room, and It Did Not Go Well. I won't bore you with a blow-by-blow, but suffice it to say that some time around 12:30 I yelled in my crying baby's face "Shut up, why can't you just shut up?" I scared the crap out of her, and out of myself, and so the two of us spent a while crying together. I was an absolute wreck yesterday, convinced that I'm not capable of raising this child, worried about the part of me that wanted to hurt her while she screamed, despairing that it would ever change. Thus, my exile last night to the guest room with the door shut and a fan on to drown out any sounds from upstairs.

D did not have a great night with her last night -- she really, really hates being transferred back into the crib lately, where it never used to bother her -- but I got a solid night's sleep and was able to pump in two sessions almost all of what she drank overnight. My cold is much improved today as a result, as is my mental state. It doesn't hurt that I got some errands done this morning, and started the decluttering of the house that's been needed for months. This afternoon we put on some fancier clothes and ran down to the beach so a friend could take our Christmas picture, and tonight we're having pizza (again) while D and a friend watch the big Midwestern Catholic School game; I'll be on the PC, working on the Super-Secret Holiday Project and, perhaps, sipping a beer.

I'm under no illusions that Ess' sleep schedule is going to change any time soon. But it's amazing how much better I am able to handle that uncertainty with just one good night's sleep behind me.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The blandification of our whole situation*

So here it is Black Friday, that glorious day of conspicuous consumption, traffic and stress, all in the name of kicking the holiday season off right. Ess and I spent it at the auto dealer, where we were getting an oil change and a two-months-overdue inspection. Sitting there, in a particularly unlovely part of City by the Sea, I watched two episodes of Family Feud on the giant flat-screen TV that dominates the waiting room. Did you know that the guy who played J. Peterman on Seinfeld is now the host? I can't tell whether his smarminess is real or knowing and campy. Either way, it wears thin after about five minutes.

On the way back, knowing Ess was due for a nap, and that the drive home was just long enough to knock her out, and realizing that my extreme sleep deprivation has made me crave the fattiest and greasiest of foods, I went through the drivethrough at Yellow Humps, which now takes credit cards for your dining convenience. I hadn't been to a Yellow Humps in quite a while -- maybe a year or so? -- but the taste of that "burger" and fries, along with a watery Coke that had just enough caffeine to perk me up, was instantly familiar. Ess fell asleep before we even left their parking lot, and I scarfed down the food as we drove down Lots of Trees Avenue, a misnomer if ever there was one. Auto body shops, franchise stores and gas stations are interrupted by a funky little stretch of locally owned ethnic eateries, then it's back to a drug store here and a donut chain there.

Before I knew it, I was driving by the park and my burger was gone. Did I remember eating it? Not really. The salt from the fries still dimples my lips, though the Coke did nothing to quench my thirst. Ess was soundly asleep, so I drove my usual keep-her-napping route, down to Surfers Beach and back along the coastal route of the road race I've run a few times. I passed tidy little Capes, marshes glinting in the sun, a cottage under construction near the beach and a cove where mist from the waves splashed high in the sky. Ess slept and slept, and so we drove up hills and down, through neighborhoods and the community college, past one locally owned business after the next.

I sipped the remains of that Coke, with the Yellow Humps logo emblazoned on the side, and was grateful once again for the locally grown apples, and locally made butter, in yesterday's apple pie, for the fantastic bakery around the corner from our house, for the luxury of paying a premium for locally grown food, for the once-a-year reminder that mass-marketed, highly processed food may fill the stomach, but it doesn't satisfy the soul.


*Title comes from a lyric in Greg Brown's incredible song/spoken word piece "Eugene," from his new album The Evening Call, which hasn't left my car's CD player for a week now.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


This time last year, I spent the entire weekend huddled on the couch, trying desperately to avoid throwing up and not succeeding very often. I was miserable.

This year, I am exhausted and verging on delirious; Moxie's description of a head filled with hot sand is becoming more apt by the moment. And yet as I type this, there is a sweet little girl two rooms away, kicking at her jungle gym and squealing at her dogs and her daddy. She grins when she sees me, and she flaps her arms with delight when I pull my shirt up to nurse her. She buries her head in my neck when she's tired, and she leans back against me as she curiously surveys the whole world.

And then there is that daddy of hers, that husband of mine, whose love for us is palpable. He is generous and thoughtful and largely too good to be true.

We have much to be grateful for this year -- material things, yes, but more importantly family and friends and furry creatures. But most of all, that much desired, much dreamed of, beautiful little girl. Ess gives Thanksgiving a whole new meaning.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Falling apart

Physically, that is. Well, perhaps mentally a bit, too.

Last night Ess was back to her recent sleepways -- two hours, from 10 to midnight, in which she wouldn't go all the way back to sleep but wasn't fully awake, either, just an unhappy, tossing-and-turning, whimpering little girl. She came in bed with me, D went to the guestroom, and she woke in her unsettled fashion every hour until the wee hours. She and D went off to his weekly staff meeting and I gave myself permission to go back to sleep, even though my workday was due to start at 8 and it was already 7:45. I figured I'd sleep for an hour or so, then get up and do my work. I'm the only one on the magazine staff working today, so why not take advantage, right?

I woke up at 10, bleary-eyed, disoriented, starving and grumpy. Oh, and did I mention still congested and coughing? In the shower, I spent some time aiming hot water at this really irritating red, infected lump that appeared under my right arm the other night. I think it's just an ingrown hair follicle, but it is sore and gross, and its location, right on the edge of the armpit region, is slightly concerning. My one consolation: I had an appointment with my ob/gyn this afternoon for a pap, so I figured she could take a quick look at it and let me know whether it seemed odd to her.

So I muddled through the first 300 words of my story, frittering away time here and there, and then headed off to the ob. Wouldn't you know it, the bridge was up. So I sat there, watching the minutes tick by as an oil tanker headed out to sea, and my cell phone rang. The ob had to go deliver a baby, so can they reschedule me for two weeks from now? Of course they can... and there goes my sanity check on whether I should be worried about this arm thing.

After a quick trip to the grocery store for pie supplies, I am back at my desk. D is collapsed on the couch, Ess is napping and - damn - I've got to get pizza dough going in the breadmaker for dinner tonight. And somewhere in there I need to finish this fireplacing story; otherwise, it will be one more weekend involving work for me, and that's something I'd really like to avoid. But my immune system is apparently shot, my brain is working half-strength at best and I am totally unmotivated. Fun times.

I promise, I will be thankful tomorrow. Today, though, I am all about teh whine.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Cue the chorus of heavenly angels

Well, someone's advice must have worked, because Ess was only up twice last night. Meaning I got five hours of sleep in a row. Hallelujah.

So I'm back at work today, with a slight fever and a very raspy voice, but upright and functional nonetheless. I'm fairly worn out here at the end of the day, and not much looking forward to doing the last few hours until bedtime by myself, but I think we will survive.

One thing, however, is guaranteed: We are getting takeout from the Thai place up the street tonight.

Monday, November 20, 2006

A conundrum

I don't know what to do about this sleep situation with Ess. She's been sleeping in her crib, in her bedroom, for the last three months, and I've been getting up in the night to nurse her in the glider in her room, which is right next to ours. That has been manageable when she's up one to three times a night, but it's no longer feasible when she's waking five or six times (not to mention when I have a fever).

These days, she's still starting the night in her crib, then coming into our bed whenever I can't stand to get up anymore. Last night, that was at midnight. So for the rest of the night I didn't have to get out of bed to nurse her... nor did I get very much sleep. Because for all the nice things kellymom and other breastfeeding sites say about co-sleeping, it just does not work very well for us. D and I are both cramped and uncomfortable (particularly when Ess wedges herself into my armpit), and it takes me forever to go back to sleep once she's nursed. And that's another thing; while I am getting better at nursing on my side, it's never been particularly comfortable, in part because there's just not enough room in our queen-sized bed for me, Ess, D and a pillow under my back. As much as I'd like to invest in a king-sized bed, it's not feasible financially -- nor could we get it up the steep, narrow stairs in our house. And, lastly, I think co-sleeping doesn't work well for us because it encourages Ess to wake and nurse more often than she would if she were sleeping alone.

Lastly (for real this time), I really treasure the room in my bed, the child-free space, the ability to read before I fall asleep and to talk to D late at night. I don't want to give that up again.

So I am at a loss about what to do. The answer may be to do nothing, since presumably I will start feeling better in a few days and eventually Ess will return to her normal sleep habits (she says hopefully). In the meantime, though, I'm curious if you guys have any ideas.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


That explains why a simple head cold is making me feel so lousy. Kate, I think we really do have the same thing.

No sleep for the weary

Holy crap, am I exhausted. I have no idea what's going on with Ess' sleep habits, but they have totally gone to hell in the last couple days. As she was recuperating from her cold, she went back to what's been the latest schedule: up 3x in the night. But Friday night and last night, she was up every couple hours. So she is nursing every 2-3 hours around the clock. I feel like I can't catch up; even with a nap during the day, I am getting seriously sleep-deprived. My cold just keeps getting worse and I feel frickin' horrendous.

Last night, when it was midnight and she was already up for the second time, I brought her into bed with us. D went to the guest room when she woke up at 3:30 (after three hours of sleep in a row - these days, that's something to shout about), and Ess and I muddled through the rest of the night on our own. Several times she sort of half woke up -- eyes closed, but crying and tossing and turning. Wouldn't take the pacifier, but would consent to being nursed back to sleep.

And then Jelly started barking. And barking. And barking. I kept waiting for D to get up and take care of her -- he's a very light sleeper and was just a few rooms away from her. But that didn't happen. Ess woke up from the barking, and I managed to get her back to sleep. And then Jelly barked some more. Eventually Ess woke up for good, and the two of us came downstairs to release Jelly from her kitchen prison.

I wish I knew what was up with the constant nursing. She doesn't seem to be teething, and she's been able to spend a fair amount of time with me during the day. The only thing I can think of is that my supply is low due to my cold; I didn't get very much when I pumped last night, so perhaps that's the problem. So I'm drinking Mother's Milk tea and eating oats (ooh, maybe I'll make oatmeal raisin cookies this afternoon...) in hopes of bringing it back up. But the other possibility is that this is developmental; she's close to the 26-week leap described in the Wonder Weeks, and sleep disruptions are one of the many fun and enjoyable signs that the leap is imminent.

In any case, D and his dad are going to the movies this afternoon, and we decided that he should take Ess along; his mom will babysit so I can get my freelance assignment done. They'll be gone for four or five hours, so I'm hoping that I can finish my work relatively quickly and spend the rest of my alone time sound asleep.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Teh Internets sure are quiet today

And that's a bummer, because I have caught Ess' cold and am moping around feeling crummy. On top of which there is a shortage of reading material 'round here... especially if you pretend not to notice those New Yorkers stacked up next to the couch.

D and I had a long talk/discussion/argument this morning on topics I should really write about -- ye olde gender roles, division of labor, time for fun, alone time, money, etc. (boy, now that I look at the list I think we took every discussion we ever had and rolled it into one omnibus version, complete with a prologue of "make the baby nervous because she hears the tension in your voices"). But I am totally lacking in energy and will have to write about it anon.

And I think this counts as my lamest NaBloPoMo post yet.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Rub a dub dub

Last night when I got home from my marathon day at the office, I scarfed down some dinner and put Ess to bed. And then I took a bath.

Perhaps this does not sound unusual. People take baths all the time; my mother, for example, swears by the restorative value of a nice long soak. But they've never done much for me. Perhaps that's because I've never before been tired enough to really appreciate the nice hot water, the bubbles and the time alone. I usually get antsy in a bath, wondering what the heck I am supposed to be doing while I'm laying there. Baths just didn't seem very productive.

Last night, though, the bath was heavenly. I soaked for a while, surrounded by some fancy bath products F and S got me for the birthday before last, and finally finished the New Yorker from about three weeks ago (the one with the incredible, depressing Lorrie Moore story that Becca wrote about, which prompted me to ponder drowning myself in that scented six inches of water if only to avoid the misery of a divorce like the one it depicted). I only got out when it was time for Grey's Anatomy (which, are they ever going to stop with the heartstring-tugging subplots about injuried babies and/or little kids?).

In short, I am a convert to the glory of the bath. And I think motherhood is what did it to me. That, and the onset of the cold I seem to have caught from Ess. (She is doing much better but still has a low-grade fever, so D is taking her to the doctor for a once-over this afternoon.)

Damn it, I did it again. I have been trying to make my posts short and focused, so that they are about just one thing, like a proper blogger would do. Instead they careen all over the place and I end up telling you what I had for lunch (PB&J) and how I feel right now (tired and bitchy) instead of just focusing on the bath. Grr.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A meme of sleep deprivation

As seen at Rev Dr Mom's and APL's, the one-word meme.

1. Yourself: exhausted
2. Your boyfriend/girlfriend: married
3. Your hair: curly
4. Your mother: compassionate
5. Your father: unique
6. Your favorite item: painting
7. Your dream last night: sleeping
8. Your favorite drink: beer
9. Your dream car: hovercraft
10. The room you are in: small
11. Your ex: forgotten
12. Your fear: obscurity
13. What you want to be in 10 years: happy
14. Who you hung out with last night: Ess
15. What you're not: well-rested
16. Muffins: blueberry
17: One of your wish list items: housekeeper
18: Time: 3:45
19. The last thing you did: interview
20. What you are wearing: breastpump
21. Your favorite weather: sunny
22. Your favorite book: life
23. The last thing you ate: ziti
24. Your life: full
25. Your mood: harried
26. Your best friend (s): wise
27. What are you thinking about right now: work
28. Your car: prius
29. What are you doing at the moment: multitasking
30. Your summer: dreamlike
31. Your relationship status: lovely
32. What is on your tv: nothing
33. What is the weather like: foggy
34. When is the last time you laughed: today

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Call in the lactivists

Have you heard this story yet? A breast-feeding mom was kicked off an airplane for refusing to "cover up" with a blanket offered her by the flight attendant. Astonishing. Given Vermont's NIP law, seems like the airline's going to be in hot water. Serves 'em right.


Sick kid update: Ess is still feverish, though she's doing a bit better today. Last night was miserable; I'm working now and don't have time to go through the blow-by-blow (lucky you!), but see my comment at Wednesday Whining if you're curious about the details. Suffice it to say I will not be declaring her cured at 5 pm again anytime, since I now know that fever peaks at night. Oops.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A wonderful sound

Ess' squealing laugh from the other room, where her beloved daddy, now returned from work, is making faces at her.

She's still got a slight fever and a pathetic little cough, but she is much improved. Though she still refuses to be put down, at least she is content with D, and not just me. And I'm grateful he was able to get out of work early and join the sick parade.

And due to her three-hour nap this afternoon(!) I was able to snooze for an hour myself and watch all of Ordinary People, which I'd never seen before. (Good flick, to which American Beauty, The Ice Storm and especially Good Will Hunting owe a sizable debt -- the Robin Williams character in the latter basically is Judd Hirsch from Ordinary People.) I find it curious that having a sick baby allowed me to give myself permission to laze around the house and watch a movie, rather than bustling about doing various things. Not that I want her to be sick more often, but it was a pretty decent way to spend a day.

Now, if she will only sleep tonight...

Recipe for a long day

Wake up at 5:15 to sounds of baby awake in crib.

Nurse baby for 40 minutes in vain attempt to get her back to sleep.

Give up, turn the lights on and realize that baby is not just warm due to cozy pjs.

Discover underarm temp of 99.6, and realize that she's been coughing on and off for the last 24 hours.

Cancel lunch date.

Call doctor.

Listen to baby scream every time husband tries to put her down to get ready for a nap.

Watch the clock approach 10 am, when husband is to leave for the day.

Yawn, and then yawn some more.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Manic Monday

I don't know what's going on today. I am certainly not any more well rested than usual, thanks to Ess' wakings at 1, 3:30 and 5:30. But I've got a lot of energy, and have gotten a lot done so far today. To wit:
  • Emptied dishwasher
  • Washed pots and pans from last night's dinner
  • Put away Ess' clothes and mine from the giant laundry pile D did last night
  • Finished the sweater dagwood won in the raffle for Annika
  • And put it in a box
  • And taped it up
  • And took it to the post office(!)
  • Washed the bathroom mirror
  • Found (in the little container where I keep my earrings, of all places) the "missing" silver earring from my favorite pair
  • Packed the diaper bag
  • Ordered a refill of Jelly's eye meds
  • Bought coffee at the indie coffee store, just hours after finishing the last bag (a giant accomplishment, considering that it usually takes me days to get there...)
  • Checked in with work
  • Did a couple super-secret things related to upcoming holidays/festivities
  • Spent an hour at the moms' group without causing bodily harm to the woman, with a son one day younger than Ess, who every fireplacing week coos, "Don't worry, Ess, you'll catch up to P someday soon"
When I started this list a few hours ago, I was planning to continue my accomplishments with a full-on assault on the dirty bathroom. And perhaps find a workable solution for the Iraq situation, end poverty in America and vacuum Ess' room in the interim. But instead I want a nap.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The perils of the momtini

I've been meaning to write about the New York Times' latest motherhood trend story, but was delayed a few days by falling-down drunkenness insane sleep deprivation. In case you haven't heard, Cosmopolitan Moms looks at the apparently new trend of a bunch of women having a glass of wine together while their kids play nearby. And I can not for the life of me figure out why this merits mention in the newspaper. (For example, it totally fails the "Hey Martha" test, in which a story is so interesting, unusual or surprising that it causes Joe Reader to call to his companion and say, "Hey Martha, you gotta read this.")

Yes, the Thursday Styles section tends to include even more ridiculous upper-middle-class trends than does the Sunday section. But what baffles me here is how absolutely pedestrian this story is, and how far from new I imagine it to be. Maybe I'm in denial or haven't read the right parenting books, but I can not imagine what is so shocking about a group of friends having a drink while their kids play. What am I missing here?

Yes, the story includes stories of serious drinkers -- women with alcohol problems who drank because of isolation and boredom (sounds just like The Women's Room, doesn't it?), and another who drank so much during an afternoon playgroup that she passed out with the babysitter and her seven-year-old locked outside the house. But beyond those with alcohol problems, what is the harm in this situation? Is it the simple idea that there might be more to a woman's life than her kids?

As I re-read the story, it seems that the judgment comes in the fact that this drinking is taking place in the afternoon, ie, not at proper cocktail hour. At least I think that's what the problem is. Because as Melissa Summers, the blogger who's mentioned in the piece, notes, there are all kinds of environments in which parents are having a drink while their kids gambol about (umm, has anyone heard of restaurants?).

More importantly, though, there is an awfully big difference between having a drink with friends and getting shitfaced. And I'm not sure that's a distinction this reporter made clear enough.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this one...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The holy grail...

... has once again become more than two or three hours of sleep in a row. Last night was truly miserable. Ess was wide awake and un-frickin-happy from 11 pm to 1 am. Every time I got her back to sleep, I'd wait 10 or 15 more minutes and put her in her crib, whereupon her eyes would open, she'd toss and turn and whimper, then cry. Eventually she ended up in bed with us, where she nursed and tossed and whined and, every once in a while, slept. I got very little sleep; D got marginally more. We had a nasty little argument in the dark that was just a product of stress and exhaustion. It's all fine this morning, but we are both dragging.

I don't know what's going on with Ess. She's rubbing her eyes a lot (day and night), but we think that's just tiredness since she naps so briefly and then has slept so poorly the last several nights. She's too old for the 4-month sleep regression and not old enough for the 8-month regression.

I know that the solution is likely to just wait until she grows out of it. But I gotta say, with multiple freelance assignments hanging over my head and the desire to, like, have fun every now and then, this particular period is just killing me.

But. I have two of my three freelance thingies done for the weekend, and the third is a mere 400 words. I have promised myself to be done with it by 1 pm, which means I'd better take advantage of D and Ess' absence and get to it. And then D will go to the gym, and one of us will go grocery shopping. And, I hope, somewhere in there will be time for a nap.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Six months old

Dear Ess,

We can't believe it, but you have been here with us for a half a year now. Astonishing.

As usual, you've spent this month busy growing. In the last week or so, you seem to have started teething -- you're drooling a lot, and chomping on our fingers whenever you get the chance. Unfortunately, you've also gone back to your old sleeping patterns at night, in which you're up three to five times over the course of twelve hours or so. We're hoping this is temporary. It certainly helps, though, that you are so gleeful when we come to pick you up in the morning and at the end of your (still very brief) naps. The glee on your face on those occasions, we believe, is only eclipsed by the joyful laughs you've recently prompted by looking at yourself in the mirror.

The past month has been marked by big trips for all of us: yours to New Jersey to see your grandparents and great-grandparents, and ours to the Gritty City theater while you were babysat by your paternal grandparents. You got to be adored, entertained, and loved during every waking moment of your trip. (We got to see the most disappointing movie in recent memory on our little getaway.) It was on your NJ trip that you started to come out of your shell a bit; now you are coyly smiling and showing off your personality to people in virtually all social situations.

You are becoming more fascinated by the world around you, especially when it comes to books, Thursday trips with Dad to the bakery, traveling in the hip-carry with Mom, and watching a certain black-and-white dog blowing off steam. All the while we become more in love with and more fascinated by you.

We love you, sweet baboo.

Dad and Mom

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Tangled up in blue

You know it’s a bad day when listening to Blood on the Tracks – the best breakup album of all time, IMHO – cheers you up. Not that I’m pondering any sort of breakup. More like a meltdown, which I had at 11:30 last night as Ess began what was to be a long night of fitful sleep. I sat there, rocking her and crying in a fit of self-pity about my lot in life.

Things are somewhat brighter in the daylight, and with a few (a very few) more hours of sleep, but I am still overrun. I am feeling the weight of an awful lot of responsibility around our house, and it doesn’t take much – like, say, a teething, wakeful little girl – for that weight to become oppressive, as it did last night.

I don’t want to complain about D; he is a wonderful father, a great partner, a fantastic companion. But our careers have worked out such that I am the one with the opportunity to make more money here and there via freelancing; he gets the occasional offer to be on call for the social service agency he works for, but that’s $100 a few times a year. And so when it comes to extra money for things like last month’s car repairs, or the deposit for daycare, or the annual car insurance payment, I am the one who feels the urgency to take on extra freelance assignments in order to cover the bills. (We have the cash in savings to pay for these things, but our savings are nowhere near the three months’ worth of expenses I’d very much like to have on hand, so I try to replenish the account as quickly as I can. And that seems even more urgent with Ess around.) He works hard, but he is salaried, and so his paycheck is his paycheck.

I’ve got a couple assignments in the works right now, plus another one that I’ll probably accept today. If we had more cash, I’d turn the new one down in favor of some weekend time to myself. Instead, I’ll accept it, and then spend the next couple weekends negotiating with D for time to work. I really don’t want to resent the fact that we made time for him to go to the gym last weekend, but there it is: I do. Especially when the time we made for me was for work. My sole moment of freedom? A trip to the grocery store.

And then there is Ess. Besides the obvious fact that I’m the only one who can nurse her, there are times when I’m better at soothing her without nursing. The episode that led to my tears last night was one of those. I’d nursed her to sleep about a half hour before; when she woke, D went in to calm her. He patted her tummy, gave her the pacifier… nothing worked. So instead of picking her up and rocking her, he called to me over the monitor. As soon as she was in my arms, she quieted. So I sat and rocked her back to sleep and felt sorry for myself. His rationale for not picking her up? The previous night when he’d done that, she’d gotten more upset rather than less. I hate, hate, HATE being the “expert” on Ess – it’s a role I fall into far too easily – but felt compelled to point out that the previous night she was hungry, which is why being picked up by someone other than me didn’t work. Argh.

On top of that, I am in charge of the bill-paying in our house. Which has the effect of making me also in charge of the worrying about money – another role that comes to me far too naturally. We’ve talked and talked about ways in which D can be more involved, but it always ends up that I have to broach the subject first. Case in point: Our stupid dead crabapple tree, which we’ve wanted to remove for a couple years now. Our neighbors were having some tree work done earlier this week, so I called D to see if I should ask them about our tree. He said yes. We talk about a financial threshold of a couple hundred dollars. Tree guy says it’ll run us $250. I say fine.

Last night, it occurs to me that we have no need to spend this money right now – there are those bills, and the approach of Festivus, and the impending daycare bill… But why does it have to be up to me to think of this? Why couldn’t D have suggested we wait when I called to ask him about it? (Answer: because he was in the middle of work and didn’t really think about it, just agreed to whatever I was saying.)

So when I’m already wallowing, this feels like just one more thing I have to take care of. I am tired and resentful. I want a nap. I wish I could stop my brain from whirring with all the bills and the obligations and the this and the that. I wish social workers were paid a lot more money so this wasn’t an issue. And, sometimes, I wish that little tiny girls could get nursed by their daddies.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


At 7 pm on a Wednesday night after a nine-hour workday,

While pumping the breast that has a painful plugged duct,

I am working on a freelance assignment.

The phrase I type into the search engine?

"Work-life balance."

My comeuppance

In talking to various people about our attempts to get Ess' naps straightened out, I've said on more than one occasion, "Hey, at least she sleeps well at night, so I really have nothing to complain about."

So it will come as no surprise to you that the wee girl was up, count 'em, four times last night. And instead of nursing and dropping off like she usually does, she was restless and jumpy. I don't think she was too hot, though it's a possibility. Instead, I'm putting my money on teething. The spitup has really decreased in the last couple days (which I know has nothing to do with teething), but in its place we have seen a prodigious amount of drool. And a lot of chomping on whatever comes near her mouth. This morning when I got out of the shower, D was standing in the dining room holding her, while she chewed on his index finger with a blissful look on her face. So much for sleep, glorious sleep.

And just in case you were looking for narrative closure on the last post, yes, the incumbent won. And the neanderthal came in second. But together the third-party candidates drew more votes than anyone but the incumbent, which I'm hoping sends a message about our increasing intolerance of the two-party ridiculousness. And, yes, I am too tired to think of a better way to phrase that.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Nader effect

Please, longtime readers, do not be shocked by the appearance of politics on my blog. Though I generally avoid the subject due to my profession, I am a citizen, too, so I have a couple thoughts (which will be vaguely worded so as to avoid easy Googling) on today's activities.

Today we elect a governor in my fair state. The incumbent is widely unpopular. His major-party challenger is fairly far to the right. And of the three third-party candidates, two are actually quite credible. So D and I found ourselves having the Nader conversation last night. Though the incumbent is expected to win, the third party candidates have been surging, raising the question that their supporters will siphon votes from the incumbent, leading to a victory by the neanderthal.

So, what to do? Neither of us fancied voting for the incumbent. Nor did we enjoy pondering the possibility of the neanderthal running the state for four years. But I am tired of voting to be safe, voting out of fear of the scary Other guys. I wanted to vote for the person I think would do the best job -- a radical concept, I know. So I spent last night poring over the third-party candidates' websites, and we made our decisions. If our votes for one of these women means that the incumbent loses and the neanderthal wins, so be it. Our legislature is solidly in the incumbent's party, and we can survive four years. But I'll be damned if I'm going to let the major parties continue their fear-based monopoly on our democracy.

And, with that, we return to nap and nursing blogging.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Solving the daycare dilemma (we hope)

In January, as I believe I've mentioned on, oh, eight or ten occasions, our situation here changes. D goes back to work full-time and Ess goes into daycare. We'd also been thinking that I would add a day at the magazine. So we started looking for daycare in earnest, thinking that we'd need three days a week.

Turns out there is a new daycare on the next street over that came highly recommended by a friend who is also a doula. We visited last week and loved it. The owner bought this house, right next door to the local elementary school, with the sole intention of creating a small daycare facility in it. It's clean, bright and cheerful; there's a quiet sleeping room, and an arts and crafts room, and a room for dress up and another for working on fine motor skills (the provider lives elsewhere). She feeds the kids whole foods at mealtime and, rather than a curriculum, which I think is a little silly for wee ones, she has a general rhythm to the day that changes depending on what the kiddos are into.

So a few days after our visit, we let her know that we would like to take Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. And she told us that the morning after we visited, someone who'd visited the week before had put down a deposit, and that she now only had Wednesdays and Fridays available. Given that I'd known about this place for a month and hadn't called, I was beating myself up rather ferociously about missing our chance.

So we called another daycare, this one recommended by someone D knows professionally. (Argh, Ess is waking up after a stellar 20-minute nap. What am I going to do with her??) We visited this morning, and it was Not Good. It was smelly. And when we arrived, the woman who runs it, along with her husband, was by herself in a small house with eight children under the age of four. And when one of the little boys dropped his bottle on the floor, she cleaned the nipple with a wet wipe (hello, chemicals...). It was clear pretty quickly that this is not some place we would be comfortable sending Ess. Panic city.

In the interim, I'd checked with my boss about the status of my request to add another day, something he'd been the one to propose originally. I thought it was a done deal, just a matter of getting the bean counters to sign off on it. Turns out, though, that like bean counters a lot of places these days, our bean counters aren't feeling particularly generous. While a final decision has yet to be made, it's looking increasingly unlikely that I will be able to add that day. Which means I need to keep freelancing on my days "off." And that we may only need daycare for Ess on Wednesdays and Fridays -- the very days the place in our neighborhood has available.

So we're taking a gamble and putting down a $200 deposit at the neighborhood daycare. If my extra hours come through, we'll worry about Tuesdays then. At least we know that for two days a week, she will be well cared for, and nearby at that (meaning, among other things, I will be able to run over and nurse her at least once a day, and possibly more often than that).

I have no idea if we are making the right decision, but this course of action seems like the best one at the moment. And that's the best we can do right now. And since the grumbling has escalated to whining, I suspect wailing may not be far behind, so I'd better hit publish while I can.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


D is wrangling Ess, and it's time for me to start the second freelance assignment of the weekend. It's a clip job, meaning there's no reporting involved, just repurposing of generally available content (the beauty of personal finance writing), and it's just 575 words, so it should be easy. But I am dragging this morning.

Ess nursed like a fiend yesterday -- not any more often than usual, but for quite a bit more time at each session. She's usually a one-side-per-session girl, but yesterday she wanted both sides almost every time. And then she was up twice in the night, the first time for about 40 minutes instead of the usual 10 or 15. (It was worth it, though, to see her so constantly engaged and smiley at my sister's house for dinner last night; it was so much fun to watch her shriek at Crazy Lucy the giant pooch and smile at everyone throughout dinner, at what is usually a particularly cranky time.)

We've been trying to figure out how to get her to consolidate her naps; she's still taking four or five naps of anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes each day. I'd love it if she eventually moved to two or three longer naps. So we're experimenting with letting her cry a little in the bassinet when she's awake after a brief snooze; if she's just grumbling, we leave her there, but if she starts to wail we fetch her.* So this morning, while D was at the gym, I put her down asleep at about 8:30. Went upstairs to get clothes for the day, and by the time I came back down I could hear her babbling away. It had been a grand total of eight minutes -- extreme even for our little no-napper -- so I went ahead and got in the shower.

When I got out, she was grumbling; she continued to whine and whimper for a while. When she got herself worked up enough to cough, I went and got her. It'd been 45 minutes since I put her down, and at most she got a few minutes of sleep. So I nursed her, on both sides, for a loooong time. She eventually fell asleep nursing, and after a few minutes I tried moving her to the bassinet.

No dice. As soon as I got up, her eyes popped open, and she gave me her typical post-nap grin. In a fit of denial, I set her down in the bassinet and wrapped her blanket around her. She wiggled and grinned, and so I got her up. She's now had approximately 10 minutes of sleep in the last 3.5 hours. So between the nursing, the nap strike and the fact that I am feeling overworked in general, motivation to work is hard to find. Except that the annual car insurance bill came a few days ago, and so this check will be nice to have. Google, here I come.


*I'm pretty sure I don't have to say this, but just in case any trolls are lurking here, please know that I will delete any nasty comments about our decision to try this approach.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Getting and spending

Since I got the first of this weekend's two freelance assignments done a few hours earlier than expected, Ess and I headed over to Bullseye and the Evil Baby Superstore. We've been buying diapers at EBS, since we've still got gifts cards that we've been hoarding, and I wanted to check out buntings for the car seat and stroller, plus we needed breast milk storage bags and... something else... Oh yeah, single-serving formula to have in the diaper bag and the house in case of emergency (ie Ess is starving and I'm not in the vicinity, nor is any thawed milk).

So with Ess in the sling (so cozy!) we trundled around and did our shopping. I was astonished at the cost of the bunting -- $35 -- and brought it home with misgivings. Jo(e) has written on numerous occasions about how little you really need to take care of a baby, and that thought was ringing in my head as we quickly strolled the aisles of EBS' palace of consumerism. Thanks to the comments at Ask Moxie in response to my question about keeping Ess warm this winter, I've also been pondering buying some Babylegs. But the fact that the only place they're sold in Maine is at precious little boutique downtown gave me pause; clearly they're just yuppie folderol. (No offense to any Babylegs fans out there...)

So after some thought, I realized that the solution for keeping her warm this winter is simple (and exactly what Moxie recommended): a snowsuit for walks, and a sweater and a blanket on top of the carseat for car rides. And if we need to go for a walk before we get a snowsuit -- which I'm determined to get used, either on eBay or at a local thrift store -- we can just put a pair of our own socks on over her legs, to protect her little calves from the wind whistling up her pant legs. It won't be color-coordinated, but who cares.

The key phrase in that last paragraph is the first one: "after some thought." In our country, the easiest solution to pretty much any problem is to buy something. I feel as though it takes more work to not buy something, or to spend less. So often I get wrapped up in some problem, obsessed with it, and so I dash out and buy something, when it turns out that the best way to proceed would have been to wait and see if I really needed it, to look around the house and see what we have here that could work, to think a bit.

Two recent examples: One of the many things piled on the blue recliner in our home office waiting to be put away is the beach cabana I raced out to buy (well, I raced online to buy) this summer. I was convinced that I could not take Ess to the beach if I didn't have an enclosed shelter in which I could nurse her and she could take naps. We used it once, and the strap unraveled. The seller immediately replaced it, and it hasn't been used since. I didn't anticipate how problematic it would be to take a tiny infant to the beach -- such that I never did it again all summer -- nor did I realize how quickly I'd get comfortable nursing in public. Sure, we will probably use this thing next summer, since we've got it, but, really, a beach umbrella would have served the same purpose, and at about half the cost.

My other obsessive purchase -- it's not an impulse buy, because I convince myself I need these things, then spend days angst-ridden until I can get my grubby little hands on them -- was a pair of jeans I bought in July. I had no jeans that fit and got all worked up about what I was going to wear in the fall. But rather than wait for fall, I went to the mall. I found a pair of jeans that fit and were flattering, and spent $50 on them (more than I have spent on a pair of jeans in my life). Then, of course, August came, and it was hot. The jeans sat in my drawer. Now that it's denim weather, I wear them now and again; they're nice enough to wear to work, which was my intention. Problem is, the damn things are now too big, and in fact my old jeans are fitting again. But in July I decided that I had to have new pants right then and there, and so I plunked down my cash and that was that.

Of course, neither of these purchases was actually about the item I bought. The beach cabana was a product of my angst about taking care of Ess and doing everything right -- making sure my new baby could stay out of the sun. It was about being a good mother. And the jeans purchase was a product of my angst about my postpartum body -- would I ever fit in my old clothes? Could I still be attractive?

But rather than think about the underlying issues -- and, really, it's in writing this that I'm realizing what was going on in both instances -- I decided to buy something to soothe my fears. And that is a habit our culture all too eagerly supports. So the bunting is going back, and we're going to take care of Ess this winter the old-fashioned way: by keeping her warm with inexpensive, practical methods, and lots of cuddling.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The yellow snowflake

I love my Prius in many ways, not least of which because when the gas light came on last night 40 miles from home, I knew I could just ignore it and get gas today. (At least I hoped I could, since there was an overtired little girl, and her worn-out father, waiting at home for me to put her to bed. And I was right.) But the car has some nanny-like features that really irritate me.

Chief among them: the dreaded yellow snowflake, which appeared last night on my drive home (as did frost on the windshield, but that's another gripe entirely). On the dash, it appears as a road, depicted by two lines that converge in the distance, with a snowflake superimposed on it. When it appeared last fall, illuminated in Warning Yellow, I panicked. What the heck could be wrong with my new car?

So I consulted the owners manual, which informed me that the yellow snowflake signifies that it is below 37 degrees. I hunted around some more, trying to discover what's so important about the thermometer dropping below 37 -- a temp that for much of the year would be considered quite balmy in these parts. Would the hybrid engine be affected? Would I have to change my driving habits? Or, more likely, did I need some kind of pricey seasonal tuneup?

Nope. Toyota just wants me to be aware that it's cold out. And, I guess, that in a few more degrees, it might possibly -- gasp! -- snow.

So if you weren't aware that winter is coming, there's your official confirmation. My car says so. (It added that you might want to think about wearing a hat.)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

7 reasons I should not have signed up for NaBloPoMo

1. I have not one, not two, but three freelance assignments due between now and Nov. 14.

2. On top of that, I am working an extra day at my actual job next week.

3. On top of that, I am the mother of a nearly six-month-old(!) girl who would like to, you know, see her mother every now and then for something other than a quick nursing.

4. I still have to finish the sweater I donated to the latest raffle for Annika. (Good thing for me that my pal dagwood won it... though it's unfortunate for her; had a stranger won, it would've been in the mail already, I suspect.)

5. Christmas is coming. Egads. And I am hoping to make a super-special gift for my family that I just realized I can't post about because my sister reads this. Drat. In any case, making this thing is going to take a fair amount of time and it will need to be done early-ish for various reasons.

6. D and I have been drifting apart a bit lately, and just had a long talk about how we need to spend more time together and talk more, especially about topics unrelated to (a) the operation of our household and (b) a certain ladybug (the same one who took an unprecedented two! hour! nap! today).

7. Like I need to spend more time at the computer.

But whatever. There is a very fine line between having so much to do that you become very efficient and having so much to do that your life spins entirely out of control and you end up whimpering on the couch with a pint of Ben & Jerry's. And this month I suspect I'm going to find out exactly where that line is.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Be here now

I have never been a very Zen person. I am all about the multi-tasking, the planning ahead, the worrying obsessively about whether in the grand holiday rotation I am going to host Thanksgiving or Christmas, and what will Ess wear, and what will she be doing then, will she be eating solid food and if so what does that mean for the menu and, boy I'd better go look up some recipes right now. And then in the middle of that remembering that I should be working on some freelance thing, and generally flitting around like a bumblebee with a very short attention span.

I'm realizing, though, that this is not a very effective way to parent. Nevermind the blisteringly obvious fact that it's not a good way to be in a relationship either. But D doesn't change at the pace Ess does... and it's Ess who is reminding me that I need to chill out, slow down and actually be with her every day, as often as I can, instead of sitting next to her reading about Brad Pitt's new movie while she plays in her gym and absentmindedly cooing, "Hi, baby! Are you kicking? Isn't that a nice crinkly dragonfly?"

I'm not saying that I need to spend every single minute focused on her; I don't think that would be healthy, either. But she's been around long enough that I'm starting to see how quickly she really does change, and how fast she's growing up. And I want to really experience those moments, to really see her and be with her as she is today, without worrying about whether she's growing out of those pants or if that might be a tooth coming in.

Phantom had a post a while back -- which Google is not helping me find -- that mentioned Everyday Blessings, a book on mindful parenting. I checked it out of the library and read most of it before returning it a week late. (See, I was so busy being present in the reading of it that I failed to notice the due date. Either that or I knew it was due but somehow could not make it to the library that is one mile from my house.) Anyway, the book is full of info on mindfulness, and using meditation and deep breathing as a daily practice to help you in times of stress. (I am horrifically oversimplifying here.)

So I've been trying to put that into practice every now and then. Since I have the attention span of a tse tse fly these days, it is HARD. And I'm not sure that growing up in a fast-talking New Jersey Italian family is exactly good preparation for meditation, nor that I really want to give up my ability to switch quickly from one track in my brain to the next. But I have to say that my moments of Zen -- few and far between though they may be -- are pretty cool. When Ess is crying and I can feel myself tightening up and getting frustrated with her, I am occasionally (very occasionally) able to breathe my way through it and talk myself down.

And so to bring this overly wordy post to a close, that is a little of what I'm trying to accomplish by participating in NaBloPoMo. To write a little every day, to capture a moment or two in our lives, to focus on today. As for the fact that I actually wrote this post last night in anticipation of a very busy day today? Well, you can't go from schizophrenic multitasking to sitting zazen in one easy step.