Thursday, December 31, 2009

Those Darn Neighbors!

Preface: I don't get out much.

Our neighbors are too nice. We figured this out when we moved in and they mulched our bushes for us. Then they pretended not to be angry when I woveled up their oregano plants. Now, ever since I slipped down the stairs and banged my elbows (still healing!)
they have been shoveling our walk and salting our stairs for us. Which is, of course, awesome. Unless you are crazy! Which I am!

I feel so driven to pay back their shovel deed. When it snows, I wait for the last flake to fall so I can spring outside and quickly shovel before they get there. I want them to wake up to shoveled steps! So this morning, I nursed Miles and waited for my moment. It stopped snowing.

I practically flung the baby at Corey, slammed on my snowpants, and ran outside, not even checking to see if the steps were icy. Before I could stick a shovel in the snow, I was thwarted by G, all dressed in his fancy work clothes, nearly finished with their walk. Gah! I think I actually yelled at him. He seemed confused, like he didn't know it was a contest?

Now I have to think of some other way to thank them. When I asked him to describe the contents of his lunch, he mentioned that he was out of bread. Maybe I'll bake them some bread, using herbs I'll steal from his garden...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Chicken Divan

My grandmother grew up right around the Depression and WW2 rationing and is, well, super old. I think she is 81 or 82. She doesn't quite get the concept of vegetarian and she sure doesn't like to talk about or seem aware of what happens in industrial farming operations. She seems to not be entirely aware that when a food contains meat, that makes it a meat dish. Or that chicken is a meat. I have talked about this before.

So at my family's Christmas party this year, we were supposed to be eating macaroni and cheese. It was wonderful. Nanny made a big pan of it. Mmmmm. But then there was some other old lady there who was somehow related (not sure) and she brought a pan of something called Chicken Divan. Or Divine? Anyway, nobody even mentioned the word vegetarian or talked about dietary preferences. But she kept walking around saying, "That is totally vegetarian except for the chicken!" I just chuckled into my napkin.

Then, when Nanny was dishing up leftovers to take home, she kept trying to get me to take the leftover chicken divan. I was trying to just tell her no thank you without getting into dietary choices. But she kept saying, "The only meat in there is chicken! It's practically vegetarian!"

I finally just said we didn't have room in the car to take it back with us. I wonder what my older sister would have done?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Judgey Judy

I took Miles to Whole Foods yesterday because we had eaten literally everything in the house. I'm talking we had even consumed those random little half bags of whole wheat pasta hiding in the back of the pantry. We were stocking up on non-perishables!

So we made it through most of the store and saw there was a sample lady in the cheese section. Excellent! I'm back on dairy anyway. I shot out my left paw for a cheese sample when this douchebag lady in stretch pants grabbed my arm and said, "You know that's RAW cheese, right?"

I said, "OK" and popped that cheese in my mouth.

She looked at Miles, dangling from the front of me in his polar bear costume (so cute!) and said, "Oh. (sniff) You must not be nursing."

First: nursing moms aren't supposed to eat cheese made from raw milk. Just like we aren't supposed to drink alcohol. But I can have a glass of wine now and again and by God! I can eat a cheese sample from the cheese lady in Whole Foods!

I became so enraged by this woman's audacity. I thought of all the many months I have just spent struggling with nursing, the many hundreds of ccs or whatever of Fenugreek I ingest daily. The hours I have spent watching this video (where the woman's yield is truly staggering and makes me feel competitive/inadequate). And this grocery store judgey woman wants to get all up in my face for indulging in some local cheese?

What if I weren't nursing? She doesn't know anything about us. Maybe I had some sort of breast disease. Maybe Miles was adopted. The way she emphasized NOT and NURSING implied that I was totally garbage to her. I was so agog I just stomped away and told Miles he wasn't allowed to be like her when he grew up.

People NEVER have any sort of filter when it comes to sharing their ideas about your baby. When I was super pregnant and walked around with my skirt tucked into my underpants it took many blocks on a crowded city street and many floors in a crowded building before anyone said something to me. But dangle a baby from your chest and eat some cheese and everyone has an opinion to share!

Sometimes I know I am a pretty judgemental person, but I like to think that I would never approach a stranger in a grocery store and judge her parenting choices.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Paranoia

We did not take Miles to see Santa this year. Because of Swine Flu. Yes, I know it's his first Christmas and you only get one first Christmas and my parents took me to see Santa for my first Christmas so Miles should have gone and cried on his lap like all the other babies. But there is so much Swine Flu! And he's fewer than six months old. Just the thought of him getting this terrible disease, or any disease, makes me shiver.

I went through so much with Miles just getting him to enjoy being outside the womb. I am feeling way too vulnerable (paranoid?) to take him out of the house, let alone stand with him in line and hand him to a germy old man.

So, with this fear in mind, I headed to the grocery store on Friday. Not for bread (which I bake now) or milk to weather the blizzard, but for moist towelettes, barbecue sauce and avocados. The point is that Miles and I were in Giant Eagle in a strip mall one week before Christmas on the day of a big snowfall. It was mobbed.

The crowds didn't bother me too much at first. I had Miles in the Ergo and was planning to speedily weave in and out of the lanes. I always think of my college rugby coach in such situations and practice evasive running. Only this time, I had a super cute baby wearing a polar bear fleece outfit. I'll tell you what--every single person in Giant Eagle tried to stiff arm me, tell me my baby was adorable, and then touch his face.

I was looking at the different choices in the condiments aisle when I felt a tap on my shoulder (GERMS!). "You have the cutest baby!"

"Well, thank you!" And I continued to look at the sauce, not realizing the stranger was not done yet. Oh, no! This woman wanted to touch my baby's face and coo at him. It's ok to coo at my baby. But touch his face? I did a little spin move to escape. Little did I know, this old lady was but one of a zillion incidents where I had to evade a would-be face touch.

This happened again and again and again. Every stranger in that joint was all up on his skin. I'm not trying to keep him in a plastic bubble, but can you not touch my too-young-for-a-vaccination baby with your swine flu fingers in the grocery store, strangers?

I know he is irresistibly cute. For heaven's sake, he just learned to blow raspberries and has been sticking out his tongue and smiling:

video

Can you imagine how cute he was doing that dressed like a polar bear, facing out in the Ergo carrier? It's intense.

But, no matter how cute, he is still a vulnerable little dude. I don't know why people think it's ok to touch strangers' babies. I would never reach my hand out and touch a stranger's baby! On the face! Each time someone tried to touch Miles, I saw the whole thing in slow motion: the withered, leprosy skin sagging from a ragged, boney finger. Festering disease and boogers under the fingernails. Lice, possibly Ebola incubating on the finger's surface. A mess, I tell you. I'm sure of it. And the Swine Flu!!!

By the time I left the store, I was dizzy from so many spins and twirls and sidesteps (plant, shift the weight, stiff arm out!) to get away from these touchy strangers. Now, ordinarily, I am a person who eats food off the floor. Once, in a shameful, hungry moment when I was working in the dining commons in my college dorm, I even ate an (apparently) untouched piece of sausage.

But this is a baby! In a polar bear outfit. Totally different story.

Call me paranoid, crazy mother, standoffish asshole, whatever. But I am hereby instituting a rule:
If you are a stranger to me, you are not allowed to touch Miles. At all.

Friday, December 18, 2009

SAHM

Stay At Home Mom. That's me now. I did not renew my teaching contract for the spring because, at the time we needed to do that, I was only getting about 90 minutes of sleep each day and my eyelashes fell out of my face. Not to mention I wasn't safely able to operate a vehicle. I thought, "teaching might not be the best activity for me in this state of health."

So that leaves me at home with Miles from now until at least September 2010. This makes me extremely uncomfortable. I'm a workaholic, you see. I have my freelance writing, but it's super hard to write and simultaneously take care of an infant. I've had to turn away work from many of my favorite clients. Some days I can get a sporadic hour of work done while he stares at his mobile, but that's only enough concentration for fluffy writing or perhaps some editing. As for writing actual sentences? Not happening so much. I want to know how writers manage to work from home while their kids are there. Seriously! How do they do it? Send me an email!

Anyway, the biggest blow to my identity is having to rely on Corey financially. Like, we are combining our bank accounts and he is the breadwinner. I still can't really believe it. Can Corey and I afford this situation? Sort of. I didn't really take maternity leave when I had Miles, and I had saved up a pretty nice cushion for that time period. Plus I'm due for a string of overdue freelancing checks that will give us a nice little cushion. We'll manage. It's not like we're going out boozing or hitting the movies at night time!

There's a part of me that is excited about this change because I'll get to spend a bunch of quality time with my baby who gets more delightful every day. It's not like I'll be spending my days marching up and down the stairs like I was this summer. Now we eat sweet potatoes and read books and blow raspberries at each other. So that's cool.

But the other half of me, the one with an MFA and several master's certificates, longs for a different kind of stimulation, maybe a nice conversation about pedagogy every now and again. It's a complicated place to be in. How can I rejoice in this gift of time spent raising my baby and still fulfill the competitive, intellectual slices of my identity?

Because I'll be staying at home, elbow-deep in laundry and diapers and Miles, I have decided it's extra important to have goals and to stick to them. Right now, I resolve to do the following for the first quarter of 2010:
1. Leave the house every single day at least once
2. Work out at least twice a week
3. Attend 4 "cultural" events (movies, lecture, ballet, etc.)
4. Read 2 books

Just looking at that list makes me feel overwhelmed, like maybe I added too many things. And that reaction right there, the armpit sweat and heart palpitations, tells me that somehow, the intellectual part of myself will be ok for the time being because the mom part of me is still in basic survival mode. There will be many decades of opportunities to work myself ragged. I have a rare, rare opportunity here to mother my own child. I'd better get started.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

And Boom Goes the Dynamite

My little sister is in town visiting. She watched Miles for me this week when I went to campus for meetings and paper grading. But before that, on Sunday, we planned to go to Dozen for brunch. We didn't look at the weather or the news, but opened the door and headed out for what we thought would be a lovely little breakfast. Only there had been a massive ice storm that literally shut down all major roads in the whole region.

The porch (and all major roadways) was a sheet of ice. I stepped onto this porch in my rainboots and slipped. Totally ass over elbows. Up into the air like a cartoon character. And then I just kept falling. It was like after I hit the ground, there was more and more ground to hit and I kept on going.

I slid down the porch steps on my back and took the brunt of the fall on my elbows. Then I just sat in a freezing puddle on the landing crying like Miles until the neighbors all came outside and Betsy (clad in little elfish suede boots) slipped and slid as she helped me inside. Thank God Corey had Miles inside and I didn't fall with him! How embarrassing. One of the neighbors thought to say, "Didn't you watch the news? They shut down the Parkway!" And lo, they had.

Anyway, it's a few days later and I have this massive bruise on my arm...and I love it! It makes me feel like I play rugby again! I keep showing it to everyone and poking it. I feel like it's a passport into my old self, who used to be all tough and get bruises. It's been way over a year, you know. Many, many months since I've had a bruise. Welcome back, bruisey skin! I missed you.

(This picture doesn't really do it justice...)

Monday, December 07, 2009

Call the locksmith

Corey and I have this inside joke where, whenever one of us (usually me) is overreacting, the other says, "Call the locksmith." This is because, and I can't remember where we were living at the time, I once lost my keys for like five minutes and was running around screaming, "We need to call a locksmith!!!!"

I jump to conclusions...

I also tend to lock myself out of my dwellings. A lot. In college, I was famous for running down to the Toftrees office in my undies and pjs, barefoot, in the winter time when I would lock myself out en route to the laundry room. I blame my parents for this habit, because I grew up in a house where the doors were never locked. I didn't learn to internalize the notion of, "Do I have my keys with me?"

Anyway, we used to have a hidden key outside our house, but brought it in when we got the driveway redone and never remembered to put it back. Plus, Corey always has his keys, so who ever thinks to check?

Friday night, we headed to our friends' house for dessert. MW was being a little angel and even FELL ASLEEP IN THE CAR on the way home. I'll say that again. My son fell asleep in the car! Look out! We were so happy, my husband and I, gazing at the lights, talking about life, licking pie off our lips, when I said, absentmindedly, "so where did you find your keys this morning?"

Because Corey had misplaced his keys that morning before work. Which wasn't a big deal, because I wasn't going to leave the house and lock him out during the day. Even if I did leave the house, I was unlikely to lock it. I'm famous for going to the grocery store and leaving the front door OPEN, literally hanging open, not to mention unlocked. I don't fear thieves because Frank is always keeping a vigil from his porch.

So anyway, Corey said, "I don't know that I ever did find my keys."

"Well, did you leave the front door unlocked?"

"No....Don't you have your keys?"

"Of course I don't have my keys! I didn't even bring my purse!" (I also never take my wallet or identification or anything of that nature with me...I know! I suck at this!)

So we pulled in the driveway and Corey went around to see whether fate smiled upon us. She had not, as all the windows and doors were sealed up tight. I sat in the back seat with my sleeping baby and phoned people who might potentially have keys to our house. They were all out, of course, because it was 745 on a Friday and we're the only ones who go to bed that early.

Corey eventually looked back at me, sucked in his spit, and said, "We might have to actually call the locksmith." I laughed. And laughed. And laughed some more. Then I googled "locksmith, Pittsburgh, PA" from my phone.

Corey left the car to knock on doors to see if any friends of the previous owners still had keys. After a half hour, we hit paydirt when the previous owner's mother (who lives a few blocks down the hill) agreed to drive up with a spare and a good nagging session about the importance of leaving a key with a neighbor. Thanks! Noted!

But the moral of this story is not that we drove straight to Home Depot to have copies made and delivered to our neighbors, nor did we re-hide the outside key. The moral is that we had this potentially emergent, stressful situation and I remained calm! If it weren't a locksmith situation, Corey would never have had the chance to even make a locksmith jokey reference. Because I was totally chill. And Miles kept on sleeping. Something about the previous four months spent ceaselessly nurturing an inconsolable screamsicle has given me perspective!

I knew that, worst case scenario, we'd call the proverbial locksmith, be down one inside joke and out $100. I have never had such vision, such composure. I found it refreshing. I feel like a whole new woman.

(Corey later found his keys in his pants and we took that old-owner's-mother's key and gave it to a trusted neighbor)

Friday, December 04, 2009

Cross This Road When You Come To It

Here is a piece of context: on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I am on campus all day. Meanwhile, my breastfed baby is at home slowly sucking down my hard-pumped nutrients. I have increasing difficulty pumping, mostly due to this and similar incidents with the dean. When I do finally get home, I generally burst in the front door, change my pants, and immediately nurse his starving face off. I can't dally after work. I have a baby to feed! I rush-walk with elbows out to get to the bus and I pinch my own fingers with anxiety if the bus sits in traffic. The journey home is the most stressful part of my whole darn day.

Here is another piece of context: At the writing center, I have been working with this blind student lately. He tends to schedule my last appointment of the day and then, since we are headed in the same direction, he asks me to help him walk to the bus shelter on 5th and Bigelow. At first this was a really interesting experience. I never helped a blind person walk before, so I liked having to talk about bumps and steps and inclines. But then, it takes MUCH longer than my race-walk with elbows out. Much, much longer. And I usually get the bus at 5th and Atwood, where there are typically still seats, instead of 5th and Bigelow, by which point the seats are all gone and the aisle is packed tight like my new back fat in my old shirts.

This means that if I help this student to the bus stop, I generally miss the EBO and have to catch the next one 7 minutes later AND I have to stand the whole way home. So my baby is crying, I'm standing, I'm freaking out, and I'm pressed against the mushy stomach of another bus rider who may or may not have Ebola/Swine Flu.

I, thus, had to tell this student I couldn't help him walk to the bus. And even with all of these factors considered, it took a lot of guilt and self-pep-talking to finally not offer my services to help this student!

Here is what happened after work the other day: I finished my shift, threw on my coat, and was race-walking down the hill. My elbows were really pumping, because I saw my bus approaching and I was about to miss the light to cross 5th Ave. There is nothing worse than being stuck across a 4-lane street and watching your bus rumble past as you wait for the light to change!

My stars aligned. The light stayed yellowish-green, the EBO rumbled onward, and I was going to be ok! Just as I crossed 5th Ave, a little, hunchy old lady patted my arm (elbow flying! Look out!) and said, "Ma'am, can I ask you a big favor?"

I paused. "What can I do for you?" I figured she'd ask me for change for the bus or something. I was even ready to give it to her, so excited was I to have made the light and see my bus approaching.

"Can you help me cross the street?"

THUNK! That was the sound of my heart hitting the pavement. Really???? I said, "Oh, dear. I just came from across the street...."

Then, before I could finish, this woman got irrationally furious with me. She started swearing and yelling and calling me names. Using profanity about young people these days! I got so fucking angry at her that I started yelling right back. "Look, I have to get home and feed my newborn baby! And my damn bus is coming!"

"Oh, sure. Yeah, yeah!" And she started sort of lumbering away. As I got on the EBO, I saw a nice couple helping her across the street. I spent my whole ride home wallowing in guilt. There I was, the woman who refused to help an old lady across the street.

But you know what? I'm glad I chose Miles over that damn lady. I walked in my front door on schedule and he was so happy to see me. We had a lovely nursing session and then he had a great night's sleep afterward. And for that, I refuse to feel badly.

So why can't I stop thinking about that lady?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hiatus again

I have caught my annual cold, it's holiday madness time, the semester is ending, and I am swimming above water. But just barely! Be back soon with renewed vigor.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Bubbly Baby

Miles has stopped screaming. It's pretty official, I think, since it's been more than three weeks since he's been a scream flavored popsicle, as my friend Kathy calls him. Instead, he talks and burbles and (when he gets upset) cries. There is such a pleasant difference between crying with tears and back-stiffening, blood-curdling, teeth-gnashing screaming. We'll take crying any day. Honest.

Not sure what the difference is. Perhaps weighing 12 pounds, perhaps just being 4 months old, but even with sleep troubles, he is a different kid. I want to run across the street and knock on Anna's door and tell her to ask me again if I'm having so much fun over here. Because now? Most of the time? We are!

I mean, look at this family enjoying a trip to the zoo. Who wouldn't want in on that action?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Gates

My friend Beth alerted me via Twitter that Jean Claude (of Christ and Jean Claude fame) has died. This made me feel very sad and sentimental because I was working right near Central Park when their famous art installation, "The Gates," was up.

I remember when I started seeing those orange pillars. I would get out of the subway every day, the C or E line at 8th Ave by the Natural History Museum, and walk along the road not looking ahead, but to my right and wondering what the hell was going on.

Even after someone explained to me that this was a very famous art installation that would make the whole world pay attention, I still didn't get it. Some days, during lunch, I walked around under the flappy fabric and tried to decide if it felt like art.

The orange fabric was not orange, but saffron, even though all the saffron I had ever used was bright yellow. People all around me kept whipping out little scissors and snipping off pieces of the fabric to keep as mementos, something so they could say one day "I was there! And look! I took part of this thing with me!" Corey was working as a bike messenger in Manhattan then, and he sometimes rode to meet me for a sandwich. We'd sit on a rock in the sun and look at the flappy gates. He could reach the fabric from the seat of his beater bike, could reach right on up and slap it as he rode beneath if he wanted to.

The more I read about JC and C's work, the more I looked at those fabulous aerial images of their vision made real, the more I started to think about my place in the world. And every day when I saw those gates, I was experiencing something. Some days, I thought about Aslan's gate from The Last Battle. Other days I just thought about how amazing it was to work right near Central Park, for a rugby magazine no less. Other times, I just thought that weird orange fabric looked really peaceful and nice flapping along in the breeze.

I think that might be what art is for, right? To help you experience something. To give you a moment of mindfulness in a crazy, hectic New York day.

I feel really sad for Christo. She lost her love and her other half and her muse even. I wonder what she will do with her grief, if it will consume her so much she'll wrap the world in black just to show that we are all sad with her.

UPDATE: As anonymous points out, I have foolishly mixed up the genders of Jean Claud and Christo. That was really irresponsible of me. I have no excuses. But I still feel sad that Christo lost a loved one and I still feel moved by my experience with The Gates!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bedtime Ritual

I think Corey and I are guilty of providing an inconsistent bedtime ritual for Miles. So I am renewing my dedication to making it so, in hopes of ever improving his sleeping habits. We had something like a routine going, but daylight savings effed everything up and then he went on another sleep strike and I became a zombie again...last night was a good night so I want to keep things that way! Here is the ideal evening gameplan:

1. Bath when appropriate (like the days when he excretes all over himself from all possible orifices)
2. Massage with the lovely apricot oil and his red light
3. PJs, bag, medicine
4. Read 2-3 books in his chair in his room
5. Hug quietly for a few minutes
6. Nurse to sleep

The big problem with this is timing. We would like his bed time to be 8pm, so this ritual would start at 730. Only, some days he does not nap AT ALL and is super exhausted and a big fat mess by 6pm. MAH-eessssssss. What do we do then? Start the ritual early? Force him into a massage and book readin' while he squirms all over the damn place?

Everyone keeps telling me babies need routines and I need to help him have a routine and make his days all identical, yada yada. There are never two consecutive days where Miles does the same anything. I can't even say bedtime is the same time each night, because everything depends on his daytime behavior.

We are hoping that a bedtime ritual can be the keystone in a consistent lifestyle for Miles. Maybe he just needs a good jumping off place.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Letter to the Absent Housekeeper

Dear Lady Who Did Not Show Up At My House or Call to Cancel:

Thanks for ruining my weekend! Since you asked that we bump your "arrival" until Friday, there is now 14 days' worth of filth and laundry at my house instead of just 12. All week, we knew you were "coming" on Friday, so we didn't let ourselves get concerned with the dishes or dirty clothes or gross bathtub. We used those spare moments to play with Miles or brush our teeth.

But then you didn't show up! So now, the time I was going to spend grocery shopping and grading papers is devoted to washing, folding, and putting away clothes. And ignoring huge dust bunnies on the stairs. And negotiating with Corey about who will scrub tomato sauce off the stove (And typing angry blog posts with one hand while I nurse a baby).

I say all this to point how much I value the job you were going to do at our house and how vitally important this paid service was going to be at this particular moment in our lives. I'm not even sure if we can squeeze in a trip to Costco now, what with all the crap we have to catch up on in between convincing Miles to sleep. In other words, you have let me down in a big, fat way.

All I can do is thank the heavens my rugby team has done something amazing for me. There will be two RELIABLE people here on Tuesday to help me out of this panicked snit. And I guess I can ignore dusty floors until then. Not sure about the barf-covered shirts and bras. I mean, I only have so many...

Sheesh! You can't even pay someone to help you out these days. Please don't contact me again, "housekeeper." You stink like cheese.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Baby Soothers

Over the course of my adventures with Miles, I have come across a number of women who also had screamy babies. I never knew such people were out there, screamy baby survivors. But they are. And when you find one, a real one, you feel the sort of bond that immediately makes you lifelong friends. It's like meeting a rugby player for the first time. You just know so much about this person that you can get right to checking each other's armpits for deodorant skids upon first meeting.

So in talking to these fellow survivors, I learned that the screaming babies tend to fall into categories. It's true.

I classify Miles as an "up and down" screamy baby. This means he needs to be moving up and down in order to not be screaming (although he screams much less now at week 17 of being alive than he did at week 3). At our house, we get our up and down action in on the stairs. We go up and down the bottom step again and again and again. At first we used the bouncy ball. Now only the stairs will do. Occaisionally, he will tolerate the back porch step. Mostly, it has to be the bottom step of our upstairs staircase.

Another mom with an up and down baby did lunges. Millions upon millions of lunges over and over again until she had thighs like Katherine Zeta Jones in Chicago. Beth from work had an up and down baby and they did the entire flight of stairs, up and down. So did the lady from yoga. One neighborhood mom walked up and down Vilsack Street until her kid was four months old. Luckily, he was born in spring and not, say, January.

Other moms had "around and around" babies who need to be circled around and around something. My friend does laps around the dining room table. Other people use the block, circling the neighborhood until the residents think they are stuck in a continuous mobius. I met an around and around baby who preferred the coffee table. I feel for that mom! The small circles! Oh, the vertigo!

Not to be judgy, but I don't feel the same empathy for people who had driving babies. Maybe it's because you can sit down while driving and it doesn't hurt your back? Not that there is anything fun about the gas money and carbon emissions, not to mention hours spent in a confined space with a screaming child. The ones whose babies needed the bus or subway are another story entirely. When public transportation is involved in pacifying a jetsetting baby, then others are witness to the humbling experience of a writhing little body and a grownup pleading, begging, praying for the screaming to stop. I am glad Miles is not a jetsetter, I think. At least the stairs are private.

What other kinds of screamy babies are out there? I am so curious to hear what soothed these little imps. Not because I am seeking advice, but gathering information about something that completely fascinates me even as it drains the hairs right out of my eyelids. What the heck is wrong with these babies that they scream for four months unless very specific conditions are met? And what, in fact, are the conditions others deal with in pacifying their screamy loved ones?

Do you have a screamy baby? What made this baby stop screaming? I am dying to know!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

By the Numbers

5: days this month Miles has been coo-ey and happy during the day
4: days so far this month that Miles has slept in 4 or 5 consecutive hour chunks!!!!
84,567,798: number of moments so far this month I have thought of something amazing related to being Miles' mother
0: days this month I spent sitting in the rocking chair, wishing my eyelashes weren't falling out, praying for sleep, begging my baby to stop screaming
2: number of times I pumped in the conference room today
6: total number ounces of milk I extracted from my bosom during those pumping sessions
0: number of times the DEAN caught me with my boobs out
3: number of dark chocolate bars I have eaten this week

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Got Milk?

This is a post in which I will describe my milking machine, so be forewarned!

I am a working, nursing mother. This means that each day I am at work, I have to retreat into some sort of cave and hook myself up to a pump. I call it my milking machine. When I was still pregnant and didn't think much about such things, Corey's cousin offered me her $300 breast pump since she was done having kids. "Sure," I said, noncommittally, "Whatever."

If you are not a working, nursing mother (or nursing mother in circumstances which necessitate pumping), you have no idea, none at all, what it means to invest in an electronic double breast pump. You just don't stop to think about the fact that once every three hours or so? You are going to have to milk yourself. Like a cow. It even makes little moo sounds, like WHEEEEE! hunh, WHEEEEE! hunh...WHEEE! hunh...

I feel darn lucky now that Ambika gave us this pump, because it's a good one. Very powerful and whatnot. Good suction.

So I have this milking machine, the plastic things that suck the milk from my boobs, a few bottles, a package of sanitary wipes to whisk the milk drips off the phlanges before I put it all back into my tote bag, a cooler, ice packs, a hand pump just in case, and spare nipple pads. I have to haul all this luggage with me each time I go to work. Then it takes like five minutes to rig it all up. There are plugs and tubes and lids and little white rubber things that always fly off into the bottle or get stuck in the crud catcher in the sink drain...what a mess. It's a whole process, I assure you.

Let's say I finally get myself situated in a chair, shirt bunched up, both tatas hooked into my milking machine. Let's say I am staring at a picture of Miles and trying to make milk come out of my body for this milking machine. I close my eyes, eat my sandwich, and imagine that I have a cuddly baby on my lap instead of the Ameada "Purely Yours" milking machine going WHEEEEE! hunh.

At long last, the milk starts to go into the bottles. Sometimes. Only if I've taken 9 fenugreek capsules each day, which makes my urine and sweat smell like maple syrup. The point is that it is damn difficult to offer forth milk to this machine. There's plenty of milk in my body! Wooo boy! It's in there! But it won't come out for me, generally--only for Miles in person.

Last week, I was in the conference room beneath the Writing Center, milking myself. Conditions were ideal. I was two squares away from finishing the Thursday NY Times crossword, an accomplishment in itself, and about 3.5 ounces into a good bottle for Miles. Yes!!! I thought, This is a good milking session.

All of a sudden, the door to the locked conference room burst open. The dean of undergraduate studies, who has the keycode apparently, came bustling into the room with a few undergrads. There I sat, on the floor, crossword puzzle on my thigh, milking machine all over the place, tubes and bottles and cups and plastic boob-suckers of various sizes at arm's length (depending how swollen my boobs are on a given day, I need different size milking accoutrements) when the DEAN of undergraduate studies was inches away from my milk-spewing nipples.

"Ohmygod I'm sorry," I said. Why was I sorry? I don't know. It came out. "I didn't know you were coming in here."

"Oh, that's ok," she said. "We're using the room for different things." She and the students kept on coming in, hanging some sort of poster. My nipples had, by this point, stopped offering milk. But the machine kept milking. WHEEE! hunh WHEEEE! hunh.

"What ARE you doing, anyway?" she asked as I sat there, mouth agape.

"I'm....pumping my breast milk."

"OH!"...

"OH! I had no idea you did that in here."

pause. awkward, awkward pause.

"Sometimes I do," I stammered.

"Hmmmm. Well just let us know when you're done." And she and the students backed out of the room.

Needless to say, there was no more milk aflowing that afternoon. Oh no. I started the long and arduous process of bottling up and cooling my milk, disconnecting my hoses, sanitizing my utter-pumps, packing up. Breastmilk was dripping everywhere, all over my pants, and I kept trying to wring it into a bottle, because every drop counts!!! But no dice. I was in such a snit. I had to get out of there.

I didn't even make eye contact in the hallway, not with the DEAN who had just seen my H-cup boobs and my milky nipples. Oh no. I just marched back up to work to tutor students for the rest of the afternoon as if nothing had happened.

I haven't had a good milking session since.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Time for Dessert

I promise this post is only minimally related to being a mom of a high needs baby. So yesterday, Miles and I planned our day around our trip to my teammate's baby shower. It was supposed to be only a 12 minute drive, according to Google maps, so I wasn't at all worried about him freaking out because we just zip home if he did.

Needless to say, I got terribly lost in Millvale. I hate Millvale! It doesn't make any sense. I drove around and around for nearly an hour as MW screamed in the back seat. He just wailed. So I started crying. Then I called some rugby girls who were already at the shower.

One of them had to DRIVE TO Family Dollar to get me, I was such a wreck. And it was good that she did because I never could have found my way up the brick nunnery streets to where we were going. (Sidenote: This was the same teammate whose car I rolled into during the Stanley Cup final when I had no gas. What a mess.)

So we get to the shower and everyone is sitting around laughing and I feel a bit shaky. I start eating cookies. The rugby girls were, after all, stationed right by the dessert table. There were like 5 kinds of cookies and two cakes. I just helped myself.

An hour goes by. People are chatting. Everyone at my table is eating cookies. We ate some pasta salad, cheese and crackers, and fruit, too, but we were mainly eating cookies.

I was, in fact, sitting at the table with a cookie in my mouth while Ferko held Miles. The grandmother-to-be made her way to the table and said, "We are serving dessert now!" Only I didn't understand her. Perhaps the loud crunching of the cookie in my mouth muffled my ears? I asked her to repeat herself. "Dessert is served!"

I was so embarrassed. What a wreck! You put six rugby girls by the dessert table and of course we had been eating the cookies before we were supposed to. Ha! I guess at least we didn't cut the guest of honor's cake before she got to do it...

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Trickertreat!




A Better Day

Little dude slept pretty darn well last night. Alas, his infrequent wakings still involved over an hour of work to get him back into a sleep state...but still! Sleep was had by all (Incidentally, I could have had 8 straight hours in the cave, but I had set my alarm for 3am so I could make sure I was upstairs when Miles woke up to save Corey the trip down to rouse me).

We had family play time at 530, singing transportation songs and one about a goose. Mostly Miles squealed, I sang, and Corey talked in rhythm. Things were looking up! But then he turned on us really fast and Corey marched his butt back to sleep. The two of them are on the couch sleeping to the static.

We can only hope that today will be a day that looks more like this

or this

and not one that looks like this

(Photo courtesy of the fabulous Amy Whipple)
or this.

Incidentally again, today is Halloween. My favorite, favorite holiday of all the holidays. This is the first time in my life I am not going to wear a costume for Halloween. I love costumes. I just didn't have the energy to create one this year. But stay tuned, because screams or no screams, M-dub will be in his costume later and he is going to make the rounds and have his photo taken. I personally hope he is crying pretty vigorously when we take him to see Frank across the street. Then maybe he can poop on his porch...but not on the costume.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Typical Day With Miles

7am awake, eating, diaper change
745-815 happy time singing wheels on the bus or other transportation-themed songs
815-10 screaming, screaming, some eating, marching up and down the stairs, blaring white noise
10-1030 catnap
1030-11 eat
11-1130 potential happy time
1130-1pm screaming, screaming, screaming, me eating lunch with one hand, marching up and down the stairs, blaring white noise, some fretful nursing

at this point he either sleeps for a half hour or 2 hours. If it's a half hour, he screams the other 90 minutes

3-330 potential happy time with more singing, possibly kisses
330-5 screaming. see above
5-530 catnap
530-615 eat, diaper change
615-7 screaming his face off even harder than all the other time spent screaming
7-830 start bedtime: cereal, nursing, bath, marching up and down the stairs, blaring static, screaming, repeat the marching
830-11 sleep
11-1130 formula bottle

then he is awake every 90 minutes to 2 hours, nursing and screaming with marching and static.

You might notice there isn't a lot of sleeping going on. Most days, I feel so tired it's dangerous for me to operate a vehicle. Every spare ounce of energy I have is spent trying to coax Miles to sleep. In fact, there is a lot of arguing, wrestling, wrangling, epic battles. We have done and tried everything. Reflux medicine. Swings, bouncy chairs, co-sleeping, crib sleeping. Sleeping in shifts. The day we added the formula was an emotionally disastrous day for me, but we did it and he still doesn't sleep. Same with the cereal.

Today Miles is 106 days old. While other folks with kids his age are enjoying roll-overs and solo sitting up, I am struggling to manage a life that is really pretty difficult with this baby. We see lactation consultants and pediatricians. A sleep specialist won't see us until he is 6 months old. I talk to a post-partum counselor. I ask the midwives for advice.

I know it will pass. But right now? With a baby who is in such obvious, constant distress? Motherhood seems a far shot from the enjoyable experience I longed for.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bone to Pick

I am a little peeved at the representation of rugby in this week's New Yorker "Talk of the Town" piece. They make fun of the athletes for having had injuries, for being rowdy, for drinking beer, and for singing crappy songs at post-tournament banquets.

Now, I will be the first to admit that rugby parties can get rowdy. I have seen lots of testicles in my decade of rugby and, once, on a very strange birthday I was forced into drinking Jim Beam from the severed head of a roasted pig. But you know what? My teammates and I train really hard and are outstanding athletes. The article is kind of flippant in mentioning that the US women's team is ranked 3rd in the world. That means something! Those women train their butts off, leave their families for months, leave jobs unpaid to represent this country on an athletic team.

Also? Other sports have crazy parties. I have been to the lacrosse house at Penn State. There were testicles there, too! And...adults? They drink booze. A lot! Have you seen the NFL commercials sponsored by Coors Light? And Budweiser?

The piece suggests that rugby lost its place in the Olympics because salty fans threw bottles and rocks, as if soccer fans don't freaking commit suicide when their teams lose and other such behavior. The piece fails to mention that 15s is impractical for Olympics because of the amount of recovery time players need after a match!

Finally, pointing out gross injuries is a tired joke to play on rugby. There is all sorts of research pointing to football as super dangerous. Heck, Malcolm Gladwell wrote in the New Yorker last week that football players have so many concussions, the sport might not even be different from dog fighting if you think about it his way.

All I am saying is Hey! World? Enough with the rugby jokes. Get over it!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Moment of Bliss

Last night I got home from work to find two things that never happen: my baby was laughing and there was a spare bottle left in the fridge. I put my stuff away and got to nurse him in person instead of hurrying upstairs to pump for the next day while he fretfully catnaps to static. We had this great moment on the couch as a family, just hanging out. It was so pleasant that Corey suggested we go to Oh Yeah for soy treats.

I immediately got scared. Take our baby in public? During fussy time? I wasn't sure if, after a day of work and no sleep for ten days, I had the mental stamina to nurse in public as a scream stifling technique. But we put him in the car seat. And he didn't scream! And we drove to Oh Yeah. And he didn't scream in the car! And we ate our ice cream and went for a walk. No screaming.

At one point I turned to Corey and asked if this is what real families are like. If that was what it was like to have a baby and laugh with him and just be out in public together. Not in our living room with static blaring or marching up and down the stairs. Or crying ourselves.

It was this perfect, blissful moment where I could almost envision a future that seemed well rested and happy. I am trying to cling to that memory, because I paid for it later. Miles was up each and every hour last night. He is so exhausted he doesn't know what to do with himself. I hope he figures it out soon so we can have more moments like yesterday.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Notes from a Sleep Deprived Madwoman

Snacky D's parents came over yesterday to meet Miles. They revealed that Snacky himself, Eagle Scout extraordinaire, was once a shitty sleeper, constantly screaming baby like Miles. And look how he turned out! Our friend now falls asleep on couches and in car rides. I once helped carry his sleeping carcass into his room and he never even woke up. So someday, the theory goes, Miles will be just as cool and good at being asleep.

When will that someday start? Can someone tell me a specific date so I can write it on the calendar? When I complain about my delirium, I think people think Miles wakes up briefly once or twice at night. No.

Miles goes to bed at 830. Sometimes he wakes up immediately and Corey marches him up and down the stairs for a half hour. Like last night. Then, when he is asleep at 9, he wakes up again at 1130 and eats for 45 minutes and needs to be marched up and down the stairs for another half hour.

Then he wakes up less than an hour after that and eats for a half hour and falls asleep.

Then he wakes up an hour after that and eats for a half hour and falls asleep.

He repeats this until 6am, when he craps his pants audibly for like 20 minutes and then laughs his face off, ready to greet the day. Nonplussed.

Each time I hear his grunty cry in the middle of the night, my body is so sad. I think I am starting to hear things, I am so tired. Even Corey agrees, we can still hear Miles crying after he stops.

He is three months old now. I was setting so much stock in the fact that colicky babies typically outgrow their issues by three months. This was supposed to be the magic number, the day when he would sleep for, like 3 hours. Three hours! In a row!

This will pass, I know this logically. But my God. I had no idea how crippling it could be to experience such exhaustion.

Channel Snacky D, Katy. Miles will one day sleep like Snacky D.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fran, Again

Today we did Fran at Crossfit. I am back doing Crossfit. Sort of. Anyway, my December pregnant time for Fran was 5:15 and I was pushing 40# for the thrusters. Today, unpregnant but not having moved my body at all for three months, I finished in 5:12, but was really pushing it with 30#. And jumping pullups.

I feel like I have to accept the fact that I won't do a "real" pull-up this year, nor will I likely complete a rope climb. Unless of course Miles starts being chipper and silly when I put him down in his little car seat thing on the floor of the gym. That's what was going to happen in my vision of the world. I would take him, put him on the floor in front of me, and he would laugh and blow spit bubbles as I did pull-ups. Real pull-ups. Maybe he would clap for me?

In reality? He screamed until he threw up during the car ride to the gym, then I put him in the Bjorn and did some step-ups until Corey arrived to hold him. I busted out Fran and then nursed Miles on the floor by the ergs while Corey did his Fran. That's almost the same thing...right?

Humble Pie

So, I had two cavities. I know. Me! The girl who likes to win at the dentist. The person who GOES to the dentist specifically for the self esteem boost when the dentist calls in all the staff to ogle at my perfect, awesome teeth. I had two cavities.

Of course, I blame Miles entirely. For one thing, I have consumed significantly more dark chocolate since he has been born than during the entire rest of my life. For another, he is so time consuming that I often don't remember to floss my teeth and only get in a cursory brush once a day. Sometimes I forget even that. Someday, when my teeth fall out, I am going to send him a bill for dentures and say he started me on a terrible downward spiral into poor dental health.

I haven't had a filling since I was 15 years old, and even then I just had two little surfacey fillings from where my braces latched onto my molars. I didn't even know what was involved in getting a filling, so of course I had Dr. Dan talk me through the process. I was immediately sorry I had done so!

The whole practice of dentistry seems so medieval. So torturous! Drills in the mouth. Metal rings around the teeth. The grinding and the smoke and the smells! The metallic taste! My god. The worst is the Novocaine shot I buckled down and finally got since I am such a big baby. I literally whimpered while the needle was going into my cheek. Now my whole lip feels like a puffy goiter jutting out of my face.

I keep trying to sip my disgusting nursing tea and it dribbles right out the corner of my mouth. Much like Miles. I think the two of us should wear matching bibs for the rest of the day as we sit and stare at each other, trying together to figure out how to control the rubbery sausages holding in our spit.

Additionally, I no longer have any superiority over Corey in the dental department. Nobody tells you when you deliver a baby that you should budget for fillings because you'll be too consumed to care for your teeth properly. Nobody tells you that you are going to have to eat crow after months and years of teasing your husband for his decay-prone teeth. So let it be known that I, Katy, have publicly apologized to Corey for making fun of his cavities and am publicly recognizing the hypocrisy involved in such taunting now that I have had two, TWO, teeth filled in one day.

I realize now there is nothing funny about that chair in the back corner office and that it actually hurts quite a bit to have this problem remedied. I feel compelled to massage his back or something in penance. You know, with all my free time. As soon as I'm done flossing, I will think about offering to do something nice for him. But I really do feel badly for making fun! And I will never do it again.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Rookie Moms

I have a Rookie Moms guide to Pittsburgh up on the Rookie Moms website right now!!! Check it out!

Weekend In Review

Friday:
Pro--Mom came to visit
Con--potentially rabid, wild Rottweiler camped out on porch
Pro--ate good Thai food for dinner
Con--submitted sub-par story draft to editor, who noticed and commented that draft was, indeed, sub-par
Pro--got hair cut
Con--Miles didn't nap and was unhappy about it
Pro--made candy corn using the recipe from this month's Bust
Con--the candy corn looks like, as my former rugby coach said, extracted teeth
Pro--the candy corn tastes like candy corn. mmmmm

Saturday:
Pro--Miles took a big nap during the day
Con--Miles did not sleep well Friday night and everyone was, thus, tired all day
Pro--did a Crossfit workout in the morning
Pro--pumped a big bottle
Pro--got a visit from friend Steffy with her baby Sam

Sunday:
Con--Miles had his shittiest night's sleep since September 23
Con--couldn't pump very much milk this morning
Con--in tired haze, included cell phone in heavy soil load of laundry, thus destroying phone
Pro--switched to Corey's old cell phone, which is superior anyway
Pro--used Backup Assistant to get all old pictures and phone numbers into old/new phone
Pro--Miles took 2 hour nap
Pro--after Miles eats, whole family (including mom) can go to JG's meat/Steeler's party
Con--too tired to operate a vehicle safely, particularly through Fort Pitt Tunnel
Pro--Corey got way more sleep than me and can drive

Overall assessment: Mostly a good weekend. The addition of dark chocolate to our pantry and a daily beer courtesy of Snacky D helping us out with a beer run pushes the scale toward pro every time!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Um, Hello?

There is currently an un-neutered Rottweiler curled up on my porch. That's right.

Here is what happened. Miles was being fussy today. Super fussy. So he hasn't napped really. In the midst of his screamiest moment, I decided that he should eat again even though he had just eaten an hour ago. So there I sat on the sofa, all boobed up with Miles.

Then Juan knocked on the door. Juan is helping to clean our house (he is here because someone offered us a gift of housekeeping for a few months and I wasn't saying no to things anymore, so now we have Juan. Juan is amazing, btw). Anyway, Juan says, "I didn't know you got a dog!"

I'm all, "Juan, what are you talking about?" I look over my shoulder to see him sort of jiggling the ears of a mangy dog camped out on sidewalk. I told Juan I most certainly did not get a dog, that he should get away before it bites and he dies of rabies.

So then my mom shows up. I had sent her to the store for me because I don't have time to go grocery shopping. All that's in my fridge is soymilk, beer that Snacky D brought, and some pickles I pickled (they are delicious!). Mom calls me from her cell phone from the car. Miles is really starting to become unhappy at my breast and wiggling around and I'm freaked out about the dog and nobody is relaxed and the phone rings.

"Katy, why is there a Rottweiler on your porch?" It had climbed onto my porch! I told my mom to call 911.

They didn't answer so she hung up.

Mom hid in the car, Juan went outside to investigate, and I started looking up numbers for Animal Control. I mean, I don't have a dog. I don't know who to call or where to look in the phone book. Juan found a phone number on the tag, but they told me information was missing and they could do nothing for me. Nothing.

I left some messages on some phone numbers I found and then got a real human being. "We been chasing that damn dog all day! Where you say you live???"

By this time, the dog had moved from my porch to my neighbors' porch. They have German Shepherds and other dogs. Not good. I guess he didn't like it there? Because he walked his big ball sack back to my porch. Where he is currently camped out next to the stroller.

The stroller is on the porch because the other day, for the first time, Miles tolerated the stroller! We went for a walk like normal people do. But now we can't repeat this because he is screaming and, oh wait, there is a ROTTWEILER on my porch.

Did I mention that there is an enormous, dirty, smelly ROTTWEILER on my porch? One that does not belong to me? Yep. Life is interesting.

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Bjorn Ultimatum

I might have mentioned a few times that Miles is not the world's best sleeper. Of all possible inherited traits, this is the one I most wish he got from Corey. I mean, Corey is famous for falling asleep on couches at parties. It was his MO in college. That man will sleep for 14 hours every day if you let him. Miles? Not so much.

I think that, like mine, Miles' mind must race and prevent him from sleeping. I can just see his little inner monologue. If I sleep now, I might not get the breast milk for awhile. Oh. Look at the ceiling fan. That's cool. Ow. My nail hurt my eyeball when I jabbed it in there. Did I poop today? Do I have two of these arm things? Will they give me the breastmilk if I stop crying I wonder? No? Ok. Hey. My whole hand fits in my mouth. Don't I have another one? I do! I think it might fit in there, too. Nope. I should cry again...

But there is one thing that will ALWAYS eventually put him to sleep: walking around in the Bjorn. No matter how long he has been awake, no matter how wound up he is, if you march him up and down the stairs or stomp around the neighborhood long enough, he WILL go to sleep.

And here is the big problem. Typically, he only stays asleep if you keep him in the Bjorn. Moving. Which is all well and good if you're well rested and down for a 90-minute walk so he gets some sleep. I've sure done that before! Lots of times! Or else I'll just march up and down that bottom step until my legs are on fire and pretend I'm at Crossfit instead of in my living room.

But most of the time, I don't have the energy for this. So I am left with this huge conundrum. Do I put him to sleep in the Bjorn? Because if I do that, he'll sleep, which is good, but I can't put him down or stop moving at all. Which is bad. The alternative is to spend, like, 100 years shushing and nursing and blaring static and rocking in the chair that Corey refuses to oil. So it creaks like one of those old pirate ships you hear in movies. Or maybe a shopping cart with a bum wheel. And Miles spends this entire hundred years wailing and screaming in your damn ear and it's just agony. But at least you're sitting down.

Today, I felt up to sticking him in the Bjorn. We walked. And walked. And just as I was running out of bottles of beer on the wall, I looked down and the turd was asleep! So I walked awhile more to make sure he wasn't just faking (he does that sometimes). But then I was sweaty and hungry and it was beginning to drizzle. So I did a scary thing: I attempted to remove him from the Bjorn and put him down.

Most times, he is awake before you unsnap the top snaps. And that, friends, is the worst moment of your entire life, because you know what you have ahead of you, and it's not fun. I have changed my mind about Hell, in fact, to believe it involves spending hour upon hour with screaming, sad little infants because there really isn't much in the world that's worse.

So today, I risked the wake-by-jostle inherent in Bjorn removal. And by God! It worked in my favor! I couldn't believe it. My child fell asleep not after hours of agony, but on a cute little walk. I even chatted with some neighbors on this walk, got some fresh air, felt, in fact, wonderful. And then I put Miles down and he stayed asleep. Like a real baby!

I was so scared it wouldn't stick that I choked down some lunch, pumped out a bottle, and ran back upstairs to stare at him.

Still out.

I dug out my kettlebell and did a wee little workout. I went on facebook. Still out. It's been two hours now and I totally could have done, like, real writing or work or at least made lesson plans. But I am so scared he will wake up just as I get in the groove that instead, I choose to watch internet television and eat dark chocolate.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

For the Love of Sleep

For ten days in a row, I got fewer than 90 minutes of consecutive sleep. For ten weeks before this, I was getting between two and three hours in a row a few times each day. This took a toll on my body such that I did not feel safe operating a car. I was a walking, weeping mess. A disaster. I spent the days sobbing and feeling like there would be no tomorrow, that I would surely die of some unknown cause. Perhaps I would fall into the bags under my eyes and suffocate?

Anyway, it reached a tipping point where I simply had to sleep. Corey and I fabricated a plan. I made pumping breast milk a priority--it is hard to pump when your baby still sometimes eats every hour OR is in constant need of being held or soothed. Not much spare energy for extra milk production...but that day, we made it happen. I pumped and I pumped and I pumped until I had a spare bottle.

Then, I nursed Miles at bedtime. I immediately retreated to a cave we made in the basement. On the cement floor, on a camping pad, in a sleeping bag with ocean waves playing on the ipod, I hid from the rousing sounds of my baby's wails. I went in there at 830pm, scared I might not sleep through the disaster I was sure would happen above my head.

The plan was that Corey would pacify Miles until he got hungry again, give him the bottle, then pacify him until he got hungry AGAIN. We figured this would buy me 5 consecutive hours of rest--the most I would have had since Miles' birth. I couldn't allow myself to believe it was possible. Five hours of sleep? It might as well be 14. I had to use a Benadryl to get to sleep.

So my head hit the concrete at 830 and, apart from a few brief wakings up for no apparent reason, I slept like a lichen until Corey shook me awake...at 5am.

Miles slept from 830 until 1130 (that alone would have made me a new woman) and then drank his bottle and then slept until 5am. Let's take a minute and appreciate the enormity of this. Miles slept for 5 hours. In a row. Without drugs. I swear.

There are not words to describe the difference the cave has made in my life. I have never known such exhaustion as motherhood brings. I know that new parents are supposed to complain of tiredness, but I never could have imagined the weariness of ten weeks without delta sleep, without a second of restorative rest. Wee little catnaps and then full days of constant nurturing...it seemed unbearable. It IS unbearable.

But I have slept down there about four times now and each time, Miles sleeps for most of the night. This morning, he slept until 6am! I had to wake Corey up for work when I crawled out of the cave on my own. You see, we had stopped setting alarm clocks because what's the freaking point? Miles would make sure we were up in a half hour even if we drifted off, right? Not with the cave!

I don't know what it is about the cave situation, whether it's that Miles can't smell/sense me and thus stays asleep or whether the full bottles knock him out better than breast alone or whether the fates are just effing with me. But by God, I am sleeping in my cave until this kid works out how to get himself asleep. I will take a sore back over a slow death by exhaustion any day.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Language Lessons

For years, I have been communicating my needs to Corey very subtly at times and very obviously in others. Like sometimes, I talk a lot about cupcakes at breakfast and hope that he'll get some on the way home from work, though I don't actually SAY this out loud. I just mention the extreme preference for cupcakes above all other things. Subtle. Or when I'm sad and need a hug, I cry and tell him I need a hug. Obvious. I feel I'm being equally obvious when, after I go to the grocery store, I make little piles of things that need to go either upstairs or downstairs. Then, I put those piles near the appropriate staircase. Take paper towels. We store the paper towels in the basement. So when I buy those 92-roll packages, I kick them to the top of the basement steps.

The message? Next person to go down to the basement should take the paper towels along. I feel this is a rather obvious message. Corey disagrees and will climb over the paper towels or shampoo or tampon boxes or what have you. No matter how I arrange them on the stairs, he will march around or under or over these piles. When I see this, sometimes I get so angry that I also climb over the pile to make a point. This just typically results in both of us climbing around piles of toilet paper for a few days until I cave and put the shit away. It's maddening.

Today, our whole family went to Giant Eagle. It was our first actual family outing, because doctor visits do not count. Miles did a pretty great job, flirted with the cashiers, only cried at the very end. We were pretty joyous. When we got home, I put the groceries away while Corey changed a diaper. I set aside the ass-wipes (we call those moist Cottonelle towelettes "ass wipes" instead of "flushable moist wipes"...why polish the turd, so to speak?) and a package of disposable diapers (we use those for night time in hopes they will help M-Dub sleep a bit longer, to polish his turds, so to speak) and made a sort of barricade at the bottom step. The message? Next one upstairs should take along the ass wipes and the diapers.

I almost fell down and died when, a few hours later, I saw the diapers in M-Dub's closet. I actually did fall down and die when I saw the ass wipes put away in the bathroom. I am typing this from heaven, on a cloud of flushable moist wipes and perfumed disposable diapers. Why he waited until now, when he clearly had a baby in one arm and difficulty stooping to gather the diapers and ass wipes, I will not speculate. But he saw them in the way and knew what to do about it!

It only took six years of living together, but finally my Cookie Pie has learned to speak Katy.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Attack of the Super Nerd

So I was riding my bike to campus today (both because I need the exercise and because I am afraid of terrorism and avoiding the buses until the G20 business clears up) and I saw an awning that made me pause. Literally stop pedaling and contemplate digging out my phone to take a picture.

I sat there, chomping my gum with my mouth wide open...like a cow. God! I love chewing gum like that. Just chewing the crap out of a piece of gum. I digress. I thought immediately of my experience tutoring students for whom English is not their first language. Often, these students struggle with articles. As in, where do I put a? An? The?

This sign was a building label. This building label read as follows: The D'Arlington. Now, I am not an expert in French. I haven't studied it for many a year. But I am pretty sure that De or D' in French MEANS the...or at least "of the." So that building, those people who etched the stone oh so painstakingly, reads The The Arlington. Imagine the stoneworkers chiseling in a whole extra, unnecessary word?

I didn't take the picture. I just chomped my gum and rode away. But I sure do hope the French delegates see the building and laugh at us a little bit.

Unless, of course, my knowledge of French is super poor. In which case, the joke is on my sleep deprived self. Either way, I worked on through a great piece of gum and got a nice rest before a big hill.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Oh, The Anxiety

Miles fights sleep. A friend of ours told us, bluntly, that he has a terrible case of FOMO. When we learned the meaning of this acronym (fear of missing out), we became entirely convinced that Miles indeed has a serious case. He will yawn, yawn, yawn, and then slowly rotate his head. Left. Right. Left. Center. Left again, eyes so wide they seem propped open with toothpicks. For hours.

Others have gotten him to become asleep in, say, twenty minutes? A half hour of trying? It takes me, usually, 1.5 hours. This generally includes a nursing session, several diaper changes, much marching of stairs, and, recently, very loud waterfall sounds on Corey's ipod plugged in to the stereo. Which replaces the static we used to blare from 91.7. Just last week, Miles' favorite white noise source, like, replaced their empty static sounds with screeching and, sometimes, music! Gah! So now we have waterfalls. Which I prefer.

But anyway, Miles fights the slumber. The FOMO gets going and I start to fear he will never overcome it. Until he does. Often, he will just collapse into slumber so suddenly, mid-wail, that I think he must surely be dead. The house will go from WAAAAAAH WAAAAAAAh WAAAHHHHHHHH to just silence. I never trust that he is not, in fact, dead, and generally have to stick my finger under his nose to feel his breath. Which wakes him up.

And then, every now and again, I get him to sleep. Actually asleep. Where I can put him down and walk away and he continues to be asleep. Theroetically, I could do work during these moments. But I am so paralyzed with fear that the FOMO will get him that I cannot do anything. Sometimes I can switch the laundry or eat or shower...or write a blog post. But my shoulers are super tense and I am like a cheetah on the prowl, each muscle ready to spring should the FOMO act up and my son stops napping prematurely.

I hear the little dude chirping awake right this very moment...but at least this time he slept for two hours first!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Random Thoughts I'm having Simultaneously

1. Is it bad if I drive to campus so that I can get home quickly enough for research for an article I'm writing for a sustainability website? I think I should ride my bike to maintain moral superiority...
2. What should I eat for dinner?
3. Will Miles be a good lad if I walk down to my friend's house and demand he make me a cocktail later?
4. How could it be that Miles drank only 2 bottles on the very day I wasn't up to pumping an extra for tomorrow? Is life getting better?
5. Have I bitten off more than I can chew in signing up for 3 freelance projects AND having student papers due?
6. Will I ever wear a tankini again?
7. Why do my feet smell if I wore socks today?
8. Can my students tell that the gaping sore in my face is from me picking a zit?
9. I really and truly love very dark chocolate.
10. The sweat on Corey's forehead beads up like prop sweat might on an actor

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Doorbells

When we first moved into our house, there were a lot of little things missing/broken that didn't seem like such a big deal until they were. Like the doorbell. We had this mangled, broken, rusted, corroded piece of crap dangling from the door frame for a long time. And people would hesitantly bury their fingers into its depths, hoping for a sound to chime, and nothing did.

This is because, and we searched, there were no chimes inside the house. One day I couldn't stand the sight of the eyesore any longer and tried to rip the button unit from the brick. Only the screws were so mangled, the thing wouldn't come out. Corey and his friend Harry finally exhumed the thing from the wall and left a gaping hole until we could decide on a replacement.

We bought a fancy wireless doorbell and set up the chimes inside. We set them super loud because when Corey is down in his man cave, he can't hear ANYTHING except, miraculously, the notification that dinner is ready to eat. So now we have a loud doorbell. Then we had a baby. Whoops!

I keep meaning to either dismantle the doorbell or hang a sign near it. Because, my god, when Miles finally gets to sleep it is a shame and a half for something to wake him up. Our doorbell is super sensitive, so sometimes people ring it accidentally every time they walked into our house (not naming names!). Sometimes, it just goes off when a cat walks by our house.

Sometimes, delivery people ring it when they bring some of the metric tons of clothing Miles gets in the mail or the fruit baskets that are sent by angels. But today? Today was my last straw.

Since Miles is now a human being instead of a wailing changeling, he reluctantly takes naps. He started to look tired around 845. I had fed him not moments before, so I changed his diaper and started patting and rocking him. Nothing. Then I put him in the bassinet and just let him suck his thumb and stare at his monkey toys. Nothing.

I took him to the basement and stood by the dehumidifier. I marched up and down the stairs. I set him near his mobile. I played yoga music. I rocked him. I cried. I fed him again. He barfed. I changed his clothes. Nothing. Finally, eighty minutes of love later, he tuckered out. Slipped into slumber. I breathed a great sigh, stood up from the bed, and prepared to do something. Like maybe brush my teeth? Or pee?

But then I peeked out the window and saw them. Evangelists. Walking up toward my porch! Before I could sprint, before I could bellow, before Hell could freeze over, they marched their prairie clothes up my creaky steps, thrust out their plump fingers, and RANG MY DAMN DOORBELL!!!!!! Oh! They rang my doorbell!

I think I just sat down on the floor and melted. I know I hollered something out the window. Something about my baby, who HAD been asleep, and not having time to speak with them just now. Could they please leave? I might have been polite like that. (Although I was terribly impolite with Peyton, who worked the parking booth at the Irish festival this weekend, so who is to say WHAT I said to those buxom ladies who woke my damn baby?) It's ok, though, because they slipped a brochure about Armageddon in the screen door for me to peruse later. Like when my baby is napping I guess.

And, because this is what you do when you have a baby, I went back upstairs and started again. Luckily, he just needed a wee toot on the tit to drift back off. And as soon as it was very clear that he was under, I made a sign to hang near the doorbell: "SSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHH BABY SLEEPING! Please knock SOFTLY! Do NOT ring bell!"

I didn't take the bell down. Why? Because it's so sensitive that I am deeply afraid I will breathe near it and cause it to ring. And damn it, I need him to sleep at least until I can wash my face and put on deodorant. Maybe later, when Miles wakes up, I will dismantle our fancy, loud doorbell.

The moral? Be careful which DIY projects you wish for, I guess.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Gratitude

I like to think I am in charge of things. I like to plan ahead, take care of people, get shit done, etc. I am accustomed to being the person who has the sunblock or the chapstick or the extra garbage bags on days it rains and everyone's rugby crap threatens to get soaked. I am also the person with a mapped out life plan, who has spreadsheets and goals and really extensive to-do lists. And then I had a baby and major abdominal surgery and couldn't get out of bed. And then my baby cried all day. ALL DAY. Literally ALL THE TIME unless there was a breast in his mouth.

I went home to my parents' one weekend and he cried for 16 hours save for his nursing stints. For the first six weeks of this, people offered to do things for me and I said no thank you because I could do it all myself, right? I could totally handle the screaming AND do the laundry AND get ready to go back to work AND take care of Corey. Until one day I couldn't and I sort of collapsed into a really, really dark place. I called up my family and asked them for help.

And that, friends, is the hardest thing I have ever done (perhaps tied in first place with constantly nurturing Miles around the clock...but maybe even harder than that!). I mean, when I was in the hospital I allowed my sister to give me a sponge bath. And I peed blood on her feet in the bathroom and she just wiped it off and pretended it didn't happen (although she did photograph me later with a sheet boner, so perhaps she got her own after all). That was ok, because I was on drugs and everyone on drugs needs help.

But since then, people have been DOING things for ME. Things I usually do for other people. Like friends show up and cook me food. Or they sit with Miles and bounce him on a ball to radio static for FOUR HOURS so I can take a walk or just not be the person to do that. They come over and they bring pie and ice cream on the very day when there is nothing I need more than pie and ice cream.

And my teammates seem to miraculously appear around 5pm most days, when I want to be cooking or eating food, and they hold my son so I can eat with two hands. They just show up *POOF* like I pulled them from a hat.

But there really is nothing quite like family. I called them on the phone and they drove out here and stayed for ten days with plans to come back in a few more days. And man! Did that make a difference. It was like I could breathe oxygen again. I worked out a few times. I went to meetings. I stood in the back yard and picked gourds. And the best part? Corey's mom got Miles to sleep! During the day! Not on a human being!

And then a lactation consultant and I discussed Corey's lactardedness and how it might affect Miles and I stopped eating dairy. And then, suddenly, my son started smiling. Here is some evidence:

And this, in turn, allowed ME to smile. Which is huge, because most of the time I had been sobbing these deep, gutteral sobs like a wounded mammal and I was running out of tears. But yes, I can smile now. Here is some evidence:


So this, THIS is why people have children. This is what it feels like! How do people do this without family and friends and accepting help???? Why the eff was I declining offers before?

Perhaps because I have this strange German Protestant work ethic sort of pounded into my DNA, that combines with my type-A personality and leads me to believe I have to not only control everything, but be in constant motion, working every second that my body is awake because otherwise, I'm being lazy or useless. Anyone who has ever had a 5.5 week old baby knows that sitting on the couch producing breast milk IS work, but try telling that to my internal monologue. I have never felt as lazy and bone tired exhausted in my whole life.

But then, I have also never felt as grateful to have a community. Each day, when I think I am on the brink of despair, when there isn't anything that could possibly allow me to survive for another nanosecond, the doorbell rings* and there's a dude there with a fruit basket or Corey's mom scrubs my bathtub or someone takes my baby and tells me to just walk around the block.

You know what it's made me realize? People feel glad to do these things for me--they wouldn't offer otherwise. People love me (or at least my offspring). Human beings don't have to live in these tiny little self-controlled vacuums because sometimes, it's ok to be vulnerable (Not that I remember this all the time, but more hours of each day than before...).

So fear not. I am getting some help/love. And it's ok to allow my loved ones to express this love, because it makes me want to just pay it all forward to some other mom with furry, unbrushed teeth and milk stains on her good shirts. Mark my words. As soon as MW gets some neck control, he is going in the Ergo on my back and I am going to a new mom's house to paint her toenails and then wash her shirts. And I'll show up with pie!

*more on doorbells later

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Wee Hiatus

As it turns out, raising Miles has made me feel like I got hit by a truck. And then the truck backed up and ran me over again, while the driver yelled, "Face it, Katy! I am older and I have more insurance!" Or maybe the truck driver would have said something about relinquishing ideas of control or the notion that babies nap during the day, thus making it possible to carry on a normal semblance of a life.

I am at a place where I begged my family for help. And they came out here. Which is great, because I have become a woman who has to pencil in DUST LIVING ROOM a week in advance, so I really need the spare hands rocking my high needs baby.

While all this transformation and sleep deprivation is affecting me, I am simultaneously trying to return to work. I have taken three writing assignments and begun teaching two classes. And it is A LOT for me to handle.

All of this is to say I am taking a hiatus. I am not going to Facebook or Tweet or blog or even read blogs until I get my shit together. If I have 19 spare seconds to read Facebook, I could have been napping or clipping my toenails. If I have several minutes to post a blog, I should have been emailing my editors. Or commenting on student papers. Or peeing (still have to remind myself to do this, as that part of my anatomy hasn't regained functionality).

I will be back when Miles starts napping and I start getting crap done. In the words of the great Eric the midget, Bye for now.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

First Feature!

My very first feature article in a national publication has printed!! Fly Midwest this month and check out the 8 page photo spread! I feel like such a rock star.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Weightless

This morning, I zippered myself into some pants. This is significant! I have whittled myself down to a point where there is a pair of pants in my home that zipper. Of course, I have to dangle my spare flesh over the top of the waistband in order for the zippering to happen, but nonetheless, here I sit. In pants.

Because I went to work today. I left Miles at home with Corey and headed to campus to teach and tutor for a full day. I was not heartbroken about this after all. This morning, I rocked my sweet screamy baby to a fitful sleep before leaving my house. I was forlorn for the first few minutes, but the closer I got to my bus stop? My steps became springy. I smiled at people. I sat in the non-handicapped seats and, like, read a book on the bus.

And then I got to campus and peed without a screaming kid dangling from the Bjorn. And wiped! Properly! By the time I got in my classroom, I felt like a million bucks. The more I talk to grownups about real grownup things, the more I can forget that somewhere back home, the static is blaring and there is a person frantically begging my baby to stop holding his breath.

I know a lot of moms have a hard time making it through this day, the first day apart. But man, this is a welcome respite for me. This is me recharging my batteries so I have the energy to parent my little dude in the evening. And I bet he will sense that I am coming to him with renewed vigor and maybe not scream for as many hours tonight. Heck, he might even nurse peacefully, enjoy his tubby, pee on my face and then laugh about it.

In the mean time, I am discussing comma splices and complaining about the transit system and griping about office politics. And it feels so light and free and amazing to stand in the sunlight and look both ways and cross a busy street as a totally nondescript person. Gosh.

Probably, 46 days from now when Miles is three months old and theoretically better able to handle being in the world, I will cry about being at work. Today? Work feels like a vacation.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Are You Having So Much Fun?

Another neighbor (as in not Frank the jerk) stopped me on the way home from a walk the other day to say, "Are you having so much fun with your baby??" She is around my age, thinking of having kids soon, and seems to be a really, really happy pleasant person. But I was on that walk with Miles because he had been screaming for an hour or so without rest, and continued to cry on my walk.

I said, "Well...we haven't reached the fun part yet." Her face fell. She seemed to think I was a mixture of a horrible person and a Debbie Downer. I told her how Miles keeps on making those noises and weird, contorted faces once we get inside. And all night. And then again all the next day. Her question really stuck with me for a long time. Still does. Am I having fun?

Every now and then, there will be an hour or so where I can think, "Yes! Awesome! This is so great!" But really, the majority of my time the past 45 days has been spent desperately trying to comfort a screaming, upset baby OR super, super tense with anxiety that his calm will be short lived and he will explode into unrest again.

My son cries. A lot. You could say he has colic. You could say he's a fussy baby. You could go the Dr. Sears route (like Corey and I prefer to do) and say he is a high needs baby. You could do what my dad does and say he is spoiled...or else that there is something desperately wrong with him. It all amounts to the same thing. Miles cries. And he doesn't sleep. And it's not fun to parent him right now.

Do I love the crap out of him? Sure. But do I also scream right back at him in desperation at 430 every morning? Do I use the F word at my infant child after numerous hours of incessant wailing? Do I sometimes hand him to Corey and just leave the house to stand on the porch and stare at my plants? Yes. Every single day.

Corey is currently downstairs fiercely rocking our son in the rocking chair with the radio blaring 91.7 (pure static) at full volume. Miles is tightly swaddled with a pacifer, stomach down like Dr. Karp suggests, jiggling away. With his eyes wide open. Because he doesn't sleep. At least he isn't crying right now. Fun?

Some people have babies who don't behave this way. Like there are people in the world who can put their children down on surfaces that aren't made of human or can, like, run errands or show their babies off at work or even take showers while home alone with their kids. I guess lots of people. Some people have really great ideas or advice on how to help these babies (gas drops are working a little, we nurse frequently, tuck up his legs...I have tried pretty much all the advice except the catnip tea. Oh. I won't give him whiskey, either). Some people come over and hold him for me for a bit and he goes right to sleep for them and I wonder if they think I'm exaggerating. Fun?

Our doctor told us this is not something to be concerned about and that he is confident it will pass. He told me I will look back on this time like a grain of sand in the hourglass of time (he talks that way...) and he is probably right. It will be like I remember junior high, when I had a bright green retainer and horrible glasses, greasy skin, basically a mullet, and my mom let me wear MR Ducks shirts to school with too-big pants. I look back on those times now, when I thought I would NEVER get breasts or have a friend or have someone fall in love with me, and it's like a grain of sand in the hourglass. But it's like a black, greasy grain of sand from an oil spill or sewage explosion with jellyfish stings clinging to it. In other words, I still recognize that time as agonizing.

I feel like Corey articulated our experience the best (he always is good at articulating the really important things). He says that parenthood so far has been the very highest of highs and the very lowest of terrible lows. With Miles, there is no middle ground. We are either on the brink of despair, crawling on the floor in prayer to some entity to soothe our unsoothable baby, clinging to one another in broken-hearted agony OR we are clutching our chests in ecstasy, sure that our hearts will swell too large to fit in there. Only the joyous, chest-clutching moments come really infrequently.

I have faith that things will improve and that I will come to view parenthood as a blissful blessing. For now, though, I will say only that I am exhausted. The space between my blood vessels is tired. And I will stop there, because my baby finally fell asleep and that means I can go stare at him with Corey, clutching our chests as we forget our exhaustion and marvel at our perfect child.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Thunder Vision returns

Frank, the old Italian man across the street, spends his days working on his landscaping or people watching on his porch. As such, this summer, every time I open my front door he yells across the street "Your baby cries a lot!"

For the first two weeks of his life, this gave me such a complex that I wouldn't take him anywhere public. Because you know the implication of his comment is that my baby cries, he can hear it, and I am somehow inadequate as a baby nurturer to stop said crying.

After that, I got a little more confident and more angry at Frank, but still either he or his wife had that ever helpful comment each time I opened the damn door.

Last night, Miles was in rare form. He hadn't napped all day and said, "Fuck yinz! I am NOT sleeping tonight. Instead...I will CRY!" So between 8pm and 730 this morning, the little turd slept a total of 4.5 hours. The rest of that time? Wailing.

Our evening was spent alternating between sixty minute nursing sessions and Corey marching up and down the stairs with Miles in the Bjorn. There were brief periods where Miles would sleep in the Bjorn on Corey's chest, but otherwise, it was wailing, agitated nursing, and me yelling right back at my infant child.

So this morning, when we went to leave for the Aviary (I hoped that the screeching birds would drown out my screeching kid), I had my Thunder Vision activated. You see, I opened the front door and Frank said, "Miles sure cried a lot last night."

In my fantasy, I told him, "Really? He must have gotten agitated when we set him in the back yard and went inside to snort coke."

In real life, I just looked at Frank. I relived the previous twelve hours, the tense muscles, the crying from all three of us, the poop smeared under my nails, the barf on my pajamas, my non-showered body and furry unbrushed teeth. I wondered what small part of Satan sneaked into Frank's skin and urged him to make this comment, a statement that no amount of garden beans or fresh figs can forgive. I blinked my baggy eyes at him, got in the car, and drove away as Miles howled down Route 28.

Eff you, Frank.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Lingo

You know how when you start a new job, everyone runs around using abbreviations and acronyms like you're supposed to be in on the joke? Like "oh, just run it through the GTO" or "Well I put it on the Blue/Gold form." It takes forever to catch on and you find yourself thinking can't these assholes speak English?? I hate all of them!!!!

As it turns out, motherhood is filled with its own lingo. Only I never felt like there was a learning curve. I just seemed to instantly understand all the words on the first go around and, worse, I now throw these words around as if everyone in the universe is hip to be square. I find myself at stores referring to the Bjorn as if everyone should know what this is. Or latch. Or at rugby reunions talking about hooter hiders and nursing necklaces like these things are as common as beer and barbeque.

Which all makes me wonder: what is it exactly about this process that makes the learning curve so desperately steep and yet so dismally flat? How is it even possible to feel simultaneously in on the world's biggest secret and yet have no idea in the world how to be mediocre at this task?

While I ponder this question, I'll just keep on fluffing my boppy, concentrate on my let-down, and try to bypass fussy time. Because I knew (intimately) what all of those things were within about 8 seconds of signing my W4 for the job "mom."