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


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:

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


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?