Saturday, December 28, 2013

27 minutes in Target ...

We've got a limited amount of time. He sends me ahead to return the humidifier while he monkeys with the base of the car seat, which seems loose. We're anticipating a return line that snakes this way and that but when I get inside the cashier is all "can-I-help-the-next-person?" and that person is me.

I don't have the receipt, but the timing is perfect for this oversight: 1. Maybe I got it as a Christmas gift; 2. Maybe Target's not in a position to get all hardball and rules-y with customers. I'm already loitering near a sweater, 40 percent off, when Chuck walks through the automatic doors.

I make the universal sign for "grab-a-cart," (I've got the stroller), and he does a spin move. We cruise as a single file unit to baby supplies, Chuck nicks a support beam with a wheel, I cackle, and he explains the difficulty of maneuvering between on-coming traffic and the pole.

I grab a 90 pack of Size 2 Pampers; Chuck motions to the 132 pack: I return the 90 pack and grab the 132 pack. We browse the highchairs and decide to double back to this purchase at the end of our shopping trip. We zip down a couple aisles and I grab a jumbo box of pump bags, which will hold the milk I coax from my breasts using a futuristic sucking machine every day around 2 p.m.

Bam-bam. Two items off the list.

We're a bit like Ponch and John, the two of us, cruising the aisles of Target. I've got the stroller and the baby, Chuck's got the cart. I call over my shoulder "We can trade if you want!" and he says "No," and adds something about how pushing the cart is relaxing.

Toilet paper. A fist shake to the heavens. Toilet paper companies seem to think that success is a thick and soft product akin to rubbing one's butthole against quilted rabbit fur. Toilet paper companies have never seen the sledge that refluxes into our laundry room because everyone needs to crap like a Rockefeller.

We've been experimenting with single ply and frankly it's cruel. We study the packages and Chuck makes a sweeping gesture with his arm:

"All of this is off limits" he says, eliminating half the stock.
We settle on a lesser grade of Cottonelle, but only commit to a small package.
We take on the role of toilet paper testers, in search of the perfect and responsible ply.

While deliberating, I've pitched a load of paper towels into the cart and as we circle out of this corner of the store I toss a couple Glad containers over my shoulder, too.

Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam-Bam. Five items knocked off the list.

The aisles are crowded near the humidifiers, so we have to circle the block, but we find the one we want on an endcap so BOOM. It's over to kitchenware for a new frying pan and we puzzle through nonstick claims and quickly pick a winner. Chuck suggests getting another, something smaller, and I just say nah.

The vacuum cleaners catch Chuck's eye, so we jerk right and follow with another quick turn but there are people and carts and it looks like a hassle, so.

Onward, is Chuck's call, he didn't plan to buy one anyway.

Now we double back for the highchair. Here we break off: Chuck heads to that aisle, I detour into baby clothes to see if a favorite piece of winterware, in the next size up, is for sale. Nope. When I turn the corner, Chuck's already got the boxed chair halfway back to his cart.

I sprint to catch up.

We've got a head of steam. His cart is teeming with oversized packaging and he's awkwardly carrying highchair, our baby is beaming at me, her hand in her mouth at least up to her wrist bone. A man sees us coming, he knows the score, and he jumps into the teen clothing department with an audible "uh-oh."

The first register we see is wide open. We settle up with the cashier and I clear a path through the people toward the parking lot. Chuck follows. We get the packages to the car, then into the proper Tetris formation and buckle ourselves into the front seat.

I look at the clock.

"Holy shit. That took less than a half hour," I say.
It feels like we should high-five.
"And the highchair was on sale," I say.
Maybe a fist bump.
"And I never even mentioned how great of a parking spot we got!" I shout.

There will be time to experiment with another solid food before Chuck goes to work.




Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Five minutes, beep ...

Baby asleep on pillow on lap. Lap is in bed. Calf feels wet, getting wetter, spilled water bottle. Water starts where Chuck's back goes, rivers to where I will later tonight rest my sleeping knee. Swear. Set bottle upright. Scootch gingerly to side of the bed, so as not to wake baby. Creep slowly to crib, set her down, eyes pop open, mouth flips to frown, she wimpers.

Swear again, so discretely it sounds like I'm cleaning my teeth. Strip bedding. Push on mattress, doesn't seem saturated, phew. The whimpering increases in urgency. Promise her things to quiet her. "Back in a sec," hush, coo. Bedding is awkward. Like carrying a deflated hot air balloon. Trip from bedroom, down stairs. Burst of cold air. Parent's return from Sam's Club.

Beep.
"What's that beeping?" mom twists face like it's a smell.
"You didn't turn off the monitor?" answering question with a question. Point at monitor on the table.
"Something something high-tech," she says.
Beep.

Bumble down more steps. Beep. Squish wad into dryer. Beep. Start dryer. Beep. Blood begins to boil. Imagine drop kicking monitor into snowbank, hammering monitor with something with "sledge" in title. Beep. Wonder why no one has turned off the blasted beep monitor. Remember neither parent knows how monitor works. Beep.

Up steps. Snatch monitor from table. Strangle power button until light fades to dark. Plug monitor into charger. Wimpers are now wails. She's wailing. Back upstairs to wet bed and weeping child.

Later, while trying to wrap Chuck's present in too little paper, turn those horrific five minutes into delightful tale of misfortune for audience of parents.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Try Saturday the 14th (Or, how I became Andy Rooney) ...

A woman going 30 miles per hour in an SUV in the snowy mall parking lot ruins my life by reminding me that human beings are horrible and that I must somehow protect a tiny innocent while co-existing in the very same lot. 

She blew through a cross walk. I was incredulous; she was talking on her cell phone. I gave her the finger. It was primed. I'd just given it to a teenaged boy who was driving the wrong direction. Neither saw it. Still. 

Fate threw me a bone by delivering a sweet parking spot so close to the doors that I had to check 4 times to make sure it wasn't disability parking. I almost asked a guy: "Is this a for-real spot or am I dreaming?"

***

"No one ever holds the door for strollers," I confessed to a woman who held the door for me and my stroller. She rubbed my back in little circles. I thought "Sometimes you just need someone to rub your back with little circles. Maybe even a stranger."

***

Two kids, rather employees, at Dick's called me ma'am. Haven't we outlawed ma'aming yet? Can't we say to the dictionary people "Plus 'twerk' minus 'ma'am'"?

***

I bought a baby snowmobile suit that was outgrown before it even snowed. Tags on, no receipt. The policy at The Children's Place: It can be exchanged for the exact same item. Exact same. No store credit. No exchange for item of equal value. 

The truth is, I don't even want this snowmobile suit. It looks marshmallow-y and uncomfortable. Her limbs won't be able to bend, it will ice over with mislaid drool, it will be awesome between the house and car, but she will roast as I wander through Target. I've been a kid. I know. 

"You're in luck," an employee tells me. "We have the bigger size. And it's the only one left."

That one is barely bigger. 

I'm sure there is a reason for The Children's Place's draconian return policy, but I can't go business major enough to figure it out. 

"Great," I say. "She can wear this one for the next three days."

But I'm smiling because it's not this woman's personal return policy. I do make a note to never shop in this place ever again which is fine because I have the internet and The Children's Place always feels chaotic, like shopping out of the trunk of a Pontiac. 

Baby clothes politics. 

***

The woman handing out chocolate samples at Yonkers completely ignored my I'll-Take-a-Chocolate face.

But I saved so much using coupons that I damn near got a free sweater. And I think she dropped her tray, anyway. 

***

This past summer when I was doing a lot of mall walking and stroller pushing I used to come home enraged and say things like: 

"IT WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE TO BUY SUNGLASSES AT YONKERS IF YOU WERE IN A WHEELCHAIR. I GUESS IF YOU'RE IN A WHEELCHAIR YOU JUST DON'T GET SUNGLASSES!"

The accessories are packed tightly together with very little aisle space. It's hard enough to navigate with a stroller, let alone a full-sized chair or Rascal. 

Which brings us to Hollister. 

This store has a tiny porch out front. You have to go up the porch steps, then down the porch steps to get into the store. I'm sure this aesthic is super "let's buy board shorts" or whatever. 

There isn't a ramp. There are main level doors, which are closed, and it's hard to tell if they're functional. If you want to use them, do you just holler inside: "Could someone get the doors, please?"

My niece has some Hollister items on her Christmas list and three times I've stood outside the store with a stroller and wondered how to get inside. And I've wondered, again, how I'd get inside if I was a 12 year old in a wheelchair. 

So I decided I wouldn't shop there. Clearly this is an asshole company that thought putting steps where none are needed was more important than accessibility. That's nice. 

But then I just wanted to get inside so badly that I couldn't help myself. I tilted the stroller to a severe degree to go up the two steps, then did it again to go down two steps. I was in. 

I felt liberated. And very smug. And I wheeled my stroller all around that tiny store and thought: NO WHEELS HAVE EVER BEEN HERE BEFORE. I'M NEIL ARMSTRONG!

***

I came home, fastened the baby into her monkey chair, and set out to make stew. I pulled out a pack of sausages, purchased two days ago, from the refrigerator. The expiration date caught my eye: Oct. 2013. 

I decided to go meatless with my stew and found that one of the main vegetables, also a recent purchase, had rotted. 

I found my receipt, so I can return the meat. But mostly I fantasized about asking to see the owner of the grocery store, then walking him through the place stopping along the way to examine the food. 

"Which one of these green peppers would you buy, Mister? This one, which looks pre-gnawed? Or this one with the elephant-like flesh?"

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Inspired by: "Last Christmas" by Wham ...



Before the broach, before they adjourned to the mountain retreat, there was George Michael squinting into a mirror at the salon.

"I want it to look like the hood on a posh woman's fur coat," he says. He makes the universal sign for a blooming mane. His hands unfold around his face. 

She's skeptical. Hip pitched. She studies his head in the mirror and absentmindedly chews on the teeth of the black pick. 

"You'll have to condition it," she says finally. She has a warning tone. 

He clasps his hands in front of him. Beams. 

"I promise to condition," he pledges with a schoolboy cadence. 

"And blow dry," she says. She points the pick at his reflection. "You'll have to start blow drying your hair."

He leans back, his brows fold in. 

"What kind of animal doesn't blow dry his hair?"

***

The "Inspired by" series is, well, it's fan fiction, okay? Whatever. 


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Things to watch while convalescing ...

Before I had hernia surgery -- before I knew I was about to have hernia surgery -- I got this fortune from an super disgusting meal I ate in the mall food court:


So I had a vacation and it wasn't necessarily enjoyable. In fact: I'd maybe prefer to give birth to a child lodged sideways than have another hernia. I'd say this is the most uncomfortable recovery process I've encountered in all of my years of having a body. It probably wouldn't be as bad if I didn't naturally try to rest my child upon the exact hernia spot and if I wasn't accessorizing with a car seat that weighs more than I'm supposed to be carrying right now. But I'm walking upright again, so there is that.

Anyway. Here's what we consumed while I sat on the couch not changing diapers or carrying laundry baskets:

"Malcolm in the Middle": This is an on-going feature at our house, the go-to show when there is nothing else on deck. This might be the funniest that TV has offered.

"Frances Ha": I wanted to see this hipster bait so bad, but I kind of feel like I didn't watch it closely enough to like-like it. Young New Yorker hops from apartment to apartment take-take taking and alienating herself from her friends while not being a very good dancer at all.

"MasterChef Junior" This was not as awesome as when we got addicted to the reality show "Kid Nation," but it was good enough to marathon the entire season in a single sitting.

"Top of the Lake": This is a super good, super bleak series and is set in possibly the most hostile town ever imagined. Pregnant 12-year-old disappears in a women-hating community and Peggy from "Mad Men" tries to figure out what the.

"License to Drive": What a pleasure to, for once, say "I wonder if that's streaming on Netflix" and have the answer be "Yes."

Also: Corey Haim constantly makes this face:


"Somm": A bunch of dudes study to take the Master Sommelier exam, which is notoriously tricky and very few people pass. The doc follows the eclectic mix of friends as they prep. Totally fun. It'll give you a reason to describe something as tasting like "fresh cut hose."

Our Pet Human (in her 19th week) ...

This comes courtesy of the Norwegian Wonder.
It has been just more than a year since I sent a blurred photograph of a wet First Response stick to my dear friend in Minneapolis. I was about 50 seconds pregnant at the time, a fact I imagined was going to immediately make itself known all over my body. Acne, puffy parts, pickle juice stains.

I had no idea how to get through Thanksgiving. My dad, after all, is retired law enforcement. He's a trained observer. My mom has wanted another grandchild for so long that I imagined she would be able to see the kumquat's heartbeat through just the force of her wishes. Meanwhile, I'm a wretched liar trapped in the body of a person who loves to spill info about herself. I wrapped both of us in layers upon layers of black sweater in case my turkey bloat manifested in the shape of a baby bump. And I avoided wine and eye contact.

I suppose it will be months of this: Last year at this time I was *this* pregnant. It has been some year, let me tell you, full of all sorts of life lessons about body pillows and Ortega sauce.

And this one: No one can tell you're pregnant at six weeks.

***

Me: Something I'm wearing smells like poop. I think it's my sweater.
Chuck: Maybe it's your underwear.


***

Chuck: "... being a parent *is* rewarding, but only assholes talk about it."

***

Just when it really seemed like we were getting into a rhythm, that we were maybe even good at this, something changed. There is so much more going on now than eat-poop-sleep-poop. The PBG developed all these new tricks, ticks and bits of neurosis and it all sort of feels like standing in a batting cage while a malfunctioning robot pitcher whizzes balls at your head, two robot handfuls at a time.

After carrying the PBG around 24/7 for the first part of her life, she has suddenly become exponentially more independent. She slouches in her exer-saucer like a business executive after a long day at the office. I call it the "Fat Cat" chair. She tries to dismantle her activity center -- with her mouth. She was making cat-like screeches in her bedroom and Chuck thought she was in distress. Instead he found her going front-row, New Kids on the Block all over her mobile.

And then there is this hum she makes for 20 minutes, a sleep alarm that indicates she's about to conk out.

"Does yours do this?" I said to a woman in the baby department at Target, as the PBG broke a record for making the longest vowel sound ever moaned in public.
"They all do it," she said.

On the other hand, it's interesting to have this kind of expert intel on another person. She was fussing in the car one day and I knew exactly what was troubling the lass. It was the stuffed frog that dangles from her car seat.

Me: Is she crying because she can't get the frog into her mouth?
Chuck: Yes.

In other news, she has a constant beard of spit, refuses to sleep on her back -- and sometimes just refuses to sleep(1) -- and loved Miley's appearance with the space cat at the American Music Awards.


Note
(1)When you brag on the internet that your baby sleeps very well, it just alerts the fates to the fact that someone has been having an easy go of it. And then that gets remedied.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Expose: What it's like to have hernia surgery ...



When you have a baby, the hospital staff treats you like a celebrity. When you have a hernia, the hospital staff treats you like just another asshole with a body. It's more monotone, assembly line. You might be expected to change into a gown while a janitor sprays disinfectant on to the plastic mattress of the neighboring bed. She might look over at you, nonplussed, and say "Don't forget the complimentary chapstick."

I don't blame them. That's what we all are, assholes with bodies. But four months ago Chuck and I were cooing at the sunrise over Lake Superior, a room service menu and, of course, new life. Today Chuck throws back the curtains to reveal a street-level view of The Roundup, a dive bar with a decent karaoke book and, I'm told, edible burgers.

A man outside the window coughs.
We both cringe.
It's like his phlegm is actually jangling free right here in this room.

I'm starving. It's 3:30 p.m.-ish and I last ate at 1:30 a.m. I made two pieces of toast while I unloaded the dishwasher. I turned around for as long as it takes to shelve some mugs and found Orin snout-deep, lapping at a pocket of butter. "Idiot." I sneered and tossed the toast. I was only allowed food until 6:30 a.m. and since I didn't plan to wake up for a last-ditch gobble, that was it. Still, in the scheme of things, would one extra piece of toast sustain me much longer? Doubtful.

"Uncle Loui's is right next door," Chuck reminds me, mentioning the neighboring diner. "You could probably Kool Ade Man yourself through the wall."
I envision my Fruit Punch self face deep in a short stack.

A nurse repeatedly stabs at my left hand, tries to find a ripe vein. They're going to hook me up to an IV, he tells me.
"Can I get that in cheeseburger flavor?" I ask.
Eventually he gives up. Christa veins 1, stabby nurse 0. Someone else is going to have to do it.
"You did your best," I tell him as he leaves the room.

The surgeon stops in for a visit, which goes swimmingly, until he tells me that he is going to take my belly button and flip it up, repair the hernia and sew it back up.

This visual will not leave my head.

CONGRATULATIONS! IT'S A HERNIA
I'd recently been diagnosed with an umbilical hernia, caused by the stretching I'd endured during pregnancy. I think I remember when it happened. At one point my belly button started to really hurt. I thought: I can chalk this up to "Oh. You're pregnant. Things are going to feel weird." Or I can get all meow-meow first-time-mom, and press the panic button -- as were are correctly characterized as doing. Turns out I was making a hernia, so maybe some of those newbie complaints weren't so hilariously rookie.

In recent days, I've delighted in telling people about my hernia. I'm not sure how many people actually know-know what it is, and it's actually pretty fascinating. I'd hold my hand horizontal, spread my fingers, push the knuckle from my right hand through the gap.

"Then the surgeon will push the intestine back into place, and patch the hole with mesh ... like a bike tire," I'd explain animatedly.
"You've told this story before," this guy said during a recent retelling.
Everyone nodded.
"You've really got it down," a woman added, nodding.

In recent days I've also been terrified. Like, picturing people saying "... just a routine surgery," a slow head shake, a dab at the eyes. "... an otherwise healthy woman." When I was told I had a hernia, that I should probably have surgery since it was bothering me, I sat in my car and cried and imagined my life without me. I knew rationally that if I really thought that hernia surgery would hasten death, I wouldn't go through with it. You can live with a hernia. One of my friends just pushes her's back into place and proceeds with life as normal. Sometimes, she said, it hurts if she eats too much. But the hole can get bigger, the intestine can get strangled, the word "gangrene" appears in the literature. And it won't heal on its own.

Still, I did a lot of "this might be the last time that I do this" and on Monday night I ate about 1,200 calories worth of Reece's Pieces. The whole, "How many people skipped dessert on the Titanic" thing, you know.

HOW IT HAPPENS
Eventually I'm wheeled to an elevator, through some back passages, seemingly the underbelly of the hospital. It's like seeing the inner workings of an automaton, or the prep area of a kitchen. I'm parked in Slot 6 of what seems like a medical garage where blue-hatted patients wait to go under the knife. I overhear some of the staff making plans for happy hour. A man in scrubs sprays down beds and keeps smiling at me as if to say, "Look how clean I'm making this bed." At least two other employees walk past and comment on how hard he's working.

It's go time for the older woman parked across from me. She's wheeled out of her spot, and then she is perpendicular to me. She gives me a wan grimace-like smile. I wonder what she's in for.

"One of us might not make it out of here alive," I think, imagining her reading my obituary and staring off into space, trying to place my face.

After that I'm alone and it's lonely, man. People walk past in comfortable, albeit unattractive footwear. Few make eye contact. Some are walking through a door that very clearly says they must be wearing a hat to enter, but they are not. A few carry salads, sandwiches, brown bags.

A nurse stops by my bed. Jiggles this or that. An anesthesiologist explains his process. I sign papers.

I am visited by the physician's assistant who initially dug deep into my belly button to diagnose me last week. I like him. He took me seriously when I told him I had to be prepared for a dance competition in February, even when I explained that I was a novelty act.

"There's a friendly face," I say, and wonder if I sometimes express too much familiarity with strangers. But he did touch my hernia, so maybe he's not such a stranger anymore.

He takes me through the process and says the word "mesh" a lot. Then he pats my leg and tells me it will be about 45 more minutes. He walks away.

"Wait," I say.
He turns around.
"What do I do until then?" I ask.
He shrugs.
"Meditate?"
And he's through the double doors, wearing his hat.

A nurse walks past and asks if I need anything.
"Can I get a piece of paper?" I ask.

Two things calm me: One, imagining that some people live through gall bladder surgery, which seems way more invasive; two, writing this all down.


AND THEN
"This will take the edge off," a nurse tells me, hooking me up to some sort of liquid. "Like a glass of wine."
Here we go.
I'm wheeled into surgery and I can't stop talking. A woman asks me about my job and I tell her an extra-long story about what I do and the most recent thing I did and it can't possibly be interesting -- especially not in the great detail I'm giving her.

Finally I'm cut off. A mask is held near my face and a woman says "Sweet Dreams."

I wake up talking.
Where's Chuck? 
Where's the doctor? 
Am I alive? 
Where is the blog post I started writing in the waiting garage? 
Do I still have my free chapstick? 

AFTERMATH
I'm told the pain would be like I just did a massive abdominal workout. It's true: It feels like I've done 12,000 sit ups. I walk slowly. I worry about the infant nailing me in the guts with her flailing elbows while she eats, the only time I can hold her in any way. Chuck carefully sets her upon my nursing pillow, while I wince with discomfort. After 10 minutes, he flips her to the other breast.

I sleep very little, but take a good chunk out of the book "The Goldfinch" and become intimately acquainted with the night noises of our home; my roommates. One is a rhythmic breather, the other uses her talons to scratch at the mattress in her bed when she isn't making a constant "Uhnnnnnn" noise.

I rotate between Advil and pain pills and occasionally look at my wound in the mirror to make sure it isn't oozing fluid, which would indicate a problem.

I should be fine in 4-6 weeks.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The most 80s of ailments ...

My doctor draws it out for me, something that looks like the layers of Earth. It's taken him a single poke to my navel to diagnose me and now he's explaining it in great, disgusting detail.

My outer core, so to speak, has bubbled into my mantle at a weak spot. It needs to be pushed back into position. And, in non-Earth metaphors -- I have a small hernia. It's not unusual for post-preggos. This can happen when a belly busts out to here. A wayward intestine found its way into a gap and now there is a bubble poking through creating a painful little bump above my belly button.

A surgeon will have to go in, take his/her massive thumb, and push it back into place. Then, the hole will be patched like I'm a leaky tent.

"This is not from your navel ring," he told me, though I'd not asked or even wondered. "This is because you were pregnant."

There was a pain right in the spot where I rest the baby. This is also where, when I'm putting her into her pajamas, she most frequently hauls off and kicks me. It only hurts when it's touched, so the rest of the day it can be ignored.

If you Google the right combination of symptoms, umbilical hernia is the only answer. You can say, "Hernia? Why that sounds like something for other people to deal with. People with aggressive intestines, for instance." You can rearrange the words and Google again, but the answer remains the same. Umbilical hernia.

"It seems like it might be a hernia," I had told the nurse. "According to the internet. I suppose you hear 'According to the internet' a lot. But this does seem to be a hernia."

It feels kind of weird to have a hernia. Like now that I know, I really want it fixed. Every time I exert any effort, I imagine the intestine slowing oozing through the hole, like slow motion Silly String. I ate jalapenos for at lunch and imagined a spicy piece getting caught in this pocket. I have to hold the baby in a new way, which inadvertently folds her into a weird C shape that neither of us like.

Chuck said of the diagnosis: This is what happens when you carry things.

There is something so Totally 80s about a hernia. Was it a thing back then? A saying or an insult? God. She practically had a hernia about it. 

Sam Malone had a hernia, Chuck told me. He freaked. Thought it was an ailment for old people. He told the regulars he was taking a ski trip, but really he had surgery. Chuck just saw this episode of "Cheers" last week while I was busy growing my own ... stomach tail?

Then, of course, there is this, which has been stuck in my head all day.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Legs ...

"Okay. I think I have enough time to shave one leg."

Chuck laughs. 

It's true. This is going to be a process. I don't think I've shaved them since the baby was born and I certainly wasn't doing any bending in the shower when I was pregnant. 

I flip up my pant leg to show him the Sasquatch-ian scene. 

He pauses. 

"You're lucky I'm a hippie."

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Let there be Sriracha ...

Every Monday I get an email from writer-performance artist-actor Miranda July and within it are the personal correspondences of a handful of somewhat famous people ranging from Kareem Abdul Jabbar to Lena Dunham. 

It's a project, much like everything Miranda July does. She is curious about the way people comport (her word) themselves in this medium, so she asked a bunch of people to comb through outbox and give her an unfiltered glimpse of emails that refer to a specific topic. This week it was "body." Then July forwards the collection to anyone who wants to read it. Like me. The whole thing is called We Think Alone.

Plenty of the emails are boring -- though I never tire of seeing new mail from Miranda July -- except Lena Dunham. Her letters are always so neurotic and witty that it's like she secretly believes that someday her entire life will be open to the public, her emails public domain, her underwear drawer on the second floor of the museum next to whatever mites, skin and hair some intern vacuumed out of her mattress.

Some Mondays, after reading the collection, I type the topic into the search bar on my Gmail to see what my contribution would be if, say, I was one of Miranda July's somewhat famous friends. The verdict: Zzzz.

Regardless, today two things happened: 1. I was thinking about Miranda July and 2. My friend C1 and I sent a few emails back and forth and at one point he asked why I never blog anymore. I realized amount of words I put into the email to him would more than make a blog post, so why waste the finger-pad power.

So here is my own mini We Think Alone project.

Me: Next time you're at Subway, might I suggest a touch of the creamy Sriracha sauce on your sandwich. 
C1: Subway's bread is sub-par, I avoid it at all costs. Well, except for the occasional meatball sub when Subway is the only option. But I did see a commercial for the Sriracha sauce and thought, "That might make something completely shitty slightly better." 
Me: The Sriracha made my shitty ham and turkey sub actual percentage points better. I guess I didn't realize that you don't eat at Subway. I guess I won't tell you about their new garlic-flavored bread or that they now serve breakfast 24/7.  
C1: I ate at Subway for about 75 percent of my meals when traveling with (group he travels with) from 2003-2012. That's a lot of Subway. I think their breakfast is actually OK, but (get ready for a controversial statement) the breakfast at Arby's is far superior. The wraps are fantastic, in the worst fast-food way possible. 
One of the women (he travels with) is sponsored by Subway, so she had a card that got her free sandwiches anywhere in the world. Luckily, the only Subway we encountered last year was in Kuusamo, Finland.  
Me: I guess I've been eating Subway almost every day since godknowswhen. When I was home on maternity leave I, of course, did not eat Subway. Then (Chuck) and I went to Minneapolis for this thing and we stopped at Subway because we were starving and it was the healthiest option on the road. He purchased a $5 foot long from a shop in a strip mall in Pine City that was so damn good that I almost lost my mind. It was just a simple turkey on wheat with a bunch of veggies, but it was packed so tight and so delicious. Secret ingredient: Dijon mustard, which they call "spicy mustard" at Subway. I've relished my return to Subway.  
Today's trip was almost thwarted because I was being followed by someone who had jumped into the Skyway system near the Radisson. This person was really huffing and puffing and snorting and seemed to be dragging a limb. I tried to walk fast, but it felt like this person was gaining on me. Every time I touched a glass door I was reminded that this person behind me -- and people like him (her? I never got a visual) -- were also touching these glass doors all day every day. By the time I got to Subway, my body would be more diseased than the garbage cans behind St. Luke's.  
Then she (he?) hawked another loogie, which she (he?) swallowed and grunted some more and coughed a phlegm-y couch and I almost took off running so as not to ruin my lunch. When I got to Subway, I quickly ducked inside making sure not to look at the faces of any of the customers. One stray blotch of Mayo on a customer's chin would probably push me over the edge.  
C1: BLT at Subway is a winner. It's not good bacon, but it's less weird meat than, say, the turkey. Erbert's & Gerbert's is far superior, in my opinion. I mean, they have two different types of hams. 

I ate tacos from a taco stand in Ogden, UT today. One spicy pork, one regular pork, one chicken. They were kickass. They came with a grilled jalapeno as an option. $1.50 per taco. Hell of a deal. I'm going to go to one of these places for dinner:  
www.lorenzosmxrestaurant.com/menu.html
www.elchubascomexicangrill.com 
Probably Lorenzo's because I go to El Chub all the time.  
Me: Every night for dinner I eat an Amy's Organic Burrito, the one in the red wrapper. I pair it with two heaping dollops of cottage cheese, after first eating a third and fourth dollop straight from the container. (We buy cottage cheese two containers at a time). I dump a bag of baked Doritos on the plate, too. Sometimes I do this one handed with my kid on my hip -- a kid that is becoming increasingly interested in the concept of food-food -- and sometimes I put her in her crib beneath her mobile, tell her I'm going to the bathroom, but really pig out.
I hope my one-a-day vitamin is picking up the slack.  
C1: WTF, (Blahler). Can't you get someone to fix a casserole for a week? A salad? What's your hemoglobin at right now?  
Me: Unsure. Thanks for asking. 












Monday, November 4, 2013

Of chili dishes past ...

Chuck flips through an old cookbook trying to find me a recipe for chili. He's already verbalized one off the top of his head:

Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil, add beans and ...

I can't work like that. I've been cooking for at least five years, but still prefer very clear instructions. Meanwhile, less than an hour ago he chucked a bunch of veggies into a pan, mixed in some eggs and created a restaurant caliber breakfast for us. He's a kitchen free spirit, I guess. And I'd say "show off," but i don't want to do anything to jinx a repeat performance. 

He finds, in the cookbook, photos from my friend Ethan's going away party. My 22 year old body getting tossed like a rag doll over my friend Hank's shoulder. Then there is one of Fannie on a toilet, pants around her ankles, socks up to her knees pretending to chug from a whiskey bottle. Our friend Pucci, a photographer, had staged, directed and shot it. It's like an edgy-but-tasteful advertisement in Sassy magazine. 

Chuck flips the cookbook in my direction to show me a chili recipe. 

"It's That One," he says. 
My eyes get wide. I groan. That One. 

Years ago, armed with oh-so much bravado, I'd made this chili recipe. There was no skimping on peppers and spices. I wanted something dragon-esque. Something so spicy, I'd never have to shave my legs again. Something that had to be registered with the ATF. Something that really said: YOU CAN'T HANDLE MY CHILI. 

Chuck reminds me today that he squashed his spiceometer and just ate the damn chili. But it didn't feel good and he certainly didn't go for seconds. 

I conceded that it was hot, for sure, but as a heat seeker, it was tolerable. 

The leftovers were another story. After a day of rest, the mix was toxic. Could be used to power a snowblower at least. But there I was. Chin deep in the sludge. Able to handle the spiciest of all spices. This is me in bikini briefs flexing. 

That night I woke myself with my own moans. I was on the floor next to the bed writhing. Twisting my body into every letter of the alphabet. 

Chuck found me like that and shot out of bed. 

"I thought I was going to have to take you to the emergency room," he recalled today.
I think at the time he thought I was having a heart attack.  

Eventually life went back to normal. There was no irreparable damage -- at least not physically. It just felt like there was going to be. 

But I did learn that I don't always have to shoot for the superlative. That it's ok to just make chili instead of CHILI!




Saturday, November 2, 2013

Our Pet Human (on the first day of 15 weeks) ...


She's got a case of diarrhea. It's mild. She's not like a leaky mustard bottle, she's going like normal but the result is more spoon than fork -- if you know what I mean. I'm told it could last two weeks, this cleansing of something or other from her innards.

It's only a few degrees more liquid than her usual fare, which made me wonder how Chuck could possibly know that yesterday she was normal and today she's got diarrhea.

"Let's just say I'm never having butternut squash soup ever again," he texted back.

I took this opportunity to teach her a classic: A song I'm assuming is called The Diarrhea Song. When you're sliding into first and you feel a little burst -- diarrhea, uh-uh. Diarrhea, uh-uh. Second, disinfectant, third, a little turd, home, your pants begin to foam. You get the drill.

Reader, she loves it. She giggles through the whole song, which I sing at every diaper change.  She squirms and clasps her hands together. I swear she's inserting her own uh-uhs into the refrain. It's all very fun for both of us and is quickly becoming Our Song.

Today I took a step back from the situation and realized that she's not laughing at the content. The repetitious use of the hilarious word diarrhea. The part, admittedly my favorite, where I sing about her pants begining to foam. In fact, she has no idea the degrees of humor present in this song. She's just laughing ... because.

There is so much to teach her.

***

Have you ever had a human being with freakishly long fingernails, perhaps even talons, treat your nipple like a doorknob? A friend wants to know.

***

In related news: I drew blood for the first time today, clipping one of the aforementioned talons. It went much better than the time she was like 4 seconds old and I pinched the skin on her chest while buckling her car seat and then I immediately burst into tears.

(To which Chuck said at the time: "I'm so glad it was you and not me.")

***

I hesitate to tell you this because when I mentioned it to the mother of a 2-year-old she told me:

"Nobody likes you. You need to stop telling people that."

Listen. I'm aware that today's norm could end up in the Rocket Blender and all of a sudden we'll be knee deep in a horrific phase that ends with me saying, through a mop of frizzed hair and smudges of week-old mascara "It's fine. It's fine. I'll just sleep when she goes to college."

But, knock wood, the PBG has a few times slept through the night. Like, super through the night. Like, into the ridiculous zone. Like, oh yeah. She's totally related to people who have yawned big and said in their most serious, albeit lazy, voices "Oh, me? I require 11 hours of sleep." She usually does well between 11 p.m. and 5 or 6 a.m. But on three occasions, she has kept right on trucking to 10 a.m.ish.

(Your grandma will tell you to never wake a sleeping baby; When your grandmother said that, her breasts probably weren't so full of milk that she could drown an entire box of Cap'n Crunch.")

The first time the PBG did it I noticed the quality of light coming through the curtains and two pancake sized drenched spots on my tank top and muttered "... the heck?!" Then I remembered she's aging before our eyes and part of that aging process means sleeping like a normal human being rather than this mini force oscillating between narcolepsy and 5-hour energy pill addict faced with a closet to organize.

Anyway, like I said, no reason to bust out the streamers. She's only done it three times.

***

That said: A few nights ago we couldn't get her to sleep, despite our most devious of baby-fooling tricks. It was 10 p.m., then 11 p.m. and suddenly it was 12:30 a.m. and she was a fussy mess and she'd been fed and changed and she needed toothpicks for her eyelids, but she was hanging on because she is going to always be the last one to leave a party.

I went downstairs to wash bottles and cats circled my feet and I kept dropping things and everything was terrible. Chuck came down holding the baby, her beady eyes shining, and he referred to as a "little a-hole."

We went back upstairs and re-tried some of the old tricks and finally, finally she fell asleep. I laid her in the bed and we both stood hunched over watching her sleep and Chuck whispered ever-so quietly:

"Stockholm Syndrome."

***

I wasn't going to dress her up for Halloween because she's 0 years old and who cares? Then I realized that if I didn't dress her up, Social Services would probably pay me a visit.

I don't want to talk a lick about baby girl costumes versus baby boy costumes. If I even get started on it, Chuck will go into his rant about baby girl shoes versus baby boy shoes. (The latter being good for rugged play; The former being something good for only standing in the living room and twirling. Chuck has always been a feminist. But since having a daughter, it's shot into "Vagina Monologues" territory).

I digress. I got a little sad that I'm not a sewing sort who made something cute and meaningful for her first Halloween costume. But I think she did a bang up job with what we found and knocked cute out of the park.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

In the middle of the night ...

Wake up desperate for a pee. Swing feet to floor, slip into robe. 

Bumble with overstuffed nightstand and find glasses. Walk down the hallway with eyes mostly closed. 

Sit down on toilet. Void. 

Look up and catch glimpse of self in mirror wearing Chuck's glasses. 

Realize on way back that they almost kind of work. 



Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Our Pet Human (at about 12 weeks and 12 days) ...


Let me preface this by saying that I know our 3-month old daughter is not saying complicated two syllable words -- or any words, aside from something that starts with "Abu" and ends with her chin covered in a beard of spit.

I get this. We actually have a pediatrician approved baby manual that keeps us apprised of upcoming milestones. Baby might effortlessly drench the front of her onesie at 3 months; Baby might begin speaking recognizable words is chapters from here. 

Still: She's saying the word "hungry." 

It's actually more like "ung-gee, ung-gee" but she says it right around the time someone tuned into her clocks would suspect she is actually ... Ung-gee. 

I've thought she was saying it for a while but I kept it to myself because it's crazy-talk and the sort of delusions of grandeur that give elementary school teachers something to laugh their asses off at while hiding in a bathroom stall during parent-teacher conferences. So I knew what Chuck was talking about when he said he thought she was saying "hungry."

"The ung-gee thing?" I said.

We tell this fun not-possibly fact to the people who come in contact with her. This past weekend the Parents Pista were in town and they heard it too. Ung-gee. Ung-gee. Multiple times. 

"Baby girl," I said at Sammy's Pizza as she began to fuss. "Are you hungry?"

"Ung-gee, ung-gee," she said and we all heard it and we all laughed.  

None of us will say in a non joking way that we believe she is saying "hungry." It's impossible. That would mean genius, right? And genius is such a burden. No one wants that. 


This is also the week where I set her on the bed, slipped into sweatpants, turned around and she was face planted in the bedspread. Like some giant spatula came down from the sky and flipped her like a pancake. Of course she hates being on her stomach, so she cried and grunted and was trying so hard to get out of this jam that all she could do is fart. The fart, it seems, is her battle cry. 


A few days ago I was at Subway and saw a preggo standing in line. I had to stop myself from grabbing her arm and saying "I WAS PREGNANT TOO!" 

Everything about being pregnant is so weird that you forget it's a pretty common state. Sometimes I miss it. It was so terrifying and exciting and encumbering and terrible. And everything tasted so damn good. 

But sometimes I think: I'm not pregnant anymore so I can do a cartwheel if I want and take a hot bath without poaching a fetus and, hell, I can go out and try to catch listeria if I want because I'm catching rare illnesses for one now. It's very liberating. 


Anyway, somewhere in the past week or two we woke up to a real baby. One that bounces with excitement and speaks in tongues. One that is neither happy nor sad -- still just curious -- about how her legs move in water, but is thrilled with the 7-Up effect of farting in water. One who twists 45 degrees, cozies into a corner of her bed and rolls onto her side. One who nonchalantly grabs fistfuls of your hair or bottom lip. One who beams at the baby in the mirror and tries to touch her hand. 

One who I suspect might not be a future ballet dancer, rather might want to be a bulldozer. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Stalled ...

I recently made an exciting discovery at the mall: the family restroom. This large all-stall room is amazing. It's bigger than our living room -- cleaner too -- and it has one of those "pretty mirrors" in which one's face looks less like blotchy fatigue and more like something Photoshopped. (It's in the lighting I think).

I looked forward to using it on Thursday, but instead found a teenaged girl on a bench outside the door, waiting in line. 

"I'll be quick," she promised, code for "I'm not going to lay down a deuce."

It didn't bother me that an able bodied teen -- sans stroller or small human accessory -- was using something clearly marked "Family Restroom." But I did take the opportunity to feign pissedness to Chuck via text message. 

Here is why we determined a teenaged girl would need to use this bathroom having, eliminated the obvious fear of public performance. (A fear that corked me for a month in college. If not for the bathroom at Super America, I'd have plumped to a scat version of Violet Beauregard). Anyway:

Chuck: probably crushing up her Addies
Me: maybe dancing with Molly
Chuck: peeing on a stolen pregnancy test
Chuck: purging Leeann Chin
Me: applying Manic Panic. Stolen. 
Chuck: changing into the outfit she was wearing when she left home this morning. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Our Pet Human (at 11 weeks) ...


Sunday day came and went, then Sunday night and nothing. Not a flutter. Not that cavernous stomach feeling. I didn't do the end-of-summer depression clomp or dry heave in the shower. I never felt like I was snorting 7-Up. I didn't yelp as the sun set.

"I don't get it," I said to Chuck.
"So now you're worried about not being worried?" he said, clarifying the situation.
"Oh," I said.

Going back to my Daily Obligation was fine. I snuck a few peeks at the PBG while I was getting ready to leave, but made it out the door while she was still asleep. I wore clothes-clothes and not the yoga pants-tank top-cardigan combo I've claimed as my signature look. I listened to pop music in the car. I applied lipstick at a stop light. I wore my new sunglasses and I drank Naked Juice while en route. I checked in with friends and caught up on three months worth of whatever. I didn't mistakingly refer to anyone as "my little lima bean." I feel like an awful person saying this, but it was pretty sweet getting back to the business of being a part of a society that doesn't think of my areolas as a dinner plate.

On my way to lunch I looked into the window of an empty storefront and thought: "I have a daughter. I have a daughter. Oh, her? She's my daughter. A person I made." At Subway, a couple of the Sandwich Artists asked to see photos. I flashed my phone, they cooed and asked for details and ... I felt like I was lying. Like this was some elaborate ruse I'd rehearsed so well that people actually believed that I'd had a baby. "I have a daughter. Her name is this. She likes the Lakewalk and hates the book 'Green Eggs and Ham.'"

Baby-wise, I was stable unless anyone asked me to express an emotion about being eight miles away from my little person. For the rest of the day I stayed focused by making the universal sign for Time Out whenever someone cocked a head and asked: "How are you dooooooing?"

"Let's just not talk about it" and a quick spin in the opposite direction got me through it.

Day 2 was another story. I got her out of bed, changed her diaper, kissed her pumpkin head as she cozied up on the couch with Chuck and a bottle. Then I forgot my phone and had to go back inside and repeat the goodbyes. I felt my voice pitch higher as I choked "I better [croak] go."

Eight hours later I was sick with missing her, almost dizzy and breathless. It was like my body had only promised to hold it together until 6 p.m. Then a second after that I caught a flu-like love sickness. It was the worst. I went to pick her up from Norway Hall and the traffic lights and parking options waged a war against me. I thought I was going to hyperventilate every time I was stalled or thwarted. Finally, with a full-on fever, I parked and quick-walked to the building just in time to catch the Norwegian Wonder leaving, carrying my sleeping baby. I wanted to rip the PBG out the car seat and hold that warm little body against me. Feel her do that back arch thing she does when she's liberated from the seat.

Gah. My aching heart.

NEW SENSATION
"What in the hell is that on her face?!" I shriek at Chuck, who is holding the baby.
There's a grey-ish gob of goo connecting her nostril to her lip. I remember that I just heard her sneeze three times and do the math: Baby's first massive slug of snot.
Chuck oozes it into a Kleenix while I stand by gagging. He tugs and tugs, the old magician-with-infinity-hankies-in-his-breast-pocket trick.
"I swear it was that long!" he says afterward.
"Did you get any on you?" I ask.
His look says: "Please, woman. You should see the things I've gotten on me. This is nothing. Those mustardy seeds are curds of milk, you know."
Later he reminisces: "It looked like someone stepped on a tube of wasabi paste."

THE BIOLOGY OF DIAPERS
Through some cruel trick of biology, my favorite time with the girl has become diaper changes. She's always all-smiles as soon as her back hits the table. She practically tugs her own clothes off all while emitting mermaid-frequency squeaks. And because it's already feeling a little festive, I make a big show of removing her socks, cracking my knuckles, chanting "PANTS OFF DANCE OFF!" painstakingly describing what I'm seeing in her diaper and then applauding her effort.

I'm slow to re-dress her. She likes to hang loose, but she also likes the part where I velcro the sides of her diaper. She almost giggles when I pull her feet through her pant legs. We're both always a little disappointed when it's over so I let her chill a little longer and we both stare at each other smiling like "Wasn't that hilarious?" "Yeah, totes."

This basically makes Chuck the luckiest bastard in all of diaper land.

NEW YUCK
Today the PBG burped centimeters from my open mouth and I could taste it. After posting about it on Facebook, she did something similar except with projectile milk curds. My mouth? Again centimeters from hers. I didn't get any in my mouth, but it was close, man.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Then things got sitcom-y ...

I put the baby in her car seat. Threw a blanket over her feet. Tossed a pacifier in next to her. Slung a diaper bag containing extra clothes, extra food, extra dipes, over my shoulder. Snagged a reusable grocery bag. Hoisted that over a shoulder too. 

Picked up the car seat, holding it in a way to get the least amount of rain on the baby. Grabbed my keys, my phone, a charger. 

Out the door. Locked it. Speed walked toward the car. 

Realized I was still wearing slippers. Shrugged. Kept going. 

Our Pet Human (at 10 weeks) ...


The worst thing I've ever seen, to date: a nurse spending 5 minutes trying to tap one of the PBG's veins with an IV.

I didn't know there would be an IV. And I especially didn't know about the catheter. It's mention of the latter that sends me shivering and snotting to the Kleenix box. I've had a catheter. I've stood on a table in the basement of a hospital, catheterized, and been asked to urinate into something that looks like a Brita Water Pitcher in front of an audience. It's awful.

But it's watching them insert the IV, helplessly listening to the pained cries of the baby, that hurts worse than getting stuck myself. 

We were in Minneapolis meeting with a specialist about the PBG's single kidney. To recap: There is no left; righty is super sized. They wanted to make sure the one is doing its job and isn't an infection waiting to happen. As we all know, the common urinary tract infection is the precious family heirloom. If an infection had an easy way to crawl back into the kidney, we'd have a problem. So there were all these tests and pokes and prods.

The PGB was in perhaps the best mood of her life, even during the ultrasound. She was all smiles and fake words, arms and legs doing cheerleading choreography.

"Well, I hope I don't ruin that," a woman in radiology said right before the IV-catheter combo meal.

Chuck and I had to stand idly by while the PBG was photographed eliminating fluids for 50 torturous minutes. She was strapped down at her mid section, her big blue eyes pooling with tears (helped along by the additional fluids in her body), her mouth a giant red O as she wailed the entire time. A clock ticked off the minutes, time that was seemingly wading through peanut butter. I leaned over her and hoped she didn't forever associate my face with this cold fluid running through her body or the jabs to her hand and peeper.

It. Was. Awful.

"Well," I said to Chuck. "At least now we know we know that we would be able to kill anyone who hurts her."

After that she was scanned by a radiologist, which she seemed to think was fun, and all was right with the world again.

The verdict: She should be fine, according to the doctor, though we have his permission to use the kidney as an excuse to not let her play football. Now I can stop being sad when I see girls playing soccer. She just might be the best midfielder ever after all. Of course, this verdict could change, but he seemed to think she would be okay. She'll continue to meet with him every few months until she's potty trained.


THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
This week marks the end of my life without a Daily Obligation. Starting next week, the Norwegian Wonder will be watching the PBG three days a week.

I'm probably going to barf about it.

This is technically a good thing. The Norwegian Wonder is wonderful, everyone should know her, and we're lucky that the PBG will get one-on-one time with her. Also: She's coming to our house, which is super convenient and means that other dirty children won't get their flu in the baby's hair. Bonus that the PBG might pick up some Norwegian along the way and someday be able to say "I hate you, you ruined my life" in a less hostile sounding language.

Still the whole thing is causing conflicting emotions: a) sad to leave my baby; b) happy to get out into the world and resume some semblance of my own life; c) sad that I'm kind of happy to get back into the world and resume some semblance of my own life.

The kicker is that this comes at a time when we've developed a routine. She's learning all these new tricks. And every day she's becoming more aware that I'm a VIP. This is crucial. I've been unable to trick anyone else into thinking this about me.

I practiced leaving her earlier this week. I took a late lunch with a great view and a Charles Manson bio and when my mind wandered back to her little face, everything started to taste like glue. (Although the rest of the time it was delish).

Even if I was the president of the Sheltering Homeless Company and on the board of directors for the Feed the Hungry Organization I still think that I would spend eight hours a day thinking: This is bullshit compared to watching my baby do a gummy grin at some Of Montreal song she heard on Yo Gabba Gabba YouTube. I'm worried about that.

Chrissie! said it's good for the baby to see me with a daily obligation. I believe that's true and plan to repeat it to myself when I return to my daily Subway sandwich lunches, now with a bonus breast pump.

I just really don't want to wake up one day and suddenly realize that the PBG's got a full head of hair instead of this male pattern baldness thing she's rocking. That she can do a cartwheel and has begun experimenting with Loves Baby Soft, pilfered from Walgreens.

So there you have it: me repeating the shit mommy bloggers having been mommy blogging about for the ages.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Our roommate ...

There we were, alone in a back room. In my dream, things with Chuck were starting to ramp up. Just when the going was about to get good --

The baby screamed once, released a manish fart and fell back to sleep. Dream over.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Our Pet Human (at 9 weeks) ...


I no longer look like myself. I'm not just talking the pot belly or the weird way my upper thighs jut like I'm wearing mini traffic cones under my yoga pants. It's also in my face, which looks like someone smeared the definition and left dark eraser marks under my eyes. My hair has gotten more full and longer and it grows wildly.

It's neither good nor bad, it's just different. I guess I look more like the kind of woman at the coffee shop you ask to watch your laptop while you pee than one who might barf into that same purse if you left it on the bar.

I've seen this happen to other women who have recently had babies: One minute they're round and ripe and they still just look like a rounder, riper version of your old friend; next time you see them, they damn-near have to shake you and say "Hey! It's me under this weird new face and body and shirt with convenient access to my breasts! Hi!"

It's like on soap operas when they fire an actor but keep the character and bring in a new actor who looks like a distant relative of the first one.

I didn't know I was a simulacrum until this past week. Twice I've had to reintroduce myself to people I know-know. I wonder if I'll ever go back to normal or if I'll have to send out some official statement to friends regarding my new me.

***


Every day seems to bring the most minute bit of development and it is freaking fascinating. A few days ago she seemed to discover her hands and she stared at them like a stoner, dazed as she moved her fingers. In my groggy state I began to imagine that she knew sign language and was sending me special messages she carried with her from the womb. Eat more Iron. Update the operating system on your iPhone. 

After a few weeks, the PBG has finally noticed a toy frog that dangles in her car seat. It was billed for babies 0 and older, but the only time she's acknowledged it was once when it brushed against her head and she made concerned eyebrows about it. Yesterday she spent about 20 minutes staring at it with a slight smile and making baby noises. She made a few swipes at it with her hand, but seemed unable to figure out how to touch it or what touching it entailed.

So ... GREAT! Now try telling this to someone and eliciting the same level of excitement as I had, watching her watch the frog.

"How's the baby?"
"Fantastic! She learns things every day."
"Oh, yeah? Like what?"
"Like, that she has hands!"
"..."
"She tried to touch the frog toy that hangs in her car seat."
"But she didn't, like, roll over or anything?"
"No, but you could see her figuring out her hand."
"Sleep through the night?"
"Her fingers brushed it's foot!"
"..."
"She seemed a little confused about her left hand's role in all of this."
"I see."

***

This week I learned that the tiny seed-like substances in the baby's crap are curds of milk. Science!

***

Is it just me, or is the world suddenly filled with so many kids?

***

We bought the PBG a mobile for her crib as part of a glacially-paced transition from a bed in our room to her own bed in her own room (where her sleep-snorts can be controlled with the baby monitor's volume button). We got a mobile that is referred to as a "soother" which offers quiet music or white noise, a night light and a carousal of animals. The trifecta of sensory lulling experiences.

Except she loves the mobile and finds it super fascinating. It's her TV and her circus and her fireworks. Big smile, leg kicks, did she laugh? She's got front row seats and she's a total Moblieber.

***

I love this photo so much. She was asleep in the stroller when I ripped open the cover for the shoot at the lighthouse in Canal Park. She wailed and I cackled, took a quick and terrible photo and she was asleep again a few seconds later. 


Thursday, September 19, 2013

A moment ...

The three of us have been going for walks every day, vistas ranging from West Duluth to the Lakewalk to Miller Hill Mall. 

A few days ago we were walking in a wooded area on the eastern part of the Lakewalk. Chuck was pushing the stroller and made a grab for me with his left hand. He pulled me close, tight-like, and I think I puckered up assuming we were going to have a moment. 

He ignored my lips and went for my ear. He whispered: 

"I just want you to know that there is a snake on the trail in front of us."

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Our Pet Human (at 8 weeks) ...


This has been the week of watching the infant repeatedly get her mind blown. At a) helping to push herself to a much-assisted standing position; b) kicking out music on a Fisher Price piano; c) the waterslide episode of "Malcolm in the Middle."

She gets wide eyed, round mouthed and raised eyebrows. She waves her hands. She's all DO YOU SEE WHAT I'M DOING?! And of course I think she's a) freakishly strong; b) musically inclined; c) wait ... attracted to Frankie Muniz? Is that humanly possible?

Then, during tummy time, she tries to suckle a bed sheet -- I mean she really goes for it, mouth and tongue and everything -- and I wonder if she'll ever be able to read. 

***

So this happened: Chuck took the PBG to his dad's house, marking the first time I was home alone without the baby. 

I promised myself I wouldn't do laundry or wash bottles or pack for our trip to Rochester. I'd read about Charles Manson and stare blankly into the face of the internet with my mouth hanging open and my chin wet. I'd drink an entire glass of water and sit on the porch. 

Then, I stood at the door and watched them leave and cried.

***

Impulses I suddenly understand:
1. Going out for a pack of wipes, blowing past Walgreen's and landing in Las Vegas where I assume the name Ranger Fifth Place and live on karaoke winnings;
2. Throwing ones body in front of a rabid dog, kidnapper, extended cab pickup to protect an innocent;
3. The desire to control time with the flick of a universal knob;
4. Crying for all styles of reasons, the good, the bad, the overwhelmed, the bored, because someday I'll have to go back to work, because right now I have to stay home, the projectile seedy mustard shit now staining a tube of Vaseline, the adorable rabbit onesie with matching footie pants and ruffle butt that are two minutes from being outgrown.

"That never goes away," my aunt Jules says of the crying. I believe it.

***


We took the bambino to Rochester under the guise of meeting her relatives, but really because we needed a break from holding her. Ma Pista is charmed by things like couch-vibrating gas and relish-colored craps. She would take 100 percent of the holding shifts and enough of the diaper changing shifts to make it worth the 4-hour one-way drive.

We went out-out on Friday night, just the two of us and found that that no venue, including one that smelled worse than her diapers, paired with no amount of beer was more interesting than watching the PBG acquire chins. We took a cab home by midnight and found the baby asleep on top of my mom, also asleep, and my dad watching them from his chair in case the latter startled awake and catapulted the former toward the Sandford section of the built-in bookshelves. We did not pay them.

I performed an experiment mixing breast milk and alcohol test strips, which turned black on contact indicating I'd ingested too much booze to feed her from the tap. SCIENCE!

The PBG put on a good show for the rels, then came unglued when no one was looking. Her sleep was filled with grunts and kicks and noises heard in a stable. She seemed to be awake all night, and officially awake-awake three or four times to eat.

This has inspired a new sleep descriptor: She slept like a jerk.

The good news: She seems able to entertain herself in eight hour increments. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

It's Sunday and (the spills edition) ...

Last night Chuck assembled a little play mat with dangling toys and a keyboard the bambino can play with her feet. All that toy testing felt like a glimpse of Christmas Eves in the future. We didn't have the PBG try it, letting an episode from Season 2 of Game of Thrones be her bedtime soiree rather than this Fisher Price activity center.

When is the right age to expose babies to beheadings again?

She tests it during her peak hours of late morning, stomping on the keyboard and cooing and staring at herself in a mirror that dangles over her head. She's so into it, so content, so stimulated, that I expect to see the shadow of Ken Kesey in her pupils.

***

There is a house on the walking route that uses its porch and front lawn as a walk-in closet. The No Trespassing sign affixed to a beam seems to be a warning to yard sale fiends who might froth over the old clothes and broken furniture. Today there is a man sitting on the front porch. He's got a dog tied up, one of those small growlers with something to prove.

"The dog is mostly harmless," the man says as it rears.
Mostly harmless.
He conjures a luggie from deep down, sends it sailing into the yard.
The rest of the walk is without incident.

***

Our neighbor wanders down the street to chat and I find myself staring intently into her eyes and latching on to her words. Later I will tell Chuck that I can hear myself talking and I sound like a crazy person.

"This happened again?" he asks.
"Again," I admit.

I get this way around people who can talk and walk upright. Hungry for communicado. At one point I find myself leaning into her begging her to tell me about life on the outside. What's happening in the world. WHAT DID YOU EAT FOR LUNCH. TELL ME ABOUT YOUR BOYFRIEND!

***

I get out. I do. I take a daily trip across town for an Iced Vanilla Latte, which I finish before I'm even back on the highway. These lattes, I've found, are inferior to the ones at the Target Starbucks. But I have to avoid the Target Starbucks because I can no longer go to Target without dropping bills in hundo increments.

There is a scorched taste to the coffee at the coffee shop around town, selected simply because it has a drive thru window. The scorch doesn't ruin the drink, rather, it gives it character. The ice is what makes it worth the drive: the small kernal variety is the best for chomping. It takes on a coffee flavor, savorable for the time it takes for the loot to melt.

I stop at Walgreens to talk to a pharmacist and Video Vision to rent "The Great Gatsby."

***

We usually tag-team baths. One holds, one scrubs. We both dry her on an owl towel then massage baby lotion into her limbs. She desperately needs a bath. Her keister is two craps from turning, permanently, mustard colored. Chuck doesn't get home for hours.

I decide to do it myself. I'm trying out something new: Instead of immediately asking for help or assuming I can't do something that I a) don't want to do; b) think I can't do, I'm just doing them. I want to be a person who can do anything. Figure out what's wrong with the wireless keyboard, drill things, locate a spark plug, roast a chicken.

The bath goes fine, though she screams her head off like I'm trying to re-give birth to her. I forgot to plug the tub, so I'm in a race with the diminishing water supply. I hurry through the process, wrap her in a towel and pull her close to warm her and ... she pees on me. All over the front of my shirt and onto my pants.

But she's clean. Her keister returns to its regular pinkish hue.

***

Gatsby is deece.

***

I sit down, attach myself to a machine and harvest milk from my body while penning this post. At some point my left leg wettens and I realize that one of the bottle has over flowed and I'm spilling my own milk all over my lap. Right next to the pee stains.

Huzzah! Another Sunday in the books.

***

The "It's (Insert Day of Week) and I'm Boring" is a series that Jodi and I do to pay homage to the beauty of old-school blogging. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Why this big box ...

My favorite Big Box store has a counterpart in Superior, Wis., that is minus the whole "super" designation. It's less a sibling store than the step-sibling store. Like,  if before she met the love of her life, Target's mom got knocked up at a high school rager by a guy who still, 20 years later, wears the letter jacket he barely earned before his wrestling career was interupted by a contageous skin virus.

So the step-sibling is fine. Maybe it had a few rough years with mom, trying to pinch child support from cauliflower ear. Now it has settled into a modest adulthood free of pretention. It has just half a load of genes in common with Duluth and tolerates Duluth at holidays, weddings and funerals, but otherwise finds its sister to be an entitled twit. Likewise, Duluth admires her sister's moxie, but finds her to be a little too raw.

Here are five reasons I went to the Superior store on Saturday:

1. Who knows when I took  my last shower.

Ordinarily this would be fine, aside from something resembling condensed milk dandruffing the insides of my tank top*, but the past two days have been Grandma's kitchen hot and I've gone for three long, sweaty walks in this period. Oddly enough, my hair looks fine. Good almost. Like a ballet dancer. It's just the ripe smell made from salty skin and crevices that is the cause for pause.

Anyway, I'm not going to see anyone I know at this store. Heck, I might not see anyone, period. (More on that later).

2. It feels exotic to travel to Wisconsin for Pampers.

3. I'd originally planned to go to a different brand of Big Box in my neighborhood, a dismal place bolstered by Martha Stewart bedding. This is the perfect place to take an infant who might spontaneously erupt into tears or an unapologetic fart fest. No one would notice mine over the sound of the other infants wailing and farting.

The same rules apply at this current Big Box, though it would not exist at the same brand of Big Box, the one I usually go to in my own city.

4. No one shops here. If I told you that you were assured a parking spot within the first three stalls after the Handicap Parking during peak hours on Saturday at this Big Box in any other city, you'd tell me to shut the front door. What if I also mentioned that they had just one cashier working and that was more than enough?

This also means that I lingered an obscenely long time in the baby aisles, taking photographs of various products and texting them to Chuck. I never worried about Not Hogging the Fisher Price.

If I were you and I lived in Duluth and I had hemmerhoids or anything else that requires ointment, I'd buy it at this Big Box's location.

5. I think it's closer to my house, technically.

NOTE
* The flaking isn't actually condensed milk. I'm just being colorful. It's actually from the fungal ointment I'm using to treat breast yeast. Enjoy your lunch!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Our Pet Human (on the eve of her seven-week birthday) ...

Two things: A. Fannie visited on my birthday; B. I've never looked momlier. 
Everyone who has ever  heard of kids knows the age old knock-em-sock-em trick: The car, the open road, the white noise is enough to TKO a wailing infant. I have on my hands a perfectly cheerful baby, but one that won't sleep. She skips the morning nap, then the afternoon nap and as we wane into early evening, she's skipping that one too.

It's hard to be annoyed, though. She keeps giving me these heart-clenching gummy gapes, like she's surprised and thrilled to see me. Like we haven't seen each other in years. "Ah! You, old friend!" So we practice some tricks and I keep an eye on the clock, afraid of what happens when her exhaustion overrides her pleasure at pretending to be able to stand up by herself.

Finally I throw a bunch of stuff into her diaper bag, plop her into her car seat and give the trick a-go. We've done this before, performing a specific highway loop for 45 minutes. It put her to sleep long enough to remember how sleeping is done.

Today I take the Scenic Highway toward Two Harbors and hear, aside from an early bout of hiccups, nary a peep. I turn the car around in an abandoned restaurant parking lot more than 20 miles out of town, assume I'll find her head has succumb to gravity, her chin covered in drool.

You've heard of Beady Eyes Shining in the Dark? This is Beady Eyes Shining in the Backseat of the Car.

I cackle.

"Nicely played," I tell her.

***


I've become a baby pusher. I want someone to have a baby, preferably yesterday, and for all of us to go camping at Jellystone National Park every summer from now until the kids wage a protest about how, at age 19, Cindy Bear is no longer the iconic female bear form.

It's lonely being this mom island in a sea of babyless beings. I mean, I've started talking to people at Target. It's my own personal meet market.

"When are you due?"
"How old is your baby?"
"Ask me something. Anything. GRACO. The answer is GRACO."

Nothing ever comes of it. Maybe these people have friends with babies. Maybe they think my eyes are just a little too wide and shiny.

Maybe I twitch or rub their shoulders too hard.

I'm zeroing in on Fannie, who visited for my birthday and brought bags of treats and presents. Maybe Fannie could have a baby yesterday. 

Lets just say If I had access to baby batter and her toilet seat, she'd be a goner. 

***


"Crikies, I'm leaking," I say to Chuck. We've taken a day trip to Bayfield and I'm hunkered over a fish sandwich. There are matching coaster sized wet marks on my flannel shirt.
"Just keep sloshing water on yourself," Chuck suggests. "No one will know the difference." 

***

Does anyone know why every muscle in my body hurts? 

***


 This week she's learned to smile. Smile-smile. Real smile. A manipulative smile that she turns on at just the right time. For instance: She's fussy at the injustice of having her diaper changed. You finish the job, put her in her crib, wash your hands, return to see her tonsil-vibrating displeasure. Pick her up. Silence. Look into her little face: She's got a grin the size of an orange slice and your heart turns to oatmeal.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Expose: Your Six Week Appointment ...

You've told yourself that you still look five months pregnant because your uterus hasn't yet shrunk. Some of it is probably pizza, ice cream, the cafeteria-grade tacos you craved in the later months. There might be a wing of your gut named for the March indulgance of Fish Filets and Shamrock Shakes. You can't have one without the other unless you're some kind of monster.

Your mom once said "Well, you didn't exactly deny yourself anything when you were pregnant" and it was true and in your head you saw a variety show of breads -- cheesed, frosted, sugared, fried -- break dancing toward your gaping maw.

"Nope," your doctor says today. "Your uterus is back to normal."
"So this is all me," you say.
You clutch your stomach, the Fish Filet part, and cringe.

***

There will be a pop quiz:
Q. Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby? A: No.
Q. A case of the weepies when your lifelong best friend gives you a gift from her parents? A. Yes. A thousand times yes.
Q. Similar weepies when she holds your Powerful Baby Girl? A. Sniffle, yes. Okay? I'm a crier.
Q. Blood type? A. (I forget)
Q. Which kidney is she missing? A. Gah! I forget that, too! ("The RIGHT one did the RIGHT thing," Chuck tells you, and you know you'll forget this, too).

Then it comes rapid fire:
Q. When was your last pap?
Q. Have you had sexual contact yet?
Q. Do you ever give yourself breast exams?
Q. Anyone in your family ever have cancer?
Q. DO YOU WANT TO HAVE ANY MORE KIDS!!!!????

***

Did I mention you're naked? Some sort of toga on top and a sheet on the bottom. And there is a resident shadowing him. You like her. She was at an earlier appointment and stopped in during the labor weekend. You'll remember her forever as being among the best cervix testers of all the cervix testers on staff. (Small hands).

If you ever run into her in a bar bathroom when you're drunk you'll have to remember to tell her that. People love compliments.

***

"This is going to give me PTSD," you say, stepping into the stirrups.
No one is following your logic.
"From giving birth?" you say.
Your doctor blinks.
"Really?" he asks. He's probably thinking: "I wonder if she has thoughts of harming herself or her baby."
(Answer is still no)
"Chuck told me I should stop telling jokes in the doctor's office," You tell him.

Clamps, probes. "Look how shiny her cervix is," he says to the resident. (Seriously) "That's how you can tell she's breastfeeding," he adds. Then, without warning, he blasts your B hole.
"I guess I didn't know you were going to do that," your voice trails off, uncertain.
The resident nods. She has a nice smile. And so you decide to write this post. So others attending a six week appointment will know.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Our pet human (at six weeks) ...


When she is awake, she wants to stay awake; When she is asleep, she wants to stay asleep. Much like us, she is a devotee of Inertia.

To bed is a process: Bore into drowsiness. Hold and rock and wait for her arms to turn to jelly. Attempt to put her in her crib. If she kicks once, you're okay. If she brings her legs to her chest and kicks multiple times, repeat the whole process from the beginning. You're about to get a case of Beady Eyes Shining in the Dark.

It's very mathematical and before lying her in the bed one much consider: Am I willing to gamble it all that, this time, she'll stay asleep. Am I willing to start over if it doesn't work, or is that going to crush my soul?

So she stays asleep. Both parents do a tip-toe sprint hybrid, dive into the bed, turn off light and hide faces, stifle the euphoric giggles of success.

Then, inevitably, I decide I need to look at her one more time. Make sure she's doing okay. So I get up, shine an iPhone on her face, maybe touch her stomach. She jerks. I skeedattle backward. Hold my breath. Hide my face in a pillow.

It all feels a lot like Jenga or a Ben Affleck movie that climaxes with bomb detonation.

SIGNATURE SCENT
There is a weird smell and I naturally attribute it to Chuck. It first reared when he got home from work, a job that includes lifting and machines and so it seems natural that he might have a certain smell. It's like feet that have been stuffed, sockless, into running shoes on a zillion degree day. Wandered through a pond. Left too long in a bag in the basement.

I don't say anything because he's self aware and if his feet smell, he'll figure it out. Days go by. The smell lingers. I question his hygiene, then ... I question my own. It's true I've gotten lax with the showers. It's true these pants put on old me, rather than me putting on the old pants. I'm trying, or trying-ish. I swear.

Then I figure it out: Sour milk. It's embedded in our couch.

"We're going to just have to throw this thing away," I tell Chuck.

But it's other places, too. It's staining my sweater. My pants. It's turning the PBG's meager hair to dreadlocks. It's on rags and pillows. It's become our signature scent.

OF ALL THE WORTHLESS
The bambino learned her first trick: She can purposefully, it seems, yank a pacifier out of her mouth. Except she doesn't want it out of her mouth. She wants it in her mouth and that's why, now, after performing her greatest feat, she's weeping inconsolably. So we put it in her mouth. She yanks it out. Weeps. Repeat.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"This is the first time a diaper made me gag. It was all over her body. It was like she was wearing shit shorts." -- Chuck.

PAPER PRODUCTS
I don't really understand the purpose of a baby book, I tell Chuck. This one has three lines for me to relay the circumstances of her birth -- something that requires far more than, what, five sentences? "I mean, I'd probably just write in the link to my post about it," I tell him.

"You know what you do with a baby book?" he says. "You fill it with portraits from Sears. Then you come home after her wedding, look at it and cry."

TOO MANY BABIES
"I hope you got enough to eat, baby," I say.
She's a wee bit underweight and so this has become a mantra I say every feeding session.
Coincidentally, I'd also just gotten groceries.
"I think I did," Chuck says. "If not, I'll just  --"
He turns around.
"Oh," he says.

PUMP IT UP
"You have to see this," I say. I've got a top view of the workings of the breastpump and I'm watching myself get milked. My nipple tugged in rhythmic intervals and I'm emitting squirts like those from a small water gun.
"I can see it from here," he says, though he's more fascinated by the elongated nipple. "It looks like a machine that is making hot dogs."