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.

* 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?


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.

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.

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.

"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.

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."

"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.

"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."