Monday, November 30, 2009

Gone fishing

I've been suprised to hear that people still look at this page from time to time, even though it has been three months since I posted anything here. There is still a Flickr link and you can still read my inane Twitterness if you like. I guess I'll leave all of that up.

But mostly, I've moved. I'm trying out a new place in the interwebs, to see if it fits a little better now. It's a lot of the same, but it's trying to be something different. You may not like it. Then again, you might. But it's for me, not you. (Remember: it's my blog and I will curse if I want to. You can click that little X in the upper corner if you don't like it.) I wish I had more time to devote to it, to make it prettier, more Google-able, more linkable, more readable, more....more...more....I need more time, less work, more time, more lottery winnings, more time, shoulda married rich..... You get the idea.

Thanks for reading. (Collects virtual fishing rod, tackle box, six pack, and walks on down a road less traveled in a yellow wood, looking for that perfect fishing spot.)

Friday, September 4, 2009

How do I begin and end?

I’m in a strange limbo zone as I cast off the shorts, t-shirts and Keens of my season of stay-at-home motherhood, and dust off the heels and blouses and jackets and jewelry of my old work self and new working mother self. I don’t have a lot of work yet (my bosses are being nice and easing me back in), but this makes me feel useless in two places – killing time at work, waiting to go home, and wishing I could spend this empty-ish time with Helene, feeling guilty that I’m not with her. I wish also that she could be here, crawling on the floor as I work. She’d love crawling down the long carpeted halls, and there are dozens of people who’d be happy to hold and play with her.

I tried to savor every moment with her last week, lounging in dappled park shade and taking silly, lovely photos of her. Lots of walks with her in the Ergo, her heart beating next to my heart, my arms lightly curled around her, lulling her to sleep, her head resting softly on my chest. I tried not to think about “lasts” and “nevers.” I tried not to think about not getting to do this next week. Tears ran from my eyes at the most unexpected times.

Our new nanny, Yvonne, babysat half the day on last Thursday and Friday, to get to know Helene and our house. I felt awkward, superfluous, sad. I tried to run errands, check things off my list, tried to quell the sick frantic feeling in my gut with busyness. I tried not to simply snatch Helene back from Yvonne when it was time for her to leave.

And of course, she wouldn’t eat. A new tooth coming in, and Helene is doing what she did for the first teeth – refuse solid food for days on end. Her timing is….something. This refusal came on the heels of a whirl-weekend visiting family and friends in New Jersey, where Helene inhaled all the food and more that we spooned in her mouth, at diners and rest stops and relatives’ houses. I almost thought she was weaning, as she slurped down yogurt, and then refused to nurse for hours, biting me decisively, bruising and hard.

One short day later, and she pushed away the spoon with a queenly impatience and disdain, her hand flung high in the air. For days. She wanted to nurse. And nurse. Oh baby, your timing is killing me.

Yvonne has convinced her to drink a few ounces from a bottle. And finally, yesterday, she ate more than a taste of some yogurt, and carrots, and pears. She cries when I leave, in a way that she does not otherwise cry, loud and alarming, sobbing, red-faced and alligator tears. She cries when I come home, hearing my footsteps on the cast-iron stoop, howling as she crawls frantically to my feet so I can pick her up. I know they have been playing happily just moments before. I hold her and hold her, I try to run upstairs and nurse her as soon as I can, and she drinks for longer than she has in awhile, not distracted for once.

I am learning to be a milk cow. Pumping twice a day at work, grateful that it is not more often, ferrying my precious cargo of cold milk home each day. So Yvonne can pour it into bottles, offer it to Helene, watch her refuse most of it, and throw it out at the end of the day. But I have to preserve my precious milk supply, I must, for as long as Helene wants it.

My husband happens to work in the same building. We have had lunch together a couple of times this week. It is so strange, for it to be just us. I feel terribly guilty, because we should not be together without Helene. It feels incomplete without her, as though we are acquaintances, and she is the mutual good friend who bonds us together, enlivens the conversation, makes us laugh.

There is some guilty relief. That I am not solely responsible for a baby all day, that I get to dress up again, and wear jewelry, and try to use my now Swiss-cheeselike brain again to give sage advice. But I miss it too, miss caring for her every need. I strangely even miss the distinct smell of a soiled diaper, because there is something satisfying in making her clean and fresh and cared for each time.

I sat outside today with colleagues, friends, enjoying the cooling weather of late summer, the sun, the crystal-blue sky of September. And tried not to feel like I was wasting my time, because I wanted to be with Helene in the park, outside, instead.

She hasn’t wanted to go to sleep this week, flailing and howling every time we set her down in her crib. She calms when we hold her, appearing to sleep, starting the cycle again each time we set her down. I think she just wants to be with us, and I want to keep holding her, while I know I need to set her down in her own bed, so I can eat and sleep.

I have started this new phase, this new time. I still have a foot in both places, not quite here nor there, feeling hazy at work, rushed at home, teary, guilty, torn, and shocked at how quickly Helene’s bedtime comes each night. How do we fit it all in, how do we make it work? How do we begin this new story, and make it worth the telling?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Zia's Fables in Two Tales, or Lessons Learned

On "Trying To Do The Right Thing:"

Yesterday, we finally, finally cleared the last bits of leftover stuff from the basement, remnants of the moving out the renovation, the moving in, the thinning out. Seth loaded them all up in the Jeep so I could take them to Goodwill. A few boxes of books, a box or two of clothes and odd housewares, a lamp, two maple barstools.

It was drizzling when I got to Goodwill. The folks there helped me sort out the boxes into their proper places, and pointed me around the corner where I could take the furniture. I pulled up, and a guy with a not-happy expression looked up at me. "Hi. I have a few pieces of furniture? I have these two barstools..." I pulled them out of the car. Now, the barstools were maple with woven rattan seats, and were in near- perfect condition: not a mar, not a scratch, not broken, not damaged in any way. They had, however, been stored in various spots around the house during the renovation, and there was some dust on them. Seth had wiped some of it off when we loaded them in the car, but yes, they were still a little dusty. The man eyeballed them with a look of disgust and delicately touched the dust on one barstool seat with a finger. I said "It's just some dust. They've been in storage." He said, his voice increasing in volume with each word, "We can't take things like this. I can't believe people bring things like this to us in this kind of condition. It's disrespectful to the people who are going to get it. I don't know if we can take these, I mean, you're lucky we have this truck here (gesturing to a moving van) so maybe I can take them and throw them out. Maybe this one time I can take them, but you can't bring things in this kind of condition. It's disrespectful." I stood there with my mouth open, and finally managed to stammer, "I'm sorry...I didn't's just some dust...I didn't know...." I almost started rooting around in my car for a rag, to take the 30 seconds to wipe off the dust that it would have taken to put the chairs in pristine condition. "And we can't take that lamp," he added. I got in my car, and almost hit a post trying to drive out of the Goodwill lot, because my hands were shaking. I took a wrong exit going home, because my stomach was knotted up and I felt like crying. What had I done wrong? Had I really been disrespectful? I thought of the beat-up furniture I'd gotten in thrift shops and from the newspaper in college and law school, and the elbow grease and paint it had taken to put some of it in usable condition. I'd used some of that furniture for years, before I could afford better. I thought of the dust on the upper floors of some of the "antique" shops on Magazine Street in New Orleans, where you were welcome to hunt through the maze of mismatched bedframes and battered dressers for a prize. I couldn't believe I had just been chastised, belittled, dressed down, for giving something away that was in very good condition.

I have concluded that my mistake was in trying to do something charitable, to give away something in good, usable condition, to just give it away for no money. Next time, I'm braving the nutballs on Craig's List, and having them come to me and give me cold cash for my perfectly good stuff. No good deed goes unpunished.

On "Very Stupid Stupidity and Restoring Faith In Humanity"

This morning, I drove to a local running path along the Potomac for a change of scene. Helene fell asleep on the drive. Trying to be quiet, I got the jogger and all my gear out of the car. I then gently lifted the carseat out and snapped it into place on the jogging stroller. I hit the "lock" button on my car key remote to lock the doors, and started my run, moving smoothly out of the parking lot to keep the baby lulled to sleep.

It was refreshing to run somewhere different, and I passed other jogging stroller moms, regular stroller moms, women running with dogs, cyclists, and whole families out for a walk or a bike ride. It wasn't too hot yet, though the humidity was starting to creep in from the water. I reached my turnaround point, and ran back towards the car. Perhaps half a mile from the parking lot, a fit, middle aged woman with a long blond ponytail and an American bulldog on a leash passed me. I remembered her from the way out, and remembered how the jingle of her dog's tags was as good as a bicycle bell for letting you know someone was passing. She passed me again, and I thought enviously that she was probably a woman who could somehow afford to stay home all the time, since she was out running with her dog at 10:30 am on a Monday.

I got to the parking lot, and realized the car next to me was running, so I approached cautiously, so the driver would see me. To my surprise, he called out to me when I got to the car, "Hey, ma'am, I think you left your door open!" And indeed, the rear driver's side door was wide open. Me: "Oh my gosh, I did. I completely forgot. I'm sorry - let me close it and get it out of your way. I was just thinking about too many things." He said, "I was worried about whoever was in this car, because the door was just open, and I didn't know what happened." Then the woman who'd been running with the dog pulled up in her car, and said "He's been waiting for you to come back, to make sure you were OK." I was almost speechless. "Thank you." I said to the woman. Then the man in the car spoke again. "I could see that you had a baby, because of the carseat. I was worried. I was asking people who came along if they knew whose car it was, if they'd seen someone with a baby. Then that lady back there came along, and she said she'd passed someone with a baby about half a mile back. So I decided to wait for you. She said maybe you just forgot to close your car door." I thanked the man again, profusely, explaining that yes, I had just forgotten to close the door. "Thank you so much. That was so nice of you to wait. I was just thinking about too many things. Thanks."

The man finally pulled out, waving at me. I couldn't believe I'd been so stupid, so preoccupied as to leave the car door open. I even locked the car with the remote with the door standing open. Oh well - if someone really wanted my diaper bag (containing diapers, nursing cover, pink onesie, Desitin and hand sanitizer), a canvas shopping bag, a yoga mat, some jumper cables, or a bungie cord, they were all set. But amazingly, no one had taken anything from the car. I had been gone for forty minutes. I don't know how long that man sat there, waiting, watching. I don't know where else he had to be today. I just know I am grateful and surprised and amazed and delighted at how people can do the right thing when you least expect it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


When I started this blog, I planned to be witty and profound, writing on everything from food to politics. There are some embarrassing early attempts in the archives, which I won't link to. You can dig if you want. I realized that there was a glut of political bloggers who did it a thousand times better than me; same for the food; same for the pop culture. I floundered around for topics. I read lots of blogs. I became hooked first on Amalah. Like heroin hooked. She led me to Miss Zoot and Her Bad Mother and Dooce and Sweet Juniper and so many others that were writing eloquent, hilarious, tear-jerking, dark, sweet, outrageous, and amazing things about just being themselves as parents. The term mommyblogger (or daddyblogger, as the case may be) seems to me a derogatory, minimizing term to these wonderful writers, yet they embrace it, own it, write it, inspire it. These were the blogs I went back to, over and over, for smiles, tears, humbling inspiration.

You're always supposed to write what you know. So my blog evolved into tales of neighborhood snow shovel thievery, life on the Hill, the documentation of our endless house renovation, my ballooning belly, and the baby. Oh, this baby. My universe both shrunk and grew to consist of six pounds, six ounces of pure, astonishing tiny life and boundless love. I have struggled to find the words to say it all, but have found again what I know, what I love, what to write about. I am trying to embrace this, to make it as good as the other writers I admire have made it.


I always said I wasn't a baby person. I never wanted to hold them. They might spit up or something - ewww. When I waited tables in a restaurant in high school, the other girls were always oohing and aahing over the "baby tables" when allegedly cute babies came in. I just rolled my eyes, and hoped for a good tip for the inevitable mess. I always liked older children better. They talked, you knew what they wanted, you could run around with them, and roughhouse, and play games and read, and discuss things. Ages three and up were much more my speed. I used to joke with my friend Janine that I wanted to hatch a fully-formed five-year old. Who needs babies?

Then I had Helene. Suddenly, I got it. I understood the awesome fragility and power coexisting in a tiny newborn. I was attracted like a magnet to other little babies that I saw in the store and on the street. I wrote crazy, hormone-fueled sappy entries like this. And this. I mourn for all of the so-quickly passing baby stages at the same time that I revere each new and wonderful thing she does each day.

Now that Helene is nearly eight (8!) months old, it's surprisingly hard to recall exactly her newborn-ness. We visited and held the week-old baby of friends over the weekend, and we were amazed at all we had forgotten. You have to support their head! They barely open their eyes! Was Helene really this tiny? Yet what we remember is being just as fascinated with her then (Look! Her eyes are open....oh, maybe not...wait, I think she pooped.) as we are now (She's rolling! She's scooting! She's almost crawling! She wants to jump! I think she said "Dada!"). She is perpetually wondrous to us.

I hadn't bought shoes since Helene was born. I went almost EIGHT MONTHS without buying shoes. Nearly THREE QUARTERS of a year. Anyone who has seen my closet and my Zappo's account knows there was some kind of catastrophic tremor set off in the universe somewhere by such an unprecedented occurrence. I did buy several pairs right before she was born, in an insane frenzy of Trying To Feel Pretty When I Really Feel Like A Bloated Hippo, mistakenly believing (a) that the shoes would still fit on my "oh, they're not that swollen" nine-month pregnant feet; and (b) that in my temporary career as a stay-at-home mom I would be wearing those sleek kitten-heel, pointy toe, glove-soft brown leather boots all the time (they were worn exactly once, to the exactly one baby-free fancy dinner we've been to since Helene's birth). My "mom" shoes thus far have consisted of: clogs, running shoes. Uhhh, yeah. Oh! And black leather ballet flats when I'm really fancy! I dug out the Keens and flip flops to update for the summer. And then I went ALL OUT a couple of weeks ago and bought some flat leather sandals, because for some reason, I found it hard to schlep the baby and all assorted baby gear over uneven brick sidewalks in all the summer sandals of my previous life that all have no heel shorter than 2 inches. How did I wear all those heels? How did I walk in them all the time? What the hell was I doing?

There is a thin layer of dust on many pairs of fabulous shoes in my closet.


I was sure that I would be one of those moms who was ready to go back to work, antsy at home, ready to jump back into the sheer, heady power of being a mid-level beareaucrat (kidding on that last one here). The truth is that I don't miss work at all. I wish I didn't have to go back. I love the freedom from sitting in an office in front of a computer all day. I love walking all over our neighborhood with Helene. I love getting to know all of the other mamas and babies. Yes, it would be nice to have some adult time, where I do get to wear the aforementioned heels, and dress up, and go to places that don't have high chairs and changing tables. Yes, I do get bored sometimes by reading the same books over and over, or by trying to entertain a fussy baby for just one half-hour more until Papa gets home! Papa, where the eff ARE YOU??? I love this life, where I am usually the first person Helene sees when she wakes, giving me a gentian-eyed bright smile; where I go for a run at the Arboretum while the baby naps in the jogger, and my glutes get some extra work pushing the stroller up all those hills, and I stretch in the shade of a garden, while Helene plays on the grass; where I put her in the Ergo and get coffee around the corner, and the shopkeepers smile and coo at my baby who smiles and coos back; where I have made wonderful new friends, and we get together and watch our babies try to pull each others' hair and gnaw on each others' toes; where I stroll on Monday evenings to get our farm share, and come home to wash and cook vegetables, while the baby bounces in her jumper, and bounces more and flails her arms and says "ooh!" when Seth comes home. I have gotten used to this life, and I don't want to surrender it. My reprieves will run out, though, and I will have to go to work, still feeling that Helene isn't old enough or big enough to be without me.

I will have to get over it. I will have to get used to having her for so many fewer hours a day, get used to missing her. I will have to treasure the time more (if that is possible) and continue to rationalize that I am doing what is best for her by working.


I've been less attentive to my blog these days. Sidetracked by trying to find a nanny share, losing a nanny share, being relieved, getting a reprieve, making the most of my ever-shortening career as a stay at home mom, distracted by bright blue summer skies, practically civilized not-that-hot summer weather so far, playdates in the park, and cooking all of the luscious summer farm produce that finds its way to our kitchen, it hasn't seemed all that appealing to sit down and write. And what to write? How to be fresh, new? What is there to say about babies and motherhood and life that hasn't already been said before in a better, funnier, more articulate way? How to get my stupid registered domain name to actually work because I am an internet idiot and Blogger's instructions didn't work? How to get a new banner designed, and how much would it cost? Maybe some widgets? I have begun to feel myself chafing at the restrictions of Blogger, of this DC Zia alias, of this place in the interwebs, of my own strictures of what I should write about, of my concerns of causing offense to certain readers. I am wondering if it is time to move on from this particular interweb cave, to another virtual room of my own.

I don't know yet. I don't have that answer yet, as I also don't know when Helene will really start to like solid food, when I will go back to work, how we are going to find a nanny, when I will be ready for a babysitter and a dinner out, alone, with my husband. I have only mostly figured out how to muddle along in the present; the future is an ever-changing point in the distance.

So we evolve, as we must.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Sometimes, good news comes in wolf's clothing. Or something like that. Sometime after this totally deranged post (you're a real fan if you managed to read it, and sorry about that), we hooked up with another daycare-waitlisted family to embark on a phenomenon known as a "nanny share." In sum: 2 families + 1 nanny = less cost.

I responded to a post from our badass Cap Hill parents listserve, a post from a mom who had a six month old girl to do a nanny share. I responded with interest. As soon as she wrote me back with their address, I knew who it was. "We know these people!" I laughed to Seth. I once described them as the "alternate universe us" at the Axiom (the beige apartment). It was Christian, the building manager, his wife Jennifer, and their daughter Ellie, born a week after Helene.

Jennifer and I engaged in a tornado of nanny interviews, online research about how to legally compensate nannies (no Dan Snyder syndrome for us), how to get an employer Federal taxpayer ID number, workers comp insurance, the cost of a double stroller, etc. etc. etc. Jennifer had a new job that starts July 1, so the pressure was on. They would host it at their apartment, fabulous for us, since it's a five minute walk from our office. The babies are the same age - they'll be like sisters! I could nurse the bottle-recalcitrant baby at lunch every day! We'd be apart from her for less time! It costs a bit more than daycare, but fewer viruses!

We interviewed. We met women from Brazil, Togo, Trinidad. One had been granted political asylum. One had taken time off because her mother had died. One spoke limited English but promised to speak French to our babies. They all conscientiously washed their hands and were gentle and sweet with our babies. I wanted to know the political asylum story, but couldn't just ask yet. We were delighted with two of them, satisfied with all. One's references did not return our calls. We made a job offer to another. It was turned down - she wanted to take care of only one child. We floundered. We worked on setting up more interviews. I got a deal on a Phil & Ted's second-hand double stroller, and hauled it home. We tried again for references.

My stomach began to hurt. Seth tried for several hours one day to give Helene a bottle, while I tried to relax in the hot tub at the gym. I bought new bottles, new bottle nipples, a sippy cup. I tried to get Helene to open her mouth for rice cereal, bananas, pears. I made plans to adjust my work hours, to give up my cherished Regular Day Off every other Friday, so I would spend less time away from my baby, my girl. I wondered if I could nurse her every day at lunch for the next four or five or more months. My stomach still hurt. I laid awake, wondering why I had jumped into this nanny share, when I didn't really have to go back to work until September. I wondered how I could get out of it, my mind exploring dead ends like a mouse in a maze.

Then Jennifer called. They'd gotten a place at a daycare next door to her office. I could hear that she was nervous over the phone, nervous about telling me. All I felt was relief, giddy, happy, relief. Of course they needed to take it! They had to do what was best for them! No, you don't need to pay anything for the stroller - we might use it, or I can easily resell it. Please stay in touch!

I e-mailed my office. Could I go back to the "return in September" plan? My nanny share just fell through. I don't know how long it will take me to find another. (Meanwhile, there are at least two posts for nanny shares on the Cap Hill listserve that very day.)

I took a long walk with Helene in the Ergo and hugged her close to me, kissing the top of her head. More time, more time, more time. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

This rug fringe is the best thing ever! Have you tried it?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Of shop vacs and improvisation

Hello, blog. (Blows virtual dust off of virtual interweb space.) I know, I've been neglecting you. Yes, I've been busy. And actually, I've been having quite a lot of fun, now that I seem to have the hang of this mom-thing, and I have lots of awesome new mom friends in my neighborhood to hang out with. Yes, I've been neglecting you for coffee klatches on H Street and addictive chicken cutlet Philly-style Italian sandwiches at Taylor Deli and playdates in the park in the lovely spring weather in DC which only lasts like, a minute, so you have to get out and enjoy it. It's true. And am I here to write about all the fun we've been having? Of course not, because why would I do that? It's boring. Suffering really has much more pith and drama to it, don't you think?

So. The baby has her first illness. Just a mild cold, nothing too bad. But she's all snuffly and snorty and stuffy and has a pitiful little cough, and she just cries sometimes because she just doesn't feel good, and isn't quite her usual happy smiling, wiggling self, with the slightly glazed eyes to match.

This morning, I decided to kill two rubber duckies with one stone by taking a long shower, and putting the stuffy baby in the bathroom with me to have her snuffliness soothed by the hot steam. I wedged the bouncy seat through the narrow door, strapped Helene in, gave her some toys, and hopped into the shower. It was strangely quiet within a minute. I peeked out, and there she was, sleeping away, still holding a toy. Awww. I finished my shower in a leisurely fashion. When I got out, I realized the baby was (a) still sleeping soundly; and (b) totally blocking the door. Do I try to get her out of the seat and into her bed? If not, how do I get out? I dripped and stared and thought for a moment. Then I shrugged, picked up seat with baby in it, moved her away from the door, and left her in the bathroom to keep napping in the warm steam. Her head was elevated, which helps the snot, the steam was soothing her nose and throat, and it was certainly cozy-warm in there. I did sneak back in to put the baby monitor in there. And she slept for a good 45 minutes, and woke up happy. Huh. I'm a genius.


When I realized the baby was actually sick yesterday, I tried to coddle her, holding, nursing and carrying her a lot, and torturing her with the snot sucker only when really necessary. She took more naps than usual, and was relatively happy playing between them, so I decided to cook an awesome dinner with our CSA veggies and some tuna steaks. I made mango salsa, set the rice cooker, tossed squash, asparagus, and spring onions with olive oil, salt & pepper to prepare them for the grill, and marinated the tuna in maple syrup and soy sauce. This would be a great dinner. I chilled a bottle of Virginia rose, and resisted the urge to open it now.

And then it started to rain. And rain. And RAIN. And rain harder. And harder. And HARDER. I have never seen rain like this in Washington, DC. If I still lived in Florida, I would have evacuated already for the hurricane. Trees whipping. Rain going sideways. News saying something about possible golf-ball sized hail. I kept looking nervously at our new skylight, and examining the floor for water, hoping our roofer had done a good job. Then I remembered the basement. It used to occasionally get water under the door when we forgot to clear out the storm drain. It didn't matter when it was just old cement floor down there. But now there are closets and books and fancy electronics. Better go take a look. I carried Helene down and propped her on her play mat.

The water under the door started as a trickle, and I stuffed some towels against the door. Which worked for about ten seconds. The water kept coming in. More towels. More water. Oh crap, the Danish teak table that we're going to refinish. And the boxes of books. And Seth's poker table top. What's in the closets, since water is going under those doors? Suddenly, I was barefoot and ankle-deep in cold rainwater and soggy towels, frantically rescuing things from the oncoming flood. Which was headed towards the Very Expensive Electronics. Oh yeah, and the baby on the floor. Who is starting to cry because she is miserable and stuffy and tired and sick.

"This is why we got ceramic tile and carpet tiles!" I said reassuringly as I sloshed around, moving boxes and pulling up sodden floor tiles. The baby was not reassured. Then the phone rang. Seth. He was late getting home. Yes, I was glad he wasn't drowned, but could he please COME HOME RIGHT NOW BECAUSE THE BASEMENT IS FLOODING? Thanks. Must go, floodwaters still in force. I continued to carry heavy, wet carpet tiles to the utility sink. Helene continued to wail. At least the rain seemed to be letting up. Maybe. I could see water still pushing against the glass basement door. Opening the door - not an option. Carrying baby out in downpour to examine drain? Not an option. Leaving rolling-over baby in house with encroaching floodwaters while I go outside - also not an option. Where is Seth and why is he so DAMN LATE?

Seth arrived, and went outside to see to the drain. It was indeed clogged. With seeds from some tree that are weirdly, cosmically, exactly, precisely the size of the holes in the drain. I hope they were from the stupid tree in our backyard. Which we are having removed soon because it was stupidly planted incorrectly by the stupid previous owner, and it's root-bound, strangling itself, and dying anyhow. Seth unclogged everything, and I saw the water drain away. Now there was more water inside than out. Seth was dispatched to Home Depot for a shop vac. I hauled the last of the carpet tiles, rescued what needed rescuing. The water had stopped just short of the giant new TV. Oh yeah, and the baby. Who was still whimpering. So I hauled her upstairs, sat on the sofa, and decided catch up on my Tivo'ed "Deadliest Catch" episodes while I waited for Seth and the shop vac. Because footage of crazy Arctic storms at sea and immense walls of water dwarfing fishing vessels seemed appropriate.

Sink full of sodden FLOR tiles.

And then water started to drip quite loudly and steadily through the doorframe of the back sliding glass door. In the newly renovated sun porch. I looked over at it, looked down at the tired baby in my arms, and wished for a large slug of scotch. I turned up the TV volume and tried to ignore the dripping.

Sick baby. Flooded basement. Leaking roof. Trifecta!

Seth came home with an alarmingly large shop vac. I put the baby to bed, and went downstairs to slosh through the basement once more. Seth had the vac almost together. I helped him finish it, and left him happily sucking up water off the floor (He's always wanted a shop vac, it turns out. He is sure that he and Helene can make more messes that will merit the vac. And we can suck all the debris out of the storm drain with it. Which is much more fun than you, know, sweeping.). And I went upstairs to make my planned awesome dinner, damn it.

We will hug it and pat it and call it R2D2.

One delicious dinner, one bottle of wine, and one slug of scotch later, the basement was almost dry, the roofer would be called in the morning to fix the very old roof that we stupidly left over the very new addition, I'd caught up on "Deadliest Catch," and stayed up too late, and the baby amazingly slept soundly. We're still drying out here today - the basement, the sun room, the roof and the baby - but I think we'll make it as long as we don't lose the snot sucker, can pay the roofer and figure out how to get those carpet tiles to dry faster. All the domestic f-ing bliss you can stand.

Yeah. I had these great plans to take photos of the finished, decorated, furnished, fabulous new basement for the final "after" shot of the renovation. But instead, you get this.

Monday, May 18, 2009

It was supposed to be like this

Children. Plans. Hah, says the universe. It was supposed to be like this: Helene would have slipped out of my body into a warm tub, the waiting hands of her father, and would have then been placed on my belly, umbilical cord still pulsing between us. We'd be into our dream daycare, just a few blocks from our house, and our baby would happily lie in her father's arms and drink expressed milk from a bottle. I would have had a miraculous Mirena IUD placed in my uterus, without complication, to be removed easily with a tug upon the occasion I decide to reproduce again. But none of that is what happened. This is what happened: I had a surprise breech baby, a murky nightmare of a Cesarean section. We have no childcare; only a vague promise of "fall looks good, " and a muddled running of numbers, researching of nannies. Helene has refused with all her might and screaming to drink from a bottle, after doing it happily for a couple of months. The Mirena, in a one-in-a-gazillion occurrence, slipped up sideways into my uterus, and now lies there awkward and useless on the right side, to be removed only by laprascopic surgery. These things were not supposed to happen.

Here's Helene's room.
The one that we were supposed to bring her home to, just about six months ago. Well, you know how that went. Recall what it looked like in the "during construction" phase. You know that we were still in the rented beige apartment when Helene was born, that we brought her home there, because our house was still a dust-covered deathtrap construction zone until the end of January. I guess it doesn't really matter, since the baby has slept in our room (wherever it was) since she was born. But I missed it, that lovely frantic hormone-infused nesting, nestling, getting everything clean and pretty and placed and ready for the beautiful known surprise. Better late than never. Except for this stupid mobile, which I got as a shower gift.

Which says it's good for ages '"0 to 5 months." Well, fuck. Because my baby is just about six months old so I'd better just take down this insanely mesmerizing mobile that I JUST PUT UP. Oh no. We're using that damn mobile, even if it means it stays up there until the baby can stand, pull it down upon her small head, and yell "I hate you! I have a dent in my head now and I will never have a prom date! You have ruined my life!" at her stupid mother who put the thing up in the first place. So yeah, the baby has a real room now that actually looks like a baby lives in it. I think she's taken a total of three naps in there now, looking all stranded and small in the giant island of her lovely dark wood crib. She hasn't slept at night in there yet. Because I can't let her yet. I am still too attached to placing a hand on her little body in the co-sleeper next to me to quiet her when she cries out in her sleep, or to just feel the soft, solid rise and fall of her breath in the velvet dark, or to slide her into bed next to me for a precious hour or two of snoozing in the early morning, so I can watch her stir and stretch, and see her big grey-blue eyes open wide to the morning, wide smile to follow.

And then there's this. The Precious Planet Jumperoo.

Because Helene loooves standing, loves being bounced up and down, cannot get enough, and Mama's arms are tired from being a human jumperoo every day (though it is helping my triceps). So I decided we needed to buy this most elaborate and complicated plastic piece of baby paraphernalia (definitely the biggest, gaudiest, plastickiest baby thing we've bought to date) so the baby could jump! And bounce! And spin! And entertain herself for maybe dozens of minutes at a time. The Jumperoo was dutifully purchased at a big suburban baby store, wedged in the trunk, hauled home, and assembled (despite the usual horrifyingly bad instructions). The baby was placed in the seat that looks like a giant monkey is eating her, and voila! Let the fun begin. Just one problem with this whole plan. Our darling, precious petite flower of a baby? Her feet? Do not touch the floor. So she just kind of....dangles the monkey head. Sigh.

I should stop getting so attached to plans.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mothers' Day? What? Me? Oh yeah, right.

Yes, I really did not realize for a time that Mothers' Day applied to me this year. Seth: "So, Sunday is Mothers' Day." Me:"Oh yeah. We should definitely call my mom and do a video chat with her, and don't forget to call your mom." Seth: "Uh, I meant what do you want to do?" Me: "" Seth gently points out (as if speaking to someone who is mentally impaired) that I am the mama and that the proof is the babbling, flailing baby over there on her play mat. It was a weird feeling to be included in Mothers' Day until I realized that it's like getting another birthday. Presents! Dinner! Pampering! Adult beverages! I will be sure to milk this a lot more next year.

Mothers' Day breakfast. Mmm, bacon.

Despite my advanced age, I still feel too young and stupid to have a baby. Yet, here we are. I think one of the surprises of Mothers' Day for me was the bond that I suddenly realized I feel with all the other mothers. Friends sent profound and beautiful messages to me on e-mail and Facebook. We went for a stroll through the azalea gardens at the National Arboretum, and so many people were so friendly to us, their faces alight with smiles as they congratulated me on my first ever Mothers' Day.

Yesterday, one of my friends wrote: "To have a child is to agree to have your heart live outside your body." Yes. Thank you, my little heart, for the fact that I get to be your mother.

Sappy, but true. No matter how tired or jet-lagged I am, seeing this face first thing in the morning makes me helplessly smile. Her father is so doomed when she's older and asks him to buy her stuff.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

This post brought to you by jet lag and insomnia

3:43 AM. We got back from Australia yesterday (uh, Tuesday, May 5, to be exact) and got home around midnight. We all managed to sleep last night and stay awake all yesterday. We all crashed around 8:00 last night, and I slept for awhile, but sleep, it is not happening any more just now. For awhile, Seth, Helene and I were all awake at the same time. The other two seem to have gone back to sleep for the moment, so I guess two people sleeping is an improvement over three people not sleeping.

And with no sleeping and lying wide-eyed in the dark often comes contemplation. Which often leads to more insomnia. How is it that my little baby will be six months old in less than two weeks?

When I'm on vacation, I feel like I've stepped out of time, and that it stops or slows. Then, I come home, and step back into the pace of regular time, and sometimes, it's kind of shocking. It happened to me on our honeymoon in Hawaii almost four(!) years ago. My dad died suddenly two weeks before our wedding. After the memorial service, we all had no choice but to go on, and plunge headlong into the whirl of the wedding. Our wedding was amazing and wonderful and perfect - my dad wouldn't have wanted us to be sad or to change things because of him, and we didn't. Then Seth and I had two weeks in Hawaii that are always secreted away in a special box of my memory as utterly relaxing and beautiful, removed a world away. I cried for my dad in Hawaii, when I saw things he would love to see, or when I wanted to ask him a question and realized I could not, not ever. But I was buffered by the timelessness of a perfect vacation, by the staggering beauty of Hawaii, by the joy and sweetness of a new marriage to the person that is my partner, my balance, my life. When we got home it was a different story. My dad was dead, and my life had to at least pretend to resume as normal. All the grief that had been buffered in Hawaii came rushing back in with the normality of my every day life. There were memories of my dad everywhere. I think I managed to go to work every day, but I cried every day too, for weeks - behind a locked office door, silently in a bathroom stall, on the treadmill at the gym. I hysterically sobbed with disappointment when we got the proofs of our wedding photos back. In reality, the photos were stunning, but all I saw were the photos we forgot to take, the photos that were missing. It wasn't the photos, of course. It was my dad that was missing, my dad that was supposed to have been there. It took me several weeks before I could really look at our wedding photos and see that they were actually breathtaking and artful.

This time, returning from the stop-time of a full month in Australia, I gasp that my little baby Helene is almost six months old. She ticked off a ton of developmental milestones in Australia, and she's so fun and funny and engaging right now. Now that we are home, I can see how she's grown - how that one footie sleeper that just fit her when we left wouldn't go on last night; how much more of the co-sleeper she fills up with the length of her body; how deft her little hands are when she grasps toys; how quick her eyes are to see something new in the room. And then I panic, because it's going too fast. If we were sticking to the original game plan, I would be going back to work in a couple of weeks, and Helene would be going to full time daycare. But despite being on the waiting lists for over a year, Helene does not yet have a place at a daycare. One of the five says that September looks good; the others have pretty much said, uh, nope, never, no chance in hell. It's a reprieve in a strange disguise. When we found this out Seth said that we could probably afford for me to stay home until September. When I told my office that I did not have daycare yet, but that I might in September, and that I was exploring all options, they said they could do without me until September, but no longer.

I think I just need to grab this gift and run. I have an overdeveloped sense of obligation, though, and I feel like I should be going back to work, like I owe them, like it's been incredible hardship for them to do without me. I get antsy, and feel like I should be going back in two weeks because I told them I would. But the truth is, they're just fine without me. And they seem, incredibly, to be fine with letting me be gone longer. I hope that's true. Because I don't want to go back. Not yet. I will have to go back - this house renovation and the kid's college tuition aren't going to pay for themselves, unless Seth's plan to sign Helene over to a former Romanian gymnastics coach and get her in the Olympics and on a Wheaties box works out. Yeah, I have to plan to go back to work. What's killing me is the thought of being away from Helene for so many hours every day. I haven't been away from her for more than a couple of hours since she was born. I've seen her change before my eyes, witnessed all the new things she can do. I have her every expression and the softness of her skin etched on my heart. How can I just give that over to someone else, to let someone else see the newest thing she does, let someone else just tell me about it? It hurts too much. How does everyone do it, all the mothers who have to go back to work when their babies are even smaller? I know they do it because they have to; we all do what we have to.

So, around and around in my head, I've been whirling my options around. Part time work would be ideal, but my office won't allow it. They're always afraid that if one person does it, everyone will do it. Should we hire a nanny, and I could work from home a couple of times a week, so I would get to be with Helene during the day? I thought I wanted group daycare, to have Helene around other kids, to learn to socialize. Now I think maybe I want her at home, with one person who cares for her, with playgroups and classes arranged. Could we just get a nanny a couple of days a week now? Probably not- that's money going out that isn't coming in. I have to be working for us to have a nanny, and if I work, it has to be full time. Could I find another job? Part time? Maybe. Maybe not. Damn, why did I not just marry rich?

I thought at six months that Helene would be less dependent on me. I imagined she would be eating solid food, breastfeeding less, needing me less. So far, not the case. She loves to watch us eat, but isn't interested yet in eating her own food. She's still breastfeeding exclusively. She can't sit up without a lot of assistance. She won't go to bed at night without me lulling her into sleep. She cries if someone else tries. She won't drink from a bottle. She did willingly, until two and a half months. Then she began to refuse, and it became an awful screaming, crying ordeal for Seth, who would try for a couple of hours in the evening while I hid upstairs. He even tried when I was out of the house. My mother in law tried when we were out to dinner. No dice. It just makes her screaming mad to offer her a bottle now. So we just gave up. She didn't have to drink from a bottle, not anytime soon, and it wasn't worth the heartache for us. It's another hurdle/cause of stress for daycare - many places aren't too tolerant of babies who won't drink from a bottle. I don't know what I'm going to do about that. We might try going straight to a cup, or we might try one of these uber-suggestive boob-like bottles that seem to work for some folks. Again, another reason I need to just grab this reprieve of time and run. In September, she will be almost 10 months old. She will certainly be eating solid food, and I hope she can drink from a cup.

And I will have a few more precious months, days, hours with my baby. I don't know yet if I'm going to have another one. This might be my only chance. To be the first one she sees whenever she wakes up, to be the one who rocks her to sleep, to be the one who sees first what she does next, to play with her, make her laugh and to just watch her beautiful eyes and wide smile. I am still struck breathless by how much I love her.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

I'm happy

Yes, I did get to pet a kangaroo. This is a gray kangaroo, which is actually brown. The red kangaroos look mostly gray, so don't try to figure that one out either. Kangaroo fur is much softer than you'd think. It reminds me of petting a horse with its thick winter coat.

We saw the kangaroos at this place, the Healesville Animal Sanctuary. We also saw parrots, echidnas, wallabies, baby Tasmanian devils, koalas, platypus and wombats. Then we went wine tasting. And yes, we saw all of those animals BEFORE drinking wine, and no, we are not making any of them up.