Thursday, March 27, 2008

Lyra Earns Her Keep

Lyra will be 11 months old in a few days. She has earned $35 already. By the end of next week she will have earned $305.

Here is her breakdown:

She has participated in three ten minute experiments at the Cognitive Studies Lab at Harvard. She sat in my lap for these and observed various items. Which things attracted her attention and for how long was recorded. Whether she noted a person's preference for a particular item, whether she noticed whether sounds were matching items on a screen, and whether she could tell the difference between sand and a solid object were all involved. She earned $5 for each of these studies, as well as a snack container and two sippy cups.

She has had an eye exam in which no drops were used. She simply had to look at fun toys and note the stripes on a board while New England College of Optometry students learned what it is like to do an exam on a potentially non-cooperative wee person. For this she was entertained, had her eyes checked, and earned $20. She was also invited back next year for being just so darn cute. (She has excellent vision.)

Next week we will host several other first time moms and a representative from a children's furniture design place, care of a local marketing research company. We will play with our kids and answer questions about our opinions for a two hour focus group (not sales) on kid things we might have been talking about anyway. For hosting, Lyra and I make $200. For them postponing it a week we get an extra $75. Our friends will all earn $150 plus another $50 for rescheduling.

So how else can Lyra and I have fun and earn money (legally, please)? Any other creative suggestions?

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Monster in a Box


Friday, February 15, 2008


I've been ignoring my blog. Well, I haven't been ignoring it per se, but I had some big ideas of ongoing writing projects I think I'll post and then just never got around to articulating them. . . .!

Anyway, Lyra is now nine months old. She makes jokes in her own ways. She tries to surprise me with sudden monster noises, laughs ridiculously hard at my lame physical comedy, plays a mean game of peek-a-boo, loves to be seriously bounced and jostled like a little adrenaline junkie, and will eat anything: She likes brussel sprouts. She likes lemons. She likes creamed smoked roe in a tube. She also eats great quantities of food. Entire avocados act as simply an amuse bouche for the rest of her courses. She says "num num!" when she's hungry. And she is still the cutest kid ever.

Her eating anything also applies to anything she finds on the floor, your shoes, the fuzz on a sweater. She can pick up incredibly tiny items. This, and her ability to suddenly find new ways to keep up with the cats, require constant vigilance. It is exhausting. She's acquired stranger-danger "separation anxiety" issues when in our house, but they are fine when people chill out and visit with glenn and I for awhile and she gets to see us all smiling together before she's expected to interact. She basically just watches our faces anytime anything happens or we see new people.

Lyra and I started a class today called "Sing and Sign," where we will sing songs and learn some basic sign language. We needed some fun and socializing, Lyra loves songs, and I cringe at many of the baby tunes. So this seemed like a good solution as it would occupy my brain some and entertain her. And if she learns some useful signs (Like "stop" so I don't have to scream it ever!) that's great. And, listen, I'm acquiring these really useful language skills -- so they next time you encounter someone who is deaf and you need to sing them "The Bear Went Over the Mountain," I'm your woman. Just call me.

It's fun watching Lyra with the other kids. She is a clearly super alert person. She also seems quite social. She crawls up to each of the babies and touches their faces and yells her barking hello and then moves on to the next kid. She rushes the teacher anytime the teacher has something new in her hand. When everyone sings, Lyra sits and looks at everyone and bounces up and down throwing her hands up and down with glee. Sometimes she sounds like she's singing along.

And in other news my other days of the week I'm spending more time at my studio doing some good work, and I'm getting a bit of writing done as well. I feel like I'm returning to myself again a bit. But really all I want to do lately is to play outside. Winter in New England with a less outdoors-oriented spouse is one thing, but with an infant it is just dreadful. I miss winter hiking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing in negative windchills...I find these things fun. I would love to try the skating rink that opened in our neighborhood, to ski into a yurt for a weekend, something. Meanwhile I have the aforementioned happy nutter to hole up inside with, so all is not lost, but it is indoors and inactive a lot more than I'd like lately.

My dad, however, is stuck inside this winter quite unexpectedly. He had a knee replaced (his second) in November to get him on the path to less pain and more mobility. He was doing really well until he fell on the ice about a month later while coming home from swimming. It was a terrible fall and he ripped his quad from his kneecap. Many weeks later he got the brace off his knee and after he stood he suddenly buckled. This week they found his quad is Not attached. More surgery, more months of recovery in his house with a walker and the TV to keep him company. If anyone has any tips for my house-bound dad to make this next round more bearable, post 'em!

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Lyra Crawls

Lyra began crawling almost as soon as the calendar turned to 2008. She has a special wounded soldier move where she basically combat crawls with one arm. She can go quite fast this way.

(That's a link to the movie on YouTube -- blogger isn't letting me copy the code to embed the video at the moment for some reason...argh.)


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Day Scare

So, being a forward-looking, Be Prepared kinda gal (who struggles a bit with her lack of time lately), I decided to check out the daycare center a couple of blocks from us that is supposed to be one of the best around. I know people get on waiting lists for these things while they are pregnant, and I know they're expensive, so I figure we'll take a tour, get on the waiting list for next year for part time care and I'll get a break and Lyra will get some socialization, and it will cost some money.

Apparently some people are more prepared than I am. If I had gotten on the waiting list a few months after I'd gotten married she could go there now. She might be able to get into pre-school there if I signed up now. How do they have any infants in the infant class? Do people sign up when they have a good date these days?

And holy crap is it expensive. As much or more than the private school nearby that charges more for part time kindergarten than I paid for college.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Cold Parenting

I am learning how to parent in the cold. Gone are my super long walks filled with stops in local parks to nurse or change Lyra. I need more to do on my days with her. The shorter daylight somehow makes for longer days.

We go to the baby-friendly movies when possible. In the last week we saw No Country for Old Men (yay) and Harry Potter (eh).

We attend parent groups sporadically.

I have joined a gym with a nursery so Lyra will get used to the ladies in the nursery while entering into stranger-danger anxiety phases. However, the gym just put its whole "wet" area (including the showers) under construction for over a month. So, if I'd like I can use another of their gyms with another nursery and stranger ladies. Sigh.

I have decided to make sure I still take her out plenty. I have bought a solar charger that I am attaching to the stroller, so if I want to charge my phone or iPod, I'd better get moving. We'll see how that goes; it just arrived.

Last week I decided she needed some more warm fleece. I don't really know how to sew, but much of it looks fairly common sense, I figure. I bought a lot of fleece at the remnant sale at Malden Mills many years ago and I did successfully make a lot of fleece socks for holiday presents that year. And I did make her fleece combat boots for her punk rock Halloween. (Okay one is notably longer than the other...but she can't walk, so they still work.)

So, I took some of the fleece and I took a top that fits her and I kind of made a pattern and started sewing. When she woke from her nap, glenn proudly went to put the fleece on her. It wouldn't even go over her head. I would not be thwarted -- I took the fleece and cut it up the front: it will be a cardigan! Her arms wouldn't even fit in the sleeves.

Dejected, I threw it in the corner and walked to the front stoop for a breath of fresh, calming, Cold air. On the stoop was a package waiting for Lyra, a gift from some friends. Inside: a fleece top and pants.


Sunday, October 07, 2007

Happy Fall!


Monday, October 01, 2007

The First Supper


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Stranger Care

I left Lyra with total strangers today. On purpose, too. I tried out a new with a nursery. It was a Healthworks, a highly rated, and highly priced women's gym in Cambridge. A friend joined me, and it was truly pleasant. It's a nice big gym with lots of daylight. The dressing room even has a big hot tub in it. It was all great except that moment as I walked away from Lyra in the arms of a stranger when, I admit, I really kind of wanted to throw up.

I worked out with the volume a bit lower than usual on my iPod as they call you over the intercom if your kid is freaking out or needs to be changed or anything. I thought about how it's the right time for Lyra to get to know certain people, like the ones who work at the nursery, because it's possible that in a couple of months she'll have separation anxiety. I thought about what a nice break in the day it was and how I might actually regain some stomach muscles and shed some more pounds. I thought about how this is something to do in the cold weather.

But when I walked down and checked on her before showering, she was sitting in the lap of the main nursery woman (a mother of 11 and grandmother of countless wee people) and I'd never seen her in a foreign context like that and I had the opposite of the throwing up feeling...I had this odd fleeting second of incredulous disconnect, like "hey, that little smiling baby there? I think, yeah, that's her, wow, that's actually MY KID!" It really made me feel weird.

I wish I could ask her how it went before deciding whether to sign up. Right now I belong to a gym that is just a couple blocks away so I can dash over there when glenn takes Lyra running. This one requires driving. The other drawback to this one is that the first thing you see up on exiting is a very good ice cream shop. . . .


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

How to Roll a Kayak

Lyra is here to show you exactly how to move your body when rolling a kayak. She says you don't need any books or videos or professional instruction. Hell, she doesn't even need a kayak. You just have to give a mighty flip of your hips to get your body going over, let the rest of your body follow, and only at the last moment lift up your head.

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Monday, September 24, 2007


At 10pm a couple of weeks ago 18 people severely beat two men half a mile from my house.
At 10pm the other night the quiet in our house was shattered by BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG as a man was shot (not fatally) about fifty feet from where Lyra was sleeping.
The police are "not at liberty" to tell us any information. As my brother said, "They're not really in the liberty business, are they?"

Cambridge is such a brainy town. That's why it's school system blows and I have to worry about where I walk at 10pm.

Of course most of these crimes near us seem to involve people who know each other. And if we moved to the burbs, our quality of life would decrease some and our risk would increase some due to the commuting involved. It's confusing.

I don't know how to protect my daughter from sudden violence on a "safe" street with people driving by and shops and restaurants open at 10pm.

9/25 UPDATE: The police were at liberty to tell our local newspaper the story of what happened with the shooting. Apparently they responded to calls and found a guy who had been shot in the ass. He had lots of percoset in his pockets and had just shoved a bunch of crack behind some garbage cans before police arrived. Dunno who shot him, but supposedly he was talking to a couple of people on the sidewalk and they backed slowly away about nine feet and shot at him five times but only hit him in the ass, so somehow he just seems like a really pathetic excuse for even a dealer.

The police seemed to think that the fact that the bullet will not be extracted from his ass is going to inhibit their investigation. <Insert your own jokes here.>

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

You, Me, and We

I spend a lot of time considering different perspectives. Most creative activities require this skill. I enjoy managing groups of people into systems that play on the various strengths of individuals as well. And of course marriage requires this skill, and clearly understanding our parents or being parents does. So, as I age I’ve been attempting to expand this ability. I am aware that I am mainly only tolerant of those who share the same intolerances, and I keep trying to change this.

I believe that my key to growth is to comprehend fully that we can share the most intimate times and still our individual experiences of this reality are different. It’s hard to accept this in private, cherished relationships, but it’s obvious when you discuss the past with siblings or become a parent and suddenly have a new gratitude toward your own parents. I try and try to incorporate this into my day-to-day life, but still I struggle. I also harbor a fear that we as a people may need to have a similar reality in order to change our habits in drastic ways right now.

I had all this in mind when Lyra and I went to see the movie In the Shadow of the Moon. I always respect people who gain perspective by going away for a weekend to write, or live abroad, or spend time in serious wilderness, or have walked through serious trauma and emerged anew on the other side. And this movie offered perspective from the handful of people who have actually left the planet entirely and looked at it in its bigger context.

Facing things far out of our control, forces just plain bigger than we are, these are the things that can define our existence, point out our boundaries. People may choose to understand and adapt in different ways, but no matter what, those who look the storm in the eye are typically the people who are more likely to have foresight, who take action without being caught up in self-involved pettiness.

Those who have really lived, really love, really lost, and are still forging their way vividly forward -- well, they just have a different sort of flow. They sometimes turn to an existing construct to explain the chaos, but occasionally they articulate a new one. And sometimes this is what we need to make or save history. Of course I want to know what someone who has stood on alien soil has to say.

Me, I want to float in my big picture perspective, but I often feel dragged down by my baggage. I have a gorgeous, funny, amazing baby, yet I don’t go to sleep sighing happily. I have nightmares, I worry, I mourn losses. And I cannot stop being terrified about her survival, and as a result the speed with which we are destroying our home on the pretty blue marble.

I am looking for a perspective and some extra tolerance to move forward in the face of fear. I need to keep onward when I cannot see the way. I need to accept my life may be a a bit of a rantum scoot, so I may as well do what I can and enjoy it. I need this; my daughter needs this from me. We need balance: we need to accept the ebb and accept the flow of more than just our own lives, whatever direction we end up sailing.

The astronauts in the movie still looked completely wildly moved by their experience 38 years later. One discussed his new devotion to the religion that helped him understand the largeness of his experience, and one considered how fragile the little blue planet looked. But what struck me most was when one of the men described feeling the great vastness of space, and he felt the moon below and the Earth beyond and it was so clear that all of this, including him, was one thing. We are all part of this one thing. And he felt lucky.

This is what I want to hold on to: that together we are whole, and I am lucky to take part. People in my life this year have spoken a lot about the physical and spiritual benefits of expressing gratitude on a regular basis, and perhaps this is the same as accepting our luck.

I am lucky that I am here, I may have experienced a great deal of various kinds of perspective that I wouldn’t have chosen for myself, I may struggle every day to grow my pool of tolerance. I may face danger and despair. The balance of the biology we are part of may be aging toward an end. And I do think every one of us must take action. However. despite every terrible thing, every day I am lucky.

Today I am grateful for the cold Saturday afternoons when I spread out my dad’s map of the moon on the living room rug in the sun. I would trace my fingers over the named features on the map and marvel at how we could be so familiar with such a big alien place.

I was one-and-a-half months old when men walked on the moon. I got to grow up with a generation of people who saw the image of our whole planet as one, together in a great flow of space for the first time, before it was a ubiquitous symbol. Maybe that will help us now.

Today I am also grateful for the warm Saturday afternoons when my dad rowed our dinghy The Eagle out to our boat, Tranquility Base, and we sailed to where I couldn’t see anything but blue in all directions.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Lyra Gets a Tutor

Lyra is a very quick study. I see her attempt something and then she's suddenly expert at it. I know babies learn things at some alarming rate, but I've been getting suspicious. I mean take rolling -- sure she's tried it accidentally a few times over the months, but out of the blue it's What She Does. She executes perfect rolls like a kayaker, lifting her head last and ending up ready for action in crawl position. So, I took a look at the photographc evidence to see if maybe she secretly already knows how to read and has been studying or something -- and as it turns out, she's got a tutor. See here as she arranges with Moki for a rolling lesson. If only I could figure out what she offered him in return.

She states her case for why he should help...

They shake on it...

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Thursday, August 30, 2007


I'm trying to make sure I take advantage of all the things Lyra and I can do together before she is mobile. This week some friends from NJ were camping on the Cape. They wanted to know if we could stop down for a day at the beach. I would be in the car potentially six-plus hours (RT) to do that, and I'm supposed to keep Lyra out of the sun. I'd been reading the blog of West Coast Bethany, who just posted gorgeous camping photos of a trip with her four kids, and I was inspired. So, I suggested I come down and have dinner and grab a vacant campsite.

This worked perfectly. There was a site right by them that was available. It's a little challenging driving so far alone with the wee lass, but it was okay. The kids were all in love with Lyra and insisted on attempting to entertain her (even while she was nursing; "Dinner And a show!" one of the kids yelled), we all went out for some delicious lobster, and Lyra and I had an easy night in the tent. I didn't have to walk any of our four gazillion stairs, I got to sleep outside, wake up with a tousle-haired footie-pajamaed cutie smiling at me, and my friends made me pancakes. That's living.

The biggest challenge I found of camping alone at a drive-in campground with a baby, besides the driving, is the decisions to be made around going to the bathroom in the middle of the night.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Food Cubes

I've been told numerous times that I will never actually make Lyra's baby food. It's too hard, too time consuming, and just a laughable idea when faced with the reality of a kid.

Maybe I'm missing something, because I made a bunch of baby food yesterday and it was unbelievably easy. I have an organic farm share, and this time of year the veggies tend to pile up at our house where two people are eating through a family-sized share. So I steamed some veggies for a few minutes, put them in the food processor, then spooned them into ice cube trays and froze them (She won't be eating real food for a couple of months). This took very little time and required the culinary skill of boiling water.

I ate some of each flavor and would have been happy to consume large quantities of all of it. It was really delicious. And it was pretty: bright cubes of fresh colors that look nothing like the gray "green" veggies I consumed as a child. No sugar, no pesticides, no problem.

(Wish I'd taken this picture in better light so you could see just how bright they are: Summer Squash, Green Beans, Carrots.)

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Love that Dirty Water

Boston is my home. I take pride in how well I can drive around the mayhem of poor driving, badly marked streets, never-ending detours, and more. I know short cuts. I know alternate routes. I often even know where to park. I know how to predict many stupid Boston driving behaviors. Wielding a baby stroller, however, is now causing me more frequent challenges.

Lyra is going to lose her super chubby cheeks one of these days purely from me wheeling her around incredibly bumpy brick sidewalks, cement paths blasted through with roots, potholes, and more. Her little cheeks jiggle like Jello and she locks eyes with me and holds the sides of the car seat. There are the wide stone stoops to get into the heavy doors closed for air conditioning, and the odd lack of helpful strangers. There are the bulidings that don't have to be handicapped or stroller-friendly with elevators because they are just too old. All of this I can handle. The one that drives me insane is the Longfellow Bridge.

The Longfellow Bridge is a Boston icon of sorts. It is the "salt and pepper bridge" to some, so-called for its tall tower construction. It leads from Kendall Square in Cambridge, less than a mile from my house, over the River Chuck into Boston. You cannot hang out in much open space in Kendall Square or East Cambridge. There are playgrounds, and a tiny green space in front of the old Squirrel Nut candy building, but that's about it. Even the path along the river on the Cambridge side is thin and has a few benches, but doesn't open up to lounging-friendly size until around Cambridgeport. However, the Boston side is where the Esplanade is, Community Boating, kid pools, tree-lined river shore, and more. So, all that's needed is to stroll across the Longfellow Bridge and admire the skyline above the famous dirty water. One side is a thin sidewalk, the other is a nice, double wide sidewalk. Easy, right?

Not with a stroller. On both sides the sidewalk suddenly narrows and has a light pole in the center of it. No Cambridge babies or wheelchairs are allowed into Boston it seems. I have to stroll Lyra alongside that noted stupid Boston traffic in the street for a couple of minutes on the narrow sidewalk side and then haul the whole stroller back onto the sidewalk to cross the street.

Or on the wide sidewalk side it narrows even further. I can walk in traffic with the stroller heading toward cars then through two non-traffic light intersections or carry the stroller and kid down three flights of cement stairs into the Mass Eye and Ear parking lot, try not to be hit by a car there, and then cross the intersections.

Due to the recent bridge accident in Minneapolis, I did learn that this bridge is ill-constructed in other ways and is slated for major rehab, during which I'm sure I won't be able to cross at all, and the work is scheduled for several years from now. Lyra, if she still lives here, will be able to walk across on her own steam by then.

At least there are elevators on most of the Red Line stops now, so I can sneak my Cambridge baby into the city as long as I only admire the river from the subway.


Monday, August 06, 2007

No Miles

Sure I've walked plenty, but I didn't get the feeling anyone was going to post their miles with me, so I'm dropping that little attempt at posting daily mileage here. Anyway, my new pedometer is far less reliable than the old one.

Today I walked very few miles. Lyra and I were doing errands and at the "baby friendly" movies again before it started pouring. Lyra has now seen Shrek 3, The Namesake, Sicko, Evening, Oceans 13, Once, and Waitress. We're hoping the Simpsons movie shows up as a baby-friendly movie soon! Anyone seen it?

Here's the Simpsonized version of Lyra, touched up by a graphic artist friend (the Simpsons site wouldn't let me give a baby lots of hair):

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Miles: 4.04 Rolls: 2

I walked four miles today, some of them at the gym. Otherwise I was sitting on my butt in my studio destroying things. It's hard being patient -- I spent some serious time learning these skills I'm using and then took serious time off. But you know what? At least I'm used to being patient with that...the gym and the extra work I have to do there is far newer for me. Oh well, I'm showing up for it all, right? I'm always doing one thing instead of another, and I made good choices. Maybe I chose a litte too much eating out while pregnant, but I'm doing a lot less of it now. What I missed while choosing to work today is that Lyra rolled from back to front today...twice. She's got places to go, this kid, I'm telllin' ya.

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Miles (2.36) and Years (38)

We took Lyra lots of miles this week. But this weekend we were in a lakeside cabin and most of my motion involved floating.
Yesterday: 2.36 walking about Cambridge -- don't forget to join me and post yours. I'll post today's later.

Lyra got dipped in the lake up to her waist. She began with a serious dumbstruck look with her eyes on mine to see if this wacky feeling was okay. By the time I bounced her feet on the sand in the shallow cove, she was yelping happily. It was really fun. She also got to meet my oldest friend, who grew up going to the cabin next door. That means Merey met me And Lyra before we could talk. Pretty cool. I guess that is probably the most constant place I've had in my life.

I also realized that Lyra was the fourth generation of my family to go to the camp. That kind of blew my mind. I mean, it still seems like a place we visited my grandmother and now here I am with a kid and her grandmother and mine are both gone and I'm telling Lyra that the braided rug was made by her great-great grandmother and that seems just ancient somehow. And like we should probably clean it.

I was thinking again about how people always tell men if they're a good dad but not women if they're a good mom, probably because the bar is put much higher. I was talking to a friend yesterday and he said he really wanted to be a "family man," and I realized I couldn't think of an equivalent female term. This whole "mom" stuff is pretty interesting. I must say I am enjoying Being a mother though. I feel pretty happy lately. Especially since I feel like I've been reclaiming my life more and more, and she's a pretty enjoyable sidekick to have.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Baby Lap Shit

So I’m trying to do the mom things that might help me and might help Lyra. This means I get out of the house when glenn is here and do things by myself, we’ve gotten his parents to watch Lyra while we went on a date, and I try to do activities as much as possible with the wee beastie when she’s awake and kicking.

This week Lyra and I found out what the hell “Baby Lap Sit” means. It is listed on the library website…I have a lap, she’s a baby. She sits there a lot. So we went to see. It was in a room hung with decorations from the sleepover the 9-12 year olds had the night before as they read Harry Potter.

Everyone stopped and looked at me when I came in slightly late. They were sitting in a circle, babies indeed on their laps. I introduced us and sat down. There were two bumbling leaders looking up lyrics as they played patty cake and different songs that involved the parents bobbling the bald babies in different ways.

I bounced Lyra around some and tried really hard to suppress the un-PC nine year-old inside me from yelling, “Oh my god, this is SO GAY.” Lyra just stared fascinated at the concept of multiple people chanting and singing together. A couple people stared at me with her. She was too young, she has way more hair, and I was supposed to have removed my shoes. I slipped off my shoes and then I got several looks when I sang “kum ba ya, Lyra, kum ba ya.” (instead of “Lord”) I don’t think we’ll go back real soon. We make up better games at home.

Speaking of my Blasphemy Ericson experiences, I didn't know until one of these mom groups that people who get baptized are supposed to have the names of saints. A woman told me she had to go to a different church to do it or because hers would not baptize her kid and that she had been told "What kind of a name is Piper?!" She nodded as I raised my eyebrows to ask, "That’s right. They'd be FINE if I'd named her "Peter Piper!”

Lyra travels well and likes being outside. We had a good time in Maine this weekend and on the Cape yesterday. She jogs with dad in the morning and shouts happily. We went to the movies the other day and she looked upset when we left but when I ran us across the street at a Walk sign she suddenly yelled “Wheee!” rather distinctly.

Lyra is very happy and strong in crawl position, and understands the concept of the combat crawl on her forearms already at 2.5 months. She has managed to put one arm in front of the other and as a result wriggled partway out of her pants, though did not achieve any measurable distance. I did my part and wrote Calvin Klein on the top of her diapers with a Sharpie.


Friday, July 13, 2007

Wack Attack

Lyra is sleeping more and it makes everything So much better. She and I have been keeping busy this past week. We’ve rocked out with rattles and laughed at mobiles and gone for long walks (she likes trees better than anything inside). We’ve been to new parent groups, seen both The Namesake and Sicko at baby-friendly movie showings, attended her second wedding, and examined the jewelry exhibit among others at the Museum of Fine Arts.

Also this week while feeding her I have read The Ha Ha by Dave King and half of The Zen of Fish by Trevor Corson, watched several episodes of Man Vs. Wild (I so love that show) and watched and fast-forwarded through 22 hours of Live Earth concert footage and related short films. I’ve had a leisurely lunch out by myself one day, and then of course there was the one dud day, today.

This day started off stupidly, though I did find it pretty amusing. It went like this:

I decide to skip the new parent coffee down the street from my house and go on a walking tour of former factories in the ‘hood that was leaving from the main library branch. It was the first time I’d been to this branch with Lyra.

The tour started at 10AM and we get there at 10:02 and rush up to the door. It’s situated atop two steep stairways, and I have Lyra in the stroller. I know there are a lot of parent activities at this library and assume there is an easier way inside. I follow the handicapped accessibility sign around the entire large building and finally get to the open door in the back. Two signs on it say NO STROLLER ACCESS, which confuses me.

So I walk all the way back around the other side of the building, seeing no other entrances and I then haul the stroller with Lyra up the stairs and inside past a group of teenagers leaving as part of some group. I wait for what seems like an eternity while the one person ahead of me in line talks about computer programming with the guy behind the counter. I ask if the tour left and where they went first. He points me up Broadway toward Harvard Square.

I leave the library and aim the stroller for the Square. I see ahead of me the group of teens I had huffed past and realize that maybe they are my group – I’d been expecting more of a senior set at this and perhaps I had made a stupid generalization. So I rush and catch up. “This the walking tour?” I ask a kid lagging at the back. “Yeah,” he nods.

The group stops and everyone oohs and ahhs over the baby for some time. The kids are super friendly for a tough looking bunch. The sound like they might be Haitian. I tell them not to stop on account of me, “I was just trying to catch up.” The leader is a young white woman with a bag with folders and I quell the urge to ask if I missed anything and just tag along with her hoping she tell me. I chat and try to make eye contact with everyone as we are all on this trip together and I don't want to monopolize the leader just because I'm older and have a cute baby. The leader talks about when she was a nanny for her sister and asks me various questions about Lyra, and I stop and go, staying purposefully in the middle of them for at least five blocks.

I am wondering what the first stop will be as I thought all the factory buildings were concentrated the other direction when they all peel off to the right suddenly…to go into the high school. “Bye!” they all yell. “It was very nice walking with you,” says the leader, “Enjoy your day.”


So yes, wrong group. And yes, I just spent twenty minutes being a friendly neighborhood total friggin’ wack job.

After I got some coffee and recovered a little, I headed back to my neighborhood and attended the New Parent group after all. A mom there told me people routinely leave their strollers on the sidewalk at that library. She doesn’t like that much. I looked at her stroller and realized it’s one that cost at least $700.

From there Lyra and I headed to the movies in Brookline and Lyra would not eat and started getting Very Fussy. Everything I tried failed, but we made it through the movie. At home the fussiness continued and the hunger strike went on and on. Twelve hours after her last good meal she ate again finally and is now asleep. My nerves are shot and I will now do the same.

Today's moral: Be nice to your neighborhood wack jobs. They could be me.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mom

Lyra likes to dance.

A serious enough wind is ripping through my neighborhood at the moment and enough sirens are whizzing by that it inspired instant storm preparation instincts in me. I had the sudden urge to hoard food, fill containers with water, and locate all the flashlights and matches. It was oddly strong, this instinct, and it took me a few minutes to realize that I'd just watched a show about the incredible flood of the Connecticut River in 1936, and I was in disaster mode. Instead, I calmly closed the windows and shutters and collected the garbage can from the sidewalk while Lyra slept peacefully on a pillow on the living room floor.

Lyra slept for seven hours last night. Because she is, of course, the best baby Ever. I attended another New Parents' Coffee today at the local toy store. I met some nice people at this one. Sadly, the couple that seemed like people I might know said that they were moving to the west coast after I started talking with them awhile.

The new parent groups I have attended so far have been impressively well-educated groups of people. Last week I was having lunch with a bunch of women in Boston listening to anecdotes about how they have no idea what they are doing and were fretting over the tiniest details of parenting and I suddenly realized every one of us there had at least two college degrees. The woman talking about launching her kid out of the car seat in a supermarket was a director level industrial designer, the woman who couldn't stop nervously talking was an attorney. The young woman who worried about her baby's loud farts was an architect, and so on.

Today there were references to post doc work and medical residencies peppering the discussions of sleep and neck strength. I don't know if it's the area I live in or if there is a particular demographic to who attends such things. Anyway, I will keep trying to get out and meet people. If only they would serve caffeinated coffee!

The most interesting baby name I heard today was Zabelle, which was her great grandmother's name. Her dad calls her Zed. Last week I met a baby named Ripley, which I also liked -- and she'll be too young to have Ripley's Believe-it-or-Not or Aliens (the movie) jokes.

Speaking of too young, today was my late mother's birthday. I don't really feel like she *is* her ashes particularly, but they do symbolize her to me on some level and somehow it seems wrong of me to have not figured out what to do with them yet. It's been a few years now, and I feel bad about it when I think of it. I am struck occasionally by incredibly powerful sad moments when I wish she could meet Lyra and wish that Lyra got to meet all of her grandparents. Sometimes I wish I was younger with Lyra. After all, I knew my great grandmother on my mom's side until I was 13.

A friend visiting from Colorado stopped by today and Lyra smiled and gurgled at him even though she'd then used up her 7 hours of sleep by being awake for 7 hours. Because she is, of course, the Best Baby Ever.

This week's milestones are Lyra appreciating sleeping at night, the swing she previously hated, and all the funny sounds her mouth can make. She'll also be attending her second wedding in two months tomorrow. Oh, and her parents have begun cooking more again, which feels great. We made steak frites for the 4th after a weather-shortened picnic by the ocean, lots of great salads (it's farm share time again!) and last night we had a successful experiment with salmon fillets encrusted with crushed wasabi beans.

The wind has passed and I'm suddenly exhausted. Maybe I'll try that reading thing I seem to remember doing once upon a time. What are those things called? Books?

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Friday, June 29, 2007


Lyra and I just returned from the Box Office Babies series at our favorite art house, the Coolidge Corner in Brookline. Unlike the slightly more suburban and better publicized baby-friendly movies in Arlington that were mobbed with an army of strollers outside, this movie was barely attended. There were less than ten moms and one super cranky woman who had somehow not understood she was at the Box Office Babies showing despite being told several times while getting her ticket and coming in. "This is just ridiculous," she groused. "Where can I sit where there aren't babies? This is AWFUL." I mentioned there were less than ten in the theater, right? Babies sleep. It was quieter than plenty of movies I've seen where babies would be unwelcome for sure.

Anyway, we saw the movie Once, with Glen Hansard, the guy from The Frames. I highly recommend this movie. I'd read that it was a "rock musical" and was afraid of it. However, it's really a lovely movie. The characters don't stop the story and break into a performance, it's rather a movie where the characters have happened upon each other on the street and begin literally making music together working on their songs. Through the song lyrics and especially the emotion conveyed in them you get the story. It has very much the feeling of Before Sunrise as a result, but with a screenplay that probably was one percent of the length.

When Lyra and I emerged from this movie, she was all smiles.

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Settling Into Things

Lyra is now 8 weeks old and I'm starting to feel a little more settled into things. It's certainly a lifestyle shock at first. I still look at this wee beastie crying sometimes and just laugh at how she seems like a strange little alien and marvel at just how wild it is that I made a HUMAN BEING!

In the past week or two she and I have found more ways to merge our lives. We, go to baby-friendly movie showings (even one where you can vote the week before on which of the current movies is one that gets designated baby-friendly) and that's been fun. Glenn is working from home a couple of days a week and we’ve gotten to the point where I can go work at my studio when he is here with our yummy little beastie. I've even taken her strawberry picking. So some parts of life don't have to change as much now that we're adapting to less sleep and gradually getting more and more sleep.

What's tough is what people talk about: the isolation. I always thought that those must be the recently transplanted folks, the ones who don't have any friends or family around. But it's not true. People are just really busy and they think they shouldn't hang with you if you have a baby. Or they "give you space" when all you need is contact. Or maybe they think you’ve disappeared when really you are having to give up so much of your time to the baby that you forget to call people with your pea sized memory that’s left in the breaks.

And probably what is most important: there is the fact that 8 weeks is an exceptionally long amount of time when you are awake for most of it. Maybe I don't normally speak to a lot of my friends for 8 weeks, I'm can’t really say for sure. Perhaps it’s similar to other challenging times, like break-ups, where certain people show up for certain kinds of times and they aren’t always the ones you expect. There are so many weird contradictions with the expectations of pregnancy and new parenting. They mostly just pass as flashes in my head while I try and stay afloat and laugh through another cranky session. And we do have a few solid people who have kept us basically sane these last two months! I'm not ignoring them. I'm just totally needy.

Also tough – accepting that this is my current body shape and that it will take me time and effort to get back to something that does not completely freak me out daily. Let’s just say beyond the usual weight gain when a small person has a gigundus baby there is a lot of skin that has to re-tighten! Adding this to a lack of sleep, adapting to the biggest change I could have made in my life and all the ensuing personality crisis and you have the recipe for at least occasional tears.

Glenn gave me a membership to a women’s gym that has kid care and mom-baby classes but I’ve not signed up yet. My current gym is a few blocks away which seems easier to get to at the moment. Mostly Lyra and I dance with her in the Baby Bjorn and walk a lot. (She seemed to enjoy LCD Soundsytem’s “North American Scum” and Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart” best today.)

We’ve entered into much more fun mode with Lyra finally and the boot camp feeling of things has lessened dramatically. During her alert times she yells and makes various talking noises when I have her touch or look at new things. She really likes being outside which is a bonus for me and a great thing for the timing of her birth. And I care a lot less where I am if she’s hungry, though it’s still a big challenge in Boston’s cultural atmosphere.

We also have fun practice crawling. We do this nearly every day for a while. Lyra is one her stomach on the floor and I try to coax her toward me. She can actually move inches with her legs while dragging her poor elfin nose along the floor. She has some serious willpower, and it is punctuated by the funniest yells and coos. As soon as she knows her arms are attached to her though I'll be doomed. She has places to go, fast!

Also what has made things so much better is that I am doing this with a partner who is trying to be as equal as possible in parenting. He’s being a seriously real parent, not a couple hours a night kind of guy, and I can’t really imagine doing it any other way. I think I would have rather tragically lost it by now.

I don’t know if it’s just my personality or the fact that I’m older than many parents and have a very established life that I’m altering, but I just don’t know if I could have switched into sudden parenthood with anyone who didn’t dive into it with me. I just don’t have the support system or possibly the desire for it that some Super Mommies have. I don’t think my way is better. I’d love to have that ability. However, I have to have time to take care of myself, and for me that might be a bit more than a long shower or a nap. I need to be creating or even indulging in what other might think of as Type A behavior, in order to be myself and be the best I can for the boo.

The part that is exceptional? She's really radiant when she smiles. Whether it is one of us or a shadow on the wall that is the beneficiary of her glow, it is pure and hugely joyful and looks like she just got told the funniest joke ever and it was such a nice surprise while being served exceptionally scrumptious food with the most fun playmates surrounding her. And at those moments, and whenever we think of them, we can truly believe we must have done something really right.

Today I am grateful the weather has gotten cooler. When Lyra is attached to me in a front pack part of the day, I get more done and she is less fussy later. And there’s the dancing. There’s no way we were doing that in the high heat of this week. And by the way, is there some reason front packs don’t have pockets on them? Maybe it’s just my model.

What do you think here: If you see a perfect stranger who is a dad pushing a stroller or changing a diaper, you might go out of your way to tell them what a good dad they are. What is your criteria for telling a woman they are a good mom?

I think about this a lot when people compliment glenn (not because he isn’t, but because I never hear it and am of course jealous) but I was considering it more one day last week as I was walking down the street in a nearby town with the wee beastie snoozing in the front pack and a diaper bag on my back. I was feeling pretty solid and up for anything even tough like with all the gear strapped on maybe I should be wearing combat boots. An older man just looked at me and chuckled and said “good luck!” Um…thanks?


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

More Adventures in Momdom (Momdumb?)

Yay for tiny victories. It’s 11AM and I am feeling like a successful mom. This is new, and it may fade before I am relieved later by working dad, so quick, lets celebrate it while we can.

First of all, I got a straight five hours of sleep last night, as the boo got fed by dad at 2am, when I am just not a nice, functional person. Then at the next meal time, she passed out next to me in bed and everyone slept another couple of hours. Then, dad hung out with her while I made myself a “real” breakfast. These basics of food and sleep are so ridiculously key to my self esteem, coping skills, and general mobility I can’t even express it properly.

Next, this is the first day I have carried Lyra around in a front pack. My god is it more comfortable on my back than just hauling her around the house. Plus it’s the only way I’ve ever done things around the house while hauling her around. When she won’t sleep this happens frequently, as our house has four main rooms and four flights of stairs. Every other floor has a place for her to sleep. She went to sleep so much faster in the carrier than trying to put her in the crib or bassinet. She screamed, but then I turned on the washing machine and the rushing water made everything okay.

This is novel…I’ve read my mail, thought about some earrings I’d like to make, done a little online shopping, made several phone calls, and acted like the person I relate to more easily than the completely frazzled and freaked out person I was on say, Monday.

We had a very successful traveling foray with the boo. She was easy to travel with:

There were lots of new experiences...we fed her in parking lots and changed her in rest areas and once in the hatchback:

The problem is we were more active and more awake and we drove long hours in heavy rain and fog so by Sunday night my nerves were frayed, and Monday was just a disaster with screamy baby and weepy mom. Every day is a new adventure. Yeehah.

We got to see our close friends Shannon and Jonathan get married in a nouveau native ceremony in a lovely setting near Woodstock, NY. It was mellow and had both ceremony and silliness and suited the two of them well, though so would have a bit more sunshine. There were all the fiascos that would make a traditional wedding crack apart: pouring rain that started during the outdoor ceremony, one of the rings lost in the grass (and later found), and more, but the creative and laid back friends and family present all laughed and went with the flow and ate delicious barbeque. It was fun, and I am so glad these two are together.

It was exhausting hauling around the boo in her car seat (it had mosquito netting on it) and calming her and feeding her and watching her, but we wouldn’t have missed it. We stayed in cabins with close friends as our neighbors who all got to meet Lyra, and that was super fun. It made me want to bring her up in a communal atmosphere like that. It was down the street from a rushing river where people were kayaking through gates and the sound lulled Lyra to sleep.

And did I mention how cute she is? Oops now she’s alternating head butting me and giving me neck hickeys while in the carrier. Time to visit the laundry machine again…ahh, still in success mode, whew.

So a weird observation – you know how I complained about how entirely invisible I was while pregnant? Never getting seats on the subway, one morning not being able to get on the train at all, no one meeting my glance on the street? With the bulky, awkward stroller, people peer in, people say how cute she is when they can’t even see her for the sun shade on the stroller, people help lift the stroller into crowded subway cars.

I would just like to point out that It is Much harder to walk around with a nine pound baby in your stomach than in a stroller.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Home (Not Quite) Alone

So, glenn is back at work today for the first time. This morning he joined me at the pediatrician with the wee boo. She is one month old today, and we've only suffered minor hallucinations from the lack of sleep. Seriously though, this bit is quite hard. It's amazing how over-populated the planet is with how challening pregnancy and newborns are. The thing I didn't understand when reading about parenting was the math: how could a baby need to eat 12 times a day at first and possibly eat for an hour still doesn't seem possible now that I'm in the thick of it. Thankfully she's already slowing down the frequency (well, most days).

I have yet to feel that special amnesia that seems to happen to know, when they forget about the difficulty of pregnancy. It will be interesting to see if I get it. So far there is nothing I feel like going back to -- she was so big and there was so much fluid that I was ridiculously uncomfortable. I lost forty pounds in just two weeks after delivering and have more to go, and it took nearly two weeks for my feet to stop looking like they'd swolen into hooves. I also find it unlikely that I'll forget the trauma of the c-section as it was my first surgery, it was not entirely expected, and most of all because the anestheia did not entirely take at first....

The feeding that happens between 1-3am usually is my worst hour. I'm improving, but this week we'll start having me pump in the morning so she can be fed without my foul mood then and we can switch hit some and both get more sleep. Neither of us has proven to be very good at sleeping during the day (remember how bad I said I was at's still true even on wisps of sleep at night, and even though I know it would make a world of difference).

At the doc appt., her seemingly always happy doctor said Lyra was growing super well and was in the 75th percentile size-wise with apparently a bigger than average brain giving her a bigger than average melon. It's fairly unclear what she's using it for at the moment, but she is beginning to focus on faces as well as bright lights for the first time. She also just grew tear ducts, which mercifully happened after I was fairly used to hearing her cry, so it isn't quite as heartbreaking as seeing her tear up while crying would have been a couple of weeks ago.

I then checked out a "new mother's group" at the hospital, which turned out to be a smart idea. I learned a lot from the other moms and the nurse and lactation consultant who were there. She was the second youngest baby there, but by far not the smallest, nor the weakest (my baby could kick your baby's ass! After all, she kicks mine daily...). Lyra and I then took the subway for the first time. She was born just after they finally made the subway stop next to the hospital handicapped accessible. (Not sure what took so long with that concept.)

So every day there is some new thing to learn just by diving in. Where to feed or change her? Who is okay to feed her in front of? How long will she sleep between eating? What subway stops have elevators? How far can I walk today with my own recovery? What clothes fit my ever changing shape today? How do I bring her in a restaurant -- what do I do with the stroller? Which button does what on this stroller? What daytime TV can I stomach? What new way can I feed the boo so my arm doesn't break off? Should I get exercise, eat food, get support, have visitors or attempt to sleep? Who the hell am I? Etc.

After our subway ride and walk home, I was able to eat lunch before she woke up. We went through a lot of diapers and she had lunch and I got her to look at herself in a mirror. She could definitely see the baby this time. She touched the mirror (she's attempting to reach for things a bit early...maybe that's one connection in that big melon!) and then cried. We tried the sling, which was not successful until I went outside. I did a tiny bit of weeding and then went back inside. She was asleep for minutes only so then I strolled her around the block. So far so good since we returned.

This is what my life is like these days. Crying management and feeding her or me. I am attempting to keep her asleep and then feed her at a certain time this afternoon, which does not always work, so that we can take out for a couple of hours tonight. We're going over near Fenway and the Sox are playing at home so we'll need to take her on the subway again.

Mainly all I have to say today is: Whew I am tired.


Monday, May 07, 2007


Oh, did I forget to mention that I am a mom? lol

My daughter, Lyra Catriel, entered the world through a slit in my stomach on Tuesday night, May 1. She weighed 9 lbs 2 ozs (yep, I'm only 5'3"). It was a bit harrowing as the drugs didn't entirely work during the c-section, but the results are an incredibly cute "little" boo. My life is entirely about burping, diapers and breast feeding at the moment. I haven't had more than three hours of sleep in one go yet. It's fairly crazy-making but damn, she is super cool. You'll see.


Monday, April 30, 2007


Now that I've answered the phone about five times and just started saying "no, not yet" instead of "hello!" Here is the update:

No, I am not yet a mom.
Her official due date is May 3.
If I'm not in labor by May 3 they will schedule a date to induce her, coz she's clearly more than fully cooked at an estimated nine plus pounds.
And I will tell you when she arrives, honest.

You know how people always complain that new parents only talk about their kids? I would Really love it if people emailed, posted, called, came over, and talked about something other than my kid right now. Tell me about Your life. Tell me about your projects. Tell me about good movies to rent. I need distraction from my crankypants state of discomfort. :)

Oh and hows about this, here's a way to be supportive without having to deal with super cranky me! I just had glenn drop off my work for Somerville Open Studios (SOS). Go see some art in the hip city of Somerville this weekend, and you can buy some of my jewelry, which will be on display at Jade Moran Jewelry (number 55 on the map, I believe). It's a little different than some of my past stuff, as it's what I could manage while pregnant (fewer hammers and torches involved), but a greater range of you may enjoy it, too!

I won't be there myself as I'll either be a new mom or Jabba the Hut by Saturday. SOS is a particularly good Open Studios weekend as the city is really understanding how to support artists and there is a lot of studio space and gallery space compared to neighboring towns. Enjoy!

If you miss out on this weekend, much of my work will be at Gallery Penumbra, on Rocky Neck in Gloucester this summer.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

On Napping

Okay, everyone I know is good at napping. People love to nap. The idea of taking a snooze in the middle of the day appeals pretty much to everyone except little kids who are forced to, and ME.

I just can't seem to do it. I'm ridiculously tired, told by doctors to nap, not able to do much else, and still, I can't do it. I'm too interested in what I might miss I guess, or too self abusing to not worry about other things I wish I was doing, or I'd rather just lie still and watch this movie or read this book, or I'm just an idiot or something.

And it's very complicated to me. I want to set an alarm, but I can't figure out how long to set it for since I can't figure out how long it will take me to fall asleep. And then when I wake up I'm dopey and groggy for the rest of the day. Why is this seemingly simplest of activities so hard for me? I am nine months pregnant... no one should be better at this! If there is such a thing as tips for napping, I want to hear them.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Final Stretch

I'm in the last couple weeks of my pregnancy, thank god. I'm so happy it got nicer out this week because it is a great aid in just laughing at how ridiculously hard everything is. I mean really, the dorky clothes, the weird body changes, the unwillingness to look in a mirror, the mourning of friends and family, the exhaustion and resting with feet up after walking an incredibly slow mile, how different will being 80 really be???!!

The baby is still crazy. She seems to be attempting to kick and punch her way out my side, cartoon-style. Not only that, but she's in a bunch of extra amniotic fluid, so she has room to wind up and let it fly with great force. Yeah...did I mention they think she might already be over nine pounds? Whew. Hey, I guess I'm an excellent host at least. (Yeah, but I'm over it. Out, damn parasite! Out!) I think it's time the baby takes an evolutionary tip from the cats -- this is the part where she can save her butt by totally winning us over with her cuteness, not body slamming me.

I've been reading some fascinating but challenging books on the neurobiology of experience. That's how what we do and how we bond with each other during our infancy actually changes how particular, significant pathways form in our neural networks. It's complicated, but very interesting, and the passages I've read on attachment theory and memory and how we learn to modulate our own states of being seems very valuable information for parenting.

I also read a really interesting novel called Ordinary Wolves. It's from the point of view (which mimics the author's real life experience) of a white kid who grew up in a sod igloo in more of what we think of as traditional circumstances for the area than the native Inuit who lived in the closest town and are getting trapped in the drips and trash of the super consumerism of the US as a whole. The cultural mish mash that happens in his brain as he tries to fit in with the wolves and with the humans that prey on him and in a brief stint in the big city (Anchorage) is just fascinating. Of course, I have a bit of a natural connection with that part of the world, and have traveled to AK twice, to the Yukon, and to the Northwest Territories, so I'm bound to appreciate the descriptions in this book anyway. I sure hope my kid likes to travel.

It's so weird knowing I'm about to have one of my biggest life events happen, that it's so big I can't even guess how it will change me, and yet I have no idea when. But very soon. I know that. Meanwhile I'm unable to work or do much, and I'm just waiting.....

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

"These are people who died, Died..."

This is some of the most fatigue I’ve ever encountered. I’ve had insomnia before, but no one was flailing inside me and my back was not contorted in pain and I did not have to pee every couple of hours. There are always dangers with this degree of sleep deprivation but I can stay out of my car and not write any pointed emails or play with tools or any of that stuff. Mostly I have two overwhelming things that haunt me as a result. One is the obvious: My God, how will I survive the lack of sleep after she’s born? The other is death.

A fear of death is somehow inevitable with a birth, I think. There’s the physical thing I have to go through, the constant monitoring of whether the kid is okay and going to make it, and the fear of responsibility for another life. This seems normal. But I have all this extra baggage. Especially being due in early May. Spring has become a time of renewal, but renewal that requires summers of therapy.

There’s the super clear issue: I miss my mother. She’s standing there on Mother’s Day with open arms for the baby when I look at the calendar, counting days until my due date. On really bad days her fingers are blue like when I found her dead. Realistically, the problems she was having toward the end of her life would have prevented her from a lot of helpful mothering, but how she would have loved this. And how I would have loved to share it with her. And she missed the great respect a kid can only have for their mother after going through what she did for me to be alive.

The day before Mother’s Day my friend Sakura stands lovingly waiting on her birthday. She was killed in an arbitrary car accident on her way to buy supplies for her new apartment a couple of years ago. She too, would have been so tickled. I imagine her smoking a cigarette and strumming her guitar in my garden, and in the kitchen, making dumplings the way her mother taught her and the way she taught me, talking about photography and teaching and letting glenn practice his Japanese. She gave us so much advice before our trip to Japan, and she was gone when we sent her our photos.

And May 5th, the date I imagined I’d be reclaiming from death with this birth is the day I watched my friend Jim leave his body last year. This one has perhaps been the hardest. I know when he stopped eating and that this last, incredibly physically difficult month of my pregnancy is corresponding with his physical decline last year. It’s hard not to feel like me or the baby will die at the end. And oh how I wish she got to know him. I’m so glad I told him I thought I was going to do this and that dealing with his death had given me the courage – it was one of his last, mostly unresponsive days and with his eyes still closed he suddenly had the hugest of grins, the last of them I ever saw.

I thought I had this under control, and was looking forward to the renewal of birth on his death date… until the cancer my dear friend Jen started battling in August as a lump on her leg just went crazy and spread everywhere. She just stopped eating the same weekend as Jim did last year (right around when my new friend Greg jumped off a bridge a couple of years ago). Jen’s asleep most of the time now. I wanted to introduce her to the baby, like a sign of hope for her. We were planning to have coffee just over a month ago.

Now I am always awake, waiting for her relief, and for my baby. And each day I know with increasing force the horrible sadness of her husband and four children, and I am again missing my mom. And I will likely miss Jen’s memorial, as it’s predicted to be around when the baby is due. I just missed glenn’s aunt’s memorial, too.

I try so hard to focus on the positive. I imagine playing with my kid and being a kid myself and lolling in total silliness. I write down fun activities to do with her in a festive bright book my mother-in-law made me. I like imagining dressing her, smelling her, sleeping on the couch with her. I wake for the 80th time out of depression or pain or kicking or baby hiccups or needing to pee and I smile at my cats, all snuggled together at my feet. I got a note from a friend who is very much alive and positive and wants to come help sometime after she’s born, and he was born the day before her due date. I want desperately some way to rid myself of the sad parts of my reality so it does not affect my child, and days like today I’m pretty sure I can’t. I can’t even lose it by sleeping. But I’ll keep trying.

It seems the way I will deal with those first difficult weeks is because I would trade nearly anything right now – any sleep, activities, normal eating – to just have a live, healthy, wonderful baby life to focus on. I will just keep trying to shed some of this emotional weight by focusing on the positive, and the circle of life, and all the gifts all of these people have given me, and all that you are now. This screwed up period of my life will Not take her from me. Thank you my cool real life and virtual friends. One of you is singing “Interjections” from Schoolhouse Rock on Instant Message to me right now and already I am laughing and looking forward. The sun has just come out, as cheesy as that is, and I can see the green sprouts in the back yard of the bulbs I planted to bloom when the baby is due.

Sorry for the overtired spew. Blogging is probably another danger of extreme fatigue....

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Where in the World is the Baby?

I have a different last name than my husband. Our daughter is going to have my last name. If we had a son, he’d be getting glenn’s last name. It seems an equitable decision, and one that saves a generation of hyphenated-named people marrying each other a lot of grief.

Glenn’s last name is Scottish. His family talks about their clan and its history. His dad recently wore a kilt at a family wedding.

Thus he was musing the other day about the possible end of his last name in his family line, and how he once visited the part of Scotland his family name is from and the clan museum. He noted the name in itself meant nothing, and that he’s actually more Sicilian and probably more German, but still had an air of nostalgia.

The funny, totally American story unraveling here that made me laugh is that our daughter will actually be more Scottish than anyone currently alive in his family, especially him.

Mostly my family talks about how bad my dad’s mother’s cooking was in relation to our Scots heritage, however. Because the family watched the landscape that they thought of as home get fairly altered by bombs during WWII after moving here, perhaps the geographic identification is still altered as well as a result, too recent to romanticize. I’m not sure. I lug around carefully packed postcards and picture books and albums and tiny tartan-clad dolls from Aberdeen each time I move.

However, my dad’s mother took his father’s name and that’s what my dad got, so our daughter will have a Swedish last name. Oddly, most of what we have to lug around from the Swedish side are mystical looking intricate Freemasons certificates earned here, most of which are now framed on my brother’s wall as a curiosity. And the Swedish name has had a number of letters removed from it during the transition to the States presumably because they wanted to seem more American.

It’s always so fascinating what we feel connected to or interested in or find easiest to romanticize of our genetics. (At least it’s actually factually true to say the grass is almost always greener in Scotland.)

If anything, given the qualities and locations of her eight nationalities, we could expect our kid to be oddly drawn to the sea. However, since the end result of this is some fairly solid United Statesian-ness, perhaps she’ll be a great capitalist or a super polluter or a warmonger. Or perhaps it’s time for these young generations to identify more with their more regional subgroups. She’ll mainly be of New England stock.

Or perhaps she could have a more global mindset, freed of all this baggage. She’ll need it to help fight some of the global environmental issues her generation will live or die by. We tried to aid in her work options and did research before even getting pregnant where we could give birth to our child and get her EU citizenship, but Europeans were already sick of others who had this idea before us and had already made it impossible.

But we can still look to the stars: she is supposed to have great financial luck, according to our Chinese neighbor, as she’ll be born in the Year of the Golden Pig, an unusual occurrence that apparently made wedding rates shoot up in China and Korea last year for those hoping to have golden piglets.

And thanks to Mike for sending the following Marilyn vos Savant, resident genius columnist at Parade, quote. This week’s question to her was from someone in our situation who needs to explain the name decision to the people who are confused by it (tho’ Marilyn’s explanation still puts a lot of identity emphasis on a last name – because really…someone’s heritage is always missing in a single last name). Here’s her response:

Tell them you’re in the vanguard of a social revolution that someday will better the lives of all women. Men have long had the psychological advantage of unbroken identities. By contrast, women usually change their surnames when they get married. This practice deals a subtle—yet tremendous— blow to their sense of self. And even when women do keep their names, they seldom pass them on to their daughters. So the female heritage disappears.

When enough women keep their surnames throughout life and pass them on to their daughters for life, we will witness an improvement in the stature and independence of women the likes of which has not been seen since women got the vote.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Idea for You

Dancing with the Unborn!
Remember how popular the Dancing Baby was on Ally McBeal and then the endless versions online? So what if Heather Mills has a fake leg on Dancing with the unborn baby could shake television up for real. With a little ultrasound action she'd get great ratings and she'd surely win -- unlike you already born types, she doesn't sleep when she can dance. She could pay for college And she could tell her new roommates she danced nude to pay her tuition!

They could get that penguin from Happy Feet on the other half of a split screen with her ultrasound screen. Or Kevin Bacon. Yeah.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

The Bizarro Prenatal World

Being pregnant has been like living in Bizzaro World for months. I anticipated that watching my body change so much would be weird. But I did not know I’d feel so tired, so achey, or like I have a nightclub attached to me and have to wake every few hours to my baby's dance parties.

There has been so much to not comprehend. First all I could marvel at was how could there be people (especially skinny teens) who don’t know they’re pregnant until they deliver. And women who love being pregnant? What is that about?

Then there is the consumerism. It’s both out of control and in your face, and mysterious and a bit hidden. For instance, we needed to buy a crib. Where do you go? Okay, we understand that there is the plastic Vegas world of Babies’R’Us. So we went there. It frightened me. It had taken me three days of studying to make a baby registry on Amazon, learning the lingo and the uses and needs for various gear. Once I got home, I went straight to the registry and removed a bunch of items. Too scary.

We tried the big chains like Sears and Target, and learned the world of differences between them and how you have to know WHICH one to go to, and then find things like sample cribs that are a foot wide and don’t give you any sense of their stability, or sample cribs on high shelves. Everywhere we looked cribs were put together incorrectly, or beat on in the stores so badly that seeing them in person was unhelpful. We called friends who said they didn’t know, they ordered from Boston Baby just before they swindled everyone on their way out of business.

We eventually learned that the Burlington Coat Factory is a great place to look at cribs. And it’s a store. That doesn’t specialize in coats. And it’s not in Burlington. At least not Burlington, MA. “Yes, of course: Baby Depot,” nod our friends with kids, “Duh.”

Oh and cribs have different model names in different stores, like bed mattresses do, just to make it harder. And you can’t tell if it’s easy to lean over a fixed side crib when your stomach sticks out like there’s a baby in it. Did I mention that twice we picked one out that was suddenly discontinued the minute we chose it? We finally found our second choice online and ordered it from an evil empire we do not believe in giving money to, because they still had it and we’d do anything to be done with it.

Cribs do not include mattresses. Mattresses with coils might have a high coil count but they could be super thin wire, which they will not tell you. Hard foam mattresses are best but hard to find.

And every crib you ever see in a store is bedecked with things you supposedly Need. Unless of course, you read. In which case you are confused by why every single crib has a bumper a kid can kill themselves with, a blanket they can suffocate under, and a mobile they won’t be able to see well for sometime, and then you’ll need to remove soon after. Don’t get me started on strollers. They’re like committing to a Lifestyle, like car buying. All hail capitalism and its rule over safety, education, and sanity.

I was once a consumer columnist. I now feel powerless. I’m pretty sure when the self-check out computer tells me there is an “unexpected item in the bagging area” it is talking about my brain cells that are leaking out on everything.

I’ve mentioned the weirdness of gender-oriented infant clothes before. But also, what is with all the writing on infant clothes. “Baby Animal Friends” says one onesie. Is it for equal opportunity parenting? I mean in case I’m only barely literate, have no mental ability for knowing the picture is of baby animals? This seems possible, given that safety tags have to inform me that my child should not be in boiling hot water, playing with plastic bags, or operating heavy machinery without a nap.

Maybe infants can read baby talk, just not adult words? And who knew this was TWO tags on top of each other and that the bottom one Needed to tell me not to put down a lit cigarette on her tub?

I learn the most when I act as dumb as everything expects me to be, however, so maybe it’s all appropriate. Really. I’ve asked really dumb questions. “What do you receive in a receiving blanket?” But even so, sometimes I got seemingly magic information like “You can tell if the clothes you’ve been handed down are big enough for your infant if they’re around 22 inches.” Yesterday we took out a yard stick and a onesie and were mystified before we realized the kid’s head and legs will not be IN the onesie. We need a new magic number, but I think we’ll just ask our daughter.

The unsolicited comments are of course the best. The people who ask but don’t want you to tell:
“Do you know the gender?”
It’s a girl.
“Oh I know. I can tell.”
“What are you thinking for names?”
Well, we have some strong candidates…
“Oh god, you should never tell anyone.”

There are a lot of myths about pregnancy, and not all of them are bad. For instance, the Difficulty with Car Seats. Glenn went outside with two infant car seat bases and was done installing them both in our aging cars (one with the latch system, one without) in ten minutes. We’re not sure what the problem is for the rest of you. Maybe you’ll laugh when we launch our kid through the car window accidentally one day, but until then, how hard is it to put a few straps through it?

And what about this one…“Do a lot of people come up and touch your stomach?” So far, only you. This stomach touching business is also a myth. No stranger has touched my stomach. Maybe if it were summer and I were out more and wearing fewer layers? Maybe it’s not a New England thing? It’s interesting touching my stomach, someone generally touches you back from the inside. But not even my friends do it since they think strangers are mauling me all the time.

Mostly I’ve found that as two people rather than one I am LESS visible, not more. I have been nearly hit by cars more times, fewer people move out of my way on the sidewalk, and the only times (twice) anyone has offered me a seat on the subway were when glenn was with me. Oh sure you’re all so busy Reading. Get the fuck out of my seat, assholes. How do you think you got into the world?

In fact, one day at Trader Joe’s a woman (with a small baby in her cart) who I’d been shopping next to in the aisle for some time, turned her cart to leave the aisle and full-force Rammed it into my extra-visible flank. I took stock, knew I was okay, and just stared at the floor, using my violent laser anger vision to make holes in the tiles. She mumbled “sorry” and Ran. I concentrated on the tile. If I looked at her, I knew I’d wait for her outside and run her down with my car…and Then, well for starters the frozen food would thaw before I got home.

At our baby shower there were cute cut-outs of girls from colored paper clothes-pinned on a line for people to write advice on. We received a lot of cat and dog training advice that could be applied to humans and other snarky, tongue-in-cheek advice. Our friends scribbled these as they busily attacked each other with stuffed animals and wore baby sweaters on their heads. We understood this. "Always keep a shotgun handy," read one. A couple of days later, after being bored by the Parents Paper ads for birthday party clowns in the waiting room, I was sitting alone in the doc office waiting for the OB and the one magazine left for reading there actually was Soldier of Fortune – the Best Guns of 2007 issue.

The other day a good friend sent some funny onesies, including one that is a picture of the GooGoo search engine. I wonder if my daughter will see pictures of herself in this and have any idea what the joke is about. I was putting away some old photos and saw an old Girl Scout leader of mine camping in her t-shirt that said "I Have Dual Floppies" and thought how someone who saw that today and didn't know what floppy disks were and knew that was my GS leader might think that seemed vastly inappropriate….

So we soldier on through the mysterious landscape, bumbling our way toward parenthood as clueless as our baby will be when she arrives. Luna has taken to sleeping in a baby snowsuit, Moki often runs by with baby socks in his mouth. We have no way to expect them to know what is a baby toy or a cat toy, what is an infant parking pillow, plush changing pad, safety tub, or a cat bed any more than I can understand the difference between a bassinet, a Moses basket and a laundry basket. At least I can read price tags for clues.

In my last two months of pregnancy as I have slowed down making jewelry with my swollen fingers and super butch industrial studio situation. Yet suddenly I’ve taken on a bunch of web work again, sorting out problems at The New England Journal of Medicine. Glenn wants to know why the hell I'm doing this right Now, when getting in and out of the car or off the couch is a major accomplishment. Here it is: I know about UI. I know about web content. I had to prove that somewhere in there, I was a) good at something b) had evidence of gray matter and c) was a breadwinner. Besides, this bizarro prenatal stage inspires me to better user interface and working with clients lets me tell people who want to listen that they shouldn't make people think too hard about any decision they have to make.

So look, stop being so bizarre. Be nice to pregnant women. Be nice to me. I have the most flippy baby ever and a heightened sense of priorities. Together, we will kick your ass. But maybe later. Right now, it’s time for a nap.



Sunday, March 04, 2007

Leave No Child Inside

I've been thinking a lot about how to make sure my kid spends time rolling around in the dirt, since I'm living in an overpopulated concrete city. I just read the following quote in an article by Richard Louv in Orion:

Even without corroborating evidence or institutional help, many parents notice significant changes in their children’s stress levels and hyperactivity when they spend time outside. “My son is still on Ritalin, but he’s so much calmer in the outdoors that we’re seriously considering moving to the mountains,” one mother tells me. Could it simply be that he needs more physical activity? “No, he gets that, in sports,” she says. Similarly, the back page of an October issue of San Francisco magazine displays a vivid photograph of a small boy, eyes wide with excitement and joy, leaping and running on a great expanse of California beach, storm clouds and towering waves behind him. A short article explains that the boy was hyperactive, he had been kicked out of his school, and his parents had not known what to do with him—but they had observed how nature engaged and soothed him. So for years they took their son to beaches, forests, dunes, and rivers to let nature do its work.

The photograph was taken in 1907. The boy was Ansel Adams.

Did you grow up when and where it was normal to play outside? Where was your secret or special spot? I had woods behind my house and a river that snaked through them that I spent time by. There was a big dead tree I would knock on as I went down to the water, and typically a flicker would stick its head out and look at me. Beside my house were rocks blown out of the way for the foundation, piled as high as the garage that I played on. Behind the neighbor's house in the woods the boulders were piled so that they made small caves. I wove basket like forts and made secret paths through cat briars. Down the street there was a pond with a second entrance no one used. If you sat on the concrete slab near a run off pipe (I hope it wasn't sewage) there was a big vine of Concord grapes. I had many spots, but these were those most frequented in my daily travels. Where were yours?

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Baby report

I've been asked for a baby report. Here's the deal: She weighs three pounds and has three months to go. She is currently in the 40th percentile (basically average size). She will grow at an incredible rate in the next three months. It's said if babies kept growing at this rate they'd weigh 200 lbs by the time they were one year old.

She kicks me all day long but really seems to be prone to dancing or running a marathon or building a rocket or something betwen about 3AM and 7AM. She occasionally gets the hiccups in the evening, which feel like a light rapping. She does not have a name, since you slackers never send me any.

She swallows, sticks her tongue out, blinks her eyes, and has a lot going on in her growing brain. She has some hair growing out of the back of her head, which looks Very silly on an ultrasound. She is working on getting some good working lungs. She is spoiled by having a very large pool to swim in. And since I'm now supposed to be taking it easy and am being monitored weekly due to frequent "false" contractions and the small amount of extra amniotic fluid, the baby also has her own weekly TV show (ultrasound).

This week on her show she entertained an ultrasound tech, a resident, and the department head by showing how much she moves around constantly, and then while on an extreme close up she took her time with a long yawn. Here is a photo from last week's episode of Baby TV. It's not as clear as past ones, but is also kind of remarkable, as it shows her face (tilt your head to the right) with chubby cheeks, rather than her previous Skeletor look. We may not see that again until she's out in the world as she's big enough that its hard to capture that on the ultrasound now.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Recent Reading

A few of the books I've read recently – at least those I remember at the moment:

The Ghost at the Table by Suzanne Berne: A mostly enjoyable fast read with an only slightly untrustworthy first person narrator. It's a dysfunctional family Thanksgiving in Concord, MA populated by a few too many unnecessary characters and eventually focusing on a central conflict that just wasn't a big enough deal to me. I read this one for a book group I belong to, and most of the women in it enjoyed the book more than me. It was, however, an excellent book for discussion purposes.

March by Geraldine Brooks: I enjoyed this book much more than I expected to. It was another book group choice. Like say, Ahab's Wife, it takes a barely mentioned character from a famous book and imagines their story. In this case it chronicles Mr. March, the father who is absent throughout Little Women and his experiences with the US Civil War. As Little Women is much based on the Alcotts real life, and I grew up visiting their house in Concord and idyllic Fruitlands in Harvard and learning about the transcendentalists of the time, I was fascinated.

Three Junes by Julia Glass: This would also make a likeable book group book. It takes place over several generations, with different related narrators telling each third of the book. It has some nice contrast between gay male New York eighties culture and Scotland countryside with hunting dogs going on. Not quite the contrast of say, the movie Babel, but perhaps more interwoven and familiar. I enjoyed this one, and found myself staying awake a bit too late to finish it.

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls: This is a good pair with the next one. It's a memoir of a fucked up childhood – and not your average dysfunction here but a fascinating mix of intelligence, imagination, and addiction with extreme poverty and kids just trying to cope as their parents drag them about in various moves and schemes and non-realistic solutions for getting by.

Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre: This is a novel about a kid in the wrong place at the wrong time in an ignorant southern town. School shootings, media frenzy, and border crossings all play parts. It's very entertaining.

Parenting from the Inside Out by Siegel & Hartzell: This is a book written by an early education specialist and a brain scientist that explains how an infant's mind forms and the implications of how we communicate with our kids. I found this book extremely informative and helpful.

St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell: I loved these short stories. They are snippets into fantastic other worlds where animals play other roles than you may be used to. Kids row around or get stuck in the shells of giant creatures we don't see, are literally raised by wolves, and other fun. A good jump start for the imagination.

Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott: This is a memoir of this writer's first year with her kid and all the ups and downs and honest realities of her experience. It's a welcome relief in the midst of the fantasies people have and support about being pregnant and having kids. And it's funny.

I've also of course been reading various pregnancy books. I reference the What to Expect book but something about its tone here and there puts me off and I find it more useful for the latter half of pregnancy than the first half. All said I've much preferred the newer book written by a doctor at Mass General, You and Your Baby Pregnancy. It's another week by week book but seems a bit more grounded in just scientific facts and a bit less chastising in tone.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Zero Going on Fifteen

Today we got to watch Baby TV again (ultrasound). We confirmed that she was indeed slam dancing in there. She has notable muscles in her legs. She also appeared to be talking or singing and we could even see her tongue. She is a rock star; see below as our baby demonstrates her early ability to drink a can of beer and then give us the finger while laughing:


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

How You Begin to Remember

Pregnancy books have started to totally bore me. So now I'm reading about parenting. I'm reading a fascinating book at the moment and just learned the following about how we develop memory, our ability to respond to experience by altering the connections among our neurons. These connections are make the structure of your brain and how it functions and makes your mind. There are two kinds: implicit and explicit.

First, we form implicit memories and "mental models." These are not things that feel like conscious recollections, because that part of the brain is not formed yet. Instead they cause emotions, behavioral responses, perception, etc. They are generalizations we form from repeated experiences. So for instance you may have cried and your mom comforted you again and again. Mom becomes safe and responsive and you become capable of impacting people and getting needs met. So many years later, after you've managed to have a totally messed up relationship with her say, you still might really have the urge to call her when you're sick or in distress.

After we turn about one year old we start to develop our hippocampus and have some new circuitry that allows us to begin having explicit memories. By one and a half we can have some semantic or factual memory, and by two years old we can have autobiographical memory. Before two the period is known as "childhood amnesia," not from trauma, but from not having the right wiring in our brains yet for these recollected, "explicit" memories that require a sense of self and of time. This kind of sense comes with the prefrontal cortex development, which is where we process much of our self awareness abilities.