Yard Work

Currently, there are three men mowing and leaf blowing in my backyard. All of my blinds are open, as they always are, and so the men can clearly see me sitting here playing with the baby, and I can see them, but we all studiously pretend that we cannot see each other. We do this once a month or so, more in the summer.

One of them just came up on the porch directly on the other side of the window, and it was so awkward that I waved and smiled. He looked at me, poker-faced, and then turned away without acknowledging that anything had happened. I guess I broke the fourth wall.

Gawker

Gawker is back, and I am exactly the sort of aging, snarky asshole they brought it back for. During Gawker’s heyday, I was working a series of desk jobs that merely required me to sit at a desk all day long on the off chance that my boss might at some point want me to do something (and if they ever did, I was a bitch about it). Some might describe such jobs as boring, but I have never understood how you can be bored if you have access to a computer, and I loved spending all day reading and writing whatever I wanted for pay. I did not love occasionally being interrupted in the middle of something important to be asked to do my actual work, nor did I love my extremely low pay, lack of health insurance, and overall disposability to my employers.

Anyway, I always read everything on Gawker. I have always been far too internet shy to become a part of a commenting community, but I read the comments, as well. So far, I’m enjoying the reboot except for the format, which I despise. I really don’t even know how to read sites like this — do I just open up every single article in a new tab and read it there? To my immense dismay, Gawker has not updated its RSS feed, so I can’t even escape the dreaded layout by reading the actual content elsewhere.

In my opinion, there should only ever be two types of websites:

  1. A landing page with an appointment booking plugin that actually works, a list of services and prices, a list of insurance providers accepted, and whatever other information people go digging through business sites trying to find; OR
  2. A long single column of black text on a plain white background (note this blog).

That’s it! There’s no excuse for anything else!

I’m glad that not many people share my views on this matter, however, or the company I work for probably wouldn’t exist.

Baby Bath

When I had Edith, the NICU nurses told me that I really wouldn’t need to bathe her all that often, as babies don’t get dirty, that once or twice a week is fine. The doula said the same thing, as did my pediatrician and all the baby books. And now Twitter has been discussing Ashton Kucher and Mila Kunis saying in an interview that they do not bathe their kids unless they are visibly dirty.

And look, I get that we’re a rather hygiene obsessed people and we don’t really need to be bathing daily for the most part (maybe? I mean, unless you work out. Or live in a hot climate. Or have an active job. Or, or, or…), but y’all, there is nothing more filthy than an infant! They don’t have control over their bodily functions yet!! They shit themselves voluminously at least once a day, for starters. They pee themselves basically constantly. Edith drools so much that I don’t bother to dress her because her entire front side becomes soaked in seconds, so she just has this slippery glaze of slobber from her chin to her waist at all times. If I park her somewhere, it cascades down her neck and pools up behind her head and I pick her up out of a puddle of it. She regularly spits up a decent amount of milk and she also just lets it pour out of her mouth when she’s done drinking. She often has boogers, as well. She wipes her hands in her hair.

This week kind of got away from me, and so Edith’s bath was a few days late, and by today, I didn’t actually need to hold her anymore because I could just stick her to the front of my body and carry her around like that.

So, I don’t know what people are talking about. When it comes to bathing frequency, I’d say the order is:

  1. coal miners;
  2. babies;
  3. anyone who for any reason must wear a giant foam-rubber character suit outdoors as part of their employment (or I guess their personal life, I don’t know what people are into now);
  4. teenage boys; and
  5. everyone else.

Haircut

Traditionally, I get my hair cut once a year. I last had it cut in August of 2019, so by the end of quarantine, I looked like a woods witch. When my mother arrived shortly before I was due to give birth, I begged her to chop off my waist length extremely thick hair, so I would not have to go through labor with a fur coat on my head (in the end, I didn’t go through labor anyhow). She quickly descended into the amateur haircut danger zone of “let me just even the other side” and I finally insisted she stop it right before my hair entered the Friar Tuck zone. Still, it did not look good or even intentional in any way. So I was happy to finally go have it fixed.

I have a lot of social anxiety about talking to hairstylists. They are all so incredibly cool, and they are professionally obligated to ask you questions about your life and pretend to be interested in you, so I always feel like I’m back in high school and have been made lab partner with a popular girl who prides herself on being nice even to obvious losers because Jesus. You know the conversation was always like:

Her, knowing full well you did not, but being genuinely baffled as to what someone like you would do over a weekend: “Did you do anything fun over the weekend?”

You, who spent the weekend watching Law & Order reruns with your parents: “You know, I just kind of vegged this weekend, I was really tired, actually.”

Her, generously: “NICE! Girl, those are the best kind of weekends. I know it’s so bad, but sometimes I am at a party, and I’m just like, ugh! All I really want to do is go home and get in bed and watch The Real World!”

You, never having been to a party or watched The Real World: “Totally.”

Her, knowing this is an unkind thing to ask but not knowing how else to have a conversation: “Are you getting into anything fun this weekend?”

You, dying inside, why is she doing this to you?!?!: “Uh, my friend and I might…do something, I don’t know! I don’t know yet, actually.”

Her: “Girl, good for you! Keep your options open! I love it.”

Anyway, this is how I feel whenever I have to make conversation with a hairstylist. I was interested to discover today that now, even though I am fully 40 years old and have a pretty major career and a baby, I still felt like I was forcing my hairstylist to regard me with a sort of tolerant pity for being so unforgivably boring and pathetic in response to her polite queries.

Her, looking amazing and with a sort of effortless self-confidence: “So how was your quarantine?”

Me, sporting Friar Tuck hair, a hormonal acne explosion, and a voluminous $5 jumpsuit from Amazon that’s the only thing that fits anymore with baby spit up on the boobs: “Uh, you know. I just kind of worked a lot, got pregnant. Spent a lot of time with my mom.”

Her, kindly and unconvincingly: “Girl, good for you! Sometimes that’s the best kind of quarantine, you know?”

Walker

My mother has gotten Edith a walker. We had some disagreement about this, because I had a general notion that it’s developmentally harmful to artificially enable infants to be mobile in ways they aren’t yet ready for physically based on something or other that I read. (While I was pregnant, I read about 500 baby books, and so I have vague, floating concerns about just about every aspect of child-rearing without ever having committed fully to any one particular philosophy.) Mom’s position, on the other hand, was that Edith would like it.

When I went looking for research to back up my concern, I found that there really isn’t any to support that this is a real problem, so after our pediatrician came down on Mom’s side (well, she said the only issue with walkers is safety, not developmental concerns), I caved. Mom had already ordered it anyhow.

This walker is massive, garish, and incredibly ugly. I’m not one of those Instagram moms who expects my baby’s accessories to complement my decor; I was resigned to having my house fill up with brightly colored plastic clutter. But this walker is the first piece of baby furniture that genuinely depresses me. Hopefully if we get a bigger house, it will not be so overwhelming.

Edith, obviously, loves it. She has wanted to be upright and walking since she was born. I feel like people won’t really believe this, but she was bracing her feet and standing up in my lap with assistance at two weeks old. She has no interest whatsoever in tummy time or crawling, but she wants to be standing all the time. Since she hasn’t really figured out walking, she does this thing where she leans over very far in the direction she wants to go and points with the top of her head, and then I move her that way. Then, she wants to go back the other way. I must admit, I don’t hate cutting myself out of this process.

She’s really too little for the walker and can only reach the floor with the tippy-toes of either one foot or the other (she has to lean toward one to get fully down there), but she’s able to nudge herself along the floor even so. When she isn’t in the walker, she is staring lovingly at it and chattering at it, and whining at me to put her in it. Still, I only let her play in it for a bit every day. After awhile she gets mad that the toys on it are bolted onto the front and starts to scream at them. At the moment, the main thing she does is cruise smack into the little wall between the living room and the kitchen and get stuck there, which is pretty manageable for me if not entirely satisfying for her, but I have a feeling I’m going to have to baby-proof the house before too much longer.

Afternoon

Most afternoons, my mom takes Edith for a couple of hours and I can do what I want. Today, what I most wanted to do was to make myself a cheese plate and a glass of wine and go sit in my bed surrounded by baby toys and picture books and with the smell of an overfull diaper pail in the air and put my earbuds in so I couldn’t hear Edith hollering in the living room, and watch the Season 2 premiere of Ted Lasso on my 11″ MacBook Air at 2 pm.

It’s funny to think that six months ago, I could spend every single evening relaxing in this way, for hours if I chose. It felt so much less special, though!

Ramp Thinger

When I am out jogging or walking or limping through the neighborhood greenbelts, I am often made jealous by the luxurious scenes I see over the fences of the fancy houses that back up to the parks. Landscaped pools, mostly, with waterfalls and fountains and big, garish flowers. Sometimes the wafting smells of grilling meats (I don’t eat meat, but I miss it and it smells delicious to me; I am not one of those lucky vegetarians who is viscerally disgusted by meat as a concept, and so I must actively resist my desire to eat it).

Today, as I was dragging myself along a path under the blaring sun and dreaming of the can of seltzer I planned to drink when I got home, I saw this thinger in the distance:

Let’s take a closer look:

It maybe doesn’t look like much here, but it had streams of water running down it and a sort of rotating water spray at the top, and there were also plumes of water shooting up from the ground level, and from the sounds of the children involved, I’m pretty sure it emptied into a pool of some sort. I stopped on the path and gaped, and suddenly I felt that nothing in my life would ever be sufficient until I had one of these thingers I had only just realized existed in my back yard.

I’m still depressed about it.

C-Section

I’m tired today and don’t have much to say, so I’m just going to brag about how easy my c-section recovery was. So, I had to have an emergency c-section with Edith; maybe at some point, I’ll write about my “birth story” but long story short: it was fucking traumatic, and I’ll never get over it. But the c-section itself was easy peasy! I was up and walking in about six hours, and I would have been even sooner (because Edith was in the NICU and I wanted to get to her), but they wouldn’t let me. I was considering just making a break for it when my nurse finally permitted me to go down there in the wheelchair, and then I stood over Edith for some time and people kept telling me to sit down, but I really didn’t need to! I was fine! I never needed the pain killers at all, I just took ibuprofen. And I didn’t need the wheelchair again after that first trip. I was fully mobile in another couple of hours.

For awhile it hurt and pulled when I sat up, so I had to roll onto my side and sort of pull myself up. And I was slow and curled a bit over like a shrimp as I walked around for awhile. But that went away pretty quickly, a week maybe, and though I didn’t start jogging again until almost two months postpartum, I definitely could have before then.

I had wanted a vaginal birth, and if I had it to do over again, I would still try for one. The c-section was shocking for Edith (although we didn’t have a choice) and the whole experience sucked. It was not my preference at all! BUT we are all told that a c-section will put you out of commission for months and be very painful and difficult to recover from, and all things considered, mine was actually a lot easier on my body than a vaginal birth would have been (plus, well, all my business is intact). I do have a scar now, but what with the impressive network of stretch marks I achieved during pregnancy and my truly outstanding pregnancy weight gain (I really embraced pregnancy and did the absolute most), that little scar is the least of my aesthetic concerns.

Of course, I am not saying this is the case for everyone — in fact, from what I hear, it’s pretty unusual — but if you do have to have a c-section, it might not be the end of the world, so maybe try not to freak out about it.

Special Treat and Rumpus Dance

Jogging in the summer heat has been bringing back a lot of summer camp memories. Mostly because it makes me very thirsty and my primary sense memory of being at camp is of being very thirsty and not having sufficient access to liquids. Most of my camp experiences were various horse camps which all turned out to basically be a way to get wealthy parents to pay for their children to do manual labor for a stable, but occasionally I went to a more standard summer camp.

The other day on my run, I was thinking about delayed gratification (something I’ve never mastered but would still like to teach Edith somehow) and I remembered a particular thing that happened at my favorite summer camp. This was a “farm home” camp run by Quakers, which meant that it was tents on a working farm and we all got to milk cows and play with baby goats in addition to the more typical roster of camp activities (we also got to attend Quaker meeting every Sunday, but that was less of a draw). It was idyllic and I loved it, but I only attended for one summer because my mother felt that the counselors were overly familiar with the campers and that the camp as a whole had a progressive agenda (another thing I never learned as a kid was just not to tell my mother things, which is something I hope Edith also fails to master).

Anyway, on our first day, there was a sort of meeting where announcements were made, and one of the things that we were told was that there were two changes being made from the previous year. Apparently, there was a certain dinner (I can’t remember what it was called, so I will just call it “special treat” although that wasn’t the name) that was so beloved by all the campers that they continually tormented the kitchen staff by asking incessantly if special treat would be served that evening, or if not, if it were possible to change the intended menu to feature special treat instead, and if not, when special treat might be served again? To fix this, all campers were hereby informed that special treat would be served once and only once during the two week camping session and that all campers would be informed in the morning when it was special treat day, so there was no reason to ask about it ever, and doing so would not change the plan.

Secondly, there was a particular campfire song and dance combo (again, I cannot remember what it was called, so I will just call it “rumpus dance”) that was so beloved by all the campers that whenever it was performed, the campers were worked up into an absolute frenzy and things got entirely out of hand. Exactly what “out of hand” meant was not specified, but from the tone and the abashed response of the veteran campers, I can only assume that it had led to a cannibalistic orgy. To fix this, rumpus dance would only be performed a single time, on the final night of camp.

Obviously, as a new camper, I was very excited to experience both special treat and rumpus dance! With such stringent rules limiting our access to both of them, they must surely be treats of the first order. When we new campers asked the veteran campers about either one, we were assured that the delights of both were transportive, but they seemed to be so superlative that words failed when the campers tried to describe them in any detail, so they remained shrouded in mystery.

Well, we eventually had special treat and it was literally a slice of bread with pasta sauce ladled all over it. I found it inedibly disgusting. I don’t know why this dish was so beloved by campers, except for the fact that the camp served vegetarian dishes that were mostly based around a hearty grain and whatever produce was being grown in the gardens, and so maybe bread and pasta sauce was more suited to your typical child’s palette. But I was the sort of kid who got offended whenever a server gave me the children’s menu and would hand it back by two fingers and sniffily ask for “a normal menu” (in other words, a gigantic pain in the ass), so I wasn’t particularly into it.

On the final night of camp, we had rumpus dance. I don’t remember much about it except that all the campers leapt to their feet and threw themselves into a circular dance around the campfire with wild abandon. I particularly remember one very withdrawn girl who had spent the two weeks keeping to herself and maintaining a grim expression absolutely flailing about as if possessed. But because of the embargo on rumpus dance, none of the newer campers had been able to learn it, so all we could do was sit there and watch, perplexed and intrigued, while the previous year’s campers reenacted this scene from The Secret History. This was a letdown.

I don’t know what the point of this story was. Something about moderation and/or delayed gratification not being worth it? Although as an adult, I can see that in this case, it actually worked its intended purpose, in that the campers were unable to annoy the staff on these two points. Maybe the takeaway is that limits work great when you’re forcibly applying them to other people, but not so great when you’re experiencing them yourself. Which is possibly not an especially novel observation.

My Baby!

There is arguably no work of fiction that more accurately captures the inner monologue of mothers of a particular demographic than Choire Sicha’s classic Awl piece, My Baby? My Baby Seems So Smart But I’m Also Scared About My Baby.

He has certainly got me dead to rights. Every time I say or think “my baby” which currently is about 500,000 times per day, I mentally follow it up with “My baby!” and the rest of it.

But. What if something IS wrong with my baby? My baby!