Pumpkin Farm

Today, Mom and I took Edith to Mama Mary’s Farm & Pumpkin Patch, which is exactly what it sounds like. There were a lot of people there, mostly with kids, but some young childless couples on what seemed a lot like first dates (I can imagine little more awkward) and weirdly, a massive gang of preteens who I wanted to punch. It’s Austin so it was sunny and roasting hot, but a lot of people were wearing their flannels and knee-high suede boots anyhow, gamely pretending for the ‘gram.

Mama Mary’s had a bunch of pumpkins piled around in photo opportunities, along with old rusted trucks, scarecrows, and other autumnal decor; a hay bale maze; a barn full of chickens, goats, and two depressed looking donkeys (one with a broken crest); food stalls; a train for kids to ride in driven by an extremely patient man with a wooden train whistle; and an apple cannon gun thing which we didn’t go look at because Edith doesn’t care for loud noises.

Naturally, we arrived exactly in time for Edith’s nap, but she was interested enough in the diversion to fight off sleep until we were on the way home, and although she was a little bleary-eyed, she seemed to enjoy herself.

For about twenty years, my M.O. any time I leave the house is to accomplish what I left it for as efficiently as possible and then return to it swiftly, so I can go back to my book. Likewise, when I go places with other people for experiences, my primary aim is to manipulate the situation such that they can experience it as efficiently as possible, so I can get home and back to my book. I’m really good at this; I have all sorts of well-honed tricks and strategies for convincing people they’ve seen enough, and when that doesn’t work, I can always find a shady spot to read an ebook on my phone until they’re ready to go.

Now, though, I have to work really hard to overcome those instincts and give Edith a genuinely good time. From the moment we arrived at Mama Mary’s, I found myself trying to do a quick circuit of the place and get back to the car, so I had to physically force myself to participate.

Having an extremely active seven-month-old is a bit of a pickle because she gets bored in the house, but she’s really too little to do much. I walked Edith through the animal barn and pointed at the goats. She was much more interested in the surrounding people. Then I propped her atop a hay bale and she watched a little girl run around. Then, we played a game where you use a water pump to flush rubber ducks down a chute, and Edith was pretty interested in operating the pump handle until the fucking teenagers surrounded us and crowded an ACTUAL BABY away from a baby game (did I mention I hated them?). Then, Edith and I sat on a hay bale in front of a stand of pumpkins and Mom took a bunch of photos and Edith repeatedly attempted to put a fistful of hay into her mouth while I was looking elsewhere. Then, we got food and Edith got to have her first encounter with nacho cheese sauce, of which she was a huge fan.

And then we were done! I am torn between being excited for when Edith will be bigger so that she can run around and ride in the little train and do things, and dreading it because of how much more exhausting it clearly was for all the parents of toddlers around me who were constantly chasing after their children and trying to keep them from putting animal poop in their mouths.

There were like four women there with newborns (and like two pregnant women with existing babies) and I’m always astonished to see parents of newborns out and about with them. The women are always beautifully dressed and fully made up, and they have already lost their baby weight. Until Edith was about five months old, a good day was if I managed to get out on the porch with her for a few minutes. At the time, I couldn’t fathom going anywhere ever again. Now, short daytime outings are somewhat more manageable, but they are still a significant undertaking. And Edith always looks cute, but as for my appearance, I immediately accepted after giving birth that I will be a muumuu-clad, bare-faced meemaw with a body like a muffin for the rest of my life; I’m absolutely too far gone to start performing femininity again. Maybe it’s just that I have always been a lazy, depressed, listless sack of shit even before I had a baby, so the usual exhaustion of having one is extra challenging for me personally. Probably I should be applauded for doing the minimum. I’m a hero, when you think about it.

Anyway, this outing was seasonally appropriate, definitely the sort of thing that people do, and now no one can say I failed to take my baby to a pumpkin patch.

Tags

There’s nothing Edith loves so much as a tag. If I give her any kind of stuffed toy or pillow she is moderately interested until she finds the tag. Then she’s rabid for it. We do a lot of crawling around on blankets here, and the day the blanket’s tag is discovered is always the best day. Today Edith was flailing around in my lap (she is teething and so especially aggressionate, which is what I call her especially aggressive brand of affection) and she suddenly found a tag on my dress, and the earth stopped: she looked at the tag and the tag looked at her, and I got out of the way.

People get annoyed when you compare babies to puppies, but they’re really the same in so many ways, and this is yet another one. I’ve never met a baby mammal that didn’t wild out over a good tag. Say what you will about modernity but back before the mass production of textiles, there were millennia of baby animals of all kinds who didn’t even know the joy that was absent from their lives.

Succession

Succession season three is finally here. I watched the premiere a couple of nights ago, and I laughed from one end to the other. I love it so much. Two seasons and running of a show that is about 12 people who are constantly waffling on whether it’s still in their best interests to get kicked around by an asshole, and they could really do 20 more seasons on this same subject, and I would completely buy that they were all still on the fence about it. Who among us cannot relate? I’m a Greg today, but I’m aiming to be a Gerri by retirement.

Current Sleep Status

I haven’t said much about my sleep situation in awhile and that is because — knock on wood! like, times a million, please do not punish me for saying this, universe! — Edith has been consistently sleeping for ten hours every single night.

Since this post, we’ve pretty much been in a groove: at about 7:00p.m., I pick Edith up and carry her toward the bedroom to begin our bedtime routine. Edith, knowing what is coming, IMMEDIATELY begins to scream all high holy hell like I’m pulling her fingernails out by the roots. In fact, if I take her into the bedroom any time after 5:00p.m. to change her diaper (because that’s where the changing station is), she screams her head off until I’m done because she thinks she’s going to bed.

At actual bedtime, I change her diaper and then I carry her to my bed and I put lotion on her scaly spots and put her into a night onesie and a sleep sack, talking calmingly and lovingly to her, all while she trumpets one solid long unbroken scream. Then, I cuddle her while I give her whatever last milk she wants. Sometimes she screams through this, and that usually means I missed the window. Other times, she pauses screaming briefly to have some milk, and that means I hit the window.

If she pauses her screaming while drinking milk, I attempt to read her a bedtime story. Usually we get one or two pages in before she remembers she’s going to bed and begins screaming again.

At this point, I carry her across the room, rocking and cooing, give her a big hug and kiss, and lower her into her bed and rub her tummy. At this point, something really strange happens — she grins and giggles at me. Every night! It seems for all the world like she is happy to be in her bed. But that can’t be so, because a moment later, when I turn on her noise machine and turn off the light, she resumes screaming.

I leave the room and she screams for either one second or 25 minutes or somewhere in between, depending, and then she falls asleep and doesn’t get up until 5:15a.m. when she starts politely squawking across the room at me until I turn the light on and get up.

I guess my question is…does everyone else’s baby do this screaming at the faintest approach of bedtime thing? The baby books don’t mention it, and it seems more like toddler behavior than infant behavior. I’d love to eventually be able to cuddle with her and read books before she goes to sleep, but this seems impossible at the moment since the bedroom is apparently a torture chamber any time after 5:00p.m.

Dinner, The Horror

I continue to be a colossal failure at dinner in every respect. It’s my least favorite time of day, and Edith is not into it at all. At first, it was diverting for her — playing with various sorts of mush in a little bowl with sticks in, a new sort of toy that she had to sit in a special chair to access, while also being face-level with the adults. A part of things!

But after a few nights of this, I could see her slowly begin to realize this was not a weird occasional game, but rather an ongoing obligation.

“Again?” she seemed to say, as I strapped her into the chair and presented her with various substances and textures.

Still, she gamely soldiered on.

Edith will not be fed, but she will occasionally condescend to feed herself. Not if it seems like I really want her to, though. If I so much as attempt to approach her mouth with the spoon, I get immediate full cheek. That’s just not happening, we aren’t doing that. But if I load the spoon with food and leave it somewhere on the tray, and then busy myself with my own dinner and pointedly ignore her, Edith will eventually pick up the spoon and suck on it. It’s never the business end of the spoon, but I have taken to loading up the handle with food as well, so that whatever her mode of attack, she is going to inevitably encounter sustenance of some sort. She would vastly prefer the spoon without the food, and I don’t mean to give the impression that she intentionally eats any of it, but she will at least mouth it if it happens to be on the way to something else she was doing.

She loves tomatoes and limes. She will happily suck on a tomato or lime wedge. Everything else has gone over like a lead balloon.

After dinner, I put her in the bath, and she crams the wet washrag into her mouth and sucks on it ravenously, like a baby who just crawled through the desert.

I Don’t Know Shit About Hardware

This is a bit embarrassing to admit as I spend fully every waking hour of my life on some kind of screen, and my job is in software, but I don’t really know anything about computers or care about them at all.

I really started using a computer in college — we had a big desktop at home, but I only used it every so often for playing Maniac Mansion or Ski Free. In college, I used a PC desktop and then at some point, I got some sort of PC laptop. I think it was a Compaq. I used various laptops and netbooks until sometime in my late 20s when I bought a white MacBook and I used that until I was hired at my company. One of the first things that happens when you get hired is that you order your new work MacBook. But my white MacBook was still working just fine, so I kept using it until the first Grand Meetup of my company, when everyone reacted to it as if I had shown up with a typewriter from the 19th century.

After that, I got a new MacBook every few years, and I also got my first iPhone and have upgraded it periodically. I’ve used Pros and Airs and PCs and Macs. And…

They are all exactly the same to me. They all type words onto a screen and they all go onto the internet.

I remember at some point people complaining about the butterfly keyboards of MacBooks and then other people really liked the butterfly keyboards, and it was the first time that it had ever occurred to me to notice any differences in all the keyboards I typed on all day. When I was traveling, sometimes the keyboards in the internet cafes would be really disgusting, and I did notice that. If a key sticks, I notice it. But otherwise, I don’t know, I just start typing and then my hands…get used to it? I just don’t really care. I don’t care about a mouse or a trackpad or whatever; they all work fine. I don’t really notice differences in screen resolution; supposedly it’s gotten better with every new device I’ve gotten, but it all looks more or less the same to me. I don’t notice photos being sharper with a new iPhone camera — people hold up two next to each other and exclaim at the amazing improvement, and I can’t actually tell the difference.

Everyone is excited that the new MacBooks are out, and that they’ve made some excellent changes that are reversals of previous unpopular changes people didn’t like. But I don’t really even understand what changes are being discussed, and I didn’t notice the previous changes that everyone hated when those came out.

I gather that I had function keys for a couple years and then I didn’t have function keys for a couple years and then I did again? There are function keys on this computer now, and I guess I use them to turn the volume up or down. Otherwise, I guess I don’t use those much. I don’t really use keyboard shortcuts or snippets or macros; I do everything the long way and I’m super fast anyway. I don’t really need to go faster; people are always telling me to slow down as it is.

I do notice differences in software. I have only ever used like four apps in my whole life, and there are things that I dislike about them and would change.*

I guess it’s sort of like…hardware is merely a portal to a world of the mind. It’s like my body. I’m not a very corporeal person. I spend most of my time transporting my attention out of the physical world and into some narrative where I seek to become so fully absorbed that any awareness of the physical world falls away entirely. So from that perspective, it makes sense that I wouldn’t really notice the devices themselves.

What is an improvement that I would notice and appreciate? First, if my iPhone screen didn’t break as easily. I use a screen protector and case, but every phone I’ve ever had has splintered eventually. And secondly, if the screens and keyboards were self-cleaning. I do notice when they get crumby or greasy or smudged, and it’s annoying, but I always forget to clean them. So if they just stayed clean on their own, I would notice that and appreciate it. And finally, I do not like buying adapters; I would like to never buy another adapter again.

Otherwise, I’m genuinely good with whatever.

___
*At the same time, it’s always astonishing to me how much time people spend bitching about changes in software when there are very easy workarounds. Like for example, I use Tweetdeck; I have forever. So I have chronological timelines and whenever something changes on Twitter, it doesn’t affect me at all. But there are all these Twitter power users constantly complaining about the stuff Twitter does like they have absolutely no control over it. Just use TweetDeck!!!! Do people not know about TweetDeck? Is there some other reason power users don’t use it? Don’t tell me; I don’t actually care.

Robe

Throughout the Year of Quarantine (which sadly is still somewhat going on) and my pregnancy, I did a lot of online shopping to make myself feel better. Obviously, this is not something to celebrate or encourage in oneself, but don’t give me shit about it, ok?

Nothing I bought made me any happier, really, with one exception: this robe. Mine is that same print but in a deep green, which they don’t appear to have anymore, and I LOVE it. It’s cotton, so it works ok for most seasons here (it’s a bit too hot for the height of summer), and I got it in a luxuriously voluminous size so I swim in it. It feels great, the print makes me extremely happy, and I just feel better whenever I put it on or even just see it hanging out on a shelf in my closet. Also, the baby is obsessed with the print.

This is the sort of joy we hope all our purchases will provide — a low level infusion of peace, content, or happiness from daily use. You get one thing that makes you feel this way, and some part of you thinks, if I only had more things that did this for me, if every pen and dish and piece of furniture in my house made me excited to look at it, then I would be genuinely happy in my work and in my family and in my life! (I haven’t read her book or watched her show, but I suspect this is the angle Marie Kondo is working for her brand.)

But sadly, this is one of the many lies of capitalism. There’s a ceiling, and it’s lower than you think. A single robe can cheer you up in the morning, but a house full of cheering objects can’t fix any real problems or make you happy to be alive.

7 Months

Edith turned seven months today, and coincidentally reached a bunch of milestones this weekend: She finally tried a food she actually liked and ate with enthusiasm (tomato, naturally the messiest possible food). She crawled a little bit, using her arms (or, as I accidentally called them in my excitement, her front legs) in coordination with her legs, whereas before she had just sort of humped along on her face. I removed her bassinet and put her to sleep in the bottom of her pack ‘n play (she didn’t seem to notice the difference). And she learned to pronounce consonants! She is now saying mamamamamama and dadadadada pretty regularly, and I imagine if I were part of a couple, we might try to tell ourselves she understands the significance of what she is saying, but she very clearly does not.

Still, it’s all very exciting.

Sequoyah

On my walk with Edith this morning, we passed a nearby street called Sequoia Drive. I went to elementary school at a place called Sequoyah Elementary for second through fifth grades. Before that, when I was in kindergarten in another city altogether, my mother painted a picture of Sequoyah for the State of Tennessee. I forget exactly why; it was to be used for some reason or other, and it was a big deal commission. Every day for weeks, a man came to our house and put on a modified bathrobe of my mother’s and sat on a little platform my father had built in the living room and my mother painted him. This is the painting, if you’re curious, and now that I’ve told you he was wearing a bathrobe, you probably will spot it right off. While she was doing research for this painting (or maybe later, I don’t remember exactly), I found myself at the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum a lot more often and for much, much longer than I cared to be there. I spent what seems in recollection like hours there bored as hell and waiting for my parents to finish whatever they were doing there. Back then, we didn’t have cell phones, so kids (or at least only children like me) were forced to spend hours on end in places like single room roadside museums, just staring at some clay pots in a glass case.

All of this is to say that the word “Sequoyah” has been omnipresent in my life and has many associations. But yet, when I see it, I do not think of any of these things.

The first summer camp I ever went to was called Camp Sequoyah. It had no relationship with Sequoyah Elementary at all, and in fact, was in a totally different state, and it’s weird, now that I think about it, that absolutely everything in my young life was named after Sequoyah, but at the time I took it for granted. I did not especially love this camp; I didn’t make any friends there and everyone was mean to me, and I was homesick, and through a postal mixup I received a large package of cotton underwear on my birthday which I proudly opened in front of a small crowd who had gathered to see my present, and I fell off my upper bunk directly onto my face.

Actually now that I’ve gotten into this story, I remember a certain incident which seems to me typical of the reason I had trouble making friends as a child. We were all at the pool and comparing blemishes (as girls do), and this girl in my cabin was showing us some curious skin tags on her upper thigh. She was pointing out how weird they were, and I said, “That’s so interesting. Did you ever try cutting one off with scissors?” Because to me, they just looked extremely cuttable; that would have been the first thing I would have tried. But there was a shocked silence, and she said, “No! Of course not.” And I saw this sort of appalled look on everyone’s faces. This kind of shit happened all the time when I was a kid — I was forever saying things like this that were just things you don’t say, real reputation killers. I’d finally be getting along with other girls, and then something like this would just fly out of my mouth and I’d see those expressions and know the jig was up.

But I digress. Anyway, we sang a bunch of repetitive songs at that camp and one of them is what I actually think of every time I see the word Sequoyah (whatever spelling):

Sequoyah born!
Sequoyah bred!
And when I die, I’ll be Sequoyah dead!

We sang that. At summer camp. A bunch of little white children. That’s really weird, right? Like now that I think about it, it’s really fucking weird!

It’s also hilarious, don’t get me wrong. Whatever camp counselor came up with that and successfully got it into the official camp songbook (yes, there was one, on photocopied paper stapled together) was a subversive genius.

But weird! And yet, I was the weird one for suggesting that if one had a skin tag, one might try to snip it off.

Anyway, what do we think Sequoyah himself would have thought of all this?

Real Estate

The older I get, the more I am realizing that in cases where I doubt popular wisdom, I often do so not because I think popular wisdom is wrong, but rather because I feel like the advice given is too complex or troubling for me to follow and so I think, must not be so.

For example, everyone always says that buying a home is a good investment and that the way to make your money go further is to put it in real estate. For over 15 years of renting, I denied this common wisdom, not because I had any informed opinion about it but because buying a house seemed beyond me.

It was! It’s expensive and time consuming and complicated!

But also, I closed on my old house today and turns out, it’s like they say: buying and selling property is indeed how all these people are making money.