Evening Routine

Very recently, it occurred to me that after Edith falls asleep at night, I could actually leave the room and continue to be up for awhile.

I don’t know why it took me so long to realize this. It just did not occur to me to separate myself from her by an entire room. When I first did it, I felt hesitant and tentative, cautious. I left my bedroom door wide open and I returned often to peer through the dark at her from the doorway, sometimes using my phone light to slowly slide over her until I could see that she was breathing, as if I were the narrator of The Tell-Tale Heart. I only stayed away for 30 minutes at most. But gradually, I got used to my new untethered freedom, and now I think nothing of fully leaving the bedroom for two hours at a stretch! It’s wild.

Unfortunately, this has enabled me to gradually get, as the kids say, back on my bullshit — my own particular brand of bullshit being drinking wine and watching TV until much later than I ought to be up. I don’t watch TV when Edith is awake, because they say you should not have screens or even background TV noise around babies until they are two years old, so watching it very quietly at night while she’s sleeping feels illicit, like the opposite of quietly watching something you shouldn’t be as a child while your parents are sleeping. Between it being the end of the day with all of my caretaking responsibilities done and no one actively sucking on me or grabbing at my hair, and the fact that my mom and I are currently house-hunting which is stressful, I really collapse into this newly reclaimed window of evening relaxation.

But I am increasingly shorting myself on much needed sleep when I only just got back the ability to sleep for long stretches at night. Every day I wake up and say, tonight I will get into bed when Edith goes to sleep, read for an hour, and then fall asleep myself. And every evening, I think “haha nope!” and repeat the previous evening’s mistakes.

So far, I have enjoyed Ted Lasso, Mythic Quest, the final season of Shrill, Hacks, and Mare of Easttown, and I am now watching The Righteous Gemstones, with the result that I sing “Misbehavin” to Edith all day.

That all stops tonight, though. I’m going to sleep.

Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes love me. I know a lot of people say that mosquitoes love them, but my case is extreme. If you are sitting next to me anywhere outside in a moderately wet climate in the summer, I will become covered in mosquito bites and you will avoid them entirely. I am the best mosquito repellent any person other than me could ever have.

I have, as a result, tried every form of mosquito repellent on the market, be it an ointment, a spray, a device, a candle, or a post-bite treatment or instrument. Here’s what works:

  • DEET

Here’s what doesn’t:

  • Every single form of mosquito repellent other than DEET

“Ah,” you say. “But have you tried…”

Yes! I have! I have tried it! It does not work!

“Oh, but,” you say. “It really does, though. It works better than I ever could have thought. Let me tell you a story of how well it worked for me.”

I believe that it worked for you, but it does not work for me. I promise. And the reason is that most remedies, potions, tools, and dietary changes work based on the placebo effect. This does not mean they are nonsense; they really do work! The placebo effect is incredibly effective! But you have to genuinely believe that something will work, and I am fundamentally incapable of being optimistic about anything, ever, so the placebo effect will always fail me.

Even so, I keep trying things that I know are not going to work for me, because I am so convinced by the effusive testimonials of others. My latest disappointment is Bug Bite Thing, which claims to “sucks the venom out” of your bug bites, thus making them itch less. It doesn’t, of course, because while that might theoretically work immediately after an insect has bitten you, you do not know you have a bite until much later, and you can’t suck venom out of intact skin that is not punctured in any way. It does feel pretty good, though, and it makes you feel like you’re doing something. People love it! It will probably work great for you! It does nothing whatsoever for me, except stimulate the bite area and thus bring on a session of especially intense itching.

I really hoped that Edith would not inherit my attractiveness to bugs, and when we are sitting in a park or on a restaurant patio, I hover over her, fearing for her lily white soft baby skin. It would be so awful to have a mosquito bite as an infant and not even be able to scratch it or to know if it would ever stop! But so far, she has gotten zero bites, whereas I am absolutely demolished, so fortunately, she seems to have escaped my fate.

I only resent her a tiny bit.

Space Race

Despite the fact that in my sleep-addled new mom state, I’ve barely been able to keep abreast of world events, I have sadly been unable to avoid the news of the billionaire space race. On the idea that we might all live in space, I have basically two thoughts: one is that people who are excited about this tend to wildly underestimate how impossible it would be; this thread does a great job of explaining.

And two, nobody seems to be pointing out how incredibly miserable and hopeless it would be for human beings to live in space, even if we could somehow manage it. Imagine never again feeling the grass under your feet and the sun on your face. Never feeling a breeze, or seeing flowers. Never climbing a mountain or swimming in the ocean. Even if it were possible to somehow exist for some time in space or in a highly artificial environment on a nearby planet, we would all be sickly, miserable, and horrifically depressed, and would surely die out in a generation or so. And if I, the world’s biggest indoor kid, who as a child used to regularly fantasize about being locked up in prison so that I could just read all day and nobody would make me go outside for an hour, blanch at the thought of existing in a space vessel or a terraformed bubble, the rest of you normals wouldn’t make it a week.

Incidentally, if you have never read about the Biosphere 2 experiment, I highly recommend it. It’s a fascinating story. Or maybe I’m actually thinking about a short story I once read that was loosely based on Biosphere 2. Whatever.

Experimenting With Multi-Generational Living

My Mom and Edith and I spent all day today driving around looking at houses, because my parents and I are looking to buy a house here together. This was my idea, and I want to do it for a few reasons: mostly, I want Edith to have as many people around her who love her as possible. I want my parents and Edith to have a lot of time together (and I want to have time with them, too). Also, my parents have been looking to move here from Tennessee for a couple of years now, and it’s not really affordable at the moment, because the Austin housing market is insane (like over 90 competing offers on a house near me in one weekend insane).

Finally, and possibly most importantly, I am incredibly anxious about what is happening with the climate, and after everything that happened in 2020, I just want my entire family to be under one roof in one location. I don’t know that this will help me feel much better about things; I will still be anxious. But it will help me feel a tad bit more in control. Every time I see a news item about the climate lately (which is daily! So much shit is happening!) I feel this pressing urgency to do this as quickly as possible. I know this isn’t a logical response: I cannot control what’s happening and I can’t really even handle my own fear, so I’ve seized on getting my parents here as something that I can actually focus on and affect, and I have sort of told myself I don’t have to worry about the broader issue until that’s taken care of.

Anyway, I’m posting about all of this just to share that I saw a pretentious white lady blogger whose family is currently fleeing San Francisco and moving back in with her parents refer to their move as “experimenting with multi-generational living.” She wasn’t even making fun of herself! She really deadass said that! I could not stop laughing, and I think of it multiple times a day as we’re going about this. I have “experimented with multi-generational living” several times throughout my life when I was unemployed and at loose ends. I imagine that if things keep going the way they are now, all of our children will be “experimenting with multi-generational living” until they are 30 and perhaps permanently.

Cute Aggression

I have a particularly bad case of cute aggression. I always have. It surprises people, because it doesn’t fit with the rest of my personality at all, but not only do I suffer from cute aggression in the presence of any small animal, large animal, or baby, but I suffer from it unduly. Like, once everyone else has exclaimed over the cute creature and moved on to adult conversation and cocktails, I am still staring, googly-eyed, at the cute creature, and finding excuses to meander over to it and smush it against my face some more. I don’t really understand how everyone else isn’t like this. I don’t understand how people can be simply indifferent to the presence of something small and adorable and cuddly. I cannot leave it alone. I had a wee fuzzy rabbit for like ten years, and I never left her alone for a minute the whole damn time. And she actively resisted cuddling, and in fact, was pretty bitey! But I still managed to put the tips of her ears into my mouth several times a day.

Of course, I also do not understand how some people can be indifferent to the presence of, say, a dessert buffet, so it’s possible that I simply have immature tastes and poor self-control.

Either way, Edith gets smooshed and squeezed and kissed and cuddled from one end of the day to the other. I clench my teeth so hard at her adorableness that I’m afraid I’m going to chip one. Unlike Thomasina (my rabbit), however, Edith prefers these lavish attentions. Ideally, she would prefer that I never put her down, and that our faces were permanently welded together. But one day, she will not want this, and I will have to begin to respect her personal autonomy and then I don’t know what I’ll do.

Probably eat a lot of cake.

Energy Company

I am regularly astonished by how a simple chore can eat up an entire day, especially in this age of convenience where you never have to actually go anywhere or do anything in order to accomplish an administrative task.

A word in advance: I don’t understand anything I’m going to be talking about here.

Most places I’ve lived in the past, there’s one energy company you get your energy from. It’s, like, a local utility company? I think? And you just give them your name and they send you a bill. But in Texas, they have created a market opportunity by forcing you to get your energy from a third-party company that buys it from the energy people and sells it to you. So you have to pick between like 40 varying energy companies with different pricing structures and plans and shit, and then every year, you have to do it again. These resellers provide cheap plans for the first year and then raise the price, so you are supposed to change companies every year, so you’re always rotating around on the cheapest plan.

I don’t do this, because I have depression and minor administrative decisions use up all of my energy (the free kind, although frankly, I wish I could buy more of it), so something like this is my nightmare. I can’t describe how much I hate doing shit like this. So, every year, the energy reseller I use sends me an email that is like “renew your plan! Analyzing your energy usage, we recommend this one for you” and there are three options and the middle one is highlighted, and I just click that one even though I could save money by going over to the big reseller comparison website and picking some other reseller and transferring all my information over there.

This year, I did what I always do, but some weird thing happened when I clicked and it confirmed that I had selected a different plan other than the one I chose. I was already depleted for the day, so I decided to worry about it the following month, and hoped it maybe would have sorted itself out in that time (things often do).

Well, it’s this month now, and it didn’t sort itself out, and if I was reading the plan I had not picked correctly, it was going to be needlessly expensive. Except I don’t know if it really would be. Because the pricing is like “so many cents for so much energy if you use this much energy, if you use more, it’s this much, if you use less, it’s this, but then you also get a credit to apply to it, which will reduce it.” I don’t know what any of that means, or how to translate it into a single dollar amount that makes any sense to a human person. Also, because I had already picked a plan and renewed it, the website wiped out every other option and any record of what I had before, so that I could not possibly compare this thing I have now to anything else.

So, I did the thing I hate most in all the world and I called customer service on the goddamned phone. After the customer service rep laboriously asked for and received all the information that the automated system had already made me key in to get to her, I tried to explain what had happened, although I knew she wouldn’t believe me, and she just skipped past that altogether and began to explain the options to me. She talked a mile a minute, and I don’t understand a word she said. Apparently the plan I did not choose but somehow ended up with anyway was only going to be cost effective if my energy usage was somewhere between 500 and 2000 kWh, which it has only ever been once, so she agreed that this was not a cost-effective plan for me. The other plans were a certain amount in that window, but if you were below 500, you received a credit, which effectively adjusted the rate to a different rate, and same thing if you were above 1000. Or something? And then included they would come and install two thermostats in your house for free.

“I don’t need a thermostat,” I said. “Is there anywhere I can read about the different plan options?”

She ignored that question and repeated everything she had just said much faster, but louder this time. Then she said that if I didn’t want the thermostats, I would need to close my account and open a new one.

“This is a fixed plan, right?” I asked her, because one thing I know about Texan energy plans is you do not want a variable plan.

“It is standard pricing,” she replied.

“Does that mean it’s a fixed plan?”

“It’s like a standard pricing plan.”

Eventually, she transferred me to another department because, she said, I would have to move over my account to get the plan she recommended. She asked me for a lot of information to put into the system so that things would be all ready to go when she transferred me, and I waited on hold while she did that. Then, she transferred me over.

“Hello,” said the new guy, and he laboriously asked for and received all the information that she had just taken from me again. Then he said, “And how can I help you today?”

“I was just transferred,” I said. “A lady said I would have a plan that was under 500, but I had to begin again? Standard. Or fixed. So she transferred me to you, the starter person? She put my birthday in.”

“What?” he said.

“It’s different than was on the website,” I said. “There was a lady. Do you know who the lady is?”

He sighed. “I don’t know any lady,” he said. “We just get calls here.”

“There was…I was on the phone before?” I said. “With a lady? She didn’t tell me to write anything down.” Then, I made something up out of nowhere: “Is there maybe any kind of note?”

Y’all! There was a note!!!!

“Ok, I see a note in your account,” he said. “But this says…hang on. I need to talk to a supervisor.”

I waited on hold for awhile.

“We can do this, but we have to do a soft cancel of your account and open a new one,” he said (or something like that). “So I will call you back in 20 to 30 minutes.”

An hour later, he called back and said that if they shut down my account, I wouldn’t have any power. Did I want that?

I said I did not. He said in that case, they would just change my plan over in my existing account. I said that sounded like just the thing to do, so he said he’d put me on a brief hold and take care of it.

I am still on hold and the lights have started to flicker.

Cars

I’ve been terrified of driving or being in a car that is being driven ever since I left NYC a decade ago. It is the craziest, most nihilistic shit that we all get into these rocketing deathmobiles every day and fly around like it’s nothing, and nobody seems bothered by it at all. Meanwhile, people around here get their semi-automatic out of the bunker if a Girl Scout they don’t know rings their doorbell. Every time I drive, I am constantly imagining the car next to me merging into mine at 90 mph on the interstate; I’m forever bracing for the impact, imagining the wrenching crunch of it, the swirling chaos and the still silence after.

And that was before I had an infant.

I bought a Honda Civic about six years ago, a very modest, sturdy, reasonably safe little car, and I planned to own it for the rest of my life. I’ve never had any desire to have a giant vehicle — in part, because it seems especially environmentally unfriendly, and also because I find them unwieldy to drive and impossible to park. If I have to have a car at all, I want the least amount of car available, really.

But now that I have Edith, it has quickly become clear that I cannot drive her around in this thing when everyone else is (a) out of their goddamned minds and (b) driving a tank. If I have a collision with any car in Texas, my Civic will crumple like an eggshell, so now I need to participate in the suburban vehicular brinkmanship and obtain a giant fuckoff SUV to protect my child from morons.

Meanwhile, although I have driven Edith by myself before, whenever possible I ask my mother to drive, and I sit in the back with Edith so that I can hold her hand, and stroke her hair, and hold her blanket up when the sun slants in and touches some unprotected part of her skin. I don’t know what I think I can do should we get into an accident, but I guess I have some idea that I’d have time to unbuckle my seat belt and launch my body between the incoming vehicle and her, and I don’t know, absorb the collision Superman-style with my…abs? Look, it’s not necessarily logical, but I can at least deal with the sun part.

Pool Again

I took Edith to the pool again today, but this time, we brought a pool floatie thingie that is like a lounge chair with a sunshade over it for infants. More than anything, Edith currently craves mobility without effort, so being hauled back and forth in this thing like a queen on a litter was exactly her idea of a good time, and she made up her mind that she likes the pool. She also sat on my lap for awhile while submerged in the shallow end and she enjoyed that, and then I walked her through the splash pad and let her stick her hand in the spray, and she liked that. She is a very good-natured baby generally, and if she’s not actively having fun, she’ll usually at least hang out and be chill about things. I appreciate her so much.

My appreciation for every aspect of her is so great, in fact, that it genuinely surprises me that when we’re out and about, every person who sees her is not compelled to come up and say, “My, that’s a fine baby right there! I’ve seen many a baby, but that one is truly top notch!” Probably they are too intimidated by her excellence.

Fudge

Because Edith isn’t old enough to do it herself yet, it is currently my job to name all of her stuffed animals. She has a fat pony, and I have named it Fudge after a horse I once knew.

When I was between the fourth and fifth grades and we lived in Knoxville where my mother was in law school, my mother got a summer internship at a law firm in Nashville and I went with her. While there, I took horseback riding lessons at a stable adjacent to the day camp I attended. This stable was pretty down at the heels: it had a muddy riding ring and a plywood stable with about five tired old school ponies. I got head lice from borrowing a riding helmet (despite the ingenious coffee filters they provided as a barrier). The horse I was usually assigned to ride was named Fudge.

Fudge was a fat, tired old plug, low to the ground, a deep chocolate brown with white spots on his rump, always covered in dust. School ponies are notorious for their recalcitrance, but even by that standard, Fudge was extreme. He had to be dragged from his stall and actively kicked around the ring, and every time he passed the stable, he attempted to break for it, which was the only energy he would demonstrate during the hour. Jumping was a lost cause — he would sometimes consent to step leisurely over a low crossrail if repeatedly flogged, but if you managed to make him, he would often stop still astraddle it and stand there, giving his rider the horse equivalent of a middle finger.

I was regularly assigned to Fudge because I was tenacious and could get him to more or less participate in the riding process. This was one of my early lessons in being punished for being good at something: because I could manage to get Fudge to stay in the ring and lump himself along for an hour, however unwillingly, I got stuck with Fudge every single time. The riding teachers were actually pretty entertained by my abilities with Fudge. I could get him up to a canter and make him take jumps, and I would sometimes overhear them laughing to each other: “Did you see that girl got Fudge over a three bar vertical jump? God bless her.”

When the summer ended, we returned to Knoxville, and my riding lessons ended for the time being, but a year later, my mom graduated law school and was offered a position at the firm she’d interned at and we moved to Nashville for good. Some time after that, I wanted to take riding lessons again. We had come up in the world a bit (although as a kid, I was unaware of this), and so my new riding stable was very fancy. It had multiple outdoor riding rings, including a dressage ring, gleaming white fences, vertical jumps with flowerbeds built into them, an indoor ring bookended by two huge shiny stables with constantly rotating ceiling fans, monogrammed tack trunks, and brass name plates outside the stalls, a club house for relaxation, and three fat little corgis named Apple, Kiwi, and Cherry. There were certainly no lice-ridden helmets for borrowing; everyone had their own, and fancy riding habits besides.

Many of the kids who took lessons at this stable had their own horses, but a number did not, and there were school ponies for those who didn’t. The school ponies at this stable were of a better class — younger, thinner, better cared for. They did not, however, get to live in the stalls, but instead roamed free in some pasture land out beyond the various riding rings. Before my first lesson, the teacher got a few older students to show us new kids how to go collect our horses. She looked at each of us in turn, and named the horse we were to ride. When she looked at me, she barely thought before she said, “She can have Fudge.”

Common name for a horse, I thought.

When we got down to the field, all the horses came running over to the older students, who had brought some tempting carrots to better corral them, and they were easily caught and handed over to their riders. Except for mine.

“You’ll have to go get Fudge for her, he won’t come,” one of the older students said to the other, and that student rolled her eyes and began to march out toward the edge of the pasture where, I now saw, a dark brown lump faced determinedly away from us. I watched a small battle play out, as the brown lump darted away from the student each time she attempted to put a halter on it, but after some time, she prevailed, and dragged the lump toward us.

Still, I was in denial. It couldn’t be. And yet, undeniably, it was. Fudge in all his glory was hauled up to me and handed over, his eyes rolling, his teeth gritted. If he remembered me, he gave no sign of it, but over the coming months, we would get reacquainted, as we were clearly each other’s inescapable fates.

There’s some analogy in here about how no matter how many social classes you might ascend, you cannot escape your own personal Fudge, but I can’t be bothered to connect those dots, so you can do so for yourself.

Snoozing a Baby

You wouldn’t think you could use a baby as a snooze alarm, but I actually find mine makes a pretty good one. Every morning, Edith wakes up anywhere between 6am and 8:30am, usually closer to the former. When she wakes up, I pick her up out of her basinet and pop her into bed next to me. At this point, she is usually vocally complaining, but she isn’t fully awake enough yet to be full out crying. I put a pacifier in her mouth and rub her tummy and then I sort of drift in and out of sleep and wait to see what happens.

Some mornings, she complains for ten minutes or so and then falls asleep for an hour or even two! Other (most) mornings, she spits out her pacifier and complains, then I put it back in and she thrashes around quietly for two minutes, then spits out her pacifier and complains again, and we repeat this pattern somewhat infinitely, exactly as if I were hitting a snooze alarm, until either I give up, or she escalates to wailing. Other mornings, she is not down for any of this, and belts into full out screaming as soon as I start the process, which means she’s fucking hungry and I best get the hell up with a quickness.

It’s always something new and is very unpredictable. It also isn’t restful at all, and if anything just makes me more exhausted and yet I feel compelled to do it every morning anyway, because in my half-conscious state, it seems like a good idea, which is what makes it identical to hitting the snooze button.