Porch

We finally put some furniture on our back porch and I’ve been enjoying sitting out there sometimes to work, or in the evening.

Except I also don’t enjoy it. Because first of all, I get bit all to shit by mosquitoes, they love me, and nothing keeps them away. And secondly, there’s construction right over the back fence, which is very noisy and ugly sometimes they play very noisy music. And finally, the neighbors to one side really love playing top 40 hits on the radio in their backyard. Like, pop songs on the radio, with ads and everything. They’re out there all the time playing that stuff and I hate it, and I can hear it even with earplugs.

So it usually isn’t very long before the irritation of these things outweighs the pleasantness of the sunshine and trees and lizards, and I’m driven back inside where I can fully control the environment.

I often wonder in such situations because it seems very difficult for me to ever fully enjoy anything: are other people better able to block out things like this? Do you not notice them, or not mind them? Or do they only ever actually happen to me? I’ve never been clear on whether I seem to be more constantly plagued by irritants because I’m uniquely unlucky in the volume of irritants I’m exposed to, or because I’m just overly sensitive to them. I always assume the latter, but maybe it’s both.

Anyway, here are pretty pictures of my porch:

Park

It’s immensely hot in Texas right now; possibly the hottest May on record. This poses problems with a highly active one-year-old because I can’t take her anywhere after about 10:00 a.m. Fortunately, swimming is indoors, but I was still symptomatic yesterday and there are infants at swimming; plus, I wasn’t really up for it yet. So I took Edith to the nearby playground at nine. Even that early, it was almost too hot to go. I had to walk really slowly until we got to the other, shadier neighborhood.

The park was uncharacteristically crowded. First, a man came by playing jazz on a small speaker and walking with an ancient obese golden lab (Maggie) who stopped every four steps to sit by the path and pant and smile pleasantly at everyone. We talked for a bit (the man and I, not the dog) and he asked about Edith and talked about his grown sons.

Meanwhile a gang of preteens arrived — four boys and a girl. They were all getting to the age where the boys were ganging up on the girl, and after they had isolated her by taking the only four swings and then telling her to move so she didn’t get kicked in the head, she captured the oldest boy’s cellphone and attempted to reestablish her position in the group by needling him in the following way:

“OMG what is this, you have a girlfriend?”

“No, that’s that girl from Vegas.”

“OMG then what is this, you reply here, and it says ‘love you, too’!?!?!?!”

“Sure,” he said easily. “Is it illegal to say you love someone.”

The girl spluttered, having been utterly check-mated, and I felt for her.

Meanwhile one of the smaller boys was trying to tell some sort of joke, but no one was listening. He was sure it was going to be a real winner, though, so he started it five different times that I heard. Every time he said,

“How do you get a girlfriend? Step one, go to your local convenience store. Step two, buy an AK-47.”

He never got further than that, and although I think I really didn’t want to hear what the rest of the joke was, I sort of did?

Meanwhile, Maggie (the golden lab) at some point refused to go any further, and rather than continuing on their walk, her owner conceded the point to her gentle yet insistent passive resistance, and turned around to go home.

At the same time, Edith and I were having a battle — Edith’s nanny keeps snacks in the stroller for her and Edith has gotten used to helping herself to them whenever she wants one. Last time I took her to the park, I did not bring enough, resulting in tears and an early end of plans, so this time I had stocked up. Unfortunately it now became clear that Edith’s interest in having a continual incoming stream of snacks was not to eat them, but rather to have one gripped in her fist as she ran around and climbed on things and dug in the dirt. So, her cracker or whatever would get rubbed all over the ground, the sidewalks, and the play equipment and she’d periodically nibble on it. I was opposed to this, so I kept following along after her and taking it from her whenever she ground it into the dirt, at which point, she would scream bloody murder. When she began to scream, if we were on the same half of the playground as the gang of preteens, they would all hurriedly move to the other half of the playground, and I would also usually give her snack back.

So, of all the various factions wrestling for social dominance at the playground yesterday, the clear winners were my daughter (14 mo.) and Maggie the fat lab. I think that’s as it should be.

Phoning It In

I’m exhausted, but might I recommend this delightful essay about why the South inspires particularly ludicrous comedy such as The Righteous Gemstones:

The fact of the matter is that the south is funny because it’s ridiculous. Like, I can’t remember the exact details of the whole thing, but my neighbor growing up definitely went to jail for being involved in an organized ring of tractor thieves. One friend’s dad was a former professional drag racer whose compound included an airplane hangar, a forklift, a single-wide trailer, and a giant yard that occasionally doubled as a mud pit where people would race beater cars while crashing into each other. (I once rode shotgun as his twelve-year-old son zoomed around in one of these races; it was fantastic.) 

Another friend had an unfortunate habit of waking up early to go hunting and then forgetting to take his gun out of his truck before he got to school, which I’m pretty sure is a felony; years later, he became a wildlife officer and briefly went viral after someone posted a video of him wrestling a deer to the ground in order to safely remove it from a thrift store. And then a couple years ago, a series of unsolved horse deaths prompted many in the local equestrian community to worry that there was a horse serial killer on the loose. (Local police ended up concluding that the killers were likely feral hogs, but that doesn’t explain how one of the horses died from a bullet wound.) 

Forms

My mother is at my parents’ house in Tennessee going through boxes of old stuff prepping for their final move out here. She has been sending me pictures of things she saved from when I was little. Mostly they are things like this:

For some reason, when I was a very little kid before I could write, I was obsessed with forms. I loved watching my parents fill out a stack of them at various appointments or at home doing taxes, the pen moving smoothly across the paper, making clear notations in all the grids. The bigger the stack of forms to fill out, the more excited I was. I could not wait to be an adult and fill out forms.

My parents did not share my love of filling out forms, and I could not understand why. It was all I aspired to do! They’d sometimes give me a big blank book of some sort of forms, and I’d knock myself out filling it up (as pictured above).

I don’t know whether this is a typical developmental stage or whether I was a weird kid, but I do know my mother is out of her mind for keeping boxes of these scribbles for 40 years.

I also did a lot of freeform “writing” in both print and cursive:

I did also sometimes draw:

Eye

The hits, they just keep coming. Because I was sick, I somehow forgot to take my contacts out last night and slept in them. This never happens. When I woke up this morning and tried to pull one off of my desiccated cornea, I scratched it up good. Nothing like starting the day off with an excited toddler, ten pounds of boiling hot snot in your face, and the pain of a thousand daggers attacking one of the most sensitive parts of your body that you also need in order to function at all.

Not that I’m complaining.

I spent the two hour morning shift stumbling around clutching my eye and sneezing while I fed and changed Edith and made coffee and cursed the gods. And as I was going about this, I thought about pain. Mostly, why haven’t we gotten rid of it yet?

Like, ok, getting rid of it would be a very bad idea, because it’s the body’s way of letting us know we have an injury so we should see a doctor if we have insurance and free time, and otherwise we should at least try not to make it worse. But once we’re old enough to know intellectually what pain means, what if we could orchestrate a way to remove it after the initial alert?

So like, I’d scratch my eye, it’d hurt like hell, I’d switch the pain off, and then carry on knowing that my eye needed to repair itself.

Like a check engine light!

Which I’ve been ignoring in my own car for coming on nine months now.

And honestly, if we were able to do that, we would simply delay care. We’d say, “I’ll see to this bleeding stab wound next week when I have things a little more under control” and then we’d die. So I guess we’re too lazy and irresponsible to do away with pain; it’s one of the few things that truly does spur us to action.

So then I was thinking, why don’t we have more pain? Like, for example, I strongly believe that sedentary lifestyles are the most unhealthy thing about The Way We Live Now and are harming and killing us all, but they’re easy enough to ignore, because there’s nothing painful about sitting there. In fact, exercising itself is often painful. So why doesn’t our body send pain alerts for lethal inactivity? Or barring that, the Fitbit alerts could be painful; I always ignored that little vibration, but I might actually get my ass up if my Fitbit actively electrocuted me when I sat still for too long.

Just things to ponder.

Anyhow, I’m staying in bed all day while the nanny is here. My eye has improved enough to let me type this.

Co-Sleeping

Because I was sick, Edith chose last night for one of her rare 4:00am awakenings. As usual, I checked her forehead and her diaper and once I’d established she was just ready to get up, I told her it wasn’t morning yet, and went back to bed. Eventually she went back to sleep, and then she woke up again howling 20 minutes later.

Since I was sick and didn’t have the endurance to outlast her, I lugged her into bed with me, where we spent the next 90 minutes. I don’t know what happened in that 90 minutes. I know she did a lot of kick-flips over me, and then she spent some time curled up against me with her fuzzy little head under my chin sleeping, and then she began to pummel me and I handed her my phone, and eventually it was 6:30. I know I slept at least a little bit in there.

I am not sure what is normal and healthy when it comes to co-sleeping. In my house it was an absolute no-go. From as early as I can remember, I knew I was not allowed in my parents’ bed unless they were awake for the day and had invited me. I didn’t even try it. If I woke up scared in the night, I dealt with it myself using various mental techniques I’d honed over the years. Hell, if someone had broken in, I probably would have told them to keep it down lest they bother the adults.

Nowadays, going by my friends, it seems that most parents let their actual bodies serve as their child’s mattress. The bed has a 24/7 open sign on it, and if your child wants to get in it at 2am and kick you in the face all night, well, that’s their god-given right as your progeny, and declining to allow this is callous and will result in them being insecure attachers who only date jazz musicians.

I feel like there must be a happy middle ground between these two extremes, but if I have to pick between the two, I’ve got to go with my parents’ version because I simply cannot function at all, let alone parent, without sleep (neither can they; it’s a family curse).

Which all is to say, I quite enjoy having Edith in the bed when she’s sleepy-cuddling (for the full five minutes that happens), and I wouldn’t mind permitting it for, say, a couple hours every other week. But I fear that allowing it at all is going to just open the door to Edith demanding it as a permanent arrangement, and that’s not doable for me.

Anyway, I’m dreading how tonight will go, now that she thinks she has the upper hand.

Sick

Well, I’m sick. It only took one weekend alone with my child to knock me down for the count. I’m still pushing through in semi-denial, but I am actually glad I am sick because yesterday when I started to feel really off, but wasn’t actually having any recognizable “sick” symptoms yet, I assumed this was the big one, the one that takes me out.

Since turning 40 and having a baby, my body has gone completely to shit, so at this point, I’ve been wondering: when I notice some new malady, pain, or discomfort, how can I tell if it’s something worth following up on? I mean, if I discussed every problem I’m having with my doctor, we’d have to move in together to have time to get through it all, but I have no way of comparing what is happening to a baseline of “normal” because my normal is wildly different and overall shittier than it was a year and a half ago.

So, every time I notice yet another thing that is terrible that didn’t used to happen — most recently, for example, I noticed that I get overwhelmingly nauseous twice a day at fairly regular times — I think “well, either this is just how it feels to exist in my body from now on, or it’s cancer.”

There’s simply no way to know!

Anyway, right now, I have an actual cold or something, unless it’s COVID. So that’s a relief and an annoyance.

Mammogram

I had my first mammogram today, and I have to say, I think you’re all a bunch of whiners. It took like three minutes and I barely felt it.

The tech did chastise me, however — she at one point positioned me where a corner of the machine was poking into my ribcage, and without thinking about it, I moved around, and she said, “Let me position you, ok? I know it isn’t comfortable.”

Oops. What must it be like to spend all day in a windowless room moving people’s boobs around? It’d be my nightmare, because I personally loathe boobs. I hate mine, and I hate yours if you have them. Not a boob fan.

Pain

Edith is growing at a real clip, and as a result, I am in a lot of pain. My lower back is obliterated, my thigh muscles are constantly sore, my shoulders and upper arms feel like someone tugged them out of their sockets.

Nobody talks about this? Or maybe they do, but I wasn’t listening. I mean, I am admittedly in terrible shape, the worst shape of my entire life. But so many people who are in even worse shape than I am have kids. How do they do it? Come to that, how do disabled people have toddlers? Gestating, birthing, and raising this baby has been and continues to be one of the most purely physical challenges I’ve ever had; I often think that this is one reason our fertility craps out when it does. I’m very obviously too old for this shit.

Anyway, the more Edith weighs, the bigger of a fight she puts up. She now forces me to chase her down the street, tackle her, pick her up, and haul her kicking and screaming back to the house, so I don’t anticipate this getting easier any time soon. She eats more and more. I eye her as she bulks up and does her reps on the furniture; she’s clearly in training to eventually defeat me altogether.

Tantrums

Before I had a child, I had a lot of opinions about how parents could make things easier on themselves, which (surprise!) all turned out to be based on total ignorance and do not work in actual practice. For example, “just don’t make the kid eat if they aren’t hungry” lacks insight into how a moment in time fits into the rest of a 24-hour period: children who do not go to sleep with full tummies do not sleep well, which means you do not sleep well.

But there was one thing I thought that has largely turned out to be correct: if a child is throwing a temper tantrum, just leave the room.

This works! (I mean, it works for now, for my particular child; I am certain that there are any number of children who it absolutely would not work for.) It only works when nobody else is home, because if you have a house full of people and you simply leave the room when your toddler is having a meltdown you are leaving other people to deal with a toddler having a meltdown. But now that Edith and I are on our own, I deploy this tactic with success often.

For example, this morning Edith was lying on her stomach in the kitchen playing with some toys and I noticed an unfamiliar clicking sound, so I hurried right over to see what she had.

She had two big broken pieces of glass.

I knew where they had come from — my mom broke a jar weeks ago, and cleaned up after it scrupulously, but these pieces of glass were from that same jar. I can only assume Edith somehow retrieved them from underneath the refrigerator. I took them away from her gingerly but swiftly and inspected her hands, which had not been cut, and then I sat at a little distance freaking out.

When I had calmed down, I noticed that Edith was throwing a full screaming crying tantrum because I had taken her pieces of broken glass away.

So I went into my room. She immediately stopped crying and a second later, I heard her little feet padding across the floor as she came to see what I was up to.

See? It’s easy, this parenting thing.