December 30, 2007


We owe the blog some love, and we DO have things to say. But for today, just a few pictures.


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December 18, 2007

Let's talk about a word

The word is "sustainable."

The Times magazine had a great little piece this weekend about the idea of "sustainability," and particularly about how as an idea it's almost become neutralized. No one is opposed to sustainability. Everyone thinks its great! And because of that, you get big agricultural and pharmaceutical companies saying, Sure, we care about sustainability! I'm sure they do. But the problem is that everyone is in favor of sustaining what they do--and no one really wants to learn about how what they do might not be sustainable. That would be, as Gore says, an inconvenient sort of truth.

The times article is about two things that have been shown in the last year to not be sustainable. One of them is the widespread use of antibiotics in farming. This article grabbed my interest, because one side-effect of growing up with a close relative dying of AIDS, as I did, is that you acquire a real sensitivity early on to the importance and fragility of antibiotic care.

Consider this:

For years now, drug-resistant staph infections have been a problem in hospitals, where the heavy use of antibiotics can create resistant strains of bacteria. It’s Evolution 101: the drugs kill off all but the tiny handful of microbes that, by dint of a chance mutation, possess genes allowing them to withstand the onslaught; these hardy survivors then get to work building a drug-resistant superrace. The methicillin-resistant staph that first emerged in hospitals as early as the 1960s posed a threat mostly to elderly patients. [AND MY UNCLE JEFF!] But a new and even more virulent strain — called “community-acquired MRSA” — is now killing young and otherwise healthy people who have not set foot in a hospital. No one is yet sure how or where this strain evolved, but [experts suspect]... another environment where the heavy use of antibiotics is selecting for the evolution of a lethal new microbe: the concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO.

This paragraph is basically like a big neon arrow pointing directly at me. It says to me: remember how your Uncle Jeff died partly because of hospital based MRSA's? Ah! Okay, well now your son, your son Elliot Jeffrey, is vulnerable to community-acquired MRSAs.

He is vulnerable because you want cheap pork-chops (and oh, how I love my pork chops!), and in order for cheap pork-chops to be produced, farmers must misuse and overuse antibiotics in a way we all know is not sustainable.

As for independent public-health researchers, they say they can’t study the problem without the cooperation of the livestock industry, which, not surprisingly, has not been forthcoming. For what if these researchers should find proof that one of the hidden costs of cheap meat is an epidemic of drug-resistant infection among young people? There would be calls to revolutionize the way we produce meat in this country. This is not something that the meat and the pharmaceutical industries or their respective regulatory “watchdogs” — the Department of Agriculture and F.D.A. — are in any rush to see happen.

Anyway, I don't expect all of you--you, who do not have my particular history with antibiotics--to find this little article to be the sort of emotional call to arms that it is to me. Probably you all will never have the sort of gut fear of misused antibiotics that I do.

Instead it is just to say that this article is one of several happenings in my life over the last week--conversations, readings, etc--that have managed to bring my vague feelings about environmental sustainability to a head. Friends, I am worried. I am worried about sustaining this world I am making for my son.

Since I am not an apocalyptic person by nature, it feels awkward to me to be writing a post like this. Mostly, I think life turns out okay, regardless. And I am not sure how to make my own feelings about sustainability into something meaningful and active, rather than just vague and self-congratulatory.

So don't consider this a battle-cry, folks. It's just to say: I am thinking. I am becoming more willing to acknowledge some of the inconvenient truths of my life. And lord, I am willing to buy more expensive pork chops, and fewer of them, if that is the small small price of leaving a better world for my boy.

November 28, 2007

About Juanna

Juanna Buchanan Migliore died peacefully on a beautiful and sunny late fall morning in her hometown of Price. Juanna was born to June and John Miller in Helper in 1914 and, with the exception of seven years back East, lived her life in Price.

Juanna eloped in 1933 to marry her beau Francesco Antonio Migliore (Doc to his friends and patients) in Washington, DC. They lived there and in Chicago until 1940 before returning to their roots in Price where Doc used his Chiropractic skills to support his family including Michael and Launa (Harvey). Doc died in 1983 and Michael in 1994 as a later-life consequence of service to his country in Vietnam. Juanna also mourned the loss of her sister Bertha (Spratling) and brothers Harry and Robert (Buck).

Juanna was an exceptional seamstress who made beautiful clothes for Launa, many friends in Price, and costumes for her grandchildren Brandon and Megan. This interest led her to work for many years selling materials and sewing notions in Price Trading where her skills and outgoing personality gained her many friends. Juanna and family spent happy times at the cabin Doc built in Scofield, a magical place now used by her children, grandchildren, and great grandson Elliot.

Juanna was a beautiful, independent, friendly, and honest lady who dealt cheerfully with life’s many challenges. Her family would particularly like to thank her neighbor Norma Petrie who helped Juanna achieve her wish to live independently at home in her later years, and the amazing and caring ladies at Hospice especially Jessie who helped make that independence possible. A special thanks also to Drs. Etzel and Boyle. Juanna will be dearly missed by her family and friends.

Funeral services will be held on Saturday Dec 1st at Mitchells Funeral Chapel in Price at 11 am, with a viewing at 10 am. In lieu of flowers please donate to Rocky Mountain Hospice at 60E 100N in Price, or the charity of your choice.

November 26, 2007

Have I told you?

I'm not sure I've mentioned that Elliot is now very fond of reading. He makes the sign for book and then goes and gets a book and then crawls into my lap to read the book, and then I die from the sublimity, every time.

Friends: we have given unto the world: a new reader. Once I teach him how to swim, I feel that my work as a parent will mostly be done (since, as I've said, I already taught him how to lick batter off a spoon).

So, that's the most important thing to say, except that he's recently been making a word that sounds a lot like "book," too, which is awesome. And then today, two more reading breakthroughs. One is that he knows the part of this one bathtime book he like which is about a shark, and at the appropriate part of the story he actually points to his teeth, in recognition of the discussion of the shark's teeth. And then also, today he was readingOlivia Count with Brandon, and the first thing that Olivia counts, right before "two bows" is "one ball." And when reading, Brandon said "One...????" and Elliot totally said "ball."

The signs of his personhood are coming fast and furious, these days. It is so much fun.

November 20, 2007

This morning's update

Elliot has recently learned some important skills, namely: unsnapping snaps, and unzipping zippers.

To wit: this morning, I got Elliot dressed in one of my favorite one-piece outfits: it snaps down the front and up both legs. He looked very cute. I went in the kitchen to eat my breakfast. A second later, Elliot came running in not wearing his outfit, but rather waving it triumphantly above his head. I'm not kidding. It was like a flag. I stood staring at him, slack-jawed, while he ran past me to the cupboard with the pots and pans, opened the cupboard, wadded his outfit/victory banner into our soup turreen, turned around, and ran out.

I'm not sure that "clothes removal and rejection" is a normal developmental milestone, but I guess that's where we're at.

November 17, 2007

Dance Dance Revolution

I like to call this medley "Crank Dat One Year Old."

note: Hold Steady in honor of Kate and Catherine; I recorded that part the morning after the concert ya'll went to.

November 16, 2007

I am such a good mom.

You know what I did today? I taught Elliot how to lick batter off a spoon. Yep! These are essential skills, people, and you have to start teaching them while their brains are still really highly receptive.

In other news, have we mentioned that Elliot now has, like, 15 teeth? Maybe 16. At his twelve month appointment, he had a mere six. That is 9 or 10 teeth in a mere two and a half months, and when I look at it that way I understand why I've felt so busy.

Have a good weekend, everybody!

November 14, 2007


Sorry we've been wrapped up this fall, and quieter blogwise. But there are some new pictures.

P.S. I am so proud of what he is willing to eat now. I guess "relieved" is the word I'm really looking for, and maybe "proud" is really a common parental euphemism for "relief". "I'm so proud I could burst" is maybe just another way of saying "I was so worried I thought I was going to pop. But now I'm OK."

Being the one who is mainly in charge of breakfast and dinner for most of 2007 -- and there have been many trying dinner hours -- I am still relieved/proud when he eats a good meal at all. Relieveder/prouder still that he is growing: due to having eaten! He is getting a little taller, a little lankier.

He ate a bunch of dried blueberries tonight. (Used to spit em out.) Ate much of a (Trader Joe nitrate-free nitrite-free protein-packed) hot dog. Protein! And breakfast? A bunch of peanut butter (straight off the spoon, chip off the old block), some loose Cheerios, and lots of milk. More protein!



November 12, 2007

He says four words.

Which is a lot. Relatively speaking. It's way, way more than zero.

I suppose we were expecting a big moment when Elliot said his "first word", but that didn't really happen. He's been using some extremely reasonable-sounding syllables (e.g. mamamamama) for months and months. But he's been using them in pretty unreasonable ways. You couldn't let yourself get too excited about how he used amamamamama when Sarah arrived, because he would also talk in very similar terms about a blanket, a paper bag, or some applesauce.

But he's been improving his aim. amamaomamama usually means Sarah, though sometimes it means me. K'hhh and kiiii and k'uh indicate key. (Or toy, or object.) Da might mean me, though it's vague. It sometimes means Ada. The crown jewel, though is tuuf, which he says while pointing to his teeth (which hurt him right now, a lot).

Right now Elliot is standing in my shoes, trying to wear them.

October 28, 2007

Parenting is Hard-Core

I'm just a font of things to read, lately! Here's more. Kate, you'll appreciate this.

I consider this essay in today's Times to be one of the best things about parenting I've read in a while, and I'm not even really a Ramones fan. But as a compelling and understated argument about how parenting makes us realize so much about the difference between principles and the social markers usually associated with those principles, I think this is just about perfect.

Ironically, my one small quibble is with his laugh line about how parenting changes your relationship to vomit, which it does, and which did make me laugh. But I don't think it totally fits here, right? Because if there was ever an aesthetic movement that seems like it would have prepared you to "catch a handful of vomit, mid-air," it was the late 70's hardcore punk scene. Just saying.

October 26, 2007

This, I Agree With

My mom sent me this story today. It's an essay for the NPR series "This I Believe," and it says something I also believe, which is that admitting that you feel badly about something is often a good thing to do, and is not the same thing as blowing your bad feeling way out of proportion.

The author doesn't mention parenthood in the essay, but I think it's a particularly good lesson for parents to remember. I mean, really. To reiterate my example from my earlier post--I am grateful that Elliot isn't puking up a worm* but that doesn't mean I can't be crabby about the fact that he spilled a box of wheat thins all over the kitchen floor this morning right as I was trying to leave the house and then sobbed and smeared snot all over my sweater while I tried to tear the wheat thin box out of his clutching fist. That was irritating! It was! And it's okay if I feel irritated about it. It's just not okay if I take out my irritation on other people in unfair ways; it's not their fault my favorite sweater is now smeared with crumbs and Elliot snot.

The good news, though, is that Elliot slept much better last night, so I am less irritated than I might be. Yay! Happy outlook restored.

*People keep asking about that worm story! You'll be happy to know that the daughter who puked up the worm was totally fine. Her name was Julia, and she grew up fine and happy and had a happy marriage and several kids, and after the Civil War she (along with lots of other southerners, who knew?) moved to Brazil where she helped set up a town where dispossed southerners could continue to hold slaves free from the meddling of yankees and carpet baggers. I don't think she herself actually owned slaves, though. A few years later she moved back to Alabama and wrote a book about it, which you yourself can read if you go to the UNC Southern Manuscripts archive; they are very nice there and can help you find it even though it's not in the folder with the other Hentz family papers, just fyi.

October 25, 2007

More on sleep; or, we are our demographic, part 729

Whitney sent me this.

My Mom and Niko both suggested immediately that Elliot could wear two layers of pajamas, which would be warmer than just one. Which I have to admit--never say I don't tell all!--hadn't even occured to me.

It had occured to me that I should put Elliot to sleep in his coat, but I'd rejected that as a somewhat cumbersome idea.

Remember how I said sleep was important?

I know, because we are not getting enough of it. Elliot has always been a really good sleeper--not award winning, maybe, but nothing to complain about. He's slept from about 8 until about 6 for months. So complacent had we become about Elliot's sleep habits that I offered to give away my copy of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child because I figured it should go to someone who, you know, needed it. Someone whose child did not have healthy sleep habits.

Well, friends: pride goeth before a fit of screaming at 3 am, because Elliot's sleep habits have become much less healthy. Certainly as a result of Elliot's screaming, my sleep habits are less healthy. So here's the deal: a series of things have conspired all at once to, somehow among them, screw up Elliot's sleep:

*I was gone
*my parents were here, and now are gone
*he's got some teething issues (we seem to be working on eye teeth)
*he kicks off his covers, and then gets cold, because the house is cold at night
*for the first couple of nights of weird sleeping we thought it was just an abberation from his normal, solid sleeper self, and thus indulged him, and thus he LEARNED WE MIGHT INDULGE HIS MIDDLE-OF-THE-NIGHT SOCIAL WHIMS, the sneaky devil.

Anyway, none of these obstacles are insurmountable, but they are a bother, and they do mean that today: I am tired. And I am a little torn about how to handle the cold issue. We have a space heater for Elliot's room, and I guess we'll just start using that, though it seems wasteful. But what else to do for a toddler much too active for a blanket sleeper, but not coordinated enough to cover himsself up with real blankets? If there's an obvious strategy here, and I am too tired to think of it, let me know.

But, lest I wallow in my "only getting five hours of sleep!" misery, let me give a big shout out to two people we know who are getting much much less sleep than me. Our friend's Kelli and Karen both had babies in the last couple of days. Good luck, mamas! You will be tired, but it will be worth it.

October 23, 2007

My folks were just here

And it was great, for several reasons (one of which of course is that with their help we get more PRECIOUS PRECIOUS SLEEP*), not the least of which is that it gives us a couple of extra people around to whom we can say, "isn't he nice? He's so nice. He's so friendly. Look at him! Isn't he beautiful?" as often as we want, without getting irritating.

It would surprise me that I'm really not over just commenting on Elliot's fantasticness, except that Brandon and I are still that way with our pooch, too. When Brandon and I walk her together we say, "Look at her! She's just trotting along. It's so great how she just trots along."

I think that a big part of parental-type love is just knowing the details of someone so well, and appreciating all the nuances of them being themselves.

*More about how sleep is confusing but definitely awesome in today's Times

October 22, 2007

Reading Matter

Just if you're interested, here are two pieces of news that came our way this morning.

First, our friend Manda co-wrote this article about birth practices. Here's a teaser:

Many obstetricians have never witnessed a natural birth in its entirety, and today, Eisenstein says, a natural birth in a hospital is "almost nonexistent. It was more likely 25 years ago than today." People ask more questions when they buy a car or a house than they do when they choose the care provider and birth location that will be part of one of the most important experiences in the life of a family. All of the doctors are nice, he says, "but you're not hiring your doctor to like [him], you are hiring [him] to have the safest possible birth."

Now, I realize that not everyone cares about "natural" birth--and I myself find the category "natural" extremely suspicious, obviously. But, that said: it's shocking how few doctors are used to intervention-free labor. My aunt had a baby, epidural-free, in the UVA hospital a few years ago and only one nurse on the staff had ever seen or heard a woman deliver a baby without pain medication. My aunt had a really bad reaction to the epidural during her first delivery and really didn't want one the second time around--and she's lucky that a CPN happened to be on duty the night she gave birth.

Second, there's this piece about the importance of sleep for children and teens. The thesis of the article is that SLEEP IS IMPORTANT.

The effect [of lack of sleep] was indeed measurable—and sizable. The performance gap caused by an hour’s difference in sleep was bigger than the normal gap between a fourth-grader and a sixth-grader. Which is another way of saying that a slightly sleepy sixth-grader will perform in class like a mere fourth-grader. “A loss of one hour of sleep is equivalent to [the loss of] two years of cognitive maturation and development,” Sadeh explains.

This article is specifically about people under the age of 21, and it is extremely convincing (it also features several skillfully art-directed photos of sleeping adolescents, which are kind of hilarious). As one of several articles recently published about the importance of sleep in general, however, we are newly-resolved around here to protect our PRECIOUS PRECIOUS SLEEP. Lack of sleep, studies show, impedes reaction time, judgement, and self-awareness. Our own personal "study" shows that lack of sleep makes you crabby and is bad for relationships. So don't call late, folks. We are heading to bed.

October 18, 2007

Why we are glad we are not parenting in the 19th century

I'm back, everybody! I've been doing some research at the UNC archives, reading the diaries and letters of this writer, Caroline Lee Hentz. If you haven't heard of her, you are not alone.

Anyway, she kept this diary in the mid 1830s while running a girls' school in rural Alabama. This was back when Alabama was the Southwest; when it was the frontier; when it was a bit, shall we say, "rough." Around the edges. And by "edges" I mean "mud soaked peremeters of her house that stood in for the nonexistent roads leading to EVERYWHERE." As in, between her and everywhere else she wanted to go there was A LOT OF MUD. EVERYWHERE. She was originally from kind of a fancy family in Boston, so it was a bit of an adjustment.

In her diary, she talks a lot about mud, and about being hot; also about spiders, which her crazy husband was obsessed with.

Reading these diaries and letters; it was very interesting. I'm made a little envious by some of her frontier-life stories. I think that, by and large, her life was pretty good. But overall, the reading makes me appreciate again that while modern American parenting is surely difficult, it is made much easier by things like roads. And heaters. And doctors.

Purely for the sake of excitement, let me paste in here part of an entry from August, 1835. Hentz's two daughters have been really sick; puking a lot, with high fevers, and she's really worried because two children in the neighboring village have died recently of measles (now let's all pause to be glad that our children shall not die of measles). Anyway, so this is the climactic conclusion to one of her daughter's illnesses:

“While I sat watching her looking so pallid & sick, all at once her breast heaved, and a great worm a foot long & as large as my finger crawled out of her dear little mouth. I was horror struck, with my unconquerable & unutterable antipathy to all reptiles, to see one of that magnitude thrown from the loathing stomach of my child. It was horrible—-I trust she will find relief after rejecting the hideous monster.”


Now, don't think this means I'm going to stop complaining about how much of a nuisance it is when, like, Elliot pukes on my mattress pad and then I have to really struggle because the mattress pad is almost too fluffy to fit into my in-unit washing machine and I might have to (gasp) go to a laundromat. Because that really is a nuisance, and it does suck to have a mattress pad that smells like sour milk.

But I do think it means that it's good to put your parenting crises in perspective, and while I might generally be inclined to be a little worried about Elliot eating stray food off the floor, probably he will survive because at least he is not puking up a foot-long worm.

October 15, 2007


  1. Is there something strange about the fact that he likes to eat hummus? It's not that we're ideologically blinkered about food categories -- at least, I hope not -- but it's really more of a condiment, isn't it? A spread, or dip, if you will. But not for Elliot. He takes it neat; no chaser. Give him hummus by the trowel-full, and he is happy.

  2. Elliot has a little fetish object -- his first. It's something he likes to have around -- something to carry from room to room, something hold in one hand while doing other things. It's a sock. Elliot is in love with a polka-dotted baby sock. We'll upload pictures soon.

    He carried his sock-friend around with him most of yesterday, and then he took it in the bath with him. When it was saturated with water, he sucked on it.

  3. Elliot and I (B) are alone together for the next 3 days. It's my first crack at single parenthood. Yup.

October 09, 2007

More things that are not my favorite, and some things that are

not favorite:
  • a morning that doesn't start with a poo blow out, but does start with a mammoth milk puke all over the bed
  • mornings that start with inexplicable hour-long crying jags
  • brandon being gone
  • elliot loosing my keys
  • getting crabbed at by a woman NOT in an enclosed park area because my dog, who is within the enclosed park area, is off leash. EXCUSE ME, BUT IT IS 6:30 AM AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE IN THE PARK AREA AND MY TODDLER HAS JUST SHUT UP AFTER CRYING FOR AN HOUR, SO LADY, DON'T TELL *ME* ABOUT CIVIC RESPONSIBILITY.

I feel that I should also say here that I am not saying I don't have perspective on these things, and how very very much worse all of them could be, I am just saying that they are not my favorite things that might happen. That's all. However, these things are among

my favorites:
  • sitting on the beach on an October morning, with your plum in your lap while your pooch runs crazy and joyous
  • sitting on the ground in a park with your friends on an October afternoon that feels like summer, except with crunchy fallen leaves on the ground, talking about life
  • elliot finding my keys, which he had evidently hidden in a trash can (just the one for paper by my desk, nothing nasty)
  • crisp fall mornings, in general
  • neighbors, in general
  • prosciutto and basil on a mini burger
  • the way toddlers walk on their toes

October 05, 2007

About Sarah

Sarah, veteran (as you know) of the swing-state wars of ought-4, is up to her old activism tricks. She's gone and co-founded a new parents' group in our neighborhood! She even bought a web domain name, made a web page of her own devise, & now there's a party.

Just so you know, if you are reading this, you are invited on Halloween.

October 03, 2007

just saying

The mornings that start with me cleaning up a big poo blowout are not my favorite.

October 01, 2007

Quick Question

Does anyone have a preferred recipe for teething biscuits or toddler-appropriate cookies of any kind? Recipes abound on the internet, of course, but if anyone has any personal experience with the issue (Becks? This sounds like you?) I would love to reap the benefits of your wisdom.

In exchange, I can offer you this excellent recipe for some "muffins," and by "muffins" I mean "cupcakes disguised as a breakfast food." They are very good--I made them this weekend--and you can trust me on that because Whitney gave me the recipe.

PS: Brandon wants me to add that Elliot's special nickname for the morning is "Captain Hyper McDiaper Viper." Not for a while, Brandon says, has Elliot's morning nickname been "Cranky McJanky Storm."

PPS: I realize I implied up there that cupcakes are not a breakfast food, but of course that is just crazy talk.

September 27, 2007

New Song!

A song of both innocence and experience, composed spontaneously.

"My little plum's
A stinky plum!
I'm gonna wash
His stinky bum!

I'm gonna make
His bum all clean!
Even it if makes him
Yell and scream!"

September 26, 2007

holy molars!

that is a bad pun. it's not even a pun, it's just a vague attempt at verbal hilarity. but, it does describe sentiments about tonight's news. Just this morning I was taking comfort from nico's description of her son's comparatively-easy transition into molars--and now, we have detected two molars poking through Elliot's upper gums. Two! I'm shocked.

Also, right now, some high school-aged boys are playing pop-up in the alley behind our condo. They periodically make loud, good-hearted boyish noises: "Aaaah!" "Heyyy!!" "Daaaammmnn!" They yell, and when they yell loudly enough, Elliot pauses from his busy self-feeding and yells back at them in the general direction of the window: "Aaaah!" He's totally saying, "dudes! I'm a boy too!"

more break throughs

friends, elliot is walking. Walking. I mean, not like Anni and Teddy and other babies of our aquaintance are walking, but definitely taking steps in sequence without holding on to anything. Yesterday when I picked him up from daycare he walked into my arms. Awwww! Sentimental mama moment!

Julia sez it's time to break out the bubble wrap, and friends, julia is very right, because this morning Elliot whopped himself into the corner of the bedside table and gave himself a black eye, poor little plum. Undeterred, he proceeded to careen around the house, attempting to climb the stack of books next to the entry way table (crap!) and successfully pull out the drawer where the teatowels are, throw the teatowels on the floor, and then climb into the drawer himself and joyfully slide himself in and out, in and out. Our house is an amusement park; who knew?

September 21, 2007

It's the small things that are so demoralizing

This morning, Elliot woke up early. I had gone to bed a bit late--not elliot's fault--so was especially tired when elliot woke up at 5, after also doing some middle-of-the-night squawking. But we managed! I was tired, and Brandon was tired, but we got everyone cleaned and fed and Brandon left on time and I managed to find all the books I needed and find my keys and get the counter cleaned to prevent ants (we have an ant infestation; so frustrating)and got elliot dressed and myself dressed and it was all okay. And then 30 seconds before I was ready to walk out the door, Elliot found Ada's water bowl and dumped it all over himself and the hardwood floor.

And it's fine, right? You just wipe up the water, and change his clothes, and get on with life. But part of me wanted to just sit down on the floor and once and for all throw in the parenting towel.

September 19, 2007

I try not to be one of those people who is always railing about the excesses of US consumerism, but Elliot does not need...

....Holloween-themed boxer briefs. No matter if Gymboree does have them, you know, "on sale."

I mean: really.

Too much multi-culturalism for me

This post is kind of gross. I'm warning you right now.

We live in a very diverse neighborhood--the most diverse in the city, and one of the most diverse in the country. And we love that: we love that there are millions of languages, and weird things for sale in the grocery store, and so on. It's fun. It makes you realize that "normal" is a very dubious category. It is not normal to me, for instance, to order tripe on my tacos. But it's normal for someone, and maybe someday it will be normal for me. Who knows? When you're exposed to lots of things, you become open to the idea of change. All well and good.

There are limits, though.

Yesterday, we were taking a walk along the beach--it's gorgeous indian summer weather--and Ada was prancing along incredibly joyfully, running back and forth along the water to greet different dogs. Then she stopped still, for some reason we couldn't see, and started sort of jumping in place, and looking back at us with great eagerness, and wagging her tail, and sniffing.

Usually when Ada gets this excited about something at the beach, it is a dead fish. Which is nasty. Erg. So I started running up to Ada and her find to prevent dead-fish rolling. As I got closer, I realized that whatever she found was too big to be a fish. It was white and lumpy...maybe a garbage bag? A garbage bag, filled with something nasty?

Nope. It was a DECAPITATED CHICKEN. Not a friendly little grocery store chicken, all plucked and cleaned, but a big crazy chicken carcass, with feathers and feet and a bloody spinal cord sticking up from its neck where the head should have been. And while we shooed Ada away and stood there exclaiming upon the profound disgustingness of the situation Ada ran a hundred feet up the beach and found a SECOND DECAPITATED CHICKEN. This one was brown and speckled instead of white but it was equally nasty. Ada was so overwhelmed with the situation that she didn't even try to roll in or carry around the carcasses, which is good, because I'm not sure what happens to your dog if she rolls around in someone's leftover voodoo sacrifice, but I'm sure it is smelly.

Anyway, chicken carcasses on the beach: that's a new one for me. If anyone can enlighten me on the significance of these trophys (cockfighting? voodoo, for real?) do let me know.

September 18, 2007

Health Update

Here's some grist for the mill, regarding the health of bebes: info about the effects of food additives, at the top, and then some more about plastics at the end.

I am not one to get too worked up about ingredients and chemicals; I figure that for the most part, what I eat is pretty safe, and nothing is too harmful in moderation. (When you spend your time reading antebellum novels about people who carry meat around in burlap bags, you're prone to thinking that you've got it pretty good.) But the news presented here, while still inconclusive, seems a good reminder that, y'know, it's smart to eat fresh foods.

I kinda like the plastic news because it (in my mind) justifies my tendancy to put food in the microwave without covering it first with plastic wrap. This tendency is completely due to laziness, but I like the idea that it is due to a desire to protect myself from chemical build-up.

September 12, 2007

More thoughts on everything we talked about yesterday

1: Fall

No really, it's fall. Saturday I was wearing shorts, sweating, and getting bit by mosquitoes, and today I'm wearing socks and a jacket. We in Chicago, we don't do our season-changes by halves.

2: The Doctor

I was realizing that one of the weird things about parenting is that there's all this Stuff You Must Do, like take your infant to their regular "well baby" appointments for poking and prodding and evaluation. You've gotta do it. But if you don't do it...nothing happens. Which is not to say that there aren't consequences to neglecting your child's preventative healthcare, but just that there really isn't a report card day; if you fail preventative healthcare, there's no one who's going to keep you back a year, or cut funding to your parental rolemodels, or necessarily even know about it for a very long time. We are so unsupervised out here, we new parents.

3: A+ Parenting

A friend and I were chatting last night about how one of the things that it's easy to be a big overachiever parent about is the First Birthday Milestone. Now, clearly being one is an exciting achievement, and I love birthdays, and I think it's great to do fun things to celebrate you and your child being alive and happy. But the First Birthday Party is a weird thing; it spirals out of control so quickly. You think you just want to do something simple, and then you find yourself thinking: "...well, but I guess I should get some streamers. Some First Birthday Streamers. And maybe some party favors? And probably there should be some games. And hats. Maybe crowns?" And then, before you know it, your one one-year-old's birthday erupts into a six-day celebration culminating in a champagne brunch at the club in the Hamptons (which seriously happened to a casual friend of mine).

And the thing about that six-day affair is not that it's a bad thing, especially if it's fun for you, but you just have to remember that the champagne brunch with streamers and crowns is not about doing something nice for your baby; it is about hoping that the world gives you and A+ in first birthday parties. Which can be fun! And is fine! But if your child were actually doing the grading, what they would probably be hoping for is your undivided attention while they spent some quality time whacking a measuring cup against a thrift store soup pan.

I believe in being celebratory and in cultivating excitement, but I also believe in living simply. It can be darn hard to balance those two things.

4: Abba
We actually didn't talk about Abba yesterday, but we should have. We should have been talking about how Abba is a POP MUSIC JUGGERNAUT of astounding proportion. If you weren't listening to Abba with your one-year-old this lovely fall morning, then I highly recommend remedying this situation tomorrow, because nothing is better than whacking your measuring cup against a soup pan while "SOS" plays in the background.

September 10, 2007

It's Fall, Now.

I can tell because when I looked at the weekly weather forcast, I was looking eagerly for warm days rather than for cool ones.

Elliot had his 1 year doctor appointment today. He is perfectly fine, and was a complete trooper about his shots--barely cried. The nurse was tremendously impressed.

One thing I have realized about infant doctor appointments is that it's very hard not to feel as though they're the parenting equivalent of report card day. Motherhood is so vague and nebulous; it's like going to one of those hippy colleges where there are no grades and everyone just hopes, at the end of the class, that you've had a meaningful experience. This is weird for me. I'm a big one for grades: I didn't know how much I relied on them until I started doing this Very Important Thing and there wasn't anyone to evaluate my performance. Well, I take that back: everyone is always evaluating maternal performance. We mothers, we are judged a lot. But usually it's just by random people, or even by intimate people whose opinions still don't ultimately matter.

But doctors! Doctors are official and important. I feel like their opinion should count. But one of the things I like about our pediatrician is that he seems to absolutely forswear any sort of gushing or evaluating. He's low key--he's older, and he's seen lots of fads come and go, and he figures that probably it doesn't matter hugely if you nurse six months or twelve or two years, or if you co-sleep or don't, or feed exclusively organic foods or don't. He seems to figure that most babies turn out okay. It's very comforting, and I think he is quite right.

Still, every appointment he looks Elliot over good humoredly and says, "There you go, Elliot! You pass." And the over achiever in me always thinks, always always thinks: "Does that mean he gets...that I A?"

September 07, 2007

His Day

For Elliot's birthday we had cupcakes and a visit from a new puppy named HUGO. I shall venture to say: who could ask for anything more?

September 06, 2007

The World is His Bathtub

One year ago today, I was very pregnant. Indeed, I was precisely 40 weeks pregnant; my baby was due. In the morning while I was walking Ada by the beach, a friendly gender-ambivalent neighborhood dog-walker and drag queen asked me when I was due, and when I told her, "today!" s/he said, "aaaa-aaah, walk it on down, honey, walk it on DOWN." In the afternoon I went to Starbucks, again with Ada. This was before the new neighborhood locally-owned coffee shop opened, so I went to Starbucks a lot. I sat, in the late summer wind, and finished knitting a pair of booties for Sloane, Elliot's one-week-older friend. Our wise woman neighbor Tawanna happened to pass by and asked me how I was doing. She told me that the elders in her family would say to "wear it like a loose garmet; wear it easy." When I stood up with my extra large ice tea, I felt the only sensation which, in retrospect, I realize might have clued me in to how quickly my baby was coming: a low swing in my abdomen, and a tired sense of doneness. Elliot was born at 6:39 the next morning.

I was thinking about all this today, as Ada and I took Elliot to Starbucks again. He jabbered away in the baby bjorn, which he has almost outgrown. When we got there, we all three sat on the ground in the outside seating area and shared little bites of a rice crispy treat (nothing makes me pleaseder than sharing a snack with my sweet creatures). I helped Elliot do some little practice paddings around; he is making real progress on the walking front. A very dapper and euro looking man (he was so dapper it almost didn't matter that he had no front teeth) smiled smiled at us! He said, "you 'av a bee-you-ti-ful familleee!" He was feeding little bits of coffee cake to a bird. I'm not even kidding. Elliot flirted particularly with a slouchy man of the African-national-taxi-driver variety, who also smiled smiled and waved and laughed. They beamed upwards at each other from non-English-speaking eyes.

And then it started to rain, all of a sudden. I scrambled Elliot back into the bjorn and trotted towards home. Elliot waved his hands over his head and then started to laugh. Just like he does in the bathtub when he accidently swings his head under the faucet and gets a spray of water in the face. He is in the bathtub now, jabbering and laughing, and no where in the world is there anyone I would rather take to Starbucks in the rain than him.

September 05, 2007

Catching up

There is nothing more boring -- on the whole Internet -- than the classic blog post which blogs about why the poor blogger has not been blogging. So we'll be very, very brief about the contents of the last 3 weeks.
  • Ann Arbor (blueberry picking, Elliot watches)

  • New Orleans (wedding in a busted Caribbean city, Elliot stays home)

  • Graham visits Chicago (he and Elliot do Vulcan mind-meld, swap shoes)

  • Salt Lake City and Seattle (Sarah and B get stomach virus, Elliot works on a tooth. All grumble.)
Now we will go work on uploading some pictures.

August 24, 2007

A story about how people are nice, if you are nice to them.

So last weekend, we were on our way back from a wedding in New Orleans. The combination of having too much heat+too much beer+too much head cold+not enough sleep had left us depleted, to say the least. And I somehow managed to leave my cell phone in the New Orleans airport, which I did not discover until I was roaming around the Atlanta airport. Needless to say, I thought my phone (which, btw, is only about a month old) was pretty much lost to the world.

But that was not the case! Somehow, my phone ended up in Richmond Virginia. I do not know how. But it was found there by some nice man named Jamar who works for AirTran. Jamar had what was evidently a very confused conversation with my father in law, who randomly called my phone while Jamar was trying to figure out what to do with it. Moved to help, Jamar looked through my phone book and exhanged a whole series of text messages with brandon (noted in my phone as my emergency contact) and concluded that what would be most helpful is if he sent my phone on the next plane to Midway airport, where I could pick it up.

Wasn't that nice of him? Unfortunately, at that point, things got a little an effort to be helpful, Jamar evidently sent the phone to Midway via AirTran's inter-office mail system, so it did not immediately appear to the Midway people as lost baggage. And I spent a lot of time on the phone with Midway this week saying "um, Jamar was supposed to send you my phone...?" They could not find my phone. All week. And again I feared my phone had gone missing.

But! Yesterday a woman named Marcie called from AirTran midway, saying that she had my phone in hand. I asked her if they could hold on to the phone until Monday, because I had company coming and a one-year old (Elliot was sqealing lustily in the background) and lived an hour away. She said she would. And then I asked if there was a good way for me to let Jamar's manager know that I was very grateful for his help, and also that I was very grateful for how nice all the Midway people were to me when I called every half hour all week.

Now, you have to imagine being Marcie, and working at a baggage claim at Midway Airport. Can you imagine anything worse? Okay, maybe working at a baggage claim at O'Hare is worse. But really: I suspect that working at a baggage claim pretty much involves being yelled at. Most of the time. Awful.

Anyway, Marcie seemed to be really touched that I was not only not yelling at her but actually thanking her. And she at the last minute offered to FedEx my phone. For free. Because clearly it was going to suck for me to get down to midway from Rogers Park with a squawky one year old. She said, "I know how it is." And she sent my phone overnight express! It arrived at my door at 8:45 this morning.

Anyway, all this sort of begs the question of why Jamar didn't just offer to fedex my phone last sunday, which surely would have been even more spectacular customer service. But let's not think about it that way. People are busy. And it's just nice, I think, that in the midst of doing unpleasant and busy jobs all these random people made a little bit of time to help compensate for my bleary forgetful self.

August 23, 2007

Do your babies do this?

Our baby is constantly wraping things around his neck. What kind of things? All kind of things. If he can wrap it around his neck, he wants to, and if he can't wrap it around his neck, he's more or less not interested. If you take away the thing he's wrapping around his neck, he sighs mournfully.

I had always assumed that those people who claimed you should get rid of all cords prior to having a baby were crazy hypochondriacs, or whatever, but it seems they were on to something.

August 21, 2007

A bit more about lead

. . . from Slate today.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider blood lead amounts under 10 mcg/dl—the amount present in many toddlers—safely below the "level of concern."

As it turns out, according to numerous studies (e.g. The New England Journal of Medicine, April 2003), this sort of level can permanently impair your brain by about 7 IQ points. The scientific community is apparently aware of all this, but the relevant CDC advisory committees have been de-scientisted, and packed with lead industry folks.


August 13, 2007

First fever

On the way home from Ann Arbor, we realized that Elliot had a fever. His wee head was all warm, and he was hoarse and sad and weepy, and also coughing (hard enough to puke up his lunch at one point). He was in sort of a pitiful state. So we got him home, washed him off, and put him to bed, feeling glum about him and sorry for ourselves a bit, too.

But sleep has fixed all things.


August 10, 2007


AE posted the following in a comment to the blog:

How to answer the question, what is more sustainable, leather from cows who emit carbon gas and drink like 200 gallons of water a day and ruin land, or, plastic, which never degrades? Where are the value judgment reports on such things?

This is the kind of question that most parents with any kind of environmental consciousness -- and maybe most people in general -- are asking themselves these days, in different forms. It's a huge part of the disposable vs. cloth diaper question, for instance.

I have an answer in my own mind, which I'd like to share, at the risk of taking this blog way off message.

There are various kinds of pollution: air pollution, water pollution, soil pollution. And there are various kinds of losses: loss of topsoil, loss of wilderness and forest, loss of animal life (i.e. fish populations), loss of human life and health. All of these are bad, right? But some are reversible. Fish populations are way down, but if we get smart, they will be able to rise again. The things that worry me are the non-reversible losses of something that is definitively valuable.

If Elliot gets a high level of lead in his system because of a nearby factory emitting something into the air or the water, that affects his brain development, and it's completely irreversible. And BAD -- the value of Elliot's brain, to me, is inestimably high. He is affected and I am affected.**

Or take my car. It puts a bunch of CO2 into the atmosphere. We don't know how to take it back out again. And everyone is affected; everyone values and shares the atmosphere, an item of which (like Elliot) we have only one.

But you know what has relatively minor effects? A landfill. Compared to every other kind of environmental impact I can think of, a properly constructed landfill is largely innocuous.

Will plastic in a landfill affect Elliot's brain? Break an ecosystem? Change the climate? Vacate the oceans? Cause our topsoil to run into the sea? No. It just costs some money, and some land. (Which we can eventually use again.) (Some landfills do leak -- those should be fixed or removed.)

So my basic position, as someone proud to be an environmentalist, is that we need to do a LOT MORE about Every Single Environmental Issue . . . except landfills.

In "The Skeptical Environmentalist", Bjorn Lomborg calculates that the entire trash-dumping requirements for the United States through the next 100 years could be met by a single landfill of 18 square miles. However controversial that book has been, the landfill number has not been challenged, as far as I know. (Maybe MAC can correct me here.) 18 square miles, while large, is actually an impossibly tiny piece of America. Anyone who has driven across the country knows that the continent is, in real terms, basically empty. 85% of Nevada is owned by the federal government, mostly because no one has ever been able to think of a use for it. You could hide the 18-mile landfill somewhere in America, and, not knowing where it was, a person might spend 10 years driving around the country and never find it.

So that's my deeply felt answer to your deeply felt question. The paper vs. plastic, reduce/reuse/recycle media blitz is more or less a carny sideshow, while the real environmental crises are happening under our noses, and being ignored. (For example, American farmers continue to raise their crops in such a way that the runoff creates a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico the size of New Jersey. It's right there in the Times.)

Having said these heresies out loud, I'm going into hiding (somewhere in America).


** Check out Bill Bryson's "Short History of Nearly Everything" for a fascinating (seriously) chapter on all things lead. Today Americans have 625 times as much lead in their blood as they did a century ago. Atmospheric lead levels are 200 times higher.

August 07, 2007

So, now here's the thing about all this talk of baby shoes

Let's be clear that this pressing debate--robeez? pedipeds?--is kind of amazing. I don't know really where to begin. This conversation really makes me want to say: YAY INDUSTRIALIZATION! Yay modernity! Yay for the western world!

Because how fantastic is this? That we can have these well-made things for our baby's feet, and that not only will they protect him, but they will also be a little bit beautiful. We can afford these little bits of beauty, the kinds of thing that would have seemed unbelievably luxurious at basically any other point in human history, and in most parts of the world, still.

Talking about the incredible comparative wealth of our lives often leads to guilt, and anxiety. Who are we to waste our energy trying to decide which kinds of shoes to buy for the baby? Most babies don't have shoes at all. And it's true: when I think about infant shoes, I usally also think about Frederick Douglass's autobiography, in which he writes about sleeping outside when he was young. "My feet have been so cracked with the frost," he writes, "that the pen with which I am writing might be laid in the gashes." And here we are, so spoiled by our wealth, that we might actually choose for our baby to go shoeless, because it's better for balance, and because we can control his environment so carefully that shoelessness itself comes with essentially no risks.

I can think a lot of ways to develop this point--there are a lot of things to say. But right now, just really quickly, and without being greedy or taking it for granted or denying the global costs: I'm so glad Elliot has a life that affords him some beauty. I'm glad that he lives in a time and place where loveliness is possible, and walks with him whereever he goes.

And the Pronunciation Debate Winner is....Not Me

It is Brandon, or also Beck.

From the Robeez website:

How do you pronounce Robeez?
It’s pronounced Rob, as in Robert, the name of the founder’s son; and Eez, as in ease.

There you have it.

August 06, 2007

Reader Demographics

Okay, so thus far we have one vote in favor of the robeez knock-offs (thanks Annalea! So nice to meet you!), one strong vote pro-Robeez, and one vote anti-robeez, pro-Pedipeds).

Shown here is the Pediped "Harvey."

Anyway, all this to say that this discussion has not so much solved my children's shoe quandry as it has provoked another one: how do you pronounce that word, "Robeez"? B goes for "ROB-ease," while I think the correct pronunciation is clearly "row-bees." You be the judge.

August 05, 2007

Brand loyalties?

Around here, we are very dubious about baby shoes. They seem mostly to be about extra work, something else to keep track of--and Brandon, particularly, is exceptionally dubious about non-functional items of baby "fashion." If its just there for looks, he would rather it were not there at all. Add to all this the fact that shoes with any kind of thick sole at all are not good for baby feet or balance,* and basically we keep shoes to a minimum around here.

The shoes we have had have been Robeez, and we have loved them because they are a) darling, and b) functional, in that they stay on and don't get in the way of walking. We have had one 0-6 month pair (given to us by the fashion-saavy McDonough clan) and one 6-12 month pair. Now we are outgrowing these, and it is time for an 12-18 month pair, and I feel that we really should get some because it is going to be cold soon, and we're not going to want Elliot walking around in socks. Not that he's walking now, but we're heading that direction.

Which lead me to a question for you, O Internet: are the knock-off Robeez really as good as the real Robeez? Robeez are expensive, and it pains me to spend that much on bebe shoes. But it pains me even more to think about shoes that don't stay on. What do we think? Is it worth it to fork out the money for the brand name, or will the half-price target brand do me just as well?

*The Chicago Tribune ran a completely unhelpful feature discussing this point. The journalist interviewed a whole bunch of pediatricians who were completely opposed to anything beyond soft soft leather shoes, but then provided lots of pictures of absolutely darling baby shoes which you might choose to buy if you decided that pediatrician advice about your child's muscular development was not as important as coordinating your infant's shoes and handbag. Or whatever.

August 04, 2007

Small Note about Parenthood

It's a little hard on me, how messy it is.

Those who know me know that I am not by any means a clean person. It takes me a while to get up the momentum to really clean. And it just kindof sucks that when I finally do clean, it gets messy again so quickly. And not just messy, with stuff scattered around, but actually dirty. With drool, and ground cheerios, and nasty stuff smeared on things. Always. I suppose if you didn't have much else to do or think about, or didn't want to actually spend time with your child, rather than just cleaning up after him/her, you could stay on top of it. But it just seems so sisyphusian.

August 02, 2007

A Veritable Rumspringa of New Friends

Don't you think that friends should come in "rumspringas," the way that lions come in "packs" and whales go in "pods"? Or monkeys travel in "discos"? Actually monkeys don't come in "discos", but we have always felt they should. We also think the unit of a group of newts should be the "spool". But anyway: Elliot has some new friends.

First, we have not mentioned that one of B's childhood friends Courtney and her husband Rod had a bebe girl six weeks ago now: her name is Gizele, and we just met her and she is delicate and darling--so pretty, with a lot of hair. And she is thriving! Mad props to Courtney for being so gracious and composed in the midst of what has been, by any standard, a pretty exhausting pregnancy/new baby process.

Second, my cousin Jessica gave birth to her much anticipated son, Ilias. Illias and Jessica and her husband Thodoros live in Athens, and while I have not yet seen any photos, what we can basically anticipate about Illias is that he will be the most gorgeous human being in the world, at least until my other cousin Erin, Jessica's sister, has her baby in November. Jess and Erin are spectacularly beautiful, and nice too, and artists/art critics, and they are just amazing and I am so happy that Elliot will get to be friends with their lovely kinder.

Finally, I have just learned this morning that two of my old planetarium friends are in the family way: Lindsay has a new son named Zeke, and Kelli will have a baby in October, which I figure means that as Elliot grows up he will, in the children of these fine women and their clever husbands, find both mathlete teammates and drinking buddies. Lindsay and I have a long-standing deal that if I read our bebes bedtime storie, she will teach them about astrophysics. How's that for reciprocity! Also, here is some more good news: Kelli has a blog! I would like to send her a big, virtual high-five, and say: Kelli, I understand. About the beer. We had to tell our good friends I was pregnant very early because the first time I turned down a beer they knew something drastic was up.

August 01, 2007

General Update

There's much to tell you about the last week, which we spent in Utah with B's family and friends. But here's just an abbreviated list of Elliot news. In the last week, Elliot:

*Charmed a plane full of Mormon missionaries, bound for Rome
*Slept past 6 am four nights in a row
*Went boating
*Successfully "cruised" from one piece of furniture to another
*Tried repeatedly to let go of the object upon which he was leaning and stand independently
*Seems to be increasingly associating sound with communication
*Occasionally, if not consistently, made use of the "more" sign
*Climbed a flight of stairs
*Climbed down one stair, but many times

July 31, 2007

Another hard question to answer

Somewhere back around Father's Day, we were playing a game with Mark & Abbey where you answer personal questions. I don't remember the rules of this "game" exactly, but it was more or less Truth or Dare without the Dare option. At one point I was asked "what's the best thing and the worst thing about being a parent"? Or was it "hardest" and "easiest"? I don't quite remember.

My answer, pretty much, was that one best thing about being a father is the permission to love a thing as much as you want, as possessively, fiercely, and uncarefully as you want. Most of the time in our lives we have to be careful with our love -- doling emotion out, in order to respect boundaries, respect other people, respect propriety, observe timelines, and simply protect ourselves. Otherwise people might think you're crazy -- or you might drive yourself crazy. But a baby. . . . well, a baby doesn't mind. The baby will never think you're crazy. Or if it does, it will never tell.

The other part of my answer was that the infant is a hard, ruthless teacher, the hardest I've found. Even the strictest human teachers can give some slack, when slack is needed -- but the child is inhuman, & can give no slack. It's an egg balanced on a spoon for years on end, and it's still balanced there even as you're sleeping. So don't sleep too deeply.

Also, no one ever shows up and tells you you've won the prize. The prize is that the egg didn't fall off the spoon.

This puts me in mind of something I was told when I was in Boy Scouts -- there's this training exercise that Navy Seals have to undergo. Two Seals have to spend a night (or is it a week?) in the wilderness, finding and cooking food, making shelter, etc . . . . all while carrying between the two of them a large tree trunk which is never allowed to touch the ground at ANY time.

This story, whether or not it's true, made a deep impression on me. It's such an unreasonable test. Are people actually capable of facing a test like that? It's so fussy and delicate, yet so brutally physical, it's sort of insane.

Elliot is no tree trunk, but nevertheless I have a much keener sense, now, of just why the Seals would devise a test like that.

The thing about today is that after we got up at 5:30 AM and took a three hour flight, Elliot shat on the dining room floor.

But not only that. There is more to know about our day. For not only did our wee son shit upon our floor, he shat upon the floor three different times. In three different rooms. It was a veritable floor-shit medley -- a floor show, if you will. And in fact, even as I type this, Elliot is pausing mid-crawl to shit again, though this time, helpfully, not on the floor, because he is in fact wearing a diaper.

Why wasn't he wearing a diaper the other times? Well, the story is that he started things off with a substantial, long-awaited shit during the taxi ride home from the airport. We got home, changed that, washed him off, and gave him a chance to "air out" for a while, crawling around on the dining room floor nude and happy while we opened the mail. Because why would he need to go again? He's nearly 11 months old now, he's not a newborn.

This is exactly the kind of logic that can lead you to disaster three times in a row, because it looks just as reasonable the SECOND time, in fact, even more so! It's the kind of thinking that got Hitler invading Russia.

So to recap, Elliot scored five goals today -- he must have lost a couple of pounds, all told -- and three out of these five, as we said, went on the floor. And yet amazingly enough, we paid him back by taking him to the grocery store and spending many dollars on select organic fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and proteins . . . because we're planning on FEEDING him again. Can you imagine?

-sem & blwh


"Can I tell you something?"

ELLIOT (nude)
"Jervy verve."


"His back is . . . perfect."

ELLIOT (nude)
"Goove. Gnaugh. Boove."

July 20, 2007

I'm chatty today!

I know, shut up already, right? But I just finished rereading Harry Potter 6, in time for the last and final volume tomorrow. I had to throw out my predictions for how Rowling is going to wrap this all up.

Because thinking about genre and narrative pacing and readerly desire and expectation is more or less my job, I have a lot of thoughts about the challenges Rowling faces in this last volume. But I'll spare you my narrative-desire-redux and just say:

in my mind, CLEARLY Snape is going to be the innocent one here. I don't think there's any suspence about this at all. It seems obvious that Dumbledore and Snape had made a deal that, if Draco was in a position to kill Dumbledore, that Snape would do it instead. Because Dumbledore believes there is some good in Draco, that would be killed by doing such a nefarious act.

Which leads me to my second prediction, which is that the conclusion will involve Harry and Draco learning to, somehow work together. I think there will be some harry's-parents-are-dead-thus-he-empathizes-with-draco-trying-to-protect-his-own-parents rhetoric.

For a long time, I thought Dumbledore would come back to life. That's just sort of what happens in novels like this: think about Gandolf returning at the crux moment of the lord of the rings, or Aslan reappearing at the end of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. And I still think that it would make a certain amount of narrative sense for him to make a grand return, but now I don't think Rowling will do it. She's trying to make things darker, more serious; more epic and less children's lit.

Along those lines, since there's been so much talk about main characters dying--I think it will be Ron. If it's not Ron or Hermione, it would be a total let down after all this build up. And Rowling seems really aware of how compelling it is that poor Harry keeps losing all the men he respects.

What else? I guess nothing specific. But it will be interesting to see how the staple plot elements of the series--the comical introduction with the Dursleys, the relationship-advancing Quiditch game--will or won't be included in the final volume. So much of the series has been about Harry struggling with protective figures of authority. And now there are no authority figures left. I guess this novel will be about Harry becoming a figure of authority. Maybe he will end up Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts! Regardless, you know the novel can't really end without reestablishing Hogwarts as a safe mecca for the wizarding youth. The school itself is like the novel's other hero. If I were Rowling, I'd stage the final show down between Harry and Voldemort in the Great Hall.

Belated Response

So this weekend this really nice guy who we know only casually--we only bump into him about once a year, but always enjoy his company--asked us in a very casual, small talky kind of way, "So, how's parenthood?"

Now, this is a question which we, Brandon and I, have obviously thought about a lot. A lot. We have talked about it. We have written about it. We have pondered its nuances in the bright lakefront sun, and in the dark diaper-filled nights. What do we think about? We think about parenthood, and what it's like, and how it has changed us.

So it was interesting that when this friendly person (really, he's SO nice) posed the question to us, point-blank, we sort of started and looked at each other, and at Elliot paddling around on the grass in front of us, chewing on Brandon's cell phone, and said, "'s....good....?"

I mean, how do you answer a question like that? In that place--a park, in a crowd of people? He was interested, but he clearly didn't understand that his question is a very hard one and the answer lodged close to the bone. You just can't ask, "how's parenthood?" in the same way that you'd ask, "how's the new Of Montreal album?" or "how was your trip to Wisconsin?" The question is too intimate. You can give a casual answer--"Oh, great! The best thing I've ever done!"--but it feels so cheap to answer such an important question with a cliche. Sitting there, stymied, I felt like my only options were to be inappropriately confessional with someone I barely know, or to reduce the most transformative experience of my life to a platitude. Which, basically, I refuse to do. So I didn't answer at all.

It was an unfair, if unintentionally so, question. But ever since he asked it, I've been pondering my non-response. I realize that this is a question I will be asked again, by other well-meaning if non-comprehending folk. So I think I need to figure out some way to respond. I've been trying to think of a quick answer that still captures some of my ambivalence about the experience. But how do describe to someone on the outside an experience that changes such bizarre parts of you?

Imagine a world in which you would get poo smeared across your pants, and in which changing your poo-smeared pants would not be the most important thing you had to do. Imagine a dried puke stain on the floor that has been there for three days which you just haven't had time to clean. Imgaine knowing that if you stay up late tonight it will be years before you can really catch up on those lost hours of precious, precious sleep.

Imagine your body as the most comforting, most beloved, most nourishing, most perfect part of another person's world. Imagine spending your days with someone who is fully in the moment, always, who has no sense that this moment's pleasure, this moment's pain, will not last forever. Imagine watching that person sob, because you weren't careful enough, and he fell, and now blood is steaming down his perfectly in-the-moment face. Imagine being able to make that person laugh. Imagine watching him reach for you, with no knowledge that the way he loves you will ever change, and with no fear that your love for him will be anything less than perfect. Imagine wanting your love to be perfect, and knowing that no love ever is. Imagine knowing that you can only come to know this person as a person if you give him up as the baby who loves you, your body, so unconditionally.

Imagine knowing that like Siddartha, like Adam and Eve, your baby too must leave the garden. Imagine knowing, for the first time, what all those stories really mean.

I guess my shorthand answer is: I think parenthood is great, Dan. I just don't think it's to be taken lightly.


Friends, a new word!

Fussticular /fus.tic.u.lar/ adj. [N. Amer]

1: A mood comprising both "fussy" and "particular" elements; ie, wanting only very particular things, and being very fussy if they are not promptly delivered. "Elliot was a little fusticular about his dinner and would only eat sweet potato-coated cheerios."

2: A bad mood, evoking the word "funicular" and its conotations of escalation. "If we're not careful, Elliot is going to ride this fusticular mood all the way to the top."

July 18, 2007

news update

hello friends! despite the absence of posting, we're here and fine. And we have some concrete news to report, which is that Elliot is now officially sporting a fourth (yes, fourth) upper tooth! Very exciting; Julia and I discovered it yesterday afternoon. I'm curious to see what it's like when it comes in a little more. Thus far his upper teeth have been a little...i don't know, disproportionate. It's funny, because his two bottom teeth are so darling and dainty, and tidy--two straight little teeth there, of just the right size. By comparison, his upper teeth are a little, as I like to say, creature from the deep. They are large and textured and spaced oddly. Although I am of course convinced of my child's inherent darlingness...I've gotta keep it real and confess that they are not his most attractive feature.

What else to report? Elliot likes to stand up, now, a lot. As I type this, he's standing and leaning over his basket of toys, using both hands as a brace. But then he gets whipped up about something and grabs a toy with both hands and thunders down on his small bum. But he seems pretty cheerful about it, and gets right up again.

All the standing means that we are having to evaluate more carefully how we feel about child-proofing. Thus far we had gotten away with minimal but, we thought, effective measures--covered up all the really sharp corners, put child locks on anything toxic, etc. We were hoping to not have to put the locks on the rest of the cabinets. But Elliot has a huge fascination with doors and drawers--open! close! open! wham! fondle that hinge!--and though I'm not worried about him getting into any of the remaining cabinets, I am worried about him pinchings his delicate fingers.

Also, he is fascinated with technology, particularly any technology we are using, for instance this computer, which means i mut!

July 09, 2007

I'm finding that it's hard to start blogging again after such a long absence.

We have so much to tell you. It would take oodles long to catch up, and who has the time? But the news just accumulates, like compound interest, and I guess we better start somewhere.

We had a great fourth, marked noticably by Elliot's entry into the world of rhythm. He has started dancing, bobbing frantically to the sound of music. (I must confess to being not only thrilled but a little relieved by this development; all Elliot's baby friends are already accomplished dancers and dancing is one skill I would be sorry for him not to gain.) Along with the frantic bobbing he has also started trying to snap his fingers (can't at all do it, but is thrilled by the attempt) and is also making a "ba-bsh" noise that is very beat-box of him. Just call him Blake Lewis.

Unrelated to the fourth, we went, Friday, to the fabulous and free Lincoln Park Zoo. Ever since I went there two years ago with Peter and Kati I have been yearning for the day when i could take my own small primate to the gorilla house. And we did! It was great, though Elliot is still too small and uncomprehending to notice an animal that is not in motion. Brandon and I stood transfixed by the lion and some small wierdly cat minx creature who reminded us of Ada, but Elliot was unmoved. What was most interesting about our trip was a small, vivid encounter with a chimpanzee. The chimp habitat is very sprawling and clever, and the chimps are very agile and clever, but while we were there all of the chimps were...napping. Complete repose, all over the chimpanzee habitat. So we were standing at the glass, watching the chimps sleep--looking particularly at a large male who was lying blissfully on his back, right by us on the other side of the wall. All of a sudden Elliot made one of his sweet twitchy little hoots and tapped his hand on the glass. And the napping chimp opened his eyes and looked right at Elliot. He totally did. Another woman who does not know us and who thus was unbiased by Elliotlove gasped and said, "Oh! Look! He hears the baby!" I turned to her and said, in a rush, "do you think so? I thought so! But did I just think that because I'm the mom?" And she said, "no! look!" And indeed, the Chimp was tracking Elliot with his eyes, considering his small infant self. "Look at that connection," the unknown woman said.

So, that is a bit of small news about our little ape. More updates to follow.

June 28, 2007

What, to a plum, is the fourth of july?

Friends, we are heading out of town. Just an fyi that if we're not here posting it will be because we are eating Julie's homemade peach ice cream, or paddling in the wading pool with Emma, or chasing grammy's cat Olivia, or shopping at the newly-built fireworks warehouse (because the old fireworks warehouse BURNT DOWN, can you imagine), or participating in a greased watermelon contest, or teasing my dad for stealing all the tootsie rolls at the parade (even though the CANDY is for the CHILDREN, DAD), or watching Ada run feral through the woods.

Happy Fourth, everyone!

June 26, 2007

Product Placement

This morning, it feels a little like a 1950's commercial around here, with two housewives standing around, sipping coffee, saying to each other, "I just love pretreating my laundry with Simple Green! It gets out the toughest stains! And it's biodegradable, too!" Seriously, except for the fact that B and I are standing around, sweaty, in our underwear and not looking powdered and fresh in sweater sets, that is pretty much what's it's like. We really had this conversation: we think we prefer "Simple Green" to "Spray and Wash" laundry spray; that Simple Green is better for the narsty green vegetable puke stains.

On the other hand, we can't totally say that the Simple Green is better, because we also inadvertantly changed detergents at the same time that we changed laundry sprays. Is the difference the Simple Green, or the Tide detergent, which may or may not actually be better than the Costco brand? And does Simple Green work better because it's just stronger, and leaches out color, too? And is simple green really all envrironmentally healthy? Because if you accidentally inhale some, it makes your lungs feel like a superfund site.

I guess what we need is another housewife to swing by with a bundt cake and a bottle of the most definite best laundry product. If that is you, please let us know. We can provide a martini and many envious gazes. That Housewife X! Her laundry always looks fantastic!

June 24, 2007

More of the same

These two videos do not show any new skills, nor do they show Elliot's new proto-skill, which is making a gesture which might be the successful making of "up" sign--that is, poking up in the air with a pointed finger--or which might, less charmingly, be the only semi-successful picking of his nose.*

These videos don't show those things.

However, despite their redundancy and possibly irritating self-indulgence, we are posting them because this is our blog, dammit, and if we want to post reduntant and self-indulgent videos of our wee child, then YOU CAN'T STOP US.

They do show Elliot standing around casually in a nightgown (thanks Julia!), which is kind of new. The standing, not the nightgown. Anyway, it kind of knocks me out, how cute he is, which these videos document by including my enthusiastic maternal screetchings.

*Really, this whole signing thing is a little confusing. We've been somewhat half-hearted about the signing, because of the obvious reasons (I mean, really? infant sign language?), and also because an irritating number of signs involve two hands, and if you are the parent of an infant you never have two free hands. But we've persevered a little, because clearly it would be cool. And now this weekend, when we have made the up sign at Elliot he has several times seemed to make it back to us. We have both noticed this. But it's confusing because he also just likes to point, even when he does not think we are watching him, and also because he's definitely interested in "pointing" into his nostrils.

We'll see.

June 23, 2007

Things Elliot Likes: A partial list, in no particular order

1: His reflection in the dishwasher
2: Tearing leaves off a particular plant in the study
3: His new toy from Nancy, which involves whapping wooden balls through a wooden box
4: The cord on the kitchen telephone
5: Rolling a bottle around the kitchen floor, and chasing after it
6: The crazy toy roxanne lent us, which has lots of bells and whistles
7: Trying to pull himself up on my legs
8: His bath
9: Books with things to grab
10: Things that beep (particularly the phone and the remote control)
11: Chewing on keys
12: Cheerios
13: His rubber ducky
14: Ada

More News from the Front

"The Front," of course, being Elliot's gums. It seems they are currently doing...i dunno, battle, with a third upper tooth. Elliot is not happy about being felt up in his gum region, but we have confirmed that you can both see and feel glimpses of this third tooth, which is on his upper left.

I am at once thrilled at Elliot's tooth-getting precociousness and vaguely put out by his approaching assymetry. Three teeth on top! How odd. I guess we will just have to hope for a fourth soon.

In other news, this morning Elliot was puttering around and commenting on the world (he's very chatty) and said a series of sounds that sounded awfully like, "Zenidene...Zidane!" Wouldn't it be awesome if those were his first words? Our little futbol announcer.

June 22, 2007

Question about sizes

Elliot's age = 9.5 months.
Size = 9.5 months.

He's average size -- more of your middle-pack runner, Elliot is. Graham is another story. We're still waiting by the mailbox for Zutano hand-me-down pants from Graham, who is, let's review, TWO MONTHS YOUNGER.

The Most Uneventful Video in the World...

. . . .except for those who know it's the most awesome thing ever! "Fit audience though few," as Mr. Milton said.

June 21, 2007

"...Say Yeah!"

Friends, we are happy and we know it. Thus, we: CLAP OUR HANDS!!! That's right, Elliot has acquired another new significant skill: hand clapping. Thrillingly, B and I were both there when he clapped for the first time this afternoon. We were walking along and Elliot seemed to clap in an accidental yet extremely effective fashion: he made a loud CLAP. He paused. He smiled. And then burst into hysterically laughter, followed by more clapping, and then more laughing. Clapping and laughing. Clap clap clap.

We are very excited about this, since we've been trying to encourage clapping for a while now with no success. It's amazing how apt the song is: he quickly associated clapping with happiness. Later in the afternoon Elliot clapped again, when he saw me making another baby laugh. I would smooch the baby, she would laugh, and Elliot--on cue!--would burst into applause.

Later, when he was tired and fussy and knew that he was for sure not happy, there was nooo applause.

Not that the applause is very loud or even really audible; the clapping at this point is a little, how shall we say...short bus. Is that mean? I'm sorry. But it's the best description I can think of. But even if it is a little "special" it is extremely charming. I shall try and document it's awesomeness soon.

In other news, the weather is gorgeous and we have good friends with whom to enjoy it. Today, for the second day in a row, my neighborhood mamas and I got together to savor the day (yesterday we were joined by a papa and a Kati, which was also very lovely). We talked about: childcare, the fear of accidentally killing your child, environmental recovery scenarios, how gender affects parenting, union policy, the hypocrisy of supporting a pro-life agenda without also advocating for substantial changes to education and welfare laws, mormonism, and antebellum slave legislation. We also debating the merits of "corn" versus "sweet potato" gerber star puffs, and discussed whether spinach causes diaper rash. Needless to say, I clap my hands. To my life, I say, "yeah!"

June 19, 2007


Here's a post we wish we'd read on the internet sometime in the last 9 months. So we'll just write it for someone else to find.

Garage sales and hand-me-downs
The way to go!

Really nice baby clothes that are pretty expensive. Nice thick cottons that wash well and last a long time.

Nota bene: Gymboree sometimes has great sales on their website, as was pointed out to us by Whitney. I won't pay $26 for any garment for my baby, no matter how cute and clever the monkey embroidered on the front. However, $6.99 is another matter entirely.

There's a sale on right now, in fact, though it's pretty picked over.

Baby Gap
Mixed feelings about Baby Gap. We've only been in the store a few times, and we don't entirely like it. So many of the clothes seem to be based around the idea that it's really super fun to dress a baby like an adult. (Put them in jeans, for example. Tease their hair. Who knows.) In any case, we don't happen to share this idea. We like our baby to look like a baby.

That said, some of our all-time favorite baby clothes have come from Baby Gap -- things he has worn many, many times. Things that are cute and sturdy.

Old Navy
The cheaper version of Baby Gap, and the quality is not as good -- the fabric is thinner, and quicker to fade. Nonetheless, a couple of our favorite long-sleeve long-pant one-pieces are from Old Navy.

The prints come in fun colors, but the quality is questionable and not nearly worth the money. We've seen the fabric fade after only a few washings, and heard reports of same from others. The fit of the clothes can be weird. Even the snaps can be strange. (Yes, we have developed opinions on snaps.)

There's one caveat about Zutano: the socks are excellent. We toast their socks! All through the winter, Elliot constantly wore -- as you might imagine -- socks. And they were almost always Zutano socks, because they stay on. Simple!

Babies R Us
They have a lot of "outfits". We are scared of "outfits". We have mostly used them for buying onesies and basics. (Sleeping gowns, for example.)

The kindness of others
It might sound like we buy Elliot a lot of clothes, but it's not so -- there's just a lot of turnover. And a lot of washing. Plus, there's a whole team of people who always make sure that Elliot has enough -- of everything. Food, clothes, attention, entertainment, wishes, smiles. Our friends and family are good to us, and good to our boy.

June 17, 2007


Basically, we can't believe it. I know clever Anni has been playing peek-a-boo for a while now, but--even so, this is rocking our world.

And Elliot's too...when he first started playing, he was straight up belly laughing. Hysterics! He finds himself SO FUNNY! He is so funny. Nancy said, "Elliot, eventually you're going to have to stop laughing at your own jokes.

June 16, 2007

Extra Extra!

Elliot's top two teeth have broken through! One tooth more in than the other, but both there! Some fuzziness detected! Further updates as event warrant!

June 15, 2007


When I picked him up this morning, Elliot said, "aaaaa...Mama." He did! Then he said "aaaamagabala! brrrrrrr. ga! dadadadada." So I'm not taking the "mama" as a major accomplishment, but I do think it's a step in the right direction. "M" sounds a hard for bebes.

Elliot is starting to have little flecks of gold around the pupils of his eyes...which is beautiful, but which I confess to being a little bummed about. We Mesle's have all blue eyes, and my great hope for Elliot was that he'd get Harvey hair (which curls) and Mesle eyes. But it seems we're working more towards a hazelly blue, like Brandon's.

My Aunt Nan is here visiting right now, and it is so nice.

Sometimes when Elliot had been crying for a while, and then all of a sudden stops, I think it's sort of what it must have been like to be in the trenches, in WWI, with guns firing for so long, for what seems like forever, and then they stop, and it's quiet, but you don't know if it's because you've really won or if it's because they've just paused to reload and start firing again.

You can tell we are urban hippy parents, because we've decided we prefer the Whole Foods Organic Cheerios (for "Whole Kids!") to the trader joe's whole wheat organic ones. Even though we hate the "Whole Kids!" schtick.

The weather here is amazing. Sublime. I can't believe how ideal it is; it's like a fantasy of a summer day.

Apropos of nothing except the nice weather, here is a little video of Elliot and his neighbor friend, Gillian. Note that while Gillian holds her flower delicately, Elliot holds little red bits which were a flower, until he joyfully shredded them past recognition.

June 14, 2007

Yesterday's Elliot Cam

This little video features Elliot's new ability to leave a room when it no longer interests him. It still shocks me that he can do this. Last night before bed Elliot "crawled" from the bathroom to the front room, sat for a minute under Brandon's desk, and then went into the bedroom to see what was happening in there. And then he crawled around some more.

June 12, 2007

Addendum to Brandon's Observation that Elliot is Like a Rock Climber

So I was thinking about Elliot's ever-increasing motor skills yesterday as I myself...went rock climbing.* I had never been rock climbing before, but I had long wanted to and a friend of ours offered to let me tag along when he went yesterday (thanks Vincent!).

Anyway, here's the thing about rock climbing: it is really kind of frustrating. You're hanging there, on a vertical surface, with only precarious little nooks and crannies to hold on to. A lot of your time is spent figuring out what to do next, and a lot more of your time, if you're me, is spent being frustrated because you have figured out what to do next but aren't strong enough to do it. So you hang there, straining. Sometimes someone from down below says something encouraging, and that's nice, because you are working hard, and because it's a reminder that someone is watching you and you are safe. But they can't help you.

Which, I guess, is why it's so rewarding when you do figure it out and you do make your inchworm way up along that funny surface. You have figured it out, and you have made it happen. The moments of figuring it out--I had a few of them--are so pleasing. And then when you are done, whenever you decide that is, you swing free, and someone eases you safely down.

Which is to all to say: it seems like this really must be what it is like to be an infant. Everything new and precarious, every moment requiring your full attention.

It makes me a little jealous of Elliot, actually, though it also makes me appreciate how hard he is working. It seems he like must be living with such amazing intent. No wonder he laughs randomly, for what seems like no reason: he must be having a joyful moment of his mind and body working together to figure something out.

*O, people who know clumsy me, don't worry. This was very safe rock climbing, on a wall, with lots of ropes and harnesses and safety precautions. About the worst you can do is bang your knee--which, of course, I did.

June 10, 2007

Living Room

We adults sit on the couch, or on a chair, or on the floor in our living room. We pose our limbs however we like. We enjoy beverages and edibles, and converse amongst ourselves.

Meanwhile, very near by, a smaller person has to grunt and moan his way through the most grueling displays of physical prowess that he can muster, day in and day out. Where we come to relax, he comes to do battle: against gravity, against leverage, against mass, against his own nervous system. It's sort of strange to be sharing a space with someone going through something like this.

Six weeks ago, he would be spread-eagled on the floor, panting and rolling his eyes like a wild horse from the effort of trying to, say, pivot his left arm downwards toward the side of his body so he could roll over. At some point, he figured out how to manage that trick -- and many other tricks besides.

And now the game has moved to a whole other level; he tells me he's thinking more about this "standing" thing, and he wants to try it. But then he interrupts himself to spend a while prying up the rug -- which he's sitting on -- to see what's underneath. After a while, he turns back to me -- but he's forgotten what he was saying again.

I'm always so impressed by the elasticity of his mind and the depths of his good nature, to cope with such futility and struggle, so constantly.

I said to Sarah, it's as though we were sitting in lawn chairs at the top of a sheer rock face thousand feet high, while one of our friends free-climbed it. We murmur encouragements, we lower down a (sippy) cup of water -- what else can we do? Like the sad songs say, Elliot has to walk that lonesome valley by himself. But fortunately, he's not the least bit sad about it.