March 27, 2007


There's an artist in Utah named Leia Bell whose work we like. She does, among other things, posters for indie rock shows in Salt Lake City.

In this case, Elliot is the indie rock show.

March 23, 2007

What We Are Called

I sympathize heavily with baby boomers who don't want to be called "Grandma" and "Grandpa". You're still young, baby boomers. And very spry. Those names do not befit you.

S-side grandparents: Mimi and Baba. Barbara says she might have liked to be Nana or something similar, but this was precluded by her sister Nancy's being Nancy, aka, Nan. As for Bob, he started answering to the name "Baba" when he went to China last year. Apparently the Chinese found the final consonantal "b" sound hard to manage. When he came home, and told Barb about it, she suggested that "Baba" would be a good grandparent name, especially since it might be the first thing Elliot would be able to say.

B-side grandparents: Nana (or Nanny) and Grandad. Nanny and Grandad were the names of my English grandparents, Peter's parents. I'm not sure just how they came about; they were settled on before I came on the scene, by my first cousin in England who is five years older than me. Peter has simply inherited the Grandad title -- or maybe we gave it to him. (Some are born to Grandad, some achieve Grandad, and some have Grandad thrust upon em.) Launa seems to be pushing for Nana instead of Nanny -- but it's not clear yet if that will stick. Everybody keeps saying "Nanny" by accident.

Nanny/Nana's mother (who, to me, is Grandma): we made her a Tshirt that said "Great-Grandma", but that seems so ponderous and impersonal to me now. Grandma's actual name is Juanna (the feminine form of Juan), and it occurred to me that this makes a fine title, too: Elliot, meet your Juanna.

So what does that make us? For the moment, Sarah is Mama. And I suppose I may end up as plain old Dad, but mostly so far we've been using a Welsh appellation that fell to hand (it was lying around partly because my own Nanny and Grandad lived in Wales for many years...): Da.

We'll post soon about Elliot's other great-grandparents . . . he has FOUR. (I think I had one.)

Shape of a Mother

So, I am getting some exercise! A little. A few things have helped prod me from my postpartum inertia. The weather is warmer. My back is doing poorly, and I know that if I don't start taking better care of my mid-section muscles it will only get worse. And also, we've got about twenty-seven weddings to go to this summer and I want...what?

Here's the kicker, friends. I kinda want to look as though I did not just have a baby.

Now. I know that I had just been sorting through some ambivalence about parenthood. That's true. But it's also true that my pregnancy and labor are on the very short list of things in my life that I am really proud of: I just did my best, and I did pretty well. I paid attention to myself, did a good job of taking care of myself while also being open to the newness of it all. I wanted to feel, as Sharon Olds has written, that I was accomplishing an "exceptional act." And I did feel that way.

And yet, here I am on the other side, with a vague sense that my job now is to erase the experience of pregnancy from my body. The softness, the excess: that all needs to go. I was thinking about this while I was jogging today, and about how I wouldn't really be comfortable outside in just a sports top, now. I have these little rolls that seem inappropriate to display. I still have my linea negra. Who wants to see that? Who wants to show it?

It strikes me also that women, postpartum, are stuck in a weird double-bind. We still feel the pressures of beauty that effect all women. I think there's an attitude--I know I felt this, earlier in life--that if a woman changed too much during pregnancy, it was somehow her fault, like she was lazy or something. Why didn't she avoid those stretch marks? Those extra pounds? As though either of those things, at base, could be avoided: stretch marks particularly, I've learned, are basically genetics, and there's not much you can do about them.

But at the same time, we live in a world (at least, I do) that looks down a bit on mothers who spend too much time worrying about appearance. I myself have taken part in many a conversation making fun of Evanston (an affluent suburb where I go to school) "jogging stroller moms," and the way their jogging displays their privilege (what a gift! to have a baby, and also have the time and energy to jog) and also, somehow, their superficiality (they have a baby! Why should they be worrying so much about their appearance?). It's like they're all some new "Desperate Housewives" characters we can love to hate.

So here I am. I'm not saying that the lesson to learn is that women should not exercise, or not feel entitled and encouraged to reclaim a sense of their own beauty, or not feel attached to a vision of themselves in their prematernal form.

But I guess I do think it's a shame that the solution to the double-bind of post-partum life that most women take is to cover up. If our bodies have changed, we hide them. We throw away the bikinis, and we look at our stretch marks in the mirror, and--I suspect--we spend a lot of time feeling ashamed, and embarrassed.

I don't know if it's totally reasonable to hope for us to feel proud of these changes, though I like that idea: I like the idea that we could see our postpartum bodies as bearing tattoos, or battlescars, or tribal markings. As signs of the fact that we have done something good, rather than signs of our failure--our imagined physical neglect.

But I would like it if at least if we could all realize that we were normal. And to that end, I would like to recommend the photos and experiences captured here:

It's a little shocking, and then, it's a little shocking that it's so shocking. It's like women's bodies all around us have been living these secret lives.

I still totally want to look hot around all my college friends at all these weddings. It is true. But I guess I also hope that, at least secretly, I can get to a place where, when I look at the mirror, I honestly feel more accomplished than ashamed.

(with thanks to whitney who sent me this website several months ago, while we were discussing our movement into what she described as a "lumpy but loving" tribe.)

March 20, 2007

A New Friend!

I have no details about this, but I have good news: we have a new friend! A boy, named Grant, made whole and new by my friends Katy and Darrin. He weighs 8 lbs.

I am thrilled about this for all the reasons you might expect, but also because I had never before realized that the name "Grant" falls into a name category which, as a big nerdy nerd, I love: the name that is both a verb and a noun (two other examples being "Mark" and "Will"). As both a noun and a verb, "Grant" means something good and welcome and generous, and I am just so glad that I will get to know for always this new Grant in my life.


The State of Things

I was thinking the other day about a comment Amy E made few posts back; regarding my ambivalence about baby messiness she pointed out that "it could be worse." Which is totally, completely true, and you realize this the minute you have a baby. There are a million things that you are suffering and a million things about which you are worrying, and yet you say to yourself: "Wow. It could be worse." You could be a single parent with six kids. You could have a baby in the NICU. You could have an even younger baby in the NICU. You could live on the sixth floor with no elevator instead of just the third floor with no elevator. I find myself completely overwhelmed by all the amazing things that parents do, just because they have to. Never am I so amazed by other people as when I'm getting the baby and the dog and six bags of groceries up to our third-story condo, and think to myself " People do this with babies AND two-year-olds. AT THE SAME TIME."

What strikes me most is that, really, we could hardly have it better. True, we have lots of stairs. But we also have streaming afternoon sun. We have this completely amazing, happy, healthy baby. We like each other so much. We like our work, and our dog, and our city, and our condo by the lake, and our neighbors, and our amazingly supportive friends, and our families near and far. As our life shifts from the world of potentials--potential children, potential careers, potential homes--to the world of the real, the here and now, I think, everyday: I am so lucky. I think, in my secular way, that we are so blessed.

And yet! And yet. What's interesting, and hard to communicate, is that in the midst of our incredible good fortune, we are working so very hard. There's so much to do, and it's so difficult to negotiate the differences between all we've come to know and like about ourselves in the last thirty years and the reality of what our lives are like now. The other morning Brandon and I were standing in the kitchen, feeding Elliot--our gorgeous sweet child--his cereal, and I just felt myself buckling. "I don't know how it's all going to happen," I said. "How are we going to do this?"

"This" here being a nebulous diectic, pointing variously to my dissertation, our careers, our interests in art and music and conversation, our need to exercise, both of our deep needs for freedom and time alone. Who are we without these things? Who are we without the ability to privilege them, honor them with the commitment of our time? And yet, who would we be if we didn't put them all at least a little to the side, acknowledging that Elliot needs us and deserves us, and that an intense commitment to family is our one priority that has not changed.

I think about our life, and our son, and all those people who are navigating the world under even harder circumstances. I feel a bit like Miranda on her island, looking for the first time at a future she didn't know had existed. "What a brave new world that has such people in't!" she said, in wonder and exaltation and fear. I suppose what we were learning is that we thought we knew something of the challenges of life. We thought we understood about ambition, and sleepness nights, and all of that. But instead, this is it, this new negotiation. All those people who have it "worse" than us, this is what they are teaching us: you can do more than you ever dared to imagine. It will just be--you will be--very very different than you thought.

March 19, 2007

Travelling Man

We took Elliot on a trip to D.C. and Charlottesville, VA this past weekend. (Sarah delivered another paper at another conference -- her third scholar-as-mother appearance so far. I feel like a roadie.) But we realized that maybe the golden age of travelling with the infant Elliot has now passed. It's not that's he wasn't charming, friendly, and a babe magnet -- he continued to be all of those things -- but his delicate sleep schedule sort of fell apart under the strain. A couple of Sarah-quotes from the weekend.

"Apparently he's old enough now to have an apple cart. And we've upset it."

"I was singing him a lullaby, but I got so tired I just stopped halfway through."

We might travel with Elliot again when he's . . .oh, I don't know . . . 4.

March 14, 2007

In which the lyrics to 60s/70s soul music continues to express our state of mind

This morning we were dancing around the kitchen to Diana Ross (why were we listening to Diana Ross? Michelle and Roxanne know!) and I had another moment of the lyrical uncanny: "Upside down/ Boy, you turn me/Inside out/And round and round/ ...As long as the sun continues to shine /Theres a place in my heart for you /That's the bottomline!" I dunno, folks: somehow, the frantic perkiness of it all really expresses the zaniness of new parenthood.

(We ignored the line about how "i'm aware that you're cheating" because, whatever.)

Anyway, it was awesome and Elliot was all into it. We have a baby book that claims that "babies prefer classical music,"* but our boy, I'm happy to say, likes to dance.

On a totally different note: everyone send good thoughts to my friend Katy who's bebe is due TODAY. Katy, we love you and your baby! We are thinking of you! You are going to be a rockstar mama!


*The whole baby "prefers classical music" thing totally offends me. Not that I have anything against classical music, but it's sort of like saying "babies prefer to be upper middle class and of european descent." Plus, like, what do they mean? It's not like Elliot is going to find Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" any less jarring than Ludacris' "Roll Out."

March 12, 2007


Our daily schedule keeps changing as we adapt to this evolving quicksilver of a plum. Here is a snapshot of a day. (Tip of the cap to Ames.)

6 am - 9 am: I get up with Elliot in the 5:30 to 6:30 range. Sarah, who has been up dealing with one or two night feedings, catches up on sleep for a while. Sometimes if I'm tired I'll lay on the couch in his room and let him loll around on my stomach and chatter at me, or chew on some plastic rings, until and unless he gets bored of it all.

When I'm awake enough to have sharp reflexes (this may need some P.G. Tips tea), I enter into the delicate operation of feeding Elliot some baby food (current roster: sweet potatoes (homemade by Roxanne), green beans (homemade by me), prunes (Gerber), peas (Gerber), carrots (Gerber)). Maybe a little rice cereal, mashed in with a tip of a banana, thinned with a little bit of milk (homemade by Sarah). Feeding this stuff in the morning is new this week. It's part of an attempt to provide him with a concentrated burst of calories right before and right after his sleeping hours. The theory, put forth by our pediatrician, is that this is how you extricate yourself, over time, from those troublesome 3 AM feedings. We'll see.

I spend time talking with him and playing with him, or if he's in a tranquil mood, I'll let him sit in his pink chair and do experiments on something crinkly -- perhaps a loaf of bread in its plastic or paper wrapper. His mentality -- the pure mindedness and mental appetite of him -- is now such that while you're dealing with him, it's become very tough -- or maybe just unrewarding -- to try to accomplish other things such as cook, do email, or sweep the floor. So I stick close & don't do a whole lot else. On Fridays, I might try to sneak a look at the paper.

After a while, I take my shower while he bounces in his chair in the bathroom and enjoys the racket and the steam. Elliot is someone who respects a big noise. There's an English expression, dunno where it came from: "Well, aren't you a big noise!" It's to be said drily, in mock appreciation of someone's real or imagined importance. But it's funny how literally Elliot takes the fact that we are the Big Noise around here. Accidentally drop a pan to the floor, and he's unafraid; but you'll see his gaze locked on it. He won't look away.

He sits in his chair and babbles and wheezes, and cheeps and chirps. When he chooses to say something syllabic, like "ba ba ba", I make a point of turning around, sticking my head out, and repeating the syllables to him, in the form of a Big (Fun) Noise. That always gets a good reaction.

Sarah tends start her work day somewhere in the morning time frame, if she can. She also goes out with Ada to stretch legs. (Perhaps Elliot and I will take part in this someday, when spring comes.)

After my shower, Sarah nurses him, and sometimes this leads to a quick morning nap for him. While she is nursing, I make us all a smoothie with plain whole milk yogurt, a mess of berries, and two eggs. That's my new, simplified smoothie recipe. Yes, Virginia, they are raw eggs, but we get the pre-pasteurized kind for this purpose. It's a step both Sarah and I think is basically unnecessary (gob knows we've both eaten enough cookie dough and brownie batter in our lives to float a battleship, and lived to tell the tale). But there's something to be said for not having to think about it.

9 - 9:30 am: I get him and myself ready for work. I try to take point on dressing the boy, out of a mutual agreement. I get to avoid some gender cliches by actually making choices about what he wears. Sarah gets to avoid some gender cliches of her own, and it saves her time and mental energy. We both make out well.

We leave the house and I walk him to May's house, where he dwells til 2:30, when Sarah picks him up. I catch the train to work. (If it's really cold (single digits, low teens), Sarah gives us a ride to May's and then drops me at the train.)

In the afternoon, Sarah and Elliot hang out and get each other's undivided attention.

6:10 pm: I get home from work, have a little reunion party with Ada, and catch up with Elliot and Sarah. We feed him more baby food, then give him a bath to clean up the mess. Sarah and I eat some hummus and crackers, or maybe have some wine.

7:30 pm: Sarah nurses him, gives him some lotion on his little body, sings to him, reads him Goodnight Moon (which she has memorized and to which I believe she is addicted), and puts him to bed. He's still awake when she leaves the room, or at least that's what we shoot for. He settles himself down, and at some point he falls asleep. If there is trouble, it my job to go in and calm him back down.

Somewhere in here, we've started making our dinner. Sometimes we try to eat it while Elliot is resting between courses. Other times, we eat after he's in bed.

8 - 9:30 pm: We finish cooking, and then eat our dinner, and then clean up. Then do any outstanding household chores. Also in here: processing photos, uploading them, blogging, email, phone contact with family and friends, pay bills, watch John Stewart, watch Grey's Anatomy, etc.

9:30 pm: I walk the pooch, who deserves some exercise. Unless I beg Sarah to do it for some reason.

10:00 pm: Bed.


P.S. T.H. we miss you! Where art thou?

Elliot + Food

Sarah's pensive comment, as we walked down the street yesterday: "It's going to get messier before it gets cleaner, isn't it?" I suppose so.

March 11, 2007

The part of the movie where everyone's happy

This afternoon was perfect and sunny and the first day that might, maybe, have been considered spring. Brandon's folks were here, and we had a lazy morning lounging, brunching, making poundcake, eating too many donuts, etc. Later, as the afternoon sun streamed into our kitchen and sunroom, I stood out on the porch talking to a medley of neighbors, all of us leaning over the railings on our different landings. Michelle said, "it feels like Sesame Street out here," and someone started singing "who are the people in your neighborhood?" and we all laughed.

I came inside. I put some frosting on a graham cracker, which is pretty much the world's most perfect food, and put the soundtrack to the Big Chill on the stereo. And somehow a minute later I was holding Elliot, eating my snack, singing along to the lyrics: "Tell him that you're never gonna leave him/ Tell him that you're always gonna love him/Tell him, tell him, tell him, tell him right now." And I just thought: if my life were a movie, this would be the part they would show in the preview so that everyone knew, even without knowing what might happen later, my life was good.

March 09, 2007

Before and Now

When we first took Elliot to the pediatrician, when he was a very tiny five days old, we had to wait for him to be weighed. He was in line behind A HUGE CHILD. HUGE! This child was six months old, and we shockedly referred to him for months as "that monster six month old"--neither one of us could believe that that tremendous creature could have any thing to do with our little baby. Elliot, despite his tinyness, seemed so reasonable to us. So right sized. Why would anyone have a baby that was so crazy and huge?*

Elliot is still a little guy (we often refer to him as "our nice little guy"), only in the 25%ile of weight for his age. But he is indeed a lively six month old, a completely different creature than himself as a newborn.

As evidence, here is his first scale photo, at about half an hour old:

And here is a photo of him on Thursday.

He is very sweet for a monster.

*I was just reading on my friend Roxanne's blog (see sidebar) that she had very much the same response to seeing their first post-baby six-month old. I guess there's something about the comparative scale of infants that you can't really understand until you understand.

brandon makes some points

it is late; brandon is driving to the airport. He's talking to me on the phone. He's saying:

"Tonight I fed Elliot sweet potato goo for the first time. I'm just very impressed with his mouth. It's the most capable part of him. It's the only part of him that I can coordinate with. The way he can open and close his mouth at the right's outrageous."

"His hands play him false. He has to work so hard at them; his depth perception is so poor. But when he gets something in his mouth? It's like [insert munching noise here] No problem."

Morning is the New Evening

It is Friday night, nearing nine pm. And it's interesting to me that it feels completely reasonable--even normal--that I am slowing down, heading toward bed. As recently as last month, on Friday nights Brandon and I would look at each other and say: Well! What shall we do tonight? And we might have actually done something! We have nice friends, and an easy-going wasn't that hard to go out to dinner, or go visiting, or whatever. But now? We don't do that. Our plum is still easygoing, but he is no longer portable. In the evening, he goes tobed. In his bed.

I don't know how long this phase of parenting will last, but in it...Elliot doesn't really go out in the evening. And he doesn't usually sleep in past six; often he is up around five. Which means that we can't really go to bed too late, either, if we want to get any sort of rest. So we stay home. We have quiet, padding-around-the-house time after he goes to bed. And we go to bed ourselves not much later.

All of which is to say: Morning is the New Evening! When we get up at 5, we are really ready to start are day by eight or so. We lament that all sorts of places don't open until 10 am. We search for morning adventures! Last Saturday, we were up and out and the proud owners of a new membership to the art institute by 9:30 or so. We go grocery shopping at eight and host brunch at 10:30. We make french toast. We beat the traffic. We embark. We Greet the Day.

March 07, 2007

What I'm doing now that football season is over

Well, I mean, I'm doing lots of things: when you are left home alone with a baby for two weeks, you do lots of things. One fairly legitimate thing I've been doing lately is reading a ton of history stuff, and I am learning so much: did you know that in 1824 the newly-formed state of Illinois almost voted to legalize slavery? Right here in the land of Lincoln, people. It is shocking, and very interesting.

But, okay, so I'm reading a lot, and changing lots of diapers, and enjoying the ever-changing plum, and etc. However, none of these things replace football as a teevee-watching time suck. What I am now doing is watching a lot of: American Idol.

I am so not proud of this.

Last night I actually had a dream in which all the cast members of Gray's Anatomy were the contestants on American Idol, and Meredith was wearing a horrible sweater and Simon was mean to her. Can you believe this? Brandon says, dubiously, "maybe you are just really interested in judgement." Like it's just some weird perversion of my otherwise-useful critical faculty. And yeah, I guess I am interested in judgement, but mostly I'm just interested in gossip. Oy.

I like all the girls except for the obvious loosers, and find myself vascillating between Chris and Blake as a preferred boy. If Sanjaya doesn't get voted off finally this week, I will be truly a little bothered.

Anyway, in other news, our small boy turned six months old today! He is now one-half. And so amazing. We took a bunch of photos to commemorate the occasion, and will provide a full update tomorrow after his check-up.

March 02, 2007

Thank-You Cam

Brandon is coming home today! And it seems like, unlike his trip to Bangalore, which included an accidental side trip to Singapore (for real; United sent him to Singapore. why? because United likes to say, Why not? Why not make an extra little trip to a whole different part of the sub-continent?), Brandon is actually making a more or less direct trip home. So unless O'Hare screws something up, which it very well might...he'll be home within a few hours.

Which is a huge relief, of course. But I find myself actually doing much better than I expected to be doing by this point: I'm excited to see Brandon, but I am actually doing okay. And what has made me feel okay, I realize, is an absolutely overwhelming in flux of nice people. Truly, I am just a little blown away by how good everyone has been to me. People have come out of the woodwork to make me dinner, hang out with Elliot, walk the dog, hang out with me, discuss the nuances of bad grey's anatomy episodes: people have made so many offers to do nice things that I have actually had to turn some of them down.

As Hillary would say, it takes a village. I am incredibly incredibly grateful that I have one.