Shameless product placement

This morning, as most mornings, Charlie woke up hungry, smacking his lips and sticking out his tongue expectantly. I hurried downstairs, boy in one arm, and fetched an Avent bottle (sterilized, of course, as we are fastidious people). Back upstairs, I placed the bottle in the warmer. I unwound Charlie's flannel receiving blanket and peeled him out of his Halo sleep sack and his onesie, then lay him on the changing table pad, topped by its soft terrycloth cover, and began to change his diaper.

Last night's onesie went into the hamper. The old diaper went into the Diaper Champ. A fresh and toasty wipe was removed from the wipes warmer and pressed into service. I was able to deploy the new diaper at my leisure thanks to Charlie's stylish new Wee Blocks. (The Butt Paste was considered but deemed unnecessary, as the bottom in question is currently unafflicted.)

A sponge bath, then, since there was no time for a long wash in the infant tub with baby washcloths and a warm hooded towel. Next, a clean onesie. (Alas, he is too small yet for the one that reads, "I was worth the wait," but, oh, he is, he is.) And then the appetizing warm bottle, in tandem with the burp cloth.

Paul fed Charlie while I dutifully pumped, a task made much more endurable with a copious slathering of nipple cream. Then I crept in and applied the little tiny clippers and little tiny emery boards to Charlie's razor-sharp talons while he was distracted by breakfast.

After the mandatory burp, I finished dressing Charlie. I put him in a warm suit, since it's -10° out today. I am proud to report that he has graduated from some of his preemie clothes into newborn size and can now wear several adorable new outfits with signal flair. Booties and a hat completed his dashing ensemble (if a baby who's wearing a bunny suit could be said to be dashing).

Then it was time to bundle Charlie into his newly warm and fuzzy car seat for the drive to see — yes — the lactation consultant. Charlie charmed the pants off the consultant (and the bra off his mother) and performed beautifully. Full marks, kiddo.

Back at home, I eased him down onto the custom fitted sheet of his Pack and Play for his post-lunch nap, covering him with his fleece cloud blanket. Later, if he is very well behaved and doesn't give me any lip when we practice breastfeeding, he will have his first ride in the swing. And then perhaps a stirring reading from that dramatic classic, Goodnight Moon. After that, Paul and I will probably kick back with a movie, courtesy of the Netflix gift subscription — one with swear words, since they seem to comfort Charlie like nothing else. (I imagine he heard them often enough in utero.)

If I haven't mentioned your gift here, it's not for want of appreciation, I assure you. We're still opening boxes and exclaiming over your generosity, enjoying many presents immediately and setting others aside for later. We can't wait to use the baby gym, for example, but he's too little just now. We're looking forward to setting up his crib with the luxe new bedding, though his crib is still being built by my father. Tomorrow we're taking him to the pediatrician and the sling will go with us — I'm eager to use it but want to be sure his neck muscles are equal to the task. And as much as I might like to take Charlie's temperature a hundred times a day with the quick-read digital thermometer, it probably wouldn't be kind to do it until he's actually, you know, awake. The Target cards will most likely be spent on a dresser for Charlie's room, so that I'll have a place to store all his beautiful new belongings, and the PayPal donations will probably go for a series of infant massage, especially beneficial for preemies who need to be reminded that touch can be warm and soothing instead of clinical, pointy and painful. (Either that or hookers and smack or — I haven't decided yet.)

Paul and I are so grateful. Your kindness allowed us to set up housekeeping with Charlie immediately, instead of being faced with the impossible task of shopping once we'd returned home. You relieved us of a tremendous burden, letting us settle in comfortably and spend our time making Charlie welcome. This was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.

We are just so very grateful.

(Note: A few gifts arrived without any indication of who sent them. If you sent a sling or a bath kit with many potions and unguents in a snappy plastic case, can you please let me know in e-mail? I would like to be able to thank you personally.)


A special shout-out to Abby, who sent a picture of herself with the blanket she made for Project Linus. She kindly gave me permission to post this picture on the condition that it be accompanied by a disclaimer about her hair. I personally think her hair looks fine. Don't you?

If you've made a blanket, too, please consider sending a picture. I promise to embarrass you with it later.


Welcome, Hannah Eilene! You are already fiercely loved by your mother's friends inside the computer, as evidenced by the shower that's been masterminded by the magnificent Shelba, at a site designed by the excellent AndreaH.

Many, many congratulations to Julia and family. May blogland's baby boom continue.

02:39 PM in You can pick your friends... | Permalink | Comments (19)


Why, this blog practically writes itself!

Seems like lately I've seen a lot of posts asking readers for their input — you know, polls, surveys, requests for advice, that kind of thing. As I'm always one to hop on a bandwagon as long as I don't have to sit next to the stinky guy, I thought I'd turn to you all to help me solve these pressing problems I am currently facing.

Plus, you know, I work hard, damn hard, writing these posts, making it all nice for you and your friends, going out of my way to put on a touch of lipstick and a clean frock when you come home at the end of a long day at the office...

So you do the work today. I would appreciate it if you would answer one of the following questions:

  1. Where can I find a short-sleeved V-neck T-shirt that will accommodate, not to say showcase, my opulent rack?

    Friends, at 20 weeks postpartum I am still wearing my maternity T-shirts. Pride compels me to assure you that they're the kind of shirt designed to sheath the pregnant body in a sausagey Lycra casing, and not the kind modeled after a circus tent, so they do not in fact swirl around my waist exactly like the hoop skirt of antebellum ballgown — only sort of. Still, I feel decidedly sheepish wearing them when I'm back in my pre-pregnancy pants.

    But my pre-pregnancy T-shirts no longer fit in the bust. What I need is a T-shirt that houses my majestic prow without creating an unsightly pucker across same. As long as we're going with the ship metaphor, it must also taper neatly at the waist instead of billowing freely like the topgallant of a three-masted schooner in the gale of high seas. Gap and Ann Taylor: great for waist, lousy for bust. Old Navy: generally a little cheaper-looking than I like. Eddie Bauer: tends toward the boxy. American Apparel: hahahahahahahahaha ohhhhh.

    Think shapely, not boxy; tailored, not sloppy; black or just possibly gray, not festooned with rhinestones and kittens, please.

  2. What kind of stroller should we buy?

    It should be reasonably sturdy, with wheels that can negotiate a packed but unpaved path through a wooded park. It should not be so heavy that I can't push it up a steep hill while laden with approximately twenty pounds of baby without expiring from exertion. And above all, it should have handles that are long enough to be comfortably used by someone tall — adjustable, perhaps. Finally, it should corner like it's on rails, get at least 35 MPG/highway, have a handy cupholder, a 10-disc CD changer, a place to hang a pungent Little Tree air freshener, and a prominent expanse to display my bumper sticker that reads </bush>.

  3. What should I serve for dinner this weekend?

    Due to the impressive array of food sensitivities our guests carry, these foods are forbidden:

    • wheat gluten in any form
    • aged cheeses, including cheddar and parmesan
    • chocolate
    • nuts
    • caffeine
    • any kind of food dye
    • any kind of soy-based item

    Due to Paul's sister's selective vegetarianism, I also must not serve:

    • meat

    ...unless it is the meat of a

    • fish

    ...which I do

    • not

    particularly care for.

    Finally, due to the immoderate enthusiasm of one of our guests, I should probably not serve:

    • booze

    ...though I cannot swear I will not slip away to guzzle some on the sly in the:

    • pantry
    • half-bath
    • coat closet
    • little warren I've created in the basement within a teetering pile of suitcases

    Anyway, my current dinner menu includes a can of tuna, some iffy off-brand mayonnaise, a handful of stale rice crackers, and the banana that is slowly blackening on the end of my kitchen island.

    Do you think that will stretch to serve twelve?

  4. Does this post strike you as sort of...well...lazy?

    Yeah, me, too. I'm sorry and embarrassed. Really. The shame overwhelms me. I'm going to crawl into my dark little den of luggage now. If you need me, you can find me licking the inside of the soft-sided cooler that still smells of coconut rum, eight years after that trip to the Bahamas.

Thank you in advance for your comments, which will pick up the slack and make it possible for me to enjoy some quality me-time. I'll check back once I've run out of intoxicating residue or when I get my tongue caught in a zipper, whichever comes first.

08:33 PM in You can pick your friends... | Permalink | Comments (144)


The nuns on this blog are decent, I tell you

K. writes:

I have a dear, dear friend who is just a few weeks pregnant after her fourth in vitro. She had a hint of cervical cancer (bad Paps) in her early 30s, so it's a miracle she even has this chance...she's nearly 40 now.

Anyway, I really want to send her flowers, but am afraid I don't  dare...just in case.  How about a plant that says: "Here's something to mark this wonderful time in your life. May it grow strong for you along with your other project!"

But what if she loses her baby?!?!?!?!?!?!? I made a mistake once when a good friend who already had two kids got pregnant again. I took her a beautiful flowering plant with three big blooms on it. She was happy about it and liked it but then she lost the baby a couple of weeks later.

Maybe you could ask your readers for me. Help.

Okay, here's what I think. I think you should send flowers. I also think you should send a box of chocolates, a flock of doves, a singing telegram, a big brass band, a squadron of Shriners riding little teeny cars in speedy figure eights, and a gleaming new Mercedes with one of those giant shiny red bows atop it.

Come to think of it, a pizza might not go amiss, either.

I think it's right and fitting to celebrate this beginning with your friend. Sure, her pregnancy could fail — we're none of us immune — but I don't think that awareness should keep you from showing you share her hopes. I suspect at 39 with four IVFs under her belt, your friend has enough misgivings to go around, so I don't think yours should stop you from acknowledging the joy that comes with them.

I'm sure some would suggest that you'd want to be measured in your enthusiasm, that you should take your cue from the way your friend behaves about it. But I know I was grateful to the friends who embraced my pregnancies fully, even as they were failing, even as I warned them not to get all that excited. And if I'm honest, I'll admit that I felt a great disappointment in friends who hesitated to get happy, as if they thought a pregnancy was already doomed just because it was mine.

I can't say this for sure, but if you asked your other friend whether she regretted getting flowers from you before she miscarried, I bet she would say no.

Friends, infertiles, mothers, mothers-to-be, miscarriers, misanthropes, perverts searching unsuccessfully for "no crotch panty nun": what do you think?

03:38 PM in You can pick your friends... | Permalink | Comments (47)


When you write about Boston, and you will, be kind.

To Julia's account of our Boston weekend, I would like to contribute some specifics.

But first, if you offered suggestions on what we might do while we were in town, I thank you. If you offered to meet us and show us the sights in person, I thank you and wish we had accepted. You, however, should thank your lucky motherfucking stars, because Boston had it in for us, and I can't promise you would have emerged unscathed.


4:30 PM. I arrive at South Station brimming with excitement and verve. I exuberantly toss my stylish tam-o'-shanter in the air. Full of fresh-faced pioneerism, undaunted by the weight of my suitcase and undeterred by the dangerous clink of the liquor bottles within, I decide to take the subway to our hotel instead of a cab.

5:15 PM. Eleven flights of stairs and fourteen thousand lurching steps later, I arrive at the hotel, panting, sweating, and in possession of several brand-new blisters on my dainty doll-like feet. I note with approval the convenient proximity to "Boston's Home for Erotic Cakes, Sweets, and Novelties." I check in, go up to our suite, and immediately mark my territory by rubbing my scent glands on every obvious protuberance urinating copiously in a corner arranging the liquor bottles just so on top of the TV.

5:45 PM. A knock on the door heralds the arrival of Julia. I greet her seductively at the door swathed only in Saran Wrap, Marabel Morgan-style. I remember my mangy patches of unsightly freezer burn too late to conceal them. "Do not," she tells me through gritted teeth, "even mention the baseball game."

6:00 PM. We sally forth in a quest Spring, Emily, and Anne swore we would not regret: the quest for a chacarero.

6:55 PM. After a cab driver who did not know where Filene's was and politely suggested we get out of his car; a hotel valet who directed us not to Filene's but to Lord and Taylor; a long walk and some wrong turns; and a confusing set of directions from a woman who appeared to be sending us to South America to get an authentic Chilean sandwich, we do, in fact, regret our quest.

7:45 PM. The search for a restaurant that serves an appropriate caliber of both food and liquor finds us finally at a steakhouse. Our waiter repeatedly rests his hands on the back of Julia's chair and vibrates aggressively. "You've been Magic Fingered," I tell her solemnly. She brains me with a half-empty wine bottle, carefully, so as not to spill a single drop.

9:00 PM. I stand at the end of the meal, and quickly realize there is no way I'm making it anywhere on foot. My blisters have blossomed into weeping open sores, and with every step my shoes seem to tighten even further. I hobble to the door; outside the restaurant I immediately whip off my shoes. Barefoot, I tread carefully back to the hotel. I do not step on any glass or used needles, and, having dodged those more alarming hazards, I shove to the back of my mind my mild apprehension about stepping into a pool of, you know, urine or the dripping clap.

9:30 PM. I take the only photo of the weekend, a close-up of my chewed and bloody heel. Replacing my shredded Band-Aids with new ones, donning a different pair of shoes, and taking a strictly medicinal belt from my travel-sized bottle of vodka, I am once again ready to take on the town.

10:00 PM. No more than pleasantly tipsy, we arrive at Jacob Wirth's, as Cris suggested, to humiliate ourselves at the promised drunken piano bar sing-along. Upon entering, we notice two unsettling things: the lights are all on, and the liquor bottles have been carefully covered with a drift of Saran Wrap, Marabel Morgan-style. Julia wonders aloud if they've stopped serving. Nonsense, I opine, insisting that the booze has simply been carefully wrapped to keep it fresh and moist.

10:02 PM. Julia was right. We leave in high dudgeon — what kind of bar...? — unable to believe — ...ten o'clock?! — that they expected us to stay there and sing in public unobscured by darkness and sober. I try not to let my disappointment show, but in fact it did cost me great effort to memorize the lyrics to "Wildfire" and I am devastated not to be able to strut my pony-chasin' stuff.

11:00 PM. After Julia charms the figurative pants off a stern-looking bouncer outside a club we are far too matronly to enter — sorry, a club I am far too matronly to enter — we learn that there's a bar just a block down the street that is "grungy." That is more my speed, and as Julia genteelly nurses a beer I bolt down more vodka, barely pausing to chew it.

12:00 AM: We agree it is time to return to our hotel, where we may don our nighties, tuck up our hair in pin curls, and engage in a rollicking pillow fight. Or alternatively, we might put on baggy sweats, drink everything in the suite but the mouthwash, and talk. And talk. About everyone we know and many we don't. (Yes, whoever you are, we talk about you.) Which we do until 3:30.

After I tell her a story, Julia accuses me in a bored drawl of sucking all the life out of it. I attempt to beat her mercilessly with an empty bottle, but since it is a Lilliputian bottle from the mini-bar, I succeed in delivering only very small bruises and the most adorable wee tiny skull fracture. In revenge, Julia offers me a mint, into which I bite unwittingly; she cackles like a...um, great cackling thing as minty confectionery semen runs down my chin.

Since every great evening should end with either a drunken brawl or someone dripping something, I will now draw the veil across Friday, except to say that Julia slept here while I slept here.


10:00 AM. Last night a room service breakfast delivered at 10 seemed a decadence that bordered on Caligulan. This morning, it seems sadistic. However, determined to soldier on brightly, I pop some Tylenol, chug some water, and tuck into my eggs-over-easy-side-of-bacon-white-toast while Julia watches from the sofa, looking vaguely ill.

10:30 AM. Julia has taken to her bed. Without showering, I put on last night's clothes. This is not as revolting a prospect as it would be if we'd actually managed to get a good drunk on; as it is, they reek not a whit. I wrench my feet into shoes, gasping at the pain, and venture out in search of a Coca-Cola for Julia — she calls it that! A Coca-Cola! — and less excruciating footwear for myself.

11:30 AM. I return, more or less triumphal, bearing a frosty beverage, an extensive supply of adhesive bandages, and a pair of pearlescent pink flip-flops (cost: $18 and a half-mile of walking). Julia sucks down her Coca-Cola with unladylike dispatch, I shower and apply unguents to my suppurating sores, and we eventually embark again, our determination to conquer Boston somewhat renewed.

1:00 PM. We do not, in fact, conquer Boston. It is worth noting that flip-flops are not the ideal footwear for exploring a city during a chilly rainstorm. With every step my feet steep longer in the toxic gumbo — excuse me, poisonous chowder — of the overflowing gutter.

2:30 PM. Drenched, embittered, and hungry, we settle on lunch at an Asian restaurant mere steps from our hotel.

4:00 PM. Suddenly we realize it is not, in fact, too early to start drinking, and beat a hasty path back to our room, where the wine and conversation flow.

7:00 PM. We change our clothes — do these pink rubber flip-flops go with my tiara and ball gown? — and strike out in search of dinner. Our destination is Meritage, recommended by T. I give our cab driver a very specific address, practically including GPS coordinates, and encourage him to talk volubly about baseball, causing Julia to stop speaking to me entirely, her patrician face stony in profile.

7:25 PM. As the frigid downpour continues, we are dropped off in what our cab driver promises is the vicinity of our restaurant. Huddling in a doorway, I call the restaurant to get directions, expecting to be told that we need only turn twice to the left, take two baby steps forward, and one giant scissor step to the north. Instead, I am told that it's "only" a 15-20 minute walk away. "Do you have an umbrella?" the solicitous gentleman asks. "No," I answer grimly. "Well, you need one," he says. I end the call and resolve to have him flayed upon our eventual arrival at the restaurant.

7:45 PM. Julia and I have headed off into the driving rain in, of course, the wrong direction. As I slog through puddle after puddle in my rubber sandals, I am certain I am contracting cholera. Julia is wrapped up in her pashmina looking like a debased Mary Magdalen. We are laughing. And laughing. We finally manage to signal a sympathetic cab driver, one I do not goad into speaking of baseball, who deposits us at last at our correct destination.

9:30 PM. We are between courses, irritated by the indifference of our waiter. Apparently he believes that pink plastic shoes are footwear for only the lower orders, and that the hair pasted flat to my skull by the rain is a sign of a general disregard for grooming. (Hey, he's got me on that one.) He blooms, however, into servility when I ask him where the ladies' room is. "Will you come with me?" he asks, spreading his arms in what appears to be a welcoming embrace, looking for all the world like he wants to heft me over his shoulder and bear me there himself. My imagination quails from thoughts of what other services he might perform once there. Instead, I ask politely, "Could you perhaps just tell me?" He does. Julia isn't listening, but then she'll have no need to know; she has already wet herself laughing.

11:00 PM. Finished with dinner, we trudge downstairs to the hotel bar. We are there for an hour and yet, when we get into a cab to go back to the Eliot, we are both as sober as alewives. (I know. I know. That's a fish. But as far as I know they don't tipple.)

11:30 PM. We are back in our sweats, dry at long last, and have tucked in to the remains of this afternoon's demi bouteille. I have bathed my feet and my gullet in vodka. We vow that we will never, but never take on Boston together again. Honest and unashamed in our defeat, we readily admit Boston has kicked our collective flip-flopped ass.

And so eventually to bed, not as drunk or as late as last night, since I'll be up early to rendezvous with Paul and Charlie.


8:00 AM. The alarm clock next to my bed goes off. I shower, re-anoint my blisters, and pack my suitcase before venturing quietly into the living room of our suite. I pass through the French doors and creep towards Julia's bed to say goodbye — or gudbi, as Patrick would have it — before departing. I say her name, but she sleeps on. She looks so peaceful in her zippered footie pajamas, satin-edged blankie clutched to her pinkened cheek, her thumb having slipped wetly out of her slack mouth. I watch her for a moment, then leave a single red rose on her pillow. Then I slip silently out of her life forever.

So there you have it. I could overlook the part about being cold and drenched to the bone. I could even forgive the ostentatious snubs from cab drivers and maitres d' alike. But when two such accomplished lushes as Julia and I can't even get intoxicated...well, Boston is now off the list.

And yet: I had a marvelous time. I attribute that entirely to Julia's crackling wit and my own drive to seem, you know, cool enough so that she wouldn't slip away while I was in the bathroom, leaving me with the bill. I am fairly certain my feet have turned gangrenous — red streaks are bad, right? And yet. If it comes to amputation, I'll count it all worthwhile.

11:56 AM in You can pick your friends... | Permalink | Comments (64)


Have yourself a merry little Christmas

Three years ago at Christmas, Paul and I were excitedly preparing for our first IVF.

Two years ago, burned out from a year of disappointments, I couldn't face even the thought of trying to conceive.

One year ago, we celebrated Charlie's first Christmas.  We tried very hard to get into the spirit of things; on Charlie's behalf I made an ornament for the tree in the NICU, as did the nurses.  We were shaken by how close we'd come to  losing him, and our Christmas wish was ultimately a simple one: please let us take our baby home.

This year everything is different.  Everything is better.  And that's due in no small part to all of you, who've seen us through so much with support, encouragement, and kindness.  In your honor — Name: Ms. My Friends Inside the Computer — I've made donations to Resolve and the March of Dimes.

Merry Christmas.  Happy Hanukkah.  May your home be full of warmth, laughter, and light — if not this year, then soon.  May you take your babies home.  If not this year, then soon.

12:00 AM in Charles in charge, You can pick your friends... | Permalink | Comments (49)


Here we go again

A year ago today, Charlie took a ride.  Paul and I drove him home from the hospital, one of us driving, the other sitting in the back staring very hard, unblinking, at the baby in the car seat, aiming "please survive" rays directly at his downy head.

After five long hours, during which time I pumped twice in the back seat, we were home.  It was an emotional homecoming — not only were we home at last with a baby, our baby, but our friends inside the computer had given him a welcome that brought me to tears.  In fact, it still does.

That online shower, the nicest thing anyone's ever done for me, was masterminded by Boulder.  Boulder, like so many of us, is trying, in her words, "to have a damn baby."

I want to help.

Once again, I'm making a quilt.  This is a quilt I began while I was still pregnant with Charlie.  I haven't touched it since, but it's long past time I finished.  It represents hours and hours and hours of work and thought, as each patch has been individually chosen for color and value.  The finished quilt will have over 1,000 pieces in it.  It is, I tell people, the quilt of my soul, and you can see a quick preview.  I'll be raffling it off here once it's complete, with proceeds to go to Boulder's surrogate fund.

If you'd like a chance to win, you can sign up here.  Chances will go for $5 each.

I am lucky, unutterably lucky, that Charlie came home, that he's grown and thrived, that he's gone from a sleepy five-pound blob to a happy giant who likes to play in the snow.  I want that for all of us.   I want it for Boulder.

11:58 PM in Needles (the other kind), You can pick your friends... | Permalink | Comments (54)


Being Julia

My friends, it is time to move on.  Taking a page from Julia, whose breezy determination is a model for us all, I will wrestle the conversation into less turbulent channels by posting a recipe and a photo of a cute child.

This recipe is for what I call miscarriage cookies.  They are that good.  They have seen me through dark times on more than one occasion.  These cookies are magnificent on their own, better with a glass of port, and better still with a vintage Percocet.

Chocolate Fudge Cookies with Toffee and Dried Cherries
From Regan Daley's In the Sweet Kitchen

Makes 40 large cookies (or 4 dozen if you're using my largeish cookie scoop, or none if you eat the batter raw, which I have been known to do).

2-1/4 c. flour
1/2 c. unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 c. butter, at room temperature
1 c. tightly packed brown sugar
3/4 c. granulated sugar
2 lg. eggs
1-1/2 t. vanilla
1 c. plump, moist dried sour cherries
1 c. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, in chunks the size of the cherries
1 c. Skor Bits

  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.

  2. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a bowl and set aside.

  3. Cream together the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. (I use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.)  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary. Beat in the vanilla. Incorporate the flour mixture in 3 increments, blending just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in the chunky ingredients until they are evenly distributed.

  4. Do what you need to do — baking one sheet at a time, changing the position of your oven racks, selling plasma to afford an expensive convection oven — to assure even baking.  Drop batter by heaping tablespoons onto cookie sheets and bake them in the middle of the oven for 15-18 minutes, or until barely set in the center and just firm around the edges. Cool on baking sheet for 3–5 minutes and then transfer to rack to cool completely, or stuff great molten handfuls into your mouth until your tongue is naught but a blistered, meaty slab.  Your choice.

There.  Now I can close and selectively prune the comments on the previous post, hopeful that we will all be too busy baking, drinking, or abusing narcotics to say any more on that matter.

Thank you all so much for your kind birthday wishes.  This morning I tried to remember how I spent my birthday last year, and I couldn't.  (Research reveals that I've blocked it out for good reason.)   This year is better in every way.  This is where the cute kid comes in.  Picture it, if you will...

Charlie books it down the hall towards the bedrooms, looking back over his shoulder to make sure I'm crawling after him.  I am, in the least suspenseful low-speed chase since OJ made a break for it.  I let him reach the bathroom before I do.  I hear the tumble of the spindle as he pulls a long ribbon of toilet paper off the roll.  I let him go at it for a moment, then scoop him up into my arms and threaten to indenture him to the Blue Man Group.  By way of apology, he makes a sweet and mournful sound through his PVC tubulum as I carry him back down the hall.

As Julia might say, isn't he sweet?

03:09 PM in You can pick your friends... | Permalink | Comments (84)


Shut up, Julia

Julia wrote:

I hate [my RE's nurse] and I am only slightly consoled by the fact that she was wearing jeans folded up to mid-calf in an attempt to convey "funky cropped" but succeeded merely in shouting "basement flooded with sewage." (Not that there is anything wrong with that. Happens to the best of us, after all. The sewage, I mean, not the pants. The foot-of-folded-wrong-side-of-the-denim-as-cuffs pants shouldn't happen to anyone.)

She's talking about me, you know.  While I am making a becomingly self-deprecating moue at her referring to me as "the best of us," I'll thank her to shut her Viognier hole right now.  Here's why.

Thursday morning found Charlie and me at the library, licking trains and irritably counting down the minutes respectively.  When Paul met us downtown at the appointed time as planned, he had news: our basement was flooded, awash in raw sewage.

Our house is set back from the road, down an incline from the street.  To tie into the city sewer system, we need to thwart gravity, using a pump to force our waste water up the hill.  I had never known of such an arrangement before we moved into this house, but to give you some idea of how critical this system is, I will tell you that when we first came here while house hunting, we noticed that the owner had no fewer than four sewer pumps lined up on a shelf, close at hand and ready for action should the need arise.

Now, those of you who are longstanding readers might remember that this is not the first problem we've had with our sewer pump.  It malfunctioned while Charlie was still hospitalized, and it gave out entirely last summer.  (Not flushing the toilets for a few days, limiting showers in high summer, and bailing out the bathtub with buckets was about as gay a lark as you'd imagine.)

Unlike those other times, though, this time the alarm didn't go off, the alarm that tells you your pump is malfunctioning, so stop flushing the toilets, already, you stupid gross toilet-using jerk.  So the overflow tank, which holds 50 or 60 gallons of waste water, had...well, overflowed.

Paul — taker-out of garbage, emptier of Diaper Champ — headed the early response team, and sucked up the majority of the, er, overflow with the shop vac.  Not to be outdone in the Toxic Avenger department, I then took up the standard with a mop, a bucket, a half-gallon of Lysol, rubber gloves, and a 24-ounce box of Cheez-Its to serve as my later reward.  I know I'm not the first to mop appalling tides of human waste out of a basement.  I may, however, be the first to have done it wearing an iPod, frog boots, and an Ann Taylor T-shirt.

And — shut up, Julia — my jeans folded up to mid-calf.

But it gets worse, and it's Julia's fault.  Not an hour after reading her taunt — I think that was a taunt, but because I want to be fair I will allow that it might have been a jeer — I heard the alarm go off again, only a day after the pump had ostensibly been repaired.  I apprehensively tripped down to the basement, pre-emptively frog-booted, and found another flood.

I can't prove she did it, but I'm pretty sure this is her fault.  But what's worse is that now I'll feel so unfashionable when I turn up my jeans to keep them out of the mire.  Thanks a lot, Julia.  Now let's just see what happens next time you ask me for reproductive advice.  ("Follistim is muuuch more effective if you inject it directly into your eyeball.  No, use the IM needle, just to be sure you get through all the, ah, eyeball-jelly.  Yes, of course I'm sure!  Who do you think you're talking to, some ill-dressed unshowered janitor?")

09:58 PM in You can pick your friends... | Permalink | Comments (26)


Puppies, rainbows, chipmunks, and Julia

Charlie is at my mother's, Paul is at home, and I am sitting in a hotel lobby loaded for bear.  My overnight bag carries vodka, ibuprofen, tampons, and a large box of Band-Aid Advanced Healing Blister Block Cushions, and I am waiting for Julia to arrive.  She just called and claimed to be lost in a cornfield somewhere. (She said she was planning to echolocate, driving toward the sound of my voice, but I don't know how well that will work since her connection dropped before I could get out a single "Marco."  If you are located anywhere in the Midwest and happen to hear a ghostly "Polo" carried on the gentle soughing of the wind, it's Julia.  For God's sake stop her and give her a map.)

This will be quick, because as soon as our rooms are ready I plan to go upstairs and short-sheet her bed.

  1. For Halloween, Charlie was dressed as a dalmatian.  As soon as he went outside in his costume, he began to disport himself exactly as a puppy would: gamboling heedlessly; rolling in the clover; yipping with glee; and running down squirrels, snapping their necks with a single spasm of his strong young jaw, and violently shaking them from side to side within his grinning muzzle until they flopped as lifelessly as any understuffed rag doll.
  2. This morning my period arrived unexpectedly.  This year has been strange.  For the first time in my long and distinguished menstrual career, my cycles have been irregular, skewed towards the short end.  This month's, for example, was a measly 23 days.  Now, I'm not a doctor or anything, but I'm reasonably sure it has something to do with daylight savings time.  Man, I hate that fucking fall back.
  3. We are going to try one last cycle locally with my eggs as soon as it is convenient.  At this point it feels like I'm running on pure nerve, with no credible reason to expect success.  It is hard to accept that even with sufficient resources, technology, and masochistic determination at our disposal, it probably still won't work for us.  I do not look forward to finding that it's harder to accept that it didn't, past tense, period.
  4. The quilt for Freweyne continues apace, if "apace" means "slowly but with steadiness,  seriousness of purpose, and only a few sliced-off fingertips."  Beth now has a travel date for her trip to pick up Freweyne, November 25, and the top will certainly be finished by then, although the quilting and binding will take additional time.  Here's where it currently stands:

    Block 01 Block 02 Block 03 Block 04 Block 05 Block 06
    Block 07 Block 08 Block 09 Block 10 Block 11 Block 12
    Block 13 Block 14 Block 17 Block 18
    Block 19 Block 20 Block 23 Block 24
    Block 25 Block 26 Block 27 Block 28 Block 29 Block 30
    Block 31 Block 32 Block 33 Block 34 Block 35 Block 36
    You can still enter to win the quilt.  My most heartfelt thanks to all of you who've contributed.

It's now several hours later.  Julia arrived, shook the hayseeds out of her hair, put down her valise, and immediately goaded me into drinking a great deal more than a lady strictly should.  As a consequence, I am most ridiculously intoxicated and must stop writing before I e-mail each and every one of you in the middle of the night to tell you how much I love you.  (I really love you, man.)  And that I am grateful for your kind words of encouragement and your personal stories in response to my last few posts.  And that Charlie didn't actually kill any squirrels.  Please: they were only chipmunks.  Old chipmunks, mangy ones, terminally ill, who'd taken loving leave of their families and explicitly asked to be relieved of the wretched earthly burden of a functioning spinal column.

And now to bed, after a quick stop to place Julia's hand in a basin of warm water as she sleeps.  Oh, we do have fun.

12:45 AM in Charles in charge, Needles (the other kind), You can pick your friends... | Permalink | Comments (48)


Polyphonic spree

I have this friend.  I've written about her before, I know.  T. is many, many things I cherish in a friend: generous, dependable, clever, capable, responsive, and funny — my God, so funny.  She had her kids at the same age I had mine but encountered no difficulties.  So it wasn't until I had trouble conceiving that the question of infertility presented itself to her in any meaningful way.  We learned a lot about it together, I firsthand and in the moment, she just a half-step behind.

She's always been there for me.  If because of this experiential gap there have been times that "there" has meant "not quite exactly there," well, it was still a lot closer than any of my other friends were.  I'll give you an example.  The day I was discharged from the hospital after Charlie's birth, she dropped everything to show up, take me to lunch, and treat me to a pedicure, a bracing few moments of normalcy that shored me up more than I can say.  (The pan of lasagna and the brownies were a nice touch, too.)  This past weekend she said to me, "It wasn't until Charlie was born that I learned that when a baby's born early, there's something to say other than 'Holy shit it's so soon oh my fuck is everybody okay?'  That you should also say, 'Congratulations! You have a baby now!'"  See what I mean?  She's always been right there with me, taking it all in — not always knowing immediately what to say, but paying very close attention, meeting it all with an open heart, and learning.  Just like those of us living it more personally.

So I get a little thrill — of pride, of gratitude that I have such an ally — each time I see the payoff from that.  Since my experience is over, her understanding has fully caught up, and I'm rocked by the awesomeness of hearing her in action: arguing with a solvent staunch Republican friend, say, who's dealing with infertility himself, about insurance coverage for treatment.  Or taking her chiropractor to task.

Her chiropractor, it seems, regularly posts a bulletin up by the front desk.  I imagine it's generally something along the lines of Your Spine: Threat or Menace? and What to Expect When You're Expecting Your Head to Be Twisted Clean Off.  On the day in question, the bulletin made...let us say egregiously inflated...claims about chiropractic care and infertility.  T. read it, drew herself up to her full rhetorical height of about eight foot six, and marched in to the exam room, where she proceeded to tear the poor unsuspecting chiropractor a brand new musculoskelethole.

She told him, she said, that although chiropractic adjustment might have some applicability as complementary medicine, it doesn't constitute any kind of standalone treatment or cure for infertility, and that by posting the bulletin his office appeared to endorse a stance that was wholly irresponsible.  That by disseminating such claims, his practice could deter patients of his from seeking real, for-true reproductive medical help.  And that he was lucky, she finished, to be hearing this from a patient who didn't have an immediate stake in the matter — not a vulnerable patient, not one the notice had hurt or offended personally, "not my friend Julie, who'd probably feel like burning down the clinic just to make a point."

Which is funny, because, you know, I don't have anything against arson, but it might have been a slight exaggeration.

We visited T., whom I like to call Effortless Segue in moments of affection, this past weekend.  I was somewhat apprehensive about the visit because of Charlie's recent behavior.  But I worried for nothing.  He was wonderful, really great company.  It's almost like he'd read my post and all of your truly helpful suggestions and decided he'd better shape up if he didn't want me following him around cheerfully saying, "That's terrible! But I don't care! Now I'm going for a time-out. In a place of loving curiosity! After which I will shepherd you to bed promptly at four of the clock. Also, the cat loves me better."  Or some combination of same.

Really, thank you all.  I read every comment with great interest — not to say ravenous desperation — and they gave me a lot to think about.  In the spirit of continuing conversation, I'll say that while an earlier bedtime has its charms, what we found when we put Charlie to bed early is that he still stayed awake exactly as long, sometimes until nine o'clock and beyond.  With yodeling, y'all.  Now, I'm not opposed to his being awake, working out the details of his day; mostly I just need him to be in his room alone and in bed.  As the Biblical proverb goes, you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.  But going all lonely goatherd is simply not okay.  Anything short of eight and, goddamn, it's Yma Sumac.

Also, I have a terminology problem with some of the suggestions, probably nothing more than semantic, but significant.  Any sentence that begins with "I love you, but..." makes me shiver a little.  To me, that seems to suggest a condition.  I don't want any kid to think that there are limits on my love.  (My tolerance, certainly.)  I'd be much more inclined to say, "I love you, and..." or "Because I love you..."  I love you, and I want you to learn to behave like a decent human being instead of an entitled little savage, so...  Or Because I love you, I can't let you become someone who says mean things to hurt people.  I know this is probably an esoteric point, but I think language is important.  (The same goes for "I love you, but right now I don't like you," times a million.  I feel creepy even typing that.)

But what a lot of great insight in those comments.  I want to single out one particular way in which you've helped.  Up till now I've made an effort not to talk about the jobs I don't like to do.  Oh, sure: When Charlie complains about setting the table, I've reminded him that everyone has to do things we don't want to, but when he's asked what I mean, I've admitted only to hating to pay taxes, or getting shots, or saying goodbye to good ol' Effortless Segue.  Neutral things like that.  I haven't wanted him to think I resent any of the things I do to take care of him and Ben.  But I'm starting to think that's wrong-headed, a good way to allow him to take for granted what Paul and I do every day.  Maybe, just maybe, it's okay for him to know that I'm not that jazzed about cleaning errant pee from the toilet seat.  And the floor.  And the wall behind the toilet.  And the crevice where the toilet tank joins the bowl.  (If there are still more places pee can hide, do not tell me where.)

Even more helpful was the commiseration.  It's such a relief to know that even if my young reprobate does end up in prison, at least he'll have plenty of company.  Hair-tearing-out shared is hair-tearing-out assuaged.  And if not, we'll go bald together.

I get so much out of my blog.  Thank you for helping.

Now can I tell you about Ben for a second?  Ben is awesome.  There.

I just don't know how to convey how dear he is, how delicious I find him even when he's screaming, screeeeaming, oh Jesus please stop the screaming.  I don't have any great anecdotes that illustrate it; it doesn't make for much of a story, the way he gathered his boots because he wanted to leave the café, but then saw me bringing a brownie, so stopped in his tracks and dropped them, but it does make me grin like a fool.

Finally, an update on the Utah bill that made me so crotchety, the one allowing the state to charge a woman with criminal homicide for inducing a miscarriage or obtaining an illegal abortion.  According to the New York Times, the scope of the bill has been narrowed somewhat:

The sponsor, Representative Carl D. Wimmer, a Republican, said he had removed a key clause that would have allowed prosecution under Utah’s criminal homicide laws for a “reckless act of the woman” that resulted in death to a fetus. Language will remain, he said, that makes a woman’s “intentional” actions, if resulting in the death of her fetus in an illegal abortion, a felony.

Gosh, thanks, Carl!  That's so much better!

11:26 AM in Ben there, done that, Charles in charge, Hellbound handbasket, You can pick your friends... | Permalink | Comments (42)