This is just to say….

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That the wonderful Kim let me know what WordPress plugin she’s using, and now I have an easy way to publish to multiple social networks.

And also, that I kind of nuked all the comments on the last post by accident.  Sorry.  -_-

And also also, I had some scotch tonight, which was a nice capper for the steak, potato, salad, and wine.

For a day that started out with me feeling like the world was sliding sideways and how was I going to get to work (hint: I didn’t), it sure ended a-okay.

More Notes from Life

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I have terrible water luck. We knew plumbing in House House would be dodgy when we bought it, and on Sunday it proved out when a flushed wet wipe backed up the whole system and had water running over in our bathroom. This was also the morning I’d finally grabbed our bathmats to throw in the wash. So there was nothing on our floor to stop the output of water. So…that was fun.

My ebike is glorious, though it is experiencing technical difficulties at the moment. Fortunately, it folds up, and we can take it back to where we bought it to have them service it. Though I could have gotten it cheaper online, this is why I settled on a local shop. a) Support local business and b) fix it when it breaks. That makes me happy. Getting to work faster and on my own terms makes me happy. Fresh air and sunshine — guess what — make me happy. If I have to do this commute, I may as well be happy.

Daughterbot loves to wrassle. Mom and Dad like to wrassle with her. When she is in the wrassling mood, she lies down on her belly on the carpet and wiggles around. This is the universal signal for “Wrassle me!” Then you have a choice — ignore her, or grab her and roll around. Ignoring her would be unwise, of course. Wrassling an 11-month-old is much like rubbing a cat’s belly: if she extends the invitation, you must accept.

Personally, I like to pretend I’m a tarrasque and flop around like a big ol’ Chinese New Year Dragon, which is fun, and she loves it, but a bit hard on the knees.

I have nearly planted all the things, and dug up a couple more bushes.  I kind of want raspberry canes now that I have realized I don’t have a raspberry cane. And I murdered a bunch of sprouts by neglecting them. So sorry, sprouts.

Notes from Life

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Is there anything better than a shower after an honest workout? Okay, yes, probably there is, but I admit that I love that feeling of hosing myself down and (temporarily) cooling off. It’s amazing.

We are trying to figure out how to make the train work. It may involve an ebike. We’re going to try one this weekend and see if I like it; it’s a sizable investment, but we’re trying to regain time here, and there is no replacement for that. Right now my commute includes about 40 minutes (roundtrip) on a shuttle and 20 minutes of waiting at a station because there’s only one 5:11 PM shuttle for the 5:41 PM train. So an ebike may be the solution, because all I really need is a way to close that last 2.5 mile distance between work and the station. Wheee.

Zo is walking. Sometimes running. To be clear, the walking isn’t really all that steady yet, so when she decides to run it’s a little hair-raising in the oh god baby no don’t plow into that wall vein. She’s beautiful and fun and not exactly a “cuddly” baby, but when she’s tired she flops against you and gives a sigh that melts your heart. She also eats everything I put in her mouth. Some things she adores (strawberries) and some things she tolerates for a few bites, but lets me know via complex facial expressions that this will not continue.

Salmon was not popular. We won’t be feeding her that again. I had hoped she wouldn’t inherit the genetic distaste for salmon, but it’s a double whammy seeing as both her father and I have never liked it.

Back to that workout: 20 minutes of alternating runs/walks, 5 sets of 20 kettlebell swings (@ 20lb), 15 squats, 10 pushups (girly style).  My knees aren’t thrilled, but when are they ever?

Oh, and soup is back to being a thing for me.  I made this soup when I was pregnant with Zo, and it was pretty damn good.  I may need to make it again.

Valentine’s Day 2014

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Hooray, it’s Valentine’s Day! We are going to celebrate by staying home. And I love it.

It hasn’t always been this way. In fact, the venue we used for our rehearsal dinner was also the site of our 2010 Valentine’s Day dinner. And we had some memorable V-Day dinners in St. Louis.  But since, oh, 2011? I think? We haven’t really gone out for Valentine’s Day, and there’s a really good reason for that: the service almost universally sucks.

No, it’s not the staff’s fault. They are busting their asses to cook, plate, and bring forth the feast.  But they are also overwhelmed and overbooked; at max capacity and struggling to stay above water and out of the weeds.  I can see it in their eyes, and in the plating. Valentine’s Day is all about profit to the restaurant biz; putting asses in seats and then getting them to order off the prix fixe menu. And even when the service doesn’t suck, you eat your meal feeling like at any moment the manager is going to show up and give you a Meaningful Look while tapping on her watch.

I don’t blame them.  This is America.  This is what we do.  This is what we did, until the year we didn’t.

The year we decided to stay in and enjoy an easy but luxurious meal was the year I started really enjoying my Valentine’s Day dinner. I always pick foodstuffs that are simple, but a bit of a splurge. Scallops one year, steak another, and tonight — cheese. We’re doing a three-cheese plate with some meat and some bread, maybe some pickled onions, jam, honey, nuts, and sliced strawberries, and a simple frozen dessert.  All decadent, but nothing crazy, and nothing I have to cook.  There will also be wine.  Perhaps even Prosecco.  And a baby.  Who will probably eat all the strawberries.

Because the trick, we found, is not to go out on Valentine’s Day: it’s to go out a day or two after.

And on Sunday, that’s what we’ll do. We’ll have dinner with friends, then retire to a nice upscale bar we like in the Gaslamp District, at a hotel we stayed at for a weekend.  We did a Valentine’s Weekend (well, a President’s Day Weekend) there in 2012, sort of a mini-babymoon (one of two), and had a hell of a good time drinking, loving, strolling the streets, and being a ridiculously happy couple.

We’ll gather up the memory of that wonderful weekend as we enjoy our cocktails and each other’s company, and as we tink a glass (or two), we’ll share a kiss, and a “Happy Valentine’s Day, honey.” And that, my friends, is this boring ol’ sentimental couple for you.

Classy drinkin’ at the US Grant. (Photo quality thanks to my old iPhone.)

Experiments, Failed and Otherwise

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Life is an experiment.

And thus, when we created a new life, we decided to try some things. We used cloth diapers, and they worked. We opted not to feed her cereals, and today she’s healthy and eats a whole lot of sweet potatoes, yams, and squash instead. We tried to exclusively breastfeed…that didn’t work out so well. And we also thought we’d try a floorbed.

Which worked.  Until it didn’t.

We are blessed with a mobile baby. She rolled over early, sat up early, and started crawling way, way before the milestones said she should be crawling. She was standing with assistance before nine months, cruising a week later, and can hold an unassisted stand for a few seconds before she has to grab something or sit down. It’s basically only a matter of time before she’s toddling around the house. I’ll be shocked (shocked, I say) if she isn’t doing it by her first birthday.

We were also blessed with a strong home sale that allowed us to buy our shabby but unique and more suitable home in Oceanside. And with that blessing came a two-stage move that unfortunately interrupted ZMP’s sleep routine. She slept with us for most of the time we were in the rental, and if we are honest, she was sleeping with us at Chorizo house, too (though usually only in the early morning, and usually only if she cried for me to come get her). As she became increasingly more and more mobile, the floorbed stopped being the-place-where-I-sleep, and became the-place-where-I-play. The look of delight that would cross her face when I took her into the bedroom didn’t say “Mom!  I’m ready to sleep!” but, instead: “Mom!  You took me into my other playroom!  Awesome!”

And that is how the floorbed experiment morphed into the cosleeping experiment.  While she wouldn’t sleep on her mattress, she would sleep on ours.  And so she did.  For nearly two months.

Life is also a series of tradeoffs.

One of the tradeoffs I made when I went back to work was not being able to spend my sleeping hours chasing a baby.  I do not have the luxury of sleeping in if she has a bad night, or wants to cuddle at 1 AM.  This is cruel and cold and we can all rail against society about it (or rail against me, for wanting to have a career and a baby), but this is the truth: I have a job as both a mom and a game producer, and I need the gray matter between my ears to do both. I do not have my brain when I’m running on sleep fumes because I had to be up at 6 AM to make the 7 AM train that takes me to the 9 AM meeting.  Not to mention that sleep deprivation makes me cranky…and my daughter doesn’t need that Mom.  But that’s what I’ve been doing for two months ever since ZMP started only sleeping when she came into our bed.

There’s another, darker piece to this: I have a sleep disorder.  It abated for a few months after Zoe’s birth, but came back with a vengeance a couple weeks ago.  During the first 30-90 minutes of sleep, I sometimes wake up screaming and fighting invisible monsters.  With Zoe in bed, this has translated into me waking up screaming, clutching my baby, and trying to defend her from monsters.  At least my maternal instinct is to protect, but unless we went through elaborate efforts to get her to bed after I’d had an attack, there was always a danger to her and me sleeping together.

Again, we can rail against Western medicine’s inability to cure my stupid brain* and the unfairness of biology, but that’s life and that’s the truth.

…which is all my roundabout way of saying we have gone the way of most parents in America and bought Zoe a crib.

She spent 30 minutes crying after I put her down in it last night.  I believe in gradual extinction, so I washed dishes, prepped her sweet potatoes, and went in every 5-10-15 minutes to let her know I’m still there, I still love her, and she’s not going to die from this.  Doing household chores helped: kept my brain busy while her distant cries echoed from the back room.  Nothing is sadder than having a baby clutch you and sob, a baby who knows that if you’d only pick her up, she’d stop crying and go to sleep.  The maternal instinct to do just that is strong, and opponents of cribs and crying will tell you you should listen to it, but those opponents have never woken up to find themselves clutching a terrified baby and trying to fight off an imaginary Jigsaw’s puppet from Saw.

(No, I don’t keep evil puppets in my bedroom on a regular basis. That’s just my brain being my brain.)

When she finally did knock off, I found her sitting up and having fallen face-forward.  She only woke up once after that — around 1:30 AM.  Her father and I assured her we’re still there, we love her, and she isn’t going to die from this, and then left her to sob that heart-rending sob that lasted, oh, five minutes before fading off.

And this morning, when I came in to get her, she was standing in her crib quietly.  She saw me and grinned, and I picked her up and nursed her, and it was like none of last night had happened.  Just pure love.  My favorite snuggles.

The back and forth on CIO is nearly as stressful as the act of doing it. You’ve got people who’ll tell you you’re permanently damaging your child, that it causes PTSD, that your instincts are right and you should listen to them.  And you’ve got people who’ll tell you that babies need structure and they need to be forced to learn to sleep and that the brief flood of cortisol and stress hormones a baby experiences during the CIO process is not enough to permanently damage them (and if it was, we’d all be totally screwed).

In the end, I decided to do as my mother had done with me.  She had no monitors, no handbooks, and no advice other than what her own mother had given her.  And at the end of the day, she put us in a crib, kissed us good night, and closed the door.

Tonight is night two of the routine. We’ll see how it goes. It could be worse.  It could be the same.  It could be nothing at all.  But all of us will hopefully sleep well from now on, and my child will be safe from my unconscious self.  And so ends the grand floorbed/cosleeping experiment, which was fun and snuggletastic and I honestly loved every moment, but not with a mom who sometimes thinks ninjas are trying to steal her daughter, and not with a baby who just wants to crawl around the room because she can.

Oh, she can.


* Actually, hypnotics like Ambien do work. They shut down the nightmares…and me. They also give me piercing migraines and aren’t supposed to be taken regularly, and certainly not when you have a baby in bed with you.  I was on Clonazepam for a long time, but it had only about a 30% success rate, and it’s a Class D medication so that was a big nope when we decided to conceive.  I also tried Melatonin for a time…the minty tablets tasted good, but otherwise no impact.

I don’t take anything now, and just prefer to ride out the nightmares.  We know stress and alcohol contribute to them, but the biggest cause?  Fiction writing. Yes, I have a weird brain. (back up)

Rolling With It

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It’s the last week in our rental, and since we’ve gotten here ZMP’s going-to-bed pattern has gotten worse.  Back at Chorizo House she was actually “going down” with very little trouble; Mike and I would take her upstairs, we’d sing a little song and read her a story, she’d cry a little bit, and then she’d be asleep.

I don’t know if it’s the rental or teething or the fact that she’s crawling and sitting up and just so excited to be mobile, but lately getting ZMP to bed has been a huge struggle.  A two hour struggle, in fact.  We put her down, and she screams and cries and is completely inconsolable unless I’m nursing her or Mike’s holding her.  And because we’re in a duplex, we can’t let her cry; it’s not fair to the people trying to get sleep, one room over.

So last night Mike had to run an errand, and I was solo putting her to bed.  At around 8 PM I took her into the walk-in closet that is (temporarily) her bedroom, and I set her down to nurse.  Which she did for about a minute, then she rolled off and grinned at me, and started to charge around the room.

(I will quickly say: this is not a small closet.  It fits a dresser, a crib mattress, a box of clothes, two adults, and a baby with no issues.  I don’t want to give you the impression that I’m crammed into a 2′ x 4′ space, because: no.)

So I reclined on her mattress as ZMP crawled and cavorted, going to the entry (across which we have a baby gate), then coming back.  Getting onto the mattress is an effort for her; she’s successful two out of three shots, and when she was she’d crawl over to me, nurse briefly, then crawl off again.  And that was when I realized: ah ha.  This is a chance to spend time with my daughter.

Let’s look at it this way: she’s not tired.  She’s not ready to sleep.  She hasn’t seen me all day.  I may want her to go to bed at 8 PM, but she clearly doesn’t, and trying to force her just leads to tears and wearily trying to get a baby to bed for the next hour.  So why not let her play in this soft, safe space?

I think there’s something to the “she hasn’t seem me all day” line of thinking.  Call me crazy, but I think my baby misses me as much as I miss her, and when I put her down in that closet and sat with her, she decided to show me what she can do.  She can go here!  She can go there!  She can get this book and this cloth block!  And then she comes back to nurse, but only briefly, before she heads off to show me some more.

I think I’ve been too focused on “baby must be in bed by X time because the books say so”.  I really try to only take the books with a grain of salt, but that one, for some reason, stuck.  I’d forgotten she might want to spend just as much time with me as I wish I could be spending with her.

So tonight, at around 8 PM, I’ll take my daughter to her “room”, and I’ll play with her for an hour or less, and then at some point I’ll say, “It’s time for bed now.”  Because she’s still a baby, and she still needs structure.

I think I need to give her that chance, though, to be with me.  I think that’s what she wants.

of faithlessness and ragù

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I haven’t cooked — really cooked — in a long, long while.

A few weeks ago, we decided we had to move very quickly to avoid a steep (five figures) leaseback.  This was an unexpected kink in our home sale, and needless to say a story in and of itself, but what it comes down to is this: three days after getting back from a long weekend trip to Austin (which was fantastic), we packed up all our stuff, crammed it into a pair of 16′ SAMs (like PODs, only they’re SAMs), and moved into a rental.  Fun!

So now our new old home is being renovated, our old new home is no longer ours, and we are in limbo in someone’s vacation home…but at least the kitchen is sweet!

I got to cook today.  Really cook.  I got to play with a sauce technique I’d been wanting to try: take a tough cut of meat, chop it fine, brown it with aromatics (in this case, minced — yes, minced — onions and carrots and spices), and cook in a generous amount of gelatinous homemade stock.  Let it boil down, down, down until it bubbles like syrup and coats a spoon.  Then keep repeating until the meat is tender and melting.

What you get is…ragù.  The real deal.  Not the commercial sugar paste in a jar, but a thick, food-cloaking, hearty affair you only need a little of to make all right with the world.

Of course, I ruined it with too many strained tomatoes…but next time, I shall have faith in the ragù and see where it leads me.  I suspect to greatness.  Lynne adds cream to hers, right at the end.  I expect this would have been heavenly.

I’m also being a bit harsh when I say “ruined it”.  I did wind up with a very pleasant meat sauce.  My dinner guests enjoyed what they ate, and I did, too.  It is a sauce I am very familiar with; I could likely cook it in my sleep with one arm tied behind my back.  It is an old friend, a pleasant dinner companion…but the time has come.  I would like to make another sauce, now.

Next time, my darlings.  Possibly even next weekend.