24 May 2020

pieces, now

I got an email today from the riad where J. and I stayed in Marrakech 15 months ago, offering extra nights to health care workers. 

Remember when we could travel?


After weeks of avoiding it, we started taking the pup to doggie daycare again. People joke about how dogs are loving having their people home, but our dog has just ramped up her protective instincts and now she is anxious all the time. She has an archnemesis, Big Floof, and she barks like her life depends on driving the enemy away when Big Floof walks by. Other floofs get varying treatment (some pass unnoticed, some also get barks), but the passing by of Big Floof is a matter not to be tolerated. Unfortunately, Big Floof's people walk Big Floof by our house about 6 times a day. 

We have to take her to doggie daycare just to give her a break from all the anxiety. 

I have now picked her up from doggie daycare one time (in the World Before, J. did drop off and pick up on his way to and from work). I also had to drop off our ballots on the way home, so I pulled through a branch of the library and then drove home on a route that I don't take all that often, but that has, it turns out, quite a few restaurants in which I have spent time. 

There is the wings place that makes our favorite hot sauce. 

There is the restaurant where I met my friend A. when she came back to town, and where V. and I met after work for a drink on the patio the time that I rode my bike there after Pilates. 

There is the restaurant where J. and I went for brunch on our last pre-pandemic baby-free date. It's hard to imagine now that we waited in a crowded line, chatting with the couple in front of us, and sat at tables barely 18 inches apart. 

There is the coffee shop where I got coffee and a stroopwafel and sat with them in the sun on the day I picked up our wedding invitations.

I felt overwhelmingly sad. 

That life will come back - the epidemiologists I follow on Twitter seem fairly confident that science will find a vaccine or a treatment that works - but those exact places may not. The coffee shop by my work is already gone, the one that made a delightful levain bread and an amazing mocha (I had to limit myself to one every week or two, because they were so rich). 

It's such a small thing, but it feels like the beginning of many changes.


We have a collection of fabric masks. My mom sent some, and I ordered some that ended up fitting me well and J. not so well, so we ordered some more in a different size and shape. 

I never imagined having a collection of masks, not even when I saw people wearing them in Southeast Asia. It just was never a part of my life. 

Now I have a mask with strawberries on it, and one with crabs, and another with robots. J. has one with flamingos and one with a Cuban cityscape. I even got a tiny one for W. with dinosaurs on it. He's too young to wear a mask regularly, but I got one just in case at some point he has a cough and we have to go into a building, say for medical care, to keep him from coughing on people until we get in there. 


Daycare reopens soon. What would you do?

We are sending W., I think, so that we can get some work done while the case counts are low here, and to support his daycare. I keep reading of how daycares are going to have to close, since their margins are already so low, and now people aren't sending their kids back.

But then I read about the health problems that Covid can cause in children, and I reconsider.

There is no right decision. 

19 April 2020

what is missing

Covid pandemic shelter in place week 135039385, or whatever this is. I think we are in week 6 here in this house. 

Things I miss, in no particular order except that the biggest one is at the end:

  1. Sunny Saturday afternoons on restaurant patios. One afternoon in February, we met a friend for pizza. We sat outside in the sunshine next to the sidewalk. That was nice. For that matter, I miss eating in restaurants in general. Even just for lunch during the work week. 
  2. Stopping for coffee or a snack on a walk. Now I have to have everything with me that I might need: drinks, snacks, pup treats, diapers. No more almond croissants and hazelnut lattes on the way past the coffee shop. (The first (?) week we were doing this, when the coffee shop was still open, we stopped outside. J. went in and got a $100 gift card. "Thanks, man!" the barista said. "Do you want a free coffee or something?" But J. didn't want to touch anything. He just took the gift card, put it away, and sanitized his hands. It was a gesture, a hope. Someday, we hope, we'll be back. They will be back.)
  3. Not worrying about what is on the things others have touched. I never ever before worried about the outside of a pizza box, or the plastic bag someone gave me to clean up the dog's poop when mine ran out, or the ball that our friends' 2 year old kicked into the street. This makes it much harder to give and receive those little kindnesses. 
  4. Adult humans other than J. I feel very, very lucky to like my quarantine people so much, and I'm calling friends far more often, but I miss being less than 10 feet away from other adult humans.
  5. Going to work. There's a reason I don't work from home full time. I like working in an office with other people.
  6. Leaving the baby with someone else sometimes. Sometimes you need a break. Sometimes you need to talk to adults. Sometimes you need to get some solid work done without an exploring baby around. I miss being able to do those things. 
  7. Not worrying about how close people are. I want to be able to walk right past someone working in their front yard and tell them how nice it looks, not swerve away from them into the  street like they have cooties.
  8. Feeling reasonably, healthily secure when I think about the future. Just everything: jobs, houses, people, trips. 
  9. Going places. The coast. The mountains. The Mitten. The dry state south of here where J.'s parents live. We have tickets to the Netherlands for the summer. What are the chances we'll make it there this summer? Low, I think. 
  10. Not worrying so very much about the people I love. 

11 April 2020

so many parentheses

It's been gloriously sunny here lately. The tulips and daffodils are up (even fading by now, some of them). The trees are blossoming everywhere you look, with riotous heavy bunches of pink petals hanging off the branches. They are all in bloom: dogwoods, magnolias, camellias, azaleas, rhododendrons, even the wisteria and lilacs are starting to show white and lavender and purple. 

It's been gloriously sunny here lately. Almost every day I take a walk in the afternoon, W. in the stroller, to soak in some sunshine and get away from my desk for a few minutes. I chat with someone on the phone, or J. and the pup come along, or sometimes I just walk to the sounds of nature - more nature than you usually get in the city. Without the sound or smell of cars, the air feels clear and clean. 

It's been gloriously sunny here lately. 

Isn't that strange?

It's not strange. It's spring. Every spring, some days are classic Gone West changeable spring days: raining one moment, sunny the next, rainbows like I've never seen anywhere else. Some days are classic Gone West bright sunny spring days, the kind that give you hope for summer. Some days are classic Gone West rainy gloomy days, the kind that remind you of winter.

But somehow it feels like the weather should mirror the tension in the world, the fear and grief that is going on in overloaded hospitals and overwhelmed cities. 


If it were not for the worry, if it were not for the work I'm still trying to get done with a wiggly baby around, this would be a lovely time. W. is in such a cute phase, and I'm happy to get to spend more time with him. He crawls and climbs and explores. He's learning to go down the stairs (although he will only do this for J. For me, he cries and holds out his arms). He loves bottles and cups of any sort (watch your coffee or beer). He can reach way higher than a not-even-1-year-old should be able to reach (don't leave things on the edge of the table). He pulls the leaves off my monstera and jasmine plants (I moved them to the front step. The sun burned them. Now they are on the back step). He tries desperately to get to my keyboard when I'm working. 

He is a lot of work, don't get me wrong, but in some ways this time is what I envisioned my parental leave would be: walks while he naps in the stroller, dinner out on the patio as the day cools, sitting in the porch swing with him while the world goes by (such as the world is right now, but we live on a bike route, so there are bikes and pedestrians most of the time). 

(Clearly I pictured newborns as much more tractable than they turn out to be. I imagined that he would cheerfully nap wherever we were. Not so. He was cranky wherever we went, and I felt sick with exhaustion all the time. Last summer is a blur.)


We talked about the five stages of grief early on in this. I still see a lot of denial and anger out in the world, and I'll probably cycle back to that, but for now I'm in acceptance. We know that diseases can jump from animals to humans. We know that we are vulnerable bodies in the world. For me, it's very helpful to think, "Why not now?"

[Baby contribution -> ';;./.-LA]

Why now? Well, why not now? 

For so many centuries, people died of infectious diseases. They still do, in so many parts of the world. The siblings of my Oma died as babies of things that antibiotics would have cured. We've been mostly liberated from that misery and grief here in the US, thanks to vaccines and medication. Now we are learning that our control is not complete. It's hard to give up control. 

When I lived in Rwanda, one of the staff who worked for my organization once came and said that he didn't feel well. I offered him some ibuprofen, and he stared at it and asked me what to do with it. I explained that he should to take two tablets three times a day - morning, midday, and before bed. It had never before occurred to me that I just medicate myself, most of the time, when I don't feel well. (Did you read that article about how average temperatures are going down, thanks to pain relievers? We just spend less time sick than people did for millennia.) 

So I'm here, hunkering down with my loves, trying to spare the world more contagion. 

29 March 2020


We started social distancing on a Friday sixteen days ago. I downloaded twitter just to keep up on the spread of COVID-19, and I started reading about the need for people to stay away from others. At first, it was just that: we were not meeting friends, we were shopping as little as possible. Our friends were still getting together. 

By Monday, the city was shutting down. 

J. and I are lucky to have jobs that can be done from home, mostly. We are hampered only by a baby who is in full-on explore mode. 

We joked with my parents not long ago that W. was born a toddler in a baby's body. Really it's probably more like a five year old in a baby's body: he wants to do things, and he wants to do them himself. He is more and more pleasant a baby as he can control more and more things himself. No wonder he was so angry as a tiny infant. He couldn't do anything himself, and we didn't know what he wanted. (Hint: it was not food or a diaper change. It was entertainment and movement.)

So the baby is adorable and requires constant attention. 

Every day we trade off baby-wrangling. Our goal is two hour chunks, but we manage that exactly never. An hour or so of this baby one-on-one is about all a human can manage without a break. He is busy. In that hour, he has probably crawled up the stairs and tried to fling himself down (1-10 times), attempted to knock over the dog's water bowl and cried when it was put out of his reach, gotten a gleam in his eye and gone for the space heater, opened the bottom oven drawer and crashed cookie trays together until we are all temporarily deaf, turned over the bead-wire toy thing and gotten his hand stuck underneath and cried, grabbed at the leaves on the plants in the living room and tried to pull them off, and cried to get on the couch and then tried to fling himself off (10-50 times). 

He won't eat real food unless it is puffs, teething crackers, freeze-dried fruit, or bread-like products. Today he deigned to put a bit of soup in his mouth, but only because I gave him a real, grownup metal spoon instead of the pretty silicone ones that are supposed to protect his teeth. 

Ever since W. was about 4 months old, we've been letting him come sleep in our bed after his first long sleep in his own space (currently a pack n play in our room). Many was the night that we had to bring him into bed with us by midnight, and he woke up every hour thereafter, requiring nursing or patting or repositioning to get back to sleep. Lately, though, I've noticed that he can sometimes put himself back to sleep, and I watched early this morning as he rolled himself over and fell back to sleep, back to back with his daddy. It was very, very cute. 

He is just really, really not into being a baby. Nonetheless, here we are. He is a baby, and he's fighting it all the time. 


I went into a drugstore the other day to pick up a few things we needed. An employee was coughing as he scanned products on the shelves, and a woman walked by me, then back past me, almost brushing against me. People! Have you not heard of distancing? I was so paranoid afterward that I came home, took off my clothes, and took a shower. I also wiped down or discarded outer wrappings for everything I'd bought. 

I've never been a germaphobe, but this pandemic is turning me into one. 

Isn't it strange that just a month ago I dropped J. and the dog off at the dog park and took W. to T@rget? I set W. in the seat of the cart without wiping it down, and we lingered in the aisles. I didn't worry about how far away other people were. 

I wonder, will we get that back? 

Now the dog park is closed, and going to T@rget seems dangerous. 

I thought I fully appreciated the full, varied grocery stores here in the US, after living in places where the options were not so great. 

Turns out I didn't appreciate them enough. 

26 January 2020

unfinished (but I'm posting anyway)

I baked Christmas cookies on December 31. That doesn't sound like much of an accomplishment, because I was at least 6 days late on the cookies, but it was a big deal for me, because it meant that I had the energy for something superfluous, which doesn't happen much lately.

The cookies were courtesy of the two nights in a row that this baby let us sleep for 6-7 hours straight (meaning he slept for 7-8 hours). Of course, he went back to 3-4 hour stretches immediately after (peppered with 1-2 hour stretches just for fun!), but now we know it is possible. I have slept for 6 hours straight 5 times since he was born.

I was so energized by the two nights of sleep in a row that I even invited some neighbors and their kiddo over to decorate. It's like I was a real person again for a minute.

Then the baby started trying to sit up in his sleep and being very cranky all the time because who can sleep when you have skills to learn?

He's also crawling and pulling up on things, to then stand there happily, experimenting with letting go, and occasionally falling with a loud thump and screaming. This is not a baby who tolerates pain well.

I've tried to soak in every minute of this little baby phase, since even four years ago, right after I met J., I wasn't sure if this would be something I got to attempt to have. And I have spent plenty of hours staring at this little face while he slept in my arms, day or night. His sleeping face is the one thing that still looks like it did when he was tiny. By day, his face has elongated and filled out. He's no longer the little frog of a baby he was. But when he sleeps, his lips pout out just as they always have.

17 November 2019

vision v. reality

I'm not sure what I thought having a baby would be like, beyond lots of adorable snuggles and, sure, some sleep deprivation at the beginning. I've done a lot of babysitting. I have a sister who is almost eight years younger than me. I've been around some babies, is what I'm saying.

I think I envisioned a nice cosleeper attached to the bed where the baby would sleep quietly until he needed to nurse, and then I would pull him out and sweetly let him nurse while I stayed in bed, and then put him back, where he would sleep quietly again, satisfied.

We do not, I should note, have a cosleeper attached to the bed, so I'm not sure how my vague mental image could possibly have become reality. 

We did have a bassinet that swiveled, so you could move it practically above the bed, and the side pressed down, so I could pull the baby out that way and sweetly let him nurse while I stayed in bed.

I could pull the baby out that way and sweetly let him nurse while I stayed in bed, that is, if I did not have a C-section, which I had, so I did not have the core strength to turn and lift him.

I could pull the baby out that way and sweetly let him nurse while I stayed in bed, that is, if he was any good at latching in his early days, which he was not, and I needed a light to see what he was doing and had to sit up with the nursing pillow to get him in exactly the right spot. 

I could pull the baby out that way and sweetly let him nurse while I stayed in bed, that is, if nursing was enough to keep him fed, which it was not, thanks to my biology or his latch or the massive amounts of synthetic oxytocin they gave me after the birth to keep my uterus from staying full of blood that it was not ejecting, so he had to be supplemented with a bottle after every feeding, and he hated and fought the bottle. (Still does! Still hates the bottle! Even though most of his calories come via the bottle!)

So the first three months were an endless cycle of waking up to a screaming baby (this one ramps up fast), nursing for 20-30 min to try to build my supply, giving the baby a bottle (resulting in screaming), and then attempting to get the now-wide  awake baby back to sleep. It took about an hour and a half, and then he woke up an hour and a half later.

I keep expecting it to get easier - it seems to have gotten easier for most parents with babies his age - and it has gotten easier, but it also sort of hasn't. He still doesn't sleep longer than maaaaaybe a 4-5 hour stretch at the beginning of the night, and then needs comforting at least once an hour after that, unless I pull him into bed with me and let him nurse as much as he wants the rest of the night. He naps about 45 min at a time, and only recently is that anywhere but in my arms. He knows what he needs, which is his mom or his dad, and he will scream until he gets that, day or night. 

I keep joking that I should have screened the guys I dated for how they slept as babies, because I didn't sleep through the night until I was 9 months old... and J. not until he was two years old. Who knows how long this kid will need?




When people meet him now, they say, "He's the happiest baby!" And it's true. When this baby is happy, he is the happiest being on the planet. He loves people. He loves new faces. He loves new places. He loves the dog. Just keep him entertained, and he's the happiest baby. 

Of course, when he's mad, he's the maddest being on the planet. You've never seen such a mad face in your entire life. It's all or nothing with this one.  

10 November 2019

The Great Poopsplosion of 2019

J. and I got a babysitter yesterday so that we could attend a couple of functions without a cranky baby. (Totally destroying my dreams of taking a chill baby with me everywhere, this baby has been intense ever since he was born: he is either very happy or very mad, sometimes within seconds of each other, and he does not believe that sleeping is worth doing). When we came home, the baby was happily sleeping in his space in our room, which lasted about 30 min, as if he knew we were home. That was fine - I needed to nurse him anyway - but it did not bode well for the rest of the night.

After approximately three resettlings necessitating rocking his little butt to get him back to sleep, he started acting more upset around 12:45 am, and I picked him up and sniffed him. Something smelled odd. Something smelled poopy, but not like normal baby poop.

This kid started solids, off and on, meaning when we have the energy for it, this week, so I thought it might be that. It sounded like he had pooped, and it smelled bad, so off we went to the changing table. J. followed with the little egg-shaped light that we use to try to keep from turning on brighter lights that will wake the baby up. 

I took off the diaper. Yep, poopy. I sniffed it to check if it smelled like the weird poop smell. Nope. Normal baby poop smell of fermenting milk. 

And then the poopsplosion began. 

The first round sprayed poop not just onto the changing table, the cloth diapers we lay underneath him, and the clothes he'd been wearing, but onto my stomach, chest, and face, as well as the whole height of the dresser next to the changing table. I covered the area with a cloth diaper and left J. in charge as I ran to the bathroom to clean myself off. While I was there, round two was mostly contained by the diaper. 

J. got the baby into a new diaper and sleeper and handed him off to me. I wiped down the dresser and the changing table while the baby happily smiled at the ceiling from the bed in his nursery. 

When I carried a beaming, wide awake baby into the kitchen, J. was scrubbing diapers and sleepers in the sink. 

"His poop is changing," J. said. "There are chunks of it in the sink." 

And there were. Apparently solid food can cause constipation when you start it. And apparently this baby managed to get it out by using some force. Good job, baby. 

J. cleaned the sink with kitchen cleaner twice. 

Needless to say, neither the wide-awake baby nor the wide-awake momma got much sleep for the rest of the night. Which is pretty normal for this one. I have not gotten a straight six hour stretch of sleep since he was born, not even the one time that J. sent me downstairs to sleep in the basement for six hours. I was too busy worrying about how much trouble Mr. Demanding Baby was giving J. upstairs. 

Send help.