Monday, October 27, 2014

baby FAQ, month 6

Q: How can it possibly have been six months already?

A: You're asking me? It feels like just yesterday that I was up at midnight and then again at four. Oh, wait, that's because I was. She's occasionally reverting to an old-school sleeping schedule, lucky us.

Q: Relatedly, what was the doctor's recommendation for you in terms of getting over your bronchitis?

A: Eight to ten hours of sleep a night. I was like, yeah, sure, I'll just go do that.

Q: How goes the introduction of "solid" (i.e., pureed) food?

A: Feeding takes four times as long, is ten times as messy, and the subsequent diapers would make a musk ox proud. Also I experienced a little heartbreak around it because she is growing up so fast. And she does not like squash.

Q: What is your advice for Losing the Baby Weight?

A: Develop some flaws before you have a baby. If I'd had a flat stomach before getting pregnant, then this stubborn little belly pudge would be a source of much frustration and self-consciousness, and people would be saying things like, "You're almost there! Good job!" But since I've had a rounded stomach ever since I stopped being twenty-one and started eating actual food again, my clothes fit almost as they did before and I hear, "You look like you never had a baby!" It's called managing expectations. (And I cut myself slack for my physical imperfections now, even though they are virtually identical to the imperfections I had before. So that's good, although it shouldn't take gaining and losing forty-five pounds for a woman to be okay with the body she has, but what can you do.)

Q: What was your Halloween costume?

A: Three Wolf Moon family. Because it comes in a onesie as well. And yes, we did take her to the Halloween party, and she was the belle of the ball, but oh my was she cranky the next day. A little discontented Cinderella.

Q: How is your first Halloween without Darcy going?

A: Very sad. I haven't planned any costume for Bingley; he wouldn't have been able to come to this past weekend's party anyway, but for the past four years there were dog costumes documented heavily on Facebook (Red Riding Hood and the wolf; Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Baskervilles; St. Francis and the wolf of Gubbio; hipster Red Riding Hood and hipster wolf). Bingley has a red hoodie which (obviously) has been utilized extensively, and Perdita has a white fuzzy suit with ears, so perhaps he shall be Red Riding Hood yet again and Perdita will step into the wolf's role. 

Q: Hipster wolf?

He is concerned that his kibble is not local.

Q: How are you finding time to read with a six-month-old?

A: Honestly, I am not sure. I feel like I just snatch a page here and there and somehow it adds up to books. I know that sounds like humblebragging, or like protesting that you can find time for anything if it matters to you!! but that's not my intention. And I am careful about my intention when saying things like that, because I was one of those horrid judgy people pre-baby, thinking, "There is no way I won't find time for working out every day; it's simply a matter of priorities; mothers who say there's no time are just making excuses," and then of course on days when she goes to daycare my priorities come up solidly against the chronological limitations of twenty-four hours and my own physical limitations in terms of needing more than five hours of sleep in that twenty-four. Ah well. Pride goeth before a saggy butt. 

Q: What have you read in the snatched intervals when you should be un-sagging your butt?

A: Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, And A Dream, by H.G. Bissinger. Pretty intense and good. While on maternity leave, I tried watching the show because everyone raves about it, and after eight episodes during which I got more and more grudging about this self-assignment, I thought, Okay, well, we must be nearing the end of this season, I can probably get that far, and then I discovered there are TWENTY-TWO episodes in that first season and the experiment ended. So I figured I'd read the book instead. I should have just done that in the first place. 

American Thighs: The Sweet Potato Queens' Guide to Preserving Your Assets, by Jill Conner Browne. Mildly amusing but only rarely laugh-out-loud funny.

Marie Antoinette: The Journey, by Antonia Fraser. Fraser is such a good writer. This was a fantastic biography.

Blood on the Water, by Anne Perry. My Early Reviewers book: the latest in Perry's William Monk series. The characters grow increasingly two-dimensional and more representative than human, which is an unfortunate trend I note in many long-running serials. And Perry does go a bit heavy on the coincidental "hero meets old friend for tea, old friend happens to have crucial information which breaks the case" endings, and this book was no exception. But they are cozy bathtime reads nonetheless. 

May you all have someone to step into the wolf role this Halloween, in memory of the big dog who needed no costume.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

farmhouse in autumn

I've mentioned before that my family has a farmhouse up in Vermont. We spent time there most summers when I was a kid, and this time introduced us little desert rats to humidity, mosquitoes, black flies, the concept of it not cooling down at night, and the outhouse in the barn which was clearly the origin point for all the earwigs in the world. Although the forests were excellent for games of Robin Hood, everything else about the place was ill-suited to a child whose idea of heaven was her other grandparents' house, at which children were encouraged - nay, expected - to sit silently in the giant soft armchairs and read all day.

As an adult, I mostly put up with going there because it was where extended family congregated, and because the bathroom finally functioned. I started to have some fondness for the ancient wooden floors, and to worry less that the ceiling was going to fall on me in my sleep (ironic, given that the ceiling is probably more likely to fall on someone now than it was thirty years ago), but my visits there were always about the people, not the place.

Berowne fell in love with the property the moment he set eyes on it. The house is his idea of perfection: enough work to keep him busy for quite a while, but with solid and charmingly shabby bones. And the land! The opportunities for gardens! The barns full of ancient tools! He probably married me for the place. (Kidding! He married me because I got pregnant.)

We started talking about spending some time up there in the fall, and this year managed to make it happen, getting in just under the wire before it was shut up for the winter. We piled as much of our household as would fit into a small car and headed north (if you ever find that merely adding a baby to a road trip doesn't slow you down enough, I can recommend including a dog too neurotic to be left alone in the car at rest areas), and eventually arrived at a cold dark house possibly full of bats and I freaked out and started calculating how much coffee I'd need to get my child and dog back safely to Boston that night. Then Berowne got a fire going in the kitchen stove and all was well. If he had to evict multiple bat squatters, he didn't tell me.

The weekend that followed was utterly lovely. Nights were cold, but Berowne got up every few hours to feed the stove, and having Perdita snuggled into bed with us was fine except for my realization that co-sleeping past the age when babies are helpless swaddled potatoes is for parents with the ability to sleep through being punched in the face. But since we didn't have to do anything with our days but sit in a cozy kitchen, wander around the gorgeous property, hang out with our Vermont friends who were able to come visit, and nap occasionally, pugilistic nights were acceptable. I got a fair amount of reading done, and Perdita wore some seriously adorable hats. Monday morning, packing up under an overcast sky with the leaves suddenly falling fast and hard, we both wished we could batten down for the winter and stay.

Never mind that a lot of work would have to go into the house to make it habitable through winter. Never mind things like finding jobs up there and the state requirement that we buy a Subaru. You have to admit that if I, who am definitely a suburban mouse used to a certain amount of comfort and not-bats, was suddenly living in rural Vermont restoring an old farmhouse, that it would make a hell of a blog. And I probably wouldn't even die, because Berowne knows what he's doing! Together we could make it through anything, barring the bathroom plumbing failing. Shudder.

Ah well. These are the dreams that drive you out to whatever version of Walden Pond you can find, when the commute from day care to work feels longer every day* and your neighbors are building a giant house on your already-cramped little street. Almost everyone in my family has dreamed about living there at some point: my brother and his partner make it their summer retreat for about six weeks every year. It's a good spot, and I'm glad I can finally see that.

The reading I've done lately:

Riveted, by Maljean Brook. The third, and the one I liked best by far, in her romance steampunk series. Set in Iceland, with mechanical contraptions that don't feel gratuitous, and a likable hero and heroine who are, remarkably for romance novels, emphatically non-white. (Although Brook features characters of color and mixed race a lot, which I like.)

Any Duchess Will Do, by Tessa Dare. Slight romance novel in a Pygmalion vein. I like Dare in general, but couldn't warm to this one's heroine, who loses her rustic accent in something like half an hour of tutoring and goes on impossibly from there.

The Cuckoo's Calling, by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling). Mystery with no characters I really liked. I have no way to compare this to Rowling's other writings, because I never got farther than a quarter into the first Harry Potter book. The pre-Hogwarts stuff I liked, because it's very Roald Dahl, but once he got to Hogwarts I became bored to tears. Anyway, won't be checking out the rest of Rowling's books for adults either. 

Haunted Ground, by Erin Hart. This gets an emphatic meh. So much clumsy infodumping about archaeology that would insult any listener who ever watched "In Search of the Trojan War", let alone one who's supposed to be a brilliant fellow academic, but of course when our hero does it it's supposed to be all kinds of sexy and our heroine (the aforementioned brilliant academic) sits there wide-eyed instead of being like, "Dude, keep up the mansplaining and you're getting a trowel to the balls." 

The Claverings, by Anthony Trollope. Didn't like it. Our hero just doesn't deserve any of his good fortune, including the two nasty people between him and an inheritance going on a conveniently doomed yachting trip (though I laughed and laughed when it became apparent that's what was going to happen - very Kind Hearts and Coronets).

May you all have bright autumn weather and places to batten down in when the leaves fall.

*It IS longer every day, because it goes through Salem, which becomes impassable during the month of October. It will ease up a little come November.