Bionic Mamas

you're not losing a vagina, you're gaining a son


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Helpless Hoping

Hello, internets, from Amtrak train 171, currently somewhere is gloriously green Virginia.  There were some cows just now, and a heron in that tiny pond by the tracks where I often see a heron.  I am coming to see Starrhillgirl.  I have new sunglasses. It is a good day.

 
It is spring break now, and that means I have a glorious week of no classes and so does the Bean and, when I get back home after this blessed weekend away, we will go do some fun things with every other person in New York, since they will also be having spring break.  Ah, cities.  There are so many people in them.  

It also means that I can’t tour any schools, which is very frustrating, since I am back in touring schools mode.  Let me bring you up to date:

Offers went out some time ago for kindergarten in general education programs in the public schools.  We were offered a spot at our third choice, one choice higher than where we had put the school around the corner, where the Bean currently attends pre-k.  Sugar went with me to fill out the paperwork, and she liked the school, too.  It’s a bit of a schlep from our place and in the opposite direction from work, but the city would bus him.  The test scores are terrible, but the student population is exactly the sort the tests are meant to punish, and the work on the walls is good.  There is a uniform and there isn’t real arts programming, but there is a lot of science, the kids seem happy, and there are plenty of opportunities to work independently, which is what Beans do best.  Its open-classroom sort of model makes it perhaps a bit loud for our kiddo, who like his Mama, has difficulty with loud.

Meanwhile, we remain on the waiting lists at our first and second choice schools.  He’ll never get into the first choice one — wrong district, wrong demographics in various ways that I approve of in principle — but you can’t see a school like that and just not even mention that you’d like to go there.  Second choice, more of a shot. Progressive place, more established, a library, more arts.  A much better district to be in when it comes to applying to middle school, where your school address matters for placement, not just your home address.  Whiter, but still not bad on diversity — about a third each white/black/Hispanic, with some Asian. (Plurality white, but not by a huge amount.)  Our choosiest neighbor is happier there, the fourth school she’s tried.  No bus — not our district — but doable on the subway and on the way to work.   I tried to follow advice to drop in with the Bean and make nice with the parent coordinator, but that was one of those days when everything goes just wrong enough that nothing works, yet not enough that you sensibly give up the doomed effort.  We’ll try again.

Last week, we got the results of the test he took for eligibility in the city gifted and talented program.  Yes, it’s a terrible name and a retrogressive way to run a school district — to say nothing of the racist and classist elements involved — and testing four-year-olds is, as previously noted in this space, asinine.  But he’s my kid, and sometimes I have to admit that my principles don’t run the world.  Sometimes I have to choose my kid over my politics.  Anyway, he did well.  Very, very well.  (Can I note here how proud I am of him?  Not just for being good at puzzles and patterns and having patience, but in particular for this kid, for being nervous and going to a strange place and being led off by a stranger and not being thrown by all of that? So proud.) And so now we are, without giving up our gen ed plans noted above, also looking at other programs.

I know which one I want him to go to.  I was predisposed to like it before the visit, but at the visit, oh, Lord, I fell in love.  It’s clean and sunny and feels so full of life to me.  There is a library and art every week and music and science labs for different ages and a block room.  A block room! They have to practice, you see, for when they build a scale model Brooklynn Bridge in the yard every spring.  The second graders run a post office, so people write letters to each other.  The younger grades don’t have homework because they should be building with Legos and cooking after school, resting and learning things in other ways.  The children were happy and the science teacher just laughed when she got distracted and poured an entire watering can of water on the floor.  It’s a little far from us, but there is a private bus he could take.  There’s a middle school.  It hugely white and almost all the rest Asian.  I don’t love that — besides my precious principles, I think growing up in largely white school environments did leave me with a lot of things I had to learn as an adult.  We would have to think carefully about how to compensate.

The real problem is that there’s nothing we can do to make him more likely to get in.  It’s not impossible.  First come the high-scoring siblings of current students. The Bean is in the next group, priority-wise, with, and here’s the rub, many hundreds of other children across the city.  Some of them live far from here or will want other schools, but still: there are 50 kindergarten seats.  

And I gotta tell you, the whole thing puts me in mind of TTC: that state of helpless hoping.  Everyone who can do a thing to help is doing it.  The rest is just chance.
Meanwhile, there are other programs.  There is another citywide one we will likely rank.  It’s less my style but still clearly a good school.  Our neighbors like it.  It’s very…Mandarin in kindergarten. There are district level ones, much easier to get into, as the score range they accept is greater.  The one in our district is…not an option.  That school is nearby but gives me the howling fantods.  There’s one we could walk to, where we have a friend, that isn’t in our district but might let us in eventually.  I toured it this morning and did not fall in love, though I admit being riveted by the spectacle of one of the anole lizards in the fourth grade’s MEET OUR ANOLES tank being eaten, eyeball first, but an ambitious mealworm.  The people there are warm, the classrooms are small and cluttered, and there is acres of homework, starting in kindergarten.  There are arts but no foreign language, which is odd since the school has a dual language program.  It seems like a very rule-following place, rather than an exploring one.  But we could walk.  There are a couple other district ones I should look at, but there is only so much I could rearrange my life without notice for these tours, so there you are.

And I know, I know, the Bean “will be fine.” Everyone says so.  He’s bright and he follows rules and people like him.  And he’s gone this year from a kid who loved school to a kid who begs not to go.  He loves his teacher and he has friends; I think he’s bored. The school has an academic focus, but the work they do he’s been able to do for years, in almost all cases. I think he’s an anxious kid who ties himself in knots to follow rules at school and the strain sure shows at home. I think he needs to be somewhere that people can see that, not just that he obeys.  I think he needs to be somewhere the work is fun for him and challenging. And in the longer term, I think he needs to learn — as I never did — that it’s okay not to already know everything, that learning is about trying and failing and finding out.  I want him to be so much more than fine.

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Snow day updates

Hey, gang.  Yes, I am still here.  ETA Yes, I started this on the blizzard day and now things are melting and I still not editing it to any kind of a reasonable length.  You have been warned.

I wrote a most of a really long post titled “The Things Grief Teaches You,” or words to that effect, back in, whoa, November, but even I got worn out by it.  Tldr: nothing I wanted to know.

Then I kind of hit a wall, because as much as I’d love to talk to you all in person about, for instance, therapy, it does feel odd to put it on the Internet.  Maybe a password post at some point, at least for some of it.  The expurgated update is that I have been going, I think it is helping, and my therapist is not an idiot.  Also, I seem to have developed a Pavlovian response to his office, such that as soon as I sit down, I start crying.  I blame the carpet.   

Christmas was…you know, I really am going to have to do a password post.  More on that later, I guess.  We stayed in town. I spent an enormous amount of money on a prime rib that was frankly one of the better thing I have ever cooked.  Jackalope got her heart’s desire, a doll stroller.  I cannot believe I have a kid who loves dolls, which fall squarely into the valley of the uncanny as far as I am concerned.  We got the Bean a fairly indestructible camera.  

  
My choir spent the fall learning about half of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio.  (It’s six cantatas. We did 1, 3, and 6.) I somehow got appointed alto section leader, which means I take notes and write everyone an email each week.  It’s a good gig: altos thrive with a little attention.  And dick jokes, it turns out.  They love dick jokes.  (Example: why did Bach have 20 children? He had no stops on his organ.) 

We performed the piece at a number of churches around town, which was a nifty sort of tour.  Brooklyn is, after all, the Borough of Churches.  I should learn some architectural terms so that I could describe them to you.  Sometimes we sang with an organ and sometimes with an orchestra.  I regret to say, dear readers, that the trumpets were terrible, a real shame with this piece.  But, ah, amateur music making.  It is what it is.  We paid soloists to sing in most of the concerts, but we did a tiny one in January for which we did not.  The director asked who wanted to throw their name in the hat, I imagined for auditions, and after a week of anxiety on the topic, I decided what the hell.  Turned out that was understood to mean that I positively could sing the recitative and aria I said I liked, and with essentially no rehearsal.  Um.  So I did.  Not perfectly, by any means, and in a state of real terror, but at least the mistakes I made in performance were different from the ones I made in rehearsal.  And my favorite dress, the one with the dragons, zips again*.  So there’s that.

*This is partly because Jackalope is nursing a lot less — I know the party line is that nursing makes you lose weight, but my experience is that no — and partly because I have essentially given up alcohol on account of nerves.  Plus other things for that famous password post.  Basically, file under “lower weight does not equal ‘healthy.'”  But dragon dress! It is my favorite.

Sugar gamely attempted to bring both kids to one of them December concerts, but while Jackalope loved it, her love was…vocal.  THEY SINGIN’ A MOOOSIC SONG!  Ship abandoned for park. The Bean came to the one where I sang alone and has been very sweet about it since.  

The big recent excitement has been applying to (public) kindergarten for the Bean.  And by excitement, I mean miserable anxiety-fest.  Allow me to tell you allllll about it. 

In NYC, there are districts (many per borough) and, for elementary school, zones within the district. Most of the time, you are all but guaranteed a spot at your zoned school (assuming you have one).  You can also apply to other schools; you have a higher priority within your district. You rank the schools you like, get admitted to one, and get wait-listed at every school you ranked higher.  Then there is all kinds of maneuvering over the waiting lists.
The Bean currently attends public pre-k at our zoned school.  There are good and bad aspects to that.  We like his teacher, a kindly man who is obsessed with fishing.  They are raising trout.  Really.  As in, they got a jar of eggs at the beginning of the year, and on Friday, Jackalope and I were guests at a party celebrating the fingerlings’ graduation from the small enclosure to the main tank.  At the end of the year, we will take them “upstate” (I am guessing this means Westchester) to release them, presumably so the teacher can catch them again.  The Bean has friends, the school is remarkably diverse, the PTA seems to have its heart in the right place.  (I attempted to join the diversity committee, but all their meetings have been during my classes.)  They have a lot of art and music and so on.  It’s also more academic than I would prefer, and simultaneously operating below the Bean’s academic level.  (Which is okay! He isn’t in pre-k for academics.  It’s just, I’d rather have less of that, and if I can’t have that, I’d like it to be interesting, you know?)  

I wanted to fall in love with the school when I finally got to go on a tour, but instead I was taken aback.  The kindergarteners were having a spelling bee.  There’s a lot of homework, even at kindergarten.  The music teacher seemed as  grumpy as the Bean had suggested.  There’s red light/green light discipline.  Blah.  Not awful, not the end of the world, just not what I was hoping for. I’m worried that a smart, rule-following kid who isn’t a big advocate for himself could get lost here.

Meanwhile, I also went on a tour of an unzoned  school in our district (good chance we’d get in). Enormous, two story classrooms.  All the kids in a given grade are in the same class, with four teachers who loop with them.  Great teacher development program.  No homework.  The classrooms felt to me like preschool — lots of interesting things to do.  All the STEM you could hope for, great social-emotional stuff.  Lots of opportunity for independent work, which is what the Bean loves best.  But low on arts — just residencies part of the year.  And not walkable.  The city would bus him, as it’s in our district.  

Then I toured a shiny new school, not in our district but an easy enough commute, close enough to walk home in good weather.  And I happened to run into a savvier friend, mother of a classmate from the magical preschool the Bean went to last year (why can’t all schools be like that?), who pointed out that, gorgeous light aside, this place was at least as rigid as our zoned school.  So I did not list it, even though it was so shiny. (So shiny! But also I secretly suspected the parents would drive me nuts.)

Impulsively, I did list another school in that district, one I never visited, on the grounds that it sounds progressive and our pickiest neighbor is happy with it. Plus that district has better middle school options.  I can’t believe I’m expected to be thinking about middle school for my four-year-old.

The school I ranked first we will never get into — four other districts have priority over us (plus siblings, yadda, yadda) — and I don’t know how we’d manage the commute if we did.  But I just look at that place and think, I can’t just not even try to get my kid into the one place I really think looks magical.  And then I beat myself up for not being able to afford to live in that neighborhood.

The application is in now, and all that remains is to second guess myself to no end.  Am I making the right choices? Are there any? And mostly, what would my mother say?

I changed schools often as a small child, and it stunk. But it wasn’t for no reason, and I wish I knew the full, adult versions of those reasons.  I know that my mother held her nose and violated her own principles more than once to get me in a place that was better for me.  I know that when I was in a place that actually challenged me, that my whole world changed.  I think these things matter, is what I’m saying.  I just still don’t know what the right thing is. 

So now we wait for March, when placements come out, except actually, that’s not all, because how could it be that simple? Instead, next week, the Bean sits an exam for gifted and talented placement, and believe me, you don’t need to tell me how fucked up it is to be testing four-year-olds in this way.  Believe me.  I get it.  But also: in sixth grade I was in an all-day gifted program of students pulled from the whole town.  And it changed my life.  So.  We hold our noses and take the test.  The Bean is really happy with the idea of getting to do lots of puzzles with an adult whose attention is all on him.  He hopes there are a whole lot of questions.

The test results come out in April — that’s right, after the kindergarten offers have gone out — at which point kids who score high enough can try to find a district-level program they like — there are two in our district, but maybe  we could try for the one not in our district that we could still walk to, where our friends’ daughter goes.  Kids who score super incredibly high can attempt to get a seat at one of the citywide schools, but what with sibling priority, we’re talking a quarter of the 99th percentile, so phhht. (Except OF COURSE I believe my magical genius child is…oh, just ignore me.) 

Also I am considering moving to the woods and homeschooling them and also growing my own saffron.  

I’d always heard how stressful NYC school stuff is, but I kind of thought that was for people who can afford private school.  (Which at one point we’d thought might be us, but the generous tuition reimbursement program at Sugar’s job has now become a “give already rich people a little bonus” level of reimbursement, so yeah.)  I didn’t expect to find myself lying on the floor in the middle of the night crying because I just really, really, really want to ask my mom what she thinks.  I want to ask her a lot of things, of course, but this one surprised me with its intensity.  I just always thought in the back of my mind that she’d help with this particular kind of decision making, probably because she was so very active in getting me my education, in finding a way to get me to better places when one place or another wasn’t working.  She had a plan, is what I’m saying, and she pushed and listened and made calls and made it happen.  And that sounds like a terrible, pushy thing to do, I realize, but the fact is that I was a smart, shy, melancholy kid who made it through relatively psychologically intact and able to get into and thrive at a tough college that was without question the best place for me.  And I don’t think that just happened by accident.

In Jackalope news, she is nearly two, smart and gigantically tall, into music and dinosaurs and her big brother.  She’s far more physically explosive than the Bean has ever been, and I suspect this version of two will be quite a ride.  As a family friend noted at four months, she remains an “Imma do it baby.”  I wanna do it MYSELF, Mama. She’s named or renamed all the stuffed animals, starting with “Baby Dog” and “Naked Baby Snake” and “Baby Fish” (a blue whale) and now “Eyebrows” (a monkey we’ve had for years, who does have a prominent brow, since you mention it), and the bear she got for Christmas, “Eyeballs.”  She’s charmed the cat into letting her pet him, and though we laughed, she really did chopstick this dumpling into her mouth at dim sum.   

 


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Tuesday Tidbits

I know it’s Wednesday, I KNOW, but it feels like Tuesday because I barely managed to sleep.  You know that thing where you have a tiring day and you know the next day will be SUPER tiring, so you can’t fall asleep and then you inexplicably wake up at four a.m. and that’s just it?  That.

Today I drive up to Westchester for my usual classes, plus the biweekly student meetings, plus all the biweekly student meetings I would normally come up for on Thursday.  There was an error on the schedule and by the time I realized that, I had no childcare options for Thursday anymore.

Then I RUN to the car and pray for light traffic as I drive to a part of the city one should not drive to (the train has no chance to getting me there in time — in the old days I would have just said I couldn’t make it, which is perhaps what I should have done this time) and pay through the nose for parking so that I can pay through the nose for therapy.  This one does EMDR and said actually insightful things on the phone and was willing to talk about his methods and so on.  He is a friend of a smart friend, so I figure it’s worth a shot.  Then I realized after getting off the phone that I recognized his voice because of a spot on This American Life about testosterone.  Life in New York, I tell you what.

I contacted three potential therapists this time around, and they all got back to me: the power of the end of summer, I guess.  One was busy and recommended someone else.  One was this guy.  One, recommended by two friends, called me right back but got prickly when I asked about her methods. (“Could you tell me about your philosophy and methods?” “I believe people are a combination of identity and experience. More stuff along this lines.” “So, what kinds of methods would you use for someone like me?” “I think I just answered that.”)  She was otherwise nice, though, and gave me the names of two hypnotists she thought I should try.  Digging into all this stuff while teaching the history of asylums and mental health sects in the US gives me more patience for wacky ideas (mostly because reading all this stuff brings up uncomfortable truths about how psychiatry has and hasn’t changed), but I’m going to try contemporary woo for now.

Post-woo, it’s off to Brooklyn Heights, another unparkable neighborhood, where I hope to be able to shelve the car long enough to go rehearse the Bach Christmas Oratorio with the choir I joined last fall.  Here’s hoping listening to the first part in the car counts as practice.  Then home, at the only time of day it’s ever truly hard to find parking.

I am tired already.

Yesterday, or Tuesday Part One, the kids and I almost finished making a cold frame for our garden bed.  (We would have finished, too, if I hadn’t forgotten the screwdriver.)  The Bean has been wild to have one since last winter; someone in our building had wood scraps for free and someone else threw away a poster in a huge, plexiglass frame.  Jackalope only smacked her hands down into the wet finish of the wood twice.

Everyone was exhausted when we got home.  The Bean was a certified pain in the rear about dinner.  We’ve been having more full family meals, but this time I hadn’t made one (see: carpentry), so Sugar and I were pottering about during the exhausted wailings about how he just wanted to eat, which took the place of actually eating.  I had my back turned when there was a tremendous bang, followed by screaming.  Jackalope, flat on her back, on the floor behind her chair.  Much holding.  Much crying.  Eventually, ice cream for everyone.  When she had recovered enough to pause in her lamentations:

“I jump out chair.”

You don’t say.

Jackalope talks a lot now, by the way.  Mostly English words, but also a lot of “CAMIMI,” a word of her own devising that the Bean says means “excuse me.”  She also jumps off of a lot of things and can use her scooter (“ma goot”), inherited from The Bean, shockingly well.  She’s 20 months old.  Sometimes she throws her arms around me and says, ala Daniel Tiger, “I yike you just way y’are.”  She gets away with a lot that way.

Okay.  Time to get dressed.  In closing, I leave you with this, from a friend’s new tumblr you should really check out:

http://meangirlshistory.tumblr.com/post/130550320900/im-not-a-regular-mom-im-a-cool-mom
Oh, hell, the embed code isn’t working right.  Click through, will you?  I’ve got to get dressed.

https://secure.assets.tumblr.com/post.js


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Geography Lessons

Or: Things I Learned By Getting A Car

1. Brooklyn is a beach town.

Queens, too.  Oh, and Staten Island. Brighton Beach/Coney Island and the Rockaways are accessible by public transit, yes, but by car they are ~45 minutes and I don’t have to schlep the stuff for three people plus, to one degree or another, those actual people using only my body.  And then we are at the beach.  The beach, I tell you!

Since moving to New York ten years ago, I’ve made a handful of day trips to the beach.  Fewer than ten, probably.  In the first six days after getting the fuel pump replaced (ahem), we went four times.  We’re planning to go tomorrow.

Brooklyn Beach

2. Children like the beach better than overcrowded apartments.

Again, who knew?  Jackalope and the Bean do pretty well together, but, well, siblings gonna sibling.  Turns out putting them in smaller cages doesn’t help.  At the beach, well, I have two buckets and there’s more than enough sand for everybody.

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4. My apartment likes it better when we are at the beach.

We had to stay in last Tuesday morning.  There was marker all over the sofa before 9 am.

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Not the culprit, for the record.

3. Mamas like the beach better, too.

Partly this is because of the relative tranquility and because, duh, who doesn’t love the beach?  Some of it is harder to pin down.  Why should sand and salt and an environment where I really do need to be sure no one is drowning at any given moment make me feel so much more substantial, more tied to the world of the living?  I can’t tell you why, but at the beach I’m not thinking about whether this shortened breath, that mild headache is the beginning of the end.  It makes a pleasant change.

4. There is no Facebook at the beach.

Or next to none, anyway, as my phone battery is trifling and see above about real environmental dangers.

5. It turns out I spend too much time on Facebook.

I knew that, on one level, that “pay attention to your children/wife” level. What I did not realize is how much the click and click and click was increasing my anxiety. UGH. Facebook is a silly place, yes, but it’s also how I keep in touch with the world of adults and friends and complete sentences and big ideas. I just started a group for discussing anti-racist parenting, for instance. Also cat videos.

The things people dislike about Facebook — the way it provokes envy, for instance, or a sense that one isn’t living correctly — aren’t the problem. The problem is the very act of watching those notification numbers light up red, feeling compelled to check them, again and again and now again. I love it, and apparently it’s terrible for me. UGH.

Luckily, there is the beach to take my mind off it.


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Red Beans And Ricely Yours

Happy Spring, Internets.  It is about damn time.

Lots has been happening here.  And yet, when I think about what to write to you, it’s hard to know what is of consequence.  The days are just packed, as Calvin said once. Jackalope got her first cold, and as much as I rail against the rhetoric, I was very grateful for those breastfed antibodies.  The Bean was much sicker.  He and I made pickles, before all that hit, and they are tasty.  Jackalope sleeps well, except when she doesn’t.  She’s outgrowing everything, and we can’t find some of the cuter things I saved.

The Bean has lately become enamored of rhymes.  Jackalope is starting to coo and chatter at us.  And, to paraphrase Frances’s father, a girl looks up to her big brother.  So imagine her delight when he sat by her swing this weekend and began listing -oo words — zoo, boo, shoe, and so on — while she cooed and oo’ed back at him.  I don’t know how straight, fertile people don’t end up with a dozen of these creatures.  They are so very charming.  I am saved from ruin by not being able to decide to have more purely on a whim.

Today (and yesterday) we went to my favorite playground, made of large trees that fell in Sandy and other major storms of the past few years.  I haven’t been there since October, and it is nice to be back.  (Fun trivia fact: we had planned to go there the first weekend in November, to take pictures for a Christmas card.  And then my mom died.  So.  And with the grief and the travel and the end of the semester and more travel and the being huge and uncomfortable and the wretched winter weather, this is the first I’ve been able to get it together to drag us all there.)  Have a few pictures.

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Pastoral with tongue.

 

Also today friends of ours whose daughter is ~3 months younger than The Bean had their boy.  He is huge and healthy and we are glad he is here.  I plan to make them a batch of red beans and rice when they are home from the hospital, so I thought I’d write the recipe down here.  It is Monday, after all, the traditional day for these things. And laundry, but c’mon, did you see the size of that blooming crab apple? Laundry will wait.

My recipe is basically this one, with some minor changes.  I like more vegetables than the original, slightly different spices.  His beignet recipe is also worth your time.  I’m not a big one for measuring, so this is vague.  His is very much more professionally put together.  You should read it, especially if you like precision more than tangents.  The other differences are that I don’t use tasso, because I never have any, and I do throw in some pork neck bones, which are delicious and very, very cheap.

I find this works well in a slow cooker, too, with one very important caveat: if you use dry red kidney beans, YOU MUST BOIL THEM FIRST.  Either 30 minutes at the start of soaking or 10 minutes in fresh water after they have soaked overnight.  They contain high levels of a toxin called phytohaemagglutinin, and it is not your friend.  Boiling breaks it down, but slow cookers do not get hot enough to reliably do so; apparently there was quite an epidemic of sick whole foods folks when slow cookers first became popular in the bean-crazed ’70s.  I prefer to use small red beans, which are more traditional and don’t have this problem.  Then again, these days I’m such a lousy hippie that I often used canned beans to begin with.  Don’t tell, but I don’t really notice the difference. Our slow cooker is huge, so I generally double the recipe if I do it that way.

  • A few Tbs Butter
  • 1-2 onions, chopped
  • 1 Bell Pepper, chopped
  • 2-3 ribs Celery, Chopped
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • ~1 Tb dry thyme
  • ~1/2 t garlic power
  • dash of cayenne
  • ~1 Tb majoram
  • Dry basil, if you feel like it. Not too much.
  • 2 links Andouille Sausage, diced
  • 1/2 lb. Small Red Beans (soaked overnight) or 2 cans or whatever I can scare up without going to the store
  • 2-3 pork neck bones. Nothing wrong with a little more.
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 3 1/2 Cups Chicken Stock/water — less if you are using a slow cooker.  If I don’t have stock on hand, I use some “better than bullion” paste.  This stuff is handy as heck.
  • 3 Fresh Bay Leaves
  • Good splash of Red Wine Vinegar, somewhere between a Tb and a 1/4 c
  • 1/2-1 Cup Tomato Sauce — or a couple of Tbs of tomato paste or leftover pizza sauce or just a bunch of tomatoes
  • Handful of flat-leafed Parsley, Finely Chopped, plus more to serve
  • 2-3 Green Onions, sliced, plus more to serve
  • Long- or Medium-grain rice
  1. Combine the trinity — that’s onion, green pepper, and celery.  Melt the butter — as much as necessary — in a large, heavy pan with a lid, over a medium-high flame.  Add half the trinity, the andouille, and the spices.  Cook until the vegetables get some color.  (Do this step in a separate pan if you are using a slow cooker; you can do everything else in the slow cooker itself.)
  2. If you are using the slow cooker, just dump everything in except the vinegar, tomato, green onions, and parsley.  NB: You probably don’t need that much liquid, since not much will evaporate; just put in enough to mostly cover things. If you are doing this on the stove, you can either put everything in at this point, or you can put just the beans and neck bones in and cook for a few minutes first.
  3. Once everything is in, bring to a boil if on the stove top, then lower the heat to medium low and cover.  Cook 2-2.5 hours, stirring occasionally.  Keep an eye on the liquid level.  If you are using a slow cooker, use a medium-high setting for 4-6 hours.
  4. Thirty minutes before serving time, when the pork is falling easily from the bones:
  • Pull the bones out, clean the meat off of them, and put the meat back in the pot.  Feel free to skip this step if you are lazy.
  • Add tomato, parsely, and green onions.
  • Add vinegar.  Isn’t that nice?  Vinegar with beans is a magic trick I learned from this recipe.
  • Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.
  • Cook your rice.

5. Serve in large bowls, a pile of rice with the beans on top.  Garnish with parsley, green onions, and hot sauce, if you like.  A little extra vinegar is sometimes nice.  Watch out for little tiny pork bones.

 

Welcome to the outside world, Seabass!  We will feed your mama up on this, and with any luck, her milk will be extra tasty.


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39w4d: Fingers and Legs Firmly Crossed

Sugar says I should tell you I am still pregnant. I am still pregnant. I am hoping to remain so for at least a few more days, until local conditions improve.

Monday, it snowed and snowed. Tuesday, my lungs started to feel strangely twitchy. I loathe using my inhalers, but I dug out the less serious one. Nothing like powerful uppers to soothe the anxious mind! By Wednesday, when the weather was doing this (and if anything, these pictures understate the severity of the grossness), Sugar and I both had full-blown Colds of Filth.

I, however, also had an OB appointment, so the Bean and I suited up and gamely headed out. And then I stared at the iceberg-strewn moat that was our street and wondered how we would even get to the subway station. We were in our rain boots, but the Bean’s leak (and cannot be replaced because they are beloved). Moreover, their tops were several inches closer to the ground than the surface of the water. Something has seen fit to begin driving an axe through the middle of my pubic bone; I really can’t carry him anymore. I had hoped the man out shoveling might be the sort who would volunteer to lift him over, but no luck.

Just as I was explaining, with more certainty than I felt, how he could carefully cross via a narrow, quasi-stable-looking ice bridge, mirabile dictu! A dea-ex-machina solution arrived in the form of Sugar, who had decided she was too sick to continue on her way to work, given that the trains to that part of town had all stopped running. And so it was that we all went to the OB office together. I will spare you further tales of the trip except to say that it is remarkable how poorly this town responds to water. Too many tunnels and underground streams.

The appointment itself was fine. BPP was unremarkable, despite my panic on Tuesday that I had killed Jackalope with my inhaler. (This is why I hate those things. Though I grudgingly admit that I like breathing.) BP fine, weight steady. We saw Dr. White again and mostly talked allowable cold medicines and the confusing nature of these contractions that keep starting and stopping. “I think you’ll know,” she said of the latter. Of the former, “push fluids.” Believe me, I am. I push them in, and then I cough or sneeze and push them right back out again, if you follow.

This morning, the Bean started throwing up.

So. Here I sit, pregnant and kegelling like my life depends on it.


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Sunday Snapshots

Morning.

No coffee, or rather, no milk, which means no coffee for me, given present esophageal conditions. Sugar and the Bean get dressed, count down the minutes until the local grocery store opens, and return victorious, bless them.

~ ~ ~

Sugar and the Bean make pancakes. Banana for me and Sugar, chocolate chip for the Bean, because calories he will eat > calories he will not eat. (He didn’t eat much yesterday and was up repeatedly in the night, until applesauce and milk finally applied at 4:30 in the morning.) He eats a whole one, cut in squares! He asks for another, a dinosaur this time. I do my best with a paring knife.

Dinosaur pancake

He smiles. “No, I don’t want a dinosaur. I want a square instead.”

~ ~ ~

It’s my father’s birthday. He was going to come to the East Coast for a meeting next weekend and spend a day with us, but my mother is too sick to be left alone. It will be easier for us not to have him, as Sugar’s mother is coming that weekend, but I am still disappointed. And envious.

~ ~ ~

I unaccountably find myself crying over some dumb article about baby shower etiquette. Rude to plan one for yourself, they say. Unless someone offers, have everyone over for a cookout to meet the new baby, instead.

Point of order, I don’t want a shower, exactly. We don’t need much stuff. (Another chair. Maybe a few cute things that can belong just to this baby.) I don’t need to be treated like a princess or a well-maintained incubator or whatever. I wanted to be pregnant and I like being pregnant; I don’t think gestating makes me more special than those who aren’t. But it is work, especially while keeping the the Bean alive and my students more or less on track. And given how much of my work feels invisible at all times (see: daily parenting, adjunct professing), I admit a small desire to be noticed, just for a minute.

Sugar thinks we should just invite people over for champagne as a combination un-shower and early birthday party for her, since we are usually traveling for Christmas on her birthday. I seriously doubt any of our friends will actually care about the etiquette of such an event, especially if there is champagne.

I think the real reason the article got to me is that it presupposes a place in a social structure that doesn’t exist in our lives. We don’t have local family. (Well, one aunt I love and never see.) We don’t live near our hometowns or our high school and college friends. We don’t (and I’m not sorry) have a place in the cavalcade of heteronormativity these rules presupposes. I don’t regret the decisions that have led us here, but sometimes feeling different is too close to feeling wrong.

Moreover, I remain envious to an unflattering extent of people who are well enough to host parties two weeks postpartum.

~ ~ ~

The Bean naps today. Not for all that long, but it is sweet watching him fall asleep. For once.

~ ~ ~

In the afternoon, Sugar makes bread. The Bean is appalled.

“Punch down the bread?? That would be terrible!”

Yeah, Sugar. No hitting.

~ ~ ~

I vacuum the bedroom. It’s getting harder to do that sort of thing; I am not what you might call gainly. But it is worth it for the Bean’s praise upon inspection: “This looks beautiful to me!”