Bionic Mamas

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


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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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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!”


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A Tiny Cake For A Half-Birthday

When Sugar and I got married — the big party time, not the legal time — we tried to make a registry that wasn’t careless with money. We asked for things we were sure we would use, and we looked for good deals. Not everything on the list was dirt-cheap, but there were plenty of inexpensive things we really, really wanted; after all, we are usually broke when doing wedding shopping, ourselves.

One thing we particularly wanted was some new loaf pans. We had two, scavenged, I think, from Sugar’s mother’s kitchen. I suspect they were nonstick once, because I have no other explanation for the streaks of dark brown paint amid a few decades’ worth of scrapes. We found some decent, non-nonstick ones from a kitchen store with an easy website, at a reasonable price. Someone bought them for us! Oh, the loaves of bread we looked forward to!

When the pans arrived, our dreams…shrank. As it turns out, the price was so reasonable because the pans were very, very small. Mini loaf pans, in fact. Reading comprehension fail.

Happily, mini loaf pans — ours are about 3 by 5 1/2 inches — are the perfect size for tiny birthday cakes, and tiny birthday cakes are just the right size for family celebrations: big enough for all three of us to have a slice twice, small enough that the cake doesn’t have a chance to get stale. (I know there are other solutions to that problem, but oddly, sometimes I don’t feel like gorging myself on dessert. Meat is another matter. So are French fries.)

Sometimes I make proper icing and divide the cake horizontally into layers, as with the Bean’s first birthday.

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For his half birthday, I did not plan ahead, so there wasn’t time for the cake to cool enough to be iced. The Bean tends to mostly eat the icing, but it occurred to me that if the cake were chocolate, he might eat some of the part containing actual nutrients (eggs, flour, milk). (Yes, his diet is such that I am serving him cake for nutrients. A topic for another time.) I cobbled together this recipe mostly by reducing this one (minus the espresso because we have sleep problems enough with this child), with a few ideas from this one. I’m not often pleased with chocolate cake, which can be dry and more “brown” than “chocolate,” but this was lovely. We served it with whipped cream, and it was devoured, nutrients and all.

Half-Birthday Cake

2.5 Tablespoons butter (1/3 stick)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 egg
Scant 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter the sides and bottom of a mini loaf pan (~3×5 1/2″).

Cream butter and sugar. Add, mixing after each addition, salt, vanilla, baking powder, and cocoa powder. Add egg, and mix to a crumbly texture. Add flour and buttermilk, in alternation, and mix well.

Pour into greased pan. Bake at 350 for approximately 35 minutes, until a chopstick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Or a broom straw, if you’re traditional like that.

Serve with whipped cream, or whatever sounds good.

For a full-sized loaf pan, multiply ingredient amounts by three, except vanilla (2 teaspoons) and baking powder (1/2 teaspoon). The original recipe calls for plain milk, so that will work in a pinch.

_MG_1414


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Southern Comfort Food

Happy Monday, internets. I hope you are well.

I am well but nervous. I’ve done a pretty good job, I think, at just relaxing and practicing belief and all that jazz vis-a-vis this month without medical reassurance of this probable pregnancy. It would be untrue to say I haven’t fretted at all, but most days, I’ve been okay. Fertile people do this all the time! And they are fine! But today is the day.

I am nervous for all the reasons you’d expect, gentle readers. I am afraid I am not really pregnant. I am afraid I’m being pregnant wrong. I am afraid this doctor, whom I have not met before (the known nice one wasn’t available for this appointment because of our travel schedule) will yell at me. I’m afraid I will get bad news in front of the Bean and never stop crying.

A friend has offered to watch the Bean, but I’m afraid to take her up on it because it will surely mess up her own toddler’s evening schedule and then she will hate me.

At times like these, nothing will do like the comfort of food.  I did not want to eat at all, but some small, beleaguered zone of rationality in my brain informed me, repeatedly, that this was a very bad idea. It moved my body around the kitchen until iced tea was in my glass, new water in the kettle to refresh the supply, grits* and eggs were boiling in their pans. The fretful majority of my grey matter distracted me into overcooking the egg (I favor a five-minute one with grits), but the rest survived. A little leftover salsa verde from this weekend’s trip to the Red Hook ballfields made everything go down easy; bland food gives my stomach too little to think about, and it starts making up problems.

image

And so, onward. Eight hours to go.

*I do not appreciate whatever Yankee wiseguy programmed Autocorrect on this phone to replace “grits” with “gross.”


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Pre-Dawn

Hi, internets. It’s 5am. I’ve been up since 3:30 or so, when I decided I wasn’t sleeping well in the Bean’s room and that I should return to my own, since he’d recovered from the coughing and crying that brought me to him at some earlier point, when the progesterone was still fresh enough in my system that I was foggy headed. I’ve been enjoying very much the solid sleep the crinone has provided me for the past several days, but I guess all good things come to an end.

Partly, I am up because I decided to go balls-out with my last night of sanctioned acid reducer and proton pump inhibitor use: I made spaghetti and meatballs with — gasp — tomato sauce, AND I had two ounces of white wine. I am a maniac, it’s true, and guess what? Stomach unhappy. I swear things have never been the same since the Bean’s second trimester. I used to be able to eat iron nails, which, mark my words, will one of these days be the new foodie trend, faux-rustic edition. Or maybe it’ll be more like a molecular gastronomy thing, with lots of chatter about the ideal extent of oxidation in the crust. Think seared tuna.

(Sugar and I had a sublime seared tuna dish at the neighborhood Japanese restaurant on our date, with a wasabi and miso kind of sauce and lots of radish sprouts. I may be dating myself here, but I miss seared tuna as a food trend. Those were tasty days.)

Partly, I am up for reasons that are likely obvious to you. I am nervous. About all possible outcomes.

I dreamt last night it was beta day, only the test was that I had to lie back on an exam table and slide a DVD into my vagina. Which was tricky work. The DVD somehow was also a video camera that made a cartoon movie of the interior of my vagina and uterus, which mostly consisted of parts of my body mocking me. I felt foolish, because I had thought I could be pregnant, but in retrospect realized I’d never felt pregnant in the least. I felt ridiculous for being surprised. When I woke up, it took a while to remember that I my not currently feeling pregnant is not an omen of anything, since I am, after all, definitively not currently pregnant.

At other times, I grind my teeth over fear of a miscarriage, which my mind transmutes into the inevitability of one.

And the there is the possibility of a Real Live Baby, which, while obviously the preferred outcome, is not without its ability to provoke anxiety. Sleep is, of course, a major worry. If we do get another baby, is there any way to order the kind that sleeps? There is also the matter of our tiny, crowded apartment, which works better for three of us than it has any right to, but four…. The babysitter for our date night (your ex, starhillgirl), who i assume either isn’t nosy or doesn’t know what the huge packages crinone rubbing shoulders with the breadbox might portend, spent a while telling us how crazy the household she’d just worked in was, the one with a five-year-old and a two-year-old in a space our size. You know, the age spacing we’re presently lining ourselves up for.

In truth the apartment is awfully small, especially given that neither Sugar nor I are willing to compromise on the activities that interest us in order to avoid storing bulky things. No way to live, in my opinion, even if the alternative is clutter. We had hoped to be in bigger place before the Bean was born or at least before he was such a person, but that’s not the way things have gone. Our neighborhood is more trendy by the day — a cheese shop just opened around the corner, on a street whose contributions to the economy at the time we moved here we strictly, um, tax-free. A cheese shop. I don’t think we’ll be convincing the landlord not to raise the rent this year. Sugar has been in the running for a significant promotion for ages, as the hiring of the new position keeps waiting on the department head’s either being well enough to participate or sick enough to exclude. It would mean more money, though, thanks to some truly enraging university policies, probably not until she’d been in the new job for a year. It would also mean the kind of line on her resume that could make it easier to land in a job someplace where life is a little cheaper and there are more trees. And maybe it will happen, but there are reasons it might not.

In truth, there are plenty of reasons (mostly related to money) that trying for another child right now is irrational, but, well, this is the life that we have, and there are only so many compromises I am willing to make in the name of being sensible.

I think I would be nervous about today’s transfer, if I could get my brain to admit it is really happening. Strange doctor, yawning speculum, the likelihood of a tenaculum. But it seems like something that is going to happen to a character in a movie, not to me. I have little flashes of silly anxieties: I couldn’t remember whether I’d had to wear a hospital gown last time — it isn’t in the blog post — and couldn’t rest until Sugar said yes, I did. (I don’t know why it matters. The Baby Factory has very nice gowns. Perhaps what is really troubling is not remembering.) I am very much looking forward to that Valium.

The sun is up now, and like clockwork, I am tired. Catch you on the flip side, as the kids who are old now used to say.


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The Smaller Roller Coaster

In retrospect, another fine title for this post would be Migraine Prodrome.

Hello from the couch, internets, where I am rubbing off the linty adhesive left behind on my arm by the paper tape that covered today’s bloodwork wound.

On the subway ride to the clinic this morning, I wrote in my journal a bit about how nice it is that, in contrast to last go-round, this cycle doesn’t feel so much like a roller coaster for my poor old emotions. For instance, I noted, most of my drugs are trapped in the hell that is our local post office and the mail-order pharmacy hasn’t even gotten the prescription for the trigger shot yet, but I’m not freaking out. I’ll go to the post office Monday, and the insurance people said I could get the trigger at a regular pharmacy.

Sure enough, when I got to the baby factory, the nurse was happy to write me a new prescription. The radio was playing “Unbreak My Heart,” but it was hard to feel maudlin when it was clear from the waiting room that today was Buddy Day — there were at least three pairs of friends there together, chatting and happy. The waiting room is a silent, serious place on the weekdays, but it lets its hair down a little on the weekends.

The anesthesiologist from my egg retrieval came by as i walked from the blood-draw room to an exam room, he who was so sweet to me when I was terrified and crying and so cheering when I was in my post-surgical haze of chatty confusion. I saw him last weekend, too, and called out to him. It was three years ago, I said, but I was so frightened, and you saved me. I remember that face! With the tears! he said, and bent to kiss my cheek.

Undress from the waist down, Lovely, said the prescription-writing nurse, and I felt all warm and fuzzy about that “Lovely.” My toes were wet from rain — it’s a bit of a walk from the subway — but I was wearing my favorite, quasi-matching knee socks, which cheer me up even though their elastic has worn out considerably since the days of our efforts to conceive the Bean, when these stirrups saw them frequently.

The fellow on duty today, who had a long ponytail and the kind of slight southern accent that makes me feel at home, seemed, unlike the fellow I saw on Tuesday, to have taken in what my chart said. (Dr. Tuesday greeted me by announcing I was doing a natural FET cycle (true) and that I had been taking estrace for four days (false, since there’s no estrace in a natural cycle). After the ultrasound, which, like a lot of things this month, was quite painful, she noticed me doubling over in pain and asked why. When I told her my endometriosis was bad this month, she looked blank.) Hmmm, there’s nothing going on in your ovaries, today’s fellow said, and even though she didn’t sound worried and it’s hardly surprisingly late, given my typical cycle length, my heart just sank. If I were doing a medicated cycle, this would be more or less taken care of, but because I chose not to, suddenly it matters how well my body behaves itself. And I don’t like being reminded that its behavior isn’t driven by my expectations or my will.

I left the clinic (radio: “Billie Jean Is Not My Lover”), and my blood sugar plummeted as I walked to the subway. I have inherited my father’s family’s way with hypoglycemia, and I made some bad breakfast choices today, in particular the choice to eat almost nothing. My back hurt from the ultrasound, and by the time I got to the station, it was clear that once I got back to Brooklyn and picked the Bean up from our friend’s house, it would be too late in the day for the outing I’d planned for us. (Sugar had a photo shoot this morning, and though I don’t believe in barring children from RE waiting rooms, I also don’t know how I’d keep him from rummaging through the sharps containers while I am in the stirrups.) I was tempted to sit down and cry or at least zone out, but I got on the train instead. Back in Brooklyn, the pharmacy said my insurance wouldn’t pay for the trigger shot.

It’s not true, it turns out, that there’s no roller coaster this time. It is, however, so far a smaller one. The highs are not so exhilarating, but the lows are not so all-encompassing, at least not so far. Three years ago, I would definitely have had a panic attack in the pharmacy, but today, I bought a snickers bar and went to pick up my kid. I called the insurance company while the Bean and I waited for our friends to meet us at the diner on our block — hardly the big adventure I’d hoped for — and when they said no one from the fertility department would be in before Monday, I hung up and enjoyed our lunch.

It’s not a mystery what’s changed, and I’m not just magically more mature. It’s the Bean. Partly his very presence takes some of the desperation out of my more pessimistic daydreams — one child is a profound difference from zero. But mostly I think it’s that being with him so much of the time just makes a certain kind of fixation impossible. I can’t properly focus on how down I feel while simultaneously keeping him from dumping the diner’s salt shaker onto a pile of their sugar packets, and really, how consistently blue can I manage to be while he’s so very pleased with his first temporary tattoo?

New ink

This isn’t to say motherhood has made a Pollyanna of me, as this blog will attest. I still feel sad tonight. I thought my mother, who has been too sick to travel since just after the Bean was born, was going to somehow make it to a family reunion in Michigan this summer, but I’d misunderstood. Seeing Sugar’s mom here with the Bean makes me sad that mine can’t visit him and afraid that he won’t love her as much as he loves the grandmother who can go with him to the garden and the playground. I tried to send my mom one of these lovely ecards, and when something about my iPad hiccuped and lost my two sentences, I melted down crying on the couch. It’s a bit more than the situation calls for.

It’s more that these blues haven’t dominated the evening, as they certainly would have a few years ago. I’ve felt down, but I’ve also had some surprise neck-hugs and gotten to watch the Bean dance and take pie lessons from Sugar. Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, and even if our plans don’t work out perfectly, it will be a better day than it was three years ago, guaranteed.

Pie lessons