Bionic Mamas

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


Ballots and Biscuits

Happy Election Day, oh my (American) internets! At least, I hope it will end happily.

Sugar and I went to the polls this afternoon, in company of a NOT AT ALL SLEEPY Bean, who went on nap strike today. After I gave up on the whole business, I got ready to go vote, but when I asked the Bean, who generally lives for trips outside and starts pestering us with cries of “shoes? Walk? WALK?” long before the sun is up, if he wanted to go vote, he said, “no.”

“Bean. Listen. Romney wants to fire Elmo.”
“Elmo?? VOTE!!”

And just like that, the fire of democracy was kindled in the bosom of a new generation. Lucky for us the Elmo candidate is also the candidate who thinks we have the right to be a family. Could be a tough dinner table conversation if it were otherwise.

Luckily, our polling place is a school with a playground. Luckily still, I GUESS, the table for our district had separate lines by last name, and Sugar’s line was very short, so she and the Bean could go play while I stood in the endless first-half-of-alphabet line for another hour or so. Not that I’m bitter. No, no, I’m proud to be part of the half of the alphabet that gives a damn about this country, unlike certain second-halfers I could name.

As usual, our polling place had no stickers. C’mon, people! Adults don’t get that many sticker opportunities, you know? Give a little.

Someone at Comedy Central knows how I feel, anyway. They provided one, free, on the cover of one of the free newspapers people thrust at you as you leave the subway stations in the mornings. So the Bean, who voted early and often, with us and with his babysitter/favorite person/Facilitator of Walkies earlier in the day, gets his Baby’s First Major Election picture with sticker after all.

Stars and Stripes, Sans Culottes

He never did take a nap, but thank the Lord, he is now asleep. Sugar is faintly tolerating my mainlining of election returns and carb loading. To that end, I have tinkered yet again with the sweet potato biscuit recipe I’ve been dallying with, and I now feel so deeply satisfied that I will show my work. This is a tinkered version of this, from Chowhound. I apologize for the weird measurements, but that is partly where the tinkering has come in.

Sweet Potato Biscuits You Will Like

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1.5 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
3/8 teaspoon baking soda (1/4 t plus half of that spoon again)
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup baked (boiled, whatever) mashed sweet potato (about 1 medium potato; freeze extra if you have it, for next time)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, FROZEN
Heavy cream for brushing the tops (Used half and half tonight; was just as good)

Okay, remember before you start that the key to biscuits is a light hand. This isn’t bread; don’t take you emotions out on it. Handle it as little as possible, lest you awaken the demon gluten and end up with hockey pucks. To that end, lay out your ingredients, your implements (spoon, basting brush, biscuit cutter/glass, cookie sheet and optional parchment paper) ahead of time.

Preheat oven to 400.

1. Combine dry ingredients. Whisk it around with a fork. Don’t bother sifting.
2. Combine sweet potato and buttermilk. If you’re a little short of sweet potato, use more buttermilk so that you still have 1 3/4 cups wet stuff.
3. Do this brilliant thing Starrhillgirl taught me: Grate the frozen butter into the dry ingredients. Stir it around so that it’s reasonably evenly distributed.
4. Add wet ingredients. Stir just enough to combine everything. Don’t get crazy.
5. Plop the dough down on a lightly floured surface. Use your hands to gently press it into a mat about 1 inch tall.
6. Cut out your biscuits. If you don’t have a cutter you like — I use a 2-inch one — use a juice glass.
7. Use your hands to form the leftover dough into appropriately sized biscuits. Don’t make it into a new sheet; this way involves less handling of the dough. Trust me.
8. Place biscuits on a lightly greased cookie sheet or parchment paper. Or a Silpat. Brush their tops with cream or what have you.
9. Bake for roughly 15 minutes.
10. Eat. These are nice with pork and onions and just as good with eggs. They are positively divine with the damson preserves I brought home from Starrhillgirl’s.



Quickly Thursday

Internets! I keep thinking I’ll find time for real posts, but the semester is kicking my ass pretty hard. So. Let’s see what I can speed-type before the Bean wakes up (and God, heap blessings on the head of his babysitter for taking him to the playground to get worn out). ETA: He’s peacefully reading his Donald Crews truck book from the library (OMG it is such an awesome book), so you get pictures, too.

Item: Naptime nursing session is done! And pretty painlessly, at that, if you don’t count this weird engorgement kick my boobs went on about two weeks in, who knows why except to continue their tradition of driving me nuts.

I’m away from the Bean at nap time Mondays through Thursdays, so on week one, I nursed him down on Friday and then made Sugar do naps on the weekend. The following Thursday, we were on a train to Virginia, it was hours past nap time, and he was a wreck, so I did nurse him. I thought this would be bringing us back to square one, since he would still have the pattern of nursing before naps when I am available, but I gave putting him down with a bottle a try for the two days (Friday and Sunday) that I had to handle naps in Virginia, and it worked! It was the wildest thing, and I am certain it is due to the magic of Starr Hill and starrhillgirl in particular — he slept through the night with almost no problem there, despite our sharing a room, and woke up happy, every time. Who wouldn’t be happy to wake up in starrhillgirl’s bedroom, though, I ask you?

On that Monday, we were back on the train, and I did nurse him, but that’s been that. Woo!

Item: I haven’t started doing anything about the next feed to go, partly because being down to two is such a relief. I have a lot more patience for the whole business now that it is only two, short sessions, neither of which is supposed to end in his falling asleep. I’m even finding I don’t mind going without a book or iPad to look at, which is saying something. (I know there is a school of thought that it’s Terrible to do anything but Gaze Adoringly at a nursing child — I have recently been admonished by one book that even talking while nursing a newborn is an inappropriate distraction — but frankly, I have been grateful for distractions that let me at least feel like a milk cow with a brain. Clearly, I don’t hate nursing, or I’d have given it up long ago, but as miraculous as the whole thing is, the moment to moment…. It gets a little dull, and I get stir-crazy.) Anyway, it’s a nice way to be winding down with the whole business.

Item: I imagine bedtime makes the most sense, although it’s true that he is already going without the morning session two days a week. Hmmm. We’ll see.

Item: Bedtime is becoming baroque. For a week or two, he was refusing to go down for me at all, but when we tried making it Sugar’s job, he balked at that, too. So now the deal is that Sugar gets him pajama’d and brushed and so forth. Then I try to read him a story, while he alternately demands to nurse (Guess who started saying “nurse? Nurse?” the very week I started weaning him? Dab hand at guilt, this one) and to have his bottle with Sugar. I nurse him for a few minutes, sometimes while Sugar plays the piano, then I leave and she takes over with a bottle, and then (if all goes well) he goes down pretty peacefully.

It’s a Bit Much, but oddly it still takes less time than it used to for me to put him down, so there’s that. I’m also hoping that adding elements will mean there is still some routine left to follow when the nursing part goes. We’ll see.

Item: we visited starrhillgirl! It was The Greatest, as I bet you can imagine. Bourbon was had, as was gin. Country ham made its way into biscuits. Classrooms were visited, as was the local grocery I am terribly fond of, what with their house-label canned goods and their county ham and their canning aisle.

The Bean read his first Dykes To Watch Out For book…


…and seemed to love it.




There was chicken watching and boudin-eating (thanks to shg’s terribly generous friend) and almost enough just sitting on the porch swing and talking. Sugar did more work on her long-running photo series of houses inhabited by the same family for 20+ years. (shameless plug for Sugar here. Any of you have family or friends she should visit around NYC?)

Item: So much talking! I feel like the Bean adds three words a day. God, I just love it. He’s also playing with language in different ways; for instance, he spent a couple of weeks adding “ie” to the ends of words he uses a lot, such that walk became walkie and book, bookie (heh), and so forth. I ask his babysitter if he got it from her, but apparently it’s just something he thought was fun. Probably because it makes everything sound more like a cookie.

Item: The word of the day is pee. For a few weeks now, he has been saying “pee” to us when we are in the bathroom, but it has not at all been clear to me that he knows what the word means, except that it’s something we talk about in there. But today, he was saying it, and after we wrestled off his diaper, he peed in his potty. I am shocked. And pleased. And apparently now a person who talks about pee on the Internet. Other people’s pee, I mean; obviously mine has been fair game for some time.

Other bathroom skills:


Item: Night sleep is rocky again, and now he only settles for Sugar. Poor Sugar. I will say again that the smartest pre-baby parenting decision I ever made was to insist on buying an Ikea chaise so that there was an adult sleeping place in his room.

Item: Eating is still picky as all get, but at least his caloric needs seem to have dropped enough that failing to eat a big meal doesn’t ruin the whole day and night. I still rather want to stab people — including my former self — who smugly believe that raising a child with a broad palate is just a matter of confidently offering the foods you want them to eat. I’d love it if the Bean would steal things off my plate or even open his mouth to taste a new thing, but it’s not happening. (I know it takes 15 or whatever tries to get used to a flavor, but how many sightings does it take to get a try?) His doctor says his diet is okay and that the pickiness could be worse, and that in the long run, children eat like their parents. I sure hope she’s right.

At least he will touch brussels sprouts.


Item: I ran out of nifedipine for a couple of days (yes, I’m bad at this), and even only nursing twice a day, the nips still need it. Sheesh. I am really, really, really hoping they aren’t just going to be like this for the rest of my life, as I don’t like the idea of taking this pill forever. Nor of giving up grapefruit forever, especially if that means no sea breezes with May.


Barely Legal

The deed is finally done!  We had our second-parent adoption court date yesterday, and BAM, we are now a legal family in all fifty states and the good ol’ D of C.  Feels mighty good, I tell you what.
Between Sugar having to run home from the subway station to fetch her ID, my brilliant decision to take a different train downtown (forgetting how infrequently it comes and not knowing the elevators were broken at the downtown station), said train’s passing us without stopping after we waited for one hundred years, torrential rain, and all the joys of going through security with a stroller, a toddler, and all the accoutrements both collect, we thought we would be so late that they’d tell us we were out of luck, but somehow we weren’t quite that late after all.  The elevators were confusing, but the nice man at the desk where we had to leave our camera gave us directions and congratulated us; when we got upstairs, there were toys in the waiting room and the court clerk went down and retrieved our camera.  Thanks to her, we have this winning picture of me with half-popped collar — I am tough, but sensitive — and blinking with our lawyer:



The Bean is chewing on a wooden block from the adoption office, a block likely encrusted in the spit of hundreds of fellow Brooklyn babies. Ah, tradition.

The Bean was an amazing sport about the whole thing, especially considering it was very much nap time. A lot of cookies were involved. Special thanks to the guys working security, who stood next to huge signs prohibiting food or drink in the court house, x-rayed our huge bag of Bean food, and only asked if the steel water bottles had hot liquid.

Afterwards, the Bean napped in his stroller while we walked to and through this phenomenal new park; when he woke up, we visited a playground and had a magnificent feast at Superfine, thanks to a sweet friend (and stupendous non-bio mom) who is a chef there.  After a postprandial return to the waterfront, we climbed back into Brooklyn Heights (that name is no joke, y’all) and rode the subway home, exhausted and happy.






Swap Sweetness

Probably my favorite thing about this blogging business — maybe even more than the metaphorical sound of my own voice — is all y’all.  I just love feeling part of a posse, you know?

So the first thank you of this post goes to An Offering Of Love, who organizes several community-building bloggy projects, including an annual holiday craft exchange.  Yay, Anoff!

Frankly, I’m awful at this exchange.  I don’t get started right away, and then it’s suddenly the end-of-semester crunch and I am running around like a chicken with my head cut off, can’t think of a thing to make, and don’t get it done on time.  Then we leave for our annual Great Middlewestern Odyssey — some combination of Little Rock and rural Michigan and nearly-suburban Chicago, all via train because I am like that — and I finally get something made, only a little late, but then I can’t get to the post office.  My poor recipient waits and waits and probably feels irritated as all heck, if not sadly forgotten.

Meanwhile, I’m not at home myself, so someone has sent me a gift — probably right on time! — that is languishing in the post office while I am living it up at my in-laws’.  She no doubt feels worried and/or unappreciated.  So I’ve managed to make at least two people feel not-so-awesome.  Happy Chrismukwanzakah!

Probably I should admit defeat and give the whole thing up, but I like it so, so much, feeling part of the club.  So instead I hereby resolve to do better next year, if y’all will have me.

Meanwhile!  You can see all the awesome crafts people made here, but first, let me tell you about the best one: when we arrived back at home this year, following a mostly fun but definitely exhausting trip, I had one hell of a migraine.  (The cluster of them I had around that time may well have been thanks to my established stupidity in not keeping up with the nifedipine.  I take it so my nips don’t clamp down agonizingly, but I think it’s relaxation of the blood vessel walls does help with the migraines a bit, too, as my doctor suggested it might.)  But even though our mail had been on hold during our trip, one of those aggravating pink “Sorry we missed you [or just didn’t ring the bell because we didn’t bother bringing the package in the first place]” cards was waiting, saying there was a package at the post office.  I loathe going to our post office — it’s a somewhat long walk down a less than overly pleasant street and across a truck route, and the employees leave much to be desired, pleasant and rational interaction -wise — but the Bean and I bundled up and headed out once I was well enough, although I was afraid the package would already have been returned to sender while we were away.

The walk was cold.  The post office was slow and borderline rude (which is better than sometimes).  I was good and tired when I got home. And then I opened the box.

The first thing I found was a tupperware full of the most insanely delicious, fudgy brownies.  I knew right away how rich and satisfying and it’s not too much to say how HEALING they were, because if you think I got that tupperware even out of the mailing box before it was open and a restorative brownie was in my mouth, you are mistaken.  I did that thing where you sit there chewing and you let your eyes close and your head rest on the back of the couch because DAMN.  Those were some good brownies, evidently none the worse for their time at the P.O.

But! Then!  I did pull the tupperware out, and there was more!  Can you believe it?  Tucked alongside was this dear, dear ornament, which will surely have pride of place on trees and wreaths and whatever else we find to hang it on for years to come:

I’m in the red.  I think that’s pretty obvious.

So thank you, thank you, Gayby!  I am so pleased and so impressed, though I can’t claim I’m surprised that you made such an awesome package.  When I look at that ornament, I will always think of you following up your egg retrieval by making Thanksgiving dinner.  My hat is off.


Home Improvements

First, a sleep update: Bean woke up twice last night, but settled fast both times.  Not quite as miraculous as Friday night, but still a vast improvement over the status quo. I’ve been cleaning the house and I found a lot of mold, so I called the experts from mold remediation houston to get rid of it.

We (mostly Sugar) are doing some home improvement this weekend, including hanging some more kid-friendly art in the Bean’s room.  Poor dear has mostly been making due with the things relegated to that room when it was the office: things I didn’t want dinner guests staring directly at (i.e., naked pictures of me) and things I didn’t want to look at while falling asleep (i.e., work that is overtly about death).  And, over his crib, a very nice print of a cheerful looking photographer, smoking. If you are looking to do some improvements to your home, consider getting a floor remodeling from!

Everybody’s got to go to therapy about something; I want the Bean to get his money’s worth.

Some of that is still up — don’t want him to be disoriented — but we’ve added:


An Eric Carle fold-out book of tails above the door, in place of the print Sugar’s dad made, of the woman waiting at the door to death.

A scissor-tailed flycatcher painted by Sugar, in place of the smoking photographer.

Here’s a clearer version:
painting for the baby's room

Over the changing table, in place of the map of our park the Bean has now ripped down, some letter cards Sugar has been making:

A closer look:
o is for owl

g is for goat

k is for kingfisher

c is for crab

The handy thing about those is that they are digital files (made partly from scanned drawings Sugar made by hand, partly with photoshop), so when he tears them down we can just print anew.  For a while there, his changing table said “O.G.,” which I rather loved.

By the way, when she’s got a whole alphabet of these, Sugar plans to put it up as a PDF on Etsy, suitable for printing at home on photo paper.  The next letter will be R (to complete the Bean’s initials), but if you’d be interested in buying a single letter or set of initials, let us know and she could do those letters next.

Meanwhile, I made hot pepper jelly for a brunch today (that we will get to eventually, except the Bean suddenly needed a nap and then wouldn’t fall asleep and then needed a diaper change and then, as soon as we gave up and dressed him for the party, clearly wanted to sleep first….).  It didn’t turn out very hot, even after I doubled the hot peppers, and I ignored my own notes on the recipe (based on comments on the site I got it from) and forgot about doubling the pectin, then promptly ran out of pectin (which is stupidly hard to find in stores here), so that required making the jelly and then reprocessing it after cooking it down to just shy of rock candy.  Plus I couldn’t properly can it because I forgot that our stock pot I used for that croaked, but ANYWAY:

Hot Pepper Jelly

And Sugar made a patch for the threadbare section of our couch cover (which we also made, but not recently).  I rather like it:
Let Me Call You Seat-Heart


Edibile Items

Hi, again.  Sorry for the outburst; things seem to have returned to normal, which means I’m back to being fairly sane as long as I don’t hear about any mythical “sleeping through the night” -type babies.  It’s like when Wile E. Coyote runs off a cliff or Peter walks on water: I’m okay as long as I don’t look down.

ANYWAY.  I thought it might be good (and service-y!) to write a post with some more detailed information about how we do food around here, since Bunny and others seem to have come away with the false notion that I have some idea what I’m doing.  The Bean knows we need to go buy Sugar an anniversary present, so naturally he’s napping like a doped cat — this is not typical, let me just point out — so rather than wait around for a good narrative and structure to come to mind, i’m going to make bullet points while the sun shines.  (…so it goes without saying that I’m continuing this hours later, right?  Right.  With no present purchased.)

Item: The Bean eats at the table three times a day; it was two until recently.  He eats a fair amount, and he definitely does not go down for naps without those meals.  He eats some combination of whatever we’re eating right then (he loves scrambled eggs with cheese and broccoli), whatever leftovers we have in the fridge, and usually something we’ve made just for him.  I try to make sure there’s some protein and some vegetable on offer.

The Bean and I demonstrate the ice tea spoon technique.

I keep a supply of extra spoons on the table because he likes to take them, and the day I found myself snapping at a seven-month-old for dropping a spoon on the floor is not high on my list of Best Parenting Moments.

I am going to drop this spoon, and I am going to look good doing it.

Some things the Bean likes to eat:

  • WAFFLES!  OMG, the waffle-love.  We (read: Sugar) make these yeast-risen ones once a week or so and freeze most of them.  A quarter waffle, toasted and cut into three narrow wedges, is a good distraction while we get other food ready.  (If you haven’t tried yeast-risen waffles, YOU HAVE NOT LIVED, waffle-wise.  Bittman drives me crazy for a whole host of reasons (COUGHpretentiousprivilege-blindgrill-obsessedsnobCOUGH), but I’ve got to hand it to him on the overnight waffle recipe.  Except use butter on the waffle iron.)
  • Banana pancakes, which also do pretty well frozen and toasted.  The way the kid puts those away makes me think he’s part locust; he’s one-tenth my weight, and he can eat more of them than I can.  I fear adolescence, I really do.
  • Mashed sweet potatoes.  Boiled, mashed, frozen in ice cube tray, microwaved and served with butter.  Yum.
  • Sweet potato fries.
  • BANANA.  At least one a day.  And here’s where Sugar is a genius: she figured out that instead of peeling the banana and putting it in a bowl, you can cut the banana in half crossways and USE THE PEEL AS A BOWL.  It fits right in your hand, and keeps the banana from drying out in between meals in the unlikely event the Bean doesn’t eat the whole half (?) in one sitting.  This is the kind of thing ninjas would do, if they spent less time jumping out of trees and more time thinking about ways to make housework efficient.


  • Cheerios.  Cheerios and cheddar bunnies (read: hippie goldfish) are a fabulous stroller/subway bribe.  We also usually throw some on the table at mealtime to distract him from hollering in between bites of other food.  Spoons require transit time, kid.
  • Cheerios and banana combined into a thrilling little amuse-bouche, like so:



  • Eggplant, particularly in pasta alla norma, but raw and fallen to the floor is also devoured.  Weird kid.
  • Apples.  He likes to scrape his teeth on a raw one, but mostly he eats ones I’ve cooked in water on the stove (or sometimes the oven).  Lately I’ve served them with ricotta cheese in an attempt to get more protein in him.
  • Bolognese sauce.  Big pieces of pasta are fun to pick up and try to eat; the fancy organic pastina with the baby farm laborers on the box is, like all grainy foods, abhorrent.
  • New Orleans-style red beans and rice (only not the rice so much, see above).  This fills my heart with gladness.  Also, anything else with beans.
  • Sardine pasta.  Yeah, I don’t know.
  • Pumpkin muffins.
  • Donuts.

Which brings us to:

Item: I have no problem giving him sugar.  None.  This could be a secret confession except that I really have no problem with it, so it doesn’t feel confess-y. In lieu of a real post, some sub-items on the topic:

  • He loves to drink water with and after food, so I’m not so worried about his teeth.  Neither Sugar nor I have problems with caries (one risk factor for his potentially having problems with cavities), and Sugar, who works on a pediatric dentistry project some of the time, is constantly looking at his teeth.  She brushes them, too.
  • I reject the societal freaking out about the “obesity epidemic.”  I just do.  Obesity exists, yes, but — and I could write a whole, whole lot about this — I don’t think being hyper-controlling is any help.  So help me God, if the Bean ever comes home with a report card that includes BMI, THERE WILL BE BLOOD.
  • I am vehemently, even rabidly, opposed to rules about food.  Habits, okay, but not rules.  In my world, rules about food have been tools for learning to stop listening to my body, which has been the path to lots of sadness and terribly unhealthy behavior.
  • I don’t really hold with the idea that exposure to sugar means you’ll helplessly crave it forever and eat nothing but bon-bons until you expand to fill all available space.  I’m hopelessly grounded in my own experience (as usual), but I grew up in a house with easy access to lots of sugar and yet I have less of a sweet tooth than most people I know.
  • I don’t think lack of exposure means you won’t crave sugar.  Human beings like sweet things.  That’s in our nature, and I don’t think exposure changes that much.  It’s kind of like original sin that way.

Whew!  For a really good time, ask me what I think of reduced fat products.

Item: Turia asked about adding water or breastmilk/formula to food.  Early on, we did that.  We would mill whatever we’d been eating and add enough water that it was easier for the Bean to swallow.  He’d let us know if there wasn’t enough.  These days, we don’t, nor have I used the mill in a few weeks.  We either break foods up a little with the spoon, as with red beans, or cut them up small, as with yesterday’s shrimp curry or this weekend’s pasta norma.


Not the world’s greatest picture, but you get the idea.

Item: I’m not sure what I think of vitamins.  His doctor — whom we really do love — told us at four months to start giving him trivisol, so we duly brought some and let it sit on his shelf for months.  (THIS I do feel a little confess-y about.)  More recently (read: MUCH more recently), Sugar has been giving him some at bedtime.  I hate that, because he smells like blood when I nurse him and…gross.  Then I did a bunch of research into the history of vitamins, which left me feeling pretty cynical about the whole business of supplements for people who aren’t at real risk of beriberi or pellagra.  On the other hand, I also just read quite a bit of history about lead poisoning, and NO, THANK YOU.  (This matters because low iron can make it easier for your body to absorb lead.  Also because it scuttles my plans to make the Bean earn his keep in a paint factory.)  I think the Bean will get his lead levels checked soon-ish, and I’m glad that’s standard around here.  So expect either smugness or panic on the vitamin front some time after that, I guess.

Item: I just asked Sugar what else I should tell you, and besides reminding me about the Bean’s love/hate relationship with seltzer (drinking it = love; listening to the angry farting of the soda stream machine = hate) and how he has been eating the lemon wedges out of my water glass, she said, “I don’t know.  I don’t feel like we’re really DOING anything.”  And that’s just it: we aren’t.  Three times a day, we put the Bean in his chair and offer him three or four different foods, some of which he eats.  If he finishes them, we offer him more.  Between those meals, he nurses, eats cheerios, and scavenges among whatever waffles and sweet potato fries he’s dropped on the floor.  If I’m eating something and he’s interested, I share it; if I’m trying to put away groceries, I offer him bits of whatever leftovers are in the way.  It’s all pretty low-key.

Early on, I had a brief panic that we are now responsible for offering him a balanced diet, whatever that is.  Ack!  I’m going to break the baby, I just know it!  I’ll forget about taurine* or something and he will WITHER AND DIE.  …but then Sugar pointed out that in fact, we do eat a balanced diet.  Right.  So maybe, just maybe, he will survive.  Humans have been surviving, even without food pyramids and RDA percentages, for quite some time now.  Yes, I know none of that matters because foods are all frankenfoods now and we can’t eat well like our ancestors and all that, but frankly, it’s hard for me to imagine that any of my ancestors who lived prior to the 20th century ate as well as we do, in terms of sufficient calories, variety of fresh food, and access to nutrients.  They didn’t leave the old country because things were perfect over there, you know?  Nor were things so great over here, most of the time.  I keep thinking of this old cajun man in a Calvin Trillin piece about a crawfish-eating contest in Breaux Bridge.  I’m too lazy to find it, but the gist of the story is that this man, who had been the reigning champion for years, had been forced to retire because he’d been put on a limited diet by his doctor.  Trillin asks him if he is sad to sit out the contest, and he says no, that he’s had many years of eating well and that, “there been kings who didn’t eat as well as me.”

Sugar and I do a couple of basic things to ensure that we eat well: we cook almost all of our own food, we mostly buy organic or minimally processed ingredients (when available at a reasonable price, which is where the hippie coop comes in), and we vary what we eat.  It’s taken both of us many years to become confident in our bodies’ ability to balance themselves, but in general, I think we do pretty well.  I’m sure we’ll have periods of panic about what the future Bean is or isn’t eating at a particular moment**, but right up there on my list of top parenting wishes is that we can save him the years of struggle it took us to get here.


*That’s a little cat-lady joke, for the lesbians in the house.  Where my cat ladies at?  Starhillgirl?

**Really, I’m just terrified that his teenage rebellion will take the form of tedious veganism.  (I did a (very) little of that in my day, but only to support an eating disorder, so it wasn’t the evangelical strain.)


A Long Ramble, Mostly About Food

The sad fact is, I’ve been working on this post for over a week.  Just thought I’d mention that, lest you feel forgotten.

Hey there, people of the internet.  I think of you all the time.  We are all happy and well, but this whole “working with a baby” thing turns out to be — surprise — kind of hard.  Let’s not talk about just how many papers I get graded while chasing our now highly-mobile Bean from deathtrap to deathtrap in the apartment, let alone how much reading I get done for the (totally fascinating!) graduate-level class I’m assisting for in addition to my usual courses, despite having… minimal qualifications in the field.  Bad enough slogging through hundreds of pages of almost comically granular scholarship as a student; now there is the terrifying and very real possibility that I will at any moment be asked to facilitate a group discussion on some arcane point I only dimly remember.  It is really fun, I must admit, to be learning about a new topic; I wish I could talk your ears off about it, but I’m a little chicken that the graduate program in question is unusual enough that doing so could make me vulnerable to googling.  But if you notice feats of more-than-usually-spectacular nerdiness in future posts, this might be why.

The Bean is more charming every day.  No, he still doesn’t really sleep.  But he does crawl like a maniac, pull to stand at every opportunity, and perform constant experiments in balance of the kind that seem to spell E-A-R-L-Y W-A-L-K-E-R.  We are proud and terrified.  He has two teeth and known how to use ‘em.  He interacts more and more with other kids and babies, which I find unexpectedly thrilling.  He seems to like us, too; when Sugar was laid up while taking care of him, he seemed to be telling her jokes by throwing himself backwards onto the bed pillows in exaggerated gestures of lost balance and then cracking himself up, and when I was bedridden the next week (WTF?), he took three naps with me.  He loves being kissed (and zerberted), and sometimes he grabs our faces and sort of rubs his open mouth on us, which I like to think is an attempt at reciprocation, though he might just be practicing being a lamprey.  This Sunday, Sugar brought him to bed to nurse in the morning, and afterwards, he lay between us, touching us and smiling at us and generally looking so very happy to be all together.  Then he caught sight of the cat, and Sugar and I saw what JOY looks like.  Ah, well.  They’ll have to keep us around at least until he can work the can opener.


He crawls


He stands.


He makes friends.

The other thing he does is EAT.  A while back, Turia suggested a post about how we are handling food, so here is an attempt to get that done before he’s ordering his own cheeseburgers.  If he doesn’t have an awful reaction to tomorrow’s flu shot, maybe it will even get finished.

(HAHAHAHA.  I wrote that Monday night, on my train ride home from teaching.  It’s Friday now.  The shot went pretty well, actually, but see graf one.  Also, I’m not sure what he’s been doing counts as cruising, but I’m also not sure it doesn’t count as cruising….)

So. Food.

Before I ever hopped into the stirrups and started down this spermy road to parenthood (ew), I had Definite Plans about how I would handle a few things — surprisingly few things, to give myself a little credit, but the Best Way to introduce food was high on the list of things I was sure about.  (I’m pretty sure Sugar was in agreement about this, but realistically, my fervor was sufficient to overwhelm any objections she might have come up with, so she wouldn’t have stood a chance if she hadn’t agreed.  She’s known me long enough to recognize that glint in my eye, and she is wise enough to pick her battles.)  I was certain — so certain that it wouldn’t have occurred to me to describe it as a choice — that we would do Baby-Led Weaning.

At the time that I first started thinking about it, I didn’t even know BLW was a thing; I just liked the way my Danish friend was teaching her daughter to eat.  I never saw Baby X spoon-fed purees or cereals; The Dane just handed her the food she reached for and she ate it.  So easy!  Baby X sat at the table with us when we ate and chose from the same foods we were eating.  If she wanted something, she ate it, and if she didn’t, no big deal.  Later, thanks to the Fat Nutritionist (whom you should read), I learned that what The Dane was doing was just what Ellyn Satter says we should do for children: we take responsibility for what food is offered (and when and where, eventually); we let them decide whether and how much to eat.  I can’t overstate how much this philosophy appeals to me.  I’m sure that those of you who know I am an American Woman will be shocked, shocked, shocked to hear that I have not always had a worry-free relationship with food; I love that this idea of division of eating responsibilities removes some of the most negative emotional possibilities from the dinner table without seeking to reduce food — which I believe should also be a source of pleasure — to only calories.

When the Bean had his four-month doctor’s appointment, I had just gotten my period and attendant milk supply drop.  He was fussy and seemed hungry to me, I told the doctor as much, and by the way, I can’t pump without having vasospasms galore, so he’ll be getting formula when I go back to work at six months.  Well, she said, do you want to try giving him some solids?

I was shocked.  Aren’t solids a six-month thing?  My breastfeeding hang-ups are a topic for another post (hell, they could have their own blog by now), but suffice it to say that I thought six months of exclusive breastfeeding was basically required.  (I read later that there’s not actually much evidence solids need to wait more than four months; a lot of the discussions that suggest as much conflate the beginning of solids with the end of breastmilk.)  We told the doctor that we didn’t want to do cereals and purees, that we liked what the Dane had done.  (The Dane-lette is also her patient.)  Fine, she said, just let him taste what we’re eating.  No milk, no honey.  See you in two months.

(Here’s the part where I say how overwhelmingly grateful I am that the allergy theories have shifted again and we get to give the baby almost everything.)

I didn’t *rationally* believe that we could get the Bean eating so much food by six months that I could avoid giving him formula when I returned to work, but I admit to some fantasies in that direction — not because I believe there is much of anything wrong with formula (because given consistent access to clean water and sufficient funds to serve it full-strength, I don’t), but I am far from immune to the praise given to mothers who breastfeed and withheld from those who don’t.  (And if I ever get this post done, I’ll sound off on that phenomenon At Length.)  Nor will I deny that avoiding formula appealed because deep in my heart of hearts, I want to do at least one thing my mother couldn’t.  She didn’t even take time off from medical school when I was born, but I was by-golly going to win when it came to Earth Mother-hood.

(Good Lord, y’all, it’s been over a week.  I’ve written myself into a corner, and I can’t find my way out.)

The Bean showed signs of enjoying the tastings — that is, he started sometimes pulling our hands back for another go — after about three weeks of on again, off again efforts on our part.  At five months, he seemed so interested in sitting at the table, that we decided to ignore the “6 months” label on his swanky high chair.  He loved being at the table and happily grabbed whatever we were eating.  If it met with his approval, he would shovel it so enthusiastically into his mouth and against his gag reflex that exuberant vomit followed, resulting in a net loss of calories.  …Win?  At about five and a half months, while we were visiting Sugar’s parents, he discovered pickles and thank god did not puke all over his grandmother, who was slightly horrified that we were giving him big pieces of food, not mush.  (I felt smugly superior.  Mush!  Ha!  Not for my discerning baby!)

As my rational brain had predicted, when I went back to work two weeks later, he was only occasionally swallowing food; he still needed just as much formula as he would have had we waited until then to offer him solids.  We had fun getting the Bean to taste things, but, well, you can’t hurry love.  But a funny thing happened in my addled brain: all those tastes of real food meant that the Bean wasn’t only eating breastmilk, and suddenly formula no longer seemed like a sad replacement for something I should have been able to provide had I been mother enough to suffer my vasospasms for my child’s sake (or, better, the sort of La Leche League poster-mater who doesn’t have breastfeeding problems because her heart is just that pure).  It just seemed like one more food the Bean sometimes eats.  No big deal.  I will confess to some disappointment that giving him formula two days a week didn’t magically improve his sleeping habits; I will confess to a little satisfaction on that count, too.  What can I say?  Addled Brain Is Addled.

At his six-month appointment, he’d dropped significantly in the weight percentiles.  His doctor wasn’t worried — said this was just the age when breast milk was no longer enough, that we were doing the right things with food and he would start eating — but then he started crawling all over the place and got slimmer and slimmer.  The weather got cool enough for long sleeves, and he could still wear onesies he wore in April.  I took him to a motion study at the university associated with Kips Bay Mega Hospital, and their (sloppily measured) weight put him in the Danger, Will Robinson area of the growth chart.

At about six and a half months, a switch threw itself in the Bean’s noggin.  Overnight, his attitude towards food went from polite curiosity to GIVE ME THE BANANA AND NO ONE GETS HURT.  Two meals — one before his first morning nap, one midday — were required to forestall wailing.  He also made it very, very clear that he wanted to eat more food than pure BLW was going to allow, and so I have reluctantly admitted that our mothers were both right about the food mill.

…You know, I think I’ve realized why this post won’t resolve, and since this is a blog and not a proper essay, I’m just going to tell you about it instead of, say, fixing it.  (GOD, it’s good to be out of grad school sometimes.)  When I started this post, I did all that set-up about my righteous belief in BLW because I thought that we’d failed at it.  A little pride-ever-goeth schtick.  But the more I think about it, the less I think we really did fail, at least when it comes to the things I most liked about BLW.

Yes, I’ve ground up more food than I had intended to, but actually, in the time it’s taken me to write this thing, the Bean has mostly stopped needing more mashing than a spoon can provide.  (Uh, I mean his food doesn’t need mashing.  To be clear, we have never attempted to mill the baby.)  Yes, I’m feeding him with a spoon, but we settled quite by accident on using ice tea spoons with very long handles (and very small bowls, hence the choice).  This allows us to hold only the very end of the handle, while the Bean grabs the handle farther down and either puts the spoon in his mouth or shoves it away; he is still in control of what goes in his mouth.  He has some finger foods: sweet potato fries, Cheerios, and as of today, goldfish crackers (only from the coop, so they’re actually shaped like rabbits and if that isn’t genetic engineering then I don’t know what is).  He drinks water or his new favorite, seltzer, from a cup.  Since I’m cheap as the dickens, we haven’t been buying pre-made food; for the most part, the Bean has been eating what we eat, which makes me glad.  I realize there is a natural narrowing of the palette in toddlerhood and that the 3-year-old Bean will probably subsist on hotdogs and cherry chapstick, but for now, he seems to love almost everything, from bananas to sardine pasta to kimchi.  We sit at the table together at meals, me eating with one hand and holding his spoon out to him with the other.  Whaddya know, a happy ending.


(Teeth.  Did I mention that?  Just the two on the bottom.)


Liveblogging the Storm of the Century of the Weekend

Hey, folks.  In the interests of neither going mad nor doing the necessary work of rejiggering my syllabi to account for classes starting late, I thought I’d use the excuse of the coming storm to natter on about our lives in even more detail than usual.  The likelihood is that we’ll lose power at some point, so you’ll be spared reading about the whole weekend.

A little background:  As you faithful readers know, Chez Bionique is in beautiful Brooklyn, in an apartment in a large building.  The building itself is tall, but we are only on the second floor, out of reach of water and not in danger of extra-strength winds, as higher floors either are or aren’t, depending on whether you read what the city’s Office of Emergency Stuff says about hurricanes in general or about this one in particular.  We are outside of all of the various evacuation zones for storms of various severities.


7:30 pm

Sorry for the epic pause.  I spent the afternoon searching for this awesomely dorky picture of me and the aforementioned friend at the beach in NC, all too cool to smile for the camera, but I can’t find it anywhere.  A profound disappointment.

We haven’t had much rain since this morning, and though there’s still quite a lot of wind in the trees, just now some blue started to show overhead.  The clouds are going west-east again.

Parts of the city are flooded and without power, the trains won’t be back for a bit, and no promises on the airports, either, but it looks like we were on the whole very lucky.  Hope that any of you whom Irene visited were, too.


Okay, now THAT is some wind.  Goodness.

Also, either the health care place across the street lost the enormous sail banner formerly tacked to its wall…or they took it in ages ago and I failed to notice.


I can’t believe the dead tree across the parking lot from us is still standing.  It is just the height and size of a live tree directly in front of it, and as the live tree’s branches are tossed and bent, its remain rigid.  (Aaaand now I have Ani in my head.  Name that tune, for 15 lesbian points.)  Ordinarily, the dead one is barely visible from our window, but today it is like an eerie crack in the sky.

We’ve had several very, very bad storms in the past two years, and its possible we won’t lose too many trees because only the strongest are still standing.  The great Lebanon cedar in the botanic garden went down in a particularly nasty spring storm.

Red Tail + Lunch

You might be able to make out the squirrel hanging from the hawk’s talons in the big size.

But it is also possible that we will be hit hard once again.  Hurricanes are particularly dangerous for trees because they usually occur in summer, when the trees are heavy with leaves, and because they bring so, so, so much rain, which softens the ground until a wind the tree could have withstood at any other time can tug even a giant out by the roots.

Today I am concentrating my concern on my favorite tree in Prospect Park, an enormous and ancient beech beside Enfield Arch.  Half of its crown went down last fall, but even so diminished, it has a majesty.  I’ve tried again and again to capture it in a picture, and have never managed to get the sense of it into a frame.  This is the best I have, from three summers ago:

My Favorite Tree

8:00 am

Hi, there.  We’re still fine.  Have power, water, all that.  No big leaks around the air conditioners, even.  I have a bit of a headache, hardly surprising in a storm this big, but nothing awful.

I was up several times in the night (understatement), so I can report that things started to get wild between 1:15 and 2.  At 1:15, heavy rain, moderate wind.  At 2, big winds.  I saw a large street sign go flying across the street.  More of the same at 4 and 7, though it turns out the part where the attendant’s hut at the parking lot across the street ended up overturned in the road was, in fact, a dream.



Thunder!  After not hearing any for a couple hours, a fair amount now.  Pouring rain, but not very windy yet. The cat who hates storms is starting to look nervous.  He did get some good cuddling in while we watched our new favorite distraction, Doc Martin.

Speaking of what the thunder said, a week after the first and only time I heard a “da” from Graham (his first very clear consonant), he has exploded in da’s and de’s and di’s today.  Proto speech!  His prolix Mama swoons, I’m sure you can imagine.

We are filling the tub and going to bed.  Guess I’d better do the dishes, as I don’t want to be stuck with dirty ones and no water because naturally we’d never go to bed with dirty dishes.  We’re not animals.


Yum, watermelon cocktails!


to make:

Fill a large wide mouthed glass about half way with scoops of watermelon. Squeeze in the juice of one lime. Mash with wooden thing. Add 2 Tbsp of simple syrup, some vodka, some ice, and some seltzer. Stir.


Putting the baby to bed (no, he never did take that nap: an evil confluence of my failure to notice a dirty diaper and his tendency to get hyper when overtired), I can see low clouds scudding across the sky, from east to west, the opposite of the usual pattern and a sure sign of a counter-clockwise spiral storm.  On the weather map, the first green and yellow fingers are brushing against us.

When I stand up, I notice red flashes on the wet pavement.  There are three fire trucks outside.  Firemen carrying hoses are climbing up our front stairs.  Another one is cranking open the hydrant.  I trade my flannel pajama pants for the first substitute I can find that fits my current body, an old pair of velvet sweat pants.  NOW I don’t look like I’m sitting around in my pjs.  I start to unbutton my (unmatching) pajama shirt and then decide I’m being ridiculous.  I run down the stairs to find out whether I need to grab the baby and go out into the rain (please say no, please say no — and in a really convincing way).

The super is there.  I love our super.  Turns out someone got stuck in the elevator and hit the fire call button.  He’d already solved the elevator problem when the firemen arrived; by the time I get back upstairs, the last truck is pulling out.

The news has pictures of the parts of North Carolina where Irene made landfall, at the islands off Morehead City.  I went to the beach there every summer.  The pier where we fished for crabs, where I first saw a real shark (a hammerhead someone had caught by mistake) was destroyed.

…but perhaps sentiment is making me foolish.  There are a lot of hurricanes in North Carolina, and my pier may have collapsed years ago.

In 1991, I was there with my best friend’s family when Hurricane Bob swung this way while my parents stayed at another house a few miles away.  An evacuation was ordered.  Police drove up and down the island with megaphones; there were signs everywhere.  We left first thing in the morning.  Traffic crawled down the one main road, over the single bridge across the sound.  We were home by noon, and I sat in my friend’s living room for hours, alternating between terror and rage at my perpetually late parents, who blithely didn’t even leave the island (with the friend of my father’s sharing the house, whom I never could stand) for hours afterwards.  And of course, they were right.  There was plenty of time to get home before the storm.

Now they are the ones worrying, I think.  They live in Arkansas now, where tornadoes are frequent but sudden, without the days to worry that hurricane warnings provide.

I just heard thunder.  Sugar is scooping out watermelon for drinks.  We’re having meatballs, made from all the ground pork and beef we could find in the freezer.  If we lose power, we’d have lost the meat anyway.  If we lose gas, it will be nice to have some food that’s cooked already.  If we lose power and gas, we’ll just gorge on the meatballs quickly, right after the ice cream.


It’s pouring.

The Bean refuses to nap.  After lots of crying from the crib, I nursed him for a million years.  Now he’s in there chattering to himself.  Oh, well.  It’s kind of cute, and no rules on hurricane weekend!

Drinking water supplies now all set up.  Filled pitchers, pots, nalgenes, and the odd tupperware.  If Irene doesn’t take us out, the BPA may.

water for hurricane

Cracked open the first of the adorable little cans of coke I bought in yesterday’s supply run.  Don’t worry; there’s beer for later.  And if the power does go out, we’ll have to eat that ice cream up with a quickness.

Hung out yesterday with a friend who was here on 9/11.  She said that immediately after the attacks, she went to the store and bought lots of canned beans and also coffee, because she remembered something about coffee being a useful currency during World War II.  We contemplated buying cigarettes.


Holy shit.  The Bean crawled forward.  Not very effectively, as he was on a slippery blanket, but still.  This development will definitely wreck more havoc on the household than Irene could.

why can't i crawl yet?

Sugar is unpacking all the toys her parents sent and surrounding him.

a lot of toys just arrived

2:26 pm

Raining a bit, sometimes heavily.  Despite the fact that I laid up important stores yesterday (batteries, coca-cola, ice cream), we decided to head out to the nearby store, more for the experience than for much else.  Besides, if the power DOESN’T go out, we will need milk.  I splashed out on all kinds of new kinds of canned beans.  Also coffee, watermelon for cocktails, and chocolate chips.  Just in case.


Insert Pickle Joke Here

Okay, I admit it: I haven’t been blogging because I just love the comments on that last post too damn much.  Can some WP guru tell me how to make it its own page?  This may be my one real contribution to maternal consciousness raising, the closest I ever get to the hallowed pages of Our Bodies, Ourselves, and I mustn’t fail now.  I can figure out how to move the post itself, but I’m stuck on the comments.  And they are obviously the best part.

We are battening down the hatches around here, filling BPA-riddled nalgenes with tap water, setting up stores of chocolate, that kind of thing.  The Bean and I are off soon to pick whatever green tomatoes may have survived the utter neglect we inflicted [can you inflict a lack? — Ed.] on our community garden bed this season — although thanks to the prevalence of purslane, we did manage to eat a good portion of our weeds — and see if the hordes have left any batteries at the grocery store.  (For the FLASHLIGHTS, people.  Obviously other battery sizes are stocked in the emergency kit already.  Priorities.)

While we prepare for the second apocalypse of the week and I continue to wallow in denial about going back to work next week (but not on Monday; thanks, Irene!), please enjoy this video of the Bean at Sugar’s parents’ house, with his first kosher garlic dill:

Oh, have two.  They’re small.