Bionic Mamas

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


In Which I Admit I Will Never Catch Up

Oh, internets, I’ve done it. That thing where you get so behind that you feel like you can’t post at all because where to start? And that thing where you’re so far behind that you can’t post also because you don’t know what’s going on with your friends and you haven’t been commenting and what kind of an ass does that?

But I do miss you, so I am going to try to just hit the high points of the past two months (two! Months! The shame!) and get back into the swing.

So. Some things. Very little order. Impressively incomplete. A gesture of affection.

Item: Christmas et al. Major parts great: people were nice, we were warm(ish) and safe, Bean in love with myriad relatives. We got to meet Pomegranate and her lovely wife and their Bunny! Minor parts: non-stop fiasco. I’ve had bad Christmases — springing to mind is the one where my beloved Grandmother was dying but had made it downstairs for presents and then my looniest aunt decided a Slight had been dealt to her toddler daughter (which it hadn’t, and anyway, the daughter was perfectly happy and secure in the love of the aunt who had supposedly said something terrible about not having any presents for her, actually “I am not ready to give you another present from the stack I am in the corner wrapping so that you can deliver it to its recipient, as you have been cheerfully doing; give me two minutes”) went nuclear, told us all in so many words how to fuck ourselves, stormed outcome back that night to storm out again, with some cursory packing this time and some tearful assurances that she’d always loved me. That was a bad Christmas. This was a good Christmas.


Also it is true that a huge storm disrupted our travel significantly, and once we finally got to my parents (following a lovely and unplanned interstitial weekend with friends in St. Louis), the Bean immediately got croup. And it turns out that croup, which sounds like it should only exist in Anne of Green Gables books, is really scary. I hadn’t written to any of you in so long that I felt sheepish asking for support, but I wish I had. Really scary.

On the first day he was sick, the Bean was suddenly barely able to breathe. The sign something was badly wrong was that he would only lean on my chest, holding his head at the angle that opened his windpipe most. This child just doesn’t slow down like that, no matter how sick he is. All the while, he was bark-coughing and breathing with a stridor rasp, a sound whose horror I had not fully appreciated when only reading about it. By the time we got to the ER, he was drooling.

I know that this is a normal childhood illness and that other kids have, by the Bean’s age, already been sicker in scarier ways, but it was still pretty awful.

I can enthusiastically recommend the ER at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Full disclosure, my dad works for that hospital, though not in that department, and it was therefore especially pleasing that the resident he had helped train was so kind and clearly competent. The triage nurse was willing to accept the pulse-ox reading we’d gotten while the Bean was asleep in the car, saving the tantrum-induced coughing fit we were in risk of. No one drew any blood — there was no reason to, and yet many places would have done it on principle, upsetting a sick kid for no reason. We watched Finding Nemo in the exam room. The respiratory tech, who was an awkward person in general, had a serious attack of being unable to make sense of the two mom business, at a moment when, frankly, we just wanted him to drop it and start treating our kid. When he finally got it, he was mortified and later appeared with a stuffed chicken of contrition, bought from the Heifer International stand in the hospital. (Heifer has its headquarters in Little Rock.) The Bean refused it, haughtily. Part of me wanted him to make nice, but part of me was a little proud that he was like, screw you and your guilt-chicken.

Although much improved after the hospital visit, the Bean got sick again that night, igniting a turf-war between my doctor parents over whether to return to the hospital. After packing bags for a probable admission and then wondering whether that made sense, given that, however bad he sounded, the Bean didn’t seem lethargic or especially unhappy, we called his very sensible doctor, whose full name, as it happens, is the same as a minor Anne of Green Gables character. She said we could stay home, so I headed down the hall to put him to bed (read: to sit up in an armchair and let him sleep on me, which is how it went all week), and everyone tried to calm down. A few minutes later, my phone rang, and Sugar picked it up. It was the doctor again.

“Oh, hi,” said Sugar, “this is the Bean’s other mother.”

“Where are you?”



“You told us not to!”

“Wait, is this the Bean’s mother?”



With that, she hung up and presumably called a family having a worse night than we were. Heck of a wrong number.

The next week wasn’t much fun (except that it was, because the Bean had so much fun playing with the 8 zillion trains eBay was divested of on his behalf), but the Bean did get better and, except for a horrible migraine, my immune-suppressed mother didn’t get sick. Sugar flew home so that she could go to work and promptly got so sick she couldn’t work or even pick us up at the train station when we arrived almost a week later. We were all happy to be home.

Phew! So much for short! One more story for now, in the interests of actually posting this one.

The big, positive excitement around here is how rapidly the Bean’s language skills are expanding. At Christmas, he had what I think of as his direct-object realization moment, at the lunch table. Suddenly and clearly amazed with himself, he came out with, “I…like…PICKLES!!” Now he asks questions like, “do you like chips, Mommy” and, “What do tracks like?” (“Um,” replied Sugar, “big, flat places where it isn’t too hot or too cold.”)

He also suddenly knows all the letters and some numbers by sight. This happened in less than a month from the moment when I realized he knew any beyond what could be written off as a lucky guess. Just before New Years, we were in St. Louis, eating onion rings. The Bean, as usual, was ignoring all of our food in favor of his limited, maddening diet. (Don’t get me started.) But suddenly he began pointing wildly at my plate, saying, “oh, oh, oh!”

“Oh, you want an onion ring,” I asked, taking his exclamation for pure excitement. I handed him one with a bite out of it.

“C! C! C,” he said.

A wise child, that one, binding himself to me through a shared love of literacy and fried foods.


Recipe: No More Nifedipine Cooler

Pepibebe asked for a recipe for last night’s celebratory grapefruit cocktail, and since I only had the one, I can almost remember what I did. It’s based on this one, with a few adjustments.


One grapefruit
Brown sugar
White sugar
Fresh rosemary

1. Make the brown sugar/rosemary simple syrup. I used 1/2 c water and 1/3 c of a mix of brown and white sugar, about 1/3 brown and 2/3 white. In a saucepan, heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Then add 2 springs rosemary, simmer for 5 minutes, let cool.

2. Squeeze grapefruit. Mine yielded about 4 oz.

3. To grapefruit juice, add vodka and Cointreau. I used about 2 oz. vodka and 1 oz. Cointreau, because I am a lightweight and because we are running out of both and I am desperately cheap.

4. Pour some or most or all of the juice mixture over ice. (I went with “most” and put the rest in the fridge.) Add syrup to taste. Garnish with a fresh spring of rosemary.

5. Go take some pictures, because what is social media for, anyway?

6. Don’t drive or operate heavy machinery or sign any contracts. Maybe don’t write too many blog posts if a reputation for literacy is important to you. Enjoy.



Weaning is Winning

Hey there, internets. Hope you are having lovely weekends and not getting trampled in a stampede of people fighting over discounted Chinese electronics or anything. Black Friday is maybe not really my favorite thing about contemporary American culture. To say the least.

But that’s not what I logged in to say.

The Bean is mostly weaned, it seems. Let’s blame those pseudo rhymes on the item pictured below. Ahem. Anyway, he now nurses every few days in the morning, and not otherwise. He doesn’t always ask, even on the days that I’m home. I think it’s mostly about feeling close, because if i end up sleeping in his room in the second part of the night — and boy, there are some sleep posts I could write these days — he doesn’t ask. It’s only if I am in my own bed when he gets up, and even then, it is sometimes possible to say no (like today, for instance, when I was in bed for a nap, having been in his room, intermittently sleeping, from 3:30 to 5:30). I think he’s about ready to be done.

I’m feeling pretty great about it. My mood is generally better (I always have thought the nursing hormones don’t agree with me, probably because I am a terrible mother/person), and my appetite has dropped so precipitously that I find my dreams of fitting in pre-pregnancy dresses a rekindling. (Weight is another topic for another day, but suffice it to say that I have not found breast feeding the miracle solution it’s advertised as being.)

I’ve noted on other occasions how bad I am at refilling my prescriptions in a timely manner, and I am too loyal to my local pharmacy to do mail order. Last month, I went without nifedipine for a couple of days and was soon spasming away on the bus, which did not improve my mood or commute. One of my big fears about all this Reynaud’s business has been that it won’t go away when I stop breast feeding, leaving me stuck taking nifedipine forever. But this month I messed up again, and what with the holiday it’s been days and days since I’ve had a dose, and…NO NIPPLE SPASMS! Wheeeee! Apparently three sessions a week is about the amount of nursing my nips are built to withstand. Thank God for nifedipine for getting me through the last 19 months.

I celebrated properly, with my first taste of grapefruit in almost two years, done up proper, with rosemary/brown sugar simple syrup, vodka, and Cointreau, plus fresh-squeezed juice. Cheers!



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.