Bionic Mamas

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


Giraffe has big dreams

Hi – Sugar here. I’m writing/painting a story book for the Bean.  Since Bionic is holed up grading awful papers, I’m going to punctuate her blog silence with the pictures as they come along. I’ve got 1.5 pictures so far, thanks to 3.5 total nap hours from Saturday and today. Here they are:


This is Giraffe.


Giraffe wants to move to the city. He’ll live a life of friends and parties, taxis and buses, fancy stores and apartment buildings. (This is the .5 picture.  Pay no attention to the unfinished right hand side.)

Can you see where this is going? Bionic and I have a collection of stories about animals moving to urban areas. You’ll have to get her to tell you the one about the whale who accidentally becomes a maritime lawyer. Stress ensues.


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.



The Jokes Just Write Themselves

It has come to this: I am procrastinating so thoroughly from packing for the insane, multi-day train trip I am about to take alone with the Bean that I have gone and started a twitter account, @bionicbabymama. I am so late to this game it’s a miracle there were any accounts left.

So far it is mostly about cannibalism in children’s literature.

So, you know, if you’re into that sort of thing, or you would like the play-by-play version of my imminent demise, you can follow my, erm, twits. As opposed to what got you following here. Ahem.

(re: the trip: the short version is that my mother is too sick to travel, I am terrified of planes (don’t start), and a trip to my parents’ place means a trip to Sugar’s so that it is fair. In lieu of flowers, please send gin.)


A Bit of Shameless Self-Promotion

Hi everyone,

Sugar here.  A quick post today to ask you to go to Threadless and vote for my newest design there.  The deal with Threadless is that if they print your design on a shirt they give you cash (yay cash!).  So if you have a moment, go over and give me a high score.

Threadless is also responsible for the very cute alphabet t-shirt the bean has been wearing for some time now and is a place to get some fun stuff for kids.

Here is a picture of the potential new t-shirt:


I was obviously thinking about “Total Eclipse of the Heart” when I made this (why do I love that song?) but Bionic says it should more accurately be titled “Partial Eclipse With the Heart.”  Ah, the joys of living with an English teacher.

eclipse of the heart - Threadless T-shirts, Nude No More

Thanks everyone! Now back to our regular programming . . .


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


Oh, For Pete’s Sake

(Um.  This got really long, possibly because — see below — I am really tired.  But I added pictures!)

Big changes afoot chez Bionique.  I went back to work on Thursday, later than expected thanks to Irene.  It sucked.  The farther I got from home, the sadder and more frightened I felt, and I work very far away.  As in, no way to get home in under two hours.  Work itself was lonely.  I teach writing at the college level, which means that in the fall, I teach freshman comp.  I love teaching freshman comp, but it does mean that on the first day of the new year, my students don’t know me yet.  I’m an adjunct, so I don’t know many of my colleagues, either.  It can be pretty lonely.  The building I teach in is falling apart and is now wrapped in a fence to keep people away from the plummeting masonry.  So my office window looks out on chain link.  I know, an office with a window!  It is not grand and it is shared — think linoleum, dank half basement, horrible overhead fluorescent lights that turn off if I sit still for ten minutes — but I don’t get one at all in the spring semester.  For a prison, it’s very nice.

The good news is that Sugar gets to stay home with the Bean on Thursdays.  Yay!  Sugar’s office probably agreed to that schedule only because they are so terrified to lose more staff, but whatever, they did agree.  I’m really happy that the two of them are getting some regular time alone together.

Despite our attempts to rush the Bean’s interest in food, he really isn’t eating much yet.  He likes to grab things and put them in his mouth and taste them but feels quite betrayed when bits of them try to get down his throat.  At least he’s grown out of the exuberant gagging that led to vomiting.  I’m still glad we started giving him solids over the summer, as it’s made me feel less sad about giving him formula now; instead of the formula intruding on our perfect little wonderland of breastmilk (which I didn’t think I cared about until it was so fucking miserably hard and painful to create), it’s just one more “food” he’s trying in addition to nursing.  I do hope I will be able to keep enough supply that I don’t need to give him formula when I am around, though, principally because I am lazy and don’t like doing dishes.  This may be a little tricky without pumping much, so we’ll see.

Speaking of pumping, the bad news is that the manual pump is not gentle enough not to have kicked the vasospasms into action again.  On Thursday I pumped three times and only enough to keep from exploding.  (Okay, a little extra on that last round because I had just heard from a friend with mastitis.)  On Friday, spasms all day, plus white patches on the ol’ nips.  Ugh.  The spasms weren’t really painful — more pins and needles — but they left me feeling nauseated with fear.  It’s just possible I have a little lasting trauma in that department.  Maybe.

Meanwhile, in what I meant to be writing about when I started this post, we have come to the end of our ability to deal with the Bean’s preferred sleeping patterns.  Those patterns being: couple of naps in the day, followed by a trillion wake-ups all night.  When he was younger, this made a lot of sense: he was small and very hungry and clawing his way onto and up the growth charts.  Of course he needed to eat, and I was pretty damn irritated at the people from our birth class who, after telling us that “babies don’t like” to be rocked in the way that he liked, informed us that at 8 weeks, he no longer needed to eat at night.  Maybe your giant (dumb) baby doesn’t, I thought, but my little one does.  He never wanted to do anything but eat at night (where night is defined as ending at 4:30am, lest you get too jealous); no interest in playing or otherwise being awake.  If he did not get enough to eat, he would cry until he did, period.  Since he was eating every five minutes all day, it wasn’t surprising to me that he couldn’t go more than two or three hours at night, and I did my best not to begrudge him, though I admit to a few ugly moments during the vasospasm hell period.

At around three months, he had gotten big and strong enough to nurse with me lying down.  Or maybe it was an issue of coordination?  Regardless, my life improved so much that I didn’t really care about the wake-ups for a while.  I couldn’t sleep while he nursed, but at least I didn’t have to rearrange a million pillows every time and then hold my head upright for 45 minutes.  Ah, the good life.  He slowly started dropping a few feedings, such that he’d take a longish break when he was first put to bed and then often go three hours rather than two.  I was getting pretty tired — I hadn’t slept for more than 2.5 consecutive hours since he was born — but I also kept hearing about babies his age who were sleeping through the night, and I was sure he’d get there soon.

And then…he just didn’t.  And I started hearing about more babies sleeping through the night, babies who were younger than he was.  For my own sanity, I told myself their parents were lying or, in the case of parents I liked, delusional.  (You’re welcome!)  When the Bean hit the four month sleep regression, the spring 2011 moms on the local listserv started complaining about their little cherubs’ waking up sometimes.  After not one replied with a “me, too” to my post about the Bean’s relatively awful sleep, I decided I couldn’t take it anymore and unsubscribed.  Meanwhile, I got my period, my milk supply dropped, and the Bean started waking more than ever.  You’ll recall I was thrilled.  My mood was not improved by reading all over the internet that my period should stay away as long as I didn’t stop feeding overnight.  Ha bloody ha.  As it were.

I tried to content myself with the knowledge of the Bean’s superiority in every other way.  (Cue photo break.)


He eats pickles.


He’s learning to swing.


He loves the cats.


He vogues.


He almost crawls: forward motion occurs, but not predictably yet.


He likes our favorite Mexican place


He helps Sugar look for four-leaf clovers.


And he’s going to get that beer, any day now.

And then a miracle occurred.  He had three nights of only one wake-up.  Three nights!  Not in a row, but still.  It was amazing.  I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Sure, it had taken two and a half months longer than the American Academy of Pediatrics had promised, but it was happening!  It was!  …the week we were going on a big trip to visit Sugar’s parents.

You all know how this part goes, right?  Sleep in a strange house.  It was an unqualified disaster.  We came home, and it was still terrible.  More wake-ups than ever.  We gave it a week; it didn’t improve.  We gave it two weeks; it got worse, as did my cough from the cold I couldn’t shake, thanks to never sleeping.  I started to wonder when I had last slept through the night myself.  Given the exigencies of late pregnancy, it certainly had been longer than 6 months, maybe 9.  I read this paper (tip o’ the nib to The Blog That Ate Manhattan), and despaired of ever fitting into my clothes again.

[Yeah, weight loss not going well.  Another rant for another day.]

So.  It is time.  This weekend, we started a little sleep training.  Our present goal isn’t no wake-ups — Weissbluth thinks two feedings per night is normal in a baby of the Bean’s age, no matter what the moms at the swing set are shouting into their cell phones — but I’d like to get down to one or two, knowing he can do that without starving.  At the advice of wiser parents, we have started by not feeding him before midnight.

The first night was horrible.  After waking and going back down fairly quickly in the early evening, he woke up for real at 10:30.  He screamed for an hour while Sugar sat with him.  At that point, she was wailing, too, so I sent her to bed and did something that made me feel like a total asshole: I sat on the couch and did not go in to him.  (This made possible by the amazing Starhillgirl, who should seriously run a sleep training skype hotline.  This is not a joke, and I will be her agent.)  I have always imagined rocking my baby and singing him to sleep, but it has been true since the beginning that he hates that.  Any comfort measure you can think of only aggravates him and keeps him awake.  Every nap time begins with crying, no matter what, so it is not ultimately surprising that the kinder forms of sleep training — the lady-shuffling, the rocking, the singing — don’t work.  Makes me feel like mother of the year, I tell you.  But after another half an hour, he fell asleep.  Incredible!  He had never fallen asleep at night without eating, ever.  Took me a bit longer to drift off, what with my own soggy face and feeling like a horrible person: call this a mutual cry it out program.

Or, Dr. Sears and me: still not BFF.

In the morning, Sugar turned to me, eyes still red, and said, “I guess this is what people mean when they say this sucks.”  We stumbled through the day.  We turned our backs for a moment, and the increasingly mobile Bean dove off of our bed with a terrible thud.  (He’s fine.)  This is why we need to do this, because we just can’t be good parents without sleeping more, now-ish.

The second night, he woke up again, at the same times as before.  This time, Sugar went to him, patted him and told him he was okay, and then left the room.  And, within two minutes, he was silent.  On the third night, he was silent as soon as she left.  Mirabile dictu ain’t in it.

He’s still waking up two or three times in the second part of the night, and in general things in the early morning hours are a bit messy, but things are looking up.

Except not for me.  I’ve gotten less sleep than ever.  I’ve spent the past several nights lying awake until after midnight, later last night.  Turns out I’m an oxytocin addict, and I a several-hour stretch without nursing leaves me restless and unable to relax.  I had certainly noticed that nursing would help me get to sleep on anxious nights, but I had no idea it had come to this.  After all the complaining I’ve done about breastfeeding and night-wakings, it turns out the Bean wasn’t the only one using nursing as a crutch for sleep.  Dammit.


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.