Saturday, July 24, 2010

The never-ending procession of teeth.

Our friends' fourteen and fifteen month old babies are saying multiple words now. "Mama" and "Dada," of course. But also, "da" for dog, "uh-oh!" and, my favorite, "ca!" for "police helicopter" (we do live in Oakland, after all). Joe's baby buddy James recently said "Joe!"

But not Joe. Nope. He might have said "Mama" once and actually meant it. We're not sure. He says "Dada" all the time, but it seems to mean everything. He loves the dogs, but he doesn't have a word for them. And he doesn't even notice the helicopters. He seems to be too busy destroying things and learning to climb ladders to bother with speech.

But I would have you know, he is very advanced in one respect: teeth.

This kid came out of the womb teething. Or so it seemed. In reality, he cut his first teeth around five months (respectably early), and they have been erupting with great regularity since. Between six and eight months, Joe cut no less than five (FIVE!) teeth. As of this writing, Joe has almost a full set of molars.

There are some good things about having a baby who gets a mouth of teeth early - for example, Joe is quite capable of eating baby carrots and apple slices with no assistance. There are also some not-so-good aspects - like how he can easily draw blood.

I know what you are thinking right now. Yes, I am still breastfeeding. I'll be honest: When Joe's top teeth came in, we had a bad week there. Let's just say that it is especially hard to nurse discreetly in public when you keep jumping out of your skin, screaming in pain, and flinging your child away from your body. (I know, the experts recommend that, instead of screaming bloody murder and tossing your child roughly into your spouse's arms, you respond calmly, simply pressing the baby's face into your breast to force the child to unlatch. But I'd like to see you try to do this after razor-sharp puppy teeth have sunk into one of your most sensitive parts.) It is quite possible that several women have decided not to breastfeed their own children based on witnessing me during that short time. (This is the exact opposite of "lactivism.")

But babies learn cause and effect very quickly. You bite? NO BOOB. It didn't take long for Joe to figure that one out. Luckily, Joe caught onto my histrionics quicker than you can say, "Fetch me that canister of formula, honey." (Which is good because - I'll let you in on a secret here - I really love breastfeeding.)

Teaching Joe not to bite body parts that do not supply him with delicious warm milk has been more difficult. We're still working on that. I have to pry his teeth off of Omie's (apparently irresistible) tail approximately one million times per day. In our house, we spend more time rescuing our dogs from our overly boisterous and rowdy toddler than the other way around.

And then there is the (lack of) sleep. Parents of babies are quick to blame teething for everything. My friend Melissa recently joked that when her baby boy Miles is a teenager and gets caught selling drugs on the subway, she'll probably shrug and remark, "Ugh. He must be teething again!" Teething is a catch-all ailment, blamed for everything from drippy noses to diarrhea, fevers to bad moods.

But maybe teething is to blame for the fact that Joe has never, in his almost fifteen months of life, slept more than four hours in a row? Actually, most of the time, he prefers chunks of one to two hours, punctuated by nice snacks of warm milk.

If you're one of those people who swears up and down that you will never allow your child to share your conjugal bed, all I can say is: Are you free to babysit next Saturday night? Because Joe is cutting his eyeteeth right now, and Steve and I are heading to Vegas. (Ha, ha. Not.)

What does fifteen months of sleep deprivation look like, you may wonder? Well, it looks like me. And Steve. You don't have to tell us that we have a few more wrinkles around the eyes than we used to. We're well aware of them, thank you.

But it doesn't seem to bug Joe at all.

Well, considering the all-night-suck-a-thons, it's a good thing I get to wake up to this toothy smile every morning:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hand towels.

I opened my email this morning, to find this helpful suggestion from

"As someone who has shown an interest in hand towels ..."? What the eff?

In case you were wondering, I have never bought hand towels on Amazon. My hand towel collection, like my kitchen towel collection, is ratty, well loved, and almost entirely thrifted.

Like anyone who has ever bought anything from Amazon, I do get a lot of random suggestions from them, but they mostly fall into two categories: (1) Nineteenth century novels (or zombie spoofs on same); and (2) Indie rock. There is usually some sense to the suggestions, however stupid I may find them (I have exactly zero interest in zombie or vampire spoofs on nineteenth century novels; I am far too busy reading the real thing and being snooty about it).

Now, it is true that I am interested in some things that other people (okay, everyone) might find boring. For example: the California Environmental Quality Act and Williamson Act farm conservation contracts.

But this suggestion just seems insulting. I've been effectively reduced to a woman with a deep, abiding passion in hand towels.

Now, if they had shared a collection of hand towels from the 1940s with an assortment of squid, squirrels, cockroaches, and moose embroidered on them, that might be a different story ...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Yard work.

Things have been pretty quiet these past couple weeks, which is just how I like it. But we've been working hard in the garden. Last weekend, Steve laid new sod in our backyard, so we have a pretty little lawn now. And right now, he is using a chain saw to cut down a large branch that overhangs our roof. Joe and the dogs were fascinated by this process, but were not allowed to participate:

No one was bothered by the racket of the chain saw, but when pieces of tree started to fall, Joe started to cry in fear. The dogs scattered. Of course, I picked Joe up and told him everything would be okay, papa is just trimming the tree, nothing bad is happening. So now he is camped out on my lap, nursing and eyeing the back door in concern.

Power tools are cool! And scary! Well, that pretty much sums it up, doesn't it?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Midsummer's Book Stats


Inder's read-2010 book montage


North and South

The Old Man and the Sea

Life of Pi

Keep Chickens! Tending Small Flocks in Cities, Suburbs, and Other Small Spaces

Spoon River Anthology

The New Frugality: How to Consume Less, Save More, and Live Better

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

The Odyssey

Lilith's Brood

The Fever Trail: In Search of the Cure for Malaria

The Remains of the Day

A Christmas Carol and Other Stories

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating with More Than 75 Recipes

Waiting for Birdy: A Year of Frantic Tedium, Neurotic Angst, and the Wild Magic of Growing a Family

The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life

Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species


Inder's favorite books »

Number of books read between January 1, 2010 and July 10, 2010: 17

Fiction: 8

Nonfiction: 7

Poetry: 2

Books about parenting: 2

Books about chickens: 1

Books about sexuality and aliens: 1

Books I was assigned in high school but didn't read: 1

Ancient ballads: 1

Victorian novels: 3

Books included in some edition of 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die: 6

Dry boring histories/biographies about random topics: 2

Pretentiously hip, postmodern novels: 2

Books purchased new this year: 1

Books purchased used this year: 1

Books borrowed from the library: 8

Books borrowed from friends: 3

Audiobooks: 3

Best sci-fi read in a long, long time: Lilith's Brood, by Octavia Butler

Best fiction read this year so far: The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishimuro

Best nonfiction read this year so far: Mother Nature, by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy

Monday, July 5, 2010

As American as ... um ... peach pie!

When our friend Jason asked us to contribute a dish for his July 4th barbecue, I volunteered to make pie. It seemed like a good idea at the time! Never mind that pastry-making skills seem to skip a generation in my family, but unfortunately, they skipped over both my mother and I (and landed on my sister).

I have neither the skills nor the apparently inborn finesse required to mix pie dough in the right consistency, roll it out without it sticking, and (most difficult) pick it up in one piece and put it in a pie dish. My pie crusts tend to be a patchwork affair, more doughy than flaky, aptly called "Frankenstein's Pie Crust."

This is unfortunate, as I love nothing better than a fresh fruit pie with a buttery, flaky crust. Thus, I have been sadly dependent on the pastry-making skills of others.

But, if I have learned one thing from my toddler, it's try, try, and try again. When you fall down, dust yourself off (or not), and try again. When you fall off the back steps and smack your head, cry on your mama's shoulder for a minute, then head right back for another go. Practice makes perfect, and a few lumps and bruises are simply par for the course. If Joe could talk, I believe he would opine: "All skills are learned!"

So. Pie!!

Here I am, peeling "Crimson Lady" peaches (from the farmer's market, of course), with Joe keeping me company. I forgot to make sure not to get "cling peaches" at the market, so of course these Crimson Ladies were completely stuck to the pits. So my peach slices were more like "chunks": uneven and thick. But who cares what the fruit inside the pie looks like? Prepping the filling was the easy part!

For the crust, I used the "Foolproof Pie Dough" from the America's Test Kitchen. I chose this recipe more for moral support than anything. The title seemed reassuring (although note that it was not called "Inderproof Pie Dough"). At this point in my training, most pie dough recipes seem equally hard to me.

Rebecca swooped in with sound advice, pep talks, crust-protecters, and star-shaped dough cutters. I only cried once, which is a record for me. (And then I went right back for another go. Joe would be proud.)

It turned out ... pretty good, really! A decent beginner effort, I think.

I prefer the term "rustic" to "hot mess," thank you!

(Also, it tasted really, really good. The crust was a bit thick, but flaky! I think there are more pies in my future!)

We had a very nice time at Jason's barbecue. Joe enjoyed climbing up the tall, rickety, scary Victorian stairs at the base of the porch, and then climbing back down, over, and over, and over again.

 Our friend Maeve tried watermelon. She's not so sure about it.

 Joe's hat, on the other hand ...

After Omie's recent escapade, I have been rethinking our idea of getting chickens. Obviously, I get a bit too emotionally attached to my animals! Would I be able to hack it if a chicken got eaten by local wildlife? But, here's Joe, trying to convince me that getting chickens is a good idea after all ...

Big day. Time for a nap.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Omie, don't you EVER do that to me again!

Our lil' pit bull Omie escaped out of an open window on Monday afternoon, and went missing for about 24 hours. The window was only open about ten inches, but pit bulls are known escape artists. We should have known better. We have no excuse. Omie had seemingly mellowed out in her middle age, and we got lax. She must have seen a cat, or a squirrel, and just made a break for it.

Steve searched and searched for her on Monday evening, until it was too dark to look any more. On Tuesday morning, we searched some more, posted fliers all over the neighborhood, checked at the shelter, called the police (to see if any incidents had been reported), called Animal Control, tried to check lists of dogs reported dead. It was awful. By Tuesday afternoon, I was trying to come to terms with the reality that I might never see my pooch again. That I might never know what happened to her.

Oakland is not a safe place for a friendly little pit bull. Especially one who approaches every stranger with her tail wagging and likes to sleep under the covers in bed at night.

Tuesday night, we finally got a call - someone had found her!

An hour later, she was home, a little traumatized, and ready to curl up on the couch for a nap. I wish she could tell us how she spent her night in the Wilds of Oakland. We'll never know what happened to her during those 24 hours.

My family was whole again. I cried with relief.

"BAD DOG!" Hug, hug, kiss, kiss, kiss.