31 May 2007
30 May 2007
My mother couldn't get over the fact that my kid was nursing and could talk - and could, therefore, ask for it. She wasn't horrified, she was amused. Although, come to think of it, she was mildly horrified when I nursed Miss M. on an airplane when the three of us were on the way home from California, about a month before the final final. I was just trying (unsuccessfully) to encourage a nap. But my mother had nursed her kids for 10 months/8 months/6 months - back in the day when not a lot of people nursed at all - and none of those little people were talking when my mom was nursing.
Doctor Mama had a great post a while ago about nursing her the two and two-thirds year old (he's since weaned himself). She mentioned that eventually people stop asking if you're doing that. I think I only lied about doing that once. The Berkeley Parents network has a nice joke about extended nursing in Berkeley:
When my son turned two, I told a friend, "Well, I guess I'm going to have to start lying now when people ask me if he's weaned." "Oh," she said, "in Berkeley, you don't have to start doing that until they're four." "You don't have to start weaning until they're four?" "No, you don't have to start LYING about it."
And if you need reasons for breastfeeding at all, Electric Boogaloo had some good ones, like #8: "Researchers have not been able to show that breastfeeding doesn't give you magical powers".
29 May 2007
Oh wait, it was Memorial Day. Well, we labored. Nothing like having 5 yards of mulch delivered to the driveway to motivate one to move it. I moved about 40% of it on Saturday, another 40% on Sunday, and W. helped me with the remainder on Monday. I was happy to have the help, but the competitive side of me sort of wanted to tackle the entire 5 yards by myself, just to say I'd done it.
While I was hauling mulch, W. was prepping and painting the downstairs bathroom, which isn't quite done, but is a lovely shade of pale pale lavendar called "Nosegay" - so pale that it looks white until you see it next to the white trim and white fixtures. I know he thought it was going to be a disaster, like the time I wanted the bathroom in the apartment a rich deep red and we ended up with bubble-gum instead. That got painted over very quickly. But this is nice.
In the midst of all the dirt moving, I made a batch of divine barbecue sauce from an Ina Garten recipe that I found at Smitten Kitchen. W. slathered it on some pork ribs and cooked them slowly in the oven. Wonderful.
And the child? Fell asleep at 5:00 on Saturday, and 6:00 on Sunday - both times down for the night. I guess she was worn out. Not that she was moving any mulch.
25 May 2007
My mother used to eat butter right out of the butter dish. So does her grandchild. Miss M. came into the room with me, looking guilty and holding her mouth all funny, and confessed to having eaten some butter. I went into the kitchen to move the butter dish out of reach, and discovered that she'd been gnawing on it, with teeth. I couldn't believe it. At least my mother used a knife.
Speaking of my mother, she would like me to issue a clarification: she does not watch day-time TV! She thought that I implied that she watched TV while at chemo. She does not - if she is without a companion during her infusion, she catches up on back issues of the New Yorker. Got that?
24 May 2007
Yesterday, Miss M. said to me: "I drank from your deese* when I was two". Yeah, two and 364 days. She last nursed the night before she turned three.
I never expected to have an extended nurser. I thought, maybe six months, maybe a year. Never thought it would be three years. Especially with the way things started. But I wanted to feed breastmilk to my child, and I got into the habit of pumping, and so I was able to give her predominantly breast milk for her whole first year. And somewhere in there, she figured out how to nurse, and that it was nice. And she'd nurse before bed, and in the middle of the night, and first thing in the morning, and when she fell down and needed comfort. And so, when I stopped pumping, and she stopped getting milk in bottles, she kept nursing. And I thought, we'll stop after her surgery**. And then I thought, we'll stop after she starts daycare***. Then there was some other reason. And another. And gradually she was down to just the nursing at bedtime.
We started talking about her impending third birthday, and I gradually introduced the idea that three year olds don't nurse. And she said, "yes, when I'm three, no more deese." And we talked about it every night. And the night before her third birthday was the last time. She did keep asking for awhile. And did say "I don't want to be three". But it's now six months later, and it's now something she did when she was two. Yes, I'm a little wistful sometimes. But I'm also happy that we did nurse for so long.
* I can't explain "deese". I think that's how it's spelled. It's what Miss M. called it - both the act of nursing, and the breasts themselves. Go figure.
**She had two hemangiomas removed when she was 17 months old.
*** She started in daycare when she was 22 months old.
23 May 2007
Nice word, huh? Very…mellifluous.
Yesterday, Miss M. and I were poking around in the garden. W. had recently patched some bare spots in the so-called lawn with grass seed, and I showed her how the new grass was coming up. She asked “how do we make grass?” It’s a common type of question of hers, and is always phrased that way:
- “How do we make cows?”
- “How do we make Jeeps?”
- “How do we make eggs?”
- “How do we make airplanes?”
- “How do we make ants?”
- “How do we make frogs?”
I like that she thinks all of those things are made by us humans. Anyway, in the strange way my mind works, I got from grass and grass seed to stoloniferous grasses and stoloniferous weeds. I have an evil weed in the garden, a stoloniferous evil weed called goutweed or bishop's weed. I get down on my hands and knees and start pulling it out, carefully so as not to break it off and leave the roots in the ground, following the root along to get as much as possible, muttering to myself “stoloniferous weeds, stoloniferous weeds…” It is the kind of weeding that is like eating peanuts; once you start, you can't stop.
22 May 2007
The New York Times, my paper of record, of choice, of metropolitan area, has a new dance critic, one Alastair Macaulay. He started in April, and has been ramping up to speed. It’s been fascinating to read his pieces, and watch as they reveal his likes, dislikes, knowledge, interests. His first review of the new City Ballet Romeo & Juliet was decidedly lukewarm, but he came round in a piece several days later in which he compared and contrasted the four principal casts. It was almost as though he’d been reached; that someone at City Ballet said “hey, that wasn’t nice, what about all these other folks?” and Macaulay responded with a much more favorable review.
Last week, American Ballet Theatre opened their spring season with a hodge-podge gala, which Macaulay started off by comparing to “pig slurry”. It went on, and in a thrill of schadenfreude I chortled on the train at phrases like: “soon trite”, “unpromising in more ways than one”, “almost, but not actually, interesting”, “a tempo so funereal that it would have put the watching Prince to sleep too”, “bland delivery”, “much labored intensity”. To his, and their, credit he did like more of what happened after intermission, and ABT’s marketing department will have some stuff to use in press kits and marketing materials: “exceptional freshness”, “a marvel”, “a heart-catching alternation of capriciousness and surrender”, “true ballerina decisiveness in her timing and phrasing”, “the corps de ballet proved poetic”, “stylishness and skill”. A lot of the review was pretty harsh, but it was balanced with some praise, and so my initial schadenfreude was tempered. [However, Macaulay’s comment about the guest appearance by star pianist Lang Lang was devastating – though he’s a dance critic, not a music critic, so you have to take it with a grain of salt: “The pianist, Lang Lang, then remained onstage to dispel whatever tender atmosphere the Chopin had established by playing an account of Liszt’s best-known Hungarian Rhapsody with a vulgarity to engender long-term Lisztophobia.” Ouch.]
The next day, Macaulay gave the single most eviscerating review that I think I have ever seen from a dance critic. Painful. Sad. Horrific. Not a single kind word in the piece. His concluding sentence?: “Not one moment here is fresh.” If I were Doug Varone, I’d want to cry. Hell, I wanted to cry and I’m not Doug Varone. If I were a choreographer, I might want to cancel my next season.
On the other hand, his reviews of both Sara Rudner (last week) and Mark Morris (today) had nothing but sheer praise - not a harsh word in either review.
It will be interesting to watch this continue to unfold. He’s certainly a more pointedly opinionated critic than the Times has had, dance-wise anyway, in quite some time. And he knows his dance history, so he can’t be written off as a know-nothing.
21 May 2007
You know why they’re called patients? Because they need a lot of patience.
I spent the other day accompanying my mother to the hospital. She was diagnosed with inoperable Stage IV lung cancer more than two years ago. She had a course of radiation early on, and she’s been in chemotherapy for the past two years – now on her third regime. One of the reasons I went with her was because she was worried about the visit. She’d had scans a week prior to check the status of her several lumps, the first set of scans since she’d started chemo regime #3, and was due to get the scan results.
We arrived at the hospital at about 10:45 for an 11:00 appointment. First order of business is always a finger stick to get a drop or two of blood to check her blood counts. That took forever - she thinks they forgot about her because she was put in the farthest cubicle. Honestly, I could have pricked her finger. Hell, she could have done it herself!
Then we waited. And got called into the exam room to wait some more. Eventually, the oncologist showed up, and remembered that she’d left the scan results in her office, so she disappeared again. The scans were good – at best an improvement, at worst no change – so there will be no change to the chemo regime. The oncologist tends to seem distracted and overworked, and she's humorless, but she spent a lot of time with us. My mother said it was the most time she's spent with her in quite awhile; I think it was likely because I was there kibitzing and asking questions.
After we left the oncologist, we trotted down the hall to sign in for chemo, and then headed to the next building for a quick chest x-ray. When she signed in for chemo, she was told that there was a 45-minute wait; in fact it was more like an hour and a half. In other words, we were back from the chest x-ray long before they called her for chemo.
Her chemo treatment didn’t take all that long, maybe an hour, so we were out of there at 4:00pm. Yes, five hours for a finger stick, a half hour with the doctor, a chest x-ray and an hour long infusion. It’s a full time job. And there are signs all over the place that cell phones are prohibited, and of course there’s no WiFi access, so all you can do is watch daytime television. If chemo didn’t give you chemo brain, the daytime TV would rot your brain. So if you had an actual full time job, you couldn't use the infusion time to get any work done.
Besides her cancer monitoring and treatment, she has been having dental issues (a cracked tooth needs to be pulled), and needs medical attention for some side effects of the chemotherapy. The most pressing of those is clogged tear ducts. Here’s an irony – the chemo drug is called Taxotere – and it taxes the tear ducts. Good name, huh? Sometime soon, she's going to have stents put in her tear ducts to solve that problem. But that's surgery with general anesthesia, so she has to get checked out by her pulmonologist first...
All told, my mother's become a full time patient what with one thing or another. It's exhausting, exacerbated by the chemo-induced exhaustion.
I think it's time to take up cross-stitch.
If you've read this far, give her a shout out in the comments, because she's a lurker. We call her Moky.
20 May 2007
Someone gave me a copy of Deirdre Imus's book "Green This! Greening Your Cleaning". I flipped through it and decided she was a crackpot when she said that the steam vapor produced when you take a shower is toxic:
Even if you have an overhead ventilation fan or a chlorine filter on your showerhead...you and your kids will inevitably end up inhaling the vapors of chlorinated gases. You know how your bathroom mirror fogs up after you shower? Most of that steam is toxic - a mixture of the chlorine bleach and other chlorine-based chemicals like chloroform that have been added to our water system. An open window will prevent these and other toxins, like carbon dioxide, from building up. As a general rule, the more outdoor air that circulates in a room, the safer that room is.
Yes, fresh air is good. But let's not go overboard and suggest that taking a hot shower is dangerous.
Another choice suggestion is to clean your copper with ketchup. Um, okay, then why did she also suggest cleaning copper with salt and lemon juice? Why would you ever think it was smart to use ketchup as a cleanser? It's a foodstuff, people, a foodstuff that is heavily industrially processed and trafficked. So, if you subscribe to the Michael Pollan/Marion Nestle school of "eat local unprocessed foods as much as possible", why would you choose ketchup as a cleaning product? Hell, I barely eat the stuff.
Oh, I know! Someone gave her a book contract because she's married to Don Imus and she had to fill 224 pages. Eyeroll.
19 May 2007
And so, we are rediscovering the lost art of conversation.
The lines have been down since about 3:30 on Wednesday afternoon. Thursday night, a crew came and got rid of the tree that took everything out (but not the defunct telephone pole, even though it used to be a tree). Con Ed arrived on Friday, to watch. Yes, a guy in a car sat there making sure no one crossed the yellow hazard tape. Finally, this morning (it's now Saturday), the Con Ed work crews arrived. The new telephone pole has been erected. With luck, we'll have power later. Lord knows when the copper phone lines, the fiber optic phone/data lines, and the cable lines will be back up.
The state of emergency has provided some moments of sweetness and joy. Like the other night when a mess of little neighborhood kids were running around with flashlights like enormous lightning bugs. And Miss M. dubbing her headlamp a "flash hat". And lighting the house with candles.
W. ran out and got a generator on Thursday morning, so the refrigerators are running, and we have one extra outlet. The spare has been used for: a lamp, cell phone chargers, the coffee grinder, the coffee maker, and the toaster. Hot breakfast! Our old (non-modern) hot water heater has a standing pilot light, so we have hot water. Really, the whole thing could be worse.
But it'll be nice to get back to the 21st century sooner than later.
18 May 2007
Because trees fall down, go boom.
I tried to have a mammogram in December. After changing into a lovely gown, I was ushered into the room with the big machine, where the technician proceeded to ask me a few questions. What, you stopped nursing six weeks ago? Come back when it's been six months.
So I made another appointment. For yesterday. And then winds rushed and rain poured on Wednesday. And the power went out. And the phone went out. Despite detours due to trees lying across roads, I made it to the doctor's office promptly at 8:00 am on Thursday. And the power was out there too.
And yesterday's Times had a handful of letters to the editor, headed "Why Women Avoid Mammograms", regarding an editorial earlier in the week about the fact that that fewer women are getting mammograms. Should I tell them it's because toddlers want to nurse forever and trees fall down?
Oh, and the picture above? That's the now defunct tree at the top of our street that took out our power and phone. Which has now been out for about 48 hours. And in some beautiful karmic event, yesterday's mail brought a flyer from Con Ed, entitled "Power Problems? Let Us Know!" I didn't know whether to laugh or to cry.
Labels: New York Times
15 May 2007
No drawings this time, but Slouching Mom had a comment on my recent Gorey post which reminds me that my mother called him "Sneakers" for the longest time.
I don't know where in the theater Gorey sat for the ballet - probably first ring, maybe orchestra. But he always held court at intermission on the house left side of the promenade. And he was there A LOT. And, like some characters in his drawings, he was always wearing fur coats, and sneakers, and rings. For years, my mother would come home and tell us that Sneakers was there again. And then one day, there was an article in one of the New York papers about Gorey, with a photo. Lo and behold: Sneakers.
S. tagged me.
I am 46.
I am a Feinschmecker.
I am a reader.
I am an atheist.
I am a collector of offbeat Christmas music.
I am curious.
I am disinterested in television.
I am easily amused.
I am fond of getting my hands dirty in the garden.
I am married.
I am not fertile, yet no longer infertile.
I am partial to Sancerre.
I am shy.
I am also outgoing.
I am someone’s mother.
I am the product of a liberal arts education.
I am the queen of tarts.
I am wearing jeans.
I am complicated.
I am tagging Pinky, Irish Goddess, Isis, Aurelia and Mayberry Mom!
14 May 2007
12 May 2007
My mother used to take us to the ballet a lot, and to the Nutcracker regularly. We were also great fans of Edward Gorey, who was a perennial audience member at the New York City Ballet for a long time. From time to time, he drew for them. This was ripped out of a Nutcracker program, taped together, and pinned to the bulletin board in my room for the longest time. It's almost impossible to see now, but he had been in the audience, and I'd gotten him to sign it. He crossed out his printed name, and signed above it, apparently in disappearing ink.
11 May 2007
Once upon a time, at the wake in connection with W’s grandmother’s funeral, his aunt arrived with a mason jar of homemade bread & butter pickles. They were well made and tasty, but dyed KELLY GREEN. With food coloring. It was a shocking sight to behold. I recalled this whilst reading the Times the other day, wherein John T. Edge revealed that people in the South, in the Mississippi Delta, take standard issue dill pickles and steep them in Kool-Aid. They emerge an unearthly shade of, well, not pickle colored.
Thanks to Niobe, who's an unpronounceable Welsh poem form...
10 May 2007
09 May 2007
Leave it to Harold McGee. Well, actually some researchers from Clemson University. They decided to test the rule that food that lands on the floor is okay if it’s in contact with the floor for no more than five seconds. Surprise: it’s not! It gathers bacteria! But Harold, sensibly, doesn’t say “don’t eat it” – he says
If you drop a piece of food, pick it up quickly, take five seconds to recall that just a few bacteria can make you sick, then take a few more to think about where you dropped it and whether or not it’s worth eating.
So, that means it’s okay that I let my poor child finish the slice of pizza she dropped at Grand Central Terminal last week when she somehow fell out of her chair? Of course. I couldn’t have taken it away; she was too sad from landing on the floor. And five days later, she's still alive.
Miss M. was full of whimsy this morning. For breakfast, she asked for cereal with granola, milk and "dried out berries". Later, discussing her various backpacks and which one we took on the train to New York City last week, she said "I took the purple one to your city." She calls New York City "your city" - and it is my city, indeed. And then, caravanning to the car repair shop to drop off W.'s car for new brakes, she pointed to the newly re-installed bike rack on the top of his car and said "Daddy's car has antlers!"
Three and a half is a funny funny age. Exasperating, too, but the whimsy usually makes up for the exasperation.
08 May 2007
Yesterday, Julia contemplated peeing on a stick at 4dp5dt and asked when others had received a positive pregnancy test after transfer. Today, the Times had an essay from a woman musing about home pregnancy tests, in which she confessed that she had kept the test that showed a positive for more than five years.
I never did that. Oh, I peed on sticks - but they were ovulation predictors - we were trying to time an endometrial biopsy. I never used an over the counter pregnancy test. I don't really know why. I'm too cheap? Too cheap to spend the money when I was going to have a beta anyway? I'm too quantitative? I'd rather have the concrete numbers provided by a quantitative beta HcG rather than a yes or no line. I'm too rational to have bothered with something that might provide a false negative? Besides, until 11dp3dt, I could pretend to be pregnant.
And in retrospect, knowing that quantitative number made a difference. The first IVF that worked had a beta of 23 at 11dp3dt. Things looked okay, okay, okay, BAM. No dice. The IVF that resulted in the now three and a half year old Miss M., who is right now "reading" books in her room instead of being asleep at 9:42pm OMG, had an initial beta (at 11dp3dt) of 113. And getting that good number eased some of the anxiety about a repeat of the first pregnancy that ended in that early miscarriage.
07 May 2007
Recently I found an old restaurant guide at my mother's house: The New York Times Guide to Dining Out in New York, by Craig Claiborne (1968). I flipped through it, looking for restaurants that are still around, and departed ones that I remember eating at as a child. Though the prose isn't nearly as wonderful as in Kate Simon's New York Places & Pleasures, it did conjure up some memories.
On our first date, in 1986, W. took me to the Fontana di Trevi (on West 57th Street). It's still there, and gets decent notices. I remember the restaurant fondly, good food and gracious service, and it was a place we went back to a number of times. Clearly though, they'd hoisted themselved up by the bootstraps, because here's what Claiborne had to say 18 years earlier:
It might be charitable not to go into too much detail about the décor and food at the Fontana di Trevi. Suffice it to say that the décor is on the dark side and dusty, and there are plastic vegetables at eye level along the edge of the banquettes. The stuffed clams are humdrum, most of the antipasto was taken from a tin and the fettucini can be watery. The espresso at Fontana di Trevi is not too bad.
The crack about the coffee is a classic example of damning with faint praise.
When I was about 10, we went to Lüchow’s for my birthday dinner. My birthday is just after Christmas, and Lüchow’s was decorated to the hilt. I can't remember what we ate, but I do recall that it was boisterously good time.
Lüchow’s is a landmark of more than 80 years, and, as such it has a special eminence. It smells profoundly at times of red cabbage and sauerkraut, and it is one of the noisiest restaurants in the City. It is also one of the most colorful. At times there are German bands playing oom-pah-pah, and children love it. There are festivals galore, numbering among them the bock beer festival, the venison festival and the goose festival. The food at its best is excellent. One of the major faults is that the portions are enormous and sometimes arrive at the table lukewarm. Lüchow’s is schmaltzy enough to border on the sophisticated, and the beer is cold. There are few places in town where one can dine as well on a limited budget.
Alas, Lüchow’s is no longer, knocked down and replaced by an NYU dorm. Too bad, the NYU students probably appreciated the cold beer. I was too young to drink the cold beer when I was there.
06 May 2007
Alice had a post the other day, of all the things in her garden that she couldn't identify. But she just moved in! And she didn't plant any of those bushes! What's my problem, that I have things in my garden that I know I planted, and I still can't identify them? [That's why I bought 100 plant markers.]
I think the first is some kind of daffodil, but tiny and fancy and fragrant.
And I think the second is an allium.
I wish I still had the packing slip from the big mess of bulbs I bought last fall.
Recently I bought a whole mess of plant labels from the wonderfully named Paw Paw Everlast Label Company. We spent the weekend puttering in the garden, cleaning, planting, moving, mowing. Miss M. spent a good part of the morning arranging my "signs". The photo is lousy, but the forest of plant markers was a thing of great beauty.
Incidentally, the plant markers are great. The price was great, and they arrived amazingly fast.
04 May 2007
Miss M. was scribbling on a piece of paper, looked up and said "I made an armadillo"!
Today, she's in the office with me - her daycare is closed for staff development. She is using the adding machine, spilling milk and making crumbs, running errands (I can give her a piece of paper and she'll walk it down the hall to my boss), drawing pictures with highlighters, and playing with my many rubber animals (why have I accumulated so many rubber animals in my office?). She interrupted me in a meeting with my boss, annoucing "I have to poop!". I headed him off at the pass with "I'm not going to wipe your ass". We've also been watching ballet on YouTube, watching kids in class, and visiting the costume shop downstairs. It's been a full day. I've gotten nearly nothing done, but I'm here - that counts for something, right?
03 May 2007
Recently, Rhymes with Javelin posted a picture of the view from her window, and asked others to share. Here's what I see from my office windows. We're in an old loft building with huge windows, and a charming view from the 8th floor.
Looking to the left you can see just how dirty the windows are (to be fair, it's exacerbated by the backlighting - it's really not that bad). Through the grime, you can see the huge mansard roof of the building across the street.
Looking to the right one notices that there is a bulb out in the wall fixture.
Without standing up, I can see ELEVEN wooden water tanks on nearby roofs.
Once, years ago, I was in the office late, it was probably around 7pm on a summer evening. All the windows were open. I thought I could hear bagpipes, but I ignored it, until I just had to get up and look out the window. On the roof of the building across the street was a bagpiper, in full kilt regalia, marching back and forth ALONG THE PARAPET, playing the bagpipe. Only in New York. Later, when I left, he was down on the sidewalk, playing as the greeter at the entrance to a building where there was a party going on. The roof work was just his warmup.
02 May 2007
Every morning before I leave for the train, I sort the Times into the order in which I want to read it, and I discard any advertising supplements and the sports section. I usually skim the first page of the sport section on the way to the recycling bin: Did the Mets win? Did the Yankees lose? Who won the figure skating championships?
This morning, I was dumbfounded to find a headline on the front page of the sports section that included reference to a commonly used fertility drug: Steroid Lugs Grab Midol, Manssieres and Clomid.
I rescued sports from the discard pile.
It turns out that steroid use amongst professional (male) athletes can cause “feminizing effects”, and that Clomid mitigates said effects because it’s an anti-estrogen drug. “Clomid has gained infamy in Olympic testing as a routine flare to signal steroid use that flies just under the radar of detection.” Because there is no earthly reason that a male athlete would be taking Clomid – unless he’s also on steroids – so if you find that he’s taking Clomid, he’s also on steroids.
Labels: New York Times
01 May 2007
Mysteriously, the sage died over the winter...I didn't think you could kill sage, so I had to get a new one. I thought the parsley would be okay too; it's a biennial, and it had been in year 1 last year, but, no - this was a harsh winter. Rosemary and basil always have to be replaced.
And I need thyme, but they were out of anything but lemon thyme at the Greenmarket yesterday, so thyme will have to wait.