May 2006

May 31
When the Saints Go Marching In

Today's activities included purchasing me a new bathing suit, which was both therapeutic (smaller than the last one) and not (still bigger than the pre-preggers one).

After torturing Eliza thusly (loud incantations of "Mimimimimimimimimimimimi!!!!!!" — her newest and extremely effective complaint noise—in the Target dressing room), I knew I owed her some fun time, which came in the form of Childwatch at the Y. On Wednesdays, her two favorite staffers are on duty. They are putty in her hands, and are almost as bad as me when it comes to the slightly exaggerated claims of genius and/or cuteness. Today, when I returned from exercising, they were beside themselves about Eliza's abilities with a fishing game, which they claimed were advanced for her age. They also totally encourage her butterfly obsession. I fear a visit to the Butterfly Conservatory is in our future, although this may be a parent/child activity I have to turn over to Jim, on account of the total creeped-out-ness by butterflies on the part of yours truly. Chills just thinking about it.

Anyway, such strenuous brain activity called for dinner at Bueno Y Sano. After pointedly ignoring the beans in her cheese and bean taco until I switched her to chicken and cheese tacos, today, Eliza ate the beans off my plate. Which, besides being contrarian, proved that the girl has a taste for spicy, since the beans were next to, and contaminated by, the salsa. Then, she drank the rest of my lemonade, and then she decided we were done. Never find that I had half a quesadilla left to eat. I fear that possibly, our dining-out days may be approaching a hiatus.

After Bueno, we went to Faces, where Eliza was utterly gobsmacked by the display at the front of the store of strings of fancy lights—ducks, tiny lanterns,stars, and much much more swooped in big loops from the ceiling. In one of her displays of genius, Eliza has decided that lanterns —the Japanese/Chinese paper kind—are balloons, and proclaims it thusly for all to hear every time she spots one.

The lantern that had butterflies on it left her speechless, and barely had she regained the power of speech when, on our way back to the car, we came upon a small trumpet, tuba, clarinet and banjo band giving an impromptu performance on the sidewalk.

It was great music, and Eliza responded as you'd expect from a kid whose parents have crammed music down her throat since fetus: She was delighted, pulling me across the sidewalk for a closer look, grinning broadly, and finally bounced up and down in an approximation of dancing.

The band members, guys in their early 30s from the looks of it, were thoroughly charmed by their pint-sized audience, and on a signal from the banjo player, formed a half-circle around Eliza, bending down to her level and playing just to her. She was a little overwhelmed, but in a good way, kind of like when she met the Easter Bunny.

I left after the next song because I was afraid she'd get so comfortable she'd insist on helping the banjo player as she so often does with Jim, but it was one of those moments that reminds me why, for all the annoying PC-ness and hostile mentally ill homeless people (2 of them have gotten weird with Eliza. Apparently she angers the crazies.) and panhandling trust-fund kids, I actually like Northampton.

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Animal Farm

On Monday, we took Eliza to McCray's Farm, a working farm that is open to the public and has a totally random array of animals, mini-golf, and ice-cream for your entertainment.

It was, as are all things animal, a wise move on our parts.

We set out to explore. I love this picture, except I placed Jim a little too far over and his arm's cut off:

There was a bunny hutch:

And "Duh!" We're not being too rigorous about the distinctions. Anything bipedal with feathers is a duck currently, and that's OK by me:

We saw a llama, with some truly impressive buck teeth:

Daddy and baby enjoyed some quality time:

And gawked at the enormous draft horse:

And Mama fed a very enthusiastic goat:

...And then an equally enthusiastic baby. Eliza loves herself some toothpaste. She constantly contrives ways to get us to give her the toothpaste tube, and then she gnaws on the end until she pops open the cap, and then she sucks out as much toothpaste as she can before we yank the tube away from her. Based on this daily ritual, I got mint-and-cookies ice cream. My instincts were sound; she ate with gusto:

All in all, a good day out.

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May 29
More Tuba Solos!

Some random thoughts that occurred to me on Saturday as I attended the Bruce Springsteen concert at the Tweeter center in Mansfield. In between my dominant thought, which was WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!:

Huh, why is everyone clapping? Oh, the chandeliers came on. Wooo, chandeliers!!

Oooh, here comes the cracking-the-seals-on-the-water-bottles guy. Woooo!!!!

Hey! Bruce's hair is very... erect.

Woah. That is a butt to aspire to. Well, not really, because it's a man-butt. I wouldn't want a man-butt. But when I am 56, I would like to have a girl-butt that is analogously awesome.

And abs.

But why is he wearing his belt OVER the belt loops and not THROUGH the belt loops?! Oh man, this is going to drive me crazy EVERY TIME I SEE IT.

Hey, no annoying tall dudes in front of me. I love short chicks! LOVE! THEM!

So, in the E Street Band, everyone looks like a math teacher or a demented Gypsy. Apparently, they're mixing it up in this band by finding math teachers or crazy pioneers.

(Bruce introduces Eerie Canal, a "love song" about a man and his mule, pining away for the good old days pulling barges on the canal.) Jeez, I never thought of the song that way before..... I feel sad for the mule now. Uh oh. Must NOT start crying about mule; very embarrassing to explain.

(Bruce introduces Irish anti-war song with refrain about boy getting "two fine legs" shot off.) Suddenly having horrible mental images of Eliza toddling about battlefield. Uh oh. Must NOT start crying about fine-leg-less infant, very embarrassing to explain. If they have a draft for women, must convince Eliza to tell drafters she's gay, regardless of actual sexual orientation. Hmm. Wonder if others have had this idea. If yes, could be the end of anti-gay policies in army, as army dudes wise up to clever ruse. I hate Bush very much, wish he would be impeached, not sure what, surely we can find something... Uh, right. Am at Bruce concert. Must pay attention.

What the hell song is this? Dammit, I finally learned how to recognize his back catalog, and he goes and rearranges them all. OH! It's If I Should Fall Behind. As a waltz? Whaaaaa? Hmm. I like. In fact, it's lovely. There should be more waltzing at rock concerts!

Huh. A banjo solo. There should be more of those at rock shows!

Also, trombones.

And accordions.

And DEFINITELY tubas!

May 24
Carbs and Chicks

Jim's family are all slavish devotees of a bakery in their area. It is a well-founded devotion that spans Danishes and cakes alike: ricotta-filled piece, cheesecakes with enormous chocolate-covered strawberries on top, pastries filled with yummy nuttiness. We have gotten right on board.

It's gotten so Jim's stepmom automatically brings a stash when they visit our house or, when we're visiting them, buy enough extra to send some home with us. It's very sweet.

This was the visit that Eliza discovered Homestyle. We gave her some Danishes for breakfast and boy-howdy, that was a mixed blessing. As if the kid's not carbo-addicted enough, the muffins rocked her world. Carrot, corn, she cared not, as long as they were within reach of her gaping maw. We're talking banana territory, here, people. (And BTW: Isn't it odd that when bananas so clearly rule her world and she recognizes them in the store and demands to hold them while I finish shopping, she doesn't know the world yet? Unless her extended chanting of nananananananananana, which happens several times a day, is actually a Banana Sutra.)

We had a lovely visit. Some of Jim's relatives threw themselves a huge 50th wedding anniversary, with ungodly amounts of food. Jim and I went and ate/partied, while Grandma and Grandpa's neighbor (a nurse, thank you very much, we get the best) watched Eliza. We met up with some of Jim's Irish relatives whom we stayed with in 2003, which was lovely—truly delightful people. Must go back there; still my favorite vacation ever. I totally get the whole crazed my-relatives-on-my-mom's-dad's-side-came-over-from-Ireland-15-generations-ago-so-kiss-me-I'm-Irish thing. Jeez, I'd be kinda nuts about it too, if I came from someplace that beautiful. (Belgium, with the rain, and the rain, and for a change, the rain, has much to recommend it, but the landscape is a bit, Eh, in comparison. Good thing we hold our own with the beer and the food and the art and the fashion and such.)

On the way home, we stopped for pizza—Yum! More carbs!—and then decided to make a detour to the local zoo I'd intended to visit with Eliza's little buddies last Friday.

It was baby animals week, when they bring a bunch of farm animals over to the zoo.

And, oh, the cuteness!

Baby chickens! Baby turkeys! Baby goats! Baby pigs! Baby horsies! Baby sheep! Pointy finger carpal tunnel!!!

There was a lot of "Ahhh!" and pointing/violently wrenching tiny body in direction of yet another discovered example of cuteness.

And then Mama got some goat food and fed the goat which was just hysterical, apparently, and then we had a staredown with a REALLY BIG KITTY which made Daddy nervous, and he said that he didn't care if there was a fence, the cheetah was creeping him out and we were leaving (but not before he dared me to stick my fingers between the wires).

Then we saw pointy kitties (raccoons) and bunnies, and monkeys who ate with their feet—Ahhh!—and hey, it's the turkeys again, and look, if you hold your tiny little hand up to the glass they go into a pecking frenzy—Ahhh!!!

Woooooooo!

And then at the end of the day we opened up the bottle of Bailey's Grandma had found in her house while cleaning, and did you know that Bailey's congeals when it gets old and looks like a big booger stuck in a bottle? Now you do!

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May 23
Savages

We rent Eliza out for testing. She comes cheap - a Japanese lunch will do it, really.

On Friday, we were supposed to go to the zoo with some of Eliza's little friends, but it rained. Luckily, our friend J. works for a parenting magazine and had a back-up plan: they needed some do-it-yourself toys tested, so our tiny posse, Eliza, S., and O. came to the rescue, shaking, pounding on, mangling, and flinging the various toys for our entertainment, er, for the magazine tester.

In return, we moms got a free lunch, and the babes all went home with schmancy toys—Eliza got a Lego set with a little cart piece, which makes her very happy. She's in a phase where she really likes to push things with wheels along the floor as she crawls alongside.

Whenever the three babies get together, it's like a preverbal re-enactment of Lord of the Flies. None of them has any concept of boundaries, so they're constantly in each other's faces. By which I mean not the figurative, "Oh, she was all up in my business" meaning of the phrase, no, I mean they are putting fingers up each other's nostrils. They also have no idea what sharing is all about, so a good chunk of every playdate goes like this:

Baby #1: Cooing happily, playing with toy

Baby #2: Crawls over #3 to get to #1, vigorously yanks toy from #1's grasp, starts gnawing on newly acquired toy

Baby #1: Makes horrible soundless crying face, then commences shrieking

Baby #3: Spots exciting toy being played with by #2, crawls over #1 to get to #2, yanks toy, starts gnawing

Baby #2: Horrible soundless crying face... etc.

Sometimes, for variety, they hit themselves in the face when they yank the toy away from each other, and then they both shriek.

We moms attempt to carry on a conversation, but mostly spend it apologizing for our offsprings' ruthless behavior.

Last Friday, just as J. was comforting herself that Baby O. at least was not yet familiar with the concept of "mine" (O. is the eldest of the bunch by 3 months), Eliza crawled over to investigate O.'s toy. O. hid her toy behind her back and said, "No, MINE!"

Our sweet little angel, she is one of the prime offenders—and she does it to me, too.

Last Sunday, I had gotten a cookie for myself from the kitchen and had it in my hand as I helped her with her walker. She looked interested, so I let her take a bite. She decided she liked it, and, Yoink! Cookie is no longer mine. She started eating it with gusto, and every time I put a hand on it to take it back, she wrestled it out of my grasp. She may not be able to say, "No! MINE!" yet, but believe me, the meaning was clear, especially when she hurled baby invective my way. Jeez, I never knew the letter "E" could sound so obscene, but believe me, that "Eeeeeeee!" will blister your ears.

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May 22
Independence

First, a quiz to keep your mind sharp.

Guess the following words, based on their Eliza-pronunciation:

1. atsa
2. shizz
3. hih-DIH
4. shuzz
5. bah
6. voon

Answers at bottom of post.

***

There is much to report from the weekend: Toy testing, a visit to Grandpa and Grandma's house, and baby animals. Also, funny cookie-stealing. And photo-documentation of butt-in-air sleeping and determined gnawing. These will remain mere teasers, however, because I do not have time to blog much tonight.

What I can share, though, is my prediction that Eliza's first sentence will probably be, "I can do it MYSELF!"

I base this on her recent walking adventures. Mind you, she cannot/will not walk on her own, demanding a finger or some other support, or she sits down promptly.

Thus, she is quite fond of her walker, and on the occasions when the rain lets up, there is nothing she likes better than to be set loose on the sidewalk with said machinery. Call her the Terror of Holyoke, if you like. When the walker is not available, she uses the stroller in the same fashion, pushing it from behind, occasionally peering around to assess her course.

Often, that course is wobbly at best—Eliza would most definitely fail that field sobriety test where they make you walk a straight line. But woe betide the one who tries to steady her progress!

The other day, I watched as Jim tried to right her. She grabbed his thumb, and at first I thought, 'Aw, she's taking his hand.' But, no. She pushed his hand out of the way, gave him a sternly disapproving look, and continued stubbornly on her way.

Jim and I found this hilarious and spent about a half hour torturing her by fixing her path (in our defense, we WERE trying to keep her from heading straight into the street, a destination which holds much allure for her, in a manner that is consistent with her committment to always be playing with the most dangerous toy in the room). Every time we touched the handle of her walker, we got an increasingly impatient push out of the way and a glare, and, several times, angry baby-swears.

***

Answers to quiz:
1. outside
2. cheese
3. kitty
4. shoes
5. ball
6. balloon

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May 17
The Flailening

Sleeping with Eliza is like sleeping with Inspector Gadget. Random, suspiciously long limbs protrude and jab various tender areas at strange angles, and those tiny toes, ordinarily so edibly cute, burrow into my flesh like little heat-seeker missiles. I don't recommend it to anyone aiming for a good night's sleep.

Only rarely does Eliza wake up at night anymore, but if she is fully awakened, that's it. The only way to get her back to sleep quickly is to crawl into the guest bed with her. This is a lazier, and warmer, solution, than rocking her back to sleep or letting her cry it out, but it happens so infrequently that I'm not driven to undertake serious sleep training.

Last night was one of those times that she woke up all the way. She needed a rebinky, and then I ruined any chances of getting her back to sleep by herself by going into the bathroom and loudly slurping water from the tap. Dumb idea in retrospect, but I have long maintained that I am incapable of rational behavior at this hour and this just fits the pattern.

I took her in the bed with me, where she promptly fell fast asleep and began writhing and flailing. At first, she was just digging in her toes and using the deadly little footholds to clamber her way into a comfortable position. Then she started pushing up and inchworming around the bed. Inevitably, she inchwormed her head up against the wall, and then there was annoyed sleep-whining about this obstacle to her inchworming. And really, I mean sleepwhining—she was completely asleep the whole time.

Then, the binky fell out, and there was sleep talking.The kid can't say more than 3 1/2 words (she is in the process of adding "ball" to her vocabulary), but she can for damn sure talk a blue streak in her sleep. There she lay, talking and talking and talking. I finally stoppered her, funny though it was, because I wanted to get some sleep.

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May 15
Binkies, Der Freshmaker!
and
Reading as manipulation!

Despite numerous beautiful candidates, both storebought and homemade, Eliza has thus far been uninterested in all attempts to encourage her to acquire a security blanket or favorite stuffed animal.

And yes, I said encouraged. One of the sleep advice books I read encouraged helping kids make the transition to their own beds by enabling their attachment to some object onto which they would transfer their associations of thewarmth and comfort that they were used to getting from sleeping next to Mama. Totally unnecessary, it turns out, because Eliza made that transition in 10 minutes, but an interesting idea, I guess.

Anyway. The reason it hasn't worked is that what Eliza is attached to, you see, is her binkies. When she is upset or tired, she heads for the nearest binkie she can find. And since her binkies seem to congregate in gaggle-like fashion, that means a tired, grumpy Eliza is also usually an Eliza who is furiously gnawing on one binkie and clutching a spare in each hand.

Lately, she has added a weird little ritual: She stands in front of the nightstand in her room where we usually have 4 or 5 binkies, grabs one and starts chomping. After about a minute, she drops that one from her mouth and inserts a new binkie. Another minute in, that one gets dropped and the next binkie goes in, and so on until she's sampled each one and all the discarded binkies lie like disturbing plastic flower petals on the floor around her.

***

These past two weeks, I have been gone a lot more than usual, as I've headed up a couple of days of filming for a recruitment DVD we're making for the department, and then as we geared up for our big annual fundraiser, the latter of which had me out of the house most of her waking hours on Saturday, as well.

Eliza is not thrilled with these developments, if the clinginess is any indication, and no, the ear infection probably didn't help (she seems to be on the mend from that, BTW).

However, my baby, she is wily, and she has discovered a foolproof way to twist Mama round those tiny, chubby fingers: Reading!

I have read to Eliza since her very earliest days — our bedtime ritual has shifted over time, but almost from the first, stories, especially Guess How Much I Love You, have been part of it.

As she got older, I found that she really responded to the physical act of reading: snuggling against me as I say the words, turning the pages, looking at the pictures, lifting up the flaps on flap books. She has favorite books, and definite opinions about which book she wants to read. If you present her a book that she does not wish to read at that moment, she pushes it away, and will continue to push books away until you present the correct one.

She used to just wait for story time to roll around (which it did several times a day even when I was in charge), but lately, she has decided to take matters into her own hands, literally. When she decides that it is story time, she holds up the book that must be read RIGHT THIS INSTANT and emits a stuttering whine, eheheheheheh eheheheheheheh, until her demands are met.

She has figured out that this is a foolproof way to get me to stop doing things of which she does not approve, which is to say, any activity I pursue in which she is not the center of attention. E-mailing, using the bathroom, reading the paper, eating, cooking, cleaning, PUTTING ON UNDERPANTS—all these activities have gone by the wayside at one point or another in the past week, victim of the impenetrable read-to-me whine.

It works because I am easily flattered—Hey! my kid wants to hang out with me! Uh, OK, I'll just stop peeing in midstream and hoist her onto my lap as I sit on the TOILET so we can find out, for the 564,392,563,812,378th time, if Miss Spider's friends pull off that surprise birthday party!

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May 13
But I Just Found You

A couple of weeks ago, I found this blog: http://cancerbaby.typepad.com/

And I think her writing is some of the most powerful I've had the privilege to read in the last couple of years. She writes with an honesty, a clarity, and, especially, a grace that astounds me. Try these entries:

http://cancerbaby.typepad.com/cancerbaby/2005/07/dichotomies.html#comments

http://cancerbaby.typepad.com/cancerbaby/2005/06/in_sickness_and.html#comments

http://cancerbaby.typepad.com/cancerbaby/2005/02/but_then_i_saw_.html#comments

And I hope that you can see why, even though I've just read a couple of essays by this woman, whom I've never met, I am heartbroken by the two last posts on her site.

I think that her writing, at its best, gives lie to every refutation I've heard of blogs and the internet. I think that blogs, at their best —and I would argue that hers is—can have the power of the greatest books.

I also think her work—because it is that, a body of work—serves as a powerful entry in the internet intimacy/community/connection discussion.

I know that blogs can smack of the worst kind of narcissism— I, I, I, read all about Me and My life and My navel-gazing, self-obsessed thoughts on the world. But isn't that how we connect? Don't we connect in real life by putting ourselves out there, to say, here I am, here is what I do and think; will you be part of my circle? Isn't blogging just the electronic version of that same impulse to connect by sharing oneself?

Of course not everyone does it that way—there are also people in real life who are insufferable braggarts and won't let you get a word in edgewise.

But how many times have you been talking to a friend and he or she shared something and the first words out of your mouth were, "You too?! I thought I was the only one!" and then, shared laughter, or relief, or grief.

I think what what this woman did with her blog was like that—put her experience out there for people to have that flash of recognition and connection. I hope that she helped others like her. She HAS to have helped others like her.

So what am I, decidedly not a cancer patient, doing reading it? Well, that speaks to the other part of why blogs matter (and if you want to get feminist about it, why women's blogs matter in particular, since women's voices are not heard enough, even now, in the mainstream traditional media). I don't think my impulse is voyeuristic, so much as it is a need to bear witness. When I have had a (nowhere near as bad as her) awful experience, having someone offer their empathy or simply even catch my eye in acknowledgement means almost more than that person can imagine. So I feel it's important to witness lives in all their complexity.

This, too, is her legacy. She was denied a full life, children, the everyday things most of us have years to do that allow us to make our tiny mark upon the world.

If we read what she wrote, then that is the way she lives on.

But I am so, so sorry that this is all there is of her anymore.

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May 12
Sick

My tiny Poo, my Bubbalicious, my little Schnikselhead, she has her first ear infection.

We discovered this yesterday, when I took her to the doctor after 3 consecutive colds in a month, which seemed like a bit much even for a kid who licks ALL the toys at the YMCA Childwatch room. Although I don't want her to suffer, I was, I must admit, happy when the doctor discovered that something was indeed the matter with her, since it proved that my instincts about something being awry were correct— and also because we had to wait a %^@#$ hour and a half to see the doctor, an annoyance which could only have been rendered palatable by us getting our money's worth. Which, in this case, consisted of the doctor peering into various Eliza-orifices until she discovered one that looked out of whack — Eliza's left ear.

Anyway, so she's been mostly OK with it during the day, but I've noticed that the closer we get to bedtime, the more sick she acts. It's like she decompensates on a steeper curve than usual.

She was fine during Jim's shift with her, although she puked in the car 20 minutes before I got home (and was handed a pukey-smelling, though high-spirited baby, uh, THANKS!). It probably has something to do with her balance being wacky, rendering her more prone to carsickness.

My shift was another story, and the story goes like this: aaaaaaaaaaagh aaaaaaaaagh eeeeeeeeeeeeee gulp gulp big sob aaaaaaaaaaaaagh aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh

In part, it was cabin fever, since we've working on day 2 of constant rain, and the child is pathologically in need of changing scenery: The happiest she was all afternoon was when we braved the elements for a quick tour of Mama's garden plants. "Outside!" she shouted happily, bouncing up and down in her carrier as she flapped her arms and wiggled her feet. She did not agree with my assessment that prolonged exposure to rain would be bad for a sick baby. I couldn't take her to the Y or the mall either— I didn't want to make her pukey again, and I figured leaving her in Childwatch to pass on her diseases would be bad karma.

We read, we danced, we ate, we clicked the TV on off on off on off, we played with the shapesorter, and each activity was punctuated by screaming.

By 7 PM I had her strapped to me as I performed various tasks to the sound of Fiona Apple, and screaming (you'd think someone having ear pain would want things quiet, but, I guess you'd be wrong, because there was MUCH LOUDNESS), until she passed out while I was attempting to wash the dishes with a baby strapped to my front. I think it was a glimpse of what my life would be like if I were really fat, because I couldn't really reach anything the normal way.

She woke up to scream at me some more, until I stoppered her with a bottle, and then she fell asleep, hopefully to wake up in a BETTER MOOD tomorrow.

***

We did have one moment of non-screaming today that thoroughly delighted me, as we played with the shapesorter.

Our shapesorter is shaped like a mailbox, with three slots to put shapes in, a triangle on one side, a cube at the top, and a cylinder on the other side.

Well!

As she was just starting to get acquainted with the concept, Missy figured out that the cylinder fits quite nicely through the square hole—more easily, in fact, than through the round one.

And that, my friends, is where the cylinders go — through the square hole. The cubes are hard to fit through that hole, and the triangle remains a mystery entirely, but the cylinders? They party in the mailbox all the time!

UPDATED TO ADD: Hmmm. I sound as though I am unsympathetic to Eliza's illness. Trust me, I had plenty of sympathy—I've had ear infections and they hurt like a bastard, so I know how she's feeling. It's just, she's so LOUD. I actually have a little of that post-rock-concert ringing-ear thing going on, and it's been 3 hours since she went to bed. Must go medicate with fudge swirl and peanut butter-cup ice cream

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May 10
Fantasy

When I was 14, I fell in love with the Norwegian band, A-ha. (My parents thought this was hilarious and discussed it with everyone they knew on two continents, or at least, so it felt to me. Now that I have a kid and regularly share details of her pooping and snot adventures with perfect strangers, I understand the impulse, but at the time I was irked. However, I digress.)

With this great love was born the great romantic fantasy of my life: That someone would whisk me away to a concert by whoever my favorite band is at the time.

My freshman year of college, my boyfriend at the time got me tickets to Chris Isaak, who qualified for favorite band status at the time, but the experience was ruined when said boyfriend revealed himself to be that annoying guy who thinks he needs to make funny comments in response to rhetorical statements made by the performer. Dude, even IF you're funnier than the performer, NO ONE CARES! Plus, the presentation sucked — he just handed me the flier announcing the concert and said we were going. So that totally didn't count.

Cut to 9 years later. I've been with Jim for a couple of years. I was a slightly-more-than-casual Springsteen fan before we met and had even attended a concert (thank GOD), and Jim's enthusiasm is wearing away my already weak resistance to the Bruce juggernaut.

On my birthday, I observe with disinterest as he makes a phone call, and turn my attention back to reading the book I have received for my birthday. Later in the day, it has been decided, I would like to go out to dinner and catch a movie.

At 4 p.m., he announces that it is time to go. What? Where? And I should maybe put on some jeans or something. Huh?

In short order I change into jeans and get in the car where, as we head down to Hartford, I am apprised of the change in plans for the evening — Bruce is playing the Civic Center today, and we'll be going to see him; Jim got lucky and got behind-the-stage tickets just that day.

Whisked! Away! To a show! Omigod — at this point, already, the evening is a resounding success. We could be going to see Tony Orlando and Dawn and I'd be psyched. But! Bruce! Springsteen! At this point, I can ID about 3 songs from his catalog without Jim's help, but who cares, they all sound so damn good live! Bruce!

And, oh, how this show rocked. I realize that to Bruce, I was but the out-of-tune shrieker with the spiky hair 10 rows behind him (eh. or just a blob in a crowd of blobs, more likely). But to me this is now My Birthday Show.

We have a bootleg of this show, and I can tell you the exact moment when, as Bruce slides down into the chorus of "Point Blank," I went from being a casual fan to being one of those slightly scary and possibly off-putting-to-the-uninitiated lunatics who regard with pity those who've never seen Bruce live. I suppose it's not unlike joining any other cult. I can't even give the born-agains a hard time, because the way I feel everyone should see Bruce live is not unlike the way they wish we'd all be saved so we could get out of the eternal hellfire.

Anyway. It could be asserted that I have a teeny-tiny crush on Bruce, and I would not deny it. The thing is, said crush is entirely dependent upon and inextricably tied to the way I feel about Jim. Because I loved him before this, obviously, but I remember thinking, that night, that this man had fulfilled my dearest fantasy, the one I'd had for half my life, and he had done so without ever having known about it.

That, me friends, is kismet on a level only the most hardened skeptic would deny, and I am NOT that skeptic.

And the Bruce thing? His music became the soundtrack of our first year of marriage, and the adventures we had around the concerts became the stories of us beginning our life together.

Music has been a leitmotif, the way we reconnect. And so it is that I share what will surely become the runner-up in the best gift sweepstakes: An envelope, a sheet inside that says: A fancy-schmancy dinner in New York on July 2 (and this is for another post, but New York is another leitmotif). Then another envelope, a card, and two tickets tumble out: Madonna, at Madison Square Garden.

Do I tell you I love you often enough?

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May 9
Dear Baby Jesus

Thank you for inventing potatoes, fennel, and cheese. Thank you for giving someone the idea to moosh them together and bake them. Thank you for making that person write a cookbook. And thank you for making my friend give me that cookbook.

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May 9
Sharing

Take a good look at that picture, specifically, between Moe's front feet. Do you see that binky? Eliza put it there.

Moe, who has a prodigious amount of patience for someone so misanthropic, was unfazed by Eliza's generous — and to a cat somewhat mystifying — offer, although she demurred when Eliza tried to insert the binky in her mouth. They finally agreed on the location in the photo above as a compromise.

Eliza would've had more success on this front with Barney, who has been seen trotting off with "prey" binkies in his mouth and is probably responsible for the disappearance of a half-dozen of the things over the course of the past few months. I am really looking forward, in fact, to the day when we find his secret lair, because I suspect it will contain many exciting treasures.

Binkies are just one of the things Eliza likes to share.

She is also VERY into feeding me for the moment. When I give her a piece of bread, she eats for a while, then offers me some. I take a bite, or pretend to, and after giving me, oh, a millisecond, to chew, she offers it again. I am slowly getting used to the forced carbo-loading that has become part of my diet. This morning things took a new twist when she hefted her cup and insisted I take a sip. And another, and another, until she was satisfied that I was sufficiently hydrated.

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May 4
Girl On Film

So, I'm in a movie. A student film, to be precise.

I didn't know what to make of it when one of the students in my department contacted me to let me know he was making a short film and had me in mind for a part.

After I made sure he really didn't mind that I haven't acted since the fifth grade musical where I had 8 lines as Davey Crocket's slutty wannabe-girlfriend, I said, Aw, what the hell, it'll be fun.

The setup of the story is this: A man brings his wife to the mechanic because she's malfunctioning. He gets a loaner wife while he waits for his wife to be fixed. It's definitely satirical, though I'll have to see the final product to find out how far he pushed it and whether the piece has any of the poignancy in it the the script allowed for.

I play the malfunctioning wife. I'm trying to take it as a compliment that he asked me to play a woman who's 6 years younger than I am, and trying NOT to read anything into the part about how she's malfunctioning.

I have 1 line, and I don't think it's giving anything away to share it with you here: "What?!" It was performed thusly (and again, not giving anything away here): I looked into the camera (at my "husband"), glared, said my line, then looked away, rolling my eyes.

The director was very pleased with my performance, which also included the scene where I am brought to the mechanic, in which I again had to act all pissy.

I think I might be a natural. Or it's typecasting.

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May 4
Weirdly FInicky Baby Who Is A Genius

As of right now, in addition to a selection of mashed Gerber baby food, Eliza likes to eat the following things:

Bananas
Shredded cheese (cheddar, but also Mexican, mozzarella and Italian 6-cheese blend)
Yogurt (vanilla, banana, apple, peach, pear and blueberry flavor)
Vanilla ice cream (soft serve and regular, also frozen yogurt)
Apple sauce
Graham crackers
Cheese crackers
Bread (rosemary olive oil, French, whole wheat, rye)
Bagels
Tortilla chips
Chicken
Liverwurst
Pizza crust
Macaroni and cheese
Barbecued pulled chicken
Brown rice croquettes
Fortune cookies
Miso soup

This is today's list. Tomorrow, you could serve her one of these things and she will press her lips together and push your hand away, and if you still succeed in getting some of the offending foodstuff to touch her lips, she blows a raspberry with a very grossed-out expression on her face. Disliked foods include hot dogs and cottage cheese.

Didya notice how the favorite foods list wraps up with miso soup? Yeah, that was tonight's newest odd discovery. I went to Teapot, the Japanese restaurant, and ordered her some deep fried tofu because 2 days ago, she had some and LOVED it. Tonight, not so much, but she eyed my soup and deployed the Imperial Pointy Finger, as Mom calls it, and before I knew it, half my soup was gone.

The tofu was not a total waste, however, because Eliza is very fascinated by utensils, and expended considerable effort trying to figure out how to stick a square of tofu onto the tines. I was very busy trying to prevent her from creating an unintentional catapult. When we went to the Mexican place a while back, I gave her a spoon, and she flung beans everywhere in her attempt to decipher the scooping mechanism.

Missy's cutlery-engineering leads me nicely into the genius portion of this post.

Last night, we were in her room looking at the poster on her wall with the flowers on it. She pointed to the daffodil, and said "Atsa!" (i.e. Outside). We go outside to look at the flowers in the yard, and she was especially fond of the yellow daffodils, which are now all but done. And even though we've now moved on to tulips and dianthus and bleeding heart, and (in whiskey barrels all over Northampton) pansies, she remembered the flower and made the connection to one of her words!

She is also physical adept. Tonight, she got from squatting to standing without any aid whatsoever — nothing to pull up on, nothing to hold onto. Then she realized what she did and lowered herself carefully back into her squat. I have got to get a video of her doing that lowering thing. It cracks me up every time, how she descends, carefuly, with arms out for balance and butt stuck way out, to the floor.

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May 3
Is This Normal?

Sometimes, when I am watching Eliza be especially cute, I say, "The Cuteness — of the BABY!" in my head, like it's a movie title, like The Silence of The Lambs or The Passion of the Christ. Only, this is a MUCH better movie.

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May 2
Bitchslapping the Idiot Boy King and his Cadre of Sociopaths

We now take a break from our regularly scheduled programming to bring you Truthiness to Power, which relates to the usual all-Eliza, all the time coverage in that I am more than a little concerned about the world I've brought her into.

Go here http://www.thankyoustephencolbert.org/ and watch Stephen Colbert have at President Bystander (Thanks Bruce!), his Sycophants, and the Craven Dogs who cover his administration.

Time was when the irresponsible sociopaths in power were challenged by fellow members of the government and the mainstream media. Nowadays, apparently, a fake talk show host is the only person who has the cojones to call out the president and everyone who's just letting him get away with everything he's doing.

I've found the Usurper morally suspect from the start, and what he lacked in intelligence to be truly evil, his handlers more than made up for.

I've talked before how becoming a parent has created a break in my perspective, and one of the main shifts is that I am now even more convinced that our civil-rights-abrogating, global-warming-denying, gay-rights-curtailing, black-vote-curtailing, oil-drilling-in-Alaska, crusading-against-Islam politburo is made up of sociopaths.

Because all these people are allegedly parents, and yet the way they govern shows an unbelievable disregard for the world they are leaving their children and grandchildren. How else, except that they suffer from a Dissociative Personality Disorder, can one explain the total lack of empathy for the suffering they are causing future generations — of their own blood? I mean, on a callous level, I get the whole I've got mine/let them eat cake thing — you know, let the poor starve, we'll be at the country house if you need us. Not nice, but I can see where they're coming from. But to embrace policies which are almost certain to lead, eventually, to your family's demise, whether by terrorist annihilation, nuckear catastrophe or global meltdown?

Although, I suppose, I need to look into my own heart, because knowing what I do about the state of the world, and suspecting, strongly, that we are in fact, as a culture, on the downward slope of our peak as an empire, what am I doing having kids? Isn't that, ultimately, as immoral and selfish an act, knowing that I am bringing Eliza (and her imaginary brother Elvis/Rafe/Declan) into a world that is so very troubled?

And I guess you can always bring up the argument that, well, maybe this baby is the one who grows up to be the messiah, mystical or political, to deliver us from all this. Or maybe I am just hoping that someone with power and wisdom and a good heart is still out there.

I struggled for YEARS with this before I had Eliza, and I struggle with it still — is it right to bring someone you love so much into a world about which you have so many doubts? It's why I make my lame little efforts to do my part, using cotton diapers, trying to buy organic food, donating to NPR, embracing the freedom of speech of the blogosphere, etc. I know it's just a little, but with my very limited understandfing of chaos theory, I'm hoping that something that I do turns out to be the butterfly that causes the hurricane that blows away the filth of this world. (Oy, the metaphor.)

Anyway, to bring this all back around, I guess what I'm getting at is that I applaud Stephen Colbert. I don't know how much difference it'll make in the long run — I doubt it'll change as much as some of the bloggers hope it will— but I respect that he sat down and decided, this is unacceptable, I can't let this just happen to my country, and he attacked the problem the best way that he could.

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