My sweet baboo, my baby M., is a year old today. So much has happened this year, good and bad and indifferent, but the biggest life change we’ve had has been living with a whole new person. She delights me and frustrates me and makes my heart swell a million times over and causes the greatest anxieties I’ve ever felt and makes me want to play again for the first time in years. I’ve lost some of myself, a little bit, but I’ve gained so much more than I’ve lost. I don’t even know how to express how incredibly complex my emotions are when I think back on this year with M., but I’ve got to give it a go because that’s what I do here.
First, some milestones:
- Weight: At birth = 8 lbs 2 oz; At one year = 18 lbs
- Height: At birth = 21 inches; At one year = 31 inches
- Clothing size: At birth = newborn for 3-4 weeks before moving into 0-3 mo; At one year = just barely moved into 9-12 mo
- Teeth: 7 and counting
- Words: Mama, Daddy, book, dog/doggie, hi, Delia
- Favorite things: Books, balls, Mozart music cube, laptop computer (both her toy and my real one), iPhone games, music (especially the ABC song, Twinkle Twinkle, Patty Cake, and the Itsy Bitsy Spider), Sesame Street (especially Elmo, Grover and Abby), watching our dogs (especially when they go crazy and run circles around the room – that is, to M., HILARIOUS), climbing on her parents like we are jungle gyms (this is the most fun when we are lying or sitting on the ground)
- Things she hates: having her face or hands wiped off, not being picked up and carried around immediately when she decides that’s what she wants, being told no, going to sleep, clothes going over her head, anyone grabbing or holding her hands
- Physical abilities: Crawling and cruising, clapping, waving, giving kisses, feeding herself chunks of things
And now I’m going to bombard you with a list of random thoughts* that have occurred to me when I think back on this Year of M. Actually, I suppose that should be Year One of M., because I imagine every year from here on out will be about her in some way or another. I sure hope so.
- My baby’s kisses are the sweetest and best thing to happen to me every single day.
- My husband is rocking the stay-at-home-dad thing, despite the fact that it is simultaneously the most exhausting and the most boring and the most wonderful thing he could be doing.
- Hearing tragic news of any sort is approximately one trillion percent more horrible than it used to be. In the past year there have been so very many heart-wrenching news stories about children in school shootings, accidental shootings, rapes, abductions, natural disasters, horribly abusive homes. Just yesterday there was local news about a six-year-old who was hit by a car and died. It has all always been heart-wrenching, of course, but now it’s magnified beyond comprehension. I’m terrified for the day I have to let M. leave the house without me or Dave or one of her grandparents right next to her.
- I am completely fascinated by every moment she figures something out, or even just tries to figure something out. Sitting there and watching her study something, the little wheels clearly turning in her head, is endlessly entertaining.
My body sucks in a way I didn’t understand it would. I’m about a size and a half bigger than I was pre-pregnancy, and about a half-size bigger in shoes. I have stretch marks and belly fat I did not have before. My back and my pelvis have mostly recovered but are still not the same as they were.
- On the flip side, I am developing KILLER arm muscles from toting around 18 lbs of baby all the time.
- I did not understand exhaustion before M. However, lack of sleep was my greatest fear about being a mother, and I’ve adapted far more easily than I thought possible. Yes, I’m tired pretty much all of the time, but it’s OK.
- What in the world did I do with my time before I had a kid? I thought I had no free time then, and now I have multiple hours of time LESS than I did before and I still manage.
- Please, please let her love of books continue. It seems like a no-brainer to me, because Dave and I both read so much and have read to her pretty much constantly since she was a newborn. She loves books right now, and her first word after Mama and Daddy was “book.” But I know a lot of kids love books at this age and outgrow it when they get old enough to read on their own. I hope so hard that won’t be her.
- When your kid is 4 to 12 weeks old, it is TOTALLY okay to watch Deadwood while they’re in the room.
Netflix streaming and Hulu are lifesavers when your child needs to eat, or just refuses to sleep, in the middle of the night.
- Baby gear is expensive. But if you wait to have your first kid until after your friends have already had a few (but not so late that they’ve already given away all of their baby stuff), they will beg you to take their stuff from them, and you get free stuff.
- Babies grow way too fast. I’ve spent about an hour in the last two years managing my own wardrobe. I’ve spent probably 12 hours in the last year managing M.’s wardrobe.
- Making real baby food (as opposed to processed purees in jars or pouches) is actually super-easy. It takes very little effort or planning. But the pouches are quite handy for traveling.
- Breastfeeding is really, really hard. We are going to make it to a year and beyond, but I don’t know how much beyond. I am just…I’m done. I’m so tired of pumping, and now that she has all of those teeth, I’m tired of being bitten. Frankly, I don’t know how much she’ll care – she has never once asked me to nurse, and lately she seems impatient to leave my lap and go explore when she does nurse. She only stays because she’s hungry; she’d rather have something portable to eat, I think. And have I mentioned just how over pumping I am?
I’m going to cry when she’s weaned. Hormones aside – and nursing has made me super-hormonal at times – I will be so sad and so relieved at the same time when nursing is done. It is so hard, especially as a working mom with a full-time job out of the house that requires me to travel periodically, but it’s also so sweet and perfect and bonding.
- One is enough. I would not trade M. for anything. Having her and raising her are the hardest and best things I have ever done. But right now, you could not convince me to have another baby for all tea in China.
- Despite seeming like she is living, breathing chaos, my child totally thrives on structure. She is at her best when her routine is followed to the letter and everything is totally predictable for her.
- Who ever knew that the best part of every day for me would be sitting in the floor clicking two plastic balls together and making goofy faces in an effort to make another (quite small) person laugh? WHO KNEW?
*Sorry for how very random and disorganized this list is. I just…I couldn’t figure out any way to organize it. And this is why I will never be an author. I can’t put together a coherent narrative from my disjointed thought-lets.
Long ago and far away, I used to write a Monday Miscellany post that was full of exactly what it sounds like – random crap that caught my attention over the previous week. I don’t know that I’m going to do it regular-like (I seem to be having trouble doing anything regularly these days), but it seemed like a good thing to do today.
- I have recently run out of my backlog of podcasts from when I didn’t listen to podcasts for 18 months or so, because I now listen to nothing but podcasts on my 20-30 minute commute to and from work. There are podcasts I enjoy greatly, but they don’t come out fast enough for me. So I have recently started listening to Welcome to Night Vale. You guys. It is HILARIOUS! It’s a tongue-in-cheek radio show about a desert town with all kinds of weird occurrences that the inhabitants don’t seem to find all that weird, like the dog park that is for neither dogs nor people, the house that isn’t really there, angels that all lie (and don’t really exist), and major earthquakes that no one can actually feel. I’ve only just started the second episode, but it is cracking me up.
- I’m loving this series of posts on FoodRiot called “Cooking With Children (Like, as Helpers, Not as Ingredients)”. You can read the first installment and the second installment. I just wish she posted them more often – I’d love to read regular posts about her cooking with the toddler!
- I have a friend who is a fabulous chef and a fantastic cookbook author/recipe creator who has launched a Kickstarter for a gluten-free cookbook that promises easy recipes that won’t taste like sawdust or have weird textures. GF peoples, get on it.
- The Flat, a faboo creperie here in our town, is ALSO holding a Kickstarter because they want to buy a food truck so they can make crepes at festivals and weddings and parties and maybe IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD sometimes. And because their crepes are amazing and I want them to make crepes as close to me as possible at all times, I want them to have this food truck. Cvillians, get on it.
- Today is my amazing husband’s birthday. To demonstrate my appreciation for how he cares for M. all day every day, feeds and walks the dogs every day, feeds me and M. every day, cleans the house, takes care of the yard, and generally eschews adult interaction and sanity in favor of our family well-being, I gave him…fleece socks (which he was VERY excited about, I must report in defense of my selection) and the world’s most inappropriate card game. M. gave him a half-dozen of his favorite cupcakes in the world. And we had a single night baby-free in the Outer Banks on Saturday, but that was mostly for a friend’s wedding and only a tiny part for his birthday. I feel like he deserves a billionty times all of that. Hopefully he’ll settle for some sweet baby kisses on top of it all…
So that’s what I’ve got…what have you been up to lately?
Last month was crazy busy, as you might have guessed from the lack of posts! I’m back now, though, with an interesting bookish topic for you.
A couple of weeks ago, I listened to the Bookrageous podcast’s 3rd Anniversary episode. For every anniversary show so far, they’ve taken listener questions via social media and email and then answered them on the show. One of the questions asked each of the hosts to list their three most personally defining books. Now, that was an interesting question. Not their three favorite books, or the three books they re-read most, or their three desert island books, but three books that they feel personally define them as readers and, perhaps, as people. Of course, I immediately started making my own mental list. After much debate (with myself, because I’m TOTALLY SANE, people), here’s what I came up with:
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. This is the first book I remember being totally obssessed with. I checked it out of the library over and over and over until my Grandma found an old copy lurking somewhere in her house and told me I could have it. I read it multiple times a year, and then yearly once my reading life expanded, for a long time. I think I have seen every movie adaptation (Katharine Hepburn as Jo is the best, obvs). I haven’t read it in a number of years, but it absolutely my first grown-up book love. What is it about that story that speaks to me? Maybe because it’s got a little of everything – close family ties, strong women, romance, heartbreak, tragedy, gossip, in-fighting, poverty, decadence. Maybe because I’ve always been a little drawn to melodrama, and maybe because Beth was the sister I identified with most, but I wanted to identify with Jo. That last part might be it, actually – I have shaped my personality and life path to the greatest extent I have control over in an effort to become a person with the best characteristics of both Beth and Jo – loving and nurturing, but not a doormat; sweet-tempered but also feisty and passionate; lover of music and of books. If that’s not personally defining, I don’t know what is.
- The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. This is the first book that totally blew my mind open. We read it in 10th grade in English class and I was not articulate enough at the time to explain it, but I felt awed and privileged to be assigned such an amazing book to read for a school assignment. It ignited the burning love I have for Southern literature – all strange and gothic and batshit crazy with a soft, sweet side. It reminded me of the feeling I associate with the word “home” – small town, close-knit, loving but also back-stabbing, odd, and fascinating. The first time I had to write a curriculum unit for a class assignment (while in college to become a high school English teacher), this book is the subject I chose. It is the book I associate over and over with any writing about the American South, the standard to which I compare all Southern literature. I came to love Eudora Welty and William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor and Tennessee Williams and Harper Lee and my contemporary favorite, Joshilyn Jackson, by measuring them against this book and finding them worthy of comparison.
- Macbeth by William Shakespeare. My first Shakespeare, from when I was about middle-school-aged. My town’s Girl Scouts got all of the troops together to throw a Renaissance faire, complete with costumes and games and performances. Some troops performed scenes from Shakespeare, and I was a witch in a scene from Macbeth. Yes, one of the “double double, toil and trouble” witches. I still remember most of my lines. I remember looking up what some of the words meant, because they were so odd but so interesting and fun to say. After that, I read the whole play on my own. Then I read Romeo and Juliet. Then A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Then Hamlet. I felt really smart, sure, but I also loved the stories. I think that initial exposure is what started both my love of theater and my path toward being an English major.
And because I can’t make decisions without second-guessing myself, here are my runners-up:
- A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
- Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler
- The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
- Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
- The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
- Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins
- Every single book ever by L. M. Montgomery, especially the Anne of Green Gables series
- The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
- Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson
How about you? How would you answer the question “What three books are the most personally defining for you?”
So, apparently August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month. Which, I agree with Pregnant Chicken, is totally a weird name – surely, everyone is aware of breastfeeding. But I get the point, that it’s to promote knowledge about the benefits of and not-obscene-ness of breastfeeding, which is good. But I think it’s also good to just celebrate people who are feeding their kids, period, no matter how they’re doing it. Of course I have quite a few friends who chose to breastfeed (and had varying degrees of success doing it). I have friends who chose not to breastfeed because their jobs made it far too difficult. I have friends who could not breastfeed, either physically or because of other life circumstances. I have friends who tried to breastfeed but had to supplement with formula. And I support ALL of their choices. They are all wonderful, amazing mothers, regardless of how they fed their kids. The important thing is that they sacrificed their money, their time, their sleep, their bodies to feed their babies in whatever way made the most sense for their families and their kids are all thriving. Yay for having the resources and the love to feed your kids!
Still, the fact that I fully support my formula moms doesn’t mean that I don’t get pissed off every single damn time I hear about a breastfeeding mother who was told to cover up their feeding baby or to go feed their kid on a toilet somewhere. So for my part in Feed Your Baby Month, all I can do is share my own experiences feeding my baby. If you are squeamish about baby-feeding, I suggest you skip this post. I will talk about breasts and nipples, fair warning.
Breastfeeding is a weird thing. It’s simultaneously a pain in the ass and amazing and the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. (Also, I’m just going to say BFing from now on because it’s a lot shorter.) One benefit of BFing for the parents is that it is a LOT cheaper than formula feeding. My organic bamboo washable nursing pads, special nursing bras and shirts and dresses, nipple cream, breast pump, breast pump accouterments, milk storage bags, special bottles meant to closely emulate the breast, nursing pillow – all of this crap adds up to WAY less than a year’s supply of formula. In addition, lots of BFing proponents say it’s just so much easier that giving formula, and I…disagree. Sure, if everything is going well and there are no problems and you’re actually physically with your child, it’s not that difficult to put babe to breast and feed. No muss, no fuss. Nothing to clean up, nothing to prepare, you just do it. There is the matter of middle-of-the-night feedings, which are only harder for BFing moms because they can’t pass it on to the other parent, but neither can single moms regardless of how they’re feeding their baby. But if everything is not just super-duper perfect? BFing, while it’s really, really wonderful, can also be really, really hard.
First, there’s the physical pain. The books and instructors are fond of telling you, before you ever try to BF, that it doesn’t hurt if you’re doing it right. HA! Hahahahahahahahaha! I think that’s a lie they tell women so that they’re not scared off of trying. In the beginning, it hurt because my nipples were too sensitive. It takes a little time for them to toughen up. Even if your baby has the most perfect latch in the world and you’re rubbing all of the nipple cream that exists into your breasts, it will still hurt. Sometimes enough to bring tears to your eyes. For me, the pain usually only lasted a bit at the beginning of a BFing session – maybe 30 seconds to a minute – and then it would dull and things would be OK again. After a few weeks, my breasts toughened up and it was easier. But it never went away for keeps. Periodically, even now after doing it for almost 10 months, the pain will come back. It’s not as intense as it was at first and I’ve learned how to distract myself and/or breathe through it and I’ve learned to use ALL THE NIPPLE CREAMS until it goes away again, but there is still pain. Then you introduce teeth…oy. The bottom teeth haven’t been tooooooooo bad, but her top teeth are going to pop through any day now and I know I will get bitten. Probably more than once. And that it will hurt like hell every time it happens. And I got off easy, pain-wise, because I have never had to deal with cracked, bleeding nipples or blocked milk ducts or mastitis (that would be infected/inflamed breast tissue caused by blocked ducts) like many moms do – I don’t know if I could have kept going through that level of pain because I’m a wuss, but man, kudos to the many moms who do! So yes, it hurts.
Also physically, there’s the logistics. I gather that figuring out positioning and such is not easy for any mom, regardless of the size and shape of their breasts, but I can speak from personal experience on having really large breasts. First, let’s dispel what I think of as the pr*n myth (misspelling that word on purpose to trick the gross spambots, FYI). Very large breasts are not usually perky. It’s a gravity thing – they’re heavy, and so gravity pulls them down. Any woman you’ve ever seen a photo of with enormous, perky boobs? Psst: they’re not real. They’re likely Photoshopped or plastic surgery-engineered, and quite possibly both. For we regular well-endowed women, our breasts kind of…hang low. Every time I read an article about a mom BFing while wearing her baby in the Moby wrap or Ergo carrier, I both laughed and cried a little on the inside. It is seriously not possible for me. There is no physical way to wear M. and have my nipple reach her mouth. It cannot be done. Likewise, most of the positions they show you in BFing books and classes, I could not do. It was either extremely uncomfortable for me or again, just not physically possible. We had to figure out our own way of doing it. And even now, at nearly 10 months old and pretty strong, I have to hold my breast for my kid, because it’s too heavy for her to hold and keep in her mouth and there is no natural way for her to sit or lay where it just falls into her mouth. That causes cramps and problems in my wrist and arm. And now that she’s all aware of her body and a crazy super wiggle worm, the logistics are even more complicated – it’s almost impossible to both hold one breast AND keep her from taking a header off the couch. My early BFing days were filled with multitasking, when she just laid there like a lump – I could use one hand to hold my breast and the other to type on my computer or phone or read a book. Those days are gone – now it takes all of my efforts to keep her both eating and not hurting herself while doing so! As for those ladies who can discreetly feed their kid without a cover in public: I am so envious. My child will have NONE of a cover now – if I try to use it, she pushes it off her head. And who can blame her – I don’t want to eat under a blanket either! But there is nothing discreet about me BFing. Oh sure, I try to show the only the tiniest bit of skin, but my shirt will soon ride up my massive breast. Because somehow I’m still modest and shy around strangers, this means I will do EVERYTHING IN MY POWER to plan activities around being able to BF my kid at home (or at least at a family member or friend’s home, or in the car) before being out in the world. I mean really, if it comes down to it and there is no way around it, I will absolutely feed her in public, spectacle be damned, because my kid needs to eat and that trumps everything. But I cannot do it discreetly. The best I can do is face a wall or a corner while she eats.
And then there’s the fun of pumping. Whee. If you’re planning to BF, and you have the possibility of being a stay at home mom but you’re on the fence about it, let me tell you that pumping is enough of a pain all by itself to push you over the fence. And I, again, have it easy with pumping. I work with mostly women – many of them other mothers – and I have an office with a door I can shut. I work regular office hours. And still, it’s a giant pain. I’d far rather just feed my baby than pump. M. can eat a full meal in 10-15 minutes, depending on how distracted she is. Pumping takes at least 30 minutes. I have to get set up, pump longer than she usually eats to get a decent amount in a bottle, and then break down and clean everything up. Under the very best conditions, it’s still a gigantic pain in the ass. Then you add the fact that I travel for work, and pumping while traveling could take an entire logistics team to figure out: timing your feeding/pumping before you leave for the airport so that you can pump again at the right time on your layover; timing your layover so that you have enough time to find a place to pump and you have time to pump; finding somewhere to do it (usually a family bathroom because unless you want to do it out in the open, which leaves me feeling like I have no choice and less choice); figuring out how to adequately clean all of your pump parts (in a public bathroom ICK); etc. God forbid a flight is delayed somewhere, throwing off your entire carefully planned schedule. And then you get where you’re going and have work to do…do you know how weird and embarrassing it is to tell your Board of Directors that you need to take a break from your meeting to pump breast milk for your baby? Or to disappear several times during the day in the middle of a busy conference you’re at least partially responsible for running? I do. Even when your Board or co-workers or conference attendees are supportive and understanding, it’s still uncomfortable. And then there’s what to do with the milk AFTER you pump, because you may not be able to keep it cold on the trip home, or store it cold while you’re at your destination, and the local milk bank won’t take it unless you don’t take any medications at all, even vitamins, and also have a blood test first, and you just cannot bring yourself to dump that hard work down the drain… And finally, what does your baby eat while you’re gone?! I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to pump enough extra milk to freeze for her to eat while I was on my last 2 trips, but I have serious doubts that there will be enough to last her through my upcoming 7-day business trip next month, much less the 3 days I’ll be gone for a wedding the weekend after that. So she’ll have formula, and it will be fine, but it’s still stressful to think about. All of that PLUS you miss your kid terribly while you’re gone and feel guilty for being away from her (and, dare I say it, guilty for enjoying a little time away, even if it is for work).
Finally, there’s the emotional strain. You are physically tied to that kid. You cannot get a break. Especially at the beginning, because newborns eat all the damn time. You fluctuate back and forth between feeling those warm, gooey, lovey bonding feelings with the sweet baby at your breast and feeling ready to pull your hair out because you meant to sleep when the baby slept as all of those sage people told you, but you really needed to do the dishes and then answer an email or two and now it’s time to feed the baby again and you feel kind of trapped because you’re the only one who can do this and OH MY GOD YOU JUST WANT A NAP. And THAT feeling leads to guilt, because so many women want to have children who can’t and you did, and so many moms want to BF but can’t and you are, and your baby is amazing and how could you not want to care for her for even a second; what’s wrong with you, aren’t you supposed to feel this mama lion I’ll-do-anything-for-my-kid feeling? Then there’s the worry, being unsure that your baby is eating enough because you can’t tell how much milk they’re drinking when it’s coming straight out of your breast and not out of a bottle, and this is compounded when your kid loses just a teensy bit too much weight after birth and you’re told you don’t need to supplement with formula “yet” with the implication that maybe you will because your body is not feeding your kid enough, and so you feel inadequate and panicky at the same time (ask me how I know). And eventually, that leads back around to pride and amazement: pride that you are doing this hard thing, despite the exhaustion and the emotional roller coaster and the pain and the inconvenience and the worry, and amazement that your body just…does this, it makes food for your baby that is all your baby needs, with no instructions or anything, and how friggin’ cool is that?! And you can feel ALL of these emotions in the span of about 10 minutes. Multiply the intensity of those feelings by about a billionty times if you had the baby 6 or fewer weeks ago, or if you’re suffering from any kind of postpartum depression. It is draining. It does get easier with time, certainly, but some of that sticks around all the way through your BFing time.
Of course, with all of that, there is the amazing feeling of gazing into your baby’s eyes while she eats what your body has made. There is playing silly games with her while she eats, making her laugh and watching milk dribble out of the side of her mouth. Knowing that when she is scared or crying, your body can literally comfort her. Knowing she is so very dependent on you right now, and knowing that won’t last. Being so thankful that you have this opportunity to contribute very personally to her health and well-being, and knowing that as much as you get frustrated with it all now, it will not be long before you miss it so very much.
I am a breastfeeding mother. It is not easy. But for me, it is worth it.
It’s been kind of a crazy week around here. I didn’t mention it in the last post, but my family lost a beloved family member unexpectedly and at too early an age about a week and a half ago, and we were at her funeral a week ago. One of our dogs was made extremely ill by an antibiotic treatment for tick-borne illnesses while the other has totally torn up her tail worrying a hot spot. Then we had the book club occurrence that riled me up, followed by my book club meeting, trying (and failing) to catch up on work, being featured on the Eleanor Project, attending a Getting Things Done seminar in Richmond, and getting a shout-out (with homework) from my friend Becky over at Chicken Wire & Paper Flowers. On top of all that, I started feeling like I’m coming down with a cold yesterday, this is the first weekend we’ve been able to do chores in several weeks so there’s a lot to do, and, if you can imagine this, I haven’t been sleeping particularly well so I’m pretty run down.
I have a bunch of things I could and hopefully will write about in the coming weeks, but this weekend, I am oh-so-grateful for Becky’s questions, because this can be an easy post that I don’t have to think too hard to write. And if you’re not already reading Becky’s blog, I would encourage you to check it out, especially if you’re into cooking of any kind (but particularly pickles and canning), gardening, smart-assery, spunky tweens, Girl Scouts, longtime girlfriends, etc. etc. etc. She and her husband Pat are so open and welcoming and friendly and perpetually in pursuit of some fun, and their daughter Edie is probably the coolest 11-going-on-30-year-old I’ve ever met. (Becky frequently refers to how Edie is probably more grown-up than she is in some ways.) Anyway. On to her questions!
1. The one book you read over and over again.
It’s been a while since I read either of them, but I used to read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott at least once a year, and I’ve read The Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O’Shea at least 6 or 7 times. I’ve also read many books in the L.M. Montgomery catalog numerous times (I own every book she ever published), as well as A Wrinkle in Time, The Outsiders, and The Catcher in the Rye. And The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers was my gateway drug to Southern lit, and I’ve read it over and over.
2. Meal planner or just open the fridge and see what you have and throw it together kind of cook?
Heh. I’m not the cook at all. My husband cooks everything in our house. Well, I do occasionally make breakfast, but that’s about it. We do plan our meals together though, because we only shop from a shopping list and you can’t make a shopping list without knowing what you’re going to cook. And on the rare occasions that I do actually cook something, I definitely like a plan (though breakfast is easier to wing).
3. Favorite curse word.
Without a doubt, it’s fuck. Though I do try to curb my tongue in front of my kid, my mother, and people I don’t know.
4. Which is the better album – Dark Side of the Moon or The Wall?
Er…Pink Floyd is not really my thing. I don’t feel familiar enough with either to choose a favorite. Sorry. At least I know these are Pink Floyd, right? How about another album-choice game for an artist I bet we both like? I pick Doolittle over Surfer Rosa.
5. In the movie of your life, who would play you?
Drew Barrymore. An old boyfriend once told me she looked like me (or I looked like her, whatever – I guess she’s a year or two older than me), and though I never really agreed, it’s stuck in my mind. No one else has ever compared me to a celebrity. And I kinda like Drew.
6. Best decision you ever made?
Having a baby. We were on the fence about it for a long time. We were married 7 years before we even decided to start trying to get pregnant, and I was days from turning 35 when she was born. Yes, I have less sleep and less free time and more frustration and more screaming in my life, and yet it’s all worth it. She’s amazing.
7. What’s your guilty pleasure?
I have so many. Cheap mystery novels. Chocolate. Doctor Who. Sleep. I don’t think I have anything particularly bad right now, but I have had addictions to terrible TV shows at times in the past (I’m looking at you, Brothers and Sisters…).
8. How did you meet your significant other?
Online, because we’re both introverted hermit dorks. Our first date lasted 10 hours, though – we hit it off instantly.
9. Coffee, tea or soda in the morning?
Coffee, my life’s blood first thing in the morning. Along with a big glass of water.
10. Favorite noodle type.
Like, shape? I like rotini best, I think – they pick up sauce better than most other noodles. For a dish with noodles in it, probably lasagna (though I do also love a good pho).
11. Why did you start blogging to begin with?
I wanted to empty my brain of things I was thinking about, and I didn’t have a good platform for that. So I created one. Pretty typical for personal-type blogs, I think.
And that’s it. I cannot possibly summon the energy to identify other bloggers for the game or to come up with more questions, so I’m being a spoilsport and ending the game here. Unless you want to play along with Becky’s questions, in which case, have at it! If you do, comment on this post with a link to your blog so we can all go see it!
So, I co-organize a book club. We’re a Meetup group, open to anyone. It was not our group originally; we inherited it from a friend when she moved out of town, and she had likewise inherited it from another person when that person moved away. But we work hard to keep it friendly, to keep people engaged and make sure everyone’s voice is heard in book selections, and keep the books we discuss to actually be discussion-worthy. Sometimes we fail on that point, but usually, even if not everyone likes the book, we can have a decent discussion. The way we choose books is as follows: People who attend the meeting make suggestions. Our criteria for books are that they be approximately 350 pages or less (though we’re not always hard and fast on that one), and that they either be out in paperback or at least less than $15 in hardcover on Amazon. This keeps them short enough for busy people to read in a month’s time and affordable enough that if you can’t get a copy at the library, buying a copy won’t break the bank. My co-organizer narrows the field to 5 books and puts them up in a poll on the Meetup site. We notify the entire Meetup. About 5% of the members vote. (We have over 300 members, of which I’d say 90% have never even been to one meeting, which is typical of Meetup groups, I find. We have maybe 10 real regulars, and by regulars I don’t even mean people who come every month; we have maybe 4 or 5 of those.) The book with the most votes as of the next meeting wins. If there’s a tie, we do one of 3 things: we have two groups the next time, each group reading one of the books, or the people at the previous meeting get to choose which one they’d prefer, or the co-organizers pick the one they’d prefer. It is a pretty fair way of deciding, I think, and we read an interesting selection of books. For reference, here’s the list of books we’ve read in the past year:
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot: a nonfiction book about science and racism and medical ethics
- The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes: A Man Booker Prize winner from a few years ago, a short novel about a middle-aged British man reflecting on his childhood and unraveling current and past mysteries (and discovering himself as he currently exists)
- Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami: a typical Murakami book, weird and disturbing and filled with magical realism, about sex and time travel and murder and beheading cats and alternate dimensions
- The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling: the Harry Potter author’s first novel for adults, all about how the death of a city councilman affects all of the deep dark hidden secrets of a tiny British village
- Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell: a rather famous nonfiction book about how famously intelligent/inventive individuals get where they are and the factors that influence excellence in life and business
- The Elephanta Suite by Paul Theroux: a trio of novellas on the theme of foreigners’ interactions with natives in India, for the good and the bad (but mostly the bad)
- Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan: a novel from the famous author about a low-level British spy who falls in love with her mark and the complicated ethical line she walks and the fallout in their relationship when he finds out the truth
- Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail by Cheryl Strayed: a nonfiction memoir about a young woman who decides to hike the entire Pacific Coast Trail (the wilder, longer, harder version of the more well-known Appalachian Trail) by herself, with practically no wilderness training/experience, in order to rediscover herself and heal from the wounds caused by her mother’s untimely death and her divorce from the man she loved
- A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin: the first in a famous novel series that has been adapted for TV by HBO, establishing the characters and the world and the political intrigues in a medieval fantasy kind of setting
- The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom: a modern-day fable from a famous author about the value of time and not attaching too much importance to counting it
- Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs: a young adult novel that is part spooky, part fantastical about a teenager who discovers he is “peculiar” in the same way as his grandfather and that there are other peculiar people out there with their own talents – and the fate of the world may rest on all of their shoulders
- Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer: a book about space exploration and dying and alopecia and autism and young love and poverty and the suburbs and robots and generally just Being Different (and the book that inspired the incident that inspired this post)
I think that’s a pretty diverse group. I didn’t love them all, but I read a number of books I wouldn’t have read otherwise, and discovered a couple that I liked a lot as a result. Which is why I was really pissed off this morning when I read a comment from a member on the site this morning that said, “Sigh. Another month, another chick book.” Um…WTF?! Here are the thoughts that went through my mind immediately:
- This book is NOT a chick book!
- Why does he think it’s a chick book? Has he read it? Or is he just assuming based on the cover or a description he read or the fact that it’s written by a woman and has a female protagonist?
- What the hell IS a chick book? Are there books that this guy presumes can only be enjoyed by women?
- Why is that a prevailing thought? Why do we have the somewhat derogatory term “chick lit” but there’s no male equivalent? Why can guys scoff at “chick lit” but ladies are expected to respect or even enjoy “dude lit” (for lack of a better term BECAUSE THERE IS NO EQUIVALENT TERM)?
- This guy has been a member of the Meetup group for a year and NEVER EVEN ATTENDED A MEETING of this group. Why does he think he gets to comment on our book selections?
Possibly more infuriating or baffling was the female member who replied to his post with a “And how!” comment. I am so puzzled. She only recently joined and hasn’t come to a meeting yet, so I guess I can give that a pass…
I’m still pissy about it. I wrote a reply asking him if he’d read the book and for his reasons why he called it a “chick book”, and I suggested he come to a meeting to suggest books and also be sure to vote on the poll every month if he wants to influence the selections. I also listed the last 3 months of books to demonstrate that even if he thinks this is a “chick book” for some reason, we certainly don’t choose one like it every time.
I really shouldn’t be wasting this much energy on this, I guess, but since he posted his comment publicly, I don’t want it to influence potential members who are perusing the site or to discourage current members who just didn’t get a chance to read this book this month from ever reading it (particularly because it’s a book I really, really like). But I am really more pissed off at the societal construct I noted in #4 of my list above where something about/by/for women is somehow less than or easily dismissed. Why is a book written by a woman, written about a woman, enjoyed by women somehow not good enough for reading and discussion? Why is it any less important or less complex or less interesting than a book written by a man, about a man and/or enjoyed by men? I know the answer is that it’s NOT less important or less good, but why do so many people think that? Why do EVEN WOMEN act dismissive in that way?
What do you think? Am I overreacting? Do you have ALL THE THOUGHTS on this issue like I do? If so, please share!
My niece came to visit us for a long weekend. We did all kinds of fun things, including a tour of three of Charlottesville’s cupcake vendors: old family favorite Cappellino’s Crazy Cakes, Richmond import that’s new to Charlottesville Pearl’s Cupcake Shoppe, and birthday party and candy-lover favorite Sweethaus. Over the course of the past 4 days, we tried double chocolate and also mint chocolate varieties at all three (as well as a few other samples! )
My niece could not be swayed from her love of Cappellino’s mint chocolate, which is a moist chocolate cake with a very minty buttercream frosting, an Andes mint on top, and (the clincher, I think, for a nine-year-old) edible glitter. She didn’t think that Pearl’s mint cookie cupcake had minty enough frosting. I didn’t get to hear why she didn’t like the Sweethaus version as much as Cappellino’s. I got to have a bite of all three of hers as well as my own double chocolates, and I liked them all for different reasons. I thought the Cappellino’s was just a solid, classic mint chocolate flavor. Pearl’s version was like a mint Oreo in cupcake form – and is HUGE. Their cupcakes are seriously large! The Sweethaus version had frosting that tasted to me like those amazing old-fashioned molded butter mints you find so often at southern showers and weddings (and that I adore). So all of them were fantastic, in my opinion, but V. definitely remains loyal to Cappellino’s!
For the double chocolate cupcakes, I also loved things about all three shops! Cappellino’s chocolate cake is just really tough to beat. It’s very moist and chocolatey – I think they make a Devil’s food chocolate cake recipe, and it’s awesome. Sweethaus has the richest, most amazing chocolate frosting. You can feel the sugar crystals mixing with the cocoa as you munch on it. Someday I might dissect a cupcake from each place and put the Sweethaus frosting on a Cappellino’s cupcake Until then, however, Pearl’s double chocolate was the perfect balance of really good cake and really good frosting in a really good combination…and did I mention HUGE?!
Basically, any of the three shops will provide a very satisfactory experience. The folks at Cappellino’s are always delightful, and they make a reliably good cupcake – plus they sell buttercream shots for the frosting addicts. I’m looking forward to trying more of Pearl’s flavors – they have a crapton listed on their website, but they only carry 3 or 4 “special” flavors at a time in addition to the standard vanilla/chocolate variations, so it will take me a long time to try them all (though I’m particularly keen to try their couple of chocolate-orange varieties as that is probably my very favorite flavor combination). And Sweethaus is home to the cupcake that Dave and I have decided is The Very Best Cupcake of All Time – their cookie dough cupcake, which is yellow or vanilla cake with chocolate chips and an eggless chocolate chip cookie dough as the frosting – it’s FANTASTIC.
Charlottesville is definitely a foodie town, and our cupcake shops do not disappoint the foodie crowd! What is your favorite cupcake from your favorite cupcake shop (or from your kitchen or a loved one’s kitchen)?
In case it’s not abundantly obvious, I was not paid by any of these places in dollars or cupcakes or anything else to visit or to write about them on ye olde blogge.