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The day before we got on the plane to Miami, where we are now, Elizabeth started pulling her ears.

This has happened twice before and twice we've had this conversation with a doctor:

"The ear's a little infected, but it may clear up on its own. Come back in two days."
"In two days we'll be on a plane."
"We'd better not risk it. Antibiotics."

But this time two molars have just appeared, with another on the way, and that would make anyone pull on their ears, wouldn't it? It must be the molars, we said.

It wasn't the molars. So here we are on the morning of day three of our five day trip to Miami, planning a visit to a doctor. I grab an appointment with the nearest pediatrician on the map at zocdoc.com, just a couple of miles away, and Joel rents a car and a car seat to take us there. But actually, when I look closer, I realise that the address doesn't match the map. Same street address; different city. We're booked a doctor in Homestead, a city fifty minutes to the south-west, beside the Everglades. That works: we'll go to the doctor, then see some alligators.

Joel texts from the car rental place asking me to pack a bath towel and my heart sinks, because I know what that means: the car seat is the Terrible Bolt Upright Baby Hating Car Seat, a model we've had in rental cars before. With a sufficiently fluffy towel, you can make it recline a few degrees, but not enough to sleep in. These things are also hell to install. After a lot of practice and some YouTube videos, Joel can usually do them in fifteen minutes.

Skip forward and we're finally in the car and we're late. The traffic got worse: the 50 minute drive is now 65 minutes and we didn't have any to spare. I pick up the phone to tell the doctor we're late and, as I find the number, Elizabeth abruptly throws up breakfast berries, yoghurt, tomato soup and something gelatinous I don't recognise. There's a lot of it. We're on the motorway.

I mop up what I can. I pet her hair. I get through to the doctor. No, they can't postpone the appointment by 20 minutes and actually the doctor is leaving now, 17 minutes before we're even supposed to be there. Can we come tomorrow instead? No we can not.

E would really like to sleep now and the TBUBHCS prevents that, so I set my arm up as a headrest and futz with Zocdoc on my phone with the other hand. No morning appointments, but I accept a nearby 3pm, then call the doctor's office (still one-handed: phone under my chin as I fumble in my bag for a pencil) to see if they have anything earlier. Nope, actually the doctor has left early today. Well.

We abandon Zocdoc and park outside a pharmacy where Joel starts cold-calling pediatrians in the area and I go look for wet wipes and a plastic bag and scrape the rest of the vomit off the car seat and the baby. Joel is having the kind of painful conversation that you always do with doctors' offices (repetition, clarification, polite incredulity), but he eventually finds an office that will see us in half an hour. Elizabeth chucks again.

Half an hour later. I'm in a small but very crowded waiting room, filling out paperwork ("Does the patient drink coffee?" "Not... directly?") while Joel is in the car attempting to hose down the baby. He changes her too, but the nappies are in my bag, so he uses one designed for swimming in. That's important later on. That's a gun that goes off in a later act.

Joel goes off to buy a car seat that reclines and isn't covered with vomit. Almost everyone in the waiting room is speaking Spanish. We read My Many Colored Days five times. We read Oh The Thinks You Can Think six times. Elizabeth's name is called and I shuffle through the door, walking cautiously because I left the hotel without my belt this morning and for the entire day I've been preoccupied with making sure my trousers don't fall down. The administrator asks some questions and types some information about us. She doesn't ask my demographic; I see her choose "non-Hispanic". True.

Another hour. I find a place to dispose of the bag of vomit I've been carrying around. (What, you think I left that in the car?).

Joel returns with a Kiss Me I'm Irish shirt in toddler size. E finds some babies to play with. At first I try to police whose hands go in whose mouths -- we're in a doctors office -- but it's futile. She catches whatever she catches and shares whatever she shares. She also falls and raises a welt on her forehead and I hope the doctor doesn't think I beat her.

The doctor comes in. Elizabeth, sitting on my lap, pees effusively. The swim-diaper doesn't even try. I am now wearing vomit and urine. Today is going well.

The doctor diagnoses infections in both ears. Antibiotics, see our own doctor in a week, don't fly. Luckily we have train tickets home.

It's now 5pm. I've eaten one croissant, one cappuccino and a piece of cheese that I stole from the child. I am splashed in vomit and liberally soaked in pee, my trousers are falling down, the small child on my hip is bellowing and I don't think we're going to the Everglades today. At least Joel has installed the better car seat.

First stop: Walmart for shorts and t-shirt. I change in the car on the way to the second stop: food. I'm hungry enough and the options are limited enough that I declare that Joel can pick any crappy chain place and I won't be obnoxious about it. He doesn't believe me and turns in to a Burger King to prove the point. Ok, I won't deny that I wince. Starbucks provides a protein plate: egg, cheese, peanut butter and fruit, and I don't need to order anything when Joel stops at Wendy's for a chicken sandwich.

An hour later. Almost home. Do we miss the exit for Miami and need to take a circuitous route? Of course we do! Is the kid screaming the entire way? Not quite: she stops when I read to her. We read My Many Colored Days another four times. She's been saying "duck" at the page with the blue bird, and over the four readthroughs she adds a convincing "horse" and "fish". The rate at which she picks up vocabulary right now is unbelievable. I should probably stop swearing around her soon.

South Beach! It takes a couple of pharmacies before we find one with a pharmacist and I join a long queue of people waiting to fill prescriptions. The woman in front of me is on the phone loudly bemoaning the morals of people who cut in line to ask the pharmacist a quick question and then stay ten minutes. The man behind me is not on the phone so he loudly tells me about it instead. The woman who is at the front of the queue pretends not to hear and stolidly continues her conversation with the pharmacist.

The prescription will take 40 minutes. We drive to a fancy hippy organic smoothie and sandwich shop and I run in to get us fancy hippy organic sandwiches. On the way back we take a wrong turn and accidentally get on the bridge back to Miami. I find this impossibly hilarious.

Back to the pharmacy. They've got the antibiotics but the nausea drug the doctor prescribed doesn't exist. They've faxed for clarification. It's 8:30pm. We'll do without the anti-nausea drug. The pharmacist says that flat 7up will do the same thing anyway. I always thought that was an Irish thing, like whiskey for toothache and poitin for everything.

Hotel, oh thank god. Milk and drugs into the kid. Sandwiches into everyone else. Joel and E are asleep before they're fully horizontal. I open a beer and tell the internet about my day.

Yeah, it looks like a five year old made it. I don't make a lot of pies. Tastes reasonable enough though.

I'm surprised at how much I'm enjoying cooking. It's not really something I've had much interest in before, but recently I get definite satisfaction from combining ingredients and making something dinnerly. Joel and I have a home-cooking rating scale: inedible, edible, successful, triumph. Triumphs are rare (one moussaka, one dal, neither reproducibly), but I've had plenty of successes recently: pasta with pesto, fishes on beds of various vegetables, bean burritos. We take it in turns to cook for a week. It's currently Joel's week, and he produced a successful salad nicoise yesterday.


We joined a local CSA this summer, so every Thursday we get a basket of vegetables and have to figure out what to do with them. Scallions, carrots, radishes and bok choi: sounds like a stir fry to me. Summer squash: fry it up and put on top of leftover pasta. Kohlrabi: the internet suggests fritters? Several types of lettuce: several types of salads and sandwiches! It's a challenge to use it all up, and the composter is eating more chard and kale than I'd like, but it's kind of fun to have this weekly Iron Chef competition. (If you know what we should do with little turnips, do let me know.)


The containers on the deck are starting to produce as well right now, and yesterday it was such a pleasure to go outside, grab a handful of basil and a tomato, still warm from the sun, and turn them into a sandwich using a slab of mozzarella for the bread. Summer food is the best food and life is good.


The three types of tomatoes, the marigolds, the basil, the raspberries (not pictured) and even the jalapeños have loved the recent rain and are flourishing. The zucchinis... we won't talk about.

We had a gardener come in this week -- such decadence! -- to take a wise look at the back yard and give us a quote. "I could mow that lawn for you", she said. "We don't have a... oh, you mean the  weeds?" "There's enough wild grass and clover in there that if I brought in my little electric mower it would become a lawn" "Take my money!"


So we're maybe going to have a lawn like grown up people, except it'll be a lawn that's not quite convinced it is one, which is of course the kind of grown up people we are too. (Mortgage, baby, whatever. But grass that's all the same height... that's an adult lifestyle right there!)


The gardener lady is going to do a bunch of other things, like removing some of the excess soil that mudslides out of the flowerbeds every time it rains, getting the ivy under control, planting out our tragic apple trees, and mulching... whatever it is that one mulches.


"And I can trim back that wisteria for you" "... ?" " That's this one on the back wall." "Oh, I like that one! It planted itself last year." It turns out that gardeners are great. I wish I'd hired her years ago.

Some livejournal folks are blogging what they had for dinner, and today I will Participate in a Meme. Here's my dinner, in blogular format:

So, Joel asked "What do you want from seamlessweb?" and I said "No! I shall eat something from our fridge just like an adult would". This is not a normal response for me, and maybe I regretted it a bit as he ordered great Chinese food from Tofu in Park Slope and I extracted half a mozzarella and a bag of wilted basil and no Kerrygold because we put it all on the garlic bread on Thursday (and, seriously, that was three quarters of a block of Kerrygold and the garlic bread was an appetiser for a dish that was made mostly out of cheese. How are we still alive?). And I said "huh" and "well" and checked two or three more times to make sure that nothing else in this quite full fridge could be converted into food, but vermouth and apple sauce and old carrots do not a dinner make, even when you have two kinds of every condiment that has ever been sold.

So I went over to the bakery on the corner and I said "Hey, I have a mozzarella and I need bread to put it on" (because after five years living here I still don't know what any kind of bread is called, and this is my survival strategy: I lay out the problem and let them solve it) and the bakery lady said "You need an Italian" and she sold me a soft and crusty white loaf that felt pretty fresh even though it was 8pm. Also, the bakery was still open at 8pm because this is the city that never sleeps (until 9pm), and that's a thing I love about living here.

I took that home and sliced up a lot of the mozzarella and salted and peppered the holy hell out of it, and washed the basil and put it on top, and dug around in the pantry to see if we had any sardines and we did. The pantry is really a converted coat closet, but we have airs. I fried up the sardines in the olive oil they were canned in, which has the side-effect of making the entire house smell vibrantly like sardines, and to be clear I don't just mean the apartment, I mean the upstairs neighbours are probably like "did we buy the world's least likely air freshener? What were we thinking" and if you think sardines are amazing, then that's delightful, and if you hold the exact opposite opinion, well, you're Joel and I'm lucky to not have been divorced yet.

25% of the sardines found their way into the cats, as was laid out in the ancient covenant, and I poured the rest on top of the mozzarella and wrapped the bread around it, lamenting the Kerrygold we didn't have, and ate it in about 45 seconds while paying the co-op's water bill online.

I occasionally have classy dinners, but today was not a classy dinner day.


ORIGIN 1754: coined by Horace Walpole, suggested by The Three Princes of Serendip, the title of a fairy tale in which the heroes “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.”


Accidents and sagacity, my friends! I am thoroughly delighted by this etymology :-D


The non-baby-related excitement in my life is that I bought a new bike. It's a Novara Transfer, a "european-style" bike, the dude in the shop said, which I think means that it's the kind of bike you enjoy if you like trundling around the city on a nice sunny day and not if you like to weave in and out of traffic at forty miles an hour while wearing lycra. Since I'm firmly in the first camp, I think I'm going to love it. It's the kind of bike that should have a basket, and ideally the basket will have a baguette sticking out of it, but a bag of bagels and a travel mug of coffee probably works too.

It arrives next weekend. I can't wait.

Here's a review: http://open.salon.com/blog/familyonbikes/2011/05/08/rei_novara_transfer_a_review


Last night I read kidface her first book, Owl Moon by Jane Yolen. It's a beautiful story about a little girl going out at night with her dad to look for owls. The writing perfectly evokes the stillness of a snowy night and the companionable silence between two people who understand each other, and the pictures are gorgeous too: it won the Caldecott medal for children's book art in 1988. It's a delight to read out loud. It may also be nice to listen to, but Elizabeth's opinions on it are hard to interpret. She mostly stayed awake.

The other first for yesterday evening was our first time giving her a sponge bath. Afterwards I wrapped her up in her towel-with-a-hood (grr.. it has trains on it, so the label describes it as "boy towel"; how the hell can a towel be gendered?) and put her to bed, whereupon she explosively crapped, chucked milk down her front and into her neck folds, and then peed over any parts of her that she'd inadvertently missed. She was clean for two whole minutes. Because we are ridiculously enchanted by everything this kid does, it was more endearing than anything else, but I bet that changes over time :-)

Today I achieved the ambitious two-part goal I'd set for myself: 1) I wore clothes that weren't pyjamas. 2) I left the house. We're definitely making progress! Tomorrow I'd like to do those things again and also brush my teeth before 5pm, but this may be trying for too much.

It's surprisingly easy to be contented with this lifestyle. I mean, not forever -- I hope we'll get some structure soon and that I'll do non-baby things again -- but there's something nice about having a single, well-defined goal and working towards it. I'm enjoying getting to know this excellent small person.


Dec. 2nd, 2012

Fifteen more hours of on call and then I'm on maternity leave! I waver between finding this ridiculous and feeling that it's actually about time: on one hand, I'm still chipper and energetic most of the time and The Company could get another couple of weeks' work out of me; on the other, I'd prefer to spend these days walking a lot and taking naps instead of sitting in an office chair and defending my belly on the subway at rush hour. On the other other hand, I have to go find food for myself now? What do people eat when they don't have five Google cafeterias and a coffee bar catering to their every whole-food-organic culinary notion? Do I know how to cook anything that isn't breakfast? I don't have the right life skills for a staycation.

This part of Brooklyn is baby-oriented enough to be able to support a new pregnancy mailing list every month. December2012babies is full of activity right now, with a few early babies, a lot of anxiety and tons of exhausted teachers and hairdressers and other doers of real jobs who'll be working right up until their due dates and even afterwards. I'm staying quiet: I can't really admit that "Yeah, we get four weeks off in advance, but I was really enjoying my project so I only took three", can I? Poor teachers, especially. I can't imagine.

Anyway, on call ends at 1am and the kid can come when she wants after that... though we do have Billy Connolly tickets for Thursday, so no rush.

Of course we're likely still weeks away, but things are definitely shifting around in there and every day brings new and exciting phenomena. I can mostly tie my own shoelaces again! Sometimes I snore while awake! It's a time of great indignity. Strange biology too: at 2am I was losing at Go against my phone and wondering whether this new kind of intermittent twitchy back pain that had arrived was going to develop into something interesting. Spoiler: it didn't and my secondary on call didn't get a late night "tag, you're it!" phone call. So a regular Sunday morning it is.


Nov. 29th, 2012

What a cranky and difficult day. Nothing was good today and everything went wrong and there was no obvious reason for any of it. Joel says "It's because you didn't light box yesterday" and I say "No, it's because every goddamn thing is stupid." I'm medicating with Bach, a purring cat and a lot of pillows. (Joel: "the Pillow Of The Month Club called; they wondered if you meant to take out that third subscription.". Oh, Joel's on a roll today.)

Today was a day of technological failure, hanging browsers, crashing IM clients, wedged phones, laggy infrastructure, upgrades that didn't and -- really, this seemed a bit unnecessary -- an adjustable desk that chose today to stop adjusting. Seriously, desk? You too? That said, the fax I needed to send this evening went out on the first attempt, so maybe this was some sort of technological karma: you need to build up a lot of broken crap to balance out a fax machine that does what you want it to do.

But even the reason for the fax was annoying! Our baby-delivering hospital, the sleek, modern NYU Langone, got flooded in the storm, and we've been bumped to the less salubrious NY Downtown. Right, lots of people had actually bad storm outcomes and we're going to not whine about it (apart from right now, when I'm absolutely going to whine about it, but then it'll be out of my system I promise), but it does seem to be a step down in terms of facilities and attitude. It'll be more 'hospitally', I think. Well, we'll know more when we take a tour, but for now the most visible impact is that we change from sending off crisp downloadable pdfs to badly photocopied faxes. I filled out the labour and delivery admission form today and was bemused to note that after the blurry lines for "Name", "Address", "Date of birth", "Race" and "Gender" (which, in itself, is an interesting question to see on a maternity form), the next question was "Mother". What? Whose? I added a cover sheet to the fax, like it was 1994 or something, and included my email address for any followup questions.

Nov. 25th, 2012

Oh, dudes, I'm having such a nice long weekend. Thanksgiving is a great holiday. No stress, no obligations, just eating too much, taking naps, doing things that are fun, and appreciating all that is good in your life. Those are things I like! Usually we've gone to Joel's family in Las Cruces or Seattle, but this year we can't stray so far from home, so we've had to entertain ourselves. Which we did: Joel made enchiladas and I made biscuits (in the American definition of the word, which means 'scones that you don't have to count as dessert'), and that was about as energetic as it got on Thursday.

I'm trying to streamline the biscuit recipe so I can make them for breakfast on Sunday mornings without (a) taking more than ten minutes of prep time or (b) covering myself and the kitchen in flour. The ideal workflow here is that Joel goes out to get the coffees, I have biscuits in the oven by the time he gets back, and he makes Julia Child-style omelettes while I set the table. And then we do a Thursday NY Times crossword while eating eggs wrapped in biscuits. I won't deny that I have simple needs, but this seems to me like the best of all possible Sunday mornings. After three practice runs, and having to eat 12 biscuits each (in the name of science), I think we've got it all figured out.

On Wednesday, Tiarnan and I went to see Cyrano de Bergerac on Broadway. It was great fun -- it's much funnier and louder than I expected and the rhyming is far more entertainingly ridiculous -- and it was a while afterwards before my brain stopped trying to squeeze everything into iambic pentameter. Which reminds me of this.

The other excitement from Wednesday evening was coming home to find the last step of our renovation done and the house pretty much free from chaos: the contractors had called in during the day and installed our ceiling fans. Woohoo! They'd left their ladders and tools though, and I was standing under the speedily spinning fans and wondering about that when I noticed the note that said "ceiling fans are missing screws". So that could have ended hilariously, but it didn't.

It's nice to be almost finished. The insulation works and, between the excellent paint job and the new furniture, this looks like a room that adult humans live in. Putting the pictures back up will make that even more true and so will getting some curtains but, even without those things, the change is remarkable and makes me happy. I've been frustrated by our lack of house-progress over the last three years. It's reassuring to prove that we can make things happen when we try. [ House pictures, if you care for such things].


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