I'm getting ready to go to a Halloween party where I will be dressed up as a cat and my husband will be a litter box. I'll be sure to post pics. In the meantime, here is part of the assignment I wrote for the creative writing class I take at the local art museum:

I can still hear Tolby’s cries the first time Chris changed her diaper in the hospital where we roomed for the first time as a family. The cold air hit legs that had been warmly cocooned for so long and Tolby’s eyes went wide, her lips vibrating in hysterical shivers. Maybe we were evil parents for having laughed, but the silly sound of her determination made us giddy. Chris swaddled her just like the nurse had taught him, and my baby was warm and silent when he handed her back to me.

I can still feel Tolby’s silk skin over the round rise of her tummy. She is smooth everywhere, especially where the skin stretches over the tiny ball of her heel. Chris is incredulous about her softness—he says it like this: “I can’t believe it.” He utters the words often, with a genuine wonderment that is antithetical to his usual jaded demeanor.

But I can’t see her. Not like she was in those first hours and days. At three months old, she is already so far removed from her original state that I have to look at photographs to remember. Her dark hair is now light; her black eyes, now blue. I’d be so sad if it wasn’t for the memory of her breath, her nascent cry, and the skin that her father just couldn’t believe.


There's a mountain of laundry--clean and folded, but not yet shelved or closeted--in my bedroom that is threatening to take over the second floor. It has been growing steadily over the past month, and every night my husband stubs his toe on one of the baskets in the darkened room on his way to bed. Since so many other things I have successfully procrastinated up till this point are coming due, I figure it is high time to tackle this project as well. Today I will accomplish many things--some professional, some volunteer and some housewife-ly--but the creation of a thoughtful blog entry will not be one of them.

Hopefully this picture will suffice. A thousand words and all that. It's Tolby on the day she came home from the hospital, looking so incredibly small and frog-like. I love this shot for the way it captures her long, lean novelty. She is almost twice as big now, which blows my mind and makes me weepy.

Not only are there not enough hours in the day, but the ones we do have pass way too fast. Posted by Picasa


Today will go down in household infamy as the day of the Great Diaper Debacle. It began so innocently as the playful yap of my daughter lulled me out of sleep circa 6:15 a.m. I heaved myself into the bitter cold of a house hell-bent on conserving its energy and hobbled into the baby's room, hunch backed and dragging one leg behind me. That is me in the morning. I catch no worms.

Anyway, so I get to Tolby's crib, where I spy a wide circle of wetness on the mattress in the rough vicinity of her head. What? Could she have been working on that thumb with such vigor that her baby-drool cast this inordinately wide swath around her? I scratched my head. One would not think so. Perhaps it was pee. But why, then, in the name of all that is holy, would she defile herself in this way and proceed to rotate so that her head is lying in the puddle? The girl cannot even roll over, yet she can spin on her axis like a globe on crack.

I ran my hands over her rear end in the fearless way that only a mother who has been shat upon multiple times can pull off and noticed that it felt dry. That didn't necessarily mean anything, though, since she was wearing approximately ten layers of absorbant fleece. I brought her over to the changing table. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw next.

I unzipped one layer, unsnapped another and removed yet one more on my way to the innermost layer of protection--the Huggie. BUT THE DIAPER WASN'T THERE! My eyes bugged out of my head as her girl parts winked back at me. Now, my first inclination (and this says a lot about me) was to doubt myself. Had I forgotten to put on a diaper when I prepared my darling daughter for bed the night before? Had I fallen so far into the insanity of the fourth trimester that I would never be able to extricate myself? Could my alcohol tolerance have been so depleted by pregnancy that one glass of wine turned me into the poster parent for unfit mothering? Yes. Clearly I suck. There was no other explanation. I stared at her nakedness for awhile before resigning myself to my incompetence. With a sigh, I began to scrub down her nasty ass with a wipey. It wasn't till I pulled off the left leg of her blanket sleeper that I was exonerated. There, in a reeking ball lined with fleece lint, stuck down where Tolby's foot should be, was the true offender--a Huggies diaper that had come undone.

Except for the fact that it was still ungodly early, all was right with the world. I was not negligent. I was not dirty. I apparently have some major issues, as evidenced by the fact that I was so quick to assume that it was my fault in the first place, but at least the truth had restored some of my confidence.

I went back to my bed, shoved a boob in Tolby's face, and drifted to sleep secure in the knowledge that it is Huggies that suck, not I.


Today was productive and good for the soul. I ate both breakfast and dinner with friends, wrote half a magazine article, and mouse-proofed the kitchen (meaning I did the dishes). I admit washing dishes isn't the most effective extermination method, but it keeps the mice out of the sink. Usually.

The only thing missing from my life right now is money. If my husband and I had money, we'd be able to turn the heat up past 59 degrees. If we had money, I'd be able to take baths whenever I wanted, lounging wet and wanton in total disregard for the price of heating fuel. If we had money, I could eat Chinese take-out just like I used to. If we had money, I'd make like a good New Englander and drink Dunkin Donuts coffee with reckless abandon. If we had money, my husband and I would not fight when I turn up the heat, take baths, order Chinese and drink medium Vanilla Spice iced coffees (skim milk, two sugars) anyway.

On the other hand, we've discovered a $3/bottle wine that is really quite drinkable. It's called Lost Vineyards and as long as you stay away from the Malbec, you can't go wrong.


"Mom and dad, if one of you doesn't turn the heat on in here, it's going to be POW! Right in the kisser!"

Tolby is three months old today. To exercise her newfound maturity, she slept through the night for the first time. Unfortunately, I could not reap any of the benefits. I was up at 3:30 a.m. anyway--sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy headed and engorged. The illness that started with Tolby spread like wildfire through the house, taking me as its ultimate casualty. My husband got it the worst of all, which was ironic when you consider that he fancies himself the Old Ironisides of viral immunity. His cheeks and ears were flaming as his cells fought the good fight and I administered tea-with-lemon-and-honey just like his mama used to do.

"I'm sad," he said when I came down with the same thing.
"Why?" I asked.
"Because you were being so nice and taking care of me. It was schmoopy. Now you're sick and I have to take care of you. And I'm not even better yet!"

All this boo-hooing might make you wonder where my other baby was through all this. Don't worry, she was sleeping. Tolby may not look anything me, but there's one thing that made the jump from my gene pool to hers--the innate and powerful wisdom that sleep will cure what's ailing you.
Posted by Picasa


Tolby's got a very cute head, but it doesn't smell so great. I hear people rave about that cerebral scent peculiar to infants and I wonder if I'm doing something wrong. Like, is my daughter unclean? So I put her in the tub, scrub Johnson's Baby Bath into her tiny scalp, and press my nose to the fuzziness before the suds are even completely rinsed. Nothing. Sorry, guys, but I'm not feeling it. My daughter's head doesn't even make it onto the Top Ten List of Binky's Aromatic Pleasures.

What does make the list is the smell of Tolby's breath when she was just-born. Holding onto that memory is no mean feat, considering the amount of Morphine coursing through my veins at the time. Forever and ever, the scent of rubbing alcohol will make me think of pure baby girl. I didn't expect her to smell like that when I put my face to hers the first time. I hurt everywhere. The pain, drugs and lost time conspired to take away all of the primal exhilaration that is (supposed to be) childbirth. But then I saw my husband's tears, and I smelled my daughter's breath like muted isoproponol on wet, red lips, and I knew that something monumental was happening. I knew it, and I almost felt it. But mostly I felt bad, my arm limp around the swaddled mass that exuded perfect newness. I couldn't stop shivering. I was glad when my husband took her away so I could lose consciousness again.

I fell into a sleep void of all senses except her breath on my face. Posted by Picasa


I love my house but hate its environs. I feel like my life is a Billy Joel song.

"Well we're living here in Allentown
And they're closing all the factories down...

And it's getting very hard to stay
living here in Allentown"

The only thing missing is a film of gray over everything and the stench of iron ore. You see, I live in one of the poorest towns in Connecticut. Perhaps you will mock me, and say that, if you have to be poor somewhere, it might as well be in Connecticut. Whatever. The point is that it sucks to have child sex offenders on one side of you and the department of public works across the street. The only benefit is that my street is the first to get plowed when it snows (which it does, a lot). But this is what we could afford in a state where any house under 200k is guaranteed to have lead paint, asbestos, a leaky roof and flying squirrels in the attic.

Still I am grateful for what we have, and the independence we are able to maintain. Our circa-1800 Cape Cod dwelling is full of well-maintained charm. The rooms are spacious. The windows are new. Our kitchen ceiling is made of barn doors and the ceiling in the den is tin. We have three fireplaces and a brick oven. Our basement is lined with trenches so the place doesn't turn into a pool when rainwater pours down the stone facade. My husband has a large garage space and there's the potential to create a writer's studio in the barn loft. I truly love the place, and would be happy to employ a moving company to pick up our belongings--house and all--and plop them down on a 10-acre property far away surrounded by nice neighbors and good schools.

Then again, why should we have it all right now? We're young still, with plenty of life chops to earn. The world doesn't owe us a thing. If we want to live in New England, with acreage and access to a premier education for our kids, then we're just going to have to work longer and harder for it. Thanks to our parents, we've got a firm foundation on which to build. We're solid.

That's a lot of be thankful for, when you consider there are people living in a double decker tree house next door. Posted by Picasa


This is how Tolby was NOT feeling this weekend.

Tolby got her first cold this weekend. At first I thought it was good, old fashioned gas brought on by the pound of lime flavored tortilla chips I ate, but I came to realize that was only part of it. The rest of her discomfort arrived via the common cold. This is not surprising when you consider the runny-nosed toddlers who regularly get in her face at the various mother's group functions I attend. Other people's children are cute, and they are sweet in their adoration of babies, but it makes me twitch when their faces, hands and bacteria-infested toys are placed anywhere near my daughter. Such is life, though, and to sequester the baby (and therefore myself) inside the house from fall through spring just to avoid germs would drive me far more crazy than a few colds ever could--"a few" being 4 to 6 per year, according to the parenting books I ran to at the first sign of drippy mucous and the accompanying crying spells.

Tolby's grandparents visited yesterday, but she could only be consoled by her father or me (in my capacity as milk factory). It was so sweet to see Chris elicit a smile out of that red-rimmed and stuffed up face. When I asked him to grab a bib for her and to make sure it matched her outfit, he brought down the pink one that read "I Love My Daddy." And she really does. It's amazing to see the love one baby can have for another person with nipples that can't be milked (I have nipples, Greg, could you milk me?--Meet the Parents).

Anyway, she's sleeping now, and slept soundly through most of the night. Hopefully her immune system is kicking into high gear. You never know if those Asian birds will decide to fly West for the winter. Posted by Picasa


Daddy's Little Girl

You know, I talk some serious shit about my husband. A lot of that revolves around the fact that I find strife and aggravation a whole lot more entertaining than romantic sap. He knows this about me and, to a certain strange degree, I think he likes it. We don't sugarcoat things. Not only are our drinking glasses half empty, but they're grimy to boot, on account of the fact that I can't wash dishes to save my life. We're straight talkers. We see reality, we report it, and then we tell you why we think it's completely f---ed up. So, I don't think it would really surprise my husband to know that I regale my friends with stories of his...well...peccadillos.

Not that I'm not going to report any of those personality flaws here. I mean, he reads this blog, for Pete's sake. Besides, he's heard it all before. What he hasn't heard with anywhere near as much frequency is how much I love him. This is what we call being "schmoopy," a bastardization of a Seinfeld episode where the term was employed to describe public displays of affection.

Chris is a Jack of All Trades, and a masterful one, at that. In his spare time, he replaces car engines, builds fences (slowly), exterminates rodents, sweeps chimneys, cleans furnaces, repairs busted pipes (that freeze because he keeps the house so damn cold), and does a host of other activities that keep the house running smoothly. He is determined and thorough, making other men seem like empty ball sacs in comparison.

He is sweet. He says he loves me, and he acts on it by always putting me first. He gets really happy when I laugh. He massages my head and back for hours just to get me to stay on the couch with him while he watches WRC Rally recaps on Speed TV. He cried when they wheeled me in from the operating room as he handed me our newborn baby.

I love my husband more than anyone else in this world, bar none. That's probably a dangerous thing for me to admit as a mother, daughter and sister with allegiances to so many more people than just him.

Just him. That's funny. As if he wasn't absolutely everything to me. Posted by Picasa



I don't have any close friends. That is not to say I don't have good friends--what I mean is that none of them live anywhere near me. Ranging from 40 to 1400 miles away, these men and women all have the good sense to steer clear of northeastern Connecticut. While I applaud them for their foresight, I can't help but wish I could have them all in close range like I used to. There was Kelly from the beginning; Jess, Sarah and Mike growing up; Sarah L., Jene and Amy at college; and all the friends I've made through my husband in those scattered, post-college years.

It takes a lot of shared history to cement friendships that can stand the test of time. Histories like this:

Reading Jess's diary without her permission and then telling her she looked like Medusa when she called me on it.

Fighting with Kelly, watching her throw all my clothes out her bedroom window, getting over it, and taking pictures.

Visiting Sarah in beautiful Troy, NY...seriously, I love that place.

Life on freshman hall 3B with Sarah L. (obviously a blog entry--or fifty--unto itself)

Dancing on the bar in NYC with Amy after the State-Troopers-cum-tour-guides dropped us off and before they picked us up again.

Getting kicked out of the bar with Jene on New Year's Eve after I decided that public bathrooms should not fall into the separate-but-equal category.

Challenging Sean to a race in Alex's algae-and-who-knows-what-else-infested pond (naked).

It saddens me to be so removed from the wonder and excitement that is my crazy group of friends. Settling into a new life has its advantages, to be sure, but the down side is that these old friends aren't right there with me. Instead of going down the hall, across town, or a few exits up the Interstate, I must make do with scattered visits that stuff a lifetime of memories into one or two days.

Back home, I think about how I really need to meet new people, and I wonder if there could possibly be anyone in this town as amazing and fun as the friends I've already made.

There probably is. I attract crazies.


I would like to write about unspeakable things today. Since I am writing and not talking, they will remain unspoken, but at least they'll be out there. I am unleashing these beasts on the assumption that I am not the worst mother in the world, and that there are plenty of other women out there who have felt/acted the same way some time during the tenuous fourth trimester. I would hazard to guess that these realities are not only unspoken, but, like the pain of childbirth, soon forgotten. It does no good to dwell on the inconveniences or the blatantly bad times. If those memories stayed on the front burner, nobody would want to get close enough to the stove to put another bun in the oven. But it's important to know that being a new mother isn't all goo-goo-ga-gas and gummy smiles. In the sisterhood of mothers, anything goes. So, I admit:

--I've let my daughter "cry it out" for as long as an hour at a time when everybody knows that caring mothers aren't supposed to be able to tolerate a baby's cry (and even the cruel & unusual Dr. Ferber doesn't advocate such things before the baby reaches 5 months of age)

--I've accidentally knocked into doorjambs, staircases and various other immobile objects with her head

--I've imbibed three glasses of wine and have gone on to breastfeed the baby

--I let her sit in her swing or lay on her play mat while I surf the Internet

--I don't always eat breakfast. Or lunch. Or sometimes both.

--I've left her with my husband, parents or in-laws on several occasions and had no trouble whatsoever doing it

The perfect mothers out there will probably hate me, but hopefully the rest of you will understand and, maybe, realize that your own moments of imperfect parenting are par for the hazard-filled course.


My little road warrior

Safely ensconced in her Britax Companion car seat, Tolby loves to travel. The confines of her seat must mimic those last few months in the close quarters of my womb. And, though it's no rival for the uterus, the cushy Companion's side impact protection is state of the art.

Tolby, Roxie and I paint the countryside red in scenic drives that relax and rejuvenate me daily. Living where we do, on a busy street with only a lumber company separating us from the Interstate highway, it's easy to forget just how beautiful my quiet corner of the state is. Hills roll through farms, antique homes and small shops. Fences, which make bad neighbors, are kept politely short in their rocky sprawl. The skyline is a backdrop to so many trees.

Roxie drools on the window as we pass horses and even the odd bison. Tolby sleeps as the sun seeps through the car seat's umbrella and warms her. I sail through curves and bump along dirt roads. This is the undiscovered part of Connecticut, separate from stereotypes of rich suburban New Yorkers.

It's just us and the open road. Till my husband gets the gas bill. Posted by Picasa


As New Englanders, we've got one major thing going for us--the changing seasons. I'm not talking about the fact that we have four of them, or saying that they're all wonderful. I'm referring specifically to those few weeks every quarter when we transition from one season to another, when the steepled skies of our region cast a new and hope-filled light over our lives.

We're in one of those periods now, as the air turns cold at night and the leaves go brilliant. We look forward to apples, cider, pumpkins and seeds. We go leaf-peeping if we're not rendered immobile by the price of gas. We watch baseball and football. We fight traffic while high school marching bands hum in the distance. We wear college sweatshirts or quilted flannel as we rake leaves into multicolored piles, gleefully inhaling the chilled detritus. We are northerners, by God, and we think more clearly in the cold.

I think there is something portentous about the beginning of a season, as I contemplate everything that I can accomplish from this fresh jumping-off point: stories I can write, windows I can clean, friends I can call, and ideals I can instill in my tiny daughter. Of course, so little actually gets done amidst the living monotony that carries us through every season, unchanged from the last.

Then suddenly it's December and it is time to bunker down for the most northern of all seasons: winter.


Nana and granddaughter

Motherhood gives you a new respect for...motherhood. What I mean to say is this: it has been a record 10 weeks since my own mother and I have had one of our typical falling-outs. It is not lost on me that this is roughly the same amount of time that my daughter has been on the earth. From the moment Tolby was born, I began to realize I would never be the perfect mother. In doing so, I truly understood that there is no such thing.

My mother has been trying to forge a stronger bond with me for years. I didn't buy it because I was too busy reliving past wrongs with a martyristic vengeance: all those naps she forced on me as a toddler; the incessant nagging about my messy room; blame transferred to me when she spilled her own milk; the groundings I endured as a teenager; the dinnertime discussions where none of my political beliefs were given any credence whatsover; the financial worries that hung over my head as I wondered if I would be able to attend college; and her disapproval of the man who ultimately became my husband. Now I realize that my childhood wasn't lived in a perfect vacuum, and that life didn't stop for my parents when my head hit the pillow every naptime and night. My mom isn't just a parent, she's a person. That means she's allowed to have faults, peccadillos, quirks and outside interests. These are things I've always accepted and even embraced in my friends but have never been willing to look past in my own mother.

Now I am a mother myself. In a way, I wish I knew how to make my daughter expect less of me. Posted by Picasa


Other mothers will tell you that becoming a parent means you will instantaneously develop a fascination with infantile excrement. I know this to be true. It all started the day I brought our baby home from the hospital and sat down to enjoy an impromptu mid-summer barbecue. Trying to keep a satiny blanket from falling off my shoulder and exposing my newly-opened milk factory to our guests, I fed her in what had become an hourly fashion. Conversation and champagne flowed in a scene that seemed, on some levels, unchanged from previous barbecues. One main difference was the fact that even shifting my weight on the wrought iron chaise lounge made my mid-section scream for another Percocet. Then there was the squiggly form underneath the blanket, silent in her sucking until...the explosion. You see, breast-fed babies have explosive poops. I'm not talking fart noises that a grown woman might emit, causing her to blush and giggle; or the male kind that elicits proud grunts and pats on the back from impressed buddies. I am talking bonafide, rip-roaring, projectile poops. When you're lucky, they're confined to the diaper. When you're not, they shoot up the back or out a side pocket. When you're unluckier still, you are in the process of changing the baby, with a used diaper on one side, a clean one on the other, and your wipey-holding hand held up like a bulls-eye at the firing range. Anyway, this first time, I didn't know what babies could do. The hills were alive with the sound of shit. Conversation stopped as our friends looked for the source. Mother's Milk-duds. Breastfed Beefs. I began laughing and couldn't stop. It smelled like breakfast sausage. I laughed some more at everyone else's confusion. "It was her!" I roared, gazing in adoration at my dear, dear daughter as the blanket fell off, revealing one pale boob and a baby who didn't even have the decency to blush.

Both looking delightfully skewed, mother and daughter arrive home from the hospital after a
harrowing c-section.