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There May be Puke on Me: A Mother’s Tale

Ever since Story was born, we’ve been very lucky with her health. She has been a robust and bright-eyed baby. Even on the rare occasions where she’s been under the weather, she’s remained essentially herself: chipper and sweet and up for anything. I remember a week when she was about five months old, all three of us had a cold, and we were dragging her all over the state of Iowa on an epic family vacation. Let’s just say that Story did a lot less whining about that cold than either Mark or I did. She remained  sweetly, heartbreakingly cheerful.

No one could have expected this situation to last, and I didn’t. But, I didn’t really expect it to end so spectacularly either. For the last two weeks, Story has been sick. Not in a sweet, brave, sniffly sort of way, but more in a pukey, poopy, achy, fussy, lying listlessly on the floor kind of way. Just when I’d think she was out of the woods, her symptoms would recur. I don’t think of myself as a panicky parent, but the fact is that I took her to the doctor twice.

It’s funny, the mental revolutions you can go through depending on what’s going on in your life. Before Story was born, I went with a friend and his daughter to the park, and he told me that the secret to making sure she stayed warm enough was to wear a lighter jacket than she did, and keep his hands out of his pockets, so he’d notice if it got too cold. It was a brisk day, I hate being cold, and I thought, “I am not doing that.” But now I do it, and I think nothing of it.

Anyway, during these two weeks, I entered a state of just not giving a crap about puke.

On at least one occasion, there was definitely some in my hair. Not a lot, mind you, but any amount would of course necessitate an immediate shower under any other circumstances. But there was no shower to be had, because Story needed me to rock her for several hours, periodically getting up to walk her around the house when she became irritated with the rocking chair. And she needed me to force her sippy cup on her every twenty minutes, and to sing lullabies. And then when she was finally down for the night, I was just too tired to take a shower, so I actually went. To bed.

I hate to see Story sick, but sometimes I take a weird sort of satisfaction in the hard days. So many times I wonder if I am getting it right as a mom: Am I playing with her enough, even when there’s something interesting to read on the internet; am I taking her to enough places she wants to go instead of just wheeling her around Barnes and Noble for my own pleasure?

But when you’ve bathed your baby four times in one day, and foregone bathing yourself, and rocked and rocked until your tailbone can rock no more, you have to feel like something was done right. You feel like, I may not be Supermom. But no one could say I’m not trying.

The Nitty Gritty of Midwife Selection

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last two years interviewing midwives—first in Georgia, for Story’s birth, and now in Seattle, for the birth of my seond child. And so I’ve given a lot of thought to how to find one I really like.

There are plenty of places on the web where you can find lists of questions to ask potential midwives. The trouble with a lot of these lists—aside from the fact that they’re as long as your arm—is that I feel they fail to really get at anything beyond the basics.

When your midwife tells you that she almost never performs episiotomies, that she always attends births with an assistant, that she’s certified in neonatal resuscitation, and that she’ll induce when you’re approaching 42 weeks of pregnancy—well, all you’ve really learned is that she’s a professional working within the accepted standards of her field. Good to know, but you haven’t really learned anything special about her, anything that would make her you say, “This woman is the one I want to hold my baby’s life in her hands.”

So I’ve tried to compose a small list of questions that, for me anyway, have been helpful at digging a little deeper.

1. How often do you perform episiotomies?

Ok, wasn’t this one of the questions that I just said was sort of basic and not that revelatory? Well, yes, it is. Any midwife worth her salt will tell you that she never, or almost never, performs episiotomies, possibly with a faintly appalled look on her face.

The reason I include this question is because I find that it is almost invariably followed up with a story about the one time she had to, or almost had to, perform one. Stories like this are invaluable. If there was just one piece of advice I could give you when you’re looking for a midwife, it would be this: get them to tell you some stories!

You learn so much from their stories: how much do they respect and care for their patients? How confident are they? Are they cautious, bold, quick-thinking, direct? How exactly do they approach this whole midwifery thing?

And the great thing about their episiotomy story is that it will be a story about a difficult birth. You’ll learn about how they operate under pressure. These are the three stories told by the midwives I interviewed when I was looking in Atlanta:

  • Story #1: “I did one once. This was a case where the baby was tangled up in the cord, which was a little bit short to begin with. And because of this, the placenta tore off the uterine wall. The birth canal was filling up with blood, so I did the episiotomy, got the baby out.” I liked this story a lot. I liked even more the cool, matter-of-fact confidence with which it was delivered. This was a woman who knew her stuff, and didn’t doubt it.
  • Story #2: “I have only had to do two episiotomies, in, maybe, a thousand births? And, in hindsight, I probably should have done them sooner. But, you know, that’s just not where my mind goes at all.” I liked this story a heck of a lot less. I definitely didn’t want someone who was going to be quick with the scissors .. but I did want someone who, when things got dicey, would have the presence of mind to consider all the options available to her.
  • Story #3: “In twenty years, I’ve done one. The mom had been pushing for a long time, and wasn’t making much progress. And the baby’s heart rate was dropping. It wasn’t coming back up between contractions the way it should have. And so I made the decision to go ahead and do the episiotomy and get him out. And later, I remember crying about it to my sister, because I just felt like it’s such an awful thing to do to a woman.” I loved this story. This was what I wanted: if someone had to cut me up, I wanted her to wind up crying.

You can always cut to the chase and say, “Tell me about a difficult birth you attended.” But I’ve found some people find this question nonplussing. And anyway, you only get one story that way. By going the episiotomy route, you can follow up with several other similar questions to elicit more and more stories that will help you understand your midwife’s standard of care. Some others include: “What are the reasons you might transfer me to a hospital?” “What happens if the baby needs help breathing?” or “Do you deliver breech?”

2. What resources do you have that might be helpful to me?

Your ideal midwife should have a network of professional contacts who can help you with all aspects of pregnancy, and beyond. My midwife in Atlanta had a list of doctors all over the metro area who would be willing to serve as a backup doctor in the event that I needed to transfer to a hospital (not a lot of doctors are willing, in Georgia). We had some insurance issues at the time, and she was able to hook us up with a nursing school that would provide detailed, lengthy ultrasounds at the low, low price of $25 a pop.

She also knew a number of pediatricians who wouldn’t flip out when I brought my homebirthed baby in for her first exam. By and large, I think these pediatricians were more accepting of the less-medical parenting style favored by many women who choose homebirth; certainly the one we went to was totally copacetic with our plans for a delayed immunization schedule.

The value of this question is going to depend a lot on where you live. Now that we live in oh-so-crunchy-Washington, I’ve discovered that it hardly matters. Midwifery and natural parenting are much more widely accepted here, and most, if not all, midwives have such a network of contacts.

But in Georgia? It mattered.

3. What do you think is the most important thing I can do for a healthy pregnancy and delivery?

As with Question #1, you’re not really listening for the initial answer here. You don’t want the advice, per se, what you want to know is: what will her practice do to help you achieve this goal?

If she talks about eating healthy, does she want to go over your entire diet with you? If she talks about forming a robust placenta, does she add that she’d like to routinely test your iron levels to make sure you’re able to do so? Maybe she strongly recommends a Bradley class, and she knows a great instructor. If she wants you to do Kegels… well, she can’t help you there. You’re on your own.

But whatever she says, her response to this question will give you some idea of what it’s going to be like to be treated by her. It’ll also give you an idea of how simpatica the two of you are. If she wants to overhaul your diet and you’re really not interested, maybe you’re just not a good fit for one another.

On Trust

Trust is a hugely important in the delivery room, whether it’s in a hospital or your own home. Maybe more so at home, because you have more agency there, more ability to act and affect what is happening.

And so you really need a midwife who you can place your whole faith in. When she tells you to push, or to stop pushing, or to get in the car so she can drive you to the hospital, you need to know that she knows what she’s talking about. You need to be able to let yourself be guided by her.

And that only comes with an extreme level of trust. That’s why it’s so essential to find a good midwife, and I hope these questions help somewhat.


She Also Pooped in the Bath

Today Story:

1. Hugged another child for the first time.
2. Tried to put her own sock back on (and failed miserably, but I felt the effort was worthy of praise).
3. Scrambled to gobble up the Cheerios under her high chair when she saw me getting out the vacuum.

These are the days.

I Am the Mommy

Well, Story’s first Christmas has come and gone. We had a lot of fun, saw both sets of grandparents, and I ate a metric ton of chocolate in various forms. In other words, a good Christmas.

Story agrees.

This also means that my first Christmas as a mom is behind us. A family has a lot of parts, but its beating heart is the mother. She sets the tone. She has the most intimate relationship with each family member. And she does a lot of the little things that give texture to a family’s domestic life, like sussing out everyone’s favorite meals, planning and maintaining wardrobes, and organizing and scheduling activities.

For better or worse, I am The Mom to this particular family, in this particular stage of my life. So, how did I do on this, my first Christmas as Mom?

Eh… I did ok.

Here’s a list of the things I wanted to get done, and did:

  • Get picture with Santa
  • Wrap gifts as though by elves
  • Make birthday cake and smash cake (not technically a Christmas activity, but took place two days later, and therefore I am counting it.)

Here’s a list of the things I wanted to get done, and didn’t:

  • Send Christmas cards
  • Make stocking
  • Make commemorative ornament

That’s not, really, such a terrible accounting. The stocking is the only one I feel really bad about, and I’ll have it ready for next year. (I will!) But this is sort of a typical showing for me: some of the things I want to do I accomplish, and accomplish well. And the others, er, not so much.

It’s got me thinking about what is really important to me to do for Story, and what I can let sort of slide by the wayside. And I think it comes down to one thing: memories.

I want Story to remember eating an enormous slice of watermelon in the park on a summer afternoon. I want her to remember driving out to a tree farm to cut down our Christmas tree. I want these things for her, even though dealing with a watermelon on your own kitchen counter is much easier, and buying an artificial tree is much more cost effective. I want her to feel, when she grows up, as though she drank deeply of childhood, as though there is a long, magical expanse of time in her past.

Some of the physical things, like the Christmas stocking, are important, because they are the keepers of memory. Every Christmas, my grandmother used to give me a mouse of some kind: toys at first, and once I had gotten older, ornaments. I don’t remember a great number of these mice individually, and I remember receiving almost none of them. But still, when I see one of them now, I remember the tradition and the meaning behind it: that my grandmother had a special way of remembering me, a unique way of displaying her love.

But honestly, most of the physical stuff I would like to make for Story sort of falls into the unimportant category. Experiences are what I really want to give her. I remember reading that after he learned he was dying of pancreatic cancer, Randy Pausch (of Last Lecture fame) decided one of his chief responsibilities over his last months would be to provide memories for his kids. They were all young, and realistically he knew that they would have a hard time holding onto their memories of him. One of the things he did was take his older son on a dolphin encounter, the kind where you get in the water and pet a real live dolphin. Pausch hoped that this would be a big enough event to live in his son’s memory, to help him feel the memory of his father’s love even as his memory of the man himself faded.

This struck me as an excellent idea, and one that any parent would be well-served to emulate, even without dire circumstances as a motivator. I want a big life for my daughter, a full life, with all sorts of wonders in it. Large wonders, like dolphin encounters, and small wonders, like watermelon in the park.

So, moving forward, I think it’s going to be a matter of deciding where I can put my time to its best purpose. Making commemorative ornaments for each of Story’s Christmases might be nice, but it’s not going to be quite as meaningful, I think, as making hot cocoa and cuddling up with her to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

But next Christmas, I am totally going to make that stocking.

Plus or Minus One

Last month I had to take a test. It was tying me up in knots, even though there was only one question on it.

Story was eight months old, and Mark and I had been trying to conceive again ever since my period came back, at four-and-a-half months postpartum. Maybe this will seem to you like we were in an unnecessary rush, but if so I suspect you are not a woman over thirty-five with undiagnosed fertility issues. It had taken us nearly two years to get pregnant with Story, no one had ever given us a reason why, and ever since then I’ve felt like there is no time to lose.

So, this pregnancy test. I was creeping up on day 40 of my cycle, which by normal standards would be over a week late. But my cycle, since coming back, had been lengthy and irregular. The last month I had gone 37 days. But still, basic math will tell you that 40 is greater than 37. And it had been almost three weeks since I’d detected an LH surge in my urine, indicating probable ovulation.

But I couldn’t take the test. I could not do it. Every time I contemplated doing so, I would think back to how I used to feel when I’d take a preggo test while we were waiting for Story. How my heart would hammer for that entire five minutes while I was waiting for the test strip to develop. How my hope would slowly shrivel and die.

And the worst part: how it refused to ever die completely. A negative didn’t really mean no, a desperate little voice inside me always piped up after the initial tears were done. It just meant that the test wasn’t  sensitive enough to detect the level of HCG currently in my urine. In a day or two, who knew?

Except I knew. I did. My rationality knew, and my experience, and a certain brittle, furious pessimism that was slowly rotting my heart. It was only my hope that did not know. My hope was a freakin’ moron.

I had eventually stopped taking pregnancy tests, because I just couldn’t deal with the endless rise and fall of hope. Curtailing the tests didn’t really end the hoping, of course, but it made it marginally less acute. But now here I was, one baby richer, but still dearly wanting more children. Day 39, and no period. If my cycle didn’t end soon, I was going to have to take a test.

I found myself somewhat annoyed that I will never experience a pregnancy test the way you might see on a television drama. I’ll never wait for the test to develop while being all tittery with my girlfriends, or all kissyface with my husband. I imagine my pregnancy test experience will always be me alone in a bathroom, grim and afraid.

It made me wonder how many women take theses tests in fear and pain, instead of in joy and anticipation. I’m not talking about the women who are hoping not to be pregnant, though they have their own troubles, I know. I’m talking about the women who want it badly, even desperately. Quite a lot of us, I think, look forward to these tests with nothing but dread. Three that I’m sure of. A friend who suffered two subsequent miscarriages during two subsequent Christmases. A cousin who gave birth to a beautiful, stillborn baby boy. And me.

And I suspect it of others−women who I know have suffered trouble in the baby-making department, but with whom I’m not intimate enough to really get into it. And there must be even more in my circle of friends, women who have had these problems but would never think of telling me. In fact, if I had to make a guess at the number of women who like those tests vs. the number of women who loathe them, I’d slant the scales toward the latter.

So, where were we? Day 39. A Thursday. By this point I’d just about convinced myself that I probably was pregnant, but the thought of taking the test was still too much for me to face. By the time I’d gone to bed, I’d decided that if I still hadn’t had my period by Saturday, Day 41, I’d muscle up and pee on the damn stick.

But in the morning, there was blood. Not a lot. Only a trace. I asked Mark to take care of Story for a bit, and went back to bed and was sad. I may have cried. And eventually Story went down for an early nap and I fell asleep with her.

When I woke up, it occurred to me that a trace of blood was no more than I’d had in the early weeks of my pregnancy with Story. There had been some slight spotting, in week six, and again in week nine or ten. A trace of blood didn’t mean squat.

Clearly, it was time to put an end to all this nonsense. I took the test. It was positive.

That was fast, I thought. It had been only eight months since I’d delivered Story, only three or four since my periods had resumed. I’d been monitoring my LH levels ever since my cycles came back, and this month had been the first time I’d actually detected a surge. It seemed like we’d caught the first egg.

Having Story, I thought, had healed me. The cause of my infertility had never been diagnosed, but perhaps it had been some hormone problem, corrected by my pregnancy, or some malformation of my cervix, which had been corrected by the delivery. Whatever it was, it looked like it was in the past.

When Mark came home for lunch, I told him, and that evening we celebrated. We started making plans. The baby would be born in mid-May. We thought we’d tell the family about it at Thanksgiving, and perhaps around Christmas we’d find out the sex. I’d make the new baby’s Christmas stocking, and after the big gender reveal, I could embroider his or her name on it while the rest of the stockings hung by the chimney.

But in the morning, blood. A trace−ok, more than a trace. A large trace. I wasn’t too worried, having been through the spotting with Story, but just to be on the safe side I called up the midwife who had delivered Story, all the way back in Atlanta. (Love you, Charlotte!) She talked to me about herbs, and about taking it easy. We talked several times through the day, as the bleeding got worse, as it got darker, as I had to put on a pad.

I also spent a bit of time in the dark bowels of the internet, googling terrible things like “how much bleeding is normal” and “how do you know if you’re having a miscarriage.” I read any number of forum posts from any number of women who were right in the thick of it− all that pain and fear that I remembered from the years before Story. I knew what they were going through. I’d been one of them. But having Story had healed me, in more ways than one.

That night Mark and I bought a bunch of silly snacks−jelly beans and animal crackers and string cheese−and went for a long drive while the baby slept in the back seat. I told him that things weren’t looking good−not 100% disaster yet, but pretty worrisome. We held hands and reassured one another we’d be fine. We went to bed, and when I got up to pee in the middle of the night, it seemed like the bleeding might be tapering off. I allowed myself to hope that maybe we’d just had a near miss, that was all.

But in the morning?

Blood. And I knew that it was done.

That day I was mostly calm, and mostly agreeable, and mostly all right. Not entirely, but mostly. And ten days later, so as to allow no confusion of the issue, I took another test. My heart didn’t hammer. It just sort of put itself on pause. And when I got the expected negative, I nodded, and threw it away, and that was the end of it.

Maybe. Well, mostly. Or not at all.

I Live Near *******, Washington

The Raveylmipics start today. Or rather, they ought to. Instead they have been crushed into dust.

See, the Ravelympics was a fun little idea dreamed up by the people on Ravelry. What is Ravelry? Well, it is the best website I have ever seen. I am not even exaggerating. If you measure a website by how well it serves its user base, Ravelry is the very best in my experience.

Let’s say you see a new knitting book you’re interested in on Amazon, but you want to know what the patterns look like. You go on Ravelry. And then you get interested in one of the patters, but you’d like to see how it looks in a different color, or with longer sleeves, or with added pockets. You just search the projects attached to that pattern; if it’s a popular one, someone has done what you want to do to it, and probably even left helpful notes about how exactly they went about it. And then let’s say you get interested in the yarn they used… I can go on and on. Suffice it to say that if you knit, you needs must also Ravel.

Anyway, the Ravelympics. The idea is that knitters would spend the seventeen days of the Olympics putting on a burst of energy to churn through a lot of projects, all while watching the Olympics, chatting online, and egging each other on. We even “compete” in events like the Lace Long Jump, the Bag-n-Tote Backstroke, or my personal favorite, Baby Dressage.

Harmless, right? Charming, right? Not so, according to the United States Olympic Committee, who sent Ravelry the nastiest Cease and Desist letter you can possibly imagine. Not only did it inform us knitters that we had best keep our mitts off their trademark, but also:

We believe using the name ‘Ravelympics’ for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among anothers, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games. In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.

Is it just me, or does it seem like our society is drowning in toxic levels of bitch?

To tell you the truth, I was almost amused by that particular bit of nastiness, because I knew the USOC would be served out right and proper for it. And so they were. The Ravelers took up arms, made a huge internet stink, and eventually won a weak apology from the USOC, in which they said they’d be willing to accept any hand-knitted items we wanted to send their way. Yeah, that’ll happen.

But what really bothered me—what still bothers me as I sit here preparing to cast on for the newly rechristened Ravellenic Games—is the sheer audacity of the USOC. Can you really trademark a single word, of ancient origin? I mean, I know you can, because they totally did. Should you be able to?

And should you be able to extend that trademark across all businesses, the way the USOC has done? The Ravelympics is one thing, since we are very clearly making a play on the whole concept of the Olympics. It’s a bummer that we have to change it around, but I can at least see the case for it. But should the USOC be able to run all around the Olympic peninsula of Washington forcing businesses to change their names? Should they have been allowed to sue the Washington newspaper The Olympian for trademark infringement? Should their UK counterpart have been able to prevent bakers from decorating cakes with the Olympic rings, to to force the longstanding Olympic Cafe to rename itself the ‘Lympic Cafe, which sounds weirdly medical and unpleasant?

I think they should not. I think this would be rather like Apple going around to all the farmers of Macintosh apples and telling them they had best change the name. Apple has trademarked “Macintosh,” and they are allowed to defend that trademark within their spheres of computers, personal devices, and tech. They’re not allowed to extend it to the entirety of the business world.

But the USOC is allowed to do just that, thanks to the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act (and its predecessor), which permits them to regulate all use of the word Olympic. Upheld by the Supreme Court, this law is the reason the USOC has such sweeping power.

Power—it’s been talked about a lot in the media lately. The left worries about corporations having too much power. The right worries about the government having too much power.

And I worry, most of all, when the two join together to form an impenetrable, sticky morass of legally protected greed. When the interests of a single corporation are allowed to take on the force of law, there is very little that smaller entities can do to fight them. Those smaller entities wind up losing access to that level playing field that is supposed to be the foundation of the American dream.

It is something far too precious to lose. And yet lost it we have, and in more places than this.

That’s a pretty grim note to end on, and so I will leave you instead with this text from the Cease and Desist letter sent by Jack Daniel’s to an author who had incorporated their trademarked bottle logo into the cover of his book:

We are certainly flattered by your affection for the brand, but while we can appreciate the pop culture appeal of Jack Daniel’s, we also have to be diligent to ensure that the Jack Daniel’s trademarks are used correctly. Given the brand’s popularity, it will probably come as no surprise that we come across designs like this on a regular basis. What may not be so apparent, however, is that if we allow uses like this one, we run the very real risk that our trademark will be weakened. As a fan of the brand, I’m sure that is not something you intended or would want to see happen….

In order to resolve this matter, because you are both a Louisville “neighbor” and a fan of the brand, we simply request that you change the cover design when the book is re-printed. If you would be willing to change the design sooner than that (including the digital version), we would be willing to contribute a reasonable amount towards the costs of doing so. By taking this step, you will help us to ensure that the Jack Daniel’s brand will mean as much to future generations as it does today.

That, folks, is how you write a C&D letter. Nice matters.

Prime Abuse

The Kalmes clan is starting to feel settled in here in Seattle. We’ve found the library, a few restaurants we like, and are generally starting to feel at home, despite the kid who stands on the sidewalk outside our apartment every night, smoking and wearing a t-shirt that reads, “Your Mom Should Have Swallowed.” Dude loves that shirt. If I had a slightly older kid, I’d feel justified in giving him the stink eye. But since I don’t, I just give him a sort of sad and puzzled look, as though I don’t quite know what’s wrong with him.

The latest addition to our Seattle comforts is that last weekend, Mark talked me into signing up for Amazon Prime. “Jason’s always talking about it,” he said. “He’s kind of convinced me.”

He meant Jason Calacanis, tech mogul and host of the This Week in Start Ups podcast, which Mark listens to every week. Apparently, Calacanis is always raving about Amazon Prime, about how there are so many things he’ll order from them, about how he never has to swing by the store anymore to get laundry detergent, notebooks, or mouthwash—any of the many piddly little things we all find ourselves needing from time to time. Instead, he logs onto Amazon, and three minutes later the item in question is winging its way to him, all with free two-day shipping.

It started to sound pretty good, because with a baby in the house, there are all sorts of things I need, and going to the store to get them can be, at times, kind of a hassle. So, I allowed Mark to pay the $79 to sign us up. I had visions of setting up subscriptions for all of our staple items—our toilet paper, our hand soap, our dishwasher liquid and contact solution. Then I’d never have to think about those things again. They’d just come to me! Once a month! Sure, it would take me a while to jigger the subscription amounts until they were just right, but then, boy, would I be living the life.

So it was with sentiments of intense excitement and promise that I sat down to begin my Amazon ordering. But Amazon’s prices, it was soon to be revealed, left something to be desired. A 32 oz. container of liquid hand soap cost $10.21—even though I could buy a 64 oz. container for $5.49 at Target. A package of thirty-two double rolls of toilet paper cost $24.49, but I could get thirty-six double rolls—a veritable fortune of toilet paper!—for only about thirteen bucks at Target. Some other price comparisons yielded the same results, and I realized with chagrin the flaw in our plan. We had taken advice on how to spend our money from a millionaire. And now we were out eighty bucks.

Not to be deterred, I reasoned that we could still get a number of exciting things from Amazon, even if our staple items were better bought locally. And that is when I began making any number of teeny, tiny purchases on Amazon. It started with a six-by-six Rubik’s Cube that Mark had been wanting. Then a sketch pad for me. Then some Flintstones chewable vitamins that I had been needing.

And then on Monday, the sketch pad came, and I realized that what I really needed was a ruler to go with it. So I popped onto Amazon and found a nice ruler retailing for $3.30. And then I forced them to send it to me with free two-day shipping.

The low point of the whole experience was surely when I ordered nail clippers for $1.80. Nobody said I couldn’t! They came to me individually packaged in their own envelope, and I actually kinda haven’t even used them yet.

In my defense, I’d like to say that I thought Amazon would handle this operation quite a bit more efficiently. I figured that everything I ordered over, say, a twenty-four hour period would all go into a single box. But this was not the case. Spray bottles, bibs for Story, stain remover, a graphic novel—everything came separately packaged, arriving at my door in a flood of little brown boxes.

So, now that I know the deal, I’ll try to be a little bit kinder. I may drop things in the cart and only check out every day or so. Honestly, after that first bacchanal of ordering, my desire for random crap from Amazon may be somewhat sated. Although, I don’t know, I’m starting to feel a bit itchy. Maybe what I really need is a compass.

Primordial YA

It’s been a fairly typical week around the ol’ Kalmes household. One of the cats puked while sitting on the cabinets on top of the fridge. Apparently she was going for distance as well as volume. It was a nice mess, and it didn’t reveal itself in its true enormity until I had already volunteered to be the one to clean it up.

Once you offer to do something horrible in a marriage, you should always follow through, lest you incur ill will or lose the right to get out of something worse later. So, I did it, and while I did, I mulled over the question of what to do with my current novel, a Young Adult fantasy.

See, I set it up with dueling love interests, a lá Edward and Jacob, Peeta and Gale. But one of my guys, Zak, is getting short shrift. He hardly shows up in scene, and when he does, he doesn’t say much. Frankly, the overall plot wouldn’t suffer without him. Dude lifts right out.

And part of the reason for this, I am sorry to say, is that I have already hardened my heart against him. I’m not on Team Zak; I’m on Team Haskel. Because Haskel is the Cyclops and Zak is the Wolverine.

That’s how I tend to refer to these romantic archetypes, using the names of Jean Grey’s two suitors in Uncanny X-Men. The Cyclops is the nice guy, the steady guy, the one who will remember your birthday and make you dinner when you’re feeling whipped. The Wolverine is the sexy guy, the dangerous guy, the one whose kisses light your heart ablaze, who whisks you away on his motorcycle for a steamy weekend filled with passion.

These archetypes show up over and over again in fiction, and that is no surprise, because they show up over and over again in women’s fantasies as well. From an evolutionary standpoint, Wolverine is the guy who will give you strong, healthy children. Cyclops is the guy who will stick with you, and make sure your children survive. They’re the two kinds of men we’re driven to mate with. Regardless of how liberated we are, regardless of where we stand on the subject of NOW, these are the two kinds of men our bodies want us to want.

Some women choose a Cyclops; some choose a Wolverine. If you’re very, very lucky, you wind up with a Cyclops with just a smudge of Wolvy thrown in. Or, another way of putting it: a nice guy with balls.

So, you get how it works, right? Jacob is the Cyclops. Edward is the Wolverine. Peetais the Cyclops; Gale is the Wolverine (although not, I think, its sexiest incarnation?). When it comes to fiction, I am a permanent member of Team Cyclops. Except, actually, in the specific case of Wolverine and Cyclops themselves, in which I defect. And also in the case of Ashley Wilkes and Rhett Butler. Ashley Wilkes is a faithless milksop who can go screw himself.

And thus, I find myself torn about whether to go on trying to make a case for Team Wolverine in my novel. I mean, all the hot young YAs are milking this dichotomy, so shouldn’t I as well? Or should I just accept that I am who I am—a Cyclops kinda girl—and write the book with a single love interest?

I talked about it to my sister, Kate, and she disputed that the second love interest was actually a good idea. Through this conversation, it came out that she is a member of Team Gale (really? Gale?). And so all the love triangle in The Hunger Games really did for her was make her feel kinda bad and disappointed. But—and here’s the interesting part—Team Gale though she was, she also liked Peeta. She actually felt like she couldn’t get too close to Katniss, because no matter how things shook out, Katniss was going to wind up hurting somebody Kate cared about. It was an interesting take, and made me wonder whether cutting out my own personal Wolverine might not be so terribly, terribly wrong.

So, how about you, readers? Are you Team Cyclops or Wolverine? Do you get pumped for a juicy love triangle, or would you rather just root for two crazy kids who are obviously meant to be together?

This is Motherhood

You put a leftover waffle in the microwave for thirty seconds. An hour later, you eat it.

The Grateful Dead Tired

Story and I are visiting the ‘rents in Texas this week. It’s a hot summer in the Lone Star State, the kind where my chocolate bar becomes pliant on the walk from the store to the car, and where I go around the house all day with my hair wet at the roots for no good reason.

We have been having a fantastic time, except perhaps at night. Story’s teething, and several of our nights here have been punctuated with crying, and repeated trips to the rocker to lull her back to sleep. Even when she sleeps, it’s often fitful sleep, which means I get up after ten hours in bed feeling as though I’ve had two.

And so I thought I would share my trick for enduring the less-than-stellar moments with my baby. It’s one I picked up from The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

When it’s four a.m. and the baby won’t sleep, and I can’t sleep because I’m the only parent around, I think to myself, “I’m grateful to be taking care of the baby right now.” And, amazingly enough, it works. Because the fact is, I am enormously grateful to have her. Wildly, exultingly, passionately grateful. Grateful that she is healthy, and whole, and here with me.

And I am grateful to be here at the beginning of it all, with everything stretching out ahead of me: Story walking, Story talking, Story learning to be silly and clever and generous. From the things I’ve heard older people say, it seems pretty clear that one day I will look back on these days as the very happiest of my life. And here I am, right at the start of them.

As I’ve been readying my book for self-publication, it’s been easy to fall into regret. Regret that I didn’t do it sooner, regret that I’m nearing thirty-five with only the merest scrap of a career. And there’s regret that I didn’t have a child sooner. Sometimes I find myself thinking back to some random moment in my past—say, that summer when I toured California with my best friend when I was about twelve—and thinking, how much time I had then, if only I had known it, how if I had an opportunity to live my life over I would use that time well.

But whatever mistakes I may have made in my life, there is this: me, and the baby, in a rocker in the middle of the night, just us two. Me a great source of comfort to her, and her a great source of joy to me. How could I possibly not be grateful for that?