let us therefore eat and drink

Habana Libre, an unassuming little Cuban place near my house, has inspired me to add restaurant reviews here. It was one of those rare finds--a little shabby on the outside, cheap and easy to get a table, yet delicious and delightful and the kind of place that becomes your go-to for a casual meal. I'm in love. Some highlights: It's BYOB with no corkage fee. The fried plantains with a little pot of very potent garlic oil for dipping were so good that it was only with great effort that I resisted the urge to go back for more the very next night. The empanadas were everything you can ask of an empanada. And they have guava empanadas! There was another appetizer that I don't know the name of but that my friend aptly described as "meat-and-potatoes comfort food rolled up in a ball." And my ropa vieja was delicious, even accompanied by the unappetizing sound of my friend slurping marrow from the crevices of his oxtail. I'm no foodie. In fact, I am an unadventurous and ridiculously picky eater. But I dearly love to eat out and so: I present these opinions for what they're worth.

Why, he will look upon his boot and sing

Trent and Nugget are out of town visiting Grandma T (Trent's mom), leaving me here to play bachelorette. I went out the last three nights and had a blast--and tended to some sorely neglected friendships, but I am missing my Nugget terribly. I even slept with one of his toys, drinking in the lingering smell of him.

I miss Trent too of course, but it's so much harder that Nugget can't talk on the phone. He does smile and grab the phone when Trent holds it up so I can talk to him, which makes me relieved that he still remembers his mom. Trent has sent me several videos that I watch over and over. I wish he could send more, but there's no cell phone reception where they are. Technology is beautiful. I think I may invest in webcams next time they travel without me.

Hard as it is, I'm glad they went and I want them to go out there as often as possible, although I can't take the time off work to go with them. It's important that Nugget spends time with his family.

It's ironic and terrible that at the same time that families have become more geographically scattered, we have less and less leisure time to visit each other because of the premium society places on work. I have it better than most, with fairly generous vacation policies and the financial wherewithal to travel. On the other hand I can't take all the vacation to which I'm technically entitled because there's always too much work to do and I have to worry about racking up the billable hours.

I did take a vacation last week, and actually did almost no work. It was the best vacation I've ever had, even though we just went to South Carolina, where I've been a hundred times. This time was different because Nugget was there. His wonder and joy at swimming in the ocean made it new to me too. And I got to sit and play in the sand with a carefree abandon I haven't had since I was a kid at the beach myself. You lose so much when you grow up -- I didn't anticipate how much I'd get back through him.

When we got back Nugget spent a day at backup daycare so Trent could get some work done before heading to Washington, and the sudden change was rough on Nugget. I had to leave work and go over there because they couldn't get him to eat anything, just like the first day he ever spent in daycare. After six solid days with me, Trent, and G-Ma (my mom) constantly around, I think it was a tough adjustment to be alone with strangers. On the one hand it hurts to recognize that Nugget suffers our absence like that, but on the other I think it's good for him to get exposure to other people and learn some independence.

We are going to put him in regular daycare part-time as soon as we get around to researching and organizing it. Trent needs more time to work, but also I think Nugget needs to be around other kids more. And it will be better for him to get that exposure on a regular basis, with a regular routine, rather than these random one-off trips to backup daycare.

Reading over this post I am tempted not to publish it. What value am I adding to the internet with these overthought personal ramblings? Does the world really need one more chronicle of obsessive parenting? I love that I am creating a record for myself of what I'm thinking and feeling, but why am I doing it on the internet? Frankly, and I find this embarassing to admit, I don't think I would be writing this much (such as it is) if there was not the chance that someone else might read it. I've started many diaries in my life and never been as faithful to them as I am to this blog. Case in point: my journal of letters to Nugget has not had an entry since he was six months old -- he's almost 1 now.

At the same time I feel I need to work harder at increasing my readership. The thing is, it seems to me that the way to get your blog read is to read other blogs and develop relationships with other bloggers. And I can barely maintain the friendships I have "IRL."



From a letter Jane Austen wrote to the Prince Regent's librarian, quoted in The New Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes:

I must keep to my own style and go on in my own way; and though I may never succeed again in that, I am convinced that I should totally fail in any other.

(What is dogeared?)



From Jean Rhys' In the Rue de l'Arivee

Miss Dufreyne (Dolly to her friends when she had any) stepped out on to the Boulevard into the soft autumn night, and the night put out a gentle, cunning hand to squeeze her heart.


Monday! ha, ha!

Last week I was cogitating a post about how coming back to work after maternity leave didn't make me cry, and leaving every morning has not been that hard, even when Nugget clings to me and cries, as he tend to do lately. I feel a little awkward when other moms talk about that sort of thing; they seem to take it for granted that we all felt the same way. But I don't recall a single tear when I came back to work, in fact I think I was pretty thrilled about it. And I don't feel like that makes me some sort of unnaturally cold woman. I'm okay with it. I think it's a totally reasonable attitude.

But. Today I considered a one-line post (until it was complicated by my recollection of the above): Mondays are the hardest days. I don't think it's untrue that I am totally fine with leaving my Nugget for work, but I do think that on my "good days" I tend to forget the "bad days." The good days may outnumber the bad, but the bad still exist. All I want to do today is go home and make Nugget laugh.


thy dial's shady stealth

Having another baby no longer seems like an insane idea. It only took 11 months! When I had lunch the other day with a woman from my birth class, I had to ask her to repeat herself when she mentioned she was pregnant. And then I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. She got pregnant again when her first was six months. I was so far from ready to procreate again at that point, I can't even begin to comprehend how she could have done that to herself willingly.

But thinking about it in the last few days, I realized that a second child no longer seems completely unreasonable. Which is good, because for a while there I thought Nugget was going to have to be a lonely Nugget. I'm sure people who grew up as only children don't feel that their parents cruelly deprived them, but I really love having siblings and would feel very bad if I didn't give Nugget any.

Now I have to figure out where the balance falls between having kids close in age so they can get the most out of each other (and I can benefit from the efficiencies) and waiting until Nugget is more independent so both children can get what they need from us. Subject to Trent and I first figuring out what we want our lives to look like, because I think our current state of rudderless befuddlement is maybe not the ideal time to expand the family.

I still don't know whether we'll go beyond two. Two seems very small to me. But also very manageable. I work with someone who has four kids under eight, and he tells me his home is a madhouse. He also gets judgmental looks from people when he's out with his family. I was one of four, so it doesn't seem like a crazy big family to me--five seems a little nuts, but four seems very normal. But I know when my mom had her fourth, the nurses in the hospital openly criticized her. Can you imagine? Outrageous. It never ceases to amaze me how outspokenly judgmental people are on the subject of children.

I suppose when it comes to the size of your family there is an argument that it is everyone's business because you're taking up too much of the planet's limited resources with your selfish overbreeding, blah blah. But I don't buy that. I think the wasteful way we use our limited resources has way more of an impact. And it makes way more sense to regulate that than to get into the dicey business of regulating reproduction. But oh no. The government is welcome to crawl up into a woman's uterus but keep your dirty hands off my Hummer!

Anyway. I also worry that with a larger family it will become impossible for me to keep working. Especially in my current job. There isn't enough of me to go around as it is. Trent called me from Costco the other day and asked if I needed anything. Time, I said. Can you pick up some extra time? I could really use some.


Nature’s own sweet and cunning hand

We were at the lake having a picnic last night when I saw a guy go by with a newborn in a stroller. I imagined he was giving his wife a break, and thought about how she was probably on maternity leave. And then I reflexively thought, I wish I was still on maternity leave--I wish I had 12 months, like some countries. Then I thought about it some more and realized I didn't actually feel that way. The last few months have been tough. I billed over 280 hours last month. There were plenty of days when I saw my son for 20 minutes. There were some days I didn't see him at all. I really don't like that. But I loved what I was doing. I was preparing for trial (scheduled to start tomorrow, but now postponed to October) and I was having a blast. It was great experience, and I wouldn't trade it. I'm not going to apologize for it, either. My dad was a great dad even though he worked crazy lawyer hours, and I don't begrudge him that for a second. Why should it be different because I'm a woman?

I've been pondering a question raised in a very early post and procrastinating about trying to answer it: why have children at all? I wish I had attempted an answer back then because I think my answer is different now and it would be interesting to compare. My answer now will be based on what I now know about being a parent--which is much, much more than I did then.

So. Why have children? First, I should note that I did not exactly choose to have Nugget; Nugget chose me. I probably would have had children at some point anyway, but I didn't set out to get pregnant when I did. Nugget wasn't willing to wait a few years til we felt ready. Nugget is an impatient nugget.

When asked whether I planned to have children, I said for many years that I would only have children if I happened to meet and fall in love with someone I wanted to have children with, someone who would be a good father. And I did--I met and fell in love with Trent. I think that's an important part of answering this question for me: I don't just want "children," generically speaking, I wanted our children, Trent's and mine, specifically. [Sensitivity side note: this does not necessarily mean genetically "our children"; if we had adopted, they would still be "our children."] Now, that doesn't exactly answer the question. Why do I want our children? I can't answer that yet. Maybe there's something about loving someone that makes me want to build a family with him, as an outgrowth of our love. I don't know. I'm gagging a little just writing that, so let's move on.

Here's some part of the answer that I am clear about-and this is the part that I don't think I understood before I'd been a parent for a while. Watching Nugget learn about the world is the most fascinating and rewarding thing I have ever experienced.

Here's another, somewhat related part: shaping his understanding of the world, helping him grow up to be a strong, happy person, is important to me, and something that seems worth doing if you can. I think I can do it, and if I didn't, I wouldn't want to have children. There have been times when I've thought I didn't want children because I was afraid I'd be too controlling and demanding; that I wouldn't be able to turn that part of myself off to give a kid space to grow. I was wrong about that. It will probably get harder as he gets older, but so far I've been pretty good about stifling the urge to push Nugget too hard.

Another, selfish reason: not having a family of my own around me as I grow old seems like a lonely prospect. I think my life would feel empty without it.

I will have to revisit this topic, but I think that's a good start at an answer that's true for me.

[Skeptic side note: There is, underneath my thinking in all this, a part of me that says the desire to have children is a basic imperative of life, nothing more than a primal instinct to preserve the species. And maybe that's true too.]