How to Help, Right Now.

Chicago has been under an excessive heat warning since Saturday. We tried to go for a walk for Father’s Day yesterday. After half an hour (and a second iced coffee), we had to call it quits to hide out in apartment for the rest of the day with the blinds drawn.

We have a window AC unit, but even with it running on high all day, it never got below 83F in our bedroom last night. I tucked our son in at 7:45. He tossed and turned from the heat until well after 11.

This morning I’m thinking of the children who will be sleeping in the “temporary tent shelter” in El Paso. It’s 75F there – cooler than Chicago – but the highs this week will be around 100F every day. How will those children sleep? How many of them will toss and cry for their parents – just from the heat?

Our son woke up at 6:30 and snuggled with me on the couch before asking for his breakfast. When I left for work, he was working on math problems on the couch with his papa.

He’ll be 4 in September. This is a hard age. Some days he’s sweet and helpful. Other days he’s a nightmare. Some days he’s both. Some hours he’s both. I’ve been reading a lot about how toxic masculinity starts to infect boys young. I have a lot of thoughts about this, but while making sense of them, I keep returning to a place of deep gratitude that our son is so closely bonded to us. That we can at least try to mitigate some of the societally-constructed bullshit because at least for now, he loves and trusts us and the other grown-ups in his life, and feels comfortable exuberantly demonstrating that love and trust.

So what happens to these children who have been taken from their parents? We know what happens because we’ve been doing it longer than we’ve been a country. We know what happens because we did it to generations of Native children. We know what happens because our country did it to generations of enslaved families. We don’t have to look to Nazi Germany, but we can look there as well.

But we also know because we have children of our own. Imagine the drama of the worst drop off at school or daycare or grandparents’ house – or even just an average level of departure-related drama. Nearly 4 year olds know drama. Now imagine this is happening with no opportunity to prepare your child. No helpful Daniel Tiger songs to mitigate the drama. No way of knowing if your child will be safe or fed or cared for. No idea when you’ll be reunited – if ever.

The harms are real, and they’re immediate, and they’re long-term. These are the sorts of things you never get over, never outgrow. Our country is breaking children. Our country is destroying families. And unless we, every one of us, takes action, we are as culpable as the agents at the border or the bureaucrats in Washington.

Here are some things you can do right now. Go do them. Right now.

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Stray Thoughts on the Hospital and After

The hospital food was worlds better than expected. I would go so far as to say that it was decent for non-hospital food, and that was while ordering from the ‘cardiac diet’, which meant no full-fat anything. However, it’s hard to eat a strictly pescatarian diet in the hospital for multiple days, which is why I’m relieved again that I define my diet as vegetarian-mostly.

In his spare time, my cardiologist designs (or at least used to design) high-end men’s shirts. Mom thought that this level of attention to detail was a good thing in a cardiologist.

My nurses were mostly wonderful. I think it helped that I wasn’t the typical cardiology/ICU patient – I was generally self sufficient, except for when they needed to connect IVs or disconnect my machines, and by the third day, I was able to do at least the machine part on my own as well. My daytime nurse the last two days was delightfully bossy. I appreciate that in a caretaker.

I had to make my first after-hours call to the cardiologist after a particularly bad coughing spell (thanks, hospital cold, for infecting my entire family) resulted in new soreness/pain around my pacemaker “pocket”. The on-call fellow was very kind and patient – and surprised me by calling back half an hour later with the offer from my cardiologist to fit me in Monday morning for a quick check of my device. All is well, but I appreciated the reassurance, and the willingness to get me in right away.

That said, I also had a major crying jag after the coughing fit but before the reassuring call back from the cardiology fellow. The pain was secondary to the fear – not of something life-threatening happening, but of going to the hospital for something that seems minor and losing another week of my life. I’ve been told this will get better.

40 Months

I think we’re actually done nursing.

I said all along that I would follow his lead, that I would keep going as long as it worked for both of us. That turned out to be 40 months.

For a long time, he would wake up and ask for “mai” (which in the final weeks turned into “maik”), and we would shift out to the couch to nurse before or after breakfast. Sometimes he would nurse for 20 minutes, sometimes less than 2. Sometimes he would ask again during the day. Most of the time he wouldn’t.

For the last month, nursing has been uncomfortable for me. I pumped once over the holidays and barely expressed anything, so I knew that there wasn’t much left – it was more about comfort and connection than slaking the even slightest thirst. So when he asked for “maik”, I would often stall, telling him we could have some after breakfast. Many mornings, he would forget. Some mornings, he insisted, and we would stay in bed and nurse. Once in awhile, he was really upset. Most of the time, it was fine.

The last few times, we talked about how we could try, but if it hurt, we would have to stop right away. He said he didn’t want it to hurt. I said I didn’t want it to hurt either. So we would try, and it would hurt, and then we would stop.

It was the same story last Sunday, the 28th. He asked. We tried. It hurt. We stopped. He hasn’t asked since. And now I think we’re done.

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December 19, 2017

2017 Resolutions In Review

1. Eliminate credit card debt.
Done. With a balance transfer about to start accruing interest, we decided the best thing we could do was use some of our savings to pay off the remaining debt.

2. Take action every week.
I kept this up for a couple of months, but like many, I lost steam.

3. Finish Brain Pickings book club list.
Good enough! We didn’t finish the list, but we kept the book club going all year, so I’m going to treat this one as a success.

4. Incorporate professional development into my schedule.
I managed the conferences, but didn’t manage much else. I have a couple of things that I want to work on this year, so maybe I’ll rededicate myself to this one in 2018.

5. Finish weaning.
Despite my sad post a couple of months ago, we’re still nursing pretty regularly. I broke out the pump last night, and that made me feel like I was ready to be DONE all over again.

6. PR at any distance.
DONE. I blew away my 5K time in Champaign in April. I had hoped to PR in the half, but considering how hard I’d run the night before, I was totally fine with just finishing.

7. More regular visits with family.
Done. The kid absolutely will not nap when we’re out in Rockford, so since he’s doing better with car naps (and in the car generally), we were able to make more day trips happen.

8. At least two blog posts/month.
Technically done. By the numbers, this was a success, though posting dropped off pretty significantly after the beginning of the year.

9. Try at least four new recipes/month.
Done, for sure.  The My New Roots cookbooks were my go-to source.

10. Make time for monthly dates.
Monthly dates didn’t happen, but we did manage some child-free time about every other month. In 2018, I would love for us to GET AWAY! OVERNIGHT! WITH NO CHILD! but that continues to be a tall order.

2017 in Meme

1. What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before?
What did I do in 2017? Participated in a protest march; ran the entire Lakefront Path; made an impressive-looking maqluba; potty-trained a kid; broke a finger; baked with aquafaba; kept a book club going for the entire year; submitted an article for publication; went an entire year without getting my hair cut*.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
About half of them, and probably.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My sister, sister-in-law, and several friends had babies this year.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
My friend Molly passed away at the beginning of the year.

5. What countries (or new places) did you visit?
No new places this year. Conference travel to Atlanta, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Indianapolis. An overnight to visit my grandma in Davenport. A one day trip to East Lansing for a football game with Mom. A quick trip to Madison to celebrate the kid’s third birthday.

6. What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?
An actual vacation, as Timehop keeps reminding me that I haven’t been out of the office for a full week since we went to Belgium in September 2016.

7. What date from 2017 will remain etched up on your memory, and why?
At the moment, nothing stands out.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I’m pretty damned happy with some of the work I did this year.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I have basically lost my last shred of patience over the holidays between multiple days of sickness and extremely cold weather have kept us cooped up inside. I’m sure there have been days when I was grumpier, but not in awhile.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
In August, I broke my right ring finger while getting on my bike. Yes, you read that correctly. I also had a wicked stomach bug over the holidays.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
We picked up an electronic keyboard for $30 a few weeks ago, so that’s been the standout purchase recently. Other great buys for the year include the Fjällräven totepack N bought me for my birthday and the terrible spiralizer I got for free that convinced us that we would actually use a spiralizer. Oh also we finally bought an actual bedframe after multiple years on the floor.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
I never cease to be proud of and amazed by my sister.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Most elected officials’.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Food and drink and rent, as usual.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Aquafaba, spiralizing, weekend long runs (miss u, warm weather), being able to walk to work.

16. What song will always remind you of 2017?

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?
Happier

ii. thinner or fatter?
I’m striking this question.

iii. richer or poorer?
More money and less debt than this time last year.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
The usual: sleep, running, time with friends, lying on the couch doing nothing.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Emotional labor.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
We’ve made a real effort to keep all holidays low-key. Sometimes it’s really hard, but sometimes it’s really worthwhile. This was the first year the 3 year old was excited about “Christamas”, and basically everything about the last month was magical for him: making decorations for our tiny tree, opening the doors of the paper advent calendar, drinking hot cocoa and shaking sleigh bells at the winter celebration in the park, looking forward to eating apple pie at my parents’ house on Christmas Day. The day itself was hectic and exhausting after a 4:45 wake up, but he was so happy, and there were big hugs all around, and now I understand why parents work so hard to make these moments special, even if their kids won’t remember.

21. Did you fall in love in 2017?
We finally moved to the neighborhood where I work after almost six years in my job. When I first moved to the city, I had absolutely zero interest in living in this neighborhood as it felt like the suburbs, and that was NOT the point of moving to the city. Priorities change, however, and the move has been such a net positive for our family that it’s caused me to see the neighborhood in a whole new light.

22. How many one-night stands?
Also striking this question.

23. What was your favorite TV program?
Comrade Detective, followed distantly by The Crown, Game of Thrones, and Twin Peaks. Also let me just tell you that texting about TV with my pal Jimi makes just about any show better.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
See above re: elected officials.

25. What was the best book you read?
This was the year that I maxed out my library account – apparently you can only check out 50 books at a time from the Chicago Public Library? Most of them were for the kid’s obsessions with dragons and Mr Putter and Tabby, of course, but I read a number of good books as well – more than in the last few years put together. My top three were:
Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life – Amy Krause Rosenthal
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? – Roz Chast
Liturgy of the Ordinary – Tish Harrison Warren

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
The new lcd soundsystem album was the first album in a looooooong time that I deliberately chose to sit down and absorb the first time through rather than treating as background noise.

27. What did you want and get?
Good news.

28. What did you want and not get?
Impeachment.

29. What was your favorite film of the year?
Moonlight absolutely destroyed me.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I got a brand new birthday buddy – niece #4 was born on my 37th birthday. My fell on a Monday, so a friend babysat the night before so that we could go out for a wonderful birthday dinner at Dusek’s. I was pretty hung over the next day. We went out for lunch and coffee, and apparently had pizza for dinner, though I can only tell you that because I’ve been keeping track of our dinners in my planner all year.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
More time at home with friends. I sincerely miss having the people I love in my home, even (or especially) when it’s for no good reason.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2017?
My Lent challenge this year was trying out a capsule wardrobe. My core wardrobe was something along the lines of 4-5 sleeveless tops, 3 cardigans, 2 skirts, a favorite t-shirt, and a pair of jeans (and maybe other things that I’ve forgotten because it was 9 months ago). These were, of course, the things I gravitated towards wearing anyway, but I was surprised to find that it wasn’t difficult at all. Of course, you’ll note that workout clothes aren’t included in there – or pajamas, for that matter – but these 12ish items worked out just fine for me. So: drapey sleeveless tops, a colorful skirt OR sweater paired with a dark sweater or skirt, kneesocks or tights, and practical shoes.

33. What kept you sane?
Running. My sister.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Nicolas Jaar tweeted about frogs and I replied and he liked my tweet and it was basically the best.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
Everything was terrible all year. It’s hard to pick just one.

36. Who did you miss?

*I may have actually gone a year between haircuts before, but not in at least a decade, and since that’s long enough for things to fall off a credit report, I think that’s long enough to count here.

The last few months in food

While I’ve stuck to my resolution to try at least four new recipes each month, I’ve done a terrible job of sharing them here. Since I have neither the inclination nor the data to figure out everything new that we’ve cooked since, oh, April, here are some highlights:

The Best Lentil Salad Ever – My New Roots
YOU GUYS, we ate this one to death over a couple of weeks of Sunday night picnics followed by several weekdays of lunches. The ingredient list is long, but that’s because the dressing is complex and wonderful and only improves the next day. If you are open to the possibility of a lentil-based salad, get you to the kitchen (and maybe the spice aisle to stock up) and make this right now.

Secret Ingredient Frozen Hot Chocolate – My New Roots
Let’s get this out of the way: the secret ingredient is frozen cauliflower. But I assure you that you won’t taste it at all. Really. This was delicious, especially with a dollop of coconut cream. If you’re less strict about refined sugars or dairy products, I bet you could doctor this up to be sincerely wonderful while still containing sneaky vegetables/fiber.

Roasted Cauliflower Tacos with Chipotle Romesco – Minimalist Baker
This romesco will blow the socks off your Taco Tuesday. This recipe requires relatively little effort unless you are like me and think that making tortillas from scratch is a reasonable thing to do on a weeknight with a broken finger.

Quinoa Cauliflower Tabbouleh – In Pursuit of More
Oh hello, another grain salad obsession. The combination of herbs, fruit, nuts, and a citrusy dressing is perfect for summer.

Vegan Banana Cake – Imagelicious
$1 bags of bananas from Open Produce sometime mean that we make a spontaneous cake. This was simple and delicious and will likely be revisited for the toddler’s birthday in a few weeks. I omitted the walnuts because: why.

Spring Cabbage Wraps with Couscous, Za’atar, and Spicy Tahini Dressing – My New Roots
The toddler likes saying “couscous”. I like that this took about 20 minutes to put together WITH the toddler from start to finish, including making the couscous, the spice mix, and the dressing. The red cabbage we used was a little too tough, but otherwise, this was a winner.

Red Earth Beet Burger – Harvest & Honey
I’ve been fumbling around trying to find a recipe for homemade veggie burgers that I really like. We had leftover beets and lentils from the Beet Party (see below), so I used this recipe as a guide. Good stuff.  This burger recipe from Blue Apron was somewhat less successful.

Fairy Tale Eggplant and Mozzarella Pizza with Blistered Cherry Tomatoes and Summer Squash – Blue Apron
We had two really solid pizzas in our Blue Apron boxes this summer. The flavor of this eggplant was really superb. This pizza was also nice.

Sundown Carrot and Grilled Corn Salad – My New Roots
One of many solid picnic dishes from this summer, especially with in season Midwest corn.

Watermelon Fattoush – Blue Apron
Another great picnic dish, though unfortunately this yielded a ton but didn’t keep all that well.

Beet Party – My New Roots
Another solid picnic dish, though I made all kinds of substitutions with what we had on hand. The recipe is vegan, but crumbed feta is an excellent addition for non vegans.

Poke-Inspired Beet Bowl – My New Roots
We eat fish, so I can tell you that this is not a substitute for actual poke, but it was a nice weeknight dinner. I like composed bowls of things, even if they require a bit more prep up front, in part because everyone can take as much of the things they actually want.

Summer Tian with Chermoula – Harvest & Honey
While I didn’t make exactly this, I made something extremely similar to this, and while it was gorgeous, it was also hard to serve.

Sweet & Savory Korean Rice Cakes – Blue Apron
This was interesting! I didn’t know what to expect from the Korean rice cakes, so it was a nice opportunity to try an ingredient we never would have worked with on our own.

Cod & Tomatillo Salsa with Summer Squash & Sweet Potato Hash – Blue Apron
While we eat fish, we rarely buy it, so this was a nice treat – an easy fish dish complemented by a really nice vegetable hash. N doesn’t tend to like sweet potatoes, but he liked these!

Sesame Soba Noodles with Gai Lan, Mushrooms, & Ginger Lime Peanuts – Blue Apron
A nice stir fry, but nothing to write home about. This dish sort of exemplifies my dissatisfaction with Blue Apron – the meals are generally good, but definitely not worth the $10 per-portion cost.

Blueberry Cardamom Chia Pudding – My New Roots
This was nice, but the volume did not work with our Vitamix. Alas.

Chilled Hiyashi Chuka Ramen – Blue Apron
This Blue Apron meal was a solid dud. The noodles were stuck together. The eggs popped while boiling. My attempt to make sesame mushrooms with $1 bag produce only sort of worked.

Pilsen, I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down

We’re moving to Hyde Park this weekend after three years in Pilsen – four years total for me. This is the longest time I’ve lived anywhere since moving out of my parents’ house twenty years ago, and as I write them down, both of those numbers seem crazy to me. For a solid decade, I moved at least every year, and while few of those moves were capricious, this current move has been so exhausting that I can’t imagine what the previous ones were like.

But I suppose things are different now. This apartment is the first that we shared together, and the last place we lived before becoming parents. It’s where we brought our baby home from the hospital. Where I breastfed him in the green chairs by the window while watching the marathon that I had wanted to run. Where he learned how to roll over and crawl and walk and talk and feed himself and use the toilet and draw jellyfish. Where those milestone came on the back of days and weeks and months of broken sleep. It’s where we said goodbye to Pandora, N’s faithful cat companion of many many years.

When I first moved to Chicago, Hyde Park felt like the suburbs to me – geographically far, relatively sleepy, and generally undesirable for someone who wanted to live in the city. I fell in love with the idea of a certain kind of life, and Hyde Park didn’t offer any of those things.

But again, things are different now. Five years ago, I went dancing every week. My weekends involved boozy nights out and foggy headed brunches with friends. I could do my long run, nap all afternoon, and then stay out until the wee hours with few consequences. It’s been almost two years since I went dancing – not since Neo closed. We’ve been trying for almost two weeks to wrangle a night when the toddler goes to sleep early enough that we aren’t too wiped to go out for an hour AND our friend is available to babysit. Long runs are squeezed in between early morning grocery store breakfast dates and trips to the park and the lake and the butterfly garden. Most nights I’m in bed before 10, if not earlier.

When we chose Pilsen, it was because it split the difference between the north side, where we would prefer to live, and my work on the south side. We were three miles from the heart of downtown and two miles from the lake. We could see the Sears Tower and, on a clear night, fireworks over Navy Pier. We could pretend like we were still going to go out, even if the reality was very different.

Pilsen has been our home, but it’s time to move on. Over the last year, it’s become clear that Hyde Park offers us many of the things we value about the north side – for example, access to the lake and museums – but with a dramatically shorter commute. In the years since I moved here, a number of amenities have been added to the neighborhood that have made it sooooo much more appealing – for example, there are grocery options other than the terrible Treasure Island. The wide range of ethnic foods down the street from us (and Jolly Pumpkin!) is a better fit for N’s vegan-mostly diet than the Mexican-mostly options in Pilsen. And I don’t even know where to begin with the parks.

So: it’s bittersweet, but it’ll be good. I will miss our life in Pilsen, particularly our lovely light-filled apartment, but I’m excited to start our new life in Hyde Park as well.