july 4

We got to spend July 4 with excellent friends and family. We started the day at the climbing gym with the Drehers.

watching Miles and Lisa climb

watching Miles and Lisa climb

It was thirsty work.

It was thirsty work.

After lunch and a nap, we headed to the wading pool with Aunt Peanut.

Then Annie had her second go at watermelon, which she still primarily prefers to squash to death in her fists. She also discovered that she loooooves kefir (basically watery plain yogurt).

She's wearing this emergency outfit from her diaper bag after she pooped at the pool and required a full-body wipe down.

She’s wearing an emergency outfit from her diaper bag after she pooped at the pool and required a full-body wipe down.

Then Dad gave her a quick bath so she was capable of a goodbye hug.




Just a nice Saturday around the house yesterday. Started with some peaceful indoor playtime.


She’s pretty good at getting on and off of chairs and furniture by herself now. Terrifying. And possibly related to the way she’s perpetually covered in little bump marks and bruises these days.

We moved on to some good splashing in our new, shady under-deck.


Our enjoyment of play and relaxation was increased by watching Dad hard at work finishing construction. I covered her ears for the sawing.

I suppose if we can handle one toddler + power tools, we will probably be able to cope with a second kid.



Fully soaked by her outdoor adventures, she got a second suit of clothes after nap time. We call this one her “park ranger” outfit. (She can also eat whole apples by herself now. And by whole, I do mean stem, core, and all.)



Later she drenched herself again and required yet a third outfit, but I lost steam on the documentation, so we’ll leave it here.

pig roast II

There were moments leading up to this year’s Pig Roast when I feared we were ignoring obvious signs from the universe to give it up: the exorbitant pig price thanks to last year’s pork plague, the weeks of relentless thunderstorms forecast to continue through the holiday weekend, the 200-mile drive with the one infant in the world who won’t sleep in the car.

Thank goodness I kept my doubts to myself, because this year’s roast was fabulous. Preceded by Cameron and Sous by a couple of days, Bryan and I drove up with my mom and Annie on Friday. She didn’t sleep much but chilled out peacefully in her carseat. Everyone had lunch at, appropriately, a Dairy Queen, and we made it to the ranch with hours to spare before the first tasty meal of the weekend: french dip sandwiches made with smoked prime rib, and strawberry shortcake for dessert. Between the caloric demands of milk production and the possibility of a sleeping baby waking at any moment, I inhale all my meals these days, but I very much enjoyed my 3 minutes with this one.

Called on account of rain in the 4th inning with a score of 15-13.

Called on account of rain in the 4th inning with a score of 13-15.

Annie had great naps all weekend, and we had many wonderful family helpers, freeing both of us up for a lot more ranch fun than we expected. Saturday’s big events included pig-pit building, for which Bryan had able assistance from friend Chris and thoughtful oversight from Dad/Marc, and The Softball Game, which shows signs of becoming an essential part of our newly-minted Memorial Day tradition. A parade of Pous and neighbors also came by to admire Annie, and I had the proud-parent pleasure of watching her charm them with her fleeting smiles and earnest coos.

Maybe next year we'll actually make merit badges.

Maybe next year we’ll actually make merit badges.

Pig prep commenced in the late afternoon with pleura-removal, and Kaci earned her Pig Roast merit badge by boldly excavating the eyeballs. Sous monitored the situation closely—after the roast Bryan would find her with the entire pig skin halfway down her throat—and flopped around the perimeter in her increasingly-dirty e-collar. Heavy rain did not dampen our enjoyment of dominoes, CalvinPong, or karaoke on the barn stage. It did unfortunately dampen our tent-dwellers, but what can you do?

Gentlemen, synchronize your smartphones.

Gentlemen, synchronize your smartphones.

Team Pig assembled at 8:30 the next morning for fire-starting, ingeniously using a leaf blower to help ignite the coals (they only set a small patch of lawn on fire, hardly the worst indignity suffered by the grass this weekend). While Bryan parented, Ali earned the Fire Captain title due to his diligent attention to pit temperature, facilitated by this year’s technological improvement: the Tappecue, which measured the temperature in both pig and pit and broadcast them to the cooks via smartphone app, complete with data visualization and alarms for out-of-range temps. When the skies cleared in the early afternoon, Lisa, Kaci and I hitched a ride on Claude’s boat for a lake tour while the boys monitored, variously, the pig’s temperature and the piglet’s nap.

We're on a boat.

We’re on a boat.

The pig was unveiled at dinnertime, and lo, it was good. Team Pig dished up the food; I jiggled the baby; the multitudes feasted under sunny-ish skies. We’re already looking forward to next year.

When 14-year-old Annie is running the pit, we'll take her picture like this and hang them together.

When 14-year-old Annie is running the pit, we’ll take her picture like this and hang them together.


Bryan goes to work

Thanks to Google’s generous parental-leave policy and his accommodating coworkers, Bryan was able to take a month off after Annie’s birth (and will take another when I go back in July). Today that month has ended, however, and he is back in the office for half-days. Despite this easing into it, my solo-parenting has not gotten off to a slam-dunk start.

I’m tempted to blame it all on The Dog. She has been back in a plastic post-surgical cone collar thanks to a 6-month-old butt-wound infection that apparently her licking is entirely responsible for. Five courses of antibiotics barely made a dent, but put her back in the cone for a couple of weeks to keep her from touching it, and the wound heals right up. We tried to reprieve her this weekend, but she immediately chewed it up again, so she’s wearing that dumb cone until we can’t even see a scar.

Unfortunately, she still has not learned how to navigate the house in the cone without crashing it into furniture and walls, and she still tries to scratch behind her ears, making the sound of a truckload of empty milk jugs clattering onto concrete. She’s noisy, is what I’m saying. Really, breathtakingly noisy, in a house where sometimes the click of a door will wake the sleeping baby. (Other times, sleeping baby is completely unfazed by an accidentally-activated alarm clock blaring at midnight until we launch panicked out of bed to silence it. Go figure. )

Sous also hates thunder. Or maybe not “hates” so much as “is utterly terrified by,” something we can mitigate by swaddling her in her thundershirt.

So this morning it happens to be storming as Bryan sets off for his first day back at work. He has gotten Annie down for a nap, so the house is peaceful as he leaves, but Sous is panting with thunder-distress. I think I’ll just tiptoe into the bedroom for the thundershirt, but of course Sous can’t resist crashing up the stairs behind me. Halfway up I grab her cone to keep it from slamming into every subsequent step, but the damage is done: Annie is awake. Which is to say, crying.

Trying not to make it worse, I herd Sous into the second bedroom to panic by herself. I let Annie cry while I go for the thundershirt. It is not it its usual spot. I rifle through the dirty clothes in case it’s been swept up. No dice. I give up on Sous for a minute and try to calm Annie down with shushing and her latest-favorite pacifier. No luck. So now, an inconsolable baby in one bedroom, and a dog having a panic attack in the other.

I go downstairs to make a quick sweep for the thundershirt (nowhere) and realize I’m ravenous. I know I can calm Annie down by nursing her, but that will immobilize me for half an hour, so I grab the end of a bag of Fritos from the counter and run back upstairs. I let Sous out of the bedroom and tell her she’ll just have to fend for herself. I scoop Annie up to nurse: baby in one hand, Fritos in the other. Sous is trying to make circles around my feet, her giant conehead scraping against the walls. Bryan has been gone for precisely 8 minutes.

Half an hour later, though, the storm is over, and Annie has resumed her nap. And now, nearly two hours after that, I’m starting to want to go back upstairs to make sure she’s still breathing. But Cone-Head is downstairs with me, and I know how that will end.

(another) first day of school

Fifteen years ago this week we woke up in Carothers dormitory and toddled off to our very first college classes. Today Bryan headed back to UT to teach a computer science course as an adjunct professor. So proud of that one.

class of 2018

(Under the same “things that make us feel old” heading, file the fact that today’s entering freshmen will be the class of 2018. 2018! And no flying cars at all.)

here and now

I enjoyed this article on travel writing in the NYTimes a few days ago. “If I am skillful enough to capture and hold this moment now, someone reading my words at some distant time and place will feel the same here-and-now-ness that I did back then and there.” In workshops he asks his students to write as much as they can for 5 minutes, beginning with the prompt, “Here and now I am…”

I tried it on the bus home:

Here and now I am on the Metro Rapid bus, headed home. Here and now I am yawning, yawning. Here and now I am a little bit hungry because all I’ve eaten today is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, as I walked across campus between one of my seven hours of meetings and another. Here and now I am wondering what I have the energy to do tonight. Here and now I am quiet, and happy to be quiet. Here and now I am thinking this deodorant that I put on this morning is better than the other kind I’ve been using. Here and now I am wanting a beer. Here and now I see palm trees, and a condo complex going up. Here and now I sway back and forth with the brakes of the bus. Here and now I glance surreptitiously at my fellow passengers, as we maintain the fiction of public privacy. Here and now a gnat crawls across my screen. Here and now my neck hurts, and I regret not going to yoga class two days ago. Here and now I see a tall thundercloud in the distance. Here and now a stop is requested. Here and now I think of my unanswered emails. I wonder about the castle that’s been constructed on Congress—some gaming place? It looks like someone drove a car through the front of one of my favorite gift stores. I must put my computer away and get off the bus.