Friday, April 30, 2010

Thank goodness I'm not famous...

Yesterday was one of those days that make you glad you're not a reality star. We had a scene in Publix, screaming matches at home, and a late-night chocolate binge, no bath, the list goes on. I learned a lot about what upsets me, and I learned how challenging it can be to have two kids at home with me. Here is a brief osummary of what I learned:

1. It's worth it to make sure that everyone has eaten. N has a useful device for ensuring that her nutritional needs get met (waaaaah!), but C gets so busy playing that half the time he doesn't care to eat. Which leads to a post-nap blood sugar dip that is so severe that he becomes a little monster. Or at least his tendency to be monster-like increases in 15 minute intervals. So I have to figure out how to get more protein into him. Smoothies, maybe? I could call it "special chocolate milk," and mix in protein powder, flax oil, bananas... Also, I get very testy when I am hungry, which I was. I put off eating because we were going out to dinner, but I need my snacks too, just like my two kidlets. The three of us are different from B in that respect -- B, who could live on coffee in the morning, coffee for lunch, a big dinner, and a midnight snack. It is a perpetual wonder to me that anyone could survive on so little ;D

2. It's worth it for us to get out and get our exercise. It reduces my own ire a bit, but it reduces C's toddler angst by a huge amount. Not coincidentally, yesterday we did not go out and exercise. Note to self.

3. Watch the thermostat. It's a weird time of year when it is slightly chilly in the morning but hot in midday. The a/c was off from the morning, but by the midafternoon (the time of our screaming matches) it was nearly 80 in the house, which some people can stand, but which sends me into a destructive spiral. So, let's keep it 77 and below for the sake of our sanity.

4. Don't get too much of an agenda. Part of my problem was that I was trying to finish a bunch of household chores that were driving me crazy (dishes, laundry, etc.) and so I was ignoring the kidlets for a little longer than I normally would. Which leads downward, until I am shutting C in his room more for his benefit than for mine. :p

5. Take a breath. At the end of the day, it is better to walk out of a room for 5 minutes than to scream into your toddler's face.

All in all, it was a lesson in humility. There is no way to pretend that you are a perfect parent when you miss all your benchmarks for the day, including "don't yell and curse at your toddler." Sheesh. Not a proud day for me, but I did learn a little.

So thank goodness I'm not famous, because yesterday the paparazzi would have caught me at my worst, and today you would be reading about this on the front of the Enquirer as you waited in the checkout line.

Today, I actually got a lot of housework done, which makes me feel much better. I got my teaching done this morning and I have some more editing to do after C goes to bed, but all in all it is still possible for me to get done what I need to get done.

The keys to the housework seem to be the "Little Bits" theory coupled with dogged determination -- I have to go back to the same unfinished job six times in a row, but then all of a sudden I get an opportunity and I power through a bunch of stuff all at once. So most of the laundry is done, the clutter is clear (though of course not perfect) and there is a lot more clear space in my own head, which is the most cluttered area of all. :)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Week 3: Triumphs so far...

Little N is eating and growing a lot. It is hard sometimes having her attached to me for about 23.5 hours a day, but it is less difficult than I thought it would be. Chalk it up to her cuteness and the fabulous breastfeeding chemicals. :)

I am finding that the key to my happiness is wearing her in the sling -- she loves to just hang out in there, and it works whether we are out and about or at home. It works as I type (thank goodness!) and eat. I just wish it would work while I slept! :)

My biggest victory so far this week came yesterday. I got up with the idea of taking C out to burn some energy. I got the idea as I was praying about what in the world I could do to relate to him better, to overcome that little gap between us that had bene growing since N was born. We went to the playground and he ran around for a long time -- it seems like maybe physical activity is the way to keep him in a pretty good mood. He was much more mild and happy all day after having some time to wear himself out yesterday. He smiled at me without me having to tickle him, and we sang some of our old songs and had some fun yesterday. It warmed my old heart and made me feel like a mommy again. Yay! :) So now I want to try to work that sort of thing into most of our days. Where should we go today?? Hmm...

I also got the first draft of a story written -- I want to try to submit it, to check off the last item on my "Things to do by the time I turn 30" list. So far I have done everything except publish something. It it long overdue, so I have to try harder this year.

The "Little Bits" theory is working well so far also. For today, some teaching items and LAUNDRY. Blargh. ;D

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Little Bit about Little Bits

So some quick news updates: saw the primary care doctor and were relieved to be told that the original doctor we saw told us a completely incorrect diagnosis, and that what we thought was the rash spreading was really just an allergic reaction to the medicine which we were given to... uh... clear up the rash. Go ahead and figure that one out.

And I promise, that is the last rash-related update, at least for a while.

The real substance of this post is my recent thoughts about How I Will Manage To Teach With Two Children Including One Toddler and One Newborn. This topic has been occupying quite a bit of my mind lately. I have also been considering the fact that whenever something seems impossible (something that I must do, that is), it is because I am approaching it with some sort of inflexibility. When I discover the inflexibility and make it flex, often the problem dissolves, or at least becomes manageable.

The inflexibility I discovered here is that I prefer to have large chunks of time to do my work. I would rather sit down and do a week's worth of grading in one uninterrupted day than do little pieces of work here and there. However, with a nursing newborn (happy three-weeks-old, my sweet little N!) there is no such thing as a large chunk of time in which to do anything at all (including, as I discover, showering, eating, washing dishes, folding laundry, or going outside). In fact, Norah is nursing right now, and I am very pleased to discover that if I prop her head on my left elbow (she is in the sling), I can still type, although it is slightly more taxing on my forearm muscles than normal typing is. But what can I say? I suffer for my art.

But moving on with the discussion: there are no large chunks of time in my day. I suspect that my love of large chunks of time comes from a bit of nostalgia on my part for the time in my life when I was writing my thesis. I would sit down with an enormous pile of articles, a highlighter, some notepaper, and, like ten hours of uninterrupted time. And I would just absorb knowledge until I had to stop to eat or sleep. I even had a neat little desk just for my own use, in a fluorescent-lit office where no one ever was during the hours that I kept. It was kind of fantastic.

But that was then, and this is now, and raising a family rules out the large-chunks-of-time method. So I have thought a lot and prayed a little, and I am coming to an idea of using "little bits" of time. Because as much as I can never find six straight hours in which to do my work, I can certainly cobble together ten minutes here, fifteen there, maybe even 45 minutes or an hour somewhere else. So I have to start thinking of my work in these terms -- as small, discrete chunks of effort.

This approach will have some challenges; mainly, I have to conceive of my work in these little-bit increments, and keep my mind organized in that way. This might not seem like that big of a deal, but I have found that my postpartum mind resists organization like a college freshman resists commitment (zing!). So I have to maybe make written lists every day of all the little bits I must do.

But I think the advantages might outweigh the challenges. For instance, if I keep up a steady stream of "little bits" of work, my workload might stay manageable so that I don't have to do marathon grading sessions, which do wear me out, even if they are my mode-of-choice. So it could keep me from procrastinating and make me a better worker overall, against my will. Also (and this is a big one) doing my work in tiny piece will force me to let go of my perfectionistic, all-or-nothing approach to my paid work, which sometimes freezes me with anxiety -- if I feel like I can't get all the way through a big task, I don't even want to start it, out of fear of some far-off, nebulous thing, somewhat related to failure and somewhat related to Being Mediocre. I am not really sure what that fear-feeling is all about, but the moral of the story is that working in little bits will make me have to live with ambiguity and unfinished-ness while I work toward completing a task. I will not be the wunderkind that can complete all her work in one hour; nor will I be the most efficient, most streamlined worker in history. But perhaps I will be able to meet my benchmarks while still raising two happy healthy kids and having time for B as well. Living with ambiguity like this will be a spiritual exercise; I am chafing at the idea of it even now. But I feel like it will be good for me. I am interested to see what kind of fruits will come of it, through the veil of my kicking and screaming. What I need most is the grace to give in to the new schedule, the new set of goals, the new way of being, and to let go of my old ideas about What Should Be.

I am trying "little bits" out starting today, when I am beginning to prepare my course calendar and syllabus for posting tomorrow. I am giving myself a pass to only do a little because N has been feeding NONSTOP today, and I mean that literally. My longest stretch of putting her down (which I squandered by doing dishes! Curses!) was maybe 20 minutes, at about 11am. Since then she has been eating, eating, pausing to eat, eating to regain her strength after so much eating... you get the point. It is just what these newborns do. At any rate, she is definitely my daughter. There is hardly any point in life where I couldn't sit down to a meal. ;D

My table is messy and loud but it is weighed down with food and love and riches. :)

Thursday, April 22, 2010


So maybe, yes panic? Rash on C is spreading despite all of our efforts; I will spend tomorrow on the phone with doctors and shelling out $$ on copays and prescriptions, if I am lucky to get in to see someone.

I am thankful for modern medicine, but sometimes I hate dealing with the machine.


Spent the midday running errands with N while B stayed home with C -- We made it to Target and Publix both, getting almost everything we needed. We even made it to the Easy Mail to send a package to Reina in CA (it's the Yes shirt, that I thought I sent last year, but I just found it in the closet when I was cleaning. On its way to you, though very slowly...).

Aside from a few Emergency Milk Meals as we shopped, it was a very chill and successful (though slow -- so slow) trip, and I found myself running into a particular feeling over and over again, like the corner of the kitchen table that sticks out too far and keeps catching your hip no matter how hard you try to avoid it. It was the feeling produced when Interior Monologue shouts to me, "YOU MUST BE FORGETTING SOMETHING." And yes, it's in all caps. It's a feeling of sick panic, like realizing four hours after you leave home that perhaps you did not turn off the oven, or the coffee pot, or that possibly you forgot to respond to that email from your faithful client. Panic, with a tinge of hope that everything still might be okay. It happens to me a lot lately, as I find that taking care of two kids is somehow easier than taking care of one used to be, and then I think that surely it is because I MUST BE FORGETTING SOMETHING. Except I'm not.

Still, the internal alarm keeps sounding, and I have to repeatedly review lists in my head -- all the bills have been paid, the laundry is in the dryer, here is baby N right here, and C is home with B, so they are okay. The car runs, the food is in the fridge, so what is there to panic about?

Chilling out and accepting the blessing of peace when it comes is harder than it might seem. I don't crave chaos, but I am certainly used to it; part of me does feel kind of wrong when there is no crisis to solve.

Instead of putting out fires, the challenge now is just to go about my daily business, keeping cheerful and not freaking out, even (and especially) when there is nothing to freak out about. Or, to be more faithful to the rules of English grammar: when there is nothing about which to freak out.

Cheers! :)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Embrace the Chaos...

First, in regards to my last post, C does not have chicken pox, just an annoying skin rash that will eventually go away on its own. Finding this out used up the whole day yesterday, though, so all day today I have been doing dishes and laundry to catch up what I did not do yesterday because I was so busy worrying.

Today brought some smiles, most notably this morning. N was sleeping well, so I got C started on some finger paints at his request (*side note: I LOVE finger painting -- the stuff is the consistency of the lemon goo in lemon meringue pie and it is really fun to play in). Then N woke up to eat, and while I was stationed on the couch feeding her, the finger painting station in the kitchen grew suspiciously quiet. Then came the announcement dreaded by mothers everywhere: "I painting with my FEET!" He was delighted; I was horrified. I went to the kitchen and found my budding artist amid a modest scattering of red, blue, and purple footprints.

Luckily finger paint is very washable.

So I stifled the creative genius today, forcing him to wash hands and taking the paints away until I have time to fully supervise him. Still, I have to laugh. And he gets points for creativity! :)

Aside from this specific event, I am being led to a different kind of understanding of domestic life. It goes something like this: I have an ideal vision of what my domestic life should look like -- something like a cross between a clean idyllic pioneer homestead and a Martha Stewart photo shoot. Completely ridiculous, and yet how do I let go of it? With two kids -- a newborn and a very... uh... creative toddler, an ideal of complete neatness is ridiculous, not even taking into account my own housekeeping challenges. One thing I learned as soon as C was born is that your effort shows differently with housekeeping after you have kids. As an example, let's say I spend an hour straightening the living room. If I were just me, everything I cleaned would pretty much stay clean until I messed it up. However, with one kid, you only retain about a 75% to 80% cleanliness rate -- if you pick up 100 toys, about 20 to 25 of them will be brought out again before you are done cleaning. So you lose some of your efficiency right there. Add a nursing newborn to the mix, and between stopping and starting every 20 to 30 minutes to feed (with some longer breaks here and there) and you are lucky to even remember what you were doing, much less actually complete a task. Add your own meals and meals for the toddler, bathing yourself, answering the phone and (of course) blogging, and you are lucky to end up just getting back to zero by the end of the day, meaning, you will work all day and the house will look exactly the same as it did when you woke up. (But it won't look worse! That is your victory for the day.)

It can sound terrible if you look at it that way, judging yourself by the same standards that you used before you had a family. But the challenge is to redefine success. For me, success used to be straight A's, clean house, tons of friends, and a dinner and a movie date with B. Now, it is a little less tangible -- bills paid, babies fed and healthy (if they are happy that's a plus, but sometimes they just aren't, and that has to sometimes be okay), time for conversation and relaxing with B, even if there is a nursing baby there with us during the late night hours. No huge messes, and domestic life progressing forward one step at a time. Maybe there is a load of wet laundry that won't get dried until morning; maybe the dinner dishes are just soaking and won't be washed until morning (or afternoon) either.

But I am holding out hope that the rewards of our labor will come later, when we have established a happy, healthy family. And how could we ever manage to do that without a little bit of mess?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Rash Decision

Full of anxiety today as I wait for the doctor to call me back (waiting... waiting...) C has a rash that might be chicken pox or something else, I have no idea. Hoping N has not caught it. On edge, tired, waiting to hear back. Hate not knowing. Worried about C, worried about N. :p

Monday, April 19, 2010

Half-Dose of Reality

Today marks the beginning of half-reality; that is, B starts back to work half days today, and I begin compiling documents and info to start teaching one class next Monday (compared to the four I was teaching right before Miss N arrived, this is definitely a light load!). I can't mark this passage without saying how idyllic and lovely it has been having B home for two full weeks. I am not sure if he would characterize the paternity leave in quite the same glowing terms, but for L it has been fantastic, and made even more fantastic by the fact that it exists at all, since all the paternity leave was used up on NICU time when C was born. In contrast, this time, we just got to sit around and get used to each other. It makes me wish a person could take 2 weeks off of work whenever anything changes, just to have time to get used to it. I think it would be a much more humane system.

With all that being said, half days aren't that bad, I guess, although apparently B is currently trying not to drown in a sea of emails today as he returns to work.

And the good news is, so far we are doing well here, and I have not lost either one of the kids in a pile of laundry or bucket of toys. N is sleeping now (though who knows for how long -- she slept so much yesterday that she is making up for it by eating a LOT today) and C is winding down for nap.

Which leads me to my own work. Preparing to teach this class is something like preparing to take a bunch of cats for a leash-free walk. Where do you start? How do you keep all those mewling little fuzzies from just running away as soon as you open the door? Has anyone ever written a comprehensive guide to doing this? (answer: no). But it's online work and it's interesting once it gets started, so I'll take it. When it comes to work-related compromises, herding a few cats is no big deal in comparison to what I have had to put up with in previous jobs, for instance:

(1) The boss who threw garbage at me (really!)
(2) Having to pretend that I deeply care about the obscure agendas of tiny corners of state offices (i.e. marketing starfruit and tropical fish to the citizens of Florida)
(3) Loading frozen turkeys into the backs of SUVs for able-bodied men

Overall, some annoying back-and-forth email is no big deal. :)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Get a Bit of Air

Having a quiet moment -- a very Sunday moment -- N has started to sleep between feedings (!!! yay!!!) She is sleeping in the front carrier (sort of like a backpack that goes on your front) where she has been for 2+ hours. I have cleaned the kitchen and living room, part of bathroom and C's room, done 2 loads of laundry, and caught up on emails. Now I am playing some Nickel Creek and...just...sitting. It's the most extended break I have had since she was born, and it has only been two weeks!

You all are going to get tired of me saying this, but a full-term baby is SO different. I feel like I can actually do this! :) Plus it's a beautiful day and my living room is clean.

What more can a person ask for?

Considering getting some finger paints for C to try tomorrow :) (outside, of course)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Sleep Magic

Problems Solved: (1) Newborn-Sleep dilemma (2) When-to-Teach dilemma

(1) A new configuration including a co-sleeper and a more comfortable bed yields a nearly-full night of sleep. I find that if I get 5-6 hours a night, I do fine, and I am getting somewhere between 5 and 7 hours of sleep. My most urgent prayer, answered. Thank you!

(2) Having decided to accept the contract beginning on 4/19, I sign on to accept it and discover that it closed a day earlier than I thought. I am offered a contract starting on 4/26, which I would much rather accept, and I do.

Today was a nice Saturday, lunch with a good friend who always helps me to feel like a real person. While eating tasty lunch at the organic grocery store, I see the parents of my arch-enemy exiting with their organic purchases. It turns out I still get a pursed-lip scowl from mom-of-enemy. Right back at you, Mrs. B! ;D

The story of my enemy: To call her an enemy is probably over-dramatic, but it goes something like this: I am friends with her from first grade until I am 25. When I get engaged, she becomes distant, when I get married she starts making up stories about me, and by my two-year wedding anniversary she has successfully turned most of our mutual friends against me to the point that they won't even speak to me to tell me why they all hate me. Welcome back to middle school! :) I tried for a while to negotiate things, but after a while I gave up. One truth I have discovered in my life is that when I consistently feel worse after spending time with someone, it is time to see less and less of that person. To me, it's a purely pragmatic decision. To her, evidence that I am heartless. Maybe I am; how would I know? :D One of the dubious advantages of living in the same semi-small town where you were born -- encounters like that one. Being so connected with your past, whether you want to or not.

The weather today was wonderful; a bit too pollenacious for my taste but other than that, delightful. Tomorrow I look forward to decluttering my bedroom; the piles of clean-and-dirty laundry have begun heckling me in the wee hours of the morning.

No more, ye laundry monsters! No more.

The latest dilemma -- I am feeling the urge to write write write, which this blog is helping to ameliorate somewhat; but I want to publish something (in print. on paper.) before I am 30. So, to find the proper (1) subject (2) market (3) amount of time in which to write and revise.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The First Week

Several things are very apparent after the first week of having little N home from the hospital.

First, having a full-term baby is SO DIFFERENT from having a preemie. C was born 8 weeks early and it was a whole different story with him. I don't want to sound all cocky or tempt fate, but taking care of N is a walk in the park compared with out first few months with C. The worst thing so far is staying up late feeding her when she is cluster feeding (current record was set last night, when she ate from 11pm until 4:30am before falling into 2-hour stretch of sleep). And that's kind of it. And I can't help thinking, at least she eats! At least she gains weight! I lost so much sleep over trying to get C to gain even one ounce at a time, at the very beginning.

That being said, it would be really nice to take an hour-long hot bath or sleep through a night. But I guess another benefit to having a second child is that this time, I know that this difficult low-sleep period is temporary. I can set my jaw and power through another 6 to 8 weeks of this, before she regularizes her schedule a little.

One of the hardest things about coming home is the adjustment in my relationship with C -- of course, when he was my only child, I had a lot more energy and time just for him, although even in the last stages of pregnancy I was not able to give him as much just because I was so large and tired. When B and N and I were in the hospital, it seems to me that he popped up into a new phase of toddlerhood -- his sentences are longer, his requests more detailed, and his tantrums more premeditated. In a way, I have had to get to know him again. He changes so quickly that even three days apart threw us a little off-kilter.

It seems to me now that the thing to do is to let go of my expectations about him (an emerging theme of parenthood in general) and let my intuition lead me to what he needs, and what my relationship with him should be. Today this led me to the idea of helping him to get more exercise, to burn off some of that unbelievable toddler energy (my attempt at modifying a USB cable to download some of it to myself has so far proved unsuccessful -- and I can't seem to find the USB port on his head no matter how short I cut his hair), so for today we went to the playground. It was a very successful trip -- over an hour in which I did not have to tell him "no" even once. The weather was sunny and warm, but with a cool breeze, and not too much humidity. N chilled out in the sling and I successfully nursed her twice while C played -- score two for me! And I got both kids in and out of the car, and I didn't forget anybody at the playground. What more could I want?

The latest thing that I am mulling over (a bit too much, actually -- I need to calm down the brain and perhaps slash the coffee intake a bit...) is when to return to teaching. On the one hand, it isn't that hard, especially if I am only teaching one class at a time. (I teach college research writing for two different online colleges.) On the other hand, some classes can be very difficult -- argumentative students, plagiarism, having a class that just doesn't "get" the paper assignments, etc. These things can add hours of work per week, and after yesterday's all-nighter I am thinking that a little more time to get used to two kids might be better. On the other hand, B is on leave right now, and has offered lots of time watching the kids. But back on the first hand again, I just got done teaching a total of six different sections within a 12 week period, and I was more than a little burned out. I had two days off, then went into labor with N. Is it time to jump back in? Should I wait a little longer? I am thinking I will wait.

That leads me to my final thought for this meandering post. I do not mean to be ungrateful to anyone who has helped me out so much since N was born, but I am having a hard time right now figuring out when to ask for help and when not to. Here are my thoughts about it. I am nearly completely recovered from birth/labor -- I have bounced back pretty quickly. My mental state is better overall when I am fully engaged in my life -- as much as I appreciated it when people came over to wash my dishes and do my laundry, part of me felt like I was walking in molasses or looking through fog, watching other people live my life for me. I can't help it -- I just prefer to do things myself, even if I can only do them halfway. I am also really eager to see how well I can do, fully growing into this new life as a full time mother of two. Can I do it? I still don't really know, and I am curious to find out. What will be the hardest part? What will be easier than I thought? I want so much to get to the point where I feel competent as mom of two, and I know that I will not really get there until I jump in and do it. It's like, in this early newborn phase, I am sitting on the ski lift, and it keeps going up and down the mountain. Nobody is pushing me out of the lift, some people encourage me to stay in as long as I can, watching other people ski, but all I want to do it just jump out and see how long I can stay on my feet. Will I look back at this phase and wish I had eased into it more slowly, asking for a lot more help, or is this way of approaching it -- doing whatever I can for myself, splitting the work with B, cooking and cleaning because it makes me feel more like me than napping and calling people to come and take care of things for me -- the better, healthier approach for me?

Meet the Nashes

Hi! Welcome to my online home. I am Lisa, happy wife and new mother of two. My son is two and a half, and my daughter was born last week. I am already yearning to write about the differences, the experiences, the uniqueness of welcoming our second child. And I also want to share the less-than-elegant moments of parenthood, which teach me about myself, my God, and my place in the messy world. So, with no further ado, meet the Nashes:

L Nash. That's me. I am the mom. I am 29 years old. Husband and I have been married for four years. I was born in the same town where I live now -- a sleepy Southern capital, a pocket of liberalism, a tiny blue county in the middle of a red, red state. In college I was not sure whether I wanted to be a nun or a wife, but when I met Husband I knew for sure within about two weeks. Since then I have felt that something about domestic life was my key to happiness, and the road to whatever holiness I am supposed to reach. We got married in December of 2005, and welcomed our son in October 2007, five days before closing the mortgage on our suburban house where we now live. Our daughter was born 11 days ago. The domestic life suits me pretty well, better than what I expected. I am a little bit of everything: wife, mother, editor, teacher, friend, writer, homemaker, chauffer, cook, and guardian of a moody betta fish. The thing is, I don't do any of these things 100% well (just ask the fish)-- life for me is about striking "good enough" with as many of these categories as I can. And sometimes with none of them. My obsessions include the 90s TV show Northern Exposure, the movie Monsoon Wedding, meditation, baking, the "process vs. product" writing pedagogy debate, getting a system in place so that I can actually manage the housekeeping, polygamous societies, utopian religion of the 19th century, and trying to grow things (I currently have two parsley plants that have survived since January...).

B Nash, my wonderful husband. Red hair, very cute, drummer in a band, state Accounting supervisor by day. A great father and a thoughtful, caring spouse. Obsessions include death metal bands both well-known and obscure, lawn care (used to work on a golf course -- constantly hatching plans for how to make our lawn perfect), the combination of peanut butter and chocolate, the movie Scarface, and working on music. He is the perfect combination of practical and idealistic -- a man who brings home the bacon but also enjoys life and its many possibilities. I will reiterate: very cute.

C Nash, my son. Two and a half years old. Follows in my footsteps in the following ways: looks like me, doesn't really believe that he is a child, hates to be corrected, full of ambition, sometimes very patient, sometimes completely lacking in all patience, tends toward melodrama at times. Takes after B in the following ways: very musically inclined, excellent sense of drumming and rhythm, innate sense of justice, facial expressions just like B's, 100% boy, lusts after power tools. Obsessions include things on wheels, wild animals, the movie Shrek, gummy snacks, stealing the spray cleaner and spraying every surface he can reach, pounding on things with a toy hammer, and recently, defying L and B whenever possible (but one gets the sense that he is just obeying the call of toddlerhood).

N Nash, my daughter. Seven pounds, likes onesies, hates zip-up sleepers and having her diaper changed. Not a fan of the alcohol-swab-on-umbilical-stump thing either. Obsessions include eating and... eating. Very easygoing baby, as long as you keep her supplied with milk. She looks a lot like B, a little like me, and a lot like C as well.

CrabFish Nash, the moody betta (named by C for his trailing fins, which apparently resemble crab legs). He lives in a low flat bowl (leftover centerpiece from our wedding reception) on our kitchen counter, directly above the dishwasher. He is blue and red and refuses to eat anything but mosquito larvae. When I put off cleaning his bowl for too long he sulks and mutters insults at me from within the refuge of his bubble nest. He is a cocky little fish who has lived a pampered existence since we liberated him from the Walmart tropical fish department. He doesn't believe me when I threaten to send him back. Even CrabFish knows how abysmal Walmart's customer service is.