pan kisses kafka

Wovon man nicht schweigen kann, darüber muss man sprechen.

One. Mother. Fucking. Year. 

Dear Babby,

It feels wrong to address you this way, to call you a baby, even though it feels like yesterday that I was splayed out on a hospital bed with my insides mangled, my pelvis sliced open and then glued back together (I assume that’s how they do it, why else would it cost $9000?), peering over at this strange, terrifying, insatiable little creature in the acrylic bassinet two feet over, unable to start a sentence without flooding with emotion: relief that you were healthy and alive; exhaustion at the 39 hours of labor and subsequent surgery; utter terror at the fact that apparently the nice people at the hospital were going to entrust me and your father with keeping you alive when I didn’t even know how to put clothes on you, or give you a bath, or even really hold you.

It feels wrong to address you as a baby, to think of you as “the baby,” to tell people that I’m sorry my house is so filthy/my writing is so late/my late writing is so shitty/my hair is sticking straight up/I forgot to return that library book/I had to leave the restaurant/I have not been able to keep a single appointment for the past 365 days because, well, you know, I have a baby. (Everybody understands. Will everybody still understand?)  You’re not a baby anymore, even though when I close my eyes I still see this ridiculous one-month-old sweetie, still an insatiable beast who sometimes nursed for six hours in a row, who gave me thrush that wouldn’t go away (especially because of the antibiotics I had to take when my C-section incision got infected), who didn’t really recognize that I existed outside of my giant engorged excruciating boobs, who was just starting to fall deeply and madly in love with her shapes.

You’re not a baby anymore, which means you’re no longer an immobile lump of breastfed fois gras, a Peak Fat two-month-old whose neck has disappeared entirely under seven chins, and who has at long last discovered that her parents are human beings who enjoy being smiled at once in awhile when you’re not gracing us with another diaper-shattering crap. (We threw away more onesies than I’d care to admit, and there were always three or four freshly-rinsed ones, still with that tell-tale yellow tinge, hanging in the shower).

Now you sit up all by yourself, and you don’t need a Boppy (which you are using here on the six-month setting at three months, stuffed into nine-month clothes). You play “by yourself” sometimes, too (so long as we watch you and make sure you don’t impale yourself on anything, which would be your number-one pastime if we let it), as opposed to mugging for the camera grasping one of your brand-new “enriching” expensive toys, which you didn’t actually like and would soon jettison onto the street on a walk without us even noticing. We saw a neighbor kid playing with an identical toy, and said, “Hey, our kid has that toy,” and the neighbor said, “We found this one on the street.”

You are no longer a Jabba-the-Hutt-looking four-month-old who takes three hours to be put down for a 45-minute nap, who has learned to play games and sit up unassisted, and has even been snuck a finger-full of mashed banana against doctor’s orders. Now you eat anything and everything you can get your filthy little mitts on, chomping it down gamely with your eight teeth, throwing it all over the kitchen (or restaurant). Your favorites are: blueberries (frozen and fresh), broccoli, oranges, and frozen peas, but you also enjoy pancakes, hummus, beans, crusts of bread, potatoes, eggs, bacon, leaves, twigs, lint, and all forms of paper (though lightweight cardboard remains at the top of the list).

My little five-month-old baby, sitting up second nature now, who sprouted teeth and loved to be toted around in your grandma’s garden wagon upstate is but a memory now, though I can still remember what you looked like the first time you sucked something successfully through a straw (that may or may not have been kombucha, which you still enjoy in small amounts, in case anyone from Child Protective Services is reading this).

My six-month-old baby, no longer Peak Fat but still topping the charts at the doctor’s, who loved nothing more than to watch me stack some blocks and knock them down (well, nothing besides gardening with her grandmother, or being with her grandmother in general), has given way to a lither toddler (toddler!) who loves nothing more than to bulldoze her way through a bunch of other kids stacking blocks and rudely knock over their creations (I have no idea where she learned that). Today at Toddler Time at the library, a bruiser of a 2-year-old named Leo was so unimpressed with you that he subjected you to your first ever act of intentional violence (you accidentally near-death yourself on a daily basis and only by the grace of all deities and your relatively quick-reflexed parents are you still alive and all-limbed), a big fat shove, which broke your heart and scared you and set loose a wail that shook the library. “She’s in a grabby phase,” I tell everyone. They all understand. “She’s just a baby,” they say. But you’re not really, are you?

You’re no longer the pensive, interactive seven-month-old who withstood an entire month of your mother having a nervous breakdown after she wrote what she thought was a cute tribute to your four-month sleep regression (that lasted until seven months). I spent most of that month apologizing to you, for being a terrible parent, for being a woman on the internet, for being “abusive” and neglectful while I looked down at my phone at the latest death threat instead of into the open, longing face sitting right across from me on the bed.

You bear a slight resemblance to the eight-month-old beauty who started to crawl and wouldn’t stop, and went from super-fat to regular-fat in Oregon, who delighted your other grandparents in their house, in the beautiful new room they built just for you, who withstood countless lunches at Morning Glory and the Glenwood, who sat gamely in the high chair gnawing on bagels (which were only sometimes stolen by Billy Budd the dog) while your parents chowed down on their feelings, I mean innumerable sweet treats from Sundance Natural Foods, and then wondered why we weren’t losing the baby weight (or the sympathy weight) even though we worked out at the Y every day.

You still deploy the signature high-chair move of the nine-month-old who fed Cheerios to her “ah-ah,” the word you coined to describe your father before you could say your “p” sounds. The nine-month old crawling tornado who said “mama,” who started recognizing pictures of teddy bears in books, who leaned down and kissed the picture of the baby from Bhutan in Global Babies — that creature I recognize, though you have still grown so much since. You learned your “p” sound, for one, and now you say “papa” no less than ninety thousand times a day, when you are not saying one of your other many dozens of words, so many that we’ve lost count and couldn’t begin to try. Right now your favorite things to say are “up…down” (though you pronounce it “daaahyn”), “cute” (though you pronounce it “toot”), “cat,””car,” “block,” “shoe,” and the alphabet and numbers. When we say the alphabet (or read you one of your eighty million alphabet-related books, which are currently your favorite books), and pause for “P,” “S” and “T,” you supply them. When we count, you can supply all the even numbers up to ten; you can also recognize the symbols for 8 and 10 and identify them wherever you can, and yell them out. Every day you gain a handful of new words and I think, Jesus H. Christ, if I multiplied my knowledge and cognitive abilities like that every day I’d have just learned Swahili while writing this post.

You are indeed quite similar to the ten-month-old who lived in the Lafayette Hotel in San Diego for a month, who kicked and splashed in the pool, and who learned to love her stroller as we walked you back and forth from your grandmother’s every day. Like that ten-month-old, you still gravitate toward whatever in any given room happens to be the deadliest — but unlike that little girl, who pushed herself uncertainly to a stand for twenty seconds at a time and then crashed down to the floor, you can now walk. You took your first step unassisted at the Denver airport, between flights on the final day of 2015, the year of your birth, the year I will always and never remember, because it is the most important year of my life and simultaneously was the biggest blur of endless nights, sore boobs, wrecked houses, exploded butts. We got home to St. Louis around midnight, and you politely climbed into your car seat (something you have literally never done and before or since) and watched as we unpacked manically, until, at 1:30 a.m. (!) you let your unfit parents know that you were fucking tired by way of melting down into sobs, and we tucked you into the bed that served as your first cozy resting place when you came home from the hospital with us all those months ago. All that one entire year ago.

You are not unlike that beautiful eleven-month old child who started with a few uncertain steps every other night, and then quickly escalated into full-scale lumbering, now using your feet as your sole (as it were) mode of transport, walking and talking from the moment you wake up in the morning (“CAT! ASHER! CAR! S! TURKEY! CUP! UP DOWN UP DOWN UP DOWN UP DOWN!”) until the moment you collapse at night, which is usually preceded by an hour of “Drunky Bean” drunking around the bed, kicking your little legs and being ridiculous, sometimes doing your “dance moves,” which is one of the few times you sit voluntarily. Your “dancing” involves sitting on your butt (which you pronounce “BUP!”) and bouncing up and down; you haven’t discovered that it’s possible to dance standing up yet. Unless you count the awesome game your father made up where he throws a muslin blanket over your head and then you go tearing around the room bumping into stuff like the world’s most reckless ghost. (It is a terrible game. It is no longer allowed.)

You are a year old. You are a toddler now. You walk. You talk. You play (which you pronounce “PWEEEEEY!”). You hug and kiss (which you pronounce “HUK!!!!!!!” before doing). You have the biggest heart. You’re still not the greatest napper. You have this awesome habit of getting up and running away whenever I try to change your diaper (which I can’t do on the changing table for obvious reasons). You are my entire life, the greatest entity I have ever had the honor of being anywhere near. I am so lucky to be your mother. We have all, you, your father and I, grown so much since that terrifying, dark night we brought you home without the slightest clue what to do with you. (Technically your father and I have also shrunk, having given up eating our feelings shortly before the great Norovirus outbreak of Christmas.)

Now, on your very first birthday (other than your Birth Day, my Birthing Day), I still don’t think I’ve managed to capture you, your you-ness, how I feel about you, how you feel about you (and about everything else). But I did my best. Just like I’ve done for every second of every day since you came into my life. I still can’t believe you’re here. I still can’t believe you ever weren’t.

And now you’re one. You’re not a babby. You’re a little girl. And I love, more than anything that has ever existed, that you are mine.




Sayonara, suckaz! 

The baby — not really a baby anymore — recently started walking. Today was creepily, unseasonably warm, so we took her to the park that they built on top of the underground parking structure at the hospital where I gave birth. She took her first steps outside. Clearly hating every minute, obviously. Only a matter of time (like, hours at this rate) before she takes off at a run and we never see her again. 



Job Market Sads are so far away now 

I finally took a sweep though the sad little trickle of German jobs this year and remembered how my heart would pound in my throat when the first day of the MLA list came out. The way I’d inwardly psych myself up to live forever in a random assortment of cities and towns to which I had no connection. The way I’d nearly faint if a job came up somewhere I would actually want to be on purpose. The way I knew in my deepest soul that I would move anywhere they’d tell me, if only they’d let me into their club. 

That all seems so far away now. 

Not just because I have a kid, and other more banal and pressing things to worry about, such as how to keep a very determined small human from attempting to swim in the terlet. 

Not just because I work freelance now and could move literally anywhere I wanted in the world (i.e. Somehow I still live in St. Louis by PERSONAL CHOICE). 

But also because it’s been years now, multiple years, since the job market ruled my every waking second (and caused an increasingly awful series of nervous breakdowns this time every year), and I have healed.

I have healed. 

Does some of my 2013 prose now embarrass me, as people insisted it would? Meh, not really. If only because I know that at this time of year my “back catalogue” has itself staved off a nervous breakdown or two (and I have the emails to prove it!). But I’m over it. I am. I’m over academia. I’m largely over writing about academia, and only do so when a news event or subject arises that I believe I have a truly memorable “take” on.

I’m over all of it. I don’t know if it’s the kid, or the time, or the luck I’ve had as a commercial writer, or the light-headedness from the norovirus, but I am grateful. We’ve come to the end of our epic paternity-leave adventure and are headed home tomorrow, to whatever passes as normal for this stage of our lives, and I’m grateful. 

I’ll be back on Slate and Vitae early in January, and have a pub date for my book (the real one!) soon thereafter. To those of you still in the academic job-market misery cycle, I send you wishes of luck and hugs for the godforsaken conferences you’re about to waste $1000 attending. I’d be there to cheer you up if I could get in without paying, I could bring my daughters’ grandmothers along to make her give zero fucks about my whereabouts, and it was located in Costa fucking Rica. 





Eleven Months: Sheeeeeeeeeeeit

My dearest little one,

Today you are eleven months old. In a mere month’s time, you — safely ensconced back in your very first home in St. Louis, surrounded by your parents and their (hopefully) well-childproofed apartment, and the unrelenting, frigid weather that welcomed you on that dark, dark night when your papa drove us home from the hospital at seven miles per hour, thinking every pothole would break you — will celebrate your very first birthday. Your passage out of babyhood and into toddlerhood. I cannot believe it’s been almost a year already — and simultaneously I can’t believe you’re not already in college.

For now, we are still away from home, in Tucson, Arizona, at our second family reunion in a month’s time, this time your father’s. 

Whereas the last time I caught up with you via letter you can’t read yet I was just getting over the adult-strength version of a cold you caught by eating the entire interior of two different aircrafts, this time I am just getting over a wicked case of norovirus I got as an extra-special Christmas present from heaven. While everyone else in Arizona passed out on top of a pile of new toys (probably Republican toys), or “Netflix and chilled” (that is what TEH KIDZ say when they mean “having the sex”), I spent the wee hours of two to seven in the o’clock breaking what was until now a fairly impressive eleven-year vomit-free streak in dramatic fashion. For your part, you slept like a stalwart little champ through almost the whole thing, only requiring me to nurse you while hellaciously nauseated once. For your father’s part, he stayed up with me the whole time and did not complain once, not about my moaning, not about the graphic and horrifying sounds of my horking (“…and those awful, awful burps. Oh my god, those burps”). Not about me ordering $5 ginger ale from room service at 5 a.m., nor about me being a complete and utter zombie the next day, when the violent vomiting subsided but the fever remained.

No, instead I made myself a little bed out of hotel pillows and blankets on the floor, and your father kept watch over us both as you played on and around my limp body, me always in view so that you wouldn’t get anxious that I was away — but rarely having to actually move, which was increasingly taxing as the day wore on, until, as quickly as the plague came, it left.


Luckily your new preferred Downward Facing Titty nursing position was compatible. 

 I know, little one, I know. This 11-month update has been a lot about me and not enough about you. This is true. I readily admit it. And yet, this is my fucking blog and I will write whatever the fuck I want on it, and if I am in a lousy mood because yet again everyone else is enjoying a semblance of “vacation” while I am stuck in the room on mommy duty, so be it.

It’s not that I don’t love being your mama, little one. I do. I love being a mother in general, and I especially love being a mother to you, the happiest, funniest, most inquisitive, interested, sweetest little little one I could ever hope for. 

I cannot believe how lucky I am to get to be with you so much of the day, every day, to be the one you need when you’re upset (when, as toddlerhood encroaches, you suffer your occasional meltdowns and tantrums! I can’t believe this is happening already!), to be the one you call out for in the middle of the night in the sweetest little voice the world has ever known. “Mama? Mama? Mama?” Yes, Beanie. Mama’s here. Mama’s always here. Mama loves being here, in fact, and would rather be nowhere else in the world — but that doesn’t mean she isn’t a LITTLE bit annoyed that everyone else is going down the waterslide right now, while she’s watching you nap. Because if there’s one thing your mother loves almost as much as you, it’s a waterslide.

Could it be possible that as each month passes, you become more ridiculous, more hilarious, more dangerous — and yet easier to parent? What a paradox. And yet.

You briefly had a Confluence of Grandmas in San Diego. 

I have a pretty decent theory as to how I got the food-poisoning (or Norovirus, or whatever the fuck it was). I’m pretty sure it’s the Baby Jesus Himself punishing me for being a SICK DISGUSTING MOM. Because if you thought it was AWFUL SCUMMY SLUT when I briefly offered you a one-finger salute during your most difficult sleep regression to date, just WAIT UNTIL YOU HEAR WHAT I DID NEXT.

Let’s backtrack a second. Your eleventh month has brought yet another litany of advances, from your ever-closer-to-walking quasi-walking (which we cannot capture on film somehow!)…

…to your almost impossibly sweet habit of kissing people and photos of people (especially babies and small children), to your marvelous ability to play on your own (whilst attempting to eat and/or loose upon yourself the most dangerous object in your vicinity)…

Counterpoint: It’s for chomping. 

…to your ever-expanding palate, which currently lists blueberries, broccoli, waffles and avocados as its favorite foods, and only occasionally gets so stuffed with food that you forget to (or can’t) swallow it all, and I notice you haven’t opened your mouth in awhile, and then suddenly you do and I gasp in terror and distract you so that I can sweep the offending mass out of your maw before you choke on it, which PISSES YOU OFF SO MUCH. I’ve never seen anyone so attached to partially-chewed food. HEY ASSHOLE, you emote through your screams. I WAS USING THAT.

Speaking of your mouth: By far the most delightful advance you have made this month is the extension of your vocabulary from one word (the still popular MAMA, now said with increasing Frenchness the more upset you get — MaMA! MaMAAAA! MaMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!), to this list of words real and fake, English and Polish, spoken and signed:

papa, your beloved father, which you pronounce as the impossibly adorable ah-ah, and to whom you have become intensely attached in the past month. He used to be able to sit out the 90-minute bedtime drunk-baby flop-around ritual. No more. Now when he leaves the room you hold out your hand in the general direction he went in and go ah-ah, ah-ah-, ah-ah. Sometimes in the middle of the night you say ah-ah in your sleep.

Asher, your newborn cousin, whose name you can pronounce perfectly. Also stands in for all babies and small children.

NaeNae, your stuffed dog, which also, Asher-like, extends to all stuffed animals. (NB: Miś, after a mishap with the Lafayette laundry, went on an extended “vacation” to his homeland of Kazakhstan, and he will be “meeting” us back home in St. Louis looking, er, just “like” new.)

Żaba (frog), which you currently pronounce baba, which you also use to say babcia (grandmother), to whom you cleave with the force of a thousand super-magnets and from whose devoted and loving embrace I cannot imagine wresting you in three short days.

kaczka (duck), which you currently pronounce kat-ka.

piłka (ball), which you currently pronounce a lot like “duck,” but in the context of having, seeing, or wanting a ball, so, hey.

Titi, the name of one of the characters in the song “Petiti y Titi,” on your World Music Sing-Along album, aka Your Songs, aka the thing I have played eighty-twelve bajillion times in the past month.

Between last reunion and this reunion, my dear, you had the wonderful experience of living for almost an entire month in the glamorous Lafayette Hotel in San Diego.

Before it got too chilly (by which I mean 65 degrees) we swam in its beautiful pool; you charmed its residents and staff alike as we carted you around day after day, and then set off on foot (you in the stroller) through the neighborhood of North Park, where your aunt (and Asssssshhhhher) and your babcia live. 

(We also went to San Clemente to visit your uncle!)

For the first time in your little life, you decided the stroller was THE place to be — even preferring, PREFERRING, to fall asleep in it, and not attached to my boob like a life-force-sucking monster from the deep — and that was in large part to the sense of security and fun you got from Your Songs. 

  As a bonus, I am now way better at Spanish, can say “Hello, my friend, how are you?” in Portugese, could recognize the Mandarin for “going to school” with a gun to my head, and know far more about Australian Bush Ballads than anyone with no connection to the Australian Bush probably should.

While your Polish, gibberish, proper-name and Spanish vocab is going gangbusters, your English vocab is a bit slower to pick up speed. You understand tons, but so far the only actual English word you say — and this is where I once again become the world’s SICKEST SICK MOM — is shit. Specifically, you say sheeeeeeeeeit, like Senator Clay Davis on The Wire. This started because the other day when we were making the seven-hour drive to Arizona and my phone died, and your ah-ah‘s phone was needed to navigate, and we had exhausted your massive repository of toys and books (as well as some improv toys from the rest stop that probably gave me Norovirus, such as “Beef Jerky-y” and “Comb-y”), there was nothing left to do but get right in your face and say sheeeeeeeit, which you inexplicably understand is a naughty word and thus think is THE. FUNNIEST. THING. you have ever heard. It wasn’t long after that you started repeating it back. This is, and I am not exaggerating, the greatest accomplishment of my life so far.

Speaking of me being a terrible mother and you loving curse words, you have yet to develop the fine motor dexterity to return my one-finger salute, BUT you have learned a whole bunch of other signs in the meantime. You can currently sign for milk, water, more, all done, dog (which you do by panting with great gusto, sometimes with an accompanying dance; NB we will probably have to get a fucking dog soon, just so I can spend the better part of the rest of my life cleaning up someone else’s shit), and, your personal favorite, book. You love your books so much you often sign your very first utterance, which is more book. Sometimes you sign more book the second you wake up in the morning. Sometimes you do it in your sleep.

All of this put together means that you are more communicative than ever, and this could not bring me more joy. I have always felt very connected to you and known more or less what you wanted by the look on your face or the tone of your cry, but now that you have the real power and autonomy of language (or languages), you have a kind of pride of self, a self-sufficiency, that just floors me. Yes, this also means that you are very good at knowing when you want something, and that when I take that something away sometimes (half-chewed giant chunk of bread; wallet you’ve inexplicably eaten half of), you go all tantrum-style on me, and that is a completely new phenomenon that may dictate the better part of my life for the next year.

But I still couldn’t be happier.

Yes, sure, I wish I could have gone on that waterslide just now. But besides being able to write this update, I’ve also gotten to spend the last hour snuggled in next you you while you resettled yourself to sleep with your NaeNae, I’ve watched you as you conk out, the spitting image of your newborn self, and yet so much more.

This will be our last monthly-update letter. Your next one will be a yearly-update letter. I’m not sure what I’ll do after that. With your letters, or in general.

But it’s been almost a year, and I’ve gotten used to the uncertainty. I’ve gotten used to the constant terror that I am doing something gravely wrong and that you are in grave peril. I’ve gotten used to — gotten to love — the constant give-a-thon that is being your mother. I’ve gotten back as much or more as I’ve given. I’ve gotten begrudgingly used to getting left out of “fun” things in favor of other “fun” things that only occasionally involve puking my everloving guts out in the middle of the night.

But I haven’t gotten used to the feeling of unadulterated awe I get when I look at how much you’ve grown, what a true and vibrant little person you are. I hope I never do.

Your mother,


This SICK MOM lets her babby FREEZE MUST READ


This babby iz clearly freezing.

Back for another helping of righteous indignation from the eager Trumpiverse, this Scummy Liberal Idiot Slut wrote another “article” on “Slate” (whatever THAT IS) about stupid women stuff that she is nevertheless doing wrong.

Uh, lady, first of all, NOBODY CARES ABOUT YOUR CROTCH SPAWN. I know you “claim” that you “write” about your baby so that “other people” with babies can “relate,” but we all know your a ATTENTION WHORE, and a regular whore too, tho why ANY ONE would want 2 have INTERCOURSE with you I DON’T KNOW, because nobody cares about women stuf but EXPECIALLY nobody cares about fat and UGLY women over 35, lol that’s redundant, all women over 35 are fat and ugly, except my own mom, who raised 15 kids in the Dust Bowl during the Depression and NOBODY EVER went without a hat. Although she did beat the crap out of everyone.

ANYway whatever you do DO NOT READ THIS it’s SATAN.


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