Thursday, June 28, 2012

Professor Bean

My baby's so smart she reads Walden?
Or, my baby's so cute I like to use her as a photo prop?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

An Uncertain Future

Alex has a job interview on Friday morning.

Sure, he currently "has a job," but Beaverton School District is enough of a clusterfuck, and Alex is a new enough teacher, that he is at serious risk of being riffed, and won't even know about it until the end of next month.

Although I haven't taken any time to write about it, mostly because it's difficult to articulate, and Alex and I spend several waking hours actually discussing the matter, his job security, or lack thereof, is a major player in our current lives. The most frustrating part, to me, is what a perfect candidate Alex is; he sincerely loves his job. There are SO many teachers who appear to hate teaching, resent their students, or are in the profession for the wrong reason (ie summer). He has two years of teaching under his belt, and is new enough that he still possesses the enthusiasm and energy required to keep kids motivated. He has multiple teaching endorsements - language arts, social studies, ESL - and is on his second career, having previously worked in a field that contributes to his current subject area. He is a good, reliable employee, and is involved in activities beyond the classroom. He's the advisor to a disability awareness club, he is the JV boys' soccer coach, and he helped start a multicultural soccer league, which he now coaches (and doesn't get paid for it).

But let's remember, in this country, merit serves no purpose in the education system. Seniority only. So instead of rewarding a young, dedicated teacher with a pinch of job security, we prefer to keep those higher-paid, "experienced" educators employed, regardless of their classroom performance.

I'll step down from my soapbox for just a second here. The point is, on a personal level, we don't know if and where Alex will be teaching come September. He still officially has his job at Southridge High School, but because he's low enough on the totem pole and the district is cutting 350+ teachers, he's been looking for backup employment. He had an interview with Wood Middle School and West Linn High School, and is now on his second round of interviews. But he's stuck between a rock and a hard place. West Linn is likely to offer him a job - but he won't hear from Beaverton for another few weeks. So does he resign at Beaverton, where he loves his current position, losing his seniority, in the name of job security for one year? Or does he decline the job offer, hold out hope for Beaverton, risking having no job at all?

14 Weeks

This Picasa collage thing works great when you take a million pictures and can't choose just one ...


I know it's customary for new moms to cut their hair into a trendy bob, but no surprise, I'm shirking the custom in favor of keeping my locks "long" and dyeing them dark. Unfortunately, my efforts to save money have left me with patchy coloring and ends with a slightly green hue. Then again, I wear my hair in a braid or ponytail nearly every day, so who's going to notice the mosaic of hair color? You would think that by age 30 and with several failed home-dye or home-bleach jobs under my belt, I would learn my lesson. But, nooooo. So for now, I'm sporting hair with a hypercolor hue and only an ounce of dignity to be slightly embarrassed about it. That, and I bought another bottle of the same hairdye color to try and even out the look. A likely success? Probably not, but a worthy $8 endeavor nonetheless.


Last week we rented a house in Yachats with the Franzke's. The first couple of nights was just AJ, Breezy and Gus, and the three of us. Then Al and Theresa, and Jess, Zach and Hunter made their way over to swap places with us. Before we hit the road we hung out for a few hours to watch the babies "play" together. We were fortunate to have some really beautiful weather, making the Oregon Coast almost unrecognizable.

This is proof for Hunter, Francie, and Gus that they knew each other way back when.

Gus has found his feet, and Francie is still trying to figure it all out.

That sweet salty air.

It was even cuter when AJ was sleeping on the window bed with the gate up. Safety first.

AJ, Breezy, Gus.

Alex, Francie, Gus, Breezy.

The Franzke Family.

The Closeman Family.

First time putting toes in the sand and the ocean!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Three Months!

We have officially graduated from the fourth trimester. The Bean is now a real baby instead of just a big fetus! We are so proud of how she's grown and of all the new things she learns each day. Imagine having this whole new body and having to learn how to use it!

We wanted her official measurements on document for her 3-month-birthday, which was last Tuesday.
Weight: 11 lbs 6 oz (10-25th %ile)
Height: 22.5 inches (10-25th %ile)
Head Circumference: 15.5 inches (25th %ile)

Francie, at three months, is a whole different baby than she was even just weeks before. For example, she can now eat her hands. She drools like a basset hound and can blow bubbles, sometimes covering her chin in a spit-beard. I've resorted to putting bibs on her to keep her chest dry, especially if I've dressed her in a cute outfit when we have some "special" event. She has relatively good neck control, despite a paucity of tummy time. She whines and cries each time she's on her belly, even when she's laying on my chest, and I'm a big softie so I don't push it. Alex will get on that this summer. We are dirty hippies and bathe her only once per week, otherwise just giving her wipedowns with soap and a washcloth. Her chubby neck folds smell nasty, a little bit like sweaty vagina, so we've taken to sponge-bathing her pretty regularly, so we don't gag when we cover her in kisses.

She has become very vocal, cooing, coughing, and even something that approximates a giggle. She will talk to herself sometimes, but mostly enjoys being social. She loves looking around, especially at faces, and regularly exchange smiles and coos with Alex and me.

She continues to be an excellent sleeper, averaging anywhere from 5 to 9 hours between feedings at night. She is still solely breastfed, with an occasional bottle from Alex for practice. But that will change when I go back to work. I'm planning to pump three times per day, and then nurse her for the rest of the feedings. We attempted to put her to sleep without her swaddle, but her limbs just flailed about fitfully and she didn't seem very relaxed. She outgrew the zip up swaddlers a few weeks ago, but still fits comfortably in the baby straight jackets with Velcro.

She is now pooping a couple times each day, with week-long stretches without a dirty diaper in sight every now and again. We still love our BumGenius cloth diapers and homemade cloth wipes. She's a gassy girl who belches like a beer drinking man and coughs when she farts. And she spits up on the regular, something Dr. Internet calls a "happy spitter" - barfing without any real sign of stress or discomfort. My clothes have come to regularly smell like sour milk.

She seems to love music, either when Alex plays her the guitar, and even when I sing her Baby Beluga on repeat. She likes to be outdoors and looks around wide-eyed at the sky and the tall trees. She relies on  her Soothie and we don't go anywhere without it. And she loves looking around and facing out when we are in public or socializing. She sleeps easy in her carseat, smiles when she gets her diaper changed, and seems most content when lying in bed with me, tummy to tummy, nursing. Then again, that's my happiest time, too.

Everyone from Alex's world says she looks like him, and everyone from my world thinks she looks like me. We think she has my eyes and facial expressions, Alex's coloring, his chubby apple cheeks, his brother's chin and face shape, and maybe my brother's nose. Her eyes are a darker blue and her hair light-colored with some strawberry hues. She's definitely filled out and has fat filling her skin rolls.

We love her even more at three months than we did at birth, and we didn't think that would even be possible. I can't imagine our life "BF" - Before Francine - and it's like she was always meant to be part of our wolf pack. Wandering the desert looking for strippers and cocaine.


Alex's cousin, Melissa, graduated from UO last week. We went down to Eugene with Chris and Peggy for the dance department commencement ceremony and a nice family dinner. Congrats, Melissa! We have loved having you in Oregon and are proud of your accomplishments!

Great Grandmother

Francie got to meet her great-grandmother, Peggy Doherty (Chris's mom) last week. In my family, with the generations so far apart, that's a big deal. In fact, my great-grandmother died the day I was born. It was cool to see the four generations together - Peggy, Chris, Alex, and Francie. Peggy had seven children of her own, an Irish baby-making machine, as Alex likes to say. Her 100-pounds-soaking-wet frame gained only 15 lbs with each pregnancy, she nursed all her babies, meanwhile she was an educator, active member of the Catholic church, and supporter of local politics. Francie is lucky to have strong women like Peggy who have come before her.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Final Week of Leave

Work is the new birth.

What I mean is, I used to get diarrhea when we would talk about childbirth. Now I feel like I have to run to the bathroom every time we talk about me going back to work.

I've had several work-related nightmares. The dreams are pretty transparent, so I don't even have to consult some woowoo dream interpretation website. Last night I dreamt I went back to work, left the baby in my purse all day, and realized I forgot to change her diaper. The skin on her back was red, infected, and sloughing off. My supervisor was witnessing my parental ineptitudes, and I was bumbling around like an idiot trying to find the baby in the huge blackhole that is my purse, locate a clean diaper for her, and tend to her pteradactyl-like screeches of pain from the skin problem. Then my supervisor was explaining to me my new responsibilities, and it sounded like she was speaking Greek or Chinese or Swahili. I started to cry, saying that I didn't understand, and I wasn't sure how I was going to be able to find any of my belongings, let alone my old brain.

So yeah, it's safe to say that I'm having a bit (ha! a LOT) of anxiety about going back to the VA. Worry about not being my daughter's primary caretaker. Worry about my ability to learn. Worry about my energy level. Worry about Francie's health and safety. Worry I won't be around for her "firsts" - first giggle, first rollover. Worry that I'm missing out on all the fun. Worry that I'm going to fail both as a mother and as a speech pathologist. I'm grateful I don't dread my actual job, so I'm not weary of how I'll be spending my time, but of how I WON'T be spending my time.

Alex has been remarkably understanding and reassuring. It appears he's taken some sort of online communication course, because he says things like, "It sounds like you are frustrated," or, "I hear you saying you're afraid she won't remember you" in his best therapist voice. It's almost like he magically has round spectacles and a full beard and mustache when he says those things, resting his chin on his fist. That's some serious reflective listening, my friends, and this is a rather novel endeavor.

I have T minus one week until my return to work. I plan to enjoy every minute of holding, feeding, smiling, and cooing with my daughter, lots of cuddle time with her daddy, some small projects around the house, and maybe even some sunshine and fresh air should Juneary become actual June.

As my mother would say, "It's not time to worry yet." Unless I'm sleeping, apparently.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day

Happy Dad's Day to the fabulous fathers in my life. 

Most notably, to my own father. A man who has been both mother AND father the past decade. I may be 30, but I still believe my daddy knows very nearly everything. I even threaten my husband with phone calls to my dad for help if he doesn't take care of it (correctly) for me. Example #1: When the smoke alarm was beeping the other night, and Alex laid in bed like the neanderthal that he can sometimes be, complaining about the noise and whining "I don't know what to do about it;" I picked up my cell phone to call Al at 4 a.m., but before I could hit the speed-dial, Alex scolded me and jumped out of bed to investigate. 

To my father-in-law Paul, who very obviously set a good example for Alex. I'm glad to bring a baby girl into his masculine world, "the matriarch of the next generation." 

But this year Father's Day is particularly special, as Alex - a devoted husband, a dedicated teacher, a lover of beer, and a seasoned gnarbuckler - can now add "dad" to his resume. It's so fun for me to watch him dote on Francie, and heartwarming to witness his excitement about being her fulltime caregiver this summer (much to my chagrin). Francie's a lucky girl to have the daddy she does, just as I'm a lucky woman to have him as the father of my daughter. Happy Day, my love. Here's to many adventures with your baby girl, that she will recall with total love and admiration -  and an eye roll - like I do with my own Daddy's Girl memories (Boy Scout pine wood derby races, canoe camping, Country Fair, backpacking in Mt. Hood and climbing over 1,000 downed trees, pig butcher parties ...)

Again, thanks to the good daddies out there - your kids need you.

Like many others, I pimp out my kid for the sake of gift giving. Francie had her own little photo shoot, and here are some of the photos that made the final cut. Then again, we bought Alex Photoshop for Father's Day, so maybe he can doctor up these pictures to perfect them for better framing ...

The Instagrammed "daddy" filmstrip we framed for Alex.

The backup Picasa collage, in case the filmstrip was an epic fail.

BDA's collage: he may like Alex's company more, but he'd probably rather stare at his beautiful girls.

Daddy's Girl.

Hartman, Closeman, Close.

Grandfather, father, baby.

Baby's First Hike

To officially kick off summer, we went on our first family hike on Friday. We were not the only ones who had this bright idea. We had a leisurely morning and got a late start (I blame Francie) and were lucky to find a parking spot near the Angel's Rest trailhead - the closest of the main hikes along the Columbia River Gorge. I've made many, many footprints along these paths, so I wasn't too upset that we didn't make it to the top of the trail, where the trees open to a skree field and eventually a view of Washington and the river between the two states. Granted, the hike is only about 4 or 5 miles roundtrip, so although I wasn't upset we didn't go the whole way, I admit I was a bit embarrassed. Then again, I have never before hiked with an infant. Plus I'm fat and out of shape. Besides, Alex was the one who recommended we turn around after the Bean had a little meltdown and no longer wanted to be in her carrier.

My baby is nearly 3 months old and I haven't lost the baby weight. ANY OF IT. Seriously. As of this afternoon at the gym, I weigh only 13 lbs less than I did the day before I delivered Francie. I had high hopes I'd be one of those people whose weight just "fell off" due to breast feeding. No such luck. I have not been obsessive about exercising, but I am doing enough to keep my heart healthy - between yoga, walking, and the elliptical trainer. Needless to say, I tried on my pre-pregnancy jeans and could BARELY squeeze them over my thighs and hips, and sported my first ever muffin top. No, they don't fit. Maybe in about 20 pounds they'll fit less like a neoprene glove and more like a baseball mitt. So in order to combat this stubborn weight of mine, I joined Weight Watchers online. I completed my first week of the program - which simply requires me to track my intake and exercise - and the scale reported a two pound loss since last Monday. I don't put a whole lot of stock in a couple pounds up or down from my usual weight, but it's at least reinforcing enough to continue with the tracking for another week. Also, I paid for three months of the online services, so I best put them to good use. In the meantime, I feel very resentful of all those women who post on Facebook "I'm back in my old jeans" before their babies can even hold their own heads up. By resentful I mean jealous.

Here are some photos from our First Family Hike:

She started out in the carrier ...

But insisted on being carried.

She seemed to love looking at the trees ...

Until we stopped for lunch (hers) and decided to eat ours too. This baby girl likes to be on the move.

Book Club

Did you notice that there is not a book to be seen in any of these photos? That's because our "book club" hasn't actually read anything new the last couple months. We are busy ladies, after all. But for our next meeting, not until August, we will be talking about Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen. I'm doing the green thing (aka saving the green - dolla dolla bills) and have it on reserve at the library.

On Friday we met at Pam's house and enjoyed the early summer weather in her beautiful backyard. Dee and Harlow were in attendance earlier in the evening, but pre-photo shoot. Our book club has actually been meeting for over three years now. The members have evolved some, and there are only five of us that meet regularly. We're open to additional members :) if you - are reading this, live in the Portland area, are available to meet once per month, and don't mind being among women who already know each other (80% of them attended high school together).

Friday, June 15, 2012

Proving a Point

Tonight, I hate myself. In order to prove a point, I ignored my daughter's cries.

But let me explain.

Earlier in the evening, Mike, the polo-shirt wearing brace-face at the Apple store, broke my heart. I made a deal with Alex, that if I was going to return to work in two weeks (I keep acting as though I have a choice), then I get to buy a new iPhone 4S so I can FaceTime at work while I'm pumping. I mean, how can anyone expect a new mother to go more than an hour or two without seeing her baby's face in real time?!? Anyhow, I was asking Mike all about different features and price points, and he informed me that FaceTime: A) cannot be used between two devices belonging to the same Apple user (in other words, I couldn't call from my iPhone at work and talk to Alex and Francie on my iPad at home), and B) FaceTime only works via wi-fi, not over the 3G network. Unfortunately, the VA is part of the clusterfuck that is our government and somehow manages to remain in the 1990's without wireless Internet access.

So as you can see, my heart is understandably broken, and I am milking my pout-fest for all that I can. I'm moping because I have to go back to work and be away from my little Bean, and because while I'm away I won't even be able to see her smiling face and all her new developments during the day. What if I miss her first giggle? Alex humors me. For awhile. And then he more or less tries to explain how it will all be okay because at least Francie's not in daycare, we're equal parents, blah blah blah. I snap.

I am a mother. Dads are NOT the same as mothers. Francie needs me. I shouldn't have to work. I should stay home with the baby. You get the point, probably. But just in case Alex didn't, I wanted to make sure he understood just how much both he and Francie need me. I told him I needed a break, and bustled around doing laundry and re-shuffling piles. I didn't make eye contact with the baby, for fear her chubby cheeks or adorable smile would break me down.

(Sidenote: as I write this I am hearing ANOTHER smoke alarm chirping periodically; I think someone is haunting our house).

Alex calls my bluff. "Oh Francie, you are fussy. You sound like you need to eat, " he coos at the baby loud enough so that I can hear him from the office.

Her whines and whimpers begin to escalate into a real cry. She's probably hungry indeed.

"Oooh, lookie here," he says, opening up the freezer and pulling out a bag of previously pumped breast milk. "I know it's not as fast as mama, but it will do the trick."

By this point, she's legitimately crying. I'm digging my nails into my skin, trying hard to ignore her cries and suppress my raging maternal instinct to snatch the Bean out of Alex's arms and soothe her with my sweet baby talk, lullabies, and, of course, boobs. I can't handle it, even another second, so I dash to the front door, trade my slippers for shoes, grab my wallet and shout "I'm going to get a hot chocolate" while running out the door.

During the drive to the store, my panic and self-loathing escalates. What kind of a mother freezes out her baby girl to make a point in the name of pride? Granted, Alex is indeed perfectly capable of caring for our daughter, and it's not as though she's at risk of going hungry, since I've been pumping every morning this month. But still, who am I punishing here? Anyone besides myself? And what exactly would be the end goal of this punishment - for Alex to feel badly? He already does. He would much prefer that he earned enough money or had the job security that allowed me to stay home fulltime. For him to tell me that I don't have to return to work? The thing is, I do. I need three more months of my fellowship in order to earn my SLP license. I certainly didn't spend the last 3+ years and tens of thousands of dollars on graduate school to not get the certification to practice speech-language pathology. For the stress and pressure of being a working mom to just evaporate into thin air? Yes, that probably is the goal. But I'm more likely to win the lottery - and I don't buy tickets - than I am to escape the conflicting desires of a woman is at once a professional and a mother. If only.


The Doherty's were in town for Melissa's UO graduation, and we were lucky enough to get them to ourselves for a dinner out in Portland. Francie loves meeting her extended family! We will get to enjoy laughs with them again next week to help celebrate Melissa.

Clockwise: Emily, Kevin, Jenny, Bill, and Melissa Doherty, Alex, Francie, and Joanna Close.

Francie & Logan Playdate

I'm sure I will have a million pictures of these two from now until they are 35, but I just can't help myself. This get together both Logan and Francine were much more interested in each other. Logan was very sweet and wanted to touch Francine's hands and feet. And Francie couldn't stop watching Logan, especially when he was talking or playing.

Scoping each other out.

Holding hands :)

Thursday, June 14, 2012


What are three of the most grating sounds in the universe?

1) A baby crying
2) A car, fire, or security alarm
and, 3) Lloyd from Dumb and Dumber making the world's most annoying sound.

Oh yeah, and Fran Drescher's voice. Like nails on a chalkboard. And nails on a chalkboard! That's five.

One of those sounds interrupted our sleep last night. Not once, not twice, but multiple times. Too many times to count. As new parents, people expect us to be underslept and exhausted. Except, Francie is an excellent sleeper. In fact, she slept through the many smoke alarms that punctuated our zzz's, until we finally got up at 3:30 a.m. to spend an hour on the Internet scouring for explanations of the no-smoke-no-fire-new-batteries alarm problem. So when did she actually wake up? At 4:30 when I fed her? No. During Alex and my mid-night shouting match? ("I can't sleep." "Well aren't you going to fix it?" "I don't know why it's beeping!" "Get up and figure it out!") Nope. When the dog decided it was play time and was sniffing Francie and jumping up on the edge of the bed? Still no. How about when she let out that distinctive, resounding fart? Yeah, my baby wakes herself up by shitting her own pants.

As for the alarm. It was a two-hour battle.

Smoke Detector: 1
Closemans: 0

We (Alex) disabled one upstairs alarm. Still beeping. He took out the battery of the other. Still beeping. More shouting, blaming and insulting occurred. Followed by serious online research. Did you know they have forums on this stuff? As for now, the smoke alarm in our bedroom is disabled and the one in the nursery is (supposedly) working. Priorities anyone?? But the important thing is, there's no more beeping, no more noise.

And yet I still can't sleep. If only Alex would let me call my dad (he's a superhero who knows everything and can solve any problem, like the Wizard of Oz meets McGuyver - and always answers his phone) so he can come over and "take care of it." Sounds rather mafioso, doesn't it?! He DOES drive an Italian sports car ...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Kinda Long

Scene: April Hill Park, late afternoon, several dogs off leash and their owners; Gizzy, also off leash, running around in circles with the big dogs

Little Boy, about 7 years old: Hey, what kind of dog is that?

Me: She's called a corgi. Her name is Gizmo.

Boy: Oh. Don't you think she's kind of long?!?

Yes, my dear child, yes. You are wise beyond your years.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Baby Date

Jess and Hunter came over for a visit this afternoon and the babies wanted their photos taken, for future posterity. That way when they are 16 years old and homies, they can say they knew each other when they were in (cloth) diapers.

Monday, June 11, 2012

I Should

It seems I've come down with a case of the shoulds. My symptoms include headache, muscle soreness, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, irritability, feelings of guilt and inadequacy, obsessive attention to detail and compulsive re-organizing of piles.

I went from "this-stay-at-home-mom-thing-is-divine-in-every-way-what-fun-it-is-to-sit-and-stare-at-my-beautiful-baby-and-leisurely-enjoy-the-small-things-in-life" attitude to, "why-the-hell-is-this-coffee-cup-not-in-the-dishwasher-I-have-to-do-everything-why-is-there-never-enough-time!" Needless to say, I've been down and out with the shoulds for the last couple days.

"I should be able to run errands more efficiently."
"I should take more time to enjoy the baby."
"I should cook my husband dinner."
"I should vacuum more often."
"I should make cookies for the neighbors just to be nice."
"I should hold the baby and never put her down."
"I should sew more pillows for the couch."
"I should go for a hike."
"I should be reading in the sunshine."
"I should re-paint the bedroom."
"I should lose weight. Or I should go shopping."
"I should plant more flowers."
"I should take every idea I've ever pinned on Pinterest and complete all of the home decor, craft, and sewing projects by the end of the weekend."
"I should call my brother more often."
"I should make my dad a Father's Day card."
"I should be eating more vegetables. I mean, why not try eating eggplant."
"I should walk the dog on a more regular schedule."

"I should be able to do it all. I should be beautiful like Sofia Vergara while keeping house like Martha Stewart and dressing like an Olsen Twin and cooking like Julia Child and mothering like Ann Romney and socializing like a Kardashian and volunteering like Princess Diana and sexing like Jenna Jameson- while never sweating a drop and appearing to master it all seamlessly." (Clearly this Superwoman I've created never has any hormonal hot flashes that visit me regularly each day).

The best remedy for the shoulds is to say, "Fuck it. I'm sitting on my new chaise lounge with my baby on my chest, drinking a Diet Coke, ignoring my phone, and chatting with my husband about his day while the sun sets."

12 Weeks

Professor Bean.

Sprouting taller ...

12 week birthday!

Mama's favorite thing.

"Let's get physical, physical."

Bouncy chair montage, Birth to 12 Weeks.
Or ...
Growth chart montage.

Hover to Pin

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