Susanna was having a fussy day. She is mostly a very sweet-natured baby, which I attribute to cod liver oil. Several years ago, my sister told me that to get sweet-natured babies, take cod liver oil when pregnant. Her evidence was her second child, who was all sweetness, as compared to her first, who was more difficult. She's since had four more children, so maybe her advice has changed. As far as scientific experimentation goes, her sample size is far too small. But I really wanted a sweet-natured baby, and the doctors recommend fish oil for brain development anyway. So I took cod liver oil.

I have a sweet-natured baby. We are up to a sample size of three. When I say I attribute it to the oil, it's because I don't want to attribute it to luck. Luck can run out; fish pills can be purchased.

But even babies all loaded up with fish oil in the womb have bad days. She'd had a really rotten day, the kind where I come home from work and have the baby shoved into my arms as my husband is on the way out the door to go buy beer. She'd also started chewing on her hands and was requiring outfit changes due to the drooling. My knowledge of babies is limited, but even I recognized these as teething symptoms. I consulted the new parent's best friend, Dr. Google, to tell me what other symptoms I could check for, and just how long my sweet-natured baby would be replaced by this cranky one.

I didn't learn anything particularly definitive, but one of the symptoms of teething was the baby being "fractious." Most parenting information I'd seen had described periods of baby grumpiness as being fussy or cranky. But whoever was writing the baby articles that day must've been feeling that their English degree was underutilized and decided to educate the masses.

As a result, "fractious" became my new favorite word. It's a good word, one I knew from reading but maybe had never heard in use. Something about that hard 'c' sound in the middle really emphasizes the kind of irritability we're talking about here. It's a step up from plain old "fussy," describing an extended period of unpleasableness.

As for that day when she was fractious, it did not appear to be teeth, though I got a lot of mixed information on how long it takes to actually sprout a tooth. Her first little chomper did appear a few weeks ago. She was fractious one day, and woke up in the night twice in a row. Finally, we a tiny white and pointy thing appeared in her lower gums over the weekend. Its neighbor was not far behind.

Immediately, our nursing relationship was changed. She bit me. It was like when you get to the end and you start playing with your food. Like absentmindedly pushing your food around, except instead of pushing, it's biting, and instead of your food, it's my nipple. I yelped and pulled away. If you look up what to do when your baby gets teeth and bites you, this is exactly what you're supposed to do - take away the snuggling so she knows that biting = no snuggling. I'm not sure why anyone needs to be told to pull away from something that bites you, but it's entirely likely that many parents are masochists. I was on edge for the next couple of days, always scared that I was just about to be bitten. But it hasn't happened since, so I guess she figured it out. Must be the cod liver oil.


happy birthday.

Today is my dad's birthday. He would have been 81.

I was thinking about whether it was still his birthday, whether I should say "Today was" or "Today used to be" but none of that made any sense. Besides, we still refer to February 22 as George Washington's birthday. So, today is my dad's birthday.

It's verbs that have been giving me the most trouble. Today is still his birthday, but he no longer is. He was.

I didn't talk to my dad every day, so it's easy to forget that I won't speak to him again, ever. It's like I'm just in between emails, and in a few days he'll forward me some random thing. He would forward all kinds of stuff, things he found funny or interesting. He used to forward me political emails, but he stopped when I emailed back about one that was particularly inflammatory. Sometimes, he would include me in the middle of a conversation he was having with someone else, which was disorienting. There was a year when I got football scores from my old high school every Saturday morning. Once, I got a summary of the minutes of the latest meeting at the Unitarian church in my hometown, a church I've never associated with in any way. There was no real reason for his forwards, other than he thought I might be interested. Sometimes he would include his own message along with the forward; many times part or all of it would be in all caps.

My dad used to forward me weird emails. This is what people mean when they talk about the finality of death. They mean no more weird email forwards.

It's hard is putting everything in the past tense and realizing that all the things I associate with him are over. I never thought about a person being over before. There were periods in his life that have been over. He taught school for decades and then he was retired for decades. So saying that he was a science teacher is not difficult, because he did not stop being when he stopped teaching. But now everything is stopped. Last month, I might have said "My dad loves seafood." Now: "My dad loved seafood." Not that he stopped loving seafood, he just stopped.

My dad worked and played hard. He was contrary and stubborn, honest and generous. My dad was a scholar. He cooked watery scrambled eggs. He liked to keep animals. My dad never admitted to being wrong. He gave out Klondike bars to visitors. My dad had big ideas. He loved to sing and he did it badly. He drank Miller Lite. He forwarded weird emails. He loved seafood.

I don't like to use euphemisms, like saying that my father "passed." I felt that way before, and I still do, but I understand a bit more why people shrink from the finality of the real word.

My dad died. He did not pass; he is past. Today is his birthday. He would have been 81.


the price of free bbq.

Being the first Friday of the month, today should have been Company Lunch day. We were scheduled to have pizza, and I had my eating pants on. Breastfeeding has turned me into a bottomless pit. They say that you're eating for two when you're pregnant, which is true, but the extra person is like the size of a shrimp. I am still eating for two, but I'm supporting twenty pounds of baby meat now. I am always hungry.

But then Company Lunch was postponed until next week because half of my coworkers were out somewhere or other. However, the office park was sponsoring some kind of tenant appreciation day. They had one of these last year, where they had a few food trucks come in and set up in a parking lot. Last year it had been hot, and I stood in a long line with my coworkers and wished that I had brought my sunglasses. I'd gotten pizza last year, because although there was a BBQ truck, my body and its shrimp passenger were rejecting BBQ at the time.

This year, the setup would be the same - food trucks in a parking lot. They even had the BBQ truck back.

Here's the thing: there's kind of a hurricane going on. Not that it's here. Right now it's off in the Caribbean, whipping palm trees around. It may come whip pine trees around, but they're predicting that it will likely go to the north of us. However, it's been raining for about a week. We've had all the kinds of rain - little bitty stinging rain, big ole fat rain, and rain that seems to come right up from the ground.

One guy went to get himself some BBQ and came back drenched. Now, I love pulled pork BBQ, and the only thing better than pulled pork BBQ is free pulled pork BBQ. But I did not have an umbrella. I used to be the kind of sensible person who kept an umbrella in the car, but it seems like the car umbrella always became sorta mangled and busted after time in the car. I did not have a raincoat or even a hoodie. Do I love free pulled pork BBQ enough to stand in the wind and rain for it?

Somebody said something about ponchos. Inspiration: trash bags.

I went digging in the cabinet under the sink in the break room. Way in the back was a box of 55-gallon industrial strength trash bags. I pulled one out and held it up to my shoulders. Yes, this would do nicely. I cut a hole in the top for my head, and an amused coworker helped cut holes for my arms. The bag was huge; I was protected down to my shins. I grabbed a smaller bag for my hair, and I was ready to go. A couple of people snapped pictures.

So, at this point, I felt very silly. Just in case you know someone who does things like this and you think, Huh, I guess they don't realize that they are ridiculous - this is not the case! But I was committed. I wanted my free pulled pork BBQ, and all I had to do was stand in a hurricane and be ridiculous in front of strangers. It's funny, I had no problem appearing this way in front of my coworkers, who I would actually see in the future. It was the strangers, who I would likely never see again, or if I did, who wouldn't recognize me not wearing garbagewear. And that's dumb, so I was going to do this.

Another coworker looked at me, sighed, and went to get another trash bag. I gleefully helped him with the arm holes. It is always better to be ridiculous with a friend, which is pretty much the basis of my marriage.

We ordered BBQ, then stood in the cold and the rain to wait. The lines were quite short this year. It was not raining too hard, maybe little bitty stinging rain. I remarked that I wished it would rain a little harder to justify my 55-gallon industrial strength wardrobe. The wind picked up and some big ole fat rain came down. That's better. People mostly avoided looking at us, perhaps whispering things like, "trash bag people, 3 'o'clock" to their neighbors. There were some people there who must work at some fancy place, because they were out there in business suits. I guess they don't have Trash Bag Fridays at their office.

We got our free pulled pork BBQ (and ice cream!) and headed back to the office. I hung up my trash bag poncho to dry. I might need it again sometime.