Friday, December 19, 2014

A Theory of Everything

The artsy movie theater in a lovely old building two miles from our house has a great thing: a Wednesday matinee at which you're welcome to bring your baby. Now, we and one other couple were the only ones to do so (the rest of the place was full of gray heads). It was actually delightful to hear the older people, some of whom were hard of hearing, whispering really loudly during the film--they were louder than the babies.

Anyway, we saw The Theory of Everything, which was pretty good as biopics go. It follows the life of Stephen Hawking from the perspective of his wife. The actor who played Hawking did a good job portraying the progression of the disability. The film was romantic and sad.

One great moment of the film was when Stephen was very ill and the doctor wanted to take him off his ventilator. At the time, his wife was falling for another man. Nonetheless, she adamantly maintained that he was to be given every care, that she absolutely wanted him to be kept alive. Would that we were always so respectful of the lives of those with disabilities.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Lessons and Carols

Baby Leopard and I went to Lessons and Carols last week. A couple of thoughts:

"Sing we, too, of Mary's sorrows, of the sword that pierced her through, when beneath the cross of Jesus she his weight of suffering knew..." reminds me of Fr. S saying that some women feel alienated by the Catholic tradition that Mary experienced no pain in childbirth (her pain was, instead, the pain of His death). I didn't see what he meant at the time, but I sure do now.

I also had a new take on Silent night--it sounds a little idealistic and kitchy and sentimental--"Holy Infant so tender and mild, sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace." I mean, it would be great if only they did sleep in heavenly peace. But waking up 30 minutes after you put them down, I'm just not sure if they do. If baby Jesus did, then yet another reason to feel alienated from Mary.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Random Assortment

Cutest feet ever.

It drives me nuts that Francisco's pictures are all better than mine.

~ This is a great gift: a coloring book by Andy Warhol.

~ Wait: Nick Offerman has a book?!

~ More of Eliot's letters have been released. From a review:

Religion and nationality were paired in Eliot’s mind. “In the end I thought: here I am, making a living, enjoying my friends here,” he wrote. “I don’t like being a squatter. I might as well take the full responsibility.”

We invited some neighbors over for a little Christmas gathering. We weren't sure that any would show up, but three did, so we count it a success. Sadly, hardly anyone ate anything. Why?! We weren't going to poison them! (If I ever go to a party with food, you'd better believe I eat it!)

Anyway, in the case of the German chocolate cake that I made (which doubled as Francisco's birthday cake), it's just as well no one ate it: it's the best cake ever. And I even made it dairy free.

Monday, December 15, 2014


I write this as he's wailing--the pictures are quite a contrast.

Baby Leopard is three months now. We were at an appointment and he started laughing hysterically whenever a husky-voiced woman addressed me. This was only the second time he cracked up laughing (the first was when his grandmother and great-grandmother really got him going--right before bed, too--he didn't quiet down for hours). But this was a deep belly laugh. Francisco and I are disappointed that neither of us can get us laughing, but a stranger can. 

His hands are opening up from fists more and more--he strokes my face and hands when he's nursing. He's begun to grasp things (like my hair). I think it's time for a short haircut.

I ate dairy when I was home over Thankgiving, not massive amounts, just a little margarine in baked goods and a some milk and cheese in a strata. Well, we're all suffering from it now and I've sworn off dairy again for the rest of my life, or at least as long as I'm nursing Baby Leopard. 

I think I'm watching his eyes change from blue to brown each day this week. (Francisco says they're hazel, but they certainly aren't blue anymore.)

He's drooling a ton now (see the second picture) and blowing raspberries.

He's starting to act differently when he's at home with Francisco and me and when we're with people he doesn't know. With us, he makes lots of noises and smiles and cries. When we're out he's often much shyer and more reserved (except around the woman who makes him laugh, of course).

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Little Sisters

Today Baby Leopard and I went to visit The Little Sisters so that the people who knew me during my pregnancy could meet the baby on the outside.

One nun greeted him, correctly guessed his age, and said to him in a sort of baby-talk, "Who are you?" Someone nearby said, Maybe he'll be a priest. The priest nearby said, Maybe a bishop. The nun spoke again to Baby Leopard, "Are you the pope?"

I love this, not because he's going to be the pope, but rather because it treats him as so much more than a baby--he is a nascent person, a person we don't know yet, but whose meaning and purpose is already inscribed in him. What a wonderful thing to keep in mind as I take care of this mostly helpless baby--"Who are you?" There's a person there, even though we can't see it yet. It's a very hopeful perspective.

Also, some of the elderly poor (that's who live at this home) gave him money--one woman gave him a dollar; another gave him five (she pulled it out of a pack of tissues where she'd tucked it away). Their generosity is quite humbling. (I've found more than once that the poorest among us are the most generous and the most welcoming into their community.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Children's Books: On the Night You Were Born

I'm three months postpartum, my hair is starting to fall out again (it mostly stays put when you're pregnant) (I really hope I'm not one of the 50% of women for whom "starting to fall out again" involves losing big chunks of hair) and the memory of the labor is beginning to soften. Still when I'm alone and relaxed it all comes flooding back--when I'm taking a leisurely hot shower; when Francisco and I were at a Bob Dylan concert a few weeks ago. I guess I take a pretty long time to psychologically recover.

That is one reason that I've been loving this book--it's a celebration of the birth and of a new, unique person (a celebration that, let's just say, didn't spontaneously arise in me). Here's the ending (not to spoil the story, or anything):

For never before in story or rhyme
(not even once upon a time)
has the world ever known a you, my friend,
and it never will, not ever again...

Heaven blew every trumpet
and played every horn
on the wonderful, marvelous
night you were born.

I cried every time I read this book in the first few weeks of his life.

The truth is, although right now Baby Leopard is just a baby and can't communicate much (although I would say that he does communicate effectively--wailing gets me to try every possible solution I can think of), he is a person who never before existed and will never exist again. And the world will be a different place because of him. That's something to celebrate.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Philadelphia Free Library

Our tour guide at the Rosenbach this summer recommended a tour of the Philadelphia Free Library rare books department (which you, too, can go see on Saturdays, or any day, at 11).

As a frugal person, I love anything with "free" in the title. I mean, I know libraries are free nowadays, but I appreciate the ones that go out of their way to note it. Also, I love the sunbusts in the margines, above.

Great illumination here, too--I think this is a medieval law book, with crimes illustrated.

The rare books department has some incredible holdings, a few of which are exhibited, such as Dickens' desk and his bird, which influence Poe's "The Raven." The Elkins library, which you get to see on the tour, is gorgeous.

Not my picture; Charles Dickens' desk.

The rare books department evidently has quite a collection of tablets (thousands), of which a few are exhibited (see below). Our tour guide claims that financial transactions originally led to the creation of writing (and it is financial transactions that are primarily documented on these tablets).

As is the case with so many of the tours that Francisco and I go on in Philly, we were the only people there for it. The advantage is, of course, that the tour is then tailor made for us.

Sadly, only two examples of fraktur (which I've lately become obsessed with, but not as obsessed as Stearns) are shown. But the collection is digitized. And there will be a fraktur exhibit in March, which I'll be certainly coming back for. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

A Random Assortment

~ The brooch is back!

~ I had no idea that she was 94! (I was in the middle of the BBC production of Death Comes to Pemberley.)

~ Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol:
By the 1960s, Picasso was allowing his pictures to be printed on almost any fabric, with the exception of upholstery. The sofa was a line he wouldn’t cross, as the curators note: “Picassos may be leaned against, not sat on.”
~ The best part of this is the picture of Laurie Colwin and her daughter at the top. The worst part is all the rest--like the recommendation that you start with Family Happiness or the position that it's unbelievable that someone would be a backup singer. And especially the part that the e-books are attractively packaged. Who cares what the cover of an e-book looks like? It's not like you're going to put it on your coffee table or bookshelf. (Although it is very cool that the e-books include family photographs.) Also, unrelatedly, I'm very frustrated that not all of Colwin's works are collected--some of her essays in different magazines I haven't been able to get my hands on. And there's a tv-version of one of her short stories that is impossible to get a hold of. That kills me. (Via Francisco.)

~ I'm not sure about the credibility of The Guardian, "Winner of the Pulitzer Prize" (as Francisco pointed out, the Philadelphia Inquirer notes that is has won 20), but I feel a bit of vindication: "Mindy Lahiri: the greatest tv character of the year?" In my opinion, take out the question mark.

~ Another vindication: why a McDonald's cheeseburger is not that bad. Their only criterion is calories, which isn't too logical, since it's pretty clear to me a Whole Foods salad is still healthier, even if it has more calories. Anyway, Francisco and I ate McDonald's tonight to celebrate. (We live across the street from one, which is a pretty bad influence on us.)

~ Lawrence sent me this, saying, "This sounds like the kind of story you would enjoy." I guess that's because, as Francisco pointed out the other day, I'm irreverent. I do like a first daughter who will be found:
smoking in public, chewing gum, wearing pants, racing her own car too fast down D.C. streets, sometimes with male passengers and always unchaperoned, placing bets on horses (a news photographer snapped her collecting her winnings from a bookie)
  especially if it's to horrify a step-mother who thinks that
a lady’s name should appear in print only to announce her birth, marriage and death.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas Comes to 221B

Since we're leaving for our Christmas travels (to see Francisco's family) a while before Christmas, I gave myself permission to decorate early. Since our landlord prohibited live Christmas trees, I bought a small fake one at a thrift store. (Honestly, we only followed the rule because we also had nowhere in the whole apartment to put anything bigger than this tiny little guy. And because I'm scared to death of disobeying the rules after our scarring landlord experience while at the May of Teck.)

Our tree has an ornament for the baby and for our wedding on it, new this year. And the calla lilies (above) have since been replaced with advent candles.

Francisco and I came home from a date to this photo on the camera--Stearns and Ilana dressed Baby Leopard up as Baby Jesus and added him to the creche.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Tour of Our Neighborhood

I've been wanting to give you a tour of our neighborhood for quite a while. But first, it was the summer and hot, and I only left the house to go to the pool. And then there was a baby--that's taken all my time for a while. (Above--the post office; below--the library.)

What we love most about our neighborhood is how walkable it is. And we don't know how long we'll be here, but it's a very nice place to have a child.

I'm being Paul Strand here.

Here's one of our thrift stores, which is in the same building of a great deli that makes the best breakfast sandwiches in the area.

Sadly, the neighborhood movie theater (above) has long been a gym, and then the gym left. Now it's an abandoned building.

Friday, November 28, 2014


I'm thankful for nice new apartment complex washing machines and dryers. I'm thankful for a cozy apartment decorated just the way we like. I'm thankful for lots of thrift stores to walk to. I'm thankful for a happy little baby and for a patient, helpful partner. And I'm thankful for a wonderful family, who likes to take care of my baby when I visit.

(Above: my very clever cousins made a turkey snowman--this is my uncle's photograph.)

(I meant to post this on Thanksgiving, but I was distracted by family.)

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Random Assortment

~ I contemplated working for this guy back in the day--at the time my father was really impressed by him; turns out, most of Nebraska is, too. (Via Francisco)

~ I want to see this National Museum of Women in the Arts exhibit on the Virgin Mary (via Hopkins).

~ I'm so glad that Francisco is part of this trend toward more men being in the kitchen. I'm so glad I wasn't alive in the 50s.

~ I love this. Some descriptions of complementarity bother me because they can make men and women into stereotypes rather than individuals with their own strengths and weaknesses. (Even Edith Stein's description of complementarity acknowledges individual difference and femininity as a spectrum, as far as I remember.) Pope Francis puts the complementarity of men and women within the context of a more encompassing human complementarity in the church:
Yet complementarity is more than this. Christians find its deepest meaning in the first Letter to the Corinthians where Saint Paul tells us that the Spirit has endowed each of us with different gifts so that-just as the human body’s members work together for the good of the whole-everyone’s gifts can work together for the benefit of each.
He acknowledges that complementarity is between two different individuals who bring their "distinctive contributions to their marriage." And he insightfully talks about the tensions of marriage--"between egoism and altruism, reason and passion, immediate desires and long-range goals":
It is fitting that you have gathered here in this international colloquium to explore the complementarity of man and woman. This complementarity is a root of marriage and family. For the family grounded in marriage is the first school where we learn to appreciate our own and others’ gifts, and where we begin to acquire the arts of cooperative living. For most of us, the family provides the principal place where we can aspire to greatness as we strive to realize our full capacity for virtue and charity. At the same time, as we know, families give rise to tensions: between egoism and altruism, reason and passion, immediate desires and long-range goals. But families also provide frameworks for resolving such tensions. This is important. When we speak of complementarity between man and woman in this context, let us not confuse that term with the simplistic idea that all the roles and relations of the two sexes are fixed in a single, static pattern. Complementarity will take many forms as each man and woman brings his or her distinctive contributions to their marriage and to the formation of their children — his or her personal richness, personal charisma. Complementarity becomes a great wealth. It is not just a good thing but it is also beautiful.
Plus, he writes lots of great things about family (I recommend reading the whole thing--it's pretty short):
The crisis in the family has produced an ecological crisis, for social environments, like natural environments, need protection. And although the human race has come to understand the need to address conditions that menace our natural environments, we have been slower to recognize that our fragile social environments are under threat as well, slower in our culture, and also in our Catholic Church. It is therefore essential that we foster a new human ecology.