Monthly Archives: May 2013

Radiohead Is Grossly Overrated or; The Greatest Fingerpicker You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of

I know I’m not the only person alive who thinks Radiohead is severely overrated, but sometimes it feels that way.  Almost everyone I know whose musical opinion I respect likes if not loves Radiohead.  I just don’t get it.  I really don’t.  Radiohead sounds like every other whiny, mopey alternative band out there to me.  I’ve heard them hailed as “genius,” “revolutionary,” and so many other outrageously complimentary adjectives that one might almost think we were talking about the Beatles.  (They’re another grossly overrated band, and that is coming from a fan, so don’t get the pitchforks!)  Radiohead hasn’t revolutionized jack.  They aren’t mainstream enough, and honestly, they aren’t genius enough.

Maybe part of the problem is that I’m not a huge listener of alternative music, anyway.  I like REM, but that has more to do with the era during which I got into music – the early 90s.  REM was big in the late 80s and early 90s.  Remember “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)?”  I can proudly claim to be the only person I know who knows 85% or more of the lyrics to that crazy-ass song.  REM is alternative to me, and it’s one of the few examples of that type of music that still appeals to me after all this time.

I don’t know what it is about Radiohead, but they just piss me off.  No, they don’t piss me off – their fans do.  Every time I hear someone talk about Radiohead, it’s in fawning, gushing language, and I remember the first time I heard it, and I was prepared to have my mind blown.  And then… nothing.  I was like, “WTF, is that it?!  They sound like REM or Coldplay or something!”  And the person showing them off invariably says something like, “But they’re so much smarter than Coldplay or Muse or REM!”  Invariably.

You know what?  I have zero fucks to give if they’re “smarter” than other bands out there.  Music should be a lot of things, and I prefer mine to be smart, I’ll admit it.  You know what music should never, under any circumstances be?  Boring.  I can’t believe that these fawning fans love Radiohead half as much as they pretend to.  I think there was a core group of fans somewhere who got the Radiohead message out by saying these sorts of things, and then the rest of the people who like smart music fell line because somewhere, deep inside, they felt like they were supposed to like Radiohead.

This is the point where the pitchforks and torches come out and I have to run for the hills.

Why am I even bringing this up?  Because I’ve tried to like Radiohead.  I’ve listened to OK Computer through like my friend asked me to.  Nope, it didn’t take.  I’ve listened to random songs that are supposed to be good.  Nope.  Still not there.  These songs are not good enough to stand alone.  They don’t enthrall me as an album package, either.  I guess at this point, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that Radiohead isn’t for me.

But you know what is for me?  Fucking fingerpicking.  You give me a bluegrass banjo player, and I’ll sit still for a few minutes.  Leo Kottke?  Boom, I’m there.  Ani DiFranco?  I own most of the gal’s catalogue.  Chet Atkins?  Yeah, I know who he is.  Delta blues musicians?  I bet I know more of them than you (unless you’re actually a hardcore blues fan, and then I’ll back off).

So what is it about people with nasty press-on nails, twelve-string guitars, and guns like pro weightlifters that turns me on?  I really don’t have a good answer for that.  I think it’s a multifaceted answer.  I like men (and women!) who are going to the gun show.  (I’m jealous of ripped shoulders, I admit it.)  I like people who can move like spiders spinning silk.  I like the sound of a guitar that has enough strings to be a harp.  I like the way fingerpicking sometimes sounds like raindrops hitting a tin roof.  I like the fact that it makes me feel like there are sparks going off in my brain when I listen to it.  I like the fact that these people actually know how to play their damn instruments.  Any college-aged fool with a Phish poster in his dorm room can strum off a few chords, but it takes real skill to fingerpick.  Don’t believe me?  Try it.  See how far you get before your fingers bleed and you get frustrated at your serious lack of coordination.

I know of quite a few fine fingerpicking guitar players.  I mentioned a few above.  Today, I found a new one, John Butler.  He’s an Aussie-American who heads a band aptly named the John Butler Trio.  I’d never heard of him before today, and I hate myself a little bit for it.  If you like folksy, bluesy, or just plain old good acoustic guitar playing, you’ll love the hell out of this guy.

The first song of his I stumbled onto was “Ocean,” and… My mind was blown.  Blown.  That doesn’t happen to me that often.  This brought tears to my eyes multiple times over the course of 12 minutes.  Do you know how long it’s been since I was that sincerely moved by music?  I’ll tell you.  It’s been since I first heard Townes Van Zandt.  I was driving around in my old Jeep late at night – I used to like to drive at night, blaring my music, as I find it relaxing – and a friend of mine had recommended Townes Van Zandt to me.  I’d downloaded an album without listening to it and stuck it in the CD player.  When “If I Needed You” came on, I freaking cried at the wheel.  It shook me.  “Ocean” shook me.  Multiple times.  And dammit, that’s what good music should do.

When you hear something that good, you have to hear it again.  You have to put it on repeat because you never want the melody to leave you.  You’re sure that if you ever go deaf, those chords will still be throttling your useless eardrums.  Great music doesn’t have to have such a profound effect on you, but truly incredible music will.  I have officially only had that experience twice in my life, and I’ve just told you both of them.  Both of them were induced all or in part by beautiful fingerpicking.  Something about it… It speaks to my tired, black soul.

This song makes me wish I hadn’t had to sell my guitar to make room for the baby.  I wouldn’t be able to play “Ocean” anyway, partly because I was never even remotely good enough to take on something like that, but also because I’d need a 12-string.  (Butler actually uses a custom-built 11-string, but I’m sure it could be accomplished on a 12-string.)  I’m firmly convinced, at this point in my life, that everyone should learn to play one of two instruments, the guitar and the piano.  Pick one.  You’ll learn the basics of music, and you’ll be able to entertain a crowd.  Boom.  You automatically rock, literally, in some cases.

I highly recommend you push PLAY on this video, even if you aren’t all that into folk-style music or fingerpicking.  It would be damn hard, in my opinion, not to like this song or at least respect the hell out of John Butler’s ability.  He sounds like a one-man band, and all he’s got is an 11-string, an amp, effects pedals, a capo, and fake nails.  And big guns.  Damn.

This video has over 3 million views, but it is a crime that acts like Justin Bieber and Psy have more views than this guy.  It’s a crime.  So I hope you enjoy this song, and I hope you have the quasi-religious experience that I had – okay, I’m kind of still having it while I’m writing this, since I’m still listening hours later.  And even if you don’t, well, at least you’ll know for sure that there are still musicians with real talent out there.

Oh, and I love his faces.  When musicians make faces like that while they play, I know they’re feeling it.

You’ll Get All the Sleep You Want When You’re Dead

I never really understood the point of tablets.  They’re cool and everything, but they always seemed superfluous to me, a very unnecessary luxury that everyone just had to have.  I’ve had a Google Nexus Tab since Christmas and, while I like it, it hasn’t changed my life or anything.  It has some cool baby games on it that entertain Brett in a pinch, but I could live without it.  I’m not very tech savvy, and I’m okay with that.  One thing I do like though, is Weatherbug.  It tells me the weather anywhere in the world – I have it set for my town in Korea, my hometown, Manchester, and other places where I have family.  I get weather warnings from all of them, so I knew that the Midwest was getting some tornado activity last night.  I didn’t know until this morning just how severe it really was.

According to the Times, 51 people and probably more are dead in Oklahoma this morning (my time).  I’m from west central Illinois, so tornados were hardly a freak occurrence for me growing up.  Truthfully, I developed at least a mild contempt for severe weather early on.  Seeing people on the evening news with John Deere hats who took there camcorders outside to videotape the twister was hardly unheard of.  I was known to venture out onto the porch now and then to see if I could see the twister.  Hell, a few years ago, a tornado cloud passed right over our house.  My folks’ house is brick, so it did almost no damage, but you could hear the roof lifting as the tornado went over.  It was freaky, but it didn’t put the fear of God in me.

I feel for those people in Oklahoma, perhaps more than for other victims of natural disasters, because I know that could’ve been my hometown.  That year that the tornado cloud passed over Jacksonville, we got hit pretty hard.  There were trees down, several buildings destroyed… It was a mess.  But nobody died; we were all just freaked out and pissed off.  We all hate paying the yard cleanup crews extra to haul off the trees that narrowly missed the roof.  Nevertheless, you get used to storms.  It’s part of life, just like spring floods, snowstorms, and freakish heat waves in the summer.  The Midwest pretty much has it all, including plagues of cicadas.

Flip over to me here in Korea.  Korea doesn’t have much extreme weather, aside from typhoons, and I have yet to witness much devastation from them.  My biggest complaint today is that Brett is waking up 2-5 times a night at the moment because she’s learning how to crawl.  For a baby who used to sleep 10 hours straight through, this sucks.  Not sleeping for more than two hours at a time blows.  I’m tired today, not because I didn’t get much sleep total, but because it wasn’t particularly restful.  I woke up feeling like arse today, and I was cranky about it.

As you may have noticed, I’m not one to look on the bright side of life.  I’m a pessimist by nature, and I know this about myself.  Maybe I just came that way, or maybe it’s because of early events in my life.  Whatever the case, I’m just not one of those sparkly, sunshiny people who is happy about everything all the time.  I wish I could be, but I accepted a long time ago that I’m not ever going to be like that.  When the baby wakes me up every two hours, it pisses me off.  I like my sleep.

But then you wake up and you see people whose babies are dead, or who don’t have homes for their baby anymore, or whose children no longer have a school to go to.  That sort of puts things in perspective.  Yes, waking up with babies sucks.  Any parent will attest to that.  But you know what sucks more than a wakeful, cranky baby?  Having that baby and then losing him/her.  It would destroy me if something happened to Brett.

So, instead of being cranky about the fact that I’m tired, I think I’m going to try and be happy about the fact that my apartment hasn’t been destroyed, my baby is healthy and safe, my husband has a job, and we have food on the table, amongst other things.  Because let’s get real: shit could be a lot worse.  It could always be worse.  But I really need to shut it sometimes and be thankful for the things that I have instead of bitter about the things I don’t have.  I’ll get all the sleep I want when I’m dead.

Separation Anxiety and Other Types of Baloney

Did you know that sausages and processed meat have wheat in them?  Yeah, neither did I.  You wouldn’t think it, would you?  Aren’t sausages and other types of meat supposed to be made of, uh, meat?  Apparently, meat is not a prerequisite for meat anymore.  My husband and I made this charming discovery last night while making dinner.  He bought some cheap sandwich meat at Lotte that was on sale, and he randomly held it up and asked, “I wonder if there’s any wheat in this?”  I read the label – I got used to checking for sugar and wheat in things from Somersizing, so I know just about every Korean word for “gluten- or carb-containing crapola” ever – and sure enough, there was freaking wheat in it.  WTF.

Being a glutard (gluten intolerant individual) in Korea is an uphill battle.  Well, it’s an uphill battle wherever you are.  As I said before, you wouldn’t believe how much wheat and related grain products are in food.  Wheat in meat is straight crazy, as far as I’m concerned.  But beyond that, it’s hard to find the assortment of gluten-free replacement flours here that are necessary to a lot of GF cooking: sorghum flour, cornstarch and corn flour, potato starch, almond flour, tapioca flour, and quinoa flour and flakes.  Besides that, xantham gum is pretty necessary for all GF baking to bind the ingredients together.  (Gluten apparently does that in standard baking.)  Sea salt, agave syrup, coconut milk (unsweetened, sweetened, and vanilla) are also common ingredients, as well as pumpkin puree.  Sea salt, agave syrup, rice flour, and potato flour are readily available here, but most of the recipes I have call for more than one type of flour.  I would imagine that’s partly to do with taste.  I don’t fancy potato flour by itself!

Besides that, even a lot of the rice cakes (not the glutinous ones, the dry ones) that you can find here have some sort of wheat stuff in the syrup used to bind them together.  The nuts with coating on them have gluten.  There are a few places that carry gluten free bread, but I haven’t found it yet.  To top all of this off, it seems like the hubby is almost definitely a lactard too, so he can’t have milk, cheese, or yogurt anymore.  Ugh!  He can’t even have milk chocolate anymore.  He got pretty depressed about the whole thing last night after discovering the wheat in the meat.

I’m excited about trying out the GF recipes, but it seems like we’re going to have to wait until we get home.  I can get a lot of things on iHerb, but we really don’t have the extra cash to be paying out to have everything shipped over here.  I can understand why he’s depressed, though.  How would anyone feel if they suddenly found out that they can’t have beer, most chocolate, standard bread, cake, sausages, salad dressing, potato chips, or milk ever again?  It’s going to be a difficult transition.  I’m not eating anything that has gluten in it either, and I think that helps, but there’s no denying that going from eating just about whatever you want to basically being a grain-free vegan overnight is hard, when it wasn’t a change you wanted to make.

We went out on a gluten-free bread search on Saturday and took Brett with us.  Wow, that was a mistake.  Wonder week 26 has left us, but now separation anxiety has set in because of course.  She’s waking up and crying for us in the night, refusing to nap because she wants to be with us, and hates strangers.  She flipped the hell out on our neighbor lady last week, and she’s never done that before.  We went to Jinhae to the oceanfront walk on Friday afternoon, and a bunch of people got up in her face to tell her she was cute, and she lost it.  She lost it again on Saturday at the big marts.  She screamed the entire time.  Yeah, we were those people.  Fortunately, it was so crowded and there were so many other pissed off brats that nobody noticed or cared.  We finally got sick of it and packed it in, rather than listen to her howl for another 30 minutes.  Once we were back in the car, away from all other human contact, she started smiling and giggling again.

Fortunately, the worst of separation anxiety only lasts about two weeks.  She’s been fighting it a bit before with WW26, anyway.  She gets mad if I nip around the corner to the kitchen to get her milk or make myself some dinner.  Note that she can see me when I do this; she’s just angry that I’m not sitting right next to her.  Suffice to say that it’s been a bit annoying and difficult.

On the upside, we bought her a baby bounce chair.  It’s like the lovechild of a Jumperoo and a walker.  It has toys on it for her to play with, and there’s a trampoline thing underneath that she can stand and bounce on.  She hated it the first time I stuck her in the seat, but she got used to it, and now she loves to be put in her bouncy chair.  It’s much easier to entertain her while I do dishes and make food now.  Thirty minutes seems to be about her limit for it, but trust me, 30 minutes of independent play is amazing when you have stuff to do!

She’s also trying to crawl, and that is just pathetic.  She looks like a mentally challenged fish trying to swim.  She’s sort of got the back end bit down, but she’s just stupid with her arms.  I don’t think she has great upper body strength.  I’ve showed her how to prop herself up on her hands, and I think she gets it, but she can’t do it yet.  She’s kind of dumb about sitting up, too.  She knows how to do it, but she gets to interested in looking around and clapping her hands – she claps a lot – that she forgets to hold herself up, and she just falls over.  It’s kind of ridiculous.

In minor news of cool junk that my baby can do, she has figured out how to feed herself, sort of.  She will now grab the spoon from us when we are feeding her and attempt to do it herself.  She will also just lunge at the spoon like a rabid howler monkey when she sees it coming from just about any direction.  You have to be careful!  She is babbling even more, and she now claps for me.  I’m not sure if she does it just because she wants to, but it seems like she does it when she’s happy, mostly.  She talks to pictures of herself, which is kind of hilarious, and she has gotten the hang of rolling across her play area to get toys she wants or to give Mommy and Daddy big hugs.  She will let you know when she wants hugs!

So basically, it’s a mixed bag around here right now.  Brett’s behavior has drastically improved over the last week, but she’s not sleeping as well, so I’m still a bit cranky due to constant sleep deprivation.  My husband is cranky because he’s still getting over gluten poisoning and because he can’t keep eating gluten-laced products.  We’re both bored with things around here and ready to leave, but we’re also feeling nervous about the future.  I think for the moment, we’d settle for being able to have a pastry that won’t make my husband sick and a day when the baby sleeps through the night and takes naps!  Welcome to the parenthood!

Gluttons for Gluten

Fad diets are nothing new.  It seems like there’s a new one every year.  The South Beach Diet.  The Adkins Diet.  The HCG Diet.  Sugarbusters.  The Paleo Diet.  The Grapefruit Diet.  There are likely dozens.  I’m in favor of just about anything that eliminates processed sugar and grain-based carbs.  As some of you know, I lost over 100 pounds in Somersize (low-carb & food combining), which is kind of similar to Adkins and Paleo, but not quite as extreme as Paleo.  I swear by it, since it’s the only diet that has ever actually kept weight off of me.  Some people think low-carbbing is crazy, but to those people I say that you can’t argue with success.

This post isn’t really about me, though.  My husband has been sick a lot this winter.  I mean, he was sick for almost two months consecutively.  At first, he thought it was just because he works in an English academy, home to lots of disgusting germs and Korean viral plagues.  His students cough and sneeze on him because farmers in business suits.  Also kids are filthy.  (I have one, so I feel like I’m okay to say that.)  He went to the doctor four or five different times, and they put him on four or five different medicines.  I had long since started thinking that there was something else going on, since back when we met, he was never sick.  When he did happen to get sick, it was severe and only happened about once a year.  He’d never had something that lasted for over two weeks before.

He was having all sorts of cold- and flu-like symptoms: cough, fever, runny nose, massive digestive issues, fatigue, nausea, headaches… You name it, he probably had it.  The digestive issues were the main problem.  I mean, it was out of control.  He was miserable.  I had a suspicion that it might be a food allergy or intolerance and not the flu, as he kept thinking.  I got on the old Interwebs and decided that he either had a milk or gluten problem.  I told him this and suggested cutting dairy and gluten for a few weeks.  He agreed, but within a day, he was off the diet.  And the symptoms persisted.

Finally, it got to the point where, after the last doctor visit, he was on something like seven or eight different medicines to combat this “flu bug,” rather confirming my feeling that a good majority of small clinic doctors in Korea are little better than pill pushers.  Seven different pills and nothing was making him better.  A common flu bug would probably be kicked by that much medicine.  I went back to insisting that he probably had a food allergy or intolerance, most likely gluten but possibly dairy, and he finally agreed to go gluten-free and stick to it.

After six days without gluten, the digestive issues were easing.  He was no longer exhausted all the time, the cold symptoms had vanished, and he didn’t feel sick anymore.  Then on Saturday even two weeks ago, he ate some chicken with breading on it.  Bad idea.  Within hours, the symptoms had returned in full force, worse than ever before.  He spent the next 36 hours or so being completely and utterly miserable.  It was kind of shocking how hard the symptoms hit him.  He was amazed, although far from thrilled. That night confirmed my belief that my husband is either gluten intolerant or a celiac disease sufferer.  It doesn’t make a lot of difference which one it is because treatment is the same – no gluten!

Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat and closely related grain species, including barley and rye.  It is estimated that about 15% of the US population suffers from some form of gluten intolerance, which is really pretty staggering, if you think about it.  That means that, statistically, for every 10 people you pass in the street, at least one probably has some form of gluten intolerance or allergy, whether they know it or not.  That begs the question: Why the hell are we eating so much gluten?

But Marge, you say, I don’t eat much gluten.  Well, maybe you’re getting more than you think.  When you think of wheat-based products, you think of bread, cake, cookies, pancakes, cereal, pasta, and items of that nature.  I’ll bet you didn’t know that soy sauce has gluten in it, did you?  Yup, and some salad dressings, too.  Those fried chicken bits in your salad?  Yeah, that has breading on it, which contains gluten.  A whole range of foods that you would never think of contain gluten: OXO cubes, sausages, chutneys, many pills and supplements, hard candy, and even cosmetics and Play Dough.  Some people with severe celiac disease can’t even handle Play Dough.  True story.

Fortunately, my husband isn’t that bad, but we did find out that it runs on his dad’s side.  Gluten problems can be inherited.  For that reason, we’re going to limit Brett’s gluten intake, on the off-chance that she has it.  She has mild eczema now, which might indicate future allergies.  Frankly, I’d prefer to keep her eating mostly fresh food, anyway.

Some people think the Paleo diet and its brethren are a load of crap.  You don’t have to believe everything in low-carb diets to understand why Westerners generally and Americans specifically eat too much gluten.  I agree that we aren’t well-adapted to process this particular protein, kind of like we aren’t well-adapted to process milk.  As children, we were taught that the base of the food pyramid is grains.  Good grief, why?  Why would nutrient-rich fresh fruits and vegetables not be the base of our diet?

Most gluten-containing foods also contain carbohydrates, and not the good kind you’ll find in fruits and vegetables, but the kind that turn to sugar in your stomach.  Any kind of sugar will elicit an insulin response, and that will prompt your body to store fat.  Carbs make you fat.  Bread, beer, cereal, and other grains make you fat. 

Gluten is incredibly difficult to digest, though.  In some, it creates celiac disease.  In others, it leads to immune reactions which slowly wear your body down, causing you to feel like garbage all the time.  If you’re really lucky, it’ll do both!  The immune conditions can take many forms, including eczema, psoriasis, fibromyalgia and/or general joint pain, cold-like symptoms, acne, and other skin problems.  Gastrointestinal specialists who are studying celiac disease and gluten intolerance feel that a host of problems like fibromyalgia and other such ailments are symptoms rather than diseases in and of themselves and could very possibly be linked to gluten problems.

How many people do you know who just feel like crap?  They’re always complaining that they don’t feel well.  They’re tired a lot, they ache, and they’re always sick.  How many of these people are really suffering from a specific disease and how many are suffering from generally being unwell?  I think the American diet has everything to do with the amount of illness that we’re seeing today, and I don’t even think it necessarily has to do with portion control.  The reality is that if you eat the right foods, you can eat pretty much whatever you want.  If you eat lots of fruits, veggies, and lean protein, you won’t be hungry.  If you eat a lot of pasta with fats, you’re bound to be overweight and constantly hungry.  Carbs make you hungry.  Protein satisfies you.

Consider the possibility for a moment that the paleo dieters are right.  What if we aren’t adapted to digest wheat proteins, processed sugar, and certain other foods?  What if long-term, mass consumption of these foods makes people really sick?  If that were true, why the hell is there gluten in our soy sauce?  Why are we still eating tons of bread?  Why do schools teach us that grain foods are the best thing for us if there’s a possibility that they could be killing us (albeit slowly)?

We have no choice in our home but to follow a gluten-free lifestyle from now on.  Oh, I’m not going to give up my German beer completely, but I am going to start making baked goods that follow gluten-free recipes.  Fortunately, we’re living in an age now where it seems like most people follow some alternative diet.  Finding gluten-free baking goods isn’t the challenge it was 10 years ago.  Yes, we’re making some lifestyle changes, but they’re all positive ones, and the result thus far has been that my husband feels much better and has lost 5 pounds already, thanks to going gluten-free.  (In case you were curious, gluten intolerant folks tend to either lose weight and be malnourished due to malabsorption of foods or bloated and overweight from digestive ailments.)  I’m back doing my Somersize thing, although I’m not following the food combining guidelines much anymore.  I just avoid grains and sugar altogether, and I’ve also lost about 5-6 pounds already.  I have a ton more energy (like last time), and I just feel better.

Going gluten-free is hard.  It’s going to be a challenge for my husband.  He likes sandwiches and pastries and things like that.  Don’t we all?  You have to be vigilant when going GF, especially if you’re one of the types who starts to react when gluten is even around.  If you’re one of those, you can pretty much kiss goodbye to eating out.  There are not many options available for gluten-free eaters in restaurants, and the possibility of “cross contamination” is high.  If you insist on eating out, it’s best to take a digestive aid like Glutenease beforehand.  At home, if you’re baking, only use mixes that you know to be gluten-free (Bob’s Red Mill and King Arthur make some good ones).  Eat lots of fresh foods.  Shop around the outside of the grocery store.  I can honestly say based on my own experience on Somersize that if it’s processed, it’s got stuff in it that you’re trying to avoid.  Just assume you can’t have it.  We learned from my husband’s one experience that assuming it’s okay really isn’t worth the problems later.

If you suspect you might have a gluten intolerance, take the plunge and go gluten-free for a couple weeks.  After eliminating it, reintroduce it.  If you feel horrible afterwards, chances are good that you’ve found your culprit.  My personal opinion is that pretty much everyone would benefit from eating a low- to no-gluten diet.  I feel better when I eliminate grain-based foods.  I just do.  It’s always amazing to me how much better I feel when I cut out those foods.  Give it a try – maybe you’ll find that you feel better, too!

In the Wake of a Wonder Week

Yeah, I know – I look terrible.  You don’t have to remind me.  I haven’t slept very well for the past week or so.  I really thought these days were over.  That expression about a mother’s work never being done?  It’s totally true.  That expression about the wonder weeks never being done?  … Okay, there is no expression like that, but it feels that way, and there certainly should be an expression like that.  Brett has just come out the other side of wonder week 26, and… Yeah.

Wonder weeks 19 and 26 run back-to-back.  There’s about two weeks gap between them, if you’re lucky.  Both of them last about 2-5 weeks.  Brett’s lasted four weeks and five weeks, respectively.  I thought wonder week 19 was a real ho’s beast until we hit WW 26.  Apparently I had no idea what wonder week torture could really look like.  Trust me, it’s bad.  It’s as bad as the mother forums say.  So let’s talk about wonder week 26.

Wonder week 26 is called “The World of Relationships,” and your baby is really going to start putting things together with this one!  One of the major things they begin to understand is distance between objects, which eventually leads to separation anxiety.  It used to be that if baby couldn’t see it, she’d forget about it.  Now she’ll begin to realize that things can go away, come back, and continue to exist, even if she can’t see them.

For Brett, this resulted in the early stages of separation anxiety.  She wanted to be held constantly, and she’d get mad if I went into the kitchen, which is basically an extension of the living room.  It was really ridiculous.  The most fun result has been her ability to initiate peekaboo.  I used to put a towel over my head and play with her, but now she grabs the towel and “hides” from me.  She’ll yank it down when I ask, “Where’s Brett?  I can’t see her!”  She squeals and giggles.  It’s her favorite game.

She has gotten a lot smarter about other things, too.  She is babbling a LOT more, and many babbles she makes now sound like “Mommy,” “Yeah,” and “Hi.”  She can wave a little bit, clap her hands (badly), have a “conversation” by clicking her tongue back and forth with you, steal things and delight when you want them back, recognize faces in pictures, has pincer grasp, and so many other little things.  She has changed so much in the last month, it’s unreal.  She’s gotten so much smarter and more interesting to interact with.

As far as physical ability goes, that has leaped forward, too.  She is trying to sit up, stand, and crawl.  The sitting up is going okay.  She’s not great at it, but it’s getting there.  The crawling is going badly, and it’s hilarious.  She’s got her back end sorted out, but she can’t push totally up on her arms yet.  She thinks trying is fun for about 10 minutes, and then she gets hacked off and wonders why she isn’t crawling.  Standing up is just not happening yet.  She tries and really wants it to, but she doesn’t quite have the leg strength yet.  We ordered her a jumper chair to help out.  We’d resisted before, since we may leave soon, but she needs it.  Did I mention she prefers to be upright at all times now, despite the fact that she can’t sit up unassisted for extended periods yet?

We have also started her on baby food, which she adores.  She likes everything, from prunes to squash and carrots.  The only thing she refuses to eat is peas.  Those make her cry on sight.  To be honest, I’d cry if that was my dinner, too.  She looks forward to her two “solid” feeds every day, and she will actually lunge at spoons and try to grab baby food and actual food from your hands.  Chip off the old block!

That all sounds fun and cute, right?  Well, getting there is a bitch.  Brett fussed consistently for five weeks.  I mean, it was almost constant – 15 minutes happy, 45 minutes screaming and refusing to be put down.  Going from giggling to screaming in seconds. Sometimes she’d defy all logic and do both at the same time, which was almost pathetic.  Trust me when I say that it was horribly trying.  I had one day when I had to just put her in her crib and shut the door.  She cried herself to sleep, and I sat down in our bedroom and cried for about 10 minutes myself.  We both took a nap and emerged better for it, but honestly, it’s rough.

Wonder week 26 is one of those times that will test your patience, most particularly if you are at home with the baby all day.  Dealing with constant crankiness and screaming is hard.  It’s hard to feel like you’re a good parent when the baby hates everything.  You have to tell yourself over and over again that it really is just a phase and that they need extra love and attention.  But it’s hard.  Damn, is it hard.

Our big problem now is a growth spurt that is making sweet monkey love to a sleep regression.  I’m not sure if the growth spurt is causing the sleep regression or what, but it’s here.  Brett will sleep for about five hours and then wake up intermittently for feedings.  She used to sleep 10 to 10.5 hours straight through, no problem.  Now it’s waking with big feeds.  She went to bed around midnight, woke up at 5am and had a feed, and then got up for the day at 7am.  I went to bed at 3:45.  Yes, that was stupid, and yes, it’s been a brutal day already, and I’ve only been up for an hour.  My husband isn’t sleeping well, and he doesn’t exactly appreciate the baby getting up early and squealing, regardless of the reason.

I think the sleep regression is really being caused by two things: growth and milestones.  It’s obvious that she’s going through the beginnings of a growth spurt, because she’s drinking tons of milk and demanding food feeds.  When I sat down to my dinner last night, she got so angry when I didn’t offer her my food that she pitched a fit until we got out some applesauce for her.  When she was done, she drank some more formula.  She spends the bulk of her awake time now either trying to crawl or sit up.  I suspect that she’s probably thinking about these things in her sleep and possibly even attempting the movements because she wakes up in some funky positions!  The busyness of her brain coupled with the growing makes it hard to sleep. I try to tell myself to imagine going to sleep with an important work presentation the next day.  Now do that on a stomach that feels empty and very hungry, and try sleeping!  It wouldn’t happen for me either, and even if it did, it wouldn’t be good sleep.

Some moms and babies have it far worse – weeks and weeks of multiple late night wakings and feedings, plus having to go to work and function like a normal human.  Times like this, I’m glad that I don’t have to go to work.  Granted, Brett’s naps went to crap for the bulk of the wonder week, so there was no napping, but at least nobody expected me to dress or act like a functional member of society.  Sleep regressions are pretty much worse than anything else your baby can do, including barfing, poop explosions, and incessant screaming.  Sleep deprivation will harm the quality of your life faster than anything else.  (The first six weeks of Brett’s life and my various, sleep deprivation-induced meltdowns provide ample evidence for that fact!)

The question that most moms would probably come here looking for an answer to would be the following: “When does it end?” and “Will it all be worth it in the end?”  The answer to the latter is “Definitely.”  Your baby will be far more interesting and sociable when it’s all over.  They will do cool new tricks that impress your family and friends, and that “hungry lump” stage will be more and more a distant memory.

The answer to the former?  I have no freaking idea.  Brett’s wonder week last for almost exactly five weeks, which is the upper limit of wonder week 26.  However, she still gets pissed off because she’s trying so hard to master new skills that have come with the wonder week.  Just because the wonder week ends doesn’t automatically mean your baby can stand up and dance a jig.  Different babies will develop their skills at different rates.  My friend’s baby figured it all out fast, and she’s bigger and stronger than Brett.  (In truth, she’s kind of monstrously large.)  Brett isn’t that coordinated (she gets that honest, too), so it’s taking longer.  However, her mental milestones came fast from this one.  Brett isn’t a very physical child, but she’s extremely observant.  It’s obvious that she likes to think about things.  Only when her intellectual curiosity gets the better of her does she start to push herself towards physical milestones.  That’s what’s happening now: she wants to see more and interact more with her environment, so she wants to sit up and move around.  Otherwise, she couldn’t care less.

Oh, and separation anxiety comes about 2-3 weeks after the wonder week.  I know, right?  Kill me now.  Brett already exhibited a lot of the signs during the actual wonder week, so I’m hoping it won’t be that bad.  Actually, I’d be happy with eight hours of sleep again, but every night is getting worse and worse.  Fingers crossed that it stops soon!

In conclusion, wonder week 26: a suckfest.  I had a hard, hard time with this one.  I felt resentful, tired, frustrated, and angry a lot of the time.  Screaming babies who don’t nap will do that to you.  To all moms who are having a hard time with it, I say this: hand the kid to partner, grandparents, or trusted friend, and get the hell away for an afternoon.  Seriously.  Just getting some distance and doing my own thing helped tremendously.  The baby will probably still be cranky, but sometimes just taking a nice nap or going shopping or reading a book will be immensely restorative.  It’s good to remember that everyone needs a break sometimes, and it’s not a crime to need to get away from the baby for a while.  I had to tell myself on several occasions that it would all be okay.  Actually, I’m still doing that this morning.  Gak.

I will say that if you ever feel overwhelmingly angry with your baby – and it probably will happen at least once, whether or not you admit it to anyone else – put the baby down in a safe place, like a crib or playpen, and just leave.  Shut the door and go into another room.  Put your headphones on or some earplugs in for 10 minutes or so.  Crying will not kill the baby, but you losing your temper and shaking him/her might.  I had to put Brett down a couple of times during this one, and it was the right thing to do.  She went to sleep in both cases (overtired, no doubt), and I felt better for having removed myself from the situation, however temporarily.  Sometimes we need distance.

Anyway, for all those moms who are suffering through this time with their babies, it will get better.  There are fun things at the other side, and just remember – it’s a phase.  It’s always a phase with kids, whether it’s a stage of bad sleep, development, or listening to boy bands, it’s just a phase.  Boy bands would be worse than crying to me, in case anyone was curious.