Roasted fennel and cherry tomatoes with black olives and it’s all fun and games until somebody shits in the tub


Since I had a baby, I’ve started a lot of lists. I LIKE LISTS. But I don’t finish many because baby. These are three from the past few months:

Things My Newborn Has Taught Me:

Top Two Things I Say to My Son:

Things I’ve Learned: Marriage Edition

The Barnacle, my sweet, sweet boy, turned four months old last week. He’s so healthy, so alert, so good-natured. I’d like to feel 100 percent happy about this, because it feels ungrateful not to, but I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. There’s NO WAY I sent that many angry reply-all emails in the late 1990s for this baby not to get bitten by a rat. Also, when I consider the wasteland of my twenties and then look at my son, chewing happily on his hand and sporting a head of eaglet fuzz, I think, I don’t deserve this joy. DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY PEOPLE I MADE WAIT IN LINE FOR THE BATHROOM WHILE I SNORTED BLOW OFF A SET OF HOUSE KEYS? For example, I once had the following conversation with a guy in line for the bathroom at a bar near Church and Market:

Guy: This is taking forever! You know people do coke in the bathrooms here.
Me: What? That’s so obnoxious!
Me five minutes later: (SNORRRRRRRT. SNORRRRRRRT.)

I tell my baby I want to clip his roots like a bonzai tree so he will stay small forever. He tries to focus on a set of plastic rings, and then he tries to grab one. He is successful maybe 15 percent of the time. I sigh and think for the millionth time that being a baby looks like what being roofied must feel like.

His generally sweet nature doesn’t mean he’s not trying to kill me. We can barely keep up with how fast his nails are growing, so the tops of my breasts are covered with claw marks, and he kicks me in the throat when we sleep (perhaps because I sleep with my head next to his head but SUE ME I WANT TO HEAR HIM BREATHING). And so much of my hair is STILL coming out with every shower that I could use it for the batting in a very small doll.

Fortunately, SJ, the man I haven’t divorced yet, is not trying to kill me (or, if he is, he’s really bad at it because I’M STILL HERE MOTHERFUCKER COME AT ME). He takes the baby as much as he can so I can get some writing done. The other afternoon I heard him singing to the baby as they bounced on the yoga ball in the living room:

You’re growing so fast in every direction!
Up, down, in, out!
You’re growing so fast in every direction!
Up, down, in, out!

Then he made up a rap about their plans for the afternoon:

Step 1: Figure out what we’re going to do!
Step 2: Do what we said we’re going to do!
Step 3: Figure out what we’re going to do next!

I crept out to peek at them and found SJ with the baby’s head heavy on his shoulder.

SJ (whispering to me): Is he asleep?
Jenny: Yeah. Well, either asleep or dead.
SJ: I’m glad one of the two of us can make those jokes.

One night I dreamt about George Clooney. I DIDN’T REALIZE I WAS MIDDLE-AGED UNTIL I WROTE THAT SENTENCE. He complimented me on my Badgley Mischka dress WHAT WAS I READING VOGUE BEFORE BED THE FANCIEST LABEL I OWN IS VANS. Then I remembered that his wife just had twins I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW I KNEW THAT AND I SWEAR TO GOD I WASN’T LOOKING AT THE INTERNET BEFORE BED and I thought, Oh, I’ll ask him about that. When I woke up, my T-shirt was soaked with breast milk. Later that morning, after a long night of waking up to the baby grazing, I said to SJ, “I feel like an open bar.”

Some mornings I wake up and think, I really need to stop dicking around. I haven’t gotten anything DONE lately. Then I remember what I’ve been doing for the past four months and I scream at SJ, “YOU NEED TO THANK ME EVERY DAY.”

To assuage the constant anxiety and exhaustion, I take a lot of baths with the baby. When the Barnacle was two weeks old, my mom sat on the toilet next to the tub since I was afraid I’d drop him if I wasn’t supervised.

Mom: How do you know he’s not going to …
Baby: (Shits in the tub)

These days, three and a half months later, he somehow knows not to shit in the tub (or, at least, he hasn’t done it again), but he has no compunction about peeing. I lean back and hold him under the arms so he’s standing on my chest, where he grins down at me maniacally and pees on me, cowboy-style.

Sometimes I think of the baby as the last of a series of guys who, when I say I love you, shit his pants.

Amid all this disjointedness, SJ and I made it out for our first date night without the baby, with an old friend babysitting. It’s true what they say about needing to nurture your relationship: We immediately fell back into our old rhythms, as evidenced by this exchange from our way home, when SJ was attempting to drive my car out of a parking garage.

Jenny: Why don’t you go forward?
SJ (looks down and flips my car out of reverse, but into L, not D)
Jenny: Why are you in L?
SJ: Why did we get married?

We actually had a really nice time, and although we don’t always sleep in the same room (we both make noises the other can’t stand), we did that night:

Jenny: Good night.
SJ: Good night.
Jenny: Don’t snore.
SJ: Did I tell you the last time I was in here I dreamt all night that I was in a little boat on the bay, and there was this noise of a freighter coming from somewhere, and I woke up and it was all the noise between the noisemaker and the fan.
Jenny: It sounds like a pleasant dream.
SJ: It wasn’t. It was very stressful.
Jenny: Good night.
SJ: I love you. Despite everything.

For this recipe cribbed from Jamie Oliver, you need:

  • 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed, halved, quartered, quartered again
  • 1 large handful cherry tomatoes
  • 1 large handful Kalamata olives, pitted
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 pats butter, divided
  • Olive oil
  • Glass of white wine
  • Salt and pepper

You need to:

  • Bring oven to 425 degrees.
  • Bring pot of salted water to boil. Boil fennel for about 10 minutes.
  • In roasting pan put tomatoes, olives, garlic, and fennel. Pour on oil and wine, drop in teeny bits of butter, and add salt and pepper to taste. Spread feathery tops of fennel across top.
  • Roast in the middle of oven for 30 minutes.


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