Podcasts I Listen To (Fourth Edition)

I’ve been sharing infrequently updated lists of the podcasts I enjoy for a few years. Let’s again peek at my Castro inbox to see what’s changed since my last list.

The global political landscape and my life are both vastly different, it feels worth mentioning. In the world, Trump is now our president. In my personal life, I’m now a mom and my “free time” has shrunk so much it can now fit on a pinhead. For both of those reasons, I’ve been thinking about how I spend my time differently and I consider the culture I consume more carefully. Parenting is exhausting. On some days, the news is even more exhausting. Often I just want relief. While before I might have felt that podcasts were helping me on some sort of quest for knowledge, now it’s more like a quest for a chance to breathe. If I’m pausing my life to take a break, I’d like it to be a break for real.

I took a tally and it turns out I’m subscribed to 45 podcasts! I don’t listen to all of those with any regularity, though. I really only get excited about hearing about a third of those when they’re released. Here’s what August 2019 Heather tends to devote her listening time to:

  • The Best Show: Tom Scharpling’s three-hour extravaganza. His bits with Jon Wurster are usually the highlight, but there’s so many other charms to this show, from guests to listener call-ins. I’ve been a listener for a long time and it saddens me that I can’t really make it through a full ep anymore, but it’s still on the list because I do tune in here and there.

  • Bullseye: I’ve been listening to Jesse Thorn’s interview show off and on since way back when it was called The Sound of Young America. Jesse has great guests and is often able to bring out their best.

  • Comedy Bang Bang: Scott Aukerman’s long-running improv and interview show, with hilarious recurring characters from top comedians.

  • The Daily: The New York Times’ daily podcast. Each episode covers a relevant topic in the week’s news. Easy to digest, insightful, and timely.

  • Desert Island Discs: BBC interview show. Each guest shares which songs they’d want with them on a deserted island. I love the wide variety of guests (scientists, writers, musicians, and more) and the sometimes surprising picks.

  • Dr. Gameshow: Comedian Jo Firestone is a delight and the chaotic good of this family-friendly show is, inexplicably, sometimes exactly what I need.

  • Every Little Thing: Light-hearted, pun-filled show that’s exactly what it sounds like. Listeners get to request topics and then dive in deep with host Flora Lichtman, covering everything from pants to pirates. If you are an unendingly curious person like myself you’ll enjoy ELT.

  • Fresh Air: Terry Gross is a master interviewer. Need I say more?

  • Good One: Vulture Senior Editor Jesse David Fox interviews comedians as they dissect one specific joke from their career. What’s great about this show is that Jesse truly does his homework for each guest and it shows.

  • Hollywood Handbook: Almost impossible to describe. If I could tell you what Hollywood Handbook is about, I would. I can tell you that it’s not about Hollywood. I guess it’s essentially Sean Clements and Hayes Davenport impersonating what other podcasts that cover celebrities might sound like. Kind of. Listen and see if you learn to love “the boys.”

  • Judge John Hodgman: I’ve been listening to JJHO for many years. It’s funny, it’s heartwarming, it’s wholesome. Sometimes I think about the fact that John Hodgman can’t possibly do this show forever and it bums me out.

  • Las Culturistas: Matt Rogers and Bowen Yang have a finish-each-others’-sentences friendship that’s hard not to envy. Come for every episode’s "I Don’t Think So Honey” segment and stay for the spark between them. By the way, this is probably the most explicit thing I listen to, too? Worth knowing, perhaps.

  • The Need to Fail: Comedian Dan Fanetti interviews comedians, actors, and artists about their past failures and how they’ve handled them. One of the newer shows that I’ve started listening to.

  • Song Exploder: Some of the world’s best musicians take apart their songs, sharing the story of their songwriting process along the way. I’m not a musician, but still I find it’s hard not to walk away inspired.

  • Threedom: On this premium podcast, Paul F. Tompkins, Lauren Lapkus, and Scott Aukerman are basically just hanging out being their hilarious and adorable selves. Getting to be a fly on the wall with these three is usually lots of fun. Most of it is behind a paywall, but a few are free.

Example Weekday Routine for a 10-Month-Old Baby in Daycare

It has taken me about ten months to feel confident that we even have a routine, even though I think in truth we have had a rhythm to our collective day for a long time. I use the word “routine” here deliberately. It’s not possible to have a true minute-by-minute schedule with any baby. However, you can have a routine that lays out the rough order in which you do things throughout your day.

I’ve added approximate times to this list mostly to give a general sense of how long things take relative to each other. By no means do I look at the clock all day and try to stick to this, aside from bedtime, which we do actively try to make close to 7pm.

I’ll also call out one more word, which is “example”! This is my first child and I’m very much playing it by ear and learning as I go along like everyone else. This is what happens to be working for us at the moment.

Example Weekday Routine for a 10-Month-Old Baby in Daycare

~6:00am “Good morning!” Out of the crib and diaper change. These days, our daughter wakes up as early as about 5:40am and as late as about 6:20am. She tends to just sit or stand quietly in her crib until we notice she’s awake on the video monitor. Often there’s a lovely big poo-poo in her diaper for us to handle.

6:10am Bottle

6:25am Eat breakfast together

6:45-7:45am Playtime in the nursery

7:45am School clothes on, diaper change, and sunscreen if needed.

8am Out the door to daycare

. . . Fun with her little friends, bottles, snacks, lunch, and hopefully at least one nice, long quality nap! . . .

5pm Pick up from daycare

5:15pm Diaper change and hand wipes to minimize daycare germs coming in

5:30pm Eat dinner together

6-6:30pm Playtime in the nursery

6:30pm Bath

6:35pm Diaper on

6:40pm Bottle

6:55pm PJs on

7pm One short story in the nursery chair, followed immediately by putting her in the crib for bed. Lights out and sound machine on.

“Goodnight! See you in the morning!”

Thanks to Little Z’s Sleep Consulting, our daughter sleeps straight through the night. No wake-ups or feedings at all. It’s really amazing.

I feel that it’s important to mention how many other household chores and personal hygiene routines are also happening within the same timeframe above. As nice as it would be, baby’s arrival in the world does not mean that laundry suddenly stops needing to be done, trash no longer needs to be taken out, and mom and dad no longer have to shower before they leave the house. In fact, of course, after a baby you suddenly find that you have way MORE to do and much less time to accomplish it in.

I tend to wake up when the baby wakes up and I’m asleep by 9:30pm. My husband and I both work full-time. That doesn’t leave much time to do things that need doing. It so often feels like it’s only possible to finish even a small amount of chores because we both have flexible schedules. At least one of us is working from home on any given day. That sort of freedom is so valuable.

My husband and I both place value on sharing the load when it comes to the very real labor of child-rearing, as well, which may be most important of all. At this point, we tend to have a fairly similar understanding of what needs to get done and a task’s relative priority. In other words, I’m thankful for my husband!

Two more things I’m thankful for: in-unit laundry and a dishwasher. Believe me, I spent plenty of years of my life living in apartments without those things, but now it’s hard to imagine how I would function without them as a mom.

With all of those bits about our lifestyle out of the way, here’s a tiny list of things that I have found helpful in our own household routines. There are plenty of no-brainers here, I think!

  • Pre-loading the washing machine every night with dirty clothes, then starting it first thing in the morning. This way, the wash cycle is done before we leave the house. I can transfer all of the wet clothes to the dryer and not have to fret about things becoming moldy or whatever. Extra bonus: our washing machine is front loading and our daughter loves watching the clothes splash around, so it’s a nice distraction in the morning.

  • Running the dishwasher every night ensures things are ready to go each morning (this is particularly crucial for us because we send multiple bottles to daycare every weekday).

  • Using a formula pitcher. It makes preparing bottles go so much faster. We do about four bottles’ worth at a time in this manual Dr. Brown’s pitcher and it works great. We have also tried the Baby Brezza electric mixer, but cleaning the lid is tricky, as that’s where the batteries are.

  • Playtime for our daughter = an opportunity for one of us to take a shower and get dressed. Whoever is doing the daycare drop-off gets first dibs on getting ready in the morning while the other parent watches the baby. Right now, she doesn’t much mind that in the mornings we each dip in and out of spending time with her while she’s playing in her room. She’s too wrapped up with throwing herself all over this cool soft play ramp we got on Prime Day.

Toys Our Baby is Loving: 6-9 Months Old

If I were to make a true list of my daughter’s favorite things to play with these past few months, I’d have to include lots of non-toy stuff, like iPhones and TV remotes. Since my last post, she’s gained a keen interest in whatever the adults around her are regularly using. We actually tried getting her to focus on a phone teething toy instead of going after our real iPhones, but to little effect.

Mobility changes everything, it seems. She can now crawl around and loves supporting herself to stand. Few toys compare to the joy of beelining for any and every stable (or not-so-stable!) object to pull up on. At least for her, it’s all about practicing those movement skills at this stage. Still, she does have some favorite toys. Here’s what made the list for her between six and nine months old:

Sophie the Giraffe

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I feel like anyone who knows someone with a baby knows about Sophie the Giraffe. This fancy French teething toy is on lots of baby gift recommendation lists. Honestly, for a while I avoided buying Sophie for that reason. It seemed like a lot of hype over a toy that resembles plenty of others on the market that are much less pricey. However, much like “Baby Shark,” Sophie turns out to be one of those mysterious and magical things that babies just adore. My daughter even has another nice squeaky toy with a similar texture that makes a similar squeaking sound to Sophie, but apparently it pales in comparison.

We have gone through one and bought another one already—I was a dummy and got water stuck inside one while cleaning it. Thank goodness our little one is none the wiser that the one she has is Sophie the Second. ($24.99 on Amazon)

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Infantino Textured Multi Ball Set

We have had these balls for a while, but lately she is obsessed with them. The smaller balls in this set are the perfect size for her to hold and wave around without losing her grip. She likes having one in a hand at all times as she explores her little territory. Having her chase after them has been a good way to motivate her to crawl, too. Super cheap and simple but a big hit with her now at this stage. ($7.65 on Amazon)

Llama Llama’s Little Library

Llama Llama’s Little Library was given to us by a friend when my little girl was teeny tiny. We probably started reading the three books in this set to her when she was just a few months old. They may be her favorite due to exposure over time, but whatever the reason my daughter is a mega fan of any Llama Llama book. We have quite a few other books on the shelf in her room, but time and time again it’s Llama Llama that she goes after.

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(Side note: She has an adorable new habit from daycare, which is moving back a bit before settling down on her tush the moment we open up a book. I definitely did not teach her to do that! It really looks like she’s getting ready to listen to us read to her. So sweet.)

We have a few other Llama Llama books, including the original, but Llama Llama Hoppity Hop from this set is her absolute fave. There are lots of fun actions you can act out, ending with a lovely “BIG HUG NOW!” ($16.86 on Amazon)




Toys Our Baby is Loving: 3-6 Months Old

As I’d been warned by friends with kids, the first three months with our newborn were purely about getting through it and figuring out what worked for our new family member. We were first-time parents staunchly in “survival mode.” The products we used the most during the newborn period were basically diapers, wipes, swaddles, pacifiers, and burp cloths. There wasn’t much in the way of toys. Our little one was too busy being upset about being in the outside world to pay attention to things dangling above her playmat.

Three months old was a turning point. She started to sleep through the night (with the help of the Merlin Suit), she grasped objects, and she developed a stronger neck that was better able to support her head during tummy time. Toys could now enter the picture in a more meaningful way.

Sleep-wise, we’ve since suffered through a steady series of setbacks, for various reasons. Meanwhile, the play side of things keeps evolving. She’s almost six months old and our little lady is having fun flipping around and engaging more deeply with the people and objects in her world. I have a feeling that crawling will come more swiftly than we expect. Eep!

The toys she’s enjoyed over the past few months are simple. As it happens, they’re inexpensive, too. Ultimately, it doesn’t seem to take much to capture a baby’s interest.

We have two 10-inch storage cubes basically full of toys, which is too many. To spare you from drowning in doodads, here’s what our girl has liked the most, roughly in order over time:

Wimmer-Ferguson Infant Stim Mobile To Go

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This mini mobile clips easily to things like playmat bars, etc… When she was teeny tiny she didn’t really pay attention to it, but one day the lightbulb turned on and she was all about watching it spin! ($11.17 on Amazon)

Bitty Bite Bug Rattle

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This little buddy may be her ultimate favorite! While small, it has a bit of everything going on: plastic bits, soft fabric bits, crinkly bits (the wings), and a rattle inside. There are lots of different sensations involved with this guy. We wound up buying two so we always have one with us in our diaper bag. It serves as a great distractor. ($5.99 on Amazon)


Atom Teether Troy

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This is great for when they enter the phase of sticking evvveryything in their mouth. It’s softer and more flexible than it appears and makes gentle rattling sounds when it moves. ($8.99 on Amazon)

Freddie the Firefly

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This is another one that she wasn’t so into when she was super little, but has been increasingly engaged with. Freddie’s kind of huge compared to her, so initially she wasn’t able to manipulate him that well on her own. Like the bug rattle, Freddie is a multifunctional dude. He has lots of bright colors, crinkly wings, hard plastic rings to grasp and chew on, and other little surprises. ($14.99 on Amazon)

Skip Hop Vibrant Village Activity Book

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We have been unfolding and propping up this house-shaped toy during tummy time so the little one has something to look at. There’s a black and white high contrast side, a colorful side, and other cute bits included, like a stuffed bird in a pocket and a mirror. She is especially enamored with the side that depicts a little doggie taking a bath, for some reason. Hey, whatever works! ($14.99 on Amazon)

“Indestructibles” books

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Books have been getting more and more interesting to our little lady over time. Initially, it was mostly about the cadence of our voices and the attention that comes along with being read to. Then she got excited by the pictures, too. Now there are two new elements: how they taste and feel! We read her these quick books and then let her grab and gnaw away on them to her heart’s content. They’re easily wiped clean and really do not tear. It’s amazing. ($5.95 each on Amazon)

Pregnancy: Part Three

[Part one is here & part two is over here.]

The Third Trimester

By the third trimester, my “bump” was impossibly big and heavy. Gravity was my foe, making everything difficult. There were no easy ways to maneuver myself around. It all required planning.

I was working from home some days, but on others I went into the office. This meant making my way from Jersey City to Brooklyn, lugging my laptop all the while.

The PATH had planned maintenance that summer. Lovely timing. It was off schedule and often crowded. There were so many bodies packed into the train car that it was hard for anyone to see me. I was lucky if someone recognized that I was pregnant and I got an offer to sit down.

I began to think of my commute into the office as a series of discrete units of travel that I had to navigate. Most daunting were the stairs:

  • One set of stairs down to get out of my building

  • Two sets of stairs down to get to the PATH platform

  • Sit or stand on the PATH train

  • Two sets of stairs up to get up into the Oculus from the platform

  • Walk across the Oculus

  • Three sets of stairs up to get from the Oculus to the subway station

  • One set of stairs down to the subway platform

  • Walk to the far end of the platform

  • Sit on the A train

  • One set of stairs, one escalator, then another set of stairs from the platform to the street

Reverse it all to get home again.

I will note, before you're tempted to point it out to me, that there are elevators available. I did use some of them, though it took me a very long time to get to that point. I will admit that part of that was pride. Somehow, using elevators felt like caving. To who or what, I can’t tell you. I had a need to prove to others that even though I was gigantically pregnant, I wasn't lazy. Then there was logistics. Stations are big and many elevators aren't conveniently located within them. Using the elevator could mean going out of my way, when every step counted.

—-

One day, a kind man in a station elevator with me noticed my situation.

"You have two heavy loads, one in the back [my backpack] and one in the front [my pregnant belly]! Doesn't that hurt?"

"Hm? Oh, no. It's just uncomfortable."

This was a lie. I was in pain, and the weight of my laptop in my backpack did make it worse. I don't know why I lied. To lessen this random stranger’s emotional burden of worry? It feels like so much of being a woman—specifically, maybe, a woman from the Midwest—is downplaying pain.

Near the final leg of my journey into the office, I looked up at the escalator at the subway station and cried. I'm not a crier. I haven't been for a long time. But I cried, which turned into sobbing, loudly.

The sobbing kept going all the way up the escalator and up the stairs. It kept going while I was walking towards the office and while I sat down on a bench to call my husband. I composed myself enough to go inside the building, but then had to sit down again at a desk near the door to cry a little more. It had been such a long trip. I was in pain and I couldn't stop it. The entire situation felt unfair. It felt like nobody was seeing me.

The next day, it hit me. The typical “pregnant waddle” isn’t supposed to include consistent shooting pain on one side. The whole time that I thought I’d been waddling I had been limping.

At my next appointment at the OB, I told her about my pain, which she confirmed was sciatic pain. She wrote a note recommending I be on modified bed rest for the rest of my pregnancy. I continued to work from home, usually while laying on my side in bed. I got prenatal massages, but those didn't help. I got acupuncture, which helped a little. Eventually, it went away, probably because the baby shifted and relieved pressure.

—-

There were so many small things going on with my body, too, but I’ve waited so long to write this (six months?! how has it been six months already?!) that I've forgotten some of them.

There was the heat. It was summer in the city, and I had a whole other person inside of me, which made me hot all. of. the. time. There was the annoyance of having to pee frequently, especially at the office. Attempting to sleep was awkward and uncomfortable. No configuration of pillows would let me get true rest. Pregnant ladies are susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome, so I had to fold my hands under my head before I went to sleep, which felt silly. On and on.

One small thing turned out to be big. At night, sometimes, I felt itchy all over. It was never intense, but it was enough to make it hard to concentrate on falling asleep some nights. I googled it and found some worrying information (trigger warning if you look it up!), so I told my OB. She got a little concerned and ordered tests for me. One of these, a 24-hour urine test, I found embarrassing. I turned in my sample and did my best to remain positive after that.

Nobody had called me back about my test results, which I took to be a good sign. Going into my next appointment, I figured everything was kosher, so I told my husband he could sit this one out. Instead, when my OB walked in she told me that my liver enzyme levels were slightly elevated, which was exactly what had worried me when I’d looked up my symptoms on my own. She was talking on the phone to the doctors at the hospital where I planned to deliver. While my levels were not very high, the negative outcome could be so severe that they thought it would be a good idea for me to get the baby out as soon as I hit 37 weeks. That was a few days away.

I had a hard time processing this information. Despite my “geriatric” age of 34, I had had a very healthy pregnancy up until this point. I was a first-time mom, so had been expecting to go a bit past my due date like our birthing class instructor had told us to anticipate. I had an ultrasound scheduled the following week. I had things planned to do around the house to prepare for the baby. I was still working.

“Wait, what do you mean?”

“I mean that ideally by Monday you’ll be holding your baby girl.”

I walked home as quickly as possible after and shared the news with my husband as best I could. After that, we told our families and madly Slacked our bosses and coworkers. I was going to need to go on maternity leave earlier than anticipated, aka, pretty much immediately.

The days after this were a blur. We were tying up loose ends while also nervously awaiting more specific information from the hospital about my induction. Their system had us waiting by the phone to find out exactly when to come in. Meanwhile, I was worried about the baby. My husband and family were worried about the baby. After a reschedule or two with the hospital, I finally got my time confirmed.

—-

I’ll go ahead and let you know the happy ending right now: After a three-day induction, during which many drugs and objects were put inside me to get things moving, our gorgeous and healthy little girl was born.