Monday, October 31, 2005

The snowball in my pocket

One of my favorite books for kids is The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, and I’m thinking today of the part of the story where Peter, the main character, goes to check on a snowball that’s he’s put in his pocket, only to find that it has melted. I feel like this with D’s babyhood. At first, it seemed like it was dripping away in tiny increments: he smiled for the first time, and we had a chance to savor this whole smiling thing, roll it around on our tongues like really good chocolate. Then he could hold his head up by himself, and we had a few weeks to get used to this trick before he hit another milestone. But since he started being able to push himself to sitting, the drip-drip-drip of each new development has become more of a deluge.

Since last Sunday, he has:
  1. Had FOUR teeth break through

  2. Mastered how to pull himself to standing

  3. Learned to walk with support by holding our hands

  4. Figured out how to crawl over obstacles instead of dragging them around with him (Dude, it’s the Elton John CD I just saw in the living room! How did this get here?)

  5. Begun to hate being fed “baby” food. He insists he’s ready for big-boy food like carrot and pear pieces, bits of meat and potatoes, sushi, caramel apples, nachos, etc.
Seeing all of this happen so fast takes my breath away. I want to push the slo-mo button before he’s no longer a baby. It makes me wish I had done more to sink into his babyhood and enjoy it instead of wasting time with baseless fretting. I look at this magical little boy and watch as every day he discovers something new, and I feel like Peter, clutching at this rapidly disintegrating snowball, wondering how long I have until I’m just standing around with a wet, empty pocket.

But I guess at that point, I’ll be chasing around a bona-fide toddler and probably won’t have much time to be worrying about pockets, wet or otherwise.

I hope I’ll be too busy helping my boy enjoy life, packed with all the snowballs and Ezra Jack Keats books he can get.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Badges? We DO need some stinking badges!

Okay, we had a really, really, really bad night the other night, and as I was comforting my screaming child for the third hour in a row, I wondered to myself why there wasn’t a MommyScout program, complete with merit badges, jamborees where we all meet and trade horror stories, and cute uniforms, all without the anti-gay vibe of Other Kinds of Scouts.

See, I’ve got it all worked out (there were lulls in between the screaming sessions): certain achievements would earn merit badges for your Parenting Sash (which would actually be a spit-up encrusted leftover maternity T-shirt): you could earn a badge picturing a grinning baby in a feed cap for eliciting the “truck-driver” belch from your child, a “haz-mat” symbol badge for completing the first solid-food induced diaper change, a badge of a kid in a tub waving a big foam finger for being able to bathe your child without your partner being present, and the bulb-syringe badge for perfecting your ability to successfully suck snot out of your child’s nose.

There would be certain kinds of recognition for skill or discipline development: breastfeeding while talking on the phone, watching TV and folding laundry, completing 2 consecutive weeks of vacuuming every other day so your child can’t eat crap off your floor, and being able to dress your child in a clean diaper, onesie, pants, socks and shoes in under two minutes. (I myself have yet to be recognized for any of these skills).

There would also be certain medal citations like the Golden Pacifier or the Bronze Crib for Parenting Beyond the Call. I decided as I rocked, shushed and sang to my shrieking offspring that anyone whose baby has colic would automatically be awarded one of these medals. I honestly don’t know how parents of fussy babies can take the crying. I remembered Anne Lamott describing one of the nights with her colicky infant as being like Vietnam, and I no longer believe that to be an exaggeration. It would be the perfect form of psychological warfare: pipe a baby’s screams into the interrogation room, and I’m thinking that unless that solider has already earned his medal from the Order of the Silver Changing Table, you’re gonna have some serious state secrets within about an hour.

Well, I’d better sign off. I’m going to pretend that I’m the Mommy Scout leader at our meeting tonight, and we’re going to make our own baby food while cleaning the kitchen, washing diapers and watching TV. Participants will get extra points if they are able to navigate through my apartment without tripping over assorted baby detritus.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

My little Narcissus

I love to watch my son checking himself out in the mirror. His whole face lights up, he strokes his image in the mirror and coos to himself and he basically flirts his tail off with the child we now refer to as “the handsome lad in the hall.” He has also recently discovered “the cute boy in the oven” since the oven door is a highly reflective shiny black, and while I hate to gossip, I think someone should tell the boy in the hall that D and his new friend are developing quite a fast friendship. It’s only fair.

One thing I particularly love about D’s being so smitten with himself is that now when I’m standing in front of a mirror, I am rarely obsessing about my own appearance but rather am enjoying his. I’ve never been much of a looker, and apparently the rule is that the amount of time you look at yourself in the mirror is inversely proportional to how much you think you deserve to be admired. So despite not being a fashionista/hipster to begin with, I would spend endless hours in front of the mirror in the days B.D (before D.), hoping that the cream/product/makeup I was trying this time would transform me from being The Interesting Girl [code, apparently for “she ain’t much to look at but she talks so much you hardly notice what she looks like”] to being The Pretty Girl. Motherhood has made me finally just accept that I am no great beauty and that that’s okay. I just don’t have time to lament, I guess. I’ve gone from wearing makeup to realizing that it never made much of a difference in how I looked anyway. I no longer have time to wonder what people think about the fact that all my clothes come from Target. I’ve realized that all the tacky baby crap I used to vow would never darken my door has benefits that far outweigh having mod-looking décor. Superficial junk like that just doesn’t seem like it could be any less significant to my current life. I realize this in sudden, piercing moments, like when I’m talking to my single friends or when I’m watching my son ogle himself.

Of course, as my friend Emily has pointed out, I haven’t become a Person Who No Longer Obsesses…I just obsess about different things, like my child’s eating/sleeping/pooping habits. *sigh* Some habits die hard, others just get reassigned.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Pacifier

And no, I ain't talkin' about the cinematic masterpiece that Vin Diesel recently put his name to...I'm talking about the love/hate relationship between parents and those tiny silicone bulbs around which our infants' lives revolve. Okay, perhaps that's overstating things a bit, but I have noticed that among the Parenting Ideology wars about which I've blogged previously, there is substantial disagreement about pacifiers. One camp says that they're okay, you're helping kids who are efficient feeders to get the extra sucking they need and the other camp says that you're hindering nursing, abandoning them to a soulless plastic substitute and telling them they're unable to help themselves.

I have a number of friends who, when they see my son's pacifier, kind of sniff and explain blithely that their child wouldn't take a pacifier. For some of them, I don't doubt this: if they offered the paci at all, the kid wasn't interested, so they decided not to push the issue. I can respect that.

But there is a strident minority of folks who say this who really appear to be saying, "I know it's not PC to tell you that a pacifier is evidence of terrible parenting, so I'll just say my kid wouldn't take one and give you my best, pity-filled, condescending smile." I find this rather passive-aggressive approach to be mildly amusing, mostly because I was fiercely anti-paci before the Bug joined our happy home. I had heard pacifiers (dummies, binkies, noo-noos, nuks, whatever you wanna call 'em) interfered with breastfeeding and could even foster addictive behaviors (one gem I love: I heard a woman call the paci "the child's first cigarette." Oookay.). So we refused 'em in the hospital and just let Davis suck on our fingers (you will recall that one of my early breastfeeding gaffes was to let Davis nurse for 30 minutes on each side, which was--literally--a blisteringly bad mistake, so after that incident until my milk came in, I couldn't let him breastfeed for very long for fear that the pain would make me stop breastfeeding entirely). On night two home from the hospital, we caved, found the blisterpak of pacis a friend had passed along to us (because, of course, her daughter "just wouldn't take a pacifier") and tried it out.

Wonder of wonders, he loved it. It got so that even as a newborn, he would crane his head forward when he saw it coming. Even now, he'll take them from other babies if they get near enough. We've tried not to use it as a "shutter-upper" but I'll confess, sometimes that happens. Usually, he'd suck on it to go to sleep and then spit it out. I don't think it ever interfered with breastfeeding--he'd usually spit it out if he wanted to feed, and when he turned out to be over 15 lbs at 2 1/2 months, we stopped worrying that he wasn't gaining enough.

But the fact that the kid is now mobile gives me a whole other layer of appreciation for the paci. If he's got it in his mouth, he can't
(a) eat grit, cat hair, stray buttons or other floor pflug
(b) chew up/lick the ink off of pages of the magazines he's fond of ripping out or
(c) bite the cats (not a concern yet, but I'm always looking ahead)

So suffice it to say that being a paci-friendly family has made the transition to crawling much easier on several levels. Which is why I almost went into cardiac arrest when my husband casually suggested the other day that he'd like to start weaning Heavy D from the pacifier.

He has good reasons: it's pain to have One More Thing you must absolutely have in the diaper bag before leaving the house, and we don't him to be one of those four-year-olds with a paci (though I sucked my fingers until I was eight), but I'm terrified of thinking about the weaning process. One benefit people always mention in the great thumb/pacifier debate is that "well, you can always take a paci away," but that seems kind of wrong somehow, to take something away that's such an obvious source of comfort. My friend took her daughter's pacifiers away cold-turkey when the kiddo turned one and she never seemed to miss them, but I dunno. Maybe I've seen too many episodes of Supernanny (actually, I've only seen two, but one of them was the one where they have to wean these 3- and 5- year-olds off of their dummies, and it was heartbreaking).

I'm still mulling this one over. I've grown so used to the pacifier as one of the staples of Life with Baby and laziness has led me to all but stick my fingers in my ears and shout "La, la, la" whenever there's talk of trying to cut back on the paci-dependence, but I know he needs to give it up eventually. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


For all of you out there with BOY-boys, my son has apparently been getting in touch with his feminine side. Or something.

He has recently begun ritually emptying the CD tower of certain choice CDs--always the same ones, for some reason. They are (in no particular order): Elton John, J-Lo, Sara McLachlan and anything with opera (Aida) or showtunes (Evita, Phantom of the Opera, etc.). Luckily, the ABBA CD is on the top shelf, or I'm sure it would be making more of an appearance too.

Now, I am sure that his choice of these CD has much more to do with the art on the CD cases than anything, but consider this: In the toy aisle the other day, the ONLY toy that captured his attention was a bear that is apparently featured in the new Barbie movie (when did she start making movies, BTW? Who would have thought she'd have time, in between keeping the Corvette in good working order, babysitting Skipper and keeping the Dream Home looking neat?). It's called the Snuggle & Glow Shiver. It is an interesting toy on several levels: it has cheeks that blush, it literally does shiver (I say shiver, you say vibrate; let's call the whole thing off), and it sings a little nonsense tune when you hug it. It is also the most girly toy I have ever seen: it has super drag-queen eyelashes, pink glowing cheeks and its fur is all sparkly. And Davis LOVED it. It made him laugh and laugh, and he seemed very sad to have to leave it.

Yes, my boy is getting in touch with his feminine side--not that there's anything wrong with that--and I for one am just waiting to see when he discovers Angelina Ballerina.

Monday, October 17, 2005


If you are pregnant or are thinking of becoming a parent, my latest tidbit of advice is to go ahead and start the babyproofing process now. One reason is that you will likely be so tired from chasing around your crawling child that you will be in no shape to meet the physical challenges that babyproofing requires, and the other is that it's a nice test to see if, in fact, you are even remotely mentally well enough to be a parent. Unfortunately, I discovered that I am not. It would probably have been nice to have this information, say, 18 months ago, but for now I'll just say this was an enlightening mental health exploration and will deal with it when I can--perhaps when Davis goes off to college.

I divided the house into zones for babyproofing, all based on potential hazards: there are the Not to be Chewed (books, electrical cords), the Not to be Climbed Into (oven, fridge, toilet), the Not to be Pulled (cords again, the coffee table, one drawer that can be very pinchy) and the Not to be Eaten (chemicals, cat poop, soiled diapers). Many of these were easy to deal with--I moved chemicals to top shelves in the kitchen, boxed up a couple shelves of books and put them, the coffee table and the litter box upstairs in the attic (which was fine with the cats, since that's where they now spend most of their time anyway) and installed locks on the fridge, oven, and pinchy drawer. We will install a toilet lock later to avoid being able to answer questions like "so can you really flush a whole family of Transformers and a fleet of matchbox cars together?" but for now, if I'm still changing diapers, the bathroom is still officially a limited-access top clearance zone.

No problem so far, right? Sanity? Still relatively intact.

The problem came when I attempted to secure the computer-desk area of the living room. Since I've blogged previously about the Desi-and-Lucy smallness of the bedrooms here, it probably won't surprise you to know that our apartment falls rather short of being on the razor's edge of the Digital Age. As in, none of our outlets will accomodate a power strip and there are maximum 4 outlets per room. This is good if you are worried about little fingers getting into outlets, but bad if you want to run a CD player, phone charger, printer, computer speakers, TV, VCR, DVD player and a couple of laptops and lamps in the same room. Did I mention our DVD player has surround sound, which requires no less than 5 speakers?

As you have no doubt deduced, this made for a LOT of wires to be secured. Which meant hammering lots of cable-clamping thingies. Which meant a lot of cursing. Which meant I had to ask Daddy to take the baby out so my son's first word wouldn't be an unsavory description of someone's mother. Which of course meant my son leaked through his cloth diaper, onesie and overalls while on the 20-minute trip to Wal-Mart. Which meant daddy had to call, frantic, to ask where in the car the spare diapers and changes of clothes were. Which led me to recall that I hadn't bothered to put a spare change of clothes in the car for my son since the summer, and it was now 40 degrees. Which meant my son came home freshly clad in a disposable diaper, short-sleeved onesie, sock and shoes and a jacket. No pants. *sigh*

The other thing babyproofing did for me was to remind me what an incredibly sloppy housekeeper I am. I found a Frito that I'm pretty sure was older than the cats. It was rolling around with its friends the Dustbunnies, Random Grit and Dead Bugs (that sounds like a punk-band fesitval roll call, doesn't it? "And noooow, opening for headliners Grody Crap on My Floor, it's the Dustbunnies!!"). In a word: Ew. I used to be so clean! I used to have a cleaning schedule! Now I'm just trying to keep one step ahead of the dirty mess that is my house.

But at least I now have a small and very cute companion. That kinda trumps everything.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Ach, der zeitgeist

So I was lurking on a couple of other mama's blogs and came across the very cool site flickr, which allowed me to upload pics in my own space at their website (click here for that) and also runs a very cool tiled picture thingy on my blog (look to the left, underneath the "cool blogs" roll call.) Isn't that awesome? This rocks on several levels, one of which is that I can publish pix without having to put them in my blog or bug my husband to go to campus to update Davis's site. It's not that my husband can't or won't do it, it's just that he is very, very busy right now--he's looking for a job that will allow me to be home with the Bug for a while longer and not have to feel we are scrounging just to keep the proverbial wolf from the door on the well-intentioned but very small graduate stipend on which we are currently living. (I dare you to count the prepositional phrases in that last sentence! Whew!) If I could stop working, I might be able to a. finish my albatross, uh, that is, my dissertation or b. eat bon-bons while watching bad daytime TV.

Oh, who am I kidding? I might have time for a bon--singular--but certainly no time for anything except maybe Between the Lions or Veggie Tales (can you tell I'm waaay into being able to link text with a url?). Anyway, happy pic viewing!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Home again, home again

It's been a while since I've written--as you no doubt know, I was in San Francisco last weekend, and I am happy to say my boys were just fine without me. Well, I'm not *happy* to say it, actually--I mean, I'm 99% thrilled that they were fine, but a small, petty, ugly part of me wishes Davis had appeared to miss me a bit more than he did. Isn't that sick? I have a wonderful partner who spends a great deal of time with his kiddo, and I'm being Joan Crawford, moaning that the baby wasn't traumatized enough by my absence. Disgusting.

Anyway, it's been a whirlwind since I got back. Since there was only one Caretaker this weekend, that meant there was no Choreperson, so there was quite a lot in the laundry-and-dishes-type-area to do upon my return (which I actually did joyfully, so happy was I to be with my family again). Plus, as my dear Spousal Unit explained in his post, the babe is crawling now, so we are rapidly trying to fill the holes in our Mobile Baby Management and Containment System. I'm not gonna lie--there's been some head-bonking, some paperback novel noshing and a few near misses with the cat bowls, but overall, we seem to be working out the kinks and expect to be able to go live with the MBMCS starting this weekend.

And just because being away for three days didn't make things crazy enough, we also have developed an apparent infestation of Indian Meal Moths. You may be as surprised as I was to find that the creature depicted by this name is *not* a tiny-but-comely moth who feasts exclusively on curry and saag paneer (since both are Indian Meals, right?) but are instead yucky little vermin who flit around the air and leave dusty tracks if you touch 'em or kill 'em. Its turn-ons are, apparently, everything in our house (birdseed, cat litter made from wheat, nuts, whole grains, and pet food) and I can't say I've figured out the benefits to having these wee guests, unless playing "which of the grains of brown rice are moving of their own accord" is your idea of a good time. Bleah.

In the interests of making this a kinder, gentler blog (I've been warned by one reader that some of my posts appear to reveal the tiniest bit of hostility, to which I replied "Oh, and just what the HECK do you mean by THAT?"), though, I will say that I am extremely happy to be home, chores and icky bugs and all. The hotel I stayed at might have had instant clean linens, a short-order cook and a spa, but it didn't have any of the real comforts of home. My favorite Billy Joel song says it best: "Wherever we're together, that's my home."

Saturday, October 08, 2005


Howdy--I'm guestbLogging today while Mama's in SFO. She called yesterday to say that it's 74 and sunny there. October's basically San Francisco's high summer--at 74, people might as well be stripping off their clothes and slathering themselves with ice. OK, they do that kind of thing there anyway.

In the meantime, Davis and I have enjoyed 60 and heavy rain. Pennsylvania in October can mean several things. This year, it appears to mean 75+ degree weather and no rain at all until the first day below 70 when the leaves change color overnight and then fall off in a heavy rainstorm. That can only mean that winter is hours away. Maybe just in time for the Ohio State game.

The boy and I have been on a pretty regular schedule. Awake around 7. Up around 7:30 (filling the previous half hour with flipping around, playing with Lambie, and [new for this week!] grabbing the top of the crib rail and attempting to learn to pull up). Breakfast immediately if not sooner. Crawling. Sweating. Nap around 9 with the help of some thawed mamajuice. Up around 10:30-11. Crawling. Sweating. Chewing on cats. Laughing at cats. Maybe an outing. Lunch. Bottle. Nap. You get the pattern.

The new crawling activity has apparently opened some new horizons for Davis. We have been occasionally trying to sign certain things to Davis: there was "bottle," "Mama," "eat." All very textbook. But Davis has his own sign system--"cat" (grabbing the short white fur on Cat's otherwise black belly), "breakfast" (beating on the high chair table), "I need to use the restroom" (smile slightly and pee all over the changing table), and "I want to get off the bed" (crawling to the edge of the bed and tipping over into space).

Of course, a couple of those new signs involve needing to move a lot. For some time, M was leery of Davis but generally thankful that we had made a little human who, although loud, couldn't move. As Davis has put all of the crawling variables together during the last several days, M has become scarce. Cat still thinks it's cute, but getting your white cat short hairs pulled has got to be the equivalent of getting your male parts hit--it kind of makes you want to throw up. (Now THAT'S something you won't read from Mommymatic.)

Anyway, crawling exposes the gaps in our baby security that Sam--Davis's advance team leader--started pointing out to us several weeks ago. #1 on the list is open cat food. Sam and Nina went for the cat bowls first thing. So does Davis. They do look like the vegetable puffs he eats for appetizers, but they no doubt taste like the lesser-known low-grade meat and rice flavor. I should just let the babies taste them once. Of course, some babies eat their own poo, so the reverse psychology may not work. Davis hasn't tried THAT yet, but he did try to grab the changing table strap he had just peed on yesterday.

I'll stop now, since I've already made more references to elimination than Mama has during most of her other posts put together.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

A Week of Firsts

Things my son can now do that he couldn't do last week:

1. Raise himself from lying down to a sitting position. (I know, I know--hold your applause, please.)
2. Stand for several seconds by holding onto furniture
3. Crawl. (This is definitely overstating things--he crawled about six inches yesterday and my husband and I exchanged the raised-eyebrow look, and then Jay sat down in front of Davis and told him to "come to daddy," at which time the little genius just looked at him blankly. Apparently short-term memory is not an infant strong suit.)
4. Click his tongue--you know, that Universal Sound For Calling a Horse? Well, since we have no horses in our kitchen or living room, we are convinced he is busy acquiring one of the Khoisan languages of southern Africa, often called, cleverly enough, "click languages." So what he lacks in motor skills, he makes up for in academic brilliance.

Also this weekend, my son will have to live without my constant physical presence for more than 5 hours, which, up to now, is the longest we've ever been separated. More accurately, I will have to live without being in constant contact with him. I have to go to San Francisco for a meeting, and I decided that my own personal (and yes, selfish) motives for dragging him along were hard to justify: uproot him from his routine, drag him all the way across the country and stick him in a new time zone just to haul him all the way back once he's finally gotten used to things. I know it will be better that he's home with his darling daddy, doing his usual routine-y things, having a fun "boyz weekend," but I still think I'm going to feel like I'm travelling without pants on--it will be that strange not to be with him.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

In the "what the heck?!" category

Ok, my husband said I had to blog about this website, and I think he's right (for those of you who read blogs like BoingBoing or Gizmodo or CNET, you may already know about this). I mean, I know I've posted about my feeling neglectful with my son's daily 20 minutes in the doorway jumper, but this product appears to take the Neglectomatic prize--or is it just me?

Maybe it's because I didn't have a colicky baby, maybe it's because, well, night wakings are something that kinda goes with the territory of having a baby, but it just seems...I don't know, a little silly. I mean, it has a remote for crying out loud. So how does it go? Baby wakes, crying. You wake, roll over and push the "rock" button and go back to sleep? Does it have a "nurse" or "change" button if the child is hungry or poopy?

I just think that with the possible exception of people whose babies are legitimately colicky, this is overkill or at the very least signifies a GROSS misunderstanding of what Life with an Infant is like. I mean, I know babies don't come with a user's guide or anything, but surely during the nine months' gestation, you MUST have figured out that you wouldn't just push the kid out and go back to 8 hours of sleep per night, right? I mean, pregnancy alone was a series of night wakings (First trimester: is the baby OK? Was that a cramp? Second trimester: How did I get on my back? Will it hurt the baby? Third trimester: What?! I just peed fifteen minutes ago!), so why would anyone think that bringing up baby would be different??

I know I have complained bitterly about multiple night wakings, especially in the face of passive-agressive, inwardly hostile people who natter on about how baby Emma has been sleeping through the night for 9 months now but honestly, getting something like this never occured to me. Maybe it's because I'm too control-freaky to not check for myself that Davis was in fact simply desirous of a snuggle and not in need of food/diaper change/climate control/mood music. I dunno.

And the site itself cries out for a thorough going-over with the old red pen. Pardon my identity shift into Granny Grammarian, but what is the guiding principle for the use of capital letters on this site? Also, I know I probably have a host of typos on my blog entries, but I hope hope hope that the annoying "add 's to make something plural/to create a verb in the third person singular" isn't one of them!! WHY do people insist on ignoring the time-honored apostrophical rule that an apostrophe + s always = "belongs to" or "is"? And don't even get me started on the "significant Benefits" section at the bottom of the page. I sort of feel like I'm in the episode of Friends where Joey walks in wearing an elf costume and Chandler says, "Must. mock. Joey. but. too. many. jokes." Oy vey.

Well, nothing says Saturday night quite like gettin' all het up over nothin', so I'm OUT.