Tuesday, December 29, 2009

If at the end of it all I should end up in hell, which (based on much of this blog alone) I suspect may happen, I predict it will look exactly like the Garden State Plaza during the post-Christmas shopping rush. Whatever rumors are circulating about a recession, they have not reached Paramus where every man, woman and child were out looking for a deal, a steal, a sale of the century.

And much as Bree and I vow every year to not end up in the fray, we are invariably yanked into the vortex that is the post holiday-season mall for some present we forgot, overlooked or simply didn't feel like hauling cross-country. This time SB, guilty by association, was hauled into the vortex with us.

I won't speak of the 45 minutes it took us to find parking or the 3 times we got hopelessly lost in a place where the ground floor is actually considered the 2nd floor.

There was one shining moment in the whole fiasco. There was a fantastic merry-go-round - complete with every animal, real and imagined. After gazing at it longingly each time we passed by, Otter was rewarded with a ride. We chose a horse with a fish tail. A mer-horse? A hor-phin? All went well for the first 10 seconds. Then Otter noticed the panda and her heart, already filled with panda-obsession flowed over. "Deda! Deda! Deda!" continued the chant. Nothing could be done except a second ride - this time on the panda. The carousel spun around and around while hordes of shopper jostled past. Unfazed, SB sat on the panda, smiling happily.

And somehow that made it all ok...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Plane and Simple

Otter celebrated her 16-month-day by beginning her 3rd cross-country journey. Up in the air!

Friday, December 25, 2009

12 Days of Xmas, Redux

A look back at this season, (set to music)....

On the last day of Christmas, my family gave to me...

Twelve trips to the mall...

Eleven (thousand) holiday cards....

Ten p.m. bed time (in spite of having another several thousand holiday cards to write)...

Nine hours of phone calls (with my mother, discussing presents)...

Eight second-guessed presents...

Seven bottles of booze...
consumed...
so far...

Six dozen presents wrapped...

Five (1/2) foot tree...

Four time I've nearly burst into tears at the mall...

Three holiday parties...

Two batches of cookies (I should be baking but I'm not)...

And a photo that's worth a 1000 words....



















Merry Christmas, everyone.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Trust Your Instincts

The latest Parents magazine lets us in on the secret: one of the top 10 trends for 2010 is "Intuitive Parenting" - i.e., dumping all those advice columns and using your instincts to raise your kid.

And for those of you who need a little extra push, there are three suggested how-to books.

Seriously?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Whatever

Anyone who tells you they know the tricks to raising kids is a liar.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cheers (or not)

As we head into the holiday season, many of us are thinking to raising a glass (or 2) to celebrate family, Santa, and surviving the malls. But lest anyone be lulled into happily sitting back and sipping your beverage of choice, Parents magazine is there to play chaperon to your imbibing.

Now I must issue a disclaimer - I've always found Parents a bit frightening. After receiving my first copy from a friend in my hospital room after Otter was born (I suspect as a joke), I was afraid enough to steer clear. Until I got my free subscription with the purchase of a toy (a telling sign, if ever there was one) I hadn't read any issues. Additionally, I would suggest the magazine be re-named Mothers, since there's very little aimed at the male half that "Parents" implies. And it comes chock full of the inequitable expectations and stereotypes that are generally aimed at the chick half of the parenting equation.

Now, let me save you some time in reading (in case you're saving it so you can get your drunk on) by synopsizing the article. Called "Playdates with Cocktails" you can imagine the contents. And the spin. At best, the article was mildly condescending. At worst, downright judgmental. Most offensively, all the while pretending to present a balanced view on the subject. Quoting statistics like "55 percent of women with a child as young as 15 months old have had at least one drink in the past month" can there be any doubt of the tone?

Of course, Diane Schuler (the woman who killed her daughter, 3 nieces and 3 other men while driving under the influence) was mentioned. As was the fact that "upper-middle-class moms drink s much or more than lower-income moms who have a history of substance abuse." So, drinking ain't fo' the ghetto no' mo', huh? And the article wouldn't be complete if it didn't cut down to size a mother who not only had alcohol, but dared publish a book about it (among other things). Yes, Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, author of Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay is issuing public statements of her alcohol problems and rehab.

Why mention all this? Properly chastened, the rest of us should follow suit, sit down, shut up and be good mommies.

Are there parents (yeah, not just moms) who don't know when to say when? Of course. Are there mothers who put their need of a drink ahead of their children's needs? Sadly. But is it possible to have a drink from time to time and still be an effective parent? I suspect it is. And it angers me beyond words that in an arena where it's hard enough to live up to my own expectations I am now being passive-aggressively informed that I am being an irresponsible parent by having a glass of wine with dinner.

Otter-tionary V. 2.0

Of late, we've been expanding on our vocabulary - so here are some additional uses as well as new definitions:

mama - 1) mama; 2) lemon; 3) llama
daa - down
gabtey gabtey - what turkeys say; what turtles say
thththth - what snakes say
oppa(paa) - octopus
ppppppp - penguin
gaaa - goat
wawa - waffle

On a related note -
Today while feeding Otter, I took a paper towel to clean her hands. "This is to clean up between courses," I told her.
"Eheheheheheh," replied, making her best horse noise. Horses, courses... sounds similar enough.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Otter-tionary

An updated dictionary of SB's growing vocabulary, as well as her interpretations of the English language:

gaga - tiger
mama - 1) mama; 2) lemon
papa - papa
doggie - any and all animals
baba/nyumy nyumy nyumy - bottle with milk
mooo - what cows say
up - up
appa - apple
ba - ball
neow - what cats say
constipated poopy noise impossible to spell - what horses say (also what sea horses say)
mouth opening and closing - what fish say
sniffing - what rabbits say; also the smell of socks, clothes etc.
nana - banana
ni-ni - good night
naaaa - nose
maaa - mouth
agua - water
gabtey gabtey - what turkeys say
neena - nina (little girl)

The Stages of Weekend Feeding

Everyone has a multi-step program - AA, Weight Watchers, those grieving. And now I, too, have joined in, as each weekend I go through the stages of feeding Otter.

Stage 1 - Certainty
Saturday breakfast, our first meal without our nanny to run interference begins peacefully enough. Breakfasts are relatively easy, as they are chock full of carby baked items which go down the hatch with speed and ease. I am full of hope and positive energy.

Stage 2 - Creeping Doubt
Saturday lunch begins with cautious optimism, which quickly disintegrates as reality sets in. On a good day the first offering will be accepted. More often than not, it'll take three different tries before I give in and give Otter a slice of toast.

Stage 3 - Righteous Rage
Saturday dinner is usually our worst meal. I am at the midpoint of my weekend of culinary hell - 3 meals away from any hope of reprieve. As course after course is rejected I become angry. I make speeches about how Otter is testing us, and how we should stay strong. Occasionally I declare that we're NOT operating a restaurant and that if she doesn't want to eat what we have on offer, then she can eat nothing. Eventually I offer her a dinner roll and call it a night.

Stage 4 - Cautious Optimism
Sunday breakfast, and we're back on Easy Street. What's that Otter? You want toast again? The PERFECT breakfast food, if I do say so myself.

Stage 5 - Ambivalence
Sunday lunch, I start reminding myself that this, too, shall pass. At this point I can usually sneak in some chicken along with the bread, and convince myself that this qualifies as a well - balanced meal.

Stage 6 - Apathy
Sunday dinner, I am SO done with this. Let's be honest here. Otter eats healthy, well-rounded meals with our nanny 5 days a week. Starting tomorrow, she'll be on her way up and down the food pyramid. So I do not pass go, I do not collect $100. I hand her a piece of bread and chase it with a granola bar. The weekend is over.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks at 15 Months

Otter is 15 months today, an event we're celebrating as family joins us for an over-ambitious meal. So much has happened in the past 15 months.

We are thankful for our family, whom we love and who are close to us, some in person, others in spirit.

We are grateful for our friends, who comfort us when the aforementioned family drives us nuts.

We are thankful for every day that Otter sleeps until 7.

We are thankful for our nanny, who has magic.

We give thanks to our home, while asking humbly that the roof not leak to badly this winter.

We are overjoyed at our health.

We are grateful for all that we have seen, all the places we've been, and for the vivid memories of those things, which will hopefully sustain us for the next 16 1/2 years, until Otter goes off to college.

I, personally, am thankful for good food and good booze. Mostly good booze.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Otter Takes Her Game Up a Notch

For a while now, feeding the Otter has been a challenge, to put it mildly. The list of foods that are deemed unacceptable changes rapidly, and with little warning. One day, zucchini is the belle of the ball. The next, it's the redheaded bastard stepchild of the weird cousins.

To our credit, we've learned to navigate the murky waters with some finesse (which usually translates into us folding like a deck of cards at her dietary whims, but that's besides the point). We plead and trick, but manage to shove a portion of what we originally intended her to eat into her mouth - at least half the time.

This weekend, sensing that we were gaining the upper hand, Otter decided to up the ante. Clearly shaking her head violently, crying and trying to hit the offending food out of our hands wasn't delivering her message sufficiently. So, as I attempted to feed her the same spoonful of yellow squash (a favorite of prior meals) for the 8th time, SB changed the delivery of her complaints. No sooner did squash meet tongue, Otter began to choke (old trick). Then gag (seen it before). Followed by promptly barfing up the contents of her stomach. This. Was. New. And highly effective, I might add.

It instantly changed the dynamic of our meal, for as much as one can "nyum nyum," "look at horsey eat yogurt," and "look Otter, bread (while shoving in chicken)" through a meal, a puke covered child cannot simply be ignored or cajoled into taking another bite. But I was not to be defeated that easily. What I needed is to divert and distract while planning my next offensive. So after changing and cleaning her up, I ended the meal, lulling her into complacency.

I bided my time, waiting until Sunday night dinner to strike again. Originally, when discussing our dinner plan (something Bree and I do regularly, like a coach planning the football game) we'd decided on fish and (when that undoubtedly failed) going straight to pumpkin pie. But I just couldn't resist. After fish was promptly rejected, I needed to try one more thing before succumbing to dessert-for-dinner. I chose baba ganoush - Middle-eastern eggplant salad for the uncultured among you.

The spoon went in. A full meal came back out. Dinner was over.

In retrospect, this was not the best plan ever, a fact that I got to mull over as I changed a barfy child for the 3rd time that day. Another thing I got to think about? It's on. Otter's thrown down the gauntlet. And this is a brand new world, with all new rules of engagement. May the best woman win.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I HATE the Britax Marathon

The time has come to upgrade our infant car seat for the toddler version. Yeah, Otter she is a-growin', and facing the back of the rear seat for entire car rides is WAY out of favor. And the new chair is hip, it's cool, it's cow-print for god's sake!

Since I had watched the CHP officer flail at installing our original seat, and put the base in my new car (with far better results than the CHP, I might add) I felt more than qualified to take on the new seat. It faces forward, after all, the way seats in cars logically should go. I had this one in the bag.

I had my first glimpse into the extent of my misconception after we'd spent a fruitless half hour trying to remove the instruction manual, which was inexplicably attached by industrial strength bungee and screws to the base of the seat, making it virtually impossible to utilize. "This does not bode well," I opined in what was soon to be the understatement of the year, as Bree tried to beat the screw into submission. Fortunately, he had the brilliant idea to actually LOOK at the manual, which demanded that it be kept attached to the seat AT ALL TIMES, or we'd still probably be out there now.

Allow me to share a few key differences between the infant car seat/carrier and the monstrosity that is the toddler car seat.

For one, the latter weighs about 30 pounds and is bulky as hell.

For another, the makers of this thing decided that parents would be convinced of the chair's greater safety by seeing a multitude of straps. These straps and latches protrude from every angle, or are tucked away in hidden compartments and serve no apparent purpose.

Thirdly, the aforementioned instruction manual is permanently attached at an angle that makes it extremely difficult to read while lurching around with the heavy-ass seat in hand. Further complicating matters is the fact that one must cross-reference three separate chapters to get through step 1 of the 10 or so installation directives. You see, when every part of the seat is labeled "LATCH _____ (fill in hook, strap, release, etc.)" it becomes quite confusing attaching the LATCH _____ to the LATCH Holder to the LATCH Strap. You get the idea.

Mind you, I consider myself fairly technologically minded. I can wire a stereo, set up the computer. But this damn seat, with its straps and latches and doodads has my number. After another 20 minutes of struggling, I was ready to take a hammer to the ungainly thing.

Today, I did what any modern woman would do and went online to see if there were any helpful hints. What I found instead was a 12-step (count 'em, 12 - just like AA and about as easy to complete) video anthology designed to simplify the installation process. I didn't get far though. Merely 2 videos in, I realized I'd skipped the first step and done the second incorrectly.

Maybe this weekend will find me on my lawn, laptop in hand, trying to install a seat that, once wedged in, is most likely never coming out.


Monday, November 2, 2009

All Saints Day

I've long been a fan of extended celebrations. Why should Halloween have only one night? So because it's one of our favorite holidays, and because Otter's 1st birthday party had been indefinitely postponed until it was silly to have it, we opted for a Halloween party.

Now we've had kids over before - usually one at a time. How hard could it be with a few more - especially if some of them don't even walk? And unlike our usual fests, where we kill ourselves We ordered pizza, bought trays of veggies and 5-layer dip. Susana made a cake.

Let me tell you - 7 babies is A LOT. Especially when they're screaming, bullying each other, running around like banshees in the back yard. Otter took it all in stride, making her exit to push her lion around the back yard when the action indoors got tad too intense for her.

Bree and I? We muscled through - barely seeing each other - until the last guests were gone and we fell asleep sitting up on the couch. Only 15 or 16 more of these, right?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

All Hallow's Eve

After much deliberation, aborted plans, warnings about swine flu outbreaks passed around through candy wrappers (or something like that - I'm still not clear), we gathered child and dog and set off for the magical world of trick-or-treating.

Foster went as the Hound of the Baskervilles (minus the glowing-in-the-dark, since Bree wouldn't let me spray him) while Otter went as... an otter, of course.

Our journey followed the path of our usual dog walk, with bonus encounters with Yoda, some princesses, a few zombies and the occasional unidentifiably clad teen trolling for candy. Otter met trick-or-treating with equal shares confusion and curiosity. At the first house, after staring blankly at the piece of candy that had been handed to her, she offered it back. Can't say the girl doesn't like to share!

By the end of the block, she'd gotten the hang of it though. Not only was she reaching in and grabbing loot like a champ, she was actually going for the good stuff (mom thanks you for the extra Reece's Peanut Butter Cups you scored, baby)!

Our journey was short-lived. The weather was about 20 degrees north of autumnal, while the otter suit was designed to keep babies snug in sub-polar regions. So after hitting about 6 houses, a hot and slightly damp Otter was brought home and summarily deposited in the bath. And offered her very first Kit-Kat.

As she sat in the tub, chocolate smeared all over her slightly-dazed face, I had to laugh. "This is what ladies do," I told her. "Sit in the bath and eat bon-bons."

Was I teaching my girl to embrace gender stereotypes? Would she be bouncing off walls instead of drifting off to sleep? Who cares? It's Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

TEETH!!!!!!!

I admit it - for a while, I suspected my child might be part rodent. That her 2 bottom teeth would remain her only means of chewing, growing for her whole life, and requiring her to gnaw on furniture to keep them from growing too far.

While all our baby friends sprouted incisors and molars, Otter teethed with a vengence, drooling, chewing, sucking and being cranky with absolutely nothing to show for her suffering.

But today - oh joy of joys - as I flipped her upside down, I saw them. Not one but BOTH of her front top teeth peeking out! In days, we'll have doubled our tooth supply. Not bad for a few weeks' work.

16 to go...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Things I Miss While At Work

Bath time.
Otter is undressed, ready to go.
Susana realizes the bath is in backwards, and puts Otter down so she can fix it.
Otter uses this time to pee on the floor.

She then takes our blue kitchen towel and starts wiping the floor.

Monday, October 26, 2009

14 Months

Walking, talking, climbing, laughing, screaming, kicking, opinionated.

When you yawn, she says "wa wa wa wa wa."
All animals are "doggie."
Bananas are "nanana."
Her smaller board books are "gapty gapty ga" - though we're not sure what that means.
She "moos" at cows and loves ducks and tigers.
Monkey is her go-to guy.

She dances, and claps, and climbs on piles of her books to reach shelves she shouldn't. She rearranges our DVDs, sorts laundry, loves to smell her socks (both dirty and clean) and wipe the floor with dish towels.

She loves being swung inside the laundry basket and climb all over the bed. She hates having her feet covered by blankets.

Somehow, we blinked, and she grew into a little human girl.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Obsession

I'm not usually a conspiracy theorist, but I'm pretty sure that Children's Television Workshop is practicing an insidious form of mind control over babies everywhere. No, I'm not talking about their stealthily teaching letters and number to unsuspecting toddlers. I'm talking Elmo and the subliminal messages to love him that are sent to all children from the moment they exit the womb. There is no other way I can explain the love that has spontaneously sprung up between Otter and the fuzzy red muppet.

My own feelings for Elmo aside (and I quite enjoy the little guy, especially once I learned that he is voiced by a fairly large and imposing looking black dude, which entertains me to no end), I've always been a little disturbed by the cult status the puppet holds in the 2-8 year-old set. There was no Elmo when I was a kid, yet in the last 15 years, he's somehow clawed his way to the top of the Sesame Street food chain, trampling the likes of Grover, Big Bird and even Kermit in his wake.

It can't be as simple as TV exposure - Otter has yet to see one episode of Sesame Street. Attending her first Elmo themed birthday party came and went without any recognition on her part. And Elmo's presence in our house was long limited to one toy that was a hand-me-down from a coworker. For months, Hug Me Elmo (or whatever this model is) hung out, attracting minimal attention.

And then, something imperceptible shifted. I'll never know what it was, but suddenly Otter's night-time routine began revolving around the song Elmo sings when pressing his hand. It goes something like this (sung in his reedy voice to the tune of "Are You Sleeping"):

Elmo loves you, Elmo loves you.
Yes he does. Yes he does.
Show him all your lo-ove,
Give him a big hu-ug.
La la la. La la la.

Now Otter sits and rocks, moaning and whimpering until the song is played again. And again. And again. And just when you think she's had her fill and moved on to something else, Elmo (who's been lying quietly) blurts out "Bye bye!" and the process begins all over again. The only way to break the cycle is to un-velcro Elmo's back and turn him off after the song. And then distract, distract, distract. I'd like to think this is a passing phase, but judging from the overabundance of Elmos at Target, I fear that this is only the beginning.

Not that I have anything against him. He's just so...omnipresent. Back in the day, I had a pull-string Big Bird who talked, and that was as cool as it got. Walk into any toy store today and you will find Elmos who sing, hug, tickle, dance, make you coffee, vacuum and cook. Maybe I should get one for myself...

Friday, October 9, 2009

Choked Up

Otter's a choker. Even before she started eating solid food, she'd find ways to take in too much, too fast and pay the price of coughing, tearing up, and, on the odd occasion turning slightly blue before hurling.

While the first few episodes were incredibly frightening, I've got to admit that with repeated practice, Bree and I have become rather blase about the event. Lest you think we're heartless monsters, I'd argue that keeping a calm, matter-of-fact demeanor has actually helped us deal with the episodes. We don't panic, but simply deal with the obstruction, reassure SB, and go on with our day.

Two mornings ago, Otter decided to up the ante. While feeding her breakfast, I turned my back for a moment to wash Foster's bowls. My attention was drawn back by wheezing and panting, which I soon discovered was my child suffocating on a piece of cereal. The usual routine of tipping forward and rubbing the back resulted in some Exorcist-style vomiting, and, after being reassured and changed, Otter was good as new.

My friend once told me that Cheerios did a test and proved it was impossible to choke on their cereal. I shudder to think what they did to determine this, and all I have to say to the makers of the cereal is this:

Either my friend was mistaken, or I've got a helluva lawsuit on my hands. If I was the litigious type...

Dumb

We'd all like to believe that our kids are, at the very least, bright. No one wants to think their child is the dim bulb in the lamp. And yet, I've encountered a substantial number of unintelligent adults throughout my life. I have a hard time believing they were born with genius potential and simply grew...well, more simple with each passing year. It stands to reason then, that they were born stupid.

So what do you do if you realize your kid (the one you enrolled in Japanese for Babies) isn't bright?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

From the Mouths of Babes

Otter's been babbling up a storm. Some of it is even been comprehensible... So here is her vocabulary, to date:

Mama - meaning "mama," but also "give me" or "I want"
Papa - meaning "papa"
Nyum-nyum - meaning "hungry" and "good" (as it pertains to food)
Doggie - used to signify dogs and virtually all other animals. On the other hand, often used to identify dog barks, which is quite perceptive.
Night-night - goodbye
Uh-oh - not sure if she knows what this means, but loves to say it, and uses it to ID the "What Does Baby Say?" book that first introduced us to that phrase.
Agua - water (yeah, in Spanish - my child is multi-lingual you see)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Small Steps, Giant Leaps

Today, Otter turned 13 months and is officially into her 2nd year of life. Kinda crazy and wild. The last month has been a series of leaps that seem huge in retrospect, but which snuck up on us so that we barely noticed they happened.

Somewhere down the line, SB was weaned. It happened gradually, beginning, perhaps, when I first went back to work (when she was 5 months old) and she began getting her milk from the bottle rather than from the tap. Sure, it was still breast milk, but the separation of boob and food had begun. Then came the days of milk cocktail, with cow milk gradually gaining a presence until finally, all that remained was a morning feeding that was symbolic at most. Once Otter realized that she could get the good stuff much faster out of bottle we now offered in the morning, she dumped the boob like yesterday's newspaper. Suddenly, I had my body back.

Our breast feeding journey ("journey" - how La Leche League of me) had been at times painful, frustrating, at times shockingly bonding, often humbling, occasionally hilarious. We've made it a year, weaning on Otter's schedule without her ever having tasted formula.

In other breaking news, Otter took her first unassisted step today. Initially, she tried walking on the bed while holding a pillow, which led to a long debate as to what exactly constituted a first step. Were pillows allowed? Did it have to be on the floor? But Otter saved us from further argument by repeating her milestone on the floor. Lest we get too excited though, she promptly fell to the floor and continued crawling.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Who ARE These People???

Sitting at work and waiting for some edits to be completed on a Saturday, I decided to kill some time by checking out what babycenter had to say about the world today. Looking back, I realize that I had it coming. Why am I even looking at this site, written by and for suburban uber-soccer moms with huge baby-related anxiety that the site apologetically exploits? (Being a suburban mom myself, I feel totally free to criticize and alienate here.)

I found myself perusing "Forty-two things that change when you have a baby" to take stock of how much of the misfortune has already befallen me, and what horrors may still lurk around the corner. And while I won't bore you by reprinting the entire article (hell, just follow the link to it, if you're so inclined) I will share with you some of my favorite, and most horrifying comments. Personal acerbic editorials included, of course...

You finally stop to smell the roses, because your baby is in your arms.
Who has time to stop? With a baby in my arms, all I can think about is getting my ass home as quickly as possible, before she decides to cry or wiggle out of my embrace. Besides, roses have thorns. If you're going to smell anything, go for a safer plant, like a daisy.

You lose touch with the people in your life whom you should have banished years ago.
What kind of losers are you hanging out with? Hasn't the average adult already done this sorting thing sometime in her mid-20s? Unless you're barefoot and pregnant straight out of Jr. High, if this statement truly applies to you, you have some serious-soul searching to do.

You finally realize that true joy doesn't come from material wealth. — Anonymous
Seriously? You're just realizing this? Did you miss that after school special, you greedy bitch?

Your heart breaks much more easily.
I must 'fess up - this one is spot on. Where I once only put my cynicism away for the 4-legged set, now tales of children in harm's way get me all teary-eyed.

Every day is a surprise.
I work in TV. Every day's been a surprise for the past 13 years.

You become a morning person.
No you don't. You're still a night person. Who is now forced to wake up at the crack of dawn.

Your love becomes limitless, a superhuman power.
I wish that it were so. I'm afraid my love runs a little thin right around 7:15 every evening.

You realize that although sticky, lollipops have magical powers. — Roxanne
I haven't had to test this yet. I pray you're right, Roxanne.

You don't mind going to bed at 9 p.m. on Friday night. — Kellye
Don't mind?! I start planning my bedtime the moment I open my eyes in the morning.

You give parents with a screaming child an 'I-know-the-feeling' look instead of a 'Can't-they-shut-him-up?' one. — Jaidyn's mom
Forget Superman and Wonder Woman. You also realize that the true hero is that parent traveling alone on a plane with 2 kids.

Your dog — who used to be your 'baby' — becomes just a dog. — Kara
These are the people who, after having a dog for 4 years dump it off at the pound, because they've got a new, human toy to play with. I hate them.

You finally find out the real reason you have those breasts. — Anon.
Then you find out, that according to the baby, those breasts aren't technically YOURS.

No matter what you've accomplished in life, you look at your child and think, "I've done a GREAT job!" — Anon.
God bless you, self-satisfied one. Oh, but to have your unfaltering belief in your own fabulousness.

Where you once believed you were fearless, you now find yourself afraid.
In all seriousness, this is something I think about quite often, and I have to say I disagree. I think the hardest yet most vital thing we can do is to not live our lives from a place of fear.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Facts of Life

A few days ago, I was talking to a co-worker about his kids. Several years ago, he and his wife were surprised to find that they were becoming parents again, so soon after they'd had their first baby. It took them a while to adjust, but they did.

"So, sticking with the two, or going to have more?" I asked.

"Well, there's actually another one on the way," he replied. "It was kind of unexpected."

To which I say, seriously? I mean, I was willing to give you a pass on the first "surprise," but a year and a half later you're shocked to discover it happened again? And the same way to boot? What kind of crazy, topsy-turvey world is this?

Without even trying hard, I can think of three people who took no precautions, and were shocked to discover that they were knocked up. And I have to wonder - is the miracle of immaculate conception all around us? Did all of them miss that day in health class when it was explained how babies are made? Or did they just think the rules of biology did not apply to them?

What's even more interesting, these people are smart, educated professionals, at the top of their various games. Yet when it comes to making babies, especially the second or third time around, they all seem to have blinders on. So, for the record people - breastfeeding is NOT birth control. Neither is "We only have sex once a month."

But before I throw too many stones, I suppose I should look back on my own glass house. Unable to face the reality that we were Trying To Have a Baby, I opted for the self deception of We Stopped Preventing A Baby From Happening. And several months later, I, a fairly smart, decently educated semi-professional, who is at least in the middle of her game, was shocked to SHIT when the Baby Happened. There it was - the faint + on the stick, and a soon-to-become familiar nausea. Yet I sat there, trying to calculate all the ways in which this was sheer impossibility.

What is it that causes us to abandon all logic and previously accumulated knowledge in favor of delusion? Perhaps it is the fear of admitting to ourselves the very thing we secretly want but are afraid to covet.

image by [177]

Monday, September 7, 2009

Pretty As a Picture

So what I'm supposed to be blogging about is Otter's successful 1st birthday party, filled with cake, pizza, friends and new toys (all of which doubtless make some kind of battery-fueled noise). But alas, due to an unexpectedly under-the-weather dog, we've had to postpone...

Instead, let me share my tale of professional baby photos. I know, you're probably saying "What? Isn't that just so mother-of-the-yeary?" And it's true - most photo sessions (my wedding included) send me into an anxiety-ridden tailspin. Granted, my exposure to professional photography has been limited to the school picture/Sears/Babies R Us set. And while I applaud their efforts, pictures of my offspring lying blissfully on pink fluffy pillows or looking mischievous wearing nothing but some angel wings and a bow in her hair are decidedly not for me.

But through friends we found (what we hope is) a really great photographer, Jamie. And since I'd decided to forgo both the requisite pregnancy and newborn photos, a 1-year portrait seemed to be in order.

We arrived at the Santa Monica beach promptly at 9am, Otter in her picture-day best, Bree and I in whatever we had time to throw on, and our beach-illegal dog in his best red collar. SB loved the sand, was mesmerised by the ocean. "This will be so easy!" I thought. Our worst problem was going to be keeping the lifeguards from throwing Foz off the un-pet-friendly beach. Otter took one look at Jamie and frowned.

As the session progressed, so did Otter's displeasure, and what began as uncertainty, quickly turned into loud wailing and a refusal to let go of me. For his part, Foster allowed us to position him with a look of grim resignation, and a silent regret that he had not been adopted by a different family. We struggled through photo after photo of Otter looking despondent, while Jamie valiantly tried to entertain and distract our pouty baby.

"Maybe there's a song she likes?" she suggested, helpfully.
The Poopy Otter Song didn't seem appropriate.

"What happens if you blow on her, or tickle her?"
A whole lot of nothing, apparently.

"Does she like the water?"
Why yes, she does. Until the wave comes in and freaks her out, as she didn't expect her entire bottom to get soaked.

"Does she know the Happy Birthday song?"
No.

"Any games that make her smile?"
Yes, yes there are: throwing her in the air, throwing her on the bed, pelting her with pillows (PILLOW AVALANCHE!!!!), chasing her around on all fours while fiercely growling, shoving Monkey in her face (MONKEY ATTACK!!! THEY GO FOR THE FACE!!!!!). All of which didn't seem right to mention, let alone do in public.

In the end, it was a combo of granola bar and being allowed to climb all over Foster (who lay down morosely as sand was liberally sprinkled on him) that brought Otter out of her tailspin. And we may even have gotten a few photos with a smile. But as we made our way home, all Bree and I could think about was, apparently families have songs and games that make their toddlers giggle. What's wrong with us, that all of our go-to stunts run the risk of getting us taken in for child endangerment?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Bad Mommy Files - Working Mommy

Back in the days of marry-straight-out-of-high-school-or-if-you're-very-progressive-straight-out-of-college, most women went directly from living with mom and dad, to living with hubby, to having a kid hanging off each boob and wondering what happened. But becoming moms in our mid-thirties has left me and a lot of my friends in the position of having a "before" (like, a real, grown up life) to compare with the "after".

And while I won't speak for all of us (as some of my friends have happily embraced their new, full-time mom role - which, by the way is SOOOO a full time job - with patience and joy) for the rest of us (ok, for me in particular) the count-down to returning to work began on the heels of the first, bonding nursing session. Which isn't to say that I haven't enjoyed my time off with Otter immensely. But, truth be told, it was always with the understanding that there would be a parole period sooner or later.

Frankly, doing the kind of work that earns me a paycheck is about a billion times easier than working at being mom. And it allows us to remain in our house AND have food to eat. And while someone who hauls cement for a living might disagree, after the rigors of feeding, bathing, chasing, catching, and playing with a toddler for some 8- 10 hours, a day at the office has almost vacation-like calm.

I'd like to believe that working makes me a better mother when I AM home. But recent evidence suggests that even that may need some work. After a particularly early show morning (I had to be in at 6:30 am), I returned home in time to walk the dog child and the baby child in 100+ degree weather. After haplessly maneuvering dog, stroller and baby through the blazing hot street while trying to avoid stepping on my floor-length work dress (which I didn't have time to change out of) or running over said dog with said stroller, I struggled home, wilted and exhausted mentally calculating how soon I could put my put my dear baby (whom I had only spent some 60 minutes with all day) away, once and for all.

As I gathered bath supplies and accessories, Otter began protesting loudly to being put in her chair while the dog followed me around, well in my personal space, making sure I didn't overlook any portion of his dinner. I wish I could tell you how I rose above, basking in my baby's desire to be with me at all times, flattered by my dog's devotion. Instead, I stalked into the bedroom, and what I hope was out of their collective earshot and unloaded. "Shut up!" I whisper-yelled. "Shut up! Just shut the fuck up!"

After a few minutes, I walked out, my best Stepford Wife smile plastered on my face and chirped "Bath time, honey!" all the while dreaming of the moment Otter went down to sleep, the dog gave up his endless quest for food, and I would be rid of them both for the evening.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Questions

Can one seamlessly combine a monkey and a dog theme?
How many kids do you need to justify a bouncer?
What does one put in goodie bags?
What does one do with a group of kids, ages 6 months - 13 years, when it's 150 degrees outside?
Does marker come off of furniture?
Does one need both ice cream AND cake?
How much tequila is it appropriate to drink at your child's first birthday party?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Food For Thought

All in all, I consider myself a pretty laid back mother, perhaps too much so. I don't mind reinserting the pacifier after it's hit the floor, or if my kid eats Cheerios from under the table. I can live with the knowledge that she's going to fall, sometimes hard and it doesn't stop me from letting Otter crawl into other rooms, only following behind after some time has passed.

But I admit it - I have stress triggers regarding SB. I suspect that all parents have them, and that they vary for each of us, depending on both external circumstances and personality. So whether it's my inner Jewish Mother rearing her head, or the fact that Otter's in the 5% for weight, but feeding her, and more specifically, making sure she's getting enough food, has been the bane of my existence for the past 12 months.

It was hard enough when Otter was on a liquid diet. Figuring out how much milk she was actually taking in (and, in her pukey case, keeping down) was wild guess-work on the best of days. Once we added in solid food, I thought it would get easier, as I could now somewhat control the variety and amounts of food that she consumed. And it was, initially.

But as Otter has grown, her once adventurous eating spirit has been curbed. And now we are once again negotiating through the 5 acceptable foods in all their limited combinations. On the GOOD list are:

bananas, yogurt, cereal, Cheerios, rice, apple and pear sauce, lentils, tofu (mostly), bread, pancakes, scones, muffins, peas, corn, and, inexplicably, almost anything with Indian style spicing (curry, cumin)

On the BAD list is:

Pretty much anything else. But especially meats, cheeses, eggs, other veggies, other fruits.

What complicates matters is that on top of the lack of variety, should an offending food be introduced, Otter may go on strike, refusing ALL food.

For a while, I thought this feeding dynamic was my fight to fight. It seemed that when it came to others, Otter was far more accommodating in what she considered an acceptable lunch, accepting potatoes from my mother, allowing Bree to feed her things she had squarely rejected when I fed her, and eating virtually anything given to her by Susana. But this past weekend proved that I am not alone in my struggle. Saturday afternoon, I got the following text from Bree:

"We're freaking done! Now after three spoons she won't eat PEAR sauce. Whatever kid..."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Birthday Girl!

Don't you call her a baby! As of this morning, SB has officially become a toddler. Or is that a t'otter? Technically, she should have waited until 3:23 pm, but she's an impatient lass these days, and she wants it now, now, NOW!!!!

It's hard to believe that a year has gone by already. In fairness, I should say "It's hard to believe that the last 6 months have gone by already," as I was painfully aware that the first 6 months lasted about 3 years. So much has changed for all of us. So here, is a quick Then and Now look at where we were, and where we've come to:

8/26/08
Height: 19 inches
Weight: 6 pounds (or, 5 pounds, 16 ounces as the nurse put it)
Favorite Food: Booby Milk - girlfriend fed like a piranha
Sleep: Yes. Except for when she didn't, which was usually at night.
Favorite Word: Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!
Favorite Sound: The kitchen vent set to high.
Movement: Minimal.
Us: Happy, overwhelmed, confused, frustrated. And tired.

8/26/09
Height: 29 1/4 inches
Weight: 17 pounds, 13 ounces
Favorite Food: Bananas. Acceptable at all times and in any consistency. Other acceptable foods include fried potatoes, bread, pancakes, Cheerios, scones, apple sauce, pears, tofu and Indian spiced dishes.
Sleep: All night and 2 naps. Except for when she's being a grown-up and only takes 1 nap.
Favorite Word: Doggie. And Mama (which, I suspect, means "I want. Give me.")
Favorite Sound: Foster (our pittie) bounding into a room.
Movement: Crawling, climbing, bouncing off pillows and the headboard, bopping, cruising.
Us: Happy, excited, much more confident, in love, occasionally frustrated. And very, very, very tired.

Happy, happy, happy birthday SB!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Beer Island

Every girl needs an island getaway from time to time so Otter and I descended upon Beer Island in Brooklyn, NY to bid adieu to a close friend. Apparently, the bar was chosen based on it's somewhat suspect policy of allowing drinking (which we all prefer to do) to mix with babies (which most of us have in tow these days).

Unsurprisingly, Otter took to Beer Island right away - frolicking on the sand, sampling some cupcake and cruising between the plastic chairs. And since it seemed to be a BYOB (baby, not beer - though that would have been WAY ironic) event, she had plenty of l'il peeps to keep her busy. Even a brief downpour didn't dampen our spirits (get it? ha, ha) as we hid under umbrellas in socialized in the soon-to-disappear, slightly-sketchy remnants of old skool Coney Island.

Looking around at all of us with our variations on diaper bags and Maclaren strollers (a must-have among NYC yuppies, I've learned), I couldn't help thinking of a Talking Heads song -

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a
large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house,
with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself-Well...How did I get here?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Almost Birthday

Being in the NYC afforded Otter a chance to milk the birthday thing for all it's worth. Which I am a strong proponent of any day.

We gathered at my aunt/grandmother's and plied SB with gifts, toys and the world's biggest piece of chocolate cake. Which, Otter-fashion, she rejected. After a rousing rendition of off-key Happy Birthday, SB busied herself with crawling around and pulling things off the tables.

Of course at this stage she can do no wrong and the manic beating a banana took at her hands was met with oooh's and ahhh's of familial appreciation.

Going home, Otter passed out in the car, perhaps dreaming of what goodies her other birthday celebrations will bring.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pumped Up

I should know better than to expect the indignities to stop just because I'm quickly coming round the 1-year bend with Otter. And after the flight over, I figured karma owed me. And while nothing quite beats the airplane bathroom fiasco, SB is by no means letting me coast.

For the past 3 days she's been adjusting to her new surroundings by having replaced my normally crazy-independent, easy-going kid with a needy, clingy alien who has suctioned herself on to my legs, begging to be held 24/7 and crying dramatically if I so much as go out of sight-line.

I shouldn't be too hard on her - I get her confusion of being in a new place with new people while her dad and dog have inexplicably disappeared. I am her only constant and she'll be damned if she falls for the blink and miss it trap. Still, after living for close to 12 months with a baby who happily crawls off to a different room to entertain herself, it's a bit unsettling to suddenly spend time with a child who falls into hysterics if I go to the bathroom (which, I'm sad to say, I can't seem to do alone any more) without her.

But the coup de grace came today, as I valiantly tried to begin prepping milk bottles for our return journey. With my mother and aunt sitting on the bed to keep SB from exploring her way over the edge, I pumped, while attempting to keep up the nonchalant banter that was supposed to distract them from the fact that I am sitting on a bed with my boob attached to a mechanically whirring suction cup.

And I would have pulled it off too, had Otter not seen the pump, and gotten terribly concerned at the destination of the milk (which was clearly not going to her mouth). She voiced her displeasure by rather vigorously climbing into my lap and giving the invasive pump some light pushes. In bar culture, this should have been a sign to the offending pump to get the fuck out of dodge, before things got really, really serious. For my part, I wasn't willing to be put off my goal by a pissy baby (since it'll take several sessions to reach my 6-hour flight quota as it is). Some mediation was clearly needed.

Like a skilled diplomat, I assessed the situation: baby wants boob (for proprietary, not nutritional reasons); pump needs boob; baby willing to kick the living daylights out of pump to get boob; me unwilling to lose drops of milk literally wrung from my body by some territoriality. It looked dire.

Solution? Keep pumping the full boob while giving Otter access to the other one. Continue to remind self that this isn't for ever, and I'm doing a good thing by donating my body to others. Be interrupted from self-congratulatory musings by baby who, annoyed by the fact that the pump still seems to be coming out the winner, uses her 2 rather sizable bottom teeth to deliver her message. Watch as aunt flees the room. Refrain from cursing. Plan drunk-fest for the day I'm done nursing. Keep chatting with mom.

So, whatchya gonna throw at me next world?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Taking Flight

Today, SB made her second trans-continental journey in under a year. Unfortunately for both of us, someone needs to make a respectable living in our family, so Bree stayed behind to mind the store. Unfortunatelier, traveling alone with a nearly 1-year-old is about 10 months of development and mobility worse than traveling with a 2-month-old. One is like going on holiday with a turnip in baby clothes. The other, is like traversing the country with the Tasmanian devil.

So here is the synopsis of the trip:

1. Carrying enough luggage to permanently set up camp in an uninhabited jungle, I arrive with the airport. Specifically, I'm carrying a stroller, car seat, collapsible bed, suitcase, diaper bag, bag of toys, and my own bag where I've foolishly packed some magazines for when I have "time to read."

2. Bree comes with, and manages to steer my plethora of bags through the insane crowd (where ARE all these people going on a Tuesday morning????), while I get stuck trying to cross a stream of oncoming travelers, none of whom seem to think that a frazzled looking chick with a stroller and baby are worth stopping for.

3. The self-check machine won't let me register a suitcase AND a car seat. I go through the options twice before just checking the luggage and hoping one of the helpful attendants will talk me through getting rid of the rest of my crap.

4. Helpful attendant takes it all, and directs me to yet another long-ass line to actually hand off my luggage. After negotiating through another stream of people, I manage to chase down Bree and leave him to dispose of my bags while I do a 180 and go find an elevator to the second floor security checkpoint.

5. Security line is short. Awesome. Stand in line, prep my bags (being a seasoned traveler and all), remove my shoes, and am trying to unstrap Otter with one hand and collapse her stroller with the other when a woman (ok, I'll say it - a rude bitch) pops ahead of me by declaring "I'm just going to cut in front of you," as if that makes it ok. I'm too dumbstruck to even say anything. Upon going through security, it is discovered that RB is also a moron who doesn't know to remove her dvd player from her bag. Now her shit is being sent out a second time (interrupting my flow AGAIN). I shoot her death ray looks.

6. Make it to the gate to learn that the empty seats and room in the bulkhead that I was assured of by the reservations clerk were a figment of his imagination. Accept my fate of having SB in my lap the entire flight. See that RBwhoisalsoaM is on my plane and resist the temptation to ride over her toes with the stroller.

7. Take what I hope will be my only bathroom break with Otter parked in the stall in her stroller. Think of dignity falling away.

8. Get on the plane and find that I am in a row with another woman with a lap child and a kind, sweet, patient man who was stuck between us. Apologize profusely for what he is about to experience.

9. Learn that we are breaking FAA laws by having 2 lap children in one row. (Something about a lack of oxygen masks.) Have lengthy, confusing discussion about which of us should move. Have the flight attendant discover a free seat up front and move the sweet and no doubt relieved gentleman. Thank the universe profusely.

10. Sit in my seat with an overtired, squirmy girl. Buy a $3 chocolate chip cookie for brunch. Pray that she goes to sleep soon so I can inhale it.

11. Realize that Otter needs changing after her nap. Wait interminably for a bathroom to become available. Gather my boatload of baby paraphernalia and totter my way down the aisle. Get in the bathroom and use it with the baby sitting in my lap. Realize how naive and stupid any thought of having lost dignity back around point 7 really was. Realize soon after that there is no changing table in this lavatory. Manage to change Otter in my lap with about 2 inches of room to work with. Promise myself to never assume I've hit bottom.

12. Manage to entertain child for the duration of the flight by allowing her to play anywhere she wants, including in the leg space of the middle, unused seat. Hope that the person in front of me doesn't use this moment to lean back.

13. Arrive at the airport and wait for an extra 1/2 hour at the gate to retrieve my stroller. Which is of course at the very bottom of the pile when it does finally arrive.

14. Retrieve my luggage and realize the bed isn't there. Panic. See a luggage carrier bringing it over. Run to her and choke down the impulse to kiss her.

15. Realize that no matter what happens from here on out, I can do this.

There are some people I want to thank - Bree, for carrying my bags; the gentleman at LAX who actually stopped to let me pass by; the woman behind me in line who called RBwhoisalsoaM out on her shit; the kind flight attendant who valiantly attempted to reassemble my stroller after the security gate; the man in the middle seat on our plane who was rewarded for his kindness by getting the hell away from us; the other long-suffering mom who shared toys and goldfish with me, and her husband who mesmerized Otter for a full 15 minutes with an Elmo video; all the people who chatted and smiled.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Bad Mommy Files

I've been thinking of more and more behaviors that would deem me a bad mother in some circles. So without further ado, here is my updated confession of all things negligent. Today's theme is Language.

1. Otter doesn't know how to sign.

Apparently, the craze to make my baby a fully functioning hand signing conversationalist by the age of 8 months passed me by. I tried for about 2 weeks, but it seemed too tedious, and when she didn't embrace my version of "more" (hands out in a bowl shaped, a la Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist saying "May I have more please," in that god-awful musical) I decided not to waste any more of my own time or energy. I learned now that there is a book that's supposed to teach you all the "correct" signs but since I didn't buy it (along with the 100 other baby-raising books I didn't buy) I guess it's a moot point.

I recently came across a blog discussion of the proper way for babies to sign "thank you" vs. "good", with much advice following. Seriously people - are you worried that another signing-proficient baby comes up to yours for a chat and your kid misuses "good," becoming the laughing stock of the baby sign language community? YOU are signing to YOUR baby. MAKE UP THE SIGN YOURSELF! No one will ever, ever know.

For her part, Otter can sign "no," by violently shaking her head. She learned this herself, and uses it quite appropriately in a wide variety of situations.

2. Perhaps "Baby Can Read," but it sure ain't mine.

3. As noted in the previous sentence, I occasionally still refer to my baby as "it."

4. Speaking of not reading, I know I was supposed to read her stories from the moment she left my womb. Some would say even that's too late, and unless I began recounting Cinderella to my fetus she'd be a remedial reader for life. Until recently, Otter HATED books. Like, crying, complaining, miserable sort of hated. And only recently has she even begun to acknowledge that books are good for thumbing through. So, yeah, Mommy Don't Read either.

5. I'm bilingual and chances are, Otter won't be.

Yes, I KNOW language is a gift not to be squandered. I UNDERSTAND that at this age they're just little sponges, absorbing all sorts of linguistic magic. I GET that I'm cheating her. But here's the deal - to get your kid to learn language, you have to consistently speak it around the house. And in this household, the only one who speaks Russian is me. So yeah, I can take 40 minutes to sign/ask Bree (who's Russian consists of "dog" and "Let's go to bed.") in Russian to hand me a spoon or I can just say "Hey, hand me a spoon." You see where I'm going.

Hopefully, none of this will scar Otter for life and she'll manage to speak at least a few words in several languages, and one day manage to read "See Dick run. See Jane jump." Worst case scenario, I guess she could just shake her head "no" to everything...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

11 Months Comes in With a Bang

Well, Otter's made it to 11 months unscathed. Almost.

The weekend was spend celebrating by trying all sorts of things only grown, 11-month-olds do. Saturday was SB's 2nd attempt at the pool, and like most post-virgin tries, this one worked out much better, lasted longer, and was far more enjoyable. Whether it was the lack of rough housing 9-year-olds, the slightly warmer water temperature or just the mood of the moment, but Otter had a blast first standing then hanging and splashing around in our friends' pool. Apparently she even dunked her face in the water without tears or drama. I say "apparently" because I was engaged in a conversation at that moment and had turned my head. This would turn out to be a theme for the whole weekend, but more on that later.

After a respectable swim, Otter rounded out the day of newness by trying some bbq ribs and cornbread, which she seemed to enjoy tremendously, and some bbq chicken, whey she hearted less. Passing out in the car on our way home, I'm sure she was dreaming of an even more awesome Sunday...

Which started out well enough. A trip to Trader Joes (complete with a ride in the "kid" compartment of the shopping cart and a sampling of yogurt dip), a walk with the dog at the park... 11 months was shaping up to be quite the event.

Until nap time. I put her down on the bed and turned to pick up her Sleep Sack. It was only a split second (isn't it always?), but in that moment Otter took some major initiative and shortly thereafter took flight. Perhaps she was reliving memories of splashing around in the pool. Or maybe she was starting early training for a career in diving or gymnastics. Whatever the case may be, she did an impressive tuck and roll right off the edge of our bed and completed one rotation before her progress was impeded by our floor.

She landed squarely on her back, testing the relative hardness of oak floorboards against that of baby head. Methinks the floor won. But, after some reasonable crying (her, not me), hand wringing (me, not her), and cuddling with Monkey (both of us), Otter was once again right as rain. On the silver lining side of things, there was no concussion, no need to call child services, and, I don't know about Otter, but I won't be forgetting 11 months anytime soon.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Scrapbooking

From what I gather, there comes a time in every mother's life when she begins to scrapbook. This often begins with filling out a baby book and then spirals out of control, until entire rooms in the house are devoted to accommodating this hobby.

While I stand guilty as charged of keeping the obligatory baby album, I have only been dragged into full Monty scrap booking by family. In my defense, I say that this isn't even for me, but for a cousin who's expecting his own child.

After putting it off as long as I could, and getting the admonitory e-mail that I was slacking, I dragged myself to craft store heaven Michael's. The plan was simple - get the properly sized page, a few festive stickers and high-tail it out of there for some gluing fun.

How naive I was...

Michael's swallowed me up like the Bermuda Triangle, leaving me lost in a sea of paper patterns, stickers, appliques, ribbons and all sorts of other doo-dads I know not the name or function of. And the cost of it all! Who are these millionaires with no responsibilities who find the time and the unlimited funds seemingly necessary to pursue this unnatural hobby?

I looked at some of the (unbelievably expensive) scrap booking idea books for inspiration, and learned that to do this correctly, I must be prepared to build lots of layers on my page, print sappy one-liners in funky fonts on newsprint and, most importantly, buy lots and lots of the expensive crap that one glues to the pages to make them more "meaningful."

After what seemed like hours, I limped out with 2 sheets of paper and 3 packages of stickers, leaving my pride and nearly $15 inside the store. What followed at home was another 2 hours of laying out and printing photos, assembling all my design elements, a few Internet searches on how we are actually related to the baby-to-be (Is my husband's cousin's future kid my second cousin? My first cousin once removed? My cousin-in-law? And what about Otter's relationship to all these folks? Thank god for Wikipedia!), and finally, some double face photo tape gluing fun!!! All for ONE PAGE!!!

Lest I sound too bitter, I was happy to do it. I think it's a great idea for the baby to have these pages to look back on, to actually know how his or her father's cousin's baby is related, and to know that an entire extended family put in the work and creativity to welcome him/her to the world. And truth be told, I at the end of the day, I kind of enjoyed putting the page together.

Hmmmm.... Perhaps I should take out a home equity loan and start Otter's scrapbook next...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Safety Update

I spent the better part of the afternoon tooling around with my new baby safety crap. I've suffered from baby proofing backlash -

Every thing you put in, plug up, or lock to keep baby safe, needs to be taken out, unplugged or unlocked for human use. This gets old. FAST. After taking the damn cabinet lock off the trash about 10 times in an hour, I removed the lock entirely, promising myself I'd put it back on for the night. You know, in case at 2 am she wakes up, climbs out of her crib, crawls from the bedroom to the kitchen and decides to go hog wild in the garbage can. "Ha!" I'll say then. "Got ya! Who's the smart one now?"

Of course by bedtime, I'd completely forgotten to re-lock anything.

Also, I HATE HATE HATE these safety corners. The only part that seems to be working is the adhesive to the wood of my furniture, which seems to have now melded on a chemical level. This leaves me highly doubtful of their claims that some water will remove the glue, once I'm ready to de-corner. This could even be a good thing if the adhesive showed half that commitment to staying attached to the actual padded corner. In reality, I spend my days collecting corners that fall off if you look at them too long and slamming them back onto the gummy, corroded corners of my once-decent wood furniture.

I have yet to try the bifold door locks, though I fear they won't fit.

Oh, and I came in this afternoon to see Otter blissfully playing with the socket plugs...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Safe

After months of lying to my pediatrician I was finally shamed into action by my own post. How could I say I love my child if I had yet to protect her from the calamity of getting into the trash or the certain death of sticking her finger into a socket? What is to prevent Otter from sneaking into the under-sink cabinet and guzzling a surface cleaner and swiffer wet wipe cocktail? Sure the cleaner claims to be non-toxic, but do I really want my daughter to provide me with material for a "truth in advertising" lawsuit by proving them wrong? Apparently so.

It's not that I have anything against baby-proofing (even though entire generations managed to grow into adulthood with only the most minor of electrocutions), it's that the process is so damn daunting. Like any other industry, the baby safety market is a sea of products, seemingly identical in nature (that being, they serve a mysterious, not easily identifiable purpose) yet vastly different in price point. And since your local Super Mart rarely carries socket plugs, a specialty store is in order. So it was with a heavy heart that I ventured back into the hell that is Babies R Us and began my journey.

When I say journey, I mean it in the most literal sense. It began with the drive, followed by the trek across the 100+ degree parking lot and ended in the labyrinth of the store. Somewhere between bottles and high chairs, I began feeling a bit like Harry Potter looking for the goblet of fire. Yeah, I know. I just referenced Harry Potter.

But I pressed on, eventually finding myself in the Baby Safety aisle. There were at least 4 different brands competing to save my baby from almost certain death. And within each line, there was a plethora of products, from the obvious to the obscure. Here, in general, is what I found:

1. The majority of these "safety devices" need to be screwed into one of your surfaces in order to work properly. Now you may call me shallow and materialistic for what I'm about to say, but here it is: We paid more money than I like to think about to refurbish our kitchen. So the idea of putting the screws to my already-suffering, nearly new cabinets is beyond unpleasant.

2. There is a huge difference in price from line to line - from $1.99/20 socket protectors, to $4.99 for 10 of the same product. I WANT to buy the two buck set, but the paranoia sets in - what am I not getting that the 5 buck set must provide? Is Otter 2.5 times more likely to send a live current through her body if I cheap out?

3. There are a number of items with a very specific function. Take for example, the toilet lid lock. How many of these gadgets are they really selling? Are people actually unlocking and locking their toilet lids after every use or does my doubt of this just peg me as a crappy parent who doesn't care if my baby drowns?

After several hours of staring and taking different combinations of boxes into my basket, only to put them back and start again, I finally came away with what I hope will at least forestall injury and death:

A 20-pack of socket plugs. Yeah, at the end of the day I cheaped out. If she does electrocute herself, the hospital bills will be high enough. This way I can look back and say, "Well, at least I saved $3 on the plugs..."

2 packs of cabinet locks. Glass half full - I found locks you don't need to screw in! Glass half empty - they only work on double doors. So my single door cabinets and drawers are still fraught with danger.

2 packs of bi-fold door locks.

A gazillion packs of stick-on padded furniture corners.

I still think my house is a veritable minefield of baby dangers, but at least I got started. In retrospect, however, I wonder if I should have just purchased the child leash that they were hocking in the same aisle...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Permanent Baby

A few months ago, Otter reached the milestone for understanding object permanence. Which is a fancy way of saying that she now realizes the world goes on, even when she's not there. Babies being the completely self-centered creatures that they are, Otter takes great exception to this fact, and it's become a bit of an obstacle at nap time.

As soon as SB sees her Sleep Sac come out, the waterworks begin. It matters not that she is tired and cranky, or that she will be perfectly fine within several minutes of me leaving the room. The blanket, with all the napping it implies, is highly offensive. I'm not sure what great fun she imagines I'm having while she is "put away." Certainly it's not me blending corn, or trying to fold laundry at breakneck speed. On the other hand, this is a baby who is entertained as hell by pulling herself up to a standing position and yanking at a curtain. So maybe the blender is truly a party in a box for her.

Be that as it may, getting her into her Sleep Sac has become a tearful bait and switch con, where stuffed animals, blocks and the occasional diaper wipe are all employed. So sure, my baby ends up in her crib clutching a plastic Ferris wheel toy. But at least she's in bed, right?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Bad Mommy Syndrome

Do a Google search for "Bad Mommy" and dozens of links pop up, from confess-it-all blogs of the barely literate, to well composed essays by professional writers. Mostly it's tongue-in-cheek, written by and for women who don't take themselves too seriously and have thicker skins. But it made me wonder why we have a compulsive need to confess our perceived wrongdoings? And where the line is drawn - what defines you as a "bad mommy"?

So here, without further ado, is the short list of why I might qualify, though I will staunchly defend my behavior to the end of time.

1. I have left my baby sitting on the bed, even after she started crawling. I push her to the middle of the bed and run like mad to hang up the towel, pull out the forgotten pajamas, or grab the missing pacifier. Sure, I could take her with me, and take 3 times as long to do the task. Or I can trust that she can occupy herself with whatever toy I'd shoved in her hands for the 10 seconds I'll be gone.

2. I believe in the 5 second rule. When the pacifier hits the floor at 2 a.m., I can turn on the lights, stomp out, wash it, stomp back in, and spend the next 2 hours trying to get Otter back to sleep. Or I can feel around for it with my hand and, realizing she probably spent part of the day licking the floor anyway, entrust her well being to her immune system. Sometimes the rule can be stretched to 10 or even 15 seconds.

3. In a shocking disregard for all baby guide warnings, I've offered Otter strawberry before she turned 1. I've always been bit confused by what magical switch gets turned on August 26 that will minimize allergic reactions, and strawberries are so good right now. For the record, she's not allergic. Same goes for egg whites.

4. I've offered Otter a taste of cupcake and a bit of frozen yogurt.
She liked the former, and not so much the latter. All lived to tell the tale, and she went back to eating her healthy, homemade food.

5. My kid falls occasionally, even when I'm watching her. She even got a shiner. But she's a tough baby and more than ready to explore her world - and I want to encourage that exploration, not stifle her. Falling is just part of exploring the force of gravity.

6. When Otter starts shrieking, I respond by shrieking back. It's a language she seems to understand, and it calms her, or at least entertains her.

7. I let her crawl around - even to the "dangerous" parts of the house. My FIL is very vigilant about which toys and furniture can cause SB irreparable harm, and is very fond of pointing out all the terrible things that "can" happen. I can't live in fear of the maybe's and might's. I'd rather watchfully assume she'll be ok.

8. I haven't baby-proofed. And even when I do, I plan to keep it minimal. The best form of baby proofing is to keep an eye on Otter and simply erecting caged areas for her won't keep her out of trouble.

9. I throw her in the air, swing her around and play the "shaken baby" game with her. She loves it and screams with glee. I have yet to rattle any brains.

10. I've been known to disregard the nap schedule when we need to attend an event. No, I don't plan my days around skipping naps, but come on people - it's not like sleep's going to run out and she'll have no more. She can sleep longer tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Shiner Whiner Chunker Chicken

Shiner

Yesterday, during one of her exploratory treks around the living room, Otter's right cheekbone had an up close and personal meeting with the base of her swing. Before you start calling the authorities, let me point out that I actually tried to stop the swinging. And had I not succeeded, at least partially so, the damage would have been much worse. But alas and alack, be it the advancing age or the heavy drinking, but my reflexes are not what they used to be.

I console myself by asserting that a certain number of falls and bruises are inevitable. Nay, necessary. How else will she learn about gravity and all those other funky laws of physics? Sure, my kid has a black eye - but you should see the other guy.

Whiner

We've begun a new phase in Otter's emotional life. The lady not only knows what she wants, but also how quickly she wants it. Which is usually like, immediately. And should you not jump at her command, you are met with a with a wailing protest of the most serious kind. You object to her opinion that yanking the curtain around violently is not entertaining enough and she wants to hit the window as hard as she can? WHAAAAA! She threw her koala toy from her chair and you didn't leap over the dining room table to pick it up (so she can toss it again)? WHAAAAAA! You think she shouldn't be using the dog as a step stool as she attempts to mountaineer over the headboard? WHAAA! WHAAA! WHAAAAAA!

Let the games begin.

Chunker

At a recent dinner party we attended with Otter, everyone kept commenting on what a good eater she is. And we're happy to say, it's definitely true. For our part, we try to keep Otter's dining options interesting - forgoing homogeneous, off-beige canned baby food in lieu of beets, quinoa and sauteed squash, farmers market nectarines and goat yogurt. For her part, Otter has obliged us by eating quite a variety of food, and finally embracing texture. We don't find out for a while, but we're thinking the days of desperately trying to make weight are over.

Chicken

One of her numerous nicknames. It's amazing she knows her name at all...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Rabies Baby

It snarls. It hisses. It shoots spit everywhere. Occassionally it bites. It's Rabies Baby, and it's all ours.


video

The Littlest Ranger or You're Pretty Enough to Be in Pictures

This past week, we were visited by a good friend from Boston. She had never met Otter, but came filled with good will and, more importantly, gifts. First there was the portrait she'd painted, which clearly establishes the beginning of an illustrious career posing for paintings.

But, should that inexplicably fail, we've got a backup plan. You see, our friend's husband is a die-hard Rangers fan. So the family got matching gear. I see a future in soccer. My girl does look good in blue...


Much gratitude for such kind generosity and love sent our way!

Image by Emily Pins

Monday, July 6, 2009

A relationship between a mother and a daughter is a challenging and fragile thing.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independence Day

Otter let go with both hands for a split second while standing. She may be getting a second tooth. She tried scrambled eggs and kinda liked them. She's got another party to attend tomorrow.

Can Independence Day be far behind?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Otter On the Move

My girl can now stand up, which she does with incredible speed. Though she still needs to hold on for support, standing is the new sitting and she likes nothing better than scrambling up and climbing towards whatever is just out of reach. To be sure, any previous attempts at crawling have been unilaterally abandoned.

The new mobility has resulted in some difficulties, some foreseeable, others not so much. For one thing, Otter now wants to stand everywhere, including her stroller from which she took a dive yesterday. Perhaps it's an early precursor to her mom's proclivity for skydiving, or her dad's early career of jumping off roofs into pools.

More unforeseen were the challenges of nursing. Now I've heard my fellow moms expound upon the joys and bonding time they share with their offspring while breastfeeding. Most of these heart-warming accounts can be found on websites such as La Leche League, though a large number have come from friends. I'm not sure where all these cuddly, nurse-y babies came from, but when I got mine at the hospital, apparently they were out of that variety.

What I got instead is a mountain climbing action baby who fully believes in her ability to multitask, and for whom sitting down to nurse is a gross misappropriation of her time. Rather than settle down for relaxed snack, Otter prefers to climb on me and over to the headboard (which fascinates her), all while keeping my nipple grasped firmly in her mouth. Which, as one can imagine, is not so great. Especially when she feel she's losing her grip and chomps down to keep a hold of her meal.

I've tried every position to facilitate feeding. But more often than not, mealtime ends with me lying back and laughing at her efforts, while Otter plunges bravely on, determined to explore every inch of her world before bedtime.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

I Poopied!!!

Yesterday, Otter took her first step down a road that can one day lead to wet t-shirt contests or, worse, MTV Spring Break exposes. That's right - she went to her first pool party. Donning her Elmo Splash Pants, pink swimsuit (the last one in her size on sale at Target) and enough sunblock to withstand a trip to the surface of the sun, she made her grand entrance.

For my part, I initially considered the modest Mom Suit - you know, the one that covers more flesh that it exposes. The Mom Suit has many pros. For one, this would be the proper thing for a lady in my position to wear. For another, without string ties, one of Otter's favorite playthings, a Mom Suit would certainly save me from unplanned wardrobe malfunctions, courtesy of SB. But when have details like unplanned exposed boobs at my nephew's 9th birthday party stopped me? So, with nary a concern that my zombie white ass would blind all those around me, I pulled out a bikini. Since Operation Fatten Up has yet to live up to it's full potential, I might as well take advantage.

Sucking in for all it's worth, I bravely entered a pool chock full of splashing, screaming pre-teen boys. Not quite what my pool parties used to be, to be certain. Otter looked skeptical. We stepped further in and she quickly decided that this had about as much to do with her bath, which she loves, as an ocean resembles a puddle. The face soured, the mouth turned down, and the baby began emitting whining noises. Still, since she wasn't crying outright, I persevered a bit longer. But, when it became apparent that SB preferred the feel of dry land under her feet, we decided to hit the food instead and tried pizza (approved), cupcakes (very approved) and ice cream (not so much).

And we left not a moment too soon. As Otter and I were stuffing our faces at the table, a wail went up from the pool. "I poopied! I poopied!" screamed one of the little party guests. And indeed, she had. Bree and I plastered overzealous smiles on our faces - the kind designed to not let the other party-goers know just how traumatized you are in that moment. Perhaps Miss Pool Poopie would have benefited from some Elmo Splash Pants herself...

Friday, June 26, 2009

10 Months and Counting


That's right! 10 months old, baby. That means you all have 2 months left to purchase birthday presents.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Policy

Babies R Us blows. It's that simple.

I'd long suspected it, hating it instinctively long before I'd ever set foot onto it's neon-lit, hopelessly confusing aisles of all crap baby, filled with dazed and confused, sleep-deprived mommies and daddies and suspiciously unpeopled by anyone who works there and could offer these poor schmucks some help as they look for breast pumps, environmentally responsible diapers and fashionable mobiles.

Even though BRU is a megalith, as impossible to avoid as breathing air if you're with child, I'd held off physically going there for many, many years. After one frightening trip for a friend's registry gift, which ended with me beating a gargantuan roll of cheap wrapping paper into submission over the unfortunate item I'd just purchased, I vowed that my Mano-a-Mano contact with this hell-hole would be limited.

To that end, I even managed the super-human feat of completing my own baby registry completely on-line. Let those other schlubs (aka, my guests) do the heavy lifting. But what comes out of BRU must invariable go back at some point. And after months of putting it off, I finally gathered strength, willpower and patience and set off to return some items Otter was never going to use.

My first interaction went smoothly enough - I came in with my item, explained that it had been a gift and that I had no gift receipt and was quickly issued a credit. Maybe this wasn't so bad, I thought. Mistakenly.

When I returned home, I realized that I'd forgotten to bring back a more insignificant (read - inexpensive) item. "Oh well, I'll just bring it along next time," I thought naively. By the time "next time" rolled around, another few weeks had gone by. This time, I was a woman on a mission - armed with my prior credit, a gift card, the cup I was returning, and a plan to buy a high chair and bolt. Undaunted by my lack of gift receipt (they do after all carry the item AND I'd done this before), I sashayed up to the Customer Service window. (By 'sashayed' I mean stood in line for 20 minutes behind no one in particular, but I digress.)

"I'm sorry, we can't do a return without a receipt," said the cashier.
"But I've done this before," I replied, confused. "And I can't help it if I wasn't given a receipt."
"Yes, but there's a limit of one time you can return without a receipt."
"But I forgot this at home when I did my other return."
"One time - per lifetime."
"But you can STILL sell it, right? Even if I returned it without a receipt. What's the big deal?"
"That's our policy."
"But it's a $5 cup! You let me return $50 worth of bottles with no receipt! I forgot the damn thing. Do you honestly think I'm trying to strike it rich by returning contraband $5 sippy cups?!"
"Ok, I can do it for you. Just this once. But remember - there is a LIFETIME limit of 1 return with no receipt. LIFETIME."

So apparently, I'm on some BRU blacklist for returns. Which is what I kept in mind when I needed to exchange a Sleep Sac today. I arrived, receipt on the ready, both the fleece Sleep Sac I was returning and the cotton Sleep Sac (same brand, same price, different fabric) in my hands. I was ready to rock.

"You're going to owe a difference on this item," said the SAME cashier. Does she ALWAYS work returns???
"But they're the same price... And I have a receipt..."
"You got this item on sale. The sale is over now."
"But I'm not returning it - I'm exchanging it."
"If it was an exchange for the same item..."
"If it was the same item, I wouldn't be exchanging it, would I? It's the same brand. It's the same blanket. It's the same price. It's just not fleece."
"But the sale is over now. It was buy 1, get one half price. So you owe us $10."
"Ok," I said, trying to figure out how I ended up in the red. "The full price is $20, right? Half is $10. So for both Sleep Sacs I spent $30, right? So shouldn't it average out to $15 of credit per Sleep Sac?" I was hoping she was following my math.
"No, one was full price. This one was half price. $10."
I was struck by a brilliant thought - "But you're ASSUMING I'm returning the 1/2 off Sleep Sac. I KEPT the 1/2 off one. I'm returning the full price one. So, I owe you nothing."
"Ok, I can do it for you. Just this once. But that's our policy."
"Your policy is stupid," I muttered, once my new Sleep Sac was firmly in my grasp.

I walked out triumphantly shaking with anger. I had learned my lesson, had jumped through all their hoops. And yet, it had to come to near blows to get a damn blanket. Is it me, or is BRU trying to scam people? Are they not going to take that blanket and (with the sale being over) going to turn around and sell it for it's full, $20 value? And if I had agreed to pay them the difference, would they not have thus erased any savings from the sale they, themselves held?

I wonder how many of those bleary-eyed, haven't slept in 3 days parents just give up and pay whatever the BRU Nazis dictate. Is this company, which has cornered the market on everything but the baby itself, not making enough money that they have to get more profits, $10 at a time?

It's as sad as the $5 Sippy Cup scheme I was apparently running.

Note: I bear no ill will towards Returns Cashier. She's just following guidelines. And is a bit of a rebel, judging from her ultimately working with me both times... Rock on, RC!