Sunday, May 31, 2009

Travel At Your Own Risk

With so many new adventures around the bend, I was curious to see what BabyCenter, my online bible to all things child-related, had to say about Otter's potential reactions. So often, it's as if BabyCenter is looking into my soul, or at least my date book, when it comes to pinpointing upcoming events. And here's what they had to say:

Because of separation anxiety, ... it may ... be hard to travel with your baby right now. He's become used to his surroundings and familiar faces, and he likes predictability. So being on the road can disrupt his sense of security and routine, especially when visiting a new place or meeting lots of strangers.

Great news, considering my parents (virtual strangers to Otter) were joining us on a trip to Central California. At least there was going to be wine in Cambria/Paso Robles, so I could drink away my sorrows while SB screamed her disapproval.

Still, we decided to soldier on, packing baby, parents, dog, ourselves, and enough provisions for a month-long nomadic trek into our SUV for a 4-day weekend getaway. Prior to the trip, we purchase even more semi-necessary baby things, including a travel bed and umbrella stroller, justifying the insane price gouging by vaguely reassuring ourselves that we like to travel a lot, so the porta-crib (which cost nearly as much as Otter's actual bed) and it's $40 custom fit sheet were necessary evils.

Otter took the 4-hour drive up like a man, only complaining occassionally and being quickly comforted by her bottle. We briefly stopped at a winery, letting our girl know how her parents like to get down - she seemed to enjoy the experience...

Appropriately, we stayed at Otter Cove. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by a deer in the back yard of our rental house, and we knew it would be a magical visit.

We took walks by the ocean, saw elephant seals, pelicans, birds, cows, otters and horses (not all at once - that would have been weird), visited some beautiful wineries and landscapes, and generally had a grand old time just sitting out and looking at the water.

The rest of this tale can be told in pictures - since nothing I can write will capture the beauty of the ocean...

SB lapped it all up. Turns out, traveling with a separation-anxiety-ridden 9-month-old isn't that hard after all. You just gotta keep them busy with all the beauty in the world.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me! (again)

As Otter's former vessel, I figure I get a shout-out. What with the "if there was no me, there'd be no her"-ness, I'm going to use this space to talk about me.

It's my birthday - I'm gonna eat cake for every meal, sing loudly and out of tune, and make people give me stuff.

Actually, I'm going to wash my car, do last-minute cleaning and sit in traffic while going to get my visiting parents from the airport.

I prefer my imaginary day.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

9 Months!

Yep - she's 9 months old.

Teeth - zero.

Crawling - negative.

Texture in food - marginal.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Party On, Wayne!!!

Being the crazy partiers that we are, Bree and I have been having withdrawal from entertaining. Still, with a baby, it's been a bit harder to orchestrate a real, bonafide "party." Sure, we've had friends come over for some TV and Takeout, but a true fete was missing from our repertoire.

So what better excuse to test the Otter waters than an in-between non-birthday celebration. We kept it small, since Otter's starting to show some signs of stranger anxiety and frankly, we're just not that brave. We opted for cheese and wine, because they're easy, and a paella, because we're crazy.

When guests arrived, Otter was down for her nap, prompting some speculation (by those who have never actually seen our baby, always arriving after she's asleep) that we'd made her up. A misconception I tried to clear up by admitting we merely rent the baby for photo ops.

Then nap time ended. I brought Otter to meet her fans. Her post-nap happiness was replaced by a look of incredulousness. Who the F were all these people, and what were they doing at her house?! This was then followed by Otter's trademark frown and wail.

You may notice there are no photos of the party - the above is the reason for this. After much coaxing, we managed to calm her enough to let Bree hold her, but only if I was still with her sight. Stranger anxiety had definitely begun...

On the other hand, she did make some progress, by eating some cupcake. :)

Friday, May 15, 2009

On the Downhill

This morning we unexpectedly found ourselves at our pediatrician's. Though Otter's 9 month appointment was scheduled for the following Friday, she decided that she had better things to do that day. So after being suspiciously itchy, we landed at the doctor's office.

Of course, Dr. L found nothing wrong with her. If you read a note of disappointment, it's only because I knew she was fine, but, being a good parent called the nurse at the office and was told to come in anyway. Now I couldn't not go in, lest I be labeled "irresponsible," authorities be called and Otter be raised in foster care. (As a side note, I am becoming increasingly confused by the function of an on-call nurse, if all the advice ends with "You should bring her in." Though, to play my own devil's advocate, they were quite helpful during the poopy embargo.)

On the upside, after confirming Otter was in perfect health and telling me to soak her in a bath, Dr. L did kindly agree to do her 9 month exam at the same time, saving me a trip next Friday. So after a late start, I finally headed off to the office.

It's hard to believe, but come 6 pm today (or 4:15 pm, let's be honest) I am once again a lady of leisure. While I'm making the necessary noises about looking for work, the truth is I'm looking forward to a little time to hang out with Otter.

More importantly, I've made it over the hump - not only am I 3/4 of the way through the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommended year of breast-feeding, I have survived the struggle of exclusively nursing while at work. Since I've oft-detailed the trials and tribulations of that arrangement, I won't bore you with the petty details. Suffice it to say, after endlessly stressing over whether I'd produce enough, pump enough, survive long enough, etc., I return to the leisure life with 13 packets of backup milk still hanging out in the freezer.

Not to toot my own horn (since I'm not done just yet, and it's obnoxious...) but, go me.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Time ticks on and new skills are acquired.

While babies that seem to now surround me at every turn are dramatically fulfilling and exceeding their milestone expectations - standing at unnaturally young ages, expanding their vocabularies, writing their post-doctoral theses - Otter has chosen a more subtle approach. Quietly, without much ado, she's sneaking up on new skills.

For example, we recently discovered she can stand. This came as a complete surprise, since she's made no attempts to sit up, let alone pull herself into a standing position. But bored on a Saturday afternoon, I decided to experiment with baby (as I often entertain myself these days) and leaned her up against furniture. Lo and behold, she stood. And quite steadily at that. When she's had time to learn this is beyond me.

In the meantime, any tries at crawling have stalled out. Since SB can only succeed in sliding backwards on her belly as she strives to reach a toy, she is more frustrated now than she was when she couldn't move at all. So she's called it quits. Ditto on trying to sit up (unless she's already at an angle and thus, half-way there) pull up or engage in any locomotion that doesn't involve rolling. For the most part, however one plops her down (be it lying, sitting or standing) is how she stays.

But I suspect that while the babies we know have been busy getting mobile, Otter's reached a far more valuable milestone. She's figured out the class system. Namely, that her father, her nanny and I are of the servant class and that sooner or later WE will carry her wherever she wants to go.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Paying My Tab

A friend of mine was recently sharing her frustrations about her son. Her boy had taken a test at school and had not done as well as expected. She was worried, vowing that no son of hers would test badly, excluding him from academically rigorous junior high schools. She would have him study harder, and retake the test next year. The child is in kindergarten.

The conversation led me to wonder about what kind of legacy we are imparting on our children. It is inevitable that we try to course-correct with the next generation those aspects that we feel were lacking in our own childhoods. And while this is not, in itself, a bad thing (isn't the definition of insanity repeating the same behaviors while expecting different results?), it is such a slippery slope to making our kids pay for our own perceived shortcomings. When do we cross the line from nurturing and encouraging to pushing our own agendas, compensating for our own mistakes?

It is easy to look backwards and make a list of things we don't want to repeat - my mother's forcing her love of the guitar on me in the form of much-hated lessons, my father's impatience with doing projects with me, taking them over instead - but it is far more difficult to turn a critical eye towards the future, and try to predict what baggage we will lay at our kids' doorsteps.

What will Otter learn from me that I may not want her to? Will my sarcasm, which sometimes comes off as cruelty, rub off on her? Will she learn my impatience for people that I perceive aren't doing things as efficiently or as well as I imagine they should be done? Will she inherit my "tone" (you know, the one my mother always accuses me of having)?

Moreover, how do I teach her to find the balance in her life that we all struggle to achieve? Is it possible to impart on her the importance of embracing her potential without succumbing to blindly chasing the "grade"? To love knowledge for knowledge's sake, and to understand that there are many different kinds of intelligence (yet not use that as an excuse to slack off)? To be kind without being a pushover? To be strong without being willful? To be brave without being reckless?

Going in, I know that I will make mistakes, and have made my peace with it. I just hope I'm able to do so with my eyes and mind open, and (as one TV therapist often says) not make her pay for my tab.

Otter's New Man

Otter's found herself a new boyfriend. And while I missed the shot of them sucking face, here are a few photos that might get her in trouble with the press should they be leaked...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ima Mama

This Sunday I celebrated my first official Mother's Day. Unlike last year, when I was simply a storage compartment, this time it's fo' real. Otter and I commemorated by donning what will be the closest we'll ever come to "Mommy & Me" outfits - matching t-shirts...

Congratulatory phone calls were exchanged, the appropriate people texted, and my Facebook status updated to reflect the glorious day of all thing mother. My FIL gifted me with flowers and extravagant praise. Bree, in a bid for super husband actually began the celebration early, with a card and half dozen Crumbs Cupcakes delivered to my work on Friday afternoon. I think Crumbs can be effectively used as enticement for sectors of the population where birthrates are falling off. I challenge my most child-phobic of friends to not get knocked up if the promise of these cupcakes were to be offered as a prize for birthing.

Indeed, the rewards for mothering are many. I know - you're thinking I'm referring to the mystery of a new life created, the satisfaction of nurturing a small being, the joy of seeing your Dear Child laughing with glee at the wondrous world around it. But being a literal lass, I'm actually talking about the shwag you get, be it of the pastry, floral or bejeweled variety. Childed friends everywhere were discussing their acquisitions - luggage, diamonds and electric toothbrushes.

My own Mother's Day began with homemade strawberry pancakes and mimosas and ended with scrubbing down the kitchen before collapsing on the couch for my unavoidable, late-night pumping session. All was as it should be.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Great Expectations

A friend of my grandmother's has a granddaughter approximately Otter's age.  While she was always sweetly interested in Otter's progress and development, it was simultaneously a forum for her to draw comparisons between the two babies.  To hear her, the girl was something just shy of a genius.  At 4 months, when Otter was just starting to make the first hints of noises, Little Einstein was pointing out her head, hands, toes and all body parts in between on command.  My family lapped up these tales with wide-eyed amazement, and when I called BS on the whole scenario, I was reprimanded for my lack of faith in LE's super-human intellect.  

More recently, another babied co-worker and I were discussing our respective offspring.  Not surprisingly his son, who is 2 months younger that SB, also displays all the qualities of a savant. While Otter babbles incoherently, mixing her ma's, ba's, da's and a-goo-ah's in no particular order, 6-month-old baby linguist apparently says "Dada" with appropriate meaning, and even something that sounds suspiciously like "I want my mama."  Yeah, OK.

All of this led me to wonder, why must we project mythical skills on our newborns?  Why can't we be satisfied with our babies' actual milestones?  For me, the fact that Otter babbles wildly and meaninglessly is fascinating.  I am amazed at how good she's gotten at putting herself to sleep.  And that she can now grab the bottle and feed herself.  I don't need evidence of higher mathematical abilities or hints that she might be a musical prodigy.  I'm excited that she's almost (although not quite) crawling.  Aren't these achievements enough for a creature that a mere 6 months ago could do nothing but lie around like a large radish?

Yet I seem to be alone in satisfaction.  Articles abound about children so over-activitied that they require their own planners to keep track of it all.  Turn on the TV and I learn that with the proper kit (for 3 easy payments of $19.99 plus S&H Charges) I can teach Otter sign language, reading and theoretical physics.  Is it me or is our over-scheduled society not only robbing her of a childhood, but a babyhood as well?

Of course only time will tell if I'm right.  Perhaps when my friends' French-signing-astrophysicist-cellists are applying to Harvard at age 5, while Otter is learning not to eat paste, the last laugh will be on me.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Final Frontier

Before I say anything, I must explain that I've always had a very contentious relationship with meat. Throughout my life, I've had bouts of vegetarianism that have lasted anywhere from weeks to years. And even when I am feeling carnivorous, there are numerous criteria that a piece of meat must fulfill before I'll ingest it. An accidentally-consumed traumatizing bit of chicken kept me from eating poultry for over a year. Even now, I rarely eat "public chicken," trusting only myself or Bree to properly dissect it.

My personal food-weirdness aside, it was a matter of time before we'd try to give Otter meat. In my perfect world, she'd be eating spinach and tofu well into her collegiate years, at which point she'd move out and could eat whatever the hell she wants. But reality and what little common sense I have left dictated that we would need to introduce carne into the mix sooner or later. The "sooner" came this week.

Before I could have Otter boldly go where she had not go-ed before, there was the question of preparing "Baby Turkey." The instructions were simple enough: heat ground turkey in a pan with water; blend; serve. Yet to someone with my meat-aversion, each step was an obstacle to be conquered.

To begin with, while I have no issue with meat in it's pink-to-red raw bloodiness, the sight of it turning beige in a pan turns my stomach. Add to that the odor (dare I say, stench) of pan cooked ground meat, and I'm out. I won't even talk about the blending part.

Initially, Bree had volunteered to prepared this glop, but since there was a question of our meal to prepare, he manned the grill (a perfectly acceptable way of cooking flesh, for the record), while I continued my duties as baby chef. Armed with a skillet, an apron and a spatula, I sucked it up and started heating.

"If this doesn't prove I love her, I don't know what does," I informed my husband while trying to stir the browning (no, let's be honest - graying) homogeneous mass while standing as far from it as arm plus spatula would allow. Bree valiantly offered to finish it up. "No," I said, the picture of martyrdom. "I'll do it." My heroism ran out when it was time to blend, and Bree had to step in.

Minutes later, he stood back, admiring the grayish-pinkish paste his efforts with the immersion blender had produced. Then he did the unthinkable: he tasted it. I looked on, utterly disgusted. "It tastes like bland turkey paste," he said, somehow acting like this wasn't a bad thing. "It looks and smells like dog vomit," I replied.

The final verdict was not up to us however. On Tuesday, Otter had her first taste of turkey. "Well," our nanny reported that evening, "she's definitely not a vegetarian."

image by allygirl520

Hot Mama

***WARNING: What follows may be Too Much Information for some. Proceed at your own risk.

In a crazy, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants fashion moment, I have discarded my usual uniform of jeans, t-shirt and Docs for something a bit more weather appropriate. So I am wearing...

a skirt (let those zombie-white legs show, darlin')...

heels (which make walking a bit challenging from lack of practice)...

and, most importantly, a REAL bra. Yep, that's right folks. I have traded in my utilitarian, clasps on each cup nursing bra (which is hideous, despite claims by my mother and m-i-l that things used to be much, much worse) for a snazzy, hot pink, before-there-was-baby REAL bra! There are no extra hinges, or hidden compartments. There is push-upness and shape. There is cleavage (or, as close an approximation to cleavage as I am ever likely to get).

I feel decidedly un-momish. Now if only I could figure out how to pump with this thing...

***This photo is SOOOOO not me. Mom and dad, you can exhale.

Image by

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

After the Epidemic

To celebrate the end of our plague outbreak, on Sunday we packed Otter up for the Los Angeles Arboretum. Having lived here for 12 years and an entire lifetime (respectively), neither I nor Bree had any idea this place existed. But the gardens more than made up for their lack of notoriety. It was a gorgeous day, and we all enjoyed the sights, smells and sounds of spring...

The only thing marring the outing, were the informative placards that had been tacked on to all the trees.

image by ikkoskinen

They displayed mosquitoes the size of medium birds, followed by several paragraphs in tiny print. The kind of disclaimers you find at the bottom of contracts. The ones that lead you to understand the message of without ever having to read: in the final analysis, you're screwed. This being the great outdoors (OK, OK, a Los Angeles park), and us lacking a mosquito net or DEET, we decided to soldier on.

Upon returning home, we noticed several bug bites on SB's legs and back. So now we watch and wait...will Swine Flu be followed up with Baby West Nile?

A (Very) Belated Easter

Ok, so in terms of getting photos up, I've kinda sucked. But in my defence, we were battling swine flu. So here, much belated, are our Easter pics...

Easter morning...

Grand-Diggy arrives...

A basket, for me?


I'll get you, yet, you Wascally Wabbit!

Yeah, I like Easter.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Baby Swine Flu

Over the past week, we've been inundated with reports on swine flu. You can't turn on the TV or radio without hearing the details and statistics of those infected, dying, or quarantined as the pandemic spreads. As the Egyptians blindly slaughter all their pigs in an effort to avoid infection through a non-infectious source, and neighbors eye each suspiciously for possibilities of outing a carrier (hmmm, Bob looks a little tan - perhaps he just came back from Cancun. Or is he...Mexican???) it's hard not to get caught up in the pseudo panic. Technical definitions aside, I think the media loves the word "pandemic" - it sounds very, very serious. Not to say that swine flu isn't, but you gotta admit, it certainly raises a mutation of the common cold into tuberculosis or malaria territory.

In an effort to stay current, Otter's come down with her own little swine flu. It may only be a runny nose and some sneezing, but the timing's too perfect not to jump to the obvious conclusion: She must have snuck off to Puerto Vallarta and rolled around with some piglets while I was at work. The end result is far from amusing however.

4/28 - Swine Flu Night 1
Thinking it was a one-off, I posted about this as if it were just a break from sleep. I wrote it off to teething (ha) or developmental milestones (double ha). She's still toothless and non-crawly.

4/29 - Swine Flu Day/Night 2
When she awoke with her nose running, I should have understood. Instead, in my continued bout of denial, I told myself it was from the crying she did between 2 and 5 a.m.

I returned home to a continuous flow of snotter but with a plan for the evening. Initially, it all went well enough - down peacefully at bedtime, no sudden waking... I went to bed cautiously optimistic at midnight. When she woke up, I was able to quickly put her down again. Success! Until 3 a.m. And 4:30 a.m. And 5:30 a.m. I passed out briefly from 6:30 - 7:30 and deliriously dragged myself off to work.

4/30 - Swine Flu Day/Night 3
I think I might have caught Otter's Swine Flu. Or maybe I'm just too tired to function. How did we do this night after night? Like the World Health Organization, we've adjusted our battle plan. It now involves saline solution, which (after pinning her down) we squirt up Otter's nose amid blood curdling, congested screams. We've also decided that since it's our coming to bed that wakes her up and starts our decent into hell, we'll just camp out. All we have to do is get her down for the night...

...Which proves difficult. Having given us two completely different non-sleep patterns, Otter decides to go for a 3rd in as many days. This time, she refuses to do what we considered our one ace in the hole. Putting her down ends up being a 1 1/2 hour affair most of which she spends crying hysterically.

However by 9 p.m. we finally succeed and I spend what seems like my most restful night yet sharing a 6' couch with my 6' 1" husband. When I wake at 6 a.m. I actually feel rested for about 15 minutes.

5/1 - Swine Flu Day/Night 4
Happy May Day everyone. Communists rejoice. I've had 5 1/2 hours of uninterrupted sleep and feel like I can climb mountains. The saline campaign continues, with Otter showing about the same level of enthusiasm about the whole affair. But she's definitely breathing easier. At work, I tell people I've been ousted from my bedroom and am congratulated on "having joined the club." Apparently this kind of thing is going to go on for years to come. I try hard not to think about that.

We don't want to mess with our new arrangement but thankfully sleep has turned some brain cells back on. I realize now that Bree and I don't have to share the couch - we actually have a guest room, and if we just clear off the bed we can sleep on furniture designed for that function. By bedtime though, Bree's backed out of our plan, so I spend a VERY comfortable night in the guest bed, snuggling with the dog.

5/2 - Swine Flu Day 5 (Final Day?)
After another uninterrupted night of sleep, Otter wakes up much more Swine Flu-free. She is in a good mood, engaging us in screaming contests, and bouncing up a storm. She's even started sliding backwards on our wood floor. We've backed off the saline and are quietly hopeful that our little pandemic is drawing to a close.

We may even try to regain our bed tonight. But I fear Otter likes this new set-up too much and I'll be squatting in the guest room for months to come...