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


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!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Operation Fatten Up

For months, it was my dirty little secret. And revealing it now probably won't win me many friends. But in the interest of honesty and posterity and all that jazz, I have convinced myself that it is my obligation to share as much of my adventures with She-Blob as socially acceptable. Besides, my main purpose in avoiding the topic was to prevent my parents from needlessly worrying. Now that they've seen me in person, the cat is out of the proverbial bag, so here goes.

After having Otter, I lost my baby weight quite quickly. In fact, two months in, I was back to my original pre-birthing weight. It happened without me noticing, and I figured a helpfully good metabolism and breastfeeding (which burns something crazy like 500 extra calories) were to thank. "Go me," I thought, once again reclaiming my pre-baby wardrobe.

I ate what I wanted, in the quantities I wanted, but the weight loss continued. And by January, when I had dipped about 10 lbs. below my pre-pregnancy weight, my friend conducted an intervention. I was told in no uncertain terms that I better start gaining back flesh, or else. It was like reliving my high school days (when I had my obligatory bout of not eating), except for the part where I WAS eating, and still losing weight.

Thus began "Operation Fatten Up," Bree's valiant attempt to put some meet back on my boney ass. It required the consumption of burgers and shakes. The pounds stayed off. I realized there isn't a whole lot of information out there on excessive post-pregnancy weight loss. The Internet was overrun with methods on losing your baby weight, but none on gaining some of it back. Apparently the world thinks mine is a non-problem with a very simple solution: eat more.

Returning to work made me even more self concious. As I dipped into double figures (a neighborhood I hadn't lived in since, like, 9th grade), I found myself hiding in loose, shapeless clothes while co-workers eyed me with a mix of concern, certain suspicions, and absolutely no interest in hearing my "problem." Seriously, people who complain about being too thin are annoying. I know exactly what they were thinking, 'cause frankly, I instantly think it about underweight women too. Even when I don't know they'd just had a baby.

I began avoiding photos which would reveal too much body, stopped wearing anything with a v-cut neckline, and actually acquired a few clothing items that fit, which helped somewhat. Still, on the days I got careless, and wore something a bit too form or skin-revealing, I was bound to have the "Are you ok?"/"Yes, I AM eating," conversation at some point.

So here I am, 10 months later. Operation Fatten Up has been sporadic, but finally may be starting to have an effect. I've managed to put on about 5 lbs., and though I am still hovering about 6 lbs. below my starting weight, it seems that once I'm done nursing it should all come back on its own. In the meantime, maybe I can start a support group for the underfed...

Kiddie Party

It seems that we are now on the kid party circuit. In fact, I think we've had more kiddie party invites in the last 6 months than we've had adult gatherings in the past 2 years. And we're quickly learning that other holidays (like Father's or Valentine's Day) take a back seat when it comes to accommodating your child's birthday fantasies.

Otter, after a crazy 3-hour nap, was ready to party like it was 1999. Dressed to impress, she wowed me by displaying absolutely none of the stranger anxiety she has recently exhibited. Instead, she happily scooted around the floor, allowed herself to be picked up, snacked on some crackers and even checked out the Bouncy Castle - the de rigueur accessory to every kiddie party.

Which leads me to wonder (as we sneak ever closer to Otter's 1-year mark) what the expectations for a baby celebration are. Clearly, whether your child grasps the concept of their birthday or not, a party is mandatory. To not have one would be tantamount to admitting you don't really care that your baby survived its first 12 months in this world. Some may argue, it even implies that you regret your child's existence, what with the not celebrating and all. Not that I'm being judgey.

So then, who do you invite? If all of your friends have bred, the solution is simple. But for most of us, a kid-related event means that the social group is broken into 2 camps - the crazed, glassy-eyed parents (oh, just say it - mothers) chasing their sugar-amped toddlers around the yard, hoping they don't hang themselves on the bouncy castle's inflator hose, and the childless couples, standing around awkwardly and avoiding making eye contact with anyone involved on the "family fun" side of the yard.

Of course, let's not forget the presence of Entertainment and its close cousin, Theme. As we've seen, the Bouncy Castle is a gimme, but beyond that the field is wide open. In our travels, we've run the gamut from the way cool (that guy who brought lizards) to the vaguely unsettling (I know it's a cliche, but clowns are just creepy).

Drinks (the alcoholic kind) are mandatory - if not for the kids, then at least for their haggard parents and their uncomfortable childless friends. And of course there must be cake. How else are you going to get for adorable photo of your baby sticking his whole face into the biggest expanse of icing while all the other rug-rats gather so close that they risk catching on fire from the lone candle in the middle?

Finally, there is the question of what to wear - both as the baby-of-honor and the guest. I thought this was fairly straight forward (their crappy clothes that you won't care about when they ruin them with cake, grass, soda and whatever other sticky substance they manage to fall into) until this weekend; at our latest kiddie fete, an 8-month old baby was donned in designer white jeans, a hot pink Diesel shirt, rhinestone sandals, and a silver charm bracelet. WTF are you thinking, baby's parents???

Things That Will Too Soon Be Forgotten, Part 2

I wonder what we've forgotten already...

1. Otter's favorite place to sit is on top of the refrigerator.

2. For a while, when she laughed, she used to stick her tongue out.

3. Now when she laughs, she wrinkles her nose. My friend calls it the "I smell something bad face."

4. She has a hard time eating anything with texture. She just doesn't like it.

5. She can flip her tongue over, and does it often.

6. If she really doesn't like a food, she'll make herself gag. At least one time, to the point of throwing up. It's extremely, overly dramatic.

7. She's recently learned to shake her head no. It's her favorite new non-word.

8. If she's eating something good, she'll make a "Nyum, nyum" noise. I wonder if we can consider it her first word.

9. She loves strings and adores playing with her stuffed giraffe, Guiermo's string tail.

10. She loves paper - crumpling, folding or just holding. She destroys magazines, holds labels tightly.

11. She's begun sharing. This is usually done by shoving whatever she wants to split with me into my mouth, as forcefully as possible.

12. She adores, and is fascinated by the dog. She'll look for him, babble to him and try to feed him her crackers. When he licks her hands, she shrieks.

13. She loves the "Shaken Baby" game. Hold the baby in your arms, and shake lightly but quickly while calling out "shaken baby, shaken baby, shaken baby!" My FIL is alarmed. Having written this, just waiting for Child Services to show up at my door.

14. Otter loves to hang, swing, be thrown and turned upside down.

15. She loves high-pitched noises like "Wheeeee!"

16. We often have shrieking contests.

17. If you laugh to hard at something she did, she may take it personally and cry. We've all offended the Otter this way.

18. She hates getting any part of her face cleaned.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Bree and I have been evicted. It all began innocently enough a few weeks back, while my mother was in town. Like all life changes that we don't want to accept, instead of seeing the writing on the wall and admitting what was actually happening, we first wrote it off as a fluke, a one-off.

As we came to bed, Otter, who had been sleeping blissfully, stirred (as she often does) and my heart began pounding hard enough for her (and all of our neighbors) to hear it. I struggled to calm myself, since I'm weirdly convinced that Otter can feel my adrenaliney panics that she will wake. It seemed to work.

But I was fooled - after lulling us into complacency by settling back down, Otter did the unthinkable. An hour later she woke, screaming bloody murder for no apparent reason. And now there was no settling her back down. We walked and comforted, we rocked, we sang. We pretended we didn't notice the hysterical sobbing.

It seems that the only acceptable position was hovering over her crib. After 20 minutes of me standing doubled over the bar, wondering if it was humanly possible to sleep like this, she settled into what I thought was sleep. I gingerly shifted my weight back. Not took a step. Not moved a foot. Just shifted my weight. It was all over - and the screaming redoubled at twice the volume.

Bree and I had a two options. Put her into bed with us - which we've tried, resulting in only Otter getting any sleep, as she somehow manages to use her 2' 4" frame to push me entirely out of bed, leaving me clinging for dear life. Or leave the room. Which is what we did. Guiltily, we skulked out, leaving Otter to scream her lungs out, and us to pretend it didn't bother us. 15 minutes later (after over an hour of our unsuccessful intervention) Otter was out. The only evidence of her ordeal was a general puffiness the next day. But hey, we were ALL puffy.

Thus the plan was hatched - when Otter bawls, we comfort first, flee soon thereafter. For a while, we camped out on the couch. Now, since the the guest room is vacant, we've moved there. Last night, Otter didn't even bother to seem upset after we left - within a minute, she was asleep.

It seems our little girl is telling us she wants a room of her own. Or rather, that she has her own room, and we better get the F out of it...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day

There's nothing like the love and devotion of a dad, and it's an important bond to nurture. So much so that Hallmark has decreed a holiday, to remind us of the gravity of the father-figure situation. No matter how dubious we find the whole observance to be, there's little we can do but step in line and pay homage.

(Which is not to imply that I undervalue the immense contribution, or make light of recognizing it, father of Otter, if you are actually reading my blog.) So with much ado, I set forth to commemorate Bree's first Dad's Day.

We brunched, we toasted, we opened gifts. In Otter's case, we ripped up wrapping paper and set off for a nap. We even got a call from my dad (who has long ago written off the whole FD sham as bunk) to congratulate Bree. "This is the most important Father's Day you'll ever have," said my dad sagely. 'Cause he knows.

"That's right," I jumped in. "I hope you're not expecting any of this crap next year..."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Parenting With Fear

Raising a baby is a scary, scary endeavor. There's the day-to-day business of not starving, maiming or depriving your child of sleep. Not to mention all that nurturing crap you're supposed to do. What, with all the reading you and your infant should be doing, the developmental toys to explore, and the socialization to keep up on, it's not surprising that many of us find parenting downright terrifying.

But there's a fine line between protecting your helpless charge from harm and bringing up a terrified hypochondriac who is afraid to venture 3 feet away from home for fear of tragic accident, plague, or an unexpected new ice cream flavor. And too many of us fall into the trap of parenting from a place of fear.

I recently heard a story of a mother who was so terrified that her child would have food allergies that she forbade her to eat anything even marginally allergenic until she was nearly five years old. Moreover, she would tell her girl along the way that she couldn't eat a given food because "she was allergic" to it. At age 5, she did a FULL allergy workup on her child, only to discover that her kid was completely fine.

Now granted, allergies (especially food ones) can be very, very serious. And I'm not suggesting you load up your infant on peanuts just to see what happens. But is it right not only to deprive your child of a whole variety of foods, but to simultaneously instill an unfounded fear and false understanding of what constitutes an allergy? Should your toddler be afraid to try strawberries, dairy, nuts, citrus, shellfish and wheat, believing she will potentially die if the offending food meets her lips?

On another occasion, while walking my very large dog (yes, the dangerous pit bull who is cleverly pretending to grow fat and lazy while secretly plotting to eat us in our sleep) I watched a mother pull her toddler to her at the mere sight of us 50 feet away. In that moment, she taught her child, who's jury was still clearly out regarding large dogs, that she SHOULD fear. It broke my heart.

I realize many would accuse me of being too cavalier regrading Otter. But here's the way I see it:

Food - Sure, some people have allergies, and if you're one of them, it bu-lows. So with that in mind, I am holding off on some things as our Pediatricians suggest. But I could not deny Otter the joy of her first cupcake crumbs because I didn't know every ingredient in the batter.

Dirt - exists to build up our immunity. If you have doubts of that, I urge you to look into the parents who manically sanitize every surface in their home only to send their kids to school and encounter and have them come back with crazy, mutant, super-strong strains of EVERY childhood disease because 1) the rug rats never built up their own immune system, and 2) the bacteria have had years to grow resistant to the myriad antibiotics mom was needlessly pumping into her child via anti-bacterial sprays, soaps and wipes.

- should be respected. I don't let Otter stick her hands into Foz's face, play with his toys, or yank his fur. I don't leave them unattended or in situations where he can accidentally hurt her. But she's growing up with this fantastic, furry, giant creature that makes every other dog look like a guinea pig and she can't get enough of him. Nor he of her.

She's going to fall, get cut, sick, hurt, have stomach flues and colds. Perhaps she'll break something one day. But if I have anything to do with it, she'll learn that you can swing W-A-Y higher if you just stand up on the swing...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Otter Hates Sophie

After living down the guilt of losing Sophie I and assuaging my feelings of parental incompetence by going out to purchase an overpriced replacement giraffe (Sophie II), I've come to an unsettling thought. Faced with undeniable evidence I can draw no other conclusion that Sophie I's loss was no accident.   

I tried to turn a blind eye to the fact that every time the rubber giraffe was left within SB's reach, she would invariable end up on the floor.  I wrote off the numerous times I've found her stuffed under the kiddie chair, behind tables or under the toy basket as mere coincidence. However I can no longer ignore what should have been obvious from the start:  Otter HATES Sophie.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that what I'd mistaken for SB's obsession with the giraffe was actually her trying desperately to get rid of her from the get-go.

It was during a walk at the park with Otter and my mother that the truth became apparent to me.  One moment, the baby was playing with Sophie with great interest.  And in the blink of an eye, the giraffe was gone - launched with force and stealth from the stroller.  I ran back and dutifully retrieved the toy, only to watch Otter repeatedly attempt to send her packing.

Since discovering this ugly truth, I've come to reevaluate all of Otter and Sophie's interactions. And there is little doubt that there is no love lost between the girl and the long-suffering giraffe.  But if Otter thinks she's going to get rid of Sophie II this easily, she's got another thing coming.  After what we went through to procure her, I'll be damned if Sophie II gets 86ed.  In fact, I plan to check Otter's luggage as she goes off to college, just to make sure the giraffe is still there.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

No Puffy Poopy Otter

Our usual battle with Otter's digestive tract has taken an unexpected turn. Perhaps our efforts to fiberize the baby were a little too thorough, or maybe the mythic lore about teething side effects is true, but the long and the short of it is that anything that goes into SB very quickly emerges out the other end.

Having spent months devising countermeasures for a different problem, I am completely at a loss as to how to tackle this present dilemma. The Internet and guide books (yes, all those things I scoffed at) provide little by way of uniform guidance. While some extol the virtues of the B.R.A.T. diet (bananas, rice, apples and toast), others maintain that piling on the fat and fiber is most effective. This latter approach seems completely counter-intuitive, so I am choosing to ignore the advice, scientific studies be damned.

What I've ultimately arrived at is the modified B.R.A.Y. menu - replacing toast with goat yogurt. All those Activia commercials advertising yogurts digestive benefits can't be wrong. So fingers crossed, noses plugged, I'm forging ahead. At least this completely texture-less diet is bound to live up to Otter's sophisticated palate.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

With Teeth

Not just a NIN album title, this actually applies to us now. Somewhat.

After nearly 10 months as the Toothless Wonder, (amid pediatrician comments like "Well, I guess they'll all come in at once," and reassuring tales of other peoples' kids who didn't get teeth until their 3rd birthday) Otter's finally cracking her first pearly white. Front bottom right, to be exact. And I am mad with dreams of texture, chewing and a moratorium on having to puree all her food...

This chain of events has been met with even more drooling and gnawing than we thought possible (nearly every surface in our home has been suckied), some aggressive Sophie chewing, and a night of intense wailing (while the tooth was breaking through).

Otter was not having it. She was not going to simply sleep through the discomfort. And after rocking, comforting and pacing had absolutely zero effect, we had our backs up against the proverbial wall. Never one to give Otter medicine needlessly, I folded like a house of cards and reached for the baby Tylenol. Which, annoyingly and unnecessarily, does not have dosing information for children under age 2.

After guesstimating and measuring out an amount we thought would not send SB into a Tylenol OD-induced coma, we sat back and waited. Within moments, Otter was out. Oh, if it were always this easy...

Now a question for the masses - how far in does the tooth need to be before we can count it?