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


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.