Sunday, October 3, 2010

Playground Protocol

The local playground has become equally entertaining for me and Otter, although for different reasons. While she scampers about, endlessly taking rounds on the slide, I sit back and people watch - with a mixture of fascination and horror - the goings on around me.

I'm not even going to get into the hordes of kids that descend like locusts on any unattended toy left in the sand, while their parents either pretend not to notice, or really have no idea what's going on because their 5-year-olds are playing without a parent in sight. Or the ragamuffins that actually go INTO SB's stroller to look for any choice toys that haven't been decimated by their half-wild little friends. Or the people who believe their dogs - always mini-somethings - are the perfect accessory to drag on the slide, the swing or the rope bridge, yelping and miserable the whole way.

But from the 11-year-olds having heart to hearts about how one's "relationship" fell apart after it turned out her fellow 5th grade boyfriend was gay, to the sad 6-year-old playing alone while her too tan, too made-up mother (I think) practiced nun-chuck moves about 50 feet away, our playground is a font of endless revelation.

And the fashion sense... First off, I have some serious questions about parents who not only allow but, given their age, actively HELP their toddlers and even babies paint their nails. Call me old-fashioned (and I double dog dare you to tell me and my faux-hawked, multi colored hair I'm a fuddy duddy) but I don't think makeup of any sort belongs on toddlers. And that includes nail polish. Aside from looking, (forgive me all you nail-polishing aficionados whom I'm currently offending) kinda trashy, your kids are still more likely than not sucking on various thumbs and fingers and toes. So why not just give them the bottle of polish to drink? It'll work much faster that way than poisoning them chip by nail polish chip. And the personal adornment doesn't end with color. Today I saw a girl, maximum age 6 is HIGH HEELED silver rhinestoned sandals try to clamber over the monkey bars.

Among her personal effects was a lip gloss.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Town Floozy

Every community has that girl. You know, the one people whisper about.

Several months ago, I learned that Otter is the playground flirt. Unsatisfied with female companionship, she'll tolerate sitting side by side with the occasional baby girl shoveling sand, but when it comes to true depth of feeling, that is reserved for the boys. And apparently my generally demure daughter has no qualms about expressing her admiration by hugging the unsuspecting children.

Bree met this news with the goodwill Bonnie's father probably exhibited when first meeting Clyde. Whether he fears secret midnight baby dates or views this as early evidence that his first-born will be married to the town thug in a shot-gun wedding, I saw him mentally calculating the cost of a shotgun of his own.

Since then, things have gone from bad to worse. Not only has a steady man entered the picture, but there seems to be a growing list of back-up admirers. From friends' kids to the playground regulars, the world seems to be SB's oyster. And with more boys than girls being born each year, the odds seem in her favor.

But Otter is taking it all in stride, it seems. While it's clear that there's a front-runner ("Call Jimmy. Hi Jimmy. Jimmy play with spoon!"), she makes sure her other men-in-waiting get the occasional shout-out too. So Joey, Christian, and yes, even you Jimmy, take heed - play your cards right and you may yet win Otter's heart. That is, until her papa finds out about you...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Potty Mouth

While Otter may be having a tough time with the potty itself, it should come as no surprise that as far as a potty mouth is concerned, she's got it going on. There was no question that sooner or later (with all signs pointing to 'sooner') SB was going to adopt some of her, colorful expressions. The only debate was which of us would be responsible for the first utterance.

And the winner is...mommy! Adding to her already rich vocabulary of "Oh my God's," SB took the game up a notch. Don't snicker. I know what you are all thinking, but, for the record, Bree isn't exactly innocent of dropping Otter-inappropriate bombs on quite a regular basis. As my narrative will prove.

This morning, as Bree was putting enough butter on a waffle to deep fry a whole chicken in, I couldn't help but comment on it, in my own distinctive way. "Holy crap, poppa!" Otter gleefully parroted.

Amid looks of surprise and judgement mixed with barely suppressed laughter, Bree and I tried to make sense of this new linguistic frontier we had just so casually embarked upon. There were silent accusations of wrong-doing, expressions of surprise at how long it took for this to happen, an offhanded remark about being convinced it would be the other parent who would open Pandora's box, and finally, a curious confession.

"You know," said Bree, after having thoroughly reprimanded me for having befouled our child's previously virginal vocabulary, "she may have repeated something I said the other day, and dropped an f-bomb." Really? "But I'm not entirely sure," he quickly added. "And this is the first confirmed cursing."

Perpetrated by me. How convenient.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Everyone Poops

WARNING: In the interest of full disclosure, I must begin this entry with a warning. What follows may be may be WAY TMI for some of you. But such is my life of late, that if I didn't over share, I'd have nothing to share at all. So, if you're feeling a bit squeamish, or just aren't interested in reading up on Otter's potty habits, move along. There's nothing to see here. Even though you'll be missing out on some terribly clever and humorous writing.

Everyone poops, or so the book would have us believe. What this enlightening text fails to mention, however, is that when the "everyone" happens to be the 2-year-old living in my house, the pooping may be less a "gimme" and more of a power struggle/test of willpower and patience with a dose of medical condition thrown in for good measure.

In brief - for reasons known only to her (as she refuses to explain this current trend), Otter has decided that bodily functions that the rest of us find involuntary are merely optional for her. This has had several results:

Stomach aches, which lead to...
Daily 5am wake ups, which lead to...
HIGHLY unhappy parents and child, alike.

On the upside, we are saving on diapers.

The battle came to a head, so to speak, 2 nights ago, when Otter decided to finally answer Nature's call, only to discover that her body was being less than cooperative. What transpired was 45 minutes of child screaming, parents coaxing, Internet searches, calls to the doctor's answering service (after hours, of course), hugs, tears, crazed attempts at any viable remedy, all culminating in partial success and exhausted collapse in sleep by all of us, only to repeat the following morning.

By the next day, Operation Poopy Otter had been hatched. New menu guidelines were drawn up. Words of encouragement were uttered. Bree was dispatched for mysterious medicines that, at best, looked mildly menacing. SB was going to poop if it was the last thing she did.

To take a soft left turn here... Have you ever noticed how utterly unhelpful directions on children's medicines are? They all claim to offer useful suggestions on how to best administer said remedy, conveniently overlooking the fact that no 2-year-old is actually going to cooperate with their instructions. For example:

Have child lay on their left side bringing up their knees and relaxing their arms.

The rest of the drivel is irrelevant, as the battle of medicine vs. toddler was lost at "have child lay." What 25-month-old is going to stay still, let alone lie down, for over 5 seconds without first being seriously sedated? And how am I supposed to administer the downers to begin with?! Perhaps the phrasing should have been:

Gather medicine, your iPhone, and 2 other able-bodied adults. Convince toddler that you're going to be looking at 'mommy's phone." Lay child down on side as best as possible. Have Adult #1 sit on the phone side of the configuration, distracting toddler by shaking the phone, talking about how much fun this is going to be, while simultaneously positioning him/herself to control flailing arms and legs. Adult #2 should be positioned on the opposite side, on the ready for when Adult #1 inevitably loses his/her grip. Grab medicine, and work gently, yet with lightening speed to administer before your child breaks free from all restraints and runs for the hills.

Sure you may need a bigger box to fit it all, but THAT would be helpful, and far closer to what actually happens.

Still, I am smarter (or at least stronger) than a pre-schooler, and after two mornings of hand-to-hand combat, we seem to have won the battle, if not the war. But perhaps I shouldn't be so self-congratulatory quite yet, as SB seems to have already parlayed her digestive issues into a new scheme of extending her bedtime. Last night, she waited until she was already in her crib and ready for lights out before announcing, "Want to poopy. Poopy on bed."

After all we've been through, how can I say no?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Thanks a Latte, mom...

I suppose it was cruel. But my regular travel mug is way too big and clunky for easy playground use. And Otter does have 2 distinctly colored, perfect size thermos sippy cups. And I did warn her.

Still, the look on her face as she grabbed for "my" cup and took her first big old swig of coffee was, as the commercial says, priceless.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Kitchen Aid

It is no secret that children's toys are unnecessarily complicated to put together. Furthermore, there seems to be an inverse correlation between the straightforwardness of the object and the ease of it's assembly. The microscope? That comes in one piece, give or take a couple of glassslides. The big wheel? Yeah, that bad boy needs a graduate degree in engineering and some night classes with the local auto-mechanic to put together.

So it should have come as no surprise to me that when I opened the play kitchen SB had received for her birthday, instead of seeing 3 large plastic sections (that I was fully prepared to snap together) I was confronted with about 500 miniature plastic pieces (in four snazzy color selections) along with a mysterious bag of screws (in 2 different sizes) and some black and white directions with images so blurry that it was hard to tell which side of what piece was "up." All I could gather was that I'd need a screwdriver and, inexplicably, some wire snips.

Now I consider myself a rather handy, and somewhat clever, girl. No one's suggesting I can build high-rises and suspension bridges, but I've put my share of Ikea furniture together (with a minimum of extra bits left over). But this? This kitchen was a whole new ball game.

To begin with, the various plastic pieces were identified by letters, starting with "A" and ending with "ZZ" - which should give you an idea of how many there were. Add to that the fact that you couldn't actually read these identifiers on most of the pieces and I was left to either cross reference the component to a 6-digit number that identified the actual mold that these bits came attached to or, far less usefully, attempt to match the mystery part to the microscopic picture on the aforementioned guide.

A woman of less grit and gumption than I would have given up right then and there. But I am not that woman. Or is it that I am that woman? This is all very confusing. At any rate, spurned on by a sense of obligation to my child, and (primarily) a stupid prideful stubbornness that wouldn't let me be defeated by a box full of plastic, I spent the next 3 hours poring over incomprehensible instructions, cutting and shaving plastic bits, screwing numerous screws into mysterious holes (and btw, screwing into plastic is not as simple as one would be led to believe), and finally, sticking on stickers. All in time for the nap to end.

Finally, victory was mine. And the kitchen stood assemble in all of its plastic (although slightly crooked) grandeur for Otter to admire. Am I unreasonably proud of myself for having conquered the plastic behemoth? Hell yeah. Now, when Otter makes her next batch of pretend eggs, she'll know those splatter marks all over her toy are mommy's blood sweat and tears.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

No skot! No skot!

When SB was but a She-Blob, I often worried about giving birth to a super girly-girl. You know - the pink-clad, bow wearing, purse carrying toddlers who, for inexplicable (and slightly disturbing) reasons have their nails painted before they've reached the ripe old age of 2.

Maybe it's my deeply rooted understanding that the next logical step to these Lolitas' development is the kiddie pageant circuit; perhaps it s my barely concealed envy that even before they've entered pre-school, these future Paris Hilton clones are better attired, know how to match their clothes, can walk the walk, and all in all are better groomed than I will ever be, but I found myself making all sorts of promises about the balanced (read, tomboy) upbringing Otter would have under my Doc Marten wielding tutelage.

Once SB entered the world however, my post-feminist agenda was somewhat undermined by all those darling, precious, ruffled frocks and skirts that friends and relatives love to pile upon you as soon as they realized it won't result in a cross-dressing disaster. So SB's feminine wardrobe grew, running the gamut from the funky rocker chick tu-tu's to dresses that made her look like a refugee from David Williams' YFZ ranch. And admittedly, I contributed to the collection too.

Still, in the practical day-to-day outfitting of my child, I found it hard to select times when dresses and skirts were appropriate. While she was really little, she spent most of her time crawling around on the floor, where dresses seemed more of a hindrance. As she grew older, and spent much of her days at playgrounds and parks, putting on frilly gowns appeared misguided and frankly, downright cruel. Sure, we'd roll out a dress for the occasional birthday party - but let's face it - kiddie parties are all about running around and playing, not showing off your chique wardrobe. So, at best I'd pull of throwing something that could pass as a long shirt over a pair of leggings or jeans and calling it a day.

And perhaps I've done my brainwashing a touch too well. For her second birthday, we decided to outfit SB with clothes suited for the opinionated, independent girl she was becoming. Including some very cool, very hip skirts. I happily displayed my new purchases to Otter, expecting her to grasp the fashion-forward approach I had taken to her wardrobe, and to understand, once and for all, that I was ONE COOL MOM. Instead, she looked at me in horror and started screaming, "No skot! No skot!"

She won't even let my put the damn skirt on her stuffed animals.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Today, SB accidentally kicked me in the face. "Ouch," I said.
"Ouch," she repeated. Then leaned back and followed it up with, "Oh my god."

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Signs your almost 2-year-old may be getting blase about air travel?

Me: Honey we're gonna go on an airplane! Want to go on an airplane?
SB: Go on helicopter?

Wet 'n Wild

It so happened that Otter needed a new kiddie pool. After years of dedicated service, our ginormous plastic monstrosity, originally purchased to give our dog a place to cool off (he never even came near it), gave up the ghost.

It also just so happens that there is a birthday coming up, which means that if the girl wants a kiddie pool, a kiddie pool must be gotten. So off I went to one of the chains (which shall remain nameless) that I SHOULD be boycotting for one reason or another, to procure a plastic receptacle for my toddler to splash around in.

Fast forward to this afternoon, when, armed with the pool (which, it should be noted, came with a separate elephant shaped slide), a foot pump and some misguided optimism, I stepped into the 100 degree heat to blow this monstrosity up in time for my dear child to wake from her nap.

I investigated the box - it was covered with pictures of joyous children playing rambunctiously in what looked like an Olympic sized pool. Which alarmed me, being as I had nothing but a foot operated pump. But I took solace in the fact that it was highly unlikely that a lap pool actually fit into a 2 x 2 box I had in my hand. Filled with hope, I took out the plastic pool.

I decided to start small - with the decorative palm tree, which actually had nothing to do with the functionality of the pool, but looked manageable. And it was - minutes later, standing upright and perky, the palm promised great things. It lied.

Fast forward once again - an hour later, as I stood, sweating profusely while madly using alternate feet, then hands, trying to get a flaccid pile of plastic to resemble a pool. The elephant slide lay meekly on its side, resembling something we'd downed on safari and dragged home to display or (judging from its two-dimensionality) use as a rug. Reminding myself that I was getting a workout was of little consolation. Focusing on the joy this would bring my child was undercut by dripping sweat. And as I quietly muttered curses at the pool and all its plastic ancestors (along with a few choice words set aside for the foot pump) I questioned how important a kiddie pool would really be in the greater scheme of things. I mean, when she was 20 would SB still think back woefully to the time she woke up from her nap at age 2 and was confronted with a deflated, overheated plastic elephant?

But for better or for worse (depending on who you ask), I persevered. And when she did see it, and quickly thereafter was hopping around in it, it seemed silly to have even doubted.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Main Man

A few weeks back, we found Otter pretending she's on the phone, deep in conversation as we walked in on her. "Buh-bye Jimmy," she quickly babbled upon seeing us.

Jimmy? Who is Jimmy? Ears perked up, we investigated further. Jimmy, it turns out, is the little boy from the park. What's this? Does Otter have a boyfriend? A paramour to whom she makes clandestine, early morning, pretend phone calls?

Bree took the news far better than I expected - no talk of guns or barbed-wire fences came up. How long this surprisingly blase attitude lasts remains to be seen.

In the meantime, we're suddenly aware that the little girl who had until very recently been a baby, has begun her secret, independent life.

God help us.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Maturing Palate

This morning when I asked SB what she wants for breakfast, she told me quesadilla.
And coffee.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

BYOB - Bring Your Own Baby

As everyone knows, there's nothing quite as rejuvenating as packing up your dog, a picnic lunch and your child and heading off to a winery. For any of you claiming that dogs and toddlers don't belong at wineries, it's obvious that you just don't have any, so you couldn't possibly understand.

The key is to find a place that will not only allow your brood (both 2 and 4-legged) into their tasting room, but will not frown upon subsequently pouring you copious (ok, maybe "copious" is a bit of an overstatement) amounts of alcohol while you hold one, or both of them in your arms.

Another key element is ample outdoor space for the kids to explore, tumble, and crawl through (preferably without killing or permanently maiming themselves) while you and your significant other actually enjoy some food and that bottle of wine you bought after the tasting. Another overstatement. In actuality, you end up hovering in a half crouch - half stand approximation of sitting, shoving olives into your mouth with one hand while simultaneously trying to protect your wine glass (which has already been upturned once), and stop your kid from taking a face-first dive off the picnic bench with the other. Still - there are olives and other various "charcuterie" on your plate, so you've convinced yourself you're being civilized.

After such a meal, there's nothing to do but lay back in the sunny grass, only to be used as a human balance beam. On those (frequent) occasions that your little gymnast takes a tumble, you cross your fingers that when she does fall flat on her face in the grass, she'll be more interested in licking it than crying. She is.

Several hours later, as the sun is starting to set, you load everyone back into the car and start your trek towards home. Sure, it took you just as long for the round trip as you actually spent at the location. But for those few hours, you found your own little corner of heaven, and you drive home feeling lighter than you have in a while.

Or maybe that's just the wine...

Sunday, June 13, 2010


21 months ago, the Thursday I came home from the hospital with my brand new baby, my parents sat me down and told me that, that March, my father had been diagnosed with lung cancer.

From that day forward, his illness had been irreversibly linked to my daughter. As she grew and developed, so did his disease. As I wondered what unexpected turns she would take, I also tried to predict how my father would fare. Not that it was all doom and gloom - for a long time he looked and felt well - for those who didn't know him well, there was no discernible difference. And for us it was a time of catching the moments we could, while trying not to focus on the day that would no longer be possible. There were extra trips to see the grandparents, stolen weekends in Cambria, and an attempt to capture the uncapturable - to use a cliche, time in a bottle.

But all things eventually come to an end, and on June 2, 2010 my father lost his fight with the disease that, towards the end, ravaged him, sending shock waves through all those around him. He was 63 years old.

I've long imagined if, and how I would write this entry. And now, as I type out the words, it's not coming out like I intended - it rings false and hollow and doesn't capture the man that my father was. But write it I must, because I want to record, even in this halting entry, that doesn't begin to do him justice, a fraction of what he was.

My daughter will never know her grandfather. She won't remember the brief time they spent together, and no matter what I tell her about him, when she sees photos of them together, she will be looking at herself from a time she doesn't recall, with a stranger she never really knew. She won't know his jokes, or the fact he had famous Russian sayings for everything, or that he remembered everything he ever read. And he read a lot. She won't remember his smile, or the fact that he'd give the shirt off his back to anyone in need, before they ever asked. That he could, and would, strike up a conversation with anyone. That he made friends among his contemporaries and their children alike - and with equal ease. That he loved her with every fiber of his body. She will know about it, but she will not know it.

And that is why it is important, imperative that I write it down, clumsily though it comes out. Because then one day, she may read this and know.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I've often theorized that raising small children is akin to having a dog. More than theorized, actually, since we have one of each, and the similarities are uncanny (except that we've actually managed to housebreak the dog, and have been far less successful with the toddler). Before anyone gets all up in arms, allow me to draw the parallels:

A domesticated dog is generally pretty helpless, depending on you to feed, bathe, provide water, etc. This does not of course include the times your animal tears apart your kitchen and eats your gift baskets right before Christmas (not that I'm bitter). I get flashbacks of this nearly every morning as I watch SB rifle through our pantry, emptying its contents on the floor in an effort to find an upgrade on the breakfast I'm about to present to her.

My dog understands a lot of what I say, but chooses to ignore most of it. Ditto for Otter.

Foster does best with simple, one-word commands like "sit", "come", and "stop." So does SB.

Foz gets rewarded with dog cookies. SB gets rewarded with human cookies. Though I suspect she'd eat the dog ones too.

Each morning we play the cracker game. As you will see, both participants play very similar roles: I hand each of them a cracker, Foster devouring his immediately, while Otter runs around waving hers, waiting for Foz to chase her, protesting loudly when he does (or worse, steals her cracker) until she finally hands her cracker to him. At which point she promptly demands another cracker so that we can start all over again.

If you're still not convinced, allow me to describe a scene from this afternoon. We were all playing in the back yard, with Otter gleefully chasing her ball around while Bree and his dad played a game of PIG (HORSE's shorter cousin) using wadded up balls of paper and a wastepaper basket. Of course, Otter was obsessed with anything they were doing and kept moving the basket around (which I think messed with the rules). In order to distract her, we started taking the balls out of the basket, throwing them to her and watching as she chased after them and threw them back into the basket.

"You realize we're teaching the girl to fetch, right?" I asked Bree. "And I think with far greater success than when we tried this with the dog." He nodded and threw the balls again - a little further this time.

Your Wish Is My Command

Today was my morning to sleep in. And Bree graciously let me snooze until almost 8 am. At which point my 19-month-old ran into the bedroom, stopped right in front of my bed and yelled, "Get up!"

It was so cute, and so scary.


SB is now officially a climber. Completing the training that she began back in the womb, when she threatened to tear through my chest cavity by climbing up Alien-style, she can now mount the bed and our dining room chairs. She does this all with lightening speed, occasionally upping the ante by carrying multiple stuffed animals and her water bottle (held tightly in her teeth) on the ascent.

Now, every time it gets too quiet, we race to find her, usually standing on the bed and, once in a while, sitting on the dining room table.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Buh-bye Jagoouah

Recently, we completed a rite of passage of nearly ever family with kids. We have become official, card-carrying members of the Los Angeles Zoo.

It all happened on Easter Sunday. Having little first-hand experience with Easter, I imagined it as a day of churching and picnic-ing with the family, looking for eggs, and stuffing yourself with candy until you were sick. Certainly not a day of going to the zoo. And after confirming they were open, we packed up 3/4 of our family and headed off.

I first suspected my miscalculation as we entered the parking lot only to see a serpentine line of cars inching their way past florescent vest-clad parking attendants. Bree, who is not a fan of crowds, and had been very much on the fence about this trip to begin with glared and seethed noticeably in his seat. But, you don't just drive a 19-month-old out for half an hour only to turn around and go home so we were stuck.

Parking didn't end up being nearly as dramatic as it had first appeared and with renewed hope, we loped down to the main entrance. Only to be confronted with a line of approximately 150 people, none of whom had gotten the "go to church and picnic on Easter" memo. Oh, and the register was only taking cash - whether out of deference for the Resurrection, or simply because the credit card swipey thing was down, I'll never know.

But again, being a crafty chick, who was not about to give Bree the satisfaction of going home empty-handed, I looked to and quickly found the beacon of hope - the Membership Signup desk. There was no line there. And a fully operational credit card machine. Any thoughts about giving the zoo a test run before committing to a year of visits went out the window. If Otter was terrified by a face-to-face confrontation with a wild animal, so be it. So, swiping my card, free plush gorilla in hand, Bree, Otter and I entered the zoo.


She loved it! The kangaroos (though possibly dead, by Bree's and my estimation) seemed to fascinate. The tigers and meercats, pretty solid. But the crown went to the jaguar, who, agitated for some reason, was pacing his enclosure with a barely concealed desire to rip anyone close enough limb to limb. This animal, large enough to swallow Otter without really having to chew, instantly stole her heart, and she sat transfixed as he did his paces. In an effort to avoid a melt-down, we engaged Otter with saying goodbye to the jaguar as we turned to go.

Later that night, as I tucked her into bed, a bleary looking girl looked up at me, completely over-stimulated by her day. "Buh-bye jagoouah," she said. "Buh-bye."

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

For L

Though I have been remiss about keeping up on the doings of Otter, tonight I dedicate this space to a new life, about to make an appearance in this world.

My friend is off having a baby tonight. When she woke up this morning she had no idea that today or, at the very latest, tomorrow she'd have a child. Well, she had some idea - being as she was creeping up on 40 weeks, and babies tend to pop out right around that time. But no matter how close you are, the actual transition from oven to mother is a sudden and definitive one. It is a line in the sand - or rather, in concrete. For unlike sand, marks on concrete are permanent, and no wind or tide can erase them.

People always talk about how children will change your life. But while the entire pregnancy is a rite of passage, it is a mostly hypothetical one, bolstered by vague ideas of how your day-to-day existence will be altered by the presence of this creature growing inside you. It can be a time of great stress, or great anticipation, but it's not "real," no matter how real it seems.

And then, either by knife or nature, the "before" is literally rent from the "hereafter." It's not until the moment that this being, suddenly separated from you, enters your life in it's own right, that the true magnitude of what is about to be, what you are to become, suddenly comes into focus before you in undeniable clarity. Yet only in hindsight can you truly process and understand that moment.

So to L, as you embark on what is to be the most challenging journey, know this about your child...

He will be an abyss of need; and an endless source of love.
He will teach you patience beyond measure; and you will learn to recognize your limits.
He will cause you laughter; and make your soul over-run with sorrow.
He will test your boundaries; and make you forget your inhibitions.

He will do all these things and much, much more than you or I can ever imagine.

For he is magical. Don't ever forget that.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fashionista Diaries Continue

Just a taste of Otter's fashion sense. As one of my friends pointed out, "Oh, she has mommy's sense of style..." This seems so far from the innocent days of skants...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Flower Power

My girl is a fan of all things floral. From pictures and shirts to the flower jacket which she would wear 24/7 given the option (thank you, Aunt Erika), "flow-wa" is king. But nothing beats the real deal, and with the advent of spring, we've found ourselves scoping the neighborhood for blooms that overhang the fence onto the sidewalk (public domain, as far as I'm concerned). Fortunately, living where we do, SB has the benefit of a diverse and aromatic haul...

Happy spring, everyone!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

You Must Remember This...

I got my first Otter kiss yesterday, a solid third behind her rubber duck (which has been getting action since Thursday) and the dog.

Yeah, it was way cool.

Early Achievement

The Terrible Twos have arrived with a bang, kick and scream about 6 months early. The most common victim of this new milestone is our long-suffering dog, whose daily regimen of being assaulted with hugs and being force fed various bits Otter finds on the floor (some of it even edible) has been augmented by pokes, smacks and the occasional wheeled toy hit and run.

Attempts at curtailing this barrage of abuse are generally met with kicking, punching and screaming (and that's just MY reaction ;) ). As I searched for a more workable solution, I've run across the gamut of suggestions, everything from Dr. Happy's advice that involved mirroring SB's feelings in Toddlerese, along with some clapping and growling, to Internet boards offering everything from loving hugs and pretending to cry to beating your child with a staff in the name of the Lord. I wish I was kidding.

The dog concedes his defeat before the abuse with a characteristically morose outlook, fleeing when the barrage becomes to intense. Such is his lot, balanced somewhat by nighttime bed privileges and mealtime snacks courtesy of the Otter.

As for me, I'm trying to lovingly acknowledge her emotions while dodging and weaving, holding down the legs with all my might, and starting to research boarding schools.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Bonds That Tie

A relationship between a parent and child is a forever thing. Regardless of age or distance, the bonds that tie exist, both in their ability to connect and restrain.

For a parent, it is the hope that if we do it half right, our children will grow up to be good people, able to face life's challenges with grace and bravery; that they will find passion in their lives, will not repeat our mistakes, and that the mistakes they are bound to make won't scar them too permanently or deeply.

For the child, there is a tether stretching back through time and generations, connecting us those that came before us, stretching to its maximum capacity on occasion, but holding us back from ever revoking our past completely.

This bond can be a thing of beauty, or an instrument of oppression, and as we stumble along, sometimes blindly, all we can do is hope that we are making the right decisions, nurturing this chord which connects the past to the future.

Chris Martin sings,

Lights will guide you home,
And ignite your bones,
And I will try to fix you.

And these words make me cry every time I hear them, because they are beautiful and true, and they remind me that I am a mother, trying to raise my child in the best way I know how; and that I am also a daughter, and there is someone out there that has wished all that I wish for Otter, for me. And that this connection is forever.

Potty Mouth

Apparently, I was potty trained with ease and at an incredibly early age. By 18 months (as my mother's oft-fuzzy memory serves her) I was peeing and pooping into a potty with wild abandon, and, to hear her tell it, enjoying every minute of it. And, being parent to an only child, my mom has little else to compare this experience to, other than that of her friends, who's lazy, slacker children ran around in all states of incontinence well into their second and sometimes even (heaven forbid) third years.

Unwilling to play grandmother to such a slothy kid, my mother's single-minded mission in life has become to get her peeing in the potty ASAP. A mission which she plans to accomplish from 3ooo miles away by asking everyone who's ever borne a kid for advice on what I can be doing better to hurry this potty training thing the f up.

Each of our conversations now begins or ends with some tale from the streets of one child or another and their pooping habits, along with helpful pointers on what their guardians did to accomplish the Herculean task. "I asked _________ (fill in the name) what (s)he did, and they __________ (fill in helpful hint)."

"That's great mom. I've heard about _______." In fact, we've probably at least attempted some version thereof.

Here are the problems:

Otter is 18 months old, and apparently not the potty prodigy that I was. Her interest in the potty is limited to shoving her dolls into it, taking it apart, or inverting the basin over her face in an attempt to drink (?) from it.

She refuses to sit on it for more than 30 seconds at a time, and I see no way to rectify this short of tying her down to the toilet, which I'm told is illegal.

That helpful potty book we got? SB's mostly exclusively interested in the last page, where Elmo gets his big kid underwear (a current obsession). and much less so in how he got to that elevated state.

The desire to be dry and clean so vital for one to have a stake in going in a potty vs. the convenience of pooping right in your pants? Otter cares not...

So we're left with little to do but wait for nature to take its course and SB to come around to the idea of peeing like a big girl. I can live with this. My mom, having a bit more trouble.

"I really can't do this any more," I told her during our last potty stand-off. "I'm not worried. We have plenty of time."

"That's all relative," came the curt reply. "Some people are ok with their 5-year-olds running around in diapers."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


One of my greatest fears has come to be. I'm the mother of a girly-girl. Who loves all things pink, and flowers, and doggies, and her dolls. And, apparently, fashion. This was this morning's ensemble (minus her favorite doggie shirt, which, sadly for Otter was in the wash). More to come...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Balloon Nazi

Every once in a while I'm reminded why I hate most people. At a birthday party yesterday, apparently there had been a balloon guy - you know the one that makes all those animals the that kids love?

My child being a bit gun-shy around strangers, she certainly wasn't going to join in with the balloon fun. But, my child being 18 months old, she wanted a balloon.

The opportunity for one came an hour later as she wandered around the park grounds. One of our fellow party guests, had parked her stroller by a picnic table, and lying on the ground around it, were 3 or 4 balloon animals in various colors. Otter honed in on an orange one and went in for the catch.

"Um," said the grandmotherly owner of the stroller, as Otter happily carried her prize. "I think that fell out of OUR stroller."

Are you kidding me? I spun around in disbelief. Granted, I'd been up since a quarter to 5, which may have accounted for some of my crankiness. But seriously, are you kidding me? You, a 60-year-old woman, with FOUR balloons and ZERO grandkids claiming them, are going to make me take a balloon away from my 1 1/2 year old? Have you no sense of decency? "I'm sorry baby," I told my toddler, "This isn't ours. Let's go play by the train." I handed the inflated latex back to the Balloon Nazi trying to send death rays from my eyes. "You've got to be kidding me," I not-so-quietly said to Bree as I turned around. "I am so close to saying something to her."

"Walk away," he said. And walk away I did, but not without giving her the dirtiest looks I could muster at every given opportunity. And it worked!

Whether it was my scowling demeanor or common sense that prevailed upon her, BN gathered her grandchild and a red balloon and came over to us a few minutes later. "We wanted to share this with the baby," she said. That's right, feel the guilt. I smiled sweetly and thanked her profusely. And Otter ran off with her new prize.

Now that my rant is through, I do want to reiterate my sincerest gratitude to ex-BN. I really don't hate you. Just continue to wonder what initially motivated you.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Rise and Shine

The problem with toddlers is nobody told them the proper time to wake up. When the memo stating that 5:05 am is too early went out, they weren't on the distribution list. Apparently they missed the "Don't even THINK about getting up before 5!" memo as well. Never one to repeat a performance, SB decided that 5:05 was so Saturday morning, and greeted Sunday at 4:46 am. As did we, her hapless parents.

By 10:30, when we had been up for SIX HOURS, Otter was starting to melt down, big-time. Everything annoyed and upset her, and led to tears. It was clearly time for a nap. I turned to Bree, bleary-eyed and asked, "Why did we decide to have one?" And then we headed off to Travel Town, for a birthday party.

Travel Town, for those who have not been, is a magical world of trains and tracks, cabooses and train rides, and a museum of all things choo-choo (including a horrifying zoo crate marked "Cheetah" that I would barely fit into).

Otter was thrilled. Even though she avoided the other kids, the idea of running full speed down train tracks appealed to her immensely. With nary a look back at mom and dad, she bolted away, scampering over rails that nearly came up to her knees, collecting rocks, and trying to climb under train cars. And the ride on the mini-train had her right-out laughing. All grumpiness and tiredness were forgotten.

She (and we) survived it like a champ. She was happy and fun, and adventurous and independent - all the things I adore about her. How could I begrudge her an early-morning rising when she was so easy during the day? Oh wait - that's still TOTALLY not cool...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Playing Doctor

The 18-month doctor's appointment blows. For those of you who haven't done it yet, it involves non-stop crying occasionally mixed with checking of ears, stomach, heart and lungs. It begins with a questionnaire, designed to diagnose your child with any latent autism, and ends with a barrage of shots. Somewhere in there, your kid is measured and weighed and, after a full-on struggle, their head is measured. I'm pretty sure at one point her eyes may have been tested. I believe there was a quick chat about pre-schools and the doctor may have asked me if I had any questions. I had only one: "When can I get out of here?"

Here's what I learned:

Otter is still tall (75%); and skinny (15%). She is hella strong (as determined by the pediatrician, nurse and me struggling to pin her down while her ears were checked) and perfectly normal.

In more awesome news, we don't have to go back until she's 2!!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My Other Child

Most days, these virtual pages are devoted to my alternate musing and ranting regarding SB, but today I'm going talk about my other child, that of the dog variety.

Now for many, having a "real" baby, makes them realize that a dog is just a dog and now that they've traded up, they can start ignoring or worse, mistreating their pet with a clear conscience. For us, the opposite was true.

Once SB arrived, Foz gained all kinds of new privileges, including the right to sleep in our bed. And that was a big gain for him - if you've ever shared a bed with another adult AND a 100 lb. pit bull, you know what I'm talking about. But he deserved it - he'd never asked us to have a baby, and after all, he was here first.

At this point you're fixated on the words "pit bull," wondering what kind of irresponsible maniacs would let their newborn cavort with this beast. Will he not eat her in a mad, jealous rage? Will he not tear her limb from limb because he, well, can?

Chances are, not so much. Foz has been the patient victim of hit-and-runs with strollers (both the toy and the real varieties), the hapless recipient of slaps to the muzzle. He's been fallen on, tripped over, poked, and stepped on. He meets these insults by fleeing from a creature 1/5 his size.

Of course there is an upside to having SB around. Besides the bed, there's the bonus Otter's mealtimes, when, more often than not, at least a third of the meal ends up in Foz's mouth. There are also the daily hugs SB doles out to him, though I'm not sure how much they're appreciated. But they are in love - as any two siblings would be.

So today, on Foz's 5-year anniversary of his rescue, when he insinuated himself permanently and irreplaceabley into our lives, I pause to appreciate him in all his smelly, dogly, wet-nosed, snoring, farting glory. Because I'm a happier mom for having him.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

So When's The Next One?

It could be that a number of my friends are currently with child, or the fact that everyone we meet now seems to have reproduced, or maybe it's just a function of the passage of time, but the topic of "another one" has been broached. Apparently, like book ends or socks, children ideally come in multiples of 2.

I can see the logic in this. On the upside, they can entertain each other when you've dumped them in a room, giving you a chance to live your own life for 10 minutes; they can help with each other's care; multiples keep the population from diminishing with each generation; if you get one of each gender, everyone has supposedly had their secret offspring wishes fulfilled.

But much like anything else, there is a downside. First and foremost, from what I understand, two is MUCH, MUCH more than one more than one. The ripple effect is exponential. Just when you thought you were done with sleepless nights, having your body belong to someone other than you, and had finally had that moment to yourself while your kid was busy eating Cheerios off the floor, it starts all over again. And even amid all that glorious sibling bonding, you still have to, you know, take care of them.

For a few, the agony was completed in one fell swoop, with twins. Sure they suffered greatly, but now they can safely say they're DEE-YOU-EN, DUN and I dare anyone to tell them otherwise. Others just missed that day in health class, and got knocked up again right away, ripping the band-aid off in one continuous, albeit prolonged motion. But for the rest of us the decision to have another baby is an actual decision. That takes thinking about, and deciding. And that's just hella scary.

Lest anyone jump to any conclusions, this is not my way of revealing a baby on the way, a plan of a baby, or even a plan of a plan of a baby. We've stuck to our mantra of "at least a three year difference," with all the ambiguity that "at least" implies, and all the requisite lack of mathematical computation that is necessary to continue living ignorance of when that means there could be more. For now, SB lives on alone, with no siblings but the dog to plan her revolution with. Her onliness is my talisman against my greatest fear - what if "the next one" turns out to be twins?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

17 Months

She does the Booty Dance on request.

She loves Barney's "I Love You" song - god only knows how, since we've never shown her a Barney show.

She has 6 teeth.

She hugs the dog. And everyone else.

She feeds the dog. Everything.

She no longer fits in the baby bath.

She loves koalas, pandas, tigers, octopuses, kangaroos, penguins and ducks.

Her favorite outfit is the pink doggie onesie, which she asks to wear every day.

She enjoys rolling on the floor.

She knows all the Sesame Street characters.

She's almost a year and a half.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sea Changes

There comes a day in each girl's life when she must throw caution to the wind and dive head first into the vast ocean of life. This is a momentous day, filled with fear, trepidation, apprehension, and, if she's lucky, success beyond her wildest measure. The kind of unquestionable achievement that makes any past doubt seem outright foolish.

I'm speaking, of course, about myself. Undertaking the task of moving Otter out of her baby bath and into the real deal. But if rousing success is what I was after, the universe was determined to put me in my place.

I've gotta admit (and this may go far in explaining a great deal) that I am not a bath person. I find the idea of soaking in a tub filled with warm, sudsy water while a day's worth of dirt sloughs off me a bit repellant, on the best of days. I've always felt the strong urge to shower afterwards, and in the name of water conservation have generally just skipped to the chase. In fact, I can only think of one compelling reason to take a bath, but that involves booze, water jets, and is not fit content for this particular blog.

Needless to say, however, that one does not stick a 16-month-old into a shower. And since the baby bathtub has become rather, um, snug, that left me facing a bit of a conundrum. So I did what any parent in similar circumstances would do. Setting brawn before brains, I decided that I was just gonna muscle through the situation. As I fought the sliding shower doors and the vinyl curtains behind them (yes, we have both - don't ask), flickers of doubt lapped around the edges of my consciousness, but I beat them down into temporary submission.

The water was turned on, the temperature checked and a quantity of soap was added to the mix. As the wall of bubbles began to grow, I briefly entertained the thought that I should have probably checked the proportions before blindly dumping in that much bubble-bath (not the first time this has happened, and usually with disastrous results) but it was too late now, wasn't it? No use crying over spilled soap. And who doesn't like some bubbles?

I dumped my kid into the fizzing foam and shut off the water. Immediately I realized that something was terribly wrong. The distinct sound of water escaping down the drain became apparent. I checked the position of the stopper. Up. The way it should be. Right? I pushed it down. The water continued escaping. I pulled it back up. Nothing changed. At this point, SB was sitting in about 2 inches of water covered with 10 inches of soap scum. Time was not on my side. Saying a silent apology to the Earth, the conservationists, and my wallet, I turned the water on full throttle. The goal was to keep the 2 inch-deep "bath" going long enough for me to scrub down my offspring.

Overestimating my abilities, I had also introduces toys into the mix. What I imagined to be a joyous romp in the name of cleansing, became a mad dash of fruitless swathing with a washcloth while staving off the frantic calls for "Elma" and "kak kak kak" - aka rubber duck - who kept drowning in the foamy abyss. After 10 minutes of mad flailing, it was time to throw in the towel (quite literally) and rinse.

Which leads to the question - how the HELL do you rinse in a bathtub? Letting the water go down was clearly not an issue. But that leaves a foot of soap that child is either sitting or standing in. At best, you can keep the faucet running and splash them down to their knees - which is where their legs disappear into the bog of soap suds. I know people. I KNOW I used too much soap.

I splashed water. I made hand motions. I let the bath mat and the towel absorb whatever lather was left.

After drying, lotioning, and pajama-ing my slick-with-soap-scum child (and scrubbing down any less-than-thoroughly-washed areas with baby wipes), I returned to the crime scene to try and get rid of the evidence. While fighting back the wall of soap, one of the shower hooks (the one cleverly shaped like a sea horse) came flying off, the hook missing my eye by 1/2 inch. That about summed up the evening.

You say I have to wash my kid every day?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I have reason to believe that potty training may not go exactly according to plan...

Monday, January 4, 2010

"In America, there are two classes of travel - first class, and with children."

So says Robert Benchley, and he must be right, what with all those Airport books and all. Oh wait - no, that was Peter, his son. But apples falling from trees, and all that jazz should cover me here.

Anyway, point being, he KNOWS. And we know too, having traversed the country 3 times with Otter in tow.

Admittedly, each trip has posed its own challenges, from (in retrospect) the seemingly simple feat of over-nursing while our plane circled the airport for 40 minutes on our first trek out, to the daunting task of having to go to the bathroom while traveling solo with SB, to now - a 3-hour delay at the airport with an over-tired, over-hyped, very mobile 15-month-old.

Our extra time in Newark allows me the opportunity to socialize as a member of that exclusive club - the "with child" set. As I do laps around the waiting area, I meet every carry-on dog, every family with children - including the brat giving a beat-down to the public phone while her harassed mother gives a time-out to her brother by sitting him in the seat next to her and threatening to not let him go to the bathroom, or the family with three kids (Luca, Guido, Franco - or something likewise out of the Sopranos) whose mother confesses to me that she's nervous about boarding the plane because she's spied that man - you know, the one that looks vaguely Middle-Eastern, who I suspect is actually from India.

But no journey, no matter how difficult can be as bad as it is for the Family From Hell. They sit down near us, the poster-family for what I hope to never become. In this play of domestic horrors, each member plays a part:

Dad is the Bruiser - you know, the guy who looks like his idea of a good time is getting good and pissed at the local, then starting a bar brawl, before heading home to let his wife know what's what? He gets off on being mad, feels superior about his hard lot in life, and says things like "Can I trust you with that (re: the luggage)?" and "I'm not on the plane with you," to his wife. Really Bruiser, you're not? You're gonna live at gate 34 of Newark International?

Mom is the Passive Aggressive - half beaten into submission by Bruiser, half determined to get in the last jab in spite of it all, no matter how underhanded the methods. Let hyperactive Clawboy (see below) "accidentally" find the Oreo's in Bruiser's bag? Why not? At least the Juicy Couture sweatsuit, giant rock and Gucci bag help her remember she's still on top.

Son is Clawboy - because his favorite toy, one of those claws that pull toys out of a vending machine, is in his backpack, and he keeps taking it out and trying to grab everything, including strangers waiting at the gate with it. He's about 6, but still uses a pacifier (which, after he finally runs out of steam, Bruiser pulls out of his mouth, starting the reign of insanity over again, only so that Bruiser can get exasperated and threaten not to get on the plane again). He is a bully - the kid who uses his size to intimidate, and failing that, whines something awful. Watching him, I vacillate between pitying him and wanting to beat him senseless with that claw.

Dog is the Hapless Victim - of course they have a dog - one of those tiny furry yappers that get carried onto planes in designer hand-bags. Normally I loathe these dogs - call me a sizist if you will - but in this case I fear that Clawboy has reigned so much terror on this poor canine that when she finally growls at him I secretly pray that she'll bite, preferably taking a finger from the claw-wielding hand.

We sit there, and can't look away from from the drama, alternately repulsed and fascinated, as this family continually cycles through their circle of mutual hatred. Bree and I lean in to each other, assessing and reassessing which of them we hate the most, an honor that keeps shifting, depending on which of them is speaking at any particular moment. "I really hope they sit right next to us," I say. "That would really make this flight perfect." How do people live like this?