Monday, June 30, 2008

"Now that you're home all day, don't you get bored?"

Typical day:

7:10 a.m.: Boy wakes up. We greet the day with playtime and (most likely) the first of the day's "dirties." This production is usually quite voluminous and aromatic, and therefore very impressive.

7:35: We've now cycled from the activity mat to the Exer-saucer, where I am treated to, once again, the sounds that a cat, a dog, a cow and a duck make, plus their names in English and Spanish, as well as Baby Einstein's take on appropriate musical tunes for each animal, which include three classical pieces and, inexplicably, one bad rendition of "Old McDonald Had a Farm."

7:50: The Exer-saucer has now grown tiresome, so we move to a towel on the floor, where we play peek-a-boo, doodlebug (in which boy practices his rolling skills), and usually spit up a little (boy, not me). This starts the day's laundry pile, which will grow to remarkable proportions over the next 12 hours.

8:15: Boy begins to whine, signalling that he's tired and starting to think about a morning nap (yes, already). To buy some time, I employ the trustworthy swing, where he relaxes for 15 minutes while I run to the restroom if I'm lucky. (Hey, even mommies need to pee.)

8:45: Boy winds down for his nap while nursing. Since we have not yet sleep-trained our daytime naps, this means I'm lying down with him -- something I don't mind, since if I'm sleepy as well, it's the perfect chance to catch a nap myself.

10:00: Naptime's over! Recharged, boy signals his readiness to attack the day properly by vacillating between maniacal giggling because he's happy to be playing, and whining because he's already seen everything interesting in the house. I keep him occupied in a Pack-n-Play while I put on something presentable and make sure a comb's been dragged through my hair, which has air-dried from last night's shower and is therefore presenting a style I call "homeless chic."

10:20: We head out to one of our usual haunts to pass some time and give boy a chance to see something besides our living room. This means we're at Randall's, Super-Target or Panera Bread. I take the opportunity to pick up a few things for tonight's dinner, which only has a 50% chance of actually being cooked.

11:45: We're back home, and boy is usually protesting vociferously while I unload groceries from the car, since it's been two hours since he woke up and he's really ready for another nap. When reminded that mommy has not yet eaten anything herself and would love to inhale a bowl of cereal at least, boy responds with a screech that I can only interpret as a strong statement of apathy to this fact.

Noon: Hands and faces washed after our outing, boy and I lie down for another nap. Only this time I'm too keyed up, sweaty from running around, and mentally awake to sleep, so I surf the net on my iPhone or make to-do lists while boy snoozes. The to-do lists are usually overly optimistic representations of what I want to accomplish when boy awakens, but hey -- I'm nothing if not a positive thinker.

1:30: If boy has not been awakened before now by phone calls, UPS men, lawn services or the neighbor's dog, he's up now and ready to play again. Since he's still bored with what's in the living room, we move our operations upstairs to his nursery, where I have to do a lot of initial work to prove to him that no, it's not yet bedtime and there's no need to protest being put in his crib. See? See the monkey? See your mobile? Let's sing your ABCs -- again!! A, B, C, D, E, F, G, how-I-wish-you'd-let-me-pee ...

1:45: If it's a solid-food day (currently three times a week), we head back downstairs to the kitchen where rice cereal or fruit is prepared for consumption. Whether I get the temperature and consistency just right or not will dictate how much of this food I will be wearing at the end of our feeding session. Feeding boy is a two-handed job at this point, so there's not yet any hope of eating my own lunch yet.

2:15: Swabbed down from his lunch and temporarily sated, boy revisits his Exer-saucer while I grab a bite. Typical fare consists of Laughing Cow cheese and crackers, plus some goldfish and maybe a Reese's mini-peanut butter cup. And a swig out of a cold can of Caffeine-free Coke, which I am destined to never once finish. Phone calls are returned, e-mail checked, laundry folded, dishes put away from last-night's dishwasher-unload, and the husband called, as long as boy is playing happily. Which means I usually get one and a half items on the preceding list actually done.

2:50: Eye-rubbing commences, signalling the onset of nap #3. I have to decide whether I lie down with boy again or play bad-mommy and let him fall asleep in his swing. The state of the house usually makes this call for me.

4:00: Boy's up again and willing to play, though not nearly as cheerful as he was in the morning. We sing songs, practice our sign language and start dinner if he's willing to sit in one place for 10 minutes at a time. Which is rare. (We eat a LOT of Subway these days.)

5:30: Boy's starting to enter "night-mode", which means he's wondering when I'll get off my butt and start his bath and the rest of his bedtime routine. Daddy's on the way home, so we stall by walking down the street to check the mail.

6:10: Dad's home! Boy perks up to play for a few minutes. While dad blows bubbles on boy's tummy to the tune of delighted shrieks, I clear out the kitchen sink to fit boy's bathtub into it.

6:30: The excitement over seeing Dad is wearing off in the face of boy's sleepiness, so we start our bath. Once bathtime's over, we read a book ("Ten Little Ladybugs" by Melanie Gerth, which presents the opportunity to count in English, Vietnamese and Farsi, plus name animal names in Farsi as well), sing two prayers, and then it's another chance to nurse and relax for bedtime.

7:10: In the crib for the night (boy, not me). Current mode is to cry for 30 minutes, then fall asleep. While boy sleeps (and before the first feeding), I take the opportunity to shower, eat, talk to my husband, return phone calls, fold more laundry, sort mail, make the bed and check e-mail.

10:30: Husband's in bed and I'm still online, drinking in quiet time. I know I should go to sleep, but a silent house has its own siren call to this mommy.

11:20: Boy awakens for first feeding. He's back asleep without a peep by 11:40.

1 a.m.: I finally turn in.

2:15: Boy awakens, but it's not yet time to eat, so he settles back down in 10 minutes. I, who have sat up in bed to watch him on our video monitor, try to do the same.

3:15: Boy awakens and is fed and changed. We're both back in respective beds by 3:40. He might squawk again before morning, but he settles once more within 10 minutes (while I too try to re-enter a sleep "mode" for another couple hours).

6 a.m.: Dad leaves for work, and brings boy down to me for morning snuggle time and another hour of sleep before we do it all over again.

It's not all fun, but it's mostly fun, and it's not easy, but it's SO worth it.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Million-dollar smile

I had dinner tonight with my blogging-fool friend stillhavesandinmyshoes. We ordered sushi and had it delivered -- talk about decadence. My favorite quote of the evening: "Sushi is the answer. I don't care what the question is."

It had been ages since we saw one another, and yet stepping into her hug was like coming home. I love that about her -- she's got the most incredible heart and you can feel the love when you're in her presence. Just her million-dollar smile will warm up a room instantly.

Anyway, as we frequently do when we're together, we got to talkin'. Not just the usual "how-are-you/I'm-fine-how's-work" crap -- I mean real talking. There were tears and Kleenex involved. And she amazes me because despite the fact that she is going through some serious sh*t, she was still so engaged in what was going on with ME.

She's the definition of grace, courage, strength and faith, and I admire her immensely. (So if you're reading, crazy girl, know that you are loved. And TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Brother, uncle, friend ... hero

Some of the blogs I follow were established for a specific purpose -- product reviews, film criticism, recipe-sharing. I love that there are those out there who know what their vision is for self-expression, and can discipline themselves to keep their musings to a particular topic.

Not me, so much.

I started this blog ages ago with no clue as to what I wanted to explore, capture, share or learn. I just started thinking and typing. As a result, over the last two years, this blog has seen its share of diverse topics. Very little of it hangs together (though the recent addition of lots of baby-related posts suggests an emerging emphasis).

That's why it's so incredibly flattering to me that anyone would read what I have to say here on anything approximating a regular basis. Sure -- if I wrote exclusively about tree frogs, then there would be amphibian-enthusiasts who checked me once a month for a new posting about adhesive feet or multiple sets of eyelids or something.

But no. I toss out random entries on diaper blowouts, control issues and how I eat M&Ms. I post musings about cab rides in Los Angeles, things that make me smile, and explanations of what I like about reading novels. If you graphically approximated the topics I cover with a scattergram, you'd have something that looked like the big-bang theory -- dots everywhere, with no discernible pattern.

And yet, my 23-year-old brother checks this blog every night. I get e-mails or text messages at midnight or later telling me that he's read the latest post and loved it. On other occasions, when I've alluded to a post, he's right there with me, quoting myself back to me with sincerity and earnestness. I still have the text message he sent me one night when I texted him that there was a new post as of the night before. "already read it. dont u know im your biggest fan? :) "

His regular readership is all the more ego-boosting to me because I think he's one of the best things that ever happened to me. Though ten years younger than me, he's the one who has steered me to elements of pop culture I love that I never would have discovered otherwise (like "The Office," "Family Guy" and more). He is constantly making me laugh -- me, and everyone else who knows him -- he's cripplingly funny. He has always, always accepted me for who I am, never once seeming to go through that "my-older-sister-is-so-very-LAME" phase that has struck just about every other younger sibling I've ever known. He always helps me when I need him, whether it's with rebooting my iPhone, creating custom ringtones, taking out the trash at my house when I was nine months pregnant and my husband had to travel for work, or helping my neighbors get into their house when they locked themselves out (he's got mad lock-picking skills). When I'm down, he reaches out to tell me he believes in me, and that it'll be ok. When I've had some small victory in my life, he celebrates with me, even if it's as small as losing three pounds, or as unrelated to him as enjoying a great night of swing-dance-teaching.

And it's not just ME to whom he's amazing. He's so supportive of our mom, acting as a sounding-board when she needs it, a shoulder to lean on when it's required. He's a great brother-in-law to my husband -- they think the same way, and seeing them enjoy each other's company warms me to my core. Best of all, my brother adores my son, and delights in his babyness in a way that melts me. He's an incredible uncle to my little guy, and I can think of no greater wish than that my son grows up to be like his youngest uncle.

And so, youngest brother -- this one's for you. I am YOUR biggest fan. I will always rejoice in whatever brings you joy, whether it's a good bowl of Thai soup, an amazing friend and partner in miss M (as I call your girlfriend), or an entire season of Seinfeld on DVD. Thank you for making this disjointed little blog a part of your daily life. Thank you for reading it sincerely and absorbing it for the random things it says about me. Thank you for making me feel interesting -- because if YOU, whom I find fascinating, think I'm interesting, maybe there's hope for me yet.

My life is better because you're in it.

Midnight madness

As many of you know, I'm a new mom. And I'm tremendously lucky to have gone through the pregnancy and new-mom phases along with two amazing girlfriends -- we all delivered within four and a half months of each other, with their two babies being born two weeks apart.

My husband and I had our little one first, and so we got to do a little trailblazing. Our son's birth was a lengthy, difficult process, and I came home from the hospital well behind the proverbial eight-ball in terms of sleep and rest. The first two weeks especially brought challenges I had never dreamed of -- from the baby's well-defined sleep preferences (read: in someone's arms) to my own struggle with baby blues and unbelievable anxiety. I found myself so often lying awake at night while the baby snoozed in my husband's arms, wondering, "will something happen to him? am I doing this right? what if I make a mistake? what if my in-laws think I'm a terrible mother to their grandchild? what if he's not getting enough to eat? what if someone tries to kidnap him? what if I'm driving with him over an overpass near a bayou and I go off the road and we go into the water and Ican'tgethimoutofthecarseatOHMYGOD." I was such a wreck that simple things like the baby spitting up reduced me to tears -- "I'm sorry," I would sob to the baby. "Mommy's so sorry."

With tremendous support from my husband, my family and my doctor, I made it through those rough first two weeks, only to deal with more challenges in the form of breastfeeding. What I had always believed to be a simple and natural process turned out to be a painful and arduous struggle. At times it would hurt so much that the simple act of picking up the baby to feed him would make me cry real tears, in anticipation of the excruciating pain. I never ONCE considered quitting -- it was important to me to breastfeed for a variety of reasons -- but it kicked my butt for a while.

And then there was the perfectionism.

I have always held myself to high standards. So what, right? Plenty of people do that to themselves. And I've accepted my tendency to set ridiculous expectations of myself in the past, succeeding at times and falling short at others. But when you cross impossible standards with no sleep and constant perceived scrutiny from others around you (which I now think was largely imagined on my part), you have a recipe for disaster. All I had wanted was to be a stay-at-home mom to our child, and yet each day I felt like I was messing up the very job I'd felt perfectly cut out for. I looked after the baby scrupulously, attending to his every need. I kept him clean, fed, and held him as he slept. I wrote down logs of when he ate and when he had diaper changes. I noted his first trip to the doctor, his first chance to try a pacifier, his first time in the swing. I was so deeply subsumed in caring for him that I convinced myself that even taking a nap and going "off-duty" was impossible. And I barely registered my husband for a while, and completely neglected myself.

Fast forward to today, five months later. I've found a bit more balance in my life, I'm glad to report, though I still struggle with feeling like I have to have each day be "perfect" for my son -- perfectly timed naps, just the right amount of stimulation, exciting outings to entertain him, no TV, lots of playtime, books, you name it. And I've learned a lot from this process, and when my two girlfriends had their babies recently, I stood by, ready to reassure them when they felt overwhelmed or when their babies cried or when they needed a break to nap or take a shower.

Except they've handled everything beautifully. My sister-in-law is so attuned to her month-old daughter that I'm in awe. They seem to have found a perfect daily rhythm of eating and sleeping, and have ventured out into the "real world" in ways I wasn't brave enough to try till much later. My other girlfriend handles motherhood as gracefully as if she's had training all her life. Each of these new mothers has sailed past the feeding challenges that I found cripplingly painful, and seems to get enough rest to feel functional each day. They both amaze me with the ease they bring to being mothers to their beautiful children. I feel lucky to be going through this process alongside both of them -- and yet, that part of my brain that demanded perfect test scores on American history exams and that required me to achieve the highest performance ratings distributed at work now makes itself heard again. "What did I do wrong?" I lay awake and wonder. "They make it look so easy. How did I manage to make it so complicated? ... Am I not cut out for this? Am I doing it all wrong?"

And worst of all, "Will all this somehow hurt the baby?"

It certainly hurts ME.

Maybe she'll sign my yearbook ...

So one of the most fun and random things about blogging, as stillhavesandinmyshoes has totally pointed out already, is that once you start posting regularly, you start *reading* other blogs regularly too. First it starts off with your friends' blogs. Then you see who they link to on their pages, and you check those out. And all of a sudden you're checking twelve blogs twice a day because there is so much good stuff out there, and so many smart and funny people writing about it.

Thus began my writer-crush on the "Things I Am Over!" blog. I found it through emlocke, whom I found through badlighting, whom I found through a mutual acquaintance who doesn't even blog that I'm aware. So there are at *least* four degrees of separation at work here.

Check it out. Click on any one of her "funny posts" in the right-hand column. And once again, thank me later.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

With thanks to R and D

I've seen a lot of good dancers in my time. As a part-time swing dance instructor, I've developed an eye for that magical combination some people have of musicality, rhythm, grace and joy. And it seems to me that in most cases, the great dancers I've met end up marrying people who aren't that into dancing. Seems reasonable -- you meet your kindred spirit, and you click on a bunch of levels but are different enough to be interesting to each other, and maybe you're different about how you feel about dancing. I get it.

Every now and then, though, you see two people together who are both great dancers, and you watch them dance. Separately (with partners other than their spouses, I mean), they're impressively good -- they catch your eye and sometimes the people around them stop dancing to watch. I'm talking good. But when they dance together -- *that's* the treat.

You see, two great dancers who are also in love don't just dance to a song, and they don't just move their feet and arms and bodies. The great ones paint their whole marriages into each gesture. It's not in how close they stand or in how they know each other's bodies -- it's in a small smile that's meant just for each other. It's in the way they're emboldened by the comfort and security of one another to try new moves and rejoice when they work, or laugh together when they don't. You get the sense that they don't just move together -- they breathe together. They bring not just their training and experience to the dance floor, but their trust and their faith. They dance in whispers and feather-light touches in a way, because when one extends a hand, the other will already have an answering hand there to grasp it.

I watched a couple like that tonight. It was any song, playing at the monthly dance they've attended for years. There was nothing special about tonight. There wasn't a particularly great crowd out to share in the music. There was not a single thing that made that song special, that moment magical, except the two of them. And watching their simple, sweet and short dance together was such an intimate experience that I almost had to look away. It's not that it was lewd or suggestive -- on the contrary. It was perfectly appropriate. But they danced without barriers. They danced without fear, without reservations or hangups or second-guesses of themselves or each other. They danced without even the need to keep up with where they each ended and the other began, simply because they were part of a single unit anyway, so what did it matter?

I realized that as heartbreakingly lovely as it was to watch them tonight, theirs is a dance that will continue to ripen and develop over the years of their marriage. And someday at their 45th wedding anniversary, they'll look at each other in just the same way. The moves might be different, and the song will probably be slower. But they'll step into that tiny space and blend into one another fearlessly and effortlessly, all the more beautifully for the years they've invested in the practice of a marriage of dancing.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

My favorite summer dinner

Since it's gotten so blazingly hot and oppressively muggy outside, my husband and I have tried to lighten our evening meals to counteract the stifling heat. Here's our current favorite dinner:

4 whole wheat tortillas
2 cups cooked, cubed oven roasted chicken
4 tablespoons hummus (roasted red pepper hummus, if you can find it)
A generous handful of fresh basil leaves
1 cup sliced cucumber, seeded
1 diced red bell pepper
1 sliced avocado
Crumbled feta cheese (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Spread 1 tablespoon hummus on half of each tortilla.
2. Divide the chicken, basil and veggies among all tortillas equally. Add feta cheese if you're using it.
3. Roll up into wraps and enjoy. These are great with fries, chips, a salad, fresh veggies -- anything goes.

Other tasty additions: Alfalfa sprouts, zucchini slices, roasted red pepper, guacamole, tomato, onions, cilantro.

You can thank me later.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

It all started with brunch

I used to think I liked French toast the way my mom made it. She would dunk bread into the egg batter so quickly that it was really more like *showing* the bread to the eggs. Her French toast, then, was truthfully better described as battered bread – there were distinct layers to it, egg-bread-egg, as if it were a cross-section of an archaeological dig.

For years I ate it happily, after watching her prepare it with a careful eye. She’d crack the eggs into a flat pie plate, add a splash of milk and a pinch of salt, and beat it all together with chopsticks. Then she would take up the square white bread, hold it aloft in readiness, and turn to me. “You have to be fast,” she’d say. “Nothing can ruin your French toast more completely than if you really let all that egg soak in there. The bread’ll fall apart.” I’d nod, my eyes gleaming with avarice as I fiddled with the syrup bottle in anticipation. Flash! And flip! And into the pan. The toast would sizzle as it hit the hot butter. Within minutes, my brother and I would be leaning over our laden plates, eyes closed in beatific joy as we inhaled the smell of a wonderful weekend in the making.

When I got into high school and then college, sometimes the preparation of weekend breakfasts would fall to me. I dutifully prepared French toast just the way mom always did – assembling the necessary ingredients quickly, whisking the bread through the egg batter, and frying up platefuls of crispy, sizzling toast. My dad, who abhorred sweetness with any kind of protein, always skipped the syrup, rolling his eyes at us in derision as we poured it on thickly. He would slather butter onto his French toast and devour it as a savoury treat.

At some point, I must have been watching Nick at Night instead of writing a paper for college, because I caught an episode of “Family Ties” long after the show had actually gone off the air. Alex P. Keaton was telling little brother Andy how to prepare French toast. “First,” he squeaked in that charming Michael-J-Fox way, “you start your preparations a day ahead of time, because you have to let the bread soak in the egg batter for at LEAST 24 hours.” I wrinkled my nose at the TV. “Ugh. Mush!” The rest of Alex’s lecture went unnoticed as I marveled that anyone could actually let the bread sit in the batter for any longer than a second or two. Shuddering in distaste, I eventually turned off the TV to focus on my homework.

It was years later when some small voice made itself heard on a fateful weekend. There I was, looking down at all the familiar accoutrement of the French toast ritual, when I thought, “But really – how mushy would it get?” I decided to do a little experiment. Teeming with guilt that I was departing from the method my mother had taken such care to instill within me (those Catholic mothers know what they’re doing with the guilt thing), I purposefully prepared the egg batter first before preheating my frying pan. Then I dropped the bread into the egg batter and stepped back. Turning my back on the plate to avoid the temptation of snatching the bread right back out again, I busied myself with the pan. When it was finally ready, I turned back to the pie plate to look at the bread, half-expecting to see that it had dissolved completely – but it looked fine. I had to use a little more care getting it into the frying pan, but once there, it fried up with no ill effects – it didn’t lose its shape, take any longer to cook, or splatter any more than it normally did. Somewhat disappointed in this seemingly normal production, I slid the toast onto a plate, cooled it off with a little maple syrup, and prepared to enjoy a distressingly routine brunch.

How wrong I was. Once I’d cut through the toast with the side of my fork and taken the first bite, I knew in an instant that I was on to something. The crispiness of the toast – yes, that was familiar and quite delicious. But the inside of the toast – there dwelled a creamy, custardy heaven I never would have fathomed. Somehow, the bread itself had been transformed into a smooth and fluffy filling of sorts for my crusty French toast shell. I ate my breakfast ecstatically, unwilling to take even a short break to call my mother and tell her about my discovery. (When I finally did call her, she was not impressed.)

From then on, the French toast ritual has never been the same. Not only do I relish the chance to let the bread soak in the batter, I add flavors with glee, experiment fearlessly with ingredients. Cinnamon makes its way into the batter regularly, as does vanilla. I’ve departed from white bread to try my hand at croissant French toast, or cinnamon raisin bread French toast. I saw recently that there’s a restaurant in Austin that does a carrot cake French toast I’m dying to try. But my favorite thing about the ritual now is that it’s mine. I finally woke up and smelled what I was cooking, departing from the way I’d been told to do something, instead finding my own path.

Since then, I’ve taken stock of a lot of things I picked up along the way to today, to see if they’re really mine. Some things still fit comfortably, whereas others suffered the same fate as mom’s French toast methods. The looking, though – that’s what’s important.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Come fly the friendly skies

My husband and I took our four-and-a-half month old son on his first plane trip recently. Here are some things I learned during that adventure.
  1. Everything you thought you knew about air travel just became obsolete now that you're traveling with a baby. Even if you're a seasoned veteran of the post-9/11 airport thing, this is a whole new world.
  2. You will always feel like you forgot something huge when you leave the house.
  3. The baby has tiny clothes, but still needs significant room in a suitcase, once you consider diapers, wipes, blankets, toys, bath accessories and other various sundries.
  4. The security personnel who man the X-ray machines don't care that this is your first time flying with a baby.
  5. It takes longer than you think to disassemble the car seat/carrier from the stroller base and collapse it all to place on the X-ray machine conveyor belt.
  6. If you don't place the car seat/carrier face down on the belt, it will get stuck.
  7. It takes approximately seven minutes, two security personnel and one exasperated dad to "un-stick" a car seat from an X-ray machine conveyor belt.
  8. A security line at the airport can back up impressively in seven minutes.
  9. The guy behind you at the security line doesn't care it's your first time traveling with a baby, either.
  10. It's very hard to tie your sneakers when you're wearing a baby in a Baby Bjorn carrier on your chest.
  11. Your husband probably has his hands full with the carrier, stroller, backpack and diaper bag, plus boarding passes, and can't help you with your shoes.
  12. People at airports don't even think twice about hacking into their grimy hands and then reaching out to touch your baby.
  13. It's very convenient to wear your baby in a carrier, since you can lean back out of the reach of hacking people who want to touch your baby.
  14. Airports are way dirtier than you remember them being, once you take your baby through one.
  15. It will not kill your baby to be in a germ-y environment for a few hours, as long as you take reasonable precautions. Also, buy stock in Purell once you learn you're going to have a baby, as you will spend a fortune on this stuff.
  16. The mild gravitational force you feel during takeoff apparently causes four-and-a-half month old baby boys to void their bowels in forceful, violent and pungent ways, often requiring a change of clothes.
  17. There is not enough room in an airport lavoratory for two parents and a four-and-a-half month old with a soiled diaper.
  18. When one parent stands outside the lavoratory with the diaper bag and supplies while the other wrestles with the child (who's laying on a changing table the size of a dinner plate), the antics are on display to any passengers seated beyond the lavoratories. If you can manage a wry comment directed at the rest of the plane, you will get some chuckles that may earn you some forgiveness when your kid starts wailing later.
  19. A four-and-a-half month old baby boy is strong enough to pull up your discreet nursing cover.
  20. The guy across the aisle from you is probably looking, too.
  21. Somehow, flashing the guy across the aisle doesn't bother you as much as you thought it would. You're probably too damn tired to care.
  22. People can surprise you with their compassion and decency. When you apologize for your crying baby and offer earplugs to the folks around you, almost all of them will decline, saying, "Ah, I've got kids/grandkids of my own -- I know how it is."
  23. After all the headaches and juggling of gear, you can look back on the trip and marvel at how well your little one handled a major disruption in his or her short life, and feel proud of the kid. And of yourselves.

Jukebox baby

I grew up singing. But my musical repertoire wasn't limited to just nursery rhymes and children's music. I cut my teeth on seventies rock and easy listening, with some classical music thrown in for variety.

You see, I was born when my parents were in their early 20s. And like most college-student 20-somethings, they spent a great deal of their time with music playing in the background as they studied and went about their days. So when I came along, they just continued that practice as a matter of course.

My earliest memories have music in them. Some of them involve my grandmother singing me traditional lullabies, but more likely they center around CCR, Bread, Lobo, Juice Newton and Chuck Mangione. I played with Barbies as they rocked to AC/DC. I pushed around my brother's Tonka truck as the Mamas and the Papas sang "California Dreamin'." I helped my mom dust and vacuum as Copeland's "Rodeo" thundered through the house. My younger brother and I knew all the words to "Coward of the County" and "The Gambler" and sang along with Kenny Rogers every chance we got. I lay awake in bed on nights my dad's friends came over, listening to Vietnamese folk and popular music as it filtered through the walls from the living room. Years later, when I was a member of our office's party planning committee in the consulting firm where I worked, I noted aloud that we could enliven a summer office barbecue with John Fogerty and Santana. "What are you," asked my market leader, a senior partner in the firm, "some kind of hippie?"

Recently, my husband and I agreed we wanted to surround our son with music, just as we'd grown up. So today I launched iTunes and hit "play," setting my library to "shuffle." Within an hour or so, he'd heard Queen, several tracks from "My Fair Lady", "Rent" and "Les Miserables," Michael Buble, Soundgarden, the Dixie Chicks, Bill Withers, and more. I have no idea whether he absorbed any of it or if he even noticed it. And yet there may come a day when he runs across a throwback station on XM radio and sings along with Michael Jackson. One can only hope.