Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ah, the lengths to which we mothers will go.

Things I was told to consume in order to ensure a good milk supply for my breastfed baby:
  • Fenugreek (extract or tea)
  • Beer
  • Ovaltine
  • Plenty of water
  • Rice porridge made with pigs' feet ("Not just the foot joints," says my Vietnamese grandmother helpfully. "The, you know, hoof, too.")

Things on this list I found to be helpful:

  • None. (But, to be fair, I didn't try the beer idea.)

Things I actually found helpful:

  • A good night's sleep.

Number of nights in the last eight months I've achieved a good night's sleep:

  • Two. (Sigh.)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I was going to include a picture, but I ate the thing too fast.

Dear universe,

I thought we were friends. I thought we'd been straight with each other. My entire life, we've had an understanding: I don't predict the future, and you don't get between me and my chocolate. It was a good system. It worked. I was happy, you were happy, we both got what we wanted.

Which brings me to my main point. You've been holding out on me, universe. For the last 32 or so years, you've kept the Pizookie a secret. And even when I went out to eat a few times with my husband or a girlfriend at BJ's Brewhouse and Restaurant, and heard the word for the first time, I thought, "Ooooh, weird word. I don't want to eat it if I can't figure out from hearing it what it is." But that was your chance, universe. That was your golden opportunity to step in and set the record straight on what the Pizookie was, and what it could do for me.

But you didn't. It was only within the last couple months or so that I happened to catch sight of a magical dish at BJ's -- as a server marched past me, I caught a whiff of what could only be described as the smell of a freshly-baked cookie. And I wondered. A cookie? At a brewery and upscale eatery? How rustic. How unpretentious. How not what I expected. I couldn't possibly be smelling a warm chocolate chip cookie. No way.

But further investigation of the menu and a long discussion with the waitstaff disabused me of my erroneous assumptions. Not only was BJ's offering me a freshly-baked cookie, universe, it was offering me one served warm in a small deep-dish pizza pan, in a variety of flavors, topped with cold ice cream. And as I tried to decide which flavor to order, the waiter told me -- wonder of wonders -- "If you can't decide, ma'am, you can always choose a Pizookie that's a half-and-half, so you can sample two flavors in the same dessert."

What an embarrassment of riches, universe! What a complete genius decision on the part of the kitchen!! My waiter was sent forth with an order to bring me, immediately, a Pizookie that was half chocolate chunk cookie, half white chocolate macadamia nut cookie. Warm. From. The. Oven. 

And so he did. And as my spoon sunk through bite after bite of chewy cookie and cold, melty ice cream, my heart overflowed with both joy and sadness. For this magnificent dessert was all I could ask a dessert to be, and yet it would have to eventually end. And also, universe, I had waited 32 long years before tasting it at all. All those birthdays spent not eating Pizookies! All those formal dances in high school not ending up at the Brewhouse for "dessert only, please"! All those boyfriend break-ups in college drowned in run-of-the-mill grocery store ice cream! The tragedy of it still wrenches my heart.

That's why, universe, it will be some time before I can trust you again. For if you've kept the Pizookie from me for so long, what else have you been keeping to yourself? Mashed potatoes with butter that make you lose weight? A new form of hardcover books that, once read, give you the equivalent calorie-burn of a five-mile run? If you're keeping these things from me, universe, you can consider our friendship over.

Think long and hard about it before you betray me again.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

And can I just say ...

Jim and Pam make me so happy. 

I KNEW he was going to propose.

The many faces of boy

Dear boy,

You're eight months old today, and if I've learned anything from you over the better part of a year, I've learned to try to capture every little detail about you as well as I can, because you have a way of changing the game on us nearly on a daily basis. And so I thought I'd record a few of your most recent expressions and accomplishments, because by this time next week you're likely to be driving or dating or something, and I don't want to forget anything. 

What's new with you, you ask? These days, you're sitting up, and looking pretty proud of yourself when you do. You're belly-crawling everywhere, rapidly and with great enthusiasm. You've started pulling up on objects that we put in your path. You've got two tiny (and extremely sharp) teeth right in the middle of your lower gums, which you apply to every single non-food item you can get your hands on. (Strangely enough, when we hand you actual food, you never once attempt to get it into your face. An enigma, that's what you are.) And you spend your days talking unceasingly. None of it makes sense, mind you, but you are very dedicated in your vocalizations. 

One of my favorite things about you is your incredible expressiveness. For such a little face, it showcases so many different feelings.

Your daddy claims that when you learn to talk, he's going to sit you down and ask you, "what the heck were you thinking, all those times?" I'll admit to being curious myself, but I figure all we're going to get is what's showing on the front of your head, not what's running through it, so I'll enjoy what you're willing to share. 

I know you won't remember these days. So I'll have to remember them for both of us. Here's what I wish you could keep with you, though.
  • The knowledge that your daddy misses you so much while he's at work that he makes me send him pictures of you throughout any given work day. When he and I used to talk on the phone, we'd end conversations with a quick "I love you." Now, before he hangs up, he says, "I-love-you-send-pictures."
  • The joy you take in simple outings. Even going to SuperTarget or the grocery store makes you so happy right now, because there's always something new to see.
  • The glee with which you watch kids and cars. When we take walks around the neighborhood, I always know that seeing other kids playing will get you keyed up. You shout from your stroller, "Day! DAAAAAAAY!" as if to say, "Hey, lemme play, too!" And when cars drive past us, you always whip your head around to watch them until they're out of sight. 
  • The way you have of making people smile. Whether they're strangers at the bank or your grandfather and great-grandparents, people are riveted by you and your many faces. You have brought so much light to so many people already, just in eight months. Your name means "little blessing," which your daddy and I didn't know until we'd already picked it, but it's absolutely perfect for you.
Sweet boy, your daddy and I have already taken over 1600 photographs of you in the last eight months. And I don't think a single one of them shows the same expression. I am so amazed by you, in awe of who you are. I love getting to know more of you every day, and I can't wait to see what the next month brings. 

I love you, son.
Your mommy

I'll just keep cringing alone, thanks.

In the spirit of Cringe, I dug up my old journals and read through them eagerly, trying to find something truly embarrassing to post here as an example of the melodrama of my personal hell. And really -- there was plenty. But the thing is, it's so very awful that I still can't contemplate sharing. 

What I did find, though, amidst the angst and pathos, was honesty. It was heavy and dark, and often self-indulgent, but it was real. And I found, surprisingly, that I was a better writer in college than I am now. That realization cost my pride more than a little bit. After college and grad school, I spent almost ten years as a professional writer and consultant before deciding to take my days in a new direction -- and to think that my writing actually didn't improve over that time stings. I'll rationalize it by assuming that my technical writing got really good, and my personal writing suffered from a lack of attention, and that may help me sleep tonight, but still -- ouch. 

I was particularly surprised to be reminded by my journals how angry I was. I wasted a great deal of time and energy spilling my anger onto the pages of journals, bathing the paper with sweeping passes of ink, the spiral-bound pages scored deeply with the force of my words. If I could go back to that girl and tell her anything at all, I would want her to know that all of her rage would make her suffer more than she needed to. And that if she could let go and forgive, even if she was still angry, she would be doing the lion's share of the work necessary to become truly happy. Because, after all, forgiveness isn't a choice you make one time. You make it every day -- you continue to forgive constantly, you choose it again and again. And sometimes just getting started is the hardest part.

There was a time when I felt that the quality of my personal writing was directly related to how unhappy I was, as if the formula read, discontent = inspiration. Or, misery = brilliance. I see now that that's not the case. But I can finally say, today, that even if it was -- even if I had to choose between being unhappy and a great writer, and happy and someone who could not define herself as a writer -- I'd give up the words in a heartbeat. 

It's not even a contest anymore.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Boy seeks employment

Boy's been working on his resume, apparently.

Objective: To obtain a position working for new management, as the current management and I do not see eye to eye on a variety of issues (including but not limited to night scheduling and the frequency of snack breaks).

Qualifications: Eight months of on-the-job training. 

Skills: Ability to process multiple diapers a day. Ability to bang kitchen utensils on high chair tray while eating. Ability to stop strangers in their tracks to smile and chat with me. Ability to climb over various holding facilities improvised by current management. 

Advanced skills: Highly developed sense of the location of every lamp cord, phone jack, plastic bag, dead bug, pair of shoes and dust ball in any given room. 

Skills I wish to develop: Standing, walking, speaking. Current method of locomotion (belly crawling) effective but limiting. Current methods of communication (gurgling, cooing, laughing, crying, screaming) highly attention-getting but not consistently interpreted in the correct manner.

Pay requirements: Undivided attention a must. Meals on demand preferred, but will consider scheduled meals if frequency of meals is agreeable. Organic foods only (i.e., must be personally manufactured on-site by one of the members of management, as per my current situation).

Contact information: I can be reached in my crib in the upstairs bedroom. I am only there for limited amounts of time each evening and for short bursts of time at a stretch, so advance notice is appreciated. Please see my current management, who also act as my social secretaries, to book an appointment.

I appreciate your consideration.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Do they even make baby hair gel?

As happens to many babies, boy's birth hair has mostly fallen out, to be replaced with what my husband and I refer to collectively as the "spikey mikeys" (see photo if you're curious why). The spikey mikeys are cute and fluffy and resist all attempts to be corralled. They stand up proudly, like it's Super Bowl Sunday and the national anthem is playing, and I love to try to either suppress them (they always spring upright, but in a gentle, nonconfrontational kind of way) or smooth them even higher into a little baby faux-hawk. Which has never worked either.

The other day, I noticed that there are maybe two or three hairs that are significantly longer than their peers. I figure that they're the sole survivors of the hair that boy was born with, and they've stuck it out and hung on, and so they've outpaced all the other downies on his skull. And while I know I should trim them so that they don't tickle his forehead, I can't bring myself to do it. I keep thinking I don't want to punish them for hanging in there.

And now I know what it's like to literally love every hair on somebody's head. 

Saturday, September 20, 2008

One more reason why I love my mother



"Seriously, mom, I hate myself."

"Why, dear?"

"Because. Also, I didn't work out today."

"Well ... you'll work out tomorrow."

"No, I won't. I'm great at wanting and meaning to. But I suck at actually doing it. And, I ate three cookies in ten minutes."

"That's ok. They're small."

"Not that small. Those add up. And now there's only one left and it's taunting me."

"You don't have to eat it."

"I know that, mom. I know I don't have to eat it. The problem is, I want to eat it. I should put the package back in the pantry so I can't see it. But I really want it."

"Well, really ... what's the point of putting away one cookie?"

[Pause.] "I love you, mom."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Trembling with more than the cold

Irrational fears I used to have, in connection with bathrooms:
  • That there was a frog or an alligator in the sewer system that would swim out and bite me on the tush.
  • That any photograph of a person's face was watching me pee (I always had to turn the TV Guides over to lay on their covers).
  • That there was a murderer hiding behind the shower curtain.
  • That a face would suddenly appear in the darkened window, terrifying me as I showered at night.
  • That there was a roach. Anywhere.

Of flesh and blood, I'm made ...

Bad habits I'll own up to:
  • I usually eat the last cookie.
  • Before boy was born, I was one of those annoying people who hit the snooze button.  A LOT.
  • I don't always wash my face before bedtime.
  • I hate flossing.
  • I believe that complete stops at stop signs are for wimps. (But I always buckle up.)
  • I have a lead foot.
  • As many of you know, I am HORRIBLE about sending timely thank-you notes. (Sorry. That's in no way a reflection of how grateful I actually am.)
  • I am completely happy to go to bed with dishes in the sink.
  • I dog-ear book pages. (This is a recent development.)
  • I will confess to turning on Sesame Street to amuse boy when I need to take a quick 10-minute shower. (I know. I've become that woman.)
  • I am a lifelong procrastinator. (None of you who knew me in college will be surprised to hear this.)

One neurotic obsession at a time, I guess.

We bought this contraption for boy about two months ago. It's big and colorful and it required some assembly, and now we have to edge around it in our family room. Officially, it's called a jumper, and that's what it's supposed to do -- help your kid work off some steam by allowing him to jump in one place for long stretches of time, well before he can actually stand by himself. Great in theory.

In practice, however, we might as well have just called it a "stander," since that's what boy has done a great deal of. Standing. Sure, he played with the toys a bit. And yes, the music on this device is actually not quite so mind-stupefyingly annoying as the music on other ones, so, you know, score. But really, we might just as well have thrown four twenties on the floor and stood the kid on them, for all the good this thing was doing.

Which made me think: how do you teach a kid to jump? We tried putting him in it and jumping in front of him. That just made him giggle. We tried moving his little legs for him. That just made him annoyed. We tried pushing on the seat itself to make it move up and down, thinking he'd "get it" from there. That just made his neck look even wobblier than it already did. We tried exclaiming the word "jump!" helpfully and often. And I'm pretty sure that just made him confused. 
For that matter (and more importantly): how do you teach your kid anything at all? If we can't convey a simple verb like "jump" to the poor boy, what about the tougher and more abstract verbs, like "think" and "try?" And if those seem hard, how can we hope to ever communicate what kindness, compassion, thoughtfulness and grace are? 

There's nothing like having a baby to make you realize just how much you don't know. All we can do is muddle through and hope for the best. Besides, the kid shows promise. Just two days ago, he started jumping in the thing all by himself.

Maybe there's hope for all of us yet. 

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Throwback toy: Nesting/stacking cups

Remember these? Boy loves 'em.

"You tryin' to sneak up on my cups?"

"Um, a little help?"

"Cups: The perfect toy during mealtimes. Four out of five babies agree!"

"If only I had the fine motor skills to stack them up myself. I usually wait for mom to do it. But she makes it tough on me when she does. After all, they're not going to knock themselves down."

Friday, September 12, 2008

Boy weighs in

Today's post is brought to you by guest-blogger: Boy. Since he's featured so prominently throughout the blog, I thought he might enjoy speaking directly to you.

My top five favorite things, ever (or, so far, anyway):
  • Ceiling fans. So, they turn. Fast. And it gets all breeze-y, and my downy hair fluffs up. Plus, they make a pleasant sound that I like to impersonate (see photo of me going "hoooooooo.").
  • Bath time. There's this thing I do where I take my hand and I smack the wet stuff really hard. Aaaaaaand it goes everywhere. I love that.
  • Dad coming home from work. That guy knows how to play, with a capital pluh.
  • When people chase me. Sometimes dad holds me and I look over his shoulder, and mom walks up behind us really fast. Gah, that kills me.
  • When stuff rocks suddenly from side to side. I cannot even tell you how hilarious that is.
My top five least favorite things:
  • Hats. Super-lame. Mom loves to put 'em on me, more's the pity.
  • Going to bed. Dude. I LOVE PLAYING. Why is that so hard for them to get? What's so cool about sleeping, anyway? Stupid bedtime. When I grow up I'm NEVER going to bed.
  • Peas. They make me gag. After a lot of gagging, I think I finally convinced mom to quit feeding them to me. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that the last time I had squash, there was a little something extra mixed in. That woman's good.
  • When mom walks out of the room. Geez, I really hate that. And you'd think by now she would have picked up on it. Sometimes, she's not so quick.
  • When mom cleans out my nose. Um, excuse me? Those were mine. And I wanted to keep them. Just put down that blue rubber bulb-y thing and step back, already.


Things that, when you're sick, you swear to yourself you'll do once you get better:
  • Work out
  • Appreciate breathing through both nostrils
  • Stop eating junk food
  • Be grateful for having a job to go to
  • Thank your spouse for taking care of you
Number of items on this list you actually do once recovered:


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Or maybe Dumbledore will loan me his Pensieve

I've been blessed with a pretty good memory. Ask me what my third grade teacher's name was (Mrs. Leach), or what the opening lyrics were to the "Perfect Strangers" theme song ("Sometimes the world looks perfect / nothing to rearrange ... "), or my least favorite opera-day on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood was ("Bubbleland", with the opening number voiced by Francoise Clemens). While it's handy for things like Trivial Pursuit, sometimes I get the feeling that my brain's getting cluttered. There are, after all, things I'd be happy to forget, such as:
  • The day of the kindergarten Christmas program, when my stick containing stapled bells suddenly became unstapled in the middle of a vigorous rendition of "Jingle Bells". With true presence of mind, I continued to shake the empty stick, but I wasn't so naive that I could ignore the chuckles of the audience members.
  • The first day of second grade (at a new school) when I cleared the classroom by losing my lunch all over my desk. That's a powerful way to get yourself some privacy. And no friends.
  • The time in fifth grade when I fell in the school cafeteria, right into a puddle of orange soda, which stained my white outfit for the rest of the day.
  • The first day of sixth grade when I carried a full tray of cafeteria food down a crowded aisle of seated students, only to have one wave her arms at just the right (or, wrong, really) moment and knock my meal all over the place. (Happy ending -- she ended up being one of my dearest friends after that inauspicious beginning, and even occasionally reads this blog. Hey, girl, call me.)
  • The lyrics to Richard Marx's "Hazard."
  • Spiderman 3.
  • Morning sickness.
  • Everything I wore from the year 1986 through 1991.
The thing that worries me is that these and other extremely forgettable memories will infringe on the stuff I never, ever want to lose. And there are many of them.
  • My gramma's voice, especially when she sang Christmas carols.
  • My grampa's laugh, almost silent but with much shoulder-shaking.
  • The way my mom's hugs feel like she completely enfolds you in her embrace, even now that I'm taller than she is.
  • My husband's repeated whispering of the single phrase, "you're my wife" after our wedding ceremony, like it was too good to be true.
  • My dad calling my husband "son" for the first time and giving him an enormous hug after we got married.
  • My son's first cry, and immediately after that, the break in my husband's voice when he said, "that's our baby."
  • The maniacal giggle my son gets when he's being carried, and he's looking over that person's shoulder, and you pretend you're going to get 'im.
Maybe Apple, in all their genius-ness, will come up with a way to back up my personal memory. I'd spend a lot of money on that baby.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A greeting to age 33

Dear age 33,

I like you already. Today has brought a trip to Starbucks, an afternoon spent with family and a few dear friends, my mother's homemade lasagna, TWO birthday cakes with chocolate in them (one of which was my favorite chocolate chip angel food cake), a stack of NEW BOOKS to read and several gift certificates that AREN'T to Babies'R'Us. (In other words, those little plastic talismans of retail delight are all about mommy and not baby. Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

You know how to make a good first impression. And I'm thinking you and I will get along just fine.

The birthday girl

Friday, September 05, 2008

An open letter to age 32

Dear age 32,

Well, this is it -- the last night you and I will spend together. We've been together a while (almost a year, strangely enough), and before we part ways for good, I wanted to lay some things on the line.

You've given me a great deal to remember you by -- the third trimester of pregnancy, labor pains, and the birth of my son, most remarkably. On the whole, you've brought me some of the most vivid and unforgettable experiences of my life, and I'm grateful. I *will* say, though, that since the boy's arrival, you've neglected to provide me with as much sleep as I used to get from, say, ages 28 and 29. So I'm chalking that one up in the "could have been better" column, but still -- I don't mean to sound ungrateful.

Before you go, I do have one bone to pick with you. I was always given to understand that along with your arrival, I'd be getting wiser, gaining insight and knowledge heretofore reserved for the most sage women around. And I have to say -- not so much. I thought by now, I'd have a lot more figured out -- like my true professional calling, or how to perfectly balance being in the moment with planning for the future. I thought, too, that I'd use this time with you more wisely to get into what I seriously wrote in a journal to be "the best shape of my life." And, um, to put it lightly, no. Unless "soft" is a shape.

In a few key areas, then, age 32, you just didn't deliver what I thought you'd promised. You remind me of that guy I dated in grad school who wanted to give me a string of freshwater pearls for my birthday. (Let me point out, age 32, that it was his idea and not mine.) We talked about the size of the pearls I liked -- we compared freshwater with cultured pearls -- we discussed strand length. We planned out exactly the kind of accessory that would suit me and my existing wardrobe perfectly, leaning more toward Jackie O. than Barbara Bush, of course -- and on my birthday, I unwrapped not the perfect pearl necklace I had come to anticipate with guilty avarice, but a green ceramic dolphin. The guy explained he hadn't been able to find the perfect necklace after all, and nothing short would do, and really, things were kind of tough and he couldn't quite swing it right now after all ... all of which I understood very well, and was truly sympathetic to -- but I just didn't get why the hell was I getting a ceramic dolphin, then? Age 32, you know I do not collect ceramics, have no particular affinity for dolphins, and don't even consider green to be my favorite color. So I was first surprised, then confused, then disappointed and hurt -- but what did I do? I smiled and like a moron acted like it was the best damn ceramic dolphin ever. Really, I love it. No, don't feel bad -- I know exactly where I'll put it at home. 

Anyway, age 32, I digress, but the point is that you, too, promised a few things that you didn't end up coming through with. But this time around, it really is ok. Because what you delivered, you delivered in a big way, and it more than made up for the wisdom I didn't obtain and the jeans size I didn't reach. And I'll admit, too, that along with the baby's arrival, you brought me a sense of deeper connection to my family and to other mothers than I ever thought possible. Besides, I hear you and age 33 are pretty close -- and I figure you wanted to leave a few things for age 33 to give me.

So farewell, my friend. Thank you for the last painful, difficult, sleep-deprived, glorious year. Thank you for the first smile, the first feeding of rice cereal, the first time boy said "da-da." Thank you for the quiet moments spent with the two most amazing men in my life -- the boy and his daddy. Thank you for the hours we've passed laughing in delight at our family antics -- crawling on the floor, splashing in the tub, blowing bubbles on a baby's perfect belly. Thank you for the way you've made my heart feel so full that my chest is tight with joy and it's hard to breathe. 

Age 33's got a lot to live up to.

The almost-birthday girl

Thursday, September 04, 2008

It starts.

Today, Boy got his hands on a number of contraband items, which I had to wrestle away from him. Here's how various confrontations were resolved:

Boy crawled over to his diaper caddy and wrangled a bottle of baby lotion out of it, commencing chewing. I removed it from his hands. He crawled away and began to play with an actual toy quite happily.

Boy crawled over to the power cord for a floor lamp. I picked him up and turned him
in another direction. He crawled away, once again perfectly content.

Boy found the universal remote lying on the floor and eagerly pounced on it. I took it from him. BOY BEGAN TO SCREAM. IN ALL CAPS. It was REALLY LOUD, I tell you.

I am now outnumbered. Also, doomed. 

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

I mean, it's a backlit keyboard, for Pete's sake.

After he ate a sandwich and chips for dinner, my husband moved toward my new MacBook. As he reached for it, I leaped into action.

"Did you wash your hands yet?"
[Beat.] "Are you serious?"
"Well ... yeah. I mean, you had Cheetos."
"My hands are fine, honey."
"Please. Just do it."

Whether or not he actually did it is not important. What's sad is that ... I don't even do that to him when he reaches for the baby anymore. [Sigh. With a head shake.] 

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

And the migration continues

This post courtesy of my new MacBook Pro. (Thank you, husband!)

First an iPhone, now a MacBook ... the delight never ceases.

I'm still figuring it all out. Switching from the PC world to the Apple world is not without its pains and discomforts ... but so very TOTALLY worth it.

Bear with me. Must ... not ... stay ... up ... till ... 3 a.m. .... playing ... with ... MacBook ...