May 1, 2006

When Riley was born I was a paranoid shivering wreck for those first weeks, constantly certain I was going to drop him or forget to support his floppy-ass head or allow him to choke on a giant fluff of dog hair. Remember when I told you about charting every ounce that went in or out of his body in an Excel sheet? Hoo, good times.

I think raising a baby becomes hugely less frightening when their necks strengthen a smidge and they aren’t such delicate droopy tulips; I also think there’s some invisible line you cross around 4 months where you find yourself contemplating a dropped pacifier, shrugging, blowing the visible chunks of dirt off it and plugging it back in your baby’s mouth.

Not that I, uh, ever did that. (But if I did, maybe that’s why Riley gave up the pacifier so early on! Hot Mom Tip: want to break your child of the binky habit? Try coating it with a layer of filth! Remember to boil it before rolling it on a dirty kitchen floor!)

I remember the day that I stepped into the shower while Riley was napping, and I realized that my biggest concern if he woke up and started crying wasn’t whether or not he would be upset, but rather how audible he might be outside the house. And whether or not my neighbors would call CPS if they heard my voice echoing from the bathroom vents: “For the love of CHRIST can’t I even take a FIVE MINUTE SHOWER?”

Caring for a newborn was so overwhelming and emotional and sprinkled with sleep deprivation and post-partum hormonal insanity, I think the hardest part about it was that it was so serious. Just feeding Riley was such an undertaking, all my energy poured into making sure this tiny creature was getting the nutrition he needed, and then worrying afterwards: did he get enough? Did he burp enough? Is he going to be okay on formula? What if he’s one of those milk-allergy kids who needs soy? Was that glurt of semi-digested milk just a spitup or does he have Rotavirus? Etc!

In so many ways caring for Riley is much, much more difficult today because he is starting to require actual parenting skills beyond periodically sticking a bottle in his mouth and a diaper wipe on his rear. He’s a wiggly bundle of interactivity now, and we need to nurture him and stimulate him and make sure he doesn’t grow up to be like that A.J. brat on The Sopranos.

It’s more challenging, but in my opinion there’s an immense improvement in the overall experience when you are able to respond to your child as if he were a sentient creature rather than a tiny squalling blob of new life. Just this morning I hauled Riley’s tired, cranky butt into his room where I told him he was going to take a nap, mister, and I kissed his angry head and left him to scream as though his skin was being flayed from his body, and one minute later he was snoring. The fact that I can sometimes correctly guess at what he needs, and fulfill it without being completely consumed by a fear of causing him a moment’s distress, is surprisingly rewarding to me.

(Yes, I guess I am saying that I take enjoyment from leaving my furious, screaming kid to bleat by himself in a darkened room. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, Mary Poppins.)

We are better equipped now. Every day I add a little more experience to my paltry parenting resume, and it all gets – well, the word I’m looking for isn’t easier, but maybe better. Yeah, that sounds about right: it just keeps getting better.


The boy is eight months old. Eight! I remember reading ahead in my copy of What To Expect the First Year and thinking that at month eight, Riley would be sitting, crawling, and possibly moonwalking.

Nein to all of the above, nor is he on “finger foods” just yet (all attempts to introduce this revolutionary method of eating have been met with turbo-gagging, tongue protrusion, and dismayed expressions that suggest we have placed a live cockroach in his mouth).

He is smiling and laughing more than ever, though. He loves peekaboo and if I had the stamina to continually pop my head over the tray of his highchair mugging openmouthed at him and chirping “Peekaboo! I see you!” for twelve hours in a row, I think he’d stay entertained the whole time. I do not plan to test this theory, however.

In the last couple weeks he’s started, every so often, to show fear of an object. The first time it was his stroller that scared him as I tried to yank it out of the cluttered garage, banging it loudly against a metal ladder. Next it was a plastic garbage sack that someone was snapping as they shook it out. The other day it was the vacuum as it sucked up a pebble.

This seems a momentous step for a baby. Not that I want him to be unnecessarily scared, but fear is not unhealthy – like pain, it’s a survival mechanism. Each time I’ve held him, told him it was okay, and let him touch the offending object if he wanted to. “Look at you, all cognitive and aware and stuff,” I said comfortingly after the vacuum incident. “Whose brain isn’t always made of packing material? Your brain!”

He’s started wailing more often when one of us leaves his sight, not for any particular discomfort but simply because he wants us nearby. He still gets very focused on a particular object, but he’s far more able to stay aware of everything going on around him; no more sneaking off when he’s got a toy in his lap, secure in the knowledge he won’t notice.

This weekend I bought a Baby Einstein DVD. I know some people are not big fans of these DVDs, which is awesome because without Julie’s distaste for the Einstein marketing machine she may never have been motivated to make this hilarious video.

Well, I can tell you that both Riley AND I were utterly mesmerized by the Baby Neptune Discovering Water DVD. We have watched it three times now, and Julie’s description is apt: there are plastic toys that clatter across the screen, there are weird puppets (a yellow duck in particular seemed to strangely excite the boy), there is classical music and random nature footage. It’s bizarre and compelling, and I do not mind Riley’s preoccupation with it in the least. I take comfort in the fact that I at least have been sitting next to him while it’s on; but let’s be honest here – we are the parents who have exposed Riley to both Deadwood and Project Gotham Racing.

“You know what’s diabolical about this video,” I said to JB as Riley grunted a thrilled “Uh, uh, uh!” at the duck. “It makes me kind of want to buy one of the puppets. Like this duck one, for instance.”

JB didn’t answer. He was too busy staring at the screen, which had switched to footage of a wet beaver. The man can find porn in anything, I swear to god.

So, eight months have passed and I don’t know if we’ve done everything right, I don’t even know if we’ve done the very best we can. But I think, I hope, that we’ve done pretty damn good so far.





37 Responses to “Eight months and counting”

  1. Rumblelizard on May 1st, 2006 11:31 am

    That kid looks so exactly like JB, it’s sick.

  2. kara marie on May 1st, 2006 11:34 am

    Congratulations on eight months!

    I’m a day late, but I second the baking soda down the sink proposal. I usually end up dumping a whole box down it, and strange smells seem to vanish.

    Plus it’s sort of satisfying to dump a box of something down a sink.

  3. fifi on May 1st, 2006 11:36 am

    Oh my, that picture in the knitted hat, is just beyond cute. Has Riley started to produce expressions like that regularly, or do you have to take many, many photos in order to capture gems like this?

  4. warcrygirl on May 1st, 2006 11:38 am

    That’s the funnest part of parenting; there is no “right” way to do it (as opposed to a “wrong” way, which there is), it’s all in what’s working for you and Riley. And if you do get the yellow duck puppet how long will it take before you are taking pictures of it on Riley’s head? QUACK!

  5. stephanie brown (alwaysworried) on May 1st, 2006 11:56 am

    the older he gets the more and more he looks like you and not JB! it’s crazy! but no matter which one he looks most like he is still adorable ;)

  6. Sarcastic Journalist on May 1st, 2006 12:02 pm

    I love that last picture. Eight months? Gee, I remember when he was born. He’s a beautiful boy…enjoy the last few minutes before he becomes mobile. Trust. Me.

  7. Sara on May 1st, 2006 12:03 pm

    So sweet — he is seriously cute! Lucy managed to not meet many of the physical developmental milestones “on time.” And it’s worked out fine! She just took a little longer and for that slowness (of sorts) we have been blessed with a more careful baby; there aren’t nearly as many bumbs and bruises. I also wondered if I’d be feeding her smashed banana when she turned 8, but she finally figured out how to chew those pesky finger foods. It sounds like you aren’t too worried about it though, which is great to see. And while we have managed to avoid DVDs and TV, we are not living in a Raffi-free house. Surprisingly, we are okay with this — her glee is palpable and I cannot deny her a little Bananaphone now and again (okay, daily). Thanks for the update.

  8. Emily on May 1st, 2006 12:10 pm

    I need to stop reading you, because every time I look at those photos, I swear my uterus feels more empty. Oh, and there it goes again. I can practically hear an echo.

  9. Laura on May 1st, 2006 12:13 pm

    I’m crying at that video you linked to.

  10. CartwheelsAtMidnight on May 1st, 2006 12:23 pm

    There is NO WAY he is 8 months old already. Seems like you just got home from the hospital. That post made me remember some of your first posts after he was born… Remember how wide-eyed you were? Now you’re a pro. I’d say you’re doin’ alright.

    PS – I LOVE the smile in the second photo and his expression in the third. That is one beautiful baby.

  11. jonniker on May 1st, 2006 12:28 pm

    Yes, I’d say you’re doing wonderfully. He’s amazing.

    That sweater. That face. That hood. I want.

  12. TB on May 1st, 2006 12:40 pm

    I’m not a parent, so my opinion probably doesn’t count for too much, but that last paragraph? I think that pretty much sums it up. He’s healthy and happy and beautiful and you’re doing a great job.

  13. Mama Ritchie on May 1st, 2006 12:55 pm

    A wise friend, who has two kids of his own, gave us two pieces of sage advice after we had Charlie – don’t teach him how to walk, and don’t teach him how to talk. I will add the following for you: don’t teach him how to eat solid food. First, you’ll be obsessed with the kid choking for probably the first month or so. But you’ll get over that. No, the real reason you want to avoid solids is the poop factor. Dude, you think Riley’s poo is nasty now, try changing a diaper of whole corn kernels and granola with the scent of nothing you’ve ever smelled before. It’s not human.

    Do not get caught up in those milestones (but I know that’s easier said – C’s not really talking in any language we can understand and one day I woke from a dead sleep convinced he was autistic). Riley’s right where he should be – he won’t sit until he’s ready – he won’t crawl maybe at all – and he won’t eat until that gag reflex gets all straightened out. (Yes, JB – I know – diiiiirrrrrttty). He’s perfect – he’s cuter than puppies and chickees and kitties in a basket with a yellow bow. His parents adore him. He’s right where he should be.

  14. Jessie on May 1st, 2006 12:57 pm

    Oh my goodness, that sweater is so adorable on him! It sounds like you’re doing better than I expect out of myself when I have a kid, so good job. He seems to be perfectly happy and healthy, so you must be doing at least something right.

  15. Maki on May 1st, 2006 1:07 pm

    Hey, it does keep getting better and easier. And one day you realize how much you’ve learned and think it’s time for baby number 2 and that you can handle it no problem. BIG MISTAKE ;-)

  16. bethy on May 1st, 2006 1:19 pm

    He is more and more adorable with every single post.

    You are making me want to flush my bc pills down the toilet, tales of diaper horror and all.

    And that, I think, is the prime indication that you are doing everything right.

    ::tosses bc pills and flushes::

    Darn it, Sundry. : )

  17. pippa on May 1st, 2006 1:32 pm

    OMG… the video… can’t breathe. Peed couch. Someone owes me a couch.

    I do not let Tattoo watch the lone Baby Einstein video we have. I did let her watch the one you linked. Twice.

  18. Sarah on May 1st, 2006 3:34 pm

    As one who is considering entering the fray of parenthood…..well, I think your post pushes me in that direction (although the comment about corn poop does not!). Anything with Riley’s photo, though, – definitely full force towards conception….sooo sweet!! It’s all worth it, right? The lack of sleep, the corn poop?? Looks that way! Adorable. And funny writing too. ha ha.

  19. Kristin on May 1st, 2006 6:10 pm

    That sweater (esp. with Riley inside it) is possibly the most punch-me-in-the-heart peice of baby clothing I have ever seen. The earthy colors! The pompom! The expression of contented puttering!

    I’m going to check out that Baby Einstein video. I’m pretty mesmerized by the Teletubbies, though. Have you seen that insanity? The cooing baby all surreal and trippy inside the sunshine? I wonder if the producers are all 80’s teenagers illustrating their flashbacks. Also the Australian dancing men are pretty whack. Actually, almost all kids shows are messed. Hmm.

  20. Lesley on May 1st, 2006 6:20 pm

    I don’t know if the hilarious video mocking baby einstein made me think of it (the tampon charging across the screen to the tune of popeye the sailor man) but that last photo of Riley looks just like Sweetpea.

  21. Lesley on May 1st, 2006 6:22 pm

    P.S. Linda, I don’t know if you and JB are fans of Desperate Housewives but every time I see the actor who plays Lynette’s husband I think “that guy looks like JB.” Spitting image or what?

  22. shannon on May 1st, 2006 7:10 pm

    I know what you mean about getting more sentient. Each month I say something like “she’s becoming more of a human and has more of a personality.” And I say it again the next month and it’s equally true then. My Zoe girl is 7 months this Friday and I have a feeling that the second six months is totally where it’s at. She’s getting so gosh darned fun to be around. If anyone told me babies were this fun I would have had one when I was 14. Oh wait, no I wouldn’t. :)

  23. Anna on May 1st, 2006 8:03 pm

    Well, ok. Can I just say that I am fantasising about being at the stage that you are at with Riley.
    Today I had my first scan and found out that I am 6weeks and 5days preggers (isn’t it out of this world that they can be this exact with dates?!?!?!) and I feel like shit. YOu see I have had a bad case of the morning sickness horrors for the last 2 weeks. So anyways, yeah, like everyone else says, very cute pics. And by the way any ideas on how to combat my sonic 2000 morning sickness are very welcome….

  24. Pete on May 1st, 2006 8:29 pm

    I was looking at the walker and thinking sensory overload. Riley is starting to look a lot like… Riley. Really a good looking kid.

  25. Sonia(DDM) on May 1st, 2006 9:15 pm

    Exploding ovaries up in here! Thanks Sundry. Hmphf. Riley is…delicious.

  26. Susie on May 1st, 2006 9:54 pm

    My son is almost nine months old, and just yesterday decided that he would open his mouth to a spoon (that it contained ice cream is irrelevant, I swear) and eat up. Today, I tried again with mashed bananas, and Hosanna!, there was repeated success.

    Sometimes, these little yard apes are quite stubborn. They’ll do when they’re good and ready, dammit! hee!

  27. Robin on May 1st, 2006 10:35 pm

    Being in my thirties when my child was born, I didn’t sweat the milestones either. My Walker (his name, not a description) was a chubby baby (and that’s being polite). So many people said “I’ll bet you’ll be glad when he can walk”, I just started beating them to the punch and saying it myself.

    All jokes aside, Walker sat up late, crawled late and walked right on time, despite my DIScouragement. Once they get going, see, they don’t stop. and I comforted myself with the fact that I never saw a chld crawling to kindergarten or wearing diapers to first grade. Sure enough, that timetable in HIS mind, not Dr. Spocks, or whoever wrote that damn “What to Expect” book, clicked in right when it was supposed to and he walked and he talked and he ate and all was good. Without any special pushing from Mom or Dad. Honestly, I never tried to make him walk at all, but he did.

    Now the kid is eight and, at last testing, read as if he were 14. It’s all in there and it will come out, whether we try or not. I’m not advocating neglect, but I think you know what I mean. Sweating the small stuff is just that. Love is what matters with these little guys and you all have that in abundance. It does not, however, make me want to do it again. I just like watching from the sidelines.

    Happy days, Sundry, you deserve them!


  28. My Spin on May 1st, 2006 10:43 pm

    You and JB do great work. Trust me when I say this — you are going to turn around one day like I did and you will be walking your child into his first day of school. And you are going to sob your eyes out.

    We too got sucked in and watched all of the damn Baby Einstein DVD’s:) Just wait until the Wiggles are a hit. If I hear “Fruit Salad” one more time, I am going to vomit.

  29. Jo on May 2nd, 2006 3:00 am

    You will soon be receiving a very hefty hospital bill for the treatment i now need after seeing that last photo. My heart burst RIGHT OPEN!

  30. Stormy on May 2nd, 2006 3:20 am

    “Look at you, all cognitive and aware and stuff.”


  31. Emblita on May 2nd, 2006 5:10 am

    You know, looking at pictures of Reilly make me look forward to having this little boy I’m carrying instead of sulking over all the pretty dresses I can’t buy…. He is so adorable. And I think that the best advice to anyone, whatever they are doing, but particularily with kids is ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ Thanks for reminding us all of that.

  32. Trance on May 2nd, 2006 7:15 am

    That picture in the sweater and the hat is the cutest fucking thing I have ever seen.

  33. RubyLemon on May 2nd, 2006 7:46 am

    You won’t know just how great you’re doing until you hear Riley say to his wife “We’re doing it this way because that’s how my mom did it and it was great”. Talk about your heart breaking wide open! I was the worst mom, evah. Really. I have a recording of my son telling me, and all the world, that very fact. But truly, I did everything wrong, except I loved him. And, apparently, they know this and it makes everything else you do just fine. Since you’ve got that part down, you’re right on the money.

  34. Annie on May 2nd, 2006 10:17 am

    He gets cuter every post. Love the sweater.

    You want mesmerizing videos? Check out the VeggieTales. Big, primary colored veggies with giant eyes. A moral to every story. Some based on biblical tales, some not. We saw them while babysitting for a friend before we had our son. Even my husband got sucked into watching. Plus, a silly song in every video.

    The milestones are just general guidelines. If you needed to worry, some highly paid, medical professional would let you know. Just keep having fun with him and enjoy every minute. Any kid that smiley is just fine.

  35. Niki P. on May 3rd, 2006 12:25 pm

    Yup. This is the point where we said, “Wouldn’t it be great to give him a brother or sister?”

  36. Kristen V. on May 8th, 2006 11:07 am

    I recommend the They Might Be Giants DVD “Here Come the ABCs.” has a CD/DVD combo for around $13, so you can listen to it in the car, too.

  37. Allan Tyson on January 14th, 2007 2:18 am

    Google is the best search engine

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