From May of 2006 until December of 2007, I wrote a blog at ClubMom.com called Purple Is a Fruit. It’s long gone, but several years ago I exported all the entries from Typepad. The file is just one huge text dump, comments and all, and I kind of forgot all about it until I recently re-discovered it on an old laptop.

While I doubt this wall of words will be interesting to anyone but me — there’s no good way to navigate the bazillions of entries, there are all sorts of image references and links that no longer work, and half of what made this blog fun was the comments which aren’t included here (but oh, it was neat to re-read them! So many familiar names, so many great answers to all my inane questions!) — I’m so glad I have this little archive of life as a new parent. And as a newly pregnant person (I blurted the news on 06/27/2007, when I was all of seven weeks along.) When I read these entries, it seems like it was so long ago — and also, like, yesterday.

TITLE: Introductions and too many dingo references
DATE: 05/10/2006 02:39:29 PM

When I applied for this ClubMom blogging gig, I described myself as a bumbling, inexperienced new parent navigating the trenches of caring for a young baby. “Seriously, I have no idea what I’m doing!” I wrote. “I’m a total idiot and it’s a miracle my child hasn’t fallen down a well or been ravaged by wild dingos! In fact, I haven’t seen him in hours!”

Okay, I didn’t say that exactly, but my pitch sort of hinged on the notion that my parenting skills are being formed as I go, which is to say that anyone reading this blog should be able to take comfort in the fact that there’s at least one person out there in the universe who is more clueless than they are at this motherhood business.

Hi! Nice to meet you, consider the bar officially lowered.

Now that the time has come to actually start this blog, it seems kind of, well, embarrassing to continue my claim of ignorance, being as how my son is over eight months old. I mean, I have learned an enormous amount over these last months; for instance, I now know how to hold two kicking feet in an impenetrable pincer grip with one hand while mining for hidden poop-shrapnel with the other, and that definitely seems like an accomplishment of sorts.

In all truthfulness, there are times when I think I’m pretty good at this new job of mine, that while it’s about a hundred thousand times harder than any job I’ve had before, the side benefits can’t be beat. There are times when Riley shines his sweetly demented baby grin at me and I can hardly keep myself from exploding into a million flying Cupid-arrows of pure love and happiness; it’s barely containable, I want everyone to know how joyful I am.

Of course, there are also times when I wonder how hard it would be to assemble an authentic medieval trebuchet for the purpose of launching a small boy into the stratosphere.

I guess that’s really what this blog will be about: everyday life with a baby, the head-spinning highs and lows that change from minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day. For some of you, I’m guessing this will be familiar territory (if that’s the case, I ask that you tell me how in GOD’S NAME to wipe a baby’s mouth without triggering World War Frigging Three because damn, kid, it’s just a washcloth, not a cheese grater); for others, maybe you’re an amateur at this like me. Or maybe you just like to laugh at other people’s folly (“Ha! I can’t believe she uses a washcloth!”). At any rate, I’ll be posting here several times a week, and I hope you join me.

Now, however, duty calls, in the form of a baby who is issuing forth some angry bleats from his crib. I suppose I should make sure one of the dingos isn’t bothering him.

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TITLE: At least he won’t get scurvy
DATE: 05/11/2006 08:55:17 AM

We first gave Riley solid food when he was four months old. All the books said we could try rice cereal at that stage, so one evening I mixed up a batch of slimy beige goo and we had a grand time poking a tentative rubberized spoontip onto his mouth and laughing heartily at his confusion. Despite my phobia about pictures of children with food smeared on their faces (this is the one kids-related subject over which my opinion has not changed one whit since spawning my own precious bundle, and oh my god, don’t even talk to me about toddlers and spaghetti), I actually photographed the moment to forever capture Riley’s suspicious, partially cross-eyed gaze as he tried to look directly into his own mouth in order to figure out what in the HELL was going on.

We eventually progressed from rice cereal to the jarred baby foods, and now at eight months old he eagerly devours multiple servings of Gerber Organics per day.

However, the fly in my ointment is this: he really likes fruit, but feed the boy a single, solitary vegetable and you’d think he was being forced to eat a live Madagascar hissing cockroach. I mean, the expression of dismay that washes over his little face – he looks like a Mr. Yuck sticker.

I had people tell me not to feed him fruit. “Don’t feed him fruit!” they cried, clutching their pearls and heaving little bosomy pants. “Doooon’t feed him fruit or he’ll never eat his vegetables!”

Pah, I thought, and shoveled another jar of strained bananas into my child’s willing mouth, forever sealing the fate of his tastebuds and probably depriving him of essential nutrients and causing all kinds of permanent damage such as the inability to convert fractions into decimals and NOOOOOO WHAT HAVE I DONE.

Apparently Riley is at an age where he should be “eager” to try finger foods. I would be more inclined to believe this if his reaction to a moistened Cheerio would have been a smidge more positive than rolling his eyes back into his head Exorcist-style and launching into a horrific gagging/choking attack that had both his parents lunging in his direction and simultaneously thrusting their hands elbow-deep into his mouth in order to remove the offending item.

So I guess I’m wondering, is it okay for a baby to eat mostly pureed fruit? Or should I buy a beer bong and pump him full of corn like a foie-gras-fattened goose?

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TITLE: In all this world there is nothing else real and abiding
DATE: 05/14/2006 12:07:02 PM

For a long time after I had tipped to the whole Claus Conspiracy — as in yes, Virginia, he exists as love and beauty and fa-la-la-la-la-la-sticks, but as an actual dude with a beard, not so much — my mom continued to put gifts out on Christmas morning addressed to me “From: Santa”.

I always enjoyed that pleasant fiction; the raised hands and smiling protestations when I thanked her (“Thank Santa!”). The veil covering the unseen world mentioned in the famous Yes, Virginia letter; that was each and every tag written in her handwriting with Santa’s name on it.

I hadn’t thought of that in years, until I picked up my boy from daycare last Thursday and his teachers gave me an elaborate card with “Happy Mother’s Day 2006” written on the front and “I love you! Riley” on the back.

“Well, gosh,” I said, turning it over in my hands. Someone with experience in cake adornment or scrapbooking or some other godforsaken craft that involves the minute application and adjustment of all sorts of decorative doohickeys had clearly spent a lot of time on this card; it’s festooned with foam stickers and curling ribbons and evenly spaced punch-holes. A treacly little rhyme is printed on the inside, flanked by a printed digital photo of Riley’s smiling face. The whole cardboard monstrosity is mired in a pool of glue on a paper plate.

My first Mother’s Day card! I sort of thought I might start crying.

“Thank you,” I said. “That was so nice of you guys.” The teachers in the infant room smiled and raised their hands and said it was from Riley.

I took that ugly-ass card home and propped it right on my kitchen counter, and every time I catch sight of it I swoop Riley up in my arms and smoosh his face with kisses and tell him thank you, thank you, thank you.

Some people find Mother’s Day offensive ‚– because we should always appreciate mothers, because a special day devalues the rest of the year during which mothers do all that mothering, because, well, we can hardly take a step without trodding on someone’s ruffled feathers these days. Personally, I think it’s like that pleasant fiction, that covering veil, the ‘romance to make tolerable this existence’. What elevates you, just for a moment, above what is right in front of your face? What reminds you of life’s love and bounty?

Today, for me, it’s a piece of cardboard. It’s not really from my boy, but it makes me happy.

Happy Mother’s Day.

——–

TITLE: Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?
DATE: 05/15/2006 10:35:00 AM

This past weekend my husband and I went on our first adults-only overnight vacation since Riley was born last August. In the weeks leading up to our trip, I power-worried about leaving Riley: what if we missed him too much? What if he missed us? What if while we were gone he said his first word, started walking, and learned how to perfectly caramelize the top of a creme brulée with a propane torch? What if our leaving him on this particular weekend made the critical difference between him growing up to be a sunny, smiling child who enjoys wholesome sports and helping old ladies across the street, or the sort of boy who methodically grinds very bad words into the top of his school desk with the pointy edge of a protractor?

Originally our plan was to fly to Vegas for three nights; at the last minute we switched everything around to visit Victoria, BC instead, for one night only. I reasoned that the shorter trip would minimize the amount of time I would spend weeping softly into my shirtsleeve, doodling “Mommy loves Riley Bear” on little scraps of paper, and speed-dialing my mother’s house to remind her that propane torches were dangerous, and what do you mean he just took his first steps?

I was so sure that I would be overwhelmed by missing my baby that it was hard at first to identify the warm sensation flooding my entire body as we boarded the ferry to Victoria. Was I feverish? Hungry? Gassy? What?

Oh. That would be freedom. The sweet, glorious feeling of freedom, of unfettered selfishness, the unburdened joy of not having to offer up bottles or games or diaper changes or anything for 24 beautiful hours.

My husband JB and I wallowed in our son’s absence. We checked into the hotel and promptly took a nap, right in the middle of the day. We ate long, leisurely meals. We went where we wanted to go, when we wanted to.

Holy crap, it was bliss. Sheer bliss.

I missed Riley in the abstract. “Wouldn’t it be great if Riley was here,” I yawned at one point, stretching in the hotel’s unbelievably comfortable bed. “Like, just for a second.” JB agreed. “Yeah. But the second he started fussing…” “Poof,” I said.

It turns out Riley did just fine without us, too. No separation anxiety for this baby, he happily adjusted to a new household and new faces and probably forgot all about the two people who have been held fast in his gravitational orbit for the last eight months. And because if the guilt doesn’t get you as you walk in the door, it kicks you in the ass as you leave, I can’t help wondering if it’s a bad thing that we did so well without each other (that’s right, I don’t just look at the gift horse’s teeth, I inspect the entire freaking alimentary system). Does it mean we haven’t bonded enough? Shouldn’t there have been more tears, more garment-rending, more general upset?

I don’t know, but I can’t deny this fact: as happy as I was to have my boy back in my arms, I’d drop him off again in a heartbeat. A year ago I never would have guessed at the soul-quenching qualities of an occasional afternoon nap, a fifteen-minute shower, a coffee ordered and consumed somewhere other than the drive-through Starbucks — but now I understand their value, and by god, I place it above the future possibility of a protractor being used for nefarious purposes.

——–

TITLE: Turning touchy feely
DATE: 05/16/2006 04:09:17 PM

Last night I was sifting through our enormous iPhoto gallery, tagging images to be included in a “Best of Riley” folder, a collection of approximately ten million baby photos and counting. As I flipped through picture after picture, I turned to my husband JB and asked if he was ever so incredibly overwhelmed by the supernatural cuteness of our child that his skull felt like it was going to detonate in a festive splattery pink mist of looove?

“No,” he said. “Maybe you should see a specialist about that.”

“Maybe you should see a specialist,” I retorted huffily. “A, uh….StickUpTheButtOlogist. Yeah. To get the stick out of your…because you have a stick, uh…”

I really need to work on my comebacks.

Anyway, for me looking at pictures of Riley is like browsing here, except with the sensational benefit of being able to bestow slobbery smooches all over the subject at hand. Sometimes I feel like I could spend entire days just tickling his belly and kissing the end of his nose, you know? I touch his skin and I feel electrified, I can’t get enough, I know why women always say that they want to eat babies because it’s the closest way to describe how he makes me feel: like I want to devour him in a delicious gulp.

In Candace Bushnell’s Sex and the City, a character is talking about her 11-month old son. I kiss him a thousand times a day, she says. I can’t wait to get home to give him a bath. His body makes me crazy.

Man, I never thought I would identify with anyone from those stories (people who routinely buy shoes that cost more than my mortgage are not exactly my sister demographic, yo) but that is dead on, that’s exactly it. His little body makes me crazy happy and crazy joyous and just sort of crazed in general. I mean, when you find yourself inching closer to the computer screen so you can give a JPEG a zerbert, you’re starting to become a few Exedrin tablets short of a full medicine cabinet, you know?

I am continually amazed by the breadth of my love for Riley, but I never would have anticipated this consuming tactile desire, the need to connect through touch. Me, the queen of the awkward hug, the one who can only tolerate a few minutes of snuggling at night before I Need My Space Dammit, the one whose bodily boundaries surround me like a forcefield; I’ve never known such a ravenousness for physical affection.

The very notion that all too soon he will reject my motherly advances smashes my heart flat, but I take solace in the hope that we have a few years of smoochie-boochies ahead of us. He’s only old enough to laugh at my kisses right now, what will it be like when he can run into my arms and kiss me back?

Oh, my head will just explode from the miracle of it all. It really will. Maybe I should see that specialist after all.

——–

TITLE: Objects in absentia
DATE: 05/17/2006 12:15:28 PM

I was getting Riley ready for daycare this morning and doing my usual breathless gallop around the house to collect bottles, jars of food, and extra diapers, all the while trying to keep him distracted from the great injustice of being buckled into his carseat, when I realized his feet were bare. Now, the weather in Seattle has been fantastic lately, but a sockless baby at daycare? That’s a double whammy right there; not only would I be allowing someone else to raise my child, but I’d be dumping him into a seething pit of germs without feet prophylactics.

Next thing you know I’ll be plopping him in front of a Baby Einstein video while I surf the web. OH IT IS TOO LATE.

I have purchased thousands of socks for Riley. Maybe even millions. Stripy socks from the Gap, plain socks from Target, silly socks with dragons printed on them that match his “Good Knight” shirt, socks with a permanent water ripple in the toe from being chewed on. Riley has, pardon my french, a shitload of baby socks.

Except there seems to be a giant sock-sucking (heh) vortex in my house, some kind of wormhole through space and time into which socks are disappearing, one by one.

I tore apart the top drawer in Riley’s bedroom and found a paltry mismatched assemblage of foot coverings, including a solitary pink sock from when he was 1) a newborn and apparently also 2) a girl; I dug through the pile of clothes in the dryer which produced only a fierce ball of static-crackling t-shirts; I checked behind the changing table but other than a few doghair tumbleweeds, there was nothing.

This phenomenon isn’t limited to socks, either. At one point in time I had a googolplex of baby washcloths —I remember laundering them all before Riley was born (in Dryel, to protect his delicate flesh; who would have guessed I’d eventually rely solely on a crust inspection to determine the cleanliness of the objects that touch his skin, as in “Does it have a patina of inch-thick dried formula? Well, better swab it with Tide”) and carefully folding them into giant towering stacks and thinking, man, I’ll never use all these things.

Ha. Also: ha! Now I know that babies can gunk up approximately one clean washcloth per half second, and folding washcloths is a pointless and maddening activity, and where in the hell did they all go? They were like Tribbles, they were everywhere: draped over the back of the sofa, dropped in the dog’s water dish, peeping out from my wallet, and now I can only find three. THREE. And the bibs, didn’t I have about a metric ton of those, too? This morning I fed Riley with a paper towel wedged under his chin. While he waved his sockless feet.

I ended up leaving the house with Riley wearing one blue solid sock, and one blue striped sock. When I got to daycare, I was informed that today? Is picture day.

Awesome. I’ll be the mom who couldn’t even dress their kid in matching socks. DAMN YOU, VORTEX.

——–

TITLE: I alone can brandish the Sword of Onesies
DATE: 05/18/2006 11:42:34 AM

Scene from my household:

My husband JB: “Will you get Riley dressed for daycare?”
Me (mildly): “I think you can do that.”
JB (with irritation): “But I have to get the bottles ready.”
Me: “You mean like I did yesterday? When I got the bottles and his food and dressed him and changed him and looked for his damn socks and took him in?”
JB: “Fine, he’s wearing his pajamas then.” *stomps off*
(a few minutes later)
JB (with Joblike suffering): “So if I were going to bring an extra outfit, where would I find it?”
Me: “In…the…drawer? Where his clothes are?”
JB: *stomps off again*

This morning was one of those times when I could clearly see JB mentally conducting a performance evaluation for me, and vigorously checking off “NEEDS IMPROVEMENT” in all areas.

Normally we’re pretty good about working together when it comes to Riley. We take turns on who has to get up first thing in the morning to feed him. We trade off who takes him to daycare and who picks him up. We even have something called “Team Diaper” which is when one person starts changing the diaper and upon viewing the contents, wails “OH GOD TEAM DIAPER TEAM DIAPER CODE BROWN!” and the other person runs in and plays shortstop.

I think I was just feeling a little out of sorts this morning, because certain jobs are always mine and mine alone. Dressing the child? Much like the sword of Excalibur, only ONE man ‚— or in this case, woman ‚– can pull the boy’s clothes from his drawer, thus being crowned Queen of…well, Queen of Always Has To Dress the Damn Kid, I guess.

Also, only I know where the extra diaper wipes are. They are not hidden in a vault thousands of feet beneath the earth’s crust, they’re in the cabinet with the diapers – but only I am physically capable of finding them and replenishing the container. JB can yell down the hall that hello, this thing is empty here, but reaching into the cabinet is apparently an activity reserved just for me.

I am the only one who knows where the diaper bag, extra crib sheets, rice cereal, infant Tylenol, and Q-tips are. I am also the only one who can turn on a vacuum, wipe crumbs off a counter, put my breakfast spoon in the dishwasher, get beard hairs off the bathroom sink’s faucets (aaaaaggh), and cook anything more complicated than a Pop Tart.

(Of course, JB could always say that he’s the only one who can kill a Giant House Spider, pay utility bills, nail cedar siding to our house, argue endlessly with contractors until they agree to lower their price, dangle the boy upside down like a possum, and perfectly parallel park a massive Ford F-150. But then again, I’m the only one who writes this blog so NYAH.)

I know it’s a tired joke to be all “My husband is soooo silly, I always have to find the mayonnaise for him! LOL!” but seriously? JB can’t find the mayonnaise. “We’re out of mayonnaise!” he shouts, his head deep within the refrigerator, and I walk over and pluck the Best Foods container out of the door where it ALWAYS IS and he says “Oh.”

Someday I’m going to tell him he’s got to dress Riley, refill the wipe container, AND make BLTs for lunch, and it will totally blow his mind.

Okay, now I want to hear from you guys. In your house, what responsibilities always fall to you?

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TITLE: No one told me there would be gift bags
DATE: 05/19/2006 09:47:28 AM

Riley spends three days a week at a daycare center, AKA The Magical Building Into Which I Toss My Squalling Child and Rush Away at Top Speed Trailing a Maniacal Cackle Behind Me.

He has “classmates”, usually four or so other babies whom I have watched grow from squirming larva into bright, pudgy, vocal creatures constantly on the move. There’s one baby, I’ll call her Lola, who is particularly likable; she crows with excitement when I arrive with Riley in tow and scoots madly across the room to my side, then babbles her alien language with Riley while I unbuckle him from the carseat. I guess I never thought babies would very be interested in each other when they’re so little, but she clearly knows and likes Riley, and his delighted expression tells me he feels the same about her.

I arrived at daycare yesterday afternoon to pick Riley up, and his teacher told me it was Lola’s birthday, she was one year old. “Well, happy birthday,” I told Lola, who had ootched on over and was grabbing my pantleg and squealing. The teacher then said Lola had a present for Riley and gave me a gift bag filled with baby goodies and, as the tag read, “cookies for Mom and Dad”. Also, she said, brandishing a camera, Lola’s parents wanted a photo with Lola and Riley and Riley’s mom.

(Somewhere out in the digital ether there now exists a very bad picture of me, squatting behind two babies who are gumming on a gift bag, wishing I was wearing something more flattering than a baggy Threadless t-shirt.)

What I want to know is, who provides presents for all the other daycare kids on their own kid’s birthday? Who are these parents and why are they so damn nice? BECAUSE THEY ARE MAKING THE REST OF US LOOK BAD.

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TITLE: A momentary loss of dignity
DATE: 05/21/2006 04:10:30 PM

This weekend my husband and I took Riley to Home Depot where we managed to fill two giant carts with assorted odds and ends, and as we got ready to leave Riley decided that he was tired and hungry and frankly sick of all this home improvement nonsense and he began winding up into a whimpery kind of cry, so I pulled him out of the cart and held him while we waited in line to pay, and as we pushed our carts across the parking lot Riley started doing that pissed-off fishflop thing where he arches his back and struggles to get out of my grip and he started slithering down my side while I clamped him with my one available arm and pushed my ridiculously heavy cart with the other, and just as I managed to balance him on one outthrust hip I lost control of the cart and it ground into the curb with a loud squeal, and Riley began wailing angrily while snot ran down his upper lip, and I screeched across the parking lot to JB “CAN I MAYBE GET SOME HELP HERE,” and people sort of turned to look at me, and my hair was falling out of my ponytail and my snot-nosed baby was all hoopty and practically dropping onto the concrete and my pants were in dire need of being hitched up and I suddenly realized that oh my god, I have become Britney Spears.

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TITLE: Why my name is not Mrs. Clean
DATE: 05/23/2006 07:15:23 AM

Lately my house has been somewhat of a disaster. We’re remodeling, and we’ve made it through the framing, plumbing, electrical, and insulation stages and now the drywall is being installed. I blame the drywall and near-constant stampede of contractors who never, ever wipe their feet for the layer of dust that’s currently settled onto every single surface in our home and probably the inside of our lungs, but it’s possible I’m falling a tad behind on the housekeeping front.

I have come to the conclusion that I really, really hate cleaning. Sure, there’s a nice feeling of pride when you put down the Pledge, store the vacuum, wipe your sweaty brow and survey your lemon-scented home, the counters gleaming and those sexy tracks in the carpet pile, but here’s the thing: you’re just going to have to do it all over again. And again. And again.

The state of our household nearly drove me crazy when Riley was first born. I had planned to start my maternity leave three weeks before his due date, and spend the last month heaving my manatee-sized bulk around performing various spring cleaning chores so that when we brought our baby home he would enter a pristine, spotless environment; instead, I went directly from my 37-week routine prenatal appointment to the hospital, where blood pressure concerns eventually resulted in the boy being pried out surgically. So instead of welcoming our son into a hygienic, well-kept house, we staggered in the door after a weeklong hospital stay and put him ‚– carseat and all ‚– on the coffee table, the only surface that wasn’t cluttered with newspapers, pet hair, wrappers from the takeout meals my husband had been gulping when he briefly came home to feed the dog, and various other flotsam.

What a horrible night that was, really. Instead of feeling the overwhelming joy I knew I should have been over the fact that the baby we had been anticipating for so long was finally here, I spent hours bawling inconsolably. “He looks like something we ordered from Am-Am-Amazon,” I hiccuped to my husband, referring to the fact that the containers from several baby shower gifts were still scattered around our living room floor.

It seemed obvious to me that we were far too slovenly, irresponsible and unsanitary to care for such a helpless, delicate creature. I fully expected The Authorities to realize the enormity of the mistake that had been made, and swoop in to rescue young Riley from our filth-encrusted hovel.

Of course, I was half out of my mind with the hormones and C-section discomfort and all, and after a few weeks had passed, I was less convinced of our overall child-raising incompetence. I was still focused on the pollution level of the house, though. As JB returned to work and I stayed home with Riley all day long, I became a little, well, I think obsessive might be the right word. It was the strange and slightly manic high point of my day to run the vacuum, as it almost always put Riley to sleep and offered the pleasing side benefit of a clean carpet. During Riley’s frequent naps I’d break out the 409, looking for a sense of productivity or accomplishment; something to show for other than the hours of diaper changes and feedings.

Then JB would come home and track in dirt and scatter the mail across the freshly polished dining room table and I’d want to run screaming down the street.

These days I don’t have the same lonely hours to fill; I’ve got my job, writing, gardening, caring for a demanding baby who is more of a lively, curious octopus than actual human child (and constantly shoveling up his accouterments: toys, bibs, chairs, blankets, puddles of saliva, etc) and let’s not forget American Idol. I don’t care as much if my house is less than spotless, because 1) I am no longer paranoid that Riley will collapse like a delicate souffl√© if dirt touches his skin (the boy was recently licked on his tongue by our dog; to think I used to boil everything that went in his mouth) and 2) man, there’s just better ways to spend my time.

If a job is unrewarding, relentless in its perpetuity, unnoticed by others, and provides no hope of future relief ‚– why be good at it, then? I’m not saying I never vacuum or dust or de-gross the kitchen anymore, but I do enough to keep it decent, and that’s all. You can give the title of Magical Fairy Who Twinkles Away the Bathtub Ring to someone else, thanks.

So I guess this here dust is going to stay put for a little while. Hey, at least it smells clean – after all, that is why God made Febreeze.

——–

TITLE: Weirdly wonderful
DATE: 05/23/2006 11:14:43 PM

People tend to use words like “innocent” or “cute” or “sweet” to describe babies, unless they’ve actually been around a real human baby for more than five consecutive seconds, then the phrase “BIG OLD HONKIN PAIN IN THE REAR” comes to mind.

No one ever says “weird”, though. Am I weird for thinking my baby is weird? I don’t mean he looks weird, because, and I am speaking totally objectively here, my son is the most beautiful child that has ever graced this earth; I mean he is just a sincerely weird little dude sometimes.

(Hey! I now know the exact number of times I can type the term “weird” without becoming convinced I’m spelling it wrong: three. I before E, except after…wait, how does that go?)

(Hmm, seems like potentially bad parenting to not remember the I before E rule. Have no idea about that “who” vs “whom” crap either. Child may as well be living among grammatically-challenged WOLVES.)

(WHO LOVES PARENTHETICALS I DO I DO)

Here are a few of the weird things he’s been doing lately:

BMMMMMM
Okay, if you close your mouth and hold your lips together and then say, as loudly as possible through your flatly closed mouth, “BMMMMMM”, it makes a half-raspberry, half-humming sound as the air escapes. Now imagine doing that with a mouthful of applesauce, allowing the contents of your mouth to blow out in a fine spray until everything around you within a ten foot radius is spackled with a light coating of apple-scented goo.

That would be BMMMMMM. Riley greatly enjoys BMMMMMM, and does it at least once a day during a meal. BMMMMMM is not only incredibly messy, it’s downright ineffectual as far as a nutrition delivery method.

FOOT GRAB
When Riley is on the changing table, the instant his clothes are undone he bends his legs so his feet are up by his head. He then clamps his hands around his feet with the strength of a determined pitbull, and begins chortling joyfully. Any attempts to break his grasp are met with loud delighted squeals and a redoubling of effort on his part, and if you think there’s no way some puny little 8 month old baby could outgrip you, well you would be WRONG.

You cannot change a diaper on a baby who is engaged in the pursuit of becoming a tiny human Mobius strip. You can’t change his clothes, either. All you can do is grab a foot and a hand and pull like hell while he laughs at you.

SIMIAN ANCESTRY
“Uh uh uh uh,” says Riley. “UH UH UH UH!” I’m holding something new in front of him, maybe a junk flyer that came in the mail, and Riley is completely fixated on it. His arms flap up and down. The fingers on his hands are spread wide. His lower jaw is protruding and his lips pooch outwards. He looks exactly like a very small (and cute!) gorilla. “Uh uh UH UH UH UHHHHH.”

TASTE TEST
The other day our cat came slithering up to Riley, rubbing against him and purring, and Riley ‚– who was totally mesmerized ‚– opened his mouth so wide he briefly looked just like that freaky kid in The Grudge, then slowly lowered his head until he had engulfed the cat’s ear. I’m not sure exactly what would have happened next had we not intervened, but I think it may have involved chewing.

(Hello, if you’re going to eat a cat, why would you start with the ear? Gross.)

Every day there is something new, every single day. I never in a million years could have guessed how amazing it would feel to watch my baby grow and learn and do weird things; how utterly, perfectly delightful it all is. How funny, how joyous. Even BMMMMM. “Who’s a little weirdo,” I ask Riley, and clap my hands when he smiles back at me. “You are.”

Is your kid weird, too?

——–

TITLE: And from it fall sweet dreams for thee (OR ELSE)
DATE: 05/24/2006 10:51:57 PM

I’ve been really, really lucky in one particular aspect of parenthood: Riley started sleeping through the night when he was a couple months old. Other than a few anomalies due to teething or colds or the, ha ha, numerous canvas restraints coming undone, he tends to sleep straight on through from 7:30 to 7:30. I understand this to be a delicate situation that could change at any time, so if the Great Deities of Universe are listening, I AM EXTREMELY GRATEFUL. In fact, if there’s any particular sacrifice I could make in your name ‚– tossing a virginal blonde into an active volcano, garroting a Leghorn chicken, etc ‚– please let me know.

Getting him to sleep hasn’t always been easy, though. For a long time we had these transition periods when he would be really tired and cranky and my husband and I would try various activities to lull him into unconsciousness: rocking him, pushing him in the stroller, wearing a desperate path in the carpet as we marched him around the living room, and so on. This would eventually cause him to pass out from sheer exhaustion, but the process didn’t make Riley happy (as evidenced by his nonstop screaming) and it sure as hell wasn’t making his parents happy.

So we started paying attention for specific signs like eye-rubbing and yawning, and when we thought he was ready for bed, we put him to bed. We read him a story and kissed him goodnight and closed the door and that was it.

This method worked spectacularly, like right away. I couldn’t believe all the time we had wasted trying to jiggle him to sleep when all along he just needed to be left alone in his crib. “Goodnight Riley,” we’d whisper from the doorway, and softly shut the door — then hot damn, we could watch Deadwood without worrying about the effects of exposing a small baby to 982 different variants of the F-bomb.

Lately, however, he’s been voicing some complaints at bedtime. His little face becomes a tragedy mask of betrayal the instant he is lowered into the crib, and he starts the Inhalation of Doom. “GOODNIGHTRILEY!” we blurt while running for the door, because you want to be outside of that room when the Inhalation is complete and the Screech of Dismay is unleashed. If you’re standing right there in the line of fire, I can attest to the fact that the Screech has the physical effect of a propane torch aimed directly at the ventricular septum of your heart. Oh, you can eat all the Tums you want, but the burning, it will not go away.

His reaction is unpredictable; sometimes he’s just the exact right amount of tired and he falls asleep right away, sometimes he lies in bed and grouses unhappily for a several minutes, and sometimes he just screams at the top of his lungs and doesn’t stop. Then we go in and get him, wait a little while, and try again.

My theory is that maybe we’re misjudging how tired he is and that’s what the recent trouble is, but it’s not a problem that’s easily fixed. If you put him to bed and he’s not tired enough, that doesn’t work, but if you let him get too tired….oh man. Forget it. There is nothing more insane on this earth than an overtired baby. It’s like he becomes the embarrassing psychotic drunk everyone is hoping will leave the party soon, flailing around and screaming with hysterical laughter over the most random things (“WHOAH check out my HAND! I have FINGERS! HAAAAAAAAAA!”), and once he’s in that mood all is lost, for he will battle sleep for hours and take you with him to the Land of Crazy.

On the times when we miss the mark by putting him down too early or not feeding him at the right time or failing to notice his freshly filled diaper, it makes sense to me that he is going to complain, because we need to remedy the situation. As for the other times, I’m at a loss. I feel so terrible when he cries, when he makes that face and basically just shrieks as I’m leaving the room, but I don’t know what else to do.

Do some babies just hate going to bed no matter what? Is it harder for him lately because he’s so much more active and there’s so much to do and going to bed is totally lame compared to repeatedly throwing a plastic turtle at the dog’s head?

Also, is it ever okay to give your child a sippy cup full of Nyquil?

——–

TITLE: Remove foot from mouth, re-position eyeball
DATE: 05/26/2006 07:40:37 AM

I love this entry that Beth posted because I know exactly what she means; occasionally I am also secretly convinced that I am a Wise and Learned Parenting Authority.

Oh, you didn’t know that because I’m always panicking about stupid things and asking questions and generally freaking out because oh my god shouldn’t my baby be [insert developmental milestone here] by now because ALL THE OTHER INTERNET BABIES ARE, etc?

I don’t actually have any confidence in what I’m doing, see, but I have the horrible tendency to eye-roll over what other people are doing. Because of my vast and extensive parenting experience, and all. And those books, I read, like, a TON of books. At least four.

I have even caught myself doing the exact thing that makes me absolutely crazy when people do it to me: offering parenting advice when it isn’t called for.

I know. I know.

For instance, a while ago someone told me their wife wanted to exclusively breastfeed their child until he (the child) is one year old, introducing no solid food. He did not in fact ask for my expert opinion on the matter, and yet I found myself blurting something like “WHAT? You can’t do that, can you? Isn’t that nutritionally bad? I read that at 6 months babies need more than just milk! I mean, won’t he starve?”

Note to self: SHUT. UP.

Last I checked, I am not a pediatrician, and even if I were a pediatrician (which I am not), he wasn’t actually asking me what I thought about the All Boob All the Time diet. Why I felt it was necessary to voice my myriad concerns over something that was completely and totally none of my business, I don’t know.

It’s kind of awful to recognize this about myself, that I have a hard time considering choices that are different from my own without, at the same time, passing judgment on them, because I feel so passionately about parents doing whatever is right for their own family and that there isn’t one perfect way to do things and hello, whatever happened to practicing what you preach? I hate it so very much when parents criticize each other over co-sleeping, homeschooling, daycare, and all the hojillions of individual issues that become wildly controversial when strong opinions are involved. So what the hell am I doing opening my giant uninformed yap when no one asked me to?

I’m not sure, but I’m working on squelching that desire. Riley is helping me out, too; if there’s one thing I can be 100% certain off, from my rich personal history with raising babies, it’s that just when you think you have one single solitary aspect of parenting figured out, your kid will take your Wise and Learned Etch-a-Sketch Knowledge Base and give it one holy hell of a shake.

I have to remember that hubris is a fleeting indulgence these days. Also? Eye-rolling will almost always come back to bite you in the ass.

——–

TITLE: Despite how it sounds, “feely box” is apparently not a dirty term
DATE: 05/29/2006 09:14:14 AM

It is probably a testament to my status as first-time parent that I own a book called “Games to Play with Babies”. I’m guessing the obsessive need to read someone’s published opus on every common-sense parenting subject (“Feeding Babies: You Do It When They’re Hungry!”) wanes by the second child.

I remember thinking at the time of purchase several months ago that I would carefully study all the games listed so I’d have this generous mental repertoire of knowledge-building activities. Every game Riley and I would play together would be both entertaining and educational; while he giggled in delight, his brain would be opening like a many-petal’d flower. Oui, mon bebe, I would coo in response, because of course the games would be bilingual.

Also, in the same magical fairy world? I totally have a pony. His name is Blaze.

One of the first games in “Games to Play with Babies” is called “Mm-mm Nice!”. It says to build a “feely box” stocked with various textures that Riley can touch. According to the book I would then say “Mm-mm nice!” or “Oh! So soft!” as he groped around in the feely box, for presumably I would not have filled it with Brillo pads or thumbtacks.

Another one is called “It’s Cold”. You are supposed to give your baby something from the refrigerator (a can of Bud, say) and say —maybe you can guess? — “It’s cold!”. Then, and this is my favorite part, you have the child put the item back, and say “Thank you for putting away the cold [whatever].”

(Dude. Somebody should have TOLD me my 9-month-old could help out with the frigging housekeeping. All this time, I could have been barking instructions at him: “Hey, Riley! If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean, buddy. Let’s get off the boppy and get on the Swiffer, stat.”)

These sound like very nice educational endeavors and I have nothing but respect for the good-hearted men and women out there who build feely boxes for their babies, but game-playing has turned out to be yet another item on my original Do Everything Perfectly And Perhaps Bilingually list that has morphed into Activities During Which I Attempt To Curb My Filthy Use of the F-Word If But For One Brief Moment.

I have also learned that while my own games may not, strictly speaking, be teaching the boy anything, they do entertain him ‚– and that’s what it’s really all about, right? (Oui?) Here are a few of Riley’s favorites:

Dragged Away Like a Bear
While the baby is lying on his back on the floor or bed, grasp his ankles firmly and drag him several feet away, while alternating between loudly grunting and snorting and making high-pitched screams for help. The idea is to emulate the tragic death of a backcountry camper who has been pulled from his sleeping bag in the dead of night by a hungry grizzly bear. Minutes of fun! Watch for rugburn, though.

Percussion Rock God
Take baby’s hands and wildly flail them about, while making cheesy drum sounds with your mouth. If you can, try for a “drum cage” effect where the baby has to hit multiple drums. Yell “THANK YOU DETROIT!” when you’re done.

Shark Attack
Take an object ‚– your hand, a banana, the cat, anything ‚– and slowly advance it towards the baby, while humming the Jaws theme: “Duh-nuh. Duh-nuh. Duh-nuh. Duh-nuh duh-nuh duh-nuh DUH NUH NUHHH!” Then have the object kiss the baby on his nose. Eventually, this will result in your baby smiling the instant you make the first “duh-nuh” sound, which is awesome.

Movie Quote Time
Sit in front of baby and begin reciting all the great movie quotes you know. Start with Glengarry Glen Ross (“Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired”) move into The Princess Bride (“Never get involved in a land war in Asia”) then True Romance (“My name’s Elliot, and I’m with the Cub Scouts of America. We’re… we’re selling uncut cocaine to get to the jamboree”) and wrap things up with The Shining (“Danny‚Äôs not here, Mrs. Torrance. Danny can‚Äôt wake up. Danny‚Äôs gone away, Mrs. Torrance”).

If your baby starts getting bored, employ method acting techniques to regain his interest. Remember, if all else fails, you could always watch a cartoon together!

Anyway, I’m sure you have your own list of silly things you do to entertain your kids. In fact, no offense to the author of “Games to Play with Babies”, but that would make a way better book: a collection of “games” submitted by actual people. I bet there wouldn’t be a feely box in the bunch.

——–

TITLE: The taste of motherhood is sweet (like toilet water!)
DATE: 05/30/2006 12:23:17 PM

So, if over the long, rainy holiday weekend your husband tells you that he plans to spend the afternoon working out in the yard and you, feeling maybe a little bored and antsy, voice your complaint over the fact that his being outside all day means you will be trapped inside with the boy, and yes, you use the word trapped, what would you do when your husband then says, in a condescending tone of voice, that the child is not a ball and chain, he is your son, and you are his mother? As if maybe just for one damn second you had forgotten this fact? And your husband goes on to CHIDE YOU by saying that as Riley’s mother it is your job to spend time with him, and educate him, and not regard spending time with him as a burden, but rather as a gift (he actually says the word GIFT). And when you say this is a team project, buddy, and if I’m going to have the PRECIOUS GIFT all afternoon, I want, at some point, some time to myself so I can go to the bookstore or something — then? Oh, and THEN? Your sweet, loving husband says you are being SELFISH?

And tell me this, when you’re whiling away the endless, rainy afternoon with your 9-month old and you’ve exhausted several million entertainment options and despite the offers of food, toys, a Baby Einstein DVD, and the dog’s tail, your son is howling and turning red in the face and flailing around in your grip in a desperate attempt to escape your loving embrace and so you walk to the kitchen window and catch the eye of your husband, who is happily puttering around outside with power tools, and mime pointing a gun at your head while simultaneously holding up your screaming, writhing offspring, and he reluctantly comes in and holds out his arms to the boy, who INSTANTLY stops crying and beams a giant smile through his tears? And your husband tells you in a helpful, speaking-to-the-paralyzingly-stupid tone that it doesn’t have to be a battle, you know, as Riley giggles joyfully and shoots sparkly lollipops and rainbows out his ass and generally acts as though every second spent in his presence is a magical trip through EcstasyVille?

Would you repeatedly read this website in order to reaffirm your devotion?

Or would you smile, walk calmly to the bathroom, and quickly swipe your husband’s toothbrush around the inside of the toilet bowl?

——–

TITLE: I hope they are okay
DATE: 05/31/2006 01:32:28 PM

Every weekend I like to spend time at Half Price Books, a local used bookstore. I pick up children’s books (always assuming the day will come when Riley allows me to read to him instead of focusing all of his attention on trying to stuff the pages in his mouth), comic books, novels, and my favorite indulgence: magazines.

I buy piles of used magazines; they’re cheap and a wonderful escapism device and I get a strange joy out of reading parenting publications in order to mock them mercilessly (sample articles: “Kids won’t eat their veggies? Try fashioning a tiny broccoli bonsai with these 4928 easy steps!”, followed up by “Forty-Five Common Household Items Your Child Can Choke On, Item #1: Broccoli”).

This week I was flipping through an issue of Baby Talk magazine, when I came across a survey that the previous owner had filled out but had apparently forgotten to mail in. She had dutifully checked off some checkboxes, and then, in the box that asked if she had experienced any complications during the birth of her child, she checked “yes”, and wrote in the line below, “Down Syndrome”.
Magazinepic_1

Her baby is about the same age as Riley. It was a startling thing to read, I’m not sure how to explain why. It’s not that I’ve never heard of Down’s Syndrome or never thought about it, it’s just that it felt so…common, suddenly, this thing that happens to babies, this thing that’s just one of a million things that can and does happen to babies and children. The things that don’t just exist in books or on television but in real families’ lives, everyday people who read Baby Talk magazine, they just…happen.

I know this sounds stupid and naive.

I like to joke a lot about the pain-in-the-buttedness of raising a baby, and in my day-to-day life I admit that I sometimes focus on the tedious aspects of motherhood, but I never lose sight of what has become more important to me than anything else. I never forget to be grateful for the well-being of my boy. How different would our lives be if Riley had a major health problem? I can’t even think about it without tears. I can’t even imagine.

I find myself being aware of this strong connection I feel with every other parent now, and I sometimes just look at people on the street and think, you were somebody’s baby. How all of us were once small and held in someone’s arms, how so many of us have held our own children and shared the same hopes and fears. How you and I might be so different, but we have this in common. And it’s so huge. It’s so immense and overwhelming. We share this incredible thing, you and I.

I hope she’s doing okay. I hope her baby is doing okay.

——–

TITLE: Things I should have said, maybe
DATE: 06/01/2006 11:51:05 AM

The very first day I took Riley to daycare, back in January, I surprised myself by having a mini breakdown right there in the infant room. I was dry-eyed until I lifted his warm, drowsy body from the carseat and placed him in the care center’s sterile white crib, festooned with a laminated card that said REILY (it has since been corrected) ‚– it was at that moment that I burst into wracking sobs, the uncontrollable emotional diarrhea kind that I would normally save for the privacy of my bedroom or, you know, while sitting on the couch watching the final episode of Six Feet Under.

I left the building trailing damp wads of tissue and still hiccuping, and all that first day back in the office I was convinced we had made a terrible mistake, and that evening my husband and I went over and over our finances, trying to find a one-salary scenario that didn’t leave us in debt. We couldn’t. We went to bed unhappy, frustrated, and scared.

The very next day, things were improved by approximately 100%. The daycare already felt better, more familiar. I paid attention to the teachers, and noticed how much they cared, and how competent they were. I didn’t feel as though I were abandoning my son in a hostile, unloving environment.

Since those early days, we’ve been really happy with our daycare. Riley goes there three days a week, and nowadays he is clearly pleased when I bring him in. He enjoys the activity and the other babies, there are millions of new toys to play with, and constant attention. It’s worked out wonderfully so far.

Yesterday when I brought him in, instead of the usual babbling-babies-sitting-around-playing atmosphere, everything was chaotic. The babies must have gotten hungry, tired, or aware of a massive load in their diapers, all at the exact same time. Sitting in the midst of the screaming throng was a mother I had never seen before, her eyes fixated on her son, the only non-wailing child, who was holding himself upright against an exersaucer and looking around.

Just then Riley started to join in the Sorrow Serenade, and one of the teachers reached out to take him and offer a bottle. I left having exchanged only two sentences with the mom ‚– “Is that your baby? Wow, look at him standing!” ‚– and drove to work.

I have been kicking myself ever since. I’m horrifically shy and paranoid about being nosy, but why didn’t I talk with her, ask her if this was the first time he had been to daycare? Tell her how much we’ve enjoyed the center, how great we think the teachers are, how much Riley seems to like it? How our favorite teacher sings and dances for the babies? How, swear to god, it’s not normally a giant cryfest like this?

What if she was sitting there feeling the same desperation and fear that I had experienced and I could have helped her but I didn’t?

I don’t know. Maybe it would have been intrusive to approach her. What do you think?

——–

TITLE: PPBBBBTTTHH
DATE: 06/02/2006 08:55:58 AM

Okay, I’m throwing in the towel — it’s all over. This parenting gig is officially too much. I can’t hack it, and I’m going to step down so that others who are stronger can take my place. I did my best, but I have limits, and there’s only so much one mother can take.

That’s right, Riley has started blowing raspberries.

I thought it was cute when he make his leaky-balloon mousefarts a few months ago. They sounded like this: “pbbbth.” Now he sounds like a small crowd of gassy old men riding an outboard motorboat: “PBB!TH! THhhhhhhLLP! PPPBTH! PPBBTTTHHH!” Add a giant mouthful of drool, and he doesn’t just say it, he sprays it. Don’t bother asking if he serves towels with his showers because the answer is NO.

Blowing wet, slimy saliva-poots is all well and good, but you know what he really likes? What he really really likes? Blowing a raspberry directly into my hovering face immediately after I have deposited a heaping spoonful of “Yobaby” yogurt into his eager baby-bird mouth.

Did you know that it’s really hard to clean yogurt out of your eyelashes? I mean, this is something most adult film stars probably knew already, but I found it to be surprisingly difficult.

My husband just laughs, but he’s not the one who went to work with a thin layer of applesauce on the front of his shirt.

Well, carry on. I’ll just be here with Mr. Oral Whoopie Cushion, sponging off the various substances he bronx-cheers onto me. Does anyone know if strained banana makes a good moisturizer?

——–

TITLE: Top Ten Guilt List
DATE: 06/05/2006 10:54:15 AM

Or, Things I Feel Vaguely Bad About On Occasion:

1. Feeding Riley Gerber baby food instead of lovingly home-prepared Cuisinarted nutritive goo made from fruits and vegetables grown in my own organic garden.

2. Bopping him lightly over the head with a clean diaper, like every single time I change him.

3. Exposing him to Deadwood (the cussingest TV show that has ever been made) once or twice when he was a newborn and he slept in a bassinet in the living room with us. And by “once or twice” I guess I mean “a whole hell of a lot”.

4. Taking him to daycare when he was teething and writing “bit cranky” on his info sheet for the day. Ha ha ha, UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR.

5. Never once considering cloth diapers.

6. Singing “Baby Got Back” when prepping him for a bath (“I like baby butts and I can not lie!”), singing a made up lullaby called “All the Babies Go To the Mine (Lowered In Buckets)”.

7. Imitating his angry expression (“Waaaaa! Oh, look at me, I’m the upset baby! Waaaaaaa!”) then laughing when it makes him even angrier.

8. Using a factory-produced Baby Bjorn carrier instead of a hand-woven natural fiber sling crafted by indigenous Guatemalans.

9. Allowing him to get his entire mouth around the cat’s ear that one time.

10. Plopping him in front of the Baby Einstein “Water Water Everywhere” DVD and putting that beyotch on Repeat Play.

——–

TITLE: In absentia, dementia!
DATE: 06/06/2006 07:10:45 PM

My husband is out of town this week and so I’m flying solo on the parenting front and realizing just how much I appreciate having him around. I mean, it’s not like I didn’t know that he was a great dad and a lot of help before, but his absence certainly drives the point home.

With two parents in attendance, the morning routine is busy but manageable; on my own, it’s full-tilt chaos. This week, during the days I go to the office, my morning looks like this:

6:45 AM. Riley wakes up. I give him a bottle, change his diaper, and put him back down for his usual early morning nap.
6:49: Riley would prefer not to nap right now, thanks.
7:00: Maybe if I turn on his mobile?
7:01: Or not.
7:05: Dammit.
7:06: Ooh, silence. Sweet. Shower, dress, slam down breakfast, go go go go go.
7:45: The dog and cat are howling to be fed. I attempt to do this as quietly as possible, but the dog joyfully whaps her tail all up and down the hallway.
7:46: Aaand with that, Riley is awake again.
8:00: I get Riley situated in his highchair and start feeding him some yogurt.
8:15: And now I have yogurt in my hair.
8:20: Also on my pants.
8:30: We are DONE with the yogurt. Hopefully he has absorbed some nutrients through his skin, as he is now coated from head to toe with peach-flavored goo.
8:40: I finish wiping him clean, and take an aspirin to deal with the enormous headache he’s given me from shrieking as though I were using a fistful of steel wool rather than a moistened Kleenex.
9:00: HOW is it 9 AM? HOW?
9:05: Assemble bottles, pack up jars of food and extra clothes.
9:12: I change his diaper, and start wrestling him out of his pajamas and into an outfit.
9:15: Still wrestling.
9:18: Still wrestling.
9:19: How many legs does this kid have, anyway? I feel like I’m dealing with a greased octopus here.
9:21: FINALLY. He’s wearing a cute onesie and jeans and socks. Success!
9:22: *sniff*
9:22: *sniff sniff*
9:22: Oh no you didn’t.
9:23: Code brown! Code brown! Oh man, I just got poop on my watch.
9:30: Okay. Get out the carseat, and strap in the boy.
9:32: Where are my keys where are my keys where are my keys where are my keys
10:15: I arrive at work, where I immediately notice the enormous peach-colored stain on my shirt.

My house is a toxic waste dump, no one has played Frisbee with the dog for days, I screwed up the TV remote and can’t fix it, and everything I own smells like yogurt.

JB comes home on Thursday. THANK GOD.

——–

TITLE: It’s just seven little words
DATE: 06/08/2006 09:45:24 AM

Last year at about this time I was dressed quite nicely, thanks to the mostly-affordable selection at Motherhood Maternity. I had all kinds of cute outfits; pink striped sundresses and white eyelet shirts and summery skirts with giant elastic waistbands and capri jeans with floaty blouses. I looked pretty damn good ‚– enormous, maybe, with swollen feet, but stylish.

These days I’m almost always wearing an ill fitting t-shirt thrown over sloppy pants. I live in flipflops. I often have a smear of baby food somewhere on my chest.

I miss maternity wear. It was so satisfying to shop for new things, because even though I knew I wouldn’t wear them very long, everything fit. Everything always fit, because of the massive elastic panels and stretchy waists and roomy busts. My favorite dresses slid on like comfortable fabric sacks, and tied in the back. As Riley (and I) got bigger, I just tied the string looser. GENIUS.

When I was pregnant I felt great about myself, I loved my big round belly. I loved how my husband took such pleasure in the sight of me. I even liked the double-glances from strangers and the I’ve-Been-There smiles.

Now the belly I once gloried in is no longer full of life and beauty; instead, it’s just kind of…fat. My arms, despite the daily baby-hefting workouts, are just kind of flabby. I don’t have the energy to shop for nice flattering clothes, I count myself lucky if I make it out the door fully dressed. But let’s not lie, the other reason is because those nice flattering clothes? Are not going to fit.

It’s weird, on one hand I feel so busy and so fulfilled by being Riley’s mom I don’t care as much about this stuff. On the other hand, well, I do care.

I know if I felt positive about my body again it wouldn’t matter where I bought my clothes: when you feel good, you look good. I need to exercise and eat better.

I look at that last sentence and there it is in black and white. It’s just seven little words.

——–

TITLE: An open letter to my nine-month-old
DATE: 06/09/2006 10:19:40 AM

Dear Riley,

For the love of all that is holy, stop, stop, STOP reaching down to check yourself out during Code Brown diaper changes. I only have two arms, and apparently you have at least six or seven, for every time I use an elbow or the tip of my nose to securely fasten down one creeping hand, another one pops out of nowhere and with unerring accuracy makes its sly way to the one spot I have yet to visit with a wipe. Please, please, please get your hand out of the poop, or I will be forced to consider binding your little wrists together with duct tape. And if you think a bandaid hurts when it comes off…

What is with the grabbing? What is with all the grabbing? You grab everything! You’re like one of those sticky toys you used to be able to buy in a vending machine, with all the rubbery arms, and you threw them at the window and they would “walk” down? You know what I mean? No? Nevermind. My point is, your sticky little monkey paws cling to everything that gets within your Radius of Grab and houseplants, cups of coffee, the cat, and my computer keyboard have all gone flying, thanks to you. Oh, and the necklines of my shirts all sag down to the navel now. Which I can assure you, is not a good look for me.

Cover your mouth when you sneeze. Look, I know you’re just a baby, but seriously.

On a related note, when I wipe your nose, could you please try not to act as though I were briskly scrubbing you with a square of 800-grit sandpaper? I even bought the extra soft kind of tissue, just for you, but do you appreciate it? NO.

The piece of extra seatbelt thingie from your carseat? Could you quit bringing it to your mouth during drives and using it to make the most godawful series of sucking sounds as you drench it in slobber? It sounds like this: SHLURK SLUP SLORK SHHLP SURK. It’s even more gross than the dog busily cleaning her dog parts. It’s even more gross than the cat AND the dog cleaning their respective parts in unison. It makes the seatbelt very, very wet and frankly, a little smelly.

Love,

Your doting mother

(Who doesn’t really care about any of this because you just looked up, smiled your mouth wide open, and said “Ta! Da.” And that was really cute.)

(Actually, I’m totally serious on the poop thing. Remember, kid: duct tape.)

——–

TITLE: Some assembly required
DATE: 06/12/2006 12:21:38 PM

It seems like a really long time ago that my husband and I brought home Riley’s crib (I was only 15 weeks or so pregnant; in retrospect it seems a little silly that we got it so early, but oh, how thrilling it was to look at, for all those weeks we were waiting), but this weekend I looked back on the experience with perfect recall.

That is, I remember how freaking hard it was to get the damn thing in his room. Because yesterday, we had to get it out.

JB and I are in the midst of a Sisyphean deathmarch into the deepest pits of Hades home remodel, and this week is The Great Hardwood Flooring Expedition, forever to be remembered as “that one weekend when we put every single object we own into the garage”. In order to leave all the floors clear for the workers we had to move out all our furniture, and unfortunately ‚– in lieu of a bungie cord ceiling‚–suspension system that we actually considered ‚– the crib had to go too.

When we first got the crib it was assembled, and we tried everything short of lathering it with Crisco to get it in his room without unscrewing its various parts. Even JB, whose spatial visualization skills make him a whiz at games like Tetris (a game I cannot even think of without sweating slightly because the boxes, the boxes, they’re coming faster and faster and nothing fits and aaaaaaah), found himself angrily regarding the doorway and wondering out loud if it could be temporarily widened, say for instance with a chainsaw.

In the end, he had to take it apart, where it promptly fell into 8 million different pieces that required several hours of re-assembling once it was in Riley’s room.

JB does not have fond memories of this. In fact, he appears to have blocked out some of the more relevant details, because on Sunday he regarded his old nemesis, the doorway, and stated “THIS time we’re getting it out in one piece.”

He took the door off the hinges. He sweated and cursed and made me hold one end of the crib in all sorts of preposterous positions as we tried, once again, to defy the laws of physics. And of course he finally had to resort to getting out the screwdriver, because “the *$@& thing won’t @!%$#ing fit”.

You may now award me with the title of World’s Best Wife for delicately refraining from braying “DUH!” in his face.

Well, the crib’s 8 million parts are now in the garage, along with everything else. We’ve got a Pack-n-Play for Riley, which I’m sure he will enjoy almost as much as I will enjoy staying in a hotel for the next week. How do you share a room with a baby once he goes to sleep (at 7 PM), anyway? Tell me, would it really be so wrong to put him in a nice quiet closet so Mama can watch Pay-per-View?

——–

TITLE: Hotel California (Feeling Minnesota)
DATE: 06/13/2006 12:47:50 PM

Well, I’ve survived our first night in our home away from home, the Bellevue Extended Stay Efficiency Studios, AKA Our Tiny Hovel of Discomfort With a Lovely View of I-405.

I do not like this hotel. I do not like that as an “efficiency studio” the single room provides a tiny kitchenette of sorts but no other amenities whatsoever: no soap, no hair dryer, no coffee filters or coffee for the miniature coffeepot, no closet doors on the closet (?), no extra blankets or pillows.

It’s just…a room. With a bed, a chair, a place to hang clothes, a bathroom, and a weird little kitchen containing the world’s most idiotic refrigerator that opens directly into a wall.

I keep telling myself we’re only staying here because of the flooring work at home, it’s not like we’re on vacation and it’s not like we have money to burn on staying in some fancypants suite with a Jacuzzi tub and a personal butler. But come ON. This place isn’t exactly cheap, either. And guess what, there’s no cleaning service for the duration of our stay.

Shout-out to Extended Stay Efficiency Studios: you both suck AND blow.

When we arrived yesterday, after hauling in the unbelievable amount of crap a baby necessitates (you start out thinking, oh, I’ll just take a few things, and then you pack the boppy pillow and the Pack-N-Play and the diapers and the wipes and the forty million outfits and pajamas and the bibs and the jarred food and the formula and the bottles and the diaper refuse bags and the dangly fish toy and the Dora the Explorer book and the stuffed pig and the measuring cup and the blankets and the rubberized spoons and the oatmeal cereal and the changing pad and whoop, there it is, you finally get it, you officially understand why people buy those ugly-ass minivans), I looked around in dismay at our bare surroundings.

“So…what are we going to do with Riley?” I asked. “Um,” said my helpful husband, who was busy fiddling with his laptop’s internet connection.

Here’s what we did: we played with Riley until he was rubbing his eyes and yawning, then we put him in his bouncy chair in the darkened bathroom. Nice, huh? We watched TV for a while and once 1) he fell asleep and 2) I really, really had to pee, I carefully brought him out into the tiny kitchen space. That didn’t seem like a good long-term solution since it was right in front of the bathroom, plus he looked all slumped and pathetic in the chair, so we constructed his Pack-N-Play, shoved it in a corner, put him in it, took him out because he woke up, soothed him, put him back down, and covered the whole thing with, I’m sorry to say because GROSS, the bedspread. (I console myself with the fact that it’s not actually touching his skin.)

Then we spent the next few hours whispering and tiptoeing around, TV off, the only sound in the room the pages of my book turning and JB’s keyboard tapping.

Awesome.

At least he’s sheltered from the light of the room that way ‚– thank you to yesterday’s commenters who gave me the idea, because otherwise he may have stayed in the bathroom all night while we peed in the sink (oh, not really). I mean, I guess the only thing that would be more inconvenient than having to be totally silent from 7 PM on would be if we were also in total darkness.

Good thing we’ve only got three more days to go. Ha ha!

(OH GOD.)

——–

TITLE: A partial list of contents
DATE: 06/14/2006 12:00:28 PM

I was born in Manassas, Virginia, in 1974. I’ve always been a little envious of people who can describe their childhood in vivid detail, down to the smell of cut grass in the summer and lengthy snips of dialogue. My memory isn’t up to the task, it serves up a weak blur of years from which a few random snippets emerge: I had a Scottie dog named McGregor who ran barking across the lawn whenever the Concorde flew overhead, we had a sunken ‘conversation pit’ in the living room, I had a 45 record of Nena’s “99 Red Balloons” that played the English version on one side and the German version (“99 Luftballons”) on the other.

My middle name is Lee. That’s right: Linda Lee.

My mother and I moved to Corvallis, Oregon when I started middle school. I grew into a miserable pain-in-the-ass teenager who hated high school and wore black clothes and listened to The Cure. I spent some time living in Portland, changed college majors several times (graphic design! no, english! no, “computers”!) and landed back in Corvallis where I met my future husband while working as a receptionist.

JB and I moved to Las Vegas for a year in 1999. We rented a house and got tans and planted a lemon tree that produced actual lemons which we used to make a lemon meringue pie once, marveling at how egg whites really do turn into fluff if you beat them long enough. I wore sunglasses every day and had a job I thought might make me a millionaire before I turned 30. JB proposed at midnight of Y2K, the world didn’t end, I got laid off.

We moved to Seattle and lived in a city apartment where I took the bus to work every day. We had a view of the Sound and watched cruise ships and container ships slide across our window. JB climbed Mt. Rainier and got a terrible sunburn, I was on the 29th floor of an office building during Seattle’s 2001 earthquake and truly thought I was going to die, we got married and went to the Caribbean, we bought a house, I got a new job, we went whitewater rafting on the Rogue River.

I live in a suburb of Seattle and I have a dog and a cat. I’m afraid of spiders and I don’t have a favorite color. This morning I listened to the Dead Kennedys and Jenny Lewis. I learned how to knit a couple years ago but lost interest after two scarves. I am left-handed. JB thinks I’m a bad driver but I’m really not. I love Glacier National Park, horror movies, mint-flavored gum, flipflops, backyard birds, celebrity tabloids, the smell of Prada perfume, the thick white shhhhh of a snowfall, Warren Ellis comic books, and coconut Body Butter.

My favorite part of my current job is writing marketing copy and sometimes I think I’d like to turn that into a freelance career in the future. Sometimes I think I’d like to write a book, something that makes people laugh. I want to make some kind of difference, some kind of impact, some kind of connection; at the end of the day I want someone to feel affected by me in a positive way. This is not a selfless desire.

:::

I’m supposed to write about parenting a baby in this blog. While I have no shortage of things to say about that part of my life, there are other parts, too. Despite how it might feel at times, who I am doesn’t start and end with the word “mother”.

I’m not pretending this is interesting. It’s easier for us to bond over diapering techniques and sleep schedules. But just for today, I wanted to paint my picture outside of these mommyblog lines, not because I think I’m more than that in the sense that I’m better (no, no, no), but just for the fact that there is, in fact, more.

——–

TITLE: Stains on blankets and whiskers on kittens
DATE: 06/15/2006 12:26:22 PM

In the summer of 2004 JB and I backpacked into the Three Sisters Wilderness in Oregon’s Deschutes National Forest. We hiked over an unexpected amount of snow into an area that was, I’m sure, miles from any outside human contact. It had the echo of solitude, the only noises being the wind blowing through pines, the splashing crackle of a deer picking its way through the icy lake below, the startling buzz of a hummingbird stopping midair to observe us like a tiny secret government helicopter.

We made camp on a hill overlooking the water; our dog curled up outside the tent and snored while we gathered wood, made a fire, and re-hydrated our dinner. We packed Thermarests but the ground was still hard. The night brought a biting chill. Outside the glowing reach of the fire the woods were impossibly dark and housed unknown occupants. I got sap in my hair, grime under my fingernails, and bugbites on my forehead. We were officially Roughing It.

I was thinking about that camping trip last night as I lugged Riley into our room at the Extended Stay. I thought, I would give anything be sitting in the dirt, wiping my butt with a leaf, eating dried God-knows-what out of a silver bag and fashioning a crib for Riley out of Western Hemlock branches instead of spending one more night in this hotel.

Oh how I hate this hotel. I hate the crappy side door that doesn’t accept the plastic entry card and so every single day I have to go in through the front, hauling my son whose weight increases by the equivalent of one bowling ball for every five seconds he is hand‚–carried in his Graco seat. I hate the smell of the elevator, thick with the Ghosts of Forbidden Cigarettes. I hate the temperature of our room, which oscillates between Tropical Rain Forest and Arctic Death Blast, depending on whether the fan is turned on or not. I hate the surly front desk clerk with a facial expression that suggests some sort of citrus fruit has been rammed up her ass, possibly a Pummelo. I hate feeling like Mommy Dearest as I put my baby in the bathroom in order to give him an environment that has the potential for sleep. I hate that we are paying NINETY dollars a night for access to a refrigerator and a microwave, because any other hotel on earth would at least come in and vacuum while we’re out, but this one? NOT SO MUCH.

This morning I noticed some stains on the bed’s blanket. Staaaaains. Yellowish crusted-on stains. Oh, you didn’t need those details? WELL NEITHER DID I. I stopped at the front desk and asked if we could get a clean blanket, and maybe some towels. “That costs ten dollars,” said the clerk whose soul is as lively as a decomposing carp.

Ten dollars. To remove a DNA-encrusted blanket and toss in a few cheap towels that judging by their texture are fashioned entirely out of pencil shavings.

Did I mention this chain is called Extended Stay America? And that I would recommend setting up a nice cardboard box under a freeway overpass before giving them your business?

We learned yesterday that our floors have patches of discoloration that are so resistant to sanding they are creating a mottled effect, so we’re having boards replaced and a wood stain applied and now we don’t get to go home tonight or tomorrow as planned, we’re shooting for Saturday. At which point someone will probably discover an ancient Indian burial ground in our crawlspace and we’ll have to hire a creepy midget woman to rid our house of ghosts and man, we’ll never go home and all of Riley’s childhood memories will prominently feature mysteriously crunchy blankets and sleeping next to a toilet, wah.

Hey, speaking of Riley (mmm, seamless segue into my assigned topic!), his hair is getting a little long. I mean, he doesn’t exactly look like he should be wearing Lennon glasses and plastering a FREE TIBET sticker on his boppy pillow or whatever, but it’s a little shaggy. JB wants to buzz-cut him with his clippers, but I remember when he did that to our dog and I do not want the same fate to befall our child, because seriously, nobody likes a mange-ridden baby.

I’m paranoid to cut it myself because I have no training in scissor-based hair maintenance. On request I shave JB’s head down to a quarter inch every now and then, but that requires no skill other than the ability to refrain from calling him a jarhead for a week or so afterwards. What if I trim Riley and he looks like that one baby at his daycare who clearly has a bowl placed on their head as a template? Or what if he inexplicably becomes fearful of the scissors, like the time he decided the rotating office chair was possessed by demons and OH MY GOD GET IT AWAY, and I only get half his head done before he freaks?

What did you do when your kid first needed a haircut? While you let me know, I’ll just be sitting here dreaming of more comfortable surroundings.

——–

TITLE: The Cheerio I didn’t feed him
DATE: 06/16/2006 11:00:00 AM

Right now I’m trying out Typepad’s “Publish on..” feature so I am writing to the FUTURE! What’s it like there? Do you have jetpacks and a robot maid and calorie-free tiramisu?

Oh, don’t tell me. I want to dream.

I wanted to tell you about something that happened recently: when I picked up Riley from daycare on Tuesday his daily report, which normally just lists his pooping/eating/napping schedule, had some notes written at the bottom. They read, in part:

Miss Teena is teaching me to eat Cheerios! (She broke them into 4 pieces.) At first I looked at her funny but then I liked them!!

(We see Miss Teena in the mornings, she’s one of those people you hope and pray will be in your kid’s daycare because she really and truly loves all the kids. She sings out “Well hello there Mister Riley!” every day when he arrives and he wriggles all over with joy.)

I’ve been giving Riley cereal every now and then and his reaction has been the same: tentative mouthing followed by hacking and gagging and dramatic arm-flapping. Last weekend he started eating some tiny bits of chicken, which I was happy (okay: stupidly thrilled) to see, so I thought he might be finally ready for non-strained foods. I hadn’t tried cereal again, though.

Of course, after I saw the note I immediately broke up some Cheerios (in our hotel room which I am NOT GOING TO TALK ABOUT ANY MORE) (well, for today anyway) and offered them to him. Wonder of wonders, he reached out a little pincer-hand and picked one up, then navigated it to his mouth where he slowly chewed. And swallowed.

I had never seen him do that before. I mean, I’d never seen him pick up food and eat it. Or eat a piece of cereal without acting like he had a life preserver stuck in his throat.

So, he learned how to eat Cheerios at daycare. Which…I don’t know, it’s just Cheerios, but it was a milestone, it was something I’d been wondering when in hell he was going to learn how to do (look, I freak out about everything, I tell myself not to but I can’t help it, in my mind “not eating Cheerios” potentially meant “has a deformed esophagus” or “will be eating strained bananas at his wedding”), and what’s the next thing he’ll start doing with Miss Teena? First words? First steps?

I love going to work. I love those three days a week I get out of the house and into my job. Riley is doing great at daycare. I don’t want to stay home full time, even if we could afford it. I absolutely believe I am a better parent (speaking only for myself, as always) for working part of the week, it helps ground me and replenish my patience reserves and fulfill my non-mommy needs.

But: I missed his first Cheerio.

——–

TITLE: Holiday! Celebrate! It would be so nice
DATE: 06/20/2006 12:58:22 PM

I received no gift or card from my husband on Mother’s Day this year, because, as he put it, “I thought Riley was the one who was supposed to get you something, and he’s not old enough!” He thought we would start celebrating Mother’s Day in a couple of years, you know, as soon as Riley can participate.

I gently corrected his grave misunderstanding, of course. Starting at about noon on May 14 and pretty much every single day since then. You’d think it would be challenging to work that subject into everyday conversation, but it’s surprisingly easy! Here are a few examples:

JB: “Guess I better mow the lawn this weekend.”
Me: “Yeah, you wouldn’t want to drop the ball on that the way you did on Mother’s Day.”

JB: “Do we have any more peanut butter?”
Me: “We have the same amount of peanut butter in this house as I do Mother’s Day gifts, which is to say: none.”

JB: “You want to watch Entourage at 10?”
Me: “Sure, I’ll try and wrap up what I’m doing; you know, weeping softly and steadily into my sleeve as I mourn the fact that you didn’t consider my first Mother’s Day as a mother ‚– to your beautiful son, whom I carried inside my body for nine long months ‚– important enough to warrant a visit to Hallmark on my behalf.”

It’s a subtle strategy but I think it’s working. I mean, as long as my intent is to beat a dead horse right the hell into the ground. Which, frankly, it is.

I threatened to let this Father’s Day pass by in a similar non-celebratory fashion ‚– a little tit for JB’s tat, if you will ‚– but while I am a bitter, vengeful woman who can’t Just Let It Go, I am also a person who knows an opportunity when they see one.

JB: “Looks like it’s going to rain tomorrow.”
Me: “Oh, you mean Father’s Day, the day you’ll have presents to open and a thoughtful card, unlike say for example Mother’s Day, the day I got nothing?”

Fathersday06

JB and his son on Father’s Day. He is a wonderful, wonderful father, I couldn’t have asked for anyone better to share this experience with.

Well, maybe I could have asked for someone who remembered Mother’s Day. I’m just saying.

(PS. Photo taken in the unbelievably awesome Silver Cloud Inn, approximately four hundred million times better than the Extended Stay. The Silver Cloud had a suite with a kitchenette! They cleaned while we were out! The blankets were crust-free! The TV not only worked, it had HBO! The toilet paper was folded into a fancy little point! Thank you, Silver Cloud, for allowing us to have Father’s Day brunch on a piece of furniture that appeared refreshingly free of a previous guest’s DNA.)

——–

TITLE: The dangers we face
DATE: 06/21/2006 12:20:11 PM

I finally read Fast Food Nation — you know, the book everyone was talking about…like five years ago? Yeah, I like to jump on bandwagons after they are good and stale. One of these days I might just pick up that Da Vinci Code thing all the kids are reading.

Anyway, as you probably know, Fast Food Nation is about the fast food industry. The author covers a lot of uncomfortable ground in this book, from detailed descriptions of meatpacking plants to the political clout of big business, but the chapter that bothered me the most was the chapter on food-borne illness.

The author cites some information about E. coli that will make your hair stand on end. I’m not a germaphobe by any means, but reading about the effects that food-borne pathogens can wreak on a human body…it’s one thing to imagine this sort of horrific infection happened to you. It’s something entirely different to imagine it happening to your child.

The book talks about Nancy Donley’s six year old son, Alex, who died after eating a tainted hamburger.

“He became ill on a Tuesday night, the night after his mother’s birthday, and was dead by Sunday afternoon. Toward the end, Alex suffered hallucinations and dementia, no longer recognizing his mother or father. Portions of his brain had been liquefied.”

And Lauren Beth Rudolph, who ate contaminated food at a Jack in the Box:

“She was admitted to the hospital on Christmas Eve, suffered terrible pain, had three heart attacks, and died in her mother’s arms on December 28, 1992.”

My god.

The anecdotes are terrifying, although I suppose it’s like any other danger that comes with the territory of being alive: spend too much time focusing on it and a person could go all Howard Hughes, sealing themselves away from the infectious world, peeing in bottles and subsiding on Flintstones vitamins. When I drive Riley in my car we’re probably statistically more likely to meet our doom than encountering death by bacteria. Not that that’s exactly a comforting thought.

JB and I don’t really eat at fast food restaurants but we sure grill a lot of burgers in the summer. I guess I had thought the worst that might happen to you if you ate some bad meat was a couple days of sickness. I didn’t know there is the potential for catastrophic damage that can kill a child in less than a week.

Too much fear is always bad ‚– there are no safety guarantees in life, much as I wish like hell there were ‚– but I’m glad I read the book, I’m glad to have been scared by it enough to do some research and think about precautions.

I would never have given this subject a second thought before Riley.

Sometimes, as much as I am overwhelmed by the great unsafe world my boy lives in, I feel strangely thankful for the opportunity to care about so many issues. I don’t want to be consumed by worry, but I prefer this new existence where I am engaged and affected and just more…involved with life, somehow. Because as Riley’s mother, I think about everything in an entirely different way, from politics to the environment to bad hamburgers. My capacity for giving a shit has grown like the Grinch’s heart. The way I interact with the world is changing.

——–

TITLE: Wanted: teen chess club member or friendly cross-dressing Robin Williams
DATE: 06/22/2006 11:51:35 AM

I think I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times JB and I have left the house past 7 PM since Riley’s birth. Thanks to daycare, we occasionally run errands together on the Mondays and Fridays I don’t go to the office (something that came in extremely handy this week when we had to spend Monday moving our furniture back in the house; I know I just whined about missing a pivotal moment in Riley’s Cheerio-eating development but given the choice between observing [insert food-related milestone here] and dealing with a fussy baby while my house is in total chaos, well…I guess I’ll take the bye on Baby’s First Filet Mignon), but aside from visiting family, we really have no way of doing after-hours activities on our own.

For the most part, I’m not finding this to be a big deal. Last winter, once it became apparent that movie theater visits would be few and far between, I green-lighted a new television/entertainment center purchase that now gifts us with the opportunity to count every single pore on Brian William’s face each night. We use Netflix a LOT. We spend each night playing with Riley until his bedtime ‚– usually 7:30 ‚– and then we have the evening to ourselves to read, watch Entourage, pluck dog hairs from the couch, whatever.

It does occur to me, however, that it might be nice for my husband and I to occasionally eat dinner in a restaurant that doesn’t provide paper napkins in a metal dispenser. Or see a first-run movie again. Or go to a play, a concert, or, I don’t know, an erotic bakery or something.

So what I’m wondering is, how does one go about finding a babysitter? I mean, how do you find a perfectly responsible, kind, loving person who is available on random Friday and Saturday nights, who won’t let the baby play with 1) vertical blinds, 2) plastic bags, or 3) large bottles of Drano? Who won’t post our address on their MySpace page with an invitation to come check out Brian William’s pores, cuz they’re, like, freaking huge? Who won’t do what *I* did when I was a babysitter, which is to say, rummage through the parent’s bedroom and devour the entire contents of their fridge?

Actually, I really don’t care about the fridge thing. (All we’ve got in there is ketchup and “YoBaby” yogurt anyway. Bon appetit!) I just want someone we can trust with our baby for a few hours at a time.

Short of having some ridiculously lucky situation fall from the clear blue sky into our laps (“Hello, my name is M. Poppins, and I am your new next door neighbor. Do feel free to call upon my services should you wish for childcare. Also, please take note of my ass, from which gold doubloons and vanilla-scented butterflies are now exploding!”) I have no idea how to go about finding such a person.

So tell me, and forgive all my questions but I sure do find you a handy bunch, how did you find a good babysitter?

——–

TITLE: I forgot to baby-proof the FLOOR
DATE: 06/23/2006 09:07:27 AM

It’s not that we didn’t consider Riley when we decided to rip up our bruise-muffling carpets and expose bone-cracking hardwood floors all over the house, but now that we have them I’m a little concerned about the fact that they are indeed hard. Like, really hard. As in, I don’t know what the hell to do with my squirrelly semi-ambulatory child hard.

We can’t put down rugs yet, due to some potential problem with the stain not aging properly or the rug being sucked into another dimension or, I don’t know, whatever the contractor was yammering on about, so I’ve been trying to create a pain-free zone with piles of blankets for Riley. However, I find that I plunk him down in the middle of this kerfuffle of bedspreads, turn around for one second, and he’s at the perimeter doing a faceplant into the exposed wood.

This morning I happened to be sitting nearby when I saw him bailing from a hands-and-knees position off to one side (his favorite trick; is it possible I screwed up his motor function development by eating approximately 9251 pints of Chocolate Mint Cookie ice cream when I was pregnant? MY GOD, NO ONE WARNED ME ABOUT THE DANGERS OF BEN & JERRY’S) and quick like a bunny I stuck my bare foot out and created a buffer between his head, which apparently weighs as much as a cruise ship anchor, and the floor. He looked up at me from his position atop my foot, which was smashed flat like Wile E. Coyote after being run over with a steamroller, and started to screw his face up. “Don’t you even,” I warned him, “I just saved your anchor-head from DOOM, and now I shall never walk again.”

(That reminds me of something that happened years ago; I was holding someone’s baby, sort of cooing and pretending like I thought he was cute [I did not, in fact, find him cute at all — maybe I’d think he was today, as I am sappy and old now, but back then I did not care for Things Which Are Coated With Boogers] and out of nowhere that kid head-butted me in the face so hard I thought my nose was going to explode in a geyser of blood. And then he had the nerve to cry about it.)

I guess the solution is more blankets, or perhaps a tiny helmet and football padding. I’ve also considered other resources we have at hand ‚– after all, the dog was kind enough to share her bed while we still had carpet, maybe she wouldn’t mind making this sort of a long-term solution.

Dogbedboy06_1

(Yeah, I know: exposed outlet, allergy-triggering fur, probably a nearby poisonous snake…I’m focused on the floors, here.)

——–

TITLE: All the world’s a stage
DATE: 06/26/2006 10:16:29 AM

Out of nowhere, Riley seems to have arrived in his Terrible Twos, which is kind of weird because he’s 10 months old.

I actually don’t know what the Terrible Twos entail, having had exactly zero experience with children before manufacturing my own, but I imagine it has to do with willfulness and the frustration of not being able to express feelings and being, you know, practically a tadpole on the human life spectrum.

This weekend it seemed that Riley’s patience — never what I would call his strong suit, if we were to judge his skills at slobbery raspberries and methodically pounding his own genitals with a measuring cup he’d be a blue ribbon winner, but his capacity to accept delay? Not so impressive (you’d think he was a baby or something) — dwindled to negative numbers. He started making this horrendous squawk which seemed to have several meanings depending on the situation:

– I have dropped my toy and I am VERY ANGRY
– You need to get me out of this chair RIGHT THE HELL NOW
– There are OXYGEN MOLECULES IN THE AIR
– I am going to attempt to SHATTER GLASS with the power of my VOICE

In an attempt to figure out why our mild-natured son had suddenly grown as demanding as a tiny diapered South American dictator, we fed him seven (7!!) jars of food yesterday, in addition to several bottles. We kept staring at him (fishflopping, kicking his feet against the floor, and screaming) saying “Well, maybe he’s hungry,” and spooning yet more food into his squawk-hole. He ate bananas, yogurt, pieces of turkey, macaroni and cheese, applesauce, some bread, and half an avocado, all the while yelling at us like some asshole restaurant customer who you just know is going to tip less than 8%.

He howled and drummed his feet against me when I picked him up, he threw toys and then wailed about them being gone, he shrieked so loudly when JB walked through the room and disappeared from view the dog actually ran off and hid in our bedroom. He put up such a fuss each time we laid him in his crib for a nap I fully expected to walk in there and see his head spinning, pea soup flying everywhere.

Is this…did your kid do this when they were a baby? Is it a growth spurt? Please tell me this is a stage and not, you know, indicative of the toddler personality he is going to grow into. Not that I won’t love him anyway, ha ha ha haaaaaaa, but I might just need, uh, a prescription for some Xanax. With unlimited refills.

——–

TITLE: One year ago
DATE: 06/27/2006 11:00:00 AM

A year ago, I wrote in my journal:

Life has changed, and yet we haven’t even seen our baby take his first breath, or kissed his starfish hands, or held him in our arms. Life will change again in September, and in October, and in all the months after that, but here’s the thing: it would have anyway. Yes, I am a different person today than I was, and I’ll be a little different tomorrow, and that would have been true no matter what.

I don’t know why I was so fearful that I’d lose track of myself, when in reality the “me I’ve always known” is constantly changing; always growing older, if not wiser. The life I live today is vastly different than my life ten years ago, five years ago, even one year ago, and it doesn’t mean I’ve left myself behind like some abandoned pet; I’m always along for the ride, I’m always adapting and finding new things to love and failing at other things. Whatever you do in your life, you’re always adding to yourself, good or bad – never taking things away, because you can’t. In the coming months and years, my child may come first in life, but that doesn’t mean I will be erased in the process.

I believe Riley will be the sun in our solar system, that his importance in our lives will be without measure, but I also believe my universe has infinite capacity, and if things seem off-kilter at times (see also: pregnancy, obsession) that balance will eventually come. I feel blessed and happy and excited these days, and I’m sure I will have days where I feel scared and ineffectual and exhausted, and life will keep moving forward. Just like it always has.

Life certainly has changed since then; in overwhelmingly good ways, in frustrating ways, in ways I predicted and some I never could have. I look at what I wrote last summer and think, sometimes I don’t give myself enough credit. I called this just right.

——–

TITLE: Just a brief announcement
DATE: 06/28/2006 10:00:00 AM

If there is one more occasion when my husband takes complete leave of his senses and despite all our collective effort invested in getting Riley to fall asleep for the night, including two false starts, a bottle of warm milk, four readings of Good Night Moon and a fervent prayer offered to the Cranky Baby Gods, forgets entirely that there is finally, finally, FINALLY a slumbering baby ‚– in a loud, echo-ey hardwood-floored house ‚– and slams the front door shut not once, not twice, but multiple times in one evening as he tromps to and from the garage, I am going to slide a fully loaded diaper under the seat of his truck and coat his windshield wipers with toothpaste drop a Vietnamese jungle centipede into his sock drawer strangle him with a length of piano wire, hack his corpse into manageable pieces, stuff him in a wood chipper and spray his bloody remains all over the backyard really start getting frustrated.

——–

TITLE: Baby talk
DATE: 06/29/2006 08:50:35 AM

“Bye Riley! Bye! Bye…”

“Oh, is Riley leaving? Goodbye Riley! Goodbye!”

When I pick Riley up from daycare various teachers flock around him, fluttering and waving their hands and telling him goodbye. It’s sweet, really. But I find myself in the same uncomfortable position each time: what to say in response?

Riley can’t say goodbye. He says “beh beh deh deh DEHHHHH”, sometimes, but “bye, see you later, hey I meant to thank you for the bangup job on getting poop out of my scrotal area today, sorry about repeatedly trying to stick my hand in the action but, ha ha ha, I gotta be me, you know? Okay, catch you on the flip side, Miss Teena”? Not so much.

So I sort of hold Riley’s carseat up to point him at the kind women who are telling him goodbye and I actually find myself saying “say bye bye, Riley”. Worse, I have on more than one occasion grasped one of his squirming hands and waved it ‚– well, flopped it vaguely up and down ‚– in their direction.

Now that he’s 10 months old, this isn’t really so weird, I guess. I mean, he could start waving and saying “toodles” any day now, and I’m sure it’s good to demonstrate. It felt more stupid when he was, like, five months old and much more apt to be napping when I got him. “Say bye bye!” I’d chirp maniacally, while he snored gently in his Graco.

I just don’t really know how to respond when people talk to my baby. Like the well-meaning grandmotherly type in the grocery store who starts cooing, “Well aren’t you a handsome lad? How old are you?” And I mumble into the cart, “almosttenmonths” because she’s clearly waiting for some kind of response, but lady, we’re going to be here all day if you think he’s going to say anything other than “BAH BAH BAHHHHH”.

I much prefer the interaction that involves some obligatory child-speak (“Whose toes are those? Whose toes? Your toes!”) and then a question posed to me directly: how old is he, what’s his name, does he always have all that lint in his toes because ew, etc.

Riley’s own pediatrician has the worst habit of entering the room with a flourish (after, of course, we have been waiting for half an hour and I have exhausted all the available means of distraction and so as a last resort I am waving a tongue depressor in his face and squeaking “Hi Riley, I’m crazy Balsa Wood Guy! Gimme some candy because I’m crazy!”) and immediately launching into this weird cruise ship director voice, talking directly to Riley: “Well hello there! Oh my, you certainly are growing! Yes indeed! Goodness! Well, let’s take a look at you! And where is Daddy today?” Then there’s a pause, and I realize that was my cue. “Oh, uh, he’s working.”

Then she switches to saying “we” instead of “you”.

“I’m just going to turn you over and take a peek in your ear, just take a minute, there you go…and are we eating table foods? Do we like holding onto Mommy and Daddy’s hands and walking?”

Each visit I end up listening to her in confusion, trying to parse out the jolly who’s-a-good-baby filler talk from the actual questions.

As much as I find these types of encounters awkward, as goofy as I feel when strangers or people I know ask Riley questions, I found myself doing the exact same thing the other day with my coworker, whose baby was strapped in a front carrier. “Hello! Hello there,” I simpered, tickling the baby’s feet, “You’re getting so BIG! Gosh, what are you, five months now?” Then, of course, I slid my eyes upward to wait expectedly for my coworker’s answer.

——–

TITLE: Stop! Vacationtime
DATE: 06/30/2006 09:00:00 AM

Well, tomorrow we’re piling swim diapers and toys and food and the dog and clothing that spans the entire known weather spectrum of the Northern Hemisphere and driving down to central Oregon to spend a week at JB’s family cabin. It’s lucky the place is so pretty:

Fathersdaycabin_05

…because otherwise I might question our sanity for looking forward to a 7-hour drive with a 10-month old and a weeklong stay in close quarters.

But! There will be a river and an ecstatic Labrador and sunshine and playing with Riley and watermelon and whole days on end of not looking at a computer, and road trip be damned, I can’t wait. Summer vacation, here we come.

Lest you grow concerned about a distressing gap in my narrative here at ClubMom (don’t bother telling me otherwise; I refuse to accept any other scenario. In my mind, where the winged ponies and calorie-free Frappucinos live, YOU WERE CONCERNED), I have scheduled a week’s worth of posts to appear in my absence. I feel mildly suspicious about TypePad’s abilities to really post X entry on Y date, but if it all works as planned next week’s theme around these parts will be The Pregnancy Diaries; a recap of sorts about my experiences growing Riley last year.

Think of it like those sitcom montage shows, where it’s like the writers all went on vacation at the same time so they just show a bunch of clips from old episodes, vaguely strung together to create some kind of linear story. You know, except not as lame.

*cough*

Anyway. See you on the 10th, I hope you have a wonderful week and holiday — if you’re celebrating — and please come visit next week to read up on such thrilling pregnancy tales as “The Time I Almost Peed On the Ultrasound Table”, and “Gas: It Makes You Burp And Fart.”

——–

TITLE: Pregnancy Diaries: the beginning
DATE: 07/03/2006 09:00:00 AM
—–

(Note: the entries being posted this week chronicle events that happened in the past; primarily my pregnancy with Riley.)

I wrote this in June, 2003:

I brought Dog to work today, and this afternoon I took her on a walk. When we walked by an apartment complex, three little boys came running up. “Can we pet your dog?” they chorused, and after receiving the okay, all three gently petted Dog while she stood amiably grinning. One boy had a pair of plastic handcuffs on. I asked him why, and he showed me a sweet gap-toothed smile. “Because I put them on,” he patiently explained. So you’re not going to jail? I asked. “Noooo,” he said, chortling at the thought.

I imagined, for a moment, having a young son. Laughing with him. Emptying his pockets of rocks, frogs, gum, handcuffs.

Do you feel ready, he asks me sometimes.

“This dog,” I said solemnly, “has been known to lick little boys.” Three pairs of round eyes looked at me. “But only the bad ones.” On cue, Dog casually slurped one grimy hand.

Giggling, all around.

No. I am not ready. I am not ready to utterly and completely change my life forever and ever. I am not ready to be responsible for raising a human being. I am not ready to become a mother.

I am not ready to think about schools and orthodontics and healthcare and swimming lessons and soccer and pencil-packs and report cards and the PTA and breastfeeding-vs-formula and antibiotics and haircuts and macaroni art and field trips and first steps and training wheels and ant farms.

I am not ready to get up in the middle of the night to do anything other than shuffle to the bathroom to pee.

Do not even get me started about giving birth.

I am Not Ready Yet Goddamit.

And yet, I can’t seem to stop the passage of time. I keep getting older. Oh, I know 29 is not over any hill us reasonable folk are aware of, but months have a way of sneaking by so fast. Is this just a freakout that happens in some women’s lives? Where you are staring 30 in the face and suddenly it seems like there are so many people your age with kids and your husband wants kids and and you feel like the immature shithead because you like your life the way it is? Where you start wondering if in the sway of biological influence, role expectations, and the occasional sentimental surge, you have any hope of making a rational decision at all?

When the smile on a little boy’s face can pull you in a thousand directions at once, and you feel like you are never going to figure all this out. Ever.

“Bye dog!” they yelled, waving. “Bye! Bye!” And we walked on.

:::

In 2004 I began thinking that if I wasn’t quite 100% ready to say I was ready, I was maybe getting to a place where I was ready to consider the possibility of Abandoning the Precautions, if you get my drift. “If it happens, it happens,” JB said happily, while I chewed my fingernails and worried.

In early 2005, I was at the library one Sunday when I saw a women carrying a small baby pass me by. In an instant, it was like several things that had been floating just out of my field of vision came into sudden, sharp relief: a faint feeling of discomfort, like being mildly carsick; a yawning exhaustion; a period that was MIA.

On Monday morning I called in sick to work, stationed myself in the bathroom, peed on the stick and then walked into my bedroom and tried to make myself wait a few minutes before looking at the results of the test. I held off for about ten seconds before rushing back in where I observed the second pink line swiftly coming into view. Like a Polaroid.

I could barely breathe. I placed my hands on the surface of my belly and stood staring at myself in the toothpaste-flecked mirror.

And just like that, everything was different.

Just like that, my fears were attenuated by a fierce and growing love.

Just like that.

——–

TITLE: Pregnancy Diaries: first trimester
DATE: 07/04/2006 09:00:00 AM
—–

In January of 2005, I beheld my positive EPT test with a thousand manic thoughts racing through me. I was thrilled, scared, elated. I tried to focus on the next step: telling my husband.

I thought about calling him, but instead I launched into a ridiculously complex series of activities in order to send him a visual announcement. I photographed the test, downloaded it to my computer, adjusted the contrast so both lines were more clearly visible, sharpened the details, oval-marquee’d the image and created a nice fadeout effect using an inverse selection and feathering the border. When I caught myself surfing Getty for a nice baby-related graphic to include in some clever way, I told myself to chill the hell out and send the file already.

I sent the message and sat back to wait for his ecstatic phone call. I grinned foolishly at no one and jiggled my foot. And I waited. And waited.

Finally, after an unbearable amount of time I called him and asked him if he’d checked his email lately. “Nope,” JB said cheerily. “Why?”

“Well,” I said, “you might want to look at it, say for example RIGHT NOW”.

“Okay…so, I see this mail from you. Huh, what’s that graphic you attached?”

And so out of all the ways I had imagined giving my husband the wonderful news that we were expecting a child together — out of all the emotionally tender things I could have said or done, what I actually did was yell “JESUS CHRIST, YOU KNOCKED ME UP, YOU DICK!” at him over the phone.

:::

At 10 weeks, I went in for my first prenatal exam, an event I was looking forward to with panting glee ‚– not for the pelvic exam and internal howdy from that freaky vaginal mascara wand, but for the heartbeat.

JB came with me and listened attentively while¬†the nurse explained the different places we’d need to go for bloodwork and the upcoming ultrasounds, and he kindly refrained from bursting into loud donkey-brays of laughter when I fearfully whispered “the…fetus’s finger?” when the nurse told me about an upcoming fingerprick blood test.

“Now, there’s a strong chance we won’t be able to pick anything up yet,” the doctor warned us as she got out the Doppler instrument. “I don’t want you to feel too disappointed if that’s the case.” As she pressed the monitor against me, all we heard were whooshes and weird glorpy sounds. “That’s your intestine,” she said cheerily, and I smiled with all my teeth and tried very hard not to bite her.

She prodded some more, and I stared at the ceiling, and it seemed pretty clear we weren’t going to hear anything this time. I tried not to feel bad, tried to think about the upcoming ultrasound which was scheduled to happen in the next 3 weeks, and all of a sudden – there it was. This fast, strong sound, and the doctor caught my eye and nodded, and there it was, the heartbeat of this tiny creature inside me, alive, alive. Everything stopped, everything became still and far away as all I heard for those few unbelievable moments was the sound of my baby’s heart.

:::

I had my first ultrasound in March. What I most remember from that experience is that it took forever, from the time I arrived and sat in the waiting room for so long I could have claimed squatter’s rights and built a house there, to the actual exam where the technician couldn’t get a good shot of Riley’s neck for the nuchal translucency test and so had me bend myself into various positions ‚– while all the while I fought a very real and growing concern that I would lose what tenuous control I had over my bladder (“Patient must drink 3 full glasses of water one hour before appointment”) and drench the entire Overlake Medical Tower with pee.

Oh, and I also learned that I had gallstones. Three of them! I named them Britney, Ashlee, and Paris.

:::

At 14 weeks, I wrote in my journal:

I catch myself wishing that I’d get to the next milestone sooner – feeling the baby kick, learning the sex – and I have to remind myself that this period will be over all too soon. It’s hard to believe, but someday it’ll just be a blip on my memory. Hey, remember that one time when I was all pregnant and shit? I feel the strangest combination of wanting to fast-forward this movie, and hit pause at the same time.

——–

TITLE: Pregnancy Diaries: second trimester
DATE: 07/05/2006 09:00:00 AM

As I moved into my second trimester, I started noticing some changes in my body that I wasn’t necessarily prepared for. Why didn’t anyone warn me about the blue-veined monstrosities my breasts would morph into? I mean, wasn’t it bad enough I was wearing a bra size that rhymed with “Plorty Snee”, did I also have to see the exact pattern of oxygen flow on my chest? And I was absolutely plagued by the Jimmy Leg. (If you are not familiar with the Jimmy Leg, let me describe it: it’s like your foot has not been informed that it’s 11:59 PM and suddenly starts jiggling up and down to its own special techno beat. The left foot, feeling jealous of the right foot’s newfound dance skills, joins in, until your entire lower body is drumming a hole into the mattress and your husband tells you to cut it out for crying out loud.)

Genetic mutants like Sarah Jessica Parker had taught me that pregnancy would result in a mostly unchanged body except for a cute, round belly that you could stretch fashionable sundresses over. In contrast, I was gassy, bloated, covered in zits, and my boobs needed their own zip code.

In April I felt the baby move for the first time. I was on an endless flight from Tokyo to Seattle, having traveled to Japan on business. I was lucky enough to get business class on the way there, but coming home I was crammed in coach, watching United’s helpful message scrolling on each little seat-attached movie display unit that suggested I “get up and walk around at least every 2 hours!” and “drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated!”. I grimly noted that to follow either of those suggestions in economy class where the seats are built for anorexic midgets meant I would either have to continually wake my seatmate to get up and let me by, or sling a leg over his prone snoring body and briefly ride him like a lusty cowgirl as I heaved my way to the restroom.

So, I pretty much sat in one place for about eight hours on the flight home, trying to unkink my legs every now and then while I stared morosely off into space and wondered what they were eating in business class. It was during this purgatorial state that I first noticed some weird movement in my belly. It happened off and on throughout the flight, and each time I actively paid attention to the sensation it would stop, leaving me wondering. It was like bubbles. Like tiny flicks on the inside of my belly. The tiniest touch, the lightest tap. Magic.

:::

At 21 weeks, I had another ultrasound. The Big One.

“You want to know the sex?” the technician asked, typing GENDER on the screen. We replied in the affirmative. “Can you make a guess?” JB had a better view than I did (why don’t they make that monitor more visible, so the mother-to-be doesn’t have to crane her neck Exorcist-style to see what’s going on?) and blurted “boy!” just before she sort of drew a square around what was clearly an impressive male organ. You know, for a fetus and all.

A boy. A boy. Oh my god, we were having a boy. Hello in there, I whispered to my belly. Hello, Riley William.

:::

I started reading about birth plans. They freaked me out. At one point I wrote:

Listen, my “plan” is to make it through the birth process without angrily devouring my husband’s head like a praying mantis, and beyond that I can’t imagine exerting too much control over the sequence of events. If I can’t demand my own ass not to produce a stack of poop on the delivery table, then what’s the point?

:::

I had an email exchange with JB that made me wonder if they include “Communicating With Your Partner” during the childbirth classes:

—–Original Message—–
From: me
Sent: Monday, June 20, 2005 2:36 PM
To: JB
Subject: Block off next Tuesday morning!

9 AM appt to see our kid at the 4D ultrasound!


From: JB
Subject: RE: Block off next Tuesday morning!
Date: June 20, 2005 2:42:47 PM PDT
To: me

Cool; OK. What time?

:::

One evening we were getting ready to go see Batman Begins when I stopped in the bathroom and discovered I was bleeding. I tried to stay calm, and reported my state of affairs to an on call doctor, who I naively hoped might say something soothing like, “You’re 28 weeks pregnant and experiencing a significant amount of bleeding? Why, that’s perfectly normal. I prescribe ‘New York Strawberry Cheesecake’ flavor ice cream for you, young lady!”, but instead he told me to do not pass go, do not collect $200, etc, go straight to the hospital.

We drove straight to Labor & Delivery, neither of us breathing at a normal pace, and I was swiftly hooked up to monitors and then an ultrasound machine and then thank god, thank god, the baby was pronounced just fine. “No sex for two weeks,” the doctor told me, and I laughed a little hysterically and asked was he KIDDING because I was NEVER GOING TO HAVE SEX AGAIN HA HA HA.

While I was lying on the table, I suddenly felt the baby hiccup for the first time.

——–

TITLE: Pregnancy Diaries: third trimester
DATE: 07/06/2006 09:00:00 AM

(Note: the entries being posted this week chronicle events that happened in the past; primarily my pregnancy with
Riley.)

When I was about seven months along, JB and I started going to a weekly childbirth class. I found it relatively helpful, except for the part on the first day when the instructor informed us that the paper nametag circles we had all safety-pinned to our shirts were the exact size of a fully dilated cervix. I don’t think I needed to grok the concept of "10 centimeters" quite so…viscerally.

During one class we watched an ancient video that focused on various sweaty, miserable looking women in labor accompanied by a syrupy voiceover saying things like "She trusts her body, she has the wisdom to cope, she gains strength from her partner", before the requisite camera closeup of a Dali-esque Monster Vagina slowly expelling a vernix-slimed, gore-streaked newborn. As the lights came back on, the instructor smiled brightly.

"Well!" she said. "Any questions so far?"

The room was quiet, everyone seemingly lost in thought. Finally, a sole hand raised in the air – a woman from the front row wearing a fashionable maternity top and glittering, dangling earrings. "What," she said tremblingly, "exactly WAS that…goo all over the baby?"

I laughed all the way home.

:::

At the beginning of August we had prepared the nursery for Riley’s grand entrance. The drawers of his dresser/changing table were filled with tiny, adorable outfits, washed in baby detergent and carefully folded. The crib was outfitted with blue-green sheets and bereft of any soft item of any kind, in keeping with the latest available SIDS information ("Put your baby on a large metal tray for sleeping. Do not allow your baby to become comfortable. If possible, poke baby with a sharp stick every five to six minutes during naptime."). A stroller lurked in the corner of the room, a car seat had been ordered, packages of diapers littered the floor next to the sealife themed lamp.

I felt ready in some ways, but not in others. At one point I decided the carpet was too disgusting for us to allow a newborn to be anywhere near it, and I started frantically cleaning.

"Are you nesting?" JB asked me.

"I don’t know," I replied. "Why?"

He spoke to me very gently, the way you do with a small child or easily startled forest animal, "Babe, it’s 11:30 at night, and you are on your hands and knees crawling around the living room with a spray can of Spot Magic."

"There are stains," I moaned. "Staaaaaiiiiiiins."

"Say," said JB slowly. "I have an idea. What say we pack that hospital bag – like, right now?"

:::

I started feeling enormously huge, uncomfortably so. I was still happy with what I saw in the mirror ‚– I don’t know how to accurately describe how freeing and amazing that felt, really ‚– I loved my Lucky Strikes belly ("so round, so firm, so fully packed!"), but I had a near-constant sensation of being AT CAPACITY. Logically I knew my belly could still get bigger, but I felt tight as a drum, my ribs sort of shoved out to the sides and my lungs wadded up into little pink balloons somewhere around the back of my throat.

I realized what every other woman who has ever been pregnant knows: after all the magical moments of first heartbeats and movements and finding out the sex and all that, at the end, it’s just weeks of lumbering around like a beluga whale and exploding out of the maternity clothes you thought would never, ever fit. 081305_belly

I wore my wedding rings on a chain around my neck. None of my shoes fit except my Teva flip-flops. And it was August, and we didn’t have air conditioning.

It seemed hard to believe that the same creature who, just a few months prior, had caused the tiny popcorn-bubble sensation that I could barely distinguish from my normal digestive bloops and blorps had grown enough to turn my belly into such a massive outcropping, with a hard surface constantly rippling wildly with hidden baby parts. One night I was lying in bed on my right side reading, when I had the oddest feeling of localized pressure on the left slope of my belly, and looked down in time to see what was clearly a little sub-dermal foot protruding out a good three inches from my skin’s normal surface. It actually frightened me a little, in a "am I about to re-enact a scene from Alien?" kind of way. I called in JB, who stood saucer-eyed with wonder as the baby obligingly repeated the phenomenon two or three more times. It was like watching our unborn child move around under a stretched piece of Bubble Yum: freaky, and frustrating – he was just right there, millimeters away.

More and more, I was looking forward to the birth.

:::

I wrote in my journal: I would trade all the smaller worries in the world for my new favorite wish, the one strong enough to blow out a million birthday cake candles, the one that says please let our baby be healthy. …without even having seen my child’s eyes or heard his first breath of air, my heart feels expanded to tender, almost raw proportions. Like the Grinch, I’ve outgrown my heart’s surroundings, the ironwork around my chest is curled back and everything is exposed. The notion of loss is never far from my mind, I think how do people survive it and in the meantime my belly keeps growing, the baby’s kicks are stronger than ever; the miracle marches on.

I also wrote: I actually Google mapped the nearest Dairy Queen last night, in order to go out at 9 PM and obtain a Heath bar/Butterfinger Blizzard. I am a giant cliche.

:::

On August 29, I went to the doctor’s office for my 37-week prenatal appointment, doing the usual. Pee in the cup, step on the scale, clamp my lips around the thermometer, hold out my arm for the blood pressure cuff…

The nurse looked at me. "Are you on blood pressure medication?" she asked.

"No…"

She got my doctor. There was a lot of conferring, and questions (Was I having vision problems? Any excessive swelling? No, I said, well my toes are kind of fat, but…no, not really). And then my doctor told me that my blood pressure was high, high enough to make them very concerned.

"I want you to go to Labor and Delivery," she said gently. "And I think there’s a good chance you won’t be leaving without having the baby."

:::

——–

TITLE: Pregnancy Diaries: the big payoff
DATE: 07/07/2006 09:00:00 AM

In my ninth month of pregnancy, I was sewing ocean-themed curtains for the baby’s room on a quiet Sunday afternoon when I felt a twinge in my belly. I smiled, because I knew. I just somehow knew, even though the pains hadn’t come yet.

Later that night, I turned to JB (we were watching a movie to pass the time), and said the words I had been waiting to say ever since I saw the second pink line appear: “I think it’s time.”

We drove to the hospital, giddy. I clutched my enormous belly and took deep breaths, the pain had escalated but I felt confident, it all felt somehow familiar, as if my body just knew exactly what to do and how to handle it.

Hours later I was drenched with sweat, but filled with a fierce sense of pride. I’d made it the whole way without drugs or intervention. Now it was time to push. My body felt like a machine, the pain was everywhere and brutal but I gritted my teeth and pushed, over and over, until the nurses said, “Here he comes!” and suddenly, Riley was there, squalling and slippery.

They placed him on my belly and I touched all his fingers, all over his body, and wept. My husband wept too, his hands on Riley, on me. “I’m so proud of you,” he said.

Well, that’s how I had imagined Riley’s birth would be, anyway. Did it happen like that? Ha ha ha ha ha HAAAAA no.

Instead, I went straight from my 37-week prenatal appointment to the hospital, where I was hooked up to a fetal monitor and a blood pressure cuff. I stayed in limbo for a few hours while the nurses clucked over my blood pressure levels, and finally came to a decision: I would be admitted to a delivery room, and labor would be induced.

They also told me I’d need to start a magnesium drip. “Um, I’m not going to lie to you,” one nurse said. “This stuff is pretty nasty.”

Man, they weren’t kidding. Once they started that drip I turned bright red, flushed from head to toe like I had the world’s worst sunburn. The flushing subsided, but a growing headache settled in, and I remained nauseated and head-swimmingly woozy for the entire four-day period the IV was attached.

After two days of unsuccessful inducement attempts, we decided to go the C-section route. I wasn’t happy about it, but the alternative was trying Pitocin ‚– which would be at odds with the muscle-relaxant qualities of the magnesium ‚– and if nothing happened after what would be a painful, but most likely fruitless number of hours, a C-section would be necessary anyway. We opted for a chance at some rest, and surgery in the morning.

My surgery was scheduled for 5 AM, never my finest hour in the best of conditions. The magnesium made me shake like a dog, my teeth chattering and my stomach churning. I was absurdly grateful for the strange warming sensation the epidural caused, as though I were lying in a warm bath rather than strapped Jesus-on-a-cross-style to an operating table.

When the surgery began I felt nothing more than some tugging and jostling. At one point I became very convinced I was going to hork everywhere, and the anesthesiologist told me it was a common sensation, it was because of what was going on with my intestines right then.

I did not want to know what was going on with my intestines right then. For all I knew, the surgical team had drawn them out, made a giant loop, and were taking turns playing jump rope with them.

Soon the jostling became very physical, and suddenly there was a blur of activity: a baby (oh my god?) being carried over to a little area where they clustered around, cleaning him up. Things seemed to happen very fast after that: JB leaving my side, JB returning with Riley. My baby, wrapped in a pink-and-blue striped blanket. Surgery ending, me being wheeled away to a recovery room. Riley joining us.

I spent two more days in the hospital; finally, finally, FINALLY ridding myself of that beshitted mag drip, recovering enough to sit up and walk (like an ancient, arthritic crone — I was dismayed at how annihilated I felt), spending time with Riley: feeding him, changing his tiny diapers, marveling over every inch of his perfect skin.

And then we came home. Me, my husband, and our son. We came home.

:::

I wrote in my journal:

Riley is a dream baby. I suppose things can and will change, but right now he only cries when he’s hungry and when he needs to be changed. He spends most of his time sleeping, or lying in our arms, awake and blinking his blue newborn’s eyes at us. He is unbelievably good natured, mellow and sweet. I could simply hold him all day long, staring at his face, touching his soft skin and smelling his head. I kiss his little mouth all the time, I can barely keep my hands off him. JB is the same way, singing to him, keeping a running commentary during a diaper change, holding his tiny hand and marveling at his grip. We are in love, we are over the moon and yes, it’s a lot of work, but oh my god, it’s worth every single solitary second. I know this time will go by so fast and I want to freeze frame every moment, I want to lock him in, I want to Save As: Newborn.

Later, I wrote:

Sometimes I can hardly recognize my own self in the maelstrom of emotions that are running through me. Sometimes I cry for no reason whatsoever – just bam, the waterworks are on, so sorry, do you have a tissue? Sometimes I feel like a bad mother; that there are things that should be coming to me instinctually that just aren’t, that I worry and obsess over Riley nonstop and I don’t know how to get a handle on it, that JB is happy and content and doesn’t stare at our son as though he were a live grenade and I’m jealous as hell and can’t figure out why I’m the only one that’s crazy and sad and terrified.

Later still, I wrote:

…here I am, exactly where I want to be, near my son. And my day is filled with a thousand tiny moments that shatter me, that crack me open, that peel me like a grape; these transient shutterflashes: the warm drowsy weight of him in my arms, the down of his hair, his smell, his wide open flowery face, the grip of his fingers wrapped around my own, the droop of his eyes as I whisper stories in his ear…I don’t think I have the words for this, really. Just that I’m so happy, we are both so unbelievably joyous and loving our son so very much, this is all a million times MORE than I ever, ever could have imagined.

Holdingfeet

I hope this story never, ever has an ending, for we are still writing it.

:::

(I’ll be back from vacation on Monday and I’ll let you know how a week in a cabin with a 10-month old went. Thank you so much for reading this week.)

——–

TITLE: Dayswimming
DATE: 07/10/2006 09:25:14 AM

Before we left on vacation last week, I prowled the aisles at my local Fred Meyer looking for a flotation device for Riley. We would be spending the week on a lazy bend of the Umpqua river, and the second item on my “must pack” list (under Baby Sunscreen: SPF 1 MILLION) (also, can I just make a confession here and admit my biggest fear about Riley getting too much sun exposure has less to do with skin damage and more to do with the nightmarish prospect of dealing with a sunburnt, fussy baby? okay then) was Some Sort of Life-Saving Floatie Thing.

It seems that the half-inflated, underarm-chafing water wings I remember as a kid are no longer de rigeur; there are now a plethora of child-sized swimsuits with built-in flotation blocks. Seems like a good enough idea, but none were small enough for Riley. I took a pass on the long, tubelike foam deals that you can apparently wrap around your kid like a pipe cleaner and toss them out to sea, I skipped the inflatable hamster sphere that I can only hope was meant to be used as a giant toy to bat around rather than a sealed Ball of Horror you place your child inside before carefully aiming him at the mouth of the Niagara Falls.

I ended up with the only vaguely appropriate choice;¬†the Baby and Me Boat. I was somehwat suspicious, both of the massive perm sported by the healthy 70’s era mom depicted on the packaging, and the pricetag. It seems like something designed to keep your child from drowning should maybe cost more than twenty bucks, you know? And should come with a military-grade amphibious vehicle, a team of highly trained rescue dogs, and a semi-automatic external defibrillator. JUST IN CASE.

The Baby and Me Boat, with a few halfhearted breaths, expanded into a poly vinyl construction with a seat on one end and a C-shaped clamp on the other. No rescue dogs were included, but there was a vaguely intestine-link tube with balls inside of it, meant for distracting baby from the terrifying business of being submerged in water I guess.

As it turns out, Riley LOVED the water. He LOVED the Baby and Me Boat. He kicked his legs and batted at the intestine and chattered with glee. If we hadn’t started worrying that excessive pruning might be bad for babies, I think he could have spent entire afternoons out in the river with us.

It was the first time Riley had been in water, other than our bathtub. The Boat, the river, our little family — everything was just perfect.

——–

TITLE: He likes to move it move it
DATE: 07/11/2006 08:13:11 AM

Everything I know about infant development I learned from a copy of What to Expect the First Year, and the internet.

In What to Expect, the book lists each month of age and the milestones that are typically associated with it. “At eight months, your baby will probably start showing an interest in water polo and may even be able to speak a few words of Portugese!” ‚– you know, that kind of thing. I got tired of the WTETFY book a long time ago, after reading that my baby may be able to pick up a small object such as a RAISIN and then going on to read that OMG BABIES CAN CHOKE ON RAISINS (so if he picks it up and then chokes on it, is he a gifted child? WTF, WTETFY).

The internet is no good either, usually I end up reading blog entries by someone whose baby emerged from the womb wearing size 3 diapers and speaking in full sentences and I start panicking about how MY kid isn’t using a slide rule yet and why is everyone ELSE’S baby doing handstands and folding origami, did I skip a crucial chapter in that freaking book?

I promise I really do understand that every baby develops at their own pace, but I have to admit I was a little worried that Riley wasn’t crawling. It seemed as though the other babies his age had been crawling for months, and Riley appeared content to be mostly immobile; ferried around the living room by his parents, or occasionally rolling from one end of the floor to the other. I started picturing him, years in the future, attending his very first day of grade school: hoisted into the classroom by yours truly, my left bicep grown to elephantine proportions.

Then this past week he just all of a sudden rolled his legs underneath him, crawled busily across my brother-in-law’s carpet to grab a toy, then popped back into a sitting position and grinned at his parents, whose eyeballs had shot out of their sockets and were dangling merrily to and fro at the end of their bouncy optic nerves.

Oh yeah: IT’S ON NOW.

(No toes are safe from the Crawler!)

On our hardwood floors he’s amazingly adept, he uses the slipperiness to his advantage and careens around like he’s covered in Wesson Oil. He pushes himself on his belly, he twirls from one distraction to the next, and sometimes he flattens himself and grunts along like a G.I. scooting under a length of barbed wire. And when he gets his knees up under him, forget it. He’s gone in sixty seconds.

So tell me…why, why, WHY was I actually waiting for this stage? Instead of being worried, I should have got down every single day and kissed the floor in thanks for my safe, nonmoving baby, who was content to be propped in a boppy pillow and who I could turn my back on for whole seconds at a time without him zooming across the room and immediately finding 1) a wad of dog hair to eat, 2) a snarl of tempting wires, or 3) Daddy’s porn stash.

Woe, woe is us.

——–

TITLE: That which is most important
DATE: 07/12/2006 07:26:36 AM

I work outside the home three days a week, which sometimes makes me feel like I’m in some weird Mom Purgatory: not a stay at home parent, but not exactly a full time working parent either. I sometimes feel guilty that I don’t spend all my time with Riley, I sometimes lament the half-assedness of my part-time career.

As jobs go, I’m really lucky — my office is almost ridiculously flexible, and I can change up my workdays if I need to. Or show up at 11 AM wearing a formula-stained shirt, flipflops, and a pair of shorts with a hole in the butt (I work with software engineers, tardiness and a blind spot for haute couture comes with the territory). I haven’t always been happy at my workplace, but these days I find there’s a lot to like about it.

I do think it’s hard to work part-time in a company where everyone else is there five days a week. Things happen without you. People don’t take you as seriously. You’re probably not going to be getting many raises, because whether or not it’s fair there’s a perception you can’t shake: you’re gone a lot. Hey, remember that one meeting where we….oh, right, you were gone. Never mind that you worked all this out with your boss, you get paid a part-time salary, it’s not like you’re calling in sick here; you’re still in absentia part of the week. You can’t take on certain projects, you can’t contribute the same way, you can’t get as much done.

Yesterday I was at work and I had some important tasks on my plate; an upcoming ad deadline, a bunch of copy to write, a software announcement to make. Around lunchtime my cell phone rang and for the very first time, it was daycare ‚– calling to let me know Riley was running a high fever. I dropped everything and essentially ran out the door. I left emails unanswered, a pile of papers on my desk, an announcement unannounced, and a blinking voicemail light.

It isn’t always easy, balancing work and home life and trying to figure out what’s best for my family, what’s best for me. But it’s never, ever unclear where my priorities lie these days.

——–

TITLE: Abandon hope, pray for silence
DATE: 07/13/2006 09:33:25 AM

In the course of my tenure-thus-far as a mother, I have scrubbed diarrhea out of a cloth bouncy seat, used my own finger to remove globby boogers from Riley’s nostrils, and kissed his chubby feet only to later fish a sodden fluff of toe lint out of my mouth. I have found poop on my elbow after a diaper change, had semi-digested formula horked all down my shirt and lap, and a wet mouthful of applesauce sneezed directly into my face. I have grimly dealt with a dirty diaper at a highway rest stop, had Riley decide that the checkout line at my local grocery store would be the perfect time to start screaming as though snapping turtles had clamped onto his thighs, and endured countless warm, odious belches aimed at my nose.

I thought I had toughened up. I thought I could handle whatever this baby decided to throw at me, even if it was a moist handful of his own digestive byproducts.

But Riley has come up with something new, and it is my Kryptonite.

HE. IS. GRINDING. HIS. TEETH.

I hope you understand the utter and complete NIGHTMARE of which I speak. He is grinding his teeth ‚– not in his sleep, where I would have a snowball’s chance in hell of ignoring it, but during the day. For instance, this morning. All. Morning. Long.

It is, and I am not exaggerating in the least, the worst sound in the entire world. I would rather hear someone scraping their Jersey-length acrylic nails down a fifty-foot blackboard. I would rather hear someone repeatedly screeching their fork against a plate, or chewing on styrofoam, or running a circular saw through a sheet of metal. I would rather have my eardrums punctured with a chopstick, my eyelids stung by hornets, and be trapped on an seventeen-hour flight in coach with Ann Coulter than hear Riley’s teeth grinding ONE MORE TIME.

I’m pretty sure I’m going to hear it, though. Oh yes, he doesn’t seem too interested in stopping. In fact, he seems downright fascinated with his emerging tooth-nubs, and appears to find it great fun to grit them together, over and over and over and over and over….emanating a skeletal, ungodly, hair-raising noise you can hear from any room in my goddamn house.

I have tried giving him things to chew. I am not proud to admit that I have, in fact, wedged a teething biscuit into his protesting mouth in the hopes he would get distracted by it. But no. He’d rather grind, grind, grind, until his parents lose their minds.

So! That’s my news. Carry on. I’ll just be, you know, tremblingly stuffing plugs in my ears, rocking back and forth in this fetal position, and maybe sobbing inconsolably to myself. Gosh, parenthood is exciting, you just never know what’s right around the corner.

——–

TITLE: Advancing in some areas, retreating in others
DATE: 07/13/2006 10:48:57 PM

This seems to be the week for Thrilling New Baby Developments in my household. And by “thrilling” I mean “sucktacular, with extra suck”.

Riley has started pulling himself up in the crib. Not all the way to a standing position, but about halfway ‚– I usually find him either sitting or kneeling, his hands grasping the top of the bars and his little squirrel-cheeked face peeping over the top.

When I open his bedroom door to find a smiling baby gazing back at me, this is indescribably cute. A happy baby, all adorable and crap, patiently waiting to be hoisted out and played with? That’s a WMD right there. That’ll get you all crazy in the head and thinking that hey, maybe this kid could use a little brother or sister.

But this week he’s started resisting bedtime. Like a LOT. We do our normal evening routine, and once he’s rubbing his eyes and yawning and sending us all the signals in the world that he’s ready to fall into a nice restorative slumber and his parents can turn on HBO, we put him in his crib ‚– where he immediately pops up to a sitting position, clamps onto the bars, and starts wailing.

Granted, we’ve had some teething…uh, challenges this week. He is growing some sort of enormous, painful tusk, and getting him to sleep hasn’t been exactly smooth sailing. But I swear the sitting bar-grasp is making everything a hundred times worse. When he’s in that sitting position his diaphragm is nicely positioned to allow his full range of sound, for one thing. I had no idea he could scream so loud the living room windows would actually rattle in their moorings. Surprise!

I also think he’s having a hard time figuring out that he should just lay back down. You know? I think he gets in that upright stance, starts freaking out because he’s so so tired and instead of being surrounded by acres of soothing crib-sheet he’s looking over the edge of the crib and there is no one in sight to take note of his bleating, and AIIIIEEEEEEE. I think he gets exhausted and uncomfortable but stubbornly just stays there, howling and banging his metal cup against the bars.

Maybe I’m wrong and it’s just the Tusk of Doom causing all this crib activity. Either way, this week I’ve definitely been considering the many, many advantages of being an only child.

——–

TITLE: Hallmark moments, all of them
DATE: 07/14/2006 08:39:54 PM

Oh. My. GOD, please tell me this Sitting Upright In the Crib and Screaming stage will be over soon. Because up until now, Riley has been a stellar baby in the sleeping department, and I am not equipped to deal. AT ALL.

Rock him, cuddle him, put him down. Come back, pry his hands off the rails, lay him down. Come back, check my eardrums for signs of rupture (HE IS REALLY, REALLY LOUD), pry his hands off the rails, lay him down. Place SIDS-inappropriate pillows against rails. Raise rails. Drop to knees and pray, fervently.

Come back, pry his hands off the rails, lay him down.

LATHER. RINSE. REPEAT.

S.O.S! Am mired in Sisyphean infant HELL. Someone send Nutter Butters.

——–

TITLE: A sociological study
DATE: 07/16/2006 07:36:02 PM

The 10 Stages of an Inflatable Baby Pool:

1) Intrigue

Baby’s own beach cabana“? Oooh, waffle textured floor ‚– for extra comfort! This will ensure my son’s love and affection, by golly.

2) Doubt

It does look sort of….big, though.

3) Cognitive Dissonance

I’m pretty sure this thing is a bad idea, but I really want to see if Riley likes it. Hmm. I’ll just think of ponies while I buy it. La la la la la, ponies.

4) Defensiveness

Yes, I know it looks big, in the BOX. God, what is your problem ‚– here I am, providing our child with a magical, metaphorical garden of delight, and all you can say is that it looks big? You need to reevaluate your priorities, mister.

5) Stubbornness

Jesus christ, it really is huge. I can’t…I’m supposed to inflate it with my MOUTH? Oh man. Okay, just going to start blowing now…

6) Oxygen Deprivation

Oooohh, thish ish FUNNY! YOu blowin the holesh and wheeeeeeeeee!

7) Stern Appraisal

Okay, now, goddammit. This thing better ‚– oh crap, THAT part needs to be inflated too??

8) Euphoria

ALL DONE. Oh my god, my lungs will never be the same, and my lips have formed themselves into some kind of permanent Jenna Jameson pucker, but we are ALL DONE.

9) Anticlimactic-ism

Pooldrywithriley

Huh. You could try and look a little more thrilled, kid.

Well, clearly it’s boring because it’s not FULL OF WATER! Let’s fill it UP, boy! And toss you in it! Wearing a t-shirt and a pair of “Little Swimmers” diapers! THEN you’ll be excited!

Poolwithriley

Um….that’s your Dubya Face. The one reserved for things you find faintly confusing and only mildly interesting. Are you seriously giving me the Dubya Face after I killed off at least 8492912 brain cells, deflated my lungs AND endured countless dirty jokes from your father?

10) Reluctant Acknowledgment and Quiet Despair

Pooldeflated

JB: “It pretty much deflates after only a couple hours, looks like.”

Me: “Yep.”

JB: “Kind of takes up a lot of room in the yard, too. Also, I found a slug on it this morning.”

Me: “Yyyyep.”

JB: “I’m not going to say I told you so.”

Me: “GOOD.”

——–

TITLE: I want to remember
DATE: 07/18/2006 08:50:23 AM

It was almost eight in the evening, and I was holding Riley in my arms; swaying my body as I slowly danced him in a circle, humming in his ear. He was bone-tired but stubbornly resisting sleep, and to quiet him I sang tickly whisper-songs into the crook of his neck, breathing in his sweet milky skin. I could feel his heart beating against mine, a faster, lighter beat than my own.

The room was dark and cool and the only sounds were his snuffly inhales and my muted singing. I turned so slowly it felt as though I were standing still and the room was being rotated around me, held by some unseen hand. My son’s warm and heavy weight rested in the curve of my arms and his legs curled around my waist, in the darkness we were one shape.

——–

TITLE: All of me
DATE: 07/20/2006 08:45:13 AM

When I’m driving to the office I listen to music and start thinking of the day ahead of me, the emails I’ll write or the projects I need to deal with. On those three weekdays I’m actually glad for my commute, it gives me time to shift from the morning flurry of bottles and yogurt and the search for clean outfits and the half-pleased half-annoyed lemon-face Riley makes when I kersmooch him goodbye. And on the way home I can compartmentalize as well, carefully filing away my work-related thoughts for the delicious anticipation of swooping up Riley at daycare and hearing his excited “teh teh teh” sound.

I tend to think of my drive time as a transformation of sorts, a mental refocusing from Work Me to Mommy Me, but that isn’t completely accurate. How can it be, when I can imagine a life without my job but never a life without Riley. There is no non-Mommy me anymore. I look at my office desk and I see 16 separate photos of him. Crammed in my purse are a pair of socks (that I wear at daycare in lieu of the gross booties they provide), a plastic-tipped baby spoon (why? no one knows), a spitup rag (I hope it’s clean, but frankly I’m too scared to check), and more Riley photos (dog-eared, slightly grubby).

I don’t talk about Riley much at work, unless someone asks me about him ‚– then I can feel myself open like a flower, all eagerness and affability. “How’s Riley,” someone will say, and the corners of my mouth tingle, I practically bounce on my toes. “He’s great,” I say. And I wait to see if there’s a spark of interest, so I can talk about how he’s crawling now, my goodness, and how he’s got, like, a million teeth.

(I’m careful about that sort of thing, I do understand there are polite water-cooler queries that don’t require or want further explanation beyond “he’s great”.)

I guess there is no tidily-contained Work Me; instead, a new, multifarious mixture that includes a healthy serving of I-wonder-what-Riley’s-doing-right-now, who finds herself at times dreamily clicking around on parenting websites and babystyle.com instead of sending emails or dealing with projects.

I wonder how long it will take for me to become fully familiar with myself, to stop thinking in terms of who I am at certain times of the day, and to stop trying to parse my identity into parent and non-parent roles. I think the best compromise I could have is one where those lines are blurred. But maybe that’s why it sometimes feels so confusing.

——–

TITLE: All’s fair in love
DATE: 07/20/2006 08:13:24 PM

I think Riley likes his dad more than he likes me.

Check that. I know he does.

JB is the one who holds Riley high up in the air and swoops him around while singing “Superbaby!”. JB is the one who burrows his face in Riley’s belly and makes loud gobbling sounds. JB is the one who takes Riley’s hands and air-drums with him. JB is the one who “walks” Riley down the hall, his tiny baby feet perfectly balanced on JB’s clunky hiking shoes. JB is the one who uses his mouth to produce staccato fart noises for Riley. JB is the one who shovels in strained macaroni and cheese while yelling “Chow! Chow! Time for dinner, Dr. Chow!”.

He is the rough-houser, the one who is loud and fun and makes Riley laugh hysterically.

But Riley: I am the one who always remembers your socks. I am the one who knows where the thermometer is, who reads all the baby books, who worries over whether or not it’s okay to use a metal spoon to feed you. I am the one who buys all of your outfits, who happily wanders around Old Navy for hours on end fingering tiny shorts, tiny Jeff-Probst-esque shirts, tiny fisherman hats. I am the one who goes to the pediatrician appointments. I am the one who holds down your flailing arms and trims your fingernails. I am the one who knows when you need a bath, who can always find the sunscreen, who buys your wipes and diapers and jars of food.

I am the fretter, the furrowed-brow-er, the one who is sometimes hesitant and maybe occasionally shrill (oh, god) and I can make you laugh, too.

(Not as much, though.)

Today when I got home from work, the moment Riley saw JB he began crying and squirming in my arms, reaching out for his father.

(Oh, doesn’t he know it sort of breaks my selfish, greedy heart when he reaches for his dad, like his mother isn’t good enough?)

Is it wrong to want to be the favored one? Is it weird to be a little jealous of my own husband? You think Riley will start to prefer me, one of these days?

——–

TITLE: Consider my expectations exceeded
DATE: 07/23/2006 09:00:17 PM
—–
I remember reading ahead in the baby books — many months ago, when Riley was a mass of barely controlled movements; a tiny red-faced creature with appendages that waved like kelp beds — to the section on baby-proofing, mentally ticking off items I’d eventually need to purchase: cabinet locks, outlet covers, some form of protective plastic gerbil ball in which to seal the child, etc.

It was nearly impossible for me to imagine Riley being not only ambulatory, but getting into things. For some reason I had this vague notion that Riley, once at a crawling age, would spend his time happily sitting in one place on the living room floor. Maybe because when I put him on the floor back then, there he stayed. Oh sure, he may have rolled gruntingly to one side or the other, but in general I probably could have surrounded him with gaping bear traps and open bottles of Drano and he would have been fine.

(Um, not that I ever did that.)

Now, of course, Oh My God How Things Have Changed, and I understand why those obnoxious child-safety catalogues filled with doomsday products exist (“The Sinky Slinky: a protective coil of rubber that keeps curious kiddos out of DEADLY SINKS, which have been known to contain DANGEROUS TOOTHPASTE RESIDUE!”); because Riley, at this particular stage of his development, seems bound and determined to end his short life right before my bulging, red-veined eyes.

If he’s not balancing precariously against the too-tall coffee table, he’s teetering against the brick hearth; both provide some nice sharp corners onto which his face might be bashed, and some hard edges for his various limbs to be cracked against. Our wood floors offer a nearly endless amount of skull-whacking possibilities, and both our cat and dog are unstable surfaces for a small child to pull up against, not that that keeps him from trying, repeatedly.

If there’s a single, solitary cord in sight, he’s poised over it preparing to sink his many small, sharp teeth into its delicious, electrical marrow. If there’s an esophagus-blocking item of any kind within twenty yards, he’s on it, mouth open in anticipation. He won’t eat his damn macaroni and cheese any more, but a Heimlich-sized rock with a tuft of dog hair clinging to it? Bon appetit!

In so many ways this is the most exciting stage of all so far: he is the embodiment of lively curiosity, he’s learning enormous amounts every day and I swear he can do something new every hour. Clapping, crawling, pulling up, splashing, standing. But oh my god, how do kids survive it? How do parents survive it?

Because lately, when he finally goes to bed, only then does my heart return to a normal pace, my hands relax from their clawlike ready-to-grab positions and my adrenal glands quit dumping kegs of epinephrine into my system.

Also, I have this bad feeling that it’s only going to get more and more stressful. Unless…maybe when he starts walking, that’s when he’ll just hang out on the living room floor, away from the buttons on the TV and the pointy hearth and the dog and the bathroom sink?

Uh…right?

——–

TITLE: Summer of highs
DATE: 07/25/2006 08:45:28 AM

Jeez, it’s hot. I know you might be in a geographic location that routinely sees temperatures in the upper 90s, but for Seattle — a climate not known for its soaring highs — it has been unusually ickily, muggily, sweatily hot.

Thank god JB and I got an air conditioner about a month ago. It was an expense I hemmed and hawed about, and briefly regretted after the fact (oh man, we just should have bought extra ice cube trays, what were we THINKING?) — until the first warm summer day hit us. Then I went outside and french-kissed the cooling unit, and wondered why in hell we didn’t do this a long time ago.

Say for instance last summer when I was enormously pregnant and distended to Macy’s-blimp-proportions with retained fluids. I mean, are these not the feet of a woman in need of air conditioning?

Pregfeet

(Taken in hospital bed while waiting for Riley’s birth. Note life-size image of beluga whale, included for scaling purposes.)

It’s the dog days of summer, the days you look forward to with a physical ache when it’s February and the skies have been grey for months on end. I walk outside and the heat hits me like a wall; we run sprinklers on the tomato plants but the soil is dried and crumbly only a few hours later. I have tan lines from my flipflops. The cat’s fur is so hot I can barely pet her.

We’ve been playing with Riley in our inflatable pool (I hacked off the “canopy” with scissors, making it much less obnoxious), and on Sunday we took him in Lake Washington for the first time. I’m getting used to the constant smell of Baby SPF 50, the vague stickiness of his slathered-up limbs.

Remember, someone will say to me someday, that July when it was so hot? And I hope I remember that yeah, boy it was hot, that was about the time that Riley started crawling and pulling up and generally becoming more and more like a little boy, and we all went swimming together; what an amazing summer that was.

——–

TITLE: Crappy conga complex
DATE: 07/25/2006 08:13:38 PM

A while ago I started trying to distract Riley from fussing by repeatedly chirping “Who’s that crabby baby? Is it you? It IS? You’re the crabby baby?” while making silly faces and generally acting both insipid and deranged, in the hopes he would stop whining about having the cell phone/remote/Drano taken away from him.

Over time the word “crabby” morphed into “crappy”, and the performance now features a song called “Who’s That Crappy Baby?”, which includes the following lyrics:

Who’s that crappy baby?
Who’s that crappy baby?
Who’s that crappy baby?
Who’s that crappy baby?

It’s a conga tune (exactly the same as the “I am evil Homer” song), so obviously some dancing is required. It tends to go like this:

“Who’s that crappy ba-by?”
(thrust butt to left, point at boy)

“Who’s that crappy ba-by?”
(thrust butt to right, shake invisible maracas)

If the dog is nearby, I try and get a line going, but she seems to get nervous about having her tail grasped and “EVERYBODY CONGAAA!” shouted in her ear.

“Who’s That Crappy Baby” almost never fails to make Riley laugh, but I feel vaguely guilty about using the word ‘crappy’. I’ve read a lot of earnestly-toned baby books that advise against negative language ‚– for example, during diaper changes, apparently it’s very bad to say anything about how it’s gross or smelly, lest you give your child a Permanent Complex.

WRONG: “Oh my god, code brown, CODE BROWN! Send oxygen masks! Oh jesus, can I get some Febreeze in here? *gack* *cough* DId you have bananas or toxic waste at lunch? Need…more…wipes! My eyes, they BURN!”

RIGHT: “Mommy’s changing your diaper and helping you be all clean. Let’s say that again, this time in French! La maman changeant votre couche-culotte et vous aidant soit tout propre.”

Oh well, “crappy” is pretty tame, I guess. Considering our Cussin’ Jar is literally overflowing at the moment from regrettable instances of the F bomb.

(Dear Riley, I’m sorry for all the negative language you are being exposed to. If you turn out to have a Permanent Complex, I hope this change will pay for at least one therapy session. Remember, you’re not really a crappy baby. Most of the time.)

——–

TITLE: A most grievous error
DATE: 07/27/2006 09:00:00 AM

This morning it was my turn to feed Riley when he woke up and so I did my usual bleary-eyed shuffle to the kitchen for a bottle, tripping over the dog and a painfully-shaped baby rattle and about fifteen cloth tarps which are currently draped over our floors as a side effect of the (never-ending) remodel.

I went into Riley’s room where I found him upright and clinging to the bars, grousing at my lack of punctuality. We settled into the rocking chair where he lay against me and concentrated on emptying his bottle, his hands opening and closing dreamily. After he had sucked down everything but the foam, I put him on the changing table and traded his diaper for a fresh one, then I talked with him for a bit, we both yawned mightily, and I put him back to bed.

About ten minutes later I came back in, having been loudly summoned, and found his entire crib and outfit soaking wet. When I changed him, I discovered that his…uh, unit? The twig and berries? Was completely on the outside of his diaper, just sort of…pushed off to one side.

So what I want to know is, did I do that? In my early morning state, did I seriously forget one of the fundamental rules of diapering, which is Thou Shalt Useth the Pampers to Swaddle the Genitalia, Lest Horrible Outcomes Occurreth (that’s rule number one, rule two is: Thou Shalt Giveth Unto the Boy a Distracting Object Of Some Kind, To Avoideth Any Frenzied Grabbing Of the Poopy Scrotal Area)?

Or did he squirm his way into a commando situation, twisting his various bits enough so that they erupted from their moisture-wicking, hydrogel enclosure, removing any barrier whatsoever between him and the sealife-print crib sheet ‚– which, by the way, is about as absorbent as a solitary square of Charmin one-ply ‚– while somehow leaving his pants undisturbed, leading me to wonder what other sorts of yogic-transcendental-Use-the-Force-Luke malarkey he’s got up his sleeve.

Frankly, either way I’m not sure I like the answer.

——–

TITLE: Flapping my gums with good intentions
DATE: 07/28/2006 08:00:00 AM

Earlier this week an acquaintance of mine told me she was pregnant. She had just heard the heartbeat for the first time that morning, and she was radiating palpable waves of happiness.

I congratulated her, of course, and asked how she was feeling, and maybe managed to let four or five whole seconds go by before I started talking about MY pregnancy. She said she was craving fruit and I said oh really because now for me, it was liverwurst, I mean how gross is that, liverwurst; she said she was just starting to feel nauseous and I said I was really lucky in that department and hardly was sick at all, but she should try this organic ginger tea stuff, it tastes like crap but it really seemed to do the trick; she said the doctor had a hard time finding the heartbeat and I said oh I know ALL about that, MY doctor had a hard time too, and then I rented this doppler monitor thing and tooooootally freaked myself out by mistaking my OWN heartbeat for the baby’s and ohmigod it was scary and by the way I recommend against buying a size up when your pants get too tight because I did that and it was a bad move because everything looked really sloppy and I outgrew them all anyway but in the process I learned this great thing to do with hairbands and —

Wait a minute, I finally thought. Shut up, self. This is not about you.

I’m actually not a completely selfish person, and I don’t think I’m normally known for monopolizing a conversation, but when it comes to pregnancy and babies I’ve learned that I can barely contain myself; I’m constantly bursting at the seams, wanting to share my experiences and hear other people’s.

(This is a semi-slippery slope to the dreaded ASSVICE arena, by the way; the main difference is being able to say “I started Riley on rice cereal at four months” instead of “ALL babies should start on rice cereal at four months.”)

It’s like I took a trip to an exotic, far-off land, and if someone tells me, “Guess what? I’m going there too, in about seven months” — then I want to talk and talk about what I packed and the sights I saw, because hey! This is something I actually know about, sort of!

Maybe I get manic about it because it’s so very infrequent that I have any potentially useful experiences to share. After all, isn’t that what we really want…to be useful and appreciated? And have access to an unlimited amount of Mint Milanos?

Okay, maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, I reined in my nonstop monologue and asked questions; I let her be the one to guide the conversation. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of time to talk, as she heads to the land of babydom.

Thank god, because I really want to pass on my hairband trick for allowing your pants to expand. Boy, did that one come in handy last year. In fact, I’ll just share it right now with you lovely people:

Jeansloop

See, you just loop it around the button, and when you get even bigger but you’re not quite ready for the maternity elastic waistbands, you loop one end instead of both ends.

Well! That’s better. Now I feel marginally useful — in an instructive-diagram, how-to-contain-the-whale kind of way. Awesome, now all I need is some cookies. (A whole bag even, because I have like a million hairbands.)

——–

TITLE: Q&A: How to find a mom’s group
DATE: 07/30/2006 07:07:23 PM

My god, the boy is teething again. Again. The drooling, the whining, the fever, the 4 AM awakenings…I swear he’s been working on a tooth every week for months on end now, MONTHS, I feel like I’m going to peer in there and see a shark-like double row, all the better for biting me on the shoulder when I’m rocking his crying little ass to sleep.

Ahem. Anyway, I wanted to pass on a reader’s question, for I have no idea what the answer may be. Amy, who was nice enough to write via ClubMom’s “private message” feature then receive for her friendliness absolutely no response from me as apparently I am too stupid to use the message function, private or otherwise, asked if I know of any stay at home mom groups in my neighborhood, as she may be moving here soon.

I live in a suburb of Seattle — Bellevue, if you’re familiar with the area — and while I assume there are probably bazillions of mom’s groups, I sure don’t know from firsthand experience.

I have a friend who joined a birth club before having her baby boy four months ago, and now her and the fellow moms all go on walks together, and they trade tips and ideas and share experiences, and they take adorable Anne Geddes-esque photos of their babies all lined up in a row, and it all seems really healthy and proactive. In comparison, when JB and I took childbirth classes we spent our time snickering rudely over the various laboring positions we had to try (there was one we referred to as “the pole smoker”, and yes, we are in fact twelve years old) rather than getting to know the other couples.

So I didn’t join a birth club, and I’ve never been to a mom’s group, or a playgroup. Hell, I don’t even think I’ve been to a playground with Riley (what? It’s not like he can go down the slide yet…hmmm, or can he? “This’ll take your mind off them teeth, boy!” *whoosh*).

Since I am not exactly a font of knowledge here, maybe you can help. If you have any advice for Amy on how to find a mom’s group in a new city, hie ye to the comments section and let us know.

——–

TITLE: Foaming, ever so slightly, at the mouth
DATE: 08/01/2006 08:33:04 AM

Conversation via phone yesterday afternoon, AKA Riley’s Endless Day of Teething and Unrest:

Me: “I’ve got to run to the store today, what sounds good for dinner?”

JB: “Hmm. I don’t know.”

“You never know.”

“Well, what sounds good to you? Let’s turn this around!”

“You want to know what sounds good to me? Do you?”

*beginning to speak rapid-fire Denis-Leary style*

“Having someone else figure out dinner for once sounds good to me. Having someone else go and get it. You want to know also sounds good? Having someone prepare the dinner, and put it on a plate, and bring me the plate and a napkin and a goddamned fork, that’s what sounds good to me. And after I’m done, I want someone to pick up every single one of my dirty dishes and ferry them to the dishwasher and run the dishwasher then empty that beyotch, because THAT SOUNDS FREAKING FABULOUS TO ME.”

“…”

“Well, you asked.”

“I’ll pick up pizza.”

“Awesome.”

——–

TITLE: Unwanted inheritances
DATE: 08/02/2006 08:00:00 AM

Lately, I’ve been worrying about Riley’s teeth. You know, because I needed something to do when I’m not worrying about 1) him crashing headfirst into our brick hearth, 2) the possibility of him becoming a pale, twitchy video game geek when he’s older, 3) his exposure to volatile organic compounds found in carpeting, 4) the current administration and its long-term effects on the world he will grow up in, and 5) the fact that he never eats green vegetables.

He’s got quite a mouthful already, about eight teeth in total, and while all the books and websites assure me that “teeth come through the gums at unusual angles” and that I shouldn’t “fret about spacing”, I can’t help but look at his weird little grill and wonder what we’ve all got to look forward to.

See, he’s got some really bad genes, orthodontic-ally speaking. Growing up, I had the kind of teeth that had I been born a century earlier probably would have landed me in a traveling circus, out-earning both the bearded lady and Jo-Jo the Dog Faced Boy. In order to give me a chance at an adulthood that didn’t involve me being employed by P.T. Barnum or lurking around the bowels of an opera house, I experienced, at one time or another during my pre-teen years, the following:

– The removal of several permanent teeth
– Braces, years thereof
– Headgear, which I refused to wear to school (because headgear in middle school? Why not just throw me to the wolves and be done with it) but endured at night, the strap eternally moistened by my tears of self-pity
– A metal pointy thing, let’s just call it a SPIKE, soldered into my lower jaw that supposedly kept me from pushing my tongue against my teeth when I swallowed
– A retainer (which I memorably threw out along with the contents of my cafeteria tray in 5th grade)
– A “palatal spreading device”, a sort of permanent retainer fixed to the roof of my mouth; each night a tiny key had to be inserted in it and turned, which slowly cracked apart my upper palate so new bone could form, expanding my jaw structure

My various orthodontists probably retired on my teeth alone, is what I’m saying.

Now, my husband JB has a perfectly normal set of teeth, so I’m crossing my fingers for Riley. I’ll try not to stress about his dental future, instead maybe I’ll just obsess on 6) the fact that both his parents had terrible, nearsighted coke-bottle vision before they LASIK’d the crap out of their eyes.

——–

TITLE: Breathe
DATE: 08/03/2006 01:06:42 PM

Instead of posting today, can I just link to Beth’s blog and say how much I identify with what she’s talking about?

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last couple days wondering if I’m a terrible mother for all the frustrated thoughts I’ve had about Riley. For the times I’ve heaved a relieved sigh when he finally goes down for the night. For the times I cannot wait to escape him and go to the office. For the helpless, oh, fuck this feeling I get when he shoves himself away from me, when his body arches and fishflops in his attempt to squirm out of my arms, when nothing I offer can bring him content and the sound of his crying makes the muscles in my forehead knot into complicated, aching furrows.

I know he’s teething and he’s also got a chesty, rattling cough, and all is not perfect and well in his world, and I know as his mother I need to be the one who comforts no matter what and I need to be patient and I need to not take it personally when he reaches for his father and I just need to love him, and I do, I love him so goddamned much, but I am also sometimes overwhelmed and that makes me feel weak and like I’m not a good mother and when Riley rejects me I feel like he agrees, one hundred percent, and that both of us know exactly how much I suck.

Usually when he’s having trouble sleeping and he’s tired and cranky I go in and pick him up, hold him tight against me and whisper-sing into the top of his intoxicating little head until he snuggles into my chest and closes his eyes, but last night he yelled, he arched and got his feet under him and kicked against my belly, I couldn’t make anything work and I was so hurt and tired I just dropped him, screaming, into the crib and walked away. And his dad went in there and when he came out Riley was sleeping.

Ah, I don’t know. I’m getting red-eyed and blinky as I type this, because even though I know that tonight maybe I’ll be the magical sleep-bringer again, even though I know that really, it’s okay, he doesn’t hate me, it’s just…hard.

Beth wrote: “I feel like there was a test, and I failed. But today is a new day, a day to try again, a day to do a better job at being the mother I want to be. And isn’t that what every day is, really?”

I am so glad I read that. Because she’s right. And that makes me feel a little better.

——–

TITLE: Exploring my options
DATE: 08/06/2006 08:47:00 PM

If you just got your baby out of a bath and they are smelling clean and sweet and their hair is downy soft and they’re dressed adorably in their pajamas (green dinosaur onesie with matching green camo leggings) and basically they are a perfect little bundle of awesomeness and joy and suddenly they squinch up their face and go “ERRRRRRRRRRRRNHH” and turn beet red and then they make that same “ERRRRRRRRRRRRNHH” sound about six more times and by the time you get them out of their exersaucer they have pooped UP THEIR BACK and it has overflowed their diaper in a bad, bad way and you gingerly place them on the changing table and survey the task before you….well, is there ANY, ANY way to remove the filth-encrusted onesie without getting poop on their head?

Because I’m wondering, should this series of events ever happen again in my household (DEAR GOD NO PLEASE NO), what alternatives might be available to me.

——–

TITLE: Today’s Top 5 Guilt List
DATE: 08/08/2006 09:23:23 AM
—–

For having no plans whatsoever to throw my child a huge party for his one-year birthday.

For reading this news story in the Seattle Times today, nearly 14 months after purposefully exposing Riley to a “4D” keepsake ultrasound (epilepsy? autism? schizophrenia? JESUS CHRIST, why didn’t I just drink Comet-and-vodkas throughout my pregnancy while I was at it?).

For semi-seriously plotting to take Riley into daycare on my non-office-day this Friday so I can go see a horror movie.

For bopping Riley over his head with a clean diaper every single time he’s on the changing table.

For allowing my husband to use his beard clippers to cut our son’s hair.

80606_haircut2

——–

TITLE: Mo’ money mo’ problems
DATE: 08/08/2006 08:42:43 PM

JB’s parents and his brother Joe were visiting this past weekend and one warm evening while we were all sitting in the backyard we played that always-festive game, What Would I Buy if I Won Powerball?

When it came to be my turn all I could think of was a new car. “I’d buy…an Infiniti FX,” I said (sporty, yet roomy — what’s not to love?).

So that’s, what, maybe 35-40K, right? What would I do with the rest of my millions? Nothing in particular leaped to mind, although I entertained a brief, vivid fantasy of striding into Nordstrom’s, throwing down a stack of cash, and demanding a personal shopping assistant who would bring me armloads of beautifully cut clothes designed to fit and flatter my every inch, and living the rest of my life with nary a single Old Navy outfit in my closet, forever banishing the cheap-clothing Muffin Top Horror.

I suppose the fact that I didn’t immediately pine for an endless series of material comforts should tell me that my life is pretty good, I’m blessed and lucky and I am happy with the way things are. But I did start thinking about what we would do with a monetary windfall; in what ways our lives would change.

I wouldn’t work at my job anymore ‚–¬†I hope that’s not a rude surprise for anyone I work with who might happen to be reading, but: DUH. I’d want the opportunity to travel, to see the world a little more than I have. I’d want to take classes in the hopes of becoming a better photographer and writer, maybe a remedial English course so I could learn the proper usage of “who” and “whom” once and for all. And, of course, I’d want a pony.

And what about Riley? Well, he wouldn’t go to daycare anymore, right? Since his parents wouldn’t be working, we’d just…well, maybe we’d get a really, really awesome nanny. Yeah, one of those super expensive British nannies, and he’d totally love her, and she would take care of him while….

Oh, god. I can just imagine how easy it would be to have a nanny dealing with the teething, the bedtime screaming, the refusal to eat vegetables and the TV remote-related tantrums. “Goodnight, sweetheart,” we’d say, waving as Mrs. Butterworth ferried him away to the Children’s Wing of the mansion. Then we’d lie in our bed of gold ingots, surrounded by wealth and luxury, wondering why our hearts felt so cold and DEAD inside.

I believe the Notorious B.I.G. said it best:

It’s like the more money we come across
The more problems we see

and also

Stay humble stay low blow like Hootie

Yes, yes indeed. God, sing it, Big Poppa.

Anyway, I’m glad those cheese factory folks won the Powerball. It’s fun to fantasize about being a millionaire, but it’s probably for the best that we can’t afford to fob off our child on someone else full time.

(I don’t really mind about the Old Navy clothes and poor grammar skills and, jeez, four inch long Tonya-Harding-esque roots, but I’d still like one of those Infinitis. Hey, maybe I’ll win a Scratch Off!)

——–

TITLE: Ride
DATE: 08/09/2006 06:00:00 PM

If parenthood is a rollercoaster, I feel like I’ve been spending a lot of time in the bottom loops lately; between teething, the newfound ability to get into anything and everything, and some heart-fracturing displays of preferring his father’s company to mine, Riley has been…oh, let’s say he’s been kind of high maintenance over the last couple weeks.

I’ve never, ever regretted the decision to have a baby, but I will say this: in the darkest times, sometimes I can only see the challenges stretching before me with no end in sight. The overall feeling is one of bleakness, of shouldering an enormous load that I know I can never put back down again.

Maybe that makes me sound like a horrible person. I hope not. I’m just being truthful, because my guess is that some of you have been there. This job is hard, harder than I ever imagined.

However. Let me tell you about a recent, uneventful stretch of hours in my life:

Yesterday I picked Riley up at daycare. When he saw me, he squirmed in his teacher’s arms, he smiled and reached for me. I swept him up and said “Hi Snoopy” and he babbled “deh deh deh deh deh” and ran his curious fingers over my necklace.

We drove home; traffic was light so it only took ten minutes or so, and I sang “Did You Poop Your Pants?*” to him and he craned his head to see me and laughed. I asked him if he wanted to go in the backpack when we got home and he immediately said “Ba pa?” (that’s it, by the way, that’s officially his first word, he’s said it enough now that I’m sure) and I said, yes, backpack!

When we got home I put him in the backpack carrier (“Ba pa? Ba pa!”) and then JB pulled up and we went out and greeted him, Riley wriggling with joy on my back and JB grinning and saying “Hiiiiiiiii”.

JB got the dog, who was going berserk, and we all went for a walk together in our quiet neighborhood. It was warm and smelled like cut grass and Riley studiously gnawed the zippered edge of the backpack and Dog snorfled everything in her path and JB and I caught up on our day.

Back at the house we fed Riley his dinner, then pulled his highchair close to the table and had our own dinner, cracking up over Riley’s reaction to a single pea. Soon he was yawning and rubbing his eyes, and so we took him into his room and put his pajamas on, read him a book and fed him a warm bottle. We both kissed him goodnight. He fell asleep without a single complaint.

In the morning I heard him awake and playing at 7 AM, and when I opened his bedroom door he pulled up on the crib bars and laughed with the excitement of seeing me. He drank his morning bottle while lying against me in the rocking chair, and when he was done I put on his camo shorts and his “Rock Star” t-shirt and he said “beh ba de teh baaaa” and I took him into our bedroom and sat him on the bed, where JB peeked at him from behind the covers and said “Hiiiiiiiii” and Riley was so excited he flapped his arms up and down and crowed with glee. We helped him grab ahold of the bed’s headboard and hold himself up, and he bounced up and down on the mattress with his mouth wide open in a huge smile.

That’s all. Just some ordinary, good moments from this new life of mine. The kind that shine light into all my dark corners, that make the hard times easier to bear, that remind me that every challenge has its ups as well as its downs.

Somehow it always balances, the rollercoaster swings back upward in one long, dizzying whoosh, and where there was heaviness there is nothing but light and joy and the laughter of a small child.

* The Poop Your Pants Song:

Did you poop, poop, poop, poop your pants?
Did you poop, poop, poop, poop your pants?
If you’re feeling warm and mushy
Then it’s time to check your tushie
‘Cause you poop, poop, poop, pooped your pants!

——–

TITLE: Expanding our food horizons
DATE: 08/11/2006 09:17:58 AM

On the days Riley goes to daycare, his teachers fill out a daily report on when he napped, what sorts of horrors emerged from his nether regions, and what he ate.

Recently he’s started eating lunch from daycare’s prepared menu, and when he has a “good eating day” I can hardly believe what I’m reading: mashed potatoes, green beans, spaghetti, peaches.

Peaches? When I try to give Riley diced peaches at home, he acts as though I’m spoon-feeding him chunks of haggis. Spaghetti? Yeah, right, if I want the majority of my kitchen fixtures covered in a fine spray of marinara.

At home, he’s started shaking his head to food he doesn’t want. “Where did he learn this,” JB and I ask each other incredulously as we watch our child form his lips into a flat line, squinch his eyes shut, and whip his head back and forth as though trying to dislodge a horsefly. Nope, nope, nope, nope, his body language says, loud and clear, and if we ignore all his messages and try to wedge in a spoonful anyway (I hear myself simpering “Just try one bite for Mama” and I cannot believe what I have become) then we’re bound to get it blown back in our faces, which, if we’re talking spaghetti, can necessitate an entire box of Shout Wipes.

In my copy of What To Expect the First Year, a chapter on “finger foods” tells me of all the healthy meals I should be offering Riley. Poached fish, for one (ha ha ha ha HA), and parsnip (ha ha HAAAAAAAA), and small pieces of tofu (HAA‚–okay, I think I just pulled something).

Well, here is what Riley mainly eats at home:

Bananafood

Yes, can you sense the bananas-and-preservatives theme? (The turkey gets Cuisinarted, he likes chicken breasts too ‚– thank god there’s some protein in there at least.) Where are the fresh vegetables, the whole grains? Where are the lovingly prepared cottage-cheese-and-pear finger sandwiches, the fork-mashed green beans, the small balls formed of brown rice? Isn’t it maybe a bad thing to exclusively feed your child things that must be forcibly ripped from plastic packaging?

There are days when struggling over food seems like too much of a hurdle. If JB and I both get home from work around 6, and Riley goes to bed around 7:30, I don’t want to spend an excess amount of time on dinner ‚– I want to feed him something I know he likes so we can play for a while or go for a walk together. But that’s probably building a deep food rut, filled with bananas. If he’s eating a variety of foods at daycare, he can definitely branch out at home.

So tell me, what foods worked for your baby? I could really use some ideas for things that aren’t too difficult to prepare (no poached fish/parsnip/tofu surprise, please) and are happily devoured by real human babies rather than the fictional omnivores in What To Expect.

Grapenuts

(Moments before JB’s decision to offer Riley GRAPE NUTS was deeply regretted by all involved.)

——–

TITLE: The way we eat
DATE: 08/14/2006 12:23:28 PM

Thank you for all your awesome, awesome suggestions on what to try feeding Riley. I’ll admit I was secretly hoping most of you would tell me that your baby eats nothing but yogurt too, Yogurt Babies Unite, but after a pang of guilt or three I got motivated by your infant menu ideas and spent some time this weekend trying new foods. I also processed some various combos of foods and now I have a festive selection of Gladware in the fridge, providing a far more diverse set of options than banana-flavored-whatsits.

I think Riley’s a little behind the curve on finger foods, he’ll eat cereal off the tray but just squishes most other food items. He’ll refuse something in cube form, but eagerly eats it once smashed to hell in the Cuisinart and offered via spoon‚–is that weird? It is, isn’t it. All the other babies are eating chunky things with their clever little pincer grips while my child opens his mouth like a baby sparrow for the pureed goo.

*slaps self for succumbing to Milestone Mania*

I really don’t want to get too obsessed with food, you know what I mean? I don’t want to be the scarily focused mom who project manages everything that goes in their kid’s mouth in order to optimize nutrition down to the last carob chip. Which doesn’t mean I don’t want to teach my son good eating habits and give him good foods, I just don’t want to make it a Really Big Deal. I can see how it can be a slippery slope, though, having spent part of my Sunday afternoon tasting apricot-mush and deciding it needed just a hint of vanilla yogurt for protein and flavor, and maybe some oatmeal cereal for fiber, yessss.

——–

TITLE: Sometimes ignorance really is bliss
DATE: 08/15/2006 04:07:14 PM

I went to Whole Foods yesterday because I was still thinking about what sorts of things to offer Riley and I figured what better place to find healthy nutrition than the world’s largest retailer of natural and organic foods! Plus, it was my stay-at-home-mom day and I needed an outing like Britney needs underwire, you know?

Riley greatly enjoyed the experience of shopping at Whole Foods, but I sure didn’t. First of all, there was no parking; despite the fact that it was 2:30 on a Monday afternoon the lot was jam-packed with Porsche Cayennes, Lexuses (Lexi?), and Mercedes G Wagons. This should have tipped me off that I might not be in quite the right tax bracket for Whole Foods, but when I found myself contemplating a package of two (2!) cage-free chicken breasts that cost, no lie, $12.87, I figured I had best get my Veggie Pirate’s Booty and get the hell out.

I did buy a hippie brand of childrens’ toothpaste, though, and a tiny little soft toothbrush, because we didn’t have those things. Because uhh…we’ve sort of…well, we’ve never brushed Riley’s teeth.

I know. I know. It’s like just when I think I’m doing a halfway decent job at this parenting gig, I find out I’ve been totally screwing the pooch, pardon my colloquialism, responsibility-wise.

This is embarrassing to admit, but it never really occurred to me that we would need to brush his teeth yet, despite the fact that his mouth is bristling with about a million of the little calcified bastards. Then I read some books on toddlers and read some of your recent comments and realized that oh crap! There’s a whole area of personal care I have completely left by the wayside! My god, this child may as well be being raised by wolves! Wolves with bad oral hygiene!

Anyway, we had our first introduction to the toothbrush last night. And gosh, it went so well! I mean, he just opened his mouth right up and laughed the whole time, and‚–

Yeah, right. Here’s what really happened: he screamed his head off, clamped his mouth tightly shut, and cried like we had attempted to remove his skin using a potato peeler.

So that’s great. I’m super glad to have something worked into our daily schedule that virtually ensures a meltdown, because boy howdy I just can’t get enough of those. Man, teeth are the gift that just keeps giving, aren’t they?

——–

TITLE: So much more
DATE: 08/16/2006 11:43:12 AM

I tell him “hugs!” and I squeeze his body close to mine. He burrows in, he sort of hugs me back.

He says “ba pa, ba pa” when we get out his backpack carrier. “Ba pa!”; it kills me. The last two mornings he has tentatively said “beh bah” for “bye bye”.

Yesterday when I was driving him home from daycare I was stopped at a red light and I started singing to him and clapping my hands and he watched me for a minute then clapped his hands together: once, twice, three times. “Clapping,” I said to him, and he clapped again. We clapped our hands together, a tiny encore crowd of two.

JB and I have started playing a game where one of us holds Riley and runs bouncingly down the hall while the other chases, arms outstretched and yelling “RAAWR!”. Riley laughs and laughs, his mouth wide open and his eyes lit up with dancing mischief. “Rawr!” I say, leaping towards him, and he squeals his funny inward-breath “HEEEE!” in response.

In the evenings I hold him in my lap on the rocking chair, we read a book. JB sits across from me in Riley’s darkened bedroom. The house gets quiet and still, Riley murmurs his alien-words and touches the pages, explores my fingernails, reaches up and touches my face.

When I was pregnant and we had set up Riley’s room we would sit in there and turn off the lights and turn on the mobile, already attached so hopefully to the crib. It played its wistful little song and slowly spun starlight on the ceiling and we wouldn’t say a word, lost in our own thoughts about what was to come.

You can’t truly imagine a life you haven’t lived yet, no matter how hard you try. Those nights we spent dreaming about our unborn child were filled with a dizzy sort of magic, and even if I could I wouldn’t tell myself what I know now: that it’s all so much more, in every imaginable way.

——–

TITLE: Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
DATE: 08/17/2006 01:20:18 PM

Riley has always loved being on his changing table. Back when he was only a few weeks old he looked the happiest on that table ‚– his face would brighten and he would get this pleased, interested expression. Later he gave me some of his first smiles while lying there, especially if I was jiggling one of his limbs and making silly noises (“Doodle oodle oodle oo! That’s your leg! Yes it is!”).

He still likes it up there, although he has far less patience for the various clothes-wrangling we subject him to. These days I usually give him a toy to hold and examine while I’m changing his diaper, otherwise I run the risk of him 1) wriggling his way, ninja-quick, into a kneeling position with his butt unwiped, or 2) shooting one or both hands down into the Poop Zone.

I’ve noticed, however, that his head is getting awfully close to the wood drawer on one side‚–it’s a combination table/dresser‚–and his feet are approaching the end of the pad. I never thought about it before, but I suppose he’ll outgrow the changing table (I mean, I hope he does, otherwise he’s going to miss out on a shitload of good carnival rides later in life), and what then? I have no idea. Put him on our bed? (But our comforter is white!)

I feel oddly sad about the inevitability of Riley no longer lying on the changing table, his belly ripe for navel-farts. He’s not even a year old, but I’ve already mourned the retirement of various outfits from “newborn” sizes all the way to “9-12 months”. His Bumbo chair is a thing of the past, those little 4-oz bottles are stacked in a cabinet, even the tinkling, starlight-shining mobile has been put away.

Soon enough the bottles will be gone altogether, the outfits will be in those mysterious “T” sizes and shoes will be a necessity rather than a novelty. My baby is turning into a little boy, and I can’t slow it down, I can’t push pause and take all the time I want to smell the top of his head, hold his curled body in my arms, blow raspberries on his midsection while he laughs from the changing table. Oh, it’s bittersweet, isn’t it? How every day brings something new, something exciting, but yesterday is gone forever?

Well. So tell me, where am I going to change his damn diapers in the next year or so?

——–

TITLE: Of snakes and planes
DATE: 08/18/2006 11:15:22 AM

Dear Riley,

It’s a beautiful sunny day outside, just the perfect day for a visit to the park in your backpack carrier. But we’ll have to do that later, sweetie, because Mama has a movie to go see. You know what a plane is, right? The big shiny metal birdies that fly through the sky carrying people? Well, Mama has a very, very important ticket to see a very, very important movie all about a plane!

This point may or may not be of interest to you, Riley, but there are apparently some snakes on this plane.

Don’t fuss, baby, I’ll be home later this afternoon and we can go in the backpack (ba pa!) and maybe we’ll go to the farm where the giant pig lives! Or maybe we’ll practice talking! Yesterday you said “bah bah” for “bye bye”, do you think today you could try saying “I have had it with these motherf*cking snakes”? Oh, I knew you could.

Riley, this movie features a very nice man named Mr. Samuel L. Jackson that Mama likes very much. Do you like Mr. Samuel L. Jackson too? He’s funny, isn’t he?

Sjacksonshoot

Hi, Mr. Samuel L. Jackson! Hi!

Mama’s coworker (who has already seen the movie because he went to Cinerama at MIDNIGHT and he’s going to see it AGAIN with the rest of Mama’s office-mates this afternoon, god Mama works with some crazy geeks, can you say “geeks”, Riley?) says the movie is profane, violent, sexist, and dirty, so that’s why you’re not allowed to come too. Also if you’re anything like your dad, sweetie, you’re probably kind of a wuss about snakes.

Riley, I’m sorry you got dumped off at daycare today. Someday, I hope you’ll understand that some things are just too important to miss. Like your first steps, which I hope you do not take this afternoon. And new words, which I hope you do not speak in my absence. And, well, the sweet, delicious combination of snakes and planes.

Love forever,

Your mother

——–

TITLE: Milkshake, boys in the yard
DATE: 08/20/2006 09:20:42 PM

Through circumstances out of my control, Riley has been a bottle-fed baby from day one. In those first weeks we fed him the pre-mixed liquid formula, reasoning that we wouldn’t have to worry about screwing up the water/powder ratio, and it just seemed more convenient. Eventually, of course, he started drinking so much that we may as well have been purchasing liquid cocaine for all the money we were investing in those plastic jugs, so we switched to powder.

I’ve always disliked his formula. I hate the way it smells, I hate the powder residue that clings to your fingers, I hate shaking the hell out of his bottles a million times a day like a maraca player with OCD.

Well, we recently transitioned over to whole milk, and from what I can tell, Riley was never a big fan of the Similac either. Oh, he drank it, he snorked down enough bottles to grow into the robust little anklebiter he is today, but apparently real milk kicks ass and takes names in comparison. He does everything but moan out loud with joy over his bottles now, and all of a sudden he can hold them, too. “Thanks,” he says, grabbing a freshly filled bottle from my hands. “I’ll take it from here.”

I thought I’d be glad to be done with the formula, but in a way I feel strangely sad. He doesn’t need me to measure out the powder anymore, to add water and shake it like a Polaroid picture. Soon he’ll be using a cup and I won’t be holding him with the bottle anymore, either.

It’s funny to get wistful over something that I always viewed as a chore. You think I’ll feel the same way about diapers someday?

——–

TITLE: Garbage in, garbage out
DATE: 08/22/2006 12:50:09 PM

During my pregnancy, as my due date approached my brain became more and more consumed with All Things Baby, until it was a wonder I retained basic motor functions and was (mostly) continent. I couldn’t concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes at a time, it seemed ‚– all tasks paled in comparison to the all-important job of 1) obsessively surfing other people’s baby registries on Amazon to see if there were any completely pointless items I forgot to get (example: electrical bottle warming doodad), 2) obsessively feeling my own belly and mildly freaking out over the fact that there were ARMS AND LEGS IN THERE, JESUS, and 3) obsessively staring off into space, my eyes lit up with “TILT” signs.

Also, during the last few months before Riley was born I experienced “restless leg syndrome”. Perhaps you’ve seen the ads, where the little floating words emanate out of someone’s legs? “ITCHY…TINGLING…” they read, in an attempt to characterize the sensation, which I will describe as the urge to move your legs, which, if denied, will make you feel like ripping the hair from your head and screaming. Most annoying in times of rest, unless you can sleep while simultaneously drumming a hole in the mattress with your foot.

Between the brain damage and the inability to sit still for any length of time, I found that I tended to avoid long, involved novels in favor of pithier items. I read books on pregnancy and childbirth, I read graphic novels, and I read a LOT of magazines.

I would say that’s when my celebrity trash-rag addiction really kicked into high gear. I started subscribing to Us Weekly, and began buying Star each week too, instead of just flipping through it in the grocery line. Ditto People, and In Touch.

These days I find that it’s still a challenge to spend some quality time with a book. Once Riley goes to bed, I am often so wiped out I just want to veg out in front of the TV. Or I’ve got photos to download, or a blog entry to write, or a pile of goddamn laundry to deal with.

That’s the excuse I’m going to use, anyway, for the fact that given the choice between an intellectually stimulating paperback and a fresh copy of Us magazine, I’ll pick the trash-rag every single time. It’s embarrassing, it’s disgraceful, and I’m probably losing precious neural cells by the millions every time I snicker over Britney’s outfit du jour.

So I admit it. I admit I’d like to see a picture of Suri Cruise. I’d like to see Paris Hilton get caught in other sex-tape scandal, this time with footage of her copulating with a beluga whale. I’d like to see someone gently lead Nicole Ritchie into a hospital for some help, because oh my god. I’d like to see a firsthand report of Jake Gyllenhaal hooking up with Lance Armstrong, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

I can’t deny that it’s a shameful thing, to enjoy this type of soulless, shallow entertainment, but I have actually learned something about parenthood from these magazines. And that is: never make your baby wear a baseball cap on sideways.

——–

TITLE: Of consequence
DATE: 08/23/2006 01:01:43 PM

Lately, Riley has been imitating me when I vibrate my finger over my lips to make a pub-bub-pb-bb-pub-buh sound. (Do you know what I’m talking about? I feel like there’s a word for that noise but I don’t know what it is.) If I do it to him he gets very intent and tries to do it back. If I use my own finger on his lips he’s quite good at it, except the sound he makes is infinitely cuter, pitched in his baby-high voice and all.

He claps when I clap, he smacks his mouth when I’m chewing gum, he raises his little hand to touch my palm when I say “high five!”.

I know this isn’t exactly a Deep, Unique Observation, but he is watching us. He is learning from us. He listens to the words we say, he watches the actions we take. Our own lives have consequence over his, we have influence.

My god, my god. What an enormous responsibility, what a great and terrifying opportunity.

In the past I’ve thought: I haven’t had the chance to live up to my potential. I have felt stilted, unfulfilled, disappointed with my accomplishments (or lack thereof).

This is a cliché: that raising my son is the most important job I will ever have.

This is the truth: that I am scared, and honored, and hopeful.

This is a confession: that I think I can exceed my potential, and I never believed that before Riley was born.

——–

TITLE: Baby, disguised
DATE: 08/24/2006 02:41:52 PM

I love Halloween. Love. It. The smell of fall, the influx of horror-themed merchandise, the mini Snickers bars? What’s not to love?

Last year I bought Riley a horrifically ugly neon-orange sleeper with “Trick or Treat” emblazoned on the front and called it good, but this year I’d like to stuff him into an actual costume. I’m not exactly sure why; it’s not like I’m going to take him door to door quite yet, it just feels like an urge I should not deny, lest I disturb the delicate balance of the universe.

For a while I was very seriously considering this blue octopus outfit (thanks for the link, Melissa!) but then I started thinking that making him wear it would be like when you put a t-shirt on your dog: at first it’s funny, then you just kind of feel sorry for the dog.

All of these costumes are cute, really, but they’re so elaborate. Since I can’t get Riley to keep his sun hat on for more than fifteen seconds at a time, it’s hard for me to picture him tolerating a polyester shark mouth or spotted octo-cap.

Also, given Riley’s personality, I think he needs something a little less adorable and little more bad-ass. Like…World’s Tiniest Ninja, maybe. Or Banana Assassin For Hire (heh, starring Jenna Jameson!). Or Baby British Rock Invasion. Or Angry Bus-Riding Psycho Baby Who Is Constantly Babbling (To Himself!).

Well, I just don’t know. What about you — got any cool ideas to share, keeping in mind I would rather perform open heart surgery than turn on a sewing machine?

——–

TITLE: Pedestal’d preparations
DATE: 08/29/2006 01:21:04 PM

Riley will be one year old this Thursday. We’re driving down to visit JB’s family in Oregon the next day, so I figured we would do something low-key: a couple presents, maybe a store-bought cake over the weekend. No big deal. Why waste a bunch of effort and money over something he’s not even going to remember, right?

However, as each day passes and his birthday gets a little closer, I have become progressively more and more deranged about this subject. Remember when I was sort of eye-rolling over the gift bag given to Riley from his daycare classmate on her birthday (a post which, tragiquement, earned me some shit-flinging from the comments section)? Because presents, given to kids whose parents I do not even know, on own child’s birthday? Right, and next I’ll be wearing an apron to protect my clothes from the glitter glue used in my commemorative birthday scrapbooking project. Ha ha!

Um…

82906_toys_1

Yeah, so that would be a pile of Baby Gund rattle toys (with attached cards), purchased for each of Riley’s daycare “friends”, some who have moved on to the toddler room even.

At least I’m not wearing an apron, though! Ha ha! Except maybe an apron would actually come in handy, as instead of the store-bought cake I have decided that individual heart-shaped carrot cupcakes with cream cheese icing and the letter “R” written on top in orange icing, which matches the blue-and-orange party plates, would be better. And since I’ve never baked an actual cake before that wasn’t from a mix, I suppose things might get messy. Good thing I’m using a recipe from Martha Stewart, because I heard her stuff is really easy! Right?

Well, I’m definitely not doing a scrapbooking project. Who has enough hours in a day for such a time-consuming activity, you know? Especially when I’ve got this Quicktime movie I’m making that compiles a bunch of short footage taken throughout the last year and incorporates a soundtrack and title slides and video effects — like I have time for glue.

It would be insane to also be getting all worked up over providing Riley with the perfect birthday presents, since he’s really happiest when you hand him, say, an empty water bottle. So it’s a good thing I only got him a couple things. Okay, a few things. Okay, maybe technically “several” things.

….I may need an intervention, here.

This reminds of when I was pregnant and someone asked me if I had a “theme” for the nursery yet, and I was all, theme? Like, decor? That matches? HAR HAR HAR NO. And then two days later my brain melted into a hormonal puddle of fizz and I started spending hours each day combing the internet for lamps with fish on them to match the octopus stuffed animals to match the Ocean Wonders crib toy to match the seahorse wall print and OH MY GOD.

I know Riley doesn’t care about birthday stuff yet. I’m creating the extra effort for my own self, because even though I may be going a bit crazy it’s enjoyable to think about him and do things with him in mind. It is possible I have a different opinion after the first burnt cupcake, however.

82906_point
(Don’t worry, baby. If I screw up your cake I have an Aquafino bottle with your name on it.)

——–

TITLE: New room, new routine
DATE: 08/30/2006 01:53:59 PM

Riley’s daycare told us that he’s only a couple weeks from being moved from the infant room into the toddler room. I’ve visited the toddler room, it’s very bright and cheery and filled with millions of toys and padded things to safely crawl on. A vast improvement, baby-proofing-wise, from our own home (which bristles with hard surfaces and Inappropriate Heavy Objects Which Can Be Pulled From Shelves And Bonk the Child on His Head, such as our copy of XXX: 30 Porn-Star Portraits).

But…the toddler room. For toddlers. Not babies. Wah.

The good news about the toddler room is that it will be much less expensive. For one thing, we no longer will have to pay for full-time care even though he only goes three days a week. I don’t know why this is, maybe something to do with their teacher/child ratio, but we can pay for just Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays instead of the full week. Also, while we (mysteriously) could not use JB’s corporate discount for the infant room, it does apply to the toddler room.

The part I’m secretly kind of bummed about is that since we’re only paying for part time, I can no longer take him in on Fridays and Mondays when I have something non-child-related to do. You know, an important appointment or…uh…a movie about snakes. On a plane.

——–

TITLE: Returned but not recharged
DATE: 09/05/2006 01:48:24 PM

We spent the long holiday weekend in Oregon, down at JB’s family cabin on the Umpqua River. It was as nice as it ever is, but I think the drive may have somehow increased with the age of our child. Here are some festive games we played on the long slog up Interstate 5 this morning:

1. Sure, I’ll Read “Ten Little Ladybugs” Over and Over Until I Am Both Carsick and Demented, Why Not?

2. Hey I Think We’re Passing a Paper Mill No Wait That is Riley’s Diaper (O Dear God).

3. Take This Random Thing Which I Have Found In the Glovebox And Be Ye Entertained Dammit.

4. Bananas, Bananas, Everywhere!

5. Sorry Baby, Daddy Drank the Last of Your Milk For He Claimed His Coffee Was Too Strong (Let’s All Poop In Daddy’s Hat).

6. Look, Look, a Man Sleeping In His Garbage-Stuffed Car At the I-5 Rest Area! No, Don’t Touch.

7. Every Time You Cry a Baby Angel Has Its Wings Forcibly Removed With Pliers and Is Then Doused With Gasoline, So Please Let’s Hush.

8. Normally I Would Not Let You Eat That For It Is Not Technically Food But Hey Whatever Shuts Your Little Milk-Hole.

9. Gee, Daddy, I’ve Noticed You Don’t Really Relinquish the Driving Position Much. I Wonder Why?

10. Only Three, Three, Three Hours to Go! (Kill, Kill, Kill Me Now).

I’d take a nap to recover, but it appears the magical cleaning fairies did not visit my house while we were gone, we brought home a metric ton of laundry, and JB has disappeared to the office. Gosh, aren’t vacations refreshing?

——–

TITLE: Pondering my options
DATE: 09/07/2006 07:58:54 PM

This past weekend after we left Riley with his grandparents and made our escape to Florence for the night, JB and I went walking on the beach together. It was early evening and the air was grey and cool and my lips tasted of salt; the ocean was pulled back as if by an unseen inhale, the beach stretched wide and flat in front of us.

I watched a joyous flurry of sandpipers pass us by and in a fit of general silliness and giddy vacation-from-our-beloved-child joy I burst out with, “I’m going to be in an all-girl punk band and our first song is going to be Sandpipers Are the F*cking Shit!

Without missing a beat, JB said, “Oh yeah, with your toddler and your mommy blog, real punk rock.”

“Hey,” I said. And then we flew a kite together, the surf a staticky roar and the wind sending our kite flying high into the sky.

(I didn’t tell him of my new plans: to form an all-girl swing band; our first song is going to be Sandpipers Are Pretty Goshdarn Swell.)

——–

TITLE: Disneyland
DATE: 09/08/2006 12:03:24 PM

A common phrase used by JB in times of household civil disobedience is “This ain’t Disneyland”. In the past, it’s often been directed at the dog when she refuses to drop a shoe from her eager maw, or forgets to return the thrown frisbee in favor of deeply inhaling some random chunk of Mystery Feces in the front yard. “Hey! Come on! This ain’t Disneyland!”

(I feel compelled to assure you that the word “ain’t” is not actually a colloquialism JB embraces on a regular basis, although I can also attest to the fact that if spoken out loud your mother will not faint, your father will not fall in a bucket of paint, nor will your sister and brother cry or die, respectively.)

Now that Riley is constantly on the move, searching for wells in which to plummet, the Disneyland comment is more frequently tossed in his direction. “Hey,” JB will say warningly, as Riley’s tiny grasping starfish hand reaches for the tempting buttons on the front of the TV, “Come away from there; this ain’t Disneyland, you know.” Or Riley will be carefully plucking food items off his tray and tossing them to the dog, who snaps them up as eagerly as a furry six-gill shark: “Both of you knock it off, you must think this is Disneyland.”

Someday, some great and shining day in the future when Riley is older and his parents have lost their damn minds, we’ll actually make the trek to Anaheim. There we’ll be, smelling of sunscreen and despair, contemplating the massive snaking lines of people, and Riley will turn to his father and say, “Today I get to do anything I goddamn want.”

(Until then, put down the flip-flop, kid. After all, this ain’t Disneyland.)

——–

TITLE: A sudden concern
DATE: 09/12/2006 04:58:32 PM

I was enjoying the early-fall coolness in the air this morning and thinking ahead to the coming months when all of a sudden it hit me: will we be able to have a Christmas tree in the same house as a, let’s see, 16-month-old? I’m not talking about a Charlie Brown-sized pitiful little thing stuck up on top of a bookshelf or some crap, I’m talking about a bone-fide Noble Fir that we go and pay $923582817482.04 to cut down in a Seattle-area tree farm and erect (heh) in our house and decorate, by god.

See, if I put a shiny, exciting tree in my living room right now, the first thing he would do is pull it over on himself. You think the Don’t Pull Trees On Head part of his brain will be developed by December? Or will I have to surround the tree with chickenwire? Or WHAT?

——–

TITLE: Balance
DATE: 09/13/2006 08:34:52 PM

I picked Riley up from daycare today and he was in the toddler room, sitting in front of a cheerily-colored toy that he was completely occupied with. He hadn’t seen me yet and so just for a second I watched him, my little blonde-headed monkey.

There is something about picking him up at the end of my work day that I love, in a way that’s different from the reasons you might expect. Of course I miss him and I’m glad to be with him again, but this has more to do with seeing him from a different perspective, if for only a moment or two. When I’m home with him I get to see him all day, I get to share everything he does, but it’s like I don’t have the chance to see him with fresh eyes.

Three days a week, I walk into that daycare and I think, wow. That’s my son right there. My god, just look at him.

Today I said, “Hi Snoopy!” and his whole face lit up like the sun and he made a sound of greeting — “Heeeeeeeeee!” — and crawled towards me at top speed. He stopped at my feet and raised his arms and I swooped him up and held him while he peered at me and grinned and said, “Deh deh deh deh”.

I like that. I like the flood of joy I feel, the overwhelming happiness of being with him. I like the fact that when my work day is over, I am more than recharged, I’m eager to spend every second with him, and that it helps me through the rest of the week as well.

The balance is awfully damn good, lately.

——–

TITLE: Hat size: large
DATE: 09/15/2006 10:13:33 AM

Riley had his 12-month checkup this morning, at the sorrowful hour of 8:30 AM. Which I guess is better than 7:30 AM, or 6:30 AM, but still: at 8:30, there has not been nearly enough coffee.

Apparently he is in the average-to-tall category in height, skinny-to-average in weight, and Enormously Gigantic, Almost Circus Freak Proportions But Not Quite; Good Thing He’s Cute in head size.

Both the nurse and the doctor made jokes about how he needs the room for all his brains, but come on. Don’t lie to me, people. I’ve seen the kid try to eat 1) a rock, 2) a tuft of dog fur, and 3) his own feet, if he’s got an auxiliary brain pack stuffed up there it’s currently flipped to STANDBY.

Well, I hate to admit it, but I kind of have a large head too. I’m not saying it’s on a Christina Ricci level or anything, but…let’s just say this: most hats don’t fit me.

I’d chalk it up to BRAIN CONTENTS, but since I cannot tell you how to multiply fractions, locate North Dakota on a map, or name half of our nation’s presidents, I’m guessing that if zombies were to suddenly rise from the earth today, I wouldn’t be A-number-one on their menu.

Right now Riley is napping, recovering from the last part of the appointment when he had to get about five hundred shots. Bam, bam, bam, right in the upper arms, while, get this, I had to HOLD HIM IN MY LAP with his little hands pinned by my sides.

That was, let’s see…I think the term I’m looking for is “spectacularly awful”. I bet when he wakes up with two sore arms he’s not going to be too happy either.

So, first on my agenda of What to Do the Rest of My Day: find the sticky, grape-smelling bottle of children’s Tylenol, and make some more goddamn coffee. I might just mix the two, depending on my afternoon.

Have a wonderful weekend! May your loved one’s arms be welt-free.

——–

TITLE: Magic eight balls
DATE: 09/18/2006 09:23:21 AM

Why is it that people so enjoy predicting a baby’s career path based on some incidental infant detail, like “His hands are so big! He’s going to be a famous pianist!”? I do the same damn thing with Riley. Based on my various observances over the last year, I have decided that when he grows up he’ll be 1) a Cirque du Soleil performer, 2) a TV remote repairman, or 3) an angry delusional shouting man wandering around carrying a sign (“THE END IS NEAR. BRING ME WARMED MILK”).

JB has his own pet theories about Riley, which unlike my own predictions, which are based in FACT, involve bizarre logic trees and inexplicable conclusions. For instance:

Exhibit A: Riley happily eats those horrific, godforsaken, cat-food-smelling “Gerber Graduates Garden Mashups”.

JB says: He will one day like MREs, which doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be attracted to the military, but rather that he’ll enjoy backpacking.

(Me: “But I like backpacking and I definitely do not like MREs.”
JB: “Well, that’s because you’re a girl.”)

Exhibit B: Riley likes to pound on his highchair and yell.

JB says: He’s going to be a charismatic, volatile cult leader. Not the poison-by-Koolaid kind, more like Steve Jobs. Except hopefully without the black turtleneck.

Exhibit C: Riley’s brow is furrowed in concentration/suspicion 98.7% of the time.

JB says: He is going to be world-famous trial lawyer who’s known throughout the land for his ability to crack dishonest defendants like eggs. Either that or he is actually a mutant whose superpower is laser vision. I hope it’s the lawyer thing because I bet it sucks to try and discipline a kid with laser vision.

Hopefully we are both wrong, and most of Riley’s current behaviors have nothing to do with the person he’ll eventually become. Otherwise he’s going to be a pants-pooping, raspberry-blowing nuisance who cries if you take away his measuring cup, which would make his life challenging. Unless of course he goes into politics where that sort of thing is rewarded.

——–

TITLE: The solitary item of baby merchandise I do not love
DATE: 09/18/2006 08:16:03 PM

When Riley was much smaller, I was pretty diligent about putting socks on him. His naked feet just looked so pitiful and tiny, I was sure if I left the house and exposed them to fresh air someone would rush up and issue me a Bad Mom citation. Plus he would instantly get pneumonia. And maybe also burst into flames. I don’t know, socks just seemed mission-critical back then.

As he started getting more active and eventually crawling, I left the socks off. Especially now that he’s so close to walking, I figure he needs the traction his suction-cuppy feet provide. Sure, that means the tops of his feet are always dirty from being dragged along the floor, but hey ‚– so are his knees. Scuffed-on filth: the latest in infant haute couture.

Then summer faded into the rearview mirror and the weather starting turning clammy and cool here in Seattle, so I put the socks back on. The only problem is, he can take them off. Which he greatly enjoys doing. Sometimes he takes them off and waves them around, sometimes he stuffs them in his mouth and gums them into little wet rags, sometimes he just flings them aside and continues on his merry way, footloose and fancy free.

Today we took Riley to daycare for part of the day while JB and I had a Childfree Outing, aka Date Day, aka We Don’t Yet Have a Goddamn Babysitter, and when we picked him up we learned that socks are a REQUIREMENT of the new toddler room he’s in. Not only that, but he is also supposed to wear SHOES.

Riley has some adorable Robeez that haven’t fit for months, and a pair of yellow clamdigging boots that are waiting for him to turn, like, five, but shoes, actual shoes? Not so much.

I groused to JB about the Shoe Rule.

“I’m going to discuss this with them, because most of the baby books I’ve read actually recommend leaving off shoes during the learning-to-walk period. Something about the development of his feet, or muscle tone. Or balance. Something important,” I said. “Also, isn’t he a little young to be forced into the rigid confines of THE MAN?”

“Do you mean that metaphorically, or literally?” JB asked.

“BOTH,” I said. “He needs to be unfettered and free to explore and learn! Unless I’m trying to drink my morning coffee in which case he needs to be very quiet and still.”

I did find him a pair of shoes and we tried them out tonight. I think you could say he’s not yet a fan, being as how he just sat there, stared at them, tried to crawl and then burst into tears.

91806_shoes

Yeah, have fun with that, daycare.

The real reason I don’t like the Shoe Rule is that kids wear shoes. Babies do not wear shoes, unless they are button-cute novelty shoes designed for the purpose of making parents simper over the phenomenal visual awesomeness that is their child. Riley’s new shoes have rubber soles. They look like a miniature version of a REGULAR shoe.

I just want to see his little baby toes, to have open access to his smooth soles, to be able to dramatically gnaw the top of his foot while he shrieks with laughter. Oh, I’m just not ready for shoes.

Neither is Riley, it seems, although we’re easing him into the overall concept.

——–

TITLE: Shoes and salon services
DATE: 09/19/2006 07:40:08 PM

Shoe update: I picked Riley up from daycare today and his shoes were firmly attached to his feet. “Did he, uh…complain about the shoes?” I asked, and received bemused head shakes in response.

When I got him settled in his carseat, the first thing he did was pull on a shoe and scream. But when we got home, he totally ignored the shoes, scooting around the living room as usual.

*elaborate shrug*

I’ll be buying some Robeez, though, to make sure he’s got some development-friendly foot options. OH TWIST MY ARM.

(Yarr!)

——–

TITLE: The power of the Scrunchface
DATE: 09/20/2006 01:58:03 PM

Lately, Riley has been making this face:

Scrunchface

I don’t know where he learned it. Has Sloth been visiting his daycare while we’re not around?

The Scrunchface, unlike Sloth, is awfully damn cute, but the boy demands that the Scrunchface is acknowledged and appreciated. It cannot be ignored. You must make the face back at him, along with the accompanying sound (“Heeeeeeee”).

This can be a little embarrassing. Witness our experience last weekend while visiting a home improvement store with Riley in the backpack:

Sales guy: “Okay, that’s all the hardware you’ll need for these handles.”
Riley (leering over the top of JB’s shoulder, face fully in Scrunch Mode): “HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.”
Sales guy: “Heh. Isn’t he cute. Anyway, that’ll be—
Riley: “HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.”
Sales guy: “Uh, that’ll—
Riley: “HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.”
Me (desperately scrunching my face back at Riley): “Heeeee. Heeeee.”
Riley (slightly mollified): “Heeee.”
JB: “Here. Debit card. Please just ring it up.”

Later, in the parking lot:

JB: “Jesus. Between the two of you, I felt like I was stuck in that freaking Firefox ad.”

——–

TITLE: I am fearful
DATE: 09/21/2006 01:23:40 PM

I got Riley this toy for his birthday a few weeks ago. It’s apparently called a “combination walker/ride-on”, which is one of those awkward, made-up descriptives like “exersaucer”. Why do kids’ toys have to have such weird names? I hereby name it Fred, for the sake of discussion.

Anyway, Fred has been a big hit. Riley loves being pushed down the hallway on it; he gets this hilarious look of delighted concentration and makes a drawn-out buzzing sound as he motors along. He’s also spent a lot of time playing with the wheels or just pushing it back and forth.

This morning, though, JB and I watched openmouthed as Riley stood behind Fred, grasped the handle, and literally ran across the living room floor. He then clunked Fred into the wall, shuffled around (still holding on to the handle) to push Fred back the other direction, and took off again.

Other than a few tentative near-falling steps, Riley doesn’t walk unassisted yet. I get the feeling it’s going to happen pretty soon, though. And after this morning, I have the vaguest of ideas about what life is going to be like with a toddler who can run.

Something tells me I won’t need to worry as much about not hitting the gym very often.

(Oh, god.)

——–

TITLE: Adult-themed material
DATE: 09/22/2006 01:01:24 PM

This morning was a first for me: I lusted after a…oh, man, this is hard to admit…a minivan.

I was in the parking lot of our neighborhood grocery store, having just wrestled the boy into his carseat and pinned down his madly flailing tentacles long enough to strap him in, when I noticed. It. Parked next to me. Emanating subtle whiffs of soccer shoes and sensible television viewing limits, lumpen and dull.

I stared as a woman walked up to the side door and effortlessly slide it aside to reveal a vast acreage of maroon-colored leather. She began loading in her multitudes of grocery bags as if tossing dandelion fluff to the four winds, and even though she must have packed in eight full bags there was still room for a fully-grown African rhino and a salsa band.

Meanwhile, I struggled to situate Riley’s carseat, then load my own groceries. Options were limited, as the stroller was taking up the entirety of the trunk, the backseat contained Riley and the backpack carrier, and the front passenger seat was shoved forward to accommodate access to the back. I ended up distributing my bags in various precarious corners, then stole one more look at the minivan before the driver shut the side door. “Oh yeah, baby,” I whispered under my breath. “Show me allllll your cargo room.”

Then I drove off with a roll of paper towels poking me in the back of the head, my heartrate still elevated from that hot, sexy…MINIVAN.

——–

TITLE: Festive family outing
DATE: 09/24/2006 09:22:52 PM

A brief synopsis of Baby’s First State Fair:

– Hour-long slog through heavy traffic to get there; child whining constantly from backseat
– Bataan Death March from outer ring of Saturn parking
– Terrifying plunge into sweaty throngs of humanity, shins cracked by several hundred strollers
– Leering carnies and giant mutant neon-colored stuffed animals
– Screechingly loud 80’s hair-rock music
– Several thousand layers of people blocking child’s ability to see animals
– Horse barn inexplicably CLOSED
– Total absence of deep-fried Twinkies, despite lurid newspaper reports
– Much-anticipated wallaby actually v. depressing, since was housed in Hannibal Lecter-style cage
– Restrooms few, far between, frightening
– No rides, as boy is not 36″ in length
– Hour-long slog through heavy traffic to get home; child whining constantly from backseat

WHEE! Sign me up for next year.

——–

TITLE: Teeth and siblings
DATE: 09/26/2006 07:30:41 AM

Riley is working on another tooth, which caused so much general Infant Crabbiness over the weekend JB announced that Riley was going to be an only child. “I’m serious,” he said grimly, as Riley dissolved into yet another screaming tantrum. “I think one is plenty.”

This is approximately 180 degrees from JB’s usual stance, which includes the following:

– Riley needs a sibling so that when we, his parents, die someday, they can comfort each other
– Also: built-in playmate
– And it would be cool to have another boy
– Or a girl! A girl would also be nice
– And we should, like, get going on this, so that all of the baby stuff, IE diapers, is over with sooner

I keep thinking, ye gods, didn’t we just have a baby? But the days have a way of slipping by, and I suppose the decision can’t be put off forever.

However, as of right now, the pressure is OFF, friends — because our one and only, the apple of our eye and the center of our heart, is currently such a little (adorable!) nightmare, neither of us can conceive (haaaaaa!) of adding to the mix.

I’m curious, though, if any of you who are reading have more than one child, how did you decide on the timing? Did you just throw caution to the winds, or were you strategic about it, or?

(Um, that’s maybe a LITTLE nosy and personal, isn’t it? God. Sorry.)

——–

TITLE: Socialization causes spots
DATE: 09/27/2006 09:21:19 PM

You want to know what will make you feel like a very, very bad parent? If you blame your small child’s extremely poisonous attitude on teething, and actually wedge a couple of Hyland’s tablets into his protesting mouth before shipping his crabby little ass off to daycare, only to have your husband get a call saying that the boy has a rash and can someone come get him because he’s probably contagiously ill. Possibly with Lyme disease, or leprosy, or something.

Nice, huh? Oh, and the reason they called JB was because my cell phone was turned down and I didn’t hear it ring.

I’ll just collect that Mom of the Year award now, no need to wait until December.

Also, not that I had any plans to pursue a medical career, but it seems “diagnosing infant illness” isn’t my forte. What’s that you say, there’s a bone protruding from his shin and blood everywhere? Well, cram a few Hyland’s in him, for god’s sake. Walk it off, Riley!

I am clinging to the belief that Riley’s spots hadn’t appeared before we took him in Tuesday morning, but once we got him home he looked like a Braille version of War and Peace. It SEEMS like that’s something we would have noticed early on, doesn’t it? And yet: teething tablets.

He’s much better now, although I swear he really is still working on a tooth. But maybe next time he gets super fussy I’ll check for skin deformities, just in case. (Also: phone set to Extra Loud setting.)

Today I spent the day at home with him and in the afternoon we went to a nearby park. It was a surprisingly warm day and by the time I got to the playground I was all sweaty and disheveled-looking and felt kind of creepy-looking among the collection of professional playground-going moms. It seemed like everyone knew each other (“Bryce, look! Haley’s here!”) and Riley was the only child who was imitating a dying goat (“Beeeeehhhhhh! Beeehhhhhhhh!”) at top volume. I pushed him in a swing halfheartedly for a while while he looked vaguely bored, then motored on out of there, feeling just as dorky and awkward as I did in middle school when I passed the Popular Girls’ table at lunch.

I wish I weren’t so intimidated by stupid things like that, because going to public play areas is something I am going to have to do, especially as Riley gets a little older. For now, though, I confess I am glad for the socialization Riley gets through daycare. Although I could do without the take-home leprosy.

——–

TITLE: Sick day
DATE: 10/01/2006 09:12:22 PM

Riley was sick this weekend, I don’t know if it was associated with the rash or if he’s just on the crap-ass side of the luck spectrum healthwise, but oh boy was he down and out. We spent all of Saturday taking turns holding him while he lay limp and feverish in our arms. I’ve seen him cranky from teething and snot-nosed from colds and on one memorable occasion I saw him hork scrambled eggs all over his stroller, but this was the first time I saw him truly struggle with being ill.

It’s hard to see your kid, who is normally running on Toddler Fuel (half crack cocaine, half double-brewed espresso), transformed into a lethargic, woeful little mess. His fever never got worrisomely high, but it was high enough so his face, pressed against my chest, burned into my own skin. I wished I could absorb it, draw it out of his body and into my own.

During that long day I wanted so badly for him to feel better, but even through my concern I couldn’t help thinking how nice it felt for him to be in my arms like that. Normally I can only hold him for brief moments before he’s squirming to get away, to get down and boogie across the floor to find an outlet to tongue-kiss. This weekend I held him for hours, his chest against mine and his legs wrapped around my lap. God, it was awful. God, it was wonderful.

I love him so very, very much. This is just a fact, but during the course of a feverish, exhausting weekend, I was reminded of its truth over and over again.

(He’s much better now, and I am grateful, even if it means a return to squirming out of my embrace.)

——–

TITLE: Fashion faux pas
DATE: 10/03/2006 07:49:00 AM

Yesterday when I picked Riley up from daycare he was dressed in the extra clothes we keep at daycare in case a Catastrophic Event occurs on his outfit. Unfortunately, the combination of me not wanting to keep a “cute” outfit there and the fact that he hasn’t needed the extra clothes in quite a while resulted in an ensemble that sent a clear, bold statement to all who viewed him: MY PARENTS HATE ME.

His top was a onesie, a preppy job with a little collar, buttons, and nerdy grey-and-white stripes at the top. It was like…imagine if Bill Gates were to be dressed in a onesie. Yes, like that. On the bottom he had on a pair of grey camo shorts which he had clearly outgrown so it was more like he was sporting some camo hot pants. At the bottom of his woefully exposed white baby legs sprouted his navy blue toddler cloddhopper shoes, which were never, ever meant to be worn with hot pants. Oh, and let’s not forget his socks, which were kind of a khaki green, a color that matched his original outfit quite nicely, but under these circumstances it was the extra special visual something that made your eyes bleed.

I must have looked vaguely horrified, as I swept Riley into my arms and surveyed my little fashion trainwreck, because one of his teachers spoke up: “Oh, the kids all had birthday cake today. His outfit got kind of messy.”

Well, I learned two things yesterday. One, my kid needs an extra outfit at daycare that won’t transform him into the Dorkapotamus, World’s Tiniest SuperDork. And two, the same child who would not eat his own birthday cake that I lovingly baked with MY OWN TWO HANDS back in August apparently pigged out on some OTHER kid’s cake to the point of getting HOT PINK ICING all over his non-dorky original outfit.

Why does so much with parenthood always come back to food and laundry? MAN.

——–

TITLE: Getting to the point
DATE: 10/05/2006 07:00:00 AM

Riley has been in a Pointing Stage lately. Well, yesterday afternoon he was kind of in a Let’s Scream All Afternoon and Make Mama Weep Brokenly Into Her Diet Coke Stage too, but the pointing! It’s awfully cute. Cute enough to keep him from being stuffed in a padded envelope and mailed to Outer Mongolia, at any rate.

He points at everything: trees, airplanes, passing birds, oxygen molecules, while saying “Da! Da?”. I feel like a chipper tour guide leading hard-of-hearing Americans through a foreign country: “That’s a TREE! Yes, TREE. And that’s a POWER LINE. POWER LINE. Those are AIR MOLECULES. MOOOLLECUUULES.”

I don’t know if he’s actually asking me what things are, or if this is like when he learned to clap and every few minutes for a week straight he would applaud my every move (which was rather flattering, by the way). We tend to initially over-interpret everything he does (“He’s using the Occam’s Razor principle to determine where his truck is! No, wait, he’s eating a piece of dirt”), but it’s hard not to respond when someone vigorously points at something, even if they’re gesturing at a lamp for the eight hundredth time. “LIGHT FIXTURE! SIXTY-WATT BULB!”

Also, it’s almost impossible not to point along with him:

100406_pointy
(“Da!)

——–

TITLE: Parenting poetry from the heart. Or possibly the spleen.
DATE: 10/06/2006 06:00:00 AM

Stop! Stop! Stop!
I do not like this game.
Where you pretend to be a thrashing alligator
and you are naked. On the changing table.
And I am some lady
trying to put a diaper on an alligator.
Alligators don’t wear diapers.
Or was that
your point?

I can hardly believe
how much noise can come from
such a small creature.
I must hide you away for the good of mankind
lest the military discover
your powers.

This is not a poisonous substance. It will not cause you harm. There is no need to make that face. Or to spit it out.
It is
macaroni and cheese.
Jesus christ.

when you make that sound
somewhere
an angel’s eardrums
explode

Wow.
That sure is a lot of poop.
And here I thought you didn’t eat enough dinner.
Is that
a
noodle?

Did you know you are my heart
did you know you fill me with happiness
did you know you are my everything
did you know, my dear, oh did you
know
It is 5:30 in the freaking morning?
GO.
BACK.
TO.
SLEEP.

Splashing is fun!
And you are
slippery
and adorable
in the bathtub.
Oh look!
You made a fountain.

If you stop that screaming
I will pay you
Eleventy jillion dollars.
Really
I promise
Here is a check.

It is a good thing for the parents of small children like you
that god created
caffeine.

Here are the things in this household that are toys:
that. this. that. and that.
wait
the naming of toys
is going to take a long time
for there are SO VERY MANY OF THEM.
And yet you insist
on playing with
power cords.

Oh
hey
what
do
you
know
another
goddamn
tooth.

Sometimes I want to put you in a spaceship
and push “Destination: Mars”
and wave goodbye to you my sweet
and pray for those unsuspecting Martians.
But then you smile
and laugh with me.
And I say oh okay
you can stay.
Those Martians
don’t deserve you
anyway.

I love you more than my heart has room for
so my love spills everywhere
I am a Love Valdez
because of you. Baby mine.

——–

TITLE: The nature of goodness
DATE: 10/09/2006 10:15:00 AM

I recently read someone’s blog where they described their one-year-old as “good natured”, and I thought, I wonder if this is a typo and they are really talking about their dog.

“Good natured” to me implies some amount of easygoing patience, however miniscule. A good natured baby seems as though they would normally be found with a smile creasing their dimpled cheeks, a twinkle of cheer in their eye. Perhaps they would be stoic and mannered, in a British sort of way: Yes, in fact I DO have a feces-filled diaper, Mother dear, but never you mind. Please, won’t you finish your coffee, lest it grow tepid?

In comparison, Riley has what you might call a stormy nature. His is the ‘red in tooth and claw’ type of nature, the blustery strange plainlands that produce destructive squalls out of balmy blue skies. He rages with hurricane winds and clouds one second, and the next he’s all sunlight and calmly grazing Disney animals.

(Lately he’s been doing this awful Scream, the sort of sound that you expect to hear spiraling up from the fiery depths of hell itself. It is the type of Scream you might imagine a human only being capable of in the most dire of life-threatening situations, and yet my son makes it when his diaper is being changed. Or when the wet sock that he was in the process of swallowing is pulled from his mouth.)

O thunderous, mercurial child! I feel as though we are parenting a bolt of lightning, or something equally impossible to contain or quiet.

But when he laughs, he laughs with his mouth wide open. He screams with joy when we swing him in our arms. His happiness is a force to be reckoned with, too.

I dig for reserves every single day with him. He is never patient, never stoic. With him, the landscape is always changing, the weather is in turmoil, you have to run to keep up. His nature is good, it is beautiful and great, even. But “good natured”? No. No, I don’t think that’s quite the right term.

How about you? Is your kid good natured?

——–

TITLE: No language required
DATE: 10/11/2006 07:54:47 AM

The fact that Riley’s behavior is often totally inexplicable can be…um, frustrating. I mean, I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one with a kid who suddenly decided that the changing table, which used to be his FAVORITE PLACE ON EARTH, is now a Cushioned Horror bristling with angry lobsters and rusty bear traps, and the only appropriate reaction to being carefully placed upon it is to scream so loudly all adults within a five mile radius reach for the jumbo-sized Excedrin bottle, but really, it’s still annoying.

There will doubtlessly come a time when Riley follows us around asking “Why?” over and over, but right now the role is reversed. “Why?” I plead, when he swats at the looming spoonful of yogurt and sends it flying end over end. “Why?” JB asks, when Riley reacts to a dropped toy by turning beet red and yelling “AAAAARGH!!!”. “Why?” I whine, when it’s 8 PM and the boy is still issuing an endless stream of grousing complaints from his crib.

But! There are other traits of his that are equally confusing, yet far more pleasing. There’s the Tossed Pillow Game, for instance, where one of us gently lobs a pillow at Riley, who shrieks with insane joy and attacks it, over and over and over. A variant is the Tossed Blanket Game, which involves a, you got it, tossed blanket. And the Hairbrush Hoedown, where I pretend to comb his hair with my brush and he goes totally berserk with happiness. Oh, and Can I Have a Bite?, where I get my face close to his highchair tray and ask for a bite of his food, which is like toddler nitrous oxide or something.

Making him laugh is like…well. It is the very best feeling in the world, is what it is. It doesn’t always make sense (a pillow in the face, huh? WEIRDO) but I guess it doesn’t have to.

I’m looking forward to the more verbal stages, maybe we’ll be able to understand him better and vice versa. (Or maybe not?) But I am loving some of the incredibly silly times we share right now, that don’t require any words.

——–

TITLE: Fleeting
DATE: 10/11/2006 03:11:58 PM

When I pick Riley up from daycare I pull into the parking lot slowly, watching for darting children and tired parents. I walk in the door and there are parents in the hall, with children in their arms or tethered to their hands. People are yelling goodbye and kids are asking for snacks from the big bowl of wrapped crackers by the front door and other moms are looking at me and smiling as my boy points wildly at the ceiling and says “Ba?”.

Our daycare is a melting pot of races and faces, all colors and clothing, and every day that I’m there I look at all the teachers, the fathers and mothers, and I see the protective corralling gestures as they help kids into their coats, ferry children across the lot to their cars, the loving flurry of activity getting kids buckled into carseats, and I feel like I’m a part of the most tender, faultless side of humanity.

(The father who walks out the front door with his pink-garbed daughter splayed across his arms, he’s a small man and she’s not a little kid but he carries her like she makes him stronger, like the precious cargo she is.)

(The mother who enters the building looking drained, her business-casual outfit wrinkled across the lap and thighs, who visibly brightens like a watered plant when she opens the toddler room door and her boy looks up from the tower of blocks he’s building.)

(The teacher who runs in front of me to hold open the door and says, “Goodbye Riley! Bye bye!” and waves at him, smiling, her face all sincerity and friendliness, and oh, how glad I am for teachers everywhere like her.)

It sounds so goddamn cheesy, but during those times I cannot understand how there can be wars and weapons and hatred. I cannot understand it, because aren’t there children everywhere who are loved, whose hands are tiny, who need help? Don’t we need to help each other, all of us?

Later I watch the news and in the mornings I read the paper and all day long my web browser reminds me of the multitudes of ways in which our world is thoroughly screwed, but for a few pretty moments at the end of the day in a suburban daycare center, none of it makes any kind of sense. None of it seems like it could possibly be real.

——–

TITLE: Walk of life
DATE: 10/13/2006 06:00:00 AM

Well, will you look at that – it’s just a couple hours from being Friday (the 13th!) already, and that means the weekend is about to start. Gosh, I can’t wait for all the sleeping in and relaxing and leisurely brunches and afternoon hours spent curled on the sofa with a good book, you know?

Ha ha ha. Also: HA.

(P.S. HA!)

For something from the Random File, here is a video I made of Riley walking behind his push-cart whatsit several weeks back. He’s far more terrifying with it now (think Steve McQueen in Bullitt) and is taking some steps on his own, too, but…well, you know, I finally got the footage off the flipping camera.

God. I already look at this and think how much he’s changed, just in a few weeks. Soon I’ll watch it and weep all over the keyboard because he’ll be a running, jumping, cartwheeling boy and just where oh where did that toddling baby go?

——–

TITLE: Small steps for babykind
DATE: 10/17/2006 06:00:00 AM

I honestly thought Riley’s first steps would be this great momentous occasion complete with soft focus lighting and maybe a soundtrack involving stringed instruments. We as thrilled parents would be standing nearby armed with cameras and video, while Riley hesitantly pulls himself upright for the very first time and ‚– ever so gently! ‚– takes his first tender step, as carefully as Neal Armstrong setting foot on the surface of the moon.

Tears would be shed, hands would clap together, and like all the footage I’ve ever seen of newly-born foals, Riley would keep taking steps, trembly at first and then more confidently, until over the course of an hour or so he learns to briskly stride into the kitchen and get his own milk from the fridge.

Did I mention I’m a first-time parent? Yeah.

Anyway, the reality has been that over many weeks now Riley has been cruising alongside furniture, walking with a sticky small hand clasped in ours, and virtually running behind his pushcart — it’s like walking, but there’s always been an assistive device employed. I’m so used to seeing him standing and moving, albeit while connected to something, that I casually watched him take several steps on Friday and thought nothing of it, until a few minutes later when I realized, heyy…..he did that all by himself.

As the weekend progressed he walked more and more, and this morning I saw him stagger down the hallway like the world’s smallest drunk. All. By. Him. Self.

I’ve been looking forward to walking stage, not because I am a total masochist (I have learned, after all, that mobility is miraculous and wonderful and also HORRIFYING and LIFE-ALTERING and really, it should be postponed as long as possible) but because I knew he would be excited and pleased with himself.

And he is. The better he gets, the more he pants and crows and generally acts like a superfreak while he careens to and fro. It’s like having our own tiny Frankenstein, a baby made from spare parts that aren’t necessarily working perfectly in conjunction yet. It’s hilarious, and not really like Neal Armstrong at all.

So, that was my long-winded way of saying: Riley is walking. Hooray! Also: oh holy crap.

——–

TITLE: Oh oh it’s magic
DATE: 10/18/2006 06:00:00 AM

One of the things I enjoy about being a parent is indulging my not-so-secret love of all schmaltzy holiday-related decor and activities, in order to provide a magical environment for the child. I tell my husband, we NEED the string of pumpkin-shaped lights, we HAVE to buy the glittery skull-shaped candle, our kitchen MUST contain M&Ms…for it is almost Halloween! Do you want Riley to grow up without magical memories of Halloween?

Of course, most magical-memory-making holiday items are actually not toddler-compatible: light-strings, candles, and M&M’s are just waiting to be grabbed, pulled onto a tiny head, or choked on. And apparently the haunted portrait I wanted is “too scary”. Sheesh.

I was wondering, though, whether or not to involve Riley with our pumpkin carving. I mean, it would be way easier if we carved pumpkins after he went to bed, then showed him the creations later ‚– all lit up and, you know, magical. But maybe that’s kind of Grinch-like. I’m not thinking of giving him a sharp knife and letting him run loose, but…should I let him stick his hands in the goopy pumpkin, at least?

——–

TITLE: Early personalities
DATE: 10/19/2006 06:00:00 AM

Last weekend, I picked up a book in the library called Secrets of the Baby Whisperer for Toddlers. I haven’t been very interested in child-rearing instructional tomes lately, but it caught my eye. Maybe because the author’s last name is “Hogg”.

Anyway, the book suggests that there are several “types” of toddlers, which she proposes you identify in order to help dial in your reactions/expectations accordingly. I read through the Toddler Types with Riley in mind:

Angel — the “perfect child”, whatever that means. Ha ha ha ha NO.
Textbook — does everything by the book, predictable. Nooooooo.
Touchy — sensitive and slow to adapt to new situations. No, not really.
Grumpy — mad-as-hell, obstinate. Well, SOMETIMES, YES. But not always.

Then I got to “Spirited”. Here’s what it said, in part:

“Our most active toddler, s/he’s very physical, often willful, and may be prone to temper tantrums. S/he’s very social and curious and will point to objects and reach out for them…This child is the consummate adventurer; s/he will have a go at anything and is very determined.”

Hey, I know that kid! HE LIVES IN MY HOUSE.

The book goes on later to describe one Spirited toddler as a “boisterous tyrant”, which is a phrase that I personally think belongs on a 18M-sized t-shirt so that I can purchase it and make my child wear it every single day.

I don’t actually have anything to add about the book, I just got a kick out of recognizing Riley’s temperament like that. Now we call him Spirited Baby. “Oh look, he’s being spirited again.”

This did make me wonder about something, though. For those of you who may have gone through the parenting wringer a few years ago or more, would you say that your kids’ personalities shone through as toddlers? I mean, if they were Angelic toddlers did they grow up into Angelic kids? Or did they completely change, personality-wise, as they grew older?

——–

TITLE: Stay the moment
DATE: 10/22/2006 08:50:09 PM

When we were at the pumpkin farm a couple weeks ago, I noticed some parents strategizing on photogenic scenes meant to capture the theme of Gourds and Offspring. One family carefully placed their young baby in a bin among a pile of pumpkins, then stood back and starting clicking away; another dad patiently tilted a wheelbarrow containing both his child and several pumpkins towards his camera-wielding wife while she directed him to the perfect angle.

I took plenty of photos myself, and found myself eyeing the Hallmark Moment parents with some jealousy. Why didn’t I think of placing Riley in a bin of pumpkins? I mean, other than the fact that he probably would have started totally freaking out, because he definitely doesn’t like being dropped into the laundry hamper, not that we have ever done such a thing.

I’ve always liked photography, but since Riley’s birth I’ve found there are times when I’m almost unable to fully enjoy the moment at hand, because I’m so focused (HA!) on getting a good shot of whatever is going on. Every stage flies by so quickly, the click of the shutter is the closest thing I have to a pause button. I want to save as many frozen images as possible, because the camera remembers so much more clearly than I do. I want to get the picture that shows as much richness as possible. I want to preserve everything in amber and extract it later to re-create dinosaurs using mosquito DNA, you know?

Um, wait. That’s Jurassic Park.

Anyway, when I can tell I’m getting wound up about the camera and the activity which oh my god! I! Must! Photograph! Perfectly! I sometimes force myself to click the little button to Off. Then I set the damn thing down so I can participate with all of my senses rather than hovering like a rabid pageant mom.

I like the small unposed vignettes we sometimes end up with when I’m not taking the job of camera-wrangler too seriously, too:

102206_rileypkin

Do you ever get that way, where you lust after the perfect iconic moment (example: Fall = Child + Autumnal Choice of 1) Pumpkin, 2) Hay Maze, or 3) Charming Pile of Colorful Leaves), or the optimal picture of your kid in the midst of Milestone X or whatever? Do you ever have to Back Away from the Camera, Because Oh My God You Now Have an Entire Memory Card Full of Iconic Moments?

——–

TITLE: Garbage, social weirdness
DATE: 10/23/2006 08:12:01 PM

I was feeling proud of myself last night when we wheeled our enormously full recycling container to the curb. All week long I had carefully been filling the recycling bin with paper products, in an attempt to be a little more Environmentally Conscious than usual. We’ve been noticing how much garbage we generate with a small child in the house (diapers, tissues, food containers, etc etc etc) and I was pleased to see just how packed the recycling container got in comparison to the garbage can.

When I got home today, JB showed me the terse notice that had been attached to our door, informing us that pretty much everything we tossed in the bin can’t actually be recycled (paper plates, paper towels, things that have touched food). So I guess that means if I want to reduce our waste, I have to change our habits.

DAMMIT. Why can’t saving the earth be more convenient? And come in an individually wrapped container so I don’t have to dirty my petal-soft little fingers?

(Please tell me I don’t have to explain that I am just kidding. Oh, good. For a minute there some of you had that real angry Hellfire-by-Comment-Box look.)

In other news, when I picked Riley up from daycare this evening one of the employees went out of her way to tell me over and over how she knows this woman who looks “just like” Riley. “I mean, she could be Riley’s mother,” she said to me, repeatedly, shaking her head at the wonder of it all.

Is that…is it just me, or is that a strange thing to tell someone? I don’t want to know that there’s some woman out there who apparently looks more related to Riley than I do. What the hell?

——–

TITLE: Nonbeliever
DATE: 10/24/2006 09:43:30 PM

Motherhood has ruined my suspension of belief when it comes to movies and their scenes of pregnancy or childbirth. I can accept alien life forms, spaceships, and guns that expel approximately fifteen million rounds before requiring a reload, but when the woman onscreen delivers the chubby, bright-eyed, FOUR MONTH OLD BABY, I can’t help myself. “That’s not a newborn!” I shout at the TV, while JB sighs. “And are we supposed to believe she was actually in labor? She’s got lipstick on!”

We watched a film recently where the rail-thin, no-physical-signs-of-pregnancy female character tells her boyfriend they’re going to have a baby by showing him an ultrasound photo. “And that part,” she whispers tenderly while pointing to the image, “means it’s a boy.”

OH COME ON. Who gets an ultrasound and keepsake photo at their confirmation-of-pregnancy appointment? And wouldn’t she have to be, oh, twenty weeks along to have the sex be detectable?

I drove JB nuts when we watched that crapfest The Island, because there’s a childbirth scene where the (FOUR MONTH OLD) baby is shown all wrapped up in the ubiquitous teal-and-pink blanket everyone gets at the hospital. “This is supposed to be the future,” I kept saying. “I think the blankets would be different, don’t you? Like silver or something?”

I don’t know what my problem is, really.

So movies sometimes cause my eyeballs to involuntarily spin in their sockets, but get this, I just read one of those “It Happened to Me!” articles in Jane magazine that are supposedly real people’s real-life stories, and it was a first person account of a college age girl who didn’t know she was pregnant until her water broke and she went to the hospital in LABOR.

Okay. If I try real hard I can partially imagine being overweight enough not to be suspicious of the body changes. I can imagine deciding that various health issues were causing the lack of menstruation and other physical side effects. But how in the hell did this woman not notice a live human baby kicking her from the inside? Maybe Riley was just a particularly squirmy fetus, but I often felt like I had a pack of angry badgers nesting in my midsection. One night I saw his foot actually protrude several inches from my belly, just like that chestbursting scene in Alien. He kicked me so hard once…my pint of Ben & Jerrys almost fell over.

The girl gave up the baby for adoption and the rest of the article was a heartwarming ending about how she now gives talks at schools and so on, but SERIOUSLY. Can that story possibly be true?

——–

TITLE: Developments
DATE: 10/25/2006 08:08:16 PM

Let me say this: I kind of feel like a jackass about yesterday’s post. Not only did a surprising number of you actually know someone firsthand who went through the majority of their pregnancy totally unaware of their situation, but I heard directly from a very nice woman who shared her story with me. It involved medical misdiagnosis, a scary trip to the ER, many hours of that miserable drug magnesium sulfate, and a surprise early birth of a (thankfully healthy) baby that everyone had thought was nowhere near term.

I need to remember that everyone’s situation is different and just because something seems hard for ME to imagine, that doesn’t mean a damn thing. It’s a good thing the world isn’t limited to what I can’t imagine, because among many other improbabilities such as space travel, Paris Hilton wouldn’t exist, and who would we collectively dislike then?

Anyway, I’m sorry about that. I usually like to be insensitive on purpose, not through uninformed dumbassery.

:::

Speaking of (general dumbassery, that is), last weekend JB and I were driving around with his parents and Riley in the backseat (a fine way to travel with a small child, by the way, I wish we could hire stand-in family members to sit back there and keep the boy entertained, say for instance on one of our upcoming 7-hour trips to Oregon) and Riley kept shouting “BEH BEH, BEH BEH”. We were all semi-ignoring him while we carried on a conversation, and finally someone looked down and there was Riley, holding up a blanket over his face, then whipping it down to play peekaboo with the adults that WOULD NOT PAY ATTENTION.

I think he may have been saying “baby, baby”, as in “look at the incredibly clever and humorous baby, who is playing peekaboo ALL BY HIMSELF. Hello, does anyone give a wet diaper?”.

I tried to get a picture of it:

Peekaboo_backseat

Cuteness! I swear, every day he is doing something new, something that surprises me. I said “pumpkin” this morning and he pointed to the gourd still sitting by our front door; I could hardly believe it. I think we may need a renewed commitment to the Cuss Jar.

——–

TITLE: A list of lists
DATE: 10/26/2006 10:22:44 PM

Things my child has used to hit me directly across the bridge of the nose:

—Plastic measuring cup (full cup size)
— “Big Noisy Trucks” book
— Recently-filled bottle of milk
— Also, sippy cup of milk
— Baby Mum Mum cracker (rice-based, so no bruising)
— Vaguely porny-looking turkey baster thing

Mysterious objects I have discovered in the bottom of his highchair:

— Mummified, ancient fur-trimmed leathery disgustingness which may have once been a pear slice
— Waffles, waffles, waffles
— Shmear of…what is that, yogurt? Jeeeesus

Noises Riley likes to make in line at the grocery store:

• Bah? Bah. Bah. Bah?
• BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH
• DEH DEH DEH DEH DEH DEH DEH
• EERRRNNNNNGGGGH (pooping)
• Bah? Bah.

Various things that need to be vigorously pointed at:

— Airplanes
— Birds
— Cars
— Light fixtures
— The invisible nanobots the government has distributed to the masses via the water supplies, the ones that control our every thought and tell us to kill, kill, KILL

Amount of emotional trauma a diaper change can cause these days, as measured symbolically by both real and fictitious mammals:

— Elephant
— Sperm whale
— Massivus Ginormousasis

Substances we have compared the contents of his diaper to throughout the last 14 months:

— Mustard
— Peanut butter
— Cow pat
— It-Which-Cannot-be-Named
— Playdough
— Campbell’s Chunky Beef Soup (The Soup That Eats like a Meal)

Most kissable body parts:

— Snout
— Bottom of feet
— Tummy (ZERBERT)
— Pudgeknees
— Dimpled butt
— Back of neck
— Filthy, germ-coated fingers that spread both disease and love

——–

TITLE: Neither a trick nor a treat
DATE: 10/30/2006 08:48:23 PM

102806_pumpkins_2

I’m glad I took this photo of the pumpkins we carved, because our dog ATE most of mine (Fangy there on the left). I guess you could make the argument that my pumpkin is even scarier now that it’s all torn open as though zombies rose from the dead and began gnawing open the heads of nearby gourds, but really, I’m kind of ticked off at Dog. Here it is Halloween Eve and my personal contribution to the most awesome holiday of the YEAR is slobbery and partially chewed and really, not very terrifying at all.

Tomorrow afternoon we plan to take Riley around JB’s workplace, which is hosting a little family trick-or-treating-through-the-offices activity (I’m sure some employees just love being interrupted by a stream of rugrats demanding candy, hopefully the people who would rather not join in the festivities can go home instead of having to pretend they think their asshole coworker’s kid is cute; like yeah Bob, thanks for hanging me out to dry in today’s meeting, your kid sure is adorable…for a Cro-Magnon, that is. Here, have some black licorice.)

Riley will be dressed as Godzilla, assuming he cooperates with being stuffed back into this thing once more. It’s kind of perfect given the way he walks, and there’s a button in one of the hands that makes the actual Godzilla noise.

102806_side2

102806_sidereach

102806_side3_3

102806_side_1

(You weren’t thinking I was really going to dress him like Tragically Barbed Before His Time Steve Irwin, did you? No way, people would totally throw Caps Lock keys at him if I did that.)

I hope you and yours have a wonderful Halloween. Stay safe and eat lots of chocolate (I recommend mini 100 Grand bars; steal them from nearby chidren if you need to because they are totally worth that whole taking-candy-from-a-baby thing).
——–

TITLE: Hidden by ink
DATE: 11/06/2006 06:00:00 AM

I have a tattoo that encircles my upper arm, a tribal-type band that took many many hours back when I had it done. The artist who worked on me, a girl who had just finished her MFA at Reed College, told me that at times during a tattoo’s creation the ink splattering in a fine mist from the pen obscures where the needle is going. She called it “tattooing with the Force”, meaning you just had to basically fly blind and go by feel alone.

This caused me some measure of concern that I was going to end up with a giant scribble on my bicep, but in fact all the lines stayed nice and neat and the blackwork was so good my tattoo still looks great today (14 years later, my god).

I was thinking about Tattooing with the Force lately because there are so many times as a parent when my choices seem obscured and it’s impossible to know what I should do in any given situation. I can read every childcare book on the planet and listen to what people suggest and watch how other families work but at the end of the day, sometimes I just have to Parent with the Force, you know?

Riley has been throwing some tantrums in stores recently, particularly when he wants to grab onto something and we need to take it away. In a Blockbuster, he took a DVD box off a shelf and when JB tried to get it from him, Riley turned bright red and started to howl. Both of us initially wanted to give the movie back, just let him walk around with it, but then we thought, no. No, that’s probably not a habit we want to get into; so we took it and he screamed and then he got over it.

That’s a really insignificant example, but it’s true that JB and I feel pretty clueless a lot of the time, we’re playing this by ear because we’ve never done it before. We talk and make guesses, we try things, whatever things feel as close to right as possible.

Sometimes I wonder why it’s so hard for us all to give each other a goddamned break and quit busting on each other’s choices, whether it’s breastfeeding or co-sleeping or crying it out or writing about motherhood on blogs or what-flipping-ever. We all fly blind at times, we all take leaps of faith we don’t completely trust. But that’s what this job requires, because parenting — for the most part — is subjective.

That makes a job that was already scary and hard even scarier. Even harder. Because there are no operating instructions. There are no rules we can all agree to. We have to make our own decisions. We aren’t always going to choose the same things, and that should be okay. Shouldn’t it?

(Here’s where I find I physically cannot restrain myself from adding the following: may the Force be with you.)

——–

TITLE: A public service announcement
DATE: 11/07/2006 06:00:00 AM

If you decide to bring your young son into the bathtub with you in order to have some slippery festive bonding time and also clean his fingernails (for the love of god, always with the dirt: WHY?), and you happen to have a jetted tub, let me advise you that under no circumstances should you turn ON the jets, unless your tub is properly filled past the jet water holes, which of course it will not be as you have safely kept the water at a shallow level so as to not accidentally drown the child. If you do turn on the jets because you are a fool, a DAMNED, DAMNED FOOL, what will happen is this: water will shoot out of the holes and blast your boy in the back of the head, while the side jets will spray him in the chest. Oh, and the water will be cold, too, since the initial water always is. Enjoy trying to soothe your baby, whom you have essentially attacked from three different angles with a freezing firehose of water.

On the plus side, his fingernails will be totally clean afterwards.

——–

TITLE: Damien Daily Workout
DATE: 11/08/2006 06:00:00 AM

I finally cancelled my gym membership a while ago, which was kind of depressing, but every time I thought about the amount of effort and coordination it would take to actually visit the place, my eyes rotated 360 degrees in their sockets and I had to breathe into a paper bag.

Unfortunately, the combination of the Seattle weather turning near-Biblical in its constant deluge of rain and the ubiquity of holiday baking ingredients has the potential for disaster, waist-circumference-wise, if I don’t combat the influx of cookies and ass-sitting with some physical activity. To that end I have devised a robust new exercise plan based on my observances of Riley’s preferred calisthenics. I call it the Damien Daily Workout.

Step 1: The Boneless Chicken (AKA the Limp Noodle, the Flaccid Jellyfish, or the Sniper Victim)

Throw your arms upward and relax all your muscles until your body goes completely limp. Properly executed, this maneuver should make it almost impossible for another person to hold onto you. Advanced practitioners will eventually be able to dissolve the periosteum and bone marrow in their bodies so they are nearly liquid in content, perfecting the ability to slither out of the tightest of grips.

Step 2: The Dying Fishflop

Arch your back into the letter “C” while bending your head as far back as it can go. This move should be performed as a violent thrust, preferably while being placed on a changing table or buckled into a carseat. If you’re doing it correctly your body should repeatedly lose contact with the object onto which it is being placed, while your head hammers against the nearest hard surface.

Step 3: The Angry Crocodile

Start by lying on your back, naked, on a changing table or bed, then twist your body in a rapid twirling motion until you have flipped onto your belly. Crawl for the closest dangerous edge you can find while screaming at the top of your lungs.

Step 4: The Collapsed Downward-Facing Dog

Place yourself on the floor on your hands and knees, then drop the upper half of your body in a heap while shoving your butt up in the air. Your face should be buried in your arms so as to convey both sorrow and misery, while your rear half paddles uselessly. If this exercise feels okay and you want to make it a little more challenging, try pounding the floor with one fist.

Step 5: The Swiping Panther Paw

You’ll need a milk bottle or sippy cup for this one. Sit upright in a highchair and sweep your arm in a brisk curve from left to right, connecting with the cup at the end of your swing. You’ll know you’re doing this correctly if the container is sent a minimum of ten feet through the air, colliding with a wall or the floor and spraying the entirety of its contents from its now-broken lid.

Step 6: The Sneaky Snake

For the last exercise, you want to incorporate a “cooling down” period, so make sure you take this one nice and easy. While keeping one eye fixed firmly on the nearest authority figure, carefully reach your arm out to touch your choice of the following objects: 1) an electrical cord, 2) a DVD button, or 3) a forgotten glass of water. Try not to be discovered, because if you are, you’ll need to start over at Step 1 of this routine.

Well, I hope you find the Damien Daily Workout useful. Remember to modify exercises to your own needs and work at your own pace! With this new healthy focus on staying active, I’m hereby giving myself permission to eat all the damn cookies I want this year.

——–

TITLE: An interrupting, annoying moment of kindness
DATE: 11/08/2006 06:49:13 PM

I answered the phone tonight and heard the tell-tale pause of silence that announces a telemarketing robot has called. Finally a voice was saying, “Hello? Hello?” and I answered, “I have a SICK BABY HERE, is this very very important?” and the woman on the other end of the line not only apologized but told me to take care of both my sick baby and myself and I swear I almost starting bawling to someone who was not just selling long distance but was human and sympathetic and she called me, no shit, “sweetheart”.

(Of course, it might have been tears of pain, considering I think I broke four toes on my right foot while SPRINTING for the phone so as not to wake up Riley — who had juuuust fallen into a whimpering, feverish sleep — and colliding solidly with the fricking-fracking highchair.)

I hope that woman, wherever she is, is going home soon and has a wonderful dinner waiting for her.

——–

TITLE: Some ALL CAPS and a question
DATE: 11/09/2006 08:21:12 AM

My household is in recovery from having been utterly destroyed by some kind of bug that transformed Riley into Baron VonBarferton, He-Who-Soils-All-Linens. I spent the entire day yesterday hanging out on the living room floor with a limp and miserable toddler while I rubbed his back and we watched every single children’s DVD he owns. That is a lot of Elmo and Baby Einstein in one stretch, is what I’m saying, and if I hear Elmo’s chirpy voice singing “the baby song” (lyrics: “Baby baby baby, baby baby baby, baby baby babyyyy…”) once more anytime soon I think my head will detach from my body and float away into the atmosphere where it will EXPLODE in a geyser of Sesame Street/Disney-branded GOO.

SO HOW WAS YOUR WEDNESDAY I SURE HOPE IT WAS BETTER THAN MINE.

(Riley seems to be on the mend, but can I just say how frustrating it is to deal with a barfy kid who totally refuses all those ‘clear fluids’ they tell you to offer? No water, no Pedialyte, he wants MILK, milk in great amounts that he can then hurl all over his sheets! More milk please! And O, the ungodly reek of horked milk. I ended up syringing water into his protesting mouth with the Tylenol dispenser like he was a baby bird. DIE WEDNESDAY DIE.)

Anyway, I wanted to ask some of you a question for a follow-up post. Well, it’s not so much a question as a plea for you to share your experiences: if you are using, have used, or know anything about daycare, what kinds of tips might you have for someone who needs to find a solution for their baby? It’s a question I get asked a lot, how did I pick Riley’s daycare, and I’d love to hear what you guys have to say on the subject.

In our own situation, JB and I called around to various daycare centers and settled on one that was 1) very close to home, 2) had availability, and 3) did not cost an actual, physical arm and a leg (just a leg!). We visited the center and made sure no one was actively beating the children and that the center wasn’t next door to Ed’s Pitbulls, Gators N’ Rattlers. And that was about it, although my one marginally useful piece of advice now is to take your kid in for a dry run or two before you leave them there on your first day back to work. I didn’t do this, and I think if I had it would have cut down on the hysterical sobbing and overall sense of sorrow and doom (on my part, that is, Riley was just fine).

Okay, so if you have some advice or stories to share or things to avoid or things to do, hit me up in the comments section or by email and I’ll compile a list for a future post. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go whap my head against a wall to try and dislodge Elmo’s Baby Song.

——–

TITLE: Suggestions for new parents looking into daycare
DATE: 11/12/2006 08:08:16 PM

Today’s entry is focused on how to find a good daycare for your child, and contains both my opinions and experience and feedback from readers. As always, your mileage may vary, I’m not making any professional claims, yada blada etc.

Resources

Lots of states have childcare resources you can look into online or call. They often provide lists of daycares in your area and other helpful information.

“My daughter is 14 months and is in daycare 3 full days per week. I found a list online of ALL the licensed daycare centers in our county (actual centers and licensed in-home caregivers alike if you know anyone looking in Jersey).” – Melanie

“For you folks in the King Co, WA area, go to childcare.org to find a provider. It costs $40 for a 6-month subscription, but you can search on so many criteria and narrow the field waaaaay down. It saved me a ton of calling around to places that didn’t take 6-week-olds and places that closed ridiculously early. We found our fabulous, awesome day care through it.” – Liz

“I got a list of daycares in the general vicinity from the state…” – HollowSquirrel

“Ohio has a pretty user-friendly state site and I found the child care link. I called them and explained that I didn’t qualify as low income, but I could qualify as a clueless new mom. They asked me where I lived and worked, then put together a list of centers in every zip code along my route to work. They made it clear that this was not a reference, but suggested centers in my area. I would have to tour them and choose one for myself. Every center on the list is monitored and licensed by the state. You can go on-line and find out how each center’s last inspection went, and look back in years to see if they have consistently passed inspection. It was a good starting point for me.” – Paula

When to start looking

I can’t remember the exact timing, but I think we started calling daycare centers several weeks after Riley was born. Talk about PANIC. One of the places I’d been really interested in was totally booked past the day I needed to go back to work. I’d say that as crazy as it sounds to be talking to daycare providers when your baby is still physically inside your body, for peace of mind you should start checking availability in your third trimester. It’s just one less thing to freak out about later.

Here’s what some of you had to say:

“…someone asked about how early you should look into it, and it totally depends on the area. In the area where I live now, the daycares always have signs up saying “Infant positions available now! Call now! Please god give us your babies to take care of!!,” but in the area where I worked in daycare, there was about a 4-6 month waiting list. You can find out what kind of area you live in by calling a few daycares and saying, “Hey, I’m pregnant, and I’m wondering how soon I need to register for daycare to be sure of having a slot when the baby is 6 weeks [or whatever] old.” They should be able to give you an idea.” – Swistle

“…here in Denver the better infant programs have a 8-9 month wait list.” – Trina

Also,

“I also recommend revisiting the top choices once the baby is born before you commit. Something you may have thought was cute while you were pregnant might not look so cute after you have your precious little one. ” – AmyM

Location, location, location

We initially narrowed down to our daycare because of its proximity to our home, and some of you agree that convenience is key. Riley tends to be pretty cranky on the car ride home from daycare — it’s the end of the day, he’s hungry, he’s tired — and if it were a very long drive I think it would be spectacularly unpleasant for us both. Traffic can still make it a grueling trip (despite the fact that as the crow flies it’s only a few miles away) but it’s doable overall. Having a place that’s close is definitely a plus.

“…we visited a few centers and picked the one closest to my office. I go there almost every day at lunch to feed him. My son is still young enough (9 months) that tantrums do not occur upon my departure.” – AmyM

“I did mostly what you did. Chose one CLOSE TO HOME. I have a very long commute and didn’t feel like my kid should have to suffer through THAT!” – Elee

“We looked at 9 daycares before deciding on one that was close to our house so my husband could help pick up the guy.” – Trina

“I visit my daughter everyday at her daycare. It was to feed her when I was nursing, but now I just go hang out and play with her friends. So to me? The number one factor in choosing a daycare was proximity to my office so I could do that.” – Zoot

Things to watch out for/ask about

This is the big one: “what should I look for when I’m touring a daycare”? There are lots of tips online and in books (try the checklist in What to Expect When You’re Expecting, it’s pretty comprehensive), but hearing from real moms who have done this is always nice:

“I am a preschool teacher, and have also worked as a toddler teacher for daycares. I know about licensing regulations, ratios, etc. So I use that a lot when I am helping my friends that want to know where to send their kids. I would advise parents to look for complaints that may have been filed against staff or the center with licensing. Ask questions.

If they have a television in the classrooms, I would turn around and walk out.

Ensure that the staff has at least the minimum education requirements, the more the better, though. Are teachers required to participate in personal growth workshops, and continue their education?

Do they have an open door policy? Are you permitted to observe the class any time you wish?

How much outside time do the kids get? Is it all free play, or is it structured activities?” – Samantha

” [the daycare center] also had low teacher turnover, great menus (for future reference), fun toys, educational environment, and were willing to have me come every day at lunch. Since we’d like to be a bilingual household (English & Japanese), the teachers are willing to speak to him in Japanese (I teach them a couple words, phrases), which is really cool. Another of the centers we considered feeds the kids doughnuts & sugary cereals for breakfast & Pizza Hut for lunch. While this sounds good to me, I’d rather my son learn healthier eating habits than his mom.” – AmyM

“I liked that everyone there has to have their ECE at minimum, they provide organic food prepared on premises (holy cow, the kid eats better than me), they have a seperate, and lovely room for babies to sleep in, and are extremely conscientious about knowing all members of the family that are allowed to visit. ” – Angie

“I know of one place that does not allow drop-ins for the stated reason that it’s too disruptive. That’s a red flag and also nonsensical, e.g., if you are nursing. […] Look for caregivers who are invested in the kids’ emotional well being. That may be hard to discern during a visit, but there are clues, e.g., do the kids seem responsive to him/her?” – Fellowmom

“In addition to what is above, keep an eye on security, and how well the kids react to their teachers. A calm group of kids is generally a great sign. I would also question the length of time the teachers have been working with kids, and the teacher turn over rate in the classes.” – Trina

“Definitely ask about how they handle discipline. For example, most places will say they use distraction and redirecting kids. That’s fine and good, but then you have happen what I observed yesterday at Jojo’s new daycare (which he started TODAY so too late, but now my husband wants me to start looking AGAIN for new daycare)… one child was repeatedly running another into a wall with a walking toy. Instead of addressing this child’s behavior and redirecting HIM and correcting HIM, the teacher just put the toy away, when the other children had been using it nicely (and using it to…uh… try and WALK). So, I was annoyed because it was a learning opportunity for the child, yet it was missed.” – HollowSquirrel

“My most important tip…actually applies more to the “pre-school age” daycare choices rather than infants…spend some time in both the classrooms and on the playground during your “inspection” visits. Do the instructors engage with the children, or are they sitting off to the side gossiping with the other adults? Are they helpful when the little ones need it? Primarily I am saying observe the interactions with the children as much as you listen to what the staff says to you.” – Dee

“There seems to be a lot of turnover in daycares but our facility has 2 women in their 50s in the infant room (so, my Mom’s age), who’ve been there 15-20 years. That felt very comforting to me (experience)! So you might ask about turnover.” – Elee

“I think the critical thing is to visit. Visit long enough for everyone to stop noticing you and drop in unexpectedly. Pay attention to how good the staff is at letting a parent know what went on with their child that day. You are counting on them to keep you informed about your child — so make sure that is standard behavior at your center. Once you feel good about the center then I think some dry runs are a good idea to see how your child connects with the staff and the other kids.” – Gillian

“Also, be sure to check the bathrooms. Are they clean? Would you use them?” – Katie

“I agree with everyone who suggests visiting and observing. But I also called references and talked to other parents who had their children there, past and present. You would craft your own list of questions but what I wanted to know most of all was whether my child would feel loved and uniquely cared for. Anyone who is licensed will say they use distraction and privilege removal as consequences, or that they are members of the Children’s Food Program. I got some great insight from the other parents who entrusted their children to the care-giver.” – Anon

Food

It seems hard to believe at first if you start your baby in daycare at a young age, but eventually your kid is going to be eating actual food. I’m pretty happy with Riley’s diet at daycare, he seems to get a good balance of foods and I’ve only nitpicked about one thing: I ask them to give him milk or water instead of juice.

“If the center provides food, check it out. A friend of mine took her daughter out of a large franchise center after two weeks during which she was fed nothing but crackers between 8 and 5 (not that that isn’t a toddler’s dream diet). If the food is good, though, it’s a real convenience not to have to bring your own.” – Fellowmom

“Check on their food situation. They often provide empty calories for snacks instead of something with nutrition and protein. That kind of irks me, but I just tell them that Jojo doesn’t get juice or sweets (brownies and Chips Ahoy! cookies are on the menu… for a 1 year old?).” – HollowSquirrel

Gut feelings and leniency

At the end of the day, you have to make a decision, and sometimes the best thing you can do is sum up your feelings and ask yourself, does this place feel good? Then, stay calm and be objective when you spy the imperfections that are bound to happen. I know not every moment in my own parenting could withstand observation and criticism and I expect there will be moments at daycare where things don’t go exactly as I wished they might. Speak up, by all means, if necessary, or switch care centers if you need to, but remember that the big picture is what’s important.

“I think the most important thing is that the parent feels comfortable. Instinct is always key. If you get a uneasy feeling, go with it.” – Samantha

“Here is my thing: Don’t be too reactive. I’ve learned in the last year that sometimes things happen that my first instinct is: we’re switching daycares! But I’ve learned that sometimes kids get hit with toys by other kids, or diaper-rash cream gets forgotten, or sometimes they miss a diaper change or a feeding time. NO ONE IS PERFECT. What is important is that your kid is HAPPY.” – Zoot

“I agree with the poster who said that you need to avoid over-reacting to small mishaps. I think a good “nurse”/baby ration is important for the infants and interesting activities are important for toddlers but a lot of the other stuff can be overlooked. The critical factor is your gut feeling about the workers who spend their time with your child- do you feel like they like their job and love the children? If you’ve got that, I think you’ve hit the jackpot. The rest can be negotiated over time (ie the snacks the kids eat).”- Nicole

“I have to say we made the decision because we both had a great gut-reaction with the provider, she seemed, and is, great with the kids. We’re very happy but did have to trust a bit and jump in feet-first as the place was just starting up so there was no established routine and rules to observe.” – Helen

“Okay, the last thing I’ll add is that on my visits I was really pleased with not only how the caregiver interacted with the kids but how the kids interacted with each other, which I think is something that is purely genuine. They were well-behaved and showed great care and concern for each other.” – Anon

“After all this has been said, I think the most important part of finding child care is to Trust Your Gut.” – Paula

“When it all boils down to a decision, follow your gut!” – Trina

The final word

“I am really happy with Elizabeth’s daycare. She loves going there so much…” – Melanie

I love that comment, because isn’t that what we all hope for when we entrust other people to care for our children? I know Riley enjoys his daycare and I know his teachers legitimately care about him. Those people are part of his extended family right now, and his days at the center are filled with games and learning activities and socialization. We found a place that is right for our family; I hope that if you’re looking, you’re just as lucky.

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TITLE: Maintain visual contact at all times
DATE: 11/14/2006 07:28:36 AM

Riley and I spent the weekend in Port Angeles visiting family, and I observed a new and vaguely-heartwarming-yet-mostly-annoying toddler behavior: he screamed every time I left the room.

I was surprised to see this, because there were plenty of people and dogs and activity for him to be distracted by, but as soon as he realized I had slunk away to grab a glass of water or whatever, his little face collapsed into a Betrayed Red Tomato of Sorrow. Wailin’ Jennings, that’s my boy.

His histrionics inevitably ceased once my absence was forgotten, but man, it was nerve-wracking to hear him melting down every time I briefly walked out of the room. On the other hand, since Riley normally treats me like a second class citizen compared to the Marvelous Wonder that is his father, it was sort of nice to see that he, you know, gives a crap whether I’m in his eyesight or not.

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TITLE: TO: me, RE: parenthood
DATE: 11/15/2006 09:51:00 PM

I have been thinking a lot lately about the massive changes that parenthood brings to your life, and how impossible it is to prepare for them no matter how many books you read, even if they’re written by people with fancy doctorates or include amusing cartoons.

So, I have decided to write myself a little note, to send back through time via fax machine to a past, pre-Riley version of myself, sort of like Jim’s prank on Dwight in The Office last week only FOR REAL.

DEAR PRE-MOTHERHOOD ME:

Listen up, Past Version of Myself, because I know you’ve been worrying a lot about becoming a mom and what all that’s going to mean. I can’t possibly explain everything you’re going to experience in one lousy fax, but here are some highlights.

1. You will, for the most part, cease to care about the size of your ass.

You know that part of your brain that’s pretty much devoted on a full-time basis to worrying about those extra five ten fifteen pounds? Well, kiss that particular section of cerebellum goodbye, because you will be far too stressed and exhausted by baby-wrangling to pay much attention to how you look, and let’s face it, it’s not like you’re wearing anything nice anyway.

2. You will become That Woman.

You will try not to, oh, you will do everything you can to avoid being That Woman. You know, the one with the screaming kid who has snot pouring out of his nose in public, the one whose eyes are pointing in two different directions as she flails for her debit card while prying a Hershey bar out of her screeching baby’s grip, the one who has banana on her pants. Unfortunately, despite your best efforts it is inescapable, the role of That Woman will in fact on occasion be yours, you lucky ingenue. Just be glad there’s no paparazzi.

3. You will lust after incredibly lame vehicles.

Never mind that Mini Cooper you’ve had your eye on, Past Version of Myself, think BIGGER. Think tank-sized, gas-hogging SUV roadbeasts, because that’s what you’re going to start drooling over. Try saying these words to yourself: cargo room. You didn’t get an all-over shiver just now? Well, JUST YOU WAIT.

4. You will turn into a giant wuss.

Movies, news segments, and books that even mention a child getting sick or being hurt will make you bawl like it’s the end of Old Yeller and you just heard the gunshot. Babies will turn you to mush, even if they aren’t particularly cute babies. Sometimes you will just randomly look around and realize everyone in the whole world was once a baby and that will make you choke back tears and your nose will turn red. It will be like permanent PMS, basically. Enjoy!

5. You will say inane things.

Welcome to your new vernacular, which includes such gems as, “Say bye-bye, Riley! Bye bye! Bye bye!”; “Is that the kitty cat? It’s the kitty cat! Hello, kitty cat!”; “You went poopie, didn’t you? Did you make a poopie? That is a VERY BIG POOPIE”. Dogs are now doggies, fish are fishies, and giant disgusting swaths of human feces are poopies.

Oh, and your heart will also grow three sizes like the Grinch, you’ll spend more time laughing than you ever could have imagined, and your boy will be the most amazing creature this earth has ever seen, not that I am bragging or anything, Past Version of Myself.

So as you can see, you’ve got a lot to look forward to! I suggest you start working on deep-breathing exercises now, because maybe by the time you turn into me, or whatever, we can both be a little more calm about this whole parenting business. Also, enjoy those banana-free pants…WHILE YOU CAN.

Love,
FUTURE ME

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TITLE: Operating Instructions
DATE: 11/17/2006 01:41:26 PM

This is not really a blog update but more of a recommendation; I just finished Operating Instructions this morning (the book flattened on my bathroom counter while I dried my hair, hooray for multitasking!) and I loved it so very, very much I wanted to tell someone about it, and so I’m telling you now: this is a great book.

I am rapidly becoming a fervent fan of all of Lammott’s work, even though I don’t share her spirituality; she’s just an amazing writer and person and I love everything she has to say even if I can’t always personally identify with it. Anyway, I’ve heard a lot about this memoir, which is essentially a journal of her son’s first year (and to a lesser extent the story of her best friend battling breast cancer), and I finally had a chance to pick it up at the used bookstore the other day.

It’s the first book I wanted to mark up with a highlighter pen, until I realized that every other page would be bright yellow if I did so. She writes about those early months of parenting with the kind of raw honesty and wit that makes you grateful there’s another person out there that feels the same way you do, and has the balls to talk about it, and does so in a manner that makes you laugh out loud and cry in one paragraph.

I know lots of you probably have your own dog-eared copy, but on the chance you’ve missed this one, it’s a classic, a sheer classic, that every mother (or hell, everyone, period) should have the opportunity to read.

Here are a couple of the many, many sections I wanted to scritch my squeaky yellow pen over:

“When Sam’s having a hard time and being a total baby about the whole thing, I feel so much frustration and rage and self-doubt and worry that it’s like a mini-breakdown. I feel like my mind becomes a lake full of ugly fish and big clumps of algae, of feelings and unhappy memories and rehearsals for future difficulties and failures. I paddle around in it like some crazy old dog, and then I remember that there’s a float in the middle of the lake and I can swim out to it and lie down in the sun. […] I guess the solution is just to keep trying to get back to the float.”

“Between the tears and the cooing and his crazy drunken-old-man smiles, it’s almost unbearable. There’s so much job and pain and love and wonder in my chest and behind my eyes that it’s like the Unbearable Lightness of Being. It’s like Patsy Cline’s voice.”

I’m sorry to be done with this book. I wish it could have gone on and on and on, for hundreds and hundreds of pages.

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TITLE: The new normal, for the moment
DATE: 11/20/2006 06:00:00 AM

We had such a good weekend, even though we were sodden with November rain (Do you need some time…on your own? Do you need some time….all aloone? Oooooh everybody needs some time…on their own…CAN I GET A LIGHTER UP IN HERE?) by the time Sunday rolled to a halt. It’s sort of hard to dream up festive family outings with a toddler when the weather isn’t cooperating, but that is why the good lord Jebus made the umbrella:

111806_rain2

Riley seems to have cast aside the worst of his Damien Behavior, at least for the time being, and while I’m sure it will change all too quickly and once again he will spend the majority of the day rotating his head 360 degrees and shooting actual flames from his eyesockets, I am in ferocious love with this squinchy-smiling little boy and I hope he sticks around for a while.

111906_bath

On Sunday morning, after a brief bottle and diaper change at 7 AM, he slept until 9:30.

NINE.

THIRTY.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Then I brought him into bed with us, and instead of instantly getting impatient and wanting down and generally freaking out, he played a silly game where he pounced onto the fluffy bedcover, over and over, laughing and squealing and clapping his hands.

Again, !!!!!!!!!!!

I don’t know what has caused the change of emotional atmosphere, but the boy in these particular photos is one that just might make it to his 2nd birthday without his parents mailing him to Siberia.

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TITLE: Another postcard from the road
DATE: 11/24/2006 11:44:19 AM

If I’d thought to bring along the connector whatsit that allows me to download photos, I’d post the one solitary family portrait I shot of the Thanksgiving dinner table, moments before Riley got totally bored with all the torturous highchair business we were subjecting him to and demanded to be let down where he could gallop around the table in deranged circles while the rest of us enjoyed the meal.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the boy is both sprightly and energetic today, while I just want to lie around and cradle my tryptophan-belly (while occasionally forking another piece of pumpkin pie into my slackened maw). He’s probably onto something, healthwise, but since that would require giving up the opportunity to devour my own weight in stuffing in order to exercise, it doesn’t seem likely that I’ll be embracing the Riley Method of Thanksgiving Weight Loss anytime soon.

JB and I are planning to drive over to Bandon this afternoon while Riley hangs out with his grandparents. We are on vacation. For a few hours, anyway.

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TITLE: Considering all (pointy) angles
DATE: 11/26/2006 10:09:46 PM

JB’s parents have a house that is the perfect environment for a toddler. It’s got a spacious living room, plush carpeting, and relatively few furniture items onto which a small child can impale himself.

Last week we spent most of our time in their living area, where Riley could careen around with ease; if he fell, he fell onto carpet, if he ran into something, it was usually soft. The doors that lead into the kitchen could be closed, effectively creating a giant playroom.

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All of this was in stark contrast to our own house, which despite various babyproofing measures is still a land of many hard edges and skull-fracturing surfaces. The oak flooring we spent all the effort to refinish sure looks great, but it offers little in the way of comfort if you suddenly and violently collide with it, as Riley seems to do 328 times per day. Our living room is bristling with sharp corners, brick hearths, and glass entertainment center tops. It is a place where you cannot take your eye off a toddler for more than .009 seconds at a time, because the moment you do he will thrash himself through a plate glass door or bite through his tongue while faceplanting into the TV or drag a bookshelf onto his head or SOMETHING.

So we are trying to think of ways to re-create the baby-friendly space JB’s parents have. I can’t quite bring myself to consider installing carpet, after the investment (monetary and emotional) we put into the flooring, but we did try moving out the giant coffee table from the living room, which not only removes one of the head-crashing hazards, but also frees up a lot of the rug for Riley to play on.

Of course, it also leaves us with no coffee table, which kind of sucks.

112606_livingroom

Did you make big changes in your house to accommodate kids? Did you find that it didn’t matter what you did, because all children are bound and determined to find ways to hurt themselves regardless of their surroundings, or did your changes make a difference?

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TITLE: Pride in the minutiae
DATE: 11/27/2006 07:47:25 PM

It’s like Riley’s brains got a jolt with the Progress-O-Tron over the weekend, suddenly he’s identifying all kinds of objects for us by name. If you ask him to bring you his socks, he trots obediently over to his flung-aside Baby Gaps and brings them over, one moist, half-gnawed sock clenched in each hand. If you ask him where his bear is, he immediately begins a visual sweep of the room, zeroing in on his stuffed bear and announcing “Ba!” with glee. He correctly singled out a toy tractor at JB’s parents’ house, which was surprising because he doesn’t have a tractor at home, he’d only heard that word for the first time during the weekend.

I suppose it shouldn’t be startling, and yet it is, to see firsthand that he understands us. He’s processing things up there in his little munchkin head; gears are clicking and conveyor belts are humming. He’s associating names with things, he’s recognizing phrases, and it’s almost enough to make a jaded, potty-mouthed 30-something knock it right the hell off with all the cussin’.

I said almost.

Oh, and the other incredibly charming thing he’s doing lately is waving bye bye. “Bye bye,” we say to him, and he walks around looking back over his shoulder and waving one arm at us, his hand limply flopping up and down like he’s head baton-waver at the Gay Baby Pride Parade. “Ba beh,” he says, over and over. “Ba beh!”

This makes us go nuts, of course. It makes us deranged with happiness. We wave back until our arms cramp up, and we say “Oh, good job! Bye bye, bye bye!” with cultish here-have-some-Koolaid fervency. “Bye bye!”

“Did you see him say bye bye?”

“Totally, and did you see how he recognized ‘jacket’?”

We are in awe of every little thing. Someday, I will tell Riley with complete honesty that his parents have always been proud of him, that we were amazed by him from the day he was born.

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TITLE: Unrequited
DATE: 11/30/2006 08:31:03 PM

This morning I was sitting on the couch and I opened my arms wide and told Riley to come give me a hug, and he immediately bumbled over and allowed me to squoosh him. I thought that was pretty darn cute, so when JB came into the room I said, “Hey! Watch this, Riley gives hugs now!” and I opened up my arms and do you want to know what my only son, the child I carried inside my body for 9 long, gas-filled months did? He ran directly at his father, his little arms outstretched and his face beaming with a level of bliss I can only describe as “incandescent”.

This is the same boy who occasionally likes to burst into tears when his father hands him over to me, his hands scrabbling at my face to push me away, for I am the Lesser Parent, the one whose presence is usually, you know, okay, but nothing compared to Daddy.

(He has not said Mama. Dada? WHY OF COURSE.)

I like to joke about this, because if I don’t joke, I will sit around and cry all goddamn day long. It is phenomenally hurtful to be rejected by him in favor of JB, it breaks my stupid, exposed heart into a million pieces.

I have spent my entire adult life protecting myself from hurt and rejection, holding people at arm’s length, hiding behind shyness and social awkwardness to avoid even the most remote possibility that someone would dismiss me as inadequate, and here I am with the one person whose love I most cherish and crave, and he sometimes cries when he’s handed to me.

It makes me wonder what I did wrong, what I’m doing wrong. It makes me feel like a complete failure as a mother.

I do understand that he doesn’t hate me. I know this might be a stage and maybe there will be a time when he prefers my company over his dad’s. I know he stops crying when I talk to him and distract him and it’s just like everything else, he’s all raw emotion and intolerance and he doesn’t mean to hurt me.

I even understand that I’m being completely selfish and unfair. Why should our son automatically love me more than JB? JB does everything I do, and frankly, he’s more fun. He throws Riley in the air and chases him down the hall and when he’s watching Riley, he isn’t also trying to do the dishes or fold the laundry, he’s sitting with Riley reading the animal book and making cow sounds.

I don’t know. I feel like the worrier, the fretter, the hoverer, and that it’s no wonder my company isn’t as pleasant. That maybe I should quit fussing over runny noses and too-big bites of dinner and the temperature of the bathwater, just let it go, and start throwing Riley in the air and mooing.

(I have re-read this entry and it sounds embarrassingly sad, so let me say this: I am not sad very often. Today when I picked Riley up from daycare he stopped when he saw me, and clapped with joy. Clapped. And I have never known happiness like watching my husband and son play together. These things are as true as the sad things, and are, thankfully, the things I think about and remember most.)

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TITLE: Emails from the lowered bar
DATE: 12/05/2006 06:00:00 AM

Whenever I feel a little overwhelmed by trying to think of what to write in this blog, I remind myself of the question I considered when I first learned my application for Ye Olde Clubbe Mommme had been accepted: if I were so inclined, could I write someone an email about Riley (or parenthood, or my thrilling rockstar lifestyle, or whatever) five days a week?

The answer was of course I could, it only takes a minute to write an email, and emails don’t have to be good or anything! Hell, they don’t even have to be grammatically correct!

As you can see I have lowered the bar for myself from the very beginning. Look at it, way down there on the floor like that! Aw, who’s a lowered bar? Who’s a lowered bar?

God, I swore I would never talk like that. Of course, I also promised I would never say “Her is a good dog” to our Labrador, and I blew that one years ago.

Anyway, there are days when I definitely feel like I have nothing interesting to say, so I apologize for sometimes writing you kind of a really crappy email then posting one whole photo like that makes up for it, or something.

And so without further ado, a photo that cracks me up:

120406_rarr_1

I call it “RAWR!”

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TITLE: Rememberies
DATE: 12/05/2006 08:59:23 PM
—–

I’m officially losing track of how old Riley is. I knew his age down to the week for a long time, then I was acutely aware of his age in months, and now I’m starting to get a little fuzzy on the details. In my mind, he’s in this nebulous “around 18 months” stage, like the clothing size I buy for him.

For the record, he’ll be 16 months old at the end of December, but I just had to resort to finger-counting (“Uh, lessee, he was born in August…”) to double check that.

Each month flies by so quickly and as the preceding one fades into the distance, I become less sure of what he was doing when. He’s been clapping for a long time now, but when did he start clapping? I can’t remember. I don’t know exactly when he started pointing, either, or when precisely it was that the back of his neck started looking like some little boy’s neck, instead of a baby’s.

I wonder if I should be keeping some kind of detailed journal, on top of all the other documentation I subject him to. Or write him a monthly letter, or take a picture of him every single day in the same location, or I don’t know, doing something to fix these days more permanently into my memory.

There is always something to feel guilty about, that’s for sure. Parenthood is like a crash course in over-scrupulous Catholicism.

In general, I suppose that even if I never get around to filling in his baby book (GUILT!) I should probably try and remember how old he is. That seems like a bare minimum requirement, along with feeding him and not dropping him into a cage of dingos.

Do you do any keepsake activities for your kids other than photos? Maybe I could use some inspiration over here.

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TITLE: Balls and booby traps
DATE: 12/07/2006 06:00:00 AM

I loved reading your comments on yesterday’s entry. You know what, I was really and truly inspired by some of your stories. I especially like the idea of writing down just a sentence or two about Riley each day, on a calendar or maybe in a text document. I did this last night —I typed up a short blurb — and I am already glad I did. The small things that happened on December 6, 2006 (he said “ma ma” distinctly a few times, once while pointing at me; he was fascinated with the rolls of Christmas paper I bought and used one to push all around the house while saying “brrrmmmmm”; he clapped when we asked if it was night-night time, because he was tired and ready for bed; he said “bye bye” when I kissed him goodnight) deserve to be remembered.

You just may have helped create something invaluable in my family’s life. “Thank you” seems like kind of an inadequate thing to say, but: thank you.

In other news, I started my holiday cards last night. I secretly yearn to be the creative graphic artist type whose homeade cards are the envy of everyone on her list, but each year after spending a few days staring at sites like Tiny Prints and trying to copy their designs while still being, like, totally original, I give up and buy a mess of cards from Fred Meyer.

I do have a photo collage I’m going to include, so I started printing those off while I opened up a box of cards in order to check the size. Now, I picked out a design that involves a clear plastic window in the front of the card with these little balls inside. It’s supposed to look like snow. They rattle and slither around in the pocket in what I have come to feel is an unsettling fashion, because when I opened the first card, about a million billion eentsy microscopic plasticy balls immediately cascaded out of an unglued section and fell onto the kitchen floor, where they proved to be nearly impossible to clean up.

So tell me this: if I’m pretty sure this ball-escape action (heh) is going to happen to at least a few people on our list, is it rude to mail them out anyway? Maybe it can be sort of a festive holiday surprise. Merry Christmas, I’ll write on the inside. Hope you asked for a Dyson this year.

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TITLE: More parenting poetry
DATE: 12/07/2006 10:20:54 PM
—–

Yes, it’s this again.

Maybe when you are done eating
you could say “no more”
or shake your head.
I do understand what you’re saying
by letting the last mouthful fall out onto your shirt
so I guess we are communicating
but
I do enough freaking laundry
already.

No offense
but if you were on Survivor
you would get voted off
first.
They would say you had a strong personality
but they would really mean
that you were too whiny
wouldn’t eat the coconuts
sucked at the puzzles
and couldn’t swim for shit.

Your shoes are not filled with bees
I checked.
So why not
leave them on?
Oh. I guess
you’re right
I did not
check
for sharks.

….

You are tired
do you know how I can tell?
Because you are acting
like a grownup.
One with a full bottle of tequila on an empty stomach, that is.
Let’s go to bed, drunken toddler.

Yelling from the backseat is bad
it makes Mama’s head
feel like a balloon that is about to pop
Balloons are pretty to look at, aren’t they?
but believe me
Mama’s popped head-balloon is something
you would need lots of therapy
to forget you ever saw.
Someone would have to come take you home
and a nice man named Mr. Wolf would have to clean up Mama’s car.
So please,
let’s be quiet back there.

It doesn’t seem right
that I can tell whether or not you have pooped
before I even open your bedroom door.

I have read about horses
who expand their midsections when humans put saddles on their bodies
then later
they can exhale, and the saddle is too loose. And so they cannot be ridden.
Are you like a wild horse
who refuses the saddle?
Because this puffed out belly thing during diaper changes
is quite strange.

It seems unfair
that on top of all the responsibilities
the worry
the guilt
the raw, tender love
I have to clip your goddamn fingernails, too.

….

I am thinking about making a cracker
targeted especially for toddlers
they will be called Danger Crisps
and they will come
in the following flavors:

Electrical
Choking Hazard
Toxic
Rocks N’ Dirt

I think they will be a hit, based on my extensive market research
of one.

My heart must be made of elastic
some stretchy material
with room for expansion.
My heart is like maternity wear, Riley
all because of you.

——–

TITLE: Don’t whizz on the electric fence
DATE: 12/11/2006 07:56:06 AM

We got our Christmas tree this weekend and after all my worrying about whether or not Riley would 1) pull the tree down on top of himself, 2) devour fistfuls of needles and develop an internal evergreen blockage, 3) grab all the ornaments within reach and break them over the cat’s head, or 4) all of the above, he doesn’t seem very interested in it at all.

Which makes NO sense to me. Hello, it’s a tree…inside the house! It’s covered with shiny interesting things! It’s got multicolored lights! It’s prickly and it smells different! This thing should be setting off every sensory-related synapse in the boy’s head, like a Baby Einstein DVD only without the annoying puppets. I mean, if a pasta spoon can blow his mind, you’d think a Christmas tree would send him into orbit.

But no, after the initial excitement of watching his father wrestle the tree into its stand, Riley has basically ignored it. The roll of green-striped wrapping paper I brought home the other day, now that is a nonstop thrillfest, but the tree? Yawn.

Toddlers are weird, and that’s all there is to it. Oh well, at least we can have the tree up and not have to construct some elaborate electric fence around it, or whatever.

(Oh, like you’ve never thought of using an electric fence.)

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TITLE: Turkey basters roasting on an open fire
DATE: 12/11/2006 05:26:51 PM

Well, Christmas suddenly appears startlingly close on the calendar. How is it mid-December already? I have to say, I highly disapprove of all this sped-up planetary time that’s apparently been instituted in the last couple of years.

I think I’ve got most of my shopping finished for the adults in my life, but I’m wondering about Riley. So far, I’ve purchased some toddler socks (because there is a sock-eating monster that lives in my washing machine and that S.O.B has eaten about fifty BabyGaps so far, and I can’t keep sending the boy to daycare with one white sock and one gray sock because SERIOUSLY, and I should probably just throw them in his drawer now instead of waiting two weeks to “give” them to him but the Christmas Insanity is telling me to booox them, wraaaaap them, tiiee them with a booowwww), a couple of clothing items, and that’s about it.

I would, of course, like to give him the Perfect Gift, something that will send him into paroxysms of delight, but we are talking about a 16-month-old child here (I remembered! Hooray for me!) and he’ll probably be far more intrigued by the wrapping paper than anything I could put inside of it.

Speaking of, I’ve actually seen him merrily pushing around a roll of wrapping paper a lot over the last couple days. He seems to really get a kick out of doing that while making his little car sound (“bmmmmmmm”), so maybe one of those corn popper toys would be a hit? Or maybe a realistic looking toy phone for all the otherworldly toddler “conversations” he likes to have on our phone (we pretend to answer it, then say “Oh! It’s for you,” and hand it to him, and you should see the look on his face)?

Or hell, maybe just a box of plastic utensils from my own kitchen drawers, since he is insanely delighted by all of that stuff, from the spatula to the turkey baster.

So, what do you think are good gifts for toddlers? Let me know, especially if they don’t involve D batteries or a spazz-attack Elmo.

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TITLE: The curious incident of the bear in the day-care
DATE: 12/13/2006 06:00:00 AM

Let me introduce you to Little Bear:

Lb1

Little Bear is a Starbucks-branded piece of merchandise I picked up sometime around Halloween several years ago when I was buying a latte and impulsively decided I also needed a cute stuffed bear in a skeleton costume. (What?) When I got out our box of Halloween crap this October, I found the bear and handed it to Riley, who immediately fell in love.

He doesn’t drag it everywhere he goes, but if you hand it to him, he hugs it close with the most blissful expression on his face. “Beh!” he shouts, and we say yes, that’s your bear! If you ask him where Little Bear is, he looks all around until he finds it, and he joyously grabs the bear and squeezes it tight with his face buried in its fur.

We’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of Little Bear, and so far it’s even survived being occasionally grabbed by the dog and ferried around in her slobbery maw (oh, it’s not like I don’t wash it). It’s small, it’s cute, and it’s fairly inoffensive, unlike for instance the Dora Aquapet.

Well, on Tuesday when JB picked Riley up from daycare, he saw Little Bear lying on the floor. “Oh, is that Riley’s bear?” he asked, and the teachers said they had been wondering whose bear that was, because they’d never seen it before. So JB brought the bear home, where he immediately saw…Little Bear, sitting on the dining room table.

Now we have two Little Bears:

Lb2

It seems odd that another kid at Riley’s daycare would have the exact same Starbucks “Bearista” (shut up, that’s their term), doesn’t it? From where did this Mystery Bear originate?

JB says we should keep Little Bear the Second, hidden away in case of a Dire Accident happing to Little Bear the First. I say there could be a little kid somewhere who is crying — CRYING! — over the loss of their own Little Bear, and we should return it post-haste.

What say you? Your comments will determine what we do with the Mystery Bear…and possibly seal my fate in the afterlife. No pressure!

——–

TITLE: Karma and shots
DATE: 12/14/2006 08:16:44 AM

The people have spoken! And lo, they have told unto me a message: return the bear or you’re a dick.

I have to say, I like that a couple of you said hell no, keep the bear. It takes some fuzz on your peaches to go against the majority, my friends.

We will bow to the gods of karma and return the bear this morning, and I expect to be rewarded ASAP, perhaps with a winning lottery ticket or something. What’s that, you say? It doesn’t work like that? I have to return the bear just to be nice?

Fooey.

I would have returned the bear yesterday, I really would have, but it was Riley’s day to stay home from daycare. He had a pediatrician’s appointment in the afternoon, which was a drag because I don’t know about you, but those visits seem to kill the entire day. First I’m endlessly strategizing over meals and naps and poop-episodes to make sure he’s in an optimal frame of mind, then afterwards he’s all teary and accusing and cantankerous from having multiple needles plunged into his soft Cinnabon thighs.

Our last appointment was his 12 month checkup, and he wasn’t quite walking then. Today’s visit was a little terrifying, in that I had no idea what to do with a crazed toddler while we cooled our jets in the waiting room. Thankfully, there is a giant fish tank in the middle of the lobby, and he was fairly content to sit in a tiny wooden chair and yell “BA MA DA DA!” every time a fish swirled within view (by the way, I foolishly sat on a similar chair next to him, and heard a groaning series of ominous creaks and crackles before leaping back upright. Basically, I damn near broke the thing, which would have been second only to having my pants suddenly explode off my body in terms of total public humiliation). I stared enviously at the parents whose immobile babies were bundled up in car seats, only their curling starfish hands visible, while I tried to keep my son from pounding the side of the fish tank near the sign saying “PLEASE DO NOT TAP ON GLASS”.

We were finally ushered into the checkup room where after being measured and weighed (all of which he protested with great window-shattering howls) he was gifted with a bunch of shots while I had the spectacularly horrible task of holding his arms down.

I can say from experience that the only benefit of holding down your beloved child in order for someone to hurt him is that you can see right down into his screaming mouth and count all the new teeth that have come in. Other than that, it pretty much sucks.

Apparently we get to go back in a month for a follow-up flu shot, and then he gets more needles at 18 months, right? Sigh. Thank god for goopy, sticky, grapetastic Children’s Tylenol, which by the way JB spilled all down inside Riley’s shirt last night, turning the boy into a kind of moving SuperGlue blob which everything within sight immediately stuck to, including a passing tumbleweed of dog hair.

So, we were busy and couldn’t return Little Bear the Second, but today we will. I even washed him on the outside chance whoever he belongs to has horrible allergies, and two days of being in a Dog-and-Cat environment (yes, he was in the bathroom, but only on the steps to the tub, not scrubbed around the inside of my toilet) infested the Bear with dander, or something. And now, I feel I should totally be winning that Lotto aaaany minute.

——–

TITLE: Real soon now
DATE: 12/14/2006 08:14:31 PM

At Riley’s checkup yesterday his doctor reminded me that he should be transitioned away from a bottle and using a cup. I nodded sagely and practically stroked my chin in agreement, like of course, what terrible mother would allow her 16-month old to drink from a bottle, that’s simply BAD PARENTING.

You can probably guess that Riley drinks from a bottle all the damn time, right? Right.

I don’t know, he uses a cup at daycare but sometimes at home he acts like the cup is filled with bees, and O THE WOE, he wants his BA, his Ba has MILK not BEES THAT STING, and pretty soon I give up and hand him the bottle, because the crying must stop.

His doctor reminded me that not only should he be drinking from a cup, he shouldn’t be drinking milk right before bed, because the milk that’s left behind in his mouth can cause tooth decay. I nodded again, because who holds their 16-month old in the rocking chair and gives him a bottle every single night right before he goes to sleep? Certainly not…uh, definitely not ME, I totally know better.

*cough*

She went on to say that she recommends avoiding the milk-before-bed thing because it’s easier than brushing his teeth. “At this age, he probably won’t tolerate you brushing his teeth for him,” she said. At that point, I perked up.

Did she just say it’s normal not to be brushing my toddler’s teeth? She did! THANK GOD.

Seriously, I had been feeling really guilty about not brushing Riley’s teeth. What can I say, the few times I’ve tried it’s like…I don’t even know what it’s like. Like trying to wedge a tiny toothbrush in the mouth of a squirming, furious creature who will fight you to the death to get it the HECK away from his face, that’s what it’s like.

So we’ve been trying to teach by example. “Now it’s time to brush our teeth! OH BOY!” we trumpet, and walk with Riley to the bathroom where we brush with great exaggerated strokes, grinning like fools the whole time. He watches, and ever so carefully…sticks his toothbrush in his ear canal.

Oh well, I’m sure the monkey see, monkey do thing will work out eventually. It’s exactly what the doctor said we should be doing, so although I’ve apparently been Letting Things Slide in certain departments, it’s nice to know that I haven’t been completely screwing up in the last few months.

Unless you count feeding him french fries at Ivar’s last weekend. Oh, and letting him watch Elmo on repeat yesterday morning. Um, and letting him play with a copy of People magazine that showed Britney’s exposed hooters.

But the milk/bottle thing, I am absolutely going to get on that. Real soon now.

——–

TITLE: In case of emergency, break…something
DATE: 12/18/2006 12:14:25 PM

I’m starting to wonder if people who aren’t from this area have begun to think of the Pacific Northwest as a fairly hostile environment, to be avoided at all costs. First there was the heartbreaking story of the Kim family, and then those folks tragically stuck on Mt. Hood, and then the massive storm that hit us last Thursday night. That’s in addition to our ongoing issues with rumbling volcanos, serial killers, and, of course, banana slugs.

You should totally still visit, though. We have really great coffee!

I like to make fun of our local news approach to bad weather, which typically involves sending some poor bastard out to report from the side of a highway somewhere, shivering and clutching their microphone and probably regretting the day they changed their major to journalism, and I figured this storm would be more of the same — a couple of downed trees, a King 5 reporter gesturing at some puddles. By the wee hours of Friday morning I was regretting my snarky attitude and fervently hoping our roof would stay attached to the house.

We were extremely lucky to only lose power for a day — there are a lot of people who still don’t have their lights and heat back, and it was a cold, cold weekend. (Here are some pictures of the storm’s damage.)

As far as emergencies go, our own experience barely registered: we only went without electricity for about 24 hours, our neighborhood grocery store was open for dry goods and supplies, we found a working gas station. It sure made me think, though, about how quickly a city can grind to a halt, and how so much of what we take for granted — heat, lights, hot water, perishable food, gas– is just a grid outage away from disappearing.

I’ve never dwelled on what-if scenarios, even when our own government reminded us to stock up on duct tape after 9/11 (so we could securely fasten ourselves to immovable objects in the case of radiation blast), but these days I have more than myself to worry about. I’m wondering now, what should we be doing to prepare for potential disaster, whether brought on by nature or man? Is it paranoid to think that way, or normal?

What about you? Do you think about that stuff? Do you have a plan, or a stock of supplies, in the case of emergency?

——–

TITLE: Sweet sorrows
DATE: 12/19/2006 11:45:15 AM

Yesterday morning when I took Riley to daycare he cried miserably and clung to my legs, wiping runners of snot all over my jeans while I tried and failed to comfort him.

In the evening, I encountered some mysterious, hellish traffic jam in my neighborhood that transformed the 5-mile drive from daycare to our house into a gridlocked sea of immobile, unhappy commuters, where for 90 long minutes I gripped the steering wheel and stared at traffic lights that turned green, then yellow, then red, then green again, with no forward movement from my fellow drivers, and I sang “99 Bottles of Milk On the Wall” and “Row Row Row Your Boat” and reached back to play This Little Piggy Went Wee Wee Wee All The Way Home Where He Shot Himself In the Damn Head and Riley screamed angrily the entire time. We got home way past his bedtime and he inhaled his long-overdue dinner and immediately went to bed, so I had maybe four minutes of time with him for the day that did not involve hysterical crying.

This morning, I took him to daycare again, and again he started wailing the instant I put him down. His classmates were bumbling happily around the room like puppies, and one little girl with a surprisingly husky voice said his name over and over: “RILEY. RILEY. RILEY,” and he cried and cried and no matter what I did to distract him, nothing helped and I had to leave the room with my son’s screams echoing behind me, his beet-red little face all betrayal and sorrow and his arms reaching for me as his teacher tried to hold him.

I drove from daycare with a twitch in my left eye and when I hit yet another pocket of pointlessly, annoyingly, JAW-GRINDINGLY slow-moving traffic something instead me gave way and I screamed every obscenity I could think of (you better believe this is a long list, too) at the windshield and wished mightily for the ability to shoot acidic flames from the front of my car like those giant beetley aliens in Starship Troopers. I felt like I was on some idiotic hamster wheel, that I was missing all the good times in Riley’s young life. I’m the Mama who rushes around in a nonstop gallop to cram everything that needs to be done into one short day, with no time for leisurely lap-cuddlings, book-readings, or home-cooked meals.

Then I took a deep breath, flipped to Peter Gabriel on my iPod, and reminded myself that it doesn’t always suck this much. I only work part time, for one thing. Traffic is never ideal, but it’s rarely that bad. Riley is always playing and totally engaged when I pick him up, so I’m pretty sure he does okay when he’s away from us.

So, I’m turning to you guys again, because you are always helpful. I don’t expect you to fix my traffic problems (not even God can fix Seattle/Bellevue’s traffic problems), but…the daycare morning trauma, do you have any ideas on that? I know it’s probably a totally normal stage for Riley, but it’s breaking his parents’ hearts (JB and I usually alternate pickup/dropoff duty). Is it better to make the goodbye short and sweet and get the hell out of there so he can move on, or is it better to linger as long as possible to ease the transition?

——–

TITLE: Unexpected returns
DATE: 12/20/2006 11:50:32 AM

Thanks for your comments on the last post, it’s always nice to know that other people have dealt with the same problems and that everything is Totally Normal. In happier news, when I took Riley in today and kissed him goodbye, he walked right over to the little table all the kids were sitting at (this blows my mind, by the way, seeing toddlers just…sitting at a table. In tiny little chairs. Ha, they think they’re people!), and scrambled his way onto a chair. No crying, no pants-clinging. I noticed he was in a much better mood in general this morning, so maybe the unhappy goodbyes were related to Mysterious Toddler Crankiness (causes may include: emerging teeth, Viral Infection #29571, the position of the planets, and the number of oxygen molecules in the air at any given moment).

Another special challenge we’ve been dealing with lately has to do with food. Namely, the fact that Riley mostly won’t eat it, and seems to be surviving on milk (by the way, we’ve completely transitioned to the sippy cup, so hooray for small victories) and Saltine crackers.

I know lots of kids go through weird stages with food and there’s no reason to stress over meals. I mean, I know this in the same way I know I should floss, which is to say I am sometimes very bad at following my own advice.

If Riley refuses Food A, it’s inevitable he will refuse all other foods and end up drinking a gallon of milk and washing it down with a cracker or two. Yet I persist in the grim ritual of flying around the kitchen preparing a variety of foods for him to shake his head at. One by one, Foods B, C, D, E, and F are mixed up, warmed, stirred in a tantalizing manner, and often subjected to an elaborate pantomime that involves JB or I pretending to take a bite, and exclaiming “MMMMM! SO GOOD!” before offering a spoonful to our son, who angrily smacks Foods B/C/D/E/F from our outstretched hands, whereupon the dog leaps forward with the speed and agility of a great white shark and snaps it out of the air moments before it touches the floor.

Our household erupts with joy on the evenings when Riley eats a good dinner. JB and I high-five, we dance around singing songs, we even feed the dog a biscuit or two to make up for the fact that no one’s throwing a “Pasta Pickup” at her head.

It’s just an odd byproduct of parenthood I didn’t expect, this…emotional investment in mealtimes. Who would have guessed watching my kid eat a piece of chicken would fill me with the sort of WOO-FREAKING-HOO! happiness that used to be reserved for finding a twenty-dollar bill in a pocket of an old coat?

——–

TITLE: Happy Thursday, and see you in a bit
DATE: 12/21/2006 06:00:00 AM

I decided to send out those booby-trapped cards after all, which led me to write what is probably the most offensive email I have ever sent to a family member. All I have to say for myself is that the phrase “Sorry about snowballing you…” seemed perfectly innocent at the time.

121506_xmascard

On that festive note, I hope you have a wonderful holiday, whatever you might be celebrating. We’ll be traveling to Oregon and staying for several days, so I will say howdy to you next week. Merry merriness to you and yours.

——–

TITLE: A good day for one and all
DATE: 12/25/2006 10:58:59 PM

A year ago we were here in Coos Bay staying with JB’s parents and Riley was four months old. The pictures from that visit show a squirrel-cheeked baby propped in our arms, his face bearing his trademark suspicious gaze. I remember we eased him to sleep by pushing him around the living room in his stroller. He napped while we opened presents. He burped great disgusting formula belches and smiled goonily, he laid on his back and batted furiously at a string of toys JB’s mother hung between two chairs over his head.

Oh, he was cute. He was past that plucked-chicken newborn stage and starting to really interact with the world. That was a good Christmas.

This year, that little baby has grown into a wondrous creature who amplifies the joy of the holidays with every babble, every running step. This year he clapped with glee over his presents. He watched, fascinated, as we opened boxes for him and he marveled at their contents. He gamboled around the house and ran into people’s arms for hugs and he chattered with breathless excitement over everything. He sat with us and ate Christmas Eve dinner and did the Happy Food Dance in his booster seat.

He said “peekaboo” for the first time, too.

It was a great Christmas. I have a feeling they’re just going to keep getting better, too.

I hope you and your family had a wonderful holiday.

——–

TITLE: Suspicious minds
DATE: 12/27/2006 09:46:44 PM

Riley has been almost impossibly cute over the last several days. I think he’s plotting a major descent into All Tantrums, All the Time Mode soon and so he’s buttering us up, getting us all enamored with his adorable babbling and charming little gestures so we’re less likely to duct tape him to a nest of fire ants when he finally drops the charade and the nearly visible halo of toddler perfection disappears, to be replaced by FIERY HORNS OF EVIL.

Yes, I realize I sound a little suspicious of my own sweet precious child, but really, I have historical evidence to draw from.

Paranoia aside, he really is in a fantastic stage lately. He seems much steadier on his feet, so there’s less overall drunken careening, which I think has helped him focus on other skills. He’s talking more, not a lot of enunciated words, exactly, but more mushy “thank yous” and “kitty cats” and “peekaboos” (EEABOOH!). He identifies lots of objects and loves to bring us things that we ask for — the bear, the ball, his book — and things I don’t ask for, which is oddly helpful from a cleaning perspective (“A hunk of dog hair! Thank you, Riley!”).

Also — and this is how I know we’re in for some serious shit soon, because nothing can be this good forever — he’s been eating like a champ. I mean, chunks of apples, english muffins, noodles, pieces of cheese…all kinds of stuff he’s previously refused with an air of shocked disgust.

Maybe some molars finally popped through and this is the festive aftermath. I really don’t know. That’s all I know for certain about parenting, actually — that you never know, and whatever is happening right now probably won’t happen for very long, so either mourn that or take solace from it, depending on what your kid is doing.

335956197_442d73d6d8
(I love the goobery heart-smashing expression here. FIERY HORNS are probably hidden in that duckfuzz hair, though.)

——–

TITLE: 2007: Day One (pretty good so far)
DATE: 01/01/2007 12:16:52 PM

JB and I don’t drink any more and we are parents who still have not found a babysitter, so hopefully we can be forgiven for our exceedingly lame New Year’s Eve festivities which featured a marathon viewing of Arrested Development Season 2, a bag of toffee-coated peanuts, and two ass-shaped dents in our couches.

We did flip between the local fireworks and Dick Clark’s mildly terrifying visage at midnight, and dutifully exchanged a peanut-flecked smooch, although we totally forgot to open the bottle of sparkling cider.

Party on, Garth.

On the plus side, we are hangover-free this morning and we made a batch of waffles with the new waffle-maker we got for Christmas, which was a deeply pleasing activity I would like to repeat every single weekend in 2007. That will pretty much screw the “Lose Ten Pounds” resolution I make every year, but if I’m going to shatter my hopeful delusions about fitting into a smaller jeans size, it may as well be with a magically delicious, just-cooked square of carbohydrate heaven dripping with trans fats and Mrs. Butterworth’s, am I right on this?

Riley spent the morning chattering to us in the new complicated sentence-structure babble he’s been talking lately (“Bshme sha ma da plzithzth fmt zpzsha?”) and playing with the millions of new toys the holidays have bestowed upon him, including several objects that TALK AND SING AND PLAY MUSIC, thanks to my mother and aunt, who I think are repaying me for spending my high school years applying black eyeliner with a trowel.

I hope you are having a wonderful New Year’s Day. My official opinion: so far, so good. Keep ’em coming, 2007.

——–

TITLE: The value of the full spectrum
DATE: 01/02/2007 11:10:10 PM

Every time I’ve ever sat down to write something honest about the downsides of parenthood I find myself backtracking over and over, adding phrases like “But just one scrunch-nosed smile makes it alllllll okay!”, or “Although I dreamed of cramming his little body into the wood chipper and flipping it to PUREE, there was nowhere else in the world I wanted to be, for our relationship is magical and I appreciate every moment, even if he’s doing that horrible Heisman neck-shove thing to me which OH MY GOD I HATE THAT but I really love it because it’s coming from my darling special snookums”. Etc.

If you are a parent, I hereby grant you permission to say rotten things about your children without apology or caveats. We should all understand that of course we love our kids more than words can convey, and at the same time, sometimes parenting sucks the big one, and sometimes our precious innocent amazing miraculous children are also jackasses.

I saw an online discussion recently that seemed to conclude parents who choose to write about the negative aspects of parenting along with the sweet-n-sappy stuff are 1) unappreciative and undeserving (as in, “Why did so-and-so even give birth in the first place, if she’s just going to whine about it?”), and 2) causing their children irreparable harm (because someday having the opportunity to read their parent’s firsthand account of their childhood and gaining a deeper understanding of him or her as an individual will be SO FREAKING AWFUL).

When I talk about the crappy parts of being a mother and hear back from those of you who know how I feel, it reminds me I’m not alone. When I connect with other people I feel stronger, more capable of doing this hard-ass job. When we share information and ideas and support each other through the hard times, we empower each other to become better parents.

The idea that we can’t share our own life experiences because of some sanctity-of-motherhood boundary is B.S., in my opinion. It’s not just obnoxious to be told we should stick to the flowers and sunshine topics, it’s oppressive.

For those of you who have chosen to talk about the full picture of parenthood, thank you. You’ve helped me and countless others.

——–

TITLE: Olfactory advances
DATE: 01/04/2007 02:17:36 PM

We have reached an unexpected new stage in Riley’s life. It caught me off guard; I felt the urge to weep for the tiny baby he once was.

His feet, those corn-niblet toes I love to bite, those square pudgeroonie tootsies…they….they….

O, I can barely bring myself to say it.

They are starting to smell like feet.

Sweaty. Little. Toddler. Feet.

Luckily, his belly still smells like Sara Lee’s pound cake.

——–

TITLE: Top ten travel fears
DATE: 01/05/2007 11:22:25 AM

I have a business trip next week which requires my presence in San Francisco for five long days. It sounds sort of exciting, doesn’t it: San Francisco! But in reality I’ll be standing in the Moscone Convention Center the whole time, shifting from one aching foot to another, smiling awkwardly at strange men wearing trenchcoats and those irritating Bluetooth headset things. For thus is the funfest that is Macworld.

I’ll be away from Riley for a whole week, which is many, many hours more than my longest absence from him to date. Would you like to know the various things I am worrying about, in addition to the eighty billion work-related details that are DEVOURING MY SOUL? Oh goody, because I feel like freaking out all public-like.

1. Riley will instantly forget about my existence, and upon my return will cry bitter and fearful tears, and do the Heisman-shove as I attempt to hug him.

2. Riley will form a long-lasting, vague resentment towards me, and later in life will treat his girlfriends like shit because of his “abandonment issues”.

3. I will break down two days into this stupid conference and spend each day surfing my Flickr pictures and sniveling to strangers about how wonderful my son is.

4. Worse, I will actually enjoy my time away from maternal/wifely duties and will have to be airlifted from my hotel room as I cling to the room service menu and screech at people to get away, get away, I haven’t watched all the pay-per-view movies yet.

5. My plane will crash in a fiery ball of hot death and I won’t get to see Riley grow up.

6. My plane won’t crash, but someone will have a baby nearby and I’ll spend the whole flight being creepy and staring and asking if I can just lick the top of his head for a second or two.

7. JB will feed Riley Saltines and peanut butter for the whole week and Riley will be blissed out, and JB will start thinking he’s some kind of parenting know-it-all.

8. When I come back, Riley will have visibly grown taller and will have learned how to say “chrysanthemum”.

9. Riley will miss me.

10. Riley won’t miss me.

——–

TITLE: Have zerbert, will travel
DATE: 01/08/2007 11:05:39 PM

I’m typing to you from my hotel room in lovely San Francisco, and I’m pleased to report that at least one of my fears has not come true. So far. I mean, I guess the plane could always crash on the way home, or be filled with deadly poisonous snakes that are released halfway into the flight, or randomly explode and drop into the Pacific. Not that, ha ha, I sit around obsessing about the various ways you can die when trapped in a metal tube thirty thousand feet in the air, or anything.

Anyway. So far on this trip I am finding that I see small children everywhere. I mean: they’re everywhere! My god, have you noticed this? Everywhere!

Every time I see a little kid it makes me miss Riley just a tiny bit more. If I am arrested and thrown in jail before the end of the week for accosting a stranger’s child and delivering a loud, juicy, and wholly unwanted zerbert, well…I’m sorry, I COULD NOT HELP MYSELF.

I had a funny exchange with a colleague today. He leaned over and asked if I’d been bowling since we had Riley. “No,” I answered, neglecting to mention I hadn’t really been bowling before we had Riley.

“See? Me either,” he said, referencing his own small (adorable) son, who is a few months older than Riley.

Parenthood: it makes you give up bowling. Even if you never bowled to begin with.

It’s 11 PM as I type this and back in Seattle Riley should be sound asleep, sprawled on his belly and clad in feetie pajamas, maybe the ones with the crocodile on the front. I wish I could peek in, just for a minute, and reach down gently, gently, quietly, and touch the soft heat of his forehead, run my fingers over his duckfuzz hair and whisper how I’ll be home soon, even if the plane is filled with snakes and I have to Taser my way through them to the pilot’s seat where I must battle an anaconda with my bare hands before seizing the controls and bringing United Flight 6322 safely down to earth, even then, because by god I have zerberts to deliver and nothing, NOTHING is going to get in my way.

——–

TITLE: Flavored with a side of guilt
DATE: 01/10/2007 11:34:47 AM

The last time JB traveled for business, Riley promptly came down with some kind of stomach bug thing that involved many, many laundry cycles and a long, hellish day of Elmo-watching. I believe, then, that it is only fair that JB is currently dealing with a croup diagnosis back home while I spend my week methodically exhausting the various dessert options on the room service menu.

Before you lambast me for being so heartlessly cruel as to enjoy missing out on my son’s illness, let me reassure you that Riley seems to have Croup Lite, in that there was one night of worrisome breathing and fairly smooth sailing since then. Also, I had to deal with the indescribably horrible smell of barfed milk, so I should get a guilt-free pass, right?

(I still feel guilty.)

(Not too guilty to order marbled cheesecake last night, though. BOOYAH.)

——–

TITLE: The missed mundane
DATE: 01/14/2007 05:20:34 PM

After a week of business travel, everything about my house seems wonderful and familiar and fantastically cozy, even the piles of dog fur in the corner and the lack of room service creme brûlée.

When I came home on Friday and finally got to hold Riley, he burrowed into my arms, clinging to me like a fierce koala. We stayed like that for a long time; he would occasionally lean back to look at my face and touch my shirt, then curl back into me. It was indescribably sweet, and nicely eclipsed the Neck-Heisman he gave me later when his father left the room.

I am so glad to be home.

Today I’ve been simmering a pot of chicken soup all afternoon long and the heat is cranked to combat Seattle’s unusually cold weather. We’ve taken Riley out in his new snowsuit and I laughed nearly to the point of making some yellow snow, if you know what I mean and I think you do, over the fact that his puffily-clad appendages render him almost completely immobile, and if he falls he does it in slow motion, then lies there on the ground like a surprised starfish, blinking up at us.

We watched the Seahawks game (boo hoo) earlier and in honor of this country’s fine football-watching traditions I made a disgustingly delicious pile of “nachos” (really just various crap thrown together and eaten with Tostitos Scoops), while Riley dragged out every single toy he has ever been given and scattered them across the living room floor, only to become enamored with an old plastic bottle lid, which he played with for hours.

Yesterday we went to the mall to find a pair of toddler-sized snow boots, and we discovered that the almost-always deserted local Shoe Pavilion is perfect for offloading Riley’s energy: it’s got long, narrow carpeted aisles in between all those shoes, which he can run up and down over and over until he starts careening into the boxes of Nine Wests. A store that’s like a dog park for toddlers, that also sells shoes? Hot damn, that’s a win-win right there.

Riley seems to be over the worst of his croup and today I noticed he’s got at least two new teeth poking through his lower gums. Surprise surprise. I think every illness he’s ever had has coincided with the burgeoning arrival of a tooth or two. I wish babies could just be gummy and toothless until, oh, grade school, where you could schedule ahead for one godawful, Tylenol-heavy day when each tooth pops in all at once.

Anyway, it’s been a fine, happy weekend of nothing much going on, just our everyday normal boring sort of life that I missed like hell while I was gone.

——–

TITLE: Elmo is SO GLAD TO SEE YOU
DATE: 01/15/2007 10:03:52 AM

Okay, I’ve got a few questions for you guys:

1) Is it normal for a small child to LOSE THEIR DAMN MIND WITH JOY over the prospect of watching an Elmo DVD? I mean, Riley does the Happy Feet dance and claps his hands when I ask if he’d like to watch Elmo — I can think of no other activity that brings him so much anticipatory glee, even Going Bye Bye or Getting Out The Backpack. While he’s actually watching the show, he’s also moving around and playing with toys, so at least he doesn’t transform into a drooling zombie, but STILL. Elmo? Really, you’re that stoked over a red puppet who doesn’t use first-person personal pronouns?

2) Should I maybe quit with the pointless worrying and just be glad I’m able to pop in a DVD for 20 minutes of peaceful coffee-slurping?

3) MY GOD, SAVE ME FROM ELMO. Are there some better kid’s DVDs that offer equal entertainment? He liked those Baby Einstein things when he was littler, but the weirdly rotating colorful toys don’t seem to hold the same appeal these days. Which is too bad, because the classical music was much less annoying than the Baby Song.

Oh, did you not know the Baby Song? It goes like this:

Baby baby baby
Baby baby baby
Baby BABY babyyyyy

(see also: Dogs dogs dogs, dogs dogs dogs; farm farm farm, farm farm farm; hands hands hands ETC ETC EFFING ETC.)

——–

TITLE: His own two feet
DATE: 01/16/2007 09:25:40 AM

Yesterday I took Riley to a Fred Meyer store with the intent of finding, among other things, a small plastic sled (no dice, by the way, apparently I was not the only person to have this particular head-bulb appear [“Hey! We should totally get our kid a sled! Because that seems appropriate for a 17-month-old!”] during Seattle’s ongoing snowy weather), and the moment I got Riley out of the carseat I knew we were screwed.

Riley seems to now be in a stage where it’s Highly Annoying to be carried anywhere — unless, of course, he’s in the mood for such an activity and then woe onto you, buster, if you don’t react to those little raised arms and tragic downturned mouth in .3 seconds or less because DOOOOOOOOOOM — and he reacts by twisting his body with a surprising amount of strength and shoving at his captor, usually right in the neck. His body language is loud and clear: put me down or I am going to shoot actual flames from the top of my head and burn your eyesockets, woman.

I couldn’t put him down, though, because we had to cross an icy, slushy parking lot, so I grimly held on to what felt like a thrashing salmon and made the endless trek to a shopping cart, where I then had the delightful challenge of shoving a tantruming toddler with wildly whipping appendages into the seat while simultaneously trying to hiss soothing sounds over his increasingly furious vocalizations, which sounded like a cross between a dying manatee and a bugling elk.

I was starting to feel like giving up on the whole endeavor, because at this point I had a kid in full meltdown mode and I had sweated through my fleece jacket and did this little hellion really deserve a sled anyway? — but I figured I’d come this far, by god we were going inside if it killed us, and even if it did at least the suffering would be over.

Once we were in he calmed somewhat, aided by my deranged commentary (“Hey! A basket! Look there! Some pens! Ooh Riley, a doormat!”) but he remained unhappy the whole time, occasionally pointing at the ground and making his elk/manatee sound, while looking at me with the same expression the dog does when the bathroom door is closed and her water bowl is empty.

So. Yeah. The boy would rather walk.

Which…okay, it’s kind of fun (in a terrifying, frantic way) to let him walk around our local mall’s common area, with me galloping after him and shooting frozen grins at the random passersby who simper over him (let THEM chase him for twenty minutes straight, let’s see how cute they think he is THEN), but I can’t do that and also buy groceries.

Plus, there’s kind of a limit to how much public Toddler Insanity I can deal with — I think it’s fine for kids to go bonkers in kid-friendly areas, but not in a store where people are just trying to buy their goddamn toilet paper, you know? The walking almost always results in tantruming in some shape or form, because 1) no, we can’t eat things we find on the ground, and 2) no, we can’t run directly into people’s paths or wander into the Hallmark store with the ugly expensive crystal things, and 3) eventually, the walking must end, because Mama needs to go home and rest with an ice pack.

I love this rambunctious, active stage, but sometimes I look back on those days when we dragged him around in a carseat — totally immobilized and without the lung power to do much auditory damage — and heave a sigh for The Way Things Were.

——–

TITLE: Units of time
DATE: 01/17/2007 10:07:05 AM

I was talking with a fellow prisoner of war mom recently, and we both wondered the same thing: when do you officially stop referring to your kid’s age in months, and move to years?

Riley will be 17 months old at the end of this month. I think. I’ve confessed before that I have trouble keeping track of this (I sometimes resort to finger-counting out loud: “Okay, August, that’s twelve months, September..uh, October…fourteen…”), so I’m looking forward to saying, “Oh, he’s two.” Even if he’s two and a HALF, you know? I figured two was the cutoff point with the lunar age thing, and then I’d be home free. As long as I could remember what year it is, which, okay, sometimes I have some challenges with that but only in January and February.

After that I’ve GOT IT.

Well, unless I have to sign a check.

However, I’ve been noticing people referring to their toddlers as “32 months” or whatever. Is that typical? When did you move from months to years?

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TITLE: Predictable side effects
DATE: 01/18/2007 04:37:16 PM

A woman I frequently see around my office is hugely, enormously pregnant. She’s in the home stretch with only a few weeks to go, and watching her, I’m reminded of how uncomfortable that period was. I didn’t walk, I lumbered. I employed a bizarre method of extending my arms in front of me whenever I sat on the toilet (approximately 29572 times per hour, of course) in order to create a counterbalance. Everything I ate seemed to move halfway down my esophagus and stay there in order to haunt me later, when I would attempt to counteract the effect with handfuls of Tums (oh, that chalky, pastel taste…). Riley’s feet were constantly shoved so hard against my belly I could practically count his toes through my skin. Forget sleeping, between my restless legs drumming a hole in the mattress, my thimble-sized bladder crying uncle, and my swollen sinuses blocking my airway, I think I spent each night of my last trimester wide awake, staring at my bedroom ceiling playing that festive prospective-mother game, Which Terrifying Birth Complication Will I Experience?

Ah, good times.

Although the last few weeks were sort of — well, I was just really ready to move ON from the whole pregnancy thing, overall I enjoyed being pregnant. I mostly felt good, I was in a near-constant state of anticipatory excitement, and I was unusually stylish (for me, you understand) in my frilly, summery maternity clothes.

I imagine if I get pregnant again it will be a different experience. I’ll know more about what to expect, for one thing, and I’ll have a small child to distract me from all the, you know, navel-gazing.

It would really suck, though, to have a totally different pregnancy in terms of side effects. Does that happen? Like if your first pregnancy involved no barfing whatsoever, is it possible for the second to transform you into Ralphella, She-Who-Carries-Plastic-Yack-Bag? I like to think that having a relatively easy time of it with Riley means smooth sailing for Potential Kiddo Numero Two-O, but I suppose nothing’s a sure bet.

Don’t go thinking I’m ready to start peeing on sticks over here, I’m just thinking out loud. As I watch my coworker lumber around and think, whew, glad that’s not me right now.

——–

TITLE: Another new thing that I can’t get enough of
DATE: 01/19/2007 03:33:43 PM

Riley now has the ability to make his body perfectly stiff while he is tantruming about being put in the carseat. His back arches, his little angry-tomato face aims upwards so as to maximize the amount of noise echoing around the car, and his legs extend out and down. The moment I manage to ram his ass into the seat, he goes ramrod straight again and no amount of shoving can get him re-situated. Today the only way I could manage to leave our grocery store’s parking lot was to perform some complicated yogalike maneuver with both elbows, one hand, and somehow, I don’t know how, the side of my face, in order to wedge him into the seat and buckle him in. I wouldn’t say I was exactly gentle about this, either, and yet for a while there I thought I was going to be physically defeated by someone who comes up to my kneecaps.

It’s frustrating enough to deal with a toddler in the middle of a meltdown, but having to get into what amounts to a public wrestling match is on a whole new level. This one left me sweaty, angry, and embarrassed, and it was a damn good thing I had some crackers handy because if he’d screamed all the way home I might just have driven off a bridge.

Riley’s only saving grace for such moments is that no matter how fiery his intent, no matter how strong his will or his desire to do something other than what I need him to do, once he’s distracted (“Hey! A cracker! I like crackers!”) he moves on completely, showering me with adoring smiles even as the angry tears are drying on his face.

Not a bad trait to have, I suppose. All too soon he’ll learn to tenderly cling to grudges, just like the rest of us. For now I’m glad I’m instantly forgiven for my carseat-enforcement sins. (EVEN THOUGH I’M RIGHT AND HE’S WRONG.)

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TITLE: Cover me in feeties
DATE: 01/22/2007 09:11:32 AM

When Riley was little I followed the SIDS guidelines and avoided all the adorable bumpers and mattress covers and bedding I so droolingly wanted to buy. It kinds of goes against your instincts to put a newborn to sleep on a hard surface with a single sheet stretched over it, doesn’t it? Those little soft bodies seem like they should be nestled in piles and piles of rabbit-fur skins, or something. But I was eye-twitchingly paranoid and inexperienced and perversely glad for the Inevitable Dire Chapter of Doom in my baby books that warned me to put Riley face up, with no blankets or plush toys or pillows (on a slab of balsa wood if possible), because I was happy to have any kind of instructions whatsoever, even if they seemed a tiny bit mean.

When I worried about him being cold, I zipped him into one of those fleece sleep sacks, and as he got bigger I bought feetie pajamas. That’s what he wears to bed now: footed pajamas, the soft warm variety that transforms him instantly from toddler to powder-smelling babe (and therefore I will force him to wear them until he is, I don’t know, sixteen maybe?).

He seems warm enough at night, even in our recent frigid snowy weather. We keep the temperature set at 67 after we go to bed, so the house never gets very cold. But I’ve been wondering, when do kids start using blankets? I figure he’s past the stage where blankets are Forbidden, but I also doubt a blanket would stay on him very long. The few times we’ve covered him up, the blanket is always wadded in a corner of the crib when he gets up in the morning.

Do toddlers start using blankets when they switch to a big-kid bed? Or should I just keep on keeping on with the feetie pajamas and not worry about it?

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TITLE: She (really) works hard for the money
DATE: 01/23/2007 11:03:15 AM

Remember the hugely pregnant woman I mentioned a while ago, who works at my office? I saw her again yesterday, and I remembered I didn’t actually tell you guys what her job is.

She’s a massage therapist, and she gives massages to people at my company. It is a side benefit that is both fanatically weird (getting naked at your office, even if it’s in a professional, private environment? Freaky!) and spectacularly awesome (regular full body massages! Dude!).

So she’s due to give birth in a couple weeks, and she’s still working — climbing a big set of stairs multiple times per day and standing on her feet for an hour at a time while doing her massages, which, let me assure you, are pretty vigorous.

The last time I had an appointment with her, I told her I felt almost too guilty, getting a massage from an eight-months-pregnant woman. There I am sprawled on a table enjoying a luxurious body treatment, while she has to stand there on her no-doubt aching, swollen feet. If anyone deserves special attention, it’s her, for god’s sake.

Then she got to that place in the upper middle of my back that always sends goosebumps all over my scalp because it feels so damn good, and I clarified: “Almost too guilty.”

——–

TITLE: Sharing a drooly pillow
DATE: 01/23/2007 09:48:28 PM

When Riley was first born he seemed too terrifyingly small to be in bed with us. I worried about accidentally smooshing him or having him get lost in the covers or, worse, fall out of bed (our bed is freakishly tall) and thunk onto the floor. Where, of course, the ice weasels would get him.

He slept nearby, though — I’m sure all brand new parents feel the same desire to have their infant close, so as to more properly freak out over every single little snort or squeak they make. He slept by our bed in a stroller with a bassinet seat for several weeks, which was plenty of time for me to realize that sharing a room with a baby is kind of…well, it’s not very relaxing. Babies thrash around in their sleep. They snuffle. They occasionally wake up and briefly bleat before zonking out again. Every little sound or movement kept my antennae quivering, wondering if he was okay or if he was about to wake up and demand a feeding or what. It was reassuring to get the constant feedback that he was in fact alive and breathing, but that benefit came with the increasingly challenging downside of being mostly awake all night long.

I was paranoid when we first moved him into his bedroom, but the urge to stare nonstop into the blinking lights of the baby monitor eventually became overshadowed by the relief of reclaiming our bedroom. Sleep, glorious sleep! Sure, we still had to get up occasionally, but at least I wasn’t being jolted awake every few minutes by my son shifting positions by half an inch.

So we’ve never done the co-sleeping thing. With only a very few exceptions, every time we’ve tried to bring him in bed with us he ends up getting squirrelly as hell and wants to explore the mattress, bounce on the pillows, or pull himself up to the headboard and bang on the wall. I figure it’s because he didn’t start out sleeping in our bed, so he views it as a giant play area instead of a viable sleeping location.

I was never particularly interested in following the attachment parenting philosophy of co-sleeping, and I do feel there are benefits to keeping our bedroom to ourselves, but I find myself oddly envious of parents who sleep with their little ones. On the rare occasion Riley has fallen asleep in bed with us, it’s been so wonderful to feel his warm body nearby. Even if I’m stuck in an awkward position and half-freezing because the covers are pulled off, it’s a physical joy to hear the rhythm of his breath, to be able to reach over and touch his hair, and to experience the increasingly scarce opportunity to have quiet peace with Riley, a loving sort of stillness.

Anyway, I sort of have a point to this rambling; or rather, I have something I’ve always been curious about — for those who do the co-sleeping thing consistently, what happens at the baby’s bedtime? I mean, Riley has had a fairly predictable bedtime for many months now, and it’s around 6:30 PM. Do some people just go to bed that early, or do they leave their kids alone for some amount of time (and how would that work with an active, mobile baby), or what? Inquiring minds want to know.

——–

TITLE: Random conversation
DATE: 01/26/2007 10:56:02 AM

The other day:

JB: “So then I put on Blue’s Clues and we watched that for a while. Riley seems pretty into it.”
Me: “Wait, you watched the recorded Blue’s Clues? The one we started watching yesterday?”
JB: “Yeah, and I totally know how they got the key.”
Me: “You do? Wait, don’t tell me. Wait, I have to know. Last we saw the little dragon had it.”
JB: “Also the clue was a giant. You know, stomping feet made the drum sound…”
Me: “Ohhhh. So did they get King Horace from Periwinkle?”
JB: “I guess so. There was some singing.”

(pause)

Me: “I…can’t believe we’re having this conversation.”
JB: “Me either.”
Me: “The Noggin Network: For When Porn Is No Longer An Option.”
JB: *giant sigh*

——–

TITLE: Celestial
DATE: 01/29/2007 10:58:13 AM

The moon was unusually visible in the daytime sky all weekend and we pointed it out to Riley on Saturday. “Moon,” we said. “That’s the moon.”

Moon,” he said thoughtfully, his enunciation clear as a bell. JB and I looked at each other and blinked.

When it got dark later the moon was a bright, pitted curve above our house and Riley pointed over and over again. “Muh!” he said. “Moo. Mah.”

He looks at the moon and his face is an open flower. He is all curiosity and wonder and impatient glee. I watched him and thought, the world is filled with beautiful things we should stop and point at.

It’s an unexpected side benefit of parenting, sharing my days with someone who constantly finds sweetness in life where I have forgotten to look. It’s like being handed a pair of glasses that filters away boredom and apathy, that displays everything as it’s meant to be seen.

Riley points to the moon and I wish I could sweep it out of the sky in a net, bring its glowing body closer for my boy’s curious fingers to touch, but instead I point too, and say yes, that’s the moon. Isn’t it pretty?

——–

TITLE: Crafty sentimentalism
DATE: 01/30/2007 08:35:38 PM

Okay, I have yet another question for you: what do I do with Riley’s “art projects” that come home from daycare every now and then?

I got one last week, it’s a cutout paper elephant with some gray paint smears on it and Riley’s name written in a teacher’s handwriting in the corner. I guess Riley was fingerpainting (yet another reason I love daycare, because do I let my 17-month-old fingerpaint at home? No I do not, because I am stifling and cruel and I fear paint-coated toddlers) and thus the gray smears.

I put it on top of the refrigerator because I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away, and yet — well, I don’t really want to keep it, exactly.

Once we got a little paper cat face with glued-on string whiskers, I can’t begin to imagine what Riley’s supposed involvement with that was. Perhaps his physical proximity to the art table was enough to warrant his name on the back of the cat?

Anyway, I don’t feel particularly sentimental about them because they’re primarily the effort of his (extremely patient) (or maybe extremely bored) teachers, but putting them in the recycling seems a little bit like clubbing a seal pup. With a 9-iron.

So for now they gather dust on the fridge. What do you think, should I keep only one or two for memory’s sake and summon the cojones to ditch the rest, or should I keep every single piece of glitter-coated crap that has my son’s name on it, even if it was clearly made by a woman with a penchant for scrapbooking and her own personal glue gun?

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TITLE: Squidlet #2, Electric Babyloo
DATE: 01/31/2007 07:50:02 PM

Here’s a topic that’s been near and dear to my heart lately: how did you know when you were ready for a second (or third, or…) baby?

I’ll go first — I’ve realized that the choice on when or if to have a second child, for me, is just as damn hard as the decision whether or not to have children in the first place, and it’s not getting any easier as time goes by. So I did some soul-searching and came to the feeling that although I have many (MANY) concerns and worries about adding another child to our little family, somewhere deep inside (possibly in my left pinky toe, you know, the wee wee wee all the way home one) is this persistent belief that it will be a Good Thing. Even though it will, undoubtedly, suck the proverbial donkey balls at times.

Therefore, I’m tremblingly standing over in the Let’s Do This All Over Again Oh My God We Must Be Crazy camp, vs. the It’s Too Hard To Decide And In Fact This Sand Sure Seems Like a Nice Place for My Entire Head place I’ve been in ever since the notion of being pregnant again started seeming less laughingly Britney Spears and more, well, realistic. In a terrifying-yet-attractive kind of way.

I feel like a freak for being so wishy-washy about the process of deciding. If you have more than one child (or you’re trying for another), was it an easy choice? Did you just know from the get-go that that’s what you wanted, or did you feel emotionally all over the place like me?

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TITLE: Waiting for my role as barista
DATE: 02/04/2007 03:01:38 PM

I love every single thing Julia writes, but I was particularly thrilled to read this entry, which included the following:

Speaking of Patrick, he is obsessed with me. After years, YEARS, of finding me to be a vaguely acceptable substitute provided it could be confirmed that Steve really (really and truly) was not around, I am suddenly Woman of the Year. It’s like I am the winsome barrista whose sunny smile brightens every day and Patrick is the taciturn loner who comes in each morning for a latte he never drinks but simply holds while he stares from a corner.

That is not only hilarious, but also gives me comfort and hope for a future moment when my own son turns the shining beacon of his devotion (normally doled out in unfair, UNFAIR I SAY, amounts to his father) in my direction, and sits and lurks and basks (creepily, but lovingly!) in my presence. Ahhhh.

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TITLE: The things we do for the sake of education
DATE: 02/05/2007 05:00:35 PM

I was snickering over this entry of Amalah’s when it occurred to me that I’ve been doing something potentially gross, myself: I invite Riley into the bathroom with me when I go.

I must interrupt my own damn self at this point to hastily clarify that this is only during Number One, as Number Two (while totally natural and normal because as the book says, Everyone Poops) requires, from my own personal perspective, some PRIVACY, no exceptions, and that is why god made Elmo DVDs.

I don’t know when I started with the chipper hey-let’s-go-potty-as-a-TEAM business but I do it all the time now. Riley usually gamely trots into the bathroom, says “Pah-ee”, and proceeds to whack the shower curtain about 928745 times, because that’s how he rolls. Sometimes he tries to climb in the tub. All the while, I’m on the toilet saying, “Pee pee! Mama’s going pee pee in the toilet!”.

I’ve…shared too much, haven’t I?

Anyway, is this weird? Okay, I know it’s weird, but is it REALLY weird? I figure it can’t hurt to start getting Riley familiar with potty concepts, even though I’m sure potty training is several months away, but maybe I’m just creating a lifelong association between shower curtains and calls of nature.

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TITLE: Fear of flying
DATE: 02/06/2007 05:08:57 PM

Have you seen the news story about the airline who booted a couple and their 3-year-old from a flight after the toddler basically threw a massive tantrum before liftoff? The most recent articles report the child refused to be placed in her seat, which violates FAA regulations, and the flight was already delayed — so instead of waiting for the parents try and calm her down, they removed them from the plane. AirTrans reimbursed them for their ticket prices (they flew home the next day, apparently uneventfully), and also gave them 3 free tickets anywhere AirTrans flies.

So, can anyone help me understand why the parents are livid over the situation, and railing against the airline?

I’m completely paranoid of taking Riley anywhere on a plane and so far we’ve successfully avoided having to deal with it (thank god for relatives within driving distance), but I have certainly experienced some public temper tantrums and my M.O. is to Get The Hell Out Of Dodge. If Riley decides to melt down in the middle of Blockbuster because I won’t let him run drunkenly through the line of people waiting to pay, then I pick up my precious screeching howler monkey and quickly ferry him out to the car where only my eardrums are subjected to his screams. I imagine my exit is celebrated by the video store patrons, perhaps with a quiet round of golf claps.

Obviously, you can’t take a kid out of a plane, and if the tantrum happened mid-flight . . . well, excepting some extreme solutions involving parachutes and emergency exit doors, everyone is screwed. But if a kid is flipping out before takeoff — tantruming, screaming, and generally making everyone miserable (people who have paid through the nose for the privilege of being crammed into a horrifically uncomfortable seat and fed tiny bags of Chex Mix) — I don’t know. I can see the airline removing a family for that, and if I were the parent I would be upset and embarrassed as hell, but I wouldn’t blame them.

If the situation went as described, though, the child refused to get in her seat, and that’s ultimately why they asked the family to leave. Seems completely understandable to me, and I’m kind of left wondering why the parents didn’t just physically cram their kid in the seat and buckle the seatbelt over her screaming self, the way I often have to deal with Riley in his carseat.

Anyway, what do you think? Was this a good decision on the airline’s part, or should they have delayed the flight a bit more so the parents could try and de-tantrumfy their daughter?

——–

TITLE: Random blather
DATE: 02/08/2007 01:30:43 PM

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love Swistle’s blog. You should bookmark her website immediately, if not sooner, because do you really want to be missing out on gems like this?

“I cleaned up relatively easily and managed not to say anything crabbier than a gentle “Please be more careful with your stirring” which was the kind of parenting triumph I wish was being observed from behind one-way glass because I think it’s an accomplishment deserving of at least an approving little checkmark in a notebook.”

No, you do not.

And speaking of great things on the Internet, I invite you to experience this video. While you’re watching it, remember that the product being advertised is NOT A JOKE. It’s a real product, which — according to the Interactive Health website, which appears to be COMPLETELY SINCERE — comes in 4 speeds: Warm up (Default), Taking it Easy, Getting Serious, and Pump it Up. I . . . I honestly can think of nothing to say that will add to the awesomeness of the iJoy‚Ñ¢ Ride.

In non-web-linky news, I’ve been a single parent this week because JB’s out of town, and I’m tired. Tiiiiired. Being the sole caregiver makes life extra hectic, as I juggle morning showers and evening dinners and last-minute trips to the grocery store and daycare drop-offs and daycare pickups and work responsibilities and the worst part of all? Every single poopy diaper has my name written on it.

I don’t know what I’d do without the warm, loving embrace of . . . the television. Yes, I will freely admit I’ve used the TV as a babysitter this week. When Blue’s Clues is on, that means I can sneak away and brush my teeth by myself, instead of sharing the bathroom with a budding percussion enthusiast who consistently makes a beeline for the glass shower door in order to pound the living hell out of it.

Also, I probably shouldn’t confess this, but Riley was being fussy about his dinner last night, and in a stroke of genius, I flipped on the TV, and presto! I had myself a totally distracted toddler, who was too busy staring at Steve’s googly-eyed visage to remember why he was so pissed off about scrambled eggs. I fed my little zombiefied child his whole dinner that way.

If TV is wrong, then I don’t ever want to be right. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go hit my head against a rock to dislodge the Blue’s Clues theme song.

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TITLE: Ba, and Da
DATE: 02/09/2007 01:48:29 PM

Apparently my son is turning into quite the pint-sized ladies’ man, because every morning I brought him into daycare this week, two little girls in his class immediately began saying his name: “RI-LEY. RI-LEY.”

They both have unexpectedly deep, froggy voices, so the effect is a little odd‚ but awfully cute. “RI-LEY,” indeed. Spoken with perfect enunciation, even.

I’ve never heard Riley make an attempt at saying his own name. In fact, other than a few startling (and random) one-time words like “moon”, “paper”, and “truck”, pretty much everything in Riley’s world is a Ba or a Da.

Ba is ball, Ba-ba is his sippy cup (even though we’ve called it a cup since day one, it’s still a baba to him), Ba-ba is also bye bye, Da is dog, Da is Daddy. Ba is bird, and Ba? is a universal term for “Pardon me, but WTF is that?”

He says Mama, but mostly only when pointing me out in pictures.

Riley understands a staggering number of words, though (he about blew my mind the other day when I randomly asked where the zebra was in his animal book and he confidently pointed to it. Zebra? For real?), and I’m always being surprised by his overall comprehension. The other night, I let the water out of his bath and he waved bye-bye to the gurgling drain. “Ba-ba,” he said.

I feel bad, though, when he babbles his increasingly complicated-sounding alien language at me and I can’t figure it out. He has the most earnest expression, you know? All these slushy Cantonese-ish words are coming out of his mouth, and I’m going, “Uh huh? Oh really, you don’t say,” and “Sorry, baby, I don’t know what you want,” and he looks over like, sigh.

I hope he’ll start saying more words soon, because Ba is kind of a limited repertoire, even when combined with useful hand signals (for instance, frantically pointing at the cracker box). Maybe soon he’ll be talking back to those little girls at daycare. “Yes, it is I, RI-LEY.”

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TITLE: Of barf bins and Jesus Arms
DATE: 02/10/2007 08:21:10 PM

I’m reading this absolutely fantastic, amazing book, Waiting for Birdy (seriously, you should go get it right now, I’d loan you my copy but I think when I’m done I’ll close it, heave a sigh of contentment and delight, then crack it right back open at the beginning) in which the author describes the C-section birth of her second child, and I was trying to remember the details from our own C-section birth experience.

I swear I remember hearing the word “cutting” being spoken in a firm, let’s get-this-show-on-the-road voice by one of the mysterious people hidden behind the giant drape of my belly, and at the time I chirped up loudly with, “Is my husband here?” and of course he wasn’t, and someone said “Get the father,” and then JB finally came bustling in from the prep room where they had apparently forgotten all about him.

I asked JB, earlier today, if he happened to notice if they had cut me open or not when he came in the room. “I don’t think so,” he said, “well, but maybe. You looked so freaked out, maybe I was more focused on your face. Oh, and I didn’t expect to see your arms tied down.”

“You know,” he went on in a tone of great authority. “They do that so you don’t accidentally claw at your own belly.”

Right.

What I mostly remember was being afraid I was going to barf. I was already kind of nauseated from the magnesium sulfate I’d been on for two days (high blood pressure) and at one point in the operation I really got queasy and whispered my distress to the anesthesiologist, who said yes, it was pretty common. He mentioned something about my intestines, like maybe the doctors were in the midst of pushing them around or using them to lasso each other or comparing them to Armour hotdogs and singing that one song (“What kind of kids love Armour HOT DOGS? Big kids, little kids, kids who climb on rocks, fat kids, skinny kids, even kids with chicken POX!”), whatever it was, it was decidedly uncomfortable and while I hoped a magical anti-barf injection would be forthcoming all I got was a little plastic kidney-shaped bin placed near my head. Which, come ON, who can tidily barf into those things, why are those always the designated Medical Barf Container and not, say, a large garbage can?

The sheer power of my desire not to have to barf into the kidney-pan while lying on my back eventually won out against the Intestinal Rodeo, and at some point after that there was a lot of tugging, a LOT, and then suddenly there was this squalling, slimy BABY in the room with us, holy crap. I don’t remember anything else — how long it was before they finished stapling me shut, whether or not they untied my arms or if that happened later, or even any of the chatter among the staff (although JB claims one of them said in an urgent voice, “She’s crashing! She’s crashing!” and JB got all freaked out and said wait, what do you mean she’s crashing, and the guy said, oh, sorry — he was talking about someone in the next room), all I remember is staring through hazy, medicated eyes at the burrito-wrapped bundle in JB’s arms as he showed me my son.

Later, there were all kinds of nosy questions about had I passed gas, had I taken the stool softener, had I had a BM, hmmm? — god, the post-C-section medical obsession with poop is embarrassing — and then eventually we all went home, the end.

Most of the memories I have are pretty blurry. I can’t remember when one thing happened, or the exact circumstances of the other thing, or whether I felt any discomfort other than the urge to hork hospital food out my nose, and I suppose in the end it doesn’t matter. We got a healthy baby out of it, so I think that makes the entire process — even the barf bin and Jesus Arms — a fabulous, outstanding success.

——–

TITLE: Flung shui
DATE: 02/12/2007 07:39:03 PM

Some of the items currently visible on our living room floor:

— Plastic balls (2)
— Push & Ride Racer
— Wooden wire bead-threading thingamajig
— One orange-and-green sock
— Magnetic doodle pad
— Horrifying jack-in-the-box toy
— Plastic trucks (3)
— Hatbox full of kids’ books, spilling off to one side (this one, a current favorite, on top)
— Sippy cup of milk, on its side? Oops.
— Baby Einstein animal flash card: cow
— Unbelievably painful (assuming you step on it, barefoot, in the dead of night) plastic giant Lego type block
— Stuffed bear
— One green toddler shoe

I bought a big leather storage container of sorts and we spend a few minutes after Riley goes to bed scooping toys into it, but I have mostly succumbed to the notion that my house will never be a zenlike, austere environment with clean lines and lots of white space and uncluttered surfaces. Rather, it’s a home forever frozen in mid-motion: balls rolled partially across floors, shoes left where they were removed, books abandoned in favor of some other distraction. Sometimes I hold my forehead and groan about the mess, my god, THE MESS, but if I had to choose between two lives‚ one in which I could have that minimalist home with nary a wooden block to trip over, or the one I’m living right now — I’d pick the one full of rubble and chaos and the happy, sloppy detritus of a life with a child, without question. In a heartbeat.

——–

TITLE: Parenting poetry, part 3
DATE: 02/15/2007 07:11:20 PM

Yes, it’s this. Again.

Look!
Here,
in my hand
it’s a Kleenex tissue
with lotion. Lotion!
It has aloe and vitamin E and it is soft.
If I were wiping your nose
with a Brillo pad
Maybe I could better understand
your reaction.
As it is
you’re just making me
want to take my sweet-ass time.

You remind me of a Microsoft ad campaign
except
instead of “Where Do You Want to Go Today?”
yours would be
“What Food Will You Reject Today?”
I know
they’re not really that similar
except that they both SUCK.

Guess what,
little one.
I have
a newsflash
for you.
This task? At hand?
Is not my favorite
either.
How’s about giving
me a break
So I can more properly
dig poop
from
your
scrotal
area.

Sometimes when you run
it looks like the bottom half of your body
isn’t really connected
to the top half.
I don’t know why
I love that so much.
My little malfunctioning
robot.

Hey! Let’s flap our arms!
Hey! Let’s play with trucks!
Hey! Let’s scream with joy!
Hey! Let’s run real fast!
Hey! Let’s start crying for no reason whatsoever!
Wait.
Damn.
And it was going so well.

I like to take your pants off
because then you go all crazy
and run around giggling
As if you could say
I’m Crazy No-Pants Baby!
Give me some candy!
Maybe you wouldn’t really say that
because you don’t know who
Adam Sandler is
But that’s what I imagine you saying
when you run around like some kind of
crazy no-pants baby.

I know the first time you did it
we laughed.
And now you don’t understand
why it’s not okay
to feed the dog string cheese.
Please, just
stop. She’s getting
fat
and you’re
not eating your goddamn
dinner.

I used to joke about
how it was a good thing babies aren’t twenty feet tall
because oh my god
think of the damage they could do.
But now I know
if ever there was a twenty-foot baby
mostly things would get
drooled on.
Now, a twenty-foot toddler
that’s just
terrifying.

Um, sweetie?
How can I say this
It makes Daddy
uncomfortable
when you curiously
touch
his nipple.

We share some opinions,
you and I.
Fruit is good
the cat’s fur is soft
Being outside is fun
and that guy Joe?
On Blue’s Clues?
Is an interloper
who should be burned
like a witch!
Burn him he’s a witch!
Burn! Burn! Burn —
ahem.
Sorry.
I just felt like you and I
were on the same page,
on that one.

I was wondering what
your ingredient label would read
(if you had such a thing)
and I decided it would
include:

– Summer grass
– Thorn-bushes
– Labrador puppies
– Blue skies
– Treacherous seas
– High thread count sheets
– Electric eels
– Warm chocolate chip cookies, fresh from the oven
– Poop
– Sunshine

Exact content amounts would
vary, of course
depending on
various
things.

Today you ran
full tilt
directly into my knees
and hugged me.
And I was all,
be careful!
But I didn’t really want you to be careful
if that meant
not doing it again.

Kissing you is sort of
like kissing
a
banana slug.
Well I’m sorry!
But it is.
Come here,
my beloved
Old-Navy-clad
gastropod.

Whenever I hold your tiny, eager hands
I think
Please
oh please
Let me be so lucky
to hold your hands throughout the years
Let me hold your reluctant, older hands
and remember the days
they were tiny.

——–

TITLE: Toddler highway
DATE: 02/20/2007 11:52:46 AM

Last weekend we took a family trip to Bend, Oregon, which is about a 6-hour drive from Seattle. We head down I-5 to the southern Oregon coast several times a year to visit family, so we aren’t totally unfamiliar with the joys of enduring a road trip with a small child, but we usually set off late in the day in order to do the majority of the drive while Riley is asleep. This time, however, we planned to leave early in the morning, and I feared for our collective sanity.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t that bad. Sure, there was about a 45-minute period of Intense Whining that coincided with some miserable Seattle-area traffic and a steady, vision-obscuring downpour when I maybe, just maybe, for the briefest of moments considered the ramifications of cramming my 18-month-old son in the metal dog box in the bed of the pickup (oh COME ON, he would be totally fine back there!), but other than that Riley kept a fairly even keel and his parents survived the experience with only the faintest of eye twitches. You can barely notice mine, really. It almost looks like a saucy wink.

Here’s what we did in terms of distractions:

Food. I brought lots of snacks, like baggies of graham crackers, little peanut butter sandwiches, individually wrapped cheeses, and a massive container of milk for refilling Mr. Glug-Glug Milk-Pig’s sippy cup.

Toys. I had a bag of toys within reach and tried to dole out one a time, saving the most annoying ones for times of Growing Boredon and Incipient Grousing (the talking Merlin “phone“, for instance, which if pressed repeatedly by an overly focused toddler intones, “SELECT GAME! SELECT GAME! SELECT GAME! SELECTSELECTSELECT SELECT GAME! SEL-SEL-SEL-SELECT GAME!” [repeat for one solid hour]).

Weird Objects to Fondle. I brought a metal whisk. It blew his mind.

Videos. I put my MacBook on the section between the driver’s and passenger’s seats, facing back towards Riley, and played some Baby Einstein DVDs. This bought us at least half an hour of glazed-toddlerdom, so hooray for Julie Frigging Aigner-Clark.

Singing. We sang approximately 492867 renditions of “Old McDonald Had a Farm”, swapping in various non-farm-related animals (“Elephant seal! With an ORK ORK here, and an ORK ORK there . . . “). Also, many instances of This Little Piggy Went Wee Wee Wee All The Way To the Rest Stop.

Fart Sounds. I don’t really know how this came to be, but my son is capable of producing a fantastically realistic fart noise with his mouth. It’s less of a raspberry and more of a juicily repulsive, completely offensive-sounding blast that (grossly) coats everything nearby with saliva. Obviously I shouldn’t encourage such behavior, so I most certainly did not spend a good twenty minutes trading mouth-farts with him during the drive home and laughing like a stoned teenager.

Since the whisk was such a hit, I think next time I would pack a bag of oddball items he’d never played with before — maybe just kitchen junk from Goodwill, or something — and bring those out in addition to his familiar toys. I’d leave Merlin at home, because I think I’d rather listen to a tantrum that crosses two state lines than a robotic voice prompting me to SELECT GAME (although it is true that at one point I wrestled Merlin away from Riley and used the Music Machine game to create my own beepy techno song, which was strangely entertaining). Also, note to self: fart sounds are way less funny when they originate from a mouth full of graham crackers.

What about you, do you have any trips for traveling with kids?

——–

TITLE: Mars and Venus
DATE: 02/21/2007 09:18:27 AM

Here’s something I’ve been wondering about lately: do you think boys and girls display different behaviors, even from a very young age?

Riley is a daredevil kid. He loves to clamber on top of his toy car and balance, triggering his mother to squawk “Be careful! Be careful!” over and over like a deranged parrot. He scales the side of the couch and leaps onto pillows; he points himself downhill on the lawn and gallops along, barely in control of his churning little legs. He screams with joy when his dad throws him high into the sky.

He loves trucks, he loves pounding the everloving spit out of things. He loves to hurl plastic balls around. He still cuddles with his stuffed bear, but only for the briefest of moments before turning to his magnetic doodle pad where he scribbles fiercely, leaving behind a black cloud like that creepy kid in The Ring.

I suppose I interpret a lot of Riley’s mannerisms as boyisms, rather than gender-neutral traits. But, of course, we’re the one who bought him trucks instead of dolls, and I’m sure little girls fling themselves across the room like runty Evil Knievels too. Maybe we treat him differently than we would treat a girl, too — more roughhousing, different kinds of games . . . the complete and total refusal to let the poor kid’s hair grow more than half an inch . . .

22007_baldy1

Still, I wonder. What do you think? Have you observed fundamental differences between little girls and boys, or do you think the differences we notice are actually caused by the environment we give them?

——–

TITLE: Swiffer of JUSTICE!
DATE: 02/22/2007 09:31:21 AM

Moments after hitting the Publish button to declare my son’s All Boy, All the Time tendencies, I looked up to see him Swiffering the living room. Now, I’m not saying that Swiffering, or cleaning in general, is inherently a female trait, god knows I’d rather spend my time doing some other rewarding activity, such as stabbing myself in the eye with a #2 pencil, but at least in my personal household the cleaning-related chores certainly seem to be viewed as a female responsibility. That’s the only explanation I can come up with, anyway, for why my husband thinks his penis will shrink if he touches a cleaning product with his bare hands.

So I’m quite pleased to see that my son is currently an enlightened male whose manhood is not challenged by the testical-threatening powers of the Swiffer, nor the proximity of the Roomba, which has been dubbed the “pansy vacuum” by the same guy who’s never, in my presence anyway, operated the “real” vacuum (the fool! The first rule of robot vacuums is: you don’t mock the robot).

Here’s to gender equality, by god!

——–

TITLE: The Fear
DATE: 02/23/2007 09:33:40 AM

Yesterday when I picked Riley up from daycare, one of his teachers told me that he’d had a hard day. “He kept falling down,” she said. Apparently he’d fallen several times, once by careening into a table.

I’m not sure I would have worried much about that, except that earlier in the morning I’d watched Riley follow JB out in the driveway to get the paper, and fall sprawling onto the cement. After JB picked him up, Riley took a couple more steps and fell again, this time with enough force to give himself a wee bloodied lip. At the time I’d thought it looked strange, because I couldn’t see anything that had tripped him — and while Riley is certainly still clumsy on his feet at times, he’s past the barely-in-control-of-his-limbs stage.

I think I just stared openmouthed at this nice girl who works at the daycare while I took in her words. I got some more details, then rushed him home where I immediately took off his shoes, on the theory that they were messing him up somehow.

He seems fine. We’ve been watching him closely and he’s doing all the things he normally does, he doesn’t seem to have any balance problems. Maybe he was just having an off day, maybe his early morning gave him some minor injury that affected his mobility.

It was a scary thing to hear, though, because of course I can’t be level-headed about it, I immediately think PARTIAL STROKE and CEREBRAL PALSY and ACUTE DISSEMINATED ENCEPHALOMYELITIS, because I am paranoid and prone to The Fear.

You know: The Fear. The fear that your kid will get sick, that he’s going to get hurt, that you won’t be able to protect him. Sometimes I forget about The Fear for days on end, and I almost take it for granted that my boy is healthy and thriving and that I am blessed beyond belief, and then someone says, “He kept falling down,” and there it is in front of me, cold and black and too terrifying to look in the eye.

He seems fine, and I don’t feel like I’m taking that for granted right now.

——–

TITLE: Public meltdowns, non-Britney-style
DATE: 02/24/2007 04:02:08 PM

I’ll start by saying that Riley continues to seem perfectly fine and in total control over his various thrashing, tentacle-covered appendages — thank you, though, for the comments about ear issues, which I totally did not consider in my haste to make the creepiest assumptions possible — and that while we continue to keep an eye on him for signs of discombobulation, I don’t believe he’s dealing with any particular illness that would currently be affecting his behavior in any negative way.

That SAID, let me describe this afternoon’s outing:

JB and I decided to visit a local store to drool over their luxury kitchen appliances (damn you, Dacor, and your sultry, unaffordable stainless-steel built-in refrigerators). We packed Riley into his backpack before entering the store, hoping that he’d enjoy riding around that way. He didn’t. After about two minutes, he was whining (the wind-up sort of whine that precedes a full-scale screamfest) and arching his back and pointing to the floor, so we pulled him out and let him walk.

Approximately one minute after that — after chasing Riley as he bolted to and fro and attempted to get behind the sales counter, after he went boneless and shrieked like a firebell after being redirected, after he fell to the ground crying and yelling because we had dared to pick him up and put him in a less crowded area — we were walking briskly for the door, Riley’s squirming, tantruming body held in JB’s arms while he (Riley) howled at the top of his lungs. As we passed a woman who glanced over from her inspection of a Wolf gas range, JB hissed from the corner of his mouth, “Free baby?”

Sadly, she didn’t take us up on it. She probably could afford a less obnoxious baby, anyway.

So. Do any of you have any advice on what to do when an 18-month-old behaves that way? There’s no way I would have just stayed in that store, letting him completely disturb the other patrons, and there’s also no way we could have calmed him down — every time we interacted with him he just got more frustrated.

I don’t know if that sort of thing is legitimately bratty behavior that we should be actively dealing with in some way (rather than just packing him into the carseat and grumbling to each other on the drive home about how we’re never going to leave the house with him again), or if it’s just that he’s only a year and a half old and, you know, basically in a terrifying stage of being a giant mobile infant.

What do you think? Faced with a similar situation, what would you do?

(First person who says, “Shove him in a Sub-Zero freezer compartment and run like hell!” gets my undying love and devotion. Plus, a free baby.)

——–

TITLE: Acceptable edibles
DATE: 02/26/2007 03:54:31 PM

Every time Riley eats a hearty meal, I do a little happy jig right there in the kitchen because while it’s not always a struggle, it is often enough that I’ve learned to appreciate the days when he just shuts up and eats, instead of whining his way through four different wasted food options and eventually throwing half his meal on the dog’s head.

Note: I highly recommend the Labrador Retriever Method of cleaning up after mealtime. Food on the floor? Not a problem. Food on the front of the boy’s shirt? Gone. Detachable highchair tray covered in smashed pears? Licked spotlessly clean in mere seconds!

Er . . . wait. Did I just say I allow our dog to lick the highchair tray clean? Ha ha ha, obviously I was just kidding.

I’m always looking for meal ideas, though, to hopefully expand our repertoire of acceptable foods. Currently, the list of Things Riley Will Probably Eat (Although He Reserves the Right To Change His Mind) includes:

— Frozen “Budget Gourmet” meal: macaroni and cheese
— Frozen “Budget Gourmet” meal: rigatoni and broccoli
— Cooked egg noodles, wide variety (I cook them in chicken broth)
— “Pasta Pickups”, Gerber brand
— String cheese, by the kegload (He just started saying “chee! chee!” in the last couple days)
— Eggo waffles (for breakfast, every damn day)
— Curly fries (uh, we only fed them to him ONCE but holy crap, he was a fan)
— Peanut butter and bread
— Saltines
— Diced fruit from those fruit cup things
— Bananas
— Yogurt
— Milk, gallons and gallons of it

(If you’re thinking that list looks a little heavy on the carbs/dairy, I’m right there with you.)

Riley recently learned “no”, and now when he doesn’t like something he shakes his head tragically, buries his face in his arm, and sobs, “No, no, no.” Either that or he sends it flying off the (spotless!) tray with a mighty sweep of his arm.

What’s on your Food They Will Probably Eat list?

——–

TITLE: Rage against the machine
DATE: 02/27/2007 07:21:13 PM

I was reading Beth’s blog a while back, and was purely gobsmacked by this entry. In particular, these words: “We had our first official tantrum this weekend.”

First? FIRST?

Beth’s deliciously adorable daughter is about Riley’s age, and I’d like to know what happy pills they’ve been feeding her, because: first? Really?

Maybe some kids are just more tantrumy than others, I don’t know. Riley’s certainly been pitching temper-related fits for months, long enough for me to wonder why it is, exactly, that more people don’t reference the Terrible Ones.

In fact, he was a pissy fetus, and I’m not even making that up. We went in for one of those 4-D ultrasounds, and after the technician poked my belly a few times to try and get an image of his face, she told me she was going to stop because he was looking irritated. “Ooh, he’s an expressive little guy,” she said.

Lately, if we try and shush him when he’s in the middle of a grousefest, he reacts by essentially losing his mind with frustration. This morning he was staggering around the living room howling about the magnet I took away from him, and we had the following exchange:

Me: (mildly) “Be quiet, Riley.”
Riley: (after half a second of furious silence): “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!”
JB: “Right. Well! I think my ears are actually bleeding now.”

There’s something deeply hilarious about a midgety little person filled with so much emotion, but I’ve learned that laughing out loud and asking Riley if he wants me to call the WAHmbulance, or twisting my fists over my eyes while making a pouty face and saying, “Boo hoo hoo, I’m the Very Sad Baby Who Isn’t Allowed to Play with the Curling Iron, oh boo hoo hoo!” just makes things much, much worse. Man, does that ever tick him off.

My favorite thing is if I can distract him from a super-intense tantrum with something totally random, like a pasta spoon. “Say, what’s THIS?” I say with great interest, and his face . . . ha! Suddenly he’s a brave little toaster, blinking through his tears and still hiccuping, a tragic child soldiering onward in the face of adversity, reaching a snot-smeared hand for the spoon. And seconds later, he’s back to rampaging through his personal Tokyo, wielding the utensil, his sorrow completely forgotten.

I never seem to pull that off when it’s a public meltdown, though. Maybe I should start carrying a pasta spoon with me.

Tell me, when did your kids first start throwing full-fledged tantrums?

——–

TITLE: It ain’t nothing but a number, anyway
DATE: 03/01/2007 04:15:46 PM

A while ago I was blathering on about how it was hard to keep track of Riley’s age in months and so I was looking forward to saying things like, “Oh, he’s almost two,” instead of having to count on my fingers and mouth-breathe my way backwards from August 2005 — well, I just figured out I’ve been saying his age wrong ALL ALONG. I mean, I think.

Okay. Riley was born August 31, 2005 (three weeks early, monkeying up JB’s jewelry gift to me that included a sapphire, September’s birthstone). Today is March 1, 2007. So this is his 19th month, right? I’m not sure how, exactly, except that I’m spectacularly stupid about numbers, but I think I’ve been a month off for quite a while now — thinking somehow that if next month is Month X, then he’s X months old now, and at the start of Month X he’ll then be Y months old.

What? I can’t even understand my own brain-damaged logic.

Do I say he’s 18 months now or 19 months? Is he 18 months until the end of the month?

GOD.

In short: Riley is about a year and a half. That’s all. I’m . . . I’m too dumb to do months.

And in other news that has nothing to do with children, parenthood, or ClubMom-appropriate topics whatsoever, by CRIKEY that’s one hell of a big squid.

——–

TITLE: Deprivation and reward
DATE: 03/04/2007 09:10:25 PM

One of my worries about having another child has to do with the fact that Riley takes two fairly predictable naps per day and then goes to bed for the night around 6:30, where he happily stays, on average, until 7:30 AM. I mean, clearly we’ve got a good thing going on here, why on earth should we screw it all up with some inconvenient newborn?

Time does have a way of passing, of course, and those early days of staggering around bleary-eyed at 3 AM every single night do eventually end. However, I can’t help noticing that some kids are a lot more challenging in this department than others. If we got lucky with one kid who’s a crackerjack sleeper, surely that means the next will be as nocturnal as a hedgehog, and we will all descend into madness together.

Riley was battling a miserable cold on Saturday and had a really hard time getting to sleep. We kept having to go in and soothe him — picking him up and softly singing “Old McDonald Had a Wallaby” (with a boing boing here . . . ) — before carefully putting him back down and tiptoeing out of the room, then five minutes later we’d hear “Eh-heh. Eh-heh. Ehhhhhhhhh. Eh-heh-“, and we’d have to repeat the cycle. I felt so sorry for our little guy, and I wished he felt better, but I also found myself thinking, this is what it’s like with a little baby.

Then I think back to those first weeks with Riley, how JB and I worked out a system where neither one of us went without sleep for too long of a stretch, how those midnight feedings ended up being some of the sweetest times, as I held our bright-eyed baby and the house was quiet and dark and seemed to hold us in a soft, shadowed pocket. How it is that I’m looking back on it now, eighteen months later, and I can hardly believe it’s been so long. It feels like yesterday.

I sometimes think of the various risks involved with a second child, and I picture accepting them, one by one. Accepting these unknowns and potential burdens and discomforts and huge fears, like weights being slipped into a backpack. “Okay,” I say reluctantly, as BIRTH DEFECTS goes in, and FINANCIAL IMPACT, and WORK/LIFE BALANCE. At that point, GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP starts to seem kind of tiny in comparison, jumbled down there with the rest of them.

Well, to my knowledge we’re not expecting a second baby quite yet, and until that day comes I’m going to remind myself each and every night to appreciate Riley’s good schedule. Child of mine, you may be a champion tantrum-thrower, you may be impatient as hell, and you may refuse 99% of what I try and feed you, but by god you’re a great sleeper, and I love you for it.

——–

TITLE: Status update, in list form
DATE: 03/05/2007 08:27:27 PM

Words Riley can (sort of) say:

— Bottle (it’s actually a cup, but I guess it’s doomed to be a “Ba ba” forever)
— Cheese
— Cat
— Dog
— Teeth
— Belly
— Ball
— Bird
— Moon
— Hat
— Maisie
— Backpack
— Dada
— Mama
— Bear
— Elmo
— Chair
— Shoes
— Antidisestablishmentarianism (what?)

Books Riley loves to have read to him:

— None, because he likes to point things out (“DA!” “Yes, that IS a dog.”) and will not tolerate boring diversions like plotlines or dialogue. I hope this changes at some point, because the whole charm of “Good Night Moon” is the sweet bedtime story, and I feel like I’m missing out on some Tender Childhood Ritual because instead of me whispering “Good night mittens, and good night kittens,” I’m saying, “Yes, that IS the moon,” as Riley yells “MAH!” in my ear.

Horrible thing JB has been teaching our son:

— How to remove his (Riley’s) own diaper. I KNOW. W the everloving F.

Foods Riley has been disgusted by so far this week:

— Delicious cheese tortellini, which is not allowed on my diet (sob) and I had to just watch him NOT EAT IT
— Bananas, which he loved with all his heart and soul last week
— Pretty much everything except macaroni and cheese

Most entertaining toy, like, ever:

408409776_4f4ab89abc

Weird things Riley loves to do:

— Spin in circles saying “Ehhhhhhhh,” then fall flat on his face
— Hurl himself into one couch, then the other, back and forth, over and over
— Run like his hind end is operated by some remote control set to “Spastic”
— Let the last mouthful of food fall from his lips onto the tray, every. single. time.
— Contemplate something he shouldn’t be touching, and say “No no no no,” wagging his finger back and forth, before (of course) trying to touch it

Amount we’ve been enjoying him lately:

410430272_b93a990764

A LOT.

——–

TITLE: Choices
DATE: 03/06/2007 04:44:26 PM

As a mom who works outside the home three days a week, I sometimes hear from new mothers who are contemplating their post-baby options. I can only share my own experiences, because it’s such a different choice for different families. Lots of moms I know stay home, and that’s the choice that works best for them. I choose to go to an office part-time, and that has worked best for us.

I did want to share some of the benefits I get from working, just some things I don’t really see people talking about. I think sometimes as mothers we don’t like to admit that anything could ever trump having the chance to be with our kids full-time, but in my case — and again, I want to be clear I’m only speaking for myself — there are some big reasons I’m happy with the way things are.

Sanity. I don’t do well at home full time. I just don’t. I get lonely and I don’t shower all day and I have no sense of schedule whatsoever. I’m pretty sure that if I stayed home, eventually I would become depressed and withdrawn and my parenting abilities would dwindle along with everything else.

Balance. I get fulfillment out of my office job that I cannot replicate at home. It is important to me that I be a good mother, but I also feel a need to pursue my other interests. It’s not that I think my job duties are more important (I do not think this AT ALL), but there are work-related things I think I’m good at and it feels important to me to be able to do them. Some women view motherhood as their dream job, and being able to focus on that full-time is awesome for them. That’s a fantastic situation, but it’s different from mine. I don’t love my babe any less than those women love their children, I just have a different set of needs.

Money. Okay, I’m not just talking about the ability to pay the mortgage, although that is certainly a plus. I’m talking about having enough income to be aggressive about savings, to make investments, and to cover unforeseen expenses. I’m also talking about being able to make frivolous purchases now and then without worrying about it. For us, having that kind of financial freedom means we don’t argue about money. In the past, being worried about money has put an enormous strain on our marriage, and my income — part-time though it is — makes a major difference in our collective stress levels.

Harmony. Working has been beneficial for our marriage in a lot of ways. I don’t feel resentful of my husband’s job, or his ability to leave the house and interact with adults while I stay home. I don’t feel as though since he is the only one earning money, I don’t get the same say on how we spend it. I don’t begrudge him the opportunity to go pursue his own interests on the weekend, because the weekend is the only relief I get from childcare. (Again, I’m only speaking about my own challenges, I’m not saying those are common issues for the SAHM.) Parenthood is hard enough on a marriage, and I’m glad we don’t have to tackle those particular bugbears on an ongoing basis.

All that said, I realize our situation is made up of a phenomenally lucky set of circumstances: I still get 2 days at home with Riley; my job is incredibly flexible and totally accommodating to daycare, sickness, appointments, etc; Riley’s daycare is great and provides him with an environment we’re really pleased about.

My house of cards could shift at any time, and our choices could change. It’s all about finding the best option for your family, and checking in from time to time — is this still working for me, for everyone else? — because we all deserve to be happy, right? We all take different paths to get there, but we all deserve to feel good about ourselves and our choices.

——–

TITLE: Television: teacher, mother . . . secret lover
DATE: 03/08/2007 12:31:14 PM

You know, I actually really like Blue’s Clues. It’s never too annoying, I find Steve oddly charming (with his googly eyes and nerd haircut), and the little songs get stuck in my head (“Now it’s time for so long . . . but we’ll sing just one more song . . . “). I am particularly fond of Mrs. Salt and Mr. Pepper and their sultry French accents.

I do not, however, like the newer Blue’s Clues with JOE. It’s just no good, it’s like biting into what you think is a grilled cheese sandwich and discovering it’s made out of dogshit.

Okay, maybe it’s not quite that bad . . . but Joe is poor, poor substitute for Steve. Even the SONGS are different on Joe’s show. Hate.

I’ve been looking around for some other shows to record so we always have a few choices on hand when we need a televised soporific for the boy (judge me if you like, but at least I’m not felling him with a neck-dart of Demerol, which is frankly what I’d really like to do on some tatrumy pre-nap afternoons) and yesterday I was clicking around on the guide looking at the Noggin network and Sprout and all that and I was turning down the Wiggles (too freaky), the Backyardigans (crappy computer animation too horrifying), and Sesame Street (too dissimilar to the Sesame Street of my youth) and I found Clean House.

Clean House, if you aren’t familiar, is a show about people whose houses appear to be inhabited by mentally unstable hoarders whose dead bodies are eventually discovered under a massive pile of newspapers, and the Clean House Team, hosted by a television personality who looks and acts exactly like a drag queen (I mean this in a good way), comes in and transforms their unspeakably filthy hovel into a totally livable environment with lots of festive primary wall paint colors.

It was quite fantastic, in a super-cheesy kind of way, and while Riley totally dismissed it in favor of merrily scraping a dining room chair back and forth across the floor, I was nicely entertained. I recommend this show as a boring-afternoon distraction, because if nothing else, your own house will look so amazing in comparison you will be filled with pride. Also, it beats the hell out of JOE.

——–

TITLE: Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto
DATE: 03/09/2007 08:51:54 AM

If your child got his hand stuck inside a toilet paper tube and started wailing in dismay while thrashing his little Robo-Tube-Arm around, would you:

A) Cluck sympathetically and rescue him, stat

B) Create a learning opportunity out of the experience and teach him how to pull his own hand back out, using flash cards and baby sign language. Later, tour a toilet paper tube factory.

C) Release a saliva-laden bray of laughter that startles the dog, and run off to find the camera.

30807_tube

Okay, so I did the laugh-and-photograph-for-humorous-purposes thing, but there were flash cards later, I SWEAR.

Sort of.

Well, there was a flash on the camera.

*cough*

——–

TITLE: The old gray mare
DATE: 03/11/2007 07:54:03 PM

Weekends sort of suck, sometimes.

There are long, boring stretches of time when even the charm of a toddler who has just learned how to “jump” (his feet don’t actually leave the ground, which makes it extra hilarious) grows tedious and all the adults want to do is anything but this.

You can leave the house, but only by virtue of a strategic plan that involves careful timing, a collection of foods and liquids and distractions, and a destination that’s toddler-friendly, which rules out 99% of the places you’d like to go. You can negotiate your individual outings — a brief run to the dive shop or bookstore while the other parent stays home — but the days of you and your husband dilly-dallying around town together, lingering in coffee shops and watching matinees, deciding on a whim to drive to Mt. Rainier for a hiking trip, well, those are over for now.

Weekends were once a couple of relaxing days off from work and responsibilities, but they sure aren’t now. Now they’re 48 exhausting hours of toddler-wrangling, housework, and chores that don’t get done during the busy week, without breaks for self-indulgence. Weekends remind you of what you gave up when you became a parent, even while you take pleasure in everything you gained.

Here’s the part where I’m supposed to go all shmoopy and minimize my complaints by saying that it’s all worth it and I wouldn’t change a thing and even the toughest times are the BEST times, but I’m not going to, because yeah yeah yeah yeah YEAH of course it’s worth it or we’d all be packing our children into mailing tubes and tossing them into FedEx pickup containers and briskly brushing off our hands and driving directly to the 5 PM showing of 300; I’m just going to say this: the weekends aren’t what they used to be.

That’s why we’re teaching the boy to give back massages. Hey, it’s the least he can do, right?

Backmassages

——–

TITLE: Name of the game: distraction
DATE: 03/14/2007 09:06:21 PM

These days it’s getting a little easier to communicate with Riley. He’s not what you’d call verbal, exactly, but he’s starting to use more words (the most pathetic being “no more”. Diaper changes and healthy food options are now invariably met with a moaning cry of no mo, no mo, no mo!) and he’s being much clearer about what he wants by using an ingenious combination of shrieking, pointing, turning bright red, and occasionally issuing a series of rapid-fire explosives from his rear end.

While he’s becoming more clear about his demands, he’s also losing the ability to be distracted from the object of his desire. I should have been more appreciative of the days when he had the attention span of a fruitfly and could easily be diverted from whatever he was bleating about, because now when he zeros in on something I don’t want him to have (deadly toxins, sharp knives, the goddamned corn popper toy that gives me a throbbing pain behind my left eye) we are doomed, DOOOOOMED to endure a lengthy viewing of the Riley Show, Starring Riley, Featuring Great Vengeance and Furious Anger. No small amount of frantic “hey-look-something-shiny!” parental cavorting will immediately pry his attention elsewhere, and so we must go to greater and greater lengths to sideline a tantrum.

Have you seen the King Kong remake with Naomi Watts? Remember when she was dancing and doing pratfalls and generally trying to save her life by entertaining the big ape? Yeah, that’s a familiar scene in my house. “Look, Riley! Mama is jumping up and down! See her various un-toned body parts flapping in the breeze! Ha ha ha ISN’T THIS FUN?”

It’s a challenging stage when a toddler knows exactly what he wants but doesn’t have the ability to 1) understand why playing with the cheese grater might not be a good idea, or 2) be reasoned with in any way shape or form. Diversion is still a more viable option than lengthy explanations of how cheese graters can give owies, but man, it takes a lot more work than it used to.

Soon I’ll be able to add standup comedian, interpretive dancer, Broadway singer, and performance artist to my parenting resume, and at that point I think a raise is in order, don’t you? Or at the very least, hazard pay.

——–

TITLE: Shine on you crazy diamond
DATE: 03/16/2007 07:00:00 AM

Can you imagine if you spent one whole day behaving exactly like a toddler? Where every social filter you own completely disappeared along with the ability to regulate your emotions and control your bowel functions? You’d spend the day hurtling at breakneck speeds from deranged joy to bleakest sorrow, shrieking and giggling and sobbing and randomly pooping your pants, until someone finally dragged you away and slapped a straitjacket on you.

Toddlers are weirdos, and that’s all there is to it. It’s like living with a tiny deranged human whose meds stopped working a long time ago and now the voices are back and LOUDER THAN EVER.

They babble incoherently, they throw themselves against sofas yelling “BOOO!”, they flip out and cry when it takes them longer than .0004 seconds to peel a magnet off the fridge, they laugh themselves sick over things that frankly are not THAT hilarious, and they cram all sorts of non-edible objects in their mouth. They love a certain food one minute and despise it the next. They constantly smack their heads into things and they run like a malfunctioning robot.

Raising a toddler is like falling to the very bottom of the rabbit hole, where everything is psychedelic and there’s always maniacal circus music playing somewhere. There’s nothing to do but succumb, and let go of your version of reality in favor of this crazy toddler existence.

Up is down! Black is white! String is cheese is good! I mean string cheese is bad! Turn on, tune in, drop out!

I knew that high school drug experimentation would come in handy someday. I wasn’t just being rebellious and escaping reality by altering my consciousness, I was planning ahead.

——–

TITLE: Sustenance limited
DATE: 03/18/2007 07:38:11 PM

The common advice for mothers who are slowly being driven insane by their picky-eater toddlers is “Don’t worry, he/she won’t starve”. I agree that it’s useful to keep some perspective and remind yourself when Junior throws the peas at the dog for the 39537105th time that it’s not, in the grand scheme of things, That Big of a Deal. However, speaking from personal experience, a kid who skips a meal is a ticking time bomb of crankiness and evil, and if you don’t figure out what it is they’re willing to ingest, you are SO SCREWED.

Plus, there’s the whole utter feeling of failure if you can’t feed your kid. I mean, it’s one of only core responsibilities of motherhood we can all agree is totally necessary. Give him love, don’t drop him down a well, provide him with the food that’s necessary for his physical survival — it’s a no-brainer, right?

Well, it doesn’t feel like a no-brainer when your child has rejected 17 food choices and you’re seriously considering saying to hell with it all and installing an IV drip. In fact, it feels more like MIT-level advanced mathematical theory, and all I can say is I flunked basic algebra so I am at a major disadvantage here.

Also! May I just say for the record that those who feel compelled to criticize the food choices desperate mothers end up allowing their children to eat should be sentenced to six straight months of their own children refusing every single food on earth with the exception of french fries. See how your hubris tastes then, Judgey McCastaStone (hint: salty, like your tears!).

Tonight my own child systematically shoved aside cheesy risotto, chicken noodle soup, and fresh fruit, and so his dinner consisted of saltine crackers with peanut butter. Which wouldn’t be so bad, except that was his dinner last night. And lunch the day before.

I’m resigned to the fact that mealtimes are just a pain in the ass for now, and sometimes Riley is going to live on kisses and peanut butter (and whatever nutrition a sucked-on pajama sleeve has to offer). I do have a question that I plan to ask Riley’s pediatrician at his next visit, but since you’re here now and often far more helpful than she is: should I be giving Riley a vitamin? And if so, how? I bought some Flintstones which JB and I are now dutifully chewing each day, but Riley gives those the same treatment he gives all other food he deems unworthy, which is to say he spits it out and makes a face like someone dropped a banana slug in his mouth. I even tried dissolving one in water, but apparently they are formed out of citrus-flavored cement because it just sank to the bottom like a Wilma-shaped rock.

Any help is appreciated! In the meantime, I’ll just be cleaning peanut butter out of the couch. And the DVD player. And the dog’s tail.

——–

TITLE: Boo boo what?
DATE: 03/20/2007 03:01:52 PM

We started calling Riley “Suctopus” when he was a newborn, primarily because of his tentacle-like waving appendages and the sucking-mouth thing all babies do (I loved it when he sucked in his sleep, making that little tok-tok-tok sound), and boy has it stuck. We still use that nickname every single day, as in “Jeeeeeesus, the Suctopus was a real pain in the butt all morning long.”

Variations include Suctopod (I don’t know), Fatopus (when he puffs out his belly), Badtopus (a Badtopus pushes the DVD buttons even though he’s been told NO 34612 times), and Smartopus (Smartopuses are clever enough to know which of the forty jillion truck pictures is the skid steer, although they still reliably smash their head on the dining room table).

I even find myself using suctopus as a common noun for babies and toddlers. “Aw, look at that suctopus over there.”

We also call him The Boy, Rye-back, and although I don’t normally get too insipid with the baby talk, my own personal pet name for Riley is . . . okay, this is embarrassing . . . Boo Boo Bunny. Yes. Example:

Me: “Who’s a Boo Boo Bunny?”
Riley: “Boo boo ba!”
Me: “That’s RIGHT, you’re my little Boo Boo Bunny! Who’s a boo boo boo boo boo boo bunny? RILEY is!”

*collective horking sound from readers*

Anyway! What goofy nicknames did you give your kids? Surely I’m not the only one who has saddled my child with such ridiculous monikers. OR AM I?

——–

TITLE: Things that go bump in the night
DATE: 03/21/2007 07:20:03 PM

Yesterday when I picked Riley up at daycare I found him curled against a chair, a book propped on his knees. His brow was furrowed and he was flipping through pages. It was an utterly charming image, and for a moment I basked in our good fortune to have found a daycare where he is obviously thriving and learning. Then he looked up, and I saw a lump on his head the size of a cantelope.

“Hi,” said one of the younger teachers, her face clearly worried. “Um, Riley had an accident today.”

Apparently he slipped and fell against a table or possibly hit his head on a toy on top of the table, they weren’t sure. The daycare had filled out an incident report, which described what they knew about the accident and their actions afterwards (taking him out of the busy environment to be soothed, putting ice on the swelling), and I felt okay about it. Kids fall. I’ve seen him fall a million times at home, and it’s just our own luck that he hasn’t smashed his face against the pointy glass TV stand, or the unforgiving brick hearth.

JB felt differently about it. When he got a look at the giant, tender bump on Riley’s forehead, he was downright pissed. In his opinion, the daycare people should have been watching Riley better. He brought up the few other times Riley has come home with small bruises, and wondered whether there are too many kids for the teachers to properly manage.

I feel so weird that JB is concerned and I’m not. It seems like I should be the one flying into Mama Bear mode, and yet while I wish I could make the boo-boo go away (the swelling has gone down but a large bruise remains) I just don’t feel like anything out of the ordinary happened. I don’t know how anyone could keep a toddler under such strict observation that they avoid all accidents. Could Riley have hurt himself like that at home? Absolutely, I don’t have my eyes on him every minute of the day.

I guess it’s the fact that it happened without one of us being there that bothers JB. We don’t know exactly how it happened, because we didn’t see it ourselves. It’s impossible to know for sure whether it could have been avoided.

What do you think? Would you be angry at your daycare if your kid got hurt there?

——–

TITLE: Attendance mandatory
DATE: 03/22/2007 04:55:36 PM

Your comments on Riley’s daycare injury were really helpful for me, so I’d like to thank you once again for taking the time to share your insight. It is always, always appreciated.

:::

The other evening Riley was in a particularly tired, cranky frame of mind and we suffered through about an hour of increasingly fragile behavior (where the slightest frustration or gentle breeze immediately resulted in a complete and total meltdown) before taking him to bed, where he punctuated every normally pleasant end of day activity — pajamas, diaper change, soft lighting and family hugs — with a series of horrible screams, the kind of sound you might hear if you looped the Psycho soundtrack with someone methodically scraping a blackboard to pieces.

After we put him down and tiptoed away, JB and I looked at each other and simultaneously puffed our cheeks out. “Can you believe,” JB said, “we just . . . deal with that?”

He meant that not in a “we should really be beating the child with large metal batons whenever that happens” way, but in an observation of the relentless nature of parenthood. One minute everything is smiles and sunshine, the next there is screeching. Whatever it is you might like to be doing — relaxing after work, having a stress-free dinner, surfing the web — is trumped, wholly, by a mercurial creature with an iron set of lungs.

Parenthood in three words: you must attend. No matter how exhausting it is, or boring, or irritating. If I had to say what the hardest part of being a mother is, that would be the blue ribbon winner right there. You must be present, you must deal with it, you must attend. Day in and day out, and not just when the boy is giggling and making motorboat noises while twinkling his eyes at you like the charming urchin he can be, but also when he’s a rotten little monster who should be fed to hungry wolves.

When you step away from your life and peer in, just for a moment, isn’t it sort of amazing that you’re doing this hard-ass job? With no smoke breaks or vacation time or out-of-office lunches? JB’s right, can you believe what we’re dealing with here?

I think we should take more time to be proud of ourselves. We should turn down the guilt and pressure, and focus on our own accomplishments. Did I make it through the day without screaming a bad word in the presence of my small child? GOLD TROPHY, PLEASE.

I believe strength is an inevitable byproduct of parenthood. Our reserves deepen, our patience grows and our hearts expand. Because here we are, attending. All the time.

——–

TITLE: At loose ends
DATE: 03/26/2007 07:40:09 PM

I’ve mentioned before that Riley tends to prefer JB’s company over mine — this has been the way of it for quite a while, and I’ve mostly made my peace with the fact that I am second fiddle for now.

Lately, though, I’m starting to think we have a problem. It seems like Riley has become more and more attached to JB, to the point where I am a completely unacceptable substitute. If JB is around, then JB is who Riley wants, and if JB makes himself briefly unavailable, then we’re in for a full-scale meltdown.

Tonight I picked Riley up from daycare, and he was in a great mood all the way home. When we got to the house, JB hadn’t arrived yet, and Riley and I played in the driveway — I blew soap bubbles for him while he shrieked with joy and yelled “Ba boll! BA BOLL!”.

Then JB pulled up, and I was forgotten. When JB took a minute to move some stuff from his truck into the garage, Riley burst into ear-splitting tears, and when I tried to comfort him he swatted me.

Later, JB said we should try and break the habit, and so he refused to read Riley’s book for him. “Go to Mama,” he pleaded, while Riley shrieked and sobbed and whimpered “Dada, Dada, Dada” over and over.

I picked him up, and he thrashed in my arms, trying his hardest to get away from me and back to his dad.

(Hoo, boy. I knew I wouldn’t make it to the end of this entry without crying.)

I told JB to go ahead and leave the room, and I took my wailing son into his bedroom and did his normal bedtime routine, while tears streamed down his face and he went into full-fledged screaming hysteria (hiccuping, choking, totally unfocused and out of control). Finally he laid on my chest, his body quiet but still crying, still moaning “Dada, Dada”.

I put him to bed and he cried for another ten minutes before the room finally went silent.

This behavior is absolutely breaking my heart, but if I put aside my own feelings, I’m still concerned — we both are, because this isn’t a happy way to parent for either of us. JB doesn’t want Riley to glom onto him all the time, because it’s exhausting for JB. Neither one of us wants to repeat a night like tonight.

I have absolutely no idea what we should be doing to improve the situation. JB thinks we should “force” Riley to go with me when he’s screaming for Dada, which I’m willing to do only if it will actually help — because having your own son flipping out and crying while he’s enduring the horrific burden of being near your side instead of his father’s is . . . well. It fucking sucks, pardon my french.

If any of you have dealt with something like this, I sure would love to hear from you.

——–

TITLE: MUH! MOO! MA!
DATE: 03/27/2007 07:58:24 PM

If Riley was a nightmare last night, he was the sweetest of dreams tonight. He was utterly charming, and spent his time before bed reading a book with me and crawling into my lap for hugs. JB said, with no small degree of wonder, “It’s like he read your blog.”

So that’s good news. I suspect he might be working on a bothersome new tooth — he’s been gnawing his fingers during his more dramatic breakdowns — and maybe that’s contributing to some of his behavior (god help him, if he inherited even half of my screwed-up orthodontic genes he’s probably growing a molar out the roof of his mouth right now).

Thanks once again for your helpful and supportive comments. I’ve seen some nasty sniping directed at women who write about motherhood online, insinuating that we’re all attention whores who exploit our kids for the sake of entertainment. To that I say, well no duh, but you’re forgetting the part about how we can also take comfort from each other and learn from each other’s experiences. Please!

In other subjects, did your kid ever go through a phase of being obsessed with the moon? Riley gets all excited over pictures of moons, and when he sees the real deal up in the sky he goes downright batshit, yelling “MA! MOO! MUH!” over and over and pointing frantically and generally being a pint-sized freak about it. Like this:

Mooooon

I was thinking of buying this for his room, but I’m afraid it would COMPLETELY BLOW HIS MIND.

Do you know of any kid’s books featuring moons? I mean, other than Goodnight Moon, which we already have (not a great bedtime book, really, because of all the yelling, gesturing, etc). I’m thinking a book of moon pictures might just be my ticket to Favored Parentdom.

——–

TITLE: Doomsday predictions
DATE: 03/28/2007 08:46:52 PM

JB’s luncheon conversation, as retold to me this evening:

Bob (father of a 3-year-old and a 1-year old): “Dude, two ruins it.”

JB: ” . . . ”

Bob: “Now that we have two, my wife is never happy when I come home. Never happy. Two ruins it.”

JB: ” . . . ”

Bob: “We sold the boat. There’s never time to take it out.”

JB: “The Bayliner?”

Bob: “GONE.”

Well! I might find that a tad depressing, considering we’re planning to add another child to our own family — but lucky for us, we don’t have a boat. WHEW, EVERYTHING WILL BE JUST FINE THEN.

——–

TITLE: Well, baby?
DATE: 03/30/2007 03:40:17 PM

Things that happened at today’s pediatrician appointment:

— During the interminable wait between the nurse checking his height, weight, etc. and the doctor actually entering the room, Riley gruntingly filled his freshly-changed diaper with the sort of digestive output that requires half a container of wipes, a steely constitution, and a vigorous blast or two of Febreeze afterwards.

— I learned that he’s now average in height, low-to-average in weight, but still sports a South-Park-sized head (90th percentile, good god).

— On no less than twenty separate occasions, despite my increasingly loud distractive blather, Riley heard a male voice outside the appointment room door and began yelling “DA DA? DA DA? DA DA?” before bursting into bitter tears, sending runners of snot all down his naked torso.

— He discovered a childproof plastic lock attached to one of the cabinets, and proceeded to experience the greatest meltdown known to mankind when he couldn’t wrench it free. I have my limits: eventually I ripped the damn thing off and gave it to him.

— The nurse kept asking me questions that under normal circumstances — ie, without a screaming, snotting, pooping baby — I would be able to answer right away, but instead I kept making these mouthbreathingly stupid noises like “Uhhhhhhh” and “Ohhhhhmmmmmm” as I tried to access the flatlined part of my brain that contained information like how many words Riley is speaking and how many ounces of milk he drinks per day and whether or not he can walk backwards (okay, to be totally honest I’m still not sure about that last one).

— When the doctor was discussing Riley’s eating habits and whether he’s learning to use a spoon (sometimes) and fork (not yet because I like his eyeballs just how they are, unpunctured) he also randomly mentioned that we shouldn’t bother giving him a knife for a few years, and I immediately let out this totally inappropriate snort — “SNKKKK!” — because DUH, I mean really, no knives, you don’t SAY, and then I sort of choked on the snort because it tickled my throat so basically I was like: “SNKKK-KAH! KAH! KAH!” like a cat trying to hork up a tennis-ball-sized furball, or maybe like the mating call of some exotic longbilled jungle bird, and I guess my point here is that neither my son nor I managed to present ourselves with any dignity whatsoever during this entire appointment.

Oh, and as the doctor was prying Riley’s scream-hole open with the tongue depressor, I looked in and all I could see were angry pink gums being broken by emerging teeth. His eyeteeth are coming in. His molars are coming in. He’s got like EIGHT TEETH coming in, all at once. This is exactly what the pediatrician wrote on his sheet:

“HEALTHY BUT TEETHING BIG TIME!!!”

You know, that really explains a few things around here.

——–

TITLE: Indicators of growth
DATE: 04/01/2007 09:48:25 AM

At Riley’s checkup on Friday the nurse asked if he was stacking blocks. “Yessssssss,” I slowly, my eyes moving shiftily around the room as I coated the nurse’s clipboard with a fine spray of saliva. “Uh, yes. Absolutely. Why, he’s stacking things night and day, creating giant towering structures the likes mankind has never seen before! BOW BEFORE MY SON, THE ARCHITECTURAL GENIUS.”

The architectural genius currently blowing a glistening snot bubble from his left nostril while methodically pounding his own foot with a plastic cabinet lock, that is.

Actually, I don’t really have any clue if Riley can stack blocks or not, because he doesn’t have any blocks. He had some giant Lego type blocks for a while, but I kept finding them in inconvenient places: under the fridge, dropped casually into the cat’s food bool, deeply embedded in the sole of my foot, etc.

So now of course I’m wondering if I have been stunting his growth by denying him access to blocks. I didn’t think blocks were one of those developmental necessities, like oxygen or healthy food or the Noggin Network, but it was right there on the nurse’s (moistened) clipboard: “STACKING BLOCKS?”

I always feel woefully unprepared for these progress-related questions. I wish they’d ask something easy, like “Is your child able to pull his entire arm out of his zip-up pajamas, so he’s half-naked when you get him up in the morning, his torso partially exposed and most of his sleeve sodden from being lustfully chewed?” — because if that were a recognized milestone my son would be gratifyingly right on target.

——–

TITLE: Rules of disengagement
DATE: 04/02/2007 03:43:49 PM

JB and I watched The Pursuit of Happyness this weekend and while I didn’t really care for the movie (my uninformed 3-word review: foot-draggingly dreary, anticlimactic) I’ve found myself thinking about the story off and on since.

The plot basically focuses on a father’s ongoing struggle to care for his son while enduring all sorts of financial dire straits and running himself ragged trying to claw his way into a better position in life, but it’s what happens (this is not a spoiler) in the first part of the movie that bothered me: the boy’s mother chooses to leave not just her husband, but her son too. She moves from California to New York, for the promise of a job and presumably a fresh start.

I don’t know how much of the story is based on truth (it’s “inspired” by a true story, which seems . . . flexible), but that part of the story stuck in my mind, the way a particularly creepy news story might. How could she, how could anyone choose leave their child?

I know it’s not an uncommon situation. My own father left when my parents divorced, when I was very young, just a baby. He moved from Virginia back to New Mexico, where his own parents lived, and to all intents and purposes he disappeared from my life altogether. I don’t think I was particularly bothered by that when I was growing up, but now that I have become a parent myself it does bother me, because I can’t make sense of it. I can’t imagine looking into my son’s face and saying goodbye. I can’t imagine putting so many miles between us, deliberately choosing to miss birthdays and holidays and, well, everything.

My father and I briefly reconnected several years ago but subsequently had a falling-out and by his choice we are currently estranged. I don’t know if he is aware of Riley’s existence. He missed out on my entire life and now he’s missing his grandchild’s. (My crude but sincere opinion on that matter? Your loss, asshole.)

Neither JB or I would ever leave Riley, no matter what happened in our marriage. I don’t think that makes us admirable people or good parents. Isn’t that just the way it should be — that we would stay in his life, regardless of the changes we make to our own arrangements?

I guess the reason I keep coming back to the subject, worrying at it like a sore in my mouth, is because it is so unthinkable and therefore fascinating in its own ugly way. I’m not being objective or academic about it either, my judgement is loud and accusatory and runs through my head saying how could you, how could you, how could you.

——–

TITLE: 19 months: a partial list of contents
DATE: 04/03/2007 09:36:44 PM

I’m out of blog post ideas tonight, so instead I’m just going to write about Riley. He’s nineteen months old now (I think, as I’ve mentioned before I have a bit of a problem with this age-in-months business), which I can hardly believe. The days have flown by since his birth, in snippets and shutter-flashes and moments of joy and moments of tedium. Soon he’ll be two, my god.

He loves to try and jump, his entire body heaving upwards with the effort, but both feet still planted firmly on the ground.

His vocabulary is growing fairly quickly, he imitates us a lot more these days. He loves to say “no”, especially when asked if it is his bedtime. He says “hot! hot!” when the Eggo pops out of the toaster every morning, or when the microwave pings. Yesterday he said “hot” when I was blowing on my coffee, which I thought was neat.

He loves looking at books with numbers and can pick out and name the 1, 2, 3, and 8.

The sippy cup will be known as a “baba” until the end of time.

He likes to put things on his head and say “ha” (hat), and the way he holds his head so earnestly still while something like a measuring cup or toy truck is balanced up there kills me, just slays me dead. He looks just like my coworker’s dog who will balance a treat on her nose: all cross-eyed concentration and barely contained anticipation of the glorious moment when it can be tipped off to one side.

He gives kisses, sort of. When we ask for a kiss, he gets very still and puckers up, or offers one cheek. He’s busy, you see. Can’t be bothered with a bunch of kissing.

He goes crazy for: his shoes (“Sheh!”), his chair (“Cheh!”), balls (“Ba!”), and bubbles (“Ba boll!”). If he’s playing with us he usually wants to look at books and loudly point things out, or take turns drawing on his magnetic doodle pad.

He reliably eats waffles, Chicken and Stars Campbell soup, string cheese, and macaroni and cheese. Everything else is subject to fits of pickiness.

When we ask him to put his toys away, he will do so, trundling them over one by one to the container in the living room and dropping them in.

He just started sleeping with a cover. Now when we put him down in his crib, he curls up and waits to be tucked in with the blanket, which I cannot stop myself from referring to as a “blankie”.

Each night before bed we say “family hugs” and we both hug him. Sometimes he hugs us both back, gives kisses, and says “Dada, Mama, Dada, Mama”. Oh, our boy.

Every day it’s something new, and sometimes those new things are exhausting and really kind of suck, and sometimes they’re so wonderful I wonder how the earth manages to keep turning, anchored as it is with the sheer physical volume of all the hope and beauty in the world.

——–

TITLE: May have shifted during shipping
DATE: 04/04/2007 08:58:19 PM

I think I have a pregnant-lady fetish.

Wait! No, come back, not that type of fetish. It’s just that I love to look at pictures of pregnant women and when I see a pregnant woman in public I surreptitiously stare at her out of the corners of my shifty, shifty eyes.

Oh dear, this really does sound like the dirty-google-search kind of fetish, but I swear it’s all very wholesome. I just love the way a pregnant woman looks, especially when she’s in that rotund earth mama stage where the belly is all Large and In Charge but it’s not quite so late in the pregnancy that you want to offer her a popsicle and maybe a large comfortable (sturdy!) chair, because jeez.

I love it when some obliging person puts a bunch of their pregnancy photos on Flickr because I especially enjoy seeing how they change from month to month. I guess this is partially so I can compare how I looked at the same stage (note to self: during next pregnancy, try not to gain ten pounds of baby weight in upper arms), but also because it’s such an astounding process.

(By the way, if you haven’t seen this awesome video, I highly recommend it.)

I also LOVE birth stories. Man, I could read birth stories all day long, or just listen to person after person describing everything from the first labor twinges to the horrifying moment when their biggest fear came true and they, oh my god, totally pooped on the delivery table. Most people’s birth stories are much more interesting than my own (synopsis: had high blood pressure, then C-section, then hello baby!) but god help you if you ask me about Riley’s birth because I will admit that the only thing I love just a teensy, tiny bit more than hearing other people’s stories is getting the chance to tell mine.

Oh, and babies, babies make me crazy. Tiny squashed red-faced blobs being carted around in carriers and strollers, sleeping or making that little gritchy bleating sound, LET ME AT THEM. I want to zerbert their tender little bellies and say stupid things like “Who’s a little baby? You’re a little baby!”. And toddlers! Oh, with their round Bambi eyes and their compact little bodies and their constant Godzilla-like trampling. Smoosh! Smoosh!

Once upon a time, none of these topics were even remotely interesting to me. Then again, once upon a time I had never heard of Blue’s Clues, I didn’t think it was normal to manually suction boogers out of someone else’s nose, and I couldn’t hold a 25-pound-weight on my left hip while getting milk out of the fridge with my right hand.

I’ve changed in so many ways, but I wish I could go back in time and reassure the pre-pregnancy me that worried about losing my sense of self after having a baby. “It’s okay,” I’d tell her. “You’ll still be you, it’s just that you’ll have all this extra new stuff too. For instance, you’ll find yourself surfing photos of naked pregnant bellies, and . . . wait, it’s NOT THAT KIND OF FETISH.”

——–

TITLE: Scrambling for the escape hatch
DATE: 04/09/2007 12:42:28 PM

Several years ago I found myself working a booth at the Global Gaming Expo, an enormous casino gaming convention held in Las Vegas. The company I worked for designed bonusing systems for slot machines, and our booth held several examples of the technology running on actual games. There was one particular slot game called Add ‘Em Up, with an attract sequence consisting of seizure-inducing blinking lights and obnoxious music, peppered by a female voice (a sound technician’s girlfriend, I later learned) chirping “Add ’em up! Add ’em up!”.

The day the show opened I had the sort of hangover where you can actually feel your cells shriveling, turning black, and dissolving into a toxic sludge. My head was throbbing, my tongue felt like a piece of beef jerky, and my stomach was threatening to erupt at any moment. I spent the entire day feeling like that, standing in front of a bank of machines blasting out music and lights and noise and “Add ’em up! Add ’em up! Add ’em up!” over and over and over and over and over and over and OVER, wanly smiling at booth visitors and busying myself with the one activity I had been tasked with: removing fingerprints from the gleaming chrome faceplates on the slots.

I’ve always remembered that as one of the longest, most uncomfortable days of my life. Until, that is, JB and I drove home from Oregon last night with a cranky toddler who doesn’t seem to enjoy being strapped into a carseat at ALL anymore, and who never slept more than five minutes the entire time. Specifically, it was the area around Tacoma when traffic ground to a complete halt, and we sat idling in a sea of red lights with six hours of driving behind us and forty miles still to go, and we had exhausted every single option for distraction, including the secret weapon Elmo DVDs, that I thought to myself, I wish I were polishing slot machines right now.

Thankfully, just like all good things, all bad things eventually come to an end, so let us whine no further about the Endless Drive From Hell. Instead, here is a photo of our very happy boy and his beamingly proud grandpa:

Slideboy

——–

TITLE: Big machinery love
DATE: 04/10/2007 07:54:57 PM

I’ve mentioned before that Riley loves all sorts of trucks and construction vehicles; well, today when we got home from daycare there was a giant backhoe loader parked at the end of our street (the city is working on clearing trees and brush from a nearby area). Riley chattered like a squirrel when he saw it, and when I picked him up and carried him over, I thought he’d lose his mind with joy. When JB got home, he even hefted Riley into the seat and let him pretend to drive (Riley: “Bmmmmmmmm!”).

It’s like someone went and hung the moon at the end of our driveway. I wouldn’t normally be thrilled about the presence of a massive John Deere tractor thing lurking in front of our house, but now I hope it stays there for a few more days. The only thing that would be cooler is if it were being driven by Elmo and included a front-mounted bubble machine.

——–

TITLE: Revisiting the concept of being wholesome
DATE: 04/12/2007 04:50:07 PM

Riley has started repeating words more and more often, picking up pieces of our sentences and parroting them back to us. If by chance you’ve read Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, he reminds me of Oy, the billy-bumbler, who could imitate human speech in little (adorable!) snippets.

He says “Euuuuwwwww” every time we take off his shoes, because we like to sniff his socks and make exaggerated grimaces and wave our hands in front of our noses and say “EUWWWW, whose stinky feet?”. He says “Whoooah” when he falls down, and he perfectly enunciates a tragic little “Uh oh” when he drops a toy or his ball rolls under the TV stand. He says “MMmmmmm” when he’s shoveling in a particularly tasty spoonful of macaroni and cheese, and yells “Boooom!” when he hurls himself against the couch.

I’ve been saying it since his birth, but it seems to really, truly be time to make a concerted effort at banning the cuss words in our household. I guess that means no more playing Peaches’ “F*ck The Pain Away” at top volume and teaching Riley to dance along, which sucks, because that was a really enjoyable family activity.

——–

TITLE: Below par
DATE: 04/13/2007 01:56:19 PM

So hey, I was just wondering, am I automatically out of the running for mother of the year if I don’t give my kid a bath every night?

Because seriously, doing a bath is such a messy endeavor, what with the splashed water everywhere and a naked toddler running around potentially peeing at random intervals and the dog getting excited by the activity and trampling soap bubbles down the hall and the eighty wet towels afterwards and the exhausting feeling of having carried out some sort of complicated military operation; it just isn’t a nightly routine for us. Instead, it’s an every-couple-days activity, based on a visual and olfactory assessment of Grime Levels.

I’ve noticed, however, that every single childcare book on earth makes mention of the “nightly bath”, and I’ve definitely heard people refer to their own kids’ daily bath, but then again I’ve heard of “infant flash cards” and “elimination communication” and “kids who eat broccoli” too, and I always just figured those things were MYTHS.

——–

TITLE: Of clippered hair and other morsels
DATE: 04/15/2007 10:55:35 AM

When Riley’s hair starts getting wispy and whooshy like a gone-to-fuzz dandelion, and it begins to require more and more strategic post-nap rumpling to deal with whichever hemisphere has become flattened and roiling with cowlicks, we prepare for the Great Toddler Shearing, an activity that requires the following:

— 1 set of quarter-inch clippers
— A strong, restrictive pair of arms
— An enclosed space
— The ability to deal with sustained howling within said enclosed space (warning! Tiled floors cause echo!)

Riley hates it when we buzz-cut his hair, but he hates with equal passion all head-related manipulations including looming scissors, shampoo, and jacket hoods (note, however, that he is currently OBSESSED with the game of placing random objects on his head and announcing “Hat!”), and since we are neither sentimental about hair nor interested in combing/detangling/raising a tiny Bon Jovi, sadly for Sir Bellows-a-Lot the clippering is yet another great injustice of childhood he must occasionally suffer through (see also: Being Presented with a New Food, Having Someone Ask if It Is Naptime [“No! No!”], and Not Being Allowed to Screw Around With the DVD Buttons).

We all endured the Great Toddler Shearing yesterday afternoon, and I wish JB or I would have captured some video of the moment Riley realized what was about to happen and began to slowly back away towards the bathroom door, his face fixed in an expression of vague nonchalance — la la la, don’t mind me, just caaaasually looking for the exit here. After an exhausting fifteen minutes chasing his writhing upper half with the clippers and no doubt leaving great missed tufts in our wake, our boy had been transformed into the World’s Tiniest G.I.

I always think he looks a little pitiful right after a cut, a plucked chicken with huge anime eyes. But a fresh buzz-cut means we don’t have to do it again for weeks and weeks, which is good news for all involved parties. Also, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of burying your face in a newly-mowed toddler’s head: it’s crunchy and silk-soft and smells like sweet hay.

What an unusually productive parental weekend we had — there was a Toddler Shearing, a farm visit (with PIGLETS! Unfortunately for the sake of blog-post fractal continuity, the Sheep Shearing isn’t until the 28th), and Riley suddenly decided that bananas are on The List of Foods He Will Tolerate. Calloo! Callay! I hope your weekend was equally frabjous, if not more so.

——–

TITLE: Capricious
DATE: 04/17/2007 12:18:30 PM

Maybe it should be comforting, in a way, to know there’s no way we can completely ensure our children’s safety. That so much of life is outside of our control, and we can’t live in constant fear of what might be.

It’s not, of course. I don’t wallow in anxiety about Riley the way I did when he was a newborn (when every breath of air held deadly microbes and the skies bristled with pianos ready to drop onto his tiny, helpless body), but it is impossible not to occasionally feel overwhelmed by the dangers surrounding him. The things we can’t prevent or even predict. And to imagine him making it through all the potential accidents and illnesses of childhood only to have his life violently ended by a man with a head full of bad wiring and a couple of handguns . . . well. It’s unimaginable, really.

The shootings at Virginia Tech have me thinking about my son’s future, about how to protect him as best as I can and how to explain things like this when he’s older, but mostly I’m thinking about those families, the parents whose worried phone calls weren’t answered yesterday morning.

——–

TITLE: Next!
DATE: 04/17/2007 02:33:20 PM

Okay, enough depressing stuff. Can I just tell you that Riley has started saying “Abracadabra”?

I’m not even making that up. Yesterday he grabbed the plastic poundy-wand thingie that came with his toy xylophone and pointed it straight towards the ceiling, then threw his head back and his hands in the air and yelled “ABAAQXZYSAA!” Or something like that.

JB and I looked at each other, looked back at Riley, and said, “Did you just say . . . abracadabra?”

Riley: “AFBQABWAH!” (*dramatic wand flourish*)

It’s pretty bizarre. Either Mondays are Cheesy Stage Magician Day at daycare and no one told us, or we’ve got ourselves the world’s smallest Steve Miller fan.

——–

TITLE: Wednesday confessional
DATE: 04/18/2007 09:38:49 AM

It was such a relief to hear that I’m not the only mother who allows her child to become encrusted with filth for days on end doesn’t do a daily bath, I thought I’d confess a few more of my less-than-perfect parenting habits:

I let Riley get in food ruts. That is, if the meal rotation that he finds acceptable dwindles to macaroni and cheese, bananas, and Campbell’s “Chicken and Stars” soup (just the condensed gloppy part!) then that is by-god what he eats over and over until his preferences inexplicably change. I know I should be repeatedly presenting fresh kiwi and tofu cubes and baked sweet potatoes, but I figure as long as he doesn’t develop scurvy or a visible facial twitch everybody’s doing okay.

I give him juice. Oh, I had lofty ideas about avoiding juice at ALL COSTS, because of the sugar and the lack of nutritional value and blah blah blah. Now he swills it like a freshman with a beer bong. Currently I do buy the fortified stuff that purportedly contains actual juice rather than flavorings, and I dilute it with water, but it’s a slippery slope — surely it will be only a matter of time until he’s running around in a little stained white undershirt, sucking on a Capri Sun Blue Ocean Blast-o-Rama with “10% REAL JUICE” and demanding his turn on the Xbox.

I plop him in front of the TV. Riley gets a hefty dose of Blue’s Clues or Elmo several times a week in the mornings, and I might feel marginally bad about that if it wasn’t so darn convenient. TV means we can actually enjoy breakfast, read the newspaper, and drink coffee. Am I prioritizing those activities over the potential brain damage the television causes? You bet your bippy.

I’m sure I could think of more (I forget about scheduling his pediatrician appointments until he’s past the month he was supposed to come in! We only clip his fingernails when they start to display a permanent band of grime underneath! Sometimes we mock his tantrums by making comically sad faces and yelling “OH BOO HOO HOO WAHHH!”) but I should probably get Riley’s snack ready for when he wakes up. I’m thinking macaroni and cheese, with a juice chaser.

——–

TITLE: Gerber: trusted name in baby food and baby care, or masters of emotional manipulation?
DATE: 04/18/2007 11:02:17 PM

This afternoon the TV was playing a recorded episode of Blue’s Clues and I was about to turn it off because the show had ended (“Now it’s time for so long . . .” Riley: “BYE BYE!”) when this commercial came on that — well, that I had to share.

I couldn’t find it online, so I hope the people at Gerber will forgive me for uploading a video-captured version of their ad. Also, please pardon the crappy angle, the random background noises (Riley, the oven timer, then Riley again), and the DVR overlay.

I don’t know about you, but when I saw this I found myself barking out a totally involuntary sob of gut-punched emotion. The haunting DeVotchKa music, the women breathing, the gripped hands . . . this thing should air with a warning beforehand.

Dammit, Gerber. I already buy your slimy-ass “Pasta Pickups”, what more do you want from me? Go ahead and take my TEARS, you diabolical marketing weasels.

——–

TITLE: Briefly in charge
DATE: 04/19/2007 10:22:03 PM

JB is going to Shanghai next week on business and so I will be flying solo on the parenting gig for a few days. While I’m sure the week will not be without its logistical challenges (I am particularly certain the mornings are going to both suck and blow), I’m kind of looking forward to the one-on-one time with Riley. When he starts wailing for his dad, I’ll cackle evilly and tell him that there is no Dada, there is only Zuul.

Then he’ll be all, what? And I’ll have to explain about Ghostbusters and a nice lady named Sigourney Weaver and look, kid, NEVER MIND.

Riley understands so much these days (well, except for 80’s movie references) I wonder what I should say when he asks for Dada. Lately I’ve been saying, “Daddy’s not home yet but he will be soon!” and I guess that will technically be the truth next week, although “soon” will be more like “in four more days”.

The behavior I wrote about a while ago — where Riley showed such a preference for JB I worried that something might be wrong (or that my heart would simply give way like a building whose architecture had been internally compromised) — hasn’t really happened since. As we learned, he was in the throes of some major teething issues at that time, so I will smartly dust my hands of the notion my son would rather I permanently disappear so that he can more thoroughly fixate on his father, and blame the whole thing on incoming molars.

That said, JB is still the Main Event around here, and I really am feeling greedily anticipatory over the fact that next week I get Riley all to myself.

Okay, so JB leaves Monday morning. Who wants to bet I take back the above statement around . . . say, 4 PM on Tuesday?

——–

TITLE: Fore!
DATE: 04/22/2007 08:03:30 PM

When Riley first learned how to throw, we lavishly praised his efforts and encouraged lots of games involving plastic balls. We thought it was hysterical when he would accidentally let go too soon and a ball would go backwards or bounce harmlessly off his head. If he managed to hurl the ball a few inches in the general direction he was aiming for, JB and I would fall all over ourselves congratulating him and predicting his wildly successful career in the Major League.

These days, the throwing isn’t quite so charming. I had kind of a frustrating afternoon with him last Friday at a local park, when all he wanted to do was scoop up handfuls of gravel and fling them all over the place. At home he likes to lob food items from his highchair, or send toys end-over-end into walls. Yesterday he threw my key fob at me, where it crashed painfully into my upper lip.

When he throws something he shouldn’t, I’ve been saying “NO. No throwing” in what I hope is a stern, yet loving voice (exception: the Key Fob Incident, when the loving part was significantly drowned out by the stern part). I usually try and explain why throwing is not okay right then, but I’m wondering if I’m sending mixed messages by allowing some kinds of throwing (Nerf balls, socks, stuffed animals, etc) while admonishing him for other kinds (rocks, heavy/pointy things, food, sippy cups full of carpet-staining grape juice).

What do you think, should I be universally enforcing the No Throwing Law regardless of the item being thrown, or continue to try and differentiate between acceptable and non-acceptable throwing?

——–

TITLE: Hoping to prolong the inevitable
DATE: 04/23/2007 11:07:43 AM

Riley is 19 months old, and he usually takes a 45 minute morning nap as well as a 1-1.5 hour afternoon nap. I’m very pleased with this arrangement and proud of my son for partially making up for all his obnoxious behavior with his generous attitude towards sleeping.

Disturbingly, I keep hearing these vicious rumors that toddlers tend to ditch their morning nap altogether — usually around 18 months. Every week, I wonder if this is going to be the day he gives up that nap and I can no longer use that block of time for showering, working out, writing, reclaiming my sanity, etc, but so far so good. If nap-reduction is a developmental milestone, I’m more than happy for him to be an underachiever in this area.

Do any of you have an older kid who still naps twice a day? (Never mind that crackling sound, it’s just the tremor of hope in my voice.)

——–

TITLE: Secret lives
DATE: 04/24/2007 11:53:58 AM

I recently discovered True Mom Confessions, and like Post Secret and its ilk I find it both fascinating and incredibly depressing.

True Mom Confessions provides a “me too” feature where anyone can agree with any confession. Thirty people agreed that “I don’t want to be anorexic, but I wouldn’t mind having something pretty close to it.” Twenty-one said they would “. . . give anything to go back in time and hold my precious babies again and smell their sweet milky breath.” Fifteen said “me too” to this: “I never cared much about kids, but I thought it would be different when I had my own… but it isn’t.”

I don’t know how accurate a peek this is into the average mom’s life, but after clicking around the TMC website for a while this morning I kind of feel like I’ve rifled through some people’s secret diaries, and the contents made me sympathetic and sad.

——–

TITLE: Falling short
DATE: 04/24/2007 08:05:33 PM

You know something I feel bad about? My dog. She was our baby before we had a baby. Now she’s just a dog, who scritch scritch scritches up and down the wood floors (after we put Riley to bed OH MY GOD) and sheds everywhere and acts super needy and obnoxious all the time. Our poor sweet Dog. She’s been completely downgraded.

I don’t count Cat, because she is evil, has always been evil, and always will be evil.

On some days, I simply can’t take one more creature demanding my attention, and so Dog gets pushed aside. Here is my public apology to Dog: we love you, we really, really do.

——–

TITLE: This time
DATE: 04/25/2007 07:10:49 PM

Tonight I got in the tub with Riley, situating myself behind him — my legs a protective watery V; the complicated, delicate architecture of his shoulders within my washcloth’s reach. We stayed there for a long time, talking about bubbles (“BA BO!”) and splashing each other.

Later I stretched out on the living room floor while Blue’s Clues played nearby. Riley perched on my belly, occasionally bouncing (me: “Take it easy, THIS IS HOW HOUDINI DIED”), sometimes curling downwards to briefly lie flat on my body. When he sat back upright I saw his profile against the living room window and I was breathless in the face of his beauty: that curving nose, those full cheeks, that dimpled chin.

My delicious boy. The last few days have not been without their challenges, but O, I am so grateful for the brief opportunity to be the only body he clings to. My love is eager and embarrassing.

——–

TITLE: Law of the land
DATE: 04/28/2007 12:43:51 PM

Why is it when your child has a painful diaper rash, it is INEVITABLE they will produce enough poop to fill an oil tanker each and every day, and the consistency of said poop will be of the depressingly gluey sort that requires millions of scream-inducing wipes and leg-crease spelunking?

(Also, as a public service announcement I want you to know I switched from Boudreaux’s Butt Paste to Triple Paste in an ongoing effort to kill this rash, and the Triple Paste is absolutely worth the extra expense. Because Triple Paste is formed of some NASA-grade substance that layers on and refuses to budge and will by-god stick to your Applicator Fingers — and, presumably, the child’s Tender Area — for at least five hours after each diaper change. Triple Paste, I bow to your superior rump-clinging quality, and I fear your potential for mass destruction, should you ever escape your dispenser tube.)

——–

TITLE: Hacking perspective
DATE: 04/30/2007 03:25:57 PM

Riley had a nagging cough a few days ago and I realized how glad I am to be past the stage when every little physical anomaly caused me to panic and obsessively Google the wide variety of physical ailments he might be suffering from (remind me to tell you about the time we put the tip of a lubricated cotton swab in his butt and swirled it around when he was a few days old because we were freaking out that he was constipated; oh wait, that’s pretty much the whole story).

Which is not to say I don’t still power-worry on a daily basis (I carb load ahead of time so I have energy to cover all the big areas: Death, Pain, Illness, and Future Text-Messaging Addiction), but a cough? Eh, as long as it sounds normal and parts of his lungs aren’t flying out of his nostrils with every hack, we’re okay. I’ve found that the near-constant runny Toddler Nose often triggers the post-nasal-drip-type coughing, which his pediatrician told me was a pretty common symptom here in the Pacific Northwest for about, you know, EIGHT MONTHS out of the year.

(What’s up, Arizona? You be looking good to me lately, babydoll.)

A child with a cough is both piteous and annoying. See, toddlers cough the way they do everything else in life: con brio. They haven’t learned to put any social restrictions on their coughing, so they don’t politely cover their mouths or hold up apologetic hands or attempt in any way to lower their volume level; instead, they blare out their cough with wide open mouths, flapping lips, and great volumes of spraying saliva. It sounds the way you would cough if you were trying out for a theatrical presentation of Sickly & Consumptive: a Tragicomedy! — in front of a partially deaf audience.

Can you be both heartily sick of the sound of someone’s cough, and yet intimately familiar with its every nuance and on constant alert for any alteration of its pitch and tone? The answer is yes. You will wish it gone, but you will never tune it out. The overly anxious new parent stuff abates, but vigilance remains.

——–

TITLE: Ball, dropped once again
DATE: 04/30/2007 08:14:52 PM

I was watching the news tonight and they covered this story, about rising cavity rates in young children. I was mentally tut-tutting to myself about the toothly dangers of sugary snacks and bottled water (!) when the medical correspondent lady got all sincere with Brian Williams and stressed how important it was to get kids to the dentist by their first birthdays.

That’s when JB and I looked at each other and went, first? FIRST BIRTHDAY?

Like, as in before they are twelve months old?

And then I said, with the sort of great eloquence you might expect from a mother who just for the first time learned about a health recommendation for her child — one that’s apparently been around for years from none other than the American Dental Association — on the national flipping news, the same news that likes to remind us how to find our posteriors with BOTH hands:

“OH, SHITBALLS.”

——–

TITLE: The Happiest Neanderthal in the Cave
DATE: 05/03/2007 12:17:08 PM

I received a copy of The Happiest Baby on the Block as a shower gift when I was pregnant with Riley, and after he was born we dutifully tried some of the tricks the book recommends: swaddling, jiggling, making a loud “SHHH” sound in the baby’s ear, gripping the baby with a firm football hold and snapping the baby deep into the end zone before running at top speed in the other direction, etc.

Some of these things kind of worked, or at least they provided a welcome distraction from all the new-parent insanity, which was useful. I have some fond memories of JB and I perfecting different methods of balancing Riley — wrapped like a bean burrito — on our laps and using our legs to gently bounce him around. Usually while watching Deadwood, because hey, what could be more appropriate in the innocent, beautiful presence of a newborn than a TV show heavily featuring a word that rhymes with “clocksucker”?

Anyway, the other day at the used bookstore I noticed that Dr. Karp has yet another parenting tome available: The Happiest Toddler on the Block. I bought it and started reading the first part of the book, which essentially says that toddlers are like cavemen and when they’re tantruming you should talk to them in caveman language, or as he calls it, ‘toddlerese’. Forget all that nonsense about gently acknowledging their frustrations and offering distractions, according to Dr. Karp you should get right down on the floor with your screaming kid and talk in short, grunting, repetitive words.

After reading some of the example language, I gave it a try the next morning when Riley was flipping out because I dared to change his diaper instead of letting him chase JB down the hall.

“Riley doesn’t WANT his diaper changed! Riley doesn’t WANT his diaper changed! Riley says NO DIAPER, no diaper! Riley wants to chase DADA!” I tried furrowing my brow to access a more Cro-Magnon look. “Uh! Uh! Riley MAD!”

Riley stopped squalling to stare at me like I’d lost my damn mind.

JB came in the room and joined in. “Riley MAD! Riley MAD!” He then began sloping around the room making ape sounds and scratching his armpits. “Ooh ooh OOH!”

“You’re supposed to be a caveman, not a monkey,” I said. JB hunched his back and started slapping the ground.

“Ooh ooh ooh ooh!”

Riley stared at us both, wide-eyed. We changed his diaper without further complaint.

So I can attest to the fact that The Happiest Toddler on the Block methodology does in fact work, if you take that caveman thing and really run with it. I’m not sure about trying it out in public, though.

——–

TITLE: Wait, maybe talking isn’t so great after all
DATE: 05/07/2007 12:35:44 PM

(Riding in the stroller)
“Walk. Walk. Walk! Walk! WALK! WAAAAAAAAALK!”

(Sitting in his highchair)
“Down. Down. DOWN! DOOOOWWWN!”

(Gesturing to his cup)
“Joo. JOO! JOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

(Lying on the changing table)
“NO MO. NO MO. BYE BYE. BYE BYE!”

(Pointing to a ballpoint pen)
“Callow (color). Callow. CALLOW. CALLOW! CALLLLLLOOOOOOOWWWWWW!”

(Grabbing at whatever’s in my hands)
“MIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINE!”

(After hearing the word “clock”):
“Cock. Cock. COCK! COCK! COOOCK!”

——–

TITLE: Bad parenting moment #296731048
DATE: 05/08/2007 11:49:38 AM

It was only after Riley had drained his juice cup this morning and demanded more that I noticed the coating of blackish mold on the inside of the lid.

Mold.

MOLD.

OH MY GOD, MOLD.Trophy_2

——–

TITLE: Escaping the good life, briefly
DATE: 05/09/2007 08:59:46 AM

JB and I spent last weekend playing tourist in our home town, and for two entire days we were on our own, without our toddler sidekick. Movies, dinners, long afternoon naps, leisurely walks around the city without a stroller or juice cup in sight . . . it was bliss. Sheer bliss, and while we missed Riley we agreed that we missed him in a very tolerable sort of way, which is to say we never had any desire to cut short our vacation and head home. Meanwhile, back at our house, Riley was enjoying a festive visit with his grandparents, who swore that not only did their prodigal grandson behave marvelously in our absence, he also answered “Bien” when the Spanish-speaking landscaper next door asked him, “C√≥mo est√°s?” (hmmm).

I often think about my life and how it has changed since Riley’s birth, how it’s full of love and a deeper feeling of connection with the world around me and a blessed amount of laughter and heart-shattering joy — and also a million new responsibilities, worries, and burdens. My days are full of hugs and silly games and the miracle of watching my son learn — and endless hours of retrieving balls (“BAAAAAA!”) from underneath furniture, wrangling dirty diapers, being screamed at, and eating my lunch over the kitchen sink.

I wouldn’t trade this magical, boring, beautiful, tedious job for anything. But escaping it, just for a little while — for someone else to worry about mealtimes and naps and diapers and tantrums, where your biggest conundrum is whether to order dessert at the restaurant or back at the hotel (or both!) — that was pretty magical, too.

——–

TITLE: Small victories
DATE: 05/09/2007 07:56:18 PM

In the last couple of days, there has been a LANGUAGE EXPLOSION in this household. Riley has started producing all kinds of words, in a great tumbling rush of new sounds and syllables. Today he said peeker (speaker), copter (helicopter), shirt, noonoo (noodles), box, choochoo (train), meow, my juice, help, truck, gases (glasses), cwackoh (cracker), skirl (squirrel), hat, ball, poon (spoon), booscoos (Blue’s Clues), teeth, blocks, shoe, outsigh (outside), and walk.

Then, after I cursed under my breath when I discovered a cache of smashed food in the highchair seat, he said, “Oh shit! Shit shit shit. Oh shit.”

I thought about feeling bad, but then a voice in my head said, well, at least he isn’t drinking MOLD.

——–

TITLE: The shuffling calendar breeze
DATE: 05/13/2007 11:21:16 PM
—–

Look, “Riley” made me a card featuring a few of his favorite things (moon, dog, stars, and BABBOS!):

Mdaycard

I can’t believe I was a mother last year at this time, too. Wasn’t I just pregnant? Didn’t Riley just learn how to crawl? I hate to be such a cliche, but how can time be going by so quickly?

Happy Mother’s Day to my fellow comrades in arms. I’m so glad to be on this fast-forward, bumpy, astoundingly awesome ride with you all.

——–

TITLE: Rage against the pajamas
DATE: 05/14/2007 04:06:54 PM
—–

You guys had some great advice for our night stripper situation, although I have to say there’s no way in hell I’d let Riley sleep in his diaper without using duct tape, superglue, and possibly a staple gun to ensure the diaper’s integrity. While I would normally encourage Riley’s creative side I just can’t endorse finger-painting using poop as a medium, and I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what would happen if he got those Cruisers off.

My gut feeling is that he’s not too warm at night, but that he spends some unknown amount of time between when we put him down and when he goes to sleep just lying there doing Toddler Things — sometimes he babbles a little, sometimes he methodically kicks his crib, and apparently sometimes he wriggles partway out of his pajamas.

Last night I cut the feet off an old pair of pajamas, and we zipped him in backwards. At 11 PM, he woke up crying — he was totally wet from having wrenched the pajamas around enough to screw up his diaper (aiiiieee!), and his arm was sticking out the neckhole. We got everything cleaned up and put him in some new jammies, and this morning his entire torso was through the neck. Below the snap, which was still closed, the zipper was pulled down to his belly button and the pajamas gaped open like an Elvis jumpsuit. Tragically, I did not have the camera handy to capture this Most Dignified Moment.

I’ll try some of your other suggestions, including soldering his diaper shut and letting him go otherwise commando. I’ll also look for a good safety pin that he can’t undo and repeatedly puncture himself with. Failing all that, I . . . um, crap, I don’t know. Maybe he can join the Pussycat Dolls.

——–

TITLE: New levels
DATE: 05/15/2007 08:30:01 PM

My mother used to have an African Grey parrot named Merlin. Merlin kind of freaked me out even more than birds normally freak me out (those gritchy little feet, gah), because he could talk. He had quite a vocabulary, although I mostly remember his version of “You Are My Sunshine” (which my mom taught him, and I realize that makes her sound officially batshit crazy; you’ll just have to take my word that she’s not), and his otherworldly jungle-squawk voice intoning from beneath the cage cover, “Poor Merlin”.

I’m reminded of Poor Merlin these days as more and more words tumble out of Riley’s mouth. It is perhaps the most amazing stage yet, second only to that wonderful day when he could finally hold his own bottle. He can repeat nearly anything we say, which has yielded some unexpectedly funny results.

This morning I was changing his diaper and as I reached for the powder he said, “Nuts”. Because we always powder his . . . well, you get the picture.

As I drove home from daycare today with Riley, I groaned as a light turned red. “Ah, man,” I said, and immediately from the backseat a small voice chirped, “Ah. Man. Ahhhhh! MAN.” It was like having a tiny evangelist back there: “AH MAN. AH MAN!”

He’s talking so much and he’s so sincere about what he’s trying to say. “Hap. Shoe.” (Help, please, for I am having difficulty removing my shoe.) This is a whole new level, I feel like there is suddenly so much more. More Riley. Riley 2.0. Like a parrot, only cooler (and with MUCH cuter feet).

Well, it’s like someone you love beyond all reason and have spent every day of your life with for nearly two years has suddenly gained the power of speech. Sometimes I just say “Hi” to him, to hear him say it back. Hi, nice to meet you.

——–

TITLE: First deepest cut
DATE: 05/18/2007 06:42:59 PM

This morning I took my belt away from Riley (who was wearing it around his neck yelling “NECKIE! NECKIE!–his word for “necklace”) and he immediately launched into Full Meltdown Mode, staggering around in circles shrieking and carrying on. I picked him up and held him horizontally, preparing to ferry him into the other room where I could perhaps distract him, when he suddenly latched onto my forearm with his mouth like a hungry lamprey eel.

Friends, my son BIT me. He wasn’t screwing around, either: he bit hard enough to leave a silver-dollar-sized bruise, complete with an O-shaped double arch of teeth marks.

It hurt in more ways than one (did I not carry this child inside my own BODY for, what was it, eleventy billion months in a row?) and I reacted with severity. I said “NO” in a Darthlike Voice I’m not sure he’s ever heard before, then took his arm and dragged him a bit closer while I spoke directly into his face. “NO BITING.”

A few minutes later, I showed him the bite marks on my arm and sadly told him that he hurt Mama, and that biting was bad.

He became very, very serious and quiet and just looked at me, all eyes. Eventually I told him that I loved him, that it didn’t mean I was mad at him, but that I needed him to understand that biting was not okay and hey! How about a tummy zerbert? And we moved on.

So. I don’t know what I’m doing, here. I don’t know what you’re supposed to do about biting. I just . . . I really don’t want my kid to bite. I really, really don’t.

——–

TITLE: Assault on the ears
DATE: 05/21/2007 12:52:38 PM

There have been no further biting incidents in our household, thank god, but the boy was, frankly, a royal pain in the ass all weekend. He felt kind of hot and he seemed even droolier than normal, so I assumed his cantankerous behavior was due to yet another (!) tooth coming in. To validate my suspicions, I actually pinned him on his back during one tantrum (figuring hey, he’s already pissed off) and aimed a flashlight down his angry little scream-hole, peering around for the culprit — surely a massive, serrated tusk was painfully erupting from the roof of his mouth — but I couldn’t tell what I was looking at. Were those irritated gums? How long had that tooth been there? Was that . . . a forked tongue? Retreat! Retreat!

I realize that at 21 months, Riley has many, many more tantrums in his future, but I find myself feeling officially Tired of All the Crying. Must there always be so much crying? Milk not delivered in .000372 seconds? CRY. A toy briefly stuck under the couch? SCREAM. Air filled with molecules? TEARS.

Second only to a cat throwing up at 3:30 AM, tantrumy crying is the most annoying noise in the universe. From the whining “Eh-heh. Eh-heh. Eh-heh. Heehhhhhhh . . .” sounds to the full-fledged glass-shattering arias, one small child can produce more aural pollution than a Boeing 747. I was thinking, I’ve been exposed to crying on a daily basis for nearly two years now. I somehow missed the chapter of What to Expect When You’re Expecting that told me I was going to experience the equivalent of listening to someone scrape their fingernails down a blackboard/eech a fork across styrofoam/hork up a hairball EVERY SINGLE DAY.

——–

TITLE: Weathering the storm
DATE: 05/22/2007 07:56:15 PM

Sometimes I wish some Child Development Expert would come watch my son when he’s in the throes of an extreme tantrum, just to reassure me that Riley doesn’t have emotional problems.

Because SERIOUSLY. We have reached DEFCON 1 over here, people.

——–

TITLE: Highs and lows
DATE: 05/23/2007 08:58:58 AM

It’s been a rough week or so with Riley. We had the Biting Incident (my arm is still ugly and mottled from having a tiny bear-trap crunch into it; I suppose I should be glad he didn’t break the skin but DAMN), we had some ongoing Fractious Behavior, we had night after night of 2 AM Awakenings, and yesterday evening he pitched a tantrum of such epic proportions I actually wondered if he was going to 1) pass out, 2) explode into millions of razor-edged chunks of toddler shrapnel, or 3) trigger a series of 911 calls from our entire neighborhood, reporting on the abused child whose toenails were clearly being removed with a pair of rusty pliers.

He was not only losing his mind completely and making the kind of noises you’d expect to hear from a goat being sawed in half, he was doing the “DADDYYY, DAAADDYYY” thing and absolutely refusing to even be touched by me. He recoiled from my touch and screamed at the top of his lungs, while reaching pitifully for his father.

Nice, kid. Thanks for that. Yeah, the bruise wasn’t quite painful enough on its own.

After we put him to bed and I swore once and for all that this was it, we were never going to have another baby because holy christ on a cracker, I cannot deal with one more of these (I have made this promise before, by the way, and I always seem to change my mind, which seems like the very definition of insanity), in fact I cannot deal with the one we have. I went for a run and strongly considered abandoning my normal loop in favor of just . . . heading in one direction, far from home.

(Never mind that I can’t jog more than half an hour without dying. I would have been half an hour from home, which is far enough not to hear him scream. I think.)

Then he slept all night without a peep and when I went into his room this morning he greeted me with a giant smile and joyously hopped up and down in his crib. He ate an enormous breakfast without one screaming fit over the diameter of his banana slices and then he ran around the living room giggling. He watched Blue’s Clues while talking to himself (“A coo. A coo.”) and he came up out of nowhere and hugged my legs. He threw his hands over his head and shouted “Dobbybadada!” (Abracadabra), and he handed his cup to me and gravely thanked me for taking it (“Tan too”). He’s got on his Old Navy pajamas with the bugs printed all over them and he looks spectacularly dorky and and unbelievably cute. He kissed me earlier, all slobber and the faint whiff of applejuice and the sleepy sweet smell of just-awoken toddler.

What can I say? What is there to say. Parenthood is crazy, that’s all there is to it.

——–

TITLE: Dating, parenting-style
DATE: 05/28/2007 04:54:52 PM

Nearly every Wednesday, Riley and I head out for a playdate at my friend Ashley’s house. Riley teams up with Ashley’s toddler, Owen, and they charge around like drunken rhinoceroses for a couple hours until somebody (usually, ahem, MY son) cascades — shrieking and snotting — into Nap-Related Meltdown Mode. Meanwhile, Ashley and I sit around and bullshit and occasionally dole out snacks or snag a child mid-gallop to slather on more sunscreen.

A good playdate is a greatly satisfying activity, because everybody wins. The kids are happily distracted with fighting over toys and chasing each other, while the adults can indulge in a conversation featuring both personal pronouns and a refreshing absence of Blue’s Clues references.

There’s a side benefit, too: being around other parents always gives me more ideas for how to take care of Riley. Even if it’s as simple as learning about some food product I’d never heard of (Stonyfield portable yogurt tubes!), or seeing what kinds of toys Riley gravitates towards that he doesn’t have at home (sidewalk chalk!). In fact, thanks to last week’s playdate, this weekend was handily full of backyard chalk-scribblings and snacktime on-the-run yogurt injections.

Plus, there’s nothing like a friend who is also a parent to commiserate with. Like for instance when your discussion is interrupted for the 295726th time by a wailing child.

——–

TITLE: New stages
DATE: 05/29/2007 04:03:05 PM

A run-down of some current toddler behavior in our household:

MINE!
“Mine!” he says, clutching his stuffed bear as though I had attempted to rip it from his grasp in order to perform an Unnatural Act with a Starbucks-branded “Bearista”. “MIIIINE.” MY cup, MY blankie, MY cheese, mine, mine, MINE! Everything is his, including objects that are gently explained as belonging to Mama or Daddy. “MIIIIIIIIINE!” he howls, in desolation.

The Constant Naming of Things
“Cheh,” he says, pointing to his chair, and he waits, his round eyes fixed on your face. For you must acknowledge the naming of the thing, and respond in kind — “Yes, that’s right! Your chair!” — before he is satisfied enough to move on to the next thing. “Book,” he says, pointing to a tossed-aside copy of “Where Are Baby’s Hands?”, and welcome to your afternoon.

The Obnoxiousness
Where did this new scream come from? Jesus, it sounds like some sort of jungle bird being ground through the jet engine of a 747. And what’s with the nonstop testing of boundaries, like when you say “NO HITTING” and he sort of casually smacks at a different object, all the while staring at you to see your reaction? AARGH.

The Extra Serving of Charming
“My. Noo. Shoo,” says Riley, because he has new shoes. By god, that’s a whole sentence, right there. “MOOOOON!” he crows, as you walk past the Port-a-Potty with the cartoon crescent moon printed on the door. He blows staccato, spluttering raspberries and shrieks with laughter at his own hilarity. He takes a bite of macaroni and cheese and loudly says “MMMMMMMM”, in perfect imitation of his ridiculous, hovering parents.

——–

TITLE: SwistleWatch 2007
DATE: 05/30/2007 09:01:54 AM
—–

One of my favorite web-writers, Swistle, is having a baby TOMORROW, and she’s predictably cracking me up as she waits out the final hours:

“I want time to go over my hospital bag list twenty extra times to make sure I’m not forgetting anything that will make me unable to have the baby after all, and I want to re-read the hospital pamphlet so I won’t forget not to get up at 3:00 a.m. and eat a steak. Oh my god, what if I lose my mind and accidentally eat BREAKFAST in the morning?”

Hee. Oh, I can’t wait to hear about this new baby’s arrival, which I fervently hope is as tolerable as a C-section can be (mmmm, delicious painkillers . . . ). Fill up her comments section with some good wishes, will you?

——–

TITLE: Death by leftovers
DATE: 05/31/2007 12:46:11 PM

I’ve been noticing that despite my efforts to develop healthier eating habits, I’m stuck in a loop of self-sabotage because of my picky-ass son. Whatever Riley doesn’t eat, I tend to pop in my own mouth, telling myself it’s no big deal because it’s a small amount of food and I wouldn’t want it to go to waste. Basically I have appointed myself as human garbage disposal, eating crusts of peanut butter sandwiches, spoonfuls of that creamily fattening YoBaby yogurt, the bottom half of muffins. Foods I wouldn’t make for myself as a meal, since I’m “dieting”.

Well, the first step is admitting you have a problem, and if happily eating a piece of waffle left on the filth-encrusted seat of a highchair doesn’t indicate a problem, I don’t know what does. From now on, his leftovers are going in Tupperware or the dog’s willing maw.

Well, unless it’s macaroni and cheese. I do have my limits.

——–

TITLE: In praise of the disclaimer
DATE: 05/31/2007 04:42:34 PM

A while ago I read a blogger’s comment regarding Linda Hirshman’s book “Get To Work” (an argument against women leaving the workforce to raise their children); she (the blogger) wrote, in part: “. . . it is kind of nice to read someone with actual opinions instead of the wimpy “whatever is right for your family” standard disclaimer”.

Yeah, that whole business about not judging other people’s lifestyles is totally WIMPY, isn’t it? It’s just so much easier not to criticize families who make choices you wouldn’t make for yourself, right? Oh wait.

I have no opinion on the book itself since I haven’t read it, but when someone (a whip-smart, uber-educated working mother, by the way) finds it banal, so tragically unhip and tiresome, that many of us evoke the same sentiment — that whatever is right for your family is whatever is right for your family, so mote it be — when we try and discuss parenting issues without passing judgement or starting flame wars it seems, I don’t know . . . kind of like the attitude a surly teenager takes when their intent is to seem thrillingly controversial and cool, when in reality they’re just being small-mindedly obnoxious.

We all have opinions, we’ve all made our choices to stay home or work or do a mix of both based on our individual situations and preferences and any number of outside factors. Why not respect the fact that there is going to be diversity in our choices? Because it’s wimpy? Give me a break.

Beth wrote, “. . . while I may not totally understand them, I don’t question your decisions either.” Word to that.

——–

TITLE: Noo noo and wet chalk
DATE: 06/03/2007 07:44:54 PM

The fact that Riley will imitate almost everything we say has been fantastically entertaining lately. For instance, I taught him to say “DOO IT”, just like Ben Stiller in that awful Starksy & Hutch movie.

Riley also says “Oh man”, “Whoah”, and “Ewwwww!” (when his socks are being removed). He says “Git!” to the dog and “He’p” when he wants a helping hand. It’s like he’s some kind of nano-sized human being or something.

I’ve never cared for the sound of baby talk and yet I find myself using his toddlerese words all the time. Noodles are noo-noo, milk is meek, and sunglasses are goggies. His blanket, god help me, is a bankie.

JB mildly gripes that I should be using the real word, not the garbled baby version, so Riley is encouraged to learn how to say it right. I agree in theory, but in practice I can’t seem to help myself. “What do you want for lunch, Riley? Noo noo?”

His language patterns are evolving every day, it seems. Just since the start of the weekend, he’s got “okay” figured out. I’ve been hearing “no” as answer for so long (even when he clearly means yes) that I am thrilled about okay being added to his lexicon. Now I can run through his food options (yogurt? cheese? peanut butter? uh . . . noo noo?) and I actually get a legitimately helpful response.

It’s exciting, watching him learn so very quickly. This is such a crazy, mercurial, amazing stage.

Also, “wet chalk”, when pronounced by a toddler, is both NC-17 and deeply hilarious.

——–

TITLE: He’s a superfreak, superfreak
DATE: 06/05/2007 12:00:27 PM

God, toddlers are such freaks. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: fuh-REAKS. They’re constantly turned up to 11, they’re an unpredictable mass of crazypants. They’re charming and terrifying, all at the same time. Here’s a sample hour out of my son’s daily schedule:

— When asked if it’s time for breakfast, yell “HOT! HOT!” (because waffles are hot when they pop out of the toaster)
— Loudly protest being stuffed in highchair, insist upon clutching a blanket during breakfast
— Yell “BAAAAANNKIIIIIIIE” when parent attempts to remove blanket for sanitary purposes
— Cry lustily when milk cup does not arrive within .0002 seconds of initial request
— Sniff back tears while stuffing waffle pieces in mouth, one right after another, until entire mouth is crammed with wet waffle
— Open mouth and allow waffle detritus to fall into lap. Giggle.
— Yell “DOOOOOOWN! DOOOOOOOOWN!” until a parent quits crapping around with their morning coffee and hops to
— Gallop insanely around the living room, throwing body against couches
— Spot a ball and scream about it: “BAAAH! BEE BAAH!” (big ball)
— Kick ball towards parents then clap hands and yell “YAYYYYY!”
— Notice parents seem to be trying to read some sort of paperlike thing, so start crying
— Out of nowhere, point outside and yell “BIRD!” (regardless of whether or not a bird is there)
— Scream and laugh hysterically . . . at NOTHING AT ALL!
— Become very focused on a button. Play with button quietly, mouth moving in concentration
— Throw one arm in the air Travolta-style and yell “DOBBY DA DOBBYYY!” (abracadabra)
— Suddenly point to father and say “Dada”, point to mother and say “Mommy”, point to self and say “Riwwy”. Repeat.
— Run down hall after father, crying pitifully because he left the room
— Stationed in bathroom, yell “TEE! TEE! TEE!” until a child-sized toothbrush is produced
— “Brush” teeth, then “brush” toilet lid
— Mysteriously decide to spin in circles, eyes fixed on one point as long as possible during each rotation
–¬†Announce thirst: “BABA! JOO! MYYY JOOOO!”
— Run back down hall, limbs akimbo
— Trip over own feet, sail onto face, wait until parent is present before bursting into loud sobs of dismay
— Mid-cry, start blowing rasberries. “Pbblt! EWWW! PBBBLT! EWWW!”
— When asked for a kiss, zoom face against parent’s, sliming them with four pints of drool
— Say “BYE BYE!” and disappear behind the couch. Pop head back out and yell “RIWWWWWY!” while bent in half with laughter.

Whew. Man, if only toddler energy could be sold in carbonated beverage form. Because I could use some help keeping up with him, for real.

——–

TITLE: Flapping my pie-hole
DATE: 06/05/2007 09:37:13 PM

For a long time I’ve had an office to myself at my workplace, but recently a New Guy moved in (we’re officially out of space, and Workplace is moving in the fall to a new location that is going to 1) be much larger and cooler, but it will also sadly 2) beshittify my commute). He’s a really nice dude and if I have to share an office I’d pick someone just like him: quiet, friendly, not a World of Warcraft fanatic.

He’s also a new dad, and I’ve found that I can barely stop myself when we get to chatting about parenthood. I just want to talk and talk and talk and TALK about babies and kids and sleeping through the night and solid foods and jeez, Linda, shut UP already.

I do make an effort to rein myself in before I get those little frothy spitballs in the corner of my mouth (a sure sign you’re boring the pants off the poor bastard on the receiving end of your monologue), but man, I sure do like to ignore my inbox in favor of blathering about the finer qualities of sippy cup designs. Being the parent of a slightly older child, and therefore having SO MUCH sage experience to share . . . why, I feel like I’m positively bursting with pearls of wisdom and witty observations.

These days I don’t feel like I connect with my coworkers the way I used to. I don’t go out for drinks anymore, I’m only there part time, I don’t even know everyone any more — there are some people I’ve barely spoken to, despite the fact that it’s a small company. So it’s nice to have the shared thread of parenthood with a few people, to feel like there’s still some common ground.

However, I need to stop talking like a cattle auctioneer when the subject of kids comes up. CALM DOWN, SELF. THE SPITBALLS ARE FORMING.

——–

TITLE: Controlled substances
DATE: 06/07/2007 10:34:53 AM

I recently noticed that my neighborhood grocery store has moved the following items from the easily-accessed tampons-and-Depends section to the front of the store:

— Condoms
— Ovulation kits
— Pregnancy tests

They are now in a locked glass cabinet, so you have to ask the harried checkout clerk to go get whatever item you might be interested in. Hopefully you know exactly what you want, because browsing the packages is definitely not an option.

So my question is, why on EARTH would they do this? It can’t be concern over theft, because those are certainly not the most expensive items in the store (for instance, Stage 4 Cruisers cost more than a box of Trojans. Take heed, youngsters!). I find the decision to control these items obnoxious as hell, and boy, I was already pissed off about the Sudafed.

——–

TITLE: Mommycita
DATE: 06/11/2007 11:07:55 AM

I never really liked the term “mommy” — too cutesy, too holiday-spangled-sweatershirty, too often used in a less-than-flattering way (see also: mommyblogging) — so I have always referred to myself as Mama around Riley. Mama sounded more hip somehow, and as an term sometimes used by other adults, it’s less likely to conjure up weird Oedipal connotations. After all, one can aspire to be a hot mama, but a hot mommy . . . blech.

Then the other day as I walked into daycare, Riley saw me and shouted “MOMMYYY!” — and my heart nearly exploded out of my chest cavity and showered the earth with pink rose petals. That word coming from his mouth did unexpectedly gooey things to me. Apparently I have been waiting my entire life to be called Mommy, BeDazzled sweaters BeDamned.

He alternates between Mama and Mommy now, just like JB is sometimes Dada and sometimes Daddy. Sometimes he sits with us and points: “Mommy. Daddy. RIWWY!”

So: my name is Mommy, sometimes. As it turns out, I’m more than okay with that.

Squinch

——–

TITLE: Udon and chalk
DATE: 06/12/2007 08:06:26 AM

I recently discovered a new food item Riley will eat, bringing the grand total up to a “Scurvy Eminent, But Starvation Held At Bay” level. He now loves udon-type noodles, the long sticky kind that are hard enough for chopstick-wielding adults to navigate into their gaping maws, never mind ham-fisted toddlers who sometimes still accidentally ram banana slices in their ear.

Meals are not nearly the struggle they used to be, partially because he does eat more these days and partially because I figure anyone who can make a noise equivalent to a leaf blower with their own mouth is probably not wilting from malnutrition.

It’s marginally helpful that he can vocalize both a positive and negative response to food questions. “No, no” means he doesn’t want Food X (although sometimes it means he does, because Riley is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside a sticky, sticky enigma), and “Okeh” means he’s willing to give it a shot (although sometimes . . . well, you get it).

My least favorite food response is the Finger of Suspicion, where he slowly and frowningly pokes out one index finger to squish the offending item. Squish, squish goes his disapproving little fingertip, and then he becomes distraught — there is FOOD on his FINGER oh my god oh my god — and holds out his hand for me to wipe, whimpering as though I had offered him napalm instead of a ripe blueberry.

Truthfully, I’m not sure where this kid gets off being so damn picky, when just the other day I saw him eat a full USRDA-serving of purple sidewalk chalk.

——–

TITLE: By any other name
DATE: 06/13/2007 08:14:17 PM

I took Riley shopping with me today, and aside from the inevitably tense moments when the delicate balance between a toddler staying mostly entertained while stuffed in a grocery cart and a toddler blatting their fool head off at a volume that shatters the glass doors in the frozen foods section (because you wouldn’t allow them to wetly gnaw a box of fabric softener sheets, THE HORROR) seemed to be at risk, we had a pretty good time. Riley loves to point out things he recognizes, and I found myself using the Jolly Parent Voice — the one with the annoying rising-and-falling cadences — to keep up a constant patter of encouragement. “Yes, that’s the YOGURT! Is that RILEY’S yogurt, with the BABY on it? It IS!”

He was also chirping “HI!” to random people passing by, which I thought was quite charming, if a little socially awkward for me (what to do when this occurs, other than smile weakly at the person who has had a salutation shouted their way). Then a woman approached, trundling her cart up the aisle near us, and Riley said, “HI! HI, MOMMY!”

I’m here to report that it is downright embarrassing when your child calls a stranger “Mommy”, although I’m not sure who feels more uncomfortable in that situation. Me, for having that name I’ve been so thrilled to hear just wantonly bandied about, or the woman, who probably got a good luck at the thriving, tissue-resistant booger farm my son has been sporting all day and thought, I don’t THINK so.

——–

TITLE: Tip jar
DATE: 06/15/2007 09:28:47 AM

Things I have learned since becoming a parent, which may or may not be useful to others:

— If you rub some baby oil on the outside of a bandaid, it will lift right off.

— Blue’s Clues (with STEVE, not the imposter JOE) is a surprisingly non-annoying, charming little show. Forget Elmo.

— The “Swaddlers” brand of diapers is excellent for newborns.

— The only reliable cure for diaper rash I have found is the combination of 1 layer of Neosporin, topped by 1 thick layer of your cream of choice.

— To thread a baby’s noodley arms into their sleeves, shove your hand in the sleeve from the outside and cover their fingers (so their flailing little thumbs don’t break off) before pulling the hand and arm back through.

— You know that removable lid that attaches to the highchair tray? Just get rid of it now, because your child will spend every meal yanking it off, waving it around, and possibly bashing you over the head with it.

— If a car ride turns ugly from boredom, try randomly lowering and raising the backseat windows (as long as you can operate the windows from the driver’s seat, of course). Your child will be mildly freaked out, but at least he’ll stop howling.

— Try and outsource the nail-clipping right from the get-go. That is a great job for Daddy to have.

— Buy a video monitor. It’s endlessly fascinating to see what your kid is doing in his bed, and if you’re really lucky, you can watch the activity in the space station too.

——–

TITLE: Father’s Day
DATE: 06/17/2007 08:58:22 PM

He sweeps Riley up in strong arms and tosses him squealing into the air. They bare their teeth at each other, grinning a mirrored expression of fierce joy. Riley runs into his dad’s legs with total abandon, his face a bright flower.

Later when there’s late-night crying, he puts a gentle hand on Riley’s downy, spiky head and murmurs that it’s okay, that he will always protect Riley and there’s nothing to worry about. Shhh, he says, in our sleepy boy’s ear. Shhh, now. Riley curls his body around his daddy’s lap, limp with sweet tired comfort.

He laughs in true delight at our son’s antics, and he asks me if I saw that, did I see how Riley kicked the ball just now? He bets Riley will be a soccer player.

He fusses over every bump and bruise, every rash and runny nose.

“Nutsh,” says Riley when his dad is changing his diaper. “That’s right,” I hear his father telling him with pride. “It’s time to powder your nuts.”

Riley puts his tiny feet into his father’s big clunky shoes and takes halting steps, one shoe dragging after another. He stumbles but refuses to take them off. “Daddy shoe,” he explains.

JB creates so much love and laughter in our little family. He is loudness and dirty shoes and giant spoonfuls at dinner, and he is the quiet trust at the end of the day. He is protection and planning, and bath-time splutterings and pajamas put on backwards.

My boy thinks his father hung the stars and the moon in the sky. I think, maybe so — he’s the reason they shine so very brightly for me, too.

——–

TITLE: No, YOU chill out
DATE: 06/19/2007 11:53:57 AM

My child is the most impatient creature on the face of this earth. I certainly hope this is a stage because otherwise he’s in for an incredibly frustrating existence as he learns that not only do parents take more than .0001 seconds to pour the milk, but traffic lights sometimes stay red for MINUTES ON END! Water does not boil INSTANTLY! The DMV will suck YEARS FROM YOUR LIFE!

He yells at the top of his toddler-sized lungs over the smallest delay, and he reacts to any impediment — a toy pushed partially under the TV stand, for instance — with what I have come to think of as the Worst Sound in the World, an irritated “Eh, eh, eh, eh, EHHHHH” noise that definitively crosses the line from “fussing” to “whining”.

What is it about whining that is so annoying to listen to? It’s like a physical thing, the whining, that trepans into your skull and makes you daydream about the golden days of yore, when nary a rod was spared in the effort to ensure children were seen, not heard.

We try and encourage him to solve his own easily-solvable problems (“Hey, how about reaching under the TV stand, Riley? Jeez, you’re never going to qualify for MENSA at this rate.”) but the whining is like aural Kryptonite. “RILEY,” I heard JB bark this morning as Riley was issuing forth a particularly obnoxious foghorn-level complaint about the amount of time the toaster was taking. “SERIOUSLY. The mouth, it needs to be QUIET.”

By the way, it never works to tell a toddler to be quiet. Never. Ever. In fact 9 out of 10 times you’ll get the exact opposite effect of what you were aiming for.

So like with most parenting challenges, we’ve turned to humor to get us through. We taught Riley to say, “Chill out”. “You need to CHILL. OUT,” one of us will say, when Riley starts doing his dying-goat impression because the puzzle piece is turned slightly and won’t fit in its hole.

“CHIW. OUT,” he repeats, delighted. Most of the time he forgets what he was so pissed about. “CHIW OUT. RIWWY CHIW. OUT.”

It’s both funny and cute, and almost makes us forgive him for having the patience of a fruit fly. (ALMOST.)

——–

TITLE: Rah ruff ooh
DATE: 06/20/2007 11:46:39 AM

JB taught Riley to say “I love you Mommy”. It comes out a garbled alphabet soup of Toddlerese, and it kind of reminds me of that old Little Caesar’s commercial with the German shepherd who could bark “Ar ruff ooh!”, in that it’s both hard to understand and surely not spoken with purpose and intent, but —

Goddamn if it isn’t the sweetest thing my ears have ever heard.

——–

TITLE: Greatness
DATE: 06/21/2007 09:55:20 PM

I was picking Riley up from daycare the other day and before he saw me, I stood nearby and watched the room for a couple minutes. A teacher was reading a book to the children, who were uniformly spread out in a semi circle on the floor, quietly listening — except for Riley, that is. He was standing, wearing a plastic lid on his head like a hat, and he was loudly pointing out the ducks in the book (“Quack quack! Quack!”). When he saw me he careened directly into my legs, joyously yelling “MOMMY!” and immediately told me all about the hat situation (“Riwwy. Hat.”) before flapping a hand at the class and blaring “BYE BYE!”.

My son is loud. He is full of energy and he’s impatient as hell and he’s rarely content to sit back and observe, he wants to get in the middle of things and talk about them, preferably at the top of his lungs. He churns along at top speed, he devours life in great messy gulps; he’s a splashy Pollock, an espresso-fueled symphony.

Earlier tonight I was talking with a business acquaintance who asked a few polite questions about my son, and I found myself making these stupid jokes about what a handful he can be, and it was a good thing he was so cute, har har har, and I wish I hadn’t felt some kind of silly pressure to downplay what a phenomenal, amazing kid Riley is for the sake of making small talk. Next time, I’m just going to say this: “He’s great.” Because he is. He’s a colossal pain-in-the-ass-tastic, miraculous, horrifying, heart-shockingly beautiful fireworks display of toddler madness. In other words, he’s great.

——–

TITLE: Suddenly: monkeys
DATE: 06/24/2007 09:59:49 AM

It began with Curious George, the cute (yet possibly bad-influence-filled? What with the constant nosy shenanigans and, well, monkey business and all?) cartoon on PBS I started recording for Riley, then we started making monkey sounds during “Old McDonald” (with a oooh-oooh here, and a oooh-ooh there . . .), then I foolishly bought him a book called “Eight Silly Monkeys”. Now we can officially add monkeys to the list of Things Riley Loves Beyond All Reason, which includes:

— MOON! MOOOOOOOON! (Note: there is a drawing of a crescent moon on the Port-a-Potty in our front lawn [we have a remodel in progress, there’s not always an outdoor toilet] and Riley goes into fits of glee each and every time he sees it)

— Peeker! (Stereo speaker)

— Trucks, all varieties thereof

— Baby rocks (small rocks = baby rocks)

— Choo choo trains

— The numbers 2 and 8, and the letters B and E

Monkeys are nearly always drawn in an adorable manner in children’s books, bearing little resemblance to, say, an adult baboon in full estrus. Or a gorilla thoughtfully gnawing on a hunk of feces, which I once observed at the zoo years ago and unfortunately have been unable to purge the memory since (it was eating it just like a burrito, my god). I don’t particularly care for monkeys, myself, unless we’re talking about those tiny marmoset things, but I can see the appeal of the children’s version — round baby-like heads, bendy little bodies. Actually, slap a Stage 4 Cruiser on George and he would pretty much look just like Riley.

——–

TITLE: Bragging rights
DATE: 06/25/2007 02:53:24 PM
—–

The other day I had an acquaintance tell me all about how her friend’s child, who is as she pointed out exactly as old as Riley, can speak in complete sentences and knows all kinds of words and is basically some kind of pint-sized linguistics genius, and it’s all because the kid’s parents never — never EVER! — spoke a single word of baby talk in her presence.

I performed the requisite Appreciative Murmuring (“Is that so . . . you don’t say . . . “) but what I really should have said was, “Aw, who needs to drink a tall cold glass of STFU? Is it you? Is it YOU? Yes it IS!”

——–

TITLE: All in a day’s work
DATE: 06/26/2007 01:24:02 PM

Odious Tasks I Personally Do Not Care For One Bit That My Son Makes 295857291045 Times Worse By Flipping the HELL OUT While I Am Doing Them:

— Applying sunscreen

— Wiping poop from the scrotal area

— De-boogering a slimy little toddler snout

— Wiping macaroni and cheese residue off a cheesy little toddler mouth

— Smearing on diaper rash cream

On the other hand . . .

Everyday Tasks Made Completely Enjoyable by the Joyous, Giddy Reaction of a Very Small Boy:

— Putting on shoes

— Zipping up jackets

— Pouring milk into a cup (“MO MILK! OKAY!”)

— Turning on Blue’s Clues

— Feeding the dog (“Should we feed the dog?” “OKAY!”)

— Turning on, or off, any light-switch in the house

— Having a dental checkup

——–

TITLE: The news
DATE: 06/27/2007 09:16:03 AM

I hope you don’t mind if the next few blog entries around here are focused on pregnancy, because at the moment, and presumably for the next seven months or so, I’ve got pregnancy on the brain. And elsewhere in the body. Which is to say Riley is going to have a brother or sister and I’m seven weeks pregnant and I can’t stand not talking about it ANY MORE.

Common wisdom dictates that you wait a while before spilling your early-pregnancy news all over the place, but I figure if anything godforbid goes wrong with this pregnancy, I would want to talk about that, too. And it’s been getting increasingly difficult to keep it a secret, mostly because I’ve been feeling so lousy with morning (“morning”! Ha. HA, I SAY) sickness I feel like there should be a giant blinking sign on me somewhere: “HELP. AM POISONED WITH CHILD. SEND PEPPERMINT MILKSHAKES”.

We’re awfully damn thrilled, even if I do feel like something the cat horked up.

Let the pregnancy talk begin, by god!

——–

TITLE: Photogenic
DATE: 06/28/2007 08:11:00 AM

Before I get back to talking All Things Pregnancy, please take a moment to laugh at this picture of my son:

Riley_ramones1

Oh, is that not pitiful enough? Well, how about this one, then?

Riley_ramones2

Yes, that’s my boy. Sent to daycare in a Ramones shirt and a ripped pair of jeans, because his clueless parents didn’t know it was PICTURE DAY; clearly living a Dickensian existence, bereft of love and affection and healthful meals. My god, will you look at those liquid, nearly tear-filled eyes? The solemn, cheerless expression? Perhaps he’s not sending a message about the quality of his care at home after all, perhaps the photographer was hovering just out of frame with a large metal bat (you know: beat on the brat, beat on the brat, beat on the brat with a baseball bat oh yah, oh yah).

We’ve had some good Picture Day results in the past, but these? Definitely not going in the holiday card.

——–

TITLE: Pregnancy phitness
DATE: 07/02/2007 08:00:00 AM

In the last few months I really started focusing on my physical fitness and health, by making major changes in my eating habits and adopting a exercise routine consisting of running, workout DVDs, weights, and yoga. I lost some weight, dropped two dress sizes, and added all kinds of muscle. I felt — and do feel — really, really good about this.

When I first learned I was pregnant, I told myself that I’d stay healthy and fit throughout the pregnancy by continuing to eat well and exercise. That was a few weeks ago, before any pregnancy symptoms showed up. Since then, nausea and cravings have set in and a dinner involving salt and vinegar chips has started sounding less like an unacceptable high-calorie, low-nutrition snack, and more like a holy grail. I’m headachy and fatigued, and the combination makes it a challenge to find the energy to struggle into my sports bra (carefully wedging my swollen, sore hooters into place) and do a workout.

So I’m trying to give myself a break. I walk more when I go running, I put in the 20-minute Turbo Jam workout if the 45-minute one doesn’t seem doable. I eat the damn potato chips, because just like full-fat peanut butter they make my queasy stomach happy, and I’m also eating vegetables and yogurt and all the normal good-for-you stuff. And don’t forget that godawful vitamin, the one the size of a Boeing 747 — reeking with mineral horror and slithering down your esophagus as easily as a hunk of sandpaper — surely that disgusting thing makes up for some ice cream now and then?

Anyway, I’m interested to hear any stories about how you stayed fit during your pregnancy. Did you continue to exercise throughout? Did you have to adapt existing routines? Share!

——–

TITLE: Weird desire
DATE: 07/05/2007 08:00:00 AM

Here in the early part of the first trimester, I’m already noticing a number of oddball pregnancy side effects. They’re all pretty familiar to me:

Freakish sense of smell. I can smell one person’s stale breath from across a crowded airport terminal. It’s not what I would call a gift.

Intense food desires. The word craving doesn’t completely encompass the sort of lustful feelings that come over me when I think of certain foods (which are always changing, of course). It’s more like if I can’t get my teeth around whatever food I’m currently obsessed with, SOMEONE IS GOING TO DIE.

Intense food aversions. Mushrooms, Red Bull, undercooked chicken, and runny eggs. Just the thought of them . . . huuuurrrgh.

Crippling fatigue. Man, this one’s such a pain, it’s like I can’t even stay awake long enough to SNZZZZZZZZZZZ

Digestive disturbances. Must there be so much . . . gas? I feel like a friggin’ Macy’s balloon over here. Let us not discuss the occasional, startling release of said gas.

Did you have the same types of early-pregnancy weirdnesses? Or were yours even weirder?

(By the way, I hope you had a fantastic 4th of July, with all the fireworks you could want, including the thing I love beyond reason where you light one end and it goes pbbbblttthh and sort of grows and writhes around, like a wormy little black turd? It is my FAVORITE.)

——–

TITLE: Yelling it out
DATE: 07/07/2007 08:18:25 PM

I’d say about 7 out of 10 times that we put Riley to bed, he goes down screaming. “NO NIGH NIGH”, he’ll whine, despite his drooping eyes and stumbling feet, then he’ll be briefly placated by our bedtime routine — a cup of milk (I know, the teeth, I know), a darkened room, a soft rendition of Old McDonald complete with dopey-sounding animal noises (with an oink oink here . . .) — and then, after kisses and murmured declarations of love and a gentle crib placement and a blankie tuck-in, approximately thirty seconds after we tiptoe away it comes:

“AAIIIIIIIIEWWWWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!”

We have a video monitor in his room so we often watch his next actions: shambling around the crib, wailing and rending his clothes, shaking his tiny fist at the gods, cursing our names, etc. After a short period of time, he crumples into a heap and submits.

He’s always been a good sleeper once he’s down, but it’s rare that he skips the night-time (or naptime) Great Protest. To be clear, this is not crying in the sense of being frightened or filled with despair or anything like that — this is a tear-free angry rant, the furious bleat of a toddler whose will has been thwarted.

So I’m wondering, do other toddler-aged kids do this too? I often think about how some people can’t bear to let their kids cry it out, and I wonder what they would do with our little human foghorn.

——–

TITLE: Haute bebe decor
DATE: 07/09/2007 03:56:32 PM

Next January or February, if all goes as planned, we’ll have a newborn in the house and an eventual need for him or her to sleep in his or her own bed. The general idea is that our remodel will be done by then (please GOD) and we’ll have a new living space in which to move our office, therefore freeing up a bedroom, which will become Riley’s. I imagine New Baby will sleep in a bassinet in our room for a while, like Riley did, and eventually transition into the nursery, AKA Riley’s current room.

I was thinking about all the fussing I did over Riley’s room before he was born, how I got into this fish/underwater theme and bought prints and crib sheets and framed cool photos of fish and you know, out of all the things Riley is really, really into — monkeys, blocks, trucks, bubble wands, sunglasses, ducks, airplanes, balls, apple trees (?), spoons, and shoes — the one thing I don’t think he gives a flying fart about is fish. Or underwater themes in general.

My plan is to leave that room as is, and we can fill up Riley’s new bedroom with whatever thing he’s excited about when he’s a little older (please not Thomas the freaky face-train, please not Thomas the freaky face-train), but I’ve got this horrible suspicion that I’m going to get caught up in the nursery-decoration obsession again, maybe this time doing a Peter Rabbit theme . . . or all modern art and bold colors . . . or robots, dude, robots would be SO COOL.

If this baby is a girl I cannot be held responsible for what might happen. There might be some pink, is what I’m saying. And I don’t even like pink.

——–

TITLE: I.Q. study
DATE: 07/11/2007 08:12:17 PM

Evidence that my son is very advanced, possibly a gifted child, maybe even some kind of budding genius:

— Can identify most numbers between 0-9, correctly counted to nine in my presence once, greatly enjoys pointing out when there are multiples of the same object (“TWOOOO COOKIESH”)

— Knows several letters and can reliably (and loudly) identify them (“B! B! A BEEEEEEE!”)

— Can identify geen, bloo, pink, yerrow, and pootle

— Blew my mind altogether the other day when he referred to an old bubble wand as “old bubbol” and a recently-purchased one, fresh from its soapy confines, as the “new bubbol”

Evidence that I shouldn’t call MENSA quite yet:

— Can be counted on to smack the holy crap out of the back of his head every single time he reaches under a table

— Apparently has no sense of self-preservation whatsoever, as shown by his constant attempts to run off the ends of couches, cliffs, piers, etc

— Continually refuses fresh, nutritious foods in favor of slimy, canned “MegaNoodle” soup

— This afternoon, pointed to the cat’s dusty pawpad and shouted, “A CLUE!”

——–

TITLE: Parenting poetry, part 4
DATE: 07/12/2007 03:58:35 PM

Hey, what’s that smell? It’s so . . . cheesy. Why, it must be Parenting Poetry time again here at Purple is a Fruit. Glutton for punishment? Here is part one, two, and three of this ongoing series.

When you gleefully pound my
breasts with your hands
as though you
were preparing
I don’t know, veal scallopini, or something
And all the while yelling
“Beebees! Beebees! Mama BEEBEE!”
occasionally stopping to
yank open the neck of my shirt
and get a good peek at its contents
I can’t help but think
guess you’re not going to be a leg man.

What am I supposed to do
when you
furrow your little brow
assume an angry stance
and wag your finger at me
saying “No, no, no!”
exactly the way I do when you’re doing something you
shouldn’t be doing?
I hope running away to a secret location
where I can die laughing without you seeing
is the right answer.

It’s been almost two years, my babe
almost 730 days
and on each day
you have had your diaper changed
more than once. more than twice.
Let’s say on average 5 times
(for the sake of discussion)
which makes 3,650 diaper changes.
Jesus.
Lots of them were poop diapers,
too.
(Bad ones.)
I mean
a person could go crazy thinking about it
in those terms.
Ha.
Ha ha.
Hey, you know what is fun?
This potty.

It is a little disturbing
how much more you understand
than what we give you credit for.
Sorry, then
about all those times
I said,
“dicksmack”
without thinking about it.

The other day
when you were wailing because I
took away the rock
you were trying to throw
(at me, goddamn it)
I looked at your little red-tomato face
so angry and betrayed
the tears spilling over
your mouth open in a howl of sorrow
and it was sort of amazing
because I could see your tonsils
more clearly than I have ever seen my own.

The good news is
you definitely don’t appear to have strep.
Bad news is
you still can’t have that rock.

I taught you to say “DO IT”
like Ben Stiller
Your dad taught you to say “TWO! NUTSH!
when he asks how many nuts you have
We also taught you to raise your arms
like a pint-sized bodybuilder
when we ask
“Which way is muscle beach?”
What can I say
some parents use flash cards
and some parents don’t.

I would say I have had a good life
and yet
I want to say that I had not truly lived
until the other day
when you ripped a loud fart
and immediately announced,
“POOTY!”

Listen, kid
it sort of freaks me out when you do things like
say, “Too tight!”
as I’m shoving on one of your shoes
(which is, I’ll admit, getting a little tight.)
How in hell
did you learn the concept of
too tight?
I think you might be getting
too
smart.

Yesterday in the hot sun
I decided to take a chance
and I gave you a brief blast with the hose
on your feet.
I’m not sure what was more satisfying to see
your giddy laughter after you decided it was okay
or that brief unsure moment when you realized that
holy crap
Mama just sprayed me with the freaking hose.

Why does everything you say
sound like you’re
using a bullhorn?
Believe me
the whole world doesn’t need to hear
that you have found
a pinecone.

….

After spending nearly your entire solid-food eating existence
refusing one thing after another
and establishing yourself as a picky eater
the kid who lives on crackers and yogurt tubes and air
then you went ahead and ate practically a half-pound of elk hamburger
the other week
while sitting on your grandfather’s lap.
“This kid is a great eater!” he said, while you begged for more.
Well.
Color me surprised.
I did not know that all along
I should have offered you
grilled Bambi.

You do this thing only with me
where you say up Mommy up, Mommy up!
and I pick you up
and you say
“Eeeeeeeeeeeee!”
and scrunch your face
and cling to me like a koala.
Most of the time you
prefer your dad and you follow him and you
cry when he leaves and sometimes it
hurts my feelings but
I am so glad that
you do this thing only with me
where you say up Mommy up, Mommy up!
and I pick you up
and you say
“Eeeeeeeeeeeee!”
and scrunch your face
and cling to me like a koala.

——–

TITLE: From the P Files
DATE: 07/16/2007 11:01:56 AM

I am feeling much less nauseated these days, almost as though the magical 12 week mark had come and gone. Since it has not (it will be 10 weeks this week), and I am incapable of passing a gift horse without carefully inspecting its molars and gumlines and uvula, I spent some time power-worrying that my lack of gagginess meant something Dire — but have since decided that as long as my breasts resemble MX missiles in both size and sensitivity, my appetite can be accurately described as “ravenous, only more so”, and my belly continues to make progress towards that annoying early pregnancy stage of looking less like you’re knocked up and more like you’ve been spending some quality time near a Krispy Kreme, things are probably on the up and up. I have no idea if one thing is related to another, but I’ve been taking an assload (I believe that’s the correct medical term) of B6 for a few weeks now . . . so if you’re looking for sketchy, unproven morning sickness remedies, there’s my suggestion: try B6. Also, Junior Mints.

In other news, I thought I might escape the Placenta Brain Syndrome this time around, being as how pregnancy is not quite the all-consuming mental hit parade it was the first time around, but no such luck: I can actually feel my brain shrinking (a novel sensation, because it’s definitely the only part of my body currently employed with the task of getting smaller). The other day I found myself mouth-breathingly pondering the waistline on a too-tight pair of shorts, and decided that what would be really handy during pregnancy would be some clothes that are designed to accommodate a growing belly, while being mostly normal-sized everywhere else. In other words, for an embarrassing amount of time I sat there mentally re-inventing the concept of maternity wear. And for a minute there, I actually thought I was being INNOVATIVE. (“There could be . . . elastic! And extra fabric! My god, I’m a GENIUS!”)

——–

TITLE: Nocturnal activities
DATE: 07/17/2007 11:18:22 AM

We’re not quite ready to start potty training in earnest yet, although we did buy a potty and occasionally plop Riley on it, where he sits and gleefully shouts “PEE PEE!” but doesn’t appear to Grok the Concept with Fullness, if you know what I mean. Sometimes he likes to take off the rubber ring at the top and bring it to us, saying “Circle? Circle?” and sometimes he likes to put toys in the basin and say “Bye bye”, but the notion of using the potty for its intended purpose hasn’t occurred to him yet.

That’s fine by me, I have no desire to fast-track my kid’s potty process before he’s even two years old, but I’ve been wondering about something. Riley hardly ever poops while he’s up and about — he seems to save his, er, dietary output for when he’s napping or sleeping at night. I’m guessing this will change over time, or maybe it will stop once he starts learning to produce bodily waste as part of a specific effort rather than having it be something that just sort of mysteriously happens on its own (I’m reminded of the time a while back when he was peeing outside as he ran around diaperless, and the look on his face — like, what the HELL?), but if for some reason Riley remains a Night Pooper — well, do you ever have to wake your kid up at night to offer the potty? That seems weird, and annoying for all involved parties.

——–

TITLE: By any other name
DATE: 07/18/2007 10:21:41 AM

Swistle has a great post up about baby names, and how in her opinion boy names are more difficult to choose than girl names. I completely agree, having spent a fair amount of time over the last several months idly discussing name options for the Potential Second Child — we easily agreed on a girl’s name (with several backup options, in case a trainwrecky celebrity suddenly steals our idea) but a boy’s name has been a long time coming. All the boy names we considered were too common, too weird, belonged to someone we knew (don’t you hate that, when you glom onto the perfect name but it also belongs to, like, your coworker?), too gender-ambiguous (I’m sensitive to this having chosen Riley’s name without a clue that it was becoming a very popular girl’s name as well), too slushy-sounding when paired with our last name, or one of us loved it and the other really, really didn’t (example: JB liked Garrett, I suggested Calvin–much to each other’s dismay).

We had a girl’s name all picked out — Madeline — when I was pregnant with Riley, and while I still like it, it’s not our choice this time around. I guess I feel like Madeline was the right name for that baby if we were going to be having a girl, but this is a different baby and if it’s a girl we need a different name. Is that weird?

While we’ve chosen family names for middle names, we’ve never really considered using a family name as a first name (not enough names we like, too many worries about favoritism, etc). We’ve mostly picked names by flipping through baby books, as unromantic as that sounds. How about you? How did you pick your baby names?

——–

TITLE: Straining my confines
DATE: 07/19/2007 08:35:00 AM

I took pictures of my belly every three weeks or so the last time I was pregnant, and I can’t help but notice that my current belly — a 10 weeks’ pregnant belly — looks an awful lot like the 19-week photo I took in 2005. I seem to be 9 weeks ahead of schedule in terms of belly growth, for the love of god. I’ve always heard that second pregnancies show a lot faster than first pregnancies, but COME ON.

My pants don’t fit and I can’t stand the sensation of something clinging to my waist, so I’m currently wedging myself into a series of summer dresses as a last-ditch effort before going to maternity clothes. It seems insane to wear maternity stuff before I’ve even hit the second trimester, but once these dresses start looking less like flattering disguises and more like sausage casings, I just might need to start rocking the elastic.

I do have a closet full of too-big clothing from losing weight earlier this year, but everything feels uncomfortable — ill-fitting all over except for the waist, which strains outward in that oh-so-attractive Dead Bloated Possum manner.

I hit this stage much later in my last pregnancy, obviously, but now I remember just how much I hate the in-between weeks of looking not pregnant but simply fat. My gut sticks out in an alarming way, but not quite far enough to make it clear that something’s in there other than fifteen frozen Snicker’s bars.

Here’s where you come in: what did you do, wardrobe-wise, during your Is She Or Isn’t She stage of pregnancy? Any advice for keeping things under wraps, so to speak, for a little longer before giving in to the tentwear?

——–

TITLE: A visit from Mrs. Claus
DATE: 07/20/2007 11:47:31 AM

This morning I had to get out of my house (remodel in progress, loud contractors everywhere running power tools and blaring a radio that seems to CONSTANTLY be playing Fleetwood Mac) and so aiming for a time-killing activity that didn’t involve getting drenched in the rain I took Riley to Target.

The trip went south almost immediately, when he started wrenching at the confining buckle strap in the cart and howling “DOWN! WALK!”. I tried to distract him with a cracker, which he ate while whine-crying, so then he was covered with tears and little wet cracker remnants. He lunged at random things, he yelled, he responded to my various coos and angry hisses by cranking up the volume to ear-shattering levels while other shoppers shot me sidelong glances — their own children perched quietly in their carts, probably reciting Bible verses.

I picked up one of the items I went there for in the first place, a new magnetic doodle pad to replace his old broken one, and for a brief shining moment he was entranced with the box. Soon enough, though, he was frustrated that he couldn’t open the box, and then he REALLY went batshit.

My head ached, my hair was frizzy from the humidity, and the whining was making me want to throw him down a well. I shoved the cart towards the nearest cashier line, and stood there drooping, while Riley — snot-stained, red-eyed, and sporting a giant wet spot on his shirt from the drool — settled down to a kind of low-grade whimper.

I felt a hand on my back, and turned to see a grandmotherly woman standing behind me. She was comfortably upholstered, and sported a white bun and twinkling blue eyes. She asked what he’d been so upset about, and I said I didn’t know. “I think he just didn’t want me to have a nice shopping trip,” I blurted, feeling resentful and snivelly.

“Oh, of course not,” she said gently, her sparkly eyes crinkling into a smile. She rubbed my back a little, a gesture I would normally have reacted to like a feral cat, but I found myself melting. “That wouldn’t be any fun, would it Mama?” Her voice was soothing, her face so understanding and wise.

I paid for my stuff, feeling a thousand pounds lighter, and shyly waved at her as we left. I felt as though my perspective had returned: kids sometimes have tantrums, and sometimes it happens in public, and it’s not the end of the damn world.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget how such a simple, friendly gesture turned my day around. It’s enough to regain your faith in humanity, really. The kindness of a stranger in Target.

——–

TITLE: Weekend SOS
DATE: 07/23/2007 10:36:33 AM

All right, people, I need your help. We have officially spent too many weekend afternoons praying for the sweet, sweet moment when this happens:

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I mean, I know most parents probably look forward to naptime but it is normal to perform an end zone dance once the kid goes down? And to weep actual, physical tears of joy? And also to thrust your fist in the air so vigorously you dislocate your shoulder? I’m just saying.

Weekends have been hard lately. JB and I give each other breaks — where one person stays with Riley while the other jets off for an hour or two of Home Depot/used bookstore browsing — but the hours of kid-wrangling are long and tedious. Especially on a weekend like this last one, which served up 48 hours of mugginess and rain.

Too often we give up on trying to brainstorm outings and stay home instead, where it’s inevitable that we hit the Long Dark Tea-Time of the Toddler Soul. When we run out of Blue’s Clues and all the rocks in the backyard have been thoroughly inspected and toys have been strewn all over the living room floor and subsequently ignored/tripped over and now all three of us are sick of each other.

I actually find it easier on the days when JB works and I stay home, mostly because 1) when JB’s not around, Riley’s less likely to stagger around howling “DAAAADDDDYYYY!” the moment JB is out of view for half a flipping second, and 2) I can always look forward to that blessed 5:30ish timeframe when Daddy walks back through the door and I can pass the torch.

So anyway, I’m looking for creative weekend ideas. What are some good family activities to do with an almost-2-year-old, after you’ve visited all the parks and playgrounds?

——–

TITLE: Beloved blob
DATE: 07/24/2007 11:12:08 AM

I love reading those “Your Pregnancy This Week” websites. Here’s what the 11-week page says on BabyCenter:

Your fig-sized baby is now fully formed — measuring 1 1/2 inches long and weighing in at a quarter of an ounce. His skin is still transparent, allowing many of his blood vessels to show through. Some of his bones are beginning to harden, and tiny toothbuds are starting to appear under his gums. His fingers and toes have separated, and he may soon be able to open and close his fists. He’s already busy kicking and stretching, and […] these movements will increase as his body grows and becomes more developed and functional. As his diaphragm develops, your tiny tenant may also start to get the hiccups.

Awwww. Okay, so the baby is a terrifying see-through blob of gelatinous calcified goo who may or may not still be sporting flippers instead of human appendages, but still: awww.

——–

TITLE: It’s a good thing his laugh has curative properties
DATE: 07/25/2007 08:51:05 AM

Are you familiar with the toddler game of I Don’t Know What The Hell I Want? It generally goes like this:

“What’s wrong, Riley? Do you want more milk?”
“NoooooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.”
“Okay then.”
“MO MILK. MO MIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIILK.”
“So you do want more milk. Here you go.”
“Noooooooooooooooooo! Nooooooooooooooo.”
“Okayyy. Well, it’s here if you want it.”
“Nooooooooo!” *angry shove* *loud clunk of cup falling* *splurt of milk cascading across the floor*
“Riley, no. No throwing. Okay, I’m putting this away.”
“MO MILK! MO MILK! MO MIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIILK!”

Well, when you hear people talk about how rewarding parenthood is, and how it’s the very best thing they ever did and their lives are so much more complete now and blah blah blah annoying-cakes, they definitely are not talking about THIS EFFING GAME.

——–

TITLE: More fully-featured by the day
DATE: 07/29/2007 07:17:15 PM

Two ways in which my son utterly startled me this weekend:

1) JB has been gone since Friday, off on a camping trip with his father and brother in Oregon. When Riley first said “Daddy?” on Saturday, I told him Daddy was gone right now but he would be home soon. “Daddy bye bye,” he said. “Daddy . . . backpack.”

I guess he saw JB packing up his gear earlier this week and probably the word “backpack” was bandied about a little, but STILL. Freak me out, why don’t you, kid. What’s next, telling me Danny isn’t here right now Mrs. Torrance?

2) Riley’s had a nasty diaper rash all weekend (why does this sort of thing always coincide with a solo parenting gig, I ask you) and I’ve been saying “Sucks, I know. Sucks,” whenever I have to wipe down his hurting little bum. “Sucksh,” he now says whenever I start pulling out the wipes. “Sucksh.”

I figured he was just repeating me, so imagine my surprise when earlier this evening after I’d pushed the wrong button on our stupidly complicated remote (okay, maybe the stupid part is the bag of meat mouth-breathingly hitting the buttons, but I swear to god there is no reason why one wrong move can suddenly reprogram the entire DVR) and once confronted with a screen of gibberish, groaned in despair — only to hear a tiny voice next to me issue forth a perfectly accurate commentary on the situation: “SUCKSH.”

——–

TITLE: Unexpected returns
DATE: 07/31/2007 11:46:05 AM

I was watching some quality children’s programming with Riley this weekend and during a Blue’s Clues episode (featuring Joe, who I am reluctantly warming up to because Riley seems to greatly prefer him to Steve, as evidenced by his joyous shout of “JOOOOOOE” whenever Frat Boy’s mug appears onscreen), just about the time I was starting to nod off from the repetition and songs and the constant obtuseness of the host when it comes to seeing a goddamned clue and the charming misunderstandings when it comes to having the clue pointed out to them and the fact that I was deliberately watching a show targeted towards people who still regularly poop their pants, it was THEN that Joe opened that big-ass cartoon letter (“Wonder who it’s from?”) and do you know who it was from? THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS, that’s who. TMBG, playing “Clap Your Hands”.

Best Blue’s Clues ever. Now I’m always going to be wondering who might show up as a guest singer. If anyone from the show is reading, may I humbly request an appearance by GWAR, because that would rule.

After that, we put on some Curious George (don’t judge, we had already exhausted our various wholesome non-television entertainment options, such as art time and Naked Hula Hooping) and for the first time I noticed that the show is narrated by Mr. William H. Macy, AKA “The heck ya mean?” Lundegaard. This led me to wonder whether other kid’s shows have equally oddball narrators and voice-over actors. Has anyone considered the value Christopher Walken could bring to, say, the Backyardigans?

Lesson learned: if you watch enough pre-schooler programming, you just may expand your music/movie star trivia knowledge. And you will definitely get really, really good at spotting blue pawprints.

——–

TITLE: Phoebe had more fun, anyway
DATE: 08/01/2007 08:37:27 AM

The other day at the park near our house I watched a little girl streak by us at top speed, her pigtails whipping behind her. She ran towards the playground with great purpose, her head down and her tiny arms and legs pumping, while her parents hurried to keep up. I looked at her, then turned to JB and said, “Um, did you see that?”

She looked younger than Riley, but clearly she had mastered the art of Running Like Those Chariots of Fire Dudes. While Riley, on the other hand, runs exactly like Phoebe On That One Episode of Friends.

When Riley runs his butt twitches back and forth comically, his arms flop around like the shoulder joints are filled with Super Balls, and his legs go in all different directions. Sometimes he shouts a loud, long vowelly sound that oscillates up and down with his jostling body — “AhhAHahhAHahhhAHHH!” — just for the fun of it. His path from point A to point B looks like those dotted-line drawings in the Family Circus.

I like to think he looks like a small robot in the midst of a spectacular mechanical malfunction. He needs a shirt that reads THE SYSTEM IS DOWN.

The day he learns to run like a Chariots of Fire Dude, all purpose and aerodynamic-ness, I’m going to shed a little tear for the malfunctioning robot I used to know. I love his silly, stumpy, kooky run, and hell, there’s no reason to get all serious about physical activity just yet anyway. The next time I’m doing a grim set of crunches in front of some chirpy exercise video, I’m going to try doing the Riley Run a few times around the house. I mean, on the inside of the house. It’s not really fit for public consumption once you pass the age of 33.

——–

TITLE: The tyranny of two
DATE: 08/02/2007 12:34:08 PM

I’m not sure how I feel about Two. Two seems to involve a hell of a lot of whining. Also, there is an overabundance of tantruming, screaming, and foot-stomping. Not to mention the constant demand for Parent and Child call-and-response activities: a nonstop string of hyperactive requests for verification that the object in mention is indeed being identified correctly, whereupon the child in question shouts the name of an object in increasingly agitated tones until the nearest parent acknowledges the object and perhaps provides a bit of praise, AKA “Yes, That’s A Bleeping Rock, Good Job.”

So far Two is dishing up emotional powder-kegs that can be tripped by a parent briefly leaving the room, a meal item that isn’t the exact preferred temperature, and a gentle refusal for Blankie to be dragged into the bath. In Two, there is a complete inability to allow a parent to turn their attention elsewhere, say for instance that really good paperback, for longer than a nanosecond without succumbing to the overpowering need to climb their bodies like playground equipment yelling “Up! UP! UUUUUPPP!”

I’m a little bit sick of Two, to be perfectly honest, which seems like a bad thing, being as how Riley isn’t actually even technically Two until the end of the month. Throw me a bone, when does Two get better?

What’s that, you say Three is kind of a bitch, too? Oh god. Someone bring me my salts.

——–

TITLE: Second verse, different than the first
DATE: 08/06/2007 09:08:36 AM

When I was pregnant with Riley I was alternately obsessive, dreamy, mildly terrified, and filled with a fierce protective joy. I thought about my growing baby constantly, and if there’s a reason I managed to avoid stretch marks it’s probably because I pathologically rubbed my own belly morning, noon and night for eight months, like a masturbatory Buddha with a touch of OCD (I must have thought it was a Magic Eight Ball).

I felt like a princess, albeit a gassy princess with a disgusting craving for liverwurst. Even when I began to resemble a Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade float and my feet turned into what I can only describe as flippers, I was still overwhelmed by the head-spinning mix of excitement, anticipation, curiosity, and a sense of the miraculous.

If my first pregnancy was like a full orchestra complete with strings and wind instruments and loud-ass kettle drums, this pregnancy is more like one pimply kid on a tuba, blatting away quietly in the background. There are entire hours that I completely forget that I’m pregnant. When I do think about it, it’s often in terms of annoyances: what clothes will fit me for the next few weeks? Why must my fingernails grow so creepily fast? What’s with getting the hiccups every time I get out of bed?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited about this baby — we totally did this on purpose, god help us — but those thrilling days of daydreaming about What May Be have passed me by this time around. Instead, I sit around and power-worry about everything: whether we can handle two children, how we’ll survive those early newborn days, will this ultimately benefit Riley like we’d hoped or will they hate each other with the fire of a thousand suns, etc etc etc.

I feel sorry for this pregnancy, basically. Sorry, pregnancy, that you aren’t getting the star treatment the first one did. Sorry that you’re more like a distraction and, well, kind of a burden. Sorry that I feel less like a glowing receptacle of life and more like a breeder pig.

But — but! — at the end of the months-that-feel-long-but-seem-so-short-in-retrospect, the baby’s the thing. If all goes as planned, there will be a squashy, red-faced, impossibly tiny baby, a brother or sister to the galloping wildebeest running the house at the moment. And life will roll itself along, having picked up another passenger, and everything will be even bigger, and louder, and more delicious than before.

——–

TITLE: File under: darndest things
DATE: 08/07/2007 10:29:24 AM

I was hosing out my snout with a saline rinse this morning (pregnancy = broken sinuses), which basically involves using a squeeze bottle to send water up one nostril and out the other. Yes, it’s disgusting, but it helps me do this little thing called breathing, so shut up.

Anyway, there I was, bent over the sink doing my (disgusting) thing, water dribbling from my nose, and suddenly Riley chirped forth with perhaps the best sentence I’ve heard from him to date:

“Mommy nose pee-pee!”

For the record, if there’s any good time to shoot water out your nose from laughing, it’s during a sinus rinse.

——–

TITLE: Assertion
DATE: 08/07/2007 08:53:16 PM

I love reading Kristin’s ParentDish updates on her son Nolan, because Riley and Nolan are very close in ages and stages, and nearly everything she talks about is intimately familiar to me. Her recent post is titled “I do it! I do it!” and she writes, “I’m not sure when the independence streak of obstinence and dismay began its course . . .”

Dude. I KNOW. Except, well, Riley’s streak technically began in utero, when the ultrasound technician peered at his 30-something-week form and said, “Oooh, he looks mad. Boy, he’s, um, very expressive.” (Note to self: avoid 3D ultrasound with this pregnancy so as to not learn early signs of Evil in child.)

Riley doesn’t say “I do it” yet, but he definitely has strong opinions. About everything. But especially his shoes. He doesn’t want THOSE shoes, he wants the BROWN shoes. The brooooooown shoooooooes. MY GOD WOMAN CAN YOU NOT HEAR ME I SAID THE BROWN SHOES.

Oh, those ARE the brown shoes? I meant the other shoes. The ooooooooooother shooooooooeees.

Sometimes I indulge his desire to choose his shoes, shirt, whatever, and sometimes it’s late and we need to get going and lo, then there are tears, for I can be a cruel and heartless mother who jams unwanted shoes on protesting feet and hustles her howling child out into the unkind world. (At night, the ice weasels come.)

I understand it’s all about asserting independence and learning to do things on their own, but damn. I already feel nostalgic for the days when Riley was mostly immobile and incapable of staging the sort of impassioned protests that would make a hardcore Greenpeace demonstrator feel like a spineless wuss in comparison.

——–

TITLE: In the moment
DATE: 08/09/2007 08:24:35 AM

Sometimes when Riley is being particularly bothersome in a needy sort of way, swinging on my chair or yanking at the cup I’m drinking out of or generally buzzing around me making the high-pitched eeeeeeee of a mosquito, I sigh and tell him to go play for god’s sake, I tell him to leave Mama’s cup alone, I stare tragically off into the distance and wonder why it’s so hard to get a moment’s peace and quiet, poor poor me.

Then I look him in the eye and he smiles with happiness, because that’s what he wants: for me to pay attention. For me to put down the book or newspaper and listen to him when he tells me “I find it!” and murmur with appreciation as he carefully shows me the tiny rock in his hand.

I was sitting with him on the living room floor yesterday afternoon helping him crayon giant scribbles on a pad of construction paper. After a while I found myself bored, and I tried to sneak away — only to have him look up and say, “Mommy sit down,” while pointing at the carpet. “Sit down here.”

I think my biggest parenting challenge right now is learning to stay engaged, even when we’re looking at rocks for the millionth time or marveling over how high the ball can bounce (“WHOAH!”) or wearing crayons to a nub. When we’re actively playing together, his world is a happy place. And all I want is for him to be happy.

I need to remember to sit down. Sit down here, next to a tiny person who won’t be little for very long, before these days have passed and I would give anything, anything at all in the world for just one more chance to do so.

——–

TITLE: Fishy conundrum
DATE: 08/12/2007 06:39:10 PM

Here’s a question for you: if you offered your super picky-eater toddler son some frozen (well, frozen and then cooked) breaded halibut pieces on Friday evening, and he not only dared to taste them but ravenously devoured an entire serving’s worth, and you were all excited because hooray!–something the child will actually eat that isn’t a Saltine!–but THEN, around 3 AM Saturday morning you were awakened by what can only be described as a Horrific Geyser of Halibarf, involving 1) two loads of unspeakable laundry, 2) multiple occasions of the Sorrowful Post-Barf Bath, and 3) an hour of your life you wish to forever banish to the dark recesses of your mind where the bad things live, and–and!– for the rest of the weekend he had what you might call a touch of the old Diaper Mustard-Smearings, well . . .

Would you ever try feeding him frozen halibut again?

PS. I should clarify that both JB and I ate some of this fish and neither of us sprayed down the house with the contents of our stomachs afterwards.

PPS. The halibut came from WHOLE FOODS.

——–

TITLE: Knowing as much as I did before
DATE: 08/13/2007 11:06:32 AM

At today’s ultrasound:

Technician: “If I can make it out, do you want to know the sex?”

Me (surprised, as I am only 14 weeks): “Yes!”

Technician: *wand wand wand, scan scan scan*: “Hmm, I think it’s going to be too early to tell.”

Me: “Oh, okay.”

Technician: (points to grainy white blob): “Although, it’s possible . . . it might be a boy. Maybe.”

Me: “So it’s maybe a boy.”

Technician: “Yes.”

Me: “But also maybe a girl?”

Technician: “Well, yes.”

——–

TITLE: I broke my kid
DATE: 08/14/2007 02:01:44 PM

Once again, I am in need of some parenting advice. Here’s my problem: we took Riley to an air show featuring the Blue Angels a couple weeks ago, and now he’s terrified of planes. Can I get a do-over?

Okay, so maybe an air show wasn’t the best idea, but we brought ear protection (he refused to wear them) and he’s always loved planes (he sure as shit doesn’t now), and I know, I know, it was a BAD MOVE.

Riley used to clamor and beg to go play in the backyard (“AHTSIDE! AHTSIIIIIDE!) and now we have to practically drag him out there. Once he’s outside, he ignores all his toys and the rocks he normally loves to sift through in favor of worriedly hanging off one of our legs, waiting for the inevitable moment when a plane flies overhead, at which point he begs to be held (“BIG HUG!”) and whimpers “No. No. NO PLANE” over and over.

It is really, really pitiful, and I feel really bad, especially since he used to freak out in a good way when he saw a plane.

We’ve tried explaining that planes won’t hurt him, and how they’re not loud at all, they’re waaayyyy up there in the sky, see how they’re flying so high hey oh boy look at the plane, etc. I’ve tried picking him up and cuddling him, I’ve tried brushing off his reaction so he doesn’t think it’s worth making a big deal over, I’ve tried distracting him with shiny objects every time I hear the approach of a jet engine. Nothing helps.

I’ve also learned that between being under what must be a SeaTac-Seattle flight path and our proximity to Lake Washington, there are a LOT of planes going overhead at all times. Big ones, little ones, traffic helicopters — he fears them all.

So, wise readers — any ideas? Summer feels like it’s going to be winding to an end all too soon, I’d like Riley to be able to spend time outdoors without cowering like he served two bloody tours in Vietnam.

——–

TITLE: Sock puppets and planes and lead, oh my
DATE: 08/15/2007 09:27:46 AM

Thanks very much for your comments on Riley’s newfound plane phobia–I now have some great ideas to try out (um, with the exception of being in the same room with Riley during a viewing of Jay Jay the Jet Plane, because I tried to watch that mess this morning with him and it was . . . I just don’t have the words. “Spectacularly creepy-looking, yet profoundly, brain-searingly lame”? Something like that. In fairness, you did warn me), and if all else fails, I’ll remind myself that he’s bound to outgrow this fear eventually. I will note that he’s also become sort of chickeny in general lately–if you put a sock on your hand and pretend to chomp his arm he will freak right the heck out, when in the past that sort of activity would dissolve him in giggles–so maybe this is just a Stage of Random Fears, as wisely theorized by “g” in the comments yesterday. Which, okay, I understand how experiencing fear is a useful reaction so one doesn’t casually stroll into the open slavering mouths of grizzly bears etc, but man, I wish his fears would manifest in a more safety-based manner, dousing his brain with common sense and keeping him from climbing every climbable thing within view, including his bead-wire-threading toy (I have actually seen him balancing on top of that thing, beads a-tremble) and the ladder in the garage and the fence at the animal farm and so on.

In other news, at this point I almost think it would be more useful it the Giant Mega Toy Companies would just issue a list of toys that did NOT contain lead paint. We don’t own any of the recalled toys, but I’m not sure about Riley’s daycare–even if the center claims they don’t have any of the toys, I’m sure other kid’s stuff gets circulated around at times. And Riley’s communication skills do not yet extend to, “Honey, please read this list of lead-coated toys. Now, did you chew any of the above items? Can you tell Mommy?”

Parenthood! One heart attack after another.

——–

TITLE: Deviating from the rulebook
DATE: 08/16/2007 12:27:47 PM

I can’t deal with The Vitamin. You know, the prenatal-branded lozenge that’s the size of a Buick and speckled with various mineral substances? Sometimes I manage to choke it down with a giant glass of water and a stream of bad language, and other times I shake it from the bottle to my hand and my throat instantly does this weird convulsion because oh my god, the SMELL OF IT. I’ve tried every trick imaginable to swallow it without breathing in its odor but nothing works, and it doesn’t matter anyway because even after you force it into your esophagus it sends up wave after wave of vita-reek, until you have to eat something on the opposite side of the gross-to-yum spectrum, like a brownie slathered with peanut butter, just to recover.

I suppose I should be seeking out a more palatable vitamin brand instead of facing the Stinking Pill of Death each night, but in the meantime, I often skip that mofo altogether in favor of taking a folic acid supplement and chewing a comparatively delicious, fruity Flintstones. This is the compromise I have reached on the Vitamin Issue, which fits nicely with my other half-assed pregnancy compromises, such as: fine, I’ll avoid sushi and gooey cheeses, but you will have to pry my morning coffee from my cold dead fingers.

It helps assuage any potential guilt to remember that these are the same things I fudged on with Riley, and hey, he turned out just fine! Well, except for being inexplicably terrified of planes. And insisting upon pronouncing “thumb” as “shum”. I bet that has more to do with the mold I fed him a while back than an early vitamin deficiency, though.

——–

TITLE: Rush
DATE: 08/20/2007 09:10:53 AM

“I find it! Yayy!”

“No like it. Yucky.”

“Mama put on goggies, put on.” (goggies = sunglasses)

“Wake up, doggie!”

As we dizzily catapult towards the Year of Being Two, Riley doesn’t seem to show any signs of becoming a more emotionally stable entity, as evidenced by 1) the deeply hilarious clog-dance of anger he does when he doesn’t get his way (seriously: his stamping little feet become a blur. It’s like Riverdance, right in my own house), 2) the unholy Damian sound he so often unearths from the bottom of his lungs in order to burst every eardrum within fifty miles, and 3) the piteous, oh-so-annoying bouts of anger-fueled crying, when the tears are so infused with crocodile essence I swear I can hear a faint “crikey” off in the distance.

However, the bitter pill of all of this tantrumy nonsense is becoming far easier — okay, somewhat easier — to swallow as he becomes less of a squalling toddler-sized baby and more of a little person I can actually talk to. I mean, we hold weird little conversations these days where I say stuff, he understands it, and he says stuff back to me. Sure, sometimes those conversations sound like they’re happening on Neptune, but still. It’s downright amazing. It’s like all along I sort of understood that he would be growing up and becoming more of a fully-featured human, but I didn’t really get it.

Also, out of nowhere, he appears to have grown like TWO INCHES in height. I am feeling this panicky combination of wanting him to hurry through the All Tantrum All the Time Stage (uh . . . it’s a stage, right? RIGHT?) but wanting even more to slow down this headlong rush of days, because oh, it’s so true what they say about parenthood: the days are long, but years fly by much too quickly.

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TITLE: Angelic trumpetings
DATE: 08/21/2007 10:01:17 AM
—–

I started feeling the baby move recently, just these tiny flutters and bumps that I probably wouldn’t recognize if I hadn’t been through this before. Of course, even us sage pregnancy experts (ha!) can experience Abdominal Confusion. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been lying down, concentrating on a certain bubbling sensation in my belly, utterly convinced it’s the baby performing an impressive series of uterine aerobics, only to have my body send me an audible notification — pffffffffffft — that what I’m feeling is not my unborn child but is in fact gas.

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TITLE: Potty talk
DATE: 08/23/2007 10:10:41 AM

I’m always kind of amazed when I read someone’s blog where their words seem to have come directly from my own head. Beth’s entry today touches on a theme that’s awfully familiar to me: I also never went into labor with Riley, and with plans for a scheduled C-section with this baby, I most likely never will. It makes me sad in some ways that I’ll have missed out on such an integral part of childbirth, but on the other hand, I’ll probably make it through two births without experiencing my greatest fear: pooping on the delivery table.

Of course, there’s always the option of barfing during the C-section. Boy, I’m not sure which one is worse. Maybe if you did both at the same time.

ANYWAY, speaking of pooping, my son has started announcing “poop!” while he’s, you know, engaged in the act. He doesn’t seem to have any desire to scuttle off to some private area or anything, he’ll just be in mid-play and suddenly say “poop”–I’ll look over, and sure enough, he’ll be sort of grunty-looking. Of course, when I ask him if he’s pooped, he will deny it all day long: “No. No, no poop.” Even when there are visible wavy stink lines wafting from his butt.

So, I’ve read a lot of the potty training books and helpful pamphlets and so on, but I thought I’d ask you guys, how did you start your kids on the potty? I have a feeling Riley’s not quite ready for Hardcore Potty Madness (nor am I, to be perfectly honest), but it seems like it might be time for some baby steps.

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TITLE: Statement; piglets
DATE: 08/24/2007 03:31:11 PM

I’m just going to post this once, and I’ll refer back to it if necessary: we are having a planned C-section with this baby because there are medical reasons for doing so. In my specific situation, there are risk factors that are significantly lowered by having a C-section, and yes, I know all about VBAC options and I’ve discussed the matter quite thoroughly with my doctor.

I know people mean well, but I want to advocate for anyone in my situation when I say that it’s actually pretty rude to remind me to “do my research” on this subject. I can’t imagine why anyone would have such a strong Vagina Agenda that it would seem like a good idea to dole out medical advice when it’s both uncalled for and, in my case, wholly misinformed. When you tell me it’s safer for me to have a vaginal birth, you’re actually lying–I mean, I get that you don’t know that, but that’s exactly why you shouldn’t make those kinds of comments.

Let’s all just pay attention to our own vaginas, shall we? I won’t tell you what to with yours if you don’t tell me what to do with mine. Deal?

Thus endeth my statement from the soapbox. Sorry that this only applies to a very small percentage of readers, but I felt I had to address it before every entry that references this baby’s arrival gets a smattering of comments telling me to go with the birth choice that’s not actually viable for me.

In other news, remember those missing pigs from a while back? Now there are new piglets, and they are so cute I can hardly stand it. I certainly hope they don’t go to their “home in the country” anytime soon.

1205387244_f83d45c2fc

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TITLE: Enemy fire
DATE: 08/27/2007 08:53:32 PM

Riley seems to be experiencing a stage I like to call All Awful, Nearly All the Time. As an example, I picked him up from daycare today only to have him experience a total system meltdown because I had a red crayon in the car, instead of a purple crayon, which he loudly demanded over and over through tear-choked sobs of grief and betrayal until he was distracted by the fact that he could ALSO entertain us both by removing one shoe then screaming about how he wanted his shoe back on, back on, PUT ON, AAAAAAAAAAAH.

Let me tell you, there’s nothing quite like a kid going through a full-fledged tantrum while strapped in a carseat — it’s like having a pint-sized Hannibal Lecter back there. I’m thinking of buying a muzzle, just to complete the look.

Once we got home he howled and carried on when I offered him noodles, applesauce, yogurt, and finally (underneath my breath) a knuckle sandwich, and I hope watered-down juice has some trace of nutrition in it because that’s about all he had. He used to be a picky eater, now he appears to be living on air and crackers, because every food item is on the Scream and Refuse list, even things that were previously a slam-dunk, such as macaroni and cheese.

After a series of freakouts over the fact that 1) the TV came on briefly (while JB was recording something) but Blue’s Clues failed to appear, 2) JB didn’t instantly drop his butt to the couch when commanded to do so (“SEET DOWWN!”), and 3) the air molecules in the room kept moving around in an annoying fashion, we diagnosed him as Overtired (And Awful) and dragged his wailing, thrashing body off to bed, where eventually, in his quiet, dimmed bedroom, he gave us both eskimo kisses. So we’re going to keep him, but man oh man, it was touch and go for a while there.

Some parenting days are almost physically brutal, you know? You feel like you’ve been in a war zone, air raid sirens screaming, gunfire over your head, the whole thing. Then you get a soft eskimo kiss from a tiny toddler snout, and you just think, okay. Okay, I can do this.

And later, you eat fifteen cookies, because hello, COMBAT PAY.

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TITLE: Allo and bye bye
DATE: 08/30/2007 10:30:07 AM
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We were all lying on the bed together the other day and I was absently patting my ever-growing belly when JB reminded Riley that hey, there’s a tiny baby in there. So Riley leaned over and peered intently at my ginormous maternity elastic waistband, paused for a beat, then shouted “ALLO?” into the general direction of my navel.

(I don’t know why he sounds French when he says “hello”, but he does.)

We asked him what he thought the baby was doing, and he thought for a second, then said “Sleeping!”.

I never know how much he understands, but I have a feeling I underestimate him most of the time.

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TITLE: Holiday
DATE: 09/04/2007 09:32:55 PM

Would I be an awful, terrible, unforgivable person if I told you the very best part of my holiday weekend was the part when Riley was with his grandparents in Coos Bay, and JB and I ran off to spend the day at their family cabin on the Umpqua River? Because I loved being with my son this weekend, and I loved celebrating his second birthday and bringing him to the beach and generally having a great time with him but that 24 hour period when he was safely and happily elsewhere was, if you’ll excuse my language, the shit. It was all that and a bag of salt and vinegar chips, friends. It was a full-body massage complete with soft burbling zenlike fountains and maybe also a half dose of Xanax.

It was a real vacation, in the midst of our Family Vacation. Ahh, I can still hear the silence . . . oh wait, that’s just my ears ringing from the drive home.

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TITLE: Halfway there, almost
DATE: 09/05/2007 08:38:51 PM

I am very glad to be past the early weeks of pregnancy and well into the second trimester, AKA the Best Trimester of All, the one where the nausea and crazy-awful fatigue has waned, but you’re still vaguely human-shaped and don’t yet require a crane to get off the toilet.

I would, however, like to know why my navel area has been replaced by a giant crater. Seriously, small domestic animals could get trapped in that thing. It’s like a swirling, fleshy vortex, and at the epicenter lies my actual belly button, which is disturbingly turgid, as though there is something . . . something behind it. Like a Goodyear blimp. Filled with Hostess snacks.

I’d also like to file a complaint about my increased blood-flow. I mean, do you hear that faint thumping sound emanating from your computer screen right now? THAT IS MY PULSE. I can hear my heartbeat in the back of my eyeballs. My chest is a freakish roadmap of zigzagging blue-green veins, a startling and unattractive accessory to the engorged state of things in that area of my body. Frankly, I feel like an overly satiated tick, downright swollen with gallons and gallons of extra blood. Well, and Hostess snacks.

Can I also just say that my fingernails are becoming seriously ungainly? I file them every few days, like a bored cartoon secretary with OCD, and they just. Keep. Growing. I feel like I’m just going to wake up one morning and they will have morphed into those horrible curled goat-horn-looking things the guy with the World’s Longest Fingernails had on that one episode of Ripley’s Believe It or Not I saw back in 1986.

Also: the 3 AM thought-you-were-just-going-to-quietly-pee-but-hello-DOLLY farting. I am tired of feeling as though I have a string of Chinese firecrackers attached to my rear end, thank you very much.

Let’s not forget the weird ligament craziness that sometimes makes me feel as though I have critically injured myself after sneezing, the chronically snuffly pig snout syndrome, the occasional outbreak of something I have come to call Tin Foil Tongue, and the increasingly bizarre dreams that unfortunately don’t feature Clive Owen nearly as much as they could. Clive Owen, naked, bearing Hostess snacks — is that really too much to ask from my subconscious?

On the plus side, I no longer feel like turbo-horking, I can make it through the day without contemplating how odd it might look if I stretched out on my office floor and slept for an hour or five, and food tastes really, really good. Plus, I have this little leaping-fishie sensation in my Goodyear navel area that reminds me: baby on the way. Only five more months to go, holy cow.

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TITLE: Preferred
DATE: 09/06/2007 04:31:51 PM

I know what diaper brand works best, what diaper cream to buy, and which wipes smell good and provide the right amount of thickness without being slimy. I schedule the pediatrician appointments and I take him to them. I have a running mental inventory of every food he’s ever rejected or accepted. I buy his clothes and shoes and I know his sizes. I wash all his clothes and I put them away.

But:

My husband swings him overhead in rousing, shrieking games of SuperBaby. JB plays rough-and-tumble, JB is loud and boisterous and triggers screams of over-stimulated delight. JB is strong enough to carry him for more than a minute at a time.

Well now. Who do you think he favors?

If JB is a three-ring circus complete with trumpeting elephants and ball-balancing dogs, I am a quiet book with the occasional boring subplot involving characters that are ever so slightly tedious.

It’s hard not to be the favorite one, sometimes. And not even reap the benefits of not needing to know what the hell diaper brand to buy.

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TITLE: Damning evidence
DATE: 09/07/2007 09:15:55 PM

Today at Riley’s 2-year pediatrician appointment the doctor asked a series of questions about his development: could he do this, could he say that, etc. I answered to all in the positive, with the beaming pride of a parent who’s certain their child has well progressed past such easy milestones. Stack four blocks? Hell, I’ve seen this child create the Leaning Tower of Pisa with banana slices, woman! While doing calculus and speaking French!

Of course, I had to give my answers over the increasingly ear-shattering screams of my supposedly genius-like son, who spent the entire appointment acting as though someone had poured a container of fire ants over his naked body. I couldn’t help but notice that younger children were enduring multiple booster shots just down the hall with less fuss than my own boy, whose reaction to a brief encounter with the stethoscope nearly blasted out the east-facing windows in the building.

I was embarrassed by his behavior, but even more so when the doctor — perhaps wondering if any of my answers were actually true — asked Riley if he could touch his nose.

Riley: SILENCE

Me: “Oh ha ha ha, he knows this! He knows all his body parts! Come on Riley, where’s your nose?”

Riley: BALEFUL STARE

Doctor: “Okay Riley, can you show me your belly button.”

Me: (thinking) Come on kid, come on come on come on you’ve been doing this one for like a YEAR this one’s a slam dunk come ON.

Riley: VACANT, DROOLY GAZE

Between his spectacular noncompliance with the Name That Body Part game and the insane, over-the-top-obnoxious tantruming, I sure would like to get a look on what sorts of notes his doctor might have added to his file during that appointment. Probably something along the lines of, “Mother obvs. pathological liar.”

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TITLE: There’s an Eddie Izzard joke in here somewhere
DATE: 09/10/2007 08:45:12 AM

At Riley’s well check appointment last week, I was sent home with a piece of paper listing, in part, some Suggested Activities for me to engage in with my child. These are usually some no-duh instructions from the ORLY category, like Try playing with your child!, Avoid choking hazards, or Limit television (okay, as long as we can call Blue’s Clues quality visual entertainment instead of television), but this time there’s one that has me stumped.

Dressing lessons, the sheet says. Use the preschool maneuver to get coat on.

First of all, Helpful Sheet, what’s up with the bad grammar? Did a Cro-Magnon type this? And second of all, what in the hell is the “preschool maneuver”? What if my kid isn’t in preschool yet and therefore no one has taught me about this so-called maneuver? Does the maneuver involve duct tape for restraining purposes? Where can I buy ouchless duct tape?

So many questions! If you’re in the know about the preschool maneuver, can you clue me in? Because otherwise I’m going to fail Dressing Lessons 101.

PS. Another activity on the sheet is Talk about observations! Hoo boy, you mean like how there is a ball over in that yard, a BALL, or a birdie just flew by, a BIIIIIIRDIE a BIRDIE A BIRDIE, and Riley’s shirt is green, GREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEN? Way ahead of you on that one, Helpful Sheet.

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TITLE: A la carte
DATE: 09/11/2007 09:15:10 AM

One useful piece of advice the pediatrician gave us last week (in addition to the Preschool Maneuver instructions, and thank you for clueing me in on this festive-sounding method of putting on a coat!) was not to give in to Riley’s mealtime pickiness. In other words, don’t fall into the short order cook trap (“Did you want banana instead? Cheese? Bread? Cracker? Spaghetti? Ahi tuna, oh so slightly seared? Does Sir require a milk refill?”), don’t offer the same “easy foods” over and over, don’t allow mealtimes to become intolerable.

This is all stuff I knew was bad, and yet I was doing it anyway. All of it. Peppering with Riley with questions about what he might possibly deign to consume a morsel of, microwaving endless containers of macaroni and cheese, performing a hysterical clownlike dancing routine for my stubborn, possibly scurvy-ridden child in the hopes it would distract him enough for me to slip half a yogurt tube into his empty gullet.

Dinnertimes had become especially crappy, as I found myself running around trying to prepare different food items for him, all of which inevitably got pushed to the floor. Fifteen meltdowns later (ten for Riley, five for me), it was bedtime, and the last part of our day together had been ruined for all of us.

So although the doctor’s advice wasn’t new, I decided to take it to heart this time. Now we’re trying this crazy thing where we eat together as a family, and we offer him part of what we’re eating. If he doesn’t want it, so be it. The end. He hasn’t exactly experienced what I’d call an explosive breakthrough in food tolerance, but at least we’ve stopped the Cycle of Madness at dinnertime.

My biggest challenge, though, is pulling this off on the days when both JB and I work. I leave work, battle traffic to Riley’s daycare, pick him up and battle more traffic home, and then the clock is ticking — I’ve only got about an hour before it’s bedtime, and everyone’s hungry. Did I mention I currently have no kitchen, as we’re in the midst of a remodel?

For those of you who don’t have time to prep meals during the day, how do you deal with dinners? Do you sit down and eat together, or do you feed the kids first, or what? Do you all eat the same thing?

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TITLE: What we talk about when we talk about love
DATE: 09/12/2007 08:11:52 PM

I was starting to write a blog post about Whiny, Inexplicable Tantrums and how they are Eating My Soul (like this morning, when Riley got it in his head that I should wear this random green shirt he found in my closet, and when I informed him that no, sorry honey but Mommy can’t wedge her bulbous pregnant upper half into that shirt, he screamed over and over like a banshee and basically threw himself on the floor sobbing about how I should put on the green shirt, put on, put ONNNN, and oh my god, I wanted to blow him out the airlock), and I realized that wow, I sort of talk a lot about the negative side of parenthood here, don’t I?

I hope it’s understood just how much I love my son, and how I cannot imagine life without him. How he breathes light into all my dark corners, and makes every day a wondrously rich and sweet experience. Despite all the challenges, he is an immeasurable part of me. He is love, pure and simple.

It’s just that I don’t feel the need to say that all the time, because 1) it’s far more cathartic to bitch about all the little things that suck, 2) lots of times I need your advice on the various things that are currently sucking, and 3) while I reserve the right to occasionally get shmoopy on you (see also: this entry, last sentence), I’m personally more of a Tarantino fan than, say, the Hallmark Channel, you know?

Parenthood rocks, but holy jesus on a Ritz, sometimes it really craps the bed, too. I’m glad I have people to talk to about all the stuff that makes this road a bumpy one. Thanks for being out there, and helping me (you have, so much), and reminding that no matter what I’m dealing with parenting-wise, I’m never alone.

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TITLE: Parenthood Truth #2051693
DATE: 09/14/2007 09:53:24 AM

For some reason this topic isn’t covered in those What To Expect books, but I’m here to tell you that once your child is mobile, your house will never, ever look the same. You can clean it all you want, but its very molecular content has been permanently altered and there is NO RETURN. Gaze upon your living room’s future, if you dare:

Livingroom

And that’s on a good day. On a bad day you will have to shoo away seagulls, dingos, and circling buzzards as you stand knee-deep in Toddler Detritus, while a small child tugs your pantleg and wails “BALL? BALL? MAMA FIIIIIIIND IT?”

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TITLE: Moment of arrival
DATE: 09/16/2007 08:32:19 PM

I’m amazed and more than a little terrified at how quickly this pregnancy seems to be flying along. I’ll be 19 weeks this week, with the Big Gender-Revealing Ultrasound just around the corner. Since this is a planned C-section birth and they tend to schedule those a couple weeks before the due date, we are officially HALFWAY THERE.

(Heep.)

I was thinking ahead to this birth and remembering how it was with Riley: how sick and drugged I was on magnesium, how I was so foggy during the surgery I barely remember anything with any vivid sense of detail, how they kept me on that damned mag drip for a full 24 hours afterwards and I kept falling asleep in mid-sentence, even while holding my brand-new baby.

This time should be a little easier, if all goes as planned. If we avoid high blood pressure and other complications, it should be fairly straightforward, and I’ll know what to expect. Like the fact that during surgery they tie you down like Jesus on the cross. And how indescribably awful it will feel to try and sit up later, like someone maybe forgot to sew your guts back together.

Oh, but also how it feels to hold your newborn, wrapped tight like a grousing little burrito in one of those teal-and-white blankets. Even though your body is scrambling to recover from being gutted like a fish, even though nurses keep showing up to ask if you’ve pooped yet (no? How about NOW?).

I guess it’s true what the smartest people always say: it doesn’t really matter how they get here, does it? It’s all about the end result.

Okay, so here’s something I’ve been wondering about: I’ve heard that during a C-section you can request that the drape be pulled back before they take out the baby, so you can see this part of the procedure (well, as much as you can while being strapped to the freaking table). I haven’t actually verified this with my doctor yet, but in considering the possibility I find myself going back and forth because 1) that would be really amazing, to see my baby the moment he/she is born, and 2) um, that would also be really, really gory. I’m not very squeamish, but then again I’ve never seen my midsection transformed into a scene from Saving Private Ryan before.

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TITLE: This, too
DATE: 09/18/2007 12:48:43 PM

Back in July, we were having a hard time getting Riley to fall asleep. Specifically, we were having a hard time listening to him spend several minutes screaming with full-body anger before falling asleep. I couldn’t tell you exactly when that stopped, but it did — now we do our bedtime routine as usual, kiss him goodnight, close the door . . . and it’s blissful silence until morning. He falls asleep without a peep. Sometimes if we look on the monitor we can see that he spends some time beforehand playing or sleepily waving his tentacles around in the air, but oh thank you god it’s quiet.

In August, we had this problem where he became terrified of planes, to the point where he hated going in the backyard. That one has resolved itself over the last couple weeks or so. First he was scared of all planes going overhead no matter where he was, then he was okay with planes flying by unless he was specifically in our backyard, and now we’re back to “PLANE! MAMA, PLANE! A BIIIIIIIIIIIG PLANE!”.

In both cases we didn’t come up with a solution, he just re-adjusted on his own. I don’t know why. If I could figure out how his little cave-brain worked, I might be able to understand why we have the mothereffing Great Crayon Meltdown fifteen times a day (“GEEN CAYON! I WANT IT! NO! NO GEEN! NO GEEN! TOO FEAKY! BLUUUUUUUE CAYON!” etc etc etc).

I often forget that no matter what we’re dealing with at the moment, no matter how much it feels like it will last forever and my child will be screaming about crayons during his graduation commencement, it always changes. There’s always something new to deal with, mind you, and sometimes it sucks even more than whatever was sucking before, but nothing is ever static. The view is always different.

If parenthood has a mantra, I think it must be: THIS TOO SHALL PASS.

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TITLE: For the record
DATE: 09/19/2007 09:16:53 AM

I would just like to say that I am not a fan of children being two years old. Maybe I should clarify that to say that I am not a fan of MY child being two years old, I’m sure your two-year-old is perfectly charming, probably because you have him or her strapped down and muzzled in the basement where they can ride out this horrible, feral stage without driving the rest of us OUT OF OUR DAMN HEADS.

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TITLE: Diaper fashion, new blog
DATE: 09/20/2007 09:32:40 AM

When Riley grew out of those wonderful “Swaddlers” brand newborn diapers (so soft! And so capable of containing the things they’re meant to contain!), I put him in “Cruisers”, and while I have no complaints about the performance of that particular brand, I’ve always thought it was odd that they run so high on a kid’s body — especially in the back. There’s always a giant swath of diaper exposed above his rear end whenever his shirt rides up, it’s like he’s wearing a particularly constricting pair of Spanx in order to cram himself into that fancy Oscars outfit.

Since his daycare is starting to take all the kids to the potty throughout the day (yes! Please, for the love of god, train my child for me! This is one Hallmark moment I do not mind missing!), we sent him off to school in pull-ups today. And lo, I couldn’t help but notice as he galloped out the door that about three-quarters of an inch of ASS is now showing. My son has plumber’s crack, thanks to the strangely low-riding pull-ups.

Diapers: a Glamour Don’t, apparently.

In other news, please come visit my shiny new blog over at Work It, Mom! — I’ll be writing twice a week on a variety of things from product recommendations to general time-and-sanity-saving parenting hacks and tips, almost as if I know what the hell I’m talking about. Which, ha ha, I don’t, but I am a big fan of sharing good buys and good ideas, so hopefully it will be marginally useful and/or entertaining. Bookmark that link and come say hi, okay?

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TITLE: Children’s programming
DATE: 09/22/2007 08:19:20 PM

Out of nowhere, the nonstop tantrums have slowed to a far more manageable level and a ridiculously charming toddler has emerged, giggling and dancing his little feet and asking for a “Beeeeeeeg hug, Mommy!”. His face is full of mischief and humor and I no longer wonder if I am catching a glimpse of the fires of Hades when I see his eyes sparkle.

He even ate dinner tonight. Actual food! Went in his mouth! And it wasn’t just half a Cheez-it!

I know better than to make any assumptions about how long this will last before the pendulum swings the other way, but man, if only there was a “Save Current Behavior” function for toddlers. With some Amazon Recommended For You type options: if you liked that behavior, you might also like “Sleepy And Affectionate”, or perhaps “Studiously Engaged in a Quiet Activity”?

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TITLE: Vienna sausage party
DATE: 09/24/2007 12:59:09 PM

This morning I learned that the small creature housed in my belly — the one responsible for the fact that I currently have liverwurst in my refrigerator (so satisfyingly creamy! So meatishly salty! So mysterious in content!), the one who has lodged next to my bladder and seems to take great pleasure in bending it like Beckham on a regular basis — is . . . drumroll, please . . .

Approximately 11 ounces in weight. The other 10 pounds I’ve gained so far? Why, that’s just extra credit. Somebody give me a GOLD STAR.

Also, it’s a boy. We’re having another BOY! Two little boys in my house, two brothers, oh gosh, oh shit, oh awesome, oh my crumbling sappy happy shortbread heart.

. . . jeez, I am totally going to be outnumbered, aren’t I?

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TITLE: Mixed emotions
DATE: 09/25/2007 12:42:23 PM

When I found out we’re having a boy, I had the strangest feeling of sorrow mixed in with the anticipation and joy. I’m not sure how to describe it without making it sound like I was disappointed, or that a boy is second best. That’s not how I feel, and obviously the most important revelation was that boy or girl, our baby is growing as expected and appears to be healthy and thriving.

It’s just that I had been thinking of both possibilities, and it feels like saying goodbye to our girl baby — despite the fact that she was never there in the first place. We had a named picked out: Audrey. She was going to wear tights and little dresses over her bulky diaper-clad butt. Someday in the future, her father was going to act like a total dickhead to every single date she ever brought home. We had thought about her, our baby girl.

We felt something like this the first time, too, when we found out Riley’s sex. Only back then, her name was Madeline.

It’s not that we wanted a girl more than a boy, and I imagine that if this time we were having a girl, I’d feel an odd sense of mourning for our new little boy, Riley’s brother and partner in crime, the boy that wasn’t.

Did you experience anything similar when you found out the sex of your baby/babies?

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TITLE: Mild mutations
DATE: 09/27/2007 08:40:39 AM

My son has weird toes. His . . . I don’t know what you call it, the index toe? The little piggy next to the big piggy, on the other side of the middle piggy? Anyway, that toe is always stacked, kind of riding on top of the surrounding toes. Like it’s an extra appendage he doesn’t really need.

Feet_toes

A vestigial toe, on its way to Darwinian obsolescence? Or genetic hiccup that will hinder his future ability to pirouette his way across the stage on So You Think You Can Dance, On Your Robotically Augmented Body?

I don’t know, but the Weird Toe has nothing on the thumbs. Or “shums”, as Riley calls them. The boy has double-jointed thumbs, meaning they can creepily bend at disturbing backwards angles, which JB crows over with proud papa glee. “Check that out!” he says, while I cover my eyes in horror because eerrrrgh, backwards shums.

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TITLE: Birds of a feather
DATE: 10/01/2007 10:46:25 PM

How sweet is this image over at Beth’s blog? Really, that’s one of the cutest damn things I ever saw. And boy, talk about looking in a mirror — that exact same scene plays out every night at our house, too!

Well, except that my kid doesn’t really acknowledge what’s going on incipient-sibling-wise at all, and would much prefer to merrily smack my hooters while yelling “BEE BEES!” instead of tenderly kissing my belly.

Which, um, is about eleventeen times as large as Beth’s.

But other than that: JINX. I’ll be posting my own photo, just as soon as . . . hang on, let me smear some peanut butter on my protruding belly button, that might lure the boy over.

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TITLE: A shared passion
DATE: 10/03/2007 09:24:59 AM

As I type this my son is galloping around the house wearing feetie pajamas with a pair of clunky brown boots laced over the top. It’s sort of an odd look — Paul Bunyan on his way for a sleepover — but there was no stopping him once he saw his shoes this morning. “Newwww booots!” he howled with joy. “Put on! Puuuut on peese!”

The kid loves shoes. Every time he gets a new pair he goes mad with joy, and for weeks on end he marvels over the wondrous things at the end of his feet, even if they’re the semi-crappy fake leather variety from Old Navy.

It’s kind of a charming trait, and for once, I can totally identify. I may not understand the fascination with “A ball! A ballll! ABALL!”, and as far as our tattered copy of Maisy Drives the Bus is concerned I’m fairly happy with only reading it once a day instead of 59295712 times, but shoes? Hey, I get shoes, kid.

(Now if we could just synch up on the whole Joe-vs-Steve issue. I know he’s only 2 and can’t be counted on to make good decisions, but Joe? JOE? I can’t back your choice on this one, son.)

——–

TITLE: The boy who cried potty
DATE: 10/04/2007 11:20:36 AM

Here’s a potty-related question for you, because I’m sure you were hoping and praying for just such a thing: should I be taking Riley to the bathroom every single time he says “potty”?

The reason I ask is because he says “potty” kind of a lot these days. His daycare has been taking him to the potty several times a day, and he’s even had a productive potty session at home recently (whereupon JB saved the small pee puddle in the potty just so I could see with my own eyes — either that, or he just didn’t feel like cleaning it, OH I WONDER WHICH).

I think Riley views the bathroom as kind of a fun diversion from whatever tiresome Lego-stacking/ball-flinging/food-ignoring activity he might be occupied with, which is why I’m starting to be a little suspicious of his sudden declarations of “Potty!” We typically have a conversation like this:

Riley: “Potty!”
Me: “Do you have to go potty?”
Riley: “Okay.”
Me: “All right then, let’s go potty!”
Riley: “YAYYYY!!!” *gallops down the hall*

However, by the time I get him in there, take down his pants/diaper/shoes/whatever, he then turns to me with a beatific smile and says “All done!” — without having produced a single molecule of Potty Contents.

Also, he likes to say “Potty!” after he’s already pooped.

Riley: “Potty!”
Me: “Do you have to — sniff, sniff — oh, did you go poop?”
Riley (craftily): “Noooooo.”

So what do you think? Continue taking him to the potty every single time he mentions it, even if he never actually goes? Try to be more proactive by having specific potty times during the day, so he’s less likely to mention it just for fun?

(I have now used the word potty more times in one blog post than I ever have in my entire life up until this moment. You’re welcome.)

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TITLE: Light in the tunnel
DATE: 10/05/2007 11:13:14 AM

As some of you know, we are in the midst of a major construction project at home (adding a family room and office, remodeling and expanding an existing kitchen). For the last several months, there have been workers in my house nearly every week, doing something or other. This week, contractors are working on the tile flooring in the kitchen, which I’m thankful for because it means the end is near. Sort of. At least, once they’re done with flooring the long-awaited appliances can go in the kitchen, and we can eat something other than microwaved food/takeout for the first time in weeks, THANK YOU BABY JESUS.

Anyway, because of the continued presence of workers who create smelly environments (I wouldn’t have guessed that tile mortar would have an odor, but apparently I was wrong), play their radio, talk at top volume, and constantly leave the door open which this week results in lowering the temperature to Witch’s Tit: Colder Than, I’m usually forced to take Riley somewhere else in the house while the work is going on. Which really sucks, because our options are limited. The office is no good, because of all the tempting wires and electronics. His bedroom is not that great, because it’s cramped and all he wants to do in there is pull books off the shelves. Sometimes we just sit on my bedroom floor, halfheartedly playing with Legos while I curse the day I agreed to all this remodel craziness.

It’s depressing as hell, not being comfortable in your own house. Especially when the moment you put your kid down for a nap, somebody inevitably breaks out the power saw.

However, I realized something the other day. I’ve been kind of dreading my upcoming maternity leave, to be totally honest — the thought of being at home day after day with a newborn AND a toddler was filling me with something like . . . oh, let’s just call it “bowel-loosening terror”. But! It suddenly occurred to me that gods willing, the work will be done by then. I won’t have to huddle in my bedroom, hiding from drywallers/painters/electricians/etc! In fact, I’ll have a whole new section of the house to go hang out in and sob about how my postpartum body resembles a cross between the Michelin Man and a Sharpei!

This is an oddly comforting thought, and I’m clinging to it. As I type to you from my bedroom, while the sounds of “Hotel California” drift in from the tilers’ radio.

——–

TITLE: Halloweenie
DATE: 10/08/2007 11:28:44 AM

I attempted to get Riley to try on his Godzilla/dragon/whatever Halloween outfit from last year, but he would have nothing to do with it. He loves pretending to be a dinosaur and making obnoxiously loud dinosaur RAWRR! sounds lately, so I was a little surprised that he had no interest in taking the whole dinosaur thing to the Next Level, but then again, this is a kid who requires a full-body tackle in order to get a jacket on him, so maybe wearing a costume is a little too much to expect from Mr. OH MY GOD UNDO THIS ZIPPER NOW NOW NOW OR I WILL SET YOU ON FIRE WITH MY MIND.

I guess I could take him somewhere and encourage him to pick out a costume he might actually take a fancy to, or I could fashion some sort of low-impact outfit that he wouldn’t object to (t-shirt that reads “This IS my [expletive deleted] costume”, for instance); and maybe I could take him around our neighborhood to a few houses at an early hour, knocking shyly on doors and holding onto my probably-totally-freaked-out kid and chirping “say thank you!” over and over, or . . . maybe I should just say to myself, Self, how about instead of getting all het up about your 2-year-old child’s Halloween Experience this year, you just go ahead and focus on the plethora of mini-Snickers bars available for stuffing in your gaping pregnant maw.

I think I’m going to go with the Snickers option. What about you? If you have a little kid, what are your Halloween plans?

——–

TITLE: Longing for a pocket
DATE: 10/09/2007 10:41:15 AM

A while back, I mentioned that I was considering whether or not I had the balls to watch my own c-section (assuming it was an option). Astute reader Felicia commented that there is in fact a lengthy video available on YouTube that shows the entirety of a c-section, and that maybe it would be a good idea if I checked that out. So I did. I watched the whole thing, pretty much. And, well . . .

OH MY GOD WHAT WAS I THINKING HOLY CRAP AIIIIEEE.

Etc.

Okay, I should say that it wasn’t the gore that got to me, although boy howdy was there ever plenty of fluids and mysterious goopy things and that horrible yellow chicken-fat stuff (adipose tissue?) that everyone — except that creepy walking skeleton on this season’s Survivor — has on their bellies. It wasn’t even the floppy, disturbing way the skin got pulled back around the incision, or the cheerful blort! of what I assume was a small geyser of amniotic fluid.

No, it was the way they pulled the baby out that made me realize that if I want to retain some modicum of dignity during the surgery and not, you know, shriek out loud like big adipose-y scaredycat wuss, I’d be better off staying behind the Drape of Comfort. For some reason I had pictured the surgery looking like someone putting a scalpel into a melon, I imagined the belly staying firm and round and just sort of opening up to allow the various gloved hands to reach gently in and scoop up the baby, who would be lying there as if cradled by a fleshy bassinet. They would carefully lift him out and — ta da! Here’s the baby! Let’s suction out his glop-filled air passages!

That’s not how it works, though. Oh no no no no no. No. It’s more like — jeez, I don’t even know what it was like. Like trying to reef a jammed piece of bread out of a toaster? Except with lots and lots of blood? I don’t want to say it was violent, exactly, but it seemed very dramatic and I had my eyeballs practically resting against the screen of my laptop while my heart pounded in fear, because oh my god, get the baby out get him out hurry hurry but don’t pop off his head!

The relief I felt when the baby was finally yanked free — slimy and probably totally pissed off — was immense, because WHEW, its HEAD was intact.

I think it would make me, oh, just a little panicky to watch that part, which was the part I thought I specifically wanted to watch. So I’m glad I saw the video, even though I had to lie down for a few minutes afterwards and take some deep breaths.

Man, no matter how they come out, it’s an amazing, miraculous, and downright insane process. Personally, I think the marsupial method is looking vastly superior in comparison.

——–

TITLE: A passing thought
DATE: 10/10/2007 11:10:58 AM

Not that it’s been asked of me, but I came up with the perfect answer for the question of what a large-breasted woman can expect in terms of upper body changes during pregnancy. Here’s what I would say:

“You know the movie Fight Club, when Edward Norton goes to the testicular cancer support group and there’s that scene where he’s being hugged/smothered by Meat Loaf, and the VO says, ‘This is Bob. Bob had bitch tits.’? He’s being crushed by Meat Loaf’s massive, pendulous pecs . . . ‘Between those huge sweating tits that hung enormous, the way you’d think of God’s as big.’ That’s pretty much what your breasts are going to look like, starting in the fourth month or so. Like giant, drooping Meat Loaf-esque estrogen-fueled manboobs. Oh, and also? THEY WILL BE ITCHY.”

Maybe it’s a good thing I haven’t had occasion to share this little revelation. Well, until now. You’re welcome!

——–

TITLE: Having a wonderful time, etc
DATE: 10/13/2007 10:14:19 AM

As I type this I’m stealing a barely-there wireless signal from a neighboring house here in Tofino, Canada. We’ve been here since Thursday evening, and I can’t even describe how beautiful it is. At night we fall asleep with the sounds of waves crashing against the nearby rocky shore, and the days are filled with blue sky and windless, mild temperatures.

Riley is back home, staying with his grandparents. I’m glad for this short time away, but I miss him very much. I think the perfect vacation might be this: head to your relaxing locale of choice, but bring a nanny or family member who can whisk your child away when you might want to actually relax. I keep thinking, oh, I wish I could just give him a hug and an eskimo kiss — then go back to my lounging in front of the picture window/moseying around on the beach/eating at local restaurants, all sans toddler.

That wouldn’t really work, though. I’d feel guilty about fobbing him off, I’d want to embark on “family outings” that would doubtlessly end up with someone getting sand in their diaper and crying about it, I’d order pizza instead of dragging my tired kid out to the place that serves that amazing seafood chowder, etc.

So maybe this is the perfect vacation after all. Yeah, actually, I think it is — and hey, I should get back to it. See you next week, okay?

——–

TITLE: Turning over the reins
DATE: 10/16/2007 11:34:16 AM

So I left my son in someone else’s care for five whole days and guess what? HE SURVIVED. He doesn’t even seem to be sporting any long-term psychological damage! He didn’t malnourish, develop a facial tic, or indicate a newfound appreciation for George Bush. In fact, he seems to have endured our absence just fine.

He definitely missed us, and he’s clearly glad we’re back (he’s been spending a lot of time cuddling with us, pointing to each of us in turn and saying “Mommy! Daddy!” with glee in his voice) — just as we missed him and are glad to be near him again. But all in all, being apart for a while was fine. Especially considering this is the last parents-only vacation we’re going to be taking any time soon (newborn due in January AIEEEEEE etc).

I was thinking about all the things us mothers tend to worry about and the micromanaging aspect of parenting we sometimes get wrapped up in, where we become convinced that we are the only ones who can take care of our children and anyone else’s methods will be substandard and our kids will somehow experience a significant amount of emotional suffering if we aren’t there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I wonder if this is a byproduct of our comparatively isolated modern lifestyles, where childcare isn’t typically shared among relatives and villagers and, I don’t know, random passing dingos.

(Not that I would let a dingo babysit my kid while I went on vacation. I mean, unless it looked like a really responsible, nice dingo. One that wasn’t too hungry.)

I’m glad we were able to trust our family to take care of Riley in whatever way worked for them, and I’m glad we didn’t feel compelled to leave a fifty-page dossier on Riley’s various potential routines and likes/dislikes and a list of approved activities. This has a lot to do with the family resources we have, but I think it has to do with growing a little as parents, too.

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TITLE: Discipline and the two-year-old
DATE: 10/17/2007 09:40:32 AM

At some point in the murky waters of toddler misbehavior, when you’ve tried calm explanations and distractions and the ignore-it policy and eventually wild, thrashing gestures, it becomes necessary to resort to The Next Level. Yes, I’m talking about the PADDLE OF DOOM. Spare the large painful blunt object, spoil the child, after all!

Oh, I’m kidding. I only dish out corporeal punishment to the cat, in the form of “helping” her out the front door at 3:20 AM with my foot.

No, I’m talking about other sorts of disciplinary measures, and I’m curious what you guys have found to be helpful. In the last couple months, we’ve been giving Riley the occasional time out, and it seems to work fairly well — we basically just put him in his crib and leave the room until the unholy noise emanating from his scream-hole winds down. I’m not sure if it works because he’s got the attention span of a fruit fly and eventually forgets why he was in there cursing our names in the first place, or if he actually just needs a sensory break in order to cut the tantrum circuit; either way, this method usually helps all of us chill out.

I also resort to what I like to think of as the Voice of God, if the situation warrants. Situations that might require the Voice of God include running away from me towards the street, throwing pointy objects directly at my face, etc. You know the Voice of God, right? When you TALK LIKE THIS, and the sheer volume/tone is designed to make all nearby children stop pretending you sound like the wah wah wah Charlie Brown teacher and snap to attention?

So: Voice of God, time outs, and in extreme cases, some internal-monologue-only threats mostly taken straight from Full Metal Jacket. What works for you?

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TITLE: Ups, downs, and creamy middles
DATE: 10/18/2007 08:52:25 PM

Toddlerhood is so infuriatingly inconsistent: one minute we’re marveling over just how adorable and funny and charming our little boy is, life seems so impossibly rich and full, laughter fills the air and a faint angelic chorus can be heard — and the very next minute, we’re struggling to stay upright, our faces hang haggard and grey, and our sweet child’s head spins rapidly while shooting flaming bullets aimed directly at the happiness centers in our brains.

When we all got home today, JB and I had a fantastic time playing with Riley for a while, and then as bedtime approached, the giddy thrill of “Golly gosh, we sure have the best kid EVER!” slowly became replaced with “How much postage would it take to ship this tantruming monster to Antarctica, and where the hell is the nearest FedEx?”

If parenthood is a roller-coaster, then Riley at two years of age is like a season pass to Six Flags. I mean, he’s really kind of incredibly great a lot of the time, but his mood swings should come with barf bags. I can think of no other experience that’s remotely like being a parent, where the colossal, occasionally overwhelming amounts of pain-in-the-assery are constantly being tempered by moments of nearly heartbreaking wonder and joy — all generated by the same midgety little creature who still poops in their own pants.

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TITLE: The naming of things
DATE: 10/21/2007 08:18:18 PM

Lately I’ve caught myself calling the dog by Riley’s name and vice versa. It’s not because I’m completely losing my mind, I don’t think, it’s just that they can be equally annoying in their respective ways, and they occasionally require the same tone of voice. “RI-I mean, DOG,” I’ll say sternly, “stop drinking out of the toilet! And DOG — I mean, Riley, you quit jumping on the couch right this minute.”

I’ve often heard my mother-in-law cycle through the names of her two sons and husband in the same mental Wheel of Fortune manner, sometimes giving up and saying “WHOEVER YOU ARE, can you help me with this garbage?”

Now that we’ve got a second boy on the way, I have this feeling I’m going to mix up their names quite a bit when they’re a little older. I should go with the old Bill Cosby routine, and just name one Dammit and the other Jesus Christ. “Dammit, will you put that down? And Jesus Christ, what are you doing in there?”

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TITLE: Heavy matters
DATE: 10/22/2007 09:31:17 PM

I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but I suddenly seem to be 20 pounds heavier. I noticed my feet were starting to ache, so I stepped on the scale yesterday, and — whoah! When did that happen? It totally snuck up on me! Well, in a gradual, I-guess-I’ll-have-one-more-cookie kind of way.

My husband made a jolly reference to my “big caboose” tonight, and desperately tried to backpedal by claiming he meant I just was looking really pregnant. “Are you saying my ASS is pregnant?” I instantly demanded, and I could see his brain scrambling to find the EJECT CONVERSATION button.

I feel sort of enormous already, and I’ve still got three months to go. I suppose I should really cut back on the cookies, but the only thing that makes me feel better about my BIG FAT ASS is more cookies.

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TITLE: Take twelve chocolate cookies and call me in the morning
DATE: 10/26/2007 09:26:04 AM

Horrifying, irrational, shameful things I am vaguely worried about, with regards to having another baby at the end of January:

— I won’t feel the same about this new baby boy as I did/do about Riley

— I will love this baby completely, and it will dilute how I feel about Riley

— Having his parents suddenly paying all this attention to a new baby will make Riley sad and miserable

— My patience, already stretched pretty thin as is, will snap completely and I will become a shrewish, ugly, screechy mother, the kind people have to go to therapy to recover from

— I won’t be able to focus on the joys of experiencing all the good baby moments again (first smiles, that delicious head-smell, the feeling of holding a sleeping baby in your arms) and instead will constantly fret over the insanity of repeating all the bad baby moments (teething, not-sleeping, turbo-pooping, and all. those. SHOTS)

— I will feel lonely, bored, isolated, and depressed during maternity leave, and on one endless day the sight of yet another pile of spit-up-stained bibs/washcloths will make me start screaming and never stop

I tell myself it’s normal to experience these thoughts, and that everything will ultimately work out in the end, and that having this baby will be a wonderful, stressful, amazing experience, just like it was with Riley, but I also think it’s highly unfair that major anti-anxiety drugs are typically considered a no-no during pregnancy. Which is why I’m baking cookies today. AGAIN.

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TITLE: Reluctant changes
DATE: 10/28/2007 08:46:43 PM

At some point in the next couple months, we’ll be moving Riley into a new bedroom. We need to move everything in our office into its new location, which we added as part of the remodel work that’s been going on in our house for A THOUSAND BILLION YEARS NOW the past few months, then we can move Riley into the old office space, thus freeing up his current bedroom for the new baby. That office space is quite a bit larger than his current room, and will make a better bedroom for a little kid, and eventually I figure both boys can share that room and we can use what is now the ‘nursery’ as a guest bedroom (are you following all this? I don’t think I’m explaining it very well, I should have included a diagram). See, our plans are all coming together, except for the part where I am cool and calm and in complete control of my sugar intake, that part seems to have SLID OFF THE RAILS JUST A TAD.

Anyway! I’m wondering if any of you have some transition tips for doing the Big Kid bed thing. We’re going to use a futon mattress in Riley’s room — because we have a fairly new futon sofabed we no longer have room for now that the office is downsizing, and that seemed like it could work just fine as a bed for Riley (probably without the frame to start) — and I figured we’d get him used to the room, maybe spend a few days playing in there or whatever, then just . . . do the normal bedtime routine and see what happens? My brain is kind of flatlining at the part where we leave the room and he’s in there without the crib rails. Will he get up and wander around? Pound at the door wailing?

I’m hoping to do this well before the baby arrives, so Riley doesn’t associate the squalling new interloper with suddenly being booted from his crib. But that means doing it well before the end of January! Which is REALLY REALLY SOON.

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TITLE: Tube-tied
DATE: 10/30/2007 11:38:12 AM

I was at my regular prenatal appointment the other day and my doctor asked me if we were planning on having any more children after this baby. “Oh ho ho ho NOOOO,” I said in the overly jolly tone I seem to always use when I get asked this question. “No, two will be plenty for us, thanks.”

She then went on to ask if I’d considered having a tubal ligation during my C-section this time around. To that, I had no jolly response, only a weak fluttering of the hands and a lot of blinking and head-shaking.

The truth is, I am 99.9999% sure I don’t want to have a third child, and JB, for once, is completely on the same page with me on the whole subject of reproduction, so there’s no reason why I shouldn’t Biggie-size my surgery and go for the tubal at the same time.

Except . . . I don’t know, what if there’s a .0001% chance we change our mind somewhere down the road? It sure seems unlikely now, but there have certainly been times in my life when I was positive I didn’t want any children, much less two. It’s so hard to predict what the future will bring, and surgery is such a permanent solution.

Also, this is weird to admit, but there’s something that bothers me about sterilizing myself. It’s not like there’s anything that bothers me about birth control, but removing my ability to have children altogether feels like, boy, I don’t even know. Like a step I’m somehow not willing to take, despite our decision that this pregnancy will be the last one.

You know what I wish I could do instead? Donate my ability to get pregnant to someone else. I know that sounds stupid, but that’s what I would choose if I could. Just remove the “Gets Knocked Up Pretty Easily” bone, and give it to someone else who’s having a hard time, without transferring any of my surely-undesirable genes (bad teeth, poor eyesight, inability to perform basic mathematical calculations). That would be preferable to what seems to me to be the equivalent of taking my fertility out back and putting a bullet in its head.

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TITLE: Capriciousness, thy name is toddler
DATE: 11/01/2007 11:08:26 AM

The definition of unrewarding: cramming your 2-year-old into the Halloween costume that he LOVED just DAYS ago, I swear to GOD he did, while he screams and howls and cries and generally acts as though what you are putting on him is not in fact a cheap nylon mummy outfit but rather a horrific ensemble made of poison oak, fire ants, and fishhooks. And also tiny biting sharks.

I felt like some kind of evil pageant mom, murmuring about how it’s okay, calm down, don’t you want to wear your cool Halloween outfit Riley?, while my brain helplessly shrieked YOU WILL BY GOD WEAR THIS AND LOOK CUTE OR I WILL BURN ALL YOUR LEGOS. I was pretty sure that once I managed to get the damn thing on him, he’d be excited about it, which thankfully is exactly what happened, because hoo boy, I really, really needed a happy ending to that particular meltdown. While I don’t think he probably sustained any long-term emotional damage from the October 31 2:35 PM Great Costume Refusal, *I* sure did.

We went out to JB’s workplace, where his office had adorned their hallways with creepy Halloween decorations and people had bowls of candy at the ready for the employees’ kids who came trooping through (I hope the older kids got a real trick-or-treating experience later in the evening, because while making your way through the carpeted halls of a tech building is undoubtedly one of the safer Halloween options, it’s kind of . . . well, it’s kind of lame, isn’t it? Just grabbing whatever candy you want from the bowl set outside someone’s office door?), and Riley had a ball. The mummy costume was a hit, even though a couple of JB’s coworkers weren’t quite sure what he was supposed to be (“Oooh, are you a scary lion?”).

How was your Halloween?

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TITLE: Teacher, mother, secret lover
DATE: 11/02/2007 09:20:08 AM

I recently discovered that there’s a cartoon version of the Maisy books Riley adores. I was initially excited about this, because this has become an exclusively Blue’s Clues household and lately I’ve been experiencing this strange desire to gouge out Steve/Joe’s big brown eyes with a grapefruit spoon each time I hear the Mail Song.

(I also recently discovered that there’s a plethora of free kid’s shows on demand, on Comcast anyway. I never thought the on demand function was good for much but holy distractions, Batman, was I ever wrong.)

The Maisy show is pretty cute, but they solved the problem of How Should the Maisy Animals Vocalize issue by giving them non-talking caveman type voices; they communicate via a series of hums and ahhs and grunts. Charlie the Crocodile is the worst, he emanates this nonstop stream of sounds that remind me of the noise you’d make as a 5th grader when your friend did something stupid: “DURRRHH. DUHHH. GURRRRRH.” Poor Charlie, he’s just not very smart. Maybe it’s the elongated snout.

So now I’m not sure what’s worse: Steve/Joe singing HERE’S THE MAIL IT NEVER FAILS IT MAKES ME WANT TO WAG MY TAIL or the Maisy animals moaning and grunting with the soothing male narrative constantly saying things like “Oh, are you taking a bath Maisy? What fun!”

I don’t know why I’m complaining, though. These shows are the reason I can eat breakfast in relative peace in the mornings, so bless you, Noggin Network. Thank you for parenting my child while I’m reading “Frazz”.

——–

TITLE: I remember when weekends were relaxing
DATE: 11/04/2007 07:09:05 PM

“We are here at Linda’s household, where we’ve secretly replaced the toddler she usually parents with a pint-sized speed freak. Let’s see if anyone can tell the difference.”

Does your toddler ever walk? I mean, one foot in front of the other, methodically moving in one particular direction, maybe at a speed of less than 65 MPH? Really? Well. Huh. I GUESS THAT MUST BE NICE.

I don’t know if it was the time change, the alignment of the planets, or the fact that I fed Riley part of a Top Pot chocolate donut on Saturday morning, but my kid was operating on Triple-Click TiVo Fast Forward (badoop badoop badoop!) all weekend long, which made our Saturday afternoon trip to IKEA extremely . . . uh, vigorous. Ditto the trip to Staples and the local deli. We have become Those Parents, the ones constantly chasing their child from one DON’T TOUCH PLEASE to another.

I kept seeing other kids Riley’s age who seemed so much calmer than he is. One girl was riding on her dad’s shoulders, happy as could be. My god, she wasn’t whacking his head and howling “DOOOOWWWN”, what’s up with that? Another walked contentedly with his hand in his mother’s. WALKED. He wasn’t galloping at top speed, careening wildly into a carefully arranged display of holiday ornaments, running backwards while yelling “I GO BACKWARDS MOMMY! NOOK!”, or going completely boneless and shrieky as his exhausted parents tried to herd him in the right direction.

Who are all these well-behaved children, and why can’t I have one? Please tell me other 2-year-olds are basically psychotic little feral animals sometimes, because I’m starting to wonder if there’s something in Riley’s milk. Like CRACK COCAINE.

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TITLE: Tomayto tomahto
DATE: 11/06/2007 11:49:02 AM

I am really enjoying the way Riley pronounces certain words. I know this sort of thing is of interest to exactly no one outside my own family, but I’m sorry, I’m going to bore you with a list of some of my favorites:

Suppopuses. We call Riley “Suctopus” all the time (what? It’s a perfectly cromulent word) and I like to sing “One Little, Two Little, Three Little Suctopuses” to the tune of that Ten Little Indians nursery rhyme. Riley’s contribution: “TEN SUPPOPUS BOYYYYYSS!!!”

The dropped “L”. Words with an L in them are hard for him, so “look” becomes “nook” and “Legos” become “yeggos” and “Riley” becomes “Riwwy”. It kills me, people. KIWWS. ME.

Giant Excabator. To me, it’s a digger toy. To Riley, it’s the “GIANT EXCABATOR MOMMY, NOOK!”

Bankie. Riley doesn’t have a blanket, he has a bankie. As in “MY BAAAAANKIEEEE” which he sometimes howls from his crib after he has (inexplicably) hurled his bankie to the floor.

Pagetti. All kids have a cute substitute for spaghetti, don’t they? Pagetti and meatbaws, pease.

Charry Brown. He got introduced to Peanuts with “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”, and every time he asks for Charry Brown now I’m reminded of that scene in Kill Bill (“Charry Brown, four pepperoni pizzas!”).

Ah shit. Oops, I guess he can say that one fairly accurately. Um, let’s blame that on JB. Yeah.

——–

TITLE: A little shmoop for your Hump Day
DATE: 11/07/2007 10:05:20 AM

I was re-reading Elizabeth Berg’s The Art of Mending last night and I came across this quote:

“There are random moments . . . when I feel a wavelike rush of joy. This is my true religion: arbitrary moments of nearly painful happiness for a life I feel privileged to lead. […] It’s not always visible, but it’s what holds everything together.”

Yes. Yes, that’s it exactly. I’d like to have that needlepointed and hung in my kitchen, or better yet, tattooed on my bicep. Just to have handy for those times that it’s not always visible, to be reminded that it’s still there, holding everything together.

——–

TITLE: Thoughtcrime
DATE: 11/08/2007 09:03:36 AM

I have created a House Rule for the one section of our home currently sporting new paint, carpeting, and furniture: NO SHOES IN THE CARPET ROOM. There is also NO JUICE in the carpet room, and if I could also inflict a lifelong NO BODILY SUBSTANCES WHATSOEVER rule I would happily do so.

Riley has embraced this rule with the enthusiasm of a small child who loves to parrot oft-repeated phrases, which is to say he reminds us approximately fifteen thousand times a time that there are in fact NO SHOES allowed in the carpet room. Yes, exactly, we say, patting him proudly. Good job, Riley!

Yesterday while Riley was taking his afternoon nap I surreptitiously ate my lunch in the carpet room, because sometimes the rules don’t apply to grownups (well, let’s be honest: sometimes the rules don’t apply to ME; they should always apply to my dirty-shoe’d, rootbeer-spilling husband). Afterwards, when he had woken up and was careening full tilt into the family room to get his Legos, he saw it. The EVIDENCE. A sole glass of water, guiltily sweating with condensation, forgotten on the side table.

He wheeled to me with an accusing, scrunched-up face, and then he pointed his midgety little finger and wagged it at me. “Hey! HEY MOMMY,” he shouted, a cloud of disapproval emanating from his entire body. “No WATER in the CAHPET ROOM!”

As I shamefacedly removed the offending glass, I was reminded of those evil kids in 1984 who reported their parents to the Thought Police. I’ve learned that a frothy-mouthed adherence to rules is adorable and charming . . . until it’s used against you.

——–

TITLE: Things to do
DATE: 11/09/2007 09:11:44 AM

Pop quiz, hotshot. You’re about to fly solo with a superactive toddler all weekend while the Mister runs off to the woods of Oregon. The hours stretch before you, and the forecast calls for rain. What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?

Uh, no really: what do I do? I’m not just quoting some of the most over-quoted lines in movie history for craps and giggles over here, people. There’s only so much Maisy a person can play before some of the more important wiring in her head starts to go (“OH LOOK MAISY, IT’S CYRIL. HE APPEARS TO HAVE WET HIS PANTS, AGAIN! WHAT FUN!”).

Got any silver-bullet remedies for toddler boredom, things that have saved your butt on a boring rainy afternoon? I’m looking for activity inspiration. If all else fails, I’ve got my trusty copy of the Toddler Busy Book on hand, but for the love of god, don’t make me resort to food coloring.

——–

TITLE: Hurt
DATE: 11/11/2007 07:29:54 PM

On Saturday afternoon I took Riley to the playground, where he galloped around shrieking excitedly while I ran interference between him and the throngs of mad foaming rabid apes older children. When it came time to go, I chased him for a while as he yelled “NO! NO! NO!” and eventually I just reached down and picked him up. At which point he angrily smacked me in the face as hard as he could. Not once, but several times, before I managed to re-adjust my hold and get a grip on his flailing hands.

I said “NO HITTING”, of course, and I whipped him around so I was holding him sort of sideways, and I ferried him straight to the car while he screamed at the top of his lungs. I buckled him in, and then I startled both of us by bursting into tears that verged on hysteria.

I drove home, crying all the way, and when we got home I dumped him in his crib and shut the door, and then we both wailed in our respective rooms until I had myself under enough control that I could go back in, hold him, and talk about how we never hit, we never, ever hit, and I have no idea if anything sunk into his head or not but he clung to me in what I thought might have been an apologetic manner.

I guess the entire incident was so upsetting to me because 1) it was shameful — imagine what the other parents must have thought, seeing him hit me like that, 2) it hurt my feelings — all the love I pour into this child, and he thinks it’s okay to go all Ike Turner on me? 3) it makes me wonder how I have failed so spectacularly as a parent to have raised a child who will strike me in anger like that, and 4) that shit hurt, I mean being smacked in the face is no joke, even if the smacker is a two year old.

Hitting has been an Issue lately, although Saturday’s offense was far and away the worst of what I’ve seen so far. Riley gets angry and he lashes out, and no amount of Timeouts, Stern Reprimands, or Earnest Conversations seem to be fixing the problem. I suppose there’s a certain amount of “He’s 2, he can’t control himself yet” that’s going on here, but goddamn. Goddamn if I’m going to have a kid who slaps me in the face when he can’t get his way.

So . . . hey, any ideas on not having a kid who slaps me in the face when he can’t get his way? Because my methods don’t actually seem to be working.

——–

TITLE: On the upside: shark + cow + dog = fun
DATE: 11/12/2007 08:34:47 PM

I can’t even tell you how helpful it has been for me to read your comments on the last post; thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your tips and commiseration and reminders that that sort of behavior isn’t completely out of the ordinary for the toddler stage, or as I like to call it, “The stage that often makes having another child seem downright batshit insane, oh my holy god what have I done save me save me save me AIIIEEEEEEE.”

Lest I make it sound like my entire weekend was dragged into the doldrums by the Hitting Incident, I should say that in general Riley and I had a good time together, and we successfully tried out several of the activities you recommended last Friday. I noticed, however, that no one suggested the Shark and Cow on the Dog game, which Riley seems to greatly enjoy.

How to play game:

— Place toy shark/cow on dog
— Shriek excitedly and say “SHARK AND COW ONNA DOGGIE, MOMMY!” about 93857175 times
— Repeat, until dog finally gathers remaining shreds of dignity and leaves the room

(All hail Labs, the world’s most indulgent breed.)

——–

TITLE: Employing yet another questionable technique
DATE: 11/14/2007 09:12:56 AM

Does anyone else use the Reverse Psychology Trick to get your kid to eat something? Where you hold up part of your kid’s lunch and say, “Oooh, Mommy’s string cheese” and start to make an exaggerated biting motion, and your kids says “NO RIWWY’S STING CHEESE!” and makes a grab for it? And you walk away briskly dusting your hands and nodding in appreciation at the fine, fine parenting skills you have developed, while your child gnaws the previously refused food item?

No? Just me, then? Just me reinforcing my 2-year-old’s more selfish personality traits and probably completely undoing any progress anyone has made towards the shaky concept of Sharing?

Oh.

——–

TITLE: Bad things in the world
DATE: 11/15/2007 10:50:19 AM

Last night on the national news there was a brief heartbreaking segment about abuse in Serbian psychiatric institutions and Riley, who had been ignoring the television until then, suddenly turned and watched as the cameras showed children and adults, twisted and deformed and crying out in anguish from their jail-like cribs. Before I had a chance to distract him or ask JB to change the channel, Riley turned back to me and said, “Baby go night night?” And I didn’t know what to say except yes, the babies are going night night.

——–

TITLE: Clock-watching
DATE: 11/16/2007 09:38:01 AM

It’s 11:03 AM and Riley’s nap is about an hour away. You’d think I would take solace from this fact but the nearness of it is making him cranky and out of sorts and all the snacks in the world (for both of us) aren’t really helping matters. If we watch any more Blue’s Clues or Maisy I will keel over and die of boredom and/or guilt, so the TV is out. We’ve already made Lego towers, a giant sofa pillow fort, and drawn endless variations on “A BEEG TRUCK MOMMY” with crayons. My brain feels thick and fuzzy and I can’t stop yawning. I haven’t showered yet and my face is shiny, my sweatpants are uncomfortably rolled underneath my bulbous pregnant belly. There’s laundry to be done and the kitchen is liberally sprinkled with crumbs but here’s a whiny toddler bringing me that godawful “8 Silly Monkeys” book and my mouth tastes stale and what time is it now? Oh, it’s 11:04.

11:03 AM is often my Least Favorite Time of Day when I stay at home with Riley, with 6:08 PM being a hot contender for 2nd place. What is your Least Favorite Time of Day, also known as the Long Dark Tea-Time of the Toddler Soul, AKA The Witching Hour, etc etc etc?

——–

TITLE: Vanity supersizing
DATE: 11/18/2007 07:38:31 PM

In my relentless quest to find one, ONE, ONE GODBLEEPINGDAMNIT pair of maternity pants that do not force me to spend 99.7% of my day hitching my waistband back up from the bottom of my ass (I used to be able to fix this via the Bella Band, which now drives me batty with its itching confinement, plus I swear it gives me heartburn), I bought two cheap styles at Target today: one pair of jeans, one pair of black slacks. Both sport the ever-sexy Full Panel, meaning they stretch over the entire massive protrusion erupting from my midsection. HOT. And yet they are by far the most comfortable pants I’ve found so far, in that I can take three or four steps in a row without frantically hauling at my waist. Thank you, Liz Lange.

(By the way, I just want to mention that wearing ill-fitting pants for weeks and weeks and months on end is a form of torture I think has been overlooked in all the pregnancy books. Yes, there is heartburn and gas and leg cramps and swollen hooters, but the Bad Pants Syndrome is something that sort of wears you down over time, and adds to your overall crankiness and short temper, until the 395867th time you have to bend over to chase a scampering toddler and your pants shoot down towards your ankles again, well, that is when you will consider with all seriousness ripping off your pants in the middle of Safeway and finishing your shopping in peace, with your saggy-butt underwear on display for all to see.)

Anyway, I couldn’t help but notice that both pants were a size 6. And by “couldn’t help but notice” I mean “stared at the tag in shock and awe and rejoiced inwardly in a completely ridiculous manner”. It’s ridiculous because people, even if you removed all the pregnant from my body, there is no way on this earth I would be a size 6 at the moment. There are people who eat fruit and salad during their pregnancies, and there are people who unhinge their jaws the moment the second line turns pink and spend 9 full months cramming Hostess snacks into their eat-holes. And I think you can guess which camp I fall into.

Sadly, even though I know it’s BS, I love the pants just a little bit more because of their size. Okay, a lot more. Baaaaaaaaa.

——–

TITLE: Doors close, doors open
DATE: 11/19/2007 04:12:51 PM

So, I’ve learned that ClubMom is officially shutting down their blog program, which means I’m . . . well, there’s no other way to say it: I’M BEING LET GO.

The plan is to escort me from the building by the end of December, and between you and me, I am totally going to steal a shitload of staplers between now and then.

In all seriousness, I am really sad that the ClubMom blogging gigs have come to an end, because I have truly enjoyed writing here. It’s been a great outlet and I’ve learned so much from your comments. It’s been nice to have a place where I’m motivated to share my parent-life minutiae, I don’t think I would have captured so much of Riley’s early months without this blog.

Plus, I’m not going to gloss over it, I will miss the monthly paycheck. Sucksh, as my 2-year-old-who-has-unfortunately-learned-to-say-“sucks” says.

Anyway, I thought I’d give you a heads up, especially since other bloggers are sharing the same news. My plan is to keep on writing here throughout the end of December, so I hope you’ll keep reading. For those who aren’t already reading me elsewhere, I’ll let you know where you can find me after this site shuts down.

Thanks for reading. And thanks for making this whole ClubMom experience rewarding enough that I’m sitting here thinking “Damn” instead of “Whew!”.

——–

TITLE: Oh yeah, I remember this
DATE: 11/20/2007 11:39:50 PM

Anyone have a cure for pregnancy-triggered Restless Leg Syndrome, AKA Jimmy Leg, AKA OH MY GOD I AM LOSING MY MIND MAKE IT STOP MAKE IT STOP MAKE IT STOP, etc?

Let me know if you do. Until then, I’ll just be over here practicing my Riverdance routine at 3 AM.

PS: Happy Thanksgiving, I hope you have a wonderful holiday.

——–

TITLE: End of the weekend (thank god)
DATE: 11/25/2007 07:57:55 PM

I can’t figure out why Riley’s been so cranky today. Well, it might have something to do with the fact that we returned home yesterday from a holiday spent with loving family members who took turns doting on him every second of the day and thanks to having some backup someone was always giving him their full attention no matter how many times he asked for that beshitted Bing Bunny book, and now he’s at home with his boring old parents who keep trying to do ridiculous things like pick up a magazine or load the dishwasher instead of hauling out Mr. Tatey Head for the frillionth time; or maybe it’s the mucus-spraying cold he seems to have picked up in the last 24 hours; or maybe it’s the fact that I tried to give him crockpot chicken and dumplings for dinner and he dramatically declared it “too freaky” before bursting into the sort of tears normally reserved for gravesites and middle school dances; but I’m just not sure. Maybe it’s the full moon.

——–

TITLE: Rhymes with “mooing”
DATE: 11/27/2007 11:44:16 AM

One of Riley’s favorite phrases lately is “Doing?” As in, “Doing, Mommy? Doing?”

Wow, the more I type that the more it looks like it should rhyme with ‘boing’, but it’s do-ing, as in “WHAT ARE YOU DOING MOMMY HUH HUH HUH HUH DOING DOING DOING DOING?”

Here’s me, all day long:

“I’m cooking dinner, Riley.”

“I’m putting garbage in the garbage bag, Riley.”

“I’m feeding the cat, Riley.”

“I’m losing my damn mind over here, Riley, can you maybe say something else?”

(Riley, switching gears slightly after hearing a noise outside: “What was dat, Mommy? What was DAT?”)

I love that my kid is talking so much and we’re actually able to communicate on a fairly sophisticated level (well, comparatively, I mean we aren’t sitting around discussing the finer points of Coen brothers movies or anything but it’s a nice change from the caveman-esque grunts, screams, and arm gestures that defined the 18 Month Zone), but duuuuude. Doing. Doing. Doing.

The upside, though, is that Riley can now be programmed to pester JB. “Psssst,” I’ll say to him. “Go ask Daddy what he’s doing.” And off he’ll run.

“DOING, DADDY? DOOOOOING?”

Sure, that may sound mean, but JB is the one who taught Riley to “slime” Mommy (ie, wipe his mouth and nose on my pants). I think I deserve some major retaliation for that one.

——–

TITLE: Doo doo (another misleading title)
DATE: 11/28/2007 09:45:14 AM

One of the sillier games we play with Riley involves asking him where his shark is, and then he whips his hand up into a sort-of shark-shape and makes the Jaws sound: “Doo doo.” Sometimes we play Family Shark where we ALL get out our sharks and have a festive little Shark Fight, which surprise, Riley always wins (his shark is very agile).

Sometimes the Where’s Your Shark routine can actually derail a full-bore tantrum, short-circuiting whatever part of his brain is stuck on SCREAM ABOUT THWARTED INDEPENDENCE and returning him to a sort of sniffling, moist-eyed sanity. Even if it’s a little insane to pretend your hand is a shark.

I was thinking today about how quickly kids move from one thing to another, how Riley is always morphing from one obsession to the next, and how in a matter of — what, days? Months? — we won’t be doing the Shark Hand Thing any more, and at some point in the not too distant future I’ll probably have forgotten our little family ever used to spend time making our hands into sharks and saying “Doo doo.”

But now I’ve written it down and I’ve told you about it, so the Shark Hand Thing has been preserved in some tiny way. Tell me, what silly thing are you doing with your kids right now?

——–

TITLE: Denial
DATE: 11/28/2007 08:18:49 PM

Riley will now pat and kiss my belly, and tell his baby brother hi. Well, he does this with the spontaneity of a trained seal, which is to say I’m not sure it would occur to him to do these marvelous things if Daddy wasn’t nearby saying “Let’s tell the baby hi! Let’s give the baby a hug!”, but I’ll take it. Having my son tenderly pat my enormous belly and shout “HI [BABY’S NAME]!” into my navel is possibly one of the best parenting moments I’ve experienced to date.

I am choosing to focus on these sweet interactions rather than the memory of last week, when we visited a family friend who had a young baby. JB ended up holding the 6-month-old for a few minutes to see how Riley would react, and oh, our boy’s face. He stormed over to JB, demanded the baby go back to her mother, and when she wasn’t immediately jettisoned from JB’s arms, Riley clambered into JB’s lap and curled against his chest, his back to the baby, his eyes a well of despair.

Poor little prince. I very much doubt the belly patting and hi-baby-brothering is at all connected in his head to the upcoming appearance of a small, squalling attention-stealer, but like I said, I’ll take it all the same.

——–

TITLE: RAM
DATE: 11/30/2007 08:59:47 PM

I have never harbored any secret wish that Riley be a gifted child. I hope he loves to read and that he’s better at math than I am (he’d have to practically be a blind canary pecking wildly at an abacus to be any worse) and most of all that he’s a good communicator — because I believe the ability to expertly communicate with other people is what really makes the difference in your life and career, way more than any other learned skill — but really, I have no fervent desire to see him skip grades, win chess tournaments, or go to college at the age of 14.

So I hope you don’t think I’m bragging when I tell you that HOLY GOD MY KID IS A GENIUS CALL MENSA RIGHT NOW.

Okay, I’m exaggerating, but Riley is seriously blowing my mind lately with the things he can remember. He can recite the contents of most of his favorite books, page by page. Even the tongue-twisting Dr. Seuss shit. He knows all the lyrics to “On Top of Spaghetti”, which is more than I can say for his father (JB: “Uh, all covered with . . . uh, line?” Me: “CHEESE, DAMMIT.”), and he pre-announces each Maisy segment after only one viewing (“Boats, Mommy! Dis one with da boats!”).

It’s sort of amazing to see how his little brain just soaks up information all day long, he’s aware of so much more than I give him credit for.

Then again, he still predictably whacks the bejesus out of his head on the dining room table every single time he crawls under it to retrieve a toy, so . . . okay, let’s hold off on that Mensa call. FOR NOW.

——–

TITLE: Picture perfect
DATE: 12/03/2007 09:55:37 AM

Oh look, a charming image from this weekend’s Christmas tree outing. A father and son, enjoying an traditional holiday moment together:

Except, what’s missing from this bucolic tableau? (Other than the child’s mittens, of course.) Why, it’s Mommy. Where is Mommy?

She’s behind the camera, as usual, shivering in the snow in a coat that won’t zip shut over a 7-months-pregnant belly. She’s the one trying to hold the boy’s hand to keep it warm, while he yanks it from her grip, shouts NO, and chases his father. She’s holding a squirming, tantruming toddler while he screams DADDY, DADDY, DADDY over and over in her ear like a firebell while the beloved, eternally preferred DADDY takes the tree out to the truck. She’s sitting in the truck, sniffling back hormonal tears, while her son cries piteously in the backseat about DADDY, DADDY, where is DADDY. She’s thinking that in the rolling credits of her family’s life, she would be listed somewhere near the bottom. Maybe under “grip”, or more accurately, “personal assistant to Young Master”. She tearfully announces to DADDY that she’s nothing more than a glorified babysitter, a nearly pointless biological accessory that is simply around to do the breeding, and that her own child couldn’t care less if she lived or died and she’s going to move to a Caribbean island and spend the rest of her days serving watered-down Mai Tais to tipsy businessmen because FUCK IT.

Later, of course, she takes it all back, as her traitorous son clings joyfully to her leg yelling I GOT YOU MOMMY.

Oh, the things we don’t put in the holiday cards.

——–

TITLE: Pregnancy cornucopia
DATE: 12/03/2007 07:31:14 PM

Every week I get an email newsletter from Babycenter.com reminding me how many weeks pregnant I am, which has been surprisingly useful this time around — so unlike my first pregnancy when at any given moment I could have told you how many days pregnant I was.

My favorite part of each email is the food/fetus comparison: for instance, I am now 30 weeks pregnant, which apparently means the baby weighs as much as a head of cabbage. Mmmm, delicious baby cabbage.

Some of the comparisons have to do with length, some with weight, but all of them are sort of funny — all these fruits and vegetables, and the inevitability of imaging each one sitting inside my belly. Next week: four navel oranges!

BabyCenter’s Food/Fetus Comparisons, Which I Am Totally Not Making Up:

4 weeks: Poppy seed
5 weeks: Sesame seed
6 weeks: Lentil bean
7 weeks: Blueberry
8 weeks: Kidney bean
9 weeks: Grape
10 weeks: Kumquat
11 weeks: Fig
12 weeks: Lime
13 weeks: Medium shrimp
14 weeks: Lemon
15 weeks: Apple
16 weeks: Avocado
17 weeks: Turnip
18 weeks: Bell pepper
19 weeks: Large heirloom tomato
20 weeks: Banana
21 weeks: Carrot
22 weeks: Spaghetti squash
23 weeks: Large mango
24 weeks: Ear of corn
25 week: Average rutabaga
26 weeks: English hothouse cucumber
27 weeks: Head of cauliflower
28 weeks: Chinese cabbage
29 weeks: Butternut squash
30 weeks: Head of cabbage
31 weeks: Four navel oranges
32 weeks: Large jicama
33 weeks: Pineapple
34 weeks: Average cantaloupe
35 weeks: Honeydew
36 weeks: Crenshaw melon
37 weeks: Stalk of swiss chard
38 weeks: Leek
39 weeks: Mini watermelon
40 weeks: Small pumpkin

——–

TITLE: Laughing gas
DATE: 12/05/2007 08:53:47 AM

A surprisingly satisfying conversational exchange I never imagined I’d take part in:

Riley: *belch* “Hey, Riwwy fahted!”

Me: “No, sweetie, remember: when it comes out your butt it’s a fart, when it comes out your mouth it’s a burp.”

Riley: “Bup.”

Me: “Right.”

Riley: *buuuuuuurp* “Hey, Riwwy BUPPED.”

Me: “Yes, exactly!”

Riley: *poot* “Riwwy fahted! Riwwy fahted AND Riwwy bupped!”

Me: *wiping away a single tear of maternal pride* “Nice job, Boo.”

——–

TITLE: Typed with dry mouth
DATE: 12/06/2007 03:47:18 PM

I think it’s time to confess that I am officially COMPLETELY TERRIFIED about having this baby, and what life is going to be like after the first week in February.

——–

TITLE: Stay-Puft
DATE: 12/07/2007 12:36:32 PM

In the last few weeks I’ve noticed that my wedding rings have been getting harder and harder to get on and off, and after a particularly vigorous removal process several days ago that had me briefly wondering if I was just going to have to yank my finger out of its socket, or what, I haven’t put them back on.

I had hoped to avoid the too-puffy-for-rings pregnancy syndrome this time around because unlike when I was nearing the final stretch with Riley it’s not the dead of summer. Therefore, my ankles should remain normal-sized and my rings should go the distance, right? Well, WRONG, apparently. I also noticed the other day when I took off my socks that I had a repulsive elastic-ribbed indentation circling the flesh on my ankle, so . . . oh well, Michelin Man resemblance, here I come.

Anyway, I thought I’d ask what you did when your rings got too tight, assuming this happened to you. Did you wear them on a chain as a necklace? Forgo them altogether and flirt shamelessly with grocery clerks? Or what?

——–

TITLE: No, the ultrasound said there was JUST ONE
DATE: 12/10/2007 07:44:49 PM

I was in my doctor’s office this morning for a regular OB appointment when a man who works behind the front desk — an aging-pretty-boy whom I’ve always found to be slightly bitchy — exclaimed over my appearance: “Look at you! You’re getting so big!”

What does a person say to that, when they’re 31 weeks pregnant? Other than “No shit, Sherlock”, I mean. I nodded vaguely and smiled. “When are you due?” he asked.

“Early February,” I said, and that’s when he said. It.

“Just ONE there then?”

As opposed to six or seven wriggling fetuses, which could clearly be the only explanation for my MONSTROUS GIRTH? I’ve heard of people saying this sort of thing but come ON. It’s not like this guy works at Men’s Wearhouse, he presumably sees pregnant women all the time. And while I may have rounded out a little bit somewhat a whole lot recently, come ON. COME ON.

The thing that thankfully made this little Hallmark Moment officially funny as hell, instead of embarrassing and, you know, a little hurtful, was the woman sitting nearby who heard the whole exchange, shot her eyebrows somewhere up in the stratosphere at his comment, and leaned in to me to say, “Girl, he craaaaaazy.

——–

TITLE: New Things
DATE: 12/12/2007 10:17:27 PM

I’ve been posting here less frequently lately, not because I don’t enjoy sharing my every fleeting thought with you (because I do, embarrassingly enough), but because December is just kicking. My. Ass. I’m ready for some serious downtime, which is great timing because have I mentioned I’m having a baby in less than two months?

Anyway, I have a new all-things-parenting blogging gig in the works, and I hope you’ll come visit me at my new location. I don’t think I have the green light to announce it quite yet, but I should be able to post the new info soon. I’m looking forward to keeping my thrilling narrative going, because hey, we’re just getting to the GOOD part of the story! Where the author has a newborn and a toddler at the SAME TIME and totally loses her mind ALTOGETHER!

Er, I mean, “faces adversity and rises to the occasion”. Yeah.

—–

TITLE: Goodbye (but not really)
DATE: 12/16/2007 10:16:06 AM

It’s been a great run while it lasted, and I have truly enjoyed my time writing here and talking with you fabulous people. Thank you so much for all the comments and emails you’ve sent my way over the months, you’ve helped me through a thousand dark parenting moments and you’ve made the bright moments even brighter.

This will be my last ClubMom update, but I hope you will come read my parenting-related entries at ParentDish, where I’ll be posting several times a week from here on out. See you there!

Comments

11 Responses to “Baby blog archives, from 2006-2007”

  1. Carmen on April 6th, 2017 12:33 pm

    Ohhh, I’m excited to see this post. Purple is a Fruit is the first thing of yours that I read and I laughed so hard at and nodded along with so many posts. My two kids are about 6 months younger than your two kids so we were going through similar things at similar times, and hoo boy, it was so nice to know I wasn’t alone. You were (are) so good at articulating the highs and lows of parenting. I will for sure read this post in its entirety and fondly look back on all we’ve been through to get to this stage. Thanks, Linda!

  2. Trina on April 6th, 2017 12:53 pm

    Purple is a Fruit is where I started reading you! Our kids are roughly the same ages and you kept me sane back then. Reading these brought me right back. I honestly can’t thank you enough for your honesty and making me feel like I wasn’t the only one.

  3. Mary Clare on April 6th, 2017 1:47 pm

    Remember how when you had a newborn and were out at the grocery store and a parent with an older kid would say, ‘Enjoy it! They grow so fast’? Then you’d turn your back and roll your eyes because not sleeping for 6 months running sure didn’t feel like it was going fast! Point being, the details of the baby years are now foggy with a warm glow now. I totally could be one of those annoying people wishing a new mom to ‘savor every moment!’ How awesome that you have the details written down to reminisce.

  4. M on April 6th, 2017 4:40 pm

    Oh my word! This is when I first started reading you and it’s amazing how so many memories flooded back for me reading these! It brought back all the emotions of my own parenthood back then and also how much I loved and looked forward to the comfort of your writing. (I used to laugh so hard while nodding my head like crazy.) I am so grateful for your writing, Linda. You have helped me so much, so many times.

  5. cg on April 6th, 2017 4:58 pm

    Ha! I remember some of these!

  6. Shawna on April 7th, 2017 6:43 am

    I read that last entry just now and, with the gift of hindsight, thought, “Don’t do it! Don’t go to ParentDish!”

    Isn’t that the place that had all those vicious commenters that said things like you should put your dog down because you couldn’t give her 100% of your attention anymore? I’m so glad Purple is a Fruit was, and this space is, so much more positive.

  7. Fiona on April 7th, 2017 1:40 pm

    I remember Purple is a Fruit! How fun to read them again!

  8. Bridget on April 13th, 2017 2:53 pm

    Oh my gosh, I have fallen into such a rabbit hole with this since you posted it last week! Some of it sounds vaguely familiar, so I think I read it way back in the day, but now that I have a baby, it’s even more fun to read. I keep wanting to write you comments from the future. (I just finished the entry from 12/05/2006 about not remembering how old Riley is, and – yeah, I downloaded an app for that, so it’s right there on my phone’s home screen, 1y2m2d.) I’ve read up to where Riley is about the same age as my baby, and now I’m not sure if I should just keep charging through, or slow down so that I’m always reading entries in which Riley is about the same age as my daughter.

    Regardless, I know this was mostly a way to keep these entries for yourself, but I’m so glad you posted it.

  9. bessie.viola on April 21st, 2017 1:58 pm

    Oh man… This took me back. I remember reading “Purple is a Fruit” through my pregnancy with my first, and it was your description of a c-section that I recalled (and it was comforting) when my own pre-eclamptic ass was admitted. :) Your voice has always been an amazingly honest source for me… how cool to look back knowing what a great kid Riley is now.

  10. Penelope on April 26th, 2017 2:45 am

    I haven’t made it all the way through but I just had to reach out to say the candor and humor in your writing about being a new mother is so wonderfully refreshing, and it makes me look forward to the day when I will be there myself. Damn, you can write, girl!

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