Monday, December 13, 2010


Apparently my body is neither too old to MAKE or DELIVER a baby, but is too old to carry said baby around.  This past week I've been plagued with a "bad back."  Even just talking about it makes me feel like a very old person - the kind who talk about their ailments all the time because nothing else seems as interesting.  The bad back, I think, comes with the million times a day that I'm traveling up and down the stairs carrying a 15 pound bundle of joy, and from lifting that bundle up off the floor nearly as many times.  You see, for the baby's safety, you're not supposed to put her up high.  On anything.  At all.  She sits on the floor, lays on the floor, plays with toys on the floor, and every piece of little baby equipment must rest on the floor.  The baby-thing manufacturers warn you, in large labels on their product, with helpful cautions like:
1.  Do not place the Bumbo seat on an elevated surface.  We've totally designed it to look like a McDonald's booster seat, but don't even THINK about putting it up on a chair.
2.  Do not fill the Exersaucer with water.
3.  Do not use the Exersaucer as a sled.  (I would never have thought of this one on my own, but now that the Evenflo people have given me the idea, it sounds fantastic!)
4.  Do not attempt to carry the bouncy seat  while also juggling the phone, the TV remote, the salad spinner, and a school permission slip.
5.  Do not carry your baby up and down the stairs all day.  Do not pick her up off the floor an equal number of times.  Or, if you do, remember to bend at the knees.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Making Weight

On November 29, 2010, at approximately 10:13 in the morning, I officially returned to my pre-baby weight! Now if I can just figure out what to do with all this extra skin….

Confession: I am still wearing one pair of maternity pants. They are so nice and so comfortable and actually classic looking, that I can’t bear to give them up. Oh well.

Update from yesterday:  This morning, I was dressing EC when I noticed that her band-aid (from yesterday's incident - see previous post) was gone.  I looked through her pajamas - nothing.  Looked in her bed - nada.  Scrounged around on the floor - again, coming up with nothing.  Then the thought crossed my mind that she had SWALLOWED it.  Again, panic.  Would it some how become stuck in her small intestinal tract?  She'd never pooped anything solid - what would happen?  Was it restricting her breathing even now?  Should I Google it or call the pediatrician?  Why was I stupid enough to put a band-aid on a baby?  I walked downstairs, awash in the naivete that I thought I was years past, and there was the giant band-aid, on the couch.  Dodged another bullet.  She will live to tell the tale.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

An infant's tribute to the King of Pop

I was so close. Just that one last little tiny paper thin fingernail…

There are a few cardinal rules in life that you’re not supposed to break:

1. Never say that your child is ugly.

2. Never joke about bombs at the airport.

3. Never say out loud, “That woman has more than 10 items and this is the EXPRESS lane!”

4. Never make your baby bleed.

(Caution – my mother paid no heed to that last one when it came to loose teeth, so keep your children away from her if they have a wobbly one.)

Today I broke the last rule and made my three-month old bleed her own blood. One of the child-rearing tasks that I delegate to Ryan (along with teaching people to pee standing up) is the trimming of fingernails. However, I kept forgetting to ask him to do this for Emma Clare and I’d already been clawed by her about three times today. So, I took a stab at it (no pun intended, but there it is anyway.) I was humming along so well – one hand done, on to the next. It was just that very last thumb that got me, or got her, as it turns out. The look on her face was of one who had been utterly betrayed and her cry was other-worldly. I panicked. Then I stuck her thumb in my mouth (thinking, somehow, that this might help.) Tried to remember any first aid training that I might have had – elevate the head, or is it supposed to be the feet? Pressure? Tourniquet? I rubbed some organic diaper ointment on it – I don’t think it helped at all, but it smells heavenly – like oatmeal and vanilla. Finally, I managed to find the world’s largest band-aid in our closet and wrapped it around her microscopically small finger. Then, to prevent her from sucking on the band-aid, I put a striped mitten over that hand. One of my children had the good judgment to point out that this made her look like Baby Sandy. Baby Sandy is my childhood Cabbage Patch doll and about 16 years ago our yellow lab chewed off one hand. I put one of those little scratch mittens on that hand to cover up the damage. So, in essence, my child now looks like a Cabbage Patch Kid with a gnawed-off stump for a hand. A lady in line in back of me at Target said something to the effect of, “Oh, it looks like she lost one of her little mittens.” I didn’t dare explain.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Time to Be Serious

I want to take some time out from my usual very witty repartee, and share some serious thoughts about these children God has given me.  I hope that these words that I write on this blog - sometimes with much biting sarcasm, and just as often with tongue firmly planted in-cheek -- are not offensive.  I love my children and am thankful every day for them.  I have watched my mother mourn the loss of a child, watched dear friends do the same more than once, and have watched those closest to me struggle with the realization that a biological child will not be a reality for them.  I don't want to ever be seen as taking my children for granted.  Even on the worst of days, Emma Clare will look up at me with a sideways glance while breastfeeding, and give me the most impish grin.  It would melt your heart.  I can't imagine a day without her, or without Patrick, or Annie, or Aidan.  They are given to us as a solemn responsiblity and a pure joy.

As I write this, my heart is heavy.  People who I do not know, friends of friends, have just taken their two-year old home from the hospital, to die in her own bed, in their arms.  I'm overwhelmed with grief for this family who I will likely never meet.  But we share the bond of parenthood and for that reason, the grief that I feel right now is very real.  Despite all prayers to the contrary, it seems that for His purposes, God will not see fit to relieve them of this agony. Tomorrow I will probably complain about my teenager not wanting to wear new shoes, and they will never have the chance to complain about their child's teen years.  It's for this reason that I hope, in the midst of the amusing expositions of my miniature trials and tribulations, that I don't lose sight of the enormity of the four gifts I've been given, and that you don't mistake my feeble attempts at humor for ingratitude.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I can't think of a title for this blog because I'm so tired.

Between 10:30 last night and 6:30 this morning, I was up 3 times.  This is a catastrophic throwback to Emma Clare's earliest days with us.  Ryan says I must have forgotten to explain the rules to her.  I was so tired walking back and forth from her room to ours, that I felt like I was in a trance and am extremely lucky that I didn't fall down the stairs.  I have no idea what the issue was.  She has been congested on and off for weeks and an annoying little voice in my head is whispering something about potential allergies.  I hate that voice.  And I KNOW that if I go into the pediatrician's office that she is going to suggest going off dairy -- somehow I just know that's what she's going to say.  And mark my words, if someone tries to make me lay off dairy, I will do real harm to myself rather than live like that.  Go without cheese?  Surely you jest.  On the brighter side, it might not be allergies at all.  But then again, that isn't much brighter because I will still need to get to the bottom of why she's so congested and why she's making me feel like the walking dead.  Oh, and also it would be nice to know why I currently have to change clothes 3 times a day from being spit up on.  Here's hoping someone sends me a new shirt for my birthday next week because she's spit up on all the others.  That's why I'm still in my pajamas today.  Really, it is.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Parental Duty

Occasionally, Parental Duty requires me to go watch one of my kids exercising their "gifts."  Tonight was one such occasion: watching Aidan at swim team practice.  The pool area is a stifling 83 degrees and I always seem to be wearing a sweater when I go.  Sigh.  Anyway, tonight I decided to speed the hour along by committing to memory the various other parents gathered there, so I could share them with you.  They are (in no particular order):

1.  Mrs. Overestimation of my Child's Abilities.  She was one of the first people I met when we joined the swim team.  That evening, she was fretting about the local high school cancelling their modified swim program.  For those of you not from NY, every school runs a modified version of each of their sports, allowing talented middle school students to train with and compete for the high school coaches.  Of course, she was concerned because where was her little darling 7th grader going to get any kind of decent workout?  Not here at the Y.  Oh, it's fine for SOME children, but her little man has real talent.  Maybe the high school will let him work out with the varsity swim team?  Sure they will.  And I'll bet they love it when they get a load of his work ethic.  Her little man manages to find about 80 different reasons, every evening, to get out of the pool and wander over to the bleachers.  The varsity team will love that.

2.  Mr. and Mrs. Parents of the Most Frail Child I've Ever Seen.  Not much to say here, other than to express the hope that there is never a draft in the pool area.  Their child will be blown away.

3.  Mrs. I am Totally Oblivious to the Fact That My Child is Obnoxious. She is near and dear to my heart because her son swims with Aidan's group. He is always the one in the pool when the coach has asked everyone to exit, is swimming freestyle when they've been asked to swim butterfly, and manages to "accidentally" fall in the water during team meetings. Curiously, mom never seems to notice.

Mr. I Think it is Still 1967. He has a lot of friends here in Ithaca. They were flower children in the 60's and have held on tenaciously to the wardrobe and the hairstyles.

Then, there's me.  Mrs. I am going to read this magazine and watch my child out of the corner of my eye and when he gets out of the pool and walks by I will look straight at him and give him a thumbs up for whatever he may have just finished doing, not that I would know because I've been reading a magazine and scoping out the other parents.  It makes him very happy.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Well-Baby Visit and Other Random Musings

I live in fear of the well-baby visit.  For the un-initiated (or those of you who may have forgotten - like I had..) this is a series of trips to the Pediatrician that are designed to make you feel: a) like you actually pay rent and live out back of the Pediatric office  and b) like a neglectful parent.  The well-baby visit consists of a series of trick questions; if you get the questions wrong, or don't know the answer, they take your child away.  I remember a specific well-baby visit over 11 years ago when Annie was a baby.  The conversation went like this:

Pediatrician:  "Does she stack blocks?"
Me: (to myself) -- "Blocks?  I'm supposed to give her blocks?"

Do you see what I mean?  It's kind of like that question, "Have you stopped beating your dog?"  If you say "No" then you're in trouble because you're still beating the dog.  If you say "Yes" then you're in trouble because you admittedly HAD BEEN beating the dog.  So you're either admitting that your baby is somehow deficient, because she doesn't stack blocks, or you're a neglectful liar who never even gave her baby the benefit of blocks in the first place.

At Emma Clare's last well-baby visit, the conversation went something like this:

Intake nurse: (notice that now the Pediatricians have given the more mundane, yet still tricky, duties, to someone else): "Does she coo?"

Me:  "Yes.  Absolutely"

Nurse:  "Does she squeal?"

Me (trying to discern the subtle difference between coo and squeal):  "Um... maybe."

Nurse: "Does she laugh?"

Me (now thoroughly confused -- what is the difference between a squeal and a laugh and how can it possibly even matter?):  I am silent, but have sort of a grimace/shrug/chuckle kind of thing going on.  I refuse to answer the question directly on the grounds that they might think that I am utterly neglectful -- I don't even watch and/or listen to my own child???

They also expect me to answer questions like, "How many wet diapers does she have a day?"  This is CLEARLY a trick question designed to ascertain how many times a day I actually get around to changing the baby's diapers.  I give them a broad estimate -- somewhere between 1 and 100 wet diapers per day.

At the second well-baby visit, the intake nurse told me that the baby's head circumference had apparently not changed at all in two week's time.  She said this with a note of concern in her voice.  When I nervously asked if that was cause for worry, she reassuringly (not) said, "We'll have to ask the doctor."  Great.  Then she said, to the baby, "You do have brains in there don't you?"  That is not a joke - that's really what she said.

My next visit is not for another month and a half, which gives me time to read up on the milestones that Emma Clare will be expected to have reached.  This is important information to be armed with in case I need to lie.  I actually have a friend (who shall remain nameless) who confessed to me that she regularly lied to the pediatrician about these milestones, preferring deceit over the condescending looks she might get when having to confess that no, her baby does not cuddle dolls, or no, in fact she does not make all the animal noises.  This is not bad strategy.

In other random news:

1.  Tonight, an acquaintance came up to me and said, "Well, this must be your new little GUY!"  (Note that Emma Clare was dressed in pink pants and a pink striped shirt.  See blog post #1)

2.  Emma Clare had portraits done yesterday morning.  The photographer asked me if I'd like to have her photographed while she was nursing.  Now, call me crazy, but even though several doctors, nurses, midwives, medical students who I didn't know, and hospital cafeteria personnel have all seen almost every part of my body, I still don't want a large 8x10 of my breast, matted, framed, and hanging on the wall.  Or even a very small photo in my wallet.  It just isn't necessary.  And at the risk of having my mother call me and say "But it's a beautiful thing..." I just want to make it clear that I do consider it a beautiful thing, but then so is the act of DELIVERING a baby and I sure don't want a photo of that on my wall.

3.  I would like to think that I've done some important things in my life: making the high school cheerleading squad, finishing college, teaching elementary school, giving birth, etc.  However, this week I feel like I just discovered another element on the periodic table, or the vaccine for the common cold.  I found the perfect night-time cloth diapering system.  Really, this feels to me like Nobel prize-worthy stuff.  At the risk of boring you with the particulars (Happy Hempy fitted diaper, SuperDo insert, Dancing Bear Bottoms Night Weight Fleece Soaker) let me just say that in the cloth diapering world, this is the Holy Grail.  The combinations that mothers try when attempting to come up with this magic formula are truly dizzying.  Makes the creation of the atom bomb look like the assembly of Mr. Potato Head.

Thus endeth my revelations for this week.  Tomorrow, Emma Clare is taking part in a developmental research study at Cornell University.  They are (no kidding) going to be studying her reactions to a rubber duck.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Today is my tribute to mothering innovations – and a few things that someone needs to invent. When I last had children – 10-14 years ago – the Boppy and the Bumbo chair did not exist (and don’t you think that the manufacturers came up with these names just so we’d sound ridiculous saying them? I had no idea how rapidly my vocabulary would deteriorate) and we had to make do with a bunch of death-trap couch cushions. That’s not to say that I don’t think these particular innovations are splendid. I plan on keeping the Boppy around for myself after the Baby is done using it. The Bumbo might not be so useful. (I will pause here while those of you who haven’t been around a baby in the last little while go and Google both “Boppy” and “Bumbo”.)

My favorite innovation right now has to be, without a doubt, the Nose Frida. Right now, the Baby has a cold. But instead of the old nose-suction-bulb thing that my mom used on me (until I was 7, and that’s not an exaggeration – that’s how long it took for me to learn to blow my nose – you can ask my mom about this) – the kind of contraption that sends children running into hiding, if they are fortunate enough to be able to run – I got to pull out the Nose Frida. This was a life-saver, as I couldn’t exactly remember how to treat an infant’s cold. This is definitely one of the hazards of being an Old Mom – the memory goes. I find myself constantly running to, calling my mom, etc, because I’ve forgotten when the well-baby visits are, forgotten about the soft spot on the head, etc. I opted not to buy “What To Expect the First Year” because I think I just prefer to be surprised. Anyway, back to the cold. I knew I couldn’t just say “here’s a Kleenex and a glass of juice” and then somehow I came across the Nose Frida. Picture, if you will, a vacuum cleaner for the nose, powered by YOUR OWN MOUTH. Here’s how it works: you place a thin tube into your mouth, while a larger tube, connected to the small tube, is inserted at the base of the sickling’s nostril. And then you suck. Really. There is a filter that prevents any of the nose contents from even remotely touching your lips, but it does take some time to wrap your head around this concept. I watched a few videos on YouTube before I was convinced. In any case, it works like a charm, although the Baby still cried – apparently no one really likes to have their nose sucked on. It’s a bit easier than the bulb-thing (did you ever try to CLEAN one of those? It’s impossible.) A shout out to my old-world relatives, the Swedes, for coming up with this clever contraption. (Did they also come up with IKEA – another fabulous invention?)

As I’ve re-examined all of this baby paraphernalia, I’m struck by how much music is involved in baby gear, and how bad it is. Our bouncy seat, for instance, plays a mind-numbing digital rendition of Pachelbel’s Canon in D. It plays this at the same time as a barrage of bubbles sprays a school of neon plastic fish. The bubbles, and I kid you not, sound like machine-gun fire. It terrified me the first time I turned it on. What I’d like to see is someone come up with a baby toy: a seat, mobile, wind-up stuffed animal, that plays something decent – Billy Joel, Springsteen, Jim Croce, something like that. Something I might not mind listening to over and over. Come on inventor-type people – let’s spend less time coming up with cutesy phrases to put on onesies (“Got Milk?” “My Mom is a Hottie”) and let’s spend more time on the music.

As a side note – I decided to homeschool this year on top of making an international move and giving birth. Seemed like the thing to do to round out the chaos. I’ll probably comment on this experience from time to time. Today, Annie and Aidan perched themselves on stools by the sliding glass door and enthusiastically watched, and provided running commentary on, the emptying of our septic tank. Perhaps they would like to try the Nose Frida.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My newest little teacher.

The First Post. Lessons from the Battlefront.

New Adventures of an old mom. OK – so I borrowed the title a bit from a sitcom. It serves as an indication that both my creativity and productivity may be at an all-time low. I’ll just have to live with that. It also is indicative of the way that it feels to be “almost 40” (OK – not really – I’ll be 39 next month, but my kids always say “you’re almost 40!”) and caring for a newborn. I realize that lots of women my age are having their first child, but when I stop to consider that when Child #3 leaves home, I’ll still have an 8 year old, I feel my age acutely. And when I consider that I have both a child in high school and another barely out of the womb, I know that I am, at least in my own mind, an “old mom.” So, what have my lessons been for the past 11 months?

1. Someone has to be the statistic on the packaging for condoms. Sorry for my bluntness.

2. Email can often be the best way to present very surprising news to your spouse.

3. The image on a ultrasound does not ever lose its ability to humble, astonish, or move you to tears.

4. Women in France are expected to continue to drink alcohol in moderation throughout their pregnancies – Viva la France!!

5. There are approximately 1, 492 varieties of cloth diapers and covers. This includes 884 acronyms such as AIO and PUL. It is crucial to make the right choice so that you can avoid being bashed by other mothers out there in cyberspace.

6. Cloth diapering is more environmentally friendly than disposables.

7. Disposables are more environmentally friendly than cloth.

8. In order to participate on parenting community message boards, you have to know how to describe yourself properly. Otherwise, how will the other baby-wearing, attachment, BabyWise, cloth diapering, exclusively breastfeeding, exclusively pumping, family-bed sharing, Waldorf-education-espousing, Christian, non-Christian, atheist, home-schooling, EC’ing (Elimination Communication) families know whether or not your comments are to be trusted?

9. It is possible to look like a fool while using a birthing ball, if you haven’t done your homework.

10. Ditto for the squatting bar.

11. It is not possible to change your mind about wanting drugs for labor, when you are in the last 5 minutes of said labor.

12. It is nice to have your mother in the labor & delivery room but, sadly, she can really do nothing for the pain! (and how come??)

13. It is a myth that all newborns are beautiful. But mine really are.

14. If you decide to give your child a double name, maybe you should add in a hyphen. No matter what your husband thinks.

15. You haven’t lived until you’ve worn a $60 nursing bra. Really.

16. No one is on Facebook at 3AM.

17. Nothing is on television at 3AM.

18. The Moby wrap is the longest piece of fabric known to mankind.

19. Even if you dress your daughter in a pink shirt and pink pants, someone will ask you how old your little boy is.

20. It’s a good thing that babies are cute (remember – only some of them are) because they excrete a lot of bodily fluids.

21. They grow up pretty quickly.

So, I’m sure there are many more things that I’ve learned, and unfortunately, I probably have many more ahead of me. Things change in 10 years. How was I supposed to know that I’m supposed to give the baby Vitamin D drops? I don’t recall seeing a lot of kids out there with rickets, but supposedly this is the new threat. Will scurvy be rearing its ugly head again in the near future?