Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Daycare musings...

I still have mixed feelings about daycare.

Sometimes I leave Lion there and I feel great about it. I mean, I miss him while I'm at work, but I think he really digs being around the other babies and he has almost zero stranger anxiety at this point, which I'm attributing to the interaction he gets there. I think the women who work in the infant room really do love the babies, and there's one in particular whom I adore (you might remember Ms. Thelma from previous posts).

There are many days when we walk into the infant room and things are quiet, the babies seem happy, and everything is under control.

But some days I walk into the infant room and it's not quiet. Sometimes multiple babies are crying, needing various things while the outnumbered caretakers try to meet all the demands. Sometimes I decide I'll just be late for work, and I stay for a while, quietly playing with Lion in the corner of the room until it seems like the women have a handle on things. It's not that the environment is unsafe; it just breaks my heart to see babies crying in bouncers and swings, and no one is able to immediately respond.

On those days, I worry: Will this be stressful to Lion ? What if he starts crying and no one can get to him? Will he feel alone and worried? Will he think I don't care? Should I take my concerns to the director of the daycare?

And I counter my worry with these thoughts: Babies will cry sometimes, even if their needs are met. If that baby has to wait a few extra minutes for his bottle, it won't kill him. If we had multiple children at home, Lion wouldn't always have his needs met immediately there, either. And maybe you'd be more relaxed, because he wouldn't be the center of your universe. Maybe your expectations are unrealistic.

Look at me, I'm barely seven months into this motherhood gig and already buried under a mountain of guilt.

If I felt like the women didn't care, or that Lion was at risk, we'd be out of there. Immediately. They do care, but it's not like having a private nanny, you know? There are X number of babies and only X number of caretakers. It's the nature of the beast.

Right?

Perspective needed. Help.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Back in the saddle

I didn't think it would ever happen to me. I thought I simply wouldn't allow it. And yet there I was, sitting by and watching as the money slipped through my fingers month after month.

I had become one of those people. I had a gym membership that I didn't use.

I've always exercised regularly, simply because I enjoy it and the rush it gives me (especially in the winter, when I can use all the endorphins I can get). While I'd work out on machines from time to time if I had to, group exercise classes have always felt the best to me. Being surrounded by other people and music makes it feel more like a party. I've taken all kinds of classes- step, kickboxing, cross-training, and on one embarrassing occasion, a dance aerobics class (which I actually loved, but since I resembled Shrek in a sports bra as I bumbled about a studio full of seemingly professional dancers, I never went back).

After I got pregnant, I kept it up for a short time, but fatigue soon took over and I limited myself to walking and swimming. I did that right up until Lion was born, and started walking again post-birth just as soon as I felt up to it. As the months went by, I thought about that gym membership payment being automatically deducted from my bank account, and it bothered me- but not enough to do anything about it. I'd snagged a pretty low monthly rate when I first joined this gym back in 2003, and I knew it was lower than anyone could get these days (lower even than the discounted rate offered through Mike's employer). I was afraid that if I cancelled and then wanted to join again, I'd be stuck paying a higher rate.

(That's always bugged me. Why don't they just have set, advertised membership fees that are the same for everyone? Why does it feel like you're dealing with a car salesman the second you walk up to the front desk?)

This weekend, I finally got up the spunk to go back. My muscles had started sending signals that they wanted to be used for something other than walking. It bothered me that even when I tightened my abdominals, I could push my fingers into them. It was gray and rainy and I needed a lift.

I went to my old Saturday morning step class, where the instructor did a double-take as I entered the room.

"Hi, I'm back!" I said, as though I'd just returned from a quick trip to the bathroom.

"I thought that was you!" she said. "Where have you been?"

And suddenly everything I've experienced in the past year flashed before my eyes, and I looked down at my Nikes and flexed my calf muscles a couple of times before answering simply, "Maternity leave."

I was afraid that my body, now unaccustomed to such rigorous exercise, would give out after the first ten or fifteen minutes, that I would have to slink away, red-faced and doubled over. But my feet remembered how to move, and my legs supported me (though shakily at times), and it felt good to breathe hard and work hard. I even stayed for the next class, a combination of yoga, Pilates, and tai chi.

I felt like myself. I felt great.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Wow.

Have you seen this? It's absolutely breathtaking:

Man on Wire

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ma'am, I assure you- we don't carry that.

Here's what happens when the baby starts hollering before you can finish your grocery list:



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Thursday, March 19, 2009

This one is a bit too full-bodied, but has a nice finish

Okay, I already mentioned this one a while back, but I really do love bumGenius diapers. We've only had a couple of leaks in several months, one of which happened recently when Lion took a huge dump while he was bouncing in the doorway jumper. In all fairness, there was really nowhere else for the poop to go but down into the leg of his footie pajamas (score one for the cold of winter- a onesie would have been far more disastrous). Imagine squeezing a full tube of toothpaste with brute force over and over again. Get it? Or... is this maybe too much for you?

If you will henceforth not be able to brush your teeth without thinking of my kid's poop, I apologize.

(that's another book-thing I wanted to try when I was a kid. Remember when Ramona Quimby squeezed out an entire tube of toothpaste? When I read that, my eyes got huge and I sucked in my breath, because how could it be that another girl had the exact same idea?)

(except I knew my father would kill me, so for me, sadly, it remained a dream)

I'd also like to give two thumbs way up to PJ at Birth and Baby. We all know of the breastfeeding troubles I had after Lion's birth. One of my problems was not having a comfortable nursing bra that fit. I had a hard time finding a store close to my house with a good selection and a knowledgeable sales person who could fit me properly. I was also in a good amount of pain and didn't relish the idea of a bra fitting, even though I desperately needed one.

Birth and Baby was a godsend. I followed PJ's instructions for measuring myself (gingerly, in the comfort and privacy of my own home) and she gave me advice over the phone on which bras she thought would be best for me. Shipping costs only $1 per order, no matter how many you select, and she encourages you to order lots so you can try them on and return anything you don't want. This woman knows her product. After receiving the first shipment, I called her and we talked about which ones worked and which ones didn't, and why. Based on what I told her, she made further recommendations for brands, types, and sizes.

Thanks to her, I was soon comfortable for the first time in weeks.

And now for something that doesn't involve children or poop or bras: WINE. Go out and find yourself a Banrock Station 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. It's a delicious everyday wine, and retails for around $8 per bottle.

You're welcome.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

I fully intend to submit my newly-invented psychiatric condition for possible inclusion in the DSM-V

When you drive, do you typically look at other drivers? Like when you're passing someone, or stopped at a red light?

I almost never do. Maybe this stems from my college days, when I had to drive a fairly lonely stretch of highway every day to get to my senior internship, and encountered way more than my fair share of dirty truckers. Or maybe it's because I prefer not to confirm my suspicion that other drivers are texting/shaving/reading the Washington Post while steering the car with their knees. BABY ON BOARD! Please, for the love of God, TRIM YOUR NOSE HAIRS BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE HOUSE.

But I must be in the minority. On the rare occasion that I glance to the left or the right, nine times out of ten there is another driver looking at me. Not in a lewd manner (most of the time), but like they just want to see who's in the next car over.

This unsettles me, and I realize that my reaction says more about me than about the other drivers. Apparently I'm so introverted that I'm content to remain wrapped in my Subaru cocoon, listening to my own thoughts and staring straight ahead, I-touch-no-one-and-no-one-touches-me. It's a raging case of automotive avoidant personality disorder.

Do you have AAPD, or do you look? And if you're a looker, do I want to know what you've seen in the next car over?

Go ahead, tell me. I'll just grip my steering wheel while you type...

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bon Appetit

My blender is once again humming away on a regular basis, but it's baby food, not margaritas, that won it a permanent spot on the kitchen counter.

(Ah, margaritas. Don't forget me. Someday we'll reunite in paradise, if I'm not too tired.)

Lion is now eating solids three times a day. I was giving him two solids a day until I took him to the pediatrician last week. I asked her, "How do I know if he's ready for more?" and she said, "He's ready."

(she's from Boston and I love her because she always says, "Oh, Lion! You're so smaaaaaat!" and you know how I feel about accents. She could tell me Lion is unbelieveably stupid and I would still sit there all day long with a goofy smile on my face.)

I know it must seem like there are better things to worry about than whether your baby eats pureed whatever once, twice, or fifty times a day, but, you know. First-time parent and not wanting to do my baby irreparable harm and all that.

So now I'm that annoying person who buys organic everything for her baby. Mike and I do not eat an all-organic diet because 1) it's often too expensive, and 2) sometimes you can't find an organic version of what you need. And I never worried much about it. But for a small baby? Avoiding synthetic pesticides & hormones can't be a bad thing, and he doesn't eat that much, so it's manageable.

Check back in two years, at which point I'll probably be letting him lick the toilet.

So far my baby food-making repertoire includes oat groats, apple sauce, bananas, sweet potatoes, avocado, cannellini beans, and lentils. Lion liked lentils for a few days, but now acts like I'm trying to poison him when I sneak a spoonful into his mouth. Have you ever witnessed a baby's expression of complete betrayal? It's hilarious and heartbreaking all at once.

Anyhow, making your own baby food is very easy and cheaper than buying it. Even if you think you can't cook, don't worry- baby food is the non-cook's dream. Everything is supposed to be mushy!

Oat Groats for Baby:
(recipe from Ruth Yaron's book, Super Baby Food- highly recommended!)

  • Measure 1/4 cup oat groats (or use brown rice, barley, etc.) into your blender; blend 2 minutes for beginner eaters (or less for chunkier cereal for more experienced eaters). I usually grind a cup or two at a time and store what I'm not going to use in an air-tight container.
  • Bring 1 cup water to boil on stove. Turn heat to lowest setting. Sprinkle ground oat groats into water, stirring briskly with a wire whisk.
  • Cover pot and cook for 10 minutes, whisking frequently to remove lumps and avoid burning.
  • If cereal is too thick, thin with a little formula, breast milk, or water. Don't thin it ahead of time, though- wait until you're about to serve it.
That's it. Very bland, but Lion loves it. Soon I'll start making it with a combination of grains.

Also: I bought eight of these Ball half-pint mason jars (Wegmans carries them), and they're perfect for baby food that I'm planning to keep in the fridge for use within the next few days, and for sending along to daycare. Take off the lid and the jar can go straight into the microwave for warming.

My parents were visiting from Florida last week and we had several outings with Lion. One day we were eating lunch in a small cafe and Lion was completely enamored of the waitress. Any time she passed through the room, his eyes were glued to her, and anytime she spoke to him, he smiled like a fool. Once she was on the other side of the room and he shrieked at the top of his lungs to get her attention. Without missing a beat she called, "I'll be right with you, sir!" Everyone in the place laughed.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Good morning

When the baby woke at 5 a.m. this morning, I stumbled into his room and nursed him, then tried to get him back to sleep. Even though he was clearly tired, he fussed and grumbled and flipped onto his belly, then onto his back, then onto his belly again. He whipped his tiger blanket from side to side. He looked up at me with sleepy eyes and furrowed brow, like, "HELP."

So I picked him up and carried him to my bed, which we almost never do, but I was so tired and he was so tired and it seemed like the right thing to do. And together we drifted off to sleep, and we didn't wake up until 8:30. When he opened his eyes and saw me there, he smiled.

Good morning.

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

The answer is now YES

Yesterday it occured to me that at some point since Lion's birth, I reclaimed my dignity.

I'm not sure exactly when it happened, or where. I won't be able to tell my grandchildren, "Oh yes, I remember it exactly. I was in Wegman's buying avocados, and I was wearing my favorite fuschia sweater..."

I'm not sure when I got it back, but I definitely know when I lost it.

During my labor and delivery I did everything in front of everybody without caring a whit, and after Lion was born I was too worried, then too exhilarated, to notice who was coming into the room while I was lying there with my legs up in the air. HI, come on in! I just had a baby! He came out down there! It was awesome!

And then! As anyone who has given birth in a hospital knows, the nurses can come in and poke and prod at your uterus and sensitive bits whenever they feel like it, around the clock. And they do.

"I'm just going to check you!" they sing, and before you can even utter a token grunt of permission, the sheet has been pulled down, along with your mesh panties, and they are looking at things and pressing their fingers into the pile of dough that used to be your stomach while you lie there and stare at the ceiling and pretend that you are elsewhere, anywhere else, like even stuck in a 5-mile back-up on the Beltway.

And then you and your crazy, overachieving boobs might require the assistance of multiple nurses and two hospital lactation consultants, and since everyone and their mom has already seen everything down below, ripping open the top of your hospital gown at the slightest suggestion seems like no big deal.

At one point an LC was struggling to help me with my pump as I sobbed, giant tears splashing down onto my stomach and mingling with the milk drips. "Oh, cover up, honey!" she said, removing the pump and trying to pull my gown closed. "The pediatrician is coming in!"

And I stared at her with bleary eyes, wondering why she cared, because I certainly didn't. Cover up? Whatever for?

And then there was the time the fire alarm went off when I was alone in the room with Lion. I waited a few seconds to see if it would stop, or if an announcement would come over the intercom. When the alarm continued with no word from the hospital staff, I struggled out of the bed, put my purse on the bottom shelf of the bassinet (I remember being very proud of the fact that I remembered the baby AND my purse), and wheeled Lion into the hallway, my gown flapping open behind me. Nothing like flashing a few dozen people while saving your baby's life. I felt so maternal.

For weeks after I returned home, my body was alien and I continued to offer it up without question to whoever needed to examine it. My mother, my husband, midwives, doctors, more lactation consultants. I held my baby, rocked my baby, nursed my baby- and my body belonged to him still, even though he was no longer inside of me.

I had a little test to help me determine if I was back to my old self, which I repeated as the days went on:

Do you care if a complete stranger sees you without your pants on?

If YES, congratulations! You have taken an important step toward reclaiming your body!

If NO, I'm sorry. Please try again later. And in the meantime, definitely keep your pants on.


Yesterday I was in a store's changing room when someone tried to open the door without knocking. The lock was engaged, but I experienced that reflex of half-crouching.

"Sorry!" the person called, and moved on.

I stood there for a minute, then straightened.

A complete stranger almost saw me naked, and I cared. Now that's progress.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Generosity

So our VCR broke and our local electronics repair place wanted $50 dollars just to diagnose the problem.

"Well," Mike said, "I took it apart and I can see what the problem is. There's a gear that doesn't turn."

"Right," said the repair guy, smugly. "Leave the diagnosing to us."

Like they've been sitting around just hoping for a juicy VCR mystery to sink their teeth into. I can picture Jerry Orbach saying that at the end of a Law & Order scene.
In the electronics repair system, the electronics are represented by two separate and unequal groups. The stupid people who own the electronics, and the genius super-repairmen who know everything and aren't afraid to charge accordingly. These are their stories.

Dunk dunk!

For $50 we could buy a new VCR, so we decided to pass.

Anyhow, I was telling my co-worker this story and she said that we were welcome to her old VCR, which has been sitting in her basement, unused. Thank goodness, because we were getting tired of this conversation:


16-Year-Old Sales Clerk: Hello, thank you for calling _______.

Mike: Hi. Do you sell VCRs?

16-Year-Old Sales Clerk: Are you looking for a DVD player, sir?

(I imagine this kid feels the same way I feel when someone comes into my library and wants to know where the card catalog is)

Mike: No, I have a DVD player. I'm looking for a VCR.

16-Year-Old Sales Clerk: Uh.... you definitely don't want a DVD player?

Mike: Correct. I do not want a DVD player; I want a VCR.

16-Year-Old Sales Clerk: It's probably better to just use your DVD player, since you can't get movies on VHS anymore.

Mike: Right. I just need the VCR to record stuff.

16-Year-Old Sales Clerk: To record...?

Mike: Like, we don't have TiVo.

16-Year-Old Sales Clerk: That's horrible, dude.

Mike: So do you have any VCRs?

16-Year-Old Sales Clerk: Dude, I don't even know if they still make those! I'll have to check.


Also, the other day we asked Mike's mom to keep an eye out for some kind of wicker storage box for Lion's toys. His nursery is very small and already filled to capacity with a crib, dresser, and rocking chair, so toy storage will have to be located elsewhere in the house. (the bedrooms in most of our neighborhood's houses are tiny. Many people have installed lofts for their older kids so they can put a desk or dresser underneath. Just like college! Ah, reminds me of the tiny, ancient dorm room I shared with my friend when we were sophomores. She had a loft, while my bed was up on cinder blocks piled so high, I practically had to pole vault into bed. But there was a working radiator in the room, and it was very cozy).

Anyhow, I thought that a toy box made of wicker could go anywhere in the house and just look like a piece of furniture. Since Mike's mom is a thrift store maven, I asked her to keep an eye out for something that might work. She's already found several items for Lion at bargain basement prices, like a brand-new snow suit for two dollars.

The next day, she sent us an email saying that she had ordered a new wicker toy box online and that it should be arriving at our house within the week.

Wasn't that nice? Still, I feel like we have to be careful about what we say around her, so as not to abuse her generosity. It feels weird, and wrong, somehow, to accept gifts when it's not someone's birthday or a major holiday. I know a toy box is a relatively small thing, but still, it cost around $100 plus shipping, and we wouldn't have spent that much if we'd done the buying.

Is it wrong to accept pricier gifts from parents? Or is it just me?

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