Friday, May 31, 2013

Gone Gone Gone

Growing up, I had a very close friend named Jessica Phillips. I mention her real name in hopes that someone, somewhere, might know what happened to her. For all intents and purposes, Jessi has vanished from not only my life, but it seems, the face of the Earth.

Jessi was known to me and my family as my "little big half-sister." "Little," because she was shorter than I (amazing that anyone could be shorter than I, but there was a time...), "big," because she was older than I, and "half-sister," because we hit it off immediately, and became inseparable. She and I did children's theatre together in the summer I was 11 years old.

I remember so many things about Jessi: staying at her house and watching "Jaws," though we were too young; that she had a younger brother named Noah, that she would have gone to George Mason High School, which is now less than two miles from my house; that she was a wonderful actress, even as a kid; that she wanted to name her first child "James Henson [Whatever]," in honor of the Muppets' creator; and that she moved to Reno where her dad was a floor manager at Harrah's.

When she moved away, we wrote back and forth a lot. I've saved many of her letters. The return address was always, "Your little big 1/2 sister." She was a much better correspondent than I was; I was great at thinking up things to tell her, but terrible at putting pen to paper. (If only it had been the texting era, at which I excel - even email might have been easier!) This distressed her, and eventually, she stopped writing altogether.

I didn't meet the woman who would eventually become my lifelong best friend until a bit later, but our relationship is incredibly strong to this day; we can go weeks or months without being in contact, then pick up the phone or send an email/text, and it's as if no time has passed. This is a huge difference from the irritation that dissolved my contact with Jessi; I was a kid with horrible follow-up, and she decided I was too much of a one-sided friend.

Of course, I've tried to find her. I seem to recall her wanting to go to college in Ann Arbor, and I've tried to decipher the profile pictures of every "Jessica Phillips" on FB or LinkedIn, to no avail. I've tried searching George Mason grads and people from Reno. I've tried looking up her Dad through Harrah's. In this age of Internet Invasion of Privacy, she seems to have accomplished the impossible: she has completely disappeared without a trace.

Occasionally, my mom or dad will ask, "Have you ever heard from Jessi Phillips?" And I'll have to say no, that I've tried looking, but she is just nowhere to be found. I even have located, and still keep up with, at least four other people from that same long-ago production, but Jessi... I wish I could find her. I'd love to introduce her to my husband and son. I would love to know if she did have a child named "James Henson [Whatever]" (such a cool idea... and yes, I've tried searching that, too). Did she keep up with acting? Did she become a lawyer? Is she happy?

Mostly, I would just love to see her again. To sit down over coffee and laugh, and talk, and catch up. To tell stupid jokes and show her the old letters. To giggle and reminisce. To apologize for being such a crappy correspondent in my teens. And to know how, in the age of super-snooping, she managed to erase her digital footprint.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Le Bavoir

Often, my son will nurse to sleep on my lap and stay there, anywhere from 1/2 hour to three hours, while I get my all-important net-surfing done. I bring a bottle of water and a mug of (now cold) tea, and I always bring myself a snack. Inevitably, whatever I'm eating will end up littered all over my boy, to the point where we've started calling him "Bib."

I first noticed it early on; I practically live on Nature Valley gluten-free nut bars, and those things make a mess. It is nearly impossible to eat one cleanly. The best I've been able to do is to shear off one end of the wrapper with scissors, and upend it into my mouth as though I were drinking the thing. Still, when I look down, my poor boy is covered with the detritus from my nibblings: sugary crystals in his hair, on this face, down his back. I think, if he were allergic to nuts, we'd have found out by now.

Sometimes his nap ends up spanning a mealtime, and my "station" on the couch turns into a full-service restaurant. Since I have become the baby's bed, my husband fixes gourmet meals and waits on me, usually having to pre-cut my meats and long vegetables, or make sandwiches easier to handle. Salads with unusual greens are tricky - I end up having to slurp long fronds like pasta, if I can't get them into my mouth at once.

It doesn't help that gluten-free foods are notoriously crumbly. A bagel or toasted bread eaten above him makes it look like I'm trying to feed the birds by sprinkling him with their offerings. I learned long ago never to eat hot foods while I'm holding him (shudder to think). Anything non-finger-food - rice, meats, side dishes, etc. - is best eaten with a tablespoon to minimize spillage, especially when I need to eat with my non-dominant hand. (Note if you're reading this, and don't have kids: All parents holding babies only get one hand with which to eat.)

The best I can do, when he's asleep on me during mealtimes, is have one napkin for me, and another for the baby. I spread it over him like a blanket, and it catches most of my cast-offs. This is especially funny if it's a paper towel. A piece of lettuce in dressing will fall off my spoon, or fish flakes, or a grilled onion, and stick itself to his temporary blankie. This is always followed by my husband and I, in unison, chorusing, "Poor little Bib." By the end of the meal, I see just what I would have had to wash out of his clothes, or neck, or hair, or had to have the dog lick off of him. It's quite a sight.

I need to get a photo of this sometime for potential Prom Date embarrassment; but as his given name pairs well with the word, "messy," perhaps I won't. I don't want him to earn an undeserved nickname over something I've done. Soon he won't be doing this anymore, though. Perhaps I'll just leave it as a funny memory for his father and I, from the days that he was small enough, and wanted to, fall asleep in my lap.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Ode to the Family Bed

My little man is snuggled up next to me now, right arm over his head, the length of his body on that side pressed against mine, his left arm splayed out, legs froggied up, and head turned towards me, ready to nurse any time he drops out of deep slumber. I love this.

We didn't start co-sleeping right away. Our son's bedroom is right next door to ours; there are about ten steps from the edge of my bed to the edge of his crib. My husband was pretty adamant that he stay in his own room - I was on the fence about it, but figured that was the right way to go - that's why you have nurseries, right? Segregate your sleeping spaces, and everyone gets a good night's sleep.

It didn't exactly pan out that way. At about six weeks of age, the Munchkin got sick. He would only sleep in his crib for about an hour when we'd put him down, and then he'd be up and crying and need nursing, singing and soothing to get back to sleep. Of course, when you're sick, sleep is all-important, especially to a baby. When he slept on my lap, however, he'd stay down for two to three hours at a stretch, so I started holding him for naps. 

I was so tired, that my husband would take him as soon as he got home, and let me get some sleep. One night, I had my hubby bring the baby to me to nurse in bed at around 7:00, and he ended up sleeping next to me until the morning; that was the first time he slept through the night. I remember waking up and doing a double-take when I saw the clock. Thus, our co-sleeping arrangement was born.

I don't move when I sleep - never have. Whatever position I'm in when I fall asleep is the position I'll be in when I wake up. My husband's a flipper, though. When we sleep, my body is in between the hubby and the baby as a shield. We have a firm, wedge-shaped pillow that the baby's on (so milk doesn't come out of his nose when he nurses); I'm on his right, sleeping on my left side, with my Tempurpedic pillow above and to the right of Munchkin's head. My left arm threads under this pillow and above the baby; my right hand is either against my side or resting lightly on his middle. And there we sleep throughout the night, the baby safe and warm beside me.

I'll admit I was a bit nervous at first, because Munchkin was so little. He was just a bit over 4 1/2 pounds at birth; by six weeks, he wasn't quite yet 7 pounds. We got a physical co-sleeper, the kind that sidecars to the bed, but we've never actually used it. After the first couple of co-sleeping naps all in the same space, it was clear I wasn't going to roll on him - one time Daddy got a little too close, and the baby reached up and bopped him on the nose really hard. He's tougher than he looks.

The best thing about this whole arrangement is that all three of us get a significant amount of sleep. No more running in the middle of the night to soothe a crying infant; in fact, he rarely cries at all. If Munchkin needs to nurse in the middle of the night, he can actually latch himself on, which is hilarious to watch - an eyes-closed, completely blind search-search-search-CHOMP <slurp-slurp-slurp>. Sometimes I wake up to find him nursing happily away, and I've been none the wiser.

Our setup is not for everyone. If you're such a mover and a shaker that in a deep sleep, you might actually squish the baby, then I don't recommend it. Similarly, if you like to get a little tipsy before bed, or need pills to get to sleep, this is not for you. But all over the world, and for centuries, people have been sleeping with their children like this. He's not alone, he knows he's safe and warm, and if he needs a midnight snack, the "fridge" is within arm's reach. I'm actually going to be very sad when it comes time to move him to a big-boy bed, and I'm left without my little snuggle puppy. (His Daddy's a good snuggler, too, but that's different.) My son will need his independence at some point. For now, I'm content to be his security blanket, watching over him so we can all get a good night's sleep.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


When my son hits his head by accident, I say to him, "Oops - Bonk!" and give him a big smile and a kiss to let him know he's okay. Usually he doesn't cry; most bumps are minor, and he's got a tough little noggin. But lately, it's not the saying, but the sheer number of times I've been saying it that's bugging me.

All little kids bump their heads. I know this. Forget for a second that he's a boy, which, according to my husband, means I'm destined for a life of knowing the ER docs on a first-name basis. But I wonder if it's something I'm doing, as well.

I'm not very good with knowing the relative location of my own body with regards to other objects in space. I'm forever bumping my elbow, or my toe, or my shin, or my own head on items in my house (door jambs, chair legs, the dryer or refrigerator doors, etc.), to say nothing of other people's houses or locations with which I am far less familiar. Add on sleep deprivation, plus my newest 9-month-old appendage, and, though I'm careful as I can be, I'm bound to miscalculate on occasion.

Yesterday, I think he bonked his head no fewer than four times, two of which were most definitely my fault. He stood up on the diaper-changing station for the first time, over which are some low-hanging shelves (Bonk!), and when I was trying to pick up a paper clip so he wouldn't find it and choke on it, he did an abrupt backbend in my arms and smacked his head on a drawer unit (Bonk!). That one left a mark.

Luckily, none of these hits has been so hard as to do any permanent damage... yet. It's the sudden gymnastics in my arms that make me want to adorn him with a protective helmet: when he's nursing on my lap and all of a sudden lurches backwards into the (rounded) corner of my computer. Or when we're in our tiny bathroom and I'm about to put him in the bathtub, when he surprises me by throwing his head backwards towards the sink. Again, nothing concussive... yet.

When I was newly on my own feet, I was running, and began to trip. I think I was younger than two. My mother reached out to try and catch me, and ended up tripping me faster, sending me face-first into the concrete below. I think my poor mother is scarred for life over that one; I still have a slight bump in my forehead, over which I have parted my hair these last 40 years. This is my nightmare. Some kind of cosmic kharma that will play itself out with me and my poor son.

My nephew recently fell and bumped his noodle really hard, and when my shaken sister took him in, the pediatrician said, "Have you ever hit your head?" Of course she had, so the doctor continued, "How did you feel afterwards?" She said, "It hurt for a little bit, but I was okay." The doc replied that that was how her son felt, too. I try to remember this lesson whenever he's in my arms, and I'm too close to the door frame (Bonk!) or when he tips over while sitting and playing on the (carpeted) floor. (Bonk!)

My friends all have horror stories involving ceiling fans and falling off (or into) furniture, and I'm just bracing myself for our first big injury. It's coming, and I know I can't prevent it; he's just started crawling and pulling up on things, and wants to walk so badly. All little kids get hurt, I know. I just wonder if there's some kind of ritual I can perform - burn some sage or something - so that I can a) take the worst of the pain away, and b) please, God, let it not be my fault.

Across the Miles

I miss my family. Not my immediate family, of hubby and Munchkin; not even my parents, who live just 15 minutes away. I miss my sisters and their families, of course, because we all live in different states, but that's not what I'm talking about. What I'm missing tonight is my extended family - the one with whom I grew up spending holidays - my aunts, uncles, cousins, and their children, who now live half a continent away.

Memorial Day got me thinking about my grandfathers, both of whom fought in World War II and other arenas, and both of whom passed away several years ago. Then today, I got a link to some photos my uncle had taken at a bridal shower for one of my youngest cousins. A feeling of nostalgia overwhelmed me, and I was filled with sadness that I wasn't able to be there. The pictures show a room chock full of my family members - exactly like the family gatherings I remember so well from my childhood. I haven't seen much of any of them, except for photos on FB, since my grandparents died. The images from today reminded me so much of those earlier get-togethers; except now, the members of my generation are the moms and dads with oodles of kiddies, and our folks are the grandmas and grandpas.

Munchkin is growing up in an environment far different from the one I knew. He is an only child with just five first cousins, none of whom live here. He has his Nana and Pop and Grammie and Grandpa, even his great-grandmother Mimi, all to himself. He has my three sisters and my husband's sister as aunts, but he only gets to see one of them on a regular basis.

My family, on the other hand, is huge, and I grew up with all of them. My father had five brothers and two sisters, and my mom has five brothers. Up until the time I was six, we lived within a few blocks of one set of grandparents, and just across town from the other. Almost all my aunts and uncles lived in the same town with me, and all that progeny produced 12 first cousins on my dad's side, and 10 first cousins on my mom's. And we saw each other all the time.

Even when we moved to DC, we still made a pilgrimage at least twice a year to see everyone, and weddings and baptisms were events not to be missed. My dad's parents eventually ended up in Florida, so we often went down there, as well. Ever since their passing, however, I've rarely seen my cousins. My mom's brothers and their families are scattered all over the country; we haven't seen each other in years. Of all of this family, only one aunt/uncle pair from each side was able to make it to my wedding, which was held at a remote destination; one cousin and one second cousin also came. I missed them all so much.

My 22 cousins now have a whopping 23 children, so we've effectively doubled the size of our clan. The thing that makes me homesick is that, on my dad's side, at least, they all still live near each other, and still get together on a regular basis - major holidays are massive reunions, and even regular weeknights can become a huge family outing. But we can never go. The town where they live isn't a major hub, and airfare is expensive. My hubby and I have been meaning to get out to visit since we got married, since so few people could attend, but with schedules and now the baby, we just never found the time.

The cousin for whom the bridal shower was being held is getting married this summer. Our tickets and hotel are already booked; I can't wait to see everyone, and introduce them to my husband and son in person. I'm going to relish every moment - every hug, every corny family song that we sing at every get-together, every smile on the face of every single uncle, aunt, cousin, and child. It's just a weekend, and I know it will be over too quickly; but with more of our family splintering off to different destinations, and my parents' generation growing older, who knows when we might get the chance to visit again?

Being from a large family has shaped and defined me, and I want to make sure that as he grows up, Munchkin has the opportunity to get to know these family members. I don't want him to feel isolated. The saying, "It takes a village to raise a child," keeps coming back to me - they are my village. We may have to use FB or Skype or email or text to stay connected, but I know that the family bond forged over years of dinners and skits and celebrations and cousin sleepovers is strong, and they have my back, no matter the miles between us.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Arrested Who?

I'm the type of person who doesn't want to watch something if it's a critical success, because it's potentially overrated, and I don't want to be disappointed. But then I get totally addicted to the same show, or book series, or movie through on-demand entertainment, and then consume and consume and consume it to its completion, never wanting it to end. I'm in this situation with two shows now: Doctor Who, and Arrested Development.

When I was in school, I had a bunch of friends who were Whovians, who would make inside jokes about the TARDIS and Daleks and what different Doctors' signature clothing pieces were, and internally, I would scoff and roll my eyes. I officially apologize to all those friends now: You were right - it's awesome, and I'm hooked.

But I'm completely OCD about it. I'm not content to start in the middle; I have to back to the very beginning to get the origin stories. It wouldn't sit well with me to skip around. And as any good Doctor devotee will tell you, that means going back to 1963, and watching William Hartnell, the original Doctor, go gallavanting through time and space in black and white. 

There's one problem, though - I didn't realize that the BBC erased a whole bunch of the early years' episodes, and the only way they exist is through videos painstakingly reconstructing each week's offering through the use of a complete audio file and production stills, occasionally punctuated by a censor's clip, or a human reenactment. It's mind-numbing to watch, but I'm obsessed - I have to see the whole thing. I'm up to 1967 now; poor Patrick Troughton (the second Doctor) - so many of his episodes are lost - I'm afraid I'm surfing Facebook through most of his story lines. They're so godawful boring to watch, but I have fun listening. I don't want to miss anything, after all. (Did I mention I'm obsessed?)

Which brings me to tonight's offering - Game of Thrones wasn't on, because apparently, they got crappy ratings last year on Memorial Day weekend, and decided to put it off this year. Good thing they did, too - Arrested Development on Netflix would have blown them out of the water.

AD is another show I came to long after its original airing; again, I (mistakenly) thought that anything with that much critical acclaim couldn't be that good, right? Well, I'm an idiot. Arrested Development is everything a show should be: funny, cheeky, irreverent, smart, and so full of hidden-in-plain-sight goodies that you want to re-start each episode as it's finished so you can catch what you've missed.

We didn't start watching until 9 o'clock tonight, because a) we thought Game of Thrones would be on, and we never miss it, and b) the Munchkin was still awake, and we try not to let him watch TV. But this... this was a special occasion. Munchkin was nursing to sleep when we started (kinda), but our guffaws kept disturbing his attempts to hit the hay. He finally drifted off in the middle of the second half-hour episode. We watched seven episodes in all tonight, and we only stopped because we were utterly exhausted. 

Right now, I'm wiped out. Were we childless, we definitely would have pushed on to the final episode of the season. I'm surprised that Netflix didn't crash as soon as the episodes were available, what with the huge following that AD now boasts. Friends of mine were having a viewing party tonight, complete with food and drink inspired by the show. Oh, to be 25 again, and stay up all night to see the end...

But the Arrested finale will just have to tantalize me a little longer. To those of you who have seen it to the end, no spoilers, please - we'll catch up by tomorrow. Consume, consume, consume, and see where this goes. I wonder if Munchkin will inherit this obsessive trait from me, too. I'll counsel him that if a show is a critical success, to do himself a favor and just go ahead and watch it in its original offering. You end up saving yourself so much time (and sleep) in the end.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


We took Munchkin to his first concert tonight at Wolf Trap to see the live broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion. I was a bit nervous to bring a baby to a radio program (in case he started screaming), but he did great. In fact, I counted no fewer than 15 infants-in-arms, and a lot of babywearers, as well!

We sat on the Lawn - if you've never been to Wolf Trap, the main building (the Filene Center) is open to the air, with a fantastic greenspace surrounding it. People arrive early to picnic, hang out, and stake their spot - the Lawn is general admission, and good views go fast.

This will be a quick post since I'm wiped out from our adventure, but suffice to say I think I've found a new tradition for our family. We all had a great dinner (with some excellent wine), we were out in the open air enjoying the beautiful day, and it was an adult event that welcomed the whole family. What could be better?

We sang along to the "Powdered Milk Biscuits" song, cheered for Guy Noir when the announcer said, "A dark night...", and listened in awe to Mr. Keillor's "News from Lake Wobegon." The first time I "whooo"ed loudly, Munchkin started crying - he'd never heard me make that sound before, and figured something must be wrong, I guess - I reassured him and nursed him until he fell asleep on my chest. He stayed out for about an hour or so, then listened intently to the rest of the program. A good time was had by all.

All around us, there were tons of toddlers running around and dancing to the music, slightly bigger kids playing in princess dresses and Superman capes, even bigger kids following Moms and Dads around with awed looks on their faces or playing with even older siblings - I saw Munchkin's growth in each and every one of them. Garrison Keillor is 70 now, and his birthday is the day before Munchkin's. How many more years will he be doing this? 5? 10? 2? I hope he hangs in there long enough for Munchkin to have nostalgic memories of coming to see him, as I have from when my parents brought my three sisters and me so many moons ago. Then my son, too, will know the magic of the faraway land "where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average."

Friday, May 24, 2013


An unfortunate incident happened today. I was on FB (as usual), and saw a solicitation for feedback on the page of a well-known gluten-free food brand. The question read: "How do you prepare going over to a friend's cookout or party when you know there might not be any gluten free options?" I answered, and a stranger decided to bully me for what I posted.

I have severe Celiac disease, diagnosed in 2004, but I had stomach problems for about 10 years prior to finding a name for it. At the time, I was a poor, uninsured actor, and just suffered through bouts of pain and digestive upset (and reactions I do not care to post on this blog), thinking I had a "sensitive stomach." My first clue as to what might be ailing me came when I tried the Atkins Diet in 2000 - I lost 20 pounds, and my stomach problems decreased dramatically. I stil had occasional bouts, however; but I wasn't sure what it was from - there didn't seem to be one category of foods to which I could tie my often violent reactions.

When I finally got health insurance, one of the first docs I saw was a GI specialist. After 4 blood tests (3 of which were negative), a colonoscopy with a biopsy of my small intestine, and other unpleasantries, she sat me down, and said, "You have a disease. And if you never want to feel this way again, you can never have wheat again, as long as you live." She also gave me a long list of other "mustn't-eats" and sent me on my way.

I thought, "This is ridiculous - she must be kidding," and had a beer. Almost immediately, I became terribly ill. Only then did I start to realize there might be something to this. I immediately cut out all potential gluten from my life, and have seen my health improve dramatically since that day.

If you're unfamiliar with Celiac and gluten intolerance, let me give you a primer. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, malt, and some oats - it's what makes bread "springy" - and it's also passed into other foods containing, or created with, these grains. People with a gluten intolerance can't process it. This takes many forms: from headaches, to depression, to minor discomfort, to full-blown Celiac, to the even scarier Gluten Ataxia. (Google it - very freaky stuff.)

In my case, the reaction is like getting instant food poisoning; shortly after ingesting any amount of gluten, no matter how negligible, my body says, "Everybody out of the pool," and I lose everything I've eaten that day one way or another. If I catch it in time, the resulting stomach cramps may only last about 30 minutes; if I don't have Immodium or Pepto Bismol handy, the effects could last for hours. (I always have Immodium or Pepto on me. I've learned my lesson.)

Stopping the symptoms doesn't stop the damage, however. Celiac disease destroys the lining of your small intestine, and it takes time on a strict gluten-free diet to rebuild it. People who have Celiac and don't know it are often malnourished as a result, with distended bellies resembling starving children in third-world countries: with all the villi in their small intestine in disrepair, they have no way to properly absorb nutrients. A host of health problems can follow.

With nine years of gluten-free living behind me now, I feel better than I've ever felt in my life. I'm an expert label-reader; if I think a particular food might be gluten-free, I read the label a second time to make sure I've not missed anything. I have a card that I give to waiters in restaurants, spelling out the most common gluten-laden ingredients, so that they can show it to the chef and make sure whatever I'm eating is truly gluten-free. My husband prepares almost all our meals, and makes gluten-free gourmet feasts for me nearly every night. (I'm so lucky!!) The rule in our house is that we treat gluten like raw chicken: it's separated from everything else, and you have to wash your hands and the prep area immediately as soon as you're done touching it. It's rare that I get "glutened" now.

It still happens, though. Cross-contamination is my biggest fear. I could be eating a completely gluten-free meal, but if the person who prepared it touched something with gluten in it (was eating crackers, for example, which has happened) and didn't wash their hands again before touching something on my food, I'll get poisoned just the same. At Chipotle, I have to make the workers change their gloves, because they've been handling flour tortillas; but it's hit or miss, because they also use those same gloved hands to dig into the cheese and lettuce. I was having lunch with sweet friend of mine who offered to hold a hard-boiled egg steady for me so I could cut it while holding the Munchkin, but she had just been holding her sandwich, and I wasn't thinking... I had to get a new hard-boiled egg. Salad and food bars are a nightmare - you never know when someone has accidentally used the tongs or spoon from a gluten product in a gluten-free item's tray... the list goes on and on.

I always say that the only person who has to remember all these rules is me. I have to be responsible for myself. Be vigilant. Ask questions. Not be afraid of offending someone to drill them for every possible ingredient that could be contained in a dish. A waiter came to our table the other day and asked if it was okay if my gluten-free noodles were cooked in the same water as regular noodles. (It's not - thank goodness he asked!) Our dinner took an extra 20 minutes, but at least I didn't get sick.

Is all this a pain in the ass? Absolutely. (I've recently been informed that some waiters now refer to people like me as "Glutards," as in, "There's a Glutard on table 7." Charming, right?) But you know what's even more of a pain in the ass (no pun intended)? Missing an entire dinner, or party, because you're stuck in the bathroom in agony. Which brings me to today's incident.

My reply to the question "How do you prepare..." was, "Eat first; bring your own snacks." Someone just ahead of me had written, "Come on there are always veggies and meats off the grill honestly we never have a lot of trouble eating around the gluten free! [sic]" Now that you've read what happens to me, you'll understand why I tagged this person and said (kindly, I thought), "Cross contamination is the biggest enemy! :)" (Yes, the smiley face was included.) Her reply was, "Grilling meats at 360 degrees takes care of any cross contamination! Don't make more of it than there is! I would never invite you over to eat! You have to be the center of attention with your issues!"

It stung. WTF? I thought. This grown woman (with children, from her profile picture) just basically name-called me on a public forum for attending to my own needs. She doesn't know anything about me, she doesn't know the severity of my illness, nor the fact that I hate being the "problem child" in food situations. Never mind the fact that her science is totally incorrect and her provocation was completely uncalled for. My response? "Wow, how unkind. Don't worry - I would never eat at your house. :)" (Yes, the smiley face was included there, too.)

It sat with me for the rest of the day. Don't make more of it than there is! I would never invite you over to eat! You have to be the center of attention with your issues! I played with my son and I felt awful inside. What the hell was this woman doing on a gluten-free site if she didn't need the product? Why lash out at someone she didn't even know? Someone must have said this to her in the past, so she knew its power, and she wanted it to hurt. This woman was a bully, with Internet anonymity. And she got me.

So, I did what anyone else would have done - I posted the exchange on my FB profile. And my amazing friends leapt into action to make me feel better - defending the fact that I want to call the least amount of attention to my illness as possible, that she has issues she's taking out on me, that she's a straight up bitch, etc. The validation made me feel so much better. But clearly it's still bothering me, because look at the length of this post.

I also went back to the original thread, and saw that several others had come to my defense after her insensitive words to me, provoking more attacks on them, devolving into infantile back-and-forth name calling. I pity this woman's poor children. Then it dawned on me - that's why it bothered me so much; not for me, but for the implications to my son.

We don't know yet if the Munchkin has Celiac; because of the potential for cross-contamination, we're going to keep him gluten-free until he stops randomly shoving his fingers in my mouth. But if I pass this complicated, potentially painful disease on to him, which I might, he could face the same kind of bullying: Don't make more of it than there is! I would never invite you over to eat! You have to be the center of attention with your issues! The thought brings tears to my eyes.

There was an episode of a Disney show pulled last week that showed this exact situation: a child, with a gluten allergy, made to look like a sniveling whiner for his dietary inquiries, disdained by adults for not being able to eat what the other kids were eating, ending with laughing children throwing glutinous pancakes in his face and him freaking out. I have friends with children who are Celiac, and others with far more severe, life-threatening allergies, who deal with this kind of cruelty constantly. One recently had to deal with a person joking that they were going to "bring a bowl of peanuts" to an allergen-free event that was being held to raise awareness of the seriousness of childhood allergies - it was like leveling a death threat at her five-year-old daughter and the other attendees.

The woman who bullied me and the others on the gluten-free site has a seven-year-old daughter with a gluten intolerance. In one of the more heated exchanges, she wrote, "Seriously people stop being so melodramatic! Yes someone gave my daughter an ice cream sandwich on the last day of school and we have done the vomiting and runs but if you ask her if she wants another with the same results she responded maybe next week! [sic]" I feel for this poor kid, growing up with a mother who not only doesn't take the long-term implications of her child's illness seriously, but ridicules others who do. The girl may just grow up to be the same kind of bully as her mother. I had a discussion with the Munchkin after I saw her craziness, telling him, "I will always take you and your health and well-being seriously. And I'll make sure to raise you so you won't treat others like I was treated today." He doesn't understand me yet, but he will. Bullying begins at home, and I'll never let it into mine.

That's Good Enough For Me

Today, I made cookies. Not just any cookies, mind you, but the Mother-of-all-that-is-awesome Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Lactation Cookies. They're mostly butter and sugar, so why wouldn't they be awesome? These have a little something extra, however: brewer's yeast, flax seed, and all those oats pack a powerful punch for one's milk supply. (They do not, in fact, contain breastmilk; the name can be a little confusing.) Just 3-4 cookies a day and I'm like a dam ready to burst.

Baking, though, is not so easy with a little one. Even though I'm super-lucky in that Munchkin has absolutely no interest in crawling, and therefore still stays put when I place him somewhere, there's a lot of time involved. Each batch takes 5 minutes to prep, 12 minutes to cook, and 5 minutes to cool, and my recipe makes 4.5 dozen. That's 110 minutes just on the baking end; it doesn't count making the batter.

I actually started these cookies two days ago (I softened the butter during the day, then mixed in the sugar and brown sugar after dinner, and all of a sudden it was time for bed). The butter and sugar mixture has been waiting for me in the fridge, which meant I had to soften it again before I could resume stirring, or I would have broken my hand. And I've been saying I was going to make cookies for a week.

The Munchkin has a pretty good routine set up, see, and it's very difficult to fit something as time-intensive as baking cookies in between naps and meals and diaper changes and play. Add to this the fact that he's only usually awake for about an hour and a half to two hours at a stretch, and you see why that 110 minutes of baking time becomes difficult.

Here's how it went down: 
- wake up
- change diaper/potty
- breakfast for us both
- clean up & put Munchkin in Exersaucer (aka "Circle of Neglect")
- take out butter & sugar mixture and realize it's hard as a rock
- turn on oven; leave mix on top to soften
- surround Munchkin with toys in living room and resume putting ingredients together
- keep checking on Munchkin in between adding eggs and sifting dry ingredients; change toys around and play a little
- Munchkin's regular nap time passes
- keep bringing bowl in to show Munchkin what new ingredients I've added
- Munchkin really wants to eat raw cookie dough and starts to get surly
- my hand starts to fall off from mixing in oats and chocolate chips (it's hard!)
- Munchkin starts to get really pissed off that I keep tempting him with forbidden cookie dough; keeps trying to clamber on me and ignores all other toys; commences boob dive
- go back in kitchen with Munchkin hanging off me
- turn off stove
- cover cookie dough and refrigerate until more opportune time
- Munchkin naps

- Munchkin wakes from 2 hour nap on my lap while I watch Doctor Who from 1967
- diaper change/potty
- turn on stove
- lunch for us both
- place Munchkin back in Circle of Neglect and prep first dozen (talking to him constantly...)
- first cookies in oven
- Munchkin tires of* Circle of Neglect
- put Munchkin in doorway jumper
- take first batch out of oven, leave to cool
- Munchkin tires of* doorway jumper
- place Munchkin back in living room surrounded with toys
- transfer cookies to rack
- prep second batch and put in oven
- eat first cookie. Still warm. Oh. My. God.
- separate out some cookies for a nursing neighbor friend
- Munchkin tires of * living room toys
- bring Munchkin back to Circle of Neglect; explain it's only temporary
- pull out second batch and leave to cool
- Munchkin wants to know why the hell he is back in circle of neglect
- transfer cooled cookies to different rack and warm cookies to wire rack
- Munchkin is like, "What the hell???"
- prep third batch and put in oven
- take loudly complaining Munchkin into bedroom for a story while eating 2nd cookie
- read 2 books 
- realize I may have left cookies in too long, rush back to kitchen with clinging Munchkin
- put Munchkin back in Circle of Neglect, promise it won't be for long (he doesn't believe me)
- pull perfect cookies out of oven & leave to cool
- bring meltdown-nearing Munchkin back into living room; rotate toys again
transfer cooled cookies to top of first cookies and warm cookies to wire rack again
- keep poking head out of kitchen to engage Munchkin (who is starting to get really tired and mouthy)
- eat 3rd cookie
- prep 4th batch and place in oven
- ants begin to find crumbs from cooling cookies
- play with Munchkin, who now wants only to stand and walk holding my fingers
- wish for au pair
- remember most au pairs are young and hot and erase wish
- put Munchkin up in ring sling to nurse
- put Munchkin back in Circle of Neglect ("last time, I swear") and take cookies out of oven to cool
- rescue Munchkin back up to sling nursing
- transfer cooled cookies to top of other cookies and warm cookies to wire rack
- give up, turn off oven, leaving last 1/2 batch for another day
- place super-fussy Munchkin in carrier
- walk cookies down to neighbor as Munchkin nurses to sleep.

You see from the photo that it was all completely worth it in the end. (Recipe is here: At 2 or 3 (or 4) cookies a day, I have reserve supplies to last me nearly 3 weeks of Mommy-gushers! I'm already starting to feel the effects of today's treats. But next time, I think, I'll do this a little differently - maybe only two batches at a time, so the poor little guy doesn't feel as neglected - and definitely on a day when Daddy's home to help.

*Any time you read, "tires of," imagine him screeching like a pterodactyl in short, repeated bursts at full volume.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


I used to drive way too fast. I admitted to having a lead foot - I would make multi-hour drives on a regular basis when I was doing Regional Theatre, back and forth to home, always drafting the speediest cars, sometimes doing 90 on long stretches of flat road. Since I started taking my son with me in my vehicle, however, I've become the grandma-i-est grandma that ever sat behind the wheel. (No offense if your grandma is some kind of NASCAR wannabe.)

It's only when you become a parent that you realize what assholes other drivers can be. Every single time I drive somewhere, I think, "How did I never notice that the rest of the world drives like crap?" We were on the Beltway today, and it was a chaotic symphony of speed demons, passers-on-the-right, tailgaters, and no-turn-signal-using morons.

I try to drive the speed limit, avoid "wolf packs" (my Driver's Ed teacher's term for bunches of cars driving too close together), use my signal religiously, and make space for people in front of me when they use theirs. I never thought I was unique in this; isn't that how we're all supposed to drive? But the overwhelming lack of courtesy shown by many, many other drivers has only become that much more abundantly clear to me since I began commuting with my Precious Cargo. If I see someone else driving as carefully as I, it's 10-to-1 odds they have a kid in the back.

What the hell, America? I know this doesn't just happen in DC. Who is teaching these people to drive, and more importantly, who do they think they are, that none of the rules of the road apply to them? Now, granted, they're probably saying something similar about me, as I creep along at the posted limit in the right lane, like I'm carrying the Ark of the Covenant. But I would like for my son and I to make it to our destination unharmed, thank you very much.

Sigh. I actually do remember the carefree, pre-Munchkin days. Exhausted and zooming down 95 with a Red Bull on the dash (though I used to live on them, I gave them up before we started trying to get pregnant, and the thought of one now makes me gag), carefully texting (yes, omg) as I tried to make it from city to city in record time... I drove like one of these idiots. Thank god nothing horrifying ever happened to me. I was so lucky.

What I was thinking then was, "Oh, I can bend the rules. I'm more careful/smarter/a better driver than the rest of the people around me. Nothing bad will happen to me." Now, what I think is, "Please god don't let me cross paths with one of these jerks who drive like I used to."

I wonder about the cars my son will drive - will they have radio waves that disable texting while driving? Who am I kidding - texting will sooooooo be a thing of the past, Mom. What other dangers await him? "Thinking" messages to other teenagers while the automated car takes him from place to place? Then again, we're only talking 16 years from now, in 2028; my Toyota may still be running then... a perfect ancient car for a new-driving teen...

Whatever the traffic patterns of the future, one thing's for sure; road rage will probably still exist. Drivers getting pissed off at each other for ignoring posted signs, snaking through closely-paced vehicles like embiciles, cutting each other off, and a host of other offenses. We'll all still be yelling at each other from the safety of our metal cocoons, giving each other the finger under the window ledge (or in the open), letting our blood boil over slights real and imagined, until it affects our own vehicular control.

My sister and her husband have a great way of calming their tempers when someone speeds by them like a jerk: they say to each other, "Oh, they must be much more important than we are," in a tone both mocking and ingenuous, and don't let it get to them. I'm going to try to start practicing this. Unless I find a way to combat the frustration I feel at the crazy motorists I encounter on a daily basis, it's only a matter of time before the Munchkin starts to pick up on it. And starts repeating what I say. Until one day, I hear a tiny parrot from the backseat, saying, "HAHAHA! LOOK WHERE YOU GOING, ASSHOLE!"

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

It's a Wrap

When I let the word out that I was pregnant, my friend Lori was the first person to ask me, "Do you plan to wear him?" I had no idea what she was talking about. I had never really heard of "Attachment Parenting;" I remembered my mom carrying my youngest sister in a Snugli, and I knew what a Baby Bjorn was. But the idea of "wearing" your baby was foreign to me - it sounded like some kind of accessory fad.

I did some preliminary research and acquired a Moby and a Baby Bjorn from a friend. When my sister had her baby six months before my due date, they opted for an Ergo. I saw them using it with my newborn nephew when I flew out to visit them; it seemed like just the thing I needed, too! Turned out Lori had one I could borrow, complete with an infant insert, or "baby burrito blanket," as I liked to call it. I was all set for accessorizing myself with an infant, I thought.

When I brought my preemie Munchkin home, I knew of the importance of skin-to-skin contact, and learned how to wrap him to my chest in the Moby by studying the instruction pictures, watching YouTube videos, and practicing the various wrap options. He was so tiny, that even in the "baby burrito blanket," he was completely dwarfed by the Ergo, and I didn't even try to figure out the Baby Bjorn. The Moby served us well in the first couple of months.

My husband more preferred the Ergo. He proudly wrapped our itty bitty burrito guy and wanted to wear him for all our walks - I, however, was obsessed by checking his head to make sure his chin wasn't tucked too much so he could breathe. (I know I drove poor hubby crazy.) From the start, our 4 1/2-pounder hated walks in the stroller; he wanted to be close to us, so we wore him every time.

Then came the fateful day, when the Munchkin was about to turn three months old, that it stopped working. This magical closeness that we had found was broken - he shrieked and squirmed and cried whenever I tried to wrap him or put him in the Ergo. I was terrified that I was hurting him, and he was still too small for the Baby Bjorn (which I still couldn't figure out how to use). I carried him constantly. My husband could help me wrap the baby in the Moby if he was asleep, but when he woke, there was hell to pay. 

The worst was one day in a parking lot, when I tried, unsuccessfully, to put him in the Ergo for 20 minutes; I was nursing him to keep him from screaming bloody murder while I tried to get him in position, and pacing back-and-forth between my open car doors. I finally gave up, got back in the car and went home. I was frazzled and confused - I wanted to wear him because of the emotional bond we were forming, and the practicality of being able to use both my hands, but if it made him miserable, how could I?

My friend Karen saw my painful posts on FB and introduced me to her friend Nancy, who in turn directed me to the Beltway Babywearers - Babywearing International's MD/DC/VA chapter. I never thought there would actually be a group devoted to teaching people something like babywearing - aren't we innately supposed to know how to do this? (ha!) I read their blog posts, and saw that there was a meeting at the library up the street from my house just 4 days away. Tears began streaming down my face. I couldn't believe my luck!

As with any new endeavor, I was a bit nervous to go - what if they laughed at my complete ineptitude with my baby accessorizing? But I grabbed my Moby, Ergo, and Baby Bjorn, and the Munchkin and I headed out for our library to see what this was all about.

I was early - the first to arrive - but when the moms and babies started showing up, I felt like I was home. (There happened to be no Dads at this meeting.) We all introduced ourselves, and before long, we had formed a nursing circle on the floor while older children played nearby. Each of us had our own reasons for being there, and questions we needed answered, and each need was addressed in turn, along with demonstrations of different wraps and carriers I had never seen before, and kind and gentle advice from all of the Volunteer Babywearing Educators (VBEs) present.

As soon as I told them what had been happening with Munchkin, each of the VBEs said, "Oh, he probably wants his feet out," as I had been wrapping him with his feet pressed to me in a kind of frog-style scrunch. They showed me a Mei Tai (pronounced "may tie" - a square of fabric with four long straps attached at the corners) from their lending library of carriers, helped me put the Munchkin in it, and he promptly fell asleep. It was a miracle. I didn't want to give this magic carrier back - I became a member on the spot so I could "check out" this Mei Tai for a month (a privilege afforded to members), and see if the magic could be repeated at home.

After the meeting, all the Moms went to lunch together, and they coached me through nursing him discreetly in the carrier while at the table so I could actually eat my meal - a whole new world was unfolding before me. We were out that day from 10am to almost 4pm - my longest outing with the Munchkin at that time - and I was giddy with excitement when I got home and showed my husband the magical carrier and relayed the day's events.

The Mei Tai worked. Munchkin happily went on walks with us again, feet out, experiencing the world, nursing in the carrier, and continuing to build our close-knit bond. Each month I went back to the meetings and tried new carriers - other Mei Tai brands, ring slings, woven wraps. I'll keep going back, because there are more carriers I want to try as Munchkin grows and changes, but also because I've come to adore the strong, loving mothers I've met there. (Again, Daddies do attend - I just haven't met any yet!) I learn so much from each of these amazing women about my own parenting choices every time I go, and both Munchkin and I have a blast in their company.

I have since sold the Baby Bjorn, nearly retired the Moby, realized the Ergo fits my husband but not me, and purchased my own Mei Tai and ring sling, both of which I use almost every day (the Mei Tai for walks, and the ring sling for errands or around the house). I am also the proud owner of a babywearing coat, thanks to my in-laws' generous Christmas gift, that fits over both Munchkin and I when the weather requires it. My husband keeps asking me, when we go on walks, if I want to put the boy in the stroller or wear him. It's a ridiculous question, I think. When he's in the carrier, I can see him, talk to him, point things out to him, know if he sees what I'm seeing, nurse him if he needs it, and he can fall asleep on my chest. Very soon, sooner than I care to think about, he's going to want to get down and run around on his own. These moments are fleeting. I love the bond that babywearing gives us, and I'll wear him as long as I'm able.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Shower

SCENE: A small bathroom, barely wide enough for two people to walk abreast. 

Enter MAMA, carrying MUNCHKIN in one hand, and a baby swing, laden with toys, in the other. She squeezes into the bathroom, pivots, and sets the swing down between her and the door.

MA: Okay, little one; since you're not tired, Mommy's going to get a shower! Isn't that exciting? And you're going to play with your toys while Mommy gets clean! Yay!

MUN: (Excited gurgle)

MA: Okay, we're putting you in your swing now. We're buckling up your seatbelt! Whoops! You're a slippery little guy, aren't you? All right, you're all buckled up now, here's your swirly abacus, and here's your molecule - let's turn on your swing, and Mommy can get in the shower now! (turns on music, turns on shower, steps in)

MUN: (excitedly swinging and playing with toys) Bvvvv-bvvvv-bvvvvv!

MA: (hiding) Wheeeeere's Mommy? (peeking out from behind the curtain) PEEK-a-boo! (repeat 2 more times)

MUN: (giggle - happy squeal)

MA: (from other end of curtain) PEEK-a-boo! I'm over here now! Okay, Mommy's going to take a shower now - play with your toys; I'm right here!

MUN: Eeee! (giggle, watches lights, plays with toys)

MA: (As she puts her head under the steaming water) Aaaah! Baby, Mommy's so haaaaaappy! She hasn't had a shower since Thursday! (begins to soap up hair)

MUN: (whimper)

MA: (poking soapy head out) It's okay, Baby! Mommy's right here, see? I'll sing you a song so you can hear me. (singing and rinsing hair) "Good niiiiiiight, my someone, good niiiii-"


MA: (getting soap in eyes) ow - It's okay! I'm here! (resumes singing) "my love; sleep tiiiiiiiiiight, my someone, sleep tiiiiiight, my -"

MUN: (high-pitched scream)

MA: (realizes this will not be smooth sailing, frantically begins washing faster) I'm here, Baby, I'm here! (singing louder) "Our STAAAAAAR -"

MUN: (begins crying in earnest)

MA: (pokes head out again, half-covered in soap) See, here I am! 

MUN: (through tears) Uuuuh?

MA: I'm almost done, sweetie. Just a few more minutes, okay? I'm right here! (back in shower, begins soaping most important areas as quickly as possible and singing at top of lungs) "ITS BRIIIIIIGHTEST LIIIIIIIIIGHT, FOR GOODN-"

MUN: SCREEEEEEEEAM!!!! (cry, cry, cry)

MA: It's okay! (sings desperately) "MY LOOOVE-"

MUN: (crying harder)

MA: I'm here! (wails) "FOR GOODNIIIIIGHT..."


MA: Okay, okay, sweet pea! Mommy's almost done! (frantically rinsing, ignoring unimportant bits, sings) "SWEET DREEEEEAMS BE YOURS, DEAR..."


MA: I'm done! I'm done! (shuts off water, grabs towel, throws back curtain) Ta-daaaaa! See, I'm done! Mommy's here!

MUN: (Instantly stops crying; sniffs, then huge smile) Yee Aaa-aaah! (giggle)

MA: (Sigh.)

Bein' Green

Mommy had a meltdown today. We were having a nice, relaxing Sunday; Munchkin was down for a nap when Daddy went to the store, and upon my hubby's return home, the dog started barking and woke my son from his nap prematurely.

While irritating, that wasn't the cause of the meltdown. We went back to playing, had some lunch, and then Daddy suggested all three of us take a nap. Now, if you've read any of my other posts, you'll know that it was a big step for me to decide okay, yes, I need the sleep, I'll lay down, too. I was so proud of me. Good Mommy, putting a priority on sleep. I was so looking forward to drifting off.

Except, it didn't happen. (The best laid plans of mice and Moms...) Munchkin was having none of this "nap" idea. He would nurse a bit, then pop off and scream; his newly-coming-in teeth must really have been bothering him. Then he'd arch his back and strain, usually a sign he needs to burp, but when I'd put him over my shoulder to pat him, he'd wriggle back into nursing position, and the whole sequence would start over again.

After about a half hour of the nurse-scream-burp-nurse dance, I figured he was serious about not sleeping, so we went back in the living room to play some more, practice walking, and use up energy, leaving Daddy contentedly sawing logs. By this time, having made the decision to take a nap (and looking forward to it!) I was getting really tired. I made sure he had his favorite toys, so he wouldn't notice my minimal involvement, and tried my best to stay engaged. An hour later, we tried going down again. No dice.

Meanwhile, sweet hubby had fallen fast asleep immediately, with no trouble. Each time I brought the little shrieker back into the room, I felt bad, but I was feeling desperate, too. I had made this important decision to sleep, but it wasn't being backed up by my sweet son... it would be good for both of us, I tried to convince him - why wouldn't he just comply?

Another hour of playing and snacking, and I was about to collapse. We tried coming back to bed again, this time waking up my hubby. I handed over my more-awake-than-ever offspring to him so that I could finally go to sleep, and I lost it. Collapsed into a sobbing puddle. I tried to reason out with myself what it was, specifically, that had set me off, and it finally dawned on me: envy.

I was completely envious of my husband for those 2 1/2 hours. He's not the one with the milk, the magic touch; for a frustrating stretch of time for me, he hadn't a care in the world, and I got to watch. Put it all together with a week of near-single-parenthood while he was away on business, then fishing, and my envy-pump was primed to bursting. It made me feel like a terrible person to admit that - that I needed a break from the person I love the most in this world, but couldn't take one - it turned me into a green-eyed monster, and I didn't like it one bit.

So, I've made a resolution. At least once a week, I'm going to take an hour just for me. Whether that means taking a long walk, or running to the store by myself, I'm going to give my boys some father/son time, and clear my head. It's not fair to my little one if I let myself get so hepped-up that I become Mommie Dearest. I want to make sure that when I'm with him, I'm really there, and that (as much as possible) I'm the pleasant, fun-loving version of me.

He'll learn the most from me because I'm around most of the time. But burnout is a real issue, and I don't want to expose him to that - he's the sweetest, most loving kid, and he deserves to have my undivided, loving attention. Hopefully, by showing him that it's okay to take time for yourself, I'll defeat the envy-monster, and be the best teacher I can be.

Saturday, May 18, 2013


My sweet friend said to me the other day: "I can't even imagine how much having a baby must change your life. It's a level of commitment that's staggering to me." Before I became a parent, I didn't have the foresight that my friend displayed in that comment. Of course, I know that people say, "Your life will never be the same," and I thought, "Yeah, yeah - I'm sure it won't," but until you've gone from pregnant to parent in 24 hours, YOU HAVE NO IDEA.

One minute it's just you. And you can go to the bathroom whenever you want, for as long as you want. If you need something from the store, you get in the car and go, without a second thought. Is there a movie you want to see? Go see it. Want to vacation in Venezuela? Get on a plane and go! Because once you become a parent, even walking out of your house becomes a Major Event.

I often feel the experience of packing to go somewhere with the Munchkin is somewhat akin to fleeing the country - you must have everything - and I mean *everything* - you need before you leave, down to the extra outfit in case of a blowout, before you walk out the door. There are always more bags than you can carry, it seems - and if you forget a favorite toy, or snack, or The Only CD That Brings Calm In The Car, god help you.

The "commitment" is what she mentioned. You may say, "til death do us part," when it comes to a marriage, but once you become a parent, there is no backing out, even if you become a deadbeat, no-good, absent parent. When that baby is born, you will never *not* be that child's mother or father. It's the one relationship that truly is forever. No matter what.

And that scares people. As by rights, it should. There is no out clause. Whatever you do, from that moment on, helps define that child. And, I'm sure, no matter what I do, Muchkin will end up rebelling against it at some point - whether I'm overprotective or laissez-faire, it will become fodder for therapy in his 30s. 

But I don't care. Because, as much of a commitment as it is, I'm relishing it. There's another human being completely dependent on me, for everything, from dressing and bathing to feeding and wiping his bum. Now, are there days when I watch the clock and pray for the next naptime? Certainly. But they're outweighed by the pure joy of his giggle when I make a silly face. Or the satisfaction of being able to decipher his whimpers and cries when no one else can. Or his blissful expression right now as he sleeps contentedly beside me. He's safe, and he knows it, because I'm his mom. And he trusts that commitment.

If I could go back and tell pregnant me anything, it would be, "You'll never go anywhere alone again. Even when you're physically not with him, mentally, he'll always be there. You'll wonder what he's doing, and if he's being cared for - if he's happy - if he misses you. You will go on dates, but they'll mostly be spent talking about the baby; even when you try to avoid the subject, he'll still be in your mind. This is the single most important thing you will do in your life. Honor that."

The commitment is staggering. Sometimes I miss the old me - getting a call from a theatre to pack up at a moment's notice to go perform a show halfway across the country for six weeks or three months at a time - and then I look at my son. There's no contest. The old me doesn't exist anymore. She's been replaced by a new, more powerful, more fully committed me. Jonathan Coulton has an awesome song he wrote for his daughter that says, "you ruined everything... in the nicest way." Yes. That. 

Every parent can relate.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Going Down Fighting

I was all set to write about naps, and how I don't get it when kids don't want to take one - how I'd kill to have someone say, "You must lay down and go to sleep now - you have no other responsibilities. Right now, it is imperative that you nap; everything will still be here when you awake." How I don't understand the fighting and the drama that surrounds napping - but then I realized, that would be completely hypocritical.

I totally get it. Even now, as my lids are heavy and my eyeballs are dry, I'm still fighting sleep. I could put off this post until tomorrow, close my eyes and that would be it - mission accomplished. But I won't, and I know it. I've been this way as long as I can remember.

When I was a wee bairn, my mom says, I would fight sleep. Growing up, I was always the last one awake in the house - I didn't want to miss anything. In college, I would routinely pull all-nighters (I worked for the college paper and the radio station, both notorious for fostering such behavior), once going nearly 72 hours without so much as a catnap. As an adult, I would frequently wait until everyone else I lived with was in bed, and work on projects til stupid o'clock in the morning, getting my best work done in those magic creative hours after midnight sans annoying interruptions from other people.

Even this blog is aptly monikered; I can only work on it when the Munchkin is asleep, of course, so do I do that during his daytime naps? No, of course not. That's for FB and Doctor Who. I write it at night, staying up much later than I should, even though I know sleep should be my priority.

There's something about those witching hours, however, when the rest of the world (or, at least, your time zone) is sawing logs - it feels as if you're the only person on Earth. I've come to crave that solitude; it's the only time when I feel like I can shut out all other distractions and truly focus. It's not good. I want to learn how to find that focus in the sunrise-to-sunset hours. I suppose I have a focus, of sorts, but it's on the wrong enterprises - I'm afraid I would suck at working from home.

Even when the Munchkin was first born, everyone told me to, "Sleep when the baby sleeps." (Everyone tells all new mothers this. even tell new mothers this. Do as I say, not as I do...) But I was so amped up, and anxious, and worried that whomever was helping watch the baby at that point would not know how to keep the Munchkin entertained, or know what he liked, or be able to soothe him the way I could, that it was rare I actually fell asleep. I would lay there in panic mode, or catch up on FB while I should have been recharging my batteries. 

And now, when the Munchkin has a good nap routine in place, and I know that I'm guaranteed a good couple of hours snooze time while he's out, I still don't do it. Sigh. I've got permission, and encouragement; every person I know basically making those statements above: "You must lay down and go to sleep now - right now, it is imperative that you nap." And I don't.

So kids, I get it. It's a big, exciting world filled with lots of shiny new objects (and Facebook, and Doctor Who), and I don't want to miss any of it, either. Maybe we can work together - you push me, and I'll push you. Because everything really still will be here when we wake up. And if we get some sleep (shocker!), maybe, just maybe, we'll have the energy, and yes, focus, to be able to enjoy it all that much more.


Poor little Munchkin has a fever tonight. No other symptoms, so it may just be his teeth, which just broke the surface of his gums this morning - but there's nothing that makes you feel as helpless as watching your child be sick, and not knowing why.

I've done all the things you're supposed to do - stripped him down to his diaper, make sure he's getting plenty of fluids, and watch him; when he awoke about an hour ago, it had spiked to 102.7, so I gave him some children's acetaminophen. That's when the first nagging alarm bells went off in my head: "Acetaminophen use has been linked to childhood asthma! Alert! Alert! You're Doing It Wrong!!!!!"

You're Doing It Wrong. A childhood taunt I hear in my head nearly every day of motherhood. What I feed him. How I dress him. When he sleeps. Whom we see (or touch). The activities in which we participate - on and on and on.

My friend and I were discussing this today - no matter what we're doing with the babies, there's this "grass is greener" feeling that we should be doing something else; that the book we're reading, or the song we're singing, or the food we're feeding isn't the right one - so-and-so did thus-and-such with their kid and it sounded so much better. You're Doing It Wrong.

In reality, however, I know I'm doing just fine. Munchkin is generally happy and sociable; except for tonight, he's normally healthy. But what if I'm not? The reason he's not crawling? Could be that I put him too close to his toys, or play with him too much. He shrieks when left with strangers? I "spoiled" him with love and attention. He's not talking yet? Definitely from the times I fell silent instead of talking to him 24/7. Or maybe from the times I broke my own rule and used my cell phone while he was awake. I was totally Doing It Wrong.

We parents need to give ourselves a break - particularly the primary caregivers. The Internet is a wonderful tool, but the glut of information (and opinion) available becomes the true Parent Trap. As a post I read today pointed out, there are so many tips and tricks and "musts" and "nevers" that refute each other, it all may be doing more harm than good. Another friend mused, if we were in a remote location with no web access, would I care if my son wasn't stringing consonant-vowel combos together? Probably not.

Instead, let's celebrate the love and attention we give our kids - every precious minute we're allowed to be with them. Follow our instincts - sing the songs and read the books and play the games that come to us in the moment, then move on. And reassure ourselves that if the kid is mostly happy, generally healthy, and still kickin', we must be doing something right.