TITLE: night life
DATE: 07/09/2003 05:04:58 AM br>
It's fitting, I think, to send my first missive into the blogosphere at 4:22 a.m. I am awake, which is not unusual for me these days. I am accompanied by a gorgeous, charismatic and completely self-absorbed 8-month-old. He is lying on his back on the floor in a relaxed attitude (one foot in the air), calmly eating (I don't use this term figuratively) his copy of "Tickle the Pig." Needless to say, he's the reason I'm up.
His name is Isaac and he now has four rather rodent-like teeth. He can't crawl yet but is working on it full-time. He thinks sneezes are very funny and diaper changes aggravating in the extreme. He hates peas. He loves watermelon. He's a nursing machine. We spent six days apart when he was first born (he was in an incubator and I had staples in my abdomen) but since then we've spent pretty much every waking and sleeping moment together. I think this is a wonderful state of affairs and so does he.
Before he was born I didn't have any sort of parenting philosophy-- why would I? But now it's evolving into a full-on hippie approach that some people in our life find suspect and others applaud. I had no idea, for instance, about the entrenched opposite camps on the sleeping issue. Ferber v. Sears: let him cry in his crib (he needs to learn to sleep on his own, it's a life skill, and crying won't harm him) v. keep him with you and "parent" him to sleep in your own bed (crying WILL harm him in that it breaks the bonds of communication and trust between you and your baby, co-sleeping is natural and better for both of you).
I'm greatly simplifying the sleeping debate, but that's the gist of it. And what I've found is that on pretty much every issue you could think of in an 8-month-old's life, there is no consensus whatsoever about how to proceed. Cloth v. disposable. Nursing v. formula. Solid foods at what age, when to wean, etc., etc.
The other thing I've found is that there seems to be some hard feelings between the working-outside-the-home moms and the stay-at-home moms. We peer out at each other over a dark chasm. Hanging in the air between us is an unspoken, "How do you stand it?" Guilt is an issue on either side. For the working moms (to abreviate their title) there's the question of leaving the kids with someone else. For the stay-at-homes there's the lack of financial independence and the sense of generally being out of the loop, unable to carry on a conversation with other adults, etc.
This is the sort of thing I mean to think about and write about in my new blog. Let me know what you think. For now I have to go-- baby is now lying on the floor, bored of his tape measure and empty plastic bottle (so recently a source of delight) and now crying. Perhaps we can get back to sleep.br> br> br> br>
Although I'm far removed from a babycentric life, (well, about 20 feet vertically speaking), I shall be an avid reader of your maternal musings.
I miss your voice.
Colin has served as a "heat shield" through much of my life, experienceing all the bumps, knocks and unexpected jets of hot plasma first, thereby allowing me years in which to correct my angle of entry into the future.
Lately, though, he's really not lived up to his brotherly obligation, and so I look forward to following your blog closely in the hopes that perhaps you can cover for him, and provide clues towards ways to avoid future baby-related episodes of hot gas.
Welcome to the blogsphere!
- ian br>
Excellent observations, and on so little sleep! I have been meaning to create a baby blog myself, but keep feeling like if I don't do it regularly, it's not worth it. How silly! I shall forge ahead on a catch-as-catch can basis, so we can compare notes. br>
TITLE: Back from Canada
DATE: 07/25/2003 05:48:00 PM br>
I'm excited to learn that my first entry actually posted. I had some technical difficulties that I thought were unresolved when I left. But having had three (3) replies in my absence I see that it must have worked. I don't know how this all happens but I think it has something to with gremlins.
In any case-- we had a great trip up north. I highly recommend the islands of Georgian Bay (Lake Huron's north side) for anyone looking for a fun time. We brought of course an entire car/boat load of baby gear. Some thoughts about travelling with Baby. Really it wasn't so bad-- at least not most of the time. Isaac slept a lot in the car and otherwise was in a pretty good mood. A lot of toys are adviseable. Once or twice I hooked myself up to the Pump In Style (plug-in in the dash) and pumped as we sped along, then fed the bottle to baby. It was a mixed success. I felt very like a cow. Ever wonder why "the cows come home"? Ask a nursing mom. Also he had gone for several months without drinking from a bottle at all (the real thing always close to hand) and so he tended to play with it more than drink it. He grabbed the nipple and sprayed himself and the dog and the seat with milk. It wasn't the greatest. But yet at times it did fill that gap of time when we had just a half hour or so to our destination and he was starting to tank.
The nadir of our trip came as we drove into Toronto. We got into baseball game traffic. Ben had to slam on the brakes, which in turn caused a small avalanche in the back seat, which in turn caused the dog to remove from her lodgings to the other side of the back seat, during which transition she stepped on the baby scratching his legs and making him scream. There was little to do at that point. I turned almost all the way around in the passenger seat and held onto the dog's collar (to prevent a return trip across baby), while also trying to supply some semblance of comfort to the screaming one. Note to self: need more bunge cords. Had the gear been better bungeed the whole thing would not have happened.
I also learned that it's possible, while not ideal, to nurse a baby in his car seat. This requires no small measure of strength and agility on the mom's part, but in a pinch it can be done.
We are now up to 5.5 lovely white teeth. They were just popping out all over up in the great white north.
Product endorsement: buy the Baby Safe Feeder. It's like a little mesh bag into which you can put food stuffs and feed baby. It has a handy baby-sized handle and can occupy a small person for quite a long time. Like say with watermelon or canteloupe. The teethings ones like frozen peas or berries or whatever. Some make ice from juice and put it in there. It's a great thing-- no choking hazard and baby gains confidence about self-feeding.
Another product endorsement: Sign With Your Baby by Joseph Garcia. The news is still out as our baby hasn't started signing back to us yet really, but he DOES clearly understand the signs for Milk, Eat, More and Cat. Useful concepts in baby's world. I await the day he flashes me a real sign for sure. At times he does seem to have signed MILK, but like his verbal babble of Mama mama mama it's hard to say if he means it or not.
Okay-- so the bouncy chair is loosing its appeal, alas. The fussing begins. I have to go. But very nice to hear from all Smiths and Oltmans who replied. Bye for now.br> br> br> br>
TITLE: Date Night
DATE: 07/27/2003 11:05:27 PM br>
Tonight for the first time in 9 months, Ben and I went out to a movie together. Sure, we've gone out to the movies separately, leaving Isaac with the other parent-- once or twice. I saw Russian Ark (the single-take art-house flick filmed in the Hermitage) and Ben saw Throne of Blood (Kurisawa's (sp?) version of Macbeth). But tonight was a different story. We dropped Isaac off with a babysitter and went off together like a pair of teens.
The separation anxiety was a bit of a problem-- mine, especially. The babysitter, an intrepid teenager with many younger siblings, knew that the parting should be swift. I on the other hand insisted on one more goodbye kiss. Those tiny pudgy hands clinging on to my clothing, the screaming, the look of betrayal-- it was all a little hard to bear. Images of Sophie's Choice flashed before me as Isaac was carried off into the other room.
We saw Winged Migration-- the Feel Good bird migration movie! It was stunning and just technically amazing. But the scenes of mama birds and baby birds tugged at my heart, and there are a few moments of shocking brutality that definitely broke the hypnotic spell. In one chilling moment, these evil hideous sea gulls come and forceably take the baby of some king penguins, and then eat the baby! The king penguins tip their heads back and cry out in what seems for all the world like grief and mourning. Really, I caution you about Winged Migration. See it-- by all means. You will never look at Canada Geese the same way. Just don't expect it to be all sweetness and light (I was going to say "like Bambi"-- but it IS like Bambi. Walt Disney seems especially obsessed with severing the parent-child bond in one way or another.)
In other news I discovered my new favorite show "Queer Eye For the Straight Guy" on Bravo. I watched it this morning during one of those rare and precious alone moments in the house. Basically it's a make-over show-- but what's fun about it is that these five gay men descend upon one clueless straight man and bring design and classiness into his life. In this episode-- Tom was a typical bachelor with trash and pizza boxes and ugly clothes and a mop of stupid-looking hair, etc., etc., etc. His single design element in his house was his boomerang, which he posted on the expanse of bleak wall. Well, the fab five (as they are called) set him straight in no time (an interesting phrase in this case). One guy worked on the house. Another on the fashions. Another on the books and CD's. Another on the food and wine. Another on the hair and grooming. Together they remade Tom, Tom's clothes and Tom's pad into the image of refinement and coolness. It was so-- constructive of them. They really seemed to be helping poor Loser Tom and poor Tom seemed to really appreciate their help. The main goal was that Tom could entice is girlfriend to move in with him and there was something strangely charming and romantic about all these gay men trying to help Tom get the girl. And there was a good-humored and witty quality to the whole enterprise. As one of them said at the close "One straight man down, only like 300 million to go!" I think the next all-new episode is on Tuesday night at 10. I plan to become a devoted follower of this particular reality show.br> br> br> br>
It's perfectly all right that I'm not invited over tomorrow night at ten.
TITLE: Rivers and Tides
DATE: 07/30/2003 10:36:29 PM br>
Note to self: move to Scotland and become an artist famous for sitting all day and rearranging stones and leaves. I think this is just the sort of "job" I am suited for. I could get into the obsessiveness of it and also the isolation and quiet time. I would still have social time with friends but that would be after "work"-- sitting all day in the woods and noticing the patterns in lichen or sorting leaves into gradual transition of color and pinning them together with thorns. I would even like the foul weather gear and the extremes of temperature. I would also like the camera gear and the connection with the natural world.
But like so many of my goals, this is not realistic. I'm a stay at home mom in Ohio-- not a world famous rearranger of nature from across the pond. Sometimes this saddens me. But most of the time I live in the happy closeness of counting baby's toes and letting him climb over my supine form again and again. I can see though why it would be hard, were I a powerful attorney or public policy analyst or psychotherapist or what have you, to foresake it all and focus on the baby. I can see why women struggle with it, because the pull of baby is so strong, but if you're actually attached to your work, that pull is also extremely strong.
It is fairly one-dimensional to be a domestic goddess like myself. I'm not even a full-on domestic goddess. The house is usually in a state of disrepair. I cook sort of haphazardly and sometimes bring home a free-range rotisserie chicken. The laundry languishes around in heaps. My garden has some good points but it's also always nearly drowning in weeds. There's a large back-log of junk mail clogging up the flow of chi in the house. I do knit but have many failed or abandoned projects in a sort of woolen graveyard in the closet-- along with my ill-used spinning wheel. (My mom has sheep and so the idea was that I would learn to spin and make things from their beautiful wool. This looked good on paper, and the spinning itself is very fun. But processing filthy heaps of sheep wool just doesn't fit into my life.)
What is my excuse? I always thought that I would do all this "if I weren't working." My excuse is that taking care of Isaac takes up 100% of my time. He almost never naps and during those rare moments I tend to rush around trying to bathe and eat and otherwise tend to the most fundamental physical needs of my body. When those things are accomplished, if there's still time, I hurriedly pay some bills or perhaps fold a heap of laundry. Rarely I succumb to reading the paper or even a magazine article.
The thing that sometimes is hard about this is that there is no tangible "accomplishment" to point to at the end of the day. When I worked for pay, much as I found my job to be fairly empty of meaning, I did like having a list and checking things off. I wrote ad copy for a financial services institution and okay, I like seeing my words on a poster in one of the branches or hearing an ad on the radio that I was a part of. It made me feel that I had produced something.
But the thing about exclusive mom-hood is that the production is so gradual. Another day of growth for a happy, healthy, wonderful boy. Yippee! I DO think this is important-- perhaps the most important thing a person can do in life. But-- at the end of the day there's only one to-do on the list and only one to-do checked off: take care of baby. It takes some getting used to.
Andy Goldsworthy-- the focus of the beautiful documentary Rivers and Tides (which I MADE time to see today)-- has found a way to make his life's work out of ephemera. He piles a beautiful pile of stones and later it falls down. He makes a structure out of ice, the sun catches it, and then it melts. His to-do list has also pretty much nothing on it, and yet his work is stunning and meaningful and important to the rest of us.
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I'm so glad you're doing this. Here's one thing you can check off on your to-do list: Write beautiful things about life's everyday struggles and wonders.
Believe me, this is an accomplishmnent. My journal writing has tapered off considerably since my 20s and I miss it. Your blog is a regular reminder of how rewarding it was for me. So there's another thing you can check off: inspiration.
I also have a feeling your blog is going to be a book some day.
Regardless, please continue.
Yeah, what Jordan said.br>
Thanks guys-- you're the best.
I'm having some technical difficulties and can't send e-mail out at the moment. I just changed over to a cable modem and that has something to do with it. I'm about to get a new e-mail address and then will do a mass mailing with it and this blog link. Right now, you are among the select few who know about it. Still I couldn't ask for a better audience. XO C br>
Hey, Catherine, this is really neat. I've heard of these blogs but never saw one or knew anyone who had one. Keep it up. Save copies of this fine prose for future assembly.
Love, John br>
"his work is stunning and meaningful and important to the rest of us."
and so is ours, to anyone who knows how to look. andy goldsworthy makes objects that are dance and meditation, but still object. we co-create the world. our work bursts into the future, is neverending, active, delicate, crucial. and although just about anything we might do wrong is redeemable, it cannot be undone, redone, rebuilt - only learned from, because our work recreates us, too.
I recognized myself in what you wrote about being a stay-at-home mom.
I'm glad you've seen the movie. Why didn't you write more about the movie? br>
TITLE: wee small hours
DATE: 08/03/2003 03:02:42 AM br>
I don't want to be awake.Yet-- not long ago I found myself in a pool of cold spit-up (not my own) and being crawled upon by a very awake little person. So, so sad for sleepy mom. I tried for a while with the please-nurse-yourself-back-to-sleep routine but it was not working. Also the cat wanted in on the action and decided to come and walk all over me purring while the baby worked on climbing me and pulling my hair and so on. Annoying as it is to be officially awake (baby happily playing on the floor), it is somewhat better than trying to sleep through all that. I've stumbled around, changed the diapers and changed myself into a dry t-shirt.
All this brings to mind the great sleeping debate. Here are the books I've read on the subject: The Happiest Baby on the Block by harvey Karp (really it's about 0-3 months so hardly counts-- highly recommended for that age group); Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth; Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems by Ferber; Nighttime Parenting by Sears; The No-Cry Sleep Solution by some nice lady; a dash of Penelope Leach; and probably some others that escape me right now.
Basically there are two camps-- Ferber leads the pack of the cry-it-out contingent, which includes Weissbluth and several others. Then on the other hand you've got Sears and Ms. No-Cry Sleep Solution, who comprise the co-sleeping crowd. I know a lot of devoted parents who are in the cry-it-out camp and I respect their decision about it completely. That camp makes a good case that sleeping on one's own is an important life skill that you need to help your child master. I also know several happy families in the co-sleeping camp.
When Isaac was about two months old and I was 90% dead from exhaustion, having had major surgery followed by two months of no more than two hours of sleep at a stretch, I read several of these books. I found the cry-it-out-ists to be so persuasive, and what they offered was so tempting. Just a few nights of crying and then widespread bliss throughout the house. But for us it didn't work like that. I did try to let Isaac cry once or twice, and for me I pushed the limits of my endurance by letting him cry a full 30 minutes without going back in. When I returned to him I found that he was in no way, shape or form planning on sleeping. I sensed that he would and cry all night and I just couldn't bear it.
I tried getting him to sleep simply in the Arm's Reach Bedside Co-Sleeper attached to our bed. I would even put a heating pad in there to warm it up, and a clock that ticked like my heartbeat. I would nurse him to sleep and then try to move him the last 8 inches into his own bed. Nope-- the minute physical contact with me ended the screaming would begin. I tried the full-on baby relaxation routine, with a warm bath, massage, lullabies, and nursing until he was completely hypnotized into a stupor. Then I tried to set him down. Nope. I tried putting him in his crib and moving the entire crib (on wheels) like a giant cradle to lull him to sleep-- or at least to non-screaming. Nope. (I even know one mom who got INTO the crib with her baby in a hopeless attempt to get him to sleep in there.)
Somewhere in there I learned that he qualified as a "high need" child. Basically, he was born insecure. (Maybe because my high-risk pregnancy with him was so terrifying? All those stress hormones?) He needed to be held and nursed and cuddled ALL the time without exception. Being set down, anytime, day or night, would make him scream. Early on this pretty near killed me. But it's okay now.
What changed was that when he was about three months old gradually I mastered the art of nursing while lying down. This took some skill building on my part but also some just plain maturation on his part. It took a while for him to develop enough head control and coordination to hold up his end of the bargain. At this point, though, everything got MUCH easier. I could simply curl up with baby and nurse him to sleep. Meanwhile I could also go to sleep next to him. Bliss!! If he woke up in the night, it was no big deal anymore. He would stir, I would wake up and nurse him and we would both go back to sleep without any crying whatsoever. I could string three two-hour sleeps together and sort of end up with a six. When given the choice between co-sleep and no sleep it was an easy one to make.
It comforted me so much to read in Sears and in the No-Cry book (author's name escapes me right now) that this is considered OKAY in some circles, even better than sleeping apart. I did not set out to be a co-sleeper and pre-Isaac I would have said that the "family bed" was a plain bad idea. But... here I am, sleeping with my 9 month old. I love sleeping with Isaac most of the time. He's cuddly and sweet and it's very cute to wake up with fat baby hands patting your face or to hear him blowing a raspberry on his daddy's shoulder.
My own survival was a big part of deciding to do it. The other part was his happiness. Sears philosphy of parenting can be simplified as follows: 1) know your child; 2) help your child feel right. Well-- there's no doubt in my mind or heart that Isaac feels wholly right when he's curled up between us. His face and body convey this feeling of rightness as well as or perhaps better than words ever could. I feel "right" too. I think that I'm an extra nervous mother in some ways, having lost our first son. It helps me a lot, when the late-night anxiety strikes, to have Isaac right there beside me, well, breathing, safe. Sometimes the fear gets intense -- it could be anything running loose in my head, like kidnappers or deranged gunmen bursting into the house, child sex offenders or god knows what else. But just reaching out and touching him, giving him a kiss, draping my arm over him-- this stops the madness right away.
It's weird how strongly people react to co-sleeping-- against it, I mean. Ben and I are sort of in the closet about it in many circles. The questions, spoken or unspoken, seem to be "Won't you smother the baby?" and "How do you ever stop it?" On the first-- no, you won't smother the baby. The studies duel over which is safer (crib or co-sleeping). But it seems to boil down to as many babies are smothered in co-sleeping as are saved from SIDS BY co-sleeping. You don't roll on them in the way that you don't roll completely out of bed and come crashing down on the floor each night. You "know" where the edge is in your sleep and you know where the baby is. In baby class at the hospital they said it was safe, only just don't do it if you're drunk or stoned out of your gourd. (Duh.)
One the second, well, I don't know. I just talked to a Polish dental hygenist (she was cleaning my teeth at the time) who said that her 14-year-old son still occasionally asks to come in with her and her husband, and that she welcomes him warmly. But I THINK that it will phase out somewhat naturally-- along with a lot of other things that go on now with Isaac that won't always go on. Like, nursing and diapers and not being able to walk or talk. I think you could make a good case that there's something very unique about the first two years of life. Right now we have this twin futon on the floor in his room (so he can't fall out of it) and he sleeps in there by himself for naps and sometimes to start the night out. That's the beginning of the transition as far as I can see-- I hope to phase him over there along with the whole walking-talking-potty transition that's coming up here pretty soon.
My sense of Isaac's personality is that he's very independent and take-charge. He decided to start eating solids foods one day when he grabbed a pear out of my hand and began eating it. Similarly, he began drinking from a cup without any prompting whatsoever on my part. He just took a glass of water from me and began to drink. Now he's trying to skip crawling entirely and go straight to walking. I just feel intuitively that he will lead the way to his sleeping in his own bed in his own room when he's ready to do so. In the meanwhile-- even with the occasional wee small hours play date-- this works for all three of us.
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In a moment of sleep-deprivation-induced cruelty, I had a good laugh over the misfortunate mother who slept in the crib. After being so unendlingly patient and kind to my baby, I had almost forgotten my mean streak. Thanks for rekindling my wicked side! br>
TITLE: How to Eat a Book
DATE: 08/04/2003 06:48:55 AM br>
How To Eat A Book, By Isaac with apologies to M. F. K. Fisher
1) Hardcover: remove and destroy dust jacket. Chew on cover to taste. Shred and eat pages of your choice.
2) Board book: circumvent "baby-proofing" by focussing initial attack on the spine. Once pages are loose, eat individually.
3) Paperback: kick back and enjoy. br> br> br> br>
Kick back and enjoy... bwah ha ha!
You know that babyproofing tip about stuffing the books so tightly into the bookshelf that the baby can't get them out, and so gets bored?
My daughter doesn't get bored. Even as a short creeping person, she was exhilarated by challenge. We called her "the raptor," from the moment in "Jurassic Park" when our foolish protags realize the velociraptors are methodically testing every segment of the electric fence and will soon break through the weak spot to tear them all limb from limb. With her sweet, soft, delicate little fingers, she'd relentlessly work at each book, pushing, pulling, loosening... until finally one slim volume, say, Joe's treasured treatise on barley wine, could be edged out, with much grunting and panting and visible self-approbation.
I repected her industry and application, and it was the only time I got a chance to read, so I'd sit by watching for the moment of triumph, then sadistically sweep her from the field of victory and undo all her good works. Her utterly rational response was to begin pulling as many books down as possible when they finally released their hold on the shelf, grab a few and run away crowing...
Eating was secondary to the more refined pleasure of tearing each page slowly and evenly from the spine.br>
I like "How to eat a book" the most. br>
TITLE: The Unintended Consequences of Watching Queer Eye
DATE: 08/08/2003 06:02:58 AM br>
I don't think that the producers of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (Bravo, Tuesdays at 10) set out to rehabilitate my relationship with our house, but it seems that that's what they've accomplished. Or, maybe it's a coincidence. In any case, I've been on something of a cleaning binge. Martha Stewart meets the Energizer Bunny? On steroids?
I think that really it was a combination of factors that coincided. An alignment of heavenly bodies, perhaps. Until the beginning of 2002, I rarely cleaned the house because I worked all the time outside of the house and earned money to pay the cleaning lady to do it. (there's a feminist subtest here, but I will explore that later.) She didn't do a stellar job, but it was good enough for our needs at the time. The whole realm of cleaning was something that Ben and I just delegated to her in our minds. It was not "our job" but managing the entire house was not something that any one person could do one morning a week. Hence the grunge collected in the corners. The system as it stood was severely flawed.
Then for a brief and shining 6 weeks, I was not working and not pregnant-- during this time I madly gutted and refurbished our bedroom and upstairs bath. Repainted and refurnished-- reimagined. This was in part because I feared that I was about to enter into what could be months of pregnancy bedrest and I figured that if I was going to be confined to those two rooms. I wanted them to be as nice as possible. But cleaning as such wasn't really on the list then. This was a fevered renovation project and I could not allow clutter, etc., to distract me.
Then in February 2002 the pregnancy was launched and I commenced 8 months of complete dread of overdoing anything. I didn't end up on bedrest officially, but the dread was oppressive. No one could tell me-- no doctor on earth-- that doing such and such was safe and doing such and such wasn't safe. Where was the line? Since I went into premature labor last time while in the act of walking home from work (which I been not only assured was safe, but encouraged to do) and this launched one of the worst experiences of my life, and entering into another pregnancy invited that possibility all over again, well, you could say I was gunshy.
This meant that for months on end I was in this sort of paralysis with regard to the house. I would SEE and FEEL the grunge all around me. But-- would scrubbing the floor send me into labor? If I climbed on a chair to clean that shelf would I fall off and go into labor? Would cleaning fumes hurt the baby?Etc., etc., etc. It took a strange and intense sort of self-discipline to endure it. (Luckily I had Patrick O'Brian-- more on him another time.) (I don't think much has been written about the psychological aftermath of high-risk pregnancy-- the lingering sense of invalidism. Perhaps I will do that sometime.)
Then of course when Isaac was born and he himself prevented cleaning. We were in emergency mode for months here just coping with him. Back to the thing about his being a "high need" baby. He wouldn't stand for being set down and never took more than the shortest of cat naps (while being held) and hence again I was left looking at grunge and wishing it would go away, but not being able to really DO anything about it. Meanwhile the cleaning lady has been aging rather rapidly. She's 75, very good-hearted, but getting more and more arthritic and also seemingly blind to dust bunnies. I don't know-- we can't possibly fire her (she's taken on the role of our Hungarian grandmother we never had) and won't, but I do wish that she would gracefully retire. Which apparently she won't. So-- we're at impass on that.
Anyway, this all boils down to years of stasis on the house. But things are getting easier with Isaac, and the cleaning lady may be easing herself into retirement by taking several weeks off in a row for various reasons. But it was after watching a few back to back episodes of Queer Eye, that I started thinking "What if they came into MY house and found MY mildewed shower curtain and my hampers of laundry?" The flip side of their criticism, too, is their optimism and can-do attitude. They are into the art of transformation and in their capable hands these homes and apartments rise up from the dreck and become beautiful. Could it happen to me? I started looking at the house, you could say, through queer eyes.
It's been inspiring. I launched my attack at first on the kitchen. Layers of greasy dirt on the fume hood (a useless piece of crap), splatters on the walls, fingerprints on the cupboard doors and clutter, clutter, clutter. All scrubbed and vanished and just plain gone! It felt like the house lost 10% of its body fat and emerged a newer younger-looking version of itself. Ben was inspired also and attacked the laundry/junk/tool/bike/mud room. No room should have to do as much as this poor room is asked to do. Yet Ben managed to streamline and organize and now the place is like, well, a nice functioning laundry room! This has the domino effect of freeing up the guest room from serving as a massive folding area. Then I stripped and polished the upstairs bath within an inch of its life. I went to Bed Bath and Beyond and bought up several things, like new shower curtains (several) and other doo-dads that spruce up the place. Ben countered by rehabbing the office/junk area and creating a play space for Isaac.
And so on we are rolling, a cleaning and ordering machine, throughout the house. It's like the Prague Spring around here. I can say, too, that there's something centering and frankly GOOD about scrubbing one's own floor rather than paying someone else to do it. I know-- I know, it's drudgery and we are supposed to have left it behind us with firing up the coal stove in the pre-dawn light. But it reminds me that this is MY house. It's a stroll down memory lane, too, as I revisit nooks and crannies of the abode that I painted five years ago (like the Golden Gate bridge it all needs to be painted again...) It reconnects me with the very corners of the rooms in which I am now spending all my time.
If you normally scrub your own toilet-- hat's off to you and more power to you! I applaud your relationship with your environment. If you normally pay someone else to do it, why not set aside an afternoon with the scrub brush. It might give you a new perspective on things.
Our bathroom floor is rotting out and we have to get it replaced. While we're replacing it, we're getting a new sink. And since the wall has to be torn out for that, we have to repaint. I'm looking at a beautiful antique ceramic bowl that Ben bought me for mother's day. It's a brilliant peacock blue and I'm thinking-- wouldn't that color look great on the walls in there? WIth a white painted floor and some fluffy white towels?
Thanks Queer Eye! br> br> br> br>
IKEA has a very bitchen new sink that I think you need. It's an updated version of the old high-backed sinks, with a vertical-mount faucet and a handy ledge on top. I want one but my house will not permit such modernities... br>
I re-grouted my bathroom a couple of weeks ago with a spectacular display of sheer technical incompetence. I put it over the old grout instead of chiseling the old stuff out first, and then put it on too thick in some places and totally missed a bunch of others. But it does look better, and made me happy in a manly kind of way, (just the trip to the hardware store confers an illusion of competence that makes me stand a little taller).
Nothing puts me more at peace than my apartment looking its best. I know its like smiling to make yourself happy, but damn if it doesn't work.
I'm a nester. Say it loud and say it proud!br>
I've never cleaned my house. br>
Yes, I too am inspired by Queer Eye, though have not yet lifted a finger.
I love the show and it may yet force me to violate my rule of being addicted to only one show at a time (West Wing is the other.
But I wonder if they would have a better chance of convincing us all to act on our newly found queer eye if they helped their victims without spending so much damn money!
TITLE: Life as a mammal
DATE: 08/22/2003 02:07:54 AM br>
While I was in Minneapolis this week I spent the day with an old friend who now lives in Europe. SHe was in town visiting her parents. We hung around at her parents' house and they fed us good food and chatted and it was like back in high school in several ways-- except my friend and I were managing our children at the same time.
Her parents are both doctors. Like all doctors I've ever known, they have this way of just focussing on the facts. There's a bluntness to it, but it has its charm too-- they are extremely nice, funny, kind people. Anyway, we got to talking about parenting styles. It didn't help that a few nights earlier, Isaac had put me through hell with his late night shenanigans. I was completely exhausted and he kept me up from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Mostly he was crawling around in the dark and babbling and I have to admit that if I had had one, I would have probably stuck him in a play pen (Play "yard" as they are now called) and just gone to sleep come what may. But lacking a containment structure (other than the closet, which I wanted to lock him -- or myself-- into at times), I just had to stay awake to keep him from crawling into danger. It was a miserable affair and I told my friend about it and she told her parents about it. Hence the conversation about how to handle sleep.
They turned out to be the single most extreme case of cry-it-out-ism that I've ever encountered in real life. They felt that the crying method was perversely the most humane, and that the crying, no matter how extreme, would only last a couple nights and really would be no big deal at all. In fact, while I talked of a baby monitor to ensure that I didn't miss a peep, they talked of ways to muffle the screams so as not to be disturbed. Such as, put on an air conditioner or other white noise machine. In this way, even if the crying went on all night, the grown-ups would get plenty of sleep.
Also, not surprisingly, the father at least felt that breastfeeding was basically a trend. He contended that there's nothing to show-- no study that can prove-- that colostrum is even absorbed by the baby. In pigs, yes, but in humans it's inconclusive. I was very flabbergasted by this line of thinking and battled back with all the stats and figures I could muster. I mentioned that the American Academy of Pediatrics itself has decreed a year of breastfeeding, minimum, for all. His response-- "They are following the trend too."
I thought "trend" was an interesting term for something that has been around for all of human history. It probably predates even recent fads like language and walking upright.
His point boiled down to the idea that his entire generation-- the boomers-- was left to scream all night in their cribs and also fed formula and pablum with no breastmilk at all. He asked, "We turned out fine. You aren't saying there's something wrong with our entire GENERATION are you?"
Hmm... well, now that you put it that way, there are a couple items that come to mind about that entire generation...
Oh well, what are you going to do with such people? It was sort of like running into a real live dinosaur. I felt like saying-- "you mean you still exist, thinking this way?" Which in turn made me realize exactly WHY the La Leche people and others are so staunch about breastfeeding. I mean, so political and often almost hostile. This always puzzled me and somewhat repelled me before I nursed my own baby. What't the big deal? I wondered. Who's trying to stop you? Now I get it.
It's because you do it many times a day, often for years on end, and most of the time it's wonderful. The closeness with the baby is intense and moving. In some ways, sure, it's hard... early on the brutal exahustion, and then the nuisances like possible thrush or mastitis or blocked ducts or cracked nipples or whatever, and then you add on the weirdness of people about the breast itself. The embarrassed or miffed or ruffled reactions-- and the equation of breastfeeding with some much less wholesome bodily function-- peeing or sex-- that SURELY should be conducted in private, rather than an equation with feeding/eating, which would seem to be the logical one. The sense that okay, you can do your breastfeeding if you must, but why HERE and NOW? And then throw on that -- at least according to lots of people-- it really IS healthier for both moms and babies. Okay, yes, we tend to get a little... entrenched, a little prickly about it. A little "if my baby is hungry or needs comfort-- YES I will nurse him right here and right now and I don't care what you think!"
Isaac is ten months old as of yesterday. What a clever boy! He's now crawling all over the place and saying "Mama" as if he really means it. What he means by Mama is not simply ME in my entirety, he means he wants to nurse. More broadly, he means he wants to eat. Food and Mama mean the same thing, such that he will sit in his highchair, asking for banana pieces by saying "mama! mama!"
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You are not alone! Continue on in you quest. Have pride in being the milk maid that you are.
Breast is Best!!!
TITLE: Airplane: A Breakthrough
DATE: 09/03/2003 08:08:30 AM br>
Last week I has some houseguests-- my uncle Robert, aunt Barbara and cousin Ian. They were passing through en route from Madison to Syracuse and stayed over night and part of one day. At the same time, we had a construction project going on here at the house. Upstairs we were adding this banister and railing on a very dangerous and high and non-baby-friendly balcony and downstairs the guest bath was being torn up and repaired and redone. This meant that the house was not a fun place to be that morning. We went to Edgewater Park on Lake Erie, about ten minutes away, and hung out there for several hours.
A Cleveland tradition is that on Labor Day weekend they have this air show in which military jets of some kind come screaming over our neighborhood in interesting formations. That day they were screaming by the beach apparently practicing for the big show a few days hence. The Blue Angels, which I think are from the Navy. Anyway, they kept coming right by us, arriving at the exact same time as their din-- they travel just at the speed of sound and at one point the broke the sound barrier by accident. Each time they came by I would give the "airplane" sign to Isaac. At first he didn't seem to be tracking them at all, and was just upset by the noise and angry that I was covering his ears. But after the 40th pass, he started really to take notice. Soon he was watching them from the distance, watching them up close, and watching them off into the distance. They were quite dramatic looking-- bright blue with yellow writing against the bright blue sky and water.
A couple days later, we were sitting in the kitchen and some of those Blue Angels came shrieking overhead. Isaac gave me the airplane sign.
We had a simple sign language conversation in which he said in effect, "Airplane!" and I said, "Airplane? Airplane!!" etc. Then we rushed over to the lake to see them but just as we got there the show ended. The next day we couldn't go because of other comittments and the day after that, Labor day itself, it poured rain all day.
The rain continues to the present. but as soon as it lets up I will take the boy over to the airport and sit there in the parking lot watching the planes go by. Ben has gone out and bought some airplane books for kids and yesterday Isaac and I went to the toy store to buy a toy airplane (no luck-- they were all either for bigger kids or so stylized they could've been anything). We must cultivate this budding interest! We're so excited that, really for the first time, he made all the series of links that led to communication.
Sure, he communicates all the time-- happiness, sadness, needs, etc., but this was on a new level. It was in effect a word-- and since he has learned to identify the sound of the airplane (now he's doing it for regular passenger planes also), apart from all the other cars, trucks, boats and whatnot you can hear in our neighborhood, he's taken it into the realm abstraction.
I think we're on the brink of a language explosion the same way we are in a mobility crawling-cruising explosion. So exciting! Such a big boy!
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Hurray for Isaac! Hurray for the airplanes!
It looks like he's got the concept of language for sure, if he didn't already.
Do you suppose it helped to have the jets roar by about 40 times while you gave him the sign? No doubt it attracted his attention to an unusual degree.
TITLE: Sharing Lessons
DATE: 09/04/2003 10:39:46 PM br>
Lately we've been having a lot in the way of sharing lessons. You may think I mean that we're trying to teach our toddler to share his things with others. No-- what I mean is that we ourselves have been getting sharing lessons from Isaac.
Sure, our whole life with him is about sharing-- our time, our house, our identities, our love, and everything else. Like a marriage-- "all that I am and all that I have"-- only more so. None of this has been a problem for us whatsoever. We wanted Isaac to share our life-- that was the point.
What has been harder is not the huge things but the little ones. For instance, yesterday I noticed that I hadn't had anything to eat or drink in many hours. (This is a common problem in my new life.) So I went downstairs, with Isaac on hip, and got myself a huge cold water in this lime green plastic 32-ounce glass that was my hallmark last summer (while pregnant during a prolonged heatwave). I plopped Isaac down on the floor with his toys and settled in for a nice hydration session. Almost instantly, Isaac insisted on sharing the water with me. Now-- having Isaac share your water is not a fun experience. He tends to soon begin to spit in it, blow bubbles, and on more than one occasion has actually SPIT UP in it. Revolting!!!! And of course to the ruination of the whole water. So I was hesitant to let him share my big green water. I thought I would just get him his own water in his own special cup.
So I brought out his little silver T & Co. personalized cup from his Nana and Grandpa and put a bit of water in it. Normally he loves this cup-- so sparkly and nice! I set him on the floor and offered him the cup. Nope-- his response was unequivocal. He wanted to sit in my lap and drink from my cup!! Not some lame-ass "other" cup and "other" water! The REAL water! Mama's water! Period! So okay, I let him into my lap and let him drink from my big green water. Sure enough, within seconds he was blowing bubbles in it. And after just a moment more, he had his entire ARM in it and was splashing around. (Sigh.)
So I thought -- "You want splashing? That can be arranged." Still hoping for a drink myself, I set him up on the floor with a brownie tin with a half-inch of water in it and some bath toys to play with. He seemed pleased with this and sat there playing happily for a moment or two. Then I had the bright idea of getting myself a glass of water (surely he was too preoccupied to notice this) and also a peach to eat. My plan was to sit on the floor with him, eat my peach, and watch him while he played in the water. Well-- no sooner had I sat down than my little hawk-eye pierce spotted the peach. He dove across the brownie tin (spilling it, of course) and lunged at my peach. He grabbed the peach from my hands and began to slime and maul it beyond repair. Soon I was biting off peach bits for him and feeding them to him until the entire peach was gone. There I sat-- in a small pond on the kitchen floor, surrounded by bath toys and dowsed in peach juice, with shreds of peach skin and a mangy pit as my reward.
Later on that evening I noticed Ben having a similar struggle while attempting to read the Confessions of St. Augustine. Isaac wanted to ruffled the pages on this book while Ben was earnestly trying to read it. So I thought -- "Hey, this kid doesn't know St. Augustine from a hole in the ground. Any book will do." I pulled out a random paperback that I didn't care about and offered it to him. I pointed out the wonderful ruffliness of the pages, the succulence and sweetness of the cover. .. But no-- Isaac didn't want some lame-ass book by David Levitt from the early '80s! He wanted the REAL book-- Daddy's book! St. Augustine! The only solution, it seemed, was to hide the book completely and have Ben forego reading it entirely.
I also noticed this is a problem for the pets. Mr. Cat spent several months of Isaac's early life cursing the baby's intrusion into the bed. This was years after Mr. Cat went through the arrival of Lena the dog-- and the bed was all he had left to lord over. Really I think that the cat wished Isaac ill during this time, and seemed more than happy to actually bring about some sort of "accident" that would free up bed space for himself. He spent a lot of time glaring at Isaac with that special cat glare normally reserved for about-to-be-slaughtered prey.
Lena has lately been forced to give up her dominion over the floor. Until recently she could count on the fact that pretty much anything on her floor was fair game. Now there are a lot of Isaac toys to watch out for and also Isaac himself. I have had to take many baby toys from Lena and many Lena toys from baby. Meanwhile, her life has been upended by the arrival of baby gates all over the place, interrupting her as she makes her security rounds. Truly inconvenient! And her couch is always at risk. She can't even have a snooze in peace anymore without the baby coming along and hassling her!
What do we learn from all this? I don't know. But I'm sure we're learning something valuable. br> br> br> br>
What if one of you were eating a peach AND reading a book at the same time? What would he go for?
Lily always wants to play with my cell phone. DeAnna got her a toy cell phone, some time ago; it looked real enough to fool me, plus it had recorded voices and sounds. Nope. Didn't last long. Today she took my phone and was having a long imaginary conversation with someone, complete with the unnecessary gestures that nearly everyone makes while talking on the phone.
I think kids are seriously interested in doing things right; therefore they want to do exactly what adults do, using the exact same equipment.
TITLE: The Diaper Chronicles, part one: the guilt
DATE: 09/08/2003 06:13:41 PM br>
Before Isaac was born, I envisioned myself using cloth diapers. When I looked at the facts, it just seemed very wrong to use disposable diapers. I researched it a bit and found that like everything, there's a debate. There are dualing studies on the matter-- on the one hand, the disposables are packed with chemicals during production, then take up space in landfills, never degrade, and meanwhile leak viruses and such from all the untreated sewage into the water table. Then there's a diaper service, which I found to be very scarce these days-- the nearest one to us is apparently 70 miles away, although they do come to our area three times a week. But the problem with them is that they must nearly nuke the diapers in order to have all those germs swilling around together in the wash water-- the result is lots of chemicals and lots of water usage to get them clean enough to pass around between babies. Also they are just a plain old scrap of cloth with a plastic cover-- not much to speak of in terms of efficacy.
My rough plan was that I would use disposables during those grueling first months (I was thinking three) and then go to cloth diapers in my own home-- yes, I mean washing my own! This way, I figured, I could just plain wash them without a ton of fanfare. It would just be Isaac germs if any got through the hot cycle and the drying process. I could put the poop in the toilet with the rest of the world's poop and this would have the least possible impact of all.
The months went by. Now Isaac is ten months old, and week after week I haul out a full huge garbage bag of dirty disposable diapers. I think -- ten months times at least one bag a week means SO FAR we've pretty much lined our block with used diapers. And we've got at least a year to go, probably more, and what if we have another baby? Then it all starts again. We're talking HUGE volumes of disposable diapers-- probably a whole landfill or at least a dumpster to ourselves. And times 4 million new babies a year? This is insane. The guilt is getting to me. I have a washer and dryer and as a stay-at-home mom I have
plenty of time" (ha ha ha ha ha!) Well-- probably more time than lots of moms, let's put it that way.
Okay, so I'm going to take the plunge and try some different varieties of cloth diapers. There are a lot out there on the market, that are all purporting to be just as good as disposables-- yeah, right. The thing is that disposables are so fantastic when it comes to usability. I mean. They kick ass! They are thin and light, completely trouble free, and they work like the dickens. If correctly attached to the kid, they never leak, and Isaac has never had diaper rask for even one day. They are fantastic and will be really hard to beat with any cloth rig anyone can design, no matter how high tech the cloth. Gor-Tex? Capilene? Surely we can do better than a scrap of cotton these days. ...?
I've got a copy of Mothering Magazine-- a publication that supports breastfeeding, co-sleeping, attachment parenting, and eco-friendly everything. Some say that they are sort of nursing-o-fascists and I can see that. But since I'm on their side of the coin I really like the magazine and find it to be supportive. Anyway, in the back are many, many ads for various cloth diapering contraptions, hemp this and sheep's wool that. My plan is to buy a selection-- maybe five different kinds-- try them out, and see if ANY could be actually worked into my real life. If I find one and can at least reduce my disposable diaper habit, I will feel better about the whole thing. If not, well, at least I can tell myself that I tried.br> br> br> br>
The New Yorker had a very good article some months back about the design of disposable diapers. They represent an impressive engineering effort, and they really do work well; but no one has thought to make them biodegradable, at least not so far.
Native Americans used sphagnum moss for diapers. It was probably not a random choice, since they lived on this part of the continent for over 10,000 years, and had a good chance to check everything out. Sphagnum moss was also washed, dried, and used for wound dressings during World War I.
Sphagnum moss is otherwise known as peat moss. However, when you buy "peat moss", what you frequently get is peat, which is decomposed sphagnum moss and no good for diapers. I'm not sure where a person could buy real sphagnum moss, although there is plenty of it growing in lakes in northern Minnesota. Perhaps this could become a new industry.
I tried to get diaper service for DeAnna when Lily was born. The diaper company delivered 35 diapers and then went out of business. br>
Hey sweetie. I had a totally opposite experience with Mothering magazine. I had to bring Lucy in for her immunizations and there was an article about how dangerous/toxic/terrible the shots were and how she would certainly die and/or become autistic and how I should stand up to the machine and refuse to get her shots. (Now, getting shots is such a gleeful experience that I would happily avoid it if it didn't mean that my child would get disease and wouldn't be allowed in any childcare situation, ever). I threw it across the room and didn't look at it again (I had a subscription from my mother in law -- come to think of it, maybe that was the problem).
Love, me br>
TITLE: September 11, 1999
DATE: 09/19/2003 12:15:20 AM br>
Two years before THE 9-11, there was a 9-11 of a much happier sort. My mother and my aunt had a double wedding that day just over four years ago. But before I tell you about the wedding, I should give a little backstory.
Way back in the early '50s, when my aunt Marilyn was born br> br> br> br>
TITLE: The Teething
DATE: 09/25/2003 02:25:07 PM br>
I have been unable to sit down and write an update for ages-- it's been combination of things. First it was a blitz of major home construction and houseguests... an interesting combination, but all to the good in the end. The house looks better now-- the downstairs bath has had its rotting floor replaced, sink torn out, new sink installed, wall ripped open and closed up again, and a fresh coat of bright green paint. It's a Martha Stewart color-- creeping jenny-- somewhere on the continuum of honeydew and leaf. Very pretty and all around a big success. Meanwhile, upstairs, we've added a new railing on this totally frightening unsafe balcony-type deal, that Isaac could easily have climbed over and dived off of to his peril. The railing looks nice, and it too needed to be painted. In that case, one of the houseguests came in handy. We worked on it together and got it done in just one day (multiple coats, awkward approach with many knobby spindles to reach between and paint blindly).
That all took a couple weeks of totally frenetic activity. Since then, we've been beset by teething. Little Isaac has six teeth-- a bit precociously I might add-- four on the top and two on the bottom. And this has been his tooth count since about July. Well, lately, he's been chewing on everything. Especially wood and paper products. Books-- he devours. The furniture also is getting the treatment. He seems especially fond of chewing on this end table in our TV room. He's gone along the edge and gnawed down to splinters in several places. In fact he seems to like the places he's already worked on quite a bit much better than the fresh places on the edge of the table. He likes the splinters I guess and likes to suck on them and then gum them. can this be safe or healthy? We think not. We're trying to switch him over to cold woody carrots and wet wash cloths-- both of which he appreciates in their own way. But nothing really seems to work out the old gums like a big slab of wood. On one arm of our futon frame, we have all these little needle teeth marks from doggy Lena's chewing days, and now along side them, we have the flat pairs of baby human teeth dragging little furrows all over it.
But the real problem with the teething siege has been the lack of sleep. I mean-- LACK. These long expanses, like 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. of sleeplessness for Isaac and one lucky parent. For several days I was doing the night shift on my own-- Ben has to work by day, after all. But after Monday night, in which I literally slept 45 minutes between midnight and 1 a.m., and then 45 more minutes between 5 a.m. and 6, Ben stepped up to the plate. (The thought occured to me-- did Sylvia Plath just need some sleep?) Tuesday night he did the 10 p.m. to midnight shift, and then the 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. shift, while I rotated in the rest of the time.
I recall a passage in The Gulag Archipeligo (sp?) in which Solzhenitzen (sp?) talks about sleep torture at the hands of the Stalinists. He says that people would think, "They wouldn't let you sleep? Well-- this isn't a vacation now is it?" as if sleep is a luxury or a treat. But in fact depriving someone of sleep can bring him to his knees in just 48 hours-- a very effective means of breaking down resistance.
Tell me about it.
The most diabolical part of it has been that Isaac generally has been happy-- I mean, we're not up walking the floor with a screaming boy. Maybe that would be less maddening because we would at least feel sorry for him-- and of course then perhaps Tylenol would cure the problem and we could all sleep. But no, the symptom has been just total wakefulness (along with the chewing). He really hasn't been too sad at night, mostly hyper and playing with his tambourine or babbling and crawling around at top speeds. Last night he truly seemed in pain and screamed for a time, and Tylenol and Baby Oragel did their magic. But it's not that this is easy for him, either. He has huge blue circles under his red-rimmed eyes. He looks like he's aged by two years in the last week. Also he may have a cold. He has had a fever at times and a runny nose. Some say that teething causes this, and some say it doesn't. I can say for sure that Ben is not teething, though, and he has been sick this week too.
So-- anyway-- it's been rather trying here in domestic goddess land.
But today is lovely and I am going to make some banana bread for playgroup tomorrow. So I'm feeling somewhat back to the land of the living-- hey I've slept six non-consecutive hours in the last 24 and that's not too shabby!br> br> br> br>
Yay, more prose! And under very difficult conditions, too. Congratulations on your home improvements as well.
You certainly are having a time of it. I hope you're managing to gain on the sleep deficit.
By now you no doubt have some sort of enclosure for Isaac, or perhaps a harness and leash, to enable you to catch some Z's. Sounds like he's getting pretty mobile.
George Orwell said that he got 20 to 30 hours of sleep per week when fighting in the trenches in the Spanish civil war. He stood that for a few months; but of course no one should try to do it indefinitely. He said that the 15- and 16-year-old boys had a terrible time with lack of sleep, whereas the older soldiers had less trouble. Orwell would have been about 32 at the time.
Sylvia Plath probably did need some sleep. I rather think that brighter people, or those who do a lot of intellectual work, need more sleep than those of uncomplicated mind who shovel sand for a living. Rene' Descartes had a lifelong habit of sleeping till 10 or 11, and avoiding chills. Late in his career, having gotten into financial straits, he took a job as tutor and adviser to a strong-willed 19-year-old woman (don't remember her name) who had just been crowned Queen of Sweden. She got up every morning at 5 and took an ice-cold bath, and she forced Descartes to conform to this routine. He was dead in about six weeks.
Do you recall Mark Twain's story about the McWilliamses and the "membranous croup"? It opens with the McWilliamses' baby girl chewing on a pine splinter. McWilliams says to his wife, "Love, it is notorious that pine is the least nutritious wood a child can eat." br>
TITLE: To Sleep, perchance
DATE: 10/03/2003 02:45:08 AM br>
Ironically I was up about an hour and a half ago -- then 1 a.m.-- writing a little blog entry about how ironic it was to be awake when little Isaac was sleeping like a lamb. I had insomnia, which in the world of general sleep deprivation is especially maddening. Well, I worked through it. I had several minor physical annoyances that I tended to-- ate Tums, drank water, put lotion on my hands and feet, etc. Returned to bed refreshed and ready to sleep. However, now my dear little Isaac is the wakeful one. I would LOVE to sleep at the moment and instead... well you get the idea.
My blog that I started earlier got erased, I guess, because I impulsively began to look for a link for you and forgot to save it before I left this site. Frustrating! I lost momentum. Anyway I was writing a small amount-- really about a blog that I mean to write more fully one day-- about my mom's wedding. Two years before THE 9/11, there was a happy event, a double wedding with my mom and her little sister Marilyn, 9/11/99.
Funny to use the term "little sister" with regard to Marilyn... this is a term of childhood, something a six-year-old would say of her new baby sister. But childhood together was something that my mom and her siblings missed with Marilyn. It's a long story and I'm not up to it now (I've even had to hand my mouse over to the little one to chew on, so navigating is a chore). It spans the century, starting with the Titanic and ending with 9/11/99. Not ENDING, per se, but it's a nice bookend. In between there's some tragedy, some adultery, children lost and found and much more.
Anyway-- some time I'll write it all up into a nice little package. In the meantime, you can see photos of the double wedding here:
Expect brides on horseback and men in dresses.
Anyway-- regarding sleep and the lack thereof. My latest is that once again I'm revisiting the No-Cry Sleep SOlution by Eliz. Pantley. The step I'm trying to focus on right now is simply establishing a regular bedtime and a bedtime routine. SImply, ha ha. It's so very hard. Why? Well-- it's hard because it's all a cycle. Take today for instance. Isaac slept blessedly well last night-- ah sweet memories! And yet today got really tired int he late afternoon. Not surprisingly I was very tired also-- not so much from last night, but the general overall picture of the last 11 months. So I decided to take a short nap with him. We went to sleep around 3:30 and woke up when Ben came home from work at 6:30. Oops. This was not so short! Seeing as my intention is to get Isaac to bed at 8:00 or so, this put a kink in the plans.
He finally went to bed about 10 p.m. and slept, as I mentioned, like a lamb until 2 a.m, whereupon he woke up, began chatting and crawling around the bed, which brings us to the present. He's in a great mood and seems to feel that it's broad daylight out. (PLease note-- I have all the lights very dim and have done as little as possible to encourage the party now underway.)
Another reason it's hard is just life. How to impose regimentation upon chaos? Ben comes home, there's nothing to eat in the larder, we're starving and exhausted, we go out and get a sandwich, we get home at 9:00 p.m., Isaac is asleep in his car seat, soon wakes up and thinks it's morning.
I'm struck also by how closely intertwined sleep and eating are for all of us. If I had it together and could get dinner on the table for grown-ups and baby alike, it would be a lot easier to not end up with the above scenario. And yet I'm so damn tired all the time and also often asleep in the day time and don't get to the store. Well, sometimes I do. Two nights ago I roasted a turkey breast and made a full-on dinner with lots of pretty and colorful, healthful side dishes. In fact, I roasted celery root for the first time. It was pretty good-- sort of like parsnips.
For Isaac also food is a major player in the whole sleeping thing. He wakes up to nurse because he's used to getting food 24/7. So as a part of the whole sleeping project, I've been working on the whole eating project, following SUper Baby Food (which is a book I also recommend), and making all this brown rice porridge and little ice cubes of steamed kale and such.
Arg-- well further discussion will have to wait as Isaac is starting to fuss. Perhaps a prelude to dreamland? We'll see.br> br> br> br>
TITLE: an interlude of goodness
DATE: 10/06/2003 08:40:48 PM br>
At the risk of jinxing it, the last 24 hours have been a model of sleep scheduling on Isaac's part. Last night he was a very fussy fellow (indeed all day-- again with the teeth?), but ultimately gave up and went to sleep around 10 p.m. He awoke briefly at 12:30 or so and I brought him from his room into ours. There he slept pretty much-- not rock solid, but no major wake-ups, until 7 a.m. or so. Lovely!! Then he played around with me, we had some breakfast and did this and that until about 10:00 a.m., when he so clearly indicated he was due for a nap. He climbed into my lap and reclined himself into the nursing position while significantly rubbing his eyes. So I got the hint, took him and nursed him in his bed (it's a twin sized futon on the floor), and off he went to dream land in about five minutes flat. Then he slept for a full hour, awoke smiling and in great spirits. Ate well-- cheese and apples and crackers, which not coincidently was what I was eating also. A few hours later, 2 p.m. or so-- boom-- time for nap #2. Again, plainly indicated and implemented without much fanfare at all. I nursed him and then the babysitter (Zimbabwean Sheila) took him for a brief walk during which he instantly went to sleep in his stroller. Then awakeness and good cheer until dinner, bath, stories, and some playtime. Another sudden appearance in my lap (this is so much easier than guessing-- now that he's Mr. Mobility, he just comes over at will) and desire to be put to bed. Now-- right on time with his target bedtime, 8 p.m., he sleeps! The monitor sits here without a peep!!
Now-- I know that this is not for all and forever. Indeed, he could wake up in ten minutes. But that would be really about tonight and tomorrow's sleep cycle. The one we've just finished is the one we're celebrating here.
It occurs to me that this blog has taken on a stance of biased reporting-- I write it when I'm up and sleepless. When I'm sleeping like a baby along with the baby-- guess what? I'm not writing the blog! So anyway, this is to suggest that the sleep situation is generally improving. Some props to the No-Cry Sleep Solution which may in fact be taking hold!! It's only been about two weeks and already this great improvement!!
Ah... so sweet.
In other news I have some recent photos of Isaac posted on snapfish.com. If you'd like to see them, just drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will hook you up. (This minor step to discourage the crazies...)
In another piece of housekeeping, there's feature on this site that allows me to create a list of people who would like to be notified when I post a new entry. This way, you wouldn't have to tediously check to see if there's something new here all the time, especially given the sometimes long passage of silence. So, if you'd like to be on such a list, again, drop me an e-mail at email@example.com> br> br> br>
Too bad a person can't store sleep when opportunity offers. br>
TITLE: The Diaper Chronicles, part 2: the purchase
DATE: 10/14/2003 10:44:01 PM br>
Okay so today I awoke with but TWO disposable diapers in the house. On a cold and dreary and rainy day at that. This meant that, come hell or high water, I would have to go out into the world and get some diapers. This in turn got me to thinking about the whole diaper project-- if I had cloth ones in the house, even if they needed washing, I would not have to go out on a day such as this.
I opened up my latest copy of Mothering Mag (nursing/co-sleeping fascistas or wonderful support, depending on who you ask), and found several options. One company offered many of the major brands, so I logged on to babybellebottoms.com and ordered an array of types of cloth diapers.
What I learned in my brief researches is that cloth diapers basically fall into two main types-- the all-in-ones, and the cloth-and-covers. The all-in-ones are somewhat closer to a disposable in that you only have to deal with ONE item. It includes the cloth (or whatever) to be against the baby's skin, and the outside waterproof part to keep in wetness, etc. The others are something like the old cloth diapers that you folded and pinned and covered with a pair of those wonderful rubber pants, only nowadays the rubber pants have given way to other options, mostly variations on breathable synthetics with velcro closures. If you're like me, you'll be stunned to learn that the other options also include materials that would seem at first blush to be very ... um.. permeable. Like for example, you can take your cloth diaper, pin it on, and then put on a pair of knitted wool shorts. ... ? Or, similarly, you could put on a pair of poly fleece shorts. Either way, I would suggest that you not put on your finest dry-clean-only skirt to hold a baby dressed this way. (If anyone has tried these contraptions, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know how they work!)
ANyhoo, here's basically what I bought:
In the all-in-one category, I got Fuzzi Bunz ($14.95, plu $6.50 for an insert). This is what I think looks the most promising. It's several layers of different types of cloth, with an absorbent insert that goes in this little pocket deal and then comes out again at washing time. Thus it can be thick while in use, but won't take forever to wash and dry, and also can get cleaned thoroughly. I also got a cute-looking one piece called Bumkins ($14.50), which I'm not sure how it works. I got a cover to go with it, but it implied that this was not needed. Also I got some Kissaluvs ($10.95). But really I should describe these all when I get them-- I don't really know how they work yet.
In the cloth-and-cover dept I got one Green Earth Natural Cotton pre-fold ($2.50), and one Baby Kicks Hemperoo Hemp Pre-fold ($8.75), and to go over these I got the aforementioned Bumkins diaper cover (waterproof) ($11.00).
A moment about the economic impact of all this... as today I spent about $70 just exploring the project. This is a stumbling block. If I did find a winner and decide to go for it even part time, I think I would be spending around $150-200 to launch. And there's the growth issue-- in order for the diapers to come close to the stunning, awe-inpiring efficacy of disposables, they tend to get expensive, and then the baby grows out of them. So they tend to come with an array of snaps and whatnot to accommodate a huge range of sizes. This can be complex and bulky, but more about this in the testing phase.
Okay, but what are we currently spending to manage the boy's bodily functions? Each week we use about 40 of our disposable diapers, Huggies Ultratrim being the house brand around here. This count is down from Isaac's earlier days in which as a newborn he used about twice that each week. They run about $10.00 for a pack of 40. Later on we'll be phasing into pull-ups, and then there are the occasional Swimpers (for swimming) and other whatnot. Let's just say for sake of argument the round figure of $10.00 per week. This is much lower than it was when he was first home from the hospital, but maybe he will continue to use fewer as we go along.
52 weeks times $10.00 equals $520 spent on diapers so far. Let's say he's potty trained at age 2 1/2. So that's another $780. All together, roughly speaking, we're throwing about $1300 into the landfills with all those chemicals, plastic and poop. And this is per kid. If we have another one, it starts all over.
Okay, so when you look at it like this, shelling out $200 for cloth diapers that can be used and reused, even if you buy a whole new set for the next kid, still makes pretty good economic sense.
The diapers will arrive next week sometime, and then we will begin the rigorous testing phase. Stay tuned. br> br> br> br>
"...shelling out $200 for cloth diapers that can be used and reused, even if you buy a whole new set for the next kid, still makes pretty good economic sense. "
Ah, if only it were so simple!
Just googled this-
"A 1990 study concluded that cloth diapers used twice as much energy and four times as much water as disposables, and created greater air and water pollution than disposables (8)."
Clothe diapers may cost less but perhaps only because all the costs (municiple sewage treatment, water, enviromental cost of energy production) are hidden?
That, plus the very un-puritan desire to take the easier path, has led Jasper to live in some eco-friendly disposable diapers. The tragic thing is while they are made of corn starch based "plastic" and recycled paper, and do decompose, we end up using the diaper genie. This encases our beautiful steaming sack of future-compost in a nigh-indestructable, oder-impermiable plastic egg.
- ian br>
Hi Ian-- I read the article you listed in your comment. What remains a little bit vague about what they are saying is the difference between home use and care of cloth diapers and diaper services. I need to track down the "1990 study" they refer to and read that. The service I talked to when I started this exploration nearly boasted of how much of everything it used to get those diapers clean-- they are, of course, swilling around the crap of many different babies and this would pose a major health issue if not handled well. The diaper service spoke of "7 different washing cycles, with clean water each time" and "super hot" vats to sterilize the diapers, and lots of killer disinfectants. It sounded like an environmental nightmare. Then there is the fuel consumption to pick up and deliver the diapers each week, the pollution that that would cause. What I'm talking about is basically one ot two extra loads of laundry a week in my own home-- the cloth diapers I'm looking at do not even recommend chlorine bleach. Not seven wash cycles, just one, and if I wanted to be insanely insanely pure I could even air dry them! (But for god's sake-- am I a Luddite?) And this would also be putting only a few small poops into the waste treatment system, into the toilet, along with the poop of world instead of into the landfill where it can leach into our water supply and cause all sorts of havoc. I still believe that there is no contest between disposables and cloth when it comes to the environment. The other issues-- e.g. cost, convenience and health-- are more gray.
The eco-friendly disposable route is something I've tried and may try again. Are you using Tushies? I thought they sucked so badly it was hard to endure them. br>
Oh, you should have ASKDED me! Not only do I have cloth diaper 'sperience, both as the eldest of seven cloth-diapered infants and the mother of one erstwhile cloth-diapered child, but I am also dear friends with numerous women who are so obsessed with the subject they MAKE THEIR OWN and who would be happy to go over this with you ad nauseam. Plus I might even have some to pass on.
My child is in disposables right now, but we can go into that later. First I want to say that the study cited is profoundly flawed and essentially incorrect. Guess who funded it? This should not be hard to guess.
The study has been ripped apart here, there and elsewhere so I won't go into it. Home use of cloth diapers saves money, energy, landfill space, materials, general environmental impact.... it is possible to reduce this advantage by being really squeamish and triple-washing the dipes with hot water and bleach, but none of that is necessary by any stretch of the imagination.
Hukkay. My child was in cloth for her infancy, until a) solids made her poop sticky and hard to manage and b) she began gleefully removing her diaper and c) my husband stopped cooperating a lot and d) I went back to school and using two systems (cloth and disposable) got onerous.
My favorite is a simple gauze prefold, preferably pre-owned, therefore softer, plus a felted wool Biobottoms cover with velcro closure. The diaper itself is folded right out of the dryer into an appropriate shape (bulk in front for boys, even all over for girls), then slipped into the wool cover, which is used all day unless discernably damp, aired overnight, and only washed with gentle soap and lanolin when and IF it starts to smell or gets very poopy (little poop stains can be spot-cleaned with cold water and a bit of soap, usually). Wool is bactericidal and lanolin provides the water-resistance, thus the conservative washing schedule. The truly excellent nylon-elastic covers, which are harder to change but more reliably leakproof, are hard to find but they are out there and are NOT to be confused with impermeable plastic covers. The Polartec covers are also nice. The Velcro or snap covers with plastic and cloth didn't work well for me, although you go through a lot and I ended up using many of these as hand-me-downs. Hemp diapers are very absorbent, and there are some interesting variations on cotton pile fabric and so on, but unbleached organic cotton gauze prefolds and a selection of wool and nylon diaper covers in graduated sizes seem like the most economical and flexible setup to me.
Laundry: My mom just threw pee diapers in with the regular wash, but then she was doing two or more washes a day. There are a couple of options for dealing with the laundry part. Some folks keep pee and poop dipes separate, with poop soaking and pee dry, some soak them together. A BIG help here is a diaper liner. This is a sort of nonwoven soft papery clothy stuff that comes on a roll or in precut sheets that allows you to lift out and flush most poop solids. Then you can just put both types of diapers together in a pail, dry or soaking. Soaking (in vinegar or ammonia solution, or Dr. Bronner's solution, or borax solution, or baking soda solution, or even just water, maybe with lavender oil) prevents more stains but honestly, how much do you care about stains? The best advice is to have a SMALL pail so you won't be tempted to let the wash go long.
Another option is to use your washer as a diaper pail. This is convenient if your changing table can be put right near it and if you usually do the rest of your laundry only one or two days a week. Then you simply fill the washer with presoak solution and proceed as below.
When you're ready, dump the whole pail into the washer and spin it out. Then you can presoak or just go right ahead and wash, on hot, and preferably dry on hot in the dryer (air-dried diapers are stiff as a board). Actually, it's not even necessary to use hot water, but if it makes you feel better about baby butt germs, go right ahead (and of course you want to bleach-wash on hot any secondhand diapers, or after a round of butt germ problems). Detergent depends on your baby. I used ALL Free because it's cheap, it's what my husband likes and did not seem to irritate her at all. If I were a better person we would have gotten natural detergent or even used lavender or peppermint Dr. Bronner's like my more conscientious friends.
A front-load washer is a good thing and easier on the diapers - something to take into account when trying to justify the cost of a Neptune.
Um, what else? Fold the diapers right out of the washer and into predictable stacks in a crate or box. Then it's just like grabbing a disposable.
The really important reason to use cloth, though, is the incomparable fat butt it gives your baby. What is cuter than a puffball bottom wobbling along? Not much. It also provides good padding for a beginning cruiser/walker, and that little bit of omnipresent dampness discourages casual baby-holders (but not me, bwah ha ha, not me!) br>
TITLE: The Diaper Chronicles, part 3: testing and a winner
DATE: 10/26/2003 12:43:52 PM br>
Over the last week I have experienced a gamut of cloth diapering systems. I've experienced my son's poop in more graphic detail than ever before. I've questioned my commitment to abstractions, such as the state of landfills nationwide, and the priorities of our household pocketbook. But the bottom line is that I've found it-- a diapering system that I think will work for us-- and I've done it-- bought a batch of 12 to launch the new life around here.
One of the main lessons of this experiment is something to which mothers worldwide and throughout history will respond with a collective, "well, duh": cloth diapers of all kinds WORK. That is, they keep the pee and poop contained in some fashion until it can be taken away from baby's bottom. Even among the systems that I thought the least effective, I had no problem with leakage whatsoever. None.
The distinctions, then, are much more subjective. They apply to usability, baby's comfort, mom's convenience, the all-important cleaning process, and the gross-out factor.
I tested three broad categories of cloth diapering systems (I used to think there were only two): the folded two-piece, the contoured or fitted two-piece, and the all-in-one. What I wanted basically was a system that would not be repulsive, incredibly hard to manage, or otherwise an unrealistic addition to my actual life as a WAHM (a new-to-me acronym... work at home mom). I've been using those wonderful, easy, fast, sanitary, labor-free disposables for a year and I figured that if the new system were too hard (or revolting-- more on this later) I wouldn't actually DO it. My question was in effect, Is there a system out there that is AS GOOD as disposables?
But first the non-winners.
Note to self: next time I'm testing cloth diapering systems, don't feed the child a lot of beets that week! Skip grapes entirely!
1) THE FOLDED TWO-PIECE
This is basically your mother's cloth diapering system. A piece of cloth of some description, and an outer waterproof pant of some description. In the old days, diaper pins were involved to secure the cloth diaper to the baby and then the rubber pants were pulled on like underpants. These days, you simply fold the cloth into whatever configuration works best, then put on a contoured diaper wrap. It's shaped sort of like a disposable diaper (sort of like an hour glass). It's secured with velcro and no pins are involved.
I tested three kinds of cloth diaper and two wraps in all different combinations. The worst, and most basic, was the Gerber's wrap and regular old pre-fold cloth diaper I bought at Babies R Us. The Gerber's wrap was secure enough and did the job okay, but it paled beside the wonderful Bumkins wrap I bought online. They both have gusseted legs, which provide security against leaks and also seem pretty comfortable to wear. But the Bumkins wrap (in a fetching teal sea-creature pattern), also features a mesh panel for breathability, and this clever little pocket in the front in which you can tuck the cloth diaper to keep it from peeking out the top.
Inside these I tried the basic cloth diaper, which is really what you would get at a diaper service and what people think of when they think "cloth diapers." It was lame. It was not very thirsty and not very soft. It was just a little scrap of cloth. It seemed that the outer pant was really doing the heavy lifting here, just literally holding the wetness and poop in one place, rather than the cloth actually entrapping it in some fashion.
I also tried an organic cotton pre-fold that was MUCH fluffier and nicer than the regular store-bought one. The gross-out factor, here, though was extremely high for me. I had to wrestle with poop and chunks and things too fierce to mention. It was miserable! Same goes for the Hemperoo Hemp diaper from Babykicks. A wonderful piece of cloth. Legalize it. The stuff is fantastic in terms of sheer absorbing power. It's also so soft and wonderful and touchable. It puts cotton to shame. But there were a couple problems with it. One, it was SO big and fluffy that it strained the outer reaches of the diaper wrap and actually I think created something of a testicular crunch for baby (although he never complained). The diaper seemed in effect hard as a rock, so tightly packed was the wrap with hemp fabric. Also, the hemp I think was the maximum revulsion of all my testing. The poop adhered to it like nobody's business, apparently due to its fuzzy texture. It was vile and repulsive and I bodily fought back the vomit as I struggled with it. Granted, there are these diaper liners-- sort of like eco-friendly paper towel I guess-- that would help with this problem. Then the liner and the poop could go off together on their merry way. But lacking that, it was an ordeal I care not to repeat.
2) CONTOURED OR FITTED TWO-PIECE
The two I tested were Kissaluvs and Mother-Eze. The Kissaluv is a very soft, fleecy terry cloth with elastic at the back and around the legs and an array of snaps for different sizes of tummy. It's very attractive in a two-tone-- mine was yellow on the outside and natural on the inside. And cozy. It fit well and seemed comfortable for baby. At babybellebottoms.com, where I bought all this stuff, they seemed to imply that it didn't need a wrap or an outer part of any kind. But since it was just layers of terry cloth, I took it upon myself to add a wrap on the outside. My problem with it was that it just really seemed to hold the wetness against baby's skin. It was like a sodden towel when I took it off, despite the inner core of fat cotton. Also it took forever to dry (a persistent problem with many I tested).
The Mother-Eze was like this only more so. More layers of terry, more snaps, more bulk. Definitely gives elephantitis (?) of the butt. It comes with its own little diaper cover, but the cut of it is weird. Like 1950s boy shorts? It seemed to fit oddly and when I took it off there were elastic marks on Isaac's legs, half way down to his knees. It was HUGE and again evoked sodden towel when wet. On the upside it seemed VERY secure, like it would handle any flood or major outburst of any kind. It was up to the task and then some. But so bulky, so ham-fisted, and like with the Kissaluvs, managing two sets of snaps on a very squirmy toddler was too hard. I really didn't like it.
3) THE ALL-IN-ONES
These are the sort most like disposables. You grab one item, it has it all, you put it on baby, and away you go. I tested Bumkins (in an adorable yellow puppy print) and Fuzzi-Bunz. The Bumkins are a slick polyester outer layer, an soft cotton inner layer, and velcro instead of snaps. The inner layer is in two parts-- a sort of base layer that it secure on all edges to the waterproof part, and then this sort of flap that is sewn down only at the top and the bottom. They seemed pretty confortable and very secure. I would trust them with an overnight or major outing with no qualms. The problem with them was two-fold. 1) the sodden towel effect... even though the layers here are wonderful fluffy flannel, you still get the feeling that the baby is packed in wet cloth. The other, and this was a deal breaker, was the drying time. I mean-- insane. It says on the directions (and I tried to follow all directions on all these to the letter) not to keep running it through a hot dryer. Setting aside the energy wasted in doing so (part of the point is to save energy), it's supposed to damage the waterproofing over time. So it says to run for one dry cycle (and this dry cycle dried jeans just fine), and then leave it to air dry. 48 hours later... Seriously. It took SO long to dry that it was really just not workable-- how could I have all these diapers in various stages of dampness? I need a stack of warm, usable diapers at my fingertips or knowing myself I will turn back to the dark side in no time.
So... that brings me to Fuzzi Bunz... the wonderous, the beautiful, the splendid, the miraculous Fuzzi Bunz. The design is a thing of glory in and of itself. It's NOT made of cotton, which any hiker will tell you is not the best fabric against your skin anymore. Cotton does breath, and it is soft, but it holds moisture in one place and leaves you clammy and cold. This diaper is made of two thin-- THIN!-- layers of high-tech fabric. The outer is waterproof, yet breathes, AND stretches! All over! There is elastic at the legs and back and an array of snaps for sizing, but the whole thing stretches, which makes for a soft and cozy fit. The inside layer is really a very fine, small grade polyester fleece, that simply doesn't get wet. Water passes over and through it but doesn't stick. Then the brilliant part-- there's a pocket in which you insert something INCREDIBLY absorbent. Again a high-tech microfiber of some kind (alas my only pair is the on the kid and on an outing with daddy, so I can't tell you the ingredients for sure), but THIRSTY. It says on the web site that it holds 7 to 10 times its weight and I sure believe it. You insert this into the pocket, and like a disposable, the first layer wicks and the second layer absorbs and entraps. The baby stays dry, the diaper doesn't leak. It's cozy and soft and great against the skin. And then it all comes apart to go in the wash. Hence the drying time is not a big deal, even for the insert part. And gross-out factor is low. Somehow the poop just doesn't adhere to it. A recent conversation on this topic during testing:
Ben: "I changed the Fuzzi-Bunz and the poop just fell off!"
Catherine (recalling the ordeals with the poop stickage on the others): "Really? Great!"
Ben: "Well, it fell off on to the FLOOR."
Okay, so, there's still something of a learning curve here. But this is the winner. I bought a dozen and a dozen inserts for a whopping $223. Ouch! But think of it this way... it makes the world a better place, it really seems great for baby, it's not hard to use, and in six months it will pay for itself.
br> br> br> br>
Does Fuzzi-Bunz come in adult sizes? Just asking.br>
Wow, what a research project! Lots of valuable information for those who need it. I don't recall any testing of such items by Consumer Reports. Congrats on the successful conclusion. br>
The happy answer is yes.br>
TITLE: Dipe Chron 4: Next Stop, ELF?
DATE: 11/04/2003 09:47:46 PM br>
After having embraced cloth diapers, and now moved on to cloth WIPES also, can burning down SUV dealerships be far behind? Am I turning into a eco-terrorist? Alternatively is my delight in this domestic endeavor a sign of impending Stepford-wife-ism?
It's been a week (tomorrow afternoon) since the Fuzzi Bunz made their grand arrival into our life. Since then we've been disposable-diaper-free, COMPLETELY (despite a foiled attempt on Ben's part to sneak one on Isaac just now-- luckily I caught him in time!) And basically I can say the transition has been incredibly seamless and painless. I can hardly tell the difference, except that on trash day there was less trash heading to the curb.
The cleaning and washing process is completely do-able. Although I learned early that it did pay to buy the little paper liner dealies. They are sort of like eco-paper towels. They reduce the dreaded poop stickage to truly nothing, and hence the gross-out factor is actually--I'm going to go out on a limb here-- LESS than with disposables. The difference is that the poop actually GOES AWAY, rather than being double and triple sealed in plastic (as done with the Diaper Genie and its compatriots). Basically with disposables you are sitting in a room with a container of poop in it all the time. Whereas with the Fuzzi Bunz, the poop goes down the toilet and out of your life-- where it belongs. This is surely an improvement for all concerned. The diaper pail odor is really pretty near nil now.
The washing and assembling process is also very easy. Again, following the directions as carefully as possible, I use a dry pail (some fill their pails with water which Fuzzi Bunz frowns upon), and then run the diapers through a quick cold rinse before washing them with this Allens Naturally soap-- just a tiny bit of it, I might add-- and then dry on cool (I don't have a good way to line dry them in my laundry room), taking the diapers out a bit before the insert things. Assembling them (putting the inserts into the diaper pockets and putting the little paper liners in each diaper) took a total of six minutes for one load of about 12 diapers. I timed it. It was no big deal. In terms of frequency, I have done diaper laundry three times-- Thursday night, Sunday morning, and now-- Tuesday night.
As for the homemade wipes, well, listen, once I've come this far, why not? My first attempt, to put it bluntly, was a complete failure. I simply cut up a bunch of plain old cloth diapers into nice wipe sizes. Then I mixed up this wipe recipe I had seen in the Super Baby Food book. I left out a few items that I didn't have on hand and just put in water, baby oil, and aloe vera gel. I stirred it up and dumped it over the waiting wipes in the wipe warmer. Unfortunately, as anyone can tell you, oil and water don't mix. The oil all sat on the top of the stack of wipes, the aloe gel sat in a gelatinous pile, and most of the wipes stayed completely dry. Then to top it off, when I washed them they frayed to an incredible degree and entangled themselves into one giant squid-like woozle that no one on earth could detangle.
So... learning from this foray into incompetence, I tried again. This time I bought myself a quaint little set of baby wash cloths ($2.95 at Target) with the days of the week emblazoned on them (two sets, actually), (I needed something different from the other wash cloths to discourage comingling) and made the wipe slurry a lot more carefully. I added lecithin to the mix also, which is an emulsifier (some people just add soap, but I don't think this is a good idea because it won't get rinsed off the butt). I wisked it all together in a big bowl, and midway through the process was astounded to note that I had just made, in my own home, by accident, hand lotion! This is where hand lotion comes from! Quite an epiphany I don't mind telling you. Also, I used a mixing bowl to dip and squeeze and otherwise moisten the wipes completely, through and through. MUCH better result. Now the 14 lovely little wipes are sitting in the wipe warmer awaiting a chance to serve. I'll just wash them along with the diapers and it will add little to no work to the whole extravaganza.
All this is to say that the diaper project is completely up and running and so far a total success. I'm so... HAPPY... there's no other word for it... to have broken the cycle of plastic and garbage and broken our dependency on buying one of those jumbo packs of diapers each week. It's very freeing!br> br> br> br>
TITLE: The Problem with Mothering
DATE: 11/11/2003 12:50:59 PM br>
I've heard from several trust-worthy people to watch out for "Mothering" magazine. But I hadn't experienced the problem myself-- until recently. To me, I liked Mothering because it validated some of the things I was doing with Isaac-- like co-sleeping with him and nursing him on demand indefinitely. But one friend talked of throwing it across the room over the vaccination issue, and another mentioned that she had it good authority from three separate women who had worked for her that the editor, Peggy O'Mara, was a "scorched earth bitch from hell."
What has ticked me off is a recent article entitled "Wake Up!" -- it's in the Nov/Dec 03 issue just out now. Basically it says that the c-section rates in the US are sky rocketing and that we women are ignorant sheep for accepting it-- and for having c-sections at all. There's no loop hole in this article for those of us who actually NEEDED a c-section and did not have a normal pregnancy or birth. It also gasses on in the most annoying way about how great nature is. Nature wouldn't set you up for failure, says. However, let's not forget that any look at a nature show on TV is FULL of brutality. Kill or be killed is a big part of nature. Just the other day I watched (and regretted watching) this horrible thing with this lioness trying to save her three cubs from a stampede of water buffalo and needless to say it was not a happy ending. It was "all natural" though! In the old days a lot of women died in childbirth-- that was natural!
Nature, my ass!
Anyway-- this whole thing got me worked up and I wrote a letter to the editor. Here's the letter:
In your recent "A Quiet Place" you say that "each woman contains the genetic blueprint for normal birth and can trust the inherent integrity of her biology." And that "nature would not make a pregnant woman dependent." I wish this were true, but as I learned the hard way-- it's not always the case. I am among an estimated one-to-three percent of all women who have a uterine anomaly of some kind. Mine is bicornuate-- Y-shaped. I've met women with septate uteri, and even a woman with two completely separate uteri.
I was raised reading "Our Bodies Ourselves" and had about two decades of normal cycles before I tried to get pregnant in my mid-30s. I trusted my body completely. I just assumed that the process would be an easy one for me and never suspected that there was anything unusual about my uterus. Then I had several early miscarriages. I went on to have a pregnancy characterized by episodes of epic bleeding. But as I made my way through the second trimester I comforted myself that "my body knew how to do this."
At 22 weeks, however, I went into labor. Despite the best efforts of a team of doctors and despite an intense struggle on my part, I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy, thriving little boy-- born a double footling breech and literally kicking. Jacob died within an hour. I later learned that due to my acute placental abruption my own life had been in peril also.
It took a year of grief and medical exploration to consider trying again. It was only then that I learned about the shape of my uterus. I went through a high-risk pregnancy in a state of near-constant fear of going into labor at any moment. But I made it to 36 weeks! Incredible! For the last couple months of my pregnancy, my baby was completely on my right side, in the right "horn" of my uterus, with his head tucked up under my ribs. When I went into labor, he was transverse across my abdomen. As you know, even the most skilled midwives recommend c-sections for transverse presentations.
I had a c-section-- not because I was "immobilized by cultural myths about birth." Not because I "acquiesced to a system that requires dependency and compliance." Not because I was uneducated or because the women's movement had failed me. I had a c-section because the kind of birth experience I wanted was the kind where my baby and I would both end up alive.
Now I have a beautiful one-year-old (co-sleeping, breastfeeding) son. HOW he got here means nothing me. That I have a little pink scar across my lower abdomen means nothing to me. That he's here-- in my arms and in my life-- means the world to me. br> br>
Catherine, that is really eloquent. I hope they are grown up enough to print it. We'll see.
As an example of the other extreme in what might be called the politics of mothering, there was an article yesterday in the Strib about a woman who had just given birth at home. She has had seven other kids and other home births, and she and her husband felt comfortable doing it that way. A couple days later, she called a lactation consultant at Hennepin County Medical Center because the baby wasn't nursing very eagerly. Someone at the hospital got overzealous; next thing she knew there were cops at her door, along with an ambulance and child-protection workers. They hauled the baby down to the hospital to be examined (it was fine); and the cops then wanted to take it off to a foster-care nursery, but were talked out of that. The couple, as you might expect, has now filed a lawsuit against Hennepin County. Such incidents certainly don't contribute to reasoned debate. br>
Hi Catherine...just discovered your blog; it's wonderful (of course!).
The sort of thing you describe here—the dogma that's so prevalent in realms like parenthood (and education, etc.)—drives me crazy. Why is it so hard for people to allow for the possibility that what works for them (or even for many/most people) might not work for everyone? It's infuriating, but all too common.
As for magazine top editors, they ALL seem to have terrible reputations...certainly most of the ones I've worked for fit the description. (The editor of Scientific American, oddly, has been the sole exception...)
Anyway, you are the voice of reason, just as I remembered. I look forward to reading your thoughts here in future! br>
TITLE: Fish: a very short poem
DATE: 11/11/2003 01:16:48 PM br>
The other day the weather in Cleveland was spectacular-- November and high summer. Clear and sunny, 75 degrees. I took Isaac over to the lake shore that afternoon and we walked around, looking at birds and dogs, water and rocks. Barefoot girls climbed on sand hills. Rollerbladers went by in tank tops. And the sky was filled with kites.
Isaac sat with me on a picnic table looking out over this scene. He looked up and signed: "The kites swim through the blue air like schools of tropical fish."
Okay-- what he actually signed was an abreviation of this. He signed, simply: "fish." I looked up and saw what he was talking about-- the kites against the blue sky really did look like tropical fish in blue water. They moved like fish-- darting in and out and around each other. It was a beautiful way to look at it-- a new way. Something I would never have thought. It was a level of communication with our one-year-old that extended so far beyond my expectations. Fish. The birth of poetry. The birth of metaphor.
Isaac is quite a little signer now. In addition to "fish" he signs dog; nursing (present and future tense); airplane (of course); and finished. Actually "finished" is something of a pun-- the words fish and finished sound similar and the signs are similar too.
He also meows and barks very well now and uses these sounds to indicate dog and cat. He's learning to sniff like rabbit, growl like a bear, and baa like a sheep. He thinks everything should have a sound and a sign in addition to a plain old word. He turns each page of his "Brown Bear What Do You See?" book and looks to me pointedly. What sound? What sign? (the only sign in that book I don't know is sheep-- and I can tell this bothers him. I ordered an ASL dictionary to find out!)
This morning he had an entire conversation on the phone with his grandma Doris-- all in Cat. He meowed. She meowed back. Delight all around!
I can't wait till he starts talking. In the meantime, he's communicating beautifully and such a clever little fellow! What will he do once he has a complete language at his command? br> br> br> br>
Wow, really cool.
I suppose you might say that the human brain is hard-wired from birth to process language--or to create it if necessary. One hears reports of babies and toddlers who create their own language and can communicate with one another thereby, although no one else understands it.
The fine thing about the signing, and the sounds, is that it reinforces the whole process. Isaac can see that it's working and will keep on with his language studies. The flip side would be the "wild" children who grow up with no other humans to communicate with. Eventually, it seems, the language ability goes dormant. br>
TITLE: Dipe Chron 5: Joie de Diapers
DATE: 11/23/2003 01:02:34 PM br>
I still have my joie de diapers. Some could say I have the fervor of a convert. My evangelism has slowed a bit, though, and I've stopped brandishing them at social gatherings. What I've learned is that basically my joie de diapers is a private thing, best enjoyed quietly and with a Mona Lisa smile.
It seems that when it comes to diapers there are two choices: the slick, hygenic, modern, effortless disposable on the one hand. Or alternatively, a trip back in time. We are transported immediately to a desparate scene in which a bent exhausted woman rubs her fingers raw on a washboard in a tub of stinking wet diapers. Behind her nappies are hung on lines, row after row, and around her feet there are ten screaming brats, all with runny noses and tails that need to be wiped.
Somehow this is what people picture when graced with the news "I use cloth diapers and wash them myself!" What ever happened to the washing machine and gas dryer-- I don't know. But they don't figure in the image. In fact, I think this poor soul I describe above has to actually chop wood in order to heat the water to wash these horrible nappies. Also everyone has a raging case of diaper rash from waist to knees. Any advancement since the dawn of time are not part of the picture-- pins, folded cotton, rubber pants, hand washed and hung on lines. This is what it means to most to not use disposables.
Why would I choose this!? WHY???
Apparently the disposable diaper companies have successfully brainwashed most of the population. To some, using non-disposables even smacks of child neglect. One conversation I had before Isaac was born was like this. I attempted to explain my interest in possibly, just possibly, using a diaper service. (This was before I began my research.) The person I was talking to do replied in alarm, "But you care about your baby! You want the best for your baby!"
Such is the reaction-- there's a continuum, I notice, from incredulity (on the good side) to full-on revulsion. "Well, it's your washer" said one... as if huge turds clog the hoses of my Whirlpool. A rare and wonderful reaction is "Wow! I can't believe you've pulled it off!" (this from a good friend and mom of two in Italy). Another sort of reaction is a stab of guilt and explanations as to why it's impossible to follow suit. "If I had my own washer..." "If I wasn't working..." If we just had the one baby..." All this is fine with me-- I don't scorn anyone for not doing it. I really don't! All I'm saying is that I CAN do it -- my life makes it possible. It fits into my life just fine, and so-- why NOT?
My baby is happy and dry and healthy-- the transition has not caused him the slightest disruption in his routines. I'm in a rhythm now with the washing and hardly think about it. The wipes... I still need a little more skill with the wipes. I keep running out at inopportune times. The making and storing of my wipe slurry (to mix with water and pour over dry clean wipes) has helped a lot. But still my rhythm is off with the wipes. Perhaps this aspect won't work after all-- but I just ordered a twelve pack of officially sanctioned cloth wipes and we'll see how this plays out. Otherwise-- a month or more later and all is still going just perfectly. Last night I put Isaac in his diapers around 8 p.m. He got up at about 8:30 a.m. and no leakage whatsoever. His diaper inserts were sodden, but his skin was dry and comfortable and all was exactly as it should be.
I think there needs to be a Fuzzi Bunz support group out there somewhere. In fact I'm fairly sure it already exists online. Perhaps I should join!
Oh well. Mona Lisa smile, Mona Lisa smile. I know the truth. br> br> br> br>
TITLE: First Steps, a birthday present
DATE: 11/23/2003 03:53:58 PM br>
The other day I turned 37. To mark the occasion, Isaac took his first steps.
Like so many major events, so many Hallmark moments you hear about years in advance, it wasn't what I had hoped. Maddeningly, I was in the other room for a minute and Isaac was in the company of his babysitter. This is so upsetting for me, as I'm with him 24 hours a day, usually, and one of the perks of constant contact is none other than getting to watch the first steps-- for sure. The first steps become a sort of lightning rod for all firsts in a baby's life. A friend once derided moms who work outside the home too much by saying, "What-- do they want some recent immigrant watching their baby's first steps?" And yet, devoted as I am, this is exactly what happened to me! (Our baby sitter is from Zimbabwe and has only been in the US less than a year.)
I heard her say, "Isaac! Let's go show mommy what you can do." And in she came, saying, "He stood on his own for a second." This in itself was news. "Really?" I said. Then she added, "And... he took a few steps." She tried to play it down, I could see. She tried to minimize the impact of the news, but still it hit me with a thud. I was 15 feet away but out of sight!
Obligingly (again perhaps because this was my birthday present), he did again for me. He tottered from Sheila's hands to mine, four or five steps in a row, ending with a tumble into my arms. Such a miracle! I overcame my chagrin at missing the REAL first steps and turned my attention to the wonder of the accomplishment. Almost a biped! Such a big fellow.
This is another case where people feel inclined to be sardonic. "Oh, now you're really in for it" seems to be the consensus. Maybe they are right, but since this kid already gets all over the place and into to everything in a twinkling, I'm not clear on how much faster he can move. He needs constant supervision now-- how will I step it up from "constant"? Is this another case of innocence on my part, about to collide with hard experience, or are people just irritating?
The first steps were five days ago and he hasn't seen fit to do it again since. One thing that I've learned so far in raising Isaac is that his learning is nonlinear. He learns and unlearns and relearns steadily. One week all he's signing is about fish, fish, fish. The next he spends all his time signing "music" and mooing like a cow. Apparently fish is the last thing on his mind now and he can't be bothered to sign it even when looking directly at actual fish. (However he did sign fish yesterday when he saw a boat sailing by on TV-- probably were some fish under that water.)
His interpretation of the nursing sign is taking on wider and wider meanings. It definitely does mean nursing still. But it can also mean any drink from a cup and even a desparate "I want that!" applied to anything.
The other new thing going on with him is basically acute insomnia. He just finds the world so exciting and so stimulating and so fun it's hard to shut it down and go to sleep. In fact, I think he really doesn't know how to. Last night was horrible. He kept wanting to nurse but it was like nursing a baby monkey who had had too much espresso. He was lying next to me and literally doing 360s-- turning from his side to his back to his stomach to his side to his back. Over and over again. Often taking my nipple with him or trampling it in the process. To break up the monotony he would pull my hair, pinch me, scratch me, or climb over me to give daddy a taste of this medicine. This is where the co-sleeping thing really breaks down, and at like 2 a.m. we discussed parking him in his crib and just forgetting about it. But about that time he started finally winding down. He went to sleep about 2:30 a.m. and slept well until 8:30 or so. Uff dah!
Today he has had a horrible time getting to sleep for his nap, and finally his daddy took him out for a walk in the stroller and he fell asleep right away. I think part of the problem is his new car seat. It used to be that we could pop his car seat out and carry him around in it, still asleep. Now that he's moved up to the kind that stays in the car, we have to lift him out and of course he wakes up. This messed up his sleep yesterday and also today. He fell asleep on the way home from outings and then got woken up and couldn't get back to sleep again.
It's like we have to get our sea legs all over again with each transition. Talk about learning being non-linear. Our learning process has been in spirals, circles, stars, and zig zags. We never get a chance to rest on our laurels because he just changes again as soon as we master whatever it is. I have a feeling this isn't going to change anytime soon, either. I guess it's best to chalk it up to the glory of a true challenge.
br> br> br> br>
baby monkey who had had too much espresso...
didn't know we needed to nip this in the bud way back when and now i have a toddler monkey on crack. it only gets more painful. now we can communicate clearly and use some logical consequences if noeli is too rough - but there was a good year and a half where such communication was not effective, added to the natural testing of limits - you MUST stop him now. when my mother told me this i thought, ooooh, how draconian. but think on this: he has a 100% chance of making you dream of weaning before a few months are out. and dreams sometimes become reality. so it's in his best baby interest to become a better bubby citizen.
as for the steps, *sigh* would it have been worse if papa saw them? or grandma? shared care is the human norm. these things happen. one of the sad signs of our overall disconnection from each other and momentary experience is attachment to symbolic, never to be repeated events. holidays are never more sentimentally important than to a father who now regrets his years of neglect. you know? you have been there, second by second, embracing and teaching him, really being with him, raising a child who is so fundamentally secure deep down in his tiny soul and so sure of your presence and your love that even though you are not in sight, he can take a great leap. what a gift. i think many babies would agitate much to have mama in sight if she were so near, perhaps for days before taking those steps.
i need to see him! oh! it's been too long! br>
TITLE: In Appreciation of the Midnight Snack
DATE: 12/10/2003 01:16:16 AM br>
It's after midnight and for reasons unknown to me, Isaac's sleep is out of whack. Today was a fine day sleepwise and so was last night, so I'm not sure what has caused it. In any case, he's awake, and after much struggle I've given up on trying to get him to sleep. He also didn't eat well today, and so I think ended up hungry in the wee hours. So I finally took him downstairs to the kitchen to see if actual food would help. It did seem that he was hungry. He chowed on this pleasing cream of chicken and barley soup I made for dinner, also some high-iron muffin I made the other day (more on this in a moment), and the better part of a banana.
During this repast, it struck me how nice it was... the dim light, the leftovers, and a lullaby CD softly playing the background (hope springs eternal). The midnight snack-- a lost art, I think. Once an endearing treat for Dagwood, now associated with compulsive eating and locks on the fridge.
Things have been a little out of whack around here anyway lately, and I think this may have something to do with the recent sleep upset. Last Wednesday Isaac was diagnosed with high lead and low iron. He's anemic in fact. Now, I know this is common, but somehow I felt that "it wouldn't happen to me." Now I feel like a complete idiot for not having seen it coming. Isaac is Mr. Breastfeeding and Mr. Organic Everything. However, this is one instance where you want the Gerber company in your life I guess-- with "iron fortified" this and that. I have no idea how babies in the wild are supposed to get enough iron if it's not in breastmilk! A friend tells me that the whole anemia thing stems from improper handling of the cord at birth. The baby leaves a lot of blood behind in the placenta when the cord is cut so promptly and this sets the stage for the anemia later.
I don't know. All I know is I have 15 baby books and they all agree "Your doctor may prescribe an iron supplement for your baby." And yet my doctor didn't, and neither did two others. It fell through the cracks I guess because they were very johnny-on-the-spot about getting him his drops with A, D, & C plus floride. Maybe it was that the dr who wrote the original presciption was just finishing her residency and subsequently no one else thought to check. And I was just going along with my life, assuming that everything was okay. Sure, Isaac was on the pale side. Okay, VERY pale. But you have to recall that I'm snow white over here and pretty near blue at the wrists. I just thought his palor was genetic. It didn't occur to me that something was actually wrong with him.
And as for the lead-- well, it remains to be seen where exactly he got it. I'm putting my money on these old tavern chairs that we have. Yes, they are covered with charming actual distressed paint-- not the non-toxic faux distressed sort from the Pottery Barn. This is the real mccoy! In my heart I think I can tell myself that I thought it was varnish because it was so closely the same color as the wood. Or perhaps I can tell myself that I thought it was milk paint, pre-lead. But in any case, the very minute Isaac started crawling, he crawled directly to the chairs and began chewing on them and ingesting as much paint as possible before he was stopped. After pulling him away from the chairs a time or two with brown crud all over his mouth, I called a furniture repair and restoration place for advice. They told me to get this wonderful spray shellac called DEFT and varnish over the paint with several coats. So I dragged nine chairs outside, sprayed them all. Dragged them all back in over night (dew and theft being threats to them). Dragged them all out again. Sprayed them another coat. Dragged them all back in, etc. Until I was quite satisfied that the paint was locked down and secure.
It seems now that the damage was already done. But anyway the health department is supposed to come and test everything around here-- the air, the dust, the soil, the chairs, etc., etc. and tell us where it came from. I look forward to hearing from them soon and to learning whether the chair theory is correct-- I pretty much hope that it is, so at least it's not like completely pervasive in the house and we are living in a Superfund site.
Apparently if he had had enough iron (back to the drops), he would have been able to fend off this lead incursion so much better. Ah, well. The main point is that we caught it in time. It's treatable and it seems that after a month or two of serious iron drops he will be all better.
As for the iron drops... I'm too tired to go into it now, but they are no fun. I think his teeth are getting gray already. Don't get me started on his bowels. I've heard there are a better kind (anything other than ferrous sulfate, which is what we have now), and after much hassle the doctor has gotten a place that will provide them for us. To be picked up tomorrow and started then. So we'll see if the new drops are better as advertised.
Meanwhile Lead Boy is entertaining himself around my feet. He's taken the mouse, which is not ideal, but at least he's letting me type for a few moments. He's very adorable, even when he's very annoying. New signs lately include "toothbrush" and "giraffe." He says "no-no" more or less constantly. His demons. He is tempted by nearly everything and admonishes himself to resist as much as possible. Sometimes his admonishments reach a fever pitch, and yet he still finds himself with his hands plunged into the cat's water bowl, picking it up and dumping it over. No-no! he shrieks. But his hands say "yes yes yes I will yes." br> br> br> br>
Re ECC (early cord clamping), here is a link to the long version of ECC/hypoxia/anemia:
Below, to the BMJ from Morley, the OBGYN most well-known for jumping up and down about it. Given that the Cochrane report on ECC/DCC refutes the typical reasoning for ECC, and that physiological management is turning out to be better for every other aspect of birth in almost all cases, it makes sense, and I have the feeling that most of what he says will be borne out:
Stoltzfus et al. add more evidence to the association of infant anemia with neurological impairment, however, the improvement in language/motor disability with iron therapy in this study contrasts with other studies which show no resolution of grade school neurological defects with iron therapy in infancy. This difference may be explained by differing causes of the anemia and, consequently, different primary causes of the neurological defects.
Neonatal asphyxia (hypoxia) for as short a time as six minutes causes permanent neurological damage - death of neurons; loss of brain tissue has been demonstrated in asphyxiated newborn primates and correlated with memory dysfunction and spastic paralysis. At normal birth, continuous brain oxygenation is supplied from the placenta until the lungs are oxygenating the brain, at which time the cord vessels close reflexively. During this interval, the placental transfusion supplies additional blood volume for adequate perfusion of the pulmonary vessels and gaseous exchange. This duplicate placental/pulmonary oxygenation precludes hypoxic brain damage and adequate blood volume prevents ischemic brain damage.
Immediate cord clamping, as promoted by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and as demanded by resuscitation neonatologists, produces immediate neonatal asphyxia until the lungs function; it also prevents placental transfusion, thus delaying adequate pulmonary perfusion and pulmonary respiration. If the consequent asphyxia is not reversed within six minutes, brain damage will occur and progress.
The immediately clamped newborn, deprived of up to 50% of its normal blood volume, is also doomed to develop infant iron deficiency anemia. The child which is delivered without the use of a cord clamp receives a full placental transfusion with enough iron to prevent anemia for the first year of life; newborn hemoglobin levels are high regardless of the iron status of the mother. Such a child would appear to be immune to neurological defects "caused" by anemia. Hurtado correlated the degree of grade school mental deficieny with the degree of infant anemia.
Thus neurological defects of hypoxic, ischemic origin share a common cause with infant anemia - premature clamping of the umbilical cord at birth. Anemia is NOT the primary cause of the neurological defect, but a coincidental effect of hypovolemia induced by immediate cord clamping. The hypoxic, ischemic brain lesions will not improve with treatment of anemia.
One can only speculate on the cord clamping status of the babies in Stoltzfus' study. If they had western pediatric care, many may have had western obstetrical care and may have lost much of the normal placental transfusion. However, in many "primitive" births, the mother or midwife severs the cord (without tying or clamping) after delivery of the placenta, long after the natural placental transfusion is complete. If this occurred, these neonates would not be anemic, hypovolemic or asphyxiated, the anemia must have developed gradually after birth (? from infestations) and the language/motor defects and their subsequent improvement may indicate neurological impairment caused by anemia and reversible by correction of anemia. It is interesting to note that Windle noted remarkable "recovery" or adaptation to hypoxic brain injuries which were very apparent at subsequent autopsy.
Physiological cord closure (placental transfusion) produces a physiological blood volume optimal for survival, and a healthy, normal baby. It does not routinely cause pathological jaundice, hypervolmia, hyperviscosity, polycythemia or plethora; if it did, Man would be extinct. Immediate cord clamping is universally condemned in the literature. It causes loss of placental oxygenation and lack of blood volume; the consequnt hypoxic, ischemic encephalopathy may cause neonatal death or spastic paralysis, or it may be so mild as to cause behavioural defects which only become apparent in grade school. The associated infant anemia is only a refection of how much of the infant's blood volume was left clamped in its placenta. The cord clamp is a very dangerous instrument.
 Windle, WF "Brain Damage by Asphyxia at Birth". Scientific American 1969 Oct; 221(4):76-84.
 Morley GM., Cord Closure: Can Hasty Clamping Injure the Newborn?" OBG MANAGEMENT July 1998, 29-36.
 Morley GM. Letters. OBSTETRICS & GYNECOLOGY, Vol 97. No.6 June 2001 1024-1026
 ACOG; 1995 Umbilical Artery Blood Acid-Base Analysis. Educational Bulletin 216.
 Linderkamp O. Placental Transfusion: Determinants and Effects. Clinics in Perinatology 1982; 9: 559-592
 Hurtado EK et al. Early childhood anemia and mild to moderate mental retardation. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999; 69(1): 115-119
 Peltonen T. Placental transfusion - Advantage and Disadvantage. Euro. Journal of Paediatrics, 1981; 137: 141-146
Erasmus Darwin, Zoonomia 101: "Another thing very injurious to the child, is the tying and cutting of the navel-string too soon; which should always be left till the child has not only repeatedly breathed but till all pulsation in the cord ceases. As otherwise the child is much weaker than it ought to be, a part of the blood being left in the placenta, which ought to have been in the child."
G. M. Morley, MB ChB (Ed.) FACOG"
The interesting thing about jaundice is that Noeli had it, about a 19 at her worst. This after I watched blood pour out of her umbilicus after it was cut (with scissors) and before it was clamped (very unusual, I've never heard of another cord handled just this way). Jaundice is associated with the breakdown of excess hemoglobin, so it would seem to be at odds with both the blood loss and the anemia. However, Morley makes a convincing case for jaundice as a result of inadequate perfusion of the liver and other organs peri-and neonatally, so that the liver's proper functioning would actually be impaired. Several midwives are working with the theory that if physiological jaundice is a normal result of a liver not ready to properly break down excess hemoglobin - then it's possible that the infant with both bloss loss and jaundice has, for some reason, received a higher than normal proportion of decrepit red blood cells. Since there is a positive process of establishing hemostasis - ie, not just passive flow from placenta to baby, but the mother and baby continue to actively exchange blood through the placenta and cord until hemostasis is reached and the cord naturally shuts down (in a specific order, as if by design)- there is room to suggest that ECC might also interrupt the exchange of older rbc for new. The smooshing and squeezing of vaginal birth has already been shown to help clear fluid out of the respiratory tract - so I'm thinking that compression in vaginal birth might also play a role in "wringing out" the baby so that the freshest possible blood with younger rbc can be transfused. The placenta is sophisticated enough to do something like that. Pressure on the cord is relieved only as the baby's body is delivered and clamping is usually immediate - so even normal clamping could trap older cells in the cord. But Morley has another explanation which is more likely.
OTOH - others have suggested that byproducts of hemoglobin breakdown may actually serve a sort of antibiotic role in the neonate. I don't remember the details but it's a fascinating take, especially since about a third of babies exhibit jaundice and it has long been part of the literature (ie before ECC became prevalent). It's doubtful that something that such a large percentage of babies have is maladaptive - so mild jaundice may have a positive effect.
Well, enough on THAT. I am just unable to believe that human babies would routinely be born requiring supplements that are not available to your typical hunter-gatherer. I am also unable to accept that you should feel guilty or inadequate for not knowing about something that is in the medical literature but absolutely ignored by practitioners. If there's an established link between ECC and anemia, why on earth is it not standard practice to evaluate ECC infants - that is, almost all of them - and especially preemies - for iron supplementation?
It's essentially malpractice - but malpractice so widely accepted and so relatively subtle in effect that there's no recourse. I mean, who has ever had to answer for thirty or forty years of actively discouraging breastfeeeding? An epidemic of allergies, diabetes and obesity arising from wretched ignorance and arrogance, and the perpetrators were not only not held to account, but rewarded.br>
TITLE: Mothering Redeemed
DATE: 12/31/2003 03:54:55 PM br>
The new issue of Mothering is out. The didn't run my letter, but it wasn't from a lack of cojones. They ran several other letters, even harsher than mine, in response to the c-section piece they ran in the last issue. Seems I wasn't the only one upset by their extreme stance. I have to give them credit for letting their critics have a forum there.
Also-- they are back on their game as far as I'm concerned. There are many good articles in the new issue and none that I find offensive. They have an article about cry-it-out sleep systems (and how bad they are) that is really interesting and a detailed look at contamination in breast milk which is packed with information. Also the cover shot of graphic breastfeeding is really good-- I saw it on the stand at a bustling grocery store in Minneapolis and thought it was good for the cause. Maybe if people SEE breastfeeding more, they will cringe less?
Another good piece in this issue is about organizing post partum care-- creating a plan so that friends will rotate through for six weeks, making meals and generally helping out in an orderly fashion. I think that when/if I ever have another baby I will try to put such a plan into place and reduce the hellishness of those first weeks.
The only thing I find sort of eyebrow-raising is the idea of having a "chicken pox party" to expose your child to someone sick with chicken pox... an alternative to vaccination. It's likely that this is a good idea, but it is a little unorthodox. Since we decided to vaccinate Isaac for it (along with everything else), I really hate reading all the horrible things in the vaccine.
Anyway-- they are back in my good graces for now. Lucky ducks!br> br> br> br>
And maybe the next time you will consider the offer of a nice, unflappable nurse who likes to hold infants and let the mother sleep. br>
TITLE: Blog entry notification?
DATE: 12/31/2003 04:00:57 PM br>
Since I update this blog a little infrequently I am creating a list of people who will be automatically notified when I post a new entry. It would come to you in an e-mail with the title and first few sentences of the entry. Would you like to be on such an automatic list? I would hate to create more quasi-spam for people, so I won't put anyone on it without your consent. If you want to be added, just drop me an e-mail at email@example.com. br> br> br> br>
TITLE: Dipe Chron 6: warts and all
DATE: 12/31/2003 07:33:16 PM br>
We just spent a week in Minneapolis with my dad and step-mom for Christmas. It was pretty complex getting the three of us, all our winter clothes, and all our presents out there and back. It may have been a cop out but I opted NOT to bring my beloved Fuzzi Bunz (except just one for show and tell) on this trek. The packing of a bale of diapers, as well as their care and feeding, just was too much for me this week. Also, my dad and Patty had a huge quantity of disposables on hand from our last visit.
Anyway, this has given me an opportunity to truly compare the disposable vs. non-disposable systems head to head. After a few months of Fuzzi Bunz, the return to a week of disposables had the potential to be painfully easy and all-too-wonderful. Especially these days, when Isaac is taking the horrible iron drops and his poops-- stunning in sheer size and frequency-- range from charcoal to tar and back again.
Add to this that at this juncture I happened to run out of the all-important paper liners and so was dealing with poop stickage of the highest order.
All this being said I come away from my week foray back into disposable land actually happy and comfortable with my Fuzzi Bunz. What's not to like about disposables? Well-- again it was the garbage and storage. We didn't have a diaper genie or anything like that on hand. Our low-tech hanging diaper pail was a plastic back suspended from door knob. Poop was our constant companion in the bedroom, since it was way too much of a pain to put on boots, etc., every time there was solid waste to dispose of. The plastic collection-- plastic balls with poop inside, inside a plastic bag, really repelled me. I'll admit to liking the non-washing for a while, but not to such a degree of joy that I wished to never wash another Bunz.
I'm now back in the saddle with the Bunz and cloth wipes, which I get to work out intermittently. When they do work, they are excellent. Like those wonderful warm washcloths they give you before you eat at Japanese restaurants, only with lotion in them and nicely lavendar scented. I've gotten my homemade wipe slurry figured out and now it's going smoothly.
Some diaper accesories I've allowed myself: a hanging diaper pail, which is basically a big garbage type deal made of the same fabric as the outside of the Fuzzi Bunz. It snaps on to the door knob in Isaac's room and is pretty handy because I can wash it along with the dipes, rather than having to scrub it out and so forth like the real pail I had before. (A little trash can with a kick peddle.) Also the hanging diaper pail (ours is a charming butter yellow) has this little patch inside onto which you're supposed to put drops of tea tree oil. The benefits of tea tree oil are becoming more and more plain to me. It really does help with the aroma and basically there is NO diaper odor in the room. I swear this is better than disposables. The Diaper Genie, a friend put it "Has its own special stink." So true, so true.
I also got a small version of the same thing for cloth diapers on the hoof. It's a little bag made of the same stuff that holds three or four wet diapers and goes in the diaper bag. It's big enough for an overnight trip with cloth diapers and it snaps shut. It's very slick and I'm glad I indulged in it.
Anyway-- there have been so BAD moments in the last couple weeks, with the lack of paper liners (now back in full force) and the iron drops working their black magic. There has been stickage and horrible sights that no one should have to deal with. I would say it was an interlude in which disposables would have had their welcome moments. I'll allow that. But basically, warts and all, I am still incredibly happy with my Fuzzi Bunz.br> br> br> br>
TITLE: What I've been reading
DATE: 01/07/2004 04:12:25 PM br>
Over Christmas I read Wuthering Heights on my eBook (sort of a palm pilot with books loaded on it-- a handy thing, but the company's gone bankrupt alas). I was annoyed with Wuthering Heights much of the time I was reading it, but I found myself totally compelled to keep on reading it to the bitter end. A scary book, and upsetting to a modern reader in ways that I think would not have bothered a contemporary of Bronte's. No one then seemed to have the slightest discomfort with first cousins hooking up and living together in the same house as their parents (brother and sister) lived in.
Also the narrative structure is so contrived-- maybe it was a new concept once, but it's a little shopworn now. The weary traveler shows up and the maid sits down by the fire and recounts the better part of the whole novel. When someone else needs to narrate for a while, the maid-narrator produces a letter that she "just happens to have saved" and reads it verbatim.
That being said, I still fell for it. And in the shoes of the weary traveler I also wanted to know what the heck was going on in that weird scary house and how did everyone get into that state. Okay-- so it's not a waste of time, but prepare to be occasionally scared and sometimes irritated.
The scariest part is the horrible nightmare the traveler (renter, really) has the first night he's there. He dreams that a branch is scratching on his window and he wakes up (in the dream) to make it stop. He can't get the window open so he breaks it and reaches out to the branch. Just then a little cold frozen hand grabs his wrist and a voice begins to beg to be let in. He can't get the little hand to let go so he starts cutting the wrist on the broken glass until blood pours down, while the little voice keeps wailing about being lost out on the moors for 20 years and needing to be let in.
I don't know if this has anything to do with a horrible dream I had recently, or not. But I dreamed that I had two babies, and I forgot one in a little back pack hanging from a fence outside all night. I was safe and cozy inside with Isaac and now and then I would think -- "Oh, I have to bring in the baby outside!" but then I would forget again. When I found him in the morning, clutching a little toy to comfort himself, he was floppy with dehydration and cold. I can't tell you how painful this discovery was in the dream, and after I woke up it stuck with me for hours and still in fact wounds me to even think about. I can't say any more about it, without getting upset again. I think as a mother my greatest fear is making a horrible mistake like that-- forgetting my baby who needs me. I think all mothers (parents) fear this to varying degrees. The way a baby needs you is so all consuming and complete. Sometimes it's easy to question whether you're up to the task.
Maybe this dream was also caused by reading Operating Instructions by Anne LaMott while I was sick last week. This is often touted as a hilarious look at new motherhood, but I found it to be bittersweet. Being a new, new mother is incredibly hard and this woman's life was harder than some, lacking a mate to go through it with. I think the connection with my dream is LaMott's persistent sense of insecurity and fear that she will make some horrible mistake or do something disatrously wrong while under this profound stress. I can relate to that fear, although it's been months since I felt as close to the edge as she often is in this book. Maybe reading it reminded me of that insecurity, the sense of not knowing what to do but of being counted on so completely to do everything right.
On an unrelated note, I also just read Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. It's a graphic memoir (a memoir in comic book form) by a young woman who grew up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution there. I read while having insomnia one night for a couple hours. It's sort of like Maus in that it's a serious subject in a seemingly non-serious form. It's incredibly vivid and combines sort of the silliness of childhood-- universal interest in poo-poo and desire to make fun of teachers, for example-- with the dead seriousness of a war and a crack-down on anything deemed culturally suspect (like tennis shoes). It ends when the author was only 14, and I hear there's another installment on the way, thank goodness. Definitely worth your time-- only a couple hours commitment.
I'm amazed actually that I've been on this reading kick. I don't know when I'm finding time for it, or how. I'm hoping that I will get another shot at read the Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth. I started it last summer and didn't get a good foothold before I was sidetracked. But I really liked it, am still thinking about what I read so far, and hope that I'll be able to add it into this latest reading binge before the binge goes bust.br> br> br> br>
Catherine! Reading Wuthering Heights via e-book is... well, it's just wrong! You need it printed on good creamy paper with woodcut illustrations! But you'd still have the same quarrels, admittedly. I'd venture that the narrative structure is classic, rather than cliched. The survivor-narrator is an old old device for a reason... but... in some ways it is an awful book. Horrifically overwrought and all. You would scrupulously avoid these folks in real life. But people still fall for it as you did *because* it is so overwrought. Beats reality TV for sure. Though Jane Eyre is much better.
My high school boyfriend had me reading John Barth. The Floating Opera was my favorite (set in a charming Eastern Shore town Joe lived and brewed in for awhile), but I struggled through everything, including Giles Goat-boy, oh my sweet lord. To this day I have an innate resistance to ever again reading such overbearing heroic-masculo-intellectual fiction. I just made that up. Can't think of a more graceful way to describe it at the moment, but I bet Barth likes to woo ladies much younger than himself. That, or he gets all those jones out in his writing. Either way, gaaaa. But anyway, I won't read David Foster what's his name and it was a struggle to even get through Jonathan Franzen's much milder The Corrections because of its Barth-like structure at points. Though I like his essays...
And! Baby in peril dreams. Oh, poor mama. Guess they come with the territory. When Noeli was extremely small, I had horrendous nightmares and a few daytime visualizations that just gutted me. Things like chopping vegetables happily holding my bug in the sling and then suddenly out of nowhere "seeing" myself stabbing her. Can't describe the shock and agony of this; it would come at times of low stress, not during those long colicky nights, so I just couldn't understand it. Ariel Gore describes a similar moment relaxing by the fire with her newborn, suddenly visualizing throwing her in. I would run outside and sit on the porch so that if indeed I happened to be crazy and about to hurt her someone would see and stop me. Obviously, this isn't something you just run around asking anyone about. You can't, for instance, call your mother in law or pediatrician. I am fortunate enough to have a friend with four children who can be asked absolutely anything, and she admitted that she, too, had the same thing; her husband, a psychiatric socal worker, suggested that what's happening is that our brains are actually being rewired. We're in such a heightened state of care and concern and our usual ways of doing things, safe without a baby, have to be relearned. So we have these absurd, hyperreal visions so that we instictively learn, knife + baby = no! fire + baby = no! moving car + baby = no no no!!!
Which may or may not be related to your dream. My dreams of Noeli sick or dying have been too numerous to count, and they're always a sucker punch. I've noticed they're likely to come when she's doing something new, is more mobile or adventurous and independent. In one she walks out into the street as I sleep. A frequent one is that she gets leukemia and I don't notice until it's too late.
Oh, now I'm sad. Must get a cuppa and think about errands. br>
Wow, I'd never heard the explanation about the rewiring of the brain—that's fascinating.
Actually, I've had similar flashes (while awake) of, uh, let's call it "potential violence" myself. But I'm not a parent, and so it hasn't involved babies (mostly directed at myself and assorted pets). Perhaps my brain is always under repair, kind of like Boston's Big Dig... br>
HI Myles-- pre-Isaac I had these moments also, like fearing that I would go to a ledge and jump (not fall, but jump). Or fearing that when walking past this particular fire alarm my hand would just involuntarily dart out and set it off. The baby thing feels different somehow though. It's more like fearing incredible lapses of attention or fearing periods of intense wanton negligence. Just the other day, in real life, I was sitting here and keying something and thinking, "hmm... I wonder what Isaac is up to in there..." he had been playing in the cat water dish in the bathroom, which normally keeps him busy for quite a while. But it seemed all the sudden like it was too quiet. Just then he crawled into see me, and what did he have in his hand but a little baggie full of screws (like little phillips head wood screws from something I guess). I looked at it and thought, "well at least the baggie is still in tact." Then looked closer, no, there were screws falling out of a little hole he had chewed in the baggie. Looking closer I found that there were screws IN HIS MOUTH. A moment of inattention... doing something so lame as answering an e-mail and all the while he could have been silently choking in the other room.
My step-mother recounted a time when she was chopping up chicken and noticed it got a little quiet in the room where my one-and-a-half-year-old brother was playing. But she decided to finish what she was doing and wash her hands. Then when she went to look for him, he was gone. She searched the entire house, getting more and more panicked. When she found him, he was out in the street, crossing it, en route to the playground! She didn't even know he could open the door by himself.
I think my dream was sort of an advanced case of that-- like what if I space out for a second and the consequences are beyond your worst nightmare? It's a lot of pressure.
There seems to something sort of -- common -- about these visions, fears, dreams, hallucinations, fantasies or whatever you can call them. Maybe it just boils down to being a new mother is so overwhelming the mind has to go through all sorts of primal contortions to make sense of it. I think your theory about the brain re-wiring is very logical.
As for reading Wuthering Heights on the eBook, you're right, it's totally incongruous. But I also read pretty near all of Jane Austin on it and what I found was that almost immediately the medium disappeared and I was just reading the story. And it was so handy because the backlighting allows me to read in the dark when Isaac and Ben are sleeping.
I think Giles Goat-Boy is the very worst example of Barth there is. Are you familiar with Ron Ronsenbaum? He's a writer who among other things writes a column for the New York OBserver that's very interesting, funny, literary and often directive about what a person should read. Because of him I read Nabokov's Pale Fire, which I totally and utterly love, and also found out about Charles Portis and little-known but wonderful comic author. (I have all his books and will lend you one if you want to read something weird and funny). Anyway, Rosenbaum said that Giles Goat-Boy was "About graduate school in the saddest sense." Like-- just messing with your head to make it more interesting in the close textual analysis that would ensue in classes later. But he LOVED the Sot-Weed Factor and so on his recommendation I'm going to give it a go.
I like David Foster Wallace-- I love his essay (which I also will lend to you) about this cruise trip he went on. It's so funny and bizarre. Really I read it while in bed following two different miscarriages and both times it made me laugh despite the incredible sadness I was in the midst of at the time. However, that being said, I've never succeeding in reading Infinite Jest all the way through. My life just isn't conducive. I need HUGE expanses of time. Maybe if I'm on bedrest sometime for months...? Or when I'm retired from ... whatever I'm doing. I have read the Corrections, and liked it. But I was on a plane to and from France and that was the perfect opportunity.
I'll let know how it goes with Sot-Weed. br>
TITLE: The Great Communicator
DATE: 01/11/2004 01:03:52 AM br>
If you're a stickler for details and insist that a "word" is only one of those commonly accepted parts of speech found in the dictionary, then Isaac only knows one word. (It's "no.") But if you look at the broader concept of communication, the little guy is practically speaking fluently. He makes himself understood in many creative ways and generally gets his ideas across. Here's a run-down of his current repertoire.
Words and word-like verbal communication:
1) No. There's a lot more to this little word than meets the eye. He uses it in the usual way. Like "Are you ready to get out of the bath?" "No." "Do you want some more apple?" "No." And this is handy. He doesn't have a yes, however, but in the affirmative he simply beams or kicks his little feet in agreement, which works. The other uses of no include self-discipline, in which he tries to restrain his baser impulses by telling himself no-no very firmly. It doesn't work, usually, sigh. It also is a question, like "Can I touch this?" He looks at the desired item and says, "No-no?" Sometimes it's a statement of burning desire. He looks at the item and says, in effect, "I want that thing so badly, and knowing my luck it's another no-no." This is all abbreviated into simply, "No-no!" And then a fun and sometimes endless game ensues in which the adult tries to guess what it is that he wants, and is denying himself. Usually this entails offering every single thing within sight until Isaac is screaming and kicking in frustration at the total numbskull adult he's forced to deal with.
2) Da-da. This has the obvious use as "Daddy" and is often a remark of delight, as when Daddy is discovered right there in the bed! What a treat! But its broader application is babies-- pictures of babies, pictures of Isaac, or the boy himself when spied in the mirror. It also works well for any random gentleman wearing a necktie.
3) NAH-nah. Lena, our dog. And the entire canine family worldwide.
4) Dat. Cat. Used rarely now that meowing has been mastered.
ASL signs and other gestures
1) Nursing. This comes in handy ten to fifteen times an hour, round the clock. The good thing about it is that the simple clean nursing sign has replaced the clawing, biting and clothes pulling that used to signify "Nurse me!" The bad thing about it is that the little nipper (a fond sobriquet) appears at my knee signing nursing, no matter what is going on. I could be talking to the Queen for all he cares.. when the mood strikes, he wants that shirt lifted pronto. Actually he has a TEENY bit of patience. If I acknowledge that he wants to nurse and agree to nurse him, he will wait maybe as much as two or three minutes before getting emphatic.
2) Music. Another command, issued often. Play music, hold me, and dance! This is a fitness program so diabolical that it should be patented. I swear I've lost fifteen pounds since my little personal trainer learned this sign.
3) Eat. Take me downstairs and bring on the solid food.
4) More. A broad sign meaning, "Whatever you're doing, do it again." Like read that book again, throw me into the comforter again, give me another piece of cheese, etc. It can also mean an increase in quantity-- see sign combinations below.
5) Light. I see a light up there on the ceiling! I see a light outside on the street! I want to play with the flashlight. And so forth.
6) Hot. Danger! Do not touch that. The thing in question could be hot, could have been hot once (like a tea kettle not in use), or could just be scary, like a knife. One time I put Isaac in the bath and he started crying extremely. I took him out and he turned to the bath and signed HOT! I felt it and it didn't seem all that hot to me, but I cooled it down a bit and then he was happy as could be with it.
7) Toothbrush. The kid is very concerned with oral hygiene. This is a good thing, but sometimes his timing is a little off. Like, say, we're on the jetway boarding a plane. Not a good time to brush.
8) Sleepy. Incredibly cute sign, little hand on the side of his head. Nothing cuter than a little boy in pajamas appearing kneeside and signing I'm sleepy.
11) Fish. One time we were at the doctor, and the doctor kept talking about these "fits" that Isaac would start having at about 18 months, i.e., tantrums. And Isaac was lying there nursing and signed "Fish." I guess he thought that's what we were talking about.
12) Dog. One of his very first signs, used to mean the entire animal kingdom.
13) Finished. Take me out of my highchair. Pick me up off the floor. I'm done!
14) Water. To drink or to play in.
15) Tums. A slow and slightly dim-witted-looking opening and closing of the mouth. I can only think that this homemade sign stems from an unattractive imitation of ME, eating Tums, as I so often do. But whenever the Tums bottle appears, this is Isaac's take on it. (Little imp!)
16) airplane. Good when airplanes are in visual range, or when any sort of engine noise is heard but its source is not seen.
1) NEE-AH. Meow. The entire feline world, from tabby kitten to Siberian tiger. Interestingly, this is connected with no-no. Apparently our slightly bad cat, Mr. Cat, gets scolded a lot around the house and Isaac has observed this. So now, whenever Isaac sees him he shakes his index finger and says "no-no!" very firmly and I must say it slays me with its miniature seriousness. Sometimes he will be nursing and the very thought of cats will cross his mind and he will just shake his index finger and look stern. And I will say, "No-no, Mr. Cat!" and Isaac will smile with the pleasant assurance that he has been understood.
2) Mm-mm-mm. Woof-woof. Barking sort of in your throat without opening your mouth. Also means "dog" in general.
3) Nooooh. Sounds a lot like "no" with a Minnesotan accent, but don't let it fool you. It's the sound a cow makes. Sometimes you offer Isaac a book or a toy and he will shriek "Nooo!" This can be off-putting until you realize that it's not that the item makes his flesh crawl, it's that it has a cow in it and this is pretty exciting stuff.
4) *snort* the sound a pig makes.
5) ba-ba-ba. Cluck-cluck. The sound a chicken makes.
6) brawr. The sound a bear makes.
7) *sniff-sniff* the sound a rabbit makes
8) grrrrrrrrr? The sound the telephone makes. (okay, it's not an animal...)
These nascent sentences are still quite rare, totally wonderful when they happen.
1) Finished nursing. The incredible moment in which I offered to nurse him and he wasn't into it.
2) More dog. One time we were at a house with one dog, and then all of a sudden another dog came in. More dog! There's another dog!
3) Nursing sleepy. Please hold me and nurse me. I'm desperate to sleep.
I'm sure there are more things that I'm forgetting, but this is a snap shot of a very savvy little man and his skills. Sure, some babies his age (girls) are already going around and saying words but who needs it. Most of the time this system works for him, and therefore for me also. He's gotten the idea that, dense though I often am, I at least am trying to understand what he wants to tell me, and this I think is the main point.br> br> br> br> br>
TITLE: Unfortunate Developments in the Bath
DATE: 01/16/2004 04:10:36 PM br>
Isaac's bathroom fascination continues to expand, and deepen. Maybe it's a good thing? He's getting a jump on potty training? Right? This is what I'd like to believe. Two days ago in a rapid fire onslaught of new skills, he learned to flush the toilet (fortunately he has not learned to open it-- yet), and he pooped on the floor. I was caught off-guard by both. The floor-pooping was especially noteworthy. I had his diapers off for a few moments just to let his bottom thoroughly air dry, then I turned my back, and the rest is history. I won't disgust with a graphic description, but what happened next was immediate unscheduled bathtime!
The sound of the toilet flushing is the new background music to our household.
Yesterday, not once, not twice, but three times a freshly dry and dressed boy rushed into the bathroom and stood with both feet in the cat water dish. Ask me whether I am a slow learner. In my defense I can say that the first two were very early in the morning and I was too groggy to think "hey-- why not EMPTY the cat water dish? Or put it on the counter, so that this won't happen again?" I just thought "arg-- a cold and wet boy needs dry pajamas." And then the third, well, hours had elapsed and I forgot all about it! The little nipper is fast these days. The very minute I got him into his freshly laundered outfit and dry socks and shoes (let's not forget the shoes), he was once again ankle deep in cat water. Do over. Repeat.
Today's thrilling bathroom development is that he climbed into the bathtub all by himself. I just heard a thud and rushed in expecting to hear a scream and to see at least a broken nose if not a concussion. But no-- fully clad in the dry tub, happily playing with the faucet.
The moral? Keep the bathroom doors closed at all times! Again, slow learner over here. I simply forget and each time I forget he calls me on it.
The other day we had a play date with Isaac's little friend Kevin. They are exactly the same age (born five days apart) but very different boys. Isaac is focussed on sharing his thoughts, whereas Kevin is focussed on climbing. Like Isaac, Kevin can't walk yet. But he's very good at going UP whatever is at hand. I asked his mother, who also has a five-year-old, "Does it get a lot worse when they can walk?" She replied, "Outside-- yes. They want to run into traffic. But inside..." She trailed off. Kevin was on the back of the couch and heading up the window.
Another thing my busy boy did yesterday was chew a hole in a box of jello, extract the bag, and then chew a hole in the bag and shake it. I was on the phone at the time and could see that he was "playing in the cupboard" which is safe and he is authorized to do. But I couldn't quite see what he was doing. When I got off the phone, I found a boy dusty from head to foot in jello. Jello between the floor boards. Jello inside the cuffs of his pants, his waist band. Just add water to make a Gummi baby or a life sized Sour Patch Kid.
On a related note I got my hair cut the other day and learned that I have "a lot of new white hairs." Not grey-- white. Is there a connection?
br> br> br> br>
You got a hair cut? I apologize for not noticing. White hair is loverly and will go beautifully with your complexion. I have had about a dozen wiry white hairs come out of nowhere since birthing this child. One day nothing, the next day six inches of silver. How? Why? I don't have time to figure it out.
I must show you the photos of Noeli sitting in the dog's water bowl. If you're under three feet tall and about twenty pounds, you can fit your entire hiney in one!
And: it is now time to create the special Isaac cabinet. This is a base cabinet that includes shiny and noisy utilitarian objects, pots, pans, tupperware (no toys - he will sniff out your intent) but no messy boxed goods, glass, thin plastic, spices. Everything else gets locked.
I didn't do this. I only thought of doing it every time my sweet baby made some godawful mess or bonked herself with a glass jar of peanut butter or ate a piece of bread bag. Then I forgot. This can go on a long time! Learn from me!
Oh, and pooping on the floor? He's just gettin started. Summer should be interesting. Not so much between him and total diaper removal (I must also show you the pictures of Noeli ripping off her dipaer while in gleeful full gallop).
Off to purl! Thanks for the lesson. :) br>
TITLE: In America
DATE: 01/19/2004 12:34:30 PM br>
Last night we saw "In America" -- a new film by the maker of "My Left Foot" and "In the Name of the Father." I liked the movie, but I have to say that I wish that someone, someway, somehow, had prepared us for what was in it. Namely, tons and TONS of parental grief, compounded by a separate high-risk pregnancy, premature labor and a tiny, medically-compromised preemie.
Not that I would automatically have ruled it out, but ... I just would have liked to make an informed choice and to have been able to gird myself for what was to come, rather than being completely blindsided by it. I read a brief review in the New Yorker, which mentioned the loss of the little boy-- before the timeframe of the movie-- and that the main characters were dealing with grief as a part of their experience in the new land. I was okay with that. But no where did it mention the whole additional story line about this pregnancy gone wrong. The worst scene, for me, was the pregnant woman stumbling out of her hospital bed in premature labor (where she was on bed rest-- I think she had preeclampsia, but it wasn't stated outright), and falling to the floor in pain while screaming, "It's too early! It's too early!"
This was pretty much what happened to me. I wasn't so dramatic about it. But the pain, the helplessness, and the fear... the intense fear... were all exactly like this. The sense of this particular unstoppable, inevitable, horrible event coming on like an avalanche.
I've tried to write about it. I have a whole piece perfectly laid out in my mind from start to finish. But I can't write it. Maybe I will have to wait another ten years.
On the way home last night, Ben and I were talking about different perspectives on loss. My brother Jonathan died about 8 years ago at the age of 17 and his loss is still very much a part of my emotional landscape. I was telling Ben that I noticed a pattern when I had to talk to doctors about Jonathan. (I had to tell them about his heart defect during my various pregnancies because they needed to look at the baby's heart on ultrasound to make sure the defect wasn't there-- this came up several times, with several different medical professionals.) The pattern was that they would ask what sort of defect it was (transposition of the great arteries) and then ask how long he lived. I would tell them 17 years and their reaction-- universally-- would be something like this: "Wow! That's great! With that heart? He had a pretty good run!" A statement of JOY almost, like "Man, look what technology and our skill and our professional did for that kid!" By all rights he should have died at birth-- and we got him for 17 years, which was wonderful.
But if I talk to a non-medical person about this, the response is totally different. More like, "Only 17? My god! What a tragedy!"
My personal view is that both perspectives are 100% right. It IS wonderful that we had him as long as we did. And it IS tragic that he died so young.
We were talking about this with regard to our little baby Jacob who lived less than one hour. Would it have been worse to lose him if he lived one day, one week, one year, two years, three years or more? Would our love for him have deepened a lot by then such that his loss would have been much harder to bear? Or would it have been "better" because we would have at least gotten to see what he looked like, what sort of personality he had, who he was? Some of our sadness comes from never being able to know the answers to these questions. Maybe if we had had him longer we could say, as we do with Jonathan, "at least we had him as long as we did."
Whenever a child dies before its parents, though, it's not long enough.
I find that my lost baby still hurts, in this impossible unfixable way, like an itch or pain in an amputated limb. As recently as maybe two weeks ago I woke up in the middle of the night, panicked, thinking I had forgotten my baby somewhere. My brain was working very slowly and it took a long time to piece together reality. I tried to count up my children. My baby, my ONE baby, Isaac, was right there beside me. When I figured this out, I was relieved that I hadn't actually left a baby somewhere, out in the cold. Relieved that Isaac was well and warm and near. But this relief couldn't blot out the sadness and the persistent sense that someone is missing. I think it will always be with me on some level.
A good friend was telling me about an old woman she knows. This old woman has lost almost all of her memories and all understanding of her present day surroundings too. The one thing she remembers and talks about is the death of her baby, at birth, sixty or seventy years ago.br> br> br> br>
TITLE: Sweet Little Sick Boy
DATE: 01/28/2004 10:42:31 AM br>
A few days ago I had sketched out a blog entry in my mind. It was to be called "And So It Begins"-- a humorous look at a recent incident, in which Isaac flushed a tube of cat hairball remedy down the toilet (I was standing right there with him as we watched the toilet flush. His hand darted out and the tube went in mid-flush. My hand darted in after it, but slippery as a trout it went down), and then how we became the proud owners of a wonderful contraption called a Toilet Auger and the adventure that ensued. But this rather light-hearted blog entry has been cancelled because the main character has taken sick and his sickness has up-ended the apple cart around here.
Basically it started on Saturday night, or more accurately, in the wee hours of Sunday morning. He had been normal all day, bright, cute, busy. Then he woke up with a cough: a cough that was truly alarming at the outset. My reaction at the time was in effect, "Something is VERY wrong with the kid." Sunday morning, though, he woke up okay-seeming enough that Ben took him along to church. The nighttime coughing episode seemed sort of dream-like and unreal.
While they were at church, though, I called the nurse on call to ask if there were any sort of cough medicine you can give a kid of his age if the cough returned that night. She said no, and listened to my story. She said, "If he develops a fever I want you to take him into the emergency room." This seemed very extreme to me and I asked why. She said, "It could really be something serious. Either way, I want you to take him to the doctor tomorrow." Okay, I said, somewhat confused by her urgency and also a little worried.
That night, around 6 or 7, Isaac developed a fever. It came on fast, starting with a rosiness of the cheeks. It clocked in at 101.6 to start with. He seemed limp and woozy and out of it. I called the nurse again, hoping that we really, really didn't have to take him out into the cold and go and sit in the emergency room for three hours with all the groaning head injuries and vomiting drunks. (I know the drill all too well from my days as a serial miscarrier.) The nurse felt that he wasn't in immediate danger and that I could wait until the morning to bring him in. Still, something seemed sort of ominous to me about the conversation.
Meanwhile, his breathing was my number one concern. It was SO rough and so raspy and thick and clogged. If I rested my hand on his hot little back, I could feel the intense vibration in his chest with each inhale and exhale. He woke up about every half hour or hour that night, racked with coughing and then crying and gasping.
Monday morning the minute the doctor's office opened I called at got him an appointment. Luckily (as it turned out) I also cancelled the babysitter and cancelled my flute lesson that afternoon. Our doctor is a guy about our age, very nice, who has been incredibly thorough and helpful with the lead and anemia business. He listened to Isaac's chest, looked in his ears and throat, etc. I still was sort of thinking that this might be one of those "drinks fluids and get rest" sort of flus. But the doctor caught me off guard by asking, "Any history of asthma in the family?" No, I said. His dad had a lot of childhood allergies, but no asthma.
The doctor stepped out for a few moments and then came back. He explained that he was worried about Isaac's breathing, that his lungs sound like the lungs of a person with asthma and that he wanted to treat him with some asthma medication, and if it worked, he would prescribe some. "So you're going to give him a dose, and then I'm going to hang out here a while and then we'll see if it worked?" Yes-- the nurse would be in a moment.
I guess I was picturing a shot or a pill or something, but the nurse came in with a machine and a little oxygen mask. "So it's inhaled medication?" I asked. Yep. She hooked it all up and I held the little hot, feverish, miserable boy on my lap while she strapped the little mask on his face and started this mist coming into it. He screamed. He screamed. He screamed. The nurse pointed out that while the screaming was upsetting for all concerned, he was at least taking some very deep breaths and getting the medication way into his lungs, which he needed.
Then it was over. The boy nursed to comfort himself for a while and then wanted to play and look out the window. After a half hour or so the doctor returned, listened to his chest and said it was a little better. Then he left again and the nurse returned to check Isaac's oxygen levels. I feared that this would involve finger stick or something painful, but it was instead this little -- lay terms here-- a little "piece of tape" with "a red light bulb" in it that she wrapped around his toe. Somehow this fed information to a machine and revealed how much oxygen he had in his blood. Technology! So amazing.
I thought that we were on the brink of heading home, but then a different nurse came in and began calmly preparing the machine again. "We've already had a dose of that," I pointed out. "I know," she said. "He's getting another one." The mask, the screaming, the mist, all over again.
Then we entered the phase of logistics. They would deliver the machine to the house, but needed our insurance info. Then our insurance wouldn't cover it and I needed to talk to them on the phone. Fun moments on musak hold in the hospital hallway, holding a boy who wanted only to get into the presumably germ-laden garbage, or put his fingers in the open outlets that were so prevalent. God bless the nurse who showed up with two Nilla wafers (one for each hand). They occupied the boy for a good ten minutes while I sorted all this out.
The only companies where our insurance would cover the machine were in Canton (an hour away from us) and they wouldn't deliver to our house... But I got a hold of Ben in his car and arranged for him to pick the thing up on his way home that evening.
Back to the little room where we had spent almost three hours. Isaac began to sign EAT-- and I could see his point. We had had a piece of toast at 5 a.m., and now it was like 2 p.m. The doctor reappeared and began to explain the findings. Basically it's a virus. Apparently it's a sort of virus that has been causing a lot of hysteria and dramatic stories on the evening news. The doctor was very hesitant to mention its name, which I won't list here to avoid spreading further panic among my readers. But I hadn't heard of it and was not instantly terrified. I think it's mostly hype. Anyway, it's a bad one. It attacks the smallest air passageways and is worse the younger you are. The doctor's fear is that if we are not aggressive early enough, it can gradually impair the lungs ability to get oxygen to the body. This is called "Air Starvation." Once it gets going, it's very hard to reverse.
Now we are what I would call "semi-quarantined." Isaac can go out, but he can't go anywhere kids congregate, nor can he touch anything wherever it is. He can ride around in his stroller if bundled up for a visit to Siberia. We haven't gone anywhere since we got home on Monday (it's Weds.) and we haven't seen anyone. I cancelled our babysitter again today because she also works with a 2-month-old. I asked the doctor about this and he said, "NO." very emphatically. She could carry the virus to the two-month-old and it could be very serious. Not worth it. Despite my exhaustion and cabin fever. A trip to the Children's Museum planned for tomorrow, cancelled. Playgroup on Friday, cancelled.
We have the machine here at the house and every 4-6 hours, we have to put the little mask on his face and make him breathe the mist while he screams. Yesterday I learned that if I put on one of Isaac's favorite videos, it goes better. He screams for the first three minutes and then watches the video for the next seven, pretty much without screaming. It's so, so sad to see him with this little mask on his face. It all is so MEDICAL.
We are hoping that this will all be behind us in less than a week, that Isaac doesn't get any other viruses or secondary infections on top of this. If you came over to see him today you would find him probably pretty much himself. Yesterday he spread flour on the counter, disgorged the contents of all the cupboards, went up and down the stairs endlessly, and generally enjoyed himself. Occasionally he starts to feel sick again and wants to be cuddled and held. He has eaten nothing much in several days, refusing many top favorites like pancakes and enchiladas. But at least nurses sometimes and hopefully is getting some nutrients that way. He does drink at least-- he's thirsty and guzzles juice and water and cow's milk.
Poor sweet little sicky. Fingers crossed that he will be well soon, soon, soon.br> br> br> br>
Oh dear oh dear. Poor bug. These are the kinds of experiences that make you want to lick the doctor's shoes, no? So glad it was caught in time.
I cut out dairy whenever Noeli has respiratory illness. It seems to help, and all the naturopathy books agree. Hard because then they often turn to bubbies and one *does* like to take occasional bathroom breaks. br>
OH, Cadroon - how scary! But, for both your sakes I hope it isn't asthma. Dave had it from I think age 3 and has never outgrown it and has to be on almost constant meds to keep it under control. (Not to mention can't be around or ever ever own a cat or a dog.) we'll be wishing for a quick recovery! br>
TITLE: On The Mend
DATE: 01/29/2004 02:39:41 PM br>
Although we had a little more excitement yesterday, I think on the whole Isaac is feeling much better. One good sign is that he's eating-- this morning he devoured grapes and extra-eggy french toast, and today at lunch he ate some pear and a healthy dose of enchilada. His hatred for bibs is well documented, as is his love for enchiladas. This translates into a new-found interest on my part in stain removers of all descriptions. But I digress. First, about yesterday.
On the good side, Isaac slept like he hasn't in at least a couple weeks. He slept I think 9 hours, roughly 1 a.m. to 10 a.m. This caught me off guard to some degree, as only a few days ago I was hoping for two hours at a time. Also I slept-- GLORIOUS. Can you imagine? I think I must have gotten seven hours or so myself! Wow! And when I woke up I'll admit (guiltily) that after days on end of caring for him without a break, I leapt at the chance to drink tea and read the paper without him. I let him sleep on and on.
Anyway, the point is that in all the wallowing in luxurious, healing sleep, we missed a dose of his inhaled medicine. Finally I started to worry that he was sleeping TOO much-- like maybe low on oxygen and in a stupor-- and also it was now twelve hours since his last dose. So I woke up him up and made him submit to the treatment first thing. Then, anxious, I called the nurse and asked since I missed a dose whether I should give him two at this point, or what? "How does he sound?" she asked. "Bad," I had to say. He sounded awful. Very rough. GUILT! Why didn't I wake him sooner? The nurse preemptively tried to make me feel better about this: "He needed the sleep," she said. "I would have done the same thing."
I guess it makes sense-- he's up against a mega virus and the only things that can cure it are his little immune system and time. It's so wonderful that the medicine is making him feel good enough, long enough to sleep like that.
She asked me to give him another dose right away, and then wait two hours and see how he sounded then. "If he still sounds bad in two hours, I want to hear from you," she said. I waited and watched. He sounded horrible, and now, added to the usual wheezing and roughness in each breath was a new thing-- a grunt, as if each inhale and exhale were taking a lot of effort. His nose was incredibly stuffed also, and this was not helping matters in the least.
The two hours elapsed and finally I called her back. "He still doesn't sound too good," I said. "Also he seems to be sort of grunting--" I think I actually only got as far as "grun--" before she said, "How soon can you be here?" Half an hour, I told her. "See you then," she said.
Out into the cold arctic tundra, the skating rink alley. Over potholes and black ice across town to the Clinic. The usual routine of waiting in a little boring room with a huge pile of winter clothes in a stroller and trying, trying to stay entertained with an array of interesting books and toys in the diaper bag. It's very hard to entertain a 15-month-old in a place like that. Sure, if he could crawl all over the floor, pull plugs out of outlets, empty the medical trash item by item, this would be easy. But he can't DO these things and so we're left with the diaper bag and the window.
The doctor finally came in and just watched Isaac for a while-- looking I guess for signs like rate of breathing, effort, sound, and his skin tone (nice and pink these days-- plenty of iron and oxygen). Then listened to his chest and looked in his ears. An unexpected twist: his chest was status quo, i.e., bad but not worse. His ear on the other hand was infected. It's good that we caught it early, though, not only because we could intervene before it started hurting, but because the bacteria in the ear can migrate easily to the lungs and take root. This is the exact way you get the complication of bacterial pneumonia with this sort of virus.
So we headed home with a nice big bottle of pink stuff (amoxicillin) that Isaac has to take twice a day. I'm not big on antibiotics as a general rule, but there are times when I'm glad GLAD we have them. I hope that this will also give a stern warning to all other bacteria in the area who think they can have a go at my son's chest! Back off!!
However, now I need a flow chart to keep Isaac's meds straight and I wish I'd had some training in home health care. Here's his schedule:
-wake up and have the NEBULIZER (this is what the inhaler thingy is officially called-- as if it will only make things more nebulous-- we just call it the "puffer")
-pink stuff with breakfast (so far he's taking it okay without a fight)
-iron and vitamin drops with lunch (he's SICK of the iron drops, even though I've been mixing them with maple syrup, and this is getting to be a miserable struggle each day)
-puffer after lunch
-puffer around dinner time
-puffer and pink stuff at bed time
-puffer in the wee hours if he wakes up on his own
Meanwhile we've been watching a lot of videos. One that Isaac loves, called "Baby's Busy Day" is really beginning to get on my nerves. It's insipid and its little songs lodge in the brain permanently. But I like the Dorling Kindersely series called "See How They Grow" in which farm animals or other critters are shown from infancy into adulthood with cute little voiceovers. We also have one called "animal antics" in which critters are going about their day in cottage setting apparently in Britain someplace because they all speak with British accents. Isaac loves these videos and they are doing a great job of getting him to take the puffer WITHOUT screaming. In fact, going out on a limb here, I think he's starting to sort of LIKE the puffer. I honestly think it makes his lungs feel better right away, and I've him lately noticed him deliberately breathing deeply while it's on his little face.
He still sounds like he has the lungs of a 19th century coal miner, but his spirits are high. He spent the morning's work diligently making a huge mess in the kitchen. (It starts out clean each morning and ends up in total chaos each evening.) Then we psyched out the illness by putting on James Brown and having a dance contest: "I FEEL GOOD!" Then he requested to be bodily thrown into the down comforter repeatedly, signing MORE after each Ker-WHUMPH. Then he helped with the knobs on the washing machine while I was doing laundry, etc., etc.
He also was trying to tell me something with an apparently inscrutable series of signs. I still haven't figured it out. It was EAT DOG BOOK in a very deliberate series. Huh? I didn't get it. He tried again: DOG EAT BOOK. Huh? Did Lena eat a book? BOOK EAT DOG. Huh? Do you want to see a book in which a dog eats? I tried this and it sort of seemed to work. We have a book in which a dog is pictured looking at a steak and the legend: "Silly Dog! That's not your dinner!"
But I'm not totally convinced that's what he was getting at. I feel dense at times like these and am reminded of an old Furry Freak Brothers comic book in which Fat Freddy's Cat walks to the door and says very calmly, "ME OUT. PROWL NOW." And the stupid, probably stoned, human standing there, says, "Huh? What? Are you hungry, kitty?" In a later frame the cat is seen speaking to another cat and saying, "Humans are so stupid. They can't even understand you when you speak to them in their own language."
Anyway-- I hesitate to crow that we are cured around here. It's too early for that and the risk of jinxing it is way too high. But I think we're on the mend. br> br> br> br>
TITLE: The Fog of Winter
DATE: 02/05/2004 09:32:49 PM br>
Is it that the gate is frozen in a partially open position? Is it that the terrain is pretty much covered with impassible ice in all directions and I can't even take my mental health walks? That frozen dog shit lines the tree lawn (boulevard) neighborhoodwide-- and most of it is not even from our dog? Is it the pervasive colorlessness? Is it being cooped up for two weeks with a sick 15-month-old, stripped of normal fun outings and activities by the semi-quarantine? It is the horizontal sleet, seemingly always there, illuminated in the streetlights? I don't know... maybe a combination of all of the above. But the fact is that the winter doldrums have set in.
We need a vacation.
To say we need a vacation doesn't come close to capturing HOW MUCH we need a vacation. I think we're on the brink of joining the obsessive coffee-drinking, vodka swilling, S.A.D.-afflicted masses in Siberia, northern Minnesota, and similar locales. It starts out with black tea and glasses of wine and ups and ups and ups the ante from there. It starts out with feeling blue and blah and then fades over into the serious Mean Reds. The dishes-throwing, sobbing, antisocial behavior made famous by Holly Golightly, who was surely popping pills and dying her hair all different colors and sleeping around for money.
We have to do something before it gets any further out of hand. Today I started wondering aloud whether we could make it to Bermuda. .. .. or maybe Cancun? Baja? What would do it? I need COLOR in the world. I need to get out of this house. I need warmth and the freedom to simply walk outside, happy as you please, without twenty minutes of layers and layers of clothes. Without forcing a screaming boy into his hat. Without searching fruitlessly for my mittens, then saying to hell with it and going without them, then wishing bitterly that I had them as I try to grip the searingly cold steering wheel.
I need to walk the dog without feeling that a broken wrist awaits me at every turn.
We need a short, preferably direct flight to the nearest warmth possible. We need uncomplicated travel with the boy and something all-inclusive so we could figure out ahead of time how much it would cost. Suggestions! Please! Anyone? Send me suggestions.
The sky has closed down like a lid to a gray flannel lined box. It's dull and leaden and bruised looking. So is the ground, the street, the people. The frozen shit is especially depressing. You can't clean it up, even if you were taken by a fit of civic pride and good karma and decided to do right by the entire neighborhood. You would need a chisel and a pick axe and a very strong stomach. Apparently the pooper scooper laws have been suspended by some generally accepted norm. True, it IS hard to clean up poop with mittens on. And it's hard to hold your mittens in one hand while cleaning up poop with the other two hands and holding the stroller with your fourth hand. I understand this and yet I wish that more people would make the effort.
The other day we had a thaw. The skating rink that is our sidewalk turned to a pond. I went out with my bulb planter-- well, we don't happen to have an ice-chopper and the cast iron bulb planter is heavy duty and sharp and waist high and pointy-- and started chipping out the ice and attempting to shovel it away. Hopeless, because really I was shoveling slushy water and it just kept rushing back. Me and Sisyphus. I knew what would happen next and it did-- it froze again and the gate was trapped there half open. Now people have to skate by in front of our house and I can only pray that they don't fall, hurt themselves, and lead us directly to financial ruin while creating their own route to financial independence.
It's not even nice skating ice. It's very bumpy and ugly and awful.
The sidewalk alongside our house is no better. Ben fell down the steps last night, flat on his back, while attempting to take out the trash. Although I can report that the man-killing icicles are gone from the eaves above and didn't kill anyone. Soon they will be back and the financial tally of pulling out the concrete in front of the house and leveling the sidewalk so it doesn't make a pond there anymore is paled only beside the financial tally of insulating the attic so we don't keep losing all this heat and creating ice dams and icicles that could crush at least a Cooper Mini.
Did I mention that the entire interior needs to be repainted? This becomes apparent when you stare at the four walls long enough. Last time we got a bid on it, just a small part of it, it was $6K. (We painted it ourselves = months of pure hell.) It seems irresponsible in light of all this to even consider going to Cancun. It IS irresponsible. But mental health-- isn't that worth something? Wouldn't a week in Cancun ultimately "cost" less than turning to drink or something worse?
At least the boy is better. Night after night his breathing is clear and even. I've scaled back the puffer to once a day (today was the first day of that, and it seemed to go okay). He's almost done with his antibiotics. Yes, the videos we've been watching and listening to have grown so grating at times that I begin to envy the deaf. There's one that has this little ditty about "Baby's First..." whatever-- baby's first rattle, baby's first bottle, etc. It shows a happy baby crawling around and really it's something I guess Isaac relates to-- it speaks to his experience. But for me... not so much. I've started my own list of baby's first, that I sing to myself in the same chipper, upbeat tone.
We turned to the dark side for several days-- disposables. I bought some eco-friendly ones, "Nature Boy and Girl," that were not half bad and that I felt I could use for a week without completely dispoiling the world in which Isaac has to live into old age. It helped, because with the antibiotics running amok in his intestines I just could not keep up with the diapers, and I honestly felt that that little bit of extra dryness technology might stave off the rash that happened almost immediately. And I could slather on the hard core ointment, which Fuzzi Bunz frowns upon. It worked. Now he's back on his game and today we went back to our dear Fuzzi Bunz again.
Ah well. It's February. I think everyone is pretty miserable. The shortest month and yet way too long. Ben likes to insist that in Cleveland March is a "spring" month and that we are almost there, but I'm not buying it. Last year as I recall, it was "in like a lion, out like a lion." April seems very far away.
Cancun? Must. Soon. br> br> br> br>
Next winter I have vowed to have my hammock strung between palm trees down where the rum flows like really cheap rum and where the solar radiation is so chunky you can feel it adding extra toes to your grandchildren. You'll be more than welcome to come visit.
But that's next year. In the meantime, maybe try a sauna/spa day? When I get too cold here I find a trip to the 10th Street Baths can help for a while.
Well, I think February is the worst! There are faint signs of spring---but the weather is awful! We just had a nice blizzard last night--eight inches of snow, and I had to drive home right in the worst of it! But it wasn't enough to just stay home today; Max plowed the driveway, and I've got 4-wheel drive, so I had no excuse. However, I think I've got the doldrums, too.
Signs of spring: Would you believe a Red-winged Blackbird? There has been one at my feeder--I think he must have gotten off at the wrong bus-stop! He should be in Texas!
Screech Owls singing---amazingly melodic trills and tremelos---right in daylight. Must be mating season for them!
Days getting longer! I'm glad of this! Right now, at 5:00, it's still daylight. And, it's not snowing, even though they were predicting more.
Well, even with all that, winter's getting old! Maybe you can get one of those $99 flights to Cancun! Or go down to Texas, and visit Barb, etc. Or Florida--Burmuda--Costa Rica--plenty of nice warm places to go. Maybe you could start checking travel agencies for a nice package deal.
Do you think you could take Isaac on a cruise ship? They always seem to have deals on those.
Maybe you should just invest the money in one of those giant sunlamp things. And a wall mural of a beach with palm trees. Bring in a lawn chair, and cover the floor with sand---put on one of those ocean wave-seabird tapes. Get Isaac a little shovel and bucket set---no doubt the sand would amuse him for some time. Then all you'd need is one of those drinks with rum, pineapple juice, coconut, and a little paper umbrella (make that plenty of rum---)!
Oh, well. It really will be spring, eventually--even here! Hang on.br>
TITLE: Fingerpainting: a serious miscalculation
DATE: 02/11/2004 03:17:25 PM br>
It started out so innocently-- a bright and sunny morning filled with optimism. My idea was that Isaac would make some fingerpaintings and I would then use them to make valentines for his six grandparents. I pictured cutting them into heart shapes and gluing them on heart-shaped pink construction paper.
I'll admit that on the fingerpaint box it warned "for ages three an up." Oh, tut, tut, I thought. Just something the lawyers make them put. The children on the box sat quietly at a table and painted pictures of little trees and houses. Not that I imagined Isaac's artwork would be that representational. But I did somehow, somehow envision him sitting on the edge of his paper, painting a picture of his own.
Today was the day! I wanted to get the valentines in the mail this afternoon such that they would arrive by Saturday. I took precautions appropriate to the danger inherent in arming a toddler with fingerpaints: I centered the project in the bathroom, thinking this would be easy to clean; I took out all the throw rugs; I covered the floor with newspaper; I stripped the boy down to his diapers; I gathered several rags to have on hand; I dressed myself in old clothes.
Yes-- we were prepared for a siege. And yet-- not prepared enough!
"It all happened so fast" as they say. I think the first thing was that Isaac picked up one of the pots of fingerpaint and for some inane reason they were all connected to each other. Not wanting to stunt his creativity with only only one color, I had opened them all...! He began waving them around in the air while I struggled to regain control of the situation. Then he rapidly crawled across the paint-covered papers, spreading paint all over knees and all the newspaper. Then he reached his hands, his entire hands, deep into the pudding-like paint and, using the sign for bath (ironically), covered his stomach and chest with paint. (How he got huge smears of paint on his BACK remains a mystery.)
What next? He went after the cupboards beside him (white, I may add). Somehow I hadn't thought to cover the cupboards with newspaper too. How innocent of me! Yet another rookie mistake! Smeared the cupboards with dark blue paint. Uncovered the white floor and began to use it as a canvas for a new type of abstract expressionism.
All the while I was trying valiantly to focus his painting on the actual special fingerpainting PAPER I had spread out for this purpose. It stuck together and ripped and mashed. Some paint did land there, by pure luck. (He paints in a thick style like Van Gogh, and like many Van Goghs I think it will take years to dry.) In my efforts to contain the mess, I stood up, found that paint covered newspapers were now stuck to my bare feet, and began adding my footprints to the chaos.
I had unleashed a tiny mad man. He was covered with paint from head to toe and wildly painting everything in sight. At some point in the midst of this, I deeply regretted that I had no camera. The digital... somewhere downstairs and needing batteries... this thought came and went quickly during the heat of battle.
I put him in the dry bath while I attempted to address the carnage that was once the bathroom. Where and how to begin? The newspapers were all in a sticky, paint-filled snarl as tall as Isaac himself. The pots of paint (which I had taken away at some point) sat on the counter above oozing and pooling bright colors. The bathtub and tiles were quickly fillling with color (overall a dark purple). The bath toys, covered with paint. The child spread thick purple paint on his head, attempting to get it in his eyes, ears, and nose. He mashed it into his hair which began to stand on his head in peaks and spikes.
Normally he is always asking to get into the bath, with or without water. This time he suddenly wanted to get out. He stood up, slipped and fell and began crying. What to do? Lacking options, I picked up the slippery purple boy and cuddled him. Purple slime soon covered my clothes, my arms, my neck where he clung to me. I caught a glimpse of us in the mirror. My purple arms around the mottled purple body, I stood knee-deep in sticky wet newspapers in front of a purple-smeared bathtub.
Total elapsed time of the project: ten minutes.br> br> br> br>
Totally Classic Catherine! br>
oh bwah ha ha! i tried to do this with noeli on the kitchen floor at a little less than Isaac's age. she slopped herself all over, filling her diaper with blue, and then burst into piercing screams and made for the sofa, trailing brown slime...
don't believe the propaganda about three year olds, either. we worked on a valentine finger painting for Daddy a few days ago. now she can open the pots of paint, pull out great gouts of paint and transfer them one to the other before shaking the excess off her hands and all over me and the cabinets. br>
Well, it's true artistic expression seems to run in the family! Maybe he's one of those "installation artists", or the next Jackson Pollock---I sure wish you had video-taped the whole thing, but of course, if you had known how it was going to go, you might have chosen to skip the whole thing! br>
Thanks for starting my day out with such laughter. br>
I loved the story. My favorite part was the last line. Isn't it funny how in the heat of the moment these things feel like they've gone on for at least 3 hours? It reminds me of when Kolbe was almost 2 and I thought I'd let my poor little Celiac child make Gluten free bread from scratch with nominal help from mom... I'm sure, 5 years later that the people who bought our house are still finding rice flour in various parts of the kitchen, breakfast room, and dining room. It was like a freakin' blizzard. br>
Sure glad I read this! Grandma was thinking of fingerpainting with 20 month and 3 yrs old. What a stitch reading your experiences. It will be outside on the driveway with one color and no clothes! Maybe! br>
TITLE: Iron Ike
DATE: 02/17/2004 06:37:44 PM br>
After ten weeks of iron therapy, Isaac's anemia is pretty near gone. His hemoglobin levels have risen from a paltry 7 to a respectable 10.8-- just inside the normal range. Meanwhile, his lead numbers have headed in the opposite direction. He started out at 21 and now is down to 11! The goal is to get his hemoglobin up a bit more and his lead down a bit more, but we're really making great progress. We'll keep doing the huge doses of iron for another 4-6 weeks and test again.
Also the results are in on the source of the lead: it was the chairs-- this set of antique tavern chairs with distressed paint on them. The paint is brown and looks for all the world like varnish. And the wood is brown too, so it really didn't register with us that this was an "old paint" situation until he started ingesting it.
The good news is that this was my suspicion once we found out he had lead exposure, and that we already had abated it by varnishing the chairs last summer. My fear was that the house was just swimming in lead-- dust, especially. But this is not the case. The whole house came up clean, except for the chairs and this little antique high chair that he has not used yet. (It's off the charts on lead-- seven times the lead levels of the chairs that we know caused his exposure. It's the sweetest most innocuous looking chair and you would never guess it. So now that we know, we'll just keep it out of reach until spring, varnish the hell out of it, and then it will be safe to use.)
You can see the anemia fading from his face. He has roses in his cheeks now and his little lips are actually pink. I don't know if he's more energetic or not, but he certainly is not at all listless or wan. He's a very bright and busy little fellow.
We went to the doctor on Friday for his 15-month check up and all was well. His lungs are clear and his ear infection is gone. All around he seems to be in good health.
Note: I think I scared more people by not specifying the virus he had than I would have by mentioning it. It's not SARS, nor the bird flu, nor anything like that. It's just this thing called RSV-- a very common virus among little kids. Indeed almost everyone has it by the time they are 2. But the problem with it is that it can be very dangerous, even life-threatening, for some kids. So my doctor asked me not to spell it out to everyone, especially moms in our neighborhood with little newborns who had played with Isaac while he was contagious. So there you have it. Now that he's over it and no one else we know has gotten incredibly sick from it, it can be told!
Isaac's growth is still on his curve along the 5th percentile. He's a petite little guy, yet to crack 20 lbs. Also the doctor said that his small size is less and less due to his prematurity now and more due to just him, the way he is. Perhaps he will be a small person-- hard to believe, given the non-smallness of his parents, but who knows. He's on pace to be stunningly handsome and witty and brilliant whatever his height.
Also the doctor was impressed by his signing and overall communication skills. I mean, some kids are speaking in sentences by now, but since Isaac only knows a handful of spoken words, it's impressive that he's signing in sentences or phrases already. examples:
Giraffe Eat: "the giraffe is eating." (while observing this at the zoo.)
More book: "read me that book again."
Monkey Ball: "the monkey is playing with a ball." (observing a gorilla at the zoo)
Rabbit Music: "Get me that thing that plays music and then a rabbit jumps out." (This is a jack-rabbit-in-the-box that plays Peter Cottontail)
*hand-rub* Eat No: "get me the stuff that I can rub on my hands by I must not eat" (lotion-- he's very interested in personal care products)
Plane book: "I want the book that shows airplanes."
Da-Da bath: "daddy is taking a bath."
Also Isaac is very precocious in that he's taken note of the potty-going process and now signs to us when he's going. This is a huge step towards potty training and well ahead of the curve. The doctor thought that the awareness alone was noteworthy, and the communication all the more so.
He's turning into a nudist. Sometimes he will just be minding his own business when all of the sudden his clothes begin to stifle him. He must get them off! He tends to go about clothes removal in the least effective ways, such as trying to get his pants off by pulling them UP, or trying to get his shirt off by putting one arm out the neck hole. And so I rather grudgingly am pressed into service helping him remove them. AH, sweet nakedness! I think he would be much happier in a tropical clime. At times when I'm dressing him it seems that diapers are an insult, pants are little cloth jail cells for his legs, and shirts an outright affront to his human rights. He insists at the very least on going around shirtless. He looks sort of like a tiny, 2-foot-five, pirate. I call him Sinbad.
I think it was Joe Gould (the famous homeless man profiled by Joseph Mitchell in the New Yorker) who came up with this short poem: "In the winter I'm a Buddhist. In the summer I'm a nudist." Perhaps I should mention these seasonal practicalities to Isaac.
Another example of his astuteness: As we all know, Ben has steadily been drifting right politically over the years and now he's threatening to vote for Bush this fall. We have a mixed marriage in this regard. Anyway, we also have this bottle opener made by my mom's husband Max. It's in the likeness of Nixon and you use his mouth to open the bottle. Whenever Isaac sees this thing, he points to it and yells, "Da-da! Da-Da!"br> br> br> br>
Oooh I wondered where you got that bottle thingy!
I did the undecided quiz and was shocked to see that Kerry was as far from my ideal candidate (who is, according to the quiz, Al Sharpton) as Bush is from Kerry. However, reading down the list - this can't be true. Bush strongly favors everything that puts my guts in a knot and strongly opposes everything that seems like perfect common sense to me. And for what it's worth, my Clinton tax credits are still worth more than my Bush tax credits; the Bush credits are pro-natal and the Clinton credits are pro-education. Hello, if we are going to subsidize babies we shall need jobs for them. Unless what is really in the works is a wholesale return to feudalism. Wait...
I just feel so bad for that poor emotionally crippled creature. His soul is for sure in enternal jeapoardy.
Congrats on Isaac's most excellent progress. I urge you to nip this nakedness in the bud as it leads to post-bath porch frolics in February. My child removes socks and shoes as soon as she hits the carseat, even if we are only driving between stores. She also has been known to nakidify and sklathe herself all over other people's furniture. Hint: the situation does not improve with mobility. However, I can happily reassure you that it does not get less cute and that the wave of maternal delight at the sight of sweet wee buckets does not diminish, although it might be a little strained when the child steals a pack of Rolo candy as her mother struggles with the new card swiper, strips down, and secrets herself behind a row of paper towels at the CVS, emerging ten minutes later, chocolate-smeared and cackling as she runs from three store employees and an utterly panicked mother who has watched too many crimesploitation shows. br>
TITLE: Nascent Mastery
DATE: 02/20/2004 03:51:18 PM br>
Today was sort of a special day for Isaac and me. We both attained a new level in our respective occupations (he as toddler, me as mother). This morning I found myself driving eastward to visit the Natural History Museum. En route the thought occurred to me: hey, here I am, rested, fed, bathed, dressed; here my child is, rested, fed, bathed, dressed. Our diaper bag is well stocked. The right stroller is on board, and we are on time! Twenty minutes to spare! Did I feel like dancing? A little bit!
These things don't come easily to me in the first place, but since Isaac has joined the fray it's become incredibly hard to get anywhere in an orderly fashion. If he's not sleeping right through the event we're supposed to attend, he's screaming and demanding to nurse, or smearing yogurt in his hair, or soiling his diapers in such a way as to seem borderline vengeful-- right at the moment we need to leave.
Not today. He woke up at a decent time (7:30 a.m.), after sleeping not half-badly through the night. I went to sleep in our bed and he in his, and woke up in his bed with him, and I'm not sure when that happened, but basically it was okay. Most of the time we were sleeping. No 3 a.m. playtime or teething fest or anything like that. Also he was in a good mood. He ate a healthy breakfast without a struggle and then amazingly played with his fire truck while I was allowed to eat some toast and drink a little bit of tea myself. Huzzah! Then we took a shower together (a more workable alternative to letting him run amok in the bathroom while I take a shower alone) and got dressed without too much crying. He insisted on not wearing his sweatshirt, but I let it go. He even played nicely while I brought one stroller in from the car and brought out another.
Anyway, all this led me to think, tentatively and at risk of jinxing it, have we got a handle on this now? I mean, am I managing this okay now? The ephemeral moment: Isaac at 16 months. For the moment, yes! Don't ask about tomorrow because he will change again, but for today, yes!
When we got to the Museum, where we were meeting some other moms, Isaac cooperatively began playing with the nature-related interactive things they have there. And then... he walked.
This has been going on bit by bit over the last several weeks. But this sort of walking really took it to a higher plane. This could be called WALKING, not just taking a step or two and tumbling over. He walked away, across the room, walked over to a little girl sitting there and patted her hair. She was very sweet with lots of golden curls and I could see his point in wanting to pat them. And she took his forwardness in stride, continued her puzzle unabated. Her daddy started referring to Isaac as "your little buddy." As in, "here comes your little buddy again." Mobility. ... what a wonderful thing.
As if this wasn't enough for one day... When we were leaving the museum we saw an airplane overhead. (I think that the "motorized vehicle" gene is really starting to kick in.) I turned his stroller so he could see the airplane go by. It was a pretty red one, too. Isaac looked at it and said, plain as day, "airplane."
It's not his first word, per se, but somehow it's a more "wordy" word than NAH-nah (Lena) or da-da, or even the ubiquitous "no." It's a real grown-up word. I wonder if Isaac just had the epiphany: I can make these sounds to communicate, just like the grown-ups.
It's interesting that his first sign ever was also airplane. Is he a budding pilot? An astronaut? (stab of dread: will he go and live on a space station and never call? brief daydream: he and his family live on the moon and never call. I only see my grandchildren once a year in person, and the trip is hard on everyone. It makes today's international travel seem like a piece of cake.)
Other highlights of the day: we went to the market, where I spied a delicious fresh-squeezed tangerine juice and decided to split it with Isaac. I got him a big person cup with a lid (the only thing they had) and fixed him up with a straw. I handed him this rig and he took to it like fish to water. He just grabbed the straw and started drinking the juice with enthusiasm. I sauntered down between the stalls and soon realized that he was turning heads. He was charming everyone out of their socks. "Well, well, look at you!" was the typical beaming response. I went around to the front of the stroller and saw that he did indeed make a very jaunty picture. He was reclining in a laid-back cool-guy sort of way, holding his cup with both hands and drinking like he's been doing this sort of thing for years. I think the sight was enhanced by a) his incredible natural cuteness and b) his diminutive stature. To some he may have looked like the most confident and self-possessed 9-month-old ever.
This evening we had a lovely interlude around sunset. He stood on a chair at the window while I spoon-fed him yogurt. It was an official Airplane Vigil. We did get lucky several times-- I think that shortly after take-off the planes circle downtown and come conveniently into view at five-minute intervals. From his post he could see them before I could, and would sign "airplane" to let me know they were coming. He didn't say it again out loud. Maybe that was enough talking for one day.
After dinner he demonstrated his walking skills some more, took more risks, fell down more. He's on a role now. I feel like he will be running around and discussing Proust next week.
Stay tuned.br> br> br> br>
Isaac walked and talked the next day after we had dinner(!) We're looking forward to discussing Proust next time!Isaac's friend, Gabrielle, has a French name...br>
TITLE: Varmint in My House
DATE: 02/22/2004 12:31:12 AM br>
A while back, I think it was during the great Squirrel Siege of the late 90s, a friend of ours suggested a good idea for a Web site: varmintinmyhouse.com. People could log on and share stories of various varmints breaking in and running wild and free throughout the great indoors. I don't think this idea ever really came to fruition, and this is a niche that needs to be filled.
Note: if you suffer from anything that could be termed a "phobia"-- or even just an intense fear-- of small rodents, especially on the loose inside, I encourage you to stop reading now. JBR: you've been warned.
Tomorrow my mom and my step-dad Max are coming through town en route to an art fair in Baltimore. They will sleep in the guest room, which we don't use too often... So this morning, Ben started moving around some items in there-- the space under the bed is used for storage boxes, etc. I was feeding Isaac breakfast when I heard the distant call, "Hey-- there's a mouse in here!"
We haven't had a mouse here in several years, but I was willing to take his word for it. I was still in my pajamas and most importantly barefoot and didn't really want to deal with the mouse at all, personally. But I did see this as a rare opportunity for the cats to at last Earn Their Keep. I went and got Mr. Cat, formerly a fantastic and lethal killer of all things smaller than himself, but at 14 perhaps getting a little sleepy or dull around the edges. I plopped him over the baby gate into that room. All he did for a long time was sit there and yowl and complain about being so rudely confined. The mouse was completely lost on him.
Then I saw it with my own eyes-- it was NOT a mouse.
It scuttled rather than rushed in the feverish intense blur so characteristic of mice. In fact, it sort of dawdled. It was rotund, and much bigger and darker than a mouse. Its tail was notably stumpy. It seemed amiable and good-tempered. Sort of stupid creature-- something like the Winnie The Pooh of the rodent world. I got out my Audobon's Field Guide to North American Mammals and took a few moments to identify it. I'm pretty sure it was a vole.
Interesting, but still... I wanted it gone. Not dead necessarily, but GONE... definitely. Our feral-born cat Zane Grey showed up in the kitchen and I took the opportunity to plop her over the gate too, thinking that surely she would catch and slay the little beast. She did take notice of it at once, and I think tipped off Mr. Cat. Soon they were both posted in front of the guest room closet, where apparently the vole was hiding.
They worked the problem for quite a while, and occasionally I would hear a thump or a scuffle of some kind and my heart would rise with hope. But to my amazement (surely this is the most interesting thing these indoor cats have seen in years), they eventually lost interest and wandered away. They scaled the gate and went off to sleep or wash their paws.
I opened the gate and let in Lena dog. Her approach to the problem couldn't be called stealthy or shrewd, but it was quite enthusiastic. She attacked all the boxes in the closet and threw them around pell mell. Then she waited, ears cocked. I watched her at what I hoped was a safe remove while she worked on this.
Meanwhile, the day was progressing. Ben went to get groceries. I set about the laundry and called my mom to tell her that there was a vole in her soon-to-be guest room. She was unfazed and said simply, "Really? I didn't know you even HAD voles in Ohio." (If there's anyone you want on the other end of the phone when you have to announce a rodent for a potential bedfellow, it's my mom.) We discussed the field markings of voles for a little while and then went about our business.
Lena was still on the case when I went into the living room (a couple rooms away from the guest room in question). Isaac played happily on the floor while practiced my flute. The phone rang and I was just saying hello when the vole walked right into the living room bold as brass! Out from under the Pack-N-Play, in fact. This caused me to more or less shriek to the stunned caller, "There's a vole in the room with me! Can I call you back!?" and hang up abruptly. I scooped up Isaac and ran for safety upstairs, closing baby gates behind me.
Isaac screamed and screamed while I tried to figure out my next move. Fortunately he's fascinated by firetrucks and I managed to distract him with a video called "There Goes A Firetruck!" for which he's the target audience. As he watched the firetrucks with rapt attention, I watched the vole wandering around the living room. Looking for what? Doing what? It didn't seem at all anxious or in a hurry, or aware that Mr. Cat was snoozing away in close proximity. (I think the heated cat bed has really spoiled that cat.)
The vole ambled back into the kitchen and, gathering all my courage, I went downstairs, grabbed Mr. Cat from his slumbers, and tossed him over the gate to handle matters. After taking a few moments to gather his wits, he did FINALLY notice the vole and snap to attention. He tried to catch it. He got close enough to catching it that it actually screamed in an appalling manner. But it got away, wandered off towards the couch and the china cupboard while the cat wasted his time watching the Pack-N-Play with extreme vigilance.
Meanwhile, Lena was barking behind the gate to the guest room-- missing all the fun! I watched the vole wander to the far side of the room, and again, summoning huge stores of bravery, I ran downstairs and opened the gate for her. Whereupon she too sat focussing all her attention on the Pack-N-Play like an idiot, while the vole made the rounds twenty feet away. Unlike the cats, however, Lena is trained to verbal commands. I called her and said, "Lena! Find it!" and she came running over full speed to exactly where the vole was... which of course scared it into running under the couch where there was no way in hell Lena could get it. Without human assistance, I mean. Could I really go down there and move the couch and flush out the thing?
One time during the Squirrel Siege in about 1999, a squirrel got into the house while Ben was home alone. It rushed directly to Mr. Cat's bed and pooped in it, as if that were the whole reason for its visit. It then proceeded to engage in WWIII with a rightfully enraged Mr. Cat. Ben responded by donning all his hockey gear-- his face mask and helmet, his huge gloves, several pads, etc. I don't know if he got out his hockey stick too-- but anyway he went in to do battle with the squirrel. He opened the windows and chased the squirrel around. True to form the squirrel panicked, lost his head completely, and jumped out the second story window. (Happily he was unharmed and ran off into the sunset-- I guess squirrels are built for falls.)
But I was still in my pajamas (my jeans in the dryer!), still barefoot, and I couldn't really remember where all that hockey gear ended up. I started wishing my hardest that Ben would come home and rescue us-- damsel and babe trapped on the second floor by a thoroughly oblivious vole casually heading nowhere special round and round the living room.
Ben appeared at last and as he struggled with keys and grocery bags I explained the whole situation to him by yelling down the stairs. He took on that world-weary look of complete exhaustion and borderline depression that one so often sees in a case like this. As if to say, "What? Deal with the vole-- right NOW?"
But he rose to the occasion. I was still focussed on having the pets Earn Their Keep, when Ben pointed out that, morality aside, this could be a bloody mess. Yes-- it's true. When we lived in New York, Mr. Cat's specialty was torturing a bird all night so that it would fly into the walls leaving huge bloody splats before finally ending up in a pool of blood on the blue shag carpet. Some of his crime scenes would have chilled the most seasoned homicide detective on the force.
Ben said, "What if I catch it?" I doubted that this would work. But I was forgetting what a slow-witted critter we were dealing with. From my perch upstairs, I had a good overview to keep tabs on the vole. When it went into the magazine rack, Ben walked over, took the whole rack and simply put it in a big box. The vole, apparently galvanized by this for once, started attempting to leap out of the box by scrabbling up the insides. Fruitlessly, thank god.
Ben rushed out the front door and released it into the street. Strains of "Born Free" were heard in the distance.
What excellent, excellent husbandry! I gave Ben an A+++++ for his work. I continue still to be awed by his courage and his clear-headedness in the face of danger.
Tomorrow I have to organize the hopefully vole-free guest room before the guests arrive. I'm still concerned as to how the vole got in, and whether he's left behind a wife and 6 vole babies in a nest someplace in there. But hopefully not. Hopefully this edition of Varmint In My House ends right here.
br> br> br> br>
Isn't it wonderful when your boyfriend performs some marvelous brave or brilliant act after which he is at least twice as handsome? Mine is downstairs making truffles, which qualifies.
Incidentally, you can just pick up a vole and toss it out on its bum. Gently, because they are so dear and dumb. Work gloves help.
One of the most vivid memories of my childhood is an Italian priest beating an enormous rat to death with a baseball bat in our back yard. A nearby house of squalor was being cleared out, and the brush hog dislodged birds, squirrels, possums, coons, wabbits, a lone fox... and an army of abnormally well-nourished and cocky rats. The priests were happily snaring a bunch of rabbits for their housekeeper to stew with garlic and wild greens when they noticed my 3-year-old brother, who'd been playing in the back yard, about to cozy up to a rat as big as a cat... br>
Apparently you are not afraid of voles and don't have a squeamish streak. I'm a closet sissy. I think that the irrational rodent fear is a sort of race memory going back to the plague. Why else leap on a chair and scream when a small, small, helpless mouse appears? I noticed when I was in Kenya that there was no such memory and no such reaction. They had no problem with rats as big as cats playing with their children. Now... cats themselves were
another matter. One Kenyan told me that if a cat touched him he would not be able to sleep for one week.
Your memory of priests beating a rat seems like something you would expect in an Ingmar Bergman film or maybe Fellini. It seems like the sort of thing that would be freighted with symbolism in a context like that.
I remember when I was a kid seeing some bums fishing a huge eel out of the river (the Mississippi). It was blue on top and yellow underneath and kept twisting and writhing in this
horrible muscular manner. Then they beat its tail and blood came out its eyes.br>
Warren told us about this.
I once had a squirrel in my apartment,
who took my collection of Ohio Buckeyes
and hid them all over my apartment.
Years later, I still find them from time to time. br>
TITLE: Another Very Short Poem & other achievements
DATE: 02/26/2004 12:29:44 PM br>
Yesterday Isaac examined a robin's nest I have in the bathroom. It has a few egg shells still in it. He peeked into it and signed: BIRD FLOWER. I took this to be another Very Short Poem (see blog entry "Fish" in early Nov.) that evokes a field of blossoming cup-shaped nests supported by thick green stems. Or lush flowers that open and allow birds to flutter out. Bird flower. Certainly the most evocative and lovely possible way to describe a nest.
A couple days ago, we went to the Great Lakes Science Center, where they have a play area for kids under seven. Isaac loves it there. We walked in and he signed BALL BATH. I looked around... of course: there's a pool there filled with blue plastic balls instead of water. You "swim" in the balls, bathe in them. Ball bath! He remembered it from last time. I put Isaac in it and he began to kick and giggle.
Other new signs he's accumulated lately:
-walrus (sea lion, seal, manatee... please note that I know lots of adults who can't tell these things apart either.) (Also when I warned him not to hit his head on the WALL, he signed back WALRUS. Homophones are a little hard to explain to the kid.)
-car (truck, bus)
-apple (also pineapple-- again, difficult to explain)
Political commentary aside, the Nixon bottle opener is not alone in being called daddy. In fact so many people are called Daddy around here that sometimes I wonder if my marital fidelity is being drawn into question. Here are some other recent highlights of people Isaac has pointed to and gleefully shrieked, "Da-da!":
-Johann Strauss (seen in the form of a white marble bust at the city greenhouse)
-Joseph (husband of the Virgin Mary)
-The Skating Quaker (a poster we have; ironic because Ben IS a skating Quaker)
-A Jewish baseball player for the House of David team (another poster; he has a big black beard)
-Charles Howard (the owner of Seabiscuit)
As for walking, he's making great strides. Yesterday, he walked across the room carrying a small stool in one hand, the other hand raised elegantly in the air for balance. He looked like a tightrope walker. When he made it, Isaac paused and turned smiling back for applause. Hurray for Isaac! I will have to teach him to bow.br> br> br> br>
The House of David baseball players were not Jewish. They considered themselves "Christian Israelites." I imagine it's the reverse of Jews for Jesus. br>
Noeli thinks Strauss is Grandpa. Indeed, the spitting image of my bearded da.
After hearing of the wonder of Bird Flower I am in deep need of Isaac time and since I have a dental appointment during statistics tomorrow, we just may see you at Joy's. br>
TITLE: Signs of Asthma?
DATE: 03/08/2004 04:46:17 PM br>
Last week Isaac's nose started to run. Not a bad thing in itself-- just a steady trickle on the upper lip. Sort of a nuisance, but since the kid seemed so incredibly bright and happy I was not at all concerned. A little cough came along next. Still not a big thing.
Then on Sunday morning I would say it turned into more of a big cough. We were trying to take a nap and this horrid cough kept waking him up, and was at times in the gagging and choking sort of range. Throughout the afternoon, he seemed to go in and out of serious wheezing. At times he seemed totally normal-- at others, it really seemed like his breathing was getting bad. When you can hear him breathing from 20 feet away, something is amiss.
Shades of RSV (the horrible virus he had before) and a vacation two days away.
Okay, so I called the nurse. My main question was whether we have discretion to use the nebulizer (the puffer) if it really seems like he's having a hard time breathing... like at 3 a.m., for instance. The nurse and I talked about this at length. Ultimately she advised me to take him into the steamy bathroom for 20 minutes at a time, twice, and then see how he's doing. If he still sounds bad, give him a dose of abuterol (the asthma medicine he had before and still have on hand). If he STILL seems bad after that, we have to bring him in.
So we did the shower thing, and he still sounded really wheezy. But he wasn't coughing, so I thought we'd put him to bed and see how it went. If he coughed and couldn't sleep, we'd give him the puffer. If not, we'd just go in to the doctor in the morning. Meanwhile, Ben and I discussed how it would work if we had to postpone the much-needed and yearned for vacation. It boiled down to few logistics, but not a huge deal-- especially since we didn't have plane tickets in the mix. Fingers crossed that we could still go as planned.
Over night, he didn't cough much at all. He slept well, actually. But his breathing still had that little whistle at the end that I so deplore. So this morning I took Isaac to the doctor first thing. Yep-- he's wheezing. Not my imagination, alas. The doctor ran through a few questions about the family history-- asthma? Yes, on Ben's mom's side, his aunt and cousins. Allergies? Yes, Ben himself had terrible seasonal allergies. Eczema? Yes, Ben had it as a child.
Apparently allergies, eczema, and asthma are all related. The fact that Isaac's dad had two of the three predisposes Isaac to asthma. The fact that Isaac was a preemie also predisposes him to asthma. The fact that he had RSV and got so ill with it, and now has wheezing with just a little cold are both indicators of asthma.
It seems like a "three strikes" thing, if he gets one more cold or flu and goes straight into wheezing like this, then he will officially "have asthma." It's a pattern that they look for. He's still in this gray area at the moment. And I'm still clinging to the hope that this is a residual lung impairment from the RSV itself. The doctor thinks that it's possible, but unlikely, that Isaac was not 100% over that before this new virus came along, and that explains the current wheezing. But the reality is that it's starting to look more like a pattern.
Even if it is asthma, there's a huge spectrum of what that could mean. He could outgrow it early. He could have a mild case. ...
One especially ominous aspect: the doctor said that if it really is for sure asthma, having pets in the house would be a bad thing. The idea of finding another home for Lena, Mr. Cat, and Zane Gray just .. .. well, I can't even think about it. I have to just say that we'll cross that bridge when we come to it, IF we come to it...!
We're going on vacation as planned-- to take the waters (perhaps their curative powers will help us here). Isaac seems for all the world like the happiest, healthiest little child you could ever meet and seems completely up for a fun trip. We have a new portable puffer-- pretty much an inhaler, but with this sort of face attaching mask thing for little kids. I've been instructed to err on the side of giving him the medication at the slightest sign of wheeziness. In fact, I've been told that this will now go along with us in the diaper bag wherever we go.
I guess this means that we're acting like he does have asthma for the moment to be on the safe side.
I'm going to research the world's best air cleaner and vacuum. Perhaps we can keep it at bay if we have cleaner indoor air around here. We can't do anything about the outdoor air pollution-- we happen to live in a very polluted city in a very polluted state. (Ohio's always in the top five nationwide on every possible environmental hazard the EPA measures.) But I can at least become a dust-phobe and try to reform myself into a neat freak. (We have many closets around here full of papers and clothes... is this relevant?)
And let's just continue to hope that it's a fluke, not a pattern.br> br> br> br>
Catherine - I so hope it isn't asthma! David got it at about 3 years. It started when I lost a hubcap along the highway, and took him with me to run along the highway to retrieve it in the cool night air, rather than leave him in the car. That night he was wheezing. And of course he is still wheezing. I remember Big Whit had to make Susan move her cat and dog out into the yard and professionally vacuume the entire house because Dave would end up in the hospital after every weekend over there. When he was little there was no anti burning law in Mpls, and my next door neighbor would take his newspaper out to the trash and burn it every single night! Not to mention everyone burned leaves all autumn. It was terrible for David. I had asthma as a kid and luckily for me outgrew it somehow. Hope the holiday does the trick for all of you! br>
Well, I sure hope not. They are related because it's all the same general lipid this and that. It might be helpful to consult an honest to goodness naturopath or complementary medicine specialist because this is something they may be able to help with. At the very least extra nutritional support can help prevent triggering illnesses.
If it's any comfort, I had both eczema and killer bronchial pneumonia with persistent wheezing as a wee one - enough so that two years later a fake bronchial cough and faint wheezing almost won me the attention war with my baby bro.
But no dice, and in the long run, no asthma.
Glad the vacation is still on. Do you already have an air cleaner? Please borrow mine for his bedroom if not, while you research. And remember you can borrow a HEPA vac for three days from AAPLE because of Isaac's lead exposure, again, just to get started. br>
TITLE: Waters, Taken
DATE: 03/16/2004 07:15:03 AM br>
We've just gotten back from a week in Virginia, taking the waters. It turns out that what this means is relaxing at a wonderful mountain resort with natural hot springs, swimming in naturally hot pools, going for walks and having spa treatments.
The place is called the Homestead (www.thehomestead.com... warning: may cause envy). It's about seven hours south of here, just across the border into Virginia. We drove down last Tuesday and drove home yesterday.
What makes a great vacation great? br> br> br> br>
TITLE: Waters, Taken
DATE: 03/17/2004 12:22:41 PM br>
We've just gotten back from a magical week in Virginia, taking the waters. In the old days (based on archival pictures around the place) this used to mean that you would be pummeled by a water cannon at 20 paces, or immersed in huge burbling vats of the stuff up to your chin. Now it's more like spa/resort/mountain heaven, with the great outdoors at your disposal in any form or amount you want.
The place is called the Homestead (www.thehomestead.com... warning: viewing this site may cause envy). It's been around for a couple centuries, during which time 18 presidents have visited (there's a gallery of them), as well as a lot of other tony types like the Vanderbelts and the Rockefellers and such. And of course regular schlubs like us who can splurge now and then.
You may recall a blog entry a while back in which I was lamenting the persistence of winter and wishing for a vacation. Well, it seems that the universe heard my plea. One directly-- a generous family member who pitched in. One more cosmic in the form of a totally bizarre tax refund-- apparently they overbilled us for property taxes in 2000 and 2001. Huh? The stunning check showed up a few days before we were set to leave on this trip. Thus I feel that we were destined to go. Or at least fully authorized by divine providence.
We drove down last Tuesday. It's about a six or seven hour drive, a little longer with baby on board, especially one who is now utterly fascinated with walking. We had to stop and let him ply his new skill from time to time. I expected that it would be a bit warmer there and more advanced in the spring process, but it wasn't. I guess the altitude is part of that (however high it is). Anyway the bulbs there were up around 4-6 inches as they are here now too. I also expected more migrant birds to be around en route, and they weren't. I think the preceding two sentences are the only ones I've got that in any way express disappointment.
The place is wonderful. It's lavish, but there's a wholesomeness about it. None of your present-day luxury that walks the thin edge to cheesiness. There's a sense there that This Is the Real Deal. I think it's just age-- centuries of time-- that creates this authenticity. It IS authentic. It was founded in 1766 around natural hot springs there, and the main building was built in the early 1800s. Since then it's been lovingly maintained every moment of its existence, and this combination of wealth, style, history, and hard work create a amazing atmosphere.
Kids run amok there, which I like. It's a family place, sans disco for skanking business persons. I was extremely impressed also by the Southern hospitality business. Ben and I kept wondering "where do they FIND these people?" and "do they clone them to be this nice?" and "is this some sort of trick?" Since the staff is sort of a U.N. body of international representatives, I can't chalk it all up to Southern culture. I think it's just that they have an incredible training program to get all their employees up to par of maximum constant niceness in all encounters, or else they have a strict culling policy and weed out the non-nice ones early and often. Either way, the reality is that every staff person in every setting was shockingly nice, open, friendly and gracious. This was especially so with regard to Isaac -- better known as THE DESTRUCTOR. He made huge messes and scenes constantly. And you might think in such a unabashedly fancy place at this people would frost us for it. But no-- warm smiles, free Kleenex for his snot nose, and coloring books all around.
One sort of sad fact was that I had a rotten cold the whole time. A head cold that progressed into a nasty chest cough and just clung to me no matter how much I rested and relaxed, how many fluids I ingested, Vitamin C swallowed, etc. Most of the time I hovered in some level of decongestant-induced haze. It took everything down a peg, but overall I didn't let it get in my way. I just went ahead and did it all, as planned.
While on the subject of viruses, let me mention the good news that a) Isaac did not need his puffer even once the whole time; and b) the virus in question turned out to be a nasty one for me, went right into my chest and made it hard to breathe. ... this is "good news" because it lends hope to the idea that Isaac was in fact hit by two bad chest-oriented viruses in a row and does NOT have asthma.
On day one, although really quite sick that day, I went horseback riding. They have a 24 hour cancellation policy, so it wasn't easy to change it at the last minute. Also I WANTED to go, and the opposition of the cold made me only more stubborn.
I haven't been on a horse in probably 20 years and so had some trepidation about it. Especially the getting on and off part, which I felt had a high possibility for looking like a klutz. Also I learned on the shuttle on the way there that the only other people going on this particular one-hour trail ride with me were this dad and daughter team. The daughter a spoiled-looking nine-year-old all in full riding habit from top to toe. Clearly a MUCH better rider than I, and this was intimidating. But as is their wont, the staff did a wonderful job of it. With a mounting block (basically stairs up to the horse) and a friendly calm guide I got on my dark Appaloosa, "Snoopy," on the first try, without the slightest incident.
A very crisp sunny day, that had started out covered in snow. So fun to be on horseback-- up high and moving along through the beautiful woods. Almost as soon as our trail began, I saw a pileated woodpecker! It flew in plain view from tree to tree and clung there for a moment. I did not have my binocs, but still got a good look at it. A brief digression about my history with this bird: A few years ago when I was on a writing retreat in Vermont, I spent at least a week stalking it each evening. I heard it, I saw it on the wing, but I wanted to SEE it-- to sit and look at it with my binocs to my heart's content. Ultimately, I didn't get my wish (still haven't). Then on another trip to the islands near Seattle, Ben and I spent quite a long time stalking it. We heard it, and even (after strenuously following it through steep woodland paths) sat at the base of a huge pine tree in which it hammered somewhere up there in the branches. But we couldn't see it at all and it was extremely frustrating. So to arrive at the Homestead and on the first event of day one have that particular bird pretty much throw itself in my path-- well, you couldn't have designed a better treat for me!
While I'm on the topic of horseback riding, let me tell you the amazing news that Isaac had his first horseback ride! I have photo evidence of the experience, which overall was a success. He cried at first, but warmed up to it quickly and then I think really liked it. His attention span is similar to a gnat's though, and even ten minutes was too long for him. Someone is going to explain to me how to put photos in this blog and then I'll load a couple. The funniest part was that the instructor kept calling Isaac "Tex." As in, "C'mon, Tex, there's a smile!" and "Just hold on there with both hands, Tex." If only I had that Virginia accent I would adopt it as his permanent nickname.
On day two my highlight was a mineral bath at the spa. As with all my spa choices, I found it incredibly hard to decide-- like a blind person choosing their favorite color or something. I scrutinized the brochure. I closely questioned the scheduling person. But I really had no basis, no data, on which to base my decision. The mineral soak came in several choices, plain, or scented with Mountain Laurel, or filled with milk to soften your skin. The milk appealed to me, but Ben thought it sounded revolting. And someone had mentioned that the mineral baths can smell sort of sulphurous. So on this basis, I went with the Mountain Laurel.
The Spa... If only I had some curly cursive font on this thing. You can't print the words, "The Spa"-- it needs to be elegant script. A beautiful place-- tumbled marble tiles, babbling water, sunlight, wicker chaises. I took the advance measure of getting my legs waxed and getting a pedicure before I went there. Very smart move as it turned out. Because once you step into the place, they take away your clothes and dress you in a white robe and special spa slippers. With my bright pink fiesta toes and my glossy calves I blended right in with the other Spa-ers there. I mention this I think because of a nagging sense that I don't belong in such places. It felt good to have the right accoutrements.
Numerous ladies in white golf shirts and khaki pants attend the spa-goers. One tells you "relax and enjoy," another shows you your locker and gets you settled on a chaise with a glass of lemon water. And in my case, another appears and says, "I'll be your bath attendant." This phrase in itself speaks of Roman times, doesn't it? I expected the next lady to say, "I'll be peeling your grapes today."
My bath attendant, Cherri, towered over me. Her huge physical presence reassured me somehow. If I started to drown she could pull me out and then some. She took me into a little white tile room with a very large bathtub in it, full to the brim with water. She explained that the first part would be a soak, and the second part she would turn the water on, it would overflow and pour down the sides. She had a thick accent and spoke of "revitalizin' ya" and "it sounds like a waterfall and it's real relaxin'." She poured some bath crystals into the bath to scent it like Mountain Laurel, which I found sort of disappointing-- I mean, I can have bath crystals at home. The brochure made it sound a lot more exciting than just bath crystals. But, oh well.
Anyway, she turned off the light and told me to take off my robe and step into the bath. I complied and immediately was smitten with the whole mineral bath concept. Basically what's good about it is that the tub is huge and so we're talking total immersion. Other than a nettlesome problem I will call Buoyant Bosom Syndrome, I was completely submerged up to my chin. I could have lain down flat on my back on the bottom if I wanted to. I soaked for a while and listened to the new age music and smelled the mountain laurel. It was relaxin' me, there's no doubt.
The Cherri came back in and whispered that she was going to put something cold on my face. She dabbed my face with a towel soaked in ice water, which felt surprisingly wonderful. Then she left it there on my forehead and I relaxed some more. After a while, she returned and began to spritz the air with more mountain laurel mist and then she turned the water on. Now, she had touted it as "soundin' like a waterfall." This is not what it sounded like. It sounded like, to be frank, the Flatulence of God. It erupted in huge deep guttural bubbles. The fact that the PLACE from whence it erupted was right under my bottom only added to the effect. Call me immature, but I couldn't suppress a smile. In fact, I may have even giggled a little bit at how ridiculous this would look to a passer by. Luckily (or unluckily) I was alone in the room and alone in the unintentional humor of the situation.
The water, though, did begin to spill over the sides, and it did begin to sound like... The Flatulence of God with a distant waterfall in the background. After I got over my incredulity and mirth, I noticed that with some adjustments I could get the warmth and the bubbles to head north up the center of my back. Exquisite. Cherri came in and refreshed my freezing face cloth with a new one. The contrast was lovely and perfect. I could have stayed there all day. But eventually Cherri came to fish me out. I didn't realize there was a science to it, and just got out and started drying off, but she explained to me that SHE would dry me off. Back to the Roman Queen thing. Once re-wrapped in my white robe, she parked me on a chaise and gave me more lemon water to drink. How to return to reality, put back on my regular clothes? I lingered there, took a steam bath, took a shower, and reluctantly headed out.
Not that the rest of the Homestead could be in any way called "Reality."
Our only "stress" the whole week was meal times. It was not their fault. Isaac was the source of the stress. He's just a walking mad man now. He would sit in his chair and eat for one or two minutes, then begin to insist it was time to get out. (Resistance was futile, unless you wanted a full blown tantrum.) And then, once out of his chair would simply head for the horizon. Thus one of us would have to leave the table, chewing, and chase him. The first few days were the worst, and I would say the fancy dinner we had after I went horseback riding was the very worst of all. We were still tired from our trip down and not rested yet. The dinner was painfully slow-paced, with long lulls between the numerous courses. The atmosphere was also very fancy, with people almost in dinner clothes, and a band playing with some very polished ballroom dancing going on. Isaac kept making me hold him and dance-- fun at first and then more and more exhausting.
As the week went on, though, we got better at it. Or maybe we just got more accepting of the fact that we would not be able to actually "eat together" in any normal sense. We would tag team, and overlap at the table briefly. Also we learned to get the wait staff to consolidate courses and do whatever they could to expedite the meal. Also after observing a strict "grapes only" diet for several days, Isaac began to eat regular food and hence got more interested in the whole reason for sitting at the table.
I had another spa treatment at some point-- the "rejuvenator" it was called. A "quick pick-me-up" of a mere 80 minutes of spa treatments. (I don't know any other spa where 80 minutes is "quick.") It was a package of a body wrap of your choice and then a 30 minute massage. The body wraps to choose from included sea weed, herbal, clay, and something called karisoftness-- basically being rubbed with a melted nut butter to deeply moisturize your skin.
I couldn't decide. I had this idea that being wrapped like a mummy would be fun. I consulted with the receptionist at length. I narrowed it down to sea weed versus karisoftness. "I don't like the way the seaweed smells," she admitted "Very fishy." The karisoftness, however, she loved. "Your skin feels incredible after it," she said. "Water beads up on it for days afterwards." Hmmm. "Do they wrap you in, like, Saran wrap?" I asked. "No, it's linen," she said. Okay-- so karisoftness it was.
Again I was relieved of my clothes and parked on a chaise with lemon water to sip. Soon a woman appeared and called my name. She looked like one of those track-suit-wearing grandmas you see walking laps at the mall. Betty would do my karisoftness today. She led me to a rather medical looking white room illuminated by an eerie Martian glow. In the center of the room stood a metal gurney. She instructed me to take off my robe and lie face down on the gurney. She stepped out and soon I found myself buck naked on a metal table under a red heat lamp. I felt like a chicken at an all-day buffet. Or the subject of scary medical experiments. Betty returned and explained that I was supposed to be under this "privacy towel" there. She hadn't mentioned that before and I had no clue.
Soon she was slathering me with a cold, slimy substance that she called "fluid gel." "What's it do? I asked. "It's just a... beginning thing," she replied, leaving me with the impression that she herself didn't know what it did, only that she was to put it on first. I wondered whether anyone knew what it did, and if so, who? Someone in a white coat somewhere? Who thought these things up? Were they qualified by some board someplace? These concerns aside, the fluid gel felt sort of good. Then Betty started in with an exfoliation treatment, sort of like being rubbed with sand. She was very thorough, scrubbed me from head to toe on the back, had me turn over, and did the front. Again with the food imagery: chicken being breaded.
Then she asked me to get up and step into the Swedish shower. The controls for it looked pretty impressive, a huge wheel a la the water works, locked (apparently) inside a wall safe. I didn't know what a Swedish shower was, but now that I've experienced it, I think I have the answer to question of why Sweden is such a happy, prosperous, peaceful place. The Swedish shower is U-shaped, with 16 jets coming out of the wall horizontally, roughly from shoulders to knees. It fires warm water at you from these jets and-- well, it's more than the sum of its parts. It was the highlight of the spa treatment that day, and maybe of the whole week. I never realized that in a normal shower, some part of me is always out in the cold. I rinsed off all the grit, stood there as long as possible, and then got out. I allowed Betty to dry me off as a matter of course.
She arranged me back on my stomach on the table under the red heat lamp, then began to rub me down with the melted African nut butter. She held a little vial in her hand of this elixir, which had a little warming station on the counter. I still was hoping to be wrapped in linens after the melted butter was applied, but gradually this hope faded. Clearly the term "wrap" was misused in this case. My other anxiety, as Betty massaged me from head to toe, was whether this was my "30 minute massage" or whether that was a whole different thing yet to come. I have to accept that she was "massaging" me, there was no other word for it, and yet the brochure had made it seem so sequential and separate. It's weird what goes through your head when you're buck naked and being rubbed with melted butter under a red heat lamp.
Ultimately, I learned that this was not my massage at all. She massaged the butter into my skin, but didn't formally "massage" me. After another sojourn to a chaise and more lemon water, another track-suit grannie showed up and took me into a her massage room. The massage that followed was so helpful to my poor, tingling shoulders. Apparently I am pinching a nerve someplace by carrying Isaac around all day every day. My shoulders often feel as if they are falling asleep. My very competent masseuse worked the problem and I came away, indeed, feeling totally rejuvenated. A new woman! And it's true, when I took a shower, water did bead up on my wonderful soft skin for days afterwards.
My only regret was that my gorgeous glowing body was totally encased in heavy clothes, it being winter.
Another highlight was the pool. An indoor pool, spring fed with a steady supply of 94-degree spring water. Isaac loved it so much-- his first pool swimming experience. "The big bath!" we called it, because he signed BATH BATH BATH every time we neared it or mentioned it.
Our first dip into the pool was on a perfect sunny afternoon, with sunlight pouring in through the tall curved windows. A beautiful moment-- the sunlight, the blue water, Isaac swooning with delight, smiling with his whole self.
What makes a great vacation great? I don't know. But this week at the Homestead was all a vacation should be.
Headlines that almost ran instead:
Lovely Vacation Marred When Tot Stabs Mom in the Eye
(He was standing on my lap at lunch, waving a fork around. Then suddenly turned and plunged it directly into my eye. This would've done serious damage, but for the fact that I closed my eye in time, and the tines only scratched my eye lid in a little row.)
Tot Suffers Oral Lacerations at Breakfast Buffet
(He bit into a juice glass and broke off a chunk. I got a splinter of glass out of his mouth and the main piece fell on the floor. He was unharmed, only started crying because everyone suddenly started putting their hands in his mouth.)
Favorite overheard comment between two fancy ladies (cracks in the facade of Southern gentility):
"... and so I told her to take her fat, lazy ass home, and go and sit on it and make it wider!"
All in all-- it was wonderful. br> br> br> br>
"And you might think in such a unabashedly fancy place as this people would frost us for it. But no-- warm smiles, free Kleenex for his snot nose, and coloring books all around."
That, in a nutshell, is the difference between a real fancy place where the Vanderbilts would go and a fake fancy place that has nice faucets but no class.
a) I wish to speak up for the water cannon. It makes you feel ALIVE during the pulverization, then leaves you with such a delicious, virtuous limpness...
b) are you aware that Kohler has a tub built to overflow into a channel around it? Kind of gimmicky, yet... the other option is to put the tub in the same room with an open shower with floor drain. And of course multijet showers are THE thing these days.
It sounds fabolos. I'm ispired to get a massage... br>
"And you might think in such a unabashedly fancy place as this people would frost us for it. But no-- warm smiles, free Kleenex for his snot nose, and coloring books all around."
That, in a nutshell, is the difference between a real fancy place where the Vanderbilts would go and a fake fancy place that has nice faucets but no class.
a) I wish to speak up for the water cannon. It makes you feel ALIVE during the pulverization, then leaves you with such a delicious, virtuous limpness...
b) are you aware that Kohler has a tub built to overflow into a channel around it? Kind of gimmicky, yet... the other option is to put the tub in the same room with an open shower with floor drain. And of course multijet showers are THE thing these days.
It sounds fabolos. I'm inspired to get a massage... br>
TITLE: Homestead Photos
DATE: 03/24/2004 09:26:03 AM br>
I created on online album at Snapfish with our photos from the Homestead. If you would like to view them, drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will hook you up. (Grandparents get it automatically.) br> br> br> br>
TITLE: Tales of the Toilet
DATE: 03/26/2004 08:35:32 AM br>
Isaac's fascination with the toilet, unfortunately, has only increased with time. While we were at the Homestead, he learned how to lift the toilet seat by himself, then flush, then wave bye-bye to the contents. I suppose it's a natural progression of things that he would want to throw items in and see what happens.
The other day I heard the toilet flushing and ran in to the ominous ight of Isaac waving bye-bye. To what? Something that will clog it? Something of value? The mystery was solved later, in a way that I will now explain. (It turned out to be dimes.)
You may recall that a few months ago, right about the time that Isaac got RSV, he flushed a tube of cat hairball remover ointment. This clogged the toilet and introduced us to this contraption called a toilet auger. It's sort of like a cane-- a long stick with a curved part on one end. Only in this case, there is a wire thingy with a curly metal end that emerges from the curved part, and there is a sliding thing (sort of like a giant slide whistle) with a handle at the other end. You put the curved part down the toilet's throat and slide the handle part and the wire thing comes out and winds through the hairpin turns of the toilet to the drain in the floor. In the case of the hairball-remover ointment, the toilet auger worked in that it pushed the ointment on its merry way. The toilet was unclogged and all was right with the world.
Two days ago we could only hope that it would work again.
This time, the item in question was a 6 inch tall glass bottle of baby oil. Lately, as a part of Isaac's early toilet training process, I have been inviting him into the bathroom with me when I'm cleaning out his poopy Fuzzi Bunz. I explain in a running narrative, "This is your poopy diaper. The poop came out of your bottom when you went potty. Now we put it in the toilet and flush it away. When you're bigger, you'll poop in the toilet yourself..." this sort of thing. Then I let him flush-- a rare time when flushing is authorized. I am finding that it helps make the diaper-changing experience less hateful to Isaac (an improvement over getting into a wrestling match with a poop-covered boy-- as Annie LaMott describes of her son, "You would think I was trying to brand him.") in that he has something wondrous to look forward to at the end. The flushing!
So I guess I was pretty focussed on the diaper situation at hand. For all the world I didn't notice that he was even holding the baby oil bottle in his little hand (an eccentricity of Isaac: he's very interested in personal hygiene products and often carries around bottles of lotion, bars of soap, etc.). He flushed, and then (just as with the ointment), his hand darted out mid-flush and launched the baby oil in. It swirled down in a flash, and I bravely plunged my hand right in after it. Fearlessly! Boldly! Without regard to squeamishness! And yet-- not fast enough. It was gone.
That night, I begged Ben to get out the toilet auger and try to work his magic again. As always, he was exhausted at the time and in no mood for augering toilets, but he could see my point: if we needed a plumber, I needed to know that and get one the next day. He struggled with it for a while, but the bottom line was that with every flush we could hear the glass bottle rattling against the porcelain.
I never really knew this about toilets-- they have a trap inside, like a regular drain trap, except you can't get it open.
The next morning I called around to get a plumber who could come over that day. A few hours later, two men -- competent looking although rather scruffy and tatooed -- appeared and began to work the problem. Their toilet auger made ours look like a child's toy. Theirs was twice the size and heft of ours and they wielded it with force and confidence. Isaac and I looked on in wonder as they did battle with it-- Laocoon wresting the snakes?
As last, they gave up. "We're going to have to lift it," they said grimly.
I was glad that I at least cleaned the toilet before they came, for what good it did. They had to sop all the water out with a big sponge and wring into a foul bucket they brought in from their truck. Then they unbolted the toilet and shook it upside down. They peered in with flashlights, and with a little mirror on a stick that could apparently see around the corners in there. By turns they lifted, rocked, tipped, jiggled, peeked. "I can see it!" one would yell. "Turn it towards me!" "I can feel its cap!" "Tip it forward and shake it again!"
The dimes dropped out one by one.
What impressed me the most, I think, was the brute strength involved in physically holding the entire toilet in midair and tipping this way and that. They tried augering it again. They tried reaching in from either end of it. And still, the bottle rattled in there and did not come out.
"Can you break it?" I asked hopefully. "Can you bring it out in pieces?"
"If we could reach it, we could break it. But we can't even touch it now."
They gave up at last and delivered the final news. "You need a new toilet."
And so-- yesterday morning, we got a new toilet. A rather spunky, bright little toilet with a vigorous, low-water-consuming flush. Rather ominously, the plumber installing it pointed out that this one has an even smaller opening, and can get clogged even easier than the last.
Our old one, with bottle still inside, sent to the dump.
Total cost of l'affaire du baby oil: nearly $300.
Task of the day: order toilet locks.br> br> br> br>
TITLE: Admiral Brown and the Teachable Moment
DATE: 03/30/2004 10:10:56 AM br>
Huge breakthrough last night vis a vis the potty. (Warning: what follows is rather graphic...) It started inauspiciously when Isaac pooped in the bathtub. I pulled him out to clean everything up and then he started peeing on the floor. His potty chair was handy, so I just plopped him on it. This startled him, I think, so he stopped going. But he signed POTTY and seemed to have a good grasp of the point.
While I was cleaning up the poop, I decided to park some of it in his potty chair for a moment to see if this gave him any insight. To prime the pump, if you will. I explained all about how this came out of his bottom and now it belongs in the potty. He scrutinized the situation and then started pooping on the floor, stepping in it, etc. So I put him on the potty chair again, signed potty, and encouraged him to give it a try.
He did it! He pushed on purpose and a little bit of poop went directly from his butt into the potty!!
He laughed and signed POTTY, and this game went on several times more, although not with the same remarkable success.
Can you get over it!? This is so huge! I applauded and squealed with delight, but I felt that back handsprings were in order.
This morning, he's running around naked and nearly got a few drops of pee in the target. He was actually heading there, apparently intentionally. I really think that the light bulb has gone off in his little head, that he grasps the basic concept and the goal.
I know it's a long, long road between grasping the concept and actually being potty trained, and he's only 17 months old, but I'm so happy that he's made this remarkable connection so early.
In other news, he got cinnamon in his eyes this morning. Not a happy thing. He was carrying around a little bottle of cinnamon and indulging his enthusiasm for putting lids on jars and taking them off. Then he started sniffing it and suddenly exhaled forcefully out his nose. A cloud of cinnamon dust came back into his face and really began to sting his eyes. He started to scream and rub his eyes-- and his pain seemed to steadily increase, rather than wane, as time went on. I got a little worried that actual harm could be done. Our cleaning lady was here and she and I basically put him under the faucet and rinsed his eyes out, to his intense unhappiness.
Still he screamed and rubbed his eyes and wouldn't open them. This went on for a while, with me thinking that the tears were the best thing to clean the eyes. But eventually it went on so long that I started to get really worried and called the nurse. She reassured me that it wouldn't really do any harm, but that his red eyes could last all the rest of the day, and told me to put a warm wet wash cloth on his eyes to soothe them. So I did this for a while (basically hog-tying him to do so), and then nursed him for a while. He was okay with his eyes closed, but if he tried to open them they would hurt again and he'd start to cry anew.
Poor little guy!
Now he's fine though, toddling around and multi-tasking with a video on in one room and an I Spy DVD on his computer in this room. He's walking (naked and utterly adorable) between the two and monitoring them both.
Oops-- another piddle. Oh, well! This is so much like having a puppy! I think that all prospective parents should raise a puppy first. It's excellent preparation.br> br> br> br>
TITLE: "Boppfff!" Means Grape
DATE: 04/06/2004 09:00:29 AM br>
A new phase in Isaac's language development: homemade words. I think this is a different category of speech than simply trying to say a word and not being able to say it quite correctly. For instance, he's been saying "dohn-dle" for gentle. I tell him "gentle" fairly often-- as in "don't hit me with that bottle, be gentle!" So now he says his rendition of gentle whenever he wants to touch something, even if it's a passing semi truck.
Boppff! is a word all his own. A touch of German in it, like the "pf" in "apfel streudel," with a spitty sort of emphasis. It clearly means grape. He shouts it, you give him a grape, and he is all munching and smiles. Isaac is a big fan of the grape; this is a word of request and delight. Two nights ago, Isaac kept me awake much of the night. Around 5 a.m. I handed him off to Ben, who had to get up fairly soon anyway. As I was attempting to catch 45 minutes of sleep before Ben had to get ready for work, I heard Isaac downstairs saying "boppff! boppff!" to no avail. Grapes! I wanted to yell. He wants grapes! but I couldn't summon the strength to say it before sleep overtook me.
Overall sleep has improved in recent weeks. Generally Isaac is sleeping 6 hours or so in a row, with only one or two wake-ups, and in his own room most of the time. I still hope for the day when he will sleep something incredible, like the kids in parenting books, like 10 hours a day with two naps! No nighttime waking! And other myths.
But last week the apple cart was upended around here by roseola infantum... three days of sizzling fever, over 103. I took him to the doctor on Friday all asmolder. His fever would drop down two degrees or so while under the influence of tylenol or motrin, then rise again at the soonest opportunity. But no stuffy nose, no cough, no vomiting or anything else. Just fever, all by itself.
The doctor said that if it were roseola, the fever would break and then a rash would start. "And then what?" I asked. "Then we're happy and say, 'oh it was just roseola'" replied the doctor. "It just runs its course and is no big deal." So on Saturday the fever broke and Isaac was high on life. He was, in fact, so energized by his newfound health that he went on an awakeness marathon that lasted nearly 14 greuling (for us) hours. Thank god it was Saturday and I had back up!
On Sunday, he followed this with its opposite, a sleep-a-thon. He fell asleep at around 1:00 p.m., seemingly for a normal and much-needed nap. Then he slept, and slept, and slept. We thought, "well, he's been so sick... he must need the sleep" and "well, maybe just another hour" and "I hate to wake up a sleeping boy who is so tired." But as the day wore on, I got more and more concerned about what would await me that night. Would "sleep beget sleep" as so many of the sleep training books insist?
Finally we woke him up at 8:30 p.m., if nothing else to feed him and change his dipes. Meanwhile his rash had blossomed all over his chest and tummy and back. My hope was that he would be awake a few hours and then sleep for the night. Ah... so wrong.
He was again high on life, stayed awake until 1:30 a.m., slept until 3:30 a.m., and leapt up to run wild and free around the house again, with me running close behind. Exhaustion at the highest (lowest?) level. My day yesterday was a quest for winks, an hour here or there. Last night he sort of went back to normal, but it will take more than six hours in two hour bites to put me back on track. This morning I watch for signs of impending napping. Surely, you're tired? Sleepy? He defies me by playing steadily and onward ever onward. His drunken-looking walking patterns, his flitting attention: now carrying a shoe around, now watching cars, now petting Lena.
First haircut. Very bittersweet. When the babysitter braided his hair into a three-inch braid, and then the cleaning lady asked him whether he was a hippie, and a friend referred to his look as "the Ben Franklin," I felt that the haircut needed to happen at last. So last night while he was in the bath, I took the dull baby scissors and lopped off a chunk from the back. The boy squirmed and threw his head front to back in resistance all the while. Needless to say, this morning I was seized with remorse. The pretty locks drying on the counter, the jagged fringe exposing the pale nape of his neck, made me sort of sad. All in all he's a baby no more. He's a toddler through and through. A boy, really. I snipped it a little more this morning and now it's not so crudely done. But... new. Very grown up, and somehow a little melancholy.
Another milestone: we measured him against the door frame and put the first line there. He stands 2' 5" in his sock feet.
I've installed the toilet locks and so far they are holding. He can get the toilet open about an inch (which, as a parent reviewing this lock pointed out online, is enough to throw in a cell phone!). But it takes both hands for Isaac to hold the toilet open that inch, and it seems very difficult and heavy for him. I can't see how he could both hold it open and wedge something into the toilet (he would need a third hand) but I suppose it's only a matter of time before he develops the strength and the wherewithal to do it. Also, eventually I think he will figure out the mechanism. But hopefully it will buy us a few months, anyway. We can't go around replacing toilets all the time.
My mother tells me that his good sense will come in eventually, and then we can explain to him WHY he shouldn't do these things.
A friend of mine with two kids once remarked on their different characters. If told no, the first would "stop in her tracks and wait for further instructions." The second one, however, would "laugh and do it faster."
What kind is Isaac, I wonder...br> br> br> br>
No! No! NOOOOOO!!!!!!! I meant Ben Franklin in the best way! A sophisticated mensch! I meant, he'll have a look his Quaker papa can't help but approve!
*sigh* I am reassured he will be as adorable as humanly possible, as always, but still.
If he asks Noeli how to handle these toilet locks, she'll tell him that you merely shove one arm in up to the elbow to hold it open and begin inserting Montessori sorter cards, contents of Mommy's wallet or whatever other valuable you can lay your teeny hands on. She may even explain that it helps to holler for the clothes with the pocket on the front when you plan such evils.
Oh, and please, could you put my new email on the alert list? br>
Long hair? I need some updated photos. Isaac was bald last time I looked. Has it really been that long? br>
TITLE: April 17
DATE: 04/22/2004 06:55:22 PM br>
Last weekend we passed an important annual milestone: April 17. It's the anniversary of the brief life of our little boy Jacob, who was born and died on that day three years ago.
Our relationship with the date has changed gradually. It's gotten easier, I guess. More manageable in that at least we know what to expect and what we need. Isaac makes it easier, too, in that he has a way of filling everything with light.
Recently I came across an old e-mail I wrote, describing our day on April 17, 2002, the first anniversary. I was 9 weeks pregnant with Isaac at the time, and his future was very uncertain. Here's an excerpt of the e-mail, written to my dear aunt-equivalent, Judy R, who wrote me to ask how the day had gone:
Wednesday was a very hard day, there's no doubt. We really didn't know what to expect or what to do, but we muddled through it. Ben took the whole day off, thank god, and we just spent it together. The hardest part was the morning-- I didn't anticipate this at all, but as soon as I woke up I started walking through that awful day in chronological order. "This is the time when they gave me that medication..." "This is the time Dr. Phillipson came in and said we could take 24 hours and decide a plan..." "this is the time the labor got out of control..." etc. The worst time, of course, was the hour between about 11:00 a.m. and noon, which was the hour that Jacob lived. We spent it at the lake, alternately crying and talking, sitting on rocks and clinging to each other. Ben read part of his Jacob story from the Bible and wept very hard. After a while, though, we regrouped. I was getting hungry and dizzy and needed food and a nap. So we left the lake and in some regards left our sadness there.
It came back though later in the day when Ben wanted to make cupcakes as tiny birthday cakes for Jacob. I really almost couldn't bear it, but Ben felt that he needed to do this. So I made the cupcakes and we put a little candle in one and sang a very whispery weepy version of happy birthday. Then we both wished that wherever our baby is he is safe and well and knows how much we love and miss him. we blew out the candle together and went on with the night. Later Ben came upon the little candle and empty cupcake wrapper and slumped down in total despairing sobs. He was just utterly raw and emotionally drained all day yesterday too, while I sort of returned to my familiar state of pregnancy haze, tiredness, and nausea.
I'm glad that we've conquered a whole year, though. I really am. It feels to me like it gives us a little breathing room. Although I think it would be hard to be not pregnant at this point, it's also hard to be pregnant. The exposure to the same ordeal is so huge. The risks and the hopes are just in opposite extremes. I try not to think about any of it. I am amazed that I'm almost at ten weeks and nothing has gone wrong so far, but then again I know that for me, the real danger is at weeks 20-28. I just am trying to take it one day at a time, one day at time. Every Monday I have a ritual of writing the number on the calendar of the week completed. I don't allow myself to do it on Sunday, because Sunday must be totally finished before it counts. But we are making progress and I hope this Monday to crack double digits."
Elements of this first anniversary are a tradition now. We make cupcakes. We make wishes. We sing happy birthday. Ben reads from the Jacob story in the Bible. We cry and talk about the day he was born and the meaning of it all.
This time, we took out Jacob's memory box. It's a little purple silk box they gave us at the hospital. Inside it are all his worldly possessions: a tiny hat and poncho that he wore, the tape measure they used to measure him, his foot prints in red paint on a little card, his proof of birth form and other paper work, and a sympathy card signed by all the nurses on the ward. It also contains the proof of death certificate and the form from the cremation place sign by both of us. There are two Polaroid photos of him, with and without his poncho. Then there's the tiny blue and silver urn that contains his ashes. They jingle delicately inside it.
I spent a long time this time looking at the photos, something I can't always do. What struck me was how very much he looked like Isaac. Of course, they are brothers, but you would think that in death, in intense prematurity, these similarities would not be so apparent. He looks like Isaac asleep. He looks like my mother and Ben in the way that Isaac does. As I stared at the pictures, instead of thinking about how Isaac would look dead (an unbearable thought), it seemed like the similarity to Isaac would animate Jacob magically. I kept expecting the sealed eyes to open and the little still dark chest to rise with breath.
Another aspect of this, in addition to the immensity of this loss, is the warlike experience of the birth itself. Sometimes it's like -- edited in. You know those movies (what comes to mind is Fatal Attraction, ugh), in which a scene is going along very peacefully, someone drinking tea or sitting on the porch, and then cut in are these fast and jarring scenes of some horrible violent situation. I feel like that sometimes-- like I live in that sort of movie. I'm here, all is well. Then there's sort of a bloody terrifying splice and I'm back there in that hospital bed doing battle for my son's life, and losing.
One time in college I had an assignment in art class. It was to draw an object by only showing the things around it. I drew an easy chair, or rather the space occupied by an easy chair. I drew the room around the easy chair, and the chair itself was just emptiness. This is how Jacob has imprinted our life. We can feel his presence always, by looking at the empty space he should be here to fill.br> br> br>
TITLE: March of Dimes Walk
DATE: 04/24/2004 09:01:50 PM br>
I think it's good thing that now I don't have to avert or even close my eyes when I see those billboards advertizing the March of Dimes walk to raise money to help prevent premature birth. The signs always picture some impossibly (and yet-- possibly) tiny little person, which is painful to look at for obvious reasons. My thought about the walk itself was that these pictures would be everywhere and unless I went blindfolded it would be impossible for me to deal with it.
However, this year I have gathered up some gumption and Ben and I and Isaac are going to do the walk. It goes around downtown Cleveland (our stomping grounds) and ends up at Jacobs Field... aptly named in this case.
We're walking on May 2, which is just a week away, and it's rather short notice, I know. But if you feel like giving a donation, I really think this is a good organization and a cause that couldn't be nearer to our hearts. We have a page at their site where you can log on and make an online payment:
Or if you're more comfortable writing a check the old-fashioned way, just make it out to The March of Dimes and send it to us. I won't list our address here for obvious reasons. But if you don't have it, you can just drop me an e-mail at email@example.com.
Also this is a scowl-free proposal. That is, no pressure whatsoever. Thanks.br> br> br> br>
TITLE: Toddler Mood Swings
DATE: 05/01/2004 11:42:04 AM br>
We all have our up days and our down days. For toddlers, the emotional climate changes a lot more quickly-- like second to second. Isaac has never struck me as a aloof, dispassionate baby. But lately he's gotten downright fiery-- now beaming, now screaming.
On the one hand, his natural sweetness and kind nature has expanded. He's learned to kiss with a real pucker and smack (no more of those wet, open-mouthed toothless baby slobbers). He's learned to blow kisses to everyone, with a winning smile and a loud kiss sound on the plump little palm. He hugs. He is easily charmed and collapses into body shaking belly laughs over the simplest thing-- such as my singing "Lena, Lena Fo-Fena..." (This is never-fail source of endless comedy.)
Meanwhile, on the darker side, he's taken to a) throwing things; b) hitting and c) kicking. I guess I should be glad that he ISN'T biting.. much. This is lucky! I really don't think he means to hurt anyone or break things, but he does. A few days ago, he broke a very nice glass pitcher that we got as a wedding present. Well, why did you let him play with it? You ask. We didn't. It was sitting safe and sound on the counter. Ben was holding Isaac, who was holding a butter knife. Then suddenly Isaac launched the butter knife with remarkable force. It hit the pitcher, punched a hole in it, and cranberry juice began to spread over the counter. At times like these, after all is cleaned up, Ben likes to smile secretively to me and whisper proudly, "The kid has a really good arm..."
Isaac also has repeatedly hit Ben in the face with a tractor. (Why Ben continues to lie on his back on the kitchen floor while Isaac is armed with said tractor remains a topic of debate.) At times both of us have questioned briefly whether our noses have actually broken by such an impact. I am especially vulnerable to being clubbed by Isaac's bowling-ball-like noggin while lying down with him to put him to sleep. Isaac suddenly decides that the grass is greener on the other breast and clamors over me to investigate. En route, his large and exceedingly hard head tends to collide with parts of my face, even as I duck and cover.
Also mealtimes are sort of a one-person food fight around here these days. Isaac doesn't feel a meal is complete if he doesn't hurl at least half the food and all the silverware and any stray dish that gets within reach onto the floor. I used to think that Isaac needed to wear a scuba suit to stay clean while eating. Now I think I myself should wear a scuba suit while feeding him. I always get covered in yogurt, applesauce, and whatever else is one hand. He takes great pleasure in this. We scold him firmly with each wind-up and pitch, but... what good does it do? The kid has to eat. He has to learn how to feed himself (and when focussing on the task he does wonderfully! he really can use his silverware well now). We can only hope that eventually he will grow out of this... that throwing food and dishes will one day lose its luster.
Also, okay, potty training is sort of underway around here. (He deliberately pooped in the potty the other night, all on his own!) That means that there are times, more and more, when Isaac is going around with no pants. Which means that tinkles and worse end up on the floor here and there, now and then. Sometimes he comes running in, yelling, "Mama! Mama!" and signing POTTY. Ah, yes, very exciting. Some potty has happened! Come and see!
Meanwhile, along with the food throwing, there is the refrigerator fetish. Isaac insists that the fridge be allowed to stand open for long, engine-wearing, electricity-gobbling intervals while he explores the contents to their fullest. He likes to taste things, and brings over bottles and jars. Such as... horseradish and capers. I let him taste them, and really he likes pretty much everything (except potatoes). He ADORES cod liver oil, brings me the bottle, eagerly shepherds me through the process of getting him a spoonful of it, gulps it down, and lustily signs MORE MORE MORE. It's great for his skin, and since he has a higher risk of eczema (since Ben had it) I let him have all he wants. Yum! (yuck.)
Anyway, the other night he was sans pants for a short time, AND climbing in the fridge (oh yes, he climbs onto the bottom shelf the better to reach the prime items up top) when the stars aligned and he PEED IN THE FRIDGE.
I found this convergence of events hard to justify to Ben, who was standing there agape. "He had a little diaper rash..." I began. I was going to say, "...so I was letting him go without his diapers for a little while..." But instead finished, "...so I thought I should let him pee in the fridge..." just as Ben was saying, "...so you let him pee in the fridge." At least we could laugh about it. (Lysol disposable wipes are my new best friend.)
He's also obsessed with "outside" as a general concept. I'm worried about him getting hit by a car-- we live between two busy streets and the alley has the occasional yahoo driving down it too fast also. Our walks around the neighborhood are getting to a stressful pitch, in which he won't hold my hand nor stay within reasonably close proximity to me. So, I've taken action: I bought him a harness and a leash.
Oh sure! Now you can walk Lena and Isaac side by side. Why not get a double leash!
But this is a special harness for toddlers. And they always do this in Europe. We'll be trend setters here. Americans have got to get with the program. You're seeing them more and more-- I recently saw one kid walking on a leash at the airport. I got this from a child safety catalogue, so there must be other buyers. And Penelope Leach, who is my main parenting guru, "the British Dr. Spock," advocates harnesses very clearly. She makes a thorough case for them as the best possible way to provide toddler safety and freedom at the same time.
I haven't tested it out yet, but I think today is the day!
Language-wise, he talks all the time, in great detail. He delivers long impassioned speeches, complete with emphatic gestures. It's just that most of it is not in English. It's like listening to an alien on Star Trek, when the Universal Translator is just kicking in. "Wad gak'n mumby NUTS dregt bop'm LENA actrgg sek gak'n WATER!" etc. A word here or there comes through, but it's sometimes awfully hard to even get the gist of what is the overall topic.
Also, sometimes when he's frustrated or needs to emphasize a point, he lies down on the floor. Okay, sometimes he throws himself down on the floor. This means, "I MEAN IT!" If he really, really means it and we're not responding properly, phase two is to start screaming and thrashing and thumping his head against the floor. (At which point someone has to pick him up, or else he will need a helmet!)
If he doesn't want a gate closed (always the case), he will lie down on the floor. If the gate gets opened again, he will stand up somewhat sheepishly and sort of dusts himself off. I think he's trained us using basic operant conditioning and I take it as another indication of his native intelligence.
In other news, I took our long-furred cat Zane Grey in for a hair cut today. Her hair is out of control and now with the warmer weather the clouds and mountains of shedding fur are already beginning. What the cat groomer does, I learned, if you just bring your cat in without any detailed idea of what you want, is automatically give the "lion cut." She now looks like a tiny lion. I will attempt to include a photo here, something I've been meaning to learn how to do:
<img alt="103-0349_IMG.JPG" src="http://dev.freeverse.com/blogs/catherine/103-0349_IMG.JPG" width="1024" height="768" border="0" />br> br> br> br>
Nice haircut! To complete the humiliation, try singing the Mr. Mistoffelees song from Cats whenever she walks into the room.
"Oh! Well I never! Was there ever
A cat so clever as magical Mr. Mistoffelees!"
She'll be begging Lena to eat her by the end of the week.br>
TITLE: 'Appy Mother's Day
DATE: 05/12/2004 03:44:23 PM br>
On Mother's Day one thing I wanted to do was find a heron rookery. This is a spot out in the woods where many herons (great blues in this case) come to nest. At this time of year you can go and see the babies peeking out of their big stick nests and all the tall stoic mothers mothering them. They are in the same location each year-- so much so that I've heard of one rookery where a parking lot has been built to accomodate all the people coming to see the herons.
I found out where a rookery is from a park ranger and Ben and I and Isaac set out to see it. This entailed driving a ways and then walking in about 3/4 of a mile on some train tracks. The ranger said that the train only comes twice a day and moves very slowly, so it's safe to walk right on the tracks. (Not stroller friendly, however!) It was a hot, sunny afternoon and Ben was carrying Isaac on his shoulders as we walked. On one side of us ran the Cuyahoga River and on the other side were some flooded woods (heron heaven). A very pretty walk, with lots of birds and even a couple cute garter snakes.
Along the way, all of the sudden, Isaac announced that he was happy. He said, "Appy!" in the cutest little Cockney accent. And Ben said, "Happy? Are you happy? So am I!" And Isaac said, "Appy!" The conversation went on like this for a while, warming hearts all around. Of course, I'm really not sure what Isaac meant by it. In fact, the other day he claimed to be happy immediately after bumping his head (while crying). But you never know-- he understands a lot these days, remembers a lot, and puts unexpected things together.
Last week we went to the Natural History Museum. There, amid so many other wonders, Isaac saw a live leopard gecko sleeping in a little house. (This type of gecko is nocturnal.) He was very taken with it, and as we made our rounds through the toddler hands-on play area, we had to make frequent stops at the gecko cage and peek in. The gecko was really quite cute, sleeping with his eyes shut and his chin resting on the floor of his aquarium. Isaac would sign SLEEP, point to him, and then rush over to climb up on this little stool and look in.
A few days later we were down at Isaac's grandparents' house, where they have a little tool shed on the edge of the yard. Isaac kept looking at it, pointing to it, and signing SLEEP. This baffled me for a few minutes, until I realized that the little shed looked quite a bit like the little house the gecko was sleeping in. It seemed that Isaac wanted to go and see the lizard-- a six-foot tall one? but Isaac has no sense of scale-- sleeping in his house. So we went to check. I took Isaac into the tool shed and there was nothing there to see but -- tools. However, this seemed to satisfy Isaac, to put the matter to rest. After he could see that there was no gecko, after I explained this all in detail, he didn't sign SLEEP or point at the shed anymore.
Yesterday it was our great good fortune to run across a man in our neighborhood with many aquariums (aquaria?) filled with none other than geckos! We were walking home from the grocery store last night and this guy had brought all these things out into the yard. He was selling baby snakes, which he had raised himself, and the geckos were just part of the show I guess (not for sale-- I asked.) In any case, Isaac got to see another gecko sleeping in another little house! This was... beyond good luck! Then just when it seemed it couldn't get any better, the man took out a few different (diurnal, wide awake) geckos and let Isaac touch them! You would think a little boy would be scared of such a lizard, but he wasn't. He wanted to be friends with them and to see them eat and sleep and do all their wonderful gecko things.
I talked with the guy for a while about gecko husbandry and the problem of cats and geckos in the same house. Bottom line: I think it would be nice to have a gecko! Maybe we'll get one. Some day.
Isaac learned how to say "gecko" on the way home.
Other accomplishments of our little amazing boy... he's been sleeping, like, pretty okay. On Mother's Day he gave me the best present in his power to give: six hours of solid sleep. He's been cutting teeth, which has been causing some problems too. And yet, he seems to have had some sort of breakthrough. He's been sleeping in his own bed, without waking up (or with waking up, but then just going back to sleep again) for ... reasonable periods of time. Like, six hours here or there. It's a wonderful thing. I hope it lasts.
Also, last night following an intense ten-minute tantrum (we're heading into the terrible/terrific twos I think), before which I lost my temper too and had to leave the room and send in reinforcements (poor tired Ben), I returned and simply patted Isaac on the stomach and he went to sleep! I mean... without nursing. I won't say it's a first, but almost. It was SO grown up of him. He really is getting to be such a big boy.
(How big? We just had him weighed and measured-- he's 31 inches tall and weighs in at a whopping 22 lbs.)
Earlier today he fell asleep in my lap, and then I was able to carry him to bed and just pat him to sleep again! This really is huge. If he learns to get to sleep without nursing at all this is a major step in his road to weaning.
I do think, too, while I'm on this topic, that he is weaning himself. It's just a gradual and steady thing. He's too busy most of the time to even think about nursing. He's on the go! He doesn't really think of nursing as "food" or "drink" anymore. But it still plays an important role in calming him down, and I think it helps so much in his ability to cope with the intense demands of his life right now. He pushes himself so hard to change, to learn to talk, to do all sorts of things, and stopping to nurse gives him a chance to feel safe and babied again. I think it makes it possible for him to take more risks and to challenge himself further. And it gives him a way to calm down when everything gets too overwhelming.
He's at such an interesting point, on this cusp of babyhood and boyhood. The other day, we went to the Great Lakes Science Center. It has a big play area for little kids, including this inflated sort of jumping thing-- sort of like a trampoline with walls? Anyway, five kids at a time can go inside it and jump around like crazy. Isaac was watching some kids do it and seemed very interested in it. One time several months ago, he and I went in it together when there was no one else around and he loved it. So I thought I would offer him to option of doing it. I helped him into the door of it when there was no one else in it. His response was to immediately come back out into my arms. Then, when I set him down on the floor, he started CRAWLING. Of course he hasn't crawled much at all in the last three months or more, since he started walking (and now he can run). I took this sudden regression to be a message-- it was "I'm still a baby! I can't do big kid things like that!" A message directed at me. I took it to heart. It's a delicate line between pushing him (which I don't want to do!) and offering him opportunities for growth. I crossed the line that time and he let me know it.
So-- so it goes with the weaning. I think the best approach for me and for him at this point is to keep the ball firmly in his court. This has worked beautifully with getting him into his own bed. We just made it available, and when he wanted to he went to it. Now he prefers it by a huge margin over our bed. He has started actually saying, "Nap," taking me by the hand, and leading me into his room so that I will put him down for a nap.
He's a very motivated, self-directed little person. I was thinking the other day that back before I had a child, my idealized child was an 18-month-old boy in overalls. Now I have Isaac and he fits this description to a T. It's yet another way he's a dream come true.br> br> br> br>
Sweet boy! Perhaps I can dig up my large collection of rubber geckos for Isaac's pleasure. They used to peek out from stacks of paper at various office jobs... br>
TITLE: A Dangerous Phase
DATE: 05/19/2004 06:09:54 PM br>
The other day we went to this huge garden center to get a bunch of plants and seeds. Spring! So full of hope and optimism! Such a far cry from last year's uncontrollable weed extravaganza, all forgotten now. It was a sprawling, multi-greenhouse affair on the intersection of two major roads. I didn't really have a sense of floor plan of the place. It seemed to be sort of interlocking greenhouses, one spilling into the next.
I put Isaac in the cart at first, but soon he insisted on walking. It seemed fairly safe-- and fun. He could walk under the tables full of plants; he could splash in puddles on the cement floor, watch a guy watering things with a hose, etc. However, he kept getting away from me. Far away. I had him right next to me, and then while I was considering which variety of tomatoes to get, he disappeared. I found him soon, on the opposite side of the room, with his leg well into a significant hole in the floor that was filled with muddy water. How deep was it? I don't know. I got him before he went all the way in, but it looked possibly deeper than his height. What would have happened if he fell all the way in?
However, this experience didn't put the fear of God in me as it should have. I just picked him up, offered thanks for his tiny Tevas (waterproof sandals) and went on with my shopping. Not long after this, I was standing there reading labels of seeds-- which lettuce, and why is there none of that wonderful mesclun mix like last year? This is what I was thinking about. Isaac was within sight, looking at a plastic owl with a real turning head.
Then I saw him head out of the room. I took off after him, but in my heart I thought it was just another greenhouse out there-- it didn't seem to be a real emergency at first. What I didn't realize was that there was a GAP between the greenhouses in this case. And that gap opened straight out onto a six-lane road full of traffic. I understood this as I came around the corner, and broke into a run. Isaac had a large head start, and when he saw me running for him, starting running away, incredibly fast, towards the traffic, laughing. I caught him maybe fifteen feet shy of the curb.
I scolded him at the time, and breathed a huge sigh of relief. But the real retroactive terror took hold later that night. What if I had stood there reading that seed package another thirty seconds before looking up? What if he was already around the corner and it took me a full minute to figure out which way he had gone?
These things can make you crazy.
Last night he discovered that one of the cabinets in our upstairs bathroom was imperfectly childproofed. Up until now, simply placing our rather heavy metal bathroom waste paper basket in front of it completely stymied him. Last night, he moved the basket aside, opened the cabinet, and began looking for hazardous materials. I got him before he ingested any, and then cleaned the cabinet out pending the installation of a childproof latch.
He's at this dangerous phase-- after mobility, before reason.
My step-mother told me recently of an incident when my brother Daniel was just this age. He was playing in the living room, and she was in the kitchen making dinner. She noticed that it got a little quiet in there, but finished what she was doing. When she came out into the living room, he was gone. She walked all through the first floor of the house before she realized that he must have gone out the front door. When she saw him, he was in the middle of the street. He had opened the latch and climbed down a flight of stairs and was headed to the playground across the way. She didn't know he could do any of these things on his own, and it didn't occur to her that he would leave the house like that. She got him before a car came-- but still!
I was just reading today-- in a People magazine at the hair salon, guilty pleasure-- a similar story from Mel Gibson (ugh). He was shopping with his two-year-old daughter, looked around and she was gone. He then saw her heading for a major street, waving to her babysitter who happened to be on the opposite side of the traffic, waiting for a bus. The little girl was heading for the babysitter and Mel Gibson was running through a crowded grocery store to stop her. He made it, just.
How to keep these little people safe through this phase? What can you do? There are so many, many, many and various possible ways for a child to be hurt. Our dog Lena ran out the front door and straight in front of a bus when she was a puppy (the famous response from the vet, checking the unharmed Lena out after the bus ran over her: "Little Lena got hit by a bus-- how's the bus?") But what if it was Isaac? What if in a moment of inattention the door was not latched? What if someone-- the cleaning lady, a guy here to fix something-- opened the upstairs window from the bottom up instead of the top down and Isaac fell out of it? To the pavement one story down? What if he reached up all the sudden and grabbed a boiling pot on the stove?
There's a whole industry devoted to safety. You can buy a product to stop all of these eventualities and many more you can't even think of. I have a catalogue right here that sells basically little Haz-Mat suits to protect your child from harmful UV rays at the beach, and offers locks for everything in your house, to say nothing of scald protectors, outlet covers, cord shorteners, innumerable gates and containment facilities ("the safest play yard ever!"-- it looks like a tank).
Should I just put the boy in a box and wait until he's four or so and can understand at least that there are rules to protect him that he must follow? Or 18? or 25? What I'm asking him to understand, in effect, is his own mortality-- something that people of all ages find impossible to truly grasp. Should I teach him that basically the world is just one giant peril and he'd best cower in his bed?
Obviously no-- he must be out and about experiencing things of all sorts. (On our recent visit to the doctor, they checked for bruises and scratches-- to make sure he had plenty! That is, to make sure he's active and learning things as he should be.) And all of these safety inventions are new, and yet the human race has survived and even flourished for millennia without them. I think most of us bear a scar or two from childhood hazards. When I reflect on the lack of childproofing in my native home-- well, it's absurd. Start with drowning in the river, go on to getting run over by a train, lost in underground caves, beset by unfriendly dogs, and then taken by passing hobos with ill intent. In just one example, someone came upon my cousin and me, playing King of the Hill on a pile of snow. On one side of the hill, it was maybe a six-foot slope to the street, on the other side, a fifty foot slide to the frozen river.
And yet-- here we are.
This is to say that I find it difficult to strike a balance. I desperately want Isaac to get through this phase in one piece. I am trying my hardest to anticipate and intervene upon all possible hazards. But at the same time, I realize that it's impossible to predict them all. You just can't foresee what a child will come up with or what will happen.
When I was about 9 months old, for instance, I stood up in my crib for the first time. I was also just learning how to drink from a cup. So I took my mother's Five-Day Deodorant Pads (back in the days before roll-ons and aerosols and sticks, I guess), and drank the liquid. I had to have my stomach pumped. I really don't think anyone saw that coming-- or could have.
As I mentioned before I got him a little leash and harness. I should have had it with me at the garden center the other day. I should now begin to make it a routine part of our life. Tonight I took him for a walk on it, with Lena on her own leash. It didn't work very well, due to the extreme difference in walking speeds and points of interest. But when I put Lena back in the house and just took Isaac out on it, it worked well. It seems to be designed to pull him back onto his bum harmlessly if he goes too far. This happened a few times, mostly because I couldn't anticipate his directional plans. But otherwise he seemed okay with it.
We walked over to the corner restaurant and had dinner together, al fresco. (Ben was doing something else tonight.) Isaac was so good! He loved his dinner of chicken quesadilla and his drink-- fresh squeezed apple juice with cranberry and ginger (a "pelican kiss"). (His response to guacamole, however, reminded me of Tom Hanks eating caviar in "Big.") He loved watching all the cars, trucks (which he has adorably taken to calling "duckies"), and people. One young woman came by with her incredibly shining Platonic Ideal of a new bike-- bright blue and yellow with a banana seat and high handle bars with big tassels. Isaac stood and admired, petted, that bike. Turned and walked on, but then was pulled back to admire it some more. He needs to be in the world like this.
I expected that people would make snide remarks about his leash and harness, but no one said anything more than the usual "He's so cute!" and "He's so good!" Really no one batted an eye about the leash, I'm pleased to report. They didn't even mention it. After dinner we walked around the neighborhood a little bit. We played with an adorable golden Lab puppy, handled the dirt of some unplanted flower boxes, and dipped into a few mud puddles. All this went on within striking distance of the street, but I was much more comfortable with Isaac tethered to my belt. He simply couldn't break away from me and throw himself under a passing Volkswagon.
Another new trend which I am not too pleased with is basically unconventional drinking habits-- such as, placing one's lips on the surface of the lid of a bucket in the garden and sucking up mud and rain water with self-satisfied slurping sound. Or, throwing cat water onto a none-too-clean throw rug and then sucking the rug! Ugh! Or simply dumping water on the floor and lying prone to suck it up, like an armless person drinking from a stream. And don't get me started on the bathwater drinking, wash cloth sucking and high jinx with the potty.
Revolting. Must be stopped. But ... probably not fatal. I must pick my battles and focus on keeping the kid alive and unharmed.
Why mothers get gray!br> br> br> br>
Ah, yes--motherhood! It's true it's a wonder any of us live to grow up. When I was a kid, there were hazards galore--and often no supervision ,etc. It does tend to create competent children (if they survive--). I think you were a pretty sensible child, mostly. But Isaac--well, I'm glad you got him a leash!
You might work out a game of "run and stop!", just to sort of teach him a command--I don't know if that would work, but you could play it in the park, and make it fun, and offer lots of praise. He may not really know what "stop" ( or "come back" ) even means.
Meanwhile--keep that leash handy! Don't leave home without it! br>
The Catholic Church puts the age of reason at seven.
I am thinking this may be incredibly liberal, especially what with neurologists saying that teenagers' brains are bowls of mush. Granted, Noeli is only three and a half, but she uses her superior intelligence to push push push those rules. If in a moment of maternal flexibility she is allowed to step onto the tree lawn, how far may she go on the tree lawn? What if she's hanging like a pole dancer on the crippled hawthorn tree the city saw fit to saddle us with? If the curb is curved, how far may her foot creep down that curve? May she play in the neighbor's driveway, although lo, cars traverse it? If so, how far down onto the apron may she go? If she climbs in the curb side of an open car, may she open the other door? May she play with the latch? May she touch the latch? May she touch the latch while exerting subtle pressure and twinkling merrily to distract her poor desperate mother? What if she leans on the door, fiddling with the latch behind her back?
I'm terrified. You know that ole chestnut - having children is consenting to having your heart walk around outside your body for as long as you live? Until she's headed shrieking for the busy parking lot with the stolen candy and a solid lead, you don't realize what a serious and ignored public health hazard this really is. This, I swear, is the real reason to have your babies young. I'm not sure my 33-year-old heart can take it.
The real danger is the development of a robust perversity once the babe figures out that not everything you say will happen, happens. The stove is not always hot! (IKEA's stainless stove shield is reasonably attractive, and has the unheralded side effect of keeping stove geck off the belly). That cat crossed the street and was not broken and died with lots of blood and had to go to the sem-i-TARE-ee! It's didn't have that happen, MOHM! You told me and it didn't have thats happen! You telled me and it isn't TRUE!
By the way, there was a salamander man at Hessler yesterday. br>
By the way, that death-trap garden center sounds like Hirts. Forgive me for not warning you. I gave them what fer about the gap last time (it's not always there) and can't believe they didn;t just DO something about it. br>
TITLE: March of Dimes Walk
DATE: 05/20/2004 06:52:20 PM br>
I forgot to let you all know the final results of our March of Dimes walk on May 2. In typical Cleveland fashion it was 45 degrees and a driving rain, but otherwise a warm and wonderful event. They shortened the walk, kindly enough, and we also got to meet Slider -- the giant purple mascot of the Cleveland Indians. Isaac was really impressed with him! And got a high (low) five from the big furry purple hand. Also I just found out today (which reminded me of the whole thing) that the three of us were seen on the local news that night-- wet and in our raincoats but it high spirits.
Most importantly we raised a whopping $560! Our goal was only $150, most of which we planned to give ourselves. We only had a week to fund-raise and we didn't know what to expect. We were so touched by the outpouring of support from people far and wide.
Thanks, thanks, thanks to all who gave!br> br> br> br>
TITLE: Cat Naps are not the Enemy and other Research Findings
DATE: 05/25/2004 08:05:20 AM br>
Back when Isaac was a newborn, I remember saying to a friend of mine, "I can't wait until he's three months old and starts sleeping through the night." (I had read this in one of my books!) My friend is a mom of a seven- and a four-year-old. She replied, "You mean YEARS?"
Recently it came to my attention that Isaac is now 19 months old and still not all that great a sleeper. Every couple weeks he pulls one of these all-nighters-- waking up around 1 a.m. and staying up until 5 a.m. or so. And his "schedule" is all over the map, no two days the same, so it's impossible to plan anything. This is tiresome in more ways than one. So I just decided to do an information gathering sleep study to see what was going on. I tracked his sleep for about six weeks-- aren't highlighters empowering at times like these?
Then a few days ago I compiled the results. I gathered up all the days leading to a night of horrible sleep on one page, and then all the days leading up to great sleep on another page, and set them side by side. What works and what does not work? Then I pulled the data apart in different ways. How many total hours of sleep on average for each? How long of naps? How many naps? What time for bedtime? etc., etc. What I learned was that long daytime naps are the killer. Same goes for early bedtimes. What Isaac needs to sleep well through the night is a few small cat naps throughout the day-- none longer than an hour and a half-- and then a LATE bedtime, ideally 10:30 or later.
This is what the data show. It's not what I expected, but there it is. I was so focussed on the "when" he was sleeping, I lost sight of the "how long." Since Friday I've been implementing these learnings (as they used to say in corporate America, to my horror) and basically it's working pretty well. We've had a good run of several solid (pretty solid) nights. The only hardship is waking up an exhausted boy who desperately wants to continue napping. This is something I've never been comfortable doing in the past, but now armed with hard facts, I'm trying it.
You see-- back in the early days of this parenting project, I read many of the array of available "get your baby to sleep" books. I read, to name a few: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, by Marc Weissbluth, M.D.; The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley; Nighttime Parenting by William Sears, M.D.; and Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems by Richard Ferber, M.D. Other general books like Your Baby and Child by Penelope Leach and What to Expect the First Year also have major sections on sleep, which I read.
As a group they basically formed a cacophony of conflicting advice and left me sort of back where I started, i.e., following instincts and trying to do what was best for Isaac specifically. Weissbluth and Ferber are both hardcore cry-it-out-ists. Dr. William Sears (father of 8 and pediatrician) is a major attachment parenting figure who favors co-sleeping and goes into painful detail about the harm crying it out can do. (My bete noire Mothering magazine recently did an article about this also.) Eliz Pantley is in his camp, but tries to offer mothers some options for getting a little bit more sleep while nursing and co-sleeping.
But although I despised much of what Weissbluth had to say, for some unknown reason I took two of his statements to heart: "Never wake a sleeping baby"; and "Sleep begets sleep" (that it's harder for a child to sleep well at night if he's really overtired). These two statements have mislead me for about a year. It turns out that in Isaac's case the exact opposite is true on both counts. I must wake him if he's sleeping too long in the daytime. He sleeps best at night if he's pretty darn tired.
Yesterday I feared that we had been foiled by a prolonged morning nap, about 9-12. The problem was that I fell asleep too and thus did not wake Isaac. But we both have colds and maybe in this case we needed more sleep. We then spent the afternoon in the garden. I spread out this black fabric stuff to keep the weeds down, and Isaac helped with the digging. I planted the plants I bought at the death-trap of a garden center some days ago. Isaac helped with making a swamp out of wood chips and manure, and then he helped by falling down in it and getting covered from head to toe in this mixture.
When we got home from this (and after we both had baths and clean outfits), he fell asleep again. He seemed exhausted from his afternoon working in the fields, but woke up fairly naturally at the one-hour mark. He and Ben went on a fun outing after dinner, to the bookstore and the museum. They got home around 9:00 p.m. and Isaac was on overdrive. I wondered whether or when he would ever sleep again. But then, around midnight, he went to sleep quite easily. He slept soundly until about 6 a.m., without even a peep. Or at least, without waking me up by calling "Mommy!" from his room (and shaking the gate emphatically). This morning he has gone down for a timely morning nap, starting around 11:00 a.m. I have the sense that he will want to sleep a long, long time, but I think I will try to wake him around 12:30 when our babysitter comes.
So-- maybe the code of sleep has been cracked. I'm hopeful that we've just turned the corner at last.br> br> br> br>
I just want to say that the real solution is to make it through a colic nightmare intact enough to guilt-trip the kid forever. Noeli is into me so deep on the sleep front that she has been uncharacteristically cooperative about nighttime, generally hunkering down around 11-11:30 and waking at 8:30-9.
This is what I will be choosing to remember, thank you.
I think if I play this right she may actually meet curfew when she's fifteen.
Oh - oh - her poor dolly - where did she learn about hanging?br>
God I'm so lucky my kids are good sleepers. I've never read any of those books, but believe I'm in the "let them cry it out" camp. So...sounds like I've caused lots o' damage as per Sears. I'll probably pay during the teenage years -- is it the whole abandonment thing then? God, I guess I don't really want to know.
What I'm discovering is that their predelictions and skills (such as sleeping) have so little to do with me. Lucy loves walking around in bright purple and silver barbie pumps (a gift from her cousin at Christmas -- they really look like terrible Candie slides). She is into all the girlie stuff despite my best efforts to show her (by example of course) that women don't have to care much about how they look. You really start wondering where this stuff comes from.br>
DATE: 06/03/2004 10:57:18 AM br>
Proving yet again that children are their own people from the start, Isaac's fondness for trucks has blossomed into an obsession. By contrast, I myself am really not all that interested in construction equipment. In fact, when all those wonderful wheel dozers and backhoes are plying their trade anywhere in my proximity, I'm actually irritated-- if you can believe that-- by the noise and dirt and chaos they bring.
I speak now with the recent experience of watching 400 consecutive screenings of "There Goes A Bulldozer!" It's part of this "There Goes A..." series, in which a guy named Dave drops in in various situations and learns all about it. (We actually own "There Goes A Firetruck!") Finally Construction Foreman Dave and his sophomoric antics drove me crazy and I took it back to the library. (At one point he goes into a Port-A-Potty on the construction site, and then... get this... the construction workers hook it up to a crane, with Dave in it, and cart him away through the sky! As this is about to happen, Isaac will say "Oh-oh!" And then, when Dave comes out of the potty, he has toilet paper stuck to his boot! I'm sure this absolutely slays the 7-year-olds in the audience...)
But knowing that I would have to have something to replace it, I came home with "I Love CAT Machines!" -- Parts 1, 2, and 3. Yes-- it's a three-volume VHS exploration of the wonderful creations of the Caterpillar company. It is better than many in that it gets right to the point: big machines pushing dirt and rocks! It's narrated by a child, which I like, and it has pleasing digressions, such as a visit to Yellowstone Park with nice shots of woods and waterfalls, and then... of course... the CAT machines hacking it down to build a road. I also got, sigh, "There Goes a Dump Truck!" and "There Goes a Tractor!" (which I like a little better-- I mean, farming is almost like gardening, right?)
While I was at the library, I also got Isaac two pretty decent trucks to play with. One is sort of like an excavator (side note: I really am getting to learn all the names of all the different vehicles), the other a wheel dozer. One of them came with a little yellow hardhat that reads, "Little Engineer." Isaac is fond of the hat; puts it on and admires himself in the mirror, this way and that, in open vanity. It's the only hat in the history of the world that he actually likes to wear... and likes to have me model for him also. He will hand it to me and command: "Mama!" As if to say, "Take it away, Mama!" As if I will don the hardhat and start doing a little of the old soft shoe. I think he would appreciate it if I would just wear the little yellow hardhat all the time.
He calls trucks (and all construction vehicles) "duck-in-ay!" So he will ask for his video, or his toys that way. He used to say simply, "Ducky" but for some reason he's expanded it to three syllables lately.
I'm very happy to report that they are tearing up the streets all over our neighborhood right now. I think they are working on either gas or water lines. The other day we were on our way to work in the garden, and we came upon none other than an excavator and a dump truck! Digging a big hole in the street! With several ACTUAL guys in hard hats and orange vests all around the project! We sat and watched this awesome sight for a long, long time. Isaac patted his head and said "hat" repeatedly. Their wonderful hard hats! I could tell that he longed for his, and I regretted not bringing it. After a while, though, we had to go. Isaac was holding a small wheel dozer in his hand. He waved it to the construction guys, and they smiled and waved back.br> br> br> br>
TITLE: The Diaper Chronicles, con't: Past Break-Even
DATE: 06/03/2004 12:27:00 PM br>
I just wanted to post an update on the whole diaper situation around here. Veterans of my blog will remember that several months ago I did a comprehensive study of non-disposable diapering systems. I was trying to break us out of the grip of constantly buying those big horrible plastic packs of diapers and constantly toting loads of chemicals, plastic, and raw sewage to the curb. I tested I think six different kinds (you can see this report in the archives, Oct., 2003) and settled on the wonderful high-tech Fuzzi Bunz. I gulped and spent $250 on a set of 15 of them, and launched my new life as an official non-disposable diapering mother.
Well, it's almost eight full months later, and all is well. I still love my Fuzzi Bunz. It's been about 30 weeks. Picture 30 bloated garbage bags full of dirty diapers, lined up along your street. Now picture them all vanishing into thin air. That's the wonderful environmental non-impact of using the Fuzzi Bunz. Now cost out $15 a week, times 30 weeks. That's $450, my friend. We're already $200 in the black and these Fuzzi Bunz still are fitting Isaac on the smallest set of snaps! I think they may take us the distance all the way to potty training. He's growing like crazy, but more UP, weed-like, than out. So he's just not outgrowing the Fuzzi Bunz.
So now, what you really want to know: how disgusting is it? How filthy? How much back-breaking labor? First, a dose of reality. When changing diapers, you must in some way deal with poop. So too when cleaning up after your dog, or changing the cat box. Poop is a part of the equation. Thus the question becomes how it compares to the other diapering options. Not badly, all in all. Most diaper changes, of course, are wet only and a breeze. Many of the poopy ones are easy to handle. The little paper liner things, I've learned, are a must. They... most of the time... not always... do a great job of entrapping the poop and separating it with ease from the fleecy inner part of the Fuzzi Bunz. The liner and the poop flush away together (it's biodegradable and flushable) and all is comparably easy to dealing with a disposable. Now and then-- I won't sugar coat it-- something goes awry. A wardrobe malfunction if you will. Either the paper thingy (our brand is Diaperaps, available at babybellebottoms.com) gets wrinkled up to one side, or whatever. Stickage ensues, and some swishing may be needed! (Aha! You knew it!) But most of the time, honestly, the technology does its job, there is no stickage and the poop is flushed easily away to its rightful resting place. The wet but totally non-chunky diaper goes into the diaper pail and on to the laundry.
As for the laundry aspect, since the advent of the automatic washer and gas dryer, it's really quite easy. Just an extra load about every third day. Another accessory that has helped is the hanging diaper pail. It's just a cloth bag, made of the same stretchy, waterproof fabric as the outer layer of the Fuzzi Bunz themselves. This hangs on the doorknob in his room. (I also got a little portable version of this for the diaper bag.) It's sort of elastic on the top, so it's always closed. Isaac can't get into it, and since the poop is all flushed away, it really has none of that signature diaper pail stench. The really good part about it is that it just goes into the wash with the diapers each time, so "cleaning the diaper pail" is not a separate (and presumably unsavory) step.
The wash itself is a little more complicated than straight laundry, but not much. The extra "work" of it simply entails returning to the machine periodically and turning the knob again. ("But how do you find the time??!" I find it.) I pre-rinse the load in cold water, using a hand wash cycle that's short. Then I wash them in hot on a long cycle, and I finish up with an extra rinse. Soap residue is constant concern to the Fuzzi Bunz makers, who worry about the soap's impact on absorbency. They recommend this special soap, called Allen's Naturally, which I use. It's insanely concentrated, such that literally one tablespoon does a whole load of diapers. I add a little bit of lavender oil, which makes them smell fresh.
Dry in the dryer-- a two-phase proposition also, because the super absorbent inserts take longer to dry than the ultra wicking outer part-- and then reassemble. Putting the little inserts into the pockets takes about five minutes, and that's it. Non-heinous! Then I have a stack of clean, bright, cozy one-piece diapers all stacked and ready to go. Actually putting the one-piece diaper on the boy is pretty much the same as a disposable. Instead of tape or velcro there are snaps, big whoop.
This is not to say that there is no place for disposables in our life whatsoever. I'm not a Luddite. On vacation, yes, I use disposables. As a back-up for moments when we're briefly out of clean Fuzzi Bunz, okay. I buy a pack of eco-friendly disposables... quarterly? Something like that.
All in all, I'm so glad I made the leap. I can only say I wish I had done it sooner and that we didn't have a whole year of solid disposable use staining our hands. I wish that there were not 18 billion disposable diapers sold and used each year (this is an actual stat) in our country. I could go on in soapbox fashion, but I won't. We're past break-even. I'm happy. Isaac's healthy. And that's the main point. br> br> br> br>
TITLE: Daddy is not a transvestite
DATE: 06/24/2004 03:40:15 AM br>
The other day I made a thoroughly misguided attempt to shop for formal wear with Isaac in tow. I have no idea, in retrospect, why it seemed like it could possibly work. I guess it was that in my mind this was not "shopping" per se, but mere reconnaissance. I didn't anticipate even trying anything on. I just wanted to get a sense of what was out there. My sister-in-law is getting married in a few months and I will need something to wear to the black tie affair. My vision was that I would hold Isaac while I strolled through the racks, or that he would sit quietly in his stroller looking at a book or playing with his truck. This was not the case, of course. He screamed and struggled violently to get out of the stroller or out of my arms and then, once free, ran away at top speed. He seemed especially focussed on throwing himself upon the mercy of the escalator, while repeating "Up... down... up .... down" in the manner of one demented.
At one point in Saks he miraculously did sit down on the floor and play with his truck. During this interlude I looked at a few items, quickly noting that the choices were either a) dowager, b) prom queen or c) obscenely expensive (I saw one blouse that I thought was sort of okay... it was $700). While my back was turned, Isaac found himself drawn magnetically to these mannequins They wore long formal dresses in chiffon. A white chiffon dress descended into a froth of little fluttery chiffon disks. The peach gown beside it cascaded in wispy tiers. Isaac stood by one of them, took her by the hand and said in a loud clear voice, "DADDY!"
This put me in something of an awkward position. I rushed over and explained equally loudly, "No, that's not for daddy. It's for MOMMY to wear." To which Isaac replied emphatically, "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!" while nuzzling his face in the fluffy skirts. After a few minutes of this going-nowhere conversation, I picked him up and began carting him away. Apparently that was the wrong approach. He began to scream at a new piercing volume, reaching back towards the mannequins in their gowns as if he were being wrestled from his actual daddy's loving arms, "Daaaadeeee! My dadddeeeeee!"
Oh well. The whole afternoon was flawed from the start.
* * * *
The foregoing was written at 3:00 a.m. a few days ago. I'm actually surprised to see it is as coherent as it is. That night, Isaac went to sleep beautifully at 10:30 p.m. and all seemed normal. Then he woke up at 1:30 a.m. and proceeded to stay awake and insanely hyper until I took him for a walk in the stroller about 8:00 a.m.! To say it was brutal hardly captures the death-march exhaustion of it. I think it was all the more shocking because he's been doing so, so well.
The new research-based program we launched a month or so ago (basically it consists of very skimpy daytime naps, waking him up if they go too long, and a late, late bedtime) has been working! Last night, for one shining example, he went to sleep at 10:30 (this is gelling into his optimum bedtime) and slept like a rock-- by himself in his own bed -- until about 5:00 a.m. Six and a half solid...! Then I went in and nursed him and cuddled him for a while and he went back to sleep for another two hours. Really-- this is doable. I can get a long fine like this.
We are still trying to figure out what caused the wipe-out the other night. His sleep that day was fairly normal. My main suspicion is over stimulation (option two is teeth, which are always a possibility). That day we went to the market in the morning, which is a bustling place. Then after lunch and nap we went to see the Big Machines (trucks!) at the Science Center-- an exhibit where the kids can actually get in the cabs of bulldozers and diggers and whatnot and do the levers-- and then after dinner we went to this ice cream social in our local park.
I think it was the ice cream social that really put him over the top. He didn't eat any ice cream, mind you (he ate an empty sugar cone, which he liked a lot), so it wasn't sugar-induced dementia, but he ran and ran and RAN around the infield with many kids. He's really into running, now that he's mastered speed without falling (or falling much). He loves to go fast! And shouts, "Running!" (wunneee!) as he rushes by in serpentine patterns. He played ball with his daddy, nearly got run over by several big kids on bikes, and did get hit in the head with the feet of another child who was on the swing at the time and couldn't stop.
The impact from the swing knocked Isaac flat on his back on the playground surface, really scared him, and gave him matching bumps on the front and back of his head. That the swinger was his friend, a wonderful three-year-old girl whom he constantly insults by calling "Baby," made it all the more stunning. It was our fault! Three adults stood motionless while the accident played out, one of whom was of course ME. It all happened in slow motion, and yet I didn't have time to respond. Since then, Isaac has been replaying it in his mind, processing it, talking about Baby and the impact and the ground and the swing, and getting scared and upset all over again.
It's similar to the trauma of seeing our cat, Zane Grey, getting put into her cat carrier and taken for a ride in the car, and coming back looking like another cat entirely (serious haircut). He hasn't really gotten over it somehow, and still a few months later occasionally brings it up by meowing and signing car and getting upset all over again. I try on these occasions to emphasize that the cat is home now and upstairs sleeping in her bed, but I worry that he's not 100% convinced that this IS his cat! He may think that we "took the cat for a ride" in such a way that she never came back. I'm not sure about this, but I digress.
Anyway, I think the whole ice cream social experience, along with just being in this whirling sea of neighborhood kids, bikes and balls, blew out a circuit or two in Isaac's head, which I'm pretty sure was the source of the sleep disturbance. That night I feared that it was a major falling apart of our program and that it would take forever to get back on track, but it wasn't, thank god. He's doing well again now and we're making great strides.
In other news... you know a toy is a hit with a child when he insists on bathing with it despite the fact that it's not a bath toy, and sleeping with it despite its noticeable lack of cuddliness. I am speaking of course of TRUCKS.
There's a purveyor of English Pasties (little meat pies) at the market who also has a young son named Isaac. When I'm buying bread at the stall next to hers, I often chat with her and compare notes. The other day I was there with Isaac who was playing with a mini-excavator in his stroller. I said, "Does your Isaac love trucks?" She replied, "Oh! He sits and GAZES at pictures of trucks with such love in his eyes. We ask him, 'Who loves you?' and he says, 'Mommy, Daddy, trucks...'" I told her about the truck exhibit going on this week and she literally GOT GOOSE BUMPS thinking about how incredibly wonderful this would be, and then instantly called her husband on her cell phone to tell him to take the other Isaac there with all deliberate speed.
Ah, trucks... Isaac and his daddy are at the truck exhibit right now, as we speak! Today is the last day. There are a dozen big machines on the lawn over there, with volunteer actual construction workers (many of whom are women, I'm happy to report) standing by to explain how to run the things. Many of them have their engines on and you can move the huge wheel loader bucket skyward, dig in a dumpster full of mulch with the mini-excavator, reach up to an imaginary second floor with the jumbo forklift, and many other things. Isaac's favorite thing, I think, is simply turning the steering wheel of a fairly unexciting tractor.
If he were a college student, he would be a major in trucks, with a minor in farm animals. His latest interests on that front are a) donkeys (he has a pretty good bray) and b) roosters. He started lately saying, "hutu!" which gave me pause-- you mean the Rwandan tribe responsible for the wholesale slaughter of the Tutsis? No... he means "rooster." He just pronounces it, "hutu" and it took me a while to get that figured out.
A few days ago our playgroup got rained out (again!) and I ended up going to the zoo with Isaac and 4 million other mothers and children looking for a good rainy day activity. This entailed parking very far away and slogging zooward on foot with wet slow moving crowds. I thought it was going to be miserable in the Rainforest building (the main indoor part), packed as it was. And for me... well, I WAS sort of miserable dealing with the hoards. But Isaac wasn't. He loves a crowd. He had such a good time, seeing the monkeys and the cats (whose sounds he sometimes interchanges most charmingly), the snakes and lizards and all the bugs! (He has a bug house, which we have stocked with bugs -- catch and release-- a few times. We had a great spider in there and later a wonderful firefly who turned on its light for us.)
While we were there, I was rather tiredly carrying Isaac on one hip and driving the stroller with one hand through the teaming masses. Isaac had his arm thrown over my shoulder and patted me affectionately from time to time. Then he got into a kissing mood. He kept looking around at me, saying, "Mommy!" in sheer delight and giving me a sweet little kiss right on the lips. I think he was saying basically, "I get to see all this-- all these kids and all these animals-- while my mommy carries me, and what could be better?!"
Seeing him that happy, I had to ask myself the same question.br> br> br> br>
"and did get hit in the head with the feet of another child who was on the swing at the time and couldn't stop."
What a delicate way to say CREAMED. I'm still having shuddering flashbacks about not getting it and catching him and am so sad to hear it's an ongoing trauma for him.
Noeli brushed off every injury until the big gash in her knee at 2.5, and still quavers sometimes when repeating her lots of blood - special doctor - STITCHES! litany. Oh, it breaks my heart :(br>
TITLE: Beyond My Wildest Dreams of Avarice
DATE: 07/01/2004 09:03:00 AM br>
Are you sitting down? Isaac has done something amazing and unprecedented. The night before last, he went to bed at about midnight. Then slept, solid, without a peep of any kind, until 9:00 a.m.! Do you see what I mean? Nine hours, at night, solid, no nursing, no nothing! Just sleeping away in his own bed. Indeed when I woke up to the little voice of "Mama!" my first reaction was that the clock must be wrong. Then other clocks solemnly corroborated the story. I spent the day in a state of euphoria.
Last night was less successful, but still not bad. He went to bed without the slightest struggle at 10 p.m., woke up about 1:30 a.m. for a little while, and then slept until about 6:30. This wasn't the source of wild delight for me, because I couldn't sleep during some of the hours he was sleeping and thus am not on a sleep high like yesterday, but I've noticed that he tends to alternate good and not-as-good nights. But the trend! The trend is incredible. Only 20 months later... sleeping through the night at least sometimes!
On the communication front, he continues to add words by the score. He still uses a lot of signing, but is phasing over to speech as he gets better at it. Here's a brief glossary of Isaac-speak at the moment:Noddy: nursing
Knocky: milk or nursing
Now/nowy: cat (meow)
Doo-doo: train (choo-choo)
Fuck: Fox (I was quite relieved when I figured this out)
Doot: dirt (sand)
Hot tea: hot tea
Pa: Paternal Grandpa
Baby: anyone under fourteen
Hohss: garden hose
Num-num: food, yummy
G'n-g'n (a sound in your throat, sort of like a bullfrog): ice cream
Bopff: grapes, raisins, or dried fruit
The other day I discovered Isaac standing beside the ottoman in our TV room. There was a curious substance on it. I said, almost to myself, "What's that?" Isaac's reply was concise, clear, and accurate: "Poop," he said.
While we're on the topic of poop, an odd situation is afoot. He has this book called "Where's the Poop?" in which you lift the flaps and under some of them you find something such as a birdy or a tiger and under others you find some rather artistically rendered poop of the animal in question. For some reason these depictions of poop looked rather TASTY to Isaac and he started saying, "Num-num!" when he saw them. So of course I pointed out that poop is NOT num-num by any means. And so now he says in effect "poop not num-num" whenever poop in mentioned. Then he started testing this theory by trying to get his stuffed duck to partake of his diapers (clean, thank god). I find it rather puzzling and am not sure how to strike the right balance between emphasis and horror.
Sometimes he makes unexpected connections, homonyms or puns, like when I offered him "sorbet," and he responded by doing "So Big!" Or when I offered him "cereal" and he came back with the sign for "seal." He neighs for horseradish and signs "apple" for pineapple. It's understandable, and cute.
He's good at telling detailed narratives. For instance, the other day I came home from my flute lesson to hear an apparently fanciful story about how a sheep had bitten Isaac on the hand while I was gone, causing an owie. This seemed rather hard to believe, seeing as he had been home with the babysitter in an densely developed urban area and I had been gone for only an hour. But he kept saying it, "Heep" while signing SHEEP and then signing "pain" and saying "Owie" and indicating his fingers. Hmmm... Soon the babysitter explained an improbable turn of events. At the community center at the end of our block, a bunch of farm animals were trucked in for a mobile petting zoo for the kids attending summer day camp. There were sheep, goats, rabbits, and many chickens, geese, etc. She walked down the alley with Isaac to let him see the animals. He was on the opposite side of a tall chain link fence, but one of the ladies inside brought a sheep over to the fence to let Isaac touch it. He was patting it through the fence and soon the sheep began to nibble on his fingers! Owie! Yes-- it was all true!
I'm so impressed with him that he was able to convey to me a story of this complexity. What a clever boy! br> br> br> br>
TITLE: Airplane, an anniversary
DATE: 09/08/2004 01:31:26 PM br>
A year ago on Labor Day, Isaac signed his first sign. At that momentous moment, he was seated in his high chair in our kitchen. A fighter jet roared over the house as a part of an airshow, and he signed "airplane!"
This year he was seated in the same high chair in the same spot when another jet roared over head with the annual airshow. Instead of signing, he yelled in delight, "Airplane! Big! Wow!" And then began asking (with nods to encourage us to agree), "See? See?" (meaning, Can I see it?) His language skills have blossomed in the last couple months. I wouldn't say he's speaking in sentences, but he uses a lot of three-word phrases. Like "all done eating," "dumping the water," and "under the bed," and "marker: have it?"
He repeats pretty much everything we say, or at least the last word of it. Like when I screamed at him (for perhaps obvious reasons) "Don't bite me!" and he yelled back, "Bite me!" He even takes a stab at words many adults would balk at, such as "axylotl." (It's an aquatic salamander we saw recently at his grandma's house.) At times his misprounciations can be troublesome, such as a conversation we had recently at the zoo:
It's so fun to be able to communicate with him this well. He obviously understands a great deal more than he can say, such that we can explain things to him in detail. It helps a lot with his frustration and impatience, because so often he CAN have whatever it is, but it's a case of waiting a short time. If he wants to "drive the wheel" (sit behind a steering wheel of a parked vehicle), maybe we have to first change diapers, put on shoes, and walk out to the car. It's hard to get all this accomplished while he's screaming and struggling, "Driving the wheel! Driving the wheel!" But sometimes it works to tell him that YES it will happen soon.
I wonder if he has a sense of past, present and future yet? He seems at least to have a good grasp of the past. While we were visiting Minneapolis recently we went to the state fair. Isaac seemed to have something like a phobia of being inside the livestock buildings, which only became apparent after we tried a couple. He loves farm animals, so it seemed like it would be fun. But shortly after we walked into the Swine building, he started crying. Due to crowds and logistics we couldn't get out immediately and I think this upset him a great deal. A little while later we tried to go and see the cows and later the horses. Each time, he would get distraught about ten feet into the building and start screaming. Eventually we had to let go of our plan to see all the animals with him and accept that he hated it inside those buildings for some reason. That day he learned the word "scary" and I think also learned something about his own vulnerability to peril.
Since then he has been a little bit more clingy in unfamiliar situations and labeled things as scary that didn't seem to bother him in the past, such as bees. Now and then he still talks about the scary buildings. In fact the word "building" seems in itself to indicate a scary thing. He'll say "building! scary! loud!" when the memory comes to mind. He'll also say "Cows! Scary! Big!" in a similar way. I try to honor his fears and do what I can to return him to a comfortable situation.
I think he's dreaming a lot, and sometimes his dreams scare him. The other day he woke up crying, while simultaneously saying and signing "tiger." Another time he woke up crying and saying, "water!" (It seemed like in the dream he was not being allowed to play in the water.) But having these clues to his psyche helps a lot in terms of understanding what he's upset about.
Of course I don't want him to be an overly fearful and anxious child, but a good side to this recent epiphany is that he seems more cautious as to his own safety. This is wonderful-- he now will stop in his tracks if I yell "Hot!" (while he runs towards a working barbecue grill) or take a moment to make sure someone is there to catch him before he leaps from a high platform on the playground. He seems to trust me now when I say something could hurt him, and to take the risk seriously. I couldn't be happier about this. The totally mobile and totally oblivious stage was very stressful.
I haven't posted a new entry in over two months, as many of you have noted. It's been a combination of travelling a lot and being afflicted with this annoying ailment Fifth Disease. It's not harmful, but it has been causing me a lot of discomfort especially in my right hand and right shoulder, which makes keying unpleasant. Even now after six irrititating weeks of it I'm working mostly with my left hand. So-- that's the explanation... Still a little more travelling coming up this month and then home for long stretches. I'll get back to blogging more regularly when things settle down.
It's an exciting time Isaac-wise. He's just bursting forth with so much energy and personality, so many ideas and comments and interests. We just changed over his room from "baby" to "little boy." He's so mature now, coloring and playing the piano and reading books in his own space. In less than two months he will be a terrific two!br> br> br> br>
two? that's CRAZY TALK!
i have my suspicions that noeli was having terrible scary dreams about snakes before she learned the words scary, dream, and snake. when she did learn, it suddenly became so much easier to comfort her - and for her to develop her own comfort. now she's more likely to say, mom, my dream about mickey mouse isn't coming! - three seconds after her head hits the pillow. it's so much easier now to understand her reluctance to let go and go to sleep when she has no guarantee she will get mickey rather than snakes... and to tell her stories to bridge the gap. br>
Yay, another blog entry! Sounds like you're feeling OK. Did Isaac relate "airplane" to actually riding in one? br>
TITLE: I Burp
DATE: 09/26/2004 12:20:37 PM br>
A week ago today we were in NYC at a pleasant post-wedding brunch at the Yale Club. Isaac was eating some bacon, cream cheese, and bagel, more or less all at once when he started to cough and gag a little bit. Somewhat scary in that he was turning red and couldn't seem to get it (whatever it was) out of this throat or down the right way-- but as they told us in infant CPR, red and coughing is okay, it's blue and not coughing that is a sign of trouble. I had my hand under his mouth to catch the offending item when it dislodged. I think it just hit his gag reflex or something like that, because, to my acute surprise, he vomited instead.
Yes-- full-on, white slimy barf. Luckily a smallish amount of it, flowing warmly over my hand and just exactly filling the tea saucer he was using as a plate. I whisked him away from the other brunchers while Ben whisked away the plate of puke. It was fairly easy in terms of clean-up-- I just wiped off my hand. None of it got on anyone's clothing. The other brunchers at our table were all grandparents and jaded in the ways of inopportune barfing on the part of kids. "Been there, done that," said one cheerfully.
A little later I mentioned this incident to Isaac's cousins, adorable blond schoolgirls aged 8 and 5, or thereabouts. The elder said, "He threw up-- at the TABLE?? EEEEW! Gross!" and then thought about it for a moment. "Can I see it?" she asked, brightening.
"No," I told the disappointed children, "We cleaned it all up."
"All of it?"
We walked back to the scene of the crime. The girls carefully and thoroughly looked at the chair where he stood, the table where the plate had been. The floor all around. Finally they rendered the bleak verdict: "There's nothing left all! Not even a little bit!" and stamped away in frustration.
Another little cousin heard the news and came over to tug on my sleeve. "I threw up on my dad when I was three," he offered.
"Really?" I said, quite impressed.
"I threw up on my dad when I was three," he repeated.
"I can believe it," I said.
Meanwhile, Isaac was spreading the news in his own way. He walked up to his grandpa and said plainly, " I burp." I was close on his heels and clarified, "It was way more than a burp, trust me."
Later I realized-- is this Isaac's first sentence? Inauspicious perhaps, but true! Subject and verb! Together for the first time!
In the short week since then, he's come out with many others:
"That's a pig," when looking at a picture book.
"Who is that guy?" when an electrician, who had arrived while Isaac was asleep, walked from one room to another.
"I do," as in "Did you color on the door?" "I do."
"Eat this? Real, real hungry," as he began eating a white crayon.
... and my favorite:
"I love you, Mama!" combined with a hug and a kiss right on the kisser.
When I got home from the garden yesterday, Isaac told me that he had fallen down and hurt his knees, and that Daddy had washed them. I recounted this story back to Ben who confirmed that it was all true.
I think it's now official: He can talk!
br> br> br> br>
Before you know it:
Mom, does plastic live forever? Because I think when a child breaks a piece of plastic, it dies.
Mom, you hit me with a baseball bat.
Oh, really? When was that?
Thirty thousand years ago, when you were in your mommy's tummy, you hit me on the head with a baseball bat!
And the immortal:
Call grandma! I got boogies! (this is from very long ago - probably about the same age as babyIsaac is now)
Be sure you have pens and paper everywhere! It's impossible to keep up. I write things on the calendar on the day they occur... well, that worked for a while, and then she was saying five stunning things a day, and we had to get choosy. br>
TITLE: Self-Proclaimed "Tiny Baby" Counts to Ten
DATE: 10/03/2004 12:58:25 PM br>
This week Isaac has gone to great lengths to clearly demonstrate the opposing forces at work on him on this cusp of his second birthday. While making dazzling progress in terms of language and cognition, he has also been regressing into infancy for brief periods of time.
He's been climbing into my lap now and then, looking up into my eyes and saying, "Tiny Baby?" At which request I begin fawning over him and admiring his "tiny little" hands and feet and saying how sweet and adorable he is and generally making a fuss over him. Also upon his request he has taken to drinking from a (Winnie-the-Pooh themed) baby bottle, something which he pretty much never did (despite efforts...) when he actually was a baby. It's a game, and also perhaps a wish to go back to simpler times. Maybe he's noticed how much attention the tiny babies get in playgroup and in his music class? I don't really know the explanation for it, but I sense that the best course is to indulge it until he's satisfied this craving.
Meanwhile, he's done something really advanced! He's been counting-- to TEN. Usually with all the numbers in order and clearly stated! It's really so remarkable. Isn't this early for such pronounced mathematical aptitude? I don't really know what age most children do this sort of thing, but not quite two seems stunning to me. He loves to play hide and seek and so the game is that he covers his eyes, counts to ten, I hide, and he finds me. (Well, sometimes he sort of forgets to find me and I have to resort to calling him.) He likes to do it repeatedly, which gives him even more counting practice. He also loves to count his gummy bear vitamins, which are a wonderful daily treat. He gets one-two-three-four of them all lined up on the table so deliciously.
However, I sense that he doesn't really grasp what counting means-- he's just reciting this litany of numbers rote. Although he does seem to know (and care deeply) that one-two vitamins is a lot less and no where near as good as one-two-three-four of them, the real point of counting, the concept of "how many" is pretty much lost on him, especially in the higher numbers.
He counts his feet sometimes and comes up with four.
His artistic energy is bursting forth in the form of unbridled crayon artwork all over the house. You may wonder why he's allowed to run wild and free with a crayon, and I can only say that the little blighters (the crayons) are all over the place and he keeps finding them when I'm not looking. I remove and hide whatever I can find, but still there are more that elude capture, probably in little secret nooks and crannies that are more clearly visible to those in the two-foot-seven height range. I did take the precaution of throwing away (I hope!) ALL the non-washable old-fashioned crayons in the house, and replacing them with the wonderful innovation of washable ones. The difference was very stark the first time I experienced it. Loose markers are a much greater peril-- I highly recommend those special markers by Crayola that only will color on the magic paper, and on all other surfaces are in effect invisible ink.
Coloring is a major activity in his new big-boy room. The crib, never used for sleeping-- although at times and okay playpen or laundry storage system-- has gone to the attic at last and his twin-sized futon (which he's been sleeping on for a year or so) has gotten back its legs. I bought some new furniture for him at IKEA, especially the wonderful table for coloring.
We're using one of the benches that came with the table for his electronic keyboard, just the perfect waist height for him. The other day I came in to find him sitting on the floor and listening to music. He knows how to turn the keyboard on, of course (and off, which he's surprisingly conscientious about-- it runs on batteries). But I had no idea that he could a) turn on a percussion track, b) get the keyboard playing, c) record his song-- a steady disco beat with lots of dramatic Jerry Lee Lewis type crashing piano chords and full multi-octave runs, and d) play it back while he settled down to listen to his handy work!
Again-- I ask-- is this normal? Did he inherent the electronic keyboard /
self-recording gene from his Grandpa Warren? What's next? Will he put out a CD and begin to market it while I'm in the other room?
We started music class again this week, which Isaac is happy about. He's been talking about the music, and the drums! And the kids! a lot since we went on Wednesday. If I sing him a little song or pattern from class, he sings it right back to me with a winning smile.
His dad has been taking him to the art museum at least once a week. Now Isaac goes running with delight to a familiar picture yelling, "Dante! Virgil!" He can identify lots of the animals in the pictures and sculptures. Ben says that when they were at the museum yesterday they were looking at 13th century Chinese sculptures when they came upon an animal that was hard to identify. Isaac looked at it and said (with his signature upturned palms) "Maybe a dog... maybe a lion?" Ben read the card and learned that it was a "Dog Lion."
His love for trucks has not faded. Sometimes he begins a detailed narrative, highly dramatic, about the CRUSHING force of the excavator at work. Emphasis on CRUSHING!
In all this bursting forth with new skills, I can see how he is feeling overwhelmed and at times needs the comfort of a lap and the reassurance that he doesn't have to leave his babyhood behind before he's ready.
He's staking out his own pace and I am just sitting back and admiring.
br> br> br> br>
Noeli still has "tiny baby" needs... sometimes unarticulated.
Whining is a good sign that life is overwhelming and a tiny baby session is in order. I have a semi-ritualized retelling: how happy we were when she was born, how her head tucked under my chin, how small her socks were, how she only ate bubby milk and no chocolate milk (not sure she believes this one), and if she has been feeling frustrated by epic struggle with some new skill, a litany of all the things tiny babies can't do.
We need the special markers. Actually, and herein is a problem, we have some, but they look exactly like some others. I think I'll go down right away and rid the house of the black-magic markers. br>
TITLE: A Boy and His Tums(R)
DATE: 10/20/2004 08:35:01 PM br>
The other day I was driving along and listening to NPR. A lady was on with Diane Rheme (sp) talking about her book called "Born to Buy." It was about how advertisers have a big bull's eye on the youngest children, and are by-passing parents to market things directly to them. As a person who has spent more than plenty of hours sitting in board rooms and discussing how to get "cradle to grave" brand loyalty for financial services, I can attest that this is all repulsively true. The lady said that children as young as two can identify many major logos, and that in fact they are learning these things before numbers, letters, and colors.
This alarmed me. I thought, "What logos does Isaac know already?" Well, there's Sesame Street-- when he sees it, he will cry out, "ELMO!" or "The Bird!" (what he calls Big Bird). And Disney. When he sees the words Walt Disney, his reaction is to leap directly to "Pooh!" Although after a few screenings of even the old-fashioned story book classic versions of Winnie the Pooh-- which initially charmed me by animating the pages of the book itself with readable text in many frames-- I've cut Isaac off of Pooh cartoons. He's developed a fear of bees and now many other bugs after watching Pooh being chased all over hell and back by "the wrong sorts of bees." (Why must Disney terrorize its youngest viewers?) Baby Einstein has him firmly in their grip-- although I love their programming enough to feel like, okay, maybe this isn't so bad. Thankfully he's still innocent of McDonald's-- although they have infiltrated PBS with many of these "non-ad" ads that surround children's programming.
Anyway, all this thinking about brands brought me to the sobering conclusion that Isaac is indeed in the pocket of one brand, although I doubt that they are intentionally after him. It's Tums(R). A wonderful antacid that is common in our house. I officially have a hiatal hernia-- a little doo-dad at the top of my esophagus that keeps the trap door from closing quite right (I give you the highly technical explanation as I understand it). They put a camera down my throat one time to look at it. It's no biggie, except that Tums are an important part of my life.
When Isaac was about six months old, he swam in a sea of colorful and stimulating, developmentally sound toys. His favorite toy of all, however, was a half-full bottle of Tums.
Now that the fools in charge of Tums packaging have decided to switch ALL the world's Tums bottles to the "easy open" version (if I had seen it coming I would have stocked up on a closet full of the old difficult to open ones) Isaac has learned how to open them with great ease.
One day maybe two or three months ago I came upon young Isaac foaming white at the mouth, gorging himself on a mouthful of Tums that he found under the bed. (Apparently he got the top open and then spilled them? They were scattered all around.) I don't know if it's the mintiness or the sweetness or the "forbidden fruit" factor, but the kid developed ... well, an EXTREME fascination with the Tums.
While I don't really think that Tums will harm him, I don't think they will do him any good either and so I've positioned myself strongly against his consumption of them. I've tried letting him carry around an empty Tums bottle as a sort of compromise, but this is such a thin shadow of what he wants that it seems to upset him even more than nothing. He will accept a Tums bottle happily. Then peek into it, see its dusty emptiness, and begin to weep inconsolably. I think the wonderfully rattling of the Tums is part of the joy of it, maybe? Or is the promise of maybe getting to eat them eventually?
That being said, Isaac has been known to sleep with an empty Tums bottle tucked under his arm like a teddy.
I've taken to hiding them by day, and then only taking them out at night (which is when I eat them mostly anyway) after Isaac is asleep in his room and the gate is latched. But this system has been foiled a few times when in the night the cat has come along and (apparently on purpose) knocked the Tums off my night table. Since all the caps are all missing (they are easy for Isaac to open, remove, and discard), this sends Tums in all directions in the darkness and it's impossible to track them all down before daybreak.
So.. so often Isaac crawls along like a Marine on his belly under the bed in search of Tums. Now he KNOWS that he's not supposed to eat them! I tell him NO constantly, but this is sort of like expecting the Cookie Monster to spontaneously conquer his passion for cookies. Isaac will carry a Tum (the singular) in his hot little hand for hours as it melts into white slime and as he struggles through a range of activities with most of the fingers of one hand out of commission. He will say explicitly that Tums are "just for Mommy," when she has a "tummy ache." He understands this intellectually. But then, sooner or later, the sticky, half melted Tum will end up rolling around on his tongue in all its wonderful Tumminess.
Yesterday we were driving along when his special Tum somehow slipped out of his hot little hand. Of course he started to SCREAM hysterically, cry, and yell "TUMS!! TUMS!!" in the most bitter and wronged voice. I was unable to find the bloody thing while also piloting the car, but when I came to a stop light I managed to scare it up-- pretty much under him and in the folds of his coat. When I produced it, the screaming stopped immediately. Isaac smiled at the Tum like it was a mischievous little friend. "Hiding," he said.
Not long ago I came into the TV room where Isaac was screaming and lying on his back on the floor in despair. Ben was sitting on the couch with a sort of stubborn yet bemused look on his face. He explained, "A Tum fell behind the couch and he wants me to get up and move the couch and get it for him." Indeed, when I listened to Isaac's wails, there were words mixed in. "Under! Under! Tum!" ("my Tum is under the couch! help!) And I realized that he was lying on the floor crying in between bouts of trying to force his inconveniently large head under the low-riding couch.
I almost always have only the regular strength peppermint Tums in the house, but the other night Ben scared up a fruit flavored one from someplace and was letting Isaac carry it around in his otherwise bereft Tums bottle. After a while, Isaac managed to get it out. He looked at it with open surprise and delight. "Pink!" he exclaimed. He gazed at the dear little thing lovingly for a moment and then declared, "Cute!"br> br> br> br>
Pink and cute, that's about it. How is it he is MORE edible than before? A few months from stringy, chewy elder toddlerhood and yet, to me, filet mignon!
Strangely, Noeli also was briefly thrilled by Tums (Joe, not me). We immediately put the bottles up high so the huge fascination failed to develop, but Joe would occasionally make himself little sandwich baggies o' Tums and she sure loved those. Luckily, she preferred the taste of Iams, which is to say, probably mad cow in pill form.
Two possibly practical suggestions:
1) Low-dose Vitamin C chewables (the ones in pretty Tum-my colors) in his toy Tums bottle - 'tis the season, after all; and
2) Some other kind of hard-to-open bottle for the current stash, such as an empty prescription bottle, re-labeled appropriately, of course. We have a fabulous range of sizes, if you need one. br>
Oh! And I forgot!
Tonight Noeli hummed, in the sweetest voice:
"Duh duh duh da da - I'm lovin' it!"
Now, isn't that enough to rend a mother's heart. br>
TITLE: Isaac is Two; Tiny Baby is Not
DATE: 10/21/2004 05:54:13 PM br>
Today is Isaac's second birthday! I can't believe that it's been two years since he came into our life. I'm still in awe of our incredible good fortune.
He's so competent now. The list of skills that he has mastered in the last two years is staggering. Most recently, the explosion in talking. We can now pretty much converse, although our conversations sometimes take unexpected and mysterious turns. The other day we were sitting on a little choo-choo train at the zoo-- it goes through the Australian Outback exhibit and free-roaming kangaroos hop around it. We were waiting for it to start, when Isaac pointed to a very specific spot on the ground right next to us. He said, "A peacock lives there."
It was plainly not the case. In fact, there are no peacocks anywhere in the whole zoo (we checked). I don't know why he said it, or what he meant by it. But he seemed to be speaking with such authority that I found it difficult to accept that he just made it up out of thin air.
The other night Ben came home and said to Isaac, "Guess who I saw today?"
Isaac guessed, "A HUUUUUGE elephant?"
"No, guess again."
And on like this through the most improbable array of guesses until Ben finally revealed that he had seen Pa! (Isaac's grandpa on his dad's side).
It's fun to talk to him and to see what he'll come up with next.
He's been thoroughly celebrated. On Saturday we had a kiddie party with four of his little friends. We decorated pumpkins (markers and stickers) and then had lunch (homemade mac and cheese, free range no-nitrate hot dogs, organic peas), and then had a gelato cake. I think Isaac got the idea that it was HIS occasion. He really liked the part about singing Happy Birthday, and indeed, as the party wore on and so many people said it to him, he began to say to others in greeting.
The next day we went to his grandparents house and had a family party. He really warmed up to the Happy Birthday part there. After we all sang it and he blew out the candles (in the shape of little toy cars), he decided that we should all join hands and sing it again. We gladly complied. A little while later, he wanted us to sing it again, with our hands joined. The hand-holding part I think stems from saying grace each night while holding hands with Ben and me at dinner. Ultimately we all held hands and sang Happy Birthday to him over and over again, every few minutes upon request. Each time I felt that all together we were filling the room with warmth and love, pouring it all to him.
Meanwhile, "Tiny Baby" is emerging as a bone fide alter ego. When Isaac is feeling strong and in charge, he refers to himself as "Isaac." He'll say, "Isaac's
turn!" or "Isaac do it!" or simply "MINE!" But when he's feeling scared, upset, tired, lonely, or needs help, he calls himself Tiny Baby. Even reflecting back on those upsetting episodes, he calls himself Tiny Baby.
The other day when we were down at his grandparents house, we went out to play on some swings nearby. Isaac is a real swing enthusiast, swung and swung and swung with much glee until all the adults were bored and cold. Finally it was time to go home. This broke Isaac's heart and he cried desperately most of the walk home. When he regained his composure, he started talking about the experience. "Tiny Baby crying," he said. "Swinging all done! Tiny Baby crying." I said, "I know, Tiny Baby was so sad that it was time to stop swinging. But we'll swing again sometime soon."
Tiny Baby is the one in the middle of the night who is hungry and wants dinner. Tiny Baby is afraid of his electric toothbrush, and of the Dustbuster, and of the "cow" noise on one of his farm animal books (Tiny Baby wants to hear it, but he stands a good safe distance away). Tiny Baby needs to nurse when bold Isaac doesn't. He's the sleepy one who climbs into my lap at the museum. He's the one who wants to give and get hugs from his mama.
I think it's an interesting strategy for Isaac. It's a way for him to cope with all the changes going on for him at once, to slow down the speed of change, to create for himself a safe haven to return to whenever he needs it. I think it gives him a foundation to take ever greater risks and to push himself forward in terms of talking and skills and new ever more challenging adventures. By creating a persona to embody all these feelings he helps himself get what he needs. I appreciate it too-- it's much easier to decode how he's feeling.
Since he's already had two birthday parties, we're playing it cool tonight. We're just having dinner at home and then opening two remaining presents. He's got a new set of blocks from us and a shiny red trike that just arrived an hour ago from his grandma Doris. We have some left over gelato from his cake. Also I think we'll all join hands and sing Happy Birthday a few more times. And then tonight, as he's been requesting all week, I'll sing it to him as a lullaby.br> br> br> br>
TITLE: The Color of the Moon
DATE: 10/26/2004 09:10:53 PM br>
I can feel it coming on already. Isaac is starting to talk so well, I feel this irresistible impulse to tell others the cute things he says. Surely, we're looking at years of this to come! Decades? Will he immediately stop saying cute things when he turns thirteen, or will they phase out gradually? Will "Cute" just be replaced with "irreverent" and still warrant discussion? Will I tire everyone I know with this?
Anyway, here's a partial list of his remarkable one-liners of late.
We were driving along in the car and I was telling him about snow. It was raining at the time, and I mentioned how when it got colder the rain would come down as snow. I said, "It will cover everything and it will be all white." He listened to this carefully and then replied, "The color of the moon!"
It reminded me of his one-word poem "fish," that he signed a full year ago while looking up at brightly colored kites against a blue sky. And another two-word masterpiece while looking at a robin's nest, "bird flower." Now he's moved from signing to speech, but his gift of metaphor and simile has made the transfer in tact.
In an eerie theogical moment, last evening we were swinging (he's becoming a real swinging addict), and suddenly he pointed to the sky and said, "The big guy-- up there?" I was uncertain how to respond. Ben is squarely in charge of Isaac's spiritual life. I decided to take the path of least resistance. "Yes!" I said. This pleased him greatly. He yelled, jubilantly pointing to the sky, "The big guy-- UP THERE!!!"
But just when I was thinking this moment was like that in "Little Buddha" when the little white toddler is taken to Tibet and asked to pick out "his" glasses (the glasses of the previous Dalai Lama), Isaac decided this morning that a man was in his apple. Yes-- seeing visions now. He took a bite out of his apple and there in the white and craggy flesh he saw a face. He said, "A man-- in there?" and began listing the features as they appeared to him, "Eyes, nose, teeth, ears..."
All day he has been wistfully saying, "Someday... I drive a machine." and "Someday... I drive a car." We stopped for a while and watched a man digging a major hole with an excavator and also picking up huge metal objects. Isaac watched all this rapt and said, "Someday, I drive a machine. I sit up there... driving..."
He nearly broke my heart a few weeks before his birthday when we went to this big Amish store in a small town. They had a wonderful array of toy tractors and farm equipment. I didn't tell him he couldn't have anything, nor did I say he could. He just took it upon himself to look at each item and say, with this heartfelt mix of optimism and self-reassurance, "Real soon!" He compressed this entire complex string of thoughts, "I want this tractor so badly, but I can't have it. But one day, real soon, I will." He looked at each tractor, turned its knobs and admired its wheels. "Real soon!" nodding hopefully and looking up at me, putting his hands in his pockets with a shrug. "Real soon!"br> br> br> br>
How do I manage to respect his personhood? How do YOU? The desire to manhandle must be overwhelming.
PS: I do not imagine being tired of this anytime soon. br>
More PS - the spiritual pronouncements have only gotten weirder over here. Today driving home from the playground Noeli and Lydia were chattering on when Noeli said, loudly and suddenly, "God fixes people when they're DEAD."
I think we're getting a little help from the MIL on the religious training *shudder*
Then she pointed out that her big sister, Dora, was sitting right there next to me in the car. br>
TITLE: The Agony and the Ecstasy of Meeting Frank McCourt
DATE: 10/29/2004 04:30:50 PM br>
I just spent an hour in close company with Frank McCourt, the author of Angela's Ashes and Tis. That was the ecstasy part. For the first half hour or so of this, I thought he was Frank Conroy, author of Stop-Time. Then I revealed this to him and he had to explain who he was. That was the agony part.
Does this seem completely surreal to you, like I'm describing a dream or something? Me too. But it wasn't. In some ways, I wish it were...!
Let me explain what happened. There's this rock band made up of famous authors. It's called The Rock Bottom Remainders. They play a few gigs each year to raise money for literacy related causes. The roster includes Amy Tan, Stephen King, Roy Blount, jr., Dave Barry, Scott Turow, and several others. It's really a bunch of literary heavy hitters. There's no doubt. The fact that they can't really play rock music all that well-- and they practice five times a year (i.e, during their concerts) doesn't detract from the showmanship of the thing.
Today they are in Cleveland and tonight they are playing at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The organization they are benefiting this year is AmericaSCORES, which uses soccer and poetry to promote literacy in underserved urban elementary schools. My good friend Peter volunteers for them, and the local chapter is headed up by a woman I know from a mom's group in our neighborhood. Long story short, I was recruited at the last minute to pick people up from the airport and generally schlepp people around today.
So my first assignment: get Frank and Ellen McCourt and Marcelle Pearson (wife of Ridley Pearson) from the airport. I found out about this late last night and had to move around my schedule today and get a babysitter at a totally different time than I had. Perhaps this helps explain the McCourt/Conroy short circuit in my head??? That I didn't have enough notice? That I was stressed and logistically challenged? I don't know!! I'm still emotionally writhing from The Gaffe...
After I found this all out, I spent a little while last night feverishly reviewing my dog-eared copy of Stop-Time-- a coming of age memoir of the 60s that was very much required reading at Columbia, and a book I admire greatly. I thought of the questions I would ask Frank Conroy... I wanted to ask him especially about his long writing dormancy, where for a couple decades he was supporting his family by playing jazz piano and not writing at all. I wanted to ask him how this time away from his writing felt... did he feel the pull of his writing all the while and yearn to get back to it? Or did he just feel that Stop-Time was his only book and that he was through for good? Or did he know he would return to it someday and that taking a break was okay with him? Etc.
So this was on mind all night and into this morning. I dutifully brought my copy of Stop-Time and a pen in case I found a moment to have him sign it without seeming a complete and lowly fan.
Of course it was pouring rain when I had to go out there and several factors were conspiring to detain me. But I made it in time and their plane was a little late. I stood there wearing my SUPPORT AMERICA SCORES t-shirt and holding my little sign. Eventually they appeared. The youthful and vivacious Ellen McCourt and the gray eminence Frank McCourt. I had to entertain them for a half hour or so until the other plane arrived, and so we went to a Starbucks. I got Frank a chef salad and tall double latte's for both of them.
We talked mostly about politics. They were probing me for information about how I felt the election would go in Ohio-- what is the unemployment like here? How is the manufacturing sector doing? etc. I fielded all these questions and then we got to talking about inner city crime and sharing our roster of break-in and burglary stories. Then I somehow segued into a comment about his writing. I said, "I did the MFA program at Columbia in non-fiction and I have to tell you that you are in the cannon." If I had stopped there, I probably would have been okay. But no.. this was not to be. I went on. "In fact," I said slyly. "Stop-time is one of my favorite books... and I have a copy in the car if you're so moved to sign it."
The wife was more assertive than he. She said instantly, "Stop-time is not his book." I gulped. He said, looking down into his salad. "That's Frank Conroy. I'm Frank McCourt."
I'll just let this all sink in for you for a moment.
I'm sure I turned forty different colors and broke out in severe neck blotches and probably looked like I felt. That is, that if there were an earthquake or other natural disaster at that moment, I would have welcomed it. Swallowed up by the ground would have been just fine with me.
However, I think without too much of horrifying pause, I said, "Oh-- you wrote Angela's Ashes. Now I'm even more impressed!" and they laughed and we all very quickly moved on. (Obviously they could see my very well-earned mortification and did their utmost to be gracious about it. I am in their debt.)
While walking to the car, the ladies were a bit ahead and I did get an opportunity to question HIM about HIS dormancy period-- a topic of special pertinence to me at this point in my life. It really was his whole life up to his late fifties at least. He taught High School English for 30 years or so. He said that all along he was "scribbling" a little bit after work and that gradually the whole thing came into focus in his mind. "Then," he said, "I wrote the whole thing in 13 months. It just exploded out like that."
A wonderful story in itself and one that gives me hope. I told him of my extended dormancy and that I don't think it's entirely bad. That rumination and gestation and fermentation can still be going on in the wings, and that this is positive and helpful in its own way. Also, life intrudes. There are bills to be paid and children to be reared. He agreed with me about this in a way that I found very reassuring. "Yeah, you've gotta do all that," he said.
They were all talking about Halloween costumes for dogs, so my thoughts turned to the copy of Stop-time sitting there in grim testimonial on the dash board. How would I get it out of sight before the devastating proof of my complete social blunder could remind them of what we had all so happily forgotten? I mulled the options. How could I leave them to attend to their own luggage while I squirreled it away up front? How rude would that be? And yet-- how could it be sitting there on the dashboard for all to see?
What saved me in the breach was that the car itself-- a Toyota Scion xB-- is such a conversation piece that there were a couple precious seconds during which they were all admiring/critiquing/evaluating the car ("Like a toaster on wheels" said Ellen McCourt). I was able to duck into the driver's seat, grab the book, and stuff out of sight-- and still have enough time to return to my post at help with luggage and settling in.
Okay so-- agonizing social snafu aside, the bottom line is that I bought a chef's salad for Frank McCourt and DID get to talk to him about his writing. When I dropped them all off at the hotel, he hugged and kissed me fondly, as did Ellen and Marcelle. They were so nice about the whole thing! And indeed seemed more focussed on the fact that I had gotten them from the airport than any other... shall we say, "aspects" of it.
Tonight I'm volunteering at the event itself and will get to attend the VIP reception with all of the authors together. There's an official book signing-- and I will bring the RIGHT book this time!
More about these further adventures tomorrow. br> br> br> br>
DATE: 10/29/2004 05:00:28 PM
It all MY fault. I put you up to this. The wonderful comeback shows your wit and good manners -- for me, it would have been an awkward half-hour of silence all the way to the hotel. Very well done. br>
DATE: 10/29/2004 10:01:18 PM
You know, *I* have a car, ALSO, and would kill for five minutes alone with that stone-cold literary stud, Dave Barry. And there are many more conversation pieces in my car! Today I found something moldy in the carseat hidey-hole. I think cheese, at some point.
Anyway. How exciting! And it could hardly be the first time.
Here is my own personal story of embarrassment: in the Cain Park bathroom I collided with a woman I knew but could not place. Sure she was a grrl writer of some sort, maybe Seal Press? And it was on the tip of my tongue! So close! I felt that I knew her intimately, perhaps her book was a memoir, a confessional? but could not remember WHAT it was I knew. So I stood trying not to stare, but of course staring. And smiling. Awkwardly. Probably gaping.
Finally she barked, "Free Times."
Oooooooohhhhhhhhhh..... yes. There had been a long and detailed story about her child custody battle with an ex-girlfriend that was not precisely flattering to either. It was really an awful lot for strangers to know. And here I was staring at her in what must have been an incredibly invasive-feeling way. The good thing would have been to say, you know, oh, that's right, thanks and bye. But what came out was, "Oh yes, and how is your daughter?" *cringe*
Somehow she got out of there and I got out of there but the awkwardness was extreme and palpable, like a block of granite among the litter of paper towels... br>
DATE: 11/12/2004 08:08:43 PM
I am so proud of you for hob knobing. At best they were so charmed by you (as we all are) that they didn't think anything of it. At worst they will remember you fondly for a while. You're a winner either way! br>
TITLE: thought for the day
DATE: 11/01/2004 11:55:53 PM br>
Have you ever had someone sneak into your kitchen, smear your fridge with Vaseline, and then, when confronted, clutch the bottle to his chest like a well-lubricated football and run away squealing? Well, join the club.
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DATE: 11/02/2004 12:30:49 AM
You're gonna have the softest fridge in town.
How cool is it that a recruiter called Joe tonight and he was forced to say, "I'm sorry, I'll have to call you back. Senator Kerry's plane just landed." br>
DATE: 11/02/2004 12:38:44 PM
Was Ben drunk or is that normal behavior?
DATE: 11/12/2004 08:00:33 PM
When it's poop, call me. br>
TITLE: Hello G5, goodbye comment spam
DATE: 11/13/2004 10:34:30 AM br>
You may not be aware that there's a new scourge running amok in the world. It's called "comment spam" and it's taking over the whole blogosphere. Basically some person, apparently "Bob" in Texas mostly, sends bizillions of comments to everyone's blog. The comments contain a link to whatever site he's advertizing (usually Texas Hold 'Em-- online poker). This blight has been swallowing up my blog over time.
Technical issues, mostly that I had an original iMac, made it very difficult to clean the spam out. However, today I am sitting at our new iMac G5. It's super deluxe and is hooked up to a cable modem faster than lightening. I just laboriously opened up hundreds of blog entries and deleted hundreds and hundreds of pieces of comment spam. I rebuilt the site in a twinkling and now... clean and shiny and bright. All the comments here are actual comments from real humans!
In other news, Isaac went in for his two-year check up the other day and is pronounced to be in excellent health. His development is also "beyond great" according to the doctor. When he came into the room, Isaac was standing on a chair and evaluating a poster on the wall. He accurately described the poster: "kids looking at flowers... pink!" This stunned the nurse and so too the doctor. "He's putting three words together," said the doctor. Apparently putting three words together is one of these language milestones that you look for at two years.
I explained that Isaac has been creating sentences using direct objects and indirect objects, like "I throw it, the ball, to Mommy." And that the other day he used the past tense. (Did you color on the wall? I did.) The doctor tested this a little bit by asking Isaac some questions about he car he was holding. What color was the roof? The wheels? etc. Isaac discussed the car with nuance, adding information about how "the guy sits there, driving the wheel" and demonstrating how it can go real, real, REAL fast!
He has a way of telling long narratives involving exotic animals and airplanes and fanciful observations about construction equipment. "Someday I drive orange backhoe," is a recurring hope. "Mommy Daddy together, airplane up in the sky, down to the ground, see Grandpa Warren, Patty!" he said recently, running through our upcoming Thanksgiving trip step by step. We asked what their dog's name is. He thought for a moment. (He last saw the dog in August.) "Name: Finnegan!" Correct! High fives all around.
He had to have a flu shot and also blood drawn, both miserable experiences for both of us. He's old enough now that there's an emotional component to experiences like this: betrayal. It didn't seem to make sense to tell him that it was going to hurt, and yet not telling him ended up seeming much worse. He was lying on a table and a little anxious... but trusting. The nurse talked him through the wiping of his thigh with the cold swab, and the fluffy cotton. Then she indicated that she would put a band-aid on him and that it would feature Elmo and Ernie among others. But she didn't mention, "I will take this needle and jab it into the muscle of your thigh very deeply." She skipped that part. When it happened Isaac's shock, horror, and anger were equal to the physical pain of it. He took a long time to recover, clinging to my neck and sobbing, blubbering, with fat tears pouring down his face.
When he was feeling better, we collected our things and went out to the waiting area where they had a lot of toys. He seemed to forget all about it and go on with his day. However, hanging over him was the fact that he needed blood drawn too, to test his iron and lead levels. I knew this and it depressed me. I waited as long as I could and then dragged him away from the toys and to the lab.
Soon he was in my lap in the special blood-drawing chair (it has a swing arm thing that comes across your lap like the safety feature on a ferris wheel). He knew this could not be good. I held him in a bear hug and, as the nurse directed me to, covered his eyes. A man pinned down his little arm, while the nurse extracted a gigantic vial of blood. Isaac screamed all the while, of course. It was horrible.
Afterwards they gave him a sucker which he didn't want. (He's not so cheaply bought!) We sat in the lobby while he screamed and screamed, burying his wet face in my neck. At times, he would seem to be regaining his composure, and then it would all come back to him all over again. He especially hated the tight bandage they had wrapped around his arm. "Take it off! Take it off!" he demanded. But... it had to stay on for a few minutes until the bleeding stopped.
Interestingly, he did not ask to breastfeed at all during either of these episodes. I found that heartening. He is gradually finding out that comfort can be had in other ways. We hugged. He clung to me and he repeatedly reviewed all that had transpired. He wanted to go back to the scene of the crime and show me where it all went down. That they wouldn't let him back into the lab seemed all the more cruel and unfair.
Anyway, after this whole medical experience, I really had to question the wisdom of the sneak attack. I don't know what the right answer is or whether there is one. But I think that next time I will tell him as gently as possible that it will hurt a little bit, the "little pinch" they always refer to, but that it will be over very quickly. It's so hard to communicate to him this weird concept that "these people are going to hurt you so that you can stay healthy."
Luckily we had a treat lined up for the way home: friends with a construction project underway, a crane at their house! Their very own backhoe that they own! Isaac got to watch the crane lifting slabs of concrete. And then he got to sit on the backhoe as long as he wanted, "drivin' the wheel" and "doin' the levers." Pure bliss! His only regret was that I had failed to bring his hard hat!
The blood and the shot were not forgotten though. Still aren't. The little mark from the blood drawing is still there on his arm, and he periodically shows it to sympathic onlookers.
The tests are back and his lead levels are down into the normal range at last, while his iron levels are pretty darn good. He'll still have drops once in a while until his "background iron stores" come all the way up. But ironically he likes the drops now. No more hog-tying him or mixing them with maple syrup. He takes them out of the fridge on his own, saying "black drops, have some" in his quaintly inverted style.
The other night while he was going to sleep he spontaneously said the alphabet all the way up to G. It's like the time he counted to 16 out of the blue. I haven't been trying to teach him the alphabet particularly, but he's absorbed it by osmosis.
He's a sponge; he's a parrot; he's a delight.
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I, him, want to eat! Up!
I have terrible problems with shots and blood draw philosophy. For her last we tried total honesty and preparation and strategizing, walking through beforehand and talking about where the hurt would be. It was still terrible but she had the chance to be brave and the betrayal element wasn't there. And she got to nurse her brains out afterwards.
Her doctor's office does these procedures this way: the child lies on her back with her knees off the edge of the exam table, and the parent straddles her feet and leans over, restraining her entire body. Advantages: total immobility means it's over quickly and cleanly. Disadvantages: it feels horrible and weird, as though you're not just immobilizing but completely dominating your child. But, you also are right up close comforting and could also conceivably nurse a bit during the procedure, which helped a lot when she was a newborn.
Oh, I hate to think about this! Brave boy! He is so lucky that you help him work through the whole thing thoroughly. br>
TITLE: Tot in Search of Moral Clarity
DATE: 12/08/2004 09:21:23 PM br>
Yesterday I hit one of those nadirs in the chronicles of mothering-- the sort of thing that non-mothers watch with horror from a distance, grimly fascinated and unable to turn away.
After getting groceries we stopped in at a Barnes and Nobles to look for a certain special dinosaur book. Of course, they have the wonderful train set that seems to be obligatory in bookstores these days. He was pulled to it by magnetic force. I should interject here that Isaac has been having some trouble with sharing. That's not a shock, seeing as he is now officially a terrible/terrific two (sometimes both within the same moment).
All was well for a while. I was a few feet away making inquiries while he played with the trains. Then a sweet little girl appeared. I don't think she spoke a word of English. She and her mother seemed to be Eastern European of some variety. She was a beautiful little dark-haired girl, somber and silent... also interested in trains. The only problem was that Isaac had come to believe (in the five minutes he had the place to himself) that the whole train set was his. If this little girl ventured to touch ANY of the cars (there were zillions), ANYwhere on the train table (it was huge), he screamed bloody murder, sobbed and generally carried on at great length and volume.
Yes-- it was rather deafening there in the store. It seemed to echo all around. I tried to referee and to reason with the little unreasonable one. In fact, I felt that I was making inroads. He seemed to accept that he could play with some of the cars, and the little girl could play with maybe just one at the far, far corner of the table. However, at that very moment, just when it seemed that some sort of detente had been reached, I noticed that Isaac had a poopy diaper. How did I notice? Olfactory... yes. But more than that. I also had a visual.
Lacking options, I scooped him up and began to carry him out to the car. Explaining that he needed to have his diaper changed did little to soothe him -- he hates having his diapers changed! The timing was so bad-- the injustice! Isaac had been listening to me and trying against his true nature to cooperate and share, and yet... he was being hauled out of the store anyway! SHRIEK! I need a bigger font to in any way capture the sheer blinding earsplitting volume of the screams. The large empty cavernous store did nothing to muffle them. His body went completely rigid in my arms as the screams issued from every fiber of his being.
We made it to the car-- home free, right?
As it turned out, in the course of our wrestling en route, the aforementioned poop had spread all over him... inside his pants, inside his sweatshirt, up his back. And for good measure slathered on the sleeve of my jacket. At this point I decided that I simply had to change him then and there, and then get us home immediately. All other errands: cancelled. Putting him in the car seat in this condition was not an option. Normally I would change him on the back seat of the car, but we've moved his car seat to the center and there was no room on either side of it to lay him down. So I had to open the hatchback and lay him down there. This made for quite a show for all in the crowded, bustling parking lot.
Oh, and did I mention that there were 50 mph wind gusts at the time? That added an extra layer of drama to the experience, bracing myself against the gale force winds, trying to keep the wipes from being torn out of my hands...
Isaac rode home wearing only a clean diaper and his socks. Strangely contented after all the ruckus, he brightly helped me watch for red lights and green lights.
Lately he's been more or less insisting on being disciplined. The spitting phase seems (god willing) to be drawing to a close, but the throwing phase is still entrenched. It doesn't help that his dad has a throwing problem-- he throws everything all around the house at all times, and has introduced indoor catch, which I do not condone.
Isaac knows that if he throws something he's not authorized to throw (he can only throw these spongy nerf-type balls), it will be taken away. The other day he dropped a flashlight. He was trying to pick it up off the table and it just slipped out of his little hands. I saw it happen. He said, "I throw it! Take it away!" I said, "Well, you didn't throw it-- you dropped it." How to convey the concept of intent? Impossible, I guess. He replied, "I throw it! Take it away!" I tried again, "But it was an accident-- you didn't mean to..." At this point, Isaac decided that this debate was entirely too nuanced. He picked up the flashlight and hurled it across the room. "Take it away!" he cried. Which I did.
Later I recounted all this to Ben. "I think he's searching for moral clarity," I said.
I think it was the same day that he decided that he wanted to be forced to go to bed against his will. I was slow on the uptake I guess, seeing as bedtime was not for another hour and usually it's not a struggle at all, but rather a fun and cooperative series of standard activities. Well, I guess he got tired early. He came and got me and said, "Ready for bedtime now," clear as you please. So I got started on the pajama part of it, at which point he started screaming and struggling. But I could see that he was just melting down from tiredness and so proceeded steadily forward. Then he went into his room and screamed, "Don't close the gate!" while simultaneously slamming it shut himself. (the closing of the gate is one of the final moments of bedtime-- it signals that no more playing around the house for tonight.) Then he proceeded to react to the slammed gate by throwing himself on the floor in a full-blown tantrum and yelling in protest, "Don't close the gate!"
It was sort of like watching a one-man performance of a hit show called, "Bedtime!" with Isaac in all the roles.
In other news, he's learning his letters at a dizzying pace. Before Thanksgiving, it was all about the letter D. We would sit at his little table in his room, and he would endlessly instruct me to make different D's for him. "Make a HUUUUUUGE pink D," he would say. Or "make a TINY green D." We would fill large expanses of paper with all sorts of D's. You would think this might get boring, but I found his enthusiasm for the letter D to be infectious.
Then he moved on to B, which he calls "buh" referring to the sound it makes. He finds B's everywhere -- his great delight. We'll be driving along in the car, when his little voice will pipe up from the back seat, "Mommy! Mommy!"
"Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!"
"Mommy! A BUH right over there!"
He found "two buhs" the other day at the knitting store-- notable not only for the accurate I.D. of the letters, but the dead-on counting of the B's in the word "baby."
Now he also knows "I for Isaac" and finds them everywhere. And he's got a good handle on O also, which is easier because big or small it always looks like a circle. H is coming along, too. At the sight of an H he sometimes pants like a dog. He is familiar with S too-- he calls it "snake," which isn't all that far off the mark. Not only does snake start with S, a snake says, "ssssss."
It seems that at some point a few weeks ago he suddenly got that these little squiggles and marks mean something. Now that he understands that, the rest is coming to him very easily. He has this little book called "HUG", the title of which is also pretty much the complete text. A little monkey goes around the jungle seeing all the other moms and babies of other species getting to hug. He gets sadder and sadder because his own mother is nowhere in sight. Then she appears and yells, "BOBO!" which is the little monkey's name. And Bobo yells "Mommy!" and they embrace.
Isaac knows B's and O's well enough that he can ... pretty much... sort of "read" the word "BOBO!"
Similarly there's a book he has about three baby owls, Sarah, Percy and Bill. In my view Bill (the youngest) is sort of a whiny little guy, always gassing on about "I want my mommy." But Isaac is very fond of young Bill and always pays close attention to his doings. Just tonight he noticed the BUH in the word Bill, and I said, "Yes-- that's B for Bill. See? That says Bill." And throughout the rest of the story he caught sight of the other "Bills" along the way, pointed to them and said, "Buh-- Bill!" I know that he doesn't know a lower case I or L from a hole in the ground, but still... he's doing a great imitation of someone who's quickly grasping how to read. br> br> br> br>
TITLE: Comment Problems
DATE: 12/10/2004 01:49:18 PM br>
I've gotten e-mails from several people who wanted to post a comment on my last blog entry, and were coldly refused by the blog software. I don't know what's up with this-- we're looking into it. I don't know whether it has something to do with the fact that the comment-spam-blocking software is also acting strangely.
In the meantime, if you have a comment you want to share with me, please just drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. thanks for reading! br> br> br> br>
TITLE: Terrific/Terrible Two
DATE: 12/15/2004 02:51:12 PM br>
Recently we got a
hand-out from the doctor, listing some elements of normal development
for a two-year-old. Here are some highlights:
Ben and I read this list and said, "Well-- the good news is he's right on track!"
Penelope Leach says that you should look at tantrums as a force of nature and just wait for them to pass. That you should maintain your own emotional equilibrium at all costs, and make it clear to the child that the tantrum doesn't change anything for or against him. I think this is sound advice, although sometimes hard to implement.
Last night I sat (quite calmly, if I do say so) on the floor with a screaming Isaac in my lap. If I had set him down I think that only the back of his head and his heels would have touched the floor. The topic at hand was nursing-- a rich topic that I could write about at great length. I had told him no, and he had begun to scream, and the more he screamed the less I could possibly agree to nurse him. I had said no and could not give in due to screaming and so it escalated and escalated into a full blown scream-a-thon that went on-- how long? I don't know. I lost track of time. Finally I decided that maybe we could compromise. I started whispering in his ear that I couldn't nurse him while he was screaming, I would nurse him if he could calm himself down first. I just kept quietly saying the same thing, "I will nurse you if you can calm down and ask nicely." This tactic did not have an immediate effect, but gradually he began to tire and we took deep breaths together. At last he was calm enough to ask to nurse in a nice way, and forgetting the idea that I really didn't want to nurse him in the first place, I took that as a win.
A few nights ago he woke up at 3:45 a.m. asking for dinner. (I think he's in a growth spurt or something, because the kid seems to have a hollow leg these days. That night he had eaten chicken pot pie at dinner, and then had a hearty bedtime snack of vast quantities of corn.) I said that it was the middle of the night and not dinner time, and he insisted that he was real hungry, and so it went for really quite a while. My attempts to get him back to sleep would seem to be taking hold, only to be foiled by renewed protests of hunger.
Finally I left him with Daddy and went downstairs to get him some milk and a banana, which he devoured. This left me uncertain as to whether he was in fact telling the truth about the hunger (usually it's a scam to get downstairs and play). After eating and drinking all that, he still claimed to be real hungry and to specifically wish for peanut butter. Finally I decided that the kid must really be half starved and took him down to the kitchen for a full-scale snack. By then it was far from dawn but still nearing breakfast time for someone, somewhere. I groggily made him a slice of toast with peanut butter and honey on it, as per his usual favorite. However, to my intense dismay, he took one look at this offering and inhaled deeply. Then he began to scream. In between sobs I caught a sense of the problem. The peanut butter, it seemed, was "ALLLLL [deep breath] STICCCKKKY!" Never mind that peanut butter is inherently sticky, I had ruined it by making it indelibly sticky with honey. I tried scraping off the honey. I tried adding peanut butter to conceal the honey. But -- alas, there was no remedy in sight. Not even an entirely new piece of toast could undo the trauma of the sight of the stickiness, now forever lodged in his memory to torment him.
It was probably about this time that I began to think wistfully of the closet, putting Isaac in it, and going back to bed.
So it goes with the new Isaac. He's such a wonderful boy, and the "terrible two" stereotype overlooks the "up" side of the see-saw he's riding. On the up side, he's so bright and talkative. He's saying these long and elaborate sentences all the time now-- such as a few moments ago when he said, "Watch Charlie Brown Snoopy right over there on tiny conputer?" He finds humor and delight in simple turns of phrase. The other day we were playing blocks and his truck happened to drive off the road and turn over. I said, "Wipe out." Isaac then spent the next hour crashing his truck, saying "wap out!" and collapsing into uncontrollable laughter.
Just now he was watching a Charlie Brown Christmas on the tiny conputer and Linus said, "That's ridiculous!" And Isaac rolled around on the floor saying "Ridiculous!" and laughing. He simply loves the sound of certain words and takes joy in that, without any idea of their meaning. Some of his other favorites are "This is not a sniffing fest!" (which I said crossly to our dog Lena, who was making me stop walking every five feet so she could sniff something) and "don't bother the cat!" (which I said crossly to Isaac at one point-- I think he likes the "th" sound in bother. When he says it his tongue has to flap all the way out of his mouth).
His linguistic progress is dazzling. His speech is more and more straightforward. I can say, "Do you want to play outside?" and he can say, "I want to." Last night Ben was teasing him by asking whether this (gesturing to a pictures of a dinosaur) was a backhoe or a loader. Isaac got the joke and began to howl with laughter. He said, "That's not a backhoe or a loader-- that's a dinosaur!" Ben followed up by asking whether these (they were stars) were mice or cookies? Isaac replied again in detail (amidst laughing his head off), "Those are not mice or cookies-- they are stars!!!"
He endearingly mixes up "me" and "you." He says "Don't catch you!" while he runs away from me, "Help me?" when he comes over to help me, "show me?" when he wants to show me something, and "touch you" when he wants me to rub his back.
Now he can spot many letters, adding W, H and X to his roster. He takes great pleasure in noticing that the whole world, once you learn to look at it that way, is simply COVERED in letters-- all over the place! You can see them on license plates, on signs, on passing trucks! It's just fantastic.
The other day our elderly cleaning lady made the best case for home schooling (another massive topic for another day) I've heard in a while. She noticed that 26-month-old Isaac was counting all the way to ten and beyond, and that he was carrying around letters to show to people-- "here's a yellow D!" etc. -- and she remarked, "Don't let him learn too much, because when he gets to school he's going to be so bored!" I didn't say anything, but I must have looked appalled, because she immediately protested, "They do! Kids get really bored in school if they start out knowing too much!" There's a lot I could say about this remark, but it's a can of worms. The pace of Isaac's learning is dazzling to witness-- let's leave it at that.
Anyway, the flip side of Isaac's intense anger, frustration, unpredictability and unreasonableness is his intense joie de vivre, his curiosity and his outbursts of affection and adorable jolliness. He's just in a really passionate, volatile place right now.
It's not dull-- nor is it easy. br> br>br> br>
TITLE: Gradually and with love
DATE: 12/31/2004 05:26:28 PM br>
Lately I've been thinking that trying to wean Isaac is like trying to make someone else quit smoking. Nursing (although a much healthier habit) has the same entanglement of physical dependency, emotional attachment, and entrenched habit-- with countless reminders and triggers throughout the day. Anyone who has ever tried to change a habit will tell you that "change only comes from within." That is, if you really have no plans to quit smoking, and your spouse or your employer or someone else is trying to make you do it, chances are that it won't work -- and nerves will be frayed all around in the process.
We had a rough start to our nursing relationship. In breastfeeding classes, how-to books, talking with the lactation consultants at the hospital and with other breastfeeding mothers, I found almost total uniformity of opinion on how best to begin: put the baby to the breast as soon as possible after birth-- immediately would be ideal; nurse on demand always; do not use any other sort of nipple or bottle for at least the first six weeks, because it can cause nipple confusion; avoid formula, because not only is it nutritionally questionable and devoid of immunities, it interrupts the critical supply-and-demand cycle of breast and baby.
Under the best circumstances, this is a tall order for a new mom. It means that no one else can feed your baby during those exhausting first weeks. And since the baby only eats and sleeps, this means that no one else can really provide meaningful help at that time, not with direct baby care anyway. (Others can cook, clean, and do everything else!) Even if you do nothing else in life, and you do sleep when the baby sleeps, you get two hours at a time at most. I called it "baby boot camp."
In our case, this was all a lot more complicated and far, far from the ideal. I had a c-section. Isaac was a preemie and in an incubator for the first week. I could only hold him or even see him for about ten minutes a day. Meanwhile, he had a pacifier stuck in his mouth most of that time, and was fed with a bottle. I pumped, and the nurses added my colostrum to the formula he got, but it was no substitute for the real thing. Then it turned out that he had a tight frenulum-- the little doo-dad under his tongue was too tight, pinning his tongue to the bottom of his mouth, so that it was very hard for him to nurse effectively, and also incredibly painful for me.
When we brought him home, he was too weak to nurse. We fed him formula and breast milk through a tube alongside a finger-- the idea being that sucking on a finger is closer than a rubber nipple to the real thing. And I soldiered on with trying to get him to nurse directly. He was so ineffective at getting milk to come out that he would nurse every two hours, for an hour, round the clock. (You do the math.) Just when I thought I would keel over and die-- probably after about a month of this-- things got a little better. His frenulum began to stretch out. He began to spread out his feedings, we dropped the formula entirely, and were underway.
Of course at the time I was recovering for major surgery in the most difficult way-- getting no rest whatsoever. Soon I had a complication from the c-section, an infection that required hard core antibiotics. This lead to our next challenge, thrush. Basically a yeast infection of the breast and baby. Although you can't see anything whatsoever (its invisibility makes it hard to diagnose), it hurts like crazy. One book I read described this as "feeling like you have broken glass in your breast." Right-- and then someone chomps on it.
I hung in there, with each challenge making me only more stubborn and determined to prevail. I knew that I would be staying home and taking care of Isaac full-time indefinitely, and I knew that nursing was best for both of us in the long run. Finally at about the 8-week mark, we were up and running, nursing exclusively, and doing well.
This has all been on my mind lately, because I've been thinking about the whole continuum of nursing. How it began, and how I want it to end.
Early on we talked to a friend who said that she waited too long to wean. She said, "When your baby is old enough to walk up and say, 'Mother, could I please nurse now?' it's too long." We laughed at this and agreed-- of course-- how ridiculous would that be? When Isaac was a tiny infant it seemed preposterous that he would ever walk and talk. Yet, at this point Isaac can say, "Nursing please?" He can say, "Nursing over there?"; "nursing on white couch?"; "Nursing Isaac's room?"; "Nursing, just a little bit?" and many other variations.
Another milestone is his second birthday. I used to tell people that my nursing min-max was 1-2 years. One year was my minimum, because that's just the basic physical recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics for the baby's health. The World Health Organization recommends two years minimum, and so does Unicef. So my general target for weaning was between his first and second birthdays.
Then another timeframe came along-- the possibility of having another baby. A schedule came into focus in my head: 1) wean Isaac; 2) have my gall bladder removed (which needs to be done before I get pregnant again); and 3) get pregnant. Meanwhile a little voice is in my head saying, "You're 38... you're 38... you're 38..." My gall bladder is going to be removed on January 28. It's general anesthesia and so I will have drugs in my system that Isaac cannot ingest in my breast milk. This made it a sort of deadline to wean him. But now it's January 2nd and Isaac is still not weaned.
A friend nursing a two-an-a-half-year-old said, "Oh, don't worry about it. You can just pump and dump for a few days." Yes-- she's right. I can pump and dump (throw out the milk with the medication in it), but how will Isaac do with no nursing for those few days? (Maybe this forced hiatus will change the dynamic in itself.)
I've been trying, but again, it's like trying to get someone else to quit smoking. The reality is that he's simply not ready to stop. Nursing means a lot to him on so many levels. Any refusals on my part cause him no end of distress, and indeed, I think make him more determined to continue. A few months ago I tried to begin at least night weaning. It didn't go over well, of course. Isaac sobbed and begged and used all his tools to get me to relent. I held firm and gained a lot of ground-- until he got sick. Until we were traveling. Until he started cutting his back molars. Even the weaning plan I had (see drjaygordon.com) said that you needed to be reasonable and give comfort at times like these. And then Thanksgiving, and then Christmas... and so on. (Now he's got a nasty cough...)
I've tried the approach of offering what he may "really" be asking for when he asks to nurse. Is he asking for my undivided attention? Is he hungry or thirsty? Sometimes this is the case, and he will accept doing a puzzle instead, or having some juice. I even went so far as to get these sweet milk drinks (organic, but still...) for him in lieu of nursing. His "special milk" for those times-- strawberry milk, orange and cream, banana, etc. One mother who nursed her toddler right through her second pregnancy solved the problem this way: "We introduced chocolate milk," she explained. And she's a doctor.
One time I was offering Isaac everything in the kitchen, and every other possible activity instead of nursing. He declined each thing in turn and then finally got exasperated with me. He threw his hands up in the air and yelled, ""TALKING ABOUT?!" (as in... "what are you...?")
I've tried narrowing the parameters for nursing. "Go home and nurse" is now the rule when we're out and about and he asks to nurse (in the line at Target, for instance). I've been saying no to him more and more. We have conversations like this:
etc. etc. etc.
In the old days, people would simply stop. "You're through!" Mom would get engorged and have a painful week. Baby would be distraught, but it would be over eventually. Done. Some would paint bitters on the breast, or a terrifying monster face. In more modern times, some would just go on vacation for a week and come back to a weaned baby.
La Leche gives this advice about weaning, "Gradually and with love." They say that ideally you would close this phase of your relationship so gradually that you barely notice, that one day you look up and think, "Hey, we haven't nursed all week." This makes it a lot easier on the mom, too, because milk production fades out slowly. They advocate "child-led weaning"-- that the child himself decides that he no longer needs to nurse and he moves on. This is how it went with one friend of mine whose little girl nursed until she was about three and a half. A gentle, easy tapering... that's what I want.
Recently I saw a mother nursing her two and a half year old twin girls. She sat on the floor in a fairly public place with a blond girl crouched in front of each breast. Such a contented trio. I told her, "More power to you-- I'm still nursing my two-year-old." She smiled and said, "It's such a treat for them." The bliss that Isaac experiences while nursing makes this whole struggle so bittersweet. Nursing means a lot to him-- much more than just the milk. It's a safe haven for him in a demanding world. It's an island of calm. When I think about pushing him away from this while he still feels that he needs it, it makes me feel terrible. When I frame it in terms of a new baby, it seems that I'm saying to Isaac, "Your turn is over!" I think, it's true enough that a new baby would take away a lot from Isaac-- is nothing sacred? It's not that I'm tired of nursing him. I honestly like nursing him-- it's close and cuddly and sweet. My motive has simply been that scary voice saying "38... 38..."
Last night I ordered a book from amazon-- "How Weaning Happens"-- it's a La Leche book recommended to me by another mom of an over-two nursling. After I ordered it I was thinking about this as I went to sleep. Then it occurred to me anew: he's just not ready. I'm trying to push the river. I'm creating a false timetable. We're probably haggling over six months, which means little in terms of another pregnancy. Another however-many months will give me that much more Pilates time (rebuilding my core muscles to carry a pregnancy.) When he's ready, this will not be a struggle. So, I'm going to back off, go back to a policy of "Don't offer, don't refuse," and see what happens in that vacuum. br> br> br> br>
TITLE: Do It By Self
DATE: 01/10/2005 08:43:16 PM br>
Isaac has always been a very take-charge baby, but lately he's taken his leadership skills to a new level. Not only am I constantly judging and balancing how much or little discipline he needs, he is doing the same with me.
Recently we got this water toy at the local toy library. It's a series of three water wheels on top of each other, with a sort of funnel thing above them all. When you pour water in the funnel thing, all the wheels turn most pleasingly. Since then, we've spent many hours in the bathroom, with Isaac standing naked in the bathtub pouring water, pouring water, pouring water. I'm there to keep him from drowning, which is unlikely as there's no water collecting in the tub itself, and to provide whatever help and assistance is needed along the way. But frankly, Zen state notwithstanding, watching him pour the water gets a little boring after a while. As it so happened, the day we got the water toy, I also got my new copy of Mothering Magazine (my bete noir) in the mail. So I brought it upstairs with me, brought in a footstool to sit on, and planned to keep an eye on Isaac and his pouring project while I read it. It seemed like a fair enough bargain to me, everyone happy.
But Isaac didn't see it that way. He noticed my reading and cried out (gesturing forcefully with his index finger) “Mommy! Stop it!” I protested, “I can read it if I want to.” At which point he took on a look of grim resolve and began to climb out of the tub towards me. “Have to take it away,” he said soberly. I quickly set the magazine down on the floor beside me, which appeased him. He went back to pouring. A few moments later, though, my eyes began to wander to the magazine on the floor. Soon I was reading it out of the corner of my eye. He spied me at it and began to climb out of the tub again, muttering to himself, “Have to take it away…”
He's also very stern about what room Daddy can or can't come into (although Daddy tends to do whatever he likes), who can or cannot rewind his video (which no one else cares about) where I should sit to nurse him, when and even whether I can talk on the phone, etc., etc. I pick my battles, and sometimes exert my greater power. Obviously he can't go around thinking that the rest of the world must do his bidding. But at the same time, I think it's helpful to the building of his sense of self to learn that he is a person with rights/needs/wants that should be included in the general discourse along with everyone else's. It's a balancing act.
He wants to do everything himself now. The phrase “Do it by self” is a constant one around here. I let him do the very limit of what is safe or possible for him to do. Some things I have refused include pouring a Dixie cup of juice from a full one-gallon jug, and stirring bacon sizzling in a half inch of hot grease. Some things I let him do include stirring a pot of hot soup with a long wooden spoon (while I'm holding him and closely monitoring); pouring juice from one ceramic cup to another; playing by himself in the bathroom sink (he can stand on the toilet), which can lead to the formation of ponds and waterways not normally found indoors. Yesterday I let him stand perilously close to a fire in a fire place while poking it with the proper implement. At one point he stumbled a little bit towards the fire, and I had to brace him against falling completely into it. Okay, a scary fragment of a second. But it meant a lot to him to do the work on the fire. He hated it when I blew on it in an attempt to help it stoke back up. “Do it by self!” he hollered. Then when it did start to go a little better, he was very pleased. “Big, big, BIG!” he said, demonstrating the massive size of the blaze with arms outstretched.
I think all this means that I'm more lenient than some. My guiding principle is that if it's reasonably safe and will not make too huge of a mess, I let him go for it. How else will he learn how the world works?
Recent fashion statements:
1) Naked, except for a string of purple mardi gras beads.
2) Naked, except for rubber boots in the form of bumblebees.
3) Naked, except for a yellow hard hat.
4) Naked, except for all the accessories listed above.
He runs around naked a lot. This is really helping with his toilet mastery (the PC term for potty training). He has been peeing in the potty on an almost daily basis and pooped in it once too, this week having been some sort of break through. He loves to pee “standing up like Daddy!” If Daddy is at work when this feat is accomplished, we call him with the news. The other day Ben was not at his desk and so we left a message. Isaac said, “Daddy? Pee in potty! Pee in potty! Daddy? Daddy?” while I tried to explain the whole voice mail concept. Later that day Ben left a message for Isaac. “Isaac, this is Daddy. Great job!” It is wonderful because Isaac is doing it all by self! He's just decided to take this step towards being the potty prodigy and charging forth on his own.
I've been reading my weaning book, “How Weaning Happens.” One thing I've learned is that often the total natural child-led weaning can be around age 4-5, like something that happens right before Kindergarten. It goes into some detail about the health benefits for both mom and baby of prolonged nursing (for baby fewer allergies, better brain development, fewer colds and ear infections, less risk of a wide array of diseases later on in life; for mom, calming hormones, lower risk of breast and reproductive cancers, etc., etc.). It has some stories of weaning gone wrong, too, and the fall out from that (nightmares, potty regression for baby, and breast and emotional problems for mom). And it has many stories and examples of people who found some sort of middle path.
There are lots of ideas to promote weaning. I'm sort of using two of them at the moment. Most importantly the one called, “Give Up.” That is… stop trying for a while, back off, and see what happens. I think that it's already (after less than a week) changed the dynamic. Isaac seems to be a lot less stressed and anxious about whether I will say yes or no. I say yes most of the time, and even recently nursed him in a restaurant while having lunch with a friend, something I had given up a long time ago. The other idea I'm using is “Be a Moving Target.” That is, rarely sit down. It's tiring, but the fact is that when I sit down and have a lap, Isaac is in that lap instantly wanting to nurse. But he seems to forget about it more if I don't sit down.
A friend observed that maybe his potty breakthrough is enough for him right now and that he can't cope with weaning at the same time, which seems very possible to me.
I've noticed that he tends to do a lot of the 30-second check-in type nursing. Maybe just to reassure himself that it's still an option? And then soon he gets distracted, jumps up and runs off to his next adventure. This seems a lot easier than going to the mat arguing about whether he can nurse or not. I'm thinking that through security and abundance he will decide for himself that this is something he no longer needs. “When a need is filled, it goes away,” say the attachment parenting people.
Also, I've learned the good news that I don't have to pump and dump after my gall bladder surgery at all. I first read this online at a reputable medical site, then I spoke with a lactation consultant at the hospital. She confirmed that there's no problem with the medication getting into the breast milk, and that moms who have c-sections under general anesthesia breastfeed as soon as they are awake enough to sit up, like within an hour or so. At the same time, my surgery has been postponed to February 11. Between these two pieces of information, I'm just happy to say that my surgery, which once seemed to be some sort of end point or deadline in terms of weaning, now is just another day. This means that I can just let the weaning process play itself out for a few more months without worrying about it too much. Hurray!
For those of you who have expressed concern about the surgery itself, let me reassure you (as I constantly am reassuring myself), that it's laproscopic. One half-inch incision in my navel, and three others that are only half a centimeter wide. It's supposed to be truly no big deal. You can often go home the same day, and supposedly the recovery is just sort of over the weekend or something like that. In the old days, this was an 8-inch incision and 6-8 weeks of recovery. Of course, something can always go wrong, and the anesthesia itself is a concern. But… it's almost certain that it will be completely fine.
I will close with a couple recent cute remarks from Isaac: We were listening to the poem “Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn.” Isaac grabbed his nose and said, “My horn right here.” In the bathtub, rubbing his chest and abdomen with a bar of soap, he explained, “Washin' penis, tummy and breasts.”br> br> br> br>
TITLE: Daddy, A Sea Change
DATE: 02/02/2005 08:27:58 PM br>
For quite a while now, Isaac has been fickle about his daddy. Isaac would love it if Ben wanted to play catch or chase or ride the pony or hide and seek. But if Daddy would try to read Isaac a story, he would often be rebuffed with, “Just only Mama read it!” If Daddy tried to snuggle up in bed with us while I read the story, he would be soundly sent packing with cries of, “No! Daddy no! Don't be here! Go 'way!” etc. If Ben insisted and stayed anyway, there were times that the protests devolved into full-fledged wailing “Noooo Daddy Don't Be Heeerrrreee!” Sometimes Isaac would go so far as to slam the gate to his room to keep Daddy at bay. “Just only Mama!” was a phrase all too common.
It wasn't a good situation for any of us. Ben, although he tried to be stoic, was wounded by all the rejection. I was all the more exhausted by the constant need to be central to all things and the impossibility of even getting a bathroom break without a huge ruckus. And of course, Isaac was missing out on a lot of prime Daddy time at the end of the day, fresh horses, etc.
But lately, not to jinx it, there's been a pronounced sea change. The other night at bedtime I was in Isaac's bed reading him a story, while Ben sat on a rocking chair nearby reading his own book to himself. This configuration was the sort of uneasy truce we had forged. When we finished reading one story, I suggested to Isaac (as I had done so many times before), “Why doesn't Daddy read the next one?” To my intense surprise and delight, Isaac calmly took the book from my hand, crawled out of bed, and crawled into Ben's lap. He allowed him to read it! And then I passed over another, and he allowed him to read that one too!
Then one night after we got back from swimming and had a late dinner, we settled in to watch a few rounds of that endlessly intoxicating confection, Bob the Builder. Ben was tired and lay down on the couch. Completely unprompted, Isaac slipped up into his arms and lay down beside him under a blanket. He drowsily watched his program while Ben dropped off to sleep. I was free to roam about the house unimpeded!
In the past, not only has Isaac refused to kiss Ben, he has responded with some horror to being kissed by Ben against his will. Like, wiping his face and yelling, “All dirty!” or even bursting into tears about the foul blight of Daddy kisses. But last night at bedtime, Isaac ran across the room and gave Daddy a big kiss on the lips. He ran over to me, then pivoted and ran back to Daddy to give him another big kiss on the lips--- two on-the-lip kisses spontaneously planted. Can you imagine such a profusion of affection all the sudden? Ben's delight is boundless.
It's a wonderful part of the transition that Isaac is in, expanding his horizons. Part of it is the potty miracle underway here--- these days peeing in the potty is becoming downright hum-drum. The Daddy inclusion project is connected with weaning too. It means that Isaac has suddenly learned how to accept non-nursing comfort. Daddy has already succeeded in patting Isaac's back to put him to sleep for his nap. Can nighttime sleep be far behind? Wow! For months and months I've been working on getting Isaac to stop nursing while awake and then go to sleep sans breast. He's mastered that. He'll stop nursing, roll over, and say quietly, “Touch you?” Meaning, he wants me to touch him. (I find this so charming that I sort of hope he never gets that you/me thing straightened out.) Then I pat him or run my fingers through his hair while he drifts off. The other night he let Ben pat his back for a little while I slipped away under the rubric of going to the bathroom. I waited in the other room a while and then came back to check on things. Ultimately I did end up putting him to sleep, but it was a huge step in the right direction.
A few nights ago Ben had a rare Dad's night out at a basketball game with some friends. Isaac and I sat down to dinner without Daddy, and Isaac was genuinely upset. We were having some chicken soup that Isaac especially loves, which made Ben's absence all the sadder. “Daddy have some chicken soup too?” Isaac asked. “Daddy come too?” It was wounding to try to explain the absence of Daddy at dinner. “Daddy's not eating with us tonight,” I began. Isaac said, “Daddy have some chicken soup too, real soon?”
He's also becoming quite the conversationalist. He has a few tried and true conversations that he trucks out when there's a lull. Often during that brief moment after dinner is on the table, but before everyone is there and settled, Isaac will begin this one (He always puts his chin in his hands, propped up on his elbows, for it):
Isaac: Went to farm,
This refers to incidents that actually happened. It's a blending of the traumatic visit to the Minnesota State Fair last summer, in which Isaac and I and Grandpa Warren were confronted with some very massive, noisy barns filled with untold thousands of livestock. Sometimes Isaac adds a flourish or two to the above conversation, or takes it in a different direction, such as “Sheep getting a haircut!” (something we saw that day at the fair) or, “Grandpa Warren… have a beard!” ( a true statement). Also folded into the conversation is a visit to a farm locally here in Ohio, in which I had arranged to meet a friend and her little boy at the cow barn and so we had to take a turn through it (it only had six cows…) although Isaac was having a post-traumatic stress flashback to the fair months earlier and wanted to get out of there right away.
Lately, though, he's been taking his conversational skills to new realms, like… imagined things completely out of nowhere. Today in the car he told me all about a big dog named Sophie who was eating hay in our kitchen. I can't tell you where all that came from or what it was about. Even though I'm with him 24/7, sometimes I just don't know where he gets these things.
While on the topic of hay, he recently came very slowly through the kitchen. With great effort, he dragged a large area rug from the other room. When I questioned him about this project, he explain, “Moving a big hay bale!”
He has another narrative thread that has to do with having a tummy ache and going to the doctor. Sometimes he will spontaneously announce, “Feel sick. Go to doctor. Tummy ache.” I don't know why he says this, but I don't think it's an actual tummy ache. Is it because I was at the doctor all day recently doing paper work and crud pertaining to my up-coming gall bladder surgery? Did the babysitter tell him I had a tummy ache and that's why I was at the doctor? Is it back to the wondrous Tums, which Mama gets because she has a tummy ache?
He has a new faux gas grill made of molded plastic. It has plastic coals that light up and make a crackling noise when you press a button, and several items to grill--- a plastic ear of corn, a burger and bun, and a chicken leg--- and it has a little plastic spatula. We got it from the toy library and I'm not sure what will happen when we have to bring it back there in a couple weeks. Isaac is deeply in love with the grill. It has wheels on it, and is just his height, so he can push it all over the house. For a few days there, whenever he went up or down stairs, he insisted that I carry it up or down with us. Of course, this happened zillions of times, up and down. One night after dinner we put the grill in the downstairs shower to wipe it off with a sponge. It didn't need cleaning, but Isaac wants to keep the grill really sparkling and loves cleaning things with a sponge. Since it was making a large sloppy mess all over the floor, I relocated the project to the shower stall. We left it in there over night, and I forgot about it. The next morning, we were down at breakfast and Isaac groggily made the rounds of the first floor. Suddenly he was stricken by the fact that the grill was nowhere in sight! He came running into the kitchen, sounding the alarm. “My gill! My gill! Where my gill!?”
Phew-- ! So lucky that it was safe and well.
The other night his little friend Noeli came over and Isaac gave her the full tour of the grill. He seemed so much like an adult man showing his friend his real grill. “Cook a food right up there,” he said, lifting the lid and showing the culinary offerings. “Hot fire right under there,” he said as he activated the coals. “Wheels down there,” demonstrating the ambulatory ease of the thing. Noeli was, I think, duly impressed. I expected him to any minute go into how many BTUs it had, and what propane accessories.
However, he has a problem of chasing Lena (the dog) with the grill. This mad-cap multi-room chase seemed to be fun for both boy and dog (for a while) and to provide a pleasing exhaustion for both. But Lena got tired of it eventually, and Isaac kept slamming his head on things as he careened around with the grill. Finally the head impacts got so bad that Ben put him in his bike helmet. So then we had a little boy wearing a huge helmet (covered with sea creatures), running at top speed, pushing a barbecue grill, chasing the dog all through the house. It was quite a sight.
Had he been all naked, it would have been perfect.br> br> br> br>
TITLE: Notification Problem?
DATE: 02/05/2005 01:00:10 PM br>
Hi all-- can you drop me a quick note, at email@example.com, to let me know that you received this notification? I posted an entry on Thursday and have heard from a couple people that they did not get the notification that went along with it. I did get an error message following the notification and re-sent it, and on my own e-mail I received it twice. So... who knows? It would help to just get a tally of who is and isn't getting this. Thanks much. Catherine br> br> br> br>
TITLE: Moving this Blog
DATE: 02/24/2005 05:29:23 PM br>
this blog has moved! The new address is
[Note: At the beginning of 2011 Catherine's blog moved to Fine Young Fauves]