Sunday, September 30, 2007

Over yonder ghost town

there's the city, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

I go back to work tomorrow. And in preparation for the tumult, the hubs and I left the kids with my parents for a night on the town. While we went to dinner and a movie, they wrestled the girl into jammies and the boy into taking a bottle.

His first. Ever.

Of course we had to call home to see how things were going between dinner and catching the "3:10 to Yuma."

I have to admit my heart sank when my mother's cheery voice reported that he had to be coaxed a little but in no time boyo had sucked down the bottle like he was an old pro.

I wonder what it says about my parenting that I was secretly hoping he'd go on a milk strike without me? What does it say that the girl who in on a nap strike in my care gets the sleep she so clearly needs with the sitter?

It doesn't help that I spent my official last day of maternity leave at th Company Picnic, only to learn the extent of recent departures and future ones ... can you say skeleton crew?

Friday, September 28, 2007

anniversario felice

He asked me what I wanted for our anniversary.

I told him I already had my gift ...

poindexter pair, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Two nerdy kids in beer goggles.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Toothsome and then some

brushing teeth in birthday hat, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

All those sugary treats are haunting me. The fruit juices are laughing at me and the fluoride drops sitting on the counter, abandoned, are calling me "Drip."

Today we took ittybit to her first dentist appointment. She wasn't feeling up to it so I convinced the hygenist to bump my appointment up three days and clean my teeth so she could see the drill in action.

I had such a difficult time keeping a straight face as the masked hygenist chipped away at the tarter and plaque, polished my pearly whites with something suspiciously strawberry in flavor and sucked up saliva with the "slurping straw." For each time a new impliment was introduced, Ittybits eyes and nose came squarely into view, even blocking out the overhead light.

The dentist pronounced me a perfect patient and the spotlight turned to the girl. She bristled, bunched up in my arms and tried to hide. She eventually agreed to lay on top of me while the dentist counted her teeth (20) and looked around.

Not good.

She has one cavity smack dab in the center of her front teeth and it looks like she's going to need orthodontic correction eventually.

Because she wasn't terribly cooperative he's referred us to a pediatric dentist for treatment.

Of course the worst happened in the car when Annabel said my teeth were pretty, but hers were not. She had a cavity.

"My teeth are never, ever going to be pretty now."

**heavy sigh.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Superdooper pooper scooper

So next week I'm headed back to work. The very place that reported THIS bit of news last week.


... And here we've had to hire a new babysitter. Someone who is legally able to take only two children, and had two spaces available. Someone, who as Ittybit puts it, "isn't Lori."

I know what she means. I feel it myself. She's probably perfectly fine, we just don't know her yet. Going back to work with such an unknown person taking care of the most important people in my life ... well I don't have to tell you what it feels like. If you've ever done it you know.

And now with this death in my head -- on the first day of daycare no less -- I can't imagine I'll be getting much work done.

Not that any babysitter -- or any mother, for that matter -- could prevent the death of an infant to SIDS. However, we'd always be thinking we could have done something should such a nightmare happen to us.

Even if that senario is rare, what's not rare in these early months when life seems so precarious, we are trudging back to work to make ends meet or to keep our jobs secure.

When I talk to people around the world who are given leave for 12 months to make sure the Next Generation gets a good start, I become enraged at the backward thinking that some say has made us a superpower ... Corporations over people.

I'll tell you what ... I for one would like our government to pay women to stay home with their infants for a year if they choose to do so. I'd gladly trade all the bullets we've used in Bagdad for that.

Who needs superpowers anyway? Isn't there some saying ... the bigger you are the harder you fall?

Seriously, if a superpower can't get you decent health care or family leave than how super can it be?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Oh, the suspense

So my writer-friend Martha (she's the purdy lady on the right) visited us yesterday for our second annual Apple Picking excursion at Love Apple Farm.

I've been compulsively checking her blog since she asked me for a few "web" sized photos of our day ...

There's no telling how much fun she will have with me and this clownshow I call a family.

Will she write about how Ittybit self imposed a time out so she wouldn't have to share her toys?

Will she write about how I LOST the keys to the car while we were at lunch (and still haven't found them)?

Will she discuss how the girls would rather go catepiller hunting than apple picking? Or that they had to TASTE every apple on every tree instead of putting ANY in the bag? Or how my Silas was determined to let her Sam suck on his hand?

She'll probably tell her readers all about how I dress in long sleeves and long pants whether it's 50 degrees or 80 degrees and my kid wears a tutu and cleats.

About how no matter what they're wearing, lately out kids wind up naked at some point during the playdate.

Or how about the pork loin we made for dinner that she helped nuke in the microwave when it turned out from the grill still a little pink?

She may even talk about the baby wearing freak I've become. Taking pride in taking out the trash, getting the laundry and balancing something on my head all while wearing the Champ. How I've tried to make her a convert, too.

Whatever it is she writes about, though, I guarantee it will be true and 100 percent more hilarious.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

And away she goes

"I am going to be shy."

I've come to realize such statements are more of a wish than reality. She may not jump in with both feet, but girlfriend is taking notes.

Since Silas had a follow-up visit with the pediatric urologist, and my mom (who, with my father, who has taken Annabel when we need a "babysitter") had a dentist appointment, I decided it was time to take the new sitter for a test run.

It had been a good morning. She ate cereal, peas and corn (don't ask) and was in the car and ready to go to Terri's house by 7:30 a.m. When we got there Terri's son was waiting outside, ready for a playtime bonanza. He was ready to hunt dinosaurs, capture sharks or swing through the jungle vines. Annabel just wanted to watch.

She clung to my pants leg and defiantly informed Terri that her old sitter loved her and she likewise.

She didn't want to be disloyal, but she did want to play on the rope swing. She wanted to do projects and watch a Land Before Time. She wanted to eat lunch and oatmeal cookies.

When I told her it was time for me to go, she just said 'bye' as happily as if she were saying hello.

When I returned, she was happy to say hello but in no hurry to say goodbye.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The black hole that contains my thoughts

Disclaimer: I don't know what I'm saying. Please don't hold it against me.

In fewer than two weeks I will be returning to work. And that frightens me. So much so that I'm going to dig myself a hole in the taboo universe and write candidly about my day job, even though I know colleagues and (gulp) superiors read these ramblings from time to time.

As a second maternity leave draws to a close, I'm doing all the things that one might do to drive themselves crazy. I'm comparing the children, photographing them in similar ways at similar ages. I'm thinking ... This is my last baby; do I really want to miss this? And wondering why it is I work in the first place.

There's the insurance. There's the steady income. There's the independence. There's even a hint that I still enjoy the work ... which as the years go by, I must admit gets more and more defused in the scent of hopelessness.

See, folks, I'm not entirely sure what it is I'll be returning to when I go back to work October 1: Stock prices are in the toilet; A manager at my place of employment has left, co-workers who are already on the low side of the morale see-saw are worried about who will be the replacement; and my job description might change drastically as the people in charge scramble to keep the ship afloat.

I'm sure you've heard, newspapers everywhere are bleeding revenue. Readers are literally dying. Advertizing is going to online entertainment sites and Classifieds - once the bread and butter of periodicals in print -- have had thier obituaries published as Craig's List, e-bay and freecycle move into their old apartment. ... My little rag, just like all the others, is trying everything it can to keep its white-knuckled grip on viability.

There was a time when I loved my job. Well, that might not be entirely true. ... There was a time when I loved what I did. I loved my industry. Not to be a total shitheel, but I also ... for the most part ... love the people with whom I work. I may rail against the corporate skinflints and decry the industry's declining integrity, but I also call a spade a spade. I know if the industry was still in its golden age I'd never be hired to do what I do. For me to have a job as a "journalist" I needed the industry to lower its standards.

But be that as it may, gratitude can only last so long.

And this isn't an indictment of my industry, despite the fact that I have many complaints. This is just me thinking aloud when I would sound (and likely be) smarter silent. I'll begin at the beginning. The first job.

It was at a weekly. My boss was a person who mystified me. I liked her -- we all did -- but she never, ever seeemed to "do the right thing." We called her our layout stringer: a person who showed up in a whirl of activity on the days we put the paper together by hand -- yes I am that old -- and was virtually invisible at all other times.

When we lost a typist she informed us "we all" had to type press releases. Except she never typed a one. When we were drowning in dreck she just clucked in sympathy and then blew out the door in a puff of smoke from her Winston-Salems. When an office worker was reprimanded by off-site management for taking too many smoke breaks -- the perceived reason for underperformance (which was impossible as the dirty secret was that years after the smoking bans smokers were still puffing away at their desks) -- this boss didn't step up to save the woman's job. She didn't want to get in trouble, and she didn't want to have to leave her desk to light up.

There were many, many examples of such shortfalls. Every time the chips were down we thought she's come through for us, or at least attempt to lend a hand. But every time she found a way to cover her ass while we all stood around, mouths agape. And still we liked her. And still, like hopeful children of deadbeat dads, we gave her the benefit even though she never gave us anything but doubts.

You see, she was a person who was at one time fabled to be a bulldog. A full-steam-ahead go-getter. In the interim she had become a mother.

I think about her a lot these days as I'm looking ahead to long days of ferrying the children to daycare, dashing off to work and trying to get everything done -- not to mention replacement milk pumped -- before I have to reverse course. I know there must be someone or two or three out there who grumbles at my ability to keep bankers' hours in a newsroom but I don't let it get to me. I do my job as best I can. I no longer offer to do extra, but I don't hesitate if extra is asked of me.

But I have lost the fire.

I would like nothing better to rant about all the things I find wrong with our society -- one that claims to hold family values but only offers three months when babies are literally LIVING off their mother's tit exclusively for six months. But neither is this an indictment of capitalism. Someone is always getting a raw deal somewhere.

No this is about your head choosing to go back to work when your heart is begging to stay with your children. This is for every woman who wishes she could witness every smile, every laugh, every skinned knee while keeping a hand in her profession. This is about all the people who stop her in the street or the store at tell her to "enjoy this time." This is about every woman who's heart ever broke in a million pieces just thinking of how fast this time really does fly. Because in no time at all, she'll be going back to work and seeing her children at breakfast and bedtime. And in no time they'll be gone.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Yankme Candle

Ok. All the lovey, dovey junk aside -- the children are our future, a child is a marvel *blueshit -- we all know once you have kids a few things are never the same.

Now, I knew I was never going to be able to sleep in again. I knew that I was never going to be able to just go to the store, or to the bank or for a walk on my own. I knew that I was going to be wiping noses and bums and spills on the floor for the forseeable future. I knew that I was going to be answering the same question fifteen times a day for the next 18 years. I knew that I'd never be alone in the bathroom again for a long, long time. And yes, I know about LOCKING the bedroom door. (Ahem).

But I never really thought how having kids was going to affect YOU, the family and friends that I must buy gifts for at holidays.

It turns out that all the crap interesting tidbits parents have to buy as a result of student fundraising begins in PRESCHOOL. PRESCHOOL?!?


So this stuff has to go somewhere folks, and Christmas is coming. ...

I hope you don't hold it against me. Remember, there are worse smelling things I could be sending you.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Big trouble

When Ittybit was his age I couldn't imagine getting angry with her. When I gazed into her eyes all I saw was sugar and spice. Even the unconsolable crying jags had a sweetness I didn't expect.

Babies. They are like little old souls despite their awkward, sideways smiles, their lack of motor control and almost total absence of articulation beyond nearly deafening screams.

It seems like a lifetime ago that I looked into her eyes, touched her face and wondered what she was going to be like when she was older. Even as she grew into her own person, enough of the baby remained. Or maybe it was the reverse. Maybe she grew into the sly little wit who I brought home from the hospital on the date she was due.

But lately not a day goes by that I'm not biting my lip and clenching every muscle in my body trying to hold back a rising flood of frustration. "Stop fidgeting. Don't touch that. Please put that down. Be gentle. Will you just sit still. You need to eat more. I made that for you and now you're not eating it. We have to leave now. Please brush your teeth. Don't swallow the toothpaste. We don't waste shampoo. Pick that up. You have to wear a sweater. PLEASE WEAR A SWEATER. Look at your lips they're blue. When I feel your arm it's FREEZING ..."

And with four words she wins the whole war: "Don't feel my arm."

As I hang my head in defeat this little guys is smiling up at me with his cockeyed grin.

And I know. ... I'm in big trouble.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Just keep swimming

23water, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Papa arrived this morning at 8:30 a.m. to take Ittybit to her first swimming lesson at the Y. And promptly at 8:31 a.m. they were out the door. She didn't even look back.

She didn't even utter the words she's been repeating since we told her she'd be learning to swim with her Papa: "OK. ... But I'm not going to put my head underwater, right?"

We didn't need to tell her that she wouldn't have to do anything she didn't want to do.

She grabbed her Dora the Explorer bag containing her new swimsuit and a blue towel (to match the color of the water) and she was gone.

Oh sure, Papa said I could go if I wanted, but I could tell by the sound of his voice that this was something he was hoping would be just for him and Annabel. Their special thing.

So I stayed back to drum my fingers on the table, drink coffee without the interruption of her sing-song voice asking me to play with her and her tiny animals on the livingroom floor, not to mention the possibility of a walk to the farmer's market without having to stop to check the cracks in the sidewalk for treasures.

I miss her already.


I haven't missed her FIRST swimming lesson after all. When she and Papa came home I yelled down the stairs, "Hey, how'd it go." And was answered by Papa saying "Not too well."

Turns out the pool lost a motor or something and has been out of commission since Thursday. Papa was disappointed. Annabel was disappointed. A bunch of kids and their parents were disappointed. And an elderly woman who was headed in as Annabel and Papa were headed out was probably disappointed, too.

ANNABEL: Are you going to swim?

LADY: Why yes I am. I go swimming here three times a week.

ANNABEL: Well not today. The pool is broken.

For a second I had a flashback to my ninth birthday (at least I think I was 9) and my father was taking me and two of my friends bowling. I was SOOOOOOOOOOO excited. It was going to be the absolute COOOOLEST, most SPECTACULAR birthday anyone under 10 EVER had.

But we got to the alley and it was closed. Who ever heard of a bowling alley closed on a Saturday?

Thinking fast my father hustled us back into the car and drove as swiftly as a man who NEVER drives faster 40 mph across the river to the Port of Albany. The. Stinky. Old. Port. Of. Albany. Where for a half an hour we watched a garbage barge load up. I'm fairly certain I cried for a week.

And yet, it's the ONLY birthday I remember. It's the only one worth talking about.

I didn't say anything, but I wondered what he did instead since the pair of miscreants didn't make it home until two hours after finding the drain pulled on their pool time. Did he take her to the Port?

"We went to Old MacDonalds and I played on the toys with the kids. It was GREAT."

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Because he kinda resembles a geriatric heroin addict

papa, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

As you may recall, I am going to hell.

But since I've decided to at least TRY and be a responsible parent I've put an end to further viewings of "Little Miss Sunshine" by our own little miss sunshine.

However, I neglected to mention it to Jed.

I had to go to a board meeting at her preschool -- The Marilla Cuthbert Academy for Unspeakably Charming Children (or MCA-UCC for you acronym lovers) -- and in my absence, the daddy-person let her watch it.

At the part where Alan Arkin, the grandfather, meets his demise she becomes VERY concerned.

Daddy, I HAVE to call Papa. NOW!

... So Jed rings him up ...

"Hi, Papa? Hi. It's me. ANN-A-BEL.

Are you OK?"

Here's hoping this doesn't become part of show and tell.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

War of the Roses

ME: The Nassau Public Library is showing "Flushed Away" on September 28th. It's a family night pajama party.

HIM: Are they showing it outside?

ME: No. They've got a little projector downstairs in the storytime room.

HIM: I am NOT spending our anniversary in the basement wearing fuzzy slippers.

ME: Well maybe Papa can take her.

HER: I don't want papa to take me. I want to go with yoooooooooooooooooooooou! MommyMommy MommyMommy Mommy MOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMEEEEEE!

ME: Well if you go with papa I'll bet that he'll let you get all hopped up on sugar ...

HER: OK. Going with Papa'd be good.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Wait a while and it changes

like the weather in NY, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

We just got back from a weekend trip to New York City, the cruxt of which was to visit the big Toy's R Us store in Times Square.

You may wonder why on Earth two reasonably intellengent people -- parents of Ittybit and Champ to be more precise -- would travel two hours on a train and then schlep the kids, two backpacks, a stroller and a camera to visit a toy store that arguable has less going for it than any of the the locally owned toy boxes in our own neighborhood?

The occasion was a "potty party" in honor of our dear friend CC, who was celebrating a dry summer by taking a few spins on the gigantic indoor farris wheel the toy behemoth has jammed inside its multi-storied establishment.

We thought we'd try and take it easy on ourselves and take a bite out of the Big Apple a day early, stay at a Greenwich Village hotel and see the Richard Serra show at MoMA.

I can honestly say we had a wonderful time, even though we expected to be shooting ourselves in the face bringing a nap-striking three-year-old through the bowels of Manhattan's mass transit system in a souped-up umbrella stroller and then making her stay in the contraption through five floors of modern art, when all she really wanted to do was see her friends and ride the ride.

I must also point out that waiting to cry and throw an all-out tantrum three hours into the museum experience should be put down on her application for sainthood. I, myself, lobbied for an hour at the museum and an hour at the Central Park Zoo. (I was overruled).

But I'm not bitter or anything.

Perhaps the most interesting part about the whole experience was just witnessing the city for the first time at the vantage of parenthood. New York, a place that ordinarily seems cold and austere despite its opulance, where people race from place to place and barely make eye-contact, melts when tiny tots are in the picture. Having children really is the great equalizer. Everyone stops to talk to the kids, to ask about the sling that kept Silas comfee and quiet the whole trip. It was exactly like being in a small town.

From the moment we stepped off 34th Street on our way to West 4th and back to Penn Station, we were engaged by people who wanted to know how old the baby was, how old Annabel was; they worried about his safety in the sling and wondered where I got it. They told me about deals they saw on such things in SoHo.

When Silas cried, grocery clerks clucked in empathy, coffeeshop baristas told us about their teenagers at home. ... how they'd go back to the baby days in an instant if they would just stay babies ... and hostesses at restaurants offered to walk him around so I could eat.

Everyone smiled and said 'Have a Nice Day.'

And they meant it.

Even in the toy store we had to admit the kid of ours who walks and talks was walking the line, and on her best behavior. The only thing I regret, out of the whole experience was not photographing the tower of boxes containing dolls fashioned from the musical "Hairspray" that Toys R' Us was hawking.

As teeny-bopper types were shrieking with glee at the chance to have their very own Amber Von Tussle doll, I found myself handling an Edna Turnblad, turning the box over and over in my hand and feeling sad. I wondered momentarily if John Waters is turning over in his grave ... then I realized the poor man's not even dead. Hell must have frozen over for sure.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Trouble sleeping

Silas woke me for his four o-clock feeding this morning by giggling.

That's right, GIGGLING.

Not one giggle such as he'd exhibited for the first time that afternoon, but multiple giggles. It was as if he woke from a dream that pleased him.

I couldn't go back to sleep.

I just stared at him as he slept smiling.

I'm sure it's a sign.

... All is well.

I hope, anyway.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

What I did on my summer vacation ...

Let's be forthright, shall we?

Moms - stay-at-home or otherwise - don't really get summer vacations, now, do they? There's always a nose needing to be wiped, a knee needing to be sprayed with disinfectant (and then kissed) and a soccer/baseball/football player or track star that needs a lift to camp ... and back.

When I think of all the vacation time I wasted before children; time just frittered away walking on a beach, drinking in pubs or visiting places with breakables, I become wistful.

Because of Silas' arrival and the Family Medieval Leave Act, this year has been the closest to a summer vacation I've come since sophmore year, high school. (After that it was pretty much full-time summer jobs from then on.)

Oh sure I had surgical recovery and the addition of a new person to the family -- one that requires maintenance every two hours -- to contend with, but I also had 10 hours a day that was normally taken uo with work and commute. All I had to do was fill it up.

Easier said than done.

For the record:

Free play isn't free. For 90 seconds firstborn children will assemble all that is needed for a morning of spectacular, imagintive play. The debris will be scattered over four states. Yet as soon as you tell them that they will have to play by themselves, the scamps will lose all interest, abandoning the minefield of toys and begin a chant that will haunt you for the rest of the day: IDON'TKNOWHOWTO ....

Any craft projects that YOU conceive occupies a preschooler for approximately 13 minutes (and that's a successful one). It will also take 30 minutes to clean up, but you can't count those as part of your day since you can't push the vacuum for another four weeks thanks to the incision. And, once you've been cleared for takeoff, the baby will be sleeping during prime suction opportunities anyway.

Taking a walk to the nearest park will burn up a good hour and 17 minutes. You will be smacking yourself in the face with every pebble the kid picks up along the way (475) not to mention trying to figure out a way to slide down the curly slide with a baby in arms or bribe the only other child in the whole playground -- a bored looking pre-teen probably waiting for her ex-convict boyfriend -- to do it for you. Be prepared for a workout on the way home as you WILL be returning with a kicking, screaming banshee, slippery from reapplied sunscreen, because the only way she will ever be ready to leave a playground is if you promise the circus is offloading elephants in the driveway as she lollygags on the swings.

Lunch will be a solid 10 minutes of fun (and another 20 minutes of agony). You will spend four minutes asking your firstborn what they desire and be told all manner of non-procurable vittles: "I would like chocolate covered bees, pleeeeze." Of course when you finally negotiate for peanut butter sandwiches (with the crusts cut off) and you start making them, she'll tell you she really wanted peanut butter celery canoes.

During all this you will have to change the baby four times, change your shirt twice and your pants once. You still haven't showered, and the firstborn is only wearing underwear. You bribe the child into wearing clothes by telling her she can help you make cookies if she puts on a shirt and shorts. Chocolate chip? Is there any other kind?

But lo' there's no brown sugar. So off to the store you go. Packing the car with a half-naked kid, a screaming infant and about a week's worth of clothes should your car break down and hekp doesn't arrive for an hour. Granted, grocery stores take about two hours whether you are getting one item or 100. (I would explain in more detail, but I might cry just thinking about it).

There are some things that I think are FUN to do with kids, and baking happens to be on the top of the list. Cakes from a mix, Toll House from scratch ... doesn't matter. If they lose interst between the creaming of butter and sugar and the spooning heaps onto the baking sheet, just thrust a loaded mixer blade in thier direction and watch them disappear.

But that only fills three-quarters of a day ... if I bake one more thing I will be faced with a horrid choice: lose my husband to heart disease or open the most inconsistent bakery in the world, calling it "Some Like It Hot (But Most Like It Cooked).

You know what's filling the rest of the day, right? THE BOOB TUBE Oh, yeah ... I've still got laundry to wash and fold. But then I swear, I don't care if it is midnight before the house is finally silent, I'm sitting down to read that trashy beach novel. It's still summer right?

Monday, September 03, 2007

It was a tad squishy

Hello. Elliott?

Yeah. Well actually it's Annabel.


Well ...

I had oatmeal this morning for breakfast. But you wouldn't have liked it. ... It had marshmellows in it.

Well, that's all.

Actually ... I have to go now.