Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Friends and other ships that pass in the night

Dear Annabel,

You probably know by now that friendships ebb and flow in a ways similar to bodies of water. Sometimes they wobble like ripples in a pond or crash like waves in an ocean.

I've watched you interact with people your own height, but I haven't been able to pin down what it is about the person that makes you want to hug them and chase around them in circles or what makes you try and inch away.

I suppose it could be arbitrary, but more likely its some unknowable equasion that only makes sense to you and the person that holds your affection. Adults like to analyse these qualities, we lable people with words like "best" and "toxic," and no doubt we will clash on which friends get which lable.

Such is the nature of friendship.

We all seem to have friends in different ways.

Your father still keeps in touch with many of his pals from his adolescent days. You've already met their children and will be introduced to more as time and due dates march forward.

Many of my friends from my youthful days are still milling about in the universe, but they've spun off in some direction or other that's kept me from following. Or perhaps I've spun off in my own direction.

The funny thing is that I still think of many of these folks not as "one-time friends" or "former friends" but as friends. I feel as if each person has a place on the shelves of my memory. I imagine that if someone were to show up on the doorstep or in my e-mail box, I feel as if time would drop away.

It may seem as if people become less important to us, but that's not really what happens. What happens is we move in new directions and sometimes it means people become less accessible. Perhaps you won't remember this girl you hugged and held hands with on your trip through the apple orchard. Perhaps she will become a distant memory once you are in Kindergarten. It's also possible you will walk down every hallway together, and some years you'll hold hands and some years you'll hold noses.

Such is life.

I hope your friends will be good to you, sweetie. As I hope you will be good to them. Most importantly, though, I want you to be good to yourself. I want you to know that being a good friend has nothing to do with self sacrifice. Friendship shouldn't require we harm ourselves; The best of friends will bring out the best of each other.

Thing is, though, most adults don't understand this. Parents worry about bad influences, hurt feelings and being led down the wrong path. But they aren't always making the best choices for themselves, either.

Now that it's apparent you have preferences, I know that there will be times when our preferences will not match. And then our dealings with each other will seem like a hand of poker. We'll read each other's "tells" and decide which, if any of us, are bluffing.

There's a lot to remember. There's a lot of things that will need to be worked out. Friendships have very little in the way of blacks and whites. There are always going to be shades of gray.

And the biggest swath of grayscale is something I have to manage. I have to remember that ultimately I am not your friend. I am your mother.



Monday, October 29, 2007

Really, really, bad, bad, scary stuff

Exerpt from The Authentic Princess Diaries:

29th October
Snow White and Barbie(tm) belly up to the snack bar and discover there are no soy-based or low-carb treats. Reign of terror begins. No one lives happily ever after. The End.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Just keep swimming

pool, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Papa's been taking Annabel to swim lessons at the Y. It's been quite an experience for them, to be sure.

However, this week Papa had to have a minor medical procedure and wasn't able to get into the pool with her. So while he held the baby I got a good horrifying look at myself in my favorite swimsuit and had to figure out a way to get from the locker room to the pool without a cloak of invisibility.

The trip from the dressing room to the pool was worth the embarassment, though, once the water was hiding all my insecuries.

With a life preserver strapped around her waist, Ittybit kicked her way from one end of the pool to the other. All by herself. It was something to see.

When she noticed me swimming alongside of her she stopped and wondered aloud: "Mom, who's holding me up?"

"Well the floatation device is holding you up, but you're swimming all by yourself."

It's such a shame all the warm fuzzy feelings evaporated when we had to emerge from the tepid water and make our way back to the changing room.

"MOM! You're LEAKING!"

Can't wait for next week. I just hope Papa's all healed.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Mmmmm ....

Almost quittin' time. ....

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Little riding red hood

Dear Annabel,

I can't believe it's been so long since I've written you.

Your brother, as you know, has lured my attentions. You still don't seem to mind, though, and for that I am grateful and just a little bit sad.

It is the person in me who loves you to the point of pain that wishes you were the only one. Wishes I'd had you second so I could be the relaxed person I wanted to be but wasn't.

I shouldn't tell you this because I know it won't sound right, but I didn't LOVE you right away. It had nothing to do with you. You were perfect. And easy. And lovable. And everything I imagined you would be and more.

I was afraid.

I'd never so much as babysat an infant before I held you in my arms, contemplating the strange notion that the hospital staff was not only going to let me take you home but they expected it.

I was so afraid of you -- hurting you, doing something wrong, afraid of all the things I had no control over -- and I was so tired, that I sent you back to the nursery every chance I got.

I often think everything, especially our ideas about love, get so flipped around that we just don't recognize the emotion. The saying goes that you will never have a second first baby, but what they don't always tell you is that you might never really enjoy the experience.

When I slept with Silas in the hospital, giving him reluctantly to the nurses who came to check his vitals, I thought of you and what we missed in the early days of our lives together.

Because I'd never experienced hormonal shifts that felt like ocean waves before, I couldn't just ride them out and stare into your eyes. I floundered instead.

Because I'd never taken pain medication I had no idea it would sap what little energy I had or make me feel sick. I worried something just wasn't right.

Because I listened to people who I assumed knew better than me, I did what I was told. I put you back in the bassinet anytime you weren't nursing ... for your own safety.

It wasn't love that was lacking though, my sweet girl, it was confidence.

There's something else I've noticed that makes me sad.

Everything you've taught me in this tough age of reason will benefit your brother more than it benefits you.

My frustration level is at a low ebb when I sleep poorly and see you only on the swing-shift of your day. I miss you always and yet I find myself, during those fleeting hours we are together, talking to you through clenched teeth.

With increasing frequency, you ask me if I'm mad at you and I realize what a horrible thing it is to just walk through these days trying to keep up with the schedule. Trying to just. get. to. the. next. thing. It just messes the whole thing up completely.

But I'm glad you asked, even though I'm not glad you felt you had to. I'm glad you make me see myself, and that you have the confidence I lack in that respect. I want you to keep it, my dear, and use that gift without malace. I may not always know what I feel, but I know love you. And I know I've loved you for always and ever.



Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Turn your head and cough

He snuffled his way through a fitful night's sleep, coughing and breathing needles of air through tiny snot-lined nasal passages, and still awoke as chipper as a chipmunk this morning.

As I dressed him for his doctors' appointment today all the things a mother could think go through my head. Not just the worry that they'll find something devastating, but the idea that they’ll find fault with the care he’s been getting from me.

Each time we took Annabel to her appointments I'd always feel like I'd failed when the doctor noted a host of things that regular cleanings and maintenance should have prevented:

*Neck cheese.

*Red in the folds.

*A spot of eczema that regular applications of hydrocortisone would have cured.

But as I check him over I just see a happy baby with peachy skin and chubby legs. This time, I brag to myself, I have to be an Olympic contender in parenting.

And I was still feeling all sorts of faultless when she clicked her tongue on the roof of her mouth and noted the condition of his toenails ...

"Looks like someone needs a trim ... "

I wanted to protest. To tell her that Annabel’s nails nearly curled upon themselves and she never noticed. But then I realized, I had gotten away with something. Best not to remind her.

*** Silas weighed in at 12 pounds, 10 ounces and measured 24 ½ inches. His head circumference is 40 cm. (They dispensed with the percentiles this time). Also he repeated four injections and one oral vaccine. The kid stopped crying the moment I picked him up.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The story of her life (thus far)

i will not have fun, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Her cheeks still red from considerable exertion in the bounce house she threw herself on the ground and pronounced she was not having any fun.

More to the point, she would never have any fun ever again. Never! Not Ever! and a few more superlatives thrown in just for (ahem) fun.

Of course then she popped up, dusted the seat of her pants and ran back up the hill and toward the house of air, yelling "I'm going to beat you there, mama ... I'm winning the race."

Sometimes I feel like a walking cliche. I wonder if it's possible to love a child more than I love her at this very moment?

As I complain about my general dislike for the things that are common at this age -- the tantrums and the tests, the non-stop jammering until break out in a screaming rant of my own pleasebequiets -- I am totally in love with the round-faced girl sitting placidly in her car seat when I turn to back out of the driveway. I'm taken with the child who smiles back at me when I catch her frowning, and I'm smitten with the kid who kisses my cheek with a slurpy smack.

On top of it all, she still loves her brother with a ferociousness I can neither explain nor truly understand. I just know it's real and it's complete.

I imagine this love she has for him will last until he touches her stuff.

The only thing I know for sure is that it won't surprise me if she surprises me.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Party Animals

oy, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

We returned from our second annual Please Send Vodka extravaganza largely unscathed. (Although, as you can tell from the photograph, I've not taken any future psychological breakdowns into account for that assessment).

Please Send Vodka (or PSV) for those of you wondering is a kind of a moms' group that meets 'round the clock in the wide open space of the internet. It's a bulletin board-type forum where people post and run or post and read as time permits.

For many of the group's members the place is a lifesaver. We show up with questions, concerns and our feelings of complete inadequacy, and we leave with answers and reassurance and enough confidence to try it again or attempt something new.

Although I can't really adequately describe all that went on at Party Central because I was drinking heavily only one small cog in the wheel of many conversations, I can give you an overview of what the experience leaves me thinking:

* First and foremost, the MEN (husbands, fathers, others) who make random guest apearances on the boards as they are often featured topics in multiple occasional complaint boxes (shush ... we dole out credit, too) deserve nothing but props for making the trip to meet people who are, to them, total strangers. Although we women feel like we're all friends because we chat online and we drop names that you have picked up in passing, you guys are the real troopers for smiling, making small talk and generally being the supportive people that you are without really knowing a soul.

* The women are all more beautiful in the flesh. And the kids are positively edible.

* Children who eat lollypop rings for breakfast, lunch and dinner can bounce in an inflatable house ALL. NIGHT.

*Beer consumption doesn't make parents equally as athletic ... but an hour long session inside the house (along with copious amounts of alcohol) makes one think 'why hasn't someone made this into the latest fitness fad before?'

*Any party involving children will be made better if there are at least two realistic looking baby dolls that can be placed in precarious locations.

*If all kids are wearing the same clothes you might go home with the wrong kid.

*Bringing temporary tattoos and teaching my kid how to apply them to others? Two words: Ice. Breaker. Also, made her not climb up in the sling with her brother or attach herself permanently to my leg. All good.

*** We've got scads of leftover tattoos. So if you missed out, drop me a line and I send one your way.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Pumping 9 to 5 ...

This is my work station at 8:57 a.m.

pump station, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

It's difficult to tell from the above photograph that Friday is "Page Fest" -- a single day in which we produce the guts of at least three days worth of newspapers -- because I am one of the first to arrive. We call the act of production on this day pumping.

And if you look to your right, here, you'll see my work station at 10:30, 1:30 and 3:30 and sometimes 5 p.m. -- The ladies' lounge.

This may be too much information but sometimes the place smells like the monkey cage at the Bronx Zoo. I wish I were kidding.

I'm lucky, though. I've got a somewhat comfortable chair and handy table, as well as the use of a small refrigerator in the newsroom, not to mention coworkers who pretend there's nothing out of the ordinary about a woman returning from the bathroom four times a day clutching a bottle of human milk. I know there are many, many women who make a commitment to feeding their children breastmilk when they return to work who have to lock themselves into washroom stalls and hover above toilets to squeeze out the medically preferred substance for infants.

But even in my more opulent surroundings, this part-time pumping gig feels like a full-time job.

The first few days back I was absolutely frantic thinking I wasn't getting enough to replace what The Champ ate while he was with the sitter. It was a struggle that first week to get a few ounces. When I sat in the same lounge, listening to the whirr of the mechanical suction for Ittybit three years ago I seemed to have an abundant supply, and only required two brief sessions in the ladies loo.

This time, with a manual pump that is supposed to be just as good as the electric, I seemed to be failing to get even a fraction in twice the time.

And yet, this kid, contrary to his older sibling, seems to be eating like a horse. Or a small goat. Or perhaps a bird ... you know, six times its actual body weight.

"Don't panic," I told myself. Just keep at it.

So what if the door opens every four minutes?

So what if the automatic toilets flush mysteriously when the place is empty?

So what if you feel a little like a cow hooked up to an antique milking machine?

So what if you want to run amok, or at the very least sending a strongly worded letter to the Avent people, every time the equipment you dropped $100 on throws a valve? So you have to stop everything twice a session, reset the system and start again. Big. Deal.

Just keep your nose to the gridestone.

And so I am keeping at it. Pumping 9 to 5.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

We have no formality at 7:30 a.m.

7:30 a.m. Pink Moon, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Ittybit: Oh Mommy, look. It's a pink moon.
Terri won't believe it.

Mommy: I have my camera, should I take a picture?

Ittybit: Oh yes, please. Can we? Can we take a picture? I'd like it for my room. ... Only, I don't want it in one of those black things.

Mommy: A frame?

Ittybit: Yes, a frame. I mean NO I don't want that.

Mommy: I'll just print one out and we can tack it up on your wall, is that what you'd like?

Ittybit: Yes. That's what I want when you take it out of the camera.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Things to remember periodically ...

Daddy arms as seatbelts, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Dear Annabel,

Eat dessert before dinner every once in a while.

I don't care what your father says.



Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Behold the power of books

She saw the box sitting on our front porch before I even pulled into the driveway.


Mail is big at our house. Huge.

I was crossing my fingers it was the Halloween costume I ordered for her from some scabby Internet company, but seeing as how I'd received no notice of its impending arrival (or any indication they had planned to procure said item) I was fairly certain it wasn't that.

"I have an idea. You get Silas out of the car and I will go and get the package," she said clenching her fists and hunching down in her carseat as if the sheer force of my approval would propel her from the vehicle. (We usually don't let her mill about the driveway on her own, as it sometimes is used as a detour by neighborhood drivers who are in a hurry.)

"OK. You can get the package, but remember to watch for cars."

I hadn't even had time to unlatch the boy from his seat before she was back carrying a box that had "AMAZON" printed on the side and her name hand lettered on the top.

"Look at that, honey. It's for you."

"Really? For me? Show me my name," she said skeptically.

"A-N-N-A-B-E-L," I pointed at each letter. "Last I checked, that's you."

So upstairs we went, me with the boyo and all of our bags and she with the box, carefully placing it on the step above before climbing higher.

"Can we open it now," she asks once I've put down the bags.

I get a pair of scissors and start to score the tape. She worries I'll hurt myself and tells me to be careful as I open the flaps and reveal a card from Aunt Dody and Uncle Joe.

They are presents she, as a new big sister, can use to amuse her little brother. Books and puppets.

"PUPPETS" She squeals with the enthusiam only a three-year-old can muster, AND BOOKS!!!!

"Can you read them to me ... I mean Silas? "


"Before dinner?"

**** That bookmark over yonder on the right? Available. FOR FREE. Just send me a note with your address and I'll send one to you. You can stick it in your Harry Potter books if ya like.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Holding you up, not holding you back

Dear Silas,

Most people who meet you wonder if you have legs.

I'm not kidding.

It's because I wear you like a bookbag in a colorful pouch made of cotton. For nearly four months you've been laying down, sitting up or, at times, standing in the sling with only bits and pieces of you showing.

I've referred to this time as the fourth trimester, soon it's turning into the fifth.

Lots of people have wondered what it's doing to your development.

Many people have wondered if it wouldn't be better for you ... and the babysitter ... and virtually anyone in your life who deals with you when I'm away ... if I had put you down more often.

And while I know your dad would like to see the adoration you show me (and your sister), I know and he knows his time will come.

Perhaps it would be easier for us if you were happy merely looking up at the mobile on the ceiling, or bouncing in a chair for hours at a time. Perhaps it will be a difficult transition when you move from our bed to a bed of your own because you've slept with me each night since your arrival.

But really, it isn't about easy. It isn't about the other people in your life; they will find a way that works for them. It isn't about social norms or past experiences.

This is about you. And me.

There will come a day when you will run off on your own. You will want and need your space.

I'm not talking about high school or college or moving into adulthood, I'm talking about six months from now when you are learning to walk.

Soon enough you will want to be put down. You will want to explore our world.

I'm not doing you any harm by holding onto you until then. All your milestones are happening regardless: You are finding your hands. You are making sounds that sound like words (I like to say you say MAAAMA already). You are even grasping at things you can pull toward you, and turning over from your front to your back on the occasions you are not being held. You react to the sound of our voices, especially
your sister's.

I know you are fine. You are just taking everything in now so in you can run with it
later. I know that holding you up isn't holding you back.



Friday, October 12, 2007

Thursday, October 11, 2007

In the fashion

Is that what you're wearing?




You are a crazy nut.

No I'm not, I'm fantastic.

That, too.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

This too shall pass

wrong way, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

The gigantic meltdown we experienced this morning - number 294 in an infinite series - was caused by me wanting to comb Ittybit's unruly hair; Jed taking over, ending up putting her in time out because she used her hands as a moving obstacle course through the strands he was trying to tame; and then him coming out to tell me that he doesn't even believe it's a fight we should be having with her anyway.

"I mean, I don't comb my hair."

Uhm. ... You don't have hair to comb Mr.Rocket.Scientist.

So what is a mother to do? I go back into her room and explain that if she wants her hair to be long she has to comb it once a day. When she turns into a screaming, scrabbling beatle, I FORCIBLY comb it for her.

She struggles and screams, and hits her head on the chair, and then she does the only thing left in her power to do now that I'm holding her arms at her side and raking the child-sized brush through her tresses: she FIRES me.

"You're fired, MOMMY. Your fired."

Then, with her hair combed and 10 minutes late, we leave with her breakfast in a to-go box and I spend the next 22 minutes (almost the entire time it takes to get to the sitter's house) listening to her cry and rail against how mean I am, how she can't touch her brother because he's too far away, and she's not ever, ever, ever going to talk to me again. Sorry, "Never ever."

And she meant it, too. Until she saw the furry creatures dotting the hillside a few minutes from our final destination.

"Oh, but Mama, look. There's a LLAMA. See it rhymes! MAMA. LLAMA. MAMA. LLAMA. mamallamma mamallama mamallamma mamallama mamallamma mamallama mamallamma mamallama mamallamma mamallama mamallamma mamallama mamallamma mamallama mamallamma mamallama mamallamma mamallama ... "

No way was I telling her they were alpacas.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Becoming (our) parents

There's an anthem I hear a lot. It's a fight song that's a few bars after adolescent angst, and it goes like this ... "I will NOT raise my kids the way my parents raised me. Nope. I won't."

For some it's an ideology based in reaction to actual harm done to them in childhood. For others it's a philosophical desire to deviate from norms thought to be antiquated or restrictive. Whatever it is, though, most of us say it.

I've said it, too.

Before I had kids, that is.

But now I realize the truth in that statement: I WILL never be like my parents.

That's not to denounce the way I was raised or magnify their mistakes, it's just that I am a wholy separate person living with a new set of expectations.

Here's how I think it breaks out:

At my age my parents already had kids in their 'tweens.
They had clergy their parents and their physcians to go to for advice.
They winged it.
They acted like they knew the answers (even if they didn't)
For all intents and purposes they were The Adults.

At the age they had me I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.
I don't know what's best for everyone.
I have my parents, physicians, Google, Internet support groups, about a zillion self-help manuals to go to for advice.
I still have to wing it and pretend I know what I'm doing.
For all intents and purposes my parents are still The Adults.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Art speak

Arts Walk, Hudson, NY, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

"Wow! Look at this MAP!

We live here, right?"

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Sunshiny day

hello kitty, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

I am miserable.


I have a cold. The kind that gives you a mildly scratchy throat for a few days, mild enough so that it also gives you false hopes that you can beat it.

Three days later your head feels like an overinflated tire and your nose leaks.
Ordinarily you'd spend the day in bed. Sleeping.

It is, after all, a Saturday.

If it were raining, you would be justified in staying indoors. Keeping a low profile.

But it's not raining. It's unusually hot for October and the kid is begging you to go to the playground so she can run around hoping to impress the "older" kids with her irresistable giggles.

Like I said to Jed: I can feel miserable at home in front of the TV or I can feel miserable at the park with this goofy little thrill seeker, who spent a joyful half hour spinning in the swings going "super, super fast."

Yet I was feeling punky. And I decided to leave half the family in the park and walk home, at which time I noticed a delivery truck parked in the middle of the road in that tell-tale "Which House Am I Looking For?" stance.

It was the chest I bought for Silas' room.

And I am reminded, yet again, life is good.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Reverse psychology

french toast fairy, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

"I don't think there's room in that little mouth of yours for any more French toast, sweets," I tell her, my own fork jammed with the impromtu dinner.

"Oh sure there is. ... watch."

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The big squeeze

Lunchtime walks, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

We interupt this "Baby Book Gone Wrong" to send the following message: Hell has frozen over.

The home fires and work flame have intersected, at least for the moment. It seems I'm getting whatever the opposite of DOOCED would be. ... perhaps we shall call it JUICED.

The newspaper where I work is trying to find its niche online and is asking me - apparently the only blogger in the office - to try and jumpstart them into the 21th century by getting reporters up to speed on what it means to keep a Web blog, not to mention get our Web site all decked out to show all these inner monologs off.

As a bumbling idiot myself when it comes to the nuts and bolts of computing (for all I know a squirrel on a wheel really does run things inside the whirring black box that sits on my desk), I've finally figured out how the twain shall meet technically if not thematically.

It's going to feel a little like walking uphill for a while though. Maybe I'll have to institute a Bring Your Kids (and Dog) To Work day once a week you know for laughs at the damage they can cause just to bring the whole mixing of lives thing full circle.

... Stay Tuned.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Let me whisper in your ear: Silas is Golden

HE SAYS, SHE SAYS, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Dear Silas,

I didn't cry when I left you with the sitter for the first time on Monday, but I was profoundly sad. I drove to work with my coffee, my lunch and a bag full of bottles and pumps hoping to keep you in milk until you are at least year old.

Everyone else was happy, or so it seemed. Your sister was excitedly anticipating a new ability to watch over you. When I she asked if it was time to go to the NEW BABYSITTER'S house and I told her "yes," flinching for the litany of "I love THE OLD BABYSITTER'S HOUSE," I was heartened and surprised to hear an enthusiastic "Hurray!"

It has occured to me, after weeks of explaining why she couldn't go back to Lori's house, why now it seems OK to be at Terri's. Lori didn't have room for you, her brother.

Her brother: The boy she will tell strangers about. The chain of thoughts that come stream out of her mouth when she meets someone new: "I have a baby brother. His name is Silas. He's a good boy. He loves me and I love him."

She wants to be with you more than she wants Lori; and that's something huge.

So please, dear boy, try to be patient with her when things aren't going your way. Try and be kind when she's angry with you for touching her stuff or when she wants her privacy. You will not remember this time, but you should know she loves you more than you might ever imagine.

She thinks Silas is Golden; Golden.



Monday, October 01, 2007

'Tween and twitch

love, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Thrump, tum, tum. Thrump, tum, tum.

I shift in my seat, my back slumped into the same position it held three and a half months ago when my belly was arguably larger.

Can't call too early. They are not home. Traveling about the county, dropping off one kid to preschool and picking up another. Silas along for the ride.

I am restless. Working on the things I can, reading the news I largely ignored during the summer. Getting depressed. Another murder. Another health scare in Africa. Epidemic here. There. Everywhere.

I watch the clock. They should be home now. I call. Three rings, four rings. ... there is a connection and I hear screaming on the other end. Silas.

So often I listen to him cry and feel my own tears close to the surface. Not today. Today his tears comfort me a little. He misses me? Probably not. He isn't eating as well for the sitter as he did for my mother on our night out. Only two ounces so far. He's hungry. I've already pumped 8 ounces.

I hang up so as not to make it worse. I know how hard it is to do anything with a baby crying.

My eye starts to twitch with that familiar stress energy I haven't felt in I don't know how long.

I should really start sitting up straighter.