Thursday, December 30, 2010

Post-holiday musings

So we got through the holidays-we were smart and decided to stay home, and get people to come to us.  While this was definitely less stressful than driving, it was hard.  I'm used to being with my family for the holidays, and I was the only one who wasn't there this year.  Part of me really resists change, which is stupid, because it's happening whether I like it or not.  My siblings and I are all older, either married or almost married, two of us have kids of our own.  In a lot of ways we're much closer.  I like to think that my older sister doesn't find me quite as annoying as she did in high school when I was constantly around, and she and my two brothers are three of my closest friends.  But there is a new dynamic now that we're not under the same roof, and we have our own families to think about.  I am currently listening to the newest member of mine kick his crib railing and complain about being put to bed.

I think he's cutting a tooth because he has just been a mess today.  Doesn't want to be held, doesn't want to be put down, doesn't want to go to bed, but is clearly tired.  He's probably thrown off his schedule because Ben and I are both off this week, and also because the house has been overtaken by new clothes and toys for him.  You now cannot move anything or sit anywhere in my house without a toy honking, squeaking, singing the ABCs, or instructing you to count to three and press the red button.  My cousin Jen noted that Fisher Price has taken over her home-I can relate.  It doesn't help that we have no space-our  little cottage is charming, but we are taking shelving to new levels trying to find places to put things so we can walk.  It's a constant struggle to keep the place looking somewhat organized.  I keep my motivation up by watching Hoarders, which not only makes me want to clean, it makes me want to rent a dumpster and entirely empty my house into it.  The only thing grosser than that is Animal Hoarders.  When I see a TV show about a lady with sixty five cats, I can smell her house through the damn TV.

But Henry had a good holiday, and that's the important thing.  So did we, even with missing people, those who are here and those who are gone.  I'd been thinking a lot about my grandmother in the past few weeks.  She died last winter, and I hadn't ever really spent a lot of time with her-my family moved around a lot, and we ended up in Virginia, with most of the family in Delaware.  I really envy the closeness my Delaware family has, and wish I'd made more of an effort to spend time with my grandmother.  I'm really sorry she didn't get to meet Henry-she died when I was about five months pregnant.  I know she would have adored him.

So when my family came up for Christmas, one of the gifts my parents had for me was in a small box, and when I opened it, I saw a beautiful necklace, and a note from my uncle.  The note said he'd been going through her things and thought I'd like to have the necklace.  Apparently all my cousins got something of hers, which was really nice.  Although this may sound stupid, I felt like getting that was a sign from her, letting me know that everything was ok.  I like to think that she sees her great-grandson, and her great-granddaughter and namesake, and looks out for them.  And will make sure they don't try to do whippets out of whipped cream cans or anything (my cousins will get that).

Take care, Flo.  We miss you.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

And we're back

Sorry to my five or so loyal readers, at least two of whom are immediate family, it's been a while since I've been inspired to write anything.  Last week was a mess of getting through exams, wrapping things up at work before everyone left for vacation, and fighting off that cold Henry brought home-that bitch hung on, we're still getting over stuffy noses.  Thank goodness for the Nose Frida.

If you haven't seen one of these, it's something I ordered the first time the kiddo got a stuffed up nose, and I realized those bulb things don't do shit.  This is a plastic tube that is shaped sort of like one of those big crayons.  One end goes in the kid's nose, and the other end is attached to a tube.  The tube goes in your mouth, and you suck on it really hard, and it pulls all the boogers out of the kid's nose.

So basically, if my labor stories don't convince those of you who are childless to remain that way, this should do the trick.

I will say that it works great and no snot gets in your mouth (or, in Ben's mouth, because I make him do it.) Recommended it to my cousin Jen when her daughter caught her first cold, and she, too, made her husband try it first.  Andrew is my first cousin, one of twenty something first cousins (Irish Catholics, they don't quit). Our family history includes many moonings, pantless dances at weddings, and betting people that they can't fit a whole Choco Taco in their mouth at once (this was my uncle, and I'd like to point out that he did it and also that he is a successful attorney and was a full grown man and father of three at the time of the bet).  But given this history, Andrew apparently did not trust my advice.  He made Jen swear the snotsucker wasn't some sick family joke I was trying to play on him.  But it really isn't-I'll go far for a joke, but not that far.

Henry hates the thing and fights it like a cat getting a bath, though.  He's gotten much more inventive about ways to avoid taking medicine and getting breathing treatments.  I feel bad for the kid, he's had far too much medical intervention for a six month old.  But I have to say, when I'm in a contest of will with a six month old, it's just plain embarrassing to lose.  It does happen, though, and I can't help but think he gloats a bit.

I mean, when a kid holds in a spoonful of antibiotic for thirty seconds only to wait til you relax your hold on him, then spits it out all over himself, THEN gives you a great big smile....well, let's just say I'm not looking forward to the teen years.

Monday, December 13, 2010


This first year of day care is going to fucking kill me.  Henry and I were both sick over the weekend, I got better, but he's still coughing and blowing snot over everything anywhere near him.  I hate having my schedule get all out of whack, but what can you do?  (Well, I guess you can take them to day care even though they're sick, which seems to be what other parents do).  I really wish I could just pay them for the days he's there.

On the up side, he was in a pretty good mood despite feeling crappy.  We had some fun times, listened to some music.  He's very into the Beastie Boys and AC/DC.  I'll do a lot of things for my child, but I just can't listen to the Wiggles or whatever babies are supposed to listen to these days.  He seems to get irritated by stuff that's too bouncy anyway.  When I was pregnant, I listened to a Tim Barry CD nonstop for about the last three months.   Even now, whenever I play one of his songs, Henry will stop, turn towards the music, and listen for a bit.  Kind of amazing that they can remember that.

The feeling you get that you're going to have to assimilate into some sort of parent culture once you have a kid has always bugged me.  Ben and I aren't big fans of mainstream media or social gatherings where games are played and songs sung, so I figured most of the kids' TV and Mommy and Me stuff was going to be out.  Sooner or later Henry's going to go see his dad's punk band play and wonder about songs like "Octogenarian Love Affair".  Maybe he'll like having oddball parents. Maybe I'm delusional and he'll be totally embarrassed and turn out Republican or something to rebel.

But there's just so much out there now that's just crap.  I was home on leave during a beast of a summer-it was too hot to do anything but sit at home with a newborn.  Watched a lot of TV.  Realized that there is a general theme, and it's "If You Act Like a Total Moron or Are a Horrible Person, We Will Put You on a Show."  I don't even get how people can enjoy watching that sort of thing.  It's the worst segment of American culture and those people are being rewarded for their behavior.  What's worse is that people look up to them, and imitate them.  And popular music is just sad, manufactured and lame.  Every genre sounds exactly the same.  So Henry and I will continue to rock out to NOFX, Atmosphere, Neko Case (ok, you really don't "rock out" to Neko Case as much as you...I don't know, contemplate things), Tim Barry, and Drive-By Truckers, and I'll hope that it has some influence on him.

All I know is that this kid ever goes out of the house in a sleeveless t-shirt and/or gets a fake tan, or expects a thousand dollar wardrobe, or gets some girl teen pregnant, we're going to have problems.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Exam time

Sat through my last accounting class today-well, except for the final.  I do not have the patience for three hour long classes anymore.  I got through my master's degree pre-kid, and was more interested in most of the topics, but this business stuff is killing me.  But it's been made clear that if we're ever going to get out from under our debt (which, come to think of it, is mainly student loans) then I'm going to have to start bringing in some money.  Ben's profession is, salary-wise, pretty stagnant.

I had the chance to marry into money, but man, that wasn't going to work out.  After that breakup, I told my mom that when I met someone who could fix my car and cook me dinner, then I'd marry him.  Well, careful what you say, because a few months later Ben showed up, made me chicken in a white wine reduction, and talked about restoring his car.  I didn't even know you could COOK chicken in other things-my mom had always just thrown it in the oven and cooked it until it was the consistency of one of those pink erasers.  No spices, no nothing.  And those were the days when she cooked meat.  I clearly remember many meals that were just Rice-a-Roni and canned green beans.  (Seriously, nobody tell my mom about this blog or she will read this and be totally pissed at me, but ask any of my siblings-it's true, she was the worst cook in the world.  She once made pancakes even the dog wouldn't eat.)

So here we are, a teacher and an aspiring health care administrator, and we're struggling.  Well, financially, anyway.  In all other departments we're pretty blessed, so we try not to bitch about the one area that's lacking.  Really, if someone offered me 100 million dollars, but I'd have to give up one aspect of my life-my husband, my son, my siblings and parents,  awesome extended family, my friends, our cute little house, our dogs-I'd tell them to fuck off.  Well, maybe they could have one of the dogs-the one who likes to piss on things.

Ben's a teacher, and a great one.  I know that people who can deal with the kids he deals with are rare, and even though he could do anything he wanted, I can't see him anywhere but right where he is.  He talked about going to law school for a while, and I encouraged it a bit (mainly thinking he'd get all of his arguing out of his system before he got home, and I'd get a worn-out guy who would just do what I told him to for once) but I've seen the state of our school systems and I just can't see him leaving when he can actually reach kids and change their lives.

And as an added bonus, he teaches eighth grade.  When I found out I was pregnant, I didn't worry about the baby years,  I knew I could handle that.  What freaks me out is the pre-teen and teenage years, when my little cuddle ball will turn into a surly tornado of hormones who hates me, keeps my car out too late, and has girls calling the house all the time.  I told Ben, I'll handle the baby years, once he's twelve, he's your problem.

This is another reason why I'm scared to have another kid-I'm terrified of having a girl.  Not because I don't want one, but I remember what I was up against and it's just gotten worse.  I was in Target the other day, and as I walked past the little girls' section, I couldn't help but notice that half of the stuff looked like it was from a collection titled something like "L'il Prostitutes".  There is so much pressure on girls to look a certain way and to act a certain way, and with their role models breaking out into pole dances at the Teen Choice Awards....yeah, the thought of having a girl scares me.

And yes, I know that it's my job to instill better values in her than that (and to teach my son to respect women) but I also know how much pressure there is from your peers to fit in.  I had great parents but all I wanted in middle and high school was to fit in and get asked out (neither of which happened, thank you very much).  When I went to college, I finally started meeting people who wanted to date me, but my self-esteem was so low that I'd date anyone who showed an interest, because I was flattered.

Incidentally, this is why my dating history is filled with lines like:

"And then he tried to sleep with my best friend"
"So it turns out he really likes guys" and
"No, this was AFTER he got out of jail."

Sadly, I'm not making any of those up.  I'd probably have to tell any daughter of mine the truth about what I went through to try to help her avoid it...but she probably wouldn't listen.

At least Ben knows how to be around kids that age.  I really worry that Henry's going to have an awkward time growing up, and I don't want to be that mom who just says "Be yourself!  And if they don't like it, they're not really your friend!"
Because while that is true and all, it doesn't help a 12 year old who doesn't have anywhere to sit at lunch.

On a different subject, thank you to everyone who's reading this and passing it on.  I started it thinking it would be a way for the family and friends to keep up with us, but it seems people are digging it, which is pretty awesome.  Even have some international readers!  Some things translate to all countries-like screaming babies at four a.m. and getting barfed on in the grocery store.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Turns out it IS nice when a baby sleeps.

So we've been doing the cry thing since Saturday night, after much encouragement from many other moms (thank you, you rule).  Yesterday he went down for naps ok, but cried for almost a full hour when we put him to bed.  I almost gave in, but an email from an old friend put things into perspective for me.  She's got a one year old, and told me she knew how much this time sucked, but to think of it this way:  those kids you see out in public having total screaming, writhing, throwing-things fits?  And their parents look like they really wish a hole would open up in the earth and swallow them?  Yeah, those are kids who never learned how to self-soothe, and can't appropriately deal with their emotions.

I wasn't really thinking of the whole sleep thing in a good way, and to be honest, I was being a little selfish-I didn't mind Henry being up late because in general, he's pretty happy and I like being near him as much as I can.  But the lack of sleep was making him miserable, and leaving him to cry doesn't make me a negligent mother, it makes me a mother who knows he needs sleep even though he'd rather be up playing.  In a few years he'll want to stay up all night and eat candy for dinner, and when he's a teenager....well, given our backgrounds, he may want to stay out all night and drink beer through a funnel, but I'm sure as hell not going to let him do any of that stuff (but again, given his parents, he'll probably manage a time or two).

So this is just the first in a long line of things I'll have to do that he will hate, just because it's what he really needs.  And that's my job.  Plus I'm pretty freaking tired and have exams next week, so some extra studying time at night is a godsend.  Who knows, maybe Ben and I will have more energy to hang out, talk about things that don't involve poop, vomit, or onesies (but hey, if that's what YOU'RE into for your adult time, I'm not here to judge.)  Tonight, just three nights in, he took his bath, I read him a book and put him into his crib, and he fell asleep with no crying at all.

Of course, I can't just enjoy this development.  I've become convinced that he went down so easily because something's wrong with him, and have been checking incessantly to make sure he's still breathing.  My constant poking will probably be what wakes him up.

My friend mentioned above also said that to avoid the emotional trauma of hearing her kid crying, she'd get into the shower, and even take the time to shave.  Sadly, I could use more than a passing acquaintance with my razor, so maybe that's not the worst idea, either.

In other news, my sister got pissed at me because she said my blog about her wanting to live at the mall made her seem shallow.  That wasn't my point and I try to avoid pissing my loved ones off, particularly those who offer to babysit or buy my kid clothes.  So I am officially saying my sister is a delightful person, a good mother, a great sister, honestly one of the funniest people I know, and she wouldn't knock you down and stomp over you for a Kate Spade bag on sale.

Well, she probably wouldn't STOMP on you, anyway.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Which one of us is supposed to be crying?

After six months of begging, pleading, reading every book known to man, asking everyone I know for advice, and trying everything to get this kid to sleep, we're giving crying it out a try.  Basically because tonight he was just cranky, he took no naps, he is exhausted but kicking and fussing and just refusing to sleep.  You get to a point where you just say "Ok, we're putting you in your crib and seeing how this goes."  I told Ben that I was going to write a parenting book to trump all parenting books, the title of which is going to be "Do What You Want, Spend All Your Money On Books and Classes, Your Kid Will Sleep When They Goddamned Well Please."

Not that this is anyone's fault but mine that we have issues with this.  When Henry was born he had respiratory distress, it turned out to not be a big deal, but of course I was terrified that he was going to stop breathing in his sleep.  At night, the maternity ward insisted on bringing him back to the nursery, and for good reason-they said if my eyes weren't on him, then theirs were going to be, and I needed to sleep sometime.  Each night when they took them they had to give me a sleeping pill to keep me from waddling my recently disemboweled self down to the nursery to make sure he was still ok.  We started with him in the crib at home, when that didn't work, we moved him to the swing and I'd sleep on the couch next to him.  Turns out HE could sleep there, but I couldn't.  So we started co-sleeping.

Once again, I am not going to advocate one way of doing things over another.  I know there are people who wouldn't consider anything but cosleeping, and some that can't imagine their baby sleeping with them, and everything in between.  I did what worked for us, and what worked for me, really.  Maybe if I had pushed the crib thing we wouldn't be having this issue now, who the hell knows.

But the nights are just getting later and later-if he's with us he wants to play and talk and jab us in delicate areas with his elbows and feet (I don't know how he does it, but when he starts flailing he always repeatedly kicks my c-section scar, and for Ben, his genital area). He doesn't nap well at school and I knew we needed to make some changes, both for his well-being and so his day care teachers don't lynch me as an example to others who give in to their first-borns because we don't know any better.

It's been about thirty minutes and he's finally starting to settle, after some majorly intense screaming and crying (ok, the crying was partly me).  I have a big glass of red wine and some very comforting words from some other moms I know who are assuring me that he will not pack his bags and move out tomorrow, never to speak to me again.  I guess this is my first lesson in the whole "the right thing isn't always the easy thing" parenting school.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The best laid plans....

We were supposed to go out of town for the evening-not very far, only about an hour away. A good friend of mine has an art show opening, and we were going to get dressed up (ok, we were going to shower and put on clothes with minimal vomit stains) and hit the town, maybe grab some drinks with friends afterwards.  My baby brother Casey was lined up to babysit, which is good, because he's more paranoid about my kid than I am, and can be bribed with fresh bread and Stripes on DVD.

Naturally, when I picked Henry up from school, I walked into his classroom and he was screaming.  The teacher said "Yeah, he's definitely tired.  He only took a few fifteen minute naps."  As soon as I picked him up, he puked all over me.  While it was tempting to dump my vomiting, crabby kid off on my brother and hit the road, I knew I wouldn't feel right being an hour away while he was sick.  So home we stayed.  Instead of a nice night out, I took a long bath, took care of some long overdue facial hair removal, and ate microwave popcorn and had a beer.  I'm convinced that Henry senses when we have plans and finds a sick kid at day care to lick or have cough on him or something.

We've been pretty happy with his day care.  That's a real challenge-we knew we couldn't afford for me to not work, even if we seriously downgraded our lifestyle.  I was lamenting this on facebook when I was on leave, and some friends helpfully posted that they had managed to stay home by making some hard choices and giving up some luxuries.  My sister, who thinks Ben and I live a pretty....well, destitute is not the right word, but we don't have a lot of stuff.  She likes stuff.  I sometimes wonder about genetics and how everything aligns, because you would be hard pressed to find two people more different than my sister and I.  For example, I hate shopping, and do all of mine at Target or thrift stores.  I find one thing I like and buy it in every color they have, just to avoid trying things on.  I like camping and hiking and getting dirty.  Shannon, on the other hand, has said that when she retires she wants to live in one of those condos that attaches to a mall by a tube, so she never has to go outside.  We get along great now, but it was a long road to get here.

So she sees our lifestyle as pretty threadbare.  When she saw the posts about "giving up luxuries" she said "What the fuck do people expect you to give up, electricity?"  She wasn't too far off on that one.

So we had to start looking for day cares, which I did before the kid even popped out, because everyone who felt the need to give me advice basically said if you didn't get your kid on a waiting list five seconds after they were conceived, you were shit out of luck.  I went to visit a few and became more and more concerned.  At one home day care, when I knocked and the lady opened the door, the door knob fell off.  I walked past a row of playpens, all housing tiny inmates like a preschool Shawshank.  The looks they were giving me made me think of horror movies....that silent "Don't do it" stare.   While politeness forced me to take their info and promise a call back, all I really wanted to say was "Actually, I wouldn't leave my dogs here, much less my kid."

But we found a nice place in a church that is a few blocks away, that was highly recommended by people both of us work with.  He's in a class with seven other babies, the teachers are great, they seem to really like him, and normally he loves it there.  Once I dropped him off and realized I'd left his formula in the car.  I went to get it and came back in, he was playing in a bouncer.  I went over and said "Ok, buddy, I'm really leaving this time!"  And he gave me a look that said "Why the hell are you still here?  I'm BUSY."

I guess I'd rather have that than one of the kids who cries and clings to his mom's legs when she tries to leave....but the past few days have been a different story.  They don't say it, but I think Henry has been wearing the teachers out.  My kid makes them earn that money.  And possibly start saving for a hysterectomy.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


I'm thirty one today.  So far, the birthday has not gotten off to a banging start.

Tuesday I kept Henry home-he was coughing a bit and had a really bad night's sleep, and I just knew something wasn't right.  I get one day off a week anyway, and my job is awesomely flexible about it.  Wednesday he seemed back to his normal self-while I was getting ready for work, he was laying in bed with his dad, jabbering back and forth with him and laughing.

It's important to note that Ben and I have been under a lot of stress.  My grandfather was recently put into a home, and I'm trying to help my parents sort out all the details, and he's had some sick family members.  So with that, two jobs, exams coming up for me, and the kiddo, tension was running a bit high.

Fast forward to about noon on Wednesday.  Ben's out of town visiting said relative in hospital.  I get a call at work, and see on the ID that it's Henry's day care.  I pick up the phone and all I hear is screaming.  Judy, the assistant director, tells me Henry's not feeling so good, he hasn't eaten (which is a big red flag-Henry NEVER refuses food) and he's been screaming for an hour.  He's in the office.  Yes, my six-month old son got sent to the office and kicked out of the baby room.  So I dash out of work and get there as soon as I can.  Even though you know it's probably nothing major, when someone calls you and tells you your kid is sick, there's always that little voice that's saying "Maybe it's something serious...." and freaking you the hell out.

So I get there, and he's calmed down a bit.  Walk-ins at his doctor didn't start for an hour, so we went home.  I tried to give him a bottle, and to my surprise, he took it.  I thought "Well, maybe there's nothing wrong with him!"  But immediately after powering it down, he pukes.  All over me, down the front of my shirt, and all over him.

Great.  So I get us both changed and check my email, only to realize I have seriously screwed something up at work, which I HATE doing.  So I'm at the computer and on the phone trying to fix it and panicking.  Henry's on my lap fussing.  As I hit "send" on an email, Henry manages to grab a cold cup of coffee off of the desk, and dump it all over both of us.  Keep in mind we had BOTH just changed clothes.

I looked at him.  He smiled.  I shut down my email.  I very calmly set him down on the floor.  Then I sat beside him.  We are both covered in coffee.  I then burst into tears.  I mean, the hysterical, sobbing, hiccuping kind of tears.   He laughed.  Some days everything goes wrong and it's that one little thing that just makes you snap.  So I had myself a little breakdown.

Then I got up, got myself together, and took him to the doctor.  Ear infection, possible stomach bug.  The doctor learned how grabby he is when he got both ends of her stethoscope and nearly choked her out with it.  (He's developed a similar interest in my hair, necklaces, and glasses).

So today I'm home again, not getting paid, folding laundry and cleaning while he takes a much-needed nap.  I mentioned on facebook that this time last year, I was three months pregnant, and my cousin Jen pointed out that at least this year I could drink.

Wonder if anyone will judge me if I start before noon.....