Month 10: Bad Mom

Just the other week I was feeling like the Greatest Mom on Earth. My baby is happy, active, a pretty good sleeper, and a champion eater. I put clean clothes on his back and nutritious food in his tummy — organic avocado and wheat germ, even! (When he doesn’t spit it back out, that is.) Then this week, everything changed.

First Miles pulled over a lamp and shattered the lightbulb. Glass everywhere. Baby wailing. Mom frantic. I was trying to calm him down and vacuum up glass shards simultaneously, which was tough given that Miles is terrified of the vacuum cleaner. And what if I didn’t find all the pieces of glass? What if he finds one buried in the carpet weeks from now and really hurts himself?

Then I walked into the kitchen today to find our sitter wiping off Miles’ hands and face with CLOROX WIPES instead of baby wipes! I immediately washed him off, then gave him a bath, and later called a poison control hotline even though he seemed fine because I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d endangered my poor child’s life. What kind of mother am I to allow these things to happen?

And there’s all kinds of other, less serious stuff, too. Miles regularly digs his fingers into the tracks of the sliding glass door in the family room, covering his hands with black grime, grit, and God knows what else. He has scooped up handfuls of dirt and wood chips from the potted plants, some of which may have found their way into his mouth. Just the other day he reached his entire arm into the filthy space beneath the stove, no doubt searching for more toxic snacks.

Where was his mother, you might ask? RIGHT THERE, usually no more than three feet away. He’s fast, I’m distracted, he hates being cooped up in the crib or Exersaucer — the list of excuses is endless. And the result’s the same, anyhow: I feel like a terrible mom.

I also feel like a terrible mom because we’re losing our two-afternoon-a-week sitter soon and I can’t bear the thought of five long consecutive days of fulltime baby care every week without a break. We’re looking for another sitter, but we can’t offer enough hours or pay for most people. Yet another reason to feel bad: sticking my flesh and blood with whatever cut-rate stranger we can find to take care of him.

But you know what? Tonight before I put him to bed, Miles was in a super giggly mood. He was sitting on my lap, poking my nose and biting my cheek and performing all his other baby antics, and I was blowing raspberries on his neck and nibbling his ear, and we were both laughing and laughing and didn’t want to let each other go. For a moment I thought, maybe I’m not so bad at this after all.

TIP O’ THE WEEK: To reach a poison expert 24/7 call 1-800-222-1222. You’ll be connected to a calm, rational expert in your area who will reassure you and get you help in case of an emergency.


Month 10: Boy Crazy

This may be my favorite age yet. Miles is Mr. Personality lately — giggling, babbling, even waving bye-bye. (Sort of. It’s more of a wrist flop than a real wave, but whatever.) I’m just crazy about him lately. Even though, to be honest, he behaves like a mini frat boy.

He burps, farts, and growls. When he’s excited, he pumps his little fists in the air and yells, “Ya-ya-ya!” He’s got a mischievous streak, too. He’ll do things like rip up the newspaper I’m reading or put a bit of carpet grunge in his mouth, staring right at me the whole time, like “Ha, ha, what are you going to do about it, Mama?”

He’s definitely a boob man. He cries when I make him go to bed alone, always angling to sleep with me. And sometimes he tries to make out with me, planting his slobbery, wet, open mouth right on my cheek! He even looks like a little frat boy, since his dad likes to dress him in mini wind pants and sports jerseys. Let’s face it, swap the sippy cup for a can of Coors Light, and my baby is Bluto from “Animal House.” (C. helped me with that reference.)

My husband is very concerned about our son’s image. At the moment, C.’s not liking the “baby mullet” Miles has got going on. I’m just happy the kid finally has some hair. No way am I letting someone cut it off! Plus, it’s kind of funny to see his baby bedhead in the morning. Little tufts of hair stick out from the back of his head in a sort of “Bozo the Clown” style. It’s adorable, people, take my word.

Is there anything as boring as a new mom going on and on about how cute her baby is? Probably not, which is why this is a short post!

TIP O’ THE WEEK: If your baby won’t eat something — say, peas — mix them with something he does like, such as cereal or applesauce. It sounds gross to us, but babies don’t care. Miles once ate a yogurt-spinach-oatmeal combo and LOVED it.


Month 10: Tiny Tot Triathlon

Miles is training for the 10-Month-Old Triathlon. When and where this event will take place, only he knows. Apparently, it’s very competitive. The training regimen is rigorous. It requires several trips up the staircase every day (just up, not down). At intervals, coffee table pull-ups and changing table windmills are performed. Then comes some splashing in the dog bowl or bathtub. Oh, yes, there are water events, too, people. Sometimes equipment is necessary — say, Jolly Jumper leg work and Exersaucer core strengthening.

Miles is surely among the elite athletes. He can lift a full coffee cup with two fingers, pull a lamp off a dresser several inches above his head, and push over a hall table laden with books, magazines, and, unfortunately, a jar of spare change.

Not sure if an infant should be carbo-loading, I asked our pediatrician about Miles’ prodigious appetite. Is it OK to feed him as much as he wants? “Well, sure, look how active he is,” said Dr. M., gesturing at my son, who was busy shredding the paper covering the exam table and waving the scraps over his head. “He’s probably burned off a few hundred calories in the time we’ve been sitting here!”

As do I, given that I spend my days pulling the Energizer Baby away from the fireplace, down from the stairs, off of tables, and out of the dog bowl. Did I mention he weighs almost 21 lbs. now? By bedtime, I am aching all over from my all-day full-body workout. I’m forced to replenish my strength with large quantities of Famous Amos cookies, cheese, and red wine. (Not always in the same sitting.)

My husband — who spends his days sitting at a desk and is not “allowed” to go to the gym any more after work for reasons that should be obvious — has no sympathy for me. That really bugs me. Just once I would like for C. to walk in the door, hand me a bouquet of tulips and offer me a foot massage, all the while murmuring, “You have the toughest job in the world, sweetie. You’re amazing. I can’t even imagine the physical and emotional stamina it must take to get through the day. I sure do appreciate all you’re doing for our family. Let me get you some chocolate.” (Hey, a girl can fantasize, right?)

Instead, I get: “Yeah, I had a tough day, too. Man, I slept bad last night. Why do you keep buying all these cookies? I can’t eat them. I need to get to the gym more.” Hello?! Can we focus, please? We’re talking about ME here!

Granted, C. is a very busy guy. In addition to working 10-hour days, he regularly polls the entire male population on all sorts of issues. No, really. How else could he claim, “I do way more around the house than MOST guys. ALL guys are slobs. NO guys give their wives foot massages every night. I don’t know ANY dads who remember to empty the diaper pail.” I would just love to meet ALL THESE GUYS who are so far inferior to my husband! How great is it that I ended up with the one guy who, according to him, is the best of the bunch?

It’s so convenient living with the Authority on All Guys On Earth, too. Now I don’t have to waste time asking my friends if their husbands leave sweet-potato-encrusted baby spoons glued to the highchair tray. According to C., they do!

Now, because I am a fair and generous person (and because I know my husband will read this), I will acknowledge that he does do a lot. He works long days at a stressful job, then comes home (to neither a hot meal nor a hot wife, since I usually resemble the “Before” picture on those makeover shows) to feed, bathe, and put the baby to bed. And he has to put up with his ungrateful wife broadcasting his shortcomings in her blog. MOST guys would hate that. 😉

TIP O’ THE WEEK: My fellow writer mama Christina Katz has written an appealing, helpful book called, appropriately, Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids. Buy it. Read it. Use it.


Month 9: The Squirrel Wars

If it’s not one thing, it’s its mother. The first thing was the smell. A few months ago, a foul stench infiltrated our family room. Since the city was working on the pipes on our street, we assumed they’d hit a sewage line or something. Ewwww …

But after having a Water Guy and a Plumber Guy and finally a Pest Control Guy come check it out, several things were determined:

1) There was, in fact, a strong odor coming from one corner of the room (like we needed this confirmed?!)
2) The stench may or may not have something to do with some vent
3) The stench may or may not come from something that died in the wall or under the floor
4) The aforementioned rotting dead thing could not be located and therefore could not be removed
5) We had no choice but to live with the odor until/if it went away (which it s-l-o-o-o-w-l-y has)

So the thing that died in there? Its mother came looking for him last week.

I was feeding Miles his lunch when I heard it: thump, thump, THUMP! Scritchy, scratch. (Humor me, OK? It’s hard to describe in words.) It was coming from the basement. It was on the stairs. It sounded like an intruder. A big, heavy intruder who had silently and stealthily opened the side door (which is locked), stepped over the piles of recycling (which block access to the door), and was running amok in the basement, possibly armed with garden tools.

I immediately called C. and made him come home. Brandishing a snow shovel, he inspected every inch of the basement. Nada. I could see him stifling a smirk and planning what he’d tell the guys at the office about his wimpy, delusional wife. Whatever. I know what I heard.

I continued to hear it over the next two days. So did my mom, who was visiting. (So THERE, C.!) Still, we could not isolate where the sound was coming from, or what was making it. The scratching and gnawing seemed to indicate it was probably not human, however.

So I was carrying a load of laundry down the stairs when I noticed the dog food had been pilfered – something had chewed all the way through the heavy-duty Rubbermaid container! Crap, we had a varmint on our hands. Probably a rabid one, at that. Add that to the list of things I never worried about before I was home with a baby: rabid rodents attacking my family. Then, a flash of brown fur caught my eye. The squirrel vanished into a hole in the ceiling of its own making. Screams, curses, and scattered laundry ensued.

C. brought home a squirrel trap. This only angered the little fella, and caused him to run around in circles, screeching indignantly. C. managed to corral him into a shoebox and freed him into the wild. (The Wild Blue Cul-de-Sac, that is.) Where the squirrel will, no doubt, gather all his friends and gnaw his way back into our house.

Where was our fearless guard dog during all this, you might ask? Cowering in her bed, quaking with fear. Literally. Quaking. Same as she was when the mice – never seen or heard from before or since – appeared in the kitchen THE ONE NIGHT I had FOUR TRAYS of PAINSTAKINGLY HANDMADE cookies sitting out for my sister-in-law’s baby shower the next day. (Don’t worry, A., they only got two trays.) If the next critter’s a raccoon, we’re moving.

TIP O’ THE WEEK: No tip, just a bittersweet observation. In just a few days, Miles will have been outside of me for as long as he was inside of me. Strange, sad, and totally expected, all at the same time. And now he’s scrabbling away from me as fast as his chubby little hands and knees can take him. 🙁

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