Month 16: It’s Just a Baby Tooth

My baby looks like he’s been in a bar fight. He fell on his face going down the front steps and split his lip open. Blood? Lots. Swelling? Picture Daffy Duck. Crying? Only when I tried to put ice on it. Helpful tips about applying pressure with wet gauze don’t apply when you have a child who screams and flails his head about like Linda Blair in “The Exorcist.”

Miles’ lip was so swollen that I didn’t even notice he had chipped a tooth until later that day when I was tickling him upside down. (You’d think I’d be a little more careful, wouldn’t you?) Yep, there it was — an unmistakable chip on the corner of his right front tooth. I freaked. I immediately called the pediatrician and then a dentist. Then I called my mom to commiserate.

A tip for all you veteran moms and grandmothers out there: when a new mom calls you, hysterical about a facial deformity her firstborn child has suffered on her watch, it’s not helpful to say, “Oh, that’s only the beginning” or “I’ve seen much worse” or “Oh, cute! I bet he looks like Huck Finn.” This is a BABY we’re talking about, people, not a pro hockey player! And maybe it’s cute for a 7-year-old Little Leaguer to have no front teeth, but Miles is a BABY. He just GOT his teeth!!

At least my mother-in-law had some helpful suggestions, like giving him a Popsicle to suck on instead of trying to pin him down with an ice pack. Wish I’d had some on hand.

So the next morning, we show up at the dentist. Miles runs around the waiting room flinging Dr. Seuss books with no idea what’s in store for him. I’m picturing drills, buzz saws, huge needles dripping Novocain… Instead, the dentist makes Miles a “balloon” out of an inflated rubber glove. Ew. Then he tries to pry open Miles’ mouth but Miles isn’t having it and whips his head away hard enough to knock out his other teeth. The dentist says, “Yep, it’s chipped. It’ll smooth itself out in a couple of days. Take care!”

Huh? I doubt he even caught a glimpse of my son’s teeth. I don’t even know how many he has these days, that’s how hard it is to get a look inside his mouth. And this “smooth itself out” business? What kind of nonsense is that?! It’s a broken tooth, not a piece of seaglass! Apparently, they do NADA to fix baby teeth, even if they break in half or turn gray or fall out completely. Because, you know, they’re just BABY teeth. Who cares if your toddler looks like a snaggle-toothed hillbilly? They’re just BABY teeth.

C. actually thought this latest accident might make Miles a little more cautious. Ha! As if. Since his face-plant, Miles has fallen down the (inside, carpeted) stairs once, run himself over with his wheeled highchair, and pulled a dining room chair over on top of himself. In case you’re wondering what kind of deathtrap we live in, we have baby gates and other childproof apparatus covering every square inch of the house. Makes no difference to Danger Boy. Or should I call him Huck Finn?

TIP O’ THE WEEK: If you have an “active” toddler like I do, stock up on Popsicles. Or buy something called a Boo-Boo Bunny. (Someone actually gave me one for my baby shower and I thought, “What the hell is this for?” Little did I know…) Also, map the route to the closest ER. (1.75 miles for us!)


Month 15: Rockin’ the Reading Glasses

A new study just came out on Americans’ reading habits. One in four people said they read zero books last year. The typical person read four, and the most avid readers were women and retirees. Hmmm. I am a woman. And I did spend much of my time last year stitching and bitching with the senior set… Anyway, I’ve read WAY more than four books this year, not even counting baby name books and books about how to get your baby to sleep. (They put ME to sleep, that’s for sure.)

Back in junior high, this sort of deviant behavior would have labeled me a nerd. Yep, I went to a school where it wasn’t cool to be conspicuously smart. Coolness was instead bestowed upon those who could rock the leggings-and-rubber-bracelets look. (Oh, don’t think I didn’t try. And who knew they’d make a comeback??) Let me tell you, those cool kids were missing out. They had no idea what wonders awaited them in the enchanted world of the Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High.

These days I publicly flaunt my literacy. I will show my face in libraries, and I intentionally seek out bookstores. Mostly for the magazines and coffee, and sometimes for the kids’ storytime, but the point is I willingly go where there are books. And sometimes I even buy and read them! I figured out it’s often cheaper to buy a book than to pay the library fines I inevitably rack up when the book goes missing amidst my household clutter.

In the Mommy & Me yoga class I took after Miles was born, the teacher asked us one day what we would do if we had an hour to ourselves. The other moms all said they’d take a bubble bath, get a massage, go to the gym… I’m the only one who said I’d spend my time reading. But think about it—it’s one of the few things you can’t do while taking care of a baby. You can watch TV over their heads while they play on the floor, listen to the radio or a book on tape in the car, drop them off at the gym daycare while you work out. But I could never read when Miles was awake.

I heard talk of women who could read while they were nursing, but I always needed both hands. And as Miles has gotten older, he has started to rip the newspaper out of my hands or shred the magazine I’m flipping through. I did manage to read a great article this weekend in my favorite parenting magazine, Wondertime.

In his curiously titled story, “The Angel & The Skank,” writer Andrew Corsello discusses how parenthood forced him to, basically, stop being a self-centered prick and be in the moment. He describes taking care of his sick infant son one night: “For the first time in my life, I shed my own poisonous third-person regard, stopped looking at myself doing whatever I was doing, and passing judgment of one kind or another. Here’s the truth: There is nothing like dealing with one’s own screaming, puke-slathered spawn at 3 in the morning that better puts one in one’s place.” I love that. “Puke-slathered spawn.” Now there’s a fella who can turn a phrase. See what those non-readers are missing out on?

TIP O’ THE WEEK: Miles’ current favorite book is How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? by Jane Yolen & Mark Teague. He requests it five times a day and gets miffed if the person reading it doesn’t pucker up at the part where the dinosaur kisses his mom goodnight.


Month 15: Elmo Kills

Like SIDS and vaccinations and fatal nut allergies aren’t enough for moms to worry about, now there’s the possibility that the cute little Sesame Street Light-Up Musical Pal in the toy box may just, oh, I don’t know, KILL YOUR CHILD!! As you’ve probably heard, Mattel recalled 9 million toys this week, including a bunch of Elmo and Dora items, because they “could contain dangerous lead paint or have magnets that children could swallow.”

Super. Is it just me or are baby and kids’ items recalled constantly? I picked up a couple of things at Babies R Us the other day for a friend’s baby shower and as soon as I walked in, I was bombarded with a barrage of recall notices posted inside the store. And it’s not just companies that market that crappy junk jewelry they sell in gumball machines at the supermarket. (I mean, is it a big shocker that that stuff is dangerous? Those “princess” necklaces turn your skin GREEN!!) It’s big, “trusted” companies like Fisher-Price, Pottery Barn Kids, Disney, Graco…

When you’ve got a few hours to spare, check out the comprehensive list at the US Consumer Product Safety Administration’s web site. And this is just the non-toy list. (Again, is anyone shocked that crystal-studded pacifiers are on the list? What’s next, Baby’s First Fireworks Kit?)

Every other week, I hear about something else that’s bad for my baby. Can anyone tell me what the hell’s the deal with soy? Is it good, bad, indifferent? I’m a vegetarian and I don’t even know. Just today a woman in my Stroller Strides class told me her pediatrician said not to feed kids those soy nuggets. And here I am, thinking I’m giving Miles a healthy alternative to chicken nuggets. I brought grapes to share after class and even though I carefully washed them first, I was still paranoid that the other moms might recoil in horror at the sight of the presumably pesticide-laden non-organic produce. Or maybe that’s just me (blush).

With my son, though, lead-poisoned Elmos and toxic soy nuggets are the least of my worries. The other day I turned around to find Miles sitting on the kitchen floor, stabbing a paring knife into the linoleum. Quick as lightning, he’d snaked it out of the dishwasher when I opened it to put in his (probably recalled) sippy cup, unbeknownst to me. Now THAT’S scary!!

TIP O’ THE WEEK: Check out Woman’s Day columnist and author Paula Spencer’s “My Turn” piece in Newsweek on the dangers of fear-based parenting. I agree, long-sleeved swimsuits are a travesty.


Month 15: New Words

A Crash Course in “Miles-ese”:

Mo: “more,” as in “more food”; can also mean “That ice cream looks good,” “I don’t care if it’s hot coffee laced with jalapeno, I still want some,” or “I am auditioning for the role of Pitiful Starving Orphan in a toddler production of ‘Oliver’.”

Daw: “dog,” pronounced with a Southern drawl; also used to refer to large cats and pictures of groundhogs.

Ow: “out,” as in “Get me out of this car seat”; can also mean “up,” “down,” or “in”; basically, “I wish to change my location immediately.”

Moo: what a cow says, duh! For some reason, this is the only animal sound that has caught on. Apparently, horses and pigs also say moo, according to Miles.

Pop: what the grandkids call my father-in-law; however, since Miles also calls his other grandfather Pop, it seems to be a generic term meaning “any older man related to me.”

New words this week include “boat,” “bird,” and “pool,” which is how Miles referred to the large body of water otherwise known as the Atlantic Ocean.

In addition to expanding my son’s vocabulary, we have other results to show from our vacation. C. worked on what he’s dubbed his “Neopolitan tan” — brown forearms, white stomach and red shoulders. I slept until almost 9 a.m. (!) one morning, and finished an entire novel.

Like most new moms, I don’t have a lot of time to read. When I do, it’s usually People magazine or “What to Expect the First Year.” I do enjoy reading actual books, though, particulary about themes that relate to my life. So Gwendolen Gross’ “The Other Mother” was a perfect vacation read. It describes the tricky relationship between two neighbors, one a veteran SAHM of three and the other a working mom who’s just had her first baby.

The book does a great job of showing the subtle and even subconscious ways we judge other moms. Both characters claim they respect the other’s choice to work or stay home with her children, but each privately believes she’s doing it the right way. They form a complicated friendship that goes awry. Maybe it’s not a bad thing we’re only on “smile and wave” terms with our neighbors!

So even though I spent my vacation reading about other moms, it was still an escape. I didn’t check e-mail once, and glanced at the TV and newspaper only for the weather report. I had no idea what was going on with Lindsay Lohan, AND I WAS OK WITH THAT! Now we’re back home with mounds of laundry to tackle and nap schedules to resume. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get some “mo” coffee.

TIP O’ THE WEEK: If you’re going on a long car trip, I suggest leaving at your baby’s regular bedtime and driving through the night. Sure beats seven hours of plying him with books, snacks, and DVDs while you try to get him to sit still and stop kicking the back of your seat.

Also, more toy recalls.


Month 14: Vacation, Take II

As everyone who crosses a pregnant lady’s path feels compelled to tell her, life changes forever once you have a baby. One of the changes is that vacation takes on an entirely new meaning. As one mom friend put it, “There’s no such thing as a vacation with kids. It’s just travel.”

Certainly, your recreational expectations must change. When we took our annual summer trip to Cape Cod last year when Miles was only 3 months old, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew that most of the activities I looked forward to were out – biking, kayaking, sleeping in, indulging in copious quantities of rum drinks. Yes, I was a bit bummed, but truth be told I was not quite back in biking shape anyway. And I was more interested in caffeine than cocktails at that point. So, OK, I could modify my vacation plans to include lounging on the beach and reading in the hammock instead.

Turns out, Miles wasn’t a big fan of the beach. Once he woke up from his nap in the stroller, the bright sun and wind — and for all I know, the heavy Massachusetts accents — irritated him no end. We ended up back at the cottage by ourselves while the rest of the family stayed at the beach.

I didn’t spend too much time sleeping, either. The cottage we stay in is tiny. The minute the baby was up, so was everyone in earshot. (Sorry, neighbors.) I did some reading, but even when someone else was watching the baby, I couldn’t relax. I was sure I was the only one who could recognize his hunger cues and protect him from killer bees and other predators. (One year the Cape had an infestion of rabid foxes. I swear I’m not making that up.) We did go on one bike ride, but it was not one of the 20-mile challenges we’ve done in the past. It was a short jaunt to the hot dog hut.

This year, I have high hopes that things will be different. Miles is older and loves the water and sand. We have a baby seat for my bike. I now trust others to babysit while C. and I go kayaking. And I’m no longer nursing, so bring on the mojitos! See y’all in a week.

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