Month 18: Monkeyin’ Around

Happy Halloween, everyone! I love the cute, fuzzy, little-kid costumes — before they grow up and want to look all scary. This monkey outfit is the perfect costume for my little monkey. (Thanks for the hand-me-down, T!) As you may know from reading this blog, Miles is a mischievous little fella. Why, just the other Sunday, I was awakened by the sound of an alarm going off at the ungodly hour of 6 a.m. Thus began another rousing game of “Find Mama’s Alarm Clock.”

See, Miles likes to swipe my alarm clock from my bedside table, set the alarm, and then hide it in all sorts of creative places. Say, under the bed, in the laundry hamper, or — as on that fateful Sunday morn — somewhere in the guest room.

Other fun tricks my monkey likes to play are:

“It’s a Hat.” This game involves taking any object that is not headwear, putting it on his head and saying it’s a hat. This is especially fun if the object in question is a not-yet empty bowl of oatmeal, a greasy plate, or the dog’s water dish.

“Gimme That!” Similar to tug-of-war, this has been Miles’ favorite since he was tiny. Just take anything he’s got in his hands — a blanket or a stuffed animal works best — and say, loudly, “Gimme that!” as you attempt to take it away. The harder you pull and the more you pretend to be outraged, the harder he laughs.

“Up or Down.” This started in the bathtub. We would ask Miles if he was ready to get out. He would say “out,” stand up, and just when you reached over with the towel, sit back down with a splash. The game continues until the parent loses patience or all the water has been splashed out of the tub, whichever comes first. Recently, Miles has started this game when I go to get him out of his crib, too. (Little does he know I could call his bluff and leave him in there all day.)

My husband’s coworkers played a little trick on me today. It was called “Bring your son into the office so we can give him tons of candy and he’ll have a sugar-fueled meltdown when you get home.” What a treat!

SHOUT-OUTS: To my friend, L., brand-new mama to Baby Katie. Congrats! And to my Stroller Strides friend and fellow mommy blogger, Prince Alex’s Momma.


Month 18: Questionable Kids’ Books

Admittedly, I’ve had babyproofing on the brain lately, but has anyone else noticed that the room in “Goodnight Moon” is totally not child-safe? “In the great green room there was a telephone …” First of all, the phone cord is definitely a strangulation hazard. And it’s right next to the bed! The bed which has no side rails on it, by the way.

And an open fireplace in a kid’s room?! With fireplace tools next to it? That’s just plain irresponsible. It almost makes you overlook the knitting needles left unattended on the rocking chair before the quiet old lady comes in.

“Goodnight Moon” originally came out in 1947, though, so it’s no surprise that safety requirements have become more stringent since then. But there are plenty of other kids’ books that portray questionable judgment, to say the least. Let’s take a look at them, shall we?

Possibly the worst offender is Alexandra Day’s “Good Dog, Carl” in which the mother leaves her baby in the care of … a rottweiler!! Even Britney Spears knows better than that, people! Though the dog does clean up after himself, which is more than I can say for my husband. (FYI, Carl has his own web site.)

Next up, “Five Little Monkeys.” Don’t you think that after, say, the third monkey fell off the bed and bumped his head, the doctor may have reported the mama monkey to social services? And I’m pretty sure that 5 to a bed is against fire code.

Speaking of bed sharing, I’d like Dr. Seuss to explain why, in “Hop on Pop,” Red, Ned, Ted and Ed are sleeping together in one bed. Come to think of it, in P.D. Eastman’s “Go, Dog. Go!” 17 dogs share one bed, not even counting the 3 poor dogs on the floor!! Those dogs have bigger problems, though. They drive too fast in cars without seat belts. Plus, they drive separately even though they’re all going the exact same place. Haven’t they ever heard of carpooling?

That’s it. I’m sticking with Sandra Boynton’s “Belly Button Book” for silly, carefree literary entertainment. Although … are those hippos on Belly Button Beach wearing sunblock?

READ O’ THE WEEK: Is Your Mama a Llama? by Deborah Guarino and Steven Kellogg is a fun read, and doesn’t promote canine caregiving, speeding, or skin cancer.

TIP O’ THE WEEK: This one’s from C.: If your toddler’s attention span is too short for wordy books, skip all or part of the text and describe the pictures instead. Kids won’t notice until they’re older!


Month 17: Mr. Personality

Before we had Miles, my husband and I used to spend a lot of time playing with our dog, Gracie. C. trained her to cuddle on command and give “hugs.” We would dress her up in ridiculous outfits and put her picture on our Christmas cards. We would take her to the dog park every weekend and stand on the sidelines like anxious parents as Gracie tried to engage the other dogs in a game of Who Can Get the Muddiest.

Then we had a baby. Poor Gracie became a second-class citizen overnight. Suddenly, we couldn’t tear our eyes away from Miles’ tiny feet and fuzzy head. We started dressing HIM in ridiculous outfits and put the baby’s picture on our Christmas cards instead of the dog’s. It’s only natural, right?

The thing I didn’t get until I had a baby of my own was how much fun they can be. People love to talk about diapers and sleep deprivation and the other horrors of parenthood (myself included). But you have to ask, then why do people keep having babies?? Obviously, they must have SOME redeeming qualities!

Of course they do. And I’m not even talking about the sappy greeting-card crap like babies’ laughter sounds sweeter than an angel’s song or whatever. I mean, babies have actual personalities! Anyone who’s ever heard a 5-year-old give a running commentary from a bathroom stall knows that kids are funny. I just didn’t realize that they develop their own personalities so early. It blows my mind that Miles has been alive just over ONE YEAR and he’s already the life of the party. I know people who’ve had 3 or 4 DECADES to develop their personalities and you still wouldn’t want to sit next to them at a dinner party!

I’ve started a list of what I love about Miles. (I go through it in my head when he’s lying flat on his back in the middle of the sidewalk crying because he doesn’t want to leave the park.)

  • The funny way he says “snack.” (Schnaaack.)
  • Sometimes he’ll bust into some crazy dance or start spinning around for no reason.
  • One time I said we needed to find a towel for his bath and he started going “whoo, whoo,” because he thought I said “owl.”
  • He puckers his mouth up like a fish when he kisses you.
  • He calls pumpkins “cuppies.” (Hey, he’s got the “p” and the “k” sounds in there!)
  • He likes to sit on our laps and watch Elmo videos on YouTube. (Check out Elmo’s duet with the Goo-Goo dolls and Elmo with Robert DeNiro. Don’t ask me why DeNiro turns into a cabbage.)
And that’s only the beginning, people! So all you childless folks, ditch your dog and get knocked up ASAP. 🙂 Oh, the fun that’s in store for you …

READ O’ THE WEEK: The Bright Side of Disaster by Katherine Center is a very entertaining and realistic story about a new mom who’s got it SO much worse than most of us.

TIP O’ THE WEEK: The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Parenting, gives a great suggestion: Hang towels over the tops of doors to prevent your child from slamming the door on his fingers. Cheaper than those foam thingies!


Month 17: Baby Proof

My son is what you might call an “active” toddler. Active being a euphemism for insanely energetic and unafraid of anything (except the vacuum cleaner). He has been known to dive headfirst off beds and changing tables, race full speed towards busy roads, and try to surf in the bathtub. His guardian angel must be working overtime because he’s only had a couple of minor accidents so far.

Until the other week. I used to joke about mapping the fastest route to the emergency room, but I wish I actually had. We were getting ready to leave the house and Miles was impatiently standing at the front door jiggling the doorknob. All of a sudden he screamed and came into the kitchen with blood dripping from both hands and his face. The next few minutes passed in a blur. I figured out that he had cut his finger on a sharp piece of metal on the door. Both of us covered in blood and sobbing, I bundled him into the car and raced to the closest hospital about a mile away.

C. met us there. Good thing, because I was in no state to fill out the paperwork. After waiting a ridiculously long time (what if he was bleeding to death??), a nurse came and got us. Having to help her hold my baby down while the doctor examined him was one of the worst things I’ve experienced as a mom. C. had to hold him while they X-rayed his finger because I couldn’t stand it.

They determined pretty quickly that Miles was fine. The cut had stopped bleeding on its own and wasn’t deep enough to require stitches. The ER doctor was super nice and explained that mouth and hand injuries (the only ones Miles has had) tend to bleed a lot and usually look worse than they are. By this time, Miles was busy devouring his (first ever) lollipop and playing with some stickers the nurses gave him. He was fine. His dad and I were a wreck.

So now I’m convinced that our 75-year-old house is a deathtrap. Everywhere you look, there are sharp corners, uneven floorboards, rusty hinges, and probably about 17 layers of lead paint. I’m seriously considering moving to a single-story Japanese-style loft where we’d sleep on futons and sit on floor cushions. We’d have rice-paper screens instead of doors. No furniture, no stairs, no doors, no injuries, right? But Miles would probably slip on the bare wood floors and crack his head.

He just has a knack for seeking out danger. I once put up a baby gate at the foot of the stairs. He immediately started leaning his full body weight into it until both he and the gate went flying. I put a glass up on the table out of his reach, and he pulled the placemat — and the glass — off the table and onto his head. I put those plastic plug things in the wall outlets (which he’d previously ignored), which he took as his own personal challenge to remove. The drawer-locks we installed allow the drawers to open just enough to pinch tiny fingers. I can’t win.

I do the best I can to make our house safe. But there’s baby proof, and then there’s Miles proof. Two different things entirely.

READ O’ THE WEEK: Mark Cherrington’s article in the Nov. 2007 issue of Wondertime magazine takes an evolutionary look at why little boys love trucks.

TIP O’ THE WEEK: One thing we have managed to instill in Miles is caution around things that are hot. By saying “hot” any time he’s near the stove, fireplace, bath water, or just-cooked food, he’s gotten the point and backs off. In fact, he’s become a bit of a drama queen about it and will shout “Hot!” when his food is barely lukewarm. Better safe than sorry, though, right? One Step Ahead offers childproofing tips (along with a bazillion safety products).


Month 17: Flight Risk

Last time I got on a plane with Miles, he was 11 mos. old and I was traveling by myself. We hit a rough patch, and I was forced to pass off my baby to a stranger while I scrambled to find an airsickness bag. And yet, our trip this past weekend was so much worse.

This time, the whole family was traveling together. Two parents, should be easier, right? Our flight left around Miles’ bedtime. Perfect, right? It was only an hour flight. Piece of cake, right? Wrong, wrong, and wrong again.

First, I realize that airport security is intended to make air travel safer for everybody. But, come on, forcing a baby to dump out his sippy cup and remove his tiny shoes that take 20 minutes to wrestle back on? (Note to self: get the Velcro kind next time.) Then we had to double back to retrieve the stroller we’d left on the conveyer belt amidst our 7 trillion carry-on items.

We arrive at our gate to discover our flight has been delayed TWO HOURS. Perfect. It’s now Miles’ dinner time, so I go off to forage for the least-disgusting airport food I can find. Twenty minutes later, just as I reach the front of the Quiznos line, a girl comes running up, shouting to her friends that the flight is no longer delayed and is boarding NOW. So I run back to the gate, no food in hand.

We board, give Miles his blanket and pacifier and attempt to get him settled. Yeah, right. He’s pointing out the window, shouting “Pane! Pane! Tuck! Tuck!” Indeed, there are many planes and trucks to be seen. Then he wheels around and starts doing leg presses on the seat in front of him. The kid can press triple his body weight, I swear. We remove his shoes so as to soften his kicks to the back of the seat. Yeah, right.

The college girl unfortunate enough to be seated in our row does her best to ignore us. She plugs her headphones into the radio on the armrest, punches some buttons to adjust the volume, and fires up her laptop. She might as well have pulled out a slab of raw antelope meat in a lion’s cage.

Miles immediately dived for the electronic equipment and began punching buttons. “Oh, honey, no! Ha, ha, he just loves to push buttons,” I explain to the girl apologetically, as I forcibly remove my son from her keyboard. I pass him off to C., amidst loud protests.

Miles soon busies himself pulling off his socks. A minute later, I hear a shout from the college girl. I look over and see that Miles has sneaked his little foot under my arm and is now pushing the buttons on the girl’s radio WITH HIS TOES!! Apparently, he cranked up the volume quite a bit. “I’m SO sorry!” I tell her, blushing and sweating profusely. “Take him!!” I hiss to C. under my breath, tossing him the baby like a football.

We spend the next hour passing Miles back and forth between us, prying his fingers off the hair of the passengers in front of us, retrieving his pacifier from the row in back of us, attempting to flag down a flight attendant to refill his sippy cup, and praying fervently that Miles will not knock over the college girl’s ginger ale into her laptop. Not only does Miles not sleep AT ALL, but he actually breaks a sweat from the exertion of everything he’s doing to not sleep.

Our landing is delayed due to God knows what, and when we do finally touch down there are no gates available so we sit on the runway for 45 minutes. I mentally count the number of gray hairs I’ve sprouted during the trip and swear to never, ever step foot on a plane again until Miles is 14. Too damn bad for our families. They’ll just have to make do with web cams.

As if to make up for things, Miles slept and behaved beautifully the whole rest of the trip. Then came our return flight. Really, I can’t complain too much. Sure, Miles purposely kicked over my drink, forcing me to spend most of the trip sitting in a puddle of ice water. Sure, he insisted on opening his packet of pretzels himself, showering everyone in the surrounding seats with salt and pretzel crumbs. Sure, he pulled off his socks again and dug his toes into every grimy crevice he could find. But as long as he doesn’t fry anybody’s laptop, I’m a happy Mom. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go shred my frequent flyer card.

TIP O’ THE WEEK: ABC News just did a story on moms who blog. There’s 15,000 of us! Who knew? Also, I found this web site, Go-Baby.com, that gives tips for traveling with kids.


Month 17: The F Word

Quick: what do you think of when you hear the word “feminist”? A man-hating, Birkenstock-wearing, non-leg-shaving activist? Many people do, I’m afraid, given the reaction of one of my cousins when the word came up during a family game night. “I’m NOT a feminist!” she sputtered, recoiling in horror at the very suggestion. You’d think she’d been accused of burning her bra.

Is it really such a bad thing, feminism? Wikipedia, that online font of knowledge, defines it as “an ideology focusing on equality of the sexes.” Sounds good to me. Sure, there are extremists, as with anything. Did you ever see “Legally Blonde”? You know Elle’s militant lesbian law school classmate who wants to change the word “semester” to “ovester”? (Think semen vs. ovaries.) She’s one example.

Look, I’m guilty of harboring certain stereotypes myself. Even though I’m a vegetarian, I think vegans are nuts. (Do they even eat nuts? Or is that all they eat? I can’t keep track.) Even though I’m an advocate of breastfeeding, the La Leche League scares me a little. And even though I consider myself a feminist, you won’t catch me advertising it on a T-shirt. Probably because I don’t want to be grouped in with the crazies. 🙂

Still, equality of the sexes has been on my mind a lot lately. Despite growing up with a father who shared the cooking and child-rearing responsibilities and a mother who made great strides for womankind (see last week’s post), despite having a degree from Vassar, despite railing against gender stereotypes my whole life (pity the poor soul who ever said I “throw like a girl”!), I now find myself … staying home with my baby while my husband goes to work. You might as well slap an apron on me and call me Betty Crocker.

OK, not really. Because I don’t cook much. Or clean. It’s just that, as you may have picked up on, I’m not 100% comfortable in my current role of full-time stay-at-home/ part-time work-at-home mom. And I’m kind of disgruntled with our society as a whole, actually.

The husband of my friend S., mom to three boys, has to travel frequently for work. Once, shortly after his son was born, he had to go on a 10-day business trip. Ten days, people!! Give me one good reason why his employer should not be required to provide a nanny to cover for him at home during his absence.

And why would my neighbor, a SAHM, ask me how my husband feels about “letting” me go to the gym a couple nights a week after a 10-hour day with a toddler? Why does a guy get to call in sick to work and recuperate in bed while his wife, when she’s sick, is still expected to care for the kids all day? Why do people heap praise on a dad for “babysitting” his own kids? How is it really a “choice” for a mom to stay home if childcare costs outweigh her earnings?

The feminist movement was all about giving women choices, right? Well, the whole “choice” issue is a loaded one. I choose to stay home with my son and work part time because 1) my husband earns more than I do, 2) I have a job I can do part-time from home, 3) we don’t live near family and full-time childcare is too costly for us, and 4) I couldn’t stand being away from Miles all day, anyway.

OK, this has veered off into a rant, and I don’t want to give my cousin any more ammunition against the feminists. So let’s change the subject to movies. I, for one, am eagerly awaiting the next “Legally Blonde” sequel to see how Elle Woods tackles career, motherhood, and universal childcare.

*NEW!* READ O’ THE WEEK: Get your hands on the Oct. 8 issue of Newsweek. More interesting even than this article about the “new dad” is this one: “A Mother’s View: The ‘New Dad’? Give Me a Break,” by Lorraine Ali. The average dad spends way more time with his kids than any other generation — but that’s still only 7 HOURS A WEEK!!

TIP O’ THE WEEK: Even though she’s kind of an angry feminist, Faulkner Fox has done her research and makes some excellent points in her book, “Dispatches from a Not-So-Perfect Life: How I Learned to Love the House, the Man, the Child.”


Month 17: Best-Kept Secrets

C. and I once stayed in a B&B where we found a helpful video in our room. It was the innkeepers’ picks for the area’s “best-kept secrets” — where to go, what to do, where to eat. About 10 minutes into it we realized that, according to them, EVERYTHING was a best-kept secret! And the only beach in town is hardly a secret, you know what I’m saying?

It can feel that way sometimes with baby stuff. I mean, everyone knows how labor and childbirth works, right? And what a Boppy and a Baby Bjorn are? It can seem that way to us jaded new moms, but actually, it’s not true.

For instance, I had been through hours of childbirth preparation classes and read several books on the topic before I went into labor. Even so, I was in for a huge shock when I showed up at the hospital. I’d been laboring at home all day, and my contractions were 4 minutes apart by that time. But guess what? I was dilated a measly 1 cm!! I was informed that my labor was “unproductive.” So, basically, the 12 hours up till then DIDN’T COUNT. Huh?! I don’t remember them covering that in my classes!

Another “secret” I discovered was that — surprise! — breastfeeding is not as easy as we’re led to believe. Start asking around and you’ll discover that very few new moms got the hang of nursing right away. And the “initial discomfort” referred to in the books turns out to be “excruciating pain” for many of us.

But, listen, I’m not trying to scare anyone. (Like, say, my friend L.H. who’s due any day now!) In fact, my aim was to share some helpful tips and products that were shared with me when I was a brand-new mom. But secrets spread fast, OK, so if this is old news to you, sorry.

First, a true story: When one of my close friends had a baby several years ago, she struggled with finding the perfect swaddling blanket. If only someone would invent one that was just the right size, just the right fabric, and actually kept the baby swaddled, T. lamented. Lo and behold, someone did. Fast-forward to my SIL’s baby shower last year where she received no fewer than half a dozen specially-designed, Velcro-enhanced swaddling blankets. Including one from me. Guess the secret’s out, huh?

So, anyway, here my list of “best-kept secrets” for new moms:

You probably know that a Boppy is a C-shaped pillow that goes around the mom’s waist to help position the baby for easier nursing. But did you know that a Boppy also makes a comfy neck pillow for parents? And makes tummy time easier by elevating the baby’s chest and head off the floor? And can serve as a seat to help an older baby sit up?

Similarly, you probably know what baby wipes are for. But did you know they are a surprisingly effective stain remover? And that they take off makeup in a jiffy?

Medela Quick Clean Microsteam Bags are a huge time- and space-saver for sterilizing pump parts, pacifiers, and bottles in your microwave in 2 minutes flat.

When Miles was a newborn, we had a little pee problem. A big pee problem, actually. So I was thrilled when a friend told me about extra-absorbent Huggies Overnites and the Ultimate Crib Sheet. If you’ve ever struggled to change a skin-tight fitted crib sheet in the middle of the night, you’ll appreciate this extra layer that’s easy to snap off.

For those times when you can’t hold the baby’s bottle for him (say, you’re driving to the airport to catch a 7 a.m. flight), the Podee Hands-Free Baby Bottle lets baby feed himself even before he can hold his own bottle. It took Miles a couple times to get the hang of it, but after that it was a huge time-saver.

I first spotted the Snack Trap at Stroller Strides. The little cup allows kids’ hands in to grab some Cheerios without dumping the entire contents out into their lap.

TIP O’ THE WEEK: Stuff I like that’s not baby-related:
To eat: Sabra hummus, Honeycrisp apples
To watch: Ugly Betty, Ace of Cakes (filmed in Baltimore!)
To wear: my new, cute, super-comfy Skechers shoes

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