12/28/07

Month 19: Home Again

We’re back from our holiday travels. Boy, does our house seem spacious. And quiet. And yet, remarkably messy for someplace that’s been free of people and a dog for a week. Guess it must be the 10 tons of stuff we brought back with us, including several hundred pounds of dirty laundry and Miles’ Christmas loot. And that’s just what we could carry. The mini all-terrain vehicle and firetruck are being shipped.

First off let me say that this Christmas was WAY better than last, primarily because Miles slept like a champ. And that’s at two different houses and in three different Pack ‘n’ Plays. Including naps. It was a Christmas miracle.

Of course, all that rest -- combined with large quantities of sugar and attention from adoring relatives -- gave him even more energy than usual. It was like the Energizer Bunny downed several double espressos and chased them with a shot of B12 and a handful of No Doz.

I am amazed that an only child used to being in his own house with two fairly quiet parents would adapt so well to a new environment filled with strange people, loud noises, and constant activity. At one point at my in-laws’, there were 16 people and two dogs. At the exact moment that dinner was being served (which involved at least 19 different dishes), five of my nieces launched into an impromptu round of caroling, some friends stopped by to visit, and one of the dogs had an accident. Miles was completely unfazed. In fact, he loved it.

It did make me laugh when we got to my parents’ house, where my brother, his wife, and their 11-mo.-old were staying, and my mom declared it was “chaos.” Please. Six adults, two babies, and no pets? That’s a walk in the park, people. Especially since the kids were mostly on opposite nap schedules and one’s not walking yet.

Even with all those adults around, there were some lapses in child care. Both C. and I noticed that our parents didn’t seem to fully grasp the meaning of “keeping an eye on Miles” while we were occupied. Under my in-laws’ watch, he got into a bowl of mixed nuts, climbed up on the toilet to play in the sink, and spiked a Christmas ornament. (To his defense, it was shaped like a football.) At my parents’, he found and dumped out a box of approximately 3,000 tiny legos and assorted sharp objects that had remained untouched for the past 26 years since my brother had played with them.

It didn’t really bother me, though. Miles made the holidays fun in a way they haven’t been for a while. There’s only so much reading and sitting around the fire and talking about work a person can take before it gets boring. It’s much more fun to watch kids try to figure out a Sit ‘n’ Spin (yes, they still make them!), shriek with delight at a balloon, and grin like a maniac after tasting their first candy cane.

Really, the only stressful parts of the trip were getting there and back (a whole other post unto itself), keeping Miles from hugging his baby cousin to death and/or bashing her on the head with a toy, and keeping up with the mess he leaves in his wake. At my house, there’s no Oriental rug in the dining room to get splattered with oatmeal. And the mess from breakfast can wait until naptime. (Or, let’s be honest, bedtime.) And a bazillion puzzle pieces, toy trains, and stuffed animals scattered all over the floor blend in with the d├ęcor.

Even though we had a nice time, it’s great to be home. Miles gets to watch Curious George again instead of endless football games or the news. He can shout and crash and bang since there’s no one trying to nap. And now he’s got a few dozen more toys to scatter about. That should keep him busy until the ATV gets here.

PICK O’ THE WEEK: My mother and SIL and I escaped to the movies one afternoon to see “Atonement.” The book was great, and the movie was AMAZING.

12/19/07

Month 19: Baby's Worst Xmas?

We head out tomorrow for the holidays, so I'll be on a brief blog hiatus. Here's an essay I wrote about last year's trip. I'm still having flashbacks.

Baby's First (or Worst?) Christmas
Last Christmas was my first as a parent. I should have been excited. Baby’s First Christmas is supposed to be magical. I know this because people gave us ornaments that say so. Instead of being filled with the joy of the season, however, I was filled with fear and dread.

You see, our brand-new family was bravely embarking on a trip to our relatives’ six states away. As nervous new parents, my husband and I were apprehensive about traveling with an infant for the first time. But it was Christmas.

Packing presented the first challenge. How many changes of clothes would the baby need? Did diaper rash cream count as a liquid, and therefore need to be transferred into a clear plastic bag per airport security requirements? I feared I would forget some key baby item—say, that crucial extra diaper—and be forced to construct one out of airsickness bags and cocktail napkins.

At the airport, we filled an entire baggage cart with our gear, including a car seat bigger than the baby himself. I had always prided myself on my ability to pack light. These days, entire marching bands travel lighter than I do.

Disassembling and reassembling the baby apparatus to get through security nearly caused us to miss our flight. And preboarding is one of the few perks of traveling with a small child. Then, by the time I had unpacked the baby’s blanket, pacifier, rattle, bottle and bib, the plane was landing. So we repacked our gear, reassembled the stroller and retrieved our bags. With a flurry of straps and buckles, we managed to install the car seat in the rental car.

Upon our arrival at my in-laws’ house, we—I mean, the baby—were greeted by several generations of relatives. My son, Miles, was the first grandchild to come along in seven years, and the first grandson in seventeen years. His reception rivaled that of a young maharajah. Children shouted. Lights twinkled. Cameras flashed. It was Overstimulation Central.

Even at seven months old, Miles was a social little guy. He clearly felt it was his duty to entertain two sets of grandparents, six cousins and countless aunts, uncles and other visitors with his repertoire of cute baby antics. A rousing game of peek-a-boo? You got it. A photo beside the decorative reindeer? No problem.

Someone decided it would be fun to have “Santa” give out the presents. Ah, the presents. Stacks taller than the baby towered everywhere. Miles would have been happy with just the bows and wrapping paper. But no, he was gifted with toys galore, including a bilingual bongo drum that chirped in Spanish and English. Miles hadn’t even mastered his mother tongue yet, let alone a second language.

He took all this in with wide-eyed wonder. Then an ancient uncle came in sporting the Santa hat. One look at the evil red pom-pommed cap, and the baby’s lower lip began to quiver like a bowl full of jelly. This episode marked the beginning of the end of our fun family festivities.

When it was time to wind down in the evening, Miles didn’t. He woke up every two hours all night long, complaining loudly about the accommodations—a rickety old portable crib rescued from a neighbor’s attic. After the comforts of his cushy digs at home, he wasn’t having it.

By the fifth night of this, we had all had enough. Much to the grandparents’ dismay, we flew home early, arriving exhausted and tense. Incredibly, we came back with even more stuff than we’d brought.

The next morning, all was well with the world. Miles lolled in his crib, cooing over the baby monitor, while his dad and I snuggled up in our own bed. There were no more airport security lines, no more car seats or portable cribs, no one we needed to entertain—and most importantly, no Santa hats in sight. Thank goodness Baby’s First Christmas only happens once.

--Abigail Green

12/16/07

Month 19: Stunt Baby, Part XVII

There’s been a security breach at our house. Just before 0700 hours on Saturday, 15 December, 2007, Miles escaped from his crib. We heard a loud thump from his room and then a cry. I jumped out of bed and ran into the hall just as he was opening his door. Yep, he can work doorknobs now, too. Excellent.

He appeared to be slightly dazed but otherwise fine. I’m actually shocked it’s taken him this long to learn how to climb out of the crib. Good thing his room is carpeted.

As you may recall from this post and this post, and this post, Miles has always been an active little fella. He has suffered bumps, bruises, and a chipped tooth. He has been to the ER. We have gradually removed or replaced most of our hard-edged furniture. And now, we have lowered the crib mattress to the very lowest slot.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have encouraged him on that rock-climbing wall the other day. See, this week we started a new tumbling class at a local children’s gym. The kids rolled on mats, slid down ramps, jumped on trampolines, and hopped across cushions.

Then there was this sort of mini climbing wall with hand and foot grips. Miles wanted no part of it, but seeing all the other kids climb it one by one, I pushed him to try. I encouraged him to SCALE A WALL, people! What’s the matter with me?? Like the child needs any encouragement to attempt potentially dangerous stunts? Anyway, I think the thrill of conquering that wall gave him the confidence to attempt his prison break the next morning. That’ll teach me, huh?

And that was just the beginning of our exciting weekend. After that, C. took Miles to the pool (where he attempted to dive in by himself), and then we all went to see a production of “101 Dalmations” at a children’s theater. Miles has the book and loves it, but I wasn’t sure how he would handle a play. Better than expected: he added his own sound effects (“Woof! Woof!”) and got a little antsy during some parts, but he loved the music and the kids dressed up in dog costumes.

Today we went to a train museum to see the holiday displays. Choo, choo! I have to admit, checking out a bunch of trains wasn’t tops on my list of ways to spend a day, but even I ended up thinking it was pretty cool. They take you on a short ride on a train that’s decked out like the Polar Express or something out of Harry Potter. The conductors come up and down the aisle and greet everyone, and the kids can stand up on the seats and look out the windows.

This train was going through downtown Baltimore rather than to the North Pole or Hogwarts, so the view was, uh, less than scenic. “Look, kids, a crack house! An abandoned car! Ooh, and over there, is that a one-legged homeless guy?” But it didn’t matter, because we were in Festive Holiday Weekend mode! It almost makes up for all those other weekends when we sit around doing nothing but patching up Danger Boy. Let’s hope none of us starts tomorrow morning with a thud.

BUY O’ THE WEEK: I got Miles a shirt like this at Target. It's like it was made for him!

12/11/07

Month 19: Poor Baby, Part II

Help! We’re stuck on the mucous merry-go-round and we can’t get off! Gross, I know. But what do you want from me? Miles has his second cold/virus in a month and I spend all day long wiping one end of him or the other. This time’s not quite as bad. Just bad enough to keep us all up at night. Sigh.

Oh, people warned me. “Kids are little germ magnets,” they said. “They’re always sick. And that means YOU’RE always sick, too.” I know at least one family who pulled their kid out of daycare and got an au pair because he was constantly getting sick from the other kids. And when they start school, forget it. They get weird illnesses you’ve never even heard of, like exotic rashes and foot-and-mouth disease and avian flu and stuff.

Miles either got this new, second-generation cold at a playdate or at the gym with C. Or maybe from the shopping cart handle at the supermarket. Who the hell knows? The point is, it’s a huge hassle. He lies down in his crib at night or for naps and 20 min. later, wakes up hacking and sobbing and oozing.

And there’s not much you can do for an 18 ½-mo.-old with a cough. Think about it: cough drops, hot toddies, massive doses of Nyquil—all the things we’d use to treat ourselves if we were sick are not an option. So Miles and I spent half the day lying on the couch, dozing and watching “The Polar Express.” Not a bad way to spend an afternoon ... if there weren’t ONLY 14 SHOPPING DAYS LEFT 'TIL CHRISTMAS!!!

In fact, shopping is only a teeny tiny fraction of what I have to do this month. Work obligations (what’s that?) aside, my to-do list includes:
1. Buy & decorate Christmas tree
2. Take Christmas card photo
3. Order Christmas cards
4. Address, stamp & mail Christmas cards
5. Make casserole for neighbors w/ new baby
6. Make photo calendar for grandparents
7. Buy more stamps
8. Return library books/pay overdue fines

This weekend, #1 got scratched. We’re spending the holiday at the grandparents’, anyway. So I put up the tiny fake tree I had in my college dorm. Pathetic, people. Thank god Miles will have no memory of it.

It’s looking like #7 and #8 aren’t going to happen either. Item #2 took ALL WEEKEND LONG and we STILL ended up choosing the least-terrible photo of the 423 we took. (Like this "I'm a reindeer" pose?) Likewise, #6 took forever, since it involved combing through approximately 5 bazillion digital photos and Miles turned off the computer in the middle, causing me to lose a couple hours’ work.

Then we’ve got the actual Christmas shopping. My list includes mostly people who a) don’t want or need anything but I still have to get them something, b) I see once or twice a year and have no clue about their interests, sizes, or taste, and c) people (ahem, C.) who want either a shirt or a flat-screen TV and virtually nothing in the in-between price range.

Ah, the holidays! The most magical time of the year. If, you know, your definition of magical includes going through family-size boxes of Kleenex and racking up massive credit card debt. And, really, whose doesn’t?

TIP O’ THE WEEK: We just got this Vicks Vaporizer for Miles’ room and it really seems to help him breathe. He slept great last night … until 5 a.m., that is. :(

12/6/07

Month 19: Happy Thoughts

I'm afraid I'm getting to be a bit of a Debbie Downer lately, what with my rants about shopping disasters and jury duty and husbands who ring the doorbell when the baby and I are both asleep because they forgot their keys. (What? I didn't mention that? My bad.) So this here's going to be a New! Improved! Upbeat post, people!

So, after the Gap Mishap, I escaped for some Christmas shopping and a movie on my own. (Cue Bridget Jones singing "All By Myself.") Now, even though I consider myself to be a modern, evolved, independent woman, I still have reservations about going to a movie by myself. As do most other women I know. Why? Are we afraid we'll look like friendless losers? That everyone else in the theater will be couples holding hands and making googly eyes at each other over the popcorn?

Not at the 3:30 p.m. showing of "Enchanted," I'll tell you that. Sitting between an elderly couple and a mom and her young daughter, I blended right in. And I can't tell you how enjoyable it was not to have to listen to C. snort sarcastically throughout this unabashed chick flick. Plus I wasn't worrying in the back of my mind about racking up the sitter fees. What a treat! I highly recommend it for moms who need some "me time."

OK, what else? Upbeat, upbeat … oh, I know! It snowed here yesterday for the first time this year. Snow in Baltimore before Christmas is pretty unusual. All day long Miles kept saying, "Snow! Snow!" with the same funny pronunciation that he says "snack." He is currently obsessed with snowmen. Something to do with the Frosty book he got last Christmas. Unfortunately for him, Mama is a wuss and prefers to stay inside with a hot cup of tea. Getting cold and wet is Dad's domain, I've decided.

Now I've got snowflakes and mittens on the brain and have gotten the song "A Few of My Favorite Things" stuck in my head. So here are a few of mine: the TV show "Chuck" on NBC. For all you "Alias" fans, this is your new fix. It's a combination spy show and comedy, featuring a cute, semi-geeky guy.

Also, if you haven't hit the Target $1 section lately, it's a goldmine for stocking stuffers. I bought Miles a bunch of colorful wooden planes and trains. Of course, they were probably made in China and saturated in lead paint, but this is an upbeat post, dammit!! I refuse to get sidetracked.

If you prefer to do your shopping by catalog or online, check out Land of Nod. They've got a cool, fairly inexpensive selection of retro kids' gifts, and a free shipping section. Miles has one of the mini rocking chairs and loves it. This place is cool, too, for non-battery-operated toys: Back to Basics Toys.

Also, I am in love with the Container Store (click on Stocking Stuffers). I wish there was a location closer to us so I didn't have to pay shipping. But I would probably put a serious dent in Miles' college fund so it's just as well.

Well, I'm running out of material, people. Apparently, if I don't have something to complain about, I'm as dull as a pair of safety scissors. :) Never fear, I'll be back soon with new & improved calamities and indignities to report, I'm sure of it.

TIP O' THE WEEK: If you must shop in actual three-dimensional stores, take advantage of the early holiday hours. Target was blissfully empty at 9 a.m. today!

12/2/07

Month 19: I Plead Guilty

I blame coffee. Or, rather, the lack thereof. If we hadn't been out of coffee, I would never have suggested that we change out of our warm PJs and go out to breakfast on Saturday morning, thus setting off a disastrous chain of events.

But we were up, we were tired (except for Miles, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed since 6:30 a.m.), and I, at least, needed some serious caffeine. So we set off. On the way there, C. remarked, “7:59 a.m. on a Saturday and we’re on our way to breakfast. How times have changed.” Ain’t that the truth.

We picked a neighborhood restaurant, nicer than a diner but still kid-friendly. Or so I thought. As a pile of crumbs and table scraps began to accumulate under Miles’ high chair, I saw a guy who was sweeping the floor eye him warily. “Sorry about that. He’s going to keep you busy,” I half-joked. The guy did not smile back. Nice. The sun was barely up and I was already feeling guilty.

Let me just say here that I am no stranger to guilt. I have always cared way too much what other people think. If someone’s mad, I assume it’s my fault. If something goes wrong, I assume I am in some way responsible. Not like responsible for 9/11, but partly to blame for, say, a dining companion not liking their food. I know, it’s stupid.

Since I became a mom, guilt is pretty much my constant state of being. I felt guilty for keeping my doula at the hospital for the bazillion hours I was in labor. I felt guilty for sending the baby to the nursery so I could sleep. I felt guilty for not being overjoyed every second of every day. I felt guilty for snapping at my husband all the time. I felt guilty for not calling people back. I felt guilty for letting the baby cry, for not feeding him organic rice cereal, for not breastfeeding longer, and on and on. You name it, I felt guilty about it.

And it seems the older Miles gets, the more I have to feel guilty about. He makes huge messes at restaurants, he pushes other kids at the playground, he won’t sit still on planes, and he’s often very, very loud. But what can I do? Nothing but feel guilty, that’s what.

So after our tense breakfast -- where we hugely overtipped, I might add -- we went to the mall. Miles demanded to be let out of the stroller immediately. We chased him all over Macy’s, repeatedly grabbing his shirt mere seconds before he snatched some glass snowflake or porcelain Santa and smashed it to smithereens.

Stupidly, we continued on to the Gap. C. had wrestled Miles back into the stroller and was pushing him past a display of seasonal bath products when -- SMASH! Miles tipped a glass bottle of bath oil onto the floor.

While I am standing there, mortified, picking up glass shards, C. nonchalantly WALKS AWAY. I could have killed him. Later, he explained it this way, “What? It was an accident. Kids break stuff. The Gap is a huge corporation. I’ve spent tons of money there over the years. So, no, I don’t feel bad at all.”

Whereas I had grabbed a fistful of paper towels from the salesgirl to help her clean up the mess, all the while sputtering apologies. ("Sorry. I’m SO sorry! Did I mention how sorry I am?") Should I offer to pay for the bath oil? Was she going to call security? Overwhelmed with guilt, I scooped up a handful of overpriced lip glosses, paid for them, and high-tailed it out of there.

Then, on the way home, we got pulled over and ticketed for an expired registration. Can you guess how that made me feel? That’s right, all together now, people: GUILTY!! Though not too guilty to briefly consider bribing the cop with some cranberry lip balm.

READ O’ THE WEEK: How timely of Real Simple magazine to run a feature on how to avoid feeling guilty in the Dec. issue. Some of their suggestions: “Confess” to someone else (since secrecy breeds guilt); try to make amends; and give yourself credit for what you do right.

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