What a Scream

What the hell is wrong with my baby? That’s what I want to know. Ever since he came into the world, this child has been giving me a run for my money. Or, more accurately, headaches and minor hearing loss. Every day, for a good portion of the day, he screams and cries and yells and then, just to mix it up, he’ll SCREAM SOME MORE.

OK, that’s a *slight* exaggeration. If he’s just been fed and is well rested and is in sight of Mom and is not cooped up in a crib or highchair and is allowed to crawl around exposing himself to as much danger as possible, Riley is all smiles. For awhile.

But god forbid you ignore him at 3 a.m., or stop in the middle of feeding him to, say, cross the room to grab some coffee. He will let you know AT TOP VOLUME what he thinks of that.

He’s been a huge mama’s boy since Day 1, so you’d think I’d be used to it 8 mos. in. But no, I am still surprised when he bursts into tears when a stranger smiles at him, or when he clings to me for dear life when I drop him off at the gym daycare for an hour. I thank my lucky stars that he doesn’t pull this crap with our regular babysitter. (Or if he does, she doesn’t rat him out.) Because if it weren’t for those little breaks now and then, I hate to think what I might do.

Lots of people – including my gentle, loving husband, Riley’s dad – find it hard to believe anyone could feel animosity towards a tiny, adorable, defenseless baby. I know, it’s shocking even to me the mean thoughts I sometimes have about my own flesh and blood. (Like, “If I could duct-tape that binky to your face to shut you up for half an hour, I WOULD.”)

But seriously. How would you feel if EVERY SINGLE DAY from breakfast through bedtime, a tiny tyrant was screaming at you every time you weren’t giving him your complete, undivided attention and/or carrying his 22 lb. self around? You’d feel worn out and pissed off, that’s how!!

Today, the only time the baby wasn’t screaming was when he was sucking on a banana in his little mesh feeder thingy or being pushed in the stroller outside. Believe me, I’d do these things 24/7 if it weren’t for annoying little chores like taking my 3 y.o. to school, eating, and getting 3 people dressed.

Sometimes I just want to scream at Riley, “DUDE!! Shut the f*** up!! You’re killing me with that air raid siren you call a voice!!” Of course, that’s usually when he decides to break into a big, drooly grin. That little bugger has me under his tiny little thumb.

LAUGH O’ THE WEEK: Miles was looking at a picture of Jesus in his Bible storybook. He pointed to his feet and said, “Mom, are those flip-flops or Crocs?”


Flu Frenzy

So I was all set to write a post about the flu frenzy and the insane level of misinformation and fear surrounding the swine flu, vaccines, etc., and then I decided I was already bored and fed up with the topic.

I mean, just because I’ve wasted countless hours on the phone and spent my days running all over town talking to scarily incompetent healthcare professionals who “just” ran out of flu shots and “may” be getting more “sometime,” eventually, maybe, in the not-too-distant future but they can’t be sure and they don’t know whether they’re allowed to give them to kids or not or if so, what age, doesn’t mean you all have to read about it.

But can I just say, I knew more than the lady who answered the H1N1 hotline at the COUNTY HEALTH DEPT!! She did not even know the correct URL for the CDC web site, and she referred me to a hospital whose next scheduled flu shot clinic is in JANUARY 2010!! The sheer ineptitude of these people is scarier than the potential risks of the flu.

And by the way? If I see one more news segment talking about how important it is for young children and especially those with asthma (like my 3 y.o.) to get their shots and how Oct. is the best time to get them I WILL SCREAM.

Since I am completely powerless and unable to protect my family in any way even though I live in AMERICA and have the best healthcare coverage you could hope for, I have become that crazy germophobe lady. I am the mom at Chick-fil-A who’s hosing her kids down with Purell before, during, and after the meal and twice after my son has visited the bathroom and play area.

I’m THISCLOSE to making everyone wear matching surgical masks a la Michael Jackson. I greet my husband at the door after work with a bottle of hand sanitizer. I serious consider making him wear rubber gloves to hold the baby. So, yeah, it’s been really fun around here lately!

In other news, Miles had school picture day recently. He brought home the photos and the first thing I thought was, “Wow. His hair really won’t hold a style. Instead of a hairbrush and gel, I might as well have attacked his head with an egg beater and gotten the same result.” My husband took one look and said, “Why isn’t he wearing a nice collared shirt?”

Why do you THINK?! Maybe because he threw a hissy fit and refused to get dressed unless I let him wear his guitar T-shirt? Listen, a pre-K photo is not worth a knock-down drag-out fight at 8 a.m. if you ask me. Besides, you only have to look at the class photo to see he’s not the odd man out. 90% of the boys are wearing superhero or truck T-shirts while the girls have on party dresses.

But funny thing -– there’s not a surgical mask in sight.

READ O’ THE WEEK: “Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore” by David McPhail seems appropriate.

UPDATE O’ THE WEEK: A reader wrote in to ask about Miles’ recurring cough which turned out to be asthma. He now takes Singulair nightly to manage his allergies and when a cough/cold flares up we give him Benadryl to dry up the post-nasal drip and Albuterol in a nebulizer when the cough gets really bad. It’s a pain, but it seems to be working.

RECIPE O’ THE WEEK: C. made Rachael Ray’s Chili Lime Tilapia the other night and it was dee-lish! Even the picky eater ate a few bites. For dessert: Trader Joe’s apple blossoms are to die for. From freezer to microwave to your lips in 60 secs.


Brother Bother

Bringing home a new baby 8 mos. ago was a huge adjustment, I’m not gonna lie. Especially for our first-born, who for almost 3 years had enjoyed a nice run as an only child and The Center of the Universe. In our house, anyway.

Miles’ feelings for his little brother have run the gamut from curiosity to amusement to love to annoyance. I hesitate to say “hate,” because it’s never gotten quite THAT bad. This video perhaps best illustrates my sons’ relationship:

Since Miles has to put up with a screetching sidekick most of the time, it’s no surprise that on the few occasions he gets an outing — or a parent — to himself, he’s over the moon. Read more about our recent mother-son bonding at TheBump.com:


I’m a Scary Mommy, Too

Well, I didn’t win TheBump.com’s Mommy Blog Award, but I WAS a finalist. So thanks to all of you who voted for me! As they say, it’s an honor just to be nominated. Good thing I hadn’t picked out a fancy gown or anything… 😉

You know who DID win? Scary Mommy. And in honor of the new movie Motherhood, starring Uma Thurman, she’s running a contest to find other Scary Mommies out there. She defines it like this: “I believe a Scary Mommy is a mother who doesn’t leave the house wearing lipstick at all times. A Scary Mommy loves her kids to death, but will admit to feeling totally overwhelmed and exhausted by the gig. A Scary Mommy doesn’t really care what other people think, and a Scary Mommy thinks that all mothers win when we admit our weaknesses.”

Weaknesses? I have a few. Loves her kids? Check. Overwhelmed? Check. And going out without lipstick? How about without shoes? I left the house in my slippers the other day and didn’t even notice till I was in line at the drugstore. Anyway, here’s why I think I’m a Scary Mommy.

Yesterday started typically with my 8 m.o. screetching from his crib around 5 a.m. Having woken up to nurse at 11 p.m. and 3 a.m., he was starving, naturally. So what if he weighs well over 20 lbs? So what if he’d consumed half a sweet potato, a cup of squash, a banana, and a bowl of cereal throughout the day? So what if he’s got more chub on his thighs than “The Biggest Losers”? The baby must be FED!

His shrieks awakened his older brother, who exited his room bewildered and wet. Why, oh WHY, did we not put a Pull-Up on him, “just in case”? Because the potty training? Didn’t fully “take,” you see. Even though he’s 3 ½ and we’ve been at it for almost a year. Between the baby’s constant spitting up and his brother’s frequent accidents, we do more laundry in a week than a laundromat.

With Dad long gone to work, we three trudge downstairs to find the dog has been in the trash again and shredded a dirty diaper throughout the first floor. Clean-up in Aisle 2! Breakfast is procured as quickly as possible to minimize the squawks from the highchair and complaints from the booster seat. “I don’t WANT cereal, Mama, I wanted a WAFFLE! I don’t want BANANAS on it, Mama, I want BLUEBERRIES!!” Meanwhile, Mama hasn’t even gotten to go to the bathroom yet, let alone make coffee.

Filling the coffeepot with water, I notice the sink isn’t draining. I flip on the disposal. CRUNCH!! Oops. How did that glass baby food jar get down there? The waffle is taking an awfully long time to toast. Oops. Maybe because I unplugged it to plug in my breast pump. Where are all the bottles and sippy cups? Oops. Still dirty in the dishwasher; “someone” forgot to run it last night.

On a good day, getting 3 people fed, dressed, and out the door to school or the sitter makes us only 20 min. late. Factor in a lost sneaker, a diaper blowout, or an appointment requiring makeup and you’re looking at a 40 min. delay.

I used to be an organized person. I used to be punctual, fairly well-groomed, and able to use the bathroom whenever I wanted to. I went entire weeks without encountering another person’s bodily fluids. I did not refer to myself in the third person or know who Wow Wow Wubbzy was. But now… Now I’m a mommy. Pretty scary, huh?

LINK O’ THE WEEK: Another Scary Mommy, Loukia, posted these hilarious pics of her 2 boys’ antics. Now THOSE are shots for the family scrapbook!


Baby Food Blues

Imagine how much easier it would be to raise kids if you didn’t have to feed them?

You could blissfully go about your day without having to puree anything or push green beans on anyone. You wouldn’t have to water down juice, cut off crusts, or pick the raisins out of raisin bread. You wouldn’t have strenuous negotiations about how many bites of chicken equals half an hour of Spongebob, and you wouldn’t have to hose down your kitchen floor 3 times a day. I know — crazy talk!

I was reminded how labor-intensive the feeding of small children can be when my 7 m.o. son, Riley, started solid food recently. Unlike for my 3 y.o., Miles, I couldn’t just throw a toaster waffle and a whole banana on a plate and call it breakfast. I had to mix the oatmeal, blend in the peaches, heat it to just the right temperature, and then sit there shoveling it into his mouth for 20 min., not to mention the considerable cleanup afterward. Our morning routine doesn’t allow for that kind of time, people!

I remember before I had a baby thinking that people who made their own baby food were nuts. Isn’t that what Gerber is for? Then when Miles was tiny, I realized that pureeing a sweet potato wasn’t that hard, not to mention way cheaper. Then I got a little TOO ambitious. There was the steamed carrot explosion and later, the broccoli-cheese muffin debacle. (Tip: Just because your child likes blueberry muffins does NOT mean he will fall for muffins containing stinky green vegetables.)

This time around, I still microwave the occasional sweet potato but don’t have time for much more. And that’s a shame, because I’ve decided to do only organic baby food and that stuff’s EXPENSIVE!! Almost $1/jar for watered-down applesauce?! BTW, why doesn’t Trader Joe’s come out with their own line of baby food?

Anyway, there have definitely been some culinary hits and misses in our house when it comes to feeding our children. My husband earned a permanent spot in our family lore with his signature Kung Fu Panda maneuver. Miles was refusing to eat something or other until C. served it “Kung Fu Panda style.” Meaning, he held out a bite of food with chopsticks and Miles took a flying kung-fu leap and ate it in mid-air. My mom was visiting at the time, and this episode pretty much cemented C.’s title as Super Dad in her eyes.

C. has a far higher success rate with getting Miles to eat than I do. His creations include veggie burger “sliders” – mini burgers w/ all the fixings – and BBQ chicken wraps. “It’s all in the presentation,” he says smugly, as I try to foist forkfuls of shepherd’s pie into my picky eater’s face. But except for occasionally using a star-shaped cookie cutter on his PB&J’s, I can’t be bothered.

After all, I’ve got another kid to feed now. When I remember, that is. Fortunately, Riley’s still getting most of his calories from breastmilk because otherwise, he might wither away. On more than one occasion, I’ve packed a picnic lunch for the playground only to realize, oops! I brought nothing for the baby. And it’s not like I can give him a bite of his brother’s cheese stick.

Just today, we forgot Riley’s breakfast in the morning rush. Sorry, buddy! (Don’t worry, he’ll more than make up for it during those 2 nighttime feedings he’s STILL insisting on!) And since he refused to try Indian food, Miles’ dinner consisted of blueberry yogurt and half an apple. Oh, well. They say what a kid eats over the course of a week is more important than what he eats (or doesn’t eat) in one day.

So, anyone interested in 2 dozen broccoli-cheese mini muffins? Anyone??

LINK O’ THE WEEK: My SIL tipped me off to this web site, Weelicious.com, for fast, healthy, kid-friendly food.

READS O’ THE WEEK: My last post sparked some intense debate as well as some spin-off posts, which I’ll be the first to admit are perhaps, ahem, more thoughtful and diplomatic than mine was: “Mommy on the Sidelines” on It’s Not Like a Cat… and “A Plea to Spouses” on So Much to Say, So Little Time. I feel blessed to have such positive, constructive, interactive readers.


Deadbeat Dads?

Lately I feel like I’m a hotline for overworked, underappreciated moms. Friend after friend has vented to me with some variation of the following: “I do practically EVERYTHING around here, taking care of the kids, the meals, the laundry, the bills, the shopping, etc., etc. while my husband surfs the web/ watches TV/ sits on his ass/ or just doesn’t notice. What is his problem? How can I get him to pitch in more? And when do *I* get some friggin’ time off?!”

I’m not even going to TRY to be politically correct or diplomatic in this post because, well, it’s my damn blog and I don’t have to. Besides, I’ve heard it from so many women at this point I’m going to go out on a limb and say guys like this are the norm. Parenting magazine wouldn’t have devoted a 2-part series to this issue if it weren’t a problem for lots of us.

This is inevitably going to piss off my husband and all those other dads out there who think they’re doing their fair share. And to them I say, “Really?” Do you REALLY, HONESTLY feel that your contributions are equal to those of your wife?

Do you really, truly believe in your heart of hearts that mowing the lawn every couple of weeks and changing the oil and taking the kids to Chick-fil-A on Saturdays offsets your wife’s duties? Do you even KNOW the extent of her duties? Hint: they probably include large amounts of time spent on stain removal, making things for preschool bake sales, and commemorating every event for family and friends with the proper card and/or gift – which includes KNOWING WHERE THE STAMPS ARE and addressing and mailing said cards on time.

I’m going to stop there because a complete list could fill several hundred pages and I’d like to finish this post before I turn 40. And also, because it’s making me mad.

Mad is the feeling I get when I encounter these real-life scenarios (some of which were NOT taken from my own life):

— The husband of a busy SAHM of 3 children involved in countless sports and activities says to his wife, “I’ve noticed most of the other moms in the neighborhood mow their lawns. Why can’t you do that?” I literally had to bite back the obscenities when I heard this. Did I mention this guy travels for work at least half of each week, so the mom essentially works 72-hr shifts with no relief?

— A husband volunteers to cook dinner one night. At 6 p.m., he begins surfing around on Foodnetwork.com and rummaging through the pantry. I guess hoping the exact ingredients will magically materialize? When the kids begin to have hunger-induced meltdowns and the wife loses her cool, the husband accuses her of being a control freak and calls out for pizza.

— A husband volunteers to do the grocery shopping but can’t be bothered to make a list, asking his wife to text it to his phone instead. He still forgets the top 2 most essential items — milk and toilet paper — neglects to use the $5 coupon for formula, and comes home with regular baking potatoes instead of sweet potatoes.

— A husband tells his wife she should stop breastfeeding because it’s making her bitchy. However, he refuses to do any middle of the night feedings because he has to be alert for work the next day. And he doesn’t even know what a bottle sterilizer IS, let alone how to use one.

I’m sorry, but this is just not right. The question is, what can we do about it? You can’t MAKE someone care that the clothes will get wrinkled if they’re not folded straight out of the dryer. You can’t FORCE someone to notice the collection of curdled milk-filled sippy cups under the couch. And you don’t WANT to set up a dynamic with your husband in which you treat him like a spoiled child and he treats you like an unreasonable shrew.

So how do you turn the tables? How do you even out the workload? How do you get to a point where you don’t feel like spitting nails whenever your husband shoves aside a pile of unfolded laundry to put his feet up and watch the game? Good questions.

The Parenting articles I mentioned contain loads of good info. (Such as: 46% of moms get irate with their husbands once a week or more. Those with kids younger than 1 are even more likely to be mad that often.) This web site, which I’ve mentioned several times, has this to say about “How to Stop Fighting Over Housework.” I found the book “The Lazy Husband” to be validating, if not life-changing. And I’ve heard the authors of “Getting to 50-50” on several talk shows. I’m not yet convinced such a balance exists in any marriage.

In fact, I don’t know that there really is a solution. Maybe time and gradual (begrudging?) acceptance is the only way. That seems to be what worked for my mom, who considers herself a feminist, worked AND raised kids most of her life, and has been happily married to my dad for 35 years. She said to me once she doesn’t know where we women today got the idea that parenting and household duties should be shared equally. After all, it’s never been 50/50 for any generation.

She may be right, but at this point I’d settle for 70/30.

READ O’ THE WEEK: In Home Game, author Michael Lewis’ hilariously honest memoir of fatherhood, he freely admits that his m.o. is to do as little as possible when it comes to parenting. He estimates his domestic contributions at about 31.5%. He gets points for honesty, but I still feel sorry for his wife (ex-MTV news reporter Tabitha Soren, BTW).

FACT O’ THE WEEK: A survey of 360 married men found that the more satisfied a wife is with the division of household duties, the more satisfied a man is with his sex life. WAKE UP, GUYS!!


My Baby’s an Ageist

My baby hates old people. I can’t deny it anymore; it’s true. Old people that aren’t related to him, that is. This is embarrassing, to say the least.

We’ll be at some gathering and everyone will be cooing over the baby, and then some sweet grandmotherly type will have the gall to smile at him, or worse – PICK HIM UP – and Riley will curl his bottom lip and begin to wail. So not only is he the mother of all mama’s boys, but he’s an ageist!

Unfortunately for him, one of our favorite babysitters is an older woman. You couldn’t meet a more warm, caring, child-loving person than P. If there’s a baby in sight that requires holding, rocking, or singing to, she’s there. She often calls or visits between sitting gigs simply because she misses the kids.

These facts are lost on Riley. All he sees is white hair, a cardigan, and glasses. (Technically, her hair’s not even white, more of a light blonde.) She might as well have on a Darth Vader mask and fangs the way this baby carries on.

In spite of this, we hired P. to sit for us Sat. night so C. and I could go out to dinner to celebrate our 6th anniversary. Let me repeat that: 6! Whole! Years! Of marriage! Oh, sure, that might not sound like much to some of you. But considering that we have weathered job loss, family crises, the birth of two sons, and countless daily stresses and struggles during that time, 6 years sometimes seems like a miracle, OK? Definitely worthy of celebration.

I can’t even tell you the last time my husband and I went out, just the 2 of us, for a romantic dinner date. It may have been a year ago, on our last anniversary. And since I was pregnant, I couldn’t drink and I got heartburn, so it wasn’t as romantic as it could’ve been.

ANYWAY… This year we made a reservation at the hottest restaurant in town and got all dolled up. I made a special trip to the mall for some new earrings in an attempt to appear at least slightly hip. (And then I couldn’t wear them after all because my holes have practically closed up since I almost never wear jewelry anymore.) I even got a pedicure and wore heels. Oh, yeah, it was THAT big a night, people!

So P. shows up and Riley immediately starts crying. C. says, “I know how to fix that,” and lets P. take over feeding the baby his pureed squash. Have I mentioned how much my boy likes to eat? But still, his crying persisted. Oh, don’t think he stopped eating. But he would wail, take a bite, TURN HIS HEAD AWAY FROM THE SITTER and continue crying! That little…

P. insisted he would be fine once we left, so we did. And he was. Except that he refused to drink his bedtime bottle while she was holding him. This child has NEVER EVER turned down a breast or bottle in his entire life!! Unbelievable. Thankfully, he could live off the fat on his thighs for a whole winter if he had to.

Our dinner was great. The restaurant, Woodberry Kitchen, was recently written up in the New York Times. It’s in a funky old converted mill with exposed brick and high ceilings. The food is all local and/or organic, and the menu features things like spiced pear flatbread and pan-seared monkfish with squash ravioli. YUM!

So what if we talked about the kids half the time? So what if we’re not as fit and energetic and well-read as we were when we got married? So what if we were home by 9:30 because I was tired and didn’t want to pay the sitter for another hour? We still like each other, we had fun, and that’s all that matters.

Besides, as much fun as last night was, cuddling on the couch this morning with the boys in my bathrobe was even better. And lucky for Riley, there were no old people in sight.

LINK O’ THE WEEK: Project Happily Ever After is a great website I found after reading about the author and her husband in Redbook. Basically, her marriage took a dive after they had a baby and this project started as an attempt to fix it. Her blog is upbeat and interesting, and she offers a free e-book with relationship tips.

SHOUT OUT: Congrats to my friend M.C., new mama to baby Charlotte!


Confessions of a TV Junkie

I’m just gonna come right out and say it: I love TV. Stupid, mindless sitcoms, gimmicky talk shows, scripted reality shows, even the dullest home renovation show on HGTV. Give me the remote and make room on the couch!

I’m sure this comes as a huge disappointment to my parents, who only watch the news and prefer to unwind by reading The New Yorker and listening to classical music. Guess this is a case for nature over nurture, huh? And clearly, passive lowbrow entertainment is in my nature.

I don’t care, I’m tired of pretending that I don’t have time to read or cook or scrapbook. I do, I just don’t want to! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go set the DVR for “Glee,” “Modern Family” and “Cougar Town.” Read more about my addiction to the boob tube on The Bump.com:


When I Grow Up

Do you know any professional ballerinas? Astronauts? How about firemen? Me neither. So I’m concerned that we’re setting our children up for a rude awakening some day.

See, most kids’ books, shows, Halloween costumes, etc. depict only a handful of adult professions. And most of those are active, exciting careers. I mean, sure, some kids might grow up to be policemen or pro athletes. But probably not many.

So why don’t you see any desk jobs on Sesame Street? Last time I watched, there was a grocery store owner, a fix-it lady, and a vet. On one episode of Dora, the dad was the architect of an amusement park. Talk about a cool job!

Even on grown-up shows, there seems to be a disproportionate number of wedding planners, restaurateurs, florists, and children’s book illustrators. Where are the compliance officers? The waste management professionals? The tax attorneys?

Ask a kid what he wants to be when he grows up and you’ll probably hear astronaut, gymnast, or cowboy. Maybe an occasional truck driver or teacher. But have you ever heard a kid say they want to be the regional sales manager for a copier company? Or a soccer mom and head of the PTA?

Just as well. Let them dream. Reality will come soon enough. Like it did for me when I graduated with a degree in French and had visions of working at Club Med in Bora Bora. When that didn’t work out, I decided I’d fall back on my (limited) journalism experience and write travel articles for glossy magazines. And when THAT didn’t work out, I got a temp job answering phones.

Am I bitter that I didn’t grow up to be an international spy or an Olympic gymnast or even an anthropologist? Kind of. Would I have wanted to read about phone bank operators, tech support staff, or fact-checkers in my childhood books? Not really.

But it’s worth noting that to this day, I am fascinated by people who hold exciting non-desk jobs. Come to think of it, I actually do know a pilot, a documentary film producer, and a couple of actors. I wonder what those people wanted to be when they grew up?

READ O’ THE WEEK: So Sandra Magsamen totally stole my idea for a book. I swear I had this EXACT SAME idea rattling around in my brain when I came across her children’s book, “When I Grow Up I Want to Be Me.”

PLEA O’ THE WEEK: I love all the comments and e-mails I get from those of you who regularly read and enjoy this blog. Because I’d like to share my labor of love with even MORE nice people, please nominate me for TheBump.com’s Mommy Blog Awards in the Best Baby Journal Blog category! The deadline is this Fri., Oct. 9. It may require registration, but that’s what Hotmail is for! There’s some good karma in it for you.

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