Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Use Your Words

I've never been a big fan of the word "mommy" employed by anyone who is not referring to their own maternal unit. I don't use the word to describe myself in adult conversation. I skeeve when others do it. I think it's because, in my own eyes, that's not what I am. In my own voice, that's not me. I have a child, yes. I am her mother. I feed her and clean her and do the dishes while she wraps her arms around my knees and says "hug, hug!"

It's in The Boss's big, blue eyes that I am "mommy."

Today at lunchtime she was eating egg and bread. "Mommy!" she said, fried white hanging out of her mouth. "Mommy!" She looked to the window. She looked at the dog. Her eyes darted from side to side as if she was searching for someone. "Mommy?"

"I'm right here!" I laughed. I pointed to myself with an emphatic finger to the chest. "I'm your mommy!"

She started to giggle along with me as she poked a stubby finger into the bib of her denim overalls. "Mommy!" She geared up, poking harder at herself and repeating "mommy, mommy."

"No, silly! I'm mommy!" I leaned in to rub noses and she slapped the tray of her high chair, all spastic and happy.

Yesterday, at the supermarket, I'd wander away from her cart to shove some chicken in a plastic baggie or to crouch down low to see which picante sauce was the cheapest. I'd hear the familiar screech of The Boss as she gibbered into mommy-mode. "Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mommmmmmeeeee!" It wasn't a needy cry. It wasn't demanding. It was a happy exercise of the voice box that she occasionally switched up with a "Hi!" as other shoppers walked by.

Just as her overzealous use of the word "baby" left me a bit confused as to what the word actually meant to her, I don't know how "mommy" fits into her comprehension. It seems always to come back to discovery and identity, two issues that are never clear. So, I'll just sit back, or lean in for a kiss, and let the m-word babble wash over me without too many questions.

And, remember, it's only cute when she says it.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Getting My Move On

The Partner and I have finally made the decision to relocate. After three years in our first place, we're ready to set up shop further downstate in a town built on the importance of education and community. As my Internet browser history begins to overflow with and searches, I'm slowly getting a better picture of what that town will look like. Still, the image is fuzzy. One thing I know for sure is that the implications of any moving decision we make won't be clear until we get there.

The mistake we made in buying our first home was basing the purchase totally on the house itself. We loved it then and we love it now. It has over 200 years of character seeping out of every crevice in its stone foundation. The rooms are spacious, if you don't count the kitchen. It's insulated with history.

Open the doors, though, and there's highway as far as the eye can see. Our own street is a state road running parallel to the Interstate, and it's filled with municipal vehicles, cars that go 60 miles per hour past our driveway, and motorcycles that wake babies and dogs as they thunder up a slight incline. Beyond the road and the highway are schools against which the most vocal of taxpayers rally with a noise that rivals the traffic.

We weren't looking or thinking forward when we moved here as a newly engaged couple with only the haziest notion of family. Even though we figured that we'd be here five years at most as we saved up for something bigger and better, that conservative estimate proved short sighted. We got a canine. Then there was a kid. Three years has been plenty to help us figure out what we want, and maybe more importantly, what we don't want, in our next home--the place where our child(ren) will grow up.

We want safe streets and good schools and neighbors who appreciate the same. It's not enough to call a building "home"; we want a whole community that applies.

It's going to be an exciting search.

Monday, January 29, 2007

When Eating a Pound of Candy is Really Not Safe

I'm sitting here waiting for my dog to yak up slightly less than a pound of M&Ms after I administered 2 tbsps of hydrogen peroxide and 2 tablespoons of milk to bring on the barf.

It seems that Roxie is no longer content with eating the garbage and has taken to climbing onto table- and countertops to find the most illicit of booty. I had been gone for three hours when I came home to find the M&M sack laying empty on the floor. I ran into the living room, fully expecting to find the family pet in the throes of a seizure on her dog bed. She looked up at me with one eye as I stepped through the threshold. There was nothing out of the sheepish ordinary in her gaze. I breathed a temporary sigh of of relief before I got on the phone with the vet.

One sticky note filled with directions later, I was on my way to the store to buy hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting. After Roxie lapped up her first dosage of the nasty stuff mixed with milk, she proceeded to run around the yard in happy acknowledgement of the fact that I was out there playing with her. There were no signs of poisoning and no signs of puke. I went inside for another dosage and she lapped that up, too. I'm still waiting.

I blame myself for all aspects of this problem, number one being that the chocolate should've been in a cabinet. I stupidly thought that just because she'd never climbed onto the center of the table before, that she never would. The second aspect is that she needs more exercise. She's getting into all kinds of trouble now that she never did before and the only reason I can come up with is that she's not getting enough exercise. I need to get off my desk chair and into a pair of running shoes. The fact that it's difficult to control a dog and a jogging stroller with my single pair of hands is no excuse. It can be done, and it needs to be done.

If she would just hurry up and chuck, already.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Taking Time

Today I arrived what I thought was twenty minutes late to the first class of a writing course I'm taking at an area art museum. Turns out I was actually one week, 6 days, 23 hours and 40 minutes early. I only wish I had taken the time to look a little more closely at the schedule before I lined up a babysitter and got in the car for the first leg of the hour-long round trip.

Admittedly, I have never had a close relationship with the clock or the calendar. It is a mutual disrespect, to be sure. Time doesn't wait for me and I don't bother trying to catch up. It works out okay in day-to-day living (barring incidents like this), but in the grander scheme, we all know who will win the race.

Time is a cosmic middle finger waggling in perpetuity just beyond my line of sight. It was subtle before I had my baby, but now I feel its presence almost as palpably as I do the literal digits being thrust in my direction every time I make an innocent merging mistake on the Interstate. Time has it out for me.

The Boss is 18 months old, and I now have the distinct and harrowing privilege of saying that she is no longer a baby. I look at her toes and I can see that those feet are made for walking. They are not blobs of flesh and fledgling bone designed solely to be tucked into a swaddle, covered in non-reinforced footie pajamas, or adorned in Robeez. Their purpose now is to get her from Point A (her life with me) to Point B (her own life). I stare at those feet in between twitching glances to either side, where I expect at any moment to see Time's hand held up in insult.

On a good day I can look forward. There are exciting milestones to be uncovered on all her walks--into new schools, new cities, new aisles of graduation and marriage. She may walk alongside her own children.

On a bad day, I feel the push. There's no lingering. It's full speed ahead whether I like it or not. The Boss doesn't feel any of it, though, and she moves forward in clumsy definace of the fact that her momentum is not her own.

I suppose there's not much I can do about it. There are only two things that come to mind, really. I can write while she naps, grabbing these fleeting moments greedily and hurtling them in cyberspace where Time can't reach.

And when she wakes, I can tackle and tickle her, delving into the crevices of each toe while she bends back in spastic, twinkling laughter borne of a year and a half of experience.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Justice Calls the Help Desk

Straight from the same region of the state that helped tear apart the fabric of the US Constitution with the seam ripper of eminent domain, Eastern Connecticut can now boast another court case that is shocking in its implications for the average American. Julie Amero, a substitute teacher, was convicted on four counts of risk of injury to a minor for exposing middle school students to pornography on a school computer. The conviction came after she testified that the sexually explicit material on her computer popped up as a result of adware, not from any prurient searches of her own. She faces up to forty years in prison.

The Internet is still a largely lawless frontier. The downside of its freedom is the prevalance of vigilante justice in the guise of the American court system. Lynch mobs are everywhere, kicking the bucket out from under noose-necked citizens and leaving them to strangle in the wind.

Few people in a position to determine the fate of any given defendant truly understand the technology--from detectives at the local police station, to jury members, to United States senators who believe the 'Net is a "series of tubes." Combine that with the fact that the defendants themselves may not be well equipped to navigate the cyberscape (or, as in Amero's case, to shut down the computer), and suddenly this lynch mob turned trial-by-jury becomes a three-ring circus, with each act more ignorant than the last.

I wish I could trust that Julie Amero's case was decided on facts borne out by experts in the field of Internet technology. Instead, I wonder if the case was decided by semantics. The Connecticut statute under which she was convicted states that, on each of four counts, she "wilfully or unlawfully caused or permitted the victim to be placed in a situation that endangered the child's life or limb, or was likely to injure his health or impair his morals."

Wilful. Unlawful. Each word is so thick with meaning that it can stand on its own in court proceedings. But the Internet is amorphous. Many of its definitions are unwritten or untested. My only hope is that everyone involved in the case worked in the most exhaustive way possible to responsibly reconcile these concepts so that the punishment truly fits the crime.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Picture of a Mother and Son

I was pulling out of the supermarket today when I paused in the parking lot to let two people traverse the cross walk. An elderly woman and the man I imagined to be her mentally disabled son plodded toward the store front, their pace naturally matched. He was large, she was small; they were both bent-shouldered over a shopping cart. One of the man's beefy hands joined his mother's on the cart while the other rested on her back.

As I waited, I saw a lifetime of care make its slow way across the asphalt. Though it's hard to tell from a simple scene played out in front of Stop & Shop, I couldn't help but think that the woman's steps were buoyed by a constant source of comfort not available to parents whose children grow up and move out. Maybe she had spent all her years as a grown woman caring for this son with special needs. Maybe, with ninety years rendering her own needs more specialized, the tables were not so much turning as being pushed closer together. But there were no maybes in their familiarity. They were bundled up against the 12 degree temperatures in layers of fleece and shared history. She looked like she might blow away without him. He looked like he might lose his way without her.

Then their walking huddle reached the sidewalk beneath the red and green sign. I put my foot lightly to the pedal and drove off.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Parent Bloggers Network

In the company of several bloggers I read every day and others whose opinions I look forward to discovering, I have climbed on board the new vehicle of Kristen and Julie known as the The Parent Bloggers Network.

Based on the premise that bloggers are "savvy, intelligent consumers with the ability to influence the online community at large," the PBN will pick up products and services being marketed by entrepreneurs and PR professionals and will drop them off with us bloggers, who will in turn do our best to provide informative reviews. These reviews will be posted on our own blogs and will be linked to in compilation on PBN.

Hopefully it won't be too overt, this occasional infiltration of advertisement into the daily comings and goings of The Boss, The Partner and me. I often write about products and services as they relate to my family (phones, the need for marital counseling, Cadillacs) but the difference with these PBN reviews is that I will have acquired the stuff for free and will probably include more links. If you don't care for the sale, stay for the story.

I'm always looking for stories.

Parent Bloggers Network

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Number Not in Service

In the best of circumstances, I do not relish talking on the telephone. But when it comes to using the phone to track down, coerce or finagle volunteers or sponsors for any of the myriad of non-profit organizations with which I am associated, well, then I use only the most derogatory words in my vocabulary to curse out Dr. Graham Bell.

Today I left one of several phone messages with a person I am hoping to bring on board for a conference I am helping plan. My halting voicemail went something like this: "I am so sorry for bothering you again about this. I feel like such a pain. But our conference is coming up and I wanted to find out for sure if you might, uh, be able to help, uh, I mean, would you be able to, uh, share your expertise with us and..."

Blah. Blah. Blah.

I don't know why I am so averse to asking people for things. In no other aspect of my life do I hold my tongue or feel even remotely inclined to do so. But when it comes to soliciting anything--from advice to services to money--my tone and delivery clearly convey my awkwardness. I don't want to be a bother. I don't want to impose. I want to leave you alone, but they won't let me.

The phone just makes it worse. If I'm lucky enough to actually reach the person instead of their answering machine, I have to contend with shoddy cell phone reception, a screaming child in the background, and a total lack of surety as to how my request will be taken.

Email is a completely different story. I'll ask you for the shirt off your back if I can do it in a carefeully constructed electronic missive. No awkward pauses. No confusion. No hemming. No hawing. If you don't want to give me your shirt, just hit "reply" and let me know. If you are feeling generous, you can throw it into a box and FedEx it to the address I included in my convincing letter. I'll even PayPal you the shipping fees.

Just don't call me, because I don't want to talk about it.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Fathers and Mothers

After The Boss was born and the morphine wore off, my midwife came in to sit beside my hospital bed on an institutional glider. She rocked placidly, her hands folded in her lap. First she said I would more than likely develop strong feelings about The Boss's delivery. She said it was okay to feel sad. Then she looked over at my husband, who was holding his daughter's head in his hand, The Boss's lithe body following the length of his forearm.

"The fathers always hold them like that," the midwife said. "It's the most natural thing." She rocked in calm survey of the scene, her back and forth motion carrying the conversation out of the blue.

I looked over at The Partner and saw the innate ease with which he supported our newborn. Behind him, panes of frosted glass muted the summer light. My bedside was dark. I might've sighed with contentment. I might've just laid there.

Looking back on it, I see the football hold as the first proof of protection. It's the bond of body heat fusing father with child. It's a basic connection when there's nothing else in the way. The barriers come later--days later, months later, years later--when life starts to separate from birth.

It's hard to be a family. I remember a picture my friend sent me of her husband with their own baby in the same hold. A tiny head in a huge arm. It looked easy then. Now their daughter is four years old. Now my friend is getting divorced.

The Partner and I are in a rough spot right now--let's face it, we almost always are. So for sanity's sake, I look for things separate from us. I look for links to something solid that we can't obfuscate with common misunderstanding.

That thing is parenthood. It's fathers and the football hold. It's a photographic negative to hold up to the light when nothing else is black and white.'s De-Lurking week. This is a time for all you silent readers to come out from under your rock of anonymity. I mean, there must be at least four of you out there. Help give my under-exercised comment box a run for its money.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Sunshine Almost Always Makes Me High

It was 71 degrees in January. I was on the same stretch of highway I've traveled many times before. Sunshine was on my shoulders and the song was on my radio. It was one of those moments when the fact that something is in the air becomes clear.

I've had those moments before, and the feelings have a strange concreteness. With each job interview I've gone on, I know from the car ride there if I will end up taking that position. I've never been wrong. I see a certain landmark, gas station or metal sign and I understand with certainty that it is something I will pass again many times. Beneath a highway overpass in the town where we bought our first home, I saw the words Providence and Worcester Railroad Company on rusty red metal as we traversed northeastern Connecticut in a lazy house hunt. I got the feeling. It was several months and several failed contracts later that we ended up purchasing our small antique cape in that very town. Now I see the sign daily.

This time I have the feeling but I have no idea what it means. I'm not looking for a job. We're not buying a house. Nothing planned is on the horizon. But something is looming there anyway. Driving home from Hartford on a hot winter Saturday, I sat a little straighter as I followed the well-worn path. I looked for new landmarks. And I thought that there is as much excitement as there is fear in the not knowing.

In unrelated news, I am the Crazy Hip Blog Mamas Member of the Week. With 900 mamas on their blogroll, I feel very honored to have earned this distinction. If you voted for me of your own volition, I thank you. If you, like The Partner, voted for me because I told you to, I thank you. I've gotten to know myself better through blogging, and now I've gotten to know so many of you. It has been a completely unexpected delight.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Workplace Evaluation

My boss is a passionate 17 month old. She puckers up in a kiss when she wants one in return. She calls out "hug" and throws her arm around whichever of my body parts is level with her at the time. She says "wuv wuh" upon her retreat, always. That's "I love you," for those in need of a translation.

Her rampant affection shows me I'm doing a good job. I am not wracked by guilt for my little misdeeds because I know that the whole of my actions has created the kind of environment in which she feels safe to express her attachment to the people in her life. She is as comfortable with others as she is with me. She is kind and mannerful. She is only beastly to the dog.

I make mistakes all the time. I lose my temper. I have been known to listen to inappropriate material on satellite radio while she's in the car (Can anyone say "Bubba the Love Sponge"? The Boss can.) I blog when I should be playing with her. I can listen to her cry at bedtime with little in the way of introspection. In many ways, I am not what the parenting books say I should be. But how authoritative are most of those texts, anyway? I mean, I could write one if I really wanted to, and we all know how full of crap that self-help tome would be.

When she turns two, and promptly turns on me, I will still know I'm a good mother. She'll test the boundaries of the foundation I've helped set for her, but it will always be her home. Our home.

I'm not sure where this confidence comes from. It's perspective that I am not blessed with in other aspects of my life. Am I a good person? I don't know. Am I a good wife? Probably not.

But I look at my daughter and it is clear to me that I am doing something right.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Other Side of Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford's star shone in his wife Betty's light. She radiated modern American energy that helped bring an entire nation out of the pale back in the 70s, when suppression and secrecy were replaced by straight talk about recovery. What was muted turned bright as she shook hands, held hands, and, most recently, laid her own hands on her husband's casket.

Betty Ford is powerful in a way that's easy for us to take for granted today. It's the power of free thought that combines with free speech to forge an honest depiction of what it means to be a woman. As First Lady, she talked about issues that affect more of us than those in the spotlight during the first 3/4 of a century would have liked us to believe: equal rights, abortion, addiction and cancer.

My grandmother died of cancer at a time when the word was only beginning to take hold in vernacular. Betty Ford's candid fight against breast cancer had come to light several years before, but the message was slow in making its way to New Britain, Connecticut. My grandmother's doctors never uttered the word. It was the kind of denial that affected not only her diagnosis and treatment, but also her family's ability to say goodbye.

Now it is my father suffering from cancer, and the change in perception is dramatic. Betty Ford's message has taken root. My mother goes with him to his appointments and marvels at entire facilities devoted to a condition that took her own mother's life with little fanfare 25 years before. She shakes her head and repeats the same thing every time I see her: "Before, they never even said the word."

Betty Ford says the words. She understands the importance of healing. She makes me believe in time and place and how, sometimes, the right person has a way of showing up when we need her. She is as fiery and resilient as the country that faltered before her. Her voice is strong. She has made it easier for us all to speak.

President Ford's legacy lives on.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Better Man

I read in today's newspaper that Ben Franklin once had this advice to give upon the onslaught of a new year: "Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man." Since Mr. Franklin is widely regarded as a guy who knew what he was talking about, I concluded that deeper reflection on these particular words was in order. So I thought about it, and two questions came to mind:

1. Do I really need to find a better man?


2. Since that's probably not what he meant, then what can I do to become a better man?

I pondered the latter and produced this list. Please feel free to submit any of your own ideas on how to become a better man in the comment section.

A. As mentioned previously, I will be a better driver. To truly man it up, I will exercise my enhanced prowess at no less than 90 miles per hour while scanning the medians and wooded areas for carefully concealed cops-in-wait. I will learn to identify all unmarked Crown Victorias and Malibus. Failing to do so will ensure a $620 ticket for speeding in a work zone, swerving to pass, and tailgating. I will drive with one hand in my pants at all times.

B. I will cook macaroni and cheese or Stouffer's Skillet Sensations every night. I will lick the plate clean so that only the most cursory of swipes with the sponge will be necessary afterward. I will leave the rest of the dishes piled up for a real woman to take care of.

C. I will plaster my work area with photos of women and cars of foreign make. Well, only the cars need to be foreign; the women can go either way. That they are naked is the only important thing.

D. I will not change a single diaper. I will potty train my 18 month old daughter in a single weekend. I will sit her on the toilet and stare at her with stern eyes of narrow fixation until I scare the piss out of her. I will be so proud.

E. In word and deed, I will remind all members of the household that I am king. I will huddle over my laptop each night balancing the online checkbook as the cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching of my Quicken financial software reverberates against the walls. I will scrutinize unnecessary purchases. I will bemoan the fact that the local coffee drive-thru now takes credit cards, a fact that a certain household member of the weaker sex deems irresistable. I will input all receipts into the register and then I will shred them with glee. Then I will go back to the Internet, where I will search for spare parts to soup up my riding lawnmower. I will try to figure out how to type and drink a beer with one hand down my pants.

Monday, January 01, 2007


During my freshman year of college, I fancied myself a Philosophy major. My heart would flutter, my mouth would water and my eyes would glaze over at the sound of such names as Socrates, Descartes, Hume, Kant and Nietzsche. Even though my career in Philosophy did not pan out, I still consider myself a novice philosopher. I take every opportunity to ponder the nature of the Universe and to theorize about my existence in it.

This philosopher part of me has remained much the same these past 20 years...

As I was driving into my office this morning, I heard the words of one of my favorite modern philosophers. He is an American philosopher who hails from Jersey. You may recognize his words…

...No one can save me
The damage is done

Shot through the heart,
And you’re to blame.
You give love…
A bad name.

The haunting lyrics of the venerated Bon Jovi gave me pause. I would hate to have the reputation of giving anything a “bad name,” let alone tainting the sanctity of the meaning of love. Upon hearing these words, I was compelled to reflect upon myself and my actions in the role of Mother.

Last night, my 3 year old daughter was up all night long with the stomach flu. For most of the night, I held her in my arms while she rocked back and forth in agony from the pain in her stomach. At the appropriate moment I leaned her body over the toilet, pulled back her long hair while she wretched uncontrollably and then gave her water to rinse out her mouth. After each of these rounds, I snuggled beside her on the couch while she watched Noggin and waited until the next episode of sickness overtook her.

At around 3am, as the waves of nausea finally subsided, we both stumbled to bed and crawled under the covers to get some much needed rest. She curled her slight frame into me, looked at me with startling intensity and whispered, “Mommy, thank you for taking care of me. Thank you for helping me to throw up and for snuggling me on the couch. I love you, Mommy.”

My daughter adores me. She loves me with absolute abandon. The magnitude of her unabated love for me is, to say the very least, staggering. As such, I am at once honored and frightened.

She will not always look at me with those adoring eyes. Someday, all too soon, she will be a teenager. Her all-consuming love for me will...

So, when Jon’s words cascaded over me in the car this morning, I was desperate to think of a way that I might live up to my daughter’s adoration. How do I make sure that when she turns 13 years old she won’t slam her bedroom door and then scream at me from her guarded position, “You suck as a mother! You give love a bad name!”

After much thought I decided that I can not do anything to ensure her constant, steady love for me…especially when she enters the dreaded teen years. But, even though her love for me may change, I must make certain that my love for her…
Remains the same.

Hi! My name is Bobita. I am visiting today from Blooming Yaya for January's Blog Exchange. Usually you can find me there detailing various moments of my life...which may or may not include one or more of my three children, an irreverent husband, the perpetual piles of laundry cluttering my house and occasional ponderings of the Universe.

Please visit ECR at my place today...and make certain to visit the other members of this month's Blog Exchange. If you would like to join the Blog Exchange, you can find out how at the new and improved BE Web site. Come know you want to!