Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sending Out Birth Announcements

Birth announcement by Tiny*Prints

Five weeks after my son's birth, I am finally getting around to mailing the announcements. But thanks to Tiny*Prints, putting the 41 cent stamp (wait, I blinked: now it's 42 cents! Do I hear 43? Come on, 44!) on each envelope will be the most painful part of the process. Choosing the design, personalizing it, and placing the order was a piece of birth-day cake.
There were a lot of cards to select from. I chose to search the boy-themed options with the least expensive cards showing up first. When I wanted a closer look at a particular card, I was able to click on it, opening up a window with a full-size screenshot of the design.
I went with our card because it gave me the flexibility to highlight our son's nickname atop the full version of his name. I also changed or switched some of the fonts and type sizes, choosing from a limited selection of styles that were guaranteed to complement the design. The process made me feel like I had a hand in creating a truly personalized card, while guaranteeing that the finished product stayed true to the sophistication of the original design.
Ordering was quick and easy. Delivery was well within the two week window that the site indicated. When the cards arrived, the image was exactly as I ordered it and the quality of the colors and card stock was impressive. Envelopes were included.
The rest is up to me. If I don't get these cards stamped and addressed in a timely manner, it's no fault of Tiny*Prints. Too bad they don't sell Self-Motivation and Follow-Through.
Posted in conjunction with the Parent Bloggers Network.

Monday, May 26, 2008

No Conversation Over Coffee

The sky was blue without a cloud. We were seated on the metal weave of wrought iron chairs. I sipped my coffee non-fat; The Partner took his light and sweet.

In the clear air I wondered what he was thinking. Blue tinted sunglasses masked hazel clues. I looked away quickly because it bothered me that I couldn’t tell if he was returning my gaze. I wouldn’t want him to catch me staring.

Next to us, four bicyclists were breaking. “When I called him up to tell him, there was complete silence for almost a minute,” I heard a rider say. “He didn’t even ask if I was okay.” It was the one with his back toward me. I tuned out his companions’ responses. I wouldn’t want them to catch me listening.

The wind carried voices, but not much else. There was barely a rustle to the startling brightness of new leaves, where the green was almost as undiluted as the blue above. The sun covered us like a lightweight blanket.

A girl twirled in dress without sleeves near a bench across the sidewalk. A father beamed at her. Earlier, the same man had let me cut in front of him at the coffee counter. Amidst the roar of the espresso machine and the electronic hum of the register, his accented voice sounded like it might have been Austrian. Now I marveled at his vivid smile atop a beard that was thick and dark like the halo of curls on his head. The girl’s dress spun out around her knees. They were both quiet and carefree.

My own child gurgled at me, then. I looked down. White bubbles of breastmilk frothed at his lips. “My little cappuccino,” I trilled. “My sweet little cappuccino!” When I grinned up at The Partner, I still couldn’t see his eyes. The corners of his mouth turned up only slightly.

I sat back. The ideal weight of the late May heat was not, after all, a comfortable blanket around us, but a veil between.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Like Roses, or, The Obligatory Mommy Blog Post on Poop

The Partner thinks his shit don't stink.

Well, it does.

But his son's? Odorless.

I guess they aren't exactly carbon (err, methane) copies after all. Ever since we started Topher on antibiotics for his urinary tract infection, his diapers have ceased to emit a stench. Still, he's as loud as ever when taking care of business. Now it is my auditory sense, with no help from my olfactory one, that recognizes when a visit to the changing station is in order.

One would think from the fluorescent green mass gelling in his Pampers that the smell would be toxic. How strange that it's not. But you'll hear no complaints from me. I'll enjoy the phenomenon for three more days, at which point his antibiotics will have run their course and our son will resume his normal newborn output.

But even that won't be so bad. There's something so innocent about a just-born baby's digestion.* Anything that comes out of the little guy is like roses compared to his father's noxious fumes. The Partner may not admit it, but it's true.

*With the possible exception of projectile vomit. But that's a post for another day.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Name the New Guy

I'd like to solicit your input regarding a name for our newest arrival that fits in with the nomenclature here at 24/7. I've been calling my son by his real world name up to this point, but that's only because I haven't had the time and/or energy to come up with something to match the other prominently featured titles here (e.g. The Boss and The Partner).

At first I was going to call him "Number Two." But whenever I thought about it, images of bowel movements popped into my head (which I guess is part of the point, but still. . .). Perhaps more importantly, the name denotes a second class status that I don't want to bestow upon my little guy.

So I'm reaching out to you, my four loyal readers. Please help me figure out what to put on the new guy's office nameplate.

The prize for the winning idea? My eternal gratitude. With a cherry on top.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Spitting (Up) Image

The Partner, circa 1978

The fact that Topher resided for roughly nine months in my body seems completely out of context. His correct context is his father. They look exactly alike.
The Boss resembled The Partner from the beginning, but those inclined to look hard enough were able to rationalize a resemblance to me that they would offer up with only slight hesitatation. As in, "Hmmm, well. It looks like she might have your eyes."
With my son, no such rationalization is possible. He is his father from the devil's-horn hairline to the flaring nostrils to his waif-weight at birth. As much as I love The Partner, and don't doubt that I do, it's strange watching this miniature version of him sucking away at my teat for an approximate total of 12 hours out of any given day.
To look at us--this baby and me--it's hard to see the connection. I should've saved that last blackened remnant of the umbilical cord as proof.

Topher, circa last week

Friday, May 16, 2008


Last time The Partner and I left for the hospital, we came back with a new baby that turned The Boss's life upside down.

Maybe that's why she was so concerned when I stepped into the ambulance with Topher for our transfer to the children's medical center, leaving her with the Partner to await the arrival of nana's babysitting service. It must've been a strange flashback to just three weeks ago, when we took off for the hospital while my mother came in with outstretched arms to take care of The Boss.

I just hope that our little girl isn't causing herself unnecessary worry as she waits for our return. In her two-and-three-fourths-year-old brain, there is a clear association between hospitals and the arrival of new, unwelcome family members. I can just hear her now: "Oh, no. Not again. You're going to bring home another one?"

Or maybe she's still holding out for Tallulah.


Topher is doing well, by the way. Thank you for all the well wishes. His temperature is back to normal. He'll be undergoing a few more tests to determine if his UTI was caused by anything internal and he will be continuing his regimen of antibiotics, but I'm happy to say we should be home very soon.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Back to the Hospital

Last night three different doctors tried their hand at jabbing my son's back with a needle before successfully extracting the spinal fluid necessary for a full work up after we brought him into the emergency room with a 102 degree fever.

Apparently, any fever in a newborn less than 8 weeks of age requires that needles be stuck willy nilly into limbs and torso while probes are inserted into each orifice. Additionally, there is a mandatory two day hospital stay in anticipation of the results. In our case, Topher is well on his way to sleeping through his first full day at the children's hospital due to the exhaustion wrought by five straight hours of night torture.

So far it looks like a urinary tract infection is the culprit. This kid is almost exactly like his father in every way, but here we are, three weeks in, and my son and I have found something we can commiserate about--a propensity for bladder infections. And to think, I would've been satisfied if we just shared the same blue eyes or even similarly large foreheads.

There may be more tests of the urinary tract once the definitive results come in, but now we wait. The little guy is sleepy and cute and hot in his hospital cage. Next to it is a cot with my name on it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

That Old House

The fact that I now live ten miles away from the United States' biggest and most profitable casino belies the fact that gambling makes me twitch. I hate the temporary uncertainty and the long-term losses. I hate seeing half of our state's elderly population hooked up to the slots via Wampum cards on lanyards. I hate the rank air. I do like the free drinks, but I have to imbibe vast amounts before I can convince myself that all those bourbon and cokes negate the overall soul-sucking nature of the business.

Unfortunately, there's more than one way to gamble, and we've been doing it for over a year and a half in the real estate market. We've been paying two mortgages since we relocated in July. As our new home thrives around our growing family, our original place sits forlorn on its little hill overlooking the Interstate, waiting for a buyer.

Today I got to thinking about the offers we didn't take. The price we didn't lower quickly enough. The renters that almost burned it down. Everything related to the sale of that house has been a roll of the dice. It could be sold by now if a different number had come up on just one of those tosses.

Or it could have disappeared. One of the offers early on came from a neighbor who made his intentions clear--he wanted the property for its commerically zoned land, not for the house. He would have demolished the 200 year old Cape in favor of the expansion of his business. We decided we couldn't be complicit in the destruction of an antique treasure and told him, in no uncertain terms, "no."

I'm still glad we rejected his offer (which seemed a tad low at the time, but looks higher and higher in hindsight), though there's a sting each time our bank account bleeds out the next mortgage payment. If we didn't care so much about history, we'd have a much easier time funding the present. But so it goes. Another one of life's little lessons.

One of the most expensive locations in real estate? The moral high ground.

Cross-posted at New England Mamas.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Holding On To the Little Things

I didn't realize I had completely forgotten what newborns are like until my second child sailed down the Punani Canal and into town. It didn't take long to conclude that, somewhere along the line, the initial half-year of my firstborn's life had been erased from my memory.

The same goes for The Partner's flawed recall. On our first full day at home as a family of four, he called me into the room in which he was sitting with the baby. "I think something's wrong with him," he said.

"What?" I squawked.

"Watch. He won't even look at me." The Partner waved his hand in front of the baby's eyes repeatedly. "And he doesn't react to sounds." He clapped his hands right next to the little guy's ears. Topher didn't flinch. "The Boss was never this vacant, was she?"

"Well, I. . .uh, I mean. . .he is only three days old. . ." I stumbled over the seeds of doubt The Partner had planted. Though my instincts told me everything was fine, my brain was hormonally fertile ground in which visions of the worst case scenario flourished. My heart started to pound in my chest as my eyes watered. Was there something wrong with my baby?

I walked over to the book case and pulled out three different parenting books. I dropped two in front of The Partner and took one for myself. It didn't take long for us to determine that Topher was right on track. None of the experts expected him to do anything but lay there.

Looking at The Boss now, it's hard to believe she was ever so small and dependent. Seeing in Topher all the characteristics we'd forgotten about in her, I'm nostalgic for those lost traits. Soon enough Topher's newness will go the way of his older sister's. But at least now I know that. So we take more pictures, and bring out the video camera more often. And I write. . .

. . .Topher makes sounds like a bull, or sometimes like the whinny of a horse. When he's hungry, his tongue pokes through slightly rounded lips. He's always hungry. He sleeps a lot too, though, so that he nods off for four hours and then eats almost straight through the next four. His fast growing nails are scratchy on my chest, next to his face. He looks at me now and I think he sees me. Yesterday his cheeks pulled his mouth into the first hint of many smiles.

He is three weeks old.


Thursday, May 08, 2008

A Nice Day in May

The subject of Mother's Day gifts came up this morning while I was feeding the baby and The Partner was getting ready for his day job.

"You've already got your Mother's Day gift," The Partner said, nodding toward the little sucker hanging off my chest. Then, in a tone that implied a wink even though his face was stoic, he added: "You're welcome."


True enough, Mother's Day 2008 came three weeks early for me. But the little guy is gift-and-take. Now that the official holiday is nigh, I wouldn't mind a plain ol' gift.

My stance on Mother's Day is the same as Valentine's Day--I'll embrace any excuse for a little pampering and positive attention. There are some people who say they have no need for a scheduled visit from St. Valentine because their lives are so chock full of romantic love on a daily basis, just as there are those mothers out there whose devotion is so continuously affirmed by their doting children and grateful partners that they don't need May flowers to bloom in their honor.

I am not one of those people.

Then there are the moms who have built up Mother's Day into a mountain so high it can never be summited. My own mother, for example, always has the same answer when asked what she wants for the holiday. "Good kids," she says. Ha, I say. I don't know if she's so delusional as to think that this is even a remote possibility or if her frugality dictates intangible wishes over commercial desires, but the fact of the matter is that she's setting herself up for disappointment. She should just ask for a gift certificate to the spa.

Mother's Day is what it is. It's not a substitute for love and care the rest of the year and it certainly doesn't have magical powers. It's a Sunday reminder to slow down and to recognize the creative energy behind our own life force, the community's, and the whole world's.

Motherhood is infinitely more grand than the second Sunday in May, but there's still a lot of celebration in that small square on the calendar. Whatever form the associated affirmation comes in--handmade card, hardcover book, bath salts, 50-minute massage, burnt bundt cake or cockeyed clay teacup--well, I'll take it. And I hope I'll always be grateful.

This post is part of the Parent Bloggers Network's partnership with Johnson’s in promotion of Johnson’s Baby Cause, powered by Global Giving. As part of their responsibility to the global community, Johnson’s has hand-selected dozens of charities around the world that mirror their deep commitment to caring for the health and well-being of mothers and children - not just on Mother’s Day, but every day of the year.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Where'd the Party Go?

Lately, The Boss likes to ask me where the party went. This line of questioning began over a week and a half ago at the end of our impromptu “Meet and Greet” barbecue for Topher as the guests began to trickle out the door.

At first she turned to the guests themselves. “Where are you going?” she’d ask.

“Home,” they’d say.


There were different answers, but none were deemed suitable. The Boss turned to me with each new departure, setting her eyes in a big, blue quiz on mine. “Where’d the party go, mama? Where’d the party go?”

I thought it was a good question. I could relate. It had been a fun party. There was food, there were friends, there were stories tossed around and there were balls thrown to the dog. The sun was high and warm, but not hot. The Boss got so much attention that she didn’t even notice the party wasn’t for her.

I thought it was a good metaphor, too. After the constant high of hope and expectation that came with pregnancy and childbirth, I was a bit nostalgic for the party, myself. Not that it was all fun and games—in fact, I was never really comfortable with the idea of living so deep inside myself for nine months. But it was different and intense and life-changing. After the baby was born, it was time to return to daily life. I don’t know quite what to do with that.

“Everyone at the party had to go home,” I told The Boss. “They had to leave so it would be just the four of us. So we could be a family.”

“Oh,” she said. She wasn’t any more satisfied in her acceptance of my answer than I was in giving it. But we let it go.

The question still pops up at random moments in that daily life we are slowly getting back into. Sometimes things are slow. Sometimes I am feeding her brother while she is thirsty. Where’d the party go, mom? So now we make plans. We talk balloons, hats and cake. We talk guest lists.

We are party planners.


Friday, May 02, 2008

Recommended Reading: Rockabye

I'm wrapping up these two weeks of boy birth wonderment with some recommended reading on a similar theme. Rockabye: From Wild to Child is Rebecca Woolf's 283-paged ode to her son, Archer. Inherent in his story is hers, as she articulates in a way that I've kept close to my heart since I first read the sentiment on her blog: "I am not and never will be defined by motherhood, but I will wholeheartedly admit that motherhood has inspired and enabled me to define myself."

Rockabye has all the makings of a passionate memoir about the unique experience of raising a child as a young mother in Los Angeles: making a baby, making a marriage, making friends, making it as a writer, and making peace with all the loose ends.

(This) Girl's Gone Child was one of the first blogs I stumbled across right before I started my own over two and a half years ago. I was immediately drawn in by the way Rebecca thinks and the way she conveys that process on the computer screen. She knows how to turn a phrase. She knows how to make people laugh. She knows how to live so she has something to write about.

I have a friend from college named Amy who started reading Rebecca's blog after finding the link on my own. She was sucked in the same way I was. When Rebecca made the announcement on her site that she had signed with a book publisher to write a memoir, Amy was ecstatic.

"I was telling everyone at work that I have a friend who's writing a book," Amy said to me. "I know that's bizarre, since I don't actually know her. I don't even leave comments on her blog. But she feels like a friend."

Rebecca's brutally honest confidence is friendship through her blog, and it's the same rapport that ties together each page of Rockabye: From Wild to Child. So check out her memoir, and I know you'll be waiting with me and Amy to find out what's next. A little bird told me that Rebecca's got some brilliant fiction on the books, and I can't wait to get my hands on all of it.

. . .But you don't have to take my word for it. See what some other reviewers from The Parent Bloggers Network have to say about Rockabye.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Ten Days Old

I have to keep reminding myself that humans beings do not procreate solely for their own personal fulfillment. If that was the case, we'd rue the milestones instead of celebrating them. We'd be too fearful of progress to foster our children's independence like we need to. We'd live in the past and the future, with only a high, rickety bridge spanning the present. If we had kids for our sake instead of theirs, the speed of their growth would render us immobile.

But the point of parenthood isn't permanent attachment. The point is, from the very first moment, letting go.

Right now, holding my second child, I am all too aware that he will only be this small for a short time. I may never have another teeny tiny baby to care for in the same way. I hate nevers. I hate endings. I hate overs. And I could get caught up in all those things if I didn't remind myself that what we have here is my baby's beginning. It's his chance to live what I pray will be a long, thrilling life. His infancy, his childhood, his teenage years...they will be bittersweet for me but for him they will be the foundation he doesn't even know is being built beneath him and his first car, his first kiss, his first job, his first day on his own.

Being a parent is about being a parent. It's not about being ourselves, with all our inherent needs and wishes. That's a tough idea to swallow, especially now when I'm 10 days post-partum and prone to way too much introspection, but it's liberating, too. This is not about me! This is a whole new ball of ear wax!

Yes, the Partner and I made this little guy. That much is about us. But the little guy is the one who is going to make a life.