Friday, February 27, 2009

Ah, Youth: Eluding and Deluding Me

The Boss notices everything. She remembers it all. I wish I had those qualities. She's three years old and I'm already jealous of her gifts.

"She's going to be the famous writer I've always wanted to be and I'm not going to be able to handle it," I told The Partner over dinner.

As usual, he refused to indulge me. "Don't worry. She might turn out to be a scientist." He looked over at the continent map she'd traced and colored at school that day. "Or a geographer."

"Maybe," I murmured. I slowly warmed up the idea. Then The Boss made another witty observation from across the table and even as I choked on laughter, my confidence cooled. I sighed. The Boss returned her attention to chasing rollaway peas around her plate with a spoon. "She's so much smarter than I ever was," I said.

The Partner was patient in his explanation of the circle of life. "At the stage she's at, it's her job to absorb things. It's all she does. She's supposed to notice the flowers. She's supposed to remember the colors. At the stage we're at, it's our job to filter out the noise." He looked me in the eyes, his own gaze narrowing as he went from theoretical to practical. "You? You can't afford to be distracted by the pretty flowers on the side of the road while you're driving."

I offered up the quick snort of acknowledgement he was looking for, then tossed his jibe aside. "But I can train myself. I can go back to her stage, to that frame of mind. It'll make me a better writer. I can be more observant and I can make myself remember things." I became increasingly impassioned with each passing phrase.

The Partner nodded. He's always been my biggest supporter. "Just not while you're driving," he said.


We have a winner! Liz Barlow, the woman who has only ever won a fanny pack, was randomly selected as the recipient of a MilkBank Breastmilk Storage System courtesy of Parent Bloggers Network. Congrats, Liz! Please email me with your contact information via the link in the upper right corner of this page so that I can get your prize right out to you. Thanks for playing.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Like Father, Like Son...Maybe

I understand that children are designed to look like their fathers at birth so that the male's desire to flee is kept in check by his ego. Women as a whole do not need additional incentives to stick by their babies; men, on the other hand, lack nine months of shared biology tying them to their offspring. They look for themselves in the newness. They see the resemblence and think, "yeah, I guess he is mine."

There's no doubt that Number Two as a newborn looked uncannily like The Partner. And what do you know? Ten months in, The Partner is still here.

Now that the bond has been set and the child is biologically free to grow into his own person, I wonder how he will look? Am I deluding myself to think that there just might be a little of me in him after all? Recent findings support my theory. Just the other day a friend's mother told me that my son is so much cuter than he was as a newborn.

But you be the judge. Here I am, splish-splashing wild and free at 7.5 months:

And here is Number two at the same age:

I think the eyes have it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

It's a Contest! Win Here and Take Your Milk to the Bank!

My mother-in-law still has nightmares about the time The Partner and I absconded to a Bed and Breakfast in New Paltz, leaving our son with her for the long weekend. Everything was hunky dory until the second night, when a vomit-storm was the sight that greeted her as she walked into the guest bedroom to find out what was bothering her screaming grandson.

It's six months later and she can't let it go. "Oh la la," she says (seriously, I'm not stereotyping) in a French accent that belies almost 40 years on US soil. "My poor bebe. I think of him like that, all covered in..." she trails off, unable to articulate the horror. "Oh, my poor bebe."

I can't be sure, but I've since wondered if expressed-breastmilk-gone-bad might have been the culprit. From breast to freezer to refrigerator, and from baggie to bottle, there are many chances in the milk storage process for things to go awry. Maybe I'm just indulging in the international maternal pastime of blaming oneself for every harm that befalls one's child, but it stands to reason that there are a lot of leaks in the system.

Then Parent Bloggers Network sent me this product to try out: The MilkBank Breastmilk Storage System. It takes the leaks out of breastmilk storage/feeding with a vacuum that pumps excess oxygen from the storage bottle, creating an airtight seal.
Perhaps the use of exclamation points here will best convey my excitement about these facts that I really feel people need to know:

The vacuum pump keeps more nutrients in your milk!

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The Fully-Vented bottle system allows feeding bottles to double as a milk storage system, thus minimizing the milk/nutrient loss associated with transferring milk from storage bottles/bags! (Did you know that the majority of nutrients in breastmilk reside in the lipids (or fats), and fats tend to stick to the sides of containers? Thus, the more often milk is transferred, the more nutrients are lost)

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MilkBank is not, I repeat, NOT made in China!

MilkBank is not just for pumping moms. The bottles are great for formula as well, having been designed to insulate the milk (studies show that keeping it warm improves nutrient ingestion) and to keep it from leaking. MilkBank Triple-Vented bottles help bubbles bypass the milk, therefore reducing colic, and making feeding easier for baby.

You can check out the MilkBank product line at its Web site or head out to Babies R Us to look it over in person.

But before you do that, take a minute to win your very own MilkBank Storage System right here! That's a value of $29.99, folks. Just leave a comment below by Friday (Feb. 27) at noon, and I will pick one winner at random. Be sure to check back later that day to see if you've won.

We have a winner! Liz Barlow, the woman who has only ever won a fanny pack, was randomly selected as the recipient of a MilkBank Breastmilk Storage System courtesy of Parent Bloggers Network. Congrats, Liz! Please email me with your contact information via the link in the upper right corner of this page so that I can get your prize right out to you. Thanks for playing.

Monday, February 23, 2009

In the Wilds of Fairfield County

The helicopters were swarming overhead as we drank champagne and ate cake in celebration of my mother-in-law's 69th birthday last week.

"That's not normal," I said, peering out the bay window to see the lights of the helicopters flickering between the knuckled limbs of so many North Stamford trees. "We should turn on the news to find out what's going on."

My mother-in-law pressed the Bose system into action. 1010 WINS came on, a strange mix of high quality stereo mixed with antiquated terrestrial radio signals. Somewhere between the weather report and the commercials, we lost interest and began to drift in separate directions to other rooms of the house.

"The Merritt's closed in Norwalk because of an accident," my mother-in-law called out. We all nodded. The Partner went to check the details on the Internet so that we could plan an alternate route home. I wandered back into the kitchen, puzzling over the fact that five choppers were circling backyard because of an accident 15 miles down the highway.

I stood at the window. I watched the lights. I heard the hover. Then, out of the corner of my ear, the radio announcer barked out the story that came to me only in keywords. "Stabbed. Chimpanzee. Rock Rimmon Road."

"That's it!" I shouted. "A chimp was stabbed on Rock Rimmon Road!" My mother-in-law didn't even look up from the recipe for cabbage and apples she was writing down for me. In that moment, based on two keywords and the name of a street one block over, it was hard to understand why all those helicopters were hell bent on bringing the story of a bloody chimpanzee to the nation.

I know now, and every time I hear the latest information leaking out from the press, I feel a tightness in my chest that makes it just a bit harder to breathe. One of the goriest scenes ever to breach the wooded canopy of Fairfield County privilege played out as I clinked glasses with my husband's family on a lazy President's Day.

Stories that hit close to home hit harder. It's not that they're worse or sadder or more deserving of reflection than other catastrophes; it's that they're easier to relate to. It's the path of proximity: there but for the grace of God go I. A widow whose daughter was killed in a car accident raises her chimpanzee like a son. She sleeps in the same bed with him; he surfs the Internet; he once took a downtown joyride. The details are a stretch, but the results of the chimp's final rampage bring out a common, primal fear. A friend of the widow is torn apart by the chimp. Face, hands. The terror in the backyard is a reminder of unknown perils at home.

I saw the helicopter lights shine down on truths that had been so well hidden beneath the landscaped forests in which my husband was raised. No matter where you go, how much you make, or with whom you surround yourself, the facts are the same: people can be crazy, animals are wild, and tragedy so often begets the same.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Whose Fault Is It, Anyway?

It might've been spilled milk, or the fact that that dinner got cold while we were waiting for The Partner to finish a conference call, or maybe that someone ganked the last of the banana bread. The cause doesn't matter as much as the admission.

"It's all my fault," The Partner said, throwing up his hands in martyrdom. "It's always my fault."

The Boss looked over at me. "It's his fault," she confirmed. "Not ours."

I laughed. I had to. But the chuckle lost depth as I thought of growing up in a house where my mother would drop a glass in the kitchen and immediately blame the wreckage on someone else, even if the nearest person was minding her own business upstairs in my bedroom, reading Judy Blume through spectacles as thick as magnifying glasses.

"It's nobody's fault." I spoke more for The Boss's benefit than to validate The Partner's histrionics. "We don't need to blame anyone."

The Boss's eyes were wide with knowledge that belied her three uneventful years. She looked from me to her father before settling back on me. Her voice was a blend of confidence and whisper. It was as if she didn't want to burden me too heavily with the truth. "But sometimes people have fault."

I gasped out a smile the way I do so often when I can't believe the words that have just come out of The Boss's mouth. I never expect the perspective, the grace, the matter-of-fact observations that elude many a person ten times her age.

So I conceded. How could I not? I marveled at our daughter with a headshake and a shrug, then I dismissed the issue from the table, sure that we'd be able to discuss it in more detail for the rest of our lives. "You're right. Sometimes people do have fault. You're absolutely right."

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Short Month Complex

The Boss is prey for February's smarmy charms. Each time the temperature rises above 40 degrees, my naive little girl proclaims the arrival of spring. Little does she know that everything February gives gets grabbed right back again.

We all must carry some of The Boss's optimism. There'd be a mass exodus to Florida right around the time the groundhog emerged if we didn't delude ourselves just a little about the coming of spring. Still, I am predominantly pessimistic.

I know it behooves me to enjoy the warmth instead of bemoaning the tease, but I can't help hating February. She's just such a bitch. She's hot and cold and long and short. She's dead presidents. She's $50 for a pile of frozen roses. February is deep and dark.

If I am to embrace any of The Boss's budding positivity, it's going to be at the end of the month, when February cuts herself short. That very stuntedness may contribute to something of a Napoleon Complex, exacerbating the cruelness of her reign the whole month through, but it doesn't matter by the time the 28th comes along. At that point, it's over. She's done. And not a day too soon.

Only February can make March look good.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Hot One in the Small Town This Morning

I was going to begin this post with the assertion that "I saved the day!" Then I reviewed the situation in my head and realized I'd be better served by crawling under a rock to hide in embarrassment than trying to claim any responsibility for the successful resolution of the emergency on Old Route 2.

I was taking the scenic route home from dropping off The Boss at pre-school when I noticed flames shooting up from a wood pile situated beneath a simple roof atop four posts. The metal chimney sticking through the low peak was beginning to spew smoke. It sort of made sense. It didn't totally seem out of place. I take the scenic route quite frequently in our bucolic neck of the woods, and small bonfires are common occurrences. I drove on.

About three quarters of a second later, my mental processes sent up the danger flare. The burning wood I had seen was stacked neatly and high. There was enough there to heat a New England home for a month. I began to question the logic of purposely burning it in its stacks. Something was not right. I turned around in a driveway and backtracked to the scene.

The flames were spreading brightly. I puzzled over the incongruity. I picked up the phone. This is the embarrassing part. I called The Partner.

"Okay, you gotta answer me fast. This is important. Is there any situation in which a person would purposely burn wood stacked up in a shed?" I asked.


"God! Just answer me! I don't want to call 9-1-1 if this is, like, normal, but I'm driving home on Old Route 2 and there's wood in a shack and it's burning!"

"Um, I don't know. I guess," he muttered. Then the head shake I could almost hear over the phone: "What?"

I blew out air up past my upper lip in a frustrated sigh. "Now the roof is on fire. This has to be an emergency. I gotta go. Bye."

Then, and only then, did I call 9-1-1. A heavy breeze swept peals of orange and red in curls around the posts of the shed. The heat bit back at the wind.

It never ceases to amaze me what I take as commonplace. Each day is normal until proven otherwise. My instincts are buried beneath routine. I should've known right away that something was amiss; upon second glance, I should've called in the Fire Department.

There are those that tell us to "be vigilant." That's well and good, if you can see past the quotidian haze. I don't always look that deeply. And when I do notice something awry, I question myself, not the scene.

Now I know not to assume that a February fire in an open field is there only to ward off the chill.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

More To Love

The Boss was in the kitchen with my mother. I was sitting with The Partner at the dining room table when we overheard a plaintive, pipsqueaked "what's that?"

"That's medecine to help me lose weight," nana said.

Though a wall stood between us, I had no trouble picturing my mother lifting a capsule from the "Sunday" compartment of her pill organizer while my daughter looked on with big blue eyes that see everything and forget nothing.

I recalled my mother's mention of the Hoodia supplement earlier in her visit. I'd raised my eyebrows just short of an eye roll, a familiar facial tic that my mother dismissed with the assurance that her doctor had told her it was safe. The finality of her statement precluded conversation.

In the kitchen with The Boss, it seemed nana had re-opened the issue for discussion. "Do you think I'm too big?" she asked The Boss.


"You don't think I should be skinny like your mommy?"

"No." The Boss was matter of fact. She wasn't wise; she wasn't trite. Her voice trilled with the naturalness of an I Love You. "You should be just like you are," she said.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Taking the (Strawberry Short) Cake

I don't remember much about the Strawberry Shortcake of my childhood except the smell of her red head. I know that I dressed up in her likeness when I was about five, but that comes from a Polaroid and not from my own recollection.

Watching the new Strawberry Shortcake Happily Ever After DVD with The Boss didn't bring forth any latent memories, but at least there was a sense of familiarity that I just don't get when trying to sit through freakshows like Yo Gabba Gabba. The Boss liked it because a) there's a lot of pink, b) it's about princesses, and c) it involves moving pictures on a screen. Really, the former two reasons are like strawberry frosting on the latter, which has always stood on its own. The Boss is not picky when it comes to the television.

I'd rather put in a DVD than leave my daughter at the mercy of television programming (which is not to say she doesn't watch way more than her fair share of Nickelodeon and the Public Broadcasting Station). It's not just the commercials that bother me, though they are bad enough. It's the fact that even PBS isn't safe anymore. I mean, have you met Caillou? He alone must be responsible for spawning millions of whiny brats from sea to shining sea. PBS should be paying us to listen to that kid kvetch.

At least with DVDs, I can watch it once and know what I'm getting. The Boss can watch it fifty times and still be satisfied. Strawberry Shortcake Happily Ever After is an example of a show we can both be okay with. It's cute and catchy and berry, berry pink. With an updated spin on old fairy tales, the two episodes strive to teach kindness and to empower the princess. It's a little bit me and a little bit her.

WIN IT! Parent Bloggers Network has two copies of “Happily Ever After” to give away. Just leave them a comment describing your memories of Strawberry Shortcake from when you were young. They’ll draw two winners at random from among all the commenters on the launch of the Happily Ever After campaign (US and Canada only, please).

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

His First Con

My children are slow to sit, crawl and walk. They are content to be where they are. They are laid back. But I've made the mistake of assuming their sluggishness extends to their gray matter. Number Two just reminded me I should not be so cavalier.

He is sitting next to me in his exersaucer, munching on a bagel as our dog, Roxie, watches. Every so often I catch a subtle movement in my periphery. The slow turn of my head reveals him reaching toward Roxie with foodstuff outstretched. As soon as Number Two sees me, he pulls back. I narrow my eyes and scrunch my nose. He crams the bagel into his mouth and looks at me with the same old expression I've been chalking up to vacancy. In fact, my son is a nine month old con artist.

He's been told before not to feed the dog, but I didn't think the message actually got through. Seeing him now, sitting in slick wait as I turn my attention back to the computer, I realize I was wrong. He knows what he's doing. Again, I look at him. Again, the dog is nosing in for bread held out. Again, Number Two catches my eye and stuffs the bagel back between two red gums beginning to show the first signs of teeth.

I'm more impressed than perturbed. I'm sure that will change soon, but right now it's the first sign of my son's cognitive wheels being put in motion. It's manipulation, not of the motor-skilled variety, but of the thinking kind. There's something going on there.

I'm shaking my head. I'm staring at these words on the screen. And, suddenly, he's doing it again.

He's growing up when he thinks I'm not looking.

Monday, February 02, 2009

The Mom's Club

It was kids and couples on Saturday night as the usual group of mothers I get together with during the week expanded into a family dinner outing. We met at the ancestral home of one of these mom-friends. The kids ran around the first floor, exploring nooks and crannies in the 200+ year old home, while we adults sampled the potluck fare and drank wine. At one point in the evening, it came up that one of the town librarians had been arrested on a marijauna possession charge. Information was sketchy, as it often is in a small town where people tsk first and find facts later, but it was enough to prompt me to assert my opinion on the matter.

"Marijauna should totally be legal." I wondered why I opened my mouth as soon as I said it. From my perch at the head of the oversized antique farmers' table, I had a unique perspective on the nine men and women looking at me as if I were crazy. The silence did not stretch out long before I felt compelled to fill it anyway. "I mean, I guess it's a gateway drug. Yeah, it is, but there are other..." I trailed off.

"You're having a conversation with yourself," one of the mother's observed wryly. They were all still staring.

I let out an awkward whoosh of a chortle. The unbroken communal gaze finally cracked as everyone joined in the laughter. I was grateful for the interjection into my own strange dialogue. "I do that a lot," I said. "I have arguments with myself. I like to look at both sides of an issue." With a wink, I pulled out the self-deprecation card I lay on the table before anyone starts to think I take myself seriously.

A brief conversation about recreational drug use followed, during which I learned nothing about anyone. I wondered how long I could go about getting to know these people, seeing many of them multiple times each week, without gaining any insight whatsoever into who they are as human beings. As mothers, I know them well. But, mothers? Let's just say I have one of my own, and that's plenty.

Friendships formed when offspring are the only apparent common denominator can stagnate like warm water in a wading pool if you let them. Right now I'm standing calf-deep and wondering how many children have leaked through their swim diaper today. I'm surrounded by other mothers, but I have no idea what they're thinking.