Indoor activities?

We've never used Z's pack n' play as a playpen. But I set it up for a friend's baby to stay in earlier this week and ever since then Z has requested several long play sessions in there every day. She pretends to sleep, she runs around in tiny circles, she flops down giggling, she tries to climb out. It's like she's a crazed actress and this is a great stage for all kinds of nuttiness. Thankfully, this is one indoor activity she's excited about. Dude, it's 102 degrees outside. Help me out with some ideas, would ya?

What else can we do inside, aside from these current favorites?:

1. Toddler hide and seek. As in, she sees pretty much exactly where I hide, Sweet Dog becomes overwhelmed by the excitement and immediately starts licking some exposed body part and yet sometimes I STILL have to cough or something for her to find me. Repeat until she suddenly loses interest in the game, wanders off and I find myself barely hidden behind a piece of furniture listening to some unknown thing fall loudly to the ground in another room.
2. Building forts out of couch cushions and crawling through them/knocking them down on top of each other. Repeat until one of us hits her head.
3. Take every. single. blessed. toy out of it's holding device and drop onto the ground with a resonant "uh-oh". Repeat after they have all been put away.
4. Take a bone/ball/tennis shoe up to the sleeping Sweet Dog and shove it in her face. Watch her jump up, run away, and lie down somewhere she deems safe. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Dear concerned citizens:

I swear it's not a case of "I learned it from watching you, Mom.".


The last days of Hema.

Dear Z,

About four months before you were conceived, I went to the Netherlands to stay for a week with our friends and their 5 month old baby. We walked the baby through the red light district (where the ladies waved to the baby from their red doorways), we devoured stroop waffles, we wandered solemnly through Anne Frank's house, we pondered modern art and we marvelled at 1,000 kinds of licorice packed into one tiny licorice store.

We also spent considerable time in Hema, the Dutch equivalent of Target. Specifically, the baby clothes department.

This was the first time that I really spent time with a mom and a baby and I was not so discretely wondering if this was really what I wanted, if this was really something I could do. My friend made it look lovely and was an adventurous, generous hostess. And I didn't do NEARLY enough to help her (for which I hereby officially beg her forgiveness).

I came home with a hopeful and slightly-less-clueless idea of new motherhood and a bag full of adorable baby clothes that I told myself and my husband were for friends. Of course, I secretly planned on keeping most of them for my "someday" baby. The smallest thing I bought was a cute flowered onesie that I knew I would keep because I always hoped that I would have a baby girl. The largest thing I bought was a bright striped onesie that I thought could be unisex. As far in the future as having a child seemed to me at the time (ahem, not so far in the future, as it turns out), I bought them anyway. Little wishful talismans.

You are now outgrowing the last of your Hema clothes. So today, I pause and think back to my time in the Netherlands. When I couldn't possibly imagine the little torso and limbs that would fill these clothes. I didn't know how sweet this would be. I didn't know how hard it would be either.

I DID know how cute it would be.


Your Clueless But Hopeful Mama



We've been calling Z's daycare "school". Somehow it makes us feel better about the idea of leaving her somewhere without us for long stretches of the day. At "daycare", she might languish: unloved, bored, directionless. At "school", she will learn many things and experience culture and meet new friends and make wild animals out of pipe cleaners and popsicle sticks. Some OTHER parents might drop their kid at daycare. Not us, though. We are taking ours to "SCHOOL".

Can you tell that the jury is still out about this whole thing?

We took her there on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday this week. I stayed with her for a bit and then left her for a half hour, 45 minutes and then finally, on Friday, for an hour. All three times she has reacted the same way. Excited when she sees the building and hears that she's going to "school". Happy to be playing there with the plethora of push toys and the ginormous sandbox and the oh-so-cute miniature chairs. Sad to say goodbye to me. Ambivalent to say hello. Pissed to leave.

This all sounds good, no? Then why is it still so hard? Why do I still feel like this is just wrong?

This has been a rough week for us, a reverse-Midas-touch week. You know, like everything you touch turns to .... poo. (What can I say? I have a soon-to-be-speaking toddler. We've been working on cleaning up our language.) Fabulous Husband was working late most of the week. On Tuesday, someone drove down our street shooting off a BB gun which hit our front window and sent my Chic Geek onto his stomach on the floor thinking we were being seriously shot at. I locked my keys in my car on Thursday, required FH to come all the way home to bail me out. On Friday, I was demonstrating a Pilates exercise on the physio ball to a client and I slipped and fell on my tailbone really, really hard. The same tailbone I had a hairline fracture in years ago when I was dropped in a dance rehearsal. The same tailbone my lovely daughter was pressing so insistently on during her sunny-side up delivery lo some 15 months ago. The same tailbone that is now, as I type, becoming intimate with a bag of frozen peas.

Z's been pissier with us this week. More frequently tantrum-y. Our great sleeper, the one who is put down in her crib awake and puts herself to sleep silently, has been fighting naps some times to the point of skipping one all together. (We haven't even begun to try to have her nap at "school" yet. Can I still blame it on school anyway?) She's started throwing things. She's clingier. She's less resilient in her moods and so, therefore, am I.

I really want to blame all the rough spots of this week on daycare because it's the obvious, new variable in this equation. Of course, there are always other variables and there is no control group for this little experiment we call parenting. Before daycare, teething was our default scapegoat for all things bad in Zland and she's got at least one tooth on deck at the moment. Plus, right about now is when she's supposed to drop one nap and I hear that things can go a little haywire when that happens. Maybe all this yuckiness in her behavior can be explained by the usual suspects of teething and sleep-shifting? I mean this IS the time that the crazy, defiant toddler behaviors come out, right?

All I know is that I'm still blaming me locking my keys in my car on daycare.


My favorite river in Egypt.

On my to-do list tonight, I am supposed to paste some pictures of our family onto a piece of paper and write titles like "Mama" and "Daddy" under them. I'm supposed to use a permanent laundry marker and write Z's name on her clothes, crib sheets and diaper cremes. It's all of a sudden getting very, very hard to live in denial. Z is starting day care. Tomorrow. (Kinda.)

We are doing a long, protracted transition to Z being in day care on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, all day, without me. Last week, we spent about an hour and a half there on each of our days, playing with the toys, meeting the "teachers" and kids, and getting used to the surroundings. This week, I'm supposed to leave her there for longer and longer intervals on each of those days. Next week, even longer intervals. We are very lucky that they are allowing us to do this so slowly, especially since we aren't officially paying for it until September 1st.

I wish I felt lucky.

I can't get over this sickening feeling that this whole thing is just so WRONG. She will experience things that I won't know about. She will see something and sign it's name and people may not notice or understand. She might be bullied or bitten or fall down. She will be on her own and I will have no control over what happens to her. She will be sad and need comfort and miss her Mommy.

(deep breath)

I CAN imagine the best case scenario actually happening so I'm going to focus on it and hope that it comes true. She is happy there and learns to nap there (I will take the leap of faith). She plays and learns and loves it so much she cries when we leave. I am fulfilled at work, have some time to myself after work where I can work out or run errands or talk on the phone without murmuring the inevitable "Yes, Z I'll get that for you in a minute!" and "Oh sweetheart, did you fall down?" every two seconds. It will help me be more present when I'm with her. More appreciative of our time together. More patient and loving and consistent with her because I won't be burned out, bored or resentful. More giving to Fabulous Husband. More treats for Sweet Dog. More proud liberals, loud feminists and Dennis Kucinich runs the world (Oops, sorry, wrong fantasy.)

I admit that what will get me through tomorrow is my new mantra: "We can always back out".

I watched that Oprah program on working vs. stay-at-home moms last week. It was a fairly typical presentation of this tired "battle". But I have a soft spot for "Dr. Robin" (Seriously? Can we not know your last name?) who said something that I've been mulling over: As parents, we want so desperately for our kids not to ache, but life is full of hurt so what we should really be working towards is helping our kids know what to do for themselves when they DO ache.

I know I can't shelter Z forever. I want to help her be independent and strong and resilient. I'm just not sure if I'm ready to let go this much yet.


Decisions, decisions.

I hate that one of the decisions we've had to wrestle with as parents is whether and how to vaccinate Z. This decision should really be a no brainer, right? Um, thanks but I think we'll pass on having her contract measles/polio/teething-induced-psychosis (What? They don't make a shot for that? They should.) After much reading and hand-wringing, we've gone ahead with the full spectrum of vaccinations, so far with no obvious adverse reactions (except for that fluke 4 hour nap that she took after her 6 month shots which I personally call a Hallelujah! reaction and have been hoping for a repeat ever since).

Yesterday she got her MMR shot. The one that many link, albeit anecdotally, to autism. The one that I've been fearing for some time now. We were going to wait until Z turned 18 months old to give her this shot but daycare called to say she needs it so off we went.

We thought seriously about splitting up the vaccines into their separate parts. But the doctor said he has a really hard time getting them separate and has to put in a special order. And.... I wanted to be done with it. I hope that I don't ever have reason to think about that decision ever again. I hope it's never an issue.

I feel like I'm all of a sudden keeping a vigil. For the next 14 days, I will wonder and hope and hold my breath just a little bit. Stare at her. Wonder if she'll get a fever and when. Wonder about the fact that she used to say "Dada" and "up" and hasn't in a while. Wonder if she's going to "lose" more (?) words. Wonder if I will ever be able to get out of my head the angry, distant face of the little autistic boy that I worked with when I was in college; the one who gave me pause when deciding to become a mother, the one who makes me fear autism like it's..... well, like it's the terrifying, poorly understood, modern-day plague that it is.

Why don't we know what causes this disorder? Why must so many parents work so hard to find answers?

Maybe I should be more concerned about the fact that I didn't hold Z's arms tightly enough during the administration of her shot and she reached out in horror, grabbed the needle and scraped it across her thigh leaving a lovely red gash. I'm hoping that's the most lasting effect from this whole ordeal. (Well, that and the immunity from the easy-to-forget-about-but-also-scary measles, mumps and rubella) .

Public Service Announcements.

From the "Do as I say, not as I do." files:

1. Suppose you fear that a newly scratchy throat means an imminent descent into the bottomless pit known as the common cold. So you decide to both hydrate (with 2 tall glasses of fizzy Gerolsteiner mineral water) and medicate (with a zinc bubble gum ball, which is only slightly less heinous than the unspeakable horror of zinc lozenges, and comes with a clear warning label about chewing them with some food to "avoid minor stomach upset"). If you are totally out to lunch and decide to do such things, it might be a good idea to set aside the next hour to lie miserably on the bathroom floor with a stomach bloated full of nothing but foul, very fizzy, metallic tasting bubble gum water. Doesn't sound too uncomfortable? GIVE IT A WHIRL.

2. If you are going to insist on getting totally addicted to the new show "Flight of the Conchords", at least have the decency to keep your singing of "Part Time Model" and "The Humans are Dead" (is that even the name of the song? or is it just the part that I can't get out of my head?) to yourself. Binary solo......000000010000001......


It's only a doll, right?

When we found out we were having a girl, we started having very serious discussions about the toys we wanted her to play with. In: trucks, blocks, legos, toolbenches, books and musical instruments. Out: dolls, play kitchens and anything pink. She would learn problem solving and physics and confidence not dependence and care-taking and home economics. We would shape her expectations and aspirations with toys that defy gender stereotypes.


I am a proud feminist. I intend to teach Z about feminism and how we owe every right and power we enjoy to those strong, brave women who came before us. I also just bought her her first real doll. I believe (hope/pray/am-deluded -into-thinking) that these do not need to be mutually exclusive positions.

She hasn't been interested in dolls until about a week ago. She didn't really have any dolls and if she saw one at playdates, she never played with them. Then last week, she was obsessed with the two baby dolls at Kidspace Museum, carrying them, wrestling with them and refusing to leave them behind in the toddler room without a fight. A few days later, when our friend brought her daughter and her daughter's baby doll for a visit, she similarly latched onto the doll and cried her goodbyes. So what's a good mother who's wracked with guilt and sick inside at the thought of leaving her beautiful, precious daughter at daycare in the all-too-near-future to do?

I went right out and bought her a ridiculously expensive French baby doll, of course.

At least my fears of creating some Stepford girly girl have yet to be realized. In fact, the lack of gentle care-taking of Dolly is rather frightening. Since the purchase of Dolly, she has been regularly and unceremoniously stuffed in a lunchbox, bodyslammed to the floor, carried by the head and let's not even begin to talk about the unspeakable things Z does to her eyes. And Z still likes to spend at least as much time playing in the dirt, pushing her trike, reading books and pouring water from bowl to bowl as before Dolly came along.

So I'm not too worried. Just don't tell Gloria Steinem that I'm seriously eyeing a pink play kitchen. One of the many things I've learned in my 15 months of being a mother is this: never say never.


Letting go, or what's currently feeding my insomnia.

I keep yapping and whining to people about the fact that Z is about to start part time day care in a few weeks. Everyone says the same things: "She'll be fine", "Kids are so resilient" and "She'll grow to love it there, you'll see." blah blah blah. And I always say the same thing "I know she'll be fine. It's me I'm worried about!". And it's partly true. I am truly worried about me and I know she'll be "fine". But to my inner hyper-protective mama bear, I don't want her to just be "fine"; I want her to be great. And I feel like helping her be great is my 'round the clock, for-the-rest-of-my-life job.

I have enough self-awareness to realize that most of my fears about the whole day care thing are of the hangnail variety, in size and possible life-altering impact. But still I lie awake at night obsessed with them. For instance, I know that she'll sign things that the teachers won't understand or even notice. How can I explain the difference between her sign for "milk" and "light" when they frankly still look identical but you can kinda tell because milk is done a little bit lower in the air and with a hopeful facial expression. How can I explain how she sometimes really really likes singing, unless she's in one of *those* moods and then woe unto you who dare turn on the music. How can I explain that she thinks umbrellas are lights and refuses to be dissuaded? (They do look a lot like lampshades, when you think about it.)

How can I explain that she can't see fruit or she won't eat anything else? How can I explain that we withhold the sight of milk for the same reason? How can I begin to explain the intricacies of her facial expressions? Will the teachers be able to pick up on the subtle details that tell you if she's done pooping or just taking a breather, if she's really waking up or just babbling in her sleep, if she really needs comforting or a major distraction effort.

I think my fundamental acceptance of daycare must be based on this: she won't be cared for by the person who knows her best and loves her beyond reason. And maybe, just maybe, this very fact will be good for her.

Maybe someone else will push her to further clarify her indistinct signing rather than struggling to intuit every gesture's meaning. Maybe someone else will create more structure so that when there's music on, well, she'll deal with music being on. Maybe someone else will be able to be tough where I am squishy, a little detached where I am hyper-attached, a little more focused on group dynamics than on fulfilling the every whim of this budding little dictator.

Maybe this could be a good thing.


Keeping Track- the Vermont Recap.

A complete, current and horribly impressive list of signs in Zland (*= acquired while in Vermont): water, milk, light, fan, helicopter, dog, eat, all done, more, shoe, book, fish, baby, gentle, phone, hot*, bird*, boat*, cat*, tree*, socks*, hat*, rabbit*, car*, rain*, elephant*

Number of words spoken by Z before we left for Vermont: 2 ("Dada" and "up")

Number of words spoken by Z after we returned from Vermont: uh, none. (I'm trying really hard not to worry about this one).

Inches grown by Z during our 6 weeks in Vermont: 1 and 1/2 (as measured on the board in the laundry room that everyone in my family has measured themselves on for the last 20 years.)

Most ounces of milk drunk by Z in one sitting during her new dairy-and-fruit-only diet: 16.

Number of days it took Z to stop screaming when her cousin Amelia approached her, touched her and shared her toys: about 6 and 1/2.

Number of days cousin A stayed at the lake house: 7.

CBHM's favorite new expression from Z: Whenever I ask her a question (usually of the "where are your shoes?" variety), she'll put one or both palms up and open her eyes big and wide. Now I know exactly what I must look like when I'm asking her questions.

Saddest way you know Daddy has been gone too much: Z hears me say "Daddy" and she signs "phone".

Clearest way to tell your child was born and raised in LA: Z heard the motorboats on the lake and signed "helicopter".

Best way to forget that you actually like living in Southern California: Spend 6 weeks in Vermont, with lush green trees, a cool refreshing lake, happy, nice people who don't lock their cars or homes, and visits from loads of friends and family.

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