The phantom baby

When I was pregnant with Zoe, I stared incessantly at pregnant women and moms on the street. It suddenly seemed they were everywhere. I hid behind my sunglasses and studied their every move. How did hugely pregnant women navigate in narrow store aisles? Did they ever knock anything over?

Mostly I was fascinated with moms. How did they do it? How did they carry their groceries while juggling a baby on their hip? How did they handle it when they were mid-bite at a restaurant and their baby started to fuss in the high chair? How would I do it, if I had a baby right now on MY hip, in MY lap, in MY backseat? Most importantly, how did the moms look? Happy? Stressed? Deeply content? Filled with regret about how their fun-filled weekends were now shot to hell in a pastel handbasket with leaky bottles stuck in the side pockets?

I find myself studying moms again, this time the ones who juggle more than one kid. I like to watch the happy ones the best, of course. Like the one who was crossing the street today with two sweet, sweet faced girls, holding their mom's hands and glowing in their crisp white linen dresses. It made me want another girl. Preferably birthed, nursed, weaned, cleaned and raised lovingly to age 6, please.

Then, last week, I spent a good five minutes watching a mom drag her prostrate tantruming toddler by his teddy bear backpack/leash while she tried to stick a pacifier in the wailing mouth of the baby Bjorned to her chest. It was, in a word, HORRIBLE. I wanted to reach out to her but I was stuck dumb in my seat, staring, furtively glancing at Zoe to make sure she was still obliviously playing with a train set. Several times since then, when Zoe's been falling apart at her seams and I am able to just scoop her up in my arms and move her, give all my attention and creativity to her, I imagine how I would handle it with a screaming baby attached to my chest with needs of his/her own. When I have just put Zoe down for her nap and am leaving her room, bound for a few hours of freedom, I imagine having a baby in the next room who needs a nursing/burping/diaper change/endless bouncing on that da#@ physio ball. I imagine having TWO crying needy faces in front of me, instead of the one I know and love (the one that is often MORE THAN ENOUGH to push me over the edge from time to time).

I sit here on my couch, listening to Zoe's sound machine whooshing through the monitor and I imagine having TWO monitors to listen to.

How does this work, anyway?


Avocado grinder, no mayo, extra pickles, OMG NOM NOM NOM

We now interrupt this regularly scheduled program ("All Nausea, All The Time!") to bring you an intense pregnancy craving, with dubious nutritional value of course:

I took a picture of the "after. It was pretty gross looking so I think I'll spare you. Just picture a few specs left, with grease and avocado smears all over the paper and the rest of it ALL IN MY BELLY.

I'm sure I'll be back to dry toast by dinner but still! Appetite!


If I had a hammer

I have a head cold. And a toddler with a head cold, which leaves her pissy but with energy (NOT a good combination, in case you were wondering). This is totally unfair. To deal with it all while queasily pregnant is just kicking a girl while she's down. Zoe 's well enough to bounce off the walls at home and to go to daycare on her daycare days (No vomit? No fever? No oozing boils? She's good to go!) but not well enough to mix with the stay at home moms and kids at our usual home-day haunts. OY. Today I resorted to opening a bag of cotton balls and letting her loose with bowls and cups and spoons. She spent over an hour happily playing by herself with these. SCORE! Now, of course, I didn't quite think about the inevitable fuzz on my carpet. Vacuum, I know you've been enjoying this hiatus as much as I have but I'm afraid your rest time is over. Here I come!

Yesterday, while desperately looking for something to occupy Zoe, I decided to set up the stools we bought from Ikea recently. I had been waiting for CG to okay them and to set them up himself. He is, after all, the dedicated handy man around here. But the natives were restless and I was out of other ideas so I opened them up and proceeded to bang in the legs with a hammer. Zoe was so excited about it all, jumping up and down and yelling "Yay Mommy! Mommy fixing SOOLS!". I was shocked to realize that this was the first time that Zoe had seen me do something like this.

This made me so sad.

While I'm not exactly mechanically gifted by any stretch, I have long cultivated a 'handy woman' persona. When I went off to college, my dad sent me off with my very own red toolbox, filled with hammers, nails, screwdrivers, wrenches, you name it. I eventually became well known on my hall as the girl who could hang your Monet prints and help you turn off your radiator. I loved that. My tool box came with me to San Francisco where I was, once again, the handy one in my house of four women. By then I had a cordless drill and had filled in doorways, hung light fixtures and painted rooms by myself. I felt pretty handy.

Enter CG. The handiest person known to man. His skills include plumbing, electrical, and woodworking. He's got more tools than anyone else I know (except my dad. Paging Dr. Freud!) He's installed dishwashers, built furniture, saved us thousands of dollars in plumbing bills and tried to teach our daughter the basics of electrical circuits.
He does ALL the fixing around here. I have quickly and easily deferred all handy type activities to him. He'll be able to do it faster, better and easier than I can, so why bother.

Why bother? I need to bother so that Zoe can watch her mom hammer in some stool legs and yell "yay Mommy!". So that she doesn't assume that Daddy (or a man, in general) is the only one who can fix things around here. So that she wants to pick up her own hammer one day.


The sideless crib and other insanities

When I went to pick Zoe up from her crib on Saturday morning, she greeted me by throwing her leg COMPLETELY over the side of her crib and attempting to demonstrate her apparent new found ability to plummet to certain death jump out. So after her nap that day, without much debate, we took the side off, converting it to a toddler bed. Or a gymnastic launching platform, I'm not sure which.

Saturday night seemed to be no problem. She stayed in her bed and babbled herself to sleep. There were no five state crime sprees or juggling of fiery knives or even sneaking from the liquor shelf, though when we checked on her part way through the night she was curled up on the floor without a pillow or blanket in sight. In the morning, she was mysteriously back in her bed, babbling and singing for a while before calling "Mommm-MY!" clearly for her dad to get up.

We had her nap in a pack-n-play at our friends' beach house on Sunday
(gratuitous picture interlude: trying out the boogie board!)

so we didn't face the nap issue until yesterday.

OOO boy.

I had barely put her in her bed and closed the door before I heard her feet hit the floor. Luckily she was not interested in coming out and bugging me playing but she also didn't seem too interested in napping and since she normally naps for 2-3 hours I wasn't prepared for napless days so suddenly. I spent an hour going in to stop her jumps and tumbles off the bed onto her pillows and stuffed animals that she had assembled on the floor. I finally had to settle for her reading books to her friends which eventually resulted in her falling asleep.

These transitions to Big Girl things just keeps going, doesn't it? Next thing you're going to tell me is that she won't always want to hang out with me.

(Where did my baby go? Oh well, I guess there IS another one coming down the pike. Now I know why people just keep having babies!)


The weight of her

I had to take the challenge of writing about my favorite part of Zoe's early days. It is, after all, a baby shower for one of my favorite bloggers.

Plus there are some great prizes up for grabs. Mostly, it's a good opportunity for me to reminisce about a time, Zoe's first few weeks, that I want to remember, and remember fondly, as I get more and more used to the idea of going through it all again next spring. (Lord help me.)

In the weeks right after Zoe's birth, it got very warm here in Pasadena. I was reluctant to turn on the AC, preferring to sit and sweat, with the warm, moist weight of tiny Zoe against my chest.
I studied the swirls of hair on her face that seemed to join her eyebrows to her hairline and wondered about her future need for forehead waxing. I listened to her snurffly breath, uneven and raspy and wondered when she would suffer her first cold. I cradled her against me in a sling and tried to wrap my brain around the thought that these floppy, spazzy limbs would some day run and grab and throw and write and hug.

I tried so hard not to wish for what she would be. To just sit with who she was, at that very moment.

I held her so close so often then. There seemed no other choice. She was another appendage. In the late night hours, I walked with her snug in a sling, singing nonsense 80's Bananarama to lull her to sleep, singing "It's a cruel, CRUEL cruel sum-mer" to keep me from falling asleep on my feet. In the dark early, early morning hours, I bounced on a ball with her in my arms, every rhythmic bounce bringing us both closer to dreamland.

These days she is so separate, even when it seems she's all over me, it's a crazed, flailing, gone-in-60-seconds moment. And those days of holding her endlessly, though it seemed it would last forEVER, are long, long gone.

If I close my eyes and concentrate, I can still remember the weight of her.... right... HERE.


Media + pregnancy = INSANITY

Perhaps I should not be allowed to watch television these days (though with my delicate [read: NAUSEATED] condition, I can't seem to do much else). I cannot be trusted to watch or read ANYTHING right now without becoming weepy, enraged, terrified or all three at once.

The Let California Ring commercial? Big sloppy wet tears. May we all know true love and commitment.

Oprah- If she isn't covering child predators (F you very much for the new insomnia fodder, Oprah), she's covering "dry drowning". Zoe will never swim or play in or near a pool EVER AGAIN.

I'm a crazy person lately about political coverage and have to stop reading it all. Smallest deal but the one that's sticking in my hormonal craw: mention of Gov. Palin as"anti-abortion". WE ARE ALL ANTI-ABORTION, PEOPLE. Do you really think pro-choice people sit around like "yay for abortion!"?!?! Abortion is a choice that women feel compelled to make for many reasons and we all should work together to make them safe, legal and rare. The difference between those of us who are for and against the RIGHT to an abortion is just how safe and legal it should be. Can we all just agree that rare is every one's goal? And that maybe reasonably appropriate sex education can help us meet that goal?? (Oy. Don't get me started. Please excuse me while I wipe the foam from my mouth.)

And then Catherine Newman has to go and make me sob, like only she can. Apparently it's not even safe for me to read blogs at the moment.


Week by clueless week

week 1:
Clueless But Hopeful Mama: "Hey CG, we said we'd start trying this month. Do you want to start really trying?"
Chic Geek: "Uh. What do you think?"
CBHM: "Well, I calculated it out and the due date, IF we were to get pregnant during this month's fertile period, would be almost exactly Zoe's birthday. I was thinking maybe she would appreciate it if, while creating a sibling that will hog her parents' attention, we also don't totally usurp her birthday."
CG: "Okay, let's wait till next month. Wow, that's still kinda crazy."
CBHM: "I KNOW, right? I wonder how long it'll take this time? I mean, we could be trying for awhile. And I don't know what happened last pregnancy but I'm going to work so hard on still working out and taking those fish oil capsules and eating good proteins and vegetables. I mean, I know I was queasy and tired but I just need to push through it, y'know?"

week 2-3:
OOPS (Ah well, what are the chances, anyway?)

weeks 3-4:
La la la la la la......
"Mango margaritas? YUM!"
"Hey let's sit in the 102 degree hot tub while we listen to the DNC speeches on NPR!"
"Oh my shoulder is acting up, I'm going to pop a few ibuprofen. Again."
La la la la la la......

week 5:
Hmmm...... where is my period, anyway....

week 6:
*white stick shows two lines*
"Well, at least I'm feeling okay..."

week 7:

*green, sickly feeling. ALL DAY.*
*awful metallic taste in my mouth*
*ginormous, achy boobs.* (Okay fine, they're still "A" cups but STILL. HUGE. And ACHY.)
*BLOATED belly* (When is it kosher to start with the maternity pants, anyway?)
*current gag-inducing smells include: Sweet Dog's breath (from across the room), my hair (if I washed it longer than 10 minutes ago), the open refrigerator, CHEESE, the dog's food (from 10 feet away), Zoe's sweaty feet after being in crocs all day.*
* "Fish oil capsules? ARE YOU CRAZY?"

today, week 8:
Inside me, there is another heartbeat, and, apparently a lima bean.

Do I look freaked? 'Cause I'm a little freaked.


Where I was.

I was lying in my bed in Albany (California, not New York), slowly waking up on a Tuesday. I heard the phone ring. Several times. I ignored it. My then-fiance CG and I... consorted... and then got dressed for our days, me for a dance class in San Francisco, he for work in his graduate student lab. I was running late for my class and hastily checked the phone messages, all from my mom in New Jersey telling me to turn on the TV and watch the news, that something terrible had happened. We flicked it on as we gobbled our cereal standing up, dumbfounded and uncomprehending as towers burned on the screen.

I was late.

I got in my car and drove to class.

On EMPTY freeways.

I shared the Bay Bridge, normally full with almost waning rush hour craziness at 9 am, with TWO other cars. What was really happening here? I turned on NPR and heard the newscasters' familiar voices talking about "the tragedy in New York and Washington".

THE WHAT? I was so confused.

I drove to class.

At class, there were 10 of us either too clueless to understand what had just happened or running so late they didn't even turn on the radio, not nearly the usual 40 or so dancers jockeying for position. The teacher, my favorite teacher, announced that we should not let the terrorists win by stopping our usual routines. So we had class.

We danced.

Afterward, I sat in my car and called all my clients. No one wanted a massage or Pilates session that day. My rehearsal was canceled. I was in the city and too freaked to cross the bridge to go home. I called a friend who lived nearby and we camped out in her living room all day, watching images of towers burning, towers falling.

People falling.

It was many days before life felt normal again.

It will be many years before September 11th feels like just another day.


Excuse me while I cover all my furniture in plastic

When I went to pick up Zoe from School on Friday, we stayed and played for a while before I realized we needed to stop at the grocery store on the way home. I gave her bottom a little pat to check on the status of her diaper and felt.... nothing. NO DIAPER. It seems she had shown an interest in wearing underwear (more than half the kids in her class are now potty trained) and the staff gave her a pair to wear.

Of old, stretched-out, STAINED boy's briefs.

I was a little grossed out and more than a little annoyed, that they hadn't asked me, that they put some random, old, emergency undies on her. That I didn't get to be the one to put her in her first pair of underwear. That the first pair she wore had an escape hatch for an appendage she doesn't have.

I don't know why this whole thing bothers me but it does. We'd been talking about the orange (her favorite color: "ORANGERAGE!") underwear we would buy together and how the very first time she wore underwear we would be together and celebrate. I know it's silly, but on Friday I felt like something had been taken away from me.

I don't often feel like Zoe's teachers overstep their bounds. I usually like the balance of power (ie. they are usually deferential to me and CG, which is, I think, as it should be.). But I've heard them talking a few times about other children with a tone (or words) that suggests that they know the child better than the parents do. When this has happened, most of me thinks: they should step OFF. But the small, petty part of me thinks: well, maybe they do. Maybe since THAT child is at school 5 FULL days a week and MY child is ONLY here 3 partial days a week I AM SUPERIOR IN ALL WAYS AND MY CHILD WILL BE A SUPERSTAR, the teachers have more time with the child than the parents, at least during the week.

(This time-with-child score-keeping is such an ugly, petty, stupid [DID I MENTION PETTY? UGLY??] part of my brain. Can we just pretend I didn't write it? Think it?)

This weekend, I wrote an email to Zoe's lead teacher and she was apologetic but told me "all the teachers feel Zoe is ready for underwear". Well, that's just dandy isn't it? (And perhaps you could have told me BEFORE you put underwear on her?!) Because I don't think that ANY of Zoe's teachers are going to be willing to come clean out her carseat or have my carpets steam cleaned or do my laundry. What if I'M not ready? Personally, I'd like her to be able to walk into the bathroom, pull down her pants, get on the potty, go, wipe herself, flush, and wash her hands without any prompting/tantrums/extreme dawdling/forcible hand washing and I think we are months, perhaps YEARS away from that.

Whatever, teachers. Yesterday, I pulled my ostrich head out of the sand and we went to Target and got us some tiny undies. Twenty pairs to be exact. Because I have a feeling there will be quite a few pairs that I just don't feel like dealing with, EVER AGAIN. Hopefully that won't happen to the one lone pair of "ORANGERAGE!" undies I could find.


Unintended consequences

Parenting Tip #1: To decrease tantrums and ease transitions, give your toddler 5, 2, and 1 minute warnings before switching gears. Use this often to get them acclimated and closely watch the clock to stay true to the actual time so that your toddler begins to get a sense of how long those increments actually are.

Example: "Zoe, we're going to be leaving the park in 5 minutes!", "2 minutes!", "1 minute!", "Okay! Time to go!".

Intended Consequence: We've mostly had great success with this one. Even when she's been mighty unhappy to leave a favorite activity, consistently using this warning system for a few months reduced almost all transition tantrums to moderate squawking. She knows that once the countdown begins, we mean it.

Unintended Consequence: Unfortunately, she tries to implement this herself, at the least desirable time, with the usual toddler understanding of how time works.

(I observe the telltale stare followed by a small grunt.)
Me: "Quick Zoe, let's go sit on the potty!"
Zoe: "In FIVE minutes!"
Me: "Nope. Right now, darlin'."
Zoe: "In TWO minutes!"
Me: "No, sweetheart, NOW!"
(eau de poo begins to waft throughout the room)
Zoe: "FIVE minutes?"

Parenting Tip #2: When asking a question of your toddler, prompt them to respond politely by finishing your question and then adding '"Yes, please" or "No, thank you"?'. Remind them to thank people when appropriate.

Example: Me: "Zoe, would you like some more spelt, amaranth broccoli loaf? 'Yes, please' or 'No, thank you'?"
Zoe: "Yes, please!"

(hahaha! AS IF. The only food that receives a "yes please" would be something in the cheese or cookie categories.)

Intended Consequence: Zoe is still a bit shy with others and often forgets to thank people when they give her things. However, with us she has done very well and answers us about half the time with either "yes, please" or "no, thank you" UNPROMPTED. *pats clueless but hopeful self on back*

Unintended Consequence: Zoe has become the politeness police. After sitting down for lunch yesterday, Zoe looked at me thoughtfully and said "Thank you for making lunch, Mommy". Which was so lovely and heartwarming and sweet and-oh wait- she wasn't done... "Say thank you, Daddy." she instructed, looking at CG, who, incidentally, helped me make said lunch and deserved some thanks of his own.

Sheesh, be careful what you wish for and all that.


Bi Coastal

We are home from a few weeks on the East Coast and it seems we all are still adjusting. On the way home from the LA airport, Zoe kept asking to see cows and horses and didn't seem to appreciate our response: "Sorry, babe, no cows or horses here in LA. But LOOK! Big buildings! The LA "River"! Graffiti on the overpasses!". And one of her favorite games since being home is pretending to put bug spray on us, which, after looking at cows and horses, was apparently the most salient feature of our trip.

Being on vacation at my parents' house in Vermont was like being in a messed up time warp, even more so than being in my childhood home in New Jersey. Hanging in the hall bathroom is a wood "carving" I waled away on in 7th grade Wood Shop. Zoe slept under the watchful, cheek-obscured gaze of me and my brother circa 197something.
The rickety red wooden steps to the dock, the view from the screen porch
and the moldy, freakish 70's children's books in the kids bookshelf

all take me further back than my memory banks normally store. It was a strangely lovely "This is your life" kind of feeling.

But the strangest feeling was that I was truly coming home. After 12 years in California- and the acquisition of some SERIOUSLY thin skin when it comes to cold weather- I was struck by how much the east coast feels like home. Maybe it's just revisiting the memories and the cabins where I spent every summer as a kid. But I also think the lifestyle is just different when people don't need to spend tons of precious water keeping their lawns alive (this summer, they worried about them flooding away), seasons wield undeniable power, blue-green hills roll on for miles and homes are almost always at least 100 years old. I found myself seriously wondering when and if and how we could move east.

(And look! The adorable grandmother with child photos! On a lush green hillside, after a humidity-drenched, ultra-bug-infested hike!)

Sounds like we should move east, right? Unfortunately it's not that simple. On this trip, CG told me he feels himself to be essentially a Westerner. He was born and bred in Arizona where the expansive views stretch for miles, navigation is based on where the big mountain is and the land is dry and arid. Vermont is beautiful, he says, but it doesn't quite feel like home.

This east/west difference between us is not new but it IS much more important lately as we face big decisions about where and how we want to raise our family.

When we got married, I signed on to a life path that is no longer our reality. At the time we met, CG was a PhD student and wanted to be a professor. This meant we would eventually be moving to whatever locale had a post doc (which we did, moving here, to Pasadena, three years ago) and then moving again for whatever tenure-track job was open that year in his field. He is now, after much tortured soul searching and with one year left on his post-doctoral fellowship, disillusioned with the life of a professor and beginning to look outside of academia. Our old reality meant that we never had to face the East/West divide between us. It wouldn't have mattered when the only job he could get that year would have been at a university in Idaho or Tennessee or some other place I've never been or thought to live. (No offense Idahoans and Tennesseans. I'm sure it's really lovely there.)

Now we are left charting new terrain. How do we chose where to put down roots and raise a family? Do I sulk and whine and try to bully him into moving to the East Coast when I'm not even sure that's what I want (and if I could survive the winters?!)? Do we try to pick a place that fits our social ideals (progressive activism, good farmer's markets, environmentally conscious lifestyles, walkable downtowns) and then find jobs? Do we still allow his career path to decide our locale, choosing where to be solely based on what job is the best fit for him? What about my career path (such as it is)? Do we move to be closer to family (and if so, which one?)? Do we move back to the San Francisco Bay Area, where we fell in love, where a group of mutual friends still reside? Do we stay in Pasadena to maximize both the few real, hard-fought connections we've made over three years, as well as the dwindling value of our tiny but sweet, sweet house and hope CG can find a job when his fellowship is over?

Do we value cultural diversity, an urban environment and warm weather more? Or do "real" seasons and proximity to more family have a bigger pull?

All this makes my head hurt. We both want to put down permanent roots. We want to invest in our neighbors and a neighborhood and a home and a community knowing that the growth and depth of those relationships will pay off. My somewhat transient life was novel and exciting in my twenties. It is seeming less and less so as I get older.

While in Vermont, I spent my little reading time with "In the Shelter of Each Other" by Mary Pipher (the author of "Reviving Ophelia"). Pipher's ideas and opinions on how to protect and nurture our families in a uniquely challenging time really resonated with me as I watched Zoe play in the lake and explore the farmer's market and walk through a tiny "downtown". What I want more than anything is to make sure she grows up in a community that we are excited for her to enter, rather than one we feel we must battle against and protect her from.

Is that too much to ask?

Is that even possible?

Blog Designed by: NW Designs