Friday, December 13, 2013

There is a serious spoon drum circle in my living room

Merry December, folks!

Although I may be dreaming of warmer weather and beaches, there are certain advantages to living in New England at Christmas time.

People out here love Christmas. And it's gorgeous in the snow. It may get dark early, but that gives you a better opportunity to marvel at your neighbors' fancy lights and decorations...not to mention that tree in the living room.

Ah yes, the tree. Despite the 17 month old chaos dispenser, we decided to brave the arctic tundra know...that farm stand on the corner in search of our festive little gem. Decked it out in lights, mardi gras beads, and a battle axe wielding monkey up top. Because I am a sophisticated adult.

Little man has only mostly destroyed the bottom, and man do I love that smell. I am very late to the thankful party, but here are a few of my favorite (seasonal) things this year...

(1) Daddy-baby dance party time in front of the Christmas tree.

(2) The Mr. reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas in French to the cat...Henry wasn't interested.

(3) Office gingerbread house contest that yield quotes like "I got the sharks" and "I ate the first fire pit."

(4) Finally giving in to my desire to order truly absurd drinks at Starbucks...bring me my double short decaf soy gingerbread latte please.

(5) Boston in lights.

(6) Full family couch party time...including a cat that becomes drastically more friendly when is cold outside.

(7) Wrapping gifts for family near and far.

(8) Watching complete strangers become just a little bit softer, gentler and more humane.

(9) Building family memories of the mundane, like Henry excitedly grabbing a ribbon that I had attached Christmas cards to and swinging it from side to side with all his might.

(10) Hey, it's almost Christmas!

Happy holidays, and may your real or digital Yule logs glow.

Friday, August 9, 2013

I kept it alive for a whole year!

About a month ago, I hit a milestone that is both mundane and extraordinary. Little baby Hankadirk is a baby no more, having reached the magical one year mark when he suddenly becomes somehow less likely to spontaneously combust (or so the internet will tell you...). Yes, despite all of his best efforts, I kept my little darling alive to the start toddler-hood.

We had a sweet little party (in 100 degree weather) that I dutifully decorated with 100,000 hand-stamped hot air balloons like Pinterest told me to (who am I kidding, I don't know how to use Pinterest), I shed a little "my baby is growing up" tear, and he smashed some dutifully homemade cake onto his face and clothes. Truth be told, it was pretty great.

It's all fun and games's just all fun and games.
Now, something about this all got me reminiscing, and lo and behold I remembered my neglected blog. A year in, I am finally starting to realize that I seem to be pretty good at this. My kid is awesome and my family thriving, so something is obviously going right. While I am sure that somemost of that is good old fashioned dumb luck, here is what I have learned in the last year or so. Take in with a grain of salt - as the saying goes, if you have seen one baby, you have baby.

If that one baby is this baby, then you have seen one of the
five most awesome babies ever. It's science.

Being a working mom is just that. You are working. You are a mom. Anybody who tells you otherwise can, in the words of a wise woman I have had the good fortune of getting some clever advice from, just f**k right off. 

In the last year, I have done some fantastically interesting (to me) research, advanced in my career, earned money and forged interesting personal and professional connections. I have also spent more time sitting behind a desk or in airports than I would prefer, and less time playing with my baby. Aforementioned baby has enjoyed the care of his father, his grandmother, and more recently a really fantastic nanny and her one year old son (i.e., his best buddy); he has not suffered because of this. 

There are side eyes, snide/hurtful comments, and even accusations that you are not raising your child. You are, just not the way they think you should (see aforementioned recommendation vis a vis telling them to fuck right off). You may miss firsts.  I was very lucky, and did not.  Those first steps happened in my living room on a Sunday afternoon towards my outstretched arms. That first word was mama (then dada, kitty, duckaduckaduck...which I am still trying to figure out...and wombat). It will hurt to know that you don't really get to be part of the Mommy and Me Mafia that has declared that "evenings and weekends are family time, so events are only held during the day, when moms need support" (yes, that is from the MOMS International manifesto). At the end, none of this matters.

When you are together, you can really be together - enjoying each other with the enthusiasm that absence engenders. As much as I would rather never leave, I know that I will come home, and then we will play. He will have my full attention, and if I need to work late, it will just have to be very late since the interval between close of business and bedtime belongs to him. And you are not a bad person because you have to go to a conference.  

Even working moms have weekends

Anybody who tells you that you won't be able to keep breastfeeding is just being a wet blanket. There are lots of very good reasons why people stop breastfeeding (e.g., personal preference, medical issues, child reaches age 30) but people butting in and telling you that you are not going to be able to because of your professional choices really don't know what they are talking about. And La Leche League should stop trying to scare pregnant women into thinking that it's going to be an excruciating and traumatic experience. It's not that way for everyone, and frankly I don't think that the bullying approach is helpful for people that actually need assistance. My understanding is that some chapters are really quite great, but if your isn't, consider either stepping in to change it or leaving.

Speaking of breastfeeding....guess it's time to cut this short. Peace out.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Henry vs the trees

The Mr. and I have a running joke that the bambino hates trees, mostly because all of his early experiences with them seemed to seriously piss him off.  We would pack up our sleeping angel, drive out to one of the many national parks and nature preserves in the area, and quietly slip him into some sort of baby wearing contraption so that we could take a walk.  We were outside.  We were moving around. IT WAS GLORIOUS.

We escaped the house!
Free at last!
This would work fine for a little while, but once he woke up it was scream o-clock.  The poor little guy would lose it; we're talking sudden transformation into bleating, shrieking little panic machine trying to break all of the glass in the greater Boston area with his rage at the insult of finding himself among those damn trees again. We would stop in our tracks and initiate operation calm the banshee, always fearing that some well-meaning passer by was going to call child services since we were so obviously torturing this poor baby.

One thing was pretty consistent - he was almost always hungry (mind you, this is true in any situation. When in doubt, the baby is hungry), and the one thing that worked was feeding him. Unfortunately, this often meant that we were trapped in one place for a very long time, and any attempts to move after he was fed would risk waking the beast and a return ticket to screamy town.
He's happy again! Now hold still until he turns 18.

We eventually got clever enough to realize that a baby that is always hungry will be happier if he always has access to food, so I just started carrying him and walking around while he nursed.  A new world opened up! We weren't trapped in the car anymore! We weren't constantly in search of a bench or a soft grassy spot! We could just enjoy a day when armed with my little privacy smock (highly recommended if you are nurse-walking since baby may spit out your nipple at an inopportune moment)...or without depending on the occasion, his degree of fussiness, and my attire.

Since then, I have been systematically figuring out how to feed him in every restraint and contraption that we own.  The car seat calls for a pumped bottle (leaning over it, while possible, is really uncomfortable.  I will spare you the picture, but you get the idea).  Sling carriers work okay for this with a little balancing, but the big winner for nurse walking has to be the Baby Bjorn - loosen the straps a little so the little critter is just about boob high and baby can snack away to his hearts content. Throw a nursing cover over the top in polite company, and you won't even have to disturb the little one by putting your shirt back in place when he invariably falls asleep on your milk duds - works like a charm for a sleeping baby and a relaxing walk.

In short, we are back to happy hiking. No panic button required.

Look, ma! Awake and not screaming!


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cincinnati Fats and Other Monikers

There is something about babies that makes giving them nicknames irresistible. It must be a reflex triggered by those exaggerated features, not unlike how we are hard wired to find the little critters cute despite all the midnight howling and diaper we don't eat them when times get tough.

For the Mr and I, this started early on in pregnancy, when our son acquired a collection of monikers. We called him by whatever fruit the internet told us approximated his size that week, from poppyseed to watermelon, and he and I together often became a single nicknamed unit such as "bananamama" or "the onion-wife complex." The Mr. is good at nicknames anyways, so these sometimes got a little more elaborate and nonsensical, like "chickadizalope." Once we found out that he was he and we started to contemplate names, we tried different ones on for size, but often called him by the top candidates of "Dr. Mantis Toboggan" or "Megatron."

Then he was born, and all nicknaming hell broke loose.  He became "Truffle Pig," "Wild Man" or "Mr. Woo" when rooting; "Raptor Baby" or "Gremlin" when making those particular baby noises that make me think he has  a future as a Foley artist; "Fuss Master," "Lord Fussypants" or "Wassamattahyou" when upset; and generally "Cincinnatti Fats" because the Mr. decided one day that he was our little river boat gambler and should be named accordingly..which is the obvious choice when you look at that face:

He is clearly thinking about river boat gambling.  

Then there are the random ones, like "Boogie Nights," "Little Man," "Enzomatic," "Munstie," "Enzolicious," "Chunky Monkey," "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," "Milky Face," "Buddy"'s really a long list. 

I'm not sure if every baby ends up getting called quite as many things as our little guy, but it seems likely - extremely formal and systematic research (i.e. my randomly posting something this one time on a forum of some of the most fantastic moms out there and glancing through the responses) suggests that I'm not alone in this nicknaming urge, and that popular choices involve "monkey," "buddy," "monster," references to food/milk/poop, and little variations of baby's name.  Also, it's fun to describe behaviors (so go ahead and call that baby "Motorboat!"). 

I just hope that my little guy will eventually learn his name...which might be tough if we never use it.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Counting down to life as a working mom

It's after midnight.  My husband and 5 week old baby boy are sound asleep.  In defiance of the basic law stating that all new parents teeter precariously on the edge of narcolepsy, I can't seem to follow their example and switch off.  Instead, I am watching the clock as I edge ever closer to something that absolutely terrifies me: the end of maternity leave.  

I actually love my job.  Drug/vaccine safety research on large administrative databases may not have been what my child self said she wanted to do when she grew up, but I think it makes me a hell of a lot happier than being a cruise boat dancer...and it's hard to find work as a magic cat. I have great co-workers, a fantastic boss, and work that is challenging and engaging. I probably would have had a slightly less stressful pregnancy if I wasn't working on a research study of birth defects the whole time, but its the kind of work that gives you a great sense of purpose.

Unfortunately, a great job does not equal great maternity leave, and I will be back at work on the day that my son turns 6 weeks old.  [Insert canned tirade about how America talks a big game about family values, but legislation that actually supports families is way behind...out of 178 nations, only Swaziland and Papua New Guinea join us in offering zero paid maternity leave...just read this instead: grumble].

I count my blessings that I get a partial paycheck for these 6 weeks via short term disability, and these have been some of the happiest weeks of my life.  I wouldn't have guessed that some of the happiest weeks of my life would have involved so much feces and crying...but they have, and I'm okay with that. Nothing can compare to smelling the top of my baby's head, watching him slowly gain control of said head, and holding this little creature that spent the better part of a year inside my abdomen. I thought I would be drained and exhausted, but I'm not - I don't mind the middle of the night wakings, and I actually still seem to have time for things that I love to do, like elaborate cooking shenanigans with the Mr.

I know that returning to work doesn't mean that I am never going to get these moments again. I know that he's going to be fine, but it still hurts to look at my beautiful, vulnerable child and know that I will in all likelihood miss his first steps, first laugh...possibly even his first words.  I'm joining millions of moms in this position, and while I accept that it's a choice that I've made in favor of financial security, I don't have to like it, and I don't have to pretend that it doesn't keep me up at night.  

Fortunately, I don't have too much time to waste worrying...after all, the baby is now awake and hungry.