Wednesday, February 28, 2007

48 hours

At this hour, two years ago, I had been at home in active labor for forty-eight hours. After spending the second 24 hours in bed trying to keep contractions minimal on my midwife's advice--she thought, correctly, that I needed to rest after the first day with no baby--labor kicked into high gear again.

Here is a funny labor story: we were trying to be super-prepared homebirthers, so we froze some Recharge to have Recharge ice chips. When my doula arrived, she got her stuff together to wipe my face with washcloths using ice cubes from our freezer. I thought the prickly-skin-on-your-cheeks-feeling was just a weird hormonal effect of labor until A. went looking for the Recharge cubes.

Puppy Pie in a Poopy Potty

Oh, yes, the title gives it all away. What toddler drama we had.

It began while I was scrubbing away the bath crayon residue from the last bath in preparation for the imminent next bath. Puppy Pie usually sleeps with Z. on her day-care cot at nap time but on Monday she staged a swift rescue mission to the nap room and since then he has been home for R & R. Z. was holding him in one elbow and The Camel in the other, supervising the bath preparations. She announced her need for the potty. Lo and behold, a rare success, poop in the potty. Poop flushed, tushy wiped, potty wiped, I decided to get Z. into the bath before getting out the toilet brush for the potty bowl. In our house, the toilet brush is a temptation best kept on the very very fringes of toddler attention. This was a miscalculation. The bath was not yet run, and this gave Z. a window in which to decide Puppy Pie needed the potty.

Mama was having a cranky day. Mama is having pre-Z.'s birthday labor flashbacks, as you might guess from other entries, and Mama had PMS (Mama now has cramps). Mama shouted. Mama snatched Puppy Pie while Z. was still shifting from admiration for Puppy Pie on the potty to stoicism in the face of a shouting Mama. Z. requested Puppy Pie's return: "Puppy Pie?" Mama, gripping Puppy Pie firmly by the head and ears only, holding him a safe distance from all human and canine bodies in the vicinity, explained why this was not going to happen. Z.'s stoicism dissolved into bereft, red-faced, bawling, hiccuping tears when she found out Puppy Pie was going to the washing machine. The kind of tears you expect from a kid on the first day of day care. "Puh-uh-uhp-Puh-Pup-pyyy Paaaiiiiieee!" Mommy left the dishes to see what the ruckus was about. Puppy Pie was escorted to the washing machine by the entire Rhyming family. Z. pleaded for clemency as the door was closed. Her arms were outstretched. Tears did not abate, even with references to Knuffle Bunny. She sat in my lap and watched the washer fill and I pretended to see Puppy Pie in the suds a couple of times. Once in the bath, she forgot all about it.

This morning Puppy Pie's emergence from the dryer was heralded by all. (Okay, Mommy was already at work, but we know she would have heralded it with us if she'd been there.) When asked whether she wanted to bring Puppy Pie back to day care, Z. opined that Puppy Pie should "stay athome."

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Nineteen hours

At this hour on this day two years ago, I had been at home in active labor for 19 hours.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Play Dates

Yesterday, we had a playdate with a toddler Z. met on the street a few weeks ago. At the beginning of that day's shopping expedition, we parked our car in front of a house that had a passle of diggers in the front yard. We admired the diggers and went on our way. We returned just as the diggers' owner and his mom were coming home. We said how much we admired the diggers, and Digger Mom invited us into the yard to play with them. The kids played together wonderfully, and we exchanged phone numbers. Z. has been talking about it from time to time since then, so when she brought it up again on Saturday I found the phone number, called, and--instant gratification!--we had our play date Sunday.

It went more beautifully than I could have hoped. I knew it was going to be good when Digger Dad came along--dad coming along is a good sign--but then it turned out I actually knew Digger Dad from when he and I walked our dogs together when we both lived downtown a lifetime ago. His best dog-owning friends were also my best dog-owning friends, all of us having the same breed of dog, so even though human social interaction in the dog park is kind of circumscribed there actually had been a circle of people there, so we had a little reunion.

The kids painted together and then ventured outside in the snow to dig, which was the passion that originally brought them together, after all. Sharing was seamless and the only tears came when Z.'s hands got cold from not wearing mittens in order to dig better. She was so thrilled by the whole event that even after processing it all through dinner and pre-bed preparations, it still took her three hours to get to sleep.

This was Z.'s second official play date. The first one was at the house of a brother and sister who are respectively one year younger and one year older than Z. The older sister was in Z.'s infant-toddler class last year and the younger brother is in her class now. Z. was enamored of the sister last spring and was quite forlorn when she came back in the fall and found the sister had moved up to the "transitional" room (older toddlers, no infants). However, our older dog also died the evening before school started so Z.'s forlorn-ness had many sources. (Yes, the same dog from my dog-park days.)

The brother-sister play date was my first chance to see how these things work. Z. loved their basement play room and from her perspective it was a wonderful day to be repeated often. From my perspective it was a reckless encounter with a different lifestyle that left me off-balance at best. I felt discouraged by how clean their house was (they can afford to pay a housekeeper, I cannot afford to pay myself) and impressed both positively and negatively by the kids' rooms.

On the up side, this mom had put a lot of effort into decorating the rooms, she has a great eye, and they looked really wonderful, with many cool things she had found or made. I put a lot of effort into Z.'s clothes so I fully understand the room-decorating impulse even though I have put zero effort into Z.'s room because she doesn't have one. (Z. sleeps in a bed in our room. Some day she'll have her own bedroom on the third floor, but she has to climb stairs more confidently first.)

On the down side, as brother-sister bedrooms they showed a complete investment in the hyper-gendering of babyhood that -- child of the 70's that I am -- I have found shocking since Z.'s impending arrival first sent me to a baby store. At first I was irate that after all the feminist effort put into deconstructing this crap, we're back at the beginning. Girls are offered only pink, purple, and flowers, while boys get various activities and animals. Dinosaurs playing sports, dogs driving vehicles, that kind of thing. Green and yellow zoo animals are available for parents who don't know what they're having, but this option disappears once they grow out of the layette stuff. After that it's just flowers, flowers, flowers and cartoon butterflies--nothing active, just prettiness. Then I spent more time on the boys' side, poaching, and realized that even though the appliques were better and the boys had more colors to choose from, the palette was somber and dull. Navy. Forest. Burgundy. Dirt brown. Maybe a dash of orange. Just like grown-up men's clothes, the boy clothes are a better value (both sturdier and bigger), but their cut is blocky and purely functional. How deadening to be told from birth that you should wear dark, ugly clothes. I read a piece in Brain, Child about a boy who wanted beautiful things to wear and my heart broke for those little boys who want beautiful things and are told they aren't allowed to be beautiful.

What are we afraid of? That our kids will turn out queer?

That's pretty much where I wind up every time I get on this topic, and that's pretty much the thought I was trying not to have while I was a guest in this other mom's house. I don't actually believe she's homophobic, but it's just better not to be thinking that way. Then there was an incompatibility in feeding routines (Z. comes home and snacks, then plays until regular grown-up dinner, these kids play and then eat an early kid-only dinner) and I just wound up feeling like the whole visit was awkward. Z. had a marvelous time. We returned the invitation but the brother got roseola so their visit to us has been indefinitely postponed. It's birthday season now (brother, sister, Z., and two other kids from their cohort all have birthdays either last week or this week) so I'm off the hook a little longer.

Full of Bagels

We were home from day care, stopped in the car.

"Z., are you ready to get out?"

"No, I'm not ready."

"Let's get out, let's go get a snack."


"Yes, at the cafe, or the bookstore."


"We could get a cookie at the cafe, or a bagel at the bookstore."

"There's the bookstore, with bagels in it!"

Friday, February 23, 2007

Hi Mom!

This is for anyone who might have clicked on my url (now that I'm giving it out) but not been able to post--I have now changed the settings from the blogspot default of only giving blogspot members permission. Apologies to my mother if she didn't try to post, but I thought she was the one most likely to be in this position.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Three-Hour Naps

Z. is home today--a frequent occurrence. This time she has either a sty or a small, infected scratch in the corner of her eye. (She did actually scratch the corner of her eye the night before last.) So I called for a same-day appointment. What I love about our pediatrician is that he took an interest in which it was, but having no more luck than I did in figuring it out, he prescribed hot compresses for either situation. Hot compresses! Don't you think people have been using hot compresses as long as there have been people?

We had the traditional post-doctor trip to the toy store. I was going to skip it because this was such a non-traumatic visit, but then thought no, if she catches on that she only gets to go if there's a tantrum there will be a tantrum every time. Mission accomplished, we returned to base. She is sleeping curled around a new Uglydoll mini, and I have another couple of hours to read. At the beginning of the year I had told myself that I would pay myself for reading, since reading huge volumes of print is actually necessary to doing my job, yet I feel guilty doing it. Well, the year has not yet been so bountiful that I can pay myself to do anything, but I am striving not to feel guilty about carving out time to read, even when other things demand attention. The staffer who was out on parental leave is now back, too, which eases the schedule a bit.

I just started The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion's account of her grief in the wake of her husband's sudden death while her daughter was hospitalized in an induced coma. Her daughter recovers, collapses, and eventually dies. This is a book I could not have read when it first came out in the fall of 2005--Z. had been hospitalized after her birth and it was much, much too fresh. Now I'm finding it both elegantly written and like an encounter with someone else who has traveled to the same land I've visited, only Didion has spent much, much more time there.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Rhetorical questing

Z. has recently taken up the formula "Mama, are you ... [blank]?" Usually the rest of the sentence is "Mama, are you ... alldone eating?" in hopes that we will be able to move on to the next stage of the day, which Z. always hopes will be "readabook." But she's adapting it! This morning we had a little narrative as she sat on the bed and ate her pre-breakfast cheddar bunnies while I got dressed.

"Mama, are you ... putting on lotion?"

"No, Z., I'm scratching my elbow."

"Mama, are you ... scratching your elbow?"

"Yes, Z., I'm scratching my elbow." (Mama finishes scratching and throws pajamas on bed next to Z.)

"Mama, did you ... throw your pants?"

"Yes, Z., I threw my pants."

(Z. pats pants) "Those are Mama's pajamas!"


We had a very out-of-kilter weekend. A. went to New York to see a play Friday night because she missed a funeral on Monday. The play was Arsenic and Old Lace in community theater, and the family friend whose funeral she missed was a theater person: her daughter was in the show on Friday, and it was a kind of homage for her to do it right now. Over the past few weeks, A. and I have both missed funerals we wished we had been able to attend, so I knew how important this was for her. It really wasn't a big deal to have Z. on my own for a day (especially since A. cooked ahead for us!) but it was very strange having shabbat without A. We were very glad to go downtown to the train station to meet her.

On Sunday my parents came for a quick visit. They were here less than 24 hours and miraculously they didn't arrive until after Z.'s nap, so we had 3 hours to clean the kitchen and foyer. (Yes, Z. naps for three hours--which has its pros and cons.) I don't feel like I saw much of my folks, since I had to work for a couple hours on Monday despite the holiday, but boy do I feel satisfied by the cleaning. Our house usually looks like a disaster area, which I think contributes mightily to my constant feelings of overwhelm.

Yesteday Z. and I managed to hit four stores after day care without a meltdown: hardware, beads, WaWa, Staples. The whole round of shopping was less than an hour and a half. This is a record.

Zenobia update

Woodlanders was happy to explain to me that they only ship plants between October and March, while they're dormant. Following their recommendation I potted my plants up and put them in a cold spot indoors--in my case, my living room, which is frigid. With luck they'll be fine.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Last Frost Date

The average last frost date in Philadelphia is April 14. So why did Woodlanders send me two dormant dusty zenobias on February 14th, in the middle of a sleet storm? And what am I supposed to do with them in the meantime? I would ask for suggestions, but that would only make sense if someone were reading.

This morning I walked Z. to school--only four blocks, but long, cold blocks. I admit that I normally wimp out and drive in inclement weather but today that meant digging out the car and giving up my space. Parking on this block is always tight and can get downright nasty in the snow, so even though the state of the sidewalks meant the stroller was out I left the car in place.

It was Z's first time wearing her snow overalls, which she liked. Then I put her winter coat on over an Aran cardigan that I made for her last year but which won't actually fit her until next year. The effect was very round. Thus armored, we ventured forth. Yesterday was so nasty that she hadn't been outside, so her first look of snow-dazzlement was a nice parental moment. Then the walking began. She was game for the first block but after that I had to cajole every sidewalk square out of her and carried her at least half of the distance.

Oddly, today is quieter in the store than yesterday, and quieter than usual. I guess everyone's back at work.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Snow Day

Z. and A. were home from their respective schools today, both full of glee. We had a weekend-y breakfast with no food dumping and I headed off to open the store late. Late b/c my staff was snowed in and I hadn't expected to be on the register today, but I don't think we missed much. No one's out early on a snow day.

Staffing the store alone was actually kind of calm and centering. It's my brainchild, but I don't often get it to myself. My feet are tired from all the standing and it would have been better if I had a real lunch break, but we had more foot traffic than I thought and I managed to get some more office-y tasks off my list even at the register. The customers who did come in were also very cheerful and appreciative. Snow can do that--create a sense of camaraderie and festivity.

Credit where credit is due department: We had a very valiant author who hauled herself up here in the sleet and everything else last night only to have no audience show up, despite the lovely blurb our local weekly gave her. Snow is like that. Her book is really interesting and is worth looking at--all you folks in my non-existent audience should check it out:Erzulie's Skirt by Ana-Maurine Lara.

It's empty so...

Did I mention how impressive and immaculate the bathroom is at the Four Seasons? The wastebaskets, which are hardwood with plastic liners, were spotless at 5pm. Z. looked at one and pronounced "It's empty so we can push it." Do you think that was the desired effect?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

First post

Welcome to my first real venture into the blogosphere. I've been reading some mom blogs and have been feeling more and more like I would like to join that conversation. It might be good for me. So here I am. I could introduce myself but I'm acutely aware that no one who doesn't know me will read this, except possibly in archive, by which time you'll probably already have a sense of who I am. So it seems a little silly. Let me just launch in.

It'll be Valentine's Day by the time I finish this. A., Z., and I went to the Four Seasons a day early b/c the day itself was booked up by the time we called. Once a year we see what life would be like if we actually had money to spend and make a reservation to have tea there, in the lounge. It's very civilized--the doorman opens your car door for you even if you arrive in a battered Honda with a second-hand carseat and trash in all the footwells. Some years there's been a harpist and there's usually a fire in the fireplace. There are rolled-up cloth towels in the bathroom instead of paper, and expanses of marble and plants everywhere. The food is, of course, impeccably High Tea: tiny cucumber sandwiches, warm scones, clotted cream, dainty desserts, chocolate-dipped strawberries. The weather is usually dreadful. It's the middle of February, after all.

Because it's so close to Z.'s birthday it's also a marker: 2 years ago we were there Before Baby, though I was hugely pregnant and anxious about the due date. I can't believe we were so innocent so recently. Last year Z. was in a high chair they rolled out from some corner (Peg Perego, no less). This year she was in a booster seat covered in chintz, which she loved. She was transfixed by the harpist, she ate 4 chocolate strawberries, and much clotted cream. She said "thank you" and "you're welcome" without being prompted, and she did not dump her food on the floor. (We are working on not dumping.) So, for 23 1/2 months, impeccable table manners.

A. and I have been talking about some of the parenting stuff that has been driving us bonkers: for A., it's Z.'s bedtime (too late); for me, it's Z.'s arrival at day care (also too late). These are linked, of course, but getting Z. earlier to bed and earlier to rise seems to require lifestyle changes that may be beyond us. Still, talking about it is a starting point.