With Bated Breath (complete with embarrassing anecdote)

You guys, right now we are driving to a mall (gah, that word is so 90s) with RR. While there we’re planning to shop for a couple of hours.

I know. I’m as worried as you are. On the plus side, malls suit RR’s personality perfectly. They don’t have shopping carts so there won’t be any acrobatics. Yes, still. They do have large expanses of concrete for running at breakneck speed. As long, of course, as you can devote yourself to chasing after her.

D and I do all of our shopping for each other on Christmas Eve. We have a $50 limit, we pick one shopping center, and we challenge ourselves to find gifts that will make the other feel delighted, joyful, happy, special, inspired, dizzy with laughter.  This is a grand romp as we duck into stores, dodging each other, sneaking through aisles, making sure there’s no accidental peeking, and disguising gifts as we walk together back to the car. For the last two years, we’ve tacked on an extra $10 for a gift “from RR”.  We stick within pennies of the limit.

Rest assured, we don’t go into this event blind. We pick the venue first. Sometimes, like today, we drive to an out of town destination.  Then we take a look at the store list and share inspiration. This year we printed maps to plot our course and we’re headed to a two level, T-shaped location.  Last year was more challenging – a single level, one-sided, strip of high-end shops.  Making that $50 dollars stretch was an exercise in creativity that played out beautifully.

I love this tradition. The stores are often populated by the sort of people who do last minute shopping. The get-in-and-get-out folks, the last minute moms dads aunts uncles, the “she got me something and I totally didn’t see that coming” group.*  These sorts are generally more laid back or are in such a rush to get out quickly that there is no fiddling around at the register trying to get the best deal, the one from the back, the manager. Sales staff are often happy to be on the precipice of a day off. The others have reached the point of resignation. Malls are perfect for this.  I wouldn’t want to be in a Best Buy on Christmas Eve.  And the lines for Santa and at the Starbucks are always out the door, no matter how deserted the rest of the stores are.  That suits us fine.

In a few years, RR will be built into the tradition as she picks gifts for us on her own. And, eventually, that’s where her gifts will come from as well. Today, we’ve taken the baby backpack so that we can restrain her and we’re loaded down with bribes. So wish us luck as we juggle gift buying and baby juggling. And wish me luck for finding perfect somethings for D.  As is tradition, I have no idea what I’m going to give her but it sure is going to be fun when I stumble over that thing that makes her heart (and mine) light up on Christmas morning.


*You guys, I was 15, awkward, and broke the year a high school acquaintance unexpectedly brought me a lovely Christmas gift. I didn’t yet have experience with gracious acceptance and she didn’t have experience with lowered expectations because she said to me, “I’m here for our gift exchange!” And then stood there, hand out. I panicked.  I ran to my room, grabbing a lonely bag of potpourri from one of my mother’s shelves, an empty jam jar, and a ribbon.  I stood there racking my brain for some way to disguise this as a pulled together gift. In a desperate measure, I grabbed a brand new pair of silky green panties, cut out a square from the butt and secured it with the ribbon. Yes. I DID that.

Clean Up Clean Up Everybody Clean Up

One of the best things about having a tiny dictator living in our house is the clean house.  Sure, we have to listen to relentless, enthusiastic demands for MORE and AHHHHH (whatever that is).  And yes, she still opens my drawer to pull out my socks, drags her diaper bag (or really, any drag-able thing she can find) through dust piles when I sweep and flings food like she’s Jackson Pollack on a bender, but she’s also easily distracted.  This is her saving grace.

It doesn’t matter what crazy thing she is up to, if you sing a little clean up ditty to her, she turns on autopilot and begins to put things away.

One by one, she will put books and blocks away.  Socks go back in the drawer.  Instruments in the basket.  Pasta in the bowl.  It’s amazing, really, and one of the Wonderful Things to which I owe daycare everything.  There are many Wonderful Things, but this is my current favorite.  My tiny dictator is a wizard at clearing up.  She’s also clearly a prodigy sweeper.  Go daycare!

Just in case you do not have your own under-two Mary Poppins, I leave you with a scene from our house*

*”our house” minus the maniacal laughter as RR sweeps through giggling and grabbing and dodging our fingertips.


Ear tubes now grace RR’s eardrums.  We don’t have any signs of brilliant vocal genius but there are a few markers that things are looking up.  Way up.

She slept through the night.
The doc said there “was a lot of pus and blood” and really, you don’t get to hear that enough times in life.
When I said her name this morning, she pointed to herself.   I just about cried.

The tone and volume of her babbling has definitely increased.  The amount is holding steady at 95% of waking hours spent talking, but now those 11 hours of the day are much louder and clearer!

Turning 200 (party favors at the end!)

Despite writing online for years, I’ve never celebrated a milestone.  There have been a few – first time I had more than 100 readers on a single post.  First time I discovered that someone who shouldn’t be reading was.  First time I wrote something and deleted it – twice.  First post.  Last post.  But this post is 200 and I thought you should have a little fanfare.  I was going to go with Rocky there but those handpans are something else.

I have to admit, I have a little 200-posts trepidation.  Will I be good enough?  Can I give the moment justice? Why can’t I play the handpans?  After much handwringing, I decided to bring to you the quintessential baby blog post: names.

You and I, we haven’t really talked about naming.  D and I talked a lot about boy names (Possibles: Steven, Andrew, Frederick.  Not possibles (and frankly, not fair, Jedediah.) but in order to stem the flow of “Oh that’s my wicked stepmother’s name!” we picked a fake name and used it instead. See D’s logic on that here.  We went with Vegas. That’s right, as in Las.  But we knew from the start that our baby was a girl (well, our guts knew) and we knew she was coming out Ruby Reed.

Recently, an excellent and funny not-kid blogger had an awesome post about baby names and I immediately thought of you.  Which of us did not go through the “I’m not telling you!” gauntlet complete with sighing, accusatory statements like “you know already, don’t you?”, irritated huffing at feeling left out and, of course, the seventeen suggestions for Michael, if it’s a boy, because I’ve always loved that name?  Now the rest of you, I suspect you braved your own obstacle course of “oh that was my beloved aunt’s/dog’s/brother’s name!”, the brainstorming of awkward nicknames for said name, the testing out of the initials for said name, the side-of-the-family-you-didn’t-pick stiffness and of course, the ever popular “you’re not naming her that!”.  It goes without saying that other folks get a little too…invested.

Well, I see we got a little off track.  Back to the awesome post and the awesome trail I took from that post.  First off, I obviously am a Anglophile hipster because Ruby is on both the Hipster Name List and the British Girl Name list.  Everyone is in on the game. The Social Security Administration has a name site that tracks popularity and tells me that Ruby has been climbing since the decade began, huffing and puffing from 259 up to 113.  And who hasn’t been to Name Voyager – the ultra sparkly baby name grapher?  It assures me that Ruby peaked in 1910 and, after a tumble and fall, is now dusting herself off again.  Jedediah, not so much.  Although he did reach 941 in the 80s!  Kabalarian Philosophy indicates that Ruby’s name means she won’t finish what she starts and you know, after reading the first three pages of Llama, Llama Mad at Mama over and over again today, I’m inclined to agree.  The fact that my own name, Meridith, indicates that “interest wanes quickly when drudgery and monotony set in” ensured that Llama Llama would be on hiatus until at least 5pm.

This clever article “Where Have All the Lisas Gone?” (mentioned in that post) more accurately sums up the baby name gauntlet than I ever could.  And, in case you’re looking for a little nervous laughter, you can try your hand at Baby’s Named a Bad, Bad Thing (thanks, HiS), Funny Names or Demon Names but be forewarned, I didn’t check to see if your baby’s name would show up in the snark.

So, since you should bring me cake for 200 posts (that’s the accepted custom, right?) and I should give you a party favor, here are my three favorite posts, a picture and by the way, thank you:

A Different Birth Story (on how it went down)
On finding you don’t know anything about babies: Just Like a Baby
Tearing up over a litte ‘s’ La La La



This is a surprise to everyone, including me.  I was so disappointed that our child birthing class was cancelled last week.

Somehow I’ve come to love them in their rough unfriendliness.  Their NASCAR caps and “jist like guttin’ a deer” C-Section remarks.  No seriously, I did not make that up.  Lucky for me, we’re taking a field trip to the hospital for our last class and that might provide excellent opportunities for shower remarks, gutting remarks and moments for the wives to beat the husbands with their purses.  No, really.  How did I stumble into Rosanne Barr’s reality?

…as a Mule


I’m pretty sure that’s what’s going on around here.  I’ve dug in my heels and refused to move anywhere, even if it’s for something good.  I haven’t even demolished that chocolate ice cream in the fridge because that? = movement.  Movement = passage of time.  Passage of time = chaos.

It’s not even Vegas really.  It’s my family visiting later in the summer.  It’s organizing the basement.  It’s work.  And yes, it’s getting through 12 more weeks and then the 12 weeks after.  Usually, I view time in these situations favorably.  For example, I dread my once monthly poker game (I love it too, but that’s another story entirely).  But regardless, the first weekend of the month is going to come and go and it will be over no matter what I do or don’t do.  Thinking this way motivates me to at least make a positive experience of it.  Chat with a frustrating employee?  Over next week.  A wedding?  Over next month.  Winter?  Over by spring.  And so on.  I don’t see it as pressure to perform or achieve, only as a fact of life.  Dread happens.  And, then, it’s gone.

I’ve been doing this my entire life and suddenly it isn’t working.  Not only can I not get anything at all done, I can’t even think of life on the other side of it.  I plan.  I strategize.  It’s what I do and yet, I’m completely paralyzed.  I’m spending my time doing things that generate no forward motion whatsoever.  I haven’t even been able to articulate that is what’s happening until now.

Vegas, I’m pretty sure we can blame you for this, even though it doesn’t feel like it.  I certainly don’t want to be stuck but I’m not certain how to wiggle out of it.  Meanwhile, deadlines are still coming, steadily, relentlessly and I’m not entirely sure what will happen if I don’t climb right over, like always.

Baby Blackjack!

Baby Roulette Questions 2-4:

According to the fishwives, the sex of the baby isn’t just about heart rate.  (As a side note, we’re off to the doc again today and we might get an update on that.  I figure at some point these appointments must change right?  Less LIE DOWN LADY AND LET’S GIT TO YER HAIRLINE! and more …Let me prod you delicately while exclaiming over your no doubt beautiful child’s future…  No?)  Sex is also about how that baby is sitting, what he’s posing as and how much he’s affecting her gait.  And let’s be honest, sex is also about whether there’s a baby at all…but that’s another story.

There’s some talk about carrying high or low.  I suspect this is something any well-versed midwife or doctor can pronounce from a glance, but I have been developing complicated equations to assess belly ratio to height divided by area, radius and hairline followed closely by giving it all up when I realize I’m not sure whether to measure up or down from the belly button.   On alternate days, I simply eye her belly skeptically and try to decide whether it hits my back or butt when I try to push past her in a crowded doorway.  OUT OF THE WAY WIFE!  On all of those counts, she’s carrying high, and folks say that’s a girl.  Also, someone once wrote a song called She’s So High so it must be a girl.  She’s So High is not to be confused with Because I Got High performed by Afroman which I think is a better song, mostly because people are always saying She’s So High reminds them of me – not in the Afroman sense, more in the lyrical sense, which I don’t think actually fits me.  Kind of like when D’s mother calls me fancy.

But let’s put that behind us.  Literally.  If you look at a pregnant lady alone, from behind, you should stop admiring her ass (is that just me?) and look up a few inches (or more if you can figure out what carrying high is) and see if you can tell if she’s pregnant from behind.  If you’re like me, you’re always stealing glances at your wife’s bum.  If she looks pregnant, and she does, we’re talking about a girl in there.  If she doesn’t show from behind, well…it’s Afroman in there, is all I’m saying.

There’s still at least one more old wives tale about bellies (maybe you know more?) and that has to do with the shape of things.  This one is so straightforward even I can tell what I’m looking at.  Watermelon?  Check.  There’s your pretty, pink princess.  Basketball?  Afroman.  Nuff said.

So just to keep the tally straight, we’ve got 1 point already for a boy (heart rate) and 3 for a girl (carrying high, the way she looks from behind and watermelons). Next up, more dissecting women’s bodies and making predictions about the smallest of things.  Leg hair!  Breakouts!  Breasts!  Fun!

Baby Roulette!

According to some sources, we’re nearly to the third trimester.  Though, I’m not sure I believe any one source since the actual definition of trimester is three months.  By my math (and assuming the first trimester ends at 13 weeks), 26 weeks is the end of the second trimester.  But that leaves more than 14 weeks at the end.  So I suspect that they’re sneaking extra weeks into the second act, making the end of halftime week 28.

Regardless, it’s late enough to start employing highly sophisticated tests to guess the sex of the baby.  I’ll be you’re as excited as I am, particularly since you’ve never seen anyone do this before.  EVER.  I’ve got about 50 predictors (way more than one per week) so I’ll drop a few on you here and there.  Feel free to play along at home!

Baby Roulette Question 1: Heartbeat

Fetal heart rate above 140: Girl.  Below?  Boy. Vegas’ heart rate dropped from the 150s down to 138 at the last visit.  That nets us a baby boy.  Given the fact that the heart rate has been falling, when do you expect they mean you to apply this tricky tale?  A month ago, we could have claimed girl.  Now we’ll have to turn in the lacy bloomers for a sailor’s cap.

Birds and Bees

Overheard in the car:

Me: What will you tell Vegas when he tells you the kid at school told him it takes a penis to make a baby?
Her: “All it takes is beer and tequila.”
Me: I think I’ll take care of that talk.

Land Mines

Did I mention I used to be a diplomat?  It’s something that seems so far away even though there are signifiers in the house that remind me of exotic places and people, lunches with rock stars and prestigious neighbors (I still have the latter two – my wife is an excellent lunch companion and my neighbor always returns my shovel).   The major difference now that I’ve given up world travel for libraries is that I’m less likely to choose pretty language over fact.

Most of the time, this elicits either uncomfortable sidling away or “Ooh, I love that you’re so frank!” Here is a picture of that ratio.

To be clear, I still adhere to some social grace.  I’m not cruel and I don’t believe in telling the whole truth or, sometimes, even most of it.  I spend a lot of time at “refreshingly blunt” (actual words once actually said to me by an actual person) and next to no time at “telling you what you want to hear” (Never actually said by anyone because hearing me do this is like spotting a unicorn.  A UNICORN BEING RIDDEN BY A MERMAID.)

This parenting thing is fraught with lingual land mines.  Breastfeed or bottle.  Cloth or disposable.  I don’t even have to say any more do I?  You completely understand.  It seems that no matter what your decision is, someone has very strong opinions about it.  Furthermore, they’d like to tell you all about it.  Often, they’re another parent, someone who should know better.

Recently we had dinner with due-at-the-same-time work colleagues.  It was a lovely evening but one in which I spent prepared to launch diplomacy initiatives at any moment.  Sure, we’re doing some things similarly (D is digging stumps occasionally while her counterpart tries to shovel snow).  But we’re also doing things differently (finding out the sex of the baby, etc.)  Just like circumcision, this is one of those sticky wickets.  For those of you that don’t plan to find out, how many times have you heard BEST SURPRISE EVER?  And often, the speaker’s tone implies that anything else is a half as good decision.  I’m sure for those of you that didn’t find out, you had an equal number of folks proclaim your choice THE BEST DECISION EVER.

I spend more time than I’d like couching my parenting decisions in a diplomatic cloud of mediocrity.  It’s amazing that people who wouldn’t dream of telling you that fuchsia is not your best color don’t hold their tongue when it comes to parenting choices.  So in case it isn’t clear – I totally support your choices.  I think you are the BEST PARENT EVER and I’ll bet you think the same of me.  We’re super terrific.  Yay us!