Bring on the Heat


Let it be recorded that your favorite food is curry chicken, made at home, accompanied by jasmine rice, with a sufficient bit of spice.  Begone, sweet potatoes.  You are SO last Christmas.


Lift Off

I love being a mother.  How many times do I start like that?  You all must sick to death of it.  But oh my, she is just about the cutest thing.  Proof.

You guys, we have just barely squeaked out alive from a terrible visit from my family.  A visit wherein her grandmother further demonstrated that she doesn’t know how to relate to a long-distance child and is often heartless (as demonstrated by their rottweiler practically killing the cat.  Twice.).  RR, she’s your grandmother, and we have to love her, but she is crazy.

But we’re down one 150 lb. rottweiler and a whole lot of crazy.  AND RR crawled from one side of her room to the door.  Friends, she CRAWLED.  I am so excited.  She cried the whole way but when I picked her up she said, as she has been saying any time one of us picks her up, mamama.  I could just die.


Snow Days

The recent nasty weather has left me thinking about RR and school.  When I was little, I’d have given just about anything for a snow day.  But, I lived then in Chicago where there was never quite enough snow during my short tenure to keep me home.  When we moved to Arizona, well, that was that.  I thought it was cruel that my parents wanted me in school regardless of climate conditions until they pointed out that a) cancelled school usually meant more days in June and that b) I had a responsibility to learn.  Now that I’m a parent, I find I feel very much the same way.  RR has a responsibility to learn and she needs all the days she can get to do it.  Perhaps the frequent snowy winters of late will give Virginia a sterner spine.

I spent this day in January 25 years ago longing for a snow day.  I had been at my new school in Tucson for less than a month and I hated the weird outdoor-hallway layout and the brown earth and, for me, the ridiculously warm winter weather.  My face had started breaking out and I sat in my social studies class leaning hard on one elbow, palm pressed to my chin, pretending like no one could see the swollen mess that had bloomed there that morning.  I was pretending that I was a beautiful girl in a red down jacket home from school for a snow day (like my friends in Chicago most certainly were but, in reality, were probably not) running out to play in the drifts, blonde hair bouncing.  I remember that I was happy the lights were out because it made it easier to pretend I was this lucky girl.

The lights were out because we were watching the live feed of the Challenger take-off.  Years later, I would recognize that morning as my generation’s only JFK moment until it was later eclipsed, of course, by September 11th.  But that morning, I was a laughing girl in a red down jacket throwing flirtatious snowballs until in a split second I was halfway to adulthood.  It occurs to me today that we weren’t watching a tape or anything DVRed.  That my teacher was contending with a national tragedy live and in the moment and that she had a roomful of almost teens on the edge of understanding what had happened who were going to need an immediate response.  I’ll bet she wished it was a snow day, more than anything.

It probably wouldn’t happen that way for RR, not in a culture where reality hitches at different moments for everyone.  Is it live?  Are you paused a few seconds behind?  Are we protecting our children so carefully that we deliberately screen everything in advance, including news events, to protect them?  This morning it’s a snow day in Virginia just like I fervently wished it would be in Arizona 25 years ago.  Even so, this morning, RR is “at school” building a habit of learning.  And this morning, instead of working, I sat at my desk daydreaming about summer and how I will garden in the yard in a straw hat and dirty flowered gloves, blonde hair blowing in the wind.  I am still more beautiful in my daydreams.


Bulletins For My Daughter: 1


At our house, we each take a night to decide what we will have for dinner and cook the dinner. Although you are (mostly) exempt from cleaning up after that dinner, you will most certainly be on the cleaning crew for someone else’s night.  If you’re smart, you’ll angle for any night except the dog’s night – he cooks something in the slow cooker every Monday and while it’s super to have hot stew waiting when we come home, he’s a devil about getting the cookpot clean.

So whether you choose to cook spaghetti pie like your Aunt Stephanie (every. single. wednesday. for. three. years.) or turkey tetrazzini like Aunt Elizabeth (rinse, repeat.) you’ll be finding yourself elbows deep in sudsy clean-up a few evenings a week.  On top of it all, we’re going to require the injustice of putting your dishes in the dishwasher at any time of the day or night.  I know, the cruelty.

If you don’t, I might just take a page out of one of my co-workers’ books and inscribe this on the bottom of the sink (found this morning when I very much needed a good laugh.)


Ho Ho Ho

Although I don’t particularly identify with Christmas, we celebrate over here.  When we got pregnant last year I thought we’d never get another Christmas alone again.  In fact, it has turned out to be exactly the opposite.  Last year, we celebrated the eve at a high-end Southern cuisine restaurant, held hands in the snow and welcomed in the year quietly over breakfast, coffee and presents, carols playing in the background.  I knew it would be our last Very Adult Christmas for a while and even though we traded in shrimp, cheesy grits and cocktails for oven pizza and juice, we still got to spend Christmas day alone with RR and presents, carols playing in the background.

After a chaotic visit with my family earlier in the month, holding them at telephonic arms length was fantastic.  Fortunately, we were able to appease her family with the promise of a visit over New Years.  We’re incredibly relaxed as a result, despite an undercurrent of bickering – gift of a relatively stressful fall.  I expect that as we ease into 2011 things will start looking up.  After all, days are already getting longer and spring holds the promise of plants, breezes, toddling, rain, grilled vegetables and summer.

As for RR, on the 26th we handled the toy situation by buying a plastic toy container to stash all of her toys.  The chaos they cause by lighting up, rolling, blinking, and chattering can be neatly contained in a box and withdrawn one at a time.  As for our contributions to that mess, we bought her a book (That’s Not My Dragon!), a jumper, some stackable cups and socks.  Suffice to say, she has plenty to play with and she likes the cups the very best.

And hey, congratulations RR on celebrating 6 months with sweet potatoes, pears and rice cereal!


A Note About Dough


Eventually, I’m going to tell you not to eat raw cookie dough.  And eventually, you will flaunt your armored immune system while eating spoonfuls of delicious sweet dough.

Really, it isn’t a good idea.  It will catch up with you.  Eventually.

Your very ill mama

10 weeks!

Putting RR in day care was difficult, but apparently not as difficult as I expected.  Upon hearing the news that her classroom was going to be closed Monday, I sort of mourned the idea that I would not be going to see a movie with my wife after all.

Dear RR, I think you can chalk that up as the moment when I officially turned into a terrible mother.  Kudos for making it 10 weeks.

That said, we’re having the last of the visitors (I hope) visiting this weekend and I think we’ll be able to keep our home guest-free until October.  At that point, I’m probably going to have to give in and see my mother-in-law again, although perhaps RR will be up to a car ride there.  Pretty to think so, but right now I feel lucky if we can get out to Target and back without me having to fling myself over the backseat in search of a pacifier to cram in her mouth, getting carsick and then listening to her wail at every traffic light.  I’m. That. Awesome.

Despite my stellar mothering, RR is un-scarred, happy and neurosis-free.  Today.  She coos at us in the morning and doles out smiles every time her butt hits the changing table.  She has an enchanting dimple just above her cheeky grins and she has a bursting laugh that pops out when I’m least expecting it.  Happy baby, check.  I haven’t looked at a single baby development milestone since she was a week or so old, so I have no idea whether or not she’s doomed.  It’s a beautiful oblivion we live in.


Other Mothers

Having a baby has made me insecure and guilt-ridden, apparently.  How the hell did that happen?

My subconscious drew up a complicated birth plan and a rigorous set of rules for RR.  Worse, I find myself comparing our actual experience and techniques to those imaginary standards and the experiences of everyone we meet and coming up short.  Imaginary standards.  In moments of clarity, I’m reminded that this unflattering and inherited tendency is one that nudged us toward D carrying.

Aside to RR: Look, I’m sorry.  I don’t know about these hidden expectations until they actually happen.  So if I inexplicably want you to wear that plaid skirt on the first day of school or take pottery classes, just chalk it up to mama’s craziness.  Hopefully, it’s not contagious.

Here are the things I apparently boxed us into without even realizing it: all natural, drug-free childbirth (complete with a grassy hidden glade and frolicking fawns), breastfeeding, baby-wearing and cloth diapers.  And when it hasn’t worked, I feel like we’re doing it wrong.  Don’t hit the comment button yet.  I realize this is insecurity.  I know it’s unflattering.  I know we’re doing what works for us.  But what’s WRONG with me?   Here’s what’s happening:

We had the perfect childbirth for us.  Sure, it could have gone differently.  There was, in fact, no grassy hidden glade.  I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have witnessed the miracle of my wife laboring.  When I hear other mothers talk about their eight centimeters dilated and water breaking and no epidurals, I feel a little as if we didn’t try hard.  In fact, we tried very, very hard.

We can’t breastfeed.  It didn’t work.  Thank goodness we don’t have to contend with cholera, hoards of the unvaccinated, or distant medical care. But when other mothers talk about breastfeeding and how they have to feed on-demand, I hear the implication that we have it easy because formula fed babies don’t need to eat when they first get hungry and that they sleep for days straight.  We don’t have anything easy.

We opted not to cloth diaper and thank god.  I see other mothers do it and I’m so incredibly envious.  This was something I actually articulated that I wanted.  Disposable is what worked better for us, but when I see other mothers sighing about having to change their babe from cloth to disposable for the ride home I feel an intense pang of regret.  I’m suddenly certain RR will be in diapers until she’s 18 and will be scarred for life with permanent diaper rash, not to mention the gas mask she’ll have to wear cause I’ve single-handedly ruined the environment.

Also, I said I’d wear that baby everywhere.  But you know what?  It’s summer and she’s hot.  I get enough screaming at home without poking her with a hot stick while we’re on a walk.

I dread the other imaginary standards at which I don’t even I know I’m about to fail.  I got a hint of this the other day when one of the other mothers said that they don’t ever have time to watch tv.  In fact, she can’t imagine the last time she turned it on.  At our house it’s on.  Perhaps RR’s brain has rotted already.  Good.  Then she’ll wear that plaid skirt I mentioned.

All those other mothers aren’t trying to be superior – I’m generating this inferiority complex on my own.  I wish I could be less hard on myself.  Because I’m not the mother I expected I’d be, I’m a better mother than I expected I’d be.

The Supreme

As we wait for Vegas, I’ll confess.  It’s not just the changing table I coveted.  There was one other thing.  Not a small thing.  An absolutely unattainable, impractical, unaffordable thing.  I wanted it so badly (just like the impractical changing table) but given the expense and the, let’s be honest, REALLY unpractical nature, I could not have it.

I wanted a carriage.  A buggy.  A beautiful perfect canopied stroller with big round white rubber wheels, a fancy foot brake and a stature rivaled by presidents and kings.

There is some history here.  Though I was never rolled in one, my sisters both were.  Bill Cosby, whose stand-up albums I could recite growing up, has a riotous routine about stealing carriage wheels for soapbox racing.  I grew up with a tongue twister about baby buggies.  My mother hung prominently in her room a copy of Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte and though there were no prams in the painting, as a child I was certain that one would be coming around the frame at any minute.  I loved Mary Poppins.  And I always pictured myself pushing a future babe in a carriage of my own.

So, nostalgia.  And given that modern-day buggies are both outrageously expensive and completely impractical, I should have been able to chuck the idea of owning one out the window.  But I couldn’t.  Even when looking at the sobering prices (anywhere from $800.00 to $3,000 new, with the average hovering at $2000 and $400 used) and considering the limited life span of a shallow, lay flat stroller.  Further, life has changed since the glory days of the carriage (and really, even since my mother stayed home with my sisters in the 70s) and I won’t spend days wheeling Vegas around the neighborhood in his cushy paradise.  Sorry, kid.  Perhaps if I had a nanny.  Perhaps if I stayed at home.  But the sad reality is, without a full house staff, no person in my family is going to be cavorting through town in a pram.  No $800.00 baby carriage for me.

We could stop there, but this story is going somewhere.  A dark somewhere.  Stay tuned.


Dear Vegas,
As a former diplomat, I’ll be the one responsible for your social behavior lessons.   I’ll remind you that the salad fork is the smaller, wider one and that if you are given an even smaller fork, you probably should have declined the invitation.   I’ll nudge you to remove the lint from your clothing and to toss your shoes when they lose their shape.  You and I will discuss life’s bigger questions: how to tell your girlfriend she looks great in those jeans, how to break up with your boyfriend without making it personal, and that both of them need to come into the house to pick you up and not sit in the drive and honk.  You’ll learn how to make small talk and how to apologize.

But first, we’re going to talk about what hand symbols are appropriate in what countries, when not to show the sole of your shoe and why sometimes you shouldn’t use your left hand.   Most importantly, we’re going to talk about timeliness.  It’s an art child, when to show up for something and how long to stay.   In some places, it’s perfectly acceptable (and appropriate) to arrive for a 8 pm dinner at 11 pm (Argentina, I’m looking at you).   In other places, you can assume that a 10am brunch won’t really get going until 10:45 or so.  Picnics are flexible things, breakfasts, usually not.  Showers, birthday parties and other celebratory events have a short window (you don’t want to miss the cake).  And in some places, if you want to be fed (or catch the train, or make the meeting) you must arrive on the second.

While it’s never good to arrive too early for an event, it’s often acceptable (if not strictly appropriate) to arrive a few minutes before.  If it’s you and your date and she’s already waiting at the restaurant, early is much, much better than late.  Vegas, your mother and I are your first date.  And we’ve been in this goddamn restaurant since Tuesday.  Although we don’t expect you til next week, in this case, it is PERFECTLY GRACIOUS and SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE to get your tail out here and order your first meal.  Don’t stand us up, baby.  Don’t make us get out a copy of He’s Just Not That Into You (or rather, he’s TOO into you and I’ll be the one to teach you that isn’t good either).

But, I can’t teach you one single thing until you get your heinie in gear.  I’m waiting Vegas, and you should never make your mother wait.  No Ma’am.