Fa la la la la-LaVietes!

December 27th, 2009

That’s possibly the cheesiest title I’ve ever come up with, and that’s saying a lot, considering I spent a couple of years titling articles in the ZOOgram magazine at The Baltimore Zoo. Got Cranes on the Brain? Paying Raptor Attention?

The holiday report is this:

THANKSGIVING: Anne and Auggie visited. The Hills came over, as did David, and Jeremy stopped by, as did Jeremy Jr. and Julie and Cousin-Shana. Patricia was here too. Am I forgetting anyone? We played some games, went to the playground (a bit chilly but nice to get fresh air.) We had a lovely dinner, as prepared by Jerry’s Famous Deli and picked up to-go. This is called slaving over a hot credit-card. Violet was not interested in eating one bite of this feastly feast, oh no, she had found superior nutrition in the form of a small tray of assorted trail mixes set out as appetizers. All day, all she ate: Trail mix.

CHRISTMAS: This time I got Whole Foods do the cooking, and what a tasty meal it was! We were joined by Jeremy, Melissa, David, Junior, Julie, Noelle, and Phil. We were also joined by the Wightmans, but as we did not hear the phone ring to let them in, we were denied the pleasure of their company. [Yes, in other words, we invited them and then did not answer the door when they came. We are enormous jerks. :( ] But in happier news, we played Pictionary and Buzz, played outside in warm sunshine, and partook of decorated cookies, mudslides, a fantastic meal, and other treats. Oh, except for Violet, who spent the day eating nothing but—you guessed it—TRAIL MIX. Again.

I got a few photos on my phone, and Melissa and Jeremy had a camera along, so one way or another, I’ll share photos with you soon. Now I need to go eat some leftovers and dump the trail mix out of my shoes.

Merry merry to you all!

Recommended Read

December 27th, 2009

First of all, let me say this: Parenting involves some EXTREMELY individual and PRIVATE decisions on the part of each parent or parent-team, and with so many of these decisions, there is no right or wrong—only what’s right for your kid/family.

Some of these decisions are:
- whether and how long to breastfeed
- when and how to go about weaning
- where the kid sleeps
- how to administer discipline
- how much to encourage kids toward the next phase, vs. letting things take their course
- how much freedom to allow vs. how much structure to provide
- how much to worry about safety, germs, etc.

Before I became a parent, I was naive about a lot of this stuff, in that I thought there was indeed a “right” way to do each thing—a way that had been proven by contemporary science, and that I would learn of through doctors and other parents in-the-know.

This isn’t true. There are actually valid arguments for doing completely opposite things in just about every case, and none of them matter nearly as much as the fact that you know your kid—and your family situation—best.

If you’re interested in knowing a bit more about where we’ve gotten our ideas of the “right” and “wrong” way to do each of these things, and about what the alternatives are in each case, I’m reading a book right now that offers some fairly good discussions about them. Yes, it’s BIASED; the book advocates co-sleeping (vs. sleep training, not that these two concepts are anything close to black and white). However, I think even a parent who disagrees with co-sleeping might find it interesting, informative, and useful.

Parenting involves finding your own philosophy on a spectrum of philosophies, each of which comes with its own research, arguments, and history that show why it and it alone is the right way to go in order to avoid forever warping your child. It can be overwhelming, but the important thing to remember is that none of us knows for sure what the best way is to do any of these things for someone else. I’ve realized only recently that while it’s helpful to learn what other parents do, it’s a mistake to “advise” another parent to do something as you did it and assume the way you chose to do it was (a) the only way that works, and/or (b) the accepted best way of all for everyone.

So yes, Violet sleeps in our bed. Some people think this is a very bad, dangerous thing. A thing that will lead to, among other problems, Steve’s and my never touching again; Violet’s sleeping with us until she is 19; Violet’s suffocating in our bedding or being crushed by us; Steve’s and my not getting the sleep we need to be effective parents by day; Steve’s and my ignoring what doctors know is best for us; Violet’s never being able to calm herself when she is upset, day or night; and so on. Many of these people advocate sleep-training or something like it, and that’s cool. There are a lot of proven benefits to getting your kid on a schedule, allowing her to learn self-soothing methods, and having family members sleep in their own spaces.

There are also proven benefits to allowing your children to sleep in your bed for as long as their instincts to stay by a parent’s side tell them they need to, and there are all kinds of methods for weaning from co-sleeping if it doesn’t happen naturally and/or the parents need/want to nudge it along at some point. And while the practice of co-sleeping is often viewed with disapproval in the U.S., this disapproval is almost exclusively Western. We’re not the only country out there raising well-adjusted, happy, successful children (sometimes). There are other methods besides those we have decided in our society are most acceptable.

Again, I don’t mean to sound “down” on parents who don’t let their kids sleep in between them for a time. I’m informed on the benefits of self-soothing, have read what some pro-sleep-training people have to say, and know it’s not the wrong way to go, by any means. I only want to say that …
- co-sleeping has been right for us, in our case
- it’s a pretty individual thing, as are so many parenting decisions
- Steve and I do still touch each other, in case you’re wondering, and I don’t think I need to say anything additional about that on the Internet
- there’s a book I’ve found that I think is a good read on the subject of raising little ones, for parents having decided to go the co-sleeping route as well as those who have chosen other nighttime routines, and this book covers a lot of ground beyond sleeping

Oh, yeah, the book! OK, so here it is. :)

O Christmas Lamp, O Christmas Lamp

December 22nd, 2009

Here at No. 6, we are preparing for for the holidays with festive verve. We have decorated the Christmas “tree” and wrapped the gifts, sent out the cards, and invited the friends to play on Friday. You will note our “tree” is actually a lamp. Reason: Vibble cannot be trusted with an actual tree. I learned that at Sizzler.

Stevel is working from home this week and off next week. Awesome!

This year Violet is getting … not a lot. She doesn’t really know what’s going on, so I’m not about to drop a wad on her. There IS a new tricycle in the house (well, new to us—recycled), and I’ve ordered some accessories for it. And when Nana and Papa-Auggie visited for Thanksgiving, she got an early holiday gift in the form of a cute little dollhouse. So the newness is well underway.

Vibble went to speech therapy last week. Overall, she is behind—the speech pathologist says she is about 25% behind—but not for any medical or mental reason. The doc attributed it to “desire,” meaning, Violet doesn’t want to talk more, or doesn’t have incentive to talk more. She didn’t advise speech therapy, just a continuation on our part of things we’ve already been doing and perhaps an increase in the activities we do with other children. She did say Violet is advanced in terms of coordination and physical agility. She thinks she will likely catch up to her peers with encouragement from us to practice talking more.

On an unrelated side note, a holiday shout out to our friends at Table Toppers, one of my favorite products and something I’m thankful for this holiday season. These things have saved us. Everywhere we go (and we eat out a lot, for various reasons), everyone seems so impressed when we whip these things out and attach one to the table. Like we are such great parents for insuring our daughter eats off of a sanitary surface. Little do they know the actual reason: Violet cannot be trusted with dishware. (We learned that at Sizzler, too. Also at Akbar. And Thai Dishes. And …) Oh, and on another unrelated side note: Toddler leg warmers are some of the cutest things ever invented, holy crap.

More recent photos

Ten Reasons Why Parents Get Uptight

December 1st, 2009

Before becoming a parent, I had often noted a change that occurs when people have children; overnight, they seem to become lax about some things that have always mattered, and at the same time, insane-o uptight about other things.

The laxness is easy to explain: I had (accurately) always assumed that with a kid in the picture, priorities naturally shift, and things that were of seemingly vast importance now matter little. The elbowed-over things vary from parent to parent, but a kid takes up a LOT of room in a life, and space must be made.

But the uptight, at times almost righteous and in some cases even personality-altering, cloud that comes over parents when it hasn’t been there before used to TERRIFY me. Was this something hormonal, unavoidable that kicked in? If so, HOW AWFUL. Or was there perhaps something about parenthood that was essentially dissatisfying that made people succumb to this shift? These thoughts disturbed me much of my life. I suppose they were part of what had me convinced back in the days B.V. that I didn’t want to bear a child (well, that and my aversion to all things pregnancy and birth related, which is so intense that typing those words just now made me throw up a little bit in the back of my mouth). If I didn’t make the kid, at least the hormone part could be avoided.

Now, I’ve been complimented by friends and family on being a “laid-back” mom. I consider this an accomplishment on my part, and on the parts of the other moms I know who don’t sweat the small stuff. Because I have discovered it is not easy to keep the uptight monster at bay. I’m sure the reasons for its arrival vary from parent to parent, but here are some of the things that make my eye start to twitch now that I have a kid, things that were not issues before:


Hormones. They do lots of unpredictable things. Based on my experience of the last two years, I would not be surprised to wake up some morning with a second head growing out of my left buttock. I would just be like, ‘Oh. Yeah. That’s probably hormones causing that.’


Forces of DNA. (See also: Hormones.) I am now aware of forces in nature that are much more powerful than I am, forces like The Thing—some people call it “the clock”—which arrives in the night one day in your 20s or 30s in a vintage green Cadillac with darkened windows and punches you in the face real hard, and then as you reel whispers in your ear with its hissy hiss, “Yessssss. You want to have a baaaaaaayyyyyy beeeeee yesssssssssss.” And you can fight with it, you can fight until there’s nothing left in your arsenal of reason, but be it known you can never, EVER return to the blissfully naive days when you thought The Thing was mythical, and there is nothing you can do to stop the hissing except get yourself knocked the hell up.

And just when you think The Thing is the maximum of nature’s power, along come Labor and Delivery and Mommy Brain and the Breastfeeding Hormones and the Mama-Bear growl, all things you also thought were mythical, and none of which any medical professional, save for your psychiatrist, has enough sympathy for. Basically, you find yourself unpredictable and crazy and possessed and unable to locate an exorcist. This stuff can make you uptight, but it doesn’t, not really, because you are so in love with your new baby, even as you eye The Thing with awe and fear from the corner of your life. What CAN make you somewhat uptight is this new awareness that you are small and powerless in the grand scheme of DNA and Survival, whereas before you perhaps enjoyed carefree ignorance of these things.


The inhuman amount of patience required. I sleep most nights with someone who kicks me in the head for up to four hours and then needs me to be patient and loving as I clean up after her all day and write a blog entry in two-sentence bursts between fulfilling her demands. She is very, very cute, and I love her very, very much, but some days this is still challenging. (See also: Psychiatrist)


The constant—and I am not exaggerating here—life-and-death scenario in our house. There is a small person here whom I adore more than anything and for whom I am responsible, and she endeavors up to twenty times a day to kill herself in one of a thousand ways. Noose? Check. Dive from the dining room table? Check. “Hi, here I am sucking on a bottle of plant fertilizer from under my aunt’s kitchen sink.” Check and CHECK. The sincere seriousness of the situation could make me seriously serious all the time. If she didn’t balance this out with episodes wherein she wears a trash-can on her head or licks the couch, I might honestly die of uptightness.


The judgment of other people. It turns out we live in a society where a lot of people think it is OK to judge the parenting of another person, and then either say so to that person, or clearly demonstrate their judgment in other ways. “She’s too young to be out.” “I would never put my kid on a leash—she’s not a dog.” These are a sampling of some of the things people have said to/about me. I know other parents feel the judgments too, and I’m not saying I’m innocent of judging. I’m just saying a new parent is insecure and feels inadequate sometimes (See also: Suicidal Toddler), and the growing awareness of others’ judgments can really make you feel touchy, defensive, and, well, uptight, even with enough Psychiatry and positive reinforcement from a loving support network.


The constant judgment of the Little Boss, who is mad at me right now because I won’t let her have endless servings of chewable vitamins. Throughout the day today, she will repeatedly and loudly let me know she is unhappy with my performance, sometimes in public, and I will have to fight not to get uptight about it. Right now what helps me in this fight is to say, “Your comments have been noted by the Complaint Department.” Maybe this is cruel, but if you think so, WHO ARE YOU TO JUDGE ME!


The compulsion to compare. Violet is fast, faster than most of her peers. She is also strong. She also doesn’t say very many words. And she doesn’t always eat enough. The kid she plays with every afternoon is four months younger. He eats like he wants to GROW, and he speaks two languages and yesterday said Violet’s name. His head circumference is in the top 5 percentile or something. Is Violet’s head too small?? You see how this goes. Many of you KNOW how this goes, because right now, you’re thinking, “Hm, [you're inserting the name of your child here]‘s head is in the 40th percentile … is my kid smarter than Violet? Does my kid eat enough? What if my kid doesn’t eat enough???” And you know everything is FINE, and that you shouldn’t do all this comparing, but you are burdened now with the compulsion to do it, and fighting this compulsion all the time can make you uptight. Right?


You, and only you, know the severity of the outcome if certain seemingly “anal” conditions are not met. There often comes a moment when, if my child does not have food she LIKES in her mouth within 30 seconds, and then if she is not ASLEEP within 12 minutes after that, she will morph into a horrid screeching worm, and we will all suffer, but mostly her parents will suffer, because everyone will be looking at us like, How come you’re not good parents, don’t you know your kid is screaming, make her stop. But if these conditions have not been met, there will BE NO making her stop. It is a Point of No Return. So when you’re with people who don’t understand this, and you start insisting everyone accommodate the schedule of a small being who at the moment seems perfectly fine, you can encounter a certain resistance that makes you UPTIGHT. It’s a lot like being a superhero, or the head of the C.I.A., in that you have information the public does not have that justifies your behavior, but since the public doesn’t have this information, they don’t realize why you’re acting the way you are: My God, People, you are trying to save the world!


The inability for any human to keep up with the financial drain, laundry, diapers, dishes, and sour milk spills of an army of children wrapped into one. Right now as I look around, I am so confused. How many people live in this house, anyway? Because if I didn’t know better, I would guess FIFTEEN, MINIMUM. I don’t know about you, but it makes me uptight to live in filth and chaos.


The blessings. As they pile up on you, the reality of the loss that would be represented if anything happened to them is not like anything you have ever experienced. When I was 25, I worried about losing one of my parents. And yes, that would be extremely hard. If I lost my child? I just can’t imagine any recovering from that. And the thought of her losing a parent is unthinkable. It makes me incredibly appreciative of life, and tenaciously protective of it in ways I never was before.

This is all to say how sorry I am that I was unforgiving in the past of parents’ I know occasionally being uptight. And to say how thankful I am for the patience and positive parenting feedback I get from all of you. And to acknowledge that I fight the good fight against the uptight and sometimes win and sometimes lose. And winning and losing are individually defined. I hope we can all find balance in this … to relax and enjoy, while being “on top of it” enough to get these kids through to the other side of childhood with as little damage as possible.