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Archive for July, 2010

Sad sack.

So, Miles got his first fever Sunday night and has been cooking ever since.  The doctor says it’s Roseola — a virus that usually gives a high fever for three days (or as many as seven!), followed by a ghastly whole-body rash when the fever breaks.  Our poor little guy has been pitiful.  He grips us with his hot little hands and looks at us beseechingly.  Nursing him is like cuddling up to a pot-bellied stove.  When we try to make him laugh, he cackles weakly and then looks pained, as if happiness were too much trouble. 

Being soft-hearted rookie parents, we are lavishing him with sympathy and cuddles.  Robin even came home early from work yesterday, though that was partly to relieve me of duty.  Or so she said, as she rushed in the door and scooped Miles up in her arms.   “Can I take him to the doctor, or do you want to come with us?”  she asked as politely as possible.

Poor little munchkin.  For the next few days, you’ll find us cuddling and sweating.

Hold me, Mommy.

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Swim Fan

“You have to come to swim class and watch!” Robin has urged me for the last several weeks.  

We enrolled Miles in swim classes at the  Y, and Robin takes him.  It’s a special thing for them to do together, and it gives me a precious 45 minutes of alone time each Saturday morning.

“What do you do?” I always ask, reluctant to give up my solo time.

“Oh, not much,” she usually says.  “Just get in the water and sing dumb songs.”

We sing dumb songs at Mom and Baby Yoga.  And I see Miles in the water every night as I give him his bath, alone, while fervently praying for Robin to get home from work.  So Robin wasn’t giving me a very compelling argument to get my butt out of pajamas and over to the Y by 8:30.  Finally, however, the sheer force of her persistence wore me down.   I went.  Just to humor her, of course.

And holy swim caps, Batman!    The cuteness!  It was staggering!

You’d think that nine months into parenting Miles, I would be a little blase about cuteness.  At the very least, I should have a cuteness immunity built up, a nice healthy store of cuteness antibodies.  But aparently not, because the “Shrimp Kipper” swim class at the Y?  Almost.  Killed me.

Here, I have to show you.

For instant tasty cuteness, just add water.

Yes, that’s a pool full of babies in swim caps.  Being bounced and cooed at by ridiculously smitten parents, also wearing swim caps.  In some cases, they have matching sets. 

Two of a kind.

Robin did not mention the deadly cuteness.   I stood there beaming and snapping photos like a fool, alongside all the other idiotically adoring mothers, fathers, neighbors and friends.  My friend Tiana, from yoga, was there watching her son, Maxson, as  he splashed in the water in the arms of a visiting cousin.  My neighbor Sara twirled in the water with baby Caleb, born on Miles’ due date.  People started talking about the upcoming first birthday parties (eekgads!), and I just felt thrilled.  

Yes, it was a Saturday before 9 a.m.  I hadn’t had any coffee (and haven’t in several months).  I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep (and haven’t in over a year now).  And I was absolutely thrilled.

Singing and swimming all in line.

 

London bridge is falling down.

 

And the itsy bitsy spider climbed up the spout again.

 

But the best part (and I’m a little ashamed that this was the best part for me) was afterward. 

We stopped at the membership office to get Miles an i.d. card for the Y.  I was seriously irked.  The uptight stickler guy working the front desk had insisted that Miles must have a card, even though I’ve brought Miles to Mom and Baby Yoga about a million times with no card and, hello, he’s a baby.  Where is he supposed to carry it, in his diaper?  Do other babies sneak into the Y all the time to use the weight machines?  The world does not contain enough italics to properly express my disgust.  Grumble, grumble, grumble. 

But then Miles posed for the photo like a pro, and within seconds they handed me an actual i.d. card with an actual picture of my awesomely, insanely gorgeous baby on it.  And it said his name, and below that it said, “Member since 10/11/09,” which as many of you know is the date of his birth.   Robin and I took turns staring at the card, and I swear to  you she actually said, “I have got to take this in to work.”

So, swim class at the Y?  I’m a fan.

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Aloha, Auntie Kimmy!

As one of two women who travelled the country post-Stanford with me, Kimmy holds a special place among old friends. When your home is an Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser for 6 months, you get to know each other pretty well, learning things like exactly what someone means when they say we can crash with their auntie outside Seattle: “So how are you guys related?” “We’re not.” “What?!”

Nevermind that we had seen four Canadian provinces and half the contiguous United States before we met an actual relative of Kim’s (Aunty Phyllis in DC), Kimmy has a fabulous collection of aunties and uncles (several of whom were excellent hosts on our roadtrip). And the experience is one reason I warmed to the idea — long before Miles was born — that he should enjoy as many aunties and uncles as he can get. Family will always be family. And thank you, technology, for allowing us to see them (at least via the Internet) more frequently. But when they live far away, friends become pseudo-relatives, and it’s nice to have loved ones nearby who can shower Miles with the kind of extra love and attention that doesn’t come from his parents.

Auntie Kimmy became a pseudo-relative years ago. So we were thrilled when she told us a few months back that she wanted to visit in July. It had been a couple of years since we had seen her ourselves, and naturally there were the important men involved: Kimmy had never met Miles, and we had not yet met Kim’s fiance, Mike. The trip was a short one (little more than 24 hours), and we failed to live up to our usual photo standards (only two pics). But Miles and Mike were both big hits with their respective audiences.

So pay attention, Miles, because Auntie Kimmy is a pseudo-relative we know we’ll keep. She and Mike also have plans to move back home, which means before too long, you could have an auntie and uncle who live in Hawai’i. How many Brooklyn kids do you know who can say that?

Where did you say you're from, Auntie Kimmy?

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Miles is so cute I can hardly keep up with posting cute photos these days.  Well, actually, he is so everything that I can hardly keep up.  Unrolling the toilet paper, splashing my bracelet in the toilet, chasing balls, demanding that I hold his hands and walk him those three steps from the desk to the bookshelf.  He’s on to my tricks, too.  Did I think I could distract him with the tupperware AGAIN and get some dishes done?  Mwah ha ha ha ha!  No way, Jose, those empty baby food jars (and, okay, wine bottles) in the recycling bin are just too intriguing.

Just to make things exciting, he’s extra poop-tastic these days.  He’s got crazy, wild, outfit-destroying poops, as many as five a day.  I’ve explained to him that this simply doesn’t work for me.   Where are those nice, solid, lovely poops he’s been churning out once a day since we started solid foods?  Those poops that emerge silently and lie quietly nestled in the diaper as though afraid to offend?  These most recent poops assault the senses and horrify the intellect.  They’re vast, foul, and uncontainable.  Between this and his recent aversion to sleeping, it’s like having a newborn around again.  Except, he’s a newborn who can crawl, chase, and destroy.  Ay, yi, yi!

Maybe we can blame teething, the ever-handy scapegoat?  Teething causes diarrhea and disrupts sleep, right?  Right?  Blaming teething is so easy.  I can imagine myself taking it a little too far.   When Miles is 15 and wanting to drop out of high school to move to Oregon with his band, I’ll probably turn helplessly to Robin and say, “Well, he must be teething!”

Okay, I better go.  Miles is rearranging the books and records.  And I think I smell something emanating from his drawers…

Just try and stop me!

On a roll.

Bedtime? You must be joking!

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Someone hand me an apron!  And a Valium!  Things are getting awfully traditional around here.

Yesterday I wrote about how Robin is the fun mom.  Which got me to thinking about a few things.

Practically every pregnancy and newborn parenting magazine has an article about how men and women handle babies differently.  These articles, intended for women because we all assume men won’t read magazines about parenting, advise the mom to just accept that the dad does things differently.  He may handle the baby more roughly and you more gently, these articles say, but babies need both kinds of caretaking.  I think about those articles a lot as Robin is tossing Miles into the air or letting him climb all over her body on the couch or wrestling with him on the floor.

But wait!, you gasp.  Robin is a woman!  Are you implying that she’s “the man” in your relationship? 

No, I’m not.  People always want to see gay relationships as fake versions of straight relationships, requiring a man and a woman taking different roles.  I’m sure many of my gay brothers and lesbian sisters will agree that this stereotype is annoying.  Yet it persists.  Most of the time, people ascribe the “man” role to Robin because she’s taller, is good with tools, is more assertive, and likes sports.  I’m shorter, known for being nurturing and empathetic, and am violently allergic to athletics.  Yet we are both clearly women.  We just happen to be in love with each other.  Perhaps it is time for us to expand our definition of what a woman can be, and also our definition of what love can be.  But that’s a whole other post. 

However, now that we’re two women raising a baby, our work situations replicate some of the dynamics from the “traditional” hetero family.  For example, Robin works at the Big Important Law Firm.  I stay home with Miles.  This is already far, far more traditional a set-up than either of us would have imagined ourselves choosing.  Why do we do it that way?  Well, Robin makes more money than I did as a teacher, so if one of us were going to stay home, it would be me.  And once I had Miles, I found that I really wanted to be with him.  Partly I couldn’t imagine the stress of being a middle school teacher in a high-needs Brooklyn school while also raising an infant, working around Robin’s long hours, and adjusting to motherhood.  Also, Miles was stinkin’ cute.  I wanted to revel in him. 

So Robin goes away all day and makes money to pay the bills, she commutes, and she bears the entire financial burden of our household.  I spend my days with Miles, and I do a lot (ok, most) of the cooking and cleaning, too.  Just like, ahem, a 1950s man and wife.  Do we love it?  No.  Is it working?  Kind of.  Would I rather we could both work part time and share the child care equally but without losing any income or benefits?  Absolutely.  But so far The Big Important Law Firm is unimpressed with my suggestion that Robin and I job-share her position.

In case anyone was wondering, it’s not that Robin or I planned for me to embrace the full role of housewife.  It’s just kind of pragmatic. Robin works really long hours and has a 45 minute commute, and if I don’t clean throughout the week, we’ll have no fun time together on the weekends.  And if I don’t at least prep the dinner ingredients before Robin gets home at 7, or even 8 or 9, we’ll be eating dinner in the middle of the night.   Also, I like cooking.   

Yet I’ve been amused and surprised by how powerfully and absolutely these roles, shaped by economic necessity, have taken over our lives.  Suddenly, I am a housewife, with all that that entails.  It’s been a category-changing experience for me.  I relate to paper towel commercials now.  When a visiting friend recently complimented the cleanliness of our home, I was quietly proud.  (It take some serious effort to keep the chaos at bay!) I spend a lot of time thinking about how to stretch our grocery budget a little further.  I start looking at the clock at 6 p.m. and calculating, “If she leaves on time today, and she has good train luck, only 45 more minutes until she’s here.”  And she hardly ever leaves on time.

Then there’s the emotional parts of being a “traditional” one-breadwinner household.  For Robin, the frustration of getting sucked into a 5:45 meeting and missing Miles’ bedtime.  Missing out on time with Miles, period.  Working and working for a family she doesn’t get to see as much as she would like.  For me, there’s isolation, drudgery, and a feeling of creeping invisibility.  I suddenly sympathize — no, empathize — with women in earlier decades.  I understand why mothers of yore nagged, whined, and even became martyrs.  It’s not pretty, but it’s understandable.  Housework, though it enriches daily life, is not valued.  And it is endless and ever-present.  The cliche “a woman’s work is never done,” is not just a sarcastic joke but an absolute truth.  And I get now why the dads of yore were tired and grumpy and absent and went around yelling about how money doesn’t grow on trees.  No one has it easy in the 1950s family.

This Robin-is-the-fun-parent thing is a new aspect of the ’50s family as it emerges in our household, another way Robin is like a dad.  I’m  here all day, and Miles clearly depends on me.  He can’t or won’t go to bed for the night without my presence.  I’m his home base, his secret headquarters, and his chuck wagon all rolled into one.  But Robin has acheived that magical combination of trust and novelty.  She goes away, and then she comes back!  She’s familiar, yet still so exciting!  I envy it a little bit sometimes, though I know she envies me my unlimited time with him.  Trade-offs all around.

Sometimes it feels like I am, or we are, the butt of a bad joke.  Like how many lesbian feminist moms does it take to get dinner on the table before 8 p.m.?  (The answer is clearly something more than two, since we usually eat around 9 these days.)  Laughing at the absurdity is part of the beauty.  And then, after laughter, a sink full of dishes.  It’s your pretty typical nuclear family around here.  Har har har.

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I got you, babe.

So lately, Miles is really, really, really into Robin.   She is clearly the fun parent, the parent who elicits squeals of enthusiasm, the parent he can’t possibly, not-for-one-minute live without.  Is it hard to feel myself slipping in the rankings?  Well, sure.  These days, I suspect that Miles Top 5 list goes something like this: 1. Momma, 2. Luna, 3. Rubber Ducky, 4. The nice lady at the laundromat, 5. That Lady Who Breastfeeds Me.  But who’s keeping track?  Not me, obviously! 

Riveted.

When I’m not busy choking on my totally traditional 1950s annoyance (she’s riling him up right before bedtime after I worked so hard to calm him down!) or envy (why doesn’t he smile like that when he sees me?), I am awestruck by their relationship.  They have special things they do, just the two of them, their own ways of communicating, of playing.  Their own little games in the high chair and rituals on the changing table.  

The absolute best is how Robin gives Miles raspberries all over his neck when they’re playing on the floor or bed —  and then he turns on her with his mouth open wide, laughing, and tries to give them back.  He presses his open mouth into her neck and then pulls back and beams as she squeals.  Over and over he hurls himself at her and plants his wide drooling mouth on any flesh he can find.  Sometimes she’ll be innocently lying on the floor or trying to read him a book and he initiates the game, mauling her as he grins wickedly.  (Has he ever done this to me?  Never.  But he did it to another kid at a play group once, and wasn’t that hard to explain?) 

These days, if Robin gets home from work before 7:30, she can still catch him awake.  She walks into the room, and Miles loses his mind.  He smiles and laughs ecstatically, then squawks furiously if she leaves the room.  If he’s in the bath when she gets home, he wants her to pick him up instantly — forget you, rubber ducky.  If Robin is at home but working for some reason, he stares pitifully at her as she send e-mails and checks her BlackBerry.  Sometimes on the weekends, he follows her around with his eyes as if to make sure she’s not going anywhere. 

Up!

 

And down!

 

And up again!

 

I’ve got some good news for you kid: she’s not going anywhere.

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Nine

As Miles’ nine-month check-up approached today, Robin and I were feeling pretty relaxed.  As we packed the diaper bag, we tried to think of questions for the doctor.   Usually I have 953 questions, ranging from “Will the sound of screeching subway brakes deafen Miles, and if so can I purchase special baby noise-canceling headphones and make him wear them every time we ride?” to “How warm do I have to bundle him?” to “Am I a bad parent if I take him to a hockey game?”  Today, I had zero questions. 

Those questions I used to ask were obviously just because I was a rookie mom, I thought to myself.

“We could tell her he falls and hits his head a lot and ask her how we know if he’s hurt enough that we need to bring him in?” I suggested casually, thinking about how level-headed I would sound asking that.  Like, yeah, I’m cool with Miles hitting his head sometimes.  You gotta fall to learn, right?

“Nah. I think Miles will let us know when he’s seriously hurt,” Robin said.

We ran through a few other potential questions, but the answers all just seemed so obvious.  I felt… competent.  So sure that Miles is on the right track and that we are doing fine.  I thought, who is this newly confident mom?  And how am I going to write funny blog posts about my insecurities if I am not psychotically worried?!

Finally we decided to ask her what’s next for him developmentally (other than walking, which seems to be right around the corner).  Like, should we be teaching him words?  Body parts?  Colors?  Should he be sorting shapes?   We agreed that to a certain extent we don’t want to be too Type-A about all of it.  But at the same time, we don’t want to be somehow missing something obvious.  Like, maybe we shouldn’t keep talking to him in full, nonstop complex sentences rife with semi-colons and dependent clauses.  Perhaps we should instead be pointing at things and saying their names.  Cat.  Bath.  Bird.  For instance.

At the office, the receptionist and nurse were extra chummy, adding to our feeling that we’re no longer newbies but sort of regulars.  Except not the bad kind of doctor’s office regulars.  May we never have a reason to be there too often, you know?

 As the nurse weighed him and measured him, she asked what I’ve come to think of as the red-flag questions.  They’re the questions that, if your answer is alarming, signal Very Bad Things.  I’m always eager to have the right answer, and so far we always do.  It’s practically stuff like, “Does your baby breathe?  Does your baby have hands? ”  Really basic stuff.  Yet I’m afraid it will be like one of those computerized I.Q. tests where the questions start off easy and get harder the more you get them right.  And as the questions get harder, you feel more and more eager to prove yourself — flooded with relief when you get something right, terrified when you don’t. 

So when she asked if he’s crawling, we were all smiles and “Yes, yes, all over the place!”

“Good.  Does he say any two-syllable words?”

What?! Two-syllable words?  Like “apple”? Or “mongoose?”  No, he doesn’t say ANY WORDS.  And, is it just me or is every baby now red-flagged for autism and put through a battery of tests that terrify the parents?  Like, “What!   Your baby doesn’t recite the Gettysburg Address yet?  You need to see a neurologist!  And a French tutor!”  It’s cruel and exhausting.

She must have seen my face, because she hastened to add, “They don’t have to make sense, just like Dada, Ah-ah, Ma-Ma.”

Well, yeah, he does that.  So we moved on.

The rest of the visit was delightfully uneventful.  Miles’ stats all came out pretty close to average, and he’s doing great.  He weighs a healthy 18.6 pounds, and his height of 28.3 inches is 51st percentile, practically textbook. 

We asked our question about what we should be doing for Miles’ development.

“Sit back and watch,” the doctor said.  “Watch him like he’s a movie, because this is the time when he’s going to be developing and changing so fast, and it will be all him.  Read him books or whatever, but essentially just let him be.”

She assured us that everything looks wonderful with him and urged us to have fun. 

Fun, with this one?  We can definitely handle that.

Up, up, up, up!

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