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Random Tuesday Thoughts: Holiday Edition

November 30, 2010



So I never did recap Halloween. The short version–it went over like gangbusters. He wore the costume with no trouble (we had not yet reached the terrible place we now live, which is absolute clothing refusal at all times). Including a head piece, though there had to be some adjustments. He looked in the mirror and immediately recognized CAP’N AMERKA!!! It was totally awesome. A few houses in he had the routine down, but as his excitement increased he started to conflate the steps, shouting “HAPPY HALLOWEEN TRICK OR TREET THANK YOU!” before the candy-giver had fully stepped out of their door. He ate a few pieces of candy during the trick or treating and went to bed hours late so wound up I’m surprised he didn’t sleep hovering a foot over his bed, Sigourney Weaver in Ghostbusters style.

He didn’t say “Thank you!” so much as “Gint you!” which is his chosen pronunciation. Though we hope he never stops calling the phone “a hello” because it’s so goddamned precious it hurts me, we’ve been trying to pull of a “gint” to “thank” conversion, just so that others are able to tell when he’s thanking them, thus reinforcing the behavior. And so that my Mother-in-Sin recognizes I’m not raising a caveman.

That said, on the more recent holiday, I filed away an already cherished memory of Henry bursting through the door of his grandmother’s house and screeching “Happy Gintsgivink!”

Now that H is older, holidays are starting to be rather fun. The notion of costume wearing on Halloween seemed to be conceptually understandable to Hank, and that was cool. He still talks about how Uncle Charlie dressed like a dog. Charlie, our good friend, in fact dressed up as a wolf-man, but the older children were so freaked by his professional quality application of fake face fur (a little 3 year old trick or treater in fact fell down backwards off the steps in alarm), that we emphasized to the little ones that Charlie was just a doggie. Of course, when the kids weren’t watching, I pressed Chuck to say “GIVE ME A KEG OF BEER” over and over. Though Michael J. wasn’t in wolf-form in that scene, it remains my favoritest of Teen Wolf scenes, and that list is fairly competitive.

I think, in fact, that my friend Alastair and I watched the “Give me a keg of beer” scene on youtube about 100 times when I was visiting him in Berlin, then harboring an unknown fugitive that would later be named Henry Stellar.

So! Christmas, eh? Can we not? I love giving gifts but I hate finding them. I’m not a graceful recipient of gifts because they make me extremely uncomfortable. I’m usually happy when it’s all over. I’m excited to give Henry his train set and train table, both bought waaaaay ahead of the holiday on super clearance. Of course we’re going to Milwaukee for Xmas so he’ll have to wait until we get home for the big reveal.

Wow, that’s some interesting stuff right there! Toys, for children, at Christmas! What an intriguing blog topic. Well, it’s Random Tuesday Thoughts, not Quality Insights of Quality for Your Third Day o’ the Week.

Accidents out.

(stop by Keely’s for more Random Tuesday Thoughts by clicking the badge at the top)

The twos are upon us.

November 19, 2010

We had an absolutely delightful stretch there, for awhile. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again–Henry’s first year was incredibly hard. Most of this had to do with sleep. He never slept through the night, he rarely slept for more than a few hours together, most of the time. He didn’t nap, other than in the car or while nursing. It took over an hour of rocking and nursing to get him to bed at night. But even when he was awake, he was intense. I know all children are intense, believe me. But Henry was, as his pediatrician liked to put it, “extra intense.”

Then around a year or a little after, things just go better. Easier. And we got to know each other better, and I thought “this! this is what it’s all about.” Much of that has to do with me. I prefer people to infants. And when Henry started talking and becoming, more recognizably, a person, things got much, much easier.

Things are still delightful, nearly every minute. But we have, this past week or two, seriously landed in the more frustrating and frustrated zone of toddlerhood. We’ve previously had few real tantrums. I credit this to chance, of course, but I suppose I should acknowledge that there may be some correlation between less top-blowing and how verbal he is–it’s usually quite easy to figure out what he wants, needs, or is trying to communicate, and this cuts down on mutual frustration. That we’re still nursing helps, too, though I’m of course not claiming that breastfeeding is again the magic bullet for all things child (I’m annoyed by this rhetoric, believe me). It helps Henry and me because nursing is still his #1 favorite thing in the world, and it can be used to soothe and reward and distract and bring him back from the edge. It’s like if you offer your kid M&Ms, it’s likely that he’ll put his toys away. Nursing is a great motivator. We don’t employ too much “if…then” or bribery, necessarily, but we do make liberal use of “We’ll nurse AFTER [such and such thing we're trying to accomplish].”

But no amount of boob or being able to talk about some things keeps them from being battles. In fact, his ability to make known his attitude usually fuels the fire. I’m trying to put a shirt on him? “NO! It’s too HARD. It’s too TIGHT. I can’t do it! I don’t want it! Take this shirt AWAY! Put it back! By other shirts! With other shirts!” I want to take him to school (which he loves, once we’re there)? “Mama, I run. I run away. Mama no come with. You drive Paco  [the name of our car, another story]. I run.”

We employ “the corner.” When there is hitting or biting or otherwise aggressive behavior (throwing toys) after warnings, there is ten seconds–counted out slowly, often together–in the corner. Then there is a new activity Henry is invited to join, if the corner was employed as a “separation from the situation” type deal, or, if there was violence, he’s invited to say “sorry” to and hug the recipient of said violence. The corner really works for us, for now. H gets a little separation from us/the toys/whatever it is that was playing a part in the mayhem, but everyone can still see each other, talk to each other, and while he’s chilling out for a moment we try to model calm behavior.

There was one day where Hank spent two sessions in the corner in one afternoon. But then things were going pretty well. At one point I decided to try to dust while he quietly fried bananas and crafted watermelon sandwiches in his play kitchen. In order to dust on top of the bookshelves, I stood on a chair.

“NOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! NO CLIMBING!” Henry wailed. I cursed my own hypocrisy and started to step down. Before I could do so, though, my incredibly fast (and stealthy!) toddler was standing next to the chair in the space I would otherwise need to occupy, essentially “chairing” me. He was reaching for me, and also trying to scramble up on the chair with me: “UP! UP! UP! I do it! I climb!”

In order to make a point, I told him, gently, “No, no climbing,” and then began to explain that Mamas shouldn’t climb either and I was sorry. When this didn’t seem to convince him, I sat down in the corner. The corner. “I’m sitting in the corner for ten seconds, because we are not allowed to climb on chairs,” I said, with humility and–dare I say it–grace.

Henry’s response? “NOOOOOOOO!!!!!! MY CORNER!

When life gives you LEMON! watch _Pulp Fiction_.

November 10, 2010

I’ve been stricken with some sort of stomach bug that was about as unpleasant as you can imagine for the first 12 hours (which were yesterday, thus no post from me, the newly minted Nablopomo failure). Now on Day 2, this still source-less ailment has left me in a general, nauseated malaise. I’m behind on everything and still eyeing vegetable soup and popsicles with suspicion. Or at least, my stomach is.

On the way home from school today, Henry held onto a segment of tangerine and proudly declared it a LEMON! LEMON! for the 45 minutes we were stuck in traffic. Like everything that kid does, I found this delightful. Not so when I explained that I’d be taking him home but then I had to go back to work. His response: “No. Stay home. Nurse. No work. All done work.” We’re getting to the point of more complicated exchanges like this one, which tend to be about complicated situations, and complicated emotions, his and mine. It thrills me that he understands and can communicate so much, but, I find, it’s actually easier to turn your back on a screaming infant than a child who can quietly articulate the more heartbreaking statement: “Please stay home?”

“Work” for me tonight was screening Pulp Fiction for my students at their request. That is a long movie, y’all. When they voted to watch it I should probably have warned them that it was 2 hours and 45 minutes long. But the runner up was Avatar, so I think we actually dodged the snooze-fest bullet there, friends. I was pleasantly surprised by PF, which I hadn’t seen in years and I had lost my taste for. I’m excited to see what my students make of it.

Discussion is in something like 12 hours so I’d best be getting some sleep.

ControverSunday: Digital Privacy.

November 7, 2010


Head here for the latest link-round up of other posts on this topic.


I haven’t worried much about this, though perhaps I should. Or not? I have a hard time getting too riled up about this topic, though I want to emphasize I do think issues of digital privacy are important to think about, that we should have some ground rules for what we publish about ourselves, and especially other people, online.

Part of my non-worry specific to this website is a (perhaps naive) sense that I just don’t get that much traffic. I get 3-4 emails a month from marketing reps with poor grammar asking me to promote their products for free. There are a few of the “heavy-hitters” in the mommy-blogging game that have stopped by here on occasion, but my niche remains small and polite (not that said heavy-hitters are not polite; I mean to say, with high traffic or high regard in the parent-blogosphere comes crazy judgmental people to comment or hate-site you). Many people I work/go to school with read in the early days, but I think that readership has fallen off a bit as I blog a good deal less and the HOLY FUCKNESS of the first year of parenting ended, and with it came the waning of the explicit drama/humor/schadenfreude of most of my posts. It’s old hat now, me being a mom. And talking practicalities of high chair use and sleep training isn’t particularly appealing to most non-parents. I already know of several ex-boyfriends, and their new girlfriends and even newer girlfriends, who’ve found their way here. But I have little bad-blood in my past, thankfully, so I have no nemeses (nemesi?), that I know of, out to ruin me by exploiting the personal details about my self and son posted here.

I link to this blog on Facebook, so anyone who I’m friends with has access. That includes many among those I work with, my family and extended family, and friends of my family. I don’t have any living grandparents, but I do write assuming I’d be okay with my grandmother reading here. Including the F-bombs and occasional confessional moments here, there’s nothing I’ve put on this site that I’m uncomfortable with being “out there.”

I do use my son’s first and middle name, his and my image, and occasionally, but rarely, the image of my partner. If you live in the same (small) city that I live in, there is no mistaking, even without pictures, who I am, who my partner is, and who our child is, with the smallest bit of poking around here (one step to my twitter account and you can figure out quickly where my partner works, even). It’s obvious from my posts that I work for the local university. It’s not hard to guess what department I teach in. I don’t complain about work here, because I like my work. I might complain about writing my dissertation, but it’s non-specific complaint and limited to my own insecurities about my writing. I don’t think (again! maybe naive!) that what I write here would be much of a game-changer when I go on the job market. But it’s something I might start to invest a bit more thought in as I get closer to that step.

And I don’t, at this point, think what I write here puts my son in danger. And that’s what this topic is meant to address. Not how my own digital privacy is being negotiated here but that of my unwitting son.

I can provide no good answer. Or, rather, the only truly satisfying position on this would be to not do a litany of things I’ve already done. Post pictures of him. Use his real name. Talk about his bodily functions. Use profanity in conjunction with sweet anecdotes about his adorableness. Refer to occasional domestic difficulties. Produce a blog.

I truly admire those of you who manage to carry off a parenting blog without using pictures of your children or their names. This is, perhaps, the ideal. I fail at that ideal, like I do so many other ways, professionally, parentally, life-ily.

But, like so many other aspects of parenting, life, being one’s self, being an awkward over-sharer who has breastfed in a work meeting and is always happy to talk about sex or pooping or mental health, I do what I do, and I’m mostly okay with it.

Ah, yes, but you counter: can Henry be said to be okay with it? Again, I don’t have a great answer for that. Maybe. Probably. Possibly not. The Henry I talk about here is one Henry amongst many that he will become, and at some point this Henry will be far divorced from that Henry. And that Henry’s digital presence will probably have all kinds of other fish to fry.

Others in this blog circle have written articulately about the mythic pedophiles who are waiting to do scary bad things with the pictures we post of our children and other “real” fears that impact this issue. I, too, am not particularly worried about that possibility. Nor am I worried that we will be targeted by bad people because there are details posted here. If targeting for The Bad happens to us it’s not going to come from here.

I do think it ultimately comes down to consent, alone. And, well, fuck. I don’t have a good answer for that. You?

Waiting it out.

November 6, 2010

Goddamn overalls in the dryer (Henry’s–I may not be glamorous but I draw the line at overalls). Their steady clang-clonk at every revolution must be what’s keeping the kid from napping. Or any number of things.

I’ve never had the stomach for crying at nap time. At night, we’ve managed to ignore  the non-urgent sounding cries and calls out for “more nurse” and “three blankets, please!” and “my ‘chool bus? where my ‘chool bus go?” in the service of getting everyone sleep, a noble enough cause to quell my tendency to wonder, and resent my partner for not wondering, “but what if something is wroooooong?” But day time crying, yikes.

And yet, here I am. Writing this while Hank cries. Well, he’s not crying exactly. He’s just babbling and whining. But I feel crushing guilt if I’m not paying every ounce of my attention to him every single second of our awake time, something else I probably need to get over. But if he doesn’t take a nap today we are absolutely screwed. We have a family get together in a public eating setting at 5, and there is no chance we’ll all survive if the kid doesn’t get some rest already. He was already flipping out on our errands this morning, and at one point screeched “I WANTA NAP WITH IRON MAN!” which I took to mean he was a wee bit overtired. Also that he is partial to Iron Man.

But he’s going through a very inconvenient monkey-baby phase, where he wants to cling to me every moment. The thing is, Hank has never been a good cuddler. As an infant, he just didn’t like to hug or cuddle or be held affectionately, never resting on you, always stiff straight in your arms looking around (like, holding up his head and turning it around and around the very DAY HE WAS BORN). Now he loves to hug and kiss and hold hands. But when he is really starved for affection, he doesn’t want to hug you. He wants to be INSIDE YOU. He headbutts you with force, trying to get his head and yours to occupy the same space. He burrows underneath you in bed like a goddamned cat. He puts his giant head under your chin and tries to be one with your neck. Then, inevitably, he is distracted by something, and you see stars as he cracks his dome into your jaw and you bite your tongue near off.

He weighs over 30 pounds, so we’ve loved that he’s been happy to walk, holding both our hands, everywhere. Today was the first day he vetoed sitting in a cart at the store. And the past week there has been lots of “NO! MOMMY LIFT!” and “CARRY ME PLEASE!” when we ask him to walk.

My back is killing me. My jaw still hurts. My tongue is barely holding itself together.

But it would appear he’s finally settled down up there. And therein lies the wisdom of just closing the door on your toddler. You may agree or disagree; you may be more able than me to deal with the whining, or you may think it shockingly cruel to impose nap time. But it worked.

And we may, or may not, make it through this evening’s get-together.




This is Halloween(‘s after effect).

November 5, 2010

Hank woke up on November 1st enthusiastically wishing his father a “Happy How-ween!” An hour or so later, he admonished me: “Mama: Wear a costume.” Luckily, he made no mention of his candy bucket. I bagged up the remainder of his stash–which was basically his whole stash minus four or so pieces he had eaten over the course of trick or treating and two almond joys I had snaked (I am not that into chocolate, but I tolerate almond joys. except when I eat them I’m usually thinking, “this would be a lot better if it was just coconut and almonds, held together by something other than chocolate”)–and gave it to my students. Since most of their Halloweens now revolve around alcohol, I think they appreciated the sugar. And to be able to take candy from a baby, though some of them were saddened that I didn’t let my poor child keep his hard earned snickers. I reminded them that he’s not even 2 years old, and that seemed to satisfy them. They are funny, college freshmen. One foot in adulthood and one foot still firmly in childhood. Most of them are doing the splits, but that one foot is still there.

It’s almost a week later but Hank’s still coming down from the excitement of it all. We went for a walk this evening and every house that had still had decorations up or pumpkins on display was approached with an eager “Trick or treat? Get candy?”

And then he picked up a clump of dirt from our neighbors yard, said “MMMMMM CHOCOLATE” and ate it. Didn’t even spit it out. Didn’t seem to notice it wasn’t, in fact, chocolate.

Toddlers are gross.

How/why we chose this year’s Halloween costume.

November 4, 2010

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