Sunday, December 14, 2008

Enter Hypnos, Stage Right

Oh, sleepless nights. Now that Gianna is 17 months old, I expect her to sleep through the night, make herself a PB&J, ride her ten speed to the store to pick up some groceries for me, and to deport herself with decorum and grace.

No, not really. Although a little more sleep and a lot less kicks to the bladder would be nice. I actually don't expect Gianna to sleep through the night yet. She still has teeth that need to come in (we've got 16 so far; up next are the 2 year molars), she's still hitting developmental milestones left and right, and let's face it: she's my daughter. My little "Mini-me," right down to the double-jointed thumb and birthmark on her left bun. I don't even sleep through the night. Or at least, I remember very vaguely not sleeping through the night before I became pregnant.

I am in the process of trying out various methods of maximizing her and my sleep performance. I'm not going to monkey with Mr. Clarateaches' sleep- he still sleeps like he did when he was in college, working on the Formula SAE car. For quite a while, I was convinced that he had narcolepsy. If ever there is a break-in, I will have to man the shotgun myself, and wake him up when it's over- to which he no doubt will (upon awakening): 1st- Look stunned 2nd- Loudly vocalize, probably not real words, and 3rd- Resume slumber.

Method 1- Play outside, and wear her out.
This actually did seem to contribute to more restful sleep when the days were crisp, cool and sunny. Lately it's been 13* and windy, so this isn't always an option. Out of 5 stars, I'll give it a good 4.

Method 2- Chamomile Tea.
This really doesn't have much of an effect on her. She doesn't drink that much of it, and was tipped off that it's sedating, so now she mostly runs away and laughs if I suggest a cup. 1 star for effort.

Method 3- Raw Honey.
Honey has a naturally sedating effect, and I had surprisingly good results with it, until I learned that it also can cause wild, vivid dreams. I had wondered why Gianna started waking up screaming until I spent one night in a tall pine tree with my mother-in-law, avoiding the calculus test for which we forgot to study. Night-terror inductions aside, this gets a solid 4 stars.

There are other elements- if she's really wild and has had an off-day, Rescue Remedy works fine to help get her settled. Lavender in the bath works occasionally. Why not just let her cry it out? Well, for lots of reasons. For one thing, I believe that mothers have instincts for good reasons, and to ignore those instincts is no good. My instinct is to not leave my child anywhere alone to cry. For another, there have been many occasions that her night time shenanigans have clued me in to something that was wrong- the night she had a massive rash from raspberries, the night she uncharacteristically pooped in the middle of the night (ick- who wants to sleep in that?), the night that Lola was somehow left outside in the middle of the night... the list goes on. Before she started her EC strike, sometimes it just meant that she needed to sit on the potty for a while. The main reason is that even among mothers that use CIO (Crying It Out), they all concede that it still has nights where it just doesn't work. Just as some people sleep differently, so do babies. For whatever reason, Gianna's just the type of person that needs to be wakeful. Which brings me to:

Method 4: Acceptance
When I accept that she will, indeed, wake through the night and chant "Milk, milk, ma-milk, mama milk," latch on, and then sleep, I'm a happier person all around. When she's hitting a developmental leap that causes me to wonder if she's growing the skill of flight, if I accept that she'll be wiggling and kicking and head-butting me into the wee sma's, I still am tired, but I'm not angry and frustrated.

Finally, I do need to concede to what more "established" mothers often tell me- it goes so fast. Soon enough, she'll be sleeping through the night in her own bed, and soon after that, I'm sure I'll need to deal with her wanting to sleep all day, and later, she'll be keeping me awake while I wonder where she is, and while I listen for her car.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Covered in Shells

Through my head, this refrain repeats- How on earth did women in the pioneer days do it? Without microwaves, ovens, dishwashers or washers and dryers. How did they manage one whole day, not to mention prepare for holidays? Especially out there on the Oregon Trail? Food for thought on this busy Thursday morning, with a stack of Christmas cards that need some words of cheer, with diapers that need to be hung to dry, with stockings to stitch together, and with a dog that desperately needs for me to croon Dave Mathews Band songs to her. Don't confuse that Precious Moments dog eye look for anything short of admiration.

So, that could be my excuse for not blogging lately. Truth be told, though, I'm stuck in thought patterns that I can't seem to shake off. I do try to mix the deep thoughts with exaggeratedly hyperbolic representations of students of the past, toddler of the present, and no small amount of Dogasus. Bear with me while I purge.

Not so many years ago, there was a little boy with curly, dark hair, pale skin, and the berry-blue eyes of his Black Irish ancestry. He happily created machine guns with rolling pins and the waist-tie of his bathrobe, assembled complicated weaponry with Legos, watched GI Joe with rapt attention, and got into the various scraps and scrapes with neighborhood children, including his siblings. As he grew, he continued in his love of all things military, all things history, and organized with his friends a particularly memorable paintball ambush of some neighborhood riffraff that were vandalizing our house.

Life has a way of indiscriminately aiming some stunningly powerful elements at just about anyone and everyone. With this small boy, it was in the form of pretty strong family violence. He grew a very potent form of chivalry as a way of dealing with it. The Marine Corps was a natural progression. Today, he trains in the desert of California, awaiting an early spring deployment to the Middle East. I couldn't be prouder of my little brother. At the same time, my thoughts splinter in a thousand directions- why does he even have to go? I thought we were finished. What happened to the Senetors who were voted in on so many promises of bringing everyone home? Most important- who will he be when he comes back? Because he will come back- I'm not giving him a choice. I cannot believe that, in all that has happened in his 24 years, this is where it will end.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

There is an ice cube in my shoe...

Toddler shenanigans are in full swing around here. Picture a tiny tornado with fluffy, curly hair swirling and twirling through the house, leaving cheddar bunny crackers and the dog's hair brush and all of my shoes tangled with various cell phone and computer paraphernalia.

Shoes are a huge hit. Especially when they are my shoes, on her feet, and she triumphantly scuffs her way into the kitchen. This is a huge accomplishment- previously she would get as far as perhaps one shoe on one foot, and then it would all fall apart. She couldn't stand up, the shoe wouldn't stay with her as she walked, and it would all dissolve into screams, head banging, roaring terrible roars, gnashing terrible teeth, and showing terrible claws. Lather, rinse, repeat.

This is, after all, the life and times of a toddler: Wake up, nurse, inspect what Mommy's doing, see a task OH NO! FRUSTRATION FRUSTRATION FRUSTRATION hey, victory! Accomplishment! But then- FRUSTRATION FRUSTRATION FRUSTRATION oops, I'm distracted. Insert various eating and diaper changes and a nap if we're all lucky, and there it is.

The love/hate relationship with the dog has headed into smoother sailing. Lola has discovered that Gianna loves nothing more than to cram a tantalizing bite of toddler food (Yum, kale! I'm the best mommy...) into the dog's mouth, and then pull it out and give it a lick herself. Over and over. She also knows what the dog's treats are, and adores giving them to her. As soon as she spies the container and gives the yell, "Teeeeeeeet! WOWA TEEEET!" Lola comes galloping. Lola may act forlorn and put out at each dog anatomy lesson Gianna gives at the top of every hour ("Ear? Ear. Earearear. Butt? Butt. Buttbuttbutt. Eye?") but today acted genuinely happy to see Gianna when I brought her outside to play after a whopping two hour nap.

From the moment she wakes me up by cracking her skull into my nose, until she falls asleep while scratching contentedly at my side as if we're all just a pile of cats, she's on the go. I know I say this at every stage, but this is truly one of my favorite stages. Until she masters the doors leading to outside...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Girl's Mama

Before Gianna was born, we had no idea if she would be a girl or a boy. We decided long ago that we wouldn't want to know the gender of our babies beforehand- there are so few surprises in life anymore.

This perplexed almost everyone around us. A coworker at the cult took it very personally, almost as if my choices were a judgement on hers: "I always found out the gender. I had to, I couldn't not find out." Hard glare. It's truly a strange society where people take the decisions and choices of others (particularly the ones that don't remotely affect them in any way) as a pointed judgement of their own.

We didn't want to live in a prenatal world of pink or blue. The sea of greens and yellows were quite consuming on their own. And then she was born- a little girl. The congratulations cards arrived in a wave of frothy pink.

Don't get me wrong- pink is wonderful, and my little girl looks very cute in pink. We don't even really worry too much about pigeonholing her into a specific gender role; as a little girl I was just as happy with my baby dolls as I was searching for crayfish, knee-deep in a creek bed. I'm fairly certain that she will continue to dig in the dirt for rocks and drive her cars all over my kitchen floor whether I dress her in pink or yellow or, in warmer weather, practically nothing at all.

I do wonder about myself, however. How am I parenting as a mother of a daughter? Am I the same person now as I would have been had Gianna been a boy? I'm certainly not the same person I was before I became pregnant, or had a child. My hair is a lot crazier, I have an eye twitch that won't go away, an ability to jump awake at the slightest cough, and I find myself saying things like, "We pet Lola's tail nicely; tails are not for tasting," and "Mommy does not need help going to the bathroom."

I wonder how differently I would have reacted to a little boy deciding to walk along the top of the couch. My first reaction was- absolutely not. Later, it was amended to- "With Mommy's help." Would I have been that quick to refuse access to what really is probably not that dangerous of an exploration?

Her hair is long enough for barrettes now. Yesterday I found myself thinking about polishing her toenails (how uncrunchy of me!) She wore patent leather Mary Jane style shoes to church on Sunday (and shattered my jaw into a million tiny shards each and every chance she had to kick me repeatedly in the face). Each of these events is shaping her bit by bit, like water on a rock. Not a bad thing. Neither is letting her hammer rocks with a wooden mallet in the yard, or dig in the dirt with her fingernails, or any of the other millions of events that go on during the day.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cricket... Cricket...

Ahem. Is this thing still on? I haven't posted in a while, mostly because my superpowers have been needed elsewhere. There is never a lack of things to accomplish.

I've also found myself in sort of a test pattern mode, thought-wise. Election dronings, economic "bovine feces," and other loud repetitive noises have killed my inspiration. I did have one thought that has been bouncing around for about the past 24 hours- what if people didn't vote for the candidates, but voted on the actual issues instead? Instead of flicking the switch for "Beavis" or "Butthead," in other words, there were the actual issues laid out in a simple, easy to understand, agreed upon by the candidates format. Perhaps the main twelve. Economics- do you lean towards a top-down, or a bottom-up method? Check here. Oil- do you want to drill, or don't you? Check here. The issues get tallied, and he/she that most matches the ideals of what people are looking for is voted in. Too difficult for someone to figure out? No voting for you, then. That method takes wayyyy too long! Huh. Well, crap. You mean it won't give us the results as fast as American Idol? Bummer, dude. Guess we can't do it that way. Besides, how will we know which ones are the good guys, and which are the bad ones?

But, what the hell do I know, anyway? I can't even figure out the daily mysteries I encounter. While sorting laundry to be cleaned, I found myself staring at a button-down shirt of Mr. Clarateaches this morning, wondering, "How on earth did he get out of this shirt? It's still buttoned! With a tee shirt still inside of the shirt!" I'd probably still be kneeling on the floor attempting to figure it out, but Gianna decided to scrub down the dog with some underwear and enlightenment was never achieved.

Instead, we ventured down to the freezing lower floor of our house, where I tried to distract my little overachiever from teething on the side of the garbage can by turning on Sesame Street. This show was definately written with the idea that parents will primarily be the ones watching this, while their progeny toddle about the living room while talking on the remote control and vigorously vacuuming the dog with the toy popcorn popper. One thing that does catch her attention is Elmo, the newer, cuter version of Grover. When I was small, Bert and Ernie and Grover ran the show, with Big Bird, Snuffy, and Oscar the Grouch supporting. Now, there are all sorts of speech-impaired little monsters running amok. A bear muppet substitutes "W" sounds for both "R" and "L" sounds (developmentally appropriate for the age range they're targeting, but bothersome to be modeling nonetheless) and Elmo consistently refers to him(?)self in the third person.

Enough dallying, I suppose. Time to go work on the ol' cottage industry. Or, some more haus-frauery.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

When You Assume...

Gianna the Foreman needs to supervise me closely while I'm cleaning, and we've got a pattern down, where in the mornings, I clean somewhere and she plays close by. This morning was the bathroom, and so I gave her this little plastic shoebox full of random things we've chucked in there that we don't use- all the pacifiers people gave us, a huge thing of Vaseline that we've never opened (DH is adamant about avoiding petroleum products), and some odds and ends of a J&J baby travel pack that were all still packaged shut. I assumed without checking that the Vaseline was somehow sealed, and she wouldn't be able to get into it.

So I'm scrubbing away at the rust in the tub, and she's chattering away to herself while looking through the box. She takes out the pacifiers and asks, "Dis?" while putting it in her mouth. I confirm that "in the mouth" is okay for the pacifier. I get back to scrubbing, and a few minutes later smell an overpowering baby powder scent. I turn and look and see:

Gianna, with a newborn-sized pacifier in her mouth, with a seriously grim, set face, taking her finger and sticking it into the open Vaseline pot, and applying a heavy dose to her eyebrows!!! They were swept way up in points. The look on her face, combined with the too-tiny pacifier, plus the eyebrows, was hilarious. She was so mad when I wiped her eyebrows off. I'm just glad she didn't eat it! That'll teach me to assume that things are sealed without checking!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Gray Day...

"...everything is gray. I watch, but nothing moves today." Dr Seuss, My Many Colored Days


Upon looking into the mirror, I noticed a glaringly silver hair right in the middle of my part, towards the front of my face. Now, gray hair is nothing new to me- a college housemate used to amuse herself by yanking out gray hair she'd find in the back of my head, when I'd have my hair in a pony tail. This is the first time I've seen one out in the open, though. I think I'm going to call this little friend, "Bailout."

My usual distractions from the irritating, heart-sinking world of politics ranges. In days past, I would hop in the car and zoom around, finding something new. Or, I would argue relentlessly in forums (fora? foraminifera? Gewurztraminer, as my spell checker recommends?) dedicated just for that purpose. Sometimes I would attack a project. Bambina is napping, or else we'd be at Lowe's right now, looking for something to make a raised garden. I just need to hammer.

So, sometimes I fall back upon Food TV. I fell in love with "good things" a long time ago, watching Martha Stewart's "From Martha's Kitchen" and later her Living show. This escalated to watching Food TV and learning how to do incredible things with a roux, or with brioche. This may just be the spine to all of the organic, whole, local rigamorale I put us through on a daily basis. At any rate, if I'm going to make a chocolate chip cookie, rest assured, it will not be from a tube with a little dough man on it.

And here is what I see:

Commercial: The scene opens on an idyllic backyard, as one mom (Mom 1) pours red liquid for another mom (Mom 2). A party is implied, with kids in the background, and typical party fare about.
Mom 2: (raised eyebrows) "Oohhh, that has high fructose corn syrup in it."
Mom 1: (glibly, perhaps a bit archly) "So?"
Mom 2: "Well, you know what they say..." (trails off, fumbles a bit, looks sheepish).
Mom 1: "What? That it's made with corn? That it has no artificial ingredients? That it's fine in moderation, just like sugar?" She laughs at Silly Mom 2, and hands her a glass. Mom 2 looks at first embarrassed, but shakes it off to laugh with Mom 1 and enjoy her mixture of hummingbird food.

Dear GOD. What? The ad ends with the logo for the Corn Refiners Association at the bottom. Well, of course. That makes sense. Ethynol is slinking back into the place where New Coke and Clear Pepsi retreated, as it dawned on people that it creates a heck of an environmental impact just to get corn to a place where it works not quite so efficiently on cars as petroleum still does. Okay, so that's Food TV. Since Scripps Network took it over, actual chefs have left, and entertainment has taken over. Along with Sandra Lee, who probably won Miss High Fructose Corn Syrup at one point in time.

Click. Let's try my old pal, Martha. She still strives for the best. I page through the latest installment of her Everyday Food magazine, when lo and behold, there on page 41- what the HELL? It's an ad, adroitly placed opposite the "Between the Lines" column where the Martha Stewart Everyday Food people go through all the typical weird ingredients in packaged food to describe their impact.

And there, in the new MS Living magazine. Another one. Interestingly enough, the line that is repeated is that High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is safe "in moderation." Does anyone even know what moderation even is anymore? Let's actually let our brains do the thinking, rather than TV.

Ketchup, bread (yes, even high end whole wheat), salad dressing, canned soup, peanut butter, cereal... it's in all of these. If you are not going out of your way to avoid buying these items that contain them, your "moderation" card is already filled by the time someone offers you a popsicle or Red Liquid Drink.

Let's read further. So, if it's made from corn, it's "natural," huh? The type of corn that HFCS is made from is the type of corn that even cows don't like to eat. It's very high in starch (important for the process that the corn syrup goes through to become HFCS) and is very likely to be genetically modified as well. Here is a really good, step-by-step description of how HFCS is refined. It turned Mr. Clarateaches and myself off of the stuff for good. Do we occasionally partake in some fake frosting at a party? Sure. But do we refuse to buy HFCS products? Pretty much all the time. We're still working out the kinks, and occasionally notice that something (Dannon yogurt? Hello!) contains it where it really isn't necessary.

People can put any crazy thing they wish into their bodies. But an AD? Trying to convince people that avoiding it means that you're a blithering, stammering idiot? And that eating it purposefully is just fine, A-OK, and just like sugar?

I need to go hammer something now. Okay?

Friday, September 19, 2008

BonBons and Toenail Polish

When I was teaching, there were some hum-drum days that came and went with no remarkable events. There were others that just plain stank, and I repeated to myself and my minions ad nauseum, "Tomorrow is a whole, brand new day." Then, there were the days where I slammed it right outta the park. The lesson was spot on, I'd have a breakthrough with one of my more intense kids, a principal or two would be overheard singing my praises...

Mothering is exactly that, only the pluses and minuses (meandering thought- why not minusii? Hmmm...) happen to your own flesh and blood. There's no paycheck to work for, but there is the carriage of your genetic material onward to a surviving new generation, so it behooves Mommy not to screw up. So some days go on in one giant blur of diapers-food-naps-dog shenanegins-diapers-bedtime and before you know it, you're thinking, "It's Friday? Really?" Others, you're practically sprouting demure heels and buffed pearls from your feet and neck, respectively. You've had time to (get this) floss your teeth, and use the diffuser that came with the hair dryer. Developmentally appropriate activities are going well with the bambina, local and organic home-cooked four square meals grace the clean table, and the dog is behaving as though she's just stepped off the faux-turf of the Westminster Dog Show.

Rarer still, fortunately, are the days where everything comically goes "all circus" on you. Mommy has to morph into an X-Men-type creature known as "Umbrella" when the gadget-oriented bambina decides to crank the shower all the way hot, and sheild the baby from the resulting lava flow while cranking it back (with shampoo in her eyes, no less.) The day is perfect for a walk, but Mommy's hairdo ends up looking less Angelina Jolie and very much more like "Doll From The Bottom Of The Toy Bin," and two blocks (or what I suspect was two blocks... these are the rural 'burbs here) into the walk discovers that Post-Partum Butt is no longer holding up Grey Pants the way they used to (where'd it go? I'd like it back now!) so every few steps is an adjustment to either pants, or former ideals of modesty and class.

These days, of course, are also days where the bambina decides that a 15 minute power nap is all she needs all day, so that by the time the usual "witching hour*" rolls around, she's turning into a gremlin and alternately laughing hysterically as she plays "Give Mommy a black eye with my forehead" and whining, falling over her own feet. PMS leaves you teary-eyed over the fact that you missed "Signing Time" on PBS, and pissy that the washable brown crayon with which you let the bambina tag the kitchen walls is just not as washable as advertised. Dinner semi-scorches, and the well water leaves manganese stains on the sink. You wonder why you used a tablespoon to measure out the cookie dough, and not an ice cream scoop. You wonder how chamonile tea would taste with a healthy jigger of Southern Comfort.

As always, with time and patience, grace prevails and sustains, and before you know it, the day is over, and you've learned that yet again, tomorrow is a brand new day.

* The Witching Hour, in small children, refers to the time period approximately between 3-5 PM, where they can become quite irritable, whiny, hyper, or just plain annoying. It has much more to do with circadian rhythms and blood sugar, I believe, than parenting or disposition, and only has to be endured with the understanding that a little dinner and a soothing bedtime ritual away is peace and quiet.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Babies, Babies, everywhere!

A beautiful baby boy was born to a friend of mine on Sunday. All of her prolonged, off-again, on-again labor helped make it a short delivery. I can't believe that someone who gave birth around the time Gianna was born is actually having her second baby already! Congrats, Colette!

Also, in YAY HOME BIRTH news: Stephanie at Adventures in Babywearing welcomed her little Ivy into the world, in her very own bedroom this morning. Happy babymoon, you strong, home birthing mama!

Each story of home birthed babies makes me stronger. Soon, I'll be able to rip tall trees out of the ground, fly over buildings, and stop evil-doers with one crazy stare.

And, to birth my next baby at home. Empowering for me, frighteningly amazing for Mr. Clarateaches, educational for Gianna, and "knock-me-over-with-a-feather," "what-is-all-this," and "TOO MANY PUPPIES!" for Lola.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Americana

The sign of the times:

Today I drove down a tree-lined street. It was garbage day, so the garbage truck was stopping, and a garbage man (or what used to be called garbage men- what is it now? Environmental Elf? Waste Management Intern?) was hopping out, grabbing cans, and loading them into the lift that dumped it into the big container.

As I got closer, I saw that he was lifting the cans with one hand, and emptying them, and then tossing them very skillfully back to where they belonged. For a moment, I thought- "Is he showing off? Is he exercising his "garbage can" arm?

Finally I passed him. He was on a cell phone, talking while holding it up to his ear. There are just no words for that kind of skill.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Rident Stolidi Latina

So says my chocolate chip cookie recipe. My nine year old niece was giving me a reminder of what exactly to tell the naysayers when it comes up that Mr. Clarateaches and I are planning on using a Latin-Based Curriculum when we homeschool Gianna and subsequent bambinos. Now when I pull out my crusty, trusty notebook of recipes and see this (unintentionally) partial phrase, I can feel very smug and self-satisfied, until the occasion actually arises that someone does question our choice, and I completely forget what I was planning on saying, and I accidentally tell them, " Nauta precor procul mare." I need to pull out the Prima Latina and actually learn the mother tongue myself, one of these days.

She meant, "Rident stolidi verba latina," of course. "Only fools laugh at Latin." While this has so far only happened to us once, it does seem that as "terrible" and "failing" as public schools are perceived to be in the minds of many of the general public, the act of schooling one's child at home is seen as slightly insane by some ("What! You do realize you'll have your children underfoot all day long, right?") and as practically criminal by others ("By keeping your child out of public schools, the schools receive less money and therefore are not working as well for the other children, you selfish prig.")

I was sent an article by the eagle-eyed and bitingly witty Michael at Open All Night that both moves and troubles my soul. The article opens by saying:
NORTHFIELD, Ill. - More than 1,000 Chicago public school students skipped the first day of classes Tuesday to protest unequal education funding, a boycott organizers said would continue through the week with help from retired teachers who will turn office lobbies into impromptu classrooms.
I'm moved because the masses are actually coagulating and working as one, from the bottom up. This is always necessary, especially in a school system, as the changes are excruciatingly difficult to do from within. If the parents of my students ever had an issue with the school that they took up with me, I would heavily encourage them (in other words, I would carry them in a fireman's hold all the way to the office and inject them with sodium pentathol) to tell the office, and the school district administrators, as parents can get more fires started than teachers. I'm troubled, because as usual, the solution (as always) seems to be to toss more and more money at the problems, rather than to take a good hard look at where the money is all currently headed.

More and more and more money. And then what? More money still. Mitchell, in The Graves of Academe, argues that the perception of public schools failing is misleading. He argues that any institution that persistently does a shoddy job and continues to have money tossed at it is thriving well. I tend to agree- from the inside, a school is always searching, seeking, and finding (and going back to searching) for more money. When austerity budgets were instilled, the first things to go were usually the so-called "fluff" of the programs- art supplies, music, and finally sports. Yet administrators typically (and this is only my experience, which so far, including student teaching and substitute teaching as well as working as a certified teacher, is composed of six different public districts) do not initially option for pay cuts for themselves. These are people who are making six figures a year. The bulk of the "filling in" lands on the parents of students and then teachers themselves, pooling together for supplies.

Back to these students in Chicago, who are symbolically signing themselves up for enrollment in a "better" district (more highly taxed, wealthier, that probably without looking has a higher retention and graduation rate than the Chicago Public School District). Back also to the adults who are with them picketing and working hard to do what they think is the very best for their children or grandchildren. I have to wonder- if the adults with them so strongly want better, and are able to hold days-long protests, what is stopping them from schooling their children at home? Are they on leave from jobs that are waiting for them to come back from demonstrating? Are they under the impression that homeschooling is expensive and only to be done by those who are "certified?" Do they feel that the omission of their children will leave the remaining children in even worse shape?

These students, as the article points out, already realize that what they are doing is largely symbolic. They can't reasonably expect to commute 30+ miles to a better district, while also paying out-of-district tuition. Michigan schools actually have a halfway decent idea, with parents having the option to bring their children to the best available school within their county as a part of the "School of Choice" initiative, which makes districts competitive.

We are choosing, as many others are doing in droves, to go one step further and go back to the way some of the most brilliant minds of the onset of this country were schooled. Gianna will have slightly more than a slate and a Bible with which to learn how to read, write, and "cipher," but it will be without the several useless administrative positions and without the state-stamped "approved material" and without the general mindless dance of the drones that accompanies the typical public school experience of all but the very best districts. Don't misunderstand- this is not without a great deal of thinking and guilt and consternation on my part. What about the others? What about the single moms working long hours who cannot homeschool and are not near a decent alternative? What about the hard-working teachers who do their level best, under the worst of circumstances (and I know from personal experience and deep personal expense what goes into this)? What about the special needs children who need the services that are only offered in a public school setting? Change, I tell myself, is never easy. Transitions are difficult for adults, too. If there is to be an actual "change" in the current public school system, the agents of change need to be those who remove themselves from the cycle completely. The rest will have to fall into place, or fall away.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Customer Service

In accordance to Clarateaches Law, "Everything Dealing With The Car Has To Be The Hard Way." Aside from various and motley other little snafus with our new car, the dealership accidentally gave us the wrong interest rate, and had to find us a new car loan. They kindly did just this (and now I'm waiting for them to tell us that they accidentally sold us a car that was already sold) and so now we're dealing with a new bank. I called the bank to inquire about our new car's account. Ages passed, of voice-activated choices, repeatedly hitting "0" only to discover that the maze of options did not include the typical instant access to a human being, and lots of errors in the choices due to trying to get a sleek and shiny Dogasus out of my hair (Me: "Lola, NO! Sit!" Voice Activated Service: " 4...0...6... Is this correct? Press or say 1 if correct...")

I finally reached a human being around the time that Gianna found her indoor rock. Gianna has switched majors from dental hygienist certification to geology, and has to have a rock near her at all times. When we recently went to the zoo, she carefully pointed out "Ock! Ock!" at each exhibit. "Look, Gianna, there's a tiger!" I would say, pointing to a tiger lying on the ground, suffering extreme heat stroke. Gianna would be fixated on the false granite cave instead. "Up, up, UP!" she would demand, trying to climb into the tiger exhibit. "Ock!"

At any rate, Mr. Clarateaches found a rock that was large enough that it wasn't a choking hazard, and small enough so that it wasn't a broken toe hazard, and Gianna honed in on it right away.

She waddled over to me just as I was giving my account information to the Real Live Human on the other end. "Ock!" she said proudly, and banged it on my knee to drive the point home. I directed her towards the dog, who looked nervous as usual (but as yet can still outrun the baby, so I'm not terribly concerned) and the Real Live Human gaily asked, "How old is your baby?" I responded, "Thirteen months," and Real Live Human said, "Oh, I have one of those at home. Only, he's nine."

Okay... thirteen months is kind of like nine, I guess. At any rate, I was interested in getting information and getting off the phone. I don't call banks to chat. In the interest of classification, Gianna performed a vigorous Moh's Hardness Test on the rock using the glass kitchen door. I herded my little genius away from the glass and gave her a plastic bowl to repeatedly play "place and empty the rock," and Real Live Human asked, "What toy is THAT?!?"

I told her that Gianna was practicing her .22 with some clay pigeons and I just really needed to understand a few points about the car loan. She was able to give me this information in less than 30 seconds, and just as I was about to sigh a big old sigh of relief and check this task off my list, she started pestering me about signing up for a credit card. Fortunately, Gianna had started to try to force-feed Lola a spatula, so I was able to flee. Real Live Human huffed her way through a good-bye that I'm sure was not a part of her script.

Check. Ahhh.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Journey Begins With One Small Tush

Cloth diapering seemed fairly normal. I had the privilege of being the daughter of a mother who cloth diapered my youngest brother towards his potty-training years, and so I remember the eighties version- pins, prefolds, and plastic pants.

Trying to decide what I would use was a bit more daunting. Every cloth diapering mama, it seems, has come up with her own design and tricks and is marketing it to ecologically and economically friendly mothers everywhere. All have cutie-pie names that sometimes start to blur together: Bum Genius, Bummis, Fuzzi Bunz, Motherease, and Kissaluvs are just a handful of the more popular ones. On most mothering boards where cloth diaper use is prevalent, the alphabet soup of acronyms is just flying, as discussions of "BG's vs FB's" and "ME's with or without covers" go on and on and on.

I knew I would use pre-folds, whatever else I landed on. Prefolds are the typical cotton rectangle that most people think of when visualizing cloth diapers. Plastic pants are a crinkly, scratchy thing of the past, with the advent of wool covers (stay tuned for a mid-fall intro to my Etsy line of "Shorties;" a flashback to the good old days when Pa knew a new bun was in the oven when Ma started click-clacking away on the knitting needles, chugging out tiny wool shorts. That, or the massive morning sickness over the daily mucking of the cow stalls. Ahhh, the good old days...) or PUL covers (PUL stands for polyurethane laminate, a waterproof but soft fabric). Pins are even a thing of the past, as many (but not all) prefold users now snag the diaper into place with Snappis.

Aside from the "PFs," I was on the prowl. What marvelous, washable, soft and cozy item would catch my baby's excretions? The posh, but way too expensive Blueberry Minkies? Perhaps someday, when I find the buried treasure I've been searching for since third grade. As cute as they are, $42 is just too much for one single diaper.

Motherease was next on my list. Organic cotton, lovingly hand-picked by pixies by the light of the full moon*, woven into a comfy, yet moderately priced diaper that works from newborn on up to toddlerhood, thanks to a series of snaps that changes the size completely. Their Air Flow covers were also my main cover choice, as I wanted a breathable, "bubble cover" that would fit a range of thigh to waist ratios.

Bum Genius 2.0's were out when Gianna was born, and they upgraded to 3.0 by the time she was 6 months old. These also were "one size," and worked without a cover, as they were an "all in one" diaper. The only downside is that the fabric that contacts the baby's skin is synthetic, and for the summer, I've noticed that Gianna just does not tolerate the microsuede on hot and humid days.

After a full year of trying out different diapers, and stepping into the Wacky, Wild and Wonderful World of Wool, I've decided that, as in many things, simplicity is perfection. My typical set-up is a prefold, Snappi'ed shut, with a wool cover or a Motherease Air Flow. She's happy, comfortable, and rash-free, and I am only washing diapers every other day (or sometimes every third day, unless it's humid). The Motherease One Size with an insert snapped in, is what gets her through the night.

Any of my readers doing cloth? Any thoughts to share?

*Okay, I exaggerated a bit. I think the pixies machine-pick the cotton, and it's probably during the day. Every day.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Feeding Frenzy, Revisited

It was in this post where I originally described the fun of nursing an infant.

Nursing a "waddler" (not quite a toddler, but certainly a walking infant) is just as hilarious, if not more so. Let's walk through it.

10 AM: Gianna walks over to where I am picking up blocks for the 11 billionth time that morning, and smacks me on the chest. "Nurse?" I ask her, signing as well.

She responds by doing the "nursing chuckle," "Uh huh, uh huh, uh huh..." She flings herself into my arms, and we proceed.

10:01 AM: Gianna's eyes squint, and suddenly her pointer finger looms into my peripheral vision. In an instant, my nose is being picked. I remove her hand. She casually zooms in again, and I remove her hand again. Repeat.

10:03 AM: She's disinterested in the nostrils now. Right now, she wants to rest her foot on my cheek. "Rest" is actually the wrong word. She wants to kick my cheek repeatedly while asking, "Dis? Dis? Dis?" Only, she's nursing, so it's more like, "Mish? Mish? Mish?" All of the above is dissuaded, as talking while nursing involves way more teeth than are comfortable.

10:05 AM: What to do... what to do... Ah yes! Gianna grabs my hair and pulls gently. Then, she lets go and pulls her own hair gently. Her eyebrows furrow. She has an idea. She grabs my hair, this time not so gently, and gives it a yank. Then, repeats on her own hair. Back and forth, she tests the tensile strength of each of our tresses until I actually reach my own breaking point before my hair. I encourage her to pull on my nursing necklace, a gift from my mother when I described the black and blue marks I was getting from my interactive nursling.

10:06 AM: I am strangled by my own nursing necklace. Examination of the nostrils resumes.

10:07 AM: Gianna leaps away, ready to play. I grab some tea, and cherish all the fuzzy hormones that nursing releases. Oxytocin, where would we be without you? Probably not nursing, that's for sure.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Return of Saturn

Epilogue (of sorts) to the car crash and subsequent mirth and merriment of living in a "No Fault State." Apparently, if you detest someone badly enough, you can ram some junker of a car right into their family-mobile, and give them three weeks of headaches and phone calls.

No matter. After hemming and hawing, and waxing and waning, and switching frequently from cat pose to cow pose, our insurance company decided to total the car after all. We then had a whirlwind week and a half of looking at used and new cars, weighing our options, deciding if a lease was a good idea or a bad idea (we voted, "BAD") and finally landed on a Saturn. A fairly nice, new Vue that will get the whole family too and fro, Doula-Dog and all.

When we bought the car, we did it at the last hour of the last day of the month, and as a result, didn't get the whole washing and detailing process, as the service center had gone home for the day. I went back the next day with one-year old in tow, and crossed all my fingers and toes that they could get me in and out of there.

At 9:00 AM in the morning, many very extremely elderly people converge upon Saturn dealerships for coffee and TV. I had no idea. Fortunately, they seemed delighted that a baby was in the vicinity, and cackled and encouraged her in her raucousness. "What a handsome little guy!" bellowed one man, as my pink-ruffled-with-flowers-frocked child swept all magazines from the coffee table to the ground. Two women, who had initially sat down next to each other and started to talk about various maladies, cheered on the bambina's attempts at walking. Gianna mistook this friendliness as an invitation to peel brightly painted, but seemingly necrotic toenails off one of the women's toes.

In between treating one and all to some good old fashioned lactation-phobia exposure therapy and the mayhem and madness of letting a near-walker loose around some caffeinated seniors, I frequently popped Gianna into our pouch sling and wandered over to the door that led to the service center. There, service personnel would cheerfully wave and continue to not detail and wash my car. In fact, I suspect that as soon as I'd leave their sight, they were taking turns changing all the pre-programmed stations on my radio and mooning one another from the back windshield.

Around and around we circled. Checked out the autos on the showroom floor. Peeked at the tiny, spoiled pooch that someone was wearing in a dog-baby-carrier (Gianna shouts, "no No NOT!" or sometimes, "Woof!" at strange dogs). Took a break at the waiting area, in order to completely dismantle the daily newspaper all over the floor (which delighted the caffeinated seniors). Peeked at car, wondered at the service people who were now playing a good old fashioned game of "Cram as many workers as possible into the car."

Finally, after hovering close to a salesperson trying to make his sale at a table, and allowing Gianna to add her two cents as necessary, they were able to get us out of there.

Without our free tank of gas.

We would... have to...

GO BACK ANOTHER DAY.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hot Topic is NOT Punk Rock

No matter how "anti-establishment" or against the grain, back to nature, outside of the box, or any way you term "different" you think you are as a parent, you always can fit into some sub-group. I happen to belong to the group of anti-consumer, anti-commercial, baby-wearing, breastfeeding, non-vax'ing, CSA-belonging mamas who heft around Robeez-wearing, organically fed children with amber necklaces around their triple-chinned necks. There are actually enough of us that we probably almost equal in numbers the Disney-and-Kraft-Mac-n-Cheese crowd, at this point.

What I'm going to do is causing me no small amount of cognitive dissonance, therefore. I'm about to do something that goes against my typical self, and I think I've come to terms with it. I think I'm going to go ahead and click the "Google AdSense" button, and add some commercialism to my blog. I've questioned myself and my motives long and hard, and what it boils down to is- if you want to click on an ad, click away. Click many times a day, if it makes you happy. If not, some servers will cut out ads, and you don't have to click on them at all. It will be a trial run, at the very least. It may mean more blogging, if Gianna will just sleep long enough for me to crank one out without saving it to draft, and then losing my vibe when I try to rev it back up!

A commercially driven blog, by an anti-consumerism mama. Wrap your heads around that one!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How Do You Measure A Year?




It's amazing to think that a whole life can be lived a certain way, and suddenly, a new beginning can transform that life completely. Everything is high definition now. That doesn't necessarily mean that everything is one giant Candy Land, for sure, and some things are outside of how I ever could have imagined it to be. For example, I bought an organic, cotton baby doll that I imagined Gianna would snuggle to sleep. Right at this moment, my child has chosen a small canister of brightly colored sprinkles as her nap-time buddy. This is how I know she wasn't switched at birth.

I've spent the last couple of weeks, leading up to her birthday and beyond, pondering and meditating on Gianna's birth and first year. I can't remember life before her, although I think I faintly remember some nights where all we ate for dinner was a warm, crunchy baguette, some triple creme Brie, and all the Lambrusco we could drink.

I've posted multiple times about her birth, and the crushing disappointment in the "FAILURE" that is tattooed onto my heart. No matter how medical a term, the "failure to progress" still feels like a judgement of character to me. It still takes my breath away some days.

Those are the days where I must be determined to let myself be swept away by greater things: the wild golden/caramel cowlicks that are forming curls on Gianna's head; her asymmetrical dimple that lives only on her right cheek, next to her nose; and those eyes, which are a strange color that I can barely describe. It's like someone took Army fatigues and made it into an eye color. The centers are brown, and they radiate out to an olive green, that further lightens to a khaki, and then has a deep blue-brown rim.

She refuses to walk- I think she's going to follow in her Uncle Craig's footsteps, and be determined to crawl until about 14 months old. She cruises everywhere, and at top speed, laughing hysterically. She's even taken a few steps on her own, but crawling must be faster. More imposing, especially to Lola, who skitters nervously when she hears the approaching "slap-slap-slap" of baby paws on the floor.

She is, very simply, my Pearl; my wild child who personifies my own "scarlet letter." I am her mama, so I'm terribly biased, but I'm pretty sure my child is destined for something pretty amazing. As for me, I'm going to continue to enjoy the ride!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Little Signs Everywhere

How do you know that you have a pre-toddler in the house? Besides, you know, the actual sighting of a mobile baby? Here are some signs:

- Even though you have a dog that spends a lot of time indoors, the floor is pretty clean. This can be the result of the pre-toddler playing the "Yuck*" game with Mom, Mom vacuuming and Swiffering many times a day, or the crawling, pre-toddler wearing static-y clothing that attracts absolutely every last follicle of dog hair and deposits it all into the dryer.

*Yuck Game- First, the pre-toddler locates a "yucky" object, usually a tuft of dog fur (AKA, a "Lola Tumbleweed.") Next, she gets Mom's attention, usually by chanting, "Mom-mee, Mom-mee, dis. Dis. Mom-mee, dis." When Mom looks at her, she grins a villainous grin, and pops the treasure into her mouth while saying, "Guck," and Mom leaps into the air saying, "Oh, YUCK!" as well.

- You have books and a spoon on your bathroom floor.

- You have a pile of shoes in the kitchen. Dinner will never be accomplished, otherwise.

- The stairs are usually barricaded, and the dog now leaps high into the air to ascend them, even when the pre-toddler is in bed and the barricades are taken down.

- The dog has a homestead under the high chair.

- Toys are ignored, and the vacuum attachments are the star of the day. So is the Swiffer.

- You find yourself saying, "Feet stay out of Mommy's dinner." "Only pat Lola where her fur grows."

- You narrate your entire day to the pre-toddler, and then later automatically narrate everything you are doing while on the phone with the recalcitrant auto insurance people.
("Now Mommy is taking her pen and writing the words, 'find new auto insurance when this is all over,' onto her 'To Do' list.")

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Irony, Absolutely Everywhere

Well, they did it. They finally got me.

The driving while texting teenagers, that is.



We're the smushed gray car on the left. Which shockingly, is actually NOT totaled, as I once thought. It is under repairs.

The tri-colored teen-mobile on the right belongs to a 16 year old who thought he'd cultivate his multi-tasking skills by texting a message on his cell phone while veering directly over the yellow line and into our lane.

Whiplash and scrapes and bruises aside, we are all okay. Gianna was rear-facing in her Britax Diplomat, and her only after effect so far is a loud, screaming cry when she's startled. Whiplash really hurts, readers. Planning a funeral would have hurt a whole lot worse, though.

The car seat has already been replaced, and I'm planning on rear-facing her until she's old enough to complain about it using full, properly tensed Latin sentences.

So, now I begin to collect info on other states that have better NO CELL PHONE laws. As if I needed another cause!

Where on earth did I put that arnica? And why does this spell checker try to helpfully suggest that arnica is better spelled, "fornicate?"

Monday, June 23, 2008

Attention Michigan Drivers

Dear Michigan drivers,

On the left side of your steering wheel is a protruding object. You may think that the manufacturer placed it there to get in the way of your boss tiger fur steering wheel cover, but in fact, it does one of my favorite things- by merely pushing it forward or pulling it toward you, you can signal a turn. Can you believe it? Give it a try sometime. By the way- you do not save (noticeable) gasoline if you coast towards a red light, going slower and slower, without hitting your brakes. If the light is on a sensor, you may be delaying the progression towards a green light. A better idea to save gasoline would be to stay home. Especially if you eat a bowl of ice cream while driving (as seen two days ago) or feel the urge to engage in "relations" with your passenger (as seen a few weeks ago).

Ever so lovingly yours,

Clarateaches

Driving with a baby is something like driving a Brinks security truck, but without the safety in size (and bulletproof glass). You never really notice how fast things are hurling towards you until you strap a little munchkin into her $200 state of the art, five point harness car seat. Then, you go from being a defensive, cool-headed driver to being the inventor of Clarateaches Car Machine Guns ("What to use the next time you see someone texting at the wheel!")

Blasting tunes at top volume disappears as well (although Gianna does seem to like the Beastie Boys) and enjoyable music from my college days (where music will always remain, and my children will someday call me a fogie, to which I will respond, "Turn that crap down!") is replaced by ten rounds of "Six Little Ducks." Mr Clarateaches does not like her music one little bit, except for the funkified version of "Hickory Dickory Dock." He irritatedly punches the "Skip" button, going from Track 5 all the way to Track 30 without stopping, some days.

Each month that passes adds a small increase in the dread I feel when we face a road trip back to our natural habitat, Western NY. As Gianna grows more mobile and less apt to fall asleep within moments of getting into the car, it becomes more difficult to entertain her. Last time I resorted to letting her play with the pens in my purse. This time, I think it's going to take some cold hard cash. Or, a promise of her very own alpaca. Then and only then do I rue the safety of a car seat, and hearken back to the good old days when you could just take a baby out and hold them*. The first person who makes a safety device that allows this, receives a free alpaca from yours truly.

*Do not ever do this, ever.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Come ON! Really?

Onward we march, towards women becoming passive breeders, and the government raising our children. My blood, if it is entirely possible, is reaching its boiling point.

This is older news, but I'll bellyache about it now, just because the past couple of days I've been up to my armpits in a baby that has discovered the joys of unrolling toilet paper. And a dog who stole and ate 16 oatmeal-raisin-chocolate-chip cookies. And also dug a hole the size of a horse. And then unrolled all of her fur all over the house in such a fashion that as soon as I finish vacuuming the entire thing, she's already made a huge mass of fur where I originally started, and the baby is making fur-angels in it. In other words, who the heck has time for the internet? I'm trying to evolve an exoskeleton so that Gianna will stop biting me out of boredom, and six extra arms so that I can continue to save the day. We won't even talk about the carpenter ants using the storms and rain to launch a resurgence, and the environmentally safe pest control company telling me to commune with them with a little more of the love vibes, and a little less of the anger aura before calling them to set up an appointment for a re-spray.

Prepare to sign petitions.

The AMA has declared that home-birth is unsafe, and that they will work hard to ban any birth outside of a hospital.

I'll wait while you read that again. And again. And think about it.

More than 95% of babies are currently born in hospitals in the United States. (American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology) YET, maternal death has steadily risen since 1977. (Gaskin) Infant mortality for the United States is higher than all industrial countries, and even higher than some developing countries. Recently released in the "news" (AKA, what people with common sense can already put together, albeit without the soundtrack and funky graphics and perky newsreader voice) is the alarming statistic that premature births are on the rise due to scheduled inductions and cesarean sections.

And the AMA wants less Home Births?!?

Don't get me wrong here. If a woman makes an evidence-based choice and values-based choice to birth in a hospital with an OB-GYN or CNM, that is her choice and it belongs to HER, just like her birth. Not everyone hates hospitals with my own passion, and a hospital stay is not necessarily a nightmare to everyone. Hospitals need to remain a choice. Home and Free Standing Birth Centers also need to remain a choice. The AMA is trying to tell us that, while I can choose to terminate the life inside of me for whatever reason I want, I should not have the choice to birth wherever I choose. People. Need. To. Pay. Attention. This is only going to get worse.

Action time: Who knows what this will actually do, but here's a petition to sign to keep home birth legal.

Better yet, if this is an issue that drives you, join Citizens for Midwifery, and make it clear to your state representatives (who vote and pass and push for laws based on whoever is the loudest voice... or whoever carries the most bucks) that this is not acceptable, and that Clarateaches will not only give birth on their front lawn if they pass anything resembling the AMA's resolution, but she will consume her placenta in front of them, too.

Drastic times call for drastic measures.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Mnemosyne

I keep forgetting the blogs I want to post! I did catch a quick peek at the analyst, and it looks like my readership is at an all time low of 3. Oopsies. But, hey over there, Sydney, Australia! And Italy, oh my. Tourniamo subito, I promise; keep reading!

Major child development going on over here. I have hilarious little tidbits that I think, "Oh, I need to blog that," and then poof- it's gone. Good old Mommy brain. Somehow I still can remember a list of adverbs that Mr. Thompson required us to memorize in fourth grade- "Am, is, are, was, were, being, been, have, has, had, do, does, did, shall, will, should, would, may, might, must, can, could. Whew. I'll remember that on my death bed.

At any rate, I need sleep. Perhaps then the memory will return.

The computer's all yours, Mr. Clarateaches.

Friday, May 16, 2008

See and Be Seen

Someday, my child will embarrass me in public. This may or may not involve the loud chanting of things I would rather that people not know, or perhaps a tantrum or two. Or a tantrum times ten to the power of eight.

Someday, I will embarrass my child in public. Probably for being way cooler than the other moms. No, that's not it. Probably for having wacky hair and a skeletal system that looks like it was assembled by someone with the fortune of owning super-glue, and the misfortune of attention deficit disorder. She just won't care when I tell her that I used to appear normal, but co-sleeping with an active baby who likes to kick me in the face with both feet does a number on your entire system.

Currently, I endure the "unwanted attention in public because you have a baby" stage. Perhaps I should blame public schools- where else would random strangers get the collective idea that peering into my baby's eyes at a distance of three micrometers and bellowing "Ah-BOOOO!" is a positive thing?

We draw a crowd at church. Typically, I need to change Gianna as soon as we get there. It seems church has a laxative effect on her. This involves making my way through her crowd of loyal fans, young and old. Then, desecrating the nursery with the scent of three days worth of taste testing food, including blueberries, which never ever ever come out of diapers. Ever. Unless you sun them, and then they do. Unless you leave the diaper out in the rain, and then forever after you look critically at each one as it comes out of the dryer and wonder- are you the diaper I left outside so carelessly?

My parenting choices sometimes draw a crowd. Yesterday I was talking to two other moms at the park, while Gianna sat in the mulch and inquired about each one.

Me: "Blah blah boring grownup talk, blah blah"

Gianna, holding up a piece of mulch: "Dis?"

Me: "Mulch."

Gianna, holding up a different piece of mulch: "Dis?"

Me: "Mulch."

Gianna, holding up a different piece of mulch: "Dis?" And so on and so forth. She dug through all one thousand, eight hundred and seventy-two pieces in front of her until she hit dirt. Mmmm. After scrubbing her hand in the dirt very seriously, holding her hand in front of her even more seriously, and then going ahead and giving it a taste, she decided that it wasn't for her. With a ring of dirt around her mouth, she moved on to more of her interview: "Dis?" "Mulch." "Dis?" "Mulch." "Dis?"

Suddenly, a mom who wasn't a part of her group rushed over. "Ma'am, do you know your daughter is EATING DIRT?!?" She was quite horrified, and I'm sure she'd be even more horrified that sometimes, the dog creeps over to the highchair and gives Gianna's fist full of banana a surreptitious lick, before I roar and the dog flees to the comforts of the Neighborhood Dog Choir.

I glanced down. Gianna glanced up, telltale ring around her mouth. I couldn't hide that, could I? "Um, yeah!" I answered. Then I didn't know what to say, so I put on my best, "I'm not crazy" smile and waited. She stared at me, and walked back to her group. Probably to blog about the crazy-haired woman who fed her daughter dirt later in the day, who knows.

There just is no blending into the crowd with a baby.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

He is close to the brokenhearted...

I know I've beaten the shock and grief of an unplanned, but ultimately chosen, Cesarean section to death by this point. Emotions lead to actions that must be purposefully thought out, in the long run. Otherwise, you cannot call yourself an adult.

After the grief, the anger and betrayal by my own body, I look to the future. I choose to view future births in the light of moving right along. My choice, done in all types of research by even the most mainstream of academies (ACOG), leads me to VBAC. Nope, I'm not expecting another child... yet. Someday. In the meantime, I collect positive stories and accounts of victory over major abdominal surgery.

And THIS STORY is one of the most beautiful. The song made me cry. Only click if you enjoy graphic birth stories.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sibling Rivalry

Dog and baby. Baby and dog. Something tells me that soon, Lola will be trying to get up on her hind feet and cruise around the furniture.

It's truly a love/ hate thing with these two. If Gianna cries, Lola looks concerned and acts as though she may have to teach me a thing or two about parenting. If Lola barks, Gianna points at her and yells commands.



The one true battle remains the spot at the bottom of the stairs, in the living room. Lola and Gianna love this spot. Gianna loves it because she can thump her hands on the second stair up from the bottom, and pretend that she's giving her triumphant "I've taken over the world" speech. She also loves it because she likes to climb now. Lola loves that spot probably because Gianna loves it. Also, if she snuggles right up to the bottom stair, she is difficult to see, and I fairly regularly trip on her. She thinks she will be the Alpha Female if I perish.

Typically, Lola will walk to the bottom of the stairs and lay down, while staring at me. She knows exactly what she's doing. Gianna will immediately drop whatever she's doing, and crawl right up to her, and place both hands on the dog, commencing CPR. Lola retaliates by licking Gianna in the ear. Gianna will then, using a corn shucking motion, attempt to cleave Lola's tail in twain. Lola rolls over at this point, in a typical submissive dog stance, but this twists Lola's tail out of Gianna's hands, and all the wagging makes her crawl backwards to get out of the way.

The baby wins, of course. She just smells so irresistibly like bananas and Cheerios and all sorts of other lovely things that are thrown imperiously from the high chair. Lola creeps off to the kitchen to sniff around on the floor, in the hopes that she missed some tossed food the last time she checked, and Gianna crows in victory.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Destroy Your Kids in just a Few Easy Steps!

Hey parents! Do you want to waste a lot of time and money and energy doing a lot of work and accomplishing nothing? Would you like your children to regard you as one whirling, twirling two-legged moron? You gotta try this! For approximately $100, you TOO can show your kids that you are a colossal, meaningless ass.

Ruth A. Peters, Ph. D. (We'll call her Dr. Rap) has come up with a really great way to make China a whole lot of money, and send thousands of young people straight to therapy in a decade or so. Actually, that's probably her goal. Let's take a closer look at her plan. Pull on those Depends, this really made me pee myself laughing.

1) Buy a refrigerator magnet, treats, and a glass jar: Dr. Rap has parents drawing smiley faces, crossing off smiley faces, keeping track of treats and smilies and misbehaviors and time-outs. Oh my. What the ever loving hell? Doc Rap breaks the first cardinal rule of children- they just DO NOT CARE about rewards after a while. Especially the cheapo, lead-filled dollar store junk or tantrum inducing, red dye #40 filled candy that she recommends. (Quick thought- if they are super good children, and "earn" one or all of their treats per day, doesn't this cost about $365- $1095 per year PER KID?!? Not to mention a bajillion pieces of paper with schizophrenic smilies scribbled all over them, X'ed out or otherwise?)

Clarateaches says: If you have the time and energy and even half the money that she thinks this involves, you can find things to keep on hand to occupy children (without the High Fructose Corn Syrup and other various crap, and without sending a paycheck or two to China) when you cannot be directly involved with them. Be proactive, not reactive. What 7 year old on the planet is going to put up with this kind of crap? The shy and quiet ones will retreat, and be cute little pigtailed houseplants with no life or movement, the sneaky ones will figure out how to act out while getting the plastic crap, and the hard heads will decide that watching you draw smiley faces and cross them out all day is more fun than anything else.

Sigh. Moving on...

Digital Timer: Well I'll be. She actually has something right. Kids need concrete, not theoretical. They have no idea what five minutes means, especially if they have a highly distracted adult telling them, "Just five more minutes and then I'll get off the phone and play with you... five more... five more." This holds parents accountable as well- if you mean that you will go to the park in five minutes, you better hold yourself to it!

Poker Chips: Well why not? Let's get these little gamblers started early. Hee hee- look, she says, "I strongly believe that kids should earn their privileges (money, extra clothing and special activities) and not be given these just for existing." But Dr. Rap, in the whole smiley face, glass jar, time out, stand on your head, genuflect, cross yourself, turn around and touch the ground dealie- don't the kids get all kinds of treats for just merely existing? Technically, some waif of a kid can wake up, perform the act of eating and excreting, sit in a chair and do nothing, and win all three of their fabulous prizes, all hand-crafted by someone their own age in the People's Republic of China. Can I just say this again- WHAT parent has the time to dole out the chips and remember who gets what, who has what, and who lost what? If you're the type of parent that has all the time and memory to do this, couldn't you invest this in getting involved with your child in some type of activity that benefits the whole house, or whole family?

Clarateaches says: Involving kids in age-appropriate activities that contribute to the family as a whole is a great idea and involves little more than simply making it a part of their day from the time that they are small. Wear your baby in a sling while you vacuum, play "pick up toys" with your toddler to the beat of a catchy tune, have your preschooler stand at the sink and rinse dishes as you wash them... this is not rocket science, people. Model, model, model.

Ok, these next few take the cake. Videotape tantrums to mock them? Threaten them with sending the tape to family members?!? SHRED CDS AND DVDS IN A PAPER SHREDDER?!?!?! What are the values these are teaching children? Let's just throw money away- I don't like what you are doing, so when I don't like what you are doing, I will ruin something that belongs to you. Don't be surprised if Junior, on a rage at 16, burns the house down. And the tantrum thing- for once and for all- KIDS HAVE BIG FEELINGS. They need a safe place to let them out. If you are the type of person who drags a sleepy, hungry child to the mall for two hours in the afternoon and chats on your cell while going into and out of stores just for little old you, you deserve the whopper of a tantrum that, trust me, will happen.

Clarateaches says: Model, model, model. Do not give items just to use them as something to take away. Tantrums will happen- stay physically present, but don't hover; stay calm and for God's sake, keep your own adult mouth shut. They can't hear you, anyway. When it burns itself out, stay close and hug them- tell them that they were very angry, (scared, sad, frustrated...) and it was a big anger, and now it's all done. And move on. The more accurately you help them to describe what they are going through, the better they will cope next time. It's not permissive in the slightest. Nope, you don't cave in, they don't get to paint the dog's toenails with nailpolish after all. But, you don't make a screaming magenta baboon's ass of yourself in the whole rigamorale of capering about with a cheapo video camera, desperately thinking of all the people in your address book who can be sent your child's tantrum. Which, by the way, if you threaten it- be prepared to actually do it. Trust me on this one- no one wants to see your child's tantrum. There probably are only so many times that you can send Aunt Beatrice your child's tantrum before she starts sending you her toy poodle's droppings through media mail. Be an adult and model appropriate behavior. BY THE WAY- If you're the bright red-faced, screaming individual honking his horn at an elderly man making his way across the street while you were trying to turn right on red the other day, you pretty much have your own self to blame if Screamy the Second uses his "dog whistle voice" every time life runs contrary to what he originally imagined.

There you have it, folks. Right there is where it all goes to hell. "Why are kids so disconnected? Why can't they learn the value of their property? How come they don't value their family?" Shred their property while at the same time give them endless plastic junk just for staying under the radar. Laugh and mock their feelings during the age where they are trying to learn what the hell to do with them. Spend your day so busy trying to remember which of your three darlings has retained all of their smiley faces and which has already had two crossed out, and which time-out which one is on, so that you cannot spend any on showing them the appropriate way to behave. You, too, can have kids coked to the gills on all kinds of pharmaceuticals by the time they graduate high school. Way to "parent."

Monday, May 05, 2008

Bathliness is next to Bedliness

As un-crunchy as it might sound, I love a good routine. This is no doubt a carry-over from my days as a wide-awake teacher, just brimming with youthful sleep and energy. Back then, I planned my day to a T, and even planned in some planning time. There is nothing more satisfying than a list, other than completing that list.

Routine for many of my fellow AP style parents is sort of a four letter word. I think this is because many of the baby trainers have purloined the word "routine" and attached a sinister connotation to it (namely, that babies will fit into an adults life, even if it takes some strange and unnatural gyrations). I would like for that to change! There is a way to have a general routine while being responsive and attached and family-centered. Hats off to the moms that don't need one, and live well without one- I just can't do it! The trick is to be flexible. Teething, dogs rolling in rotten chipmunk, traveling, and the rare utility sink overflow demand that when the routine needs to be put on hold, that is just the way the ball bounces.

Round these parts, Gianna has a well scripted evening before bed. Bath, followed by the Great Diaper Chase (diapering a mobile baby should be a part of the Olympics. Cloth diapering a mobile baby, my friends), followed by Hylands Baby Crack (if teething), followed by Mr. Clarateaches' Story Time, prayers and lullabies in the glider, and then into the Pack n' Play she goes.

This child LOVES her bath. There is no other time of the day where she gets to work her pre-engineering magic the way she can in the bathtub. Forgetting the colorful toys bobbing around, she spends about 75% of her bath twisting the dial until the drain stopper rises enough to be pried out and poked into the faucet. She stoically tolerates the shampoo that releases her tresses from the cement that is banana, and does remarkably well with water being dumped over her head. She also has discovered that a washcloth is more efficient at bailing all of the water out of the tub, and onto Mommy and the floor. This experiment is repeated enough times to make sure it really does work, and it's not just a fluke.

Lola likes to wander in and peer into the tub. Her tail droops nervously, and she shifts from paw to paw, looking at me anxiously to determine if she will be thus tortured next. I assure her that she will indeed have a bath if she doesn't get her dog booty out of my way. No one has to ask her twice.

Friday, April 25, 2008

They all rolled over, and none fell out

Attention: If you are afraid of co-sleeping, this is not the post for you.

For some reason, the hospital where we ended up bringing Gianna into the world was practically shaking and trembling in fear over co-sleeping. They had a parenting channel that would broadcast several times a day and night about how babies do best on their backs in a crib with nothing but a mattress, in a room far far away. Anything else would immediately cause them to stop breathing and die on the spot.

Granted, SIDS is no joke, and there are proper and improper ways to share a bed with a baby, just like there are proper and improper ways to have a baby sleep in a crib. No water beds, of course, and no drugs, alcohol, saggy mattresses, animals, or other booby traps. There are lots more, but somehow, Cave Clara managed to sleep with her whole family and not kill any of them. Could you imagine if they had to find another little cave for Cave Gianna?

Being as contrary and defiant as I am, I repeatedly told the hospital staff that we would use a "Co-sleeper." Confused, they just clarified to make sure that it would be not in our bed. "Not yet, No," I would answer.

Blink, blink.

So, there was no way that I was going to drag my post-surgery body all over the upstairs of the house to breastfeed this kid. In our room she stayed, and now spends half the night in her own bed, and half the night in ours. Usually Mr. Clarateaches curls up on his side with 95% of the blankets and sheets, I cling to my side, and Gianna does jumping jacks in her sleep in the middle 65% of the bed all night long. We are slowly phasing her to her own bed, but this arrangement makes it easiest for all of us to get sleep, and for me to nurse her through the night.

Here are a few things we will miss, when she is in her own bed:

- One night we accidentally left Lola outside. At 1 AM, Gianna started whining and growling and acting pretty demented. She didn't want to nurse, she didn't want to snuggle, and she for sure didn't want to open her eyes. Suddenly, I heard a muffled, "Whoof... whoof." Lola was whisper-barking outside the kitchen door. I prodded Mr. Clarateaches awake, and he went to fetch the grateful pooch. Once the dog was safely inside, Gianna fell back to sleep.

- (This is sort of immature, and teenage boy humor, but oh well) She toots in her sleep with all the forces of a grown man. One in particular, but he will remain nameless. Let's just say her other X chromosome came with some extra exhaust. The hilarious part is that she has to point both feet into the air before she can let it rip. So, she will be sleeping very adorably, with all of the adorable-ness of a cute, tiny innocent being, and then whammo- feet point to the sky, and trumpets blare. Resume cute, innocent little lamb, sound asleep.

And what I won't miss:

- Sleeping in the letter "K" position. I have to sleep so that she can have access to the chuck wagon, and also so that she doesn't accidentally go anywhere at night. In the meantime, I'm giving myself scoliosis of the spine, crunched hips, and arms that randomly go on strike or try to pop out of their sockets.

On that note, I'm going to go review "No Cry Sleep Solution" and remind myself that she will be in her own bed, and eventually in her own room soon enough. In the meantime, I will enjoy my very attached, somewhat hippie-style baby. She won't be a baby for much longer!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

She's a Contendah

My little bambina is a total ruffian in her quickly mastered mobility. She moves very quickly now, and climbs anything just for a chance to stand. When she's not playing with the "No-no's," (the cable outlets for who-knows-what, but we're the proud owners of a wall full of them) she's trying to reconstruct my face.

Today we went on a trip to Lowe's for Mr. Clarateaches, to return what looked like the arms of a robot. On the way into the store, we passed the garden center, which deposited a snoot-full of pollen my way, causing my eyes to well with tears. Just before we entered, Gianna Ali reared back her very hard head and smashed my lower lip into my teeth. The combined effect of a quickly swelling lip, teary eyes, and hair that hasn't seen a stylist in a good solid nine months (and is rapidly looking more and more like it is styled by The Polygamy Ranch Salon each day) was one hell of a doozy to the Customer Service people inside. They rapidly ushered through my return of the robot arms, and gladly accepted my reason for return as "entirely too wimpy."

We've been teaching her facial parts- eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. Mr. Clarateaches gets a little carried away ("Cheekbones... upper left incisor... frenulum...") but that's fine. My girl's a genius, and she can handle it. Only now Gianna gets the urge to show me that she knows "Eye" in the middle of a grocery store by poking her little chubby finger all the way into my optic nerve. Or sometimes, after giving the dog a few healthy grabs on the undercoat, she then feels the need to inspect my teeth.

Quite on her own, she's discovered Mommy's freckles. These vex the hell out of her, and whenever she's bored with her toys, she tries to pick them off. I try to dissuade her, as it makes me look like a meth addict. Thank goodness for Mr. Tea Strainer- the tea strainer that came on the top of a Tazo Chai canister- it's her favorite toy!

Onward and ever upward, we teach, "nicely..."

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Blurb

"Nnndah!" Little hazel eyes narrow, and a chubby little finger points down at Lola, the Dogasus supreme. "NDAH!" Lola obediently sits. Triumphant, Bambina kicks her feet from her hip-side perch and screeches like a monkey, which causes the dog to leap to her feet and bark.

Dog and baby have been diligently training one another of late, and they've got their own unique patois working. It's amusing to watch for now, even though I realize that eventually, the duo will pull off capers that I can't even begin to imagine.

Lola was an only child for just ten months when Gianna arrived, and while she probably doesn't remember the pre-baby days, I do sometimes feel sorry for her status as low man on the totem pole. Only sometimes. Then she will be the Tom Green of dogs and nose the business end of a diaper that I hadn't had a chance to rinse off, or do a celebratory Snoopy dance over bird droppings on her brick walkway, and the sorriness vanishes.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Gustatory Fun and Games

I originally thought that the fact that Gianna is now regularly using a precise and swift pincer grasp to pick up single dog hairs, lint, and the smallest particles known to mankind (anyone? Anyone?) that she would be ready for picking up food and putting it into her mouth. Nursing is obviously no sweat for her, and eating from the spoon of pureed organic goodness that I shove her way is also fairly effortless.

Whole food experiment #1- banana. She likes it as a puree, so she'll perhaps like it as a whole piece of food. While visiting NY, her aunt broke off a piece from her banana, and handed it to her. While Gianna did get the banana to her mouth several times, her aunt likes to eat bananas just as they flip from green to yellow, and so I think the taste was a little too tart. Who knows- I think all bananas are gross. Gianna did find that banana chunks grind nicely into my shirt, and used the banana like sidewalk chalk all over the high chair tray and all over me.

Whole food experiment #2- barley teething biscuits. In general, I try to be as difficult and contrary as possible when it comes to my child. Or so they think. Dear, dear world: my use of cloth diapers and rejection of even the images of bottles has nothing to do with you. Not one thing. So soothe those bruised little emotions, and find something real to be enraged over. In the process of letting my little co-lactivist taste new foods, I had been buying real fruits and veggies and steaming and blending them on my own. This cuts out the Gerber middleman, and I don't have to fear a disgruntled factory worker putting rats or band aids into the grinder. However, I saw a box of teething biscuits, and thought we'd give them a try. Gianna banged it on the high chair and blew on it and looked at me with wide, questioning eyes as if to say, "This isn't the dog's hairbrush. It's also not a zip drive- how am I supposed to want to put it into my mouth?" The biscuit ended up going over the edge of the tray into the dog's eager jaws.

I'm not sure yet what I will try for WFE #3, but it will have to be disguised as a freshly plucked dog whisker for it to even get close to her mouth. Maybe I'll even place the food onto the dog.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Five For Fighting

... is donating money towards autism research and early intervention funding every time THIS VIDEO is viewed. Feel like 4 minutes of autism activism? It's as easy as clicking a button.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fragile Lives, Shattered Dreams

What are we made of? What makes one child grow up to be reasonably functioning, and self-sufficient, and what makes another grow up to be a complete wreck?

By some fortuitous chance (or provincial chance, if you must) each and every teaching job I have had, save some subbing in an upscale high school, has been with kids that we can call "At Risk." "High Risk," even. These are kids who live in poverty and have lived the lives that little punk ghetto wannabes in suburbia think that they wish they were doing. Some of these kids would, in the same breath, tell me about how their cousin "got jacked up, with a knife, and Mrs. Clarateaches, the cops came," and then go on to tell me about their favorite show on the Disney channel. (Rochester, NY- during student teaching). Somehow, these sprouts would come bouncing into my room ready to play, even if they had spent more than two hours that morning kneeling on a concrete floor of their basement as a punishment for God-knows-what (south of Chicago, 2005).

Some of the kids fared worse. My selectively mute Angel-Girl from the Chicago area school faced countless issues, and simply decided to rarely speak. The world could do whatever it wanted to, but it couldn't make her speak unless she absolutely wanted to.

So, you do what you're trained to do, make the reports to the school nurse, social worker, DCFS, and carry on with your day. Have a panic attack on the way home from school and wonder what the hell you are doing in a place that is showing you just how hard it had to have been for your own teachers to make calls about your own fractured life, so many years ago. Then go back and do it all over again. The story ends happily, right? The magical wonderful ways of the Teacher sweep in and save the day, DCFS does their job, and the credits roll. It's all over- right? RIGHT?

Gobs of books and movies have been made about teachers and students and rotten home lives and how just a little hope and encouragement can boost students out of a bad situation. Everyone passes the test, wins the game, goes on to "Just Say No," and the screen fades to black. The collective public sighs a huge sigh of relief, and thanks their lucky stars that all is well. What happens next, though?

External resiliency factors are not to be taken lightly, of course. Supportive adults, community, religious organizations- these are all important in the lives of high risk children. What about the internal resiliency, though? What makes two kids in the same neighborhood, under the same single-mother-working-two-jobs, abusive-rotating-door-of-boyfriends, drugs-and-crime-everywhere circumstances grow up to have two completely different lives? What about the kids in suburbia with the facade going on- two parents, middle-class income, and unspeakable crimes going on behind closed doors- where do they end up? Especially when they are in the same classroom, have the same external resiliency factors, and are given the same opportunities?

The collective society has handed down such a twisted, convaluted message. On one hand, victims have an excuse to perpetuate the cycle of violence in their own lives, because after all, they had horrible things happen to them; and on the other hand, don't ever talk about these things happening. It's just too sad, gross, and terrible, and no one can do anything about it anyways, so can we just change the subject? Please? You can be as disturbed as you want to be, but it's okay, because you're on the Springer show, and it's fun to laugh and be scandalized. Don't worry, we'll add to the insurance kitty; go ahead and take all kinds of drugs. You are the victim, after all. It's easy to cluck our tongues and shake our heads in sorrow when we hear of children on the news suffering acts of crime that would bring an adult to their knees, but then what?

I hold my own baby girl and rock and nurse her to sleep for her nap. In her warm clothes, in her warm house. While I watch her fall asleep, I continue to be haunted by the ghosts of former students. What is my Angel Child doing now, two years later? Is her abusive step-father still in her life? What about my other ones- what are they thinking of when they fall asleep at night? Dear God, did I do enough for them, or did I do enough for me to just get through my day?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Tick...Tock...Tick...

From the moment one becomes pregnant, there are hills to climb. Some of these hills, like finding pants that fit, are pretty easy. Some are straight-up in the air and appear endless, like weeks of prodromal labor that turn into real labor that also lasts forever. Then, ahh. The baby is born, and life continues...

...to be hilly. When the baby arrives, all kinds of hills pop up, and some are full of raging creeks of breastfeeding issues and bracket-y thorn-patches of vaccination decisions, and the occasional student nurse that tries to rip out your Foley catheter without completely deflating the balloon.

It's a sleepless life. For mama and baby. Especially during those times when the baby is going through some sort of developmental leap. Gianna is on the very brink of crawling, and her brain is working so hard, her sleep has taken a giant step backwards. So has mine. I try to think of things in terms of primal necessity- how did this benefit Cave Clara, and Cave Gianna? Perhaps a more awake baby and more awake mama meant that Cave Gianna couldn't all of a sudden put the pieces together and learn to crawl right out of the cave in the middle of the night and hop a mountain lion and disappear into the night.

Outside of cave life, it makes for some interesting days and nights. I swear I saw Yoko Ono drive past me in a Jeep Rubicon today. It's hard to say, though, because I have mentally devolved to somewhere around a mollusk, and have myself a ripping case of aphasia. I tried to have a phone conversation today with my sister about Turbo Tax, and described it as "starry" instead of "easy." At the butcher today, I also accidentally ordered a salmon fillet in the voice I use when talking to Gianna. Which isn't baby-talk, by the way, just higher pitched and super-enunciated. I'm sure I sounded super starry.

I need to just keep putting my feet in front of me. I'm sure sixteen years from now, she will be giving me a whole new level of sleepless nights, so I better savor this while I can. Now to go figure out where the heck I am... this house is kinda nice...

Monday, March 03, 2008

CT Lite

Okay, I've been pushing my agenda quite a bit in recent posts. Time for some fun!

I have some valuable advice that I hope each and every reader takes to heart. Ready?

Never, ever, EVER feed the dog leftover pureed peas. Pureed pees are excellent for the baby, but cause the dog to release toxic, pepper-spray style fumes. Repeatedly. And audibly.

In baby news, Gianna has learned to clap her hands and say, "Ayayayaye!" I don't believe in praising children for every single move they make, but it's too adorable not to join in when she flops herself back to a seated position after some push-ups and claps and grins and says, "Ayayayayaye!" In the march towards mobility, she's been training herself with the determination of a Navy Seal. Her favorite exercise is to use her hands to creep the upper part of her body forward over her legs, and try to flip her feet and legs behind her. I tried it myself, and it's pretty killer. She does this for long stretches of time, and sometimes is successful in scooting a leg or two out from underneath her. This, startling her, causes the whole operation to come to a halt, and Mom has to save the day.

The Brilliant Dogasus has some kind of weird masochism going on. She knows that the baby is working on her pincer grasp, and loves to carefully and precisely pinch small objects between her fingers and yank on them with shocking strength. Yet, she sits very close to the baby, and places her whiskers tantalizingly on the baby's leg, and then rolls her eyes back towards me, and looks pathetic.

"If you don't like it, move," I tell Dogasus. I plant myself beside them, ready to intervene.

"But, I want to smell her," replies the dog. *Snifffff* "She's pulling my whiskers! Tell her 'No!' and put her in a crate." I move Gianna's hand.

Gianna, hand poised for another attack, stares in wide-eyed fascination at the dog, who is missing her chance to move her dang bod. I put my hand over Gianna's, and nudge the dog. "MOVE!"



Sigh. Finally, the dog very slowly inches away from the painful pleasure of the baby pulling out her whiskers and fur, and settles at a safe distance. Only to repeat the same process in about an hour.

Today is a mind-blowing 40 degrees Fahrenheit, so the plan is to go to the fabric store for the makings of Gianna's Spring/Summer wardrobe. I ordered (and quickly received) a cute Finnish sewing magazine with some great patterns, and now I can only pray that I can get enough time to actually do the projects. I think that if I take advantage of naps and Mr. Clarateaches, this may happen!