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.