Friday, July 27, 2012

Florida

The Moo Cow family is in Florida visiting the grandparents. We know we are in Florida because there were no less than six people in wheelchairs on the plane ride down.

One of those people sat next to us on the plane and recommended sticking a stalk of parsley coated in olive oil up Henry's bum to help him go to the bathroom.

You can't make this shit up.

[Update: Eight. Eight wheelchairs. Rayne wanted me to correct this post.]

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Confessions of a Nursing Moo Cow

When I was pregnant, I read up on the pros and cons of co-sleeping. Rayne and I had decided to borrow the Arm's Reach Mini Co-Sleeper from my cousin, because we thought it was the best of both worlds: The baby would be right next to me but not actually in the bed, where Rayne was sure he would roll over and crush him.
Arm's Reach Mini Co-Sleeper - definitely a win-win option

In retrospect, I doubt any crushing would have occurred, because for the first month of Henry's little life, I would often wake up to Rayne leaning over me and into the co-sleeper, blowing on the baby's face to make sure he was still breathing. I think as new parents we underestimate our baby-dar: it's much more attuned than we think.

Anyway, I secretly thought that when the baby was born, I would want him to actually sleep in the bed with me, but for the sake of keeping our bed a "sacred" couple space, I didn't press the issue.

After Henry was born, we sometimes took naps together in the mornings after Rayne went to work. It was definitely sweet and comforting for both of us. But overall, I actually preferred having him in the co-sleeper at night, so Rayne and I could have a modicum of space, both physical and metaphorical.

Sort of ugly picture of me sweetly cuddling Henry during our morning nap, 1/27/12

At the time, we lived in a one-bedroom apartment with no plans to move, so Henry was going to be in our room for the foreseeable future. We had some vague plans of transferring him to a Pack-n-Play when he got bigger, perhaps even in the living room, aka the only other room in the apartment. Lucky boy.

At first, I was thankful for having him in our room because a) I was up every two hours anyway, and it was more convenient for breastfeeding and b) we were sure that Henry was going to spontaneously combust in the middle of the night, and, well, we thought we should at least be there to try to put out that fire.

What I didn't tell Rayne was that I thought I would want him in our room much longer than the six months recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. I thought I would be the type who knew he should move to a crib in another room, but didn't want him to.

Then, for reasons already noted, I flipped out and decided we needed to move to Brooklyn immediately. We got a two-bedroom apartment, of course, so Henry could have a little nursery. We signed the lease back in February when the baby was still only two months old. I never told Rayne, but I was planning to have Henry sleep in our bedroom at night and maybe nap in the nursery during the day. I didn't think I could bear to have him in the next room.

Around the time he hit four months, though, the whole sleeping-in-the-room thing was starting to get old. We had begun to establish a schedule of sorts, and his bedtime was between 7 and 7:30. That meant that after that time, we couldn't do anything in our bedroom, which was half of our apartment. We had no space to ourselves. When Henry was up he was with us and when he was down he was with us.

Suffice it to say, by the time we moved, when he was almost five months, I was counting the days until our new apartment would save us from our tip-toeing existence. We parked the co-sleeper in the nursery (which is right next to our bedroom anyway) and he slept there until we got a crib (from my sister -- it pays to be the last cousin/sibling to have kids).

All of this prologue is to say that I hope the same epiphany will occur when it's time for Henry to stop nursing. I really like nursing him; it is an intimacy that is difficult to describe. There is something soothing and affirming about rocking him in the nursing chair in the still of the night. He goes down so early now that after a few hours I actually miss inhaling his sweet scent, kissing his little cheeks and holding him tight to my chest. 

Now that he is sleeping through the night, I should be jumping for joy, but on nights like last night, when momsomnia takes over, I really miss the times when he was still waking up once to feed. (Just to clarify, I do not miss getting up every two to three hours.) I sometimes stare at the baby monitor while Rayne is sleeping heavily beside me. I turn on the sound and try to listen for Henry's breath, but all I can hear is the whir of the fan.

So last night when he awoke crying at around 12:30 am for the first time in I can't remember how long, I was actually, guiltily happy. I changed his diaper and we settled into the nursing chair. I slept with him a little while he nursed. It was blissful.

I plan to wean Henry when he turns one; I'm terrified I will be emotionally and hormonally devastated. I'm hoping that nature will take its course, that both our bodies will know instinctively that it is time to stop, that it won't be as heart-wrenching as I'm anticipating.

It will crush my soul to hear him cry out for moo cow when I know I must resist. I wouldn't want him to think his love was unrequited.

There, I'm crying. Are you happy now?



Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Mommy Decathlon

In honor of the 2012 Olympic Games, I'd like to propose a new category of competitive trials called The Mommy Decathlon.

Points are awarded for time, execution, tenacity and grace. Points are deducted for tears, curse words and black-and-blues obtained by any team member. You will be judged in the following ten categories:
  1. Get on and off the 2nd Avenue Express bus during rush hour with a two month old baby in a carseat and a Snap-n-Go stroller. Extra points for not breaking anyone's feet.
  2. Walk up and down the stairs of a subway station carrying a stroller and infant until someone offers to help you.
  3. Go through subway turnstiles with an umbrella stroller, diaper bag and baby.
  4. Climb to the top of a fourth floor walk-up with a regular stroller, baby, dog and groceries.
  5. Take an uninterrupted shower, cleaning all parts of your body, face and hair.
  6. Jog three miles with a jogging stroller and a screaming banchee of any sort.
  7. Bathe an infant without getting soaked, drowning said infant or divorcing your partner.
  8. Change a diaper on your lap while sitting on a toilet bowl in a small, dirty public bathroom.
  9. Tie a baby into a Moby wrap without dropping him or her on the floor. 
  10. Hold a baby for an hour without getting spit-up, drool, poop, pee or throw-up on your clothing.
Smile pretty for your Finisher's Photo!

The Vortex of Eeeeeew

Following my horrendous experience at Essential TherapyRayne and I decided that the best course of action would be to write the owner a letter. I had, after all, been a patron of his business since 2005. We thought writing would be safer than risking another explosion, more for the deleterious effect a repeat of that scene would have on me.

My goal of the letter was to 1) explain why I was never returning to his business and 2) ask for a refund of the $192.40 we paid for the service (via pre-purchased gift certificate). If he also happened to 3) fire his assholic office manager, well, that would just be a bonus.

I wrote a draft of a two-page letter. I couldn't remember the owner's last name, so I Googled "Carlos Essential Therapy NY" and came across this choice bit of information from March 2007, the fourth link from the top:
Police arrested Carlos Araque, 44, who operates Essential Therapy, a massage therapy studio at 122 E. 25th St., on March 9 and charged him with sexual abuse of a woman client, sexual misconduct and practicing massage therapy without a license.
Um, what?

I went back to my search and a few links down, discovered this from the Daily News in April 2007:
Marty Jaramillo, who rented space from Essential Therapy, is suing the spa and its owner for soiling his reputation by allegedly ... regularly rent[ing] out his space for swingers and porn stars to do their thing. 
...Araque, known for satisfying patrons with what he calls the "make-nice massage," has since pleaded guilty to not being a licensed masseur and is barred from performing massages.
Eeeeeeew. I mean. Just eeeeeew. I used the jacuzzi (only once!!) and the sauna and the showers in that place. Argh. It was always a little dirtier than I wanted it to be, but on-location porn? Swingers? Come on. I took my mom there for Christ's sake.

But above and beyond the eeeew factor -- which is mighty difficult to get past in and of itself -- I'm pretty sure this guy is not going to give a flying flounder about my appalling experience with his daft office manager or my $192.40. He's got bigger fish to fry.

It reminded me of the terrible landlord my sister and I had when we lived together on the Upper West Side. The apartment was advertised to us with a roof deck, but after we signed the lease and moved in, we were told that the roof deck was off limits. I tried to complain to the landlord instead of continuing to deal with his two pot-smoking, brain-deficient brothers who "worked" in the office, but in the process, I discovered that the landlord was actually a former anesthesiologist who had lost his medical license for falling asleep during surgeries and writing false Oxycontin prescriptions for himself and others. Classy.

He definitely did not give a flying flounder about me or my being duped by a real estate ad. 

Sigh. I learned my lesson with the addict landlord; I'm not going to knock my brain case against a brick wall. I guess I'll have to be content with Yelping.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Vortex of Self-Loathing

Of the many things I hate about myself -- and there are quite a few -- my temper is definitely near the top of the list. Is it nature? Nurture? I often think of it more as an issue of self-discipline, or lack thereof.

The fact that Rayne loves me despite the numerous irrational, explosive episodes he has witnessed -- usually not directed at him, I want to add, but definitely in his orbit of existence -- should make me feel better, but it doesn't. I rather feel like, on top of everything, I've duped him into doing something I don't deserve. Like, for his own good, he should flat out refuse to tolerate one more outburst.

On Saturday I had one of the most infuriating customer service experiences of my life. The details are irrelevant; let's just say you should never, ever, ever, ever, ever go to Essential Therapy Spa for any reason. I completely lost my shit. I actually told someone that I wanted to rip his face off. Granted, it was a bad situation, I was definitely in the right and, well, I did want to rip his face off, but somehow in 37 years I have not mastered the art of holding my tongue in such situations of perceived injustice.

Immediately after any given eruption, I always burst into a torrent of tears and spiral into a vortex of self-loathing straight out of a Jonathan Franzen novel. I cry to the point despair. It's not like I think this is appropriate behavior and the world just needs to stand aside while I tear it asunder. I just haven't figured out how to control my inner Hulk. 

Yes, I have worked on it over the years. I've had ebbs and flows, some better periods and some worse ones. Yoga helps; for me it is a laboratory to practice equanimity in the face of adversity.

At present, I am fairly sleep-deprived, hormonally imbalanced and out of practice composing myself in a professional environment. I don't work out or practice yoga as much as I should. I spend my days with a seven-month old baby and a completely neurotic dog who trips me every time we exit our building because he is afraid of the door for a reason I cannot begin to fathom. In short, while I am happy, I am also a little... shall we say... spiky. Which was why I was at Essential Therapy trying to get a massage in the first place. Ah, the irony.

Yesterday's incident was certainly not my first temper tantrum, and it won't be the last.* But suddenly, I am not alone in the vortex of self-loathing. There's a little boy here with me, a little boy who smiles innocently and blissfully every time he sees me. How can I prevent him from adopting this terrible, maladaptive character trait of mine?

There is, undoubtedly, a nature component to everything. But so far, he is a pretty chill baby. He smiles easily and amuses himself without issue. Who knows, maybe he inherited the gene, if it exists, that makes me go from just regular "angry" to honestly, truly wanting to rip someone's face off and then telling said person about this desire. At the moment, it seems unlikely.

Learned behavior is hard to undo, even when you are aware of it. I don't want to teach Henry to be like this. It sucks for others and it sucks for me.

So the question is: How do you stop being yourself so your child doesn't emulate the parts of you that you hate?

Anyone...? Anyone...? Bueller...?


*Wouldn't it be amazing if I could actually say that July 21, 2012 was my last tantrum? I should start giving myself pins for composure milestones. Put that achievement-orientation to good use!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Scout's Honor

When I was a girl, I joined the Brownies. Despite the embarrassment of having to wear a puke brown, polyester jumper to school on Brownie days, I remember being excited about "doing" Brownies.


Really, what were they thinking?

It turned out that being a Brownie in 1981 did not mean "doing" much of anything. We made little crafts and got patches and pins for our sash. I was a way-serious little kid. I had this idea that I was going to be doing something exciting and meaningful; instead I was gluing macaroni into the shape of a flower. And singing songs for old people at Christmas like so many ornaments hung on a tree. I think I also sold some cookies. Even at the tender age of six I remember thinking: Wow, this is stupid. 

(Full disclosure: I love Girl Scout cookies. Do not leave me in the room with a box of your Girl Scout cookies, because within minutes I will turn them into butt-fat. The last time Rayne bought some from work colleagues, he hid a couple of boxes in the back of the freezer to save me from myself. True story.)

I dropped out of the Brownies before I could even don the green, polyester jumper of the Girl Scout. I wasn't going to sit around coloring pictures while the boys went camping, learned archery and had pinewood car derbies. The Boy Scouts had the right idea, I thought.

Pinewood derby cars: far superior to macaroni art.

Alas. What is there left to say about the recent Boy Scouts of America announcement that it will continue to exclude openly gay leaders and scouts from its organization? It is despicable, cowardly and clearly on the wrong side of history. I might even go as far as to say that the BSA has rendered itself irrelevant. Go ahead, Boy Scouts, cling tight to the last gasps of an outdated hegemony. Let us know how that works out for you.

When I read about the decision, my first thought was, There is no way I'm letting Henry become a Boy Scout, even though Rayne loved it as a child.

My second thought: Hopefully, in six years, I won't have to worry about it because the organization will have changed its policy.

My third: What if it doesn't, and Henry really, really, really wants to join the Boy Scouts? Would I really say no?  

I'm the type of person who sticks to her principles to a fault. I've cut my nose off 100 ways to Sunday to the eternal chagrin of my poor face: I shun great restaurants after one bad customer service experience. After reading Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, I drove Rayne to the edge of insanity trying to avoid all corn and corn derivatives (it's impossible, just take my word for it). I haven't gotten a manicure in over a year and a half because I don't feel right spending the money, even though it is a relatively inexpensive way to pamper myself a bit. I buy organic ketchup, because I can afford to and others can't. And much to my husband's dismay, I have decided that we will never own an Audi because of the way one (totally shit) salesman treated me, one time.

In a word, I am infuriating.

So, I'd like to say that on no uncertain terms would I let Henry join the Boy Scouts, but if the past seven months have taught me anything, it's that sweeping proclamations are, at best, foolhardy. Like when I was sure I didn't want an epidural because I wanted Henry's birth to be painful natural. Or when I said I was definitely going back to work and only going to cook the baby fresh food. Or that I would one-hundred-percent stick to Weight Watchers.

From the outside looking in, it's easy to be strident and black-and-white. But when you are looking into the questioning eyes of your sweet little boy, it's a good deal more complex. You have to pick your battles.

So is this the battle I'm going to fight? I honestly don't know. More than anything, I want to imbue Henry with the understanding that he has been born into privilege -- privilege that carries with it a responsibility to make good, thoughtful, kind decisions, no matter how difficult or unpopular they might be. And the Boy Scouts of America categorically does not deserve our support, at least not with its current policies.

On the other hand, I want to teach my son a lesson that eluded me for far too long -- that rigidity can be counterproductive and damaging, that a little flexibility can help us withstand the gale forces as they blow through our life.

Sweet Henry, when the time comes, I promise to do my best to strike the right balance and be open-minded about where that balance lies. Scout's honor.



[Update 7/26/12: Check out this amazing stand taken by several Eagle Scouts who returned their medals in protest of the BSA's recent decision. Truly inspiring.] 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

This Machine Be Broken

I want to like the downtown Brooklyn Y, but I just can't. To get there I either have to take a subway (i.e., two flights of stairs down and two flights of stairs up) two stops and walk 10 minutes on either end, or I have to take a bus that is chronically late, snakes slowly through the projects and usually ends up having some kind of girl fight on board. 

To get to the pool, I have to park my stroller at the front desk, pick up Henry, walk up two flights of stairs, down a long corridor, into the women's locker room, through the doors to the shower room, past the naked sudsy women, and down a different two flights of stairs. Then Henry splashes around for less than a half hour while I'm forced to sing annoying songs that I barely know, like I'm Going to Kentucky.

This morning, minutes away from the entrance (I chose the subway), a middle aged woman with a black t-shirt that said something like "Greedy People Suck" stopped to inform me that the inside of my stroller, which was covered with a thin, white, muslin blanket to keep the sun off Henry, was probably up to 120 degrees by now, and since she was a nurse, she just wanted to let me know how many kids get dehydrated and end up in the hospital where she works.

Greedy People Suck had clearly not read my post about how Nosy, Judgmental People Suck. I looked at her blankly, said thank you, and moved on.

We topped off the swim lesson with Ring Around the Rosie (I think... they all blend together). After I struggled to change Henry on the broken changing table, I went to wring out my bathing suit in one of those little centrifuge machines. Unfortunately, I couldn't, which I gathered from the looseleaf paper sign on it that read in scrawled letters:



You know who be broken? This machine. Keeping house (and baby) is hard. I feel like a lame-ass for not being able to do it. Today I also forgot to leave a key for the dog-walker, messed up Henry's feeding schedule, left the bag of wet bathing suit in the diaper bag (just realized it now) and canceled date plans with Rayne because I hadn't managed to find a sitter.

Also, Henry decided that he is not interested in nursing so much as in teething on the end of my nipple. When I yelp in pain, he cries hysterically until I give him back the boob, and the cycle starts again.

I have a pile of laundry to do and the dishwasher to unload, it's 500 degrees in my loft apartment (high ceilings! top floor! sun beating down!) despite my $250/month electricity bill, and I am eating a half a melon for dinner.

This shit is no joke.





Monday, July 16, 2012

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes

This morning I went to Park Slope to meet a friend for breakfast. Park Slope, if you don't know, is a neighborhood in Brooklyn that is essentially synonymous with young families. I'm pretty sure Park Slope has the highest per capita stroller rate in the city, perhaps even the world. Even the guy in the subway booth smiled and waved as he buzzed me through the service exit.

So you would think restaurants would be used to serving parents with kids and even, you know, make things convenient for them.

You would be wrong.

It's no secret that changing a child on the go is, shall we say, a challenge. Changing tables are few and far between, and the ones that do exist are often filthy. A cursory Google search turned up no less than 400,000 mommy bloggers complaining about this very issue.


The elusive bathroom changing table...

But in New York, changing your child in a restaurant bathroom is a special kind of hell. 

When I was in business school, I took an excellent class called Turnaround Management, which basically reviewed why businesses fail, how to recognize the signs as a general manager and how to "turn around" businesses that are in decline. The professor had a wealth of real-world experience, and I learned a lot. But one thing she taught us has stuck unhappily with me for the last nine years: In her work with restaurants, she said that you could always tell how clean a kitchen was by how clean the bathroom was. If a restaurant didn't have the time or willingness to clean the bathroom, well, the kitchen was probably not going to fare much better.

It turns out you can't unthink that thought, which is especially creepy in a city with a lot of little divey restaurants and holes in the wall. I can't help but make a mental note of the cleanliness of each bathroom I use. It's a curse, really. It's not like I've ever really done anything with the information. I don't case neighborhoods for restaurants with clean bathrooms. And I've never left a restaurant in the middle of a meal because the bathroom was disgusting. It's just a reflexive tic that serves no purpose other than to make me shudder.

The bathroom at this particular restaurant in Park Slope, aka Mommy Mecca of the Universe, was about two feet wide by two feet long, dimly lit and fairly disgusting. Changing Henry would have entailed sitting on the toilet bowl with my Gap jean skirt and using one arm to wrestle the pack of squirmy, grabby kittens that my son has become, while taking his pants off, removing his diaper, wiping him down and putting a new diaper on with my other arm. 

Yes, I have sat on many, many toilet bowls with my pants on. While no less revolting, it was much easier when he was a little pile of Play-Doh that I could just plop down.

Another "trick" I have up my sleeve is to put the garbage bag I now keep with me at all times on the floor, get out my changing pad, and wrestle the grabby kittens with two hands while balancing in a squat. This option is often easier in the post-Play-Doh era, but the size of this bathroom (and most in New York) would have precluded such a maneuver, as I wouldn't have been able to crouch down without putting my face dangerously close to the toilet seat. Did I mention it was a unisex bathroom?

To the eternal dismay of the Brooklyn Locavore Brigade (I made that up), I've started to look for national chains like Le Pain Quotidien, which usually have changing tables. I assume it's because they have to be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant, so they at least have a bathroom that a 5 foot 4 inch woman like me can turn around in without cleaning a dirty surface with a piece of clothing. There are no federal laws requiring changing tables in bathrooms (I just investigated on the interwebs), but for large companies, I bet the marginal cost of a changing table is very small after all of the ADA requirements are met.

Anyhow, Park Slope doesn't have a lot of chain restaurants (because of the Brooklyn Locavore Brigade). I arrived a little early to the restaurant and sat down to wait. The guy at the next table (who turned out to be a stay-at-home-dad!) struck up a conversation with me until Henry started crying. His diaper was wet. Just as I stood up, the waitress came over to take my order.

"I'm waiting for a friend, but can I get a lemonade* in the meantime?" As she nodded, I added, "Also, is there a changing table in the bathroom?"

"No," she said, "there isn't."

"Is there a bench or a table back there or something?" I asked, hoping against hope.

"No," she said, trailing off, like no one in the history of the universe had ever asked her such a question, not even in Park Slope. She had a Kristin Wiig quality to her: that kind of simultaneously confused and condescending voice of characters she played in movies like Knocked Up and Forgetting Sarah Marshall (one of my all-time favorites, btw).

"Well," KW continued, "there's like a wooden bench outside under a tree."

"Outside?" I was genuinely perplexed.

The stay-at-home-dad piped in. "Why don't you just put two chairs together right here?" Clearly he had done this sort of thing before.

"Um, no..." KW breathed. "I don't think so. Diapers? No...."

So I took Henry outside and changed him under a tree on the curb, like a puppy dog.

Only later, when I went to the bathroom on my own behalf, did I realize how lucky I had been that a) the tree had a bench, b) it was 80 degrees and sunny, and c) I had someone (thank you, SAHD!) to watch the rest of my stuff while I schlepped Henry outside.

So lucky! Yeah. I think I should start casing neighborhood restaurants. Actually, I have a better idea.... The Moo Cow's NYC Changing Table Resource

Update 7/20/12:  The CitiStroller website (and app for iPhone/iPad only) lets you look up changing tables by zip code. Brilliant! Except, according to them, there is not a single changing table in my entire neighborhood. Fancy that. Maybe you'll have better luck.


*I had to ask for the lemonade three more times before I got it, and it wasn't even good.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Momsomnia

Okay, so this insomnia thing is definitely not on my list of approved devices. What gives? I just spent the last two hours Instagramming mediocre photos taken with my camera phone. I'd share them with you, but apparently I can't remember the password I set up two hours ago.

The thing is, I'm pretty tired. And sleepy. These are two different states of being, and I am both of them. I even ran four miles today, which is the most I've run in almost two years.

So why can't I sleep?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

How to Compliment a Woman

So, I'm just about back to my pre-pregnancy weight. Hip, hip, hooray!

Except, of course, I still need to lose the 12 pounds I gained before getting pregnant. When I was commuting to Westchester every day. And inhaling Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Miniatures at a rate of two miniatures per minute.

Yes, that's right, I got pregnant when I was the fattest I'd ever been. And now that I'm back at that weight, I am the fattest I've ever been without being pregnant PLUS I have flabby abs.  Hip, hip, hooray!

I know, I know. It's all a work in progress.

Anyway, I ran into our building's super in the elevator today. I'd like to preface this story by saying that he is a really sweet and helpful man who does not speak English as his first language. I don't get the impression that he is scrutinizing the laundry videos looking for a glimpse of leg like one of the doormen in my last building (read this).

I say, Hi, how are you?

He replies, I'm fine, how are you?  Then he glances at my mid-section and says, You are looking so much... [searching for word in English] better.

Oh yeah, thanks, I laugh. I'm losing the baby weight.

Aaaaah riiiiiight, he says, recalling the little cherub I carry around with me all the time. So apparently he wasn't making a comment about losing baby weight, just weight. The baby, he says. That's why you were so fat.

Okay, he didn't really say that last part. But the words were kind of hanging unspoken in the air. I couldn't wait to get off the elevator. Buh-bye.

This incident reminded me of the security guard at Bath & Body Works last November, about a month before I gave birth. As I was dragging my swollen body toward the door, he stopped me specifically to inquire whether I was having twins.

Now, keep in mind that Henry was a slim 5 pounds 7 ounces when he was born. There was pretty much no way there were two babies in there. And unfortunately for this particular security guard, I'd reached the limit of my patience with the endless, gratuitous commentary on my body for the duration of my pregnancy.

Nope, I chirped. But thanks for calling me fat!

I think he was genuinely confused.

C'mon, fellas. We know you are not trying to be rude. But give us ladies a break. Just smile and say, You look great. Take it from the Moo Cow -- this is no time to get creative.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Puppy-razzi

This is Hudson, our four-year-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi:

Hudson's motto: I'm your biggest fan, I'll follow you until you love me, puppy- puppy-razzi.

Isn't he cute? Well, I'm pretty sure he wants to bite Henry's face off. Rayne says not to say that out loud, because I will project my fears onto Hudson. But I think we've gone too far for "projection" to be a concern. I'm way more concerned about the face-biting at this point.

I cannot accurately convey the angst I feel. I love my little Hudsy so much. He has been my buddy through thick and thin the last four years. He is so, so, so very sad and confused about Henry's appearance in the midst of what I'm sure he perceived to be a perfectly harmonious Team Hudson situation.

Before Henry was born, he was a sweet and, ahem, lovingly persistent dog. He really liked fetch. You guys wanna play fetch? No? How about now? No? Now? How about now? No? Okay, I'll just drop this ball at your feet. In case you want to play fetch in twenty seconds. No? You wanna play keep away instead? No? Tug of war? No? That's okay, I'll just drop the ball at your feet again, so in case you want to play fetch, you'll see it. I don't want you to forget. About the fetch. With me. How about now?

But he has become increasingly ornery, difficult and neurotic in the last seven months. He literally will not even look at Henry. He mopes around the apartment looking depressed and vacillates between hiding and sitting directly on our feet. And tonight, for the first time ever, he growled and bared his teeth at me as I grabbed his collar to push him towards the door where Rayne was waiting to take him out for a walk.

He growled. At me. His human mommy.

My heart broke.

As Rayne left with Hudson, my eyes welled up with tears. Because I need to be better about doing what the excellent trainer I hired a few months ago taught me. Because I need to get up and out in the morning to take Hudson to off-leash hours in the park, instead of going back for a nap after feeding Henry. Because I will never adequately be able to explain to my sweet puppy why his life has taken this turn for the worse.

And then Henry, whose routine is still shaky after our trip west, started crying in his crib. He was inconsolable, so I scooped him up and brought him to the kitchen because I had to make dinner. I rifled through the refrigerator with Henry on my hip, trying to pull out the ingredients for the stir-fry I ordered from Fresh Direct, which, incidentally, hardly qualifies as "making dinner."

And I forgot about being sad for Hudson. Which is exactly the issue.

Disney made a movie about this in 1955. But there was no mention of Darling's dog-mommy guilt. I wonder if she had any.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Pumping & Dumping Makes Me Sad

I don't have anything really profound to say here, but pumping and dumping depresses me way more than it should.

I went out to dinner with my hubby for our anniversary tonight. I waited on the platform for the G train for a half hour, which made me 40 minutes late for a fancy dinner at our favorite restaurant, Eleven Madison Park. It was so hot down there in the subway that I actually welcomed the several trains coming into the station from the other direction because they sort of blew a hot breeze in my direction, which was better than no breeze. F you, G train.

Anyway, we split a wine pairing and had some "complimentary" champagne Cognac at the end. (I say complimentary because, really, when you are paying that much for dinner, the Cognac is sort of baked into the price, wouldn't you say?) I also had a little dairy along the way, which does not seem to agree with poor Henry's little tummy. The kitchen was nice enough to replace the cheese course with four leaves of well dressed baby lettuce (yay for me) and replace the whole milk in the "egg cream" with soy milk (again, yay for me), but I wasn't going to ask the restaurant to rearrange the entire tasting menu so I could avoid dairy.

So between the alcohol and the dairy, and missing the bedtime feeding, I decided to pump and dump. I don't know why, but as I poured the milk down the drain I felt this wave of sadness wash over me. For a split second, I even thought, Could I give this to the dog so it doesn't go to waste? Then I threw up a little in my mouth and continued pouring.

I'm not sure what it is about dumping the milk that makes me so sad. My supply is thankfully fine, and I have a good stock of 2.5-ounce vials of frozen milk in the freezer. It just seems like I am being horribly wasteful, even cheating my son out of the liquid gold I make for him every day. It made me want to wake him up and cuddle. (But I didn't. Because I'm not that stupid.)

Is this what it is going to be like when I finally wean him off the boob? Will I still be his Moo Cow when I'm no longer his moo cow? These are the thoughts that swim through my head at 2am.

<Sigh>

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Living Hand to Mouth

In the last week, Henry has gone from this:

to this:

Either he's an octopus or his hands move so fast that I can't see them. These are the only two reasonable explanations I can come up with. I grab one thing away from him and there is something else in his mouth in a flash. I hold both his hands down and I swear there is a third hand grabbing a plastic bag and shoving it into his face.

On the plane ride home from Oregon, I needed to somehow hold him securely on my lap, keep the seat buckle away from his mouth and prevent him from gumming the guy in the aisle seat. (Yes sir, today is your lucky day!) Rayne tried to help but we were confined to such a small space that Henry won; he had the most maneuverability. He giggled as we struggled to pin him down.

Feeding has become a game of Operation in which I try to get the spoon in and out of his mouth as quickly as possible without letting anything touch his hands. If he gets a hold of the spoon, the buzzer goes off and I lose: food is everywhere. He grabs the handle of the spoon, shoving it to the back of his throat with a death grip that Darth Vader would envy. He chokes and food spurts out of his mouth.

Or, he grabs the spoon part (the part with the food), which is a more direct route to victory. I try to dodge him. If I fail, his left hand is in the food on the spoon. If I succeed in bypassing his talons, his right hand goes into his food-filled mouth. I take his right hand out of his mouth. He laughs and puts the first hand in back in. I take that one out, too. Now I'm holding the spoon in one hand and both his hands in my other. I quickly shovel a spoonful in and his face plunges toward my hand, filling the crevices of my wedding ring with a mouthful of sweet potato-corn-apple puree.

Henry thinks this is all a fabulous game designed to entertain him. He laughs mischievously whenever he manages to get his hand in a mouth full of food. No wait, I say, tugging at his hand, but I'm laughing too, because he's so damn cute and I can't believe that I can't manage to control this little 16-pound octopus. Then he laughs more, because I'm laughing. Then he puts his hand in his mouth again, because it makes me laugh. Moo Cow, I imagine him saying, this is a fun game, let's play again!

Now I need to change him. He grabs the new diaper with one hand. I take it away while trying to prevent him from rolling over. He goes for the Purell. I move it away and pull off his dirty diaper with one hand. I hold his feet up in the air and he grabs his naked little crotch (seriously? already?) while I'm wiping his bum. I let go of his feet to grab his hand but then he puts his feet in the dirty diaper. I let go of his hand to grab his feet and he stuffs the new diaper in his mouth.

How is this behavior adaptive? How did humans survive the test of time putting everything into their mouths? I know, let's take the youngest, smallest, weakest, most immune-deficient member of our species, and have them shove everything in sight right into their mouths. It just doesn't seem evolutionarily appropriate.

But isn't it? my friend responded this morning as I pried Henry's mouth off the front of the baby swing in a public playground. (Gross.) Mouthing probably weeded out the weakest links, she reasoned; only the strongest survived to pass down their genes.

That makes sense, I suppose. In any case, I'm now covered in sweet potatoes, oatmeal from this morning and half a glass of orange juice that Henry knocked over at breakfast. Thanks a lot, evolution.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Silence Is Golden


I nodded in sad agreement while reading the excellent post by Sarah Ann Noel on Circle of Moms entitled "When Other Moms Judge." What struck me about the post was not its originality but its seeming universality. We have all been there. Who doesn't have a story about a well meaning stranger, an envious co-worker or an overwhelmed playground mommy who offered unsolicited -- and sometimes condescending or just plain mean -- advice about how we were raising our children?

And lest we throw stones in glass houses, who among us hasn't thought, "Wow, my kids are never going to act like that" when we see a child out of control in the airport, or "I can't believe she's feeding him that"?

Frankly, we are plenty judgmental in the rest of our lives, too. We judge what someone is wearing or her choice of spouse; we swear we would never live in a particular city or paint our kitchen chartreuse. The difference is that, more often than not, we keep our trap shut in those other scenarios. In contrast, why does it feel like open season on parenting?

I have a theory that, deep down, we feel like we should already know how to do this child-rearing thing. Humans have been raising young since the beginning of our species, for Pete’s sake. Shouldn’t it be “natural” and “intuitive”? For all my education, shouldn’t I be at least as competent in raising my child as, say, the first generation of Homo sapiens? Ironically, this self-deprecating hunch is reinforced by book after nauseating book on the new/old/modern/surprising “rules” for sleeping, eating, pooping and playing by book authors whom we have never even met.

The truth is, with families more spread out and more nuclear than ever, we no longer have a strong network of hand-me-down wisdom on which to rely. Most of us don’t bring up our five younger siblings and ten younger cousins anymore. We don’t have our mothers and aunts around to show us how to bathe a baby. Our first brush with the reality of a human baby is often with our own, after we have been unceremoniously discharged from a hospital just two or three days after giving birth.

This loss of collective wisdom seems to have caused a level of anxiety that splits our seams. We feel as though we have been left to fend for ourselves. A pediatrician I know told me a story about a woman who called in the middle of the night asking if she should wake her infant to change her poopy diaper. That is how alone we feel.

So we glom on to whatever works for us and feel compelled either to a) publicly justify our every decision in the face of others’ different methods, or b) share our hard-earned wisdom with anyone who, in our narrow view, is having a problem.

In addition, let's face it: We are all experts in over-generalizing based on our own experiences. And because everyone has either parented or, at the very least, been parented, we are chock full of anecdotal evidence to support our specious claims. We actually believe we are qualified to critique your mothering.

But who on earth can drink from the fire hose of advice shooting out from every corner? You need to read this book the Baby Whisperer. Ferberize him! Dr. Sears. No, Dr. Spock! NO, DR. OZ!! La Leche League would not approve. The new basics. The old basics. Have you tried ear plugs?

In my experience, the only other area of life where people seem to question so brazenly or "educate" so ardently is dieting. Have you tried the Paleo diet? What about Atkins? Does anyone remember the Suzanne Somers diet? Low-fat is the way to go. Dr. Oz again! You should really try a juice fast. My cousin's best friend lost 50 pounds on the Jared Subway diet. Smoothies! Slim Fast. Eat raw. Eat cooked. Try the cartwheel diet!

Ack! Shut. Up. All of you.

Not surprisingly, diet and parenting proselytizing share a few traits. Because we, as human beings, have been eating since the origin of our species, it seems like it should be intuitive. And because we all eat, we have a lifetime of anecdotal evidence about how food should and should not be consumed.

But in the melting pot of the American Dream, we have lost the cultural rules around eating that formed over thousands of years in order to make sure we actually, you know, survived. With our modern diet chronically imbalanced, we pore over books, clinging to whatever seems to work for us. Then, we are so excited that we’ve figured it out that we have to share it with the world. Sound familiar?

Alas, there is one more thing that both eating and parenting have in common, something that we always forget along the way: both are incredibly idiosyncratic. Just as different diets work for different bodies and metabolisms, different parenting techniques work for different children, families and circumstances.

So if you see me on the street doing something with Henry that you would never do, please don’t take it personally. In these times of anxiety and perpetual chatter, sometimes silence is golden.




Saturday, July 7, 2012

Guest Post: Complimentary Birth Control

[Ed. note: This is a guest bomb post from my friend, Carissa. Note to Carissa: Thank you! Note to self: Brush hair.]

I first met Mommy Moo Cow in 2006 when I was lucky enough to be assigned to her mentor group as a participant with Team In Training for the Country Music Marathon. She wasn't the blogger she is now back then, but if she was, I'd guess her handle would have been Mentor Power Gel.  (Is it just me, or do these names sound like Native American chiefs?)

MPG (MMC's predecessor) was the best mentor you can imagine and I've always looked up to her. Educated, successful, motivated -- things I wanted to emulate. Career-minded, good at yoga, owner of a Community Supported Agriculture share -- things I would probably never get around to being. Multiple times when I have found myself "in transition" in New York City, she has graciously opened her home. When I met her, MPG was in a new relationship with Rayne, whom I had already met through my work at TNT, and when I found out they were an item, it was sheer joy. MPG and Rayne got engaged the same summer as my husband and I and married just a few months before. Everything was going swimmingly in my quest to emulate all that was BMMC (Before Mommy Moo Cow).

And then she got pregnant.

I only saw Pregnant MPG (PMPG) once. We met for lunch last August or so at a thin crust pizza place in Manhattan. She was glowing, nesting, avoiding hand dryers in bathrooms for fear of bacteria, all things you expect from a mom-to-be. I started to think to myself...I could do this! I can be just like PMPG!

Well, good thing I didn't get ahead of myself there because fast-forward to early January 2012. Henry is 1 month old. MMC (formerly known as PMPG), Rayne, Hudson and Henry are still occupying their gorgeous (even if it was close to the East River Drive and smoke-infested) Upper East Side apartment, and I decided to pop over to meet the baby during a precious few minutes I had between work and dinner.

I came bearing gifts. SmartWool socks for the little one and a cupcake for mom. It looked like a bomb had gone off in there. A baby bomb. A diaper bomb. A brush bomb (clearly MMC had not located hers in about a week). It was, at first, horrifying. A type of birth control, even :) But most of all, I could see the explosion of love that had gone off in the life of MMC. I tried to engage her in conversation about the little one, but all she kept muttering to him was something about being a moo-cow. I chalked it up to the momentary insanity that comes with being a mother in the first month of her child’s life.

Little did I know, MMC was actually still pregnant. Not with a new life, but with an idea. And 5 months later, a blog was born.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Wild, Wild West

So, we're in Challis, Idaho (population 1,086), visiting Rayne's extended family. I feel like I should need a passport to be here; I could not fit in less if I tried. Every time I open my mouth I am acutely aware of my Yankee accent polluting the pristine air.

Go ahead and look it up on Google maps. Middle o' nowhere, folks. There is one main street off the highway, and you can almost picture what it looked like during the frontier days. There's the (non-ironic) saloon, the post office, the library (started by Rayne's grandmother), the pizzeria that was the General Store in the late 1800s, the gunsmith.... If you close your eyes, you can almost hear the ghost steps of men and horses who walked the road before you.

It's magnificent country out here: The mountains are majestic, the river is clean and the air is fresh. I keep saying to Henry, Breathe the fresh air, honey! He's breathing it without my instruction, but I suppose it can't hurt to encourage him to exhale the city pollutants that have surely begun to accumulate in his little lungs.
Challis, ID (crappy photo taken with my camera phone)

This evening as I walked back to our motel suite (which features a diorama of dead wildlife in one corner, a bear rug on the floor facing the sofa and a stuffed baby bear over the kitchen), I wondered if life here was actually less complicated. Would there be less parental angst raising a child in a town like this? Or would you simply trade the anxiety of your little boy getting hit by a bus for the anxiety of your little boy falling down a mine shaft? Both are probably equally unlikely. But I imagine that parenting is fraught and difficult, joyful and wonderous wherever you are.

Our motel suite.  I know you're jealous.

I certainly have not processed this experience enough to make any grand proclamations about city life versus country life. I don't think Challis is going to replace Denver as my fictitious panacea; nevertheless, it is a breathtakingly beautiful change of scenery. I might never fit in, but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy the adventure.

(Oh God. I just noticed a bull skull under the window. Was that here before?)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

In My Defense

I owe you all an apology. I swore that I would not be a mommy blogger who wrote about poop, but that's what I did.

I am excusing myself, though, because I wrote it under the influence of a concussion. Yes, that's right. On Friday, I gave myself a concussion while bending down, apparently quite violently, to pick up a binky that Henry had flung out the side of the crib over night. On the way down I hit my head really, really hard on the corner of a shelf. It hurt so much I didn't even make a sound. I'm pretty sure I turned a few shades of gray before developing a headache, nausea and that groggy feeling you get when you've had too much to drink to drive, but not enough to have fun.

Somehow, in between indenting my skull and going to the emergency room, I wrote a post about poop. I hope you can forgive me.

I sat in the emergency room for a total of five hours before being seen. Not a problem. It wasn't like I had to pack for our family trip to Idaho the next morning, or anything. While trying very hard not to watch Access Hollywood on the hospital television, my thoughts inevitably turned to the other time I had given myself a concussion.

In college, I took a women's self-defense class taught by two characters from campus police -- a five foot tall woman and an enormous teddy bear of a man who had to have been at least 6'5". For our certificate, we had to suit up in an American Gladiator type outfit, pads on every limb and complete with a caged face mask. The objective was to get past the Teddy Bear as he pretended to threaten us by using the moves we had learned in the class. Teddy was also padded and masked up. No one was going to get hurt.

By the third go-around, Teddy was talking some serious smack and making it more difficult for us to "escape." I am definitely a hothead now, but back then I was way quicker to anger. And with all of the adrenaline from the first two scenarios... well, I snapped. In the process of "defending" myself, I grabbed his face mask and thwap! snapped it toward me, head butting him. Hard.

Teddy reeled as everyone cheered. I had won! Alas, it was a pyrrhic victory. I was seeing stars and feeling pretty wobbly. Even Teddy had taken off his mask to rub his head.

They sent me to the campus infirmary, who diagnosed a slight concussion and told me to stay the night for observation. Um, no. I had a paper to write. I went back to my dorm room and stayed up all night finishing the paper. Obviously, a college paper is more important than possible brain swelling.

Anyway, hopefully Henry did not inherit my propensity for self-injury. But if he did, at least I'll know what to do when he hits his head.