Archive for November, 2008

A Bad Mother Home Companion

November 30, 2008

For any of you who might still be laboring under the misapprehension that mine is a household characterized by order, sophistication and grace, I offer you this:

The Sunday Morning Music Show, produced and directed by the Girl Formerly Known As Wonderbaby and starring the Girl Formerly Known As Wonderbaby, with guest appearances by Her Bad Father and Her Bad Baby Brother. Note the following:

1) That her father’s signature tune is a bastardized blues version of the theme to The Beverly Hillbillies;

2) That the performance requires the wearing of nighties, pajamas and oversized slippers, and must be staged in a badly messed dining room;

3) That Her Bad Mother is in no wise required for the staging of the performance;

4) That the baby plays a mean banjo.

All of which sums up life here pretty neatly, I think.

As you were.

*****

Hey, Toronto peeps: there’s a nurse-in at the Ontario provincial legislature this coming Wednesday, to protest the imminent closure of Dr. Jack Newman’s breastfeeding clinic and to demand that the province do more to promote and protect breastfeeding rights and support. Anyone care to join me? Leave a comment here and I’ll get back to you with details.

UPDATE: Mister Jasper is a very sick little baby, and I simply can’t go to this. E-mail me if you want details, to attend yourself. (And? Anyone local who wants to go and do a brief story on it for BlogHers Act Canada? I would LOVE you. E-mail me.)

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No Turkeys Were Harmed While Making This Message

November 27, 2008


Well, this turkey wasn’t. I can’t make any promises about his buddies.

Happy Thanksgiving. Eat much pie.

Tried To Make Her Go To Rehab; She Said No, No, No

November 25, 2008

My child is a junkie.

It started innocently enough. A little hit now and then, at parties. It couldn’t hurt, I reasoned, and besides, all the other kids were doing it. The buzz they enjoyed seemed harmless, and besides, I’m partial to that buzz myself, and it would be hypocritical to deny my children something that I don’t deny myself. So I let her have some, just a little bit, now and then. I thought that I was being careful: never too much, and only on special occasions. But then summer came along and the temptation was everywhere: in the parks, on the beach, near the shops. And after summer, fall, and with fall, Hallowe’en, and after Hallowe’en, it became obvious.

We have a problem.

Emilia is an addict. She is addicted to candy and treats and desserts and any and all things that make good use of sugar, with the notable exception of any dessert-like creation that contains fruit or – god forbid – raisins. She (rightly) regards all fruit-based desserts and raisin-contaminated baked goods as corrupt treats – like bad acid or cheap ganja – that should be avoided at all costs. We’re not sure when it started – I had always been vigilant about treats in the house, restricting her to 100% natural fruit bars and oatmeal biscuits and yogurt with honey, except for the occasional cupcake or ice cream on birthdays or holidays or outings – but we think that the addiction took root in her summer ice cream habit and blossomed into full junk-dependency with the candy windfall that came this past Hallowe’en (helped along, no doubt, by the Jellybean Potty Incentive Program that we were running this fall.)

Hallowe’en is a sugar junkie’s dream, and I’m sure that it’s responsible for creating more jacked-up sugar bingers than Christmas and Easter and birthdays combined. I could see it in her face, as she sped deliriously from house to house, clutching her bag to her wee chest, eyes flashing like highbeams, mad with longing and anticipation. Look, Mommy! she’d squeal gleefully. I have TOO MUCH CANDY! TOO MUCH! We tried to intervene, appropriating her smack bag and only allowing her to select a few choice pieces, but it was too late. She happily traded most of the contents of the bag for a new toy, but we discovered the next day, and over subsequent days, that she had performed some sleight of hand and purloined a sizable quantity of candy from the bag before it was removed, a stash that she then divided and tucked into Ziploc bags and squirreled away in hiding places (the oven of her toy kitchen, her sock drawer, a toy suitcase, her backpack) around the house. We would stumble across remnants of her stash while tidying, or discover her under the blankets at bedtime, furiously working the wrapper of a lollipop. Every Ziploc’ed baggy was appropriated, only to be replaced by another. How she had managed to loot and smuggle so much junk was a mystery to us, but there it was: she had an addiction that she needed to feed and feed it she did.


We think, now, that we’ve tracked down and re-appropriated all of the candy in the house, but she persists in her efforts to acquire a new supply. Can I have candy, Mommy? Can I have candy after dinner? Can I have candy after bedtime? Can I have candy for Christmas? Can I, Mommy? CAN I? We respond with wholegrain biscuits and no-sugar added fruit chews, and she freaks out. THAT’S NOT CANDY I WANT CANDY I WANT CANDEEEEEE! Or CAKE. We offer yogurt with honey and soy pudding (chocolate!) and coconut-date cookies; she throws herself on the floor and wails.

So we decided to compromise, and plotted a harm-reduction scheme: we stocked the cupboards with a better-quality candy substitute, with the idea that we’d ply her with that, the better to wean her from the hard stuff. We’d provide sugar-methadone to ease her candy detox; we’d supply some jungle juice to get her off the smack. We bought her Froot Loops and Corn Pops.

And now she’s a sugar-cereal freak.


What do we do? We want to break her sugar habit, and rid our home of all candy and sugar-cereals (which I SWORE up and down I would never, ever allow into my house), but seriously: THE SCREAMING. Also, we don’t want to be total buzzkills: what’s Christmas without gingerbread and candy canes? I was a sugar freak as a kid myself, and I know that my obsession with sugar was made worse by my parents’ attempts to keep me from it (some of my earliest memories are of climbing onto kitchen counters to raid the cupboards for brown sugar – straight up – and baker’s chocolate.) Can a sugar obsession be tempered? Do we make it worse by cutting her off, or is cutting her off the only option? WHAT DO WE DO?

Hair Today

November 24, 2008

So, I decided: I like myself the way that I am.

Also, I discovered that if you put a light blond rinse on platinum hair, you basically come out with exact same hair that you started with, at the expense of a bathroom towel or two, and very possibly your dignity. (Scene at drugstore – Saleslady: can I help you find something? Me: no, thank you, I’m fine. Saleslady: that kind of color won’t cover grays, you know. Me: that’s fine, I don’t know that I want to cover it. Saleslady: Are you sure? Because I can recommend… Me: OH FERCHRISSAKES PLEASE.)

Three days ago, pre-Clairol:


Tonight, post-Clairol:


I managed to make myself look pretty much exactly the same, which was kinda to be expected, since I purchased Clairol Extra-Light Platinum Blond #16, which is like my exact color. Also, apparently, I managed to intercept some communications from outer space with my camera (yes, the picture was recorded to camera and downloaded as you see it above, complete with spectral rock images.) Something to do with rocks and dirt and some kind of belly-like image? It was telling me to stay natural, I think, and also, maybe to get pregnant. Or, maybe, that staying natural is only reasonable when one is pregnant? Whatever.

I know signs from the gods when I see them. I’ll keep myself the way that I am, and be happy about it.

Thank you and goodnight.

Beauty, Like A Dial-Hand

November 20, 2008

When I was growing up, I never thought that I was pretty. I was pretty certain, actually, that being a tall skinny girl with ruddy blond hair and what my mother always called a “distinctive” nose, I was anything but pretty. Nice-looking on a good day, maybe – and, later, “striking,” which is just a fancy way of saying “you’re kinda nice-looking, but in a weird way” – but not actually pretty. Which was discouraging, because I wanted to be pretty; not to stand out, but to blend in. I wanted to be like one of those characters in novels, the girl who doesn’t give a thought to how she looks but whom the reader understands to be quietly, unassumingly lovely; the kind of girl who doesn’t draw attention with her beauty, who doesn’t attract second glances, who might even seem plain at first sight, but who, upon donning a pretty dress or standing before a lover, is suddenly and unsurprisingly revealed to be beautiful.

I did not believe that I was beautiful. Ah, youth. You never know what you have until it’s gone.

I started getting over it sometime in my mid twenties. I settled into my looks, and came to accept them: every time I looked in the mirror I saw a matured version of my younger self – still tall, still skinny, nose still distinctive, blond hair turning prematurely platinum – but in my maturity I was able to look past what I perceived as my particular flaws and see myself as myself, my whole self, and what I saw wasn’t all that bad. I could see why my husband found me beautiful; I could see why my mother had always said that I was beautiful. As I got older, I was better able to appreciate my quirks, the little details that made me different. I didn’t worry about crow’s feet and fine lines and my platinum hair: I could see beauty in the intelligence in my eyes and in the humor in my smile. Also, I got my teeth fixed.

And so I got a little older, and became a mother, and then got a little older still, and – oddly – it became even easier. I could look in the mirror and see a woman, and – assuming that I didn’t spend too much time contemplating the rear view, or give too much thought to the muffin top – be pleased with the appearance of that woman. Age was serving me well.

And then yesterday happened.

I was shopping with Amy. I had Jasper strapped to my chest, and we were browsing and chatting and passing the time in idle contemplation of the random crap that fills store shelves during the holidays. We didn’t see the saleswoman as she approached; she came at us from behind, exclaiming something about hello and isn’t it cold and can I help you find something. I wasn’t even listening – didn’t even turn to see her – until she addressed me directly: is this your first grandchild?

Is this your first GRANDCHILD?

(I’ll let that sink in. Take all the time that you need.)

I turned to face her full-on. No, I said, after some bajillion seconds. He’s my second CHILD.

She crumpled. Oh! Of course… I mean, it was just… I didn’t really see… your hair! Oh… dear... you do have very light hair! I thought… I didn’t see you… I shouldn’t have… of course he’s not your grandchild!

Amy marched to the door and opened it for me. When we got outside, I said, that? Was AWESOME.

She said, erase it from your memory. ERASE IT. It means nothing.

I know, I know. I just can’t decide whether it was disturbing or funny.

It was funny. But forget about it.

Funny, maybe. But also discomfiting. I know that the saleswoman didn’t get a good look at me; I know that she saw the pale flash of hair and the glint of eyeglasses and a puffy winter coat and made an immediate association with age. I also know that age doesn’t equal unattractiveness. But still: she saw me, and whatever of combination of features she saw were features that said old. And/or frumpy. And/or not young/not fresh/not attractive. Not pretty.

For all that I say that I no longer care so much about my looks, that I’m perfectly comfortable with getting older, that maturity is, that maternity is, beautiful – that hurt. I’m comfortable – even, some days, happy – with how I look, and I know that the little signs of age that begin to creep up on you in your thirties are part of that look, but I don’t want to look old. I don’t want to be frumpy. I do not – no offense to any grandmothers out there – want to be mistaken for a grandmother, not from any distance. I’m not interested in looking like a twenty-something, either – although, for the record, I wouldn’t be writing this post if someone had asked me if I was Jasper’s babysitter – I just want to look like who I am. Thirty-something, mother of two, only uses her straight-iron for special occasions, usually forgets to put on lipgloss, hasn’t set foot in a gym in years. I don’t need to be gorgeous, or even beautiful – I’m long past that – but I would like to look like me, the me of my mind’s eye, the me that I’ve come to love so well.

So today, I’m coloring my hair.

(Or not. Am chickening out. I actually love my platinum hair – but maybe a bit blonder? Thoughts? OH LORD VANITY SHE IS A BITCH.)

Because The Saying ‘Where The Sun Don’t Shine’ Doesn’t Apply When You’re 3

November 18, 2008

Me: Why are you naked?

Her: Because I need to go to the potty.

Me: Why, then, are you just standing on the stairs?

Her: Because the toilet makes my bum cold…

(turns around to display cold bum)

… and there’s a sunbeam here…

(bends over and waggles bare bum in the stream of sunlight pouring through the landing window)

… and it warms it up.

(pats her toasted bottom proudly, and then proceeds up the stairs to the bathroom.)

You just can’t fault that logic.

Motrin Versus The Moms: When Painkillers Are Attacked, Everybody Loses

November 17, 2008

It’s possible that you haven’t seen or heard about MotrinGate, but I’ll wager that if you haven’t, it’s because you have enough of a life to not be reading blogs or compulsively checking Twitter on a weekend. If you haven’t heard about it – and you aren’t interested in going to Twitter and typing #motrinmoms into the search box, at which point you will be exposed to a digital outpouring of maternal outrage the likes of which you have not seen since, oh, the last breastfeeding scandal or the Great Mommy War Debates, Parts I through XIteen, and so on – here’s the story: Motrin posted an ad on their website that suggests, none too elegantly, that moms who wear their babies a) are conformist sheep-moms who only wear their babies in order to demonstrate that they’re “official moms” (dick fingers implied), and b) need Motrin to help with the pain caused by all that silly babywearing. Because babies are the new Manolos, and are just as likely to cause you crippling pain.

(I’ve posted the video of the ad below, in case you’re dying to see what the fuss is about. You might also check out their ad for children’s Motrin, which implies, with insufficient subtlety, that if you’re not getting enough sleep, you might want to consider drugging your kids up. You know, with Motrin.)

Of course, the ad is stupid, and deserving of the scorn that has been heaped upon it. But I’m not sure that it’s worthy of the scale of outrage that I’m seeing. Which may make me unpopular for the three or four days that this scandal burns its swath across the Internetverse, but so be it.

What’s stupid about the ad, obviously, is that it belittles a standard practice of motherhood: carrying one’s baby. The suggestion – again, complete with implied dick fingers – that women “endure” babywearing just so that they’ll “fit in” with other moms is stupid and offensive. I wore my babies – sometimes with slings, sometimes with Bjorns, sometimes just freestyle – because I could not possibly have had (or have) a life without doing so. Especially with the second, the six-month old who I carry constantly: he loathes being put down, and so my ability to move about the world freely requires that I bind him to my body in some fashion – with fabric, duct tape, or just an old-fashioned curve of the arm – or endure high-pitched shrieking. I don’t do this to prove my mommy bona fides. I’ve got ample scars that prove my mommy bona fides, not to mention a wardrobe of spit and shit-stained clothing, a muffin-top, a short temper and an inability to concentrate on any conversation that doesn’t reference potty training or preschooler discipline techniques. These get the point across, I think. I’m so obviously a mom that I’m surprised that random children don’t just follow me home from the park. I am EVERYMOM.

But I’m also, in my capacity as a mom, plagued by backaches and neckaches and stiff shoulders and all manner of discomfort related to the toll of days spent packing anywhere from 23 to 60 lbs of kidmeat around on my person,* not to mention the constant crouching and bending and lifting and bending and hoisting and crouching and bending and lifting etc etc etc that comes with the endless cycle of diaper changing and toilet training and shoelace-tying and buckle-fastening and binky-fetching and all the other back-breaking little tasks that are part of motherwork. That shit burns you out, people. It’s hard work, and it leaves you sore. It leaves me sore. So the idea that someone might pitch painkillers to my particular demographic isn’t really outrageous. Hell, the Motrin people could get together with the Smirnoff’s Vodka people and maybe even the Xanax/Ativan people and do a whole collaborative marketing juggernaut aimed at tired/sore/anxiety-ridden moms and I’d probably just roll my eyes and make a note on my calendar to renew some prescriptions and restock the liquor cabinet. So, no, I don’t think that the substance of the Motrin campaign is all that worthy of controversy.

It’s their delivery that sucked butt, for the reasons I explained above. If you’re trying to win over a market, you should maybe try to avoid insulting that market. But we – the quote-unquote market that they’ve insulted – need to be clear on what exactly it is that we find insulting. The suggestion that packing our kids around might cause a backache or two is not insulting (nor is it particularly damaging, as I’ve seen some suggest, to the practice of babywearing. Knowing that carrying a baby might cause some shoulder pain won’t stop any reasonable parent from babywearing. Knowing that childbirth is painful hasn’t stopped women from giving birth, has it?) The suggestion that babywearing is some kind of Stepford Mom conformity exercise is insulting, and it’s worth protesting.

But let’s keep our focus on the real problems here. The marketing of a painkiller to moms is not a problem. The suggestion (the appalling suggestion) that some or any of the practices of motherhood that might cause mothers to reach for a painkiller are in and of themselves stupid or risible or of dubious merit is a problem, because it makes a mockery of the work of motherhood and so makes a mockery of mothers. It demonstrates that advertisers are still unwilling, for the most part, to consider mothers as anything other than stereotypes: frazzled mom, harried mom, lonely mom, overwhelmed mom. These stereotypes have force because the life of a mom involves all of the components of those stereotypes – I am frazzled and overwhelmed and I will say here, frankly, that I have said to myself on more than one occasion, why the f*$# am I carrying this baby around every minute of every day oh my aching hell – but they become dangerous when they become the sole lens through which moms are viewed.

The only way to fight it is by reminding the culture that we are complex. We are not frazzled harridans griping about pain, but nor are we simply beatific nurturers whose deepest joy and pleasure is derived from carrying babies – light as farts with angel wings – against our ever-trilling mama-hearts. We need to keep broadcasting to the world that we defy simple characterization. Which means tempering our outrage with humor, and tempering our rebuttals with honesty: I’m a mom who wears my baby – and loves it but also sometimes doesn’t love it all that much and on those days maybe takes a painkiller or two or maybe just a hot bath and a martini – and I did not approve of that Motrin ad.

Now, somebody pass me the vodka.

*I know that babywearing doesn’t cause everyone discomfort. And I’ve heard it said a thousand times that if you’re doing it right, it doesn’t hurt. FINE. I’ve also heard the very same thing said about breastfeeding, and it’s just not true. Packing my kids around all day puts a strain on my body. Sometimes that strain is painful. Please do not tell me that I’m doing it wrong. It’s my babywearing and I’ll say that it’s sometimes painful if I want to.

** The ad was removed from the Motrin site while I was drafting this post. Behold the power of the momosphere!

We Who Are About To Rock Salute You

November 16, 2008


Because you haven’t really celebrated your birthday until you’ve stripped down to your underwear, grabbed your axe and ripped a shred.

(Okay, so maybe it was your little purple ukelele, but still. You’re naked and you’re jamming, so the effect is the same. Slash could learn a thing or two from you about style.)

Three

November 14, 2008

How did we get from here:


…to here:


…to here?


These three years have sped by so quickly. These three years have been an eternity. I miss the baby that she was. I long for the girl she will become.

I adore the amazing being that she is, and I am grateful for this day, for every day, with her.

Happy birthday, baby.

Minding One’s Peens and Q’s

November 12, 2008

The girl-child has impeccable manners. She’s all please and thank you and may I and I’m sorry and oh, excuse me and it’s entirely disarming. She can be in the middle of a nuclear-scale tantrum and she’ll still stop to say excuse me and wait for you to step aside before she stomps past you shouting THANK YOU. It’s kind of awesome.

She’s also generous with the compliments. We think that it’s something that they’ve been teaching at her preschool, because although my husband and I are unfailingly polite, we tend not to walk around praising each other’s clothing choices and hair-brushing techniques. Emilia, on the other hand, is all about praising the finer details of the appearance and comportment of others: nice buttons on your shirt, Mommy! she’ll say. And, I like your hair today, Daddy! Did you brush it? Or, are those new shoes, Mommy? I like the laces! (said of laceless Converse sneakers.)

And then, the other day, this:

(bursting into the bathroom and confronting her very surprised father, in flagrante urinato)

NICE PENIS, DADDY!

Which, you know, was kind of funny, but only in that embarrassing, not-for-sharing-at-dinner kinda way, like that time last year when she shouted, from the backseat of the car, excuse ME, mother-f***er! and we both looked at each in horror before exclaiming to each other she didn’t get that from ME and then laughing, uncomfortably, out loud. That kind of funny.

The thing is, on the very rare occasion – very rare – that she says something that is obviously inappropriate – like, say, mother-f***er – we can console ourselves with the facts that a) she didn’t get it from us (we save all of our cursing for after hours and, in any case, never refer to ourselves or anyone else as mother-f***ers) and b) it’s easy to explain to her that some words simply aren’t polite. But how do we respond to complimentary commentary on genitalia? I mean, she was trying to pay a compliment. She wanted to say something nice, and the obvious thing, when the person to whom one wants to say something nice has directed their attention to a specific part of themselves, is to direct one’s compliment to that specific part. That’s just basic etiquette.

But Emily Post didn’t provide direction on how to compliment penises for a very good reason: one simply shouldn’t go around complimenting penises in any circumstances other than those engaged in, in private, by consenting adults. Which is not something that we’re not yet talking about with the girl, who is, after all, just two days shy of three years old and so some twenty-odd years off from dating. So how do we explain to her that although it is nice to say nice things to other people, there are just some things that we don’t draw attention to? We do not, after all, want to suggest to her that there is anything shameful about the parts that she is complimenting; we do not want to suggest that those parts are anything other than ‘nice’. And isn’t there something potentially confusing and problematic about telling her that we simply shouldn’t talk about those parts?

Obviously, the fast answer is lock the bathroom door. But that doesn’t resolve the bigger issue: we’re fairly modest people, inasmuch as we tend not to wander around naked, but we don’t make a fuss about concealing ourselves from each other, because, again, we don’t want to send the message that there’s something shameful about bodies. We have talks about privacy, but we’re not fascists about it. So, you know, occasionally there’s going to be a glimpse of a penis or a boob and if the girl decides that those things are deserving of compliments, well, how are we to respond? Should we respond, in any manner other than simply saying thank you and moving on?

Because, you know, I don’t get compliments on my boobs all that often, and so I’m kind of inclined to take them where I can get them.

(What do you/will you/would you do?)

(Thanks to Niksmom for the title suggestion via Twitter)