Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Fanny Price is a pill!

That is my conclusion after finishing "Mansfield Park." It's part of my maternity leave reading list. Last time around, I read "War and Peace." No, really. It's good. All you ever hear about is how long it is, boo-hoo and wah, but if you can handle the last four or so Harry Potter books you can do this too. Worth the effort.

So I thought, what should I read this time around? Because the thing about nursing is that you spend lots of time sitting down. You can get on the phone, you can watch TV or you can read. You can of course also interact with your baby, but your baby will be feeding for up to an hour, every two to three hours, and no matter how much you want to be Ultimate Mom, you're going to want a diversion after a while.

Now I love "Pride and Prejudice." I've read it over and over. I've seen, I'm fairly sure, every movie version, including the Bollywood one ("Bride and Prejudice," so-so acting but great dance scenes). But I realized that I'd never read Austen's other novels, and she only wrote six (not counting "Sanditon," which was unfinished at the time of her death). Hey, I can read five novels in a few months.

I was surprisingly so-so on "Sense and Sensibility," finding it a little overwrought plotwise. Also I felt like the ending sold out Marianne a little. Which is odd because I didn't remember getting that sense from the movie. Also odd: One scene that stuck in my head from the movie -- a heartbroken Marianne standing in the pouring rain, reciting poetry to the house her lost Willoughby was in -- wasn't in the book at all. When she falls ill, it's solely from Willoughby spurning her ("dumping" doesn't sound right, does it?). People in these novels keep getting sick just from hearing bad news. Delicate 19th-century constitutions?

I liked "Emma" a lot; it has a light, arch tone that makes it a fun read. The heroine is so sure of herself, and so completely wrong about everything, that you sort of want to roll your eyes and hug her simultaneously. Also I developed a new appreciation for "Clueless," which is a surprisingly faithful adaptation, aside from having a pretty good soundtrack.

"Persuasion" is the one you want to read when feeling most cynical about human nature. The satire verges on viciousness. (Occasionally you get the distinct feeling that Austen didn't like most people.) But Anne Elliot is someone you want to root for, getting a second chance at love even though she's a spinster in her late twenties (ancient, I know).

"Mansfield Park," though, has left me a little cold. All the other heroines are likable in their way, from calm and sensible Anne to smart, witty Lizzy Bennet. But Fanny Price is completely reactive. The entire novel happens around her, and she just mopes and cries and waits for her beloved Edmund to get around to noticing that she exists, and gosh, wouldn't they make a cute couple? Which the reader picked up on somewhere around chapter three. I read that Fanny was Austen's favorite heroine, and I really hope that wasn't true.

It's funny how contemporary the novels feel. Frenemies! Lousy parents and spoiled kids! City snobs snarking about the country! (Oh you New Yorkers with your better-than-Jersey holiness.) Not to mention adultery, illegitimate children and the occasional gold-digger. I don't know if it's reassuring that society hasn't changed that much, or depressing.

But this has been a fun read. Just "Northanger Abbey" left, assuming the library has it, and then I think I can legitimately consider myself an Austen fan. For whatever that's worth.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

But at least they gave us gelt

A local Jewish group was holding a menorah lighting ceremony at town hall, so we figured we'd go, since we'd already hit the town's tree lighting-palooza. Plus there'd be latkes and doughnuts. I refuse to make latkes from scratch because there's only so much work I'm prepared to put into dinner, but I'm happy to eat them if someone else makes them. (Side note: Trader Joe's frozen latkes are quite good.)

So we showed up a few minutes late and figured the menorah -- a decent-sized electric one next to the lit-up tree -- was already lit and the party had moved inside, except for the few stragglers still around the menorah. Then we realized the stragglers were the party. The entirely outside party. After dark. In December. With the wind whipping through our entire bodies.


Let me just say, you all seemed like very nice people, as much as we were able to talk to you in between the teeth chattering, but ... outside? Two feet from a parking lot? In the freezing cold? With children in tow?

I know the whole point of Hanukkah is to shine a light against the darkness and all, but you know what else beats back the darkness? A well-lit room. With heat.

I almost made us leave on the spot, but we'd promised kiddo latkes so we trooped on over. There was a radio playing Hebrew party tunes, a table with doughnuts and dreidels, and that was just about it. We politely stayed a few minutes and then skipped on out before our children got frostbite. "You brought a baby -- you must really be dedicated!" one man called out as we were leaving.

No, sir, just expecting a *ahem* warmer reception.

And I wouldn't even be that annoyed, except that here was how the tree lighting party went: chorus sings, fire trucks blare, Santa arrives, tree lit, big crowd heads inside for Santa photo ops, balloon animals, cupcakes, hot chocolate and other assorted goodies. Sure, one was town-sponsored and one was a private group. But they were both held at the same spot, so yes, folks, comparisons are inevitable.

Jews are not good at outreach. Or PR. I think we're so used to everyone hating us that it doesn't occur to us that people might want to, say, know more about our culture, or maybe attend one of our cultural events without it being unbelievably inconvenient. (DH has complained before about feeling unwelcome in all-Jewish places.)

In all fairness, it's easier to get into the Christian holidays because they tend to have a secular (pagan?) component to go along with the more serious religious component. Christmas has Santa. Easter has the Easter bunny and gobs of candy. Neither one is the point of the holiday, but they give the kids (and wary Jewish adults) something to hang onto unless and until they're ready for the real point. Jewish holidays are the point. There's no Pasky the Passover Pascal Lamb, for instance. Just the seder. And gobs of matzah.

But the end result is that we are going to do our damndest to educate our kids in both sides of their heritage, and Judaism is going to be a harder sell. Unless we can find better Hanukkah parties.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Santa Santa Santa and also Santa

People make such a big thing about Christmas envy. Oh, you poor Jewish thing, you must've hated growing up watching your friends and their Christmas this and Santa that. Trees and lights and ham and lamb and mint sauce (I still don't understand the mint sauce, can some gentile out there enlighten me?) and candy canes and TV specials and stockings. You poor deprived child. Boo hoo and wah.

But not really. The thing is, I like Hanukkah. Always did. You get to play with fire -- in front of your parents, no less -- you get to hear a cool story about war and miracles, and you get eight nights of presents. And no matter what Lewis Black tells you about back-to-school holidays, some of us actually got toys at Hanukkah. Like the Cabbage Patch dolls and the Pound Puppies and the Nintendo and could I be dating myself any more here? Anyway, Christmas-Hanukkah never bothered me.

(Easter-Passover, that bugged me. Macaroons? Chocolate bunnies? No comparison.)

What I'm realizing, though, is that when it comes to the sheer fun quotient, Hanukkah can't compete. It's just outclassed.

We took kiddo to see Santa on Saturday -- right, the day it snowed, and then tried to find a tree even though there was snow in our eyes the whole time -- and went to our town's tree lighting on Sunday. He had a blast. He ran right up to Santa, high-fived him, sat on his lap, said thanks for the candy cane, and then while we were drinking our hot cider he ran back over to Santa and scored a second picture. Probably would've shot for a third if we hadn't dragged him outside to the tree lot. We'd have an album full of him mugging with Santa.

For the tree lighting, everybody gathered outside the municipal building while every single fire truck and ambulance the town owns (or it felt that way, anyway) came screaming into the lot, followed by Santa on a smaller truck. Kids shrieked when they saw him. Santa is a rock star! Then everyone looked up at the big tree at the top of the hill and counted down to 1, when the tree magically lit up in primary colors. And then inside for cupcakes and hot chocolate, plus pictures with Santa (absolutely not, it was a mile-long line).

Such excitement, such drama. Even I got a thrill when I knelt next to kiddo and pointed: "Look, here comes Santa! Look at the tree, they're turning on the lights!" It draws you in. I started to wonder what it would've been like for me, celebrating these things as a kid. What would it have felt like? What's it like to see Santa for the first time, and to believe in him? Kiddo looked dazzled.

(I am aware that Santa is not actually the point of the holiday. We'll tackle that part, too, when kiddo is old enough to understand a little better. Right now I'm focusing on the more secular aspects.)

Hanukkah has a pretty compelling story in its own right, but it's a more quiet sort of celebration. It's not even a major holiday on the Jewish calendar, nowhere near the status of Passover or the High Holy Days. Any attempts to raise it up to the level of Christmas are -- let's face it -- Christmas envy.

We celebrate both, obviously, but we don't mush them together. They're separate holidays held for separate reasons and that needs to be acknowledged. Still I wonder how much more we'll have to push to make Hanukkah stick in the kids' minds. Because Christmas has a magic that's hard to resist.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hello, I'm Kanga and this is Roo

Long long ago in my single days, when my pets were my substitute children (because who are we kidding? Of course they were), I had an iguana named Beast. He liked to ride around on my shoulder. So I'd put his little leash on and stroll outside for a walk, and every kid in a 300-mile radius would come running to see the cool lizard. It was hilarious. I'd never been the center of attention that quickly, ever.

Occasionally I get a flashback of that when I stroll around with kiddette in her sling. People are fascinated. "Is there a baby in there?" "Wow, what a neat pouch!" "Oh, honey, look at the baby!" Etc. Which is kind of cute and amusing -- and yes, I do think I have the most adorable kiddette on the planet anyway -- but clearly a fair amount of the attention is over the sling.

Not sure why they're still such a novelty. I see parents using other carriers, like the Bjorn and the Ergo, fairly regularly. My Peanut Shell, though -- and all the other slings like it, rings or no -- not so much. Which is weird considering I got it at a big-box baby store.

Maybe slings are too hippie-dippie hipster for the North Jersey parenting set? Or maybe, and this seems more likely, they're not incredibly cost-effective since they seem to be designed for and marketed to women? (DH uses a Bjorn.)

I'm pretty fond of it though. Kiddette has ridden in it through a holiday craft fair, a holiday open house in a historic building and a train show, all of which were in stroller-unfriendly places, and we got around fine. Plus happy sleeper that she is, she snoozed through almost all of it. Pretty unbelievable with the train show, considering the huge noise in a small space and her brother zooming around like a maniac yelling "Trains! Trains!"

I guess I don't mind being the novelty act. And this is way better than carrying a lizard around.

Friday, November 20, 2009

H1N1 vaccinations: More fun than you can shake your fist at

So getting out of the way the whole Should I? Shouldn't I? part -- we have a toddler and an infant and I already personally know one kid who's gotten swine flu, and I'd rather risk side effects from the shot than side effects (or any effects) from the virus. But hey, you want to fret about government conspiracies, that is of course your call.

I got kiddo and me into a clinic for high-risk groups a few hours before registration closed out entirely. It ran 4:30 to 8:30 p.m., and no you could not register for a specific time, what do you think this is, a haircut?

So we waited on line. And waited on line. And some more. And genius me for bringing the stroller, because I could stash our coats in the storage bin and have something to lean on while also keeping maniac kiddo contained in one spot instead of chasing him all over the room. You anti-stroller people, you have no idea how much they simplify our lives. At least I apologize when I accidentally run over your toe.

We moved from one line to a room where I had to fill out forms providing essentially the same information I'd already provided on the printouts from the registration. And then to another line, in which we discovered that they were going alphabetically by last name and I possess the most common first letter in the alphabet. Occasionally a guy walked back down the line calling out, "Any Ds? Any Fs?" I thought maybe we'd be getting a seating chart and a syllabus next.

Kiddo was putting up with all this remarkably well because he had a granola bar and my iPod. There's one episode of "Sesame Street" on it I just keep showing him over and over, and whenever he sees the iPod he says, "See Elmo!" Somehow he figured out where the earbuds go, though I've never showed him that, and he sat there playing with the clickwheel and listening to my music. I hope he didn't find the Metallica.

We got to the front (!) of the alphabet line and found out that we had to go to the "verification room" because kiddo got his regular flu shot last month and they were, I dunno, afraid he might explode or something. So we went to that room and waited on another line to be told that he's good to go, and we should go down the hall where there is -- wait for it -- another line for kids under 36 months.

We got there and there were two lines leading through double doors into a bigger room, and the nice lady who was trying to direct me started to bring me in front of the double doors, in between the two other lines. Another worker tried to stop me, assuming I guess that I was a line-jumper, and after I had a minor hissy and explained that I was following someone, he let me pass without a password or anything. And then I stood there at the front, on no particular line, waiting for I knew not what until the first worker beckoned me into one corner of the next room, which was apparently the kiddie corner.

They had quite the assembly-line operation going. Haul the kid onto a table, yank his pants down, stick him quickly, shove him off on his parent while he's screaming. Next!

I wheeled still-crying kiddo to a quiet spot against the wall and brought out my secret weapon: A fun-size Butterfinger. "Want some chocolate?" I wheedled. Kiddo stopped crying, perked right up and attacked it. Leftover Halloween candy, I love you.

The chocolate perked him up so much, in fact, that he was calm and happy while I got my shot and while we waited the required 15 minutes after to make sure neither of us had a reaction. There were rows of folding chairs set up at the other end of the room so all the recently stuck could wait together. Kiddo hung out in the stroller while I texted DH and we had another round of granola bars (it being past dinnertime). He was so calm, in fact, that the grandma next to us scolded her weeping little girl: "Look at that little boy, see how happy he is?" Oh, silly grandma, where's your chocolate?

And we're done. Except that kiddo needs two shots on account of his age. Can't wait to do this all again in a month, assuming of course there's any vaccine left.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Lose weight sitting down!

Or such is the tone, more or less, of this article from the NY Times, discussing the weight-loss benefits of breastfeeding. It kind of treats the whole idea like some hot new fad diet, then suggests it might not work anyway, then finds people to criticize women for treating breastfeeding like some hot new fad diet. You horrible mothers for wanting to lose weight!

It's actually a fairly interesting piece if you get past the usual Times-ness: "Nursing mothers can buy form-fitting tops at so they can flaunt their shape as they push their Bugaboo." Yeah, we all drop $1,000 and up on strollers, you're so totally right.

But I'm not sure the approach works. For one thing, the weight-loss benefits aren't a new concept. Every article/book I've read on breastfeeding notes that as a possible side effect. And I can vouch for it, to an extent. I'll even roll out the numbers: I was 118 before my first pregnancy, gained more than 30 pounds (I'd say how much but I forget and also it was horrifying), and after just over a year of breastfeeding and not nearly enough exercise, I was hovering around 130. Which is where I started off the second time, got up to about 168ish, and eight weeks in am down to about 141. Hoping this time to go all the way down to 118, because there's a cute dress in my closet I can never wear again otherwise.

So yes, I'd definitely say nursing *helps* weight loss. But at some point I'll have to do the rest myself, either by walking more or showing up at yoga again finally, or chasing after kiddo a lot (I'd recommend that, actually. I could rent him out for running practice). And that I think is where the article stumbles, because it seems to suggest that moms might be able to lose all the weight solely by breastfeeding, and not also exercising or changing their eating habits. Because boy, it's easy to keep eating like you're pregnant when you're not anymore.

I do very much like this sentence though: "Breast-feeding mothers face many obstacles: little hospital help, public squeamishness and too-short maternity leave." Yes and yes. And I had a good experience in the hospital and really can't complain about my leave, but I've heard horror stories from other moms and it burns me up.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Dear other families on the hayride,

I would like to apologize for my son's nearly bowling your kids over on the way to the pumpkin patch. He likes pumpkins.

I'd also like to apologize for the fact that he immediately lost interest in the pumpkins in favor of the rocks, though I'd like to note that he is a collector of rocks (acorns, leaves, etc.) and not a thrower of rocks at others.

And also for the way he ruined several photographs by barrelling through the scene just as you were about to hit the button.

And further for making the rest of you sit on the tractor cart and wait until we 1. grabbed the pumpkins we wanted and 2. corralled our child, realizing that even though you had the time to swing a hayride in the middle of a Monday, you of course were in a big hurry to get to the next item on your busy schedules.

And also for making some of you scoot over to allow us to sit down for the ride back, as you appeared to have mistaken the tractor for a subway and us for straphangers. So very sorry especially that I had some desire to sit down while toting around an infant.

But mostly I'd like to apologize to the preteen in the sweatshirt and shaggy hair who slumped in one corner of the cart, his entire look saying "I can't believe my mom still drags me on this thing every year," because little does he realize that in 20 or so years he'll be right back here doing the same dorky Halloween thing with his kid, and he should enjoy his utter coolness while he can.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mean thought at the OB's office

Is it so wrong, after months of sitting on hold, sitting and waiting in the office, waiting for callbacks from the nurses that never came, waiting to make an appointment and then finding out the computers were down, waiting to get HR paperwork filled out only to find that the staff lost it, and waiting for test results that were given to me via an automated voicemail system no matter how serious the results were, that while sitting and waiting -- once again -- to be seen at the six-week follow-up visit, kiddette started to wail and I had the fleeting desire to hand her a mike, kick back and let everyone else be annoyed for a change?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Type A child vs. the happy sleeper

Truly it is amazing how very opposite these two kids are.

Firstborn kiddo was ready to go from minute 1. Full of energy. Always loud (to the point of scaring other children). Always alert. Always into everything. A favorite running joke at home: DH comes out of the bedroom, watches his son for a few minutes and says, "What did you feed him?" "Crystal meth," I say.

Eventually, of course, kiddo will start saying that himself and all the other parents will run away when they see us coming.

Now there's new little kiddette, who never met a nap she didn't like. Sometimes the exertion of napping tires her out so much she has to take a nap afterward. Other favorite running joke: Whenever she bothers to ascend into wakefulness, one of us will say to the other, "Look! She has eyes!"

It got to the point, in the hospital, where I made a lactation consultant come to the room and consult because I wasn't sure she was getting enough to eat. I'm thinking now she is, since the little pink newborn outfits fit her now, but I still wake her myself for feedings half the time.

Kiddo never missed a feeding. And four of his favorite words are "breakfast," "lunch," "dinner" and "snack."

Also, kiddette is noisy. She makes more odd sounds in her sleep than an 80-year-old lifetime smoker with a snoring problem. It's like she's making a loud and forceful argument about something or other (health care? the national deficit? who knows). Although occasionally it's just gas.

I think I can pretty well call their teenage years: Kiddo will bust through the door after practice for whatever five sports he'll be playing, eat everything in the fridge and run outside to do laps around the county. Kiddette will stroll in, cellphone attached to ear (and by then I assume we really will be able to attach cellphones to ears), assure us she's not hungry -- again -- and head upstairs, continuing the seven simultaneous conversations she's having while also texting five other people with the second cellphone permanently attached to her hand. And then she'll sleep for 10 hours.

Truly, she's making me nostalgic for my college years, when I'd come home at the end of the semester and sleep for a whole day or so. But that was after a semester of more or less not sleeping.

Which, come to think of it, is more or less what I'm doing now. Minus the beer and 8 a.m. lecture hall classes.

Oh, who am I kidding, peach schnapps and iced tea. I never drank beer in college.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Dear FDA,

I feel you must investigate the use of Americone Dream as a possible labor and delivery aid.

During my previous pregnancy, I ate some of the ice cream a week before my due date and promptly went into labor. During this pregnancy, I went into labor spontaneously but it progressed so slowly that I resorted to eating the ice cream -- at which point the pace quickened noticeably and my daughter was born a few hours later.

Pregnant women should be notified, especially, not to eat the ice cream before their 37th week. Please see what you can do to expedite this.


A bemused Colbert fan

Sunday, September 13, 2009

There is Colbert ice cream in my freezer and I am afraid to eat it

Let me explain. Last time around, that delightful caramely concoction known as Americone Dream had just hit the market and we looked everywhere for it, because I am a huge Stephen Colbert fan. Also a huge Jon Stewart fan, but he doesn't have his own ice cream.

It took forever but DH finally tracked it down and brought me some. We ate it that night, about a week before my due date, and while we were watching the Report I went into labor.

Coincidence? I think not!

Every person I tell that story to says I should write the show about it, but I was afraid to on account of Colbert probably would put it on the show. (Although that isn't stopping me from blogging about it so there you go.) Now here we are again, at week 37, and there is a pint of Americone in the freezer that has been sitting there for weeks because I am not touching it until I am ready for this kid to be born. Just imagine if it happens again? I think I would need to petition the FDA to regulate this stuff.

And unrelatedly I'm kvetching because the FakeNews Hour has been on another three-week vacation and I hate when they do that. C'mon, you work four days a week! So glad they're back tomorrow.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

I guess we're doing something right

Because the kid eats salad and won't eat mozzarella sticks. How did that happen? Does that not go against every rule of kid-dom? Shouldn't he be refusing to touch anything that isn't fried, breaded or smothered in Velveeta?

We had salad with dinner tonight and I figured, what the heck, I'll give him a little and see what he does. So I put some romaine, radishes and mushrooms on his plate. He wouldn't go near the mushrooms (they're getting mushy, I don't blame him) but devoured the rest. And then asked for more. "More sa'ad." "More ra'ish." Repeatedly. I was feeding him off my salad. Just surreal.

He also eats broccoli, peas, carrots, sauteed spinach (at least when we order it from the local pizza joint he does) and the occasional tomato. And every fruit known to man except for citrus, I think because an orange looks like a ball and he gets upset when you peel it.

I'm not complaining in the slightest. I think it's terrific. I just don't get how we did it. All you ever hear about is kids refusing to go within 50 feet of anything healthy. All you ever see on kids menus is chicken fingers, grilled cheese, hot dogs and mini burgers. The bar has been set so low it's basically a limbo pole.

Do we have an abnormally healthy eater? Or do lots of kids eat this way and no one bothers correcting the stereotype (or complaining about kids menus)? Hard to tell.

Of course he may decide in a year that he hates radishes and loves mozzarella sticks. And I fully expect him to live off cold pizza and Wendy's in college, because I did. (Favorite breakfast freshman year: granola bars dipped in Fluff. So. Gross.) But for now, it's looking good.

Apart from the fact that he already loves pizza, macaroni and cheese, ice cream and cake. Hey, we're not total killjoys.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I mean, it's just one finger, right? There's nine more.

So if I'd been thinking about it, I would've clued in when my favorite peep-toe heels got tight. Or when all the other shoes got tight and I had to buy a larger pair of sandals with arch support to do something about the foot aches. Or, I dunno, when I remembered that this was the third trimester and that swelling was normal.

But nooo. Why remember to take the rings off? That would take brains and I am obviously fresh out.

Not even when my hand started to ache a couple days ago did I figure it out. Until I looked down at my hand and realized what was on it. Oh no, I thought, because the rings suddenly seemed carved into my finger and in no way coming off without the assistance of a blowtorch.

Honestly, like I hadn't been through this drill before. I was way more on the ball with the first pregnancy, what with the reading and the classes and interviewing a dozen doulas (this time? two) and constantly pestering the OB's office with questions. Also way more neurotic about every little thing (might have been all the reading and the classes and etc.). But this time I've been so laid-back about the whole thing it's like I only remember I'm pregnant when I catch a glimpse in the mirror and think, Man, when did I swallow the bowling ball?

Really, really didn't want to cut the rings off. The wedding ring especially, since it has a pretty Greek key pattern and is engraved on the inside.

"Cut the rings off," said the OB. Thanks, that was helpful. Although he did suggest soap.

The Interweb proved more interesting reading. Lots of sites say Windex. (What I want to know is, does that advice predate or postdate "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"?) Others say shampoo/conditioner or vegetable oil. Several suggested this method: Slip dental floss under the ring, then wind the other end all the way up the finger. Start unwinding it from the bottom and it should push the ring up and off, assuming your finger doesn't fall off first. I found this intriguing and also scary.

We used a combo of Seventh Generation spray cleaner -- hey, we don't have Windex -- and Vaseline, along with icing down/elevating the finger beforehand. It was a two-night process, since the finger swelled up in the process of yanking the engagement ring off and I figured we should give it some recovery time in between. But they're off and staying off, and I expect the circular indentation in my finger should go away in a couple days. Yay.

So it's back to the unwed-mother look for me. I suppose I could stick the rings on a chain and loop them around my neck, but boy, that's a little high school. If I were going to do that, I might as well haul out a class ring and stick it on for good measure. And wear DH's varsity jacket, assuming he had one.

Ah well, at least nothing had to get cut off -- the rings or my circulation.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Gasp! Is that pregnant woman entering a liquor store?

Yes, she was. She just wanted some empty boxes. Liquor stores are great for that -- they always have a ton and the boxes are pretty sturdy. On account of they have to hold heavy glass bottles of liquor.

But oh the fisheye I got from the two employees I approached to ask about the boxes. They looked a little relieved when I explained what I wanted. One of them walked me over to the bin where the empties were piled up, then asked if I needed help with them, since I was "in the family way and all." I politely declined. Cause if I can tote around my 28ish-pound kid along with the big belly, I can handle some empty boxes, Sir Galahad. And all.

Really what I should've done was walked up to them and asked where the Boone's Farm was, just to watch them have vapors.

The best was the day before, when I brought kiddo into a different liquor store for the same reason. Now you've got a preggie lady and a small child surrounded by liquor. The humanity! But the nice man behind the counter seemed completely unfazed and cheerily pointed out the corner where the empties were. He was amused when I convinced kiddo to help out by carrying a box; by "carrying," of course, I mean lifting the box, plopping it on the ground, lifting it, plopping it, in a more-or-less forward motion. Until kiddo spotted the movie playing on the mounted TV and yelled "Cool bus!" meaning school bus, because all buses right now are school buses, and plop-walked his box over to the other end of the room so he could watch the cool bus on the TV. Man at the counter found this hilarious.

I do occasionally wonder whether I'm setting off pregnancy alarm bells in anyone around me. Whenever I walk in a room with a Dunkin' Donuts cup I have the urge to announce "It's decaf!" so no one freaks. In fact when I order said coffee I always make a point of saying, "You heard I wanted decaf, right?" which is as much for the benefit of the other people on line as it is for the counter folks. And just because I've been eating lunchmeat this whole time, doesn't mean I touched any at the baby shower I went to recently.

But hey, when you're sporting a belly the size of a basketball, you ought to be able to have some fun with it.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Hallmark not spoken here

Someone who hadn't seen me in a while came up to me the other day and asked if I were pregnant. I said, completely straightfaced, "No."

On other occasions, I have been known to accuse people of mocking my beer gut.

Am I too much of a smartass to be a good mommy? Occasionally I wonder. Although smartassery seems to be the way to handle certain aspects of this whole parenting thing. Like when kiddo is careening off the walls at 8 a.m. and DH asks, "What did you feed him?" and I say "Crystal meth." Which is a lot simpler than saying, "I have no idea why a whole wheat mini-bagel and blueberries have caused him to run around in circles at 50 miles an hour for the past 10 minutes."

Sentimentality is a tiny bit foreign to me. I hate chick flicks, on account of the female lead characters always seem to be idiots (and the male leads always seem to be cardboard, and also idiots). I bawled at "Bridge to Terabithia," sure, but I dare you not to. I never read romance novels, unless you count "Pride and Prejudice," and you shouldn't, because it's a comedy of manners and transcends the genre and don't you dare insult Ms. Austen.

However it is an expectant mother is supposed to be acting, I'm probably not acting like it. I'm too busy cracking jokes in the corner.

And clearly I'm about to have competition there. Kiddo distinctly smirks when he crawls under the dining room table and announces "Hide!" And when we count down to 1 to get him to stop whatever it is we don't want him doing, he deliberately waits until 2, or 1, before he quits. Like a defused bomb in an action movie.

Ah well. Smartassery is a family trait.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sure, I'd love to not eat for 15 hours, thanks

So I failed the one-hour glucose test for gestational diabetes, which instantly qualified me for the needle extravaganza otherwise known as the three-hour test. "I have to fast for 12 hours?" I said faintly.

Yes, said the nurse, and then we take your blood once an hour for three hours and you still can't eat until after that's done. Just what every pregnant woman wants to hear when they get hungry, oh, once an hour.

And still I might not have flipped out much were it not for the family history of Type II diabetes. GD leads to Type II later on in life for something like two out of three women. Oh great, I thought, I didn't escape after all.

Which is mean really. The family members who have it seem to manage pretty well, between medications and dietary restrictions. Properly managed, it shouldn't wreck your life or even get in the way much.

But still. Type II has the added bonus of being brought on, usually, by weight or diet issues. So I wonder if there isn't the feeling of having failed somehow, of not trying hard enough to be healthy. When people are diagnosed, do they start mentally ticking off every single doughnut or soda or piece of pie they had in the past year, trying to figure out which was the tipping point? Because I did that before I even took the three-hour test.

I grumpily dragged myself into the OB's office, drank the lemon-lime sugar-shock bottle (I hate to admit it, but I didn't think it tasted that bad) and sat in the waiting room and wrote. Yes, I was the freak with the little notebook in the corner. There's a short story I'm working on -- I do write fiction, in the delusion that it will be published someday -- and I figured, why waste three perfectly good hours of writing time when I never get three hours of writing time? Anyhow the magazine selection in the waiting room is weak at best. I read the same one two visits in a row once.

There was another woman there taking the same test and we ended up on the same needle schedule; the nurse would call us both back at once, draw her blood and then draw mine. Funny in a way. Then the nurse would ask me, "How are you doing?" and I'd say, "Well, I'm pretty hungry," because I was on the verge of pretending every object around me was a turkey leg like they do in the cartoons, and she'd say cheerily, "Well, you've got two more drawings to go," which is two more hours if you're keeping count. And I'd grump my way back out to the waiting room.

I wasn't allowed to fall asleep, she said, just so they'd know I hadn't fainted.

A couple other patients came and went -- a young Indian couple with a most adorable toddler, a couple of whitish-haired older women, a younger one in hipper-than-thou jeans -- and my glucose buddy and I stayed, she on her Crackberry, me on my notebook. One of the workers came out from the back and made a snappy comment about how we seemed to be camping out there, or something like that, and I wanted to take an outdated magazine and swat her upside the head with it.

Final insult to injury: The last drawing took forever because my veins decided they'd had it and wouldn't give up any more blood (this was on top of the one-hour test the previous week, in which the woman drawing my blood couldn't get a vein, stuck me again, remembered afterward, oops, forgot to get the hemoglobin!, stuck me again, couldn't find a vein and ended up using a tiny needle on the back of my hand to get it done. She hadn't drawn blood in a while, she said apologetically). So a few extra tries later, we were done and I looked like I had track marks inside my elbow. And I ate the fastest lunch you ever saw in your life.

And the final result was ... normal. Completely normal. Which was a relief, but also a surprise. I really figured I'd flunk this one. I felt a little guilty over all the angst. What, I'm better than my diabetic relatives? I don't deserve to live their life?

Didn't stop me from having celebratory ice cream though.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Kiddoese-to-English glossary

Ba-bus -- The sound a bus makes.

Beep -- Car.

Da-doo -- I would like something to drink.

Dandy -- Daddy.

Dinner -- Every single meal.

Elmo -- Every red Muppet on "Sesame Street."

Ni! -- Yes.

La la la -- What three singing pigs say. *

Hide! -- I realize you are trying to put me to bed, but I much prefer laughing at you from under the dining room table.

Pe pe -- Percy. (See "Tee tee.")

Pees -- Please.

Ride ride beep! -- I would like to ride in the car.

Rideriderideride beep! -- I would really like to ride in the car.

Tee tee -- Train. Specifically Thomas.

Tee tee boom -- I seem to have pushed my train off the coffee table again.

Teet! -- The sound a train makes.

Ten -- Every number over ten.

Tick tock -- Clock.

*OK, that one's our fault. It's from a Sandra Boynton book.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Or, why the child obesity problem is so rampant

So a few weeks ago we were eating in one of those '50s-style diner-type places with the jukebox and the milkshakes and the white linoleum and the Chubby Checker in the air, which is all very cute to me even though I wasn't alive anywhere near the '50s. (When will we have '90s nostalgia diners? The waitresses could wear flannel dresses, the sound system could play nothing but Green Day, Live and Nirvana, the drink menu could feature Zima ...) I was more or less resigned to kiddo eating a burger of some sort since burgers are basically all they serve at places like this, but I figured I could pull the same trick I do at Houlihan's, Chili's and other fine eating establishments that are accepting of children, which is to say swapping out the fries for broccoli. (Yeah, I'm one of those moms. Kid likes broccoli. Sue me.)

So I ask the waitress about that, and she says: "We don't serve broccoli." I wanted to do a Jon Stewart spit-take and I wasn't even drinking anything at the time. You don't serve broccoli? What if I brought some in from home, would you steam it for me? Or would that wreck your culinary theme? Because after all, no one ate broccoli in the '50s!

(For the record: There were a couple of salads on the menu. Almost entirely Caesar. Big help for the preggie lady.)

So kiddo had a burger for dinner (didn't actually come with fries, either) along with a couple of pieces of lettuce from my crabcake sandwich and we all pretended we'd met the USDA requirements.

Man. Occasionally finding healthy kiddie food on a restaurant menu is like jumping through the world's biggest hoop.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

If hell is other people ...

... heck is other people's children.

So we're at this community event and inside because it is raining like the Second Flood is coming, again. Kiddo runs over to the glass doors to watch the beeps (kiddoese for "cars") go by. There are two little girls already there, a blonde and a brunette, in a nook they've created behind the couch. "You have to be in the club to sit here," they inform us sternly.

"Oh. Well, we formed our own club," I say. Which mystifies them, and I figure that ends it. They all more or less coexist for a little bit until kiddo runs back toward the table where our food is. He keeps running back and forth, door to table, beeps to Daddy, and the girls have evidently decided to adopt him, like a stray puppy, so they keep asking questions about him, like "how old is he?" "can he count to 6? can he count to 7? can he count to 100?" which at least is cute. The girls pop by our table periodically, to demonstrate their talent at balancing water bottles on their heads.

So DH and I end up sitting on the couch for a bit (since kiddo, aside from two slices of watermelon, wasn't showing much interest in food) and the girls come back, still intent on protecting their "club" space. The brunette (clearly the Princess Bee to the blonde's Wannabe) announces she's getting food, comes back with a half-eaten hamburger roll (hamburger mysteriously missing) and tries to feed it to kiddo. I politely say no thanks, he's eaten. She tries again. And again. And again. Now both girls are chattering "Just give it to him!" even though I've already said I don't want him getting other people's germs, and have physically taken the roll and handed it back to her. Kiddo, of course, sees bread shoved in his face and then denied, and starts crying. "Just give it to him, he's going to cry anyway if you don't!" says the brunette.

From entirely across the room, the girl's mom calls out, "Are you making that boy cry?" but since she doesn't actually get up to investigate, nothing happens except that the girls try feeding the roll to DH instead. I briefly think black thoughts.

Kiddo, already overtired, never fully recovers from this incident and we leave shortly thereafter. As we're walking downstairs toward the exit, the brunette runs after us to say, "Next time put him in a cage or a stroller!" I decide four-letter words would be inappropriate, say, "Okay" and leave.

Seriously: a cage?

When I was a kid, if I had pulled one-tenth of the rudeness these two exhibited I would've been made to regret it. Nobody taught them to never never sass a grownup? I heard the girl's mom ask her as we left, "What did you say to them?" and somehow I know when she told them, they said, "Oh, isn't that funny!" instead of "That was very rude, we're leaving right now, enjoy your time in the time-out chair."

It's still pretty hard to gauge how hard-line I should be in these circumstances, and I tend to be hands-0ff with kids not my own. I guess I keep assuming -- wrongly -- that kids will show you respect, even if they don't to your kid. Maybe I should've just taken the roll and tossed it into the trash. Maybe I should've stalked back up those stairs and said to the girl's mom, "That was incredibly rude of your daughter and I'd like an apology."

And maybe I'm getting worked up over nothing. Worse things will happen in preschool, I'm sure.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

It's kind of fascinating, watching people's reactions when I answer the question "So do you know what you're having?"

A lot of women immediately coo happily, "Oh, a girl, girls are wonderful." Other people seem pleased that we're ending up with one of each. The nice man at the convenience store the other day couldn't believe it, because I'm carrying mainly in front and when his wife was pregnant, the sons were all in front and the daughters were all over. (And then he proudly pointed out his 12-year-old boy, working at the gas station outside. It was too cute.)

And then everyone wants to know am I happy about it. Did I have a preference? Kind of. Maybe. Not really.

Sure, a girl will be nice. I'll have someone to pass on makeup tips to, for one thing, now that I have half a clue about makeup. Also I guess there's jewelry to pass on and such. Girl Scouts. Prom dress shopping.

But this boy's world of Thomas the Tank Engine and dirt under fingernails has actually been kinda fun. (Although I'm hoping he never goes out for football.) And there are so many same-gender siblings in our families, I was prepared for two boys.

Ultimately I'm happy it's a baby. And whatever that baby is like is fine by me.

Although it would be cool if she were the first woman to play major league baseball. Unlikely. But cool.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

2 pairs of super-special compression maternity hose: $20.

Time elapsed before runs in hose: 2 weeks and 4 weeks.

1 pair of super-special compression footless maternity hose to enable sandal wear: $28.

Time elapsed before run in hose: 2 weeks.

2 more pairs of super-special compression maternity hose: $20.

Time elapsed before run in hose: 1 day and counting.

Realization that these flimsy tissue-paper ripoff contraptions will do absolutely nothing to stop varicose veins: Oh, just priceless.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Actual conversation:

"So, you're what, seven months pregnant now?"

"Uh, no, I'm about 21 weeks..."

"Wow, you've got a big one coming, huh?"

Well, sure, I guess so, hey, thanks for calling me fatso, I greatly appreciate it.

Actual (allegedly humorous) comment from previous pregnancy:

"Wow, you'd better stop eating in the cafeteria. You're starting to get fat!"

Why oh why do people feel the need to remark on your size? Seriously, no pregnant woman on the planet is going to hear that and *not* think "OMG I'm huge and ugly looking and I'm hiding in my bathroom until my water breaks." I get that it's a clumsy way of expressing interest, but either come up with something less clumsy or hey, say nothing. I do not have a giant neon sign on my belly saying "Ask me about my pregnancy." Sure, I'm thrilled about it, and I'm looking forward to holding my baby, but I do have, you know, stuff to do. There's an incredibly good chance you're catching me at a moment when I am not at all thinking about being pregnant and you might as well say "So how about those Yankees?" (For the record: Shame the winning streak ended, I think Teixeira and Swisher were good additions and the food at the new stadium is a huge improvement.)

As a rule, I don't make fat jokes. I've known too many people who struggled with weight issues to think that's OK. My two exceptions are professional athletes -- I don't care if you are a pitcher in a DH league, can't you at least try to look like you play sports for a living? -- and the late, lamented 20-pound cat who once belonged to my in-laws, informally known to everyone as Big Fat Kitty. Because seriously, he was a big fat kitty.

I especially dislike weight jokes made about women, since women are invariably, unfairly judged on their appearance and the threshold for what people seem to consider "fat" on a woman is unrealistic to the point of laughability. But to comment on the weight of a pregnant woman, who is gaining weight for a very specific reason and will have very little control over her appearance until well after the baby is born, just seems like a low blow no matter how it was meant.

What to say to a pregnant woman: "Congratulations. You look great!" The end.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

So last week I had a roast beef sandwich. And then a turkey and Swiss sandwich.

Horrors! Enemy Number One on the Official Pregnancy Diet! Except that I asked my OB about lunchmeat and he said, "Mmm. Love it. Good source of protein." And added that the risk of listeriosis is so low it wasn't worth worrying about. Enjoy, he said. Obviously I took him at his word.

And thus another complete contradiction in the world of preggie eating. Most Web sites and people (and, from my perusing, many OBs) will tell you to avoid lunchmeat like the plague it is. In addition to alcohol, caffeine, soft cheeses, tuna, swordfish, sushi and various other random things that people get in a panic about. Example: the site I found that warned of the risks of soft-serve ice cream, because bacteria could get into the machines if they weren't cleaned properly.

OK, first of all, yes, listeriosis happens. For instance, this outbreak in Canada. But so do E. coli in spinach and salmonella in peanut butter cookies, as we have seen recently. Should we seal off all the supermarkets and grow our own food?

Second, not all of the above sources are trustworthy. I trust my OB because he's very commonsensical and doesn't rattle easily. I don't trust random Web sites that contradict each other. For instance the one that warned against all herbal teas -- listing green tea as herbal! Any serious tea drinker will tell you that green tea uses the same leaf as black tea, just prepared differently. Herbal tea by definition involves something other than Camellia sinensis. (My OB also cleared me for tea. Regular and herbal. I've been drinking blueberry green.)

The magazines are no less contradictory. One said flat out canned tuna was a no-no and offered an alternate salad using canned salmon and cannellini beans. (Which is pretty good, I must admit.) Then another one I was scanning recently offered a tuna recipe.

Why do pregnant women get so neurotic about food? This is why. You can't get a straight answer.

There was a NY Times story a few years back -- and if I could find a link to it, I'd post one -- pointing out that a lot of these warnings aren't necessarily based in science. Because who's going to test out these theories on actual pregnant women? There's also this story from Slate which delves into the issue more deeply than I'm doing. And I have gotten the impression, lurking on various boards, that some of these recommendations are U.S.-specific -- that if you were to visit another country, you'd hear an entirely different list of forbidden foods.

What happens when you don't know whether down is up and cheese is safe? You stop a waitress in a restaurant after she serves your entree and ask whether your risotto was cooked in alcohol. Even though you've *made* risotto at home and know precisely what goes into it. That was near the end of pregnancy #1. The waitress gave me a kindly talking-to. "When we were pregnant with you," she said, "we drank, we smoked, we ate whatever we wanted, and you all turned out fine."

I'm of course not advocating the drinking and the smoking. But: In the four weeks before I figured out I was pregnant with kiddo, I ate sushi, a turkey sub, tableside Caesar salad, swordfish, and went to a wedding and drank. I can't remember if I broke the rules so flagrantly this time around, although backdating puts us at around the holidays and there would've been eggnog involved.

My point is, you're not supposed to view every morsel of food you see as a potential enemy. You're supposed to enjoy food. And your doctor knows more than Web sites or magazines.

Also, roast beef with provolone, lettuce and tomato, with just a little oil and vinegar, is really, really good.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How do you find out whether your kid has peanut allergies?

How about seeing what happens when the babysitter decides to give him a peanut butter sandwich?

To be fair, because I like the babysitter, we didn't specifically tell her no peanut butter. And there is peanut butter in the fridge. Chunky unsalted, which is the best kind ever and people may like creamy but there is no accounting for taste. And food allergies don't so much run in our families. And Lord knows the kid has been able to eat whatever else we've thrown at him (or allowed him to throw) without a problem.

But still -- the pediatrician had asked us to hold off. And a friend, a few months back, had tried giving a peanut butter sandwich to her son and ended up calling 911 when he had trouble breathing. And now she has those epi-pen things.

So I had a "yeek!" moment when I found out about the sandwich. But he's fine. As fine as he gets, in fact. So I'm torn between continuing the "yeek!" moment or just being glad that we can give him peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. Because planning lunches was starting to get difficult anyway.

I bet he'll really like peanut butter and banana sandwiches. His mommy does.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I have decided that kiddie shows don't think much of parents.

OK, I get it, they're from a more or less kiddie point of view and so grown-ups are supposed to fade into the background a bit. That's fine. You want to do that? Do it "Peanuts" style and have all these disembodied voices around the kids going "Wah wah wah wah wah" then disappearing. (Much funnier in retrospect, actually.)

But no, that's not what these shows do -- and I'm thinking of "Wonder Pets," but "Dora" and "Diego" have been guilty of it too. How does the plot go in these shows? Save the baby whatever-it-is animal of the week and bring it back home to its flaky parents who were neglectful enough to let the kiddie animal wander off through the rainforest or the ocean or onto the Statue of Liberty's nose (actual episode of "Wonder Pets"!) in the first place. So these random stranger kiddie heroes are supposed to spend all their time picking up after the lousy parents of the animal world? Couldn't they just start handing out Supernanny's business card and save themselves some trouble in the future?

The parents, of course, are never the slightest bit embarrassed that some pint-size strangers went out of their way to bring their missing animal kiddie home. They say "Thank you, [name of show's hero here]! Let's have some celery or dance or something!" And they all lived happily ever after until the kid wandered off again two days later and the kiddie heroes had already moved on to the next abandoned elephant/lemur/ Tasmanian devil.

I know I'm reading too much into harmless kids' entertainment and if I'm so irked about this I should just drag kiddo away from TV and read him "Harold and the Purple Crayon" again. But still. If I have to occasionally sit through this stuff I shouldn't have to suppress the urge to roll my eyes at the screen.

And seriously, what's with the celery anyway?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I quit and I ate bread. Man, the whole pregnancy diet is tough enough without taking away my bread products on top of it. Bagels. Focaccia. Giant coffeehouse muffins. Whole wheat toast with peanut butter and raisins on it. (It's good, I swear, no matter who tells you it's vile.) I made it to today and that, I think, is good enough.

Sadly I don't think there's enough matzah left to justify bringing it in to work. Also, my co-worker brought in fudge cookies today and what a letdown I would be. Maybe I can use it for insulation. Or build an addition onto the deck with it. Hmm. Possibilities.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Breakfast for kiddo: English muffins and pear. Breakfast for me: matzah with Temp Tee cream cheese (absolutely required) and yogurt.

Being interfaith in April can make meals a little strange. I don't expect husband and son to follow my no-bread Passover rule for the next week. Frankly I spent most of my childhood (and adolescence, and young adulthood) complaining about it. (Though mostly because the prepared foods available back then were inedible, to put it politely. There were these "rolls" my parents got once that I wanted to spit right back out.) I continue to do it because I like to honor some part of my heritage, no matter how small. (No, really, she's still Jewish! she insists. Though her old rabbi would just snort "Feh!" and stalk off.)

But since DH and kiddo will continue to eat bread product without me, that means things like, say, turkey burgers for them and burger minus bun for me. Regular pasta for them, special Passover pasta for me. Lunches are actually harder because I try to stay away from carb-heavy vending machine food. Fortunately I eat a lot of fresh fruit and veggies anyway. Trail mix is my friend. But you have to go with things like salads; 1. matzah makes a terrible sandwich (it crumbles when you breathe on it, for heaven's sake) and 2. if you eat too much of it it will kill your stomach. It's heavier than you think, goyim -- this is your warning. Because I know you'll scarf it up when I bring the leftovers to work. Always happens. DH, though, does enjoy the stuff with melted cheese and barbecue sauce on it. Really.

Kiddo actually did seem to like matzah when I gave him a piece. Go figure.

Part 2 of the conundrum, of course, is Bunny Sugar Chocolate Day, which is more or less how I enviously saw Easter when I was a kid. Boy, everybody always focuses on the Christmas-Hanukkah thing but they're totally missing the boat. I never felt jealous of Christmas. Hanukkah has a cool backstory and you get to play with fire. Also, eight nights of presents. (Toys, people, not pencils. Don't listen to Lewis Black.) But Easter killed me. There I was, eating matzah and macaroons and dark chocolate, which was the only kind kosher enough for us tribe members, and all my little Christian friends got Cadbury Eggs and Peeps and jelly beans and giant chocolate bunnies and wah. (I didn't know the bunnies were hollow. I thought they were solid chocolate. I've since been corrected.)

Now kiddo is not nearly old enough for a big sugar binge. But I do figure on coloring some eggs and I did get a little candy. Which must have puzzled the cashier at the supermarket, what with the Paas and the Cadbury Eggs and the Temp Tee and the Passover soup mix all in the same cart. Heh.

You may ask, but what about the religious significance behind all these things? And it's a fair question. Each holiday has its own fascinating story, but each seems to me to be ultimately about new life and new beginnings. I think it's appropriate that they're both in the spring. And I like that eggs are an integral part of both -- whether dipped in dye or placed on the Seder plate. I think those things become our starting point, when kiddo is old enough for us to really teach him what's going on. And I think it's neat actually that he was born on a Good Friday, during Passover.

In the meantime, it's all about the food.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

So I'm studying cupcake recipes online, trying to decide whether I dare.

The kiddo's birthday party is upcoming and we'll need dessert of some kind. Preferably something we can stick a candle in and convince him to blow out instead of, say, grabbing it and trying to eat it or grabbing it and trying to stick it in his hair, both of which seem more likely options for him. We're getting the entree food from a caterer because we're not insane, but dessert remains undecided upon.

Boy, what is it about special occasions that makes people want to prove they can cook? It's not enough that the place is clean and you're out of your pajamas? "Look, I'm actually Martha Stewart! You had no idea, on account of I have Vito's Pizzeria on speed dial and I spend half my workday scarfing vending machine food!" It's like if you can make one side dish, one appetizer from scratch, you've justified referring to yourself as a grownup.

The truth is, DH and I actually can cook. Fairly well, unless our friends are politely lying to us. (For the record, I make a fine banana bread and tasty chocolate chip cookies.) Ability isn't an issue -- time is. When you work all day and then your insatiably hungry Hoover vacuum of a child demands dinner RIGHT NOW, are you going to make beef Stroganoff or are you going to griddle up some turkey burgers, unfreeze some peas and call it a meal? And if you're working the day before you host a party, and you have precisely the amount of energy left over after work and dinner and getting the kid to bed to sink into the couch and watch "What Not to Wear," are you really going to get out the flour and baking powder and start up the mixer?

I can't help but notice that a lot of the cupcake recipes seem to involve using a mix anyway. So Rachael Ray!

So I'm trying to decide what to do, but I'm also deciding dessert is dessert and don't sweat it. Of course, if anyone actually invited to the party reads this, I made it from scratch and Martha loved it.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I have decided that I am in no way a bad mother if I occasionally, secretly count down the minutes until bedtime. Ah, blessed silence, restfulness and adult-only television.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Why I occasionally hate people, part 1

So I'm trying to maneuver my way through this shopping center parking lot that is notoriously exasperating to maneuver your way through, when I get stuck mid-lane behind another car. She (let's call her Car A) was stuck because some idiot New York driver in an overlarge truck (let's call her idiot New York driver) was taking up the entire middle of the lane, waiting for another idiot New York driver in an overlarge vehicle (let's call her a constant irritant to time-strapped North Jerseyans already contending with enough traffic without dealing with snotty New Yorkers looking for a cheaper sales tax, thank you very much) to finish taking ten years to back out of her space so that she could claim it.

Car A was getting visibly angry at having to wait for idiot New York driver, and since it was nice out and windows were open I could hear her yelling at INYD for hogging all the space. To which INYD smiled vacantly and shrugged, like "Wow, how was I supposed to know other cars would want to come down this way?" Finally the other INYD finished her last will and testament, or her thesis or whatever was taking her so long in there, and awkwardly started to scoot out of the space. Then INYD figured out that yes, she could in fact move over enough to let Car A through, and did so. Car A moved past, still telling off the other driver. (If you've guessed that most of us who live here have more or less permanent road rage, you'd be right.) I started to move as well, realized that then I would hold up the delicate INYD shifting of parking space power, sighed and stayed put. Then INYD gestured to me to go; seems she'd moved so far over she couldn't maneuver into the space anyway. As I swung past, I couldn't resist; I leaned toward the window and called out, "Get a smaller car."

Why I occasionally hate people, part 2

On my way home from said shopping center, I found myself stuck behind a shiny-looking Hummer. I thought dark thoughts about gas guzzlers and road hoggers and who tools around in shiny new-looking Hummers these days when the whole line faces possible extinction? as we got closer to my turnoff.

And then I saw the driver flick a cigarette out the window.

Now this angers me under normal circumstances -- the world is not your ashtray, pick up your garbage you self-centered jerk, yada yada. But to see someone already trashing the environment with her gigantic exhaust-puffing truck on steroids then further trash the environment with her used cancer stick just blew my mind. So as I pulled up next to her to make my turn, I yelled out the *other* open window, "Get an ashtray!"

(For all the good that did. She probably thought, "Hmm, not driving a Hummer, I don't have to listen to *her*.")

I can't believe no one told me today was Jerk Day. I would've expected a memo. But then, having yelled rude things out my car window at two entirely different total strangers, I guess I helped celebrate it!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

So there have been reports of stunned-looking parents walking out of "Watchmen" with the young children they never should have brought to an R-rated movie in the first place. Which just blows my mind. People, do you not read movie reviews? Do you just blindly blow $40 on whatever's new at the multiplex without stopping to consider age-appropriateness first?

It annoys me personally because as much as I loved the graphic novel, as much as I'm looking forward to seeing the movie, I wouldn't bring anyone under 18 in with me because I know what's in the book/movie and it isn't pretty. Also I'm hearing the movie is even *more* violent, as though that were possible.

The thing is, people tend to assume that if a mask and cape are involved, it's kiddie fare and therefore harmless. Because all comic books and cartoons are cheesy little kiddie things and no adults read or watch them. Except that they aren't, and we do. And most of the comics I have read over the years are the same ones I'll be keeping very, very far away from my kid until he's at least high school age, and maybe older. ("Sandman" and "100 Bullets," for instance.) As for the cartoons ... "Spirited Away" was wonderful and easily an all-ages affair, but "Princess Mononoke" would likely give small children nightmares. And those were from the same director.

So read the reviews, people, they're there for a reason. Google it at least before you buy the tickets. Or, I don't know, don't be too cheap to spring for a babysitter. Because it's not like this only happens with superhero movies. We saw "28 Days Later" in the theaters, and that was scarier than your average zombie flick. And from the back of the theater, I could occasionally hear small children crying. I hope those kids' future therapy bills were worth it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It fascinates me how all these catalog companies I've never heard of send us enticing offers for baby things we never knew we needed. How did we get on their list? Were we spied on in Babies R Us? Did a package of supermarket diapers tip them off? I'm still trying to figure out how the formula companies found us (and then sent us freebie cases of formula, which was a real leap of faith on their part since we hadn't, and haven't, bought formula. The food drives I donated them to thank you, formula companies).

But this latest unexpected catalog about takes the cake, in that it is entirely devoted to toys, clothing and gadgets you can use at your child's first birthday party. First of all, my kid's long past 1, so that's a tiny bit useless. Second, as they'd say on "Weekend Update": Really? A whole catalog devoted to your kid's first birthday party? Which your kid won't remember in the slightest no matter how much money you spent on it? Really?

Because they don't stop at cute li'l plastic plates and matching napkins. There's a special banner for decorating his highchair! A plush "royal throne" or "princess throne" (just $80)! A "birthday cake dress" (only $70)! Gigantic "walking" balloons of Elmo or Big Bird (because a 5-foot-tall walking balloon wouldn't scare the daylights out of small children in the slightest)! And other assorted pricey accessories that you'll have zero use for once the kid's party is over! It's almost enough to justify having another kid, just so you can use all this cool stuff again, isn't it?

But wait, here's my favorite part. Throughout the catalog appears this message: "Warning: Choking Hazard. Some products on these pages contain small parts." Excuse me, you're trying to get parents to buy choking hazards for their kids to party with? Is this why you only sell stuff for the *first* birthday -- you don't expect repeat customers? (Incidentally, to find out *which* of these lovely accessories may prove fatal to your birthday boy or girl, you have to go to the company's Web site.)

Occasionally I feel like logic doesn't figure much in marketing meetings.

But hey, keep sending the ridiculous catalogs my way. I'll keep making fun of them. This one, meantime, is finding a new home in the trash.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Boy, are there some snazzy cloth-type grocery bags out there. And boy, is no one using them.

Now things might be different in a crunchier area. Seattle or Berkeley or somewhere. But where I am in the Garden State, not so much. Plastic-bag it. Double plastic-bag it. Make it snappy. And there I am with my Trader Joe's red shopping bags (surprisingly durable, I am happy to report, after several years of use) and my hot pink little fold-up bag -- what, you would pick subdued colors? -- hauling them out at the check-out counter like the lonely little iconoclast I am.

Granted when I'm actually *at* Trader Joe's I see a few other people carrying bags of their own. And were I to mortgage my home every other week and shop at Whole Foods, I'm sure I would see reusable totes there too. But since I can't buy, say, diaper cream at TJ's, I do occasionally have to visit the regular supermarkets. Which sell their own "designer" reusable bags that no one ever uses.

This explains the cashiers, I think. They never check to see if maybe they've got an eco-conscious (of sorts) customer next on line. They just start shoving stuff in plastic bags, and I have to interrupt -- "No, no, wait, I have my own bags" -- while frantically digging them out of the cart or my purse. Generally I have to interrupt two or three times. And then, completely baffled as to why I would do such a thing, they go, "Oh, OK" and stop bagging altogether. Now I'm the only one shoving stuff in bags, because apparently if I brought my own they won't touch them on account of cooties, and the whole process slows to a crawl because I am no professional bagger. Meanwhile everything is rung up and the cashier is just standing there, mentally snapping gum.

Do I occasionally forget to bring the bags? Yes, because if I'm running out to get multipurpose solution and yogurt at 8 p.m. then my brain has already been fried for the day. And one time I did that, the cashier took my three or four sad little items and deliberately spread them over two bags. "Wouldn't they fit in one?" I suggested. "Oh yeah," she said and did that. It's like they've been trained to use as many plastic bags as possible. Are they trying to keep the plastic-bag industry afloat?

Of course the cashiers might do that because those plastic bags are flimsier than a wet tissue. Which is another good reason to use reusable bags.

If the supermarkets were serious about getting people to switch, though, they might try upping the per-bag "discount" for reusable-bag customers. Five cents a bag? Really? The cashier might as well give me a nice pat on the shoulder, because that and ten cents will buy just about the same thing.

Meantime, I'll keep doing my tiny, tiny part to save the planet. And that's my five cents' worth.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ever get the feeling we get blase about exactly the wrong things?

Like, say, recalls of things?

I am so grateful this peanut butter thing didn't happen while I was pregnant, because I was angsting enough over what was safe to eat (why is sushi bad if pregnant women eat it in Japan? Does soft-serve ice cream really have more bacteria than hard-packed?) and fearing peanut butter products would likely have exploded my brain. I love peanut butter. Favorite pregnancy snack: wheat toast with peanut butter and raisins. Yes, the husband found that disgusting too.

Granted the recall is specifically things made with peanut butter, like cookies or granola bars, and you could technically buy a jar off the shelf and be fine. But check the list of recalled products as of this point. It's a long list, namechecking some pretty well known companies. Kellogg. Little Debbie. Ready Pac. Clif Bar, which also makes Luna Bars. Which I also ate a lot of while pregnant.

This after the whole spinach thing in 2007 (now with more E. Coli!) and the salmonella-filled Mexican tomato outbreak last summer, except that it was probably peppers. Oops.

Seriously, is there some particular reason we shouldn't be able to trust our own food supply? Isn't this country supposed to be above this sort of thing?

What are we supposed to do, stock up at farmers markets all summer and then freeze and can everything for the winter, just so we have food to eat that isn't tainted? And if so, can someone 1. show me how to can things, and 2. rent me a deep freezer and a root cellar, since our kitchen is roughly the size of a closet?

One small piece of fortune is that we haven't given the kiddo peanut butter anything yet on the directive of our pediatrician, since the current thinking is that peanut allergies are less likely if you keep the kids away from them for a few years. We do, however, occasionally allow him a cookie. Imagine if one had been a Keebler.

Bringing me to my next point: This recall. And this one. Also this one. And hey, why not, this one too. As bad as the food issues, I think, are substandard children's products. Every week, it seems like, some toy or some crib or some piece of clothing is called out for being lead-encrusted, toxic or a strangulation hazard. And short of taking the initiative to check the federal recall lists every single week, there's no one centralized way to find out about all of them.

Sure, you could argue it took me about five seconds to find those. But I shouldn't have to. I shouldn't need to worry about the potential danger of every single product brought into my home. I shouldn't need to eyeball every single toy for parts that might break off, every single hoodie for drawstrings. What's the point of safety regulations if they aren't followed?

I am aware that new regulations on lead and phthalates in children's products are coming next month. But you'll note that thrift stores and other resellers are exempt from the testing standards. Less headache for them, more headache for parents.

I really feel like people shrug off this sort of thing. Oh, whoops, don't eat tomatoes this week. Hey, didn't need those peanut butter crackers anyway. Choking hazard? Oh, good thing I bought a different pacifier then. Lead paint? Well, he almost never puts his toys in his mouth anymore. Oh well.

We ought to be able to trust that the foods we eat and the products we buy are safe. That's so basic. I've complained before about the current culture of fear-based parenting; well, these sorts of recalls create that culture. They make you feel like you're justified in being neurotic.

Raising my kid shouldn't have to mean tossing him into a protective bubble. And then checking the bubble for phthalates.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I'm really, really, really not sure when it became mandatory to school your child before they even start school.

And I'm not just saying this because I got asked over the holidays whether I'd signed kiddo up for any classes yet -- again. (Note to self: Suggest alternate conversational topics to this person.) Horror of horrors, Mean Bad Mommy hasn't been expanding her child's mind lately.

No, I genuinely don't understand the point of music lessons or French lessons for someone who's, say, still learning to talk. Especially to the tune of several hundred dollars. What, he's going to get preemptively barred from Ivy League if we don't load his head up with learning now? Good -- then maybe we can afford college.

I'm all for tossing him in a room with other kids and getting him socialized. But I'm pretty sure there are less pretentious ways to do it. Like storytime at the library. Oh, wait -- storytime is at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday. Or 2 p.m. on a Thursday. Or some other time I could never actually make, because like most people in this pricey, rat-racey area, I work. To sum up: The service I've already paid for with my taxes, I can't use; the ones I might be able to use, I pay out the nose for. Assuming any of those aren't 2 p.m. on a Thursday, and I think most of them are.

So here's my plan to build a smarter child. Virtually guaranteed and nearly cost-free.

1. Find book. (A library book even!)

2. Put child in lap.

3. Read book to child.

4. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

So far he seems down with this plan. To the point where he'll shove a book in your hands, saying, "Do!" then spin around and plop into your lap. Too funny.

As for the socialization ... if he starts seeming antisocial, then I'll worry.