Archive for September, 2012

Seven and a half months ago, my baby was legally blind. Now he makes eye contact with me from across the room.

When he was born, he would look around for the source of a sound. Now he giggles when I sing “Pattycake” to him.

He always liked to noodle with his hands (hence the early nickname of Mr. Burns). This morning he held and inspected a spoon for a good five minutes.

And as of today, I’ve been married for five years.

All utterly mind-blowing. In the best possible way.

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Skin Deep


Like many women, I enjoyed the best complexion of my life during my pregnancy. My clear, glowing skin was used by a coworker to (correctly) predict the sex of my baby. I didn’t give my skin care regime any thought, because it was working just fine.

Two weeks after delivery, I did a double-take after a glance at my reflection. My once plump and dewy cheeks were drawn and dry. For the first time in my life, I thought I looked old. I may have cried (I can’t remember — sleep deprivation). I couldn’t believe nobody had warned me about this. If I ever write a book about having a baby, this experience will be in there.

I knew my skin would change after the baby came. I just had no clue it would happen so fast. But whatever, I picked up a richer face cream and moved on.

Seven months later, I have what I can only describe as a schizoid complexion. It’s so dry it’s flaky. I’m breaking out like I did in high school, only, wait, it’s worse. Those were pimples, and these are almost like boils. And some parts are just itchy. I know this is largely hormonal, but it’s still astonishing and frustrating.

So I’m attacking the situation by treating the symptoms. I used Neutrogena soap for over a decade, but I ditched it for Cetaphil. My lotion and night cream are made for sensitive skin (that’s always been the case). I’m on the hunt for an affordable foundation that covers well without irritating my skin or looking cakey (I’d go natural, but the last time I tried that, someone thought I had cancer). So far, Cover Girl Nature Luxe seems to be the winner there. And I’m going after breakouts with a spot treatment.

It seems to be working, but if anyone has tips or advice on this front, please let me know. I’d really love to benefit from someone else’s experience on this one.

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The Anatomy of a Nickname


Yesterday my mom heard me call the baby “mamoush,” and asked what it meant. It’s a fair question; my husband is from India, and as you can see from the notes above, the baby does have a slew of non-English nicknames that do mean something.

Not this one, though. Here’s my best recollection of how it came about: I started calling him boo-boo. No idea why, and this was before I was aware of that awful show about the baby girl beauty queen. From there, I progressed to moo-moo. Then baboo, which is still in the rotation, and babushka, which is Russian and Polish for grandma. Which makes no sense for a baby but is fun to say, so I shortened it to baboush. And from there we hopped over to mamoush, which is sticking.

For the moment, anyway.

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Now that the weather is cooler, the baby is spending more time in his sleeper pajamas in the morning. And since he’s on his belly quite a bit these days, these are my favorite. Because why shouldn’t I get some amusement out of my baby’s clothing? And he definitely digs the fun feet. My only gripe is that the sizes stop at nine months.

You can find them here.

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Okay, friends, you’re about to find out why I have a category called “kvetchitude.”

The baby is teething. For real this time. I can feel his little chompers poking through his gums and everything. It’s an exciting milestone, but there’s a cost: pain and skipped naps, leading to a miserable little boy and a sad mama.

Previously, I’d given him Tylenol for pain but had heard that Ibuprofen was better for teething, so I tried it yesterday, with poor results. I’d heard that you could alternate the two medications if needed, so I called the pediatrician’s office like a responsible parent to find out what they recommend.

Quoth the nurse: “Teething pain is overrated.”

Let’s start with the verbal typo. She didn’t mean that teething pain is less awesome than everyone says it is. She meant that it’s not as bad as you think it is, you silly parent, you.

Right, because the fact that my baby has his hand jammed in his mouth 24/7 and can’t nap for longer than 30 minutes without some kind of analgesic in his system means the pain is purely psychological. Because, you know, seven-month-old babies do that. They get themselves all convinced they’re in pain and then — here’s the crazy part — they actually believe it! They start to behave as if they’re in pain!

Then the nurse, who was in fact trying to be helpful, said that this “not so bad” stance is the official position of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Ah. Good to know. Seriously — I mean, if I know you’re toeing the party line, it’s much easier for me, because I know that you’re merely saying what you’re required to say, not necessarily what is true or most helpful.

She also said that if he needs pain relief around the clock, he should be brought in. Fair enough. And that ibuprofen is hard on little tummies, just like it’s hard on big tummies. All good points. Thank you very much.

So last night, my baby, who sleeps through the night 98% of the time, woke up with phantom pain and tried to convince me that he was experiencing real pain. That clever little manipulator. He put on such a good show, though, what with the fake tears and all, that caved I gave him Tylenol.

And then he went back to sleep.

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Bedtime Buddy Bear


This is Ned. Yes, I know there are two bears there but shhhhh! Don’t tell the baby! He loves them both equally, and this way I never have to hold my nose when I’m putting him down for a nap. And if one gets lost, there’s no drama or scrambling to replace it, or potential for the baby to reject it because it’s too new.

(Credit where it’s due: Special thanks to my sis-in-law for suggesting this approach.)

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Hello, Old Friends.

About four months after I gave birth to my son, I decided it was time to try on some clothes. In a store. Big mistake. Way too soon. Major tears. And ever since then I've shied away from even my own closet.

But this morning, something possessed me. No clue what it was, unless it was sheer boredom with wearing the same three pairs of pants for the last month. And perhaps a dash of chagrin over all of them being maternity pants.

So I opened a long-neglected drawer and pulled out a long-forgotten pair of jeans. I know. Very bold of me to start there, but like I said: possessed. I pulled them on. I was able to zip them up. I tried another pair. Same deal. I did a little happy dance in front of the mirror. I checked my rear view (acceptable).

It was difficult to believe, but it slowly sank in — I am back in my jeans, even though I'm a good 15 pounds above my pre-pregnancy weight. There's still a need for tops that provide artful draping, but hey, one step at a time.

And I know, I shouldn't care so much about how I look, because my body just performed a miraculous service and that's the most important thing. But I do care, and besides — those comfy maternity britches aren't in the Goodwill pile just yet.

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Our neighborhood is a roughly nine-square-block area of newer construction in the middle of a part of town where the houses are generally at least 80 years old. Access is via one street and one alley, and there’s a little park with a gazebo, so it’s a nice, quiet place to walk and hang out.

Nearby, there’s an apartment building where a number of elderly Russian people live. I don’t know how many of them there are, but at least three of the ladies among them walk our neighborhood twice a day. And because I’ve been out with the baby quite a bit, I’ve gotten to know them — to the extent you can get to know someone who does nothing but coo at your child whenever you see them.

That’s not quite true. They also like to tell me he really should be wearing a hat when it’s cold (you know, at 60 degrees or below). Additionally, they pinch his checks and grab his legs and tell him he’s a “fine byoy.” They remind me of one my grandmothers (my dad’s mom, pictured above) and my great-grandmother, who were Polish and similarly smitten with children.

This morning, after not running into any of them for at least a week, I spotted one, so I stopped to let her see the baby. Her English is better than the others’, and after she went through the usual smile-and-pinch, she asked if he sleeps well. Yes, he does, I said.

Then she motioned to her chest. “You are breast feed?”

I was momentarily stunned into silence and it must have read as confusion, because she repeated the question. I briefly pondered giving her the accurate answer, which is long and complicated, before I said, “yes, it’s a mix, with formula.”

“Good,” she said, seeming very satisfied as she patted my son’s chest. “Breast is very good.” I agreed with her before saying goodbye and moving on.

The joy these women get from interacting with my baby is palpable, and it’s sweet that they’re so concerned with his welfare, but I have to wonder: If they’re already comfortable asking a question like that, what can possibly be next?

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Yesterday I took the baby to my old office to meet my former colleagues, and someone asked, “How are you liking being at home?” My answer to this has always been, “I like it better than I thought I would.” Which is true. But here is what I often don’t say, because a) I will probably start crying and b) I may or may not have a tissue in my pocket and c) everyone knows crying is contagious and it’s possible that the ladies are not wearing waterproof mascara.

I am deeply grateful that we are able to have me stay home with our son. I know how lucky we are. I don’t take it for granted. And sometimes, usually during the first feeding of the day, when the world is still and the baby hasn’t yet started squirming off my lap, I take a deep whiff of babyness and weep with gratitude.

And now you’re thinking, “what’s up with that photo up there?” That’s a sand mandala that a group of Tibetan Buddhist monks spent days making here in St. Louis last year. I tried like hell to get there to see them making it, but was only able to see the destruction ceremony. The monk in this photo is about to sweep away days of work; hundreds of hours of crouching and precisely pouring sand. They do this with every mandala they make, because everything changes. Everything goes away.

And that knowledge is what keeps me grateful for every little moment I get with my son.

Except for maybe the poopy diaper moments.

Happy weekend, everyone.

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Comic Relief

For the most part, the baby is very reasonable, but there are days when he decides that he doesn’t want to nap because he’s too hungry and can’t eat because he’s too tired. That’s when I seek a bit of comic relief to give me the energy to get back to the work of raising the baby when he’s having an off day. I don’t need to laugh for hours; a brief giggle is often enough to shift my perspective.

One of my favorite sites for this purpose is Dooce.com. Now, if you’re familiar, you’re thinking, “isn’t that the lady with post-partum depression who lives in Utah and has anxiety attacks about small rodents?”

Yes, that’s her. But she also posts photos of her friend, Camilla Combs, wearing kooky outfits. And that’s the part that makes me laugh. Hard. Because while I admire the chutzpah of a woman who dresses like that in Salt Lake City, there’s just something deeply amusing about a person in a polyester floral jumpsuit.

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