Archive for February, 2013

The Inevitable

The baby has had a cold for the past four or five days. And so I added snot-wrangling and extra cuddling and gentle back-thumping to my usual routine. (He is much better today, and it was never serious, just sneezing and coughing and weepiness.)

I also added extra hand-washings and preventive neti pot sessions to my days. With a show coming up, I was determined not to catch this bug. And gig or not, I don’t like being sick. I mean, duh, who does, but when you have a baby to look after, you know that unless you are unable to crawl out of bed, you will still have to feed and diaper and play and wash and chase the baby. Only while foggy and grumpy and sneezy and weepy. Yay.

So there I was, scrupulously avoiding touching my face and nose, washing my hands after every few nose-wipings, keeping his snot-rags sequestered on a remote corner of the kitchen counter, resisting the urge to smooch his face, turning my head or holding my hand up to the baby’s mouth when he coughed near me.

And then yesterday, around 2:30, he sneezed into my mouth.

I’m still not quite sure how it happened. It was during a diaper change, and for some reason putting him flat on his back spurs sneezing and coughing, so I should have been on high alert. But usually he draws in a little breath before a sneeze. Not so this time. And I must have been singing or making a funny open-mouthed face to keep him from breaking down, because — this is gross, sorry — I felt sneeze particles land on my tongue.

I went off to sing feeling tired but not sick. I had fun and one glass of wine, woohoo! I went to bed late but not horrendously so. I woke up with a sore throat.

Next time the kid gets sick, I’m wearing a surgical mask during diaper changes.

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When Baboo was five weeks old, my Aunt Su from Kalamazoo (her real name) came to visit. She’s been involved in the healing arts for at least three decades, so when she offered to teach me a few baby massage strokes I was all, Hell yeah!

Every night since then (with the exception of a few nights right before Christmas that were nutso), I’ve given the baby a full-body massage as part of his bedtime routine. I talk to his body parts as I go, thanking his legs for carrying him everywhere, praising his chest for being so strong, telling his hands they did a great job grabbing stuff all day.

Even when he’s flailing and goofy instead of blissed out, even when he’s so overtired I only do his legs for a couple of minutes, it’s often my favorite part of the day because of the depth of the connection it brings us.

On Aunt Su’s recommendation, I use Weleda’s calendula baby massage oil, part of a line made for babies that’s full of skin-soothing calendula (a type of marigold). It’s mostly sweet almond oil, it’s all-natural (and made in Switzerland where that actually means something), and it smells fabulous. All of which means I have no qualms about using it on Baboo even though he’s had a touch of eczema from time to time and we’re under orders to use only unscented shampoos, soaps and lotions on him.

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My coping mechanism of choice.

A few years ago, I tended my father during an 11-day ICU stay. When he regained consciousness, I asked if I could bring him anything.

“Yeah,” he said, “a seven and seven.” Possibly, he asked for a Cuba Libre. Can’t quite recall. Either way, I laughed and reminded him we were in a hospital.

“Well, there’s gotta be a bar in here somewhere,” he replied.

Now, granted, he had had a massive stroke years before, and was pumped full of 80 different drugs and battling septic shock, but still, he had a good point: Why aren’t there bars in hospitals? Why must the stressed and grieving stow flasks in their purses and hide bottles in their pants? (For the record: I have not done either of those things. But I have seriously considered both options.)

I thought a lot about all of this this yesterday while sitting in the kitchen, staring into the middle distance and sucking Nutella off a spoon. I had just put the exhausted, sad baby down for a nap following his one-year checkup, which included four shots. FOUR. IN A ROW, not simultaneously, which would be the smart way to do it. Just sayin’.

Anyway. It seems to me that traumatized parents in need of comfort beverages and/or snacks are a gravely underserved niche market as well as a huge business opportunity.

I’m completely serious.

Just think: If you were anticipating having to hold your child’s arms while he got jabbed with needles and screamed, wouldn’t it be nice to know you could have the adult treat of your choice, in the foyer of your pediatrician’s office, either before or after? You could pick up a vodka shot of some sort to consume as soon as you got home, or order a cab if you were unable to wait that long.

Taking the idea beyond alcohol: Nutella-banana crepes, or a Nutella latte, or, for purists like me, a giant jar of Nutella and a spoon. Or perhaps you would prefer a chunk of Valhrona chocolate as big as your head, or an extremely mayonnaise-heavy chicken salad sandwich on a croissant.

I see this as a concierge service. Would you like a violinist to serenade your family as you’re driven home in a limo stocked with Champagne and Valium? Not a problem. Five different flavors of macarons in a gorgeous box tied with a bow, flown in from Ladurée this morning? With pleasure. A nursemaid to tend the cranky baby, and a beefcakey dude to draw you a bubble bath? Done. Perhaps you long to lounge in a vat of rice pudding. You’re weird, but you’re the customer, so, okay, enjoy!

Of course none of that would make up for the agony of knowing you must see your child in pain; the idea is to prevent the day from being a complete horror. But until such time as someone snaps up this idea, I’ll make sure I’m never short on Nutella when Baboo is due for shots.

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You are one year old.

Your favorite bath toy is a plastic travel soap dish.

You think fake sneezes are hilarious. When you hear your Daddy blow his nose, you imitate him. We think that’s hilarious.

You point and grunt when you hear an airplane, a truck, or anything loud outside.

You used to make unhappy noises when you heard the ice machine and the food processor. Now, you smile and laugh at them and want to be picked up so you can watch them.

You point at all the artwork on your walls as soon as you are picked up from a nap.

You have six teeth. This has been the case for some time.

You don’t like it when Mama cleans your teeth after meals, but you tolerate it pretty well if she sings the “brushie-brushie” song and/or turns you upside down on her lap.

You’ve been climbing the stairs for a few weeks. You like to stop and look down, and when we carry you up and down you like to throw yourself backwards.

You loved watching the flame on your birthday candle and reached for it over and over, and almost got hold of it. However, you refused to touch your birthday cupcake and made faces and unhappy noises at it. We think this was because you were very tired by the time we sang to you.

You love to see and feel the inside of people’s mouths. You also love to explore people’s faces with your hands. Daddy is the only person who is brave enough to let you do this.

You are not walking, and you don’t seem to be in a huge hurry to do so. But you are very good at walking around your crib while holding the rails, and cruising around chairs and baby gates, and sometimes you let go and stand for a few seconds before plopping down on your bottom.

Your fingernails are a completely different shape than they were 12 months ago. You still love to do things with your hands, though.

Your nicknames are Baboo, Mamoush, Chickoo, Chickoo Boots, Little Boots, Boots, and Little Pooper.

You cackle when someone lies flat on the floor, and come rushing over to ram your face into that person’s face. We’re pretty sure this is your version of a hug.

You still grab for your bits during diaper changes, even when there are socks on your hands.

You say, “buh-bah” and wave when someone is leaving. You also say it when you hear Mama say “bye” when she’s on the phone.

You have shorter hair now, and that makes you look much older, and much more like your Daddy.

You cry with great sadness when you bump your head.

You cry with great indignation when you get shots, but you recover quickly when we distract you with toys and funny noises.

You have recently gone off all your favorite veggies and fruits and will only eat Cheerios, yogurt, bread and peanut butter.

You are one year old, and you are quickly becoming a little boy.

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My gym, more or less.

I hate the gym. Always have. Which is why, when I finally got tired of being pudgy, I began an exercise regime centered on gross inefficiency.

See, there are two flights of stairs in our house. Often, I forget to bring something from one level to another — a bottle I meant to rinse out is still up in the nursery, or the diaper bag I wanted to replenish is on the couch.

But now that I’m consciously trying to lose weight I leave things on another floor so I have to make more trips up and down the stairs. Four things to transport from the nursery to the kitchen? Four trips. Three stacks of laundry to bring upstairs? Three trips. You get the idea.

If the items are small and I really want to feel the burn, I carry the baby. I can always feel the extra strain on my joints when I do this, which makes me feel both grateful and sorry for my knees, because I’ve lost at least the equivalent of two of him. I’m not sure what the precise number is, because although I had a great laugh with my OB-GYN’s nurse the day I blew past 200 pounds, I stopped weighing myself after that.

At this point, I’m a few pounds above my pre-pregnancy weight, but things have, um, shifted, so some of my old clothes don’t really fit. Call it Post-Partum Lesson # 15: Just because you can close the zipper doesn’t mean you should wear those jeans out of the house.

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If I catch the baby in the right mood and moment and ask him, “Who am I?” while patting my chest, he will say, ever so softly and sweetly, “mama.” Oddly, the right moment is often just after a diaper change — somehow, vanquishing a dirty behind leads to a tranquil interlude.

I’ve known for a long time that he knows who I am, but there’s something profound about hearing the word issue from his little baby mouth. He babbles all the time, but this is different. He thinks about it, locks eyes with me, and carefully forms the word. I should really be recording that, I suppose, but so far I’ve been too busy enjoying it. Also, the sight of the phone would almost certainly distract him from his appointed task, i.e., making his mama cry a few tears of pure joy.

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One of the first books I remember really enjoying was a grade-school-level biography of Florence Nightingale. It covered her service as a nurse in the Crimean War, and as I recall, it was kind of gory — or at least, that’s how I remember it. But that could also be the Geraldo Rivera book about survivors of awful plane crashes and natural disasters that I sought out not long after.

This early fascination with medical issues is now focused on Baboo. I’m not obsessive about it, just very interested in understanding the mechanics of teething and speech and movement. For the latter, one of my favorite sites is The Physical Baby.

It’s written by an early intervention physical therapist and infant massage instructor who explains things like why tummy time is so important and what to do if your baby is having a hard time batting at toys. The tone is professional yet approachable, and I always learn something interesting from her posts, like why a baby’s feet move so much when they’re just sitting there (it has to do with the difficulty of isolating muscle groups).

She also covers topics like which toys are worth buying from a physical development perspective, something I appreciate. And she’s very responsive to questions posted on her Facebook page — a great boon if you’re worried about something your baby is doing (or not doing).

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A few weeks back, I caught Drew Barrymore on Ellen. Charmingly daffy as always, she nattered on about her angelic baby girl and whipped up some vegan pasta for her hostess.

A few days ago, while trolling one of my mental check-out sites (you know you have a few), I read a few excerpts from this article.

In it, she talks about tie-dyeing her baby’s leggings during naps and developing a line of cosmetics for Walmart while she was pregnant. Because, you know, that’s what you do when you’re pregnant, right? But none of that bothered me nearly as much as this:

“When my daughter was born, I thought to myself, ‘How do I go past infinity with my efforts and care?’ “

Um, Drew. Honey. We all love you and understand that you’re not terribly hooked into reality, but come on. Throw us real mamas a bone. Talk about being exhausted at least once. Whine about something other than how to shield your daughter from the media’s glare. Acknowledge the mind-numbing, repetitive, occasionally terrifying drudgery of the first four months of caring for a baby.

I can only hope she did talk about those things and that they got edited out. I know she’s a celebrity with tons of hired help and organic grocery delivery and whatnot, but I’m still hopeful that underneath all her “mommyhood is a non-stop delight train” mumbo-jumbo there’s just a little bit of realness.



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With Baboo about to hit the year mark, I’ve been thinking about not just how mind-blowing his growth and development have been, but how much has changed for me. Herewith, a brief list:

– From creeping up the stairs (I had a C-section) to finding reasons to hike up and down them, the better to burn a few calories.

– From utter anxiety about the baby gaining weight to trusting that he’ll tell me when he’s hungry or full, if only by taking off his bib.

– From wolfing down cereal bars for breakfast to having one as an occasional treat.

– From a robe to maternity sweatpants to maternity pants to real jeans.

– From charting every feeding, nap and diaper change to thinking, “Hey, it’s been four or five hours since his last bottle.”

– From zombielike staring at the video monitor to sometimes forgetting to turn it on.

– From washing bottles twice a day to washing them every other day.

– From crying at dog food commercials to crying at the thought of any commercial with a baby in it.

See, now, that last one is going to make my Aunt Paulette think I’m depressed. I’m not — it’s just that sometimes my emotional river overflows its banks. And since I’ve long been a fan of feeling my feelings, that’s yet another change that’s fine with me.

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Diving Back In


Decades ago (!) I switched my major from undeclared liberal arts to vocal performance with a minor in French. I found out much later that my mom took a certain amount of crap for “letting” me do such an impractical thing.

It was one of the best decisions I ever made, to spend four years studying something I love instead of choosing a “safe” path. And for the record: I was able to remain gainfully employed for as long as I chose to, doing something that had nothing to do with my major.

Anyway. This isn’t really about my decision to become a teenage opera major. It’s about my decision to return to the stage after a few years away. It’s time to use my degree outside the house again, y’all!

So mark your calendar: I’ll be singing backup for Three Fried Men at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, February 27, at Nico. TFM is the house band for Poetry Scores, an international organization based in St. Louis that translates poetry into other media. You can expect a set of folk-rock settings of world poetry and folklore.

The event will start at 5; it’s a fundraiser for the next album from the local legend, the one and only Fred Friction. Here’s a Facebook page with a heap of information about the evening, which includes a silent auction, raffles, and live musical entertainment beginning with Irene Sullivan at 6 p.m. I hear tell there will also be special yummies available for purchase — more information on that as I get it.

Hope to see you there! And if you can’t make it but feel moved to contribute, you can visit the project’s indiegogo page.

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I'm over 50. I'm raising a fifth grader. Sometimes he posts too.


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