Archive for August, 2013

When I was five or six I had a distinct thought that I still remember: “It’s hot, and I don’t like being hot. Sweat is gross.” I still remember because I think that thought every summer, all summer long. I knew I would have to adjust that attitude when the baby came. Kids need fresh air, and not just when the weather is perfect.

We’ve gotten off easy this summer, with a long stretch of mid-80s in August that blew everyone’s mind. But last week the temps climbed into the 90s again. And I had an outdoor play date coming up. I won’t lie, I kind of panicked for a bit.

The plan was to go to a splash pad that’s deep inside a botanical garden with a vast blacktop parking lot. There was no getting around the ick factor of sweating the whole time. Also, I have a weird thing where the sun gives me a rash even through SPF 30, so I tend to wear long sleeves to cut down on the itching.

So I was all, “Dammit, I’m going to have to wear sunscreen and long sleeves and people will think I’m a freak for wearing long sleeves, and on top of that, I’m going to be sweating the whole time.” I may have stomped my foot. A few times.

And then I thought, “Baboo’s first splash pad. He’s going to love it. Suck it up, Mama Dean. You’ve been to India. Several times. You grew up in a house without central air. You’ll live, and then you’ll have a nice cool shower afterwards.”

And he did love it. And I survived. And man, that was a great shower.

Ah, the things we do for love.

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“Good morning, Sweetheart!”

It’s 5:30, maybe 6 if I’m lucky.


His beloved Ned hits the floor. He’s been standing and dangling that poor little bear over the crib rail, waiting for the necessary audience for his daily performance. (I know this thanks to the video monitor, that double-edged sword of a device that sometimes entertains as well as reassures parents.)

“Uh-oh! Uh-oh! Uh-oh! Uh-oh! Uh-oh!”

That’s the soundtrack as he works his blanket over the rail with both chubby hands because it’s too big to fling over in one go.


The elephant-head blankey lands on top of the small mountain of fluffy baby things. Ned is typically at the bottom unless Baboo performed with particular flair and flung him to one side.


“Yes, I’ll get Ned.”

I retrieve the toy and bend to pick the baby up, moving in ways that protect my mid-40s back. We sit down with Ned. I reach for the bottle I set down as I watched the show. He holds his bear and drinks while I rock us and nuzzle his noggin.

Another day has begun.

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Does this haircut make me look old?


Because last week, a nun flat-out called me my baby’s grandma. And I’ve been told I have nice skin, and I was not dressed in old lady clothes. So surely it must have been the haircut.

As background: In celebration of Baboo’s 18-month birthday, we delivered thank-you snacks to the nurses who took care of us when he was born. I had meant to do this earlier but never got around to it, so I decided to make an occasion of the day.

So we went into the (rather Catholic) hospital with our snacks, and the nurses got all happy, and I got a little weepy, and we were standing around chit-chatting, and up walks a nun. (Sadly, she was not in full habit. The story would be better if she had been, but no, she’s a modern nun and the only way to tell she’s a sister is her name tag.) I explained why we were there, and she leaned over the baby and cooed, “Aren’t you lucky to have such a nice grandma?”

I’d like to say I pondered my response, but I didn’t. It just popped out, albeit with laughter. “Actually, I’m his mom.”

That poor nun. I’ve never seen someone say so many nice things so quickly to try to fix a verbal blunder. I did not tell her she was the first person to stab my ego to bits with that assumption, because A) I like nuns and B) I try really hard to be nice, generally. I assured her I wasn’t offended, and that I knew it was inevitable given the color of my hair.

It seems inevitable that this will happen again no matter how chic my coif is, because I love my grey hair and do not plan to color it again, ever. Also, people are quick to judge and not necessarily well-filtered when they speak. I’m steeling myself for that, but in the meantime I’ve had it cut into something more youthful. (Nikki Wright, y’all, is the business.)


So if I get called “grandma” again soon, I guess I’ll just have to start wearing skinny jeans and, um, whatever the teenagers are wearing these days.

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I am lucky enough to belong to the kind of book club that is more concerned with food and wine and friendship than books and the intense discussion thereof. We’ve been meeting for long enough that we’ve developed our own traditions, one of which is the baby book shower.

When it was my turn, I was delighted to receive a small library’s worth of road-tested baby and children’s books. Many of them have become favorites (of both Baboo and mine), and Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton is currently in heavy rotation at nap times.

The concept is simple:


The theme continues apace on the next spread:


It goes on from there, the turkey reliably providing comic relief to the earnestness of the elephant, moose and bear. In the middle, the rhythm is broken so that the parent doing the reading doesn’t fall asleep. Conveniently, this switch-up also keeps the baby engaged. “What will come next?” the baby thinks. “Will we return to the 1-2-3 oops form, or move on to something even more exciting?”

Both, little reader. Both. After a spread discussing the various colors of shoes favored by plump animals, we get the big payoff:


Baboo likes to hear about the bathing costumes of the animals watching from the side of the pool, so we discuss that before noting how silly that turkey is. And that’s what I really love about this book: Despite the simplicity of the idea, there’s quite a bit to discuss beyond colors and items of clothing. Also, it’s just funny — a definite parental bonus when you’re reading to an overtired toddler.

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You are 18 months old.

You can operate these toys all by yourself:


You still insist upon inspecting Mama’s shoe after she farts. When you don’t find anything other than a shoe, you shrug.

You can locate your chin, cheeks, forehead and bottom.

You sometimes play with your blocks all by yourself.

You have mastered the art of climbing onto the couch and chairs.

Your morning nap is slowly evaporating and being absorbed by your afternoon nap. This makes you a little cranky, but the change makes Mama happy.

You decided to conquer the shape sorter last week — and you did.

You love to “walk” up the stairs as we hold your hands.

You know what “boo-boo” and “kiss it better” mean, and you bestow kisses on Mama’s boo-boos as well as your own. You have also begun to make contact with your kisses.

You know how to turn on the dishwasher. And now we know how to lock it.

You are almost able to thread shoelaces. Real ones, not baby practice ones. Well, they belong to the learn-to-dress monkey, but still, they’re tiny.

You know that if you’re happy and you know it, the only thing to do is clap your hands. Failing that, you can also pat your head or stomp your feet.

You are so obsessed with trash cans that Mama brought a little one into the kitchen for you. There’s a separate blog post coming about this because there’s just too much to tell for this format.

You went to the zoo for the first time with Grammie and Mama. You seemed to like the elephants quite a bit. You were also delighted to find they have trash cans there.

You know how to answer and end a Skype call on an iPad.

You regularly deploy the word “uh-oh” in the correct context. You are also an expert shrugger.

Your feet are five inches long.

You abruptly ended your long and ardent love affair with baby yogurt. Mama is fine with this because of the high sugar content, and trusts that you will eat enough of other stuff that you keep growing.

You are 18 months old, and we can’t quite believe it.

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Mama Body

I’d heard about it for years, but never quite believed it, this thing about pregnancy changing your body forever. Then I started trying on my pre-baby clothes.

I’m nearly 10 pounds lighter than I was before I got pregnant, but try telling that to my midsection. It’s all, “Whatever, you go right on ahead and eat leafy greens and lean protein, yadda-yadda, I’m keeping ALL the fat RIGHT HERE! Because I LIKE IT”! Meanwhile, the best part of my butt is missing. It’s kind of like someone let the air out of it. Pfft! And recently when I felt brave enough to go bra shopping, I found I’d gone up a cup size — this despite never having produced enough milk for the baby. It’s kind of insulting.

It took me a while, but I figured out what happened. Clearly, they sent me home from the hospital with a post-partum poltergeist. Slowly and stealthily, it’s been working its evil magic on me while I sleep. It must be good, too, because I don’t ever sleep for long.

The list of changes is amazing, really. The nicest plumpness of my rear has been shipped up north of my waist, and apparently some of it continued on up to my chest. My skin went schizoid for a good three months. The texture of my hair became so alien to me that I’m still battling with it, a year and a half and three stylists later.

Yep, a poltergeist. That’s the only possible explanation. It actually makes sense, because I’m certain it hitched a ride amongst the free diapers — Pampers, as it happens. They’re made by Procter and Gamble. You know what else they make? Half the beauty and grooming products on the planet. You know who buys most of that crap? New moms who are all, “What the FREAK is happening to my body and how can I fix it?! Surely this magical shampoo/lotion/lip gloss will help!”

See, it doesn’t sound so crazy anymore, does it?

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Over the weekend I stopped at the door to my little boy’s room. I have no idea why, and I can no longer recall if it was Saturday or Sunday. What I do recall is being taken back in time, vividly and quickly.

Rocking him through naps a little over a year ago while watching Mad Men on my phone. Fumbling through 2 a.m. nursing sessions, bowled over by the peace on my son’s face. Earning my Nursery Ninja badge by changing the batteries in the swing as he slept in it. Several times. Sitting by the crib, patting his chest, teaching him that it is a safe and happy place to sleep, my arm numb from being over the rail for so long. Endless diaper changes and swaddlings and book readings. Crying as he cried because of the worst diaper rash in world history, hoping he understood that I had to hurt him to help him.

People who know me well will be shocked that I did not cry during this episode. This was not a sentimental event, but a river-deep revelation: This is where I’ve spent my best and worst moments, in this 10 x 10 room filled with baby smell and elephants and love.

As suddenly as the wave had picked me up, it let me go. I moved on to the day’s next task, safely returned from the my trip back in time.

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One of Baboo’s clearest and most frequent words is No. This has sparked an ongoing debate in our house: Does he say it so much and so well because we say it to him so often, or is he merely learning to use language to assert his will?

I’m in the latter camp, because he uses it to get to “yes,” for example, telling me which book he wants to read by rejecting all the ones he doesn’t want. He does know the word “yes,” by the way. He just doesn’t always choose to use it. It’s baffling, and we’re saying “yes” to him more often now, but still, his default is “no.”

He also uses No to double-check that something he’s been told not to do is still off-limits. It’s really cute, actually: He’ll caress the trash can while pouring his soul out through his eyes and mournfully uttering a soft “No?”

Meanwhile, the aforementioned debate has created an awareness in my disciplinary language that I like, spawning a litany of phrases that mean No. These tend to be either strings of nonsense sounds like “ah-ah-ah-ah-ah,” or a positive casting of a negative request, like, “That’s Mama’s cup” instead of “Don’t touch that.” I have to admit to feeling a little funny about the latter approach because I have been known to mercilessly mock those who avoid saying No to their kids at all costs.

I’m not taking it that far, though — just reserving No for dangerous things like the oven and outlets (or when it just pops out of my mouth). Pretty much everything else I might use a No for falls into the category of limit-setting, and distraction tactics are often more effective for that. My favorite so far is “Where’s your baby?” closely followed by “Would you like this cup/spoon/yogurt tub?”

And then of course there are situations where neither a No nor distraction works. The best example is Baboo’s favorite new trick: Kicking like mad on the changing table. If I say No, he says it right back to me and goes back to kicking. My Stern Mama Face has zero effect. And he thinks it’s so fun that distracting him from it is nigh impossible. So now I’m trying a technique I used with my dogs: ignore the behavior you don’t want.

I’ll let you know how that works out.

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There is decidedly something in the water at my old office. Last I heard, at least 18 women there are expecting. Okay, it’s a few less than that. But still. That place should just suck it up and open a daycare in the basement.

These women are all sweet and lovely and excited, and all first-time moms. I keep thinking about them, and what they’re going through, and what I went through. I also think about what I wish for them: Boredom.

Ladies, in between the thrill of hearing the baby’s heartbeat and watching movements on ultrasounds and deciding which car seat to register for, I want your pregnancies to have all the excitement of a loaf of white bread. I want your babies to treat you so nicely that you sometimes forget you’re pregnant. I want you to arrive at the end of those 40 weeks thinking, “Wow, that wasn’t so bad. And now I have the best present I’ve ever received.”

And for your labor and delivery? The same thing, but with as much pain relief as you desire.


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


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