What a Difference a Hat Makes

These past few days I have been cloaked in grief.  I didn’t expect my grandmother’s death to hit me quite so hard.  I thought I had such a good grip on the very logical, very healthy, very Irish perspective of “Death is just a part of Life” that it wouldn’t be long until my heavy heart could catch up with my clever head.  Maybe it hasn’t been that long, really, but I am still rather reeling from the loss.  It gets easier every day until the day comes when it isn’t easy at all.  But the sun always, always sets on the hard days, and always, always rises again on a day that has the potential for being better.  In that way, Life is just a part of Death.

Yeah, some days I’ve got it all figured out.  And other days, I need a little help.  Yesterday, my bright and beautiful boy was my rising sun.  It was something so simple, as day-brighteners often are.  It was just a trip to the grocery store.

I justify not always dressing my drooly/slobbery/barfy little stain magnet when we’re at home by drawing a heavy line at his always being dressed when we go out among the English.  Yesterday, I put him in a simple short sleeved, red and blue striped, grey accented onesie.  On a whim I grabbed his little grey newsboy cap.  I, of course, thought he looked absolutely adorable, but guess what?  I think he’s cute when all he’s wearing are carrots and peas.  I was unprepared for the red carpet that appeared beneath our grocery cart.

This kid was a massive hit!  It took us five mintues just to get in the opening-closing-opening-closing doors because every single grandma and grandpa in the front entry stopped to admire him. The Deli Dames damn near lost their minds.  It took me fifteen minutes to get my cold cuts for the week because the gal who was helping us literally kept calling the other ladies over to look at Boyo.  Then she stopped the customers who were walking by with a “Don’t walk by that baby!  Get your share of the cute!” One call over begat another and pretty soon, we had a Nana and PopPoparazzi surrounding us!

As we walked through produce, we encountered a grouch.  She was clearly agitated by the fact that her path to the zucchini was blocked by other shoppers.  The “harumph” never left her face or her voice when she spotted us and said, “Cute. It’s the hat.”

I was picking out a ham steak in the meat section when I heard the microphoned voice of the cooking demonstration lady calling, “Oh my goodness, look at that baby!  With the hat!  Oh, look!” I would have guessed that taco seasoning really can’t hold a candle to my boy’s incandescence, but it sure was pretty awesome to have announced proof.

I swear I am not making it up when I say that on every single aisle, someone, usually an older gal, but also men, young women, store employees, and even a teenager stopped to remark on how adorable my hastily and serendipitously dressed little man was.  We were the celebrities in the cereal aisle, the stars of the seafood department, and the famous faces in Frozen Foods.  We were showered with attention and praise at literally every turn.  My cheeks hurt from grinning like a fool.  It felt fantastic!

I missed introducing my son to my grandmother by three weeks.  That fact is a heavy stone in my pocket.  I take great comfort in knowing (thanks to my mother and my aunt) that even toward the end when my grandmother couldn’t remember anything, she always asked about my boy by name.  If I were a more mystical being, I would have said that maybe my beloved grandmother had a hand in enveloping us in grandparental admiration and attention yesterday.  Maybe it was her way of telling me, “I see him.  I see you.  And I am proud of you both.”

Of course, for that to be true, it would mean that dying completely changes your personality.  My grandmother was a lot of things, but maudlin and sentimental she most certainly was not.  That’s what the living do, though.  They hold on to their dead, seeing and hearing and feeling them until they are ready to let them go.  I guess I’m not ready yet.  Because yesterday, I swear, she went grocery shopping with us.

Yesterday, I unknowingly exchanged my cloak of grief for a little boy’s newsboy cap.

What a difference a hat makes!

I mean, is it any wonder, really?  Look at this effing kid!

I mean, is it any wonder, really? Look at this effing kid!

 

Mom Stays in the Picture

She’s mean.  Sometimes, she’s super-crazy mean.  She can cut you to the quick and devastate your feelings in a heartbeat.  She can take your deepest secrets or your darkest fears and force them to swim up into the very forefront of your consciousness.  If left to her own devices, she can make you feel utterly, ruthlessly worthless.  If it were anyone else, you’d have washed your hands clean of her long ago and good riddance, too.

She’s the Little Voice Inside Your Head.  And she can be a bitch on wheels.

Maybe your Little Voice says you’re boring or ugly or strange or ungraceful.  Maybe she calls you stupid or thinks you’re too short or too tall or makes fun of your acne or thinks you have a mustache or weird boobs.

When my Little Voice gets loud, she calls me fat.

I’ve always been chubby.  I took to food as comfort at a very young age.  Childhood trauma taught me that in world that was sometimes inexplicably cruel, the constancy of chocolate’s deliciousness (for example) was incredibly soothing. Thus was born the emotional-eating monkey that would cling to my back for the rest of my life.

One of Little Voice’s favorite and most fecund stomping ground is in photographs.  How many times have I seen a picture of myself and heard Little Voice scream, “Look how fat you are!  Double chin!  Flabby arms!  Thunder thighs! You’re so groooooooooooss!!” This is probably the reason why I became such avid picture taker.  I don’t have to be in the picture if I’m the one taking it.  This has been a pattern for my entire life.  See a picture that makes Little Voice kvetch?  Just tear it up (I’m dating myself here) or delete it.  Feeling particularly large on a given day?  Avoid the camera completely.  Stand in the back.  Make sure you’re at a lower angle than the lens, don’t get shot from behind.  I know all the rules. And I adhere to them like they are commandments.

Then I had a baby.  Now I’m the chunkiest I’ve ever been and things are…um…droopy in a way they never were before.  Now I’ve got perma-circles under my eyes and my hair is rarely clean, let alone brushed.  My clothes are always covered in barf.  And did I mention that I’m the chunkiest I’ve ever been? Besides which, I’ve got the cutest baby in the entire world, so why bother even being in pictures when I’ve got such a beautiful subject and Little Voice doesn’t get mean about him?

And then it occurred to me.  In giving Little Voice the microphone, I am at risk of digitally deleting myself from the documentation of my son’s childhood.

LIGHTBULB!

When he looks through the pictures of this time, I want my boy to know that I was there.  I want him to look back at the pictures of his childhood and say, “There’s Mommy!” not “Where’s Mommy?” I want him to know how much time we spent together, that I took him on walks and tickled his toes and fed the ducks and read Brown Bear a hundred thousand times and sat under big beautiful trees and marveled at the beauty of autumn.  I want him to have photographic evidence of his homemade baby food, his ridiculously adorable outfits, his penchant for slobbery, double-handed face mushes.  I want him to leaf through photos of times he was too young to remember and realize that for his entire childhood, I was never far from him.  I was there, I took part, I was vitally present and involved in this very important time.

If I kowtow to Little Voice, then I risk losing all of that.  Plus, if I let Little Voice do the decision making, then I run the risk of teaching my son that a woman who could stand to lose a few isn’t worthy of attention, respect, or love.  If I don’t actively and demonstratively love myself, just as I am, then I am setting a dangerous example for him follow.  I want my son to love and respect himself, just as he is.  And I want him to love and respect women, just as they are.  I can hardly expect that of him when I don’t expect that of myself.

So, shut your face, Little Voice.  My son doesn’t care what I look like.  My son cares what I smell like.  He doesn’t care if I have a double chin, he nuzzles his face right in it.  He doesn’t think my curves are too curvy.  He thinks they make for the comfiest snuggle spot in all the land.  I think I’ll hand the mic over to him for a spell.  I could learn a thing or two.

 

All Little Voice can see in this picture is enormous face, double chin, gross upper arm.  Little Voice is so blind!  Look at that fucking kid!  And the look on my face says, "I am so proud of myself for producing the cutest kid on the planet and for dressing him as such."

All Little Voice can see in this picture is enormous face, double chin, gross upper arm. Little Voice is so blind! Look at that fucking kid! And the look on my face says, “I am so proud of myself for producing the cutest kid on the planet and for dressing him as such.”

Little Voice has a thing or two to say about this pic, too.  But it was Boyo's first swim ever!  I don't want to be absent from moments like these just because Little Voice is a raging bitch!

Little Voice has a thing or two to say about this pic, too. But it was Boyo’s first swim ever! I don’t want to be absent from moments like these just because Little Voice is a raging bitch!

 

 

 

 

 

Update: Night Weaning

You know that scene in E.T. where Elliot and E.T. are out in the woods, watching to see if the Speak n’ Spell-Umbrella contraption really will phone home?  Well, when that fork starts moving across the teeth of that saw, Elliot cries out, “It’s working!  IT’S WORKING!”

That stunned, cautious elation is exactly how I felt when I woke up this morning.  The night weaning is working, y’all!  IT’S WORKING! Here’s the skinny on the last two nights:

Night 3: My gilded god of a husband sent me to bed early and said he would wait up for the 10:00 bottle since he had work to do anyway.  (Baby, your parking spot in Heaven will be a corner spot under a birdless tree and it will be home to your very own Top Gear Wet Dream Car of the Day.  You are that wonderful.)

We never go to bed before discussing The Plan for the night, so once we had determined that he would get the 10:00 bottle, I would take care of our boy when he woke at 1:00ish, then we would take turns getting up for him in the 4:00ish hour.  We also put the kybosh on the support parent coming into the baby’s room to help unless specifically asked.  We kept scaring the shit out of each other and really, there’s nothing a second set of hands can do to help in the great Battle of Shush.  So, if we needed help or a “tag out” we would just call for the other over the baby monitor.  Perfect. Plan made and agreed upon, I passed promptly the fuck out.

He woke at 1 or so (the details get fuzzy quickly) but I got him back down pretty easily.

Then from 3-4, he was up and down a hundred thousand times.  Literally every time my husband or I would walk back into our bedroom, Boyo got to wailing.  And a zero-to-sixty kind of wail, too.  Like he woke and remembered, “Oh, right.  I’m furious.”  Finally gave him 2 ounces of water and he slept until 5:30.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t fall back to sleep. Somewhat embarrassingly, the night wails make me sweat something fierce and so I was soggy and wired when I came back to bed.  Plus, we’d gotten some terribly disappointing financial news that day, and as always, the middle of the night is just when the brain wants to stress out the hardest about such things.

So yesterday, I felt really terrible.  The sleep deprivation manifested itself in the form of good old fashioned blues.  I had a couple of big “O! Woe is me!” cries.  Once when I spilled my coffee and the other when Boyo took 45 minutes to settle into a nap.  But that time, I turned off the monitor in my bedroom, put in my headphones and scrubbed the holy hell out of my bathroom. But I cried the cry of “How can I just ignore my baby?  What kind of mother am I?”  The kind with a bathroom as clean as a spanked ass, as it turns out.

Night 4:  Again, gilded god husband sent me to bed early and stayed up to do work and get the last bottle.  The Plan remained the same.  Well, our precious little bundle slept until 1, woke and wailed, but settled with less than two minutes of shushing and rocking.  (I also changed his diaper.) He woke again at 4:30, but settled quickly again.  When he woke at 5:15, I felt remarkably rested.  Boyo voraciously drank his full bottle, slept another hour and half and woke happily chirping to himself.  Huzzah!

I know it’s usually when things start to go right that the ground falls out from beneath you, but I’ll deal with a sinkhole if and when I get one and not go borrow trouble.  In the meantime, I will take a moment to be thankful for my husband, high five our                 stick-to-itiveness, and be beamingly proud of my boy as he grows and learns and adapts to change like a motherfuckin’ champ!

Today, I could ride my bike over the moon.  That feeling is pretty out of this world.

Here's a look at Kingdom Come for you, Baby.  You are the very best of the best. (What does make you?  A Ferrari? A Lambo?)

Here’s a look at Kingdom Come for you, Baby. You are the very best of the best. (What does make you? A Ferrari? A Lambo? The green one?)

 

 

Parenting in Action: Night Weaning

A week after our boy was born, my husband and I took him for his first appointment with his pediatrician.  The doc walked into the room, took one look at our faces and even before he said “Hello,” he said, “Four months.  He’ll be sleeping through the night in four months.”  At the time, it was all I could do to keep from weeping with gratitude (and, let’s face it, total annihilating exhaustion.) He knew exactly what we needed to hear and he wasted no time reassuring us.  He was our hero.

He was also a liar-liar-pants-on-fire.

Boyo is fast approaching seven months old and he is nowhere near sleeping through the night.  He’s like a Swiss train:  always exactly on time.  Every three hours, on the nose, he wakes for a feeding.   After his bottle, he settles immediately back to sleep, which is very thoughtful of him, but, frankly, I’m over it.   I’m ready to get a good night’s sleep.  Or at least to have a crack at one.  I had read a little about night weaning, but I wanted to consult with a doctor first.  It took some time to find a new doc after our cross country move and then we had to wait for new insurance benefits to begin, so I had resolved to wait it out and hope that in the meantime, nature took a quick course.  (It didn’t.)

When the day of our first appointment finally arrived, the doctor, a lovely woman, asked if Boyo was sleeping through the night.  When I told her about our little Swiss train making all local stops all night long, she not only suggested that it was time to try night weaning, but she also gave me some definitive advice.

This is why I love doctors.  By reading books and researching online, you can find a hundred thousand suggestions for every minute parenting decision.  For every single one of those suggestions, however, there will be an argument against it.  It can be paralyzing.  So when a trained medical professional who has examined my particular baby suggests something, I am thrilled to have a place to start.

So, my husband and I set a goal and made a Night Weaning Plan of Action.  (Parenting decisions obviously differ from family to family.  All of our parenting plans of action are based on a combination of three things:  the advice of our pediatrician, our own parental instincts, and what works for our family as a whole.)

The Goal:

Make it from 10:00pm to 7:00am without a feeding.

The Plan:

-Acknowledge that we are in for some sleepless nights, but that we are committing to a challenging present in order to bring about a better, more restful future for all of us.

-Remember that we are changing a fundamental part of the baby’s routine and therefore to be extra patient with him if he’s a little assholian.

-Three meals of solid food a day.  Bottles in between.

-Last solid food meal at 6:45pm.

-Then bath time followed by naked time (he spent his first three weeks with diaper rash so severe, it scarred his bum. So on the recommendation of the doc, Boyo gets a period of “airing out” every day)

-Strict 7:30 bed time.

-One last bottle when he wakes around 10:00pm.

-All other wakings get a three-pronged approach:

1) A binky and a bump. (Boyo weirdly finds a series of solid thumps on the back or bum quite soothing.  He always has.)

2) If that doesn’t work, 2 ounces of water in a bottle. (In case the suckling is the soothing he wants.)

3) If neither of those will do the trick, 2 ounces of formula.  (This is the last ditch “Hail Mary” as it rather negates the point.  Plus, with the advent of teeth, we’re trying to establish good preventative oral care and that means no milk in bed.)

How It Worked

Night 1:  He Swiss-trained all night.  He woke at 1:00 (binky and a bump), 3:30 (2 ounces of water) 5:00 (2 ounces of formula.)  Slept til 7:30am.  Decided to make 5:00am the goal and give him a full bottle at that time.  A seven hour stretch seemed a more realistic goal than nine.

Night 2:   He woke every 30-45 minutes.  All.  Night. Long.  Great gobs of goose shit.  It’s like he just couldn’t settle.  Or that he was giving us the finger for messing with his routine.  Even after his 10:00pm bottle, which usually buys at least 3-4 hours, he was up just 1.5 hours later.  From 3:45-4:30am, I snuggle-slept with him on the couch when I just couldn’t get him down.  I put him down in his crib at 4:30.  He got a bottle at 5:00am and then slept until 7:30 when I heard his happy babble over the baby monitor, but was so soundly asleep, I dreamt I was listening to A Prairie Home Companion and that Garrison Keillor was having a stroke.

So, a decidedly rough night, but still, we hit the goal!!  Go us! Celebrating the small victories is part of what makes us feel successful, right?

I think I’ll celebrate with a little unconsciousness.  Wake me for his wedding.

We have a whiteboard on the fridge that helps us keep track of Boyo's feedings.  This is especially helpful in the mind numbing middle of night when my husband and I take turns.

We have a whiteboard on the fridge that helps us keep track of Boyo’s feedings. This helps my husband and me stay on the same page especially in the mind-numbing middle of night when we take turns tending to the babe.