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Back With A Vengeance. Part 1. THE HOUSE.

25 Apr

So.  What’s up?  Uh-huh.  Uh-huh.  Uh-huh.  Great!  Okay, now it’s my turn.

For me, the past month has been a whirlwind tour of the many different ways in which one might go nuts: Moving, family-hosting, baby nap-changing/teething/walking (!), the re-appearance of depression, and a new, 800-square foot house.  It’s all in there!  Were I a stronger, more balanced individual, I might call it edifying – even educational.  But seeing as I am who I am, I just call it insane.  In an effort to make up for lost time and bring y’all up to speed, this week, I will break down the many different ways my month has been a challenge.  Lucky you!

Part 1.  THE HOUSE. 

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I know.  This is a blog about the highs and lows of parenting – NOT houses.  But so many of you have shown an interest in what our little place is like that it seemed appropriate.  If not, boo hoo and come back tomorrow.

The first time I ever laid eyes on our new house was during a drive-by with our realtor. 

“Nah,” I said.  “Keep driving.”

The next time I saw our new house was after Jake and I realized we weren’t going to be able to do much better in the town of our dreams.  At the time, it was a rental house for two college boys, and it was a mess: nasty stained carpet, a freakish red wall that called hell to mind, a toilet encrusted with pee, and a kitchen more aptly called a “kitchenette.” 

But the bones of the house were good, and there were aspects that appealed to us very much: a spacious, beautiful backyard traversed by a creek, lots of windows in every room, and hardwood floors under the carpet.  “This might be it,” we whimpered.

As escrow came to a close, neither of us was terribly excited about moving in.  It was going to be a lot of work over a very short period of time to get the house even marginally comfortable.  But March 31st arrived, and we began the intense process of deciding how we wanted to live for the next several years.

The kitchen – unanimously the most challenging room in the house – would have to wait to be remodeled.  Our savings evaporated the moment escrow closed, so we would only be able to take care of the cheapest, most cosmetic aspects of moving in.  We started with painting the rustic wood-plank ceiling white to lighten the living room, dining area and kitchen.  We tried painting it with brushes at first, but it looked horrible.  Then we tried using a roller, but it didn’t get into the grooves.  So then we decided to go with a paint sprayer – in theory, a very good idea.  In practice, a nightmare.

Jake went through five – count ’em, FIVE – sprayers over the course of three days. 

  1. Borrowed from work, was broken.  Returned.
  2. Bought on Craigslist, was too weak.  Returned.
  3. Rented from equipment company, was defective.  Returned.
  4. Rented from same equipment company, was brand new but refused to suck paint.  Returned.
  5. Rented from same equipment company, worked.  Mostly.  Returned and was still asked to pay rental fees.  Refused.

This is the point at which I was sure Jake would lose his mind, but he never did.  I could learn a lot from observing the way Jake handles conflict.

Anyway, with the ceiling now painted, we moved on to painting the walls.  I’d seen a color in a magazine ages ago that I always thought looked nice.  Thank goodness I bought a sample and tried it out first before painting the entire house.  It was a gray that read cold and sterile – and sometimes, purple.  Not cool.  Thankfully, my nice friend April is an interior designer and knows her stuff.  She came over with her Benjamin Moore book and recommended the most incredible color: Manchester Tan.  It is so rich and beautiful, and has a different effect in every room depending on the time of day.  After the first day of painting, I called April.

“Manchester Tan makes me want to weep every time I look at it.  It’s gorgeous.”

“Jaime,” she said, “the goal was to make you weep.  I’m so happy you like it.”

Next came the floor, which was a labor of love for Jake, who has never refinished anything before.  We stained it a dark walnut color – which is absolutely gorgeous, but doesn’t hide dirt, baby-flung food, or dog fur – and slapped on a satin finish coat.  It had to cure for about a week, which meant we were eating our meals in beach chairs from the kitchen for a while. 

And speaking of the kitchen, yes it’s miniscule, but it’s liveable…for now.  We have plans to knock down some walls and create more storage in a year or so.  For the time being, though, we’ve installed a pot rack and crammed all of our utensils into one of the THREE drawers at our disposal. 

 

My mom and dad are in town right now, and they’ve been enormously helpful at deciding on furniture and decor placement.  I chose the Emma curtain from World Market for its vintage charm.  Someone told me they look like the drapes that Maria turns into the Von Trapp childrens’ clothes in The Sound of Music.  Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but I like that they evoke a reaction!  My style tends toward the 50s and 60s, so it’s not much of a surprise. 

My favorite room so far is the dining room.  (The chandelier came with the house, to my utter delight.)  I also love Seabass’ room but haven’t been able to get a shot of it yet because he’s always napping in it when I have a spare moment to shoot.

We are settled, comfortable, and enjoying our new place very much.  Thanks for your interest. 

Now I have to get back to baby-proofing all these new cabinets.  Excuse me.

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Controversy Wednesday: BABY TALK

15 Dec

How am I supposed to resist this cuteness? I ask you.

About a month ago, I was walking Seabass around the neighborhood in his stroller when he busted out with his standard “get-me-out-of-this-thing-I’m-bored” cry.    You know the one.

But on this particular occasion, in the middle of an especially baleful howl, Seabass started to giggle, even as the tears rolled down his cheeks.  I looked down.  “Are you…are you laughing?” I asked, bewildered at my child’s remarkable ability to swing from agony to ecstasy in the blink of an eye.  And indeed, he was laughing.  I couldn’t figure out what was so funny until I realized a dog was barking down the block.  He was laughing at the dog barking.  From then on, whenever Seabass heard so much as a “woof” from across town, a little smile lit up his giant face.

I bring this up because I recently discovered that I could woof and have the same effect on him.  So now I bark whenever Seabass is fussy, whether he’s on the changing table, playing in the bath, or in the stroller for a walk.  In public.  This makes for a very strange sight, as you may well imagine. 

Jake, I’m pretty sure, does not approve.  He thinks I’m stooping too low – in other words, acting like a lunatic – to keep the baby happy.  In fact, in our blissful, adult-speech pre-Seabass days, Jake insisted that when we had children, we would never use baby talk to communicate.  “None of this ‘poopoo’ and ‘peepee’ nonsense,” he declared.  “It will only be ‘feces’ and ‘urine.’  I can’t stand all that oogly-boogly baby talk.  Who’s with me?!?”

Little did he know he was directing these edicts toward the most oogly-boogly baby-talking weirdo on the face of our planet.  I simply cannot resist.  When I talk to Seabass, every noun is followed by a suffix of -ies, as in “shoes-ies,” “kiss-ies,” and “blanket-sies.”  It’s totally obnoxious, I know, but I really can’t help it.  Seabass’ cuteness draws this behavior out of me, and the cuter he becomes, the less power I have to control myself.

Fortunately, science backs me up.  According to the infallible wisdom-trove that is Wikipedia, a number of reputable researchers believe that “baby talk contributes to mental development, as it helps teach the child the basic function and structure of language.”  In fact, there are even scientific names – and acronyms! – for baby talk, including  infant-directed speech (IDS) and child-directed speech (CDS).  (There is also something called pet-directed speech [PDS], which, unfortunately for Murphy, doesn’t get used too much around here anymore.)

Okay, so all of this is really fascinating.  However, what I really want to know is whether I get to talk about farting and butts as much as I do when Seabass is old enough to understand what I’m saying.  Because I LOVE talking about farting and butts.  LOVE might not even be a strong enough word for the extremity of emotion I feel.  The same stupid fart joke can be told 200 times and I’ll still be giggling because you said fart.  And you know what?  I’ll stop laughing when it’s no longer funny.  That’s just how I roll.

But enough outta me.  Does baby talk pour out of you or does it make you bristle?  And for you parents further down the road, do you refrain from talking about poo and butts, or do you let it all hang out around your kids? 

Controversy Wednesday: LETTING MEN BE MEN

8 Dec

An awfully good-looking pair of guys.

In my opinion, there is no more obnoxious humor than men-bashing.  Quips and jabs about how stupid men are, how slow they are, how simple they are – first of all, are not all that funny, and secondly, give me the heebie-jeebies.  That our culture finds this public emasculation socially acceptable is an indication of how pathetically reluctant we all are to grow up.

Take, for instance, just about every sitcom on television these days.  Somehow between the genesis of the situation comedy and now, it became the norm for television families to berate Dad.  “Look, kids!” says the fictional mother, popping a sassy hip and rolling her eyes with thinly-veiled contempt.  “Look how stupid Dad is!”  [Canned laughter.]  “Yeah!” say the kids, “Dad’s a real idiot!”  [Canned laughter.]  And all the while, TV Dad sits in his recliner with his beer and remote control with a stunned, moronic look on his face.   Really hilarious.

While I was pregnant with Seabass, Jake and I took a six-week birthing class with a wonderful instructor named Kathy.  Every week, Kathy distributed photocopied articles that she thought might help us to prepare not only for birth but for everything that comes after.  I’ll be honest: So much of that information went in one ear and out the other.  But one article stuck with me.  It was about letting dads be themselves, letting them play and contribute to the care of the baby, even if it means that the style is different than that of the mother. 

In theory, this doesn’t sound too difficult.  But in practice, it means letting Jake dangle Seabass by one leg over his shoulder when I’m terrified he’ll drop him.   It means watching the baby thrash and fuss while Jake’s trying teaching him how to crawl.  And it means standing aside to let Jake dress the boy like a circus freak – camo shorts, black socks, a turtleneck and a jester’s cap – no matter how ludicrous I find his fashion choices for our son to be.  I’m not saying I succeed at giving Jake total autonomy all the time, but I’m certainly working on it.

Reading that article made me hyper aware of my friends’ interactions with their husbands and kids.  I started to notice how crazy controlling some of my fellow moms are.  One mother (don’t worry, she doesn’t read the blog…at least I don’t think…) got in a tussle over the father letting baby put a *clean* restaurant spoon in his mouth.  (“We don’t know where that’s been!” she spat through her teeth.)  Another snapped at her husband for giving the baby zerberts on the belly.  “You’ll scare her!!” she barked.  “You don’t stay home with her all day but I do.  And I know that kind of thing really freaks her out.”

I’ll admit it’s very tempting to make these kinds of remarks to Jake.  And sometimes I honestly do know better.  But I try really hard to let go because I want Jake to parent Seabass in the way that’s most comfortable to him.  If I interfere and control every little facet of that relationship, chances are Jake will give up and shut down.

This theory is reinforced by a piece on MSNBC from earlier this year entitled “When Moms Criticize, Dads Back Off of Baby Care,” in which researchers found that nagging, persnickety mothers preclude distant father-child relationships.  In a nutshell, if I want Jake to be involved in the raising of our Seabass, I need to let him discover his own style, because if I don’t, he’ll tend to stop trying altogether. 

Taking this train of thought to its logical conclusion, if Jake never develops his own relationship with Seabass, I’ll inevitably become that pathetic mocking martyr of a housewife on TV.  “Why can’t you be more involved?  You don’t even try to parent our children.  You come home from work and turn on the game and tune everyone out.  I have to do everything around here.” 

And why?  Because I wouldn’t let him dress Seabass in camo shorts at six months of age.

But enough outta me.  What do you think?  Is it important to let Dad do his own thing with children, even if Mom is sure she knows best?  How hard is it for you moms to back off? 

Controversy Wednesday: VACCINATION

17 Nov

My precious little pincushion.

The timing of this discussion…er, monologue, is not a coincidence.  Seabass gets his 6-month shots today.  Hoo-ray.

A dear friend once told me about taking his daughter for her shots at three years of age.  “You think it’s bad when they’re infants?” he guffawed.  “Just wait ’till they can look deep into your eyes and plead ‘Why daddy?'”

I had never had a flu shot – or even given it much thought – until I was pregnant.  With the swine flu breaking out all around me this time last year, I suddenly cared very much about vaccines.  Very, very much.

I did some of my own “research,” which included poking around on the BabyCenter.com chat boards and such.  I scoff at the word research because, when it comes to the internet, I almost feel like there’s no such thing.  Everything is conjecture.  Everything is open for interpretation.  And God only knows where most of it really comes from.

Witness an article from something called Examiner.com stating that doctors are coming out to discredit the need for a vaccine because the H1N1  pandemic “may have in fact been a hoax.” 

While our administration and countries across the globe have been “pushing” pregnant women to the front of the line for the H1N1, we are now discovering much heartache from those who listened, received the vaccine and now are sure it caused them to lose their unborn child.

Articles like these make me nuts.  In the name of rigorous journalism, these writers plant ideas in my head that may or may not be true, and in the meantime, freak me out to the point of neurosis.  The fact that the website is called “Examiner” is a nice touch, too.  Gives it an air of credibility even though it’s basically a wiki.  (And speaking of wikis, notice that the author even cites a Wikipedia page as a reference source.  Come.  On.)

So anyway, back to my vaccination.  I was very much divided.  On the one hand, I had my OB telling me to get not only the swine flu vaccine, but the seasonal flu vaccine as well.  “I’m not going to demand that you get these shots,” he said, “but I am going to strongly recommend it.”

On the other hand, I had the onus of internet nay-sayers…and Jake.  That’s right, you guessed it.  Jake is anti-vaccine.

We had the discussion, and I totally tracked with him.  “These vaccines are so new,” he reasoned.  “How can anyone know what they’re doing to us in the long term?” 

It’s one thing to think about yourself and your own safety as an individual.  Frankly, if this were just about me, I’d say screw the vaccine and pass the mint jelly.

But it is something entirely different to think about a child for whom you are responsible and utterly head-over-heels.  Of course, all of this talk inevitably led to concerns about vaccinating the wee Seabass.  All I wanted to do was protect him.  That shouldn’t be too hard, right?  Oh, the ignorance. 

“It’s only one set of shots one time, right?” Jake asked me.  “And we just have to pick which ones we do and don’t want him to get, right?”

I didn’t have the foggiest idea.  Again, after the tiniest amount of “research,” I wanted to hurl myself out a window.  It is LOADS of shots on SEVERAL occasions.  To make matters worse, there are groups out there claiming that vaccines do horrible, unspeakable things to some children who receive them:

  • SafeMinds.org says vaccines cause autism. 
  • But Dr. Paul Offit says “no way, dude!” 
  • Then there’s some other guy with the wonderfully curious name of Seth Mnookin whose next book, The Panic Virus, details the implications of battling infectious diseases. 
  • Then there’s Jenny McCarthy running around through it all with GenerationRescue.org, which asserts that vaccines can indeed cause autism.  (By the by, WHY am I listening to you Miss McCarthy?  Because your son is autistic and you were in Playboy?  Hmm.) 
  • And then there are comments and blog posts and forums with all of us moms trying to figure it out.  It’s maddening.

In the end, I told Jake I couldn’t defer to research.  “Basically,” I said, “I can find a fact to defend any argument I choose.  So I leave this up to you.”  And here is what he decided:

  1. If the vaccine is less than 10 years old, we skip on it, as there is just too much unknown there.
  2. If the doctor (whether my OB or Seabass’ pediatrician, Dr. Awesome) doesn’t feel strongly one way or the other about a particular vaccine, we skip it.

Well, so far we haven’t encountered any vaccines younger than 10 years, and our doctors have urged us to go through with vaccinations.  So we’ve been textbook.  We didn’t even choose to get creative with scheduling Seabass’ shots like Dr. Sears recommends.  So boring.

In the end, we’ve decided that we have doctors for a reason.  Yes, they fail us sometimes, and yes, it’s hard to trust anyone to know all the answers.  But I really believe these people still know better than the internet does.  At the very least, they can hold our shaky parent hands and look in our bloodshot parent eyes and reassure us that whichever decision we make will be our own and no one else’s.  Now, which website can claim that level of sincerity?

I’ll never forget hearing a medical student describe her training: “Patients want so badly to believe that medicine is a matter of black and white, but I’m learning that it’s all just shades of gray.”  Scary.  And also, oddly reassuring.

Enough outta me.  What do you think?

The best medicine for a sick nursing mother

11 Nov

Okay, so it's a little creepy that there's a fake blog for a fake couple and their fake baby.

I’m really sick.  Yes, I’ve descended into an abyss of wadded up toilet paper, fleece, grape juice and whining.  I’ve never been all that great at handling illness, but at least there used to be sick days I could use. 

Now?  Yeah, no such thing as sick days.  Drat.

Thankfully Jake has some.  When he got out of bed to start the pre-work hygeine routine this morning, I looked at him with death in my eyes and pleaded for him to stay home.  Thank God it worked. Otherwise Seabass may have driven me over the edge.  I don’t know what’s gotten into that kid, but he is downright inconsolable.  IS IT NORMAL FOR A BABY TO LAST ONLY ONE HOUR BEFORE MELTING DOWN???  IS IT NORMAL FOR HIM TO ACT LIKE HE’S ONLY THREE WEEKS OLD AGAIN???  Forget it.  I already know the answer: Every baby is differentTeeth.  His diaper’s too tight. 

Sigh.  He’s lucky he’s so stinking cute.

I think the toughest part about being sick right now is the fact that I can’t take much of anything to make me feel better because it will all either go straight to Seabass’ delicate little system or dry my girls up.  No Nyquil, Dayquil, Tylenol PM or anything that will knock me out and take away the pain.  I’m trying to remember that I did labor drug-lessly.  Labor was a lot harder than this, right?  Right?

Anyway, in my unmedicated oblivion, I’ve spent a fair amount of time poking around the internet.  And guess what I’ve found?  Only the best baby blog ever:

The Halpert Baby Blog.

I love love love The Office.  It’s the only TV show I watch because even when it’s bad it’s good.  So discovering the marketing genius that is a mockumentary blog about Jim and Pam’s baby Cece tickled me pink, though it’s also made me a little crazy how easy the show makes parenting look.  I know, I know: it’s not real.  But the blog certainly blurs the lines a little, doesn’t it?

All I Want For Christmas Is Two Distinct Eyebrows

4 Nov

Dear Santa, A little help? Please? Love, Jaime

A couple years ago, Jake and I read the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.  The book is just meh, but its principles have definitely helped us to understand how we each show and receive love.  Before we’d read it?  Yeah, we weren’t so hot at that.

Jake’s love language is affection and physical touch.  That is how he receives and shows his love.  Before reading the book, I remember Jake holding my hand while we watched a movie and boring holes in my skin with repetitive thumb-strokes.  To him, that said I love you.  To me, it said I’m trying to kill you with my thumb, slowly and methodically.  I told him to knock it off, and he felt rejected.  No bueno, especially since I rarely returned the repetitive affection.  If it annoyed me, it must have annoyed him too, right?

Meantime, my love language is gifts.  I’m always afraid that sounds materialistic, but really any gift will do.  I also relish in gift-giving and the surprise on someone’s face when they get something they really like.  That speaks love to me.  But not so much with Jake.  I would buy him some little trinket or doodad that reminded me of him and await the gush of gratitude, but all he really wanted was a hug.  On the flip side, for our first Christmas together, he bought me a heating pad for my menstrual cramps.  A heating pad.  “You said you needed one!” he explained upon seeing my grimace-trying-to-be-a-smile. 

Did I say any gift will make me happy?  Okay, I admit, I feel most loved when someone gets me what I really want, not just what they think I need. 

But then we read the five love languages book, and now we get it.  I put my hand on Jake’s shoulder/knee/neck and he feels loved.  I still don’t understand how, but he swears it works.  And he goes out of his way to get me little somethings now and then so I fell loved.  The best he’s done so far was to surprise me with a super-plushy bathrobe I’d been lusting after.  When I asked him how he knew I wanted it, he pointed to my stained, crusty old bathrobe and said he was sick of seeing me hobble around in rags.  “Sort of a gift for everyone” is what he called it.  Hey, whatever works.

For gifty types like me, Christmas is a big deal.  I’ve been brainstorming gifts to give to family all year long, taking notes, keeping lists, etc.  It is how I enjoy myself.  Jake, on the other hand, is stressed out about the gift-giving.  (I don’t blame him for wondering why there isn’t a national affection holiday.  Wait, maybe it’s best that there isn’t one.  [Mind wandering]…ew, nevermind.)  So, to help him out, I present him with an annual list of things I might enjoy.  Again, this probably seems materialistic and grabby, but he always appreciates the minimization of margin for error. 

I noticed as I put it together that this year’s list is very different from prior years’.  Pre-Seabass, my wish list would include clothes, cookbooks, kitchenware, etc.  And while I do and will always appreciate those sorts of things, this year?  It’s all about making up for the hygiene I’ve lost since Seabass was born.

Again, the gifts I want are sort of like gifts for everybody.

Controversy Wednesday: BLOGGING ABOUT BABY

27 Oct

Just wait till he sees what I've blogged about him.

I remember the first time I heard about reality TV.  I was home from college for the summer and my parents had taken me out to their local Mexican restaurant, Paco’s (rest in peace).   Between bites of fajita, my mom and dad were gushing about some new wacky show called Survivor.

“The contestants have to complete challenges for food on a desert island,” said my mom.  “If they don’t win, they don’t get to eat.  And they have to make alliances with each other so they don’t get voted off the island at the tribal council.  All the starving and fighting and pain – it’s all captured on tape.  It’s AWESOME!”

I wanted to ask if the cameras even caught the contestants taking a dump, but I was too busy being mortified at the concept of a television show using money as bait for people to act their absolute worst on camera.  For all the world to see.  How disgusting!

And now, here I am with an online journal documenting the ups and downs of my son Seabass’ life for all the world to see.  And bowel movements definitely happen here.

It used to be bad enough that parents brought out “brag books” to show photos of their kids in various states of undress to complete strangers.  Now, we can take a photo, upload it to the internet and broadcast Jimmy’s first potty to an entire world of strangers in real time.   Better yet, we can *ahem* share our personal opinions about child-rearing with strangers and *ahem* graciously receive their thoughts in return. 

This is dangerous technology for someone like me.  You see, I have a rare disease known as BTS.  Blogging Tourette Syndrome.  I have no control over what I write; whatever’s buried in my subconscious just flies onto the page and I click “PUBLISH” before I take a moment to think.  Thankfully, Jake is sensible. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve started to blog about our post-Seabass sex life (“People need to know this!”) only to be shut down by an appropriately private husband (“No, Jaime, they definitely do not need to know this.  Use your BRAIN.  People IN MY OFFICE read your blog.”).  Thank God for him. 

You know who should be thanking Jake for putting boundaries on me?  Seabass.  That poor child has been publicized as a crying and peeing, butt-stealing, dog-eateneasily-abandoned, frustration-causing and depression-inducing little boy.  And that’s not even mentioning the dandruff!  What happens when he’s old enough to hear about what I’ve written from his friends?  “Hey Seabass, I hear you peed the bed again.  Nice job.  Now I’m gonna have to beat you up.”  (Jake assures me this will never happen because with a name like Seabass, you tend to be the beater-upper-guy, not the beaten-up-guy.) 

Okay, so I would never really blog about my child wetting the bed.  Because Jake would stop me. 

It’s amazing to me what other bloggers write about sometimes, though.  Take Heather Armstrong, for example.  Her blog, www.dooce.com is one of the most highly-respected and widely-read blogs out there.  And why?  Because she writes (beautifully and hilariously) about things that no one in their right mind would EVER EVER EVER post on the internet.  She’s actually so open that she was fired from her job for writing about her boss in 2003 and had a verb named after her: “to be dooced” is to be fired from your job for blogging about it.  Now she blogs full-time and gets paid a bunch for it.  Talk about irony.

Or Penelope Trunk, whose blog posts include everything from her time in a mental ward to a crumbling relationship with her husband, yes, CURRENT husband.

And Jill Smokler of www.ScaryMommy.com?  Let’s just say the weather’s cloudy with a chance of F-bombs.

To join the ranks of these much-revered and oft-followed women in baring it all and watching the comments roll in is very enticing.  Some days, I’m so tempted to tell you the details of Seabass’ natural birth and the havoc it wreaked below the belt I could just scream.  Or about my cellulite.  Or about our post-Seabass sex life.  (My apologies to any and all relatives.  But while I’m at it, you may as well know that, yes, we have had sex.) 

I think for now, I’ll just play it safe. 

Ah, who am I fooling?  If you stick around long enough, you’ll probably hear it all.  Oh look, here comes Jake.