Saturday, December 21, 2013

What Clara gets into...Merry Christmas.

I recently came across this blog on Reddit and laughed so hard I cried.  Read it HERE. In it, the blogger describes her 10-month-old's real present list to Santa.  I identified with almost every item on the list.

I will proudly  admit that I have done a really good job of hiding electrical cords from Clara but whenever I forget to close the bathroom door I return to the mayhem of a cloudy pile of unwound toilet paper, the items of the bathroom trash strewn across the floor, and the strong possibility of one of Clara's dolls posed in her potty, or (heaven forbid) if I have also forgotten to close the toilet seat, a soggy doll taking a bath in the toilet.

I would also love to know what aspect of our evolution has enabled small babies to grasp tiny objects - almost invisibly tiny objects - in their fingers and then carry them to their mouth for a taste.  Was food in the distant past so scarce that babies were crawling around under the tables fighting over tiny crumbs, Lord of the Flies style?  Because I find myself vacuuming the entire house every single day because no matter how clean the floor is Clara finds the one stale, ancient broken shard of Chex cereal hiding in a crack in the floorboard and pops it in her mouth before I can blink.  Ninja-style, Clara gets her hands on everything I think she shouldn't have.  Here's a picture she snapped with my phone after stealing it out of my pocket and running away with it, madly giggling and pressing buttons.  

At least she didn't purchase a ten dollar app like last time this happened.
Last week two of my Mommy friends came over with their children for a play-date.  18-month-old  twin boys and two 17-month-old  girls created a predictable cyclone of toys in Clara's room.  Us parents laughed as they pulled out every toy and book they could get their hands on, regarding it for mere seconds before tossing it in the growing pile in order to get something else.  Billie was digging around in Clara's crate of Duplos, pulling them out piece by piece with laser concentration.  That is, until her mother Sindy remarked in surprise: "Oh what's this?"  She reached over to Billie and pulled a perfectly preserved, dessicated Baby Carrot out of her daughter's tiny fist.

My first reaction was to be completely mortified - what kind of mother was I?  The kind that left a  baby carrot mummify in the toy box?  But instead I just laughed.  Maybe Clara thought she would save that carrot for later...a month and a half ago.  Or maybe she has a squirrel's instinct to bury food for the winter.  Either way I think I can place the blame squarely on my almost 18-month-old. At least the floor was vacuumed.

I swear that Clara grows an inch a day.  She has figured out that she can stand on tiptoes and run her hands over tabletops to see what kind of treasures her little hands can grab and pull down for a look-see. She is also determined to bounce across the couch and try to pull ornaments off our tabletop tree.  And let me tell you sad as I was to get a tiny tree this year, I am so happy not to have to contend with the smackdown that would occur between Clara and a giant tree resting in a stand on the floor.  Because believe you me, by the end of that battle Clara would be left standing (albeit covered in sap and probably wearing the tree skirt on her head) in the smoking pile of rubble that would be the toppled tree, broken ornaments, and billions of pine needle that had been ripped of the branches.

So far this Christmas, Tabletop Tree - 1, Clara - 0.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Purple and Turtle

Clara is full of energy and getting into everything which is why I was dreading the idea of being shut inside all winter with a toddler bouncing off the walls.  Going anywhere in the freezing cold is daunting with a small child and it turns out there are not a lot of structured activities or classes for under-2's.

Over the Spring, Summer and Fall I organized a meetup in the park for local moms with babies. We have a local yahoo group for parents and I posted there to see who might show up. I got a nice response - some became regulars, others drop-ins.  We spread out blankets and brought some toys to share.  It was a great way to meet other parents and have some adult conversation while the babies played.  I also thought it really helped the babies.  I could see Clara watching older kids who had mastered things she hadn't yet, and I could almost see the brain synapses firing.    Inevitably she would start doing something she had watched another baby do a week or so later.

But with the cold weather closing in around us, what could be done?  Along with a few other moms we have organized a weekly toddler playtime once a week in the Inwood Library Children's room.  We sing some songs, read some books and watch the toddlers play.  It is parent run - we came in and cleaned all the toys.  We set up the toys and clean up at the end of the hour.  But it's a huge success and Clara loves it.

This past Friday she amazed me by picking up a turtle figurine, bringing it to me and saying: "Turtle."  Then she picked up a dinosaur with purple spots, pointed to one of the spots and said: "Purple."  She smiled after each one, knowing she was rolling out something new for her Mommy. Just a little impressed with herself - and so she should be.  I applauded.

I think there should be more activities like this for children under two.  And not necessarily classes that cost money.  All of us parents want our children to grow and challenge themselves to do more. Organize something - you'll be surprised how many people show up.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

She's like...both of us.

It is amazing watching a baby become a kid.  Clara still has baby qualities but she is becoming more of a kid everyday.  She is starting to make up games and entertain herself - not always looking to me or her dad for inspiration.  Like when Gerald comes home from work and she smiles that clever little smile and bolts away, running on toddly baby legs, absolutely expecting her father to chase her all over the apartment.  Gerald happily obliges - often before putting down his bag or taking off his coat.

There are pieces of Gerald and me poking through. I can see how we influence her.  Clara loves books.  She loves to be read to.  She loves to read them herself. She loves to point to images in books.

Clara: (pointing emphatically)  "A-dah!"  "A-DAH." 

She either explaining what the pictures are or she's asking me to explain how the gorilla got the keys from the zookeeper. Either way, she is very excited.  That is totally me.  I love books.  I love where they take you.  It is my favorite escape and clearly, Clara loves them too.

She is also silly.  She is trying out comedy on us every day.  She thinks it's hilarious to tilt her head to the side and smile at us.  It makes her laugh even before we start laughing.  And that is totally her dad.  Gerald has always had silly little things he did to make me smile and laugh.  And now he's showing that to Clara.  

Interestingly, Clara has recently begun talking in her sleep.  It's amusing going in to check on her only to find her, butt up in the air, knees tucked under, totally asleep, happily babbling to herself.  What's even more hilarious is to go back to sleep beside Gerald, and hear him talking to himself (though lying on his back in a much more dignified manner).

She is growing up so fast it feels like we're on a speeding train.  Or as my friend Libby said: "It's madness! It's like we're on a flume slide to 18."  Well, I love flume slides.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Kiss and Hug.

I read about toddlers start forming attachments to dolls and hugging and kissing them.  I not-so secretly dreaded this because I hated playing with dolls as a kid.  My twin sister loved them and would make clothes for them and put them to sleep at night.  I hated them and would convince my sister that if she played Solarquest (my favorite board game) with me then I would play dolls with her.  Usually after the board game I would get up and run away.  

Fast forward to my first child.  Clara has been showing no signs of liking dolls.  Until this week...(cue scary music) But you know what, it is quite possibly the cutest thing I have ever seen in my life so I guess it's okay.

Today she got out two of her soft bowling pins - a donkey and a puppy.  She walked around her room, hugging and kissing them.  Then she put them in her pink toy stroller and started pushing them all over the apartment.  She would not slow down long enough for me to take a picture of her in action, so instead I present to you this image: Donkey and Puppy  in stroller. (right where she left them - in the kitchen.)

Donkey and Puppy -  Side by Side.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

A Halloween Update.

I was so excited that Clara was old enough to actually enjoy Halloween but I was worried that she would be upset wearing her costume or be upset by all the whole "knocking on doors and interacting with strangers" thing. Instead, Clara had a fabulous time.

We started off at our building's kick-off party.  Gerald got her into her costume with no fuss and she was happy to walk around with the bubble-wrap stuffed cone-shaped starfish top perched on her head.  (This from a girl who won't let a hair-clip stay in her hair.)  I also made some hats for me and Gerald from the same material I made her costume in.  I quickly found out that the polar fleece made me extremely hot.  Clara must have been very warm in her costume...but did she complain?  Nope.  Instead she happily ran around with the other kids in the courtyard. 
Clara and Lessia playing with ghost makeup...(flour.)
Max as Raphael. Clara as Patrick Starfish.

Then it was time to trick or treat.

At each door Clara went up and knocked.  When the door opened, she would take a pieck of candy in each hand and refuse to let go of it until we went to the next door.  When a bowl of candy was proffered, she would drop the candy in her hands and grab more.


At one door the neighbor said: "Who is it?"  Clara answered: "Cla-ra."

At one point we realized she was chewing on something.  Gerald pulled a foil-wrapped peanut butter cup from her mouth - she had chewed it enough to get some of the chocolate out.

At the last two doors we visited Clara got the hang of putting candy in her treat bag.

Through it all she was engaged, interested, and happy.  We have ourselves a Halloween-lovin' little girl.  (And she slept like a rock when we got home - 12 hours without a peep.)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Dear Halloween...I love you.

I love Halloween.  I love the idea of dressing up as your favorite character or as one you made up with your own imagination. I love that you can be scary, pretty, ugly, funny, or silly.  It is one day out of the year that you can play dress-up no matter what age you are. As we grow up too many of us give into the peer pressure from friends who think "Halloween is stupid.  Dressing up is stupid."  It isn't stupid - it is an amazing way to remember what is feels like to be a kid.  We grow up so fast in today's world...what's so bad about one day reserved for dressing up, collecting candy from neighbors who exclaim in delight at your costume, and maybe making a little mischief?

As a child my mother taught me how to sew by helping us to make our Halloween costumes. Her mother made all of her costumes too. We would choose our costume sometime in June.  Then we would buy the pattern and the fabric and spend the next 4 months putting it together.  It takes a long time for 7-year old hands to sew an entire costume.  But to this day I am a fantastic hand-sewer because of my forays in Halloween costume design.

My sisters and I were hard core about our costumes.  In the early years we did a lot of team costumes.  And by early - I mean that Becky and I were three and Sam was 8.

Snow White (Sam), Dwarf(Becky), Dwarf (Me)
Cinderella(Sam), Mouse in a dress( Becky), Mouse in a Dress (Me)
Peter Pan (Sam), Wendy (Becky), Tinkerbell (Me)
Mad Hatter(Sam), Alice (Becky), Queen of Hearts (Me)

 Here's me as the Queen of Hearts...Notice how I took artistic liberty and gave myself a heart shaped mole.

I also sometimes went totally off-story and made up my own character.  Two personal favorites were Dot the Clown and the always unique Pig Goblin.  You don't see many Pig Goblins these days...or ever.

Our costumes always had to be kick-ass and as a result we mostly won our school's costume contests.  As the years went on we got good enough that there were a few costumes thought to be too good for us to have made them, and so we were unfairly excluded from prize consideration.  Becky's Merlin costume in the 8th grade and this Donald Duck Samantha made were too good to be believed.  
I suppose our love for Halloween should have died out in High School but we all went to LaGuardia High School for Music and Art and Performing Arts and Halloween was not for the faint of heart.  If you weren't making your costume you didn't come to school.  And the Halloween Parade for best costume was always incredible.  I made the scissor-hands for my friend Sara the year she won for best costume as Edward Scissorhands.  I never won myself but I made a kick-ass costumes every year and so did all the guys I had gone to Junior High School with who were as hard core about Halloween was I was.  My sister Becky and I have continued to dress up and find fun Halloween parties to attend all of our adult lives.  High-school friends Vinny Bova and Sean Madden started a Halloween Party in NYC called the "Greatest Halloween Party Ever" a few years ago - mainly for all of us adults who refuse to let the Spirit of Halloween die. Here's some of my costumes from the past few years - it's just as fun when you're in your thirties as when you're ten, believe you me.

Heather Brown as Peg Bundy.  Me as Wonder Woman Mid-Spin.

Becky as 28 Months Later - the Zombies have infected New York...

And me As the Illustrated Woman.

Becky as Werewolf Toto and me as the Apple Tree from Wizard of Oz.
Two Halloween's ago  Becky, Sam, Gerald and I did a team costume.  We were waiters from the Regal Beagle from Three's Company. (We won for best team costume) at Aaron Simms' Ghoulish Good Time Party.  I wouldn't know it for two weeks...but I was pregnant in this photo.  Which technically means that Clara was wearing a costume even then...

 Which leads me to my lovely Clara and Halloween.  She has no choice.  She has to love Halloween.    Last year she was three months old.  I dressed her up as the Great Pumpkin from Charlie Brown and took her to a Halloween Party. I crocheted the pumpkin hat.  I was Sally Brown and Gerald (who came home to take pictures and then had to go to work) was Linus.

This year I have gone bigger with the costume.  She is going to be Patrick Starfish from Spongebob Squarepants.  I made the costume myself without the benefit of a pattern.  I think it looks amazing and if there was a costume contest she would win it.

It's the first year I haven't dressed up for Halloween in many, many years.  But seeing my little girl dressed in a kick-ass homemade costume makes it all worth it.  (That and she's totally going to let me eat her candy)  I can't wait to see what costumes she comes up with in years to come...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Welcome to the Zoo.

As I read Clara countless books about zoo animals and farm animals, and play with puzzles about zoo animal and farm animals, and watch cartoons about (you guessed it) zoo animals and farm animals...I wonder: Why does Clara need to know so much  about zoo animals and farm animals???  Sure they're fun...and talking about horses and cows and zebras is endlessly interesting to Clara.  (And I do mean endlessly.)  But is she destined for a career in animal husbandry? She lives in Manhattan...not in a little house on the prairie. This animal inundation must be to blame for the thousands of little children who want to be zookeepers and veterinarians when they grow up. 

Should I be worried that most of Clara's first words are animal sounds?  Today when I asked her "What sound does a cow make?" She smiled at me and said: "Moooooooo" for the first time.  Moo has expanded her repertoire of animal sounds which currently includes: Quack Quack, Cluck Cluck, Oooo Oooo Oooo (monkey sounds, in case you were wondering), Oink Oink, Woof Woof, and Meow (she does a dead-on impression of our cat, Pistachio).

Is there a psychology behind this?  Actual science?  Does quacking like a duck make toddlers smarter? Is it a conspiracy by children's book publishers to inculcate malleable minds with a love for animals?  Is a monkey doll cheaper for toy companies to manufacture than a Cabbage Patch kid? I suppose, the question really is, who can I blame for this?  I mean seriously, at least don't include the animals that don't make sounds.  (I'm looking at you, Giraffe.) You try thinking up what sound a camel makes when your kid is pointing to the picture and looking up at you for an answer. (I settled on: "Ptoo!" which is my version of a camel spitting.)  The other day at the swings another mom and I compared notes on fish sounds.  Her sound for a fish:  "Bloob Bloob."  I prefer: "Glug. Glug."

In the meantime I guess I'll move onto: "Clara, what sound does a sheep make?"

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Potty Time = Party Time

After reading endless suggestions and idea of how to introduce children to the potty and toilet training I decided to embark on the potty journey while suppressing shudders of dread at attacking this new, vital hurdle.

I started this with no knowledge of potty training.  Seriously, who does have experience with these things?  It turns out my mother felt boondoggled by the idea of potty training and passed that task off to my grandmother, Mimi.  I have heard vague stories of how she enticed us not to pee in our pants by giving us fancy underwear to wear.  But my grandmother passed away, taking her magical secrets of potty training to her grave.

There are many ways to approach potty training.  I understand that Clara is only 15 months and has quite some time to go before actually being able to reliably control her bowels.  But I did read about how children sometimes get afraid of the potty if it is introduced abruptly and that can  delay toilet training for months.  This made sense.  How is Clara to know what this new, child-sized chair/bowl thing that magically appeared in the bathroom one day is?

 First  you have to understand that since since Clara has been able to crawl I have had to throw bathroom privacy out the window, which means that Clara is always looking on with interest as I drop my pants to use the toilet.  As embarrassing as this is, you get used to it.

The introduction of the new potty has added a wrinkle to the "Mom and Clara go to the bathroom together with the door open" episodes.  When I sit down, I ask Clara if she would like to sit down and go pee-pee and then I sit her on the potty.  The first few times she sat down she immediately stood up and took the potty apart and threw it in the bathtub.  

A week into this process, she will sit and try standing and sitting back down herself.

Today, after getting home from a long walk in the park and feeding her lunch I decided I was too frazzled to sit Clara down and do the whole song and dance.  Lo and behold...Clara walked over to me and squatted like she wanted to sit on the potty, all with no prompting!  I moved her to the potty and she happily sat there while I finished up my business.

Of course...there are the situations that make me think she really isn't getting it.  Like this one - last night.  She had pulled all of the dollar bills out of my pocket and I found her in the bathroom doing this.

As my friend Sindy said when she saw this picture:  "Well, there's money down the toilet."

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Clara Meets A Cactus

Clara spends every day exploring the world around her.  She is bold and brave and gives me heart palpitations when she tries to climb up the crumbling cement stairs in the courtyard of my building. She has a very fuzzy sense of depth perception and seems to think walking off the edge of the slide works as well as sitting on her butt and going down.  It's all terrifying - but through it all I am trying to limit what I actually say no to.  For example - I say "No" when Clara reaches up and tries to fiddle with the oven burners.  I explain about it being hot and that she will get burned but I do not allow her to play with the oven knobs.  That's a firm "no."

I don't mind if she chews on sticks or leaves in the park but I do take away unfamiliar berries, small rocks, and pieces of garbage which she seems to want to chew on with equal enthusiasm.  I watch her carefully while she explores her environs.  I let her lead the way...unless she is leading us off the edge of a cliff or into the street.

Sometimes this relaxed parenting style bites me in the ass.  Take the other day.  I was showing Clara the herbs in our co-op's garden.  Anyone who lives in the building can take a few clippings of mint, rosemary, basil, oregano, or thyme to cook with.  I was bruising the leaves so Clara could smell the different herbs.  And then Clara's attention was inexplicably diverted to the one plant I didn't want her to touch - a cactus.  She squeezed past three pots and a dangling prism I hoped in vain would distract her to get to the dumpy looking cactus.  

ME: "Clara - don't touch that it will hurt - "

I should have saved my breath.  She reached down and snapped off a plump piece of cactus and held it out to me.

ME: "Clara - give that to me."

CLARA: "Hee..."

ME: "No really...give it to me"

CLARA"  "Hee hee..."

Laughing, she squeezed past the pots and toddled away, cactus in hand.  Luckily she quickly dropped the cactus in favor of a more interesting, much more squishy rotting tomato she found.

I wiped off her smelly tomato hands and picked her up.  She seemed unhurt and happy. The Cactus gods were smiling down on us.This was great.  Or so it seemed until I put Clara down and discovered a bunch of almost invisible cactus thorns up and down my arm.  The upside was almost all of the barbs seemed to have transferred themselves to my skin.  The downside - cactus barbs hurt and looking closely at Clara's hands I saw she still had some in her.

I carried her upstairs to our bathroom and proceeded to get the barbs out of her hand with  tweezers.  Tears pouring down her face, Clara looked like a bereft Hummell Doll. She was very mad at me, though she recovered quickly. 

I am torn between giving Clara the freedom to explore and trying to protect her.  Has she learned not to touch thorny plants?  Probably not. What have I learned?  Get to the cactus first.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hi...My name is...

Gerald and I have been subscribing to the theory that if you talk to your child a lot, then she will be verbal.  Or more verbal.  I don't know.  But it has seemed to work.  So far, Clara has learned to say: Bubble, Up, A-Cup, Bye Bye, Hi, Woof Woof, Quack Quack, Yes, Mama, and Dada.

I have to credit Gerald with the Mama and Dada part.  Anytime Clara said "Dada," Gerald would respond with:  "Yes. I'm Dada.  That's Mama. And you're Clara."  I take all the credit for Woof Woof and Quack Quack.

Yesterday while I was at work, something amazing happened.  Gerald was sitting in the chair in Clara's room as she played.  Gerald said: Yes, I'm Dada and you're Clara."  And Clara looked over at him and said: "Clara."  And then proceeded to respond to the question: "What's your name?" with "Clara" quite a few more times.

When I got home that night I asked her:  "Is your name Clara?" and she said: "Clara."

I wonder how long she's been thinking about saying her own name.  It's as if I can see her brain synapses firing and building the neural pathway that means: My name is Clara." along with the ones that mean: "One foot in front of the other is walking." and "This is how to drink from a cup."

Every day with a child is a revelation.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


I have always been a morning person.  I hate rushing out the door.  Pre-baby, I would get up an hour and a half before I had to leave for work so I could sip coffee, read a book, get ready at a human pace. I am also wide-awake and cheery in the morning.  In college I woke up five days a week at 4:15am to row crew and then worked in the theater department all night.  It was great. 

It comes as no surprise that Clara is a morning person too.  She happily chirps in her bed in the morning (usually sometime between 5:30 and 6) as the dawn light streaks into her room and smiles at me when I walk into the room.  I wonder if her chirps are her discussing my impending arrival with the elephant, seahorse, and Yankee Bear that inhabit her crib. 

In the past week she has added something to the routine.  Now when I walk in I am greeted with a happy, smiling baby who says: "Hiiiiii!" to me in her tiny, piping voice. It made me laugh out loud the first time she did it.  It seemed so adult.  And it takes the sting out of the fact that, though I am a self-proclaimed morning person, having only one or two mornings where I have slept past 6 am in the past 14 months can wear a little thin.  But my reward is a beautiful little girl who can't contain how glad she is to see her Mama. What more could I ask for?

Monday, September 09, 2013

No, Mom - I don't need your help.

Clara is 14 months.  She is a steady walker and very coordinated.  But she is still only 14 months.

A few days ago I put her on a bouncer-car thing in our toddler playground.  I showed her how to hold on and rocked it back and forth.  She like it but seemed worried and wanted to get off.

Today, she walked right over to it.

Me: "Clara, would you like to try this?"

Clara: "Esh."

I picked her up.  She immediately grabbed the handles.  I began to rock her back and forth and she yelled loudly and batted my hands away. I let go to see what would happen.  Would she fall?  Would she get scared?

Nope.  She grabbed on and rocked herself wildly back and forth, laughing her head off.  I even had time to snap a picture.  Look how her feet don't even come close to reaching the footrests.

I am amazed how independent she is becoming.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Birth Stories

I was incredible moved when I read this blog post written by the very talented Libby Emmons. (click here to read)  It wasn't about her playwriting - it was her birth story and her struggles  with her expectations of herself as a mother and the reality of being a mother.

I have organized a semi-weekly meetup in Fort Tryon park for new parents and their babies.  It's great for the children to interact and I think it's even greater that the new moms and dads get to talk with other people that are going through the same thing.  I have heard a lot of birth stories - some wonderful, some harrowing, some with a bit of both - but all of them share the fear of the unknown and how quickly we have to learn to adapt to these new, tiny lives we have been trusted with.

I think it's incredibly important to share your birth story and your experiences as a parent.  There are too many voices that scream: "If you don't do THIS you are a terrible parent." Instead, I like the women and men who say: "This is what happened to me - maybe something I did will work for you." Maybe it will.  

I went into labor at 11 am on.  Gerald and I were staying with his parents in their one bedroom apartment because the closing on our new apartment had been delayed until the week prior.  Gerald was getting ready to go into work.  We ate a nice breakfast and I said: Hmmm.  My back is really sore."  10 minutes later my back was really sore again.

Our slightly ridiculous but pretty much informative birthing class had told us to expect laboring at home for most of the day before going to the hospital.  They also said the contractions would start gently and be about an hour apart.  Mine quickly left the "uncomfortable" stage and progressed to the pretty intensely painful stage.  They were ten minutes apart for about 40 minutes.  Then they were six minutes apart.

At this point Gerald had called out of work and we decided to call our OB/GYN.  I talked to her and explained that the contractions seemed to be very intense and six minutes apart.  She thought we were probably wrong but should go to the hospital if we felt strongly about it.  The worst that would happen would be that the hospital would send us home.

Gerald started zooming around the apartment looking for what to bring but it was all already packed in a suitcase so he was just zooming around to blow off some steam.  I wasn't sure about leaving for the hospital - I didn't want to make the trip to be sent home again.  Contractions were 5 minutes apart.  A friend called to offer me free tickets to a performance of Nice Work If You Can Get It on Broadway that night.  I said: "Well, I don't think I can go.  I'm pretty sure I'm in labor."  Another friend called to catch up - and I finally ended the conversation with: "I think I need to go to the hospital now - I'm in labor."

I waddled to a cab with Gerald, hissing in pain.  In the cab ride over my contractions started getting extremely painful and were now 4 minutes apart.

We got to the hospital and went to Triage.  They whisked me inside and when Gerald tried to come with me they told him he had to wait outside for a few minutes.  They got me into a curtained section and I promptly threw up into a sink and all over the floor.  Gerald came in a few minutes later and they checked my cervix - 6 centimeters dilated.  I was taken up to labor and delivery.

At this point it had been about 2 hours.  For the next 4 hours my contractions were incredibly intense and 2 minutes apart.  I couldn't get comfortable and the pain was becoming unbearable.  I was naked except for that ridiculous hospital robe - all my sweaty lady parts flapping in the wind.  I was embarrassed for about  thirty seconds and then just gave up.  I was exhausted.  I was so sure I didn't want an epidural.  But the Doctor thought I would labor through the night.  If it was going to be this hard for that long I knew I couldn't do it.  

I sat still for the epidural for a half an hour.  The intern or resident mis-threaded it and someone senior had to come in and do it.  Blessed, blessed relief.  

A few minutes later the OB/GYN came in.  She told me my labor had slowed (it hadn't, the belly monitor had fallen off unbeknownst to both of us), and though she thought I would labor for another 10 or 12 hours she was going to check me out.

She looked inside and said:  Forget what I just said.  You're going to give birth in the next fifteen minutes.  Would you like to know what color her hair is?"  

10 sets of pushes, an episiotomy, and a slight poop accident later, Clara was born - lying on my chest while we waited for the placenta to stop pulsating before cutting the cord.  I wish I had known I was that close to giving birth, or that they had checked me out before giving me the epidural.  I would not have gotten it had I known I was that close. 

It took five days for my milk to come in.  Angry night nurses yelled at me that I was doing it wrong as I tried to breast feed every two hours.  When we took Clara home when she was three days old she spent the entire night crying.  Nothing was coming out of my breasts.

At our first doctor's visit the next day Gerald and I were jittery with fatigue and worry.  The pediatrician said: "She's hungry.  Why don't we give her a bottle? "  And we did and our little girl stopped crying and promptly fell asleep.  We gave her formula until my milk came it two days later and then I was in full on breastfeeding mode.

All those feelings they describe in books of your breasts feeling full enough to burst never happened to me.  Those pads you put in our bra to sop up milk leaks collected dust in the linen closet.  I seemed to be making enough for Clara but that was it.  I couldn't ever pump enough out for a bottle.  When I went back to work part time when she was three months old I couldn't pump more than a couple of ounces at work.  We had to supplement.  I met a lot of mom's who were exclusively breastfeeding and not using bottles.  They crowed: "My child has never even seen a bottle" or urged me to only breast feed with vague fears: "breast milk is the only way to go or their development will lag." They were very critical and it worried me.  What choice did I have?  What was the point in making me feel bad?

I had the intention of breastfeeding Clara for a year.  But one day, at nine and a half months - Clara walked away from my boobs. Well...she crawled.  She refused to breastfeed.  She was done.   It didn't matter that I wanted to breastfeed for another two months.  She was good to go.  "Bottle, please, Mama."

Every child is different and we all have become experts in our own children.  I have used quite a few tips proffered by other parents.  Some have worked: (a bowl of pacifiers by the bed so you don't have to hunt for the one that ended up under the bed in the middle of the night) and some haven't.  (Endless recommendations for sippy cups have all been rejected by Clara who would prefer to drink from a grown up cup at all of 13 months."

We need to do more of this for each other.  I want to hear your story.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sometimes They Teach You.

I have been trying rather sporadically to introduce Clara to the art of drawing with very little success.  She would wave the markers around and look at me as if to say: "This is supposed to be fun?  Lame, Mom."  The noted exception was Gerald's birthday card in January which Clara helped me with.

I love drawing.  I studied art.  I want Clara to love it too.  This morning as I was doing some work at my desk Clara came over and started pulling stuff off the bookshelves, as she is wont to do.  After a few minutes I looked down.  Clara had discovered a package of markers.  They were scattered around her and she was holding one in her hand, cap off, poised to draw.  

Amazed, I opened up a pad of paper for her.  I showed her how to draw with a green marker.  And that was it - Clara was drawing.  A dash of yellow, she would throw the marker away and grab another.  There were some stops and starts as she tried to figure out which end to put to paper and she colored her skin as much as the paper. But there she was - drawing.  She took a break to toddle around and try to eat the marker, then she went back for some finishing touches.

After she was finished with her matserpiece, she promptly went down for a nap.  I guess all those artistic brain synapses firing for the first time wore her out.

Yay!  We have art for the refrigerator!

The First Pass.

Finishing Touches.

The Masterpiece.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Clara, don't do this.

A short piece I wrote about my childhood was published in the 2013 Summer issue of The Southampton Review.  Reading it makes me remember at how much trouble my sisters and I got away with as children and in hindsight, it’s all extremely funny. But then I tallied  up all my bad kid karma points and  wondered when my “what goes around, comes around” karma will come back to haunt me.

And then it hit me.  Clara.

She’s a kid, like I was a kid.  I have been witness to the mischievous glint in her eye as she toddles over to the nightlight and contemplates pulling it out of the socket. Looking at me with a sly smile that seems to say: “You lady, just look over there for a minute, will ya’?” 

All I ask is that Clara waits a few more years before discovering how awesome matches can be.

Here’s the  story from my childhood. (Clara…don’t do this)

Water Bombs
By Jeannine Jones

A friend made on the other side of the building first introduced us to the thrill of throwing something out an open window.  Katherine would glob up a giant wad of toilet paper with her mother's Noxema face cream and throw that hellish snowball out the window onto unsuspecting passerby on Broadway. From her eleventh floor apartment we could occasionally hear the faint cries of outrage as Katherine's Noxema Bombs hit home.
            Back home in our ninth floor apartment, Becky and I lacked the courage to throw anything out the window that might actually hit someone.  Lucky us, our dining room overlooked a nearly-always empty courtyard.  The (almost) sure knowledge that no one was ever down there proved an impossible temptation to resist.
            Our weapon of choice began small - the foldable sandwich baggies we used to pick up our dog's poop up off the street, due to the recently passed Curb Your Dog law. One small baggie filled with water, dropped out the window made a satisfying PLIP. This was soon followed by two, then three, then even four at once - increasing the PLIP to a CLAP as the water made contact.
            Friends invited over for playdates and overnights would marvel at our daring.  Weren't we afraid of being caught?  The answer, simply, was no.  Located conveniently one apartment below us were two brothers, close in age, whose parents got regular visits from the doorman complaining of water bombs in the courtyard.
            Over the years, the sound of small, water-filled baggies striking the ground was no longer novel.  We graduated to plastic produce bags (THWACK!) and even to the larger bags our groceries came in (WHUMP!).
            One night, inspiration struck. I ran to the kitchen to get a trash bag.  Not one of those wimpy white ones for small apartment trash cans, but a HEFTY Lawn and Leaf bag.  With the help of my friend Rob, we filled it as far as we dared in the bathtub. Double knotted and too heavy to carry, it undulated across the floor like the Blob as we pushed it towards its demise.
            It hung there a moment, suspended in the sill, as if deciding which way to go. It slowly gained speed, oozed out the window and sailed into the night air. Endless seconds of silence passed.  Then - like a cannon firing off a shot we were greeted by a reverberating BOOOOOOOOM that rattled windows in their frames.
            We stifled screams and hysterical laughter and hid beneath the Dining Room table - safe in the knowledge, that in a few short minutes, the boys who lived downstairs would be getting a knock on their door.  I would like to say this was the juvenile act of a child.  I was 19.