Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I had friends with toddlers over the other day, and the visit happened to coincide with Ben's usual lunchtime, so I hauled his be-boostered chair from the kitchen into the living room and proceeded with his parade of solids: dreary-ohs (generic organic oat circles), small strips of whole wheat bread, spoon-fed full-fat cottage cheese, quick-microwaved green peas, and spoon-fed stewed-fruit mush (usually apple, pear, and blueberry). For Ben, this is kind of a light lunch. Generally I'd throw another veg in there, like greenie beanies or little cubes of sweet potato or broccoli florets. And maybe a cracker. And some yoghurt.

Anyway, the moms were impressed with the quantity and variety of his lunch foods, and his ability to get so much of it into his mouth himself. And because eating, like sleeping, is one of those parenting minefields, I was feeling pretty proud of myself for managing it so well and creating out of whole cloth this wonderful, enthusiastic eater.

Yeah, except if I took credit for how he eats, I'd have to take credit for how he sleeps. No, thanks.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Clothes that Don't Suck

Boys are harder to name and harder to clothe, and it's for the same reason: smaller groups from which to choose and less variation within the group. But I like a challenge.

Here's what I don't like:

1. Appliqu├ęs. I'm sure, in theory, there are cute ones. But I have yet to see one. Mostly they're just horrible, and scratchy on the inside to boot.

2. Sports themes, with two exceptions (Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles licensed merch). Trucks and construction themes are moderately less irritating. I object on general principles to the neurotic desire to mark infants with gender identifiers, and I object more specifically to assigning sports, transportation, and tinkering to boys (long before they could possibly develop these interests), but really I mostly object because these garments are wicked ugs.

3. Mottoes that reference mommy, daddy, bodily functions, or irritating behavior for which an infant can't be held responsible. Especially icky are the ones that proclaim a parent's beauty or prowess.

4. Mottoes or themes that suggest strongly that parents are far too cool to be parents. It's the middle-aged hipster version of "I got my looks from Mommy," and it reads just as sad.

5. Over-embellishment. Look at the adult clothing departments of any store, and at least a third of what you see will be solid color basics. Now try to find anything solid-colored in the baby department. Try to find just stripes, or just a print. Good luck.

So it's clear what I do like: plain, simple, comfortable, well-constructed clothes in good colors that don't have anything to prove. Cotton knits with plenty of room to move. Bonus if they're made with turn-back cuffs that give you some extra grow room. Bonus if they don't cost an arm and a leg.

Here's where I've found them:

1. Old Navy. Guilty of ugliness and dumb mottoes, but they're also pretty good at providing some solid-color basics. And for cheap (especially on sale, and there's always a sale) stuff, it holds up pretty well, too.

2. Hanna Andersson. Arm and a leg, fo reals. But their sales are worth waiting for. I'm a huge fan of the wiggle pant, and the Swedish moccasins are one of two things I can put on Ben's feet that stay on. And, good grief, is anything in the world cuter than their jackets?

3. H&M. (They don't have online shopping, the freaks.) The more I try other brands, the more impressed I am by the quality of cheap-as-dirt stuff from H&M. It's the only place I know I can reliably find solid-color onesies and wicked cute stripey t-shirts in excellent colors. That wear like iron.

4. Lands End. (I refuse to play ball with their weirdly-placed apostrophe. Just how many lands are they at the end of, exactly?) Ben has a cabled sweater and a lightweight fleece "sweater" that he's almost always wearing, and they've worn well through dozens of washes and show every sign of making it all the way from fall to spring with a fast-growing kid.

5. Target. Their house brand, Circo, is decent, good-looking stuff at rock-bottom prices. I adored their cotton-knit footie pyjamas, ($5.99! and snaps, not a zipper!) which only go up to 9 mo size, more's the pity.

6. Zutano. (Which I used to get at Bugs & Blossoms, but they've sadly gone out of business.) They're not cheap, and they can be a bit hit-or-miss, and the sizing is kind of random: Ben is currently wearing 6-12 mo in tops and jackets, 12-18 mo in pants, and 18-24 mo in overalls. But for cute all-over prints and fabulous baby fleece, you can't beat 'em.

7. Kate Quinn Organics. I've already blogged my love, and my love is true and unfading.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Drudgery: Not So Much

I wouldn't go so far as to say it's all delight, but there's very little drudgery these days. So little that I regret my choice of title -- I feel basically happy as a parent, and it bothers me a bit that the name of my blog suggests otherwise.

What drudgery there is comes more from being the at-home adult than from being a parent. It's dishes and laundry and vacuuming. And, to be fair, Andy as the working adult does a great deal of household drudgery, too -- it's not like he comes home from work and puts his feet up and demands bourbon and steak.

The delights lately are mostly about watching Ben develop skills. He's such a little dynamo of development, I feel sometimes like I'm watching him in time-lapse photography. My job is to strike the right balance of helping: helping enough, but not helping so much that my help prevents his work. And so sometimes my job is just to sit on the sofa and knit or read while he does his baby work on the floor, picking up toys one by one and examining them, testing their limits, or practicing getting from his hands and knees to hands and feet. He looks up at me every once in a while and we trade big grins -- we're both very pleased at his progress. And I love that doing my parenting work now involves entertaining myself, too.

He's also just a lot of fun to be around. He's gone from being a very fussy little baby to being a generally happy big baby. He grins and giggles and babbles and flirts and is just generally a joyful little person. I have to be in a very foul mood indeed for his delight in life not to rub off on me.

Which is not to say that we don't have rough patches. He's teething, and that means sometimes the very foul mood is his, and he refuses to nap and gets colossally cranky or has no patience and cries every ten minutes no matter where I put him or what I do. And these bad patches are made worse by the rotten weather we've been having, because generally, no matter how crappy a mood we're in, getting out into the fresh air of the park or even into the car to run some invented errands restores both our attitudes. But that doesn't work when we're getting ten inches of snow.

And sleep remains a recurrent source of discomfort and worry. We did a bit of a sleep-training refresher course a couple weeks ago, and though it was tough for a couple of nights, I think it made a significant improvement. A small outcropping of the sleep issue is the sad briefness of his naps. It's not a problem in terms of his getting the right amount of rest -- it's just that I would really enjoy having more than thirty or forty minutes twice a day to myself, but that doesn't seem to be in the cards.

But really, big picture: this is fun. I enjoy parenting, and feel generally competent. The delight far, far, far outweighs the drudgery.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Andy, for all his resistance to woo-woo crap and embrace of left-brain rationalism, is a big believer in the jinx. Me, not so much. Any kind of luck that needs to be maintained by keeping mum is not the kind of luck I'm ever going to have as a bosom buddy.

But about the kid's sleep, I can't help it. If he sleeps through one of his two usual overnight feedings, I hesitate even to mention it to Andy, lest I wake the Jinx Powers from their own light slumber. I write blog entries when he's sleeping poorly, mention my distress on forums, but when things are going well, OH GOD SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP.

When he still slept in the bassinet in our room (and I use the term "slept" very loosely), just the tiny click of my putting my glasses down on my bedside table would sometimes wake him. I was convinced it was a kind of jinx. I wasn't really attempting to sleep unless I took my glasses off. If my glasses were on, why, I was in a state of catlike readiness, and wouldn't be at all bothered if the baby started wailing again and required another forty minutes of nursing. It probably wasn't even the sound -- it was probably a coincidence, two nights in a row when he happened to wake within ten seconds of my setting the glasses down.

And yet here I am, nearly four months after moving the boy into his own room, as much time in his own room as in ours now, and I can't help but put my glasses down gingerly, wincing if they happen to click.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Crap vs the Heirloomery

A silver porringer. A silver cup. A bright yellow sweater. Velour overalls. These are relics of my own babyhood that have an active place in Ben's.

I fed him baby cereal from the porringer at every meal for a while there, until the charm faded a bit when his menu expanded and created even more dishes and I didn't feel like hand-washing the bowl three times a day. The silver cup is in the box of toys next to his green chair in the kitchen. It gets pulled out and handled and chewed on many times every day. Every so often I put a splash of water in it and hold it to his lips, tip it back, and see what happens. When he's ready to use a cup, it will be his first.

The sweater is getting lots of use lately in the wicked cold snap we're having. My mother made it for me. I'm doing some knitting myself now for Ben, and I tend towards chunky yarn and big needles for fast knitting, but Mom's project was way more ambitious: it's minutely knit of fine wool, but sturdy, and it's held up marvelously and is as useful an object as it is nostalgic and charming. The overalls, too. Mom ordered them from Switzerland, which, back in the 70s with no Internet (and did they even have phones?), what a project! They're great stretchy, soft, super-sturdy little numbers, though, and they, too, are employed for use as much as memory.

There are some other objects, though, of which I've also taken custody, that don't translate into use. There's the fine cotton bib with delicate embroidery, which I'm sure I'd have to hand-wash, and which might not stand up to it. This is a relic of Mom's babyhood which was pressed into service again for mine. There's the little silver chain with two clips shaped like duckies; one is supposed to clip a washcloth and use it as a bib, and back in the days before Velcro, I'm sure it represented a convenience. Now it seems fiddly and precious and time-wasting.

There are things from Ben's babyhood I'll pack away, hoping he or a subsequent kid will someday provide me with grandchildren and want to use. The silver cup and porringer, certainly, and the clothes, providing they make it through my kids' use. Sweaters I'll knit myself, and well made baby clothes I've come to love. Maybe one or two of the nicer wood baby toys, to which I've grown unaccountably attached. But none of the useful objects of babyrearing: not the spoons or bowls or cups, not the bibs, not the chairs (though I'm thisclose to buying the kid a Svan). So many of these things of daily use are well made for their purposes, which means easy to sponge off or machine wash, or thoroughly disposable, and therefore in no way candidates for heirloomery. Which is fine. I'm enough of a packrat without falling in love with every bit of baby gear. And if I'm tempted to bewail our culture's sad tendency towards the plastic, the crappy, the disposable, I just think about the entire day every week my grandmothers had to devote to nothing but washing clothes, and how much cleaning a baby created back before all these crappy but convenient products, and I thank my lucky stars.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I've never been fashionably svelte, but I've never crossed the line into overweight, either. I'm tall (5'8"), so I can carry a bit of pudge without really looking like it, and I have broad hips and shoulders, so even at my skinniest, I never look thin. I think the thinnest I ever was was in my early twenties when I fell in love for the first time and stopped eating and found that suddenly I was a size 8 and 125 lbs. Through my twenties, I generally weighed between 130 and 140, size ten. After hitting 30 and settling down, I hovered around 150, size 12.

I quit smoking right before getting pregnant, so I went from about 150 to about 160 just as I started to pack on the pregnancy pounds. I wasn't concerned about it -- I was far too happy to have quit successfully to give myself a hard time about ten pounds. I put on a little more weight while pregnant than doctors generally advise. I think by the time Ben was born, I was up to around 190. Maybe it was more. I stopped looking at the scale, because: why?

I lost 15 lbs licketty-quick: 8 lbs 14 oz of Ben, plus placenta and fluids. Wow, did I ever feel thin!

And I knew that it could go either way with breastfeeding, that women either lost a bunch of baby weight while nursing (and then had to be careful about putting it back on when they weaned), or else they hung on to the baby weight while breastfeeding and only began losing after they weaned. I rather blithely assumed I would be in the former group, but it turns out I'm in the latter.

Towards the end of summer, when I had regained the energy and stamina to take Ben on long walks in the park every day, sometimes a couple of times a day (he found it soothing, and I enjoyed the lull in the screaming), I started to lose some weight, and celebrated this wonderful miracle with the purchase of some non-elastic-waist pants. Alas, soon after that, the crappy weather set in, and, hurray, Ben calmed down significantly, but it meant I wasn't motivated to take him for walks, and I put the pounds back on and glared at the pants now mocking me from the depths of my own closet.

Still, I was nursing, and not really the dieting type anyway. I bought some more elastic waist pants and gave myself a break.

But we're seven and a half months out now, and break time is over. I was at the doctor's office yesterday, and I looked at the scale: 177 lbs. Before you think to scold me that nursing mothers shouldn't diet, take heart: I am in no way the sort of person to deny myself to the extent that it could possibly hurt Ben. I am no crash dieter. But it's time to make a real effort at exercise and pay much closer attention to how much and what I'm eating.

To which I say a resounding PHOOEY. Wish me luck.