Saturday, November 19, 2011

Baby bullies, Part 1

Tonight I managed quite a feat-- I garnered several horrified faces from fellow parents of little kids. We were attending Tot Shabbat services at our synagogue and my little Josh was dancing around the rabbi trying to keep his yarmalkah on. The kids were running amuck as usual while the adults sang along to the simple songs in Hebrew, English,Yiddish and a smattering of words from no particular language such as "bim-bom."

My Joshy was about to get pushed down for the fourth time by an otherwise adorable curly-haired three-year-old half a foot taller than him, when I intervened. I'm not sure why I did it. I'm not sure that I decided to do it. I am sure I was immediately red-faced, ashamed and imploringly apologetic. I babbled for a good minute about why I did it and why I shouldn't have and what I should have done-- tell them and let them deal with it obviously--O blatant hindsight!

In that split-moment, I must not have had enough time to pull Josh away. I must not have been able to block him either. In that partial-second, that curly-haired toddler transformed into every monster of my childhood-- the pretty little girls who didn't want to play with me, the teenage boy that mocked me for being an observant Jew by singing prayers at me on the school bus. The incessant laughter of children emotionally torturing an innocent must have been swirling like a tornado in my amygdala.

And I grabbed the boy's arm as it was about to come down on my son.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Lentils for boys big and small


With ten weeks to go before my return to work I've been reflecting on the idea of a schedule, which my free-spirited non-planner husband loves to mockingly call shed-jule, as if it were for boring people and chumps.

After teaching high school and living on a rigid forty-two minute bell schedule for nine years, my leave with Joshy has been such a relief. We meet up with other moms for playdates when we are up for it, we nap when we are tired and bedtime happens at various times depending on whether we napped that day.

So I'm realizing my go-with-the-flow lifestyle is one of the many losses I'm experiencing in preparing to return to work.

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Thursday, September 29, 2011


Joshy has an endearing habit of picking up items around him and handing them off to people nearby-- he hands me globs of dusty cat hair, he hands his grandpa pieces of mail and he hands strangers pieces of toys he finds. So it was no surprise when he plopped himself by the trainset in what we fondly call Barnes and Nobes today between a little boy and his dad and began handing off worn down scratched up Thomas trains to the elder. He did what most of us would do politely took each piece with a smile and after thanking him, placed them back with their train engine comrades on the big wooden set. The surprising part (which maybe shouldn't have surprised me) was when Josh passed a toy to the man's son. It was a plastic magenta wing with assorted colors swirling around a sticker on its side. The boy quickly inspected it and refused it, slapping it to the ground with a firm, "girl toy!"

I think it's so beautiful to see my Joshy in this pre-gender-role state-- he loves trucks and he loves baby carriages-- both have wheels, which is pretty much all he cares about. He loves his overstuffed lion and he loves his fluffy "Mr. Pinky Head" doll--they are both soft. He loves grabbing Mama's purple hat and his bro's skull baseball cap-- both go on and off his little head while he makes silly faces of glee. How much longer do I have before he shuns his pink-headed toy and worries butterfly toys have cooties?

As I ponder this, I find myself in need of more cloth dipes before I go back to work. When I posted on all my favorite mama Facebook pages that I'm looking to trade or buy more fuzzibunz for Joshy's buns, I immediately got an offer that would test my ability to withstand gender roles for Joshy and his "bunz"-- pink and purple size mediums! Procrastinating any color-based gender-role decision, I offered to trade, but not buy the dipes-- way to go half-way mama!

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Toddlers and the spiritual life

What role should Gd play in my little boy's life? He's seventeen months and can only say a handful of words-- at least ones I understand. He loves to wear a yamakah when we attend Tot Shabbat at synagogue, but then again he loves all hats, and wears my underwear as a hat quite often. How do I enrich his spiritual life?

When I say my prayers in the morning and night and in between it is always silent-- a kind of Gd-reads-my-mind sort of thing. Occasionally I remember to include Joshy by saying these thoughts aloud. They are usually simple and cliche prayers of gratitude or requests for aid of some sort. When I say them out loud they sound so silly and uncreative to me, not as heartfelt as I'd like. But does that mean they aren't good enough for my son to hear?

Does the metaphor of Gd as a parent and we his children apply any more literally than here? Joshy has faith that I'm always going to take care of him, but who takes care of mama?

My boy loves people, he is naturally social and he's teaching me to see the light of goodness in each person, no matter what. When a man was rude to me Joshy smiled at him, part of me was thinking "save your smiles for nice people," but the truth was this guy needed it. What can be more disarming than a smile from a baby to a stranger?

Please post comments on how your spiritual life intersects with mommyhood of your little one.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Toddler playground

He heads for the bucket swingset, but detours toward
A broken black flip-flop, plastic cilia shaped for a forgotten foot.
"No baby, that's garbage."
His lower lip rises as he looks up with indignant tears,
As if to say,
"Don't you love me?
If you do, then you love this,
For I am happy at play."

I scoop him up so quickly
He drops his treasure in a patch of weeds.
"Look at this bird, baby."
He rushes toward the robin, then the swingset, then me.
I look down at my feet and at the forlorn shoe nearby.

I want to remind him, to make him remember,
To assuage my guilt at helping him forget, a power I no longer want.
His smile begins wide on the swing and within a few minutes it is another happiness forgotten.
"Baby, I take you off?"
He pouts and the robin finally flits off.

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Monday, July 4, 2011

Fourth of July

Fireworking in 2011

A Monday Fourth of July apparently means a weekend of fireworks. We saw them in three different towns, including our own. Each time Joshy was crying and miserable. Each loud burst, rather than startling him, just seemed to build up in a crescendo of crankiness. He seemed not so much scared, but annoyed, as if he were telling me, "C'mon, I know this sucks, you know this sucks, so let's just cut the patriotic bs and get outta here."

I couldn't help but look back both nights at the fiery flower bursts in the dark. I marveled not at their beauty though, but at their price-tags. All the area towns could somehow muster up enough pocket change to foot what must be thousands of dollars in fireworks display and insurance bills. Only last week the state passed a bill that is going to cost my family tens of thousands of dollars in my reduced salary to keep the crooks in Trenton from going broke.

Each burst of color seemed like a thousand of my future dollars bursting in air. A hot pink Saturn-shaped explosion was the new dryer we won't be able to buy, a flashing multi-tiered sparkly blue one, a trip to Yellowstone my son wouldn't see. Resentment was burning hot in my belly and my baby was crying, the screams becoming more a protest for his future, an anti-patriotic yelp against The Man, than anything else.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tv, mommy and me

I'll never forget the distinct guilt that beset me after my first tv session with Josh. I had discovered the soothing, near-hypnotizing power it had over him when he was a couple months old. By then I had seen on multiple blogs and heard from multiple attachment-style mommies' mouths that tv could damage my baby's brain, eyes, ears and future intellect-- or what would be left of it.

I got up the nerve to live on the protective mama edge and watch a couple hours of Sprout with him on a day I was so sick and fevered that I can't even call it a conscious decision, but rather a survival strategy.

For those of you who abstain from baby-aimed tv, you are missing a world quite psychedelic actually. Sprout, along with its cousin, Nick Junior, along with several permutations and relatives that inhabit a twelve-channel continuous span on my Fios remoteprovide deliciously tempting twenty-four hour a day mommy breaks.

Sprout alone though, has the built in mama-guilt reliever of being associated with PBS somehow,despite its strange and disturbing commercials for debt-relief companies starring the likes of daytime tv has-been Montel Williams, who coincidentally hosted the only tv show I've ever been on as an audience member or as anything for that matter. While that does make his get-out-of-debt-to-them-and-into-debt-with-us scheme slightly less sinister, it does little to keep me or my son from indulging in our now-nightly habit of watching the seemingly interminable "Good Night Show" with "our friends, Nina and Star." Nina is a pajama-clad thirty-something who smiles without moving her eyebrows or revealing any other sign of genuine happiness and Star is a stuffed five-prong infantile entity, with whom she engages with in a passive-aggressive bedtime battle each night. She provides him and the babies at home with convenient delay tactics, such as matching games, arts and crafts and toothbrushing-instruction, complete with a dancing toothpaste-glob family.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Tofu Stix for the fam

1. Drain and dry firm tofu in between two towels.  Two packs roughly fills a full size cookie tray with two rows of "stix".
2. Cut tofu chunx in half the long way, then the short way about ten times to get stick structure.
3. Spray generously with cooking spray. Sprinkle with a lot of salt and pepper.
4. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes. Take out and put a little BBQ sauce on each stick.  Bake another fifteen to twenty minutes.
5. Enjoy crispy stix of protein-filled yumminess!!!

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Freedom from Want

I took a speed-walk (wannabe jog rather) with myself tonight--the new nearly-thirty-three-year-old version of myself that is.

I intended to do a walking meditation and reflect, but instead ended up perhaps over-reflecting. I've always been a painfully self-conscious, overly-self-aware kind of person, something that I un-ironically knew about myself and accepted in the way one accepts a chicken pox scar--meaning, it was there, I was there and that's that.

I've been obsessing most lately on house repair starting about eight months ago. When a nearly-completely corroded copper pipe in our Victorian-style and Victorian-age house finally kicked the bucket (no pun intended?) we ended up with a raining ceiling, with tiles folding like cardboard and with a couch on its way to a moldy death.

"Like a good neighbor," State Farm replaced everything, but like a bad neighbor sent us a threatening letter a few months later insisting that we complete a laundry list of repairs on our home within ninety days. We have about fifteen days left.

Well, stress and worry are my fortes so I jumped right on this. I called contractors, did interviews, research, talked to neighbors (real ones not the State Farm mofo ones!) all between fussing over my sweet Joshy.

So what do I see when I walk contemplatively in my town? Siding, porches, windows, paint jobs, and ok, a few ridiculously Rockwellian kids climbing trees and playing ball on the lawn. I find myself creating an envy-green home for myself-- a Frankenstein creation of parts coming together into a giant conglomeration of The Best House.

But I feel guilty as heck of course. I don't want to want stuff. Don't covet your neighbor or something? So I look in a window at a family poised for dinner--looks like am extended one with a few gray heads and a few little heads. As I begin to piece their conversation together in my mind, I don't hear anything polite. This adorable family is quite cranky, with their lovely blue gingerbread siding and their well-manicured landscaping. They aren't miserable, just irritable, just ok, and I am starting to feel ok too.

hecking out all the houses in my town.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Thrills, Spills and the Bible, Part 1

This weekend began early with a 2 am vomit party starring baby Joshy and located in our bed. Would we rather clean up baby barf in the middle of the night or put down a couple towels and attempt to place mind over matter and pretend it's not there? Well, we woke up with it, so there you go.

It was a most auspicious beginning to a weekend full of surprises in both liquid and psychological form. As for Josh, he did quite well. His little buddies at our playgroup suffered far more--multiple vomit sessions, diarrhea sessions and general misery for them and their poor mamas. Little did we know though that the Ides of February had much more in store.

By Friday morning I had a fever and couldn't even look at food. My greatest fear came to fruition around noon--Josh had pooped his dipe and I would have to interact with poop without losing my lunch (or breakfast rather.). Gd works in mysterious ways and held my stomach intact despite a chunky-poo filled butt-wiping session. But Gd also tests us and he had much more suffering in store for my family.

It's been years since I had a fever and forgot what it feels like--you literally feel like you are dying, that no one on earth is as uncomfortable as you and that that particular moment of suffering will go on for all of eternity, a damnation of sorts. Although in my case, I had my poor little guy crawling all over me, crying for attention, not allowing me to just sleep off the torture.

I sucked up what dignity I have retained and called my parents, who were just finishing up helping my sis with her new baby in North Jersey and were headed back to Long Island for a baby-free weekend of naps. I knew they would try to say no so I went straight to begging and crying. My mom, the tougher of the two, said "I'm sorry honey, but I am just too stressed right now, I have to get home." My dad, thank Gd, after deliberating for a good half hour, agreed to come save me from what I now hoped was merely Purgatory.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Too cute to love hazards

Baby Bubble?

The most salient piece of truth I've learned about babies is that they are virtually suicidal. Josh bangs his head into furniture, walls, people and other objects at minimum four times a day. Just as he progresses to a new milestone, his capacity for hurting himself increases, seemingly exponentially. I heard you can purchase baby helmets to relieve this sort of common ailment, but being hard-up for cash, I just put the kid in a hoodie sweatshirt everyday. In twenty years, he'll look at his baby albums and wonder why every photo has him hooded like a tiny Klansman in-training.

As I bemoaned Joshy's penchant for hurting himself, my stepson Noah, who is nearly thirteen, sarcastically told me to wrap the boy up in bubble-wrap or put him in a plastic bubble. Ignoring his tone, I told him the wrap is a choking hazard, and my husband agreed the bubble ball is too. Well, I must have these guys trained, because my other stepson Shay, at eight, quickly corrected him, saying "no, Daddy, it's a suffocation hazard." Joshy's bros can sure categorize hazards.

My favorite hazard is the cord on the baby monitor camera. This one wins because of the laughable-cryable nature of the ironic twist (no pun intended) that I bought it to be super-safe and make sure my little dude was breathing every second I could possibly stay awake, and yet the thing killed two babies recently. In a more horrible twist, the kids died because their parents placed the camera on the ledge of the crib, wire dangling down the side, within reach of the baby, which is exactly how I had it, being unable to find a more suitable permanent location. The best part is my mommy buddy posted a link to it on Facebook and the mamas we know agreed only a truly dumb-ass parent would put it there. No comment from this dum-dum, except that I can feel slightly relieved knowing he has never slept a night in the crib anyway.

Perhaps my little one doesn't yet understand the concept of pain, mainly that it's something to be avoided. Lately he has taken to manhandling me or anyone else brave enough to pick him up. He sticks his claw-like fingertips under my lip, pulling downward; he violently swings a small chunk of hair that has rebelliously decided to dislodge itself from the protective ponytail; he pinches my nose, twisting it and dragging my head along for the ride. When I say the standard "No, you are hurting your mama," in the requisite scolding tone, looking him in the eyes so it's clear I'm serious, he always smiles and often giggles, as if this were truly hilarious.

The most suicidal characteristic of the baby though is the urge to put any object in his mouth. I recently saw Josh gleefully smiling after sticking a small particle in his mouth. Assuming it was a little piece of cheese that fell earlier I figured I wouldn't worry. Something about the semi-demented happy look on his face though told me I should inspect it. Well, somehow a piece of wood ended up in his play-yard. Kid was enjoying a delicious wood morsel.

Needless to say, I now scan the play-yard for bits of Gd-knows-what that he might enjoy sampling. However, just because it's not there when I put him in it, doesn't mean he won't produce a piece of non-edible mouth-treats. Yesterday morning I cleaned out my purse (which of course was filled with Cheerios crumbs and expired Buy Buy Baby coupons crumpled among the bits of rejected cereal). Meanwhile my little guy, amused himself playing in his play-yard nearby. Three minutes later, I move closer to make sure all is well, only to the horror of a black mush hanging out of the side of his mouth and a bit more of it pasted to his cheeks. In a terrible minute, I searched for clues as to what this strange object could be. Hoping it was merely a forgotten prune, I tried to calm myself. I quickly discovered a trail though of black bits of what seemed to be blueberry bits, leading to his back. I lifted up his sweatshirt and Gd, no! There were yesterday's blueberries, coming up the back of his diaper!

I called my father again. (This was my second panicked call of the day, the first being a problem with Joshy's weenie that really I'm not going to talk about here.) My dad told me not to worry, so I figured this was common, asking for reassurance with a "my sisters and I did this when we were babies too, right?" "Oh no, you girls never did. We always changed your diapers right away. We were really on top of that." This was slightly less reassuring, but overall the conversation did leave me slightly relieved of the guilt of being a crappy mom. (Again people, no pun intended.)

I'm not sure when Joshy will stop trying to hurt himself, but until then I may need to give up my few remaining simple pleasures in life--showering, sleeping, eating and pooping. I will be a dirty, cranky, hungry, constipated bee-och, but at least my baby will live till his first birthday.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Where does lost sleep go?

I jolted myself into a new level of linguistic awareness today when I heard myself say to my good friend, who like me had a cranky baby in tow, "Okay, well, I'm gonna get my 'soygurt' and then you can wait at the thing and I'll meet you at the thing." I meant you can go pay at the register and I'll meet you at the table. The problem was not that she didn't understand me--she speaks mommy-ese too I guess.

The problem was that, despite my ability to get a fluffy technicolor dreamcoat of a baby seat cover on that Whole Foods shopping cart and put a mental block on the fact that my son is saturating every box of overpriced veggie-burgers in my cart with his adorable saliva, I can't remember the words for the most basic everyday items--like table!

Six months ago I easily attributed my newly acquired lack of linguistic variety and precise word choice to my inability to read as much as I was reading when I was teaching high school, before I went from Mrs. Vitale to Joshy's Mommy. That worked fine in quelling the sting of my damaged ego in this dramatic loss of communication skills. I re-read Bronte, I re-read Austin. Surely some Victorian literature could resuscitate my linguistic prowess.

Well, I nearly blinded myself reading a couple thousand pages on my IPhone screen and I refreshed my nineteenth-century husband-hunting skills (not so useful for a twenty-first century married chick) but I still found myself at a loss in day-to-day conversations.

I faced embarrassing situations at playgroup--"So which one of those-things-that-babies-sit-on-while-they-eat should l get?" Even moms that don't give their kids organic home-made baby food know what those are called--even moms that feed their babies whipped cream squirted from a can to the kid's mouth know it. (Actually my husband did do this a couple weeks ago, laughing hysterically as I looked on horrified.)

Did I hit my vocabulary rock-bottom there though? No, a few weeks later I was hanging laundry on the line in the backyard (with my Joshy strapped to me in the Bjorn) and dropped a clothespin off the back deck. It took me nearly five minutes to explain to my stepson Jesse what it was that I was hoping he could fetch for me off the grass.

Maybe the answer itself is the reason it took the answer so long to reveal itself to me--I probably can't remember the name of anything because (aside from a few glorious evenings,) I have spent the better part of the past nine and a half months sleeping in two hour segments between night nursing sessions.

I haven't fully researched this, but having my REM sleep interrupted every single time it arrives is probably like putting my synapses in a brain stir-fry. You throw in some words here, stir them around, and pour some sticky high-calorie sauce on top and voila! No wonder I can't find the single word I'm looking for in this mess. It's like I'm looking for the pea at the bottom of the pan.

What happened to those lost words though? I imagine one in dark corner of the basement of my brain, collecting debris like a forgotten sock. Another is more like the last bead on a broken necklace that I'm trying to string together--a sentence I can never quite finish.

The words hang like martyrs lined up for hanging in some parallel universe--executioner giving them the chance for one last word that they themselves can't remember. They will perish confused and alone if I can't find a way to get this kid to sleep in longer bits.

To be continued...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Feefin' around

People say that having a baby makes you resent your pets. In my case, it's really just one of my pets--Feefee, a.k.a. Feef, Feefers, Feeflet, Feefems and last name Feefenstein (corresponding with my maiden name Silverstein.).

Feef looked about a year old the day he followed us home to a house we rented the top two floors of. Although my husband begrudgingly agreed to allow the stray tabby to stay, we both knew this cat, unlike Snowball and Henry but similarly to Lingling, would grow up to be a big pain the ass.

We could have never imagined the extent of his pain-in-the-assness back then though. From running outside to "feef around town" returning with chunks of fur mysteriously gone to acquiring bizarre and expensive injuries from picking fights with a gargantuan neighborhood bully known only as Orange Kitty, he was quickly becoming a thorn (or claw in our side.)
Feef's ridiculous and seemingly feral habits were tempered only by his obscene cuddliness. He was a lapcat and a social butterfly. He would sit on the chest of any sitting individual in the house, visitor or denizen, and purr louder than you could beatbox. He knew everyone in the neighborhood, had more friends than all humans and animals in our house combined, yet still got his jollies killing baby rabbits in the yard and chasing a cat who injured him on multiple occasions.

When we decided that Feef was truly a danger to himself by going outside and must be stopped, we armed the doorways with spray bottles and put a belled collar on him to warn us he was about to escape. Feef at first just was sad, melancholy, meowing longingly at the window, to what seemed the tune of "Somewhere out There"--you know the one Feivel sings about his lost sister in that mouse movie. Eventually though his personality shifted--two days or more in the house and this guy would start harassing the other cats--smacking them as they walked by, hissing at the children, and just overall being a nasty little Feef.

Just the other day I tried keeping him in because of an eight-inch snowstorm and I saw him staring out the window till he caught sight of Snowball and Latke on a cushy chair together, sprawled out, fluffy bellies exposed, licking each other and snuggling. He glared at them with such disdain it was quite frightening. The look seemed to say "you pitiful losers, blissfully ignorant of the outside world, you aren't even trying to break out of your prison!"

The last straw for Feef that made me truly resent him though was his clawing at my Joshy. It was only a little tap on his head, drawing a few drops of blood, but it was enough. I was a lioness ready to pounce on this asshole.

Coexisting with a pet you dislike though is not as difficult as one would imagine. In fact, I'd been doing it for years. Lingling hates pretty much all people and all other cats except Snowball--she literally runs in fear if you try to pet her (except once a month when she will pester you until you pet her and she purrs loudly for a good ten minutes then runs away like she were a guy who would sleep with you and then never acknowledge you in public.). Feef, with his oddly friendly and obnoxious ways, is not easy to hate, but I'm ready to try.

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