November 29, 2006

Day 245: In the eye of the storm

There's a general misconception out there that babies are these sweet, innocent, generally incapable little things. I used to think that too. But my Mads has proven me wrong. She's a bit of a schemer. Exhibit A: She spent the last few days fooling me into thinking she'd suddenly changed her mind about going to sleep. Instead of screaming as soon as she hit the crib she just rolled over and chatted to herself, to her stuffed animal friends, happy as could be, until finally drifting peacefully off to sleep. She lulled me into a sense of complaceny, got me to the point where I was thinking, "Hey, this gig ain't so hard." Then, just when she saw I was at my most vulnerable and unprepared, she did an abrupt 180. I put her down for her nap yesterday, mentally preparing my mother-of-the-year acceptance speech, and much to my total shock she started screeching hysterically. For a minute I thought we might be under attack, she'd spotted a sniper on the roof or something. But no, she was just, shall we say, expressing her discontent. This went on for a good 25 minutes, at which point I went in and bounced her to sleep. Crisis averted... or so I thought. Or so she wanted me to think. As soon as her dimpled little bum hit the mattress she was up and screaming again. We went through this routine three times before she finally slept. We then repeated the entire thing for both of today's naps. She's a schemer, alright. Well, she may have won this battle, but not the war. Not yet, at least.

There are some lessons in motherhood I should know by now, and the biggest one is that just when you think you're starting to get the hang of it everything changes. My friend calls it the calm before the storm, those hours or days when you sit back and realize that things are running pretty smoothly - you and your baby are both dressed, calm, feeling relatively sane. During these times you may feel the urge to tell passing strangers what a good mom you are, to start penning a How-To guide to parenting. I'd hold off if I were you, though, because I can pretty much guarantee you that the storm is coming. Suddenly your perfect angel is howling, there's vomit in your hair, and you're still wearing yesterday's pyjamas. But, when you do find yourself in the eye of the storm, take comfort in the fact that just like everything else, this too shall pass.

November 26, 2006

Day 243: Baby stuff I could live without...

It's been snowing for the past 24 hours and everything is white and quiet. I'm actually not a big fan of the snow, and the fact that we got locked out of the house in it yesterday didn't help its reputation any in my books. Poor Mads, her little fingers were so cold and red we eventually had to go take refuge with a neighbour for a while. I don't think I've locked myself out of the house since I was a kid - wouldn't you know it has to happen during the first snowfall of the year while I've got a baby in tow! Maddie isn't quite as entranced by the falling snow as I imagined she would be. She was far more interested in her bottle than in the changing weather patterns. Go figure. I guess we can scratch meteorologist off the list of future careers.

What Mads doesn't realize is that falling snow signals that Christmas is just around the corner. I'm not particulary religious, but I do love Christmas. I like that it tends to make people a bit nicer than they normally are, and of course it gives us one more excuse to go shopping. And so, in honour of this wonderful season of over-consumption I thought it would be a good time to pay tribute to all of those baby products that have turned out to be entirely useless. So here it is, my completely subjective top 5 list of things I wish I hadn't wasted my money on:

#5. Burp pads. While often very cute, I quickly learned that these are not very practical. Maddie's spit ups tend to require something more along the lines of a beach towel, so these itsy bitsy little cloths have been sitting in the dresser growing mothballs for the past 8 months.

#4. Breast pumps/pads/packs/etc. So it turns out breastfeeding isn't for everyone. Who knew? After several weeks spent pumping and crying, I packed up my cracked, infected nipples and guilty conscience and called it a day. Mads and I have been much happier since. My opinion is, if it works for you, that's great. If not, don't torture yourself over it.

#3. A Bumbo chair. I read rave reviews about this thing, which we paid around $70 for - an outrageous price, if you ask me. Fernando had high hopes for it, but Maddie sat in it about 3 times total before she figured out how to flip out of it and wind up lying face down on the ground. And the 3 times she sat in it she really didn't like it - she hated the idea of being forced to sit still in one place for more than 5 seconds, she spent her time grunting and straining and complaining. I guess it works for a lot of folks, but not for us.

#2. Baby powder. Does anybody use this stuff anymore? Through my own purchases and shower gifts I wound up with about a dozen containers of it. And then I read that you shouldn't use it because it could cause respiratory damage - and oh yeah, possibly cancer - so I threw it away. I hear it's good to put on the soles of your sandals, though.

#1. Cloth bibs. By far the most useless invention ever are those silly little cloth bibs that cover about 2% of baby's body. The makers of these things force you to buy them against your better judgement by writing things like "I love my mommy" on them. When Maddie eats, she requires an all-over poncho. She winds up with food somehow stuck in her hair, ears, under her chin, her armpits, the rolls of her thighs, in between her toes. It's a total disaster and those bibs are a laughable defence in the face of such an onslaught of slop and crumbs.

Stay tuned for the much-anticipated list of things I couldn't live without!

Only 28 sleeps till Christmas...

November 23, 2006

Day 241: Good little girls grow up to be...

Spend an hour in a suburban mall and you will discover there is an army of underdressed teenage girls out there. Which prompts two questions: First, why are these girls not in school? Second, where are their clothes? I really must be a mom, because I suddenly have this urge to grab them, scrub off all their make-up and buy them a sweat suit. And not the kind with the writing on the bum, but a real one - from Sears, maybe. I want to sit them down and tell them that self-respect and visible jewelled thongs usually don't go hand in hand.

It's a scary prospect, raising a girl these days. All I can hope is that by the time Maddie reaches highschool this trend towards baring all will be reversed and fuzzy suits will be all the rage. She looks so good in a fuzzy suit. Honestly, though, I just don't get it. When exactly did this happen? And why? I mean, I know it has everything to do with what they see on TV, with our celebrity-obsessed culture. I guess that's always been the case. I vaguely recall my own highschool days, when Debbie Gibson was bee-bopping around in her high-waisted jeans I was doing the same thing. And now we've got Paris Hilton. Don't even get me started on her. And really, I'm all in favour of Britney's big comeback, but when I see her on TV every night going to clubs and living the high life I do have to wonder - where are your kids, woman? And once again, where are your clothes? Sure, I'm spiteful and jealous cause she's already got her pre-baby body back, but really - if these are the role models, we're in trouble. How do you teach a kid self-esteem and respect and worth? I guess that's what we'll have to figure out.

In other disturbing developments, a while back Maddie and I were out running some errands and a salesgirl came up and said, "Hi Madeline, how are you today?" It was a bit unsettling to think we've been to the store so often that the employees know Maddie by name, but I got over it. Then yesterday we're at the liquor store and the cashier says, "Oh, she's getting so big now!" The liquor store. I think we need to find some new hobbies.

November 21, 2006

Day 239: Holiday fun

Fernando was out of town this weekend, which afforded me a whole lot of extra quality time with Maddie. I thought it would be a good opportunity to take some Christmas pictures, so I suited her up in a little holiday dress, set up a makeshift photo studio and plopped her in the middle of it. I'm sorry to say that this picture is one of our best results! She spent half the time crying and the other half trying to figure out how to get out of her dress. Although, I can't say that I blame her - the dress really wasn't her. She's not so much a lace and ribbons kind of girl. No, I think she'll be little girl running through the neighbourhood in ripped jeans, a dirty shirt, gum in her hair, with one shoe missing and a perpetually snotty nose. It's amazing how you can see their little personalities already.

I've only recently begun to grasp the idea that she will one day be a little kid, a teenager, a grown-up. We tend to live day by day, Mads and I, which doesn't allow much room for gazing wistfully into the future. But lately I've had glimpses. It's such a bizarre thought, that she'll have little friends, she'll get in trouble at school, she'll have her first kiss, her first car, her first job. One day she'll likely be bringing boys home and screaming that she hates us; hopefully not both on the same day, that would be a tough one. Ah, so many things to look forward to!

Poor Maddie is one frustrated little girl these days. Her brain is developed enough to know that she wants to move but her body isn't yet able to do it. So she spends a lot of her time straining, grunting, and eventually crying. Fernando and I, of course, take completely opposite approaches to this. He moves all of her toys just beyond her reach, encouraging her to get her little butt moving. I agree with this tactic, right until she starts screeching, at which point my priority becomes saving my own sanity, and I quickly push everything within her grasp, rendering the whole exercise pretty much pointless. Ah well, she'll get there eventually, I have no doubt. What she lacks in ability she makes up for in persistence, which both gives me hope and scares me to death!

November 18, 2006

Day 235: "Is this normal?"

These must be the most frequently uttered words by a new mom. Or at least a slightly neurotic one like me. They are also the kiss of death. Thinking back, I started asking this question when I was first pregnant. Then it was pretty harmless: I can't feel the baby moving - is that normal? I don't have morning sickness - is that normal? Once Maddie had arrived, though, it all got out of control. Was she eating too much? Did her poop look right? Should her arms flail about like that? Why isn't she grabbing/rolling/sitting/crawling yet? All of these being various forms of the same old question: Is this normal? The problem with the question is that it implies that there is such a thing as normal, and I've decided that when it comes to babies there just isn't. It's amazing how different they all are. Which is why all of these books and web sites, no matter how well-meaning, are pretty pointless. I was reading the other day that Maddie should be old enough now to "self-soothe" - in other words, to put herself to sleep without feeding, rocking and all the rest of it. If I tried rocking Maddie to sleep she would look at me like I belong in an institution. Her version of self-soothing is to scream her lungs out for 15 minutes until she finally drifts off. Not what the book had in mind, maybe, and a bit awkward when company is over ("No, no, she's not dying. More coffee?") but it seems to work for her.

I'd been warned that parenthood is a pretty competitive sport, and it's definitely true. But for the most part it's self-imposed. No matter how hard I try not to, how many times I tell myself to stop, I just can't help comparing Maddie to other babies her age. That baby is more mobile, this one has longer hair, that one naps better, this one doesn't cry as much. It can become a full-time occupation. Is this a new obsession, another symptom of our times? At Gymboree this week we once again focussed on getting our babies crawling. Well, okay, the rest of them already are crawling. So they worked on mastering the skill while I begged Maddie to at least give it a try. She declined. But the point is, is this really something we need to work on? I can't help but wonder if ages ago women in caves sat taunting their babies with berries in effort to get them mobile. Somehow I doubt it.

I can only imagine how bad it can get once they're in school. Who's reading at what level? Who's memorized the elements? Who's been picked for the lead in the Christmas - sorry, "holiday" - play? Never mind Maddie, I don't think I can keep up. All this worrying and keeping track is exhausting. And besides, it's pointless, isn't it? After all, according to my mom she's already a genius. There's no way those crawling babies will be able to catch her.

November 14, 2006

Day 231: So, just who is the baby here?

I have to vent. A couple of nights ago Fernando and I took Maddie and went out for dinner. This is a big deal for us. She's not been the easiest girl to take out up until now, so we've had to pretty much avoid restaurants and other places with no quick escape route. But we did a dry run at a sushi place for lunch and it went amazingly well, she just sat on the table and played and ate her cheerios and looked adorable. So we thought, why not try dinner? We purposely picked a family pizza restaurant, the kind of place that serves root beer by the pitcher and hands out crayons and colouring books with your menus. This is a far cry from our pre-baby venues, those places where waitresses have small skirts and big cleavage and the menu for drinks is 4 times the size of the one for food. Anyways, we got there, ordered our food, had a drink. Maddie was in a fantastic mood. So fantastic, actually, that she was letting out happy little screeches, as babies tend to do when they're excited. I thought it was cute. Others, apparently, did not. Now, I understand that she was being a bit loud. But I'll stress again that it's a family restaurant - they bring lollipops with the bill, for god's sake. So I was shocked when a table near us started to complain. Not politely, directly to us. Not even discretely, to the waitress. Instead this group of sad and pathetic middle-aged men start yelling in our general direction, things like, "Put a cork in her", "Shut it up" and "Where are this kid's parents?" I was mortified and so angry. She's 7 months old, it's not like I can just tell her to use her inside voice. And to be honest, I wouldn't even want to. If she were screaming and howling I would have taken her outside to calm down, but I'm not going to try to shut her up when she's happy! We were trying to just ignore it, until I saw another couple shaking their heads in disapproval at us. At which time I wimped out and we packed her up and left. I know I should've stuck it out, but why waste our one night out being embarassed and stressed out?

The whole experience left me so mad. Argh! How do people get to be such jerks? Trust me, I have a far stronger word in mind but I am self-censoring for public consumption. Am I not allowed out of the house now that I have a baby? Am I relegated to the ballroom at McDonalds? Well, forget it. Maddie goes where I go, and I'm going out. The rest of the world will have to deal with it. I know, tough talk from the girl who ran away with her tail between her legs! But if it happens again I resolve to stay and stick it out. Or at least to hide a dirty diaper under their back seat on my way out!

November 10, 2006

Day 227: Raising hell at Gymboree

I took Maddie to her first Gymboree class yesterday and much to my shock and delight she seemed to like it! It's basically just a room full of babies singing songs and clapping and blowing bubbles and working on milestones. I did the singing, clapping, blowing bubbles. Maddie was supposed to do the milestones work but - surprise, surprise - she chose not to. While other babies diligently tackled the task of crawling through tunnels, Maddie stood there and happily screeched at the top of her lungs. I got a glimpse of my future child and I can only say that I apologize in advance to any and all of her future teachers. She is a total disruption already! It was actually one of the most hilarious moments of my career in motherhood thus far: Every time she screamed the other babies would all stop and stare at her, kind of confused and horrified at the same time. She in turn looked around at all of them as if to say, "Why are you all just sitting around? Let's kick this party into high gear!" I don't know how I created such a little monster. Gymboree is actually a really cool program, if you can stand the fact that the instructor has to turn everything - and I mean everything - into a song... "Let's pick up the rattles, let's pick up the rattles, let's pick up the rattles, and put them in the box!" "Has anyone seen my pencil? Has anyone seen my pencil? Has anyone seen my pencil? I don't know where it's gone!" This is probably really fun for babies, but for me it was mildly nauseating by the end. But then, I suppose I'm not the target audience anyways.

In other developments, Maddie now refuses to anything but stand at all times; she considers it a complete indignity to be asked to sit down or - god forbid - to lie on her back. She'll reach her little hands out to you when she's sitting down and you'll think, "Aww, how sweet, she loves me!", but in fact she's just wanting to use you as leverage. As soon as you put your hands out she grabs hold and hauls herself up to standing, locks her knees and looks very pleased with herself. Getting her sitting again becomes a feat of physical strength. I just get the feeling this girl is going to be something of a hellraiser as she grows. I hope I'm up to the task!

November 06, 2006

Day 223: A much-needed lesson in motherhood

I'm a bit of a movie nut. Looking back, I've learned some of life's most important lessons from movies. Schindler's List, of course, showed me the importance of fighting against the tides and doing the right thing. Not that I always do it, but at least I know that I should. Shawshank Redemption, an all-time favourite, taught the value of hope and friendship. The Breakfast Club showed me how to apply lipliner with my near non-existant cleavage (ah, I miss those baby boobs). And last night we watched a movie which, surprisingly, can be added to this list: Click. To be honest, The Waterboy and Little Nicky were a fatal combination for me in terms of my appreciation of Adam Sandler. But I gave this one a try on the recommendation of a girlfriend and I'm glad I did. It had some words of wisdom on parenting that I needed to hear.

I should interject here to say that, like many new moms, my experience with motherhood has not been all roses. Anybody who knows me at all knows that much. I remember in the first few months people would always say, "Oh enjoy this time, it goes so quickly." And I would think, enjoy what? What could possibly be enjoyable about this? The constant crying? The lack of sleep? The roller coaster hormones? I couldn't wait to hit the six-month mark, at which time it was all supposed to get easy (another myth, by the way). Even now there are still times when I find myself thinking I can't wait till she can walk, or talk, or pay rent. I feel vaguely guilty about this, because it's like I'm wishing away her childhood, which of course is not what I want, and I do realize that each age will come complete with its own set of problems. I guess I just have a tendency to let the problems overwhelm the good parts, and I forget that even the hardships are worth living. And that's what the movie - which I would recommend to any parent feeling overwhelmed by life with kids - reminded me. Sometimes even the obvious needs pointing out. Believe me, it's a lesson I'm drawing on right now as I sit typing with my earplugs in while Maddie cries it out in her crib. I thought we had moved past the whole CIO thing; apparently I was wrong.

I think a lot of my struggles with motherhood come from the fact that I don't really relate to babies all that well. I tend to think of Maddie as just a really small person with limited abilities and a strange sense of fashion. In some ways that can be a good thing, but it also can cause a lot of frustration. I am desperate for her to make sense, the way an adult does; for action and reaction, for forward progress. And we do have a bit of that now, but it always seems to be 2 steps forward and one leap back, so I'm never quite sure where we're going to end up. She's doing the best she can, developing her little personality and getting used to this life of hers. I guess the challenge for me is just to live in the moment, with no expectations and no timetables.

Well, the crying has reached the 30 minute mark and is showing no signs of letting up, which means it's time to end her stay in the torture chamber. My girl, she's a drama queen already!

November 02, 2006

Day 219: Breakdowns and babababa

Can you believe it's November? When did that happen? Well, yesterday, I guess. But doesn't it feel kind of early to be November? I'm still in an end-of-summer kind of mode. Right now, for instance, I'm wearing a tank top and skirt and thongs. Yes, I'm freezing, but it's my attempt to ignore the wind and rain outside - mind over matter. I'm trying, but I doubt it will work. The power of positive thinking seems to be failing me this week.

Maddie is teething, again. She's also sick. She's also still all screwed up from Daylight Savings Time. Poor Maddie. Poor me. We're both a bit miserable. There was a point yesterday when she was naked on the change table, twisting about and screeching. When I pulled open the dresser drawer to get her clothes it came right out and dumped on the floor. It was the last straw - I sat down and put my head in my hands and had a small breakdown. It was almost comical, both of us collapsed and crying together in the same room. I was fully clothed, that was about the only difference between us at that moment. But we survived to see another day, as always.

In happier news, she's now talking! Well, so far it's limited to variations of the word "baba." She started yesterday morning when she woke up and hasn't stopped since. It's "bababababa baba ba bababa" all day long. Sometimes she'll say it quietly to herself with a furrowed brow and concerned expression - I figure she's pondering the state of the world, mulling over the ramifications of our actions on the next generation. At other times she'll say like a question, or scream it at the top of her lungs. She even does it when she's crying. Wail, wail, bababa, wail, wail, wail. That one is my least favourite version, I have to say. It struck me today that in addition to sounding like a big baby now, she's also starting to look like one. My angelic little girl has turned into a bit of a disaster. She's always got a dirty face, messy hair, stained clothes, runny nose. Most of this is due to the fact that she's getting harder and harder to clean up. Like most kids, she now protests loudly at any attempt to wipe her face or change her clothes. I'm getting the feeling she's going to have a real little temper on her. Something else to look forward to, I guess! It's kind of cute, though, she's all growns up.