Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Naming Game

We have some name issues. The names I like and the names J likes are not that different, and yet they do not overlap, especially for girls. We decided to give friends and family a chance to weigh in on our name ideas.

(Not our idea, see Name Madness And if you like name trivia and trends, this entire website The Baby Name Wizard Voyager is really cool. And the blogger, Laura Wattenberg has the only baby name book I've ever absolutely adored and found absolutely helpful, The Baby Name Wizard. End endorsement.)

So friends and near acquaintances and family are weighing in on names that we do and don't care about. (We started with 32 boy names and 32 girl names. If you can come up with 64 names you can genuinely imagine naming your child, you have a very generous imagination.)

Last week, J was told in detail, by a kind woman why we shouldn't name a boy XXX. XXX will be made fun of in school. XXX will be constantly embarrassed by this. Mid conversation, another woman passed by and leaned in and said, XXX is the only! name we should use for a boy.

We found that pretty funny. What's even more amusing, is that I think that made us like the name more. XXX will not be in elementary school indefinitely. And we can help avert the embarrassment by explaining to XXX what his name means so that he's psyched about the association. I think it's entirely possible that this helped us unite under a boy name. (We don't like very many boy names. Some are lovely, fine names, just not well matched with our older child, and/or, just not names we can really imagine naming our own child. Names we'd love to meet on a kid though!)

What I find additionally amusing is that a close friend was ranting about why YYY is a bad name for a girl, or anyone for that matter. My reaction here was not suddenly decide that I really did like this name, as I did with XXX. Instead I'm torn between defending our consideration of YYY, and wanting to write it off because it's just not one of my favorite names for a girl anyways.

I find this heartening. Although I really enjoy the input from friends and family, I mostly just want to weed out the total dud names that hormones persuade you are a good idea. I want to still follow my heart and fall in love with the name of our future child.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Swimming With Dolphins

Several weeks ago - mid week 11 of the pregnancy - my body tried to persuade me that I was feeling the little larvae moving. I was pretty skeptical, and sure enough, larval movement failed to repeat. Which reminds me of a comment I heard, "Being pregnant is like the worst case of the flu you've ever had." (Sorry, not sure if Cygknit said it first, or if she was quoting.)

This morning, mid week 14, I dreamed I felt the baby moving under my hand, like you imagine reaching into a dolphin tank and feeling them pass by, all smooth, gentle muscle and then gone. It took a while to wake up enough to realize that while it was a lovely dream. At this point in the pregnancy, the fetus is approximately 6 skinny inches long and not really capable of global movements. With enough sleep, I'm usually more skeptical.

But after lunch, the little Melvin did a flutter kick hello. Nothing painful or exciting, just enough to make me blink in acknowledgement. Oh! Well, there you are. Enjoyed the soup, eh?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Christmas Agonizing

I’ve been thinking alot about Christmas traditions and family gatherings in the past few weeks. J and I are non-religious, and perhaps rigidly so, but I have so many warm memories of feeling like Christmas was magical. Yes, it was a blow to find out about Santa, but hey, it seemed more like the kid telling me was blowing it, rather than the adults who perpetuated the mythology. J hates the idea of lying to Q, which I understand, and I don’t really like the idea either, but to grow up never having believed in Santa? That seems, well, unkind.

Today I put up some of our Christmas lights: red dangly stars (thanks Ikea!) and a wreath of lights (thanks Ikea!) and decorated the ficus tree with hearts I made last year (felt). J has made a little wooden tree which he wrapped with colored lights and is planning to hang in the living room (it’s cute, sort of a skeleton version of a Christmas tree, but without the grim connotation that just evoked). I’m envisioning hanging the few large ornaments we have from the ceiling in front of the windows (but not low enough to be grabbed by Q). I hung Q’s stocking from our ‘mantel’ (the corner cupboard) and made a mental note to see if the toy store has more, since it’s pretty and unusual and since we have another kid coming we’ll need two stockings next year. (Not that my role as a youngest sibling made me overtly aware of things I missed out on or anything.)

But we’re avoiding one of the big traditional battles of our marriage: the Christmas tree. I like them. I loved lying on the floor looking up at all the lights. I loved my mother telling me about the ones from her childhood. The ‘icicles’ which were glass or metal and simply little spikes on hooks. I loved the old fashioned shaped lights we had for a while (only one string). I wished I could sleep on the floor in front of the tree, with the colors washing over the world like a stained glass window.

I have, to this point, been conceding the tree battle to J. They do seem a bit silly, lots of work, mess, waste of a healthy tree etc. But Q is now old enough to notice trees in all the stores and get excited about them. He likes the specialness of decorations, and the trees inside seem to especially tickle his fancy. Yes, we can go to Grandma’s for a tree. But it’s something I want to give Q. Like a love for reading, and kisses goodnight. There are some things you hope to get from your parents.

I’m gearing up for the battle. I’ve decided an artificial tree would be fine. We can buy scented candles for ‘pine’ scent. I don’t mind if, for a few years, we get a relatively small tree and put only non breakable ornaments on it. I do mind if there is a bad attitude. I do mind if it actually undermines the goal of creating a cozy, magical Christmas feeling. I know I have to trod carefully here, but I’m wondering if Q has already won the battle for me, it’s just a question of articulating it gently to J and figuring out the delicate path between creating magic for our child through gentle pretend and selling out to the aspects of Christmas we dislike.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Adult Onset Athleticism: Part Two

My first roadrace was a spontaneous decision. Our small Massachusetts town arranged a kids' fun run. What I didn't know when I started running it, was that I suck at running. My clearest memory is of the police car escort, the traditional last place prize. The indignity was evident, even to me.

Following that revelatory run, I did as little running as possible until high school. Then, desperate to take off some weight, I began running. To ease the humiliation, I ran at night, so no one could see my thighs slapping together. I layered on clothing. I listened to music, attempting to fool myself into ignoring the physical exertion. I ran once around the block, and then would sit and pant in front of the house. I lost some weight, but every ounce hurt as it peeled off.

I picked up running again in college, while rowing crew. I jogged from campus down to the boathouse, about two miles, nearly all downhill, on Summit Avenue, lined with old mansions, trees and colleges. It was criminal not to at least enjoy the scenery, and I gave running some grudging respect. Later in the fall, I watched hordes of runners heading up this same hill, headed for finish line of the Twin Cities Marathon. The fast runners didn't impress me. It was the back pack who held my interest. These runners were defying their physical destiny. They were not natural jocks. They were fighting their way up the hill. They looked like me, and when I cheered them on, they grinned.

My boyfriend and future husband had been a runner, and when I started running again after a lapse, he ran too. His stride was much longer than mine, but we worked out a deal to warm up together. He'd then run at his own pace, and meet me for a cool down. He gave me running advice, took me to my first 5k, talked me into the wisdom of a digital running watch, and when his recurring injuries sidelined his running, never discouraged me from running. Discussing marathons, he casually said, "That kind of running is crazy." But when he realized I was actually considering running a marathon, he looked me straight in the eye and told me he didn't think running one marathon was crazy. I did run a marathon (some might question whether one can call it 'running'), and he rode his bike beside us for the entire second half.

These days, my most regular running buddy is my son. When I can talk him into a morning run, he points out the sites: a waterfall, a chicken, a dog. Despite his occasional reluctance to be packed into the jogger, if I take him out and just walk, he'll start requesting more speed, "Run? Run?"

The more I think about running, the more I realize it has entertwined itself into my life and my personality in a way I cannot easily explain or understand. I don't know why I think it's cool to run in a 5k when I still haven't broken 30 minutes and I don't know anyone at the race other than my family. What I know is that I am addicted to the simplicity of lacing up my shoes and walking out the door. The smell of autumn leaves in the sun. Greeting early morning dog walkers.

I may be outpaced by speedwalkers. I may hibernate through the winter months. I may be unable to admit I am a runner. But running is mine.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Adult Onset Athleticism: Part One

I would like to submit Exhibit 1: Gone With the Wind, as the first example from my childhood of my father's unrealistic expectations of my muscular abilities and athletic training. We can place this incident within the 6 week block of time when I was 4 years old and my mother was in London, doing her student teaching. For those people who know that my parents (not actually Luddites) revile television watching and do not own a television, this is also the brief period of time between the purchase of their first and only television and its demise, about a year after this incident.

Dad, in charge of three children for six weeks, is watching Gone With the Wind, being aired specially on television. I request a drink of milk. He tells me I'm big enough to get my own drink of milk. This may, in fact, be true. It is not, however, true that I can pour a glass successfully from a full gallon of milk. It's a shame we didn't have cats. I figure the cleanup should have been enough to teach Dad a lesson regarding unfair expectations, but evidence indicates nothing was learned.

Exhibits 2-500 include the cross country skiing trip where I had inadequate body mass to stay warm, the biking trip on Martha's Vineyard when I was so out of shape that I could keep up with the pregnant (but fit!) woman in our group, and numerous incidents in which I was so much smaller and less capable than my siblings that giving up was the only realistic option. I can still hear his disgusted disappointment, "Terry". My father believed disapproval was more motivating than encouragement. (He still grates his teeth remembering these trips.)

I took up running regularly after college. Bike riding didn't provide the exercise I needed. Rowing was a complicated endeavor involving socializing I was uninterested in. Running had never been enjoyable, but it was efficient for my needs. Slowly my addiction to running grew into an affection for distance. I think I wanted to prove to myself that despite my pudginess, I was as dogged as I thought I was. Running for distance is not a remarkably good tool for weight loss, but it gives you some serious bitching rights. Blackened toenails, chafed skin, heat stroke... My college rowing training had awakened a masochistic gene, and now I could feed it without 8 other rowers and an expensive boat! I was hooked.

The first time I recall attempting to go out for a run with my father was after I'd moved to rural (perhaps redundant?) New Hampshire. Across the street from our house was a rail trail and my father and I went for an out and back run. Almost a tunnel through the woods, the trail burrows under the pine trees, crossing gorges on narrow bridges, persistently pushing you ahead. The trail beneath our feet was padded with layers of needles and the late September trees were turning. We were going to run a marathon the next day, and I was not confident I could finish it. I had visions of myself, gritty with sweat, bent with pain, unable to take another step.

A deer darted across our path, and my father reached over and touched my arm, "Oh look, Terry!"

In that moment, I lost my fear of failing him.

Friday, September 22, 2006


Q is just over two. We're starting to feel that we've got our parenting legs under us and know how to predict behavior and how we want to deliberately respond to him. Then he surprises us and we have to sit back and grin at all that we have to learn.

This week Q is in a growth spurt. At some ages, I'd mean that the kid put on 2 lbs and 4 inches. In this case I mean, he learned to write the letter 'Q' and the letter 'S' and the letter 'W' (well, if you know what to look for). Tuesday he hopped. He's never hopped before. Now it's not enough to hop, he has to hop at the edge of something so that he can risk breaking his little neck.

He's suddenly articulating himself really well, spontaneously. We've been coaching him to 'ask nicely' when he wants something:

Q: Cracker!
The Voices of Reason: I would like a cracker, please?
Q: Want Cracker!

And so forth. Often Q adjusts his request when we tell him he needs to ask nicely, by just throwing a "PLEEEEEASE?" at the end. This is sufficient for the moment.

During dinner the other night, I noticed that, without coaching, Q actually said, "I would like some milk, Daddy, please?" I had to interrupt J and request Q to repeat, which he amazingly did. If the kid asked for anything that politely I'd be tempted to give it to him...puppies, motorcycles, ibooks, you name it kid.

Yesterday, we had the real clincher for the week. J and I were sitting and talking about our fantasy kitchen renovation, for which he'd actually drawn a blueprint sketch. I glanced up and saw Q trying to navigate some toys near his plastic potty. The potty was in the way, so I casually told him, "Q you can sit on the potty, you don't have to go around, hon." He looked at said potty and lifted up the lid. He checked it all out again, per his usual, This is entertaining but has no relation to real life. "If you want to use the potty, we could take your pajamas and diaper off."

Then I returned to chatting with J. The next time I looked up, there was a naked child in my living room, clamboring over to sit on his potty. My jaw dropped and we had to leave the room so our hysterical laughter wouldn't disturb the strong possibility that Q was going to actually use his potty.

...and he did!

Saturday, August 26, 2006


For me, one of the hardest things to remember in parenting is how much I'll forget. Even after only 2 years, I can review emails to friends and have no actual memory of the child event that spurred the comments. I blame a lack of sleep for eroding my memory, but it may also be that new actions supplant the charming memories of the previous week.

So here, I am going to try to write down a few memories I will, no doubt, forget even if I do tell someone else.

  • Last week Q was wandering in and out of Grandma's house as the adults cleaned up dinner. Since there were three of us, no one of us was paying close attention, until Grandma looked up and saw that he had climbed into the grand piano. She pulled me over to check it out, and I could only stand there in amazement. There was no way he could have gotten in unless he climbed onto the piano bench, over the elaborately carved music stand, and then onto all the strings, and then, to top it off, the kid had turned around. Grandma and I stood there, heads tilted, puzzling it over as Q continued to investigate how the strings on a piano work. His father, however, took one look and calmly removed the child. Duh.

  • At the end of an adventure exploring New London this week, Q asked for a souvenir. His father tried many other possibilities, but that's the only word that seemed to match. They bought some postcards, and Q was thrilled to carry them back to the car in a bag.

  • We've noticed a new language development: filler. Q knows that we string together the basic parts of sentences with smaller words, but isn't clear on what those words should be. So sometimes we will hear a sentence strung together like this: "Daddy sha sha sha sha goto sha sha bank?" Sadly, it's sometimes hard to pay attention through the shashashasha bits long enough to hear the question or request being placed until the intonation kicks in on the last word.

  • Q has chosen one of my friends as a default, out of love or assumption, I'm not sure which. When the phone rings he asks, "Cygknit?" He's playing with a basket and declares it belongs to Cygknit. I ask him if he remembers who is coming over (real answer: Grandma) and he replies, "Cygknit?" Her self esteem is definitely responding.

  • When reading lately, on a tip from his Granmary, we've started pausing to give him a chance to fill in the words. This is almost unnerving. I had no idea how much he could remember of each of his books. Branching off of this activity is another fun activity, reciting. We've been reading Where the Wild Things Are and as we were leaving him for a nap the other day, he sweetly said, "Oh pease doan go! I eat yu up I ov yu so!"

  • I feel the exact same way.

    Saturday, August 12, 2006

    The Things We Do For Love

    From the age of five, I lived in a house with no television. Technically there was a broken television in the basement that we'd bring up for presidential elections, wrap with coathangers, and squint at. But even in the seventies, that didn't really count.

    This does not mean I have never seen an episode of Gilligan's Island or Bugs Bunny. What this meant for my elementary school years is that I would wake up painfully early on Saturdays and begin scouring the neighborhood looking for a child who was awake so I could watch cartoons with them. I'd stand below their window calling their name until either they woke up, or their mother stuck a head out and explained that they had been sent to Australia.

    Much like living in a house without running water, after a while, I developed a perverse pride in the adversities of childhood. I read everything available, whether I understood it or not, dictionaries be damned. (It took me years to comprehend concepts introduced in The Long Secret by Louise Fitzhugh. I've finally comprehended the menstrual cycle, but I'm still fuzzy on how all these families spent their summers in cabins without their fathers.) I learned to rollerskate and read at the same time, in circles, in the basement. This is particularly exciting in retrospect since my mother also witnessed me walk into a mailbox while reading during that stage. Books were friends who never mocked ugly clothes, or cared that you were socially inept.

    The affair all started so innocently. A television with a VCR, my boyfriend promised, would mean we'd spend less on entertainment. Since we couldn't get any stations without cable, it's not like we'd actually watch programs, just movies. Then my now husband laid the groundwork for undermining my perversity. He explained how frustrating it was to watch sports when you can't differentiate between the team colors. (He did not explain the solution when you can't remember which team is which color or which one I was supposed to root for.) Then, when I was pregnant, we visited with his mother, and he got me hooked on all the baby programs: A Baby Story, An Adoption Story, Special Delivery.

    The kid was the final blow. Books were too hard. I didn't have the ability to read a sentence and comprehend it on the first try. Or the second. Holding a book and nursing at the same time was really hard. Not that I tried more than once. Most painful, I had to be awake in the most horrible early morning hours, and books simply put me right back to sleep.

    That's when my husband ordered, not just cable, but cable with dvr, the ability to see shows long after they've aired. (Cue the ominous music.) I made a new best friend.

  • My new best friend is awake any time I want company- even better than my friend in Germany, whose time difference should have allowed for good companionship. But to hold a conversation with her, I would have had to think, and thinking is really not something I'm capable of when I haven't had 5 consecutive hours of sleep in weeks.

  • My new best friend repeats without complaining. The home shows (or home porn, as I've heard them called) are really good at this. They cut away to a commercial, and when they come back, they summarize everything that happened before the break. Perfect for anyone with short term memory loss, and anyone whose left ear was screamed into the first half of the show.

  • My new best friend was perfect in every way I could want, except it didn't cook meals or clean diapers. But we overlook these flaws in our friends.

  • Like any slightly inappropriate roommate, now I have to determine what relationship the toddler is allowed to have with the television. Already one of his most beloved friends is Maisy. Maisy is a lovely friend, and was an excellent babysitter when my husband helped unload 20 new windows from a delivery truck that came with insufficient muscle. Maisy comes in short segments so you can interrupt viewing after an appropriately short time frame to go exciting places like the bank and the hardware store. Maisy even has an amusing friend Charlie who appears to be high on marijuana at all times. Exposure to Charlie might be good for broadening the toddler's mind, much like travel in Europe.

    But I have a secret weapon to battle his burgeoning addiction. His Granmary just got him a new book, "Things An Go," and it looks like true love.

    Official Title: Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, by Richard Scarry

    Tuesday, August 08, 2006

    Competitive Parenting (title credit to Catherineaq)

    Since having a kid, I have come to realize that there's a weird side effect to parenthood. You bond easily with other parents, especially ones with kids of similar ages to your own. You compare sleeplessness, strategies for behavioral issues, worries over your kids. It's reassuring and a relief to know you aren't alone in a world that is suddenly dictated by a totally unreasonable and uncompromising infant. You've joined a cult without even sending in the pledge card.

    Then there's the dark side: no one's parenting decisions are private or justified if they are different from your own.

    For example: I am perhaps one of few in my generation in the U.S. to have been nursed as an infant. I feel pretty strongly that breastmilk is the best nutrition for infants. I also struggled quite a bit with getting my baby to gain weight. At one point I recall getting up in the early morning, aching with the desire for sleep, day after day, before the baby woke up to pump breastmilk, in an attempt to increase my milk supply. I was persuaded that I was an abusive mother if I gave my baby formula at all. Ever. Now, with a little perspective and time, I look back and see that for what it was. Craziness.

    That was self inflicted punishment. But it doesn't come from nowhere. Despite these problems, my child managed to survive and nursed until he was 18 months. Not exclusively, but typically twice a day. And when I mentioned that to another mom in the midst of conversation, I felt a definite apology in her reply that she only nursed her daughter to 14 months. The breastfeeding hierarchy ironically ranks even women who make similar choices.

    I've been reading an excellent book of essays recently called Mommy Wars: Stay-at-Home and Career Moms Face Off on Their Choices, Their Lives, Their Families by Leslie Morgan Steiner. The title says it all, and I liked a lot of the essays. But I realized that the reason the book exists is because contemporary mothers are self defensive. Our mothers fought to make sure that we would get choices, and what do we do? We bitch about the choices other mothers are making, whether they are choices made out of need or desire. We criticize other women for breastfeeding in public; we look on snidely as women mix formula to pop into their baby's mouth. We claim the women who stay home with their children aren't doing anything important, but then turn around and glare at women who have to make compromises because they value their careers. (I won't even touch the discussion of fathers staying home with children, which would take me really far afield.)

    Several essays in the book came to a conclusion that I agree with: the quality of your parenting is not determined by your work status. Good parenting is much more determined by what works for you and your child. I'd like to take it one step away from good and bad parenting. As parents, most of us are trying to do the best job we can, but sometimes it simply comes down to survival. We don't make our choices based on what seems most pure, most wonderful. We make our choices on what we need and what our families need from us.

    This battle of the mommies is turning us against each other, and it's time to remember that this isn't about who wins mommy of the year. The battle of the mommies should be to raise children who will bring us all joy - no matter who brought them into the world.

    Sunday, July 16, 2006

    Converting from Canadian

    This is how the Canadians pay us back for all our obnoxious comments about converting money into Canadian dollars.

    Saturday, July 15, 2006

    Step one: Admit you have a problem

    Lately I've noticed I've been neglecting various friends and family I'd like to stay in touch with, probably due to an unhealthy relationship with posting to a website called 43things. Following the suggestion of a blogging friend I've decided to start a blog and see where it takes me.

    This is a test. This is only a test.

    In future posts I'll have to figure out what kind of a blog this really will be. For the moment, I am intending to make it a combination of random thoughts that are not quite too personal to post and saccharine news about my kid that will make everyone regret that I didn't just stick to letters stuck in Christmas cards

    My ultimate goal? Keep it clean enough for my mother to read.