October 28, 2007

Parenting is Hard-Core

I'm just a font of things to read, lately! Here's more. Kate, you'll appreciate this.

I consider this essay in today's Times to be one of the best things about parenting I've read in a while, and I'm not even really a Ramones fan. But as a compelling and understated argument about how parenting makes us realize so much about the difference between principles and the social markers usually associated with those principles, I think this is just about perfect.

Ironically, my one small quibble is with his laugh line about how parenting changes your relationship to vomit, which it does, and which did make me laugh. But I don't think it totally fits here, right? Because if there was ever an aesthetic movement that seems like it would have prepared you to "catch a handful of vomit, mid-air," it was the late 70's hardcore punk scene. Just saying.

October 26, 2007

This, I Agree With

My mom sent me this story today. It's an essay for the NPR series "This I Believe," and it says something I also believe, which is that admitting that you feel badly about something is often a good thing to do, and is not the same thing as blowing your bad feeling way out of proportion.

The author doesn't mention parenthood in the essay, but I think it's a particularly good lesson for parents to remember. I mean, really. To reiterate my example from my earlier post--I am grateful that Elliot isn't puking up a worm* but that doesn't mean I can't be crabby about the fact that he spilled a box of wheat thins all over the kitchen floor this morning right as I was trying to leave the house and then sobbed and smeared snot all over my sweater while I tried to tear the wheat thin box out of his clutching fist. That was irritating! It was! And it's okay if I feel irritated about it. It's just not okay if I take out my irritation on other people in unfair ways; it's not their fault my favorite sweater is now smeared with crumbs and Elliot snot.

The good news, though, is that Elliot slept much better last night, so I am less irritated than I might be. Yay! Happy outlook restored.

*People keep asking about that worm story! You'll be happy to know that the daughter who puked up the worm was totally fine. Her name was Julia, and she grew up fine and happy and had a happy marriage and several kids, and after the Civil War she (along with lots of other southerners, who knew?) moved to Brazil where she helped set up a town where dispossed southerners could continue to hold slaves free from the meddling of yankees and carpet baggers. I don't think she herself actually owned slaves, though. A few years later she moved back to Alabama and wrote a book about it, which you yourself can read if you go to the UNC Southern Manuscripts archive; they are very nice there and can help you find it even though it's not in the folder with the other Hentz family papers, just fyi.

October 25, 2007

More on sleep; or, we are our demographic, part 729

Whitney sent me this.

My Mom and Niko both suggested immediately that Elliot could wear two layers of pajamas, which would be warmer than just one. Which I have to admit--never say I don't tell all!--hadn't even occured to me.

It had occured to me that I should put Elliot to sleep in his coat, but I'd rejected that as a somewhat cumbersome idea.

Remember how I said sleep was important?

I know, because we are not getting enough of it. Elliot has always been a really good sleeper--not award winning, maybe, but nothing to complain about. He's slept from about 8 until about 6 for months. So complacent had we become about Elliot's sleep habits that I offered to give away my copy of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child because I figured it should go to someone who, you know, needed it. Someone whose child did not have healthy sleep habits.

Well, friends: pride goeth before a fit of screaming at 3 am, because Elliot's sleep habits have become much less healthy. Certainly as a result of Elliot's screaming, my sleep habits are less healthy. So here's the deal: a series of things have conspired all at once to, somehow among them, screw up Elliot's sleep:

*I was gone
*my parents were here, and now are gone
*he's got some teething issues (we seem to be working on eye teeth)
*he kicks off his covers, and then gets cold, because the house is cold at night
*for the first couple of nights of weird sleeping we thought it was just an abberation from his normal, solid sleeper self, and thus indulged him, and thus he LEARNED WE MIGHT INDULGE HIS MIDDLE-OF-THE-NIGHT SOCIAL WHIMS, the sneaky devil.

Anyway, none of these obstacles are insurmountable, but they are a bother, and they do mean that today: I am tired. And I am a little torn about how to handle the cold issue. We have a space heater for Elliot's room, and I guess we'll just start using that, though it seems wasteful. But what else to do for a toddler much too active for a blanket sleeper, but not coordinated enough to cover himsself up with real blankets? If there's an obvious strategy here, and I am too tired to think of it, let me know.

But, lest I wallow in my "only getting five hours of sleep!" misery, let me give a big shout out to two people we know who are getting much much less sleep than me. Our friend's Kelli and Karen both had babies in the last couple of days. Good luck, mamas! You will be tired, but it will be worth it.

October 23, 2007

My folks were just here

And it was great, for several reasons (one of which of course is that with their help we get more PRECIOUS PRECIOUS SLEEP*), not the least of which is that it gives us a couple of extra people around to whom we can say, "isn't he nice? He's so nice. He's so friendly. Look at him! Isn't he beautiful?" as often as we want, without getting irritating.

It would surprise me that I'm really not over just commenting on Elliot's fantasticness, except that Brandon and I are still that way with our pooch, too. When Brandon and I walk her together we say, "Look at her! She's just trotting along. It's so great how she just trots along."

I think that a big part of parental-type love is just knowing the details of someone so well, and appreciating all the nuances of them being themselves.

*More about how sleep is confusing but definitely awesome in today's Times

October 22, 2007

Reading Matter

Just if you're interested, here are two pieces of news that came our way this morning.

First, our friend Manda co-wrote this article about birth practices. Here's a teaser:

Many obstetricians have never witnessed a natural birth in its entirety, and today, Eisenstein says, a natural birth in a hospital is "almost nonexistent. It was more likely 25 years ago than today." People ask more questions when they buy a car or a house than they do when they choose the care provider and birth location that will be part of one of the most important experiences in the life of a family. All of the doctors are nice, he says, "but you're not hiring your doctor to like [him], you are hiring [him] to have the safest possible birth."

Now, I realize that not everyone cares about "natural" birth--and I myself find the category "natural" extremely suspicious, obviously. But, that said: it's shocking how few doctors are used to intervention-free labor. My aunt had a baby, epidural-free, in the UVA hospital a few years ago and only one nurse on the staff had ever seen or heard a woman deliver a baby without pain medication. My aunt had a really bad reaction to the epidural during her first delivery and really didn't want one the second time around--and she's lucky that a CPN happened to be on duty the night she gave birth.

Second, there's this piece about the importance of sleep for children and teens. The thesis of the article is that SLEEP IS IMPORTANT.

The effect [of lack of sleep] was indeed measurable—and sizable. The performance gap caused by an hour’s difference in sleep was bigger than the normal gap between a fourth-grader and a sixth-grader. Which is another way of saying that a slightly sleepy sixth-grader will perform in class like a mere fourth-grader. “A loss of one hour of sleep is equivalent to [the loss of] two years of cognitive maturation and development,” Sadeh explains.

This article is specifically about people under the age of 21, and it is extremely convincing (it also features several skillfully art-directed photos of sleeping adolescents, which are kind of hilarious). As one of several articles recently published about the importance of sleep in general, however, we are newly-resolved around here to protect our PRECIOUS PRECIOUS SLEEP. Lack of sleep, studies show, impedes reaction time, judgement, and self-awareness. Our own personal "study" shows that lack of sleep makes you crabby and is bad for relationships. So don't call late, folks. We are heading to bed.

October 18, 2007

Why we are glad we are not parenting in the 19th century

I'm back, everybody! I've been doing some research at the UNC archives, reading the diaries and letters of this writer, Caroline Lee Hentz. If you haven't heard of her, you are not alone.

Anyway, she kept this diary in the mid 1830s while running a girls' school in rural Alabama. This was back when Alabama was the Southwest; when it was the frontier; when it was a bit, shall we say, "rough." Around the edges. And by "edges" I mean "mud soaked peremeters of her house that stood in for the nonexistent roads leading to EVERYWHERE." As in, between her and everywhere else she wanted to go there was A LOT OF MUD. EVERYWHERE. She was originally from kind of a fancy family in Boston, so it was a bit of an adjustment.

In her diary, she talks a lot about mud, and about being hot; also about spiders, which her crazy husband was obsessed with.

Reading these diaries and letters; it was very interesting. I'm made a little envious by some of her frontier-life stories. I think that, by and large, her life was pretty good. But overall, the reading makes me appreciate again that while modern American parenting is surely difficult, it is made much easier by things like roads. And heaters. And doctors.

Purely for the sake of excitement, let me paste in here part of an entry from August, 1835. Hentz's two daughters have been really sick; puking a lot, with high fevers, and she's really worried because two children in the neighboring village have died recently of measles (now let's all pause to be glad that our children shall not die of measles). Anyway, so this is the climactic conclusion to one of her daughter's illnesses:

“While I sat watching her looking so pallid & sick, all at once her breast heaved, and a great worm a foot long & as large as my finger crawled out of her dear little mouth. I was horror struck, with my unconquerable & unutterable antipathy to all reptiles, to see one of that magnitude thrown from the loathing stomach of my child. It was horrible—-I trust she will find relief after rejecting the hideous monster.”


Now, don't think this means I'm going to stop complaining about how much of a nuisance it is when, like, Elliot pukes on my mattress pad and then I have to really struggle because the mattress pad is almost too fluffy to fit into my in-unit washing machine and I might have to (gasp) go to a laundromat. Because that really is a nuisance, and it does suck to have a mattress pad that smells like sour milk.

But I do think it means that it's good to put your parenting crises in perspective, and while I might generally be inclined to be a little worried about Elliot eating stray food off the floor, probably he will survive because at least he is not puking up a foot-long worm.

October 15, 2007


  1. Is there something strange about the fact that he likes to eat hummus? It's not that we're ideologically blinkered about food categories -- at least, I hope not -- but it's really more of a condiment, isn't it? A spread, or dip, if you will. But not for Elliot. He takes it neat; no chaser. Give him hummus by the trowel-full, and he is happy.

  2. Elliot has a little fetish object -- his first. It's something he likes to have around -- something to carry from room to room, something hold in one hand while doing other things. It's a sock. Elliot is in love with a polka-dotted baby sock. We'll upload pictures soon.

    He carried his sock-friend around with him most of yesterday, and then he took it in the bath with him. When it was saturated with water, he sucked on it.

  3. Elliot and I (B) are alone together for the next 3 days. It's my first crack at single parenthood. Yup.

October 09, 2007

More things that are not my favorite, and some things that are

not favorite:
  • a morning that doesn't start with a poo blow out, but does start with a mammoth milk puke all over the bed
  • mornings that start with inexplicable hour-long crying jags
  • brandon being gone
  • elliot loosing my keys
  • getting crabbed at by a woman NOT in an enclosed park area because my dog, who is within the enclosed park area, is off leash. EXCUSE ME, BUT IT IS 6:30 AM AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE IN THE PARK AREA AND MY TODDLER HAS JUST SHUT UP AFTER CRYING FOR AN HOUR, SO LADY, DON'T TELL *ME* ABOUT CIVIC RESPONSIBILITY.

I feel that I should also say here that I am not saying I don't have perspective on these things, and how very very much worse all of them could be, I am just saying that they are not my favorite things that might happen. That's all. However, these things are among

my favorites:
  • sitting on the beach on an October morning, with your plum in your lap while your pooch runs crazy and joyous
  • sitting on the ground in a park with your friends on an October afternoon that feels like summer, except with crunchy fallen leaves on the ground, talking about life
  • elliot finding my keys, which he had evidently hidden in a trash can (just the one for paper by my desk, nothing nasty)
  • crisp fall mornings, in general
  • neighbors, in general
  • prosciutto and basil on a mini burger
  • the way toddlers walk on their toes

October 05, 2007

About Sarah

Sarah, veteran (as you know) of the swing-state wars of ought-4, is up to her old activism tricks. She's gone and co-founded a new parents' group in our neighborhood! She even bought a web domain name, made a web page of her own devise, & now there's a party.


Just so you know, if you are reading this, you are invited on Halloween.

October 03, 2007

just saying

The mornings that start with me cleaning up a big poo blowout are not my favorite.

October 01, 2007

Quick Question

Does anyone have a preferred recipe for teething biscuits or toddler-appropriate cookies of any kind? Recipes abound on the internet, of course, but if anyone has any personal experience with the issue (Becks? This sounds like you?) I would love to reap the benefits of your wisdom.

In exchange, I can offer you this excellent recipe for some "muffins," and by "muffins" I mean "cupcakes disguised as a breakfast food." They are very good--I made them this weekend--and you can trust me on that because Whitney gave me the recipe.

PS: Brandon wants me to add that Elliot's special nickname for the morning is "Captain Hyper McDiaper Viper." Not for a while, Brandon says, has Elliot's morning nickname been "Cranky McJanky Storm."

PPS: I realize I implied up there that cupcakes are not a breakfast food, but of course that is just crazy talk.