Sunday, March 30, 2008

What a weekend

This weekend, Nelson, Oscar, and I went up to the mountains to celebrate my birthday, and it was magnificent, if not a little cold. We stayed in a riverside cottage at our favorite B&B, ate great food, and enjoyed the outdoors (a little - it was a bit cold for the Bean.)

We at dinner out our first evening there, and Oscar made sure everyone knew he was there. The restaurant was a huge barn-style building with cathedral ceilings, so the acoustics were great. So great, Oscar decided to try them out by shrieking in anger at the top of his lungs. Repeatedly. Wow, was it embarrassing and hilarious.

The next afternoon, we had lunch at a Pizzaria Uno. Oscar was a model baby. He was sitting in his high chair next to his Dad. Dad got distracted by a television in the bar he could just see from our table. Quick as a flash, Oscar reaches over and grabs Nelson's (thankfully empty) plate and pulls it toward him, knocking over a full glass of soda and ice in the process. And he could not have been happier or more proud of himself.

It was a great weekend, including Oscar's antics, which made both Nelson and I feel very parental.
Above, Oscar and I, mugging outside of our B&B.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Mommy doesn't play well with others

Oscar and I went to our first real play group this week. And it was not at all what I expected.

I'm not sure what I was expecting. Five or six women discussing vaccinations and which candidate deserved the mom vote, occasionally mediating toy disputes and kissing little boo-boos. Maybe with some Laurie Bernker in the background. Possibly, this is a pipe dream.

What I got was somewhere in the neighborhood of ten plus moms, with 15 or so kids, ages from two months to two and a half years. The majority of kids were either much younger or much older than Oscar. There was only one kid of comparable age, and he and his mom were great. But there were toddlers running everywhere, almost colling with the my son and the other crawler and taking their toys. There were toys with small parts EVERYWHERE. It was like a mine field for Oscar.

Also, most of the other moms seemed to already know each other, and didn't really seem interested in knowing me (other the the mom w/the similar aged baby.) Given the ages of most of the kids, these women have probably been having play group for one to two years. I was obviously the newcomer and I hardly felt welcome.

I'm not trying to flame the woman who hosted the play group - she was also pretty nice. And, by the end, I'd spoken with two other moms who were pretty nice. But I don't think play groups are for me. I think I'm much more of a play date kind of mom - just a few other moms and their kids. More relaxed, less busy.

Above, a photo of Oscar and his friend Gideon on a play date a few weeks ago.

Monday, March 24, 2008

What's in a name?

Several weeks ago, I saw my friend Amanda at a wine club party. I've known Amanda for several years - we both interned at the same non-profit (though a year apart) and we both continued to volunteer at that organization after we'd gone. I have a whole network of friends I met though that particular organization, and we try to get together on a regular basis.

Since last seeing Amanda, she'd gotten married. We were chatting about that and she confessed to me "I'm changing my name. And I hate it." Shocking news! In this particular group of friends, we all address each other by our last names. In truth, probably the first time I've ever called Amanda "Amanda" is right here in this blog and I've know her for more than six years. So a name change, which is always a huge deal in my opinion, is an even bigger deal in this instance.

"I'm changing my name. And I hate it," she said. "Then why are you doing it?" was my response. She explained that it was important to her husband that they share the same name, and that he really didn't understand that it was going to be a big deal, to her and her friends. But, ultimately, it was her decision and she's going through with it. And I really don't get it, but I accept it and support her decision.

When Nelson and I got married, there was never a discussion about me changing my name. Okay, there was. It went like this:

J: "You know I'm not changing my, right?"

N: "Of course! I wouldn't want you to. It would be weird if you did."

Seriously, this was his EXACT response. It was so perfect, it is emblazoned in my memory. That, and the fact that he said, "Now that we're getting married I have to tell you something. (PAUSE) I hate whole wheat pasta and brown rice. I never want to eat them again." Hilarious, I know.

Anyway, so there it is. My husband hates whole grains, but respects and supports my decision not to change my name.

Then, I got pregnant. When we were deciding on Oscar's name, Nelson suggested that we hyphenate his last name, so that he's share both of our last names. I immediately vetoed this idea. There's no way I could saddle my kid with a hyphenated name, even though our names sound really cool together. Oscar would have Nelson's last name; I'd have my own.

I've had some people question my decision to keep my name - Don't I wish I had the same last name as my son, that my whole family shared one name? I don't, not at all. Part of the reason is that having my own last name gives me a sense of identity outside of "wife" and "mother." I like having that. There is also that I grew up in a family where we did not all have the same last name (my older sister was from my mom's first marriage and had her father's last name), and that didn't make us any less of a family.

My parents made sure we knew growing up my sister was no less my sister because she had a different dad and a different name, and I love them for making that decision. In fact, when I was about six years old, the nasty older girl across the street told me that Nikole wasn't my "real" sister, only my "half" sister, and I was inconsolable. I thought that meant we couldn't love each other as much. My mom said to me, "Do you love her like she's your sister?" I sniffled, "Yes." "That's because she IS your sister," my mom said. To this day, that conversation with my mother taught me more about the meaning of family than any other moment in my life.

So, what's in a name? What am I trying to say here?

Whenever one of my girlfriends tells me she's going to change her name, I think back to that conversation with my mom more than 20 years ago, and how she said exactly the right thing and made me understand a concept that is pretty lofty for a six-year-old. I guess I'm trying to say sharing a name is not what makes you family. LOVE is what makes you family. And I've got plenty of that.

Above, Oscar with his very first visitor, my sister, about 15 hours after his birth.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Where have all the babies gone?

Technically, nowhere. But things at casa de P-G have gone from laid back and relaxed to hippity hopping and hairy in about the space of one week. Oscar is so mobile these days that I can't look away (to say, change Danny's diaper or give him a bottle) for a second and he's off trying to find something to get into - a cord to chew on, a gaming system to pull off the entertainment center, a metal Thermos to pull onto his little head, a shoe in the mouth, my toe in his mouth - I could go on.


Last week, while I was giving Danny a bottle, Oscar was creeping around on the floor at my feet. He began to reach beneath me, under the couch - not surprising given he and Danny make it their j0b t0 toss toy under the couch so they (I) can retrieve them. Then, I see the pincer grasp come out. Then I see the fingers go in his mouth. As fast as was safely possible, I put Danny on the floor, bottle in hand, and I grab Oscar and begin prying his mouth open. He's got that sucker clamped shut tighter than a bear trap. Fortunate, my will to keep my son from choking on a non food object (NFO to parents and pet owners) was stronger than his jaws and I got my finger in there and swept. It was a piece of bread from my lunch sandwich that must have fallen off my shirt. It had peanut butter on it. And he loved it.

And Danny, sweet, little Danny is so strong that I think he's going to pull the couch over onto himself in his eagerness to stand. He actually dragged the Jumparoo about four inches across the floor yesterday. Don't worry - this is not something he could pull onto himself. His strength is amazing!

To quote Danny's Mommy, I think my job just got a whole lot harder! It's also gotten a whole lot more fun, so that pretty much evens it all out.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

WaaaaaAAAHaaaaAAAAHaaaaa! AH!

So, I'm pretty sure Oscar is teething.

Is it the constant drool that's causing chafing on his chin that makes me so certain? No.

Could it be the marathon late-night nurse fests? Nope.

How about the two HUGE tooth buds on his top gums that are so close to the surface you can see the gleam of enamel? No sir-ee Bob.

It would have to be the nearly constant state of whining the kid has been in for the last three days, the likes of which I haven't seen since a month before he cut his bottom two teeth. Thank God he's sleeping right now.

That's right, a MONTH of whining. He whines when he's sitting; he whines when he's standing; he whines when he's on is back; he whines when he's on his tummy; he whines in his Jumparoo; he whine's while I'm holding him; he whines while he's playing. Constant. Whining.

So with any luck, we'll see those upper pearly whites by mid April. I hope my ears don't start bleeding before then.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Child labor?

Oscar's gotten so good at creeping and crawling, I'm thinking of attaching Swiffer dust cloths to his tummy so he can clean the floor while he's motoring around. His clothes to such a great job of picking up animal fur and dirt invisible to the naked eye, I can only imagine how well a Swiffer would do.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Happy nine month birthday, Bean!

Happy, happy, birthday my love!

Mommy (MamaMA to you)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Dancing machine, watch him get down, watch him get down!

As a parent, I mostly steer clear of electronic toys. I don't believe babies, or kids for that matter, need bells and whistles and flashing lights to have fun. I want him to use his imagination and be creative, and I don't think fancy toys encourage that kind of behavior. And, it turns out I'm right.

Anyway, one area where I've totally caved on this is musical toys. Sure, I have toys that my son can use to make his own music, but I also have plenty of toys that produce music when he hits a button or something. I think music is a really important part of a child's development, so I don't feel so bad about this concession.

We bought him this duck. Okay, now before I continue, let me just say that whatever you do, DO NOT BUY THIS DUCK for your child. It is the worst toy we've ever purchased for Oscar. It is horribly annoying and we (the parents) hate it. I hate it so much I hid it. But, my cleaning ladies found it and back into the toy bin it went. It has musical instruments on each limb that you press to hear the instrument's individual part in the main song. The main song is activated by MOTION SENSOR on the duck's abdomen. That is to say it goes off almost constantly when in the hands of a nine-month-old, and keeps restarting from the middle of the song and never stops.

That said, Oscar loves it. And, yesterday, he was playing with it and he started dancing! Not break dancing or anything - baby dancing; bouncing up and down, waving his arms grinning from ear to ear. It was so cute I almost cried. Now, he's dancing to any song he hears. He's got rhythm! It is so stinkin' cute it almost redeemed the duck. Almost.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Losing an hour, or three

Ah, spring! The season of budding flowers, cool rains, misty mornings. I love spring - I was born in the spring, Oscar was born in the spring (the tail end, anyways.) I love the renewal - birds coming home to roost, the smell of rain and wet soil and fresh mulch. I love the longer days and cooking and eating outdoors.

However, I HATE springing ahead. I always feel so robbed. I've never been a morning person, so losing that hour really hurts. It usually takes me weeks to get over it, but I'm faring much better than usual this time around. It's probably because I'm sleeping less anyways because of my son. We'd settled into a nice routine of him waking once between 3am and 5am and getting up around 6:30am-7am. But now were back to waking three times a night. He sounds really pathetic when he wakes, so we're thinking he's cutting his top two teeth. Oh, Oscar.

Prior to my son's birth, I never, NEVER got up before 7:30am unless there was a morning meeting at work. Now, I'm not much for sleeping in because I feel like I'm wasting the day, but I've just never been able to manage getting out of bed when it's still dark outside. Oscar is an early bird like his Grandaddy, so he's crowing by 6:30am at the very latest. No more sleeping past 7am for mommy.

This has been one of the most difficult transitions of motherhood for me - the early morning. And today, I've come to the realization that my mornings have to get even earlier. As it stands, it is nearly impossible for me to get everything done that needs to get done in a given day. There is no more time at the end of the day - it's just jam-packed. At this point, I'm having trouble finding the time to shower on a semi-regular basis and I can't deal with that anymore. It's not even just a hygiene issue at this point; it's a mental health issue.

I have to find more time. I have to get up before Oscar. I have to get up before 6:30am. I have to get up before 6:00am. I have to rise when it's still dark. I haven't done that since high school, when first period started at 7:15am. I don't know how I'm going to do it. I think I'll just get up 15 minutes earlier every few days until I'm up by 5:45am. That has to be early enough. I just don't think I can do any earlier.

Monday, March 10, 2008


I knew it was going to happen sooner or later, and it happened today. As Oscar and I were enjoying a quite moment nursing before his nap, he sunk his razor-like egg teeth into one of the most sensitive parts of a person's body. And it HURT!

I should have seen it coming. I looked down at my suckling babe and noticed he wasn't really nursing, just kind of sitting there, attached to the breast, gazing drowsily off into the distance. I was getting ready to call our nursing session to a close and put him down when I felt a little pressure on my nipple. Now, for the first second or two, I thought he'd resumed nursing again because that's kind of what nursing feels like once you're used to it - pressure. Then, it felt sharp. Then I said rather loudly, "OUCH! NO! NO! NO BITING!" which make him bite harder. And then I stuck my finger in his mouth and unlatched him.

He laughed; I checked for blood (there was none) and put him down for his nap. He's sleeping, I'm no longer sore, but I have to wonder how I'm going to keep this from happening again.

Above, Oscar, growling and bearing his teeth.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Like Dad, only cooler

"Self Portrait of an Uncle"
Uncle PJ

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The hum drum

I've recently had a few people ask me what I do all day long home with Oscar (and sometimes Danny) and there's was recently a blog post on on of my parenting listservs about what one does with their kids as a stay-at-home-parent.

First, let me just say if you can't figure out what to do with kids all day, being a stay-at-home-parent is probably not the right career path. Yes, it takes some trial and error and getting used to, but anyone who's ever stayed home for an extended period of time with a kid (or two) knows full well there is always something to do.

So, anyway, here's what my routine looks like with the boy, or boys depending on the day:

Anywhere from 3am to 5am - Oscar's first waking; nurse and back to sleep

6am-7am: Wake up, nurse Oscar, get dressed, change Oscar's diaper

7:00am-8:30am: Oscar plays in Jumparoo while I fix his breakfast, my coffee, sometimes my breakfast; Oscar and I eat; I throw in a load of laundry; I puree some baby food I steamed last night and freeze it; throw something in the crockpot; vacuum floor; Danny arrives

8:30am-9:15ish: Diaper changing, floor playing, nursing for Oscar, down for naps

9:30am-10:30am: Nap time; I blog, read blogs, check email

10:30am-noon: Get Oscar dressed; floor play practicing standing and crawling; interactive play with me (tickling, making silly faces and sounds, dancing, etc.) a walk if it's nice and they're in a good mood; Danny's first bottle; loads of diaper changes

Noon-1pm - Boys play in Jumparoo/Exersaucer while I prepare lunch; boys eat lunch

1pm-1:30pm - Floor play and a story; Oscar nurses

1:30pm-2:30pm/3:30pm - Nap time, I do more laundry, load/unload dishwasher, check blogs, read

3:30pm-4pm - Danny's second bottle, snack time (floor play if they're up earlier)

4pm-5pm - Walk if it's nice, floor play and a story if it's not

5pm-5:45pm - Singing, Oscar nurses, practicing patty cake, waving, nodding yes and no

5:45pm: Danny goes home; I prepare Oscar's dinner

6pm: Oscar has dinner

6:30pm: Oscar has a bath

6:45pm: Oscar nurses and goes to bed

7pm: Pick up toys, clean off and put away high chairs

7:30pm: Dinner (usually prepared by PJ)

8pm: Dishes (usually done by Nelson, but not always)

8:30pm-10pm: Steam/puree baby food if necessary; fold day's laundry; take out day's trash and recycling (Nelson does this if not the dishes); go through mail; pay bills; call parents; watch TV or read

10pm: Bed

So, that's a day. All times are approximate. On day's when Danny's here, I change between 15 and 20 diapers. Floor play is interspersed with holding and cuddling as necessary - they let me know when they need it. Sometimes they cry and I soothe them. Sometimes they both cry and that's hard. Sometimes I'm on the floor playing with them, and sometimes I'm not, because while stimulation from me is important, it is also really important that they learn to play independently. Also, they go in the Jumparoo/Exersaucer for maybe 30 minutes a day (not including when I prepare lunch), which allows me to eat lunch. And, yes, two babies is twice as much work, BUT they entertain each other which is nice.

Now that it's getting nicer and the boys are older and more mobile, I'm looking forward to playing outdoors, going to play groups and other outings. I'll probably add a morning snack in a couple of months. As I think you can see, I'm at no loss for what to do and my days are hardly boring.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Little man

This weekend, I began the chore of packing up Oscar's 6-9 month wardrobe. I'd mentioned in a previous post that he'd recently grown out of a pair of his PJs. We went out two weekends ago and bought him two new pairs. We also got him some new white onesies and socks. The only things that still fit him are the socks. I bought 9 month PJs thinking that the 12 month PJs looked much too large (they're not.) I bought him 12 month onesies that for some reason are even smaller than his 9 month onesies, and in my sleepy attempt to get some laundry done this morning, I threw them in the wash. So I can't even return them.

I don't like packing up the Bean's clothes. For one thing, it is really hard for me to find the time to do it. Because his clothes are in his room, I can't do it during nap time. I can't do it when he's awake because he doesn't want to hang out in his crib and he's so mobile these days I can't leave him to play on the floor without constant monitoring. So that leaves the weekends, the only time I have Nelson around to give me some relief, when I'd rather be taking a solo trip to Target or Kohls or spending time with my family. But, such is life.

Now, Oscar has not grown out of all of his 6-9 month clothes, but enough of them that I needed to do a serious pack up this past weekend. Nelson and I decided to keep the 9 month onesies and PJs until they really didn't fit. This morning, they really didn't fit. It's been TWO DAYS. Also, I weighed Oscar on Friday, and he was a whopping 18 lbs 8 ozs. Then, yesterday both Nelson and PJ commented that Oscar "felt heavy," so I weighed him this morning - 19 lbs 2 ozs!!!! That's a gain of 10 ozs in four days. I'd been complaining to Nelson that I was exhausted and starving and thought Oscar must be going through a growth spurt because he was nursing like crazy - I guess I was right.

Above: My little men, Oscar and Danny, enjoying their lunch.

If you're selling God, I'm not buying

Several weeks ago, I had a bit of a Mommy Meltdown. It was a day I had both boys, and it was a hard day. Hard days with the boys are few and far between, but when they come boy do they run me down.

This particular day, I had tried to get the boys down for their AM nap, which usually begins somewhere around 9-9:30. Well, they both decided they didn't want to do that - fussing and crying ensued and I caved. I can deal with one crying baby, but when they gang up on me, they win every time. So, we played for a little longer.

By 10:15 or so, Oscar fell asleep nursing, so I put him down. Danny was a little fussy (because he was tired), so I decided to give him a bottle. He drank blissfully and began to drift off, which is very unusual for Danny and a real testament to his exhaustion at this point.

And then, it happened. My dogs started to bark. They're dogs, they do that, and the boys are actually both pretty much okay with it. It doesn't even wake them most times. But this wasn't your ordinary bark. This was an angry bark meant to strike fear in the hearts of mail and package delivery people who dare to set foot upon our porch. Thankfully, these people usually leave after about one second and the dogs stop barking, triumphant that they were once again successful at scaring strangers away from our home.

But, this time the dogs didn't stop. Then, the absolute worst thing that could have possibly happened occurred. The doorbell rang. Then, the dogs when absolutely bananas, barking, salivating, bearing their teeth, raising their hackles, throwing themselves at the door. Danny's eyes fling open, Oscar starts SCREAMING HIS BRAINS OUT upstairs. I get up, and put Danny down so I can check the door, and he starts SCREAMING HIS BRAINS OUT. It is complete pandemonium in my home - babies screaming, dogs barking, doorbells ringing.

I go fight my way through my pack of vicious sounding dogs to the door to see who could possibly be ringing my bell at 10:30AM. It was two Jehovah's Witnesses. I look at them incredulously, and scream (you know, to be heard over the two howling babies and three frantic dogs) "Can you hear my babies crying and my dogs barking? Why won't you leave me alone? GET OUT OF HERE! GO!" And they did, quickly for fear that the fire coming out of my mouth would penetrate the glass door and incinerate them.

Once they left, the dogs calmed down (yeah, we did it again! Take that God solicitors!), I let Danny finish his bottle, and retrieve Oscar from his crib. Peace and sanity reigned again. They boys did not get a morning nap, but when down earlier in the afternoon, and for longer so it all evened out in the end.

Fast forward to this morning. While Oscar was napping and I was playing with Danny, I heard Nebo give a little chuff from his sentry post at the window. I got up and looked to see the same two Jehovah's Witnesses coming down my street. My heart started racing, my palms started sweating - I was honestly embarrassed about my behavior during our last confrontation. It wasn't like me. I'm always nice to the Jehovah's Witnesses. They're just practicing their religion the way they think is best, they don't mean any harm. But I really, really REALLY don't want to deal with them and am so tired of them coming to my door (as they do very often in our neighborhood) and they're at my neighbor's house so I know I'm next! Ahhhh!

So I did the only thing I could think to do to keep them away. I let the dogs out. And it worked.

I really hope I'm not going to hell for this one.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Out like a light

I nurse Oscar to sleep for his naps. I've done this pretty much all of the 8.5 months of his life. Sometimes, if he's really tired and just refusing to fall asleep at the breast, I'll put him down awake. He usually cries/fusses for under ten minutes and then falls into a very restful slumber.

I've noticed a trend in the past few weeks. If he falls asleep at the breast, he's awake from his nap in 30 minutes or less and won't go back down. If he falls asleep on his own (after five-ten minutes of crying/fussing) he stays down for an hour or more and wakes much more refreshed. This seems like a clear indicator that he sleeps more fitfully when I let him put himself to sleep.

So, that's that. He sleeps better on his own. Without Mommy's help. Without my help. Without me. On the one hand, I'm so glad he's growing and learning to soothe himself and well on his way to a lifetime of good sleeping habits. On the other hand, I'm not sure I'm ready to let go of our nap time ritual even though Oscar obviously is. He's just so little.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

You can call me Jenni Hussein

Because you assumed that my family must be in the mafia because we're Italian (so what if that's a little true.)

Because I'm tired of people saying "Bada-bing" and "fuggitdaboutit" and my name with a Brooklyn accent thinking that it's hilarious. It's not, so shut up.

Because my genetics give my upper lip a bit of a shadow and a nose that's nowhere near a button and I like it that way.

Because I'm loud and I talk with my hands but that's just called a spirited conversation in my family. It's not my fault you're boring.

Because my grandparents spoke English and Italian and weren't any less American for it.

Tag, you're it.

And on another note

Is anyone else here beyond excited for Tuesday, March 4? I haven't anticipated an even like this since Oscar's birth. Could we finally have our presidential candidate? Have you looked at the polls recently? You should! Obama has eradicated Clinton's staggering double digit leads in Texas and Ohio of just three weeks ago down to one and two point leads, and some polls even have him leading her. This is just so freaking exciting. I'm half out of my seat all the time. Is this how sports fans feel when their team is in the play offs?

I'm excited because I think we actually have the opportunity to change politics and change our country and the way we're seen in the world. I'm excited because it has been a long, cold seven years for liberals over in exile and I can't wait to come home. I'm excited because cowboy hats will get the crap out of DC and go back to the ranch where they belong. I'm excited because for the first time since my kid was born, I'm obsessed with something other than Oscar's bowel movements and developmental milestones.

I just want Obama to win the nomination, and the presidency so bad, I'm almost afraid to admit it because if he loses I will be crushed. I'm so tired of my father and my father-in-law and so many other people saying Obama won't win because America is not ready for a black president. I'm calling bull shit on that. If not now, when? He inspires people. He's honest. He's charismatic. He's smart. He's offering this country a new direction and new solutions. It's time.

Yes, we can!