Who Is This Kid?

31 08 2012

A year ago, so much of what I was preparing for my almost-here baby seemed ridiculous: sippy cups, 18-month-sized clothes, toys bigger than a loaf of bread… It would be EONS before she could use any of that stuff.

Right?

Wrong.  A few months ago, our impressive collection of pint glasses was moved aside to make room for neon-colored, spill-proof cups.  My daughter is happily sleeping in pjs that aren’t exactly big on her, size 18 months.  Those toys, whose purpose I could not fathom as my infant daughter barely looked at them, are now spread throughout the house by an enthusiastic master of play time.  And while I worried for months about our large cat jumping on her and hurting her, now I fear for our cat’s well-being as our Godzilla of an almost-one-year-old spies him and leaps onto him from two feet away, shrieking like fire alarm the whole time.

And I have to ask…

Where the hell did my baby go?

I vaguely remember a time when I had a baby.  I think she was cute.  But someone came into our house and took away that squalling mess of vomit and poop and milky sweetness and left this intense, opinionated, intelligent, gorgeous toddler in her place.  A toddler who can buzz like a bee, moo like a cow, and EAT WITH A FORK (not effectively, but still – a fork?  She’ll probably be taking her SATs next week).

Already, I’ve had to adjust from a milk-and-baby-food regimen to  three healthy meals a day.  Mind you, I still get a rush of amazement each morning as I scramble eggs and broccoli and ham for the tyrant’s first meal of the day.  “Look at me!” I think.  “I’m acting like a mother!  Ha, ha, cooking breakfast, good joke.”  By dinner time, it’s more of a rush of panic: “She needs to eat AGAIN?  I haven’t had a minute to wash the breakfast and lunch dishes, and now she’s expecting ANOTHER MEAL?  I wonder if frozen peas and string cheese count as dinner?”

But she gives me big, open-mouth kisses on demand.  And so I knead pizza dough while she makes a playdough-and-Kleenex concoction and sneaks little tastes of it when she thinks I’m not looking, and I provide yet another meal for the insatiable little human who has taken the place of my little baby doll.

She’s learned to help me get her dressed, automatically moving her toy from one hand to the other as I put her shirt on (unless she’s in a mood, in which case she goes entirely rigid, grips her toy with both hands, and screams like her life is ending).  When the car stops, she eagerly looks around to see where we’ve turned up (the grocery store!  Target! the grocery store again!).  She knows about a million words (not including the treasures that begin with f and sh).  “Do you want anymore, or are we feeding this to Charlie?” I ask, and she looks pointedly at the dog dish.

I have to hide when I eat anything I don’t want to share, or when I don’t want to drink my water with a healthy dose of toddler backwash.

Her board books are all missing chunks where she’s managed to gum them to pieces.  But now, at bedtime, she spends ten or fifteen minutes flipping through the pages of “Happy Hippo, Angry Duck” and “The Bed Time Book,” as serious as a secretary doing her filing, while I sneak a few pages of my own book.

Every day since she was born, I have looked at her and thought, “I am going to miss the little person she is, right now, at this moment.”

And yet, the next day, I inevitably think, “THIS person she is today makes it worth losing the person she was just yesterday.”

So, I will never forget the baby I used to have, even as the memories of long nights and hazy days fade, leaving behind just the memories of a tiny, sweet, suckling angel.  But I am way too excited about the toddler I have now to miss that baby much.

And also too busy.  Because I have to go cook that toddler another meal.

New baby

Almost 3 months old

6 months old

 

9 months old

11 months old





A Fine Preview of Things To Come

15 08 2012

I will thank you in advance for not sending messages regarding how much more “fun” (ie impossible) parenting gets…

The other day, I gave Hazel a peeled banana, which she dug into.  As she got near the end, I reached over to pull off the yucky brown end of it.

Oh.  My.  God.

She absolutely erupted in enraged screams of indignation.  She went rigid in her high chair, eyes squeezed shut, tears flowing, lips curled, with this horrible screaming “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE” coming out of her mouth between desperate gasps of oxygen.

I picked her up with apologies.

She tried to cling to my shirt with both hands, but she wouldn’t let go of the damn banana, which was tightly squished in her little fist, and as she tried to grasp me with that hand (further enraged because she couldn’t have her banana AND grab me with both hands), she repeatedly mashed the banana into my hair, neck, chest, and shirt.  All while wailing at top volume.

I mean, at that point, I was ready to glue that little brown banana bit back onto her fruit, but she was clearly past all reason.

The next time I gave her a banana, I just let her have the whole thing.  She ended up with a whole strip of peel in her mouth, which she actually chewed on for a minute or two, but it was better than 10 minutes of inconsolability because I dare suggest she only eat the inside of the fruit.  (For the record, she won’t eat a banana or any other fruit if it’s chopped up into pieces.  I mean, give me some credit for thinking of that.)

Honestly, you’d think I’d learn, but not a week later, I was again holding a tearful, shuddering,  fruit-flavored near-toddler in my lap after a nectarine incident.  We both got a shower after that meal.

T minus 4 seconds to total meltdown. How does that happen?

I can’t say I’m thrilled to be entering the tantrum zone, but it’s the flip side of all these amazing, awesome feats of discovery and awareness that my little girl is experiencing.

She has discovered OUT!  And IN!  “In” is kind of fun for her, but “Out” is ever so much better.  And so our days are spent with me packing the diaper bag, her unpacking it, me repacking it.  Same goes for her box of toys, the bookshelf, Dad’s computer bag, and the laundry basket.  One in a hundred items she pulls out goes back in.  At this point, though, I am so intrigued by watching her explore everything she finds (even if she just “found” it again for the millionth time today) that I am willing to play her little games.

She has progressed past the compulsion to immediately shove everything into her mouth.  So I just watch her as she pulls something out of my bag – a tube of Starbucks Via, for example – and see what she does.  She looks at it carefully, pondering what fabulous thing this might be.  She shakes it.  She scratches her index finger along the crimped end.  She bangs it on the floor.  She pinches at the contrasting colors of the logo.  Then she looks at it again, clenched in her fist, and looks back at the diaper bag.  She pauses.  Then, still clutching the tube in one hand, she digs in the bag with her other.  And finds something even more fascinating.  She drops the tube of coffee crystals and triumphantly holds a maxi pad in both hands, raises it in the air, and stares at it with a giant grin, as if to say, “AHA!  THIS is the wonderful prize they have been withholding from me all this time!”  And the process repeats.

Really, she imbues every mundane object in my life with a shiny glamour of exotic potential I never before considered possible.

“Hmmm… What delectable treasures await me in this paper bag? A receipt! I have always wanted one of my own! To crinkle, to tear, and finally – to eat!”

I see her making decisions now.  She knows she isn’t supposed to put driveway gravel in her mouth.  She plays happily with the rocks for awhile, then, holding a rock in her hand, she looks at me to see if I am watching.  Smiling, she slooooooowly brings it to her open mouth.  “Ah ah ah,” I say, shaking my head, and she actually laughs as she drops the rock back to the ground.  She isn’t even disappointed.  She can play that game over and over.  Of course, I totally lose if I’m not paying attention at the critical moment, because, oh yes, she will put it in her mouth if I don’t play my part according to the script.

(On the other hand, her response totally varies by mood.  “Ah ah ah,” I said today as she reached for an outlet.  She stopped immediately.  She paused a moment.  Then she collapsed in a wailing heap of devastated hope that today would be the day she finally got to play with that wonderful anomaly in our otherwise very dull wall.)

Every single minute of the day – even the sticky, fruit-covered, tear-filled minutes – I am stunned by the beauty of this little girl who is figuring out how to navigate this crazy world I brought her into.  My thoughts are something along the lines of “Oh, my god, you are doing it!  You are becoming a person!  I can see it happening!”  Which is, first of all, an understatement, and second of all, kind of obvious.  But it’s my daily miracle, because this isn’t just a baby turning into a kid, this is MY baby turning into MY kid.  It still blows my mind.

And, so it goes.  With the happy, inquisitive almost-one-year-old comes the fiercely stubborn and independent almost-one-year-old, and, really, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  She’s my baby, and if she wants to eat the nasty brown end of a banana, I’m going to let her.  And if she wants to play with the outlets, you’re probably going to hear her screams of determination from two states away.  And when she’s two?  I’m really curious to see what all she will have learned and who she will have become… and as far as the tantrums go?  Well, let’s face it.  I’m probably fucked.

Good thing she is so amazingly adorable. Like, really amazing. And really adorable. It’s mind-boggling.





I Am a Diaper Nerd.

10 08 2012

How many people know what brand of diaper they are going to use before they have met the man they are going to marry?

Well, at least one.  Yeah, that’s me.

When I was a nanny, my families used disposables, and frankly, it never really occurred to me that people still used anything else.  Had they started talking about cloth diapers, I would have been speechless.

Which is funny, because just a few years later, I was anything but speechless on the subject of diapers.  But there was still only one kind of diaper for me.

g diapers.

Oh!  The cuteness!  Oh!  The environmental benefits!  Oh!  The ease (they FLUSH, people, FLUSH)!  And in case you didn’t get it the first time: THE CUTENESS!

Of course, I eventually met the man I would marry.  And way too early in our relationship, I brought up the topic of (g) diapers, and he was totally on board, and I was, like, bring on the wedding cake!

Yet, up until 2 days ago, I had never actually used g diapers.  You see, that dream died when we bought a house with a septic system that was not compatible with the flushable inserts.

My friend and gMum mentioned I could use them with cloth inserts, but, you know, that just wasn’t my dream.  We have another friend with a baby a little older than Hazel, and she was using pocket diapers and all-in-ones, and that seemed easy enough.  And g diapers, for all that I dreamed of using them, were actually something of a mystery to me.

But recently, we needed to supplement our diaper supply, and I turned to my diaper guru – who is the above mentioned gMum and mother of 3 gBabies.  Little surprise that she finally convinced me to order some little gPants and some gCloth inserts.

I was so excited that I photographed their arrival.  I mean, who does that?  If you’re so inclined, note that Hazel is wearing a bulky, off-brand pocket diaper with missing snaps.  She obviously can’t wait to upgrade.

For those who stumble upon this post for an actual review of gDiapers, here it is:

gDiapers are simple, easy to use, and it’s possible to find great deals on used gPants and the liners that go inside.  So don’t panic when you hear they have 3 parts.  That threw me enough to avoid them for 11 months, and now I am SO SORRY.  There is the outer cotton pant, a snap-in waterproof liner, and a cloth or disposable (flushable/compostable) insert.  You buy the pant and liner together, and the inserts separately.  A diaper “change” consists of changing the insert and probably the liner as well.  The inserts obviously get washed after each use, and the liners pretty much as often (but they are easy to wash out in the sink and dry in an hour or two), but the pants only need to be washed every few days and can be washed with regular laundry.

Pros:

– Obviously, absolutely adorable on any bum (but especially hers).

– Very trim for a cloth diaper, and last as long as our pocket diapers.

– Hook and loop closures on the back instead of the front discourage ape-like-feces-finger-painting.

– Compared with pocket diapers, the set up takes up very little room in my diaper bag.

– I LOVE LOVE LOVE that we can use the disposable inserts when we travel.  I have never had the gumption to ask a host if I can wash my dirty cloth diapers in their washer, if one is available, and we have always traveled with disposable diapers.  With gDiapers, the insert is a lot less waste than a full diaper, the liners can be washed out in a bathroom sink, and the pants don’t need to be washed often, but can go in with any other household laundry.  It’s simple enough to take camping and other places I can’t do a load of laundry.  I’m really excited to be at least partial cloth when we travel now.

– Less laundry than a pocket diaper system, where the whole diaper AND the insert have to washed after each use.

– You can buy gDiapers and supplies at local grocery stores (where we live).

– gDiapers have really good resale value.  I found special edition gPants on ebay for four times their original value.

– The gDiaper community is awesome, customer service is readily available.

Cons:

– The 3-part system is not really a con, it’s really very easy, but it kind of sounds intimidating.  My advice is to get over it.

– The cost, if you choose to only use the flushable/compostable inserts, is nearly twice that of regular disposable diapers.  But you’re saving the earth.  And since gDiapers came out with their cloth inserts, you can use the system with reusable inserts for about the same cost as pocket diapers.

– g Diapers have a huge, loyal following.  However, you can read plenty of horror stories of people who bought $200 worth of g Diapers and could never get them to fit correctly on their babies.  Okay, that’s pretty awful.  But you can read the same horror stories in reviews of every other type of cloth diaper, too.  Anyway, this kind of put me off g Diapers because I didn’t know what I would need if I just wanted to try them – I figured I needed the whole system or whatever.  However, after my new g Diapers came, I went to our used baby gear store and found some little gPants with liners ($6 each) and extra liners ($2 each).  A pack of six gCloth inserts runs about $28, but you can find them cheaper.  So I could have gotten one to try, with extra liners and six inserts, for under $40, the price of two or three pocket diapers.  And with six inserts, you get at least three and as many as six diaper changes (Hazel is fine with a single insert, my friend uses two for extra absorbency).

Summary:

Worth a try.  Like me, you’ll probably end up haunting local gDiaper retailers and re-sellers and coveting the extra-cute special edition gPants your husband says you don’t need.  Like me, you will probably spend days (weeks?) dressing your kid in t-shirts and dresses with no pants because the little g on their bum is SO DAMN CUTE.  Like me, you will seek out people who will listen to you talk endlessly about gDiapers (thanks, Mom).

Anyway, Hazel has been in gDiapers for two days now.  I even bought a pack of disposable inserts to try the next time we travel.  And I signed up to be a gMum.

And there you have it.

Some dreams really do come true.





Toys, Toys, Toys. And Toys.

3 08 2012

Hazel has a play area in our living room, where she has three bins of toys.  Each bin has a stuffed animal, a couple of books, a “big” toy, and several small toys.  She also has a bin of “kitchen toys,” which are random items from my cabinets.  She gets one bin at a time, and it usually lasts a couple of days before I rotate it.  Which seems totally reasonable to me.

But, then there is the little box of toys to play with in the kitchen, mostly more random kitchen items plus whatever empty cereal box or yogurt container I toss down there for the day.

Then there is the little bucket of toys (actually, a couple of rocks and a length of rope) next to the counter where my laptop sits.

Then there is the pile of toys in her carseat.

And then there is the collection of toys next to the bathroom.

Oh, and a bin of toys in her bedroom, for when we are both tired but not ready for nap.

Oh, yeah, and the toys hanging from her stroller.

Oh, yeah, and her bath toys.

When we scored big at a garage sale a couple of months ago, I did put a bunch of toys in “toy time-out,” to hopefully become interesting again.  But with her birthday coming up, it was time to take a toy inventory and see how utterly overwhelmed with crap we have actually become.  So all those toys got dumped onto her playmat for evaluation.  This is what it looked like:

(And since this is a sort of toy-hoarding confession, let me add that we also have a giant bucket of stuffed animals and a shelf full of books that didn’t get included in the spread.  Neither did her bath toys.)

Don’t get me wrong.  I love having all these toys.  And Hazel plays with every single one of them.  I’m grateful that we have all this, and we have great fun with our abundance of stuff.  And most days this summer, in the heat of the summer afternoon, I count on this pile of baby paraphernalia for my sanity – and I’m sure the winter freezes will emphasize the positive aspects of having a mind-boggling amount of toys.

But before I was a mother, I imagined I would have a dignified shelf of classic and beautifully arty toys for my kid.  All of which would be developmentally appropriate, brain-power-enhancing, and encouraging of open-ended, imaginative play.  Instead, I have the typically American cornucopia of brightly-colored, world-polluting, off-gassing, imported plastic junk (although we also have some very nice toys, some classic toys, and some pretty wood toys).

So how did I get sucked into this toy vortex?  And when did I drink the brightly-colored, world-polluting, off-gassing, imported Kool-Aid?

Granted, most of our toys are gifts, garage sale finds, hand-me-downs, and loaners.  But when someone offers to loan us some toys, or when I pass a garage sale, I jump on it – yes!  Please!  We need more toys!  We love toys!

Of course, I married an ecologist.  So when the topic of birthday gifts came up, and I said Little People Farm!  Fisher-Price puzzles!  Maybe a Laugh-n-Learn Kitchen!, Jason had to slow me down and make me breathe some fresh air, away from those toxic fumes rising from Hazel’s pile of stuff.

Because what does Hazel really need?

Okay, I know the answer to that.  She’s not even a year old.  She doesn’t need much at all.

But then there is me.  And if I see something that will make my little girl smile, I want it.  I want to see her see it, and watch it catch her eye, and watch that slow smile creep onto her face, and see her tentatively reach out for a preliminary touch before she grabs it and grins and looks back at me to see if I am also as impressed with this magnificent whatever  it happens to be.

Well, I know when I’m being ridiculous, so these toys got washed and re-sorted, and some are being put in time-out, and some are being given away (um… free toy from getting her picture taken with the Easter Bunny?  Goodbye.), and some are being returned to their rightful owner.

And Jason and I came to the agreement that we will only buy her one big brightly-colored, world-polluting, etc., plastic toy for her birthday.  Plus maybe a couple of small ones.

And when I look back on my fantasy toy box, with those beautiful wood toys and toys that encourage imaginative play, I will simply smile at who I thought I was a year ago, because (as I’ve already established) I knew nothing back then.  I didn’t know that when I would sell my soul for a moment’s peace, buying a lights-and-music flashy piece of plastic would seem cheap.  I didn’t know that while a baby is pretty happy playing with the same ten toys, I would get so sick of those toys I would pick up rocks for the toy box to add variety to our days.  I didn’t know how easy it would be to find new toys that would make Hazel super duper excited for ten minutes, and I didn’t know that those moments of my child’s excitement would be more addictive to me than any drug currently known to the human race.

Mostly, I didn’t know how much those damn wooden toys cost.








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