Coming Up Roses

Today Tolby ate her first piece of grass. It was brown and shriveled and hadn't seen light in 6 months, but as I watched her warm fingers shove it into her mouth till she gagged, I recognized it for what it was: manna from heaven. Sitting there in the midst of one of the first truly springish days of the year, I felt that sunlight alone could have nourished us sufficiently, but Tolby, in her infant wisdom, saw through the pricklies to the restorative benefits a little roughage could provide.

And it was good. Posted by Picasa


Call Forwarding

There is a sadness inherent in stopped blogs. I discovered this yesterday when it dawned on me that one of my favorite sites had quietly, and with perfect timing, slipped back into the cyber abyss. "I know it's late, but I needed to tell you one last thing." I read the words on Friday and didn't think much of them, till Monday came and the usual prolific postings had dwindled to nothing. And I was like damn, he's good.

The blog was layered. There was meaning on levels as deep as you wanted to go. All the classic elements of a good story were put to use in this new form. Irony. Allusion. Foreshadowing. And, of course, lots of links. It was real. You could try to label it, but whatever term you came up with would only be one small aspect of its essence. A blog about marriage. Infidelity. Parenting. Tennis.

Like the Tour de Lance, kudos to TPR for going out even stronger than it came in.

As a damn good blogger once said, "i spent an inordinate amount of time writing and editing each day and perhaps that time will be better spent on just shutting the fuck up for a while and living."

Which is most definitely sad, and probably true.


Better Late Than Never

Today I'm blogging from a coffee shop into which I walked with my laptop secured in a diaper bag. Delicate and bulky electronics? Check. Baby? Nope, she's at home. It's freaking hilarious that I buffer my computer with diapers and bibs in transit and still like to think that I have any identity whatsoever beyond that of mother. All my pursuits--be them wifely, writerly, or friendly--are shit stained before I get out the door.

As the mom v. mommy debate rages across the momosphere, the significance of denotation, connotation and obfuscation is being picked apart as it relates to Web-writing women and the ways in which they classify themselves, and are classified by others. Are you a mom or a mommy? Do you know the difference? Do you care?

I'm a mama who cares. I am too obsessed with language to deny the importance of labels in personalizing my own identity and making it accessible to others. Though I am more tolerant of mommyhood than I used to be, there are semantical lines I can't bring myself to cross. But I admit I get closer every day to throwing words to the wind and beating my inflated Almost-B's with wild abandon, screaming "I am MOMMY, hear me roar!" Unapologetic. Devoted. Reeking of sour boob juice. Baby Einstein CDs bleating electronically in the background.

But I am not mommy. Not to you, anyway. To call myself "mommy" in front of anyone but my direct descendents would, to me, deny the other aspects of my existence that I am clinging to with a quiet desperation evident in white knuckles clutching at the strap of my diaper-bag-cum-laptop-carrier. I can't let go. It may be delusional or it may not be, but I am more than mommy. That doesn't mean that I don't appreciate those who are mommy, who embrace that aspect of their being wholly and hold it up to the sun to grow and to radiate and to flourish. It takes all kinds to make these worlds go 'round--the one our bodies inhabit and this new intellectual space we didn't even know there was room for.

And there is room. For all of us. Moms, mommies, bitches with babies. And once we accept that ourselves, we can work on convincing the rest of the blogosphere that the hand that rocks the cradle can craft a damn good blog, too.


The Witching Hour

My daughter has developed a nighttime sleeping routine which dictates that she will awake, and stay that way, if I so much as fart. And if the dog runs up the stairs right in front of her room? Or if a door I am so purposefully trying to shut in silence slams closed? Forget it. Tolby's up till next Tuesday. I am really quite beside myself.

The part that makes it so aggravating is that my husband is on the opposite end of the spectrum from his spawn--he'll sleep through anything. Then he will refuse to wake, meaning he won't budge an eyelid indicating that he and consciousness have reunited. But last night, after I had already lulled her back to sleep once at 1 a.m and she woke again at 2, I figured out the one thing he couldn't sleep through.

That would be me, screaming. Not words, just diaphragm-propelled sounds gaining traction up the windpipe so that they come out shrieking like those small but powerful fireworks you can buy legally in makeshift tents that spring up next to Interstates a week before Independence Day. It was a grand finale up in that bitch last night as I tore off the comforter, snapped on the light and stomped on the floor, wild-eyed and approaching motherhood induced psychosis. First a few volleys, then this: "Will. You. Please. Get. Her. This. Time."


"Please. I asked if you would get her this time."

He burrowed over onto my side of the bed and snuggled into my pillow.

"I'm talking to you!"

"What?" He willed the words out of a slack jaw.

So I screamed some more and felt so uncontrollably angry that I wanted to bash his unbreakable skull into the headboard.

Then I went into her room, brought her back to our bed, fed her, and let her sleep there the rest of the night.

Because Dr. Ferber can suck my right tit.


Gathering Dust

I can't walk and chew gum at the same time. For the same reason, I cannot simultaneously raise an infant, freelance, blog and keep a clean house. I'm a womanly failure. It is said that multi-tasking comes more easily to those in possession of double Xs, which makes me wonder if I don't have a little too much testosterone coursing through my veins. The predominance of hairs under my chin would also support that theory.

My husband and I are currently not speaking because he's pissed off that our house was starting to resemble a slum and then I got pissed off at him for calling me on it. Since we are both stubborn and manly, neither of us is willing to be the first to break the silence. I will say, however, that the true seriousness of the slumly situation became evident when I picked up all the junk from around the dog's bed and the dust began to attack our pet. I'm not kidding. There were clumps of fuzzy debris all over. Roxie has short fur (resembling my chin after I've misplaced the tweezers for a week) so it was quite obvious. She started digging herself into her bed in hopes of shaking the allergens, but even more dust had taken refuge there, thus perpetuating a cycle that rivaled field dandelions blowing in the breeze. I rationalize it like this: dust is not so much a dirty thing as a messy one. Piles of clothes and other inactive compounds are not so much unclean as they are walking hazards. Just thought I'd mention that.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is to explain my absence from the momosphere this week. I was engaging in a cleaning mission that took all my powers of determination and productivity. I am at my best when I can focus wholly on one thing--which, as you can imagine, renders me pretty useless now that I am a mother. But I know my limitations. Isn't that half the battle? That's what I'd like to tell myself, but I know it's not true. Because I know a lot of things, and the fact remains that life is still one big skirmish that won't end till I'm dead.


Dinner in Deutschland

This is me on my honeymoon in Germany, more than a year and a half ago. Yes, those are fajitas and, yes, that's a margarita. There's only so much schnitzel and pilsner a girl can take. But, weiners? Those are another story. Anyway, I am posting this today in hopes that someone might be proficient enough in German to be able to tell me what the bib says. It came with the dinner and I donned it happily enough, but the paranoid part of me wants to know exactly what kind of message I was espousing as I munched on that Rhinelandic homage to Tex-Mex. If you speak the language, or know anyone who does, help a schwester out and post a translation forthwith.

[Note: In case you can't read it,
the words read something like this:
Latzchen (?) sind nett
und schutzen vor Fett!
Allerdings nur die
Leider!] Posted by Picasa


Return to Sender

Tonight I was folding a friggin' huge pile of baby laundry, contentedly. The incongruity of it did not escape me. Why, if folding the fresh, little girl duds was actually a pleasant experience, did I let the laundry pile up to such an extent that my daughter had not one single pajama, shirt, pant, onesie, snow suit, sock or car seat cover left to her name? Procrastination, thy name is Binky. My husband thinks it's laziness, but I say, "Why do the wash today when you've still got one perfectly good pair of underwear left for tomorrow?"

So I was piling one adorable sleeper on top of another and thinking how the size 6-9 month clothing had seemed so huge when I was the pregnant center-of-attention spewing tissue paper and gift bags all over my mom's back porch at my baby shower. Anything larger than "newborn" blew my mind. I didn't even bother trying to fathom the idea of my child fitting into such attire, that's how foreign the concept was to me. "Why the hell would anyone buy something this big?" I thought to my dumb-ass self. God. What an idiot.

8 months wiser, I am jaded enough for a lifetime. It's all true. Time goes by so fast. I can't believe how big she's gotten. It seems like just yesterday. If I am this nostalgic while folding my 8 month old's sleep sacks, I am going to be a sniveling cascade of mucous and salt the day I first drop her off at pre-school. My husband thinks it's a mood disorder, but it snot.

Anyway, I'm there folding these hitherto humongous outfits and thinking about how, soon enough, it will be time to put them in the attic until child number two comes along. The plan is to wait at a least year to even think about getting that whole process started, but now that Father Time and I are best buds, I realize that's no time at all. I find a 3-6 month onesie and put it aside. "I guess we'll have to put this away for the next one," I say to my husband.

"The next one?" he looks up in alarm from the Sudoku he's working on. "You mean there are more coming?"

I looked down at him with eyebrows that arched up, pushing my glasses lower on my nose. "Yes," I say.

"Oh." He is sly, like a fox. "If we move, do you think they'll find us?"


Tolby is Eating the Keyboard

I asked my mother if it was possible for a child to bite off a mother's nipple while breastfeeding, and she just sort of laughed--hesitantly, as if really letting loose would be insensitive. It was a low, knowing chuckle that spoke volumes: "But for the grace of God do I stand here now with my breasts intact."

I once read a book on breastfeeding that must have been written by a midwife smoking peyote on Ina May Gaskin's Farm. It said that breastfeeding babies don't bite; that their tongues, instruments of instinct, will protect their mothers from harm. I don't know who's more ridiculous--them, for writing it, or me, for believing it. There's more than one sucker in this here breastfeeding team, that's for sure.

Luckily, my fingers have borne the brunt of the damage inflicted by her early whites thus far. In fact, I didn't discover the two teeth in the first place until she stuffed my pointer in her mouth and clamped down. I was too caught up in the euphoria of the milestone to think in any depth about its repercussions.

All indicators, however, point to more on the way. Night wakings, red cheeks and drool. Lots of drool. Soon that jagged bottom tooth will meet its match up top, and God help anything that gets in between. I am beginning to realize ignorance is blissful for a reason. Experience hurts.


A Bride's Guide to One F---ing Classy Wedding

Having just finished the final revision of an article I am writing for a bridal magazine, I find myself waxing nostalgic about my own nuptials. I thought that I might pull together a few words of advice, with photo illustrations, to inspire my readership to new heights in wedding success. If I can guide just one dewy-eyed girl down my cultivated path to becoming a wedded woman, I will be satisfied. Just remember--you cannot pick and choose what recommendations to follow. To have a truly urbane affair, you must heed them all.

Arrive at the church with no jewelry--not because you forgot earrings and a necklace, but because you never made arrangements for procurement of said jewels in the first place. Expect pearls to miraculously appear. Smile serenely when they do.

Surround yourself with the less attractive sex so as to secure your place as the event's most shining star. Choose a male "maid of honor" and two best men.

When the priest asks you to put the ring on your groom's finger, zone out and completely ignore him. After the uncomfortable silence, and some prodding, laugh uncontrollably as you complete the transaction.

Insist on a Cadillac limo for the utmost in refinement.

Have your reception in a barn.

Rent a bull.

Ride it.

Stay on longer than your husband.

But not longer than your best friend.

Polka, barefoot.

Make sure the DJ has on hand much Big Hair Rock. Sing loudly and gyrate to at least one Bon Jovi anthem.

Choose, for your after party, a seafood joint no less than 75 miles from the shore. Force this friend...

...to drink this shot. Without shellfish and Tabasco, vodka is meaningless. Then make him drink many more.

Hope that the proprietors of the fine establishment don't notice when and where your friend's stomach lining attacked his offering then rejected its contents.

But don't be surprised when they do.

Posted by Picasa


I've Got All The Riches, Baby

There's nothing like the first spring-ish day of late winter. It warms my icy heart and melts out in the form of 1960's Motown ditties. "I. Guess. You'll. Say. What can make me feel this way? My girl! My girl!" I was singing into the top of Tolby's head as I walked through the local park, my daughter strapped to my chest and my dog leashed beside me. There were teams on the basketball court, kids on the swings, and teenagers filling the band shell with angst. I felt calm and unencumbered (proof of the power of positive thinking, considering the child and canine hanging off me) as I strolled the track, not concerned in the least about doing enough laps to burn off lunch or about the work waiting for me on the computer at home. The first 65 degree day after four months of New England dreariness is a Get Out of Jail Free card. It was an excuse to revel in the breeze on my face, to watch it blow through the blond tufts of Tolby's fine tresses. It was a moment to live in. I don't think I've had that feeling since Tolby was born, when life was suddenly all wistful longing for the day before and anxiety about the one ahead.

But, it's Connecticut. If you actually like the weather, just wait a minute.


The Distillery

Sometimes a situation will require you, or a proxy, to distill the entire essence of your being into one word or phrase. If you die in a small town with a bad newspaper, it could happen like this: Helen Riordan, 94, Longtime Bingo Caller at Coxsackie Senior Center's Annual Casino Night; or Martin McPhee, 78, Retired Priest, Loved Children and Sheep; or Margo Daly, Once Went Over Niagara Falls in an Inflatable Kayak Purchased With Marlboro Miles, Dead of Cancer at 57.

Maybe you belong to a club or volunteer with a group of people who are all something. A mother. A farmer. A writer. A crossing guard. A champion pie eater. How do you decide on a label? How do you determine if it's family status, profession, or some hard-won achievement that really pegs you as a human being? I know a lot of it depends on the situation, but sometimes life is just a generality.

As for me, I don't know what I am. I'd like to think "writer," but for that to really work I'd probably have to write. Or at least post to my blog more than twice a week. But if, for the sake of discussion, I am a writer, where does that leave my poor, motherless child? And, more importantly, where does it leave my tax returns?

So, dear readers. Tell me what you are. All of you. It'll do this blog mama good.


8 Hours presents Cribz with Tolby T

Archer, this is for you.

Welcome to beautiful northeastern Connecticut, where they are closing all the factories down. Sorta like Allentown, except that this is Connecticut, so the factories get replaced by shopping centers named after local trees.

I am Tolby T, and this is my Crib.

I am a cheerleader with a cold. Please excuse my glazed expression. Mom said I couldn't send the photographers away because this is my one chance at stardom.

Right now I cheer, but when I learn how to walk, I plan to be a baller. My uncle is a UCONN cheerleader, so I think he will be very proud of me. He says he likes being a cheerleader because he is in touch with his masculinity, as well as other things, since he gets to share locker rooms with the girls and also gets to put the girls up over his head.

I am tall for my age (unlike my uncle, who is short, with a center of gravity that predisposes him to cheerleading lifts and round offs). Mommy gave me that word: "predisposes." I usually don't talk like that. Anyway, I think I might make a good basketball player. But I'm not going to rush into any decisions.

Give me a P! Give me an O! Give me another one! Give me a P!

We all know the heart of any Crib is the fridge. I take my Cristal secondhand.

This is where I hang with my dog, Roxie. She is ferocious.

My cell. I mean, my Crib's crib. I thought there was a trend in this country toward rehabilitation instead of incarceration. Yet, naptime after naptime, night after night, here I am. I do not know why they don't respect me enough to let me fall asleep in my swing like I used to do.

Speaking of sleeping, check out my whip. Cadillac-ac-ac. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.

Thank you for joining this tour of my crib. You've seen all there is to see. Even I'm bored now. I'm going to hop in the Caddy with Mom so we can go watch the glass factory turn into a Home Depot. Mom says she's not sure, but she thinks that's called progress.


A Biting Commentary

My friend's daughter got bit by a dog. Thankfully, the little girl is okay. Her lip required stitches and she will be undergoing some kind of scar therapy over the next few weeks. The dog was put to sleep.

It happened at her sister's house, in front of everyone. That is to say, it could've happened anywhere, to anyone. That's a scary fact to come to grips with as a dog owner myself--the owner of a much maligned breed of dog, no less. The dog that bit my friend's daughter was an American Pit Bull Terrier, as is my dog, Roxie. I know these dogs to be the most people-loving, devoted and tolerant pets around. I also know that their dog-fighting predisposition brings out aggression issues with other animals, but I've never felt any fear or insecurity when it comes to supervised Tolby-Roxie relations. As a smart and innately protective mother, I never leave them alone together, but that would be the case with any dog.

I'm not going to bring up all the statistics that prove a well-cared-for pit bull can be one of the most amazing pets a lucky family could have. To me that's a given. But I would be lying if I said close-hitting stories like this don't give me pause. I'd love to live in my own world, flipping off ill informed media as they go after sensationalistic pit bull stories like crazed cocker spaniels go after nut sacs (cocker spaniels being the most likely to bite, which you would never know from the average newspaper or television story). But it's harder to claim media bias when it happens in your own life. When it happens to you or someone you know, it's not bias--it's reality. It's bloody and terrifying and nauseating and infuriating. But it's isolated. I'm no more prepared to believe that all pit bulls are instruments of carnage than I was before my friend called to tell me what happened and to ask if I could watch her other child while she brought her daughter in for a follow-up with the pediatrician.

But, you know what? In the lingo of the times, I will be more vigilant. I'll watch more carefully when Roxie is around other children. I'll pet her while she eats and take her bowl away from her a little more often so she's not surprised the first time Tolby slinks up and does it. These are precautions I would take no matter what my dog's breed. From poodle to pinscher, all dogs are dogs. They're living, panting, loving, stinking members of families that need us to act in their best interests. I'm up for the challenge. And I know Roxie is, too.