Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I Enjoy Having a Girl

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Muffin + Mommy = 4Ever

Mornings are my favorite time with Muffin. I hear her chirping from the crib, and I scoop her into our bed for a cup of milk and a bit of Sesame Street. Too sleepy to realize she has more important things to do, she cuddles into the crook of my arm and points out Elmo, which, thank god, because that guy is not overexposed or anything.

Some mornings she is so scrumptious that I daydream about her on the train. And at my desk. And in meetings. And at the gym. I replay how adorably mussed her hair is upon waking, I remember how she giggles after she burps, and I smile to think about how she kisses her stuffed animals with an enthusiastic "mwah!" I fantasize about her like I used to think about boys I had crushes on; She is my new Justin Timberlake. I plaster my cubicle with posters of her in mesh tank tops, I consult the Ouija board to see if I will marry her, and I send her notes asking if she's free after playgroup. Please check yes, no or maybe in purple crayon.

Ohmigod, isn't she just dreamy?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Burning Questions

On the first day of our nannyless week, I came home to find that Muffin had a small red mark on her hand. I knew she and the sitter had been at the park for much of the day, playing the sprinklers. I figured the sitter had missed a spot with the sunblock, or some of it had washed off. This was Muffin's only day with her, so it seemed pointless to make it an issue, and I reasoned that it could have happened in my care too.

But almost two weeks later, the mark remains. And now Muffin keeps showing it to me, and to Sally, which is making us both think that maybe it hurts. I believe it’s a burn, and a pretty bad one at that.

How would she have gotten burned? It’s possible that she climbed up on the couch and touched our lamp’s lightbulb. I know she loves to knock the lampshade, even though she knows it’s a “no.” But this is a pretty substantial burn. It is possible that the sitter let her near the stove while she was cooking? Did she give her a bath and accidentally turn on the hot water? Was she somewhere she shouldn’t have been? Dangerous possibilities are swimming around in my brain.

Injuries happen when you’re tiny and curious, and I know this will heal. But what won’t go away are the questions I’m left with:

Am I too casual about who I leave her with?

What do other working moms with no family in the area do when their regular childcare falls through?

Should I have used up the rest of my vacation to take care of her myself?

And did politeness and desire to spare a stranger’s feelings really keep me from advocating for my child and asking what the hell happened?

It’s too little, too late, but I’ve contacted the babysitting agency to see if I can get an explanation. I’m hoping there’s a good one.

UPDATE: The agency talked to both of the sitters, and neither remembers an injury to Muffin's hand. The woman from the agency thought that a burn would probably have cleared up by now anyway, and she's right -- I googled it. First degree burns clear up in 3-5 days. I don't know what that mark is, but I expect the self-flagellation to last at least 3-5 days too.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

My Grass is Green

I don't think a weekend has gone by since Muffin became mobile that I haven't wished for the time and space to linger over coffee and the paper. Coffee that I don't need to put in the center of the table to avoid curious hands. Newspaper that doesn't make a hilarious-to-a-toddler sound when it's crumpled.

This past weekend the Canuck and I went away for our anniversary. Muffin's grandma and aunt flew in to babysit, and we headed off to the North Fork of Long Island to get tipsy at the vineyards, eat two-hour meals in fancy restaurants, swim without inflatable devices and read the paper all we wanted. We had the weekend off from worrying about a nap schedule and where our next kid-appropriate meal would come from, and only had to take care of ourselves, which felt like nothing at all.

And it was great.

But it wasn't that great.

The town we were in had a beautiful old carousel. Muffin's never been on one, and I kept thinking about how exciting it would have been to take her on it. Yet another first in 16 months chock full of firsts. We kept passing the merry-go-round, and I kept wondering what it would be like if she were with us.

When we got home, she was napping, and it seemed like hours until she woke up. When I went in to get her, I discovered she'd grown even more delicious in our absence.

I'm not really missing anything all that great, being a parent. Or rather, I am missing a few of my pre-mommy indulgences, but it pales in comparison to what I'm getting.

And, anyway, the paper gets my fingers all dirty.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Tearin' Up My Heart

The Canuck has been in Seattle on business all week. Unluckily, this is also the week my nanny chose to take her vacation. I am parenting without a net.

We are using fill-in babysitters from a local service. All things considered, it's gone pretty smoothly. I've come home each day to a happy sandy baby, with wet clothes drying in the bathroom, which means lots of time in the park's sandbox and sprinklers. Both sitters have been actresses, so they are full of new voices and songs and games that I could never be creative enough to think of.

Yet Muffin has cried every morning when I walk out the door. I wait in the hallway, and each day she's settled down within 10 seconds. But all day long I have niggling doubts that nip at the my concentration. They are an amplified version of the worries I always have with my nanny. I expect they will remain when Muffin goes to preschool. And college? I might need to start drinking more.

I cannot be with her every moment. I need to work, I want to work, and even if I didn't, I'd need some just-me time. The cutting edge to that selfish desire is that I will never know exactly what goes on when I am not there. Is she crying inconsolably because she doesn't know where her parents are? Is she dangerously close to sharp table corners? Is she chewing her food well enough? Is she parked in front of the TV?

I guess I'll never know.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Missing Dada

Monday, August 14, 2006

Marked for Greatness

Readers of this blog may be too shy to ask about the the big red mark on Muffin's head. It has NOTHING to do with that time I let her fall off the bed, I swear.

The first time I held Muffin, I unwrapped her from the hospital blanket to get a good look at her monkey hands, her bird legs, and her froggy feet. I also removed the tiny knit cap to see her hair, which had looked curly right after birth, but now washed, was smooth and straight. I noticed a small purplish mark just over her forehead, but dismissed it as a bruise from the rough labor.

Over the next few weeks, the spot became bulbous. It reddened and grew. And grew. And grew until OH MY GOD THAT RED THING IS EATING OUR BABY.

It turns out Muffin had a hemangioma, also known as a strawberry birthmark. No one knows what causes them, but they are more common in girls than boys. My pediatrician told me it would most likely be gone by the time she was 2, but my own research suggests that about half are resolved by age 5, with the rest clearing up by puberty.

At first, the strawberry was oddly endearing. I called her Gorbachev Baby, and considered it an excellent excuse for hats. But then I starting noticing the uncomfortable silences we encountered when we met new people. One person visibly recoiled when I removed her hat without a preface. In airports, I'd hear whispers trailing behind us. I'd make jokes about it (see the first paragraph) that went over with a thud every time.

A few months ago we took her to see a specialist. He told us that although the strawberry will eventually resolve itself, the skin will always be crepe-y, and most likely won't grow hair. We can see that now that her hair is longer; that spot only sports peach fuzz, while the rest of her hair is much thicker. He recommended waiting a year or two, and then getting some plastic surgery to pull the normal, hair-producing skin over the bald spot.

We haven't decided what we'll do yet. The idea of her having surgery -- elective surgery -- fills my heart with dread. How will I explain it to her? It's all so shallow; after all, she could have cancer or a bum heart or my ugly toes. Perhaps there's a lesson in here, for her and for me, that it's ok to be less than perfect. But I also don't want to send my little girl off to school with a bald patch in the front of her head.

Now that Muffin's hair is longer, the birthmark is much less noticeable. It might be getting smaller, but it's hard for me to be objective since I see her every day. Some days I forget it's even there. But it is there. And I hate the idea of someone fixating on that birthmark and not noticing her electric smile or her curious eyes or her impish personality. Strawberry or no, she's a masterpiece, and I want the world to see that too.

Muffin at 4 months

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Buyer's Remorse

The Canuck and I have a running joke about the baby store – you know, the establishment where you buy babies. Did the baby store sell us a defective model? Will they let us exchange for a puppy? Will they still let us take the baby back after 14 days?

Lately I’ve been hoping that the baby store has a very lenient return policy. I may have to summon the manager if they won’t take this almost 16-month-old purchase back.

I wish it could be all thunderous burps and poop catastrophes, but lately Muffin has been a pill. She does not play nicely and obey her parents as advertised.

We had a tough weekend. Muffin went on a nap strike, sleeping only about an hour each day, when normally she sleeps 3 or even 4. My days were largely spent doing up all the things she’d undone. Spices are Muffin’s new obsession, and she cannot resist the spice drawer’s siren call, no matter how I beg and plead. Putting my spice rack back together 7 times in one day does not make for a relaxing, rejuvenating weekend.

My frustration came to a head on Sunday night. The Canuck went to hockey, which, of course, he had to; it’s his Canadian citizenship at stake. Muffin’s evening was spent flinging cottage cheese on to the rug, dropping zucchini fries over the side of her highchair one by one (and nodding no to me each time), freaking out in the bath because she wanted those bubbles, not these stupid bubbles, running away from me while I tried to wrestle her to the ground to get a diaper on, exploring the smelly contents of the garbage, throwing a tantrum because I won’t let her climb into the freezer, knocking the lamp I have told her in a stern voice not to touch, and turning the volume all the way up on the stereo.

In desperation, we ended up watching Baby Einstein twice in a row. While we watched, I sobbed. I cried because I know she understands "no," but I somehow lack the authority to make her respect it. I cried because I might be one of those moms who needs Supernanny. I cried because I knew she was feeding off my mood. I cried because I was sending her to bed with almost no dinner, all Oliver!-like, which seemed appropriate given that she’d flung every last bit of it on the floor, but still. I cried because I am so hair-trigger impatient. Mostly I cried because I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, and I’m scared I’m raising a brat.

And you know what Muffin did?

She laughed at me.

Now, she’s a baby, I know. She’s too young for empathy. But the whole evening could have been turned around by one of those made-for-TV moments, where she gives me a hug, or pops her pacifier in my mouth.

I put her to bed, steaming mad. It’s an awful feeling to be angry at a little baby. I sank into the couch and felt very, very small.

The next day things were better. The Canuck took her to the doctor, who told him all of her behavior was completely normal, and that the best way to deal with it was to encourage her vocabulary. She said to forget the discipline for now, and just get through it. When I came home from work, Muffin reached for my hand and we made loops around the apartment, just two girls taking a stroll.

I think I’ll keep her…for now.

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Princess and the Puke

We have accidentally discovered the perfect rainy/100+ degree day activity: mattress shopping! Where else is it perfectly ok -- in fact, encouraged -- to flop around on multiple beds with your shoes on? We tested out more than 10 beds, and Muffin gleefully tested them with us.

She may have loved the mattress store, but I'm not sure the mattress store loved her. Just as the salesman was starting his pitch, Muffin let out a burp that shook the windows. If she knew her ABCs, she could have burped her way to at least K. The salesman paused for a moment, unsure of how to react, but then soldiered on with more mattress facts. I don't really remember a lot of what he was saying, as I was concentrating on not giggling.

Then, just as we were paying -- mere minutes from being out the door -- she let one rip again. But this time she burped up a little of her lunch, all down the front of her shirt.

I bet that salesguy is very grateful a mattress is a once-every-10-years kind of purchase.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

First Love

When we were up north a few weeks ago, the Canuck and I went out on the boat while Muffin stayed behind at Grandma’s house. When we returned and asked how things went, the Canuck’s aunt’s mom – Muffin’s honorary great-grandmother, really – told me they’d nearly blown their brains out with bubbles.

I know what she means.

B-U-B-B-L-E-S has become the first word I officially have to spell in Muffin’s presence to keep her from going bonkers. We keep the bubbles hidden in the bathroom, and limit their use to bath time and outside so we're not constantly dodging slippery patches on our hardwood floors. But if I so much as think about cracking open the bathroom door, Muffin makes a beeline for the medicine cabinets and starts frantically pointing upward. She moans for the bubbles with increasing volume, as if she’s been in the desert for days and is just spying water.


I even caught her curled up on the floor with her blankie, spooning the big jar of bubbles she’d somehow nicked from the bathroom counter.

You would think her obsession with bubbles means she loves to blow them, or at least watch them being blown. But she’s all about the dip. She could spend hours absorbed in the process of grabbing the wand, flipping it into position, lowering it into the jar and then pulling it out. Some of the time she holds it up for one of us to have at it, but usually she’s content to just repeat the dipping over and over. I am trying to teach her to blow some air into the wand herself, but so far my efforts have only resulted in her ingesting a copious amount of bubble solution. Yucky, I tell her, but she just smiles and keeps on dipping.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Last week I was mulling over a post about how I was worried Muffin wasn't walking yet. How I knew the right thing was to be all zen and let her develop at her own pace, but that I couldn't help fretting. How I had just received a BabyCenter newsletter that said 90% of kids her age are already walking. How I was worried there was something I should be doing that I wasn't -- or that I was doing something I shouldn't and putting undue pressure on her. How I was hoping she would walk before our beach vacation in a few weeks so she'd be too busy to stuff her mouth with sand. How I hated to see her little knees all bruised and scratched from crawling around in shorts.

And then:

Muffin Walking on Vimeo

I've noticed that many new walkers careen haphazardly about, leaning forward and racing to reach the object of their desire before they fall. Not Muffin. She is slow, steady, methodical. Each step is hard work and she invokes the rah-rah spirit of the Dada (Fine! She loves you better! Are you happy now?) in order to dig deep enough to keep trying, fall after fall.

She's my little tortoise. I couldn't be any prouder.