Monday, December 18, 2006


Everyone goes through phases, I guess. Picasso had his blue phase. In college, I had a very unfortunate overalls phase.

Muffin is in her Daddy phase.

When I get home from work each night, I can hear Muffin asking, “Mama?” as I walk in the door. I am greeted with a big smile, but then the inquisition begins.


“He’ll be home later, sweetie.”

(5 minutes later)


“No, it’s just Mommy right now. Daddy’s still at work, but he’ll be home soon.”

(2 minutes later)


And so on. When she’s not trying to gauge an ETA for Daddy, she’s pointing out his shoes, his coat, and his backpack like a lovesick schoolgirl. She even reverently points to the nasty Lee Iacocca olive oil spread he smears on his toast. When finally she hears his keys in the lock, she drops whatever she is doing to jet to the door and greet him with not just a smile but a big swoony hug.

That I could handle. But it gets worse. Sometimes when we’re pushing her in the stroller, she wants Daddy to walk beside her and hold her hand, reducing me to the role of unwanted chaperone on their romantic date. When she’s had too much walking and needs to be carried, she squeezes the Canuck with hugs that last for blocks, purring happily all the way. “Do you want to hug your mom?” he asks, charitably. She shakes her head no. I pull the daggers out of my heart all the way home.

I’m starting to feel like she’s just not that into me.

Now clearly, the Canuck is a dreamboat. I mean, I married him, didn’t I? I get the allure. But what does he have that I don’t? I’m not stricter. I don’t say no more than he does, in fact I think I say it less. I totally know more verses to “Wheels on the Bus” and put together much cuter outfits. Perhaps the fact that I generally spend more time with Muffin – and am more often the one cajoling her into eating vegetables, getting her into the bath and enforcing bedtime -- makes Daddy more of an exotic treat.

I am glad to see the Canuck get the enthusiastic reception he deserves; I’m afraid I’m sometimes too busy with my to-do list to tell him how wonderful I think he is, so I’m glad someone’s doing it. I’m happy for him, I am; and I know that she's just a fickle (and brutally honest) toddler, and maybe she’ll come down with a case of Mommyitis next week. But for now, it really smarts.

On Saturday, we took advantage of the gorgeous weather and headed to the zoo. We got there just as they were feeding the sea lions. Muffin was entranced – and a little bit afraid. As the sea lions’ barks cut through the air, Muffin rushed into my arms and stayed there for the whole show, leaning her head on my shoulder. I was squatting, and my knees were begging for mercy, but I stayed right where I was.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Girl on Film

Since unbiased scientific experiments have concluded that I have borne The World’s Cutest Child®, I am keen to become a better photographer and obnoxiously document her every move. My current method is to employ the law of averages by taking about 50 shots in order to get one fairly decent one.

I would like to take a class on photography, but the courses I’ve found so far involve being in a lab multiple nights a week or for several hours on the weekend, which is too much of a time commitment for me right now. It seems counterintuitive to miss several hours of my daughter’s funny faces just so I can learn how to better capture them on film.

So I plod along, trying to somehow improve on my own. I mourn the loss of after-work daylight hours, because I’ve discovered any fool can take a good photo with the right natural light. The light in my apartment is another story. We have terrible sun exposure, and using a flash makes everything look like a bad paparazzi shot. I know it is possible to take a decent photo there, because once a professional photographer came to our house and took some beautiful shots. He was there to take photos for a greeting card line that never took off, and offered to take some portraits of the Canuck and I in exchange for me working my big belly in the generic preggo shot you see at the top right of this page. I don’t know what kind of pretty filter he had on his camera, but I’ve never been able to get a shot even half as lovely and natural as his were.

Although digital cameras are a godsend for bad shots like me, one thing they don’t do well is take the photo the exact second you press the button. Instead, they take a few moments, mull it over, and then decide in their own sweet time to capture whatever they feel like. It can be the difference between a baby book-worthy shot and one of your child looking stoned.

Add to that challenge the tornado of movement that is a 20-month-old child. I’ve ended up with a lot of blurry shots of Muffin in motion -- and the weird thing is that I actually kind of like some of them. I don’t know if I am just deluding myself into thinking I am arty, but they seem to capture something authentic about life with her. Muffin never ever stops, except to sleep, and the photos tell that story.

Here, I present to you some of my favorite mistakes:

Ps. If anyone who has actually read the camera manual has any advice on how to take better photos, I welcome your input!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


There is an oft-repeated story about my sister from her freshmen year in college. A bit of a straight arrow, she somehow found herself at a fraternity party, where a young man approached, tried to dirty dance with her, and revealed himself to be a teeny bit intoxicated. As his sloppy flirting continued, she retorted, “Dammit, you’re drunk!” and walked away in a huff.

This story makes me smile in recognition. The only difference between my sister and I is that at least she was cool enough to be at a fraternity party, whereas I spent my freshman year hiding in my room from those very bad kids who (whisper) abuse alcohol. Didn’t they know underage drinking was illegal? I was not about to spend my life in jail.

By my junior year, I had loosened up considerably – thank goodness for the sake of my husband, nicknamed the Teflon Camel for his superhuman ability to go to bed drunk and wake up hangover-free, even without a glass of water. But as for me, I’ve still maintained a take-it-or-leave-it feeling about booze. I might have a glass of wine when I went out, but I’d rarely open a bottle at home.

That is, until now.

NEW SELF: Hmm…Muffin's eating her dinner, so I'm going to pour myself a glass of wine.

OLD SELF: Don’t you remember that drug questionnaire they gave us in the 7th grade? If you drink alone, you are so totally an alcoholic.

NEW SELF: But Muffin’s here, so I’m not alone.

OLD SELF: So you don’t mind PUI – Parenting Under the Influence?

NEW SELF: I’m just having one glass, and that will not get me drunk. It will just make me feel a little relaxed and able to enjoy our evening routine. Applesauce splattered across my freshly mopped floor is a lot easier to laugh at with a wine glass in hand.

OLD SELF: People that need booze to feel relaxed are so lame. You should look for some more natural ways to relax, like yoga stretches or deep breathing or a trust fall. Putting a chemical into your body is not the answer. We talked all about it at youth group.

NEW SELF: Well, I used to unwind with a little TV or reading when I got home from work. But now when I walk in the door, I’m on mommy duty. Having a glass of wine helps me chill out when there’s no downtime.

OLD SELF: Do you realize that you went through a whole bottle last week? Next week it will be two bottles, and then three, and next thing you know you’re giving yourself a heroin enema and snorting cocaine in really fashionable knee-high boots.

NEW SELF: Well, that is a little alarming, especially because I’m a cheapskate and wine is not cheap. But that’s still only a glass a day. And one glass usually does the trick.

OLD SELF: What kind of example are you setting for Muffin? Doesn’t it make you feel bad when she points to a bottle of wine and says, mama?

NEW SELF: Well, she also points to butter and socks and the computer for mama. She’s not really going for my essence here, although she does hit the nail on the head when she gestures toward my shoes. But I guess this is a point to ponder: will observing casual drinking make her less curious, or will it cause her to view it as no big deal?

OLD SELF: You've changed; It's like I don't even know you anymore.

NEW SELF: It's still the same old me; I still don't like being drunk, and I would never imbibe enough to make me unable to care for Muffin. Hey now, can't we just get along? Come on, Justin Timberlake is on. Dance with me, please?

OLD SELF: Dammit, you’re drunk!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Gentle Touch

Let me tell you that when she was screaming bloody murder at 35,000 feet, I was thinking otherwise, but Muffin is growing up to be a most considerate, sweet-hearted little girl. During our trip to Chicago for Thanksgiving, she mingled with her cousins peacefully, gave stickers to everyone she met, and even started saying thank you, or in her case, gay goo.

Muffin’s new favorite word is baby, and like legions of females before her, she turns into a puddle in their presence. Although they are hardly babies anymore, Lil C and Miss M are both younger than she is, and she treated them with a big-sisterly patience and protectiveness. I was shocked at how little controversy even the super-cool Disney Cars Ride-On caused between the three of them, and how often Muffin would walk over to one of her cousins and willingly hand them a toy. Even better, they truly seemed to finally interact on this visit; Muffin and Miss M kept engaging in call-and-response giggle fits, and Lil C even got a goodnight hug.

Muffin reserved the most love for my brother's three-year-old dog, who has bone cancer and had had her leg amputated the week before. Muffin didn't notice the shaved hind quarters or the unsightly stitches, and every time she saw the dog she let out a delighted, "ooohhhh." The day we left, I saw her give the dog three hugs and one kiss -- her new world record for affection. It's as if, somehow, she understood that she should bestow her cuddles on the soul who needed it most.