Saturday, July 30, 2011

Things to do

We're traveling on a plane today for the first time since the baby's been old enough to enjoy things like foil packets of pretzels, books with paper pages, and internet porn. I'm so excited. Can anyone out there recommend iPhone apps for a not-quite-two-year-old with a love of Elmo, cats, the letters D, M, R, and N, and the numeral 8? (She doesn't like the way headphones mess up her hairdo, so ones not dependent on sound effects for enjoyment are best.)

Travel with a toddler is fun! Right? Hellooooooooo? Anyone?

Friday, July 29, 2011

The way we're made

My child’s lovey—a black-and-white stuffed cat—took her first bath today. Eliot—so-named because it’s brand is “Jellycat” and Cats was the first musical I ever saw and my husband does this impression of a cat in Cats (even though he claims he’d rather die than attend a musical) that’s, well, to die for—so I wanted to name the cat “Jellicle Cat,” after the song/T.S. Eliot poem but that proved too cumbersome, so—Eliot.

For some reason we’d never locked in on Eliot’s gender—I’d sensed she was female but was just as apt to say “he” as “she.” The other day I randomly asked the baby if Eliot was a boy or a girl, and without giving it any thought at all she said “Gow” and nodded for emphasis.

Eliot has a black body with light paws and nose and mid-section, and the light had turned darker from seven months of love and sharing snacks and almost as many months of parental nervousness about accidentally “ruining” Eliot in the washing machine. I’m not sure what we were imagining, but since the tag said “spot-clean only,” I figured it would be like tossing an antique lace doily in there and letting the agitator rip it to shreds.

I try to take a relaxed approach to parenting—ignoring the books, not fretting over the small stuff—but the internet sometimes makes it difficult. If a million articles and blog entries and threads on old-fashioned looking things that I think are maybe abandoned chat rooms (?), if they’re just sitting there waiting to give me advice on how to wash my kid’s cat, who am I to ignore them?

Many moons ago I did the requisite Good Parent research and discovered, like all aspects of parenting, every single approach and its opposite was recommended. Dry clean. NEVER dry clean! Wash in hot water. COLD WATER ONLY. Toss in the washing machine. NEVER EVER WASH IT EVER. Hang it by its toes and gently swat it with a carpet-beater. I’M GOING TO CALL SOCIAL SERVICES ON YOU!

For practice, I tossed a similarly made stuffed animal into the machine, one that the baby likes fine but doesn’t sleep with or ask for or mention when she’s at the zoo alone with her dad, as if to say, “Eliot would really have liked these snow leopards—when we get home we’ll have to tell her all about them.”

That animal turned out just fine, all its limbs still attached and not growing inner mildew to the best of my knowledge, though how long would it take to discover such a thing?

For months we put off washing Eliot—when were we ever going to do it, anyway, given that she’s always in the baby’s arms or very close by?

“Wow, that cat’s been around the block, eh?” grandparents and random strangers would comment upon making Eliot’s acquaintance.

“Oh, she’s a little loved, I guess,” I’d say evenly, trying not to betray my maternal defensiveness. “But she wasn’t ever black and white—she was always sort of grey. And her fur’s just like that. It’s the way she’s made.”

But we’re heading to L.A. for the weekend, and you know how they are there. I didn’t want Eliot to feel like some grungy Seattle hippy with B.O. just because her owners’ parents were too wussy to bathe her.

So the baby’s daddy took her to the zoo this morning with zero stuffed animals in tow (because where there’s one, there’s Eliot), and I stayed home and washed the cat—washing machine, cold water, delicate cycle, lingerie bag—and then dried her in the dryer on low for two mildew-preventing hours.

Eliot lived to tell the tale.

She looks beautiful, in fact. The grey patches actually are meant to be white. Who knew?

I felt weirdly full of pride, like I’d accomplished something great today. I even wished I’d taken a Before picture so I could share it as well as an After version, but I realized I’d be one of those people.

Then I realized something kind of major.

I’ve become one of those people.

While I wasn’t paying attention I’ve become the kind of parent who loves her child with the fierceness of a jaguar and a lion and a tiger and a snow leopard combined.

You fuck with Eliot, you fuck with me.

And this makes me inordinately happy.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A two-step process

I took the baby to Ikea for the first time yesterday—her first time, not mine. Me, I'm an Ikea pro, or at least I was before I married a man who won’t allow anything in his home made after 1970—with the notable exceptions of me, the baby, and the cat. Back in the day, I could shop in Ikea for hours, outlasting my friend as she got a nosebleed on the escalator (true story) and my then-girlfriend as she passed out in the lighting department (also a true story).

Anyway, it was raining for the 29,317th day in a row here in Seattle, and I was itching to get out of the house and go somewhere other than the Children’s Museum, which I loathe, in no small part because it’s full of children. Ikea on the other hand tends to be full of nesting lesbians and temporarily displaced Europeans, which is not a problem for me at all.

I’ve been on the lookout for a stepstool for the bathroom sink so the baby will know how to wash her own hands when she starts preschool (!) in the fall. I don’t want her teacher to be all, “Why in god’s name does this child need help washing her hands? She’s nearly two for chrissakes. She should be able to weave a tapestry by now with those nimble little fingers.”

I’ve looked on Craigslist but haven’t found an item tall enough to be useful but short and stable enough for her to be able to, you know, step onto it. She knows the letter “C” is for “cookie” and can count all the way up to two, but she’s not what anyone would call “physically precocious.” I worry about her climbing on things, not because she’s one of those babies who climbs on everything but because she’s one of those babies who sat in one place commanding her doting/annoyed parents to get things for her well past her first birthday. Consequently, she isn’t always that steady when she does ascend something to, say, grab my iPhone so she can watch Elmo or, better yet, YouTube porn, like I found her doing this morning when I got out of the shower. (Note to self: pay attention next time someone talks about “parental controls” and how to use them. When I gently eased the phone away from her, trying not to inspire a tantrum or an early guilt/shame complex around sex, I asked, “What were you watching there, huh, kiddo?” She just smiled at me treacherously and said “ ’mo.”)

We went to Ikea to find a wooden stepstool that I could throw around the backyard a few times to bang it up and make it look as old as my husband. Even though the baby has been quite good company on outings for many months now, I still get nervous about taking her places. Like I expect her to scream bloody murder every time I stop the car at a red light or change the radio to something other than hip hop even though she hasn’t done that since she was a month old. Ah, newborn-induced PTSD.

I packed the usual selection of diapers and wipes and creams and ointments (because you never know when your child might get nibbled by a mosquito inside a giant, meandering furniture emporium), two sippy cups full of milk, one of water, a baggie of cheese cubes, and the requisite container of Goldfish because we were going to be gone for two whole hours.

Upon arrival, I bribed the baby to get into the cart with one of the cups of milk and convinced her to stay there until we got to the toy area with periodic Goldfish treats as if she were a tiny, cart-riding Shamu. Each time she didn’t pitch a fit—like when she had to put the stuffed dogs back in the bin with their brethren or stop wiping her nose on the rainbow of hand-towels—I breathed a sigh of relief and then braced myself for the next challenge, none of which turned out to be that challenging. By the time we sat down for a lunch of mac-and-cheese—Swedish-style—I was (unnecessarily) exhausted.

We hit the checkout counter with only a package of finger puppets in hand, having not found an adequate stepstool, and a woman rolled past us pushing a stroller and a cartful of flat-pack furniture boxes and mirrors and large frames and other cumbersome items with lots of sharp corners.

“Baby!” declared my baby upon seeing the stroller.

“Yes, that’s a baby,” I confirmed. Then I looked closer and saw that the simultaneous stroller-and-cart-pushing woman had yet another baby strapped to her chest. “Two babies!” I clarified because I, too, can count all the way to two.

A friend (whose delightful and adorable daughter my daughter is obsessed with—if I hear one more time about the time they rode the light-rail together, like, three months ago (“Ro-Ro, choo-choo. Ro-Ro, choo-choo.”) I might scream) recently told me about some story she heard on one of those rare NPR programs that's actually as entertaining as it is informative. It was some guy talking about raising twins, and apparently he said something like, “They shouldn't call it 'twins,' they should call it 'having two babies at the exact same fucking time.'” My first thought was that I must track down this man and make him my friend (because I like any parent who is honest about the challenges of raising kids and because I especially like parents who don’t stop using words like “fucking” just because they recently reproduced. My second thought was how I still can’t imagine having a second kid years after having the first—how do people handle two babies at the exact same fucking time?

As the Ikea woman strode purposefully to the bathroom with her carts and babies and Billy bookcases, I tucked the small package of finger puppets into the diaper bag, picked up my one baby and chased after the woman so I could offer help even though she clearly had everything under control. In fact, she probably would have offered to watch my kid while I peed and maybe even did a little more shopping had she seen me standing there looking a bit like a deer in florescent lights.

Mothers of twins (and, lordy, triplets and more)—I salute you. I admire you. I don’t know how you (fucking) do it. And if you could stop making it seem so easy, so do-able, I’d appreciate it. You make the rest of us look bad.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Back, back, back

I've been working on some other writing projects lately, namely essays for Salon and Open Salon and RootSpeak—pieces with actual beginnings, middles, and ends as opposed to this free-form bloggy stuff. But yesterday I was randomly inspired to check in with the various lovely free-form-bloggy-stuff-writers (as well as writers of things with beginnings, middles, and ends) who I used to read when I was up in the dead of night cursing—er, nursing—my (then) infant, and I discovered that they're all pregnant and working new jobs and living in new houses (and this new house and this one... I'm jealous!) and growing amazing gardens. In other words, they've moved on without me, and truthfully it made me a little sad. Like, Hey, why didn't anyone tell me?! Then I remembered they don't actually know me and it was my job to click on their blog, not their job to send me a handwritten update in the mail like my mom and grandmother still do, despite their arthritis and, in the case of my grandmother, despite the fact she doesn't quite remember who I am or where I live or where she lives or whether her siblings are still alive or whether it's really true that she's going to be "moving back home" "any day now." Don't let me get old, okay?

Anyway. Mostly-staying-at-home motherhood is lonely, and it's nice to be back here among "friends"—or other women (I feel like I'm supposed to say "people" here instead of "women," but I'm not going to—I'm going to say "women," if only to make up for all the times people (men) say "men" when they really mean "people") who would really, really like to be able to ignore their children (or their work) for just three or four minutes so they could get a tiny bit of writing done, dammit.

You care about postpartum sex and Steve Almond's essays and Ani Difranco and mixed metaphors and avoiding those granny-skirts on your swimsuits at all costs—and for that I love you all.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Something you should read

One of my students found this on the internet, printed it out, and handed it to me in class—old-school-style. It's such a lovely piece on the hard-to-articulate difference between being "someone who writes" and being "a writer." I love it (and not just because the female author has a manly sounding name) and thought I should share it via this newfangled digital technology.

Monday, July 18, 2011

I need a doctor—clearly

Here I am on Salon, embarrassingly confessing my love for Grey's Anatomy (and less embarrassingly for my husband).