Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hiatus again

I have caught my annual cold, it's holiday madness time, the semester is ending, and I am swimming above water. But just barely! Be back soon with renewed vigor.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Bubbly Baby

Miles has stopped screaming. It's pretty official, I think, since it's been more than three weeks since he's been a scream flavored popsicle, as my friend Kathy calls him. Instead, he talks and burbles and (when he gets upset) cries. There is such a pleasant difference between crying with tears and back-stiffening, blood-curdling, teeth-gnashing screaming. We'll take crying any day. Honest.

Not sure what the difference is. Perhaps weighing 12 pounds, perhaps just being 4 months old, but even with sleep troubles, he is a different kid. I want to run across the street and knock on Anna's door and tell her to ask me again if I'm having so much fun over here. Because now? Most of the time? We are!

I mean, look at this family enjoying a trip to the zoo. Who wouldn't want in on that action?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Gates

My friend Beth alerted me via Twitter that Jean Claude (of Christ and Jean Claude fame) has died. This made me feel very sad and sentimental because I was working right near Central Park when their famous art installation, "The Gates," was up.

I remember when I started seeing those orange pillars. I would get out of the subway every day, the C or E line at 8th Ave by the Natural History Museum, and walk along the road not looking ahead, but to my right and wondering what the hell was going on.

Even after someone explained to me that this was a very famous art installation that would make the whole world pay attention, I still didn't get it. Some days, during lunch, I walked around under the flappy fabric and tried to decide if it felt like art.

The orange fabric was not orange, but saffron, even though all the saffron I had ever used was bright yellow. People all around me kept whipping out little scissors and snipping off pieces of the fabric to keep as mementos, something so they could say one day "I was there! And look! I took part of this thing with me!" Corey was working as a bike messenger in Manhattan then, and he sometimes rode to meet me for a sandwich. We'd sit on a rock in the sun and look at the flappy gates. He could reach the fabric from the seat of his beater bike, could reach right on up and slap it as he rode beneath if he wanted to.

The more I read about JC and C's work, the more I looked at those fabulous aerial images of their vision made real, the more I started to think about my place in the world. And every day when I saw those gates, I was experiencing something. Some days, I thought about Aslan's gate from The Last Battle. Other days I just thought about how amazing it was to work right near Central Park, for a rugby magazine no less. Other times, I just thought that weird orange fabric looked really peaceful and nice flapping along in the breeze.

I think that might be what art is for, right? To help you experience something. To give you a moment of mindfulness in a crazy, hectic New York day.

I feel really sad for Christo. She lost her love and her other half and her muse even. I wonder what she will do with her grief, if it will consume her so much she'll wrap the world in black just to show that we are all sad with her.

UPDATE: As anonymous points out, I have foolishly mixed up the genders of Jean Claud and Christo. That was really irresponsible of me. I have no excuses. But I still feel sad that Christo lost a loved one and I still feel moved by my experience with The Gates!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bedtime Ritual

I think Corey and I are guilty of providing an inconsistent bedtime ritual for Miles. So I am renewing my dedication to making it so, in hopes of ever improving his sleeping habits. We had something like a routine going, but daylight savings effed everything up and then he went on another sleep strike and I became a zombie again...last night was a good night so I want to keep things that way! Here is the ideal evening gameplan:

1. Bath when appropriate (like the days when he excretes all over himself from all possible orifices)
2. Massage with the lovely apricot oil and his red light
3. PJs, bag, medicine
4. Read 2-3 books in his chair in his room
5. Hug quietly for a few minutes
6. Nurse to sleep

The big problem with this is timing. We would like his bed time to be 8pm, so this ritual would start at 730. Only, some days he does not nap AT ALL and is super exhausted and a big fat mess by 6pm. MAH-eessssssss. What do we do then? Start the ritual early? Force him into a massage and book readin' while he squirms all over the damn place?

Everyone keeps telling me babies need routines and I need to help him have a routine and make his days all identical, yada yada. There are never two consecutive days where Miles does the same anything. I can't even say bedtime is the same time each night, because everything depends on his daytime behavior.

We are hoping that a bedtime ritual can be the keystone in a consistent lifestyle for Miles. Maybe he just needs a good jumping off place.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Letter to the Absent Housekeeper

Dear Lady Who Did Not Show Up At My House or Call to Cancel:

Thanks for ruining my weekend! Since you asked that we bump your "arrival" until Friday, there is now 14 days' worth of filth and laundry at my house instead of just 12. All week, we knew you were "coming" on Friday, so we didn't let ourselves get concerned with the dishes or dirty clothes or gross bathtub. We used those spare moments to play with Miles or brush our teeth.

But then you didn't show up! So now, the time I was going to spend grocery shopping and grading papers is devoted to washing, folding, and putting away clothes. And ignoring huge dust bunnies on the stairs. And negotiating with Corey about who will scrub tomato sauce off the stove (And typing angry blog posts with one hand while I nurse a baby).

I say all this to point how much I value the job you were going to do at our house and how vitally important this paid service was going to be at this particular moment in our lives. I'm not even sure if we can squeeze in a trip to Costco now, what with all the crap we have to catch up on in between convincing Miles to sleep. In other words, you have let me down in a big, fat way.

All I can do is thank the heavens my rugby team has done something amazing for me. There will be two RELIABLE people here on Tuesday to help me out of this panicked snit. And I guess I can ignore dusty floors until then. Not sure about the barf-covered shirts and bras. I mean, I only have so many...

Sheesh! You can't even pay someone to help you out these days. Please don't contact me again, "housekeeper." You stink like cheese.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Baby Soothers

Over the course of my adventures with Miles, I have come across a number of women who also had screamy babies. I never knew such people were out there, screamy baby survivors. But they are. And when you find one, a real one, you feel the sort of bond that immediately makes you lifelong friends. It's like meeting a rugby player for the first time. You just know so much about this person that you can get right to checking each other's armpits for deodorant skids upon first meeting.

So in talking to these fellow survivors, I learned that the screaming babies tend to fall into categories. It's true.

I classify Miles as an "up and down" screamy baby. This means he needs to be moving up and down in order to not be screaming (although he screams much less now at week 17 of being alive than he did at week 3). At our house, we get our up and down action in on the stairs. We go up and down the bottom step again and again and again. At first we used the bouncy ball. Now only the stairs will do. Occaisionally, he will tolerate the back porch step. Mostly, it has to be the bottom step of our upstairs staircase.

Another mom with an up and down baby did lunges. Millions upon millions of lunges over and over again until she had thighs like Katherine Zeta Jones in Chicago. Beth from work had an up and down baby and they did the entire flight of stairs, up and down. So did the lady from yoga. One neighborhood mom walked up and down Vilsack Street until her kid was four months old. Luckily, he was born in spring and not, say, January.

Other moms had "around and around" babies who need to be circled around and around something. My friend does laps around the dining room table. Other people use the block, circling the neighborhood until the residents think they are stuck in a continuous mobius. I met an around and around baby who preferred the coffee table. I feel for that mom! The small circles! Oh, the vertigo!

Not to be judgy, but I don't feel the same empathy for people who had driving babies. Maybe it's because you can sit down while driving and it doesn't hurt your back? Not that there is anything fun about the gas money and carbon emissions, not to mention hours spent in a confined space with a screaming child. The ones whose babies needed the bus or subway are another story entirely. When public transportation is involved in pacifying a jetsetting baby, then others are witness to the humbling experience of a writhing little body and a grownup pleading, begging, praying for the screaming to stop. I am glad Miles is not a jetsetter, I think. At least the stairs are private.

What other kinds of screamy babies are out there? I am so curious to hear what soothed these little imps. Not because I am seeking advice, but gathering information about something that completely fascinates me even as it drains the hairs right out of my eyelids. What the heck is wrong with these babies that they scream for four months unless very specific conditions are met? And what, in fact, are the conditions others deal with in pacifying their screamy loved ones?

Do you have a screamy baby? What made this baby stop screaming? I am dying to know!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

By the Numbers

5: days this month Miles has been coo-ey and happy during the day
4: days so far this month that Miles has slept in 4 or 5 consecutive hour chunks!!!!
84,567,798: number of moments so far this month I have thought of something amazing related to being Miles' mother
0: days this month I spent sitting in the rocking chair, wishing my eyelashes weren't falling out, praying for sleep, begging my baby to stop screaming
2: number of times I pumped in the conference room today
6: total number ounces of milk I extracted from my bosom during those pumping sessions
0: number of times the DEAN caught me with my boobs out
3: number of dark chocolate bars I have eaten this week

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Got Milk?

This is a post in which I will describe my milking machine, so be forewarned!

I am a working, nursing mother. This means that each day I am at work, I have to retreat into some sort of cave and hook myself up to a pump. I call it my milking machine. When I was still pregnant and didn't think much about such things, Corey's cousin offered me her $300 breast pump since she was done having kids. "Sure," I said, noncommittally, "Whatever."

If you are not a working, nursing mother (or nursing mother in circumstances which necessitate pumping), you have no idea, none at all, what it means to invest in an electronic double breast pump. You just don't stop to think about the fact that once every three hours or so? You are going to have to milk yourself. Like a cow. It even makes little moo sounds, like WHEEEEE! hunh, WHEEEEE! hunh...WHEEE! hunh...

I feel darn lucky now that Ambika gave us this pump, because it's a good one. Very powerful and whatnot. Good suction.

So I have this milking machine, the plastic things that suck the milk from my boobs, a few bottles, a package of sanitary wipes to whisk the milk drips off the phlanges before I put it all back into my tote bag, a cooler, ice packs, a hand pump just in case, and spare nipple pads. I have to haul all this luggage with me each time I go to work. Then it takes like five minutes to rig it all up. There are plugs and tubes and lids and little white rubber things that always fly off into the bottle or get stuck in the crud catcher in the sink drain...what a mess. It's a whole process, I assure you.

Let's say I finally get myself situated in a chair, shirt bunched up, both tatas hooked into my milking machine. Let's say I am staring at a picture of Miles and trying to make milk come out of my body for this milking machine. I close my eyes, eat my sandwich, and imagine that I have a cuddly baby on my lap instead of the Ameada "Purely Yours" milking machine going WHEEEEE! hunh.

At long last, the milk starts to go into the bottles. Sometimes. Only if I've taken 9 fenugreek capsules each day, which makes my urine and sweat smell like maple syrup. The point is that it is damn difficult to offer forth milk to this machine. There's plenty of milk in my body! Wooo boy! It's in there! But it won't come out for me, generally--only for Miles in person.

Last week, I was in the conference room beneath the Writing Center, milking myself. Conditions were ideal. I was two squares away from finishing the Thursday NY Times crossword, an accomplishment in itself, and about 3.5 ounces into a good bottle for Miles. Yes!!! I thought, This is a good milking session.

All of a sudden, the door to the locked conference room burst open. The dean of undergraduate studies, who has the keycode apparently, came bustling into the room with a few undergrads. There I sat, on the floor, crossword puzzle on my thigh, milking machine all over the place, tubes and bottles and cups and plastic boob-suckers of various sizes at arm's length (depending how swollen my boobs are on a given day, I need different size milking accoutrements) when the DEAN of undergraduate studies was inches away from my milk-spewing nipples.

"Ohmygod I'm sorry," I said. Why was I sorry? I don't know. It came out. "I didn't know you were coming in here."

"Oh, that's ok," she said. "We're using the room for different things." She and the students kept on coming in, hanging some sort of poster. My nipples had, by this point, stopped offering milk. But the machine kept milking. WHEEE! hunh WHEEEE! hunh.

"What ARE you doing, anyway?" she asked as I sat there, mouth agape.

"I'm....pumping my breast milk."


"OH! I had no idea you did that in here."

pause. awkward, awkward pause.

"Sometimes I do," I stammered.

"Hmmmm. Well just let us know when you're done." And she and the students backed out of the room.

Needless to say, there was no more milk aflowing that afternoon. Oh no. I started the long and arduous process of bottling up and cooling my milk, disconnecting my hoses, sanitizing my utter-pumps, packing up. Breastmilk was dripping everywhere, all over my pants, and I kept trying to wring it into a bottle, because every drop counts!!! But no dice. I was in such a snit. I had to get out of there.

I didn't even make eye contact in the hallway, not with the DEAN who had just seen my H-cup boobs and my milky nipples. Oh no. I just marched back up to work to tutor students for the rest of the afternoon as if nothing had happened.

I haven't had a good milking session since.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Time for Dessert

I promise this post is only minimally related to being a mom of a high needs baby. So yesterday, Miles and I planned our day around our trip to my teammate's baby shower. It was supposed to be only a 12 minute drive, according to Google maps, so I wasn't at all worried about him freaking out because we just zip home if he did.

Needless to say, I got terribly lost in Millvale. I hate Millvale! It doesn't make any sense. I drove around and around for nearly an hour as MW screamed in the back seat. He just wailed. So I started crying. Then I called some rugby girls who were already at the shower.

One of them had to DRIVE TO Family Dollar to get me, I was such a wreck. And it was good that she did because I never could have found my way up the brick nunnery streets to where we were going. (Sidenote: This was the same teammate whose car I rolled into during the Stanley Cup final when I had no gas. What a mess.)

So we get to the shower and everyone is sitting around laughing and I feel a bit shaky. I start eating cookies. The rugby girls were, after all, stationed right by the dessert table. There were like 5 kinds of cookies and two cakes. I just helped myself.

An hour goes by. People are chatting. Everyone at my table is eating cookies. We ate some pasta salad, cheese and crackers, and fruit, too, but we were mainly eating cookies.

I was, in fact, sitting at the table with a cookie in my mouth while Ferko held Miles. The grandmother-to-be made her way to the table and said, "We are serving dessert now!" Only I didn't understand her. Perhaps the loud crunching of the cookie in my mouth muffled my ears? I asked her to repeat herself. "Dessert is served!"

I was so embarrassed. What a wreck! You put six rugby girls by the dessert table and of course we had been eating the cookies before we were supposed to. Ha! I guess at least we didn't cut the guest of honor's cake before she got to do it...