Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Flipping Off

I was recently reading a Yahoo article shared by a friend about how gestures and mannerisms that are common in America can mean very different (and sometimes inappropriate) things in other countries.

For example, in many middle eastern countries, making the "thumbs up" sign is actually a reference to a proctology exam, and not an confirmation that all is well.  Similarly, using your left hand to do just about anything in many parts of the world is considered offensive because the left hand is used exclusively for bathroom-related tasks, and presenting it to someone else is a seriously bad move.

After reading these and many others, I've come to the conclusion that there may have been some sort of mistake made at the time of Adler's birth, because if gestures alone can indicate one's culture, my baby is not from this neck of the woods.

Despite how cute and innocent he may appear to be, Adler has developed the unfortunate habit of flying the "bird" sometimes.

Well, more than sometimes.  A lot, really.  Okay, constantly.

Adler flips off the camera at 17 days old.
Instead of using his completely capable index finger, he prefers the dexterity and shock value of his middle finger, and has since birth.  If he were a local baby, he would know that this action is unacceptable, so his continual gesturing assures me that he's not from around these parts.

I'm always interested in trying to better understand my baby's behavior so that I can accommodate his needs, so I've been doing a lot of thinking about what message he is trying to send with these persistent fingers, and I think I'm making some real progress.

 In this photo, I believe that Adler was demonstrating his strong opposition to illiteracy.

Here, I think he was signalling to me that he would prefer to skip the homemade fresh fruit and vegetable mashes I serve him at meal times and proceed directly to nursing so that he can more efficiently bite me.

A real time saver, that one.

By gesturing at the fallen flower in our yard, I'm confident that Adler was troubled by the rapid bloom-and-drop cycle of our PJM rhododendron, and meant only to make a statement about climate change and its effect on our ecosystem.

But because these middle fingers are beginning to affect our social interactions, I sat Adler down last night and informed him that unless (and until) he chooses to respect the local cultural norms, I would not be purchasing any more blueberry flavored YoBaby yogurt.  You know, for his own good.

I'm sure he understood.  That's my Iowa boy.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Stairway to Regret

I think we can all agree that the idea of guiding and crafting a child into a unique but normal human being is more daunting than any 9 to 5.  (Even food service.)  We all mess up from time to time, but the hardest part is not beating yourself up for the mistakes made along the way.

For example, I need to stop feeling guilty about Cael's bouts with MRSA when he was a baby.  That wasn't my fault, and he's been free of it for years.

I need to quit worrying about Graham's speech issues.  He's getting help at school, and I know it will turn out just fine.

And when it comes to Adler, I need to stop regretting the stained concrete we sprang for after last year's post-flood renovation.

What?  My regret doesn't seem related?  I didn't think it was either, until Adler's little body tumbled down the stairs and his head made contact with that lovely stained concrete.

Because the top of our basement stairs are framed by the wall on one side and a railing on the other, we cannot use a traditional baby gate to keep our inquisitive (and now crawling) Adler on the main level of the house.  With the other boys, we used L-shaped plastic baby fencing held in place by foam-padded twist-ties, but it was never a great system because it was still somewhat loose at the very bottom, but it got the job done.

What I hadn't considered was that, when the older boys were babies, I didn't have older boys.  Cael and Graham are constantly traipsing up and down the stairs and not putting the gate back in it's proper place, and despite countless conversations about how serious it would be if Adler were to fall, on Monday it happened.

I was cutting out some trading cards for Cael in my bedroom when I looked up to see Adler's feet round the door behind the baby gate.  I ran to him even faster than I run for the ice cream truck, but before I could get to him I heard the first thump of him hitting the top step, and as I turned the corner, I watched helplessly as he bounced --bounced-- down the stairs, flopping from head to belly to back, and hitting them bottom with a resounding thwack that I will never forget.

I tried to triage as quickly as possible, and could see very quickly that he was crying and moving, so I scooped him up in my arms and ran upstairs to make sure he hadn't broken anything or hit his head so hard he had a concussion.  I couldn't get a good look at him because he was crying so hard, so I latched him on to nurse to settle him down.

Seriously, that fixes everything.

Adler's eyes looked normal, he didn't flinch when I checked him arms and legs, and when he bit me and laughed as I yelped out in pain, I knew he was okay.  But I wasn't okay.

It took nearly all day for me to shake that heart-stopping, nervous feeling, and just as I was beginning to relax, his goose egg was starting to form like a "live nude girls" style flashing arrow pointing to his point of impact, reading, "my mom let me fall and I landed HERE". 

There are so many things that I wish I could change.  I wish I'd seen Graham move the gate and not put it back.  I wish I hadn't been cutting out those ridiculous anime cards, not only because they outnumber all of the grains of sand on the earth, but because they distracted me from protecting my sweet little one.  But I also wish he'd landed on something soft instead of the cold, hard floor I spent several thousands of dollars completing, not considering how it would feel pressed up against Adler's skull.

But what I wish most is that the fall had given him a healthy dose of fear.  Or that the bottom of the stairs had walls...

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

To Basket Or Not To Basket

Thanks to a post-ham hangover, I never got around to sharing our Easter shenanigans.  But as I looked back at photos to share with you, I realized that there weren't many shenanigans after all, and I'm more than okay with that.

I think.

It's no secret that Pinterest and Facebook have created an atmosphere of "one upping" for moms, and there are as many blog posts on the subject as there are marshmallow peeps in the sea.  For the past six years, I'd managed to avoid the pressure, but this year social networking made me feel that Easter should be an all or nothing affair.  But which?
 After I filled plastic eggs with the nostalgic "retro" candies I bought because they reminded me of the terrible quality chocolates I ate as a child, I begrudgingly headed out into the backyard at 11pm to hide them around the playset, in the grass, and in all of the nooks and crannies I could see with my iPhone's flashlights just so my boys could knock over and stomp on each other run wildly from egg to egg, giggling and munching their way to childhood obesity.
It made me think that the parents who downgrade Easter to a gift-free/candy-free holiday and focus instead on the religious intention probably have it right.  IN my own defense, we spent a significant amount of time making sure the boys valued the miracle of Jesus' death and resurrection, but somehow the wires got crossed. 
"So if Easter is about Jesus, why is there an Easter bunny?"
"The Easter bunny is more of a 'spring' thing, Graham.  He is just for fun."
"No, Graham, the Easter bunny was Jesus' pet.  Now he gives out candy and stuff because Jesus can't."
Don't get Cael started about the tooth fairy.

Just as I was resigned to making Easter 2016 a family and religious experience only, a more reasonable comment from Cael gave me pause.

"Mom, if our baskets were from the Easter bunny, how come my friends "Wealthy" and "Lucky" got a PS4, a Jeep ride-on toy, tickets to a movie, $40 in quarters, a trip to Disney World, a full-ride to the college of their choice and a full sleeve tattoo?  I basically just got a book and a yo-yo.  Wasn't I good enough?"

He was good enough.  But unfortunately for Cael, he was born to a teacher and a stay-at-home mom.  I don't know what Wealthy and Lucky's parents do (don't worry, those aren't their real names) but I'd hazard a guess that they could afford to pay someone to hide their plastic eggs rather than sneaking around in the dark and nearly decapitating a squirrel with a foil-wrapped chocolate.

I don't ever want my kids to feel left out or second-best.  So it was decided--  the answer was to save up money to make Easter nearly as big a production as Christmas.
"Mom, next year in my Easter basket, I want a tank with a baby shark in it.  And a big hunting knife!"
"Ooh, Mom, me too!  Plus I want all of your money."
Scratch that.  They get what they get.  It's how Jesus' pet would have wanted it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


I've shared a lot on this blog over the years, but there is something you might not know.  As anti-clutter as I am, my family has some serious hoarder tendencies.  We can get away with it because I keep the kitchen counters reasonably clean and classify our individual stockpiles as "collections", but there is no denying that we can't stop.

Cael hoards trading cards for any game-- playing cards, Uno cards or even any clothing tag made of sturdy enough cardstock to withstand a day or two in his pocket.  Joel does the traditional "guy thing" and hoards gadgets and obscure tools for projects we might never need, while Graham hoards his own artwork of "grape trees" and portraits of me that look like I've been electrocuted via toaster-in-bath.

I like to think that my hoard, my extensive "collection" of nail polishes, takes up the least space, but it's probably the most time consuming.  Or at least it is for me, because I can't stand chipped polish and I end up redoing my manicure almost nightly.  Just like those TV hoarders who have walled off rooms of their house with clutter, I have filled my polish bin (yes, bin) with so many bottles that I think I must have at least two for every color recognized by Pantone, including a few truly hideous options that would only be suitable for me in one of Graham's drawings.
Because of this extensive collection, it was surprising even to me that I hadn't experimented with Jamberry nail wraps.  For those of you who don't dedicate your only 15 minutes of free time to nail maintenance, Jamberry wraps are glorified stickers that cover your nails and are touted to stay in place for up to two weeks without chipping like regular nail polish.

We'd see about that.

My sister Sarah, who had had a Jamberry party online, told me to pick one out to try and gave it to me for Christmas with the appropriate accoutrements, but because my nails are thin and pathetic, perhaps from being repeatedly chemically stripped and dipped into hot and cold soapy water from countless rounds of dishes, it wasn't until this last week that I had ten reasonably long nails ready to wrap.
I was excited.  This would work.  I could imagine my future and the hours I'd gain no longer being a slave to traditional nail polish.  I could imagine my future polish box, not bin, and the small corner it would occupy.  I could also imagine that the ozone layer would double in thickness if were to put away the nail polish remover.

It was settled... this would be my new addiction.  The only problem was that I couldn't make it work.  I prepped my nails thoroughly according to the instructions and started adhering the wraps to my thumbs.  Quickly I found that if I concentrated extra on the edges, the tips of my nails would have ripples in the wrap, or vice versa.  After an hour and half and with only four nails done, I decided that these stickers would need to stay on upwards of three months in order to make this effort worthwhile.

Once finally on, I went about my day, going to church and making dinner.  And it wasn't until I was finishing up my last few bites that I saw I was missing the wrap from my right index finger.  I was confident I hadn't accidentally eaten it, as mint and gold would not be camouflaged by grilled salmon, so I figured it had fallen off in the sink as I washed my hands.  But after cleaning up the leftovers, I noticed that my left ring finger was bare as well as my right pinky and thumb.

Where had they gone?  I was unimpressed with the staying power of these wraps but very impressed with the intrigue they'd added to my day.  Perhaps I'd encourage Graham to create a rendering of my hands, adorned by these six remaining stickers.

But before I had the chance, I started discovering them around my house, stuck to various objects like a symbolic timeline of my activities. The first was adhered to a plastic container of blueberries in my refrigerator.

The second was on the remote control.

The third was stuck in Oscar's whiskers, so there's no knowing what I was doing when it made its hasty escape.

I found the fourth inside my purse while I was digging for my keys.

Finally I found the fifth (which I didn't realize I'd lost) in the most ironic spot of all, resting comfortably in front of one of my bins of nail polish, mocking me for thinking I could ever give up on my collection.

It's probably not Jamberry's fault.  There are thousands of other people whose nails don't reject the wraps and can go for two weeks without nearly ingesting their own nails with a side of broccoli.  And as I type this post, bare fingered, I understand that I simply might not be one of those people.

So until I work up the courage to try again, I set my stickers aside and picked up a bottle of Essie.

That's a wrap, people.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Using Restraint

Think of your earliest memory for me, will you?

It may be foggy, hazy, not quite clear.  But that early memory won't ever leave you because it's the very first piece of information your brain grabbed hold of.  I have a few, and the fact that none of them are particularly unusual or extraordinary tells me that they must be legitimate and not pieces of stories I've heard or things I've dreamed up.

An ad for a much older, but equally unattractive wagon.
One such memory is of playing around in the rear-facing bench seat of our yellow paneled Buick station wagon.  Stories like that astonish my kids-- the very thought that children would ride around without car seats or seat belts is as mind-blowing to them as is the idea that my parents would purchase such an eyesore.

Thinking of that early memory made me realize just how restrictive and, lets be honest, how ridiculous the car seat laws and recommendations have become in recent years.  If I were to follow the government's advice implicitly, my children would be in middle school and nearly five feet tall while still buckled into a booster.

I am a pretty busy person.  I'm chauffeuring children all over town, getting groceries, running errands, etc, and if I had to stop each time to physically remove all of my car's occupants, the kids would be late for their activities, the groceries spoiled, and the errands irrelevant.

So, it stops now.

I might take a little flack for this, but from now on, I'm just sticking to the seat belt provided with my van, and my own driving skills.  It was sufficient for me as a child, and if making this change makes my life easier, well, isn't that worth it? 

I'll keep Adler in his car seat until the end of May when he's one, but since he's perfectly able to sit upright, I think it will be a good time to make the shift for him as well, and if he's anything like my bigger boys, he will just be relieved.

If anyone is interested purchasing our old car seats, I will have two gently used Graco car seats for sale after Adler's birthday.  I am going to be keeping Cael's, however, because we have discovered that Oscar fits perfectly and when I take him with us for outings, I plan to strap him in judiciously.

 I wouldn't want him to get hurt, after all.

So join me, and throw out your children's car seats!  Rid yourself of these ridiculous government standards, and allow your kids to experience the freedom (and occasional whiplash) of a simpler time!

Oh... and Happy April Fool's Day.