December 14, 2008

Basically Bertram...and His Little Sister

The careful reader of Basically Bertram might have noted that posts severely decreased starting in August 2008--precisely the same time that I (aka Parental Unit #1) discovered that I was pregnant with baby no. 2. This elusive, still developing being is now 22 weeks old, but the above anatomy scan points to a clear gender: girl.

Thus, young Master B will soon shed his only child status and become a BIG BROTHER. Part of me feels that I am robbing my little son of his solo babyhood as baby no. 2 is scheduled to arrive on April 13--two weeks before young Master B's 2nd birthday. Another part of me is excited that Bertram will have a sibling who is so close in age--hopefully, they will play together and not drive each other bananas.

I can only imagine that Bertram comprehends that the "baby in the belly" is a big pain in the pahtooty. As in, "Bertram you can't bounce on mommy anymore because of the baby in the belly." Or "Be careful not to kick me--remember the baby in the belly." Or "Mommy can't carry you right now, she's too tired from carrying the baby in the belly." Sometimes, I hold up young Master B's baby doll, hold in front of my belly, and say "look it's the baby in the belly."

I don't get a response. Bertram looks at me with a kind of "what do you mean, silly woman" expression.

In the meantime, I get bigger, just 17 weeks to go.

December 3, 2008

Give the People What They Want*

IMG_1421, originally uploaded by hal(var).
And what is it the people want at this time of year? As his parental units, we don’t expect presents, but people keep asking us, "what does young Master B want for Christmas?" Sheez, forget what his holiday wants are, if only I just could figure out what young Master B wants on a moment-to-moment basis. But I digress.

We encourage recycled toys, particularly if your first name rhymes with “pizza.” Yet, if you must spend your hard-earned Washingtons on our dear boy, then here is a list of items I can guarantee you he will enjoy:

A xylophone. A version made by Plan Toys is featured in two alphabet books that young Master B reads almost daily.

An easel. Bertram enjoys drawing with markers and making the letter “O.”

Hot Wheels cars, particularly the ones that you can scoot the wheels backwards and then the car races forward.

Jigsaw puzzles, a favorite toy in rotation right now. He has the Melissa & Doug farm sounds, work tools, and pets puzzles.

A spinning top, the more complex the better.

Wind up toys.

Any type of toy related to his favorite show, Yo Gabba Gabba. His favorite character seems to be Brobee, but I would recommend this.

* Parental Unit 2 has asked that I mention that Bertram does not or will he ever use fleece or footie PJs as our apartment is crazy hot in the winter. Young Master B is taking a nap right now with his window open and a fan going. He sometimes wakes up sweating--that's how hot our apartment is. Eeks!

December 2, 2008

The Petite Diner

Young Master Bertram and Parental Unit #1 headed out for "second breakfast" at a local diner.

Wait, what is second breakfast you ask?

Since Bert gets up so freakin' early--we have a light breakfast at say 6:30am. So before young Master B's big afternoon nap at 12:30ish, we have a second, more filling breakfast at 10:30a.

I was more than ready to dig into my usual order of bacon extra crispy, whole wheat toast, eggs over easy, a thimble glass of OJ, and a superlight coffee, so when we arrived to find that the one highchair the diner had was in use, I thought Calamitas!

Bertram was already squirming against his stroller harness and commanding "Out! Out!" Out indeed, but where? (At this point, my belly is too big for him to sit on my lap for a long stretch of time.) So I plunked him next to me in a regular seat. No booster, no straps, just a regular, plain old seat made for grown-up heiners.

I just wish I had a camera to capture the grin on his face--pure toddler delight. The novelty of not being in a highchair proved to be the greatest distraction. I had come prepared with a few books, paper and markers, but we didn't need them as he did not ask to be let "Out!" He also refused his bib and insisted on using a regular fork. He didn't reach for the no-touch items on the table like the bowl of sugar packets, ketchup, salt and pepper shakers. I had time to eat my meal versus my usual momtasking type of eating--give Bert a piece of food, take a forkful of food from my own plate, entertain, wipe Bert's face, attempt another bite, but stop to save his sippy cup from being thrown on the floor.

Bertram and I had a truly pleasant mid-morning. This experience made me question all the babyhood items and helpers we have that are still very much a part of our day-to-day living. The kid is only 19 months, but do we need to continue using, just to name a few things, sippy cups, toddler forks and spoons, bottles for milk, a highchair, a crib, an inflatable bath tub? Are we using these things out of parental convenience or Bert's safety (particularly the crib)?

I've already seen the improved behavior exhibited when I let young Master B walk somewhere at his own, slooooow, toddler pace as opposed to using the stroller. This morning's experience will get me thinking about other ways we can let Bertram sample being more "grown up." At the same time, this is the same kid who likes to take his nap with a good, warm bottle of milk, and who cries for a"huggie!" when he is upset. As with anything, parenting is in how you keep the balance.

November 23, 2008

Language Is a Virus, Part 2

Young Master B’s vocabulary is exploding! This is a good thing because it distracts us from the fact that his potty days have, well, gone down the toilet. I think we had a fluke burst of potty lust, and now we’re back to diapers, diapers, diapers.

But I digress; my point is that he’s picking up words like crazy. I’m not just talking about mimicry and repetition (although there is plenty of that, too); young Master B understands the words too. Last Friday, as we walked back from the sitter’s house in the bitter cold, young Master B looked up at the starless NYC sky and said, “sky.” I have no idea how he made the connection between the twinkle, twinkle stars that shine “like a diamond in the sky”—a song he has heard a bazillion times— to the thought that “this black veil of night above me is called sky.”

I also hate to admit this publicly, but I also think that young Master B’s word options have grown through exposure to TV shows like Yo Gabba Gabba, Jack’s Big Music Show, and the classic, Sesame Street. Yes, we read to him and yes, we talk to him; but put a singing puppet in the mix and you’ve got Bertram’s full attention. Words that are featured on the shows—for example, “fun,” “dance,” and “music”—have quickly become part of young Master B’s lexicon.

All this praise to the boob tube when The New York Times just reported that one of the key traits of happy people is that they watch less television. Maybe so, but how is their vocabulary???


Yummy Chicken, originally uploaded by hal(var).
In his infant days, I called him teethin’ B, because teeth we're always just popping through the gums or about to pop through. Now, young master B is sporting a full set of back and front chompers, which means he can rip the meat off the bone like a true carnivore—as you can see in this picture.

Dance Break

Dance Break
Originally uploaded by hal(var)
This toddler loves to dance...although he peeters out during the middle of the clip. As his Big Daddy says, "you got to leave the crowd wanting more."

October 30, 2008

Happy Halloween


Yet another illness has befallen our household. Young Master B had it hard, but Parental Unit 1 has had it harder. In fact, Parental Unit 1 is braving the whole mess using only Tylenol. Still, it has been hardest for the heartiest and healthiest among us--Parental Unit 2--as he had to be the sole caretaker.

Enough about the parental units, these germs have sabatoged young Master B’s potty progress. On the other side of the illness, young Master B has developed potty aversion. He will still sit on the thing, but only fully clothed. Of course, I’m thinking okay, maybe he isn’t ready after all. Yet, he still taunts us with calls of “Potty! Poop!” If we act on those calls, taking him over to the potty, he gets very upset and runs away from the bathroom. Part of me thinks, he isn’t ready and we should just give up, but then another part of me chimes in, but he has interest, keep encouraging him. As the old adage says, we are going two steps forward, one step back.

October 16, 2008

Why We're Flying High

IMG_3339, originally uploaded by hal(var).

I’ve been waiting and waiting for Bertram to put two words together in a sentence. Yesterday morning, he said…

“I pooped.”

His first sentence milestone was quickly overshadowed by our collective glee because ladies and gentlemen:

Our son pooped in the potty.

Let me back up and explain how remarkable this is because the whole potty process has been Bertram driven. A few weeks ago, young Master B began to take a keen interest in, ahem, our toilet time. Then, he started announcing “poop!” and “potty” when he had completed the deed. Before long, he would say his rallying “poop! potty!” cry, and we’d toodle over to check the diaper status—and it was dry. A few moments after…an all too familiar smell would waft past our nostrils. Young Master B now had what the baby development books call “bowel awareness.”

And were we ready? No. We didn’t even have a potty in the house. I had thought potty training or the even more popular term, “toilet training” happened some after after age 2. Apparently, not for young Master B. I don’t know why I’m surprised. This is the same child who, at 8 months, for whatever capability he had in his young brain to decide such things, decided “I will only drink from a bottle, no more breast.” Though I was heartbroken at the time, now I see other moms struggling to wean their toddlers and I am thankful for being slipped the early wean. All of this is to say that the trend I see emerging is that young Master B is a headstrong, determined boy, a quality I both respect and fear.

Well, once we procured the little red potty—things quickly progressed. At first, Bertram seemed a tad fearful, but then he was quite content to hang out with his new potty. We would try to make a big production of “let’s go sit on the potty!” Young Master B had a few early pee-in-the-potty successes, but nothing quite like yesterday’s main event, as it were. I would like to note that Mr. Fabulous/Parental Unit 2 made homemade waffles to celebrate the event. Now, if only we could get ourselves together enough to purchase some big boy undies?

Just Getting Coordinated

IMG_3341, originally uploaded by hal(var).

Recently, Parental Unit 2 quipped, “he is becoming so coordinated.” It’s true, young Master B can eat with a fork and spoon, reach up to grab a sippy cup off the table, put a book back on the shelf, run around the house in monster-feet slippers...

Now he does many of these tasks on the first try and without the intense focus of a boddler who is just learning to, for example, take the lid off a Tupperware bowl. And, just when I think we have a little southpaw on our hands, young Master B switches up and uses his right hand.

September 25, 2008

Do you like my hat?

Bertram has a set of of pop-em beads that he fashions into a hat; or, I suppose I should say his parental units fashion into a hat at his urging. Once he learned the ASL sign and the word for hat, suddenly hats became all the rage. Sometimes, he will sport a hat just for the fun of it around the house.

Anyway, this picture of Bertram makes me think of those medieval paintings in which an incredibly sophisticated looking baby jesus--bathed in a halo of light--has one outstretched palm toward the viewer, and the other hand with the index finger pointing to the heavens. Even though I'm sure I saw a dozen of these types of paintings during my stint as a security guard at the Met Museum, I couldn't find the right one to post here. Still, I think you get the idea.

August 19, 2008

Language Is A Virus

And he said: Hey! Are you talking to me?

Or are you just practicing
For one of those performances of yours?

Over the last three weeks, young Master B's vocabulary has exploded. I can't say if it's his addiction to the My Baby Can Talk series on the video i-Pod or if it's just developmentally the right time. Truly, these baby sign language DVDs have earned their worth and then some. I think he would watch these same two, 35-minute videos in repeat mode all day if I let him.

On the way back from the Bronx zoo last week, Parental Unit 2 and yours truly started an Excel sheet of Bert's words to date. We even took the time to break down into columns spoken words, words that are signed, and words he understands but does not pronounce clearly or substitutes (eg, quack is now used for 'duck,' down is used to indicate both 'pick me up' and 'put me down'.) Pretty nerdy, I know, but we're fascinated by how some words come to Bertram through ASL signs, then become spoken and how some words enter his vocabulary, clearly from exposure to the DVDs (and good ol' parental reinforcement, although we're OD'd on My Baby Can Talk), but skip the signing stage and go right to the spoken stage.

This past week, he has become more parrot-like, echoing certain words back to us, regardless of whether he truly understands what those words are. The word stinky comes to mind. You can guess when I might say that. Anyway, now Bertram repeats the word when I say it, as in

Parental Unit 1: "Whew-wee, this diaper is stinky!"
Bertram: "Stin-ky!"

Now I need to be mindful of my tendencies to elongate my vowels theatrically as in, "This diaper is stank-kay!"

Apparently, the next step is putting two words together in a phrase. I'm sure this will inspire some creative boddler phrasing.

And, a quick coda, I think it is high time we put the word boddler to rest. Bertram is a fully functioning bi-pedal boy with 50 words at his command. So hence forth, Bertram is a toddler.

Yes, Baby!

This is not a post about Bertram, not really.

Once upon a time there were two roommates living in the fair nabe of Greenpoint. Both in their 30s, they thought about, among other hot topics, having babies. One roommate answered the call to motherhood with a definitive "yes, baby!" The other roommate decided that she needed a year to think about whether or not a baby was in her future.

In this photo, the "maybe baby" roommate holds a very young Master B.

I'm pleased to report that nowadays my former roomie is very much "yes, baby." In celebration of my friend's change in baby status, I will be amassing a list of what I consider to be must-have items for new, first-time parents. I welcome any comments.

August 15, 2008

Who Loves the Zoo?

IMG_3295, originally uploaded by hal(var).

One guess. I give you one guess.

August 14, 2008

Mind Trip

Chillin with my tunes IMG_1283, originally uploaded by hal(var).

Parental Unit 1 decided to brave a trip to Maryland alone. And, that was probably mistake number 1. (How soon I had forgotten the lessons learned when I attempted to visit Maryland for a week with 4-month old Bertram, sans Parental Unit 2!) As we travelled south to the humble environs of Maryland on an Amtrak train that was an hour late, I should have known that what was about to transpire was the trip from h-e-double hockey sticks.

My usually intrepid boddler turned into a shrinking wallflower upon his arrival at great-great grandma’s house. He appeared, well, scared of everybody. I suppose this is the disadvantage of living far away from my family.

In an unfamiliar environment and without Parental Unit 2, young Master B clung to me like a lil’ barnacle. He didn’t want to take his usual naps. He had trouble sleeping in the travel play pen, which meant he slept with me—kicking and thrashing about restlessly during the night. Therefore, I spent my nights in and out of consciousness fearing that Bertram would either roll off the bed or kick me the head. With so little sleep, the latter didn’t sound so bad.

Desperate for a few moments to myself without the lil’ barnacle boddler, I pulled out my video i-Pod. Parental Unit 2 had recently put young Master B’s beloved My Baby Can Talk series on the i-Pod. It was eerie how young Master B immediately took to watching the tiny screen--to the exclusion of all else happening around him. The ear buds kept popping out of his ears, but he would watch those videos back to back, over and over again, with great focused intensity. I almost expected him to turn his head around 360 degrees a la The Exorcist. (Penelope Leach, the lady behind Your Baby & Child, posits that young toddlers do not actually process videos, but become almost hypnotized by the rapidly changing and colorful images.)

You can imagine that after three days and four nights of next to zilch sleep and mother/son barnacale-ing, we were on course for a major mommy meltdown. Bertram and I were sitting on the floor when he clamped his chompers down on my thumb, breaking the skin. Looking at my bloody and smarting thumb, I think said something along the lines of “take the child away before I slap him.”

I didn’t slap him, but I cried in frustration. The bite was the last straw. My tired mommy brain had transformed young Master B into young Master Sleep Destroyer, and I had had enough of the Sleep Destroyer’s shenanigans.

With the clarity of hindsight, I’ve been thinking is there such a thing as a baby behaving badly on purpose? I just don’t buy the idea that Bert is capable of being malevolent at 15 months old. True, he is an impulsive id machine, so if the desire is there to chomp on his mother’s thumb, his brain must go, “do it!.” Of course, for years, young Master B’s great-grandmother has suggested that there only tired babies and sick babies, but never bad babies.

When I take Bert out in the stroller, people make a point to tell me what a happy baby he is. And I believe what they perceive to be true for the most part, except, ahem, when he’s tired or sick.

Note to self: the next family visit involves two parental units.

July 24, 2008

Back in the Saddle Again

14 month Boddeler, originally uploaded by hal(var).

The last week has been especially hard on the parental units, and even harder for young Master B. We don't even have any photos from this time period, because we were just too busy. So the one of Master B. on his bouncing Rody will have to suffice.

Once again we were battling a virus, complete with fever, body rash, and sad baby syndrome--you know what this is, a formerly bouncy baby boy who just wants to cling to you all day (and sometimes nights too) and whimper.

The poor kid could not get a break. Once his fever broke, he got a mighty case of the runs and a super diaper rash that even Boudreaux Butt Paste could not fix. I think the low point was when his little bum was so sore that he screamed in pain when we put him in the tub.

When your baby is sick, your whole life just stops. You become like a machine, keeping track of temperatures, medications administered, the amount of food eaten, the amount of liquid imbibed, how many dirty diapers over numerous hours, soiled blankets and pj's, trips to the laundry room, calls and visits to the pediatrician, etc. Somewhere in the midst of all that, you hope you can get some shut eye only to find that you're lying awake worrying about how the little dude is doing.

At any rate, I'm happy to report that Master B is now back to the land of the bouncy, baby boddler boys.

July 15, 2008

I No, You Know

14 month Boddeler, originally uploaded by hal(var).

In the continuing saga of the preverbal boddler, we've hit the no phase. No matter what the question we ask him, his answer is no. But here's the tricky part, he says no, but he doesn't yet grasp the concept of no. He's just saying no to say no. Imagine most of our conversations going thusly:

Parental Unit 1: Bertram do you want a cracker? (dutifully taking the opportunity to make the ASL sign for cracker.)
Bertram: No. (he takes a cracker.)
Parental Unit 1: Do you want milk? (and makes the sign for milk.)
Bertram: No.
Parental Unit 1: Do you want to play?
Bertram: No. (he starts picking up blocks.)

I immediately began to question how often we must say no to him. This is the very thing Positive Discipline warns parents to avoid. Of course, that tome is still on my mind with its "Emphasize what the baby can do, not what he can't do" approach. The reality is that when he does something like squeeze a stack of banana slices in his little fist so that rivulets of banana stream out between his fingers, which he then promptly wipes on the kitchen wall OR when he discovers how cool it is to use his little plastic bath bucket to hoist water out of the tub and on to the bathroom floor, the first word out of my mouth is a primal, if not slightly guttural nooooooooo. Of course, he could have picked up the word no anywhere -- he certainly hangs around his fair share of toddlers, at the sitter's, at the park. Oh, who am I kidding? He probably picked it up from us.

Still, I've tried to make a conscious effort to reduce my own use of the word. Not an easy task given that Aunt Flow is mere days away, and I feel like at any moment I could erupt into what Ayun Halliday calls "bitchmother." (The link to the illustration is so much better than any description I could offer.)

The no phase does have some perks. Hal (aka Parental Unit 2) and I can't resist these types of exchanges:

Parental Unit 1: What's your favorite Japanese theatre?
Bertram: No.
Parental Unit 2: Do you want to go out and party all night?
Bertram: No.

This no phase also makes me think about an artist friend in college who went through a yes! phase. Yes. Exclamation point. She shared a house, and her half was decorated with illustrations of the word yes in various formations and colors. You would be in her bathroom, and all along the mirror were index cards with a single Yes! scribbled hastily in ink. Maybe her yes! phase was a latent subconscious response to her "boddler" mind? I smell a New Age self-help book idea!

July 13, 2008

Beach Blanket Bipedal Boy

The alliteration of this blog title signals part of the two big moments from this week: On Friday, July 11, Bertram took his first steps without assistance from either of his parental units. Oh sure, he cruised, holding on to furniture, or our legs; he toddled along holding our hands. But now, he pushes away the comforts of our steady hands in favor of his own Frankenstein-like lurch walk. Bertram spreads his arms out wide and in front of his body as he takes each step.

He also enjoys holding on to his own stroller for support as we push it and our walking boddler ever so sloooowly down the street. I hope to post walking video footage soon.

On Thursday, a convoy of stroller toting comrades and I made the pilgrimage to Long Beach. Out-of-towners may not appreciate the complexity of undertaking such a journey on public transport. We had six moms, seven babies and a lot of stuff--three umbrellas, food, water, six strollers (including Young Master Bertram's royal "coach," the 18 lb. Peg Perego Venezia), two Ergo carriers, a bjorn, two hot slings, beach toys, blankets, and two baby beach pods. So imagine all six of us hoisting our babies and stuff up and down platform stairs, into trains, and then hauling everything over the sand, until finally, we reached "Polar Bear" beach.

Of course, on the train out to Long Beach, we met a random mom and babe team who were venturing out from Astoria to go to the beach solo for the first time. Let's hear it for this young, intrepid mom! I also have to mention that this lil' guest chubster had such a cute nickname. His momma called him, "Pocket." Needless to say, we grew into a beach party of seven moms and eight babies.

The water was cold, the sand got everywhere--in babies' mouths, under the diapers, in the fingers, you name it. The walking toddler and boddlers among us climbed up "lifeguard mountain," a great mound of sound where the young lifeguard sat perched in his wooden chair, blowing his whistle and telling swimmers to stay between the flags. The pre-walking boddlers enjoyed tasting sand and playing with (or chewing on) plastic sea creatures, pails, and shovels.

One mom commented that when she thought of the idea of a baby -- you know, back in that blissful, biologically driven phase of "baby consideration" -- the image of a gleeful, chubby baby at a beach, wearing a wide-brimmed hat, and playing with the requisite brightly colored pail and shovel, was what came to her mind. I think my driving pre-baby image was of a mom in a fluffy pink robe and bunny slippers rocking a small bundle to sleep in a rocking chair. But I digress...

The babies were so excited by the sand and surf! None of the babies wanted to nap and the mighty Ergo had to be employed to help wind down the boddlers to their afternoon slumbers.

The eldest and therefore, most verbal child -- about 2 and 1/2 years -- in our group had his first city beach experience. Though he was shivering from a dip in the cold, cold ocean, he kept urging his mother to take him back, blue lips and all, to the waves. I can relate to my young beach companion. For my favorite thing to at the beach is to swim and be tossed about in the water. And, for 1o blissful minutes while Bertram was napping, a few of us moms ran into the icy froth for frolicking merriment. We yelled and yipped like we had never been to the ocean in our lives.

I do believe that an exhaustive and fun time was had by all.

June 29, 2008

Foul Fan Fa Fa

Bertram is really, really into fans. It probably helps that we have a ceiling fan, and five table fans rocking in an effort to stay cool in our apartment this summer. The thing is, he can't say the word fan yet. He points at the spinning wonder and says, "foul." Of course, Hal and I find this funny. We try to break down the word for him with no success, as in the following example:

Parental Units: Fa-ann.
Bert: Fa. Fa. Fa-owl.
Parental Units: Fa-ann. Ann. Nah. Nah.
Bert: Fa. Fa-owl.

We'll be out at a restaurant, and the first thing Bert will notice is the ceiling fan. So he starts pointing and says with great enthusiasm, "foul! foul! foul!"

June 23, 2008

dionysian eating at 13 months

This photo was taken at the end of May. We went to another baby boy's first birthday party and the very cool parents (in fact, they are the parents of Charlie, see below) made a special, babies only cake. What I love about this picture is that Bertram appears to be in a kind of birthday cake coma. You can tell that he felt the cake. He ate the cake. Sheez, he practically makes wearing cake a fashion statement.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is what happens in the dionysian pleasure dome of the boddler. In this dome, eating involves squishing food between your fingers, smearing it on your clothes, putting it in your ear, smushing it into your hair, dropping it on the floor, shoving bits of food from one plate compartment to another, and oh yes, occasionally tasting it.

Just this past Saturday, we went to de Mole. Of all the things to order from a Mexican restaurant I ordered a hamburger with fries. Of course, de Mole kicked it up a notch with thick slices of bacon and just a few thin hints of red onion on a perfectly toasted english muffin. Have I mentioned how much I love de Mole? Anything they make is fantastic. Don't ignore that seemingly out-of-place burger on the menu.

Sooooo...for the first time ever, Bertram tried french fries and ketchup--together. Who needs language to convey the blissful combination of vinegary, sweet tomato and mushy salted goodness? He had such a smile on his face. He would take three or four shoestring fries at a time and dunk them in the little ketchup cup looking oh-so-pleased. (I would add that this was also his first successful food dipping experience.) What also struck me was the absolute pleasure with which he eats. In true dionysian boddler fashion, he sucked the ketchup off his fries, and shoved his ketchup smothered hands in his mouth, being sure to give his chin an ample coating of ketchup goo. He demanded more fries with pointing and grunts. His use of the polite ASL signs went out the window.

This kid truly enjoys eating. Looking at him, I think about how much we take for granite when we eat. I can only imagine what it must be like to experience a strawberry for the first time. And these days, you would find me eating a strawberry while hovering over the kitchen counter in the midst of preparing the next day's lunches. I've become a food multi-tasker, barely acknowledging the taste of a food while Bertram is the poster boy for all-out sensory enjoyment.

I know I need to give Bertram a few boundaries with eating--eg, take him away from the table when he starts playing with the food versus exploring and eating it. But the joy and gusto with which he eats is infectious. He's a boddler. I suppose he can get away with his dionysian ways for a few months more.

Coda 6/26: I noticed that our good friends Josh and Jess posted similar praise for the dionysian eating habits of their boddler, Charlie. Check him out savoring a nectarine--

civilized eating at 11 months

IMG_1032, originally uploaded by hal(var).

June 17, 2008

One Night Only

So last night Bertram had his first-ever, all night sleepover at his sitter's house. It just did not make sense to pick Bert up (waking him up) at midnight and then bring him home. He spent a contented night with his sitter, who declared that he was an angel. Indeed, he slept from 8:30p to 7:30a. Forget angel, I'd call that a freaking miracle, considering that he sleeps so lightly at home.

While Bert was acting like a little angel, his parents were partying like it was 1999. We were celebrating the re-opening of HERE Arts Center. That place is a testament to two things--
  • the resolve of a tiny but dedicated staff (I was once one of them)
  • the power of small donations
Yes, HERE had quite a few large donations in order to make its re-design a reality, but at the end of the day--it was the power of hundreds of everyday folks giving in small amounts. Yeah, it took HERE five years since the day it purchased its space, but look at that place now.

When I think about what I leave behind in this world, HERE is one of the great things that I have helped to make happen. Though my name is not in the spotlight or well known--I'm one of the many cogs in the wheel. Remember folks, without the cogs, the wheel won't turn.

This world does not give recognition to the nonprofit arts fund raisers, the marketers, and accountants--the people who often work without benefits and well under what they ought to be paid for the amount of overtime they put in, all in the service of art. (It's okay though I suppose, because this country doesn't value its artists either.) No achievement wall is made for all the times a development staff member managed to get out a personalized mailing to 300 donors and funders on ancient, testy office equipment, then that same staff member might spend two- to-four hours stuffing, sealing and putting postage on that mailing in a hot, sweaty basement dungeon with no air or circulation. Or the time a person spends filling out stacks and stacks of ridiculous paperwork to various city and state agencies to justify that yes, this organization is worthy of a small grant that won't even come close to making a dent in the amount of money needed to produce a season's worth of work. No glory is to be found as an arts administrator.

Frankly, I'm getting past the age where I care about the glory. I'm proud to be one of the anonymous. Maybe some day I'll have a big purse so that other people can make a big deal about how I opened it and dolled out cash to support what I love or because my friend or other social networking type convinced me that I should.

My name is not on any wall, but I hope that my child will one day say, my mother helped make art happen. She helped to make this place--HERE, be HERE forever.

Ultimate Boddler Toy

This past Saturday, we packed up the Bert and headed for my old 'hood, Greenpoint. A feast of grits, rib eye gravy, biscuit and eggs benedict minus the hollandaise was shared by all at Enid's. If you want to get a table at that joint--join the hipster parent crowd at 10am. Otherwise enjoy the coffee and the crazy wait for a table. Of course, I used to avoid the line by cozying up to the bar for a mimosa and making my brunch order there, but oh those days are long gone.

Then post-Enids, we just happened upon the Renegade Craft Fair at the McCarren Pool. Let me tell you it was craftastic and hot. Young Master Bertram was protected by globs of sunscreen. His mother, on the other hand, became burnt toast. I could feel my skin frying, but I just could not pry my peepers away from the aisles and aisles of handmade goods. I almost got sucked in by a skirt featuring a chicken amid several calico squares, but the $100 plus pricetag for what was essentially a skirt with an elastic waistband put a halt to that potential purchase.

On the way back from the craft fair, we stopped at a toy store. We couldn't resist the Melissa & Doug poundy-ball toy and a wooden play sushi set (see photo above).

One thing is for sure. This Melissa & Doug pound-y ball toy is hands down the winner for holding Young Master Bertram's attention. It succeeds on so many levels for him. His favorite activities include:
  1. balls
  2. shape sorting
  3. pounding blocks into a hole
Two days in a row, Bertram might start out playing with blocks or a book, but he then becomes distracted by this toy. He'll spend upwards of twenty minutes with it, which is amazing to watch. I could actually be so brazen as to--brace yourselves, gentle readers--leave the play area.

Thank you, Melissa & Doug. Thank you.

June 11, 2008

You Give Me Fever

What I thought was a teething fever has turned out to be, according to the pediatrician, something viral. Isn't that just the catch-all pediatrician speak, for "I don't know what's wrong with your kid."

Viral marketing--that's good. Virus in your baby--that's bad.

One moment Bertram is right as rain and the next moment, he's very, very hot and whimpering as I rock him in the Lazy Boy. I hate watching Bertram's temperature climb and climb and climb. This afternoon, the thermometer hadn't beeped yet, but it was pushing 103.6. I didn't wait to see how hot he was. He got Motrin and a bath, pronto. Of course, I'm freaking out. When he gets listless and whimpery, that's when I start to panic. It's all I can do to think, "calm down, it's probably nothing." Thirty minutes and a dose of Motrin later, and he's ready to play ball or blocks. Bertram dodged my hypothetical worst fear of him contracting meningitis. This time. Cue freaky, Hitchcock type music...

June 10, 2008

in between days

IMG_1080, originally uploaded by hal(var).
Yesterday I got so old

It made me want to cry

Reading parenting books is like reading about how to learn to drive a car or ride a bike--kind of futile. I love books, and I've learned a great deal from books. When it comes to being a mom, in my humble opinion, you learn from the day-to-day experience of it.

Still, I could not resist this title, recommended by another mom friend, Positive Discipline. The title appealed to my secret love self-help type books and made me wonder how positive a parent's discipline can be? I'll come back to that in a moment. First, a digression...

In the process of reading the book, I realized that at 13 months, Bertram is not quite an infant (in that helpless I-need-you-to-do-everything-for-me kind of way) and not quite a toddler (as in a bipedal, speaking being). Bert is sophisticated enough to use ASL signs for abstract words like "more," "go," and "all done," but still needs to be carried or strolled any place that isn't met for a crawler.

More importantly, he's started the journey toward asserting his independence. He wants a specific book, not just any book I pick up. He doesn't want the pasta, the chicken sausage, or the spinach pancake; he wants strawberries and more of them. When he's done eating, he throws everything off the table. That feels kind toddler-ish to me, but he looks like, well, a baby.

You know what I mean? Toddlers look more like kids; they are more defined with less baby fat. They have hair that can be styled a la the "Suri" or the "Maddox."

My point is that Bertram is not quite a toddler and not quite a baby. My word for this phase is "boddler." I think this growth phase started the day after his first birthday--the day he decided that his food is not mush that comes in jars. He'll have what his parents are having, thank you very much.

So how does my newfound boddler awareness tie in to Positive Discipline, the book? The basic principle is that by emphasizing what children can do versus what they can't do, you can help build their confidence. The book frequently urges the parent to use "kind, firm action." I'm simplifying this greatly, but this is the general gist.

I think this sounds great in principle, but in practice--suppose your prewalking, pretalking, boddler has just, to cite one recent example, taken the two halves of his peanut butter sandwich and put them over his ears like muffs, being extra careful to mash the peanut butter in his hair? What I want to do is say "No!" and curse like a sailor. And on my worst days, I probably will do just that.

My hopes for a witty conclusion to this post have just been dashed by a sudden, spiking teething fever. Ugh.