November 4, 2009

Sitting Bull

Our Aries baby just began to sit unassisted two weekends ago. Between this latest milestone and starting solids, I am starting to reclaim my body as “mine” again. For me, surviving babyhood is about celebrating these small victories back to the self I once was—BC, before children.* Although I am still young Miss Vivian’s personal milk slave, so we have some distance to travel before I can stop wearing shirts with an eye toward easy access.

I find young Miss Vivian to be a focused baby. She sees a toy—usually one with small, removable parts—that she wants and rolls toward it. She grabs her bottle with both hands. In the morning, you better make sure that your coffee cup remains beyond her reach. Young Miss Vivi is the wiley sort of baby who will arch her back and strrrretch in order to gain that extra inch toward the desired item just past the kitchen table’s Forbidden Zone—home to adult beverages and sharp utensils. In fact, we gave up on using the Bumbo seat in favor of the high chair for feeding time. Both of us, parental units, quickly tired of her extending her apple-puree covered limbs and grabbing anything within a five-inch radius of her blue plastic seat.

Overall, I would say that Vivian is a pleasant baby. Unlike her brother, she managed to sail through newborn phase without colic. And, I won’t waste more blog space talking about how well she sleeps. Every day we do a little happy dance as we give thanks to the baby sleep gods. Unfortunately, Parental Unit #2 and I are about to enter a new world with Vivian, a world so scary that it makes my miserable pregnancy seem like easy gravy—I am talking about teething. What? I can’t hear you because 1) this is a blog and 2) my shoulders are up to my ears in tense anticipation of the coming dental storm.

*as if that is even possible!

November 1, 2009

Halloween Shenanigans

This past summer, young Master Bertram would spend at least 20 minutes watching the construction work taking place along one of the main drags where we live. Bertram was particularly obsessed with the blue dump truck, the backhoe, and the front-end loader. One day, the man directing traffic around the construction site even gave Bert his orange flag. Bertram waved that flag, which was quite heavy for a 2.5 year old to carry, up and down the street with glee.

Thus when the time came to decide upon this year's Halloween costume, I was not surprised that Young Master B chose to dress up as a construction worker. Of course, Bertram wanted to be not just any generic construction worker, he wanted to be The Flag Man. Parental Unit#2 and I got down to business with grand ambitions of making a family costume around the theme of construction work. Parental Unit #2, who is mighty fond of the color orange, decided to dress up as a traffic cone at one of the many Halloween events we attended. I scaled down the hat he made to fit the little lady, and the next thing you know, she was the traffic cone. Since I had to carry the traffic cone, I became the road. Note that the sling I'm wearing has two lanes. When we went trick or treating, one of our friends observed that Parental Unit #2 (who sadly didn't manage to procure another costume after his traffic cone debut) could be considered the pot hole.

As tradition dictates, this was the third year of our Baby World Leader Costume Contest. Since we host the contest, we don't compete officially, but we always have an entry. Unfortunately, Young Master B is going through a phase where he refuses to have his picture taken. He prefers to click the camera buttons and scroll through previous shots. Knowing this, I decided to focus on young Miss V as Queen Victoria. The picture shown above is one of my favorite outtakes.

July 27, 2009

Okay, Little Lady

When Vivian cries, my response is, "okay, little lady." Bertram, my ever-faithful, repeating toddler, says it too, like an echo.

July 26, 2009

Paging Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Parts of me want to capture two-year-old Bertram in a bottle and keep him this way forever. You know where you stand with young Master Bertram at two years of age: the highs are extreme and will manifest in exuberant jumping and running. He will bound into our laps and say, “aw, huggy!” He cannot resist kissing Vivi and saying, “Eyes. Nicely.” That is young Master B shorthand for what we often tell him, “Touch her eyes nicely.”

Also, I know that I’m his mother, but I do believe that Bertram has a great, warm smile. The kind that radiates outward—you can’t help but smile when you see it. I think, for this reason, young Master B has quite the following. Indeed, I often feel like I’m traveling with the tiny blond mayor of our block.

I was particularly charmed by Young Master B’s exuberant happiness to attend his first art class. (It was just him and me as Parental Unit #2 held down the fort with young Mistress Vivian.) I told Bertram that we were going to make art, and he clapped his hands and said, “Yeah art!” He then proceeded to walk on his tippy toes for most of way there, squealing “art!” At the class, we were encouraged to take the paper off the crayon, so that we could use the sides and the tip to make circles and lines. I think Bert’s favorite part of the class involved the star stickers. He hopped around the room, putting the little stars on everything—my neck, the paper, the floor, his shorts. We had a blast.

Yet, with the toddler’s uberbliss also comes the dark underbelly—the extreme anger, frustration, and sadness. In what seems like an instant, young Master B will go from joy to screaming, crying and rolling around on sidewalk like a possessed demon. Of course, I do not want to bottle this part of two-year-old Bertram. No, no this side of Bertram makes me want to run for my liquid friends, Senora Corona and Don Prosecco.

How I wish that these tantrums could be like an aria—Bert alone onstage, feeling his emotional pain, and we the parental units waiting to respond in the audience. Yet, now we have the Vivian Factor, which means Bert’s tantrums can easily set off a high-pitched newborn squawking session. Just imagine old Parental Unit #1 pushing a stroller the size of the Queen Mary down the street with two screaming kids—old women giving her the look that translates to “clearly, you are an awful mother.” That’s fun times, that is.

What strikes me is the intensity of Bertram’s feelings. For example, Bert loves trains, from old-fashioned steam engines to boxy silver subway cars. And, in an effort to not be land locked in our apartment because we have to schlep two kids and the stuff of two, Parental Unit #2 and I have tried to use our weekends to get away from our home base. This means that we take the subway. On the train, Bertram is lovely; he quips along with the computerized voice command to, “Stand clear of the closing doors please.” He likes to watch the lights flicker in the tunnel as the subway rattles along on the tracks.

Once we reach our destination and start to exit the station, I can almost see the pain in Bert’s face, because we are leaving such a fantastic and wondrous thing as the New York City subway. “Train! Train! Aaaaagh!” yells a tearful Young Master B with limbs flailing about and his body jerking against the stroller straps. If I, too, had just discovered trains, I might be similarly enraptured. Oh, but what a drag it is for his parental units to carry his thrashing body away from the station. We must make an offering of yogurt raisins to distract the angry spirit, so that the gleeful boy will return. All the while, Vivian gums the outer rim of her carrier with gusto. I think she must be taking notes.

July 14, 2009

June 16, 2009

You Betta' Fear the Never Napper

When I first learned that I was pregnant with young Miss Vivi, a fellow mom with kids who were two years apart in age, said to me, “the key to having two kids under age three is preserving everyone’s sleep schedule.” This woman spoke the truth.

Thus, when I manage to get both Vivian and Bertram (formerly known in infancy as the Never Napper) napping at the same time and in the same room, I feel like I have won the lottery. More than that, I want to do cart wheels around the apartment. I am skiing down that mountain holding a York Peppermint Patty! My internal monologue sounds something like this:
Hurrah! Now, I have two hands free! I could take a shower, or write a post on that blog. I could give a book my full attention. I could eat a meal with a fork and a knife.

Once I’ve decided what I will do with this precious pocket of time, the negotiation begins, “Okay, I will take a shower, after I clear the breakfast dishes…oh, and sweep the kitchen floor.” Just as I’ve managed to prep the kitchen for the next round of destruction, and most definitely before I’ve managed to take that shower, I hear the telltale stirrings of young Miss Vivian. The remainder of young Master B’s naptime is then spent nursing young Miss V.

Of course, what I have skipped over is what it takes to put a nursing newborn and the Never Napper down for a nap at the same time. First, I must establish the napping environment: I draw the blackout curtains closed, I turn on the soft tones of lullabies fashioned from The Cure songs of my youth*. Next, I sit in the recliner with Vivian, let her latch, and then, young Master B climbs up in my lap and maybe, if all goes well, he drinks his milk and nods off to slumber land.

Alas, my intrepid Never Napper has many tricks up his sleeve. They include thrashing of the limbs, pointing to items in the room and naming them, singing, asking to read more books, requesting different lullabies, or poking me in the face. When these shenanigans begin, I de-latch Vivi, deposit her in the crib and hope she remains entertained long enough for me to help Bertram get to a sleepy state. At this point, I would be remiss if I did not note that Vivian also has excellent limb thrashing skills.

Back in the recliner, the Never Napper sprawls out on my lap. Perhaps, he thinks he has evaded the nap. But no, Parental Unit #1 will not be thwarted! In an attempt to quiet his body, I encourage him to hold my hand while we rock in the recliner. I urge him to be quiet and to close his eyes over and over again. Timing is of the essence because Vivian’s “eh, eh, eh” sounds can ramp up to full Def-Con 1 level in mere moments. Then, we’ll be back to where we started—with Vivian on the teat and Bert running around the room shouting “purple” or another word that he has newly learned. Is is just me or are these so-called developmental outbursts toddler code for “my Mom is a sucker”?

If all else fails, Parental Unit #1 must drop the A-bomb of parental commands: “It is nap time. Time to lay down, close your eyes and go to sleep.” I then perform a sibling dosey-doe with Vivian going into the Big Boy Bed and Bertram going into the crib. I grab Vivian and we depart. As I shut the door, I hope for the best. Of course, by “best,” I mean only 30 to 40 minutes of the saddest wails that a toddler can muster.

As you can see in the photo, I usually manage to defeat the Never Napper, but it is a tiring process. Why can’t humans evolve to feature an on/off switch that molts off when kids turn 20? I believe that would be so much easier!
*Back in the pathos of my teenage years, when I was pining over some cad, sitting in front of the record player so that I could drop the needle on Boys Don’t Cry over and over again, I never imagined that I would be covered in spit-up and rocking a whiny toddler to sleep.

June 10, 2009


130, originally uploaded by hal(var).

You can't see her smiling in this photo, but after 7 weeks of being alive, young Miss Vivian smiles and coos. Good thing too because as lovely as she is, without some type of emotional reward, I feel like I’m just putting a lil’ larvae to the nippie.

May 26, 2009

Random Assortment

Just in case anyone missed the obvious, young Master B is an awesome kid. Here are a few highlights:

In the picture included with this post, young Master B is listening to his beloved songs from Yo Gabba Gabba, his favorite television show. I would prefer that he took a nap, but I suppose having quiet time with a few stuffed friends is okay too.

For young Master B’s language development, we’ve been trying to get him out of repetition mode and into conversational mode. If you’ve known for Parental Unit #2 for a long time, you might be aware that he used to respond with an occasional “beep” over the course of conversation. The beep usually signaled an affirmative response. Once we had Bertram, the beeping fell out of favor. So you can imagine our delight at the breakfast table when this happened:
Bertram: Yummy. Cereal.
Parental Unit #2: Bertram, do you like cereal?
Bertram: Beep!
Parental Unit #2 swears that he did nothing to encourage this. Bertram is drawn to the sounds of computer beeps and car honks.

After his bath, Bertram likes to run naked around the apartment. The other evening, while wearing just a diaper, he ran around in a circle yelling at the top of his lungs, “Naked boy! Naked boy!”

Edited on 4/29/09 to add the following: I got out of the shower in my natural state, and young Master Bertram pointed to his mommy and said, “Naked boy! Naked boy!”

Oh, the fun we have here.

Comparison Shopping

Don’t think about the color green. Forget it even existed for just one moment.

If you are like me, you are thinking about green in every shade—from lime green to forest green.

I know that I should not compare my daughter to my son, but I can’t help myself. Last week during a rare walk outside with both kids, a friend said, “You don’t talk about Vivian much, if at all.”

It’s true. I don’t. Compared to her brother, she is an easy baby.

True, she is a newborn, and she keeps me busy with the usual, exhaustive schedule of feeding and changing. Yet unlike her brother when he was a newborn, she sleeps. Vivian takes naps and even sleeps for a nice stretch at night. In fact, she’s sleeping right now. I can type this post with two hands.

The newborn Young Master B did not sleep. In a nod to the “never nude” Tobias on Arrested Development, I called Bertram the “never napper.” I was lucky to have a two-hour stretch without feeding, changing, or soothing a colicky young Master B. Indeed, I can remember going on new mommy death marches—simultaneously walking and bouncing young Master B in the Baby Bjorn during the dreadful summer heat, sweat running down my back, mosquitoes nipping at my legs—because it was the only thing I could do that would yield precious quiet.

Just yesterday, Parental Unit #2 said quite accurately, “Bertram sleeps more now than he ever did as a newborn.” Gentle readers, the reverse is supposed to be true.

Now that Vivian has entered our lives, I know how other moms had the time to get into crafts or cook elaborate meals. Something I always regarded with bewilderment, how could these moms have the time? Clearly, their babies slept. I guess the point here is that young Master B broke his Parental Units’ backs to the point such that anything less—by comparison—feels like a walk in a very green park.

May 13, 2009

We Are the Tiny, Ugly Germs, Post 2

017, originally uploaded by hal(var). A: Two sick kids!

Parental Unit #1 had the crazy idea that she could get a "karmic reprieve" from illness--immediately after major surgery and a new baby--but things didn't work out that way. We (me, Bert, Vivi) spent the last week recovering from some respiratory bug that young Master B procured from the ol' playground. And, I must say there are few sounds sadder than a 3-week old with a belly cough.

We Are the Tiny, Ugly Germs, Post 1

015, originally uploaded by hal(var).
Q: What's better than one sick kid?

April 30, 2009

From Bananas to Monkeys

One of my favorite songs of all time is Laurie Anderson’s "Language Is a Virus." This lil’ ditty contains a most apropos set of lyrics that I would like to apply to my early postpartum recovery period:

Paradise is exactly like where you are right now, only much, much better.

Let me set the picture for you: Imagine that your insides have been blown apart. As you recover from such an incident, a sick monkey sits by your side, whimpering. Normally, he is a swell monkey, but now he is sick and unhappy, punctuating your few moments of blessed, contemplative silence with whining.

The monkey has a new friend, a tiny mosquito. Every two or three hours, this mosquito sucks the life force out of your blown-apart body. Each time you think you might be recovering or getting a tad bit of energy, the lil’ bloodsucker returns to drain you dry.

When you are recovering from a repeat c-section, each day seems to greet you with some new indignity—like a sitz bath, make that multiple sitz baths! In the postpartum days with Bertram, I accepted the low points of new motherhood with alacrity because I had the wonder of the first time on my side. Now the parenting merry-go-round ride has become less novel, and I slouch toward my upcoming days with a newborn and toddler in tow.

Yes, I am lucky to have two beautiful, healthy children. Yes, I love them. Yes, yes, yes. But when the monkey’s teeth make him whine, the lil’ mosquito cannot be sated, and my body is trying to find its way back to its former shape, both inside and out, I will be thinking about paradise being so close to where I am right now, only much, much, much…better.

April 28, 2009

No Longer Top Banana

The third trimester was not kind to Parental Unit #1, so the posts dwindled down to nothing. I hope that will change now that young Mistress Vivian has arrived.

What a shock it was to see this tiny baby with so much spiky brown hair! I guess I was expecting a female version of Bertram—the Aryan poster child. Our little Vivian has a tiny stork bite on her left eyelid, and a cute button nose. Young Master Bertram isn’t quite sure what to make of his sister.

When Bert first saw his baby sister in the plastic, salad-type bin that they keep the babies in at the hospital, he immediately wanted to hold her. So Parental Unit #2 put Bert in his lap, and then put Vivian in Bert’s lap. Bert had a few precious moments of looking at his sister with such a tender, focused look. I wish we had captured that in a photo. He then decided that he was “all done,” and just like that, he pushed her away. In fact, if I recall correctly (my mind was in a medicated haze), he urged us to return her to the plastic salad bin from whence she came.

Luckily, we distracted him with ice cream. According to a book we’ve been reading, being a big brother means being able to eat ice cream, pizza, and other treats that are off-limits to a gum-snapping newborn. At long last, young Master B enjoyed his big brother treat and kicked back with yours truly in the “magic” hospital bed to watch cartoons on a huge, flat-screen television.

Meanwhile, little Vivian napped with her grandparents, unaware of her brother’s tv-viewing shenanigans and general displeasure with these things called “commercials.”

February 8, 2009

And, a Love Note from 1.10.09

Maybe it’s the pregnesia, but I think today was the first time young Master Bertram said, “I love you!” as he gave out goodnight air kisses.

Mind you, he does not like to kiss us directly. He prefers to blow the air kisses to us. I would not mind so much if I didn't watch him kiss the crocodiles, gorillas, and other odd beasties that we read about in his books.

Remembrance of Things Past

Last night, I was updating young master Bertram’s baby book, which only covers the first year of his life. As I looked at the heap of first birthday cards I had saved, I wondered if it was necessary to keep all of them. Then, given the upcoming arrival of baby no. 2, I started thinking about the purpose of a baby book. Is it for me? Is it for young Master B? Will he be interested in a meticulously kept chart of his weight and height fluctuations in the first year? As young Master B’s mother, is that want I want to remember? It’s so easy, to start collecting stuff, his first drawings for example. I still feel strange putting his early, primitive scribblings in the recycle bin.

All of these thoughts made reflect on a friend—and an only child—who had been charged with sorting through his dead parents’ belongings. The enormity of such a task, an entire lifetime of stuff. What do you keep? What do you toss? He didn’t have any siblings to ask or share in the drudgery. My friend was struggling with all the boxes of mementos his mother had dutifully saved—the report cards from elementary school, yellowed newspaper clippings, old beat-up toys. Was he under obligation to keep those things because she had kept them?

My friend was left in a no-win situation. If he tossed it, he would feel guilty. If he kept it, he would resent that he had to keep these things in his tiny, substandard NYC apartment, or worse, pay for storage.

Pondering all of this, I decided not to keep all of Bertram’s first birthday cards. I decided not to fill out his height and weight charts. I decided not to feel guilty about tossing his drawings. I decided, that what I wanted most, was to leave behind stories versus stuff or facts and figures.

When I am dead, I do not want Bertram to decide what’s important to keep. Note to self: I hope he will be free of that burden. As we go through these eighteen years, I plan to select a few items; perhaps all that can fit in one standard-sized moving box.