Thursday, September 21, 2006

Power to the People (In Charge)

I really like how now the American public can rely on the good ol' television set to teach their children everything they need to know. Now, in addition to the squeaky CTW franchises and the sugar-coated cartoons on Nickelodeon, we have a channel specifically geared to babies called BabyFirstTV. With 24/7 programming that changes every five minutes (yes, I said five minutes) that addresses everything from baby signs to counting to art, we can just place our progeny in front of the television set and watch those little geniuses get smarter by the minute. With an automatic breastmilk machine (because, after all, breastfed babies are smarter babies), we'd have a real Boob Tube! Let the baby "soothe itself" (i.e., cry its lungs out) to sleep and we needn't worry about the baby at all!

C&D probably watch three hours of television every week, on average, usually while I am trying to prepare dinner. I think it is too much. There is a wall between the kitchen and living room, however, so it's hard to watch them from the kitchen, and it's hard for them to resist wanting to be where they can see me (or be underfoot). I'm hoping that after moving into a house with an open floor plan I'll be able to cook a little more without relying on the DVD player. (Rachel, I will be in debt to you forever.) Regardless, setting Baby in front of a television is now almost a necessity, born out of our social and cultural givens: Mommy at home (alone) with baby, cooking dinner (alone) in her kitchen, (alone) in her suburban house, on a quiet (and lonely) suburban street. There is no safe place for baby to toddle off to, and no one to watch the baby, so we look for the remote and turn the television on, if it isn't already.

With pressures on mother and baby to be smarter, sweeter, and more savvy than ever before, it's no wonder that DirecTV is offering BabyFirstTV. But an infant-centered television channel reminds me just a little bit of 1984 (the book, not the year). I'm sure any similarities are lost on BabyFirstTV's target audience, but let's think about this. We're taking our most vulnerable minds and exposing them to messaging designed by individuals more concerned with serving themselves than each other: business people (oh, right, and the "education specialists" paid by those business people). In other words, our children are learning precisely the messages that someone thought would ultimately yield the most profit . . . and power. Hmm. Funny circumstance that to turn on the television, you press the button labeled "Power"?

Monday, September 18, 2006

I Hear

Fiona, this one's for you:

Tonight, as Carmen snuggled up next to me and tried to fall asleep, she told herself one of her favorite stories. It's called I Hear; it's a board book and not much of a story book, but she likes it very much anyway. The night went like this:
Snuggle, roll, flip, flop, kick.
"Iiiiiii heeeeaaaaar . . . birt. Twee, twee, twee."
Kick, kick.
"Iiiiiii heeeeaaaaar . . . gog. Ruff, ruff, ruff!"
Kick, kick, asleep.

I have been working on a post for several days, but keep running out of time to finish it. The usual story, I guess.

I MUST be sleeping (that's a usual story too, isn't it?), but here's a couple tidbits for the grandmas:

1) A couple of weeks ago, Carmen invented a game called "I'm Asleep." David started playing the game a few days later. It goes like this: Baby puts head down on couch, bed, or other soft, cushy space. Baby is often tired, and is using this opportunity to rest a bit, but doesn't want yet to succomb to sleep. Baby signs sleep and says, "I sleep. Shhhhhh." Baby puts finger over lips and then pretends to sleep (usually eyes stay open, though). And then I nod my head and quietly put my own finger to my lips. Shhhh. Then the baby sits up quickly, signs awake, and says, "I wake!" To play this game properly, repeat sequence at least 29 times, and always remember to think it's funny.

2) Today was the second day of music class, which C&D like very very very much. Carmen sits in my lap and says and signs "More sing!" whenever the group stops singing. David walks around and flirts with everyone sitting in the circle, smiling and nodding and running back to me when they get too close. Seeing all the other children, mostly aged two through four, is the absolute highlight of their week. Today, just before I loaded C&D into the car, I told them we were going to school. C&D know the signs for school and pay attention, and usually follow up saying and signing school with signing "paytenshun!" Anyway, after hearing "school" they ran to the front door, reaching to the handle to get out to the car. When I buckled Carmen into her seat, though, she started to cry. "Potty." Oh, oh. So I took her back in. "Gool," she said, and I pulled up her pants and took her back out. "Potty," she said as soon as she sat in her carseat. Oh, man. Pants down. "Nooooooo! Gooooool!" Okay. Pants up. Back in car. "Potty!" Breathe. David started to whimper. "Potty." Oh, no. So I brought them back inside. They cried, of course, because they wanted to go to school. So I made a mental note to bring some extra diaper wipes, just in case, and marched out. I began to wonder how many years I had before me of being late due to potty problems ("are you sure you don't have to go?"). Then I figured that once they understood their bladders, they'd be at the perfect age for losing things, like backpacks, glasses, shoes, homework, and permission slips for the day's field trip. I realize now how much fortitude my mother really did have, gathering me and my brother to drive across town in stop-and-go rush-hour traffic to the good schools, our eyes sleepy and our stomachs nervous because yes, once again, we were running late. I decided next week we would aim to leave at eight o'clock for our nine o'clock class, just in case. We did eventually make it there only 30 minutes late, just in time for a handful of songs and the opportunity to tell everyone not only hello, but goodbye. And C&D were very happy to see their potties when we got home.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

What DO I say?

Life BB (Before Babies) was in a lot of ways very different.

For instance, we could leave the house on a moment's notice. We could stay up past bedtime on a school night (well, I could, Matt couldn't). We didn't need to plan our day around an afternoon nap. We didn't need to restrict eating out to outdoor restaurants with concrete floors.

Now, it takes us a little longer to get out the door. Sometimes we never even make it. The house is dark (except for the computer monitor) by eight o'clock. The house is quiet every afternoon for Baby Siesta. And right now I'm craving squid, saag paneer, and an assortment of other foods not available at the local kidproof eateries.

The hardest thing, however, is this: BB, I was recognized as an an expert in my professional field, and in my personal life. People assumed I knew what I was doing. Now, as I mosey around town with my two little people, I am suddenly in dire need of advice. C&D need cribs, spankings, and American cheese. I need to participate in lots of MNO's (Mothers' Night Out, for the uninitiated) and put on a little makeup for my husband. I listen politely, then smile and nod, and my acting skills improve daily.

The other part of the baby routine is Mommy Talk. You know, the kind of talk that strangers do when they are looking for polite conversation, and rather than ask about work, politics, or the weather, they ask about poop, sleep, and Gerber carrots. Sometimes the conversations go like this:
How are they sleeping?
David still wakes up at night.
Do they sleep in the same crib?
No, actually, one sleeps with me in one room and the other with my husband. Everybody gets more sleep that way.
Oh, well, at least they're not in your bed!
Heh, heh . . .

And then today, it wound up like this:
I put my baby's bedroom as far from my bedroom as possible. I don't want to have to hear her when she wakes up.
I looked at the baby, who was dangling bored and uncomfortable from a baby swing while her mother talked and gave the swing an occasional push. The woman hadn't given me advice, but her easy confidence suggested that she expected I would agree with and even appreciate her nifty nighttime trick. No way would Baby's cries and whimpers interfere with Mommy's busy schedule. I smiled and nodded in a neighborly way, then changed the subject. Thinking about the conversation later, I wondered why some people think it's right to demand convenience--and compliance--from a person who can't even yet talk in a full sentence. I also wondered why I didn't say anything in response. Somehow, it's okay for someone to proudly admit--to a stranger, no less--to ignoring their baby, but I could only just smile and nod, afraid of inviting any criticism if I dared to disagree.

Would I say anything next time? Probably not. Walking through big-box baby retailers and looking at the wide assortment of baby bouncers, cribs, playpens, baby monitors, sleep-through-the-night books, and Baby Einstein videos suggests that the Ideal Child is a convenient child, and the Ideal Mother makes sure her child is convenient. I already feel like I'm swimming upstream and against the current; why swim even harder? I'm too tired as it is.

At the same time, I don't self-sacrificially throw myself on the ground and let C&D walk all over me (and not just because Carmen likes to stand and bounce on my bladder). The other Mommy talk I hear too often is:
Don't forget to make time for yourself.
Yes, I want to say, and you are currently infringing on it. But really, since you haven't even bothered to ask me, what do you think I do all week? Play Pat-a-Cake and dolls? Why do people assume that I now include "parent" in the list of Things I Am, my life has become slow and in need of stimulation? Do I LOOK boring? Or do you think my life is brimful of nervewracking baby-induced chaos and I need to run out of my house screaming every Thursday for Happy Hour? If I wore the socialist feminist book that I read last week on my head, would you not tell me to make time for myself? Hey, look, it's 12am, I'm making time for myself! In fact, if you weren't so low on my list of priorities, I could provide you with a portfolio of all of the paid work, volunteer projects, and personal projects I've undertaken since January 2005. But it's going to take me a while because I'm busy with other, more important, things, so let me pencil it into my calendar and tell you to expect to see it, oh, gee, never? And, lastly, if you're confused because I have to adhere to the Baby Clock, won't on a whim go out to lunch at 2 o'clock, get my nails done on a Saturday (ew, sorry, that wasn't my thing even BB), or stay out late with you on a random weekday, well, I don't know what to say, really.

What DO I say?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

I did have a camera for:

I did have a camera yesterday when two of the neighborhood kids dug through my recycle bins and fashioned themselves armor in order to battle with each other, and also fight against a younger sibling's 3-foot long plastic alligator. After I made peace with the fact that they were digging through my trash, my mom (here this week), Matt, and I all laughed and laughed as we watched them from our front windows. This was even funnier than the time they tried to plant an egg in my grass. David stood at the living room window, watching with what seemed to have been absolute adoration. "Hat," we would occassionally say and sign to us, and then go back to watching them swing at each other with sticks.

Then this morning, after a trip to the dry cleaner's, David fell asleep in the car. That's not a cigar, it's a pretzel rod. At least the pretzel rod was easier to extract than the slimy half-chewed mango slices he often falls asleep with.

Wish I Had a Camera

Had two back-to-back showings for the house this evening. The first was during dinner, when we took the babes to the Galleria. Carmen called it the "'ria." There isn't a word she doesn't try to say. Having her around is like having a pet parrot.

We had already been to the Galleria this morning, but they didn't mind going again. This morning the cosmetics counter staff at Neiman Marcus gave Carmen her own little NM bag with a sample of Guerlain's new fragrance, Insolence. "Girl!" Carmen said and signed when she looked at the folded card holding the eau de toilete, and then proceeded to play with the card and perfume for the next several minutes. The staff twirled Carmen's hair and wiped David's nose with a Bobbi Brown tissue when he cried (because Carmen cried, and she cried because she wanted to walk around and touch everything on the display shelves). I couldn't believe it. I have walked through Neiman Marcus (usually on the way to and from getting my hair cut) at least 300 times and I have never been presented with a sample of perfume, and I have maybe been spritzed only once. Ever.

We spent the first part of this evening playing and then eating dinner in the Macy's wing. No samples from Macy's, although we did have a delicious dinner, and Carmen got to show Matt that she knows how to say and sign octupus and fire truck (sign and say firefighter, say truck, and then most importantly, wail like a siren).

David has been feeling like a Velcro-baby lately, always wanting to be stuck to Mama unless we're out of the house and he's too distracted to miss me very much. He had no symptoms of Velcro-ness at all this evening during the second showing of the house, when he climbed the ten-foot big-kid swirly slide at the school playground and slid back down, fast and slippery like the Olympic luge. I wished I had a camera to capture that ear-to-ear, blissfully happy smile. I'll have to make sure he can slide again.

Carmen was partner-dancing with my mother this afternoon and David can do all the movements to Itsy Bitsy Spider. It's time to start pushing our Wee Folklorico project along. We talk to someone this month.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Memory Card is Full

The memory card is full. Time to post some pictures while I achive and store some of the more memorable moments lately. Today's memorable moment? David lifting his shirt and adhering bee stickers to his little tummy-tum-tum, fixing his shirt back down, and then lifting it again to apply more stickers. Funny little kid.

Sorry so many of these pictures are blurry. I either need a faster camera, or slower babies.

Playing at the school the day after a rain, a few weeks ago:

I forget that C&D can reach just about anything on the kitchen table or counter, now. I had cherry babies, cherry walls, and a cherry Learning Tower in the time it took to go to the car and bring in two bags of groceries. That would have been, what, 30 seconds, maybe?

David wearing some of his favorite bling. He wears it proudly whenever he comes across it in his toy basket.

Playing in the dirt at the George Ranch. The chickens keep it nice and loose.

Carmen at the George Ranch, wearing one of the few hats she'll wear without complaining.

Playing in my Dad's F-150:

Playing with the clown noses we got from the library for reading our books. The trick is to squeeze the nose and say, "Honk!"

One of the reasons why the glider is now in the bedroom:

The reason God invented daddies:

Just a little dizzy:

David's turn:


Playing in my dad's truck:

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Two pictures from the place Carmen calls the "pwaygrowd."

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Packing Story

Matt, boxing things up: "This is the house where we really figured out who we are. We went from building an entertainment center [that could hold a 27" TV] to trying to get rid of it [who needs TV?]."

Matt thinks the entertainment center would make a terrific wardrobe.