Thursday, June 28, 2012

Nine out of 10 Dentists Agree

Gabe watches Max for me so I can shower. Woo hoo!
If there is one piece of advice I would impart to first-time mothers, it would be this:

Just try to brush your teeth at least once a day.

Among the things to which women address that depressing question -- "Why didn't anyone tell me about this part?" -- is how personal hygiene goes out the window once you bring home a newborn and you are alone with him for most of the day.

Days all run together anyway as you are up every two hours around the clock for feedings, so you you may not even notice you haven't showered for three of them. Other people in the house may, but they had better be too polite to mention it.

You might be lucky and have a baby who is a sound sleeper for stretches long enough to even shave your legs, but otherwise you can bathe only if you have another person who can tend to the baby's needs for 20 minutes. Especially if you have to bring into the shower with you the magic milk jugs that are his sole source of sustenance.

It's not that you are Pig Pen from a "Charlie Brown" cartoon. It's just that when 20-or-more-minute stretches come around, you tend to put other priorities ahead of your own. You first do the things that will affect other living beings in your home, like prepare a family meal or sweep a floor or pay the electric bill. Before you know it, all of the baby's calm, content, self-soothed stretches for the day have gone by and you're still in your nightgown. Might as well just stay in it and go to bed for the precious few hours of sleep you'll get.

Go a fourth day without showering, and you will be affecting others at that point, so drag a bouncy chair into the bathroom, let the baby cry in it, and wash your hair and your dirtiest bits as quickly as you can.

A quick fix is to bogart your baby's wet wipes during a diaper change. If he hates having his diaper changed, you're out of luck, but if he will pleasantly lie on the changing table for an extra moment, you can make goo-goo sounds at him while you surreptitiously swipe under your arms and other places. Don't do this past the development of long-term memory, or you'll be paying for his therapy couch.

What will make a tremendous difference in your day is a crisp minty brushing of your teeth. A clean mouth makes you feel clean all over. If you can manage to drag a comb through your hair and get a few passes of a deodorant stick, you'll be ahead of the game.

Brushing your teeth is good thing because it is a task you can do fully dressed and with one hand -- a most important skill for a new mother because the baby will be in the other hand most of your day.

I've learned to do several things with one hand, including:

  • Write a blog post.
  • Send a text on my phone.
  • Fill the dogs' food and water bowls. (My elephant-shaped watering can works wonders.)
  • Transfer laundry from the washer to the dryer. (This sometimes requires a foot to pick up dropped items from the floor.)
  • Assemble, use and wash breast pump parts.
  • Make my breakfast and lunch.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must go brush my teeth. I taste raisin bran and guacamole. Ick.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Should Baby Boys Have Only Baby Girlfriends?

When I saw my friends' announcement on Facebook that their son had finally made his debut in the world, the thoughts that zipped through my head went something like this:

"Oh neat, he was born two weeks after Max. Dan and I were born two weeks apart too. Maybe he and Max will find each other someday like we did."

I was startled by these thoughts. I think somewhere behind them were imaginations that had this couple stayed in the area and not moved away, our sons likely would have grown up together as church friends.

But my brain quite innocently went to comparing their happenstance of being born two weeks apart to the same time frame between me and the person I love most.

I have decided that it is normal to have an innocent thought about your son finding companionship or love or romance or whatever with the progeny of good and decent friends, regardless of the biological sex. We do it readily enough between baby boys and baby girls.

The other day at my OBGYN office, a nurse was admiring how handsome Max is and told me that there had been a mini burst of girls born and that she would be happy to serve as matchmaker and secure him a little girlfriend.

I smiled politely, but all I could think about was how willing we all are to sexualize our children at an early age as long as it is in a heterosexual way.

I wonder if that same nurse ever would dare to say something to me like, "Oh, there was another handsome baby boy who was in here yesterday. I should arrange a meeting between you and his mom so that you can get them betrothed -- in the few states that allow that sort of thing."

I believe that whatever bent his sexuality will take, Max has it right now. There's no way to tell, but there are ways to let it develop naturally. We did this with his big brother, and he is all about ogling the ladies right now. In fact, it would be better for someone to come up and offer to match-make for my teenager.

If Max and my friends' little boy ever do find each other, I hope they do indeed note how close they are in age and find some joy in that. Whatever other connections they discover will be up to them.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Guest Post: Sometimes It Stays with You

Guest post by friend and coworker Roberta Redfern, a city desk editor at The Blade newspaper:

As both a mother of a little one and a journalist at a daily newspaper, sometimes I have to separate.

Sometimes it doesn't work. There was a drowning of a 2-year-old boy this week -- a tragic, tragic accident -- and I can't seem to scratch the images out of my brain.

Of that poor family. Of the lowest point in that grandfather's life and how he wants to take it all back; have a do-over for what is most likely the worst day of his God-given life. Of that sweet little boy’s face pictured in the obituary that came way too soon.

How my dad would feel if this happened to him. “Papa” watches my son almost every day.  He would be forgiven, for his pain, I imagine, would be torture enough.

Sometimes, when I drive home from work I feel the stressors of the day leaving me, but for this one, I haven't driven far enough yet.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mirror, Mirror in the Car

When you live in a rural area, you spend a lot of time in a vehicle to get anywhere. Your kids have to spend that time in the back seat, which is only a few inches away from you but remarkably out of reach.

You can eyeball them a little bit with your rear-view mirror, or do a death-defying head turn or a contortionist hand reach as you are driving to tend to them. Infants in their backwards seat are even harder to deal with, especially mid-scream.

One of my favorite parenting contraptions are the little mirrors that clip onto the visors or suction onto the windows. You can angle those anywhere irrespective of traffic and train them directly on your children.

This way, I can watch helplessly as Max screams while I drive down the road. When he gets a bit older, as with his brother, Gabe, the mirror will get more useful. I can entertain him with silly expressions or direct him to stop picking his nose.

And apparently give lectures.

I recently pulled out my trusty mirror the other day, and teenage Gabe cried, "Oh, no!" When I asked him what was wrong, in that panicky way that assumed I had left the diaper bag on top of the car roof, he explained that he was having a flashback to the several admonishments that I had delivered through that mirror.

Excellent. ;)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Putting the God in Parents

Esther holds Max during a baby shower
for Teresa, our congregation's pianist.
This past Sunday, I managed to get Maxwell and myself to my church's first service at 9:30 a.m.

Well, we weren't exactly there at 9:30. But most folks understand that a 1-month-old on-demand nurser doesn't always cooperate with a planned schedule. Or his mother's need to bathe before she goes out in public.

At either worship service, I tend to sit in the front row. I see and hear and pay attention best there. I might sit with a friend sometimes, usually for just a song or a prayer, but I know that if I station myself too far away from the altar, my mind starts wandering or I start people-watching among the congregants.

We strolled in rather late Sunday, so we hung out in the glider in the back of our indoor garden just off our worship space before finding an appropriate moment to slide into the front row. For our efforts we were blessed to sit in front of Lois, Esther and Gene.

Lois, the widow of Peace Church's previous pastor, sent Max his very first letter full of sentiments that will teach him what it means to be part of a water family. Esther and her husband Gene are gentle pillars of the congregation, and they also will be Max's baptismal sponsors.

Godparents, so to speak.

When Gabe made me and his dad parents, we were still fairly young. We picked as godparents for our child people who had known us since our own childhood, people who would support us as we figured out what the hell we were doing.

This time around, I feel called to find folks who specifically support Max's faith life. Esther offers me excellent friendship, knitting tips and the tightest bear hugs this side of the Mississippi, but it's her lifelong Lutheranhood that I'm after.

Max's parents are of different religious traditions, but he will be raised in his mother's. He will be free to choose -- or, rather, be chosen by -- any faith once he comes of an age of discernment, but while he's being brought up a little Lutheran, it will be nice to have some qualified help. (It sure doesn't hurt that his grandmother is a pastor.)

On Sunday, sitting in the front row was a particularly lovely experience. Lois, Esther and Gene formed their own choir, harmonizing through the hymns. When they joined voices for the Lord's Prayer, it felt like power support coils in a spiritual mattress, a place where Max and I could rest assured in the faith of people who loved us and loved God.

The place will be full of those kinds of people when Esther and Gene stand with us to bathe Max in the waters of grace.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Max's Lullaby

Sung sweetly to sleep. Or as sweetly as mommy can sing.
Long before I made up lyrics for "No Sleep till Boobie," I took liberties with Jim Brickman's "I See the Moon" to make up a lullaby for Max

In truth, I made up this song long before Max made his debut.

When I was pregnant with Gabe, my mother sent me a note about "spirit songs," a tradition among a native people in which a couple made up a song that they would sing from conception through pregnancy and birth and during their child's growing up. She told me how much she wanted me when she was getting pregnant, and how much she would support me as I dreamed and loved and sang my baby into the world.

On the older side of the fertility spectrum, I wanted to put as much positive energy toward conceiving. A spirit song was just the thing.

When I imagined creating a family with Dan, it always included some thoughts about his sailing career and Navy duties and how they would keep him apart from his baby for certain lengths of time. The lyrics certainly reflect this, and I will sing them to Max whenever he is apart from his daddy, whether its just for a few hours at his shore job in downtown Toledo or several months across the world on a merchant cruise.

And when I sing it, I pick any key I want and use the tune from the mocking bird lullaby.

"Max Sees the Moon"

I see the moon and the moon sees me
The moon sees the one that I want to see
So God bless the moon and God bless me
And God bless my daddy out to sea

I know the stars and the stars know me
The stars guide my daddy on the sea
So God bless the stars and God bless me
And keep my daddy safe at sea

I feel the wind and the wind feels me
The wind blows my daddy out to sea
So God bless the wind and God bless me
And bring my daddy back to me

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Max's Anthem

Here's a little dittie about a baby on the tittie.

As promised on Facebook, these are my lyrics for "No Sleep till Boobie" -- an homage to The Beastie Boys' "No Sleep till Brooklyn":

Foot in the bootie never ever on loosey
Daddy reading stories from Mother Goosey
My job ain't a job, it's a baby's dream
Front to back I'm covered in cream

On lactation touring around the nation
Breastfeeding boy's always on vacation
Itchy diaper rash but a stable change table
I do what I do best because I'm cute and able

Ain't no faking your milk I'm taking
Going left to right watching all the boobies shaking
While you're on the job pumping nine to five
The breastfeeding boy needs it all to stay alive

No sleep till ...

Another cream another rash, another bottle in the trash
Another nap another fight, another drive all night
My parents are crazy they always seem tired
They go to work late but don't get fired

Walk around the room, I eat around the clock
From dusk to dawn I like to rock
I'm filling diapers like they're going out of style
Still need to eat cause it's worth my while

Toys on the floor, doggies out the door
Mommy can't lie down to nap anymore
We got water in the tub with towels in a stack
But all I really want are boobies on the rack

No sleep till ...
No ... Sleep ... till Boobie!
No ... Sleep ... till Boobie!

Ain't seen a bottle since I started to suck
Formula went to the garbage truck
Born and bred to have breastfed joy
They call me Maxwell Charles but I'm Boobie Boy

Like a lemon to a lime a lime to a lemon
I sip the def milk from my mommy woman
Got rattles, stuffed animals, the tubby toys
Pacifiers won't trick the breastfed boys

Step off, Daddy, get out out of my way
I suck her boobies the whole long day
Waking up before I get to sleep
Cause we'll be rocking in this chair eight days a week

No sleep till ...
No ... Sleep ... till Boobie!
No ... Sleep ... till Boobie!

No (no) ... Sleep (sleep) ... till Boobie (Boobie)!
No (no) ... Sleep (sleep) ... till Boobie (yeah)!

No (no) ... Sleep (sleep) ... till Boobie (Boobie)!
No (no) ... Sleep (sleep) ... till Boobie (Boobie)!
No (no) ... Sleep (sleep) ... till Boobie (Boobie)!
No (no) ... Sleep (sleep) ... till Boobie (Boobie)!
No (no) ... Sleep (sleep) ... till Boobie (Boobie)!
No (no) ... Sleep (sleep) ... till Boobie (Boobie)!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

On the Road

Max continues to snooze in his car seat as we finish our
meals at Sokolowski's University Inn in Cleveland.
My baby has become Jack Kerouac in just under four weeks.

Today we hitched a ride to Cleveland, which is about 130 miles east of our home. Hubby-daddy needed to travel to a ship chandler to fetch supplies he needed for work, and we needed to get the heck out of the house.

We actually have been dragging Max out and about from the very beginning. A lot of folks follow the six-week rule before they start exposing their infants to the wide world, but I figured that as long as I didn't let a lot of people hold him or touch him or breathe on him, it was OK to head out as soon as I felt up to it.

Really, this is one of the easier stages during which to travel with a baby, on short trips at least. Parents just need to be willing to do the proper planning, and stock the diaper bag with lots of diapers, wipes and extra outfits -- for the baby and for you. (Haven't you been peed on yet?)

Parents also must be willing to watch carefully made plans go to complete hell. Allowing for plenty of buffer time before and after any externally scheduled moment will help somewhat; forcing too much into too short a time span will bite everyone in the poopy butt. And a daddy who waits patiently in a parking lot while his baby is nursed or burped (forever) in the car gets a gold star.

Today worked out remarkably well. We happened to arrive at Turnpike rest stops right when Max needed to nurse or have his diaper changed, and the one time we had to nurse while parked on the street we were in a very out-of-the-way place. I'm really glad I remembered to bring a pillow, and nursing in the car turned out to be way more comfortable than trying to find some tucked-away chair in a public building.

Max did let loose his fire hose once, while we were changing diapers at our lunch stop. But I just cleaned him up, pulled out a fresh outfit, put the wet one in the plastic baggie I had stocked, and kept going. I was full of sauerkraut and blueberry pie at that point, so I was going to be happy regardless. (Hey, you eat what you want at a Polish cafeteria, and I'll eat what I want.)

Of course, Max snoozed for hours in the car. Most babies are vibrated off to dreamland in a moving vehicle, and sleeping is pretty much what he does for most of the day now anyway, so it works well for day trips.

As soon as a baby figures out he can be fussy on purpose, ruining the good time his parents are having, day trips become far more difficult to arrange. I say that while mommy is on maternity leave, take her and her baby as many places as you can.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Help a Mama Out

Life continues to go well here in newborn land, although I had hoped to blog more often. It's not that I couldn't find the time. I just often spend it doing something else.

I always had planned to extend an invitation for guest bloggers, so please don't feel like it's just a desperate, unshowered, overtired mommy begging for others to do her work. No, not at all.

I will keep posting, but it will be good to publish someone else's thoughts when I've suddenly realized what feels like one long day actually has been four in a row and Mommy Remix is getting a touch stale. In journo land, this is what we call having a well, from which we dip when it's a slow news day.

Please send your submissions to me via email at and I will happily put them in the lineup.

You can write a full-length post or just a paragraph. Send pictures if you'd like. You have my full permission to be as snarky and foul-mouthed as I have been to this point, but no worse.

Topics could include:

  • Your own family story
  • What you do/did or don't/didn't enjoy about pregnancy
  • Adventures in fertility, or disappointments and challenges 
  • Why you don't want to have a baby
  • What you can't stand about how parents raise their kids
  • Thoughts on co-sleeping, nursing in public, crying it out, cloth diapers, etc.
  • Hilarity of traveling with children
  • How you keep your marriage and adult relationships going
  • Public policy regarding education or health care
  • What you like or don't like about your OBGYN or pediatrician
  • Tips and warnings for new parents
  • The best baby shower game or birthday party theme
  • How you're raising your kids to deal with their peers
  • To give or not to give an allowance
  • Methods of discipline
  • What phrase of your parents you swore you'd never repeat but did

For the record, Gabe often hears, "What the hell's the matter with you?" The more I say it, the more I like it.

And this post took me more than three hours to write, interrupted by two nursing sessions and one pee blowout that soaked both Max and me to the point of complete outfit changing.