Friday, August 31, 2007
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
We had some friends over for dinner last night. One family has a new baby, Olivia, less than a month old. She's just the cutest little thing, all scrunchy red face and tiny toes. Adorable, but also intimidating in that way new babies can be. I always worry about accidentally pressing too hard on the soft spot.
Aaron, Olivia's dad, said he wondered if the mothering instinct was stronger than his, because when his daughter starts to cry he just wants to leave. I said I thought he was misconstruing the mothering impulse to comfort a crying baby. Sure, you want the kid to feel better, but the animal part of my brain mostly just wants it to stop making that infernal noise.
We also talked about things that you want to tell parents, as a matter of public service. I had just read "8 things no one tells you about being a mom" and was struck by the truth in this statement:
We do moms a disservice if we only gush about the countless truly terrific aspects of raising a child and neglect to mention the, well, harsher realities. It's useful to know that there are not-so-hot sides of the job, if only to take the edge off those inevitable pains of feeling exasperated, unnerved, or just surprised. And it's reassuring to know you're not the only one to admit a downside even exists.
I know before I had kids, when people would go on and on about how great being a parent was, I felt like I was being set up for failure. There was no way I could live up to such hyperbole. Even now, though I completely agree that it's a wonderful thing, I wouldn't say it's the ultimate experience that everyone should have. It's hard, and it's not for everyone. Some days it's only barely for me.
Early on, the hardest thing for me was breastfeeding. We've all heard, "If it hurts, you're doing it wrong." I saw countless lactation consultants and was doing everything I was supposed to do. It wasn't until I was talking with Nylonthread about how much I wanted to give up that she told me the one thing that gave me hope: Breastfeeding hurts, A LOT, but only for the first three weeks or so. It gets easier and easier, and by three months, it's all sorted out. (And, sometimes, it just doesn't ever work out, and it's no one's fault. The bottle is not your enemy.)
Now I kind of take it as my mission in life to spread the word. Also? Having two kids is exponentially harder than one, but it gets easier after the first year; if your kid is melting down, get some food in the crying maw, STAT; and before you argue with your toddler, ask yourself "Is this the hill you want to die on?"
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Thea started a new class at daycare yesterday, the last room she'll be in before starting kindergarten in two years. The class is more focused on getting the kids ready for school, so reading and writing are stressed, and they're more strict.
The teachers said she did really well, and was only a little shy when the kids went outside to play. Makes sense; it's hard being the new kid on the playground! But I could tell she was a bit insecure about the change when, head in hands, she said solemnly over our celebratory pizza dinner, "I need to get more sleep."
Oh honey, I hear you.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Yesterday we took the kids to the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. The kids had a blast.
Of the animals on display, Thea especially loved the giraffe.
I managed to get Liam to stand still long enough for a photo here, appropriate since our last name means "bear." (I realize this tidbit is interesting to no one but me, and possibly to Thea, who has recurring nightmares about bears kidnapping the family dog.)
There was also a display of video screens under the floor that showed ants and other subterranean critters scurrying about. Other kids stepped onto them tentatively, but Liam loved running back and forth over them.
Thea's favorite part of the museum was the education room, where you could play with clothes and instruments from other parts of the world and examine bugs under microscopes. She wanted to take this dress home:
Liam's favorite thing by far was the steps and banisters throughout the museum. So much to see and do, and the kids spent an inordinate amount of time acting like they were at a jungle gym. If we were at any other museum, I would have been horrified. But the atmosphere at the NMNH on a Sunday afternoon was loud and boisterous, and not entirely unlike Chuck E. Cheese.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Making Sense of Baby Talk
By Gisela Telis
ScienceNOW Daily News
24 August 2007
There may be more to baby talk than cooing over cuteness. A new study suggests that female rhesus monkeys engage in a kind of baby talk, casting doubt on the long-held belief that the behavior is exclusively human. And another study—in humans—shows that the tones mothers use to address their children may be universal.
Although female rhesus monkeys don't baby talk to their own young, they make pantlike grunts and high-pitched, melodic nasal sounds called girneys when near other baby monkeys. Scientists assumed the females were "talking" to other mothers, not the infants, as a way of showing they had no ill intent toward the youngsters.
Jessica Whitham, who is now an animal behaviorist at Brookfield Zoo near Chicago, Illinois, wasn't so sure the mothers were the intended audience. So she and University of Chicago behavioral biologist Dario Maestripieri spent 2 years observing wild monkeys on the Puerto Rican island of Cayo Santiago. They watched 19 female rhesus monkeys both before and after their birth season. They found that whereas grunts and girneys were rare before the birth season, they "just exploded" once the first infants appeared. When infants briefly wandered away from their mothers, the other females kept a close eye on them and grunted or girneyed, and the infants frequently looked back at them, which led Whitham and Maestripieri to conclude that the sounds are meant to attract the infants, not the mothers.
In that sense, rhesus monkeys use baby talk just like we do, the team reports in the September issue of Ethology. Drew Rendall, an animal behaviorist at the University of Lethbridge in Canada, agrees that the sounds resemble baby talk—particularly because they may not have meaning. "The vocalizations themselves have a soothing quality that calms mothers and infants, which makes it more like human baby talk," he says. But Rendall isn't convinced the baby talk is really directed at the infants. "It's hard to tell who the audience is when the infants and mothers are generally so close together," he says. Joan Silk, a primatologist at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), says that follow-up experiments under more controlled conditions are needed.
The whole article also has an interesting bit on "motherese," that tone you take with kids that says "Well done!" or "Get that out of your mouth!" It crosses cultural and language barriers, so that even people who don't understand what you're saying still get the meaning and can intuit if it's being said to a kid or an adult.
Friday, August 24, 2007
I've been waiting for Yo Gabba Gabba for a year. Now I can't wait for it to come out on DVD.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
It seems like every day there's something else that was produced in China and is now being recalled. Just yesterday it was unsanitary chopsticks and more leaded toys.
I remember seeing these tops before I had kids and thinking they were so cute, I'd have to get one someday. What makes me most concerned is that these toys were sold from July 2001 through July 2002. That's six years ago. How far back does this go, anyway? Have we been so focused on "the war on terror" that we're neglecting something as basic as making sure there isn't lead — something that is toxic in very low doses — in our kids' toys? I'm fine with taking personal responsibility for sharp points and choking hazards, but how do I guard against something like this?
Local celebrity commenter Monkeyrotica wrote a great response to an Obsessive post from a couple days ago that sums up how I imagine most of us feel, only funnier:
As a cook who's been trying to make informed choices, I gotta say it's a freaking pain in the sphincter. Case in point: I picked up a couple egg rings for making Egg Mcmuffins at home and damn if they weren't made in China and damn if they didn't start flaking "nonstick" coating after one freaking use. So I'm thinking "maybe I don't want Chinese Teflon in my food" and by "Teflon" I mean "spray-on powdered lead." So out they go in the trash.
I used to think that one day, our appliances would rise up and make us their slaves in a kind of Bladerunner distopia except with spice grinders in place of replicants. But now, I'm pretty sure the decades of toxic Chinese junk has rotted our brains to the point where we'd actually welcome an Asian invasion so long as it was on sale at Target.
Good luck finding a pot, pan, bowl, or knife that isn't made in China. I'll probably break down end end up buying these only to find that they're made of recycled nuclear waste by UFO abductees on the alien slave camps on the moon.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
This morning a lot of blogs on Blogger were unavailable due to a server malfunction. I e-mailed Nylonthread to remind her to back up her blog, because, like me, she'd be heartbroken if a catastrophic event wiped out her Web 2.0 babybook.
Wordpress makes the process extremely easy. You just sign up with them, create a blog, go to Dashboard > Manage > Import, and follow the instructions. Voila! I try to remember to back up my blog once a week. It's not a perfect copy, but it beats the possibility of losing everything.
If you're already on Wordpress, you can export your blog to an XML file to store on your harddrive or burn to a disc or whatever.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
I don't mean to obsess about this, but I think it is important to keep in mind that the recalls can be tied both to terrible conditions for Chinese factory workers and to our own insistence on low-priced goods.
Report attacks China toy factories
HONG KONG, China (Reuters) — A U.S.-based workers' rights group said it found "brutal conditions" and labor violations at eight Chinese plants that make toys for big multinationals, and called on the companies to take steps for better standards.
China Labor Watch said in a report issued on Tuesday after several months of investigation that the manufacturers — which served a handful of global players, including Walt Disney, Bandai and Hasbro — paid "little heed to the most basic standards of the country."
"Wages are low, benefits are nonexistent, work environments are dangerous and living conditions are humiliating," it said.
"Corporate codes of conduct and checklist-auditing are not enough by themselves to strengthen workers' rights if corporations are unwilling to pay the real price it costs to produce a product according to the standards in their codes."
The group said it saw quality problems as "a result of multinationals' single-minded pursuit of ever-lower prices and neglect of other considerations."
1. My family and friends (of course; they really are the best group of people)
2. Fresh bread that comes out of the oven right when I get home from work
4. This Bughouse post
5. Liam's new twin-sized bed, so I can lay down with him there when he wakes up in the middle of the night and get my sweet, cuddly little Oedipus the eff out of our bed
6. Netflix (I'm getting the first disc of Dexter tomorrow; yay!)
7. The fact that I found A Million Little Pieces at a thrift store for 80 cents, and it still has an "Oprah Book Club" sticker on it
8. Fat-assed Cadillacs
9. This open letter to mattel
10. Hot geeks
Monday, August 20, 2007
As I mentioned, Todd has the worst luck getting Liam down to sleep. We switch kids every night, and when it's his turn with Liam, he approaches the night with cheerful resignation. It's going to get ugly and it's going to end with me having to take over, but Todd will withstand the sturm und drang of Liam's wails for as long as possible.
Last night, as we do every other night, Thea and I lay in her bed listening to Liam get increasingly hysterical. It sounded particularly bad, probably because his nap was short or he didn't eat enough or because I had spent the afternoon with him while Thea and Todd went swimming. Who knows. Anyway, he sounded so upset that he might choke.
Thea sat up, said, "Oh no, I think Liam might spit up in his bed! I have to check on them!" and leaped over me to run into Liam's room before I could stop her. (Normally after lights-out, we try to keep the kids in bed.) I followed behind — rather slowly, I'll admit, because the din was fierce — and got into Liam's room in time to hear her say, "Liam is Mommy's boy and I'm Daddy's girl and I want Daddy tonight because I love him!"
SUCH a sweet girl. Who's getting a pony for Christmas?
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Liam turned 21 months old yesterday. He seems to be understanding a lot these days and is a little less head-strong, so I gathered my courage and took the kids to a local farmer's market while Todd was working. I've been reluctant to take them places with potential hazards by myself, feeling a little scarred by the airplane museum fiasco, as well as the women's museum. But everything went smoothly. Later Todd took the kids to the grocery store while I cleaned and got the house ready for friends coming over, and he had the same experience. Finally, FINALLY, wrangling two kids in public is getting more manageable.
Liam still prefers breakfast and lunch to dinner, but he's a pretty good eater in general, especially if AJS cooks. His favorite foods are pizza, spaghetti, yogurt, oatmeal, waffles, and cheerios. And donuts. After the farmer's market, we went to our favorite bakery and the owner gave the kids each six donut holes. Thea waited until we were home before eating hers, but Liam stuffed them all in his mouth at once, like a hamster.
Liam looks up to Thea and likes to do everything she does. Thea loves playing with her brother and will go looking for him so that he can be the baby horsie and she can be the mommy, or they take all the cushions off the couch and jump around. At bedtime, Thea always has to give him a kiss and a hug, part stalling tactic, part genuine affection.
Bedtime has been problematic for Liam lately. He resists going to sleep, so the bedtime process takes forever, and usually Todd can't even attempt to get him to bed because he'll wail relentlessly for me. It's exhausting for everyone, but especially me, because he's up several times a night and will only be quieted by Mama. ("Maaaa-maaaa-haaaaa!!!") I'll be glad when this phase is over.
Liam loves Tina, the family dog, and loves to give her treats. He yells "Nit, Nina!" ("Sit, Tina"; even I've started calling her "Nina" now), lets her take the treat right out of his hand, and then says "G'gir, Nina." He especially loves to play outside with her.
He's our beautiful, sweet, smart, funny, charming little boy.
Friday, August 17, 2007
I've spent way too many late nights working on a blog redesign, mostly so I could have a three-column layout and have space for ads to establish a liquor fund (code name: "College Fund") (kidding!) (not really). I still have some changes to make, but so far, what do you think?
Thursday, August 16, 2007
BFF Nylonthread has a couple great posts about the weird coincidences that tie our social circle together. I'm glad she's documenting it, because it lets me be a slacker and just link to her instead of connecting the dots myself. Thanks, man!
(Thea, Emma, and Lila)
(As Sheryl calls it.) The sacrifices we parents make for our kids, they're deep and varied.
This was Liam saying "CHEEEEEEESE!!"
This was Thea saying "CHE-- what's that over there?"
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
(Last one for a while, I promise!) From the New York Times today:
Certain vinyl baby bibs sold at Toys “R” Us stores appear to be contaminated with lead, laboratory tests have shown, making the inexpensive bibs another example of a made-in-China product that may be a health hazard to children.
The vinyl bibs, which feature illustrations of baseball bats and soccer balls and Disney’s Winnie the Pooh characters, are sold for less than $5 each under store brand labels, including Especially for Baby and Koala Baby.
Tests this summer, financed by the Center for Environmental Health of Oakland, Calif., found lead as high as three times the level allowed in paint in several styles of the bibs purchased from both Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us stores in California.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
The Veggie Booty recall from a month ago? Salmonella in ingredients from China.
The couch with a racial slur on the label? From a Chinese firm.
Spontaneously combusting Nokias? They contain defective batteries made in China.
I worry for the people of China.
Mattel is recalling 9 million more toys from China.
It's insane, isn't it? The recalls (toys and more toys, pet food, tires, toothpaste) and deaths — which, given the massive amounts of wheat gluten we import from China, I find hard to believe are limited just to animals — not to mention the execution and suicide, as if the problem stems from one or two people.
And then there's China's human rights abuses, censorship, and SARS cover-up.
It's enough to make you want to try to avoid products made in China, even if it is nearly impossible. Who's with me?
... Of course, "people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones" and all that.
Monday, August 13, 2007
It was a pretty typical weekend. We started on Saturday with a walk around a nearby lake, followed by playground time with our friends.
Before dinner I went to the thrift store to try to find Liam some new shoes. He's outgrown his current pair so fast that they're two sizes too small. I didn't find this out until I got three new pairs home, all the wrong size to varying degrees.
I've mentioned before how much I love the thrift store near our house. There's always something weird to be found. This was a life-sized doll in a pink mini dress with thigh-high stockings. The doll next to it adequately expresses my feelings as well as her own. Kind of reminds me of those Real Dolls (link totally NSFW) (also don't click too close to lunch; *shudder*) that Feministing featured a while back. I consider myself pretty unflappable, a very live-and-let-live sort, but WOW.
Friday, August 10, 2007
One of the good things about being sick is getting to watch a whole movie, start to finish, without interruption. A quick thought about The Boondock Saints: What made them think it was a good idea to have Willem Dafoe infiltrate the bad guy's place by posing as a woman? Seriously, this may have been the most deliciously ridiculous movie I've ever seen.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Last night Tara (who has a Liam about 6 months younger than mine, an adorable little morsel) and I went to see the B-52s at Wolf Trap. We got there about halfway through the opening band Betty's set. I did get to hear the most grating intro music for a lesbian soap opera ever, though, so I feel like I got the full experience.
The B-52's was awesome, of course. Those gals are gorgeous, and their style makes me wish I had put more effort into my ensemble, despite the stifling heat. I had an epiphany about why they're so great and most party-music bands suck: they have a certain menacing darkness to them that other good-time bands lack. Like, Fred Schneider will totally kick your ass if you get too close.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Heather is resurrecting The Bughouse, mostly because of my incessant nagging. What can I say, I'm irrepressible! She has a month of back posts, so the new ones should start showing up in September. But go check it out now, because it's brilliant and you'll love it.
me, personally, i can't stand parties. buncha mouthy jackoffs always getting fucked-up for their weekly release & damn if i hear one more pissing contest about good-'n-evil i'm gonna go up on the watertower in a clown costume & start taking pot-shots @ the citizenry.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Monday, August 06, 2007
Friday, August 03, 2007
This song reminds me of driving down the road on tour with Heather and Todd's band when Natalie Wood was the guitarist, our friend Amy and me along for the experience, all packed into a minivan filled to the top with gear and on our way to some label showcase. We went straight through from Phoenix to D.C. where our friend Bob lived, stopping only for food and gas. Heather tells a great story about how she burned Todd's crotch and almost killed us all on an icy highway at 2 a.m. somewhere in Tennessee.
Steve Wynn & the Miracle 3: Amphetamine from Static Transmission
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Tina and the new dog next door have been digging in the same place on either sides of the fence in an effort to reach each other. I think they're in love.
Here's Tina showing me her ingenious tunnel.
Speaking of connections, over the past year or so I've joined most of the big-name social networking sites. As a web professional [adjusts glasses], I should be up on the Web 2.0 applications. As someone in my 30s, the idea of using "friend" as a verb kind of gives me the heebie-jeebies.
Anyway, here are some impressions:
• Keep track of your books
• Write reviews for your friends
• See what your friends are reading, and recommend books for them
It's pretty useful in theory, but only if a lot of people start using it. Since I saw it in the media or had someone I know mention it three times in one week, it'll probably get more popular soon.
• Business-oriented social networking site
• At least a couple people from every job I've ever had are on it
• Good way to keep track of old colleagues
I reconnected with a cool guy who left while I was on maternity leave at my last job. Handy!
• Used to be for college kids, but recently opened up to everyone
• Like LinkedIn, but more focused on life events than work
One of my friends in the UK says no one there uses LinkedIn, but everyone is on Facebook. Kind of a cross between Myspace and LinkedIn.
• Myspace is hideous. When Fox bought it, couldn't they have spent some money on making it a little less atrocious?
• And so much spam!
• BUT, everyone has a Myspace page. Everyone. No, seriously, EVERYONE.
I loathe Myspace. Friend me!