Thursday, December 9, 2010

Oh Holy Fright

It turns out Christmas is not an ideal time to have a baby. Actually, I have always known this to be the case, having been born at Christmas myself (on Dec. 18th to be precise). The best thing about having a Christmas birthday is that is provides a wonderful opportunity to whine, complain, and feel slighted every year. I can't say I have been cheated too much in the gift department, although I have heard from other December babes that it is quite common. I guess I am particularly skilled at guilting my loved ones into buying me things for my birthday. Kevin, for one, lives in terror the rest of the year that he will not do my birthday up big enough, which usually works out quite nicely. One year I got a surprise trip to see U2 in another city. No, my biggest gripe has been that most everyone is just too busy to make a big deal over you if you are born at Christmas. No one has time to come to a birthday party because they have a more exciting Christmas/holiday party every single night in December. Either that, or they are out of town. As I am fond of saying (in jest, God, really!)--Jesus is a massive attention hog. And I hear theologians don't even think he was born in December! It's just an outrage to the December birthday community, one of the great overlooked and oppressed minority groups going today.

Given the complex I already had over my birthday, the fact that I am having a December baby just adds insult to injury. Not that I am absolved of all responsibility. Kevin in fact suggested we skip a month, if I can be delicate about it, in our quest to have a second child so as to preclude such a horrific occurrence. But since we are so ancient, I thought we couldn't afford to miss any opportunity, so here we are. As usual, he was right and sensible, and God was a comedian and a little bit cruel. Now that Jr. is also going to born at Christmas, I figure last year was my last official birthday, I won't stand a chance from now on. This year of course will be particularly awesome. I am going out to dinner the weekend before my birthday with friends--friends who can't scrounge up a holiday party to attend instead--but I will weigh close to 200 lbs, I will undoubtedly be wearing overalls (literally the only thing left to wear, thank God I went ahead and bought them), and I won't even be able to binge eat without great pain and agony. But I'm sure it will still beat out my actual birthday, which will be spent in the hospital recovering from major surgery and doing my absolute favorite thing, every 2 hours, and really every hour if you consider it takes a newborn almost an hour to eat: breast feeding. And the jig will be up in terms of how fat I actually am, which I'm guessing is severely, since last I checked, people don't usually have 50 lb. babies. But, hey, I will have a son, who I will one day love, right after I stop breast feeding him that is.

But all that aside, I somehow did not anticipate how physically and logistically difficult the Christmas season would be when 9 months pregnant. I would have just skipped the whole production, but this is the first year we can begin to properly indoctrinate Charlotte, now that she speaks English pretty well. So I have gone to herculean efforts, given the level of my disability and exhaustion, not to mention all the baby-prep we have inevitably left to the last minute, to give her a real Christmas. There have been crafts, there have been Christmas books read to her daycare class, there have been Christmas cookies, there has been Christmas-tree-decorating, there have been Christmas cards for her teachers, and of course there will be gifts. So far, she has proven to be a huge Scrooge about the whole thing. The crafts have been a disaster because the skill level they required slightly, SLIGHTLY, exceeded her actual skills, so she got frustrated, I had to help her, she threw a fit, and it was so much fun, not to mention festive. The cookies she did not want to decorate so much as stuff in her face as fast as she could. The book reading at school also upset her because she apparently thought I would decide to trade her in for one of her classmates while I was there (Not a chance. They are all 2, as well, but I'm not related to any of them). And the Christmas tree--Oh the Christmas tree--well, she just completely boycotted that. I had made her her own basket of unbreakable ornaments that she could put on the tree without drama. She just flatly refused to cooperate. Went and watched a DVD. Meanwhile, it took me the rest of the day to recover from the exertion of fluffing the branches on our (fake) tree. Now she says at least 4 times a day, "Look at our Christmas Tree! I didn't help." At least she doesn't do what so many adults do and take credit where it is not due.

I am thankful for one thing, however, and that is online shopping. If I had to go to a mall right now and actually purchase gifts the old fashioned way, and without a wheelchair or even handicapped parking space mind you, I can tell you that no one would be getting a darn thing. And some people in that mall would probably not survive to see the new year, as I am very short-tempered these days. As it is, my loved ones are getting whatever came up first when I entered "toy" or "sweater" or "book" in search bar. I've also farmed out some of the gift buying to my mother-in-law, God bless her. If any of the gifts I have purchased myself end up wrapped, well, that will be a Christmas miracle all on its own. It's hard to cut wrapping paper when you can't even reach the table.

So Merry Christmas to all. May you sleep in heavenly peace, because doubtful I will be doing that anytime soon....

Monday, November 29, 2010

Birth Order

Where have I been, you ask. Let me assure you that I am alive (barely) and still pregnant (extremely). I have used all my spare time and mental energy the last few weeks on full-time language training. I'm sure it will take exactly 48 hours of post-partum sleep deprivation to forget everything I have learned not only in the last month but in my lifetime. By Christmas I'll probably be calling Africa a country. Her 5 kids are no doubt the source of Sarah Palin's own ignorance on the subject, and every other subject for that matter. They are also the reason I can't vote for her in 2012--any woman who has that many kids clearly lacks the sanity to have access to nuclear weaponry. But I digress.

I have a theory that becoming a parent is particularly hard on last born children. Sure, youngest kids are just hysterical amounts of fun, which logic would suggest aids good parenting. But one of the reasons they are hysterical amounts of fun is because they grew up having other people take care of all of the logistics in their life and were responsible for very little. It's a very relaxing lifestyle. When my parents weren't around or couldn't be bothered, my sister took care of everything for me. For instance, she got me settled in college, which included taking me to Wal Mart and telling me exactly what I needed and what I should buy. That is something I would never do. If I were responsible for getting someone settled in college, I would give them directions to Wal Mart. Maybe. Then I would take a nap. People are adults and can buy their own comforters and plastic storage shelves without my assistance.

But what happens when people are NOT adults? And what happens when the only "adults" around are BOTH youngest children? Well, then you have a problem. Not necessarily for the kids--Kevin and I were after all raised in good families and can be responsible when pressed. It's not like our kids are out there robbing banks. Yet. But being responsible for others is definitely not my preferred way of operating. When I am given responsibility over others, I either go the most lax route possible to ensure as little work as possible--thus the reason Charlotte will not go to Disney World until she is old enough to drive me there--or I overcompensate and become a German prison matron, as I do when it comes to Charlotte's sleep schedule, although this is primarily motivated by my own comfort more than anything else. But in general, the responsibility of parenting requires an incredible amount of logistics and planning that youngest kids find boring and exhausting. You have to make sure they have the right size and season clothes at any given time, that there is more than just peanut butter in the house to eat (you may even have to--gasp--plan meals and make grocery lists, one of my most hated activities), that they have something to do, which often involves leaving the house, which then requires more forethought and preparation than the D-Day invasion. Kevin and I had a hard enough time leaving the house when we didn't have any kids. Mostly we sat around and had conversations that went like this: What do you want to do today? I don't know, what do you want to do? I don't know. We could go to a movie. Which movie? I don't know. Hmmm. Wow, look it's already time for bed. Now, of course, when it's too late for us, I can think of lots of things we could have done with our childless time. I was 8 months pregnant with Charlotte when we discovered we had a mutual desire to play tennis. Now if we want to play tennis, which we rarely do, who has the energy, it involves more preparatory steps than a Martha Stewart craft project. Maybe when we retire.

Most of the Classic Moms that I know are oldest children, or at least middle children. Take my friend Kenna. First I have to say that despite her claims to the contrary, this woman is a Classic Mom, for which her lucky kids and husband should be thankful. Kenna has a 2 year old and a 1 year old, they are 18 months apart. If I had found out when Charlotte was 9 months old that I would be having another one, I would have called my mother-in-law crying and begged her to raise one of them for me (because she is that nice of a person). Kenna was unfazed and remains so from what I can tell. Between diaper changes and breastfeeding (which of course she loves to do), she frequently bakes cookies and repaints entire bedroom suites singlehandedly in her spare time. According to our mutual friend Christina, when Kenna went into labor with her second child, she finished a craft project, probably even a Martha Stewart craft project, and made lunch before mentioning to Christina or anyone else that she was having contractions. Kenna is such a competent mother, her husband seems to think motherhood is easy, as evidenced by his insinuation that I complain too much (I don't know where he would acquire such a ridiculous idea, certainly not from this blog. As if!) Kenna is, of course, an oldest child. Oldest children ENJOY taking care of people and managing the logistics of life for the happiness of others. This is the key to being a happy, Classic Mom. I on the other hand think other people, including small children, should manage their own stuff and leave me alone. And I'll bake cookies only when I want to binge on something and we are out of Readiwhip.

Our youngest-child-as-parent situation is not improved by the fact that we are currently raising a first born. When we decided to have kids, this was an inevitability. I don't know how you avoid having an oldest child (maybe with twins? or are they both oldest children?) In any case, we are completely out-bossed by her. She is particularly draconian about our "nap time." She lays out pillows and blankets and demands that we lay down on the floor. She covers our heads with blankets, and God help us if we try to lift the blanket a little for some air. She then pats us on our backs and whispers insistently in our ears, "Close your eyes!" I'm not going to lie to you, it's more than a little Stephen King-ish. She is also very demanding of our attention, probably because she is accustomed to getting it. The other day she stood in her room and wailed for 10 minutes because I had the nerve to walk into the living room instead of sitting in the chair in her room as ordered. Kevin, the sucker, finally went in and got her (I ultimately blame him for all her bad behavior). I fear Baby Brother's arrival is going to be something akin to the last scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when the Nazis open the Ark and the fury of the Lord melts everyone's skin off. Studies have shown that oldest kids get more of their parents' attention not only before their siblings are born but throughout their lifetimes. I believe it. Parents are afraid to have their skin melted off for one thing. That, and old habits die hard. I already have it in my mind that Baby Brother is just going to have to adapt to whatever we have going here, such that it is, because I don't really have the energy to accommodate another little dictator.

Basically, I'm hoping that given a few more years, Charlotte will just take over completely and put me out of a job. We'll probably be eating a lot of chicken nuggets, but if I don't have to cook them, who cares?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A season for Thanksgiving

I am in a really REALLY foul mood. We went to the mother of all malls this morning, with Charlotte, so I could go to the maternity store and buy a few more tents to wear, having grown out of almost everything I already own, and Kevin could watch Charlotte play on the indoor playground. I should have known better--this particular indoor playground is probably one of the most dangerous places in America (I won't say in the world, since that includes several war zones). On a given day, it is virtually crawling with children, many of them far too old to be playing on this playground, and all of them raised by wolves. The older kids are invariably jumping off the top of the adorable foam elephants and birdsnests and things, landing on the toddlers for whom the playground was designed and giving them concussions. The toddlers who remain conscious, meanwhile, are zipping around, up, and down, trampling over anyone in their path, including any parents who may be futilely trying to save their child's life. So I don't know what I was thinking. Sometimes it's like I subconsciously set myself up for a nervous breakdown because I just can't allow myself to be sane. I think that's why I had children in the first place. Either that or I am just insane to begin with, which going by Ockham's Razor is the correct explanation because it is the simplest one. In my defense, it is a very nice day, so I thought maybe most parents, or at least those who are not the size of a Buick and can walk across a playground without a cane, would have taken their children outdoors to play, with the wild animals where they belong. But apparently not. It was INSANE. And Poor Charlotte. She wanted to play on the playground so badly but really lacks the aggression to do so successfully. She has the distinct disadvantage of being raised by enlightened humans. She would near the steps of the slide and get overwhelmed by all the little demons swirling around her. At one point, she looked at me pathetically and said, "They aren't waiting their turn!" while I tried to give her a crash course on what you do when you are the only moral, civilized person anywhere in the tri-state area and risk being destroyed if you don't bring yourself down to the level of the unwashed masses to a degree, never forgetting that you are in fact better than that and retaining the ability to revert to superior living when once again in kinder circumstances (kind of like driving on the Beltway. Or worse, in Africa). Then I just fled the scene and left Kevin to figure it out. She must have gotten it OK because she was still alive when I got back from the maternity store.

Ah, the maternity store. There's a depressing place at 8 months pregnant. This is where you go in desperation when you either can't fit in or despise every last item in your closet, when you have somehow managed to outgrow even your socks, when you are reduced to wearing your wedding rings on a necklace (as if you would be beating back the interested men without them), when watching college football has the added intrigue of seeing how many players you now outweigh (in my case, pretty much all but the offensive line). You go the maternity store with the deluded notion that you will find something in which you will resemble a human being. You try on everything in the store and are left with the choice of either spending good money on items you will only wear for 5 weeks and which basically cover your body and perform no other redeeming function or to leave with some underwear and the mirage of dignity, dignity which you in fact shed months ago, somewhere in between wearing sweatpants to church and pulling a groin muscle while turning over in bed. I did the latter, although I did cave and buy the overalls I have been threatening to buy, the overalls that will pretty much finish off what is left of our "marital" relationship. The saleslady perkily assured me I could paint my house in them after I am no longer pregnant. Thanks, once I recover my abdominal muscles and my will to live, I'll definitely be painting my house in those overalls.

In any case, I arrived back home in a foul mood and very depressed at the next 5 weeks, but really at the next 5 years, to be honest with you. Sometimes I think I live too much in the moment. In one of my favorite movies, Out of Africa, Dennys tells Karen that if you imprison a Maasai he will die because Massai live in the now and can't conceive of one day being free. While I think Dennys is full of paternalistic colonial crap about the Maasai, I think he is describing me quite well, because I really suck at looking forward, at enduring misery to reach a goal down the road. I tend to wallow in the putrid muck of the present, like an elephant, a particularly apt metaphor at this point since I am the size of one. But this is really ridiculous, as I know I will be returned to human form (still an obese human form, but nonetheless) in another month or so, and I know, rationally, that if I can just make it through the next year, the worst will truly be behind me. And besides that, my life overall is really blessed and, God willing, in 20 years, I will have adult children who come to see me on my ranch in Montana at Christmas, if not out of affection, out of the hope they will inherit the millions I have earned from my career as a writer, and who hopefully know me well enough not to expect me to do for them and their kids all the stuff my mother and mother-in-law are currently doing for me.

So there's lots to look forward to and be thankful for, in this month of Thanksgiving. Even just here and now, there are things for which to be grateful. For instance, I'm thankful my mother and mother-in-law are indeed better people than me and are willing to help me out. I'm thankful I don't outweigh the Sooners' offensive line, because if I did, watching them would truly be unbearable, given how they have been playing. I'm thankful I probably won't outweigh them, given that severe acid reflux is putting an end to my late night binge eating. I'm thankful I'm not a Maasai and don't have to wash my kids in cow pee, not to mention breast feed in a culture without brassieres. I'm thankful that I am enlightened enough to use formula if it comes to that, as it inevitably will, so I can merely be post-partumly depressed instead of suicidal. I'm thankful for my Weight Watchers membership, which shines like a beacon of hope for the future every time I get on a scale. I'm thankful I have no weddings or big events or even many reasons to leave my home over the next several months that would require me to get dressed and/or photographed. I'm thankful men are so oblivious and therefore can't tell how much I hate them all right now. I"m thankful that my husband is clearly too busy and consumed by his work to have an affair so that I can wear those overalls after all.

It's the little things.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Je suis Low Batt

I'm reading a great book, Michaela Wrong's In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz, which is about Zaire/Congo in the waning days and wake of Mobutu. Yes, shocking though it may be, I have a young child and can still read. I did have to retrain about 6 months after her birth, as entire sections of my brain had been damaged from PPDPTSDSD (that's Post Partum Depressive Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with Sleep Deprivation). But after years of therapy, I am now able to once again read an entire adult book, as long as it isn't too literary or academic, those are still too much for me. I'm trying to do a lot of reading now since I am not sure I'll bounce back as well from another bought of PPDPTSDSD. I may only be able to handle People magazine for the next couple of decades.

But I digress, back to the Congo. She has a chapter called "A Nation on Low Batt," which plays on an expression used by Congolese cell phone users when their phones run out of batteries ("I'll ring you back, I'm Low Batt") and refers to the barely-functioning state in which Mobutu left the country. This includes mountains of uncollected garbage, 20 story buildings with out-of-order elevators, hospitals that act as prisons for patients who can't pay their bills, and, most terrifying, a nuclear reactor (that's right) with almost no security and uranium rods on the verge of corroding.

Well, I am the motherhood equivalent of the Congo right now, definitely A Mom on Low Batt. Everyone poo-poos when I say that I am humungous, but this week it became official. I got on the scale, and my normally laid back OB--who answers almost every question with, "If if makes you feel better," as in, "Should I avoid feta cheese?" "If it makes you feel better"--almost fainted. After he collected himself and examined me further, he concluded that I probably have a condition called polyhydramnios, or excess amniotic fluid, which I also had with Charlotte and which basically means I am breeding oceans in my uterus. And it means that I am officially humungous, and will become ever more so, so you can save your "You look great!"s because we both know you are lying, and last I checked, that was still one of the 10 commandments, right up there with Thou Shalt Not Enact Universal Health Care and Thou Shalt Not Believe in Global Warming. So you know it's bad.

When a person is carrying around not only a small human but an Olympic-sized swimming pool so Baby can practice his butterfly stroke, she finds herself slipping easily into a Congolese state of mind and body. In practical terms, this means Charlotte watches so much TV, if one of the yuppie, over-achieving moms that litter this area gets wind of it, I'm probably looking at a visit from Child Protective Services. She also hasn't had a bath in over a week, because washing her hair is pretty much the Mt. Everest of my physical activities right now, along with putting on socks (on myself or her). My own personal hygiene is rapidly descending in my priorities, not that it was that high to begin with (see a previous post on that topic), but I can't even see a large portion of my legs, much less shave them. Like Kinshasa, my house features uncollected garbage on occasion, and my kitchen counters would probably incinerate the Dateline NBC ultra-violet germ detector (I hate those shows. If Jane Q. Housewife and her family have been living with those germs and no one has died, then their presence is not a news story. Go back to busting sex offenders). Fortunately, when we redid our kitchen, I specifically chose a pattern of granite for the countertops that does not show dirt or debris, even if you are looking for it. Seriously, I could scatter a bag of raisins all over it, and they would be mummified before anyone discovered they were there.

My brain is also on low batt, book reading aside. Today I broke an egg into the sink (as opposed to say a dish where it might be edible). And that's really the tip of a massive iceberg of absent-mindedness. I am really questioning the wisdom of my decision to attend a month of full-time language training for my job in November. I did it last year, and it was really fun, so I thought, what a great way to close out this pregnancy. Plus I will have childcare 5 days a week rather than just 3 days a week, not to be sneezed at. But I am increasingly having a hard time speaking English (writing in this blog is truly tortuous at this point, but I can't let my fan down so I am writing through the pain), much less any other language. I fear this could be quite humiliating.

I'm also having to drastically scale down my extra-house activities I had great hopes of taking Charlotte a nearby farm's Fall Festival this autumn, because as everyone knows, it is obligatory to take small children to places where there are animals, hay, and pumpkins in the fall. But, alas, there will be no pumpkin farming for Charlotte this year, unless I can convince Kevin to buy me one of those Hoveround scooters they advertise late at night on TV. Those things are awesome! Did you know they are lightweight, highly maneuverable even in small quarters, and have lumbar support? And their founder's name is Tom Kruse, which adds even more credibility. I want one of those bad, even just to cook dinner. Or to go to a pumpkin farm, either way. But seeing as we are not on Medicare or Medicaid, I don't think Hoveround is in my future. I'll have to console myself with my "Stork Parking" permit for work, which truly make pregnancy almost worthwhile. If I were like an in shape pregnant person, like super model Gisele Bunchen--who brags that she did yoga the day before giving birth, never wore maternity clothes, and, sealing her position on my Most Hated People in the Universe list, just behind Robert Mugabe, says she thinks breast feeding should be mandated by the UN--I would sell that permit on the black market for a year's worth of formula.

Well, I'm stopping now because writing this has pretty much depleted my mental energy supply for the rest of the week.
Je suis Low Batt.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Potty Training 101

Christopher Columbus dreamed of sailing to India. Icarus thought he could fly near the sun. Tiger Woods believed he could save his marriage after sleeping with the entire bimbo population of the United States, many of them not that attractive. And I had plans to potty train Charlotte before the arrival of Baby Brother. Fools, all!

In my defense, Charlotte is an appropriate age (2 1/2). She speaks English fluently. She can obey my instructions and often chooses to do so, particularly when bribed with jelly beans. I have a Costco membership and can buy huge vats of jelly beans. Most importantly, she has demonstrated an ability to hold it, to the point where I may eventually only have to change her diaper every few days (thereby removing any incentive either of us have to potty train her, but whatever). So I thought my goal was not that ambitious and totally achievable. A co-worker gave me a talking Elmo potty, which, along with the Dora the Explorer panties, I felt pretty much made it a slam dunk.

I forgot about one thing, however. Whereas Charlotte loves jelly beans, Elmo, and Dora, and laps up praise like a Golden Retriever, she also has the life long goal of never growing up. Not that I am one to judge, I totally feel her on this one. My mom loves to recall how I would say to her, "Mommy, when I grow down, can I be your baby again?" Wasn't I totally adorable. This attitude has in fact remained a constant, not literally, as in I no longer want to be my mother's baby, that seems a little creepy, but I would like to have someone cook all my meals, pay all my bills, and basically absolve me of all responsibility in life. I remember when I was like 10 or 12, my 13-going-on-30 contemporary, Amanda, would bemoan how people treated us like kids (my response: duh, that's because we are) and how she couldn't wait til she was 16 or 18 or 20. I thought she was crazy because being a kid was so awesome, I didn't see how it got any better. And, as usual, I was right and wise beyond my years (which is why I shouldn't have to grow up. If you can ace the test without taking the class, you shouldn't have to take the class. I'm just saying.). It doesn't get any better, children, so enjoy your carefree youth while you can. And eat your broccoli, because that doesn't get any better either.

However, I will say this: Depositing one's waste matter into a modern toilet where one's contact with it is limited and it is whisked off into the nether reaches of the earth before one even necessarily has to view it cannot be overrated. Or, as a slight variation, depositing one's waste matter into a talking Elmo potty that congratulates you on your achievement as if you had cured polio and where one's contact with it is hopefully limited and it is whisked off by a long-suffering mommy--who still has to do some cleaning apparently, which is a real rip off, but baby steps here, we will one day make it to the actual toilet seat because the arc of parenting is long but bends towards an empty nest--cannot be overrated. Certainly it is immeasurably better than, say, sitting around with it smashed up on your skin waiting for someone, perhaps even a relative stranger--and I thought a pap smear was humiliating--to clean it off of you with a cold, damp baby wipe. I feel this is a distinction anyone, even a 2 year-old, could make, no matter how badly they wanted to hit the pause button on life. In other words, though I never wanted to grow up, I am cool with wiping my own butt. That is some responsibility I can handle.

This is apparently not Charlotte's take on things. We have had the Elmo potty for about a month (we also have a potty seat that goes on top of the big potty), and so far, Charlotte's potty achievements basically boil down to sitting her doll on the potty, sitting herself on it for a sum total of hours, basically using it as a procrastinatory device at opportune moments, and one second-hand account by probably corrupt church nursery workers of her actually peeing in a toilet. Allegedly. When I heard that, I was filled with hope, only to spend another 20 minutes that evening--after 10 hours of Charlotte with a dry diaper--waiting in vain for the faint, musical sound of urine hitting plastic. I ask you, who, after 10 hours of not peeing while ingesting liquids at a normal rate, can sit on a toilet, with water intermittently running for inspiration, for 20 minutes and not let out even a drop? This child is some kind of urinary camel, with bladder muscles that could bench press a Hummer. I don't know what other conclusion to draw except that she just hates me so much, thwarting me gives her superhuman strength.

Now, I'm told if I am really really serious about this potty training thing, what I need to do is just put panties on her and let her have accidents. She won't like having accidents and will start going on the potty. Sound good...I guess...I just have one question, what, pray tell, do I do with my furniture? Wrap it in plastic wrap? Go all Euro-minimalist and get rid of all but a plastic orb chair hanging from the ceiling? We've already been over how much I love my African crap (thankfully most of it is water proof), but I also happen to love my sofa as well, probably because this is where my butt lives and grows.

And anyway, maybe I'm not really really serious about this potty training thing after all. What's wrong with diapers? The diapers these days are like wearable science labs, sucking in gallons of liquid and turning it into a sterile gel you can style your hair with if you are so inclined. If I just wait another year or so, I'm sure they will start evaporating feces and buffing baby's butt clean at the press of a button. Modern diapers are probably why potty training a child is so difficult now anyway--they make it so comfy to wallow in your own crap, the child could care less. In other words, there is a massive conspiracy by the evil, money grubbing diaper companies to render the human race incapable of using the toilet, thereby increasingly their profits 7 billion fold (evil laugh)!!! I'm so glad I got to the bottom of that. No pun intended. Now I can just start a movement (wait til the anti-vaccine people and the breast feeding Nazis hear about THIS one!) and spend the next several decades trying to eradicate effective disposal diapers from the face of the earth!

Hey, it's probably easier than potty training Charlotte.

Friday, October 8, 2010

An attempt at empathy

First of all, if you haven't seen the Mompetitors short films, go right now and watch this introductory one at least. You will laugh until you cry. More importantly, this blog entry won't make any sense unless you have seen it. Incidentally, this is yet another example of why I will never be a famous writer/humorist because there are just too many funny people out there (and the mom-blogger market is totally saturated). Still, I persevere, pathetically lapping up the meager praise from the few kind friends who encourage my habit.

I noticed on one of the films that someone had left a comment, the gist of which was that the films' maker was obviously siding with one perspective in the mommy battles (i.e. the sane mom) and maybe she could try making a film from the perspective of the "mompetitor" (obviously the person leaving the comment is a mompetitor herself). My first reaction was, Get a life. My second reaction was, It would be impossible to make an entertaining film mocking the other mom because she is totally normal and sane. My third reaction was, But if she tried to make a movie taking the side of the mompetitor, what would that look like? And my fourth reaction was, Why don't I try and see, what else do I have to do? While I am not technologically savvy enough to actually make such a film (and would probably be sued by the brilliant woman who made these), I thought I'd offer her a possible screenplay to try. So here is my attempt to see life from the Mompetitor's viewpoint:

Mompetitor (MP): Hi, I see you were able to turn off the TV this morning. I'm so proud of you!
Other Mom (OM): Yeah, it was hard but I thought of you and your kids and felt inspired.
MP: What did you and your kids eat for breakfast? I find that is the key to having enough energy. We eat plain, steel-cut oats with flax power and fish oil every morning.
OM: We all just ate sugar.
MP: Like Pop Tarts or Lucky Charms?
OM: No, like sugar. LIke I opened a bag and gave everyone spoons. Is that not good?
MP: Actually, no--sugar causes obesity and tooth decay. It's probably also why you and your kids are so tired all the time, it's not a steady energy supply.
OM: Really? I had no idea. I am so glad I met you so I can learn all these things.
MP: By the way, I read in the New York Times this morning that there has been a recall on Snuggleride car seats. Do you use that brand?
OM: Oh, we don't use car seats. My kids like to ride in the bed of our pick-up so we let them.
MP: Well, that sounds fun, but it's really unsafe and actually illegal. 1,768 kids die every year from riding in pick-up beds. And according to state law, kids have to be in a car or booster seat in the back seat of the car until age 8.
OM: Age 8, seriously? How are they supposed to drive themselves to school from the back seat?
MP: That's the law. Kids aren't supposed to drive until age 16 anyway.
OM: For real? Wow, you know everything. Thanks so much.
MP: No problem, I really care about kids and realize that not all moms have time to research everything so I consider it my responsibility to try and help out.
OM: Oprah should give you an award. I mean it, I'm going to write her.
MP: Oh, you're sweet. How's the new baby doing? How's the breast feeding going?
OM: Oh, I've quit, she wasn't sleeping very well so we started giving her formula with codeine in it.
MP: Hmm, well, I don't think codeine is safe to give a new born.
OM: Really? But it works so well!
MP: Yeah, I know, but it's not safe. And you should really give breast feeding another try--did you know that it is scientifically proven to make your kids healthier and smarter?
OM: Really? So that's why my kids are so stupid! Man, I wish you had been around for me a few years ago. But I think it's too late to try again this time, I'm all dried up.
MP: You can take a hormone that will make you lactate. That's what I did with our middle child, who is adopted. It really worked too. Even though her birth mother was drunk for her entire pregnancy, my daughter just passed the MENSA exam and is already a certified genius. Remember, breast feeding is always worth it!
OM: I'm going to my doctor right now to get me some of those hormones. You are a life saver!
MP: You go girl, you can do it! Hope to see you again soon. In the meantime, here's my card, call me anytime you have questions. I'm here to help.
OM: Thanks so much. You are seriously an even better person than Sandra Bullock.

OK, so that was predictably lame. And I still think the Mompetitor comes across as an evil witch. So I think this pretty much proves conclusively that she is. Empathy can really be a useful way to prove yourself right.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Throwing off Tyranny

This is not a political blog, and I am not a highly political person, unless you count an aversion to insanity as a form of political engagement. But lately I can't help noticing the striking overlap between the mood in the country and what I am experiencing here in our house. When I was an American History professor, in fact, I used to explain the American Revolution to my students in terms of the parent-child relationship. The big mistake Britain, the mother country, made in terms of enforcing her authority was not cracking down on her children, the colonists; after all, no one in the world at that point governed themselves, and almost everyone believed the monarchy did so by divine ordinance. No, Mother Britain's big mistake was letting the colonists run wild for 150 years and then cracking down. Anyone who has perused even one parenting book, knows that your window for establishing your dictatorship is between the years of 0 and 6. If you wait until they are 13, well, you are going to have a revolution. Too bad for England that her monarchs never had a subscription to Parenting magazine (they could have also discovered the 29 Foods Picky Kids Will Eat!).

I don't think what is going on in American politics today is quite the equivalent of the American Revolution (unless you are Sharon Angle)--in all seriousness, I think the economy is bad and people are struggling--but I do see some parenting analogies. In short, I believe that Charlotte is a member of the Tea Party movement, as best as I can make out what the Tea Party movement is anyway, and I'm only slightly less afraid than Barack Obama.

First of all, she believes in less government. While the Tea Party folk resent Obamacare as a form of government interference in their lives, Charlotte also wants to live more independently. Her version of a Don't Tread on Me banner is rolling around the floor screaming because I did not let her pick out her own clothes (I don't want her ending up on What Not to Wear). Of course, a big difference is that Charlotte doesn't make any money and doesn't buy her clothes, so I think my position holds more water, ideologically speaking, than the Democratic Party's.

Second, while she believes in less government theoretically and selectively, she is not very consistent across the board. In theory, Charlotte wants to do things "BY SELF!!!!!" yet she is unable to explain to me why she has no interest in peeing in the potty (indeed, why she would rather sit around in feces than become potty trained), why she is incapable of watching an entire Wonder Pets with me in another room, why she occasionally loses the use of her legs without in fact suffering a paralyzing injury. While some of their leaders want to abolish Social Security and Medicare, which accounts for over half the budget, if you polled the rank and file members of the Tea Party, I guarantee you they would not support this position in reality. I know this because they are average Americans, and the average American has not saved enough to buy themselves postage stamps in retirement, much less private insurance policies for senior citizens, which cost more than the GDP of some African countries. In addition, when people started discussing rationing some high cost/low efficacy treatments as a way of cutting Medicare spending, it was the Queen Tea Partyer herself who cried Death Panel. And of course no one is talking about cutting defense spending, which accounts for pretty much the rest of the budget.

Thirdly, I keep hearing various Tea Partyers invoke the 2nd amendment. Charlotte doesn't quite do that, I don't think she has much knowledge of weaponry, but she does believe in using physical force to throw off her oppressor, which mainly entails going rigid when I pick her up to drag her off somewhere she doesn't want to go, unleashing a chain reaction of painful events that rupture a disc in my back. It's very effective.

Also, the Tea Party loves them some Founding Fathers. If they knew a bit more about their ideological views--for instance, did you know they were actually pretty elitist and passed the Constitution to strengthen the federal government because the hicks and nabobs were going crazy out there? Or that GW violently put down the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794, when some farmers rose up against an excise tax on whiskey?--they might not be quite as fond of them, but they are really really awesome nonetheless. Well, thanks to some US President flash cards I got at Mt. Vernon (where you can not only find out more about the Whiskey Rebellion, you can view GW's false teeth), Charlotte is loving the Founding Fathers too, although her favorite president is Andrew Jackson, who was definitely NOT a Founding Father. GW would never have invited the public into the White House and let them get drunk and run wild.

Fortunately for me, Charlotte can't vote, and I already mentioned her lack of income, so my position is (relatively) safe come November, unless her rigidity trick leaves me a paraplegic, highly possible given my weakened state. The Democrats, though, yeah, they're in big trouble. Sorry guys.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Looking on the bright side again

Generally, I'd say being pregnant is like being on death row in Iran. Your condition is miserable, and you long for relief. However, that relief comes in the form of being stoned to death, or in my case breast feeding compounded by sleep deprivation, which is almost as painful, though not fatal (supposedly. But I would not be surprised if the massive breast feeding conspiracy has suppressed countless reports of women throwing themselves to their deaths, or else dying of abscessed nipples). Not to mention the horror of surveying the state of one's butt once a massive stomach is no longer eclipsing it. In any case, there is no comfortable way out of my predicament at this point.

But now I am just being negative, and that is really not my nature (yeah right, and Benjamin Franklin was a eunuch). What I should be focused on is the beauty and wonder of a woman's body bringing life into the world surrounded by puppies and kittens and butterflies blah blah blah. Whatever. Not to disparage the miracle of life, but miracles can be really disgusting. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, there had to be at least one by stander who was thinking, Gee, that's pretty cool, Jesus, but maybe next time you bring out a person who's been living in grave clothes for the past 3 days, you could pass out some gas masks first. There is nothing beautiful or wonderful about my body right now, trust me about that. Or, if you don''t trust me, hook my husband up to a lie detector.

Nonetheless, especially given the worse fate that awaits me, I should really try to savor the last 12 weeks I will ever in my life, no matter what, even if a comet wipes out most of humanity, even if Glenn Beck sees some geese, even if Obama begins a government program that pays geniuses to procreate to offset growing numbers of dumb people, the last time I will ever ever ever be pregnant so help me God. Or I should at least try to find some good things about being pregnant. OK, I will. Here goes:

10. I look about 20 years younger, thanks to cystic acne that has carpet bombed my entire face. In other words, people on the street think I am a pregnant 16 year old. OK, maybe that's not such a great thing. Trying again...

9. People are generally afraid to mess with me right now, either because they are nice and don't want to cause stress to my baby, or because they are afraid that I will unleash hormonal hell on them then sit on them for good measure (Always trust your instincts, people).

8. I can now wear fashions that before I thought were cute but were afraid they would make me look pregnant. Of course, now I don't think they are so cute, but there I go being negative again. All my maternity clothes are just adorable, and it will pain me greatly to shred, pulverize, then burn them the second I can squeeze into anything else.

7. I can manipulate my husband into doing stuff around the house by threatening to do it myself. For instance, I told him the lawn probably needed mowing before he left on a trip, but if he didn't have time, "I can do it, no problem," knowing full well he would rather be castrated than have the entire neighborhood witness the shame of his massively pregnant wife pushing around a lawn mower. Unfortunately, this tactic doesn't work as well with laundry and dishes. Might have to resort to fake labor pains for that.

6. This is a rare opportunity to do a thorough belly-button cleaning. I do not say this in jest--I have a deep inn-y belly button, and keeping it clean is a real challenge.

5. The complete and utter destruction of my body gives me a great opportunity to rebuild it even better, kind of like Brad Pitt is doing with New Orleans. I'll pass on Brad Pitt, unless he really insists of course, and take Weight Watchers and a good plastic surgeon (if it comes to that).

4. Do I really have anything to complain about when I can still drink coffee, according to the latest medical guidance that will probably be reversed in another year by new studies showing caffeine during pregnancy increases the chances by a kabillion percent of giving birth to an iguana?

3. I have built-in patterned hosiery, which I hear is in fashion this season, in the form of spider veins covering my legs.

2. I have the ultimate motivation to quit chain smoking and binge drinking. And of course break that nasty crack habit.

1. Once I stopped complaining for five minutes, I realized that I am indeed surrounded by puppies and kittens and butterflies, and even an odd rainbow or two. It's super special. And miraculous.

See? Nobody can tell me I'm not an optimist. Nobody. I am appreciating the hell out of this pregnancy stuff. Literally.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Maternity Chic

Buying maternity clothes is one of the more unjust experiences in life, at least for those who don't live in a third world dictatorship. You are forced to pay good money for clothing that you are 100% guaranteed to despise and look hideous in. A pregnant friend of mine complained this week that she had basically squandered her child's college tuition in a desperate attempt to look "fashionable" and "professional" for an upcoming work trip, only to look like a upper crust whale. When I look in the mirror, which is increasingly rare, after all I'm not allowed to take antidepressants right now, it is definitely my first instinct to sprint to my computer and begin a frenzy of online shopping. But, honey, a cow is a cow is a cow, whether you dress it in Target or Gucci or whether you own 1 pair of elastic waist pants or 20.

If there were truth in advertising, the slogans of maternity stores would be a take off of the Men's Wearhouse one: You're gonna hate the way you look, I guarantee it (but you're gonna pay top dollar for these dog ugly clothes anyway, because there are indecency laws on the books). Instead, they pathetically try to sell you the idea that if you buy their clothes, you will look not just OK, not simply comfortable, not somewhat cute, but sexy and stylish. I remember when I was pregnant with Charlotte, one of the big maternity chains had a poster in its window of a pregnant lady (well, more like a watermelon-toting super model) wearing one of their dresses while walking by a couple, the man gawking at her and the woman scolding him. I was like, do you really think I am that stupid? If I am basically at the point of having to pay my husband to touch me, your "little" dress is definitely not going to make me irresistible to some random man on the street, unless he has some kind of sick fetish, in which case he is probably a serial killer planning to murder me and sell my baby on the black market, and I'm not paying for that either. As for the woman with the gawking man, honey, if your man is lusting over a pregnant lady, well, I think suicide is the only thing left for you, not to be mean or anything. Call a hotline first, maybe they can help, cuz I got nothing.

Skinny Jeans: Delusional under the best, non-pregnant of circumstances. Under pregnant ones, morally on par with child abuse (and perhaps a direct cause--that baby is begging for air, people).

Just as a random sidenote, if you have cankles like I do, you are doubly screwed while pregnant, because legs are pretty much all you have to work with, other than massive boobs, which I just find frightening anyway. Plus pregnant ankles tend to swell, turning cankles into thankles. This is not a good look.

No, my strategy this time around is to buy as little grotesque clothing as possible. I have some from last time, although it is off season as as repugnant as I remembered. But, see, I own a washing machine, and I even own a dryer. And I can wash and dry this T shirt and these cargo pants I am wearing while I sleep naked (it's not like anyone's going to bother me) and be off to the races again tomorrow. As it turns out, Americans buy way too many clothes, which is fun and fine as long as they look good. In the absence of that, give your money to Darfuri refugees. Now if I could find a pair of pants I don't have to hike up every 5 seconds, I might shell out for that. But I've tried them all--real waist, low waist, full panel, demi panel (next I'm considering death panel)--but unless you are willing to wear them with suspenders, your crotch is going to be half way down your legs before you can say postpartum (maybe they are trying to prepare you psychologically for what's to come, I don't know).

In fact, my entire approach to personal appearance has changed. Whereas I once was somewhat vain, I am now focused merely on survival. I put on as few clothes to prevent roasting but enough to avoid arrest or the frightening of small children. I diligently apply make up to somewhat cover my acne (only about 2 bottles of foundation/day) also to prevent children shrieking in horror or my recruitment by the circus. With Halloween coming up, however, I may go without on occasion, that might be festive. And like I said, I do not look in the mirror unless absolutely necessary, to spare my own feelings, not to mention those of my mirror. And just to be consistent with the overall look, I hardly ever wash or comb my hair. That's really a waste of time and energy anyway.

I'm also thinking of letting my husband look at the Victoria's Secret catalog for his birthday. I'm sweet like that.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Daddy's Girl is Born...Finally

My life has gotten a little bit easier. And just in time, too. Although I am not due to give birth for another 3 1/2 months, I am already as big as that massive Pillsbury Dough Boy that destroys New York City at the end of Ghostbusters. The ground similarly shakes when I walk. And I officially outweigh my husband (of course, I outweighed my first husband after a large meal, but this was in fact a major reason for our divorce). When people ask me when I am due and I tell them December, I get an incredulous, "Oh Wow," with the more sadistic ones adding, "You've got a long way to go!" Thanks, I'm still on the Mayan calendar and had no idea. So after initially thinking I would not end up weighing more than some NFL players like I did last time, I am now preparing myself for the likelihood that Richard Simmons will have to come and knock out a window in our house with a bulldozer just to get me to the hospital. I really dread that, he's so annoying. And my back hurts.

So it's getting pretty tough for old Mommy to get down on the floor and play Little People, swing around 30 lb children, really do anything but sit with my feet up. Charlotte has wisely concluded that I am no fun anymore, and that Daddy is where it's at. I have been living for this day. As everyone knows, her central goal in life up to this point has been to have some part of her body touching me at all times. Daddy has been of little interest to her, she in fact has shunned him on many occasions, the lucky dog. I would sell my soul to be shunned.

But fortunately, it did not come to that, for my shunning ship has come in. Charlotte is now obsessed with Daddy, and who can blame her, really. He's devastatingly handsome, charming, smart, funny, even tempered, and can discuss the federal deficit at length. Most importantly, he does not have a tiny human resident draining his life force. He can still wrestle on the floor, play the upside down game, and dive into a ball pit with abandon. He could even shave his legs without risking his life, if he so chose, although I suppose this skill has little use for Charlotte. When he comes through the door, Charlotte immediate attacks him, hauls him off to our room, demands he remove his tie and shoes, then drags him upstairs to play where Mommy will not bother them (really, Charlotte, you don't need to go that far. Give me about 5 inches and you won't even know I'm here). If I attempt to come, I am told to "move away" and "stay downstairs." These are the sweetest words I have ever heard.

Of course, Daddy is only around for about 15 of Charlotte's waking hours, so i am not quite out of the woods. Then again, in another month or so she probably won't be able to fit in the same room with me, so things could still work to my advantage. Like a natural toddler barrier system.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Religious Devotion

Let me say up front, in case my parents are reading this, that my faith is both deep and sincere. And let the record show that I have always attended church regularly, even before I had children. Having said that, being a mom brings a whole new level of meaning and urgency to church attendance, which I can summarize with two words: FREE CHILDCARE.

We are just coming off VBS season in the world of Christendom. For you unfortunate heathens out there, VBS stands for Vacation Bible School, but it could just as easily stand for Very Best Several-days-of-mom's-life (yes, I realize I am playing fast and loose with the rules of acronym construction. Bite me.) This is when very kind but obviously deranged or guilt-ridden people in a church put together an entire week of day or evening programming for children, and you, the parent, get to drop yours off free of charge and go and eat in an actual restaurant. The most unbelievable part is you don't even have to be a member of the church. In fact, if you do a little research, you can hit the VBSs of a whole bunch of churches in your area, which hopefully have wisely staggered their programs, and you might not even have to see your child for several weeks. I missed the boat this summer, because I assumed Charlotte, at 2, was too young for VBS, but I did at least get her in to our church's VBS. Kevin recalls that when he was growing up, his mother fully exploited the VBS system, which is even more vast in the Bible-belted nirvana of Arkansas than here in the bleakly secular northeast. He thinks she might have even put him into a Mormon one, which, based on her commitment to Christianity, I kind of doubt, but based on her probable desperation as a full-time mother of small children, I would believe (and would not judge).

And VBS is just the tip of the iceberg. There is an hour and a half of childcare every Sunday, there is childcare for every major church seminar, congregational meeting, and potluck. There are two hours of free childcare every Thursday morning for the mom's Bible study. I attend all of these religiously. Or actually, not so religiously, if I am honest about my motives. Like I said, I was a regular church attender before I had kids, but I did my share of playing hooky and certainly I rarely attended seminars and Bible studies. Because I figured that God realized what a busy person I was and that I probably had something very important to do, like getting my eyebrows waxed. Now, if I am not in church, you can reasonably assume someone in my family has contracted the plague (which sadly does happen fairly regularly) or a sink hole has swallowed my car (fortunately a more rare occurrence). You could not reasonably assume that I have lost my religious devotion, because I would come for the free childcare even if I suddenly became an atheist or a Buddhist. If I discovered that other faiths had similar perks, I might hit them up now and then too, but if I am not mistaken, Christianity, and evangelical Christianity in particular, has the free childcare market pretty well cornered. Which makes me wonder why every parent in America doesn't attend church, at least while their kids are young and pretty clueless. People are really missing out.

Of course, it does help if you actually believe what is being preached/taught (although honestly, I would listen to a 2 hour Amway pitch if they were offering free childcare). And if you want your kids to also believe those things, even better. Our church already has Charlotte coming home with Jesus tales. It's unbelievable. And incredibly comforting, too, because I can suck just that much more as a parent.

And that's what Christianity is all about anyway: God making up for us sucking. I am SO all about it. See, I am a real devotee after all.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Toddler Used to Interrogate Guantanamo Detainees

The unlikely face of an elite government operative

(Another Onion-inspired entry, again, fiction, people)

Government sources, who decline to be named due to the sensitivity of the information they are providing, have confirmed the existence of a top secret program that employs a two-year-old to help interrogate terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay. According to the sources, a Virginia toddler named Charlotte has been helping officials at the detention facility for the past month, wearing down alleged terrorists with incessant whining.

The program has thus far been highly successful. Charlotte has reportedly broken 9 out of the 10 detainees with whom she has assisted (the 10th detainee is deaf). Sources say after hours of listening Charlotte beg, scream, yell, cry, and prostrate herself on the ground for various items, including goldfish crackers, raisins, Elmo, and the Wonder Pets--even after the items were given to her--the detainees revealed the details of plots to attack the US Capitol, the White House, the New York subway system, and Heidi Montag, who reportedly paid to be blown up for the publicity (Her publicist says she will launch a media tour this week to deny the allegations). They also gave up the exact location of Osama bin Laden, but sources say the government has not yet acted on the information because he is allegedly co-located with several bongo, a highly endangered antelope species from East Africa.

The Charlotte Project was reportedly launched in 2009 in the context of the Obama administration's strict prohibitions on interrogation techniques that border on torture, such as water boarding. "We really had to think creatively," recalls one of the sources, a military interrogator. "We held numerous brainstorming sessions, in which we asked ourselves, What is the psychological equivalent of a physically excruciating technique like electrocution?" The officials, several of whom are parents of small children, eventually came to the conclusion that the maddening behavior of toddlers, particularly the over-indulged American kind, held the key to breaking the world's most dangerous criminals.

The next step was finding the perfect toddler. Government officials secretly observed parks, playgrounds, and daycares in the DC metro in search of a child with elite skills in psychological warfare. On a visit to the National Zoo, they found their man, or in this case, a blonde, blue-eyed, dimpled, 30-pound package of mental torture. "Whatever Charlotte's mom was doing, it wasn't acceptable. She wanted crackers until she had them. She wanted to walk when she was in the stroller and wanted in the stroller when she was out of it. She wanted to see the cheetah when she was viewing the lion and the lion once she was at the cheetahs. We watched her mother slowly lose her mind." She finally buckled Charlotte in the stroller and walked numbly into the woods, Charlotte screaming at her. The officials actually had to intervene to get her safely back to her vehicle. Charlotte's mother's cooperation with the project was not difficult to obtain. "She basically had two questions: Will my child be harmed in any way? and Can I be on a government-funded cruise while all this is going on?"

Leaks about the program have aroused the ire of human rights activists, who claim the technique subjects the detainees to inhumane treatment and is indeed torture. Charlotte's mother reportedly agrees (but is enjoying her cruise too much to formally complain). The Justice Department is investigating.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Help me, Oprah

Yesterday I was watching Oprah, because I am an American housewife and this is my obligation. The show was, once again, on a topic "that could save your life," in this case abusive relationships, and she had some expert on there with his questionaire/survey that could tell you how much danger you are in. Not to make light of a serious subject, but it got me thinking, Can your relationship be considered abusive if the abuser is 2? If so, then, yes, Oprah and your expert, I need help.

Let us go through some of the classic warning signs of an abusive relationship that appear in all of these surveys and you'll see what I mean:

Does the person control your activities? Has he/she ever stalked you?
Yes. I cannot even go to the bathroom without her following me. If I attempt to close the door, hell is unleashed. In fact, she insists I stay within 5 feet of her at all times. If that isn't stalking, I don't know what is.

Is she jealous of your friends and family? Have you lost friends because of her?
Check. She will not even let me speak to another person in her presence. And I have definitely lost friends because of her. I hear from/see about 2 of the friends I had before she was born. Fortunately, my parents and in-laws find her strangely charming, so I've managed to maintain relationships with them.

Does she blame you for her problems?
While she has never said so explicitly, I am definitely the target of her rage and frustration in any situation. If she tries and fails to fit herself into her Little People School Bus, I am the one who pays, not the laws of physics.

Does she get angry so easily you feel you are walking on eggshells?
Just today she screamed for 10 minutes just because I would not open a bag of chocolate chips we had bought at the store. She also becomes enraged if I sing the wrong song at the wrong time or pick the wrong outfit for her to wear.

Does she drink or use drugs?
Not to my knowledge, but sometimes I wonder.

Does she insist you drink or use drugs with her?
That might help, actually.

Does she go through your purse or personal things?
OMG. It's like her favorite thing.

Does she keep you in debt?
She's certainly trying.

Has she caused you to lose a job?
Again, she's working on it. I went to work about 2 days in June due to her illnesses.

Does she threaten to kill herself if you leave?
Not explicitly, but she gives the impression of dying, even if I just walk into the next room.

Does she act one way in front of other and another way with you? Is her behavior erratic?
She definitely puts on a good show for others, who tell me what a sweet child she is. With me, she is the love child of Hitler and Mussolini. And her behavior is completely erratic and unpredictable. How was I to know that just because she ate a plate full of cucumbers yesterday does not mean she won't find them morally offensive today? We have many conversations that go like this: "I want water!" "OK, here is some water" "No, I don't want water!!!!" "OK, don't drink it." "I want water!!!!"

Given the facts, I think this relationship is abusive by anyone's standards. Basically the only thing I have going for me is that she weighs 30 lbs and I weigh...more than that. And I can drive. Like a real car, not the Little Tykes one in our living room. And she doesn't own any firearms. So I think my chances of survival are pretty good. Survival with dignity? That I can't say.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


As one of my ongoing "nesting" activities--which, this time, I intend to accomplish BEFORE I qualify as a body double for Free Willy 8 and have to scoot along the floor to pull up my pants--is culling through all the baby and kid crap that has bred like rabbits in this house and getting rid of things that did not live up to hype. That pretty much describes about 90% of it. Honestly, if you want to get rich quick, forget the lottery, forget Amway, forget flipping real estate during the next housing bubble, forget becoming a Kenyan Member of Parliament. All you really need to do is think up a baby product, then--and this is the key--market it as something that will buy the parent sleep/time/peace/quiet/sanity. The product can honestly be a piece of plastic you found on the floor of your Beijing hotel, and the marketing has to be only slightly more convincing than Michael Jackson's nose job. The most desperate people in the world are parents, and desperate people make very very stupid consumers. Look at the weight loss industry. Does anyone really believe that 5 minutes per day with a vibrating dumbbell will turn your George Wendt body into a George Clooney one? The answer is YES, times like a billion.

The same goes for the baby industry. Just as an obese person does not want to believe that they will have to stop eating ding dongs and amputate the sofa from their buttocks, so parents cannot face the hard facts of their jobs, such as they will not get a decent night's sleep perhaps ever again, their toddler will not play with a single toy for more than 30 seconds, extended travel with a small child will be more painful than birthing breech triplets without an epidural, and dirty diapers will smell like, well, poop stored in a plastic bucket for several days no matter how many genies, filters, vacuums or other patented pending "disposal systems" are involved. It's a hard truth, but parenting, like obesity, isn't pretty and requires many years of hard labor to remedy.

But I am in no position to judge. If parents, and particularly mothers, are desperate folk, Phobic Moms are the most desperate of the desperate, the equivalent of Joan Rivers at her plastic surgeon's funeral. Certainly I have fallen prey to many many baby product pitches. After months of therapy, I am only now able to immediately throw away the One Leap Forward (name changed to prevent lawsuit) catalog upon its near weekly arrival. This catalog is a virtual Encyclopedia Britannica of Baby Crap with marketing so slick, televangelists study it in seminary. Here's just a few of their products I have eagerly purchased (do NOT judge):

1) Two or three versions of a foam wedge/mother's heartbeat simulator designed to improve digestion and soothe the newborn for a good night's sleep. After using each one, while trying to keep all other variables uniform, we spent hours analyzing, with charts, which one produced more sleep. The answer: none of them.

2) Diaper storage system with carbon filter. Powered by D batteries, a set of which the "system" runs through in a few days, this contraption supposedly circulates air through the pail. The carbon does something scientific. I still use the pail, but have long since given up on the battery-powered carbon filters. I don't have anywhere to store all those D batteries.

3) Mesh food bags that allow the baby to sucK on real food without the risk of choking. Charlotte's assessment was that they made everything taste like mesh, and she would rather choke to death, thanks.

4) Shampoo visor that kids just love to wear and that keeps soap and water out of their eyes. I bought this because Charlotte practically has a seizure every time I wash her hair, and despite being quite communicative, she cannot grasp that leaning her head back will allow the water to run away from her face. Physics is apparently not her best subject. She greeted the shampoo visor, which did not fit her head snugly enough to prevent a waterfall anyway, with another seizure.

5) Portable placemat that suctions onto "any table" and has a little trough that catches stray food. Minor problem: It actually suctions to "no table."

6) Baby toothbrush that babies just can't get enough of. Except that they can. And it only takes 5 seconds for them to get enough. Then they want it out of their sight forever.

7) Stroller shade extender that supposedly you can shape and turn to fully shade your child in any sunlight. Maybe I am just not good at shade-shaping but I never could get it to do anything other than look like a massive black duck bill that shaded nothing, as duck bills typically don't.

That's just a sampling. This isn't even counting the hundreds of toys I've bought, each one pinned with the hope that Charlotte would finally leave me alone for a few minutes. I've also bought every kind of sippy cup, plate, bowl, and utensil you can imagine in a determined quest to prevent messes at mealtimes (SUCKER!!!) I came this close to buying this hands-free breast pump holster before I decided it was better to just quit pumping. There are easier and cheaper ways to look and feel like a cow.

There is exactly one baby product (beyond the obvious needful things, like car seats and formula. oh yes, formula!) that actually did save my bacon. I will go against the expressed aim of this blog, which is not to educate anyone, and share it with you here. My friends, I give you the Kiddopotamus Swaddleme:

You haven't lived until you have seen two Ph.D.s on 3 hours' sleep huddled over a newborn baby and a regular swaddle blanket frantically trying to make the necessary folds and tucks to achieve the perfect swaddle. It isn't pretty. Fortunately, some genius that is deservedly rich somewhere invented this miraculous, life-saving device, which ranks right up there with the polio vaccine. I guarantee that anyone, no matter how phobic and/or over-educated they are or how little sleep they are on, can successfully swaddle any newborn, no matter how fat and squirmy, in less than 10 seconds. Seriously, find the inventor and give them a Nobel Prize, because I love him/her more than Bono. OK, maybe the same as Bono.

So to recap: Buy the swaddle blanket. Then STOP.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Luxuriating in Illness

First, an update: I am already over the disappointment of having a boy. I think that was pretty dumb on the whole. Much like those of my daughter, my reactions to things are huge, over-the-top, and ultimately fleeting.

In addition, I have worse things to deal with. Like a pernicious virus that has swept through this house like the Asian tsunami, kept me out of work 2 weeks, and left nearly lifeless bodies in its wake. Charlotte succumbed first, running temperatures of 105, and worst of all, sleeping fitfully, an hour at a time. Usually her illnesses, once I determine they are not life-threatening, work to my benefit. She practically slips into a coma. On the rare occasions she is awake, I feel completely justified sticking her in front of the TV because that is all she has energy for. All I have to do is check to make sure she is breathing every now and then. Now, she has never had a vomiting illness, those are a different story entirely. I honestly don't even know what you are supposed to do in those cases, it's not like you can instantly rubberize your entire home. But this recent illness was bad enough. It was like having a newborn again, and once again, it was scientifically demonstrated in the laboratory that I can go exactly 2 days on little sleep without basically becoming a mental patient. It was also once again proven that if I were a stay at home mom, both Charlotte and I would become horrible people. I always instruct her that if she is going to get sick, she needs to do so Thursday-Sunday, days which I am home anyway and have no child care. But this time, she chose to get sick Saturday-Wednesday, meaning I missed an entire week of daycare/work and was home with her for 11 days straight. By the end of that time, her mommy addiction had been fed to the point of complete overdose, like she was coming off a massive crack bender or something. I mean, she was a little terror. And so was I, quite frankly. There is something about being locked in a home with a rabid toddler that starts to wear on a person.

So, when I fell ill with the virus that next Saturday, I was more than a little bit relieved. True, I felt like crap, and I was still pregnant, which makes everything worse. I even vomited twice, something that is so traumatic for me, I cry uncontrollably over my certainly impending death every time it happens, which is mercifully rare. As you might imagine, I've never been a binge drinker. On the other hand, I had the perfect excuse--and for a mom, such a rare experience, like meeting a nice French person--to go in my room, shut the door, and expect her other parent to fully take care of Charlotte. Because, unlike Charlotte, I timed my illness perfectly for once. I had Kevin on the weekend--and workaholic though he is, he could not fail to come to the aid of his sick, PREGNANT wife--then daycare Monday-Wednesday. Things do not always work out like this, and I maintain that there are few experiences in life worse than having to take care of a small child while you are deathly ill. Breast feeding while deathly ill, or even while perfectly well, is the only one I can think of. Perhaps being forced to watch an Olsen twins movie.

But if you have someone to take care of your small child, being sick as a mom is kind of like checking into a spa. Other than the vomiting, of course, although I'm sure there are "cleansing" spas in LA where people pay thousands of dollars to be induced to vomit. This is now Day 4 of laying around in my bed, sleeping, watching a bunch of crap on TV (although if I see one more interview with the Twilight stars talking about their kissing scenes, I believe I will vomit voluntarily), and having your husband wait on you hand and foot, when he isn't keeping your child out of your hair. Which you don't even have to wash. And best of all, I lost a bunch of weight, which I shouldn't be happy about, given I am pregnant, but since my doctor is unconcerned, neither am I. That is why women have piles of cellulite anyway, right? So they can feed their babies even when starving to death? Glad it's finally doing more than preventing me from ever wearing shorts again. At this rate, I may actually stay within the recommended weight gain limits according to those stupid books and only be mistaken for a dolphin instead of a whale in the third trimester.

it's pretty sad that a mom has to contract a violent viral infection to catch a break, but no matter, I'll take it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Oh, the Horror

I had my 12 week ultrasound yesterday (but at 14 weeks because the scheduler apparently cannot do math). Anyway, everything looked pretty good. Except for that penis she saw. Even I could see it. I could hear God taunting me as I gazed at it in horror. Some people will tell you they don't care what they have "as long as it's healthy." I will tell you that I do NOT want to have a boy.

As everyone knows, I don't really like small children, period. A lot of people find that offensive and wonder why I then had children (Ironically, these are the same people who got all worked up 15 years ago when I told people I did not want to have children. I guess some people are never happy.) To me, it's very understandable why I had children, I honestly think it's the same reason anyone has children, so they can one day have GROWN children. Or at least children who do not have a tantrum when you explain to them it is physically impossible for them to sleep in a shoebox.

To me, boys are the distillation of early childhood in its most potent form. Now, I know there are vast differences in individual children, and I have known little boys who are quite civilized and little girls who would put the fear of God into Kim Jong Il. Some people think good parenting makes the difference, but they flatter themselves. I am convinced that nature accounts for at least 75% of the equation, which is terrifying to consider, because it largely turns things into a crap shoot. And I think when one has a little boy, they are more likely to lose out on that crap shoot, at least if they cherish their possessions, their sedentary lifestyle, and their sanity, as I do very deeply. Little boys are the reason why there are products to lock down every object in your home that moves, opens, slides, or electrocutes (none of which I have yet to purchase for my little girl). They are the reason a bottle of Tylenol can't be opened without power tools. They are probably the reason so many lawyers in this country are so rich and why there are disclaimers on things as seemingly harmless as a fitted sheet warning of sure death and destruction if not kept out of the hands of children. In short, they scare the living crap out of me, and I want no part of them.

Unfortunately, I am going to have to get over this, unless I plan to be an even worse mother to this child than I am to Charlotte, which I really can't afford. I mean, when girls go bad, they just tell you they hate you and maybe have a child out of wedlock, which is bad enough, but when boys go bad, they shoot up a school. I have had many helpful friends encourage me by telling me how much they love their little boys and how there are many good things about little boys. Of course, none of these friends are as lazy and pessimistic as I am, but I did find their words heartening. However, to combat my bad attitude, I am going to have to find reasons of my own that are relevant to me and my own life. So, I am going to start now by listing the benefits I might reap from a son.

First of all, and this is a big one, probably the top one--Now that I am having a boy, my cankles are really irrelevant. No one cares if guys have cankles, in fact, it makes them appear more sturdy. My dad has cankles, which he generously gave to both his daughters, and I don't think he has ever agonized over which shoes might make them less noticeable (incidentally, it is a wedge, in case you are wondering). Of course, now my weak jaw, plus autism and psychopathy, are bigger worries than they would be for a girl, but I really don't think anything can trump cankles on a girl.

Secondly, my son may destroy my house, but at least he should leave me alone. I don't think you can simultaneously destroy a house and cling to someone's legs demanding that they hold you like Charlotte does all day, every day. I might even willingly sacrifice some of my Africa Crap for an hour to myself. Of course, this assumes Charlotte eventually grows out of her current preference for living in symbiotic relationship with my lap. My worst nightmare is that she will not, AND I will have a boy destroying everything I own. I can just see myself attempting to run after the boy as he impales himself on a giraffe sculpture while Charlotte desperately affixes herself to my leg. But I think she will have to get over it if she wants to live to see adulthood, which she may not, quite honestly. She gives every impression of wanting to stay an infant forever or to die trying.

In addition, I think I can also use a son to make my husband do more work. For instance, he has never allowed Charlotte to see him in any state of undress, because he thinks it will scar her for life. I think I can make the case that the same is true for a boy child and his mother, which will necessitate Kevin blocking out an hour every day so that I may shower and dress alone in order not to scar our son. Also, it should make him more supportive when I inevitably give up breast feeding. He may actually beg me not to ever breast feed, so when the nazis come after me, I can just blame it on him. That would be pretty awesome.

Next, although having a boy will necessitate I buy a bunch more baby clothes--which will cost money I could have spent on someone really important, myself--I find boy clothes so uninspiring, it's doubtful I will be tempted to buy many of them. It's really the same with men's clothes. Buy three polo shirts in different colors, khakis and a pair of jeans and you should be good for the next 20 years. And even then the only thing that will change is the khakis will probably go back to being pleated instead of flat front. If you saved your pair from the early 1990's, you still won't have to buy anything new, at least until we go all space-age and start wearing Star Trek uniforms.

Choosing a name should also be easier, since there are really like 10 guy names. Put David, Michael, William, Alex, Ryan, Brian, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in a hat and just draw a name. It's really that simple. And boring, but let's stay focused on the positive side of things.

Lastly, for today anyway, boy decor will probably go better in our spare room, the ceiling of which is slanted and painted blue already for an eventual sky motif. If it was a girl, I was going to have to do something really radical, like combine pink with blue. I am not sure the baby decor world could handle that.

Wow, I'm already feeling better. Not really, but I've got 6 more months to work on it. Worst comes to worst, I'll fly in my former boss, Jerry, who can always be counted on to spout an endless stream of annoying yet mysteriously penetrating optimism.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Woman Uses Toddlers to Treat Phobias

(Note: For the more oblivous among you, this is a satirical "article" in the style of The Onion. It is not true, so please don't become outraged.)

A Springfield, Missouri mother with no academic training in psychology has pioneered the next big therapy revolution, what she calls Toddler Therapy. The technique places adults with phobias in the situations they fear with a toddler under their care. The phobic individuals are so consumed by the unruly behavior of the toddler, the fear of the situation itself pales in comparison. Jane Smith explains that she came up with the idea while traveling on a plane with her two-year-old daughter, Susie. "I used to be a nervous flyer. I would do a Hail Mary at take off and landing just in case the plane went down. But flying with Susie, if I thought about death at all, it just seemed like a relief."

Mike Jones was successfuly treated for a fear of snakes. He was paired with 2-year-old Johnny and placed in a room with several non-poisonous snakes. "Johnny immediately started stepping on the snakes, swinging them around, biting them...I couldn't believe it, but I found myself coming to their rescue. I felt too sorry for them to be afraid." Annette Miller had a similar experience while being treated for agoraphobia. Once in a public place with 2-year-old Joey, she didn't have time to have a panic attack. "He was immediately on the other side of the park, had his diaper off, and was peeing on an elderly woman. What was I supposed to do? I couldn't very well assume the fetal position."

Smith's therapies have aroused plenty of controversy. She has been investigated for child abuse and child labor law violations. But attempts to pursue legal action against her have so far not been successful because she has the permission of all the toddlers' parents. "When I first had the idea, I thought it wouldn't work because where was I going to find parents willing to let an emotionally unstable person babysit their kid? ," she says. "Turns out, there are plenty of parents of toddlers who will do almost anything for free childcare." She explains this is particularly true of very badly behaved toddlers, the ones who work best in her therapies anyway.

Still, she worries her legal troubles may one day catch up with her and is exploring other options, including using celebrity adults instead of toddlers. "I think having to cater to Mariah Carey or Diana Ross could have the same effect as taking care of a toddler," Smith surmises. "In both cases, you would have to deal with outrageous, self-centered behavior." She has been in contact with the Los Angeles Police Department about allowing celebrities sentenced to community service to participate in her program. She says both Naomi Campbell and Lindsay Lohan have expressed interest. "I think either of them would be ideal," she says.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Extreme Motherhood: ER Edition

As a Phobic Mom, I have carefully confined myself to the minor leagues of motherhood. As in, I generally do not put myself in situations where a meltdown or vomiting binge would be catastrophic and/or situations where the amount of work I will have to put in exceeds the amount of entertainment Charlotte will get out. For instance, a trip to a nearby park with age appropriate equipment is OK; a trip to Disneyland is absolutely out of the question for another decade. I go to the grocery store alone (or we just eat chicken nuggets, which I buy once a year, in bulk, at Costco). I go to a church with a nursery (you could say I go to church FOR the nursery). I get on planes rarely, and only after drinking. I go out to eat NEVER. I do this not only because I am phobic and lazy, but because I find that Charlotte never appreciates the effort that goes into outings. Her grandmother and I took her to the National Aquarium in Baltimore a few weeks ago, and apparently, the reason we drove for over an hour, paid $20 for parking, paid another $50 to get in, and painfully carried all 30 lbs of her around for 4 hours (because those sadists don't allow strollers) was so she could say, "Go Home!" every 10 minutes. The most fun she had all day was going through her grandmother's purse at the dolphin tank. Which she could have done AT HOME, for free, and without causing me to rupture a disc. So that is where we mostly stay. Eventually, she starts climbing the walls and loses interest in all 539,221 of her toys, and I am forced to take her out of the house, but I consider this a fairly desperate measure.

Given that I think leaving the vicinity of my home is a major ordeal, a trip to the Emergency Room tests the outer limits of human survival in my mind, something akin to the Bataan Death March or being stranded on a deserted island with nothing but a volleyball and an ice skate. I have lived in fear and trembling of just such an occurrence ever since Charlotte was born. But, despite having quit breast feeding, Charlotte has been shockingly healthy, and I went over two years without having to experience the terror.

Last week, my luck ran out. In a big way. Not only did I have to take my child to the ER, I had to take her in the middle of the night. While my husband was overseas (probably on purpose). And I was pregnant. And I had a hang nail. Charlotte had been getting progressively more congested as the day went on, but she was desperately clinging to my legs and eating her chicken nuggets just like normal. By evening, her breathing was pretty loud, so I called her doctor, who asked me some questions and listened to her on the phone and said she thought she'd be OK. So I put her to bed and put on a movie. I went in to check her before I went to sleep, and she sounded kind of like Darth Vader. So I called the doctor's line, the nurse listened to her on the phone and told me to take her to the ER. Now, I must be the worst mother in the world, because my first thought was not, OMG I hope she's going to be OK but, OMG How am I going to survive a trip to the ER in the middle of the night, by myself, pregnant, and with this hangnail? I just knew it was going to destroy her sleep schedule and probably deny me of rest until she was in kindergarten. In my defense, my experience is that American medical professionals are some of the most cautious people in the world so that they don't get sued. My ex-OB (the one I fired for being a crazy Nazi) had me leave work and rush immediately to the hospital when I was 8 months pregnant with Charlotte for what turned out to be gas. So I was a little skeptical of the ER verdict. But what is a mom to do? Can you really afford to call their bluff? I imagined having to call Kevin in Turkey to tell him his baby girl had died because I just didn't have the strength for a visit to the ER. So I got Charlotte into the car and took her in. All by myself, pregnant, and with a hangnail. I felt an instant, spiritual connection to Angelina Jolie.

I will not detail every horror of what followed, but let me just pass on a very important lesson learned. If you have to take your child to the ER in the middle of the night, NEVER EVER assume that just because said child is supposedly deathly ill and would ordinarily be sleeping, they will do so at the ER, rendering toys and other entertainments unnecessary. This would be a tremendous error in judgment. If you make this mistake, you will almost certainly end up in what could be the next TV reality show, where the producers put you and a surprisingly lively small child in a small, sterile room with nothing but a pair of latex gloves, a vomit tray, and a few cotton balls, plus a bunch of other dangerous and/or breakable stuff, and challenge you to entertain the child for 4 hours straight. If you manage to stay calm and emerge with most of your hair still on your head, you win a trip back to your own bed. At 3 am. Still alone, still pregnant. At least you got the hangnail treated while you were there (which will cost your insurance company $439).

So I feel I am now at least in qualifying position for the upper echelons of motherhood. Although I think they only let breast feeders in there.

Charlotte is fine, by the way, and I am also recovering.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Getting things off my chest

OK, you were warned, you knew it was coming, and you almost certainly will be offended. This is the official anti-breast feeding tirade. The good news is the culture is on your side, not mine. I am a horrible mother, who has doomed her child to poor health and below average intelligence. You are Mother Teresa. So you win from the outset. But I have a blog, and this is America, so deal with it.

I hate breast feeding. It is the #1 reason why Charlotte was almost an only child. It is the #1 reason why I am angry at Eve (and God. I know she screwed up, but this is really a bridge too far.). When I see other women breast feeding, I have a deep, down, visceral, primal urge to run screaming into a nearby forest or maybe even a freeway. When I think of torture, I think of breast feeding. When I think of hell, yep, breast feeding. If heaven includes breast feeding, I'm relocating. If I found out Kim Jong Il disapproved of breast feeding, I'd probably move to Pyongyang and consider marrying him. There are many reasons why I hate breast feeding that are too graphic for this blog, but I will say that, in addition to being painful and exhausting, it made me feel like an animal and resent the hell out of my child. And my husband. How convenient that, even though he just yearns to do it, he is unable to get up five times a night so a screaming baby can suck the life out of him. As a a feminist of sorts, I have a real problem with that.

If I am truthful, however, a big reason why I hate breast feeding is that I sucked at it, pun intended, and as much as I milk (wow, on a roll here) the self-deprecating routine for its comic value, I am actually not that accustomed to failure. But I was definitely a failure at this. My breast feeding efforts ended with tearful pleas to Kevin in the Babies R Us parking lot to flee with me to West Virginia and let his mother raise our child, a nervous breakdown in the pediatrician's office, and our lactation consultant's pitying verdict that "maybe this isn't going to work out for you." When the lactation consultant is telling you to quit, you know you are a disaster. It was certainly all I needed to hear. I got me some formula, some sleep, and suddenly, I was reborn. I loved my husband again, didn't start crying every time my daughter woke up, and wore a real bra. It was liberation, baby. But I still felt like a failure. When I went to the mom's group at my church, which is a virtual breast feeding society, I imagined the other women looking down on me from behind their matching Hooter Hiders as I brought out the only bottle of formula most of them will ever see in their lives. (Rationally, I know they probably weren't looking down on me because they are all better people than that, and I know that because some of them read this blog. And, of course, they all breast feed.).

Naturally, I became a militant opponent of breast feeding, because when you have failed at something, the only reasonable thing to do is attack and belittle that which has defeated you. But I probably would be much tamer in my opinions if breast feeding advocates weren't so nazi-like in theirs. The insane lengths these people go to to convince women they MUST breast feed their child at all costs sends me into equally hyperbolic rage. Some of them even argue that adoptive mothers should take hormones so they can nurse their adopted children (which obliterates a major argument in favor of adoption in my view). They distort scientific facts, which are that breast feeding offers only marginal improvements in health and intelligence, findings that in fact cannot be submitted to a classic double blind scientific study and cannot account for individual, genetic differences even among siblings. For instance, my child, who barely got any breast milk at all, has thrown up twice in her life (once when I accidentally gagged her with a toothbrush), whereas my friend's son, who was exclusively breast fed for at least six months, is constantly ill. In addition, formula now contains DHA (the intelligence link) and other fortifications that replicate many of breast milk's benefits; a recent study actually found that premature infants fared better on fortified formula than on breast milk itself.

There is definitely a reasonable argument for breast feeding. The argument that kept me at it for as long as I did was that breast feeding helps you lose your baby weight (you may recall I gained 50 lbs, so I was DESPERATE. But I did find Weight Watchers is a much less painful route, however). I also don't doubt that breast feeding has health benefits, that makes intuitive sense (then again, so do beets, and I'll die young before I eat a bunch of those). For another thing, it costs less. If you use formula, it's probably for the best your kid turns out dumber, because you're not going to be able to afford Harvard after shelling out for Enfamil anyway. If the economy really goes apocalyptic, I'm stockpiling formula, not gold. I would certainly sell some organs and throw in my soul for free for a can. And we could probably erase the national deficit by forcing mothers on welfare to breast feed. I don't know if they grind up diamonds and put it in there or what, but that stuff be pricey. Moving on...I don't really buy the intelligence argument; if you are dumb, you can breast feed your kid til they are 25 and they will probably still be dumb (and certainly my formula-fed child is a genius, I don't think there's any doubt about that). But let's say it makes kids smarter. If that's the case, breast feeding advocates would be wise to keep that to themselves in this competitive, information-based economy. The more formula-fed kids there are, the greater chance their kids will become President of the United States.

But they don't keep it to themselves, and they don't make the reasonable argument that breast feeding has some benefits and some (deranged) women actually enjoy it, but formula these days is pretty awesome, too, and if you are facing a choice between mental illness and Similac, your child is better off every time if you go with the latter. Not a big deal, ladies, not a big deal. Instead they opt for a slightly less relaxed line: You are irrevocably and forever harming your child if you give them the poison the evil, money-grubbing formula companies are doling out, in addition to bringing emotional damage to your relationship with your child, and therefore you should endure any hardship you may encounter--to include a starving infant, nipples oozing with puss, human slavery, excruciating pain, depression, an impaired sex life, hell on earth--to make it work. And I don't really appreciate that. Being a mother is hard enough.

The logical conclusion to this tirade would be to courageously declare that I, Holly, am taking a principled stand, based on my firmly held convictions, and will not even attempt to breast feed my new baby, knowing that it will once again end in disaster. That would be the logical conclusion. But human beings, and especially guilt-ridden mothers who have been brow-beaten by the evil Breast feeding Brigade, are not entirely logical. Come December, I'll likely have a baby's head in my palm, desperately stuffing flesh into its mouth like some kind of sado-masochistic chef. I shudder at the thought. But you mark my words, I am quitting at the VERY FIRST sign of trouble. Take THAT, La Leche League.

PS Please respect my property and do not leave me pro breast feeding sermons in the comments section. They will be deleted. And I may never speak to you again. Just kidding, but barely.