New Mama Musings

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Why Do They Do the Things They Do?

There are many things I don't understand about one-year olds. Here are a few of them:

When they're pinching you and you ask them to please stop, why do they cry?

Why do they put everything (and I do mean everything) in their mouths? For instance, one of the mamas in my Due Date Club on Mothering said her son ate peacock poop at the zoo. Why would a person do this?

How is it that they're so easily distracted that wailing and gnashing of teeth turns into smiling and chattering with a simple, "Look, there's a truck!"

Why would they rather smear snot over their entire face, including in their eyes, then let you take five seconds and wipe their nose with a tissue?

Why do they continue to do something that either hurts or clearly isn't working, like trying to close a lid on their own hand? Isn't that the definition of insanity?

Ah, well. I'm sure they're wondering what the hell we're doing most of the time, too.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Music Appreciation

Last night Henry had a very bad time of it. He'd had a fever for over 24 hours and I suspect he has a molar coming in, because he was practically inconsolable.

At one point I was sitting up in bed rocking him, and the only way I could get him to stop crying was to sing to him. When I finished my rendition of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" he lifted his head off my shoulder, put his little hands together, and clapped.

Oh, my boy.

Friday, September 15, 2006

A Tour of New Mama's Neighborhood

Come along with me as we take a walking tour of my neighborhood. (Click on any photo to enlarge it, if you're really that interested.)

The first thing we see when we walk out my front door is this sign on the edge of my next-door neighbors' property:

Thanks, K. and I.! I hope you put up that impermeable shield between our yards before spraying toxic chemicals right next to where my one-year old likes to put grass in his mouth!

These neighbors have been nothing but nice to us. However, they also smoke cigarettes on their back patio and use a gas-powered weed whacker every weekend all summer long, making it difficult for us to keep our windows open. But hey, they say hello and wave when we walk out to our car!

Continuing on, to the same hundred block but one street east, we find this charming abode:

This guy lives here:

I could not (and more importantly, would not) make this shit up.

Backtracking a bit, and heading a block east, we come upon this monstrosity:

The photo does not do justice to the junky trashiness that is this family's yard. (Remember, you can click on it to see it even bigger.) Trust me, as bad as this looks, it's one hundred times worse in reality.

Let's walk a little further east, because the abortion house left me wanting to see more yard signs of a biblical nature:

These people even change the message regularly. Why? Why?

Continuing on now, going south toward the park, we find this establishment:

Notice the "Freedom Is Not Free" written to the right of the Statue of Liberty? Yeah. And guns don't kill people; people kill people. Using guns.

The park a few blocks east of the gun shop (there's just something wrong about that description) is actually really nice, one of the few things I like about our neighborhood.

But this blog entry is not about the positives in my community, so let's turn around and walk northeast, shall we?

Ah, it's our friendly neighborhood liquor store, open for business at 10am on a Friday. Could that sign be any bigger? If only they were less cryptic about their wares...

Having loaded up on 40-ouncers and cigarettes, and heading a bit more northeasterly, we find this:

I mean, no community is complete without a deer processing shop.

And finally, a bit out of walking range, but included because I find it funny:

I really need to grow up, because I also find humor in the sign for Mount Hope Lutheran Church just down our street.

Not included in this photo essay is the "gentlemen's" club offering topless dancing about half a mile away from my house. According to their MySpace page they offer a "FREE PRIVATE DANCE WITH EVERY LINCH ORDER!" (I guess they mean "lunch," but I'm certainly not going to correct them.)

Also not included is the mile-long race track that hosts NASCAR competitions and other events. It's about one-and-a-half miles from my house, but we can still hear the little cars buzzing around and around and around even when we're inside.

This is where I live, people. This is home.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Location, Location, Location

I'm going to get right to the point: I hate where we live.

Not the house; the house itself is a lovely 1931 bungalow with Spanish plaster, coved ceilings, hardwood floors, and leaded glass windows.

And if I could move it about fifteen miles northeast of here, I'd be in heaven.

We used to live about fifteen miles northeast of here, in another cool and even older house, on what's known as the eastside. But it was too close to college kids who liked to leave parties at 3:30 in the morning -- weekends, weekdays, it didn't matter -- yelling, fighting, breaking bottles in the street, and peeing on the lawn. My husband and I were trying to get pregnant and I couldn't envision having a new baby at home with that going on outside. It wasn't all the time, but I knew the first time it woke up the baby I would be furious and I just didn't need that kind of stress.

At the same time my stepkids were getting older and bigger and the house seemed to be shrinking. They would take over the livingroom to play video games and I felt like there was nowhere for me to go and read a book. The house was also loud; its open staircase and squeaky stairs made it hard to be quiet even when we were trying to be.

So I had this crazy idea that we should move out to the end of town the kids' mom is on. Houses are much cheaper here so we could afford a nicer, larger home on a quiet street. The plan was to stay here until my second stepson graduated from high school (my stepdaughter is three years younger than he is, but since she has Down syndrome we figured she wouldn't be coming and going like the boys are anyway) and then move back to the aforementioned desirable part of town.

I knew going into this that the kids' end of town was working class, unhip and definitely not liberal. What I failed to calculate was how much this would bother me. I foolishly thought, hey, we just hang out in our house most of the time and when we want to go somewhere fun we can just drive back to the eastside.

Yeah. That's what I thought. I completely underestimated how important it is to feel like I belong where I live. How stepping out my front door and seeing sign after sign saying "Support Our Troops" on an American flag backdrop would kill my soul. How hearing moms threatening to spank their kids' butts in the local Walgreens would depress me. How big of a deal not having a neighborhood coffee shop to hang out in would be. And how having a TV in the children's library blaring Elmo's World would cause me great dismay.

When I tell people where I live, I always, always qualify it: "We used to live on the eastside; we just moved here to be closer to my stepkids and have more room for them; we're planning on moving back to the eastside in a few years."

I wonder sometimes if other people really are judging me for living where I do or if all the verbal gymnastics just make me sound like a snob. As my husband said, though, I'd rather sound like a snob than seem like I don't realize the truth about where I live. Which also sounds snobbish, but there you have it.

The worst part of all of this is that I feel like I'm putting my life on hold until we move again. We're putting our time in here, my husband said. I don't really want to get to know the neighbors, or form attachments, or get involved in the community. I don't want Henry to make friends with the kids down the street who pretend to shoot their toy guns at passers-by. I don't want to spearhead a "pesticide-free parks" campaign because almost everyone sprays their own lawns anyway. I don't want to hang out with Henry in the local library while another mom complains that I turned off the television.

I should mention here that I realize this is a minor problem in the scheme of things. Hell, I shouldn't call it a problem at all in light of what's going on in the world. But as my eighteen-year old nephew would say, we're not talking about other people...we're talking about me and my life. (It's hard to refute that statement, isn't?)

We've been here two-and-a-half long years now and while I no longer feel the desperation I did in the beginning, I still regret moving here. And so my husband and I have called a mortgage broker and our realtor, and we plan on moving sometime next year...two years earlier than we originally intended.

It's amazing what a short-term goal can do for your attitude. I'm already packed in my mind.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

In the Swim

Last Sunday Henry went swimming for the first time. I know, I know, summer is over and we didn't even take the kid swimming until then. But judging by his lack of enthusiasm last weekend, I don't think he missed much.

Even hanging on to Daddy on the stairs, Henry didn't look too sure.

"You want to take me where?"

In the pool now, still not too thrilled. "That's a lot of water."

Back on the steps. "I will stand here stoically if you insist."

"Ah, running around and around the pool while Mommy chases me with the camera...much better!"

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

When Babies Attack

There's a dark underbelly to this mothering business that no woman ever discusses: the tiny human who needs you the most sometimes treats you the worst.

I'm not talking about the strain of pregnancy, or the agony and ecstasy of labor and delivery.

I'm talking about when babies attack.

Henry is a very loving, cuddly, sweet little guy, but he has a few habits I could live without.

One of them involves his index finger and my toes. Have you ever had someone repeatedly, no matter how often you say "no" or how diligently you move your feet, stick their finger in between your toes? I think the only reason people were put on the rack in medieval times is that they never thought of the "toddler-sticking-his-finger-in-between-your-toes" method of torture.

And then there's the frantic burrowing into me in the middle of the night when Henry wants to nurse. Yes, I know you want to breastfeed. Yes, I'm trying to pull up my shirt, unhook my bra, and expose the boob so you can latch on. But I can't do that if you keep bulldozing your arms and head into my body.

Also, while I appreciate that Henry is an affectionate baby, sometimes he takes it a little too far. Occasionally, in an insane person's version of kissing, he likes to lunge at my face with an open mouth, all sharp teeth and glistening drool. Even when I try to move away to avoid the onslaught, he just keeps on coming. It's like "Jaws," only with babies.

Have I mentioned the pinching? Henry finds it very interesting how my skin lumps up into a little hill when he pinches it together. Very, very interesting.

Along with the pinching, I'm sorry to report, comes the smacking. In the face. Repeatedly.

But the worst insult of all, the one that gives me nightmares, is the biting. Sure, he's only broken the skin once or twice. And yeah, he's usually only trying to nip my clothing and gets me accidentally. But goddamn, it's annoying to be thinking how sweet it is that your kid is hugging your leg while you wash the dishes, only to have him bite you in the back of the thigh.

I know, developmentally speaking, Henry doesn't realize that what he's doing hurts me. And I know that there's not much I can do about it beyond saying the obligatory "be gentle" and then distracting him.

But sometimes it's just not easy being the bigger person.