baby bookapalooza

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Somebody wantee

I went up to my mom’s last weekend and picked up 133 baby and kid books from the family storehouse. Each of us had some books of our own, especially once we were in the elementary reading range (think Babysitter’s Club and Goosebumps level reading), but most of the learning-to-read books were just passed kid to kid. Why rebuy?

Anyway, my kidlet is years away from using most of these, so I’ll probably share around the cousin network for a while, but it was a hoot to go through the storehouse and pick them out. There are some real gems, let me tell you! Let’s go through in categories.

First, of course, there is the “everybody had some of these!” category. Your Clifford the Big Red Dog, your Little Critter, your Richard Scarry. Oh, and of course your BerenSTAIN Bears, which everybody in the universe remembers as being BerenSTEIN but what do I know.

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I’m sorry this is clearly a prank by a time-traveler, it was definitely STEIN when I was a child

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Oh and while we’re here let me say I think somebody needs a swift slap on the ass

Next, of course, there is the “brand tie-in” category which is now generally dominated by Disney/Pixar. I’m not knocking Disney/Pixar, I’m just saying that my nostalgia button is hit much harder by Duck Tales, The Muppets, and Super Mario Brothers! 

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Okay Duck Tales is still Disney but c’mon

That Mario Brothers book is particularly great because they fully incorporated the magic mushroom element but also carefully backpedaled to discourage children from eating random sewer mushrooms.

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“Great gobs of purple pasta!”

Next up we get the “only nostalgic for me” category, which includes the fantastic story of The Little Red Hen. In this story the titular hen is trying to bake a loaf of bread. She goes around to her lazy friends asking for help at every step of the process, and at every step of the process her lazy ass friends make up shitty excuses and refuse to help. When she finally finishes her bread they all come snooping around and want to eat some. And what is the lesson here, kids? Say, “AW HELL NO YOU LAZY SHITS, I MADE IT MYSELF AND I’LL EAT IT MYSELF!”

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THE END

Also in this category we get the Strega Nona books by Tomie de Paola, about you got it, an old Italian witch grandma!

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Yep that is a boy disguised in girl’s clothing in the back. He just wants to learn Strega Nona’s magic!

Finally, there is the true reason for me cackling to myself all morning and writing this blog post. That would be the “wow THIS isn’t in print anymore!” category. I can’t get rid of any of these, because how would I ever find them again? There are a few different factors at work here. Firstly and dominantly there are all of the fairy tales and fables with gruesome plot lines, which have generally been Disneyfied over the years and spat back out in more kid-friendly versions.

But the “NOW YOU CAN READ!” series did not pull its punches. The vocabulary was simplified for first time readers, but those stories remained the same. Witness the horror that is The Little Mermaid.

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Suggested murder and suicide, cool

There is even this amazing page at the back encouraging children to make their own stories with all these new words they’ve learned.

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KNIFE

The Illustrated Classics that I have stacked up at the top of this post were another glorious series simplifying literature for new readers. Again, the vocabulary is brought down but the stories are the same. I remember reading The Hunchback of Notre Dame and then running, sobbing, to my mom because Esmeralda was executed and then the hunchback crawled onto her grave and died of grief.

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So long, Esmeralda

They even did a Tales of Mystery and Terror by Edgar Allan Poe, which resulted in this fabulous children’s illustration of Fortunato being buried alive in The Cask of Amontillado.

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The moral, kids, is don’t insult a Montresor

My final pick for the evening is the other type of “wow THIS isn’t in print anymore!” book. It was content originally written for children, as opposed to the simplified classics, but ummmmm I’ll let you see for yourself.

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Tomie de Paola strikes again

I do love this one. Oliver likes to dance instead of playing sports, so his parents send him to dance school. By the end the other kids stop making fun of him because they realize he is so good at dancing. It’s just a little story about acceptance and that it’s okay not to conform to gendered expectations. But you know. Woof. That title. That is some 1979 right there. I especially like all the Amazon reviews that say the book is unrealistic because bullies will only bully you worse if they watch you perform. But what are you gonna do? Dance on, Oliver.

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Oh Oliver

conversations with my 11 month old son

seuss horses

We’ll get back to this.

I talk to my son for like… fifty hours a day. He has a very limited vocabulary at the moment (mostly mama, dada, cat, and book, with valiant attempts at ball and nose and towers), so I have elaborated his responses below based on my expert interpretation of his minutest facial expressions.

This is the first in a series, I’m sure.


“Mother, what is that you are doing?”

“Why, this is called cleaning, son.”

“Mother, when may I begin cleaning?”

“Look, son. Everything the light touches is our kingdom. One day, when you are old enough to clean, the sun will set on my time here and will rise with you as the new king…”


“What’s that? What’s that? What’s that?”

“How about I tell you once and you remember this time?”

“Yes, I understand everything perfectly.”


“MOM! MOM! MOM!”

“I am here, son. But why did you summon me?”

“I missed your beautiful face.”

“It is 3 a.m.”

“Yes, but you really are that gorgeous.”


“MOMMMM! May I have a bite of your food?”

“No son, this is not good for you. It is called a Dorito and it is trash.”

“Then why are you eating it, Mother?”

“Because I am an adult and I can do whatever I want.”


“Mother, everything you’ve made me is delicious and I look forward to eating with no complaint.”

“Why thank you, son.”


“Mother, the plot of this book is ludicrous and Dr. Seuss never saw a horse in his life.”

“I agree wholeheartedly.”

“Will you please read me the latest Kameron Hurley instead?”

“Gladly, son.”


“This game is so much fun!”

“I am glad you are enjoying it.”

“Let’s do it three hundred more times!”

“Let’s not.”


“Mother! Let’s watch another episode of Xena: Warrior Princess!”

“That is a fantastic idea, son. Let’s!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

to post or not to post? raising kids in the age of facebook

Over the past few years I’ve been scaling back my engagement with social media– or more accurately, I’ve been thinking more carefully about what I post. The days are long gone when you could stick to a private blog loop with your best friends and trust that nobody else would ever see what you wrote. Heck I’ve gone through a dozen drafts of this post over several weeks before deciding to go ahead with it!

I generally stick to jokes, or the more nostalgic and media-oriented posts of my blog. I might get more confessional over time, we’ll see. Most of my friends and family know I’m insufferable about being taken out of location-tagged posts (hello, stalker central!). I tend to put fake demographics in online profiles because it creeps me out to think of this information being plucked up by invasive online ‘white pages.’

Have you Googled yourself? Horrifying! I even deleted my LinkedIn profile because 1) it’s useless to me anyway and 2) do I really need a public page on which I tell the whole world exactly where they can find me during business hours? Maybe I’m overly concerned about stalkers, but I don’t think you can be too cautious where the Internet is concerned.

Long story short: I hit a balance of online sharing that I was personally comfortable with. And then I had a baby, and now I am frozen with indecision about what to share online. I’m keeping him nameless and with minimal images on my blog, Twitter, or any other public page. I’ll probably leave him off entirely as he grows into his recognizable childhood face.

But what about Facebook, that perennial nightmare? My content is set to ‘friends only’ but that is meaningless due to the ‘share’ button and the fact that I can’t control what other people post to their own friends and varied privacy settings. I frequently see posts in my feed by people I’ve never even met before, because a mutual friend hit the like button. Do they know that a total stranger is seeing their post as a result? Are strangers seeing mine, or are my settings private enough? What about when the next invasive update happens??

The thought of my baby’s entire life being documented on social media squicks me the hell out. I certainly don’t want it to be possible for his future school friends to pluck up embarrassing or private moments from a Google search or by connecting with the right chain of friend-of-a-friend. I also have people I’ve cut out of my life entirely, and the thought of them being able to keep tabs on me and my child because we have mutual social media friends makes me feel ill. Again, my blog and Twitter are public, but I can control my own content here.

I can always stick to email and private message with family. But I also want to share the occaaaaasional photo with friends and that’s so much easier in a Facebook post. Where and when do I draw a line??

So… I suppose this is an honest question to other people raising kids right now! How do you juggle this– or do you even bother?

  • Do you consider this a normal part of the modern age and enjoy documenting your kids’ daily life?
  • Or do you curate down to the pleasant moments and compete with your friends for most photogenic family photo?
  • Or have you kept them off-line entirely, preserving their privacy till they’re old enough to decide what to share?
  • If the latter, do you have a spoken or unspoken agreement with extended friends and family about your web preferences? Was that conversation terrible??
  • Are you reading too much into this post right now and fretting about whether I’m subtweeting you, because if so please don’t?!

I’m not judging any particular answer. I’m honestly curious about how other folks handle this because it is a new generational problem. I’m also interested to hear what non-parents think about the way their parent friends post, but I don’t want it couched in an accusatory manner so be nice!

*nervously hits Publish and hopes I don’t start a Facebook war*

your body is not your own

My baby has been going through some hellish unpredictable sleep patterns recently– due to a series of unfortunate events including our move to a new home, his move to his own room, a never-ending runny nose, holiday excitement–which means I’ve been on a rollercoaster of sleep deprived emotion.

FYI when I’m in a shitty mood I tend to clean. AGGRESSIVELY. If you come over and I am scrubbing counters like they murdered my cat, you know what? Maybe they did.

So my place is pretty tip-top at the moment, and I worked out a night shift system with my husband so that we can each get a stretch of sleep at one end or the other. The baby might be mellowing out again? At least, he slept through till 4 am once last week, and a couple times now he’s only gotten up once before 4. We’ll see how it goes.

The other night I crashed early and left Randy to put the baby to bed. I hadn’t gone to sleep before the baby… ever? Or maybe a couple times when he was a teeny infant, and I only had a 3 hour window till the next feeding? I don’t remember, my short term memory was sacrificed on the altar of god baby.

I laid down, but I could still hear him puttering around in the living room and occasionally fussing, and my HEART WAS POUNDING. I am so physically trained to respond at this point that it was like panic mode. *WEEOO WEEOO BABY IS AWAKE, GET UP, WEEOOOO* I did finally fall asleep and it was amazing, but the incident made it pretty clear that my body is still not my own. You think of pregnancy as the phase where you’re physically wrapped up with another organism but it doesn’t end there. Even if I wasn’t breastfeeding there would still be this aspect of paranoid “where is the baby” care.

This is a hassle but it isn’t a bad thing. I know there’s going to be a sense of loss when I stop breastfeeding for sure, but also when I hit each inevitable stage of further baby independence that is necessary to raise a self-sufficient adult. In the book I’m currently writing, a side character has lost a child and she is kind of all my fears and dark thoughts wrapped up inside a Russian bow-woman.

Because I’ll say one thing for sleep deprivation: your emotions are all at the surface. My mood isn’t swinging, it’s just that every mood I normally have is so clear and convex I could use them as magnifying glasses. They just bubble out around me piercing whatever dares step across my path. Does this metaphor work? It’s 5 am and I’m simultaneously drafting a different blog post in my head about living in a dark, semi-isolated house.

Till then.

ruination

This seems like a good time to write this post. On the one hand, I’ve barely slept in two days because we’ve had a disgusting heat wave and my little sputnik will not sleep when it’s hot. On the OTHER hand, I have recently reacquired the ability to drink coffee. Well, it’s a weak, watery beverage that wants to be coffee when it grows up one day, but it’s still basically coffee. So right now I am in a semi-neutral dream state and feel perfectly objective about all things in the universe.

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I took this photo after a very long day at Comic-Con, during which I passed out while an artist put zombie make-up on my face. But let’s just pretend I took it this morning.

[Before we continue: if anybody is about to jump in crying about the coffee, I didn’t have any yesterday and he still didn’t sleep. It’s the heat.]

Anyway: ruination!

I have a lovely group of friends who often run the gamut of opinions on all things in existence. This naturally includes the topic of children, a topic which is SO FRAUGHT WITH OPINIONS it will draw full-grown men across a grocery store to give strangers advice on how to raise their children (I’m looking at you, Mr. “You have to speak a foreign language to your child between 6 and 9 months”).

Have you ever been on the Internet? The Internet simultaneously loves and loathes children. There are approximately 1.5 billion articles about whether or not to have children (I counted), and most of them fall into one of two camps:

  1. Children are angelic blessings sent directly from God and if you don’t have children you are the saddest and/or most selfish person on the planet, seriously why even live.
  2. Children are time vampires sent from hell to ruin their parents’ lives, overpopulate the earth, and make a ruckus in public when decent people are just trying to have lunch.
  3. BONUS camp: My pets are my babies.

And both sides are furiously determined to be smug about their choice and feel pity for the fools on the other side who clearly don’t know what they’re missing.

Newsflash: babies will ruin your life! If you want a child, the pros will outweigh the cons! If you don’t want a child, you will be miserable and make that kid’s childhood miserable as well! I don’t know why it’s so hard to acknowledge that this experience, like so many others, falls along a spectrum and there isn’t one correct decision. You don’t have to justify your life by proving other people are wrong.

(I do understand that there is a more complicated back-and-forth than that. The “Married > House > Children” life path was such an expectation in the previous generation that a growing chunk of the current generation must defensively explain their disinterest in kids… which leads to lots of parents feeling belittled and obliged to defensively insist that kids are the best thing that ever happened to them. I have more sympathy for the childfree camp, because you shouldn’t have kids if you don’t want to and you shouldn’t have to explain why. But, you know, you don’t have to pity parents to feel secure about that.)

The word ‘ruin’ has negative connotations, so we could just as easily use ‘transform.’ But if you birth/adopt/foster a child and continue to raise that child, say goodbye to your old routine. I mean ‘ruin’ in the sense that your prior life ceases to exist, and is replaced with a new one. Depending on how much you enjoyed your old ways, and depending on how well you handle change, this may be a new adventure or it may be utter ruination.

I’m not going to bother explaining why I wanted a baby, because these explanations inevitably reek of judgment no matter how you word them. Suffice to say, I knew what I was getting into and I don’t regret it. No lie, it’s a chore to juggle work and life and feel like I’m still there for everything at home. There isn’t really a way around that unless the only thing you ever wanted to do was stay home with a baby, and now you get to stay home with a baby (in which case, kudos on having it all).

At the same time, I feel like my life has gone through a magnifying glass and narrowed down to a streamlined point, and I’m increasingly on board with this. I used to over-commit like crazy (three jobs and an Etsy shop and several sets of friends to keep up with and also writing a book?) but the baby has given me a socially acceptable and mandatory-for-sanity reason to whittle out the fluff.  Faced with the very limited nature of my time, and the very time-consuming nature of the baby, I had to decide what the most important bits in my life were, because the rest was going bye-bye.

I stripped back to one part-time job (sidenote: yes, I was in a privileged position to be able to do this in the first place).  I limit most of my social activity to big family events, plus a monthly Book Club with one group of friends and a monthly Dinner Club with the others. And I kicked all of my hobbies except reading and writing. No arts and crafts, no big theme parties requiring massive preparation, no popping out to happy hours left and right, and (gasp) minimal web surfing.

And you know what? It has been incredibly liberating. I have become so efficient with the personal time I do carve out of the day, that despite my responsibilities I’ve been more productive in the writing arena this year than in the last several, and I’ve certainly read more books. It is so calming for me to look at my schedule for my days off and realize: I’m not going anywhere. When the baby takes a nap I’m going to write for a while, and maybe I’ll read a bit before bed.

This probably sounds horrifying to other socially active folks, and I am surprised and relieved to have adapted so far. Obviously I chafe now and then and feel left out when I don’t attend a party or manage to see a movie before it leaves theaters, but I also don’t feel guilty at the end of the day because I went to a party or the movies instead of working toward my personal writing goals.

Which is a very long way of saying: your mileage may vary. And that’s okay.

six month review

Dear body,

Has it been six months already? Close enough! I don’t think another week is going to make much of a difference, to be quite honest.

Right before giving birth, we were so in tune, body. I don’t think I had ever felt so connected, so solidly grounded in you before. Sure I had all of those comedic aches and pains, but I was hyperaware of you in a fascinating way. I was conscious of every movement and every sensation. I was, very simply, at home with my appearance and my physicality.

Immediately after the baby was born, I was left in this flabby, deflated meat sack devoid of a wriggling little body to make the extra weight worthwhile. I felt like an alien in my  own skin, uncomfortable and unattractive.

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Like a… an E’gar suit.

I’m relieved to say I’ve come out of that feeling, and my body somewhat feels like my own again. Let’s take a look at where we are now!

You’ve bounced back better than expected, weight-wise. You’ve lost over thirty pounds since returning from the hospital. Fifty pounds, if you count the act of childbirth itself! Technically you are back at your starting weight, though it’s been redistributed slightly. You’ve got a bit of a pooch where… well, there wasn’t no pooch, but there was less of one. We’ll keep working on it.

You’ve got some rad tiger stripes on your belly and hips now. I actually have nothing bad to say about that, they’re like battle scars.

But speaking of battle scars: eugh. Let’s take a moment to talk about the psychology of childbirth. I was pretty doped up, but not completely numb, and even being able to feel a bit of what was going on down there convinced me most heartily that I never want to feel the whole thing.

Let’s just say I had a couple of nightmares in the weeks after our return home. The kind of nightmares in which you’ve got a gory gaping wound between your thighs and not much else. When the doctor says that you’ll be healed by your six-week follow-up appointment, they mean in the most technical physiological sense that your flesh has closed and is no longer at risk of infection. It took closer to five months for me to feel normal. So two thumbs up to that!!

In other news, breastfeeding is simultaneously the best and the worst.

My life.

My life.

Because when I say my body is my own again, I only mean that in a conceptual sense. Really body, you are enslaved to the baby for now. After some burst blood vessels and a bout of mastitis, breastfeeding has long since ceased to hurt, but producing milk is still your primary function.

Reason it is the best: mostly the bonding. The baby looks to me for comfort. We smell the same–a fact which at first contributed to my feeling like an alien, but which I am now so used to that I’m going to have a whole different identity crisis when it goes away. And it is so cute when he nuzzles up and dozes off.

Reason it is the worst: mostly the shenanigans necessary to maintain milk supply while working part-time. I’m glued to the dang pump both at work and on my days off in order to build up enough backstock for babysitters. I have to carefully plan how long I’ll be away from the house. When I am home I have to do every single feeding myself rather than waste precious, precious bottles. And I require… so much gear.

My actual purse vs. my accouterments.

My actual purse vs. my accouterments.

All in all, I think we are doing okay, body. We’re on track to being trim and healthy, the baby is thriving on your flesh, and we are very nearly sleeping at night. I suppose I’ll keep you around… for now.

Talk to you again soon!

-Sam

fatigue and irritability

On top of everything else that baby-making has wreaked upon my body, I learned this week that I have a thyroid disease. Wooooo. To be fair, it’s very possible I already had it and just didn’t know about it, in which case… thanks for bringing it to my attention, I guess? For various reasons I won’t be starting any medication for a while, which means living with the symptoms for now.

Two of the big ones? Fatigue and irritability. Which made me laugh, because these are also the chief symptoms of getting up every night to feed a baby. And hoo boy do I have them. The fatigue goes without saying, but the sheer intensity of my irritability took me by surprise, and it is almost a relief to find out there is more than one cause. Because I’m not talking mere annoyance. I’m talking flames.

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On the side of my face.

I’ve been going from zero to furious at the drop of a hat (because who left this hat here, I just cleaned this room and now there’s fricking hats all over ugggghhh). I’ve mostly managed to keep it bottled behind a bland expression, because logically I know there is no reason to be angry and therefore I shouldn’t take it out on the people around me, but logic does little to cool me down. (I should mention, before anyone gets worried, that about the only thing in the world right now that doesn’t irritate me is the baby himself. Cuz he’s just a baby.)

Long story short, I thought it would be cathartic to write out a list of things that have infuriated me lately, so I can hold them up, acknowledge their ridiculousness, and hopefully give everyone else a bit of a laugh in the process.

Without further ado:

Merges. You know, lanes of cars. Everybody gets irritated when people don’t merge properly and the lanes back up. But I’m irritated even when everybody merges perfectly. There can be one other car and he’s way ahead of me so there is no conflict, and I squeeze my fists around the wheel anyway because UGH MERGES.

The radio not playing what I want. I don’t want to listen to this!!

Oh, and cars that have the nerve to drive down my street when I’m putting the baby to bed. YOU IDIOTS DON’T YOU KNOW THERE IS A BABY ON THIS STREET?

Librarians from the 1930s. One in particular who was quick with a bottle of glue. I want to build a time machine so I can go back in time and slap her in the face.

Well-meaning advice. Deep down I know that you are only trying to be helpful, and that I can listen to your opinion and then take it or leave it. But on the surface it sounds prescriptive, and if there was ever a time in my life that I liked being told what to do, it certainly isn’t today. For now it’s probably better to keep it all to yourself, because I might slip and give you dagger eyes and then I’ll just feel guilty about it, but I won’t apologize because that would mean bringing the conversation up again.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

My hair. Why won’t it do what I want??

The Facebook news feed algorithm team. Who wrote this shitty new algorithm? Why can’t it just show me what my actual friends have actually posted? I don’t care what pages my friends like. I don’t care when my friends comment on threads made by people I’m not friends with. And for the love of god I want it all in chronological order!

My neighbor with the big “Irish Pride” tattoo. He never wears a shirt. He walks his dog on the slope behind our windows, presumably so he can sneakily avoid picking up its poop. He’s single-handedly responsible for the new sign that says no alcohol in the pool area. He is, say it with me:

He's the worst.

He’s the worst.

And finally, a shout out to songs that get stuck in my head at night. My heart boils but there is nowhere for the excess heat to go. I chew on my fury as half of a chorus loops on and on because my tired brain is glitching and I can’t make it stop. And when I wake up in the morning, it’s still there!

So thank you for your patience, I’ll get back to normal eventually. For now, forgive the dagger eyes and the curt, insincere-sounding thank yous. Rest assured, it is mostly in my head. Mostly.