Monthly Archives: September 2008

Better than a cuddle

            The problem with reading to your children is twofold.  One, it encourages verbal development.  I see some folly in encouraging any more language development in my kids, at least until they start talking to one another instead of to me.

            Two, they come to like books.  A lot.

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            They are not supposed to be out of bed before 7:00, and Zachary has a digital clock by his bed to ensure compliance.  If they need to pee, they are to leave silently so as not to wake one another, but neither child actually gets up to pee.

            Lately, we have been bending the rule.  It seems to be now that, if we are approaching 7:00 and you get out of bed without disturbing the other child, you get to climb into the big bed.  On the weekends, there is still a parent or two in the bed to snuggle with.  On weekdays, I have been known to climb back into bed to share an early morning cuddle.

            Unfortunately, Zachary is a smart little bugger, and this policy seems to be encouraging him to get up earlier just so he can get some quiet cuddle time.  We’re going to need to revert to the earlier standard, if only because pretty soon there is going to be a baby demanding that 6:30-7:00 slot. 

            But not quite yet.  And so it was that on one recent morning, the little man and I sat together quietly on the living room couch, a rare moment when he allowed me to embrace him.  After a few minutes, he whispered to me, “Mommy.  I have an idea.  We could do something better than a cuddle.”

            I knew what was coming.  “What’s that Zach?”

            “It’s something next to the couch.”

            “You want a book, babe.”  I couldn’t help but smile, even though it also made me a little sad to know that already, at barely four, he classifies that as superior to hugging me.  “Go ahead and pick one.”

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            Usually, we join the library immediately upon moving somewhere.  But, this move has been so protracted and so overwhelming that we hadn’t gotten around to it.  Maybe the lousy libraries in our London neighborhood had spoiled our interest.  Or maybe we were just overwhelmed.

            Our nanny, however, is subversive.  First, she started talking about the library with our kids.  She planted the seed, encouraging Zachary to subtly request a library card.  Then, she started bringing over library books she had checked out.  Finally, she quietly left two applications for library cards on the kitchen counter.  No comment – just the applications.

            I got the damned cards.  The library is walking distance, and she takes them there all the time, returning one set of books and checking out another.

            She’s encouraging the habit, you know.

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            He sat on my lap while our nanny gave Zachary snack, on the same couch where I had read to his brother in the morning.  “Want book,” he declared.

            “Go pick one.”  He thumped down to the floor, ran over, grabbed The Lady With the Alligator Purse.  I sang it to him.

            “Want ‘nother book, Mommy.”  This time it was Sandra Boynton.  We finished it.

            “’Nother one.”  I despise those books with the full dinosaur names that I cannot pronounce.

            “ Want ’nother one, please.”  A book of British nursery rhymes, which always shock me in their excessive violence, what with carving knives and mice tails and whatnot.

            “Want ‘nother book.”

            “’Nother book.”

            “ Want ‘nother one, Mommy.”

            At least this child lets me hold him while we read.

Nutty

            “What about chickpeas?” I asked her.  “Are they allowed in school?”

            She sighed.  “Well, I don’t know how far the school wants to take the policy.”

            “I’m not asking the school,” I replied.  “I am asking you.  It’s your kid.  The school seems to think chickpeas are fine.”

            “Well, chickpeas are the closest relative of peanuts,” she responded.  “But, he’s not in your children’s class.”

            Our preschool, you see, is nut-free, but the administration seems a bit hazy on the exact parameters of that ban.  Clearly, no peanut butter is allowed, because if Zach went out to play in the yard with some on his fingers, he could leave it behind for another child to touch.  Ready-made anaphalactic shock.  But, when I asked about chickpeas, no one seemed to know the answer.

            My eldest is incredibly picky.  Peanut butter is his largest source of protein.  And not being able to pack it in his lunch is a giant pain in the ass.  Not, however, as much of a pain in the ass as it would be for this other child to end up unconscious or dead.  That would suck even more than my kid doing without peanut butter at lunch.

            So, despite the sensory issues and complicated eating, I support the nut-free policy.  In fact, I think all schools should go nut-free.  These kids cannot go on playdates, they cannot fly on airplanes, they often cannot eat in restaurants.  It seems that maybe the school should be a safe zone.

            To address my son’s need for protein, I have switched breakfast and lunch.  My kids eat peanut butter in the morning, then I pack little Mr. Finicky muffins in his lunch box.  I feed them their breakfast in their pajamas so none gets on their school clothes, then scrub their hands and faces and brush their teeth before taking them to school.  And all the while, we talk about why we must take these precautions.

            Zachary is well aware there is a boy in his school who is allergic to peanut butter, although he is mostly really concerned that the child is allergic to chocolate, which he classifies as a huge tragedy.  He knows that it is everyone’s responsibility to keep this child safe.  And he does not begrudge it.  So, why should I?

            Seems to me this is the perfect opportunity to teach about community responsibility for looking out for one another.

            In the end, we decided spinach with a chickpea base is OK, as long as I tell the teachers to carefully wash hands before the kids are allowed out in the play yard.  Together, we are coming up with the solutions, because I am pretty sure she cannot keep her kid safe all by herself.

Memory brushes the same years

            There seem to be a couple of hundred people who read my posts on a daily basis.  I suspect some of those blog stats come from all the preschool teachers Googling lyrics to a certain song about driving around town in a bus all day.  And some come from people looking for one of the other two Emily Rosenbaums, some twit on a reality TV show and a considerably more serious one who teaches at F*rdham University and has the misfortune of sharing her name with the two of us blockheads. 

            There do seem to be, however, a group of you who actually come back on a regular basis to read what I have to say here.  Some of you are bloggers who I have met online.  But many, many others are people I know from the actual, three-dimensional world. 

            We have moved a lot, J and I.  Each place we live, we meet more people and add them to our group of friends.  Now, as I update our contact list to prepare for the baby announcements, I realize that we know people with zip codes starting in everything but an 8, not to mention the international post codes.  I was thinking of adding John McCain to our baby announcement list, just to have an 8 code, but I couldn’t decide which house to send it to.

            And some of these friends from over the years read my blog.  People in North Carolina and Illinois.  People in London and Columbus.  People in Salem and the Upper Whatever Side and the far outskirts of Beverly Hills.  Stateless people in the District of Columbia.

            These are people who have known me when I was a teenager, through my twenties, into my thirties.  They know my kids’ real names, but they get confused sometimes because they are so used to reading my blog.  They are married and single and gay and straight and even from different political parties.

            And then there are the relatives.  Not mine (I don’t think, but who knows), but my husband’s.  There are a lot of Rosenbaum relatives out there, and one by one, they have started reading.  They may or may not comment on the blog, but now and then I get an email from them speaking to something I have written.

            So, to all of you – the friends, the relatives, the former colleagues, the people stalking me from afar – thank you.  Thank you for caring about us and our family.  Thank you for supporting me.  I love that you read my words, and I hope you will drop me a line to tell me that you are there and have been checking in.

            And, if you know anyone with an 8 zip code, send ‘em my way.  

Did you know that the President’s job is to run the country?

            I was raised in Massachusetts.  I am a thirty-something, secular-Jewish woman with several graduate degrees.  In the humanities.

            Let’s just say that the Republican Party ain’t working too hard to try to win over my vote.  I am a pretty clear demographic, and there aren’t a whole lot of doubts about which way I am likely to swing in any given election.  It probably will shock no one to hear I am pro-choice, list the environment as one of my top concerns, support gay rights, and worry a lot about the public schools.

            All that said, John McCain does not scare the shit out of me.  I know I probably should be able to say more for him, but the fact is, given his predecessor, that is saying quite a bit.  The man seems intelligent enough to run a country, as opposed to certain other recent Republican Presidents. 

            This does not mean I want him to be President.  I disagree with him on so many points it is dizzying.  But, I do not think he is an evil force in the universe, and I do not think he is ill-qualified to be President.  (We’ll leave aside for the moment his totally unqualified running mate who I think is a frightening prospect for this country.)

            I’ll bet that most Democratic politicians also recognize that McCain is perfectly capable of the job to which he aspires.  Yet, we spend our days now listening to diatribes against the man.  Not against his policies, mind you, but the man himself.

            And it goes both ways.  I am pretty sure most Republicans realize that Barack Obama is a pretty smart guy and could handle the Presidency.  Yet, they feel the need to attack him continually.

            Why?  Why can we not debate the issues?  Why can’t we talk about policy plans, rather than personal qualifications?  Why the hell can’t we admit that both candidates are capable, and then move on to talk about their different opinions?  Why does it have to be a popularity contest?

            Are we really that shallow?  Can we really not handle hearing the reason one man likes one set of tax cuts and another likes a different one?  Are we incapable of hearing two different plans for addressing global warming without couching them in personal attacks on the people with the plans?

            Or do our politicians just think we are that dumb?  After all, we do seem to be acting as though Barak Obama is running against Sarah Palin.

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Just saw this video over at someone else’s place  Go watch it — much funnier than my post.

Since so many of you have asked

            When I was 35 weeks pregnant with Zachary, my first child, I started getting Braxton Hicks contractions every night.  They intensified each night, until one day, two weeks later, I found myself in Labor and Delivery wondering aloud whether the anesthesiologist was some kind of a sadist for taking so long to show up and give me an epidural.

            My labor was not all that long, 14 or 15 hours in total.  My delivery, however, was a disaster.  Despite all the rumors that an epidural makes delivery take longer because the woman cannot feel to push, I was apparently an excellent pusher.  The OB and the nurses were pretty damned impressed, in fact, with how well I pushed.  Especially given that I pushed for three and a half goddamned hours.  The suctioned, they episiotomized, and then they finally gave up.  Although the tip of Zachary’s head was coming out with every push, the rest of that scrawny little body was staying inside of me. 

            The verdict?  My pelvis was too small for a baby to get through.  They pushed him back in and wheeled me down the hall for a Cesarean section.  He came out purple and battered from all that time in the birth canal, and I was fortunate enough to emerge with two sets of scars.

            So, it was pretty easy to determine that my second child would be delivered by planned c-section.  At 38 weeks, we calmly went to the hospital, got me some pain control, and the doctor reopened the scar.

            We had a c-section scheduled for this third baby for 39 weeks.  That may seem foolish, waiting so long, but I was hoping to avoid major abdominal surgery prior to my 35 birthday, given that my mother died before her 35th.  So, we scheduled it for the 26th of September, one day after my birthday and one week before my due date.

            And then I realized that meant I would be coming home from the hospital on Rosh Hashanah, which is even more inconvenient when you consider that my kids go to a Jewish preschool that closes for every single holiday.  So, we pushed it off. 

            I am scheduled for a c-section on October 3.  That also happens to be my due date.  It would be very convenient if I actually had the baby that day.  And maybe I will.  Every now and then, life turns out as we have planned it.

            I am having contractions every night, getting more intense and more regular each day.  I get them all day long, too, but the painful, I-can’t-talk ones are in the evening.  I have notes typed up, people on call, and a bag out (although not packed).  Chances are, this baby ain’t waiting for October 3.  Babies have a tendency to like to do things their way.

           While I cannot imagine a more fitting day than today for bringing a new life into the world, I just hope she waits until this afternoon.  I am planning on waxing my legs today.

About her

            She was less than a month shy of 35 when she finally died.

            A non-smoker, she had nonetheless been diagnosed with lung cancer.  By the time she got her persistent cough checked out, she was too sick for anything but palliative treatments.  She got her affairs in order, recorded home movies for her young daughters, and tried to remain hopeful even as the cancer ravaged through her body.

            She did not live to see me turn two.  She did not live to publish her first book.  She did not live to turn 35.

            She left us behind, knowing he could not care for us.  She had no choice.  She was leaving her daughters and knew it and could do nothing to change it.

            My second child has turned two, a milestone I was relieved to witness.  I have not published my first book.  And my 35th birthday is on September 25. 

            I will be on tenterhooks until then.  I am not superstitious, but then again, maybe I am.  Check in with me on the 26th.

Sidekick?

            Have you noticed I rarely write about my husband?  If I do, it is an offhand remark necessary to the telling of a story about someone else (usually one of our children).  He is not often the subject of posts.

            This is not because he is not important to my life.  He is my partner and my friend, and over the past fourteen (sweet heavens, has it been that long?) years since we met, we have grown together in all sorts of odd ways.  We always know where the other is going in a conversation, we often have the same idea at the same time, and we generally have developed a shorthand form of communication.  There are lots more things I could say, but I try not to write too much about him or our relationship here on this blog.

            I fear if I did, it would permeate our relationship.  We would both become self-conscious, knowing that the things we do together or our conversations could become blog fodder.  More to the point, he would never have the comfort of knowing our relationship is completely private.  Our marriage needs to be a safety zone, where we can say anything without fear of public embarrassment.  If I wrote about him, we would lose that place.

            Writing about my kids is different.  I have certain rules in place – pseudonyms, no pictures, nothing that will cause trouble in the Jr. High locker room.  But, the fact is, they do not know I write about them, so it is not a cause for anxiety or self-censorship in our relationship.  I can write about them, record their lives for them, without fearing that it is affecting how we relate to one another.

            Of course, there is always the mommyblogger fear that they will hate me for it later or that I am invading their privacy, which is why my husband vets my writing, acting as their advocate. 

           But him?  He is an adult, he knows what I am doing.  And I just cannot see how our relationship would be the same if instead of being two tired people sloughing through life together I turned us into the observer and the observed.

What in the world will I do with the three hours?

            My baby starts preschool today.  He is ready, this much I know.  He may only be two, but he talks like a three-year-old (in this family – go figure).  He is socially confident, unconcerned with bidding me adieu as long as there are toys and peers to be had.  He will go to and hug pretty much any adult, a concern for security but not for separation.

            Yet, he is still my baby.  I can warn them time and again that he has very high caloric needs, but I don’t think they believe me when I tell them he probably needs to eat more than they do.  My only concern when choosing a lunch box was to find one large enough.  Will they remember when he is running out of control and pushing other kids that he probably needs to eat?  Will he remember to tell them?

            Will they notice when he has a poopy diaper?  Will they take him to pee in the bathroom?  I trust the school, but in a class where he is the only one beginning to potty train, will they let it fall by the wayside?

            Will he push the other kids?  Having a first child who is small and vulnerable to bullies, it horrifies me to imagine my second child will become one.  Will they be strict enough?  Or will he be too busy having fun and not need to create entertainment through violence?

            This is the first in a lifetime of nest-leavings.  I know this.  I know that he will be OK and will have fun and hell, it’s only for three hours.  But, this is the first.  For the rest of his life, he will be leaving me.  I have to trust him to find his way and trust the world to let him find it.  And I have a hard time trusting either.

            Perhaps I should have felt this coming from the day he refused to breastfeed, long before I was ready.  But, we never feel it coming.  And sometimes it feels like we have babies just to give them the power to break our hearts.

            I just hope he leaves enough food at snack time for the rest of the kids.

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On a totally unrelated topic: Our former babysitter recently got married.  She is Colombian, living in Bogota.  We are flummoxed as we try to choose a gift.  We would send a check, but is that appropriate in that culture?  Does anyone know?  Plus, will it be hard for her to cash it?  Any other suggestions as to a nice gift for a woman whom our boys just adored?  

In honor of tomorrow

            It’s his eyes.

            His eyes are earnest, focused on my face as he politely asks, “Mommy, can I please have a cuddle?”  His sincerity is disarming because it is so completely unpracticed.  Like his father, guile eludes him.  His eyes open wide in their earnestness, fixing upon those around him.

            He looks at me with red eyes, because someone has hurt his feelings or he is trying hard to control his exhaustion and overstimulation.  He has had a very long day, worked hard at the task of being four, and he knows his evening behavior is unacceptable.  Yet the weight of the day is too much for him, and his tired eyes beg for the day to be over.

            Or when he is angry and they train on me, telling me I have not acted according to his plan.

            But then he plays, and his eyes turn mischievous, because he is a wood sprite.  He has something up his sleeve, believing himself to be a trickster.  His parents, of course, know the punch line of the joke or the location of the hidden object, but his sheer delight at fooling us is irresistible.  We must play along when his eyes sparkle with delight at the game.

            His eyes are intense.  He does not want us to cuddle him while we read.  Instead, he sits a little apart, those wide blue eyes trained on the book, sucking in every detail of the text in front of us.  Every project he does pulls those eyes forward: to the paint or the blocks or the trains before him.  The eyes may as well have blinders on them, so focused is he on the activities he pursues for well over an hour without ever looking away.

            Oh, the beseeching eyes, as he presents to me his art projects, certain that my approval is all that matters in this world.  “Look, Mommy, I made this for Aaron for his birthday.”  Waiting to see if I like this one, even though experience by now should have taught him I like them all.

            It is his eyes.  They widen with delight, evade detection by looking away when confronted, skip about mirthfully, overflow when he is frustrated, sparkle with intelligence, and droop with exhaustion.  His eyes speak the myriad facets of his personality.

            It is Zachary’s eyes that make him so beautiful.

            Happy fourth birthday, my love.

And, now, back to our regularly scheduled posts

            “Mommy,” he said, in a tone of voice that implies a monologue to follow.  “I am going to tell you a story from my music class at school.”  No pause that might allow someone else to cut in.  “There was a little boy and he had a dragon.  And he didn’t do any of the things that dragons are supposed to do.  He was really nice.  And then one day the boy went away and the dragon was really sad.”

            There the story ended.  He looked at me expectantly.  “Was this dragon named Puff?” I asked.

            “Yes,” he declared, as though I always know the names for the characters in his stories.

            “And was the little boy named Jackie Paper?”

            “Yes,” after a moment’s thought.

            “And did you learn a song about them?” I went on

            “YES, Mommy!  Have you heard that song once before?”

            Once or twice, baby.  I have heard that song once or twice.