Monthly Archives: October 2008


            The last time my sister and I saw each other before the Great Cat Scandal was December 2003.  Her family visited us in Philadelphia for a couple of days before Christmas.  We kept the visit short because J and I had an event for his family up in New Jersey on Christmas day.  This would be the last time my sister and I were on speaking terms,  yet I do not regret heading up to New Jersey for what can only be described as a remarkable reunion of my husband’s family.

             J’s paternal grandfather, Martin, left Germany in the 1930s and began to build a life for himself in the United States.  He brought over his two brothers and the aunt who had raised them.  As it became increasingly apparent that it would be prudent for any and all Jews to hightail it out of Germany, Martin sponsored many German Jews, helping them establish lives in the United States.  There were several relatives among them.  And, on Christmas day 2003, we headed up to New Jersey to meet one of them.

            Martin had died in his 40s, and so his children had lost touch with many of the relatives he had sponsored.  J’s father – Martin’s son – had never met this branch of the family and was only recently in touch with them.  When we arrived, we realized the significance of what J’s grandfather, a man he had never met, had done.  We met the man he had saved, but we also met the large family this cousin had gone on to have.  Without Martin’s encouragement and material aid, this man would have remained in Germany and surely have been interred and killed, and this multi-generational family would never have come to be.

            When we got in the car to drive back to Philadelphia, I would like to say we talked about how extraordinary the day had been.  Instead, we returned to our all-consuming obsession: wondering whether or not I was pregnant this month.  I had been giving myself shots, so we were hopeful that maybe this month we had beaten the infertility. 

We talked about what we might name the baby.  For Ashkenazi Jews, naming babies is complicated.  We are supposed to name for a dead relative.  Actually, we only need to use the same first letter as the dead relative, but that can be onerous enough.  The letters are almost always terrible, and when there is a good letter, it has been completely used up by the rest of the family.  M names for boys, for example, had been exhausted by my in-laws on their sons’ first and middle names.  As we drove down the Jersey Turnpike, we agreed that, if it was a boy, maybe we’d name him after J’s maternal grandfather and my grandmother.

            Nine months later, that’s exactly what we did.

            It got more complicated with our second boy, whom we wanted to name after my mother.  Her name started with a G.  There was not one single name we both liked that started with G.  After J rejected Gideon and Gabriel, we settled on giving a first name we liked and a middle name after my mother.  It’s the Hebrew name that counts, anyway. The Hebrew name is the “real” name as far as the religion is concerned, and Benjamin’s Hebrew name does indeed closely follow my mother’s. 

            The boys got their Hebrew names at their brises, although I must admit I was too traumatized by the whole surgical part of the event to be as moved as I could have been by the symbolic portion.  Tomorrow, Lilah gets her Hebrew name at our synagogue.  There will be relatives, there will be friends, there will be food, and there will be no cutting, so I should be able to pay attention.

            Tomorrow, Lilah will be named Michal.  She will be named for Martin.

She visited me once after the Scandal broke, but she was clearly still furious with me.

Pump up the volume

            We’ve all heard the tales.  There is a baby who poops only once every fourteen days because breast milk is so completely digested.  There is a newborn who slept through the night at one week (OK, that was my second son).  There is a four-year-old who admits to knowing less than his mother.

            They are the parenting urban legends, stories that are whispered from one parent to another, tales that seem almost credible but not quite.  Children will eat green beans if you introduce them early.  Drinking a glass of wine before breastfeeding calms a colicky baby.  If you let her go out without her mittens, she will get cold and eventually agree to wear them.

            And, the mother of all urban legends, nipple confusion.  This truism holds that breastfed babies who are given a bottle will fall in love with the ease of that artificial nipple and henceforth refuse the organic one.  Before we have our first child, the lactivists accost us in parenting classes and in the aisles of Buy Buy Baby, warning us of the pitfalls of allowing a bottle within twenty feet of our newborn.  Even seeing another child taking a bottle might corrupt our little ones.

            Well, it is possible there are kids out there who find bottles so alluring they immediately give up the breast and turn to a life of bottle-feeding and crime.  But, my kids are not confused in the slightest.  They have all known exactly what they want.  And it is right there in front of me, leaking through my shirt.

            Another urban legend is that giving a bottle early will convince a breastfed baby to take an occasional “relief” bottle.  I’m here to tell you that we’re a little short on that particular brand of relief in the Rosenbaum household.  With Zach, I pumped and pumped and the child screamed and screamed every time that bottle came into the same room with him. 

            I had a hard time pumping.  I let down beautifully for the baby, but I never really bonded with the pump.  So, I would sit there at my little milking machine, making almost no progress, frustrated that I could be revising my dissertation instead of pumping out two scant ounces that the baby would promptly reject.  We finally gave up, introducing a cup at four months instead.

            With Benjamin, we gave up even sooner, having been so scarred by our experience with his older brother.  But, with Lilah, I really wanted to try.  I have two other kids, and it would be nice to be able to leave the baby for a little while so I can spend time with her brothers. 

            It all started out auspiciously.  The pumping went swimmingly because I started while engorged and used a manual pump instead of the article of torture called the Pump in Style.  I began freezing milk.  J looked on in derision.

            “I don’t know why you are bothering,” he said.  “She’s not going to take it.”

            “This one will,” I asserted, willing it to be true. 

            For the record, this one won’t. 

            And so, I pump and I freeze and we try, but we are getting nowhere.  I keep pumping because I want to keep my supply up, yet I know the chances are this baby will never tap into the 200 ounces of breast milk already clogging my freezer.  Yet, I hold to it, the thought that someday, sometime, I will leave her with our nanny without getting a desperate text message 45 minutes later, begging me to come home.

            A girl has to have dreams.

C-word, part two

            Well, it turns out Lilah has reflux, which explains the vomiting and constant crying.  I’d cry too if eating hurt.  I took her in to get tested on Monday.  She was pretty pissed about getting strapped down and being forced to drink barium, but since it ultimately got her some relief, I’m betting she’ll forgive me.

            The doctor called yesterday and told me there were three possible treatments.  The first is putting her in a car seat after eating so she is upright.  Now, I don’t know about other parents, but I usually do not lay my kids on their backs immediately after eating. I hold them upright.  From which position Lilah proceeded to vomit.  Clearly, the car seat was not a viable solution, especially since she hollers the entire time she is in it.

            Then, there was the next treatment.  The doctor said we could thicken my breast milk with rice cereal.  To be clear, this solution would involve me pumping all the feedings and then putting them in a bottle with some cereal added.  Need I even explain why that one made no sense?  I won’t get into all the reasons, but let’s just start with the fact that the best thing about breastfeeding is that it is far more convenient than bottles.  And the bonding.

            So, on to the last treatment, which is medication.  I know a lot of people don’t like to medicate their babies, and normally I am in that same boat.  However, let’s review the other options: vomiting in the car seat, pumping and using bottles until she forgets all about the breast, vomiting all over her mother.  We’re going with the medication.

            Praise the Lord and pass the pharmaceuticals. 


            There’s an election coming up, and I have no idea how I am going to vote.

            Sure, I know I’m voting for Obama, but that is just the start of my civic duty.  See, I live in California, where they take the democratic process very, very seriously.  In every other state I have lived in, it has been up to the legislature to legislate.  Here, apparently the electorate does its fair share of making decisions.

            We have these things called Propositions.  Not one or two, like Massachusetts or Pennsylvania.  We have twelve.  Twelve propositions.  I am supposed to get educated on twelve ballot initiatives.

            Fortunately, the state kindly puts out a handy little booklet with all of the propositions, the pro and con arguments for each, plus a bonus section alluringly titled “An Overview of State Bond Debt.”  All I have to do is read all 143 pages prior to Election Day.

            I have been working on it, and so far what I can tell you is that the crazies have been mighty busy here in California.  We’ve got it all: a parental notification proposition, a proposition to send more minors to adult prison, and the one I like to call the Chicken Proposition.  Don’t ask.

              Of course, my favorite is Proposition 8.  I like that one because at least I know how I am going to vote on it.  I still think it is stupid that I, a straight woman, am voting on whether two men or two women can get married to one another.  Doesn’t seem like my business.  But, it’s on there, so obviously there are folks who think that other people’s love lives are up for discussion.

            I am starting to get nostalgic for Pennsylvania.  Sure, it snows a lot, but there are no wildfires, no earthquakes, and one lone Sewer Bond Measure on the ballot. 

            Oh, and did I mention that the city has a few Propositions, too?


            Starting October 1, Zachary figured he had carte blanche to begin Halloween preparations.  He had been scheming about his costume for months, and I had finally given in and ordered the one he wanted, but there was ever so much more left to do.

            First, he needed several trips to the party store to stock up on skeletons and fake gravestones, not to mention one creepy looking two-foot rat.  Second, he needed to pull out all the decorations we had in storage from back in the day when the adults were allowed to choose the slightly more dignified orange lights and smiling ghosts.  And, third came the pictures.

            The Halloween pictures.  The ones he has been drawing, painting, and stickering for almost a month now.  Every single afternoon.  We have a collection of something like thirty pictures that he intends to distribute around the house.  Our nanny, having some compassion for her employers, has suggested that perhaps we could string them together, rather than taping them floor-to-ceiling in all of the rooms.  Personally, I am campaigning to hang them outside.

            Zach has also been cruising the neighborhood on a regular basis, surveying the competition and, I presume, gathering inspiration.  Now, every time either child sees so much as an orange streamer, they cry, “Mommy, look at the Halloween decorations.”  Since four syllables are a bit much for Benjamin, the last word requires a bit of context, but after the thirty-seventh time, we are pretty clear on what “Hallowdations” means.

            Two weeks before Halloween, we went to the “pumpkin patch,” which isn’t an actual patch but rather a parking lot with a wide selection of pumpkins and a bouncy castle.  Zach wanted six.  His father limited him to one large pumpkin per child, plus a couple of small ones for good measure.  Of course, pumpkins require carving, and there was much discussion of how and when to begin the process.  Yesterday afternoon, the pumpkin massacre commenced in my kitchen.

            With less than a week to go before the big night, Zach moved on to the next phase: the candy purchase.  For an entire week prior, he told me every day: “I can’t wait for next weekend.  Daddy says we can buy our Halloween candy.”  They came home with five bags.  Who do they think is going to eat all the leftovers?

            My fear, of course, is that the actual night cannot possibly live up to the hype.  Except – I think it usually does.  Birthdays, vacations, and of course Valentine’s Day are pretty much doomed to be let-downs, but as far as I can tell, Halloween is usually all it is cracked up to be.  There’s very little that can be disappointing about people handing out free candy.

            November 1, on the other hand, may really piss him off.

The C-word

            Sometimes, I write a post and I just know how a particular person will react.  Every time I write about vaccination, for example, I know a certain doctor friend in New York who reads every day but never comments will suddenly unearth himself and pop in with some support.  (Apparently, he also supports my grammar posts.)  When I write about Zachary’s troubles, I know his grandmother will probably call or email shortly thereafter.

            And I know that, when reading today’s post, Caroline will suck in her breath and exclaim, “Oh, we know about that,” prior to leaving a sympathetic comment.  (No pressure, babe.)  Because, she does know about that.

            Yes, today’s post is going to be about the C-word.  Not that C-word.  The other one.  The five letter one.

            It appears that we have colic in the house.  (Cue Caroline.)

            When her youngest child had colic, Caroline would euphemistically refer to the evening as the “social hour,” even though it left no one feeling social and it lasted a hell of a lot longer than an hour.  Ours begins sometime around 6:30 or seven and lasts on average two-and-a-half hours.  Sometimes more, occasionally less.  And, what does our otherwise sweet baby do during this time?

            She screams.  And flails.  And sometimes throws up from her agitation.  And screams some more.

            There is little I can do to calm her, although every now and then while pacing with her I will find she suddenly stops.  And I freeze wherever I am in whatever position I may be.  I stand there with the silent, panting, wide-eyed baby for maybe five full minutes until she start squirming or screaming again.

            I do try to calm her much of the time, although, to be frank, the screaming seems to have no relation to anything I am doing.  She just seems to need to scream, so sometimes I pick up a book and read while I am holding her.  If nothing I does makes any difference, I may as well get a chapter read.

            As far as I can tell, the day is overwhelming for her, and she needs to let off some steam before bed.  The colic does seem worse on days she gets more exposure to Benjamin, which makes sense, as I, too, find him overstimulating.

            The one sure-fire way to calm her down is to put her in the Bjorn and go for a walk.  Unfortunately, that also puts her to sleep, and she will then wake up the minute I take her out.  It only delays the inevitable screaming, because I really cannot go to bed wearing a Baby Bjorn.

            And, yes, I have tried skin-to-skin, burping, singing (as much as what I do can be called singing), walking, gripe water, rocking, and – every now and then – begging.  I now understand why they give such stern warnings about baby shaking at the hospital.  When moving into hour-three of the screaming, I can surely picture some desperate woman thinking, “Maybe if I shake this thing it will stop,” before some dim memory pokes through her sleep deprived brain and she ponders, “But what was it they said about shaking the baby?” 

            Fortunately, I have evening help, because there needs to be one person to put the boys to bed and another to hold the human police siren we affectionately refer to as the baby.  But, when our nanny leaves and the boys are in bed, it is just me, a red-faced baby, and hours to go before we sleep…

            Somehow I suspect Caroline isn’t the only one who can relate to this.

Where William and Martha can stuff it

            “Attachment parenting” is a crock of shit.

            I am not referring to the loving parents who wear their babies and co-sleep and breastfeed.  While their parenting choices are not my choices, they are sensible and caring decisions that, when practiced with consistency, work very well for many families.

            No, I am referring to the term “attachment parenting” as propounded by the dynamic duo of William and Martha Sears.  I am referring to the sanctimonious Mommies with the four-year-olds in slings who give me a condescending and slightly pitying smile while they explain, “He’s just so securely attached to us.  I am sure it is because he still shares our bed.” 

            Let me spread a little news, here.  Despite the fact that the Sears team has tried to co-opt the word “attachment,” most kids are pretty into their parents.  By using that word, they imply that the rest of us are practicing “Detachment Parenting.” As I sit here, typing this post with a sleeping baby in a Bjorn, I can assure you we are not.  We just don’t feel the need to advertise that we are devoted to our children.

            With Zachary, we had a strict no-baby-in-the-bed policy.  With Benjamin, we had a strict no-baby-in-the-bed-unless-Mommy-is-so-tired-she-can-only-breastfeed-in-a-prone-position policy.  With Lilah, we have a strict no-baby-in-the-bed-unless-we-all-sleep-better-that-way policy.  Most of the time, she is in the crib.  Sometimes, I feed her lying down and we get an extra hour of sleep.

            She likes to be against me, this baby.  I don’t blame her.  She will spend years alone in her skin – who wouldn’t want a few more months of close cuddling?  She does not like the stroller, so I wear her.  No, it is not because a book told me to do it.  It is because she screams in the stroller, which makes walks considerably less pleasant.

            And, yes, I breastfeed.  A lot.  But that is not because I think it is a crime to her soul to hand her a bottle.  It is because I think Armageddon is coming, and I want to give my kids every nutritional advantage before they start having to fight other kids for food.

            Am I more of an attachment parent (according to William Sears) than I was with the first?  Probably.  But I sure wouldn’t say it in mixed company.  Most of us are just doing what works, and we really don’t need exclusionary terms to define us.

            And, for the record, I Ferberize.  Just in case you thought I had gone all mushy on you.

Because I cannot stop global warming

            In the fall of 2001, I taught back-to-back Freshman Comp classes, keeping me pretty much out of contact with the outside world from 8:00 to 11:00 on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.  As a graduate student, my job was to teach 44 reluctant eighteen-year-olds how to express a few coherent thoughts and perhaps to occasionally make a persuasive argument.

            One Tuesday at 9:25, as one class shuffled out and the next shuffled in, one young man remarked to his classmates, “Did you hear that a plane crashed into the World Trade Center?”  Like so many others that morning, we all pictured a little plane piloted by a flight student with a tragically bad sense of direction.  Students handed forward the papers that were do, and we proceeded with the day’s lesson on paragraphing.

            An hour and forty-five minutes later, I grumbled to myself as I rifled through the department teaching supply cabinet.  “Are you OK?” a fellow grad student asked as she walked past with a professor.

            “I can’t find any chalk around here,” I complained, and they both shot me disgusted looks before moving on.  Then the grad student turned back, suddenly realizing something.

            “Have you heard what happened?” she asked. 

            And that was how I heard.  I ran up three flights of stairs to my office and brought up my email, which was already flooded with messages from friends in New York, all of which said the same basic thing: “I am alive.”

            As the morning lapsed into afternoon, I could only spend so long staring at or refreshing my email.  Eventually, I realized I had to occupy my mind with something.  And so I began to grade papers.

            All that evening and the following day, I graded one set of papers.  I did it with passion and a thoroughness no student papers had heretofore seen.  The sky was falling, but I would make all well with the world by making damned sure these kids knew how to write a topic sentence.

            In that spirit, and because I cannot do a damned thing about the fact that the stock market has gotten off its Prozac, retirees may suddenly find they need to return to work, people are losing their homes, and my children are likely to find themselves in a world war over water, I offer the following lesson in apostrophe usage.

            With regular nouns, if you wish to indicate more than one, all you need to do is add an S.  For example: “Many stores are going out of business.”  Stores is plural, not possessive, and does not require an apostrophe.

            If, however, you wish to indicate possession, you will need one of those nifty little doohickies that hang between an S and the rest of the word.  For example: “The woman’s portfolio has lost half of its value.”  As the unfortunate woman owns the portfolio, we indicate ownership with apostrophe + S.  (The lone exception is “its,” which gets an apostrophe only to indicate the contraction of “it is.”)  This formula works with both singular nouns and irregular plurals, such as: “The people’s dismay at discovering that there is such a thing as global warming…”

            Should you wish to indicate both plural and possessive with a regular noun, you will need to move that snazzy little apostrophe to after the S.  For example: “In my sons’ time, we will likely face a global food and water crisis.”  I have two sons, yet I also wish to indicate their time, so the apostrophe goes after the S, showing that the S is doing double-duty.

            Should you have any questions about this relatively simple punctuation mark, please email me instead of making up your own grammar.  Seriously.  I am tired of signs indicating that on Tuesdays the bar has “Two margarita’s for the price of one.”  The sky is falling here, people, and we need to prop it up one apostrophe at a time.

            And while we’re at it, “a lot” is two words.

Back in the saddle

            The email read: “You must keep chattering away….you have quite a nice following now, and writing is your ‘business.’ I imagine you set expectations around that as any working person would, yes?” 

            She had read my posts of last week.  She saw me letting it go, and she emailed me a swift kick in the rear.  The fact is that writing is not just my business.  It is my way of making sense.  It is my mental exercise.  And it is probably essential to my emotional well-being. 

            Sadly, I have not been around other people’s blogs much the last few weeks, and it may be a little longer.  I am sorry, and I will be back as soon as I can.  In the meantime, I am here.  I am writing.  I am doing it one-handed sometimes, and my husband is shouldering a little more on the weekends, but I am doing it.

            After all, the time to cut back on my blogging is probably not when I most need support.  So, stop by this week.  I have something to say.

More sleep deprivation

I did, however, get my legs waxed.