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Rock-a-bye Sweet Baby Girl

2:05 PM, January 17, 2008 .. 0 comments .. Link

It's 1:05 in my office and I've got a little over three hours to go until I go home for a long weekend with my baby. It's hard for me to even think beyond fourteen months ago.  As if everything about, well, Everything, led up to my sweet baby girl.  Working hard to get good grades to go to college, grad school, enjoy my own version of the roaring twenties before being able to unwind with a glass of wine instead of a beer and bar scene. 

I think my mission to have a baby follows form to a lot of other moms.  I established myself professionally, met a great guy, enjoyed marriage with all of the fun weekend trips/great restaurants / lie in urban America for a few years before committing to, what I view as, the mother load (pun intended) of all commitments. After all, jobs may come, and jobs may go. Friends flit in and out of your life. Even your marriage may not hold out for the long haul, but no matter what happens in your life, you'll always be a parent. 

I was excited to get pregnant quickly; played slave to the box of hormone ovulation tests and was surprised to learn at my first ultrasound that there were two heartbeats:  that's right - twins. Thing is, I never felt pregnant. Not tired, not sick, no changes whatsoever - even at the three month mark - to the point that it seemed surreal. My husband was there for the first two ultrasounds: the first where we learned there were two heartbeats; the second where we learned there were no heartbeats. I remember going to the hospital a few days later waiting for them to call my name for the D&C.  The waiting room consisted of people all looking for some definition of closure:  me, my husband, and a slew of teenagers - some with their seemingly prepubescent boyfriends; some with the whole family rambling en masse chaos - waiting for what I guessed were abortions. 

Ironically, the all time low for me was the night a few weeks later when we got a call from a dog breeder saying that we would have to wait for the next litter as only one female pup was delivered so our waitlist for the first male would continue . The home we'd envisioned with two babies: one human one canine seemed unattainable.  I wondered if we'd ever get any sort of baby in the house, and I began to panic. 

One miscarriage, well full of tears, sense of loss recapped by a renewed sense of mission, and five months later, I was pregnant again. A self-admitted research junkie, I quelled the analytical part of my brain with statistics and knowledge:  a conservative estimate of 25% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage; my religion doesn't deny access to heaven for unbaptized unborn children; I got pregnant once so at least the odds were in my favor that I knew I could conceive.  My drunken ski weekend before getting the green light to "try again" with my closest girlfriends also helped knock the rancorous part of my fun-loving personality back in me. 

The next eight months were a whirlwind.  I was exhausted; having to leave work early for fear that I'd pass out asleep at my desk. The baby was small. Concerningly small. But the heartbeat was strong and everything was proportionate. My husband refused to come to any of the ultrasounds with me until the 20 week mark - he wanted to do things "completely differently" this time.  He was consulting - a road warrior - at the time having just lost his job and needing another due to yet another corporate merger that displaced his loyalty as a hard-working employee for the bottom line.  We got a call - our golden retriever puppy was born and we could pick him up in early June. 

In short, life had a renewed sense of sunshine. The baby came early. I was toxemic so they admitted me seven weeks before and induced one month before my due date. Despite my having gained 40 lbs, she was small, but mighty: healthy and a free spirit at day one - as she'd been consistently through the pregnancy. My husband started a new job - one that did not require travel.  If this had been shown to me on paper, I would have smiled and thought, "Okay, things will be fine.  I'll be happy.  Sure - even joyous."

But I could not have even begun to imagine what Joy the world could deliver until I met my baby girl.  The things I love about her are innumerable. She smiles with her whole face.  Her eyes are the most inquisite pools of sky blue azure imaginable.  She loves to snuggle. She loves her books.  She reminds me that it's okay to cry. It's okay to need someone. It's okay to to not like the taste of something.  It's terrific to laugh just because you feel like it. Because the dog scratching his heinie IS funny.  Because splashing water is a hoot.  She looks just like my dad - who died when I was in highschool; and has his expressions which were honest and fun and enchantingly simple all at the same time.  She's shown me, again and again without hesitation or abashment, that looking at someone without being able to say the words "I love you" and have the message delivered with complete clarity is an angelic act.  She is Love and Happiness in the purest form. 

From our first night home, I held her and read to her: we started our nightly routine.  As the days drew by, I would watch her eyes blink and close ... her breath calm as she snuggles; one hand tucked by my neck, her head on my shoulder, and her other arm balancing the bear that she favors.

For the past six months, I've been on the receiving end of criticism from family and some friends.  Yes, I ignored the pediatrician and others admonitions who thought it best to simply lay a baby in a crib and walk away:  "let her cry it out; don't rock her to sleep; she's got to learn" they say. "You'll pay; just put her down - she'll be fine" chastising tones of annoyance from other adults proferred with the same sense of know-it-all-ism that thrives on dispelling "advice" in a tone that says "you're doing it wrong" under the guise of the words, "I'm just saying."  When what you're really "just saying" is that "I'm doing it wrong."  Maybe it's rude, but, Yes, I'm choosing to ignore you.  I'm choosing to side with the rare belief that is embraced by both science and old wives tales:  that you just can't spoil babies. That up through their toddler years, they need all the love and attention that you can give them and that you don't need to worry about "overdoing" it when it comes to giving them your time, hugs, kisses, interest. That it's absolutely okay to say "stop!" to the rest of your day because your one-year-old wants a hug; to be picked up; just needs to snuggle. 

Sure, we're now to the point where she cries as we try to establish some modicum of bedtime and sleep for her benefit so she doesn't require three hours to calm down; but there are still the nights where she wakes up and needs the occasional reassurance that I'm still there if she needs me.  And, for good or for bad, she favors me.  Admittedly, the growing pains as working mom are in full force when I hear her sniffle if it's two a.m. and I've checked on her, hugged her, and had to let her drift to sleep after a little rocking followed by a few tears. But to hear her cry in the middle of the night and invalidate it without a hug just seems wrong. Like I'm leaving her to fend against a bad dream by herself without reason. And while I feel I've buckled to other people's expectations and dictates in many aspects of my life; I'm holding strong when it comes to my true gut instincts in being as nurturing and supportive without being overbearing with this baby:  my baby. 

I BELIEVE that too many parents are interested in creating too perfect children at the sacrifice of enjoying every sweet moment that we get to experience with them.  I believe this without question. I believe that holding her, and rocking her to the brink of sleep before putting her in her crib to doze off is the right thing to do; to leave a high energy baby awake and screaming when you can calm her down first is an ill fit for her and - quite frankly - for me.  Sure, time tested theory says that if you leave 'em cry, they'll fall asleep. If you put me in a cage for a long enough time - especially after a long enough day, even I'd take a snooze.  But I'm raising a Baby, not a ROBOT.  She's not an accessory. She's a person. And while we are not belitting routine and kids needing defined boundaries so that they can be comfortable in their own surroundings, I just don't see the need for the unbendable bar. 

None of this should be mistaken with me condoning spoiled children - a five year old throwing food across the table is a far cry from a fourteen month old learning to stop giving hand-offs to the dog from her highchair.  I believe that kids need to learn the word "no", that manners are not an archaic trend of the past, that dining together as a family without the t.v. on is good, that being cognizant of others and not always getting your way when you're old enough to appreciate and communicate the same in words is important.  But those are impossibilities at this age.  At one, your brain is wired to occasional shout out in the only way you know how, "hey! I want to make a choice. You make all the choices all day; lemme have a go at it once in a blue moon."    For me, this is - to a limit - part of our bedtime routine. What works for my kid - cuddling a little longer than a lot of other kids to wind down before going into her crib to talk to her bear for a while before a last ditch cry and finally nodding off - is welcomed bonding. 

The past fourteen months have been a time warp.  I look at how much that beautiful four pound preemie I brought home last year has grown and realize that this little girl defines being Home more than any physical place I've ever been.  She brings out the best in me:  she is the first in a long long time to show me in the most honest way that I'm just as great a person regardless of what brand I'm wearing. That a smile from me is worth a million words. That letting her make a mess and welcoming a toddling approach to roll a ball or read a book is an opportunity to share in this stage of her life. There's a lot I don't know; but I know that life rolls by too quickly to not put on the brakes when the most beautiful creature that loves you in a way that is so honest  looks up at you in a way that says "I choose you."  I know that she's going to grow up; even now the signs of independence and the free spirit she was blessed are stretching their wings.  Which, to me, is even more reason to hold onto her - give her that hug and rock for a minute before calling it a night - while she still wants to hold onto me. 

I know that the day will come when she wants to go to sleep in her own bed without mom's help. One day she'll just want me to read to her before saying her prayers. Seemingly the very next night she'll read to herself. 

So for now I want to hold her.  My mommy heart swells every single time I look at her.  My baby is growing up, but no matter how big she gets, she'll always be my baby.  And I know I will never regret rocking her to sleep and placing her gently in her crib.  Even if I rocked her and held her longer than needed because it was me that wasn't ready to set her down quite yet. Even sometimes when I was dead tired and knew the alarm clock would ring soon.  I love and can count on the fact that I will always remember watching her face when she slept; about looking down and seeing the precious inhale, the curve of her eyelashes sweeping her dreams as if guarding a cloud.  Looking at her I know I will always remember the feeling of  amazed wonder:  wondering how I ever got to be so lucky to be blessed with this amazing child; to be her mother. 

I have been blessed more than I can ever express with my daughter.  I cherish being able to spend the time I do with her; to put my arms around her. To feel the petal soft exhale of her breath.  Someday she won't want me to do that. But I will always have these memories.  Of holding her, gently rocking, and cuddling with her so softly when the rest of the world was drifting quietly. 



Bad Week for Our Four-legged Friends

1:39 PM, January 3, 2008 .. 0 comments .. Link

It's been a bad week for animals.  As the granddaughter of both dairy and cattle farmers, I'm the last to jump on the PETA bandwagon, but sometimes the injustices of not giving nature it's arms-length respect, and then punishing the wild animals for acting - well - wild seems ill-placed.  Teenagers taunting a tiger now sue the San Francisco zoo because the tiger mauled them.  The tiger was killed before it could "attack" any others. Further south in the same state, a robber jumps over the bridge - but not before throwing the police dog over the railing with him. Ironically, the robber survives but the dog is killed. And the top videoblog is a Colombian bullfighter surviving what is described as an "intense attack" by the bull. 

All in a day's news reporting or proof positive that Darwin was onto something? You tell me.  In an honest world, would the tiger come ahead as the unspoken hero, the dog survive the plunge and any provoked attack by a bull be considered "intense"?  A childhood trip to a bullfight in Toledo, Mexico was my first eye-opening experience with lop-sided Romanesque animal contests and public spectacles:  fun music, lively people and a bright hued south of the border evening horizon eclipsing the ampitheatear backdrop set the stage for a  night of childhood wonderment. There was an electricity in the seats; a Disney meets supersonic sense of wonderment dizzied the air.  The bull marches proudly into the arena. Having watched the episode of Bugs Bunnny parading around the arena with golden strewn crimson cape flying round his shoulder, I anxiously await the next stage:  the Matador. But the next stage wasn't the matador, it was the yahoos on horseback that ride out to dig spires of poisoned spears into the beastly bull's back to weaken him. Only after this part of the show - far reaching from the spires of my silver bells and cockel shells cartoon based understanding of events - does the big brave matador enter the ring.  I don't want to see folks get hurt, but I gotta tell ya':  I was rooting for the bull.   

Maybe in some alternative animal universe, our four-legged friends are having a well earned laugh at the expense of the supposedly higher lifeform. After all, other headlines over the past two days announce that grad students at Purdue are sniffin' poo for $30 a pop, they're drudging a lake in Illinois to find an Indian woman that supposedly fell in while submerging a statue for good luck, and a 75 year-old Arizona man was hurt riding his pet buffalo.  Florida gators attack handfuls of humans annually that toss them scraps while barbecuing dinner, and I suspect that just as many dolphins that are rescuing people by lugging 'em from shipwreck to shore are having fun with a few others that they decide to take even further into the ocean blue.  While domestic animals (dogs, pets, ferrets, what have you) are held to a more realistic modicum of civilized behavior, seeing and experiencing wild animals that are harboured in habitats foreign to them and yet where their animal instincts are relatively uncurtailed is a privilege; one that requires a little more due diligence as members of the general public. 



Resolution 2008: Fit, Finance & Deliverance from Dwight

10:04 AM, December 31, 2007 .. 0 comments .. Link

Each year gads of us envision a new year full of new promise;  a chance to resolve differences, get in shape, and be all around better people.  We champion good causes: better health, better lifestyle, so that we can be more productive and generally happier society members.  I'm in line with the rest of you. In 2008 I plan to start:

* working out 3x a week - (took about a 2 year work-out hiatus: the first was to have a kid; the second has been under the misguided delusion that chasing a one-year-old is equal to the marathon training pursuits I used to enjoy).  On the up and up: I'm doing this to feel better,  look better, be better and set a good example as someone that can juggle working, parenting and maintaining a modicum of self-preservation.

*  manage my money better: live by my parents credo: If you can't afford it, you can't have it.  (Is there a Nordstrom's sale shoe exclusion built into that rule for dire shopping emergencies :-) ? )

* get a new job. On the bigscreen of life issues, we all want to be delivered from the harbingers of work.  The drudge of getting up, going into an office, where we sit in front of our computers for 8 to 10 hours a day like veals in modified cattle stalls doubling as cubicles.  Like Pavlov's dogs, we get up when the bell dings, get dressed, scurry through the labrynth of morning routines to get to work ON TIME.  Once there, many of us - having perfected the art of LOOKING BUSY without actually BEING BUSY - work our way through e-mail responses, tackle the tasks at hand for the day and divot our schedules with the occasional websurf to favorite sites to see what's going on in the world. 

I've only had this job for a few months, but it only took me about five minutes to realize why I didn't get the office tour after the interview and why all terms were met.  Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful to be gainfully employed; to have been given the opportunity to learn something new and to have my name on a payroll.  However, on day two, I learned that each of my predecessors lasted 4 months before leaving for one reason:  In short, I work with the postal outrage equivalent of Dwight from the Office. Never before in my ten-plus years of working have I ever seen someone so uniformly hated by every co-worker.  In the same sense that the South Park movie was equally offensive to all majorities and minorities, this guy is equally loathed by everyone in the office. He comes in on his days off to make sure we're here on time; he exercises less tact than a sex-craved sailor with 1/2 hour shoreleave in a whorehouse (toned down example: commented on how my family is aging poorly when looking at a desk photo of my husband and me).  Snitches to my boss; is constantly looking to get people in trouble; and makes sadistic comments (e.g. "I told [my five year old] that if she wanted a jack-o-lantern for halloween that I would chop off [her nine year old brother's head] and and set it on her bed with a candle in it.")  I work on a city block that saw two shootings (one death resulting) and two sexual assaults in one week and yet my safety concern is still based on the belief that someday Dwight's gonna show up with a shot gun and blow us all away.  The news reporters will interview his neighbors and track down former classmates from one of the handful of colleges he was expelled who will all say, "Doesn't surprise me at all." 

I can actually picture this happening.  From a distance the faint waft of his smoke-laden jean jacket with a distant hum of the dueling banjo song from Deliverance will play.  Crescendoing with rhythmically gutteral symbol sounds that are actually ammunition fire will canonize the hallway of the circa 1960 administrative building in which we're housed.  The glass panels will shatter, gurgled screams will be mustered, and Dwight - standing all of 5'5"; 5'8" if you include his teased poof of thick hair atop his head - mechanically working his way from cube to cube.  I'm in the corner cube; so with any luck, his foot will get caught and he'll stumble on some of the latest duct tape additions holding down the carpeting giving me time to escape. 

On the one hand, my boss has been great. I have had zero issues with her. However, the fact that Dwight is enabled to treat people this way and assert this plague-style paranoia (there has been a history of union employee filed harassment complaints, screaming matches, known incidents where he has lied or misled people, and the people who had my job last each called me to warn me about scenarios where he got them in trouble for things like leaving five minutes early) shows not only a blatant disregard for treating people like professionals, but a complete failure to acknowledge the 800 lb gorilla in the room. 

When challenged or concerns raised to our superiors, the response is always:  "well, that's just how he is."  I have worked with people with difficult personalities that, while I did not care for them personally, I respected them professionally. But that's not the case here.  I can only speculate as to the reason(s) Dwight's been here for over a decade:

a. he's got some ADA disability to assert.  (espresso strength coffee all day; non-stop talking, smoking, talking, smoking, ranting, turret's [until my boss arrives] syndrome style swearing, more talking, smoking, walk around to make sure he's shared at least one offensive comment with each office person while conducting his pathetically obvious version of roll call).

b. he's got some special relationship with my boss.  I'm not just talking about the nasty; but maybe there's some other sympethico quirk at play.

c.  he's got something on someone higher up and/or is in cahoots with someone above him on the rank and file totem pole of institutional politics. 

Until tomorrow's tirade ...



Virgin blogger writes about landing in Venice

9:51 AM, December 31, 2007 .. 0 comments .. Link

First time blogger; long-time writer.  I just booked a trip to Venice, Italy for next September which requires flying into the Marco Polo airport.  I picture the pilot of the giant Airbus on final descent transmitting to the air traffic controller in the Venice Airport tower:

Pilot:  Marco.  Niner-Six-Delta fifteen miles north northwest of the airfield.  Can we make our final turn to land?

Control Tower:  Polo. 

Descending another 500 feet the pilot asks again: Marco. NOW can we make our turn for landing?

Control Tower:  Polo. But your getting warmer! 

Continuing descent through some cumulus nimbus cloud coverage the pilot again asks:  Marco.  Time to turn yet?

Control Tower:  Poooooooooloooooooo.  But your getting WAAAAAARMER. 

This continues until the fuel warning light makes the control tower cry uncle and give it's location directing the plane to land or the pilot's whimsy guides him to the runway. 



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Rock-a-bye Sweet Baby Girl
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Resolution 2008: Fit, Finance & Deliverance from Dwight
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