Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bees, Popcorn, Sunburns, and...People Who Tell You How To Raise Your Kid

Last Saturday was the Popcorn Festival in my hometown of Valparaiso, Indiana. Held each year in the hometown of the bow-tied great Orville Redenbacher, it's an event Valparaisians truly look forward to.

Lou, my mom, Raf, and I arrived at the end of the Popcorn Parade. I thought I had some perhaps not-so-fond memories of marching in said parade in high school. However, when I saw the marching bands (whether in summer shorts or heavy wool gear) I found myself getting choked up. Even the little soccer club kids and karate students were moving me to tears. I think this is still hormones from nursing. I'm hoping, at least. Maybe it's that being in your hometown as an adult brings a feeling of nostalgia and pride. Or the nursing.

Anyway, we walked around the crap, I mean craft booths, bought some lunch to support local schools and Boy Scouts, and generally perused the scene. I'm always amazed when people watching at these things. Where do some of these people come from? High school kids wearing ski caps in 80 degree weather, tee shirts with really trashy sayings, you name it.

My main focus was trying not to bake my son in the sun. We didn't bring his nice stroller because we're lazy. Well, sort of. It's heavy and takes up space in our already tight trunk. Plus, my mom has one at her house we got for 8 bucks at a thrift shop. The only problem with that idea is that the shade doesn't really protect him since he's still so small. Sure, we lathered on the sunscreen, but I still spent most of the time worrying.

We brought along this blanket that Rafael likes that's light and white. We put it on his lap to protect his legs as best we could. He enjoyed playing with it as well. He puts it in his mouth, covers his head, and shakes it up and down. Whatever. It makes him happy. As we were stopped in one booth of homemade baby clothes, a lady came over and started cooing at the baby. This is not uncommon, but I do stand there close, especially in crowds, because this Jaycee Duggan thing has gotten me a little paranoid about child abduction. Anyway, this lady coos at the baby for about 15 seconds, then grabs the white blanket off him, hands it to me fiercely and says, "He doesn't need this- it's a VERY hot day". As if I need her to regulate my temperatures for me.

Louie instantly put it right back on Rafael. He was PISSED. I quickly blurted, "He likes it-it's his security blanket- also a sun shade..." and trailed off. She walked off in a huff. I kind of couldn't believe it. I mean, people come up to me occasionally and say stuff like, "Isn't he cold/hot?" depending on the outfit, but I've yet to have a complete stranger grab something off of him. I'm not sure why they think this is okay. Of course, then I felt like a bad mom for the rest of the Festival for bringing a baby out into the sun.

This reminds me of when he was first born and I stroller walked him to Dollar General because we were out of milk. The lady behind the counter couldn't believe I had a 4 week old out (he was wrapped up, I swear) in May because of "too much air". Um...too much air? Last I checked, air was a necessity. Now too much cold/heat/Swine flu- I get that.

Last week in the grocery store (you best believe he was in the Bjorn) a really cranky elderly lady was yelling at her husband near the baby aisle. As she stormed past me, I heard her remark, "A baby in the grocery store! Harumph!" I just got out of her way and felt bad for the man. But in a way I knew it was yet another person telling me their advice on child rearing.

Later that Popcorn Fest night we attended a wedding. Perhaps, if anything makes us bad parents, it is this. He never once napped in a crib and was out and about that whole day. Believe me, we paid the price in baby meltdowns. But at the time, it seemed like a good idea. Nevertheless, the decent people sitting across from us at our assigned table struck up a conversation with us. All was well and good until the father said, "Do you mind if I give you a piece of advice?" Looking back, all I can think is, "Well, he DID ask." I of course, allowed him to share his little nugget of wisdom which was...not to let Raffi try standing on my lap (which he really likes) because it will make him bowlegged. Of course the man knew from experience. He said his oldest son was bowlegged because they let him put "too much weight" on his "little legs" too "early on". Not to mention Rafael is already a little bowlegged.

So then the rest of the night I spent trying to keep Rafael from standing in my lap, even though we were all taking turns holding him for several hours. Everytime I forgot and let the little guy stand up (which by the way, he cracks himself up in doing so) I'd see the guy across the table, feel guilty, and promptly bend Raffi back into a seated postion.

Maybe people think we're teenage parents. Maybe they think we appreciate their help. Even so, I promise you I'll never comment on other people's child rearing now that I know what it feels like- at least to their face.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Summer of (100) Iced Coffees

Someone who is supposedly a grown up is expected to drink such things as wine, beer, and coffee. However, I prefer the sweeter side of life: juice, sodas, or tea. When summer comes around, I can’t help but get excited by McDonald’s cheap thrill- flavored iced coffee. Sure, this probably does not qualify as real coffee, but I enjoy it despite this, perhaps for this reason. At the beginning of my pregnancy, I avoided caffeine like the plague, but later as my energy waned, I was sucked back into the ‘quick pick me up’.

I hate McDonald’s usually for their corporate greed, but they really sucked me in with the frequent buyer card. I must’ve sipped my way through at least 4 of the “Buy 4 Get the 5th Free” cards. I’m luckily able to restrain myself from buying food while I’m there. And since giving birth in April, I truly appreciate the drive-thru for its convenience. I’d never be able to get my ‘fix’ if I was forced to hoist Rafael in and out of the car. Maybe that would help my addiction, however.

It was all well and good when I bought the small sized drinks- maybe an occasional medium. But you know how a craving builds…and then one day, I moved to a large iced coffee with vanilla syrup. I’d been driving 40 minutes each morning to Valpo for my part-time gig (and my mom watched the baby) and a coffee really helped my day start off right. That afternoon, Rafael was sort of wild and fussy and never went down for a nap. He kept up his act until later in the evening, and even Lou remarked about it.

It was then I realized…play with fire…get burned…

As long as I’m nursing, I suppose I’ll stick to size small. But it begs the question: whatever will I do when the Iced Coffee season is over?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I Suppose It's Sad What Passes For Humor With Us

Lately, Lou and I have begun amusing ourselves with new verses to a certain "Poker Face" song. By the way, we call our son Paco sometimes.

So, instead of 'Lady Gaga', here's...

Baby Gaga!

P-P-P Paco Face P-P Paco Face
P-P-P Paco Face P-P Paco Face
Won't eat rice, won't eat rice
No he won't eat his rice cereal
(when you try he gives you death stare)
Won't eat rice, won't eat rice
No he won't eat his rice cereal
(when you try he gives you death stare)

M-M-M Milky Face M-M Milky Face
M-M-M Milky Face M-M Milky Face
Can't wipe my, Can't wipe my
No you can't wipe my milky face
(He can spit up like no other)
Can't wipe my, Can't wipe my
No you can't wipe my milky face
(He can spit up like no other)

P-P-P Poopy Pants P-P Poopy Pants
P-P-P Poopy Pants P-P Poopy Pants
Can't clean my, Can't clean my
No you can't clean my poopy pants
(that orange crap is really stuck there)
Can't clean my, Can't clean my
No you can't clean my poopy pants
(that orange crap is really stuck there)

Coming soon...a verse with K-K-K Kicky feet K-K Kicky feet...

If you're thinking that we need to get out more, would you like to babysit?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

If Ignorance Isn't Bliss, It Must Be Pretty Badass

I usually do all the grocery shopping midday, to best coincide with my energy level, and the eating/napping schedule of my son. Across from our local supermarket is a lovely United Methodist church; it reminds me of the setting of hysterical "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" movie. Like many churches, it has a 'bell tower' playing recorded melodies of Christian hymns. This particular one plays contemporary Praise & Worship music, interestingly enough. I always enjoy the uplifting melodies, even if I don't happen to recognize the tune.

Anyway, when leaving the store recently (so, um, July), I saw a mother, her husband/boyfriend, and child on their way in. It being noon and all, the bells were all a-chiming, and the sun was shining bright. Glorious. Well. Until I heard the woman say, "Holy F***, hasn't Christmas been over for a while? What the f*** are the holiday bells about, anyway?" The man laughed, too, in agreement. Holding her hand was our nation's future, a bright eyed six-year-old little girl.

Does it hurt to be that ignorant, I want to know, or is it just awesome?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

How Much Can They Hear, Anyway?

As I write this, I'm researching Craigslist for a new place to live, despite the fact that I really like the interior set up and size of my apartment very much. The aesthetics of the exterior don't bother me too much, as I don't have to look at it as much as the inside...but out there, unfortunately, are my neighbors.

When we looked at this apartment, I was 8 months pregnant, and very desperate to find a place without mold and water leakage that a baby could grow healthily in. The landlord didn't seem as smarmy (over the phone) as others that we'd met, and really sold us (again, over the phone) on the friendliness, "condo style remodeling", and quality of tenants. Due to our good credit, he said we could have our pick of the beautifully redone apartments. We viewed it, liked it, and committed to paying $125 more a month to go from a HOUSE in Hammond to an APARTMENT in Highland. That was on a Monday, we signed the lease by Thursday, and moved in on Saturday, thanks to some really great friends.

While it was still colder outside, all was well and good. No one lived above us or to the side of us, and we existed blissfully with our newborn baby and the windows closed. Flash forward to this summer.

I think it started when some friends were visiting the baby in the early evening and there were ambulance lights in the parking lot. Three times in one week. Turned out there's an elderly gentleman who always thinks he's dying and calls 911, but now 911 wont come out anymore. Ok. I can deal with this. It's not very intrusive in my life, and obviously, I can show compassion for someone who is ailing. Done.

Another friend who lives in a similar set up assures me that nicknaming the other residents is a normal pasttime in apartment living. The "smokers" stand outside the front doors of buildings and talk until the wee hours of the morning. Inconsiderate, yes, but unbearable, no. Until the smell of cigarettes wafts into my windows and I start worrying about secondhand smoke. Close my windows, you say? I like the breeze! I'm trying to save on energy costs! It's not that hot out! Ok. I can deal with this. I can close the windows if it gets too bad. Done.

Then someone moved in upstairs. Honeymoon over. Putting together their funny accent and name on the downstairs mailbox, I've ascertained that they are German. If they, and their obese child, continue to stomp around up there, I've got a few words to share with them, and one of them is "goosesteppers." Ok. I can deal with this. It's like dorm life all over again. Just shut it out, Sally. Even if her hopping around shakes our ceiling fixtures and rouses Raffi from his naps?

The final straw however is the cursing, obscenities, and general domestic disputes that occur, sadly, frequently. You can say that Lou and I haven't been married that long, or that we know better than to argue with the windows open, but I can honestly say that I would NEVER use the language I've heard (and learned) living in this apartment complex. We really love each other, double yes, and have no interest in our life becoming one of those episodes from COPS. I shouldn't joke, but "scary guy" has now had 3 COPS show worthy episodes in our complex.

June 12th: I am nursing the baby at 4a.m. and hear a man calling a woman all kinds of names- let's just say, names a trashy person would use to call someone who they think is cheating on them. The woman is screaming, crying- so I wake up Louie. He goes to call the real cops, but in his hesitation, a car pulls up, a guy in boxer shorts and no shoes gets out, and into his cell phone says, "I'm here, where are you?" Woman gets into car and the man escorts her away. Thank God for her safety, yes, but then "scary guy" comes out in the COPS episode uniform: no shirt, no shoes, camoflauge shorts, lots of tatoos, beer belly...SCREAMING in the dead of night- more obscenities. We tried to brush it off; spoke to the building manager who assured us that "scary guy" was drunk and "that's not the way we like to do business around here". He promised us that any more similar offenses would equal the eviction of said "scary guy". I didn't like it. I wanted him to be evicted right away. This is the same guy who HAS SMALL KIDS that I've heard him yell "shut your a** up" to, but I don't think they live with him. I'm worried for this families safety, and my own. Imagine, if this is the way he treats people he 'loves', imagine how he treats those he does not? Lots of lights were on in our complex that night. It wasn't just us that were pissed.

I assure you that I'm not a nosy neighbor. Small apartment building + windows open + home daily with a baby= I hear everything. But even if my windows were closed, I'd experience a lot of this.

So, flash forward, last week. Monday night/Tuesday a.m. I'm awoken by "scary guy" on his phone outside the building. I cannot, and will not, repeat the words he yelled at a woman- which woman, I do not know, but they involved vile slang for the female genitalia. I kept thinking, why doesn't she hang up? Eventually, she must have. He went inside cussing, and one of "the smokers" shook his head. I didn't wake Louie, but figured this would be "scary guy's" final strike.

In the morning, as Louie left for work, I told him about what I heard. Apparently, when I finally did get back to sleep I was in it pretty deeply, because Louie woke at 4 a.m. ("scary guy's" favorite time, I guess) to the same man/woman screaming at each other. This time, Louie called 911. Someone else had called as well. Louie said three cops came by, they took the woman home, and had "scary guy" close his windows. I was a little nervous this guy would find out it was us who called. Louie talked to both the landlord and the building manager. At first, they assured us that this was going to be handled properly, but within the week they had changed their story to "just drunk talk" that would be handled if anything "happened again".

How many warnings do these people need? It doesn't appear to be physical yet, but what happens when it is? What will it take? I can't deal with this. I'm D-O-N-E with dealing.

But then, as I rose to feed my erratic sleep scheduled son at 3:30 a.m., I tried to change his diaper and quiet his tears quickly. I realized, if I can hear all this outside stuff all night, what can they hear from inside our apartment? A baby crying is not as serious or life-threatening as these other encounters, but perhaps they're blogging, just the same, about ME.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Out and About

I read recently in a Parenting magazine article that there are 5 places a new mom should take her baby to get out of the house. They are, in no particular order: 1) the grocery store, 2) sporting events, 3) OB/GYN check-ups, 4) church, and 5) lunch with friends. If you’re a follower of this blog, you know we’ve pretty much covered number 1 below. The OB/GYN check ups are few and far between now that Raf’s met the 3 month mark, and Raf has attended some of my students’ baseball/softball games without incident. My experiences comparing church both pre and post baby will come at a later date (thanks for the idea, dear Brother). So, remaining from the aforementioned list is “lunch with friends” which I shall now address.

I suppose I jinxed myself when I was nursing Rafael this morning, cooing at him and telling him he is the "best baby in the world", and the "best lunch date in the world". This latter comment I would come to regret a few hours later. Meeting a college friend for lunch at a classic burger joint, I was excited to once again be out of the apartment and catching up on needed conversation. It started out well enough- sitting in his car seat, then my lap, bouncing him on my knee. Then he spit up all over my shoulder, a rarity even for Rafael. Soon after that, I somehow found a way to dump my pop- not all of it, thank God, in my lap, on my light colored khakis. The khakis that are one of the only pairs of pants that actually fit me post pregnancy- because despite their comfortableness, I refuse to still wear maternity pants.

In between several trips to the bathroom (two for him and one for me) Rafael started screaming hysterically (right when the food came, of course) and even I was caught by surprise. Should have seen it coming, I suppose: loud restaurant, playing quietly for an extended period of time…but I never do. My husband says that whenever I get worried over Rafael’s peculiar behavior it means he’s simply tuckered out- “the supernova burnout” as one friend calls it. Wasn’t until I rocked him standing up in the aisle outside of our booth that he drifted off to sleep and I held him close. This was followed by me eating a delicious, but lukewarm, burger and fries.

How many Diet Cokes did that waitress bring me? I should have kept track, as for a nursing mother, it’s almost as dangerous as alcohol. Perhaps that explains the 9 hour marathon Raf did this afternoon/evening of NON-sleeping. I don’t have caffeine very often, but when I do, I have a tendency to overdo it. Note to self: don’t load yourself (and kid) up with caffeine when your husband is away on a 2 day business trip and there’s no one to relieve your frazzled nerves when he wont go to bed.

Back at the restaurant, ahhh, at last- a sleeping baby. They have to be the most perfect creations in the world. My friend and I caught up on old stories and new dreams, and I once again, felt reassured about my perfect little lunch date.

Not so fast, Mom.

I overstayed my window, breaking the rule that I should have learned by now: start leaving while baby is asleep, or at least, transition out of restaurant. However, when you’re in the moment, enjoying yourself, you don’t want to let it end. So, Hungry Baby rears his ugly head, refusing a bottle and only wanting The Real Stuff. Not comfortable nursing in public, my friend and I gather our (mostly Raffi’s) things like pack horses and head for the exit. Not before I find out that the restaurant only takes cash, of which I don’t have, so my dear friend pays for our meal so we can stop the ongoing scene of the screaming baby. After being tipped, the waitress adds her two cents, "it's time." Ouch.

As my friend and I take our leave, I cram myself in the passenger seat, unleash the mammary glands, and Rafael is sustained. The drive home is uneventful- clearly he wore himself out with all of the hysterics. It’s just as well- the drive home provided time to think: Why did the magazine suggest this again?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mission Field

Usually, I write about my experiences being a new mom. This essay fits, if you stick with it, I promise. And no poop or papoose stories this time.

A few weeks ago, I was back at St. Ann of the Dunes parish in beautiful Beverly Shores, Indiana for Father Lucian's annual Passionist Volunteers International mission. Believe it or not, I've been speaking to the parishioners there for seven, yes, SEVEN, years. As a "NWI local" in 2003, I spoke about my hopes in going to Jamaica, and in the following years, how the year impacted my life. It's funny, too; in 2006 I reunited with Father Lucian telling him all about "this guy" I liked...in 2007 "that guy" was my fiance Louie, in 2008 he was my husband. This year, baby Rafael was in tow, and I kinda felt like each year I add an accessory! Someone teased me that next year, kid #2 would be there, but for my personal sanity, I hope not. Truly, I always look forward to going each summer to reconnect with familiar faces who continue to support a service program that means so much to me, and most everyone is very welcoming.

This year, as I made my way to sit in the front of the church (yeah, take that other Catholics!), an older lady came up to me. She said, "Oh, I remember you- from that volunteer program!" I gratefully acknowledged her support and we chatted briefly. Then, glancing down at the baby, she said, "Well, I guess no more missions for you for a while!"

I don't know why that comment hit me like a ton of bricks, but it did. I laughed and nodded at her comment, but it nagged at me the rest of Mass. I suppose she was right in saying what she thought she was saying...with a new baby, it's not likely that I'm off to Africa again or to spend extended time in the Carribean. Sometimes, I challenge even these thoughts, and wish to have my children grow up as volunteers for the Church in the Developing World. But I can admit that these desires are probably not as realistic as the fact that the closest my kids will get to seeing the faith/struggle/poverty of Jamaica is on a week long visit.

The lady was wrong, though, in her perception of mission, and what it means to the Church. I was reaffirmed today at Theology on Tap, when the speaker was describing the Mass as a 'sending forth' to go and advance the Kingdom of God in the world around us. No, I'm not in a rural school at the top of a mountain, or visiting people in homes made of scrap metal. But we're all on mission. My mission now consists of raising a son to love, know, and serve God.
My mission consists of growing closer to my husband rooted in this faith we hold dear. My mission is to preach God's abundant love to those around me (hopefully without always using words). Not so very long ago, my mission was to bring God to 8 and 9 year olds in East Chicago. That lady was, and IS, wrong. I am on a mission. We all are. And if there's one thing God has truly taught me, it's that His missions are way better than the ones I plan and want for myself.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Is He a Good Baby?

When I was pregnant, the question I got most was, "Is it a boy or a girl?" Due to the fact we weren't finding out ahead of schedule, I always seemed to disappoint people with my answer. However, old skool type people usually had the reaction my grandmother did, "There are so few surprises left in this world- good for you!". That question was often followed with, "How will you decorate the nursery?" My thoughts hearken back to Jamaica, where kids share beds with multiple family members, and a baby most certainly would not have its own room. "Safari," I'd say, "inspired by a trip to Africa." Then they'd say, "What will you do if it's a girl?" Ummmm....last I checked, the appreciation of wildlife is neither masculine or feminine! Guess Raf cut it close on that one.

Now when I'm out and about, the question I get asked EVERY DAY is, "Is he a good baby?" This question puzzles me. Of course, I always answer with my usual, "Yes, he's great...", but it has led me to analyze this question repeatedly.

1) What IS a good baby? My mom assures me that if he were a 'bad' baby, I'd know it. Crying & screaming repeatedly, I suppose. But, since babies aren't really willful and with the capacity to do evil, I think this adjective is unnecessary.

2) Even if he WAS a bad baby, would I tell a complete stranger? There seems to be some sort of unspoken bond I have with my child. Poop stories, sure, I'll tell them. Breast milk leakage, I'll admit. But telling someone at the grocery store (note the theme- I get out once a week :) that my kid is "bad" is just not something I'm going to do.

Perhaps if he was a bad baby, and I actually told said stranger, I'd surprise them even more by saying, "Here- want to take him home?"

Monday, June 29, 2009

"Nice Lookin' Papoose Ya Got There..."

So, I know I live in NW Indiana, but I would have thought the Baby Bjorn had been out for quite some time. Mondays are my grocery shopping day, as I find that the store is quieter, and I'm not as rushed and in the way. So I strap Raf to me in the Baby Bjorn, and off we go. But in two consecutive visits, I've had the same comments.

I'm checking out, and an older man is bagging the groceries with a middle aged woman. I'm seriously 3 feet away.

Old Man: Well, lookie there. What's she got on, a papoose or something? Looks like an Indian thing.

Woman: Those? Um, those have been out since the 80's I think. See how he's been asleep the whole time she was shopping?

Old Man: Since when did we get our parenting ideas from the Indians?

Me: (thinking) I can HEAR you!

As Laura Collins pointed out, Native Americans are an underrepresented group in offensive comments this day in age, so I suppose he was trying to boost those numbers?

So then, today. 6/29/09

Me: (in the fruit and vegetable aisle)

Old Lady: Nice lookin' papoose you got there!

I cannot be the only person shopping that occasionally straps their child to them. Can I?