Monday, May 26, 2014

The Chronicles Of Nannia - Episode two

        The older I get the more I reflect on the times when I was young. Oh, how many things I would change if I could! Hindsight is always twenty-twenty when we can look back with the benefit of knowing the outcomes of our decisions. On the other hand, how many things I would leave exactly as they were, for looking back they now seem pristine in their perfection. How much of the former is due to the caution of age now, in contrast with the spontaneity of youth then? How much of the latter is to the "misty, water colored" nature of the past? Memories can be tricky things. Let's look back again at the past as I remember it knowing full well that, to paraphrase Barbara Streisand, time may have rewritten every line.

        The year is 1976. "The Gong Show" premiers on network TV and soon becomes a sensation. Stephen Wozniak and Steven Jobs found Apple Computer. Jimmy Carter is elected President of the United States, the first one from the "Deep South" since the Civil War. All of New York City is terrified as a serial killer begins a yearlong murder spree, leaving promises of more killings to come in psychotic letters signed "The Son of Sam". Dorothy Hamill wins "the gold" in the Olympic Figure Skating competition spawning renewed public interest in figure skating and a new hair style fad. My daughter is going on three years old and I am not quite twenty-one.

        In '76 our little family (my husband, myself, and our daughter "No. 1") are beginning to prosper. My husband works in a chemical manufacturing plant and, as was much more common at that time, belongs to a labor union. The union negotiates yearly raises for its members. The union contract also provides for longevity raises at one year, two years, three years and five years of company service. These two benefits together result in my husband getting a raise in his hourly wages just about every six months. Even more, his growing union seniority makes it possible for him to move into higher paying positions within the company as they become available. All of this results in a rapid increase in our income and standard of living. After just three years of marriage my husband's income is more than double what it was on our wedding day.

        One of the greatest benefits of our increased income is our ability to buy a second car. Both of our cars are used but they are reliable and the second car gives me the mobility and freedom I must have to do the things I need to do as a wife and mother. Our first apartment is in a not so great neighborhood and I have always worried about No.1 and I being alone at night while my husband is at work. And so, with No. 1 in tow and sporting my new "Dorothy Hamill hair-do" I use my new mobility to go searching for a new apartment. I use the seat belt to strap No.1 into the back seat during these forays. Child car seats, and seat belts for that matter, are not commonly used yet and won't be for another decade or so. I find a great apartment in a much more affluent, and therefore safer, area. The apartment building is brand new and I would actually get to choose the carpeting that went into it. It has central air! Yes! There is a security door at the entrance to the building and visitors have to be "buzzed in" by a tenant in order to enter. Can you imagine! There is a washer and dryer right in the apartment so I won't have to go down to the basement to use the common facilities, which always made me nervous. There is even a little balcony where we could cook on a grill or something and relax on a nice evening.

        I am determined to get this apartment but I have to move quick. The problem, of course, is the cost. The rent on our old apartment is 175 dollars per month. The new apartment is 235. That's a big increase. My husband is real tight with a buck, as am I, coming from a large family. But this is a great home for our family and my strategy has always been to find the right apartment then convince my husband through argument, logic, and, I admit, a little manipulation to see the wisdom in my plan. My strategy is successful and we are soon happily ensconced in our new digs.

        It's winter and snowing quite hard. We have been in our fabulous new apartment for about eight months. I am providing day care for my sister's son who is the same age as "No.1". That means about 40 dollars per month in extra income. It doesn't sound like much but in 1976 forty dollars buys a week's worth of groceries (with diligent couponing). But I'm not doing it for the money, she's my sister, and besides having a playmate for my daughter has tremendous benefits for both children. Unfortunately, it also means potty training two toddlers at the same time. It's the "terrible twos" times two with "dueling potty chairs" thrown into the bargain. Life is an adventure.

        I am in the kitchen doing I forget what and the two kids are just around the corner in the living room. My husband is at work. The next thing I know I hear a scary kind of thump followed by my daughter's "pain scream". (As every mother is aware, our children have different screams and cries for different occasions. Their "pain screams" are different in pitch, intensity, and emotion from their "anger screams " or "fear screams" etc. It's a kind of primitive language for conveying raw emotions.) I can tell right away the noise isn't coming from the living room, it's coming from the bedroom. So I rush to the bedroom and find No. 1 on the floor with blood all down the front of her and my nephew standing nearby with a worried look on his face. Apparently, they had snuck off to the bedroom and had decided to climb up onto, then jump off of, a desk. My daughter's less than perfect landing had resulted in her chin contacting the floor, which had driven her upper front teeth through her lower lip. It's Emergency Room time, every mother's favorite way to pass an afternoon.

        Trying to stop the bleeding as best I can with a bath towel, (not easy to do with an uncooperative and terrified not-quite-three-year-old), while simultaneously keeping a rein on my nephew, I realize that I am not going to be able to get this circus to the emergency room in a snow storm on my own. So I call for an ambulance. The parking lot in my apartment complex is like Mount Everest; it's a ridiculously steep hill. People park there cars at the top of the hill when snow is predicted because that is the only way to get out of there once the snow starts. As I'm trying to get the kids dressed for the snow, while continuing to control the bleeding, I contemplate trudging up the hill to meet the ambulance to ensure it won't get stuck at the bottom and make it impossible for us to get to the Emergency Room. (I have a horrible vision of me holding a needle and thread while the doctor "talks me through it" over the phone). The ambulance, however, arrives before I can do that and the guys apply first aid. As they hustle us all into the ambulance I assure them that we are not getting up that hill in the snow. The driver assures me that we are getting up that hill one way or another and proves himself right with surprisingly little effort. These guys are like heroes to me. The rest of the ride is slippery and hazardous but otherwise uneventful and they drop us off at the local emergency room where the staff takes over.

        We are ushered into a room where the stitching will take place. They intend to suture her lip without the use of Novocain. This, they inform me, is standard procedure with small children. They don't want the wound to be numb because if it is sore the child will not mess with it and possibly undo the sutures. They don't want me in the room when they do it. When I balk at this they become insistent. (This is before the age of ultra-litigation that we live in today and some doctors are much more imperious and accustomed to having their way than they are at present.) I don't want to leave her but they are adamant and I acquiesce when they insist that they will not give my daughter the care she needs until I obey. They are strapping her to a flat, wooden board as I leave the room. I sit in the waiting room with my nephew on my lap and listen to my daughter scream as she is being repaired. It's a scream I've never heard before, a combination of fear, pain, anger, and abandonment that is a new addition to her "scream vocabulary". Thankfully, I have never heard it again. I call my husband at work when they are done and he eventually gets there through the storm to pick us up and take us home. The medical bills are not a concern. The health insurance we get through my husband's employer pays 100% of emergency services with no deductible. As everyone knows, an ambulance ride can be very expensive but we support the local volunteer fire-company with yearly donations. That puts us on "the list" and the ambulance is free. My daughter, of course, is in a highly agitated state all that night and when I finally get her to sleep I collapse from physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. I have to sleep fast because my nephew will be at the front door at 7am. My birthday is just a few weeks away. I'll be twenty-one. Maybe these kinds of things will be easier then. I'll be an adult.


 This post linked to the GRAND Social

Monday, May 19, 2014

I Heard That!

        Mothers have supersonic hearing. It's true. I've known this for a long time. I noticed it when I first became a mother and subsequent births have only served to reinforce the fact. By "supersonic" I'm not referring to the speed of sound, of course. We're not talking jets here. What I mean is that mothers have an unusual auditory acuity, an increased ability to hear certain sounds associated with babies. A baby's cry, whimper, cough, sneeze, all are magnified in the mother's ear to an uncanny and even supernatural degree. What mother has not had the experience of being awakened from a dead sleep by the slightest sound that her infant makes and then being compelled to assure herself that all was right with the precious one? It's both a curse and a blessing, for although we have all heard of, or even experienced, the miraculous instances when this phenomenon has resulted in tragedy averted, the vast majority of the time it is merely our little ones making the normal sounds they make in there sleep and causing alarm for nothing. Causing alarm for nothing is what they do best.

        I have always thought that there must be some scientific basis for this observation that was worthy of clinical study. And I always assumed that if a verifiable cause could be determined it would probably point to a physical change that takes place in the mother during pregnancy or birth and would no doubt have some kind of hormonal origin. Recently, however, I have discovered that this hypothesis cannot be valid. It has been thirty years since I've given birth and experienced the onset of this amazing ability and yet with Kiley in my life I now find it happening again. I can hear her breathing in the other room. I can hear her moving in her sleep from upstairs. I can hear her whimper over the noise of the dryer. Since any changes due to pregnancy are thankfully far in my past there must be some other mechanism in play here, some other agency at work.

        Perhaps the source is the baby itself. Maybe they release some kind of pheromone that triggers certain changes in adult females of the species. I imagine it permeating every room of the house, thick in the air like pollen in springtime. (No wonder the dog is scratching so much. He's probably allergic.)You can't avoid it and can't resist it. Slowly, it morphs your sensory organs or maybe even certain areas of the brain until before you know it a gassy baby sounds like the "Charge of Light Brigade" – volleying and thundering.

        Then again, maybe it's not as complicated as all that. Maybe it isn't a physical phenomenon at all. Maybe it's a connection on a more basic level. Not everything can be explained by science or chemistry you know, and there is still such a thing as magic in the world. Kiley and I have become attuned to each other. We are in sync, on the same wavelength. The feel, the smell, the sound of her is imprinted on my mind and the essence of her on my heart. Every mother and every woman who has loved a child has felt this. It has always been so. When the first woman loved the first child an eternal connection was forged, mystical and wondrous, and that bond has remained, through all the generations, as clear and strong as the river that flowed through paradise. And so, when we reach out to one another, woman and child, we too are caught up in the unending flow that connects us to each other. The connection that cannot be broken, not by time or distance, age or separation. It has to stretch a little and pull thinner as our babies grow so they can be themselves. That makes it thinner when they are thirty than when they are three, stronger at six-teen than sixty, but no matter how far it stretches or how old they grow it can never fully be broken. And so when our children cry, or whimper, or call to us in their sleep, whether they are small and just down the hall or grown and half a world away, we here the tiny sound, like a whisper in Eden, and are drawn to them wherever they may be.


Monday, May 12, 2014

Gerber Green

Kiley is eating real food now not just milk. Well, "real food" is a bit of a stretch. She's eating baby food and baby food is only "real food" in the sense that astronaut food is real food. If it can be squeezed out of a tube in the zero gravity of space it is not what I would consider "real food". In the same vein, if it can be shot from a squirt gun it ain't carrots. It might be the same color as carrots, it might smell like carrots (it don't), it might even taste like carrots but that orange mush in the baby food jar is not carrots. It is merely mimicking carrots, impersonating carrots, reminiscent of carrots, even derived from carrots but that's about as far as its relation to real carrots goes. The same is true for all the other baby food flavors. Spinach, green beans, peas, pears, the list goes on: they re all the same "mush" in different colors. Oh, I'm sure they are nutritious enough, scientifically formulated and all that, but there is more to eating than nutrition.

That said; Kiley loves baby food – all of it. Which is amazing to me. I can understand the so-called fruit, peaches and pears, they're sweet, but the rest are all vegetables. And they are mostly the vegetables that I hated as a kid – spinach, peas, broccoli, squash for God's sake; she loves them all, asparagus. She can't get enough. I put her in her chair and as soon as I start putting her bib on she goes crazy.  She is absolutely frantic for the colored mush. It's like she hasn't eaten in a month. And talk about a messy process! I scoop up a spoonful of "whatever" and shovel it into her gaping maul only to have half of it squirt back out all over her mouth and chin.  I then scrape it off her face with the spoon and shove it back in, again half of it squirts back out. And this continues until there is not enough on her face to bother scraping off and its time for spoonful number two.

By the end of this ordeal, affectionately known as "lunch time", she has multi-colored mush all over everything. Her mouth, her chin, her hands and arms they are all smeared with "lunch" but that doesn't faze her a bit. She doesn't care that she is covered with slime from head to foot. In fact she objects strenuously when I attempt to clean it off. Apparently, when your four months old, having your face wiped with a damp cloth is more objectionable than having carrots up your nose. Go figure. Still, it is good that she is a good eater. This is a critical time in her physical development and she needs all the nutrients she can get to facilitate the rapid growth of her body and brain. There is plenty of time for her to develop her own individual likes and dislikes but for now it is good that she is not "picky" about food. Especially since her food is so repulsive to grown-ups. Have you ever tasted it? I'm sure every mother has. You can't help it if merely from curiosity. So it must be obvious to anyone that, despite what the manufacturer states, the orange stuff is not carrots it's something else. I don't know what it is but it's not carrots and it shouldn't be called carrots. It should be called, I don't know, Gerber Orange maybe. And the green stuff shouldn't be called peas or spinach or broccoli it should be called Gerber Green. In fact I imagine there must be a secret facility out in the desert where this stuff is mass produced under tight security, from God knows what, then shipped out to all of the unsuspecting babies of the world. Actually, that makes sense. It explains everything. That stuff's not carrots. It's people. It's peeeeeeoplllllllllle!


This post linked to the GRAND Social.

Monday, May 5, 2014


        I love the modern age and all of its conveniences. I especially love the conveniences of modern motherhood. I am only a "mother", or temporary equivalent thereof, for nine hours a day five days a week but that is enough for me to know that the conveniences of modern day childcare are wonderful. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that childcare or motherhood is easy these days, quite the contrary. Taking care of the little ones in general and being a mother in particular are probably among the hardest, most challenging occupations in existence, especially for those who also work outside the home. There may be those who dispute this assertion but I won't waste my time or yours attempting to justify it. It's simply a fact. If you have done it then you know it, and if you don't know it then you haven't done it. Nevertheless, childcare is not what it was just a generation ago and I thank God for that.

Contrary to what common wisdom and history teachers would tell you, the most revolutionary invention of the past millennium is neither the printing press nor the steam engine. Oh, no! It's not the automobile, the airplane, the computer, the Internet, or even Velcro. No, the one thing most responsible for elevating mankind, lifting us out of our former brutish existence, and separating us from the beasts of the field, is the invention of the disposable diaper.

Think about it. Imagine if you dare what life was like for mothers of the past, those poor benighted souls, whose only recourse was the use of cloth diapers. Imagine the horror associated with the use of such a product: a diaper that was not only difficult and even dangerous to apply and remove but was also re-usable – re-usable mind you – and everything that that implies. Re-usable?! We're talking diapers here! You may wonder how anyone could ever think that re-using something as inherently unsanitary as a baby's diaper could ever be a good idea. I certainly do. The answer, of course, is simple and apparent – in the past there was no other alternative.

I first became a mother forty years ago. That was a transitional time as far as baby products were concerned. At that time baby supplies and equipment, everything from baby food to baby toys, were undergoing a revolution of sorts – including the diaper. When those of my generation were infants the cloth diaper was the primary option available to our poor mothers. However, by the early seventies when I was first becoming a mother, disposable diapers were widely available. Disposable diapers had been around for a while, Pampers were first marketed in 1961, but the economics behind the idea made it difficult and sometimes impossible for some mothers to take advantage of this innovation. As a young, first time mother I was juggling a host of economic issues including the tremendous cost of baby formula which, at the time, was all the rage among mothers and pediatricians alike. Forced to choose between expensive disposable diapers and re-usable, and therefore less expensive, cloth diapers I opted for the latter. Yuck!

At the time that decision was not as illogical as it sounds today. Remember, I was raised in an era when the cloth diaper was queen. Everyone used them and always had. The disposable diaper was a comparatively new; some said "newfangled", convenience and was still considered in many precincts as a luxury rather than a necessity. I certainly thought of it that way. So cloth diapers were still a big part of the diaper scene and there were two ways to do it: wash them yourself or subscribe to a "diaper service". In 1974, when my first daughter was born, the "diaper service" was the most common arrangement for the re-usable diaper crowd: at least it was among my socioeconomic set. Still, we could remember our mothers washing diapers themselves back in the day -Nasty! The diaper service was easy and a major convenience. You simply deposited the dirty diapers into the "diaper pail" provided by the service and they were picked up weekly at the same time that a fresh supply of clean diapers was delivered. And when I say clean, I mean clean. You could not tell that they had been used before, a feature that was absolutely necessary for the success of that business model.

The diaper service was a big innovation but only in a relative sense compared to what came before. It could not compare with the true convenience of disposable diapers. Cloth diapers have a lot of disadvantages. They are large and bulky. They don't "seal" properly and therefore require the use of rubber pants over top of them to prevent leakage. You fasten them with "safety pins", an Orwellian term if I ever heard one, which require the mother to place her finger or thumb behind the diaper when fastening it to ensure that if and when the pin goes too deep or at the wrong angle her finger or thumb receives the wound rather than baby's hip. The clumsy mother could look forward to years of bleeding digits because of this. Then, of course, there is the "diaper pail" which is nothing short of an abomination. Can you imagine having that thing as a permanent fixture in your home? The dog loved it, but I hated it. And finally there is the fact and knowledge that the diapers you are using on your "little precious" were used before by God knows who. Sure they were cleaned and bleached so that they were no doubt sanitary, but still!

And that brings me to the point that I want to make here. Presently there is a movement afoot to return to re-usable diapers. The criminals behind this insanity are the usual eco-crazys that always seem determined to make our lives miserable. The twisted logic seems to be that disposable diapers are taking up too much room at the landfill and "Gaia" demands a return to re-usables. Don't let them do it! The advantages and relative gentility of disposable diapers are worth any price that the Earth and mankind must pay and the "green movement" be damned. If our own landfills are filling up with diapers then we should conquer any neighboring nations necessary, clear off all of the people, and turn those countries into diaper landfills. Harsh perhaps but it has to be done. It's them or us. Be honest, which would you rather have, a soul slightly blackened by genocide or a diaper pail in your kitchen? I've made my choice.