Monday, June 23, 2014

Just Plain Nasty

        As every mother knows babies are just plain nasty. There's no getting around it or sugar coating it or putting a positive spin on it, babies are just plain nasty and if you are going to be a mother, nanny, or any kind of caregiver you had best get used to it. Let's face it babies like nasty. They revel in nasty. So to be a successful mother you have to be able to ignore the nasty that follows your child around the way a pilot fish follows a shark. Luckily, we seem to be programmed for getting used to nasty. It's in our genes. Millions of years of evolutionary pressure have forged the modern mother into a natural wonder of nasty ignoring perfection. If this were not the case the species would have died out long ago. Cro-Magnon woman would have thrown her hands up in outraged disgust and stormed out of the cave leaving Cro-Magnon man to deal with the nasty. We all know how that would have turned out.

The nasty begins right at birth. (There are those who would contend that the nasty begins with conception but that's strictly personal opinion). The whole birth process is nasty. "Water", blood, sweat, tears, - good lord did you think you would ever feel clean again? And that was just to get the ball rolling. The next few years are more or less dominated by the three "P's" – poop, and her little sisters pee and puke – and it is amazing how quickly we become accustomed to being pooped, peed and puked on. In a matter of weeks what should repel any normal human being becomes routine. The nasty evolves from repellent, to bearable, to normal in no time at all and what used to be intolerable has become more or less unobjectionable. Have you ever caught yourself humming a pleasant tune or planning dinner or even whistling while wiping a babies butt? It becomes just that effortless. No big deal.

I suppose it is the same for every unpleasant task that people are required to perform. I'm sure it must be pretty gross at first when you're a rookie in the morgue but after a while you're eating your lunch down there with the clientele. Still, when I was young and innocent I never imagined that I would one day be picking the crust out of someone else's nose and that they would be the one complaining about it rather than me. In the final analysis, however, motherhood is really just a wake up call, a lesson in the changes that we all have to go through as we live out our lives. It's sort of like practice for the truly unpleasant things that most of us have to get used to somewhere along the line because, let's face it, life in general can be nasty in more ways than one. It's best if we learn early how to cope with the unpleasant aspects of life for we never know when we will be called upon to grab the dirty end of the stick and get knee deep in the nasty whatever form it may take. And if the hardest thing we have to become accustomed to in life is seeing to the unpleasant needs of the ones we love the most then I guess we can say we're getting off pretty easy.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Hey! Get Out of There!


         Kiley is getting more and more adept at getting around on her own. At five plus months she isn't quite crawling yet but it won't be long. This means that she is on the very edge of a new horizon. Her world is about to expand dramatically as her ability to explore her surroundings takes a leap forward. It's only a matter of time before she is going everywhere and into everything. It will be a time of great discovery for her as her new mobility affords her the opportunity to find out what is around each corner, what is under the sofa, or what is at the other end of the hall.

Unfortunately, this will also be the beginning of a time of danger for her. The world including the interiors of our homes can be a dangerous place for the unwary, and crawlers and toddlers, are nothing if not unwary.  Without any experience of the consequences of even the simplest action, every move Kiley makes could be potentially injurious. She is entering the time of booboos and I must see to it that the inevitable booboos are minor ones. As much as we all hate to think about it, dropping the ball on this one could lead to serious consequences or even tragedy. It's time to child proof the house.

There was a time when the playpen was the standard way of keeping babies safe and secured. I remember the playpen I used decades ago. It was a big, heavy contraption with wooden bars that effectively corralled the little ones and kept them out of harms way. But they hated it. It was a cage. I think the "pen" in playpen is short for penitentiary. What I remember most about the playpen was my daughter wordlessly begging to be released. Today's version is very light and portable with mesh instead of bars, but it's still a cage. I use one now as a bed for Kiley and it is perfect for her naps but I wouldn't want to confine her in there as a place to play. Children, like chickens, need to be free range. Therefore, the house needs to be made safe for them to roam in. So where do we begin? I guess that's simple. We begin with the obvious dangers that have spawned a small child proofing industry:

Cabinet and Drawer Locks. Back in the day we used to tie our cabinet doors shut with string to keep the curious out. We learned this trick from our mothers who learned it from theirs ad infinitum. Now you can buy plastic locking devices of various designs, some more effective than others depending on the complexity of the locking mechanism. (It is important when choosing the right device for your house that it is not so complex that you can't figure it out. A very real possibility.) Trust me, once your little "leg leach" realizes you want to keep them out of something, that "something" will become extremely interesting to her and the device you are using to deny her the access she craves will become the most fascinating object in the house. You will find that she is continually drawn to it and, I think it is safe to assume, a good part of her time is spent thinking about it. She will not rest until she has figured it out. Remember the effectiveness of any such device has a limited life span indirectly proportional to the rapidly growing cleverness of your child. The older she becomes the closer to success she will get. Therefore, these devices are good for keeping your child away from the pots and pans and dish towels etc. that you don't want her tossing all over the kitchen floor but DO NOT rely on them to keep your loved one away from poison or sharp objects. Put such things in an upper cabinet that she won't be able to get to until she is old enough that it will no longer matter. "KEEP THE BLEACH OUT OF REACH". And don't forget – alcohol is a poison.

Electric Outlet Covers. These are a must. You know what I'm talking about; the little plastic plugs that you stick into unused electrical outlets to prevent your tiny inquisitor from sticking other things into them. They work great but are only a first line of defense. Just like the drawer locks they soon become an item of fascination to your little "electrician" and you will find him sitting in front of an outlet and picking at the outlet cover trying to get it out. He will eventually be successful. The real danger, however, is with outlets that are in use. The plugged in electrical cord is much easier to remove from the outlet than are the outlet covers, which affords your little one the opportunity to insert something else in its place. Even more hazardous is that moment when the electrical cord is part way out of the outlet but still connected to the "juice". A little finger touching the exposed prongs will create a new path for the electricity to follow - the worst possible path. Remember, you may not know what the definition of the electrical term "amperage" is (I don't) but rest assured there is enough of it in each and every wall outlet to kill an adult. Do whatever you must to keep little fingers away from these dangerous necessities.

Window Shade Cords. The cords used to open and close window shades or blinds seem innocuous but they are extremely dangerous to "carpet crawlers". They are a choking hazard especially the ones that are simply a loop hanging down. These become nooses too readily. There are small cord hangers that you can attach to the wall high enough so when the cord is wrapped around it the little ones can't reach it. It is simple and effective. Remember, it only takes seconds for a child to become unconscious or worse when something is wrapped tightly around its neck.

Baby Gates. These things are great for keeping "them" out of areas you don't want them in. I'm going to allow Kiley free run of the family room and kitchen which are connected (with myself present at all times of course). But that is about as much baby chasing as I am willing to indulge in. I don't want her roaming out of eyesight, or up the stairs. Two baby gates are enough to accomplish the necessary partitioning and are easy to erect and take down. Just remember there are different models and though they should all be designed to meet safety standards make sure there are no potential pinch points or other hazards that a poorly designed gate may have. You don't want your baby to be the cause of a new product recall.

Glass. Wherever there is glass there is potential for an unpleasant hour or six in the emergency room. With Kiley around I use nothing but plastic cups for whatever I am drinking. Ceramic cups for coffee or tea are okay because ceramic doesn't break so easily and when it does it doesn't create the instrument of horror that glass does. Get down on the floor and look around to get a baby's eye view of the terrain. Is there any glass around? I have a TV cabinet with glass pane doors in my family room. This is an accident waiting to happen. I removed the glass and replaced it with Plexiglas. It looks the same but is safe.

Burns. Keep your "floor flea" away from coffee, tea, the stove, the fireplace, the grill, metal that has been sitting in the sun, lighters, soup, or anything else that is potentially hot. Remember to put your hand in the bath water before her butt. Sunburn is a "burn" and can be serious. If it is red it is a first-degree burn. If it blisters it is a second-degree burn. Use sunscreen.

Falls. Once your little "couch climber" can stand it will soon begin to climb. This creates the potential for falls with the resultant, bangs, bruises, breaks, split heads and busted lips that are so vexing to the harried mother. There is not much to be done about this except to keep them away from the stairs, especially when they are upstairs, and be right behind them when they are climbing.

Choking Hazards. Another common one. They put everything in their mouths so make sure there are no small objects on the floor. If it is smaller than his fist, don't let him have it. Watch out for hot dogs, grapes, bananas, or any food that he can bite a chunk off of. We used to have these, so called, "teething biscuits" that were like a hard cookie. I don't know if they are still around. Everyone gave them to their teething babies. They were ubiquitous. They slowly dissolved as the babies gnawed on them but eventually the teethers would break off a piece that would inevitably get stuck in the back of their throats. I can't tell you how many times I had to dig a big chunk of these things out of a clogged mouth with my finger before I came to the conclusion that the manufacturer was actually trying to kill my baby and got rid of them.

        The bottom line is there are a plethora of hazards both minor and major right in your safe and secure home but they can be managed with a little foresight and common sense. If there is any doubt whether something is safe err on the side of caution and keep an eye out for pins, needles, knives, forks, corks, balls, rope, pens, pencils, erasers, bottle tops, scissors, spools, thimbles, screw drivers, light bulbs, laser pointers, spoons, batteries, stairs, toilets, coins, keys, combs, candles, buttons, table corners, string, shoe laces, ribbons, ear rings, band aids, stoves, soap, electrical wire, nail clippers, tooth paste, paper towels, dogs, other kids, snakes, lions, swords, guns, grenades, flame throwers, catapults, battleships, atomic bombs, aliens, vampires, mummies, zombies, lava, dust mites, spiders, cuss words………………………………………


Monday, June 9, 2014

The View From Below

 Not an actual image of my floor, but you get the idea... (Thank you Wikimedia Commons)

        I'm spending a lot of time on the floor these days. It's not by choice, believe me. Kiley, at five months old, spends practically all of her time on the floor – rolling around, worming around, rolling over, almost sitting up, scooting on her belly, advancing slowly but surely toward crawling – and I'm down there in the trenches with her. When I say it's not by choice I mean it. If I didn't have to be there I certainly wouldn't be. Not only is it hard at my age to get down on the floor but once there it's practically impossible to get back up. All right, all right, impossible is an exaggeration but it's extremely difficult, okay. The middle-aged body – yes middle- aged – was not designed to be constantly heaving its self into a standing position using only the feeble strength of its aging, though still sexy, legs.

         Actually, I'm not yet willing to concede the point that it is my age that is responsible for the difficulty. There are far too many possibly possible factors in play to, absolutely and without a doubt determine, that my body not being what it once was is the root cause of the difficulty. After all, to mention just one possibly possible factor, the earth is gaining about 40,000 tons of weight per year simply from stuff filtering down from space. That means that the earth is about one and a half million tons heavier now than it was when I was twenty-one. Tons mind you! Do you know how many elephants that is? Neither do I, but the point is that the gravity of the Earth is increasing all the time. No wonder I can't get off the floor, it's a wonder I can get out of bed with all that gravity. So it could be the gravity, right? Right? Anyway, whatever the cause, trust me it's an effort to get up off the floor.

        But it's not just the difficulty of getting up and down that makes the floor undesirable. When was the last time you saw your floors close up? First of all, before I go any further let me assure you that I vacuum every day. Okay, not every room but definitely the family room where Kiley hangs out. I even use the Rinse-N-Vac regularly and yet this is how clean the carpet is? Being this close to the down and dirty makes it painfully obvious how dirty the "down" is, and this is without my glasses. (Do you know how many dust mites there are in the average carpet? Do you know how many dust mites there are on the average pillow? Do you know what they eat? I won't disturb your peace of mind by informing you but this is what they look like.)

        Do I need a new vacuum? I can't imagine I do. I have one of those really good ones that cost a fortune. It's supposed to do a good job. This is what they consider a good job? I can only assume that all of these fantastic "wonder machines" are actually designed to clean your floors just enough so that they look clean from a height of about five feet or so. But get closer and it's another story. It's all about appearing clean not being clean. Another misconception we are all laboring under. Still, I guess we only have ourselves to blame. After all, this is the world we've created. One where it is better to look good than be good (the Kardashians), better to talk good than deliver the goods (Obama), better to feel good than do good (practically all of us). So I guess we've got the floors we deserve and there is nothing for it but to embrace the horror that is my family room carpet. In fact, while I'm down here maybe, just maybe, I can turn this to my advantage. If I could just figure a way to communicate with the dust mites, win their allegiance, and train them to do my bidding there is nothing I couldn't accomplish. Imagine me, the queen of retribution, striding over the face of the Earth with legions of loyal dust mites behind me. I'd make some people pay believe me. I'd start with the vacuum manufacturers but it wouldn't end there, oh no, it wouldn't end there! Mmmmmwwwwwaaahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

This post linked to the GRAND Social

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Monkey Butt

        Kiley has a monkey on her butt. Believe it or not this bizarre development indicates that she is a girl and that gender specific clothing for babies has undergone another twist in its increasingly rapid evolution. Today it is taken for granted that we dress baby girls differently from baby boys but it hasn't always been so. This is a relatively new phenomenon, historically speaking. In the distant past babies of both genders appear to have either gone "swaddled" (wrapped tightly in binding cloth) or naked. As far as "swaddling" is concerned, that strange practice was employed even in biblical times. Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes, as you will recall. In later centuries swaddling was diligently employed based on misconceptions about the development of infant appendages (infants who went unswaddled ran the risk of their limbs growing crooked. Good lord!). As far as "naked" is concerned it may be a misconception on my part but I don't ever recall seeing any renaissance painting that depicted an infant with any clothes on. This may simply have been an artistic statement about the spiritual purity of  infants, or something, especially ones with halos around their heads or wings on their backs, but I can't help but imagine a 15th century Italy where adults were covered from head to toe with voluminous yards of cloth while their children crawled as naked as jay birds through the Tuscan countryside.

Somewhere along the way parents started dressing their babies in long gowns which were basically unisex, with both baby boys and girls being dressed identically. The unisex thing seems to have been the norm throughout history. Babies, it appears, were often thought of primarily as babies and their gender was secondary to their "babyness". Late in the 19th century "rompers" came into fashion. These were (and are) like onesies with attached bloomer type pants and were the same for both boys and girls. Rompers were standard baby fare in the first half of the 20th century and came in different colors. By the late 1920's floral and animal designs started appearing on baby clothing. Originally these designs were unisex just like the rompers they adorned but eventually they began to be differentiated by sex with motifs such as drums and dogs for boys and flowers and kittens for girls. These gender specific motifs created the designations of boys and girls clothes even if the styles themselves were identical. That gender specific trend has continued.

The familiar concept of gender specific colors (blue and pink) began around 1910 but was originally reversed with pink for boys and blue for girls. It was reasoned that pink was a milder form of red which stands for Mars the god of war. Therefore pink was appropriate for boys. By the same logic blue was associated with Venus the goddess of love and was designated as feminine. These designations, however, were merely what fashion dictated and in practice both colors were interchangeable. It wasn't until after WWII that pink became the color for girls and blue for boys and has remained so ever since.

Over the past couple of generations baby fashion has swung this way and that, from practically unisex to extreme gender differentiation in clothing and back gain. Maybe it's just a personal impression but it seems to me that the emphasis is more often on feminizing girls clothing to differentiate them from boys rather than the other way around. This observation, if valid, points to the double standard that exists in what is acceptable for girls and boys and the gender colors highlight this. Generally it is permissible for girls to wear blue, no one thinks anything about it, but it is not permissible for boys to wear pink. A boy dressed in pink raises eyebrows. This translates into adult fashion as well. Women can wear men's clothes but the other way around doesn't work, the Rupauls of the world notwithstanding.

And that brings us to the monkey on Kiley's butt. Now that I'm around a baby again I notice that baby girls often wear pants that have some kind of whimsical image on the bum. Flowers, kittens, elephants, monkeys – whatever you like it is there to decorate your baby girls bottom. Baby boys? Not so much. The boys have them on their chests or bellies (usually sharks or dinosaurs or lions or some other predator, appropriately cartoonized of course) but we don't seem to want to draw attention to our baby boys bottoms the way we do our girls. It's kind of weird when you stop to think about it but at the same time it seems very natural to me. Baby girls look adorable with something decorating their bottoms but on baby boys it would raise eyebrows. I won't try to psychoanalyze our society over this or try to make some kind of insightful point. That's for sociologists, anthropologists, and "gender-studies" crackpots to twist into their own political agenda. The bottom line is that boys will be boys and girls will be girls and their parents will continue to dress them for the job. Girls actually have the best part of the deal. They're the lucky ones. They have so many more options when it comes to fashion than boys and have the option to either take advantage of it or not. The vast majority do take advantage of it because that's the way girls are. They love fashion. I'm sure Kiley will be no exception. I expect she'll be a regular fashionista when it comes to clothes because, believe me, from her big brown eyes and curly locks to the monkey on her butt she's all girl.


This post linked to the GRAND Social