Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Scratch, Ouch, Ouch Again, Bilirubin, Other Stuff

Sorry for the delay, I’ve been a little distracted.

Instead of going away after delivery, the PUPPP got worse. What was mostly a maddening itch on my belly and upper thighs during pregnancy has become a full-blown red blotchy rash on my stomach, legs, arms, back, and butt. The rash is spreading every day, and the constant scratching is driving me and everyone around me nuts.

Bright side? Pregnancy fingernails. Whoo ah! (scritch scratch scratch) I can dig at my flesh with fantastically strong nails.

Let’s see, what else. Ooh, yes. Childbirth hurts. Recovering from childbirth is also painful. Ibuprofen really doesn’t take the edge off like it should.

Nursing? Also hurts. The colostrum phase never hurt with Lumpyhead. He latched fine until my milk came in, then our problems started. Lumpyhead’s sister is a little more forceful with her latch, and “bleeding” and “scabs” are never words you want to utter when talking about nipples.

In his first week, Lumpyhead dealt with nursing a lot like a professional wine taster sets about judging wine. He would carefully sip, aerating the liquid and swishing it around his mouth. He might swallow some, but also do a good deal of spitting.

His sister’s approach to nursing is more like a frat boy doing a keg stand.

Football hold? Crossover hold? Whatever. I swear I could hold her upside down by the ankle in the general area of my chest and Little Achilles would still manage to latch on like a determined crocodile.

On Friday she started to look a little yellow. Lumpyhead was hospitalized for phototherapy, so we were anxious about jaundice with this baby. When she began sleeping more and seeming lethargic, we started her on formula and I started with the pump. Honestly, the breast pump was a lot gentler than her greedy little mouth.

On Saturday we began our daily trips to the pediatrician. Over the course of the weekend, we visited two different hospital labs for heelsticks and bilirubin counts. Monday’s count was lower, which is good, and the baby is now getting pumped milk instead of formula and won’t be going back to the doctor until her two-week checkup.

Bump’s mother is back in Florida and now my parents are in town. With all the grandparental attention, Lumpyhead is handling the arrival of his new sister with practiced nonchalance. He doesn’t seem to mind that she’s around, but he seems concerned when she cries (in more of a “make that infernal racket stop” kind of way rather than an “oh dear, what’s wrong with the baby” kind of way). He kissed her little head today, which was cute.

I still don’t know what I’m calling her.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Tin Roof! Rusted.

Alternate Title: Probably Not the Picture You Were Waiting For

I haven't named her yet.

After her birth, I planned to call Akutaq something else. I chose the nickname Akutaq for many reasons, full of meaning and symbolism, but some people had taken to calling her Shaq Attack. Which I think is pretty funny. The juxtaposition of a large athlete and a tiny Hapa baby? Well, that's pure poetry right there.

Before Akutaq was born, the leading candidate for her post-fetal name was Thrakkorzog. (And you thought Akutaq was difficult to spell.)

Thrakkorzog is a mucous-based life form from another dimension, bent on destroying the world. I think that sums up a baby's job description pretty accurately.

And you can sing this song:
Lumpyhead and Thrakkorzog (doo dah, doo dah)
Lumpyhead and Thrakkorzog (oh dee doo dah day)

So, there was:
1) Thrakkorzog
2) Zog (the short form)
3) or Susan (the diminutive form)

There was 4) Whitey, as suggested by Aunt Bob's Little Guy. Also 5) Lumpyhead 2.

Or 6) Shaq, since some people are going to call her that anyway.

Lumpyhead calls her 7) Hank.

I'm leaning towards Hank.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Akutaq has Arrived!

Posted by Bump

Akutaq—whose blog identity is subject to change at the discretion of the proprietor—was born today at 12:21 p.m., weighing 7 lbs. 8 oz. and measuring 19 ½ inches (some of which was conehead, of course). She and LHM are healthy and happy.

The birth actually went according to plan. We arrived at the hospital at about 7:45 a.m. for our 8:30 induction, started the pitocin almost simultaneously with the Group B Strep antibiotic just after 8:30 (we thought there would be a lag time before starting the pitocin, but there wasn’t). LHM got the epidural at 10:30, started pushing at 11:00, and the baby was out less than 90 minutes later. LHM actually had to wait a few minutes—not pushing during her contractions—because the OB had left the room for a few minutes and the baby decided she wasn’t waiting any longer.

Lumpyhead met his sister this afternoon. We’re surprised how much Akutaq resembles her brother as a newborn—we were expecting a different mix of facial features, but pretty much got Lumpyhead Redux, but with girly bits and without as lumpy a head. Unlike Lumpyhead’s delivery, there was no need for a vacuum extractor or episiotomy this time around.

LHM and baby Akutaq are doing well, although I’m sure you'll be regaled with photos and the gorier details in due course. In the meantime, thank you for all of your well-wishing and positive thoughts today—they seem to have paid off!

Hopes for Labor Day

As eager as I have been for today to arrive - and by “eager” I mean I’ve been waiting for this day since fricking May - I feel completely unprepared for the coming events.

While Bump and I put the final items into the hospital bag last night, I realized just how little thought I have given to labor and delivery.

I recognize that I have very little control over the process I’m about to experience. I don’t mean that the hospital and doctor won’t listen to me - just the opposite is true, I feel very empowered with regard to my medical care - I mean that this baby and my body will determine how the next few hours go. I’m just along for the ride.

My birth plan goes like this, in order of importance:
1) Have a healthy baby
2) Don’t die
3) Get an epidural, for the love of God

Actually, never mind that order of importance thing. Those three things are probably of equal importance.

I would like for Bump to avoid passing out. I think we can accomplish this if he doesn’t see any blood and no one mentions the word episiotomy.

My labor with Lumpyhead was relatively short, lasting about five hours from pitocin to delivery. I imagine I will get an IV upon arrival at the hospital this morning, and be started on antibiotics for Group B Strep. The doctor wants at least four hours of antibiotics before delivery, so I might not be started on the pitocin to induce labor for an hour or two. Real contractions will start, I’ll get an epidural, and the doctor will probably rupture my membranes. I’ll fully dilate, start pushing, and eventually receive a new wrist band for my efforts.

That’s what I’m expecting, but I won’t be surprised or concerned if things go differently. I would prefer to avoid a c-section, and effective pain management is important to me; but I won’t be disappointed if I need surgery and I’ll power through if there’s not time for an epidural. (The same way, for example, I would power through if our plane crashed in the Andes and I had to eat you to survive. Let’s really hope it doesn’t come to that now, shall we? By the way, you might want to put on a little more weight before our trip to Peru. I’m just sayin’.)

I want to see ten fingers, ten toes. (A round head and a right-sized bunghole would be a nice bonus.)

I’m anxious to meet her. I’m excited to see what she looks like and get to know her and figure out what to call her on the blog (Akutaq was an in-utero name only).

In a few hours, I’ll be done with this whole pregnancy thing. I’ll be sore and weary, sleepless at odd hours and exhausted during the day, elated by the presence of the new little person who has joined our family.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

I'm Sure I'll Feel Like a Chump Until Tuesday

I could be done with this whole pregnancy thing by now. Instead I'm still fat and grumpy, sleepless at odd hours and exhausted during the day, scratching myself like a flea-ridden stray.

I could have been induced yesterday. When the doctor offered the 20th, we declined and stuck with the 23rd. Even though there's probably no difference at all between 37 and a half weeks gestation and 38 weeks, we thought yesterday might be a smidge early. (Chump) Perhaps more importantly, Bump had already booked his mom's flight, and she won't arrive until this afternoon. (Chump)

So I'm not in labor yet. I've been occasionally getting this weird little shooting pain "down there," which I assume is my cervix dilating some more. It's kind of like getting kicked in the crotch every so often. I suppose the pain could just be fetal movement, in which case I am just getting head-butted in the crotch.

In other news, we're going out to brunch with Aunt Bob and family this morning. I fear Lumpyhead might be reaching that stage where it's not a good idea to take him to restaurants, so we'll see how it goes. We went out with Bump's extended family last weekend, and while Lumpyhead didn't actually scream enough to disturb every other diner in the place, he spent the entire brunch on the verge of meltdown. I can't say I had a great time. Then again, at this stage of pregnancy, I'm never having a great time.

The point is probably moot anyway, as I imagine we won't be doing much dining out once the new baby arrives. Which could have been yesterday. But wasn't. Because I'm a chump.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Three Disgusting Things

1. All this scratching has brought me much closer to my moisturizers. I’ve been applying a great quantity of lotions and creams to deal with the itching. Nothing really helps, but I’m still a lotioning fool.

Recently I’ve become completely disgusted by lotion boogers. You know what I mean? Those little dried bits that form at the end of the pump? They sometimes constrict the flow of lotion, then come flying out with a particularly forceful pump or send the stream of lotion off in random directions. Lotion boogers may dangle there on the bottle, waiting to be released. Sometimes they sneak onto your dollop of lotion and you don’t notice them until you’ve rubbed all the normal lotion into your skin. Anyway, they’re grossing me out right now.

2. I don’t know why I’m saying this, other than to make the squeamish among you wince. You know what else is disgusting? Mucous plugs.

3. One of my new colleagues said that she preferred the final stages of pregnancy to parenting a newborn. She thought it was easier: you don’t have to guess what the baby needs (Is she hungry? Tired? Does she need to be changed? Does she have gas?) because in utero, the child is always safe and perfectly tended. The woman has a point, certainly. I can’t say I’m looking forward to the coming moments of desperate exhaustion, when those little newborn mewlings sound like horrific screams and you have no idea how to stop them. Maybe the second time around, those panicky feelings of “I don’t know what to do for you, Baby” combined with aching privates and sleep deprivation are easier to handle. But I doubt it.

So here’s the disgusting part - which is more annoying than nauseating: this colleague has four children aged 8 through 15, and is about the size of a matchstick. What. The. Fuck.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Baby Watch: No Baby Yet

I’m still pregnant.

Today was my last day in the office. I was going to tough it out until Monday, but I changed my mind. This means I won’t overlap with my replacement at all, but I’m suddenly fine with that. I think I’ve been slowly checking out over the past few days, and I’ve reached the point where I've stopped caring about the stuff that will happen while I'm out.

Which I think is a good thing.

The elevators were Members Only as I came into work today, and I happened to run into my boss as I was trudging up the stairs. He stammered some combination of “Why the hell are you still coming to work?” and “What the fuck are you doing walking up the stairs?” only he said it in a sweet Southern statesmanlike manner. He hustled me into the elevator and took me up the remaining floor, even though he was going down and it delayed the other Congressman in the elevator.

When I leave the office in the next few minutes, I’ll officially be on maternity leave. I just told my Chief of Staff that I would be checking my blackberry between contractions. He responded appropriately, which is to say: he laughed.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

An MLK Day Post That’s Really Just an Excuse for Me to Complain

I did not go into labor this weekend, and I have mixed feelings about that.

First, I’m a little sad that Akutaq will not share a birthday with Dr. King. I realize even if your birthday is January 15 you might not always get the day off for your birthday, but it would be pretty awesome to have a three-day weekend around your special day.

Second, I remain pregnant, which sucks the big fat one on the suckage scale. Thanks to PUPP (or PUPPP, or PUPPPP . . . honestly, I don’t care how many P’s it has. I don’t even care what it’s called, I just want it to go away), I’m scratching myself constantly; I sound like a rodent trapped behind a wall. I need a crane to help me roll over in bed, and in general I just feel sort of. . . off. I’m achy and sweaty and tired all the time. Oh, and I’m contracting every so often. Don’t panic, they’re not the real, active labor, can’t-talk-or-see kind of contraction. They’re just little contractions that make me pant a little, but they suck.

On the bright side, not going into labor this past weekend meant we didn’t have to scramble around to find someone to watch Lumpyhead. Bump’s mom arrives on Sunday, which will eliminate the need to track down Peter - or leave Lumpyhead on the curb in front of Sarah’s house - on our way to the hospital. Plus, Aunt Bob was out of town last weekend, meaning the non-fainting half of my delivery room support team would have unavailable in the event of an MLK delivery.

Even though I’m 2-3 cm dilated and 90 percent effaced, and the doctor claims I could go into labor “any minute,” I think we’ll make it to the scheduled induction on the 23rd (cue ominous music or sarcastic laughter).

Finally, would it kill the NFL to align the schedule to have Superbowl Sunday fall on MLK weekend? I mean, really? Doesn’t it make sense to have a big Sunday night event fall on a weekend when many of us have Monday off?* To use the parlance of the new Speaker of the House: Think of the children. Do it for the children.

*I don’t mean to intrude on a holiday for a great man, but jeez, I get Columbus Day off. Certainly the economic machine that is the Superbowl ranks up there with fricken Christopher Columbus.

And I hate to admit it, but just like I do on Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day, on MLK Day I scan the newspaper for events I could attend in recognition of the holiday, then settle back into what becomes Generic Lazy Sunday, Take 2.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Holiday Card Follow Up

(The Holiday Card post)

I'm totally floored that there are people out there who aren't interested in seeing the grownups and would rather get pictures of just the babies. Holy cow! My mind, it has been blown.

I guess it makes sense. I assume everyone out there sends out the type of holiday card they like to receive (Right? I mean, otherwise you're just a jerk). It's logical that the people who send out those three-page Jesus-heavy letters like to get them, too. (I mean for real, not just for the entertainment factor like some people)

I hereby issue this decree: you don't have to send a picture of yourself in your holiday card if you're not interested in seeing the other grownups. I can develop a two-tier system in which some people on my list get a (much easier for me, much cuter) picture of just Lumpyhead - oops, and his sister, next year - and the others will get a picture of the whole family (in front of the Capitol Christmas tree as has become our custom, so it will probably be mailed late; and at least half of us will look stupid, because that's just the way it is).

More importantly, I'm vowing to make good on Bump's response to Violet's comment and send a few holiday cards to people we don't know. I thought about doing the ransom demand format - just a photo card and no note - but I think I'll do the whole package: letter, picture, our real return address . . . everything. Everything my Aunt Karen gets, random stranger will get.

So here's where I need your help: send me some random strangers. Email me (lumpyheadsmom at gmail dot com) the name and snail mail address of someone you know (and who doesn't know us, obviously) who deserves and appreciates a good prank, and we'll send them a holiday card next year. I'll leave it up to you to let them in on the joke after they get the card, but if you're like me, you will have completely forgotten about this by next Christmas. And I think it's much better to leave them wondering anyway.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

For No Other Reason Than It Cracks Me Up

Here's Lumpyhead in his peacoat and hat.

The coat is a little too big for him, but the newsie hat always makes me laugh. The earflap/chinstrap lifts Lumpyhead's cheeks and makes them look plumper. Bump calls it The Wonderbra.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

If He Gets Asked "So How Was Your Christmas?" Do You Think People Believe The Answer?

I felt kinda bad for Tony Romo, but I really feel bad for this guy.

Granted, he shouldn't have been driving on a suspended license, but did he really deserve to be extradited to Maryland as a sex offender and get stuck there once MD authorities realized he wasn't the guy they thought he was? Talk about a rough couple of days.

I'm not sure what bothers me more: 1) the guy spent the holidays in jail because of a mistake, 2) Tennessee authorities complain that the guy didn't protest enough during extradition proceedings ("but I've never even been to Maryland" is apparently not good enough), or 3) after spending $2500 of the taxpayers' money to fly the guy to Maryland, no one will cough up the $88 for a bus ticket to get this poor sap home.

At least Tony Romo still has his job. I wonder if Mr. Rice (or Mr. Simpson or whatever his name is - maybe that can be straightened out in Texas) can hold a field goal?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Reflections on Holiday Cards

Do you regard your collection of mailed holiday greetings as some kind of popularity gauge? “Hey, looky here! This many people like me!”

Yeah, me either. I realize it’s only a subset of the people to whom I sent a card last year. But I can’t help feeling my stack of cards and pictures is a representation of the people I care about, and it makes me happy. So if you sent me a holiday card this year, I am properly greeted and feel festive as a result of your missive. Thank you.

The Perfect Holiday Card
(as I imagine it is envisioned by my favorite convicted felon):

A short, handwritten letter, perhaps a page or two long, written on engraved stationery of the proper weight. Because we correspond frequently, this letter only needs to detail our holiday plans and reflect on the wonder of the season. Perhaps a card features a photo of precious ones (kids, pets, the new boat) dressed in holiday finery.

My Perfect Holiday Card:

The greeting comes in the mail, because that’s quaint. You use a postage stamp and everything.

Because we haven’t actually seen each other in years, you include a photo. I sigh over how big Brianna has gotten or remark how much little Tristan looks like his dad.

Because we haven’t actually corresponded since last December, you also include a newsy note. You tell me about your latest adventures, describe your life in general, and maybe include an anecdote about the kids or a description of their personalities.

What I LOVE Getting:

1. Pictures. Of you.

I think the photos of your kids or cat or latest remodeling project are great, but how about including your own mug? I admit Bump and I feel narcissistic including a picture of ourselves, but since we love receiving pictures that include the grownups as well as the kids (and I can’t really complain unless I put out myself) we're in our holiday card picture. I see it as a chance to allow your friends to ask “Who’s this Doofus?” when they’re browsing through your cards.

Frankly, unless Ingris starts sending us holiday greetings (and she just might, I wouldn't put it past her) I don’t really know your kids, I know you. I want a picture of you. And don’t worry that you’re too fat/balding/otherwise unsightly to be in a photo, because that’s the damn point. I want to see how fat/balding/otherwise unsightly you’re become. Or more likely, I’ll marvel that you still look great and then hate you for it. Merry Christmas, now pass the damn pie.

2. Holiday cards for holidays I don’t celebrate, but you do.

Yeah, yeah, Christmas blah blah. Wish me a Happy Hannakuh or Kwanzaa or Pagan Winter Celebration or New Year, and don’t worry about the “holidays” or “peace” or “season” bullshit. If you celebrate it, include me in the celebration and I’ll be honored. It doesn’t matter if it’s not my holiday.

Plus, it makes me feel all multi-cultural and shit to have non-Christmas cards in my stack. As an added bonus, this policy makes it perfectly acceptable to have holiday cards arrive long after December 25. Because, damn, who can get all their shit in one bucket by that deadline?

3. A card that includes your handwriting.

It just makes the card for me. Whether it’s at the bottom of a fold-over card or at the end of a computer-generated letter, I just love seeing it. Since I can’t analyze the DNA on the envelope to see if you licked it, this is the only way I can tell you actually sent the card yourself, instead of instructing your staff to do so. If you include a sentence or two of personal message, differentiating my card from the other 80 you sent, I’m totally over the moon.

Because I love to see your handwriting, I can’t bring myself to use labels on our holiday cards. The direct victim of this neurosis is Bump: he ends up hand writing most of our friends’ and families’ addresses, while I do a token few. At least I’ve capitulated to letting him use labels for our return address.

What I’m Less Enchanted About Receiving:

1. "Good Lord"
The three-page, single-spaced letter. You know what I mean, you all get these. I always read them - in their entirety - but I usually need a drink afterward. I report the Cliff Notes version to Bump when I’m done, and I editorialize. Oh, do I editorialize.

2. "Precious Lord"
A letter sprinkled liberally with references to Baby Jesus and the magic of God’s creation and prayers for the evil baby-killing Democrats in Washington. Do we even know each other? Why are you sending me a card?

3. “Who the fuck are the Van Blankens?”
Do you get these? I’m left wondering if they’re some sort of ransom demand. It’s a photo card featuring anonymous babies (“Merry Christmas from the Van Blanken Family, Alex 2 and Crystal 6 mos.”) with no note. After ruling out Bump’s friends, I wrack my brain and imagine I knew the anonymous babies’ mother years ago, before she changed her name. Or I find out later it’s from the family of my dad’s second cousin, who asked about me while visiting last summer. (This is another plug for putting your damn self in the photo, even though in the case of dad’s second cousin, it wouldn’t help.)

One last question: Does anyone have ingenious display ideas for holiday cards? My current system is Untidy Stack of Crap. I’d love to hear of a simple, elegant way to show off those beautiful photos you send before I throw them in the trash a month later.

Who am I kidding? I don’t throw them away. I stick them in a box, intending to look at them later or at least haul them out next year around card time to update our list. Then I totally forget where I stashed them.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Confessions from the Weekend

1. We packed the hospital bag. Actually, Bump packed the hospital bag, while I dithered about what I would wear home, complained about not wanting to take a pair of my ginormous underwear out of the rotation to put in the bag, and was completely unhelpful. I finally just handed over my toiletry kit and figured I would send Bump home for stuff as I needed it, which I admit is a terrible plan.

I decided the hospital bag should be mostly Bump’s stuff, since the hospital will see to almost all of my needs. I started putting a together a hospital list a few weeks ago, but sort of lost interest after I wrote “champagne flutes” and “bubbly.” I suppose I should make sure someone has a camera.

2. I feel kinda bad for Tony Romo. Poor thing, with his sad little head hung in despair. This is only one of the reasons why I’ll never be a very good sports blogger.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Say What You Will About Politicians, But They’re Good at What They Do

I have two suits that fit. They’re not even really suits; they’re two slightly different black jackets which pair passably well with pants that don’t really match. I’m not a particularly well-dressed woman to begin with, so when even I can tell that I have so few wardrobe choices, the situation is pretty bleak.

Earlier this week, my new office got uncomfortably hot and I had to admit to my officemate that I couldn’t take off my jacket because the shirt I was wearing underneath wouldn’t button below my sternum. She laughed at me. Then she felt kind of bad, gave me a sympathetic “Poor Thing,” and then laughed at me some more.

Yesterday I opted for a maternity dress that doesn’t really fit (it’s much shorter in the front than it should be) and a non-maternity jacket that serves only to hide my upper arm flab. I thought that since it was Friday, I probably wouldn’t see any Members and would spend the day holed up in my office in my ill-fitting garments.

Except I ended up spending 20 minutes on the House floor looking for my boss, during a vote.

Here’s the thing about being surrounded by hundreds of people who have just won big popularity contests: they’re all really charismatic. I received many hearty greetings of “How are you? Congratulations!” and one enthusiastic “That baby is due!” A Member from Texas stopped short of patting me, instead giving the air around my belly a reverent rub.

A Member chatted with me about due dates and delivery and wrangling two children. Almost two years ago, his twins were born six weeks early and spent a little under a month in the NICU. The Congressman’s wife will be traveling next week, leaving him alone with a pair of very healthy two-year-old boys. (If you think you're busy next week, imagine yourself in this guy’s position.)

All this glad-handing probably explains why it took so damn long to find my boss.

While I felt silly in my goofy clothes, it’s hard not to be cheered up when elected officials are grinning at you. They didn’t seem to notice that my feet were jammed into shoes that were too snug, and I kind of forgot how swollen the legs just above those feet were.

It’s an interesting time on the Hill right now. Everybody is polite to you just in case you’re that freshman Member they haven’t heard about. Eventually the Capitol Police and cloakroom attendants and Parliamentarians and reporters milling about the Speaker’s Lobby will figure out who’s who and get back to being snippy to “just staff.” Soon I will no longer be lumbering about as a heavily pregnant woman, and Members of Congress won’t be leaping up to get me a chair.

Even though I’m uncomfortable and cranky and so ready to be done being pregnant, it was a fun experience yesterday. I walk really slow and have to endure 17 more days of this and then the joy of labor awaits, but no one on the House floor noticed that my jacket didn’t fit. Instead, everyone seemed genuinely happy to be in the presence of a big fat pregnant lady.

I’m still screwed, but somehow I feel better about it.

And what more can we expect from our politicians, really?

Friday, January 05, 2007

From the Bump Department

(Since he posts approximately never, and even if he did he probably wouldn't tell you about these things, so you're stuck with my second-hand accounts of his life.)

Bump is going to the gym. Like, regularly.

Well, maybe only three or four times so far, but that's pretty good in my estimation.

I'm not sure how much of a workout Bump is getting, but Lumpyhead is going to the gym's child care center and being exposed to different things (like germs) and other children (who mostly ignore him) and new experiences (such as abandonment anxiety).

Bump's still ironing out the kinks, like finding the optimal time window to go and juggling the gym with other errands, but at least he's getting a shower.


There's this little girl named Ingris who is often at the playground when Bump and Lumpyhead are there. She's maybe six years old, and completely starved for attention. She loves Lumpyhead. She squeals when she sees him approach and makes unending attempts to play with him; he rejects her to go about his regular playground duties of wandering around and climbing on things. Bump seems to dread Ingris, as he tries to preserve her feelings and explain that Lumpyhead is too little to play with her the way she wants. Ingris responds by persistently and enthusiastically telling Lumpyhead to follow her to the slide.

She's perfectly nice, although perhaps a bit. . . much.

When Bump reports the day's goings-on, the "We went to the playground" part of the day is often followed by a heavy sigh as Bump wearily adds, "Ingris was there."

We think she lives across the street from the playground, and her parents or caretakers or whomever send her out to play for hours on end without supervision. This worries me. It's not that I'm afraid our neighborhood is unsafe, but I don't think any place is safe enough to send your six-year old daughter to a playground by herself. She loves playing with near Lumpyhead, but I imagine the acknowledgement of her existence by a grownup is also something she craves. She talks to Lumpyhead, but through Bump.

Of course Bump is concerned about this little girl's lack of supervision, but is honestly a little hesitant about how much contact he has with her. As he puts it, "What if I were hanging around the playground without Lumpyhead?"

This makes me shiver. Obviously Bump is not a perv, but this little girl is happily interacting with a stranger, and no one seems to notice. Is the Dad title Bump clearly sports enough to make him non-threatening? Is there a gender difference in stranger danger, or is parent status enough to remove suspicion? I know some children are told "if you get lost, find another mommy to help you." Will that ever become "ask a mommy or daddy to help you" as more men stay home with their children? Are we just not there yet, or is the world too scary of a place to encourage a child to talk to a man she doesn't know?

Whatever the case, Bump could sure use a break from Ingris.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Party Parenting

I attended a couple of parties this past week, which has become a rather unusual occurrence, and I'm feeling a little disoriented.

Maybe Bump and I are overly protective, but one of us is always doggedly chasing Lumpyhead at these functions to keep him from killing himself or breaking something of value.

What I witnessed this week, at different parties:

- Parents of a five-month old handing off their child to another guest, then disappearing for long stretches, on several occassions. I'm certain the parents had no idea who had their child for most of the evening.

- Parents sitting around a Christmas tree, happily chatting and drinking wine, while their children screamed and threw things in another part of the house.

Look at me, being all judgy. Am I just doing this party thing wrong? When I attend a party at your house, should I expect you to prevent my offspring from trashing your place while I kick back and have a good time? Because, damn, that would make these parties a lot less tiring.

A woman at one of these parties was telling me about how she and her neighbors have become so close. The neighbors, who were also at the party, had children of the same age and also didn't believe in letting their kids watch TV.

Instead of snarfing my mini quiche out my nose, I smiled politely and nodded and only said in my head how nice it was that both families were raising freaks. She proudly reported that at a recent event the conversation turned to TV characters, and her daughter and son had no idea what others were talking about. (Me, in my head only: "Super, go you. They're little social outcasts already.")

I admit I'm a little weirded out when Lumpyhead whines for Elmo or the Little People video or that damn squirrel at the beginning of Ice Age. We don't park the boy in front of the tube all day, and we limit his TV time in favor of books or toys or actual interaction. I understand that TV before age 3 isn't the way to build a baby genius.

But if you're gonna claim to "not believe" in television, I'm afraid you kinda lost me.

Also, it's probably best not to make this claim while neither you nor your husband nor your so-close neighbors are supervising the four children running amok in someone else's basement. It throws off the whole Conscientious Parent vibe.

I'm not saying you're a bad parent. But I am saying you're a shitty party guest.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

And They're Out

I dropped my parents off at the airport yesterday without the usual tears and gnashing of teeth.

They had an early morning flight, and had to peek in on Lumpyhead before they left. My mother would have been okay to leave without the last look, but my dad insisted on seeing the little man one more time, and they were quiet enough to sneak out without waking him.

Usually by the second day of a week-long visit, my mother is already bemoaning the fact that the trip will be over in “just five days.” This countdown continues until the day they leave, when I ferry my eerily silent parents to the airport.

This time, even she couldn’t really dwell on the end of her trip, because she’ll be back in just a few weeks. So instead, my mother constantly lamented how hard it will be to leave next time, when she has to say goodbye to two grandchildren.

It’s always something.