Parenthood: August 2008 Archives

Cloth diaper disaster

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When I was pregnant with Liam one of the most thoughtful gifts I received was a three-month cloth diaper delivery service. I received the gift from a wonderful friend who is very pro-cloth diaper. The service literally pulled up to my curb, delivered a diaper pail and a stack of cloth diapers and plastic pants. They'd drive away and come back a week later to pick up all the crap-filled cloth diapers. They didn't even require that you rinse them - you could throw chunks and all into the pail, it made them no difference. It was Diaper Service for Dummies. Simple to use, no excuses. 

Except that this was me, and my firstborn shat more than any human baby on planet Earth has ever shat. Whenever he grunted or smelled Chris and I looked at each other in terror. Which one of us was going to change Old Faithful? During one particular episode our firstborn shot a yellow stream of gawd knows what across his room; another time he literally erupted all over Chris as Chris screamed like a girl, held Liam's leg up by a toe, and shrieked that I get him something to wipe himself off with NOW.

I tried nearly every different kind of plastic pant on the market, I varied the way I wrapped the cloth around Liam's bottom, I did everything humanly possible but lo, the dam broke every time. I was at the supermarket when I picked him up to check and saw a pool of nastiness filling the bowl of his carseat. Another time I held him at a friend's house while acid seeped out of the sides top of his plastic pants. I kept this up for three reasons, none of which related to saving the planet:

1. I was going to Le Leche League meetings and they would tar and feather me if I used disposables. When I did start using disposables and I showed up, they all gasped and whispered at my Satan pants consumption. (I have a post about this in my archives which will be fully restored shortly.) It was almost like the women in my group who used cloth diapers believed that they loved their children more than the moms who used disposables. It was fruity. A whole new world of mom politics to which I was oblivious until I had a kid.

2. I didn't want to disappoint my friend or have her think that I didn't appreciate her gift. She was one of the first mom-friends I'd made and I didn't want to come up short in her eyes.

3. I liked the way my neighbors reacted to the diaper service that pulled up to the house. I was using cloth diapers? I must be a SAINT. Selfish and weird, but I wanted to keep up the charade.

After Liam crapped on me during a trip to the zoo I threw my hands up. I was done. I went to Target and bought the biggest package of Pampers I could find (the babies seemed happier on their packaging, I don't know) and the rest of the week was uneventful and I wasn't leaked on once. It was heavenly.

And then Monday morning the diaper service knocked on my door.

I stared at the unused package of cloth diapers in panic. I still had three weeks of service left. So I did what any rational person would do: I told the man at the door to hang on and I changed Liam and wiped him up with every cloth diaper in the pack. I wasn't sure it was entirely believable, I mean, would the diaper people look at each diaper and conclude that I was, gasp, faking? I shook the thought from my head, capped the pail with the freshly dirtied diapers, and handed them to the diaper man.

I did this for the next two weeks because I was too big of a coward to say "You know what? These really aren't my thing. I'm going to roll with the disposables." When the gift ran out I declined to continue the service. My friend asked about it and I told her that while it was definitely appreciated and interesting, I wasn't going to do it. She smiled. "OK!" She said.

That was it? No Le Leche League protest about how I was killing - nay raping - our Mother Earth with my use of disposable diapers?

When the neighbors, who were a talky bunch, saw that I was no longer getting the diaper service they asked if I was still using cloth diapers. "No," I admitted, watching my sainthood slip away.

"Those things are a pain in the butt, literally," laughed one woman. "I was wondering how you did it. Sometimes I wonder if they really do help, if it saves any time, or what." She leaned in to whisper "Sometimes I think it's all for show."

Seven-year-old wisdom

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Since the death of their Great-Grandfather (and the arrival of Wii's Boom Blox, a Spielberg-designed game in which you can choose little Grim Reapers, what Ewan calls "the living dead," as characters) the boys have been fascinated with death. Being children, they talk about it in the frankest of terms; ways of speaking that adults tip-toe and whisper around. Kids are frank because they're innocent. We call them "naïve" because we're cynics. When you're young that forthrightness stems from innocence. When you're old, you're forthright because you realize that living with sugar-coating and dishonesty are worse than the repercussions from being outright.

We were on our way to have lunch with the boys' Great-Grandmother, Chris's Grandma, and Chris was lecturing Liam on how he shouldn't bring up Great-Grandpa's death. The last time we talked to him it was right before a phone call to Great-Grandma and we instructed him to not mention it. He got on the phone and was all "Hi Great-Grandma. Hey, I'm real sorry about YOU KNOW WHAT, you know, about YOU KNOW WHO dyin' an all? But I'm not supposed to talk to you about that because Mom and Dad don't want me to." Chris and I would've grabbed him and shook the phone away but we were driving, belted in our seats, so the worst we could do was to mime idle threats from the front seats.

So we're in the van, on our way to lunch and we're involved in the same "don't talk about death and dying, please, dear God, just don't, we're really serious this time" conversation.

"Don't even mention it," barked Chris. "None of the dying stuff."

"Why?" Liam asked.

"Because Great-Grandma is still upset. Her husband isn't here anymore."

"Well Dad, you know, he's always with us."

"You're right, Bub," Chris replied, realizing that he had just been owned by a seven-year-old.

I looked at Chris; he looked at me, both of us with incredulous expressions. I turned around to look at Liam in his booster seat, his spindly legs and feet still half-a-foot from the floor. He stared out of his window at the traffic zooming past in the opposite direction.

Womens

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MINIVAN - AFTERNOON
Chris, Dana, Liam, And Ewan are riding in the family vehicle en route home after picking the boys up from their grandparents' house. The boys are relating their experience at a cousin's princess-themed birthday party from over the weekend. 

EWAN
I don't like girls. Girls are LAME
.

ME
That's not a nice thing to say! Mama is a girl, you know.

EWAN
No you're not! You're a WOMAN.

LIAM
Girls can be womens, too. A WOMAN is a girl who has growed up.

EWAN
I don't like growed up girls.

LIAM
They're called WOMENS.

EWAN
I like womens. I don't like girls.

ME
Please remember that when you're in your twenties.

Another awesome thing not on television

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Chris popped some popcorn after dinner yesterday and he and the boys got comfortable in front of the iMac in the dining room for a marathon viewing of Japanese Bug Fights. As I said, Liam and Ewan are fascinated by bugs. With my parents took them to the zoo over the weekend they spent an inordinate amount of time at the insect house, in its cool dark corridors, pressing their faces up against the glass tanks holding scorpions and other icky things. They have bug catchers and store nasty little grody things in them and keep them confined, on the deck. It's always a delight to walk outside in the morning with a cup of green tea, look down, and see a bunch of dead bugs in a small, screened-in carrier.

On the bright side, it's a service and they're cheaper than the bug spray dude.

So naturally, to watch bugs fight in a close-quarters aquarium was eleventy-times the awesome. They particularly enjoyed it when the millipede tossed the wasp like a rag doll and when the locust tore into and started eating its opponent right after the bell.

They seriously have a bell. GOD BLESS THE JAPANESE. They can take the most inane idea and turn it into theater. I have no idea what the announcers are saying but when their voices rise and the music plays and the audience (I assume track) cheers it brings me to the edge of my seat. They even have rules: two bugs walk, crawl, or whatever it is millipedes do, and one bug walks out. Also, no weapons are allowed, you know, for that rouge Japanese beetle looking to bring in his tie iron or shank.

Yes, I could do this in my back yard but that's MISSING THE POINT. I don't have a bell like that and you and I both know that so much of it is about the bell, two, I don't have foreign announcers, and three, no audience track. I like competitive fighting be it humans or bugs. I'm a huge boxing fan and I watch UFC (the boys aren't allowed until they're older). It's one of the most basic competitions out there with a purpose that's more than just winning or setting a PR for time; it's also about dominating your opponent, physically, but in an artful way. It requires skill and timing. It's about fighting a good fight, something you can do if you either win or lose. It's actually a pretty awesome life lesson.

Anyway, the boys were fascinated and rooted for the insect they wanted to win, which was always the biggest, gnarliest bug of the two. There are a ton of episodes from which to choose. The boys particularly liked all the ones with tarantulas and millipedes.

bug1.jpg

I climbed the stairs with the boys last night at bedtime, turned the dark corner at the top of the stairs, flicked on their bedroom light and ... [cue "Psycho" shower scene music] there were a terrifying amount of stuffed animals freakishly assembled in tidy little rows on Ewan's bed.

Before Liam started growing out of his allergies his allergist instructed that I ban stuffed animals from the house as they were nothing but dust magnets. I packed them all, save for each boy's teddy bear, in plastic bags and stored them in the bowels of our stone basement.  So instead of attaching themselves to stuffed animals, the boys started collecting plastic and rubber insects. Real life-looking insects like roaches, various bugs, and spiders. At any given point there are a dozen fake black spiders and roaches lying around the house in totally conspicuous places like the stairs, in the bathroom (if they take them in there to play while using "the office"). It scares the wits out of my friend Marjorie, who has asked me before what in holy Moses is that thing in the corner? We've gotten used to it and are acclimated to the creepiness factor. It kinds goes with the whole ancient, three-story brownstone aesthetic.


bug2.jpg


My parents, like any perfectly normal parents, don't always follow our rigid rules - and we know this because the boys always regal us with tales of their overnight stay at Nana and Pa-Pa's and how Nana and Pa-Pa let them have pure sugar from the bag right before their midnight bedtime and how Nana and Pa-Pa let them drink Mountain Dew and ride their bikes without helmets. My parents started buying Ewan stuffed animals and the allergist lifted the ban and he began hoarding them in the boys' playroom. I noticed that the number of animals he took to bed at night was increasing slightly. He went to bed with six on Sunday night, eight on Monday night; last night I counted twelve. I tried to edit them down to just the long-timers but OHMYGAWD NO. He acted like I set fire to his Thomas the Train DVDs, his angst was so great. He crumpled into a pile on his racecar bed and howled. I started adding them in, one by one until there was no room for him in his own bed. He jumped in, nestled in between a stuffed dinosaur and one of his weirdo rubber lizards with demon eyes, and went to sleep.

bug3.jpg


Digression: I had stuffed animals as a kid; they sat on my bedroom floor and lined the perimeter of the room. This was until one of my brat elementary school classmates told me a story her brother told her about a girl's killer teddy bear that wakes up at night and goes off killing people in the town. It climbed from underneath the girl's arm at night and tiptoed out of the house with a kitchen knife. One night it went after the girl and her mom cut the bear up in pieces but that night the pieces all marched out of the trashcan towards the girl's bedroom. Stupid, I know, but to an 8-year-old in the 80s it was terrifying. I tried to get rid of my stuffed animals but my mother kept putting some of them back in my room. I finally tied their hands together with my hair scrunchies. Shut up. I AM TOTALLY OVER IT NOW. /Digression

Ewan's obsession is fine until one of his animals falls out of bed which prompts him to wake up and yodel into the baby monitor until Chris or I retrieve it. This cannot become a pattern. I cannot be woken up night after night because some douchebag stuffed animal falls a whole foot from a plastic racecar bed. Because I'm wholly neurotic, I worry that Ewan's growing collection is an indication that he will grow up to be one of Those People who collect Beanie Babies and ride around town in his 80s-issued vehicle with a mountain of stuffed animals displayed in the back windshield.

He probably won't. But I'm drawing the line at this:


bed.jpg

(There's a herd off-camera you aren't seeing.)

The art of social grace

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The other night the boys called their Great-Grandmother, who isn't doing so well after Great-Grandpa's death, to cheer her up a bit until next we can visit. Liam is just like me, someone who says more than needs to be said, someone who shares too much for whatever reason. During the visitation Liam walked up to Great-Grandma and said: "Really sorry that your husband died and all. I love you." When he said "died and all," he literally gestured towards the casket. I furiously scribbled mental notes about emphasizing social graces to the boys. I realized that it was his young way of expressing condolences and in his mind he thought that he was demonstrating exemplary social grace. 

Before we dialed her number the other night we sternly instructed him on what to say and what NOT to say. He wasn't to mention anything about Great-Grandpa's death, dying, caskets, things like that. He nodded his head solemnly and we dialed her number and handed him the phone.

"Oh HI Great-Grandma," he chirped. "So how are you doing? I'm sorry again about you-know-what, about you-know-who dying but Mom and Dad told me not to talk about that to you so I won't."

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