Sunday, September 27, 2009

Magical Thinking and Long Distance Babies

I imagine every mother goes through this. There are many hours in my day when I magically believe if I stare at Atticus long enough, I can prevent him from growing any bigger. Of course I don't want a baby whose growth is stunted, but I have a tendency to feel nostalgia in advance and I want this time with him to last forever. At thirteen pounds, he is perfectly portable, perfectly lovely - just perfect in all things. He has come to a point where he sleeps well enough for me to feel like more of a human and he coos and his laugh develops more every day. It won't be long before his little hands won't want me to hold and caress his all the time as I do now. Then what will I do?

Over his crib, I watch his chest rise and fall and I know it's happening. No amount of magical thinking can change the fact that the inches are coming; his limbs lengthen, his torso, too, gets longer. He'll keep putting on weight and keep running through the clothes in his closet until I'll quite suddenly find myself looking at the toddler clothes at Target.

And in that time, he won't have had enough people fawning all over him. This is the greatest curse of living away from family and friends. I hate it so much. I hate it more than Atticus growing so quickly. He's such a beautiful baby, really, the sweetest person I have ever known. And the only people who fawn over him on a regular basis are me and Michael. There are no grandmothers and aunts fighting over whose turn it is to pick him up. There are no little cousins patting his soft little head. There are no little outfits lined up that a gaggle of neighborhood ladies is dying to see him in.

It's not fair. It's not fair to me and it's not fair to Atticus. He may not need to be fawned over, but he certainly deserves it. He's such a good baby, so flirtatious and good and sweet and social. He loves our mail lady and even the nurses who gave him his shots. He's so ready to love everyone and yet every day it's just mom and dad. And he loves us, of course, but I think he'd like a new audience. Sometimes I think I can hear him say, "Come on, people, I got all this charm to show off and you're not bringing in any new people I can try it out on."

We leave for Cleveland in a couple of weeks to see family. It's not soon enough.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Atticus in the Morning

I think there is nothing better than a baby in the morning.

(If you cannot view this on Facebook, go to my blog).

Great Baby Gifts

Because I'm in that place of heightened awareness regarding what is useful as a new mother, I thought I'd make a list of those things that were the coolest and best baby gifts I received. This is my first baby and I was an ignorant sap at my showers, opening presents, thanking people graciously, not knowing when the really truly great gifts were being opened and stacked with the rest. Don't get me wrong. All the gifts I received were wonderful, but certainly some are being used more than others. Here's that list. Feel free to add your own.

1. The Miracle Blanket: Seriously, this swaddling blanket is awesome. My husband calls it a baby straight jacket, but he will admit that our son loves it. For those opposed to it, remember, babies are not like us. As mentioned in a previous post, newborns are not particularly aware of their limbs just yet and they certainly don't mind their limbs being secured close to them. Two things babies like: Security and Closeness. The Miracle Blanket provides both of these. (

2. Baby Sling: I actually bought this for myself, but it still counts. My world is a better place because of this baby sling. I worried my child would be the only child in the history of slings to hate the sling, but this was an unnecessary worry. He loves it and falls asleep when he's in it almost immediately. The few times he's not asleep when he's in it give him an opportunity to look around at the world from my level while I shop for groceries, fold laundry, respond to e-mails -- you know, things that require free hands. Of this my husband says, "30,000 years of women using baby slings can't be wrong." We're Catholic so I don't know where he gets this 30,000 years thing, but you get the point. There are a zillion out there. Here's where I got mine:

3. Newborn-to-Toddler Bathtub: These nifty tubs are fitted with a padded netting for an infant that can be removed as your baby gets bigger. I don't know how I'd wash my baby without it.

4. Diaper Genie: You might think you don't need one, but trust me, you do.

5. Dutalier Nursing Chair and Ottoman: Okay, so this is a really expensive gift and not everyone needs this type of item, but it's worth mentioning, particularly to mothers who are going to nurse. This chair is amazingly comfortable and designed specifically for nursing a baby. It's one of our favorite pieces of furniture.

6. Medela Pump-in-Style Electric Breastpump: Again, a gift for the nursing mother and again, a pricey gift. One of my sisters-in-law actually gave me hers and I bought new tubing for it. While the manufacturer does not support this, I have found this to be a perfectly workable solution. And it saved me $300.

7. Louise Erdrich's The Birth Year: Loved this. It was one of the only things I read during my pregnancy about pregnancy that made any sense.

8. The Baby Book: By Dr. Sears, this book includes just about everything you'll ever need to know about your baby, from what to do when one of his eyes won't open (clogged duct: routinely massage duct over a couple of days) to how to get a toddler to eat more vegetables.

9. Burp Cloths and Diaper Cloths: Invaluable, necessary, washed almost daily. Even if you're using disposable diapers (like me), those old school diaper cloths will come in handy. They catch spit up like nobody's business.

10. Black-and-White Baby Books: This is not a brand. I mean black-and-white purely descriptively. Because my husband and I are what you might call "bookish," it's important to us that our baby learn to love books. Toward this end, I have been reading to him since he was around three or four weeks old. None of his books interest him just yet because 1) he's far too little, and 2) he cannot really see that well. This is true of all of his books except two books a friend gave us (an educated librarian who knows these things) that are in black and white. He actually looks at these pages. Sure, nothing is going to hold his attention for that long, but baby steps ...

11. Things the Daddy Likes: This is a generic posting that is meant to give people who do not know what to buy another avenue of gift considerations. Even in our modern era with modern fathers who are much more involved in childrearing, it's important to make them feel as connected with the baby as possible. I have found it interesting to note how many people innately just get this, telling my husband how much our baby looks like him when really our baby looks like nobody but himself. That drive to keep the father from leaving the tribe runs deep. So any gifts that include him -- say a onesie that says "I love Daddy" or pajamas with little dinosaurs in football gear that resembles Daddy's favorite football team -- are a good idea.

12. Keepsake Box: You'll want a place that is more roomy than an album to keep things like the baby's hospital wristband and the measuring tape they use to measure him when he or she is first born.

13. Baby Wash and Washclothes: You'll get a lot of these. You'll use all of them.

14. Handmade Things: I'm biased as a crafty person, but I love the handcrafted items given to our baby - a quilt, a teddy bear, a soft blanket - the love put into these things is invaluable.

15. A WORD ON CLOTHES: There are more gifts that we have loved that I'm forgetting, but I would be remiss if I did not make one suggestion here and that is this - if you buy someone baby clothes, which everyone loves to do because man, is it ever fun to shop for a baby, always give the mom the receipt. This is not because she hates what you buy and wants to replace everything with her own taste. The reality is that babies must dress seasonally just like the rest of us and that has not always been taken into consideration judging from the closet full of warm clothes my Tennessee baby has available to him during his summer months.

Plus, the rate at which babies grow cannot always be predicted. There are plenty of adorable, sweet items with tags dangling from them that my son will not be able to wear and without receipts, I will just have to give them away to someone else in the hopes that they will work for them. Receipts are just a good idea when it comes to children's clothing. No one knows what a child can fit into but their mother (or father). I have actually returned a cute item for the exact same item in a bigger size, so fear not - your cute choice will be honored!

What am I missing? Any other suggestions, mamas?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Encounters with Stuffed Lions

Two things of note this week: 1) Atticus got huge quite suddenly resulting in me becoming one of those people who cannot help but marvel at the speed of life once a baby enters into it, and 2) Atticus is noticing things around him. Regarding the first item of note, I am terrified of life moving quickly.

I've always blamed this thorough and sickening dread of life's heavy and quick rotation on having read that Thoreau "suck the marrow out of life" thing too young. No matter the reason for it, Atticus leaping from Newborn clothes to 3-month clothes in less than a week is really not helping the situation. I am now a part of the cliched and hackneyed people who have been repeating the following expression ad nauseum over the last many weeks: "They grow up so fast." Not only am I a part of it, I am kneedeep in it, clawing my way back to three weeks ago when my baby was more baby than he is today.

The second thing: Newborns are rather oblivious to the fact that they exist, stunned as they are, I think, to be out of the cocoon they've been secluded in for so many months. And then out into the world of hands and voices and sounds and lights and colors they rush, not quite prepared for all that stimuli. And physically, of course, they are truly not ready for all that stimuli. Their eyes cannot focus much beyond eight to fourteen inches. They cannot see colors. While their hearing is well-developed, the world is still just cacophony beyond the comforting familiarity of the mother's and father's voices.

It's only in the last week or so, at five or six weeks old, that Atticus is starting to track us as we cross a room. He's still not completely aware that his hands are his and that they can affect change, unlike his voice that he somehow intuits the power of.

Today he first noticed a toy - a little yellow and orange lion which lights up and plays "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" when its belly is pressed. Atticus was stunned into silence and stillness when he saw it before him. And I mean, really saw it. Below is Atticus and the Lion's first encounter. (If you can't see this video on Facebook, go to the original posting at