Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sammy is talking!

First it was babble. But this last week, a definite correlation seems to be growing by the day. Random "uhdadada"s have turned into panicked "dada!"s when Jon leaves the room. Yesterday he added a distressed "mama!" when I walked out on him. Separation anxiety, combined with traveling to Utah for five days, has apparently unsettled him. He's much more clingy lately. Jon swears that two weeks ago, Sammy deliberately said "dadee baba?" while pointing to Jon's water bottle. My hands-down favorite, though, is how a week ago, Eric was pretending to be a zombie, and all at once we heard Sammy roar "B(r)aaaaaay!!!!" ("Brains!").

Granted "Brains" was more imitative than functional. But in the last week, I have noticed Sammy use the following sounds in appropriate contexts:

1) Dada

2) Mama

3) Hi! (to the lovely ladies on the flight out of Salt Lake City, and also sometimes when I get him up in the morning)

4) Ni-ni. (In protest. I say "Night-night, Sammy" and put him in bed. And he wails "Waaaaa! Ni-ni! Waaaaaaaaah!" Which, being interpreted, means "No! I don't want to go to bed! Nooooo!")

Jon claims that he asked nicely to go ni-ni tonight, though. Jon picked him up and he promptly fell asleep. He woke up during a diaper change and then went right back to sleep when Jon put him in bed.

5) Bubba. This one is amusing. Daniel decided months ago to call Sammy "bubba." I think it's supposed to imitate baby babble and stand for "brother" or "baby." However, since Danny says it to Sammy all the time, Sammy has decided it is actually the name for Danny. After all, I walk up to him all the time and say "I'm Mama. Mama!" If Danny gets in his face and repeats "Bubba!" a lot...well, it makes sense for the baby to name the thing after the sound it makes. "Buh-buh!" Teeheehee. Daniel's brilliant plan has backfired.

6) Baba (bottle) still seems to be emerging.

7) We're not sure, but we think he tried to say "diaper" tonight at dinner. I changed it, just to make sure, and it was soppin' wet. Hmmm.

8) Jon also claims Sammy tried to say "spaghetti" during dinner. I admit I am more dubious and skeptical on this one, since I was sitting there and didn't notice any particular pattern to the babble, but Jon is the soul of veracity and I am inclined to believe his reports that Sammy made a string of sounds that were the same with each repetition.

As I recall, most babies are supposed to have four words by the time they turn one year old. Sammy has more than four words, and he isn't even nine months yet. Even granting all the caveats--sometimes he babbles the word for practice without attaching it to its object, he doesn't always use the word, the correlation is emerging but not yet 100 percent, etc--he is still very advanced.

He is also highly imitative, trying to copy sounds (like "brains") we make, even if he doesn't understand them. This child is trying hard to communicate.

Sadly and alas, I'm still not seeing any ASL action. He seems to understand when I say and sign "diaper change," but he still panics when I sign "more bottle" and then pick it up and leave the room to refill it. Still, most babies sign because they can't talk. If Sammy learns to talk super early, he may not need ASL to fill the frustration gap. At eight months, Danny was consistently signing "milk" when he was hungry. However, Daniel was not mobile at eight months. Sammy crawls over to the empty bottle and points. Or wanders into the kitchen and starts eating the crumbs that fall from the master's table. (Eric's cereal droppings.) (Again, like a dog.) Who needs ASL?

Yes, I am bragging obnoxiously about my kid. That's what this blog is for. If you're reading it, you are presumably interested family or friends.

My crop of cute kid quotes had been drying up slightly, mostly because a nine-year-old discussing philosophy just isn't as amazing as a three-year-old doing the same. Perhaps I should keep having babies for their entertainment value? Heaven knows, at this rate, I'll have tons of fabulous Sammy quotes in no time at all.

Just please, PLEASE, let me have a kid who is amazingly advanced at potty training in addition to his brilliance in other fields. Women don't actually forget the pains of child rearing, they just delude themselves into thinking "This time it will be better..."


Yesterday morning, I got Sammy up and he said "Hi, Mama!" He's a few months early for words, but he's a year early for stringing two words together! I think we have yet another brilliant child on our hands. Of course, if you've met Eric and Daniel, this won't surprise you.

Yesterday afternoon, he got up from a nap with a very poopy diaper. Jon picked him up and said "You need a diaper change," after which Sammy said "diaper" and signed something that Jon thinks was supposed to be "change." It didn't look anything like the sign for "change," but it is consistent, which is the main thing.

After the diaper change, Sam requested "baba." Jon got him a bottle and young master Samuel drained it. Teeheehee.

Last night we went Christmas caroling for a late family home evening. Poor Sammy got sick of the in-out-in-out carseat straps, and he kept trying to say something. We weren't sure what he was trying to say and he got so frustrated, poor little guy. Maybe he does need ASL after all.

When Eric and Daniel were late two/early three, I taught them to say "Beloved and Revered Mommy." I wonder how soon I could get Sammy to do the same...?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Technical difficulties

Greetings, gentles, all,

Daniel dropped my laptop and destroyed my screen. This was slightly my fault for setting a bad example by leaving the laptop up on the arm of the couch. (Out of the reach of Sammy.) At the moment, I don't have access to any of my files. (Alas and woe!) (Yes, Jon tried to hook up an external monitor, and no, the initial try didn't work, and also, no, Jon can't devote any more time to the problem until the semester is over.)

Anyway, for the next month or so, I won't have access to my saved quotes or pictures. This saddens me, since I'd hoped to slog through some backlog over the holidays.

Nonetheless, I can post contemporary pictures, and I shall.

I am switching over from the old digital camera (purchased when Eric was born) to my new smart phone. (Samsung Vibrant, 3G, Android.) The picture quality if blurry at times; sorry about that, I'll get the hang of it.

Behold, cute kids:

Santa baby...hurry down the chimney tonight... November 27, 2010. It was nap time and Santa was slightly cranky. Ah well, I'd be cranky too if I missed out on sleep, filling stocking after stocking ad infinitum.

We were in Hobby Lobby, buying a new Christmas tree. I found this hat for Sammy and put it on him while we were waiting for the tree to be delivered up front. The lady behind me had been flirting and and offering to take him if I didn't want him (I was in the returns/customer service lane). When I flourished the Santa hat, she cried, "Oh, no, don't put it on him!!!--" I did anyway, and she continued, "Now I won't be able to resist kidnapping him!!" I started singing "Sammy baby..." and she melted. I could have made superlative gravy from her rich drippings.

Left: Sammy's shirt reads "Mom's Knight in Shining Armor," with a picture of a castle and helmet. (Best $5 sale I've ever found at Kohl's.) Right: Wearing the knight shirt, Sammy practices his sword skills. He waved it around by the hilt, grasped it by the blade (without injury!) and worked on his sword swallowing technique. Very impressive. I am confident he'll be able to slay all the wicked imaginary monsters in the house by the time he's three.

Below: Jon, Eric, and Daniel work on building bridges out of toothpicks and marshmallows. A family activity extension of the technology expo we had attended a week prior, where Daniel tied the record for the strongest bridge that day. (His creation, made of triangles, supported nineteen dixie cups before it collapsed. In his defense, the marshmallows were wet. We noted great improved structural stability once the "concrete" had "set."

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Photographic Evidence

This time he pulled himself up!
I walked into his room to discover him practicing happily.

Easy as one... ssssssssssssssssssss ...two... sssssssssssssssssssss ...three!

The child is trying to cruise! (And making real progress. At this rate, I predict he'll be cruising comfortably down the couch within the week.)

Columbus and Cake Contests

Once upon a time, Cristopher Columbus set off across the ocean. In a world-changing voyage, he became a pirate, landed on Hispaniola, encountered space aliens, and then discovered the legendary city of El Dorado.

(Well, actually, El Dorado happened on his fourth voyage.)

If this sounds like a slightly inaccurate version of history suitable for a B-grade summer movie, think again. It is, in fact, a highly incorrect revision of the facts, based only loosely upon reality.

We belong to the Society for Creative Re-interpretations and Extremely Erroneous Anachronisms. The acronym, SCREEA! sounds like the truncated screams of tortured historians.

There is a method to my madness. You see, it's actually all about a large, bipedal, swashbuckling talking mouse named Reepicheep.

A few years ago, my sister Cheryl accused this Paragon Paladin of insanity. The relevant messages and ensuing duel-to-the-diabetic-coma may be referenced here:

For our third annual cake contest, Cheryl suggested a Columbus Day theme.
Cheryl showed the first contact:

(The pirates and creatures I assume to be aliens are the plastic figurines donated by her son)

I had dreams of depicting the natives dying in plagues of smallpox, but eventually gave up on that idea.

In the end, I went with a simple model of a Mayan temple in the legendary city of El Dorado.

Granted, I couldn't find any evidence that Columbus ever even heard the rumors of the place, but it's the sort of thing he totally would have tried to find (and exploit) if he'd known about it.

According to Wikipedia, Spanish stories were circulating about the site as early as 1531, twenty-five years after Columbus died, and the first expeditions began in 1541. Granted most of the expeditions took place on the mainland of northern South America, not the Yucatan Peninsula, but they never found anything, right? Whereas the Mayans did have a lot of gold, right? And any two dots can form a line, so...

My theory is that on his fourth voyage (1502-1504), Columbus discovered El Dorado, tried to seize the central (and most opulent) temple, and was turned back by the lack of access points. (The natives, realizing he was coming, destroyed the staircase to the top in a successful scorched earth policy.)

Columbus was so embarrassed by this, he altered his log to cover up his failure and sailed back home, where he died two years later. This explains the golden Mayan temple cake without the signature central staircase:

(Yes, actually I just got lazy. )

People are welcome to vote for either cake. Mine is very large. It has glittery gold nuggets sprinkled about. Two flavors: butter pecan for the bottom layer and yellow for the top two. (The central temple building at the very top is constructed from stacked cake scraps.) Beyond that, though, I haven't much to say for it.

I think Cheryl's is better. At least it represents more real effort. I interpret the pirate hat on the pilot as a deliberate culinary metaphor. And, as Caitlyn S. used to say, "It's her turn to win."

Cheryl and I may still not agree about Reepicheep, but we both agree we need to pick a different theme next year. Neither of us felt very inspired. Suggestions?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Precious, Precocious, and Perilously Premature

I know I ought to update December '09 through September '10 before breaking big news, but baby development stops for no mama, especially when it's Sammy, who moves with lightning speed.

He displayed remarkable neck musculature in the hospital. He rolled over at two-and-a-half months. He crawled at five months. In the last week, however, he has amazed us. Jon discovered Sammy could hold a standing position if placed in it. (With support, like against the couch). Then, on Thursday, he pulled himself up into a kneeling position and then tried to push up into a standing position. It didn't work, but it was a great try. I have witnesses! (It was at Tae Kwon Do.) On Friday, I told the doctor (at Sammy's six-month checkup) "Developmental delays I can handle. Can you slow this kid down?" And then today, Saturday, I went to get him up from a nap and caught him standing -- standing!!! -- in his crib. The child is not even six-and-a-half months old, for heaven's sake.

I freaked. I shrieked. (Though not as loudly as when I heard President Monson announce the Indianapolis temple last week.) I explained to Sammy that this was outlawed, forbidden, verboten, unsanctioned, and anathema. He smiled at me. "I'm serious!" I scolded, then explained in even more detail how this was not, NOT approved, permitted, or allowed. He flashed a grin and then looked sweet and innocent. Not "Who me?" but playing dumb, as if he had no idea what I was talking about.

I know better. He totally understands me. Jon started making comparisons to Bean. (The tiny, superintelligent major character of Orson Scott Card's novel Ender's Shadow.) I agree.

I should point out that, according to the doctor, as of yesterday Sammy weighed 14 pounds, 6 ounzes, and was in the 5th percentile for weight. Yet he is also well ahead in certain key developmental milestones.

Lest no one misunderstand -- I'm not bragging. (Well, not much.) Instead, I am terrified. We have to hurry up out babyproofing campaign, among other things.

Also, once he officially becomes a toddler, I'm afraid he will no longer attract as much worship and adoration in public. He is the most fun I've ever had with a baby, and I am not ready for him to grow up. Even if he's the tiniest tot ever to toddle at seven months, once he starts walking, he officially becomes a "toddler," not a "baby" in my head.

It's too early! Do I hear an "Amen"?

Above: Sammy, age six months and one day, calmly stands and considers his cruising options. Jon assisted him into the position, but you can see how in control he is, and how he's thinking about The Next Step. 9/29/2010

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mommiest Moments: November, 2009

“I do not need to sneak because I am already in disguise.”

“Social studies, 100. Reading, 100. Writing, 100. Math, 97. Hahaha!”

--Mommy, reading Eric's first quarter report card. I am guessing he was missing an assignment or something, since I find it highly unlikely he got a test question wrong.

Gail: My ballpark guess is that he's reading on a second-grade level.

Teacher: Oh! I was guessing it was the third...

--At Danny's parent-teacher conference. I bow to her superior experience, naturally. I'm just so happy. Once Daniel decided to read, he took off! Of course, that's normally how it is in our family. I seem to recall that Ronald and Carolyn both jumped something like eight levels in first grade.

Gail: But what if we get married and discover I'm infertile?

Jon: We'd adopt. [pause] Or get a concubine.

--Obviously I was already expecting Sammy at this point. I frequently tease Jon by saying “But what if we got married and then I turned into a heffalump?” or things of that nature.

Danny: I am hoping for a girl, but if it's a boy, I will accept it.


Eric: I hope it is a girl, but if it's a boy, I will be acceptable with that.

“I fear the worst. Nannerl fell asleep reading Bad Kitty again.”

--Nannerl is the stuffed tabby cat who is the wife of Pi. She has an Artistic temperament, naturally. Bad Kitty is a truly awesome book about a cat doing naughty things in alphabetical order.

Jon: We've been letting the kids watch a fair amount of science fiction--

Gail: Yes, and now we have a pet black hole in the playroom!

Jon: [temporarily diverted] We do? What does it eat?

Gail: Bad guys, I'm told. Or, in a pinch, Jenga blocks.

Jon: Do we have enough bad guys in the house to keep it satisfied?

Gail: I don't know; you'd have to ask Eric. Danny keeps referring to the black hole with masculine pronouns. I asked if “he” had a name, and Danny said “It's Eric's creation. It's his responsibility.”

Jon: ...right. So, anyway, I was listening to the kids play the other day and noticed they were working through a problem very systematically, trying first one approach and then another. And I realized, “Letting them watch Stargate isn't just a good way to teach them scientific ideas, it also helps to teach the scientific method.”

Gail: Indeed. I was watching an episode today where they find a person in an industrial kitchen freezer. Danny immediately exclaimed, “Oh! I think he was trying to put himself in”—he paused, and pronounced, very deliberately—“kie-wo-gen-ic storage!”

“ the non-fiction textbooks very logically organized themselves into a defensive castle, where the more emotional paperback novels quickly turned into a mob...”

--I was telling a bedtime story about a real “Battle of the Books,” where the sci fi, fantasy, and adolescent novels in my library attacked the hardbound reference books. This explains, among other things, the mess in that room. The children particularly enjoyed the shrieks (in the story) when Mommy enters the library and sees book corpses everywhere, with torn pages and ruined bindings and paper dander strewn about.

[Discussing the Thanksgiving menu]

Gail: If you want olives, you can provide them yourself. I shan't sully my hands by introducing them to my home.

Jon: [Calmly] Fine, I'll buy the olives.


Gail: [Indignantly] You dare—dare!!—to suggest that we do without pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving? I don't care about our “no throwing” rule, this heresy must be countered immediately! [She lobs Bear at Jon's head.]

--In fairness, there is more to the story than that. But if Jon cares to defend himself, he can jolly well post his own comment with his justification.

---The really unfair thing is that Jon can't retaliate. For a long time, he refrained from returning fluff-based fire because I was a girl. He got over that years ago. But he can't risk injuring the baby, right? I begin to see why women would “plead the belly” in eighteenth-century England.

“But why do they use letters for notes instead of just using the notes?”

--Danny. This made me wonder if my kid has perfect pitch?

“Mommy, look! Thomas is driving drunk.” [Daniel shows Thomas driving around crazily.] “And Mommy, look! Now he is flying drunk!”

--Thomas almost crashed into me, too. I put him in time out until he sobered up.

“...he was the most thoroughly evil terrorist baby you've ever seen. I kept thinking, 'Right. You'd think the baby was possessed of demons. When, in fact, the opposite is true. He used to be possessed by demons. Ha. Ha, ha, ha. Very funny.'”

--I had a nightmare about adopting a two-year-old boy who used to be inhabited by an alien parasite which conferred godlike powers on the human host. Captured in a raid, hauled to a new planet, surrounded by strangers babbling a weird language, and facing normal toddlerhood (with its accompanying bumps, bruises, and loss of absolute power) for the first time, the kid developed the most fearsome frustration-induced Temper Tantrums you can imagine. Within 48 hours, I was certifiably insane.

--I tend to have nightmares when I'm pregnant. Usually they're about forgetting to feed the baby for a week straight, but trust my tortured psyche to invent creative variations.

I don't want to be wheat or corn. I want to be Basmati rice. That's wholesome and pure. And tasty!"


Berserker Bear Barons?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Confessions of a Baby Endangerer

[I started writing this rant within days of Samuel's birth, then shelved it. “It's not funny enough,” I thought. “It just doesn't...flow.” Six months later, though, I have concluded that it is gating all my other blog posts, and it will go up, ready or not. Just remember, I wrote this in the immediate post-partum period. Also, my thanks to Carolyn, Ronald, and Jon for their input.]

Wheee! 7/16/2010


I wasn't always a bad mama. Then I delivered Samuel and discovered I am irremediably, irredeemably reckless. I guess the folk wisdom about blasé parents of third children is true.

What negligence am I guilty of, you ask? Did I abandon him in a baking-hot car? Dangle him over a balcony? Did my crimes involve bungee jumping or live artillery fire? No, worse: I almost defied the strictures of the modern hospital where he was born.

Now, I agree with most hospital rules. When I got my ID bracelet, I agreed that security was important; any crazed child-snatcher would obviously target my baby first, since Samuel was the cutest, smartest, best baby in the nursery. (The nurse agreed.)

Sometimes, however, Regimentation and Rules can go too far.

But first, a discursion about...


A naive new mother is shocked to discover that, more tiring than the travails of labor, and more irritating than the intermittent sleep of the baby, the most grueling, galling part of post-partum recovery is the constant interruption by hospital staff.

Of course, I was experienced enough to expect it, but I was still really annoyed by the traffic. Nurses every four hours I understand, even when they enter at 2 am and awaken the baby who has just barely fallen into slumber. Naturally, each nurse had separate and completely contradictory philosophies about nursing, but I ignored 'em all impartially. Housekeeping and room service weren't too bad, but the concatenation of other staff drove me nuts: the clerk nagging about the birth certificate; the volunteers delivering other pamphlets, paperwork, and surveys; the lactation consultant; the hearing screener with her machine and electrodes and half-hour of testing; several iterations of people demanding blood samples from the baby and/or me; a technician checking for a dangerous gas leak (twice); and, ad absurdum, ad abuntanium, the official hospital photographer, there to take pictures of the baby for crassly commercial purposes, who negated her latex gloves by handling the trash can before touching my infant.

All of these people seemed to appear just as I was trying to nurse Samuel in privacy, or moments after I had finally laid down to smuggle a few minutes of rest past the draconian dreamland border guards. They also compounded the problem by either not knocking, or knocking perfunctorily and then barging in anyway.

(The worst example actually happened with Daniel in Raleigh. I had been interrupted all day and had finally relaxed because it was after 7 p.m. and I assumed the deluge was over for the day. Seizing the opportunity to nurse discreetly, I was appalled when a knock at the door was followed by a person barging into the room, despite my frantic call to "please wait!" A male, middle-aged hispanic housekeeper popped into my room (despite my disheveled and uncovered state), emptied the waste basket, and walked out again, leaving the privacy curtain open and my pitiful nursing attempts in full view of the passers-by in the hall. Apparently he didn't speak English, because my further requests that he close the curtain also went unheeded.)

Bearing these conditions in mind, perhaps the jury will be sympathetic to learn that on my second night there, tired of Samuel waking up and fussing, I put him in bed next to me. I suspected he was simply cold and wanted a nice, warm snuggle.

I further note that this brilliant plan worked--for an hour, until a nurse came in and moved him back to his Official Bassinet because "he was so close to the edge of the bed." I enclose a diagram of the scene:

He was, in fact, secure among the railings and my arm, unthreatened by suffocation from bedding, and, above all, content. I understand the hospital's official anti-SIDS fear of mothers rolling over on the kid, but that wasn't what the nurse said. Grumph.

I did not sleep for the remainder of the night. [Gail whimpers piteously.]

The next morning, a new nurse came on duty and caught me trying (unsuccessfully) to snatch forty winks. This slatternly behavior—lazing in bed at nine am!--is obviously unhealthy, so she began immediately screening me for post-partum depression.

**If a new mama goes four days without changing out of her pajamas, it might indicate post-partum craziness. If a new mama snatches naps when possible, it demonstrates remarkable sanity. Note the difference!**


That incident is minor, though, compared to my ordeal at checkout.

The scene ran thus:

After we'd completed all the discharge requirements, Jon began shuttling luggage to the van. While he was carting my suitcase down to the parking lot, two volunteers arrived with a wheelchair and cart to assist me.

Knowing the nurses and volunteers were over-extended with several mothers all trying to leave at once, I offered,"Oh, I don't need a wheelchair; I can walk." The grandfatherly volunteer started to disappear with the wheelchair while the matronly volunteer started to assist me in placing my purse and the car seat on the cart.

Alas, the grandfatherly volunteer noticed this feckless behavior and vetoed it. "Because if the car seat fell off the cart, we could get sued," he explained.

The cart had raised edges, but fine. I could see his point though I thought the rule was overly cautious.

"Okay, I'll just carry the baby," I said, and started to unstrap Samuel.

"No," he said.

I started. "Huh?"

He looked apologetic. "You can't carry him that way," he explained. "Because, heaven forbid you tripped and fell and dropped the baby, you could sue us for a million dollars."

I rolled my eyes. "I am not," I stated firmly, "Going to drop my baby."

He patted my shoulder. "Of course you're not that kind of mother," he said, with a slight air of condescension. "But all it takes is one crazy person..."

Negotiations followed.

Thinking their concern was the shakiness of post-partum women, I suggested the volunteer could carry the baby. But no, the concern about dropping still applied.

Very well; I could sit in the wheelchair and hold the baby. This, too, was nixed: all babies were required to be strapped into car seats for transport, not just for the car ride home, but also for the trip down to the car.

(I wonder, now, what would have happened if Samuel had developed colic. I can imagine holding him and wandering the halls of the maternity ward, trying to calm him through motion, only to set off alarms and be intercepted by security staff. "I'm sorry, ma'am, but you must return to your room at once...")

While I could manage a 7-pound baby, the added bulk of the car seat was too much for me. Perhaps the volunteer could carry the baby strapped into his carrier?

No; the volunteers were forbidden to carry the baby under any circumstances, because, heaven forbid something went wrong, I could sue the hospital for--


I proposed to strap Samuel back in his car seat, place it on the cart, and let the volunteer push the cart while I walked alongside, keeping a firm grip on the car seat to prevent it from falling. (The cart, by the way, had slightly raised edges, making it extremely unlikely anything would slide off.)

No, said the gentleman volunteer, who was beginning to look less like an amiable grandpa and more like one of the Stanford Prison guards. After all, a truly crazed person might deliberately push the infant carrier off the cart in a deliberate effort to sue the hospital for a million dollars.

What I should have done at that point was announce, "That's it, I'm waiting for my husband to get back. He can carry the baby strapped in the car seat." Unfortunately, my sleep deprivation seriously undermined my problem-solving skills. While I retained my vocabulary, and though I was capable of great sarcasm, this obvious solution seemed unworkable for some reason. I think I felt a silly sense of community responsibility to resolve the issue quickly and free up the oh-so-helpful volunteers to assist other mothers waiting to escape this medical jail.

In the end, the matronly volunteer diffidently suggested that I (1) strap Samuel back in, (2) sit down in the wheelchair, and (3) hold the car seat with both hands, after which (4) the male volunteer could push the wheelchair while (5) carrying my purse for me. Meanwhile, she would flee the war zone by (6) taking the cart to some other needy (and presumably less argumentative) woman.

To this plan I reluctantly acceeded, though I couldn't refrain from making sardonic comments about the risks of a mother carrying her own baby down the hall. (Imagine the emotional trauma inflicted on the baby as he realizes he is being removed from the protective care of watchful medical professionals and placed into the sole custody of an incompetent, clutzy, exhausted, and mentally deranged mama. Perhaps if I took out insurance policies both for shipping the delicate package and against any pain-and-suffering suits the baby might file twenty years hence...?)

As I was wheeled through the hospital, it occurred to me that Jon might return to the room and find me missing. I wanted to call him, but was required by my escort to keep both hands on the carrier. Because heaven forbid the mother, under the influence of a rare astrological conjunction, fumble her phone and dive instinctively to the floor, jettisoning her baby in her misguided attempt to save the poor device from being trodden underfoot...

Whatever. Suffice it to say that prohibitions against chatting while driving appear to apply equally to interstate motorists and maternity passengers.

After ruefully reflecting on this, I noticed that the volunteer was taking a different route than I had expected, and protested. "I think this is the wrong way," I said, but he shrugged me off absently.

I decided I would no longer worry about wasting his time. "Let'im rot while waiting for Jon to find us," I thought grumpily.

Unsurprisingly, we arrived at the entrance but saw no sign of Jon. No longer in motion, I whipped out my cell phone and called him. He was, indeed, parked at a different entrance, and was also back inside the hospital. It took several more minutes for him to exit, move the car, and find me. (That's not a criticism; none of this was his fault.) Meanwhile, my guard made slightly-inappropriate jokes and comments about the sexiness of new mothers. (Ewww. On several levels.)

I did, finally, reconnect with Jon. I asked Herr Kommandant if he needed to verify the father's identity before releasing us into his custody. I almost asked, sarcastically, if he would like to climb into the van and inspect it thoroughly before permitting us to drive in the hospital parking lot. I restrained myself, though, in the fear that he might actually take me up on the offer.

On the way home, I amused Jon with a lengthy rant about the future of hospital care. “...Patients will be diverted to third-party 'park and ride' lots. Grandpa may be dying of heart failure, but his loving relations will be forbidden to drive onto hospital property, since their emotional distraction might cause them to crash their vehicle into a hospital barrier, the stress of which might cause Grandpa to go into cardiac arrest. Oh, wait, he's already dying of that. Well, the shock might finish him off. Plus the family could sue the hospital for damage to the family car. No, far better to meet the EMTs in a neutral location and let them whisk Grandpa onto a stretcher and race a quarter-mile, outside, on foot, in freezing rain. He might die of asphixiation or hypothermia while waiting for a second man to rescue the first (who suffered a broken leg after skidding on the ice), but at least the hospital's insurance will cover the accident. And the EMT's worker's comp claim. Let us, by all means, take risk aversion to insane extremes!...”

I have seen the future, and it was scary even before the new health care bill passed.


Unfortunately, my bad behavior didn't end there. Perhaps I'm addicted to the adrenaline rush, but I have endangered my baby even more since I got home:

Left: Luke Skywalker, Hoth Ice Cave, about to be eaten by a monster. Right: Imitative publicity stunt. 4/19/2010. Note the baby's surprising zen calm: he could totally have used the Force to extricate himself if necessary.

Above: Babyshnikov. 4/09/2010. Risking a fall and burn out from training too young.


Vogon: Does your mama know you're hitchhiking across the galaxy?

Sammy: Yes. Plus I have a nutrient-striped towel. With instructions for handling the Ravenous Bugbladder Beast of Traal!


Right: Sleeping face down! 5/14/2010


Confession is good for the soul. Still, rather than pull more stunts so I may confess them, I shall repent. Upon mature reflection, I have concluded the hospital is right. Carrying my child anywhere is dangerous; from now on, I shall send him sledding down the stairs, tobaggan-style, strapped into his carseat, rather than risk carrying him over the bumpy terrain.

The next time you see a woman actually carrying a baby in the grocery store, call 911.

I'll be catching up on my sleep.


In the scenario of a mother jettisoning her baby from a moving wheelchair, assume the combined weight of baby and carrier is 15 pounds, the horizontal speed is 3 mph, and the distance to the floor is 24 inches. Neglecting air resistance, what would be the terminal speed as the baby impacts the floor? What would be the force of the impact?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Samuel Stanley Berry

All systems go for launch:
Samuel, in an astronaut outfit chosen by his daddy, preparing to leave the hospital. March 30, 2010

Despite my fears of operatic melodrama, Samuel was an excellent labor companion. He was both courteous and efficient in his timing, cooperative in his delivery, and quietly charming thereafter. A right proper gentleman, he is, and we're all thrilled to have him join the family. I begin to entertain hopes that he will be like Jon: quiet and low-key, undemanding, respectful, and, of course, very smart.

Of course, I do catch the occasional furtive, sly look from Samuel. But fears about him appearing the perfect boy until the FBI shows up with a warrant for his arrest because he's been quietly hacking into their system can wait fifteen years.

Born ten days early, he was also under seven pounds. (Did I not mention his consideration? So thoughtful, like his excellent daddy.) Six pounds 14 ounces is a perfectly respectable size, but so much easier to manage than 8 1/2. He also chose Sunday morning (March 28) to begin labor, which gave me time to get the kids up, fed, dressed in church clothes, and to my neighbor's/visiting teacher's house before Jon whisked me off to the hospital.

Eric and Daniel attended church with the other family and spent the afternoon with them, but Jon arrived back in time to feed them a late dinner (considerately supplied by the aforesaid visiting teacher) and put them to bed.

Sammy also gave me time for an epidural, bless him. Start to finish, the whole ordeal took about five hours. I have an image of him moving with calm deliberation, consulting his project schedule at half-hour intervals.

The name debate was slightly more complicated. My low-key lobbying for Samuel paid off after he was born, but the middle name proved trickier. I proposed Isaac or Ishmael (S.I.B.), which Jon rejected. Hmph. I then suggested Ulysses (SUB), which Jon also nixed. I then sarcastically tried O'Flaherty but was again brutally shot down. Jon lobbied for another S-name, to make the acronym SSB, which stands for single side band in ham radio jargon. I suggested Stanley, Jon's own middle name, which was ultimately adopted. I decided to be magnanimous and let Jon choose. (Actually, when it came time to sign the birth certificate, I was absolutely incoherent and uncaring from lack of sleep.)

My recovery has been going marvelously well. With judicious allocations of motrin, I am functioning quite well, though still trying to take it easy.

We left the hospital Tuesday afternoon, picked up Eric and Daniel from school, showed Samuel off to the carpool ladies, and came home.

I will probably rant about silly hospital rules and interruptions later, but right now I'll just enjoy my baby and post the pictures you've been waiting patiently to see. :)

Samuel, enjoying a few moments of quiet zen meditation. Mama approves his low-key approach to life.

Three boys and a mongoose: Daniel and Eric celebrate meeting Samuel and introducing him to his first stuffed animal.

Settling in at home: A house with three boys is actually more peaceful than the hospital. Daniel is such a good big brother!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mommiest Moments: October, 2009

Eric's Baptism. October 9, 2009.
We were delighted so many family members could make it!

[Eric was playing black box with Grandpa Homer, who was in town for his baptism. After offering his “inputs,” he was graphing them (as his x-coordinates) with their corresponding “outputs” (y-coordinates) to form a shape on paper, which would in turn reveal the nature of the Secret Equation.]

Eric: [Staring at the pattern he's graphed] It looks like a parabola.

Grandpa Homer: That's right.

Eric: So it must be a quadratic equation.

Grandpa Homer: Uh, right!

Eric: So it must be in the form ax^2 + bx + c.

Grandpa Homer: [gaping slightly] That's right...

Eric: And c must be 1. But I don't know how to solve for a and b...

“All my other pregnancies have had such drama...I figure this one will end with a car accident, a high-speed ambulance ride, and an emergency C-section...”

--Gail, anticipating the worst.

“He said 'Just one? Can't I take my whole family?'”

--The school psychologist, reporting on her interview with Eric, in which she asked him, “If you were stranded on a desert island with just one person...” She said this demonstrated that he had strong, loving family ties. :)

--I understand how Eric feels. I wouldn't want to pick just one, either. I still remember a trip to the ER when I was Daniel's age. I had fallen from a kitchen counter and gotten a nasty concussion. Both Mom and Dad drove me to the hospital, but there a nurse informed me that I had to select only one parent to accompany me for all the testing, relegating the other parent to sit in the waiting room. I finally picked Dad, on the assumption that he would browbeat any nurses who tried to do something stupid, but it was a traumatic experience.

---It's also like asking a parent “Who do you want to raise your kids if you die?” My answer is usually, “Well...either set of grandparents would do a good job, or either of my sisters, but...but...really, I want to raise 'em myself!”

Eric's birthday cake: A wizard hat.

“You want to give your own talk about baptism? Well, that's unusual, but...I don't see why not...child after my own heart...exactly the sort of thing I would have done had it occurred to me...”

--The more I thought about it, the more I liked Eric's idea. And, after all, it was his baptism and I tried to accommodate all his reasonable requests, lest I make a mockery of the principle of agency.

---Eric did a great job, too!

“If you scrawl so illegibly that no one can read it, it doesn't count. On school assignments, you need to write slowly enough that your teacher can give you credit for your answers. Private writing is different; my own journal is illegible to anyone except me. Like having a secret code...”

--An illegible scrawl I wrote on a sheet of paper to demonstrate a point to Eric. He had written what looked like “4 + 6 = 16.” I believed that he intended to write “10,” but I counted his answer wrong anyway to teach him a lesson. He was furious. Naturally, after my demonstration, I had to go hunting through old journals to find an entry which was both sufficiently illegible that he almost certainly couldn't read it, and sufficiently unembarrassing just in case he could...

*****“Anyway, the only information I got out of Eric, after thirty minutes of trying, was: 1) The bishop said an opening and closing prayer; 2) Eric mentioned that his grandparents were all coming, and it's approximately a 16-18 hour drive for both of them; 3) They discussed what happened when Heavenly Father and Jesus created the earth; and 4) He passed.

*****“He finally said 'I don't want to tell you,' which I respected, but then he said I could keep asking him questions. I asked if there was any information he was willing to volunteer, and got a very über-Aspie blank stare, after which I gave up.”

--He just turned eight. I thought the super-secretive adolescent silence wasn't supposed to start for another five years or so.

--I'm not the kind of helicopter parent who demands to read her kid's patriarchal blessing. I was asking reasonable questions like “Did the Bishop ask if you understood why baptism is important?” I was growing baffled, because if they didn't discuss the baptismal covenant, famous baptism from the scriptures, obedience, commandments, logistics, or even how Eric was doing in school, what did they find to talk about for fifteen minutes?”

Witch of Doom: Do any minions want to help make the pie?

[Eric and Daniel rush to volunteer.]

Witch of Doom: [Sings softly] One little, two little, three little minions...three little minion boys...

--She was counting Q as a mini minion, I expect.

The Witch of Doom's Award-Winning Homemade Cockroach Pie.
She served it with Mud Juice and it was a big hit among the minions.

*****I had this idea for a Halloween theme: Dorothy (me), Cowardly Lion (Danny), Scarecrow (Eric), and Tinman (Jon). Plus Danny wanted Bear to be Toto. Eric, however, wasn't interested, and I was annoyed.

*****All Eric could suggest was that he wanted to be someone who tried (but failed) to be scary, preferably incorporating the color red.

*****I kept thinking “Why did I ever decide to let kids choose their own costumes after they turned three?” (I had a silly, misguided notion about letting the kid “own” the process, exercise his own imagination, and feel involved.)

*****I pushed as hard as I could reconcile with my conscience, to no avail. But then Danny—wonderful boy, I had been out of charity with him all day but he is now amply forgiven—Danny said, "Eric! You could be the scarecrow and keep trying to scare crows but you never succeed!"And Eric said, "Oh. Okay."

--This is why God created siblings, I'm convinced. I recall frequently convincing Ronald or Carolyn to do something they wouldn't have done for Mom.

"Get this crow off my head! Aaaaaaagh!”

--Eric, dressed as a silly scarecrow for Halloween, hamming up his role. He kept pretending to swat at the "crow" (I confess, I grew desperate, bought a baby bath rubber ducky and painted it black) only to smack himself instead. He was cute and comical and had a blast. Bless Danny the Diplomat for his suggestion. :)

Pay no attention to the pregnant Dorothy in the picture...
I particularly liked Bear's costume and impersonation of Toto.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mommiest Moments: September, 2009

--My apologies for the very long delay between updates. I am trying now to get caught up before the baby arrives in two or so weeks. I can't promise complete repentance, since its possible the baby will derail blog updates for several more months. Nonetheless, I hope people will forgive me and post comments, even if the current crop of quotes doesn't seem quite as high-calibre as normal.--

Drat. Now I'm throwing up and sick.

--Pregnancy gives me this paradigm shift about the definition of “sick,” y'see.

“So why did my children understand 'I'm sick. My throat is sore and it hurts to talk so I'm only using sign language,' and 'Daddy is asleep. Be quiet and quit screaming,' but not 'are you hungry?' Talk about my languages only working half the time...”

--Gail, suffering linguistic frustration.

“I wish Q would make up quits mind. I mean, bad week, throwing up three times a day. Then good week, going three and then four days in a row without vomiting. I was lured into a false sense of security: the worst was over! And then bad week again, throwing up twice a day...this is one argument in favor of quits being a girl. Or bipolar. Or maybe twins with two different placentas. Or possibly Hamlet...”

--Mommy. I settled on 'Bipolar Baby.' It seemed apt.

Mommy: [Turns pale, races for the bathroom, and makes retching noises] Oh, curses!
Daniel: What's wrong?
Daddy: What do you think?
Daniel: She missed?

"Houston, we have a heartbeat!"
--Gail, after a doctor's appointment.

My very first castle made from my birthday legos!

The boys especially liked the gruesome decapitated heads on pikes.

[Conversation among some plush giant microbes, voiced by Daniel]

Flu: Hi! What's your name?

Dust Mite: My name is Dust Mite!

Flu: I'm the Flu!

Dust Mite: Achoo!

Flu: [giggles] No, silly. Germs can't get sick!

Bubonic Plague: I'm the Black Death! Let's go infect people!

Flu: Okay! We'll go kill bad guys!

Halitosis: I'm Bad Breath. Can I come?

Others: Sure!

Mommy: [Mutters to herself] Oh, joy. Biological warfare. [Conversationally] You know...bad breath doesn't kill people. But I suppose it could render them sterile...

“Okay, but I will just leave you to wonder how I got there.”

--Eric, after I found him sitting on the top shelf of his closet and forbade him to climb up again. I'm still not certain how he managed.

Eric, having mysteriously ascended his closet.

He has denied all my guesses about ladders, stools, and gymnastics tricks.

“I think that when Superman moves faster than people can see, he is moving faster than the speed of light!”

--Daniel. He reasoned that out for himself. I was so proud.

Gail: You realize that if we had a teen-age girl, and she chose to play the evil, Machiavellian, two-faced, cat-fighting, boyfriend-stealing, sweetly poisonous social domination games of an alpha-girl cheerleader drama queen, she would be--

Jon: A pro.

Gail: --A master. And we would have to watch the carnage. You still want a girl?

Jon: [Cheerfully] Yep!

Gail: Well, we'll hope a hypothetical girl turns out like me. I imagine I could have been brilliant at it, had I lacked moral scruples and cared to exert myself. Fortunately I was more mature, and had many better things to do with my life.

--This conversation should not be taken as an indication of gender preference in Q. It merely reflects the speculation parents engage in during the pregnancy waiting period.

---It wasn't until much later I found the correct word for myself. I'm a “gamma girl,” meaning I'm an autonomous high-achiever. I neither played the political machination games of the alpha girls, nor was I a submissive beta follower (*snort*). Rather I ignored 'em all and worried about getting a good scholarship for college.

Given a unilateral choice between “A” and “B,” I'd write an eight-page essay explaining the historical origins of A and B, the potential consequences of both choices, a weighted evaluation of why “A” is 30% more preferable than B, but, really, that's ignoring the broader issue, because we ought to be re-examining the question from a different perspective; how “C” is a growing minority option, but ultimately, in another twenty years, I think sane people will recognize that “G” is the best of all possible approaches; my predictions, not only of how the debate will play out, but how it ought to play out (though it won't); and...

"The kids were surprised to hear about the whiny side of prophets. Enoch: 'Everybody hates me! And I'm still a kid!' (He was in his seventies.) Moses: 'I'm slow of speech! They'll all make fun of me!' Moroni: 'I'm a general, not a writer! The gentiles won't take this book seriously.' Except for Saint Paul, who 'gloried in tribulation.' But he was nuts."

--Gail, after substituting for a thirteen- and fourteen-year-old Sunday School class.

"Eric, you're to be more careful in this game not to hurt a person's hand!"

--Danny. This is a vast improvement over twenty minutes spent, offended, in the fetal position, whimpering due to a slight injury...

[Reading The Emperor's New Clothes]

“But, Mommy, even if the cloth was real, the emperor still wouldn't be able to see it because he only worried about pretty clothes and he doesn't do a good job being emperor.”

--Danny. What excellent political science skills! I think his Aunt Cheryl would also agree with his analysis that the emperor was not an effective ruler.

---This reminds me of when Cheryl was planning her hypothetical wedding on a hypothetical date with detailed hypothetical bridesmaids, colors, centerpieces, and guests, and I quipped how she would walk down the aisle only to hear a small child exclaim "But the bride is only wearing a hypothetical gown!"

The Cub Scout's New Clothes: Fortunately Eric seems very well suited to his new station, and his outfit was visible to everyone.

Mommy: Danny, you need to scrub your hands because you petted the dog. He was a nice, friendly dog, but you should still wash your hands.

Danny: Yes, and when we stopped to rest, I was sitting on the grass and my hands touched the dirt and that might have germs I couldn't see because they are microscopic.

“Can I have the eyeball?”

“Can I have the eyeball?”

“I want a fang!”

--Children in Eric's class, divvying up the pull-apart alligator cupcakes I brought in for his birthday.

Eric's birthday treat at school. The office ladies were impressed. :)