Thursday, July 31, 2008

Birthdaygate '08; or, The Family Drama Never Ends

As usual, I have some family drama. I don't know if it's better or worse now that I have a kid - on the one hand, the situation with my father's immediate family has gotten worse, but I care less. On the other hand, the little bits of constant in-law drama are much, much worse. And I DO care about that, and since we are much more involved with my in-laws than my father, it is kinda a big deal.

The current family issue is a little something I'm calling Birthdaygate '08. The background on this is that my in-laws go on vacation twice a year - they have a time share in Hawaii, and they get a favorable exchange rate on their weeks. This means that on years they don't go to Hawaii, they can trade for weeks in time shares in other places. I don't exactly get it, but let's just say that instead of going to Hawaii this year they went to Florida for a week in April, and they are going to Arizona and Mexico for two weeks this fall.

Last year they went to Florida in the fall and it was a huge deal around the time that I was in and out of the hospital and being monitored all the time because we were all afraid that they were going to induce me on vacation and they had Red Sox tickets. I'm not saying that they would miss the birth of their grandchild for the Red Sox, because that is mean. What I'm saying is that there was a lot of concern and pressure that they might have to give up their tickets and try and get an earlier flight due to all the maybe-they-will-maybe-they-won't induction nonsense surrounding Charlotte's birth. I managed to bargain with my OB practice for an extra weekend and went in to be induced on Sunday the 23rd of September, and got to go to my baby shower and also insure that my in-laws would be back in the state before the baby actually made it to the outside world.

Also, all the drama around the christening was also complicated by the fact that we wanted to have it the last Sunday of April, but that had to be rescheduled due to the spring Florida trip and Red Sox tickets. Which was fine, we weren't exactly prepared in April anyway...but it would have been a lot easier to have had the christening and party in April since I wasn't working at the time.

I tell you all that so that I can tell you this.

There is now a ton of drama surrounding the putative date of Charlotte's first birthday party. Her birthday is September 24th, a Wednesday, if I recall correctly. (She was born on a Monday and this year is a leap year, so that makes sense.) Matt and I don't want to actually have her party until on or after her birthday. Since Wednesday is in the middle of the week, we'd like to have her birthday the following Saturday. However, Matt's parents leave for vacation that weekend, to be gone for two whole weeks. This means that the next available weekend is in the middle of October, which is their other grandchild's birthday (Charlotte's cousin K). The weekend after THAT, fully one month after Charlotte's first birthday, is my brother's wedding, and we'll be spending the weekend in Syracuse. So, unless we want to have Charlotte's birthday party in NOVEMBER, at which point we start interfering with all her grandparents' birthdays, we need to have her birthday party when we want to have it, that weekend right after her birthday.

The controversy arises from a couple of things - firstly, that Matt and I STUPIDLY stated that we don't want to have Charlotte's birthday party before her birthday because it makes us uncomfortable, and that there are a number of world cultures that back us upon this tradition (esp. Puerto Rico and Hawaii, as I recall). The other factor is that my mom is going to be travelling the weekend before Charlotte's birthday, so that is two strikes against it. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Because the in-laws have grabbed onto this, and are saying that we place a stupid superstition above them.

Phone calls and emails have been exchanged on the topic, and silly arguments, such as "We are more than twice your age and know of no civilized culture with that kind of superstition." This fills me with fury because their son-in-law was raised in Hawaii, and they go there all the time, and therefore their grandson is of that descent, and they apparently don't consider that civilized. Lovely. Then Matt and his mother got to have the whole exchange where Matt's mom said, "We told you we were going on vacation! You know we go on vacation on the fall! You've known for six months!" Matt retorted, "You've known her birthday for almost a year!"

The whole situation is made that much more complicated by the fact that none of this is in a vacuum - Matt's older sister and their parents have a relationship that is strained at times, and there are feelings that his sister punished his parents by keeping their grandson away from them. I don't think this is the case - except maybe as a form of self-protection, but that's the feeling that is there, and that kind of underscores every decision we make in regards to the grandparents. "Well, they didn't get to do this with K," Matt will say, and I will say, "That has nothing to do with Charlotte."

A dangerous precedent has been set. Because Matt feels like he needs to make up for what is interpreted as various slights on his sister's part, we've bent over backwards to accomodate them over and over. Unfortunately, they see it as their due, not as something special that we're doing for them. As a result, whenever our opinions diverge from theirs, they take it as a personal insult, and an added layer of "ungrateful child."
I don't need this from 2 out of 3 sets of parents - this sucks. Every time there is something special, a holiday, a christening, a birthday, we have to way out the needs of 3 different sets of grandparents, in the interest of fairness, and our preferences get pushed to the end of the list. It's easy to do that, because right now Charlotte's little, and she seriously doesn't care what happens as long as she has Mumma and Daddy with her. She doesn't know that her christening got re-arranged, that her maternal grandfather constantly chooses his second family over her, and that her paternal grandparents will never be happy with her parent's decisions. So it's easy to try and make everyone happy while wearing ourselves down to a nubbin.

But enough is enough. We are her parents, and we are allowed to decide what to do based on whatever we want. We also have to be prepared to weather the storm based on our decisions, and that's a little hard to deal with. I guess that's what it really means to grow up.

Friday, July 25, 2008

...and the downside of doing it all.

I wrote this yesterday when I was at work:

My life is just so crazy - I wish that I could take a couple days off and get everything under control. I really wish that my mom lived closer so I could drop Charlotte off at her house for 5 hours and clean and pack and all that. Sigh. I seriously have no time in my life - Whenever I'm not taking care of Charlotte, I'm working. I take breaks in those two things to eat/make food. That's it. I don't even shower everyday, and I have these thank you notes from the Christening that aren't done yet.

I never got to do that little scrapbook I wanted to do for Chris and Megan, and I have never washed my floors since that time, like 2 months ago, that I freaked out about it. Even when Matt's like, "Yeah, I'll take Charlotte and you can get stuff done," he's gone for like half an hour, and the only thing I get done is to get caught up on work or dishes. All the big stuff is still sitting out there. Now there is a nagging smell of cat pee in my living room, and I'm not sure if Maddie peed somewhere in my scrapbooking stuff.

I can't even do that stuff tonight when I get home for work because I have a dinner I have to cook (I have the recipe and I need to make it before stuff goes bad) and then I have to work a few hours tonight because I'm already a day behind and this weekend is used up with a party on Saturday that's in Eastern MA and then laundry on Sunday. Oh, and work. At least 8 hours worth.

Thursdays are the worst, because I'm sitting at work, in my controlled environment, doing my work - doing just one thing while listening to the iPod. And then when the system hangs or is slow I sit here, twitchy, thinking about all the stuff I need to do while I'm waiting for the computer to catch up with THIS ONE THING. Sometimes I sit and make lists. I try and plan out what I need to do when to get everything done, I make lists so that when I go home I, I have a plan.

I am riding the mood wave today - I wrote all that angst up above, and now I'm cruising a little more evenly. I think it's because now I'm listening to the All Songs Considered podcast, which is considerably less bleak than listening to This American Life.

I'm feeling better today; I can't help it. It's gorgeous out, Charlotte's napping, I made some kick-ass meals yesterday. But nothing has been really solved or resolved. I'm still overwhelmed and crazy and tired. And you can see it in this picture from yesterday:


Yesterday was Charlotte's 10-month birthday, by the way.

No plans, no resolution, and no conclusion. Happy Friday.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Charlotte's fan club

This past weekend Charlotte and I had two parties - on Saturday my brother and his fiancee had a big "bridal barbeque" (or, you know, a cook-out) and my friend Kelly had her bridal shower on Sunday. Chris and Megan live out in the Syracuse area, and so do Megan's parents, so they had the party in their very large, very nice backyard. Matt, Charlotte and I went out on Friday so we could settle in a little and visit before it got too crazy. Megan's parents, Bruce and Carla, were so psyched to see Charlotte - it's gonna be a while before Chris and Megan make them grandparents, and Megan's brother is even younger, so Charlotte's all the grandbaby they're gonna get for now. They were awesome and Charlotte warmed right up to all the gushy attention.

Matt and I had been looking forward to this party for a number of reasons: pig roast, hanging out with Bruce and Carla, seeing my family, playing outside, firepit, booze, etc...but one of the other things we were looking forward to was hanging out with other babies. I think I've mentioned it before, but Matt and I don't have any close friends with babies - we know some people who have just started having babies, but no one in our immediate circle of friends has kids. Chris and Megan's friends are on a completely different timetable, so there were two kids there who were pretty close to Charlotte's age. Conner, who is 13 months, and Lucas, who is two weeks younger than Charlotte. Matt and I were looking forward to seeing her play with them and just to talk to other people who are (hopefully) as obsessed with their kids as we are with ours.

All the parents were really cool, but since Conner's mom was the matron of honor and had other duties to attend to, we mostly hung out with Lucas's parents. Lucas and Charlotte were kind of fascinated with each other. Mostly Charlotte, I will admit. Lucas's Mom, MK, watches her sister's kids, so Lucas is used to other kids. Charlotte kept pointing at him and looking at me, like, "Holy shit, look at the baby!" She also would pat his arm, and he would smile at her and me. It was truly cute. However, when it came to toys, Charlotte was much more ambitious. She went after the older baby's toys. She particularly loved his little push n' sit whatever mickey mouse thing - Conner liked to push it around, and maybe ride it. Charlotte was obsessed with all the buttons, particularly the silly little shifter. Her uncle Josh is happy with this - he thinks she might be into performance automotives. I think he's already preparing to teach her to drive standard and help her find a rally car.

We got lots of compliments on how cute Charlotte is, which is always sweet, but does leave me feeling a little weird sometimes. She was also complimented for being "good" and friendly, which sits a little better. I don't know - I know that she's just a little baby, and there isn't a whole lot to comment on, but I really wish we could avoid the whole thing where girls always get complimented on their looks. I just worry about body image and things like that so much - yeah, she's only 10 months old now, but where is the line, and when do we cross it? I'll save that worry for another day, I guess.

The other fun thing about hanging out with other babies was the whole sharing of stuff - Charlotte played with Conner's toys, MK borrowed our umbrella stroller to wheel Lucas around to convince him to sleep, we all shared high chairs. I'm such a dork, but it made me happy.

(Charlotte and Matt playing with MK and Lucas)

Sunday my sister and I headed out from Syracuse with Charlotte to go to Kelly's bridal shower. It was hot and weird and altogether a little harder to get excited about that party - we were tired and partied out, though it was nice to see Kelly's future-sisters-in-law. They and her future mother-in-law are awesome people, and Charlotte did enjoy sitting with T and D, and also watching Kelly's "niece" Sadie, who is either 3 or 4, I forget. T had actually given us Sadie's old car seat, which we just installed last week, and we love it. Somehow, even though it looks much bigger, it takes up less room in the car. And it has armrests and Charlotte looks so silly and grown-up in it, just casually draping her arm over the armrest.

The party was lovely and kind of elegant, but there were a lot of people I didn't know and Charlotte got hot and cranky and refused to drink anything even though she was pouring sweat. She then took a sip of my lemonade and spilled it all over herself, so it was time to go. We wrapped up the trip with a wardrobe change, and we took off for home.

We have four more parties this summer - holy crap.

Oh, and we did finally find a sunblock. JASON umbrella mineral sunblock, SPF 30. It smells fruity, but she wore it all weekend without a rash, through about 5 different applications. My one complaint is that if it gets supersaturated and stops rubbing in, it gets all over clothes, and doesn't actually absorb into them, but I guess that is kind of the whole point, right? And it's not JASON's fault that all my clothes are black.

(Here's Charlotte in the pool that Carla got for her and the other babies. Charlotte was the only one who actually went swimming, and she would have stayed there forever, even though she was covered in goosebumps!)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Got some posts a-brewin'.

There has been a lot of internet chatter lately (as there always is) about breastfeeding vs. formula. I have such a lot to say on the subject, and it is so emotional for me that I feel I really want to write about it in a cohesive way. So I think I'll need to work on that for a while.

And just in case there was any doubt - I am wicked pro-breastfeeding. However, I'm a lot more sympathetic to people who have problems then some other people. Like, everyone on the LJ attachement parenting group. I'm considering dropping them from my LJ friends-list because all the comments on the posts make me feel bad. Which has to do more with my own issues, I think. Not knowing a lot of parents in real life has gotten me hooked on internet communities - and internet communities tend to be a lot more black-and-white, if-you-are-pro-one-thing-you-are-con-the-opposite than real life playgroups. Not to mention my continued frustration with people who have no idea that attachment parenting is actually based on years of scientific and scholaraly research (Bowlby, Small, Freud), not something that Dr. Sears made up wholesale.

Oh, and randomly, all the people who were going to have babies have had them! Hooray! 2008 is the year of girls - I know 3 baby girls who were born this year. And one awesome boy. Welcome Riley, Chase, Mya and Anselm!

And to keep it light, at least until I let my breastfeeding angst out all over the place, here is a picture of Charlotte enjoying Grammy's garden.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Today's parenting debate: The Sunscreen Wars

The issue: Charlotte is a very, very, very fair-skinned child with light blue eyes. Matt and I both have fair skin and burn a bit in the sun, and I have sensitive skin that gets rashes randomly. It is not unheard for me to suddenly break out in a rash from a lotion or moisturizer that I've used before. Charlotte seems to have inherited this trait. A few months ago we asked our neighbor (and a pediatrician, though not ours) what she recommended as a sunscreen for the babe. Dr. Mom gave us several sample packets of Baby Coppertone SPF 50. We used this on Charlotte a couple times - the first time went okay, but the next couple times caused charlotte's face to break out in a bumpy red rash. And as soon as her face itched, she rubbed her hands on her face, making it worse. She also got bumps on her arms and thighs. So we tried another sunscreen from Babies R Us. It came with her sunglasses, which we also needed for sun protection. This sunscreen was okay the first time we applied it, but the next couple of times we got a rash again. It was obviously bothering her, she cried and rubbed her face until we scrubbed her down with some baby wipes.

So, the debate is this. What sunscreen/block do we get for Charlotte?

Matt's vote: whatever's cheap
Jenn's vote: hypoallergenic, low-chemical, mineral sunscreen
Charlotte's vote: something that doesn't give me a rash!

Jenn's concerns
I recently read two separate articles in two separate publications on how there is no FDA oversight of sunscreen. This means two things: 1) there is no way of regulating that sunscreen is as effective as its' manufacturer claims and 2) that no one is regulating how safe sunscreen is for infants. Most pediatricians are more concerned about sunburn and UVA/UVB exposure than chemical absorption, but it is a concern for me, thank-you-very-much. Babies are tiny, their systems are tiny, and the amount they absorb through their skin is proportionately much higher than the amount absorbed by an adult.

Because of this, some sunscreens are now being made to block suns rays using minerals, rather than chemicals. As my mother-in-law could tell you, minerals are very popular right now in the cosmetic industry because they can coat very finely without irritation. This forms a physical rather than chemical barrier against the sun's rays. Mineral sunscreen is the hip new thing for all us paranoid parents - but it's not the hip factor that's attractive to me, it's the less irritating, less chemical factor.

The best I can remember is that I got this info from this month's Vegetarian Times Carrot & Stick column-no link, sorry/'s Droolicious column/Same Mama's Safer Sunscreens.

Matt's concerns
Anything bought at "natural" stores (particularly Whole Foods and Cornucopia) is a rip-off. Spending all that money on baby sunscreen is ridiculous. We can't afford it.

Charlotte's concerns
The last two sunscreens you guys tried on me gave me big red welts and pink eyes and I cried until you wiped it off. Coppertone Baby SPF 50 and BabyFun SPF 45, I think they were. It sucked. I was cranky through the whole first half of the Taste of Amherst. Also, I know I have light eyes and light skin and the sun makes me squint and sneeze and my eyes water - but I hate those baby sunglasses. Can't you parents just follow me around with a parasol all the time? Or keep moving the trees so the sun isn't in my eyes?

I realize that this entry seems unfairly weighted against Matt, but this is what so many baby debates come down to - I feel like I've done my research and I'm trying to make an informed decision about the care of our child, and Matt is concerned that we don't spend too much or get ripped off. To that I say - Hyland's teething tablets! Besides, this is my blog.

We don't yet have a decision. We're supposed to "discuss" it when I get home. My proposed solution is this - both Cornucopia and Whole Foods have tester bottles of several sunscreens. We should go and stick some sunscreen on Charlotte and see if she gets a rash. If she doesn't, we should buy it. Matt's proposed solution - buy whatever's cheap that we haven't tried yet.

Whatever we do, we need to do fast - over this long weekend I really want to get the kid outside.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The next step is sleep.

I have been wanting to post something else because, frankly, that last post is kind of upsetting. However, I haven't had much time to post anything because, once again, our sleep schedule is out of wack and Charlotte isn't doing a lot of napping or easy bed times, which means most of my non-Charlotte time is spent either working or making sure this house doesn't devolve any further into chaos.

So, in lieu of an actual post, let me now list the things Charlotte would rather do than sleep:

* Stick her arm out the side of her crib and scream because she can't roll over.

* Sing to her toys and stack Ikea faux-Tupperware.

* Scream "ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma!!" Not in an upset way, in a "hey-can-you-hear-my-voice?" way.

* Suck on Tigger's ears.

* Suck on Tigger's paws.

* Throw binks out of the crib.

* Pull the tag of the playpen up from underneath the floor and twiddle it with her fingers.

* Pull herself up in her crib.

* Pull herself up in her playpen.

* Pull herself up in her crib, let go of the rail, fall on her butt and applaud wildly.

* That's my sister in the video. Little does she know that she's on the internets.