Saturday, April 30, 2005

Something I did not write about last week because I was so overwhelmed with joy at all the love Nutmeg was sopping up from her FOUR grandparents in town to celebrate her birthday. A crisis came up last Thursday when I was foolishly stopping in at work, with a sleeping baby in the stroller and a bundle of flowers for the party and a cheesecake for my mom's birthday in the stroller basket. I checked my email at work and found out that Vida, the woman I'd spent a month getting to know, CHANGED HER MIND AND DIDN'T WANT TO BE NUTMEG'S CAREGIVER AFTER ALL. This was two weeks before the planned start date for said childcare. That start date is now five days away, but I'm no longer panicking because it looks like I have a couple of very good options lined up.
Here's what happened with Vida, the stay-at-home mother of two with the native Mandarin and the degree in child development and the lovely big apartment full of toys. The second time I met with her, I asked her if she would be OK with us running a background check on her. She said fine. So the next time I saw her, when we did our test afternoon, I dropped off some information about the state Trustline program, which keeps a registry of caregivers whose background is clear of child abuse and felony convictions. I asked her by email a couple of times after that if she was interested in registering with Trustline at my expense, or if she would prefer that I hired a service to do the background check. EAch time she said she hadn't gotten around to looking at the info yet. When she finally did, about two weeks later, she said that it looked like a criminal background check and "my husband and I are certainly not in that category." I explained to her that while they were obviously wonderful people who were certainly not crooks, this was a fairly standard step in the process of hiring a caregiver, and that being registered -- on my dime -- would actually help her get more childcare work if she wanted it.

She then sent me the email saying she'd pass on the opportunity to care for my brilliant and adorable child. In a subsequent phone conversation, she explained that if I couldn't trust my instincts and trust her, then it just wasn't going to work out. Never mind that my friggin' instincts told me that no matter how nice someone seemed, I'd better get a damn background check just to be safe.

Aside from the outrage that ANYONE would turn down the chance to GET PAID to spend all day with the adorable Nutmeg, I was obviously outraged that this woman would leave me high and dry after I spent a month getting to know her, and leave me with just 2 weeks to find somene to take care of Nutmeg. And it didn't help my nerves any for this to happen on the day all four of Nutmeg's grandparents were arriving, when I was supposed to be packing up and loading the car with her strapped to my back and driving up to the Russian River to put together the biggest event of her young life.

Now that I've had some time to think about it, I'm realizing that even though she was wonderfully qualified, this Vida and I probably would not have gelled. She was going to call all the shots, even when it came to decisions I should have made for my own child. I doubt she would have listened if I had asked her to change anything she was doing with Nutmeg during the day. After all, she's the expert.

Anyway, tomorrow a highly recommended nanny is coming to our home to meet us. She's also Chinese, and I found her through an ad her current employer posted on Craigslist. Their kid is going off to preschool. Of course, we can't afford to pay a nanny all by ourselves, but there is also a Chinese/Jewish family with a 16-month-old coming by who are interested in share care. So everything may be falling into place. And as another option, there is a home daycare that I'd been checking out all along -- another Chinese lady -- and I just got off the phone with a mother who has had her kids going there for 7 years and loves her and considers her a second grandmother to her children. Funny thing is, the nanny would cost us much more than we planned to pay, and this place is much less -- just $25 a day. I don't know, maybe I could send her to one of them one day a week. Or something. More tomorrow.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Nutmeg's birthday party! Oh, what a day. Nutmeg finally went down, just after 10, after a few hours of cavorting around the living room in her PJs, clapping her hands, playing with her new toys. Everything was perfect. Everyone made the drive, and everyone had a good time. I mean, a good-ass time. Especially Nutmeg. She went down for her nap right around 1, woke up at quarter to three just as people were arriving, and after about half an hour she was really having a good time. She and Max played in the sand table, which Kay brought from the toy library and Bert filled with sand from ocean beach. All the babies enjoyed playing in the baby lounge thingie, and we put on a few puppet shows. When we put her cake on the high chair tray and sang happy birthday, she was amazed to see everyone looking at her and singing to her. She stared at that cake on her tray for a few moments and put a tentative hand on it, then another, and felt the icing. She devoured her piece of carrot cake, and she loved opening her presents. She just did great all day. The other babies had a good time.
The amazing thing about this baby, we all agree, is that through all the stimulation she just gets more and more animated and fun. She doesn't get cranky.

Tomorrow morning is her birthday. We're hoping to go to Crissy Field and have a picnic in the afternoon if it's sunny, so she can open her presents from her grandparents and from us.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Trying to be cool about imminent relatives' arrival and departure for Nutmeg's party fun house. Only obsessing every other second about whether I will have enough time to find little white sandles to go with Nutmeg's party dress that have flexible soles so as to be good for her feet when she starts walking, which will happen any second, because she is doing her "standing unsupported" trick more and more often.

My God, girls. Did you ever imagine, even in your darkest teenage dreads of the banality of adulthood, that you would be obsessing about find the perfect infant sandles? No, you only thought you'd end up Valiumed out, making payments on minivans, and competing with the neighbors over your lawn. And you thought this would take a decade or so of parenthood to happen. You didn't know you'd turn into insane Bree from Desperate Housewives over your first child's FIRST birthday. Joke's on you, girls.

Anyway, I have a minor victory to report, and then I'm back to getting 50 things done before I join Epu in bed. I just removed the rust spots from the chrome push handle of Nutmeg's birthday present, a Radio Flyer mini tricycle, with incredible ease using a product I'd like to endorse now: Barkeeper's Friend. The woman who sold me this tricycle knocked $15 off the price when she realized that there was rust on the pushbar, and she told me I could buy another one online for that price. I couldn't find any such accessory online, and put off thinking about it, until my Dad looked it over and said a chrome cleaner might be able to get the spots off. Hmm. I didn't know you could clean rust off of things! Wait till I try this on my minivan's bumpers, the better to reflect my nice green lawn off of!

Anyway, I went to Cole Fox Hardware yesterday, had to nurse Nutmeg furtively in a back row, and then held her completely limp 10-pound body in my arms while I asked the saleswoman a million questions about which rust remover would be least toxic but still work. She helped me find Barkeeper's Friend. Barkeeper's Friend, people! It could be your friend too. It sure is mine. Because I just went downstairs, followed the directions, and within five minutes there were no rust spots on that chrome handle. Of course, I still have total buyer's remorse on the trike anyway, since it has no seat back or seatbelt, unlike the obviously superior Kettler trike. But hey, if I find one of those Kettrikes used, I can probably now sell the Radio Flyer for more than I bought it for, thanks to BARKEEPER'S FRIEND.

We now return to your regularly scheduled dread.

Monday, April 18, 2005

While thumbing through an article about Asian American writer Iris Chang's suicide in the Sunday Chronicle magazine, I came across a photo of her and her son -- at his first birthday party, in 2003.

It was one of those punched-in-the-gut moments, to see with my own eyes that the mother of a beautiful 3-year-old child could take her own life. Not only did she willingly abandon her son in this world that obviously she had found to be a tough place herself, but she left him here damaged. The child of a suicide, someone who will spend so many hours in therapists' offices being told it wasn't his fault. Would he even remember her?

Every day since having Nutmeg, I've had a heightened sense of distress when hearing about hurt children. It's natural; other moms tell me they feel the same way, especially when breastfeeding is causing our brains to be bathed in mommy hormones. But seeing Iris Chang and her little boy bothered me more, because it told me something I didn't want to be true.

Love is not necessarily powerful enough to protect your children from yourself.

Whenever my own demons get the best of me, and I fight with my husband and take advantage of his gentleness and hurt him, I tell myself that I will not be this way with Nutmeg. And when I get scared that I will be that way with her -- that I'll nag her and have unrealistic expectations of her and take out my anxieties on her in the form of anger -- I resolve not to.

Obviously, I don't think I'm just like Iris Chang. The woman was an undermedicated sufferer of bipolar disorder, according to the article, and I'm just neurotic like everybody else is. But her story made me face some facts: One, I'm never going to get through life without hurting my daughter. If anyone ever tells you he was never hurt by his mother, that person probably didn't know his mother. And even then he probably won't say he was never hurt by her. But two, if I want to give Nutmeg the kind of quality mothering I'd like to, I can't just rely on my instincts and my love. I have to work at it, whether that means just doing the healthy things I know I'm supposed to do, like not bitching at her father all the time, or going to a counselor, or what, I have to do it. If I think I can spend hundreds of hours obsessing over what kind of education she's going to get, and zero hours thinking about what kind of mothering she's going to get, well, you get the idea.

In other news, grandparents will be descending -- literally -- on the Bay Area in four days, and most plans are go for the first birthday extravaganza. I have already confessed to my party shopping excesses, after deciding to make the decor and baby entertainment and keep it simple. Nutmeg, oblivious to the coming event, is wrapped up in another growth spurt/developmental leap. According to our bathroom scale, she jumped from 18 lbs 5 ounces a month ago to 20 pounds. And she has become much more tuned in to the world around her in recent days. She requests her favorite song on the stereo, and we play it, and play it, and play it. When we sing the lyrics to her, we stop when we get to the two words she can say, and she fills them in. Epu discovered she can do this, of course, because it's the kind of thing that only he would believe an almost-1-year-old could do. Tonight we tried on her birthday party dress -- it's a little loose but will be fine -- and she loved it! It's got a crinoline skirt, and she fluffed it in her hands, and stared in the mirror and grinned and said as best she could, "pretty!" Something about the fluffy skirt inspires her to take steps while holding my hands, so who knows -- maybe she really will take those first unassisted steps at her party. This is, after all, a baby who was born on her due date, never strays from the 50th percentile in weight, and is, as Dr. Wright said, "a textbook baby." Of course she'll walk on her first birthday.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Just came back from a party-shopping binge at Toys R Us and Target. Bought all kinds of things with flowers on them, because this 1st birthday will have a flower power theme. Nutmeg loves flowers, in fact, I had lunch with a friend this afternoon who was wearing a flowered skirt, and Nutmeg kept pointing at it and doing her little "sniff sniff" Baby Sign for "flower." Was my friend charmed? What do you think she is, made of stone?

Anyway, my big find tonight: Foam flower stickers in bright colors. As soon as I walked in the door and tossed the sleeping baby into her crib, I started sticking these things onto all the other party stuff I bought. I was like, "Epu, see this little tin bucket? It was $1. Now there's a pink foam flower on it -- I would totally pay $2 for this!"

The one item that has eluded my clutches is a flower-shaped bubble wand. I can buy one online, but I didn't want to pay $5+ shipping for a $1.25 piece of plastic! The other alternative is to have Epu make the damn thing by affixing pipe cleaners in the shape of flower petals to my little plastic sceptor that he gave me on my 30th birthday.

There is less than one week before the next hot reality show hits San Francisco: Both your in-laws and your parents are visiting you at the same time, and there's only one grandchild to go around!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Hey, Wisconsinites! Miss the taste of old Milwaukee? Not the beer, but the sweet recollections of fatty foods of yore? Try this recipe from our copy of "The New Settlement Cookbook, from Milwaukee's Settlement Cookbook Company:


Cut wheat bread lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices. Toast on one side. Spread untoasted side with a thick layer of peanut butter. Sprinkle top with crumbled crisp bacon. Before serving put under broiler to heat thoroughly.

Monday, April 11, 2005

The package about online fraud that we've been working on for months at work finally came out today. Naturally, my paper didn't get delivered this morning, so I haven't been able to see it yet.

ONLINE CRIME: A Booming Business New, smarter generation of Internet crooks Personal-information thieves hook up with people who may help them profit

ONLINE CRIME: A Booming Business PHISHING New lures could snare more users

And here's a new thing we're doing, a "podcast" about the "story behind the story." It's my editor interviewing me about reporting the story. In this case, the story behind the story might be more interesting than the story itself.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Test day at Nutmeg's new caregiver went very well, even though she had only had a half hour nap. I think she will really like playing there 2 days a week. The only real drawback: It took me 45 minutes to get from the sitter's to my front door on public transportation/walking. Add that to the 1/2 hour it will take to get from my office to her house after work, plus 5 or 10 minutes of talking to the caregiver and getting Nutmeg ready to go? That's a long haul after a day of work and before making dinner. Sigh. Oh well, time on the train with Nutmeg is still learning funtime to her, so i guess it doesn't matter much.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Took Nutmeg to the Academy of Science this morning with Kay and Eliot. Saw the penguin feeding. Nutmeg enjoys this place more every time we go. This time she crawled right up to the penguin aquarium and stood up against it, waving Hi to the penguins and watching them swim around. Then she worked the crowd a little, reaching out to touch little kids' cool sandals, etc. Some little girls thought she was cute, some kids were like, get away from me, baby. Eventually she looked around for me, and I opened my arms wide, and she crawled back to me, having to go around several sitting and walking kids to get there. Then she climbed into my lap and watched the penguins from there. I love this baby.

Then tonight I took her to the party work through because we finally won a Pulitzer. She saw people eating appies there and immediately signed "more," and "eat," quite impressing my coworkers. She loved the speeches because she joined in on the applause, and then they turned on dance music and put on the pulsing lights -- it was at a dance club -- and it blew her mind. She was tired -- it was after 8 p.m. -- but every time she'd slump her head against my chest and we'd go sit down in the makeout area, she'd catch a glimpse of those lights again and jump up for more party. Epu picked us up when he was done with work, and she fell asleep in the car on the way home. As I carried her up the stairs, her dad gave her a goodnight kiss and said, Bye, because he had to go repark the car. She limply waved her little hand at him, with her eyes closed.


Those of you out there with hearts of stone, that sloshy feeling you have inside your chest out there is your heart melting. Get used to it.

Tomorrow afternoon we are going to Nutmeg's potential caregiver's house for a trial afternoon. I am going to be there the whole time. I am not really looking forward to hanging out in this woman's apartment all afternoon while she goes about her day. For one thing, I won't be able to get anything done all afternoon; for another, it's embarrassing. I know it's important to observe how she does with Nutmeg plus her own two little ones, and it's important for Nutmeg to get used to being there with me before we just dump her off there for a whole workday. But it's certainly going to be awkward.

We think this woman is the one, though. She is a native Mandarin speaker, with a degree in childhood education, also speaks perfect English, is married to an American. Very into teaching the little ones. Wants to start a home-based preschool in a couple of years.
Various cute things that Nutmeg has done lately:

-- During a break in nursing, point at the nipple and say, "Toe!"
-- Ask for her latest favorite book, "Marvin K Mooney, Will You Please Go Now?" by signing "book" and saying, "go, go, go."
-- When being videotaped, grab the lense cap and put it on.
-- As Mommy opens the front door to get the paper in the morning, shout, "coat! bye!"
-- Try to lift daddy's shirt, hoping for some nursing action. Then look down her own pajama front.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Maybe it's all that oxytocin and estrogen pumping through my veins, but I haven't felt very stressed about mommyhood much after that first week or so of struggling with breastfeeding. Christmas doesn't count since that's a stressful time for normal human beings too, not just mommies. But this weekend things started to feel like too much. I was having one of those days Saturday when you want to get something done, except you need to get something else done in order to complete that something, and you can't get that something else done because something #3 is missing, and just when you go to search for something #3 the baby wakes up from her nap and you put her in the high chair and she reaches into her little bowl (while adorably announcing, "bowl! bowl!") and throws applesauce all over something #3, which at least you know know the location of. You know.
And all this was during like, the 3rd or 4th Saturday in a row of Nutmeg's daddy spending all morning working on a project in our basement that all the residents of our building are supposed to be sharing, but that we -- being the only people in the building without the heavy responsibility of pet ownership -- seem to be doing most of. Which means an unscheduled half day of solo parenting for me. Add this to planning a first birthday party that is also a family reunion of sorts, arranging childcare for the first time, trying to get a large package into the paper at work, and little things like, oh, getting the taxes done, and I was feeling a little bit tweaked.

But I have a lovely husband. He let me sleep on the couch last night. You know that you have entered a bizarro world when that's a big priviledge in your life, but this Nutmeg has been waking up three, four or more times a night lately and wanting to nurse. I don't know why. That's another thing that I think about when I'm wandering around the house looking for something #3, forgetting that I had to put it in the dishwasher which I can't run right now because we're out of detergent. Will this go away by itself? Should I be doing something about it? Even the decor in our bedroom/nursery, the two lovely little smocked dresses hanging on the wall, were stressing me out, because they're both a little short on Nutmeg, and they have hems that could be let out, but we don't have a sewing machine, and is that something that can be done by hand? Should I take them to a tailor? How can you properly pin a straight hem on an infant who can't stand up, or certainly can't stand still?
So sleeping on the couch, that was heaven. Nutmeg's Daddy, who I shall henceforth refer to as Epu, gave her a bottle the first few times she woke up, although he did have to come in and hand her to me at about 4 a.m. when the bottle ran out. Still, that's pretty much like sleeping all night. And it gets better. Epu took Nutmeg to the airport with him the next morning to meet up with a friend on a layover, and then the 2 of them went to Target together, and he brought her back sound asleep. While I'm suffering a few guilt twinges for feeling like barely seeing my daughter all Sunday is an awesome weekend, I'll take the guilt, because I actually got a bunch of stuff done, and listened to my book on mp3 while I did it. I even took Nutmeg's booster chair off the kitchen chair it's strapped to and gave it a shower and scrubbed the chair. Ooh, I should have taken a picture of that nasty chair and posted it on

Saturday, April 02, 2005

My baby is a genius.
"Yeah," my friend Jack told me the other night. "All parents think their children are geniuses. My parents thought I was a genius, and look at me."
Except that my baby really *is* a genius.
Not only has her vocabulary expanded beyond what I hear a lot of 2-year-olds saying --
and on and on -- most of these words are not enunciated well but she knows what she is saying --
BUT she is also making generalizations.
A sweatshirt, she decided, is a "coat." a wagon is a "car," and to underscore her point, she makes "broom broom" noises when she pushes a wagon, either the one she pushes around the house or the tiny toy one she found at my office yesterday. A bowl is a "pot," although when we remind her it's a bowl, she says, slowly, as if repeating an adage of great wisdom, "boooowl."
Yesterday, while we were sitting at the Brainwash cafe and laundrymat having a beer with Jack, out of nowhere, she said, "poop." When we got home, I found that she did indeed have a poopy diaper.
I'm telling you, genius, genius, genius.
And now I have to go, because my genius child is opening the lid to her diaper pail and sticking her hand inside.