Working for the weekend

Since I last wrote about looking at preschool, I regret to inform you that no previously unknown oil heir relatives have left me their fortunes. As such, I’ve begun looking at Montessori curricula for the home. We are NOT homeschooling for any kind of extended period of time, but I do want to know that Maggie’s time at home with me was as rich and interesting as it possibly could be. Plus it helps me to fill the hours with activities so I don’t become so bored that I start counting ceiling cracks.

Fortunately, Maggie is way ahead of me on that whole playing-with-a-purpose thing. She knows what her job is: Toy Quality Control. Here, she orally tests an item for defects:


Next, she prepares the second level of her testing: systematically removing everything from the shelf and bouncing it off the floor. My mother’s yarn stash is no fun to bounce, but Mommy’s yarn is packaged in small, easily handled balls that bounce. Incidentally, in addition to being safer, wooden toys have a thoroughly satisfying sound when you throw them against tile floors or bang them together. Most satisfying indeed.


Finally, one more oral check for taste. Here, she tests the belt buckle piece from the “basic skills” (buckles, clips, buttons, zippers, lacing and bows, snaps, filing a 1099, selecting a red wine, and negotiating a used car purchase. Some of those skills aren’t really included, I’ll let you decide which ones, but damn if they shouldn’t be) board I picked up in anticipation of my nephew’s visit next month. This is the same basic skills board that totally flummoxed me last night when I tried to wrangle the zipper. I didn’t even fail pre-k skills; I failed pre-pre-k skills. And I just spelled it ‘faild.’ Faild, indeeud.


So she’s mostly on top of this Montessori thing. Or she’s a future demolition expert in the making. Either way, she’s nearly mastered destroying the house; next we’ll work on putting it back together again.

Bullmer

Friends, I have been granted that elusive pearl, that shining gem of priceless worth and exquisite beauty: a full day and night off to do whatever the hell I want.

Don’t get me wrong, Maggie is more delightful now than ever. I loved the soft, wrinkled newborn stage enormously but talking and crawling Maggie is a scream. It’s a blast to sit and read with her and have her point to photos and yell “Who’s that? What’s that? Ohhhhhhh.” I dig it.

But I have been going on almost eight weeks alone after a year of not having much of a daytime social network in Hawaii, and Mama needs a night out. Fortunately some friends decided to get married next weekend in Baltimore, Tom The Banker opened the purse strings, and my mother agreed to babysit, thus I will be attending. I leave at 9am Saturday morning for a 5:30 wedding and return at 11am the next day, so I will literally only be gone about a day. But oh, dear God, what a day. These are the same friends who convinced Tom that he could drink eleven Irish car bombs on our wedding day on top of the 24oz Redhook he already consumed AND they helped me pour him into the car later.

I’m a little afraid, because I know I have totally lost my edge drinking. The statistical likelihood of me making an arse out of myself is pretty high even under the best of circumstances, let alone after a year forced by motherhood onto the wagon. I plan on drunk-Tweeting the whole affair, which means I should be writing things like abohihosghuewhhos after the toast.

What I’m really excited about is the bag. I am so freakin’ excited to just have a small backpack. My dress is wrinkle-free, I can do my hair before I get on the plane (flat iron and fly, baby), and the bag only needs to be large enough for my in-flight amusements. It won’t have diapers. It won’t have toys. It won’t have those remarkably tasty even though they are soy-, gluten-, and dairy-free teething cookies and a baggie of MaggieCrack (Cheerios).

The only extra shirt in there will be SEXY. And it won’t have ANY access points for a nursing child. And it won’t have milk stains. (I might have just peed a bit.)

I will miss Maggie terribly. She has, of course, been the light and joy of my life and I like hanging with the wee tot. But holy cats, am I excited to have a night off with hard partiers who use their hands to hold beers, not sippy cups.

Souvenir

Once upon a time when Tom was in Djibouti, he brought back several short, carved wooden clubs with bulbous tips. Unsurprisingly, these were called “Djiboutian war clubs” and made fantastic gifts for the Y-chromosome owners in Tom’s life. (I got a carved jewelry box. For all the jewelry I don’t wear.) Now, my cousin Mark is as close to me as a brother, and since they had not yet met when Tom was in Africa it was very important to me that Tom make a good impression. Mark is what you might call, if you were vulgar, a dick-swinging man’s man whose opinions on boobs, trucks, guns, and beers are all the same: the bigger, the better.

Naturally, I asked Tom to bring back a Djiboutian war club to present to Mark as a token of Tom’s manly worth. Mark accepted it that October with raised eyebrows and without comment and I sadly thought that was the end of it until that Christmas. Mark excitedly gave Tom what he called an “American war club”: a Louisville Slugger. It was the highest gift he could bestow, except for that time he worked in a school supply distribution warehouse and gave me a case of ultra-thick toilet paper for Christmas.
“I think there’s still some blood on it from some dude’s head!” Mark informed us.
It’s so beautiful when cultures can share, don’t you think?
At any rate, a few months later Tom awoke to the sound of what he thought was a sexual assault in progress in the parking lot of our apartment building. (Fear not, it was noisy but once he translated her Spanish moanings, quite consensual.) He reached under the bed for a blunt object and was offered multicultural home protection’s finest: the Slugger, the Djiboutian war club, and an Irish shellalegh.
I bring this up because many dedicated travelers seem to have a thing with souvenirs. Some people have niche objects, others photographs, others still memories of that one meal that left them orgasmically happy or paralyzed over a Third World toilet. I myself collect zippered coin pouches, which are cheap and often come in handy for stashing various small items. But my husband seems to have ended up with a collection of International Clue’s murder weapons.
For Maggie, I decided to start collecting keyrings. The more colorful and tacky, the better, and bonus points for finding one with “Margaret” on it. So far she has ones from Oahu, the Big Island, Maryland, DC, Baltimore, Maine, New Hampshire, and St. Pete Beach. Not bad for someone who has no keys and actually can’t say “key.” It seemed like a nice way to show her where she’s been and at less than $5 a pop, relatively cheap.
Alas, there’s no blood on any of them. We’ll have to get Uncle Mark on that.

One

On Saturday we had a little party.

She speaks a language known only to her; experts call it “pre-verbal” but I think it’s a language of magic. Consider what I’ve learned from it, after all.
Humility: “No, honey, don’t throw up on the floor…try to get it all on my shirt. Therrrrrre you go.”
Speaking softly: “Maggie, we use our gentle hands when we touch other people. Gentle hands, GENTLE HANDS!”
Ah, I kid, but those are true and then some. She is the smallest teacher I have ever had and yet the one with greatest stature. When it’s dark and my body aches for sleep with nausea-causing intensity, she is the one who taught me to smile before I pick her up. To approach with joy, or if I can’t bring myself to feel joy, to always have my game face on. She taught me to play, but also that I have to be the grownup; she showed me how to be the kind of person who trusts their instincts and cut through the crap that other people would use to pollute your mind and distract you from what you know to be right.
From Maggie I learned to count to ten, to relax and let it be, what’s worth worrying about and what isn’t. To take the time to smell the soft baby scent of her hair because babies don’t keep; I know they don’t. Every time I pick her up I take a moment to inhale the smell of her neck and admire the color of her eyes as she unfolds like a complex wine; different with each sip and always rich and delicious. Through those eyes I see colors I never noticed.
She taught me to breathe.
Maggie taught me about her father, too. My wonderful husband, who has the biggest heart of anyone I know, expanded to giddy heights with his baby girl. Maggie unlocked a side of her dad that I had never known was there: a man who is fabulous with children, who can relate to them and communicate easily with tiny tots. She taught me that my husband can still surprise me.


For her, we learned together how to communicate better. To work through sleeplessness and anxiety to solve the bigger problem, how to work together like we’ve never had to work before, to recognize and acknowledge how much we need each other. She taught us to be humble before each other and recognize our own failings before we jump to point out the other’s and through that, to embrace imperfection.

She taught us to be better than we are.

Happy birthday, Margaret Kelley. We are better because of you.

Lapping Up

Overall, I enjoy flying with Maggie. She’s generally a great source of battery-free amusement in the terminal. And God knows it’s nice to have someone there who enjoys eating the accursed honeydew melon polluting my fruit cup. But physically, it’s an exhausting experience. All told, I have logged in the neighborhood of 25,000 flight miles with the divine Miss M over eleven flights, each one of them with her as a lap baby. Every time I feel like I’ve been hit in the face by Goliath’s stanky foot and then sat on. Add another 20 pounds of wiggling resistance to your luggage and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

About flying with a lap baby…Yeah, yeah, it’s not safe, turbulence, too crowded and inconvenient for other passengers, but dudes: flying is expensive and we’re on a single income. I’m going to milk that “two and under fly free!” rule until the last second of April 9, 2012 before the clock changes over to Maggie’s birthday. I’m considering writing an article of tips for flying with a lap child but I don’t really feel like getting crucified over Teh Internets by the Parenting Safety Police, so it may have to wait.
But here’s one thing I have learned that I don’t mind sharing: People are incredibly kind.
Yes, you may draw a pissy seatmate, or get a flight attendant who has a Thing about noisy kids. It happens. But by and large, I have found that people are so nice to me. Flying alone is harder, obviously, because you really need that extra set of hands that your partner usually provides. Enter the French documentary crew filming nature shots for a project in Honolulu who were sitting in the row behind us. After about twenty minutes of Maggie popping over the seat to blink coyly and coo, they began kissing her hands and saying things like “Mees Mag-gie, you are abzolutely ado-rah-ble!” and THEN they insisted on carrying our bags to the next terminal during our layover in San Francisco. Kindly grandmothers missing their own babies offer jewelery to distract Maggie while I get out snacks and flight attendant after flight attendant has been there to offer chunks of that godforsaken green melon that delights Maggie so while I bounce her into oblivion in the galley.
Other tips…What makes it possible for me to fly alone with her are the Beco Butterfly Carrier and the Moby Wrap. We used the Moby when she was tiny because it adds an element of swaddling that soothed her. She’s slept soundly through a number of red-eyes in it. The Beco is nice because it takes little time for me to take it on and off, which I appreciate because I’m normally doing that in an airplane bathroom. I prefer it over the less expensive Ergo because the shoulder straps are sleeker and the designs prettier, although the Ergo is nice because it has lots of cargo pockets. One thing the Beco doesn’t have that makes it superior to a Baby Bjorn is metal–I have only been asked once for a closer look by security and I’ve never been asked to remove her from the carrier. We were asked that in Honolulu when we had her in the Moby because of the extra fabric and of course, it was the only time she was asleep when we hit security. C’est la vie. Only other necessary item on top of what we usually carry is a nursing cover. Mine was homemade by a friend’s mom; it’s essentially a quilt with a strap sewn onto one side. I wear it like an apron and then nobody sees my boobies. Win-win.
Cloth diapering on vacation…you know, some people do it, and I applaud them, but shit. Even the most dedicated environmentalist might want to take a week off laundry on vaycay. Plus, cloth diapers will add precious pounds to your luggage. I use Seventh Generation disposables and call it a day. I have one diaper bag that’s larger than my normal SkipHop and I use that to fly because I can carry an extra shirt for me and my nursing cover, which I don’t normally use around town (I nurse in the car, or dressing rooms, or time it so I don’t have to nurse in public at all. Wonderful thing, older nursers. Not so needy!). I don’t take a stroller if I can help it.
The most I’ve traveled with is a hiking backpack (laptop, camera gear, extra clothes), diaper bag, stroller, car seat, but that was in preparation for this visit I’m currently in, which was to be from March-July. I checked the stroller and car seat and took the bags with me, baby in the carrier. I stacked the luggage on the stroller at the baggage claim. Easy enough, especially with my mom helping. Alone, I try for one bag, one suitcase, and the car seat. I check the suitcase (it’s damn near impossible to fly light with a kid, the suitcase is often necessary if only to pack all the liquids required for Maggie’s comfort) and the car seat. I don’t have a separate bag for the car seat because airlines usually have a nice plastic one and that’s free (for NOW) though I’m looking into buying one. When I go to Seattle in June, I’m going to try to just take a hiking backpack and diaper bag.
I do NOT recommend flying with a laptop and a baby on your own if you can help it. Find any way possible to disconnect; get a smartphone or a friend in the area who doesn’t mind you jacking their connection, because it is worth the time you’ll save at security.
So…I guess this did become a lesson on flying alone with a lap baby. Whee! Enjoy. More later. Maggie’s sleep schedule is, for lack of a classier expression, fucked seven ways from Sunday and I should be sleeping now. Or doing one of the 8 million other things that a single parent has to do while their husband is enjoying Velveeta Mac and bachelorhood (love you Tom!).