Does your child have the Fisher-Price seahorse? Ever wonder what songs it plays? I knew six of the seven and had trouble tracking down a list, so here they are:

Minuet in G major–Bach

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

Ode to Joy–Beethoven

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring–Bach

Leise rieselt der Schnee (Quietly Falls the Snow)/Abide With Me–Ebel

Canon in D–Pachelbel (not “Pockabell,” please)

Where is Thumbkin/Frère Jacques

I used to have a fair amount to say about football. I come from a family of football fans. I was raised in a football state. I had strong opinions about the Bowl Championship Series and its “championship” pointless final game.

I had a UT cheerleader outfit as a toddler. I was chastised for not spending enough time talking to relatives one Thanksgiving while Dallas played Washington. I was a Dallas fan even in 1989 when they went 1-15. When they won another Super Bowl, I wallpapered my car windows (!) with cutouts from the Dallas Morning News a family friend mailed us.

So I’m not a fair-weathered fan. I’m not a woman who requires pink shit and glitter earrings to pique my interest and pay attention. (I don’t blame the NFL for going after female fans; too bad it’s in such a pandering and paternalistic manner.) I never considered myself a female fan. I was just a fan.

Was.

It’s just not as much fun to watch as it used to be. The NFL can (and will) dodge responsibility for as long as they can but evidence about what is happening to football players’ bodies (brains, specifically) is only growing. I know too much now. When I watch games, it’s with a constant sense of unease. “When will the next guy stay down after a tough hit?”

The violence of the game is, to some degree, why Americans love it. Brute strength and testosterone and showmanship and GO TEAM. These guys do what we cannot and they get paid ridiculous sums for their talent. The money, though, doesn’t negate my guilt about having made them into the bulls.

This piece by Roxanne Jones (formerly of ESPN) therefore really resonated with me.

I want to save my relationship with the league but it needs to own up about CTE.

Stop endlessly denying the findings of medical science that say playing football can cause permanent brain damage. End the lies. Just admit we have a problem. That is the first step.

Sadly, as Betsy has noted, the NFL is instead intent on blaming the victim in the yuckiest of CYA measures. It’s not our fault; it’s THEIR fault. Somehow.*

I will concede one point: It’s not SOLELY the NFL’s fault. As Frank Deford put it,

But here is that larger truth so many people are avoiding: It’s not just NFL football that is dangerous. If professional players, through the years, have suffered injuries — especially to their brains — players have also suffered football concussions in college, in high school and all the way down to youth football. In fact, of the nearly 5 million adolescents playing football below the college level, it’s estimated that half have sustained concussions, a third of them on multiple occasions — and the human brain is not fully developed until the mid-20s.

Furthermore, perhaps more could and should be done at a legislative level (not today, you understand; we need government open for business first). Again, Deford (from 2007):

Imagine, if you will, that in the last decade, 186 men who had played major league baseball died before they were 50 years old. Imagine that in that same time, 435 men who had played in the NFL likewise died before they were 50.

If this were so, Congress would probably have dropped discussing everything short of terrorism to investigate. Cable television would talk of nothing else. The sports would be decried from the pulpits.

He was using wrestling’s numbers, extrapolated out over the number of players in the MLB and NFL. That particular piece focused on steroids and not CTE, though I think by now we’re aware of the risk wrestlers are facing with their own head injuries. The metaphor still works.

We need to do something, even if that’s pushing for action on a number of levels. Meanwhile–no, football, you cannot have my son. A final and similar thought from Deford

…an old NFL star who suffered a few concussions asks me: “How many mothers would let their boys play football if we knew what concussions could mean when these boys get older?”

 

 

* This is why I’m so disgusted by NFL’s pinkwashing every October. They don’t give a damn about their own players’ brains; I don’t believe for a minute that they give a damn about their own players’ wives’ (or anyone else’s) boobs. Nope, just like everything else, it’s just a way to monetize an illness. Again: yucky. (Edited to add this. Just sayin’.)

Some years ago, while working as the gatekeeper at a busy small business, I wrote an email to Jeffrey Gitomer of Sales Caffeine. “I want to be polite but I deal with a lot of women who call me ‘sweetie’ or ‘honey’ in a way that’s clearly meant to be demeaning. What can I do?” He responded promptly and I’ve kept his response for a decade: “Just be glad you’re in the south where the names are pleasant.” Only a couple of weeks after that, I was having breakfast with my mother in a high-end hotel restaurant. Our server called her “sweetie” a couple of times, so I posed the same question to her. Didn’t she feel demeaned? “Not when it comes from a waitress,” she whispered back.

Alrighty then. Point taken. You have to sometimes consider the source in addition to considering the intent.

I was reminded of all this just now when two professional ladies tweeted similar sentiments about having been referred to as “Mrs.” It happens to me all the time, usually by men I’ve never met who are low-level contractors for my company. I recognize it as an attempt at deference. I don’t feel demeaned or offended–they just don’t know or don’t remember the difference between “Mrs.” and the one-size-fits-all “Ms.”

Assumptions can be dangerous. I try to err conservatively when I don’t know precisely what to say. (I don’t wish a Happy Mother’s Day to any woman unless I know FULL WELL that she is, in fact, a mother. That has happened to me before–pre-motherhood. What do you say to that? “Thanks.”)

Ladies, I’ve been there. There’s nothing much you can do to change other people, but you can adjust your own mindset. Look at it as a fumbled pleasantry. And, hey, just be glad they used pleasant words.

You turned two! Your personality is blooming as quickly as your fine motor skills. You are really no longer a baby.

You are long and lean. Your height requires 2T but your waist is still in the 18m range. We use our Dapper Snappers a lot.

You are a little parrot. Your vocabulary has exploded and you’re adding 5-10 words some days. Sometimes you say things that make me do a double-take because I don’t know where you picked it up, but you know just how to use it. “Bye bye! See ya!”

One recent weekend your aunt was holding a baby, but you greeted her as though she were the cousin we’re expecting to arrive next week. It was really sweet. You’ll be a big cousin, albeit a possibly jealous one at first. (You did NOT like it when Mommy held the baby.)

You’ve started playing pretend! You’ll lie on the couch after breakfast and say “Night night!” as if you’re about to go back to sleep.

You’re very interested in doing things like a big boy. You’re working on using the potty, you like to use adult forks, spoons, and cups, and you like climbing up on adult chairs and couches. (You do really enjoy rocking chairs in your size, though.)

You’re a good listener and a good helper. You can put your books back on the shelf and can put your shoes away all by yourself. You brought me your breakfast plate so I could wash it–without me even having to ask.

You like going out and having fun, but your favorite place to be is at home. You frequently say “Home. Puppy,” when we’ve been out of the house for too long. You and your puppy are good buddies. You’re very gentle when you pet her and you like to offer her your right hand to smell and lick.

You usually throw overhand with your left hand. You eat almost entirely with your left hand. You’ll use both hands when rolling a ball or playing with other toys.

You are an amazing little boy! I love you!

I got a bookshelf for the living room recently. I’ve read all over the place that when kids can see/recognize the cover of a book, they’ll be more drawn to their books than if they can only see the spine. This bookshelf was easy to put together and looks great. I’ve gotten a ton of compliments on it (and from friends who aren’t parents, so I know they mean it).

The problem is that it only holds 20-25 books. That’s less than half of our current collection. So I started looking for more bookshelves, but the problem is that I’m out of furniture real estate in my house.

Then I happened across this post about how a lady made bookshelves using Ikea spice racks. What a great idea! And I had the perfect wall for such an occasion: the half-wall on the other side of my staircase. No furniture will ever be put there because it’s a hall and because these shelves are only four inches deep, they don’t protrude into the hall any further than the doorframe at the end.

Spice rack bookshelves IMG_0149

 

Now, true, each shelf doesn’t have a very large capacity. I arranged these so you could see as much of the covers as possible. But they definitely beckon a toddler’s attention better than when they were lined up on a shelf that only I could reach.

I did paint them white because the natural birch wouldn’t have looked as good against my yellow wall as they did against Domestic Simplicity’s lovely blue one. Overall this was a very cheap and easy project and I’m thrilled with how it turned out.

15 months

Gross motor skills. In a nutshell, that’s where we are and what we’re doing.

You babble all the time, you feed yourself Cheerios and drink water out of a sippy with a fair amount of precision, and you play by yourself for longer stretches of time. But you are all about the gross motor skills right now. You are a very quick crawler and you can walk well just holding on to someone else by one hand. You can stand unassisted longer than you think, too. You enjoy dancing to pretty much any music. You aren’t big on waving bye-bye yet but you love to give (very gentle) highlow-fives. You answer questions in the affirmative: you say “Yeah” or “okay” in response–usually to great laughter.

Since you’ve been so healthy, I don’t worry so much about you being around lots of other people this winter. We had about 20 at your Papa & Gigi’s house on Halloween and 15 at Thanksgiving. You were the star of the show both times. Your oldest cousin in particular enjoys playing with you, and your boy-cousin is, I think, glad to have another boy around. He especially will be when you two can play and get into trouble together!

We took our first out-of-town trip recently. We went to Birmingham to visit Mommy’s cousin and had a wonderful time. We went to the zoo, where you slept some of the time, but you seemed interested in looking at the animals (and the other people). You behaved very well on the backward carousel and on the train. You charmed the strangers around you, as usual. Hopefully we’ll get to see your second cousins regularly now that they’re all only a few hours away–you met the other one a year ago.

You’re getting taller, so you wear more 12-18 month clothing these days. It’s all still too big in the waist but at least the pants are long enough at that size. We’ll get the official stats this week but you’ve grown at least two inches since your last checkup.

You’re my beautiful big boy!

1. Birmingham is beautiful, even if you don’t leave the Mountain Brook/Homewood/Hoover area.

2. The sling is a better option than the stroller at the zoo–otherwise you’re constantly strapping in and unstrapping because he can’t see the animals when he’s sitting down so low. He’s also better able to nap in a sling… until rowdy older children inevitably wake him up.

3. It’s really, really nice to talk at length with someone whose son was born almost as prematurely.

4. You can get Titans radio there!

5. Try to figure out a way to work a wine distributor into your family. You’ll thank me later.

Quit judging. Quit parsing. Quit talking about it, media. Whatever your slant is–quit it.

Motherhood is not a contest. Parenthood is not a contest (though men would probably just as soon stay out of this argument). You do what you feel is best and right for your situation. No one else has your exact situation and frankly no one else needs to have a say in the matter.

MYOB.

Speaking only for myself, I also returned to work quickly–two-and-a-half weeks postpartum. I worked 6-hour days with my doctor’s consent, with the warning that I would be really tired. I did this to conserve my actual maternity leave for when my son got out of NICU. And that was too soon to have tried to come back to work; my body wasn’t ready and I now know I pushed myself too hard.

But sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. My OB, family, boss, clients, and friends all fully understood that. I hope MM feels the same support from people who matter.

Today marks one year of breastfeeding. Obviously, under the circumstances, the NICU needed to closely monitor his intake, so he got special-formula-fortified breastmilk that I pumped around the clock for him via feeding tube into his stomach. But on this morning a year ago, while I was holding him, he lifted his head up out of my arms as though he were trying to latch on. The nurses still weren’t sure he was ready to nurse but they let me come back in the afternoon–after the lactation consultant arrived–to “try.” (Their words, not mine.) And he did great. Thankfully we never had any problems at all.

I’m proud of being able to nurse my son. Not proud in an “I’m a better mother” sort of way–not at all. It has very little to do with me; any number of things could’ve prevented successful breastfeeding. He came so early that I was probably (quietly) expected to have low supply, he wasn’t chronologically supposed to be able to latch, breathe, and swallow at the same time yet, he still got bottles for the first week at home because they would only let me nurse twice a day at first and that could’ve confused him, or other issues related to the c-section could’ve gotten in the way. But none of them did, and I’m grateful to be able to have such a positive experience with it. I wish it were like this for everyone. It’s been one of my favorite parts of motherhood.

I know I’ve been talking a lot lately about the NICU and what we were doing a year ago. While I sit in the glider in his room, I frequently remember how I would sit next to his incubator in that small leather hospital glider and think about someday being able to sit and rock him for however long I wanted. I do not take it for granted. I think that’s one reason I go against the conventional wisdom about rocking a baby to sleep. When we’re cuddled up in that glider in his darkened room, me patting his bottom and him patting my chest, that’s the image I had in my head a year ago.

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