Thursday, May 19, 2011

Musings

Yesterday was hard. Joseph has become super clingy in the last week or so, which makes trying to do anything even more difficult than it usually is. Nearly every time I sat down to play with him, he'd abandon his toys and flop his way over to me. It's adorable the first twenty times, and then it starts to wear. As soon as I'd get him distracted a little with a toy and get up to do something else, he'd wail and flop ineffectually in my direction.

Mothers always talk about getting their bodies back. I always assumed they meant that they wanted their figures back. While that's certainly a component, I think it's even more that my body is always in demand by someone else, usually Joseph. I've enjoyed breastfeeding, for the most part, but I look forward to wearing a dress in about 6 months. I also look forward to the day my hair won't be seen as a toy (or lately, food) and I can wear it down. While wearing a dress.

Joseph's feet are clammy. This didn't bother me when it was winter and he was wearing socks all the time, but now that it's warmed up, his feet drive me crazy, especially when I'm trying to get him down for a nap. I'll put my hand on his chest and he'll wrap his legs around my arm (which is kind of sweet), but then his clammy, sticky feet are all over my dry arm. Ick. I nearly lost it yesterday. I can usually deal by putting the other hand on his chest so he can't reach it, but sometimes only the one hand will do.

The couple I wrote about a few posts ago were finally able to adopt a sweet little baby boy. I was trying to get Joseph to sleep while I read about it. I couldn't help but smile to myself at their pictures on Facebook. And then my child gave a mighty scream that broke my reverie and then continued screaming for several very long minutes. Having a baby is awesome most of the time, but the hard stuff is REALLY hard.

I really do like being a mom. It hands-down beats any other job I've ever had. But there's also way more pressure than with my other jobs, so much far-reaching responsibility for this one tiny person. Am I feeding him the right things? Am I making the right medical decisions? Am I a failure because he doesn't sleep through the night? Am I helping him develop language and motor skills? How do I arrange this small apartment that has almost no storage so that he doesn't pull the crock pot down on his little skull? In all my jobs I've prided myself on being knowledgeable and competent. In this job, I'm neither.

This is not to say that I don't read and try to find out, but it seems that all the information on raising a child is contradictory. Feed him cereal at four months or exclusively breastfeed until he can feed himself? Ferber as teaching a valuable skill or Ferber as torturing your helpless child? Binky or thumb? Nothing you do is ever right, at least to someone, and that someone always has something to say about it. As if mothers needed more guilt.

However, avocados were a smashing success. After the frustration that was rice cereal, it's nice to know my kid will not be looking to my body for sustenance for the rest of his life.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Toys

(Note: I began the post shortly after Joseph turned 5 months old. As I am just now getting my life together, I haven't finished the post until now. Current updates will be in black.)

Joseph has lots of toys. OK, he doesn't really, but that's because I'm just not into buying/having lots of toys. The toys people have given us we love, but I really don't go out and buy him anything. We will be getting some wood blocks and big Legos like these and Lincoln logs when he gets older. But why buy toys when we have fun things to play with right here already? Allow me to illustrate:

Some of his favorite toys: (L-R) My camera case, old socks without mates, and wipes box we refer to as Baby on the Box.

Since the advent of teeth, he has chewed several of the corners and on the bottom. Given how much wet paper we've found on the floor and in his mouth, Baby has gone away for now.

Besides, we prefer to give him toys that allow him to "act and not be acted upon." In other words, toys where he can use his imagination, that allow him to be in control, rather than the toy telling him what to do. My dad told me about a toy truck he saw several months ago that made noise and said about six different phrases and even moved. As an experienced parent, he noted that it was the kind of toy that kids get sick of really fast. Once a child figures out that it only says those six things and only moves in these certain ways, he will tire of it and move on to something else, and you've just spent a lot of money for a toy that got quickly cast aside. I'd like to avoid this situation as much as possible, at least until Joseph is older and is begging for the latest toy for Christmas or his birthday. (Sidenote: the other day I read an interesting article on Slate that discusses toys and teaching preschoolers and how too much direct instruction actually decreases creative play and discovery learning. Check it out.) Besides, electronic toys are super annoying.

So we don't have a lot of those at our house. We do have toys and Joseph is learning and playing. His current favorites, Monkey and Tigger (we're not real creative with toy names at our house). Monkey was a Christmas gift from Josh and Aly, and Jake found Tigger while he was in Thailand in January. Joseph will talk to Monkey just like he talks to Baby on the Box and pictures of himself. He has a much higher pitch, just like he's talking to a real baby. I think it's adorable. He's taken to sucking Tigger's tail. I just try not to think of what goes into painted stuffed animals from Thailand.

I've started making Monkey talk back to him by moving the toy's head and talking in a different voice. Joseph loves it and gets this giddy little smile on his face each time I do it. I've also started hiding Monkey under the blanket and playing peek-a-boo. I'm amazed how much Joseph likes this game as well.

The next set of toys are what I call "rage-inducing." Joseph will play with them for a minute or so and then begin to scream. Whatever it is he wants them to do, they are not doing it, and he will voice his displeasure. (Clockwise from top left: Caterpillar, Octopus, Keys, and Ring)


He's gotten much better with these toys in the last several weeks. He especially likes the sound that they make when he bangs them against the floor. The crab connected to Octopus will still occasionally make him mad, but he's figuring out that the crab also makes an excellent chew toy in addition to making Octopus sing when pulled.

Next are the neutral toys: Elephant, Rattle, and Rings (I'm not sure how to distinguish Ring from Rings. So sue me.). He likes these when I give them to him, but he doesn't usually pick them from a group of toys. He gets mad at them much less often than those in the previous group.


Finally, we have the books. He likes sitting and reading books with me, but they're also just another toy. He'll usually sit for at least one story out of Frog and Toad, most of a Dr. Seuss, a few pages of Winnie the Pooh, and all of a board book. He's figured out that he can play with the book once I close it, and he really likes that.


The Old MacDonald book is a huge success. It sits on the shelf above the chair in his room. If I get out a Dr. Seuss or some other book, he'll twist around so he can see Old MacDonald and stare at it longingly (or whiningly) until I get it. There are five animals, and I've come up with five more, and he'll sit through all ten verses and even sit through it again occasionally. Pooh has gone away until he can sit without touching the pages. Touching=ripping right now. He's also begun chewing his board books. There's a big brown spot where the corner of his Joseph in Egypt book used to be. I guess he can't play with books unattended for awhile.

My mom also bought him some great Fisher Price blocks (you can see them here). Joseph has become a pro at spinning the wheels with a single thumb. He has not yet figured out that they also spin when you push the guy on top. All in good time.

And because I can't figure out where to put this in the post, here's a link to an excellent article in the Wall Street Journal about a toy expo and how toy marketers are taking the fun out of toys by making them too educational.

Monday, May 16, 2011

May showers bring...

I have always preferred rain and darkness to sun and light. Perhaps that puts me in the villain category. If that doesn't put me in the villain category, perhaps my attempts to create a black hole with a large hadron collider will.

Anyway, this last week's weather and the forecast for the next week make me wonder if we accidentally moved to Oregon. Perhaps it's a valiant attempt by the Northeast to call down the rain here before it reaches the Mississippi? You can send the thank-you's in advance.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

"As everyone knows..." Inflation edition

Sometimes in your life you hear a phrase so many times, you assume it's true. Then, one day you get a crazy idea, "what if that's not true after all?" I've had this happen to me quite a few times lately, and I thought I'd start sharing. Hopefully this is not boring as dirt and helps you understand economic news just a little bit better.

Inflation - CPI is the consumer price index (most popular inflation index). There is also the term "core CPI," which excludes the more volatile prices of food and energy. You'll hear in business news things like this quite frequently: "Inflation was X% for last quarter, but the less volatile core inflation rate that the central bank pays more attention was X%." Got it. Core CPI is a truer measure of inflation, and the total inflation just swings wildly each way around the core CPI. However, after 10 years of following business news I thought, "They've said this every year except in the fall of '08 - spring of '09. Sure, food and energy is more volatile, but is it systematically higher, and is core CPI lying to us?" So I took a gander at the stats (the following from the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, bls.gov):





Since about 1999, core CPI has been systematically lower than total inflation. Yes, core CPI is less volatile, but it's also lower. I believe this is also important because food and energy are the two most important indicators in the index. They are the goods that in economics are called "inelastic." If the price of gas, electricity, or food goes up, you tend to consume just about the same amount and then cut back on something else (that new TV, Redbox instead of going out to the movies, etc.) instead.