Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What I Learned on My Winter Vacation

Well, we survived the trip to Big Bear!

I even managed to obtain a Pack and Play without further incident, which Snood hated and refused to use on principle. Thus, after several hours of effort on my part to ensure his snoozing comfort, the kid spent the weekend sleeping in his car seat. *Sigh*

So, this was going to be the first getaway weekend for David and I since we got married (and, yes, after a year together in our small apartment, I am willing to categorize two days on top of a mountain on a work retreat with my husband's company as a "getaway weekend").

I'd been anticipating the trip for weeks.

"We are going to take Snoods up to the snow!' I kept telling friends and family excitedly.

David and I spent nights in the busy weeks that preceded the trip imagining life in the cabin: Playing in the winter wonderland! Romantic moments spent sipping cocktails and snuggling by the fire! Catching up on our reading as snow fell gently upon the windowpanes!

The trip began with a few hiccups.

It took stops at what seemed like every PepBoys in the greater Los Angeles area to finally find chains to fit our tires and by the time we finally got on the road traffic was a mess on the freeway.

But, after four hours of effort we finally arrived! Let the fun begin!

We threw our bags down and headed straight for the backyard, delighted to be glimpsing the icicles and tall drifts of snow that covered the landscape for as far as the eye could see - thrilled to be about to experience our child's first moments of snowy-good-times!!

We had ventured about six feet out the back door when David and I looked at each other, having had a simultaneous revelation.

There really is no practical way to "play" with a five-month-old baby in the snow.

I mean, he can't stand, he can't sit up and he starts crying whenever anything cold touches him. So the possibilities were pretty limited. David and I just sort of stood there holding him and looking at each other like, "What now?"

After several moments we came up with the following plan:

Yes, that is my husband sledding down a hill with our child strapped to him in a Baby Bjorn.

At this juncture, you likely have a phone in hand - poised to contact the appropriate authorities about the many questionable parenting choices being made in this photograph.

Allow me to rebut:

You: Shouldn't you have a hat on that kid?
Me: I did purchase a hat for him. But, because he insisted on tearing said hat from his head like a rabid wolverine whenever I attempted to put it on, I chose the path of least resistance and let him roll hat-free.

You: Shouldn't you have some mittens on that kid?
Me: While I admit that perhaps his cute and tiny digits should be covered I must tell you -- I tried pretty hard to find him some gloves, but I couldn't.

You: Really, shouldn't you have some more clothes on that kid?
Me: Despite all the snow pictured it wasn't all that cold out. I swear.

You: Is sledding with a 5-month-old really that good an idea?
Me: In my defense, the sled was capable of reaching a maximum speed of approximately 0.05 mph.
Me: Also, it was my husband's idea.

In total our "playing in the snow" fun-time lasted exactly 7 minutes. After one run down the hill with a barely moving sled we gave up and headed inside, where we let Snoods roll around on the floor - just like his likes to do at home.

A similar fate awaited the rest of our wintertastic plans.

As evening descended, dreams of cocktails and cuddling faded as David unpacked, while I got started on Snood's nighttime feeding/bath/bedtime ritual. By the time we had registered his many Pack-and-Play related complaints and finally got him down, I was so exhausted that I went to bed at 8:30pm after wolfing down some dinner and barely registering the fire. David spent the rest of the evening watching episodes of 'SpongeBob Squarepants' with a co-worker's 6-year-old.

So much for romance.

The next day we managed to catch up on exactly no reading. Instead we got up, changed the baby, fed the baby, took the baby for a walk, played with the baby, fed the baby...and so on. In other words, we had the exact same day we would have had back at home - only 7,000 feet higher and in a less comfortable bed.

*Wah-wah* (musical cue symbolizing slightly comic failure)

My husband's good friend told him this week "I really enjoy your wife's blog. It has definitely convinced me not to have children for a while!" I fear this entry will do little to change his mind.

Before I accept my title as the Cassandra of motherhood I will tell one truth to the child-free out there:

Yes, I missed the romance, the cocktails and the crackling fires. Sure, I longed for the days of leisurely drives playing music that didn't involve cartoon voices and the tinny synthesizers of Baby Mozart. OK, I did briefly pine for those days of reading in front of the fire from books that did not involve firetrucks or cartoon hippos.

And yet, driving down the mountain at the end of our weekend, I looked back at all the expectations unmet and could honestly say that I would trade them all again for this moment, snuggling in the snow with my Snood.

That being said, let's not get crazy! Next time we get away for the weekend he's staying with the in-laws and I'm going hog-wild on the cocktails, people.

Do we understand each other?

Monday, February 16, 2009


My husband and I are going away this weekend to his work retreat in Big Bear. We've decided to take the Snood along because, I ask you, what could be more fun than spending several days in a small cabin with my husband's co-workers and a teething baby?  

This means that I need to purchase a portable crib.  By my calculations, this simple errand should take me about an hour from start to finish.

I leave the house at 10:15am, in order to give myself plenty of time to grab the crib at Target and still make a 12:15pm Spinning class at the "Y." (Having determined through extensive research that breastfeeding does not, in fact, burn enough calories to justify my bag-a-day mini-Snickers bar habit, I have reluctantly returned to exercising.)

I'm running way ahead of schedule when I realize that I've forgotten to bring my spinning shoes and must return to the apartment.

I lose half-an-hour.

I get back out to the car and realize that it has started to rain.  This, of course, means that every person in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area will soon collectively and spontaneously lose his or her ability to operate a motor vehicle.

I lose another fifteen minutes.

Upon arriving at the Target parking lot I learn that it is President's Day, a holiday which seems to have increased the volume of cars attempting to to enter the structure by a factor of six.

I lose another twenty minutes.

I wait for the elevator and finally manage to make it through the doors of Target at 11:20.  I wheel my stroller madly towards the baby furniture section and as I turn the corner, I am met with a veritable miasma of portable crib options. They range in price from forty to two hundred dollars and offer a dazzling array of features!!!  

But the clock is ticking and I have no time to make an informed decision.  Instead, I grab a crib at random from somewhere near the middle of the pile and lug it with one arm towards the cash registers, accidentally knocking a display over as I try to maneuver the stroller with the other.

I reach the cash registers at 11:45am only to realize that the lines are so long that I'm never going to make it to the gym if I try to check-out.   I reluctantly decide to abandon my purchase and head for the parking lot empty-handed.

Snoods, who has been cheerfully gumming his hands throughout most of this excursion, is starting to get antsy as we get back on the elevator.  I run for the car shouting, "Who's mommy's good boy?" maniacally, understanding that the "Y" childcare room will not accept a baby in the throes of a meltdown.  

We make it to the car.

I attempt to back out of my space only to find myself blocked in by one of my fellow Target shoppers, who wants my spot so badly that she has decided to wait for it four feet from my back bumper.  I am forced to exit my vehicle and attempt to explain the physics of our predicament to her using several vivid hand gestures.  From the back seat I catch a glimpse of the Snood watching the exchange with an expression that reads:

"Why does mommy have crazy eyes?"

I manage to make it out of the parking spot, but in the confusion I have lost my ticket.  This means that my fruitless excursion is going to cost me exactly twelve dollars.  I spend the entire drive to the gym imagining ways in which to bring the Target corporation to its knees - to its very knees!!!! (shakes fist angrily towards the heavens).

I arrive at the gym and the baby and I wend our way to the childcare room, arriving at 12:06pm - - - with 9 minutes to spare!

Except childcare is full, so I'll have to wait until there's an opening.  

12:15 comes and goes and by 12:30 my hope of getting any exercise is starting to fade.  By 12:45 I realize that by now I have missed the class entirely and baby and I head back to the car...  

...where I have received a parking ticket in the amount of forty-five dollars.

I do the only thing I can think of and engage in several minutes of public sobbing before returning home.  

It is now 1:15.

I put the Snood down for a nap, begin cocktail hour at 2pm and stare at the wall counting the hours until my husband gets home from work (there may, to be honest, have also have been some rocking back and forth and some deranged muttering during this period).

So, just to recap - here are my totals on the day:

Hours spent attempting to obtain: 

a) a portable crib
b) personal fitness


Amount of portable cribs and/or personal fitness actually obtained:


Cost of outing to to obtain said amount of portable cribs/personal fitness:


So, I think we can all agree that the lesson of this story is equally clear for moms and non-moms alike: 

Never attempt to do anything. Ever.

Look forward to next week's installment - when you'll learn whether or not my husband's co-workers called Child Protective Services when they noticed our child sleeping in a discarded computer box at the foot of our bed!

Until then...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Change of Heart

In case you are not familiar with the television program referenced in the title:

"Change of Heart" involved dating couples who were matched up with other singles and then sent out on respective dates. At the end of the show, the couples had to decide if they wanted to remain together or split up.

This momentous and life-changing decision was announced to the partners (and to the studio audience) at the end of the episode when each turned over a piece of cardboard that read: "STAY TOGETHER" on one side or "CHANGE OF HEART" on the other.

And it was awesome.

So awesome, in fact, that I felt the need to reminisce about it in spite of the fact that this has little or nothing to do with the remainder of this blog entry.

My best friend Norah (a mom since 1991) asked me a couple of weeks ago how things were going with the baby.

I've figured it out!" I responded proudly. "Everything has COMPLETELY turned around. Sleep routine - CHECK! Eating schedule - CHECK! Running errands without incident - CHECK! Looks like it's gonna be smooth sailing from here on out!"

Norah took this all in, patted me knowingly on the shoulder and replied simply, "
How nice for you."

That afternoon, the Snood began a meltdown of epic proportions that continued off and on for the next four days. He pulled out all the stops - fighting sleep, crying at the grocery store, and (
my personal favorite!) responding to my loving attempts to soothe him by punching me repeatedly in the face.

It reminds me of my dad, who has a recurring delusion which fuels his addiction to the game of golf. For months at a stretch his game will range from decent to problematic, when all of a sudden, for no particular reason, he'll have a round where everything falls into place. On these days he comes home and announces confidently to my mother, "
I've figured it out!"

Inevitably, his next round finds him hacking away in the deep woods for drives gone horribly astray as his score soars and his confidence disintegrates.

Like father, like daughter, I guess.

I call Norah to ask what she thinks I should do about the baby's behavior change, and her advice is simple. "
I'd try to get used to it - from my experience, it's gonna last another 18 years."

I ponder her advice. Can I learn to accept the fact that the only thing I can control about my infant son's behavior is my attitude towards it?

Do I need a "CHANGE OF HEART"?

I look for guidance to my husband, David, who possesses a truly amazing ability to define almost any situation in a positive light.

Case in point:

The Snood hates being in his car seat (see
Fox.Hen.Grain) so whenever my husband and I take him anywhere together one of us sits in the back and tries to soothe him while the other drives.

Coming home from dinner last month it was David's turn in the back. As I listened in, he spoke to our shrieking son patiently:

OK, buddy...let's try to stop screaming... why don't you take your pacifier and just calm down... that's right, boy-o, let's try to quit crying now... it's gonna be OK, little guy..."

The only effect this had was to drive Snood into more pronounced fits of hysteria, but still David kept at it.

After 10 minutes with no change I heard a long pause and assumed David had given up. But instead he started talking again, in that same patient tone:

"That's right, buddy, you let it out. Go ahead and express yourself. You just cry if that's what you need. Good job, buddy. You are doing great at letting us know how you feel."

I started laughing so hard I almost drove us off the road. My husband, the MIT grad, had realized that our inconsolable baby was not a variable, but a constant, and so he decided to redefine the equation.

And it was awesome.

I've decided that I, too, will master this approach - and I am absolutely confident that I will succeed.

I'm going to bend so that I do not break!

I'm going to BE the change I seek!

I'm going to turn my frown upside down!

And this is going to make everything fall into place, I just know it!

You might even say
"I've figured it out!"

[1] Sad and shameless attempt to justify introductory paragraphs.


We are experiencing technical difficulties here at Short Fat Dictator.  My weekly post (which I usually get up by late Wednesday PST) will be delayed a day.  Look for it sometime on Thursday.

As the Snood would say, "WAH!"

Sunday, February 1, 2009


A friend of mine sent me this link last week:

The article, from Parenting Magazine, focuses on a survey that found that a majority of women with young children often feel anger towards their husbands. 

As my fourteen year old nephew would say, ‘Shocker’.

Now, let me start by saying that I am married to a truly great guy.  My husband, David, is the kind of person who does nice things when no one's looking.  He’s a man who genuinely seems to delight in making me a bottle of water with a little Crystal Light in it every night before bed just in case I get thirsty.  He’s a man who begins each weekend with a pronouncement that Saturday and Sunday are my “days off”  - he’s on baby duty!

And yet, he is a man whose murder I have plotted at least half a dozen times in the four months since our son was born.

Because, as Parenting Magazine will tell you, I’m angry.

It began almost as soon as our baby arrived, about the time I realized that my reward for successfully completing 9-months of pregnancy with an unmedicated childbirth was, in fact, a baby.  A baby I was now expected to breastfeed every 2.5 hours, day and night, while David snored contentedly by my side. 

I was perturbed.

While David wanted to do more, there was a biological reality at play in those early days.  Even though “we were in this together” the fact is, I was shouldering (boobing?) more than my fair share of the job.  

I was a little peeved.

David then had to return to work almost right away, leaving me at home with a very crabby 5-day-old who would stay pretty darn crabby for the next eight weeks (including, I might add, the several days that David spent in Argentina, at a work conference).  So, I did diapers and bath times in L.A. while David did cocktails and dinners in Buenos Aires.

I was irritated.

Several weeks later, David was leaving for work one morning and he looked over at the Snood in his bassinet and said, “Aw…I don’t want to leave you guys.  I grabbed onto his arm with the desperation of a cornered animal and begged, “Take me with you!  The fact that he had the ability to leave (even if it was to go to his job) seemed insanely unjust to my sleep-addled brain.  At night, after I’d spent 12 full hours trying to get the baby to nap without success, he would complain to me about a tough day at the office and I would respond in a pitched wail, 

Well, at least your boss didn’t THROW UP into your mouth today!  Mine did!”

It got to a point when my base-level emotion was a barely contained rage.

My mom was sympathetic.  After marrying my dad, she left a high-profile career in Government to stay home and raise four children. She knew from the frustration.  

I went from being a woman” she told me, “with dozens of employees scrambling to meet my every need, to someone trapped at home with four children, who I couldn’t even get to stop drinking the dishwashing detergent.”

As the Parenting Magazine article concludes (speaking of our husbands):

"…we're mad that having children has turned our lives upside down much more than theirs.”

Which is true.  I used to write sitting at the local cafĂ©, enjoying a tall chai while listening to soothing music on my headphones for inspiration.  As I write this, there is a baby gnawing on the side of my face and letting out the occasional loud fart.  Soothing it is not.

But it is my new reality.  And while shaking my fists toward the heavens and bemoaning my fate can be fun, let’s face it, it isn’t that productive. 

So instead I’m trying to focus on the positives. 

For example:

  • the fact that I spend so much of my time outside now, enjoying a park that despite being walking distance from my home, I’d entered all of two times before our baby was born
  • the fact that outings to the supermarket that used to involve maneuvering my cart past other disgruntled shoppers are now marked by women crowding around to praise me for producing such a cute baby and men offering to help me to my car
  • the fact that when someone calls to invite me to an event that starts at 10:30pm at an overpriced bar in Hollywood, rather than trying to squeeze into a tight pair of pants and spend an hour looking for parking, I am now fully justified in simply saying "No. 
  • and most of all, the fact that Snoods now looks at me several dozen times a day with an expression that reads (as my sister puts it) “Well, hello there, Mrs. Awesome!

I must say, there are even some days lately when the positives outweigh the negatives so strongly that my anger disappears entirely.

For my husband’s sake, and frankly for his own personal safety, let’s hope the trend continues.