Wednesday, October 31, 2007

River News: Month Seven

Dear Mr. Rivertonio,

Happy Seven Months!! You just keep getting cooler and cooler, my boy. This has been a pretty fantastic month with lots of change and growth (and only a few minor hiccups).

I've been anticipating this October for a very long time now. As far back as a year ago (when you were just starting to show on my belly) I started scouting out Halloween costumes for you; lamenting the fact that I would have to wait a whole 12 months to put you in one. So when October 1st rolled around, I was so excited it was finally time for me to break out the orange and black outfits (and you looked very very cute in them).

We spent most of this month in Las Vegas for my 10 year high school reunion. You got to spend tons of time with family and friends, and you experienced a whole slew of new activities.

You took your first hike (kind of a scary, off road experience) in the Red Rock Canyon. Your mommy and all of her high school friends had to scout out their old haunting ground--a huge rock off the trail at Ice Box Canyon--and it took some time to find. But we did get there, with no broken limbs, and had a great afternoon.

You took your first swim in grandma Julie's hot tub and you just could not get enough. You splashed and floated and pawed back and forth between mom and dad or grandma and auntie Crystal.

You went in that hot tub so many times I'm surprised you didn't come home as a little prune. I'm convinced you will be ready for swim lessons if I can ever get us organized enough to go. Now that you're too mobile to take to yoga, I will have to make it a priority.

We were in Vegas for a little longer than planned because you got sick and couldn't fly home. Your daddy had to head back to work, which made you very uncertain about your place in this world. Where's that guy, the one who's always around? He can just leave--what the hell? I better hang onto mommy if I want her to stick around, and oh, by the way, I'm not going to sleep without you either.

So you became a little clingy and needy. But you were going through a lot of change, so I understand. When you weren't hanging off of me, you would occasionally accept a grandparent as a replacement. You had a great time learning all kinds of fun new things from them. Grandpa Terry loved showing you how to pull Kleenex out of the box, and grandma Julie helped you with puzzles.

You actually have moved leaps and bounds in the way you play. You now love this game where you crawl toward something (usually something I don't want you to touch, like a water glass or the VCR) and I pull you back by your ankles, then you crawl crawl crawl back and I pull pull pull. We do this over and over again, you giggling the whole time. After three or four times you'll crawl halfway to the object and look back to see if I'm going to get you. This sounds like an awfully simple game, but it's the first of it's kind, so I'm pretty excited about it.

In addition to really getting the crawling thing down, you're working on climbing stairs too. Your manual dexterity is improving so much--you can pick up Cheerios and get most of them into your mouth. You move objects from hand to hand easily and cruise all over the place. This means you get into lots of trouble (or at least try), and I'm sounding more and more like Bill Cosby all the time (comeherecomeherecomehere).

You don't miss a beat, my little pirate, and I'm so glad I get to discover all of these new things with you.

I love you so much,

Saturday, October 27, 2007

a brush with hilarity

Harry Shearer--actor, writer, director, and radio personality--was at the Borders in Copley Square yesterday doing a reading to promote his new novel, Not Enough Indians. You might know him as the voice of various Simpsons characters, including Principal Skinner, Otto, and Chief Wiggum, or as one of many characters in the Christopher Guest movies (Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, Spinal Tap...). My friend, Jonathan, alerted me to his reading yesterday afternoon and with a little harried effort River, Thom, and I managed to get there in time.

His reading was great, and at the question/answer period Jonathan asked who his favorite Simpons character was. He replied, "So many evil characters feel the need to temper their evil with a little good; I love this character because he doesn't do that." He then launched into a few words as Mr. Burns, raising a round of laughter and applause from the audience.

The highlight of the evening for me was his book signing. When we got to the table, he complimented River on being so good during the reading. I told him while River was in utero we watched Spinal Tap and he danced the whole time. He laughed, then signed the book, "To River, All the best! And grow up!"

Thursday, October 25, 2007


We've made it back safe and sound. River was pretty wired before the flight (we were up way past bedtime and there was so much to see and do). Finally I got him settled and he slept the whole way to Boston. I couldn't have asked for a better trip home.

Thank you so much to the grandpas and grandmas who helped keep me sane while we were in town. River had such a great time with you all and I know he will miss you (me too).

Monday, October 22, 2007


Between getting sick, staying in a strange place, and missing his dad, River has been extraordinarily needy this past week. He seems to want to be held all the time and rarely lets me out of his sight. He cries easily and refuses to sleep without being held (or riding in a car). Without Thom around to help my patience is being stretched to its limit.

So to get a bit of a break (and to help River nap) we took a long drive up to Red Rock Canyon this afternoon. I needed the quiet and the meditative expanse of the landscape to clear my head. It was a fantastic drive and just what I was looking for. As much as I love the lushness and variety of the east coast, there is an undeniable beauty in the desert landscape. It's open, inviting, and quiet.

If all goes according to plan, River and I will be going home Wednesday night. My hope is he will quickly settle in and get back to his usual chipper self. If not, well, there's always long drives through New England.

Friday, October 19, 2007

pic fix

And now, because I can, we shall see the awesome variety of River's expressions:

extending our stay

River has come down with a virus called Slapped Face Disease. Ridiculous, no? The name comes from the red rash on his face accompanying cold-like symptoms and the yet-to-come diarrhea. Joy.

He's miserable, I'm trying to keep it together, and neither of us are flying anywhere for a while.

So, the conditions could be better, but the grandparents are happy to hear we will be in town for at least another five days. Thank goodness they'll be here to help tend to my sick baby.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

a look into our future

I may have something to say about my reunion in a later post (some folks are thinner, fatter, blonder, balder, well employed, unemployed, still cool, or still jerks, as expected), but this trip has drawn my attention to a frightening discovery about River that I am pretty focused on right now.

As we've moved from house to house this week (first the in-laws, then a condo with my high school friends, then my folks' house), River has been faced with all kinds of overwhelming stimulation. Unsurprisingly, this has made him needy and very clingy. He was particularly traumatized the couple evenings we went out without him (having not given him enough time to adjust to the babysitters or his new environment), and when we came home he spent the entire night nursing. Literally, I let him sleep snuggled next to me, sucking away all night.

He was so adamant, the few times I tried to dislodge my boob so I could, you know, get into a position that didn't put my arm to sleep or contort my back into a painful arch, he screamed bloody murder. No amount of snuggling, rocking, or singing was enough to appease him. Two nights of that and I have moved him into another room where he cannot see, hear, or smell me. It has worked moderately better and I have hope that his sleep will not be irrevocably screwed up when we go home.

What this has brought to my attention, however, is the depth of River's stubbornness. Let us take the Pop Tart incident as an example. River is now eating select table foods (bananas, soft breads, mushy veggies) and when he sits down to a meal with us he expects to eat something off of our plates. Usually I can come up with some suitably healthy item to share with him and all is grand.

A few mornings ago Thom was up with River and found breakfast in the form of a Pop Tart. River saw him eating it, reached out for a bite, and (Thom knowing what I would say about that) was rejected. There began an epic struggle of wills, and you can guess how that one ended. After pouts, tears, squirms, and screams, Thom gave in and let the little booger have a bit of Pop Tart.

This is just the beginning. With River's STRONG sense of determination I see us fighting these battles over and over again. It's one thing with a baby, but when he starts walking and talking, what kind of tantrums will we face? I have always known I would have to be firm with a child, that's it's so much worse if you say, "no" and end up giving in 10 minutes later. Do that and he'll know he can get anything he wants by putting up a fit. I thought I would be strong, but in the middle of the night or the middle of a restaurant my resolve goes out the window. Sometimes, I just need him to BE QUIET.

Now is the time to find a strategy to deal with this issue. I don't know what that strategy will be, but I know we can't just float along hoping everything will resolve itself. As River gets older, he will only get more serious about what he wants and more clever about how to get it.

Of course, my parents have been quick to point out that I was just as difficult to deal with when told I couldn't have something. I must have heard the word "no" so often that it was the first one I spoke.

Is this karmic payback? Perhaps. If so, I'm terrified of what little nuggets of Thom's childhood we'll be paying for next.

Friday, October 12, 2007

sell out?

I've entered River into the BabyGap Casting Call, which is looking for new faces to put in their ads. Does that make me a stage mom? I am an actor by profession, so offering my handsome, photogenic child an opportunity like this just seems natural. Then again, a part of me finds it slightly disturbing to put any child in the position of having to perform in front of a camera. Well, there are a million kids being entered into this thing, so there's a huge chance I won't have any reason to ponder this question further.

But honestly, who wouldn't love to see this face selling their clothes?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

flying high

River and I are safely ensconced at Thom's parents' house in Las Vegas after taking a cross country flight last night. This weekend Crystal and I will be celebrating our ten year high school reunion, and we've taken the opportunity to spend a good chunk of time showing River off to friends and family. Our men couldn't take a week plus off from work, so they'll fly together this weekend. In the mean time they're at home doing whatever it is men do when there's no one around to nag them to take out the garbage, wear matching socks, and eat balanced meals (drinking like fish, playing Wii, and working too hard, I assume).

I was cautiously optimistic as we got on the plane last night. Crystal, River, and I had spent the hour before boarding calming my nerves (with the help of a g & t) in the airport Wolfgang Puck's. Somehow, we just happened to sit next to a couple and their veteran traveler newborn. At five months old, little Sophia had already taken eight trips in planes, so I broke my typical stranger silence and picked her parents' brains. They could tell River had a great disposition and predicted he would do well traveling. They advised I feed him at take off and landing to relieve the air pressure, and figured otherwise he should sleep through the flight.

I was heartened by their faith in my little munchkin as I strode to our seats in the back of the plane; still, I avoided the eyes of the other passengers as I passed, not wanting to see trepidation or outright hostility in their faces. I could just hear them thinking, Great, he'll be screaming the whole way. Who the hell flies to Vegas with a baby?!

Crystal and I had reserved seats in the rear cabin, an aisle and window, in hopes of minimizing our chances of having a third passenger in our row. The plan worked brilliantly (though Crystal suspects one guy might have been assigned to our row but just kept walking when he saw River). The first thing I did when I sat down was pull out my Clorox wipes and hit every surface River might touch or put his mouth on. I knew there was no way to keep him from exploring--I just wanted to minimize germ exposure.

As soon as Crystal passed him over to me, he attacked the armrest with his mouth, then moved to the window, then found the TV monitor, and on and on. There were all kinds of new sights, sounds, smells, and people to check out, and he was having a blast. By the time we pulled away from the gate half an hour later he had had his fill, and was ready to nurse (thank goodness for that empty seat!). He ate a bit and promptly fell asleep with nary a whimper as we took off.

He stayed that way, asleep in my arms, for about two hours, until I just could not hold my bladder any longer. When I passed him over to Crystal, he was still mostly asleep, but by the time I had washed my hands and opened the lavatory door, I could hear that distinctive River cry.

Oh, no, I thought, here comes the meltdown. I could have had a quiet, happy baby, but I just had to pee! Stupid, wimpy bladder! I rushed down the aisle to retrieve my screaming child, and by the time I was seated with the pooker in my arms, all was silent. I couldn't believe it. All he needed was to know I was there. I have never been so thankful for my magic mommy powers.

The kid slept through the rest of the flight--through squawking announcements, bouncing turbulence, and glaring overhead lights. He was just beautiful. As we waited for the folks ahead to file out, a few passengers commented on how good he had been and how cute he was. As I nodded my agreement, I had no trouble looking them in the eyes.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

in search of intelligent life

I was a little anxious this morning as I got up to face the day. I dressed quickly and rushed to my local coffee house with River for a quick bite, then came home and put him down for a nap. I picked up the house and put together a platter of fruit, then like a teenager watching the door for her prom date's arrival, I waited.

River and I had a mommydate.

I don't call it a playdate, because as nice as it is for River to be exposed to other babies, he views them as objects to be studied (and if he's lucky, sucked on) rather than human beings with whom he can play. So the date is really for the mommies. It was my first solo mommydate, and I was nervous because I had a lot riding on its success. First of all we don't have any other friends with kids, and when the really nice couple close to delivering their very own munchkin moved in next door, I thought this might finally be the opportunity we were looking for.

A little history: in New York I did not know the name of a single person living in our building; I probably couldn't have even pointed them out in a line up. In our first apartment in Cambridge, our downstairs neighbor used to hang out with the tow truck guy as he loaded up our car, and by the look of the folks trailing in and our of our upstairs neighbor's door, he was dealing to all the local burners. In our current home, I recognize the folks in our condo association, and even manage to say hi once a month. The last time I felt a sense of community with my neighbors I was ten years old and running around with chocolate milk stains on my shirts and scabs on my knees. We live in Cambridge, in part, because of the strong community--I'd just really love to be a part of it.

So I was anxious for our mommydate to go well. If it did, it might mean dinners together, walks to the park, and weekend barbecues. If it didn't, I would be back to my mommy-less social sphere and community-less community.

(Thank goodness for Kevin and Crystal, without whom we might be completely socially bereft.)

I am generally very reserved in making new friends and always picky about those I let into my life. You wouldn't think it the way I spill intimate details to any idiot with an internet connection, but in person, I hold my thoughts close and protect my feelings. But I had a good intuition I would get along with these neighbors--who I'll call The J's--from the very start. We met Mr. J first, and after only a few encounters he entrusted us with his house keys while they spent the weekend away. That, and his unbelievably upbeat and friendly demeanor, had me sold. I figured Mrs. J had to be cool too, but I didn't have any direct knowledge of that.

When she came to the door with Baby J in tow this morning, River was still asleep, so it gave me a chance to chat without being completely distracted. We had a great meandering conversation, the kind that makes you feel connected, entertained, interested, and interesting. As expected, we talked about the babies and our experience of motherhood, but by the time River woke up we had also talked about our careers, girlfriends, parents, hometowns, and ideas about religion. It was so easy. I didn't have struggle to connect or hide details of my life that might be too liberal for her, and I found Mrs. J to be down to earth, intelligent, sensitive, and funny--just the kind of person I could be friends with.

I'm thrilled. I have great hopes for making this mommydate a regular thing and perhaps getting the whole family together. With any luck Thom and I could expand our community to the house next door.