Tuesday, April 29, 2008

fauxthenticity, retrothenticity

Pondering baby stuff, as one does when one is sitting in an enormous pile of baby stuff, it occurs to one that the current fashion for all-wood, no-plastic baby toys might be an inconvenient kind of fashion. We've gotten or purchased a number of the Melissa and Doug puzzles and toys for D. and I've noticed that just about all of them have chipped paint by now, just a few months into their use. There's no way they'll last into another child, if we were to have one, let alone stick around for years and years like their plastic brethren (or aunts and uncles, really, since most of the plastic toys we have are old old old, like from my childhood or before old.) Funny that plastic-based polyester t-shirts are retro and good because of that; plastic-based record albums are retro and good because of that, but not so much with the plastic baby toys, because those clearly don't hearken back quite far enough. Plus, plastic in a baby toy is viewed as dangerous, or somehow detrimental to the baby's emotional development. But just how detrimental to baby's development are the stupid Melissa and Doug painted-in-China-with-god-only-knows-what-kind-of-paint wooden puzzles and toys, hmm?
Their main benefit is that they provide an aura of fauxthenticity to the baby-raising enterprise. Not actually authentic, because the old wooden toys they're hearkening back to have degraded, chipped, or fallen apart by now (if they were in any use at all, that is, rather than having been kept like new in a closet somewhere due to someone's precognition of the future nostalgic value of a current object. Or because they were really boring-assed toys.) If it's old, or old-fashioned, it is more real and therefore more good than what is newfangled. This is particularly attractive to people who really don't know what other criteria to choose on. Like Leave it to Beaver is authentic TV, or authentic coffee is made from whole beans, or Walter Cronkite is an authentic newscaster, the wooden-not-plastic baby toy preference is one of those arbitrary things that makes the hideously inexperienced parent feel like they can at least get ONE thing right, for crissake.

Of course, there's also the possibility that the wooden toys are attractive because wood does degrade more quickly than plastic, and parents are concerned not only with whether their baby is sufficiently authentic but also whether they are reducing their baby's carbon footprint. To this, I say good luck. Here in the developed world, having babies is a massively anti-ecological activity. Every baby is going to produce so much garbage and so much carbon over their lifetimes that you can be assured of going to ecology hell for deciding to have one in the first place. But luckily, they are so awesome that you don't even care so much about that. Anyway, what I meant to express by this is that there are many dimensions to being ecologically minded, and one of the big dimensions to ecological responsibility is reuse. Plastic toys, properly recycled, get massive, massive reuse for the very reason that they are basically indestructible and won't break down. I'm using tons of toys from, again, my own distant childhood and look forward to passing them on when D is done with them. They are not as charming to me as the wooden toys. But D doesn't seem to mind, and his is really the more important opinion. Plus I don't have to buy as much, which works for me.

Friday, April 25, 2008

mommies on the move

Our playgroup has thankfully moved out to the Payson Park playground for the season, which (as you might expect from the word "thankfully" here) is a great thing in many ways. Between the huge climbing things, slides, and interesting new varieties of dirt to put in your mouth, the playground offers the young toddler plenty of time-consuming activities -- so I'm not hearing "car! Go, go, go!" quite so soon from my date. We get to be outside in the sun. We get to meet strange new babies with their strange new baby customs. We often get so exhausted by the running that one of us (typically, not the one driving) falls asleep in the car on the way home. Most importantly, of course, the outside playgroup takes the pressure off of yours truly to clean up the house and bring people over here. Yay for not hosting anything, yet also not feeling like a crappy parasite!

The downside to the outside playgroup is the dangerous huge climbing things, the dirt in the mouth, the being outside in the sun, the strange babies, the exhausting running, and the fact that when nobody is hosting, nobody makes delicious cakes and such for the mommies. Amy did bring munchkins today, which was nice and also gave me unexpected flashbacks to hebrew school. I brought fruit salad and graham cracker sticks last week. Still, none of this is on a level with freshly homemade baked goods, and what with the running you don't really have time to eat so much anyway. Actually, that last bit is true of life in general. Isn't life with a toddler mostly an inability to produce or consume delicious homemade baked goods? On second thought, not really.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Good news arrived, and with it a fabulous brain-bath of endorphins....a warm, warm feeling spreading out from the base of my skull and turning everything I see light yellow, glowing. It turns out that D's lead test result was entirely a false positive, and his true lead levels are in the lowest category, <5. The whole event was pretty stressful on many levels, due not only to the uncertainty about whether or not our baby had lead poisoning but also because the pediatrician's office refused to respond to the messages I left them over the last few days, the ridiculous mixed messages I got between the doctors and the public health officials, plus the dose of "bad woman!" message I inferred from the part of lead poisoning prevention education that concerns maintaining a very clean, dust-free home. All released in a solid WHOOOSH when I heard that the first test result had apparently just been due to the pediatrician's office fucking up by giving the lab a contaminated sample. Ha. Ha ha. The relief was so overwhelming I still don't even feel mad that my entire week-plus of high anxiety and lost work was due to a procedural contamination error. And one that I felt I observed, even, as the method for collecting the sample involved wiping blood off of the finger of a wiggling, twisting baby over the course of several minutes while both the nurse and I repeatedly came into contact with the sampled area.
Anyway, my first order of business was to crash immediately and sleep like the dead, and my second order of business is to get my life back in order.

Monday, April 14, 2008

get the led out

WBLM, our local "classic" rock station, has been playing exactly the same music for at least twenty years. This must save them a fortune in album purchases (or mp3 purchases, or whatever it is that radio stations do these days.) In addition to the inevitable "Two For Tuesday" (is there a "classic" radio station out there that doesn't do a "two for tuesday"? Isn't that a requirement of the "classic" radio genre, that you hear the same old songs that you hear every other day, but on this very special day they are arranged so the Beatles songs are NEXT TO EACH OTHER rather than being separated by a song or two? Magic!)...anyway, in addition to the "Two for Tuesday", they play a "Get the Led Out!" set whenever I am driving in the car in the early evening. That's not too often, maybe once every few weeks or something, but that seems to be the only time I hear it. I do imagine they probably play it more often than that, but I can't really tell you anything more specific than the fact that I seem to hear it every time I'm driving and the sun is going behind the horizon and shining straight into my eyes.

I have no idea where the phrase "get the led out!" comes from, but I'm now wondering if it comes from campaigns to eliminate lead residue in drinking water and public environments. You know, as in "Get the Lead Out." Which really makes a lot more sense than getting Led Zeppelin out. Out of what, for instance? Out of your head? Wouldn't playing Led Zeppelin songs rather put it back into your head? It doesn't make any sense.

However, getting the lead out makes a lot of sense. We just got an initial blood screening test back for the D-man, and it came back positive for lead. We don't know yet if it's really in there, of course, as the screening test appears to have a 50% rate for false positives (nice, huh? This is serious serious stuff, so do freak out, but remember, there's a 50% chance that you're freaking out unnecessarily! Silly hysterical mommy!) But if there's lead in there, we're going to get it the fuck out. Just like BLM says. Yes, indeedy.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

the mommy army

Hello blogiverse, I'm giving blogging yet another try! Yes, yes, move to the sides of the room once you're in...don't want to block the throngs at the doorway.

As you'll note from the website address, I originally titled this blog "the Mommy Army" as a result of the chronological confluence of reading about the Mahdi Army and attending my first mommy-and-me Toddler Time at our local library. Clearly, there are many, many differences between these two organizations. In fact, just about the only similarities are that "mommy" sounds like "Mahdi" and that I was impressed by the degree of discipline and informal organization that had sprung up to fill some of the long hours of at-home toddler-parenting. The mommies clearly had a useful battle dress code in effect when I attended - jeans, clogs or loafers, and an LL Bean-type fleece jacket - and our drill leader made short work of the hour, packing in a good two dozen songs and rhymes in addition to an an inspiring story and a short ball workout. Having been entirely outside of what I immediately, in my head, labeled "the Mommy army," I was a bit taken aback. Parenting had seemed like an intensely personal activity to that point - we remained mainly cocooned in the house except for walks around the neighborhood for the better part of a year - but I realized that once your child is in public, joining society and such, you are part of a different class of people than you were before you had the baby. And joining a new social group takes some substantial socialization.

This process (a.k.a., my bellybutton) is really very interesting. Thank goodness there's a whole internet full of people just waiting to read all the mental lint I can dig up on the subject.