Monthly Archives: April 2008

Baby Mama Blah

On Slate.com today, Slate’s brilliant movie critic Dana Stevens and I grumpily bash “Baby Mama” on the podcast accompanying Stevens’ deliciously cranky review. We didn’t like it! Alas, and hopes were so high that it would be a glorious send-up of the trials and politics of modern motherhood. The opening sequences, do, however, contain a few moderate giggles. I especially liked the ubiquitous Baby Bjorning depicted in several scenes. (Not that I have anything against Baby Bjorns!)

A Very Merry Un-Birthday

On Sunday we hosted a birthday party for my daughter at our house. No, we didn’t have a magician. No, there was no “theme.” There weren’t matching party plates or gift bags stuffed with cheap plastic geegaws for the kids to take home. But yes, everyone actually had a good time! Instead of turning the event into a multi-hundred dollar spending frenzy, we invited as many people as we wanted to and kept things simple. The entertainment was a “Balloon Room” — my husband, father-in-law, and a friend who accidentally showed up a day too early for the party blew up hundreds of balloons to fill our playroom. It was (relatively) easy and certainly inexpensive, and the kids had a blast jumping around, knee-deep in balloons.

We told our guests that we wanted their presence, not their presents, so there was no tearing-through-gifts extravagance. Instead of getting a themed cake with Dora or Elmo on top, we got a plain cake, which Beatrice then decorated herself with sprinkles and colored sugar. And at the end of the party, the kids opened a pinata contained little stuffed monkeys, which they brought home along with bags of balloons (a self-cleaning party!)

In an era in which over-the-top birthday parties dominate, as this scary CNN story shows, I think celebrations can be made a lot simpler. And our children are just as happy — and often better off.

Looking for Woofles

One of the first pieces of advice I give to parents is to please, please buy more than one lovey (doesn’t that word somehow reek of powdered old ladies?) — once a lovey has been selected. All parts of this are important, trust me. Let’s start with the “selection” of the lovey. This is not always up to the parent. With my daughter Beatrice, I was very keen on her adopting one of two stuffed maggots (or perhaps they were worms) that we picked up in Japan, and my husband dubbed Charles and Camilla (yes, irony). They are actually absurdly cute creatures (the stuffed Japanese version, that is), and I loved the idea of my daughter clutching worms rather than the usual doggie, bunny or teddy bear.

But Beatrice would have none of it. In fact, she routinely kicked Charles and Camilla out of the crib, shoving them through the slats with her toes. Instead, she glommed onto Sally, a completely generic pink and blonde doll. She became so attached to Sally, in fact, that we began to panic about what would happen if Sally ever got sullied, or heaven forbid — LOST! So we bought Substitute Sally, which was easy enough, since Sally was a fairly generic product made by Gund.

Other parents have not had it so lucky. Some parents fall into the nostalgic mistake of passing their own childhood lovey down to their children. This sounds charming. The problem is, that used lovey not only went through years of sloppy kisses and abuse by the parent, but then suffered a likely 25 to 30 years of aging on a shelf or in a carton. By the time your son or daughter gets it, he is primed for disintegration. Even worse, because he was manufactured decades ago, a replacement will be near impossible to find.

So you would think after giving all this thought, I’d be well prepared for my son Tobey. The selection of his lovey came at the suggestion of the amazing Donna Holloran, who runs Babygroup in Los Angeles. (I write all about Donna and her fabulous new mothers group in Chapter Seven of my book). Anyway, when Tobey couldn’t sleep, Donna suggested giving him one of those little silky blankets (you know the ones — ever parent gets at least three of them as gifts from their in-laws’ friends). I was initially skeptical — Beatrice had wanted nothing to do with silkies. But Tobey proved what I know now — Baby #2 shows parents that they know nothing about babies;’they just know about Baby #1. He loved it.

The silky we gave him had a stuffed dog attached, and together, they were Woofles. Once Tobey and Woofles had established a relationship, I went online and ordered Woofles 2.0, my backup. All went swimmingly. I rotated between the two so that each got covered in the ineffable babymommybreastmilkdrool essence that makes lovies so delicious to their owners and so repugnant to all others.

Then Woofles exploded. Little pellets of god-knows-what made-in-China toxic substance came streaming out. Alarmed, and imagining at least four of these pellets already permanently lodged in Tobey’s digestive tract, we threw Woofles away. Woofles 2.0 became Tobey’s standard, and I immediately ordered Woofles III.

That’s where things fell apart. Tobey wants nothing to do with Woofles III. I have wrapped him in Woofles 2.0 to absorb the smell. I myself have slept with Woofles the Third. I went so far as to soak both Woofles together in hot water (it turned dark gray, ech) so that Woofles III could fully absorb the essential Woofleness of the Treasured One. To all of this, Tobey says, quite distinctly, “Neh.” If offered Woofles III he shoves him away “Neh!” Woofles III sits forlorn in a corner of the crib, untouched, unwanted, disdained.

I may add here that the manufacturer of the Woofles didn’t help by slightly altering the design in the interim between my orders. Woofles III is ever so slightly bigger than the previous woofles. Word of advice to manufacturers: NEVER, ever tweak a lovey design! Babies will know the difference.

And now the inevitable. Woofles 2.0 exploded this week. I have sewed up all his limps, but the clock is ticking. This weekend, I plan to remove Woofles 2.0 and force Tobey to accept Woofles III. I expect hours of sleeplessness and tears. I am not looking forward….