Saturday, May 15, 2010

Jiggety Jog.

Home again. My own little Vermont family seems to have managed to avoid a complete collapse in my absence, which is a good thing of course. I missed them, but I'll admit I was very preoccupied down in Texas with the nephew/Niblet. I had a real pang when I had to walk away from him, sleeping peacefully in his bassinet. His anxious mother has told me she doesn't think they will be traveling with him for a long time (read "years") to come - germs on airplanes etc.

Sigh. I have been thinking of the new little family hourly since my return. The hackneyed phrase "24/7" gets thrown around a lot and usually is an exaggeration of the demands it is meant to describe. Not so with newborns.

Shackleton Speaks VIII

On my return I found a school paper, a spelling test, recently completed by Shackleton. It had a smiley face on it in red, rather incongruous considering it was marked with a grade of 4 percent. That's right. F O U R percent. Whusband largely blamed the messy handwriting which made it impossible for the teacher to really see which letters had been included.

Me: "Shack, neatness counts. You have really got to try harder or we're taking away privileges."

Shack: "Like what?"

Me: "Like something you really enjoy - like X-Box."

Shack (instantly): "I don't really enjoy X-Box. I really enjoy studying hard."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Other People's Books, Other People's Babies

My brother doesn't like to read for fun. (I know! But he's not embarrased by this). His "library" is thus a bit, shallow, and reflects his interests: cars and rifles and such. He has other books that serve as a kind of wallpaper. Since I am at his house now, and needed a book to read, I went with the wallpaper: volume 40 from the Britannica Great Books of the Western World series, volume 1 of Edward Gibbon's, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

All my reading life I have been seeing these nods and genuflections and references to Gibbon so, I thought, here's my chance. Three nights of reading have gotten me to page 7 (see above). You can probably guess why.

Well, if you are guessing it's because Gibbon is boring that's not right. But he demands concentration - that kind of concentration that you have to give to foreign language tapes if you're actually going to learn how to ask for a kilo of grapes and where is the emergency room - the kind that puts you to sleep. Focus! Focus! zzzzz.

I am actually in awe of the writing, though. No one writes like this anymore and while that may be a good thing for keeping the pages turning and film adaptations that can get Russell Crowe into a short tunic, I admire it. A lot.

I read this little sentence yesterday, about the political sequence in Rome at the time of the conquest of Britain:

After a war of about forty years, undertaken by the most stupid, maintained by the most dissolute, and terminated by the most timid of all the emperors, the far greater part of the island submitted to the Roman yoke.

Not for everybody, I suppose, but I think it's great. I also like the way he encapsulates the reasons for the defeat of the native Britons:

The various tribes of Britons possessed valour without conduct, and the love of freedom without the spirit of union. They took up arms with savage fierceness; they laid them down, or turned them agains each other with wild inconstancy; and while they fought singly, they were successively subdued.

I'll stop now.

Baby News

Talk about burying your lead! The Niblet is home. He's lovely. My brother asked me to handle a 6 AM feeding (based on a schedule they worked out at the hospital). I agreed, of course but added that the Niblet was unlikely to stick to a schedule. "When he wakes up and cries, feed him." My brother said, "he's used to getting fed at 6 AM." He set an alarm for me and I got up at 6. It has been all silence in the room of the little family since then and I have been reading blogs. Oh wait! I hear crying. Bye!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Subversive Texas Nanny Speaks

If you've been following along you'll know that my brother and his wife found themselves parents - very suddenly - (think OMG! C-section, stat!) for the first time, about 11 days ago. The Wee Nutkin is, as I type, about to be sprung from the hospital where he has been so that he could bulk up to five pounds. He was a month or more ahead of schedule and all the female realtions, excepting your corresponent, were otherwise engaged and not able to assist with bringing home baby. I was summoned from our mountain home to these Dallas low flat lands to help.

Of course I am happy to try to make myself useful and the baby is a lovely little perfect nugget of a person. But I just had to stop in here, to share a bit of, what? levity? and to assume the know-it-all posture I have been dying to take since I got here two days ago. I can't do it while my brother and sister in law are around. Levity and parenting superiority would be as welcome here at the moment as a septic system back up. My sister-in-law, a career woman in her late 30s, is. naturally, especially fraught. The other day at the hospital she didn't want to let my brother fill an empty bottle that had fallen on the hospital floor. I made a quip about how "sterlizing" is what you do to your baby's first bottle by boiling it and to his last bottle by blowing on it. She managed a polite smile but was clearly not amused. I have been biting my tongue so hard it has teeth marks, but I am safe with you, aren't I? (My kids are the only one in the family that ever stop in here and if by chance some other relation came by they would probably forgive me).

Exhibit 1: See the photo above of baby goods that have fallen in an avalanche on the household. This is only a partial display of the baby merchandise. It's enough to send the CEOs of Evenflo and Toy-R-US and Costco into a swoon. I am trying to do something with the bags and boxes and to put the three things this little family will actually need in the days and weeks ahead in a place where they will be handy - but I am overwhelmed. A lot of this stuff is six months or a year away of being any use but, as I say, I am not saying.

Feeding new babies can be a nightmare of anxiety and we are in that just now. I have been saying (and really meaning) how well sis in law is doing with the breast feeding but I can tell she is not persuaded. (Nephew seems a bit loathe to do the work and he is very little and needs to put on some weight). Yesterday at the hospital the baby started yowling at the breast and, silent type that she is, she almost yelled "Get the Formula!" (Believe me, all you nbreast feeding advocates I am with you and I am pushing as hard as I dare). I am dismayed that these new parents haven't checked in with the doctor who's going to be the regular pediatrician to say "baby's coming home, doctor. Perhaps you'd like to meet him now" They're not so sure they still want that pediatrician.


I haven't yet given then my "nights of barf" speech, the one that I am fond of sharing with other parents. (Those of us with children will never forget those nights, and the calls to the pediatrician). Fortunately, I am sure the first long night of barf is at least a month or three away. I am going to give that speech before I get back on the plane for Vermont at the end of the week.

Really, I am so thrilled for my brother. And I am sure that they will both figure out in the weeks and months ahead that this little boy is the best thing that ever happened to either of them. I hope they will also discover that he isn't made of glass. Just at the moment I can tell, even if they would never say it out loud, that they are both thinking, as new parents (almost always) do, that maybe this whole baby thing wasn't such a great idea?

OK - gotta go fold laundry and vacuum and build up a little stamina for what's next.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Shackleton Speaks VII: Constellations

I wandered outside after dark last night and found a starry night fit to make Van Gogh weep. After a bit, Shackleton came out looking for me and I pointed out what a beautiful view of the stars was on offer and asked him to find the Big Dipper.

"There it is! He said, pointing in the general direction of the horizon. "And there's the girl with the cell phone in her pocket!"

I think the Greeks missed that one.

Bon weekend tout le monde!