Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Seven Habits of People Living

Welcome.

1. Make the entry way of your home beautiful and practical. A candid picture of your family, hanging dried herbs of many colors and aromas, the walls a warm tone, and a boot brush.

2. Go outside every day, multiple times a day, at inconvenient times, and during thunderstorms. Reasons to stay inside are: a salesman is at the door or you are under quarantine. Strong reasons to go outside are: your head hurts, your heart hurts, or it seems gloomy outside. Outside is always brighter than inside. I'm repeatedly surprised by this fact.

I hoped my son and I would 'get out of the house today.'

We made it to the car. I carried lighter layers for the warm afternoon, a diaper bag, a thermos of oatmeal, a water bottle, a sack containing egg cartons and bread for the neighbor.

I realized I forgot my hat (I later found it in the car) in the house. Back inside. Found a hat. Back outside. Tried to put Beren in the carseat. No go.

My son, after enduring a long trip to NYC's Chinatown for the Lunar New Year on Sunday, has not been excited about car trips. We played around inside the car, pushing buttons, and climbing around. I decided to wait until he seemed to be relaxed, which never happened. I tried to put him in the seat again. No go. Tried nursing him. Moderate interest. Car was more interesting. Played more. Peeked in diaper. Soiled.

Back inside. Cranky diaper change. Back outside. I tried to put him in the seat again. No go.

I surrendered. I did Eight Brocades of Qigong while my son played in the driveway. He stomped in puddles. We tossed stones. We meandered. We sat in the wetlands garden and ate salt free corn chips and banana. We wandered through the yard and sat in the woods until my son crawled into my lap, nursed and dozed off. The sun was warm.

I'm sure my son will remember this day fondly as The Day My Crazy Parents Insisted It Was Brighter Outside.

3. Seek the proper tool that is a mere dozen steps away rather than the one in your hands. It is better to use a box cutter than a $60 pair of Felco clippers to cut a package from UPS open. It is better to dirty another cooking utensil than lose yet another too-short dessert fork in the batter.

Wire cutters, $12 plus tax well spent.

4. Take a break. I come from stubborn stock. I've seen enough home improvement projects go awry. Enough said.

Take time to do the small things. 

5. Realize not everything gets done in one day. How I wish it did - from drawing polygon shapes around invasive species on my preserves in ArcGIS to housework (See 1. "boot brush") to establishing the family's ten year plan.

When seeking work in Philadelphia years ago, I answered #5 to one of those interview questions: "What did you learn from your previous job?" the three women interviewing me asked. Desperate for work and surrounded by over-worked non-profit employees in a cinder block building, I answered, "My last job was very busy, high stress. I realized not everything gets done in a day. Somethings just don't get done. There's always tomorrow."

I suppose I was there for free therapy, not a job. I was not called back.

Accountability and Modern Piece Work. Jorge Vasquez probably works fairly hard and very quickly. If his bags are crooked because he naps on the job, the whole factory knows. There's always ten thousand more bags tomorrow.

6. Say 'no' when it really counts. Fortunately, 'no' can be said in thousands of creative ways. They range from: "Are you f***ing crazy?" to "I'll think about it." to "Let's work with these suggestions and incorporate these additional ideas." to "I didn't hear you."

7. Know when enough is enough. Lunchtime.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Fire


At the end of July, we had a small party. The young son of one of our guests noted our wood stove. I said he may not touch it, but perhaps with an adult's assistance.

"No, you never may touch it!" the boy's father exclaimed.

I was startled by the father's emphatic response. My own son was slung on my hip, and just beginning to pull himself to standing and would soon be crawling.

***

"Don't let him see me open the stove!" I shooed my husband and son from the kitchen one late summer day.


***

Since our son walked early, we delved into "No!" and "Hot!" early. Before any of us were ready. 

When using the oven, I gated my son into the room adjacent, so we could see each other. I barricaded the stove with dining room chairs, when the oven was off. Just so he would get the idea. I hoped. My husband hated the chair barrier. I had to agree, it appeared we had been ransacked. Toys, kitchen utensils, towels, hiking brochures, telephone books, all the things within my son's reach were scattered about the kitchen and dining room. A up-ended couple wooden chairs made the scene far too chaotic.

"What else could I do?" I asked my husband. "I have to be able to get something done!"

Our house is small, each room a railroad to the next, making gates around the wood stove and kitchen range impossible, or at least very unpleasant. 

No! No touch! Hot! 

"Be consistent," my whole care provider said. "Put something up so you create a safe distance. Give him a drawer with things he can play with. He'll live at your feet in the kitchen. It's the way you'll get something done."

It was miserable. So many repetitions of 'no'. My son would burst into tears at my fearsome exclamations of NO. Tears of frustration, aggravation gathered in the corners of my eyes. How will I get anything done? 

***

Before my son became mobile, the 'wood stove room' was the center of our home. We call our living room the 'wood stove room'. The name gives a sense for how important wood heat is to us, for creating really comfortable warmth, for saving money, for simplifying (in winter, we heat only two rooms of our six room house), for security (our power goes out frequently - no power, no well, no heat, no electric kitchen range). 

As a young child, we had no fireplace, but we went camping often. Camping meant camp fires. I was allowed to light and tend the fires. I don't recall any discipline around the issue, but I do recall loving the responsibility, the smoky aroma in my hair... Around age seven or eight, we moved to a house that had a fireplace. I was allowed to build and light fires. We had long matches. "Light from the back forward," was the only advice I remember my father offering. 

My son became mobile right about the time heating season began. While we couldn't gate off the wood stove itself, we could entirely gate off the wood stove room.

***

My husband gathered my son, as I began to open the oven. "Let's go and play over here, Beren. I'll take him out so he doesn't see you opening the oven." 

"Oh, stay, it's ok for him to see me open the oven," I said. My inconsistencies must make my husband grey.

I had realized two things:
1.) Buying and erecting baby gates is easier than communicating to a baby. Communicating to a baby was more important and longer lasting than baby gates.
2.) Fire is essential to human existence. I didn't want to take fire away from my son. Colonial kids with open hearths made it, right?

***

We spent one hectic evening in the wood stove room with a makeshift barrier of an end table, a stool, and several 30 gallon tree pots filled with kindling. Like the barrier of up-ended chairs, it was not attractive -not even close to the ecru homes featured on the packaging for baby gates. 

Beren threw kindling around the room. 

"Ahh, ahh. MMm, MMM," he pointed to the wood stove.

Hot! my husband and I took turns exclaiming. After an hour or less, we retreated to the adjacent room, our bedroom, which is also contains a desk, crib, and toy box. It's not easy living in two rooms.

***

Each time Beren points at the wood stove from behind the gate, an adult exclaims Hot! Even so, he joins us in the wood stove room. When I build a fire, he hands me pieces of wood that he pulls from the end table. It's a random selection - a bow drill set and a figure four trap made in Tom Brown's Tracker School, cedar blocks, and a miniature replica of the statue of Jesus that stands above Rio de Janeiro.  


***

Today, months into wood season, Beren pointed at a portable heater in my whole care provider's office. "MMM," he said and began to approach the nifty object with vents and buttons and knobs.

"Hot. No." I said, sanely but firmly, I might add. 

He stopped. Pondered. And moved on.

"Good," my doctor said.

I'll admit, I felt very, very proud of my family.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Getting Out of the House with a Toddler - St. Michael's Farm Preserve, Hopewell, NJ

St. Michael's Farm Preserve, Hopewell, NJ
January 25, 2012

At my husband's suggestion, I am "getting out of the house more often." Two weeks ago he offered this advice. It was prefaced by the following, "You may not want to hear this, but, you know, take it how you may, but I think you may want to get out of the house more often."

I was filled with, well, what would you be filled with? I could tell he was readying to tell me something he thought I may not want to hear. We've known each other for a while and our home teems with a genetic predisposition to stubbornness. Oddly, I wanted to hear his advice, so I relaxed myself and was surprisingly open to his suggestion. 

"Write a list. Think of places you'd like to visit. That's what I'd do. That's what I do when Beren and I are alone." I nodded my head. I never made a list.  

I did however call my parents on Tuesday and went to visit them. I had a hard time getting Beren to nap, so my mom and I went to Target to buy a carseat. Beren fell asleep before we arrived. I sat in the car. My mom returned with an immense box that we shoved into my car. Beren continued to sleep. We drove over to the Phillipsburg mall, agreeing for the thousandth time that the mall was a bit sad and empty of stores and shoppers. Rain poured down, making it more grim. 

"Do you want to go in?"

"No, not really," my mom replied. We talked for about thirty minutes until our feet became cold. 

"Sure you don't want to go in?" 

"No, I'm fine." I pointed the car towards home. Beren sleeping still.

The following day I met an acquaintance at the Boro Bean in Hopewell. We walked through town and the park. For the first time ever, Beren turned to the stroller and indicated he preferred to ride. 

***

This week, I am starting something new. It may happen this week only, but I think it is a good idea: each week my toddler and I will take a walk together. I will bring my camera, diapers, oatmeal, and my curious son. My son will bring himself. Through the tales of our adventures, I'll let you know what we find, how successful the trip was, if we will return, and if I recommend the place to other solo parents with a Curious Toddler.

As I said, I never made a list of places to go. Today was off to a rough beginning, scattered. I managed to get us out of the house and wildly considered my options. The site had to meet the following requirements: easy walk, close to home, stroller-able and toddler-walkable, interesting to Mom with Camera. 


We arrived at the Carter Road parking lot for D&R Greenway's St. Michael's Farm Preserve. No trails were apparent and a muddy farm field surrounded the lot. I noticed a person sized gap in the fence and headed across the mucky field, my very heavy toddler tucked under my left arm and my right pushing the stroller.

I used a puddle in the parking lot to remove the shaley soil from my shoes and the stroller wheels.

We arrived at an old farm road that I knew we could walk, and I noticed two problems: the very fascinating road with all its 'brrrm brrrms' was very close and the land around the old farm road was flat and easily navigable. 

After orienting my son away from the road repeatedly, he began to pull the leaves off of mugwort and watched them blow away. Shortly, he took off through the field. As the thread that attaches him to me lengthens, his adventuresome nature blossoms, and his balance improves, he no longer hews to easy trails. My mom has confirmed this, telling me that he takes right off into multiflora rose patches, dragging her along. 

Headed off-trail.




 One reason why I advocate for metal fencing for deer exclosures - they are easier to maintain, no need  to do fence embroidery. 


Another walker approached us as we examined a deer exclosure around a stream bank restoration. My son inched towards me at a rate equal to the walker's approach. By the time she was within greeting distance, Beren was exactly between me and the stroller. 

I recall once being at the market and hearing a parent say "Danger Stranger" to their child. I felt uncomfortable and wondered if there was another way to tell your child "Trust me, trust yourself, be aware." I also wondered if it was me, the parent, that was uncomfortable, scared, imagining the terrible. 

Once my son rounded a corner at a cluttered store and I felt my heart in my throat as he disappeared. I have a little, short while before explaining Danger Stranger and am thankful to observe my son's animal instinct.

 A gnarly, viney hedgerow.

By the time we passed the barns and went down the hill (pictured above), Beren had been in and out of the stroller, up and down from my arms, and nursed numerous times. An enticing creek-crossing was ahead, but it was not ours to ford today.

Beren stomped on a torn apart trash bag while I wrinkled my nose, exclaimed, "Yucky!" and assisted in his stomping efforts. He wrinkled his nose and stomped again. (This is my method for expressing, "Don't touch that." It seems to work.) Beren became interested in a clump of multiflora rose surrounding a red cedar. He tripped on a stump and fell. 

Snacktime.

I buckled Beren into the stroller and opened our thermos of oatmeal. He was the happiest since well left the mugwort patch a half hour previous. After eating, we turned away from the creek reluctantly. Beren looked back at me and began to complain.

We flopped onto the wet gravel and I nursed him. He was again happy, briefly. 

Back in the stroller, he began complaining again, I began singing to calm us both.  

 The route I should have taken from the parking lot. The mucky edge of the field planted in white clover, travelled by hikers more in the know than I.

Lots of dogs out, off-leash, some poop trailside. As you may know my son and I have already had one run-in with trailside droppings. Notice the white hair in the heel pad impression.

A beautiful hedgerow sugar maple.

 Beren was intrigued by some piles of rubble. The time we reached this one, he was hunched in his stroller, ready for a nap.



 Back at the parking lot, Beren was even keeled and enjoying the crunchy terrain. 

The edge of the car is exactly at toddler height. Lots of baby-friendly debris to explore.

The best part of Getting Out of the House was playing in the car with a Commerce Bank pen and a hair pick. We read Brown Bear, Brown Bear three times with glee, me unwittingly following our new routine of story time before sleeping. Beren went with resistance into the carseat. I nursed him while he was buckled - thanks to the moms at my local La Leche League meeting, I have learned I am not alone in extreme auto nursing. 

I played our game: Momma runs around the car and taps on the windows making silly faces until she gets in the driver's seat. I looked at Beren, "Should we continue our adventure?" Droopy eyes replied, "No." 

***

A week after receiving the advice, while lying in bed with the lights off, I said to my husband, "You know how you said I need to get out of the house more often?" 

"Yes."

"I really wanted to hear your advice. I didn't want to be defensive."

"Yes. I didn't know how you'd take it."

"Yeah, well, it was good advice. I also like being at home. I like baking bread, I like doing laundry, I like holding the house together, I like dumping out the compost and collecting things from the garden."

"What you do is really important. Baking, laundry, feeding the birds, holding the house together. Thanks for waiting to tell me these things. Thanks for not being defensive."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My job, Mother of an Active Baby

While my husband washes dishes, my son climbs out of the wok. I just missed photographing buddha in a pot. I wonder what I'm teaching him sometimes as Beren tosses an onion out of the refrigerator. Will he do this again and again, will he toss the milk and eggs as a ten year old. All things, good and not so good, end. More quickly than I expect. His fascination with the refrigerator has ebbed. We can open it without needing to slam it shut so Beren can't get in. Fewer arms, child and parent alike, get eaten by the wildly closing fridge door these days.


I sometimes hear from from friends or acquaintances, "I read your blog, don't worry it gets easier."

I marvel at that. My job, Mother of an Active Baby, sometimes feels monumental, impossible, exhausting. That's what I usually write about. Funny things, tough times, surprises, failures. I write but a few lines on how I observe my son still himself as he gazes skyward and follows a turkey vulture with his eyes. Just a passing sentence on how he picks at the clothespins ripping them apart until one gets stuck on his pointer finger, ow, ow, ow, MOMMA, HELP! Just a note how how he cracked his head on a toy cymbal during family time last night, sat in my lap, mouth wide open, no sound coming out his cry was so deep, until he ran halfway across the room away from me, turned back and collapsed again in my lap, woeful. Oh wait, I was writing about the easy stuff, the wonderful stuff.

It's all pretty good.

 Jared carries Beren in his snow suit. He loves it. By that pronoun, I mean both boys in the photo. Beren and I tussle, but nothing like Papa and son. Parenting together doesn't just double my ability as a mother, it multiplies it. My wooly cap is tipped to all single parents. 

Spring and summer clothes on their way up to the attic. January 24, 2012
Perhaps I should just leave them downstairs, as spring is closer than autumn at this time.

My job, Mother of an Active Baby, is easy sometimes. Just begin a project and leave it precariously unfinished. A kettle on the stove, a sack of clothes atop a ladder, the usual. Inspiration falls upon me, baby's asleep, leave the work, it will be there. Let my fingers tap this out instead. I'd rather the sack drop to the ground than forget these words. There are hundreds of reasons not to do something. Only one reason to do something - yourself. Do something for yourself, I say, to who? Myself.

Hurrah for today! 

My son does something for himself every day. Every day is monumental. First snow, first turkey vulture, first tumble off a chair, first bite of a cookie, first time he drags his pull toy across the floor while walking backwards. 

Today he witnesses dust-snow for the first time.

***

Changing the sheets as the sun streams in the window, I toss the blanket onto the bed. Dust flurries scatter and roll through the air. Beren waves his arms wildly. He runs through the cloud of dust, made of unmentionable things that make adults cringe, spray Endust on a rag, and hope that adult visitors don't notice. No sudden movements in the sunshine next time a guest is in the house. 

I pick up the blanket and toss it down again. "Snow! Snow!" I shout. 

Beren waves and runs in the sunshine and dust-snow. As the dust slows, Beren slows. The blanket crashes to the bed again, I watch the dust-snow, like smoke curling or the furious contents of a snow globe.

Crash, crash, down comes the blanket. Snow! Snow!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Blind Man's Bluff

A favorite: walking through the curtain, a baby's blind man's bluff, in which my son listened to his parents' crooning, "Where's Beren? Where is he? I don't see him." He responded by gleefully crashing through curtain into the room. As he reached the end of the curtain, his laughing face was revealed. He went back and forth, from lit room to darkened room, avoiding toys, crumpled blankets, and other pitfalls. He walked directly into the bedroom, but trips into the dining room were different. He calculated that walking straight would cause him to run into the front door before the curtain ended. He never had to hit the front door to learn that. He simply made an arc to his right, passing expertly through the dining room chairs and his high chair. 


My son has learned the art of the pause. Last night I watched him present the book I Am A Bunny to a visiting friend. She offered to read to him, and he climbed into her lap. He leans against the wall or bed, feeling something is behind him. He embraces large plush toys, pillows, soft blankets. Now that he has proven he can walk, he can also stop.

Meanwhile, movement has reached new levels. Truly new levels - he can climb the dining room chairs, the outside of his crib, from the bed he can climb onto the window sill by holding onto the window sash (we try to discourage this, but Jared and I had to witness and then photograph and then videotape. So, he's done this at least four times. At least.).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Solid Foods and the (or least my) Nursing Baby


I popped a bit of Asian pear into my 13 and a half month old son's mouth. I followed up with a sliver of home-baked challah, which he took from my hand and fed to me.

"The best thing that ever happened to us was the baby food mill breaking," I said to my husband.

"Oh that plastic thing?" he asked.

"Yeah," I grimaced thinking of how the contraption spurt liquified squash into my face last time I used it.

***

After boiling vegetables, my husband (who I placed in charge of solids) ground yet another bland pulp which our son refused. He refused carrots, peas, squash, avocado.

The following day, the mill sat  on the kitchen counter covered in dehydrated carrot bits, impossible to clean. "We should try to wash this right after using it," I said. My husband agreed.

We used it about six times before it became unusable -- the rubber gasket no longer fit into the slot, causing hot, sloppy food to leak on the counter. We could not remove the metal grinder plate either.

"Thank you for your many minutes of fine service," my husband quipped as I tossed it into the trash a month later.

The more expensive metal food mill from Bed, Bath & Beyond worked better. I cooked up a batch of frozen peas and put them in the mill. A turned the gear and watched the interior of each pea separate from its thin pea shell. I waited for the peas to appear on the plate below. Nothing happened. Looking under the mill, I found the peas' soft interiors clinging to the metal. I scraped the mush into a bowl and had about a teaspoon worth of precious pea blap.

My son refused it.

I scrubbed the six dishes I had made (plate, bowl, baby spoon, mill base, grinder plate, mill gear), which had yielded a teaspoon of pea blap and a baby who simply wanted to nurse. I was glad to oblige, as nursing yields zero dishes and a happy baby and momma.

I experimented with applesauce in the mill, but the mill separated the skin from the pulp, as promised, but I like apple skins in my applesauce. I dumped the contents in to the food processor, and made applesauce. I then scrubbed the mill base, grinder plate, mill gear, processor lid, housing, blade, and wiped the processor base. I packed up the sauce along with diapers and dropped my son off at my in-laws.

"He really didn't like the applesauce," my mother-in-law said when we returned.

From a first-time parent's perspective, a parent who is sleep deprived, a parent who is hoping solids might improve a six (then seven, then eight, then nine, then ten, then eleven) month old baby's sleep habits... it was all very frustrating.

"Not sleeping? Try solids," was common advice. My son did not like solids until he was about eleven months old, or so. At twelve months, I began to become concerned that I might need a second job when he hits the teen years. I've heard this from many nursing mothers. At one year, the appetite takes off.

Before that, Beren practiced the martial skill of parrying when we stuck a spoon in his face. A parry is a block that deflects a blow or strike with a weapon or empty hand. He was quite gentle but quick and certain. He now opens his mouth like a bird when hungry and wags his head "no" or turns away when full or uninterested.

Recently, Edible Jersey featured an article on homemade baby foods. Jared and I had discussed mass producing and freezing baby food, but we found it wasn't necessary. We never got around to it either. We began to eat better for it, adding more fruits and vegetables to our meals. We excluded common food allergens, and began to add them once he turned one. In went onions, garlic, citrus. We ate Thai coconut milk-based curries, chicken, apples and almond butter, fish soups. Hot pepper, lightly cooked eggs, and some dairy remain on the side.

Feeding baby who wants to eat is a joy. We eat together. We eat the same foods. We eat from the same plate. Before he became a good chewer, I chewed difficult foods for him.  Eating slower, so we, well, usually my husband, still the solid foods leader, feeds Beren. I am still a bit of a speed eater. Momma never knows when she will be called to defend the cubs. She needs to be well fed.

A star in the sky

Night sky, January 23, 2010

Last night, my son pointed out a star in the sky. He also pointed out an airplane's lights.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

In the winter forest

A woodland rhizome, either Solomon's plume (Smilacina racemosa) or Solomon's seal (Polygonatum sp.). 

Duff and snow cover protects woodland plants' seeds and roots from super-heating in direct winter sunlight. I'm sure you've noticed the sun is very warming, even on the coldest days. At sunset, temperatures decline quickly, so a plant may experience temperature shifts of 10, 20 or 30 degrees in just one day. Friday's winds rapidly dried up the roads and sidewalks - it is no different in the forest. Again, snow cover protects, this time from desiccation. 

Many forests I've visited in NJ lack a duff layer because of invasive earthworms - most earthworms are not native to the Northeastern forest. The above forest lacks a duff layer, as well. We've had a rather warm winter, no snow, just rain. Our forest is without a down jacket. 

A tulip tree, the main trunk was tipped over and resprouted

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dodder on goldenrod 

Rosette rose disease manifesting on multiflora rose

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

When the winter blues descend


Maybe you feel a bit tired. A deep forest settlement. A bulging wall (not shown) finally gave way last year.

When the winter blues descend, it might be a 49 degree partly sunny day that starts off well. Maybe it's that the house is quiet but for your napping child's stuffy nose. Maybe it's that the house is a little, or a lot messy. Maybe it's that you spent the morning with friends, acquaintances and their children, noisy banging, sharing stories, and then you eat lunch alone. Maybe it's that you nearly landed your certified pre-owned vehicle in a ditch while watching your child drift to sleep. Maybe it's that the weekend is truly over. Maybe it's that it is oddly warm and it never felt like the holidays, even thought the holidays can be an up and down time anyway, so who cares? Spring will come.

Maybe you feel like old ideas are wearing thin. 

Moldy, dried out, and bug-eaten. 

Hungry. 

Sluggish. 

Brittle.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Chewin' on Bones

How mice and others get their calcium

Winter landscapes

 Red oak & American beech with buttressing roots.

Red oak tip up with soil profile visible.

The Sourlands don't appear to have the twelve foot deep soils of the prairie. 

Roots run across the top of the diabase boulder filled soil. Trees are tossed easily here, especially after the extreme weather of the past two summers -  two years ago extremely dry, killing many feeder roots and causing early dormancy for herbs and aborted fruit for many trees and shrubs; and this year past, very wet, soaking the soils so deeply that tree foliage yellowed and fruits rotted. Tree toppled in inundated soils, having who-knows how much less root mass than pre-drought. 

And, with that, my son is awake and happily chatting away in his crib. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Playpen is a Playard is a No Go

Don't box me in.

"We always had our babies in the playpen. That's just the way it was," said my Mom.

My son loudly rejects confinement of all types. My son bangs on the front door to go outside. My son does not prefer bulky jackets, rear-facing seats, long diaper changes, etc. He hated his playpen, a hand-me-down hot pink, teal and purple Graco Pack n Play. He could go a few minutes or less. My husband and I called it the wack n play.

Playpens are now called 'playards', which is 1.) not a word. The autocorrect function in Blogger repeatedly changes placard to placard to placard. See what I mean? And, 2.) the term placard, playard, d*mn it, is inaccurate. A yard is a yard, and a pen is a pen.

On a recent trip to my parents' house, we set up the pen in my old bedroom. As usual, my son was teething and was difficult to put to sleep. I finally settled him and while stooping over the pen, he slipped. I had him by a leg and the back of his neck. He woke up. As I soothed him back to sleep, my husband packed up the pen and laid blankets on the floor. My son slept well.

The following day, we stopped along the road to collect firewood left by the power line company. My husband threatened to leave the pen beside the road. My Polish ancestry of stuff savers loomed. I threw the pen back in the car. "What if we need it?" I thought. I could feel my husband's disapproval.

My mother has also recounted times when my brother became mobile. "You know, the house would suddenly be silent, and he'd be upstairs! He loved climbing the steps."

"But he was always in the playpen, Mom?" She didn't answer. So I asked again.

"Well, yes. That's just the way it was."

I talked about playpens with my aunt. She seemed to agree with my mother, but didn't elaborate. I was probably taking a lot of air time talking about my own child...

Really? Did babies of thirty years ago tolerate playpens? Allegedly, I was ok in the pen. "You would play and play," said my mother.

Our whole care provider once quipped to me, "Now baby is one third you, one third Jared, and one third baby." So whose playpen genes did my son inherit?