Thursday, August 23, 2007

Video Proof of Rabid Baby

Ever since he started teething, Emerson has turned into a ferocious beast! This video proves his bite really is worse than his bark (also check the 6-8 months link for a few more pics):

And Then There Were Two

When it comes to life events, people generally have ADD. As soon as you’re single, they want to know when you’re going to date; when you date they want to know when you’re getting married; when you’re married, they want to know when you’re having kids; etc etc. I am one of the worst offenders, so I don’t presume to judge now that people are asking when baby number two is coming along, even though I am surprised it started so soon.

For instance, at a family event a few weeks ago, my step-mother-in-law was trying to convince me to have them close together by telling me childhood stories about her two children who are roughly a year apart. They were very endearing stories of siblinghood…until she forgot her mission and started telling the only-funny-years-later kind of stories. Like the time her son put Vicks Vapor Rub in his little sister’s hair or the time he cut off one of her pigtails.

When it comes to number two, I’ve been through various stages in the past year. Before Emerson was born, I thought a 3 year spread sounded good; right after he was born, even five years apart seemed too soon! At times I thought he was so cute I wanted to start again right away, or I would think that it seemed logical to keep going now that we are already in baby mode. Right now we are in a “Dear god when is this child ever going to sleep through the night?!” phase again, which has the one benefit of being good birth control.

Every parent who wants more than one goes through the same debate – close enough to be friends or far enough apart to keep your sanity? And then the albinism adds a whole other layer. When he was first diagnosed, I had this intense desire to get pregnant again right away that I couldn’t quite explain in words.

I’ve been reading a textbook about developmental psychology for one of my classes that helped explain it a little. The authors theorize that from the time we are born until our own child is born, we are constantly forming a fantasy of what parenthood means and what our future baby will be like. Every parent, when their child is actually born, goes through an adjustment period as they reconcile their fantasy of the baby with the actual baby. Some just have to do more reconciling than others – like, say, when you imagined a dark-haired, dark-eyed baby and he came out with white hair and a rare genetic condition. :)

It’s basically the same thing that the story “Welcome to Holland” is trying to convey, just in psychological rather than poetic terms. In our case, our baby fantasy was almost a collective one as friends and family have discussed what our baby was going to look like and be like pretty much since we started dating. Even strangers have told us we look like we could be brother and sister (not sure how to take that) and that our kids would “definitely” be skinny with dark hair and eyes. When this didn’t happen, I felt the need to somehow create the baby everyone was expecting. It’s stupid I know, but there it is.

Although the desire still remains for the most part, the motivation has changed. I now feel compelled to provide Emerson with a sibling who also has albinism so he can have someone to relate to him in ways that us “pigmentos” can’t. If our next child doesn’t have albinism, I love the thought of adopting a child who does – especially since in many countries it is misunderstood and therefore children are labeled “special needs” or “difficult to get adopted.” It would be amazing to use our experiences and knowledge to help another child and provide them with a loving home.

With this in mind, having siblings close together who can bond becomes even more important. Luckily, my less emotional and (at least in this case) more rational husband is keeping me in line. That and the sleep deprivation.

I don’t really know what will happen in the next few years, but I do know when the time comes it will be life-changing in ways I can’t imagine even now. How do you prepare yourself for that moment when the midwife looks down in the middle of delivery and says, “Look at all that *blank*-colored hair” – knowing in that moment that whatever color she says will carry a world of meaning…pros and cons for everyone involved.

One thing I do know, though, is that whatever fantasy we create for the next baby, real life will exceed it in unexpected ways. If you had told me a year ago I’d be sitting here with a beautiful snow-white baby screaming like howler monkey, I never would’ve believed you. And yet here I am, plugging my ears and loving every minute of it.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Have Baby, Will Travel

Last week, Robbie had to travel to Boston on business, so Emerson and I got to tag along. We quickly realized this had come at the perfect time because our days of easy traveling are coming to an end. The week before, we spent a couple days “Up North” at the lake home of some relatives. I think all that time driving in the car and then being passed around from person to person finally motivated Emerson to move, because the moment we got home and set him on the floor, he was off. He’s known how to roll for some time now, but suddenly he decided to use this skill to explore. If we took our eyes off him for a minute, we’d find him playing with the houseplant or half stuck under the couch. And when he wasn’t busy rolling, he was using his voice to imitate cawing peacocks or incensed monkeys.

Yes, Emerson has reached a new stage I like to call “twist and shout.” My sweet, relatively quiet baby that we could take to fancy sushi restaurants or throw on a plane with little anxiety is rapidly disappearing. But overall, we are still fairly lucky considering what we put him through. Case in point - traveling in Boston during a heat wave.

Boston is an amazing town to visit no matter who you are, but it was especially exciting for me as a Unitarian Universalist ministry student. Not only is Boston the denomination’s headquarters and home to plenty of churches, it’s filled with UU history – from leaders of the Revolution like Thomas Jefferson to Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson himself. So after Robbie headed off to work and Emerson took a good nap at the hotel, I decided it would be fitting to start my sightseeing at the UU headquarters on historic Beacon Hill.

I strapped Emerson to me in a sling and began the long trek from hotel shuttle to commuter train to subway system and then through various lines to get Beacon Hill. As I emerged onto Boston Common, the 90-something degree heat and having a 16lb pound baby strapped to my body with several yards of fabric hit me immediately. Apparently it hit Emerson too because within seconds his little head bobbed forward and his body went limp with sleep.

I passed by a man on a bench who took one look at Emerson in the sling and called out “Ma’am, does that thing hurt the baby?” Several smart-ass comments came to mind, but instead I shook my head and pointed out that he was comfortable enough to be asleep. Apparently people make dumb comments about all sorts of things, not just albinism.

I proceeded to walk up and down the hill, looking at the signs and flags hanging from the beautiful brownstone buildings, but I didn’t see any sign of the UUA. Finally I called information for the address and discovered it was right where I had gotten off the subway. In fact, I had passed it about three times already! By the time I hoofed it back up there and realized it did in fact have a small golden plaque that read Unitarian Universalist Association, it was already closed for the day.

I spent the rest of the afternoon playing with Emerson in the Frog Pond in Boston Common, wandering around the Public Gardens, and visiting the various historic points. Robbie met up with us for dinner at a Thai restaurant, where the baby showed off his new busy-body skills by continuously grabbing at everything in sight. After eating, we decided that the commuter train station looked close enough to the hotel to walk back – at least that’s the way it appeared on the map. So we blew off trying to get back to the station in time for the last hotel shuttle and instead wandered around Beacon Hill some more.

Later, we arrived at the commuter station mere minutes after the last shuttle. We both felt confident as we walked across the enormous empty parking lot and onto the main street. But as we walked, we quickly realized we were in an industrial area that didn’t seem so familiar. With no signs of commercial “civilization” in sight, we were forced to keep walking….and walking….and walking. The road was pitch black except the neon signs of scattered industrial buildings, semi trucks rolled past every few minutes, and in between the buildings were long stretches of overgrown fields.

Luckily Emerson was blissfully unaware of our rising panic since he has passed out on Robbie’s shoulder long before. It was an eerie place – too remote for wandering criminals but I imagined a good place to run into a crazy hobo. This thought was incredibly amusing and yet just scary enough that when a small animal rustled in the field that we were walking by, I actually shrieked in terror.

Finally, we walked into a commercial area and Robbie recognized one of the restaurants as the one he had eaten lunch at earlier that day with his coworkers. Instead of following our gut instinct to head left, he decided he had driven to the restaurant from the other direction, so we turned right. However, within a few minutes, we were back into the industrial zone. Before getting ourselves into worse trouble, we decided to stop at a hotel and call for a cab.

Right before the cab arrived, Robbie bought a bottle of water with what little cash we had left. The woman at the front desk had assured him that if the cab didn’t take credit cards, there was an ATM we could stop at on the way.

When we got in and explained to the driver what had happened, we quickly learned two things: 1) We had actually walked the right direction up until we turned right instead of left and 2) We were not all that far from our hotel. Later, we also learned that the station on the map that we had been referencing was in fact very close – it was just a different station that had been closed down for several years.

Anyway, of course this cab didn’t take credit cards, so the driver pulled into an ATM in the strip mall and Robbie jumped out. As we waited, he told me stories about his long work hours, his horrible case of sciatica, and the piece of gray, frostbitten meat he found in the station freezer and was currently using as an ice pack. I sympathized the best I could while simultaneously wondering what health codes applied to unthawing meat in taxi cabs and why Robbie was taking so long getting the money.

My worst fears were realized when Robbie returned empty-handed and explained that the card had an error. There was another machine in the hotel lobby, so we drove the rest of the way and I waited in the cab as Robbie ran in again. Another long wait and another bizarre conversation passed before he returned empty-handed. The money was in the bank, but for some reason none of our cards would work.

We desperately scrapped together all the small bills and loose change we could find and miraculously found the exact amount of the fare, no more no less. We apologized profusely to the driver for not having enough for a tip and he was very good-natured about it. I sent lots of best wishes his way to fix his sciatica. Or at least for him to find a real ice pack.

We finally stumbled into our hotel room, exhausted, embarrassed and shaken up by the card problem. But our little Emerson was wide awake again and as energetic and happy as we were beat. I flopped down on the bed and played airplane with him above my head, grateful for his squeals of laughter after our bizarre night. Then, as if perfectly timed, he smiled down at me and let loose a stream of spit-up right into my face and hair – and wide-open mouth.

The next day, we did find out the bank cards had been fixed, so we weren’t forced to beg on the streets as stranded travelers. And we did eventually get to see the UUA headquarters - lingering as long as possible in the air-conditioned book store. We also played in the fountains and lay out in the grass of Harvard Yard, ate Italian food in the North End, ordered fresh seafood in America’s oldest restaurant, and of course spent an entire day dragging Emerson through the heat so we could see the historic sites on the "Freedom Trail."

But my favorite highlights of the trip were listening to little kids talking with heavy Boston accents (on par with a kid who looked like a mini Tony Soprano speaking Italian in the North End) and taking a water taxi through the harbor to the airport. Through it all, Emerson remained mostly patient and good-natured, and we spent a lot of time and kisses thanking him for it.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Gotta Wear Shades!

Mashawna created this amazing slide show, including our very own Emerson!

View this montage created at One True Media
NOAH Cuties

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Strange Sightings

I have to admit I used to be a theater geek in high school – I was all drama both on and off the stage. Robbie would probably say not much has changed! But one thing I can not seem to get used to is people staring us.

For me, there’s something comfortable about performing on a stage, giving a speech or doing a sermon in church. The crowd is far enough away and big enough that it becomes a faceless mass. Up close, though, is a whole different story. When we walk around in public, I see people look from Robbie to me to Emerson, their eyes squinting in concentration as they try to remember what they learned about genetics in freshman science class. I see people cooing at him, trying to catch his eye and I cringe because I know one of two things will happen: he won’t look at them because they are too far away to see (which makes everyone involved uncomfortable), or he will look at them and the light will make his eyes glow.

This second option elicits all kinds of interesting responses, as I mentioned in a previous post. My favorite recent one was in a subway in Boston last week. A man and his wife and their toddler got on the train and stood next to me, so we struck up a conversation about parenting. When the conversation got around to Emerson’s name and age, the man - standing over Emerson propped on my lap - looked down and cooed his name. To my surprise, he looked straight up at the man and consequently into the overhead lights. The man kind of did a little jump backwards, his eyes got really wide and he stuttered, “His eyes are red! How…how…unique!” He turned to explain to his wife, all in a dither, when suddenly the train doors opened at our stop. I thought about staying on and explaining the whole situation, but instead I said, “Have a good day,” and dashed out.

Of course, there are times when I get paranoid and jump the gun. The other day, for example, we were in line for ice cream at a local shop and Robbie was holding Emerson in his arms (he’s still working on those biceps). I was watching two women watching Emerson and whispering to each other, so I was getting increasingly irritated. Then I heard the woman directly behind us say, “That baby is blind.” I turned to her and said haughtily, “No, he’s not blind!”

Luckily, she was a polite woman who gently explained that she had said, “blonde” not “blind.”

“Yes,” I said, my face growing hot with embarrassment, “he is very blonde.”

At times I get so tired of this routine that I do my best to avoid conversations or I don’t go out of my way to explain things properly. Like a couple of weeks ago when I was answering questions about albinism from a group of people during a party. One man started answering questions for me, which would have been great except that his information was all wrong! He actually told them that sunlight would make people with albinism go blind! I did try to interrupt and correct him several times, but the group had already moved on to the next question. By the end, I just didn’t care anymore to make an issue out of it.

Then I see things like this YouTube video and I’m reminded of how truly ignorant and insensitive people can be. If I don’t educate them, who will? The condition is just not common enough to have roving teams of albinism educators out there.

At least we have technology and the power of the internet. I’ve been able to chat with Lyra’s mom Mashawna and get ideas on how to handle the ups and downs of it all…including her recent idea about creating a “business card” with albinism facts. That way, whether at a party or riding the subway, I can just hand out a card and be done with it. No more repetitious conversations and hopefully fewer myths floating around.

The stares, however, I’m just going to have to get used to. At least with his sunglasses on and all the comments about “What a cool dude!” and “Does he sign autographs?” make me feel like a nanny rushing my celebrity baby through crowds of his adoring fans.